Butternut Squash Soup (GF, DF, AIP, Whole30, Paleo)

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This soup kicked off our first AIP dinner almost two weeks ago, because I knew exactly what I was doing–thus it was a sure success.  I’ve made it plenty of times before, and knew that I just needed to omit the curry powder and cayenne, and swap coconut milk for the cream.  The squash adds a nice lusciousness to this thick soup, making it extra filling!  I usually make it with bone broth, since that is what we tend to have around.  I recommend it for anyone on AIP, because bone broth is an important factor in the protocol.  But veggie broth is an easy swap to make, which would result in a vegan dish.

Blended vegetable soups, like this Butternut Squash soup, or the Carrot-Ginger Soup that is on the plan for this week, are great options for my AIP.   Carrots and squash both add a natural sweetness and the dense vegetables easily make for a thick and smooth soup.  I love autumn/winter squashes and I love root vegetables, so tranforming them into soups was pretty obvious.

Pre-AIP, this soup was inspired by Panera’s Squash Soup.  The honey, listed as optional here, is a necessary addition to get close to a Panera-copycat taste.  Their’s is definitely a sweeter soup.  It’s kind of like vaguely-savory pudding…but in a good way!  Some honey/sweetener is allowed on AIP–it’s better if it is natural, of course.  And there is a limit to sugar that should be followed.  I can’t remember the exact grams, but it equals about 2 pieces of fruit per day.  Two weeks in, I can feel myself leaning a little on sugar–I’ve always been a fruit-loving person.  I’m trying to limit myself to just a piece of fruit with lunch, thus saving a little sugar for where I feel it is best spent: dinner.  Especially in all of these Thai- and Asian-inspired dishes, a bit of sweetness can round out all of the tangy-sour-umami-salty flavors that are favored in these dishes.  That being said, while on AIP, I’ve left out the honey in this soup, leaving it a little more savory.  It is still a very tasty soup–especially with a little crispy bacon crumbled over top.

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Butternut Squash Soup

Serves: 4-6 | Prep Time: 20+ min  | Cook Time: 10-15 min

  • 1 butternut squash (about 1.5-2 lbs)
  • 1 medium onion, yellow/vidalia/sweet preferred
  • 1 tsp coconut oil
  • 2 large carrots
  • 1 large apple, or 1/2 c. applesauce (unsweetened for AIP)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 c. pumpkin puree (pure pumpkin, not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground ginger
  • pinch of ground cloves
  • pinch of ground mace (or nutmeg, if not following AIP)
  • 3 c. bone broth (chicken/poultry broth is the most “neutral” flavor vs beef, pork, etc)
  • 1 can (15 oz) coconut milk
  • optional: 1 Tbsp honey
  • non-AIP optional: 1 tsp. curry powder*
  • For serving: cooked bacon, sliced green onions

*contains nightshades, do not add when following AIP

Prep the squash: If you have time, roast the squash for a slightly richer flavor (caramelization is your friend!)  Carefully slice off each end and then split the squash lengthwise with a large, sharp knife (the skin will be pretty tough to get through).  Scoop out the seeds and place the squash halves face up on a baking sheet.  Roast at 400 degrees F for 30-45 minutes, until fork easily pierces the squash.  OR Microwave the squash for a faster prep time:  slice off the very ends of the squash and split in half lengthwise with a large, sharp knife.  Scoop on the seeds and place the squash halves face up on a microwave-safe plate.  Microwave for 6-8 minutes, until a fork easily pierces the squash without resistance.  Remove from microwave or oven when cooked and set aside to cool.

Prep the vegetables: peel and chop the carrots, peel and dice the onion, mince the garlic cloves.  Dice the apple.

In a large pot, add the coconut oil.  Heat until shimmering, then add the chopped onions and carrots.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent, about 3-5 minutes.  Add the garlic and apple and stir for one minute, until garlic is fragrant.  Scoop the cooked and cooled squash out of the skin and add to the pot with the vegetables.  Add the pumpkin puree and all of the spices, stir to combine.

Add the broth, stirring until the mixture is mostly uniform.  Bring to a boil, stirring often.  Once boiling, remove from heat.  Add honey, if using.  Blend until smooth with an immersion blender straight in the pot; or ladle soup into an upright blender–but be sure to only fill it halfway.  The hot soup will expand and could overflow/cause burns if the upright blender is filled up.  Blend in batches or in the pot until the soup is uniformly smooth.  Add the coconut milk and whisk or immersion-blend until fully incorporated.

Serve immediately, garnished with crumbled bacon and green onions for AIP, or with pumpkin seeds if not following AIP.

