Curried Apple Soup


Happy Halloween, Samhain, etc. to all my readers who celebrate this day, for Pagans, this marks the beginning of our New Year. We remember our ancestors on this day, and set in motion all the things we hope and strive for in the coming year. The harvest is winding down, or is over (like in our case) and it is time for inner reflections, nesting in the home, and keeping healthy and strong during the winter months which are upon us. To me this equates with making nourishing and delicious comfort foods, enjoying them while sitting by the wood stove and spending evenings cuddling with my loved ones, human and otherwise. So in essence, my favorite time of the year!

(My latest needle felting piece)
I like to celebrate this night eating seasonal foods. Don’t get me wrong, I always love eating seasonally, but I suppose some of my favorite foods also come at this time of year: bright orange pumpkins and other winter squashes, savory apple dishes, hard cider, earthy potatoes, turnips and rutabagas, and lots of wonderful braises and slow cooked meats in the tagine. So good.
Tonight’s menu includes a delicious apple and winter squash soup loosely based off this one I am going to share with you today as well as pork chops with apples and cabbage and some nice pumpkin oat bread, which I will be sharing soon, as well.

This soup was inspired by a soup I had out a few weeks ago. It was one of the most delicious soups I had ever had, and I wanted to re-create it at home and eat it for a week! I looked through Mollie Katzen’s Enchanted Broccoli Forest, there is a great selection of unique soups in there, and she had a recipe for curried apple soup. This one is somewhat different from her recipe (the addition of coconut milk especially and some difference with the spices), but very similar to the one I tasted and loved. A great result!
You will definitely enjoy this unique soup. It is quick and easy to make, and perfect for warming anyone up before a chilly night out trick or treating or going to Halloween parties. In fact, take a pot of it to you Halloween party! Would also be a great starter for Thanksgiving dinner. I will definitely be making it again!


2-3 TBS coconut oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 large clove of garlic, minced
¼ tsp dried ginger
2 tsp salt
2 tsp dry mustard
½ tsp mango powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
¼ tsp pumpkin pie spice
¼ tsp cayenne
1 TBS curry powder (add more if you like a stronger curry taste!)
5 cups peeled, chopped apple
1 cup water
2 TBS lemon juice
1 can coconut milk (regular, not light)

Heat coconut oil in a soup pot and add onion and garlic and sauté over medium heat for about 5 minutes or until onion begins to soften. Add all the spices and sauté for another 5 minutes. Add apples, water and lemon juice and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to low and simmer for about 10 minutes with the lid on, after 10 minutes the apples should be very tender. Add the coconut milk and heat through. Puree in a blender; be careful not to burn yourself. Make sure the lid is on tight, and don’t do the whole thing at one time, unless you have a large capacity blender, like a vitamix. Serve. Makes 4 appetizer sized bowls.


IMPORTANT POST NOTE: At this time, Michael Schmidt, Food Freedom Fighter is still fasting. We are now onto DAY 32 of his no food, drinking only water HUNGER STRIKE!  So please do what you can to help, his only request to end his strike is to speak with the Premier of Ontario, Dalton McGuinty. How this “man” sleeps at night letting another man starve for freedom,  is a wonder to me. If you wonder how this concerns you, please read my post about it and PLEASE HELP.

Food Freedom Fighters


As I write this, it has been almost 40 hours since I consumed anything but raw milk and water. I am still alive. No stomach pains, no headaches, no indications to tell me that this hotly debated food item has damaged me in any way, the fact is, I feel completely nourished and as normal as I would any morning at 10:30 AM. I am not starving for food, but getting hungry, I have normal amounts of energy and I am in a good mood. From all the anti- raw milk campaigns out there, you would think at this point I would be in a hospital bed somewhere, or at the very least, having a case of the runs. I even had dental surgery yesterday, so I guess I did in fact consume Novocaine, but even with all that, I am feeling A-OK.

I took a little break, and am now eating some lunch, my first meal since the fast. I had to think a little. Fasting for ideological reasons is something I have never done before and I wanted to understand for myself why I felt so compelled this time. I am no stranger to activism. I have been to numerous protests in my life, I have gone out of my own comfort zone to assist and to help those who are fighting their own battles and needed help with chores and daily life . Being an activist, especially when you are fighting for your life and livelihood is a full time job because without your life and livelihood, well, you can take it from there in your own head. In the past I have been an activist for large global issues, and issues that impact others strongly, although not much direct impact on me. But this time, with raw milk, it really hit home.

