Carrot soup 1

Curried Carrot Soup

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Surprise, surprise, carrots did very well in our garden this year. When I planted them back in May I didn’t have high hopes. In previous years – if I even bothered to plant them – they never flourished. Some years the seeds washed away in torrential late May rainstorms.

Other years I didn’t have an explanation for why they failed to come up. I thought that I might have planted the seeds too deep so I began planting them in the shallowest rows possible, pressing them gently into the earth and then adding just a sprinkle of soil on top and pressing again.

This year there was a good breeze on the day I planted so I was afraid the seeds would blow away. Another gardener at the Brewster Community Garden stopped by and we discussed this possibility. Her best advice was to let them grow wherever they came up. Carrot sprouts have lacy foliage that is easy to recognize – if they come up.

Part of the problem is that carrot seeds are ridiculously small. They are about the size of the period at the end of this sentence. My face was literally almost resting in the dirt as I placed those seeds one by one in the row I made.

The day I planted them is quite vivid in my mind. Our granddaughter Lilia Grace was in the Neonatal Unit at Tufts Medical Center. We didn’t know if she would live or what possible disabilities she would have from the stroke she suffered at birth.

Comfort 3

With every single seedling and seed I placed in the ground, I prayed for health and strength for Lilia and for a dear friend who was having health issues. I would alternate the simple breath prayers between those two people I loved. It was remarkably soothing and took away my frustration. At least I was doing something.

garden 2015

The garden continued to be a place of solace and prayer for me. I spend long hours there this summer: weeding, thinning the carrots and beets, deadheading marigolds and picking beans. The strength of the carrots all lined up in a perfect row amazed me even when they were just sprouts. They grew long and skinny in three different colors: orange, yellow and red. We’ve been eating the small ones I harvest as I thin the plants, but we are finally into true carrot season.

carrots soup 2

Now they are long and fat or short and fat, but they are wonderful in every way. Fresh picked carrots have a very powerful carrot scent and flavor. With that in mind, I decided to make a curried carrot soup to go with the turkey thighs the Kitchen Genius was smoking in the back yard. Since once again we had tons of leftover bread and a bag of apples, sausage and apple stuffing seemed like a perfect accompaniment to his turkey.

Gardening, cooking, and even washing dishes always center me. Our dinner Sunday night offered plenty of all three. We began with a cup of curried carrot soup and baked stuffed clams KG made from his Saturday clamming haul. The smoked turkey was amazing.

Turkey and stuffing are the foods of gratitude and we are full of gratitude these days. At Lilia’s most recent visit to Tufts, the head ultra-sound revealed that the pool of blood covering her brain is gone. It disappeared months before the doctor’s anticipated, so they have moved up her next big testing day that includes an MRI to the day before Thanksgiving.

We are expecting to be very thankful indeed the next day, because all signs are good. She is such a happy baby, but she is also such a champ at her physical therapy at Spaulding in Sandwich. They have pushed her with fabulous results. She now holds her head up high and is working hard and succeeding at sitting up at five months old. She is advanced in many areas, but especially her social skills.

Answer to prayer

Apparently both babies and gardens respond well to prayer.

Curried Carrot Soup
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Servings
6
Servings
6
Curried Carrot Soup
BigOven - Save recipe or add to grocery list
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Servings
6
Servings
6
Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons organic butter
  • 2 large shallots , finely diced
  • 6 cups carrot slices
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional if you don't like spicy food)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • sour cream (for garnish)
  • 2 scallions (for ganish)
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Place olive oil and butter in a 3 quart Dutch oven over medium heat. When butter melts, add the shallots and sauté them until tender, about 4 minutes. Add the carrots, chicken stock, curry powder, cayenne (if using) and salt. Simmer until carrots are tender, about 20 to 25 minutes. Puree soup with a hand held immersion blender. To serve, place a dollop of sour cream on top of each bowl and use a knife to pull it into an attractive design. Sprinkle with sliced scallions and enjoy!
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ketchup close up

Homemade Ketchup Just for Fun

Now that the Kitchen Genius has pulled all the tomato plants from our plot at the Brewster Community Garden, we only have a few scraggly plants left in our yard.  We’ve been enjoying home grown tomatoes so much that we’re not ready to give them up for the season.  Luckily for us, Cape Abilities still has plenty of tomatoes for sale at their farm stand in Dennis.

“We were hoping to have tomatoes until Thanksgiving but that’s probably ambitious,” says farm manager James Barnes.  “I would say we’ll have them until the end of October.”

