Friday, November 20, 2015

Fabulous Friday Food :: Butternut Squash Soup

Is it just me, or did Thanksgiving creep up behind us, tap us on the shoulder, and surprise the heck out of us? I felt bowled over on Monday when Julia told me this was her last week of school before Thanksgiving.


Of course, Thanksgiving is easy to miss since Christmas decorations have already been up since before Halloween. Again, is it just me? Or is this just WAY TOO EARLY?!

I hate to roll my eyes at Christmas--it's not Christmas's fault--but Thanksgiving is pretty special in my book. So, if it's all the same to you, I'm going to relish this last week before all the crazy. I'm going to plan my Thanksgiving menu and linger over time with my family this week. I'm going to eat every single traditional food in my repertoire and binge on carbs.

And for one more week (hopefully more), I'm going to focus on what I'm thankful for without the loud music and shiny decorations and irritated shoppers getting in my way.

See, this is why I love Thanksgiving. It's quiet. It's reflective. It's delicious (!). It's family time.

Minus all the hoopla.

So let's talk about the Thanksgiving meal. I usually do all the traditional foods--turkey, stuffing (my mom's recipe with sage, apples, and raisins), mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potato casserole, cranberries, pumpkin AND pecan pies . . . and anything else I feel like making.

This year there will be something new on our table. It's a little recipe I've been working on this fall, and I think I've finally gotten it where I want it.

(A little back story. A couple of months ago B and I went into the city to see a play, and we had dinner at a little Italian place near the theater. That night I had the most delicious butternut squash soup that made me so happy, and I realized that I could probably go home and replicate it. I read a bunch of recipes--who knew there were so many ways to make one kind of soup?--and put together the elements that I liked best to come up with this. So that's my inspiration for this recipe.)

So here we go with Butternut Squash Soup for your (and my!) Thanksgiving meal.

Start with a good sized butternut squash. (If you get the pre-cubed squash from the grocery store, buy two packages because you'll need a lot.) Cut it into cubes and set aside.

Now chop an onion and an apple. That's right--an apple. Any old apple will do, as long as you take the skin off first.

Melt three tablespoons of butter (you could substitute olive oil if you want) in the bottom of a dutch oven, then add the squash, onion, and apple.

(OK, sorry about the low-quality pictures. I was in a hurry and grabbed my phone. Grrr.)

Spend about 10 minutes caramelizing the vegetables. (I KNOW an apple is a fruit. It's just easier to say one thing instead of two).

Once you have a nice, golden brown color on everything, pour 3-4 cups of chicken broth over, just until you reach the top of the mixture. (Don't go any higher or your soup will be runny. Trust me on this one. You can add more broth later if you think you need it.) Throw in a couple sprigs of thyme.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Allow the vegetables to simmer in the broth for 30-45 minutes until the squash is very tender.

(True confessions: In this batch I used a little too much broth and the soup turned out a little thin. In the next batch I just covered the vegetables and it turned out thicker. Learn from my mistakes, people.)

When all the veggies are cooked, turn off the heat and get out your handy-dandy immersion blender that your sweet daughter gave you for Christmas last year (I love this tool!). You could also use a regular blender, but it's a little messier process. Anyway, blend everything together until it's very smooth.

Now add the nutmeg, paprika, salt and pepper, cream, and butter. Mmmmmm.

Stir over low heat for another few minutes and you're done!

I like to sprinkle a few toasted pumpkin seeds over the top, but you could also use some homemade croutons, which would be yummy.

This will be on my Thanksgiving table this year. How about yours?

Leave me a comment and let me know what your favorite part of the Thanksgiving meal is. I'd love to hear from you!

Click here for a printable version of this recipe.

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Also, check out my Recipes page for lots more family-friendly, easy to make meal ideas. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Talking to Your Kids About Paris at Mothers of Daughters

Hi there!

Today I'm writing over at the Mothers of Daughters blog about something really important: talking to your kids about Paris. Here's the beginning of the article, but hop on over to Mothers of Daughters to read the rest.

