Tag Archives: soup

Snowy Day Soup

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Yesterday, on Sunday, the third day in April, we got another snowstorm here on Beaver Island. It started coming down while I was at work. By the time I left for home, I had to scrape a couple inches of snow from my windshield. It continued through the day and into the evening.

I had a drawer full of miscellaneous vegetables in my refrigerator that needed to be used before they went bad. Sometimes I buy too much, when the shipment comes in to the store and everything looks so fresh. Other times the problem is simply the package size in my household of one. My week away put all excess vegetables on the “use right away” list.

I’m still struggling with a head cold I picked up when I was off the island last week. It seems that we isolated islanders are especially vulnerable to any stray germs, the minute we get away from here.

All considered, it was a perfect day for soup!

I started by sauteing one diced red pepper, the white part of two leeks and three cloves of garlic. I soaked the last of the beautiful mixed soup beans – hand-picked from my cousin Bob’s garden last fall – and put them in a pot to simmer. When they had softened, I drained them and put them back on the stove in three quarts of fresh water.

I pulled everything from the crisper drawer and went to work. A bag of cauliflower stems and leaves, a package of brussel sprouts, four carrots, a half bag of kale and the usable green parts of the leeks were all sorted, cleaned and chopped before going into the soup pot. It was about six cups of raw vegetables. I added the sauteed vegetables, a jar of diced tomatoes, about a cup of grated zucchini and a pint of green beans from my freezer, and a half cup of barley.

It simmered all afternoon.

At suppertime, I dished it up, and added freshly-ground pepper, a dollop of sour cream and a splash of balsamic vinegar to the bowl. Delicious!

I filled three containers with soup to take to work for lunches this week and put the rest in my big covered glass bowl in the refrigerator, to warm up one bowlful at a time for lunch or dinner.

Good soup for a snowy day!

What I’m Doing…What I’m Not

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Yesterday was gorgeous, bright sunshine and blue sky.

Today, new snow and winds have changed the view.

A little under the weather, I cancelled classes and stayed home both days. I think exhaustion, rather than illness, is the problem. I don’t seem to be able to get enough sleep these days. One night of good but insufficient rest will be followed by a night of insomnia. A trip to the city to accompany my aunt to the hospital – strange beds, city lights and worry – compounded the problem. A couple days off would do me good.

I wrote a few letters, answered a couple Emails and enjoyed two long telephone conversations.

I waded through snow to my hips to empty the compost – a collection of coffee grounds, eggshells and vegetable parings – into the bin on the far side of the garden. The bin is almost full. I’m not the greatest at composting. My collections never get turned, and the ratio of green matter to food scraps must be off, too. Even in the heat of summer, the compost doesn’t seem to get hot enough to break down. It should, after a while, look dark and crumbly; it should smell like earth. In odor and appearance, my compost looks like exactly what it is: a collection of old coffee grounds, eggshells and vegetable parings. Still, I persist. It seems like a good idea, and it feels more hopeful than tossing all that organic matter into a plastic trash bag. Every few years, when the bin will hold no more, I tip out the smelly mess and use it to mulch around pumpkins and winter squash. Covered with a layer of straw, the unpleasant characteristics are masked, and it works to hold in moisture.

I gave the bathroom a good cleaning. One area at a time, I am setting up my house according to the precepts of Feng Shui. I did this long ago, when it seemed like I was the only one who had even heard of the concept. As I gained knowledge and added books to my collection on the subject, I found contradictions and big problems. Without being able to tear down my home and start over, some things seemed hopeless. I let it fall to the wayside. Recently, I picked up another book on the subject. Move Your Stuff, Change Your Life by Karen Rauch Carter is a clearly written, not-too-serious manual of using Feng Shui to “get love, money, respect and happiness.” As I’m in the process of a major winter “de-cluttering”, and clutter is the enemy in Feng Shui theory, it seemed like a good time to try again. The bathroom, in my home, is in the “Helpful People” section. I had barely finished my thorough cleaning (plus one red ribbon tied around the sink drain, all mirrors shining bright and a wind chime to dispel negative energy) when my sister Brenda called, with an idea to solve a big problem I’ve been worried about. Immediate results!

I’m making soup…an awful lot on these cold winter days. Yesterday I finished off a pot of spicy lentil soup; today I have turkey and wild rice simmering. Easy: one cup of diced turkey, sliced from the bird and frozen after Christmas; two quarts of turkey broth, made and stored in the freezer around the same time; three carrots, one onion, four stalks of celery and the leaves, stems and core from a head of cauliflower, all diced; a generous handful of wild rice. It will simmer all afternoon, and be ready to eat at suppertime, when the bread’s coming out of the oven, with plenty left over for lunches this week.

I am not putting in time in the studio. Winter is usually the time for art-making. The studio can be a cozy place to work when the cold winds are blowing. With a movie or the radio for company, I’ve spent many long hours in creative pursuits. Not so much, this winter.

I’m not shoveling snow…not much, anyway. If I can wade through snow to my hips to empty compost into the bin, I guess I can tramp through a foot of snow to get to the car. In other years, I’ve done more. Usually there is a clear path from the side door to the car, and also around to the front door. There is usually a path from the front door to the side yard, so that I can read the meter. There is walkway shoveled from the sliding door in back, just for the dogs, that leads over to the pine tree at the side of the house. Today, with another six inches of new snow, my chihuahua gave me a very intense look when she needed to go out. I suppose it’s time I get going on that.