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AIP Week 3: Budget Update & Meal Plan

After a very successful last week, I was a little stumped when it came to planning this week.  I’ll be honest, I found my veggies this week slightly un-inspiring.  Yellow squash isn’t a favorite, and after last week’s cauliflower, I was out of my go-to recipes.  But some Pinterest trolling reminded me of a few different dishes that I wanted to try, and adapt to be AIP.  Now that I’ve picked them, I think this will actually be a very delicious week of dinners!

I successfully navigated eating AIP at a restaurant this weekend!  I’ve also managed to avoid feeling too tempted during thee grazing hour at my office.  I never really noticed how frequently we have snacks coming in and out until I couldn’t eat them.  Obviously, this challenge has been strengthening my self-control, which is actually nice.  It the past, if something was “off-limits”, I’d just find another food to fill the sugar-craving or the dessert-craving or the crunchy-craving or whatever.  While I’m still dealing with sugar-cravings (mostly with too much dried fruit), there aren’t really AIP-alternatives that are easy to find or make.  Most desserts require somewhat complicated recipes and, after making all my other meals, I don’t feel like cooking anymore.  So instead of just impulsively answering the craving, I’m learning to just sit with it.  And guess what?  I survive the craving and usually, its not so important as to be remembered in an hour or two.

I think I’ll learn the most about myself this month, and it won’t necessarily be what foods “work” or “don’t work” for me.  This AIP round has kicked off a little bit of self-reflection that I am trying to hold on to throughout it all.  We’ll see how it goes.

Another saving grace during these AIP weeks has been “gummies” or “fruit snacks” that I’ve made with gelatin powder, a bit of honey, and fruit juice.  I’ve made sure to use fruit juice without added sugar and only one batch per week.  This allows for about a handful a day, which I slip into my lunch box or have as dessert.  It’s more the texture than the sweetness that I’m craving.  This week, I’ll use some of my Hungry Harvest add-on item: Watermelon-Tart-Cherry Juice.

I forgot to snap a photo of our receipts this week, but I do think it was much closer to the $75-$80 range, which is exactly where I want to be, budget-wise!  $20 to the vegetable box, $20 for odds and ends at Giant, and another $35-ish at Trader Joe’s for the bulk of this week’s groceries.

Here’s what we got:

Groceries

Trader Joe’s: Unsweet shredded coconut, mint, carrots, parsnips, limes, “tiny” avocados, frozen coconut, coconut milk, dried beet chips, 2 lbs ground chicken, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, plantain chips, freeze-dried strawberries, broccoli, bananas

Giant: fresh basil, fresh cilantro, 1 lb shaved pork, 2 lbs beef short ribshh box

Hungry Harvest Box: watermelon-cherry juice, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, lettuce, zucchini, yellow squash, apples, kiwis, oranges

 

Here’s what we are eating:

Sunday: Braised Beef Shortribs, Cauliflower-Parsnip Puree, Roasted Brussel Sprouts  Shortribs have been on my list for ages, but were never in the $50 budget last year.  I still want to try Deb’s recipe, but for now, I’ve made my own AIP-compliant broth with balsamic vinegar.  I’ll slip a little horseradish in the cauls-parsnip puree, and the sprouts will put some green on the plate.

Monday: Fiona’s Green Chicken, Sweet Potatoes, Sautéed Yellow Squash  Another recipe that I’ve had my eye on–all those herbs have got to be good!  Otherwise, keeping the veggie sides simple.

Tuesday: Leftovers  I work the late shift, so we’ll clear out the fridge after the weekend.

Wednesday: Larb Gai with Sautéed Broccoli, & Avocado  This ground chicken, pungent with lime and fish sauce, is one of my go-to dishes at Thai restaurants.  I usually add a side of rice to make this traditional appetizer into a full meal, but I’ll  round it out with veg and healthy fats for AIP.

Thursday: Carrot Ginger Soup  Just something simple after my class.  I get snack-y during my three-hour class, so I’m never too hungry once I get home.  This quick and easy soup does the trick, with a punch of ginger to keep things interesting.

Friday: Pho with Zoodles  So good that we are repeating it!  Shaved pork was on sale, so we’ll switch it up a little from last week’s shaved steak.  Pho really makes the best leftovers for lunch the next day and this has been one of our favorite AIP dishes yet.  The trick is to keep the noodles fairly raw (just warm) so that they don’t disintegrate in the broth.

Saturday: Leftovers  Clearing out the fridge again!

Breakfasts will be my usual combo of protein (bacon or sausage), greens, sauerkraut and/or kombucha for probiotics, and sweet potato or avocado.  Lunches are leftovers and a piece of fruit.  Snacks are plantain chips, beet chips, dried strawberries, and gummies.


