Chunky Roasted Butternut Squash and Root Veggie Soup

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Sometimes I like to have an adult version of butternut squash soup.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the pureed version, but there are times when a chunky version fits the “chilly Fall day” without feeling like you are eating baby food.

This recipe came about like most of the ones I do…..I look in the fridge and see all the leftovers and “not-enough-ofs” and go from there. Today, October 9th, in Northern Ontario, Mother Nature decided to jack up the temperature,  just for fun I guess after a solid week of cold, blustery, rainy weather.  It ended up being 75F (24C) and very humid, but the day didn’t start out like that so at 6 am in the morning I roasted a butternut squash until soft, golden and filling the house with its delicious nutty aroma and left it to cool while I did some outdoor chores.

12 hours later and starving, I pulled out 3 leftover parsnips from the fridge, the last of the carrots I yanked from the garden today and the remaining equation to the culinary trio, some celery and onions. After dicing my way through the veggies to some very lively Spanish guitar music, soon the holy trinity et al were being sautéed to a golden brown. I then added the chunks of squash, freshly made chicken stock (thank you sweet son-in-law for leaving me with the cherished poultry carcasses last weekend), along with some just picked garden thyme and voila, after a 30 minute simmer…delicioso!!!!

For those needing structure, the recipe is below in its entirety,  but oh man, was it fabulous with toasted whole grain bread and a sprinkle of parmesan I think it is my new favourite soup!

Provecho!
Deborah

Chunky Roasted Butternut Squash & Root Veggie Soup

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Ingredients
1 Medium Butternut Squash, peeled, deseeded and cut into cubes*
3 Parsnips, peeled and finely chopped
2 Carrots, peeled and finely chopped
1 large rib of Celery, diced
1/2 Red Onion, diced
2 small cloves of Garlic, mashed
5 Cups Home-Made Chicken Stock (use Veggie stock for a vegetarian option)
Fresh Ground Black Pepper & Sea Salt to taste
1 Tbsp Fresh Thyme leaves
Olive Oil

Directions

* Toss cubed squash lightly with Olive Oil and Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast in a 400F degree oven for about 30 minutes or until browned all over and tender inside (stir often), set aside and let cool.

In a large stock pot over medium heat, add 2 to 3 Tbsp of Olive Oil and add the onion, carrots, parsnips, celery, garlic and thyme leaves.  Cook, stirring often for about 10 to 15 minutes until veggies are soft.

Add butternut squash and mix gently.  Add stock, salt and pepper and bring to a boil.  Lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes.  Adjust seasonings just before serving.

Serve with a sprinkle of Parmesan and toasted, crusty bread for dipping.

Makes about 6 Cups.

 

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Alpaca Throw Blanket ~ Take II

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3 years after I started spinning alpaca fibre for my very first alpaca blanket (Fert & Palladin Throw Blanket) that was finally woven in 2016, I am back for more punishment (?) to spin and weave a new one.

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Why you ask when I already have this gorgeous one? Well, because after its first season at the cottage, I needed to wash it to put it away for the impending close of the cottage and it partially felted in my dumb washing machine.  Have I ever mentioned how much I dislike my washing machine? Its mainly because I didn’t get to choose which one I wanted, this one came with the purchase of our condo down south.  Now most women prefer to select a washing machine that will be best suited to her needs, but this one is far from it for me.  Unfortunately it will have to do until it keels over, and it most likely will not just to spite me.

So I soaked the blanket in the bathtub with some Synthrapol (textile detergent) and then popped the blanket in the washing machine and selected the ”spin” cycle to get the water out, but, said dumb machine stops and starts its spinning every 15 seconds and with all the flopping around the blanket started to felt.

Not impressed.

At All.

So, last year I picked up a whole bunch of alpaca from a nearby ranch (where I picked up the cria fleece from Fuerig, remember the black shawl I made last year?) and have started spinning for a new blanket.  I have 3 skeins done so far.  This is a 3-ply, worsted weight (about 9 wpi) and with being a 3-ply, will take me considerable time to spin enough for the new project.  I started spinning the white alpaca fibre and after the 3 skeins were plyed, decided to dye them.

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The 2 outer skeins were dyed using dyestock derived from avocado skins that had been fermented in a 50/50 ammonia/water solution for 4 months.  Since I used natural materials for these 2 skeins, it is a slightly lengthier process to prepare the fibres for dyeing than using commercial acid dyes, but the results are worth the effort.  The end colour is a soft beige, which is hard to tell in the photo, but trust me, they are not the bright white they were before dyeing.   I just love when my minds eye is rewarded with what it sees.

