I teach cooking classes at Cancer Support Community in Bozeman, Montana, and one of the regular participants requested that I teach something with butternut squash. I started with this recipe but tried to make it more nutrient-dense by increasing the amounts of protein and healthy fat. Its medium-thick broth is hearty, sweet and spicy. The combination of basil, orange zest, and toasted walnuts gives it some zip. Altogether it takes less than a half-hour to prepare, which is pretty satisfying on a weeknight.
I think of boneless, skinless chicken breasts and thighs as a blank canvas. Choose wisely, though. The Bozeman Co-Op carries locally grown chicken from the Lazy SR Ranch in Wilsall, Montana, which is delicious. If you can’t find locally grown chicken, consider one like SmartChicken that’s natural and raised without antibiotics or growth stimulants. Otherwise, choose your favorite chicken breasts and thighs.
Butternut squash has beta-carotene to thank for its beautiful orange-yellow color. In our bodies, beta-carotene converts to vitamin A, a fat-soluble vitamin that helps maintain eye health, other soft tissues, and healthy skin. I like to chop my own veggies, so I prefer to buy butternut squash whole, peel it like a potato, scoop out the seeds, and chop it into bite-sized pieces. However, to save time, look for chopped butternut squash in the fresh section of your grocery store. Frozen butternut squash would work just as well, just increase the cooking time a by 5 minutes or so and watch that it doesn’t get mushy.
This recipe makes six hearty entrée portions or ten appetizer portions. As with all soups and stews, it’s best when served piping hot. If you have leftovers, be gentle when re-heating – the squash is delicate and you want to preserve its texture. Too much heat and it’ll turn to mush. Add water or chicken stock if you need to thin it out a bit. Enjoy!