AIP Week 2: Budget Update & Meal Plan

We are one week into my AIP journey.  Things are going well, I suppose.  I’ve found I can very quickly start to focus on everything that I miss…but as that won’t help anything for the next 23 days, I’m doing my best to just not think about it.  In that mindset, I have realized that I need to spend far less time on Instagram and Pinterest, because food is PROMINENT on both of my feeds.  You’d think I enjoy cooking, or something!  I’ve had friends who do a round of Whole30 and I watched them spend the whole time Pinning all these decadent, non-Whole30-compliant recipes…I don’t know how they can stand it.  I’d be out of compliance in a minute.  Needless to say, I am now taking suggestions of books, TV Shows (not-food-related), and hobbies to take up my new found time!  Hahaha.

It is nice to notice all of the changes that are happening after just a few days on AIP.  My sugar cravings haven’t been insurmountable–though they are starting to pick back up in this second week.  Thankfully, I’m already noticing just the barest amount of sugar in ingredients.  Fruit is awesome.  Coconut milk is too–even the unsweetened version already tastes nice and sweet.  I seem to be sleeping better–I feel like I am waking up less.  Of course, this may be the sudden absence of my daily caffeine, which is making me a little grumpy around 3pm and 8pm each day.  (And I use to really only have coffee in the morning…I’m surprised at how long the effects lasted!). But my general, non-stimulated fatigue might be the cause of my better sleeping.  Maybe I’m just more tired!

Last week I made really lovely beef koftas and green, tomato-less tabbouleh; a super filling broccoli salad; the love-child of meatballs and chicken nuggets (aka Sweet Potato & Chicken Poppers); and wonderful bacon-wrapped shrimp.  Last week was Sauces week.  I made Coconut Milk Tzatziki which was STELLAR!  My first foray into AIP sauces, and, given how important dipping sauces are in my life, I should have guessed that it would make all the difference.  I’ll have to make the tzatziki again, as I didn’t take any photos and I want to share the recipe here, but it was so good!  AIP cuts all spices that are…well, spicy, because they are made from peppers or seeds.  But a couple cloves of grated raw garlic in the tzatziki added a zing that seemed very spicy!  I might….maybe…just like Coconut Milk Tzatziki better than the regular stuff.  Or I’ve been so deprived the last week that my brain cannot remember the real stuff.  :). I don’t think its quite that serious…

On the first week, I craved cottage cheese, deviled eggs, yogurt, and mayo.  Obviously missing that unctuous-ness that comes from eggs and/or full-fat dairy.  At this beginning of week two, I’m craving nut butters.  It is interesting to me that I’m still craving high-fat foods, as I am still consuming a lot of fat on AIP: avocado, coconut products, and pork sausage or bacon make it onto my plate on a daily basis.  I think a sizable portion of my cravings are actually for textures…if I could just eat something that has the same texture as cheesecake, it would be total heaven.  In the meantime, I’m making batches of gummies from gelatin and fruit juice, which seems to tide me over.

This week, we had our harvest box delivered once again.  It has been so easy with Hungry Harvest–I just updated my “Never List” to include nightshades (tomatoes, all peppers, white potatoes, and eggplant) for the duration of my AIP.  Any nightshades that are slated to be in the weekly box will be swapped out for something I can eat, without my lifting a finger!  Without tomatoes and eggplant, my veggie haul this week was very green and gold, my alma mater’s colors.  Woot.

I did a little better on my budget this week, since I had less to stock up on.  It was just under $90, but I feel like I purchase A LOT of meat products.  TJ’s has jacked up the price on their shaved steak, but, since I am preparing all of my meals at home from scratch for the next 30 days, I am allowing myself to cut corners when I can.  That means store-bought shaved steak and tubes of pureed fresh ginger and garlic from last week.  Right now, it’s definitely worth the extra money.

I’m hoping I might be able to the budget closer to $75 next week…we’ll see how it goes.