On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was busy getting my three girls ready for the day. Two were in elementary school; my youngest was only three. My husband called to tell me that two planes had crashed into the World Trade Center, and suddenly I was faced with a huge parenting dilemma.
How do I begin to explain this to my girls?
I’m sure some of you have daughters (and sons) who are at a vulnerable age—old enough to hear the news and to know some of what happened in Paris over the weekend, yet young enough to not quite understand terrorism or the implications of the weekend’s events.
It’s tricky, being a parent sometimes. We want to shield our kids from the ugliness of the world, and yet we know we can’t. How, as believers, do we handle the gruesome reality of our day? How do we instill hope in our kids in a world that seems hopeless?
In all honesty, I don’t know all of the answers. I just don’t. I don’t know how to handle difficult situations perfectly. And that’s why I need Jesus so much. I need His help and His guidance every day as I raise my daughters.
Click here to read four tips to help talk to your kids about Paris.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Letter to My Daughters :: On Red Cups, Enemies, and Taking Offense

Dear Daughters,

I’ve been out of town for a few days, as you know. And, as you also know, when I’m out of town I don’t always keep up with the current trends in culture or in the news. So when I resurfaced from my trip yesterday I started reading all kinds of posts about red cups and how somebody, supposedly a Christian, got offended by them because they don’t say “Merry Christmas” or something like that and how somehow because something was left off of a red cup all of a sudden it’s an affront to Christians everywhere.

That was one thing.

But what I saw more than that were posts—lots of them—from other Christians bashing these supposed ticked off Christians for getting offended about the red cups.

And, after resurfacing from a few days away and trying to piece this story together, I felt a sudden and pronounced disconnect: how could I not find anything from this supposed “bad guy” whom everyone assumed got upset over a red cup? And how could I be reading more and more posts from the self-acclaimed “good guys” who were offended by the “bad guy” being offended?

I didn’t get it. I felt like I was missing something.

Girls, I mean this with all sincerity: don’t get involved in stuff like that. Don’t be a part of the problem, pointing fingers at other Christians for what they may or may not have done. Don’t get embroiled in name-calling. Don’t get so easily offended, especially by other believers.

Because here’s what I know: The world is not our enemy. The world is lost. That’s all. The world loves darkness more than it loves the light, and in scripture, Jesus took pity on people like that. He wasn’t afraid of them—He just loved them because they didn’t know the truth.

Here’s another thing I know: Other Christians are not our enemy either. Oh, we see lots of backbiting and fighting among Christians today. It’s like we’ve lost sight of the true battle, the real enemy. This is nothing new—even in the Bible the Pharisees and the disciples argued among each other (a lot!), but Jesus told them to just stop it (see John 6:43).

What I also know is this: The enemy is our enemy. And right now I see the enemy working overtime to get Christians to destroy each other. All he has to do is sit back and watch, laughing at our harsh words, daggers, thrown at each other over something so trivial, so inane, that the rest of the world shakes its head and walks away. The enemy wants us to eat each other up (or, in this case, drink each other down) over semantics and rumors and flat out lies so that the world will have just one more excuse to not see Jesus.

This isn’t about red cups or coffee or even Christmas. It’s not about who got offended by what or by whom. Truthfully, this whole ridiculous thing that will be gone in a week makes my head hurt.

And that’s partly my point.

Getting caught up in name calling, especially in name calling against other believers, is a tactic that the enemy uses over and over again. It makes Christians look small, like we have nothing better to talk about (or fight over).

But you and I know the truth—there are so many more important things to talk about. Like children sniffing glue underneath a highway in Sao Paulo. Or Christians being beheaded in orange jumpsuits on a beach in Egypt. Or children being abandoned right here in our very own city.

Bad stuff happens every day. Big stuff. Important stuff that is worth our time and attention.

Stuff that is an affront to our Lord and should be an affront to us.

Yet another difficult truth is this: we can’t solve all of the big problems in the world It’s all too much, too big. In John 6, the disciples told Jesus that they really wanted to follow Him, but they thought they had to DO something, to FIX something, to FEED someone. They thought that following Him meant work.

But Jesus answered them with words that make me stop every time I read them. He said, “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent” (John 6:29). That’s it. Just believe.

Because when we truly believe, everything else falls into place. We know our calling, we know our job, and, most importantly, we know our enemy.

Red cups? Enemies? Taking offense? You’re probably wondering what all this has to do with you.

Here’s what I want you to hear today, dear daughters: there are so many things in this world that you could choose to get upset about. Getting your feelings hurt isn’t one of them.

Keep believing.



Thursday, October 29, 2015


Monday was a surprise.

Just a normal Monday. Nothing on the calendar (except, of course, "The Voice").

Nothing much for dinner (except for homemade Butternut Squash Soup and some salad).

Really, nothing going on at all (except for the usual homework/laundry/Monday stuff).

Until Daughter #1 bursts through my front door all smiles (as usual) and a huge, “Hello!”

Suddenly my day was no longer just . . . usual.

She plops down on a stool at the counter and begins to recount her really terrible, awful, horrible, no good, very bad day. (It really was.)

