Thursday, 29 September 2011

Squash Week: Pumpkin Nutmeg Soup

The forecast here is calling for rain through Sunday.  Potential for wet snow on Saturday, says the weatherman.  Cool, rainy autumn days beg for soup.  And so, I'm going to recommend to you what we had a few nights ago:  Pumpkin Nutmeg Soup... if pumpkins could hug you, this is what it would feel like.

Pumpkin Nutmeg Soup
(From the Ottawa Citizen, a couple of years ago)
1 pie pumpkin, about three pounds *
3 tablespoons butter
2 medium onions, chopped
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 to 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 cup coffee cream or plain yogurt

1. Cut pumpkin in half, remove seeds, brush with butter on cut side.  Place on baking sheet, cut side down, and bake at 375 degrees for 1 hour, or until pumpkin is tender.*
2. Ub a karge saucepan, heat remaining butter and saute onions on low heat, covered,for ten minutes.  Add pumpkin, stock, and season with nutmeg.  Cook for 10 minutes.
3. Working in batches, puree the mixture in a food processor or blender until smooth.
4. Reheat soup and season with salt and pepper.  If the soup is too thick, thin with more stock.  Stir in cream or yogurt  to serve.

* I roasted three pumpkins last week, and kept the mash for all the recipes this week.  I used 3 cups of pumpkin mash.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Squash Week: Amazingly Creamy Pumpkin Penne

Tonight we have swimming lessons (Yay!  Scarlett's first time!), so we'll be having leftovers from last night.  I made a new recipe that turned out really well, so here it is.

Amazingly Creamy Pumpkin Penne
(Adapted from Cara's Cravings)

4 oz penne pasta
2 tsp olive oil
1 small onion, thinly sliced (about 75gm)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
about 2T chopped fresh sage*
2 links cooked chicken sausage, sliced**
1/2 cup low fat cottage cheese
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup nonfat milk
pinch of nutmeg
5oz torn spinach, thick stems removed
grated parmesan or pecorino romano cheese, optional

1. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-low heat. Add onions and cook gently for about 10 minutes, until softened and beginning to caramelize. Add garlic, sage, and chicken sausage; continue to saute.
2. Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions.
3. In a blender, combine combine pumpkin, cottage cheese, and milk. Blend until no lumps are present. Add to sausage mixture in skillet and continue to cook over low heat. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper, and a pinch of nutmeg.
4. Drain pasta and return to pot over low heat. Add sausage mixture and baby spinach, and toss together. Cover for a few minutes to let the spinach wilt. Serve with parmesan cheese, if desired.

* I didn't have any sage, and it tasted great.
** I used honey garlic pork sausage, because that's what was on sale at the grocery store, and it tasted great.

Monday, 26 September 2011

The Rest of the Pictures

Most people who frequent this blog have already seen the family photos that were taken after I took off my wedding dress for the Five-Year Project.  But don't you want to know what happened behind the scenes?  No?  Well, that's what this post is all about:  How we survived a photo session with a toddler and a baby.

First, you should know, we went into the game prepared.  I did my prep work.  Started talking up the merits of neckties with the two-year-old days before the event.  Swung by the discount store and stocked up on a secret stash of Hot Wheels.  Fed the baby moments before getting in the car to go to the session.  It was all as controlled as could be.  And then we arrived, Nevin saw strangers, and shut down.

Fortunately, I had a three part emergency system in place.  Code Yellow: Hot Wheels.  Code Orange: Croutons.  Code Red: Chocolate chips.  At that point, who cares if there's chocolate on his teeth and face... we need the boy in the pictures.  One photo = one chocolate chip.  Thank Goodness, we only got to Code Yellow, Step Two.  That would be the cement truck.  Step One, the police car, wasn't quite enough to take the edge off.  I had a third car, Step Three, a flashy yellow sports car that has been cataloged for future emergencies.

Once he got his groove on, he didn't want to get out of the pictures.  In that last picture, where's Nevin, you ask?  It went something like this, "Oh no, I think I dropped the cement truck Nevin, you better go check and make sure its in the bag still!"  Poor naive little guy.  Scarlett is just out of the frame, eating as many clovers as she can before a big person comes and saves her from her insatiable hunger for lawns.

