They may just look like windows, but to John and I they represent so much more than that. Six years ago we would have never imagined we would be in the healthy relationship that we are in now.
We were both in a dark place.
Then we met. We understood each other’s past in ways no one else ever would. So many similarities and connections.
We imagined where we wanted to be. We talked about it. We planned. We worked hard. Now we are making our dream home a reality. John is doing the work himself. As we plan and he builds, we are trying to honor the spirit of the Finnish homesteaders who built the main log structure of our home. John wants the new space to marry well with the old. There’s a lot of history in these log walls. It’s why he’s milled his own beams and is taking care to preserve the integrity of our home.
John gets upset at me when I post photos of our unfinished addition. He worries people will judge the lack of progress. I shake my head in disbelief. He’s moved mountains. Multi-tasking so many projects – all while training a new K9 and working through the entire pandemic. I cannot even begin to explain the work that this man does. From making sure I have what I need in my hoop house and vegetable garden to raising chickens for eggs, meat birds, and pigs. He makes sure we have wood cut and split for a backup heat source and for our sauna – and he is constantly fixing and making improvements. There is a reason I call him my Renaissance Man.
These windows will be the eyes to the new wing of our home. They will protect us from the elements and help us marvel in the beauty around us – birds, trees, rain clouds, snow squalls, sunrises, and sunsets.
These windows are more than panes of glass. They are portals for sunshine. The light that has seeped into our lives and taken us out of the darkness.
A reminder to never lose hope.
That sometimes we need to live the question and when you least expect it, the answer is right in front of you.
As much as I dislike seeing the warm weather fade away, I am determined to welcome autumn into my heart. Owning a farm has helped me appreciate the changing of the seasons in a deeper sense. Since I am a teacher I am also thankful that this fall that we have the opportunity to return to school face-to-face. I craved my work routine and I missed my students. Yet, last week we had to close our building’s doors again. I am not sure how long we will be engaged in distance learning, but right now it’s slated for three weeks.
As I welcomed my students back to school in September, we discussed how 2020 was a challenging year, and depending on how you look at it, Covid-19 may have taken many things from us: The end of the school year, time with family/friends with health problems, and opportunities to travel. However, we discussed how if you are a “glass is ½ full” type of person, maybe Covid-19 presented you with opportunities: More time with immediate family members, an organized house and living space, time to exercise, and home cooked meals. We all agreed that the pandemic taught us to appreciate the moment we are in because things can change suddenly.
When I asked my students what they had gained from the pandemic, every hour several students joked that they had gained weight and how they were making a commitment to eat healthier. We discussed how we all need to make our health a priority and that what we put into our bodies is as important is making sure our hands are washed and that we maintain proper social distance protocol. When we did goal planning I had several athletes who made personal goals to eat more servings of fruit and vegetables.
While I am not one to get all giddy over pumpkin flavored lattes, I do enjoy pumpkin in recipes. Last year I learned by accident that pumpkins are quite easy to grow. I planted a few pumpkin seeds at the bottom of our duck pond and their vines thrived. The pond is rimmed with rocks from our property and I think that the pumpkin plants do well because the rocks collect warmth from the sun. Not only am I able to grow several pumpkins from only a few seeds, but the foliage is lovely and softens the edge of the pond and the flowers provide a pop of ornamental color. This year I made sure to plant pumpkins that are recommended for their culinary flavor and texture.
When I came up with this recipe, I was looking for a healthy alternative to ice cream. I was curious about the combination of pumpkin and chocolate and was pleased with the results. I hope you enjoy the flavor combination while your body enjoys the nutritional benefits. Pumpkin is high in beta carotene (which our body converts to Vitamin A), potassium, and fiber.
CHOCOLATE PUMPKIN SHAKE
3/4-1 cup milk of your choice (use almond or coconut milk for a dairy-free shake)
1 frozen banana (the banana gives this the shake-like texture and sweetness. I do not add sugar. If you want your shake more sweet add more banana)
1/4-1/2 cup pumpkin (to taste…sometimes I add more and sometimes less)
1 Tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Blend, pour in glass, and sprinkle with cinnamon
I would recommend experimenting with the amount of cocoa powder and vanilla that you want to add. I have found that the taste and strength varies greatly by brand. The same with the banana and the ice-cubes (depending on how thick you want your shake). You could also freeze the milk and pumpkin to add thickness. Walnuts, or other nuts, are a great compliment to your shake and sometimes I also add a hint of molasses for depth and earthiness. You could also swap out the cocoa powder for chocolate protein powder if you want to amp up the filling power of this shake.
