Tag Archives: soup

What a springtime it is!

Warm days and blooming flowers are pulling me outdoors, to pick more peas or to sit and read. I should be planting something in my vegetable planter, but I can’t figure out what. It’s raining today, so I can put off those decisions a little longer.

At the same time I seem to be cooking more this month. Ginger broth has been a favorite drink for a while now; I like it hot with a little cream and honey, or mixed with pineapple juice over ice. Just this morning I discovered that after I boil pieces of fresh ginger root for three hours and strain off the strong “tea,” the leftover pieces still have a surprising amount of flavor. I made my own crystallized ginger with them!

An experience I haven’t had for ages: While I stirred the ginger in the syrup with one hand, I read this book from the other hand. I guess it is just the right size, weight and genre to fit the situation.

Likely it was one of you bloggers on whose site I read about The Daughter of Time, and I bought a used copy years ago; it went to my shelves where a hundred other books wait to be opened. And last week, suddenly, I was in the mood for Tey and the mystery of Richard III.

Reading the first couple of chapters, I began to wonder if being in the mood was enough —  maybe I should have brushed up on my Kings and Queens of England first. But I pushed on, and with the help of family tree diagrams in the front of the book I began to get my historic bearings. I love this story because the main character Detective Grant likes to read letters and other primary sources, and to look at pictures of faces, all the while using his common sense and imagination to “write” what is probably a more accurate history in his mind. It is so much fun to think along with him.

Some other things I’ve made recently are two types of grain-free cookies. One of the recipes starts with a can of garbanzo beans. It has chocolate chips, and was yummy. Today I made up a recipe that included carob powder, walnuts and cinnamon, also good. I still haven’t found the perfect cookie in this category.

Asparagus season coincides with Lent, so it wasn’t until the very end of my harvest that I could make cream of asparagus soup to eat immediately. It was quite lovely. I think I squirreled some of that away in the freezer.

So, I have let the asparagus go to fronding and photosynthesis. You can see the tall twiggy foliage (it will become more ferny) in the picture below, behind the hedge of teucrium that is getting ready to burst into its glory of purple and accompanying bees. Stay tuned for that.

Many of the images from the front garden are pretty scruffy; the California poppies that grow out there go mad for a couple of months and begin to get leggy and messy. I pulled out dozens of plants and cut the rest down to the ground. They will keep coming up and blooming for the rest of the summer. The lamb’s ears are sending up their flower stalks.

I don’t mind tearing out the poppies, even though they were still blooming their hearts out, because now the yellow helianthemum can take center stage for a while.

At the moment I can’t remember what these purple perennials above are called. [Shoreacres in the comments helped me find it: Verbena bonariensis] They are very tricky to photograph because of the airy, widely spaced arrangement of their blooms, the profile of which is seen against my car farther above. I got two of them last year to replace the two wallflowers that died an early death.

The  next two flowers are both new, but in different ways. The irises are in their fourth season, but this is the first time they have bloomed, so I’m very happy, and pleased to see “who” they are after all this time since I chose them. And the friendly yellow flower is on a yarrow [Nope! The reason it doesn’t look like a yarrow flower is that it is actually a type of marguerite, a cousin of yarrow, both of them in the tribe Anthemideae, in the Aster family. This one might be Anthemis tinctoria, or Dyer’s Chamomile. Thanks to my friend May for helping me get straight.] plant that I only planted last fall; it has grown big plant over the winter and is now brightening the walkway. Thinking it was a yarrow, I was startled at its round and sunny face.

On a warm day last week — one of them was 90 degrees! — I sat just baking a bit and noticing things happening… The tiny white flower buds on the olive tree next to my new icon stand, and below them, delicate lavender stems with swelling evidence of blooms in the making. Mostly bumblebees are in the back garden; I wonder if the honeybees are out front waiting for that teuchrium.

One evening I was having a FaceTime visit with two-year-old Raj who is in D.C., high in an apartment building where he can’t have his former daily routine of playing in the park a few blocks away. More frequently of late we have had these virtual visits that are keeping us connected in an odd way. He likes to look (on his mom’s phone) at my collection of toy trucks, and my fountain and playhouse.

