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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

A Soul's Companion

A Soul's Companion: I grew up in a house surrounded by trees. The backyard maple was a favorite perch for reading the afternoon away when I was a child. Before I climbed I was careful to loop a rope around the branch above me so I could pull a basket of apples and books up after me. The willow tree often found me seeking faeries among her branches, and later, after I ...

Ellie's Kitchen: Crockpot Barley Vegetable Soup and Sweet Potato Knots

It's 39 degrees in my little Massachusetts town: a beautiful crisp, sunny October morning. The trees are glowing in shades of flame and gold, and mist is rising off the river like wraiths. There is no place like New England in the fall. And nothing says 'cozy' like coming in at the end of the day to a warm home smelling of baking bread and hot soup. Thus, while my family is away at work and school, I'm prepping dinner in the slow cooker:

Crockpot Barley Vegetable Soup


  • 1 cup medium pearl barley
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp. fennel seed
  • 3 carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cups frozen corn
  • 2 cups frozen green beans
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 3 (14 oz). cans vegetable broth
  • 4 cups water
  • 14-oz. can diced tomatoes with herbs, undrained
  • 2 cups baby spinach
  • Preparation
    1. Place all ingredients except the can of diced tomatoes and spinach in a 5-6 quart crockpot in the order given. Do not stir.
    2. Cover crockpot and cook on low for 8 hours. Stir soup and add tomatoes and baby spinach; stir again to combine.
    3. Cover crockpot and cook for 20 to 30 minutes longer until soup is hot and spinach is wilted. Remove and discard bay leaf before serving.

  • Easy Sweet Potato Knots.


    • 1 cup Warm Water
    • 1 envelope (7g Envelope) Active Dry Yeast
    • 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
    • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil,, Plus More To Oil The Bowl
    • ½ cups Sweet Potato Puree (fresh Or Canned)
    • 3-½ cups Unbleached Bread Flour
    • 1-½ teaspoon Coarse Kosher Salt

    Preparation Instructions

    Note: To make sweet potato puree, microwave sweet potato until soft, place in a paperr bag to cool, then peel. Easy as pie.
    1. Pour warm water into a medium bowl and slowly whisk in yeast. Let sit for 10 minutes, then add honey, olive oil and mashed sweet potato. Whisk until thoroughly combined and smooth.
    2. In a separate bowl, mix flour and salt. Slowly stir in wet ingredients and continue to stir until it becomes impossible to stir more. Then use your hands to continue mixing and slowly start kneading your dough, adding more flour to your hands to keep it from sticking.
    3. Once you’ve created your dough ball, add olive oil to the bottom of your bowl and roll the dough ball in it until it is coated. Cover with Saran wrap or a damp towel and store in a dry place (I use my microwave) for two hours.
    4. Around the last 15-minute mark, preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Divide your dough into pieces you can easily hold in your fist and roll them into long strips around 8 or 9-inches long. Don’t worry if they’re skinny, they’ll still get fat when they bake. Tie each into a knot, tuck the edges under each side, then place each on the baking pan.
    5. Brush with melted butter. Bake until golden, around 10-15 minutes.  Allow to cool 3-5 minutes.
  • (I forget which cookbook I got this recipe out of. I copied it years ago...) 

Monday, August 29, 2016

Library Loot #9: Russian History is alive...

...and well in Simon Sebag Montefiore's historic masterpiece The Romanovs: 1613-1918. I've read biographies on Catherine the Great and Tsar Nicholas and his family (really, who hasn't heard of at least Grand Duchess Anastasia?) but I haven't read the story of the founding of the dynasty and all the people that came before Catherine, and after up to Nicholas. I haven't finished the book, but what an immense, colorful, checkered history of murder, deceit, and the few who struggled to do what was truly right not just for the country but for its people. It makes me wish I had a dash of Russian heritage. Oh well, one can dream, and read on.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Food for thought...

It's not Wednesday, but....

Ellie's Kitchen: Creamy Lemon Sauce with Egg Pasta, Corn, Leeks & Peas

     I would love to say that I create my own amazing recipes and we all leave the table happy, full, and deliciously fat. Sadly, this is not the case. I can but mimic the efforts of other excellent cooks, and reap the rewards of praise from family and friends. I am okay with this. And so I will continue to share recipes we have tried and heartily enjoyed, so that you may enjoy them as well. And I will bask in your tummy's happiness.

Creamy Lemon Sauce with Egg Pasta, Corn, Leeks & Peas


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 ears corn, husked, kernels cut from cobs (I used frozen.)
  • 2 large leeks, white and light-green parts only, quartered and sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup shelled fresh peas or frozen peas, thawed
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine or chicken stock
  • 1 pound extra-wide egg noodles or tagliatelle
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 lemons, zested (about 1 tbsp.) and juiced (about 1/2 cup)
  • Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano
  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta.
  2. In a large skillet, heat the oil, one turn of the pan, over medium-high. Melt the butter into the oil, then add the corn, leeks and garlic; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the leeks soften, about 5 minutes. Add the peas, stir in the wine and reduce the heat to medium-low.
  3. Salt the boiling water, add the pasta and cook to al dente; drain and transfer to a large bowl.
  4. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, bring the cream, zest and juice to a low boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally; remove from the heat.
  5. In the large bowl, toss the pasta with the corn mixture and the lemon cream; season. Serve with the cheese.

Lulu's Library #8: Rod Espinosa's 'Courageous Princess' series

     We found a new-to-us graphic novel collection that the whole family loves, the Little Bit especially, as it has adventure, magic, exploring, greedy dragons and a talking porcupine all rolled into one. Rod Espinosa's Courageous Princess, MabelRose is snatched by a dragon determined to keep her in his castle forever. Instead of waiting for rescue (because what kind of intelligent, adventurous, brave princess does that?) she forms her own plan to escape and return to her homeland. And the rest is a story of high adventure written joust for young readers. Or older readers, and my husband and I read it to our little boy, and a couple days later our 19 year old was reading it as well.

(These loaded in the wrong order...the bottom one is actually book 1...and my computer is not cooperating. I apologize.)