Easy Coconut-Ginger Butternut Squash Soup

Based on pantry ingredients, this soup comes together in the flashiest of flashes.
(And, yes, I love “Love Actually”!)

I’m definitely too old for restaurant work, but I very occasionally do a small volunteer catering job if a friend sweetly asks. My caveats are 1. It’s during the day (unless you just want delivery of soup or stew when you’re in personal need) and for a worthy cause. My bedtime is 9pm, you see. 2. The menu is short and sweet since I have to do all of the cooking. My feet simply aren’t what they used to be. 3. The event isn’t for 100+ people. Commercial kitchen, I’m not. 4. I pick my own help. I’m all about having fun whenever I can. This week, one of those perfect jobs arrived that just about fit all of my requirements. A nearly vegetarian soup, salad, dessert lunch menu was on deck for 35 heads of local Colorado Springs non-profits, which means cook for 40. You never know when a plate will fall off a counter, a guest might bring along a friend, or someone’s starving and eats double. Best husband and sous, Dave, along with good friend/caterer Patti came along to help make it all possible as these things can’t be done alone. Huge thanks to Dave for being the master of the commercial dishwasher and to Patti who decorated the tables with vases of flowers from her own gardens. Both of them made salad, served soup, and kept everyone full and happy.

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Sour Cream of Asparagus Soup with Tarragon

More picnic food!

Every year or two, there’s a new version of cold asparagus soup in my kitchen. Recently, when asparagus was on sale for a song (what else is $1.49 a pound these days?), I made it twice in one week and decided it was high time to update the recipe for the summer of 2022.  I know soup seems cold weather-ish sort of food, but truly it’s not. If you skip around the blog, you’ll see soup in beaucoup variations because to cook seasonally (or even if you don’t), is to find ingredients just perfect for soups and stews summer, fall, winter, and spring. And occasionally a pot of cold weather bean soup or beef stew calls your name about mid-July when grilling is feeling a tish tiresome or a chilly wind and rain hits town. At that point, you give in and stir up all the warm goodness you can in a great big pot.

I make asparagus soup (hot or cold depending on the month) nearly anytime because we have Fed Ex asparagus January – December. And while asparagus is an early spring favorite vegetable in most areas, it has yet to arrive in full force in Colorado yards, though it also grows wild according to one faithful local reader… My second-year plants are beautifully ferny, but no stalks yet I’m sad to say. Next year in Jerusalem.

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Tuscan Chicken Stew (Revisited)

It might seem an odd thing to blog hot soup on the 31st of May, but let’s remember I live in Colorado where we had a foot of snow a week ago, enjoyed a temperature of 40 degrees F when I drank my morning coffee this morning, and are still peering out to see if the thermometer has risen above 60 F this afternoon. (It has not.) The sun is lovely; I’ll give you that. The wind, however, is once more a ________. Let’s just say we call her Mariah and let it go at that. But we Rocky Mountain folk are a long way from the cold food weeks of the year when it’s salad, chilled soup, or sandwich time unless we’re grilling or ordering takeout. That means it’s still hot soup weather for me. (Truth in blogging, you know I’ll make soup anytime.) My Tuscan Chicken Stew Revisited, featured this week, is from my now 8-year old soup book, but somehow never made it on to the blog and needs to be here — if only because it’s a steady visitor in my kitchen and is a delicious easy-fast meal. Over the years of making it for us for dinner, ferrying pots to sick friends, or stirring up a double or triple batch for families experiencing homelessness in our city, it’s morphed in more than one sweet direction. Still often the filling, whole-meal chicken minestrone sort of soup, I’ve sometimes added Italian sausage and other times skipped meat entirely, tipping in extra beans and some tiny pasta at the end. Additional vegetables find their way in when available and it’s not unheard of to see a few croutons perching on top if bread needs using. After Thanksgiving, it’s been made bass-ackwards with leftover shredded turkey stirred in at the end. I’ve even made it with ground chicken, one of my favorite unsung ingredient heroes.

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Bratwurst-Lentil Soup

There’s no reason bratwurst should only be consumed grilled and on a sturdy bun with sauerkraut, spicy mustard, and onions that have, of course, been cooked in beer. In Germany, you just get a tiny piece of rye bread with which to hold your wurst, none of this big old fat sandwich business…and I digress. But sure, there are tons of other ways to use bratwurst and other link sausages, too. If you’re camping, for instance, and happen to have cooked bratwurst, you think nothing of slicing it into a pan of creamy scrambled eggs because you’re not throwing that out, ok, and there’s not enough for lunch. At home, you might mix a few leftover bites into a kitchen sink pasta salad for a fast dinner or throw together a big slow cooker full of brats and sauerkraut when friends are coming to play cards or even make a sheet pan dinner with brats and veggies. I’m partial to cooked bratwurst cut into chunks, stuck with toothpicks, and served up with a couple of different sauces (including spicy mustard!) for a meaty app. If it’s soup night (usually Thursday at our house), I could (and did) sauté a bunch of sliced bratwurst coins, add veggies, broth and lentils, et voilà, time to get out the bowls, pour the wine, and enjoy Bratwurst-Lentil Soup!

