It’s deer hunting season! I’m telling you in case you haven’t been over to notice the blaze orange and camo hanging on hooks and draped on chairs and benches, sprinkled in among the cowboy hats, mud boots and chaps.
Hunting season at the ranch means friends and family sneaking around the hills of this place and stopping in the house in the time between morning and dusk to share stories of what they found, where they were, chances they missed, luck and how it did or didn’t change and the massive little herd of wild turkeys we have out here.
It’s hunting season and it means the coffee’s always on and so is the soup. And while I’m now on a mission to follow my friend Lee around the kitchen to write down every step of his vegetable beef soup recipe, until then, I’m sharing this no fail, always the right time, yummy, warm and cozy knoephla soup again. And if you don’t want to make your own knoephla, Baker Boy sells frozen ones that are just a good, I just haven’t been able to find them in the grocery stores lately. So if you do, please grab a few packs for me!
Cheers and good luck and stay safe all you hunters!
I got away last weekend. Left the kids and the husband to head east to play some music and work on my book. (I’m set to release another compilation book of photos, stories, recipes and more, as soon as I can get enough time to get my shit together). So I took an extra day away to dig into that. I could use a week or two of isolation where I DON”T have COVID.(..yeah, I had COVID this month…) and I’ll be getting somewhere. And then I played some music for an actual live audience, ordered in food, went shopping and felt normal for a minute.
Or maybe not as much normal as released a bit from a weight I’ve been carrying, we’ve all been carrying, for months and months and months and months. My husband got his second COVID vaccination as a first responder last week. So did my mom. My dad’s on track to finish his vaccination in a few weeks and so I feel my family’s started on a path of protecting themselves and those around us the best we can, and it makes me breathe easier. Also, leave it to my little sister and I to wait until our county essentially has ZERO cases of COVID, and for the weather to finally hit -30 below zero for weeks, for us to to take our turn on contracting it. Luckily, it wasn’t such a bad case for any of us. Luckily my husband and kids, and gramma and grandpa didn’t get it, and luckily my taste and smell came back after a few days. I was going to start getting a little more bitchy if I could no longer taste cookies and kneophla and similar carbohydrates needed for us to finish off the winter here in the North Country. Turns out even though I couldn’t taste, it did NOT mean I gave up on trying…(cue food randomly shoved into my mouth every ten minutes just to test my tastebuds…)
Anyway, as we tend to say around here, now we know what THAT feels like. Sending love to those who have lost loved ones or are still struggling with this horrible, unpredictable virus.
I don’t have to say this, because you all know it, but I’m gonna say it anyway — we really got what was coming to us, didn’t we? After a few weeks of 40 degrees below zero with minus 100 degree wind chills, I stepped outside this morning and thought, “Wow, it’s really warmed up out here.” It was minus 4.
But there was no wind, you know, so dang near tropical.
And, as luck would have it, the universe would dish out two weeks of COVID quarantine during the time when bundling up to get some fresh air could literally threaten our lives. So, yeah, we’ve been a good experiment on what’s more dangerous: 40 below zero temperatures, or staying in the house for two weeks with a 5-year-old, a 3-year-old, a husband and a pug.
At least they make neckerchiefs, face masks, Muck boots and hand warmers to help protect us against the weather. There’s no protection from a half-naked 5-year-old popping in on the middle of my inspirational Zoom monologue to 80-some school counselors. I mean, I thought there was. I thought his name was Chad and he was my darling husband, but he put too much trust in the fragile promises made by a young child when faced with an iPad that needs charging, so yeah, now my husband needs protection from me.
Turns out he’s just fine with taking a chance on the cold. I never thought I’d be jealous of having to fix a water tank in 23 below zero temps, but here we are.
Anyway, that’s how we’ve been holding up — with an unhealthy helping of Netflix, carbohydrates, arts and crafts, five-day sweatpants and naps. I’m not complaining about the naps. But I guess I am complaining, just a little, but in good fun and with gratitude for the fact that we all came out of it relatively unscathed and no worse for the wear.
I mean, really, it could be worse than having to hunker down for a few weeks during the longest, shortest month of the year in North Dakota. And while we’d all rather be on a tropical vacation somewhere, minus the freezing water tank and extra 5 pounds I likely gained (I don’t wanna know) maybe this was the next best thing.
What a weird, uncertain, unprecedented time to be alive and raising children, trying to be optimistic… trying to do the right thing. I want to reach out to you all and tell you that the other side of this pandemic will be easier, and that it’s coming, but we don’t know that for certain, do we?
Nothing’s promised. All we can do is do our best. Sometimes that’s letting your kids turn the gymnastics mat into an indoor Slip ‘N Slide and sometimes it’s a structured and well-executed, sanity-saving Pinterest activity that leaves your kitchen table looking like a tornado went through the craft section of Walmart.
But if I could have you over to our place, I’d sit you down at the counter and serve you crackers and cheese and whiskey or wine or hot tea and listen as you dished your troubles or told me a funny story about how your kid chose the wrong time to drop her first cuss word while we waited for the soup to finish simmering on the stove.
And since we can’t do that, I thought I’d fulfill some requests I received to share that cheeseburger chowder recipe I mentioned last week. I hope you take some time to make it and I hope it warms you up a bit. Until then, peace, love and I’d put some bacon in it if I were you…
( I shared this last week, but here it is in more official form)
Ok speaking of tomatoes…(because we were speaking of tomatoes weren’t we?) I am so excited to share with you some news I’ve been waiting for all summer while we grilled burgers outside at 10pm because we just got in and the sun hadn’t set yet. I love those days. I do. And I love burgers, what girl doesn’t? But as the summer winds down and the days get shorter the one thing that keeps me from whining like a little girl who wants to stay up past her bedtime is this: longer nights divided by more Cowboy time in the kitchen = rich, hearty food that tastes like heaven…which results in a little something to take the edge off the cooler weather and inevitable winter…oh, and a little extra padding on my rear-end to help keep me warm.
