There is nothing that has been done in this world that did not begin with a first try. And there is nothing good in this world that was not perfected through many subsequent attempts.
Beginning this blog is the start of a space I have been wanting to create for the past few years. It’s the product of a lot of internal brainstorming and planning (and a lot of anxiety). But, I believe in getting things off the ground--and I also believe that we’ll always have deeper regrets over missed opportunities than fumbles. So I decided that the focus of the Girl & Pepper blog is to help other creatives get over those fears that so often hold us back.
As a result, I started thinking a lot about the things I love to do and how scary it can be to share them with people—especially people I care about. And it’s extra scary to share something for the first time. Oh, and then there’s that additional layer of fear when I also am really passionate about the thing I’m sharing. That’s why this butternut squash soup popped into my mind.
For me, cooking is a very personal, very creative process. I love cooking with whatever I have lying around in the fridge, turning random ingredients into something surprisingly delicious. But I’m also no stranger to bland, disappointing, and just plain bad outcomes when it comes to cooking off the cuff.
This butternut squash soup, though… this soup did not disappoint. This butternut squash soup was fucking delicious. It was creamy and well seasoned, a little sweet from the squash and coconut milk with a satisfying zing from the cayenne and the squeeze of lime juice it got before I served it.
It was delicious, and I was excited to share it with my new boyfriend for the first time. He was sitting at my kitchen table in the apartment I was living in at the time, just outside of Amherst. The walls were yellow and I never quite finished painting a chalkboard silhouette of a tomato plant on the big wall behind the table. I was well-intentioned if not a little disorganized at the time. This may have been the first time I cooked solo for my new beau; I might have even straightened up a little bit for him. And man was I proud of this soup.
I walked towards him, carrying a piping hot bowl of the brightest yellow soup you’ve ever seen. And suddenly I’m not holding the bowl in my hands anymore. I can’t even tell you if I tripped or if the bowl was too hot or if some ripple in the space time continuum interrupted the soup’s journey from pot to table. The bowl was executing loop-de-loops. Hot soup was splattering across my face and down the front of my clothes. I was not wearing an apron. A yellow stain was blooming on my carpet (it would never come out all the way.
I looked up, expecting to see a man coated in butternut squash soup, but he was spotless.
Somehow I managed to miss him entirely. And luckily for us, this recipe tends to make at least four servings so there was plenty to fill another bowl for him. We had a good laugh, he loved the soup, and, spoiler alert, we’re getting married in September.
The take away is: If you’re able to laugh at yourself and try again, the thought of putting yourself out there and trying something new suddenly becomes a lot less scary. Take yourself seriously, but not too seriously. Each time you do something, each time you put yourself out there, it gets easier and easier. And hey, now you'll have a soup recipe so you don't have to worry about dinner tonight either.
Totally Customizable Butternut Squash Soup Recipe
- 1 medium butternut squash, halved and seeds removed
- 2 Tbs olive oil
- 1 Tbs coconut oil
- 1 small yellow onion, peeled and quartered
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1” fresh ginger, grated
- 1" fresh turmeric, grated
- 1 dried chile, crushed (remove or retain seeds as desired)
- 1 can coconut milk
- 1/2 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
- crème fraîche & lime wedges for serving
- 30 minutes in oven (squash)
- 20 minutes stove top (soup)
- Immersion Blender
Preheat oven to 400° Fahrenheit. Brush squash halves and exposed edges with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt. Bake in the 400° oven for 30-40 minutes, until the squash is easily pierced with a fork.
Heat coconut oil in a soup pot or medium Dutch oven (it's better to have a deeper pot than a shallow one for immersion blending) over medium heat. Add the onions with a sprinkling of salt and cook, stirring occasionally for about ten minutes. The onions should be translucent and turning yellow-golden.
Add the garlic, ginger, turmeric, and dried chile. Cook for a few minutes until the spices are fragrant, stirring often to avoid burning the garlic.
Add the coconut milk followed by a can of water (the can's a nice amount of water and using the can will help grab anything good left behind in the can), stir to combine. Raise heat to high and bring soup to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and gently simmer for 20 minutes, covered. Stir once to make sure it's not sticking, you should lower the heat a little more if it is.
Remove from heat and immersion blend until smooth. Hold the blender at a slight angle to allow it to pull soup through its blades. This will take a few minutes. You can stir it to check. If you'd prefer your soup thinner, you can add more hot water now and blend to combine. Season with salt to taste.
Serve with crème fraîche, lime juice, and red pepper flakes.