Dear friends of ours are raw milk (among other things) farmers and I drink their milk every day. If that wasn’t enough of a reason to get involved, there is also this crazy idea, a dream of ours to produce and sell dairy products, like cheese, and fresh dairy, like yogurt, kefir and buttermilk, things that have been nourishing our bodies for the past several years, and which we rely on heavily for our continued health. But you know what? I am scared to death to begin a business like this in the US. Land of the Free, my… I have had to ask myself many times these past months, is it worth it? Maybe I should just make it for our own consumption and not sell it to others. I don’t want to do jail time over cheese and milk, as so many others have. Artisan products, like raw milk cheeses and other products have been under attack by the FDA for months here in the US. If you don’t believe me, check out this, this and this.

In a world where small family dairies can be put through that, and yet cigarettes are sold at every gas station, GMOs are not labeled despite the fact that 80% of Americans are asking for labeling practices, where ground meat is sold in stores with ammonia in it and Cargill can poison thousands with salmonella contaminated food, and yet remain in business with a slap on the hand, and a VOLUNTARY recall, all the arguments about raw milk laws and safety are “udderly” ridiculous and completely unconvincing. It is about money friends, not safety. Who benefits from not allowing people to eat healthy nourishing foods but large food corps, and dare I say pharmaceutical companies gaining off the sickness of our nation. I am sorry but the masses are not sick and overweight and getting diabetes from drinking raw milk. It is also about our freedom and health. To read more about these discrepancies between small farms and large food corps and “food safety”, this is a great article.

“The Cargill recall and Rawesome raid provide a glaring example of the problems with our food system. Cargill had known that its factory had salmonella – it just hadn’t reached actionable levels, they thought. One person died and dozens became ill before Cargill initiated a voluntary recall.Compare that to what happened at Rawesome, [where] not one person has ever claimed to have gotten sick…the government came in with armed officials, confiscated tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of food, and put three people in jail.” ~ Judith McGeary, Esq

I am an empath. It is all too easy for me to imagine myself in someone else’s shoes, so often times people may think I get too emotional over certain subjects, especially when they don’t involve me, directly. But I don’t see the world that way, to me we are a holistic whole. Each little issue a microcosm of the whole. My reality is I see no difference between a man I have never met, Michael Schmidt, and our friends down the road who feed us, care about the health of others and do the best they can to supply healthy foods to their community, providing a service, a labor of love. They have family and friends that support them and many customers. They are just like Michael Schmidt. When we stand up against one person’s injustice, we stand up for all of those we love and care about.

So who is Michael Schmidt? Michael is a dairy farmer in Ontario, Canada. He has been providing safe and highly nutritious raw milk to informed buyers who have consented to purchase his product. The Canadian government has made it illegal for him to sell the milk and he just entered his 4th week of a hunger strike (consuming nothing but water). All he wants, a personal one-on-one chat about raw milk policies in Canada with the Premier, Dalton McGuinty. One talk and the strike will end. Michael has been fighting with the Canadian government for years, and it has come down to this. All he wants is to be heard. The people of Canada have rallied behind Mr. Schmidt, calling out to Mr. McGuinty to speak with him. Isn’t this why we elect officials, for them to execute the will of the people? I think it is time for Mr. McGuinty to do his job.

Lest you think this is all about raw milk, let me tell you, raw milk is the tip of the iceberg in the land of food freedom and food freedom fighters. It is about upholding that right which is yours, inherently to consume the foods you want. Raw milk is just the hot topic these days; it is the issue on the battle field. Last year it was NAIS (National Animal Identification System) and the Food Safety Modernization Act and maybe next year it will be fighting Monsanto on the issue of saving seeds. When you see all the “food” in the grocery stores, products lining the aisles full of additives, preservatives and chemicals, and these products are sanctioned by the government and regulatory branches, it just tells you that the government cares very little for the health and safety of the people. When you see them going through such pains and efforts to destroy small farms and businesses, you begin to understand what a threat they see these farms and food producers to their bottom line. This is not about safety, it is about money.

