Archive for the ‘Cooking’ Category

I’ve been called many names like perfectionist, difficult, and obsessive.  I think it takdes obsession, takes searching for the details for any artist to be good. ~Barbara Streisand

I turned SIXTY this past September.  That’s a big 6 and an 0.  Six DECADES of life.  And I still feel like I’m 17 with the whole world at my feet and eternity to explore it in.  As my birthday approached I became increasingly reflective, contemplating the past and what I have accomplished and musing about how much time I had left to accomplish anything,; whether I could accomplish anything that mattered,  and what I wanted that to be.  What kind of legacy did I want to leave behind?  How could I be the best me I could be?

These musings were very private and personal so they didn’t get written about.  At least not for public consumption. They consumed a great deal of time and energy and as a consequence this Blog and many other things were neglected.  It was a downright obsessive compulsive period that lasted much longer than I would have thought  but in many ways I am glad I took those long months off and engaged in more than a little self indulgent navel gazing.  It was good for me because I realized that I had been shambling  through life like a tumbleweed blown hither, thither, and yon at the whim of whatever breeze blew the hardest.  I need to focus.  I need to narrow down what I will give my precious little available head space  and physical energy to and set some goals.

I don’t usually make formal New Years Resolutions because when I do  I usually set such lofty goals for myself that I can’t possibly live up to them.  But then that leads to vague, unfocused rambling semi-goals  that are seldom really productive.  Every year I do choose a few  new to me things to learn.  Usually something difficult and something not so difficult and something easy. I really enjoy learning to do new things and I have learned a lot of things over my lifetime.  I’m proud of this ability and I’m proud of the many varied interests I have.  I think it keeps me young and my mind alert.  (I may be kidding myself about that part.)  Most of all it means that I am very rarely bored.

However, where I get into trouble is my expectations for myself.  For instance last year I vowed to learn to play bridge and I did learn the basics but bridge is a complicated game and there was so MUCH to learn that I became overwhelmed so I quit.  I wanted to be able to jump into a game with people who had been playing Bridge for years and be competitive.  I was not content to BE a beginner.  And that is my hubris.  I expect too much of myself.  I’m too competitive.

The same thing happened when I decided to learn to crochet before my daughter was born.  I didn’t just want to learn to crochet, I wanted to crochet her coming home from the  hospital outfit and when I was a couple of months along I chose a lovely and not too complicated  pattern. I managed to accomplish learning how to crochet and I did manage to make my daughter’s coming home outfit before she was born but I didn’t learn some things that were essential for crocheting a truly lovely garment.  And my disappointment in my effort led me to quit putting in any more effort to learn.   I couldn’t do it perfectly so I didn’t want to do it at all.  I realize now that it really was too hard to learn more than the basics  all by myself.  What’s more, I wasn’t willing to do the dull practice of crocheting simple scarves and hats that didn’t require complicated turns and counting stitches to get to the point that I could point with pride at what I had made. If I cannot produce a garment that looks as if it had been made by someone with 20 years of experience crocheting then I lose interest.  I want to be an expert in 3 easy lessons.

Of course that doesn’t  happen.  My expectations for myself were and always have been too high.  If I can’t be an instant expert, leftover tapes from my childhood begin to play in my head and I  abandon whatever didn’t come easy immediately.  So this year, late in life, I have decided to learn how to lower my expectations and learn something difficult one baby step at a time and not let my failure to be perfect at doing it right away get in my way. After all, over the years whenever I wanted a new scarf or a hat, I have picked up the yarn and needles and crocheted one and now people see my work and offer to pay me to crochet for them.  I have finally become an expert in scarves and hats. I’ve decided after all this time to learn to be a beginner. Not so difficult things usually comes pretty easy for me so I felt that the key to correcting this flaw in my character was to break something down into its simplest components, to begin at the beginning  and become an expert in one small piece at a time before I allowed myself to move on the the next small piece.

So these are my New Year’s resolutions.

1.  Find a teacher to teach me how to do something difficult the right way and quit expecting myself to be able to learn new things without help.

2. Accept that I cannot become an expert in something until I have finished the business of being a beginner.

3. Put my ability to be obsessive to good use and learn to deal with the boredom of the repetitive details of being a beginner until I have ceased to be a beginner at step one before I move on to step two.

