Eat Local // Sweet Butternut Squash Soup

>> Monday, October 20, 2014

Would you believe that when I started this blog back in 2009, I had absolutely no idea what it meant to cook seasonally? I’d go to the grocery store, pick up whatever looked good that week, and make whatever recipes interested me at the moment. Instant gratification at its finest. I can’t really blame myself, though. That’s how the store system is set up -- we can have it all if we want, whenever we want.


After I had immersed myself in the food world for a couple years and honed my own cooking skills, I had a sort of awakening. Or maybe it was a pretty fundamental mind shift certainly also sparked by books like Plenty (100 Mile Diet), Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and more. I started to understand where my food actually comes from and why it’s not exactly natural, for example, to slice fresh tomatoes onto my plate in the dead of a Northeast winter. I also discovered the world of CSA shares, local farmers, and buying more eats -- like eggs, honey, milk, etc. -- from nearby sources. 

I can’t say I eat locally 100 percent of the time. After all, we shamelessly stash bananas and avocados in our cart at Aldi on a weekly basis. We favor our local cafes and restaurants, but still go through the Panera drive through in a pinch. And -- yes -- I heartily eat up those supermarket tomatoes for a subpar taste of summer even on the coldest January afternoon. In my opinion, it’s all about balance and trying and budget and trying some more.

This soup was actually inspired by one of those Panera quickie experiences. They have an autumn squash soup on the menu that’s sickeningly sweet -- I knew I could do better at home using local ingredients. The butternut squash, onions, and garlic came from our farm share this week and the biggest, juiciest Honey Crisp apples came from a local orchard. There’s a satisfaction knowing these foods were grown on our native soil. There’s a soulfulness in knowing and caring for the people who work so hard to nourish us throughout the seasons. 

And eating locally just tastes better -- there’s no denying that.


SWEET BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP
Makes around 4 quarts -- that’s 16 cups!

What you’ll need . . . 
  • 3 medium butternut squashes
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 1 bulb (or 4 huge cloves) of garlic, chopped
  • 2-3 large apples, chopped 
  • Water*
  • Cinnamon, to taste
  • Sea salt + black pepper
*Alternatively, you can use vegetable broth. We’re just out and trying to spend $0 on food this week, which I’ll write more about in another post.

Method . . . 
  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Place an safe bowl with a few inches of water in it on the bottom of the oven. 
  2. Wash your butternut squash, then chop off the top, cut in half, and scoop out the seeds. Rub down with olive oil and sprinkle a little salt and pepper before placing halves face-down on a cookie sheet to bake for around an hour, checking periodically for done-ness. (Just needs to be soft enough to scoop out of shells).
  3. Once your have your squash meat set aside, heat some olive oil in a large stock pot over medium-high heat. Add in your onions and garlic and cook until translucent before tossing in apple chunks. Cook until softened.
  4. Since you’re making a large amount of soup, you’ll need to puree in batches. Add around half the squash meat, half the apple mixture, and a few cups of water to a blender and blend until smooth. Repeat with what’s leftover. You can add however much (or little) water as you like. In fact, I leave it up to you since you might also want to reserve some of this puree for baby -- and a bit thicker is nicer for baby food consistency.
  5. Return everything to the stove to season with the salt, pepper, and cinnamon powder. I did around a tablespoon of salt, a teaspoon of black pepper, and a teaspoon of cinnamon. 
  6. You may also wish to stir in additional water at this point to achieve your desired consistency. Just add about a half cup at a time and stir well to incorporate.
  7. Serve with crusty bread on the side. Freeze leftovers using this simple method.


NOTES:


  • Use you can whatever apples you have on hand -- but I’d say the juicer and sweeter the better because you really do taste them in this recipe.
  • As noted above, you can use this soup as baby food as is or even after just pureeing with less water for a thicker consistency. To freeze, portion into 1-ounce cubes and once frozen place in a freezer bag for storage. Let thaw and/or warm before serving.
  • You can also use other winter squashes like delicata and acorn in this recipe -- the size will impact the yield and ratio of squash to apples. So, maybe three to four large delicata and 4 acorn squashes.
  • If you don’t like cinnamon or want to change the flavor, I recommend using curry powder much like we do in our Delicata Mac and Cheese recipe. Curry powder marries well with squash. Smoked paprika, too. Yum!

