..the secret life of daydreams..

a blog of the everyday beautiful

Monthly Archives: September 2013

cozy up – velvety butternut squash soup

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Today is one of those classic fall Vancouver days: gray and damp, with abundant amounts of precipitation, and we get to look forward to a whole weekends’ worth of similar conditions. I have to admit I don’t wholly hate it, at least not yet. There is something about getting cozy with knit sweaters, blankets, and chai tea lattes that warms the soul as days get shorter and increasingly soggy.

But today there was only one thing I was craving when I got home from work after driving through the rain and that was a bowl of warm, velvety butternut squash soup fresh from our fall squash harvest in the garden.

butternut squash soup

Butternut squash soup

– 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
– 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
– 2 yellow onions (chopped)
– 2 cloves garlic (minced)
– 1 teaspoon salt
– 1/2 teaspoon pepper
– 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
– 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
– 1 large butternut squash cut into 1/2 inch cubes (about 6 cups)
– 4 cups vegetable broth

Heat the oil and butter in a large pot (I like using a big dutch oven). Saute the onions until softened (about five minutes). Add garlic, salt, pepper, and garam masala and cook until garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the squash and cook for another ten minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour the broth into the pot and bring to a boil, add turmeric and lower to a simmer. Cook until the squash is very tender, about 20 minutes.

Puree the squash and liquid in a blender in batches. Pour back into pot, gently heat, season with salt, and serve with a little sprinkle of nutmeg for garnish.

Enjoy! And if the garam masala really isn’t your thing, you can replace it with a 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg and two sprigs of fresh thyme (removing the thyme before the pureeing step). Delicious!

butternut squash soupbutternut squash soup

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companion planting with garlic

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It’s time to get your garlic into the ground! Late September is the perfect time on the West Coast to get those cloves rooted and thriving for the winter so you can enjoy a great harvest next summer.

garlicA couple of tips when it comes to planting garlic:

1. Separate the heads of garlic into individual cloves and let them dry on a rack for a day or two before planting. This helps to prevent the clove from rotting once in the ground.

drying garlicThis is especially important if you are using fresh garlic that hasn’t fully cured yet, which is likely if you are buying locally grown garlic from a farmer’s market. If you are using packaged garlic from a gardening center, this step isn’t necessary.

2. You can’t grow regular supermarket garlic here in Canada. It mostly comes from China and our climate really isn’t suitable for Asian garlic to grow. Instead, look for a purple Russian garlic variety at farmer’s markets or harvest festivals that are grown locally (meaning they work beautifully here in our climate)!

3. Plant the garlic about two to three inches deep and 8 inches apart with the pointy end of the garlic sticking upright.

4. Garlic doesn’t need much fertilizer when planted, but just before the bulbs begin to swell in the spring (in response to greater daylight hours, about mid-May), a nitrogen-rich organic fertilizer will yield larger heads.

5. Companion plant. This is probably the best thing about garlic (besides actually using it in cooking): garlic is a great deterrent for aphids! I always try to plan my garden around things that need pest protection, so for example, I have had great success with planting kale next to my garlic. It keeps the aphids away and nearly non-existent on my kale, even if the little critters are wreaking havoc on my dahlias ten feet away. I have also had great success (or perhaps good luck) in planting broccoli near my garlic. This past summer, the artichokes got hit pretty hard by aphids so I’m hoping garlic will yet again come to my rescue! I have planted some extra cloves in between the artichoke plants and I’m hoping it will keep away the pests next summer.

garlic in the ground

Happy planting!

feast of fields – 2013

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It’s September, and that means yesterday we indulged in the annual delight known as Feast of Fields! Last year was my first event (read about it here), and hubby and I couldn’t wait to go again and experience all the wonderful local food and drink being sampled.

