Roasted Butternut and Red Pepper Soup

The Chicago Marathon took over the city this past weekend, and though I was not running the race, I was engaged in a different sort of endurance experience working on last-minute design projects and promo items for the 650 amazing athletes who were running the marathon for the American Cancer Society. Come Sunday morning, we were scheduled for a 3am wake-up to go downtown and volunteer for the ACS Team.

Tuesday before the marathon, my body once again tried to take me down and out of the race-day action, and I would have none of it. My lymph nodes swelled to golf ball size, perching atop my tongue making it hard to swallow. I was among many of my running friends all coming down with a pre-marathon cold. I had no time to be sick, though, so I whipped into action to get rid of it the only way I know how – with simple, healthy foods, loads of fresh ginger, raw vegetable juice and rinsing my sinuses with my beloved neti pot. By Wednesday evening, I was feeling a bit better, but not yet out of the woods, so I went for a major Vitamin C and beta-carotene load with this roasted vegetable soup, concocted from anything lingering in the crisper.

Filled to the brim with not much more than veggies, this is a thick, comforting bowl of Fall’s finest produce. Roasting the vegetables brings out the sweetness in the squash, peppers and carrots and concentrates the flavors. A mellow hit of roasted onions and garlic rounds out the flavors with an extra hit of carmelized sweetness. I added a chunk of fresh crumbled goat cheese right at the end to add a tiny bit of richness to the soup, but you can definitely leave it out, if you want to avoid dairy – it’ll still be a great pot of soup.

I’m happy to report that I kicked the cold right out before it settled in, and Mark and I had an amazing day supporting the American Cancer Society DetermiNation Team at the marathon (and I may have been persuaded by a few cancer-fighting runners to put my feet on the line for the marathon next year…but more on that later).

What are your favorite cold-busting techniques? Or, what’s your favorite fall soup for blustery days? Share in the comments below!

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
Serves 6

1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1” cubes
2 red bell peppers, seeded and chopped into 1” pieces
3 carrots, peeled and chopped into 1” pieces
1 large onion, chopped into 1” pieces
1/2 head of garlic, in skin, wrapped in tinfoil
3 T fresh oregano, minced
1 T fresh rosemary, minced
4 cups homemade chicken stock
1 cup water
salt & lots of pepper
3 T olive oil
1 1/2 T red wine vinegar
2 oz fresh goat cheese, crumbled (optional)

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees (using convection if you have it), and place 2 sheet pans in the oven while it preheats.
  2. Peel the butternut squash with a “Y” shaped peeler, slice in half, scoop out the guts, and then slice and chop the entire squash into 1” pieces and put in a large mixing bowl. Add 2 T olive oil, minced rosemary and a 1/2 tsp kosher salt and toss to coat the squash. Remove one of the sheet pans from the oven, spray with a little more olive oil, and spread the squash out on the sheet in one layer. Roast for 20 minutes on the middle rack.
  3. Meanwhile, chop the onion, bell peppers onion and peel and chop the carrots. Toss them into the now empty bowl you tossed the squash in. Add a little more olive oil, pinch or two of salt and toss to coat. Remove the second sheet pan from the oven, spray with oil, and spread the veggies out onto the pan in one layer. Put the half head of garlic in tinfoil and set in a corner of the sheet pan and put the pan into the oven on the lowest rack.
  4. After the squash has roasted for 20 min, remove both sheet pans and gently turn the veggies with a metal spatula so they roast evenly. Roast the squash for another 20 minutes and watch the other pan of veggies – they really only need about 30min in the oven, so remove them before you take the squash out at 40 minutes. Set the roasted squash & veggies aside.
  5. Unwrap the garlic in the foil and squeeze the garlic out of the papery skins and into the food processor. Scoop the squash and all the roasted veggies into the food processor (you may need to do this in 2 batches) along with the fresh oregano, and puree the veggies until they are totally smooth…add a little of the chicken stock to loosen up the veggies.
  6. Heat a large soup pot over medium heat, and pour the pureed vegetables into the pot along with the chicken stock and water. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 20-30 minutes, allowing the flavors to blend, stirring occasionally. Taste and add salt and pepper to your taste. If you want the soup to be just a tiny bit creamy, crumble some goat cheese into the soup at the end, and stir to blend. Finally, add a splash of red wine vinegar to brighten up the flavors.

My friend Michael stopped by in the wee hours of the morning for a pre-race hug. Though Michael lives in Alabama, he travels to Chicago often and takes every opportunity to run with us! Michael also raised $6K for Autism Speaks this year! Thank you, Michael!

The American Cancer Society DetermiNation Team marches to the starting line. Don’t they look amazing?! Trust me, they ARE amazing!
Not the best photo, but here are a few of the 650 heroic ACS athletes proudly wearing their finisher’s medals.