Snap, Crackle, Crunch

I’d never really thought about it before, but I’ve realized something new about my family over the past six weeks:

We are CRUNCHY people! That’s right, if it snaps, crackles, and pops, it’s welcome at our table. Give us crispy apples, nuts, salads, pretzels, mueslix…..we crave crunch.  Even our peanut butter is, you guessed it, crunchy.

And if we can’t have crunch, we’ll settle for chewy as in the crust of a perfect baguette or slice of pizza.

None of this, sadly, conducive to the soft diet a certain jaw of the fractured variety requires for healing. As I was scuttled out of the Emergency Room after our daughter’s accident, I was handed the Six Week Soft Diet plan: oatmeal, mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, yogurt, etc.

It’s the “etc.” part that is giving me fits. Who can eat like this for six weeks without going stark raving mad, I ask you? It’s not that the food is bad, necessarily, it’s just not good. It’s missing all those key components that make your mouth water: a certain zest, tang, freshness or juiciness that is nonexistent in the pureed gruel that I’ve been serving the past six weeks. It’s the difference between a slice of Honeycrisp apple and applesauce. Between a tangy spinach salad with almonds and bacon and creamed spinach. Between carrot-fennel slaw with dried cranberries in vinaigrette and pureed carrot ala Gerber baby food.

It’s the difference between eating for pleasure or survival.

Desperately rummaging through my recipes to come up with yet one more dinner idea, I came across this one for a Thai Butternut Soup which I used to make regularly and somehow forgot about. I pounced on it immediately as something we could eat together. Part of the difficulty in enduring six weeks of gruel is seeing all the good stuff everybody else gets to have, so I tried to minimize that as much as possible. This soup is a winner, a savory blend of sweet, salt, and sour with just the right amount of heat.

Caveat: I am not a food blogger, food stylist, or come to think of it, a decent food photographer. But I can cook! Let’s proceed:

Butternut Squash Soup With Thai Gremolata


2 lbs. butternut squash

2 cups chicken broth

1 14-oz. can unsweetened coconut milk

1/4 cup finely chopped onion

1 T. packed brown sugar

1 T. fish sauce (soy can be substituted, if you must)

1 t. Asian chili sauce (Sriracha) (I use much more than this, but I like it HOT!)

2 T. lime juice

1 recipe Thai Gremolata, below

OK, you’ve got all your ingredients now. Here comes the hard part:

You must arm wrestle the butternut squash into submission. Butternuts do not go willingly to their demise; unlike the passive zucchini, they put up quite the fight.  So use whatever WMD you have at your disposal, get the thing peeled and seeded, wipe the sweat from your brow and proceed:

Cut the squash into 1-inch pieces and steam until nice and soft.

Because I despise peeling the squash, I’ve altered the original recipe and roast the halved, seeded squash in its skin until done, and then scoop out the flesh. Whatever you prefer.

In a large soup pot, saute the onion until translucent in a bit of vegetable oil of your choice. Peanut or canola will do nicely; olive oil will be too fruity.

Add to the softened onion the steamed or roasted squash, broth, coconut milk, brown sugar, fish sauce, and Sriracha.

Simmer gently until flavors are nicely blended – about twenty minutes or so. Use an immersion blender, potato masher, or whatever method you prefer to puree soup until completely smooth.

Now taste to see if a bit more fish sauce, brown sugar, or Sriracha is needed. Also add a little chicken broth if you want to thin it down.

Stir in lime juice. Ladle into bowls and top with Thai Gremolata. Don’t skip this – it is much more than a mere garnish. The peanuts and cilantro tie all the flavors together beautifully.


Peanuts, cilantro, lime peel. Stir together and, voila, a delicious gremolata.

Thai Gremolata

In a bowl stir together 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil or cilantro, 1/2 cup chopped peanuts, and 1 T. finely shredded lime peel. (I’ve never made with basil, but if you prefer….)

And the best part is it gives the soup a little crunch. You know we like that.

You may serve with lime wedges and a squiggle of bright red Sriracha on top.

I have never made this for guests that they haven’t raved and demanded the recipe.


