Scenic Saturday

Mulder and I have changed our morning walking route lately. At least for now, the sun is coming up early enough that we can go for an hour before I have to be at work. One of the many benefits of working from home is that I can walk in the door from my walk at 7:58, and be at work at 8:00.  I thought about editing the chain out of the picture, but decided against it.

I can even take my laptop downstairs, boot it up, and eat breakfast while looking over emails and easing into my day.

There is a city park near us called Heather Farm, and there is a large pond there, with geese and ducks and other water birds.  It also has a relatively steep hill, which gives me at least a little bit of cardio more than walking on the flat.  If you look closely at the picture above, there is a building where I used to take yoga classes.  This is not the large pond at the park, but a smaller, man made pond with a fountain in the middle, which is not on in this picture.  An observant reader might note that the sky in this picture is very different from the others, and suspect that this picture was not taken the same day as the others.  You would be right in that suspicion.

This is part of the larger pond, and I love the reflections of the trees in the water.  The colors of autumn are beautiful.

This is looking up into an oak tree at the top of the little hill.  I love trees in general, but I especially love oak trees.  They look so old and wise.  What if their true personality is to be young and flippant?  How would we know?  There is a tree similar to this one in the parking lot of our condo complex, and I love it, but it is right above a parking structure, and so not quite as photogenic.  Oak trees are native to California, and thrive here.  There is some concern that Sudden Oak Death, a horrible disease that kills these mighty trees, may be coming to our area.  I hope it does not.

Keeping Track of the Tax Plans

As you know, the House of Representatives passed a tax plan overhaul yesterday. I know that the Senate Plan will be different, and assuming they can get something passed, it will be some sort of reconciliation of the two. I thought it might be interesting (to me, if to no one else) to calculate how the tax plans would hypothetically affect our household. Since I don’t have numbers from 2017, what I did was to look at our 2016 taxes, and apply the numbers from the House plan, and see how we come out.

We have a mortgage, we live in a high tax state, and our daughter is in college, and the combination of these things (plus charitable contributions, etc) is higher than the standard deduction, so we itemize our deductions.

Under the House plan, we could itemize and claim deductions for our mortgage and property tax, but not our state and local taxes. The standard deduction of $24,400 is higher than our itemized deductions would be, so we would take that. The proposed standard deduction is actually higher than our current itemized deductions. But because you lose the individual exemption amount of 4,050 per person, our taxable income would be higher.

I applied the tax rates in the House bill, and if the House tax bill were to be the law of the land, our taxes would go up by $260. I do not mind paying $260 more a year if it goes to fixing the roads or helping people, but the idea that we would pay $260 more a year just so the wealthy can pay LESS taxes really frosts my cake. I don’t know what else to say about it, other than, it sucks and it pisses me off.

Throwback Thursday

Me and Samantha, with Aimee, and Richard in the background

Aimee, Richard, and me, selling Kool Aid and playing Bows and Arrows. It must be warm, I’m in my bathing suit

Aimee was my best friend in Fairbanks during the years we lived downtown. She lived kitty corner from us. I think she went to Montessori with me, actually, though I don’t remember for sure. She and I found each other on Facebook a couple of years ago, and she told me that when she first saw me, she thought I was a boy, because I had short hair.

My mother was an atheist, and Aimee’s parents were very religious. I scandalized the neighborhood when, after checking the facts with my mom, I yelled across the street to her (in front of the people coming out of the church, and the people coming out of the library, small town, everyone knew everyone), “You do not either have to be a virgin to get married, Aimee Desrocher! My mom wasn’t!” Poor mom. Luckily, Fairbanks was not the kind of town to put a lot of stock in virginity or propriety.

Aimee had an Easy Bake Oven, which we loved. I remember that we did the math and figured out our dogs’ birthdays, dividing 365 days by 7, then counting out the days. We would celebrate our dogs’ birthdays by baking them cakes made from canned dog food in her Easy Bake Oven. They loved it.

Aimee’s mom was really into vitamins, and Aimee hated them. She used to throw them under the sofa when her mom wasn’t looking. I learned a valuable lesson, and started throwing my glasses behind her fridge. My poor mom, those things were not cheap, and we didn’t have insurance.

We spent so much time together, we laughed and played and ran around. We played with our stuffed animals. I don’t remember her being into dolls either. She even had a Smokey Bear. We talked about horses. We were very different, and very similar. Now we are Facebook friends, and we are very different, and yet, very similar. I agree with what she says about 1/3, sometimes 1/2 of the time. She has horses and is kind and loves her family. She is more conservative than I am. She is one of the few people that I know from that time of life.

