Celebrate Summer

For me, summer means corn.  Lots and lots of corn.  On the cob, sautéed, in corn pudding.  Corn everywhere.  There really isn’t anything like fresh corn on the cob, with just a little bit of butter and salt.

My grandmother used to come home with sweet corn every. single. day. in the summer because my grandfather loved it so.  He’d eat several ears each night.  Which meant lots of shucking corn took place pre-dinner.  We’d sit on the deck, the afternoon sun turning into a cooler evening one,  a paper bag between us and see who could shuck faster.  It still feels a bit wrong to me to shuck corn inside.

It’s been a bit gray here for the last few days, which is not something I’m complaining about since prior to these dark(er) days, it’s been sunny, 90+ degrees and humid.  It’s nice to have some relief and a change.  It also means that I can use corn in another favorite way, chowder.

Last year I read somewhere about making corn broth.  I tried it and was blown away.  Sweet, light, fresh and delicate.  I put it into a corn chowder and could truly taste the difference.  Of course, I can’t remember where I read about it and I have the suspicious feeling that I may have blogged about it at the time– a quick search through the posts here and I couldn’t find it so maybe I just thought really hard about blogging it.  Or maybe this is my second time talking about it which would suggest that you really should try it; it’s that good.

So, based on my need for corn broth, I threw together this chowder recipe.  It’s more of a soup than a chowder because while it’s cooler here, 70’s does not scream thick, heavy chowder to me.  Let’s call it more of a summer chowder.  Chowder-lite.  Nothing lite about the taste though.  And you’ll still have to shuck corn.  Ready?  Go!

Summer Corn Chowder

Ingredients

4-6 ears of corn, shucked

about 8 small red potatoes (or one to two larger)

half of a large onion or one small onion (I prefer sweet but yellow would be fine)

one half to one of a sweet red pepper (optional for those of you who don’t like pepper)

1 Tablespoon butter

2 Tablespoons flour

2-3 cups corn broth (wait for it, I’ll tell you how) or chicken broth or veg broth or water

1/2-1 cup milk

Directions

First, we make the broth.  Cut the kernels off of the ears of corn.  Set them aside, as we’ll be using them later.  Using a fork, sort of scrape down the ears of corn into a large soup pot.  Throw in the ears themselves and add enough water to cover.  Bring it to a boil and then let it simmer for as long as you can.  You may need to add more water if it gets too low (i.e. most of the cob isn’t covered).  I was somewhat lazy when I cut my kernels off.  You can see that there are some still on.

photo 2

After it simmers for at least an hour or longer if you like, take out the ears of corn and discard them.  They’ve served their delicious purpose.  Pour the broth through a fine sieve so that all the solids stay behind.

photo 3You will be left with what looks like, unfortunately, urine.  Which can lead to some funny conversations if left in your fridge in a glass container.  But if you take a spoonful, you will be rewarded with the light, delicate, sweet flavor of corn in liquid form.  Try not to drink it all please.

photo 4Now that the broth is made, get to work on the rest.  Peel and chop your onion.  Clean and chop your pepper and potatoes.  Small dice is good for the onion, a little bit chunkier for the potato.

photo 1Melt the butter over medium heat in a heavy soup or stock pot.  Once it’s melted, add the onion and saute until soft- don’t let it burn or brown.  You may need to lower the heat.

photo 5 Add the rest of the vegetables and cook for a few more minutes, until they are soft as well.  Nothing should burn or brown.  Sprinkle the flour all over and stir well.  Let it cook over medium heat for a minute in order to get the raw flour taste out.

photo 2Pour the broth in and stir.  It will thicken a bit- I used a bit less flour because I wanted it thick but not too thick- feel free to experiment with this to taste.

photo 3Let everything simmer until the potatoes are soft and then season to taste with salt and pepper.  You can add a little bit of milk as well, to make it even more creamy or you can serve without.  Either way, it’s the perfect cold-for-summer-weather-soup.

photo 4

Go To Foods

As you can see, it’s harder for me to post these days.  Work is so busy and both kids have hit strange sleeping phases which pretty much eat up my whole evenings.  This too shall pass.

