Post-holiday days are always a struggle. Unfortunately build-ups eventually lead to let-downs. Discussions with co-workers revolve around yesterday’s grandiose fare making today’s lunch (the usual spinach salad) pale in comparison. The single remaining Reese’s Peanut Butter Egg sits on my desk saying, “Enjoy me while you can, Brenna. The next candy promotion of epic peanut butter proportion is in October.”
You know what always makes me feel better? Soup. Here’s a recipe for a light, yet hearty one. I feel I can call it “light” because there’s no cheese. Or cream. It cooks up quickly and the tortilla strips make an excellent topping– if you don’t munch on them too much during the soup preparation. The corn, chile, beans, and salsa also make it colorful. The perfect soup for a spring evening.
After a few bites of this delicious soup, I couldn’t help but remark, “I love a soup that feels like a meal.” As much as I love soups, I know Roasted Butternut Squash Soup is not enough to satiate me. It requires a side or a complementary entree. A Pasta and Bean Soup dinner felt complete and my subsequent lunch the next day did too. This recipe reminds me of a soup you’d order at an Italian restaurant and think that it tastes too complex to ever attempt.
There are a couple keys to this recipe. The first is the pureeing of half the beans. It adds body to the broth without making the soup too thick. Second, cooking the pasta separately alleviates the dreaded “noodle bloat” where your liquid disappears and you’re left with soggy, mutant ditalini. And of course, the flavor is phenomenal– spicy, sweet, and rich.
Four years ago, my college roommate and I boarded a train to Lancaster, PA. We were two bright-eyed eighteen year olds, desperate to escape the city and experience a bit of Amish country for the day. As our train rolled into the station, I think our hearts dropped simultaneously. There were no buggies, or bonnets, or freshly baked pies awaiting our arrival. Our naivety was dripping from our sweating brows. We were in the suburbia surrounding Amish country with no taxis or buses in sight.
One call for an expensive cab ride later and we had arrived. Just about every market and store was closed because it was a weekday. Our only means of transportation from one field of grass to the next were our own two legs. After failed attempts at interacting with Amish children and one sole purchase (a lollipop) we made our way back to the city.
This soup was what I was expecting for our Pennsylvania country day. Simple, hearty, and relaxing. I believe that more often than not, the best recipes are the simplest and the best memories are the ones that you can’t help but look back on and laugh. At the time, our trip seemed like a horrible dream but today I’d give anything to walk down the road again with Lulu, garnering stares from the back of buggies. (Were they staring at my fluorescent Northface or because you’re Asian?)
Since starting at the advertising agency, my first “real-world” job, I’ve come to a realization: Thank god I cook.
Not only are my lunches better than whatever Lean Cuisine just exploded in the microwave, it also gives my coworkers and I something to talk about. I don’t have a child. I have no idea what closing on a house is like. I can’t complain about in-laws coming to visit, but I can share a good slow cooker recipe. Until you get to know people better, food is a great way to bond.
This recipe was passed along by my mom’s coworker. I probably would have overlooked it without a recommendation. I love spinach in my salads but to be honest, I rarely cook with it (minus a stir-fry here and there). I was amazed to find I loved its consistency in the soup.
To me, good soup has enough ingredients to keep every bite delicious but if I happen to get a spoonful of just liquid, I should be just as happy. This soup passed that test. I loved the gnocchi. It made the dish more hearty. The cream gave it that rich taste but didn’t overpower the vegetables. Next time I’m in the lunch room, I think I’ll pass this on.
There’s nothing like a bowl of hearty, rustic stew on a cold winter’s night. Snuggled in a blanket while the Christmas tree lights cast a soft glow, I enjoyed the fruit of my slow cooker’s labor.
Let’s start with the vegetables. They are perfectly cooked. Rather than cooking them alongside the beef, the vegetables are wrapped in aluminum foil to steam on their own. This prevents the potatoes and carrots from becoming a mushy mess while also retaining their own flavor.
Secondly, the beef is fork-tender. Adding soy sauce really brings out the beef flavor and there’s a lot of beef. When I say the recipe is hearty, I mean it.
A secret ingredient, tapioca, rounds out the recipe. It thickens the stew without affecting the flavor.
Before an endurance race, athletes are supposed to carb load to maximize the storage of glycogen in their muscles. Before a big holiday, I like to vegetable load.
Somehow or another my house is filled with Sara Lee Pumpkin Cheesecake (AMAZING), Ghiradelli Dark Chocolate Brownies (AMAZING), Dove Peppermint Bark (AMAZING), and Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream (AMAZING). Yes, the holidays have arrived, which is why I decided to make minestrone soup.
This simple soup is filled with vegetables. It’s my favorite version of minestrone because it cooks up quickly and doesn’t have herbs. Sometimes, you just don’t need them. Garlic, onion, and tomato are enough to make the Italian soup flavorful.
I’m coming back from NYC today. I can’t wait to upload the pictures and share the beautiful fall views of Central Park and insane amount of eating we did. It was a great trip! However like any vacation, this weekend has left me craving a simple home-cooked meal.
Barleyburger Stew is just that. My favorite part is the barley. It creates a nicely thick stew when it soaks up the tomato juice as it cooks. Fried hamburger, onion, and plenty of chili powder round out the perfect return meal for any trip.