This time of year always sneaks up on a person, don't you think? One minute we're barefoot, enjoying the sunny outdoors, and the next we're stacking firewood, and layering on hats, scarves, and mittens. I always feel rather taken by surprise when November rolls around, and this year, it has hit me even harder.
It's a doozy of a busy time right now, what with finally getting around to finishing renovations, and trying to wrap our heads around a move. Add to that a realtor, kids in school, after-school activities, work, and well, Life. I get it. It's just Life. It's the way it goes. Being a Grown-up does get rather complicated once in a while, though.
I know many people who positively thrive in an all-action sort of lifestyle. They love keeping busy, going at things with a frenetic pace, and never seem to need to sit down to take a breath, and recoup. I am most emphatically not one of those people. I admire them. I don't get them, but hey, more power to you, if you are one of those.
I am one of those who needs more of a manageable pace, to feel comfortable. Slow and steady wins the race, in my world. I'm the tortoise, I guess. I can handle a lot, don't get me wrong. But I do get to a point, which I refer to as a Constant State of Overwhelm, where things are moving too quickly to enjoy them, let alone make sense of them. When this State comes up, I have to have myself a wee time out. I can usually tell when I'm teetering on the precipice of a meltdown. (Snap at anyone in striking distance...Crackle, the state of my nerves...Pop! She's about to blow!) The Mister can always tell when I'm about to lose my cookies, bless him. I don't know how he keeps keepin' on, that guy's a trooper, I tell you. When he sees me getting close to that dangerous edge, he always gives me a little space to take a moment, to center myself.
That was a close one.
One of the very best things for me to get back to a good place (aside from a good night's sleep), is to head to the kitchen. A little chopping, a little seasoning, a little stirring...and time to breathe, while making a good meal. That's the ticket.
Here's what I came up with last night:
A very simple, delicious soup of beautiful butternut squash, a bit of sweet potato (just ask any Kiwi mama, she'll assure you it's good for your soul), a little quinoa, and a few warming spices thrown in. Gently sweet, eminently satisfying, and just the thing to feel nurtured in the midst of chaos. This is quick and easy enough to prepare in a time when you can't possibly have all your wits about you, and just methodical enough to bring anyone back to a happy, centered place. I hope you enjoy.
Butternut Squash, Sweet Potato, and Quinoa Soup - makes 4 to 6 main course servings
Half a large, or one whole small butternut squash - approx 3 to 4 cups, cut into half-inch cubes
1 smallish sweet potato, about 1 to 1 1/2 cups, cut into half-inch cubes
2 medium onions, finely chopped
1 cup chopped sweet or bell peppers, any color (I had yellow sweet peppers)
2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbs olive oil
1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
5 or 6 cups chicken or veg stock (less if you prefer it to be more stew-like, more if you like a soup)
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
3/4 tsp paprika
small bunch cilantro, coarsely chopped
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Optional Garnish: grated sharp cheddar, hot chili sauce, sour cream
Warm the oil in a large stockpot, over medium-low heat, then add the onions, and gently cook until softened and translucent, about 8 minutes. Do not brown. Next add in the peppers, squash, and garlic, and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 3 or 4 minutes, then add in the spices, and stir continuously for one minute, to toast the spices and enhance their flavor. Pour in the stock, and throw in the sweet potato, and check again for seasoning. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer, and add the quinoa. Allow to cook for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the vegetables have softened, and the quinoa is cooked through.
Toss in the cilantro, taste once more for seasoning, and adjust if necessary. Serve in bowls, garnished with a nice sharp cheddar, and hot sauce, if you like. (Sour cream for the kiddos.)
Wee Disclaimer: I realize my photos are utter rubbish. While I did enjoy the respite afforded by cooking, I couldn't quite spare the patience to try harder with the camera. Oh well. It is really lovely soup, I promise.