James Barnes

James became the new farm manager in August and is very excited about his new job.  He learned about hydroponics and greenhouse farming while working at Epcot in Disney World so that made him a perfect fit for Cape Abilities.

On a recent visit, he happily gave me a tour of their greenhouse and explained their growing practices.  The tomatoes are grown upright in sterile potting soil that is hydroponically nourished with fertilizer and water by a system that uses 80 percent less water than conventional farming.  They use beneficial insects for pest control and the plants are pollinated by bumblebees kept in hives at the end of the greenhouse.

Capabilities tomatoes

It’s obviously a formula that is working for them.  For the fifth year in a row, Cape Abilities Trust tomatoes placed in the top ten in the slicing category at the Annual Massachusetts Tomato Contest in Boston in August.  I’ll be heading to Cape Abilities for tomatoes until they are gone.

Our tomatoes might not win awards, but those plants really produced this year.  In addition to the hundreds we ate raw, I managed to can over 60 quarts and a dozen pints of tomatoes.  I also froze six bags of roasted tomatoes.

When I finally came to the last bin of tomatoes to process, KG wanted me to make homemade ketchup. Part of his reasoning stemmed from the fact that all those jars piling up in the pantry are making him nervous.  I pretty much ignore his mutterings about inventory control, but when he mentioned that it would also be a good joke, I paid attention.

KG plays poker with a group of friends that he’s known since high school.  Since most of these guys live in the mid-Cape area, they rotate between three houses in that region.  When they play at Bob and Julie Jason’s house in Dennis, Julie always makes the most awesome snacks.  She’s also the only wife who has ever been allowed to play poker.

One week, Julie made some fabulous shaved steak and cheese sandwiches on croissants with caramelized onions.  After taking a bite, KG said, “You know what would make these even better?  Homemade ketchup.”

ketchup 3

The next time they played poker at the Jason’s house, Julie said to KG, “I looked up how to make homemade ketchup and I am never going to do that.”

I can see her point.  For the first batch I made the mistake of hand chopping all the tomatoes, peppers and onions.  It was incredibly time consuming and a bit dense on my part.  Five hours later, four quarts of tomatoes and 1 quart of other veggies yielded only four cups of ketchup.  When I mentioned this to my mother, she said, “I guess that makes ketchup the best bargain in the grocery store.”

Well yes, and they do make organic ketchup, so technically there is no reason for me to make my own.  But still I persisted, using the food processor for the second bath, which cut about an hour off the time and yielded six cups of finished product because the veggies were more compact when measuring.  The finished product was worth the time.  It is spicy and delightful in ways that bottled ketchups only dream of being.

So Julie, this one is for you.  KG will bring you a jar as soon as poker resumes for the season so you never have to make your own.

Bourbon Kissed Ketchup
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Servings
6 cups
Servings
6 cups
Bourbon Kissed Ketchup
BigOven - Save recipe or add to grocery list
Yum
Print Recipe
Servings
6 cups
Servings
6 cups
Ingredients
  • 4 cups tomatoes , stems removed and chopped infood processor
  • 2 cups onion , peeled and chopped in food processor
  • 2 cups sweet red pepper , seeds and stem removed, chopped in food processor
  • 5 medium garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon celery seed
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon pickling spice
  • 2 teaspoons mustard seed
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 3/4 cup white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup pure cane sugar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 nips bourbon
Servings: cups
Instructions
  1. In a large Dutch oven, combine tomatoes, onions, red peppers and garlic and cook over medium heat until vegetables are soft, about 45 minutes. Run tomato mixture through a food mill or sieve to remove seeds and skins. Place mixture back in Dutch oven.
  2. Put celery seed, cinnamon stick, pickling spice, and mustard seed in cheesecloth and tie securely at the top with kitchen string. Put bag of spices in tomato mixture and add salt. Cook at a temperature slightly higher than medium (number 7 on an electric stove) until mixture is reduced by half, about one hour, stirring occasionally.
  3. Remove spice bag and discard. Add remaining ingredients and stir well to combine. Cook at a temperature slightly lower than medium (number 4 on an electric stove), stirring frequently to prevent bottom from sticking, for about one additional hour to hour and a half or until it is the thickness of ketchup.
  4. Pour into hot sterilized jam jars, leaving 1/4 inch head space. Wipe rim of jar with damp paper towel. Place lid on jar and screw band on. Process 10 minutes in a boiling water bath.
    ketchup 3
  5. If you don’t want to can the ketchup, the recipe can be cut in half and the ketchup can be stored in the refrigerator for two weeks.
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