Yes, cream and butter and hearty seasonings have blown back into my life with the autumn wind and I’m in the market for bigger stretchy pants because, you guessed it…
Cowboy’s cute butt is back in the kitchen…
And here he is, with his favorite ingredient: heavy whipping cream
and this time he’s outdone himself.
Now, I don’t like to push the man. Really I don’t. He has been busy this summer working on getting our new house squared away, building me picture frames, chasing cows around, fixing things I’ve recently broken, and, you know, working. So I haven’t asked him if he has any new recipes brewing up there under his hat. I haven’t mentioned to him that I am sstttaarrvvinng over here. No I haven’t. But this weekend as he watched his dearly beloved sob and stomp and whine and worry and nearly lose an eye as she tackled the age-old tradition of vegetable canning only to clean it all up, put her hands on her hips, reach for her goggles and declare that she was now going to attempt tomato soup…at 6 pm…I think he felt the need to run interference.
Because he must have been starving too…and he couldn’t wait until 3 am to enjoy his wife’s amateur tomato soup attempt.
So last Sunday Cowboy swooped in and rescued his maiden in fleece pants from her overzealous self by suggesting that perhaps he could try cooking tomato soup. That maybe he had an idea for a recipe. That possibly it would be good for her to find her camera and computer and do what she does best…document it.
And boy am I glad I did. Because the thing with Cowboy’s cooking is this: it’s all in his head, like a story or a song–if it’s not written down the melody might change a bit or the plot might thicken sooner the next time around.
So I gladly handed over the metaphorical apron, grabbed my camera and notebook and watched as the man I married whipped up a little piece of heaven right there on the very same table where I was nearly murdered by a jalapeno pepper. It was a beautiful thing and I know you’re going to love it….
and I am only just a little jealous of the ease at which this man tackles life…and soup.
So grab your favorite autumn brew and those pesky tomatoes…and then grab a few more because you’re going to want to make a double batch of this stuff:
Cowboy Cooks Garden Tomato Soup
Ok, here’s what you need, gathered and deliberately documented by following Cowboy around the kitchen using the journalist skills I acquired in college, and that cute little reporter hat, pen and paper pad.
3 cups diced fresh tomatoes
1 cup, or 3 medium garden carrots (use more if you wanna)
1/4 large purple onion
2 cloves fresh garlic (I have to tell you, I was looking everywhere in this tiny kitchen for fresh garlic when I was making my salsa. I whined and dug and threw things around. Cowboy mentions he would like some garlic and it just magically appeared in the cupboard. This is my life. I get a mess, Cowboy gets a magic cupboard…anyway moving on)
1 12 oz can of tomato sauce
1 bay leaf
1 tsp celery seed
1 tsp dill weed (haha, dill weed)
1 Tbsp basil (fresh would be best, but I forgot to plant basil, so dried tastes great too)
1 Tbsp fresh, chopped cilantro (or dried will work too)
1 tsp rosemary (we had a little rosemary debate, you know, now that I am an expert. I didn’t win. But if the little rosemary seed floaters annoy you like they annoy me, just put in a 1/2 tsp)
Ground black pepper to taste
1 (heaping) tsp chopped chives
4 bouillon cubes
1 stick butter (or 8 Tbsp if it makes you feel better)
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream (get your cream out of the fridge before use and set it on the counter for a bit. This way, when you add it to the hot soup it will blend well.)
Step 1: Call your Pops who is home alone to invite him for supper. I mean, he was kind enough to grow these tomatoes (and carrots) for you.
Step 2: Serve you and your cook an Autumn Ale, you know, to keep with the mood of the season.
Step 3: Sharpen your knives.
In Cowboy’s kitchen, this is the step that takes the longest. I mean, he has a knife briefcase.
And in that knife briefcase lives this mamajamma.
I know this looks weird, but Cowboy tests the sharpness of his knives by attempting to shave the hair off his knuckles…just like John Wayne or something, I dunno.
I think I said something like “Holy Shit!”
Step 3:Chop and simmer the veggies
Dice three cups worth of garden tomatoes
and put those babies in large a pot to simmer on low while you prep the other veggies
Dice three garden carrots. Look at these heavenly creatures!
I especially like this one. Pops said he was holding the rest of the carrots together when he found him.
What a nice little carrot. I liked him so much I ate him.
Ok, yeah, anyway, dice about one cup worth of carrots.
Now dice up 1/4 of that large, purple onion…
..sniff, sniff..please don’t cry.
Add the onions and carrots to the pot with the tomatoes
And pour in the tomato sauce
While the veggies and sauce simmer on low, move on to
Step 4: The seasoning
First, plop in the butter
Yup. The whole stick…or if you’d like, just 8 tablespoons.
Now, in no particular order add the seasonings to the pot, tasting and testing as you go to make sure you just love it.
Now let the concoction simmer this way on low for a bit. Have some more brew. Set your table. Read Cowboy magazine, whatever. You must cook this all up, letting the flavors blend and allowing the onions and carrots to cook.
About 30 minutes.
Step 5: The best part
Need I say more?
Once the veggies are nice and cooked, measure yourself out a heaping cup of your room temperature heavy whipping cream and slowly stir it into the soup.
Now say “mmmm….mmmmm….mmmmm….” while Campbells sobs silently to himself…
Let warm for a few minutes and…well…what you will have there people is some damn good tomater soup.
So waste no time…
Step 6: Serve it up!
If you want, make yourself a grilled cheese to go with it.
But honestly, you won’t want to touch that stupid sandwich. My photos in the dim lighting of my home do not do it justice.