Comfort Food - Refreshed

December 23, 2013

A healthy eating specialist at WFM Columbus Circle and WFM Union Square in NYC, Kelly Dupuis believes in eating foods without labels (an ear of corn, a ripe tomato). As a proponent of plant-based diets, she eschews packaged substitutes offering a quick fix. For Kelly, it's all about cooking from scratch. In her weekly column, Comfort Food - Refreshed, Kelly doesn't just adapt her favorite comfort foods to her plant-strong lifestyle, she reimagines them in original recipes with a wink to the past.

This week, Kelly is pureeing her way to a better bowl of butternut squash. 

Photo by Shauna Ahern


Back when I was a wee cook, I used to be intimidated by butternut squash. I would look at the huge piles of oblong alien-looking things in the grocery store, and think to myself: How on earth would I cook that? I’d pick it up, smell it, and feel it in my hands. And then I’d put it down and quietly walk away.

Don’t get me wrong -- I wanted to make friends with butternut squash.  I really did. But I didn’t know how to start the conversation. I was winter squash-shy, if you will.  But I got bold. I grew up. I started exploring. I got myself a chef’s knife. I cut them length-wise. I scooped out the seeds. And I did like the internet told me -- put the squash halves interior-side-down in a baking dish with an couple inches of water, and baked them at 350F until soft (60-80 minutes, depending on the size of the squash). And bingo-bango, I had sweet, roasted butternut squash puree at my disposal.  

Of course, you can peel, seed, cube and steam or boil the squash. But if you want the richness and the sweetness to really come out -- roast that sucker. Scoop out the tender-cooked flesh from each squash half. Then, puree that flesh in a food processor to break down the fibers. You will now have sweet, rich, roasted butternut squash puree. And then you will put that butternut squash puree in everything. Okay, maybe not everything.

Wait. Actually. Yes, just about everything.

  • Butternut Squash Oatmeal. Stay with me. Cook up 1 cup of steel cut oats according to package directions. When the oats are tender and starchy, add 1 cup of butternut squash puree, 1/4 cup almond milk, and 1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger. Top with honey and graham cracker crumbs. This oatmeal is for real.
  • Black Bean Chili with Butternut Squash. Get out a big pot. Saute 1 diced onion, 1 diced red pepper pepper, 1 diced carrot, a couple cloves of minced garlic, and a seeded minced jalapeno until soft. Add 3 tablespoons chili powder, 1 teaspoon of cumin, and 1 teaspoon of curry powder. Cook for another minute. Then add 2 cups diced fire-roasted tomatoes with a cup of water. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and add 2, 15 ounce cans of drained, rinsed black beans, and 2 cups butternut squash puree. Cook for another 10 minutes. Top with the good stuff: guacamole, salsa, etc. The squash puree adds sweetness, fiber, and a creamy texture. I love squash with all those spices. I really do.
  • Butternut Squash Casserole. Roast a large butternut squash, scoop out flesh and puree. Combine puree, 15 ounces silken tofu, 1/2 cup orange juice, 1/4 cup honey, 1/4 cup almond butter, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon nutmeg, 1 teaspoon orange zest. Transfer into an 13 x 9 inch asserole dish. Bake at 450F until golden. Garnish with chopped nuts and golden raisins.  

Where butternut squash truly shines is in a soup. It was made for it. It was made for my Spicy Butternut Squash Soup with Apple, Jicama and Dried Cherry Salsa. For sure. This is a soup to entertain with, as far I’m concerned. I really like it in tiny shot glasses as one tasty gulp. The soup itself is so simple. Take an onion, some squash, coconut milk, and vegetable broth and add some Chinese Five Spice (ginger, nutmeg, fennel, clove and cinnamon, usually). Add in some cayenne (use caution if you’re entertaining kids, maybe leave it on the side). Then I make a darling little condiment of a chopped granny smith apple, jicama (or celery, if you can’t find jicama), chopped cilantro, meyer lemon juice (or lemon and orange juice), and dried cherries. The cold salsa on top of the warm soup is just yummy. The fresh and unique flavors of the salsa really perk up all the deep, sweet, earthy, and spicy flavors of the squash in the soup. It’s time to make friends with butternut squash, and butternut squash will, in turn, will make friends with your belly.  

Spicy Butternut Squash Soup with Apple, Jicama and Dried Cherries

Serves 6

For the soup:

1 small onion, minced
1 tablespoon Chinese Five Spice
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 cups butternut squash puree
2 1/2 cups low sodium vegetable broth
1/2 cup coconut milk (from the can)
Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

For the salsa:

1 granny smith apple, cored and 1/4 inch diced
1/4 cup jicama, peeled and 1/4 inch diced
1/4 cup fruit juice sweetened dried cherries
2 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons meyer lemon juice (or 1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice and 1 tablespoon fresh squeezed orange juice)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

In the NYC area? Stop by for cooking advice!

Do you need help with maintaining a healthy diet? Drop by WFM Columbus Circle or WFM Union Square to chat with me about this recipe and plant-strong cooking tips.

If you're not in the area, send me a direct message or add your comments or questions below.

Like this post? See Kelly's topic from last week: Warm Cabbage Slaw with Mandarins over Quinoa.

Kelly Dupuis is a healthy eating specialist at WFM Columbus Circle and WFM Union Square who delights in transforming comfort classics into deliciously satisfying and fun plant-based dishes.

kelly dupuis

4 Comments Add a Comment
  • Missing_avatar

    yumbunny says: The beat goes on; This recipe makes 4-5 sumptuous servings for this single diner...Easy to heat and eat first thing in the morning, for days! Today I drizzled Grade B Maple Syrup on top (gonna try your cranberries and walnuts too!) and liked it (better?) than the honey. So fun exchanging ideas with you. Who knows, may even try the butternut variety some day:)

    3 months ago Reply to this »
  • Kelly_009

    Kelly Jane says: You're getting me in the mood for my morning oatmeal tomorrow!

    3 months ago
  • Missing_avatar

    yumbunny says: Okay, I 'stayed' with you, now stay with me here. The butternut squash oatmeal actually spoke to me, however, I went with my leftovers as a variation instead. PUMPKIN puree( left over from some gluten-free* muffins I made for Christmas)with some pumpkin pie spice sprinkled into the cooking oatmeal..joined with homemade almond milk, and ginger and topped with honey. WOW. *oh well, that was then, and this is now.

    3 months ago Reply to this »
  • Kelly_009

    Kelly Jane says: Yumbunny! I am right there with you. In the past, I've made Thanksgiving Day Oatmeal using pumpkin puree! For REAL. Cranberries, walnuts, with your ginger and honey and almond milk additions. Great minds think alike! I love the pumpkin pie spice--I'm totally doing that soon.

    3 months ago

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