roasted butternut soup and soft pretzels

roasted butternut soup and soft pretzels

This recipe is from King Arthur Flour with some modifications.  I make my dough in a Kitchen-aid mixer with a dough hook.  I do finish the kneading by hand.


2 tsp instant yeast,  1 Tbs sugar, 1 cup warm water (100-105 F),  3 cups unbleached bread flour, 1/4 cup ground flax seed (optional, I like the taste and it’s good for my heart) , 1 Tbs olive oil (melted butter or any oil will work), 1 tsp salt


5 Tbs warm water,  3 tsp sugar,  2 tsp baking soda

Toppings: (optional)

pretzel salt or pearl sugar or cinnamon-sugar and melted butter.  I just sprinkle with sea salt.

Whisk together water yeast and sugar.  Add remaining ingredients and mix at low speed until dough is smooth and slightly sticky.  If it is too dry add cold water 1 Tbs at a time.  Knead by hand on a lightly floured surface, form into a ball. Place into a bowl with 1-2 Tbs olive oil and roll-around till ball is coated. Cover bowl with dish towel and let rest in a warm spot about 30-40 minutes ( dough should double in size).

Deflate dough (punch it), on a lightly floured surface Divide into 8 pieces.  Roll each piece into a 20″ rope. Shape each rope into a pretzel.

Mix together Wash (water, sugar and baking soda) in a shallow bowl.  Carefully dip into wash flipping to coat all. Place pretzels on to a backing sheet ( I lightly sprinkle sheet with corn meal).  At this point if I remember I sprinkle with sea salt.  They may be placed into a preheated 400 F oven now,  I like to let mine rest before I bake them for 10-20 minutes to get a softer pretzel.

Bake in a preheated 400 degree F oven for 12- 15 minutes until golden brown.  Remove and brush with belted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar ( I don’t do this).

This part might not be good for my heart, but it tastes SO GOOD.  I melt a half stick of butter to dip my warm pretzels in.  These are great with any soup.



This is not about the Seinfeld episode.


If you add   8 cups of diced green tomatoes, 6 cups of diced granny smith apples (peeled and cored), 2 cups of brown sugar packed, 2 cups of white sugar, 2 cups of raisins, 2 lemons diced (remove the seeds everything else gets added), 1 cup of water, 1/2 cup of vinegar, 2 tsp cinnamon,  1 1/2  tsp of salt and 1/4 tsp of allspice,  this should be about 22 cups of stuff.  I called the 2 diced lemons a 1/2 cup.

ready to start cooking

ready to start cooking

Put all of this in a large pot, bring to a boil and cook uncovered at a slow boil  (just higher than a simmer) for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally and what do you get???

Well, I did this the other day and I got 9 cups, that’s all, just 9 cups of Green Tomato Mincemeat.  Very tasty too.  My recipe calls for 8 cups of diced granny smiths,  only had enough apples for 6.  But that worked.  And the kitchen smelled wonderful.


We’ll get to the soup in a bit.  Right now I want to update the garden.  This could be a short post, “the garden is done”  actually the garden is never done.  Looking at seed catalogs on a snowy day is a gardening activity.

The tomatoes are done.  I pulled up the plants and gathered the red and green tomatoes.  Now, I have to decide what to do with the green tomatoes.  DSCF0008I let the ladies and Jack into the garden to clean up where the tomato plants were.DSCF0012As you can see they didn’t stay just where the tomatoes were.  Jack is in with the carrots.  Not much left in this garden, some leeks, carrots and parsley.  The other garden has kale left in it.

On to the soup.  I took a walk through some of the conservation land in town the other day, looking for mushrooms.  Found a nice “hen of the woods”, about the size of a cabbage.  Cleaned it and cut it up.  Froze three, 1 quart bags and made soup with the rest.

hen of the woods

hen of the woods


Wild mushroom soup.

4-6 cups of mushrooms,  1/4 cup leeks or onions, 2-3 tbsp olive oil,  1-2 cloves of garlic,  1/2 cup white wine, 1 cup of chicken broth, 1-2 cups heavy cream, 2 cups water as needed, salt and pepper to taste.

I’m very flexible with ingredients and amounts when I make soup.

