Savory Soup for Fall

Well, I made my last batch of salsa verde last weekend.  Meanwhile autumn produce is crowding out the last of our summer favorites.  Squash, apples, and sweet potatoes are taking over where tomatoes, melons and peppers dominated just a few weeks ago.  Our cooking has had to change with our changing ingredients.

I made a soup the other night, intended to make good use of those items that I had in abundance, that turned out even more flavorful and satisfying than I had imagined.  And like the good sharer I am, I will pass it along to you. 🙂

Potato Squash Soup

Ingredients

2 small butternut squash
5 small potatoes
3 leeks, the whites chopped
5 cloves garlic, chopped (discard the tougher green portion)
4 T butter
1 cup vegetable broth
1/4 cup cream
Salt and pepper

Directions

*Cut squash in half. Remove seeds and place on baking sheet, cut side down.
*Bake at 350 degrees until tender, about 20 minutes.
*Peel and chop potatoes. Place in pan with water and bring to a boil. Cook until tender.
*Saute leeks in butter until they begin to soften. Add garlic. Continue to saute until tender, but not browned.
*Remove squash from oven. Allow to cool so that you can comfortably handle it. Scoop the flesh froom the peel.
*Combine the cooked vegetables with broth and cream in food processor or blender. Blend to desired consistency. You may use a bit more or less of the liquids, to achieve your desired consistency.
*Season with salt and pepper to taste.
*Savor the flavors of the season.

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Farmageddon

Dramatic title for a film, wouldn’t you say?  Is it an exaggeration to say there is a war on American family farms or to claim that smaller farms are being threatened?  Should we be concerned?

Hmm.  Should we be concerned about the well-being of the American family farm?  Let me ask you this.  Do you enjoy shopping at farmers’ markets?  Do you participate in a CSA or food buying club?  If you said yes about any of these things, you certainly have a stake in the success of family farms. 

And if you don’t personally buy from small farms, let me ask you this.  Who should decide what foods you may eat and serve to your family? You?  Or maybe some government agency?  If you enjoy the freedom to buy and eat the foods that you prefer, do you support the right of others to have that same freedom?

I hope you support the freedom of consumers to purchase food from the sources they prefer, whether from the local supermarket, the farmers’ market, or even directly from a farm of their choice.  I know I want to continue having choices.

So, these questions pertain to consumers.  What about the farms, the actual subject of the movie?  A major hurdle for the small farms is the regulatory burden imposed by the USDA, regulations better suited to the industrial farm model.  Another issue is limitations on selling directly to consumers.  Dairy farms seem especially affected by these limitations.  There are many people who wish to buy raw milk and many farmers who wish to sell them raw milk.  This can be very difficult in some places.  The film showed a milk buying club meeting their supplier.  Government officials showed up and dumped all the milk because it is illegal to cross state lines with it.  For people living near a state border, the nearest farm to purchase from just might be in the neighboring state. 

The saddest thing in the movie, in my opinion, involved a sheep farm in Vermont.  Officials claimed there was a strain of mad-cow disease affecting sheep and suspected these sheep may have the illness.  The sheep were seized and killed, and according to the movie, the USDA official who ordered the slaughter later admitted under oath that she had already known that the sheep were not infected. 

I found the movie interesting and frustrating.  We’re talking about food.  Farms.  Willing consumers.  Seeing people who want nothing more than to buy or sell wholesome food being treated as criminals was hard to swallow.

Unrelated to the movie, but related to the overall issue is a judgment coming out of my neighboring state of Wisconsin, which reads in part:

…no, (people) do not have a fundamental right to own and use a dairy cow or herd; no, (people) do not have a fundamental right to consume milk from their own cow; no, (people) do not have a fundamental right to produce and consume the foods of their choice…

  -Wisconsin Circuit Court, August 2011

What’s next?  Raids on backyard gardens?

I think we should be concerned about the fate of the small farm.  I think we should be concerned about our freedom to choose.  We can speak with our dollars when we buy from small farms.  We can let our legislators know that food freedom is important to us. We can let others know that farmers need our support.

I’ll leave you with this:

If people let government decide what foods they eat and what medicines they take, their bodies will soon be in as sorry a state as are the souls of those living under tyranny.
-Thomas Jefferson

Uncommonly Good

When I threw together this concoction the other day, I thought it would be pretty good. In my book, it’s hard to go wrong with butter, cheese and cream involved. Seriously, though, the combination of flavors was SO GOOD. With a taste like this, I had to share. Now, hopefully you like this savory type of dish. 🙂

Sage Squash Alfredo

Ingredients
Squash (I used kombocha and sugar dumpling squash from the CSA)
Alfredo Sauce
Navy Beans (cooked, about 1/2 cup)
1 small onion
1 clove garlic
olive oil
1 T chopped fresh sage (this was from our garden, yum!)
pasta of choice, I used rotini