This kid. Even though her day had cost her some serious money (hello, new brakes!) and a doctor visit, she still burst through the door as she always does—with an effervescent “Hello!”

She reminds me that I am blessed.

Daughter #1 leaves for a dinner appointment, and daughter #2 calls: “I’m coming for dinner.”

Yes you are, sweet girl. Even though it’s just soup and salad and an ordinary Monday night, you are always welcome to drop in and eat with us.

Suddenly my day is getting even better.

I quickly shout to Daughter #3 who's upstairs: “Hey, Caroline’s coming for dinner and it’s her half birthday today! Would you please run to the store to get a cake?”

All hands on deck now. Julia whisks away with her keys and my debit card.

Suddenly we’re having a party.

B comes home, the girls walk in, and just as the four of us are making our way to the table, Kate glides back in the door having just finished her appointment.

Suddenly, the five of us are standing around the kitchen island, each one talking over the other (I swear we should have been Greek, or at the very least Italian) and I have an out-of-body moment. Everyone is shouting to be heard, the noise level is just about at peak capacity--even the dog is excited!--and I realize that we are here


All five of us. 

Completely unexpected.

And I smile because I know, in that brief moment, how very blessed I am.


We have a joke in our house about the #blessed thing on Instagram. We’re nothing if not a little bit snarky and the “blessed” hashtag really brings out the full-on snark sometimes.

Got an A on a paper? #blessed

No traffic today? #blessed

Hey! Some mom on Facebook got her kid to use the big potty! #blessed

My Christmas shopping is done before Halloween! #blessed

(And also? #ihateyou)

Sometimes I feel like telling people like the guy in The Princess Bride did: “Idonotthinkthatmeanswhatyouthinkitmeans.”

But these people standing around my kitchen island all talking over each other, competing for each other’s attention, telling about our days?

That’s a stop-in-mid-sentence-and-hover-over-this-one-for-a-while moment.

I know I am blessed in so many ways, but I don’t equate blessing with material goods or my behavior or even the behavior of my kids. In fact, the idea of #blessing is sometimes confusing to me, elusive even. I’m not sure I fully get it.

I know I don’t always see it. (My sarcasm assures me of that.)

But every once in a while I am able to step out of myself and realize the greatest blessings are right in front of me—a wonderfully impromptu family gathering on a random and very usual Monday night with the four most important people in the world to me.

It makes me want to cry I am so #blessed.


Here’s something else I thought about later that night after all of my people had gone back to their respective homes and bedrooms: you mamas who don’t feel so #blessed right now.

Those of you who are scrambling to come up with Halloween costumes two days before the event. (Just one of the 1,656 reasons I hate Halloween.)

Those of you who just cannot get your three-year-old to use that big potty.

Those of you whose husbands put in long hours at work and come home tired and maybe a little bit cranky and who just might need a night off from putting the kids to bed so you step in and try your best to be cheerful about it.

Those of you who tried to scrape together something resembling “dinner” when you are two days away from payday and not much left in the pantry or in the bank account.

I get it all.

How many mamas are going to bed worn out, depleted, wondering if anyone will ever notice all the work you do or if these kids will always be so draining or if you’ll ever get a good night’s sleep?

Can I just whisper some encouragement in your ear?

They do notice, whether they tell you or not.

They won’t always drain you. In fact, some day they will thank you.

You will sleep again.

And one day, when you least expect it, on a random Monday night, your beloved ones (who are, by now, potty trained) will light up your kitchen and you’ll have an out of body experience and you’ll realize that your entire life has been one very huge, totally amazing, incredibly undeserved #blessing.


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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

I'm Telling Stories at Mothers of Daughters Today!

We’ve had trouble with trees.
When my middle daughter was just four years old, she, her older sister, and I got caught in a tornado. As we ran for shelter, Caroline was nearly crushed underneath a huge maple tree that uprooted itself just three seconds after she ran past it. (I’m not even exaggerating!)
God spared her life right in front of my eyes.
Then, just three summers ago, another huge storm caught my husband by surprise as he drove home from church one Sunday morning. He pulled into our driveway and suddenly a tree came crashing through his windshield, just barely missing his head. As glass shattered around him and the storm raged outside, my husband was trapped inside his car.
But he was safe. Not a scratch on him!
Both of these instances have caused our family some consternation, but also a lot of rejoicing because they have made us aware of God’s protection over our family.
* * * * *
Both of those stories are true! I'm over at Mothers of Daughters today talking about how our family stories shape us. Won't you join me there for the rest of the story