Oct 182015

It’s apple week on cook tush! After a big day of apple picking last Saturday, followed by lugging approximately 20 pounds of apples back from Westchester to Manhattan, I had to make good use of our loot. That means I have not one, but TWO apple recipes for you this week. Here’s the first (and don’t tell the other recipe, but my favorite of the two)– Apple Pie French Toast Bake with Almond Crumble. Yes, you can eat this for breakfast. You’re welcome.
4 things will happen if you make this recipe: 1) you will be shocked by how easy it is, 2) your house will smell like heaven, 3) your family will love you, like a lot, and 4) I forget, I’m too busy eating french toast.
Something about french toast seems decadent and naughty…the kind of breakfast that leaves you needing a sugar-induced nap about an hour later. But, if you think about it, the staples of french toast are just eggs, bread, and milk. Sure, some people choose white bread, half and half, and add a whole lot of sugar, but in this version I used a multigrain loaf, unsweetened almond milk, and virtually no sugar. Oh, and apples. Lots of apples.
I used 3 different types of apples just because I had a good variety from my apple picking adventures, and wanted a mix of sweet and tart apple flavor, but you can really use any you have on hand. While the apples are sauteing, you let the bread cubes soak up a mixture of almond milk, egg, cinnamon, vanilla mixture. Then you toss in those tasty apples, top with a little almond-sunflower seed-brown sugar mixture for a crunchy topping, and you wait for the magic to happen.
Nutrition highlights: There’s absolutely nothing to feel guilty about when it comes to this recipe, and I actually can’t think of a much more balanced breakfast option out there. The combo of hearty multigrain bread, nuts/seeds, eggs, almond milk, and apples provides the perfect mix of complex carbs, fiber, protein, healthy fat, and vitamins to get your day started right and keep you satisfied until lunch. If you can keep your family from devouring the whole thing (good luck), you can also pack it up into tupperware to eat for breakfast throughout the work-week. The only way this recipe can go wrong (or right?) is by covering it in maple syrup, or dare I say, vanilla ice cream. But let the record show I’m not suggesting that. I’m not doing it right now either. Definitely not.
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Apple Pie French Toast Bake with Almond Crumble
Makes about 6-8 servings*
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What’s in it:
For the french toast-
– 1/2 large loaf of multigrain bread, ideally a few days old, cut into 1 inch cubes (about 5 cups cubes)
– 4 large eggs
– 1 1/2 cups vanilla almond milk**
– 1 teaspoons cinnamon
– 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
– 1/4 teaspoon salt
For the apples-
– 3-4 apples, thinly sliced
– 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
– 1 tablespoon coconut oil
For the topping-
– 1/3 cup roughly chopped raw nuts and seeds (I used almonds and sunflower seeds)
– 1-2 tablespoons brown sugar (depending on your sweetness preference)
– 1/4 teaspoon salt

How to make it:
1. Preheat the oven to 350. Fill your casserole dish with the cubed bread.
2. Mix the eggs, almond milk, 1 tsp cinnamon, vanilla, and 1/4 tspn salt in a bowl. Pour over the bread cubes and toss and press down on the bread cubes with a fork so they soak up all that goodness.
3. While it soaks, heat the coconut oil over medium-high heat in a large nonstick pan and add your sliced apples. Sprinkle with 1/2 tspn cinnamon and saute for about 5-7 minutes until slightly softened and beginning to caramelize.
4. Add the apples to the casserole dish and toss so they are well distributed throughout the bread cubes. Make sure a few slices end up on top because it looks pretty. If you want, you can also set aside a few of the sauteed apple slices to use as a garnish for serving.
5. Prepare the topping by combining the chopped nuts/seeds of your choosing with the brown sugar and salt. Set aside.
6. Bake the casserole for 25 minutes, remove from the oven and sprinkle with the nut-brown sugar topping, and bake for an additional 15 minutes (40 minutes total).
7. Serve with a little maple syrup (or vanilla ice cream as a dessert!) and enjoy!

