Butternut Squash Soup . . .

          Adding collard greens, bell pepper, corn and carrot to a rustic butternut squash soup is Mary Ellen Diaz's clever way of making it even more healthy. Together these vegetables deliver vitamins A and C as well as fiber and powerful antioxidants.


6 cups low-sodium chicken broth

One 2-pound butternut squash—quartered, seeded, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces

5 thyme sprigs

2 garlic cloves, halved

2 medium leeks, white and pale green parts only, cut into 2-inch pieces

1 celery rib, cut into 2-inch pieces

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

2 thick slices of bacon, cut crosswise 1/2 inch thick

2 packed cups coarsely chopped collards or kale

One 15-ounce can pinto or roman beans, drained and rinsed

1 medium carrot, finely diced

1 red bell pepper, finely diced

1 cup corn kernels

Salt and freshly ground black pepper



     In a large, heavy pot, combine the broth, squash, thyme, garlic, leeks and celery and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over low heat for 45 minutes.

     In a medium skillet, heat the vegetable oil. Add the bacon strips and cook over moderately high heat, turning once, until crisp, about 7 minutes.

     Discard the thyme sprigs from the soup. Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender.    Return the soup to the pot. Add the bacon, collards, pinto beans, carrot, bell pepper and corn and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, about 7 minutes. Season the soup with salt and pepper and serve.