The reddish skein was kettle dyed using commercial acid dyes in a rust-brown colour  with a splash of bright red.  Kettle dyeing gives the classic appearance of a tonal yarn. Again, pretty darn close to what I was going for. Since I only have white and brown alpaca, I wanted to dye some of the skeins to increase the colour palette for the blanket.  So far so good!

I just need to finish up with the overabundance of garden produce and canning activities this month so I can get back to carding and spinning…hopefully by Spring I will have enough yarn to be put on the loom!

Deborah

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Late Summer Woodland Sights

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This morning I headed out on a solitary walk to view the surrounding flora and fauna as well as enjoy one of the last warm days of summer.  The end of August had arrived and even though we have a very humid air mass at the moment that seems to be stuck overhead I could feel the beginning of a change of season.

The days are shorter as well as the shadows cast from the sun slanting farther afield.  Some of the leaves on trees and shrubs are already starting to turn colour and the late summer flowering plants were in full bloom…plants like Wild Aster & Goldenrod

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Goldenrod and wild aster

and a few wild Evening Primroses scattered along the roadside offering up their showy blooms for me to appreciate and admire.

Evening Primrose

As I headed down Bear Creek Road, the woodlands on either side of the road were silent except for one lively Chickadee.  2 months ago there was a cacophony of birdsong from the many different warblers, veery, sparrows et al that was at times deafening.  Today though, all was quiet in the woods with most of the summer avians already making their way south to warmer climes leaving behind the winter residents to enjoy the peaceful woodlots by themselves.

I came across a silver maple that had one of its lower branches just starting to turn colour, along with the low lying Virginal Creeper displaying a lonely branch that had turned crimson red against a still green backdrop.

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Soon the woodlands would be a brilliant display of golds, yellows, oranges and reds, along with crisp, cooler air, but for today, as I walked along enjoying the peace and quiet of my solitary stroll with the different shades and hues of green greeting my eyes, I was savouring every last moment of warmth from the waning season.

Once I got to Bear Creek at the beginning of Bear Creek Road, I turned around and headed back but not before snapping a pic of the shallow creek that runs under the road.  The summer drought had dropped its level dramatically, but with the recent rains it was starting to creep up to its normal level this time of year.

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As I headed back to the Homestead, a noise to my left caught my attention.  I strained to see into the still green woods and just barely caught a glimpse of a deer as she headed farther back into the woods out of sight.  I attempted to snap a pic of her but she was gone in an instant, leaving me to reflect on how such a large creature can seemingly vanish before my eyes like a ghost.

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 I never take the world around me for granted, there are so many things to see and enjoy in the great outdoors, in any weather, in any season and I encourage you to do the same.  Put down the phone, get outside and explore nature in all its beauty!

Deborah

 

 

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Piñata Travel Bag Project

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2 years ago I had an ambitious idea. Weave enough fabric to make a travel bag set for myself.  These bags will be for weekend trips, I certainly wouldn’t allow any baggage handler near these beauties.

But before physically starting the project I had to sit down and design on paper (following up on the computer) and do all the math calculations for how much I would need for the warp and weft.  For those not familiar with weaving, the warp is the “vertical” threads that are placed on the loom from front to back and the “weft” is what you place side to side.  Typically you use more materials (yarns) for the warp than the weft.

Anyway, back to calculations, which is made easier by Microsoft Excel.  Spreadsheets can take the screw-ups out of calculations (as long as you don’t have errors in your formulas!) and make life a lot easier. So I took my blank “Project File” where I have all my formulas entered and made a copy so I could work on the new travel bag project.

Pretty exciting looking isn’t it?

Pinata Warp and Weft Calcs copy

This is only one page of the spreadsheet, there are 2 others but I won’t make your eyes glaze over by detailing them.

After all the calculations were done, I needed to wind the lengths needed for the warp as well the ones to be dyed.  I was using commercially dyed cotton yarn for the bulk of the warp, but 3 light purple-y shades (centre wide stripe and the same shade on either side) were going to be space dyed.  Dyeing yarns are a fun way of exploring and playing with colour.  There are 2 different dye types though as one is suitable for plant based fibres (cotton, linen, etc.) and the other type is for protein fibres (wool, silk, alpaca, etc.)  I had picked up some packages of Dylon fabric dyes at JoAnn Fabrics in the U.S. (1/3rd the price than here in Canada) and arranged a dye day with my northern homestead neighbor Kathy.