The direct result of this is that I end up cooking the same old standbys for dinner.  I’m not so creative in my cooking when I have exactly an hour from when I set foot in the house to when my kids will begin to melt-down without eating.  Especially when that hour is also time for keeping the almostthisclosetowalking baby off the stairs, out of the dog’s dishes and off of his sister’s hair (he has a hair fetish.  I have no idea why.  If he can pull hair he is the happiest child alive and he will go to great lengths (ha!) to reach any available hair).

My most recent go-to food is from a blog called Brave Tart.  It is written by a CIA trained pastry chef, Stella Parks, who lives in Kentucky and has her own restaurant.  Her desserts have won awards and she has a number of posts about re-creating those processed desserts of our childhoods- fruit roll ups, keebler fudge strips and nutter butters, to name a few.  She also has this dish which is so, so good.  I’ve made it about ten times in the last two months.  It’s quick, easy, healthy and delicious.  I could not recommended it more.

Oyakodon (as written by Brave Tart)

Ingredients

1 large onion

2 Tablespoons of oil (Brave Tart says to use a neutral flavored oil, I like sesame or peanut)

2 Tablespoons of sugar

1/4 cup soy sauce

1 1/2 cups chicken stock or broth (you could use vegetable or beef)

4 eggs

2-4 cups rice, cooked and hot (I use Jasmine)

Optional:

1 cup shredded (cooked) chicken or meat (this time around, I had none)

1-2 cups of vegetables (I used sugar snap peas and spinach because that’s what I had)

Directions

Peel and slice your onion.  Heat the oil on medium heat and let the onion get slightly golden- should take about 15 minutes.

photo 1

Wash and slice up your vegetables.

photo 2

Once your onions are golden (not browned), add your vegetables.  I didn’t add the spinach right away because it would have gotten too wilt-y.photo 3

Once your vegetables are tender, add the sugar, soy sauce, and broth.  You can add the meat here as well if you’re using it.

photo 4

Let this cook over medium heat for a few minutes.  I added my spinach at this point.

photo 5Let this cook until the spinach is wilty.

photo 1In a separate bowl, crack your eggs and whisk them together.  Pour them into your pan along the side and let them sit for about a  minute.  You can then start to scramble them into the broth.

photo 2Meanwhile, cook your rice.  I do it in my rice cooker.  I’ve also used day-old rice as well, heated up, and that’s been fine too.  Put some into a bowl.

photo 4With a slotted spoon, fish out the meat and vegetables and spoon them over the rice.  Pour the broth down the side of the bowl (in order to maintain the most clumpiness as possible).

photo 5It may not be that pretty but oh, it is just so delicious.  I may even make it tonight.

Love Story

When I started my pre-doctoral internship, I did it at a site an hour and fifteen minutes from my house.  I figured I could do anything for a year.  In the end, I worked there for over three years and it was one of the best experiences of my life.  What I learned both professionally and personally has stayed with me over the years.  I could go on and on but what I want to tell you about now is one of the people I worked with there.

J. was the other predoctoral intern with me.  I met her for the first time on the day we both went for a tour.  My first impression was that she was gorgeous and clearly incredibly smart.  As the months went by, we became closer and closer and I began to admire her even more.  She was a mother and had given birth to her son at a young age. She was blessed with supportive parents and while her child’s father did not stay in her life, she raised her son and graduated from high school, college and graduate school (predoctoral internship, remember)?
J. was (and still is) kind, compassionate, smart, loving and always ready to see the best and have faith in  those around her.  She will always give those in her life second and third and fourth chances and will always encourage them to do their best.  As you can imagine, this can be both a positive and negative quality.

