It all started when I was probably 4 years old. I distinctly remember demanding (because what 4-year-old “asks nicely”?) that everyone call me by the name of Zucchini. Not because I particularly liked eating it, but because I thought the word sounded really cool.
After the realization dawned on my young brain that I was asking to be called a squash, I nixed the idea and decided to hate all squash. This includes pumpkin (this is also why I do not like pumpkin pie), kabocha squash curry from Thai restaurants, and of course, zucchini.
Unfortunately, wedding planning came around, and the dreaded countdown timer app on my phone told me I had 87 days to go until “THE BIG DAY.” And if I wanted a fighting chance to not look like an albino whale beaching itself, I needed to start eating healthier and working out.
With the warm spring weather, the working out part came first. I used to run all the time, but the first two runs (both around 1 mile) were the worst, not to mention completely demoralizing because it made me think back to the time a 7-mile run at a sub-9 minute/mile pace was a fairly regular ordeal for me. Still, I stuck with it, running almost daily. My favorite is running along the beach, on the sand, with Dog sprinting alongside barking at me to stop so I could play with him.
The harder part was going to be eating healthy. Before I became funemployed (by choice), I was working in a small town in the Peninsula, where there was a severe lack of healthy and inexpensive food options for lunch. Since my office didn’t have a microwave either, there was no way I could have brought food to heat up for lunch the next day. I tried to eat as healthy as I could, but nothing compared to the healthy-everything-organic mindset of San Francisco.
On my first day not working, I racked my brain for simple, healthy recipes I could whip up. My first inspiration came from Evolution Fresh, a juice shop/restaurant up the street. One of my favorite healthy meals is a bowl of different veggies and grains simmered in vegetable broth and spiced up with some harissa paste. The last time I was there, I decided to suck it up and order butternut squash as one of the items, just to mix it up. I was surprised to find that I actually sort of liked it (maybe like is a stretch – it’s more like I didn’t mind it as much as I thought I would), so I tried making my own bowl.
It’s pretty embarrassing when you go to the grocery store and not have any idea which squash is which kind, because it’s never been something you’ve purchased before. I didn’t know what butternut squash even looked like, and when I finally found one and brought it home, I had no idea how to cut it open (don’t ask me why I didn’t bother looking it up first). Thankfully, a bit of common sense, a sharp knife, and a grapefruit spoon helped me slice it apart, scoop out the pulp, and dice everything.
I used about half for my veggie bowl (which ended up lasting 4 meals), but I had no idea what to do with the other half. Can I make ice cream from this? What about zucchini/squash bread?
Deciding those options were too complicated, not to mention I didn’t have any eggs, I threw the remaining chunks into the microwave, nuked until they were fork-tender, and stuffed them into the Vitamix along with some unsweetened coconut milk. The results have seriously changed my mind about squash; I thought it was okay before, but I absolutely fell in love with this pureed soup.
By the way, the Vitamix is the single best thing that’s ever happened to me in the kitchen. Mine was a birthday gift from my dad almost two years ago; he asked what I wanted, I told him nothing, but he insisted on getting me something small. Since my $25 one from Target was on its last few spins, I told him I wanted a new blender. He ended up seeing the Vitamix at Costco, fell in love, and bought a bunch for the family, including me. At first I was hesitant to accept such an expensive present, but I’ve used mine almost every single day for the past year and a half, making everything from juice to smoothies to ice cream.
Long story short, I managed to overcome my hatred of squash with this awesome recipe.
Vegan chilled butternut squash soup
Ingredients (makes 1 serving if you really love soup/leftovers):
1 butternut squash, peeled and diced into 1-inch chunks with the pulp removed)
3 cups unsweetened coconut milk (you can probably use unsweetened almond milk as well)
Cinnamon to taste
Honey to taste
Place squash pieces in a microwaveable container and cook until fork-tender, about 5-6 minutes. Let it cool for a few minutes, then place in a blender, along with the coconut milk, a few shakes of cinnamon and a tablespoon or two of honey (depending on how sweet you like it). Blend until smooth, then press through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours. Enjoy!