Sunday, October 13, 2013

(Copycat) Autumn Squash Soup

Yes, it's that time of year. Autumn.

Time for football, leaves falling and SOUP. Glorious, warm, comforting soup.

I'll be honest, I tried the Autumn Squash Soup at Panera Bread and fell in love. It's a perfect marriage of flavors and texture and, frankly, it's heaven on a spoon. Thus began my quest to recreate the recipe.

So, that's what I did. oh was delicious! I still have some tweaking to do but I think it's pretty much right on the money. Easy to make and really very inexpensive. 

Of course, what's a recipe if not shared?

Here you go:

Autumn Squash Soup

1 Butternut Squash, peeled, seeded and diced
2 TBSP butter, melted
2 apples, peeled, cored and diced (I used Gala, use your favorite)
4 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 clove of garlic, diced
1 onion, diced
1 TBSP Extra Virgin Olive Oil (or Coconut Oil)
1 15oz can of pure pumpkin
1/4 Cup of Honey (or to taste)
1 32oz carton of vegetable stock (you can use chicken stock if you aren't cooking vegetarian)
1/2 pint heavy cream (or soy milk)
1/8 TSP Pumpkin Pie Spice (or to taste)
1/8 TSP Cinnamon (or to taste)
1/8 TSP Curry (or to taste...the darker the curry the sweeter it is...or so they say)
Salt & Pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.

Place diced butternut squash on a foil-lined baking sheet and brush with melted butter. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and pumpkin pie spice. Roast for 1 hour or until fork-tender.

While the squash is roasting, saute the apples, carrots, celery, onion and garlic in extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil. Season with salt, pepper, 1/8 TSP pumpkin pie spice, 1/8 TSP cinnamon and 1/8 TSP of curry. (Of course these are all approximate spice measurements and will vary based on your taste...remember, you can always add more but you can't take it back out!)

Transfer sauteed veggies to a blender or food processor and puree. If you have an immersion blender, please use that! If you use a blender or food processor, take care because the veggies are hot and will need proper ventilation for steam.
As you puree, add small amounts of vegetable stock to make the blending process easier.
Add puree back to soup pot.

When the squash is fork-tender, remove from the oven and puree. If using an immersion blender, simply add to the soup pot and blend with the veggie puree.

Add all purees to the pot and then add a can of pumpkin and mix and the honey. Add heavy cream or soy milk and remaining vegetable stock until desired consistency is reached. (As a point of reference, this soup should be roughly the consistency of baby food. was the best comparison I could come up with!)

Serve hot and garnished with pepitas or sunflower seeds.

A nice, crusty baguette or sandwich is also a nice addition.

Sit down and savor this soup. It is divine in its complexity and also in its simplicity.

This dish is vegetarian and gluten-free in my recipe, but can easily be made vegan by utilizing soy milk. It is also a nice addition to a Paleo diet. :)

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

What 9/11 taught me...

Before 9/11/01...

I understood the military. After all, I was raised by a Vietnam veteran and was newly married to a soldier.
I had this figured out. None of it was all that big of a deal, just another path in the life of some.

On September 11, 2001...

It was sunny and I was driving down I-470 in Topeka to get my son to daycare and then I was off to work. Gabe was turning 1 in four days and his daddy would be home on mid-tour leave soon from his hardship tour in South Korea. In my little bubble, that was all that mattered.

I was listening to Johnny Dare on 98.9 The Rock out of Kansas City. Suddenly, the typically snarky DJ becomes very serious. I can't remember his exact words, but they involved something about a plane hitting one of the twin towers in New York City. My blood froze and I listened. Holy crap. I didn't yet know what was happening but I knew it wasn't good.

Gabe was dropped off at daycare and I headed to my mom's work to quickly check the news. When I arrived, I watched the first tower collapse on TV. Pretty sure I cried.

I went to work. Everyone was glued to the news. I was waiting for anything from Mike over in Korea, I hadn't heard from him. Finally, the call. All he said was that they were on lock down and headed to the DMZ in BFV's.

His last words? "Stay away from Fort Riley. We're going to war."

The following days were a blur. Midtour leave was cancelled. Gabe turned 1, but rather than a cartoon cake he had an American Flag. His Uncle Ben, a Sailor headed to his station in Guam, was delayed due to cancelled flights. He was home to see his first nephew celebrate a birthday.

Sooner or later, life settled back into a routine. The Korean tour ended and life went on.

In March 2003, the orders for OIF came down. Gabe was sending his daddy to war.