But what is Feast of Fields, you ask? In case you missed last year’s post, and felt too lazy to follow the link, it can be summarized as a four hour wandering harvest festival, where you, with wine glass and linen napkin in hand, can taste the very best of BC from chefs, farmers, fishers, ranchers, food artisans, vintners, and brewers. Most importantly, Feast of Fields highlights the important connections between farmer and chef, field and table, and farm folk and city folk. It boasts a hefty price tag to get in, but the way I see it, some people don’t bat an eye at spending hundreds of dollars on concerts and entertainment, so for me it’s justified by the fact that food is something I love to experience, and maybe I’ll glean some ideas and information along the way!

feast of fieldsticketsThis year the event was hosted at the beautiful Krause Berry Farms in Langley (worth a visit on any day just for their amazing berry based milkshakes), and the location couldn’t have been more beautiful, despite the rather large wasp population attempting to sneak food off of some tables.

Krause Berry wagonThere was an abundance of amazing treats, including things like grilled pork belly slider with a confit potato on top (so good); gourmet grilled cheese sandwhiches with an heirloom tomato and chile jam inside; cured salmon with an apple fennel slaw on a corn pancake; a smoked white chocolate wafer with a salal berry (local, wild berry) jelly, lemon goat cheese crumble, and micro basil (courtesy of The Pointe restaurant at the Wickaninnish Inn on the Island), and that’s just to name a few.

But I have to give a special mention to Bella Gelateria and the truly outstanding and locally sourced cold treats made by gelato maestro James Coleridge. He has won many international awards for his gelato, including a prestigious win for best gelato at the Florence Gelato Festival in 2012 by both a technical panel and the ‘people’s choice.’ Needless to say, whenever I’m in Vancouver I have to make a stop at his shop on W Cordova (attached to the Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel) for a scoop or two. Personal recommendation: his espresso gelato actually tastes like what a freshly opened bag of espresso beans smells like.

Yesterday at Feast of Fields, James was serving up a Krause Berry strawberry (of course) and Peruvian lime gelato. I went back for more than a couple helpings;).

bella gelateriaNear the end of the festival he was handing out big scoops into people’s glasses so I definitely jumped on board with that one!

gelatoDelicious. As was everything else! Here are pictures from the rest of the day.

grilled cheeseleft field cider co.boothkale from spud.compork belly slidercured salmon on corn pancakewhite chocolate and salal berry jellyIMG_7555feast of fieldspizza and s'moresWhat a day. I almost had to be rolled away I was so full but the experience of eating from some of the most talented chefs and artisans in the area is definitely worth it. Already looking forward to next year!

horse field

cabin life

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So September has come and summer is slipping away; I hardly know where the idle days and long, warm nights have gone. Well, that’s not entirely true, since our summer was full of gardening, camping, and nights with friends, and plenty of evenings spent on the back deck watching the light flicker into a sultry darkness. I certainly didn’t spend much time sitting here in front of a screen (which explains the lack of posts), but I don’t regret that. I’d rather be out there enjoying the summer than sitting here writing about it. I have plenty of time to sit indoors once the rain starts again…

Still, the end of summer always has a way of sneaking up on you. Schools start up again, holidays are over, and life settles into a predictable pattern of work tempered by the knowledge that Thanksgiving feasts and Christmas celebrations are not too far down the road. But let’s not dwell on that. Summer has been glorious here on the ordinarily “wet coast” and we capped it off last weekend in the sun at Shuswap lake. My aunt and uncle recently finished building their gorgeous new cabin and invited all the family over for a bit of a reunion/family gathering. There was copious amounts of food, afternoons playing in and on the water, hot, authentically Finnish sauna and dips in the cool, refreshing water, and of course, plenty of laughs and good times. We had a big dinner on the Saturday night as our celebration meal and my aunt asked if I would decorate the table. I brought a couple other touches, like the chalkboard you’ll see later.

cabincabincabincabincabin-mastercabinchalkboardfoodchalkboardsaunasaunacarrying firewoodwakeboarding wake surfingMy cousin Natalie brought her 9 week old kitten as well. He is so adorably cute that even though I’m not normally a cat person, this little guy made me want one:)

bengal catAnd here is our big dinner, and there was a little surprise at the end for two of my aunt’s who are both approaching a big birthday soon:)

IMG_7260IMG_7261IMG_7272tablescapeIMG_7354birthday surprisebirthday cakeIMG_7367IMG_7380IMG_7382I’m already looking forward the possibility of next year! Thanks everyone for the memorable weekend:)