Soup Art

Coffee art has become ubiquitous in the foamy tops of cappuccinos, lattes, and other milky coffee treats in cafes everywhere, but did you know soup art was a thing, too? With efforts to plate food that is a treat for the eyes as well as the palate, it’s not exactly a shocker, but it is still a pleasant surprise when you get some food that is beautiful to look at as well as tasty to eat.

I was at Terranova’s in Huntsville, Alabama recently, when I came across some pretty soup of this kind. Now, usually I don’t bother with any sort of appetizer, soup, or salad at Terranova’s, considering their pasta bowls are big enough to take a bath in and filled to the top (a good place to get two meals out of one, for those ladies and gents who are like me and always looking for an opportunity for leftovers). However, sometimes there are specials that are just too scrummy to pass up, one of which is their seasonal butternut squash soup. Obviously, when I saw it posted on the special board walking in, I had to indulge.

Now, I make my own butternut squash soup at home, and I have to say that it is pretty delicious. I also must admit that about as far as I get with a garnish for it is a little pile of grated parmesan in the middle of the bowl. The saltiness of the cheese is a good contrast with the rich sweetness of the soup, and I most always find good quality cheese appetizing.

Terranova topped their soup with a balsamic glaze, however, which complements the rich, sweet taste of the soup, and the dark color looks gorgeous against the buttery yellow of the squash soup. A glaze like this is simple to make: just reduce some balsamic vinegar on the stove until it thickens; this will also intensify the flavor of the vinegar. Less known fact? It is also good for drawing patterns in the hands of a cook with some artistic talent – it looks like I have a new skill to start practicing!

What’s the Story, Morning Glory?

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It may seem strange to think about flowers blooming in October, but morning glories bloom until they’re killed off by frost. Since we are having the hottest fall on record, they are still going strong! (There has to be at least some sort of silver lining to all this hot weather, right?)

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Morning glories bloom in the early morning, so you have to get out before the blooms are spent in too much sun if you want to see them. (Note: Morning glories do need a lot of sun to grow well, so trying to extend the blooming time with a shady area probably won’t work.) These were already starting to wilt by the time I got to them.

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As you can probably tell from the tall grass, weeds, and overgrown lettuce, these morning glories are wildflowers growing over a spent section of the garden. No one planted them; they showed up all on their own. A lot of people might say that this looks like a mess, but I’d say it’s a good argument for not over landscaping; if you leave a few wild areas, you’re sure to get some interesting wildlife that you might miss out on otherwise.

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Want to know more about morning glories? The Old Farmer’s Almanac has an information page about them, and Southern Living’s The Grumpy Gardner has tips for growing these easy care flowers on The Daily South.

Apple Cheese Sandwich

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Let’s face it – for most of us, sandwiches are a part of life. However much we may dream about sitting down every day to a delicious, beautiful, and decadent yet healthy meal prepared by our own personal chef, chances are it’s not in the cards.

Now that I’ve gotten the bad news out of the way, let’s move on to the good news. Sandwiches don’t have to be boring! It’s time to break out of that deli-turkey-and-swiss rut and embrace the joys of creative sandwiching. As a child, the definitive sandwich was probably peanut butter and jelly on Bunny Bread; maybe you got crafty like Mr. Rogers taught you and made faces out of banana slices and raisins on peanut butter. Maybe that doesn’t sound so great now, but the key is to channel that same sandwich excitement that you had then and bring it to the lunch table now.

For this sandwich, I started off with the old staple (for me, at least) of a cheese sandwich. This has sort of become my new PB&J recently: fast, easy, and tasty with some good potato chips. I decided it could use a little something different, though. My solution not only lightens it up a little, but updates the humble cheese sandwich for fall.

I started off my new sandwich adventure with some great, flavorful bread. The cranberry walnut wheat bread that I used gave a nice blend of sweet and tart and some good nutty depth. I got my bread at Earth Fare, but whatever bakery or grocery store with a bakery that is near you should have options that will work. I switched out the usual mayonnaise and mustard for some honey mustard sauce, which is nothing but a mixture of mayonnaise, mustard, and honey.

The extra sharp cheddar that is the basis of the sandwich stays the same, but I added slices of apple to it. It gives it a satisfying crunch, refreshing juiciness, and a nice blend of sweet and tart. I used honeycrisp apples for mine, but you can substitute any you would like. I suggest a variety that has plenty of flavor somewhere between sweet and tart, but if you are a devotee of the golden delicious or granny smith apple, go ahead and give it a shot!

So there you have it: an absolutely delicious sandwich that is no trouble at all to make, but will liven up your lunch in no time! If you want a little more to eat, pair this sandwich with some butternut squash soup for a rich autumn feast.

Busy Little… Spider?

This is Charlotte. Charlotte is a garden spider (Argiope aurantia) who annually makes our home her home. Though of course it isn’t the same spider year to year, we always call her Charlotte. She used to always make her web on or beside the back porch, but she has moved to a sunny spot in a corner over the past couple of years.

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Each year, female garden spiders lay eggs, which they enclose in durable webbing sacs to protect them through the winter. Then, in the spring, these eggs hatch, and tiny spider hatchlings come out to make their own webs or fly away on bits of thread to find new homes – just like at the end of Charlotte’s Web.

Normally, you see one big brown egg sac on Charlotte’s web every fall. This year she’s been especially busy, however. Not one, not two, but three egg sacs adorn Charlotte’s web. We may have a whole family of Charlottes next spring!

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Dogs Just Wanna Have Fun

The light is getting that mellow, golden quality, the smell of dry leaves fills the air, the weather gets cooler (some days)… And the dogs want to go outside and gallop around playing. Of course Jake couldn’t resist joining in. Florence is even getting into the fall spirit with a festive bandana!

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Equinox Processional: A Walk, in Photographs

Today was the first day of fall, or the autumn equinox, and it actually felt like a nice early fall day ought to. To me, this meant it was a perfect day for a walk around the farm. Today, I walked down through the bottom and into the woods down there.

As you can see, Florence came along with me.Image

It was really bright out in the pasture. It looked beautiful, but I was glad to get under the shade of the trees.Image

I find the forest so incredibly inspiring; is there anywhere more peaceful and beautiful? Every way you turn is some amazing element of nature, large or small. Even a fallen cedar tree across the path is a wealth of stunning color and texture.Image

On the other end of the spectrum, the woods are filled with huge trees. Gorgeous.Image

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I love the grandeur of oak trees. It’s amazing how big they can get.Image

The texture of the bark is stunning. I love the mixture of rough bark, white lichen, and green moss. Did you know that the presence of lichen on trees is a sign of clean air?Image

Perhaps some small woodland creature takes shelter in this hollow log sometimes. I’d like to think that it is some cute furry thing, but I imagine it’s more likely to be a snake or spider.Image

I love the forms in nature, but sometimes my imagination runs away with me. This root looks like some creature’s paw to me, with the moss as fur.

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Here’s a tiny fern, growing in the crook of a tree root.Image

I try never to forget how beautiful wildflowers – and even plain old weeds! – can be. Look at the gorgeous colors on these:Image

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I love the blue and yellow, as well as the greens of the moss and the leaves.

I can’t think of a much better way to start the new season. Did you do anything special to herald the arrival of autumn?