You guys, I am feeling large. And not at all in charge.
I’ve got just about two weeks to go with this whole “making a baby” thing, and let me just say, all the mothers who warn you that you’ll be “so over it” by now are right. Sigh.
I still consider myself to be the luckiest preggo ever. I’ve just had it really easy: no nausea (!), no weird food aversions (except for a temporary “no shrimp” policy in the beginning that has thankfully resolved), no major aches/pains, no facial swelling, and no insane weight gain (although I feel HUGE these days). All the other preggos out there probably want to stomp on my face right now. I KNOW. I’m sorry. It wasn’t until the last month or so that the discomforts of pregnancy started to hit me. Some of the first-trimester fatigue (like “hit by a mack truck” fatigue) has returned, my lower back now aches all the time, and my feet/ankles have taken on that oh-so-pleasant cankle appearance. I hardly sleep at all anymore, which has been a struggle in general for the past few months. The baby is also starting to “drop,” which makes for an interesting waddle when I walk and for a HELL OF A TIME trying to get up from a seated or supine position. I’ve never felt like such a fat oaf in my life. I went months and months without “showing” much, and during the past couple, my belly really popped. I am all 9.5-months of pregnant at this point. Trust me. My husband chuckles every time he watches me try to get off the couch (which is every 20 minutes or so now that the space my bladder used to have all to itself is occupied by baby limbs). I’ve got the roll-and-grunt technique down pact at this point.
Still feeling lucky, though! I knew it couldn’t be easy breezy the entire time. I’m thankful that I got through as much of my pregnancy unscathed as I did. I’m just reserving the right to complain a teeny-weeny bit right now…because…God, I can’t wait for that first sip of wine. It’s gonna be the best ever.
As I’ve mentioned a few times already, I have been stocking up our freezer with TONS of food for post-pregnancy meals. We have three freezers (yes, three!), and all of them are brimming with containers of homemade soups, stews, sauces, casseroles, and baked pastas like stuffed shells and lasagna. I really took the “make food while you still can” advice to heart, I guess. Since May, I’ve been making an extra meal per week for this purpose (I took a two-month hiatus when our kitchen was out of commission). Often, I’d make a huge batch of soup and freeze half of it. Which meant that I was eating this doozy back in August.
I know. Soup in August? BUTTERNUT SQUASH soup in August? Yes. And I don’t regret it one bit.
Butternut squash has always been one of my most favorite varieties of soup. It’s SO comforting and delicious. There are a million ways to make it, and I’ve tried my hand at several versions. This one, I have to say, might be my favorite. The soup is flavored with warm spices, fresh sage, and parmesan cheese. The natural creaminess of the squash is elevated with coconut milk, which is astoundingly delicious when paired with the other ingredients. And just before serving, I stir in crispy shallots and bacon…because…well…just because. They go perfectly with the creaminess of the soup.
It probably goes without saying how comforting a bowl of this soup is…but I’m going to say it anyway. With fall weather creeping in (YAY!), this is the perfect meal to cozy up with. It was actually difficult to ration out most of this soup for the freezer…I wanted to eat it all right then and there! I know, however, that I’ll be super grateful for my self control come November when I’m sleep deprived, covered in spit up, and famished. It will make for a perfect no-fuss lunch or dinner.
I’ll be looking forward to it until then!
Bacon-Butternut Squash Soup with Coconut Milk & Crispy Shallots (makes 6 servings)
For the Soup:
4 strips of bacon, chopped
1 tablespoon butter (or coconut oil)
1 onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
½ teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ cup dry white wine
1 (2-inch) piece of parmesan cheese rind (see note)
3 cups peeled and cubed butternut squash
4 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1 (15-oz) can coconut milk
Salt and pepper, to taste
For the Shallots:
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 shallots, sliced into rings
For the Soup:
Crisp the bacon in a large pot. Once crispy, remove from pot and set aside. Drain off all but 1 tablespoon of the drippings. Add the butter (or coconut oil) to the drippings and heat over medium.
Once the butter/oil is melted, add the onion and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the carrots and cook for another 5 minutes.
Stir in the garlic, red pepper flakes, sage, and spices. Cook for another minute and then add the wine, scraping up any brown bits that may have formed on the bottom of the pot. Cook until the wine is mostly evaporated.
Add the cheese rind, squash, and the chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring frequently, for 10-15 minutes or until the squash is very tender.
Remove the soup from the heat and allow to cool slightly. Remove the cheese rind and discard. Puree the soup until smooth using a standard blender (in batches) or with an immersion blender. Return the pot to medium-low heat and slowly stir in the coconut milk. Warm through and check for seasonings. Stir in the reserved bacon and crispy shallots and serve.
For the Shallots:
While the soup is simmering, heat the oil over medium in a small skillet until shimmering. Add the shallots and cook, stirring frequently, for 5-8 minutes, or until golden. Remove to a plate lined with paper towels and sprinkle with salt. They will crisp as they cool.
Note: I save the rinds of parmesan cheese hunks and keep them in my freezer. They add a special nutty flavor to long-simmering soups and sauces. If you don’t have a rind on hand, feel free to grate ¼ cup of parmesan cheese into the soup at the end.