soup

Greetings from the state of infirmity!

I woke this morning thinking that all was well. I felt greatly improved from yesterday. I could breathe through my nose. I had no fever. My throat was feeling dandy and I had absolutely no desire for Jamba Juice.

(Well, that’s a lie. I always have a desire for Jamba….it just wasn’t as intense as it has been for the last couple of days.)

Instead, I put on my usual 1/3 pot of coffee and then examined the contents of my fridge.

Well, freezer.

I bought these a while back and thought I might give them a try. Truth be told, I don’t mind Eggo’s myself, but no harm in trying other brands.

I know, I know.

Homemade would be better…but I don’t have a waffle maker or waffle pan….or whatever people make waffles in. I can make pancakes, but waffles? No. Not without a toaster.

And apparently I can’t even do that…I burned them! My bad!

They still tasted pretty good though! I liked them. I decided to have a couple of sunny side up eggs as well. To keep with the theme, I overcooked the eggs a little also. Oops.

After this triumphant return to normal eats, I decided I must be (mostly) recovered and it was time to do a mass laundry expedition. Clean the sick coated sheets and comforter. All of the towels. Make everything fresh and new.

About halfway through this exercise, I learned that I was in fact, still sick.

And wanted to die.

Okay.

Not really.

But I didn’t feel good to be sure. I have a bad habit of over exerting myself when ill. I think it has to do with never taking sick days at work. I feel like no matter what, I need to push on as normal. Not so. Even when you feel a little better, it’s still wise to take it easy for a day or two. Deciding to embark on the great apartment cleaning that you’ve been meaning to do isn’t the soundest idea.

I had meant to wash all my dishes and clean my floors, but after going to Walgreens for cat litter and washing all of my clothes and sheets, I had nothing left to give. I struggled to put sheets on the bed, and then I nuked a bowl of soup from yesterday, putting Daria back on my TV.

The soup wasn’t anything special. Just a “toss whatever you have into the pot” creation. It had onions, garlic, chicken broth, chicken, black beans, Trader Joe’s Three Grain Blend, half a bag of frozen peppers and some spinach in it. Chunky and filling.

Now those of you who are healthy living purists and never do anything nutrition-wise that you shouldn’t, look away.

Oh yeah.

I went there.

I can’t help it. I don’t care whether these things are healthy or not. I grew up crumbling them into bowls of soup. I’ve done if for as long as I can remember and there’s nothing that comforts me more than taking 4 or 5 of these and crushing them over a bowl of hot steamy goodness.

Yes.

So good.

I pretty much spent the rest of my day coughing. Most of my other symptoms are gone, but I cough and cough and cough. There’s nothing I can do to stop it either. Nothing helps.

Not even sparkling Sofia Coppola wine.

I may have or may have not tried to soothe my coughing with a lot some of this sparkling wine that I picked up at the Coppola vineyard back in April when I went wine tasting with my friends, Cindy and Florence.

(I know it sounds fancy…but recently I spied the same bottle on the shelves at Safeway. So much for feelin’ swanky. Wait. I take that back. It’s not wrapped in girly pink cellophane at Safeway! Totally worth the weekend trip to Sonoma! ….)

Alas, despite my efforts, the cough remains.

What is your least favorite cold symptom?

For me, it’s a tie between sore throat and cough.

When I got my CSA box last week, I knew exactly what I wanted to make.

Potato Leek Soup.

I had never made potato leek soup before and while I thought about finding a recipe, I decided in the end that it would be easy enough to wing it. During my lunch break at work, I stopped by Trader Joe’s and picked up some thyme, so I wouldn’t have to make any stops on the way home.

Then I forgot the thyme in the employee refrigerator.

Score.

I started my near 4 mile walk home and thought about whether or not I should stop off for some spices of some kind. While I didn’t really want to brave the lines, I in the end decided to stop off at Whole paycheck Foods * for some more thyme. They somehow managed to be completely out of fresh thyme. What? So I got rosemary instead. I nearly got sucked into the Whole Foods vortex, but I caught ahold of myself and managed to get out with only buying the rosemary. Go me.

* I don’t mean to be all snarky about Whole Foods. I like it there, and everything, but it gets so expensive. I try to only go there for specific items that can only be found there and I do my regular shopping at other markets.

When I got home, I set to work….as quickly as possible. I was hungry!

First up, cut up the potatoes and set to the side.

I know what you’re thinking.

