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Keepin’ it Real December 5, 2012

Posted by Toy Lady in Cooking, random stuff, soupe du semaine.
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I’m not going to sugar coat this.

Artificial ingredients, fake food, it’s all just wrong.  That goes equally for faux-cheese and for “fill-in-the-blank” style sausage.

If you’re going to eat sausage, eat sausage.  If you want soy, have soy.  Don’t try to pretend “soy cheese” is actually food.

Don’t get me wrong.  We eat our share of meatless meals – or we try to, anyway.  But we like our meatless meals to be proudly meatless.   None of this “oh, I don’t eat meat, so I’m going to chop and form a BEAN and pretend it’s bacon.”  I want lentils that KNOW they’re lentils, darn it!  Beans in all their beany glory!  Vegetables that are in your FACE vegetables!


Unfortunately, I often check my email at work while my (homemade, real-food) lunch is heating up, or, in other words, I read recipe newsletters when I’m hungry.

That means, basically, that pretty much everything sounds good to me – even lentil soup with industrial kale and faux sausage – and pretend parmesan as a garnish!

But you know, we can always use our our real, homemade chorizo sausage – we don’t need to use that “chorizo-style” soy stuff.   Chorizo-style?  Just what’s on that ingredient list, I can’t help but wonder?  Chorizo sausage is really not that hard to make yourself.


And so, while about half a pound of REAL sausage was cooking, along with a chopped onion and some garlic for good measure, I went out to the garden for some fresh kale.

After all, if you can get fresh, why not, right?

I used a small kale bush – I’m saving the big ones for my mother.  The leaves weighed about  10 ounces or so, and I cut the tough ribs out and chopped it.  It’s soup, so I’m not going to get too worked up about exact measurements.


Once the sausage and onions were browned, I added a cup of brown lentils, then in went some chicken stock.

Obviously it was homemade – you can tell because it was the consistency of Jell-o.  (By the way, do you know that Jello is a local, Rochester-area product?  We have much to be proud of in this area!)  I could have used vegetable broth, but I went with chicken. Probably a good call.


Once the stock came up to a simmer, and the sausage and onions were cooked, it was time to add the chopped kale.

Could you use collard greens? Sure.

Spinach?  Probably, though I would probably make sure the sausage and lentils were completely cooked, first – spinach cooks a lot faster than the heartier greens.  But it would work just fine, to be sure.

And once  the greens cooked down enough that I could actually see the broth, it was time to taste.

You may notice that there was no added salt in this recipe.

Now I’m sure that has something to do with the fact that the original recipe used a lot of processed ingredients – canned lentils and broth and (shudder) soy chorizo.

My stuff doesn’t have a lot of added salt, and the broth needed it. Some pepper too.

Perhaps as a nod to the “vegetarian” nature of the recipe, I used my veggie bouillon – a little dab’ll do ya!  That stuff is handy to have around!


We let the soup simmer a bit longer, until the lentils were soft and the kale was tender.

And since we like to do our soups ahead of time – after all, a couple of days in the fridge does nothing but good for a soup! – we put it away until serving time.

Then  we just plopped the dumped the whole mess into the slow-cooker and let it reheat slowly.

All in all, it was a perfectly good soup – and one that will lend itself to nearly endless variations.


And when we added some actual, non-soy cheese, it was even better!


Have you ever heard of Knoephla Soup? October 5, 2012

Posted by Peeps in Cook's Country, Cooking, random stuff, soupe du semaine.
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We certainly hadn’t.  And odds are, unless you’re from North Dakota, you haven’t either.  But all that’s been changed thanks to the good people at Cook’s Country magazine.

We got the October/November issue a couple weeks ago, and before I go any farther with this, you should run out and get it. Seriously. We’ve tried a couple things from this issue and plan on trying a few more soon. Go on, go get a copy. I’ll still be here.

Anyway, soup. It’s apparently an upper Midwestern version of chicken and dumplings. That’s about all my wife and I needed to give this a try.


First, you make the dumplings. Two and a half cups of flour go into a bowl along with a quarter teaspoon of baking powder, one teaspoon of salt and half a teaspoon of pepper. Whisk to combine. Add half a cup of water, half a cup of half & half and three beaten eggs. Stir until a batter forms. Then place the batter into a gallon zip top bag and place in the fridge until it’s time to use.


Now, very much like the Moravian chicken pie recipe they provided us with, this has you brown chicken thighs then finish cooking them in commercial chicken broth to fortify the broth. We skipped this step. My wife’s chicken broth is so good we not only didn’t fortify it, we diluted it. Really. She’s that good.


If you’re not going the fortify route, the rest of it is easy. In a large pot sweat one chopped onion in about a teaspoon of oil. You just want the onion to start turning brown, about five minutes.


Add eight cups of really god chicken broth to the pot and bring to a boil. Then add two pounds of Yukon Gold potatoes that have been peeled and cut into a half inch dice. Can you use another kind of potato? Probably. We happened to have some Yukons that my wife picked up at the market.