My First Bike*

Me and my bike, and my best friend, Aimee Desrocher

My first bike was a hand-me-down from my brother, Richard. It had training wheels at one time, but by the time I got it, those were long gone. The red building in the background is a church, and it was right next door to us. The dark haired girl in one of the pictures is my friend Aimee, who lived across the street from us. In the second picture, where I’m riding away from the camera, if you look closely, you can see some black metal bars, parallel to the ground. There were steps there that went down to the basement, and the black bars were to keep anyone from falling down the concrete steps into the stair well.

Once I had gotten comfortable riding my bike on the grass, I decided I liked practicing on the sidewalk better, as it was smoother and the bike was less likely to fall over. The only problem was that the sidewalk went around a big rectangle of grass, and the sidewalk was narrow enough that there were four very sharp corners, which were not easily maneuvered by a novice bicycle rider. One day while I was trying to negotiate one of those corners, I fell and my fingers got smashed between the handle bars and the metal railing. OUCH that hurt! I ran home crying, and showed my mom. She examined the fingers, decided they were not broken, and gave me some ice and a kiss.

The next day when I woke up, my fingers were swollen like sausages, and had turned an ugly shade of greenish purple. My mom rushed me to the doctor, worried that she had been too blasé about my fall, and surely they were broken, and it was all her fault for being a negligent mother. Perhaps they would amputate. (I’m sure she didn’t worry about amputation, that’s just for dramatic effect. My mom was also known to embellish a story if she thought it made it better.)

Aside from the finger, I LOVED that bike. Fairbanks at the time was fairly built up, but there were still a lot of wooded lots that sat vacant, and kids had created trails through many of them. We rode all over the place. I remember that the brakes had gone out on the bike at some point, and I didn’t bother to tell my mom. Probably not wise. Eventually, when we moved to California, I couldn’t take the bike with me (I had mostly outgrown it by then anyway), and I wanted to give it to my friend, Collie. She was thrilled, it was a very fun bike to ride. Her father decided she could have it, he would fix the brakes, but he insisted on paying me $10 for it. $10! My allowance was 0.75 a week, so $10 was unheard of. I was thrilled. But I was also sorry to move away from Aimee, Collie, my bike, and Alaska.

* For some reason I did a search on the word ‘bike’, and I see to my horror that I have posted about this bike, and my finger, before.  Back in 2009.  That’s the problem with long time blogging, I guess, and being unimaginative.  There are only so many stories inside me, and trying to post every day in November is really stretching it, apparently.  Also, my blog is almost 12, so I guess it’s inevitable.

Mulder Monday

Hi Everyone, my name is Mulder! My Medium-Boss said I could be a guest blogger today. Fun!

I’ve lived with my Big-Boss, Medium-Boss, and Little-Boss for almost 2 years now. It’s hard to believe, but some people say, “Time Flies”. I’m not sure what they mean.

I love my bosses, and I love my life. Yesterday, Medium-Boss took me on a walk that was very interesting. Lately, we’ve been going to a wonderful place called ‘Heather Farm’. It’s wonderful because there are so many interesting smells, and also interesting animals. Medium-Boss saw a turtle there once, and Big-Bosses sister said she saw an otter. There are a lot of birds, mostly geese and ducks. Geese are mean, and like to hiss at you. I would like to bark at them and show them who’s boss. Medium-Boss discourages this, who knows why. The truth is, that while I love my people, they are not very smart about safety and defense. They don’t understand why I get so excited whenever the mail carrier comes by, and I have to YELL AT THEM. But I do.

But I digress. Yesterday, when we were on our walk, we met 2 very familiar looking dogs, yet they were somehow not quite right. They looked so much like me and my brothers and sisters, but their hair was all wrong. Their person said they were called Norwegian Elkhounds. I felt sorry for them, because their hair was wrong, but I was very polite and sniffed their butts, like the gentleman that I am. Here is what they looked like.

Do you think their mommies love them and find them to be adorable, even though their hair is wrong? My mommy loves me, and keeps asking (via pee-mail) when I am going to visit her. I wish I knew.

Sunday Funnies

This one made me laugh. It reminds me of when I’m frustrated with Maya because she goes through hair conditioner too fast or is late getting out the door in the morning, and she says something like, “Well, at least I’m not addicted to drugs or pregnant or anything.” Yes, at least. That’s setting a low bar, but still, she’s right.

