The Natural Way

Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Jim Fain

This is the time of the year for hearty foods. Acorn, butternut, Hubbard and spaghetti squash are plentiful and cheap as are root veggies such as parsnips, potatoes and carrots.

  Storing them in a cool yet dry area at home will keep them fresh for a long time. Preparing them for the table is easy and the finished product is not only tasty but also chock full of vitamins and minerals. Acorn and butternut are just a little higher in nutrition than some of the other varieties of squash but all are a treasure trove. If you don't add lots of butter or brown sugar these guys are amazingly low in calories.

  The recipes can be simple. For acorn, butternut and Hubbard squash, simply wash, slice, clean, bake in orange juice at 400 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes with slices of oranges arranged over the top along with a tent of foil. Adding a pinch of sea salt, a touch of pepper and a dusting of ground ginger after taking it out of the oven takes them over the top. Heaven can be achieved on Earth!

  I'm a strong advocate of choosing foods that match the season but making simple yet scrumptious soup out of any veggie goes great with heavier food and cold days. The soup is fresh not canned and amazingly easy to make. Try using two crowns of broccoli per serving along with 10 ounces of liquid (can be water or chicken broth) and cook at a low heat until soft. Pour the contents into a blender and slowly pulse then liquefy. Correct the seasoning with a little salt or fresh ground pepper.

  If you want to get a little fancy add a couple of tablespoons of butter and a splash of cream. Getting really fancy would be to run the blended mash through a strainer to refine the consistency. I usually don't do that as I find it unnecessary for flavor and texture. Unstrained, you get a heartier version and the benefit of the whole veggie.

  Try this recipe with all sorts of different veggies like squash, both hard or soft, cauliflower, potatoes, tomatoes and peppers. If you grill your peppers, soft squash (yellow or zucchini) before cooking in the broth it adds a delicious flavor.

  To notch up a little more, reserve a small amount of the veggie from the stock pot before blending. Chop and add back when ladling to the serving bowl. Sprinkle some shredded cheese on top.

  Any veggie, organic or not, must be washed. If you decide to not make soup then for soft veggies, eat raw or lightly steamed. Hard veggies like the acorn squash need to be steamed or baked until tender.

  Staying in season, local to your area, is a good thing to do. Local foods are fresher and reflect what we have to deal with here in our little part of heaven.

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