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FRIDAY FISH: Tuna-Asparagus Pasta Chowder

You adore clam chowder but your cupboard is full of tuna. It’s ok; I’ve got it covered. You can still have chowder–with tuna!! Does it work? Yes, yes; it totally does. And is it yummy? It definitely is. I thought about making chowder with canned tuna for a long time before I did it, but now that I have, it’s in my playbook for good. Tuna Chowder is easy, inexpensive, and even qualifies for what we’d call, “Cheap Eats.” This version adds some tiny ditalini pasta for fun and texture, but if you don’t like it, just add extra potatoes and you’ll be fine. Last time I cooked shrimp, I saved the shells in my freezer and was able to make a fast shrimp stock to bolster the flavor of the chowder. (Buying fish stock is above my pay grade at $3 a 15-ounce can. You can make it, though.) Vegetable broth is ok, too, and is better when spiked with a little clam juice, which is sold right near tuna at the store. Even chicken broth works in a pinch.

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Mushroom and Leek Lentil-Chickpea Soup

The beauty of a vegetable soup is manifold. It’s mouthwatering, colorful, done in a snap, affordable, versatile, full of vitamins and fiber, accessible, easily vegan/gluten-free, and pantry-friendly. Wow! The beauty of a vegetable soup with legumes, or in this case both lentils and chickpeas, is even greater as there’s the addition of plant-based protein (and lots more fiber) which makes the soup increasingly healthful — to say nothing of filling. Now all those things are true, real, and make me feel happy about putting a pot of this goodness on the table anytime. But I mostly want to make vegetable soup because I like to eat it (especially right after Super Bowl and Valentine’s Day!) and before that, I like to smell it cooking in my house. Is there anything better?

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Creamy Pumpkin-Peanut Soup

Every once in a while, it’s time to cook up an old recipe on the blog, take new photos, and tweak the dish up to today’s standard. That’s exactly what happened the other day with the blog’s very first pumpkin soup from way back in November, 2009. With my book club meeting in my living room last Thursday, I thought I’d move away from the same-old, same-old cheese and whatever….and make a soup I could serve in coffee mugs along with the glass of wine we enjoy. Change = good. I looked at the not few pumpkin soups I’ve blogged and settled on the simple, but fun 12-year-old version that is finished off with peanuts and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. As I sometimes will, I tried making it right from the original recipe, which is so old it’s not even printable. While good, it needed perking up, thickening, and expanding. I was amazed, though, to see how readable the recipe was even then. That’s not to say it didn’t need editing and redoing. It did.

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Pumpkin-Lentil Soup

From one year to the next, I keep a few cans of my favorite Libby’s 100% pumpkin in the pantry. Thanks to my father-in-law, Gene Morgan (who spent years in grocery management), I know that “old” pumpkin makes for better pumpkin pies. I see no difference in pumpkin bread, pumpkin soup, or pumpkin martinis but pie — oh yes. The pie filling is darker, feels richer-thicker though still silky, and sports a deeper flavor profile with the aged cans. This year, I’m very glad I kept those few and a couple more because when I put in an order for pumpkin, my King Sooper’s app indicated zero, nada, zip, nil, nought, nothing, though it allowed as there were a few cans of the organic variety left. I don’t like those for pie (ewww), but I’ll take them in a pinch for baked goods and so tapped the icon. When I went to pick up my groceries, I didn’t even get the organic cans. Yikes. What was the story? Should I be grabbing a few pie pumpkins out of the produce section and getting out the roasting pan? Consider a Thanksgiving featuring sweet potato pie? While I have nothing against sweet potato pie as my parents were both southerners, I like pumpkin pie so much better. What’s a baker to do?

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Creamy Zucchini-Wild Rice Chowder

We don’t always associate soup with summer, but in the same way fresh, sweet-scented peach pie demands to be baked in the dog days of August, we have to stir up zucchini soup at the exact moment the counter begins piling up once again with unending stacks of zucchini (tomatoes, cabbage…). Or when a very inexpensive, but large bag of zucchini somehow gets into our cart at Costco. And we get home only to wonder just what to do with all of that squash.

August 8: National Sneak Some Zucchini onto Your Neighbor’s Porch Day

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Chilled Carrot-Ginger Bisque

Yes, you can eat chive flowers. Whole or torn into florets. Promise. Didn’t you eat or suck on sweet clover flowers as a kid?

One day last week I went out to the garage refrigerator for carrots. It’s a common occurrence at our house as I typically buy and store a 5-pound bag of carrots in the produce bin of that fridge. While it sounds like a lot of carrots, they’re cheap in that quantity ($2.99 for 5 pounds–what else is less than 60 cents a pound?) and they last a long time. Even better, I’m never out of them for soup, stew, or just for a vegetable. It’s also not terribly unusual for me to make carrot soup as it’s lovely, healthy, fast, and can be made in several different flavor profiles. I didn’t start out with carrot soup in mind on said day, but I certainly got there pretty fast as my carrots were growing white hair — sprouting, getting ready for planting! I peeled and used the carrot I needed, but knew carrot soup, cake, bread, soufflé, salad, or gratin was in the offing. Because I wasn’t throwing away 8 or 9 carrots no matter how little they cost.

I’m reminded of a simple meme that says volumes. It goes something like, “A single carrot doesn’t seem too awfully important. Unless it took you 3 months to grow it.” And, by the way, if you’re lucky enough to get carrots with all the green frills on top, the green part is edible, too. A little carrot top pesto might be good for the soul. VEGETABLES ARE AMAZING!

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