Thoughts on Winter and a Recipe

I am always cold.

Always.

So it may be no surprise when I say this:  I really don’t like winter.

Oh I love Christmas, and I think the snow is pretty.

But the days and weeks spent in the house sitting under blankets longing to go outside?

Definitely not my thing.

This year I have been trying to embrace winter a bit more.  With the help of a good pair of long johns I’ve taken the girls out to play in the snow, and haven’t shied away from cold weather running (within reason, of course).

I have been thinking about planning (that’s right, not planning, but thinking about planning) my garden for this year, which keeps my spirits up.

And do you know what else keeps my spirits up in the cold weather?

Coffee.

Well duh.

And soup.  Lovely warm soup.  Around here we do mostly creamy vegetable soups, since those are easier to convince the girls to eat.

Side note:  if we crush crackers in any soup, both girls gobble it up.  They really are Daddy’s little girls.

Today I’m going to share with you our favorite, but with a bit of a twist.

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

1 medium butternut squash

2 cups broth

1/2 onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, chopped

2 carrots, peeled and chopped

1/2 tbsp curry powder

1/2 tbsp chili powder

1/2 tbsp cumin

pinch crushed red pepper (optional)

1 tbsp coconut oil

salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat your oven 350 degrees F, and cut the squash in half and gut it.

Yes, gut it.  You know what I mean.  Cut the seeds and the stringy goo out.

Put both halves of the squash cut side down on a cookie sheet and bake for about 1 hour.

When the hour is almost up, heat up a 4-5 qt soup pot with coconut oil.  Saute onions and carrots until onions are translucent; add garlic.  Then add spices and saute another minute or two.  Scoop the flesh of the squash out of the skin (carefully!) and into the pot.   Add the broth and let simmer for at least 10 minutes.  Transfer soup in batches to a food processor and process until smooth.

 

We’ve served this soup with some tasty homemade whole wheat crackers, but it goes well with either some crusty bread or some soft, warm naan.

WARNING:  This soup may clear your sinuses.

75 Pounds

That, friends, is the weight of the pumpkin our family won from a local orchard.  75.5 lbs to be exact.

My husband and I both tend to have scientific minds, and can be good estimates of weights, lengths, etc.  So I really shouldn’t be surprised that we won this giant pumpkin.

But somehow getting the phone call to pick up our prize, that by the way weighs more than both of our children combine, made this whole scenario very real.

I will have to upload a picture or two that we have taken with the pumpkin, but not until I can give you all the comparison I have in mind.

You see, a lot of people asked what I would do with a 75.5 pound pumpkin.  What would I do with it?

Bake it.  Duh.

And make a ton of pumpkin puree.

I am about 1/4 of the way through the pumpkin and will have to continue my puree project tomorrow.

But for today I wanted to share that I am thankful for free food, in any shape or form.  Free pumpkin is wonderful, and so are the free sweet potatoes we received from friends who had a bumper crop this year.

We are eating a lot of orange foods around here.  At least my babies will have great eye sight with all of that beta carotene. 😉

 

And for yesterday:  I was thankful for my church.  We invited a neighbor to our church yesterday, and he had been nervous about being judged or looked upon differently for somethings in his past.  I love that my husband and I could honestly and whole-heartedly say that he would not be judged in our church.  And that our worship music is awesome, by the way.

A New Favorite Recipe

Friends, I love when I concoct a ridiculous recipe that comes out tasty.

What makes that experience even better?

When I am also using something that may or may not go bad in the refrigerator soon.

I bought some local veggies this week, including a fabulously large spaghetti squash.  I understand that not everyone loves spaghetti squash like I do.  I could really just eat the stuff plain with a little butter and black pepper.

FABULOUS!

Alas, this was a mighty large squash, and I knew realistically I had to enlist my husband and children to help me eat it.  Which means I had to get creative with how I prepare it.

I looked up several recipes online and found some pleasant ideas about making a faux lasagna.  That sounded tasty enough, so I concocted this lovely meal:

Spaghetti Squash “Pasta” Bake

1 spaghetti squash

1-2 cups tomato sauce

several cloves of garlic

1 tbsp dried basil

1.5 cups ricotta cheese

3 eggs

16 oz. frozen spinach, thawed and drained

fresh parsley

2 cups shredded mozzarella

1/4 – 1/2 cup grated parmesan

 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Poke holes in the spaghetti squash with a fork and bake for 60 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool a little.

Cut spaghetti squash in half lengthwise, remove and discard seeds, then scrap squash flesh with a fork.  Place squash in a bowl, then add garlic, tomato sauce, basil, and salt to taste.  Combine.

Lower oven to 375 degrees.

In a separate bowl, combine ricotta cheese, spinach, parsley, eggs, and salt to taste.  Place ricotta mixture in a 9×13 baking dish and spread evenly.  Sprinkle the top with half of both the mozzarella and the parmesan.  Then add the squash mixture on top.  Top with the remaining cheese.  Cover with foil and bake about 30 minutes.

This meal was a hit with my girls, whose philosophy on life is “Add cheese and it makes everything taste good”.

After having used up the mozzarella I was left with no food waste this week, for the win.

FoodWasteFriday

 

 

Ugly Cookies

100_2881Do you make pretty cookies?  At one time in my life I used to be jealous of those people who made pretty cookies.  And pretty meals.  And pretty everything else.

I do not make pretty cookies.

See evidence above.

What I do make, though, is tasty cookies.  Try these tasty little things out:

 

100_2875Cream 1 stick (8tbsp, 1/2 cup) of room temperature butter with 1 cup of white sugar.  Beat 1 egg and blend in with butter and sugar mixture.

