A savory stew and a few fall updates
The mountains of Colorado were glowing in the warmest shades of gold, amber and ruby. Though it lasts only a few days, I look forward to this time and always like to plan a little getaway right when the leaves are at their peak. The children got an unexpected day off from school a couple weeks ago, which perfectly aligned with the changing leaves, so we packed a picnic and headed into the mountains for the day. As a little girl, I spent so much time in the mountains riding horses and foraging for chanterelles and wild rose hips which my grandmother would make into jam, I feel most at home here. The mountains are a little like a mother to me, wandering through the steep, shadowy valleys feels safe – like being held in her embrace. Of course, in the fall I always keep my eyes peeled for mushrooms and juniper berries, out of habit. It’s a little too early for the wild enoki mushrooms that grow, in the fall, beneath the thick aspen groves, but one can hope. I love to collect pinecones and acorns to decorate the house with during the fall, and we always pick up a few leave to press between the pages of books. It’s wonderful to open up an old book in the dead of winter and discover a beautifully preserved leaf that was forgotten months or years ago.
We wandered for miles – there’s always something interesting around the next bend. Like a sign post with an arrow pointing toward a place called Never Never Pond. How could we resist? The pond, it turned out, was nothing more than a marshy low spot between two rocky crags. I wondered if it ever contained water in the first place. Perhaps that’s why it’s called Never Never Pond?
The sun had set when we finally made it back to the car and headed home. We were flush by the wind and breathless from the lack of oxygen, with appetites that matched the enormity of the mountains themselves. Once home, I got to work on a savory, sweet sausage, butternut and apple stew. It’s just the kind of food I crave after being kissed by autumn’s briskness. I start with local sweet Italian sausage links that are flavoured heavy with fennel and complement the butternut squash nicely. I roast them in the oven until golden brown. Meanwhile, I stew cubes of butternut squash in a rich broth of apple cider, chicken stock and garden sage. When the squash is tender, fresh apples are stirred in and cooked just long enough for them to soften. I slice the cooked sausage, add it to the stew, and garnish with a little more fresh sage. The whole dish comes together in half an hour and is an ultra comforting way to end the day.
The Great Pumpkin
I have to admit, I was a little disappointed that It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown won’t be shown on TV this year. I love all the Charlie Brown holiday specials. It turns out the series was acquired by Apple and will only be streamed on Apple Tv+. Seems a bit like the end of an era, doesn’t it?
The good news is that our own little pumpkin patch did better than I expected after we had a very early September snowstorm. I covered most of the patch with a large tarp and wrapped the individual pumpkins in blankets. I didn’t think much would survive, but they did, with just a little damage to the exposed vines and leaves. We ended up with four large Jack O’Lantern pumpkins that the kids will carve this week, and 5 smaller sugar pumpkins. I see many pumpkin dishes our in our futures – but first I’m going to enjoy them in the kitchen for a little while. They do look so pretty on the counters and in the center of the table surrounded by the pinecones and nuts we brought home from the mountains.
Finally, an update on Lita
I’ve received many messages over instagram regarding our newest rescue pup, Lita. She’s getting better, little by little, and though not fully a member of “the pack” yet, she’s gaining weight and confidence. Because we know little of her past, we can only imagine what a rough life she’s had up to this point. Some of her issues were more than we could handle alone, so we hired a Canine Behavioral Specialist to work with her (and us) to deal with the fear that’s dictating much of her behavior. Additionally, we’ve started both her and Nandor, our second rescue, in “Dog Class.” Obedience-wise they are both improving by leaps and bounds, and we hope that by attending the classes together, these two dogs will form a bond. Natasha, meanwhile, is holding down the castle in true Malinois fashion like the queen she is. Never a dull day here.
Roasted Sausage, Butternut Squash and Apple Stew
- 4 sweet italian sausage links (approx. 1 pound)
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 1 TBSP unsalted butter
- 1 onion, peeled and chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
- 2 TBSP fresh sage, chopped
- 3 cups peeled cubed butternut squash
- 3 TBSP all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup apple cider
- 2 1/2 cups chicken broth
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp white pepper, coarsely ground
- 2 apples, peeled, cored and chopped
Preheat the oven to 400F/200C. Place the sausage links on a roasting pan and drizzle with the olive oil. Pierce the sausages a few times with the tip of a knife. Roast in the preheated oven for 20 – 25 minutes, until the sausages are cooked through.
While the sausages roast, heat a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the butter and the chopped onion. Cook until the onion starts to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook a minute longer.
Add the squash and sage to the pan – cook 3 – 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle the flour into the pan and cook 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Whisk in the apple cider and chicken stock, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen the browned bits. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat and cover. Simmer 25 minutes. Stir in the chopped apples. Cook 5 minutes longer.
Slice the sausages on the bias and stir into the stew.
Serve with a little chopped fresh sage sprinkled on top.