And head to Writing Chapter Three for a peek into the kitchen in progress. Last weekend, I painted the cabinets white and -- this weekend -- I hand-painted the tile backsplash this weekend. Some notes on how I did it, what I used, and if I like it (or not). Things are certainly coming along! Can’t wait to share the finished kitchen with you guys!

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Weekend Things

>> Friday, October 17, 2014

I’m sure some of you already saw our kitchen progress over on Writing Chapter Three. Once we get all the doors back on their hinges, I’ll be writing more about how it’s looking and how I’m feeling about the quality of the job we did. I also bought some craft paints to do a DIY backsplash design that I hope to start over the weekend.

And I painted our refrigerator.


I’ve done several more coats by now, so it’s looking smooth + matte black. A couple people on Instagram asked why I’d ever want to paint an appliance. Easy: Our refrigerator was an off-white color that looked dirty next to the freshly painted cabinets. And our dishwasher and stove are both black. No idea why they didn’t match in the first place, but instead of buying a new fridge -- this makes sense for our budget right now.

More on this project soon!

Read these:


#1: I have this dream to build an Earthen Oven in our backyard next spring. Just imagine the crusty breads and pizzas we could create! We’ll see if I actually get around to making one, but it’s sure fun to dream.

#2: I very much enjoyed the rewind with these 1970s Halloween Costumes. Gotta love that Dr. Zaius!

#3: What’s your take on Wired’s opinion piece on how American schools are preparing kids for a world that doesn’t exist? I feel like technology and the way we do everything is changing so rapidly, so it’s definitely a challenge.

#4: I have this totally irrational fear of tornados. They don’t really happen in our area. But studies have shown that they are now more frequently coming in swarms. Yikes.

#5: Which of your favorite foods are hiding a massive water footprint? This list was quite shocking to me.

#6: Here’s a bunch of homesteading news via Google search. I like to check recent happenings this way because it’s easier than hunting around.

#7: A few deals!

#8: And a little shameless hometown pride: The 10 Hiking + Running Trails You Need to Visit in Tioga County, PA.

Lately on Writing Chapter Three:


// All about the Two Week Wait and how much it, well, sucks. I know a lot of people are going through the same thing, so I decided rather than suffer in silence, I’d write about it. And I’m glad I did. Some amazingly supportive comments. Thanks, guys!

// Life in TTC Limbo (exercise, eating, drinking, testing, etc.) + an awesome Real Food Organics Prenatal vitamin #giveaway.

// Details about our White Kitchen Cabinets. How we painted them. How long it took. How much it cost. Etc. There will be a part II once we get them all on their hinges again.

// All about Money + Budget for our family. Anything from working at home to making our dollars stretch farther. I even share how much is in our bank account!

Elsewhere:


HAPPY FRIDAY!

Psssst: Check out previous editions of Weekend Things!

Like what you just read? You can subscribe to the feed of these posts or follow us on Twitter or Facebook to be the first to know what the (never home)makers are up to. And we’ll love you forever!

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18 Vegetarian Staples at Aldi

>> Wednesday, October 15, 2014

It’s been a while since I posted about shopping at Aldi. Those of you who have been reading along might remember how we were able to buy a whole month of groceries for just $291 by switching stores. We use our CSA share to make up the bulk of our produce purchases, but now that the growing season is coming to a close, we’re starting to look inside the pantry.

I thought it’d be fun to share some of the pantry staples I’ve started taking for granted. It’s true that since we switched stores, I’ve had a bit of sticker shock when going to other supermarkets. So, these are the items I always buy at Aldi, no matter what. And I’m sure I’m missing a few -- so if you have suggestions, please leave them in the comments!