4. Do allow my compulsive nature to jump ahead to what I consider  the “fun stuff”  ruin the process of learning.  Learn to accept “failure” and frustration as part of the process of learning.

5. Relax and enjoy being  the best me I can be.

These are the new things I want to learn this year:

Making good light fluffy cream Scones

The Korean alphabet

Understanding and using Linux terminal  command lines

Oh, and one more resolution:  BLOG about my experiences



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I’ve been under the weather—literally—lately. With the advent of this early spring comes changing weather fronts moving rapidly across my state as the spring rains come and go with the barometric pressure rising and falling on an almost daily basis, especially at night. For whatever reason, that means my chronic illness flares and my pain level rises to the point I cannot sleep well. In addition, spring brings seasonal allergies that exacerbate my asthma. In short, I’m a mess.


I finally caved and called the Doctor to ask for a renewal of the one-step up from my regular pain medication that I take when things get bad but getting back to my baseline isn’t coming as easily as it usually does. I waited too long to cry uncle… Hence very little writing is getting done.


So I decided I would make a very short post about the pick-me-up beverage I “invented” yesterday which was inspired by some Chai Masala (Indian Spiced Tea) I had last week. I added some Chinese Five Spices mix made by Tone to some strong iced coffee, sweetened it with half a teaspoon of Stevia, and poured in some 2% milk. Holy Cow! That was some seriously good stuff! Even better than the Chai Masala.  I had another glass today and it made my tongue smile and improved my mood considerably.


Try it!  I think you’ll like it!  And it’s lowfat!


Barbara Gavin-Lewellyn 


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If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance.
George Bernard Shaw

Happy is said to be the family which can eat onions together. They are, for the time being, separate, from the world, and have a harmony of aspiration.
Charles Dudley Warner

Family. Can there be a more prickly source of joy and despair in our lives? Last night my children, Daryn and Kerryn, came to have dinner with me. We haven’t had a meal together just the three of us in years. There were a good many conversations that began “remember when…”

Daryn brought Kerryn his electronic key board (she wants to learn to play the piano and is planning to take piano lessons!) and while I got dinner on the table and took pictures of it, she began trying to play chopsticks. I was immediately transported back in time, wandering down memory lane. That was the one piece I taught them as youngsters and they loved the fact that we could all three play a part. Whenever we got near a piano back in the early years the three of us would play chopsticks.

Last night was special. My kids became kids again and I was the Mom. We were the family of origin once again.  The salient unit. Happy being together.

Sadly, I forgot to take pictures of THEM. I’m pretty sure they enjoyed having just the three of us together without spouses, grandchildren and extended family members present. We’ll have to remember to do it more often.

On the menu: “left over” Boef Bourguinon (I froze some of the beef and broth when I made it a couple of weeks ago and added fresh vegetables. Fairly quick and easy.) and Dairy Free “Buttermilk” Biscuits. It was a great meal for a night spitting rain and snow and the biscuits turned out really well.  So far I have had only one failure with my egg and dairy free adaptions of family recipes.  That’s amazing!

Barbara Gavin-Lewellyn

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One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.  ~Luciano Pavarotti and William Wright, Pavarotti, My Own Story

Last Sunday I tried a new recipe and baked a Dr Pepper Ham for a feast for the “kids.” I’ve heard about soda pops being used to tenderize meat but had never tried it.  Then a ham recently came into my life and while I was googling recipes to be sure I had the oven temperature and stuff right,  I ran into the Dr Pepper Ham recipe on The cooking Dude website and I had to try it and tweak it to make it my own. 

