Staff Appreciation Lunch

Every year during Staff Appreciation Week at my kid’s school a group of parents join forces and each provide a Crock Pot full of soup to create a soup buffet lunch for the all staff that work in the school.

In previous years we had provided catered lunches but they weren’t as light as soup can be and with everyone making a different soup there was sure to be something for everyone to enjoy no matter diet preferences or allergy restrictions.

Every year I like to try and make something different. The first year I made a Baked Potato Soup and last year I made a vegetarian Sweet Potato Corn Chowder and both of these I’ve been told were enjoyed by many.

This year I went to a collection of soup recipes assembled over the years by dear friends of mine for inspiration and was struck by the recipe for this Pumpkin Curry Soup from my dear friend Shelley.

Now I will admit to tweaking this recipe a bit by adding two additional spices, Turmeric and Cumin, that weren’t called for in the original ingredients list and their addition just enhanced the overall flavour profile.

Starting top left:

Starting top left: 6 cups prepared chicken stock, chopped onion and minced garlic, spice blend of curry powder, salt, coriander and red pepper flakes, pure pumpkin, and half and half cream.

I didn’t have chicken bouillon cubes in the house as we buy a base that is paste rather than powdered called Better Than Bouillon. So because of this I went ahead and made the stock for my liquid component as instructed on the side of the jar. If you wanted to go vegetarian with this soup you would just need to substitute out the chicken for a veggie based stock.

I also doubled the recipe so I could have a good amount in my Crockpot.

While I did get the ingredients from Shelley the process was my own. Lol there were no instructions per se so I worked with it and followed what seemed most logical.

Butter in the pot.

Butter in the pot.

I started with the butter in my stock pot. I can see how you could easily substitute olive or canola oil in this step to make it a bit lighter. When baking I tend to substitute oils and butter with some unsweetened apple sauce to cut down the fat content but this doesn’t translate to frying as I have found. If someone has a suggestion I’d love to hear your feedback.

Onions and minced garlic.

Onions and minced garlic.

Once my butter was melted and starting to get that smell of browning I put the onions and garlic into the pot and walked away to let them soften. Again when it comes to something like softening onions and garlic I tend to have to find something else to do or I spend a lot of time stirring when in reality it just needs to be left alone to do it’s thing.

Toasting spices

Toasting spices

Once I have softened onions and garlic I go ahead and add my spice blend to allow the spices to toast a bit. The spices made my kitchen smell really great. I love the smell of curry and when I smell it I am struck but how it makes me feel warm. I can’t fully describe it but when I smell it I just feel warmth spreading through my body starting with my belly.

Stock added in.

Stock added in.

After I have given the onions, garlic and spices a chance to come together I stir in my chicken stock and let it come to a simmer. I gave it a few minutes to come together and absorb flavour from each other. Then I whisked in the pure pumpkin.

Finally some Half and Half.

Finally some Half and Half.

The last thing I do is add my Half and Half Cream. I wondered if I could lighten it up by going with a low fat sour cream next time for this and may try it. The nice thing about soup is that you generally use crackers with it so the fact that is it on the thin side isn’t a bad thing unless you were going for a chowder.

Finally into the Crockpot for the next day.

Finally into the Crockpot for the next day.

I got about a 3/4 full 6 quart Crockpot with a double batch of this soup. I didn’t let the cream heat up too much when I added it as I knew that it would have 3 or so hours to warm and come together on low the next day.

I haven’t gotten any feedback yet but when I tasted it before putting it into containers for transport the next morning it had all the notes I wanted from it and felt pretty proud about it.

Pumpkin Curry Soup

From my dear friend Shelley.


  • 3 tablespoons of butter
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 -4 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 3 cups water
  • 3 vegetable bouillon cubes (can also use chicken in a pinch)
  • 1 – 16 ounce can of pure pumpkin
  • 1 cup half and half cream
  • fresh chives, chopped (garnish)
  • 1 tablespoon turmeric (My addition)
  • 1 tablespoon cumin (My addition)


1) Melt butter in a stock pot.

2) Add onions and garlic and allow to soften.

3) Once the onions are garlic are softened, add the spices and allow to toast for a couple of minutes.

4) Add the chicken or vegetable stock. Allow to simmer for a few minutes.

5) Whisk in the pumpkin.

6) Add the half and half cream. Allow to warm through (be careful it could burn) and serve with fresh chive garnish.

I Made Bread!

One of my culinary bucket list items was to successfully make a loaf of bread.

I can remember watching my grandma make bread and buns when I was younger that smell that comes with fresh baked bread.

I decided recently that I wanted to take the chance and really make an effort to produce a loaf of bread. Even if it wasn’t an ideal perfect loaf I would at least be able to tell myself I tried.

Today was the day. I went with a Traditional French Bread recipe from my WestBend Bread Machine Cook Book. I have arthritis and find an assist in one way or another will make it easier to tackle my culinary tasks. So I used my bread machine to make the dough for me.

When the machine had dealt with the initial blending, kneeding and the first rise I placed it on my table to rest for 15 mins.

After the 15 minute rest I rolled out the dough and proceeded to tightly roll it along the long side and make my loaf and placed it on my long bar pan which I had put some cornmeal on to prevent sticking.

Loaf rolled and placed on the pan.

Loaf rolled and placed on the pan.

First thing I notice is that my loaf is longer than my bar pan. So first lesson learned…the loaf probably needs to be a bit shorter.

However, overall I’m happy that I have gotten the loaf as the recipe suggests. It is rolled nicely and a good size so I will consider it a win :D.

I cover my loaf with a clean tea towel and tuck into my oven as I need to put the pan somewhere with no drafts that is warm and hidden from little curious fingers.

After the second rise!

After the second rise!

After 40 minutes in the oven I bring out loaf and score the top. Then a brush with egg white and a sprinkle of sesame seeds. I’m feeling pretty confident that this is working out well. Honestly it looks better than I thought it would for my first attempt.



I was overjoyed when I peeked in when the timer went off and found this amazing golden loaf of French Bread in my oven. I was successful in my first attempt in that my loaf was cooked nicely and edible. I learned though which is always the thing when I cook or bake.

There is always something I need to work on. Something I need to learn and about 100 questions I end up asking Kevin about what is a dice, what is a boil, does this look good to you….

I got many compliments on my first loaf and I’m pretty proud of it.

I served it with this Chicken Bacon Chowder recipe from A Taste of Home.

I did a few modifications on the recipe. I roasted my boneless, skinless chicken thighs slowly in the oven in a small Corelle Crock with a lid. I then used the drippings in the chicken stock portion of the recipe to give a bit more flavour.

I’m also feeling pretty grateful for our mini chopper. Best $8.00 we spent on a kitchen appliance. I used it to dice the onions and then get the bacon finely chopped after I cooked it.

If I wanted to make the soup on a week night for a warm up on a cold night I’d go with a rotisserie chicken from the local grocery store to make up the cooked chicken component. From start to finish it took about 30 mins to make the soup and we enjoyed it in our home on a -30 winter day.

So today I successfully baked a loaf of bread and made a big pot of soup to enjoy with it.

Pretty good day for a newbie cook.