Over the holidays it is especially important to get outside and enjoy some time with nature. Spending time with nature helps us deal better with the stresses of the season, gives us a bit of a vitamin D boost, and is an enjoyable way to spend time with friends and family. If you are fortunate enough to live where the temperatures actually reach sub-zero at this time of year, you can go skating, skiing or snowshoeing. Those of us who only "might" get a white Christmas can still don rain or winter boots and hike through our local forests.
Each winter solstice, our family chooses one tree to decorate with bird seed treats. It is part of a tradition we started when the kids were toddlers, and as we visit that tree on our walks throughout the winter, the kids make note of animal tracks and what has been eaten and what has been left behind.
To warm up, try a bowl of homemade squash soup (recipe below), and/or an arctic float. Or just make some homemade hot chocolate and use a candy cane as your stir-stick for a seasonal treat.
Roasted Butternut Squash Soup (makes about 6 litres)
2 medium butternut squashes, cut into quarters
one cooking onion
2-3 tart apples (Granny Smith, Spartan or Empire work well), peeled, cored and chopped
1-2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
sea salt (about 2 teaspoons)
cinnamon (about 1.5 teaspoons)
nutmeg (about 1 teaspoon)
powdered ginger (about 1/2 teaspoon)
cayenne pepper (about 1/4 teaspoon)
Add water to your baking dishes (just enough to soak the bottom of the dishes) then add your squash. You can remove the seeds before or after baking. Bake the sqaush for 40-60 minutes or until tender.
In a heavy and large soup pot, heat the oil. Fry the onion until it is clear, then add chopped carrots. Continue cooking for about 2 minutes, then add the apples and 2 cups of water (you may need more water later on). Continue cooking until the carrots and apples start to soften.
Scoop out the flesh from the squash and add it to the pot. Stir well and blend with an immersion blender, or in batches in a regular blender, using a large mixing bowl to hold the blended portions. Once it is all blended, return the soup to the pot.
Add the salt, pepper and spices to taste.
This freezes well too.