Thursday, January 16, 2014

Urban Homesteading for One & a Delicious Soup from the Freezer

Over the past week, I have been chief caretaker for my Better Half who went down on the black ice walking the dogs and seriously fractured her wrist.  Her right/dominant wrist, of course.  The damage was so bad that surgery - and plates and wires and pins - were required.  If you've been through this type of injury you know it is a bear.  Lots of pain and immobility.  Lots of ice and pain medications. I have been doing my best to keep things happy, light, efficient, and I am cooking up a storm of course.  I am a firm believer that good food is a cure in itself - for anything.  It is right?

I have learned some valuable lessons,  so I thought I would share. We have an excellent division of labor here at our beloved Il Moya - our urban homestead.  And I realize now, how much it is a two person operation!  I mean, I personally feel that I am doing pretty well going it alone - but I wouldn't want it as a permament situation!  Oh No.  I haven't worked this hard in - well, maybe never!  Certainly not since we decided to take our home and our life together in certain directions.  And certainly not with six furries in the house!

First of all, there is of course, the paramount issues relating to taking care of Better Half's needs and requests - as it should be.  Then there are our two dogs and two cats and the dog and cat we are fostering because their family lost their home in a fire.  I mean they all need attention, exercise, meals, and the occasional intervention.  Well, Better Half doesn't usually require the latter!  

Then there is a laundry list of things that relate directly to our systems of maintaining an urban homestead.  We cook from scratch, for example.  Nothing prepared or processed.  We shop from purveyors who provide us with seasonal, fresh, and humanely raised products and ingredients - so, we don't do "one stop" shopping. During this period, I have never contemplated more how incredibly busy working Moms must view someone like me who makes three, four, sometimes five stops to feed the household.  And usually does it a couple of times a week!  I haven't caved and I won't but I have learned more about the "why" of total supermarket shopping.  I will also say that all of that canning and freezing work in the Fall - well, it was worth every minute!  

As I have explained in other postings, we endeavor to keep the big heater in our home from kicking in, so we employ space heaters, and only in the rooms we are using.  And, as we have a south facing side on the house, we are always attempting to capture passive solar.  So it's open up.  And, close up quickly when the sun is gone!  Get moving.  It seemed so much easier before.

The Cold Frame which we set up this year in our garden is packed with growing things that need tending on a daily basis.  Lettuces, brocolli, beets, collards, etc. are growing away and the temperature must be maintained.  Of course, the weather has been crazy during this period - one day went from 60 degrees to single digits in 10 hours!  And there's the "home" growth to tend to. These include our house plants and those plants we've brought into the house to over winter.  They are all over three floors and they need watering and occasional tending.

Of course, there are also the usual daily activities of living.  I mentioned cooking.  Believe me, that's a walk in the park compared to laundry, stripping beds, dealing with the trash and the recycling, the composter, cleaning rugs where somebody had an "accident", and general home upkeep.

I'm exhausted just looking back at this!  I am learning so much about our living systems, and how we may simplify them even further.  It is a true blessing that I work from home and have a good deal of control over my schedule; I don't know how I'd be holding up under different circumstances!

There is a lot of learning and thinking taking place in this urban homesteader's mind, I have to say.  I don't think I will forget about this and return to business as usual when there are two of us to manage life again.  I'll keep you in the loop and, by the way, thanks, this was very therapeutic!  Now a recipe that I made a few days ago from the freezer.

Recipe:  Cream of Asparagus Soup

I loved making this, because we bought and froze a good deal of local asparagus last Spring when it was in season, and I so enjoy going to the freezer and pulling out a couple of bags.  Frozen asparagus will lose its "snap" of course, but not its flavor and it is wonderful for soups, frittatas/omelets and sauces.  This is so delicious and perhaps will encourage you to freeze local asparagus when it appears this upcoming Spring.


Twelve ounces of frozen asparagus (the asparagus had been briefly blanched prior to freezing) defrosted and chopped
Two large Shallots, chopped 
One small garlic clove, chopped
Four tablespoons of unsalted butter
Four cups of a good low salt or no salt stock of your choice:  Vegetable or Chicken
One cup of heavy cream - or half and half for a bit lighter soup
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 
Optional ingredients, see below


Melt two tablespoons of the butter in a medium sauce pan
Add the chopped shallots and cook over medium heat, stirring until they soften, about five minutes
Add the chopped garlic and stir for about one minute
Add the chopped asparagus and another tablespoon of butter and cook, stirring occasionally, for about five minutes
Add the stock, stir, and bring the mixture to a quick boil, turn it down to a simmer and let it simmer on low to medium low with a lid on the pot for about 15 minutes - keep an eye on it.

Puree:  When the asparagus is soft and the flavors have incorporated, puree the mixture.  You can do this by adding a cup at a time to a blender or food processor but be careful with hot liquid in either.   The other option is what I do - and I highly recommend this piece of equipment - if you have one, use an Immersion Blender (a hand held stick shaped tool) that allows you to puree the mixture in the pot with no pouring required.  However you make the puree, you want the mixture to be creamy with very little solids at all.  If you want you can also let the mixture cool and strain it to insure no "strings" or bits of solid will be in the soup at all.  I would do that for company but it's delicious without the strain.

For service, reheat it slowly, add the last tablespoon of butter and salt and pepper to taste.
Serve with toasted croutons 

Options Ingredients:  Add thinly sliced toasted almonds to each bowl at service.  Add your favorite herb sprinkled over the soup at the end of cooking time, and stir into the soup.  A dollop of sour cream at service is wonderful. Or top each bowl with crispy bacon bits.

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