The Tale of An Accidental Squash And A Really Good Pot of Soup

squash-soup

I've been working my way through this new vegan cookbook and one of the recipes I had my eye on has a beautiful photo, including what I mistakenly thought was butternut squash (it's actually sweet potato). Once I decided to make it, I headed to the grocery store and grabbed the biggest butternut squash in the display — fully intending to use it right away.

Well, you all know what happened next. I had to go back to the grocery store (hey, with four kids I'm there every day anyway) to get the sweet potatoes. So the squash held court on a patch of highly coveted counter space in our tiny kitchen.

My husband does most of the kitchen clean up (since I'm the one creating most of the kitchen mess), so it was left to him to pick up and put down that squash every time he wiped down the counters. I knew I could get away with it for a few days, until finally and predictably he casually and cautiously asked, Are you using this squash for anything? 

I know how much he appreciates the effort I put into feeding our family, and he never questions how I go about doing it. But that huge squash was really getting on his nerves. 

Most of the week's meals are filled with tried-and-true recipes. I just can't take a chance with food experimentation when I'm facing hungry kids and limited time — and squash would definitely qualify as an experiment if you ask my children. I do my best to cook up a batch of vegetarian soup or stew for the grown up lunches, but I was finding it hard to think of something to do with that accidental squash.  

And so it happened that as I was flipping through my binder of recipes for the weekday homemade chicken noodle soup that I know everyone will eat, another recipe fell out and caught my attention. Its main ingredient is squash. 

But that's not all that made me glad to have found it. The recipe was given to us by a chef at a restaurant we visited what feels like a lifetime ago. We had been camping with three very young children in Prince Edward County, and my sweetheart planned a romantic (and we'll use that term loosely here since we had three kids with us) dinner at a local restaurant called the Waring House. He'd read about it in the paper, I believe, and knew we'd both appreciate the use of locally sourced food. 

Except — if memory serves — we didn't really get to savour the taste of any of it. I don't think it was one of the better eating-out-with-toddlers-and-babies experiences we've ever had, and I don't think it was for any of the patrons that were dining with us that night, either. We were seated in a quiet room with a beautiful view and a very cranky baby. I think we took turns standing outside with her, while the other parent coaxed the kids to hurry up and finish their food already. 

Maybe my soup went cold or I didn't get a chance to finish it, but somehow we came away with a printed copy of the chef's recipe, and it's been sitting in my binder waiting to be made ever since.

Tonight, my husband will come home from a long day at work, and we'll have the soup while it's still warm. And we'll catch up with one another, because no one will have to go outside with a screaming baby. Maybe we'll have a laugh about that disastrous night, maybe we won't. But I do know we'd both say we are glad we tried it anyway. 

And I don't mean the soup. 

 

Squash Medley Ginger Maple Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 large squash, baked
  • 2 cups of sweet potatoes, baked
  • 2 cups chopped onions
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 4 cups of vegetable stock
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • salt and pepper to taste

Method:

Place the squash and the sweet potatoes in a 350 degree oven, halved, cut side down on a parchment lined baking sheet and roast for one hour. Sweat the onions until transparent in the oil and add the cayenne and ginger. Add the carrots, squash, sweet potatoes and stock and simmer for 40 minutes. Puree this mixture in a food processor in batches to get a smooth consistency (I used a hand blender). Return the soup to the pot and add the maple syrup. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serves six. 

 

 

 

Lunchbox Revolution

It's true, I was defeated.

Six years, three kids, five days a week, 10 months in a school year (minus glorious, glorious pizza days), and the filling of lunch boxes had me crazed.

Lunchboxes
But that's behind me now. 

Let's go back a little while.

When my firstborn entered school six years ago, I happily complied with our school's litterless lunch campaign. We bought little pots with matching lids, and slapped our teeny tiny labels all over them. I filled those pots with delicious bites, and sent my girl on her way. But as the years ticked by, and little brother and sister began boarding the school bus, my enthusiasm started to wane. She liked this, he liked that and the other wanted her snacks just so. 

Every morning, three yawning children, three yawning lunch boxes, and one yawning mom. 

I was bored, bored, bored. And I wasn't alone; those little pots were coming home with food in them more often than not. 

And then a happenstance glimpse of another child's lunch box changed everything.

"What is that?" I asked my son's classmate.

"An oatmeal flax muffin," she responded.

"And who made it?" I prodded.

"My mom did. She makes everything in my lunch." 

And it wasn't just the muffin (though it was outfitted in a delightful pink cupcake liner). Everything in that child's lunch box was simply adorable. I was smitten. I wanted to take her lunch and have it for my own. I wanted to make a lunch just like it.

Allow me to dazzle you now with some pretty flowers:

Flowerlunch
And scary monsters:

Monsterlunch
And top secret messages:

Loveyoulunch
I found the answer to my lunchbox despair:

MAKE LUNCH LOOK GOOD AND THEY WILL EAT IT!!!

Well in theory, it sounded good, anyway. 

And when I put it into practise, it was (gasp) fun!

While there will never be a lunch like this staring up at my child's face (much to my son's dismay),

Angrybirdlunch
but I've now switched to a lunch box system that holds me accountable. When my kids flip that lid open, my handiwork is on display for all the world to see. I'm obliged to throw in bright colours and interesting shapes, and though I haven't yet mastered the art of rice krispie balls....my kids are biting.

The lunch boxes are coming home empty!

I have a long way to go (though please note the homemade oatmeal flax muffin),

Lunchbox
but I've always loved a challenge. 

I get swept up in the thrill of finding ideas to fill those brightly-coloured containers, and let me tell you there is inspiration to be found

So stop sneering at those lunch boxes. Instead join me in giving them a knowing wink.

Trust me, your kids will thank you.

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I was not asked to endorse Mabel's Labels, Laptop Lunches or the wonderful Bent On Better Lunches blog. They're just products and places that make me clap. 

 

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