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Vegan for the Holidays

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Vegetarians in Paradise
Ask Aunt Nettie

We're delighted to share our Aunt Nettie with you. Since 2009 Aunt Nettie has known people were struggling to stretch their dollars during the recession. So she focused her tasty recipes on low-cost ingredients that would still offer delicious, healthy, stick-to-the-ribs foods, yet were affordable.

With the economy improving and more people back at work, Aunt Nettie felt the time was right to ease up a bit on strict bargain-bin shopping and gussy up the menu with a few small splurges.

Aunt Nettie is still happy to answer questions that come her way, but what she loves most is offering seasonal fixin's that inspire her while shopping at the farm stand.

Howdy there darlin's,

Well, my oh my, how time does fly! It's already October an' I jes love seein' all them mighty colorful fruits an' veggies at the grocery store an' the farm stands. This here is my fav'rite season of the whole year. Jes look at them nice bright colors--ever'thing looks so perky like the sun were shinin' on ever'thin' that was yeller an' orange!

So, I went an' bought a nice big butternut squash an' a couple beets an' went right to work cookin' up one o' the best tastin' soups I ever made! An' when the soup was all done, why it didn't look like a butternut soup at all! 'Stead o' the soup lookin' yeller-orange, them little beets took over and turned that soup nice an' red.

But once y'all put a spoonful inter yer mouth, there's no doubt. You'll know in a minute there's butternut squash in there fer sure.

One thing I oughter mention, if'n y'all like yer soup nice an' chunky, jes don't puree all them veggies in the blender. Then you kin have it the way ya likes it.

An' when it's time ta serve up the soup, why y'all kin have a hootnanny makin' the soup look nice an' purty with the corn an' dried cranberries or anythin' else yer creative little mind decides.

I surely hope y'all enjoy this mighty fine autumn soup--my family loves it.

Yer ever lovin' Aunt Nettie

Butternut Squash, Beet, and Apple Soup


Though butternut squash is available year round, it doesn't receive the devoted fussing and musing as it does in fall and winter when we crave the richer, heartier foods that arrive with the colder season. I've given this soup a couple of lovable companions to infuse each delicious bowl with the satisfying flavors of winter.

A small cup of this light-as-a-feather soup makes a tasty starter to a festive meal, while a hearty bowl will satisfy for a light meal during the busy holiday season. And, don't worry about spoiling anyone's appetite for the hearty meal that follows--this soup, with its delicate body is pure ambrosia.

Yield: 8 to 10 cups; 5 to 6 servings

    1 butternut squash (1 1/2 to 2 pounds/510 g to 1 kilo), peeled
    2 small beets, peeled
    3 1/2 cups (840 ml) water

    1 large onion, chopped
    1 large carrot, diced
    2 stalks celery, chopped
    1 1/2 cups (360 ml) apple juice
    2 apples, peeled, cored, and coarsely shredded
    1/2 teaspoon salt

    Pinch of ground nutmeg, for garnish
    1 1/2 cups (360 ml) corn kernels, for garnish
    1/2 cup (60 ml) sweetened dried cranberries, for garnish

  1. Cut the squash and the beets into 1/2-inch (1.27 cm) cubes and put them in an 8- to 10-quart stockpot (4 to 5 kilo) with 3 cups (720 ml) of the water. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Decrease the heat to medium and simmer for about 25 minutes, or until the squash and beets are tender.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium heat, cook and stir the onion, carrot, celery and the remaining 1/2 cup (60 ml) water for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the vegetables are very soft and beginning to brown. Add 1 or more tablespoons of water as needed to prevent burning.
  3. Add the onion mixture and the apple juice to the stockpot with the squash and the beets. Use an immersion blender to process the soup in the stockpot, or put the soup in a blender in batches. Process until the soup is smooth or slightly chunky, as desired, stopping occasionally to scrape down the blender jar. Return the soup to the stockpot.
  4. Add the shredded apples and salt and mix well. Cook the soup until simmering.
  5. Ladle the soup into bowls. Garnish each serving with a pinch of nutmeg, 2 tablespoons of corn, and a few dried cranberries.

If You Haven't Met Aunt Nettie. . .

Our Aunt Nettie has a head like a hard disk. It's filled with megabytes of information about food and cooking. And she's just itchin' to share her learnin' with city folk who live in mortal fear of the stovetop.

Aunt Nettie grew up on the farm. She did not eat out of a can or reach into the freezer. There was no microwave to pop her food into. Everything she made was from scratch. All the food she ate was natural, without pesticides. It was grown right there on the family farm, and she had to cook to survive. At eighty-three years young she still leaps and bounds around the kitchen and can shake, rattle, and roll those pots and pans with the best of them.

Nowadays, Aunt Nettie just shakes her head and complains, "Nobody cooks anymore. They have no idea about puttin' a meal together." She's on a mission. She wants to help those younguns eat better so they can grow up healthy like her own eight kids.

Click here for past Ask Aunt Nettie Columns

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