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Everything outside is either dead or sleeping (well, except the chickens of course), but we are nowhere near empty here on our little urban homestead. The last year of canning, drying, freezing and cold storage has left us with tons of options still for eating local, organic produce. I wanted to share just a couple of the super-simple things we’ve been eating this week.

First off, I present you with a fabulously easy meal of chicken parmigiana. I raided our freezer for some frozen free-range chicken breasts, thawed them, dipped them in a milk/egg mixture, then rolled them in a breadcrumb/parmesan/garlic powder mixture. They were fried in a little oil in our cast iron skillet for about five minutes on each side. Meanwhile, I boiled some noodles and heated up a jar of homemade, canned marinara sauce.

Pasta was laid out on a plate, with marinara spooned over, and the chicken breast resting on top with a sprinkling of more parmesan. I estimate this took seriously 15 minutes from start to finish. With this rich marinara sauce already on hand, ready to heat, the meal was a cinch – possibly the most tender chicken I’ve had in months.

Moving on, I give you peach pie. Delicious, smooshy peach pie using two quarts of canned peaches picked fresh off the tree on Sauvie Island right outside of town. I remember the peaceful morning my friend and I were picking the juicy fruit and how we both complained a couple days later that it seemed like such a fiasco to can these guys! And peaches were suppose to be the “easy” thing to can. Well, the winter-time deliciousness was worth the work and, after a few more canning sessions last Fall, I think the experience will go much smoother next peach season.

Finally, we have pumpkin soup. On November 1st, I began a week-long pumpkin hoarding spree as friends and relatives told me they planned to dump the orange lovelies with the end of Halloween. I still have three in my basement and a couple gallon bags of roasted puree in my freezer. So, in short, pumpkin season is still in full swing here.

This pumpkin recipe came from Better Homes & Gardens. Let me mention I read about 50 magazines a month through my day job. Although I don’t consider myself a typical BHG reader, you’d be surprised how many good recipes are out there in all kinds of magazines. I’ve listed the recipe below in addition to the earlier link:

  • 2 medium carrots, sliced
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 15-oz. cans pumpkin
  • 1 32-oz. box reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half or light cream
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 Tbsp. maple syrup
  • 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 Recipe Spiced Croutons, recipe below
  • Celery leaves (optional)


1. In large saucepan cook carrots in hot butter over medium heat for 2 minutes; add onion, celery, and garlic. Cook 8 to 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

2. Stir in pumpkin, broth, half-and-half, water, maple syrup, and pumpkin pie spice. Heat through. Season with salt and pepper.

3. To serve, top soup with Spiced Croutons and celery leaves. Makes 8 side-dish servings.

Spiced Croutons:In bowl toss 3 cups 1-inch bread cubes with 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice. In large skillet cook bread cubes in 2 tablespoons hot butter 8 minutes or until toasted, turning occasionally.

I used frozen, homegrown carrots and frozen celery – what a difference homegrown produce makes in a meal. Instead of canned pumpkin, I used my own roasted puree. In place of the cream/water, I used 1 cup of 2% milk. And in place of pumpkin pie spice, I used a combination of nutmeg, cinnamon and allspice. The soup was silky, hearty but not too heavy, and the croutons were a nice addition. Also, it took about 20 minutes to make, since the frozen things were already chopped.

The end of January is a really great time to raid your pantry and freezer and take an inventory of what you have stored. Seed-planting starts next week at our house and by March we’ll be back to fresh produce again. January/February are the perfect months to use up all those stores to make room for another growing season!

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Written by Renee Wilkinson