Archives for May 2012

Flowering Quince

I was up in Kent, Connecticut, a few weeks ago and came across this magnificent hedge of flowering quince just coming into bloom.

Lasagna Soup

I made this soup a few weeks ago. We had a very mild early spring followed by some chilly, raw days. I knew once the heat of summer came my interest in soup would fade until fall, so I took advantage of the day and made this recipe. It was easy to put together, and it really tasted just like lasagna in soup form. I will definitely be saving this recipe to make again.

I forgot to pick up basil at the grocery, so I omitted it when I made it. Try not to be like me – remember the basil. It tasted great without it though, but I can imagine that extra fresh taste of basil would have been great.

I also did as they suggested and cooked the pasta separately to prevent the leftovers from getting mushy. I froze the leftovers with a separate baggie of cooked noodles and another bag of cheesy yum; both taped to the top of the soup container with a label.

Source: I found the recipe via Pinterest on A Farmgirl Dabbles blog, who said it was adapted from 300 Sensational Soups by Carla Snyder and Meredith Deeds, as seen in the February-April 2011 edition of At Home with Kowalski’s magazine.

Lasagna Soup

Servings: 8


for the soup:
2 tsp. olive oil
1-1/2 lbs. Italian sausage
3 c. chopped onions
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
2 T. tomato paste
1 28-oz. can fire roasted diced tomatoes
2 bay leaves
6 c. chicken stock
8 oz. mafalda or fusilli pasta
1/2 c. finely chopped fresh basil leaves
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

for the cheesy yum:
8 oz. ricotta
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp. salt
pinch of freshly ground pepper

2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese


Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add sausage, breaking up into bite sized pieces, and brown for about 5 minutes. Add onions and cook until softened, about 6 minutes. Add garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes. Cook for 1 minute. Add tomato paste and stir well to incorporate. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the tomato paste turns a rusty brown color.

Add diced tomatoes, bay leaves, and chicken stock. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Add uncooked pasta and cook until al dente. Do not over cook or let soup simmer for a long period of time at this point, as the pasta will get mushy and absorb all the soup broth. You may even want to consider cooking the noodles separately, and then adding some to individual bowls before ladling the soup over them. This would be an especially smart move if you are anticipating any leftovers. Right before serving, stir in the basil and season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

While the pasta is cooking, prepare the cheesy yum. In a small bowl, combine the ricotta, Parmesan, salt, and pepper.

To serve, place a dollop of the cheesy yum in each soup bowl and sprinkle some of the mozzarella on top. If you’ve pre-cooked the pasta, place some in the bowl now, and then ladle the soup over them. You can sprinkle a little mozzarella on top of the soup if you would like. Serve hot with a good crusty bread.

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Bird on a Wire

This bird and I were singing back and forth to each other until a big 'ol truck came by and scared him away.


Jim and I flew down to Austin on Thursday morning for a long weekend getaway and to attend the 1st Annual Country Living Austin Fair. Now I’ve been to Austin twice fairly recently; last March with Amanda and India, and in December with my sister (where we started our Crafty Farm Sister’s Southern Road Trip). I loved Austin so much that when I saw Country Living was having a fair there, it was the perfect excuse to take another trip down south. This time I thought it would be fun to see if Jim could handle my southern style of traveling.

Standing at the Austin airport waiting for our rental car. It's hot out.

The first night in town I’d made reservations a month ago to go to Uchi, chef Tyson Cole’s restaurant where Paul Qui, winner of this year’s Top Chef is the executive chef. Top Chef is a favorite show of mine, and while I don’t watch television at home, I download Top Chef and Criminal Minds onto my iPad to watch when I travel. Paul was my favorite from the start of the season, so it was great to go to his restaurant and see him in action. The food was delicious.

Some Sister’s on the Fly were there with their vintage trailers. It was fun talking to them and checking out their campers. Their organization is the reason I first got interested in getting a vintage travel trailer. Of course now that I have one I haven’t managed to go on one of their outings.

Sister's on the Fly had some trailers at the CL Fair.

I loved this booth Wren. They had some great things.

And the vintage travel trailers didn’t end with Sister’s on the Fly! There were quite a few dealers at the show that had their own trailers that they incorporated into their booths. Some just as display, some as dressing rooms, some full of merchandise.

This one was a dressing room with a sitting area.

This woman made amazing felted animals. Her chicken wasn’t quite finished yet, but he was spectacular.

The most beautiful this at the show though may have been this longhorn steer. He was the most extraordinary color.

I just love playing with photo apps.

