This has been a particularly brutal winter. Cold temperatures and weekly Wednesday blizzards that have graced us with 50+ inches of snow so far this season have put a severe cramp in my outdoor riding style. To limit my time spent on the rollers staring at my basement wall, I have resorted to increased running workouts and learned how to cross country ski this winter. As much fun as I have been having expanding my snow sport horizons with skiing, however, I cannot justify hanging up my bikes till the snow melts. I need to get the hours in and lately rollers are the only option I have had for time on a bike. Riding indoors is an inevitable, if not entirely desirable, aspect of being a competitive cyclist in New England.
And so, a few times a week, I am in the basement on my rollers, music blasting in my headphones, dreaming of sunshine and warm pavement while the time ticks by. The last thing I want to do after emerging hungry and sweaty from the dimly-lit basement at the end of the night is prepare an elaborate meal. To make life easier on myself and my belly, I make it a point to have a consistent supply of curry butternut squash soup and quinoa on hand as a go-to dinner option. The soup is really easy to make and one good-sized squash usually yields enough for that night’s meal plus a quart or two of leftovers. I like to let the soup reduce until it is nice and thick and is more of a sauce over the quinoa, and I top it with a little bit of sharp cheddar cheese. The meal is a warm, filling, and very nutritionally dense post-workout dinner. I can prepare the soup, let it reduce while I ride, and then cook the quinoa while I shower. By the time I am done and cleaned up from riding, dinner is ready and waiting for me.
Butternut squash has an amazing creamy texture that translates into a rich, dense soup without all the fat and adding a little bit of yellow curry powder brings a whole new dimension to the flavor. Along with great taste, butternut squash is great for you. It is full of fiber, packed with antioxidants, and is also an excellent source of potassium, vitamins C and B6, and carotenoids like beta-carotene. Quinoa is a grain-like seed that is loaded with protein – it is one of only a few plant-based foods that contain all of the essential amino acids, making it a complete protein. It is also a good source of fiber, iron, and other important nutrients. The soup and quinoa alone make a complete and filling meal but if I am craving something more I like to cook a side of kale as well. The dark, leafy green is another source of antioxidants, fiber, minerals and vitamins and also contains omega-3 fatty acids. It has a great flavor when lightly steamed with a splash of lemon juice that really compliments the soup.
1 Butternut Squash
6 c. Stock (I use vegetable; you could use any kind of stock or substitute water if you prefer)
1 tbs. Yellow Curry Powder
Salt & Pepper (to taste)
1 c. Quinoa
2 c. Water
Shredded Cheddar Cheese as topping (optional)
1 bunch Kale
Splash of Lemon Juice (optional)
To prepare the soup, peel the squash and halve it. Scoop out the seeds and then cut it into 1-2” chunks. Put the squash in a large pot with the 6 cups of stock, a tablespoon of yellow curry powder, and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Cover, bring to a boil, and cook on high for about 20 minutes or until the squash is soft enough for a fork to easily pass through it. At this point, I take my potato masher and pummel the squash into pulp. You could also use the “Puree” setting on a blender or food processor to achieve the same result. Once the squash is thoroughly mashed/pureed, turn the heat down to low and allow the soup to simmer uncovered until it has reduced to the desired consistency. This takes approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour and, in addition to allowing the soup to thicken, really lets the flavors set in. When the soup looks almost ready sample it and add any additional seasonings if necessary.
As the soup is finishing up, start the quinoa. When making quinoa, you need a 1 part Quinoa: 2 parts Water ratio. 1 cup of dry quinoa yields about 3 cups of cooked quinoa, which is usually enough for 2 hungry people or 1 person + leftovers. If you want more or less you can adjust accordingly, provided you keep that approximate ratio. Put the quinoa and water in a covered pot and bring to a boil on high. Once the water is boiling, reduce the temperature to low for about 20 minutes or until the water is evaporated and the quinoa is cooked and fluffy.
When the quinoa is almost done cooking begin to prepare the kale. To cook kale, you get the best nutritional benefits if you briefly steam or boil it. This will enhance the cholesterol-lowering properties of kale without losing important nutrients by overcooking and it gives the tender greens a satisfying crunch. Wash the leaves, cut them into bite-sized pieces, and put into a covered pot with a steam basket or directly into a small amount of water. Add a splash of lemon juice, if desired, and cook on medium heat until the leaves are a bright green. Remove from heat and serve alongside a hearty bowl full of quinoa and the soup topped with cheddar.
*Originally published March, 2011