Zuppa Toscana

We are entering soup season, am I right? Soups evoke the beauty of family, cozy togetherness, and comfort in a bowl. I see soups as a sign of love to our families and friends as we invite them to the table.

You may or may not know that I was born in Honduras. These crisp fall evenings cozy with fog and blistering winds was not something I knew there. But soups I did know. They were our Sunday lunches, a special treat normally made by my dad. Oh they filled my tummy but mainly they nourished my soul. They also made me sweat buckets, you see in Honduras soups are not a cozy fall dish, they are an all year round all weather staple.

This Zuppa Toscana will add cozy and light to any fall evening, winter night, spring day, or even summer get together. But for us here in the Northern hemisphere, I invite you to set your table, light a candle, and let your tables nurture your health and open your heart to others as you break bread together.

Ingredients

4 strips of bacon
2 lbs of mild Italian pork sausage*
2 lbs red potatoes or 6 large red potatoes*
1 yellow onion
3 garlic cloves or 1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 crushed red pepper
1 tsp of oregano
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp fennel seed
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp of salt, plus salt and pepper to taste before serving
6 cups of broth
1 bunch of kale*
1-2 13.0z cans of coconut milk full fat

For Serving

Shaved parmesan, Manchego, or your favorite aged cheese
Crusty bread and a favorite salted butter

Instructions

  1. Begin by gathering all the ingredients to your work space and prepping the vegetables. Dice the onion, chop the potatoes into larger chunks, remove the kale leaves from the stems – discard the stems and coarsely chop the kales leaves.
  2. As your are chopping and prepping, heat a large pot on medium heat and cook the two slices of bacon. Let the bacon get crispy but be careful it doesn’t burn. When the bacon is cooked to your liking remove it and set it aside, it will crisp up even more as it cools. (If you don’t eat bacon you can add a table spoon of olive oil to the pot to complete step 3.)
  3. Add the onion to the same pot, about 5 minutes, until it becomes translucent and smells amazing. Add the sausage and brown in until it renders excess oil, drain the oil but leave some for taste.
  4. After you drain the oil add the garlic, crushed red pepper, oregano, smoked paprika, and fennel seed. Cook them together for about 3 minutes so the flavors penetrate the meat.
  5. Add the potatoes, the bay leaves, and broth. If need be, add a bit more broth until it covers most of the ingredients. Bring the soup to a boil and then lower the heat to a simmer. Let the soup simmer for 10- 20 minutes until the potatoes are tender.
  6. Add the cans of coconut milk and bring the heat down to low for about 5 minutes. Right before serving, add the kale and cook until the kale is bright green and has softened. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Serve with grated cheese and warm crusty bread for added coziness. (Unless you are doing Whole 30 then skip the cheese and bread.)

Notas

*This soup tastes even better when shared with friends, this is why I give you the doubled portions to make a large pot of soup.
*You don’t have to use bacon for this recipe.
*You can use Italian chicken sausage for this recipe. You can also use just sausage without any flavor – but play around with the salt and pepper because plain sausage can be bland.
*This recipe is Whole 30 compliant if you use Whole 30 compliant bacon and sausage. (I find both of these at Whole Foods) Also, leave the cheese off and skip the bread to be Whole 30 compliant.

Golden Milk

“We seldom notice how each day is a holy place Where the eucharist of the ordinary happens, Transforming our broken fragments Into an eternal continuity that keeps us.”

*John O’Donohue, To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Invocations and Blessings

I know that in the middle of a pandemic when uncertainty swirls wild and boredom creeps in tight, the last thing you think is about the holiness of this day. Yet each day holds so many promises, so many blessings that gently stir our affections for love.

A time for reflection is needed every now and then, especially at the brink of a “new normal.” The stirrings of new winds bid us slow down and dream. I have just the right tonic to accompany the slowness of an examen.

This golden milk is soothing, comforting, and immune boosting. It comes together quickly and without fanfare. But when you sip it you feel nourished, calmed, and all that this day holds becomes holy.

Golden Milk

Ingredients + instructions

1 +1/4 cup of milk (or any plant based milk)
1 cup of water or more milk for extra creaminess.
1 small cinnamon stick + a dash of cinnamon for serving
3 pepper corns
1 tsp tumeric +1/2 tsp.
1/4 tsp ginger
a dash of cardamom
2 tsp of raw honey or pure maple syrup

Over medium heat bring milk to a boil add all the spices and whisk, until well mixed. let it simmer for 5 minutes or so.

Serve in your favorite mug and breath deeply and sip it while still warm


This post first appeared in Eclectic Shades Magazine

Come over for tea with me!

Because community starts within your home I have created some conversation cards to encourage a richer time around the table with your family. A simple but very intentional way to be fully present right now. Find how you can join me monthly for tea here and get access to this download.

The Brave Path to Authentic Community

If Table Dayton Picture by: Echo by Design

One of the bravest things I’ve done is set the table.

Arriving at that moment came after a lonely path of yearning and longing. Here we are in the midst of a pandemic and setting the table for company seems to be out of reach doesn’t it? We find ourselves yearning and longing for time together, but mostly to know and be known.

I moved across the country a starry-eyed newlywed filled with dreams and the excitement of discovery. There was little room to think about the fact that I didn’t know anyone and I was blinded to the loneliness lurking in the midst of so much joy. The endless introductions that ended with promises to see each other soon left me disheartened as the promises remained unfulfilled. People have always been a source of joy and energy for me and suddenly, I found myself surrounded by them but lonely. Yet, I could feel the Lord’s constant reminder, “I am your friend and your greatest reward – remain in me.” So, today I will share with you three times I bravely set the table and how the Lord met me there.