*I used a medium sized “gratin” casserole, but you can also double the ingredients and bake it in a 9×13 casserole dish to serve a bigger crowd.
**I used unsweetened vanilla almond milk to keep this dish very low sugar, but if you want it to be slightly sweet, use regular vanilla almond milk or add a few tablespoons of maple syrup to the egg/milk mixture.
This is the perfect fall breakfast for any day of the week, or to impress guests with. I have a feeling it will be making a day-after-thanksgiving appearance in my house this year!
Stay tuned later this week for apple picking recipe adventure #2. It’s another healthy one, to make up for all those apple cider donuts we may or may not have had at the orchard.

Oct 042015

It’s very simple: I love brussel sprouts. I also love tacos. I’m actually pretty disappointed in myself that I didn’t think to put the two together sooner. I can’t take credit for the idea, either–I stole the concept from an amazing dish I had at Dirt Candy, a magical mecca for the trendy, vegetable-loving New Yorker. I might be biased (ok, I’m definitely biased) but I think I may like this version even more.
As fancy as it looks, this dish only took about 20 minutes to make from start to finish. Here’s how it works–you saute thinly sliced sprouts with garlic and shallots until it’s just the perfect amount of charred, and you add some black beans. You fill some warm corn tortillas and top with cilantro, and, wait for it…pomegranate seeds and goat cheese. I know those last two ingredients sound weird, but they truly make the dish. Just try it and you will thank me.
Nutritional highlights: This is probably the first of many b.sprout recipes you’ll see from me this fall, and it’s 50% because they’re delicious, 50% because they’re crazy healthy. Brussel sprouts (and their cruciferous friends) have been associated with decreasing inflammation in the body, acting as an antioxidant, and helping the liver out with the detoxification process (because of glucosinolates found in the sprouts), all of which may help prevent cancer. If that’s not enough, they are also packed with vitamin K, C, folate, fiber and about 20+ other vitamins and minerals. Need I go on? I hate to say it but your mom was right–you should eat your brussel sprouts. This recipe adds another powerhouse, the black bean, to give fiber and protein to make this a well rounded, filling vegetarian meal.
Another general tip for your taco making adventures–go with corn tortillas rather than flour, since they have about half the calories, a little more fiber, and a lot more flavor (in my humble opinion)! They can crack easily if they get dried out, so I like to spray both sides with olive oil spray and quickly heat them up in a skillet or grill pan to soften them up.
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Brussel Sprout-Black Bean Tacos with Goat Cheese & Pomegranate
Makes about 8 tacos (3-4 servings)
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What’s in them:
3 cups brussel sprouts, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 shallots, thinly sliced
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt (or to taste)
Juice from 1 lime
2 oz goat cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds
1/4 cup cilantro leaves
8 corn tortillas
Optional: your favorite hot sauce (my green jalapeno hot sauce went great with these)

How to make them:
1. Prepare all your ingredients and toppings. Heat a cast iron skillet (or another heavy skillet) over medium-high heat. Once it’s very hot, add the olive oil, shallots and garlic, and saute for 30 seconds, until fragrant. Add the brussel sprouts and sautee for about 5-7 minutes. Stir only occasionally so the sprouts have time to get a nice little char going.
2. Add the black beans and season with the chili powder, salt, and lime juice. Saute for another 2 minutes, taste and add additional seasoning as needed.
3. Heat your corn tortillas on a grill pan, griddle, or in the microwave. Fill the tortillas with a generous scoop of the brussel-bean mixture and top with cilantro leaves, pomegranate seeds, and goat cheese. Drizzle with hot sauce (if using) and enjoy!
So grab a sweater, put on a scarf and pick up some brussel sprouts. Fall is officially here, and I’m not mad about it.
Also, I’m planning on upping my instagram game–follow me at cooktush for all my newest photos and recipes!

