Posts Tagged ‘winter’

Hot and Delicious Soups

Friday, March 13th, 2009


With much of the country still within winter’s chilly grasp, it’s a great time of year for warm, comforting, and delicious soups. Enjoy!

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ITALIAN SAUSAGE AND PASTA SOUP
From Nancy Jacobson at Chinaberry

1 pound of Italian sausage
2 small carrots, chopped (about 6 oz.)
1 onion, chopped (about 6 oz.)
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1½ quarts of chicken broth (I use the Trader Joe’s organic)
1 14½ oz. can diced tomatoes
1 15 oz. can white beans (rinsed and drained)
½ tablespoon dried basil
1 cup dry pasta shells (or some kind of small shape)
2 quarts of fresh spinach leaves (about 6 oz.). I measure them by packing them into a quart measure
Parmesan cheese

  1. Squeeze the sausages from casings into a 4-6 quart pan over high heat and brown, stirring often, breaking the pieces apart until crumbly (8-10 minutes). Drain all but one tablespoon of fat.
  2. Add carrots, onion, and garlic; stir often until onion is limp, 5-7 minutes.
  3. Add broth, tomatoes (including juice), beans, and basil and bring to a boil.
  4. * Add pasta, reduce heart, and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until pasta is just tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in spinach and cook until just wilted, about 30 seconds.
  5. Serve with Parmesan cheese.

* Note: This is fine if you will be serving/eating it all at one sitting. I cook the pasta separately so that it’s not sitting in the leftover soup swelling up.

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WINTER SQUASH AND KALE SOUP
Janet Kelly’s (Chinaberry) wonderful vegetarian soup was adapted from a recipe in Today’s Health & Wellness magazine.

1 tsp canola oil
1 small onion, chopped; or 1/3 cup frozen chopped onion
1 small red bell paper, cored, seeded, and chopped (about ½ cup)
1/8 to 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 14½-ounce can reduced-sodium diced tomatoes
2 cups peeled, seeded, and cubed kaboche, acorn, butternut, or blue Hubbard winter squash
1 cup reduced-sodium vegetable broth
2 Tbs reduced-fat peanut butter
4 kale leaves (about 6 ounces), stemmed and shredded
¼ tsp salt

  1. Heat a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Swirl in the canola oil, then add the onion and bell pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until softened and aromatic, about 2 minutes.
  2. Stir in the cayenne, cook 5 seconds, then stir in the tomatoes, squash, broth, and peanut butter until the peanut butter dissolves. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook until the squash is soft, about 15 minutes, stirring once in a while.
  3. Stir in kale, cover again, and cook until kale is tender and squash falls apart to thicken the soup, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and spoon into bowls. Serve at once.

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Homemade Bread Recipes

Thursday, February 19th, 2009

These deliciously warm homemade bread recipes–Whole Wheat Rolls, Bran Muffins & Empire State Muffins–are from the Eat, Drink and Be Chinaberry cookbook (sorry, out-of-print).

WHOLE WHEAT ROLLS
“Great with soup, or shaped into a burger bun, these are wonderful with anything you want to sandwich in between two halves.”
- Ann Ruethling (from Chinaberry); San Diego, California

2 T dry yeast
1 cup lukewarm water
1 cup hot water
1/4-1/2 cup honey
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp salt
2 eggs (slightly beaten)
6 cups whole wheat flour

Dissolve yeast in the lukewarm water and let sit until foamy (about 5 minutes).
Combine the hot water, honey, oil and salt, mixing until the honey is dissolved.
Add eggs and stir well.
Add yeast mixture. (But make sure the hot water has cooled enough so that it doesn’t kill the yeast. Also there is no need to knead!)
Add flour and mix well.
(If you plan to use the dough immediately, add 1/2 cup more flour. Otherwise, refrigerate for 1-3 hours or so, at which point it will be firmer and easier to handle.)
Shape the dough into rolls, slash tops.
Allow to rise. (They will rise very quickly - the warmer your kitchen, the quicker.
Bake at 425° for 10-20 minutes.

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Wild and Wintry - Searching for Animals During Wintertime

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

The following excerpt is taken from I Love Dirt by Jennifer Ward.

Cold winters are certainly a bit quieter than the summertime, regarding what’s out and about. It’s a less active time for many species that adapt to cold temperatures by seeking shelter or migrating to warmer climates. However, it’s not a completely vacant time in nature. Many animals remain active throughout the winter, even in the coldest temperatures. You need only look and see.

Have your children search for animals that are present in the wintertime, such as cardinals, owls, deer, squirrels, blue jays, nuthatches, chickadees, titmice, bunnies, foxes, and so on. Even though you may not see an animal, chances are you’ll see evidence that it has been around. The lack of foliage on trees makes spying a bit easier, however, and animals leave tracks and trails though the snow. Chances are you’ll have great luck finding wintry wildlife.

Look for evidence with your children, be it in your backyard, at a park, or throughout your neighborhood:

  • Food caches, such as seeds and nuts. Look but don’t touch. Animals hid these food stores specifically to help them survive the winter, when less food is available.
  • Chew marks. Many animals will nibble and eat bark from trees, since leaves are sparse. If you’re near a natural water source, beavers are probably burrowed in their dens, but chances are you can find evidence of their existence from chewed branches and logs.
  • Tunnels and burrows in the snow.
  • Sounds. Can you hear birdcalls? Squirrel chatter? A coyote’s howl?

Keep a journal of your discoveries, and use a sketchbook to render what you see.