Overall the session was a huge success, mostly because the photographers went with the flow and let Nevin's whims dictate the direction we went with the photos.  At the end, on the way out of the park, the sun came out and the light was gorgeous, so we took one last picture.  At this point, it was bed time, though, so coaxing a smile out of the kids was beyond anyone's capabilities.  Nevin was tired, and Scarlett was desperate for a snack and trying to get at it.  If you know the back story,  she totally looks like she's been caught with her hand in the cookie jar.  I love it.
These were just a few of many (i.e. dozens!) of great photos from the day... thanks again to Luke and Lee-Anne!

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Squash Week: Butternut Squash "Lasagna"

The last things harvested from our garden were the butternut squash and sugar pumpkins.  My kitchen is overrun with them, so I hereby declare this week "Squash Week".  Its like Shark Week, only with less teeth and more starch.

Our favourite way to eat squash is just sliced in half and roasted with diced apples, margarine and brown sugar in the hollow, but its nice to change it up sometimes.  Enter our second most favourite recipe: Butternut Squash "Lasagna." 

Butternut Squash Lasagna
(Adapted from Terra Firma Farms Community Supported Agriculture Newsletter of Nov. 12, 2008)
1 large butternut squash, peeled
1 bunch kale, or other greens (I always use baby spinach)
1 large onion
3 cloves garlic
3 tbsp olive oil
2 cups diced tomatoes (or one 19oz can, drained)
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 tbsp chopped fresh sage leaves (optional)
1.5 cups grated Gruyere, mozzarella or fontina cheese

1. Carefully cut the squash in half lengthwise, then scoop out the seeds.  Place the halves, face-down and cut in 1/4-inch thick slices.
2. Remove and discard the stems from 1 bunch of kale or other greens.  Chop the leaves roughly.
3. Dice 1 large onion and mince 3 cloves of garlic.  Saute the onion in 3 tablespoons olive oil until soft, then add the garlic and cook another minute.  Add the kale and cook for 5 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.
4. Lightly grease a 13 x 9 inch baking dish or large cast iron skillet, then cover with an overlapping layer of squash slices.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Spread the cooked greens over the squash, then make another layer of squash.
5.  Spoon 2 cups of diced tomatoes and 1 tbsp chopped fresh sage leaves over this layer, then make another layer of squash.  Top with grated cheese.
6. Bake the casserole at 350 F for 45 minutes or until it is brown on top and bubbling.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Nevin's Quilt

When I was in college, my roommate had an enviable blanket.  It was a quilt that her mother made her while she was expecting.  It was full sized and hand quilted.  You could just picture her mom and a young woman, stitching it thinking about the little person who would carry it with them through life. 

I knew, when I became a mother, it was something I wanted to do.  Of course, I had never made a quilt before.  What was supposed to be my gift to my newborn, quickly became the best first birthday present ever, which then was downgraded to the best second birthday present ever.  I finished it and gave it to him a couple weeks ago.  A little behind schedule.  Its not hand quilted (except for the first three squares I did, that helped me realize that I would take it to the grave if I continued).  Its a simple pattern and has little to no visual charm, but I made it.  For him.  And I used some old shirts from his father and grandfather, so its mot just me that is sewn into it.  A little help from Nana, almost three years, a lot of mistakes, a couple of sewn fingers later... here it is.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

The Five-Year Project

Ladies and gents, Shawn and I have been married for 5 years.  Five years!  Its strange how it seems like its gone by so fast, but at the same time, it feels like he's always been by my side.

We've changed, our relationship has changed, and our family has most certainly grown, but at the core, we're still us.  We don't normally get each other anything extravagant for our anniversary, but this year we decided to give ourselves a gift.  We hired a photographer.  It is time to start documenting the changes.  It is time to start The Five-Year Project.

Every five years, I will put on my wedding dress, Shawn will pull on his suit, we'll dress up the kids, and re-enact a couple of our wedding photos.

Here is the first installment of The Five-Year Project.

Cheers to many, many more.

(Many thanks to Luke and Lee-Anne from Luke and Lee Photography.  They were so great - wish they were available the first time 'round!)

Monday, 19 September 2011

Baird Trail

After nap time, we headed out of town and went for a mini hike on a 1km trail.  The perfect distance for a two-year-old to walk on his own.  It had all sorts of little info markers, so Shawn and I learned a lot, too.  I now know what a Wheevil is, and what a Yellow Birch looks like, which also happens to be my new favourite tree.

Nevin said it all when he said, "We're going to find some anibals.  I'm sooooo excited."

Friday, 16 September 2011

My husband? The celebrity?

Things got exciting in Perth this morning, and my dearest found his way into the middle of it. 