Dr Pepper just happens to be my favorite soda pop.  I can remember the first time I tried it.  I was at the Pibel Bible Church Camp and Jon Zlomke bought it for me. Ahhh…sweet memories.  But I digress, back to my very tiny, very retro 1980s  kitchen:

Actually I tried FIVE new (at least for some of the family) recipes for that dinner since I’m trying to adapt tried and true family recipes to the dairy and egg allergies that have recently been diagnosed. Reinventing the wheel so to speak. The menu:

Dr Pepper Ham*

Garlic Mashed potatoes and Cauliflower*

Roasted Beets*

Steamed Broccoli

Corn Bread*

Grandma’s Dilly Bread**

Vodka Apple Pie*

Everything turned out great except for the adaptation of Grandma Iola Gavin’s recipe for Dilly Bread (**found in The Joy of Cooking recipe book). I’m not sure exactly what went wrong because I went off course and mixed the batter up the night before and let it rise in the refrigerator overnight in the interests of saving time and energy when I had all that other stuff going on. That might not have been a good idea for batter bread.  I substituted soft tofu with a couple of tablespoons of almond milk for the cottage cheese and added a tablespoon of vinegar and extra baking soda to substitute for the egg. The rise didn’t ever quite get there and when I took it out of the oven it fell. :^(  It was really dense and seemed too “wet.” 

The good news is that it tasted quite similar to Grandma’s Bread.  I’ll have to try again because Dilly Bread is a big favorite and a must for a ham dinner at our house. I’m thinking there was too much moisture—I didn’t adjust the wet ingredients to account for the vinegar and the almond milk may have been overkill.

After a big ham dinner, what comes next? Why Ham & Bean Soup*, of course! My friend Mark Zakula is responsible for the ham dinner because we bartered for services. He drove my dog Igor and me to the vet and requested a batch of bean soup in return. As happy coincidence would have it, ham went on sale at my neighborhood store, Capitol Centre Market, that same week and we scratched the Ham Hock & Bean Soup in favor of that coveted ham bone and my “kids” got a ham dinner. :^)

I was “talking” to Bebe, author of the French Twisted Woman  blog here on WordPress, about cooking, recipes, and food photography and mentioned that I had made bean soup but neglected to get a picture but maybe I should post a picture of the blister I got rendering all of the carrots I put into it into ¼ cubes. She said she’d post a picture of one of her failures If I would post my blister picture. So here you are Bebe:

It had already begun to heal and wasn’t full of water anymore so it’s not as dramatic as I would have liked but if you look closely you can see it at the base of my index finger on the right. <heheheh>

Then I remembered that I actually had a couple of bowls of that soup in the refrigerator so here’s a picture of the soup too!


*All recipes can be found by post date in the new Recipe pages found in the tabs at the top of every post or by clicking the links on the menu posted above.

Barbara Gavin-Lewellyn

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Nope, my good girl, Kerryn, came to my rescue! Since she voluntarily came to clean my oven for the stupid HUD Inspections, I made her a simple supper of Salad, Omaha Steak’s Pork Loin Cutlets (a gift from one of my neighbors), and Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Cauliflower which she had never tried. The Pork Cutlets were really, really good. Thanks, Richard!

 The mashed potatoes and cauliflower combination is a fairly new discovery for me and Kerryn liked it so just for her, here’s the recipe for six to eight servings:

Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Cauliflower

Cook until tender:

1 head of cauliflower broken into small florets

4 medium-sized unpeeled Yukon Gold potatoes cut into 1 inch cubes

I usually start this process with the potatoes in a pot that has a steamer insert and put the cauliflower in the steamer until the potatoes are beginning to get soft. Then I dump the cauliflower in with them and finish them together.

While that is cooking peel, smash and mince 3-4 good-sized cloves of garlic and saute it in 1 TBS of butter until it smells good and is tender. Do not brown. OR if you’re busy and rushing things, use 1 tsp garlic powder in the next step. More if you like garlic.

When the vegetables and garlic have cooked put them in a food processor with a bit of the cooking liquid and add:

2 (or more) TBSP butter
1/8 cup of whole milk to start.
½ tsp salt
A few cranks of the pepper grinder

Turn the food processor on and let it do its thing until the potato peels are still visible but the potatoes and cauliflower look like mashed potatoes are supposed to look in your world. I like mine a bit lumpy. (What can I say, my mother was not into doing whatever it took to make smooth mashed potatoes when I was growing up so in MY world mashed potatoes are a little lumpy with chewy little chunks of potatoes in them.)

Turn it out into a serving bowl and stir in 1 TBS of parsley. Fresh is a nice touch but I seldom have fresh on hand so I use the dried stuff. Plop about a TBS of butter in the middle and crank some pepper over the top. Good with beef or pork gravy on it, too.

