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Verses from my Kitchen: Squash, Sage & Apple Soup plus an Autumn Loaf

September 19, 2011

Squash, Sage & Apple Soup plus an Autumn Loaf


It has turned quickly. The last of one season is all but forgotten as the cool September showers and moody sky have drifted in. The characteristics that define summer's glory has been washed away with the colours of autumn and rainfall that keeps us locked inside our warm, comfortable homes. It's the beginning of an end. And the start of something both beautiful and charming.

Like the seasons before us, life also undertakes a change this time of year. Old habits and routines undergo a metamorphosis as we adapt to the weather and landscape outside. Sometimes for the better, sometimes not. And after a summer of occasional youthfulness and time away, we get back to what real life has waiting for us.

It's hard. That's what makes it real.

Life isn't always easy. Even though we pretend it that way. Relationships included. And like autumn, we always need to work on making something old better. New again. It's too easy to get caught up in the small things that dictate our lives, and lose track of the important things that define it.

My wife, for one. I love her with all my soul. She stirs my drink, so to speak. Everything I do has meaning because of her. And I do most of those things with her in mind. Yet we hit bumps. Everybody does. It's foolish to say otherwise. We have our quirks and idiosyncrasies and we have moments when we don't see eye to eye. We're a thousand miles apart. But that's okay.

Let me explain. When I was about to be married I heard the saying that every married man does. "Happy wife, happy life." At first I nodded and smiled and forgot about it. It's just a catchy saying, right? But it's more than that. So much more. 

A happy wife is vital in a marriage. The saying is something to remember when times aren't as easy as others. It's a friendly reminder when life catches up to us and takes our mind away. Personally, it's like a tap on the shoulder, "Don't forget about your wife. She's what this whole thing is about." And so I make a better effort. And I try to be a better me.

I hear about mothers talking to other mothers and talking glowingly about how great and easy being a mother is. It's not though. I mean, it's not. How could it be? It's probably the hardest job in the world. So why can't we all admit that it's hard. That life's hard. And when someone says "How do you like being a mother?" why can't people reply, "It's the hardest fucking job I've ever had." Even thought you wouldn't trade it for anything. Anyone. It's real. It's truthful. It's perfectly acceptable.

I think we're all afraid to accept being less than perfect. No matter what anybody says, we're all the same. Imperfectly perfect. And although we struggle and adapt and overcome, it's never easy. Nor should it be. We try our best at being a spouse, parent, friend. Anything. But sometimes we come up short. And sometimes we need to realize that it's okay as long as we are honestly giving it our all.

I'm not the best husband in the world. I cook meals for my wife almost every night but that doesn't make me perfect. I know I could help out more. I know I could tell her I love her more. I know that I'm trying my best but sometimes I need to try harder. Love harder. So I will.

Yesterday my wife was out for a shoot. It was the second of back to back full days shooting. I knew it was cold out, miserable out. So I thought it would be nice to make this warm bowl of soup and this savoury loaf of bread to welcome her home. To tell her I love her. To let her know that making her happy really does make happy.

When she finally dropped all her things and let the weight of the weekend drop from her shoulders, we sat at the table and shared this. And we talked. And talked. I told her how grateful I am for having her in my life. And I thanked her for being imperfectly perfect.

For as long as I'm blessed to live this wonderful life, I'll always strive to be better, do better. A better husband, friend and support system. And when someone asks me how married life is, I'll tell them. It's not easy. But I wouldn't want it any other way. With any other person.

From my kitchen to yours, happy eating!


  • 1 large butternut squash (about 2 pounds)
  • 8 sage leaves
  • 4 large apples, peeled, cored and quartered
  • 4 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 small white onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup apple cider
  • 1 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 4 tbsp. sour cream
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Peel the squash and remove the seeds. Roughly chop and spread out on a baking sheet. Add the quartered apples, 4 sage leaves and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Roast for 40 minutes, until squash is tender.
  2. Using a large pot over medium heat, add in the other two tablespoons of olive oil and add in the onion. Cook for 5 minutes or until soft and then add in the garlic and bay leaf. Cook for a further minute. Add in the squash, apple cider, apples, brown sugar and chicken stock. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for 25 minutes.
  3. Working in batches, puree soup in a food processor until smooth. Return to pot and season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the heavy cream and heat.
  4. Garnish with sour cream. Serves 4-6.


  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tbsp. sage, finely sliced
  • 1 cup aged cheddar, grated
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 apples, peeled, cored and finely chopped
  1. Preheat oven to 400F degrees. Butter a loaf pan and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine sugar, flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, cheddar cheese and sage.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk and olive oil.
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and combine. Fold in the apples and pour into the buttered loaf pan.
  5. Bake for 40 minutes, or until a wooden skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.


At September 20, 2011 at 12:21 AM , Blogger Peter G | Souvlaki For The Soul said...