I’ve had the honor of writing about this brave practice on Becky Beresford’s Brave Women Series. Please go there and finish reading and get to know how community is really not complicated but it takes courage to engage.

Being part of the Hopewriters Community has encouraged me to connect with other writers like Becky and I couldn’t be more excited for this community!

Chai Tea Alfajores

Chai Tea Dulce de Leche Shortbread

This shortbread brings with it nostalgic memories of travel to Spain, these alfajores are a great blend of sugar and spice. Chai tea has always been a favorite, and when paired with dulce de leche the buttery shortbread takes on new life. Enjoy making this shortbread and always make enough to share. In this time of quarantine living, these treats are the best for porch drop offs, they will make the giver and the receiver feel close and loved with each bite!

Ingredients for the shortbread

2 cups of all-purpose flour*
1/4 tsp of sea salt
1/2 cup of powdered sugar
2 tea bags of Spiced Chai Tea
1 cup of salted butter (2 butter sticks) at room temperature
1 tsp of pure vanilla extract
2 sheets of parchment paper
1 cookie cutter*

Ingredients for the the dulce de leche

1 can of sweetened condensed milk
1 16oz canning jar with lid
1 crockpot

Instructions for the dulce de leche*

  1. Begin by gathering all the ingredients to your work space
  2. Prepare the dulce de leche first. You will need to prepare it the night before or first thing in the morning.
  3. Pour the condensed milk into the glass jar, leave a little space in the top of the jar. Seal the jar and place it in the crockpot, fill the crockpot with water just below the rim of the jar. Cook the jar of condensed milk on low for at least 8 hours. The clear glass jar makes it easy to see how much the milk has caramelized.
  4. After 8 hours take the milk out of the crockpot and let it cool before using it. In the sealed jar the dulce de leche can last up to a week when refrigerated.

Instructions for the shortbread

  1. Begin by gathering all the ingredients to your work space. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In a bowl combine the flour and salt.
  3. Cut the open the tea bags and add them to the flour and salt mixture. Whisk until well combined.
  4. In a mixer, cream the butter until you see little peaks (about 1 minute). Then add powdered sugar to the creamed butter and mix for about 2 minutes and then add the vanilla as you finish creaming the butter.
  5. Lower the mixer speed to stir and slowly mix in the flour until the dough is mixed well and turns crumbly.
  6. Put the dough between the two sheets of parchment paper and roll it out a bit thick. Put the flattened dough on a cookie sheet and place in the freezer for about 20 minutes.
  7. Take the dough out the freezer and cut out the shortbread, because the shortbread is a bit frozen when baked it will retain its shape better.
  8. Bake the shortbread for about 10-12 minutes. Let them cool on the cookie sheet to let them brown without getting over cooked.
  9. After your shortbread has cooled spread dulce de leche thickly on a piece and then adding another on top to create a sandwich or alfajores as known in Spain and Latin America.
  10. Sharing the alfajores with friends over tea or coffee makes them immensely satisfying.

Notas

*if pressed for time you can buy a jar of dulce de leche. I enjoy the one from Trader Joe’s .
*use your favorite cookie cutter, I prefer one with scalloped edges
*Gluten free all-purpose flour can be used but take care to cut the shortbread a bit thicker because they tend to break easier.

Hola! Hello.

Echo by Design

Daisy here, welcoming you and smiling with anticipation. I am grateful that you took the time to stop by. Here we are encountering each other because in unexpected ways our paths collided. Welcome to the table, it is set and you’re the guest of honor. Welcome to this little corner of the world that exists for encouragement, companionship and practical hospitality.

The artistry of the table is awe-inspiring yet simplifies life. It thrives on creating beauty and memories that encourage our souls to rest. Asking us to lean into slow and purposeful connections while ushering in mindful living. Gathering at the table will become a needed practice because there you will learn to savor food and delight in each other.

My journey to the table has been intricate, full of surprises, but super life-giving. Almost 10 years ago, I began documenting the start of new season of life but mainly my escapades in the kitchen and around the table. Already, it was evident that for me life happened with passion around those two spaces. Little did I know I was becoming a woman of the table. I was sending out a homing signal to the other people of the table and they got the message! Today, I am so glad you recognized that signal and it lead to our paths crossing.

A new season has begun in my life, one in which I am thrilled to claim a little corner here to create a beautiful space for you to come and belong. I will curate for you a little treasury of beauty through stories, recipes, and practical hospitality tips. But mostly I want to remind you to pay attention, be present, and still your heart with the truth that He delights over you. I am so glad you met me here, let’s link arms together in life.

In Dayton, OH I lead a team of women of the table. We host a monthly meals and we invite other women from around the city to join us for meaningful conversation, good food, and fed souls. I have discovered who I am becoming around those tables. I have been seen and heard because I created space for just that. So, as I embrace this graceful becoming I see that in all the little spaces of life I am becoming, albeit not always gracefully but always grace-filled.

It is for those same reasons that I step out to meet you here and encourage you friend, because the time invested in community is key in your becoming.

Tables are places of grace, sacred spaces of sustenance that infuse us with life, and make hospitality a practice in faith.

Daisy F. Dronen

Because community starts within your home I have created some conversation cards to encourage a richer time around the table with your family. A simple but very intentional way to be fully present right now. Find how you can join me monthly for tea here and get access to this download.