If I was going to make this dairy free I would substitute a good margarine for the butter and use plain soy, oat or almond milk instead of Cow’s milk. Maybe coconut milk.  I’ve been reading good things about the health benefits of coconut oil.

Since I live alone I halve this recipe and I’m inclined to use instant potatoes. Just follow the recipe on the box for 2 servings and dump everything into the food processor with half the cauliflower. It keeps well in the refrigerator for a few days

That’s Kerryn.  She doesn’t look much like a kitchen drudge in that picture does she?  But let me tell ya, she can clean an oven and not make a mess of the floor.  I don’t know how she does it. 

Thanks for helping me out with that odious chore, Sweet Pea. You rock!  Love ya a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck!

Addendum:  It is 9:30am. The inspectors have come and gone.  I got the bathroom and kitchen mostly done, the windows washed, and my bed made.  I had the couch pulled out and the equipment and cleaning supplies to vacuum and steam clean the pet messes on the carpet (wouldn’t you know one of my brats puked on the carpet in two different spots yesterday) scattered around so it was obvious I was getting to them. 

They weren’t even going to look in the oven or refrigerator but I insisted they look at the oven since I stressed over it so much and Kerryn made a special effort to help me.  Jill said it was obvious that I kept up with the housekeeping so she just checked things off her list.  I guess that’s a compliment.  They did test the fire alarm and made sure all the other mechanicals were working–flushed the toilet, turned on the fans and all the lights. I pointed out that I cleaned the windows because if the windows are clean and the kitchen counters are cleared off, the dishes are put away, the kitchen floor is mopped and the carpets don’t have a bunch of crap littering them,  then the house looks clean to me.  The dust can be an inch thick but if those things are done, it looks clean.  Just don’t look too closely.

Honestly, I don’t know why they send that damn letter telling us that we have to do this long list of stuff to pass these things if they aren’t going to check to be sure they are done.  On the other hand, I still have nightmares about living at Shirley’s House of Recycled Virgins on Whitewater Avenue in Fort Atkinson when the kids were young.  What a PITA that stick-up-her-butt woman was when she did inspections.  I guess I won’t complain about the young ladies here and try to remember they aren’t Shirley…

Wikipedia: floor definition: the level base of a room.

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Sunday was my son’s 41st birthday so of course we had to have cake! My family doesn’t eat a lot of cake. Not that we don’t like it because we certainly do. A little too much, in fact. We just reserve cakes and pies and sweets in general for special occasions. So we get birthday cakes 6 times a year and probably a couple more “just because” cakes when all of us get together. Daryn has requested boxed cake mix cakes for years because he likes the oily fluffiness of them. To my daughter and me, this is cake heresy.

So this year I vowed to find the oiliest fluffiest cake recipe out there. After 41 years, I finally came up with a homemade cake that Dz actually liked. Presenting…

Brazilian Chocolate Chiffon Cake

with strawberries and custard

The cake:

Preheat your oven to 325*

Pour 1 ¼ cup hot very strong coffee* over:

4 squares of baker’s chocolate chopped

2 TBS margarine or butter

¼ to ½ ** tsp hot red pepper flakes

½ to 1** tsp cinnamon

½ tsp baking soda

and stir until chocolate is melted. *I ground coffee beans until they were espresso powder consistency, put a couple of heaping teaspoons in my glass measuring cup and then poured boiling water into it and let it steep awhile. Then I reheated it in the microwave and poured the whole mess over the chocolate. Most of the coffee grounds stayed in the cup. You can use 2 heaping teaspoons of instant crap coffee but… I’m just saying…

**The amount of pepper flakes and cinnamon depends on how much you like those flavors. I used more pepper flakes because we like more and less cinnamon because I was serving strawberries and cream with the cake. In moderation both intensify the flavor of the chocolate as does the coffee and you hardly know they are there.  Adding more pepper flakes does give the cake an unexpected bite.  You can also use cayenne pepper.

Set the chocolate mixture aside to cool and sift together:

2 Cups cake flour

1 ½ cup sugar

3 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

Make a well in the dry ingredients and add in order:

1 1/2 cup canola oil

7 unbeaten egg yolks

cooled* coffee and chocolate mixture

2 tsp vanilla

Stir with a spoon until the mixture is smooth. Do not beat. You do not want the gluten to start binding together. The less you stir the fluffier the cake will be.

