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Roasted Butternut squash soup

It’s time for some new recipes in the MTLM world. 

Roasted butternut squash soup

A clean, warm soup flavored with fragrant herbs and spices, this soup is the  perfect answer to that first fall day, with crisp air and crunchy leaves. Paired with a loaf of crusty home-baked bread, this soup makes a cozy meal. 

You’ll need:

1 butternut squash, halved and seeded

1 bay leaf

3-4 coriander seeds

1 can coconut milk

1 cinnamon stick

Fresh or dried rosemary 

2 tsp coconut oil

1 tart apple, cored and diced 

1 yellow or white onion, diced 

2 cloves garlic, diced

1/2 inch fresh ginger root, diced

1/2 inch fresh turmeric root, diced

8-10 button or baby Bella mushrooms

1 strand saffron

Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 

Rub olive oil into the cut side of the squash. Salt to taste. 

Roast the squash until a fork slides into the flesh of the squash with no resistance. 

In a heavy bottomed stock pot, heat coconut oil. 

Add bay leaf, onion, garlic, ginger and turmeric. As they start to brown, add coriander seeds, cinnamon and rosemary.  Add diced mushrooms and sauté until softened. 

Meanwhile, scoop squash flesh out of the skin and blend with coconut milk. Thin to desired consistency with either stock or water. 

Add squash mixture to the stockpot and simmer until fully cooked through. Add salt and pepper to taste.  Add saffron strands about 2 minutes before removing from heat. 

Serve hot or freeze for later. 


On Doctoring: A lesson from a patient

I spend my days, and often my nights, in the hospital caring for patients – or so I think. As a physician, although I’m providing the care, more frequently than not I come out of the interaction  feeling that I gained much more than I provided. 

Today, I encountered an elderly gentleman who accosted me with a cheerful ‘Good morning, young lady!’ This was a patient with metastatic cancer who was admitted with a urologic emergency, bound to his bed and frustrated as a child who’s stuck indoors during recess. 

 He asked, “Did you win the lottery last night?” 

I clearly did not – I wasn’t sure where he was going with this.

“Your smile is glowing all the way down the hall,” he remarked.

I gave credit where it was due – a bright sunny day, a hot cup of coffee and finally, enough sleep at night. 

Mr. A, however, had another thought.

“It’s all in your head, young lady,” he said. How could the sun be in my head, I wondered.  What he said next may just be one of the most profound things I have heard in a very long time.

The sun is always shining, he said. The sun is always shining. It’s up to you to rise above the clouds to find it.

Now how’s that for a doozy?

N.b. The photo is from our trip last year to Yosemite, halfway up the hike to the top of Yosemite Falls. 

Seed starting log: Optimal conditions for germination

Gardening, I have found, can be either a highly scientific process or a highly artistic process. This depends largely on who you are and how you think. I started out a couple of years ago with no real plans, just a few seeds and a real desire to make this work. It kind of did, but mostly didn’t. Last year, we were a little more deliberate about it. We calculated seed starting times, tried to put them under lights, and transplanted them out when we thought they should go out. Some varieties flourished, like the ‘rose Quartz’ tomatoes and the Russian kale, but others didn’t really take off until August, leaving me with very little time for a crop in my 5b growing season. 

This year, we decided on an intentional, deliberate and – dare I say it? – scientific approach to seed starting. Plants are very much like people. Finicky and particular, they really care exactly how you treat them. And if you don’t treat them the way they want you to, they simply will not respond. 

Here are some lessons I’m learning as I start my seeds. 

  • Tomatoes like to germinate in the dark. Just make sure the place you put them isn’t freezing, and they’ll come up just fine. I like to plant my seeds in yogurt cups with drainage holes poked in and covered with plastic wrap. My tomatoes are mostly germinating between 3-5 days after planting, at which point I take off the plastic and move them under the grow light. 
  • Peppers like light and warmth. These guys are not going to do great if I try to sprout them in my basement under the grow light system. I’ve been preparing my yogurt cups, putting the whole thing inside a ziploc bag, and putting that on top of the radiator. My cubanelles and mini yellows sprouted beautifully. I’m still waiting on the ‘Santa Fe’ peppers, which haven’t been on the radiator. I think my experiment is working. I also sow the seeds directly on the soil surface to allow the most light penetration. 
  • Don’t drown your seedlings. Use a spray bottle, tepid water, and some love. How would you like a bucket of ice cold water dumped on you whenever you got thirsty? Your plants hate it too. 
  • Love your seedlings. I know this sounds goofy, but I firmly believe that your seedlings can feel your love and affection. Care for them as if it matters, and they will respond. 

The realization that I’ve come to is that the scientific approach and the Zen approach are probably the same: treat your plants the way they want to be treated. They will flourish. 

Propagating herbs, or, How to turn one plant into ten

I, probably like most of you, love a good pesto. The tastes of fresh basil, pine nuts and garlic come together in a smooth , green paste that coats each piece of pasta in a rich cloak of flavor – ah, what a glorious meal.

