Well, it's been a busy week and the Parsley Thyme kitchen has been nearly bereft of cooking goodies, vegetable or otherwise. I did make a cake for my sister's birthday – a buttermilk pound cake that I added lime and tangelo juice to, then frosted it with a cream cheese/tangelo glaze and added cute little lime segments to the top. But guess what? I forgot the baking powder! That's what you get when you talk on the phone while trying to make a cake. Whooo boy, that cake was very moist, but it was also very dense and, well, inedible. Baking powder is important stuff, folks.
So. The literary world has lost two giants. J. D. Salinger and Howard Zinn died last week. I never even really liked The Catcher in the Rye (Salinger), but I had a dream the other night that I was looking through all of these pictures of various cover art for the novel, and I was thinking, 'I remember that one.... and that one....' They ranged from the carousel-horse-looking cover (which is a real one) to a picture of J. D. Salinger himself, to a winter forest scene, to one of some caricatures of old people that looked more like it belonged on a Dickens cover.
And Howard Zinn? You can call him a leftwing radical if you want, but he was a genius, no matter what wing he was on. If you doubt me, read A People's History of the United States.
The plans for China are nearly set, and, although they were 'best laid', we have encountered some snags, of course. Mainly it was a misunderstanding on my part about how long we were going to be gone, so I will be traveling home by myself before the rest of the crew. I have flown internationally by myself before, but that was to Denmark, which seems much less, well, crazy, than China. At any rate, we will all be leaving on February 24th, and I will be returning (fingers crossed) on March 6th. I'm thinking the worst part will be navigating my way from Guangzho to the Hong Kong airport. I'll just pretend like I'm on the Amazing Race. It'll be cool.
I was treated to some piano playing by my four-year-old niece the other day while I was babysitting her and baby Axton (just for a couple of hours! I'm not good with tiny babies!). Most of it involved a combination of key mashing and clobbering, but I got to hear loud and stirring renditions of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, If You're Happy and You Know It, and part of Jingle Bells, the arrangement of which was too difficult for her to continue, obviously. (When she pulled out that amazing rendition of Tiny Dancer as the finale, though, I was floored!) She also had a special song for me, which sounded something like this: *loud pounding of keys throughout.... “martha martha martha I love you I love you I love you.... martha martha martha I love you I love you I love yoooooooouuuuuuu!” The kid's got talent. What can I say?
One of the few things I made this week was some veggie soup to use up the leftover roasted cauliflower and kale. Is it cheating to write a blog about veggie soup? Heck no! Veggie soup is very important. Because what do you do with all those leftover veggies?
Well, soup is one of my favorite things to make and eat. In fact, I consider myself a pretty dynamite soup maker. Ironically, the thing I'm worst at is baking. And that's my job. I have had more flubbed up baking masterpieces than anything else, probably because I'm just not a very precise person. And that's why I love soup! Because, for the most part, anything goes!
I used my leftover veggies, quinoa and bacon, then I added green pepper, white beans and tomatoes. Since I didn't talk about quinoa last time, let's talk about it now, shall we? Quinoa is a grain. An ancient grain. (I mean, it's been around a long time. The stuff you buy at the store shouldn't be that antiquated.) The Incans were the first to harvest it (dubbing it the 'mother of all grains'), and then it made a comeback thousands of years later with health food gurus. It's not as cheap as rice, but it offers far more bang for your buck than rice does. Quinoa, strangely enough, is the only grain that is a complete protein, containing all the essential amino acids. So it's great for vegetarians and vegans. It's also great for people with celiac disease (like my dad) because it doesn't contain gluten.
The most important lesson with quinoa is to either make sure you buy pre-rinsed quinoa, or, if not, to rinse it yourself before cooking. The grains are naturally coated with saponins, which are bitter. That's all I know about saponins, okay? So don't ask me any more. They keep animals and other creepy-crawlies from eating the quinoa while it's growing. This is a smart plant!
But back to soup. It's so easy. There are soooo many different kinds of soup that almost any leftovers in your fridge will work. Leftover rice? Pasta? Beans? Veggies? Some cream that's about ready to expire? Even a couple of pears or apples that have seen better days can go into the soup pot. Just think about what you would eat together at a meal – Would pears with chicken be okay? Yes? Okay then, throw them both in! Curried beef and a side of green beans? Okay, give it a go! About the only things that don't belong in a soup pot are jello and mayonnaise. Depending on how adventurous you are, dill pickles can work, olives can be a nice complement, dried fruits, leftover stuffing, a creamy dip you made for a work party, the last few tablespoons of sour cream.... You get the picture. Just experiment a little, and you may come up with your signature soup!
For the base of my soup, I used chicken broth, water, and the juice from my tomatoes. Pretty easy! Then I just threw everything else in and let it simmer for awhile. Added some salt and pepper, a little dried thyme, and suddenly I had soup!
Don't even get me started on how healthy soup can be. Simmering (or essentially poaching) everything in a liquid requires no oil or other fat, and you don't need to add any meat or cheese if you don't want to. (If you're used to Campbell's Chunky Bacon-Chicken Chowder, however, you may have a problem with this.) I did add bacon to my soup, I have to admit. I also added the rind of a parmesan cheese chunk that I had sitting in my fridge. (Don't throw it away! Just add it to the soup and remove it later – you'll thank yourself!) I think, however, that all the other healthy ingredients in my soup probably canceled out my sparing use of bacon and parmesan. I mean, come on - quinoa AND beans in one dish? Get outta here! (No seriously, get out. My apartment's a mess!)
In the pot...
In the bowl...
In the belly!So there's my soup shpeal. If you've got a family, I highly recommend saving any uneaten leftovers and then having soup night once a week. (I do this anyway, but I have to take the soup to work to get it all eaten up.) The food won't go to waste, and you just might come up with something delicious! Cheers and beers....