*Make sure your coffee and chocolate mixture has cooled to room temperature. Too hot and it will cook the egg yolks and you don’t want that!

Beat slowly until the eggs whites start bubbling:

1 cup of egg whites (7 or 8)

½ tsp cream of tartar

Then crank the mixer up to high and beat until the egg whites form stiff glossy peaks.   Fold, do not stir, the chocolate batter into the egg whites just until they are incorporated. There should be light streaks, medium streaks and a few dark streaks in the batter.

Bake in three ungreased 9” cake pans (or in the case of the cake pictured above one 10 inch flan pan and two 8”pans) at 325* for 25-35 minutes, then check with a tooth pick. If it comes out clean, the cake is done. If it’s got gooey stuff on it bake another 5-10 minutes and check again.


Bake in an ungreased angel food cake pan for 55 minutes. Increase the heat to 350* and bake another 10-15 minutes and test with a toothpick.

What comes next is probably the most ambitious cake project I have ever attempted. I should have stuck to plain old cake with Ganache icing but noooo, I had to try fancy. All I can say is DO NOT attempt this unless you are an experienced cake decorator or you are prepared to fail. I failed. Spectacularly.

Strawberries and Custard Filling

I wish I could give you a good recipe for this. The one I made tasted good but it was a total flop as far as constructing the cake went. I wish I had an excuse to make another cake to see if I could pull it off, having learned from my mistakes but given the expense of the key ingredients (13 eggs! 3 cups of heavy cream, 10 squares of baking chocolate, a bag of Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips and a pint of strawberries), I will have to wait until the next special occasion to experiment. Or not. If you insist on doing this, use the custard of your choice and slice some strawberries up in it. Don’t blame me if it doesn’t work.


Where have I been all these years that I had not discovered you can cover a cake in semi-sweet chocolate candy??? Sweet!

On medium heat in a heavy pan, scald 1 ½ cup of whipping cream or to be safe, do it over a double boiler. Watch it carefully because it will scorch in a heart beat. That would be bad. While it is heating, in a heat proof bowl put:

1 bag of Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips,

6 squares of bitter-sweet baking chocolate

1 TBS corn syrup (I used coconut syrup)

2 TBS unsalted butter

2 TBS Dutch processed cocoa mixed with a little of the hot cream.

Just before the cream starts to boil, pour it over the chocolate and other ingredients and start stirring. Stir until the chocolate melts and the mixture is smooth. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours until it is of the consistency you can still pour it onto the cake and spread it like frosting. Start assembling your cake.

Here’s where things started going south for me. The strawberries and custard in the well of the flan layer, worked out great but the second layer, not so much. The custard was supposed to sit on top of the second layer but it was way too loose. I might not have cooled it down enough. The kitchen might have been too hot. I also should have listened to my gut and gone with my instinct that the recipe I was referencing for the custard called for way too much whipped cream. Probably three times as much as it should have had in it to do what they claimed it was going to do. In other words, 1 ½ cups of heavy cream vs ½ cup of heavy cream whipped. That was my first big mistake.

At any rate, the strawberries and custard started sliding off the second layer of cake immediately. I threw the whole mess in the refrigerator and took a break to contemplate my impending disaster. Then it occurred to me that I could just make a well in the second layer of cake and slap the third layer of cake on top of it to contain it. So I scraped all the strawberries and cream off the second layer, dug a well by cutting a circle 1 ½ inch from the edge of the cake and hollowing it out about 1 ½ inch down. Then I filled it up with the strawberries and cream and used some of the ganache to glue the top layer onto the second layer. That worked for the most part BUT I should have glued the second layer to the flan base too. Mistake number two. Strawberries and cream started oozing out of the bottom layer. Gaaaah!

