Tag Archives: gardening

From garden to soup pot: Autumn lessons

Nothing transforms vegetables like roasting them in a hot oven. And a run through the blender. Gotta have the blender.

I’m obsessed with roasting vegetables. Thirty minutes in a hot oven brings out the natural sweetness of savory stuff in a way that makes you forget what you’re eating is good for you. And it’s so dagnabb’ed easy, too.

If you’re keeping track, you’re just now realizing you haven’t heard much lately from Minnesota Wonderer (or Minnesota Transplant, whatever she’s calling herself). Yup, I’ve been up to my eyeballs in insurance paperwork. Not for myself, Lord no, for various clients who require insuring (which is pretty much all of us, if you’re being legal or you’re just plain risk-averse). In any case, I haven’t been blogging.

Oh, and there’s this other big project I have on the horizon. By big, I mean ginormous. Like, the only thing bigger in terms of financial commitment and time frame would be having a child. But I’m not quite ready to share that project. When I am ready, you’ll hear about it, I assure you.

In the meantime, I took a breath from paperwork on Saturday, and I made a pot of soup. And it was some kind of soup. So I feel compelled to share. Just in case you, too, have a garden of junk peppers you’re considering letting go to Jack Frost.

Animal VegetableI’m reading this book, you see. In between paperwork and project planning and meal prep, I’m reading Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life. The fiction author wrote this memoir with her husband Steven L. Hopp and her daughter Camille Kingsolver to share their family’s experience with eating local for a year, that is, consuming only food that was produced locally. That meant a lot of gardening, farmer’s markets and organic chicken. And no bananas or avocados.

Her premise is that locally produced food is better for the environment, society and the human body, and she makes her point in a pretty compelling way. I mean, I’m not going to become a gardener or make my own cheese, but I’m inspired to pay better attention to where the food I’m putting in my mouth comes from.

banana-peppers.jpg

So I paid a visit to a friend’s garden on Saturday afternoon and picked all of his overripe banana peppers (with his permission). Did you know those lime green peppers turn red after a while? Me neither, but they do. The sun was shining in a way that it might not do again for six months or more, and we haven’t had a hard frost yet this autumn. I also picked one — one! — red hot jalapeno pepper. While I was picking my way through the overgrown weeds, I spied a few red-and-green tomatoes, too. Upon inspection, I discovered they weren’t perfect but they were pretty much free of bugs.

Thus inspired, I dug through the crisper drawer and found a stalk of celery, a carrot, a half of a yellow sweet pepper, a half an onion and two cloves of garlic. I can’t vouch for their local provenance, but I’d already purchased them so I was wasting-not-wanting not.

roasted veggies

A little bit of chopping (a very little bit) left me with this pan of vegetables to roast. I doused them in olive oil, salt and pepper, set the oven to 425 degrees, and I headed for the shower.

spicy red pepper soupThirty minutes later, I dumped the whole mess into the blender, added a cup of water, a teaspoon or so of Better Than Boullion and a dash of tomato paste I saved from the previous day’s chili (that’s the cheap Minnesotan in me, I can’t throw away perfectly good food, even a tablespoon of tomato paste). Whirr, whirr, and I had the world’s tastiest, couldn’t-be-better-for-you Spicy Red Pepper Soup (all I needed was the one — one! — jalapeno pepper for the spice; I suspect jalapenos left on the vine this long might be hotter than the season’s early fare). I simmered it a bit on top the stove (just so I could enjoy the aroma, but it didn’t hurt to let it spend some time melding flavors). I added a bit more olive oil (because … olive oil! It’s good for you and tastes delicious, too). Then I ladeled it into a bowl, sprinkled it with parmesan cheese and freshly ground pepper, and dug in. Wow, was it good.

