Spinach and pine nut soup

March 19, 2013 § 20 Comments

spinach pine nut soup 1

I wasn’t kidding about the soups (I even made another one today for lunch.  This one, in fact, but with kale instead of cabbage).  And, as you can see, I definitely wasn’t kidding about the spinach and pine nut soup.  Actually, I used the soup and my desire to make it as an excuse to have an impromptu St. Patrick’s/St. Urho‘s day dinner for a few friends.  Clearly there is nothing very Irish (or Finnish for that matter) about spinach and pine nuts, but check out how green that soup is!  I decided that with a side of soda bread and some good Irish butter and cheddar it would suit us just fine.

And it did.  It’s actually quite a wonderful soup.  No wonder I used to make it as a starter for dinner parties all the time!  Come to think of it, I think I first served this soup (or a version of it) at the first serious dinner party I ever hosted.  That was back in the day, back during my sophomore year of college, if I remember correctly.

toasted pine nuts

Courtesy of my first year of college, I developed such an aversion to the food at the school’s dining hall, I convinced the school to let me not be on a meal plan at all, and I started cooking for myself in the tiny – and usually disgusting with other students’ crusty leftover midnight macaroni and cheese pots and half eaten bags of microwave popcorn – dorm kitchen down at the end of the hallway.

That was pretty much my start of cooking seriously for myself, though in this context “serious” meant a lot of chicken breasts with steamed broccoli interspersed with granola or Special K bars for dinner.  (The Special K bar dinner was the saddest.)  I also discovered how very lonely it can be to sit and eat dinner in silence by yourself every single night.  I suppose that must have contributed to my passion for sharing meals, and I started devising ways to coax others to dine with me. « Read the rest of this entry »

Pepper crusted salmon cakes with horseradish sauce

February 7, 2013 § 18 Comments

pepper salmon cakes finished

Even when you’re a northerner through and through, and you cherish each of the four seasons, there are times when winter starts to wear on you.  Just a little bit.

There are times, when it’s been a while since the snow cover has been refreshed and a while since the temperature has been above single digits, and it starts to feel drab and dreary and repetitive.  It loses its luster the way snowbanks do as they get trampled over and sprayed with dirt.

salmon poaching dish

But then, in the midst of all that, you may have a morning where you wake up to hear the cheery whistle of a songbird, “twee-ooo,” letting you know that it may get up into the teens today, and suddenly the world feels a little more alive.  Then, the clouds may roll in and blanket everything with 4 or 5 inches of fresh powdery snow, and the world feels a little more clean.  And hopefully, on such a day, you’ll decide not to go cross-country skiing on the groomed trails, even though you have a 50 km race you were supposed to be busting your butt training for, and instead go tromping in the woods, playing tag with the dog, searching for animal tracks, and making snow angels, and then you’ll remember why winter is gorgeous and magical.

Even the most wonderful things need paying attention to, or you’ll forget how very wonderful they are. « Read the rest of this entry »

Creamy “pumpkin” soup

January 2, 2013 § 35 Comments

pumpkin soup 1

Happy, happy New Year to you all!  Did you ring in the New Year in style?

I know we did.  Much more stylishly than we really are, in fact.  But if the holidays aren’t a time to up your style game, when is, right?

Perhaps it’s the crash after the high of holiday activity, perhaps it’s that the New Year always makes me nearly as nostalgic as October does, but I’m now left feeling quietly morose.  “Another year,” a voice somewhere inside of me sighs, “another year, and I still don’t understand.”

onion skins

So I’m sitting in our living room now, which feels dark as the Christmas twinkle lights have all been put back into boxes, wondering to myself, ‘understand what?  What do I so yearn to understand?’

The answer, I’m sorry to say, is anything and everything, as far as I can tell.  The answer is Life.

Day by day life happens, intermittently glorious and terrible, and I don’t understand any of it.  At all.  Not a bit.

I’m suddenly remembering a quote my mother told to me earlier this year (I’m not entirely sure of its origin), “this thing of which we speak cannot be found by seeking.  But only seekers will find it.”

I don’t entirely understand the quote either, but it speaks to me about life and meaning on a level separate from understanding.  I feel somehow like that’s it.  Like maybe trying to understand won’t get you anywhere.  Life just is, it isn’t an entity to be dissected and understood.  You have to get out of your own way, but at the same time seek and make that daily effort to get out of your own way. « Read the rest of this entry »

Holy Mole Chicken and Squash Chili

February 3, 2012 § 6 Comments

Ok guys, I’ve got to come clean.  I’m a hater.  Okay, well not really a hater, though I’m worried I’ll come across as such (Hmm, I don’t think “hater” and “as such” are frequently used together in a sentence like that.  Also, I sound like a ding dong when I try to say something like hater.  But I’ve gone and done it, so let’s put it past us, alright?).  I just don’t really get American sports, and I’m afraid I really don’t get the Superbowl.  (I can’t even remember if it’s one word or two.)  Up until college, I kind of thought the Superbowl happened once every four years, like World Cup Soccer (that is, football to the rest of the world) or the Olympics.

The Olympics!  Now there’s exciting sports to watch!  Particularly the winter Olympics.  See, by virtue of how I was raised, I find Nordic skiing, biathlon, long-distance speed skating, and the like, to be the most thrilling displays of athletic prowess.  Oh my gosh.  I lose my words.  I think about the men’s Nordic skiing relay in ’94 and ’98, the EPIC battle between Norway and Italy, Norway losing (gasp) on their home turf in Lillehammer by 4/10ths of a second, then avenging their loss in Nagano, with a dramatic sprint finish by Thomas Alsgaard, beating the Italians by 2/10ths of a second.

Phew!  Heavens.  My heart races and I find myself squeezing the life out of the nearest chair arm just thinking about it.  I have to catch my breath for a second.

Okay, now tell me that that’s not more exciting than the Superbowl.

« Read the rest of this entry »

Twice baked butternut squash

October 31, 2011 § 30 Comments

There’s a crack that opens up in the earth today, letting all manner of little demons and naughty spirits out to roam the earth for the night and make mayhem.  I just thought I’d let you know that, in case you hadn’t heard already.

It’s the original reason behind dressing up on All Hallows Eve (Halloween), actually.  If you were disguised as a witch or demon, then it was highly unlikely that the real demons wandering about would notice you and cause you trouble.  They would think you were one of them and leave you alone.  Which, on the whole, makes sense, don’t you agree?

A similar thing happens on the solstices, and at periods of your life when you’re in transition.  Those pesky demons come out and can make a muck of any number of little things, or even make you sick.  Nowadays we blame things like stress, which often increases in times of transition.  But, those of us who are in the know – and now you’re in the know! – know that it’s actually demons.

« Read the rest of this entry »

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