This last weekend was amazing. I love this fall weather, the foggy and cool mornings that give way to bluebird skies and sunny afternoons. The rich smell of drying leaves and dense forest loam. The trees just aren’t turning fast enough for me. So last weekend we headed to Mt. Rainier. A few thousand feet higher and fall is in full swing. I even brought my pumpkin to get some good squash on fallen foliage shots, but completely forgot once we were there.

As it gets cooler during the days, and the nights drop even lower, soup starts to seem like a great idea. A bout of colds has buffeted our small office and in an effort to stave off seasonal sniffles I wanted to make a soup both tasty and nutritious. This time of year I don’t have to look any further than the first of the winter squashes.

Jam packed with an impressive array of vitamins and minerals including cancer fighting phyto-nutrients, vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, dietary fiber, manganese, folate, omega-3 fatty acids, complex B-vitamins, copper and the very powerful antioxidant beta carotene, any winter squash variety is a good start to a healthy meal. To give it just a bit more antioxidant kick I paired it with carrots, another great beta carotene source, and fresh ginger, which is cooked only briefly to retain both its sharp clear flavor and its powerful cancer fighting and anti inflammatory properties.

Instead of using onions or shallots as the base, I opted for a gentler allium. Leeks are a wonderful addition to any soup, when simmered until soft and lightly brown they provide a perfect warm and rich backdrop to any ingredient, plus they support cardiovascular health – like many alliums they are a rich source of complex B vitamins.

Add to that some organic chicken stock, a couple of slices of stale sourdough, and some salt an pepper and my healthy and nutritious soup was ready to go in less than an hour.

2 pound winter squash, halved and deseeded then roasted

1 pound carrots, roasted

1 pound leeks, whites only, sliced

1 T butter

2 T olive oil

2 T carrots, diced

2 T celery, diced

2 T fresh ginger, minced

4 cups chicken stock

2 slices stale sourdough, chopped

Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil and season both carrots and squash, place in a roasting pan and bake for 40 minutes, or until soft. In a large heavy bottomed pot heat butter and one tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat. Sauté leeks for 10-15 minutes, or until soft and lightly browned. Add carrots and celery to leeks and sauté for another 3-5 minutes. Add ginger and sauté briefly, until just fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. Add squash and carrots (I used delicata squash, though any squash works. I just pulled the squash skin off the flesh and placed the flesh in the pot).

Add chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for another 10 minutes to allow flavors to incorporate. Add bread to soup and stir, then transfer soup in batches to food processor and blend until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately. Makes 4-6 servings.

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