Fall Harvest Soup

Poor Mr.Surly, I haven’t made a full dinner in months. I’m not sure how much longer he can get by on my spartan dinners. I’ve been busy with hospital tests and doctor appointments and when I get home the last thing on my mind is food. All I want to do is to crawl onto the couch with my beloved heating pad and relax. Finally, all my medical appointments are winding down; my last 2 appointments are next week. By Wednesday I should know whether it’s a bad kidney or a bad pancreas that is causing my abdominal pain. Not sure at this point which option would be better. At least by knowing I can stop worrying about it and the doctors can start treating it properly. Then I can get back into cooking and baking. Sorry, about my medical rant; I’m just frustrated about it.

On a happier, seasonal note, I love the flavors of fall: pumpkin, apples, and especially acorn squash; warm, spiced comfort food. Lacking inspiration and feeling lazy, I decided to take some of my favorite fall foods and add them all together in a soup. It turned out creamy, dreamy, and delicious. Most importantly, for me, this was easy to make, yummy to eat, and caused minimal abdominal pain and bloating. Yay.

The soup is sweet from the apples and apple juice and gets a nice kick from the cayenne pepper. It is creamy enough that you don’t need to add the cream. I only added it because I need the extra fat and calories, since I’m still trying to gain weight.

Fall Harvest Soup
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1 acorn squash, halved and seeded
1 sugar pumpkin, halved and seeded (or 1 can pumpkin puree)
1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed
1 large, or 2 small, apple(s), cored, peeled and diced (I used Gala)
2 Tbl butter
brown sugar, to taste
cinnamon, to taste
pumkin pie spice, to taste
cardamom, to taste
cayenne pepper, to taste
thyme, to taste
~2 c water
apple juice (I used a kid’s juice box that was 6.75 fl oz)
½ c cream (opt)

Preheat oven to 400 F

First, roast the veggies:
Place squash inside side up on a baking sheet. Lightly sprinkle some kosher salt on the halves and drizzle with olive oil.

Place the pumpkin halves, inside side down, on a foil lined baking sheet.

Place sweet potato cubes on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and lightly salt (I also drizzled some agave over them).

Roast the veggies until tender, either separately or all together, in oven. The squash and pumpkin took about 30-45 minutes; they are done when the shell is easily pierced with a knife. The sweet potato cubes took about 20-30 minutes; they are done when tender.

Allow squash and pumpkin to cool, then scrap out the insides into a bowl with a spoon or melon baller. Add the sweet potatoes.

Make the soup:
In a dutch oven or large pot, melt the butter. Add apples and sprinkle with brown sugar, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, and cardamom. Sauté apples to caramelize, about five minutes. Add the apple juice and veggies along with 1 cup of water. Add a ½ to 1 tsp thyme and ¼ tsp cayenne pepper, and a pinch of sea salt. Simmer about 10 minutes or so to allow flavors to meld together.

Using an immersion blender puree the soup; at this point I needed to add another cup of water. If you don’t have an immersion blender, puree the soup in batches in a blender. Taste to adjust seasonings, if necessary.

Stir in cream, if using, and remove from heat. Serve and enjoy.

Spinach and Lentil Soup

Lately I’ve been making a lot of soups/stews because they’re quick, easy, and we can eat leftovers another night, thus saving me a day in the kitchen. I have been looking through a lot of cookbooks, magazines, blogs, etc looking for soup recipes that look interesting. I read good reviews about Jamie Oliver’s book Jamie’s Diet Revolutionand decided to buy it. It’s really good. He gives great tips and the recipes are basic enough that you can adapt them to your own personal tastes; I love recipes that are adaptable to what you have in your kitchen. I’ve only had time to try a few recipes and thus far they have been great. However, this one really stood out as being extra delicious. I saw that it served 6-8 and decided not to halve the recipe because I planned on freezing some of it to have on a night that I didn’t feel like cooking. But once I made it, Mr.Surly ate so much of it that there wasn’t enough left over to save. I added some of my favorite spices to the recipe to liven it up a bit. We really liked the cumin flavor. I can’t wait to try more of the recipes in this book.

Lentil and Spinach Soup
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Serves 6

2 carrots, sliced (I used about 1 c sliced baby carrots)
2 celery stalks, sliced (I used about 1 c )
2 medium onions, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced (I used 4 cloves because I love garlic)
1 ¾ quarts vegetable broth (I only had 1 qt veggie broth, so I used that plus 3 c water)
Thumb sized piece of ginger, thinly sliced (I grated mine with a microplane)
½ to 1 fresh red chile, sliced (I used a Serrano pepper)
10 grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
2 c red lentils (I used green lentils)
7 c (7 oz) spinach (I used a 10 oz bag of fresh organic spinach)
cumin, to taste
curry, to taste
ancho chile powder, to taste
turmeric, to taste
Sea salt
Olive oil

Add about 2 Tbl olive oil to a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat, and add the carrots, celery, onion, and garlic. Sauté until beginning to soften, about 5 minutes.

Add broth and water cover and simmer while you chop up the ginger, chile, and tomatoes.

Add the ginger, chile, lentils, to pot. Cover and cook until lentils are soft. I was in no hurry to eat, so I simmered on med low heat for about an hour. If you crank the heat up, it could be done sooner.

Taste the soup and season with salt, pepper, and any spices of your choice. I felt it needed some flavor, so I added a couple palm-fulls of cumin, curry, a bit of cayenne, turmeric, and some ancho chili powder.

When ready to serve, if desired, add a dollop of yogurt (I used greek yogurt). I had some chives that needed to be used up, so I chopped those up and sprinkled them on top for garnish.

Source: Adapted from Jamie’s Food Revolution by Jamie Oliver