18 September 2014

Butternut Squash Soup

I've been having some fun with my cookbooks this month. I have been trying a lot of new recipes and using them for inspiration. I have been trying to make the best of a dysfunctional oven and so I have been spending some quality time with my stovetop. Most of my experiments have been successful with everyone enjoying them...a couple have only been enjoyed by the adults (like the Pioneer Woman's leek and potato pizza for some reason the kids took offence to this being called pizza - but I really liked it!)

One of the favourites this week was Butternut Squash soup. I was inspired with the idea after looking at "My Father's Daughter" by Gwyneth Paltrow but her recipe didn't scream out fall to me and I wanted something that did... so I took the idea of Butternut Squash soup and my general knowledge of soup making and created my own super easy and super yummy recipe. Everybody loved it and wanted more...

I started with a Tbsp of extra virgin olive oil and 2 Tbsp butter in an enamelled cast iron pot over Medium high heat. I added 1 diced onion and two minced cloves of garlic. Stirred them around a bit just to sweat them a little. Then I added 1 diced carrot, 1 diced celery stalk and 1 diced granny smith apple (nothing says autumn to me like a crisp apple). 

I let these cook up for a minute or two - not letting anything brown (at least not very much). I added some salt and pepper and 1 large butternut squash - peeled, seeds removed and diced. I let these cook for another couple of minutes in the pot and then added a litre of chicken stock (I used store bought this time - I like the organic brand "Imagine" but you could use whatever you had on hand) and about two cups of water - just to make sure the squash was covered. 

The soup was brought to a boil and then simmered for 15 to 20 minutes. Just until the squash was tender. 

When all the veg were tender - I pureed the soup in a blender in three batches. Then just checked the seasoning and served. The soup is very flavourful and really creamy. It really tasted as if there was added cream...but their wasn't...I promise. 

I had a couple of leftover baked potatoes in the fridge from the night before so just for fun I thought I would make some potato croutons. 

I put about two Tbsp of butter in a cast iron pan and tossed in the potatoes that I had diced. I let them develop some colour on the bottom before flipping them over. When they were nearly ready I added some salt, pepper and a pinch of cayenne pepper. 

The potatoes added a nice crispiness to the soup but had mixed results at my table. I heard everything from..."next time leave the potatoes out they distracted from the creaminess of the soup" to "the potatoes made it so much better". Personally, I could have it either way. The potatoes added a little more substance to the soup and I did like the contrast of textures.

Overall, the soup provided a pretty easy, satisfying meal for my family of six plus grandma and I will definitely be making this again.

07 September 2014

Views from my new neighbourhood...and a salad.

I am finally feeling settled in and I am loving the fall weather we have been having. I love the cool breeze while the sun is shining and just smelling fall in the air. I am hoping it lasts awhile but I have heard that winter comes on pretty quick in this part of the world. For now I am going to pretend that I didn't hear that and just enjoy fall while it lasts.

One of my favourite things about living in the Kootenays is the view. Almost in every direction there are views of the amazing BC mountains. I have discovered that the view from our backyard is kind of fabulous.

When a storm is approaching the light is amazing.

and there is a hammock...a hammock that is wonderful for lying in and looking up at the treetops and sky. I think I may like it here after all.

I hear there are a lot of trails to explore and outdoor activities to try... lots for us to discover over the coming years. 

This year, the kids and I have been enjoying exploring Fort Steele. I love history and this is probably one of the best places to learn about the history of the Kootenay region.

We get to learn while taking in the amazing views...

the kids get to run around outside... a lot...

and they get to hang out with farm animals.

Actually, I may be just as excited about the farm animals as the kids. 

Now that the boxes are nearly done we are having lots of fun exploring and spending time together while school is out. (Teacher strike here in BC - don't get me started on the school system in BC)

The hubby took his day off this week to build the boys a really cool triple bunk bed. They love it. It was set up in their room last night and we are almost finished setting up their room...should be done tomorrow. They are so excited. I love having a handy husband who can solve the problem of not enough room and just whip up a bed in a day out of a bunch of old two by fours. The boys now have a lot of floor space to play on.