You speak words of true wisdom Mike...another great post (brought a tear to my eye!). Love the warmth of the soup and that wonderfully rustic loaf.

At September 20, 2011 at 2:30 AM , Blogger Meeta K. Wolff said...

The post speaks to my heart. I totally understand that every relationship goes through it's down phase - it just would not be true if it did not and I think better of both my husband and our relationship when we come out of the downside together - stronger and somehow wiser. Your wife has a good man by her side. Especially when you make such comforting and warming soups!

At September 20, 2011 at 7:49 AM , Blogger london bakes said...

What a wonderful post, thank you so much for sharing.

At September 20, 2011 at 8:05 AM , Anonymous marla said...

A beautiful soup and tribute to the imperfect/perfect :)
You guys are so lucky to have each other. What you say here:
RE: Motherhood "It's the hardest fucking job I've ever had." Yup. It is. Also the most rewarding, loving and in that respect, scary job I have ever had.
I'll take a bowl of that soup to savor each & every moment I have on this Earth. xo

At September 20, 2011 at 8:51 AM , Blogger Cookin' Canuck said...

You are so right, Mike. So many people try to portray a picture of perfection. But why? I think it takes far more energy to do this and, as you say, it's not "real". This is a wonderful thought-provoking post...and a wonderful, comforting soup.

At September 20, 2011 at 8:59 AM , Blogger Unknown said...

You are so right. Especially on Facebook it seems like it's always a Christmas card over there.

At September 20, 2011 at 9:30 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a wonderful post. Thanks for reminding me that I can stand to up my game as a partner--I focus so much on our kids and I'm reminded here that it doesn't take much effort to be more present in marriage, too. "Happy Wife, Happy Life" cuts both ways. I just can't think of a good rhyme for Husband. :)

At September 20, 2011 at 10:39 AM , Anonymous Chris @ TheKeenanCookBook said...

Wonderful post, and true too. Happy Wife Happy Life isn't just saying something to be cute, which is what I often feel people think when I say that to them. No. It means taking care of her, trying to take care of her as much as she takes care of me mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually.

And you are spot on about motherhood. I'm a new Dad, and I see just how hard it is for the Mom. Incredibly rewarding, but also incredibly challenging at times. Further reason why I strive to be the best man I can for her.

Beautiful post. Great food. Glad you made this for her, I am sure she appreciated it. Good man :)

At September 20, 2011 at 1:21 PM , Anonymous SMITH BITES said...

it was the hardest fucking job i ever had . . . it was. and as a single parent, it was doubly hard. but i think relationships period, are hard. and EVERY relationship has to be nurtured or suddenly . . . you've changed . . . they've changed . . . and you haven't grown together, on the same path. we don't have children of our own and we are grateful for that . . . not because we don't like kids . . . but we both understand that it takes EVERYTHING we have to make our relationship work . . . to find time for one another . . . to be intentional about making time for one another . . . to be intentional about making time to nurture the other relationships we each have . . . life is crazy-busy Mike - for everyone. from a distance, i see a good man, a good husband who deeply loves his wife and i also see a wife who deeply loves her husband . . . keep doing what you're doing . . . it's all good

At September 20, 2011 at 1:45 PM , Anonymous Bev Weidner said...


At September 20, 2011 at 4:32 PM , Anonymous Kelly said...

Loved this :) And can't wait to make the soup. :)

At September 20, 2011 at 6:52 PM , Anonymous Charissa said...

Wow, this looks beautiful...I just love soups in fall time. There's just nothing cozier.

At September 20, 2011 at 7:21 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beautiful recipe! I love squash soup in the fall -- one of the things I look forward to!

At September 20, 2011 at 8:26 PM , Blogger Unknown said...

This sounds absolutely fantastic and just in time for this beautiful fall weather. With this week going down to a high of 65, I think I will be making this soup for one of those cool nights on the couch.
Laura @ A Healthy JalapeƱo

At September 20, 2011 at 8:38 PM , Blogger Brian Samuels Photography said...

This soup screams of fall! And actually makes me excited for the harvesting of apples and squash.

At September 20, 2011 at 8:48 PM , Blogger Rosemary said...

Michael, you bring tears to my eyes...
just remember marriage is: - "two", "team","couple",and its a job worth loving every day!
was looking for a soup receipe and I love squash soup as it reminds me of autumn and moms favorite season

At September 20, 2011 at 8:49 PM , Anonymous kankana said...

True! Life has it's ups and downs and I think with that it can get pretty boring!
This soup is so comforting .. if only I could grab a bowl :)

At September 20, 2011 at 8:52 PM , Blogger Maria said...

Perfect soup for fall! I am sure I will be making this multiple times!

At September 20, 2011 at 9:02 PM , Anonymous Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen said...

You're right, relationships are hard and take work but that's part of what makes them so rewarding in the end - knowing that you both care enough to try harder. A really beautiful post.