Rethinking Pinot

Maya has a job working for one of her High School English teachers, at an annual event called ‘Pinot Days’. Most of the job is online, ticketing and calling clients and so on, and that goes on for a couple of months. Then, when the date of the actual event comes, she goes in to the City and helps set up, works with vendors, works with customers, etc. Ted and I benefit, in that she gets us free tickets. Pinot Days is a wine event, where local wineries bring their Pinot Noir (and sometimes Pinot Gris or Blush wines), and trades people can walk around and taste, as well as the general public. So if you own a wine store, and you want to taste some different Pinots, this is the day for you. There are a LOT of wineries there. If you tasted all of them, you would be drunk. We saw some drunk people. Ted spits out most of what he tastes, to avoid getting drunk. I can’t bear to do that, so I just have a small taste and pour the rest out.

Generally I am not a fan of Pinot Noir, too often what others call ‘earthy’, I call ‘dirty’. Meaning, too often, Pinot Noir tastes like dirt to me.

Today, however, we tasted wine from perhaps 6 or 7 wineries (you lose your palate after a certain point, so there’s no point in continuing to taste unless you want to get drunk, which we did not), and I really liked maybe 4 of them. I kinda liked the rest. There weren’t any that I thought were dirty tasting. That’s big for me. I don’t know if my palate is changing, or if we just got lucky and tasted all good wines. For the ones that we asked about, the price was between $50 and $60 a bottle. Perhaps that’s why it tasted good. I NEVER spend that much on wine, so maybe cheaper Pinot tastes like dirt.

The picture above is the dome at the Westfield Mall in San Francisco. After we finished tasting wine, we went outside for the event to finish, so Maya could leave with us, and the area where we were waiting is near the dome. It’s very pretty, and I don’t think we really paid any attention to that mall when we lived in SF all those years ago. Back then it was a department store, Emporium Capwell, which (in my mind at least) is a step below Macy’s, and a step up from Mervyn’s or Kohls. Since there is a beautiful 4 story Nordstrom right next door, and a beautiful 7 story Macy’s a couple of blocks away, there was rarely a reason to go to Emporium. Emporium left quite a few years ago, and now there is a Bloomingdales, as well as quite a few mall stores. It’s nice. We had a nice Saturday, which ended up with us going to the hotel where I worked the entire 7 years we lived in SF for dinner. The lobby and restaurant areas have completely changed since my time. I don’t like the decor as much as I liked it before, but it is still very nice.

Roasted Branzino

A few weeks ago, OK, maybe 6 weeks ago, I was lazily watching cooking shows on PBS, and a French chef who has restaurants in Las Vegas, Hubert Keller, was making a poached Branzino. It looked really good, though to be honest, I didn’t have the equipment to poach it, and thought I might prefer to roast it instead. So I poked around the Internet, and found a recipe that looked good on a blog, Girl and the Kitchen, here.

It looked delicious, and I decided to give it a try the next time Maya would not be home for dinner (she’s not a big fan of fish). I followed the recipe, and the only complaint that I have is that the skin did not crisp up as nicely as hers. Perhaps I did not dry the fish enough, or I did not cut enough slits in the skin, I’m not sure. That’s purely aesthetics, though, because I didn’t really intend to EAT the skin, so who cares.

I found Branzino at my local Whole Foods, and they cut off the head and tails for me. Girl and the Kitchen said to leave them on, but I don’t like looking at the face of my food, so no. The fish was delicious, and I think we will have this again, another time when Maya is not home. Or perhaps even when she is home. She may like it, it’s delicate and not a strong fish flavor.

NOTE #1: Here’s where this post gets a little weird. Looking at my picture, above, assuming you click over to Girl and the Kitchen’s blog, you can CLEARLY see that it is not the same as the Branzino on her post. For one thing, NO ONIONS OR SHALLOTS on hers. That’s the big giveaway. Also, it kinda looks like I didn’t cut ANY slits in my fish. That means that this is NOT the recipe that I used, though it did pop up in my history when I was searching for Branzino. And a recipe including shallots does NOT pop up, nor can I find it. What to do? I have decided to give full disclosure that I did NOT make this recipe, that I have NO idea what recipe I did make, and keep the recipe here anyway, because I would like to try it someday soon. I know, I’m weird.

NOTE #2:  After posting this, I did another, slightly different, search, and I found the recipe that I made.  If you’re so inclined, you can find it at All Recipes, here.

