“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.” ~ Albert Camus

Greetings everyone! With temperatures dipping into the 30s and 40s at night in Northeastern Pennsylvania, one thing is abundantly clear: autumn is here. This means it is time for me to start cooking and blogging again.

I love autumn for so many reasons. Apple picking. Roasted Butternut Squash. Hooded Sweatshirts. Tailgating. Hot chocolates. Halloween Candy. Chili cook offs. Campfires. Pumpkin Soup. I can go on … but obviously, the majority of this list includes food. There’s no better way to transition into the colder weather than with a hearty, healthy bowl of soup (and a pair of Uggs!)

Here is a recipe for a beef barley soup I like to make. Barley is a whole grain that dates back to the Stone Age and is used in cereals, breads, soups and stews. This recipe calls for pearl barley, which is a grain that has had the bran removed and has been steamed and polished. It comes in three different sizes: coarse, medium and fine. You can buy it in bulk or in a box. I like to use the Quaker box of medium pearl barley.

Traditional beef barley soup is made with mushrooms. I didn’t have any and I like some spice, so I substituted a green pepper instead. I also didn’t have any beef stock on hand, so I used water and added boilloun cubes. You can play around with this recipe. Other than the chopping of the vegetables, it’s pretty easy and non-irritating to make. Hope you enjoy!

Fairytale Beef Barley Soup

Serves 6

1 lb grass feed stew beef
4 medium chopped carrots, diced
4 stalks celery, diced
1 green pepper, diced
1 white onion, diced
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon oregano
5-6 cloves of chopped garlic
6 cups water
3 beef bouillion cubes
1 cup strained tomatoes
1 cup of medium pearl barley
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 bay leaves

1) Spray a large Dutch oven with non-stick cooking spray. Add onion and beef. Cook for 10 minutes until browned.

2) Add carrots, celery, and green pepper. Season with herbs. Cook for 5 minutes. Add garlic and stir.

3) Add the remaining ingredients to the pot and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat. Simmer for an hour, until all the vegetables are tender and the barley is cooked. Discard the bay leaves.

Nutritional Information: 308 calories, 7 grams of fat, 36 g carbs, 7 g protein, 5 g sugar.


I also would like to note that one thing that will be missing this autumn is the Bloomsburg Fair, which I wrote about last year. For the first time in 157 years, the fair has been cancelled due to the devastating floods we’ve experienced here in Pennsylvania. My thoughts are with all those people who have been affected by the floods of 2011. My heart and prayers go out to you. I know the Bloomsburg Fair and Pennsylvania will be back bigger and better than ever. 🙂

An Autumn Greeting 

“Come,” said the Wind to the Leaves one day. “Come over the meadow and we will play. Put on your dresses of red and gold. For summer is gone and the days grow cold.” 

~ Anonymous 

Burning bright hues of amber, orange and yellow are symbolic with the autumn season but these colors aren’t only found in the changing leaves. Squash is also in season and this butternut squash soup recipe is the perfect remedy for those cold days when your body and your spirit need a little touch of warmth.

The word squash is derived from the Native American Narragansett word askutasquash, which means “thing eaten raw.” It was documented by Rhode Island founder Roger Williams in 1643 in his book, “A Key into the Language of America.”

Though squash is commonly considered to be a vegetable for culinary purposes, it’s actually a fruit. The rule of thumb is that any part of a plant that contains seeds is a fruit. Vegetables are leafy parts of the plant or roots, like spinach or carrots. Thus, the exterior of the squash is known as the flesh and the interior is known as the pulp. Squash has many culinary uses but is also grown competitively. (See my photos of the giant pumpkins from the Bloomsburg Fair!) Squash was also made into pottery by people of the ancient Moche culture in Peru.

In North America, there are generally two groups of squash: summer squash (immature fruit) or autumn/winter squash (mature fruit).  The most popular type of summer squash is zuchinni. It is easy to grow and requires little cooking time or preparation.  Winter squash, like acorn squash or butternut squash, is a bit more heartier and requires a lengthy cooking time. (But oooohhh is it worth the wait!) Pumpkins and gourds are also winter squash.

Lady loves to lay next to the winter squash (pumpkins and gourds)!

Butternut squash, a large vibrant yellowish/orange fruit, is at it’s peak during the fall season. It’s known in Australia and New Zealand as a butternut pumpkin. It is thought to have originated in Mexico and is very popular in Mexican cuisine. Grown on a vine, butternut squash has a yellow flesh and bright orange pulp. The ripper it is, the sweeter the flavor.

Butternut squash can be used in both sweet and savory dishes. It is used in soups, salads, casseroles, breads, muffins, etc. It’s firm texture also makes it easy to grill and it is commonly found in South America as a side dish to barbecues. 

Butternut squash is a good source of fiber, Vitamin C, Vitamin A, magnessium and potassium. The best part about it is that it’s cheap and lasts for days. You can buy it and use it weeks later, at your own convenience.  Here is a classic recipe for a thick, velvety, flavorful butternut squash soup. It’s healthy, easy to make and guilt-free because it’s made without any cream.

A large butternut squash cut in half.  When using, make sure to wash and discard the seeds.
Fairytale Butternut Squash Soup

3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon of butter (or butter substitute to save calories)
1 large butternut squash, halved lengthwise, washed, with the seeds discarded (about 3 lbs)
1 large yellow cooking onion, chopped
3 stalks of celery, chopped
2 tablespoons of fresh sage, chopped (a bunch of large leaves)
6 cups of chicken broth

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Rub the olive oil on the cut side of the squash and season with salt and pepper. Place on a baking sheet and roast about 45 minutes until tender. Remove from the oven and let cool.

In a dutch oven over medium-high heat, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and butter.  Add onion and celery. Sprinkle some salt. Saute about 10 minutes until tender.

Scoop out the butternut squash flesh (discarding the skin) into the pot. Add the chicken broth and a little salt to pot and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to low and let simmer for 30 minutes.

Remove from the heat and use a food processor or hand immersion blender to puree the soup.  You can also use a blender to puree the soup but make sure you work in batches!  Return to the pot and keep the soup warm.

Optional: You can give this soup a mexican flare by  adding some toasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas) and a drizzle of sour cream. For a hearty Italian flare, try dipping in some crusty bread, or hearty pumpernickel croutons and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. But it’s equally as good on its own! 🙂