Friday, January 07, 2011

Eating Well Before Vacation

It's a common dilemma.  You're heading out on holiday in a few days so you don't want to fill your kitchen  with a new batch of perishables, so you try to turn what is left in your vegetable drawer and on your pantry shelves into a healthy, wholesome meal.

That's the scenario in our house at the moment.  We're going to Malta in two days for a week long visit with my relatives.  We know we'll be treated well, spoiled with amazing and rich Maltese food (which I hope to document this time around!).  We'll definitely get our fair share of butter from the countless  tarts and savory pastries we'll be enjoying, and refined flours from the homemade lasagna we'll enjoy for the first course of Christmas lunch and  the pasta suppers we're bound to be invited to.

Even when it's a hotel holiday we're heading out for, I try my best to eat well before we embark because of the indulgences we'll enjoy on our holiday meals out and cafe and pastry stops.

Thus, before we leave for our holidays, I turn my attention to getting a good dose of fruit and vegetables into our bodies, while at the same time trying to clear out the pantry of all the foods which will spoil if we don't use them.

So...pre-holiday cooking is the perfect time to prepare some freezer meals.  We can eat healthy before we go and also have a warm supper waiting for us upon our return from the journey.  Soup is a perfect option.

We had onions carrots celery and potatoes in our pantry, which are all great components of a good veggie soup, but you need something else.  So a few days ago, I picked up a small butternut squash to round out the soup.  I wanted to make a rustic chunky soup rather than a pureed butternut squash soup, and I didn't want the soup to be thought of as a 'butternut squash' soup, partly because sometimes when its pure squash Rich's sensitive belly doesn't do so well, and partly because I wanted to try something new.  Don't get me wrong, I <3 pureed butternut squash soups, but just wanted something different this time!

Beyond that, I wanted to use up the half onions, spring onions, fresh bay leaf, and celery stalks, so I got to work (first) on a quick stock.

The result was a huge pot of soup to carry us through the weekend before our holiday, with enough for leftovers when we get back to cooold Aberdeen and need something healthy and nourishing to warm us up.

I served the soup with some toasted bread with melted swiss cheese, yet another ingredient I wanted to finish before we headed off.  Rich, who doesn't go for dairy unless it is necessary, got a few slices of salami with his gluten free bread.

  • 1 onion (I used a half onion + other scraps in my veg drawer and veggie scraps container, which I keep in the freezer), roughly chopped
  • 2 sprigs celery, roughly chopped
  • 3-5 (whatever you have) spring onions, roughly chopped, including their greens
  • 1 fresh bay leaf
  • half a cup butternut squash puree
  • a large tbs of tomato paste
  • whatever else you have!
You can make your broth while your butternut squash is roasting, because you only need to add the 1/2 cup pureed butternut squash at the end.
  1. Saute the onions, spring onions and celery in 2 tbs olive oil over medium heat until softened (10 mins or so).  
  2. After a few minutes, add a generous tsp of salt and the bay leave.  
  3. When onions have begun to soften, but not brown, add water and tomato paste. 
  4. Stir mixture, cover, and bring to a gentle boil.  
  5. When the pot reaches a boil, reduce to a simmer and let simmer until it smells and tastes yummy.  Taste a few times.  I added a sprig of rosemary at one point.  
  6. When stock is ready, strain vegetables.  
  7. Let cool slightly, then add some of the stock to help puree the 1/2 cup of butternut squash.
  8. Strain the mixture back into the broth and you will get a nice orangey broth. 
Butternut Squash Vegetable Soup
  • 1-2 yellow onions
  • 3-4 sprigs of celery
  • 2-3 large carrots
  • 3 medium potatoes, cubed
  • 1 butternut squash, roasted whole and then roughly cubed (use the parts that are not 'cubable' for the stock)
  • vegetable stock
  1. Heat 2 tbs of olive oil in a pot over medium heat. When hot (but not scorching), add onions, celery, and onions.  
  2. Saute the sofrito for 10-15 minutes until the vegetables have begun to soften.
  3. Add the cubed potatoes and vegetable stock and simmer on low for 15  minutes, until vegetables reach your desire softness.  (After 10 minutes, add the cubed butternut squash.

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