2014 in pictures & squash ginger soup.

i’ve never been one to be all that short-winded, so if a picture is worth a thousand words, it’s probably fitting that the pictures below are what i could “cut down” to as a summary of 2014. the majority showed up along the social media path, so they aren’t new, but here, together, in chronological order they remind me of the story of our year. a little year in review is after the recipe, if you’d like.

2014 in pictures

:: squash ginger soup ::

squash ginger soup

per usual, this recipe is highly adaptable. if you don’t have a leek, you can throw in another ¼ cup of diced onion. we didn’t have a full 4 cups of butternut squash, so i used buttercup squash, too. for the ginger & curry, i recommend starting on the lower side of the measurements, unless you have strong feelings about either ingredient. use more or less depending on your preference. for example, we do 3 teaspoons of ginger because we like the kicked-up flavor it offers, and we do about 1 ½ teaspoons of curry. the orange juice may seem to be an unusual addition, but it blends all of the flavors really well.

ingredients

2 thick cut slices of bacon, optional (if not, 1 tablespoon olive oil)
2 cups carrots, sliced
1 medium leek, sliced
½ cup onion, diced
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
2-3 teaspoons ginger, peeled & minced
4 cups butternut squash, peeled, seeded, & cubed (1 – 1½” is good)
1 medium celeriac, peeled, trimmed, & cubed (1 – 1½” cubes is good; approx 1½ cups)
1 medium apple, cored & diced (you can keep the peel on)
4 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves (not powder)
4-6 cups stock (vegetable or chicken) or water
1-2 teaspoons curry powder
½ cup orange juice
½ cup milk, milk alternative, or cream, optional
salt & pepper, to taste

instructions

  1. in a large stock pot over medium heat:
    if you’re using bacon, cook it until crispy. place on a paper towel to drain until cool, then crumble into small pieces. if there is more than a tablespoon of bacon fat, pour it off & discard.
    if you’re not using bacon, heat one tablespoon of olive oil.
  2. add carrots, leek, onion, garlic, & ginger to pan. sauté 2-3 minutes (your kitchen will smell dreamy!).
  3. add squash, celeriac, apple, & thyme to pan; stir to combine.
  4. add stock to cover vegetables, depending on how you want your soup: 4 cups will result in a thicker soup; 6 cups will be less thick. even 6 cups will not result in a runny soup, though.
  5. increase heat to medium high & bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. simmer until squash & celeriac are fork tender – 15-20 minutes.
  6. remove pot from heat & stir in curry powder & orange juice. if you have an immersion blender, you can purée the soup until smooth in the pot. if not, wait until the soup is cool & blend it in batches in a blender or food processor.
  7. serve warm; we love it in any number of ways – plain, with a dollop of plain yogurt, bacon, & croutons, or with a little hunk of crusty bread.

yield: approximately 10 cups (depending on amount of liquid used)

– – – – – – –

2014 was a pretty quiet year. i struggled for the first few weeks of last january to settle on a word to focus on for the year and was actually just fine with not having one. the point of having one was if something came to mind & felt fitting, so there was no need to force one…and then one day it hit me: abide. if it’s even possible, i think my soul sighed in sweet relief – “abide” felt perfect looking ahead to 2014.

i am the vine; you are the branches. if you remain in me and i in you,
you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
john 15:5  

this year has been one of deep, deep thankfulness for my incredible husband &, fittingly, having wonderful things to celebrate him for throughout the year. we’ve tried new things [knitting socks (me), calligraphy (both), homemade bitters (him), a fantastic class at the kitchen window (both), & lots of new recipes (both)], explored our city, traveled well-worn paths at our favorite farmer’s markets, & got outta dodge for a week-long, wonderful road trip to see friends (in chicago) & family (in ann arbor) this summer. the cherry on top of our summer was a visit  from nieces cuter than you could fathom, full of adventures & fun.

i got a few more stamps in my passport, soaked up encouraging words & quotes that resonated truth, and was attuned to growth all around me. part of that was in the patio garden we had – i was mildly obsessed with having my hands in the dirt & watching everything sprout & blossom. the rest seemed to purely be nature’s gift. our house plants grew like crazy, our wedding lemon tree continued to be a rockstar, & even our christmas tree sprouted! have you ever heard of that?! it’s for sure a first for us! they were the simplest, often tiniest little things, but seeing the sprouts & buds kept reminding me in quiet, consistent ways of the new things always waiting just around the corner.

the unrivaled highlight of this year, however, was celebrating our first wedding anniversary. we looked back on our first year full of deep love, true heartache, & the sweetest comfort in knowing that we are richly blessed to do this life together. in the same way, looking back on 2014, we see a year full of those very same things. i cannot imagine going through this past year with anyone other than dustin by my side. this year was filled with more joy & more laughter-until-i-cried thanks to him.

here’s to deep, abiding love, hope, & the new things in store for 2015!