I have started unpacking my cookbook collection...I've missed it. To celebrate I decided to try a new recipe...

something simple. Just a salad... but, so yummy!

I based it on an Ina Garten recipe..."Cape Cod Chopped Salad" from Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics I didn't have all the ingredients for the salad so I had to make some substitutions and then I changed the dressing to go with my substitutions. 

Not sure what I call this one, but here is the recipe:

1 chicken breast - precooked and diced (I used a breast left over from a roast chicken)
1 large (double) handful of baby arugula
1 large (double) handful of mixed baby greens
1 large granny smith apple, peeled and diced
1/2 cup pecan halves - toasted (I just dry toasted them in a cast iron skillet)
3/4 cup fresh blueberries
6 oz. blue cheese - crumbled

In a large bowl toss the above ingredients.

In a small canning jar (I used a 500 ml. jar) pour in the following ingredients:

3 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
lemon zest from 1/3 large or 1/2 small lemon 
juice of 1/3 large or 1/2 lemon (approx. 2 Tbsp)
2 1/2 tsp dijon mustard
2 1/2 Tbsp pure maple syrup
salt and pepper to taste ( I used about 15 grinds of each)
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

put the lid on the jar and shake vigourously. 

The recipe makes extra dressing. If dressing the entire salad I would suggest using half the recipe. Serve immediately after dressing and tossing or bring jar to the table and let everyone dress as desired. 

This served our family of six (all the kids ate it)...but we also had a cheese soufflĂ©...so without the soufflĂ© I would say it serves four. Although, it was so good I probably could have eaten the whole thing myself!  

28 August 2014

Blog Therapy

I am slowly unpacking all of our boxes and finding places for everything. Some things have been put into storage until we move...again. While I am grateful that we have a place to live I am not overly excited about being in another temporary position. Something about knowing that I will have to move again in the not too distant future makes me feel a little unmotivated about unpacking. 

Growing up - especially through my teen years - I often felt depressed. I have never been diagnosed with depression or anything I was just a bit of a glass is half empty girl. I had a tendency to focus on the negative. I wasn't completely crazy - there was negative. But, isn't there always? Over the past decade or so I have really tried to focus on the positive. I have made an effort to choose to see the good;  because even though there is a lot of negativity around - and it is not too difficult to find it all you need to do is turn on the evening news - there is also a lot of good.  Luckily, for the most part this has worked. The more I looked for the good things in life - the easier it was to find them. I have really tried to do what I feel is right and I have been led on an amazing journey where I have learned so much. I am truly grateful for all that I have and all that I have experienced. This past year has been a particularly good one for me. I haven't felt so happy in...maybe ever. I was almost giddy at times. Even though my family had challenges I felt like I could do anything. I laughed more than I have laughed in decades...or again maybe more than I ever have. I was busy and didn't accomplish all that I wanted to, but I learned so much, met so many great people and felt like I was exactly where I needed to be. 

Earlier this year...I knew that where I needed to be was somewhere else. More accurately I knew that my family needed to be somewhere else and I needed to be with my family. As I prepared to move I felt content. I knew I was doing what I needed to do and that is always a great feeling for me to have. I love having the knowledge that I am doing the right thing. 

For some reason, as my family and I moved across country - for the fourth time in six years - and have come closer to family, friends and great Okanagan produce (I would like to say that last one is a joke but it is not - I was so excited to have fresh local peaches this year) I have not been able to shake off a feeling of disappointment, exhaustion, and sadness. 

I feel a little shallow because I know part of it is because we moved from a beautiful, large, Victorian home to a not quite so beautiful, small, basement suite. I know that shouldn't matter but for some reason it does. I find that all the little things that are going wrong have become extra irritating. Things like - the oven door doesn't close fully and the oven doesn't cook evenly, food becomes burnt in some areas while still raw in others -  I should just be grateful the stovetop works, right? But, I am more irritated than grateful. 