Here is what we spent this week:

receipt AIP w2

Trader Joe’s: $36.86

Aldi: $32.08

Hungry Harvest Box: $20.00

Total: $88.94

Here is what we got:

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Groceries AIP w2

From Stores: cabbage, 3 lb onions, 1 lb ground chicken, 4 lb BI,SO chicken thighs, 2 packets tuna, apple cider vinegar, black olives, prosciutto, bacon, dried figs, plantain chips, mushrooms, blueberries, cucumber, 1 lb shaved steak, coconut aminos, arugula, baby kale, coconut milk x3, applesauce, limes, roast beef, giant green olives, matcha powder

From HH produce box: zucchini x2, leek, fennel, honeymoon melon, lettuce, cauliflower, onions, avocados, grapefruit, apples

And here is how we are eating:

Sunday: Cracklin’ Chicken, Turmeric Roasted Cauliflower, & Coconut-Creamed Spinach:  NomNomPaleo’s chicken thighs were super tasty, and fresh cauliflower florets were a nice change from sweet potato in filling the “starchy” part of the plate.  The only change made to my beloved CC Spinach is leaving out the garam masala and chili flakes.  I missed that flavor, but this whole dinner touched on some Indian food notes, which was refreshing!

Monday: Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps with Cauliflower Rice  I’m please with this end result, riffing off of my copycat recipe for PF Chang’s wraps.  A smidge of honey and some extra vinegar helped to take over for the usual hoisin sauce.  I was also happy to use water chestnuts and wasabi–two ingredients that I would never have guessed to be AIP compatible!  Looking forward to a little more spice with wasabi in the mix.  I did misjudge the lettuce that we got from Hungry Harvest–this was more like Lettuce Bites, because the leaves were small!

Tuesday: Leftovers  Working the late shift, but we have plenty left over from Sunday and Monday.

Wenesday: AIP Sushi with “Hot and Sour” Soup   My first attempt at cauli-rice sushi.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed for success.  Soup will be just bone broth with a few doctoring additions (vinegar, coconut aminos, wasabi, etc) to get all those traditional hot & sour flavor profiles.

Thursday: Crockpot Pho with Steak & Zoodles  I was very excited to get fennel in our box–I think a portion blackened up for the broth alongside the ginger and onion will lend the licorice flavor that I usually get through anise-seed–which is off-limits on AIP.  I also love in raw, so I will slice up the rest for a cold salad alongside my lunches later in the week.   I haven’t had much luck with zoodles in the past…we shall see!

Friday: AIP BBQ Pork-stuffed Sweet Potatoes and Cole slaw  I found a recipe with apple butter as the base, but couldn’t find any apple butter at the store.  So I’ll use the applesauce to make a quick cheat’s apple butter in the microwave and then use that as the base for my BBQ sauce, to go over the pork from the freezer.

Saturday: Leftovers  Time to clear out the fridge for next week’s shopping!


Happy New Year!

As usual, the end of my year was hectic and harried, though happy enough!  Last week, M and I went off on our usual winter beach trip and now we are back.  Time to return to routine and catch up on sleep, vegetables, organization, packing…

Yes, packing.  After three years in our apartment, M and I are moving out.  Back into one of our mothers’ homes for a brief stint as we figure if we want to look for a home to buy and find another place to rent.  Still a little unknown because taxes and money and mortgages and realtor vocabulary and adulthood are tough.  So, while part of me is excited for changes and the drive to organize, condense, and pack; another part of me is dreading all of that. Moving back in with roommates/parents wasn’t really on our plans, but it makes the most sense.  Both of our mothers are fairly local and obliging and it saves us the risk of having to pay rent and a mortgage overlapping.  But its a huge, kind of scary, very new change.  There is a lot of unknown is all of this, and I realize that M and I have both adjusted quite well to the comfortable and familiar.   This is a big change.

Also, in the midst of this countdown to moving, I am doing a round of the Auto-Immune Protocol (AIP).  While I haven’t been diagnosed with any AI diseases, I have been reacting to something.  Since September of last year, I’ve had more days per week with…digestion issues…than normal days.  Unfortunately, it hasn’t been quite as easy to figure out the trigger as it was when I was reacting similarly to gluten.  I was eating something gluten-filled at nearly every meal.  These days I do not have a constant like that.  So, I am trying AIP.  AIP starts by cutting out many foods (and NSAIDS) that can cause irritation and inflammation for 30 days, then slowly reintroduces foods while monitoring for reactions.  At best, I hope that I will find that my inflammation was just high, and a 30-day break will be enough to calm and reset my system and, at the end of it all, I will find that I can reintroduce all of the various foods.  More likely, I may be reacting to something–and I hope this will allow me to find out what.

AIP cuts out all grains, all dairy, all nightshades (tomatoes, eggplants, peppers (and pepper-based spices like cayenne, paprika, etc), white potatoes…don’t mind my tears), eggs (I’m sobbing), nuts and seeds and seed-based spices (bye cumin, fennel seed, cardamom, etc), pulses and beans (which includes soy, fresh legumes like green beans and peas, more typical beans like chickpeas…but also coffee and chocolate, which are made from beans/seeds).