Directions
*Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut squash open and remove seeds. Place open-side down on baking sheet and cook for 30 to 40 minutes, until beginning to get tender. Remove from oven and allow to cool a bit, so you will be able to handle it.
*You can wait a little bit before starting the next steps. The squash takes longer than anything else. Have a glass of wine or play a game of hide and seek with your kids. Whatever you like to do with a little free time. 🙂
*Chop onion and saute in olive oil until tender.
*Meanwhile heat water to cook your pasta according to package directions. If you make your pasta from scratch, more power to you! (Maybe you could give me some lessons.)
*Mince garlic and add to pan. Continue to saute for another minute or so. Add beans and continue heating. Cut the squash into 1 inch chunks and add to pan. Add chopped sage and continue heating. *Finally pour alfredo sauce over the mix and cook until hot.
*Serve the sage squash alfredo sauce over pasta and enjoy!
(Because I am me, I served it with a layer of spinach beneath the pasta and sauce. I love my spinach! You can try that if you like, or skip the spinach.)

Do you ever find yourself surprised at just how good certain things taste together? I, for one, enjoy that kind of surprise! 🙂

I love plays, or ‘Our visit to The Children’s Theatre Company’

We had a fun day yesterday. We took a good portion of the day to see a play at The Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis. It was our first time going to this particular theater, and we all had a great experience. We saw ‘Mercy Watson to the Rescue.’ Any parents familiar with Mercy Watson? She is the porcine wonder protagonist of some cute books by Kate DiCamillo, and my children have enjoyed reading about her for quite some time.

I like to be prepared, so I looked up directions to the theater and determined what time we should leave the house to get there on time. Then, for good measure, I left fifteen minutes early. I hate to be late, and I’ve been known to take a wrong turn or miss a turn now and then, so I thought better safe than sorry. As it turned out, the drive there went completely smoothly, so we were there quite early. I had packed some of our books, so we got a little school work done in the lobby while we waited to be seated. We eventually found out that they seat in order of arrival, so we were the first group seated, front and center. Photography was prohibited, so I can’t show you what we saw, but let’s just say we could see the spit flying from the actors’ mouths as they enunciated. (Kind of gross, but true.) We were in the thick of the action at times. It was fun seeing an old favorite story come to life. An “old favorite” by my children’s standards, not mine. 🙂 Mercy Watson is still new to me. Laura Ingalls, Anne of Green Gables… they would be old favorites for me.

Here are my smiling children in front of the theater.

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We ate lunch at the Uptown Diner to finish off our special outing. I had this wonderful veggie burger and sweet potato tator tots.

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SO GOOD! I did some serious damage to this, though I couldn’t finish it all. Then we headed home to finish up the remainder of school (we had put in some extra time earlier in the week to make for a lighter Thursday) and pick up our CSA box.

Since it is Friday, we’ll be at our homeschool co-op classes today, which makes the day fly by. I’m thankful to have such a nice group of people to share this journey with. Another item on the agenda this weekend is to see the movie Farmageddon. As you’ve probably already noticed, I am quite interested in farm practices. To see a movie trailer and check locations and dates, follow the link.

I’ll check back in next week to tell you what I thought of it. Has anyone seen it?

Have a great weekend!

Blessed to be a blessing

I had a conversation with a friend several months ago about the way people tend to keep things light with each other.  We put on a happy face and reveal only the positive things going on in our lives.  We often keep our struggles to ourselves. We talked about the fact that our friendships grow deeper when we dare to let our guards down. We give others the opportunity to be a true friend when we share not only the easy and the good, but also the difficulties. When we give a friend the opportunity to support us through hard times, we are strengthening our relationship and allowing her to be a blessing. I don’t know about you, but when I can be there for someone else in a time of need, it blesses me probably as much as it blesses them. We are blessed to be a blessing.

More recently, another friend posted on Facebook on the topic of asking for help. She pointed out that people are often reluctant to ask for help, believing they should be able to handle things on their own. Same old tendency. We don’t want to burden anyone and we like to appear as though we have it all together. How many of us would be happy to help if we knew we could? When you dare to ask for help, you make a situation more manageable, perhaps you better meet the needs of your family, AND you give someone else the chance to be helpful. Blessed to be a blessing.

I can definitely see this in my mom. No longer kids to care for and no job either, she has started bringing some of her elderly neighbors their mail. (She is 77 herself, but still in pretty good health. For those who are aware that she was having health concerns over the summer, I’m happy to report she is much better. She’s getting back to her walking now too.) She gets her exercise in with the walk, her neighbors appreciate the help, and she feels wonderful for having found this way to be helpful.

Last week I went out on a limb and asked for help. I had one sick child and one healthy child. The healthy child would have to miss out on our co-op classes because I had to keep the sick child home. I went ahead and called another mom and asked if she would be willing to be the designated responsible adult for my child during classes. Lo and behold, she would! What a blessing to my family! And just maybe it brightened her day to be such a blessing to us.

