RECIPE: Light Orchard Harvest Dinner

Comfort food usually means hearty, heavy, "stick-to-your-ribs" fare. On a recent Fall weekend getaway to an apple orchard in Michigan, we had had our fill of rich and decadent meals out. We hungered for something light and fresh, using a lot of the produce we acquired at the vegetable stand and apple orchard. That meant onions, apples and squashes. Inspired by our fresh Fall produce, we created a lovely soup and salad dinner. You can make this heartier by adding a nice whole-grain bread with the meal. We kept it low-carb to keep it healthier (we cheated with plenty of visits to the ice cream shops and chocolate stores in South Haven, Michigan-when you play you gotta pay!).

Make this dinner after playing in the orchards! You will be able to indulge on a small piece of apple pie if you want for dessert.

Roasted Butternut Squash and Apple Soup  


2 baking apples, peeled, halved and cored
1 2lb. butternut squash, halved and seeds scooped out
4-5 Tbsp. olive oil
Fresh ground pepper
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. fresh thyme leaves on twigs, broken up
1 tsp. ground ginger
½ medium red onion, thinly sliced
3 peeled garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. butter
2 ½ cups chicken broth
1 cup low fat milk
1 ½ cups water


Preheat oven to 375˚. Line a cookie sheet with tinfoil. Take one half of the squash and rub the cut side with olive oil until coated. With the other half, peel the skin and roughly chop. Toss with olive oil and lay in the pan. Coat the apple halves with olive oil and place on the pan. As you coat everything, make sure you use all the 4-5 Tbsp. evenly among everything. Next, sprinkle the squash and apples with salt, pepper, ginger and thyme evenly. Turn the ½ squash over, cut side down. Turn the halved apples, cut side down. Roast in the oven for about 1 hour, or until squash half is fork tender and everything is beginning to brown and caramelize. As things roast, toss the diced squash and apples around in the oils so everything cooks evenly.

When things have finished roasting, take it all out to cool down a little. In a large stockpot, heat up the tablespoon of oil and butter together. Add the sliced onion and garlic and cook slowly over medium heat until a golden, caramel color (about 8 min). Add the roasted apples and chopped squash and toss. Scoop out the flesh of the halved squash and add to the stock pot and toss. Cook for a few minutes, then add the chicken stock and milk. Bring mixture to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for about 10 minutes. With an immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth. Add up to 1 ½ cups of water to thin soup to the right consistency. Adjust seasoning and serve hot with a dollop of light sour cream.

Apple Pecan Salad


1 cup canola oil
1/3 cup plus 2 Tbsp. cider vinegar
4 Tbsp. cranberry (or apple) juice
2 Tbsp. minced shallot
1 ½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. nutmeg
2-3 Tbsp. honey
1 tsp. ground ginger
¼ tsp. fresh ground pepper

1 cup thinly sliced onion
2 apples, peeled and sliced
4-5 cups torn romaine lettuce
½ cup toasted pecans, chopped
¼ cup or more crumbled, fresh goat cheese


In a large bowl, toss the onions, lettuce and apples. In a small bowl whisk the vinegar, shallots, spices, juice and honey. Whisk while adding oil, until emulsified. Toss the salad with the vinaigrette until lightly coated, saving the rest to serve with the salad and save to use for another day. Divide the salad among plates, garnishing with a handful of pecans and goat cheese on top.



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