Sunday, October 30, 2005

I have no words.

A long setup before I offer up a recipe:

Well, it's fall. The temperatures are (somewhat) cooler, the leaves are changing colors and then abruptly dropping off the trees into crunchy piles on the ground, a hat and mittens have become must-haves for the early mornings at work, and I have been craving fall food. Pumpkin, sweet potato, apples, baked goods, and . . . soup. After a long, nearly soup-free summer, I'm back, baby.

Now, soup is one of my all-time favorite foods. Why, you ask? Well, it's warm, comforting, easy to make, freezable, usually a "meal in one," and one of the few "leftovers" that I'll actually eat. If I have soup in the fridge, dinner's nearly done when I walk in the door from work. A nice lunch, too, especially with a grilled cheese sandwich.

I admit, I'm a bit of a soup snob. (Well, I'm a food snob -- see new title for my bloggie?) I grew up eating nearly all homemade soups -- vegetable beef barley, ham and bean, chicken noodle, chicken rice, turkey noodle, chili, and so on. Soup in its canned form did not grace my parents' pantry shelves, unless it was the "cream of" variety, which would subsequently be poured into a casserole or over a chicken bake. Strangely enough, I don't recall tasting Campbell's tomato soup until well after graduate school . . . I thought I didn't like tomato soup, when in actuality, I don't think I'd ever had canned tomato soup. (I do actually like tomato soup, and it's the only canned soup I'll buy.)

I have been craving chicken noodle soup lately, which is unusually odd, since I am a vegetarian. (I still think fall and winter make us crave the foods of our childhood -- I'm not sure why. Any ideas?) So, I attempted to create a vegetarian chicken noodle soup . . . and oh baby, I have no words. This is a complete, fantastic, culinary triumph on my part. (If I do say so myself.) I think I have nearly replicated the flavors and textures most people come to expect from chicken noodle soup, in a completely vegetarian form. (Well, if we're splitting hairs, it's technically vegan.) So, here's the recipe.


1. Heat 2 to 4 tablespoons olive or canola oil in a large soup pot. Add a heaping cup each chopped carrot, celery, and onion, and 4 minced cloves garlic. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, or until the onion and celery just starts to turn translucent.
2. Add 6 cups of vegetable broth, 2 bay leaves, and 10 good cranks of black pepper to the pot. Bring this to a boil.
3. Add 1 cup frozen peas and 1/3 to 1/2 a package of whole-wheat fettuccine, broken in 1 to 2 inch pieces, to the pot. Return the soup to a boil, then lower the heat, cover partially, and simmer 15 minutes.
4. Stir in 2 cups cooked chickpeas, 1 heaping tablespoon minced fresh parsley, 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced, and the juice of one lemon. Heat through. Taste and add a little more salt if needed. Remove bay leaves before serving.

(One quick note about the herbs -- look in your market's fresh herb section for a "Scarborough Mix" -- parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme. Save the sage for pumpkin soup, use the rest for this, and you only have to buy one package of herbs, which can get quite expensive otherwise! Also, one quick note about the broth -- it's essential you buy good broth, obviously. Some vegetable broths I've bought have been quite thick, whereas others have been thinner. I'd vote for a thinner broth in this recipe, since you're going for a soup consistency, as opposed to a stew.)

Finally, there is a LOT of "stuff" in this soup -- if you prefer more broth to "stuff," use less veggies and chickpeas, or increase the amount of broth. But I'm a "stuff" girl, often leaving the broth at the end of my soup adventures untouched. So it's just the way I like it. I encourage you to make it just the way you like it!

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Spicy Sweet Potato and Coconut Soup (and Little Oaties, too!)

Yes . . . it's as good as it sounds. And even hotter. (Chels, this would knock the Jon-O-Meter clear out to Jupiter. I wouldn't even attempt, unless you're going to eat it all!) ;-)

1. Bake 3 large sweet potatoes for 50 minutes at 400. Cool, skin, and cut into chunks. Reserve.
2. Peel and mince a 2-inch piece of ginger. Chop one onion. Cook both in 1 tablespoon oil 5 minutes.
3. Stir in 1 tablespoon red curry paste, and cook 1 minute.
4. Add 15 oz coconut milk and 3 cups vegetable broth. (If you'd like ths soup to serve more as a meal, stir in 1 package extra-firm tofu, squeezed dry and cut into bite-sized pieces, at this point, too.) Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes.
5. Add potato chunks and simmer 5 minutes.
6. Stir in 3 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice, 1 tsp salt, and a small handfull of cilantro, minced. Serve with a drizzle of toasted sesame oil.

(This is from a copy of "Real Simple" magazine, that I was reading last night while babysitting.)

