When my friend Jana offered to come over for a visit and bring us homemade vegan soup, I said “Yes, please!”. Not only were we getting a visit with a good friend, but we were also getting fed. Win, win!
Let me tell you that Jana’s soup is EVERYTHING that is RIGHT in this world.
My photography skills are a work in progress and alas, I don’t have a picture that represents this soup in its finest form.
So I will describe it for you:
The soup is thick and hearty, almost like a stew. It’s full of all kinds of wonderful things like barley, lentils, carrots, onion, and celery, seasoned with bay leaves, a squeeze of lemon and dash of Bragg’s.
This soup tasted so good, that I found myself closing my eyes, rudely ignoring my guest, as I savoured every bite.
Picture yourself on a dreary Sunday afternoon, cuddled up on the couch with a soft blanket, wearing your comfiest sweatpants and sweater, reading a good book and drinking a cup of tea. And then someone comes and gives you a hug.
That’s what this soup tastes like: comfort in a bowl.
Thanks to Jana for the great soup and the wonderful visit.
Let me start by saying that this soup was awesome. It was spoonful by spoonful of spicy tangy awesomeness. It could have and probably should have been a simmering bowl of hot mess, but it wasn’t.
The inspiration for this soup came from a need to use up some left over coconut milk and diced tomatoes from a previous beef curry that I had made. I used a recipe as a guideline but I’m not going to mention the title, because as it turned out I only had 4 of the suggested ingredients and no patience to follow the cooking instructions, so I just did want I wanted.
I sauteed minced ginger and garlic in a little sesame oil until fragrant and soft. I then added a carton of chicken stock, the coconut milk (about half a can), the tomatoes (about a cup), 2 tbs of red curry paste, 4 healthy glugs of soya sauce and the juice of half a lime. I let it simmer together in the time that it takes to nurse and change a five month old baby and sing four rounds of “I’m a little tea pot”.
I was very low on vegetables and noodles. Luckily, three years ago my mother bought me a pad thai kit that I had forgotten about! I pilfered the rice noodles from that and added it to my soup. In the mean time, I had a little bit of yellow pepper and red onion, which I thinly sliced and added it to my bowl with a few halved cherry tomatoes.
When the noodles were soft, about five minutes, I ladled the soup over the vegetables.
Amazing. Every single mouthful was so good.
The creaminess of the coconut milk was a good balance against the spicy curry paste. The lime perhaps stole the show as it was strong but not too sour, the perfect flavour to compete with the curry. And the crunch from the raw veggies was pleasant amongst the soft noodles.
Sadly, in a rush to get out of the house I left the soup on the stove (the stove turned off mind you!) and when I came home later that evening it needed to be thrown out. I was very sad indeed.
Now don’t let the title of this blog post fool you. I am many wonderful things, but I am not a baker (please see previous post about my lack of measuring). This one time my friend Kendra gave me her famous buns recipe, which I copied word for word and followed word for word. Having taken it for granted that I understood basic baking principles, Kendra did not mention that I needed to knead the dough after mixing all my ingredients together. Therefore the dough went unkneaded and my buns, albeit beautiful, were full of lumps and had a strange consistency. (sigh) I am not a baker.
But….my friend Kristine is. She is an amazing baker and often sends treats to me via our husbands who work together (I really should start returning the favour, but wonder if our “courier” system could withstand the sharing of a bowl of cioppino in the same manner as sharing a banana loaf…perhaps not.) As part of Kristine’s birthday celebrations (Happy Birthday my friend!!), she invited me over for an afternoon of baking together followed by sushi out with the husbands and babies.
Man, can this girl bake!
While I stood watching and keeping the babies entertained, Kristine whipped together these wonderfully moist and flavourful cupcakes. The pumpkin puree makes the cake dense and gives it incredible flavour. The cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and ginger are deliciously present but do not overpower the taste of pumpkin. And of course, can you ever go wrong with cream cheese icing? Never. You can never, ever go wrong with cream cheese icing.
My mom will be horrified by this, but: I don’t measure. I just don’t. Aside from the first time I use a recipe, I rarely measure. My mom would say “I didn’t raise her like this.” (She says that about a lot of things, actually.) I also don’t really have a strong sense of time when it comes to cooking. Todd always asks, “How long does this pasta have to cook for?” and is annoyed by my response of “Until it’s done”.