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gratitude, day 28.

gratitude_xsgratitude is a miraculous, wonderful thing. it really does turn what we have into enough. sometimes – often, even – it reminds us that what we have is even more than we need. although it’s kind of a “thing” for people to list something they are grateful for each day in november, this isn’t really that. it’s sort of my mash-up of a daily writing exercise i see people do every day in october paired with practicing gratitude. it won’t be the same every day. sometimes it will be a short, quick post, and other times it will be a reflection or recipe. but most importantly, every day there will be gratitude.

today, i am grateful for a relaxed week.

thanksgiving week 2014i am super grateful that this week i was able to work remotely before thanksgiving and the long weekend. we had plans monday in minneapolis, so my office away from the office was spyhouse NE. i settled in early in the morning at a cozy table towards the back of the main room. a warm caramella, computer, notebook, and a view out the windows as the snow flakes fell. tuesday and wednesday i worked from home which was a wonderful thing.

as you might imagine, the more relaxed week has allowed for great kitchen time. there was a lot of pumpkin going on, cooking, baking, curry, pie, donuts, soup…lots of bases covered. the first recipe i want to share, though, is for shauna niequist’s pumpkin curry. laura made it a few weeks ago, and after all but licking my plate, i had been craving it in a major way. it is a simple recipe that comes together pretty quickly. i halved shauna’s recipe and improvised on a few things which i’ve noted below.

:: pumpkin curry ::
adapted from shauna niequist

pumpkin curry lgwith more people learning about food allergies, i am so thankful to have a growing collection of recipes that i can pull from that are diet and/or allergy friendly. this one is gluten free & can be made vegetarian by omitting the chicken & chicken broth. we had canned tomatoes & dried cranberries on hand, so we used those in place of the roma tomatoes and raisins. we loved both so much that we’ll probably always use them. as shauna notes, this is another dish that is even better the next day.

also – i know it’s not the most photogenic dish, but i promise it makes up for it in flavor!

ingredients

olive oil
1-1½ lbs boneless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 tbsp curry powder (use what you like best, and adjust to your liking)
¼ tsp cayenne pepper (adjust to your liking)
½ tsp sea salt
1 cup yellow onion, cut into strips or diced
1 tbsp garlic, minced
1 tbsp fresh ginger, peeled & minced
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 cup canned diced tomatoes
1 bell pepper, cut into 1” strips
½ cup dried cranberries
1 cup plain yogurt, optional
3 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped, optional
3 tbsp fresh basil, chopped, optional

instructions

  1. in a large sauté pan over medium heat, heat one tablespoon of olive oil. add chicken, curry powder, cayenne pepper, & salt, stirring to coat. cook chicken until browned, about 5-7 minutes. remove the chicken from the pan & set aside.
  2. heat another 1-2 teaspoons of olive oil to the pan and add onions. cook 3-5 mins, stirring occasionally until onions soften & become translucent. stir in the garlic & ginger, cooking an additional 1-2 minutes.
  3. reduce heat to medium low and add cooked chicken, broth, pumpkin puree, tomatoes, bell pepper, & dried cranberries to pan. stir to combine & taste for seasoning. adjust to your liking with additional salt, pepper, or curry if needed.
  4. allow curry to simmer until bell peppers & cranberries are soft and tender – approximately 20-30 minutes.
  5. we served the curry over rice & with a dollop of plain yogurt to cut the heat a little.

