6 Ingredient Carrot Squash Soup

I am struck by fall every year. 


Let's face it, the beauty of fall is complex and emotional, and perhaps that's part of it's allure. The whole notion of finding and appreciating such breathtaking beauty amid decay is complicated. The mood is such a departure from the carefree days of summer. 

farmers market squash

The food is also so different. Fall's harvest has such a different look and flavor profile from the bounty of produce that we pick in summer. Think of a delicate raspberry side by side with a hearty pumpkin. So when I stroll through the farmer's market and see long tables of squash and gourds, it officially hits me that summer is gone and it's time to usher in the new season. 

Nothing says fall like a flavorful soup made from root veggies, so that's exactly what I decided to make recently. But I don't want fall soups that put me into a winter hibernation. We're not there yet. I don't want fall soups that are too heavy or creamy. They should provide comfort to take the slight edge off of the newly chilly air. They also need to be easy and fast, because let's face it: with the general chaos of a new school year, there just isn't time for anything complicated. Carrot squash soup to the rescue!

carrots for soup

This soup has just 6 ingredients, it can be prepped and served in under an hour and though I made the most recent batch with chicken stock, this recipe can be made completely vegetarian.

carrot squash soup

6 Ingredient Carrot Squash Soup

Here's what you'll need:  
2 pounds of carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
1 pound of butternut squash chunks (from one medium butternut squash, or from a package of already prepped chunks)
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 tablespoons of olive oil
32 ounces of stock (chicken or vegetable) 
2 tablespoons of fresh sage, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional garnish: fresh sage and croutons

Here's what to do: 
In a soup pot on medium high heat, add the olive oil. After a few moments add the onions and reduce heat to medium. Stir until the onions are translucent, about 5-6 minutes. Add the carrots, squash and stock. Bring to a boil, stir, cover and simmer until the vegetables are soft (about 25 minutes). Add the sage. Using a stick blender, puree the soup right in the pot. If you don't have a stick blender, you can puree this soup using a traditional blender, working in batches. Add salt and pepper to taste if you'd like. 

Carrot Squash Soup

Polenta: versatile, easy and gluten free

My dearest friend lives on the other side of the country and it sucks. When we are able to get together, we dream about life as neighbors, but of course I picture being able to walk down the hall of an apartment building in New York while she thinks about side by side homes in southern California. Sigh. 

lunch with polenta leftovers

I love her daughter like she was my own, and after she was recently diagnosed with celiac disease, I went on a hunt for approachable gluten free recipes to add to their family rotation (like this one or this one with gluten free pasta or these granola bars). Thankfully, there's a lot out there nowadays for gluten free families (we recently also launched a new gluten free bundle on the LaLa Lunchbox app) and I'm sure they'll find their way but something that immediately came to mind was polenta.

polenta ingredients

Polenta is basically a blank canvas that can take on any number of flavors and that versatility is under appreciated in my humble opinion. Cornmeal, the main squeeze of polenta, is great for a gluten free diet. It has iron, fiber and a bit of protein and while it's not a nutritional powerhouse, there's plenty to celebrate. Polenta is basically boiled cornmeal and when you add milk, butter and cheese to that, you've got something mighty tasty. You can make polenta for breakfast and serve with cinnamon and maple syrup. You can serve it with dinner and top with roasted vegetables, or sauteed greens with garlic. You can serve alongside meat or with a vegetarian meal. You can make fun shapes with it and it instantly becomes a kid-pleaser. It's terrific for lunchboxes too. Polenta is like the little engine that could! 

Here's how we do it around here:  

Ingredients for basic polenta (cheese optional)
1 cup goat milk (you can use any milk; my youngest is allergic to cow dairy so we use goat)
1 cup water
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup gluten free corn grits
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese (optional) 

1. Pour the milk and water into a sauce pan, add butter and salt and bring to a boil. 

milk, water and butter

2. Slowly add the cornmeal and whisk continuously. Reduce the heat to medium low. 

add the cornmeal slowly

3. Continue to stir until it becomes creamy. Reduce the heat to low and keep stirring for another several minutes until it becomes creamy. 

creamy polenta!

4. Once it starts to come together and the liquid has all been absorbed, you can be done! But if you want to add cheese, fold it in slowly and stir to combine. 

cheesy polenta

5. Once done, spread it out on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and set aside for about 30 minutes to cool. 


6. Now comes the fun part! Get the kids involved, get your cookie cutters and make some shapes! 

polenta cakes

And there you have it. Five ingredients (6 with cheese), and 6 steps to immediate deliciousness! 

polenta cakes

Blizzard Bars - Snow Day Fun with Kids!

Winter Storm Juno
Winter Storm Summer Fun

Is it snowing where you are? We're in the midst of Snowmageddon (Winter Storm Juno) and here in NYC there were crazy lines at the grocery stores last night and this morning as people prepared to hunker down while Mother Nature dumps 20+ inches of snow on the city. I know this because I was one of those line-standing people. Basically, we walked into the grocery store, got online at the entrance and shopped while we waited in the queue. My kids thought it was hilarious. I stocked up on things like clementines and chicken, bread, milk and eggs. My third grader had school as usual today (it's canceled tomorrow). My preschooler's school was canceled today and tomorrow (and my 2 year old doesn't go to school). My two younger kids and I went out in the snow before it got crazy outside. After getting home, we got into bathing suits and pretended it was summer. We read books, colored, built a fort, played on the iPad and I cut and prepped every vegetable in my fridge. Then I looked at the clock and it was 2:46 pm.

The day was long. It'll be even longer tomorrow. 