When I knew her best, J. was involved with a man she’d met a few years prior.  Their relationship was difficult with extreme highs and lows.  They became engaged a few months after I did and they were guests at my wedding.  J. and I began to lose touch after that when she left our common workplace.  We spoke a few times and through our emails and facebook, I saw that she had broken her engagement, met someone new and moved across the country after marrying him.  From all that I can tell now, this was the best decision she ever made.

She and her new husband are incredibly well suited, incredibly happy and, I must say, incredibly beautiful.  J. has found a happy ending to her love story.

But nothing in life is that cut and dry, black and white.  While she’s happy now, she could only get there by taking the path she did.  Her relationship with her former fiancée was difficult but had some good points as well.  One of them was this stew.  She posted about it on Facebook recently and it looked so good that I immediately emailed her, demanding the recipe.  She responded with some guidelines and I went to work.

I cooked a dish that I have never eaten.  I have no idea what it should look or taste like but it did end up being delicious.  I used J’s guidelines and searched the internet for cachupa rica.  This is what I ended up with- the wrong kind of corn (couldn’t find samp so had to use hominy), no plantains but, in the end, still delicious, filling and hardy.  Good for a cold day.  Plus, it made me think about J and her love story the whole time.  Made me happy.

Cachupa Rica (with deepest apologies to all Cape Verdens everywhere)

Ingredients

6 cups golden samp (I used plain hominy because I couldn’t find samp)

4 cups of beans (I used canned kidney and pinto)- You could use dry and soak them with the samp beforehand.

Meats of your choosing.  I used:

chicken thighs (about 4-6 boneless, skinless)

bacon (I used a package)

Chorizo sausage

country stye pork ribs

1 large onion

Lots of garlic

2 peeled carrots, cut into chunks

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks

between 6-10 cups of chicken broth

Directions:

I made it all in one pot.  J. makes it across several.  Because I used canned hominy and beans, I didn’t need to cook them separately.

Start by chopping up your bacon and browning it in a large pot.  Take out the bacon once it is crisp and add your sausage (chopped).  Let that brown up as well and then take it out and set it aside with the bacon.

Season your chicken with salt and pepper.  Add them to the pot with the bacon/sausage fat and brown them as well.

Once they’re brown on each side, set them aside with the bacon and sausage.

Finally, brown your short ribs in the pot.

It’s a lot of meat.  (insert dirty comment here)  Now, chop up your onion and garlic and brown it in the pot with all the fat left from the meat.  Maybe not all.  Maybe drain a bit of the fat, leaving about a tablespoon.

While the onions are cooking, peel and roughly chop your sweet potato and carrots.

Add them to the onions and let them brown a bit as well.

Once the veggies have started to soften and brown a little, add the hominy.

Add the beans and meats back in and then cover the whole thing with chicken broth.  Let it simmer over lowish heat for a long time.

J.  suggests making a sofrito of onion, garlic and tomato paste which you can then add for more flavor.  She also suggests a bay leaf or two (removed before serving) and some coriander.  Not my favorite flavors so I left them out.  J. also reminded me that if you were using samp and dry beans, you’d want to let them get good and tender (about an hour) before adding the veggies and meats back in- otherwise they’ll get too soft and be mushy.

Serve with lots of broth.  Mmmm.

J also suggests frying some of it the next morning (minus the broth), letting a good crisp form on the hominy/samp, and serving it with fried eggs.  I could see that being delicious.

Pioneering

Well, hello there again!  Come on in, grab a seat.  Just move that basket of laundry aside (It’s clean, I promise), and, oh, wait, don’t sit on the crayons, let me move those.  Would you like something to drink?  I have….. milk, water and juice.  Hmm.  Apparently we have no wine or beer.  Anyway, would you like a snack?  I have, um, pretzels, snap-pea crisps and, um, baby yogurt.  Hmmm.  Apparently we don’t have much food.  Well, let’s chat about life.  What’s been going on with me?  Um….  actually, nothing.  Considering how much “free” time I have, it’s surprising how little I get done.  Mostly I spend time with my two kids- one is at daycare most days- and do laundry.  Lots of laundry.  Loads of laundry, if you will.

