Monday, January 16, 2012

We're Back!

We are back from our epic trip to Montana! We had a wonderful time visiting with our family and enjoying the beautiful snow-kissed mountain landscape. Matthew absolutely loved all the attention he received from his aunts, uncles, and grandparents, complete with a birthday celebration this past Saturday. I cannot believe that I did not take more pictures while we were out there. The picture above of Matthew playing at the piano with his Uncle Andrew is the sole image from our camera proving that we did in fact spend a couple weeks in Montana. I really need to get better with the camera.

One of the highlights of the trip was watching an injured bobcat go to town on a severed buffalo head in the backyard while waiting for a couple of guys from the Department of the Conservation of Natural Resources to show up. When their clumsy capture methods caused the bobcat to flee, several of us donned our winter gear and grabbed a couple of guns and a few machetes and headed out in search of the beast ourselves. Sadly, our displays of bravery and bravado were unsuccessful and the cat never returned to finish off the rest of its snack.

It is always difficult to say goodbye to our Montana family, but at least this time our separation will be much shorter than last time. Paul's beautiful younger sister is getting married this summer and we are all very much looking forward to traveling back for the wedding.

When we returned to Erie, the weather was extremely cold, blustery, and snowy. On top of that, we had turned our thermostat down while we were gone and our home was as cold as an iceberg when we arrived. We wore our winter coats inside for most of the day. At least the decision for what to make for dinner was easy - a warm, satisfying soup!

This vegetable soup is quick, simple, and extremely filling. Chopped vegetables are sauteed with a few aromatics before being allowed to simmer in a thyme-scented broth until tender. The soup is then transferred to a blender where it transforms into a creamy bisque-like consistency. With the addition of just a touch of cream and a quick warm-up on the stove top, this soup is a favorite winter dinner around our home. This time around, we topped each serving with some homemade croutons (made from a cubed loaf of Italian Herb Bread that we picked up from our favorite Helena bakery).

Matthew had scrambled eggs. And some of the croutons. I'm starting to get sick of his picky eater stage.

Creamy Vegetable Soup
Adapted slightly from

This soup can be refrigerated up to 3 days and kept in the freezer for up to 3 months. For a vegetarian version of this soup, replace chicken stock with vegetable stock.

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 pound carrots, peeled, 1/2-inch dice

1 large onion, 1/2-inch dice

4 celery sticks, 1/2-inch dice

3 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, 1/2-inch dice

4 garlic cloves, peeled and halved

3 cups chicken stock

2 bay leaves

3 sprigs fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried thyme)

1/4 cup half-and-half or heavy cream

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Heat a large pot over medium-high heat, add oil. Add carrots, onions, celery and 1/2 teaspoon of salt; cook 10 minutes until softened.

Add potatoes and garlic halves and cook 5 minutes.

Pour in chicken stock then add bay leaves and thyme. Bring soup to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cook 15 minutes until potatoes can be pierced with a fork. Remove bay leaves and thyme stems then puree soup using a blender. Be sure to cover the top of your blender with a kitchen towel and hold the lid tightly so you do not end up with any explosions.

Return to your pot and add the cream and red pepper flakes. Gently reheat and adjusts seasoning to taste.

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