Saute the leeks and garlic in olive oil till soft, add the mushrooms and cook till they brown slightly,  add the chicken broth and wine,  simmer 10 minutes.  Puree in 2 batches in a blender adding water as needed.  Return to soup pot, add cream, simmer a couple of minutes to blend the flavors. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with fresh soft pretzels warm from the oven.  I have a small bowl with melted butter to dip the pretzels in.

leeks and carrots

leeks and carrots


mumsDSCF0005more mums


When I first put the young chickens out in their coop,  I would lock them in for most of the time for a week.  This was so they would learn that the coop was safe and that it was where you go at night to sleep.  They learned this lesson with very little problems.  But, now that the weather is getting nice, they have decided to sleep in the run on the high roost.  OK, by me, the run is secure, chain-link dog run with chicken wire buried 18 inches in the ground.  I say they are camping out.  They did sleep in the coop the night we had a very close and severe thunder storm.

Chickens roosting for the night in the run.  5/22/13

Chickens roosting for the night in the run. 5/22/13

One of my favorite movies is “Julie and Julia”, part of the reason I blog.  For Christmas last year my mother-in-law gave me a new copy of “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” by Julia Childs.  I should add that it is now a two volume set.  I’m not going to “cook my way through it” like in the movie but I will cook from it.  So last Monday I had a lot of fresh asparagus that was to be supper.  I made (I’ll use the english name) an Asparagus Mold from Julia Childs famous cook book.  It was great, fresh asparagus and backyard fresh eggs.  I didn’t follow the recipe exactly, but, close enough.  My wife says I never follow any recipe exactly.  She liked it too. Sorry the picture isn’t great and I should have taken a picture before I served some of it.  The whole mold looked very impressive.  Just my opinion.

Asparagus mold from "Mastering the Art of French Cooking"

Asparagus mold from “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”



This gardening season is officially open.  Well, it is here, in my backyard, in Holliston, MA.

I have had my first asparagus of the season and it was marvelous, simply marvelous.

asparagus, ready for cutting 4/30/13

asparagus, ready for cutting 4/30/13

asparagus on an 8-1/2 inch plate

asparagus on an 8-1/2 inch plate

I cut off the tougher ends of the stocks the way my mother did.  She would start at the cut end with a paring knife and apply gentle pressure, if the knife didn’t easily cut the stock she would move up the stock and try again and keep moving up until the knife cut though easily. This part we ate the tougher end went into the compost.

Last night I fried up the asparagus ( cut into 1-2 inch pieces) with some chopped chives (fresh from the garden)  in coconut oil. I keep the tips of the asparagus separate. After stir-frying the chives and asparagus for 4-6 minutes I then add the tips for 2-3 minutes more.  The tips are so tender they don’t need much cooking time if any.

To this I added some cooked quinoa and some toasted sliced almonds.  Salt and pepper to taste and served with a sliced hard-boiled egg.  It was nummy.  Is that a word?? Spell-check didn’t like it. I thought there would be some left over for lunch, no, my wife and I ate all of it.

Now I have to wait a couple of days til I get some more.



Jasmine yells, “Everychicken into the coop for a group meeting – I got a response to our letter!”

As the chickens all gathered around, Jamine began to read the response…

Dear Ini, Mini, Miny and Jack & Jasmine”.

What about me?”, asked Mo indignantly.

They are retired. I am sure it was just an oversight.”

(“or because you’re Stinky…”), said Miny under her breath.

Hey, THAT wasn’t ME!” said Mo even more indignant.

Jasmine continued, “We would be delighted to have you join us in North Carolina.”

There was an eruption of cheers and crows from the group.

Shh – there’s more.” as Jasmine turned the page.

P.S. Don’t these recipes look delicious??!

What’s a recipe?”, asked Mo.

I think it has to do with these pictures. I recognize the greens and the grains and I think that is fruit…but what’s THAT?”, wondered Jasmine.

Oh wait, there’s a caption. Hmm, “Basil, Peach Chi…Chi (gulp)…Chicken Breast’ and – oh my, ‘Buttermilk-Brined Grilled Chicken’.”

There was an audible gasp among the group as they realized an unthinkable thought.

Do you mean to say our Chicken Sitters who are moving to North Carolina EAT Chickens?”, asked Mo as her eyes almost popped out of her head.

They seemed like such a nice couple”, said Ini, shaking her head.

Jack chimed in, “Maybe it’s not so bad here after all. Maybe we should stay”

Yeah, we have survived 4 snow storms and I am sure there won’t be any more.”, chirped Mini.

All in favor of staying?”, asked Jasmine.

Six wings immediately shot up.

Meanwhile, on the big house TV…

Ch.5 meteorologist here. It’s gonna be another snow storm tonight! Hunker down. Don’t let the calendar fool you. It may say “spring starts Wednesday” but we are in the 4-8” belt…”

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