At any rate, I do want to approach friendships authentically. I will help you when I can. I will try to share honestly, yet appropriately, when you ask me how I am. I will occasionally ask for your help. I will listen when you need to talk something out. I will laugh with you and maybe I will cry with you sometimes too. I won’t lie and say it will always be easy for me to let my guard down, but I will try.

Do you allow others into your life, both for the good and the bad? Do you agree that letting others help you can be a blessing to them as well?

Pain, Foibles, Gratitude, Beauty…

…you know, life.

I experienced an injury on Friday.  It was not the kind that at least sounds impressive in some way.  I didn’t hurt my knee while achieving a new personal distance running.  I was not stealing a base in a spirited game of kickball.  (Can you steal bases in kickball?  I’m not even sure.)  What was I doing when I hurt my knee?  Reading bedtime stories with my kids.  See, not impressive at all.  It probably sounds impossible, but it turns out that it is in fact possible. 

I was sitting on my daughter’s bed, legs stretched out in front of me.  Under the covers, I should add.  My 53 pound bundle of joy, who is my six year old son, jumped onto the bed to join us.  He landed directly on my kneecap and oh my word.  That hurt.  It brought tears to my eyes, but I could deal.  I read our stories then hobbled up to my own bed.  Bright side, since I couldn’t be mobile without serious pain, I got a lot of reading done.  I figured I’d give it a couple days before doing anything drastic like seeing a doctor.  (Can you tell I don’t love going to the doctor?)

I continued to have pain that night and Saturday.  It seemed that my knee could easily sort of buckle under me while walking, and each time that happened, the pain came back with a vengeance.  I was feeling so disappointed thinking I wouldn’t be able to run, and maybe not even bike for a while.  Things could obviously be worse, but that would be sad for me.

Turns out by Sunday it felt like nothing ever happened.  Yay!  Funny that you can go from feeling like tiny knives are stabbing all around your kneecap one day to feeling completely fine the next.  Funny, but I’m not arguing.  Just very happy and grateful that it was not a lingering issue.

I didn’t get out for a longish run like I usually do on the weekend, but I did go biking with my family yesterday.  It was absolutely gorgeous out.  80 degrees and beautiful fall colors.  Unbeatable way to pass a Sunday afternoon in my book.  🙂

We started out together, but my husband and son wanted to take a shorter ride than my daughter and I did.  We parted ways, and she and I rode to a playground about 3.4 miles from home.  It was great!  Then another foible hit.  M’s chain came off, and without any tools, I couldn’t get at it to fix it.  I called my husband, so the boys came to get us.  My gracious husband even asked if I would prefer to bike home.  Yes, please!  So he took both kids for a little more park time and I biked home.  Once we were all home, we took care of M’s bike chain, so we should be good to go for next time.

Other highlights for me include singing a lovely song with the church choir, cooking with my son, watching my children’s budding acrobatics at gymnastics and reading.

Even when things aren’t going my way, I have so much to be thankful for.  Wishing you a day of many blessings and no foibles!  Happy Monday!

French Onion Soup

Hello!  I’m so excited to drop in and share a recipe!  I have been missing from my own blog, and I have also been missing reading and keeping up with you all. I hope you are having a terrific fall!

Life has taken on such a whirlwind quality lately that I’ve had to step back from my blog fun.  As you may know from reading my “About” section, I really try to use my time well, and currently, the vast majority of my time is spoken for.  If my free time comes down to choosing between the computer and family time or the computer and working out or getting enough sleep, well, the computer has to wait. (That sounds like a healthy choice, right? And it’s just the way it is for me right now.) But like I said, I have missed connecting with fellow bloggers as well as sharing more often about what we’re up to. 

I wanted to share a delicious soup recipe.  If you have even half as many onions as I do, you just might appreciate making a few of those onions the star of your dinner.  Even if you don’t have mass quantities of onions, this soup is certainly worth a look.  It is scrumptious.  That’s not a word I tend to use, which tells you this is a good one.  🙂

Here goes.

French Onion Soup

Ingredients

*4 large red or yellow onions, peeled and thinly sliced
*olive oil
*2 cloves of garlic, minced
*4 cups beef stock (you can try chicken or vegetable stock at your preference, but beef is the traditional stock)
*1 bay leaf
*1/4 t dry thyme
*salt and pepper
*4 slices toasted French bread
*1 cup grated Swiss cheese

Directions

*Coat bottom of large sauce pan with olive oil.  Saute onions on medium heat until soft and browned, about a half hour.
*Add garlic and saute for one minute.  Add the stock, bay leaf and thyme.  Cover and simmer until the flavors are well blended, about a half hour.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Discard the bay leaf.
*Put soup into individual oven-proof soup bowls or one large casserole dish.  Cover with the toast and sprinkle with cheese.  Cook in oven on top rack for 10 minutes at 350 degrees, or until the cheese bubbles and is slightly browned.
*Enjoy!

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