And another...

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I have (yet another) fall soup for y'all to try.

I know, I know, enough with the dang soups/stews already.  My apologies.  Well actually, sorry, I'm not sorry.  They are good.  And they are fallish.  So there.

I came across a recipe on Pinterest.  Sidenote: Don't you LOVE that site?  I mean, yes, it makes us all feel like utter Martha failures but really, for recipes it's just so fabulous.  Forget that I can't gather my own straw to make an A-level wreath or have thirty minutes to create an intricate trendy hair braid or birthed children who will sit long enough to make the Taj Mahal out of beads, or have the energy to kill my body at a gym then post fabulous photos of my abs (because I have rock hard abs...umm, three children later.  Ha.).  Ain't nobody got time for that!

It's funny how the internet has the ability to make you feel like an utter failure.  But that's another post for another day.  Another sidenote:  Did you know Facebook was created for college boys to compare women?  I read that somewhere.  And now, really, it's just women doing the comparing...to each other.  On Facebook.  Isn't it ironic?

Don't you think?

But let me tell you, my sweet friends, this little blog is not meant to make anyone feel incapable...it IS meant to encourage.  If I can learn how to cook and bake, anybody can.  Trust me, I'm no Martha.  But I could probably play a darn good one on TV.  Or the internet.  Or Pinterest.  Easy to pretend when nobody can see the real life version.  Y'all are welcome to come see my real life anytime...it's a crazy one!  It would make Martha run for the woods...or her garden, wherever she goes in her not-so-spare time.

Ha.  Okay, wow- so off subject.  [Reeeeeling it back in].

Soup! Soup!

Here we go.  I found this recipe on Pinterest and everything about it sounded just so great.  Bacon.  White beans.  Creamy.  Mmm.  Until I actually looked at the recipe and realized- there's no cream in there (gasp).  You cannot have a "creamy" soup without cream.  I mean, really.  Don't fake people out, sister.  But the rest of it sounded great.  So I took the thing and changed it up a bit. 

And here you go,

Creamy Tomato Bacon White Bean Soup


Ingredients:

2 cups your choice dried white beans (I used cannellini)
5 strips bacon, cut into little pieces
1 medium onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 carrots, peeled and chopped
1.5 tsp dried rosemary
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste
1 bay leaf
4 cups chicken stock
1 Tbsp tomato paste
2/3 cup tomato sauce (or marinara)
2/3 cup heavy cream
1.5 cups frozen chopped kale or spinach (optional)

Instructions:

1. Soak your beans overnight covered in water.  Drain the next morning or whenever you are ready to cook.  OR if you forget to do that, just cover the beans with water, bring to a boil, boil rapidly for about 5min, then drain.  Easy.
2. In a large stockpot, fry up your bacon pieces.  Once cooked, scoop with a slotted spoon on some paper towels to drain...but KEEP the bacon grease in the pan.  If you have a ton of grease in the pan, drain off all but 4 Tbsp. 
3. Saute onion and carrots in the grease until tender, about 5min.  Add garlic, rosemary, thyme, oregano, and bay leaf, stir, cooking only a minute or so.  Add bacon back into the pot.
4. Gently pour in the chicken stock and drained beans.  Whisk in the tomato paste until incorporated and add tomato sauce and kale or spinach (optional but I like a little greenery).  Bring the pot to a boil, then partially cover and turn back down to simmer.  Add cream.
5.  Let the soup simmer on low for about 40min, stirring occasonally.  Be careful not to let it boil (cream will curdle).  Salt and pepper to taste.
6. This step is optional but I ladled about 3-4cups of the soup into a blender and blended it up a bit (if you do this, take out the cap on the blender top- you need to let a bit of the steam escape while blending or that thing will explode and...ouch, just don't), then dumped it back in the pot.  This makes it a bit thicker but still keeps some of the chunky-ness of it.  I like a good chunky, thick soup.  Feel free to omit this part or use an immersion blender if you have one.  I don't.  I'm not that cool. 
6.  Serve up with your choice cheese on top (I love a good Parmesan) and some hearty bread for dipping. 


See, aren't soups just so fall-like?  I'm of the camp that if it has bacon (and cream, hello?!) it can't be a bad thing.  Ever.

Happy Slurping! 
And, as always, give me a heads up if you come across a fabulous recipe. 


Food for Comfort

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What are your top ten comfort foods? 

Recently I read an article in a popular food magazine and it really sparked my interest.

The article was interesting because most people listed a few of the common toppies (mac n' cheese, lasagna, pot roast...) but many chose an array of other dishes that simply made them feel all warm and fuzzy inside...ones that might surprise most.

It really got me thinking- what dishes have stood out to me over the course of my life?  What foods, when eaten, transport me to another time and place?  Or simply bring satisfaction and happiness?