The years since that combat tour have been full. Welcoming babies and saying our goodbyes to parents and grandparents.

I knew nothing about PTSD...what it was, what it could do, how to respond. As the years went on, it was trying to teach me but I wasn't seeing it. Eventually, it won.

Interestingly enough, when I did learn, it taught me some things I didn't expect. It didn't fix my marriage but it did teach me compassion and the ability to co-parent. It also taught me to look at my own dad...a man who I spent so many years angry with. All of a sudden, a sliver of light was making its way in.

Today, when I look at 9/11, I do remember the horror. We all do. How can we not?

But I also think of what this journey has taught me. The relationship I have with my own father now, 12 years later, is stronger that it's ever been. My mind has been opened...forgiveness has happened...this man who raised me is someone whom I respect more than any written word could express.

This weekend, in just a few days, my mom and dad will visit when Gabe turns 13 years old.

Maybe his cake will have Old Glory gracing it yet again. :)

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Lorax--my review

For many years now, I have been in love with The Lorax. I appreciated Dr. Seuss's way of discussing an environmentally- and politically-charged issue in a very "calm" way. When I was working with the Topeka Zoo, I read The Lorax to the kids in our classes a lot. I was always so happy that I could talk to them about environmental and conservation education without worrying about an "agenda". I completely desecrated an entire Lorax book with my own kids because we read it sooo much. I am a tree girl...through and through, I LOVE TREES.

When I heard The Lorax was coming out on the Silver Screen, cast with the likes of Danny DeVito, Betty White, Ed Helms and Taylor Swift, I was excited...cautiously excited.

After all, Hollywood has a well-earned reputation of blasting their agenda through much of what they produce. The Lorax, although a beloved story, was just sitting there asking to be the next Poster Child for the Environmental Movement.

Regardless, I decided the chickens and I were going to see this movie on Opening Night...on Dr. Seuss's birthday. In 3D.

I entered the theatre last night, unsure of how this was all going to unfold. If Hollywood was going to tell the story the way it was meant to be told. I was also hoping the 3D would be worth it this time (most of the time it really isn't...but I digress)...

After LOTS of additions to the story (it had to last over an hour!), lots of singing and cute one-liners...I am thrilled to report that this movie is really what it's supposed to be. There is definitely some "big business and Capitalism are bad!" going on...but that isn't the agenda here. I left the theatre feeling very much like Hollywood had given "wise use" of resources a fair shot. This definitely wasn't an "all or nothing" movie.

This film is layered like a giant, multi-colored onion...there are so many ideas to see and dissect. I will watch it again and again. And each time I will surely come away with more insight to why The Lorax is such an important story.

The moral of this blog? Even in Hollywood, NO ONE over-rules Dr. Seuss. :)

Oh, and just in case you were curious...The Lorax definitely makes the 3D worth it!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Contrail

I woke up this morning, the Tenth Anniverary of 9/11, at my parents' house.  It was quiet because they live in the country.  I laid there and listened to the silence...thinking.  Thinking. 

Mass was outdoors this morning and what a lovely day for it!  Chilly at first, but the sky was blue and the sun rose with a purpose.  Mass began with a nice tribute to 9/11 and a flag ceremony by the Boy Scouts.  I took note that they correctly set Old Glory to half-staff.

The kids were a bit jittery but I was in my own world.  Years of Catholic school education still leave me with the ability to waltz through a Mass with no problem...all the prayers and the calisthenics that come with it.  Although this isn't probably looked fondly upon, it did give me the ability to reflect while still participating. 

As the Mass moved on, I felt the warm sun on my back.  I noticed the blue sky.  No clouds to be seen.  It reminded be distinctly of a day, ten years earlier, that looked very much the same.  That Tuesday morning in 2001 was a cloudless, azure beauty, just like this morning.  The trees were fully adorned in their summer best, a few beginning to resign themselves to Autumn's golden whispers.  Birds still flew and a light breeze tickled the congregation.

Quietly, I noticed a glint of light.  I looked up.  A contrail.  A closer look would reveal the outline of a jetliner skimming the blue above.  This, you see, is nothing out of the ordinary here.  We live directly under the flight path of Kansas City International  to Denver International.  We see tiny planes and their self-made clouds on a daily basis here.

This morning was different.  As Psalms were read in the background, I imagined this jet.  The cockpit...the flight crew...the passengers.  I wondered how many of them were scared to fly today?  How many of them almost didn't board that flight?  I wondered how many of those airline employees lost a co-worker or a friend ten-years ago today?  I wondered if "flying the friendly skies" will ever be "friendly" again, especially on September 11?