As we say in our house, “Guten Appetit!”

And thanks for reading,

The Not-So Pampered Chef

About Silver in the Barn

Life in a 1915 farmhouse in Central Virginia. And the odd thought or two.
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80 Responses to Snap, Crackle, Crunch

  1. Phil Taylor says:

    Sometimes the texture is as important as the taste!


  2. Jeanie T says:

    Barb, these recipes look delicious. I am a crunchy kid, too. I am so sorry to hear about the accident and hope you both recover quickly.


    • Hi Jeanie, good to hear from you. We are at six weeks as of yesterday, so Jen is eating “soft-ish” food now without pain.The worst of this episode is behind us and good riddance to it. I may never puree another thing in my life!


  3. reocochran says:

    My daughter and I really enjoy our vegetables, she is often trying new recipes. I found one in November’s “Redbook” magazine, which had broiled, till scorched but not too brown brussel sprouts, with almonds toasted or walnuts glazed added to this to make a salad, with vinaigrette dressing. It made my mouth water! Your choices in the photograph and your recipes have me wishing to leave the library and eat some lunch. I would love the butternut squash soup and the thai gremolata. Please deliver… yummy!


    • Brussels sprouts are something I avoided like the plague for years remembering the hideous, slimy things my mother served. And then somebody served them to me roasted and my life changed on the spot. My friend, N., roasts them and then tosses with dried cranberries in balsamic, bacon, and blue cheese. Be still my heart! This Redbook recipe sounds delicious too….this time of year calls for these yummy vegetable salads. Thanks, Robin.


  4. John says:

    Wow, that’s a tough six weeks, but it’s better than a lifetime of dealing with a bad jaw.


    • You sound like you may have dealt with something like this, John? I hope not. Yes, we are counting our lucky stars that Jen’s jaw seems to have healed in proper alignment. They didn’t wire it shut because of her seizure disorder.


      • John says:

        Glad to hear her jaw is healing well! I suppose I have dealt with it in a minor way having had a bad case of TMJ most of my life.

        Once in a while, the jaw misaligns when chewing and causes a very sharp pain. So unpleasant and I have feared for years that the jaw may one day need medical attention.


      • Ugh. Jen’s jaw was fractured at the TMJ and I know that is an area that gives so many people real trouble. Here’s hoping your jaw doesn’t get any worse in the future. I don’t want to have to send you recipes for soup!!


      • John says:

        LOL, that would be a delicious way to heal I’m sure!!


  5. Pat S. says:

    This scrumptious soup was served to us at Cafe ala Barbara a few years ago. Oh, my! I am salivating just thinking about it!


    • That’s right!! And then you countered with that curry/apple/butternut squash soup that is equally as delicious. I think I could be a really good vegetarian about ninety percent of the time. But then I’d smell something grilling and that would it…..Thanks, Pat!


  6. Parnassus says:

    Hello Barbara, This soup looks amazingly beautiful, and seems perfect now that the weather is cooling a bit. For more soft-textured foods, you should keep looking toward Asia, where the soft-jellied continuum is preferred over the hard-crispy one. Zhou (rice soup), steamed breads, dou-hua (soft, sweet tofu, usually peanut-flavored), etc. would all add variety. (Some Asian jellies such as konjac are not soluble or easily chewed, and can be hazardous tor one who has trouble eating–you are the best one to gauge this.)

    One food that I am sure you remember from your travels, soft yet with great texture and even a little crunch if not overcooked is bai mu er, easy to eat and a great comfort food. This is readily found in Asian groceries, and I talked about it once before: Incidentally, bananas are a good fruit to add to this, and of course are softer than others such as apples or pears.

    Glad to hear your daughter’s jaw is recovering, and I’m sure that your taking care of her by cooking these special foods is an important part of that.


    • Hello Jim, I’ve been over to your blog which I check periodically to make sure I haven’t missed anything new since the “foo dog treat” post. Thanks for this suggestion. My husband is in Taipei right now – I’m going to email this to him and he’ll be able to get his hands on the best possible bai mu er there. I see you love it with plums. Is there anything better than Taiwanese plums – I even love those dried plums with the sort of sweet-salt coating on them. YUM! Thank you so much, wode pengyou.