Sometimes I do watch television, though.  Mostly Food TV, Big Bang Theory re-runs on TBS and, sadly, various shows on Bravo (Millionaire Matchmaker and Tabatha Takes Over have sucked me in, hardcore.).  I recently got to watch an episode of The Pioneer Woman.  Now, I’ve been reading the blog for years and I love her recipes, her photographs and her story of falling in love with her husband (she was a city girl who fell in love with a cowboy and who moved to the middle of nowhere to live with him on a ranch.  She has four children and her life is magical- at least the public face of it.  Anytime I’m fed-up with my life, I click on her blog and daydream about moving somewhere isolated where I can simply spend time with my children and cook.  Then I return to reality.).  But I didn’t love her show.  She comes across differently in her writing than she does on television. Which is not a criticism, exactly, since who knows what it’s like to be on television?  I’d probably come across really differently too.

Anyway, I ended up making two recipes from that show and, who’s surprised, not only am I not the next iron chef, I am also not the pioneer woman.  The soup came out well- I’ll link to both her recipe and give you my take on it below- but the pots de creme did not work for me.  I followed her recipe exactly but for whatever reason, it didn’t set.  This is one of my continual kitchen issues.  Puddings just don’t set for me.  I did manage to fix it by cooking it in a water bath for a few minutes.  It ended up a bit like creme brulee- the top got a bit harder (read: slightly burnt) but the inside was silky smooth.

I may not be the pioneer woman, but I can pretend, right?

The Pioneer Woman’s Corn Chowder & Pots De Creme

Failure first:

The link to her Pot De Creme here.

I followed it exactly but used vanilla rather than grand marnier.  I don’t actually like chocolate and orange together.  As I said, they didn’t set but I fixed that with a bit of a bake in the oven.

Whipped cream will cover a multitude of sins.

Notice the “creme brulee” top.

Link to The Pioneer Woman’s Corn and Cheese Chowder here.

I actually followed her recipe pretty closely but I will admit, I did not measure anything.

I chopped the veggies.

Meanwhile, I cooked the onions in butter. I let mine get a bit darker than recommended.

I chopped the bacon (it’s easier to chop if it’s frozen and I tend to keep bacon in the freezer so that I always have some on hand- everything is better with bacon.) and added it to the onions.

Once the bacon and onions have cooked, add the chopped veggies.

Let those cook a bit as well.  Then add the corn.  I used frozen, the Pioneer Woman used fresh.

Sprinkle the flour over the veggies.

Stir and let the flour cook for a minute or two.  Then add the broth.

As it cooks, it will get thicker and creamy.  Add the milk or half and half or cream or whatever.

After that simmers for about fifteen minutes, add the cheese and let it all melt.

Mmmm.  So good.  The husband loved it (it has bacon) and he’s not generally a soup guy.

I may not be the Pioneer Woman but at least I can pretend sometimes.

Bits and Pieces

So, what to do when food is the enemy, your time is limited and your father is in town visiting for a week?

Actually, food is no longer the enemy for me, I seem to have figured out what/how much/when to eat so that my blood sugar is under control and the nausea seems to have subsided for now.  I can’t do much about the heartburn, thank you third trimester.  My time also isn’t as limited as it could be- I am finally, somewhat caught up at work so that I don’t have a mountain of testing reports to write.  Instead, I have a number of kids to test and an equal number of reports to write.  But my father is here visiting for the week and so the free time I have, I want to spend with him.

Playing with her Choo-Choos and Grandpa.

So, I did meal plan for the week and will give you the run down.  I also did a bunch of prep for the week.  And I’m thinking about holiday baking already.  It’s a big day.