Jan 202015

Are you needs for comforting, hearty foods to fight the bitter cold at odds with your attempt to desperately hang on to your New Year’s Resolution? If so, this is the recipe for you. In terms of comfort food, few things top a good hearty bolognese, so I attempted to make a meatless (gasp!), vegan (double gasp!) and super healthy version (ok, you get it). The shocking thing is, it totally worked.
Despite being totally meatless, this sauce had a hearty meatiness to it, from the lentils and mushrooms. In addition to those two star ingredients, there are a whole lot of veggies hidden in there too, like carrots, shallots, celery, garlic, red pepper, and tomatoes. A little bit of red wine adds an extra richness that the sauce needs.
The sauce also isn’t hard to make, and is all done in one pot like a soup or stew. I think the flavors continue to develop as it sits, so if you make this in advance and refrigerate it for a day or two it will be even more flavorful than if you eat it right away!
Nutrition Highlights: Not only is this sauce meatless (that is if you skip the parm I sprinkled on top, oops), it’s also packed with nutrients. First off, it has tons of fiber from the lentils and all the veggies. The lentils also give you folate, protein, iron to name a few. There are so many veggies in here that talking about all the vitamins and minerals in there would just take way too long, but trust me this is seriously good for you. Now as to what you serve it over, that is up to you. If you’re trying to be SUPER healthy, try spaghetti squash or spiralized zucchini (or a mix of the two like I did). If you’re not ready to cold turkey the pasta, go for a whole wheat version and watch the portion size. Either way, this warm, hearty meal will keep you full and happy for hours, without derailing your 2015 resolutions.
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Lentil & Vegetable Bolognese
makes about 6 servings
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What’s in it:
2 Tablespoons olive oil
5 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
3 or 4 large shallots, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
2 large carrots, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
1 stalk of celery, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1 red bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
10 ounces cremini mushrooms, finely chopped (about 2 cups)
1 cup green lentils
1 tablespoon italian herbs (I used half fresh chopped thyme and half dried oregano, but use any that you like, fresh or dried)
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
1/2 cup red wine
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
2, 14 oz cans diced tomatoes (low sodium or no salt added, if possible)
14 oz water (you’ll fill one of those empty tomato cans to measure)
Salt and Pepper to taste

How to make it:
1. Heat a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil then the shallots and garlic. Saute for about 1.
2. Add the chopped carrots, celery, and red pepper. Saute for about 4 minutes until veggies begin to soften.
3. Add the chopped mushrooms and saute for another 3 minutes.
4. Add the lentils and herbs and a little bit of salt and pepper to taste (and optional red pepper flakes). Saute for 2 minutes.
5. Add the red wine and satue for 2 minutes so the alcohol can cook off.
6. Add the tomato paste and stir to coat the veggie-lentil mixture. Pour in the diced tomatoes and fill one of the empty cans with water and add that as well.
7. Bring the mixture to a boil, and then reduce heat to simmer and cover. Cook covered for an hour, stirring occasionally. After an hour, taste and season with salt and pepper to taste. If the lentils are not soft enough, continue to simmer a bit longer. Adjust the thickness to your liking by adding additional water if necessary.
8. Eat right away, or for even better flavor, refrigerate for a day or two before eating it. Serve over whole wheat pasta, spaghetti squash, or spiralized zucchini, or anything else you can think of!
9. Optional- top with some parm. You’re eating a bowl full of vegetables–a little cheese if OK.
Step 10- drink the remaining 7/8 ths of the bottle of wine. Your welcome.

