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Make This Tonight: Easy Pumpkin, Potato and Apple Soup

What better way to fight the chill of winter than to tuck in to some of your favorite comfort foods?  The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines comfort food as "food prepared in a traditional style having a usually nostalgic or sentimental appeal."  These are the foods that your family dished up on weeknights or even special occasions, that you loved eating as a child, or that you turn to when you are stressed, or in my case, cold.  Typically, the dishes are simple, down-to-earth and easy to prepare.  While comfort food can mean completely different things to different people, I like to think that we all take comfort in a hot bowl of soup, particularly during these cold months when our bodies crave warm, rich foods.
 
Soups are easy to make and can contain really anything that you have in your refrigerator.  Some of my favorite soups are pureed and made rich not by the addition of fats such as butter and cream, but by the wholesomeness of vitamin- and mineral-rich root vegetables and greens that are hardy and readily available during the winter months.  I whipped this one up the other day and got rave reviews from my family and neighbors.
 
Pumpkin, Potato and Apple Soup
 
1 small onion, chopped
1 carrot, washed and chopped
1 rib celery, washed and chopped
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
3 pounds pumpkin or other winter squash, such as butternut, cut in half and seeds removed
1 Russet potato, peeled and chopped
1 sweet potato, peeled and chopped
2 small apples, peeled, cored and chopped
32 ounces (1 box) vegetable broth or water
1 bunch radish greens, turnip greens, mustard greens, or two handfuls of baby spinach
 
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Rub 1 teaspoon olive oil on the cut side of the pumpkin.  Place cut side down and place in oven.  Bake the squash for at least 30 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the skin slides in easily.  Remove and cool; then peel the pumpkin, removing the flesh.  Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat in a large stockpot.  Add the onion, carrot and celery and sweat for at least 8 minutes.  Add the salt, pepper, squash, potatoes and apple.  Stir well.  Add the broth and enough water to just cover and stir well, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the pot.  Simmer for 25 minutes, or until the potato is very tender.  Add the greens and simmer for another 8 minutes.  Using an immersion blender, blender or food processor, blend the soup until a smooth consistency.  Season with additional salt and pepper to taste. If you desire, add about 1/3 cup of milk, half and half, or cream and thin with water.
 
Alternately, you can add cubes of skinned squash to the soup with the potatoes, so no roasting is necessary.  Enjoy the hot soup topped with a dollop of fat-free Greek yogurt.

 
Alyson Browett, MPH, CPT, is an independent consultant with more than 20 years of experience in the international health, nutrition and fitness fields. As an undergraduate, she studied with the School for International Training in Zimbabwe, where she examined cultural, social and economic barriers to the successful implementation of HIV/AIDS prevention programs. She has taught numerous classes on health and nutrition for young people and adults, and she also works as a certified personal trainer and nutritional counselor. She was one of the first editors of the federally sponsored HIV/AIDS treatment guidelines for adults, children and pregnant women. Ms. Browett has worked on media, editorial, research and strategic planning projects for the International AIDS Society, American Red Cross, and American Institute for Cancer Research.

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