Michele, soup, salad, target practice

Soup, Salad, and Target Practice

Soup, Salad, and Target Practice

Chocolate Box Cottage Diary, Volume 3
Week 1: January 7, 2023

Can we all agree soup and salad are a match made in heaven?

Hot and soothing soup + crunchy and piquant salad = first rate YUM. I grew up watching my Mom concoct all manner of delicious soups from whatever she had on hand, but if you didn’t have that example to follow you might appreciate a soup recipe framework to get you started. The recipe is printable and infinitely adaptable, so have fun with it and enjoy all the delicious soups you’re about to create!

Window garden

I rarely buy lettuce in winter because it is so easy and cheap to grow an abundance of salad shoots in cereal bowls.

The bowl I am holding is a “crop” of buckwheat lettuce ready to harvest. This week’s crops include pea shoots, sunflower shoots, radish sprouts, broccoli sprouts, amaranth sprouts, and kohlrabi sprouts.

I get two to three cuttings from the pea shoots, the others are one cutting. The soil and root wad goes to the chickens or bunnies for a special snack.

Another harvest we are thankful for – eggs. Raising a new batch of laying hens fro day-old chicks last spring and summer was real work. Daily feedings, cleaning the waterer, checking on them multiple times a day. Moving the cage from place to place. Not to mention Sam had to build a new cage for the juvenile birds. We are so glad we went to the effort. Our egg supply is

Best basic kitchen tools

If I were marooned on a desert island with only 4 kitchen tools, here’s what I’d want.

To my mind these are the true workhorses in the kitchen. When I taught hands-on cooking classes through my community’s food bank, these are the tools I recommended people start with.

Dutch oven ~ Choose an enameled cast iron, stainless steel, or cast iron Dutch oven with a heavy bottom in a size that makes sense for your family. Perfect for soups, stews, whole chicken, roasts, etc. (Mine came from Macy’s.)

Cast iron skillet ~ Choose a cast iron skillet in any size, but 10 and 12-inch are ideal for most families. Make stir fries, skillet-meals, and bake in them, too. Lodge is a good brand that is readily available. (I found a set of 2 at a yard sale)

Extra large cutting board ~ An extra large cutting board like this Epicurean 17×13-inch board gives you elbow room when chopping veggies, which encourages you to make stir fry and soups more often. (from Bed Bath & Beyond)

Chef’s knife (or santoku) ~ A quality 7-8-inch chef’s knife is your best friend. Look for full tang construction as with this Henckel’s knife – blade extends through the handle. Pick it up and see how it feels in your hand. Hone it often to maintain its edge. Other recommended brands: Wüsthof, Cutco, and Global. (Found mine at a thrift shop)

Thrift shop finds

If you’re a thrifter like me, you will appreciate this. I found a “new” (to me, anyway!) ravioli cutter and wooden spoon last week at a thrift shop, reasonably priced.

I use a ravioli cutter to cut dough for homemade crackers and pasta. My old ravioli cutter was aluminum. It got scrunched in a drawer and bent out of shape, so I was looking for a “new” one. Imagine how happy I was to find this beauty with a nice wood handle and brass cutting wheel from Italy!

Not on my list was a “new” wooden spoon, but I couldn’t leave this behind! A heart-shaped spoon! The wood was very, very dry and felt rough to the touch. (Perhaps someone put it through the dishwasher.)

I took both home and set to work restoring them for future service.

The heart-shaped spoon and the wooden handle on the ravioli cutter were both carefully sanded with fine grit sandpaper until they felt as smooth as velvet.

After cleaning the dust away, I rubbed in a generous coat of Spoon Butter. The wood soaked it right up and the grain glows! I tell you, I appreciate these two used utensils more than I would new ones. You know why? Because I, in effect, earned them. I had to do a little work to make them useful.

The Poppy Trail platter made by Metlox was a secondhand find on Facebook Marketplace in 2018.

Samuel’s projects

Sam has many ongoing projects. One of them is teaching me to shoot comfortably and with accuracy. My Dad felt it was important for his daughters to learn to handle firearms safely, so Sam is picking up where my Dad left off years ago. I have memories of many Saturday mornings as a girl spent aiming at pop cans, laundry detergent jugs, and other likely targets. What I’m shooting: a 9mm Wildcat. It has quite a bit of kick, so I have to brace myself!

Oh. My. Goodness. Have you ever seen a smoke tube?

This perforated stainless steel tube is a bit of wizardry. Fill it with wood chips or wood pellets and light them to create smoke in your BBQ grill. Sam keeps a cache of fruit wood prunings from our apple, pear, plum, and peach trees.

Tea at Mom’s

On the tea table: Sourdough Gingerbread waffles with Chai-Spiced Pear Butter, thick slices of bacon, and chamomile tea.


The Pioneer Lady's Hearty Winter Cookbook

Another wonderful book by Jane Watson Hopping, The Pioneer Lady’s Hearty Winter Cookbook. ☃️❄️

One of the best antidotes to ❄️winter doldrums is cooking and this 📖book is a treasury of timeless country recipes of the kind that sustained families in the early and mid 1900’s. Many of the recipes are family antiques. Don’t worry, they work in today’s kitchen!

A sampling of recipes:

Mother’s Homemade Tomato Soup

Great Aunt Mae’s New England Clam Chowder

Ida Louise’s Late Harvest Jeweled Slaw

Easy-to-Make Dinner Rolls

Deluxe Whole Wheat Bread

Old-Fashioned Butterscotch Refrigerator Cookies

But even if you never cook a single recipe from the book, you’ll enjoy reading the author’s stories and bits of comfort shared. ❤️ Enjoy!

The Pioneer Lady’s Hearty Winter Cookbook is out of print, but you can find it at my favorite online used bookseller. If it happens to be out of stock, simply create a wish list and the company will email you when it comes back in.

Happy New Year to you

I am stepping into this new set of 365 days thoughtfully. I have not set goals nor made any big changes or decisions. 

Instead, I am avoiding distractions and tuning my ear to listen to the still, small voice in my heart. ❤️

You know what? It doesn’t give me an annual plan. Nor a to-do list. No. Rather it beckons me to live in the moment. This moment. And find contentment here. 

I pray that you, dear friend, are able to quiet the noise and hear the voice in your heart. I pray your cup overflows with contentment and joy this year.

Blessings, Michele and Samuel

Note: This post contains links to products and vendors I use and appreciate for their quality and usefulness. Some are affiliate, some are not. I may earn a commission from qualifying purchases when you use the links I provide; this does not change your price.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Posts

Subscribe to the Chocolate Box Cottage Tidings

Receive special recipes and cottage wisdom directly to your inbox!