At September 21, 2011 at 6:48 PM , Blogger Susan Lindquist said...

Another beautifully heartfelt post ... your writing just gets better and better and the soup and loaf are gorgeously presented through the photos! Ahhh... fall flavours!

At September 22, 2011 at 2:11 AM , Anonymous Viviane Bauquet Farre said...

Mike, you speak with honesty and courage about the travails of life. I appreciate your dialogue as much as I do this fantastic soup recipe.

At September 22, 2011 at 5:36 AM , Blogger Peggy said...

What wonderful words - such a great message in this post! You really have one lucky wife - as well as being one lucky husband =)

At September 22, 2011 at 9:30 AM , Anonymous RavieNomNoms said...

I am in love with this post. Your pictures are just so outstanding...I can hardly not look at them.

At September 22, 2011 at 12:52 PM , Anonymous Amanda said...

You are an inspiration... and so is your wife. What an amazing team you make! Thank you for sharing your heart!

At September 22, 2011 at 2:29 PM , Blogger Eliotseats said...

I bet the roasting really brings out the flavors. Here's to autumn.

At September 22, 2011 at 2:47 PM , Blogger Aimee White said...

It's funny. Whenever I'm going through something rough, I never want anyone to put a cheesy, optimistic spin on it. I can get to the optimism on my own. What I really want them to say is "Shit. That sucks. It's unfair. What are you going to do?"

I like real. I loved this post. I think having 'real', imperfect approaches to life and relationships is what gets us through them successfully in the end. That self-awareness is what makes people good, imperfect partners. (At least I think so!) Ok, end rant. This just really resonated with me personally!

Thanks for yet another beautiful post and - my gosh - a beautiful recipe. I absolutely have to try this loaf this weekend!

At September 22, 2011 at 6:25 PM , Blogger Steph said...

This soup looks so elegant. I want a bowl!

At September 22, 2011 at 6:42 PM , Anonymous Delishhh said...

What an awesome husband and a great post. Love the soup it is one of my favorites. . .

At September 22, 2011 at 6:44 PM , Anonymous Amy | She Wears Many Hats said...

Beautiful in so many ways.

At September 22, 2011 at 9:26 PM , Anonymous Alison @ Ingredients, Inc. said...

so pretty!

At September 23, 2011 at 1:18 PM , Anonymous Kimberley said...

Yes to all of this. Gorgeous photos and gorgeous post.

At September 23, 2011 at 4:08 PM , Anonymous Deliciously Organic said...

I was just talking with a friend about this very topic this morning. Sometimes we can be a better friend, spouse, parent, leader, when we admit that the road is tough. I think there's a freedom in opening up and admitting our struggles. It brings us closer and makes us stronger. Thank you for a beautiful post. It was a few minutes of my day that I dropped everything, read some wonderful copy and enjoyed a few soothing photos. Can't wait to read your next one.

At September 23, 2011 at 6:56 PM , Anonymous Barbara | Creative Culinary said...

We're still having fall in Colorado; chilly a bit at night followed by warm, beautiful days. Which makes soup perfect.

And by the way? I'm a mom. I have two grown children; they are 27 and 31. I raised them completely single handedly after their father decided to follow his soulmate (new one) when they were 2 and 6.

And this I know. Life is fucking hard! And those kids? Still trying desperately to get their father's attention, they dish out all their anger towards me. Now that? That is REALLY fucking hard.

Thanks. I needed that. :)

At September 23, 2011 at 7:54 PM , Blogger Cassie | Bake Your Day said...

Mike, I'm so glad I didn't miss this post. It's so beautifully written. Life is hard but so worth the journey. I am a newlywed so I'm learning a lot about relationships and about myself. We of course heard "happy wife, happy life" and it is a true saying and it completely goes both ways. I love that you talked about always striving to do better and be better. I pray that for myself every day!

At September 23, 2011 at 11:43 PM , Anonymous Liz W (EmmaEats) said...

What an inspiring piece - so wonderfully written. It has been a long week filled with...well, the typical daily struggles that moms/dads/kids/families with young children go through. Thank you for reminding us that sometimes we come up short and that it's okay as long as we are honestly giving it our all.

PS - Love butternut squash soup -- have been longing for the arrival of Fall so I can make some.

At September 24, 2011 at 11:03 AM , Blogger Sippity Sup said...

I am not a good commenter. I often am left speechless. That is when I know a post really moves me. This is my fourth time by here and again I am speechless. You have a prose style that is so deeply personal. I can't imagine anything I could say could add a thing. GREG

At September 25, 2011 at 1:15 PM , Blogger Cindy Lane said...

i just teared up a little! such amazing words!

At September 27, 2011 at 10:47 AM , Anonymous Winnie said...

Mike you are so right: life can be hard, but I so enjoy reading about yours. And damn that soup looks great.


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