{Slow Cooker} Chai Butternut Squash Soup

With more than two weeks of traveling and a semi-unplanned fitness and blog hiatus behind me, I’m ready to jump into the new year. I am still working on my 2018 goals for all areas of my life, but rest assured that my biweekly schedule here is unharmed. I’m excited to share new recipes and cooking adventures with all of you, and have some fun series planned throughout the year. (If there’s something you’d love to see featured, let me know!)

Chai Butternut Squash Soup {{Baking Bytes}}

Winter hit Montana in full force while I was in much wetter parts of the country, but I welcome the cold and white climate of this time of year. Skiing and crisp winter runs are sure to be abundant over the next couple of months, and like any sane person I love coming home to a nice warm soup.

Chai Butternut Squash Soup {{Baking Bytes}}

This recipe is souper easy (ha) and extremely tasty. Thick and filling, it warms you from the inside out with its cozy spices and sweet squash flavor. Start a batch before you head out on your winter adventures, and within 20 minutes of getting home you’ll have this deliciousness ready to eat.

Prep time is minimal, but if you want to speed things up a bit I definitely won’t judge you for buying pre-diced squash. Since the soup is pureed anyway, I don’t bother peeling the carrots or apple but you can if you wish. This soup is also very forgiving, so if you have space in the slow cooker feel free to add a few additional carrots or apples to the mix.

Chai Butternut Squash Soup {{Baking Bytes}}

The chai spice mix is very simple and allows you to tailor it to your preferences. Raise or lower the proportions to suit your tastes, or ditch certain spices entirely. I made this mix for the soup, of course, but it’s also delicious in oatmeal, smoothies, milkshakes, lattes, hot chocolate, or anything you can dream up. It keeps just as long as any of your spices would, so don’t be afraid of the excess. I used closer to two tablespoons for a nice strong spice flavor, but I recommend starting with half the amount so you can find your perfect balance.

An immersion blender makes quick work of pureeing, but you can use a food processor or regular blender if you are careful. Work in small batches and allow the soup to cool briefly before blending.

Chai Butternut Squash Soup {{Baking Bytes}}

Warm in both flavor and temperature, this soup is great on its own or alongside a nice crusty bread and a light salad. The leftovers reheat well which makes it perfect for meal-prep, presuming it wasn’t all scarfed up the first day.

Chai Butternut Squash Soup

Adapted from Give Me Some Oven
Makes about 6 quarts

Ingredients

1 large butternut squash (3-4 lbs), peeled, seeded, and diced
2 medium carrots, diced
1 large apple, cored and diced
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 Tbsp chai spice (below), to taste
1/4 tsp cayenne, to taste
2-4 cups vegetable stock

1 (15oz) can full-fat unsweetened coconut milk1
salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

  1. Add all ingredients (start with 2 cups broth) except coconut milk to large slow cooker and stir gently to combine.
  2. Cook on low 6-8 hours or on high for 3-4 hours, or until squash is tender.
  3. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup completely (or carefully use a regular blender and small batches.)
  4. Stir in coconut milk (you can start with just half of it, if you prefer) and additional spices as necessary. Add more vegetable broth to thin soup to your ideal consistency.
  5. (If you added more spices, allow to simmer for about 10 minutes.)
  6. Serve warm, topped with additional coconut milk and chai spices, if desired.

Chai Spice Mix

Adapted from A Dash of Megnut

Ingredients

1 Tbsp cinnamon
2 tsp cardamom
1 1/2 tsp ginger
1 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Directions

  1. Combine all ingredients in a small jar and shake or whisk until well combined.
  2. Store in an air-tight container until ready for use.

Notes

If you are not vegan and not a fan of coconut milk, you can substitute half and half instead. Start with 1/2 cup and increase as desired.

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Fall Harvest Browned Butter Pasta

During the summer I rarely eat pasta as I prefer lighter and cooler meals in the hot weather. As the temperature drops and the leaves change, I reintroduce pastas and soups into my regular rotation. However, with Montana’s bipolar weather patterns, fall typically holds as many days in the 70s as it does in the 40s, which makes my usual bulk preparation a bit more challenging. Quinoa salads are great for this, because they are excellent both warm and cold, making it easy to match the weather and my mood for the day, but I don’t want to eat one every week. Another option are vegetable-heavy pasta meals that don’t involve a heavy sauce.

This recipe is partly inspired by my favorite cookbook, written by an elite distance runner. It’s full of hearty and delicious meals that aren’t “skinny” but still full of veggies and healthy fats. I modified my version slightly, adding Brussels sprouts and changing the spices a little, based off a similar recipe online. The result is a colorful mix of veggies and pasta, falling somewhere between a light summer entree and a cozy fall one.

Brussels sprouts are a winter staple for me, as they keep well in the fridge and roasting them is simple and always delicious. (They are also sold at Costco, which admittedly factors heavily into my produce selections.) The butternut squash takes a bit more effort to prepare, but you can really streamline the process by buying the pre-diced version. This does feel slightly ridiculous, but it saves a huge amount of time and effort so personally I think it’s worth the extra couple dollars.

Browned butter adds a nice caramel flavor, complimented by herbs and a few red pepper flakes. I kept my sauce on the light side as I wanted the veggies to shine, but absolutely double the sauce recipe if you want a more decadent experience. I opted to add toasted walnuts for some crunch, and parmesan (because you can’t go wrong with cheese) for a delicious protein boost. I personally loved this recipe in its original vegetarian state, but some crumbled bacon or prosciutto would be a nice addition as well.

