I’m about to say something that many of you are probably well aware of (hey, old friends!) and is a big newsflash to others (welcome, new readers, especially those who don’t know anything about me!): I used to be seventy-five pounds heavier. Unfortunately, I don’t have any magic tricks up my sleeve for those of you fighting similar battles – there is nothing mystical about diet and exercise. But I can share a piece of advice about maintaining that weight loss: always strive for something better.

Since losing the weight, I’ve been consistently working out, usually with a goal in mind, like running a half marathon or completing New Rules of Lifting for Women. Nowadays I continue to lift weights, not because I’m training to compete against anyone else, but because I find it’s the best way to keep challenging myself. And, if you’ll let me brag for a moment: people are always asking me if I’ve lost weight. I haven’t. With weight lifting, I can pretty much fluctuate around the same few pounds but my body shape and composition just get better and better. My diet has also improved and evolved from strict calorie counting to learning that all calories are not created equal. Now, I try to fill up on (mostly) wholesome, lean foods with an emphasis on protein.

I’m sure I have some critics in my life who mistake my commitment to diet and exercise as lack of self-acceptance. Those people think I need to give myself a break, stop feeling fat, and  just be happy that I lost seventy-five pounds. But here’s the thing – I am proud of that, and I love myself just the way I am (how many of you can say that?) The reason I keep plugging away at this is not because I feel like I’m “not good enough” but rather because I know I can always get better. Nothing is perfect, and even what is seemingly so always has room for improvement.

Like this soup. I first made it a couple years ago, and we’ve been loving it ever since. It might just be one of our favorite soups of all time. But there was a problem. Two, actually. First, it didn’t have a photo. (I know that fabulous recipes are more important than photos on a food blog, but let’s face it: hardly anyone is drawn to a recipe without a photo anymore. That means all of you have been missing out on this one.) I discovered the second problem as I prepared this batch for its photo shoot. It wasn’t quite spicy enough. That was an easy fix, and doing so confirmed this soup is definitely a favorite. I hope it becomes one of yours too.

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Spicy Squash and Peanut Soup

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients:

1 cup chopped onions
1 1/2 lbs peeled, diced butternut squash
6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, minced
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp cinnamon
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 quart fat free, reduced sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
14oz can diced tomatoes
2/3 cup (170gm) natural peanut butter
chopped cilantro

Directions:

Heat a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Spray with nonstick cooking spray and add onions. Cook until softened, about 5 minutes, adjusting the heat down if they begin to brown. Add the garlic, minced chipotle pepper and seasonings; cook for 1 minute more. Add the squash and toss to coat, then add the broth, diced tomatoes, and peanut butter. Increase heat to high and stir well.

When the soup comes to a boil, cover, reduce the heat, and simmer for 15-20 minutes, until squash is tender. Remove from heat and puree the soup, either with an immersion blender, or in batches in a food processor or blender.

Garnish with chopped cilantro.

Nutrition Facts:

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 385.8
Total Fat: 21.6 g
Cholesterol: 4.9 mg
Sodium: 1,162.3 mg
Total Carbs: 39.7 g
Dietary Fiber: 9.4 g
Protein: 15.2 g

One last thing. It turned out to be the perfect time to make this hearty soup again because my friend Branny is hosting a Charity Souperbowl. This means that for every blogger who makes a soup and dedicates a post to a special animal, B will donate $1 to the ASPCA. Win, right?

So I dedicate this post to me dear Phoebe. She’s no longer with us, but everytime I’m driving to my parents’ house I still imagine she will be there to greet us.

You can easily participate too, whether you are a blogger or not – just visit Branny’s site for details!

I am also sharing this soup with Amy for her Slightly Indulgent Tuesday Feature on 1/11/2010. I always like checking out all the other entries – I suggest you take a peak!