One of the Ottawa morning shows decided to broadcast live from Perth, and Shawn got a feature interview.  For those of your who haven't met him, the interview was about local cycling initiatives... he doesn't normally walk around head-to-toe in spandex. 

The kids and I went to cheer him on for all four minutes of fame. 

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Baby Legs

Sunday morning, I made Scarlett some baby legs, for her already adorable baby legs.

I used to have a picture of what you need to do it, but there was an unfortunate memory card incident at our house.  Fortunately, its so easy, you don't need pictures. 

I had old toe socks in the bottom of my drawer.  I chopped off the toes.  I used a zigzag stitch on my sewing machine around the raw edge, about a 1/4 inch above where I had cut.  I had planned on just zigzagging to prevent runs, and then folding the edge over and sewing a nice seam, but I made a happy mistake.  When I fed the sock through, I stretched it a little tiny bit accidentally, so it ended up ruffling the bottom edge.  I liked the way it looked, so I decided to do the same thing to the other side and leave the bottom raw.

They are perfect little leg warmers for cool mornings. 

Snazzy legs, Scarlett.
The kids watched me do it, since it only took about ten minutes, and this is where the real lesson comes in.  I thought I'd do it quick while Nevin was playing with his cars and Scarlett was sitting chewing on her toys, but they were both totally fascinated by my sewing machine.  Nevin pulled his high chair right up next to me and was pointing and asking questions.  Of course he was: he loves everything mechanical, and to him, my sewing machine is just one more cool machine to learn about.  Later, when I reflected on it, I realized that I hadn't offered to involve him, as I normally do with activities around the house, because deep down, I was thinking, "girls sew.  Boys don't like to sew, so he won't be interested."  Traditional gender roles are so deeply engrained that I didn't even realize that I was making faulty assumptions about what he would be interested in based on gender stereotypes, and by extension teaching, however subconsciously, these roles to him.  I'm glad he taught me the lesson, and I took the time to heed it, but it makes me wonder how many other messages am I sending him?

What are some of the ways that you break down the traditional gender roles in your house?

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Tomatoes + Feta Cheese + Bacon

If you have never tried the tomato + feta cheese + bacon combo, you need to.  It is amazing.  I might be a little biased, since we don't use much table salt in our house and bacon is oh-sooo-salty (and feta is OH-sooooo-salty).  We had it with pasta, but I'm dreaming of the possibilities.  Crostini with crumble of feta over a slice of tomato over a piece of bacon.  Warmed bacon wrapped cherry tomatoes with a little hunk of feta hiding under that divine porcine blanket.  And, for all you pregnant readers out there, there must be a way to incorporate ice cream into this (no? too far?).

Yummy with bruschetta

BFT Pasta
3 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
2 Tbsp crumbled bacon (or Hormel bacon bits in our house)
1/4 cup feta cheese
2 tsp dried basil
Cooked pasta

Saute the tomatoes and basil in a tablespoon of olive oil until softened, but not mushy, about 5 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Add bacon, feta cheese and warm pasta.  Toss and serve.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Family Photos

I am so excited!  Today we got family photos done by Luke and Lee photography!  Normally, Shawn does them, and he does a fantastic job, but what we had in mind was a little more than we could handle on our own.  So we hired some help.

I can not wait to share them with the world.  In the meantime, doesn't my little boy look adorable?  He was so proud to where his little man tie.

Do you get excited about family photos?  What do you do with them once you've got them?

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Pear Upside-down Cake

After a couple of days of cooler temperatures, I was in the mood for some hearty, carb heavy, straight-from-the-oven coking today.  Of course, by the time dinner rolled around, it was 22 degrees outside, but the ball was already rolling, so I went with it.

Shawn was thrilled to come home to lasagna and Pear Upside-down Cake.  Nevin was thrilled to have Cake.  Scarlett was just thrilled to be alive.

Just in case you picked up a basket of pears at the grocery store and discovered the very next day that they were overripe (already?!?), I've posted the cake recipe below.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Neighbourhood Breakfast

I do not live in an amazing house.  It doesn't have character, it needs work that we can't afford, and, being a country girl, the size of my town lot leaves much to be desired.  However, we are completely surrounded by caring neighbours.  Most of them are stay-at-home moms.
via rosa e chocolat

Today we got together for breakfast to "celebrate" Back-to-School.  At least I was celebrating, not going back to school for the first time since I was 4 years old.  The rest of them decompressed from the stress of sending their kids back to school.

