Winter Squash Soup with Apple, Smoky Bacon and Sage

Serves: 8-10

Preheat oven to 375°F. Lay bacon flat in single layer, on lightly sprayed rimmed baking pan. Bake 14 - 19 minutes or until bacon has crisped, rotating pan halfway through cooking. Remove bacon from pan while warm, drain on paper towels and reserve. Pour off fat from pan and reserve.

In large bowl, toss squash and half of reserved bacon fat until squash is evenly coated. Transfer squash to lightly sprayed rimmed baking pan, in single layer, and bake for 30-40 minutes until tender and lightly caramelized, stirring occasionally for even cooking.

In large pot (6 qt. or larger), heat remaining bacon fat over medium-high heat. Add carrots, garlic, onion and apples and cook for 8 - 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add sage, spices, salt and pepper and cook another 5 - 10 minutes, or until vegetables are well softened.

Add cooked squash and Zoup! Good, Really Good Broth and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer 15 - 20 minutes. Puree with immersion blender or regular blender until smooth. If using regular blender, be sure to blend in small batches (half-full), removing center hole lid of blender and covering with dish towel while blending.

Additional broth may be added to thin soup, if desired. Serve hot, garnishing with apples, sage and crumbled bacon. For a special touch, quickly fry whole sage leaves in oil until darkened and crisp.

Chef’s Tip: This recipe is easy to make vegetarian. Make “bacon” by tossing thinly sliced mushrooms or eggplant with a little oil, soy or tamari, and smoked paprika, and bake on lightly sprayed baking pan at 350℉ for 30 - 45 minutes or until slightly crisped, turning vegetables a few times for even cooking. Bacon fat in recipe may be substituted with your preference of butter or oil.