We set up a couple long tables outside at her place, lined them with heavy plastic and got to work “painting” our yarns.  I neglected to get a photo at this stage, probably because I was wearing rubber gloves as well as up to my elbows in colourful dyes.  But I did get a pic of them hanging to dry inside the homestead on my vintage wall drying rack.

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BTW, this rack is perfect for drying yarns, make sure they have dripped off outside though otherwise you make a mess of your flooring.

Once the yarns were done and dried, it was time to get them ready to go on the loom.

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After I wound the commercial coloured yarns, about 4 hours of threading commenced.  Warping a loom is very, very time consuming.  From start to finish, from winding the warp to getting the loom threaded and tied onto the loom is about 8 hours, depending how wide your project is. This one is the full width of my loom (45″) so was at the top end of time needed to get done.  Once on the loom though, weaving goes fairly fast.

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I started with black for weft, then changed to purple to see how I liked the colour interaction.  I didn’t.  The twill pattern was getting lost against all colours of the warp.  So back to using black.  I wove just over 6 yards of material.  Which took me about 6 weeks, mainly because of work and other life obligations.

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Here is the roll of fabric building up on the front beam.  Ask any weaver and there is nothing as pretty as a fat roll of fabric to look at.

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Here it is pulled off the loom, what a gorgeous sight!

Once the fabric was done, it was washed, dried and put away until I could find some time to sew the travel bags, which actually took just over a year later to accomplish mainly due to life plus I wasn’t happy with any of the luggage bag patterns I had seen to date.

I also needed to weave the straps that would be the handles on the luggage. I bristled at the thought of using commercial webbing for the straps.  So I bought some matching colours of a thicker cotton yarn and warped my Inkle loom to make the straps.  I wove 3 altogether, 2 for the main luggage bag and one for the laptop carrying messenger bag.

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Here is one of the straps against the fabric, a pretty darn good match!

Fast forward to late May 2018 and I finally had gathered everything I needed for the bags; zippers, thread, D-rings for the handles, lining fabric and a really neat iron on padding material called In-R-Form (not sold in Canada, had to order from the U.S.) that makes fabric stiff, but padded as well.  Great for laptops bags.

I brought pretty much every piece of equipment and my notion organizers up to the homestead and got to work sewing.  After 3 days (on/off), the main travel duffel bag was complete and literally, after I finished the very last seam, my machine broke down.  It needed servicing so off it went to get fixed.  A week later I was back in business.  Meanwhile I finally found a great messenger bag pattern off Pinterest as well as a cute box bag style toiletry case and after another couple days…voila!  All were finished!

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I had enough material left over for a generous “bath sheet” size towel.  Being 100% cotton, it can be used as either a beach towel or a throw to cover up in.

2 years of planning, weaving and sewing has finally come to an end and I just love the results!  By the way, you should have been able to figure out why I called it my “Piñata” travel bag project ;)

Deborah

 

 

 

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Smoked Gouda, Mushroom & Spinach Pizza

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It didn’t take me long to whip up a pizza utilizing the freshly smoked gouda cheese.  I kept the pizza simple with no strong ingredients to compete with the cheese and it was absolutely delicioso!

Studio_20180430_095325Want to make your own?  Take my whole wheat pizza crust recipe here and top with a minimal amount of pizza sauce, thinly sliced red onion, tomatoes, mushrooms and baby spinach leaves.  Top with grated smoked gouda and cook in a 475F oven until the edges start to crisp, flip to broil and broil until cheese is bubbly.

Enjoy!

Deborah

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Smoked Gouda ~ Cheese Heaven

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The Homestead acquired a new appliance a few weeks ago.

An electric Smoker.  We should have bought one at least 25 years ago, I probably spent as much money as a smoker on store bought smoked gouda over the years.

By now you can guess what was the first thing that went into the smoker, yup, CHEESE.

I love cheese.  Who doesn’t love cheese? (If they don’t, they are weird) So I googled how to smoke cheese and its pretty darn simple; add some wood chips (we used Apple) set the temperature for NO HIGHER than 90F (32C) and leave in the smoker for about 2 to 2 1/2 hours.  We did have a heck of time keeping the wood chips going as the low temperature selected meant the heating element wasn’t hot enough to light the wood chips.  The solution was to open the little exterior drawer where the chips were and light them with a propane torch.