I don’t want to hear one more word from the government about world hunger until they start letting farmers feed people again. Most farmers sell GMO corn and soybeans, that don’t even feed people, mostly because they can earn a better living wage, and there are not so many restrictions. That is unimaginable.

It just makes you think…We just returned from a family trip back to Roberto’s Homeland, Sardinia. Sardinia is in the midst of a beautiful revitalization. The government wants people to continue sheep and goat farming; the government encourages young people to continue its ancient traditions and livelihoods. There are programs, and monies given to people who want to start a farm, take over an old one, and make cheese and other farm products or to start an Agro-Turismo. Look at that in comparison to prospects here in North America. Places where you need teams of lawyers, and armed guards (well maybe not that extreme yet) to make farm fresh products and sell them to your neighbors, friends and community without ending up in jail.

I really don’t want to get into all the legalities, because at the end of the day feeding yourself, growing food, and choosing what you put in your body is our birthright and we have been executing that right for millennia. It is an inalienable right (not a privilege)as a human being that should never come into question. Sometimes our government officials forget this, and so we have to be there to remind them and defend that right, lest they try to take it away. What you choose to eat has nothing to do with government, and clearly it shouldn’t as they have done a great dis-service to us where we have allowed them power. Many of the things they do regulate and approve for human consumption, like food and drugs kill people every day. Raw milk does not kill people every day.Even if that were not true, and all food they approve is safe, sometimes laws need to be changed. Raw milk laws may be out-dated. They started in a time where more and more people moved to cities and brought their animals to the cities too, and sold milk in open air containers in filthy streets. Maybe these laws need to be re-evaluated before people start losing their lives over outdated laws.

And if you think raw milk is not safe, check this out: “Using government figures for foodborne illness for the entire population, Dr. Beals has shown that you are about thirty-five thousand times more likely to get sick from other foods than you are from raw milk,” click here for the rest of the article .

Keep fighting the good fight Micahel! We support you! We have your back!

Drying Apples for Winter Storage and Holiday Gifts!

Fall is certainly apple season. One of the ways I like to celebrate my favorite season, autumn is by picking apples and pumpkins. I know here in Northern Vermont, apple picking season is pretty much over, but for all of you in slightly warmer climates, you probably have abundance all around you right now.

I must admit, as I have before on this blog, that I have never been a huge fan of apples. I am not sure why. But I think maybe they are just too sugary sweet for my taste buds. Over the past few years, I have learned to really enjoy whole, fresh apples in savory applications like this Apple Chard Cheddar Tart, which we love making at this time of year, when all the ingredients are still in season, or how about a new take on pulled pork with an Apple Barbeque Sauce? I have another fresh apple recipe I will be sharing with you soon.

I also have come to really love dried apples. In fact, this is my favorite way to enjoy apples. I first made Roasted Pork Chops and Cherry Sauce with Wine Kraut and Red Cabbage last year for our Yule celebration, and this combination of roasted pork, cabbage and slices of dried apple have become a favorite meal of ours this fall season.

Generally, I just sear the chops in coconut oil, butter or bacon fat, and then put them in my tagine. Then I dump shredded cabbage, maybe some homemade sauerkraut, sliced onion and minced garlic and some strips of dried apple. I season this all with salt and pepper, some coriander and raw apple cider vinegar. I put it in the oven at 350 F, for about 2 hours. If you don’t have a tagine, you could use a Dutch oven. It is simple, yet super delicious and flavorful.

So as you can see, there are a lot of savory applications for apples. Since we use them now, I thought about drying some for use over the winter. Drying apples at home for winter storage is really easy. You don’t need any special equipment and all it takes is time. This is a great homemade gift to send to anyone on your holiday list as well!

We harvested about 12 lbs. of apples. I saved about a dozen for eating, and used the rest to make dried apples. I cut the apples in thin, round slices. Then I laid them out on cookie trays, being sure to give them space. When you oven dry fruit or veggies it is important they don’t touch. This helps them to dry better and more evenly.

