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December 2004 Issue
Cold Weather Soups
by Ronda L. Halpin
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December brings us cooler weather and occasions to celebrate. So this month, I'm bringing the two together with some festive soups that are perfect for your holiday entertaining.

The two soups featured in this month's column have a few things in common. Both are creamy soups that get some of their velvety texture from mashed vegetables and evaporated skim milk. In addition, they adopt the fragrance offered by thyme -- a favorite in a great many chowders, stews and soups. Finally, despite their special appeal, both recipes can be made in about an hour and can be easily doubled or even tripled for extra company or anticipated leftovers! One word of caution: do not try to freeze these soups. They are both best enjoyed within a few days of being made and, at my home, never last more than that!

We begin with a rich, creamy Butternut & Leek Soup that's the perfect blend of comfort food and elegance. If you'd like you can swirl a little sour cream on the top of each soup bowl you ladle out and then sprinkle some bias-sliced green onions over the top. This soup is so addicting, that I've been known to sneak some leftovers for breakfast with buttered toast!


Butternut & Leek Soup

This delightful soup is perfect when served in a roasted pumpkin. Choose a smallish one and remove the seeds, spray lightly with cooking spray and roast in a 350 degree oven for about an hour or until the flesh is softened but the pumpkin still holds its shape. When serving, scrape a little of the pumpkin into each bowl.
  • 4-5 lbs. butternut squash, halved lengthwise
  • 1/4 c. butter or margarine
  • 4 leeks, chopped (use the white and tender green parts)
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 4 c. chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 c. evaporated skim milk
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the squash halves cut side down on a cookie sheet. Bake in the oven for 40 minutes or until the flesh can be easily pierced with a fork. Cool slightly and, using a spoon, scoop out and discard the seeds. Scrape the remaining flesh from the skin and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Add the leeks and thyme and cook until the leeks are soft and lightly browned.

Stir in the broth and the reserved squash. Simmer over medium heat for about 20 minutes. Puree the mixture in a blender, food processor or by using a stick blender (my preference). Pour the soup back in the pan and add the evaporated skim milk. Mix to combine and add the seasonings. Serve warm.

  • Yields: 6 servings
  • Preparation Time: 1 hour

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