Meandering down a path of Creativity

Easy Soup in the slow cooker…

garbanzo sausage lentil soup

This is going to be tonight’s dinner. Hopefully it will be tasty…

As always, all measurements are approximate.

Get out the slow cooker and put the following in it:

  • 2 quarts diced tomatoes (or 2 28-oz cans)
  • 1 16 oz can chickpeas, aka garbanzo beans, mashed up a bit
  • 1/2 c brown lentils
  • 3 links Italian sausage, cooked and chopped
  • 2-3 c frozen chopped spinach
  • 1 c carrot pieces
  • 1/2 c roughly chopped celery
  • 1 tbsp dried minced onion
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp dried herbes de provence
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 3 c water

Give it a stir to mix everything up and cook on high for 6 hours.

I’m guessing it will yield about 8 hearty servings. If all of my guessing, between ingredient quantities & final yield, is accurate, then the nutritional info is as follows (based on calculator at
Cal 218
Fat 9.2g (Sat 4.8g)
Cholesterol 32.2mg
Sodium 998mg
Potassium 699mg
Carbohydrate 18.9g (Fiber 5.3g; Sugar 7.0g)
Protein 11.6g

-I used leftover cooked sausage that was in the freezer. I recommend chopping it before you freeze it.
-I don’t like putting frozen stuff straight into the crockpot, so I stuck the spinach and water in a container and microwaved it for a few minutes, then added the chopped sausage to the container and microwaved it for a few more minutes.
-I chopped up the remainder of a package of baby carrots and did not measure them at all. There were probably 12-15 of them.
-The ingredients should be fairly flexible here. No tomatoes? Try salsa. No chickpeas? Try navy or cannellini beans. No spinach? Try collards, kale, mustard, or beet greens. No carrots? Either skip ’em or maybe try some sweet potato chopped small. No celery? Add a bit of celery salt and don’t stress over it. Use fresh or frozen onion instead of dried. No thyme or herbes de provence? Replace them with Italian seasoning blend, or, if you used salsa instead of tomatoes, maybe try cilantro and oregano instead. No garlic or onion at all? Replace the tomatoes with salsa and/or replace the water with a well-seasoned broth that you like. Yep, like I said, it’s pretty flexible!

The soup turned out quite nicely and received rave reviews from the family. Next time I make it, though, I’ll be a lot more heavy-handed with the seasonings… a whole sweet onion and 2-3 cloves of fresh garlic, chopped, and probably closer to a tablespoon of thyme… plus maybe a drizzle of a sweet & fruity balsamic vinegar to round it all out. All in all, though, it was a very tasty dinner and took all of 5 minutes to prepare. So yeah, it’s a win!

A few years ago I attempted NaNoWriMo. For those unfamiliar with what that is, it’s a writing challenge, “National Novel Writing Month“, where would-be authors attempt to write 50,000 words in 30 days. It is a wonderful concept, and I had fun, in spite of falling very short of the 50,000 word mark. I realized, about a week in, that the timing of this challenge… well, to put it bluntly, the timing really sucked for me.

I am a crafter & artist, selling my wares online and at a few shows/fairs. Most of my business happens during the winter holidays. The period between Halloween and the US Thanksgiving is when my focus needs to be on making sure I have enough stock to sell, making sure it’s all photographed, listed, and marketed properly, getting my table displays in order, and all that jazz. November is not the time for me to be spending hours at the computer, typing away on a novel.

So anyway, I failed to complete the challenge, and each year since, I’ve resisted the desire to jump back in. (I found out last year that they now have a NaNoWriMo summer camp, which I may attempt one of these years- same challenge, but during the summer months!)

Recently, I heard about another challenge for November that is quite a bit more in line with the stuff I need to be focusing on at this time of the year. It’s called ‘Art Every Day Month‘, or AEDM for short, and asks the participants to spend some time every day creating some art. The rules are simple and low-pressure, which is really nice, and there is a really supportive and encouraging community vibe to it. I am signed up, and will be giving it my best to complete the challenge.

I’ll be posting the daily images to the Facebook group, and posting completed pieces to my Facebook, G+, and Instagram pages as I complete them. I’m also going to be posting weekly updates here, with the day-by-day photos of what I worked on it the previous week.

To kick things off, here’s what I did yesterday, for day 1. It is not a great photo, and the piece still needs some work done before it’s complete, but I did do my daily art yesterday, and that’s the important part, right?

Copic markers on Strathmore mixed media paper. Needs to be cleaned up and have detail work done.