Anyway, here’s the recipe that I INTEND to try, because the one I did try was tasty, and this one looks like it might be even better.

Greek Whole Roasted Branzino
Author Mila Furman

2 branzino about 3 pounds total, lavraki or sea bass
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil * fruity kind
4 garlic cloves minced finely on a microplane
4 sprigs of fresh oregano
1 lemon cut in half and sliced thinly
salt and pepper to taste

Place the oven on highest broil setting.
Place parchment paper onto a sheet pan large enough to fit the two fish.
Slice 3-4 slits into the fish, parallel to the fish’s head, going with the direction of the scales.
Pour the olive oil all over the fish, ensuring both sides and the insides are covered.
Slather the garlic mixture into the cavity of the fish evenly.
Place the oregano stems into the cavities of the fish.
Place the lemon wedges into the cavity of the fish.*
Place the sheet pan into the preheated oven for 18-20 minutes or until the fish flesh is flaky and white. Serve with extra lemons.

Throwback Thursday

Dad and Dick Gipson, New York

When my Dad died, we divided up the list of people to notify, and one of the people on my list was my Dad’s ex girlfriend, Kit. Dad and Kit dated for awhile in the early 60s, when he dropped out of college, and they moved to New York together. As Kit tells it, they moved to New York because someone had posted an ad in the paper that they needed someone to drive their car to New York from Oakland, and it seemed like a good idea. The picture above, which Ted likes to call my Dad’s album cover, is of my Dad (on the left) and Kit’s friend (Dad’s friend too, but Kit’s friend first) Dick.

I never met Dick, but at some point after this photo was taken, he and my mom got married. My mom was pregnant with Richard, though Dick was not the father. I believe they were married about 8 days before Richard was born. Dick and my mom were good friends, and Dick was trying very hard to live a ‘normal’ life, because he was gay. He had not told my mom that he was gay, and I don’t know how long it was before she figured it out. But they tried their best to be a married couple and raise Richard together. She had panicked at the idea of raising him alone, and marrying Dick seemed like a perfect solution.

Needless to say, it was not the perfect solution. Dick drank too much, and their marriage was not a happy one. They were separated (and my mom thought she was pregnant with Dick’s baby) when my Dad stopped by one fateful day to tell her he was leaving to go to Massachusetts, to serve his alternate service, as he refused the draft (and was convicted for it, and given alternate service). One thing led to another, and here I am.

I’m not sure how my mom didn’t realize I was not Dick’s child, but Michael’s. She could be pretty dense (as I’m sure we all can sometimes), and when the doctor told her she didn’t seem nearly far along enough for the baby considering the dates she had given him, he asked her if she was sure about the last time she had been with her husband, and she said yes, she was sure…it didn’t occur to her to tell him (or herself) that she had been with someone else a couple of months later. Which is how I was born at 5lbs, and she thought I was a 10 month pregnancy. A couple of years later, when Dad was already married to Mary (Maya and Melissa’s mom), her friend Kate (who knew my dad a little bit), commented on how much I looked like him, and asked why she hadn’t named me Michelle. A light bulb went off over her head, and she realized the truth.

My dad thought maybe I might be his, and Mary asked once if I was, because I looked like him, but this was before my mom even realized it herself, so because she acted so blaze’ about the whole thing, he figured no, I couldn’t be. Until she called him in October of 87, and started our meeting in motion, finally.

So that’s a lot of background for the picture above, but one thing that struck me when Kit very kindly sent me this picture, and others, of Dad and Dick and herself way back when, is how YOUNG they all are. 19 or 20. Younger than my own child. It’s hard to imagine ones parents being younger than your child, but of course they were, once. It’s interesting to see, and to think a bit about what life was like for them at the time, how different than mine at that age (and in other ways, how similar).

My Reading List

I have not been in the mood to read lately.  By lately, I mean, since my Dad died.  I just veg out in front of the TV. But I miss reading.  I miss getting sucked into a story, and now I have a couple of reasons to crack a book.

First, Ted’s aunt and I are both fans of Dick Francis mysteries.  He died several years ago, and his son has taken over the franchise.  Auntie is much better than I am about remembering to watch for a new release.  Well, there is a new release, which she reserved at the library.  She read it and then gave it to me.  So now I have to finish it in the next few days.  It is due on Wednesday, but I’m about 3/4 through, and I expect I will make it.