yield: 4 servings

gratitude, day 1.  ::  gratitude, day 2.  ::  gratitude, day 3.  ::  gratitude, day 4.  ::  gratitude, day 5.
gratitude, day 6.  ::  gratitude, day 7.  ::  gratitude, day 8.  ::  gratitude, day 9.  ::  gratitude, day 10.
gratitude, day 11. :: gratitude, day 12. :: gratitude, day 13. :: gratitude, day 14. :: gratitude, day 15.
gratitude, day 16. :: gratitude, day 17. :: gratitude, day 18. :: gratitude, day 19. :: gratitude, day 20.
gratitude, day 21. :: gratitude, day 22. :: gratitude, day 23. :: gratitude, day 24. :: gratitude, day 25.
gratitude, day 26. :: gratitude, day 27.

gratitude, day 22.

gratitude_xsgratitude is a miraculous, wonderful thing. it really does turn what we have into enough. sometimes – often, even – it reminds us that what we have is even more than we need. although it’s kind of a “thing” for people to list something they are grateful for each day in november, this isn’t really that. it’s sort of my mash-up of a daily writing exercise i see people do every day in october paired with practicing gratitude. it won’t be the same every day. sometimes it will be a short, quick post, and other times it will be a reflection or recipe. but most importantly, every day there will be gratitude.

today, i am grateful for jammie days & kettle corn.

movie snuggles

after a busy week, the past couple of days including a rockstar almost-three-year-old (even when he’s under the weather – poor guy!), staying in today was exactly what we all needed. we slept in, and when we woke up, we dubbed today to be pajama-jammie-jam day. we proceeded to make pancakes, play, draw , paint, nap, and watch movies. and what goes better with movies than popcorn?! this is our go-to kettle corn recipe. i hope you love it as much as we do!

:: kettle corn ::
recipe from two peas & their pod

ingredients

¼ cup coconut oil
½ cup popcorn kernels
¼ cup sugar
1 tsp sea salt

instructions

  1. melt coconut oil in a large pot with a lid.
  2. add popcorn kernels.
  3. when popcorn kernels begin to sizzle, sprinkle sugar over kernels.
  4. cover the pan, shaking it lightly. continue shaking the pan as the kernels pop.
    *hint – using pot holders helps to hold the handles & lid while you’re shaking the pot over the heat.
  5. when the popping slows to about 30 seconds between pops, take the pan off of the heat, remove lid, & sprinkle salt over popcorn. put the lid back on & shake to cover kernels while the sugar is still warm.

yield: about 10 cups

gratitude, day 1.  ::  gratitude, day 2.  ::  gratitude, day 3.  ::  gratitude, day 4.  ::  gratitude, day 5.
gratitude, day 6.  ::  gratitude, day 7.  ::  gratitude, day 8.  ::  gratitude, day 9.  ::  gratitude, day 10.
gratitude, day 11. :: gratitude, day 12. :: gratitude, day 13. :: gratitude, day 14. :: gratitude, day 15.
gratitude, day 16. :: gratitude, day 17. :: gratitude, day 18. :: gratitude, day 19. :: gratitude, day 20.
gratitude, day 21.

gratitude, day 9.

gratitude_xsgratitude is a miraculous, wonderful thing. it really does turn what we have into enough. sometimes – often, even – it reminds us that what we have is even more than we need. although it’s kind of a “thing” for people to list something they are grateful for each day in november, this isn’t really that. it’s sort of my mash-up of a daily writing exercise i see people do every day in october paired with practicing gratitude. it won’t be the same every day. sometimes it will be a short, quick post, and other times it will be a reflection or recipe. but most importantly, every day there will be gratitude.

today, i am grateful for sunday sabbath.

today was one of those days i talked about on the first day of these “gratitude lately” posts: full-to-the-brim with memories & goodness. we had back-to-back things happening all day, but they were totally worth it and totally life-giving. we got to spend the beginning of the day with my mom & step-dad before driving across town to have coffee with friends we love. then we all headed to church together to worship & learn with a community of people we are grateful to do life with – on sundays & many other days throughout each week. as full as it was, it was truly a sabbath day of resting with loved ones & being refreshed.

we’ve learned that sundays tend to be a little more full purely due to the transition from weekend to new week. if possible, we try to keep errands & other running around to saturdays so that we can be home sunday to make breakfast, prep lunch stuff for the week, do laundry & house work, etc. an incredibly helpful habit we’ve adopted is having dinner either completely made (thus only needing re-heating) or fully prepped (to throw in a pan or in the oven as soon as we walk in the door) before we leave for church. at least one of us is already in the kitchen doing lunch stuff anyway, so working on dinner fits easily in that rhythm. plus, a little extra work earlier in the day makes those last hours between getting home & (hopefully…) getting to bed a little less chaotic. because, let’s be honest – i have a hard time with sunday nights. i’m one of those people that agrees 100% with this:

Honestly….