I leaned to the left and whispered to my brother, Rich..."Those have to be some brave souls to board a jetplane on September 11."  He looked up, nodding reverently, and went back to Mass-as-usual.  I watched the plane until it flew out of my peripheral view.  I wonder what those itty-bitty souls in that itty-bitty jetplane would have thought if they'd known what this girl on the ground was thinking?  That I was sitting at Mass, praying for them, in the presence of the American Flag at half-staff?  I wonder if they knew God was with them?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

¡No Pollo!

This is a story that just never seems to end.  Let me explain...

Back many years ago, when I was about 13 or 14, my parents decided to get chickens.  Yes, we lived in the "country", but not on a farm.  I'd never owned livestock before.  I was unskilled how to make the distinction between "pet" and "food".  This is where we run into a problem.

When we first got these chickens, they were chicks.  They were little, they were yellow, they were fuzzy.  Possibly the most important part...they peeped.  I was hooked.

It's been a while since "ChickenGate" went down, so I'll remember this the best I can.  It was several months of feeding and tending to chicks.  Who somehow, quickly, turned into white hens.  But I LOVED the white hens!!  And I played with them.  And fed them.  I even picked them up and carried them around. 

Meanwhile, as I sit back and think, I'm sure my mother was inside washing dishes and looking out at me, thinking: "You know, we should really tell her we're going to make her kill those chickens and eat them."  And then she just went back to washing dishes...
I cannot remember ever being told the chickens were going into the frying pan, but then again I'm not sure I would have believed it anyway...

One day came and it was TIME.  I'm not really sure how it went down, but my mom had a knife and some chickens lost their noggins.  I remember being tasked with scalding and removing the feathers.  It was not awesome.  In fact, it was downright horrid.  That was seared into my memory.

For many meals after that, chicken was on the menu.  From that day on, "chicken on the bone" is just something I cannot do.

Fast forward to present day...

My brother, Tom, has chickens.  They are running around his yard.  He's gonna throw 'em in the smoker and eat 'em.  My kid, Gabe, wants to see how this all goes down.  On one hand this is a great biology experiment for brother is a Naturalist and I know he will approach it that way.  For that I am thrilled.  On the other hand, I'm sitting here almost gagging.

Fast forward again...

Gabe has help put the "laughter" in "slaughter"!  Ok, no not really...but he did have a good time helping out with the chickens.  He said it was kinda gross, but mostly it was cool.  He has been teasing me about it for days now, getting in my face with his arms flapping at his hips, saying "BOK BOK BOK!!"  I'd slap him if it didn't make me laugh.

So, Gabe had a great experience and it turns out it wasn't any different than hunting.  He knows where his food comes from...that in itself is valuable knowledge for a kiddo. 

Oh...and there are more chickens clucking around up at Tom's place..."here chicky chicky chicky..."

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Preserving the 7th Amendment

The day after Independence Day...the day after we celebrated our freedom...we saw, once again, that our Founders were brilliant. 

We saw yesterday why our bravest men and women fight tirelessly for our freedom.

"In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law."

Whatever happened to little Caylee, God will avenge her.  Yesterday, however, the jury did their job.  Reasonable doubt was alive in the jurors' minds and they did the correct thing. 

We certainly don't have to appreciate this verdict, but we must understand that we have the greatest Justice System on earth. 

Friday, June 10, 2011


Today, as I was driving down the highway with Jackie & Will, it hit me just how much I miss Gabe.  I miss his obnoxious laugh, his "pre-teen" way of seeing everything, the way only a boy can.  I miss him watching out for me, knowing he is fiercely loyal.  But most of all, I miss how he protects his little brother and sister. 

As we were leaving a store in the mall today (I had to make a quick exchange), Jackie and Will took off running.  With my back and knee all screwed up, I just can't chase them.  So out the doors they went, into the parking lot, and to the van.  On my way out the door, I got an evil look from one of the store employees.  I smiled wryly and went on after my kids.  My thoughts were not pleasant.

As I reached the van and proceeded to make my children's poor decision clear to them, I realized the part of the equation that was missing:  Gabe.  The kids miss him and they are totally out of their element.  I miss him...he usually plays bouncer and cop for me where the little ones are concerned.  If they take off, I send Gabe bounding after them.  It isn't always pretty, but it gets the job done.

So I am completely looking forward to tomorrow evening at 5:30pm when I get to go pick up my boy and bring him back to me where he belongs.  I have a new perspective on Gabe and just how precious he is.