The first batch I did at 200 F for about 2-3 hours. They didn’t really feel dry enough, so I put them in mason jars and stored them in the fridge for later use. For the second batch, I did about 3 hours. I wasn’t sure they were dry enough either, so I put them on a plate on my kitchen counter and covered them with a kitchen towel. I mixed them with my hands every day, and then put the towel back over them until they felt really dry – about a week. Use your own judgment here. If you have eaten dried apples before, you know what they are supposed to feel like, leathery and a bit sticky from the caramelized sugar.

I made about 4 trays of dried apples, which equates to about 6-7 pints.

We are really hoping to revitalize the apple trees we have here on the homestead, and maybe add a few more trees next year. I am really excited at trying my hand at hard cider and making my own raw apple cider vinegar. Dried apples also make a great DIY handmade holiday gift for the foodies in your life. In fact some of my loved ones may receive some in one form or another this year. That is, if I don’t eat them all myself, first!

Sometimes if I have a craving for something sweet, I reach for a slice of dried apple. Its concentrated sweetness kicks the craving, and all I need is one!


Equipment for Drying Apples at home:

*An oven set at 200 F
*Cookie sheets covered with parchment paper (makes it easier to remove the apples, the sugar tends to caramelize and stick to a naked tray)
*Plate and kitchen towel for extra air drying time
*Mason jars for storage

Coconut Milk Panna Cotta Parfaits


Today I am really excited to share with you this perfect autumn dessert that I was inspired to create for a dinner party recently. It features preserved fruits and is sweetened with maple. This cute dessert is perfect to take with you to any upcoming holiday celebration, whether you are celebrating Autumn, Harvest Season, Halloween, Samhain, Thanksgiving, etc.

Made in small mason jars, not only is this dessert rustic chic, but highly portable! Just screw the lid on and you are good to go! It is also a great dessert for groups since it is allergen friendly, as it is dairy, egg, refined sugar and gluten free. If you experiment by using agar-agar, it is also vegetarian and vegan friendly. You can also play with the flavors by using different sweeteners, like raw honey or stevia and by using different spices and various types of preserved fruit. If you don’t have preserved fruit, a small layer of homemade jam would be perfect, or how about some sweetened pumpkin puree and topped with crumbled candied nuts?

The most important thing about this dessert is that it tastes delicious, it is luscious, creamy and dreamy, not too sweet but easily satisfying those with a sweet tooth and you can play so much with the basic recipe to make it your own. It is so versatile that you can make it for more than one celebration by making it several different ways! So whip some up today and enjoy this beautiful harvest season!


2 ½ cups canned coconut milk (regular, not lite) – I use Native Harvest because they have BPA-free cans
¼ cup 100% pure maple syrup
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
¼ tsp of cinnamon or crushed cardamom (or a combination!)
¼ cup water
1 ½ teaspoons unflavored gelatin
1 pint of preserved fruit – I used plums from last year’s larder
2 or 3 gluten free cookies – I used some leftover pfeffernusse shortbread (use nuts to make the dessert grain free)


Pour the coconut milk into a small pan and heat on the lowest setting until small bubbles form on the edges of the pan. In the meantime, in a small bowl pour a quarter cup of water and add the gelatin, whisking briskly until thoroughly combined. Set aside until the coconut milk has started to bubble, add maple syrup, vanilla extract and spices to the coconut milk once it has started to bubble slightly.

Remove the coconut mixture from the heat and add a quarter cup of it to the gelatin whisking briskly to incorporate, making sure there are no lumps. Add this back to the pan with the rest of the coconut milk, whisk to combine and then remove pan from heat.

Using ½ pint mason jars, place some preserved fruit on the bottom of the jar, then cover with some of the coconut milk mixture. You will be doing this layering one more time, so make sure to save enough. I just eyeballed it. Put the rest of the coconut milk mixture back on the stove on the lowest heat possible. You want to make sure that it doesn’t cool all the way and start to congeal, so using a whisk stir once in a while.

Put the mason jars in the freezer for about 30-40 minutes, until softly set. Remove from freezer and let the jars come to room temperature (ish). You want to make sure that you aren’t adding hot liquid to frozen glass, as this will cause the glass to break. Then add another layer of preserved fruit, and then the rest of the coconut milk mixture, add another layer of preserved fruit and then crush some cookies on top and put in the fridge for about 2 hours until top layer sets. Keep in the refrigerator until it is time to serve. Serves 6

Return to La Torraccia

I never understood why some people would return to the same places over and over again when traveling. With a whole world to explore out there and so much to see that no human could do it all in just one lifetime, how could anyone ever justify going back to the same place twice? That was before I ever made any profound connections to the people at a certain place, a vacation spot, before I met my favorite chef in the world, before I drank my favorite wines and fell in love with the peace and joy a certain place can bring. That was all before Torraccia Di Chiusi.