Tonight we’re having Asian Chicken Soup.  I’ve baked off the chicken for it, using some salt and some Chinese Five Spice Powder.

Monday we’re havingFalafel and salad.  Tuesday we’ll be eating fish and veggies (or chicken and veggies if you’re my dad).  Wednesday is squash mac and cheese, for which I roasted the squash today.

Thursday is quiche and Friday is african chicken soup.  What can I say?  I’m on a soup kick.

I also made cookie dough today which I will roll into logs and freeze so that a few days before December vacation I can slice them, bake them off and come into school a hero.  I made chocolate peanut butter chip* and an experiment of chocolate peppermint.  Same chocolate dough, but with peppermint extract and crushed peppermint candies.

So there you have it, my week in food.  I promise more exciting posts to come but for now, this will have to do.  I have toddlers with whom I need to play and fathers with whom I need to visit.

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*As I went looking for the link to the recipe, I realized I’ve never posted it, which is shocking!  I’ll post it here but 1) I have no photos and 2) credit goes to the back of the Reese’s Peanut Butter Chip bag.  Every time I make it, I think, “That’s a lot of sugar, I should cut back, I bet it doesn’t need that much.” and every time I make it, I never do.  So, you decide how you want to roll.

Chocolate Cookie

Ingredients

2 cups white flour

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 cups butter (about 2 1/2 sticks), soft but not melted

2 cups sugar

2 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract (or peppermint if you’re doing what I did)

1 bag peanut butter chips  (or about 1 bag crushed peppermint candies)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line baking sheets with parchment or silpat.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt.  In the bowl of a mixer, beat the sugar and butter until combined and fluffy.  Add eggs and the extract you’re using and mix again.  Slowly add the flour to the butter mixture- it will be messy.  Reese’s bag says to do it in several parts, I always dump it in, as my approach to baking really is pretty loose.  Stir in the chips or peppermints.

Drop by spoonfuls onto cookie sheets and bake 8-9 minutes.  Leave some space between them as the will spread and puff up while baking. They will then also fall a bit when you take them out, which is ok.

 

Confessions

I have to confess something.

Food is currently not my friend.

I’ve been having a hard few weeks.  When I’m pregnant, I apparently get gestational diabetes.  It happened when I was carrying Super G. and it’s happening now with the boy.  Last time it was easily diet controlled, this time I’m having a harder time.  Which makes me feel six thousand kinds of guilt and shame since food/weight/body image is such a tender spot for me.  In real life I’m short, strong, healthy and overweight.  I work out a lot (or did before I had Super G.- did triathlons and whatnot) and eat well.  My weight has always been high and I’ve always worried about it- in healthy and not so healthy ways.  So to be diagnosed with gestational diabetes, despite all the lectures from all the doctors about how it’s a hormonal thing, not a weight thing (though there is some debate about that as being overweight is one of the risk factors), just doesn’t sit well with me.

Add to this the fact that I’m apparently back to my first/second trimester routine of nausea/vomiting at random times of day and third trimester constant heartburn, well, I can’t find anything I want to eat.  I’ll eat something- say last night’s chicken/green beans/little bit of stuffing & mashed potatoes- and then an hour or two later, nope, not at all what I wanted.  Ick.

Tonight, though, I thought of and made exactly what I wanted.  Soup.  Which is what I craved during the first few weeks of pregnancy, which was weird since it was spring-moving-into-summer.  Tonight, however, soup is both appropriate and hardy.  I threw together a vegetable soup which could easily be totally vegetarian if you use veg broth rather than chicken.  I used what I had in the house so it’s a random assortment of veggies but it worked.  Seeing all the brightly colored veggies in the pot cheered me immensely.  And so far, it’s staying down.