On that particular day we were just about to say good-bye, because it was his bedtime, when I had the idea to look in my birdhouse while he was watching. I knew that some bird or other had been making a nest a while back, and I didn’t think it was so long ago that the fledglings would have left the nest. I stood on the bench and leaned over, and stuck my phone in as far as I could…. and we saw this:

So it was bluebirds making a home in my garden this year! What a springtime it is.

Daily Sustenance

It’s been cold here this week, and hailed for a few minutes yesterday. I hope my plum blossoms were not damaged! Maybe some that were hiding under leaves will be able to become plums.

Last Sunday our parish women’s book group was scheduled to meet at Ann’s house to discuss Father Arseny. I hadn’t planned to be there because Soldier and Liam were flying in from Colorado to celebrate my birthday with me; so I didn’t reread the book in preparation.

Of course my guests cancelled their plans, for everyone’s safety, and the women held a lively Zoom discussion which I “attended” along with eleven others. I sat in my garden at my laptop most of the time, until it got too chilly. We enjoyed ourselves immensely, and decided to meet again in a week just to chat; we’ve been missing each other and don’t want to wait a whole month or more till we’ve read the next book.

Now we are reading At the Back of the North Wind by George MacDonald. This title is a good one for a few reasons:

1) Several of us love George MacDonald and his books have come up before in our list of possible group reads.
2) Even though physical libraries are closed, his works are easily found as free library digital editions, for 99 cents on Kindle and as audiobooks.
3) For families with more time together sheltering in place, it’s a good read-aloud.
4) I haven’t read it for a long time, but knowing MacDonald generally, it’s likely good nourishment for our souls that need extra sustenance right now.

 

Sustenance consists of those things we need for life and health. The opposite is deprivation or starvation. Often our souls are starving for spiritual food when our bodies are overfed.

I had the odd experience in the last week of several times being so busy socializing that I didn’t take time to eat. Because of the many anniversaries and birthdays in my extended family, in addition to dear friends phoning to talk about the pestilence, I was on the phone more hours that week than I had been in the previous six months. Because I’m generally overfed, that brief bodily deprivation had little effect. Since then I’ve also caught up on Alone Time.

And I’ve cooked some things. When my Painted Lady runner beans produced a bumper crop last fall I resolved to make soup with them during Lent. What I came up with was a vegetable soup rich with onions and garlic, and not too many beans. It’s sustaining for sure.

 

Over the decades I’ve discovered two sorts of (vegan) chocolate pudding that are great for breakfast, and I don’t see that I have shared the recipes here before. Well, I did share a link for this version of the chocolate chia seed pudding, and here it is again: Minimalist Baker.

But the one I’ve made many more times in various flavors is so simple and adaptable, I didn’t even measure yesterday when I made a batch.

SILKEN TOFU PUDDING

-an amount of silken tofu, say, 14 oz.
-cocoa powder, try 1/2 cup
-sweetening to taste: sugar, maple syrup, etc.
-cinnamon or vanilla or almond extract, etc.

Mix in food processor until smooth, divide into portions and eat or refrigerate. Of course you might top it with fruit or nuts or granola. The above amounts are what I used last night and I divided it into three containers. I think it’s a good breakfast food because it has protein and caffeine, and don’t we all like something easy for breakfast?

I have made it without chocolate at times, in the past. I think there was a lemon version, or a pumpkin spice, but as I remember, chocolate was the winner.

 

My remodel: It is not finished; some construction workers are willing and wanting to work at this uncertain time, and some are not, so I am preparing my mind for an indefinite prolonging of this mess. Three times over the last 16 months I’ve moved out of my walk-in closet, into a spare bedroom across the house that is even now serving as my dressing room, with my clothes stacked all over the bed, my laundry hamper squeezed in the corner, some of my hanging clothes squeezed into the wardrobe.

My goal now is to clear that room and somehow fit my clothes and shoes into my own bedroom, and use it as my dressing room. It has no closet currently, and is still full of storage, but I can move some of that stuff temporarily into the sewing room cabinet that is waiting for doors, as you can see in the photo above that I have already begun to do.

The workers’ clutter in the sewing room I hope I can stash in the garage or the unfinished closet, depending on whose it is, so I can clean up the sewing room, too. I am tired of waiting to wash the windows, and I want to be able to sit in there in the mornings. Do you think that as soon as I complete all this work, the construction guys will come back and make a mess again? If they do, I won’t complain. That’s the walk-in closet at right, which I can’t even shut the door to. It’s been the view from my bathroom for two months now, unchanged.