Now, I have to say, in its original form, this may be a bit too hot for my tastes. (My nose was running while I was eating this earlier.) If you have a more conservative palate like me, I'd consider starting with half as much ginger and curry paste, and moving up from there if you'd like more heat.

I've never really liked spicy food, until very recently. (Like, in the past year or so.) In a way, I see it as a bit of a challenge -- how much can I actually eat before I have to quit because I can no longer feel my lips?

I also made cookies tonight from "Sinfully Vegan" -- a vegan baking book I borrowed from my coworker Joey. They are pretty darn tasty! (I made a quarter-recipe, which was just over 2 dozen small cookies -- enough for me for a week or two! I also made a few minor changes to the recipe, including using whole wheat pastry flour instead of barley flour, and adding chocolate chips and pecans.)

Little Oaties:
Combine 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons maple syrup, 2 tablespoons raw sugar, 1 tablespoon applesauce, 1/4 cup canola oil, and 1/2 tsp vanilla. Stir in 3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour, 1 1/2 cups oats, and 1/4 tsp baking soda. Stir in 1/4 cup each chocolate chips and chopped pecans. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes on greased cookie sheets. Gobble.

Saturdays Rock, short delve into philosophy, Friday recap, and rambling.

Saturdays just plain rock. You can get up whenever you want to, stay in your jammies as long as you like, and wander aimlessly through the day if you feel like it.

I have been blog-neglectful lately, and have recently decided to remedy that problem. I have many random thoughts that I need to share.

So, I was babysitting last night and reading one of their copies of the magazine "Real Simple" while Feury was watching Scooby-Doo. I read something interesting in the mag about why, as adults, time seems to fly past so quickly. (I found this especially interesting because this past week seemed to go very fast for me. But I'm not complaining -- again, Saturday rocks.) Someone once told me that as you age, time seems to pass more quickly because each day is a smaller percentage of your overall life, thus it feels shorter. (As a 2-year-old, one month is one twenty-fourth of your whole life, whereas as a 26-year-old, one month is one three-hundred-and-twelfth of your life. Makes sense?) However, psychologists have a different theory, according to this article. Aparently, as adults, our lives become more routinized than when we were children, so our days seem indistinguishable from one another. Thus, time seems to fly, because it's all bleeding together in one blur of same-activity-ness. Interesting, eh? What do you think?

Yesterday was actually a pretty sucky day, for a Friday. Work was more than a little insane, we had an initial conference after school, I was mega-overtired (I slept quite poorly Thursday night,) and then I went babysitting. At least that part was easy . . . (I ate supper with Feury, watched most of a movie while he played video games -- his mom told him he could, played a couple board games with him, read a magazine while he watched Scooby-Doo, and then put him to bed) . . . until Missy paid me and I realized I had nowhere to put the cash she gave me. (Meaning I had forgotten my purse at work. Highly unlike me. I don't think I've ever forgotten my purse anywhere before in my life!) So, at 11 p.m. last night, I drove BACK to West Saint Paul and retrieved my purse from our office. Boy, was I mad at myself. And really stinking tired when I got home.

I should probaby get dressed here pretty soon and head out to run some errands. I desperately need groceries, and two friends have the same birthday this weekend! Need cards and gifts. And I want to make soup, so I better get crackin'.

But I'm awfully hungry. I should probably eat breakfast first. And I borrowed a cookbook from one of my coworkers about vegan baking that is calling to be browsed. We'll have to see what I accomplish, I guess!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

As American As . . .

Apple Pie*

(Makes one 8-inch pie, which is enough for 8 to 12 servings, depending on how big you slice them!)

(This is courtesy of my Betty Crocker cookbook, by the way.)

Purchase a refrigerated piecrust, OR, make your own:
Combine 2 cups flour with 1 teaspoon salt. Cut in 2/3 cup fat of your choice (butter, shortening, lard, or a combination of the two. If you use shortening or butter, add an additional 2 tbsp fat, since both contain some water.) Toss in 4 to 5 tablespoons cold water, just until the dough almost cleans the side of the bowl. Gather dough into a ball and shape into a big, flat, round piece using a rolling pin. Turn out into a pie plate. Flute the edges.

Combine 1/3 cup sugar, 1/4 cup flour, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp nutmeg, and a dash of salt. Toss with 8 cups sliced peeled apples. Transfer to pie plate and arrange nicely if you care to. (Or do what I did, and just mound them in there as high as you can without the apple mountain toppling over.)

Combine 1/2 cup flour and 1/4 cup brown sugar. Cut in 4 tablespoons butter. Sprinkle/pat onto apple mixture.