So the lessons here are many:

  • Don’t believe you’re ever too busy to make dinner. It’s good for the soul and the body to chop and roast and be creative.
  • Don’t let an abundance of garden harvest go to waste. Think of a new way to consume it. Or invite a friend to scour for vegetable jewels.
  • Roasting and blending makes anything better. Sure, fresh is good, and who doesn’t like a good salad? Well, a lot of people don’t like salad, let’s be honest. But it’s harder to find soup haters. Smells good, warms the tummy, takes all the hard edges off produce. Roasted vegetable soup can inspire a lot of admirers. Get cookin’.

full on spicy red pepper soup

 

 

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Rhodies

rhododendron pink

Some campgrounds aren’t worth remembering, but if a place has a distinctive feature, I’ll probably find it while walking my dog.

In Fort Bragg, California, the memorable thing was the rhododendrons . Only I didn’t know what to call them until SimplyPut536 stopped by for my post about northern California’s coast and mentioned the rhododendrons in Fort Bragg.

A little bit of time spend with Google revealed that Fort Bragg is a hot bed (or should I say, hot-house?) for rhododendrons (or rhodies, if you’re hip and in the know) because of its cool coastal climate and uniquely rich soil. So they’re hard to miss because they’re everywhere.

rhododendron white

The bees love ’em.

rhododendron bee

Part of the reason they’ll catch your eye is because they’re like lilacs–not just one blossom or a bunch, they come in towering bushes.

rhododendron far away

Usually, but not always, under huge trees (because that’s how they grow ’em on the West Coast).

I found some other eye-catching blossoms while in Fort Bragg, too, but I can’t identify them without some help. There were these yellow gems on the shore:

rhododendron yellow

And this iridescent blue beauties of which I just had to take a picture, even while handling the dog.

rhododendron blue

Clematis memories

clamatis wide shot

My Beloved planted this clematis a couple of years ago because it reminded him of his grandfather.

I never met his mother’s father, but he sounds like he filled a room with his personality. Among his talents, apparently, was gardening. Tyler remembers his grandfather’s clematis growing on a trellis in the back yard. Technically, this one is in our side yard, but when it started blooming so beautifully this week, my Beloved relished good memories. I’m sharing so you can appreciate its beauty.

clamatis close up

Beauty everywhere, if you stop to notice

 
Slow down and smell the lilies.

   

Seven lilies and … a surprise! … in Aunt Helen’s garden

Lily 1

Lily 2

Lily 3

Lily 4

Lily 5

Lily 6

Lily 7

“As all must be,” I said within my heart,
“Whether they work together or apart.”
But as I said it, swift there passed me by
On noiseless wing a ’wildered butterfly.

~ lines from “The Tuft of Flowers” by Robert Frost

Butterfly

Noble color, noble intentions

On the theory that seeing warm colors warms you up, I present this gallery of beautiful flowers on the warm side of the color wheel.

(There is no theory that viewing warm colors warms you up, but I think you’ll enjoy these images that make the most of the Rule of Thirds more than pictures of yellow snow.)

yellow flower

coral flower

red flower

fuscia flower

purple flower

Wherever men are noble, they love bright colour; and wherever they can live healthily, bright colour is given them—in sky, sea, flowers, and living creatures.

~ John Ruskin (1819–1900)

A rainbow of pretty Southern plants

Minnesota Transplant has been traveling around the southern United States, lo, these past few days, and she’s discovered some interesting plants she never sees in Minnesota:

peppers

I found these little peppers in the Victory Garden at the World War II museum in New Orleans (it’s a very good museum, as far as wars go —  I definitely recommend beginning with the 4D movie narrated by Tom Hanks — it deftly compresses four years of U.S. involvement in the war to end all wars into about 35 minutes).

pink grass

Grass is green in Minnesota and Illinois. Or maybe blue if you’re a fan of Kentucky bluegrass. But it’s never pink. I found this ethereal pink ornamental grass in Gulf Shores, Ala. Wow. I felt like a fairy standing in the midst of these waves of cotton candy.

dragon flower

Though it wasn’t snarling, I found a flame-haired dragon in the garden at my husband’s uncle’s place in Tampa, Fla. This tropical beauty spoke to me: Take my picture, please. I complied.