I never think of myself as a soup eater. When I was a kid, even though I grew up in a foodie family, soup more often than not came from a can, and had water added to it. It was neither particularly tasty nor particularly satisfying, and I carried that prejudice for a long time.
As an adult, however, who is tasked with feeding the multitudes (i.e. my children) with the contents of my refrigerator, I have come to appreciate soup. Soup is flexible — you can add the vegetables you have, switch out the base, change the seasonings — and you’ll probably still end up with a good dish. Soup is forgiving — give me your tired vegetables, your poor meats, and the alchemy of the soup pot transforms them into toothsome delights. Soup can be stretched to feed more mouths, and frozen and reheated without ill effects. It can be fed to babies, and sick people and children and made sophisticated for a dinner party. It can cook a little longer, or a little more quickly, or in the crockpot, or in the pressure cooker. It might just be the perfect food.
This mushroom leek soup is the perfect example of flexible food. It cooks up quickly, reheats well, requires very little fuss, and is infinitely adaptable. If you want it vegan, swap out the chicken broth for vegetable broth and skip the cheese. If you aim for gluten free, forget the croutons. If you have a handful of leftover vegetables, you can throw them in the pot. I added a couple of handfuls of baby spinach because I had it, but it can also be skipped if you don’t. You can even swap in onions for leeks, but they don’t have quite the same delicacy of flavor. Many people avoid fennel because they don’t like licorice — here, the licorice notes are all but unnoticeable – the fennel adds a depth of flavor and a hint of sweetness which balances the mushrooms. For me, accepting soup was tied to accepting my soup personality. I am not so much a broth-with-stuff-in-it soup person — I tend to prefer smooth textured soups, like this Gazpacho or thisCauliflower soup. Fortunately, the introduction of a hand blender handles the transition beautifully. If you prefer a chunky soup, by all means skip the blending step. Continue reading Mushroom Leek Soup with Garlic Croutons
I may seem like a hoity toity food person (has anyone seen my baker’s twine?) but deep in my heart I really love a good cheeseburger. And the cheeseburger I really love best is a Double-Double, animal style, from In-N-Out.
If you’re not from around here, or you’ve been hiding under a rock, In-n-Out makes the best fast food burgers in the world. And I, like many Southern Californians (and frankly non-Southern Californians) am borderline obsessed with them.
Los Angeles is a burger town, in the way that New York is a pizza (or hot dog) town, and Chicago is a hot dog (or pizza) town (and San Francisco is a ? town? Odd ice cream flavors? Fresh figs? Mesclun?) Angelenos take their burgers seriously. As I craved cheeseburgers during my entire pregnancy with Boo (who is turning out to be a meat and potatoes man, no surprise), I’ve sampled many of the fine burgers that LA has to offer — Umami Burger, Father’s Office, Pie and Burger, Big Jo’s … but in the end, I’m a burger purist, because none really measure up to In-N-Out. It’s the ur-burger. It’s not that the ingredients are stellar (good quality, I would say, for fast food, but not stellar) or that the burger is everything you can imagine a burger to be – but I don’t think you can do much better, food-wise – for your $3 than to spend it on an In-N-Out Double-Double Animal Style.
Animal Style, off the In-N-Out Not-So-Secret Menu, means the burger patty has been grilled with mustard, the raw onions (never my favorite) have been replaced with the addictive little flavor bombs of fried onions, pickles have been added (!) and there’s extra “spread” – really Thousand Island Dressing (!!). The combination of all the elements is a salty flavor explosion that makes you want to go back again, and again, and again.
The Super Bowl, oddly enough, seems to be one of the biggest food holidays of the year. I don’t know why it’s more food-centric than the Fourth of July, or Easter, or Cinco de Mayo, but there you have it. I myself am not a huge fan of professional football (LA hasn’t had an NFL team since I was in elementary school, which lessens the thrill somewhat) but I can always get behind a party. Especially a party that involves those semi-junky foods that you always want to eat but usually don’t because they are not good for you. Foods like buffalo wings, potato chips with onion dip, and jalapeno poppers.
This year, however, I am trying to eat more vegetables, and last time I checked, buffalo wings are not vegetables. In the past, I have scoffed at “healthy” Superbowl recipes. The whole point of Superbowl food is that it’s unhealthy. Nobody wants to eat kale chips while watching men pummel each other in freezing cold weather. This year, though, I saw my vegetable challenge as a Super bowl challenge too – could I come up with a healthi-ER recipe that doesn’t feel like a compromise? Something that’s so delicious you want to eat it MORE than the meaty alternative?
I don’t mean to brag, but I think I’ve accomplished just that. Little sliders (fun to eat!, finger food that one can eat on the couch while watching the TV), made from mushroom caps (We’ll ignore the fact that for purposes of the challenge, mushrooms aren’t exactly Vegetables. They are like vegetables.) oozing with garlic butter and melted cheese. Forget the Super Bowl. I want to eat these EVERY day. (And I could, too- they do contain butter and cheese, but it’s not excessive.) They’re so good that nobody will notice they’re eating healthi(er) food because they’ll be too busy licking their fingers and asking for more.
The end of August is not the easiest of times. The novelty of summer has worn off, lost its gloss and charm. Summer camps are over, the last suitcases from vacation are half unpacked and staring dolefully at you. The kids are climbing the walls with boredom. The weather is unrelenting, the temperature climbing into the triple digits and staying high into the night. It’s too hot to cook, too hot to go to the park, or play in the yard.
This summer has not been the easiest time for me. I am usually breezy, with a joke every minute. But I felt unable to cope. And yet I found myself in my OB’s office at 8:30 one morning, sobbing.
Post partum depression was not something I expected. I didn’t have it when Nuni was born, but here I was, with a baby who cried a lot, a husband who worked a lot, a mother out of the country, a nearly- five year old who does nothing I tell her to, and a bucketful of hormones making me -literally – crazy. I wanted to enjoy my baby’s babyhood, rather than resenting it, but I felt like I couldn’t.
It took a good friend to send me a note saying, “I think you might have PPD”, a husband who talked the doctor into seeing me tomorrow, instead of two weeks from now, and some medication, but the fog has started to lift.
The meds have helped, but some days are still a struggle. I have to remind myself, every day, to focus on the blessings. The grins and coos of my little boy When he sees my face, the conversations with my big girl, a husband who is an active parent rather than a bystander. When I focus on these, I can slowly find the joy that surrounds me.
August has its blessings, too. The sun may feel oppressive, but it brings us ruby tomatoes and juicy peaches. This gazpacho takes advantage of those, with the added bonus that it requires no cooking. I keep a jar in my refrigerator, and no lunch is more refreshing on a hot day. When I embrace the season, I can find the joys of late summer.
I'm Kate, and between my day job and my home job, life is pretty full. Look around to find some of the recipes, projects, stories and tips that keep me sane on the domestic front. Read more about me here and feel free to email me with any questions or feedback!