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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Ghosts of Thanksgivings Past

Back in the day, my grandmother was the grand hostess of Thanksgiving. She cooked a huge meal attended by all seven of her children, her many grandchildren, and later even great-grandchildren. Though her daughters helped, the majority of the work was done by Granny. When I got a bit older, I started frying the ham out on the enclosed porch; it was really a tiny drop in the ocean of everything there was to be done, but it made me feel like an important part of the event to help out even in that small way.

The group that gathered for Thanksgiving was large enough that it filled three tables. The dining room had the most formal place settings, and was the unofficial men’s room, filled in with the oldest daughters and wives. The second table was in the kitchen, where the daughters and oldest granddaughters sat. The children’s table was a card table out on the enclosed porch off of the kitchen. Out there we sat in some old ladder back chairs, which had an unfortunate tendency to flip over backward if you tried to sit back in the chair and lean against the backrest.

My first associations with Thanksgiving will probably always include those tippy ladder back chairs (which still show up occasionally if we have a big Thanksgiving crowd) and sitting at that old oak table, backed up against the house plants on the window sill. We are making a new set of Thanksgiving memories, however, with Thanksgiving dinner in a new location. My mother, the only family member who has thus far managed to replicate Granny’s rolls, is the obvious heir to the throne of Thanksgiving hostess, and we do our best to make it continue to be a special time for our family every year.

We’re a smaller group than we used to be, and we sit at different tables and eat off of different plates, but at the heart of it, we enjoy the same things about Thanksgiving that we always did: the reunion with family members that we don’t see as often as we’d like, the traditional foods that make Thanksgiving dinner so happy and comforting (turkey and dressing, cranberry sauce, green beans, sweet potatoes – and of course rolls and pecan pie!), and even some little family heirlooms that remind us of all of those wonderful Thanksgivings at Granny’s house.

As much as I’d like to travel back in time for another Thanksgiving at Granny’s, I know that we can’t turn back time, and we have to make the best of what we have. I am thankful for the Thanksgivings I was able to share with my family in that dear old house, and that I am able to share them with my family now in my own home.

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Cat Portraits

It is painfully obvious that I have been absent from posting in quite a long while. It is sadly very easy to get caught up in all of the business of life and drop the things that aren’t absolutely essential. However, it seems quite a shame to drop something that I enjoyed as much as I did running my humble little blog here. Therefore, I have returned! Hopefully I will be able to keep things up better in the future.

To atone for my absence, behold, a truly stunning collection of cat portraits.

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Little Tom, the old man of the family, is not usually the biggest fan of having his picture taken, but he submitted to a photography session.

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Walter is the model of the group. He’s photogenic and he knows it, and can always be counted on to show up for a good photo op.

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Here is a moody profile shot of Jake, which his a bit ironic, considering that he is the least moody cat around.

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And Myrtle? Myrtle doesn’t do press appearances.