Bake pie at 425 degrees for 50 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbly. Keep an eye on the crust edges and struesel topping -- if they begin to brown way before the pie is fully cooked, make a tent out of foil for the pie. You may also want to put a cookie sheet on the rack below the pie while it bakes in case the pie overflows. (Easier to scrub a cookie sheet than the floor of your oven, righty-o?) Cool for a little while (like 15 minutes or so,) before slicing and serving.

* Why apple pie today, you ask? Well, we made two with the kids this morning. (An apple peeler-corer-slicer helps a lot when you try to do this with a classroomfull of kiddos.) And by golly, they were absolutely pie-tastic, if I do say so myself. And all the kids' grown-ups were incredibly impressed. And almost every child gobbled up the pie. Happy times in the Willow Room.

** Why the struesel topping instead of the traditional 2-crust pie? Well, to save a little fat per serving, and also because I didn't request enough pie crusts when I filled out our snack list a week ago. Sometimes I'm a moron....

Monday, October 24, 2005


So, over a month ago, I was at IKEA with Ann and Michelle and I saw some girl walk past with an "I heart MPLS" t-shirt. (It looked just like the classic "I heart NY" tee, but obviously replacing the "NY" with "MPLS.") I have been kicking myself ever since, because I didn't stop her and ask her where she got it. And I want one. And I've been searching, google-aided, for a half an hour now, to no avail. Michelle thought you could get them at, but I didn't see them. Grr!

Sooooo . . . my dear friends . . . help! If you happen to know someone who has one of these, or know where I can get one, lemme know! (In a perfect world, I'd find one that was cut for girls. "Unisex" tees just don't work on me -- I'm FAR too short.)

The only t-shirt I want more than an "I heart MPLS" shirt is an 89.3 The Current shirt. Can't buy those. Garn.

Sunday, October 23, 2005


Yes indeedy, I went shopping today. And boy did I need it! After my adventures in reforming my diet, getting more exercise, and other excitement since the start of the year, I had lost 20 pounds. (And on someone who's 5 feet 2, 20 pounds is a lot more weight than it sounds like!) And I had finally hit a wall in my frustration with my wardrobe. I was tired, tired, TIRED of EVERYTHING being 2 sizes too big. So I went to Old Navy. And also to Target.

And now I have new cheap jeans for work, a few new long sleeved t-shirts, a couple of shirts to wear "out" (including a pale yellow t-shirt that has a nice retro repro of "Yellow Submarine" on it -- I'll have to wear it to work sometime because the kids love that song!) and a couple of new skirts and dressier sweaters for church and other dress-up type occasions (including my cousin's wedding, which is months away, but in mid March it will still be very cold out, but everything out on the racks will be frilly and summery. And I don't want to freeze.) Man, that was a long run-on sentence. I'm just so excited about my new clothes, I can't stop to punctuate.

And I also need to find a good tailor. My lone suit is far too big, and I have some dress pants and a couple of fantastic wool skirts I just can't bear to part with that are also far too big. Any ideas?

In unrelated news, the heat has yet to turn on in my apartment, and it's more than a bit chilly. I feel like hibernating.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

weirder and weirder and weirder

The latest Oliver shenanigans? I made toasted pumpkin seeds tonight, and he kept trying to eat them! I had to move the cookie sheet off the table and onto the kitchen counter to persuade him to bugger off!

Why did I make toasted pumpkin seeds, you ask? Well, because I cooked a pumpkin, and made . . .


(by the way, I made up this recipe and the amounts are approximate, so bear with me)

1. Sweat one small onion, finely chopped, one small sweet potato, peeled and finely chopped, and 3 or 4 cloves of garlic depending on size, minced, in a good amount of extra virgin olive oil until soft.
2. Add a rounded teaspoonful of vegetable bouillon, a few good shakes each garam masala, curry powder, and ground ginger. Continue cooking for a minute or two to toast the spices.
3. Add about a cup and a half of water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and stir in just over 2 cups of cooked pie pumpkin. Continue simmering for about 15 minutes or so.
4. The soup should be very thick at this point, with bits of onion and sweet potato throughout. Puree the soup in 2 batches in your blender with about 3/4 of a cup of half and half, split between the batches. Salt and pepper to taste, then cool and chill if you aren't serving it right away. Garnish with toasted pumpkin seeds! YUM!

If you don't care for curry powder, omit that and the garam masala, and use pumpkin pie spice instead. The soup would also be good with a bunch of slivered fresh sage sauteed at the beginning with the onion, but the sage would have fought with the curry, so I left sage out. This time.

And I have a bunch of cooked pumpkin left yet, so I plan on making mini pumpkin pies SANS crust sometime soon. (AKA, pumpkin custards.) Perhaps yet tonight. We'll see how ambitious I'm feeling.