Butternut Squash Soup & a Story About a Goat. With Horns.

I picked up my last farm share in October. And since then, I have said goodbye to my old farm in Connecticut and found a new farm in Maryland.  The truthful reality is that we’re way beyond butternut squash season, and the butternut squash was way more than plentiful this year.  So much so that I made soup, froze soup, gave away soup, roasted squash, mashed candied squash, squash hummus and goat cheese squash dip. And I thought I was finally down to my last squash when I received 6 more from my new farm when we arrived in Maryland in November! So rest assured, this soup recipe is taste-tested and approved outside of my own kitchen. This post began last fall prior to our move, but then, you know, the logistics of moving got in the major time suck sort of way. For months I have been working on transitioning our life from one state to another. And besides, a hearty warm soup is always called for in these long, cold winter months.

When we walked out of our Connecticut home for the last time, we had a cooler in tow with the last of our refrigerated items and a couple of homemade freezer goodies: including the remaining stock of homemade butternut squash soup. The cooler made it through our road trip and it was only this last week that I thawed the last of my soup stash! It was so good that I actually picked up 4 lbs. of cubed & peeled butternut squash at the grocery store this week to make another batch to keep on hand for warm & cozy lunches and simple dinners.  I surprised myself considering I was squashed out by December.

As I sit here sliding into the heart of winter, and the organic section of the supermarket dwindling down on produce, I dream of June. More notably for its warm weather and winter a forgettable past, but also for the rebirth and abundance of farm fresh, local veggies. I have always coveted summer Thursdays making my late afternoon trips to the farm to pick up my vegetables each week. I cherish the time so much it almost sounds like a cheesy love affair. Appreciating each moment; the wispy tall grass & long, bumpy dirt driveway, the horses grazing along the way, and the chickens & goats who roam free and have no sense of boundaries, just overt curiosity for visitors to the farm. There were giant pigs and small black cows. The farm stunk like a farm should. There were lots of flies and lots of random farm stuff. Tools, machinery, parts, broken toys and just stuff lying around. As I leave this lovely picture in your mind and move on to my lovely recipe, you should know there was an incident with one of the goats that day. It had horns. And it was the day I picked up my butternut squash.  So first, try the recipe and then read the story about the goat over a bowl your homemade soup.

I’ll admit I was hesitant to try this combo. I couldn’t imagine how the tomato paste or the beans would meld well with the butternut squash. I was pleasantly surprised and I know you will be too. This soup is hearty and the flavor is just perfect.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large butternut squash cut in half lengthwise (or 6 cups cubed squash)
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped onion (1 small onion)
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 1/2 cups vegetable broth (**or see variation following the recipe)
  • 1 cup almond milk (or other plain/unsweetened non-dairy alternative)
  • 1/3 cup tomato paste 
  • 1 15 oz. can of white beans, drained and rinsed
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut your butternut squash lengthwise, scoop out the seeds and any stringy flesh. Drizzle a small amount of olive oil on the cut sides of the squash, rub it around and sprinkle with sea salt & fresh ground pepper. Using a parchment paper lined pan, place the cut side down. Roast in the oven for an hour or until skin is easily pierced with a fork.  If you are using cubed squash, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper.  You may have to adjust your time using pre-cut cubed squash – check the squash after 40 minutes.  It is done when it can be pierced with a fork and slightly browned.

Once the squash is done roasting, set it aside to cool slightly. In the meantime, in a large stock pot, saute the onion in the remaining olive oil until soft. Add the garlic and thyme and cook for another 2 minutes. Add the vegetable broth, tomato paste and beans keeping the heat on medium low. Scoop the butternut squash out of the skin and add it to the pot. Using an immersion blender, blend all until smooth and there are no chunks or whole beans.  Stir in the almond milk. Add salt & pepper to taste if needed. Once well blended, serve immediately.

You can freeze the leftovers! I recommend cooling the soup as much as possible and scooping the leftovers into freezer bags – 1 or 2 cups at a time so you can thaw them through the winter.

**With regard to a broth variation – if you are not following a vegetarian or vegan diet you can substitute with chicken broth. Additionally, I sometimes reserve broth based “gravy” from crockpot meals. Most recently I made boneless pork chops in the crockpot with an olive oil and broth based gravy that included basil, oregano, paprika, garlic powder and a prepackaged grilling herb blend. I have also used homemade bone broth as part of the overall 2 1/2 cups of broth called for.  Butternut squash is so versatile that it can take on different herb combinations.  I love the simple pairing of just thyme, but you can sprinkle in nutmeg to your liking or any herbs used in your homemade gravy or broths.

Now for that goat story…

This is the true story about a walking impaired mother, her 3 year old boy and a couple of curious goats.