A post shared by The Honest Company (@honest) on

this recipe is a home run as much for making ahead of time & warming later as it is for prepping early & having dinner on the table without a whole lot of fuss. from the first time i made it this past winter, sweet potato chili has been in our meal rotation at least monthly – even in the summer!

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gratitude, day 3.

gratitude_xsgratitude is a miraculous, wonderful thing. it really does turn what we have into enough. sometimes – often, even – it reminds us that what we have is even more than we need. although it’s kind of a “thing” for people to list something they are grateful for each day in november, this isn’t really that. it’s sort of my mash-up of a daily writing exercise i see people do every day in october paired with practicing gratitude. it won’t be the same every day. sometimes it will be a short, quick post, and other times it will be a reflection or recipe. but most importantly, every day there will be gratitude.

today, i am grateful for fall’s harvest.

i have been reminded in the past month how much i adore the pumpkin & squash fall treats us to. we’ve made butternut squash soup, butternut squash pasta, and pumpkin cookies, and tonight we made pumpkin scones. the flavors are so deep, rich, and sweet. as an added benefit, they store super well, so their goodness lasts through the fall into winter. if we can spread them out that long, that is.

all of these recipes could find their way into a post this month or sometime in the future, but the one i want to share today is the butternut squash pasta. the day i made it, with the weather being a little overcast and the feeling of fall blowing in through the wind, i was craving something warm, comforting, and savory. we had gotten our very last weekly CSA box the week before, and i was coveting the butternut squash.

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holding on to summer.

pickle profile

after a picture-perfect weekend of sunny, warm days – particularly at the end of september…in minnesota, no one wants to be the first one to say it. after all, i had just gotten myself warmed up to the idea of fall. and then we had last week in all of its glory, and this morning, we woke up to that chill in the air again. we’re not there just yet – there are sunny days still ahead, but fall is here. in a way, the burst of warm air & sunshine with everyone out & about soaking it all in actually helps the transition. i can’t quite say that i’m fully ready to turn over t-shirts for sweaters & flip-flops for boots, but i have begun the transition a little in the kitchen. we had mediterranean beef stew last week, chili with our small group a few weeks ago, and chicken noodle soup for dinner tonight.

one of my favorite parts of the summer-to-fall season transition is getting to enjoy a little of both. these days, it’s not unusual for me to have a pot of soup simmering and a pile of produce ready to preserve: canning tomatoes, basil, garlic, cucumbers, onion, raspberries. we canned 40 pounds of tomatoes so we can cozy up with warms soups & stews all fall & winter, froze jars of pesto, stashed away jars of jam to open when the first snow flies, and made four pints of a fun, new-to-me version of pickles. the recipe came in one of our CSA weekly newsletters this summer, and friends made them right away. their rave reviews had me slicing cucumbers the next weekend, and here we are. we’re suckers for our CSA’s garlic, so i couldn’t help adding it to the recipe. it didn’t disappoint, and now i can’t get enough of the garlicky, sweet, crunchy little snack.

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community, failure, & chocolate chip cookies.

IMG_5670

when dustin and i got engaged, i remember that one of the first things i felt in some of those initial conversations as i shared our exciting news was feeling like i had just gotten invited to a special club. not because of the ring or anything like that, but because as one of the last people to get married in my group of friends, among lots of fun new connections, being engaged allowed me to (finally) be part of the marriage-y conversations. the good, the challenging, the utterly hilarious.

marriage, like all relationships, requires us to be intentional, present, and honest, and having a community to share with and be accountable to has added a richness to our growth as a couple. we are blessed beyond measure to have a community that stretches near and far including friends and groups we meet and share with individually as well as family and friends that we hang out with together. we are also incredibly grateful to have been welcomed together as a couple into a couples small group. we get together monthly at one of our houses for dinner, a considerable amount of laughter, and conversation about marriage, challenges, joys, faith, encouragement.

this month’s dinner was this past weekend, and we had volunteered to bring dessert. i woke up saturday morning super excited to find a new recipe to try, and it didn’t take me long to do so. my search ended when my heart got set on bon appétit’s caramel budinos with salted caramel sauce (“budino” is Italian for “pudding”). they had me at caramel. topped with salted caramel.