What AIP does include are: meats, seafood, vegetables (except nightshades and fresh legumes), fruit, coconut, and a focus of nutrient-heavy foods like bone broth, gelatin, avocado, and offal (organ meats).   I think I will survive this protocol by relying a lot on twist of old favorites: Pho-style broth with veggie noodles (or kelp noodles)–certain fish sauces are AIP-approved, along with lime, ginger, and garlic.  Chicken lettuce wraps made with coconut aminos and mixed heavily with mushrooms and water chestnuts (which are not nuts and thus AIP-friendly).  Plantain chips with liver pate.  Bacon wrapped shrimp with chimichurri (minus the pepper flakes).  Horseradish is AIP-approved, so I can work in a little spice to my dishes–plus beef and horseradish are on of.  Turmeric chicken with coconut-milk-creamed spinach.  Steak with parsnip puree.  Sweet potato fries.  Cauliflower Rice Risotto.  Riceless sushi (nori is AIP-approved).  Larb Gai (again favoring the fish sauce and lime–I foresee a lot of Thai this month).  Lots and lots of soups: butternut squash & coconut, my new favorite carrot soup, French onion–minus the wine and the bread topping.  I’m confident that I will make do.

Also, AIP is intended to be a temporary diet.  Whilst the most restrictive phase can vary, depending on which foods trigger responses and how inflamed a body might be, this diet is not meant to be the rest of my (or anyone else’s) life.  So, while all my friends are doing Whole30 or Dry January to ring in the new year, I’m just…committing to a few more omissions for my 30 days.

I’m starting AIP this week, riding the post-vacation “ugh I ate a bunch of junk and all I want is fresh food” wave as far as I can.  With AIP, I have let go of my grocery budget, at least for the first week of two.  This week, with all of the staples that I invested in (coconut aminos, arrowroot flour, coconut flour, avocado oil, etc), my grocery bill was expensive.  Nearly three times as much as last year’s budget…oof.  However, last year’s budget allowed us to reach this financial point, where we can be spending more on food for a few weeks without too much trouble.  So for now, I’ll be meal-planning based on what I want to eat, within AIP standards, rather than sticking to a budget.

I started AIP on Tuesday this week, since we returned from our trip on Sunday and I didn’t have the chance to get to the store until Monday evening.  As mentioned, much of my grocery purchases were stock up items to build my AIP pantry.  And much of this week’s groceries were purchased at Wegman’s, since there were a few special items I needed.  I rounded out with a little more from Trader Joe’s, but forgot to take that photo.  We didn’t have a Hungry Harvest box this week, since we were on vacation.

Here is what I purchased for our AIP kick-off:

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Wegman’s: Avocados, bananas, canned pumpkin, coconut flour, arrowroot flour, mint, celery, ground mace (the AIP sub for nutmeg), coconut milk, parsley, kale, shrimp, broccoli, butternut squash, green onions, clementines, bone broth, ground fresh ginger, ground fresh garlic, gelatin, ground pork, and bacon.

And from Trader Joe’s, I grabbed: frozen riced cauliflower, sweet potatoes, avocado oil, horseradish, sauerkraut, carrot juice, cranberry juice, and plantain chips.

Here’s what we are eating:

Tuesday: Butternut Squash Soup with crumbled Bacon  I riffed off of Panera’s Squash Soup, minus the curry powder, cayenne, and added sugar, with coconut milk swapped for the dairy.  Crisp up a few slices of bacon and crumble on top for some extra crunch.

Wednesday: Beef Kebabs with Cauli-rice Tabbouleh & Coconut Tzatziki I’m mixing some riced cauliflower with lots of cucumbers, parsley, and lemon for a tomato-free tabbouleh, and serving this all with extra cucumbers, quick-pickled red onion, and tzatziki made from coconut cream, ACV, mint, and cucumber.

Thursday: Unbound Wellness’ Chicken and Sweet Potato Poppers & Broccoli Salad served up with either AIP guacamole or AIP Coconut-milk Ranch Dressing for dipping

Friday: Bacon-Wrapped Shrimp with Chimichurri Sauce & Sweet Potato Fries There is little in the world that I love as much as dip-able foods, so I’m playing to that advantage and stacking this week with dippy dinners.  I love this Iowa Girl Eats shrimp and chimichurri dish, a direct inspiration.

Saturday: Leftovers just to make sure everything gets eaten up.  With this much money going towards groceries, avoiding food waste is super important.

Breakfasts will be Sausage+Sweet Potato+Kale Hash or Carrot-Cauliflower-Banana Smoothies with frozen berries and avocado.  Snacks will be plantain chips with or without avocado, fruit, turmeric lattes.