Dec 222014

Anyone else feeling a little bit (figuratively and literally) sick of all the Christmas cookies and sweets? I have a very sweet these days, and even I am feeling a little bit overloaded by all of it. Here’s a recipe that proves that fruits and veggies can be just as festive as all those peppermint covered sugary chocolatey treats…well almost. Try this Winter Kale Salad which is as healthy as it is tasty and beautiful. To get on Santa’s nice list, serve it in a chip and dip platter so it looks like a wreath!
There are so many different things you can put in this salad that would be amazing, but I decided on mostly red (roasted beets, pomegranate seeds) and green (chopped kale, granny smith apple, pistachios) with a little orange pop from some persimmons. The persimmons may have thrown off my red/green color scheme a tad, but I was intrigued by them so I bought a few. They are incredibly sweet and have a nice soft texture, kind of like a peach. If you can’t find persimmons, you can leave these out or just go with another winter fruit, like navel orange segments. A good dressing is key too, and this one is the perfect tart but slightly sweet mix, with lemon juice, mustard, vinegar, maple syrup, and olive oil.
Nutritional highlights: We all know that holiday dining isn’t always a shining moment for healthful choices. This salad is a perfect addition to your holiday spread to solve that problem. Fill a big portion of your plate with this salad, and take it easy on the indulgences. There’s also some serious powerhouses in this salad. The kale, apple, and pomegranate seeds (and really all of the ingredients) have a ton of fiber that will keep you full…maybe even full enough to pass on dessert (but let’s be honest, probably not). The pistachios add healthy mono and poly unsaturated fats as well as B-6 vitamins and iron. Beets and persimmons are packed with antioxidants to help control inflammation in your body and ward of diseases. I served the salad with a little shredded pecorino on the side, but you can also mix it right in, as it adds a great saltiness that the salad needs. To keep the salad vegan you can leave it out.
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Winter Kale Salad with Persimmons, Beets, Apples, Pomegranate, and Pistachio
Makes 5-6 servings as a side (3 as a main)
*vegan* gluten free*
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What’s in it:

For the salad:
5 cups finely chopped kale
1 granny smith apple
4 red baby beets, cut into 1 inch pieces and roasted
3 fuyu persimmons, cut into wedges
1/3 cup pomegranate seeds (from about ½ large pomegranate)
1/3 cup shelled roasted pistachios, roughly chopped
Optional: 1/3 cup shredded pecorino cheese (omit for vegan version)

For the dressing:
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2-3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (juice from one juicy lemon)
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (or another light vinegar like champagne vinegar, white wine vinegar)
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
½ teaspoon salt
¼ freshly ground teaspoon black pepper
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
How to make it:

1.If you are roasting your own beets, preheat your oven to 425. Scrub and dry the outside of the beets but no need to peel. Cut off a tiny bit on the top and bottom end, and cut the beets into 1 inch chunks. Toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roast for about 40 minutes, until the beets are tender. Alternately, you can buy already steamed or roasted beets and skip this step.
2.Prepare the remaining ingredients. Seed you pomegranate, chop the nuts, dice the apple and cut the persimmon (no need to peel skin). Chop the kale so it is small chunks, almost like a slaw. This will help the leaves get very tender as they sit in the dressing.
3.Prepare the dressing by mixing the first 5 ingredients together and then whisking in the oil gradually. Taste the vinaigrette to see if it needs more of anything (too acidic? Add more oil or maple syrup. Too bland? Up the salt and pepper).
4. Toss together the kale, apple, persimmon, beets, and all but 2 tablespoons of the pomegranate, pistachios, and pecorino. Toss with the dressing, adding gradually and tasting until it is your desire of dressed-ness.
5. To serve as a wreath, pour the salad into a chip and dip tray and sprinkle with the remaining cheese, pom seeds, and pistachios. Enjoy this festive, flavorful, and nutritious salad!
Leave the leftovers (if you have any) out of Santa this year instead of cookies and maybe he’ll be looking a little fitter in his suit next year!