I am a firm believer in food-as-a-vessel for comfort (and not in an indulgent way).  I really do believe food brings people together, whether it's a meal at a favorite restaurant, a big holiday feast, a gathering in a hut in bushland Africa, or simply a weekly meal at the dinner table.

Food unites, inspires, revives, and creates love.

Does that sound overly sappy?  Sorry.  But really, just humor me.  You know it's true.

So what are my top comfort foods?  Well...I actually have 20.  Come on, are you surprised?!  I really probably have closer to 50 but I wont bore you.  However, I'll do this post in segments.  We'll start with the first few now and keep you waiting for the next installment.

Here are my first six, with descriptions, in no particular order:

1. My Dad's Spaghetti n' Meatballs

Every year, on my Dad's birthday, he makes homemade spaghetti n' meatballs.  The recipe was his mother's (my Grandma Shirlee).  I can recall, from a young age, sitting on the counter watching Dad throw this and that into a HUGE stockpot and sticking his pinky in at random times for a taste test.  He would talk to me while the bright red sauce bubbled and thickened, recalling his own childhood love of the meal.  His homemade meatballs are to. die. for. and as he mixed, then formed them, he would stress the importance of the meatballs' size and how I could not be trusted to help him until I was old enough to gather the significance of the perfect meatball.  He was totally joking.  But I've loved helping him make them ever since :)

Here's a photo of Dad (and younger sis!), forming the meatballs:


2. My take on "Monster Bars"
 

This is a fairly recent favorite.  My mother in law gave me the recipe she uses for monster bars not too long ago because I was in the middle of an I'm-pregnant-and-need-sugar-NOW craving.  I wanted something with at least a few redeeming qualities (oats, peanut butter) but not too healthy, obviously.  I made her version and then kept tweaking it to make it a bit healthier, while still retaining the "dessert" aspect.  I do believe I've wholeheartedly succeeded.  I have perfected my version and make at least a batch (okay, two) a week.  They freeze beautifully and are amazing for breakfast any time of day.

3. Aunt Sue's Salsa

My Aunt Sue (Dad's sister) is a phenom in the kitchen.  She has this incredible knack for making things from scratch (and if she doesn't, she's a darn good liar, ha!).  She makes the. best. apple pie, apple butter, applesauce, beef and noodles, goulash, I could go on and on and on and on.  However there is one thing that is absolute perfection.  Her salsa.  The family FIGHTS over it.  Fights.  I'm not kidding.  Really.  Some have been known to steal it.  Not me, of course.  I'm honorable..mostly.  She's usually very generous with donating a jar or two if needed, but never more than three.  Unless you are a favorite, like me.  Just kidding ;)  Susie tends a salsa garden every year and her incredible husband Art assists her in the DAUNTING task of jarring the salsa in the fall.  They are a perfect pair.  I hope my husband and I continue to complement each other over the years as well as these two.  Unfortunately, I do not have a link to this recipe because it is guarded under lock and key (and I don't have the key or the lock, for that matter).  I'll have to learn the ropes of salsa-making someday.  However, if you want to purchase a jar, I know a gal.  The proceeds go to purchasing supplies for a garden that donates all their produce to the Iowa City (IA) Crisis Center- a worthy cause, indeed!

3. Aunt Peggy's Marinated Tomatoes

 
My Aunt Peggy is another of Dad's sisters (are you noticing a theme?  This side of the family is stocked with incredible cooks and bakers...you should just witness any of our family gatherings, the spread is insane.  We love each other by cooking mass amounts of food.  It's what we do.  We are also very good at eating it all.  We are not a family of birds).  Peggy holds a special place in my heart because, not only is she my guardian (literally), she has always housed/fed/cared for me whenever needed it.  I lived with her and Uncle Randy many-a-college summer, they were the hosts at my wedding, and they have bought me groceries or fed me more times than should be legal.  While living with them in college, I passed the summer days helping water their garden.  In return, I was blessed with eating some of the fruits of my labor.  This was my first experience eating a fresh tomato.  As in, freshly picked, like an apple.  It. changed. my. life.  Peg would often take a few tomatoes, slice 'em up along with some basil and marinate them overnight with vinegar and oil.  Add a bit of sliced red onion, salt, and pepper to the mix and nothing more is necessary to make those babies shine.  It's green thumb perfection.  Absolutely.  I should also mention this particular aunt is the one in charge of growing food for the Iowa City Crisis Center garden.  I have the best family.  You can't have them, sorry.

 
 
Chapati and red beans were a staple of ours while living in Africa.  I have many fond memories sitting cross-legged on a dirt floor of a local's hut, a big pile of chapati in a plastic container on the floor, smokey chai (tea) pervading the air, and a huge cast iron pot of beans bubbling nearby.  The technique is to scoop the beans with the chapati and eat it as such.  It's something I will absolutely never forget.  Chapati, beans, and chai equal African love.  That, and chicken livers.  Don't ask  [shudder].

