Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Veggie Tray turned Mirepoix Mix

I think I may have mentioned that I like to make soup. A few years ago I discovered Mirepoix Mix in the frozen foods section. Mirepoix is just a mixture of chopped carrots, celery and onions; ingredients you can use in a lot of different soups, pot pies, or stews. I love keeping a a bag or two in the freezer 1.) because it saves a lot of time not having to chop everything and 2.) because I often don't have celery unless I am planning to make soup. However, around the holidays it seems like there's always a party or dinner to go to and I'm bound to make a veggie tray or two. Last time I made a veggie tray, I had a lot of carrot and celery sticks left over. I could have just put them back in the fridge, where inevitably they would get dry and rubbery (or worse slimy) before we remembered to eat them...OR, since most of the chopping was already done, I could just chop up the sticks, add some onions and stock the freezer with my own mirepoix for soup season. 

I looked up mirepoix (pronounced meer-pwah, in case you didn't take two years of French) : ), and it traditionally consists of one part carrots, one part celery and two parts onions. 

For 1qt. bags I used about 1/2 cup chopped carrots, 1/2 cup chopped celery and 1 cup chopped onions per bag. Press out all the air and freeze, raw. 

I will say these did make my freezer smell like onions for a week. But, they worked great, and tasted great. I used all the bags I made within about a month, but I'm sure they would last a couple months. A few minutes of prep makes it so easy to make homemade soup on a busy night. Here's my recipe for homemade turkey or chicken noodle soup, in case you happen to have some leftover turkey this week.

Weeknight Homemade Turkey Soup

- Add a tablespoon of olive oil to a soup pot and sauté 1qt bag of mirepoix
- Add a tsp each of salt, pepper, and ground sage or thyme (or both). I find that adding the seasoning before the liquid gives the soup a better flavor throughout. I also always use dried herbs from our garden and just crush them between my hands, right into the soup. (So I'm approximating 1 tsp)
- After a few minutes of cooking add equal parts chicken stock and water (I usually use a carton of each). Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer.
- Add turkey and simmer for at least 30 minutes.
- Add egg noodles 30 minutes before serving. So if you're in a hurry add the turkey and the noodles at the same time. The nice thing about the chopped veggies in the mirepoix is that they cook quickly, which makes any soup doable even in a hurry.

I hope you have a wonderful week of giving thanks, surrounded by people you are thankful for. If you are reading this you, like me, are beyond blessed indeed. We have so much to be thankful for!

"Give thanks to God--He is good and His love never quits!"
I Chronicles 16:34  (The Message)

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Pumpkin Pasta Sauce

With Thanksgiving coming up we've been making pumpkin everything around here. Pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin butter...and here's the recipe I promised for pumpkin pasta sauce.

Pumpkin Pasta Sauce

1/2 can pumpkin (about 1 cup)
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup milk
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/4 tsp cinnamon

Whisk pumpkin, milk, water and spices in a medium sauce pan. simmer until heated through. Add heavy cream and mix well. Simmer for a few more minutes. Serve over spaghetti and top with salted pepitas, or toss with penne (or favorite shape of pasta) and top with fresh parmesan. 

Bon appétit! 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Strega Nona Day

We had another themed play day the other day, and the kiddos loved it, so I thought I'd share our fun with you. This time we planned our day around the story of Strega Nona, a Caldecott winner by Tomie dePaola. You can search out this book at your local library or watch and listen to the story here. If you don't know the story of Strega Nona, I encourage you to watch this so you can appreciate the magic pasta pot theme below. : )
I didn't even know there was another story that told how Strega Nona grew up and became the greatest Strega ever! Our friends brought this over, and filled us in. We are going to have to check this one out. 

Since I wasn't sure that all the kids had read the story, we started our get together by watching the book on DVD. I bought a set of Scholastic books on DVD at a kids consignment sale, and my boys are loving them. I love how they bring these stories to life. You can buy Scholastic DVDs here. Also, Netflix has started carrying some of these story DVDs. We just watched The Snowy Day, which would also be a great play day theme. Tip: search Scholastic, not the book title. 

After watching the story the kids did a few activities. I just googled to find a coloring sheet. 

I cut out some pasta pots, and pale yellow yarn, and the kids glued them to a paper plate, and added three heart stickers as her three kisses

like so. 

We also got out all our play pots and I cut more yarn for play pasta.

Then we had some lunch. Of course we had pasta! I set up a little pasta bar where the kids could choose red sauce, olive oil and parmesan, or pumpkin cream sauce with pepitas (my own recipe, which is so yummy if I do say so myself. I will share later this week).

Finally, for dessert I made brownie cupcakes to be the magic pots (not to be confused with magic pot brownies!) and let the kids squeeze on their own pasta frosting.

And that was our Strega Nona day.

I hope you have a great week! Thanks for reading!


Sharing the fun @ All For the Boys

Monday, November 11, 2013

Honoring Our Troops

We attended our town's local Veteran's Day parade today. I always get kind of emotional thinking about the immense sacrifice so many have made for my freedom. It's hard to know how to express a gratitude as deep as this. Honestly, I don't know how. But I do know that actions speak louder than words, and so I will try with my actions to show the gratefulness I can not utter. There's quite a few military charities doing good things for our veterans. We can all choose to be part of these demonstrations of gratitude. Here are two organizations, dear to my heart, that serve our injured military members.