The farmer had left early the afternoon of our last pick-up to attend a school function for their children. They kindly left a sign with instructions for what the CSA members should choose for the week. My little guy accompanied me this afternoon and was eager to see what stray toys were lingering around the property that he could tinker with and what treasures he could find. He procured his treasure almost immediately: a chicken feather. He was so proud, it was like his new magic wand. Shortly thereafter I heard his little voice “uh-oh, here come the chickens!” and as I glanced back, the chickens were sneaking out from under the fence probably in search of greener grass that wasn’t stomped on by the giant pig and little cows. Or bugs. Or whatever they eat.  No biggie.

I collected my vegetables as my son tooled around in a faded big red plastic car. I started slowly making my way back to the car trying to manage my cane and three heavy bags.  The bags held 10 ears of corn, a few squash and a bunch of other goodies like lettuce, the last of the tomatoes, onions, radishes, green peppers and eggplant. All I could imagine at that time was what I was going to make for dinner as I was so delighted by the variety in that final week. With my eyes focused to the ground taking slow steps maneuvering the uneven terrain of grass, cracked concrete and chicken poop I heard in a bigger, little boy voice “uh-oh, here come the goats!” Now he had my attention.

I looked up and there they were. Two little goats, one with horns, and they were trotting right on over to us. Great. I told my son to hold my hand and we would walk slowly to the car and hopefully they wouldn’t bother us. The problem was, he was already staring at them hard, his eyes linked directly to theirs. Of course they were coming over to us, it was an open, silent but obvious, invitation! I softly explained that if we stopped looking at them they might go away because they would think we’re not interested. He turned his head awkwardly in the other direction so as not to stare them down. Problem was, they were still coming toward us so my theory pretty much failed as instantly as I thought it. One of the goats was familiar from previous farm visits but the other one with the horns…I mean, there were horns. Nothing good comes of something with horns. I kind of began to panic a little. What do I know about goats? Nothing, that’s what.

My next moment of brilliance came out of mild desperation. It was us against the goats. “Will, please listen to me and listen to me closely. You must do exactly as I say. When I say go, you go get on top of that picnic table. OK?  Do you see the picnic table right in front of us? When mommy says go, you get on that picnic table and stay there. The reason I am asking you to do this is so you stay safe, OK?” After a few questions, he confirmed that he saw the picnic table and understood my directions. It all felt kind of silly and I was embarrassed for myself that I was nervous about two little goats but with me managing 3 heavy bags, my cane, and a little boy, warding off the tiny goat with horns was like, a big deal. Do they bite? Will the one with horns buck us? The possibilities seemed endless.

And now their approach was uncomfortably close. I quickly said “Go!” and Will did exactly as we had discussed and I was so proud! But then, the goats started climbing on the table too! Will started to cry so I put my bags down and stumbled over to him and began to rub his back. Now I was staring down the goats with my protective mother glare. I was ready. You know, with my secret ninja skills and cane. The whole situation was just truly ridiculous. And nothing was even happening except the goats intruding on our personal space.

In the moment I recognized there was a good probability that the goats were harmless but how was I to know for sure given all of my goat experience, which by the way was zero? And did I mention the one had horns! So as I am rubbing Will’s back the goat with horns jumps down from the picnic table, snags an ear of corn right out of my bag, shaking the cob fiercely in its mouth trying to husk it and then took off! Will went from tears to “Oh-no! The goat stole your popcorn mommy!”

With Will still crouched on top of the picnic table my bags, minus a corn, were close enough that I could manage a step and begin the walk to the car which was approximately another 10 feet away. The focus was getting us to the car, end of story. I was so done with hanging around. The goats tired of the corn and seemingly lost interest in us too as they began to meander away. Occasionally they pretended to care by taking a step or two back in our direction, maybe still in it for the corn, I will never know. We watched the goats like hawks to prey all the while strategizing together on when and how to vacate the picnic table and make a move for the car. I knew the door would be too heavy for him to open so I had to go first. “Don’t leave me here mommy!” he kept saying and me on repeat, “I am not leaving you, I am just going first so I open your door for you. When I say run, you jump down and run, OK?” OK he said. But he too had other plans. When it was time, with the goats finally in the other pasture and we were their forgettable past, I told him it was time to run. “Are you sure?” he asked a few times. “Yes, the goats are not looking now, they won’t bother us anymore.” I watched him glancing from me to the goats, back to me, back to the goats ensuring his timing was just perfect. In one Superman leap, he jumped down from the table and started to run, but he wasn’t running to the car! It was like slow-mo and I couldn’t get any words out when he changed directions bolting back to me holding the previously stolen and partially nibbled ear of corn. “I got the popcorn, I saved your popcorn!” he was beaming. We gave each other a high five as he jumped into his seat. “That was great team work bud, you were SO BRAVE!”

So, that is the story about the rogue goats. And as I glanced in the backseat while we were driving away, there he was waving his chicken feather. Triumph.

Thank you for listening! Enjoy the soup.

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