“You didn’t peel them first?!”

I thought about it…and then decided I was too lazy. Plus, since I was going to blend the soup anyway, there was really no need. Hey, fiber, baby!

Heat up a little bit of extra virgin olive oil in a pot and then add some garlic. Then add two chopped leeks and saute until soft.

Add 2 cups of chicken broth and the potatoes. Then add water to cover the potatoes. Bring to a boil and then let simmer for about 20 minutes.

Then blend the soup in four batches with your Magic Bullet. Or use a blender. Or an immersion blender. Whatever you have available.

Yeah, I admit it. My method is not terribly efficient. Effective though.

In the last batch of soup that went into the magic bullet, I added a couple of tablespoon’s worth of fresh rosemary. After it was blended, I put all of the soup back in the original pot to heat back up.

Once the soup has been returned to the pot, you can add any further seasonings that you would like. I added a healthy amount of black pepper. Then I dug around in my fridge and located the creme friache that I had used when I made the golden beet soup and the butternut squash soup in October. As it turned out, it was good for exactly three more days, so I took the pot off of the heat and added the remainder (about 1/3 cup) to the soup to make it a little creamier.

Final step is to serve up a yellow bowlful:

I added a little too much rosemary, as the flavor was a little bit overwhelming. It was still super tasty though. I considered it a recipe success.

Are you a soup person in the winter? I sure am.

So I left you yesterday, explaining that I wasn’t going to go running, but instead was going to walk to work to get my exercise.

Eh, heh, heh…

Yeah, I didn’t do that.

Well, I walked half of the way to work, but I didn’t have enough time to do the entire walk (It’s a 4 mile walk) because I got distracted by soup. It was an important distraction, as I didn’t have anything to take to work for dinner, so I think we’re going to give me a pass on this one. Plus, it’s not like I didn’t walk at all…I took the bus halfway and then did the 35 minute walk from downtown to work. So, you know, I tried.

So on to the soup!

Yesterday while I was thinking about how lame it was that I had fallen back asleep and missed my run, I decided that watching Project Food Blog video entries would be a nice way to cheer myself up. When I got to Emily’s entry, I thought to myself, “Mmm. That looks good! I think I’m going to get up and make some of that right now and take it to work for dinner!”

So I went to the kitchen.

And when I got there, I discovered that I didn’t have most of the ingredients involved.

Oops!

So I decided to make a Front Burner inspired soup, with the ingredients that I had on hand.

First I roasted up the Sweet Dumpling Winter Squash from my CSA.

I’ve read that most people half these and stuff them….but I sort of wondered what they would taste like in soup, so I halved the two I had, gutted them and roasted them along side some carrots that I had chopped up. Once they were roasted, I peeled them, as I didn’t think that would taste too good in soup, then cut the squash into cubes.

Well, I had planned to cut the squash into cubes, but it kind of fell apart as I was peeling it. I think if I were to do this again, I would probably not roast it for as long. Originally I was going to cube it before it was cooked, but cutting into these puppies is HARD. Even with my biggest, sharpest knife (which admittedly might not be saying very much) it was difficult.

After getting the veggies roasted, I chopped up some onion and threw it in a pot with a bit of oil and garlic to get softened up.

We’ve seen a lot of chopped onion on my blog lately, haven’t we? Fact is, no matter how many times I watch Alton Brown chop up an onion, I still can’t manage to not suck at doing so myself. I never get the pieces uniformly sized. Oh well. It’s just soup. They need not be perfect.

After the onions were ready, I added one carton (4 cups) of store-bought organic chicken broth to the pot. It was at this point that I realized I had never really made a broth based soup before. Like, sure, I added broth to the Golden Beet Soup and the Butternut Squash Soup, but I mean I had never made something like a Chicken Noodle Soup or Vegetable Soup that didn’t come from a Progresso/Campbell’s can. Is that weird to be 28 and to have never made chicken noodle soup on your own before? I’m not sure. I guess I should do it sometime, just in case, you know, it is weird….

After the broth, I added the squash, carrots and some leftover TJ’s wild rice from Saturday night’s dinner. Then I decided that I should add the last of my spinach to the pot.

After the mix had simmered for 10 minutes, or so, I added a can of drained and rinsed black beans and I seasoned with salt, pepper and lots and lots of cumin. I think cumin is my favorite spice. I considered adding some leftover steak meat to the pot, but then opted to leave it out, deciding I could add it to my individual bowl if I wanted to.