  7. I’m glad that your daughter’s jaw is on the mend…and that she can progress to ‘softish’ food.
    That recipe looks good….I have the ingredients, so it’s on for tomorrow’s supper when we are on our own. Poor Danilo has become resigned to having something other than rice and beans for lunch…..’worms’ of all sorts whether noodles or pasta…..but this is one he won’t cope with…though we will!


  8. Sue Mayo says:

    It all looks good to me.


  9. An entertaining recipe and a beautiful dish.


  10. The best way to dominate a squash or pumpkin is to use a large knife and to cut into it with a vengeance. Don’t hold back, and even stand on the knife if you must. (wear boots) I also never peel it but if you want to be fussy, a good potato peeler can do the job in an emergency.
    The yellow soup looks great against the blue background. I am tempted to spoon out the image.


    • You’ve described it perfectly, Gerard! Dominate! The squash cannot sense the least bit of timidity, or the game is lost from the start. Even with roasting, it still needs bisecting. I will get out the machete next time, and my boots! COL!!


  11. Well done, my dear…you sell yourself short! It looks extremely appetizing…perfect for fall camping 😉


  12. Eliza Waters says:

    Great recipe – I like that it is relatively easy! I don’t like spending hours in the kitchen, so I’m always on the lookout for quick and easy!


  13. Barbara … My condolences on your being required to eat mushy food for an extended time. But, your butternut soup recipe looks like a winning trade off. I loved your description of using WMD on the squash. I’ve also felt that way about pumpkin. 😉


  14. M-R says:

    I’m most puzzled by your reference to the poor butternut as a recalcitrant veg to peel … Here, our butternuts (which look exactly like that one) are so easy to peel that it can be done with a potato-peeler ! What on earth could be the difference, thinkest thou, Barbara …?


  15. dorannrule says:

    Oh the recipe sounds delicious and I’m so glad you made it for your girl and something you can enjoy yourself! Cook, gardener, writer! You are a creature of many talents!


  16. nrhatch says:

    “Because I despise peeling the squash, I’ve altered the original recipe and roast the halved, seeded squash in its skin until done, and then scoop out the flesh. Whatever you prefer.”

    That’s what I do too. This summer I bought a BIG BOX of Butternut Squash. I peeled and cubed 2 out of 40 and said, “NO WAY!” Most of the rest I roasted as you do. Or if in a rush, I steamed it in the microwave in the same way.

    Glad that Jen is healing well and will soon be able to CRUNCH along with the rest of you. I like all the crunchy things you mention, but I also love mac & cheese and mashed potatoes . . . just not with a side of pureed carrots.


  17. bkpyett says:

    Sounds yummy! I do hope that Jen is soon recovered, so that she can enjoy more crunchy foods. I guess soft options and fruit juices soon lose their shine, when you’re yearning for something with more substance. Thanks for the recipe Barbara, shall give it a try.


  18. Jennifer Chan says:

    Hi ! Great Artical! Roger tell me about your blog, I just try it, Will get use to it!


  19. joannesisco says:

    Now we’re talking … crunchy food!! I’m ready to eat when you are 😉

    I love squash, I love anything with squash in it … and I must be a total masochist because it has never occurred to me to soften the evil rock by roasting or microwaving before I try to peel it. For that tip alone, I thank you profusely!!!
    I’m always looking for a new soup recipe and this one looks like a winner 🙂

    My sympathies to your daughter and her jaw. I injured my jaw many years ago and it’s been a problem ever since. A few years ago I was told I was a candidate for jaw replacement surgery – but surely I’m not the only one who thinks that doesn’t sound like fun. You’d think it would keep me away from the snap, crackle, and pop foods. Sadly, no. I love to crunch and chew … my jaw, not so much, and I usually pay for it.