May this recipe during these challenging times help you see your glass is at least ½ full. The cooler weather may force us to dig deep and find our grit and resilience. However, those traits are inherent in us Yoopers (and Americans). That is what we do!
I am making a commitment to myself to keep creating healthy recipes to share with you. They will help us boost our health and immune system, make sure you check out the tab at the top of the page for more recipes that maximize the power of produce. Take care of yourself and take care of each other!
What strange times we are living in. For many months I have sat poised at my computer attempting to write with a huge question mark looming over my head. I am sure you have had many of the same emotions.
As a teacher, this school year I am taking things day-by-day. Each day at the end of 7th hour I say a little prayer of thankfulness that I was given another day of face-to-face instruction with my students. Before I leave for home, I collect any items I might need in the event we receive notification that we are moving to distance learning. I knew it was inevitable and yesterday morning we received news that we are moved to Distance Learning for the next two weeks. We are slated to return for face-to-face instruction on November 30th. My fingers are crossed that it happens.
While I try not to let my heart and head grow anxious with a web of uncertainty looming, I find that it is the simple things that keep me grounded. This fall I planted over three-hundred tulip and daffodil bulbs, I decided that my pandemic hairstyle needed a stylish change, and I subscribed to a couple of home delivery meal kits to glean new ideas for our menu. While I love to cook and plan our family dinners, the school year during the time of Covid-19 has had me frazzled. The meal kits have been a refreshing option in our meal rotation and I am gathering some new ideas for our table. Roasted carrots are now a regular feature on our plates, my husband does not despise ginger as much as he thought he did, and my step son is wild about steak topped with goat cheese butter.
In times of uncertainty, such as during a pandemic, relying on wholesome, home cooked food is both comforting and nourishing. When I plan out our weekly menu, I plan a few quick meals for spontaneous changes in our schedule, work days that turn into work nights, and evenings when I do not have enough energy to prepare entire meals. On these evenings, soup helps fill in the cracks. A bowl of soup can help stretch leftovers (especially with a pre-teen in the house) and it can be partnered with a salad or sandwich for a meal.
I can eat soup year round, but during chilly winter months, a steaming bowl of soup is especially satisfying. My husband and step-son prefer a creamy and hearty soup and they gave two thumbs up to the recipe I am sharing with you.
My inspiration for the soup is in the name: a mushroom swiss burger. However, I wanted to create a recipe that was not as calorie laden as a greasy burger and the side of obligatory French fries that usually accompanies it. While this soup is more indulgent than a broth based soup, you can slim it down with your choice of ingredients. It can fit well into lower carb dining and if you do not eat meat you can add extra mushrooms (they are a great substitute for meat) and use a high quality vegetable stock.
MUSHROOM SWISS BURGER SOUP
*1 pound of ground beef *4 cups of beef stock/broth *8 ounces of sliced mushrooms *½ cup of chopped onion *3 ribs of chopped celery *2 Tablespoons of minced garlic *2 Tablespoons of olive oil *8 ounces of Swiss cheese (and more to top the finished soup. I used a Swiss gruyere blend) *4 Tablespoons of butter *½ cup of flour *1 cup of milk (I used 2% but you can also use cream) *Salt and pepper to taste *Optional – 2-3 Tablespoons of tomato paste (I did not add any to this batch, but it adds a depth to the body of the soup) *Optional – croutons to top the soup
Saute the onion, celery, and garlic in olive oil for a couple of minutes and add the ground beef to brown. Cook for 10 minutes. Add the mushrooms and continue to cook for 10-15 minutes. Make sure that the mushrooms, ground beef, and onions are brown and caramelized. Add the broth and bring to a simmer.
In a separate saucepan melt the butter and slowly incorporate the flour. Whisk well for 2-3 minutes and be careful not to burn. Add the milk into the butter and flour mixture (roux) and whisk well so there are not any lumps. Add the swiss cheese into the roux until it’s melted. Spoon the roux into the soup pot and mix well.
Simmer for 10 minutes and add salt and pepper to taste.
Serve the soup with a sprinkle of cheese, a few croutons on top, or a toasted baguette. Enjoy!
As chilly weather and snow accumulates outside, this soup will help keep you and your loved ones warm and nourished. Making food for others is a simple act of kindness that reminds us that many of life’s greatest pleasures are simple. I find cooking extremely grounding during these challenging times. Make sure you check out my soup tab for over twenty other healthy soup recipes.
November is close and as we welcome the holiday spirit into your heart, I wish you health and happiness. Take care of yourself and take care of each other. Eat more homemade food, eat your vegetables, and wash your hands!