Monthly Archives: March 2014

Butternut Squash Soup

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.

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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!

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A Slice of Humble Pie

I recently left my job to study for graduate school exams and refocus my mind for my upcoming wedding.  This also left me with ample time to exercise, which is something I really wanted to do, but never could find much time while working since my office was quite a commute.

So we joined the local YMCA.  Compared to many of the other SPX/spin/yoga studios, it’s really a steal; we used to pay $180/person for a spin/SPX-only studio, but now it’s $140 for both of us to work out and take unlimited classes and have access to tennis courts, a pool, and regular gym equipment.  In addition, the Y is nicely maintained and just a 20-minute stroll away (or a 5-minute drive if I’m feeling extra lazy, hah).

I took my first class Sunday morning.  It was a spin class, and it was probably the worst exercise class ever.  Not challenging at all, terrible music, and an instructor with zero personality.  This kind of set the bar for me; maybe, I mused, the spin studio was worth $180/month..

Monday morning rolls around.  I checked the class schedule and saw a class called Bodyworks at 11:40 AM.  Okay, let’s try that.  I walked over to the gym, figuring I could probably take the class, hop on the elliptical for half an hour, and walk home for lunch.  I arrived ten minutes early and found myself surrounded by a few women who were probably in their 70s.

Oh, this is probably going to be an easy class, I thought.

I should’ve picked up the clues that this was not going to be as easy as I imagined.  The women were all chatting about their love for Breaking Bad.  Kind of badass, to be honest.  But I didn’t think much of it.

Second clue was that they were picking up 5-pound weights.  I didn’t think much of that either, as 5 pounds seems pretty light, right?

Third clue was that the instructor was probably 100% muscle.  Incredibly fit and toned.

So the class started.  It was lunge after squat after lunge after squat.  Then came the weights, and even 5 pounds felt too heavy for me.  Let’s not even get started on how I was pretty sure the resistance bands were going to spring me forward into a crumpled heap.  Oh, and in between all these sets of lunges and squats and weights, there were step-ups and jumping jacks.

I was sweating bullets 10 minutes into class.  Halfway through, my legs started shaking during a squat.  No, I cannot go one inch lower.  By the end of class, I felt like a limp jelly noodle.  And all of those 70-something women were peppy as ever, probably excited to go home and Netflix it up.

I couldn’t muster up the energy to go on the elliptical, so I trudged home and took Dog for a walk.  It took all of my remaining strength to not lie down on the grass in the park.

Because we all know not to do that – that’s where the dogs pee.