I smoked two types of cheese, Gouda and Swiss.  The Swiss cheese we tried out on Montreal Smoked Meat Sammies, which reinforced and highlighted the “smoked” flavour in the sandwich title. We will definitely be using the smoked Swiss in those sammies from now on.

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As for the gouda ~ I haven’t had a taste yet, but I am planning a smoked gouda “white pizza” very, very soon, so will report back afterward.

Meanwhile, the next item smoked was salmon (oh so yummy) as well a chipotle rubbed pork tenderloin, both of which turned out AMAZING!  We will definitely be getting a lot of use out of this new appliance, the possibilities are endless!

I have been cruising websites looking for different ideas and recipes that will certainly get tested out over the summer.  If you  have been sitting on the fence about getting a smoker, I highly recommend you get off the fence and get one! You won’t regret it.

Deborah

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Growing like….weeds

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Yup.  Growing season has commenced!  Things are right on schedule in the seedling world.  So much so that I had to give the pepper plants a haircut to promote bushier growth as opposed to wanting to be giant bean stalk height.  They have been under a grow light since they sprouted and have just gone crazy.

The tomatoes are now well on their way. I started them a full month after the peppers because last year I experimented with starting peppers early to be immensely rewarded with fruit ready much sooner and more mature plants by the time I got them nestled into their summer beds.  The tomatoes will soon catch up and surpass the peppers in no time as they are such fast growers_DSC6532I have also started my next pot of cilantro as the first one is bolting already.  It doesn’t matter how often I snip and use up the ‘soapy’ herb, it still wants to bolt when IT wants to.  The mint is also getting out of control, he is ready for a hair cut as well.

I started the mint and basil this year from cuttings from last years plants as trying to get them started from seeds is a HUGE hassle, especially mint.  So I put the cuttings in glasses of water to root, then planted them where they slowly established themselves over the winter in pots.  In the past few weeks, they have exploded.  I gave the basil a severe haircut and froze the leaves in a new-fangled procedure I learned off the inter-web.  Once I go to use some of the frozen basil the next time I need some in a recipe, I will let you all know how it fared out.

_DSC6531Now I just need to concentrate on keeping my little green buddies healthy until I get them planted at the Northern Homestead…which, with the way this Spring has been going (or lack thereof), may not be until August!

What have you started to grow? Do you have a favourite tomato or pepper type? or other veggies?

Deborah

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Its almost time….

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Time for what you say?

Seed planting time!!!!!

Seeds have been ordered and delivered, planting pots and trays are out of storage and at the ready.  All I need is a bag or two of seed potting medium and I am ready to roll!

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Hurry up February 15th!

That is the day I start my peppers seeds.  Let year I decided to start the peppers a month earlier than the Toms as they are slower growing and I have found they take longer to mature and fruit in the shorter growing season of the Northern Homestead.  Boy did it work out fabulous as they were fruiting 3 weeks earlier than the year before.

I planted them in the raised beds the end of April keeping the plastic rolled down for the greenhouse effect until after the last frost date to which they responded by growing into tall, sturdy plants loaded with fruit being harvested in a much shorter time.

So for now, the days count down slowly as I anxiously await the 15th of February to get my little charges into their new little peat pot homes. Yippee!

What will you grow this year?

Deborah

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Fuerig’s Offering ~ Update

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Remember Fuerig? The black baby alpaca fibre I received back in the early Spring?  Well after a couple weeks of washing, carding and spinning 2 ounces of his lusciously soft and silky fibre, it turned into a gorgeous jet black skein of yarn just begging to be petted and smooshed.  Trust me, ask anyone who knits or crochets what they do when they pick up a pretty skein of soft yarn and you will understand our crazy ways.

DSC06093Smooshing aside, in my minds eye, I envisioned knitting a soft and drapey shawl that would wrap around me like a warm hug on a chilly evening.  Especially given that we had just booked a trip to Cuba for January 2018, so there was some urgency in finding and knitting a shawl  in time that I could take it with me.

Once I settled on “what” to knit, it was time to look for the perfect pattern on Ravelry that would showcase the lovely fibre.  It couldn’t be too complicated a stitch pattern as the black fibre would make any intricate stitch definition disappear, rendering it a total waste of time and energy, but I finally settled on a simple pattern with a scalloped lace edging featuring hundreds of tiny seed beads set in like iridescent blue stars against a jet black sky.