One of my favorite blogs gave out some advice today: appreciate and embrace your current season of life.  Having and infant and a toddler is a lesson in patience and sleep deprivation, but I am in control.  My main objective in a day is literally to survive.  All I have to do is meet my kids' basic needs: eat, drink, sleep, shelter.  I am in control.  This is the only time in my life I will be in control of their needs, and I am embracing and cherishing the season.  I do not have to worry about a 4-year-old's worries about inadequacies on the first real day in school.  I do not have to worry about a 6-year-old  being bullied by a 10-year-old on the schoolyard.  I don't have to worry about my awesomely quirky ninth grader getting noticed by some close-minded hick of a twelfth grader.

There are so many lessons to be learned at school, in and out of the classroom, and they need to be learned, but man, it's tough being a mother.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Grape Jam

Today I gained a new appreciation for grape jam.  Mr. Smuckers deserves every cent of his millions if he started his empire doing what I did today. 

I went over to my mothers house and we harvested her concord grapes.  The harvesting part was actually kind of fun.  Given my history, its pretty a pretty rare occasion that people in my family allow me to climb up a ladder - with scissors, no less.  And the amount that we found under all those leaves made me amazed at the abundance of fruit and giddy with anticipation of jam for a year.

Upon harvesting, it was time to separate the skins from the pulp to make jam.  This is where things turned sour.  (Anyone else catch that pun?  Hehe.)  Over the course of the day, I really honed my technique, but it was a long process nonetheless.  I had completely underestimated how long it would take - I guesstimate project times based one how long my kids nap and I thought it would be a one and half nap kind of job.  It took the entire day, and in the end we gave a third of the grapes away (by the way, come by today, I still about 10 pounds I'm trying to get rid of.  Seriously.  Otherwise they are destined for the compost bin). 

On the positive side, my Gram and uncle came by to help, so I got to spend the entire day sitting and talking with them.  Four generations together, squishing grapes.  Days like this are why I moved back home.  I love the simple things in life.

Grape Jam Recipe
(From my Great Grandmother, Leefa Myers)
Wash grapes and separate skins from pulp.  Put on pulp and boil until stones come out (put through colander).  Put together skins and pulp and add sugar pound for pound.  Bring to a good rolling boil.  Seal in sterilized* jars (put  1/4" parawax on top of each jar before sealing).

*my mom puts the jars in the oven at 250 degrees for about a half an hour.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Spiced Peach Muffins

Today was a busy day full of visitors.  My cousins came to meet Scarlett (how does 7 months go by so fast?), I met my good friend's boyfriend (how does 5 months go by so fast?) and Nana came for dinner (how does... oh, wait, I think we've seen her everyday this week - and that's a good thing).

Lots of visitors, plus lots of peaches ripening on my counter, plus Nevin thinking he doesn't like muffins anymore (I'm pretty sure I left the sugar out of last week's muffins...) made for a perfect opportunity to make something yummy.

Spiced Peach Muffins
(From King Authur Flour)
2 1/2 cups All-Purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 cups dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/4 cups milk
4 peaches, diced (not peeled)

Combine flour, salt, baking powder, brown sugar, allspice, nutmeg and cinnamon in a large bowl. Stir in eggs, vegetable oil and milk, then gently stir in fruit. Grease 16 muffin cups, and heap batter into cups; they'll be very full. Sprinkle with granulated sugar. Bake at 400°F for 25 to 30 minutes, or until muffins test done.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

No-Bake Fruit Pie

Since the husbands are out of town for the weekend, a couple of us decided to pool our resources - both food and patience - and have dinner together.  The kids had a blast.  They literally ran in circles around the kitchen island.  Even the babies were having fun... Scarlett just sat smiling in her exersaucer, like she was watching the best tennis match ever.

My contribution was dessert.  I made a No-Bake Fruit Pie from a promotional Foodland Ontario flyer that I picked up at the grocery store checkout.  It was delicious.  Thank you Government of Ontario... you may have just earned a re-election vote from me thanks to this recipe.

Recipe below...

Friday, 2 September 2011

Perth Fair Parade 2011

Today the kids and I went to a little parade after dinner.  It was only about 20 minutes long, and consisted entirely of emergency vehicles, vintage cars, dealership cars and Shriners.  The Perth Citizen's Band and Town Crier also made an appearance.  It was quaint.  Nevin LOVED it.

He's trying to point, but his hand is full of candy.
Life's downright boring without Daddy.

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