Sunday, March 29, 2009

Whey Good!

So last week I went to a cheese making workshop. I learned to make paneer and mozzarella. Really. No kidding! And guess what? It's super easy and costs about half as much as buying it, but the really cool part is you get to say, "I made the cheese" and everyone goes, "Ooooh" and "Ahhhh!"

Of course, I'm no good at pretending that it was terribly difficult. I had to tell everyone the truth - it took 30 minutes to make the mozzarella and it's really simple. I really had no choice but to admit the truth anyway since over the last 3 months, approximately 75 people here on the island have taken the course and undoubtedly one of them would know someone from Sunday Soup and blow my story if I said I am now a master cheese artisan.

Anyway, the byproduct of making mozzarella is you have about 4.5 quarts of whey (yes, as in Little Miss Muffet eating her curds and whey). There are a lot of things you can do with whey and it's full of vitamins and minerals and such, so you definitely want to do something with it, even though it looks a little scary. Apparently, and I did not try any of these things, you can mix it with orange juice and a sweetener for a lovely beverage, you can make lemonade with it, you can mix it into your pig slop or chicken feed and give it to your pigs/chickens respectively, you can give it to your dog (but not at night because it makes the dog have to pee a lot and you'll be up all night letting the dog in and out), you can use it to water your roses or other plants, and you can add it to bread dough instead of water. But guess what I did with it? Yep. I used it in my soup.

I read on the internet that you can use it in place of stock, so yesterday I roasted up a big pile of veggies - onion...hmmm...I was going to start with onion and then I just remembered that I totally forgot the onion! Anyway,'s the real list: red potatoes, yellow pepper, broccoli, parsnip, carrots, mushrooms, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, and beets tossed with olive oil, salt & pepper and a few herbs. When they were done, I simply dumped them into the whey, mashed it all with a potato masher, and then I pureed it with my immersion blender.

By the way, it's really hard to chop up mushrooms with an immersion blender, so even though I attacked them individually, forcing them to the bottom of the pan, a few escaped and there were chunks of mushrooms in my roughly pureed soup. It added character. I seasoned it with French Thyme, Celery Salt, Cayenne, and a bit more salt and pepper.

And guess what? The verdict, after everyone got over their fascination with the fact that I made the mozzarella and it only takes thirty minutes, was that they loved the soup and that is why I'm calling it Whey Good Roasted Veggie Soup.

The bread was no-knead bread and kind of rolled it out flat and then added chunks of mozzarella (they just disappeared, so I don't recommend wasting good cheese this way - use a harder cheese) and sundried tomatoes and then rolled it up into a loaf. It was tasty enough that every scrap disappeared though, despite the vanishing mozz.

Attendance was good today and there were many people we don't see very often and a new guest. The only regular was The Neighbour. It was lots of fun, although we do hope the half of The Brits that isn't feeling well, gets better soon!

Oh, and I want to say that I am now on a major deadline and I seriously couldn't have made today's SS happen without my fabulous sous chef, The Southerner. I hereby promote him to Full Chef, at least until April 30th when I hand off the next draft of my book to my editor. As Full Chef, his duties include, but are not limited to: Tea, Coffee & Breakfast (which he does as a Sous Chef anyway), Morning Break Snack, Lunch, Afternoon Snack w/Tea & Dinner. Okay, stop laughing. It was worth a shot!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Mushroom Moderate

I spent the entire weekend in the kitchen (nearly). Starting yesterday morning, I made, banana bread, oatmeal, the filling for samosas, two vegetarian moussaka casseroles, grilled cheese & soup for The Southerner's lunch, today's soup, and a loaf of bread. Today I finished the bread, the samosas (yum!), and taught The Southerner how to make 8 Grain Cereal. It was my choice to be in the kitchen so long, and it was fun, but I'm looking forward to getting back to work tomorrow!

On Saturday morning I still had not chosen a soup, so I got out an old library discard, The Low-fat Vegetarian Cookbook, that I picked up at the library book sale. What's hilarious about this book is that it says it's vegetarian, but when you open it up, there are all these recipes called "almost vegetarian" that have meat in them! No wonder the library discarded it.

