isn't that what we're here for? {and simple pumpkin soup}

i'm a volunteer leader in our youth program for our church. excited that our usual wednesday night activity had ended early i bolted for the church parking lot when i saw her car parked illegally, semi-interrupting the clear path to my car. i took it as a sign that i should go pop in the church building and say hello to her, even though all i wanted to do was rush home, draw a bath and crawl up into bed.  

but i haven't seen her in a while...i thought. so, i turned around. 

she was dressed in a stylish burnt orange jean jacket chatting with a group of old ladies around a round table. they meet on wednesday nights too. coming up from behind her i put my hand on her shoulder and said, "why hello dearest grandmother! how are you this evening?" (i promise my friends, this is how i really talk in real life. i really call my grandmother, dearest grandmother... even in public.) 

"well hello my sweetheart!" she said with an enthusiasm and smile that only a grandmother can give. she turned around completely as i pulled up a chair, unapologetically taking her away from her conversation with the other ladies. we started our own conversation. 

"so how are you grandmother?" 

"i'm good," she auto-responded, then she shook her head, as if remembering she wasn't talking to someone as casually as she does with a grocery check-out girl and said, "actually i'm not good, i'm in a terrible mess at home." 

it took me a second to process then i remembered what she was referring to. 

"ah," i nodded, "your plumbing is being ripped out as we speak huh?" we'd talked about her anticipation for these plumbing issues being resolved once and for all, for months now. 

"oh and robyn, it's not just that, the furnace has to be replaced, my drywall is torn out, i have HOLES in my bedroom walls, HOLES..." and she went on to explain the complete disarray her home is in.

after listening for a bit, i picked out that she hasn't had any running water for weeks.

"grandma how are you surviving this long without water? are you staying somewhere?" 

she got a twinkle in her eye and said, "no, but guess where i've been showering?" knowing my grandmother and all of the crazy possibilities that could come with that statement, i shook my head and said "i have no idea."  

"right here," she smiled pointing down, "right here at this church building." i laughed and squinted a little. what? 

first of all i didn't really know our church building had showers, and second, my grandmother lives quite literally in a 5 mile radius of about 24 close family members (i have a huge family) and WHY she didn't think to call any of us for the simple, decent human request of taking a SHOWER, made me a little mad. so i said, 

"grandmother WHY didn't you just call me and tell me that you needed a shower? you can come over anytime! i'm offended you didn't call. " i also reminded her that there are like, a million of us that love her and live close to her and she should have called any one of us dang it. 

"oh no, i didn't want to trouble anyone. i'm fine! i made it work! the showers here are very nice." 

i blinked. first of all, they're not that great. 

second of all, my grandmother would KILL me for telling this story. she says it's a big secret that she's using the church showers because we're not supposed to during the "off hours" (or aka, the time the building is supposed to be locked up). 

what i got out of this conversation, is my grandmother is a warrior. she's a widowed freaking warrior who doesn't need help from no body. i mean, she's 75+ years old for pete's sake and she'd rather handle the no water thing herself than ask for help. 

a part of me applauds this, and the other part shakes my head. i mean, isn't that what family is for? to terribly inconvenience each other in times of need? lol, kidding. 

but we are here to give and to love and to serve each other no matter what. especially family. right? 

this is where you come in. we blow through this holiday season so quickly that i am requesting we pause and chat with a good friend for a while. like really talk. no ho-hum "i'm good", auto-response business. ask your friends how they're really doing. pull up a chair and just listen.

one of my favorite facts of this life is that friends are family we choose. 

and even though for the most part we want to rush on and keep it quick, we could all use a little more love and conversation.

and maybe a free shower. 

love to you my friend. xo  

ps. be sure to check out this new thing i'm doing called "why this is good for you" at the end of each food post. 

simple pumpkin soup with warm butter croutons 

serves 6

pumpkin soup because this recipe makes enough to share with a friend (i mean how awesome would it be to surprise a loved one with a bowl of soup for no reason?) and it's simple. this soup looks like it took way more time than it did, leaving you to have some room for good conversation with that friend when you drop it off. ;) 

note: this recipe will sing for you if you use high quality chicken or veggie broth. SING. i highly recommend you go all out here. if you don't have a homemade one on hand, buy the best you can afford here as it will make this soup 100 times better than water, or crappy broth. also, pinches of salt as you go. pumpkin and potatoes can be quite bland, so they need a little gentle seasoning as you go along. 

for the soup: 

4 tablespoons / 50g unsalted butter or olive oil 

3 ½ cups/ 740g  yellow dutch potatoes, peeled (about 4 medium size potatoes) 

1 cup / 152g  carrots, peeled and sliced into coins (about 5 medium sized carrots) 

2 cups brown onion, peeled and diced (about 2 onions) 

30 ounces / 850g pureed organic pumpkin (two 15 ounce cans) 

5-6 cups high quality organic chicken or veggie stock (preferably homemade, i know, insert eye roll emoji, but homemade is so worth it here i promise. i used chicken stock)

1 tablespoon smoked paprika (optional) 

1 tablespoon cayenne pepper (or less depending on taste) 

cream and cayenne to top 

kosher salt to taste

to make the soup: 

peel and chop all of your veggies, reserving the pumpkin puree in a separate bowl. 

place the 4 tablespoons of butter in a big pot, adding the onions sautéing until clear and translucent. add a little salt.

next add your carrots + potatoes, with a little more salt, and the smoked paprika. toss all veggies in the melted butter. 

add 5 cups chicken stock to the veggies and bring to a boil. once the mixture's reached a boil, reduce heat to a low simmer, simmering for about 20 minutes or until potatoes are cooked through (they should be nice and soft with no crunch). 

add pumpkin puree and a little more salt and stir. 

add soup mixture to a blender or food processor until smooth OR if you have an immersion blender - use that! (i'll just watch you use it from here and be jealous). add a little more broth if you'd like your soup a little thinner (see your reserved 1 cup). if you like the consistency, don't add anymore broth. 

stir in your cayenne pepper and more salt and pepper to taste. the soup should have a nice kick in the back of the throat but not be spicy. 

top with a little cream, more cayenne and croutons and serve hot. 

for the croutons: 

1 loaf crusty bread, your choice 

lots of unsalted, organic butter 

kosher salt

there is no recipe for the croutons. you guys, you don't need one. just break up some  high quality crusty bread, sauté it in some bubbling butter over medium-low heat and sprinkle a little salt on top as you turn the bread bits over in the butter, and watch them brown a little. i kept my browning very one sided as i wanted to enjoy the breads other sided-fluff. i use about 2 tablespoons of butter per cup of bread pieces. yeah. it's the real deal here guys. croutons should be buttery, or they're not worth eating. you can quote me on that. ;)  

why is good this good for me? 

pumpkins are a good source of vitamin a and potassium. vitamin a supports healthy eyes and skin and boosts your immunity. pumpkin also help balance your blood sugar metabolism, support the spleen + pancreas and have been known to mollify bronchial asthma and assist in aiding other respiratory issues. 

references: 

Rebecca Wood, The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia (New York: Penguin Books, 1999) 

also knowledge gained from life and my studies in the culinary nutrition expert program. ;)