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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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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Tomato & Avocado Salad

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I had a pretty good garden crop this year, especially the tomatoes.  A bumper crop of the luscious round globes had me eating them in a variety of ways, especially with the extended summer heat of September.  The thought of having to prepare and cook a hot meal on days where the mercury climbed above 30C had me melting into a puddle.  Salads became a staple for lunches and dinners.

A favourite is this super simple and super tasty tomato and avocado salad.  With so few ingredients, you are done in a snap!

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Ingredients
4 Garden Fresh Tomatoes (for a prettier plate, use multi-coloured tomatoes like Golden Queen and Heirloom varieties)
2 ripe Haas Avocados
1/4 cup diced Red or Sweet Onion
6 fresh sprigs of Cilantro
1/4 cup Olive Oil
Juice of 2 Limes
Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions

In a small bowl, whisk olive oil with the fresh lime juice and set aside.

Slice tomatoes and arrange on 2 plates.  Peel, pit and slice avocados and arrange over the tomatoes.  Sprinkle onion over tomatoes and avocados.  Drizzle with the olive oil and lime dressing and top with fresh cilantro leaves. That’s it! You are done!  To make this into a satisfying and healthy dinner salad, just add some grilled chicken or salmon along with a nice crusty loaf of whole grain bread.

Serve immediately.  Makes 2 servings.

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First Garden Produce Of 2017

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Radishes are always fast producers as they prefer the early, cooler Spring days to germinate and grow.  I pulled these beauties out this morning and after a dip in a bucket of water to get the dirt off, I squirreled them off to the kitchen for further washing and get them tucked into the fridge.
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If left too long in the ground and once Mother Nature heats up, radishes will bolt (go into flowering mode) and the root will then get woody.  So best to harvest these ruby gems as soon as you see a large portion of the root sticking up above the soil.
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The remainder will be harvested over the next week which will then give the Tiny Tim tomatoes some room as you can hardly see them nestled between the rows of radishes.
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Meanwhile, the peppers that I planted last week are diggin’ their new digs so much that flowers are opening and I even have one teeny-tiny pepper starting!
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I finally learned the secret for planting happy peppers.  Start them a month earlier than I normally do.  Usually mid-March is seed planting time, but to give the slower growing peppers more time to mature before going in the ground, I started them mid-February.  Definitely my strategy is paying off this year.
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Looking forward to a fabulous harvest this year for not only radishes, peppers and tomatoes, but chard, beets, carrots, garlic and green onions too.  If I can scrounge up a little space after I harvest the garlic in early July I may just plant some more kale too.  You have to be careful with kale though, it grows rapidly and soon you are leaving baskets of kale on the neighbour’s porch whether they like it or not.
Like zucchini ….. a little goes a long way in the kale world.
Happy Gardening!
Deborah
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Cheddar Chive Cornbread

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Today I was waffling.  Waffling about whether to make cheddar chive biscuits, or cheddar chive muffins.

So I made cheddar chive cornbread instead.  I know, sometimes what I think I want, I don’t want at all.  The mind of a woman was clearly at work here.

Since I had just given my rapidly sprouting chive plant a trim last weekend, it was a good time to rummage through my recipe files for an appropriate dish to use some of them up.

No big fanfare here, just a simple, delicious cornbread to enjoy with a Tex-Mex dinner menu (or anytime!).

DSC06019Cheddar Chive Cornbread

Ingredients

1 cup cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup melted butter
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded sharp cheddar cheese
4 tbsp minced fresh chives

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F

1. In a large bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.

2. In another bowl, whisk eggs, butter and buttermilk.

3. Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients just until moistened.

4. Gently fold in cheese and chives.

5. Spread mixture in a greased 9″ x 13″ baking dish and bake for 15-18 minutes or until golden brown.

Makes about 18 pieces that are 1″ x 2″

Enjoy!

Deborah

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Spring has Sprung!

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Thank goodness the cold and snow is now behind us and we can look forward to (in my opinion) the shortest and BEST season we have ~ SUMMER!