Anyway, there are a few soups in it and one of them was Mushroom Barley. I had the ingredients (or so I thought, The Southerner ended up having to go to the store for barley right about the time I was ready to add it!). This soup is a brothy soup with a lot of mushrooms. And I mean a lot. I cut them really thinly because I once had a mushroom soup with them cut paper thin and it was really good. The soup was a big hit today, but it crossed a line for me and so I didn't have any.

You see, it wasn't until maybe five years I tentatively began to eat mushrooms. I learned how to cook them from Alton Brown and suddenly, they were pretty appealing. The more I have them, the more I like them. However, this soup, with a pound and a half of mushrooms, cooked in a vegetable broth that eventually became a deep, rich, brown, mushroomy broth really fell just across the line of "too many mushrooms in one dish". Luckily, The Southerner LOVED it, and judging by how our guests emptied the crockpot, I think overall it was a good soup. One guest even asked for the recipe. Which oddly enough, might be the very first recipe that I have followed exactly! Well, except that I used homemade vegetable stock instead of junk from a can.

Anyway, we had a very nice Sunday Soup. A few regulars, one guest we haven't seen since summer, some newbies...very nice. And we started it off with a Tea Party. We tested the mango tea (a previous SS favourite), vanilla jasmine, maple, and green. I think that the mango is still on top, although the vanilla jasmine was met with interest and smiles. I alone like the maple (I drink it every day).

And that's about it. And Grandma, I know you're reading this each week and are always hoping that I'm freezing you the soup to bring you when we come to visit. Don't worry, I am. But I also know not to save you any Mushroom Barley! Like Grandma, like Granddaughter, eh?

Eat well!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Fast SS Post

How fast can I type? We've had crazy weather here, almost to rival Tennessee, except there aren't those wild temp changes (oh, and those pesky tornadoes). It's blowing like crazy now though after a day of snow that didn't stick, snow that did stick, snow that melted off, snow and rain mixed, a burst of sunshine that lasted about 3 minutes, and more snow and lots and lots of wind. The reason I'm typing as fast as I can is because the power has already gone off once. I looked at the clock when it went out and said to the The Southerner, "Hmmm...6:49pm. I reckon we're out for the night unless it comes right back on this second." and POOF, the power came back on. Still, I'd be surprised if we made it through the night with power. And being that we're on an island, that means we won't get it back until tomorrow.

The soup was yummy. A concoction I made loosely based on a recipe from Canadian Living. I was looking at the March issue at the doctor office (while The Southerner had his ribs checked out - guess what? Yep. Still sore, still nothing to be done) and found a recipe from Quebec for carrot turnip soup. I didn't have anything to write with, and even though everyone I've told this story to has said, "Why didn't you just rip the recipe out of the magazine?" I simply read it twice, hoping I'd remember it. And then I came home and made up my own soup. It turned out fine, so no biggie! I also made cheese and green onion biscuits. Yummmm!

We had some of the regulars here today and a couple of guests. They're all wondering what the nicknames for the guests will be, and since I'm not feeling very creative (and I'm still typing as fast as I can), I'm going to go for the obvious ones. The Fix-it Guy's sister is going to be called, The Sister and the other guest is going to be called The Mudgekin because she is from Mudge Island and that's what we call them when we shoot potatoes at them from potato cannons on Canada Day (I can't type fast enough to explain this). I was informed by The Mudgekin that they have "real" guns on Mudge, so maybe shooting potatoes at them is not the smartest thing we could do, but whatever. I don't shoot potatoes anyway...I make them into soup.

Whew! I think I made it! Have a great week.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Daylight Sunday!

I love Daylight Savings Time. I don't even mind giving up the hour. It's not like I lost an hour of sleep or anything. I lost an hour of cleaning up the house before people came to SS. Who cares about losing an hour of cleaning? And now, SS is over and it's still lovely and light outside! I'm so excited.

