Sunday, January 25, 2009

A cracking good time

Today I rebelled and didn't make any bread! Okay, that's actually a lie. I did make a loaf of bread, but I hid it under a towel because it is our daily bread and wasn't intended for Sunday Soup. Instead, I made crackers! Yes, crackers!

The Southerner and I periodically take a hard look at our diet and try to change a few things to improve it. The truth is, we probably eat healthier than most people, but there's always room for improvement. We do cook almost all our own food and we're vegetarian so even if we do eat out, we haven't had fast food in like...well, since the last time we drove cross country and had to get pizza slices at a rest stop in Wyoming (which I don't recommend). We also hope to never eat another cheese sandwich from Subway, but I digress. Anyway, recently we talked about what we eat and the whole processed food thing came up again. I am not ready to give up on my faux hotdogs, but when The Southerner suggested I try making crackers, I jumped on it.

He thought the dough I use for pizza crust would be good. It's not. I tried it, thinking he might be right, but yeast does not belong in crackers. So I got out my handy How to Cook Everything Vegetarian cookbook (a fave!) and found the recipe for crackers. Soooooo easy!!! And so much fun to make I couldn't stop. After six batches The Southerner finally had to stop me.

"Just because you can make them, doesn't mean you need to supply the whole island!"

Okay, he didn't really say that, but when I suggested making just one more batch, he did roll his eyes. Here are my flavour combos: plain (like an English water cracker), whole wheat and cumin (my least favourite), Parmesan and Italian herb (the best one - made two batches), Aleppo peppers with cornmeal subbed for part of the flour (spicey and yummy), and rosemary and black pepper (a good idea, but it needed more of both seasonings). I highly recommend checking out both this cookbook and this recipe. Or drop by my Facebook page because I wrote it all up there.

In addition to cutting back on our processed food (goodbye potato chips, so long bottled dressing, see ya later Barbara's jalepeno and blue cheese cheet-o-like thingies), we have chosen a few veggies to add to our diet. Being vegetarians, we naturally eat a lot of veggies, but there are some we have avoided because they don't really appeal to us. Bell peppers, eggplant, beets, and sweet potatoes are a few foods that neither of us have ever really wanted to eat, so we didn't.

I can safely say we probably won't voluntarily eat eggplant because it makes my throat itch and The Southerner's not that fond of it. However, lately we've added red, yellow, and orange peppers into our diet, last summer we ate beets from The Fix-it Guy and The Fleece Lady's garden, and today I made Sweet Potato Soup for SS. It was FABULOUS! I may not take any sweet potatoes with marshmallows on Thanksgiving, but I will make this soup again.

It came from The Ultimate Soup Cookbook (Reader's Digest) and let me tell you that this is probably the best soup cookbook I have found. I think I've made about ten soups from it and every one of them was great. I often make alterations, but several of these I've made really close to the actual recipe and they have turned out fantastic. This book is certainly making me look like a better cook than I am. And here's a tip, if you want a copy, try ebay. I got a brand new copy there for $13 plus shipping.

It was a little quieter here this week than last week at Mum & Dad's! The Neighbour informed me that up until last week, we were the only two with perfect attendance, and now I've missed a SS and she's the only one who's been here every single Sunday since May! I said, "Hey! Last week at Mum's, I made four soups and five kinds of bread, plus the soup y'all had here! That's got to count for something!" but she's sticking to her story. So alas, I am no longer perfect. I know, that's a shock to all who know me.

Until next lots of soup!

Lost - my favourite hat!

Hi All,
I meant to include this note in last week's post, but forgot. When my grandmother arrived at SS she commented on my grey fleece hat being a "chef's hat". I'd forgotten I was wearing it and quickly took it off and threw it in the bedroom that we were staying in for our visit. Well...that also ended up being the bedroom where everyone put their coats. When SS was over, my favourite hat was gone!

If anyone ended up getting home with it and you're wondering whose it is, it's mine! I really love that hat, so I'm willing to trade you some secret recipes for its safe return, no questions asked. If you love it so much you can't part with it (which I totally understand), you can get one right there in Portland because that's where they're made by Cagoule Fleece. Hmmm...I was just over at their site and they're having a sale. I gotta go...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Sunday Soup on the Road

Hello All! The reason I'm posting late this week is because SS was on the road and I didn't really want to advertise on the internet that we were away from home. We're back now, so now I can tell y'all all about it!

The Southerner and I went to visit The Parents (road trip!). Mum asked me if I would mind doing SS on Friday night since we were scheduled to head home on Saturday, but we decided it would be more fun to change our dates and have SS at their house. It was a much bigger deal than our usual SS here on the island as Mum had invited about sixty people! Although we were sorry they didn't all come, it was a bit of a relief too because that's a lot of soup and bread! As it is, I think there was probably around thirty people and we made four soups and five loaves of bread.

My grandmother, who follows these posts regularly and LOVES soup even more than I do requested French Onion, which I made for her with Swiss cheese toasts to go in it. I made the White Bean with Spinach and Sundried Tomatoes (from a few weeks ago) for the crockpot, and Julia Child's potato-leek soup (fabulous and sooo simple) in Mum's pot. Those are all soups I've made before though, so I had to have a new one too. I asked my eight year old niece what she would like and she said "spinach?", so that's what I made.