Tomorrow, we're making Blizzard Bars (aka Banana Oatmeal Bars). These are a household staple. It'll be great not just to pass the time with a fun cooking activity, but also to have a delicious, tasty snack on the ready. I may even add chocolate chips to the recipe. Because, Blizzard. This is going to be a super snow day activity, and if you have these four ingredients in your house -- ripe bananas, rolled oats, salt and vanilla extract -- you can make Blizzard Bars too! It's simple to make with really young kids, it's delicious and healthful, and with just four ingredients, you likely won't have to endure long grocery lines to make it a reality. Best part: you can take them to go when you bundle up to go sledding! 

banana oatmeal bars

Wishing you all the best in your quest to stay warm and entertained! 

Banana Oatmeal Bars

3 super ripe (aka brown) bananas

2 cups of rolled oats (not instant)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon salt

Optional: 1/2 cup of chocolate chips or raisins or dried cranberries


1. Preheat oven to 350. Line an 8×8 dish with parchment paper.

2. In a mixing bowl, mash the bananas until they are smooth.

3. Add the oats and mix to combine.

4. Add the vanilla extract and salt (and optional add-ins if you're using) and mix until the ingredients are evenly distributed.

5. Pour into baking dish. Bake for 25-28 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes and enjoy.

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Easy Spinach Pie (Dairy Free)

My husband declared that he was going to be meat-free for the month of May. Why? I don't know, maybe just to shake things up a bit. We don't eat a ton of meat around here but I'll admit, it's been both challenging and fun to design completely vegetarian dinners for us a month. Here's the rub: dinners also have to be nut-free (my allergies), dairy free (my preference) and pasta free (my husband's preference).

This spinach pie recipe is based on a classic recipe that I got from my mom. It's a family favorite. My adaptation of her recipe has no crust and no cheese and just five ingredients. It's the kind of thing you're going to want to make in bulk not only because it's delicious and you'll plow through it but also because it freezes beautifully. Having one of these tucked away in your freezer is like a goldmine on those days when you're too pooped to make anything. 

Popeye would be delighted! 

I use frozen spinach for this recipe. Most of the produce that I buy is fresh but I've read numerous articles like this one from the Washington Post suggesting that green leafy vegetables like spinach are "so nutrition-dense that it's good for you either way you eat it" (i.e. fresh or frozen). Spinach is like the superhero of greens. It has vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, iron and fiber. The eggs in this dish hold it together and give it added protein and the sautéed shallot and dill round out the flavor. This recipe can serve 4 people as a main course but my husband and I ate 2/3 of a recipe for dinner. I had the rest for lunch the next day. 

Leftover Spinach Pie for lunch.

Leftover Spinach Pie for lunch.

Spinach Pie (Dairy Free) 

20 oz chopped frozen spinach (two 10 oz packages) 
2 whole shallots, chopped
1 tablespoon of olive oil
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons of fresh chopped dill
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375. Cook the spinach as directed on the package and drain as thoroughly as possible. Place in a bowl. Sauté the chopped shallots in olive oil until translucent. Let cool for a few minutes and then add to spinach. Mix well. Add the eggs and dill and make sure everything is well combined. Add salt and pepper as desired. Place in a baking dish (I use an 8x8). Bake for approximately 30 minutes. 

Banana Oatmeal Bars: Breakfast, made simpler.

I'm a morning person. To me, that means I get up and have energy, even on nights when I get less than 6 hours of sleep. Stressful mornings drive me up a wall. But realistically, there are so many moving parts in a house with three kids in two different schools and while I understand how hard it is to get everyone up and at 'em, I keep wondering what we can do to make the mornings a little easier on everyone. Breakfast is the one meal that my family has where we are all reliably together. As a gal who grew up on family dinners but can't yet get it together to make that happen with my family of five, I rely on breakfast as our time to connect. The food needs to be ready quickly so that we maximize our time at the table. 

Experts say breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It needs to be healthy and balanced so that kids make it to lunch. I've said it before: to make life easier on busy parents, breakfast likely needs to be assembled at least in part, the night before (and of course, chosen in advance). Voila! These Banana Oatmeal bars fit the bill. In a nutshell, it’s like making oatmeal with bananas. Only you do it in advance. And there’s no messy pot to clean. And it’s super easy, with just four ingredients, absolutely yummy, and a very healthy meal.

I have seen various iterations for bars like these. Many have seeds or nuts or raisins or dried fruit and those are certainly great options or additions. I’ve tinkered with several recipes to create this one that my family devours - and it's a straightforward recipe to make with kids. I love that it doesn’t require elaborate steps or ingredients or even things like flour, eggs or milk. There are four ingredients! This is nut free, dairy free and vegan and has great fiber, potassium and protein. There is zero added sugar. And for those mornings when we’re literally running out the door with part of breakfast tucked into a paper towel, these really come in handy. They also double as a fantastic mid-day snack for parents and kids alike. 

Will these eliminate your morning stress? No. But they may lighten the load, and that can make all the difference.  

Banana Oatmeal Bars

3 super ripe (aka brown) bananas

2 cups of rolled oats (not instant)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon salt


How to:

1. Preheat oven to 350. Line an 8×8 dish with parchment paper.

2. In a mixing bowl, mash the bananas until they are smooth.

3. Add the oats and mix to combine.

4. Add the vanilla extract and salt and mix until the ingredients are evenly distributed.

5. Pour into baking dish. Bake for 25-28 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes and enjoy.

Here are some other recipes you might like: 
Guide to Safe, Nut-Free Lunches
Banana Sweet Potato Muffins
Banjo Muffins
Banana Pancake Kebabs
Carrot Soup with Ginger and Sweet Potato

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