creamy butternut squash soup

by Whitney on November 11, 2010

The first bite of this soup drew me in with cozy familiarity. It’s warm with baking spices, and soft and velvety, but a bit nubby with carrots, like a well-worn sweater that is just fine for wearing around the house. I scrawled the recipe onto a lime green card so long ago that I can’t recall the source (my mother? my husband’s aunt?), and I’m not sure if it was an original or torn from the back of a can. Regardless, it’s delicious.

It’s also pretty simple, but in my current stage of life, it generally takes me three days to accomplish anything beyond routine. Three days to decorate the holiday mantle, three days to sew a skirt, three days to cook soup.


day 1 Wash, halve, seed, and roast squash. Cool and refrigerate.
day 2 Chop onion, celery, and carrots. Refrigerate.
day 3 Cook the dang soup.

Life happens. Babies need feeding, books need reading, fresh air beckons. Allowing myself to go with the flow emboldens me to step beyond my comfort zone. In the face of three young children, even a simple soup can be intimidating. There’s all the chopping, and the monitoring (distractions have charred many a vegetable in my oven) and the clean up. Breaking down the process, though, means more easily surmountable obstacles, and, fortunately, this soup is sturdy, and little worse for the lapse between slice and sip.

Creamy Butternut Squash Soup (adapted from an old recipe card, original source unknown)


  • 6 medium butternut squash (halved lengthwise and seeded)
  • 1/2 pound butter (mm-hmm, buttah makes it bettah)
  • 1 large yellow onion, peeled and diced
  • 6 stalks celery, diced
  • 6 peeled carrots, diced
  • 1/2 qt heavy cream
  • 2 qts water or stock (chicken or vegetable)
  • 2 tbs cinnamon
  • 1 tbs nutmeg
  • 1/4 c packed brown sugar
  • salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
  • garnish options: granny smith apples (peeled & diced), roasted and diced red beets, toasted walnuts, *cinnamon whipped cream

Preheat oven to 375°F

Roast halved squash scoop side up, each with pat of butter and sprinkling of salt and pepper, 1-1/2 hrs or fork-tender. Splitting squash requires a little effort. I manage the process by piercing a large chef’s knife into the center and pushing it down while I hold the top steady, then repeat toward the opposite end of the squash.

In uncovered stock pot, saute carrots, celery and onions with butter at moderately low heat for 10-15 minutes or until onions are transparent, stirring occasionally. Add spices and continue to saute for a minute or so, then add cooked squash. Mash squash a bit and stir to incorporate.

Add remaining ingredients and cook 45 minutes.

Leave in pot to hand blend, or decant to blender and smooth in batches.**

Adjust consistency with water, stock or cream. Garnish.

*Here’s a fancy recipe for cinnamon whipped cream, but we usually just keep it simple with a pint of cream, a couple heavy shakes of cinnamon and a spoonful of raw cane sugar. Whisk to stiff peaks.

**So as to avoid a huge mess and painful burns, leave a good inch or more between the soup and the lid of blender. Or, beg, borrow, or steal (with a wink and a smile) to get your hands on an immersion blender. Easier, faster, *much* less to clean–we love ours. If you make your fair share of pureed soups, consider adding one to your holiday wish list.

The original recipe (at least, the version I have scratched onto that wrinkled card) calls for water, but I prefer the depth of homemade chicken stock. I tried a boxed vegetable stock once and found the resulting taste too corny, but I bet your version would make a divine base. Like most dishes I make, this soup is open to modification at many points. Add apples and/or apple cider to sweeten the pot, or go exotic by swapping nutmeg and cinnamon for curry, cardamom and mace.

I love cooking, and I love my children, and I love cooking for my children, but intense prep-work with a tight time-line and kids underfoot stresses me out. Stretching out the steps is one way that I make homemade work for our current family routine so that I enjoy the process and we all enjoy the product.

Do you have ways of making homemade work?

Linking to {inhabit}, a new tradition at The Little List; my focus for this week is in bold below.

Gina asks,

How are YOU… capturing time, filling your table, making memories, weaving rituals, creating warmth, encouraging deep roots, nurturing creativity, being fully present, and learning to fully inhabit the space you call home?

12.16.2010 Linking to A Little Bit of Spain in Iowa’s Simple Lives Thursday, where you share your tips and recipes for living a simple life.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

The Little List November 30, 2010 at 9:02 pm

You are one smart momma. I can’t tell you how many times I have forgone homemade because of the time constraints but if you eat the elephant one bite at a time it really is do-able. Thank you for the reminder. This looks so delicious!!! Thank you so much for sharing your recipe and for linking up for {inhabit}. Warmly,


Whitney November 30, 2010 at 9:47 pm

I wish I could take credit for thoughtful planning, but the truth is that my three-day system was borne of frustration. When you’re halfway through dinner (or laundry, or writing … ) and the kids are all the way through being without you, what are you gonna do? I’ve learned to cut every project into small bites.

Thank you for hosting {inhabit}! It’s a treasure.


Dakota Gal December 7, 2010 at 11:30 am

Mmm, this soup looks so yummy. And the clean up is what gets me, too. I can usually find the time to cook, but I sometimes avoid it simply because I know I won’t find the time or energy for the clean up!


Whitney December 7, 2010 at 11:53 pm

Yep, I tend to dirty a load of dishes in the preparation and serving of one meal. I’m pretty good at cleaning as I go, but anything that requires disassembling, scrubbing, or TLC is not my friend.


Jackie @ Crest Cottage December 17, 2010 at 9:17 am

Hi! I just discovered you over at Simple Lives Thursday, and I must say, I love your writing style! Thanks so much for sharing, and I can’t wait to read more of your blog.


Whitney December 17, 2010 at 11:10 am

Thanks, Jackie! I have a few food posts planned for the coming weeks; I’ll be sure to let you know when the next is up!


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