I didn’t really have any time to taste the soup, as I still wanted to get out of the apartment in time to at least get HALF of my walk in, so I just packaged up a serving, grabbed an apple and a greek yogurt out of my fridge for snacks and headed off to work.

Fact: Even with taking the bus half way, I was 15 minutes late to work, due to soup.

Dinner time could not come quickly enough–I was so excited!

Yikes. My bowl kinda looks messy!

I decided to have a couple of Multi-Grain Waasa crackers with the soup. The crackers had been in my desk for probably….2 months (!) but they still tasted good. Actually, they were a good mix with the soup.

The verdict?

Awesome!

I never believe people when they say to make soup you just throw whatever you have into a pot and it’ll work. My disbelief comes directly from watching my grandmother make soup by dumping cans of this and that off of the back porch into a pot and letting it cook for 3 hours. Her “everything but the kitchen sink” soups always tasted overcooked and disgusting, and to make it worse, she operated on an “If you’re hungry, you’ll eat it” set of rules, so if I didn’t want to choke the stuff down, I got no dinner! Grandma Julia Ann had a lot of winning recipes, but that, along with her Pimento Cheese (eeeeew!!!!!!) just weren’t part of them. It made me terrified of fridge cleaning soups for years.

I’m so glad to finally be over that!

Is it weird to be 28 and to have never made homemade Chicken Noodle Soup?

Today I brought in the rest of my beet soup to work. I toyed with the idea of eating it for lunch, but after a taste I decided that it really wasn’t for me and I opened up a can of Trader Joe’s Organic Split Pea Soup. I couldn’t of course waste the beet soup, so I eagerly awaited the arrival of my beet loving co-worker. The one that always arrives hungry. I pounced on him immediately, asking if I could feed him soup. Once I had the go ahead I warmed up the leftovers and waited for the verdict.

He liked it!

He said he really couldn’t detect beets in it (!) and if I hadn’t told him what the soup was made of he wouldn’t have been capable of pin pointing the exact flavor. I couldn’t believe it, given that my main problem with my beet soup was that it was beety. This of course is coming from a guy who has practically no sense of smell, so maybe my nose and taste buds are just more in tune with the beetyness of things.

Doesn’t matter though. The point is that he liked it and was sad that I only had 2 servings for him to slurp down. Sounds like a recipe win, even if it wasn’t my favorite.

The only problem I had with him eating my left overs and me eating my can of soup is that it left me with nothing for tonight’s dinner….and nothing for tomorrow night’s dinner either. Since I work the evening shift on Monday, the food I take to work has to be decided on Sunday. I checked the kitchen upon my arrival home to see what was left of my CSA veggies.

It only took about a second to decide: Butternut Squash and Carrot Soup

I didn’t really follow a recipe, but since I had ingredients left over from the beet soup, the two soups wound up with a lot of crossover.

(I will note, however, that what I wound up doing is very similar to a recipe from the Front Burner…just without the apples.)

First, I dealt with the squash.

I was kind of dismayed to learn that it had a soft spot on the bottom. I had left the squash until this week, as I thought they kind of had a decent shelf life. I worried that it might be completely ruined, but decided to cut it up before I scratched the dinner plans.

As it turned out, while there definitely were a couple of areas at the bottom which were not really something I would want to eat at this point, the majority of the squash was usable. So, I just cleaned out the squash guts and cut off the squishy bits that I didn’t want to eat. Yay.

Perfect.

Then it was roasting time. Since this squash was going to become soup, I didn’t really season it. I covered a cookie sheet in tin foil, sprayed some cooking spray on there, then roasted at 400 degrees F for about 45 minutes. During the last 15 minutes, I added 4 cut up carrots to the cookie sheet. Once removed from the oven, the skin of the squash was easily peeled off and I sliced it into big chunks.

Now for the rest of the soup (which is practically identical to yesterday’s recipe)!

One chopped yellow onion.

Sautéed with garlic in 1 tablespoon of butter.

Grab your leftover chicken broth (about 2 cups worth)…

….and throw all of the above into a pot. Boil. Simmer.

Blend in batches. This pot of soup required 4 batches.

*insert picture of soup in a pot that has magically disappeared off of my camera here…*

Put the blended soup back into the pot and season. I seasoned with salt, pepper, LOTS of curry powder and a dash of nutmeg. As you can probably tell, I rarely measure things in the kitchen. Then, since it was in my fridge from yesterday, and I have no idea what to do with it, I added in some creme fraiche.