Normally, I really don't care what people think of me...but for some reason this time...I do. I feel embarrassed. I think maybe it is because I don't have a plan. I always have a plan. I always have a project I am working on. But, right now, I have nothing. My plan was to work on my photography and practice my cooking, which I suppose could explain my irritation at the basement suite (with very little natural light) and the oven that doesn't really work.  Maybe my concern isn't so much what others think of me it is what I am thinking of me...right now, it isn't good. 

I feel a little stagnated, when I like to always feel like I am moving forward. I have had three different plans for starting school this fall - two have been last minute and one of those I very nearly forced through. I know that is not right for me this year. But I feel a little panicked. Maybe it is because for the first time in nine years I won't be in school and for the first time since I've had kids I will be home while all of my kids will be in school. I am in a tiny basement suite and I can only do so much cleaning...

I just had a thought...maybe it is time to make jam.* 

I feel better already. 

Thanks for the therapy session...how much do I owe you?

*a pathetic little reference to TV... back when I used to watch TV... anyone remember the Friends episode where Monica has the jam plan? Except I don't live anywhere near a dock...or have a friend like Joey...so I may have to think of something else...

17 August 2014

summer...so far

This summer, like so many in my life has been hectic and a little crazy.

We started July with one of our favourite summer activities - Canada Day in Pugwash.

Celebrating Canada Day in Pugwash is a bit of a Nova Scotian tradition for us. It starts with a parade...

heavy on the pipe bands - we all love the pipe bands. Then lunch with one of our favourite ladies from church - she is always so generous in taking us in and feeding us...and then a visit to the highland games.

The highland games are always fun to watch. The boys are always impressed with the strength these men have and I think it is fun to watch a bunch of big guys twirling around in skirts. 

My mother-in-law is from Scotland so all the kids feel a little connected to their Scottish roots every time we visit the games. 

Some of my boys want to try it and prove to everyone that they are the strongest. See that blurry kid back there on the wrong side of the ropes heading for the pitch...the one who had to be moved out of the way before this guy could throw...that's right...he's mine. 

I've been trying to let the kids have a bit of fun whenever I can. I'm trying to loosen up a little and let them enjoy the little things in life more often. They only get to experience childhood once...

You would think this kid won the lottery when I caught him blowing bubbles in his milk and asked if I could take pictures of him. He obviously thought he was going to be in trouble. It made me wonder...how mean am I usually? Yes milk spilt all over the table and the kid...but he really had fun and I had another opportunity to teach him about cleaning up - win/win. 

I've been feeling little guilty because most of our summer has looked like this. My kids...especially my youngest...have spent so much of their lives living out of boxes. This summer we moved back to British Columbia...new city this time. I am hoping our moving days will soon be over. At least the big moves. 

The only thing that I like about moving is the opportunity it gives me for road trips! (and yes I do realize that it is probably much cheaper and a lot easier to just take a road trip - my entire life has been a little like choosing the shortest line in the grocery store...you know the one...that short line that always takes the longest to get through...a constant lesson in patience). 

I love driving across Canada. And it is a good thing I do because this was our fourth time doing it! 
On this trip we were able to stop and visit some new-old friends in Manitoba. The boys had so much fun - well, we all had fun, but my boys in particular had a great time. 

We all learned a little about shooting guns...

riding quads...

and catching frogs.

As always the trip was beautiful and we loved being back in the mountains. We missed them.

It has been two weeks since our arrival and I am exhausted. After cleaning our new home, unloading boxes, beginning to unpack, visiting family, and getting in some canning...I am ready for a vacation. 

Yesterday, we took the afternoon off to have a bit of family time at the local heritage village. 

It was kind of nice heading back in time for an afternoon. But, that is all the vacation I am going to get for awhile...more boxes are waiting to be unpacked and I refuse to be the family that lives amongst piles of boxes. Maybe I'll have time to sneak in a bit of fun next week...