The new guest bathroom is usable except for things like the shower curtain rod and towel ring. There are six such accessories that a worker came to install one day weeks ago, and he completed two of them.

Outdoors, I myself have neglected the garden quite a bit, but it’s still a lovely place to stroll, and I’m cutting asparagus and waiting for snow peas to show on the tall vines. (You can see them at the back in the last picture below.) The Coast Bush Lupine I planted sometime last year is now covered with buds! Everything looked so pretty after the rain and hail, these recent mornings when the sun broke through.

There’s plenty of sustenance in my larders!

Beets in the farm box led to this!

It was a mildly wild evening with eight kids scampering upstairs and down around my house, playing the piano, building with Legos, occasionally squealing, being happy and good. They weren’t my grandchildren, but most of two young families from church who blessed me by coming to eat my soup.

Recently I had received cabbage and beets in my farm box, it being the season for such vegetables. Ah, borscht! Then I ate the red beets beforehand, and my borscht was made with golden beets, so it was not so exciting visually. But it was beefy and really yummy.

There was more of it than I could eat, and the obvious solution to that problem is dinner guests. I invited one family of seven to start with, but the afternoon of The Event, my goddaughter Mary’s siblings (we’ll call them Family B) were being cared for at Family of Seven’s house (call them Family W), and Mother B and Mary got held up and couldn’t retrieve them when planned; I drove 20 minutes and brought them to my house (Mom W’s car couldn’t fit any more bodies) so that they could eat with us and we could proceed as planned.

The dads B and A were nearby, too, one having arrived by train in the neighborhood – and somehow all three vehicles and two dads arrived at my house at 5:00, and we soon gathered around two tables for our soup and bread. I’ve been wanting to get to know Family W better, and it worked so well for their children to have B children around for their first visit to my house.

It occurred to me a little late, when I was halfway up the highway to do my part in the ferrying, that I could have just taken my soup to their house, and it would have been much easier for everyone. But not as much fun for me. In many ways, soup is useful and satisfying.

I surprise myself.

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Place card showing through rainbow cup

I thought I might be able to do a little something for someone special, and it turned into a surprisingly big something. What surprised me was the chain of events that resulted from a simple idea that would have been too stressful even to even consider just a month ago.

The baptismal name of one of my goddaughters is Sophia, and the day that we commemorate Saint Sophia was this month, just a few days after The Feast of the Elevation of the Cross. On Sunday I suggested that she come over after Vespers on Wednesday, the evening/beginning of the name day, for a light meal to celebrate; Wednesday is a fasting day so it would pretty much need to be a vegan meal. I hoped there might be three or four of us eating it together, but wouldn’t have been surprised or unhappy if Sophia and I were the only ones celebrating.

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<< (Favorite pewter water pitcher that my in-laws bought while traveling in Denmark)

 

This was not a very well thought out party I was giving, but was more the kind of thing that is "thrown together," though that phrase does not adequately describe the flowing way the guest list and the menu developed over the next two days, culminating in a dinner party for twelve! It seemed to me in the end that God had used this desire I had to bless my friend to steer me in the right direction, down the path at the end of which I discovered that I am adjusting to not having a husband to cook for, and that my grief is less consuming and disabling than before.

On Monday I shopped, after the festal liturgy, and put extra leaves in the table. Tuesday I GLS P1010622made the soup and the cake. Wednesday afternoon I made the bread and cleaned house and set the table. I didn’t have twelve matching of anything, but I had six of the same placemats, spoons, napkins, etc., so I alternated around the table.

The soup is one I created thirty years ago out of necessity, when we lived in such a small town that I had to drive a distance to do my major grocery shopping. One day the cupboard was somewhat bare and I didn’t want to make that trip, so I concocted this stew using what I had on hand, that has the colors of the Italian flag in its ingredients, plus some Italian flavors, hence the name. It’s probably the only recipe I’ve created that has any kind of interesting name to go with it.

I haven’t actually tried using fresh basil, which is very odd since in the last decades it’s been so available in my garden and would seem to be preferable. Having pulled up my spent basil plants only the week previous, I didn’t have it available this time, either. I thought about buying a bunch, but decided to just go with the original recipe for this party and be safe.