5. Rudy's BBQ
 

 
I've mentioned this joint in a post before.  It's the quintessential no-frills BBQ joint in the heart of south-central Texas.  Granted, it's a chain, and many locals would argue that it isn't THE best Texas barbeque, and apparently there are loads of others far better (aren't there always?).  I don't care.  It's MY favorite.  So there, take that yocal local.  There is something about the wax paper on a crate, meat slapped on top with a mound of white bread on the side that just throws all pretension aside.  It's a place for hungry people.  Hungry people who like meat.  Don't even think about going and ordering a portobello mushroom.  It doesn't exist.  Their t-shirts even say, "I didn't claw my way to the top of the food chain...to eat vegetables."  You leave the place smelling like a smoker (grill, that is) and it's the best perfume a person could want.  Amen to Texas, they got it right with Rudy's.  If you go, order the brisket with a huge cup of sweet tea, and leave with a jar of their famous sauce.  It's my happy place.



So.  I have this amazing friend.  How we met is ridiculous, it's one of those bizarre stories where you've never before talked to a person, meet them, have a two hour (or so) conversation, and realize said person is one of the most incredible people EVER and you have obviously always been friends...you just didn't realize it until that moment.  Doesn't everyone have someone like that in their life?  No?  Well then, bummer for you.  This is my Randi.  She has the biggest heart, the biggest tears (seriously- crocodile tears, my friends), the biggest love for Jesus, and the sweetest persona of anyone ever.  And I get to be her friend.  It makes me all warm and fuzzy inside.  We have some hilarious adventures together, some even better stories, and we both love a good glass of wine and chocolate to go with.  Thus, during one of her visits she made me these and I was never the same.  You wont be either.  These bad boys are just. so. good.  And so dang easy it's ridiculous.  Make them, and thank this person:


She's as fun as she looks.  And she's going to hate me for posting that pic. 

That's all I have for now!
I'll share a few at a time but would love to hear some of your all-time comforting dishes.
Keep on seeking joy and make food for people. 
It's just right.

Cooler Weather, Warming Meals

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Well hello faithful few who still check in time and again! 

So...I noticed a lot of spam flooding my inbox from this site which begs the question:  If dust is collecting I must be neglecting.  Poor little blog, I've missed it.

But OH have I not had time.  Like, even a free moment to touch this thing.  I've longed for it, thought about it, wistfully read a few ancient posts, but alas- no time.

BUT I'm here now, right? 

As the cooler weather sets in (hello low 70s!), I am always brought back to the art of homemade.  Maybe it's the litle hint of winter, the feeling of hunkering down, settling in, gathering the necessary items for the months of being holed up in the house.  I'm not sure but fall is my very favorite.  Ever. 

Why, oh, WHY can't we have two months of winter, two of spring, ONE of summer (I am SO not a summer person...sorry sun-worshippers), and seven long glorious months of autumn?  Oh well, a girl can dream.  Maybe I should move further north...

Ah, well.

Autumn does bring inspiration in my heart.  I get excited to bake, to can, to craft, to sew, to CREATE with my very own hands.  Summer, while it claims to be relaxing, tends to be chaotic and devoid of a schedule.  It seems we have endless days of running around, various parties/gatherings/events, vacations, hot weather (which makes everyone crabby)- all of which lead to end-of-summer-exhaustion.  It's enough to wipe a woman out.  I like the beginning of school-season, the renewal of a schedule, the crisp, clean newness that inspires.  As a former student and trained teacher, September IS my new year (not January).  It is the month that allows new beginnings. 

Thus, this month I've been refreshed (from a looooong hiatus of writing, cooking, creating, and whathaveyou) and I'm ready to begin again.

Sidenote, these three little people have been a big reason for my hiatus:


Aren't they darling?

They are also BUSY and BOYS and I have three.  So there you go.  My excuse.  The best excuse if there ever was one.

So.  Enough rambling.

What have I been up to lately?  Well, aside from the rascals above, I have been a-soup-and-stewing this past week.  Fall equals soup in my house, whether the boys like it or not.  It happens.  They deal.

What's been on the docket?  A few delish Pinterest finds and a standby favorite.

Fabulous Chicken and Bacon Wild Rice Soup from Pinch of Yum:
 
 
 
Slow Cooker Quinoa Chicken Chili  from The Girl Who Ate Everything
(her photo, not mine! I forgot to take a pic, oops):
 
 
And one of my very favorites, Ina Garten's Lentil Stew:

 

All very perfect fall-ish, warming meals.

What soups are your favorite this season? 
I'll keep you posted on any winners I come across.

Happy First Week of Autumn!