Let the potatoes simmer for about ten minutes, or until not quite done. This would be a good time to deal with your chicken.


Since we didn’t cook the chicken in broth, we didn’t have to shred the meat off the bones. We happened to have most of a leftover chicken from and earlier dinner handy. Huh. Lucky us.

Okay, now comes the interesting part.

Get the bag of dumpling batter out of the fridge and cut a quarter inch off one of the bottom corners. The using the bag like a pastry bag, pipe out the batter into the pot of simmering soup, snipping off half to one inch pieces with kitchen shears. This can be done by one person, but if you have help it’s a lot easier.


Once all the dumplings are in, let them cook for ten minutes at a simmer, stirring every so often until they start to float.


After the dumplings are done, add the chicken and half a cup of half & half to the pot and remove from the heat. You are now ready for dinner.

You don’t really need to serve this with anything. We happened to have a loaf of good bread handy, which didn’t hurt. But you don’t really need it. Because this soup is AWESOME! Hearty, flavorful, just a great bowl of soup.

The leftovers, and yes, there will be some, are still mighty fantastic even though the dumplings absorb most of the broth, leaving you with chicken stew. But my wife and I both had it for breakfast twice this week without any sort of problem at all.


I encourage you to try this. You’ll find yourself making it more than once over the course of the next Winter. I’m pretty sure we will.

I can hardly believe it myself! April 25, 2012

Posted by Toy Lady in Cooking, Cuisine at Home, random stuff, soupe du semaine, Work.
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Well hello there.

It is I.

Things seem to be starting to settle down around here, at least for the moment – which, honestly?  It’s just a good thing!  Those moments that I haven’t been too exhausted to think a coherent thought?  I’ve been Mrs. Cranky Pants.

When I get busy,  I don’t have time for a lot of fiddle-faddle, yet some days that seems to be all I get – a lot of fiddle-faddle.

Sometimes I just want to smack someone.  Who that someone may be varies from day to day, but there’s always someone around who needs a good SMACK lately.


There are those evenings when I’m too tired to care about anything like eating.

Or the days when I’ve had to explain for the eleventy-thousandth time that, yes, it really is okay to have your board president pre-sign this purchase agreement, and that my office, acting as  YOUR COUNSEL, will HOLD IT IN ESCROW and NOT RELEASE it to ANYONE until everyone has agreed to all of the terms of the sale AND the agreement has been finalized AND the figures have been independently verified by an outside accounting firm.  Either that, or the board president can sit around and wait for all that to happen (and no, there’s no way to know exactly when that may be), and if the agreement’s not signed by the end of the day, the deal’s off and we try again the next day.  And let’s hope the rates don’t go up.

Fortunately, I’ve got Peeps here to help hold down the fort.


And so, while the rest of the world was enjoying 70- and 80-degree afternoons, I was cooped up in my office, juggling multiple bond sales, holding dozens of nervous clients’ hands, tracking down documents that should have been here yesterday, or getting seals on bonds that need to close in a couple of days, packaging random documents to go to random people, missing out on all that gorgeous weather.

And now, when it starts to settle down a bit, and I can consider less than a 10-hour day, well, you know what I get?


Let me say that again.

It’s been SNOWING.  IN APRIL.  Oh, not a lot of accumulation or anything, and it’s not even really that cold (except in the sense that it’s not 80 degrees anymore).  But still.


So I kind of thought it might be nice to share one more soup before soup season ends and salad season starts.

That, and I’d fully intended to post this a couple of weeks ago, but I only got as far as uploading the photos before Duty called.

I’m managed to put a gag on Duty for the time being, and here I am, with one of the most surprisingly tasty soups we’ve had in a long time.

I still get the Cuisine at Home e-newsletter, and about a month ago, there was this Chinese Chicken & Corn Soup.


Although I did kind of wonder if “Chinese” was politically correct – shouldn’t it be be “Asian” Chicken & Corn Soup?

Well, I don’t know.  But I do know that we had some leftover roasted chicken, and I picked up some nice snow peas at the market, and we still have most of a quart of Peeps’s sriracha in the fridge. . .

And it’s cold and vile out.  Perfect soup weather, if you ask me.

And I’m busy and tired.  Perfect opportunity for a quick, hearty soup, wouldn’t you say?

Here’s a printable version, just in case you’re interested.  Which of course you are.

Ahh. . . Gah-lic March 9, 2012

Posted by Toy Lady in Cooking, random stuff, soupe du semaine.
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Have I ever mentioned that we LOVE garlic around here?

PhotobucketWell, we do.  We’ve even planted garlic in the garden (this year’s is up already!).

In fact, when I was a teenager, I routinely ate cloves of raw garlic.  (Mostly, I think, because it drove my mother nuts, but, lest you think I was that kind of teenager, I liked it for its own sake too.)