I have been so busy this past 6-8 weeks, not just with work (my busiest time of year) but also ramping up my gardening chores.  The raised  beds have had their plastic rolled down to thaw the frozen earth and 2 weeks ago I was lucky enough to get some radishes, chard, beets and lettuce seeds sown.  These are cool weather veggies and have a much better appreciation of early Spring cold spells than the summer loving tomatoes and peppers.

Speaking of peppers, I am gobsmacked with how well they are growing now that we downsized our southern home to a condo.  It is so blasted hot in here that it is the perfect nursery for my plant babies.  Have a look see for yourself! DSC06002Some of the pepper varieties are now over a foot tall!  I started them a month earlier than normal too, mainly because I have the plastic on the raised beds, I can extend the growing season on both ends. DSC06008The tomatoes were started mid-March, and will quickly catch up and surpass the peppers, they grow like weeds once the seeds sprout.  I do give them a very weak fertilizer solution every 2 weeks though to get them in optimum green leafiness before planting.  I have also been saving up eggshells for the tomatoes.  Whenever I use eggs, I wash the shells and keep them in a baggie in the freezer, more on that in the next post though.

Aside from gardening, I have been up to my eyeballs in Alpaca fleece.  I lucked out on getting about 15 lbs of raw alpaca fiber from a nearby ranch (aren’t they the most adorable looking creatures below?)DSC05863 DSC05860 In the process, I scored my first “baby” alpaca fleece.  Just to be clear, they don’t shear the babies after they are born, “Baby Alpaca” fleece is considered the animals first shearing, which is usually when they are a year old.  It is much finer than adult fleece, so very soft and silky, and I managed to get a jet black one that spun up like silk in my test sample, which is so lusciously smooshy and soft (I have a special project in mind for this very special fibre) and is much darker than the photo shows.  It is very hard to photograph black!

DSC06000Along with the bags of alpaca fleece, I have also been weaving, finishing up a couple projects that were started at the beginning of the year.  My piñata fabric is done, and I have one of two straps left to weave on the little inkle loom, then I can start my big sewing project (saving that for another post too…most likely in the summer). DSC05829 I also gave my rear end some reprieve with a woven cushion for my loom bench.  Sitting on a board was getting old real quick! DSC05840 Not to leave any other fibre related items out, I have been knitting up a storm in the evenings (my down time while watching Jeopardy) as I had a request from my Aunt for a cowl and some more socks.  Cowl and one pair of socks done, 2 more pairs to go.

So when do I have time for myself you say? Well, when the gardens are mostly looking after themselves in a month or so, and work has slowed for the summer, I will be on the deck looking at the pristine view of the lake listening to the loons and sipping my tea and either spinning or knitting for the next project.  I can never sit still.  A rolling stone gathers no moss so the saying goes…and that is me to a tee ;)

DSC04767Deborah

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Almost there…

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9 months has passed since we moved and I can say that finally, F-I-N-A-L-L-Y, the painting has come to an end in the Colourful House of Frightenstein.  Yes, we did the major painting prior to moving in, but there was still the kitchen, baths and all interior doors and door frames to be done.

They can now be crossed of the to-do list save for a few touch-ups after my kitchen is renovated in a few weeks. Woo!

With the bulk of the updates/fixes now done, I can settle into some serious loom time before the Northern Homestead gets opened from its short winter nap, as well get the rest of my seeds started for summer gardening.  I have a few sprouts happening already as you can see here… Curly Parsley (top photo) and Basil (bottom photo)

DSC04163 DSC04165and remember these?  Grocery store green onions that I planted a few weeks ago?

DSC04153Well, here they are today….

DSC04168I have to prune them as they are getting totally out of control, which is easy as pie, just snip and add to your cooking.  Super simple to grow, just get some potting soil and when your green onions are about down to the last 4″ from the root end, plunk them in a little pot, water and watch them grow again and again.

DSC04169Guarding my little wee plants is my obedient kitty.  He sits there staring out the window all day, waiting for the summer warmth to arrive (me too) and never lays a paw on the sheers. What a good kitty!