100_2877(Why yes I made a double batch of these yesterday.)

Before moving on I would like to have a short discussion about eggs:

I used to not care about organic vs. non-organic, brown vs. white, or caged vs. free range eggs.  And to be honest with you, I may not have started caring until I noticed a difference in the taste, texture, and cookability (if that’s a word) of the eggs.  Your regular run of the mill white shelled eggs from the grocery store have hardly-yellow yolks that just don’t stand up in a frying pan.  They are harder to make over-easy, and, as I have learned, are not nearly as nutritious.  Brown, free-range, organic eggs have orange-yellow yolks that are mighty.  They hold together in a pan, and stand up to a good flip for a tasty breakfast.  The darker yolk color indicates a greater concentration of nutrients in the eggs.

So, friends, I am using brown, free-range, organic, and very local eggs.  They happen to come from a friend of mine.  I know these eggs. 🙂

Anyway.  Back to our cookies:

100_2878Go ahead and add in 1 cup of Nutella.  Yes, Nutella.

I told you you would like these.

Mix together, than add 1+ cups of all-purpose flour, 1/4 tsp salt, 1 tsp baking soda.  I needed just a bit more than one cup of flour to get a good cookie dough consistency.

Then just for good measure I mixed in 1 cup of butterscotch chips.  Because they were just begging to be added in.

100_2879Resist the urge to eat all of the dough.

That’s an important step.

Then wrap the dough and refrigerate for at least half an our.

Use a teaspoon to measure cookies and roll into balls.  Place cookies on a lightly greased cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes at 350 degrees.

100_2881Nutella Butterscotch Cookies

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 cup white sugar

1 egg

1 cup Nutella

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 cup butterscotch chips.

 

Cream butter and sugar.  Beat egg separately, then mix in.  Mix in Nutella.  Add flour, baking soda, and salt.  Mix until a firm dough forms.  Fold in butterscotch chips.  Cover dough and refrigerate for at least half an hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Measure cookies with a teaspoon, and roll them into balls.  Bake on a lightly greased cookie sheet for 15 minutes.  Cool on a cooling rack.

Allez cuisine!

For those of you that don’t recognize that phrase, that is the saying that begins the cooking competition on a television show called Iron Chef.
There is an original Japanese version that is too awesome for words. Then American television thought they could remake it.
It is much less awesome.
But I digress.
The MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group I belong to held an Iron Chef competition this morning.
And by that I mean: each team was given an hour, some very common ingredients, plus a meat, and one secret ingredient to create a main dish and a dessert to be judged by non-competing members.
I like to cook, so this competition was a blast for me.
Not to mention my team won.
I just wanted to share the winning meal.
I wish I could give you exact measurements and things, but when there are six women cooking by the seat of their pants, nobody is measuring anything. But I think you can get the general idea.

Asian Style Meatballs with a Creamy Pear Lime Honey Sauce

Meatballs:
1 lb ground beef
2 slices of bread (usually stale, but we used fresh today)
1 egg
1/2 chopped onion
ginger powder
chili powder
garlic powder
salt and pepper

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl with your hands.
Yes your hands.
Meat feels good on your hands. Squish it. Love it.

Form small meatballs (about 1.5 inches in diameter) and cook them on all sides in a frying pan. Use a little oil if you are afraid of stickage. But honestly, with ground beef, you should be fine.

Sauce:
1 pear, diced small
about 1/2 cup honey
juice and zest of one lime
1/2 cup (ish???) of plain yogurt

Cook pear, honey, lime juice, and lime zest of medium high heat to reduce a bit. Let cool and stir in yogurt.
**We were given regular old Dannon, but I think Greek yogurt would make the sauce a bit creamier.

We served these crazy meatballs over some white rice with soy sauce and garlic powder. The pear sauce was poured generously over the top of both.

No Smelly Hippies, Here

Warning:  Before you read this post I should let you all know that I have officially been bitten by the “all-natural” bug.  I recently watched a Canadian documentary called “Chemerical” which follows one family through their journey to rid their home of toxic chemicals in cleaning products and self-care products.

Why is it important that the documentary was Canadian?

Because Canadians are a silly folk.  🙂

And I love them.

Anyway.

Some products, you can imagine, have more potent chemicals and are more likely to damage a person’s body.

Two women very close to me (emotionally and genetically) have had lumps removed from their breasts, and one of them had researched and discovered that traditional deoderants contain many carcinogens.  She has since switched to all-natural deoderant.

But what did I do yesterday?

I made my own. 🙂

100_2460

I researched a few different recipes for homemade deoderant, and settled on this one because it seemed simple.

It was!

Here are the ingredients:

100_2455

1/4 cup coconut oil

1 tbsp + 1 tsp baking soda

2 tbsp cornstarch

20-25 drops essential oil (I chose lavender)

I melted the coconut oil in the microwave since I was feeling lazy:

100_2457Yay, coconut oil.  Then added the cornstarch and baking powder and stirred:

100_2458Finally I added the lavender oil and stirred that in.  I poured my deoderant into this nifty artichoke appetizer jar (you know you’re Italian when…).  Then I used that trick everyone uses to make chalkboard paint and made a shnazzy label.

100_2460Bam.  Deoderant.

Now, I thought it might be inappropriate to share a photograph of my underarms on the internet, but I will happily report that this deoderant doesn’t leave any white residue, nor does it clump or look gross at all.  It rubbed on smoothly, and didn’t rub off on my shirt.  I call that a win!