But who has that much basil lying around? You could buy it. But store bought basil is usually wilted, covered with pesticides, and expensive. Or you could grow it yourself. But giving one plant a haircut might give you enough pesto to feed your baby. Or your goldfish.

What if I have five or six plants, you might ask me. And I’d tell you that’s a great idea. Herbs can be hard to grow from seed, though. Plants can be expensive to buy. And ultimately, nothing will give you the satisfaction of growing your own plants, we all know that.

Propagating herbs like basil is easy – a piece of cake, really. It’s as simple as cutting a stem, putting it in water and then planting it.

Last year we had multiple basil plants – Thai basil and genovese. Over the winter, we took some cuttings and tried to keep them alive. Sometime during January, we lost most of them – but one little sweet basil survived in my neighbor’s house. Now it’s overgrowing its pot so S took a couple of cuttings and sat them in a glass of water in the windowsill. As expected, they grew lovely roots. Now we’ve got two nice little potted basil plants that look thrilled to be alive.

We also bought basil plants this year, a cinnamon basil and a Thai basil. A mistake I made last year was to not pinch off the stems early enough or often enough. Pinching off encourages more side shoots, leading to bushy growth and ultimately, more herbs for your cooking. As I was pinching off, I found myself with a bunch of basil stems and nowhere to put them. It wasn’t enough to cook with, but composting them seemed like a big waste. I popped them in a glass of water, and lo and behold – roots!


They are now happily potted up, sitting in my kitchen window. The parent plants are sending out plenty of new growth, I have 4 new plants, and they smell fantastic.

Propagating your herbs is an inexpensive, quick way to multiply your plants. It’s a win-win for everyone.

Make sure you pinch or cut neatly without crushing the stem. Also make sure that you cut right above a leaf node, where one stem meets two leaves. This ensures that the plant sends out two shoots in the place of one. And be patient – roots can take a week or two to grow.

What plants do you propagate?


Starting our garden

When we moved in, our yard looked like this. The roses are beautiful, but they served mainly to show how desolate the rest of the yard looked. I had no interest in keeping it that way, but had zero knowledge about gardening. We decided to give it a shot, and the results weren’t half bad. It’s difficult to imagine it now, while the yard- the whole country, really – is covered in its thick white blanket, any hint of green deep in slumber buried far below.

But spring will inevitably come again, and boy, am I looking forward to it.


New Article: The Rebirth of Country

published at AND magazine

“Q: “So what kind of music do you listen to?”

A: “Oh, I’m not picky, anything really. Except for country!”

It’s a pretty standard question, and today’s standard response.

Country music has had a long and colorful history in the psyche of the American public. Starting off in the early part of the 20th century as “hillbilly music” – a term that was later abandoned as “denigrating” – country music has developed into a form that boasts the two highest-grossing solo artists ever – Elvis Presley, who took the world by storm and emerged as number one, and Garth Brooks, the heartthrob crooner who is currently the second highest-selling solo artist in the United States.

In its various avatars – country boogie, honky tonk, bluegrass, rockabilly, and country rock – country music has garnered a group of loyal fans, many of them country-lovers for generations. However, country music has long been considered a pariah in the musical genre fraternity. Maybe it’s the association with the Deep South and pickup trucks, or perhaps it’s the rustic, lonesome sound reminiscent of expansive prairies, far from any hint of civilization. Barring those few die-hard fans, country has never really gotten a strong foothold in music fandom. Burdened with a reputation as a musical form which true music aficionados shun, country music has struggled long and hard for a chance to be part of the nationwide – and even international – mainstream music scene. Success has been elusive.

So what’s it going to take for country music to speak to today’s music-loving youth?”

Read more here.

New Article – Our President the Dreamer – Clemency for Immigrants: Politics or Compassion?

from AND magazine

Today’s announcement that the deportation of young illegal immigrants would cease and that they would be allowed to apply for work permits has taken the political world by storm. Citing “lack of intent”, a memorandum was issued this morning stating that children who were brought here by illegal immigrant parents know only the United States as home and should not be deported.

As one may well expect, this announcement has produced reactions that span the spectrum, ranging from exhilaration and ecstasy on the part of those it protects to fury and indignation from those who adamantly support a stringent border control. Critics of the President’s move call it a political ploy, stating that such an extreme move a mere five months before the election can be nothing but a scheme to overwhelmingly claim the Latino vote.

Read the rest here.

New Music Review! – Joseph Arthur’s The Graduation Ceremony

published at

Joseph Arthur has outdone himself in his long-awaited offering, The Graduation Ceremony, his first full-length solo album since 2006’s Nuclear Daydream. Long known for his wide range of interests and talents, Arthur came forth with this release on May 23rd, 2011 after 5 years of work with his band The Lonely Astronauts and four solo EPs in 2008. Arthur has been a treasure trove of creative genius and has often pushed the envelope in his art, music and poetry. But this time, he has kept his music subdued, glorious in its understatement. From the first fingerpicked notes that open the album to the conclusive harmonies that wrap it up, Arthur keeps his listeners guessing at every turn, taking his creativity to a different place.

Read more here!