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Italian Flag Soup

½ cup olive oil
3 onions, chopped
garlic (optional)
5 cups large white dried beans
2 tablespoons salt
black pepper
1/3 cup dried basil (or equivalent in the fresh herb)
4 bay leaves
10-12 red potatoes in chunks
2 bunches Italian parsley, chopped

In a 16-qt pot or larger sauté the onions, and garlic if using, in olive oil. Add the beans and water to cover 2 inches. Simmer for about an hour.

Add the salt, pepper, and bay leaves. Simmer another hour, adding water as needed to keep it soupy.

Add the red potatoes, basil, and parsley. Simmer until the potatoes are tender, adding water as needed. Adjust seasonings and serve. Nice to make the day before so the flavors can mellow together longer.

It seemed to me that the soup and cake were the backbone of the culinary aspect, so I had to decide on those elements of the dinner at the outset. The cake I discovered on this website after browsing a while online. I wanted it to be vegan and also not chocolate, because these days I’m afraid of losing sleep over evening chocolate. The only change I made was to cut the sugar in the recipe from 1 1/2 cups to 1 cup, and it was just right.

I did make the Caramel Sauce, which I think is optional. I wouldn’t make it again, because 1) Caramel is much better with butter or cream, 2) Making caramel is a bother, and I’m not sure I didn’t scorch it a little (though it did taste nice with the cake), and 3) Everyone said it was completely unnecessary because the cake is perfect the way it is.

I appreciated the lack of cinnamon in this cake, because I think it gets overused in baked goods, and the spices that were present were not so heavy that they overwhelmed the subtlety of the pears. I have transcribed the recipe after making my adjustment.GLS P1010571

Gingerbread Pear Bundt Cake

For the cake:

1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses (not blackstrap)
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 medium pears, peeled and diced 1/2-inch (about 3 cups diced)
1/4 cup powdered sugar for dusting the top, if desired

Caramel Sauce:GLS P1010636

1 cup full-fat coconut milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup water

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease bundt pan and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, nutmeg and cloves. In a medium bowl, whisk together the melted coconut oil, water, brown sugar, molasses, vinegar and vanilla. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients. Use a whisk to mix the batter together just until combined. Fold in the pears.

Pour batter into the bundt pan and bake until the cake begins to pull away from the edges slightly and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out nearly dry, 45 to 60 minutes.

Let cool for 5 minutes then use a knife to carefully loosen any stuck sides. Invert cake over a wire rack and lift off the pan. Let cake cool completely. Carefully transfer cooled cake to platter or cake plate and dust with powdered sugar, if desired.

While the cake cools, make the caramel sauce. In a small bowl, whisk together the coconut milk, vanilla and salt. Set aside. Add the sugar and water to a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir just to combine, but do not stir after that! Allow mixture to come to a boil and watch it carefully. After about 6 minutes, the mixture will start to turn golden, then light brown, and it will smell like caramel. As soon as it has turned brown, slowly pour in the coconut milk mixture. The caramel will bubble enthusiastically at first. If the sugar hardens around the whisk, don’t worry, this is normal – just keep stirring and it will dissolve. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the caramel sauce has thickened, about 5 minutes.

Slice cake and put on plates. Drizzle individual servings with the caramel sauce. Serve.

Notes

The caramel sauce may be made ahead of time and kept refrigerated in an airtight container. It keeps well for up to 5 days. Allow the sauce to come to room temperature to thin out a bit before serving. You can also warm it in the microwave for a few seconds to speed up the process.

It was a special evening in that two of my guests were named Sophia, and our priest was able to come, and “my” Sophia’s godfather as well. We had a lively group with more food contributions to the table coming in the form of salads, and much good and edifying conversation coming from everyone. The soup was popular and not much was left over.

We ate grapes, too, giant seedless Perfect Grapes, the consensus was. I made Himbasha bread, and it was the only part of the dinner that I wasn’t truly happy with. I overbaked it trying to make sure it would be chewy enough, and it ended up awfully crusty, but my friends thought it was wonderful because they like the crust. It was fresh, at least! I’ll have to keep working on that recipe, which I’ve told about before.

A couple of the women did most of the clean-up, so that part was easy, too. My feet were sore, but Sophia was radiant and blessed, which made me very happy.

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