It reheats nicely for leftovers, and is also pretty good cold if you didn’t add too much extra sauce. Welcoming in the fall vegetables without the heat or heaviness of a chili, it bridges the divide from summer to winter with a more gradual shift. If, like me, you’re in a place that can’t quite make up it’s mind about the weather, a batch of this will be that perfect mix of cozy and cool.

Fall Harvest Browned Butter Pasta

Inspired by Maebells and Run Fast, Eat Slow
Serves 6-8

Ingredients

2 lbs butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and diced
2 lbs Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
2 Tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

1 lb pasta (I used casarecce)

for the sauce
1/2 cup unsalted butter
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 tsp dried sage
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly grated pepper
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

optional toppings
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and line two baking sheets with aluminum foil.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together butternut squash and 1 tablespoon of olive oil until squash is well coated. Spread in an even layer on one baking sheet.
  3. In the same bowl, mix together Brussels sprouts and remaining 1 tablespoon of oil, mixing until well coated. Spread in an even layer on the other baking sheets.
  4. Sprinkle both sheets with salt and pepper, to taste.
  5. Roast for 30 minutes (squash on top), stirring halfway through, until squash is tender.
  6. Remove squash from oven and move sprouts to the upper rack, roasting another 5-10 minutes until browned and crispy.
  7. Meanwhile, cook pasta al dente, according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
  8. When the veggies have about 10 minutes remaining, make the sauce: melt butter in a large pot (I used a wok) over medium heat. Simmer until it begins to darken and contains brown flecks, stirring occasionally.
  9. Turn off the heat and stir in garlic and spices.
  10. When the veggies and pasta are done, stir gently into the sauce until completely combined and evenly coated.
  11. Serve hot with extra grated pepper, optionally topped with one tablespoon each of Parmesan and toasted walnuts.

Notes

I kept the sauce fairly light as I wanted the veggies to shine through. If you’re looking for a rich, buttery experience, feel free to double the sauce recipe.

To toast walnuts, spread on a baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees until warmed, lightly golden, and a little crunchier (about 5 minutes).

Apple Pumpkin Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Perhaps after the overwhelming feasting of Super Bowl Sunday and Valentine’s Day you are ready for something a bit more on the healthy side. Or maybe you wisely skipped all that but are always on the lookout for new recipes. Look no further! Today I have a wonderful healthy and vegetarian (optionally vegan) recipe to share with you all.

Apple Pumpkin Roasted Butternut Squash Soup {{Baking Bytes}}

I’d been eyeing soups like these for a while but only a few weeks ago bit the bullet and bought an immersion blender. Turns out they are awesome and you should absolutely get one. If it’s not in the budget or cupboard space doesn’t allow, you can make do with a food processor or high-end blender, but for real an immersion blender is the way to go. I ordered mine from Amazon (no I’m not getting paid for this, I just love it) and it is fantastic. I’m sure I’ll be using it often, which is good because I haven’t quite found a cupboard to store it in.

Regardless, soup. Butternut squash is always rampant in the winter but until this year I’d never actually cooked with it. Turns out that like spaghetti squash, it’s an incredibly easy option. After roasting, it’s delicious simply mashed with a little butter and salt and pepper, and even more amazing in more complex recipes like this soup.

Apple Pumpkin Roasted Butternut Squash Soup {{Baking Bytes}}

Squash and pumpkin bolstered slightly with the sweetness of apples are mixed with vegetable stock and spices for a wonderful savory entrée. An optional addition of heavy cream makes it an extra amazing experience but it’s also delicious without. Either way, the slightly sweet vegetables with a little spiciness is an excellent combination. With everything puréed together, the flavors are perfectly blended into a simple course that easy to pair with many sides.

Apple Pumpkin Roasted Butternut Squash Soup {{Baking Bytes}}

This recipe is vegetarian as is, and can be made vegan by omitting the cream or substituting your favorite non-dairy option. If you’re neither of those things, serve with some crumbled bacon for extra flair, or just to appease the carnivores in the family.

Since the oven will already be hot from roasting the squash, a batch of roasted Brussels sprouts makes a perfect side dish to round out a very colorful meal. Even better, this soup reheats nicely either on the stove or in the microwave, which is great for the abundant leftovers I hope you have.

Apple Pumpkin Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Adapted from Smile Sandwich
Makes about 2 quarts

Ingredients

1 medium to large butternut squash

1 medium onion
2 apples
3 cloves garlic
olive oil

32 oz vegetable (or chicken) stock
1  cup pumpkin puree
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp Thyme
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

1/2 cup cream (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheets with foil or a silicon mat.
  2. Cut squash in half (the long way) and remove the seeds. Coat lightly with olive oil and place on baking sheet.
  3. Roast for 40-50 minutes, or until squash is easily pierced with a fork.
  4. Meanwhile, dice onion, apples, and garlic. (I also like to pre-measure my spices into a small cup and then clean up the kitchen at this time, but that’s totally up to you.)
  5. When the squash has about 15 minutes left, heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.
  6. Add onion, apple, and garlic and saute until they are softened, about 10 minutes.
  7. Stir in spices, pumpkin puree, and vegetable stock and continue cooking while you finish the squash. (If you pre-cooked your squash, you can just skip straight to step 9.)
  8. When the squash is cooked, remove from oven and carefully scoop out the flesh from the skin. (You may want to wait about ten minutes for them to cool down a little, and/or use a heat-proof glove).
  9. Add squash to the pot, bring soup to a boil, and simmer for about 20 minutes.
  10. Remove from heat and add the cream, if desired. Use an immersion blender to completely puree the soup. Taste and up the spices a little, if desired.
  11. Serve hot with freshly ground pepper on top. Refrigerate leftovers.