Butternut Squash Soup and Italian Bread Salad: Healthy Holidays

Everyone knows the holidays are a time to indulge — but since I feel like I’m constantly indulging with desserts, we like to keep our dinners healthy.

Butternut Squash Soup with Italian Bread Salad

The butternut squash soup is creamy without being heavy and the bread salad has an herby-ness that is delicious and appropriate for any season.

Creamy Butternut Squash-Apple Cider Soup — from Chef Caroline Ishii at the ZenKitchen, Serves 8

2 medium butternut squash

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste

1 large yellow onion, diced

3 stalks celery, roughly chopped

2 tart apples (such as Cortland), peeled, cored and chopped

4 cups vegetable stock

1 1/4 cups apple cider

1. Preheat oven to 400F. Cut the squash in half, remove seeds, rub with 1 tablespoon olive oil and some salt, and roast cut-side down for about 30-45 minutes or until the squash is tender. Remove from oven. When the squash is cool enough to handle, scrape the flesh from the skin and set aside.

2. Heat remaining olive oil in a large pot and saute the onions over medium heat for 15 minutes, or until softened and translucent, but not browned.

3. Add squash flesh, chopped celery, chopping apples, stock and cider and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer 30minutes, or until everything is very tender.

4. Puree the mixture in a blender or with an immersion blender.

5. Season with salt and pepper. Serve hot.

We garnished our soup with croutons and chives.

Italian Bread Salad — from Gourmet (June 2008),serves 6


  • 6 cups cubed (3/4-inch) country bread (about 1/2 pound)
  • 1/2 seedless cucumber
  • 1 celery rib, thinly sliced (1 cup)
  • 1/2 cup chopped scallion
  • 1/2 cup chopped pitted Kalamata olives
  • 1 tablespoon drained capers, chopped
  • 3/4 cup packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 3/4 cup packed basil leaves, torn
  • 1/3 cup fine-quality extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red-wine vinegar

Preheat oven to 300°F with rack in middle.

Spread out bread in a 4-sided sheet pan and toast in oven, stirring occasionally, until pale golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool completely.

While bread cools, halve cucumber lengthwise, then core and thinly slice.

Toss together bread, cucumber, remaining ingredients, 1/4 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper and let stand, tossing occasionally, 30 minutes. Season with additional oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper.

*Note: We’ve made this multiple times without toasting the bread in the oven, it’s still tasty, but less crunchy!

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