Cheap Eat Challenge: Join us (or watch) as our family of 6 eats on $6/day.
We've been eating a little extra cheap this week. Why? Because we had a birthday to celebrate. And birthdays in this family mean cake and ice cream. Tomorrow we'll have a discussion of those sweet treats. But for today, you're stuck with the nutritious and super cheap business of vegetable soup. The good news is it's a mighty tasty, mighty simple soup packed with plenty of Vitamin A (among other things). The bad new is, it's not ice cream. Patience, my friends, patience.
I bought my butternut squash a month or 2 ago when they were on sale for $1.29 each at Aldi. Hard-skinned, or winter squashes, like butternut keep well for months (especially if you've got a cool place to store them) so they're a great thing to buy on sale and hold onto.
I tried making this in the crockpot, so I'd have a great way to make an easy recipe even easier. Alas, I didn't put it in soon enough. After 3 1/2 hours on high in the crockpot, the squash wasn't soup ready. It probably needed 2 more hours, but I'm not sure. I'll experiment more with that next time. If you want to give it a go, give yourself 6 hours on high. It's a creamy soup that gets pureed at the end so if it gets more time than it needs that's not a problem.
A note on sour cream: This recipe originally called for 1 1/4 C low-fat sour cream. I use the full-fat variety and need only about 1/2 C to get a creamy nicely flavored soup. And now, prepare yourselves for a brief rant on low-fat products. First of all, they're are generally more processed than their full-fat counterparts--sometimes undergoing severe chemical alterations. Secondly, they do not taste as good. There may be some that taste close to as good, but they never taste as good. And often they just taste not very good at all. Sure, you get used to them. Kind of. Thirdly, I believe that you need more of a low-fat product to produce a similar effect on your foods--in this case, you need more low-fat sour cream to get the flavor and creaminess your soup needs. Fourthly (is that a word?), they often cost more--if not pound for pound (and they often DO cost more pound for pound), then because you have to use twice as much to get a good effect from them. And lastly, I do not believe that they help anyone to be leaner. If anything, food that tastes good and is satisfying helps people to be leaner--at least if they've learned to listen to their bodies and stop when they are satisfied. Besides the fact that it generally doesn't satisfy unless you double the amount, there seems to be some scientific research supporting the idea that processed low-fat foods are more difficult for the body to know what to do with. (Maybe I'll look up an actual link if I've got time tonight. For now, you get the unsupported rant.) For example, there are those who argue that the fat molecules from full-fat (particularly raw) milk pass through the body undigested, while the messed with fat molecules of their low-fat brothers get sucked into the body. I do not know with absolute certainty that this is true, but I do believe it because in my personal experience it seems to be true. When I was in high school I ate almost no fat at all. I ate a lot of low-fat chemically altered foods. And I was not fat. But I didn't eat a whole lot. And I was a teenager. Then after I'd been pregnant a couple of times and learned to listen to my body and started eating more whole foods, prepared and "processed" by me, I got thinner. I didn't try to. I just did. End rant. (For now...)
One more note on sour cream (just in case that wasn't an earful, er, eyeful enough): You can substitue cream (or probably whole milk) for the sour cream. It's great both ways. If my soup is soupy (because the sizes of the squash differ somewhat), I use the sour cream. If it's a bit thick, I use the cream. The flavors are a bit different (the sour cream has more kick; the cream has a sweeter overtone), but both are fabulous.
A note on chicken stock: I used homemade in this. I actually used turkey stock leftover from Thanksgiving. It was fine, but it wasn't soup perfection. Chicken stock is better in this recipe--particularly a milder-tasting one that's not been complicated by a lot of different flavors/herbs/spices. The butternut is more impressionable than, say, a potato, so if you're using a stock with a strong flavor of its own, that will come out more in this soup. Because of this, a store-bought broth is great in this soup--it's mild and not other-season-y, which is what this needs.
A note on squash: You can cut it and prepare it the day of, but this is also a great soup to make it you have leftover butternut squash (or probably some other squash) lying around. I often make it with our squash leftovers, which will save you the time of peeling the raw squash.
A note on hearty add-ins: If you want to make this heartier, I have two suggestions for add-ins which I, for the record, haven't tried, but keep meaning to. I think it'd be great with chunks of potato, perhaps mashed just a bit. And I think it'd be great with a cup of white beans (I'm thinking northern white beans) thrown in. If you try these, let me know how they turn out and I promise to do the same.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Cost: $1.89 (more if you use store-bought stock)
(3 lb butternut squash: 1.29, sour cream: .50)
1 butternut squash, about 3 lb
4 C chicken stock
1/2 C sour cream
salt and pepper to taste
Cut up squash, take seeds out, and peel squash. I'm not gonna lie; this is a bit of a hassle, but it's still not more than a 15-minute hassle--less to an experienced hand with a decent knife.
Put the pieces of squash in a pot with the chicken stock. Bring to boil, then reduce and simmer covered for 20-30 minutes or until the squash is super tender. Let it cool for 2-3 minutes. Then puree it in a blender or food processor. Add the sour cream. Reheat if necessary (don't bring to boil), but for me it usually isn't. Season with salt and pepper and anything else that rocks your flavor world.
You can garnish with more sour cream, parsley, caramelized onions, sauteed mushrooms, and even the toasted seeds from the squash. I just eat it with bread.