She wanted a cream of spinach and I'd just bought that fabulous soup cookbook that I mentioned a few months ago here and sure enough, there was a cream of spinach soup recipe. I have to admit that it is probably not a recipe I could afford to make up here, but since Mum was footing the bill, I jumped all over the opportunity. Plus, because we had three other soups, we didn't have to make a lot of it, just enough. If I served it here as the only soup, I think it would cost me about $30 or so for seven or eight quarts. I have to be more economical than that, but maybe in the summer when I can use fresh spinach that The Southerner grew instead of frozen, I will be able to afford that.

Anyway, it turned out really lovely. It has celery and leeks in it (and spinach, of course) and veggie stock and you puree it and add cream (I used Silk). The unusual bit that made it particularly good was the seasoning. It calls for mint and marjoram, plus the usual (salt and pepper). Very, very tasty.

My cousin Zach, who is also eight, was not impressed with any of the soups (pesky vegetables!), but I promised not to repeat what he said the spinach soup looked like! It made me laugh though, as no one's ever described any of my soups quite that way. To his credit, he did try it, although I think it burned his tongue, so he probably wasn't the best judge of the taste. Poor Zach, he had a hard SS because my friend Dawn brough fancy chocolate bars and he got a mouthful of one of them before anyone told him it had dried mushrooms in it. Yeah...mushrooms! I helped him rinse out the sink after he spit that out! I could feel his pain!!! Luckily, I don't like dark chocolate, so I didn't accidentally eat any. Mushrooms are fine in soup, but in chocolate? Pass.

As for the guests, it was very exciting! It was mostly family, with a few friends for good measure. Hmmm...maybe there was only one friend there, now that I think about it. The other one that was supposed to come called at 7:15pm saying that she'd gone into Ikea at 3:45 and just found her way out again. That's happened to us too, which is why we stay far away from there!

Anyway, there were several branches of the family. My parents, my dad's sisters and some of my cousins, my dad's aunts and some of his cousins, my grandmother, my mum's brothers and sister, my cousins on that side, kids of some of my cousins, my brother, my niece, and of course me and The Southerner. In case you didn't know this, The Southerner is an only child and looked a little dazed by four generations, but he held up reasonably well!

Anyway, it was really fun and on the way home, The Southerner and I decided that we'd try and make a January trip next year and have a big Sunday Soup down there again (don't worry, Mum, we'll visit before then too)! Oh, and lest any of you were worried about people showing up here at home and wondering where we were, we had that covered too. The Brits and The Neighbour hosted a very quiet SS here...well, I don't actually know how quiet they were, but there was only the three of them, and if they were noisy, well...the cats are cool and didn't say a mumblin' word*.

Sunday Soup has taught me a lot of things, but probably the most important is that "it is what it is". What I mean by that is there is no reason to worry if you have enough soup, or plenty of bread, or how many people are coming... You just make the food, clean the house to the best of your ability without it being an all-day process, and you enjoy yourself. I have never run out of soup or bread yet, but I can honestly say that someday I probably will, just because more people come than I have soup for, and when that day comes, I'll just offer everyone another cup of tea and the conversation will go on...that's what it's about, right? Gathering together with people you love and having a good time.

*A slightly mangled line from Hoyt Axton's song Della and the Dealer.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


Hi All.
I will update SS on Tuesday. I'll explain why then. Hope you had a great weekend!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Leave those skins on...

Yesterday when I came home from the grocery store The Southerner and The Fix-it Guy were working on the bathroom drains (because you couldn't really call them drains anymore since they didn't). Actually, The Fix-it Guy was working on the drains and The Southerner was "standing by" just in case. Hehe. Anyway, The Southerner went into the kitchen for a something (probably more tea - standing by is a very thirsty job) and saw the ten pounds of potatoes I'd bought.

The Southerner: Potatoes on sale?
Me: Nope. They're for the soup and guess what? The recipe calls for them to be peeled.
The Southerner: ALL OF THEM!!! You've got to be kidding me!!!!

You see, the reason he reacted so strongly is because if you'll recall, I cannot peel potatoes. I had a major allergic reaction last summer when I peeled potatoes for soup. The Southerner is now the designated potato peeler. From down the hall (and under the sink), The Fix-it Guy yelled out, "Don't peel them! The peelings are the best part!"

The truth is that while I had already decided to adapt the recipe somehow so that they did not all have to be peeled, I had to make The Southerner sweat just a little bit.

Me: They have to be peeled. That's how the recipe works!

He didn't really fall for it though because he knows I've never followed a recipe to the letter in my life. In the end, he was right not to worry because I totally made up the soup. I did have him peel about ten large potatoes. I got sent to my room (office) while he was doing it because I had the audacity to try and explain to him why he was going to cut himself if he kept using the potato peeler the way he was using it the potatoes were making me sneeze, even though he was doing the peeling.

