Healthy Dinner Idea #5 Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato Soup

Warming, spicy soup...delicious
Warming, spicy soup…delicious

I needed soup. Usually, I want soup but today it was definitely a need. Yesterday was food heaven but food heaven in the naughtiest way possible. Let me begin. Breakfast was granola topped with a banana…so far so good, right? Then lunch was at a top restaurant in Lincoln. Yes, a full three courses with butter laden sauces and a dessert. What a dessert though! A moussey-cake chocolate thing with almond cream. Heaven! This is exactly the reason that I don’t diet as such: I couldn’t live without food like this as a treat.

Stuffed to the brim by 1:30pm, dinner seemed like a mere dot on the horizon. It soon rolled around though and just as soon as I had got over the decadent lunch, I was eating pasta. The pasta was delicious though, with roast chicken and a lettuce, pea and mushroom sauce, finished with a drizzle of truffle oil and sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. I also believe that the mushrooms were fried-off in some porcini and truffle butter that we had picked up at the market in Lincoln.

The problem that I find though, is after a couple of indulgent days, it is very hard to reset your buttons and get back into the healthy regime. It makes me more ravenous, more desperate for fat and sugar and more willing to shun salads and healthy things. This is where soup comes in. Soup seems to cure this for me. A bowl of warm, vegetable-filled goodness makes me forget the mousey-cake chocolate thingys of the world and shun the mushrooms fried in porcini truffle butter.

At the back end of this week, I made roasted butternut squash chunks for salads at work and found after one helping that I was a little bit fed up of them. The remaining chunks had lingered in the fridge on Friday and Saturday and came dangerously close to being bin-food when I got my soup craving. I have included the recipe below and it made two portions…one is going in the freezer for the next time I have an over-indulgence emergency.


1 medium onion, finely sliced

1 red chilli, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

1/2 roast butternut squash

1 medium sweet potato, peeled and chopped into chunks

500 ml chicken stock

a good grind of pepper

In a saucepan, heat some olive oil and gently fry the onions until they start getting soft and translucent. Add the garlic and chilli. Stir around for about 5 minutes. Add the butternut squash chunks, sweet potato chunks and stock. Simmer for around 20 minutes, or until the sweet potato is cooked. Grind over plenty of pepper and blend until smooth.

Healthy Lunch Idea #4 Broccoli and Spinach Soup

Packed full of green goodness
Packed full of green goodness

Just a few short weeks ago, it felt like spring had heralded its arrival. There were lighter mornings, warmer temperatures and less rain than usual. Then came the cold snap. For some reason, we seem to have gone back to having to scrape sheets of ice from the car windscreen again and getting the gloves out of a morning. With this inclement weather though, came the opportunity to revert back to soup. I dusted off the old trusty microwave soup pot and whipped up something nutritious and delicious.

Making enough soup to last for a few lunches is always a good idea. The only problem that I have is making the trek down to the microwave. Ok – it really isn’t that far but, on a busy day, it is far enough to resort to a few biscuits or sweets or cereal bars or something instead of sticking to my healthy eating. This time though, I really made the effort and I’m pleased I did. This soup does have some spring like qualities – the vibrant green certainly acts as a glorious pick me up and it isn’t a heavy pearl barley broth by any stretch of the imagination. Yet it still provides some key warmth on a chilly afternoon.

I think the real key here is the butter beans. They are a great source of protein and so really help to fill you up and they also give the soup a lovely creaminess. Without cream. When you incorporate the fresh zing from some lemon and coriander, it gives the soup a cleansing, vibrant kick: you can almost trick yourself that you’re eating a real summery dish. The broccoli, spinach and coriander also create this wonderful vibrant colour and I was pleased to read the other day that spinach packs a harder nutritional punch when it cooked, compared to when it is raw. Who’d have thought it?

Here’s the recipe:

700ml chicken stock (or vegetable stock, or water)

1 head of broccoli, chopped into florets

1 bag of spinach (200g)

1 handful coriander

1 white onion, diced

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 lemon, halved

1 tsp cumin

Fry off the onion and garlic in a large pan until soft and translucent but not coloured – I use olive oil. Add the cumin and stir well. Once incorporated into the onion and garlic mix, add the stock and broccoli. Place the lemon halves in the pan and cover, simmering for approximately 8 minutes. Add the coriander and spinach and leave to steam down with the lid on until wilted. Once it is cooked, removed the lemon halves and blend with a stick blender.

I enjoyed this soup for dinner with some feta cheese and fresh pea shoots; sticking to just plain old soup (but not quite!) for lunch. It freezes well.