Vegetable Soup

Ingredients

Broth- I used about 6 cups of chicken but you could easily use more/less depending on how much soup you want and you could also use vegetable broth

1/2 onion, chopped

2 carrots, peeled and chopped

3 stalks celery, washed and chopped

1 can stewed tomatoes

1 can white beans, drained and rinsed (you could also use kidney or any other kind, I think.)

about half a cup of green beans, chopped into smallish pieces

frozen corn- I used about 1/4-1/2 a cup

1 small white potato, peeled and chopped into cubes

olive oil, salt, pepper

Optional:  small pasta such as orzo or stelline (which I like because they look like stars and when you’re down on food, who doesn’t love stars as a staple?) and parm cheese

Directions:

In a soup pot over medium heat, saute the onions, carrots and celery until soft.  Add the rest of the veggies and cook for about two to five minutes.

See?  How can that not cheer you up if you’re feeling badly about food?  So bright and colorful!

Add broth to cover and then let the soup simmer for a bit.  How long?  At least until the potatoes are tender.  I think mine sat for about twenty minutes.  At the tail end you can either add your pasta to the soup and let it cook or you can cook it separately and add it to the bowls as you serve.  If you do put it directly into the soup, know that it will get both somewhat mushy and soak up a huge amount of broth, which may need replenishing when re-heating the leftovers.

Not as pretty now, but still good.

Serve with a little bit of parm cheese on top or plain.  Season to taste.  You could add some oregano, basil and/or garlic but I wanted mine plain.

Again, not so pretty but mighty yummy and good for you too!  Just the thing if you’ve overindulged on T-giving pies and cakes.

Scary Dinner

I love Halloween.  The candy, the costumes, the chance to make your food fun.  This year for dinner we had Eyeball Soup, Pumpkin Grilled Cheese, Worms and Dirt, Spiderweb Eggs and Ghastly Ghosts.  Mmmmmm.  The best part?  After dinner we took the toddler trick or treating- and she actually SAID “trick or treat!”

Scary Dinner 2011

Eyeball Soup

Based on this martha stewart recipe.

Ingredients:

1 onion, chopped

3 tablespoons butter

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 cans crushed tomatoes

1 quart chicken broth

salt, pepper, oregano, basil (to taste)

1-2 cups half and half, milk, or cream

small balls of fresh mozzarella

several olives stuffed with pimento

Directions:

Melt the butter in a soup pot over medium heat.  Add the onion and garlic and cook until the onion is soft but not brown.  Don’t let the garlic burn.  Add the tomatoes and then the broth.  Stir and let it warm up.  Add the spices, turn the heat down to a simmer and let it cook for about 45 minutes.  (I did all of this ahead and let it sit in the fridge overnight)

Let it cool a little bit and then run it through the blender in batches until it’s smooth.  Or use a stick blender in the pot (won’t get as smooth but if you’re not Martha Stewart, you might not care).  Return to the heat and slowly whisk in the dairy (milk, cream, whatever). It will lighten it up and you can do this to taste as well.  Let it sit on low heat while you make the eyeballs.

Slice your olives into thirds.  Make sure to keep the pimento intact.

Using a small melon baller- or maybe a tiny spoon?-  scoop out a little bit of the mozzarella ball.

Place the third-ed olive into the dent left in the cheese and you’ll have some eyeballs.

You could even have a whole plate of them, just staring at you.

Float them in the soup after you ladle it into bowls.  Creepy.

We served this with grilled cheese pumpkins- just cut the pumpkin shape out before you grill the bread.

We also had spiderweb eggs, from this Martha Stewart recipe.  It’s a clever idea but since I don’t peel eggs well, I delegated that task to the husband. Who discovered that they don’t peel easily and also look better when you leave on the membrane.  Ick. I couldn’t get a really good photo of these but they were pretty neat.

Finally, we had worms in dirt, again, thanks to Martha Stewart.  It’s basically canned black beans, heated and chopped and then hot dogs boiled and arranged.  Still, sort of fun.  Just make sure you cut your hot dogs thin enough.  Start by cutting them in half.