Pulse is the story of Dr. Chris Rankin, an emergency room physician in England, who is trying to solve the mystery of a well dressed man who died in her care, but without any identity.  Dr. Rankin has demons she is struggling with…anxiety and an eating disorder.  She is trying to get better, for herself, and also for her husband and twin boys.  This is the first Francis book I can remember with a female protagonist.

Second, I heard an interview with an author on NPR, talking about his new book, which sounded interesting to me.  I put the book on hold at the library, not expecting that I would get it quickly.  What do you know, I got it, just a day or two after the other book.  So I have a couple of weeks to read this one.

Solo is a YA novel, about a young man named Blade.  He is the son of a washed up rock star and drug addict, who has his own interests in music.  A family secret comes out that may change his understanding of the world around him.

Third, I started a book that was sent to me by a friend, right before the mystery showed up at my door.  I had to put it aside, because of the time issues with the library books, but I’m enjoying it so far and look forward to getting back to it.

Through the Kaleidoscope is the story of a young woman who moves to San Francisco in the 60s, looking for her father, who she has never met.  (A little familiar maybe, huh?)

Last, Maya gave me a book for Christmas (or maybe my birthday) last year, and I’ve been meaning to get to it.  I think once I get through the other three, I will dive into this one.

Between the World and Me – I know nothing about this book yet.  Just that Ta-Nehisi Coates is very much in the public eye right now, that his new book is getting rave reviews, and that the book above received wonderful reviews and won the National Book Award.  And Maya liked it enough to give it to me as a gift.

Will I finish all of these by the end of November?  I doubt it.  I have the library pushing me to finish the first two relatively quickly, but the others are not a rush.  I am hoping that reading the first two will get me pulled into the second two.  Wish me luck.

Everything I ever learned, I learned at Mr. Steak

Ted has been asking for that as a title for a post for years now, because all too often, when we’re having a conversation about anything at all, I will pop in with a story about my time at Mr. Steak. I worked there for 2 years, from 1982 – 1984. I think the first year was as a hostess, and the second year was as a waitress. So I was 17. Back then, when you took an order, you wrote it on a ticket, and turned the ticket in to the kitchen, and they cooked it for you/your customers.

I remember as a hostess, watching the waitresses take care of their customers, sending back anything they didn’t feel comfortable serving. “May I have a different potato, sir?” (We called everyone ‘Ma’am’ and ‘Sir’ at Mr. Steak). Or another time when I was a waitress, serving a steak and lobster tail, and I turned around too fast, and the lobster tail went flying off of the plate onto the floor. I took it back into the kitchen and asked for a new lobster tail, ASAP, and they wanted me to serve it anyway. I refused, and threw the lobster tail into the dish area, where the dish pig promptly and happily solved the problem by eating it. Sorry, dish pig is very un P.C., and a rude thing to call a coworker. That is what we called him, what he called himself. Once he took a bite of the lobster tail, they were forced to make another. The customers were close enough to the kitchen that they heard a lot of the conversation, and I got a good tip for insisting on their behalf.

Another night, I was not so lucky. I took a table’s order, perhaps my last of the night. When their food hadn’t come out after about 20 minutes, I was worried. Remember, I was 17. I did not handle it well. I went back to the kitchen, again and again, asking where the food was, but communication was not good, and they did not tell me that they didn’t have a ticket for that table. Perhaps 40 minutes in, the customers are PISSED, and I finally found the ticket…still in my pocket, on the pad of tickets. I never turned it in. Once I found it, I immediately turned it in and begged forgiveness from the kitchen, and then I went to apologize to my table. I told them what had happened, and how sorry I was. I told them that dinner was on the house, approved by my manager, with our apologies. They yelled at me, in front of all of the other customers. They told me how horrible I was and that they were hungry and I had ruined their evening. I brought them their food. They ate it. They left me a $20 tip, unheard of in 1983. I think they felt badly for how they treated me. Perhaps they were hangry. I don’t know. I felt badly about how I had treated the kitchen staff, yelling at them because the ticket was in my pocket. I gave them a big tip that night, but probably not the entire $20. I wasn’t THAT nice.