Last night’s Spaghetti Pie was my own creation and inspired by my need to use up left over spaghetti in a creative way. When I started thinking about this blog post and how I was going to write up the “recipe”, I knew my mom would be annoyed by my lack of measurements. So the “2 cups” of spaghetti is really a guess and put in there for her benefit 🙂 The pie turned out to be delicious (despite my forgetting to grease the pie plate. Ooops). The marscapone cheese made it creamy and the crust had a nice consistency. I baked it for 20 minutes at 400 degrees F, but next time I would bake it at 350 for a half an hour so that the crust had a little longer to set.
Fennel and Zucchini Spaghetti Pie
2 cups of cooked spaghetti
1/2 cup of whole wheat bread crumbs
1 egg beaten
salt and pepper to taste
half a fennel bulb thinly sliced
half a medium zucchini thinly sliced
1 red pepper diced
half a yellow onion diced
4 cloves of garlic diced
8 cherry tomatoes cut in half
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp of red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons marscapone cheese
1 cup of mozzarella cheese
Crust Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a pie plate. In a medium size bowl, beat the egg and the spaghetti and bread crumbs. Spread the spaghetti mixture evenly into the pie plate.
Filling Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan and add your vegetables and spices. Saute until zucchini and fennel is soft about ten minutes. Stir in the marscapone cheese and simmer one minute. Add vegetable mixture and layer over spaghetti crust. Top with mozzarella.
Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes or until the cheese is melted and golden brown. Enjoy!
This summer we acquired a new barbecue, which we used pretty much every night and continue to use frequently into the fall. One of our favourite go-to side dishes, is the Grilled Tomato and Spinach Stacker. This recipe was inspired by something I saw on the Food Network and tweaked to make it my own. The other night we had it with grilled salmon (for me) and steak (for Todd), and a quinoa salad.
Spinach Tomato Stacker
- Large, not too ripe tomatoes
- drizzle of olive oil
- salt and pepper
- handful of spinach
- cup of finely grated cheese
Heat bbq on medium. Remove the top and bottom, so that the tomato sits evenly on a flat surface. Wash tomatoes and cut into 4-5 thick slices.Salt and pepper each slice and layer 3-4 leaves of spinach, with a tablespoon of cheese. Top with a tomato slice and repeat. Drizzle each tomato with olive oil and place on a small cookie sheet lined with tin foil. Place cookie sheet on the top rack of your BBQ and grill tomatoes for 15 minutes or until the cheese has melted and the tomato slices become soft.
My dearest friend Anne Marie, who was my university room mate, came over for a quick visit while she was in Calgary over the weekend. It was such a treat to get even an hour with her, so I cooked us up a sweet red pepper and spinach frittata and served it with bacon and ripe tomatoes from my balcony garden. We drank tea, played with the baby and caught up on each other’s lives. Even though we see each other very sporadically, we never skip a beat. A visit with Anne Marie always feels like I just saw her yesterday.
Red Pepper and Spinach Frittata
The frittata was adapted from a recipe out of “Giada at Home” by Giada de Laurentis, Clarkson/Potter Publishers, 2010
8 large egg whites
1/2 cup half and half
1 red pepper cut thinly into strips
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of pepper
1 teaspoon of chili powder
2 handfuls of fresh spinach
Preheat oven to 350 degree Ferenheit. Whisk egg whites until fluffy, 30 seconds. Add the cream, salt, pepper and chili powder. In an over proof skillet, saute the peppers until soft in a little bit of butter. Add the spinach until wilted. Pour the egg mixture into the pan and stir to combine the ingredients. Cook, without stirring, for 4 minutes. Place the skillet in the oven and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the frittata is set. Slide the frittata onto a platter and cute into wedges.
Thanksgiving at my moms was done differently this year. We dined on prime rib slow roasted on the barbecue- cooked to perfection so it melted in your mouth; made from scratch Yorkshire puddings; bright yellow turnip mashed with butter. A colorful Greek salad hid in the fridge, forgotten, until dessert. It ended up being the perfect accompaniment to the pumpkin pie my step dad “made”.
After dinner, my step-brother Andy, took out the guitar and played us some new tunes.
Baby K dancing to her uncle’s music. The perfect way to end the evening.