Roasted butternut squash and apple soup

I've missed Colorado terribly since I moved back to the Midwest. The mountains, the winter sports, the fun to be had year-round... take me back. Missouri doesn't have much going for it in February.

Winter Olympics, I love you, but you aren't helping my ski withdrawals.

When I lived in Vail and worked at a local athletic club, one aspect of my job had me working closely with the restaurant on our property planning nutrition seminars for our club members. These seminars were both educational and delicious: I presented nutrition information around a specific topic, and the incredible restaurant staff provided tastings of coordinating dishes.

When I tackled the topic "Enjoy Healthy Habits through the Holidays" last winter, one of the night's featured recipes was a butternut squash bisque quite similar to this one. Watching days of slopestyle snowboarding, ice skating, and downhill skiing had me feeling nostalgic for good times with snow and bluebird days, so I decided to recreate it.
One easy way to know if the foods you are eating are full of nutrients is to examine the color. Usually, the more brightly colored your fruits and vegetables are, the more vitamins and minerals they pack inside. That's because the phytonutrients - naturally-occuring chemicals within plants that can benefit health - actually show up as pigments in produce. Pretty cool, right?

Butternut squash owes it's bright orange hue to carotenoids: a class of phytonutrients that are known for  providing vitamin A and red-gold color. But vitamin A is not the only nutrient that winter squash gives its consumers: it also packs an impressive amount of vitamin B6, vitamin C, folate, and potassium.

Butternut squash is naturally sweet, especially after being roasted, but the tart granny smith apples and touch of cayenne pepper help to cut through the sweetness and provide a more well-balanced taste. I like this soup quite thick with almost an applesauce consistency, but you can thin out as desired.
I'd also like to note that no, brightly colored candy does not contain phytonutrients. Sorry to be the one to bear that bad news.
Roasted butternut squash and apple soup
Serves 4

2-3 pounds butternut squash (about 1 large), peeled, seeded and diced
1 large granny smith apple, diced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons cinnamon, divided
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons white wine or sherry
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup water
1-2 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken stock
Whole milk or cream (optional, adds creaminess)
  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. Distribute the squash, apple, and onion on a sheet pan. Add the olive oil, honey, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper and toss to combine. Roast in the oven for 30-40 minutes until the edges of the mixture start to turn golden and the flesh is tender. 
  3. Transfer the squash and apple mixture to a 6-quart Dutch oven or saucepan. Add the white wine or sherry to the now empty sheet pan and use the liquid to loosen up the roasting juices. Add the juices to the saucepan with the ginger, cayenne, remaining 1 teaspoon cinnamon, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and water, then add enough stock to not quite cover the vegetables (start with 1 cup and add more later on if needed - the soup should be thick after it's pureed). 
  4. Over medium-high heat, bring the mixture to a light boil, then reduce to a simmer and continue to cook for 8 minutes. Remove from heat.
  5. Using a blender or immersion blender, puree the soup smooth. If using a blender, you may need to puree in batches. Return the soup to low heat, and adjust seasonings according to taste.
  6. Ladle soup into bowls, drizzle each with 1-2 tablespoons milk or cream, serve, and enjoy!

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