It was a beautiful day here on Friday, after a doubtful-looking morning. Ian's class was scheduled for a field trip to a farm for apple picking and a "tour," and he had pleaded with me to come, so I took the day off from work to spend with him. It had been a while since I'd done that.
After I spent half an hour in Ian's classroom, letting him show me his "work," we headed out to the farm. The "tour" took all of about 20 minutes, and involved naming the vegetables grown on the farm, and a quick lesson in bee spit and honeycomb, and the "picking" took all of about five minutes, with a free-for-all of preschoolers descending upon the unsuspecting trees (thankfully, the ones they had left were Winesap apples, YUM). The rest of the morning there was spent in and on a hay maze, which Ian and his classmates clambered over, leaped about, and tumbled from with the grace and boldness of little people with low centers of gravity. Watching them, as the sun came out and clouds opened into blue sky, I wished I could bottle days like this.
In the afternoon, we delivered a meal to a friend down the block who just had a new baby, her fourth child. She's one of those women who makes being a mom look easy, despite the chaos that swirls around her whenever I see her, and I'm always surprised when she confesses doubt or frustration (how could a woman with three--now four--kids and two dogs be unsure of herself?). She had miscarried during the summer last year, not too long after my second loss, and we bonded over tea and my home made biscotti one night, talking about our hopes and fears and indecisions about the future.
I got confirmation about our enrollment in a Hypnobirthing class, which made me suck in my breath a little bit ... the reminders that life really is going to change remarkably in January are becoming more frequent, and more visible. Though I've been through birth once before, I wanted a class that might help me to be less anxious about this event, and might empower me this time: last time, I wound up on a pitocin IV, unable to move, with my nose stuck in an oxygen mask, watching with my heart in my throat as Ian's heart rate dropped. Knowing now how quickly life can be taken from us, even though that time I wound up with a live baby, I'm going into this with an additional set of apprehensions. In some ways, I envy women who are blissfully ignorant of loss and complications in pregnancy and birth.
One day at a time, I keep telling myself.
This is the soup I made for my friend (and then again for a group of friends when we had lunch together recently). It's hearty, healthy, and should be served up with a salad and a crusty loaf of bread (which we did, though cheating, in the breadmaker). It tastes like fall, and makes for good comfort food. I was half sorry to give it away, and am holding on to the hope that our CSA will send us more squash this week so that I can make more to freeze, for the darker days of winter, and the long nights of early parenthood, when one day at a time is all that makes sense.
Butternut Squash and Apple Soup
8 c. (1-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash (~2 medium ...or use the pre-cut, pre-peeled squash in your produce aisle)
3 T. light olive or canola oil, divided
2 T. maple syrup
1 1/4 t. garam masala (you can also use a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice: 3/4, 1/4, 1/4)
1 t. kosher salt
1/8 t. freshly ground black pepper
1/4 c. finely chopped shallots
4 c. chopped Winesap, Braeburn or other sweet-tart apple (about 1 lb.)
1/4 c. dry white wine
3 c. water
1 (14-ounce) can fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
2 T. half-and-half, soymilk, almond milk or something along those lines (optional)
Preheat oven to 400°. Combine squash, 2 T. oil, syrup, garam masala, salt, and pepper. Arrange squash mixture in a single layer on a jelly-roll pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 400° for 45 minutes or until squash is tender.
Heat remaining 1 T. oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallots to pan; sauté 2 minutes or until tender. Stir in apple; sauté 4 minutes or until tender. Stir in wine; cook 1 minute. Stir in squash mixture, 3 cups water, and broth. Bring to a simmer; cook 3 minutes. Place half of squash mixture in a blender. Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters). Blend until smooth. Strain squash mixture through a sieve into a bowl; discard solids. Repeat procedure with remaining squash mixture. Stir in half-and-half or milk of your choice.