This is for the Birds: A Midwinter Tree

Friday, December 26th, 2008

Making a feast tree for the birds and small woodland animals that live by our home has always been one of my children’s most treasured holiday activities. They love the whole process—making the food, decorating the tree and then watching through the kitchen window as the little animals eat their treats. We usually make our tree for the birds out of our own Christmas tree after we have dismantled it, but most any tree will do. We drag it outside to a sheltered spot in the backyard where we can unobtrusively observe the animals’ doings and then decorate it with all kinds of yummy bird and squirrel treats. This is a fun activity that preschoolers manage with ease. In case you are interested in trying this out for yourself, here are a few ideas on how to decorate your tree.

  • Strings of Popcorn—All you need to make this welcome delicacy is plenty of freshly popped corn (omit the butter and salt) and a needle and thread for each person. Knot the thread and then carefully push the needle through the popcorn. Some young children have trouble making these, as the popcorn needs to be threaded with a light touch or it tends to crumble. You’ll have to judge your child’s dexterity level. Some enjoy this activity greatly; others find making popcorn strands tedious. Our family has found that if we appoint one person to read aloud and have the rest of the family stringing, our popcorn strings grow much longer with much less effort. We have tried stringing cranberries but the animals in our area, anyway, don’t seem to care for them.
  • Peanut Butter Pinecones—This treat is always the first to be eaten by the birds at our house. They’re simple to make and a big hit with the preschool crowd. Be forewarned, these can be a bit messy to make but are always worth the effort. You’ll need pinecones (most any kind will do, the more open the better), string, peanut butter, birdseed and sunflower seeds. To begin, knot a string loop on the cone so it is easy to hang the finished product on the tree. Next, mix the seeds together and pour them into a shallow pan (a pie pan or a small roasting pan will both work well). Slather pinecones with peanut butter, using a knife or your fingers to gently push the peanut butter into the cracks. I tend to assign this task to the oldest child, if she is willing, since it is the messiest and small children have trouble getting enough peanut butter on the cone. If there are no older children available, an adult might want to do this. And last, roll the cone in the seeds, trying to get as many seeds as possible onto the peanut butter. (Many two-year-olds are fabulous at this messy task!) It should look like one big blob of seeds when you are done.
  • Fruit Strands—Slice apples and oranges in rounds and string like the popcorn.
  • Suet Balls—For this nutritious tidbit, ask the butcher for suet. You will need to have a few empty paper egg cartons on hand, as well as some birdseed and a bit of yarn or string. To begin, melt the suet over low heat (be very careful with the hot fat and young children). Add in an equal amount of birdseed and stir. Gently stir the suet-birdseed mixture as you pour it into the egg holes in the egg carton. Make a loop of yarn or string and place it into the melted suet mixture. (This is a great job for three- or four-year-olds.) When the suet cools, the yarn will become the handle with which you hang the suet on the tree. Some people like to add some peanut butter to this mixture for extra nutrition. Allow the suet to harden and then gently peel away the egg carton to hang the suet balls on the tree.
  • Once you have gathered enough goodies to decorate your tree, make it an event. (For inspiration read Night Tree by Eve Bunting. After you decorate your tree, don’t forget the ground-feeding birds. Leave a few peanut butter pinecones and some extra birdseed on the ground for them to nibble, too.

Containers of Connection & Love

Friday, November 7th, 2008

One could say that everything we do for the holidays is an effort to create ‘containers of connection’ — ways to ensure Light and Love are present in the cold and wintry darkness of the year.

My family’s special ‘container of connection’ is a cluster of old log cabins in the backwoods of Alabama — our homestead for over thirty years. Our entire wild and wooly clan descends on Papa every December — children, spouses, grandchildren, dogs, cats, guinea pigs, and a cockatiel named Tuck. Mama found the land long ago and convinced her high-powered attorney husband to live intimately with the natural world. She died awhile back, and nowadays Papa is gardener, farmer, and beekeeper. Mostly he spends his time figuring out how to co-inhabit with the wild creatures who really own the place.

As the longest night approaches, our land grows still and expectant, serenely waiting for the return of Light. But inside the cabins, chaos reigns. Inflatable mattresses have new holes to patch; children find the candy stash and fly around in sugared frenzies; tempers flare over non-stop eating and mounds of dirty dishes. Unresolved issues from childhood pour out over dinner; doors slam; people pout and yell, and we are left wondering why in the world, once again, we agreed to participate in such madness. (more…)

The Power of a Smile

Thursday, October 9th, 2008

On a recent business trip to New York, it was very cold, the wind was blowing, my feet hurt from the previous 8 hours spent walking the trade show floor, and I was starving. Needless to say, I wasn’t in the best of moods and wanted nothing more than to go back to my hotel room and crawl under the covers. Unfortunately, I still had a business dinner to get through that evening.

So there I was, walking in the snow and wind, feeling very sorry for myself, and knowing my misery wasn’t going to end anytime soon. I came to a corner where I had to stop to wait for the light. A little boy of about six was standing there, holding his mother’s hand. Suddenly, for no reason, this child looked up and gave me the biggest, brightest, sweetest smile ever. His whole face just glowed in my direction. My rotten mood evaporated — poof! — just like that! With one brilliant smile, that little boy turned my day around.

I have thought about that incident many times since that trip — how the actions of a complete stranger had such a profound effect on me. When I look back on it, I can’t help but think about what effect I may have on the people I come into contact with on any given day.

The holidays are stressful times for so many — people who don’t have any family close by, people who have suffered the recent loss of a loved one, people who have lost a job at the worst possible time, or people who are just piling too much on their plates (as I was that cold New York day). This holiday season, remember this story of the difference a little boy made as you go about your day. Make your smiles brighter, say a kind word, offer to help if you can sense it is needed, and leave a positive impression wherever you can. One small gesture could end up being the best gift you have ever given.