I spent the evening with my grandma last night. I gave her tickets to see the LA Philharmonic for Christmas, as she mentioned years ago that she had always wanted to see the Walt Disney Concert Hall. It really is a gorgeous building with impeccable architecture. When I picked her up, she told me she spent the entire day getting ready - polished her jewelry, painted her nails, trimmed her own hair, tried on all her clothes and took in her pants. I couldn't say the same for myself. I'm trying to grow my hair back out and we're at an incredibly awkward stage of shoulder length curls. And my outfit? A collection hand-me-downs from my younger sister.

It took just a moment, as she was telling me about her day, to recognize how the perspective of time is so relative. I try to accomplish as much as I can in a day - to make a list and cross things off so that I feel success when the day is done. Maybe it's her age; at 82 you have neither the need nor the energy to hustle around. Or possibly the wisdom that those lists aren't the things she tells me about when she talks about her younger years. She was an only child, but on the ride home, she reminisced about Sunday dinners with extended family, poker nights and her favorite uncle who had a garage with all sorts of gadgets and toys. The cheer in her voice was never about privilege or a life of luxury, but how great it was that her dad was close to his brothers and their families spent time together. "It was a really good life."

It put me in my place. Whatever I am trying to prove to myself by being busy, is not necessarily the mark of success. Could I spend an entire day primping myself for a night out with my grandma? It's unlikely, but every so often, some circumstance like this nudges me to cool it just a bit. I'm not saying I'm the most task oriented person in the world, but I do allow those tasks to qualify a good day. Something tells me a long list will not be what I tell my granddaughter about when I recall it being "A good life."

This soup is easy to pull together and a nice change from the smooth soups I've been making. It's almost stew like, and I felt like I could pour some over a bowl of quinoa or brown rice, like a curry of sorts. I do love my beans, but it is different to have the chopped cabbage and butternut to break up the texture. With enough garnishes, you can shine a bowl of this up to really look like something great, cause last time I checked, a chunky soup wasn't much of a looker.

Inspired by Coconut and Quinoa

Some of my measurements are pretty vague, but in a stew-like soup, perfection is not necessary. Taste as you go, add more spice if necessary but beware that both chipotle and cayenne are SPICY, so start small. You can cook your beans from scratch or used canned for the sake of time.

1 Tbsp. coconut or extra virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 a small head of cabbage, chopped (heaping 2 cups)
3 cups cubed butternut squash (sweet potato would be good too)
3 cups low sodium vegetable broth
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. cocoa powder
pinch of chipotle powder or cayenne pepper
2 cups cooked, black beans (about one can, rinsed and drained)
salt to taste

avocado, for garnish
cilantro, for garnish

// tortilla crispies //
3 corn tortillas
scant 1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. sea salt

In a heavy bottomed pot, warm the coconut oil over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and saute until just beginning to brown, about 6-8 minutes. Add the garlic, cabbage, squash and broth. Turn the heat down to a gentle simmer, cover the pot and cook for about 15-20 minutes for the vegetables to cook.
Add the spices and the beans and stir. Let everything continue to cook another ten minutes for the flavors to blend. Salt to taste. At this point, I did a few pulses with my immersion blender through the soup, because I wanted to thicken up the broth a bit. This is optional, but makes it seem a bit thicker. You could alternatively, run just a bit of the soup through a blender or food processor, and add it back in to the pot. OR a sprinkle of cornmeal will help thicken it as well.

For the tortilla crispies, preheat the oven to 375'. Stack them and slice into thin matchsticks. Spread on a baking sheet, dirzzle with the oil, sprinkle the salt and toss gently to coat. Spread them in a single layer on the baking sheet and bake for about 10-15 minutes until they are light brown and crispy, giving the pan a shake halfway through.

Garnish each both with some diced avocado, a handful of chopped cilantro and some of the tortilla crispies! A sprinkle of goat cheese would be quite nice as well.

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Reader Comments (98)

When I first saw the title of this post, I was thinking that the soup sounded really weird, but the pictures made it look so good my husband and I just had to make it this weekend.

We left out the cocoa powder and added some other spices in (a bit of ground coriander, paprika, and mexican oregano) and we absolutely LOVED this. The avocado is a perfect addition and unfortunately we didn't have any chips or tortillas, but it would have made the soup even better. Thank you for a great recipe!

January 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNicole

I love your thoughts on this, Sara. You're right -- life isn't (and shouldn't be!) about just a series of check marks.