The rest of the scrubbed potatoes I rubbed with olive oil and salt and then baked on a sheet pan at 450 for about an hour. I boiled the potatoes that he peeled and then pureed them with the water and some carmelized onion to make a base for the soup. Then I chopped the baked potatoes, added them to it, added more water, seasonings and a whole lot of shredded cheddar cheese, some chives, and thinned it with a little vegetable stock. Just in case you're wondering why I used ten pounds of potatoes when I wasn't expecting very many people today, it's because I made nearly nine quarts of soup.

I made nine quarts because someone asked me to do Sunday Soup at their house for their family next week and I agreed. Although we spread the word to our regulars that we wouldn't be here, we didn't see everyone this week, so The Neighbour and The Brits are planning on defrosting half of this week's soup (which I intend to freeze tomorrow) and hosting their own SS here, just in case anyone shows up. So essentially there will be two Sunday Soups next week. You're welcome to join us at either of them, but of course you have to know where to go...I can't really post that info here!

Today we had a small, but fun group. There was me, The Southerner, The Brits, The Neighbour, The Fix-it Guy and The Fleece Lady, and The Real Estate Agent (Extraordinaire) here. The bread was the no-knead type, with a garlic and herb ribbon (how's that for fancy? It means I spread it out on the board as dough, brushed a mixture of olive oil, Italian herbs, and garlic paste over it and then rolled it up and baked it as usual), which was quite popular, and a variety of cookies and candies leftover from last week. The only unfortunate thing is that I did not make the time to prepare a casserole, so now SS is over for the week and I am sitting in front of the fire with my feet up, but there is nothing in the oven baking until bubbly. I can hear The Southerner's stomach growling from the other room. Time to forage...

Have a great week!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Crowd - part deux

So far so was just a power surge. We're expecting high winds to go along with this wet snow, so you know...I better type fast.

The second part of this post, which you might be reading first because it will post after the one I just hurriedly posted, is about the bread. Last night, after fighting the broccoli into submission, I decided that for my own sanity, I better make the usual standard no-knead bread. I can whip it up in 5 minutes, so I made two loaves. Today, I was feeling better about the know, got some distance... and so I doctored up the loaves to make them more exciting. I kneaded (despite the no-knead name) garlic relish, cheese, and green onions into one loaf. The other loaf I sort of flattened out into a square and then broke bits of dark chocolate with hazelnuts over it and then I rolled it up and tucked it under itself. Pain au chocolat. Yeah...both breads were pretty popular!

As usual The Fleece Lady could not come without bringing something wonderful (yay Fleece Lady) and she brought a fabulous red pepper dip that I have to learn to make! Yummm...

Oh, and one last bit of, not that it's snowing...ahhh power surge! Quick! The news is that Sunday Soup is going on the road on Jan. 18th. More info later! Have a great week!

The Crowd

If you've been following SS from the beginning, or you skip down to the very first post and read about how we got started, you will find out that it's based on an idea from the Betsy-Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace. In the Betsy books she has a regular group of friends who she hangs out with and they are always referred to as "The Crowd". Today, Our Crowd was here for Sunday Soup. Plus a few newbies. We had eleven friends join us today, and two who were definitely, positively coming and then didn't because...wait for it...because IT IS SNOWING AGAIN. Yes. Again. Here. In western Canada where it does not snow for three weeks in a row. Or even three days. But snow it did, and we've already got several inches and it's STILL SNOWING.

Normally, I don't complain about the weather, but quite honestly, I feel like it's my duty if I want to fit into The Crowd. Apparently, complaining about the weather here is even more popular than hockey! I know, hard to believe, but true. I heard people complain about the snow, the temperature, and even the summer (or lack of it, which is entirely exaggerated) tonight and not one person even mentioned hockey. Hmmm...I wonder if these are real Canadians in our crowd? Now that I think about it, there's me and The Southerner, clearly not from around these parts, The Musician is half & half (Canadian/American), there is The Irish One, and The Brits...I guess it's okay that hockey never came up since probably half of us don't know anything about it anyway. But whoohee can we talk about the weather. In fact, maybe we should refer to it as THE WEATHER since it's such a popular subject.

What? You want to hear about the soup? Oh, okay. Today I made a wonderful broccoli and toasted almond soup. Earlier this week, I made it for supper and The Southerner was so impressed with it that he thought I should make it for SS. Organic broccoli was on sale, so I decided to go for it. Just so you know, steaming enough broccoli to make vast amounts of soup can be done in your big pasta insert that goes in your 9 quart stock pot. The soup itself is easy enough, but I don't have enough big pans, so I was making stock, then transferring it to a bowl while I steamed the broccoli, then transferring the broccoli with some stock to the blender and back to the pot and back to the bowl and into another bowl and then the blender and then...okay, yeah...I pretty much lost control of the soup there for a while. The Southerner did exactly what he should have done...he made a run for it and hid in his office until it was finished.

Oh....power's about to go...posting quickly...more later.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!

We hope that 2009 brings you much joy, peace, and soup.

With love, from me and The Southerner.