In our over-scheduled lives that feel overwhelming from the moment the alarm jolts us awake every morning, do people have time to cook anymore?
If you’re working a job that makes you feel completely depleted at the end of the day, do you have the energy to make the series of decisions it takes to make a dinner for yourself and others at the end of the day?
If you’ve been pulled in so many directions by your family’s needs all day, and, oh yeah, had to find a plumber to come open a drain plugged up by only God knows what, do you even have the desire to pretend you’re ‘living the life’ in Provence where you drift dreamily out to your lush garden with your children who always wear white clothes that never seem to get dirty or wrinkled, to be inspired to whip up some simple but creative meal for everyone, while sharing a meaningful lesson on food to your children?
Then you’re a better woman than I.
There’s a lot of debate going on about what we cook for ourselves and our families at the end of the day. Are we reaching for processed food because it’s an easy fix for our hunger? Or do we live on take-out? And is canned soup really so bad if the alternative is un-assuaged hunger or a dinner of cookies?
At various times in my life, I’ve gone through long stretches of time of doing all the above: I’ve probably made hundreds of meals based on processed food; I’ve dined on take-out for long stretches when I’ve found myself in jobs that were taking more from me than giving back; and in my 20’s, I sometimes would just have cookies for dinner before heading out with friends to play some tennis. Sometimes life – both good and bad – just gets in the way of our taking care of ourselves.
These days I try to plan my life a little better, now that I’m not just cooking for myself. I’ve finally learned it’s good to have a backup plan. For me, that means such things as doubling a soup recipe and freezing half of it in small, individual freezer-safe containers that can be easily defrosted for a quick healthy meal. Then all I need to make is a salad filled with seasonal fruit or veggies to round out our meal. Some soups are hearty enough to stand on their own for dinner, like chili or a posole; while others are a perfect lunch or light dinner, like the below Kabocha Soup.
Before diving into the recipe, a little about kabocha squash. Although most types of squash are believed to have originated in Mesoamerica, kabocha may have been cultivated independently elsewhere, and is today considered a Japanese pumpkin. We usually see them in the stores with a beautiful blue-green, slightly bumpy skin, although red kabochas have a brilliant red-orange color. Inside, the flesh is bright, almost fluorescent orange that’s texturally reminiscent of sweet potatoes when cooked. And you can just imagine all the beta-carotene that’s in a cup of it! So in answer to the above question, opening a can of soup is better for you than cookies for dinner, but this Kabocha Soup is much, much better for you than the canned.
Kabocha Squash and Apple Soup with Coconut
- I used Fuji apples.
- I used a food processor to purée the soup.
- You can double the recipe and freeze half of it in individual freezer-safe containers for your backup plan for dinner at the end of a hectic day.
- Sometimes I roast kabocha whole, to save time, but I feel the best flavor comes from roasting them halved. The squash flesh is a little sweeter, and has a caramelized edge to it, due to having the flesh exposed.
- 1 – 2 kabocha squash, weighing 5 pounds total
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 ½ apples, cored and coarsely chopped (about 2 cups)
- 1 medium yellow onion, coarsely chopped (about 2 cups)
- 4 cups vegetable broth (preferably homemade)
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon curry powder (sometimes I’ve used as much as 1 1/2 teaspoons)
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne powder
- 2 ½ tablespoons coconut milk
- 1 glug sherry (1 – 2 tablespoons)
- Toasted squash seeds for topping (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 400° F. Cut the squash in half with a sharp knife. Scoop out the seeds and stringy pulp and place in a bowl of water. Lightly oil the squash and place face down on a baking sheet. Roast for one hour, or until the flesh of the kabocha is tender. Remove from the oven and let cool until you can easily remove the skin. Coarsely chop the flesh.
- Heat up the olive oil in a large pot and add the onions and apples. Sautè until soft. Add the squash and the broth and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 10 minutes to meld the flavors, and purée with a food processor, countertop blender or immersion blender until the soup is velvety smooth.
- Reheat the soup and add the remaining ingredients. Simmer for 10 minutes and serve.
- Optional: sprinkle a few toasted squash seeds over the top of the soup.