It's that wonderful time of year when the air is fresh and crisp, the leaves are crunchy, and squashes take over the produce section in the grocery store. On a chilly day, a pot soup simmering on the stove while the temperatures dip is the absolute definition of cozy. What could be better than peeling off your gloves and warming your hands and soul with a thick, rich squash soup?
Was it me who was just saying how easy it is to peel and roast an acorn squash? It was? Well, what can I say, sometimes I am too pressed for time/ lazy to bother, especially for something like soup. I mean, I love a nice, crispy-on-the-outside piece of roasted squash as much as the next person, but peeling and cubing and roasting and THEN pureeing squash for a soup seems like a lot of effort.
This soup, however, is the very definition of minimal effort. It's also hearty and creamy, without any actual cream, and it is chock full of vitamins. Did you know that butternut squash is extremely high in Vitamin A, and is a good source of Vitamin C and fibre as well. Add that to immune-boosting garlic, and you've got yourself a panacea for the cold and flu season, which is upon us. But more importantly, it's delicious, filling, and so easy to make.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
Slice butternut squash in half lengthwise; scoop out the seeds. Place squash cut side up on the prepared baking sheet.
Arrange sliced garlic and onion over top the squash. Drizzle with olive oil.
Roast in the oven for one hour, or until the squash is very fork-tender.
Remove from oven and when cool enough to handle, scoop squash from the skins, along with the onion and garlic. Working in batches, puree in a blender or food processor along with the vegetable stock until very smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
Pour into a large saucepan and keep warm on the stove until ready to serve.
It was the end of September when the first one arrived in my inbox, and to be frank, I was surprised it took so long. Usually the first Student Safety/ Appropriate Parking Spaces/ Reminder to Drivers from the school arrives around Pumpkin Spice Latte time, and we all know that happens at the first sign of crisp air.
This is my eighth and final year at our local elementary school, and it is my third year as a mother of a Safety Patrol Crossing Guard. At this point, nothing surprises me any more. I feel like a grizzled old crone who has become deadened to the shocking things people do while driving motor vehicles in a school zone.
The first week of school, before the crossing guards had been chosen and trained, I was crossing the street in the marked, lighted crosswalk with my son. There was a group of us crossing on one side, and a woman with a toddler on her hip on the other side. A car came speeding through the crosswalk, coming within feet of the woman with the toddler. The car did not stop until it came within a thirty-second walking distance to the school, at which point it illegally parked in front of a resident's driveway, letting out a child with a backpack. That child was heading to our school. That careless driver who nearly hit a mother carrying a two year-old was a parent at OUR SCHOOL.
I'd like to say I was shocked but really, it's par for the course. The number of times I have experienced near misses in that very crosswalk during my eight years is extensive.
Sometimes I think about our much-admired principal; I think about her sitting down to her desk to craft yet another letter to parents about safety around the school. I imagine her 30 years ago, fresh-faced and eagerly looking forward to a life in academia and working with children; at that point I'm sure she never dreamed she would have to spend time and energy reminding parents to stop at the crosswalks, to not make illegal U-turns in the middle of the very busy street, to cross at the marked intersections rather than jaywalking with children in tow. Oh boy, she would have never thought in her youth, Oh boy, I can't WAIT to write letters to parents asking them to please not park in the bus zones! I can't wait to remind parents that driving into oncoming traffic to avoid slow school buses is unsafe and illegal!
At our school, there are nine buses a day, along with many parents who drive, and some children who walk. There are three crosswalks that are manned by the crossing guards. From my eight years of observing, these are the conclusions I have come to:
When you're running late, why not just pop into the bus zone? It will only inconvenience thirty or forty kids at a time. Your time is more important than anyone else's, and also this way you can watch your children walk right on to the school property.
If you're parked (legally) on the street across from the school, there is no need to waste 30-60 seconds walking to the marked crosswalks. Just run across the street! It's not hard to dodge traffic. Those people can stop. You have better things to do with your time. So what if you have to come from behind parked cars and buses and no one can see you? It's a school zone, drivers should EXPECT you to cross this way.
Those no-parking signs don't mean that YOU can't park there. It just means OTHER people can't park there.
They're just children with stop signs; it's not like these are professionals. No need to really pay attention. Pro-tip: if you can't wait 2-3 minutes for children to cross the street, just drive on through! The children can dodge.
Illegal u-turns in the middle of a busy street, driving into oncoming traffic to avoid being stopped behind a school bus, speeding through school zones and going through crosswalks regardless of whether or not people are crossing are all fine, because you're careful. You're careful enough to know that no one is going to get hurt. You'd never willingly hurt anyone, you're just in a hurry. And all those little eyes watching, from the school bus and the sidewalk and the school yard? They're just kids; they'd never notice anyway.
I'm a huge fan of roasted squash: I love it cubed and roasted until crisp on the outside. It's great eaten hot out of the oven, or cooled with salad. My very favourite is butternut squash; I had it in my mind to make a nice kale salad topped with butternut squash and chickpeas, but when I got to the grocery store they were ALL OUT OF BUTTERNUT SQUASH.
Cue sad trombone.
I was having one of those days in which the lack of butternut squash was the straw that broke my figurative back. I asked the fellow working in the produce department if there were any in the back, and there weren't. I stood sadly staring at the butternut squash-less squash display for so long that another shopper asked if I was all right. I snapped back to reality and realized that I had to work on being more flexible in my mind, more of a roll-with-the-punches kind of girl.
I wondered if I could make the salad with acorn squash, of which there was a plethora.
I had only ever eaten acorn squash roasted in its own skin, scooped out and mashed with maple syrup and cinnamon, and while that's a fine way to eat it, it wasn't anything near what I was craving. I wondered if I could peel, cube, and roast it like I would a butternut squash.
I have to tell you, peeling an acorn squash is not that bad, even with all the ridges. To me, it's actually easier than peeling a butternut squash, which tends to result in me breaking a vegetable peeler and/ or coming dangerously close to severing my fingers.
Roasted acorn squash is nuttier in taste than butternut, it's not as sweet but very tasty in its own way. It went perfectly with this kale salad, and it makes for a filling, hearty dish.
Wash and dry squash. Using a large kitchen knife, slice the acorn squash lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds.
Slice each half into quarters; in half lengthwise and then widthwise.
Using a sharp knife cut the skin off, using a smaller knife to get in the ridges.
Cut the pieces into 1-inch cubes, place in a large bowl, and toss with olive oil to coat. 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil should do the trick.
Arrange pieces in a single layer on a baking sheet, sprinkle with sea salt and cracked black pepper, and roast in a 425 degree oven for 30-40 minutes, or until crispy on the outside.
Serve as-is, or allow to cool and try with this tasty kale salad.
Whisk together the dressing ingredients.
Pour over kale pieces, massaging with your hands to ensure even coverage.
Add acorn squash and toss with the kale to coat.
To turn this from a side dish into a main course, add crispy pan-fried chickpeas.
Want more like this? Try my Energy Triple Threat: Roasted Squash, Kale, and Quinoa Salad, my Roasted Squash and Chickpea Curry, or my Good Health Bowl: Brown Rice With Roasted Squash and Chickpeas.