Foodie Sunday : Prayers and Pumpkin Soup
What a week. For all of you who were in harms way, please know that you have been in my thoughts and prayers almost continuously since Hurricane Sandy began her deathly approach. Here in Northeast Ohio, many of us are still without power…trees upended everywhere and our lives generally disrupted by having to be rerouted continuously due to flooding streets and rising rivers. However, that is nothing compared to the devastation that I see every time I turn on the news or receive a picture text from a friend on the East Coast. Our hats go off to the first responders who put themselves in harms way continuously to keep us safe and to get our infrastructures up and running again. They are the real heroes of this tragedy and often underappreciated unless you have the opportunity to have one of them touch your life at a time when you need it the most.
The night after Sandy hit, I had the opportunity to be in the offices of command central for the American Red Cross in Cleveland where I saw first hand exactly who they were and how they respond in a crisis like this. They are an amazing organization that utilizes cash to continue to respond to imminent disasters like this, they have no need for canned goods. Here is the number that you can text if you wish to make a donation – simply text“REDCROSS” to 90999 to make a 10.00 donation.
If you want to donate canned goods here is the link for Feeding America , an organization that will tell you how to donate food and has a terrific food bank locator on their site. They can be found at http://feedingamerica.org/
Last but not at all least is my personal favorite, The Salvation Army. I was a “Soup Sister” for years, spending lots of time out on the trucks with my son going into the neighborhoods that they served and dishing out bowls of soup and bread at all of the shelters across Cleveland. Their motto, “We combat natural disasters with acts of God” is pretty apt….they are some of the most caring and dedicated volunteers that I’ve ever met. They are in the thick of this disaster working alongside the Red Cross providing meals, blankets and spiritual counseling to those who have been hit hardest. It is because of them that I even have a brother. During the war, my parents were stationed in Jackson, Mississippi and Stephen got very sick. My father was not with her at the time, off somewhere for training. It was determined that he needed to get better medical care and that they would have to somehow get back to Cleveland. In desperation my mother went to many organizations only to be met with no helpful response. A Navy Chaplain from the base pointed her to The Salvation Army who got her and my brother home, consequently saving his life. She volunteered for “The army” as she called them right up to the day that she died. They can be found at http://www.salvationarmyusa.org/
So because this is Foodie Sunday and really this is supposed to be about food I’m going to leave you with a recipe. It was fascinating and wonderful to me that as the storm was approaching, that all of my friends who were in it’s path were cooking. They’d been out already to get firewood and extra blankets, water and canned goods. However, human nature had taken over and they were making crockpots full ofstuffed peppers and enough mashed potatoes to feed armies, meatloafs for sandwiches and huge casseroles for their families that would have made any churchlady proud. In times like these we cocoon ourselves with those that matter most to us. We comfort them with flavors that we know will soothe them through the storm and beyond. I lay in bed with Jim that night listening to the massive gale winds that were blowing off of Lake Erie and wondering if I would have a roof over my head in the morning. We awoke the next day and we had been spared, but the news was almost too much to bear. But then the texts started flooding in ; ”we’re fine and the meatloaf was wonderful.” “We don’t have power but we have plenty of soup and lots of propane”, Hey Aunt Beth….We can’t get out ..everythings flooded around us but we have stuffed peppers and pie..wish you were here!”. That last one made me cry as I wished I was too.
I was reminded immediately of that great old hippy saying….”we are all just humans being” and I went downstairs to the kitchen and made a pot of soup grateful for that bit of technology that could keep us connected during such a perilous time.
So here you are! This is a recipe that I made every year for a fundraiser called “Giggles and Ghosts” that the soup sisters held for the Salvation Army. It was a wonderful benefit, in true Soup Sisters fashion we cooked everything and fed hundreds, raising lots of cash as well as donations of clothing ad food that we would then take down to the center. I love this soup and you will too. It’s rich , delicious and very easy to make. You can make enormous pots of it, eat it for days and never tire of it.
Pumpkin and Peanut Butter Soup
Take a chunk of excellent butter and melt it in a soup pot. Add 2 chopped spanish onions and 2 chopped shallots. Saute the onions until they are translucent and add 3 large cans of cooked pumpkin and several quarts of really good chicken stock. Bring the whole of it to asimmer and let the flavors blend! I whisk in a cup of chunky peanut butter even more depending upon the taste. After it has simmered for about 20 minutes, stir in a quart of organic half and half. I always use organic milk or cream if possible because I've discovered that the texture is much finer and the taste is just that much better. You can use an immersion blender after it's cooked to really make it creamy if you like.
Add salt and pepper to taste and about a 2 tablespoons of good curry powder. You can also add a 1/4 of a cup of Calvado's (an apple brandy) if you'd like. I've also made this soup with butternut squash, halved and roasted with butter,olive oil,cinnamon and a bit of real maple syrup. I usually roast about 4 large acorn squash to get the amount of pulp that I need. The canned squash just doesn't seem to have thenutty flavour that the roasted does and the texture is exquisite. Making this will take some extra time, but I promise you that it's worth it. A lovely glass of wine and a bit of cheese while you're waiting should make the task really bearable, let alone the aroma of the roasting squash!
Wherever you are , please be safe and know that my arms are wrapped hard around you. If you need help and don’t know where to turn, here’s my number- 440-941-5186 , feel free to text me and if I'm able help in any way or you just need a shoulder for a moment , I’ll be there.
Godspeed and know that you are loved,