About now the Ganache is starting to set up big time, desperately trying to turn back into chocolate chips and squares. So I’m starting to panic and I start slapping Ganache on there, trying to use it like Spackle and I’m filling in nail holes on the wall, getting chocolate everywhere. Oh brother… Then it hits me. I can probably just heat this stuff back up to get it back to pouring and spreading consistency again. Ah, yes, that works. Deep breath, all is not lost, yet…

Finally it’s together and doesn’t look nearly as awful as I thought it was going to look. In fact, I’m rather pleased with it, all things considered. I decide I will use this recipe for Ganache again but I need something better than a table knife to apply it with.  I put an offset icing spatula on my Amazon wish list.

So 10 long hours after I started baking I have a cake to take to my son’s birthday party. In a fit of laziness, I buy some canned whip cream to cover up the worst of the messiness and make my THIRD big mistake.

My daughter comes to pick me up and talks me into letting the cake be seat belted into the back seat rather than riding on my lap where I can keep it upright. You KNOW where this is going, right? HUGE mistake number FOUR. I knew before I took it out of the car that I was in crisis mode again. The top two layers have slid off of the flan layer and are smushed up against the lid of the cake carrier.

We  decide to deal with it in the morning and stick it into Kerryn’s refrigerator. It doesn’t look irreparable and canned whipped cream can cover a lot of sins. Right? Right.

Sooo I’m up early and at K’s house looking for coffee by 7:30. My son-in-law promises to help me fix the cake after Kerryn and I get the roasts in the oven. We begin browning meat, preheating the oven and peeling vegetables. By 10am our dinner is under control and Kerryn and I have made a run to PiggilyWiggily to find the flints for the vintage table lighter I got Dz.

Mike and I get the top two layer of the cake back to where they belong and I proceed to use my trusty can of pressurized whip cream to make pretty flowerets that cover up the worst of the disasters. But wait, before I’m done the flowerets start melting! Oh NOES! The kitchen is too hot from the roasting beef and pork. Back in the fridge it goes!

I go peek at it before dinner and all those pretty whipped cream flowerets have dripped down the side of the cake like whipped cream tears. This cake is looking decidedly and sadly Gothic. THEN I remember that canned whip cream isn’t very stable. Sigh…

In the end before I present the cake to my family and guests, I show them the picture of what it looked like before the whipped cream melted. Then I bring out the sad Gothic mess I had to serve and we all have a good laugh at my expense. Before I can find the camera, they start pulling the chocolate covered strawberries off so Dz can cut it into serving pieces. 

Everyone agrees that despite its sad appearance the cake and its damn strawberries and cream custard tastes really good although Jen doesn’t look like she is too sure she wants to taste it in this picture. Dz says it is as fluffy and oily as a boxed mix and I should try again next year. So mostly a success.

In retrospect I should have gone and bought an angel food cake pan or used my Bundt pan and poured the custard and strawberries into the center as advised by one recipe I read but they didn’t have an angel food cake pan at the store and I was afraid my Bundt pan wouldn’t work well enough. I wanted a flat top for the chocolate covered strawberries. Right…

Oh yeah, the vintage lighter doesn’t work either. It needs one of these:

On the other hand it looks really cool but I forgot to take a picture of it. It looks like this but is cooler because it is black and tan and shinier.

We are looking for a working model to get the part we need.


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“Cooking is like love, it should be entered into with abandon or not at all.”  –Harriet Van Horne, Vogue 10/1956

“Fat gives things flavor.” –Julia Child

“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.”Julia Child

My daughter, Kerryn, grandson, Gabe and my son-in-law Mike’s recent discovery that they are dealing with food allergies as the cause of a variety of maladies they suffer from has started me on a quest to adapt or develop family recipes that are dairy and egg free as well as a few other things they can no longer eat . Here’s the latest:

 Hearty Savory Pumpkin soup (Dairy Free)

Fry one pound of pork or turkey sausage until browned in a large skillet on a medium high burner, breaking it up into bite-sized chunks. Remove the sausage with a slotted spoon. If your sausage is low-fat (why bother), melt 1-2 table spoons margarine or butter (this is NOT diet food people!) and saute:

  • 1 large onion minced.
  • 2 ribs of celery diced (you may substitute 1 tsp celery seed)
  • 2-3 carrots diced
  • A large pinch of sea salt
  • a few cranks of the pepper mill or 1/8 tsp ground pepper

until the onion and celery are beginning to get soft. Add

  • 1 tsp thyme
  • a couple of large pinches of rubbed sage (¼ to ½ tsp?)
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp red pepper flakes or one dried hot pepper (Jalapeno, Habanero, whatever…) crushed.