Over three years ago, Roberto and I first had the opportunity to visit the Agro-Turismo,Torraccia Di Chiusi. We had a wonderful time there soaking in the beautiful landscapes, visiting medieval villages, eating amazing food, meeting wonderful people who would become friends. While that was all happening, other important changes were going on internally for both of us that were helped along by this visit to this amazing place. Some places give you peace of mind, time away from the grind to have a quiet place to listen to the stirrings of your soul. Torraccia di Chiusi is one of those places for me, where I feel at home, away from home.

Three years ago, we were still living in Florida, planning to move to Vermont and begin our homestead lifestyle. We were full of big dreams and super excited for the change. La Torraccia was like a place of confirmation. Donatella and Stefano, the owners and all the people like Grazia and Bruno, that make the place what it is were already doing the kinds of things we wanted to – raising animals, fruits and vegetables for food and making artisanal products out of those labors of love. Their place, ideas and philosophy were truly beautiful and inspirational, a bucolic dream. We spent time after dinner each night talking about the simple, good life. Just being there and talking to everyone made us see that these dreams we had were very possible. Not just possible, but in many parts of the world very normal. This touched us both deeply and firmly footed us in our dream moving forward.

Things began to change after that trip. First and foremost my food philosophy changed after I met Bruno, my favorite chef, who cooks the amazing dinners at Torraccia di Chiusi. He is truly a master of simplicity. Pasta sauced with butter, oil, cheese and sage was a revelation. Bruno is the true personification of simple is better, and if you want simple, you better get the best ingredients. Bruno doesn’t understand fine dining where the portions are too small, and you leave hungry. He doesn’t see the point. Better to fill people up and really nourish them with good, healthy and soul filling food. He does this, every night at La Torraccia. His integrity when it comes to cooking and life really, I have never seen surpassed. I have to say that Bruno, along with Grazia, Stefano and Donatella are inspirations for Roberto and I, and the way we are now living out our lives, with purpose.

(photo courtesy of Bruno and Grazia)

I would highly recommend Bruno and Grazia’s cookbook, Cucinar Cantando*  which is a mixture of food philosophy, artwork (he is also a painter) and words of wisdom, as well as recipes. Well worth it. Not only that, but it was entirely produced by Bruno and Grazia themselves – the writing, the translations from Italian to English, the illustrations, etc. I am the lucky recipient of one of the original 11 copies, each of which have unique covers. The production of those original editions were paid for with all the tips Bruno and Grazia had received from guests over the summer before, another labor of love, to be sure.

When I returned to my own kitchen after that first visit, I really started paring it all down to the basics. My dishes became much more rustic, and I began to rely on simple herbs, good oil and salt to season food, instead of my array of exotic spices I had always relied on before. I had a new and profound appreciation for butter and stock as well as the art of braising and slow cooking. I learned that you can never really use too much olive oil and that local and fresh produce is paramount. If it is not in season, and not fresh what is the point in preparing it? It will never be as good as something that is in season. In Tuscany, you would never think of preparing a dish without local products, let alone produce from another country. Why bother? When dishes start getting too out of touch from these simple philosophies, I summon Bruno in my mind and I am put back on track. Simple is best, simple is art.

Bruno and Grazia especially have become our good friends over the years. We have stayed in touch via facebook and email, and we even did a giveaway of their cookbook Cucinar Cantando on The Foodie Blogroll and there is another one in the works soon! I came to find out that my posts about our visit to La Torraccia has brought them business over the years, and for that I am profoundly pleased because they definitely deserve it. Due to this fact, Donatella and Stefano invited us to be their guests at La Torraccia for a few days to thank us for our support over the years. How could we say no?