I have a couple weeks before I get the rest of the pots and seeds out, for now, it is off to the loom and spinning wheels and get down to business!

Deborah

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Huevos Rancheros

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If you love eggs (like I do), and if you love Mexican food (like I do), then you will love this breakfast staple.  How can it be better? If you use my leftover Charro Beans as the base, that’s how.

Making huevos rancheros can be time consuming due to all the chopping/sauteing of veggies/beans, but utilizing the leftover charro beans has made for a breakfast that is ready in under 30 minutes instead of almost an hour.

DSC04157Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F.

In a small baking dish (spray with cooking spray first), press a warmed 6″ flour (or corn) tortilla into place.

Add 3/4 cup of charro beans

Top with 2 tbsp shredded cheese (mozz/cheddar or monterey jack, whatever suits your tastebuds)

Crack one egg onto the top, season the egg with salt and pepper and pop into the oven for about 20 minutes or until egg is done to your liking.

Garnish with cilantro. Salud!

Easy-peasy…. and boy, was it tasty.  I have enough charro beans in the fridge for one more breakfast.  I am so looking forward to tomorrow morning.

Deborah

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My New Planting Table

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I love my hubby.
He is resourceful.
He is creative.
He is a very good problem solver.
and he can build just about anything.

Now that we have downsized to condo life, planning and planting my seeds for this years garden came with a bit of a dilemma.  I had an enormous window sill in the living room at the house that pretty much handled all the plant pots and trays.  The condo…not so much.  I could use the floor I guess, but with the sectional couch in front of the window, it would be a pain to gain access to watering, etc.

So hubby, seeing said dilemma, stepped up and built this fabulously useful planting table that fits perfectly behind the couch in front of the large span of windows.

DSC04151Built with a depth wide enough to hold the standard plant trays and a length about the size of a football field (or thereabouts), I now have oodles of room for the many pots that will soon be gracing the raw beauty of the plywood top.  Simple to make from regular 2×4′s and plywood, it is sturdy and comes with a lower shelf to hold bags of soil and excess trays/pots.

DSC04153Right now I just have the bare minimum started.  Basil, Cilantro and Parsley and some perennial flower seeds (Arabis) that are to be started this time of year as well as some leftover green onions from the fridge.

I discovered last summer that green onions, after you have used the green part and before taking them too far down the white part, you can plant in the ground and they start to regrow.  The last couple years I have grown green onions from seeds, but by August, they are barely thicker than chives.  So I had a brain wave to stick them in the ground and see what happens.  From this point forward, I will not have to buy green onions from the store as these will continue to grow and I can snip off what I need, when I need it.

I love spur of the moment ideas, sometimes they work out, sometimes not.  In this case, happy results indeed!

Deborah

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It is that time of year again!

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Seed planting time!!!

I am all ready to roll, well, almost.  First I need all my little pots and seed starting mix which is up north currently, but we will be going to get them in a week or so, as well as my new plant table that hubby built for me.  Since we moved last Spring, I lost my big window sill in the living room that held all the plant trays in the warm sunshine.

So hubby put together a long, tall, narrow table made from 2 x 4′s and plywood (very elegant looking, just you wait and see) so I have a place to start all my little garden buddies in the condo.

Here is the array of seeds to be grown this year, some new pepper and tomato varieties as well as a couple new flowering plants to use for dye purposes.

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New this year will be trying my hand at growing Milkweed, yes, it is a common weed, but it is also the only plant that the larvae of the Monarch Butterfly feed upon.  Their population has been on a steady decline over recent years so I am doing my part to provide habitat (food) for the butterflies to raise their larvae on.  With any luck, I will have Monarch chrysalis’ hanging from the undersides of the leaves this summer!

More to come on the seed starting once I get the rest of my supplies here, but I am just so excited my seeds arrived that I just had to write about it now, and yes, little things like seeds make me deliriously happy, not unlike shopping for yarn….

Deborah

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