I found several recipes on-line and tried various combinations before hitting on this one that was a big hit with my family.
We love the blend of lime, pumpkin, and the tang of pepper. It makes for a unique, mouthwatering flavor, and you couldn’t ask for a healthier meal in terms of the power vegetables it includes. Really, a combination that is great for whatever ails you, and for those cold winter days when soup or stew is just the thing.
It’s a major time saving alternative that can actually be cheaper than fresh squash pound for pound. Canned, pureed squash filling would be a perfectly fine substitute, as well.
In actuality, this recipe – as with so many -- offers great flexibility in terms of ingredients and consistency. You can make it as a stew or as a soup. We’ve done it both ways. I personally love soup, so I like it that way the best.
And while most of the recipes I found called for beef, we never eat beef, so I made the switch to chicken for when I’ve cooked it with for my boys and extended family. But I actually like it best when I skip the meat altogether and make the vegetarian version for my husband and me.
As with all recipes, you’ll figure out what works best for you.
There is a fair amount of vegetable prep in this, but don't be intimidated. It does not take long. And I've made this recipe, eliminating the potatoes and turnips to save further time, with excellent results. Don't be afraid to customize the recipe to your taste or to use what you happen to have on hand.
The only thing that takes time is marinating any meat that you choose to use. I’d recommend overnight, but a minimum of a couple of hours.
Also, I cooked the meat separately here, but there’s nothing to say that you couldn’t simply cook it along with the rest of the soup.
Here’s the recipe:
Makes 8-10 hearty servings
Prep time – approximately 20 minutes
Total start to finish time – approximately 45-60 minutes
Total recipe cost – approximately $8-$10 (depending on meat use)
Total per person meal cost with fresh bread and salad – approximately $1-$1.50
4-8 chicken backs or other chicken parts
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons vinegar
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon black pepper
For Vegetable Stew/Soup
3-4 tablespoons canola oil
2 stalks celery
3 large carrots
1 medium onion
4-6 cloves garlic
1 small turnip or ½ of a large turnip, or 3-4 parsnips
2 medium potatoes
¼ head of cabbage (to make about 2 cups, cut up)
10-16 ounces pumpkin or squash puree (canned or frozen)
1 10-ounce package frozen, chopped spinach (optional)
4 ounces fine spaghetti, vermicelli, angel hair, or other fine pasta,
2 15-16 ounce cans cannellini or northern beans
½ teaspoon thyme
½ teaspoon allspice
1 bay leaf
1 jalapeno pepper
2 teaspoons dried parsley
5-6 cups of water
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 lime or 3-4 tablespoons of lime Juice
Optional seasonings: Pinch of ginger, cloves
Recipe continues after photos
Meat Version Prep:
- 1-24 hours ahead of time, marinate the chicken.
- Start by removing the skin from the chicken backs by holding and pulling it firmly.
- Mix the 2 tablespoons of lime, the ½ teaspoon garlic powder, the ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes, the 1 teaspoon of black pepper, and the 2 tablespoons vinegar together in a bowl.
- Brush the mixture onto the chicken backs. Leave it to marinade in the refrigerator for at least one hour or overnight.
- Place the marinated chicken into a medium pot, along with its marinade. Add enough water to just cover the chicken.
- Cover the pot of chicken and place it over high heat until it begins to boil. Reduce the heat to medium, and allow the chicken to simmer while you prepare the rest of the meal, or for at least 30 minutes.
- When the chicken is done, remove it from the broth with a slotted spoon and either serve it on the side along with the soup, or cut the meat off the bone and into chunks and add it to the soup just before serving.
- You can add the cooking broth to the stew, if desired.
- Wash and cut or dice the celery into pieces about 1/4-1/2 inch in size.
- Wash and scrub or peel the carrots and cut them into pieces similar in size to the celery.
- Peel and dice the onion.
- Peel and mince or chop the garlic.
- Wash and peel the turnip and the potatoes, and cut them into chunks about 1 inch in size.
- Slice the wedge of cabbage into strips and then across the strips to make pieces about 1-inch in size.
- Wash the jalapeno pepper. Cut off the stem and cut it in half lengthwise. For less spiciness, remove the seeds. Or if you prefer more spice, leave them. You can also dice the pepper, if you don’t intend to remove it before serving the soup. Set the pepper aside. (And another option is to skip the pepper altogether and just let each individual add hot sauce to their own individual serving of the soup/stew.)
- If you are using fresh lime, wash it and roll it on a hard surface under the heel of your hand. Cut one of them in half crosswise and use a juicer to extract 2-4 tablespoons of juice. Keep one lime on the side to use when you serve the meal.
- Or simply measure out 2-3 tablespoons of lime juice if you’re using the bottled variety.
- Add the oil to the pot and heat it over medium heat.
- Add the onions, celery, carrots, potatoes, turnip, cabbage, and garlic and cook for about five minutes, stirring often and mixing well.
- Add 5 cups of water to start, reserving the remaining 1 cup of water in case you need or want it to thin it.
- Add 2-3 tablespoons of lime juice, the 2 teaspoons of salt, the 1 teaspoon of black pepper, the ½ teaspoon of thyme and allspice, the bay leaf, the 2 teaspoons of dried parsley, and the diced jalapeno or the jalapeno halves to the pot.
- Cover the pot and bring it to a boil over high heat. Return the temperature to medium, and allow the vegetables to simmer for about 20 minutes. Set a timer to remind yourself.
- While the vegetables are cooking, break the ¼ pound of vermicelli or angel hair into pieces about 3 inches in length.
- If you are using it, this is also the time to thaw the spinach in a microwavable container on low for about 3-5 minutes.
- Check the vegetables for tenderness when the timer goes off. If they’re done, remove the bay leaf and add the add the 2 cups of crushed tomatoes and the pasta, making sure it is completely covered with liquid. Stir in more water, if necessary.
- Recover the pot, and bring the contents back to a simmer. Set a timer for 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile drain and rinse the beans.
- When the timer goes off, check the pasta to see if it’s done to your taste.
- Once it’s done, carefully add the thawed spinach, if you are using it, the 10-16 ounces of pumpkin or squash puree, and the undrained beans, and stir to blend well. Allow the soup to heat through for about 5-10 minutes.
- Adjust liquid levels and seasoning to your taste.
- Ladle the stew onto plates or into bowls and add a few drops of lime juice and hot sauce, if desired.
- Serve with a tossed green salad and a nice loaf of fresh bread for a wonderful meal.