We spent 3 wonderful nights and 2 very restful days there. The first day all we did was rest, nap, eat, and spend time walking around the farm seeing all the changes and improvements they have done over the three years. I can tell you, I did not build up the place unrealistically in my mind. It was even better this time around! One of the biggest changes is the developments in their wine-making, which I will talk about in another post. But we had a great time seeing how much they had done in just 3 years!

The second day we took another attempt at walking the Via Francigena to San Gimignano. It was a perfect sunny, cool day and we didn’t get lost! We spent the day in San Gimignano eating (of course) wonderful cheeses, and we went back to Beppone to have a repeat of the meal we have been thinking about for years -stewed wild boar, perfect gnocchi in truffle cream sauce and we topped it off with what I believe to be the best gelato in the world.

La Torraccia and Tuscany hold a very dear and special place in my heart. The people are committed to their local food traditions and the landscape with all its farms and trees remind me so much of Vermont. I just wish we could grow olives here! If we did, my life would be perfect.

*If you wish to order a copy of Cucinar Cantando (and I highly recommend it!) please contact Grazia and Bruno at

Guest Post: An End of the Season Roasted Eggplant, Tomato and White Bean Salad

I have one more guest post to share with you, for now, dear readers. This one comes to you by my friend Diana, from A Little Bit of Spain in Iowa. Diana and I have been foraging a friendship over this last year based in a love for the land, animals, and real, wholesome food. I love Diana for her honesty, and the way she really opens the door to her life on her urban homestead in Iowa through her blog. I know, doesn’t that sound like an oxymoron, that someone living in Iowa would consider their home to be urban? But again, that is the beauty of sharing lives with each other through blogging – you learn how wrong you are about so much and how much there is still to learn! I love that.

Diana and I both raise heritage breed chickens, and love to garden. Even though we are mostly at the end of our garden season here, many of you are still awash in tomatoes and eggplants, and this recipe is perfect for you. For the rest of us, let’s stock it away for next year! Now for a recipe straight from the garden, the lovely Diana takes it from here.


Thank you, Jenn, for inviting me to guest post on your blog.  You always inspire me in your dedication to live a life in sustainability and stewardship.

I’ve had the privilege of befriending Jenn over the past year.  Kindred spirits you might say.

We share a passion in real food and homesteading including calloused hands and dirt grimed fingernails from working our own pieces of land.


I an urban homesteader and she a homesteader.  Besides a shared appreciation of worm castings and poop, what I enjoy about Jenn is her love of fine cooking.

As much as I adore to work in my organic gardens and raise backyard urban chickens for eggs and meat, I find joy when I’m able to share the fruits of my labor with family and friends at the dinner table.

When Jenn asked me to share a simple seasonal recipe, I decided to share with you something special using end of the season eggplant and cherry tomatoes.


Eggplant has a sort of villain/superhero kind of reputation.  Some love it while others despise the notion of even looking at such an odd fruit that comes in so many shapes and sizes.

I enjoy eggplant and find that as long as it’s cooked along side other vegetables and herbs, it brings out the best in it’s texture and flavor.

A sure way to make any vegetable pleasing, including eggplant, is to roast them sprinkled with celtic sea salt and drizzled with extra virgin olive oil.


It deepens their flavor and when it comes to eggplant, gives them a bit more sustenance without the creaminess.

An End of the Season Roasted Eggplant, Tomato and White Bean Salad


This is a simple salad to make using white navy beans, tuna, roasted eggplant and tomatoes.  It’s mixed in a balsamic vinaigrette and topped with feta cheese and fresh cut rosemary.  Deep and vibrant it makes a perfect side dish for a busy weekday meal.


  • 1 cup white navy beans
  • 1 can tuna
  • 1 eggplant, diced
  • 20 cherry tomatoes (use some green unripened tomatoes if you have them), cut in half
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1tbls fresh cut rosemary, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Feta cheese to garnish


1. In a baking dish, add the diced eggplant and half cherry tomatoes.  Sprinkle with sea salt and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.  Roast in a 375F oven for 25 to 30 minutes.  Once roasted, remove from the baking dish and set aside.

2. In a large bowl, mix the beans, tuna, roasted eggplants and tomatoes.  Add the balsamic vinaigrette, olive oil and fresh cut rosemary.  Add salt and pepper to taste and toss well.

3. Garnish with Feta Cheese.

Buen Provecho!