Continue to saute, stirring occasionally for another 3-5 minutes until the onions are translucent and the celery is soft. Meanwhile in a large stock pot over medium heat melt, stirring constantly:

  • 1 TBS margarine or butter
  • 2 TBS creamy peanut butter

Slowly add, stirring constantly with a whisk:

  • 4 cups of chicken broth
  • Another large pinch of sea salt
  • the sausage and sauteed vegetables

Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium low and simmer for about 10 minutes until the carrots have softened. Stir in:

  • 1 can or 2 cups of pureed pumpkin
  • 1 can of coconut milk or 1 ½ cups heavy whipping cream

At this point taste your soup and adjust the seasonings, adding more salt and pepper if it needs it and pepper flakes if you like the heat. Be careful with the pepper flakes because they take on a life of their own. Add a very few at a time and let it cook for a minute or two and taste again before you add more. Heat slowly just until it starts to simmer and reduce heat to the lowest setting. Cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

You can skip this step but it really will help to improve and intensify the flavors. Turn off the heat and let it sit until it becomes room temperature then refrigerate it for 4 hours or up to 24 hours. Be sure you cover it so it doesn’t pick up any flavors from the stuff in the refrigerator. Bring it back to serving temperature and stir in 1 TBS of chopped parsley. Ladle into a bowl and drop a dollop of imitation sour cream, greek yogurt, or the real thing (if you aren’t doing dairy free)  to float on top.

I made this last night to taste test with Kerryn to determine if we liked it. We figure if SHE likes it then more than likely the rest of the Gavin-Lewellyn-Francis clan is going to like it. Namely the men in the family. They’ll pretty much eat anything that isn’t vomit worthy except for Gabe and he’s pretty picky–a typical kid who hates most vegetables. He and Kerryn both have food texture issues. Gabe doesn’t like “crunchy” onions in stuff as does Kerryn who also despises celery that has any amount of give to it in soups and things like stuffing. I learned years ago to saute onions and celery to the point of mush to get it past her.

We’ve decided it was a keeper. Kerryn said that it was the best soup she had ever had. I think that’s a little hyperbole on her part but it was pretty damn good. We decided that we wouldn’t tell Gabe it was pumpkin soup until  after he ate it. We don’t usually do that to him because it causes trust issues but she thinks I can get away with it. This would look great served in individual hearty artisan bread bowls (sunflower bread?) or a medium-sized pie pumpkin hollowed out and roasted until al dente used as a soup tureen or caldron, especially for a Halloween Supper. Toasted pumpkin or sunflower seeds and some more fresh parsley sprinkled on top would be a nice touch.

This is my very own recipe that I came up with based on this recipe and this recipe from Cooks.com. Making up recipes that turn out as well as this one did is really gratifying. I also have to give kudos to my grandmother, Iola Gavin and my husband at the time, Skip Lewellyn who was a chef, for teaching me how to cook.

When I got married I didn’t even know how to cook cream of wheat, Skip’s favorite hot cereal, without it being full of lumps. Frankly, I thought cream of wheat was supposed to have lumps in it because that’s the only way I had ever had it. Let’s just say that while my Mother could and did cook some things very well she was an indifferent cook at best. She didn’t particularly enjoy cooking. It was just something she had to do as a Mom and Wife.

My Grandma Gavin, on the other hand, was a goddess in the kitchen. I can remember sitting at her kitchen table in the house on Brown Street in Clay Center, NE watching her bake bread, make donuts and cakes and fry chicken. I loved being there with her. I loved eating her food. One of my fondest memories of Grandma Gavin is of her making chocolate cake for someone’s birthday and pulling a jar of home-canned dill pickles out of the refrigerator and pouring some of the juice into a measuring cup with really thick fresh from the farm cows cream in it. She winked at me and said “Now, Barbara, don’t you tell anyone you saw me do this. This is my secret ingredient that makes the cakes taste so good.” Isn’t that great? I think about Grandma Gavin a lot when I am in the kitchen.

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