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Knitting didn’t take too long as the first 80% of the shawl was a somewhat boring knit, but boring was good as I was soon going to be challenged in the final outer lace pattern section with painstakingly inserting the many teeny blue beads onto stitches as I knit along each row.  This definitely took a boatload of patience, but it was so well worth it.  This is just the second time I have ever knit with beads and I think I have had my fill (bet I change my mind though when I see a lovely pattern with beads I just have to knit), but for this project, I thought the chosen pattern was how to best show off the qualities of Fuerig’s fleece.

_DSC6431Once the shawl was complete, I spent considerable time trying to capture a decent photo. Ha!  Ask anyone who has ever tried to photograph a jet black object up close and they will tell you, it’s hard!  Indoors or outdoors, with a flash or without, bright sunny day or a cloudy day, it was all proving very difficult.  There was going to be lots of time spent in photo editing land I feared. About 50 shots later, I ended up with a couple of ‘decent’ photos and I wholeheartedly admit, I am not a professional photographer so I best not quit my day job.

With the shawl done, I began to count down the “sleeps” until hubby and I were whisked away on a plane to Cuba.  I carefully packed the shawl (along with a few others I have done in the past couple years) into my luggage all the while hoping and praying the airline wouldn’t lose my suitcase.  I just couldn’t fathom not ever seeing the shawl again after all the hard work of washing, carding, spinning and knitting the fleece from such a beautiful animal.

Thankfully, we arrived in Cuba with all our luggage – yay!  It was then  time to plan out what evenings to wear each shawl with a complimentary dinner outfit, also taking into account how warm or how cool it ended up being each day as well as whether we were dining in one of the indoor a la carte restaurants or one of the outdoor ones.  I tell you, such hard decisions you have to deal with on vacation ;)

I ended up wearing the shawl  on our last dinner night out at the Mediterranean restaurant, which was absolutely divine and I felt like royalty with the lusciously soft fibre draped around my shoulders.  It would have been great to have a photo of me wearing the shawl or the shawl alone in a sunset photo, but the location of the resort geographically made that impossible as the sun was setting behind the resort and not over the water along with dinner reservations were set for long after the sun had gone down.  So, best I could do was to try and photograph it with the pretty backdrop of a Caribbean Sea.

_DSC6482I simply adore how this turned out and know this will become a treasured heirloom in my family.  I still have several pounds of Fuerig’s baby fleece carefully tucked away so now it is time to explore what else I can use his sillky, soft fibre for…..other than smooshing.

Deborah

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Turkey Vegetable Soup

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Last weekend was Canadian Thanksgiving, and as is the norm after cooking a 10lb bird for 3 people (actually I cooked for 4, but my daughter is a vegetarian), there are oodles of leftovers…..leftover.  This soup is hearty and has a good zip to it with the addition of the canned tomatoes with chiles (ie. Rotel).

First order after removing the remaining meat from the bird was to put the carcass in a large stock pot and add about 12 cups water.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and let simmer for several hours. Remove from heat and let sit overnight.

Next day, remove carcass and strain the broth into a large bowl. Cover and put in the fridge so that any remaining fat solidifies to be skimmed off the next morning.

Now you have great base for your soup!

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Ingredients

10 to 12 cups turkey broth
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 cup diced celery
1 cup carrots, sliced
1 large golden beet, peeled and cut into 1cm cubes (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 cup mini red potatoes cut into 1cm pieces
500 ml jar of canned tomatoes with chiles *
1 1/2 cups shredded turkey meat (white/dark or both)
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
2 sprigs of oregano, leaves stripped and chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil

Directions

In a large stock pot over medium heat, drizzle 2 tbsp olive oil.  Add onions and celery and cook for 3 to 5 minutes until onions are translucent.   Add carrots, beets and potatoes and cook for another 5 minutes stirring often.  Puree the canned tomatoes with chiles and add to the pot.  Add herbs and turkey broth.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 2 to 3 hours.  If you like a thicker consistency to your soups, dissolve 2 heaping tablespoons of cornstarch in one cup of cold water and add to soup 20 minutes before serving.

Serve with a side salad and a crusty harvest grain bread.

Makes 8 servings

Deborah

* Substitute plain canned tomatoes for the tomatoes with chile’s if you don’t like spice.

 

 

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