Oats


We eat these plain for breakfast. Toss them into Veggie Burger recipes. Grind them in the food processor to make oat flour. They’re extremely versatile.

Brown Rice


Brown rice is a great side dish on its own. I have recently been experimenting with brown rice risotto recipes. Like oats, I toss it into veggie burgers. Brown rice pudding. And it makes a wonderful addition to last-minute slow cooker soups.

Whole Wheat Pasta


Ada eats a lot of spaghetti for dinner. We’re even considering starting a cold months spaghetti dinner party with friends and family. It’s a cheap, hearty way to fill the table. Just top with sauce and veggies, etc.

Pasta Sauce


Aldi has a good variety of different pasta sauces. I prefer the organic Simply Nature brand. I make a lot of my own tomato sauces during tomato season -- but this stuff gets me through when I run out. Tomato Basil is our favorite.

Tomato Paste


Similarly, tomato paste makes a quick, convincing pizza sauce on a weekend when we’d rather skip the expensive takeout. Just mix it with some water, add some herbs and spices, minced garlic, etc -- simmer on the stove and DONE!

Pumpkin Puree


Our store isn’t always stocked with this fall favorite, but when I see it on the shelf -- I toss a few cans in my cart. I make my own pumpkin puree too -- but I’ll be honest here: I like canned better. Is that weird? Makes the best Pumpkin Garlic Knots.

Black Olives


Ada absolutely loves black olives. So, we started getting them on occasion to go with her pasta and other toddler-friendly meals. Makes a great addition to pasta, pizza, or simple snacks.

Honey


Of course I’d love to buy all local, raw honey. But it’s just not in our budget right now. The organic wildflower honey we get at Aldi tastes good and mixes well with oatmeal breakfasts, afternoon tea, and whatever else needs a touch of sweetness.

Peanut Butter


I don’t have the standard peanut butter pictured, but we use that for sandwiches, breakfast, and dipping when we don't make our own peanut butter. It’s comparable to any other store nonorganic brand we’ve purchased previously.

Special Nut Butters


And then there’s the chocolate hazelnut butter, the white chocolate and chocolate chocolate peanut butters, the almond butter, etc. I’d love to see Aldi make a sunflower butter! I haven’t made my sunflower butter chocolate chippers in a while.

Sea Salt


Conveniently packed with a grinder, I use this sea salt almost every day.

Dry Beans


I’m simmering some beans on my stove right now. If you haven’t started using dry beans versus canned, you can learn more about the method and benefits in this post. Our store carries black, pinto, and white beans. I’d love if they added garbanzos.

Hot Sauce


The Burman’s Hot Sauce is a lot like . When we do get a chance to head to Wegmans, I like to make up Vegan Tofu Wings for something different on the weekends.

BBQ Sauce


I’m pretty sure our offering is a regional thing (because Dinosaur BBQ is located in nearby Syracuse), but we get all our BBQ sauce at Aldi now. Does your store offer a good selection? I’m curious!

Grainy Mustard


I think you see a trend. The condiments at Aldi are price-friendly and tasty. So, try different ones out. This grainy mustard is a favorite in our house. Nice on sandwiches, burgers, etc.

Brown Sugar


I don’t get a lot of my baking supplies at Aldi simply because I don’t like bleached all-purpose flour. But I do stock brown sugar because it’s basically the same as what I usually use. I have also noticed a huge explosion in gluten-free packed mixes if you’re into that sort of stuff. Cookies, cakes, etc.

Baking Extracts


And yes! I just recently started getting my baking extracts at Aldi. So far I’ve used vanilla and almond extracts. The next time I get there, I’ll probably try the peppermint. I don’t have my boxes anymore, but I do believe they are pure extracts.

Coffee


I can’t speak to the flavor, but Stephen says the Barissimo coffee is really good. He just finished up a bag of the Fair Trade Dark Roast and is now on this seasonal blend. A lot cheaper than the stuff he gets at Wegmans.


More #unsponsored ALDI recipes/posts:
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