Pumpkin and Applesauce Soup 

Ah, the holidays: festive lights, irritatingly catchy music, snow, wind, driving rain, slush. That's right, as wonderful as this time of year can be, it's pretty much guaranteed to be cold. But at least we can always depend on a nice, steaming-hot bowl of soup to take off the last layer of chill.

There are plenty of varieties and options, from the simple and traditional to the gourmet and exotic, when it comes to soup. But rather than just throwing a bunch of stuff in a pot and hoping it turns into something edible, try using seasonal ingredients as a great way to make use of what's out there.

This pumpkin-apple soup is perfect for those of us who want an easy, yet tasty and filling soup that can be put together in roughly 15 minutes. It's a thick, rich soup, reminiscent of the popular butternut squash soups found in restaurants and gourmet food sections across the country. But unlike butternut squash, the pumpkin is sweeter, and the addition of apple sauce eliminates the bitter aftertaste that is often found in both squash and pumpkin.

This is also a soup that can be modified to fit just about any taste. Those who like a more straightforward soup can keep the seasonings to a minimum. But those of us who love the savory and rich aromas of the holiday season can play with our favorite seasonings until the soup becomes a custom creation. Its aromatic nature make it a welcome accompaniment to a blustery day. Added bonus: This soup tastes just enough like pumpkin pie that it can satiate the craving in even the most die-hard pie lovers.

1 28 oz. can solid pumpkin

1 14 oz. can chicken or vegetable broth

1 cup applesauce

1/4 cup honey or maple syrup

Salt and pepper to taste

1 cup cream, or as desired

Cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg to taste

Combine pumpkin, broth and apple sauce and heat through. Add honey or maple syrup, salt, pepper and seasonings and heat through again. Stir in cream just before serving. Serve immediately. Serves four.

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