Dec 082014

As the weather’s been getting colder, I’ve started to crave warm, comforting foods to initiate my impending winter hibernation. I don’t know what got into me, but somehow I came home from grocery store with a bag of russet potatoes. I can’t remember the last time I bought a standard, non-sweet potato. I have to say, potatoes are pretty underrated both in taste and nutrition, and this healthier version of a comforting classic was even better than I imagined it would be. Watch out yams, spud’s making a comeback.
I’m not sure what it was that made these simple tots so freaking tasty. Maybe it was the perfectly baked potato, or the spicy garlic roasted broccoli and onions, the sharp cheddar, the creamy greek yogurt, or the quinoa, but whatever it was, a little magic happened inside these potatoes. The key is a perfectly seasoned filling, so don’t skimp on the salt and pepper. And a melty crusty cheesy top doesn’t hurt either.
Screen Shot 2014-12-07 at 10.52.04 PM
Here’s how it happened. Potato gets baked. Potato gets scooped. Potato gets stuffed. Potato gets baked again. Potato gets eaten. Fast.
Nutrition Highlights: Potatoes have gotten a little bit of a bad rep in all the low carb madness that has ensued in recent years. But the truth is, potatoes are super healthy in moderation. They are the world’s number one non-grain crop for a reason. They are packed with vitamin B6, potassium, fiber, and lots of other vitamins and minerals. One medium baked potato only has about 150 calories, not bad. Stuffed potatoes often ruin all these health benefits by smothering it in sour cream, butter, and tons of cheese. This recipe adds protein in the quinoa, lowers the calories and carbs by scooping out some of the potato, lowers the fat by using greek yogurt and just a little bit of cheese, and ups the fiber and vitamins with lots of broccoli. The potato is pretty stuffed but you won’t be (just comfortably full).
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broccoli, cheddar, & quinoa stuffed potatoes
makes about 3 medium potatoes
* vegetarian * gluten free *
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What’s in it:
3 small to medium russet potatoes
1.5-2 cups small broccoli florettes
1/4 white onion, roughly chopped
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup cooked quinoa
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons shredded cheddar or mixed cheese
2 tablespoons plain greek yogurt

How to make it:
1. Preheat your oven to 400. Wash and dry your potatoes. Rub the exterior with a little bit of olive oil and sea salt and place on a baking sheet or in a cast iron skillet. Bake for about 1 hour or until you can easily pierce with a fork.
2. Meanwhile, spread the broccoli and onions on a small baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with garlic powder, red pepper flakes, and plenty of salt and pepper.
3. When the potatoes are done, remove and turn the oven up to 425. Roast the broccoli-onion mixture for about 10-15 minutes until broccoli is beginning to brown on the edges.
4. Meanwhile, prepare your potatoes for stuffing. Using a paring knife on an angle, remove an oval shaped top from each potato. Scoop out the filling of the potatoes so only a 1/4 inch layer remains.
5. Make the mixture by combining 1/2 cup cooked quinoa, 1/2 cup of the remaining potato filling (the rest you can toss or save for another recipe), 2 tablespoons of plain greek yogurt, 1/4 cup cheese. When the veggies are done, add the roasted broccoli and onions and stir until well combined. Taste the mixture and season with additional salt, pepper, garlic powder, or chili flakes, as needed.
6. Stuff each potato with as much of the mixture as you can squeeze in there. It’s OK if the stuffing goes over the top a bit. Top each potato with 1 tablespoon of shredded cheese and broil for about 2 minutes until the cheese is bubbly and beginning to brown.
7. Enjoy these amazing potatoes right away or wrap individually in foil to enjoy throughout the week! I loved them topped with a little hot sauce, because why not.

