Baby it’s cold outside! And it been messy too: sleet, frozen pellets, snow storms, snow squalls, ice storms and lots and lots of slushy sidewalks and roads… Although we are on the other side of the winter solstice, no one has yet noticed the minuscule increase in daylight. What I like best about January, ever since I have banned the word «resolutions» from my vocabulary at this festive time of year, is the permission to play hermit in my own house. The parties have evaporated and most are on an introspective quest to find their better self. It is the most indulgently selfish time of the year, in the most positive sense of the word! Isn’t it wonderful to have mostly how to better yourself to think about? For however short the motivation lasts, from January 1st forward, it’s all about you baby so take it while it lasts and try to hang on to you for as long as you can… You are so worth it! So while everyone is filling their calendars of “me, me, me” activities, this is how I fill my selfish January time: I am quite happy cozying up with my favourites: comfy arm-chair, plush blanket, Netflix, and a plethora of books, magazines, websites all food related. This is my happy time! Throw in a few good weekend feasts paired with some palate pleasing vino and voilà: January has my heart. Ok fine, I will admit that I loathe the really freezing cold days. The below -13°C days with wind that whistle through everything, even right through those obscenely priced goose jackets (pure envy because I wished I owned one). Yeah, those frozen solid days make me dig deeper into my comfy chair and fluffy blanket! Thank goodness our car has a remote starter and my grocery store offers underground parking: I can nearly pretend that I live in a” no Jack Frost” land. That is until I freeze my butt waiting for the bus on my way to work and I am rudely reminded that winter can be mean. Oh so very mean!!!
It is actually hard to grasp the concept that we are already in 2017. Golly Gee, weren’t we just celebrating the arrival of the new millennium, like last year??? Seriously cliché but where does the time go??? It flies right by my friends… After launching my new blog with much fanfare and pride in the last few weeks of 2016, it was tossed aside like a much coveted Santa delivered toy who’s box revealed to be much more exciting than the content. Now don’t take me wrong on this analogy, I am extremely proud of the content yet I found that partaking in the joys and parties of the Holiday Season more interesting than trying to apply myself to drum up some cool and witty article to write about. So I contended myself with looking at the box: thrilled to no ends at how my website looks on a computer screen with all the cool categories and options yet incapable of playing with the content! And just when I thought I would have some blissful time to dive into some inspired writing, recipe creation and fun stories to share, I was stopped dead in my tracks by a good strong case of influenza! I managed to show up to (and enjoy) all the necessary celebrations yet I forgot to invite my normal bubbly self. Sleep and mindless movie watching populated nearly each day of my much-needed vacation. I had a few play dates in my kitchen, but my brain being on foggy mode, I relied on much trusted “I can make in my sleep” meals to see us through and the kind offerings of everyone who cooked for me. There were no new genius concoctions that screamed “share me on your blog”. All I wanted to do was to get back to my comfy chair or comfy bed and fall into restorative slumber. And sleep I did!!! I never imagined I had that many zzzz’s in me. It’s early January, the flu has finally let go of its grasp and my normal self has resurfaced, back in full swing, ready to concoct some brand new stuff I hope you will enjoy.
Yesterday, happy to reconnect with some energy, I filled my fridge with a load of fresh produce: thank you Tropical countries for keeping us here in the Great White North spoiled rotten with an abundant supply of summer beloved fruits and vegetables. As much as I try to keep my winter diet as close to home as I can, I was grateful to balance root vegetables and storage friendly squashes with a healthy helping of cucumbers, blueberries and romaine lettuce. Although my grocery basket contained some delicate produce that had to be trucked up from far away lands, it also overflowed with “grown close to home” gems such as butternut squash. I love making soups with this vibrant pumpkin family fruit. Yes, it is a fruit even though not one I would add to a fruit salad! There are countless variations of butternut squash soups and nothing can be more comforting in the dead of winter than a big bowl of nutrient rich, velvety, bright orange soup. I am offering to you one of my favourite takes on this soup. It marries this Canadian winter staple to the flavours of the Far East and every time I slurp it up, it feels like sunshine pouring into my body. To boot, it is super simple to prepare yet exotic enough to serve as the first course of a dinner party, which is exactly what I did recently. I wanted a meal full of vibrant flavours and colours, that would dazzle my friends because who doesn’t like to dazzle their friends right? My Thai Butternut Squash soup was the perfect first course to another Asian influenced dish of mine I shared a while back: Coconut Lime Chicken with Mango Salsa. Yummy!!! Because one squash yields a fair amount of soup, I had some leftovers (very freezer friendly) which ended up in a homemade food care package for my poor son “the broke student”. I won’t quote his words exactly because of the F bomb he threw in but let’s just say that “mom, that soup you gave me was F’n crazy good” was music to my ears, swear word and all! There, you have it: endorsed by friends and second by one of my Princes! Oh and the King? He likes it too.
THAI INSPIRED BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP
What you need:
1 medium size butternut squash peeled¹ and cut in cubes
1 medium onion, chopped
3 tbsp olive oil
3 minced garlic cloves
1 tsp salt
1 large potato, peeled and cubed
1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed
Minced lemongrass, optional (2-3 inch piece)
4 to 6 cups chicken broth (or vegetable stock)²
Freshly grated ginger root (2-3 inch piece)
4 tsp green Thai curry paste ³
Zest and juice of 2 limes
1 can coconut milk
Salt and pepper to taste
Cilantro: optional and to taste. I added about 1/4 cup finely chopped.
¹I find it easier to peel this squash with a vegetable peeler before cutting through the flesh
² because butternut squash vary in size a fair bit, it is difficult to predict how much broth you will need. You can plan for 4 to 6 cups of broth (1 to 1.5 litres). Just add enough broth to cover the vegetables otherwise, the soup may be too thin. You can always add more broth after the soup has been puréed and the coconut milk has been added if the soup is too thick.
³ Where I live, I can find green curry paste in most grocery stores. The brand most broadly available in Ottawa is Thai Kitchen™
How to make it
1. Heat oil and cook onions until soft.
2. Add squash, potatoes, salt, garlic and lemongrass: cook while stirring frequently for about 5 minutes
3. Add enough broth to cover the squash by about 1 inch, bring to a boil.
4. Reduce heat to medium low, cover and simmer until squash and potatoes are fall apart tender
5. Add ginger root, green Thai curry paste, lime zest and juice. Blend well.
6. Turn off heat and puree soup until smooth using a hand-held mixer or a blender
7. Add coconut milk
8. Add more broth if soup is too thick
9. Adjust seasoning and let simmer for about 10 minutes