  20. I want the carrot/fennel slaw recipe! Sounds yummy!

    And hope your daughter is ok 😦



    • Hi Caroline! Grate or julienne the carrots and fennel – use maybe a 2:1 ratio as the fennel can be strong, unless that’s how you prefer. I plump up the cranberries in a little balsamic. Raisins are also good. Then I make a vinaigrette with dijon mustard, olive oil, a tablespoon of mayo, salt and pepper, honey, and I think that’s it. Toss with fresh herbs, I prefer cilantro but maybe you would like tarragon? I grated lemon zest over this once and it was so good too. As you can tell, it’s not a formal “recipe”. You’re such an amazing cook, I’m sure you could improve on this.

      One of my favorite fennel recipes is very thinly sliced fennel, with sliced pears, over radicchio. Dress with a simple red wine vinaigrette and then cover with shaved parmesan. SO GOOD. XX


  21. And I was just thinking about butternut squash soup for dinner today! I often make it with coconut milk, but have also cooked raw cashews along with the squash, then pureed it for a thick consistency. And like you, I really dislike having to cut the peel off…it’s a juggling act, the knife slips easily…still, it’s a wonderful squash and soup it is for tonight! I’ll try your spices for a change 🙂


  22. kristieinbc says:

    Oh my, this sounds amazing! I’m with you about the pain of trying to peel a butternut squash. My oldest son taught me the trick last year of baking it in the skin instead of cutting it in cubes. I hope your daughter’s jaw is healing nicely. It must seem like a very long six weeks for all of you.


  23. Aussie Emjay says:

    Oh, I was going to suggest roasting of the pumpkin to avoid the battle… and there you’ve written it! 🙂 This recipe sounds great so I’ll add it to my collection; like you, we enjoy hot spicy foods. Your photo of the the plated soup makes my mouth water even though I’ve just finished lunch!


    • Surely a good sign then, Emjay. If you do make it, I hope it lives up to its billing!! And roasting the squash makes it taste so much better that I would do it even if it didn’t save me battling the squash, right?


  24. vannillarock says:

    ‘Arm wrestle the squash’ oh how I can relate to that! This sounds so yummy- will have to make in the thermomix 🙂


  25. Jodi says:

    Looks and sounds delish Barbara! I love how you wrote and compared the crunchy versions of food to the soft. So true – hadn’t given that much thought lately. I love butternut squash – just peeled (ugh!) and roasted some recently – but so worth it. I can totally relate to your comments about brussel sprouts too – the way my mom prepared to newer, fresher ways to make, and I LOVE the recipe you suggested for those with the BLUE CHEESE!!!!!! Ok – I’m getting hungry. And you may not be a food photographer or food blogger as you say – but you know how to write and how to take pictures and totally ROCKED this post! 🙂


    • Thank you so much, Jodi. I’ve found it is not a good idea to take pictures of a dish as you’re actually making dinner. Mine were awful! Hence, only the completed soup. Now on to Brussels Sprouts….yes, the blue cheese version is incredibly good. Once you’ve roasted those little guys to your preferred level of doneness, just toss them with a really good blue cheese, the cranberries, and of course the bacon. It is out of this world. My husband LOVES this dish. I have a recipe for a BS Hash made with lemon that a friend in NY sent me. Super good too. I’ll see if I can find it for you.


  26. nrhatch says:

    On an unrelated note ~ someone shared this link with me and I thought it might appeal to the dog lover in you, Barbara:

    Helen/Tiny is a blogger. This is her first book.


  27. Sheryl says:

    It looks delicious! You could be a food blogger. 🙂 You know how to take photos that attractively display the food–and a fun way of describing the cooking process. My favorite line was:

    “You must arm wrestle the butternut squash into submission. Butternuts do not go willingly to their demise; unlike the passive zucchini, they put up quite the fight.”


  28. fadedvelvet says:

    I finally had time to catch up on your blog posts – I always love them! The soup sounds delish…we too are a crunchy kind of family, but will happily eat soup any day of the week. That butternut squash is no fun to prep is it? I have three mocking my right now. Quietly judging me for not having used them in a delectable recipe yet….Maybe I’ll get the energy to deal with them this week. Thanks for the recipe1
    Donna~Faded Velvet


  29. How interesting, I say, sitting here, reading your post as I crunch on celery, not because I’m on a diet (I should be) but because I adore the crunch!


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