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Easy Fall Entertaining in Solivita

The end of Summer is near; although our temperatures have not dropped; a look at the calendar tells me Fall is on the way.  I love the fall colors, the crisp air, the sweet memories of apple picking at Ticer’s Farm, the aroma (and the taste) of cider donuts, and long walks in the fallen leaves. Growing up in New Jersey, the fall and winter air was usually brisk, and in my Mom and Dad’s kitchen there was always a pot of hot, delicious soup bubbling on the stove. We are expecting the cousins to come for a short visit and it is time to get the soup pot out. I would like to share my recipe for what I think is a Perfect Fall Soup. This soup is easy, flavorful, and is always a hit. This soup is especially easy now that you can purchase squash already cleaned and cut in our local Market.  This week, I saw butternut squash in the freezer section of Publix, and I don’t see why you can’t use that as well. Please, let me know how it turns out if you try it.

4 ½ Pounds of Peeled and Cubed Butternut Squash   

2 Medium Onions Chopped

3 Cloves Garlic, Peeled and chopped.  

Optional:  For the spice lovers (add 1 finely chopped jalapeno chili and ¼ tsp cayenne with the garlic).  OR

Optional:  For the Ginger Lover – Add 1 tbsp grated fresh ginger and 1 tsp ground ginger along with the garlic.  OR

Optional:  For the Fall Flavor Lover – Add a combo of ¼ tsp each ground cloves, cardamom, nutmeg, ground ginger, cinnamon, and black pepper.

3 Tbsp. Butter or Vegetable Oil

½ tsp sea salt (plus more to taste)

8 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth

½ cup Cream (Optional)

Heat a large pot over medium heat.  Add the butter or oil and saute the chopped onion.  Sprinkle with the ½ tsp sea salt.  Stir until the Onion is soft (about 3 minutes).  

Add the garlic cook for another minute. If you are adding any of the optional spices add them to this step.

Add the squash and the broth.  Bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat, and simmer.  Cook until the squash is very tender.  About 35 minutes.  

Blend soup till smooth. I use a Handheld Immersion Blender.   Add ½ cup cream.  Warm soup through. This soup is good without the cream, but in our opinion better with it.  Taste for salt and serve.

I also make this soup with sugar pumpkin or acorn squash.  When I have time, I sometimes roast the squash or pumpkin in the oven with some olive oil for about 30 to 40 minutes at 400 degrees.   This extra step will add depth of flavor to the soup.  I serve this soup with hot crusty bread and a garden salad and it is dinner done.

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Great Guest Rooms

When putting together the guest room in our home, we paid attention to detail. We want our guests to be comfortable, feel welcome, and know that we enjoy sharing our time with them. Little touches mean the world to a guest; an extra pillow, a lovely plush blanket, good lighting, a comfortable chair, and extra hangers in the closet.  Following is what we consider a guide for the “Ultimate Guest Get Away”.

Our Number One Rule is – Do not let your guests ask for towels, toiletries, etc. Instead we place a basket of towels in the guest room or the guest bath.  We also include in the basket an assortment of lotions, shampoo, soap, etc., so our guests have all the fresh supplies they need.

In our opinion, guest rooms do not require a television; instead we leave our guests a selection of current magazines, books, and a note pad, for a bit of entertainment.  I am an early riser, but sometimes guests rise before me, and with some reading materials in the guest bedroom, our guests have something interesting to read before they start or end their day.

When Lee and I stayed at the home of a friend, we found the guest room lighting to be less than desirable, especially after we bumped into the bed frame. Our first act upon arriving home, was to add additional bedside lighting to our guest room.

We always leave a bottle of port, glasses, a dish of chocolate, and a few granola bars in the guest bedroom, just in case one of our guests’ experience hunger pangs. In addition, there is always a bowl of fresh fruit on the counter in our kitchen.

Guests are fun to have, and if you are well prepared with a solid plan in place, the visit will be effortless. We usually plan to have easy breakfasts, coffee, yogurt, granola, fruit, oatmeal, etc. When guests are in town, we keep an assortment of hummus, nuts, cheese, salami, crackers, olives, roasted peppers, etc. Easy snacks that can be enjoyed at any time during the day or early evening.

We generally plan one simple, but nice, dinner at home and then dine out during the balance of the visit.

We recently had friends visit, and as a treat for Lee and I, our friends shopped and cooked a delicious meal for us while in our home. We had fun, shared a great meal with friends, and after dessert they did the dishes. A delightful way for friends to say thank you.

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Lobster, Lobster, Lobster

When living in NJ, it was a hop, skip and a jump to a great Lobster Dinner. We could cross the GW and dine in City Island, take the Parkway “down the shore”, or head up 95 to New England for a great lobster dinner. In Central Florida, we do see lobster on a menu occasionally, but we don’t often see them swimming in tanks. In our memory, almost every restaurant up north had a lobster tank. We are both fans of lobster, we enjoy them steamed, grilled, served chilled, and I especially love a good lobster roll. You know the kind, served on a soft, split bun with toasted sides, piled high with lots of sweet lobster and hardly any mayo, served with lettuce and fresh lemon. I had not seen a lobster roll on a menu since moving to Florida; but in Celebration we have found a place that brings us back to our roots; Celebration Town Tavern.

The Beer is Cold, Lobsters are swimming in the tank, and the Tavern makes a great Clam Chowder. My brother- in-law, Gregg also raves about their Lobster Bisque. There is something here for everyone to enjoy. Lee and I go for a pot of steamers, chowder and a lobster roll with lots of fresh lemon. We have never been disappointed. This is a great, casual place to have some fun and eat some good seafood. On Game Days, the football games are on and if you are a NE Fan this is the place to be. The Beer on Tap is cold and fresh and the crowd is always out for a good time. Nothing Fancy, just Really Good New England Style Fun and Food. No need for a trip to the “Shore” with Celebration Tavern less than 30 minutes away from Solivita.