What was so interesting is that people came around the same time as usual, but they stayed longer like they do in summer. Everyone changed their clocks except The Fix It Guy so we were all wondering where they were when 5:30 came and went and we hadn't seen them. Turns out he was lucky he even got to come at all because he was so busy fixing something that The Fleece Lady had to back the car out of the driveway to get him to run in and change his clothes and clean up so he could go along. She almost left without him, but you know...she might have needed something fixed, so it was smart to wait for him, just in case.

It was more of a party atmosphere too because everyone is happy about the light. Living this far north, winter days are soooooo short that we forget how lovely and long the summer evenings are and today we were all reminded of that. I think it made everyone quite cheerful.

The soup was a yummy yellow split pea soup. I started with a recipe, but soon abandoned it. I wanted to avoid the usual gloppy thick split pea, so I made this one rather thin by using lots of veggie stock. Once the peas were soft, I added thinly sliced onions and carrots that I had sauteed with thyme, marjoram, and ginger. The soup went fast, but I think there's still a bit left for me and The Gimpy Southerner (yes, he's still quite sore from his accident- see last week's post for details on his fall from grace, er, I mean bike).

At 3pm I still didn't know what the bread was, but I'd bought buttermilk at the store because it seems like nine out of ten quickbread recipes call for it. I put "buttermilk muffin recipe" into Google and came up with these lovely buttermilk oatmeal muffins. I tripled the recipe but instead of tripling the whole wheat flour, I did one cup of whole wheat, one of spelt, and one of all-purpose. I think it made them lighter than they would've been and they are super yummy. It made 3 dozen and we have at least a dozen left. Can you say delish breakfast tomorrow? Yummm!

I think this was my 45th soup. Something like that. We're coming up on the big One Year SS Anniversary Souper Soup Swap (first weekend in May). More details to follow! Have a great week and eat well!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Four P Soup

Last year, when the Southerner proved that Black Thumb was a nickname from his past and he actually could grow food, I decided I better learn to cook all those veggies he was bringing home so I bought a cookbook called Perfect Vegetables (they didn't have a book called Perfect Squash). It turned out to be a fantastic cookbook and when I heard someone in the grocery store raving over parsnips (I always wondered what those white carrots were), I decided to buy some and give 'em a try since they were covered in the book. They were delicious and now I throw them in my roasted vegetables all the time.

Last week parsnips were on sale so I bought a bag of small, tender ones and this week, when it came time to pick a soup, I got online and did a Google search for "potato parsnip soup". It led me to this blog post by a woman named Annamaria, a Hungarian living in Texas. All I have to say is THANK YOU ANNAMARIA! This is a yummy soup and you should try it. She calls it Cream of Parsnip and Potato Soup, although I dubbed it Four P Soup because it has potatoes, parsnips, parsley, and I added (Hungarian) paprika for colour and also because I had some and it seemed like a good idea since it was a Hungarian soup.

If you look at this recipe and you think, "Oh, I'll use dried parsley and I don't have any lemon" I will say to you that your soup still will probably be pretty good, but it will be outstanding if you make the effort to get the fresh parsley, toss it with the fresh lemon juice, and olive oil and serve as suggested. Because there are a lot of people at SS, I don't really like to stand around giving directions about adding garnish, so I just dumped all the parsley/lemon/olive oil mixture right into the soup and that worked fine.

We had a lot of people today, ten in fact, plus us and it was sort of a madhouse of laughter and good food and good company. Very nice. The Southerner has a gimp in his giddy-up from a spill on his bike, so he got lots of attention, although I'm not sure it was the kind he really wanted! Much of it had to do with how he should take it easy (not in his nature), how ribs take weeks to heal (also not what he wanted to hear), and lots of advice about whether riding his bike home after his fall was really the best choice (too late now). He will recover eventually and in the meantime, he's volunteered to taste anything I care to cook. He's a keeper, that one. I'm glad I get to keep him.

Have a fun week and if you ride your bike, know that it's not necessary to take your hand off the handlebars to wave at the neighbour, thus hitting black ice, and going down. Your neighbour will understand...even if you are a southerner and it's the southern way to wave and be friendly!