There you go! Butternut Squash and Carrot Soup!

(sorry for using the same bowl again. actually, no I’m not. my bowl is awesome.)

While all of this soup madness was going on, I also decided to whip up some green bean fries. Pretty much all you do to make green bean fries would be, clean your green beans, toss with a drizzle of olive oil and a little bit of garlic, then bake on a cooking sheet until crispy. I pretty much did just that. I did try out a new ingredient, however.

I actually found out that TWO of my local corner stores sell Garlic Gold. Weird, huh? I decided to pick up a bottle and try it out.

You are gonna make awesome fries, boys. Trust me.

Dipping sauce, as I wanted some “tang”.

Tasty!

I wanted to eat the entire pan full of beans, but I restricted myself to the above…and maybe a couple more…maybe.

What is your favorite soup?

Historically, I have never enjoyed beets. The only positive memory I have associated with the root vegetable is that of the band from Doug, the Nickelodeon cartoon from the 90s. Those Beets, I liked. 

I think the dislike started when I was a very young child. When I was about 4, I made two food related blunders that would spoil certain things for me for many years.

The first, was with tea. My grandmother drank Lipton tea around the clock when I was young. She always put a little milk in it and added a couple of saccharine tablets. One day I went by the kitchen table and saw a mug filled with light beige liquid. I, being a little kid thought to myself, “CHOCOLATE MILK! Must have!” Seriously. So I took a sip and spit it out in disgust. This was not chocolate milk. It was grandma’s gross cold Lipton tea. I have no idea how long it had been sitting on the table, but seriously, I was not at all impressed with this beverage’s attempt to entice me by masquerading as chocolate milk. I didn’t drink tea for years and years after that, still remembering how bad that sip had tasted. I eventually did get over it, to some extent. I love tea….I’m drinking it right now, as a matter of fact. I never add milk though. And I most definitely do not add saccharine tablets.

The second food mistake I made took place at around the same time period. As any kid would, I loved canned cranberry sauce. I loved the taste…the way it came out in one hunk all canned shaped. I loved it all. So I was so excited when on a family outing to Sizzler, I spied some of this amazing stuff on the salad bar. My dad let me go up by myself and pick out what I wanted and I loaded up on those goodies. Then I took a bite. This was not cranberry sauce at all. At. All.

Unlike with the tea, beets and I never made up. I would spend the next 20 years picking these things out of my salads and avoiding them like the plague at any kind of family gathering.

Sorry Beets.

Fool me once, shame you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

There was not going to be a twice.

Well, until this year.

This year I’ve become very interested in retrying foods that I’ve previously disliked. I’ve found that over the years, my tastes in food have changed substantially and that perhaps I should accept that I may now like things that I used to despise. Take for instance, my recent experience with corn. Who would have guessed I would be eating corn on the cob for the first time at 28 years old? Not me! So in this spirit, I was both dismayed and excited to find golden beets in my CSA box last week.

Thanks to the suggestion of reader, lwayne, I decided to try sfgate’s recipe for Golden Beet Soup with Crème Fraiche.

First I roasted the beets for about 30-40 minutes, then removed their peels. Next up were the leeks. I had never cooked with leeks before, but the recipe called for them, so I picked up some at Trader Joe’s on the way home from work. I had no idea that TJ’s sold them prepackaged like this:

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Convenient, I guess!

The recipe calls for 1 cup of thinly sliced leeks. I only had three small beets, so I halved the recipe….except where the leeks were concerned. It was probably overkill, but I actually just chopped up both of them, which was obviously more than 1 cup. I was very concerned about the beety-ness of this recipe, so I wanted to have other flavors coming through. After the leeks were ready, I melted a tablespoon of butter in a small pot and then sautéed the leeks until softened—I follow instructions so well!

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I added some garlic, let it cook up a little, then I quartered the three small beets I had and added them as well as 2 cups of chicken broth to the pot. After it was brought to a boil, I reduced the heat and allowed it to simmer for maybe 15 minutes.

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This is when the fun began. I needed to blend the soup after it was cooked. My blender is essentially a piece of crap, so I decided to use my Magic Bullet. I love the Magic Bullet, but I must admit that some jobs are difficult for it. Luckily, this one was reasonable. The only problem is getting the soup into the cup. I’m clumsy. No hand eye coordination. I was trying desperately to do this without making a mess. I used a ladle and actually got the first batch of soup (I needed to blend it in two batches, as the Magic Bullet is small) in without any issue.