#AEDM2014 day 1: Mandala in progress

It’s been a while…

I have not been keeping up with my plans to post over here regularly. I’ve had plenty of ideas for posts, but just have not done too well with the follow through. Shortly after my last post, I began an internship at a local farm, where I was supposed to be learning about goat care and cheese making. I really learned a lot, mainly about cheese… not so much about the goats, which was my primary purpose for going there, but I’m continuing to volunteer there and am hoping the goat care stuff is still coming. Cheese making winds down when the goats dry up (they have a 10 month lactation cycle), and it’s currently breeding season. The babies that come from the breeding that is happening now should be born in early spring. My internship started when the 2014 kids were about a month old, and I am super excited at the prospect of being involved in bringing the next kids into the world! Have you ever seen a baby goat? Up close and personal? They are too cute for words!

So anyway, I am going to be trying to, once again, make a habit of blogging here. If I disappear for a while, feel free to come look me up on G+. I’m also going to be getting more active over there, as I look to cut back on my Facebook time. I am listed as Melanie White, email address

And, just because everyone needs some silly goat from time to time, here is a picture of Dolly. She is the oldest goat over at the farm, and has been taken out of breeding rotation this year. She is my favorite out of the 40-some odd milking does. She’s sweet natured and generally well behaved, but she tends to get very wriggly when she sees a camera. She also seems to always be sticking her tongue out at me. She doesn’t do this to anyone else, and I’m not really sure what it means, but it cracks me up, every time.


believe it or not, I've snapped dozens of photos of her, and this is the least blurry one!

Dolly, sticking her tongue out at me and being wriggly for the camera


I love to can. I’m not sure why it’s called canning when you put the stuff in glass jars, but I do know that food safety is nothing to mess around with. I’ve been contemplating a post about why safe food handling and processing procedures are so important, wanting to pull out my old textbooks and share all of the nitty gritty details with you, and find share-able charts and stuff, but well, it just hasn’t happened. So instead, I’ll share a little bit of the stuff that’s just knocking around in my noggin, after many years of canning and a few years of food and nutrition courses in college (I was a nutrition major).

It’s not just about botulism!  Read the rest of this entry »

Asparagus… it’s the first thing I get to harvest from the veggie garden, and it’s the first culinary sign of spring for me. When I see those gorgeous little spears first poking up from the ground it makes me downright giddy!

ugly, messy, and unkempt, but the asparagus doesn't care!

not the best pic, but it does show a few spears…

Read the rest of this entry »

I missed doing the Friday post I had planned because life has just been getting a little crazy lately. I spent a couple of hours today re-potting my tomato seedlings- the poor babies had roots coming out the bottom of their starter flat! I’ll be re-potting the rest of them tomorrow, after a trip to the Emmaus Farmers’ Market. I love that they are a producer-only market, which means everything I get from them is locally grown/produced, and tomorrow they will have the first of the seedlings available! I start most of my plants from seed myself, but I purchase some from there to help fill in any gaps. I also have a couple of vendors there who are my absolute favorites.

One of the favorites is B.A.D. Farm- where they don’t live up to their name. Owned and operated by Beth And Dave Rice, they sell meat and dairy products, as well as eggs, that are absolutely wonderful. Yes, the soft-boiled eggs I wrote about earlier this month are made with their delicious brown eggs. (And yes, I actually can taste a difference between brown and white eggs, and brown eggs from them versus brown eggs from the grocery store, LOL). The dairy products include some really great flavored cheeses and dips, made by Beth. They are good people with really yummy offerings, so if you find yourself in Emmaus, PA on Farm Market Day (every Sunday from May 1 through the Sunday before Thanksgiving, and alternating Sundays through the winter), I highly recommend popping over and seeing what yummy stuff is available!

Both the Emmaus Farmers’ Market and B.A.D. Farm are on Facebook, too, if you’re interested to see what they are up to:

I’ll be back to posting about garden stuff on Monday or Tuesday. Hope you’re having a great weekend!

My seedlings are in that stage where I’m just waiting for them to get big enough to begin hardening off. The only news on that front is that about half of my mouse melons, aka Mexican Sour Gherkins, sprouted yesterday- this is my first year growing them, and I am very excited about that! I was surprised that it only took about 4 days for them to begin poking up through the soil! My seedlings are all in that stage that requires an abundance of patience, as I watch and wait for them to get big enough to begin hardening off. I have a circulating fan that will be set up to blow on them later today, and I’ll probably begin re-potting and thinning the tomatoes tomorrow. So anyway, that’s the ‘State of the Garden’ report.

Since I don’t have any garden tips today, I figured that this would be a good time to share one method of stretching the food budget. There is a lot of food waste in this country, and I often shake my head at the price of convenience. I try very hard to use up everything I can, and waste as little as possible. As well as being earth-friendly, it’s usually good for the body and less expensive than making ‘convenience’ purchases, too. I’m not going to go all preachy about that stuff, though. I’ll simply say that there was a time when boxed or canned broths were not available, and people needed to make them from scratch. With all of the food allergies and sensitivities people are beginning to recognize, it’s become a necessity for some of us, but it’s surprisingly easy to do, and is a great way to give your recipes an extra punch of both flavor and nutrition, and bonus- it’s pretty much free!

Read the rest of this entry »

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