Then cut them in slices- if you’re really careful, you could probably get about four from each half.  I was not careful and ended up with odd numbers. Mine were also a little thick.

Throw these into a pot of boiling water and when they start to curl, take them out.  Spread your black beans on a plate and then arrange the hot dog worms to look like they’re squirming and moving around all over.

Mmmm.  Dirt.

We ended our dinner with ghastly ghost cookies served in a makeshift chocolate pot de creme– I had to use up the egg yolks left from making the meringues.

And because you can’t have Halloween without a costume, here’s the toddler:

Happy Halloween!

Marriage

This week marks my wedding anniversary.  The husband and I have been together almost 12 years and have been married 4.  It hasn’t always been easy- we’re both very independent, opinionated and stubborn.  This is not always a good combination.- but at the end of the day, I can’t really picture my life without him.

Because it hasn’t been an easy relationship, I’ve spent a lot of time observing, talking with and thinking about other couples I know.  These couples range in age, type of relationship and length of time together.  In the time I’ve known them, some have had children, others have gotten married and others have gotten divorced (and some, re-married, though not to each other).  It’s a pretty diverse group.

One couple I met through a former job.  They had an adorable daughter and eventually I babysat for them and we became friends.  The husband was a large, gregarious fellow and his wife was smaller and quieter. They were both well-educated and well-traveled, leading to some extremely interesting conversations and discussions.  They were open and honest about almost every aspect of their relationship and, at times, somewhat too honest.  Their relationship was also not easy and in the few years I was close with them, they moved to a new state, had a second child and got divorced.  In the three months before they separated, they moved to an island off the coast of Georgia and spent the time figuring out the logistics of the dissolution of their marriage.  It was, well, different.  In the end, it was the best thing for both of them as they are now both re-married.  One half of the couple now has stepchildren and the other half has new biological children.  I’m not close with them anymore- after  their divorce they both moved further away and as more about their relationship was revealed it got…awkward.

I tell you about them because to me they epitomize the struggle that marriage is.  It’s ups and downs, it’s getting along when you don’t want to, it’s making sure your children have what they need, it’s attending to your own needs, all the while trying to remain partners, friends and lovers.  Not everyone can do it.  What’s not coming through here is just how much I adored them, as a family and as individuals.  They were kind, loving and so smart.  They did the best they could with a situation they thought would have a different outcome- no one gets married thinking, “I’ll do this for a while and then move on.”  The two of them handled themselves as well as they could as they realized that the best thing was to break those vows and allow themselves to change.  I admire them for that.

I also tell you about them because it was on the island in Georgia (with which I fell in love and now harbor a secret hope to return someday) that I first had potato leek soup (or Vichyssoise).  I watched the husband make it and was surprised at how easy it was- he didn’t measure, he didn’t really do much prep and then we had this lovely soup.  I think of them whenever I make it now and hope that they are both happy and well (actually, I hope that one partner is well- I happen to know that the other one is, through the magic of facebook).

Potato Leek Soup

Ingredients

1/2-1 stick of butter

1-2 leeks

1 lb of potatoes

4-5 cups chicken broth

1/2-3/4 cup milk or cream

Directions

Slice your leeks thinly (just the while and pale green part, not the leaves) and separate the rings into a bowl.  Cover with water and let them sit so the sand and dirt will fall to the bottom of the bowl.

In a soup pot, melt the butter over medium heat.  Once it’s melted, add the leeks (drain them first) and let them cook until soft.  Don’t let them brown.  Meanwhile, peel your potatoes.  This time around I used small yukon gold potatoes (stopping up the kitchen disposal with the peels.  It’s a good thing my husband loves me because I plungered it and it’s not fixed.  He’s going to have pull out the plumbing tools.).

Once the leeks have softened, add the potatoes and let them cook for a minute or two.

Pour in enough chicken brother to cover and let it cook until the potatoes are soft.

