Wednesday, October 28, 2009


One of Ian's favorite games: Wagon racing!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Butternut Squash Soup

If you haven't noticed already, in our family, we mark the seasons by our menus. In the spring, I pull out recipes starring fresh flavors and bright colors, like my spring pea soup. In the summer, the grill is often the main event, cooking up a variety of meats along with veggies from our garden. And in the fall, we love us some squash -- lots of it! Pumpkin dip with ginger snap cookies, maple-roasted acorn squash, Arabian squash casserole, and of course, the star of them all, butternut squash soup. Thanks to Food & Wine Magazine, I have a simple, mouth-watering recipe that keeps us coming back year after year and time after time. Want a true fall experience? Follow me on a journey of squash soup....and then make some for yourself!

Step 1: Slice the squash in half and roast it in a 350 degree oven, face down, and get it all nice and soft. This'll take about 40 minutes, during which time you can chop up the white and tender green parts of two large leeks. When the squash is fork-tender, remove it from the oven and let it cool. Scoop out and toss the seeds, then scoop out the flesh with a spoon. Set it aside and discard the skins in your trash or compost bin.

Step 2: Melt 5 tablespoons of unsalted butter in a large saucepan or soup pot, the saute the leeks and 6 or 7 fresh thyme sprigs until the leeks are soft and the thyme is fragrant (about 5 minutes). Your house will start to smell really yummy by this point! At this point, you can discard the thyme sprigs, and add the squash along with 5 cups of chicken or vegetable stock. Simmer over medium heat for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Step 3: Puree the soup with whatever method you have on hand. I use a stick blender (a.k.a., an immersion blender) for the job, but a blender or regular food processor will work too. Just puree it in batches if you use one of the latter two. Don't be afraid to pulverize the mixture, because, believe me, you want this as smooth as possible!

Step 4: Serve and enjoy the hearty, yet light warmth of this delicious fall recipe. It goes perfectly with a mug of hot cider and some fresh bread.

Happy Autumn!

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Riding Topless...

...for probably the last time this season. We'll probably be putting the hard top on the Jeep in the next week or two to combat against these cold temps we're having. Bye, bye, Summer!

Canning Tomatoes For the First Time

As you know, the garden we tended this summer did not produce tomatoes like I had hoped. (See my lament here.) However, a couple of weeks ago, I was taking a stroll around our neighborhood with Ian and Jan (my nanny charge), and as we neared our house, my incredibly nice and generous neighbor Sheri came out of her garage and offered me some tomatoes that she had picked up from a roadside stand that afternoon. Apparently, the guy was desperate to get rid of his tomatoes, because he gave her a huge box for only $5, along with some red peppers. So, Sherri unloaded about half of the tomatoes on me. The next day, she came by my house with yet another box, explaining that she had driven by that same spot today and bought yet another huge box of tomatoes, and would I like some? And, oh yes, they're free. "Shoot!", I thought, "Load me up!" So she did.

What was I to do with this plethora of tomatoey-goodness? Why, can them, of course! It took me a few days to do it because we had a busy couple of days ahead of us, so I shoved the tomatoes in the fridge (I know, a huge no-no), hoping that they would last long enough for me to process them before they rotted. Thank goodness, most of them survived, and I was able to can them in two batches. Here's the 2nd batch, ready to be peeled, shoved into cans, and cooked to death:

I peeled them by putting them in boiling water for a couple minutes until the skins burst, then plunging them into ice water, followed by separating the skins from the meat, dicing them in my hands as I went. My kitchen looked like a murder had taken place.

Then, I filled a bunch of wide-mouthed glass Ball jars with the tomatoes and a teaspoon of lemon juice (to balance the pH), and processed them in boiling water in a large canning pot for 45 minutes. Place them on a towel on the counter, let cool overnight, attach labels with the name and date, and voila! Canned tomatoes are now in my possession. They joined my pickling attempts on my basement shelves for future use.

I was once a canning virgin, but no longer! Thanks to my mom for walking me through the canning steps and imparting her wisdom as I went. I'm looking forward to the salsas and marinaras and chilis that will grace our table this fall and winter due to my neighbor's generosity and willingness to help a poor farmer out by taking his tomatoes off his hands.