Last month, my Great Aunt Flo and I went to dinner at Red Lobester in Stockton. We got our drinks quickly, and our cheddar bisquits, and our salad. Then we sat and waited for our meals. And waited. And waited. Finally a manager came by to ask how our dinner was, and told us that our waitress was in training. I told them all was well, but it had been quite awhile since our salad, and we were waiting for our dinner. Then, a few minutes latter, our waitress came by and said, “it’s all my fault, but your dinner will be here in a minute.” I had to ask…did you forget to submit our order? Yes, that was the problem. So I told her my story from back at Mr. Steak, and that we were OK. We had had salad and bread, we weren’t too hungry, and I had made a similar mistake back in the day, I understand. I told her not to worry. They brought the dinner out quickly, and an extra order of cheddar bisquits for Aunt Flo to take home, and they were grateful for our understanding. I left her a bigger tip than usual, remembering my horrible night. They did not comp our dinner or our wine even, but that’s OK. I felt like I was paying it forward in a way, showing compassion to the young staff. I didn’t really receive compassion myself in the same situation, but I learned from the experience anyway. I’m glad I did. Not glad that it happened to either of us, but glad that treating people decently was a lesson that I learned.

A2 Milk – A game changer

Today’s public service announcement is also a product review/recommendation. Over the last several years, Ted has started to have issues with dairy. He thought perhaps he had become lactose intolerant, so was using goat milk or almond milk for his tea, and otherwise avoiding all dairy.

His sister has similar issues, and told him about this new milk, A2 milk, that doesn’t bother her stomach at all. We gave it a try, and yay! It is gentle on the stomach, and Ted can now have milk in his tea, eat a bowl of cereal if he wants to, and I was able to make the squash soup recipe this week using the milk, all without torturing him. It is more expensive than regular milk, but we were previously devoted to Organic Valley milk, which is pricey as well, so this is about the same price as that, perhaps a little less.

Most cows produce milk with a combination of proteins in the milk, both A1 and A2 proteins. A2 milk is from cows that only produce the A2 protein. That is the only difference, but apparently it is a game changer for some people. For these people, the A1 protein causes stomach issues, which is a zero on the fun scale.

I was so thrilled that it really does help, that I wrote to the company and asked if they are planning to add cheese to their product offerings. They wrote back and said, some day. Right now they are just trying to keep up with demand, and have recently added chocolate milk to their line up, though I haven’t seen it at the grocery store. They sell it at all of the grocery stores we go to, so it’s our new milk.

I thought you might like to know, in case there are people in your life that have trouble digesting dairy. They may indeed be lactose intolerant, in which case this will not help them. Or, they may just need milk that does not have the A1 protein.

Winter Squash Soup

I have a fondness for cooking shows, especially those where they show you how to cook something interesting. Most of the cooking shows I watch currently are on PBS, but I also enjoy watching Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa. A few weeks ago, she made a delicious looking soup, with butternut squash and canned pumpkin. I thought it looked like a good dinner to have on Halloween, considering it was orange, so I made it. It was delicious, and I will definitely be making it again.

I made a couple of changes to Ina’s recipe. First, I cut up the butternut squash, then roasted it in the oven until it was soft, rather than cooking it in the soup. I think that gives it more flavor. Second, I used milk instead of half and half. Third, I don’t have a food mill, and I’m not about to go out and buy one since there is zero room in my house for any new ANYTHING, so I used my handy immersion blender, which worked perfectly.

I love butternut squash, but sometimes it is a little too sweet for me.  The pumpkin balanced it out, and maybe the milk did too.  This is a savory soup, and really good.

We didn’t put any cheese on ours. I had mine with toasted sourdough bread, and Maya had hers with cornbread, which was leftover from the night before’s turkey chili. Ted just ate the soup. We all loved it. Here’s the recipe, unedited by me.

Winter Squash Soup

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon good olive oil
2 cups chopped yellow onions (2 onions)
1 (15 – ounce) can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
1 1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled and cut in chunks
3 cups homemade chicken stock or canned broth
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup half – and – half
Creme fraiche, grated Gruyere, or croutons (see Note), for serving (optional)

Heat the butter and oil in a heavy – bottomed stockpot, add the onions, and cook over medium – low heat for 10 minutes, or until translucent. Add the pumpkin puree, butternut squash, chicken stock, salt, and pepper. Cover and simmer over medium – low heat for about 20 minutes, until the butternut squash is very tender. Process the mixture through the medium blade of a food mill. Return to the pot, add the half – and – half, and heat slowly. If the soup needs more flavor, add another teaspoon of salt. Serve hot with garnishes, if desired.

Cook’s Note: To serve with croutons, remove the crusts from 2 slices of white bread, cut them in 1/2-inch cubes, and saute them in 1 tablespoon of butter until browned. Season with salt and pepper.