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legit banana bread.

friends, i won’t beat around the bush. this banana bread: oh! my! i’m not typically a person that dubs things as “the best.” my list of things that start with an emphatic lead-in is pretty short, unless we’re talking about my husband. so to go to extremes about banana bread of all things seems pretty ridiculous. it’s a simple recipe, and there are limitless spins on this classic. i just hadn’t ever found one that i particularly loved. so, when in search of a new old thing, where else does one turn but to Google. when my search lead me to this recipe (among a sea of others) earlier this year, the name kinda turned me off. “ultimate”? yeah, right.

those smarty pants at america’s test kitchen know what they are doing, though, because every so often, i’d think about the recipe. as luck would have it, we didn’t end up making as many breakfast smoothies last week. i eyed the bananas mottling perfectly on the counter & Googled “america’s test kitchen ultimate banana bread.” this time i noticed a video in the search results. since i’m an ATK nerd (they always teach me fun new things that make so much sense) i watched it, and i was finally convinced. if for no other reason than the recipe called for all brown sugar (be still, my beating heart), i at least i needed to give the recipe a chance.

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preserving our csa: vegetable broth.

so we get this CSA box each week. if you know me or we interact in any way, you are well aware of this ;o) each week’s box is packed with the most delicious fruit, herbs, and vegetables we sink our teeth into all year, and it is undoubtedly one of my favorite experiences of the entire year. to me, it is the epitome of summer: the play of the hot sun on warm days & cool nights creating beautiful harvests, the mouthwatering taste of the freshest, most succulent fruits & veggies, and relationships built with our kind, generous farmers. laura, adam & their staff are truly some of the most joyful people, and they are sold out with passion for all things farming & loving on their members. i’ve said it before, and i imagine i’ll say it for all of my days: we have the very best CSA, and we could not be more thankful for them.

having such an incredible bounty to work with keeps us on our toes as we make sure to take full advantage of it. that is, for anything that isn’t practically devoured on the spot. those mixed heirloom & sungold cherry tomatoes are – no joke – like candy! the carrots are what carrots should really look & taste like. i wouldn’t fathom peeling them – a little scrub, and they are good to go. then there is the garlic; we savor every clove. dustin is convinced it is the best garlic he’s ever tasted (i agree wholeheartedly but love that he’s so passionate about it). at the end of the season, we buy as much garlic as we can to last us as far into fall & winter as possible. we have growing list of go-to recipes that help us maximize every last morsel of the goodness, but there are still scraps, right? peels from cucumbers, discarded carrot tops, garlic & onion skins. it was almost painful to toss them out!

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10 things: 12.2013.

10things_witness

  1. i would love to have a “year of the sock” à la amanda.
  2. dear youtube, thank you for helping me determine that our washing machine was, in fact, broken and for showing me how to fix it so easily!
  3. and then there is this (unfortunately they re-did the video & added annoying extra commentary – skip that part. the little boy is incredible!): 
  4. it took everything in me to not put up our advent calendar the day we got it. this is the first time either one of us has done an advent calendar, and we for sure picked a stellar one – this beauty from naptime diaries. it was my favorite decoration, and it was my very favorite way to end each day.IMG_3747
  5. this month was full of great highs & hard lows…
  6. but through both, we learned deeper value in God’s vision of marriage. and we are so, so thankful.
  7. our little JulieAnne is still rockin’ through the winter, still giving us beautiful lemons. it’s, like, “infinity x ten” times better than a unity candle. and the flowers that are still blooming in december…in minnesota?! our house smells heavenly with the sweetest smelling perfume.
  8. our contribution to christmas eve dinner was, per usual, dessert. we ended up tweaking this gingerbread latte cake with this eggnog buttercream. YUM!
  9. my absolute favorite memory of our first married christmas was christmas morning with just us. it was more special than i imagined it could be.
  10. we got to have a fun new year’s eve night with just the girls while we sent michael & joy to the thunder game. it was our second annual celebration, kicked off with pan-a-cakes for dinner :o)