Take your stick blender and blend until smooth.  Or pour it into a regular blender and blend until smooth.  Or, only blend part of it and leave some of it chunky for texture.  I prefer mine smooth.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Enjoy warm or cool (if it’s cool, it counts as Vichyssoise).  Think of marriage and all its complexities.

*To make this vegetarian, substitute the chicken broth with veggie broth, water or milk.

Verdicts

So, thanks for voting!  We ended up eating squash soup, homemade challah and a yummy pear-feta-balsamic salad that K. brought with her.  We also had this pumpkin spice cake.  More about that in a moment.  As our after-lunch activity, we took G. to the park.  G. was delighted with K’s funny faces and driving of her car/stroller thing.

I also made everything I was supposed to this week, according to my plan, and have some thoughts.  It’ll be a mix of quick recipes, links and opinions today….  My grandmother would write her notes on the recipes in her cookbooks.  Think of this as my way of doing that, just using technology.    But, starting from most recent, let’s talk about lunch yesterday.

The soup was good, as always.  As was the challah, which I’d heated up on Friday night since I’d forgotten to defrost it the day before.  It was good.  Must make more today as I am now out of loaves in the freezer.

The salad was delicious.  It’s K’s recipe and this particular day’s salad came with an amusing story which involved a second trip to the grocery store, an abundance of feta and an analysis of the cleanliness of her kitchen floor (result?  Far, far cleaner than mine!).  But I’ll let her tell that either on one of her blogs or in the comments.  Anyway, it’s lettuce, a sliced pear, feta cheese and balsamic dressing.  A combination I’d never put together on my own, but when she did, the results were wonderful.  The crunch and sweetness of the pear, along with the sweetness of the balsamic were offset nicely by the tang and creaminess of the feta.  Mmmm.

The pumpkin spice cake was also good.  I did realize, as I made it, while talking on the phone with the hippo, that I probably should have just made my pumpkin bread recipe and baked it in a cake pan, since I left out the pineapple, currants, and coconuts that the recipe wanted.  I just  couldn’t get behind fruit in my pumpkin cake.  All the reviews of the cake admitted that most felt it was an odd addition to the cake but that it worked.  I don’t trust these people and I don’t like coconut.  At any rate, my cake was yummy.

As for last week?  Well, if you recall, I had planned lettuce wraps and fried rice, a ricotta frittata, avgolemono, broccoli and cheddar soup, and crockpot pasta and beef.  The verdicts?   The lettuce wraps were great, as expected.  The ricotta frittata was also a big hit- the ricotta added a nice tang and depth to the eggs.  The avgolemono was not as well received.  I’m not sure if I made it wrong or if it’s just tastes that I don’t like together.  I’d try it again, but probably only in a restaurant or made by someone’s Greek grandmother.  That way I can see if it was me or the recipe.  The broccoli soup was good but I now have a ton left.  I may freeze some and see if I can turn the rest into a pasta/chicken casserole.  Stay tuned for that experiment.

The pasta-beef recipe made everyone but my daughter happy.  My husband and in-laws loved it, I thought it was tolerable and G…..refused it  Vehemently.  I may be raising a bit of a semi-vegetarian, which is fine with me but makes my husband nervous (he’s a steak and more steak guy).    It wasn’t bad- if I make it again, I’ll likely make it with chicken or turkey.  To me it was a cross between a chili and a pasta sauce.  It was good with cheddar cheese on it.

So, consider my cookbook notes updated.  Up this week?  Recipes from Crockery Cookbook, Legal Sea Foods Cookbook and America’s Test Kitchen….  I’ll keep you posted.

 

Decisions, Decisions

I’m having a friend over for lunch and general merriment tomorrow.  She’s my friend with the garden.  She’ll be bringing a pear and feta salad with balsamic dressing.  What should I make for lunch to go with it?  Vote here:

We’re also debating cooking.  We were thinking about croissants but without a sheeter, it’s more work and time than we’re willing to devote.  So what should we make/do instead?