There is a local fast food restaurant I frequent. Many don't think of it as fast food because of the atmosphere, and they do have quality fresh greens, but their soup is packaged, the food is packaged (dressing - packaged, meats/cheeses - packaged), so like it or not, it's fast food. Packaged, but pretty good. Last year they had a butternut squash soup, it must not have sold well as butternut squash soup, so some marketing genius brought it back as 'autumn soup'. It's the SAME soup. I hope they aren't just trying to get rid of some leftover packaged soup…hmmmmm.
Any who (as my favorite electrician says), meaning, move on……as I will do now….
Last year I tried to make the butternut squash soup at home and it was an epic failure. My husband will eat anything I put in front of him. VERY rarely does he say "Honey, maybe we shouldn't try this one again". During dinner that night he said, "Honey, maybe we shouldn't try this one again". Even LR, my vegetarian son gave me the look. So, I decided not to make it again. Until this year when 'autumn soup' hit the menu and the price of the soup had gone up. I thought - I can do this. And, I'm happy to say, I did. My Roasted Autumn Soup with Kale Chips is way better than theirs, I like the taste and consistency of mine, but if for no other reason, the ingredients are fresh and the recipe is vegan.
Even with all that, I knew this needed another layer of texture. When you don't eat meat you are always looking for layers of flavor and texture. So, I thought about kale chips. I've wanted to make kale chips since my friend, Lucy, and I went to Chicago and had them at Sunda. The food was fabulous, we ordered three meals -- hey we walked almost five miles on the coldest day in forever, don't judge.
I started the process of thinking about how to make this soup different than I did last year. I knew I wanted to eliminate butter and cream. So, I did as I always do…I started to pull out ingredients that I needed to use (fresh is not forever) and then thought about how to marry them. I had ginger, sweet potatoes, bell peppers, and a yellow onion (I would have probably used a leek if that were an option), parsley, kale and an acorn I had picked up on a recent trip to Amish Country - Walnut Creek, Ohio…(BTW it was rated as the number three place in the world to enjoy Fall). We got there a few days too early to see the leaves change, but as you can see, it's beautiful.
Click on the photo to see more shots of Walnut Creek.
Back to cooking. Before getting started I prepped all the ingredients. Opening an acorn squash is no joke, so I pulled out the big guns (the Haiku knife). Helpful hint…place your knife in the middle of the squash and gently tap down on the knife with a hammer or sturdy kitchen tool (I used the back of my can opener - it was close by).
Make sure you don't throw away the seeds. You can roast them with some olive oil and sea salt or you can save them for next year's garden - I saved mine for my garden.
I began by roasting my sweet potatoes, acorn squash and bell peppers.
While waiting on my vegetables I began making my kale chips. Make sure to remove the stems, wash and dry your kale. If you have a young person nearby who is interested in cooking, invite them to toss the kale with their hands. With the wet olive oil, bumpy sea salt, and prickly kale, I'm sure they will have fun.
After roasting the vegetables and cooking my onions, I blended all the ingredients. An immersion blender will work well, but a regular blender will also do the trick.
Roasted Autumn Soup with Kale Chips
1 Pound Sweet Potatoes - cut into cubes
1 Pound Multi-colored Bell Peppers - seeded and sliced
1 Small Acorn Squash - seeded and cut in half
1 Large Yellow Onion - chopped
4 1/2 Tablespoons Olive Oil - separated
3/4 Teaspoons Sea Salt - separated
1 Bunch Tuscan Kale (any kale will work)
1 Teaspoon Saigon Cinnamon (regular cinnamon will work, but the flavor may not be as intense)
1 Tablespoon Fresh Chopped Ginger
2 Cups Vegetable Broth
1 13.5 Oz Can Coconut Milk
1 Teaspoon Agave Nectar (if you replace Agave with honey, the recipe will no longer be vegan. Honey is an option.) (optional)
Roasted Pumpkin Seeds - no salt added (optional)
Cannellini Beans (optional)
Heat oven to 425 degrees.
Place your prepared sweet potatoes, bell peppers and acorn on a cookie sheet. Cover with 1 Tablespoon of olive oil and 1/2 Teaspoon of sea salt. Place your acorn upside down, so the inside is facing down. Bake in oven for 40 minutes, checking and tossing occassionally.
Chop the yellow onion. Place the onion and 1 1/2 Tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot and let cook until the onions become translucent - about 4 minutes. Add the ginger and cinnamon. Turn the pot off until your roasted vegetables are done.
Once done, add roasted vegetables to the yellow onion mixture; also add the vegetable broth, coconut milk and agave nectar. Cook your soup for 5-7 minutes. Once cooked, add soup, in small batches, to your blender. For safety reasons you will want to let your soup cool before adding to blender. Serve with kale chips, pumpkin seeds, and a sprig of parsley.
Because I don't eat meat, and I rarely eat seafood (though I dip whip up a great trout recipe last week), I'm always looking to add protein, and cannelloni beans (white kidney beans) have 6 grams of protein in 1/2 cup. So, I added them to my bowl of soup.
Place your kale, 2 Tablespoons of olive oil and 1/4 Teaspoon of sea salt in a bowl, mix well. Lay your kale on a cookie sheet and bake at 425 degrees for about 20 minutes. You'll want to keep an eye on these. Big C, child three, said they tasted a little like fried green tomatoes - I say - nuff said!