looks like velveeta

I hope I’m not offending anyone, but I find Velveeta cheese way gross. That’s why I’m happy to report tonight’s out-of-this-world butternut cashew soup only looks like a bowl of Velveeta. In fact, this rich, thick, creamy soup doesn’t contain any cheese, cream, or heavy ingredients.

I do typically cook from books (my favorite tried and true method on weeknights), but tonight I actually created a quicker and slighty sweeter version of this spectacular soup. (Not created, just used some basic techniques that we’ve already talked about in the roasting post)!  I’ve met (okay, and am perhaps related to) some people out there who claim they’re “not squash people”. Once again, cooking with methods that bring out maximum flavor and combining new flavors makes something as unique as squash appealing to even the vegetable-phobic out there.

If nutrition excites you as much as me, or if nourishing your body with wholesome foods is even the teeniest bit of interest, you might enjoy knowing that just one cup of butternut squash fulfills 457% of the daily value for Vitamin A, and 52% Vitamin C, not to mention Calcium and Iron and absolutely no fat or cholesterol! Naturally, cashews are high in fat (though not so in saturated fats), but they’re also high in Magnesium and Iron and important things like protein.

I’m not usually grabbing pre-bagged veggies off the shelves, but when it comes to butternut squash, you can understand why I appreciate someone else peeling and cubing for me. I learned from Jacques Pepin (via PBS) that it’s important to peel two layers from the squash before using. Peel down to the rich orange color, as the skin is bitter.

I also found that my handy-dandy peeler had a hard time working through this skin. When I switched hands, however, the less-used blade did the job well. Just a head’s up that your mom’s hand-me-down vegetable peeler might not make it through—it feels like you’re peeling a pumpkin (also an unpleasant, though delicious, task).

Speaking of pumpkin, don’t forget to scoop out the seeds!

Honestly, I didn’t find any taste difference between super fresh squash and pre-cut bagged squash. Moral: If your grocery store has bagged squash, go for it!

You might notice an apple hanging out here among my squash. Ina Garten made a chunky butternut squash soup with apples and all kinds of fun things inside. I had a Granny Smith on hand for a never-made applesauce cake (one day…) so I added it into the veggies for roasting. Next time I would consider an additional apple.

The original recipe  for this soup involves all kinds of work and then simmering the ingredients with the water and milk for 30 minutes and then another 20 minutes of chores. I decided to roast my ingredients for optimal flavor and less cooking time. Since this recipes includes a large amount of olive oil, I also cut down on the overall olive oil by tossing the squash and apples with just one tablespoon of oil, plus coarse salt and a big pinch of pepper. Our oven was being funky, so I cranked the heat like usual. I was also trying to spend the evening doing things outside of soupmaking. So I actually spread my veggies (plus the apple chunks) on a sheet and popped them in a 475 F oven just until tender–about 10-15 minutes. In the meantime, I softened one onion (finely chopped) in 4 tablespoons of butter in a really big pot. (A Dutch oven would be delightful, preferably purple, but here’s waiting on Christmas…)

Then I added my roasted ingredients, along with 1 teaspoon of curry powder, to the onions and butter and mixed well over medium heat. I’ve seen this done with chicken broth (which I might try next time), but I added 2/3 cup of lowfat milk and 2 cups of water. No need to simmer for ages since the veggies are already soft! I did mash the veggies with my spoon, just to make the blending easier.

note our honeymoon souvenirs behind the cashews. best potholders ever.

 

Chop 1 cup of cashews (I use roasted and unsalted) and add to the mixture in the pot. I would love an immersion blender, and if you have one, I’m completely jealous and suggest you use it at this point. If you don’t, here’s time to bring out the food processor or blender. I used a blender this time and found it was more friendly for pouring. Our blender is wimpy, so I added about 2/3 cup water with each batch. This soup is sooooooooo super-thick and flavorful, don’t be shy about adding water in the blending process.

 

Since  smoothing out the soup in batches can be messy with extra bowls to hold the smooth soup, reserving the pot to heat the finished soup, I finally found a system. (Please do share if yours is more efficient!!) Food processors and bowls make a mess in pouring, so this time I utilized 4-cup and 8-cup Pyrex measuring containers. I ladled the soup into the 4-cup one to transfer to the blender (though if you have more counter space, ladle right into your nearby blender!). After blending, I poured the smooth soup into the 8-cup container, which was then problem-free pouring to heat back in the pot!  A final taste for flavor and you’re ready to enjoy with fresh, warmed country bread and cold sweet butter. Soooooooooooooo incredible. My hubby intended to make a sandwich too, but we both found the soup so filling one roll completed a perfect winter meal!

 This soup is so thick (a bowl of Velveeta, I’m telling you) you could lessen the cashew amounts or substitute the milk for broth (though you may be replacing calcium with sodium). Do make and share your suggestions! Worth creating over and over and over again.

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