Nov 202014

OK, it’s definitely a working title, but these meatballs are perfect little Thanksgiving bundles of joy. Have you ever thought on Thanksgiving, hey, what would happen if I took this mundane dinner roll and put a little bit of everything on my plate on it? And then you did it and realized your life had been changed forever? We’ve all been there, and although the future dietitian in my does not condone the regular consumption of stuffing, mashed potato, and gravy coated turkey sandwiches, on Thanksgiving anything goes. This year for my A Cappella group’s “friendsgiving” brunch, I decided to put this concept to the test in the form of meatballs. And so the pilgrim ball was born.
These meatballs have a little bit of all your thanksgiving favorites–ground turkey, cranberries, stuffing, onions, and sage. On top of that, they are something that Thanksgiving dinner is usually not–super easy to make. You basically mix all the ingredients, roll into balls, cook, cover in gravy, eat, repeat.
Nutrition Highlights: This is not the healthiest recipe you’ll find on my blog, but I have to say it still does have a few things going for it. One, it’s made with ground turkey, which is a lean protein source. Two, they’re individually portioned, which leads to inherent portion control (something that is not my strength on Thanksgiving). As long as you take it easy on the gravy (which can be high in fat) and cranberry sauce (which can be high in sugar), than you are good to go.
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Thanksgiving Meatballs (a.k.a Pilgrim Balls)
makes about 16 medium sized meatballs
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What’s in them:
1 1/2 lb ground turkey meat (I used half ground turkey and half sweet turkey sausage for extra flavor)
1 1/4 cup of herb stuffing cubes
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 large egg plus 1 egg white
1/4 cup finely chopped sweet onion
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
Other add in ideas: shredded carrots or chopped mushrooms to make these a little healthier

How to make them:
1. Preheat the oven to 450°F.
2. Coat a 9×13 inch baking sheet with olive oil and set aside.
3. In a large bowl, combine the ground turkey/turkey sausage, cranberries, eggs, onion, sage, and salt. Add half of the stuffing cubes whole, and crush the other half in your hands a bit so they are more like bread crumbs. Mix everything together with your hands until it is all incorporated.
4. Coat your hands with a little bit of olive oil and roll the mixture firmly into balls about the size of golf balls. Place the meatballs in the baking dish directly next to each other in rows (see photo). This will help them keep their shape while baking.
5. Roast for about 20 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through and slightly brown on top.
6. Serve meatballs with gravy and cranberry sauce, and enjoy!

Nov 112014

There is one great thing about the recent drop in temperatures…soup season is back! I typically stick to chunky vegetable soups and chilis, but I decided to see why people love creamy blended soups like butternut squash so much. I get it now.
I think butternut squash soups can be too sweet sometimes, but not this one. It was loaded with spicy red curry paste, and savory garlic and onions, to contrast with the sweetness from the butternut squash and coconut milk. Topped with some crushed peanuts, pomegranate seeds (it works, I swear), and cilantro leaves, this was the perfect lunch all week long.
Nutritional highlights: Butternut squash, like many winter squashes, is packed with beta carotene, which can be used in the body like Vitamin A, promoting healthy vision. It also has a lot of fiber, good for keeping things regular as well as lowering cholesterol. This soup is creamy, but still totally vegan! Light coconut milk and the natural starches in the squash give it the creamy texture we’re looking for without adding too much extra fat. The oil used in this soup is also coconut oil, which is a hot item right now. The research is still new, but coconut oil may be helpful with heart disease prevention, weight loss, and keeping our immune systems at their best (which we could all use this time of year).
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Thai Red Curry Butternut Squash Soup
makes 6 small or 4 large servings
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What’s in it:
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 onion (yellow or vidalia), chopped
1-2 teaspoons (depending on preference) grated fresh ginger
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups low sodium vegetable broth
1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed (about 5 cups)
1 14-oz can light coconut milk
1/4 cup red curry paste
1/4 tsp. salt, plus more, to taste
Juice from 1 fresh lime
Toppings: Cilantro leaves, chopped peanuts, pomegranate seeds

How to make it:
1. In a large pot over medium heat, head the coconut oil.
2. When it’s melted, add the onions and garlic and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
3. Add the ginger and curry paste, and cook for another 3 minutes, stirring frequently.
4. Add the squash cubes and vegetable broth. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until the squash is softened, about 20 minutes.
5. Let it cool slightly, and blend the soup until smooth (using an immersion blender or by transferring to a blender).
6. Return mixture to the pot and stir in coconut milk, lime juice, and salt (adding more to taste). Cook the soup on medium/low for another 10 minutes until it’s warm throughout.
7. Serve topped with peanuts, pomegranate seeds, and cilantro leaves. Enjoy!
You can store leftovers in the fridge for about a week, or freeze extra portions for your winter hibernation that we all know is coming.
Stay warm!