January 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJacqui

You're right, life is about a whole lot more than crossing off a list. It's nice when the unexpected puts that into perspective. I've also been on a smooth soup kick and this sounds like the perfect recipe to switch things up a bit. Love the ingredient shots :)

January 30, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteradrienne

[...] February 2: Black Bean and Butternut Soup (from Sprouted [...]

wow what a stunning mixture of a soup/stew/delciousness and that little addition of cocoa must be yummo! My nan is turning 80 this year and I can't wait to celebrate with her, there is one thing she's always wanted to do and I'm hoping that on her nextr trip to Melbourne I can make that come true for her, just as you ahve for your gorgeous Nan. My Nan always says that she doesn't feel old, just that she's trapped in a body that's a bit creakier and slower than she's used to, I really like that analogy, but I also like the idea or not having to get everything done, now, today. We're so contactable these days we feel bad for not answering the mobile when it buzzes, sometimes it's best to slow down and just turn it off for the day and slow down and take the moment to take in your pants or paint your nails!

January 30, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterjas

Your food photography is just stunning. I love the use of your close-ups especially in this post. You're a great inspiration. Thank you.

January 30, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCarly

I made the soup on a cold a sunday! It was amazing! The texture is perfect and it feels super hearty though its nice and healthy :)! Thanks!

January 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNatsumi

This looks amazing... thank-you so much for sharing.

January 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDiane

First of all let me say what a beautiful and heartfelt post. What a wise old soul you have lurking in your heart as well to be able to see how little our checked off lists have to do with life's true accomplishments. And cocoa? I will have to try this. In my world anything with butternut squash and chilis can't possible be anything but extraordinary.

January 31, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJill Mant~a SaucyCook

Lovely story. I try to enjoy the important things in life as well. I spent all morning today snuggling and playing w my youngest of 4 children while the rest were at school. My 'to do' list can wait.

I'm glad I stopped by here before making out my menu for next week. I love the addition of cabbage, chipotle and cocao in this soup!

February 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGwen @SimplyHealthyFamily

I always love those reminders to step back (step away from the computer) and really experience the good things in life.

February 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

This looks amazing. I was wondering how you were going to be able to put those 2 ingredients together and make it look amazing (taste wise it would be delicious of course), but you did. Just lovely.

February 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterFrance @ Beyond The Peel

I doesn't sound like a good combination, but cabbage and legumes actually go together quite well. The cocoa also sounds interesting...I'll have to try it. Nice story about Grandma. Now you'll also always remember her when you eat blackbeans and butternut soup.

Swapped out the butternut squash for sweet potato like you suggested, it was great, we all loved it. Yours was much prettier than ours!

February 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMJ

Your photography is fantastic! It totally makes me want to make all your recipes.

February 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTina

Looks amazing! Not sure if my other comment went through...but so great to get to know you and Hugh through Rooted. You guys make an amazing couple (and professional pair!) and it's great to see your work here. I'm really hoping I can try one of these recipes soon!

February 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKristina Gulino

I made this soup the other night, it is outstanding! I ate it for both lunch and dinner it was so good. I added a bit of cinnamon to it and used sweet potatoes instead of winter squash. Only, because local winter squash is no longer available, where I live and local sweet potatoes are.

February 9, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterkristen

I made this last night and I loved it. The sweetness of the squash balances just right with with the spices and beans. Because I love them so, I used two cans of black beans instead of just one and also upped the cumin to 1 tbsp. Great recipe.

February 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew

I've been loving your blog for the past year and a half, but only finally got around to commenting now! Made this soup last week for the Super Bowl. While my soup didn't look half as pretty as yours (how do you think I can avoid the "muddy" look I ended up with?), it was a huge hit - delicious, simple, and healthy! This is one is going to become a favorite. Thanks!

February 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMeg H

I thought I figured out every use of butternut in soup. Not even close. Black bean and butternut squash? Love this. And the tortilla crisps! I am a soup fiend and this fits that bill perfectly. Love it.

February 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMikeVFMK

This is the exact subject I've been thinking about so much lately, and what I was going to write about on my own blog. Thanks for sharing! Your blog is so beautiful, even in this simplified state.

February 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEmily

You did it again! This soup is incredible!!!! I added hot sauce after I used the immersion blender for some extra spice. I also added a little cheese to one serving and some sour cream on the second serving. Both were a hit!

February 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterScott

Such a scrumptious, hearty soup! I love all your ingredient shots too. Yummy!

February 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRussell at Chasing Delicious

Looks delicious! Do I need to cook the butternut squash at all before tossing it in the soup? Thanks!

February 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCate

I never would have thought to pair these two ingredients together, however looks perfectly delicious. I have both ingredients in the house. Cannot wait to try!

February 28, 2012 | Unregistered Commentersusan

stunning blog. so happy to find out you're an angeleno as well!

February 29, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterlynn @ the actor's diet

I made this last night and it was unbelievable! I let it simmer for a few extra minutes, gave it a couple quick stirs, and I was able to get the stew-like consistency without using a blender or food processor. Thanks so much for sharing!