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Look at it, all blended and glorious. The next batch didn’t go as well, unfortunately. I accidentally flicked the ladle across the kitchen nearly knocking the pot with the rest of the food onto the floor. I saved the pot, but I did splatter soup everywhere. Even into the cat’s food dish. Luckily, Cosie wound up being a fan of the soup…

Eventually, however, I got everything cleaned up and the soup completely blended.

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Doesn’t look half bad, does it?

Then the recipe called for salt and pepper to be added. I did so. Then, it was crème fraiche time. I had never used crème fraiche before.

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I probably stirred in about 1/4 of a cup.

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Having tasted the soup prior to adding the crème fraiche, I did like it better after. Though it tasted just fine without the addition,  it was so much more smooth, creamy and rich once it was added. I think you could get away with not adding it if you are watching calories. Or you could try adding yogurt instead.

I’d probably just go big and add the crème fraiche, however, if I were you.

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The verdict?

Edible, but not my favorite. Totally not the recipe’s fault though. I ate the entire serving pictured above and the texture was wonderful. The problem was the smell and the after taste…both beety, and just not very pleasant to me. I think I just really may not like beets! I could definitely see myself making this soup again, however, if I found beets in my CSA box. The soup itself was good, and if you like beets, I think you would love it. I think out of every dish involving beets I have ever tasted, this was the one that I consider to be most acceptable. I mean, hey, I ate it, right?

Is there a food that you just don’t like, no matter how much you try?

As you already know, I am thoroughly enjoying my new routine of bi-weekly CSA boxes. The only problem I have encountered so far is making sure I consume everything in a timely manner.

You see, I have good intentions. As soon as my box arrives, I make all sorts of plans. I’ll make this  on Saturday, this on Sunday cook these by then, etc. Follow through, however, has never exactly been my strong point. I have the same problem when I buy produce at the grocery store. I have all of these meal ideas, then I wind up being lazy and eating cereal instead of cooking them up, thus leaving me with rotten fruits and veggies and wasted money.

This time, however, the destruction of my food was NOT my fault.

Well, maybe a little bit my fault.

I know there are all sorts of tricks to keeping your veggies fresh in the fridge. To keep the crisp in your celery, for instance, some people recommend wrapping it up in plastic wrap or foil. Others recommend cutting off the bottom of the stalks and storing it upright in a glass of water (Source). Both of these, however, are apparently too difficult for me, as I just threw mine into the crisper.

It worked fine for a few days. I had lots of celery with laughing cow or brie. Then one day, I went into the fridge for a crunchy snack and I found that my ‘crisper’ should more accurately be described as a ‘limper’. My celery and last zucchini had gone completely limp.

This was kind of depressing.

I know, I know. Limp vegetables aren’t ruined. The celery was just dehydrated. It probably would’ve come back around if I had put it in some water.

I did, in fact, put it in some water.

I made soup.

Yellow Split-Pea Soup with Sweet Potatoes and Kale Celery and Zucchini

Original recipe from FatFree Vegan Kitchen

I still had some yellow split peas hanging around my kitchen from the last time I made this recipe and with payday being a couple of weeks off, using ingredients that were on hand seemed like the way to go. I figured celery and zucchini would be just fine in place of the sweet potatoes and kale, so I just chopped them up and assembled the soup.

I never exactly follow recipes to a tee, as I usually am missing ingredients or need to use up something in my kitchen. So, in this tradition, I halved the recipe (except for the curry powder, which I kept at 2 tablespoons, because I wanted some kick), used ground cumin and ginger instead of fresh (it’s what I had) omitted the mustard seeds (didn’t have any), omitted the oil (since I wasn’t using the mustard or cumin seeds or fresh ginger, it seemed like some PAM in the bottom of the pan with the onion and garlic would be good enough), omitted the sweet potatoes and kale (didn’t have any) and added lots of celery had zucchini (had a bunch).

Otherwise, I followed all instructions accordingly.

After an hour, I had this:

It tasted pretty great. I wished I had bread to eat with it, but alas, I had none. Oh well…more room for soup!

What tricks do you use to keep produce fresh in the fridge? When you find that things have turned for the worse, what are your favorite recipes to save the fruits and veggies from being wasted?