The first is Sew Much Comfort. Sew Much Comfort has been adapting clothing for injured military members since 2004. You can read the story of how this great project started, here. These qualified seamstresses (who are all volunteers) are so good at what they do. I've seen lots of articles of their adapted clothing at their distribution center. When you hold up a shirt, you would never know that one whole side (or every side sometimes) can Velcro apart and shut for ease of dressing after an injury. It's hard to imagine going to war, and coming back with a life-changing injury, but the Department of Defense estimates that over 48,000 American troops are facing this reality after serving abroad since 9/11/2011. It's not just the lives of those 48,000 that are forever altered, it's whole families. I feel that we as Americans owe it to our brave military members to give them as much honor and respect upon their homecoming as possible. I believe that starts with the dignity of being able to feel normal in their clothes. Sew Much Comfort adapts regular clothing to fit the new needs and challenges those injured heros now face. You can donate to providing these clothes for free to injured military members at Sew Much Comfort's website, here

The second organization I mentioned earlier this fall, it's a ministry of Samaritan's Purse, called Operation Heal Our Patriots. This is a beautiful retreat center on the banks of Lake Clark in Alaska. Injured military members and their spouses are invited to come and enjoy a time of rest and rejuvenation.

photo from samaritanspurse.org
Samaritan's Purse provides the airfare, private cabin, meals, outdoor activities, and workshops for these couples to reconnect after some of the most stressful and difficult weeks/months/years of their lives. As I said before, I can't imagine the challenges of dealing with a serious injury or loss of limb. Although our heros are resilient, and many will work hard in rehab to recapture the ability to walk or use prosthetics, I love that the focus of Operation Heal Our Patriots is spiritual, emotional, and relational healing. These are the things I feel get so easily overlooked when a family goes through the crisis of a serious injury.
I love the pic below, and I think it just shows how hard Samaritan's Purse works to make this an incredible experience for these deserving couples, from start to finish.

As couples arrive in Port Alsworth, Alaska, our staff, volunteers, and local residents gather at the gravel airstrip to give guests a hardy patriot’s welcome. For many injured troops, this is the first time they have received such a public show of support and thanks.
photo from samaritanspurse.org
"As couples arrive in Port Alsworth, Alaska, Samaritan's Purse staff, volunteers, and local residents gather at the gravel airstrip to give guests a hardy patriot’s welcome. For many injured troops, this is the first time they have received such a public show of support and thanks."
You can donate to providing this amazing experience to military couples at Samaritan's Purse, here.

I don't know how you spent your day, but I hope somewhere, somehow you were able to express gratitude to a veteran, or current military member. We owe them so much, and the opportunities to show our gratitude are everywhere. Donating to one of these deserving charities would be awesome, but if you can't maybe you can help the mom next door, when she's single parenting over a long deployment, or send a Christmas package to a deployed service member. Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and wouldn't it be great to kick off the season of Thanksgiving by demonstrating our gratitude for those who have given so much to our country?

Thank you to all who have served with honor.
Happy Veteran's Day!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Tortellini Soup

I really like soup. Once the weather gets cold, there's nothing I'd rather have then a big pot of soup steaming on the stove. I love letting it cook all afternoon and fill up my house with good smells. We have a soup party almost every fall. I've made corn chowder, tomato bisque, and chili in the past, but this year I made tortellini soup and a leek and potato. I think the tortellini is my new favorite. 

This soup's not hard to make. In fact, if you really want it to come together quickly you can use almost all canned ingredients, but what I love about this soup is that it's all stuff we grow in the backyard! (Except for the tortellini.)  Here's my recipe:

Tortellini Soup

1 Tbsp olive oil or butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 large white or yellow onion, chopped
2 cups chopped carrots
2 cups chopped zucchini
1 cup fresh or frozen green beans
4 cups chicken or veggie broth
2 cans diced tomatoes (or 3 cups peeled, chopped tomatoes from the garden)
1 Tbsp dried oregano, crushed
1 Tbsp dried basil, crushed
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
24 oz frozen tortellini

In a large pot add oil, onions, and garlic. Sauté for a couple of minutes, then add zucchini and cook until onions are soft. Add crushed oregano and basil and stir well. Add remaining vegetables, canned tomatoes, and broth. Use the tomato cans to add four cans of water. Bring pot to a boil, then turn heat down to simmer. Add salt and pepper. Simmer for at least an hour or turn to low and cook for longer. Soup is ready when carrots are soft. Add tortellini 20-30 minutes before you are ready to eat the soup. If you'd like, top with a little fresh parmesan and pair with garlic bread. Serves 6-8.

* The tortellini will get mushy so leftovers are best eaten by the next day, or frozen for another day.
* This soup can be made in the crockpot. Just sauté the garlic and onion in the olive oil then transfer them to the crockpot and add everything else (except the tortellini). Cook on low all day, turn to high and add tortellini 30 minutes before you are ready to eat.
* As I mentioned before if you don't want to--or don't have time to-- chop veggies, you can use canned or frozen everything (except zucchini--you can substitute 1/2 bag of frozen spinach for the zucchini). Since canned vegetables are already soft, simmer for just 30 minutes then add the tortellini and cook 30 minutes more. For frozen: simmer everything 1 hour, add tortellini 30 min before serving.

I hope you enjoy this delicious soup! Thanks for reading!

- Haley

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