Given a choice, I have always preferred creamy to broth-based soups. The rich flavor and luscious texture of a creamy soup ranks very high on my list of preferred comfort foods. Unfortunately, the butter and heavy cream used to achieve that tempting consistency were major contributors to my years of obesity.
Initially, I thought committing to losing weight would mean only having a small amount of my favorite comfort foods, and even then only on rare occasions. It was one of the reasons I waited as long as I did to begin the process. I wanted to lose weight, not comfort.
Eight years and half my body weight later, I see how limited my choices were while I clung to those same familiar foods. Eating nourishing food has expanded my choices both with new ingredients and cooking techniques.
Today, I enjoy flavorful creamy soups in a healthy way. Of course, there is no apples-to-apples comparison between the recipes, the soups I prepare now are delicious in their own way. Through my experimenting I have found healthy soups can feel both comforting and invigorating where the heavy cream soups left me feeling over-full and sluggish.
The way to achieve a velvety smooth texture is to puree some or all of the soup after the ingredients have cooked until they are soft. Certain ingredients will maximize the creaminess when pureed. For the creamiest textures, that don’t require a drop of actual cream, I include a starchy ingredient such as beans, potatoes, yams, or squash.
The easiest way to puree a soup is with an immersion or stick blender that can dip right into your pot; alternately you can use a standard blender. Please be very careful when blending hot foods as they create pressure that can pop the lid right off your blender jar.
Cool days and longer nights are here, which means I will be craving indulgent comfort food more often. But, this busy life requires me to be ready to go all the time. I’m not preparing to hibernate so I’ll be cooking with lots of invigorating ingredients to make sure that my palate is delighted and my health goals remain achievable, sustainable, and fun all season long.
Roasted pumpkin soup
1 4-pound sugar pumpkin, yields 4 cups mashed
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon ground chili powder (just chilies not a blend)
2 teaspoons ground coriander
5-6 large cloves garlic, leave peels on
2 cups diced yellow onion, approximately 1 medium onion
1 cup diced carrot, approximately 1-2 medium
½ cup diced celery
4 cups unsalted vegetable stock
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Cut the pumpkin in half then scoop out the seeds (keep these for roasting if you like) then quarter each half. Arrange the pumpkin, skin side down, on a rimmed baking pan and drizzle over 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Sprinkle the spices and ½ teaspoon of salt over the pumpkin then turn each piece skin side up. Scatter the unpeeled garlic cloves on the pan. Roast the pumpkin and garlic for 30 minutes – until you can easily pierce the pumpkin with a fork and it is slightly caramelized at the edges.
While the pumpkin roasts, prepare the vegetables. Heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil over a medium heat in a heavy bottomed soup pan. Add the vegetables and ½ teaspoon of salt and cook for 15 minutes until the onions begin to caramelize. Stir often.
When the pumpkin and garlic have cooled to the touch, gently remove the skins then stir to the soup and remove from the heat.
Use an immersion blender to puree the soup until it reached a luscious smooth consistency. You may also puree in a standard blender, make sure the soup is cool and work in batches appropriate for the volume of your blender jar.
Serve warm with the toppings of your choice.
Notes: Like all winter squash, pumpkin skin is hard and can be difficult to cut. One of those little serrated saws that come in inexpensive pumpkin carving kits can be extremely useful for cutting through that thick skin.
Prep 30 minutes. Cook 45 minutes.
Yield 8 1-cup servings.
Approximate nutrition information: 96 calories, 4g fat, 854mg sodium, 15g carbohydrate, 3g fiber, 2g sugar, 2g protein
Adapted from “Glorious roasted pumpkin soup” by Merlin Jobst as featured on jamieoliver.com, Nov. 14, 2014