14 April 2013

What I learned from making butternut squash soup

Today I made butternut squash soup for the first time. When I say "first time", I'm not only referring to trying this recipe; this is the first time I've ever tasted butternut squash, period. As part of my quest to put more simple and unprocessed food on the table, I'm trying produce that I've never cooked myself or sometimes even eaten before.

When I first moved out on my own, I was a slave to the written recipe. As a kid I didn't stand at my mother's elbow and learn my way around a kitchen because daily cooking for sustenance was a chore to me. The only cooking I enjoyed was following unusual recipes from the cookbooks that fascinated me, usually vintage volumes or books outlining authentic recipes from foreign cuisines such as Chinese or Mexican. Nowadays I still feel more comfortable with a recipe, but more often than not I don't have all the ingredients at hand. So I go on the internet and pull up several versions of the same dish to give me an idea of how to cook it and go from there with what I've got.

I used this same recipe-summary approach to make the butternut squash soup today. Here's the rundown:

--Roasted the squash for 30 minutes in the oven with onions, garlic, and chicken broth.
--Added pumpkin pie spice and ginger.
--Pureed the lot and then simmered on the stove for 30 minutes.
--Added milk and brown sugar.

Unlike the spaghetti squash I made a couple weeks ago, there was nothing I could do to make this soup palatable to me. I should have guessed that I wouldn't like the soup when I didn't like the taste of the plain squash when I took it out of the oven. ABM and the kids don't like it, either, so it will get poured down the drain.

I've learned not to get angry when one of these kitchen experiments fails. Part of the reason we lived on frozen pizzas and hot dogs all these years is that they were safe bets. It frustrated me and ABM both to spend money on spices and fresh ingredients, only to end up throwing the result in the trash because no one would eat it. Now, instead of getting angry, I treat it like a learning experience. We want to eat fewer processed foods, so we have to learn what healthy foods can take the place of the frozen burritos and Lean Cuisines.

It helps that the kids are older. C1, C2, and DJ each cook dinner at least once a week, which takes the burden off of me. I am less annoyed about standing at the stove for so long today (I cooked dinner in addition to fiddling with the butternut squash) because I know that tomorrow night I can get one of them to cook dinner. The kids have grown into teens with more varied palates (other than M, who is my perpetual finicky eater) and they welcome trying new dishes. Out of the five of us still living here, chances are that at least three of us will like a new recipe. This rate of success makes it easier for me to deal with the few failures.
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