And then, a few years back, I discovered roasted garlic.  And don’t get me wrong – roasted garlic has a lot going for it.  It’s mild, almost sweet, and it’s got, I don’t know, a kind of caramel-y, roasty thing going on.


It’s delightful.

But one thing it doesn’t have going for it is that it takes an hour to do.

If I’m going to wait an hour for something, there really needs to be pork involved.  I’m just sayin’.

But then!

Laura over at Hip Pressure Cooking has cracked the code!

She’s figured out how to “roast” garlic in the pressure cooker!

And, now that I have found a “source” for roasted garlic (yes, my pressure cooker) (I love my pressure cooker), once I had easy access to roasted garlic, it was time to revisit Bon Apetit’s recipe for roasted garlic soup.


It turns out, pressure-roasting the garlic takes EXACTLY the same amount of time under high pressure that soaked cannellini beans take. . . I think we can work with that, don’t you?

And then, add to that the fact that we just happened to have some roasted chicken left from, well, from roasting a chicken a few days prior, and I just knew there had to be a way to bring all those pieces together.

As an aside, I’ve gotta tell you this.

If you haven’t already jumped on the pressure cooker wagon for the beans alone, you’re already missing out.


But now?

Roasty garlic in five minutes?

Roasted garlic and beans in five minutes?

What are you waiting for?  Your soup could have been done by now!

So here’s what we did – we cooked about half a pound of (soaked) beans and roasted the garlic under high pressure for 5 minutes, then released the pressure, drained the beans,  squoze the garlic out of its skin, and added a wee splash of good olive oil.

Then, right in the same (now empty) pot (without the lid, it’s just a pot, you know), we melted a bit of butter, the cooked a whole onion that had been sliced into 1/4-inch slices with  the leaves from a good-sized sprig of thyme.  Once the onions were softened and translucent, add, oh, a couple more bulbs’ worth of whole garlic cloves, along with the roasted garlic.


This is garlic soup, you know.

Cook that a couple of minutes, then add a quart of chicken stock, cover and simmer about half an hour, until the garlic is completely tender.

Now for the fun part.

Take about half of the beans you cooked and set aside, and tossed them into the soup.

And then, working in batches (of course!) blend the mixture.  Unless you’re using a stick blender, which would work, but a traditional blender will give you more of a silky-smooth texture.  (If that matters to you.)


And now, you’re going to add the rest of the beans, along with maybe a cup or so of shredded cooked chicken (if you want) (you don’t have to).

We also added about half a cup of half-and-half before reheating, a bit of salt, and plenty of black pepper.

You can make this ahead, like we did, or you can return it all right back to the pot, heat through, and enjoy with grated parm and fresh bread.

You won’t be sorry you bought that pressure cooker.

Soup from the sea January 27, 2012

Posted by Peeps in Cook's Illustrated, Cooking, Food, random stuff, soupe du semaine.
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Okay, last week I told you about a recipe we did that we found in Cook’s Country.  This week, it’s one from the parent magazine, Cook’s Illustrated.

They had a one page article on fish chowder. They wanted to get a fresher, cleaner flavor from the 18th century classic and it looked not only really good, but very easy as well. And since Cook’s Illustrated is seldom easy, we decided to give it a try.


You start by melting two tablespoons of butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add to that two small diced onions, 4 ounces of salt pork cut into two pieces, one and a half teaspoons of fresh thyme, one bay leaf and three quarters of a teaspoon of salt.


Cook, stirring, until the onions are soft, but not brown. That should take about five minutes.  Then add five cups of water and bring to a simmer.


Once the water is simmering, turn the heat off and add two pounds of cod fillets or other flaky white fish that has been cut into six roughly equal pieces. We used Alaskan whitefish that we got on sale.

Cover the pan and let the it stand until the fish is almost cooked through, about five minutes.


Remove the fish with a spatula and place in a bowl. Bring the pan back on the heat and add one and a half pounds of Yukon Gold potates that have been peeled and cut into a half inch dice.


Simmer potatoes until they’re tender, about twenty minutes.


While the potatoes are cooking, in a small bowl or large mixing cup, whisk together 2 cups of milk, one tablespoon of cornstarch and half a teaspoon of pepper.


Once the potatoes are done, add the milk mixture to the pot and bring back to a simmer. The add the fish along with any juices the fish gave off back into the pot.


Cover the pot and remove from heat and let stand for five minutes. Then remove the bay leaf and the salt pork from the pot and gently stir to break the fish into smaller pieces. Season to taste and serve with oyster crackers.


Start to finish, this took about an hour. And it was wonderful! It had a very clean, fresh flavor and the taste of the fish was not hidden at all. And since the recipe makes a bunch of soup, we were glad to find out that it reheats beautifully.

Even if you’re not a huge fan of fish, like my wife, this is well worth making. You might want to divide the recipe by half if you have a small household, or don’t want to be eating the leftovers for a few days. But definitely, give it a try.  It’s worth an hour of your time.