Since we had some free time after the Country Living show, we decided to head on out into the Hill Country for lunch at The Salt Lick BBQ in Driftwood. My sister and I had been to this BBQ mecca in December and I wanted to share the joy with Jim.

The Salt Lick's BBQ Pit

Jim is not as enthusiastic about BBQ as my sister, (which frankly cut down slightly on my own intense pleasure just a tiny bit), but the meal was still amazing.

My plate of BBQ from The Salt Lick.

Then we drove around the beautiful Texas Hill Country for a bit. The wildflowers were all in bloom on the sides of the road and it was so beautiful.

The wildflowers were in bloom on the sides of the road and were so beautiful.

Then the strangest thing happened. When I walked into the brush on the side of the road to take this photo, I must have had an allergic reaction to some flower or plant. By the time I got back into the car my legs were covered in tiny itchy welts, then I got some on my arms too. We were in the middle of nowhere. While I desperately itched my legs and arms trying not to tear my skin open, I prayed we would happen upon a CVS or Walgreens where I might find something to alleviate the itching. Then as quickly as they came, within an hour or so the itching stopped and the pain went away. Does anybody know what I had a reaction to?

Wildflowers as far as the eye could see.

A mama longhorn and her baby. Look at the tiny horns!

Below is a photo of me sitting in my hotel bed on saturday morning.. Can I just tell you the last time I sat in bed relaxing? Maybe when the twins were born, but that wasn’t exactly relaxing; that was nursing on both boobs while every part of my body ached. On this morning below Jim had gone out for an early morning walk and I was just sitting there relaxing. It was absolutely heavenly. Of course I lasted about 7 minutes before I got up to shower, but it was terrific while it lasted.

My sister and I stumbled upon TreeHouse in December, shortly after it had opened, and I dragged Jim there first thing Saturday morning. It is a green/sustainable living home improvement store. I could spend hours in the store pouring through all of the cool things they have, but I wasn’t sure how Jim would react to it – manual labor isn’t his thing. He was surprisingly enthusiastic about the store, but it’s hard not to be. The people that worked there are SO friendly and knowledgeable. We met a great guy who moved from Atlanta just to work there. And then we got talking to this great gal while she was passing the flooring department and came to find out she not only grew up in the town we live in, but in the very neighborhood we live in. How weird is that? She gave us a great recommendation for a place to eat that night too.

TreeHouse in Austin is a green/sustainable living home improvement store - the first of it's kind in the country.

This Marmoleum came in the greatest colors. I would put these in my house.

This chandelier was made out of driftwood! One of the employees had installed one over her dining room table and they showed us a picture of it and it looked terrific.

This sconce looked like it was made out of a wine bottle backed with old barn wood. It was very cool.

Some more great chandeliers they had.

And even more...

Then I dragged him a few stores down to Whole Earth Provisions. Shopping in this store reminds me of browsing through the Whole Earth Catalog when I was a kid. (I guess that kind of dates me, because most of you won’t even know what I’m talking about.) It’s a great store that has something for everyone. I got a great new pair of Merrell’s that I put on to wear before I even left the store.

My new Merell's

Now this is my third trip to Texas, and somehow I had yet to see an armadillo — and I’ve been looking. Doesn’t it just figure when I finally come across one it’s flat as a pancake and being picked apart by vultures.

Armadillo roadkill.

How do you think the owner's of this beautiful house in the Tarrytown neighborhood felt about having their yard full of vultures?

That night, at the recommendation of the girl we met at TreeHouse, we dined at Justine’s Brasserie, which is a french-style bistro. It was way over on the fast East side of Austin — so far that I thought for a while that we couldn’t possibly have gotten the directions right, but there it was, tucked into a rather industrial area of town. We had read that it could get quite crowded and they didn’t take reservations, so we got there a little after 6 and were pleasantly surprised by only waiting a few minutes to be seated. We got a table outside and it was just the right temperature — not too hot or too cold. We had a lovely waitress who provided us with excellent service, and while the menu was filled with traditional bistro food, it was done so perfectly that Jim and I both agreed that it was probably the best french food we’d eaten — including the meals we’d had in Paris; the kind of food that even though you’re full you keep reaching for another fork full because it’s just so perfectly prepared.

On Sunday morning we had just enough time before our flight to head back into Austin and grab some breakfast. After a few failed attempts at traditional breakfast haunts that huge lines, we ended up back on South Congress Street where I got a caramelized pear crepe from one of the food trailers. It was delicious, and the perfect way to end a delightful weekend in a delightful town.

A caramelized pear crepe from one of the South Congress Street trailer food vendors. It was really really good.