March 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLauren

these pictures are so amazing! what camera do you use? (and this recipe sounds delightful)

March 9, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterally

Made this tonight. It was wonderful! Really loved the flavors and you could taste each ingredient. Even my young girls had two helpings! Thanks!

March 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterClick and Cook Recipes

I made this soup. So easy and delicious. I had to forego the tortilla chips and cocoa powder beause I didn't have it on hand. I used a vegetable broth with miso in it which rounded out the flavors nicely! An awesome find and a total crowd pleaser.

March 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterZchef

This soup was beautiful thank you. It also froze well (a not so nice necessity to ensure healthy lunches) so I've it for lunch a couple of time since and enjoyed every time.

March 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterFiona

I made this following your recipe and OMG, it was delicious. I put about 1/8 cup of quinoa in pot while it was cooking to thicken it up. Anyway, very yummy!

May 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCicely

I'm going to need you to take down this post; it made me cry the first time I read it, and even though I just found it starred in my reader and knew immediately what it was, I read it again... and it made me cry again. My grandma was just like your grandma- always looked put together, meticulous. She could easily spend a day puttering around her place getting ready for an evening. It took a week for her to prepare to host a simple supper. I miss her terribly, and your post makes me remember her.

In all seriousness, a great post. Looking forward to trying the recipe once it is squash soup season again.

July 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterChristine

It's freezing in Buenos Aires and I made this yesterday to warm us up as I had a butternut squash and a cabbage sitting in the fridge. It was delicious! Thanks for the great idea.

July 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCrystal

I made your soup for dinner with my boyfriend who NEVER eats sweet potatoes because he had to eat too many of them when he was a child due to dietary reasons.
He loved it. He ate two bowls!
Great recipe. Just a little idea, I had some corn in my fridge that had to go and it was delicious in here. Also, I used 3 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce from a can – great smoky heat.

September 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRuby

Okay, so this is an old post, but I had to tell you how much I enjoyed this soup tonight! It was so flavorful! We didn't have cabbage, so we used some spinach, plus celery and carrots. Blended together so nicely. Thanks for this fantastic recipe! :)

October 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterChristy@SweetandSavoring

I made this tonight for dinner and it was absolutely delicious! I was pretty pleased when the final result looked almost looked like the picture too :)

November 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCaitlin

This was divine. Made it tonight and ate until my belly begged me to stop.

December 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLucy

I just discovered your blog and made this soup as my first try. I made it with sweet potatoes, since that is what I had on hand and it was so very good! The blog is fantastic, the photography meshes perfectly with your insight into food. I cant wait to get your book and try more recipes form your blog. Thanks.

January 6, 2013 | Unregistered Commentersaskia

Thank you, this is a great recipe. We had it with curly kale instead of cabbage, and some canned chipotle pepper over brown rice, and it was delicious. It also managed to tie together a lot of what we had available (here, now, partway through a wet English winter). Next time, I think the full avocado and cilantro treatment is in order.

January 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMarlon

This recipe is absolutely brilliant!!
My partner simply doesn't eat soup, but i had a craving, so thought I'd make it for myself...he landed up having TWO helpings and has asked me to make this again! (I added some chorizo for him)
Thank-you for sharing such wonderful food and making it look so beautiful!

July 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKatrin

This is literally the most delicious soup I've ever had in my life.

September 23, 2013 | Unregistered Commentervegan

My husband and I just refound this soup via Pinterest, and had it for dinner. Since we live abroad we needed to use some substitutes (kidney beans instead of black beans, sweet potatoes instead of butternut squash), but we loved ever spoonful. It has just the right amount of sweetness. Lovely recipe, as always.

September 25, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRachel

I made this last night for dinner minus the pepper and tortilla strips. It was soooo good!! I love butternut squash and this hit the spot. Looking forward to eating leftovers today for lunch!

October 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea

Ahhhhhh. Yum. I just had to tell you that I come back to this soup all the time. So excited it's fall again so I can make the soup! I shared it with a bunch of my friends and we all agree that this is one awesome dish. Cheap, easy, healthy, and delicious. So great! Thank you for this recipe! I've got a pot just finishing up right now and I cannot wait for lunch tomorrow. :)

October 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJessica

Made this today (using sweet potatoes instead of squash) for my wife and I, and it was delicious! I also opted to pulse about half of the soup in a blender, which resulted in a perfect consistency for me. Next time I may saute the cabbage a little first as it was still a little *too* crunchy, but overall I was really happy with the way it turned out.

October 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRyan

I remembered this recipe from last year and made it again this year. So good! I added more heat than called for but just delish!

November 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterVanessa

What a delicious soup! This was one of the best soups ever and so healthy!! I didn't make the tortilla strips, but followed the rest of the recipe to a T. This will definitely be on the 'make again' list. Thanks so much for a wonderful recipe!!

March 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHolly

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