Back on Track with Butternut Squash

I had a very fun end to 2016 – a trip to New Orleans (despite a dislocated shoulder), cruise to the Bahamas, and holiday celebrations with friends and family. All of this fun (and physical therapy) however, meant that I lost sight of my healthy eating and exercise habits. Like most of us,  I decided that the New Year would bring about a reset to my habits and it just so happens that this reset is in the form of the Whole30. (Look out for a Whole30 recap in about…you guessed it – 30 days)

I did my research and planned to prepare a few recipes in advance for the week (definitely the way to go if you decide to do this plan). I perused the Whole30 book and found this recipe:

Butternut Squash Soup

  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 3 cups butternut squash (I used packages of cubed squash)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

Melt the coconut oil in a large pot, when the oil is hot, add the onions and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the squash, garlic, and ginger and stir for another minute. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Boil the squash until soft, about 10 minutes. Remove the pot from heat and blend the soup with an immersion blender (or transfer the soup in batches to a traditional blender) until smooth. Return the pureed soup to the pot and heat over medium-high heat until it thickens, about 15-20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. img_4353-1

Butternut Squash Soup: Tara Tested, Tara Approved! I was excited to try out my new blender with this soup and I was very happy with the results. The recipe listed above serves 2, so I doubled everything to increase the number of servings (and even had extra to freeze). The soup was deliciously creamy and flavorful, but not too rich. I would suggest substituting coconut milk for some of the chicken broth if you like a richer, thicker consistency. To make this soup a complete meal, I added diced cooked chicken and on a separate occasion added chicken apple sausage (my favorite combo). I even ate a bowl of this soup for breakfast one morning with my eggs! I’m excited to use my immersion blender for some other recipes – what are some of your favorites?

Pomegranate, Please!

Until this weekend, pomegranates were pretty foreign to me – I’ve had plenty of pomegranate flavored teas and yogurts, but never actually prepared the arils for myself! I picked up a few from the store and I will admit, found a video on YouTube explaining how to open and seed the juicy, red fruit. After learning the proper technique I dove right in! It may seem like a tedious process but it was actually pretty quick and simple. I learned afterwards that I should have worn an apron – my shirt was covered with speckles of red juice, oops!

Pomegranate Prep

I got about 2 cups of arils from 1 pomegranate. Now that I had the arils it was time for figure out what to do with them! I decided to make a salad with butternut squash, pomegranate, spinach, and Israeli couscous . I found the recipe on the POM Wonderful website, but made a few changes in order to avoid another trip to the store. Here’s the recipe:

Roasted Butternut Squash, Pomegranate, Spinach, and Israeli Couscous Salad

Vinaigrette:

  • 1/2 cup arils
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil or vegetable oil blend

Salad:

  • 1/2 cup arils
  • 1 cup Israeli couscous, cooked according to package directions
  • 1 1/2 cups butternut squash, peeled and diced
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup baby spinach, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 oz feta cheese, crumbled

For the vinaigrette – Prepare fresh pomegranate arils if necessary. Place the garlic and salt in a bowl and smash into a paste with a spoon. Add 1/2 cup of arils to the bowl and gently crush (watch out for juice splatter!). Transfer garlic, salt, and pomegranate mixture to a large bowl and add the apple cider vinegar and black pepper. Stir to combine. Slowly drizzle oil into the mixture while whisking to form the vinaigrette.

For the salad – Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Toss the butternut squash with olive oil and spread out evenly on a cookie sheet. Roast in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until the squash is tender. Remove from the oven and set aside. Heat a medium skillet with vegetable oil over high heat. Add the Israeli couscous, spinach and butternut squash. Saute for a few minutes until the spinach is wilted and the mixture is warm. Transfer the couscous mixture to the vinaigrette bowl and gently toss so that the vinaigrette is well distributed. Top with the feta cheese and remaining 1/2 cup of arils. ENJOY!

Roasted Butternut Squash, Pomegranate, Spinach, and Israeli Couscous Salad: Tara Tested, Tara Approved! This salad is both pretty AND delicious! The bright colors from the squash, spinach, and pomegranate look beautiful together. The vinaigrette is sweet and tangy and would taste great on it’s own in a regular green salad. This salad makes for the perfect addition to a holiday dinner or potluck party. Plenty of in-season produce in this recipe makes it budget friendly and will sure to be a crowd-pleaser!