I am not, it seems, coming to grips with my sister’s death. I was not there when she died; I was unable to attend the memorial. I forget that she is gone. Because I live away, and rarely saw Nita, it isn’t immediately apparent that she’s not still with us. I have moments of sadness. There are pangs of realization. I recognize symptoms of depression in my sleeplessness and neglect. I don’t feel depressed, though. Though I know it won’t last, most days I feel as if she is still here. That’s not a bad feeling!

The White Stuff

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Yes, it’s snowing again.

We’ve gotten plenty of snow here on Beaver Island this Winter. The last time I checked, we were at one hundred and thirteen inches (that’s over 287cm!!). And now it’s coming down again.

Our all-time record is 138 inches of snowfall in a season. We’re in position to beat that record this year.

That’s not the “white stuff” I’m talking about here, though.

Potatoes, rice, pasta…that white stuff.

The foods that seem so comforting this time of year.

The foods that are most friendly to my budget.

The foods that – according to the experts – women my age should avoid, for optimum health and weight control.

I’m pretty careful most of the time.

I center my meals around fresh vegetables from my garden in the summertime. Salad bowls are my usual dinner in warm weather, with chickpeas, egg and nuts added for protein and crunch. If I have a bit of meat, I’ll add it for variety.

In the wintertime, soups are the staple of my diet. I use stocks and vegetable purees that I put up in the Fall, from my harvest. Beans and grains give it substance. Meat, when I have it, for flavor. I make a whole-grain bread that’s a nice accompaniment.

Oh, I have my little indulgences: a glass of wine; chocolate in almost any form; coffee; cream; cheese…still, pretty healthy, for the most part.

Not this winter, it seems.

When the first wave of cold came through, I started wanting “comfort” food. The “white stuff.” Macaroni and cheese; tuna casserole; baked potatoes. As layer upon layer of snow came down, the craving continued. Goulash; fried rice; stew. The many (so many!) extremely cold and blustery days where the wind drove the temperature down and my drafty house was in a constant state of refrigeration, I warmed myself around the oven cooking one heavy meal after another.

Last week, I made a nice turkey soup. Broth and diced turkey that I’d put in the freezer after Thanksgiving, fresh celery, onion and carrots. “Substance,” I thought, “It needs some substance in this cold!” Barley was one healthy choice that I had on hand. I could have also chosen brown rice, wild rice, spelt, wheat berries or quinoa. I opted, instead, to make home-made egg noodles. You know, the white flour and egg recipe. That’s substance, all right.

One night I decided I’d just have breakfast for dinner. I mixed up a half-batch of pancakes. I made them in the silver-dollar size. Added blackberries that I’d frozen last Fall. Ate them with just butter. Looking back at the meal, I thought, “Congratulations, Cindy, you have just eaten one cup of white flour…butter added.”

Yesterday I made St. Scholastica’s Soup. It’s a lentil, barley and wild rice soup that’s one of my staple recipes. I usually top a bowl of the thick vegetarian soup with a dollop of sour cream and a splash of balsamic vinegar. Yesterday, because I had the time, and it was cold, I also made two loaves of crusty Italian bread so that I’d have that to go along with the soup.

I also took time yesterday to try on some clothes, in anticipation of a trip to the mainland. The snow is softening the landscape; it seems my shape has shifted and changed as well.

There is no doubt about it, it’s time to give up the white stuff!

So Much For “S’pose”

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I spent yesterday morning freshening the upstairs rooms, making beds, running the vacuum cleaner, sweeping and mopping floors at Aunt Katie’s, in anticipation of company coming. Aunt Margaret, my cousin Gail and others were arriving on the afternoon ferry. I met the boat and stopped back at the farmhouse to visit for a bit. I promised I’d stop back today, before going to work.

We were supposed to – maybe –  get a frost last night. In anticipation, I’d gathered all the summer squash, zucchini, beans, peppers, tomatoes and Swiss chard that could be harvested yesterday afternoon. I went out in the evening and covered the tomato plants.

Today was supposed to be my day off, but I was asked to fill in for someone. I’m covering the dinner shift and don’t have to be there until four-thirty, so it still kind of feels like a day off.

I started my morning by checking on the garden. No frost! I took the covers off the tomatoes. Juggling coffee cup and gathering pail, I wandered the perimeter of the yard gathering enough berries for breakfast, then came in to get on with the day.

All of the produce I’d collected yesterday had to be dealt with…except for the Swiss chard, which I’d had with dinner last night.

First the tomatoes, peeled and chopped, go into the big kettle. Peppers next: one hot, one mild. I set aside the young beans for a side dish, but the larger ones, ends nipped off and roughly chopped, get added to the pot. Small squash – whether yellow, light green or dark – go back to the vegetable bin, too. Medium-sized get washed and set aside for grating. The large ones, cut into chunks, go into the kettle. There is still room, so I go back to the garden to cut some kale. I gather purslane, parsley and basil on the way back. All goes in to the soup pot. I add just enough water to prevent sticking and put it on the stove to simmer.

When the whole mix has stewed until it’s tender, I’ll chill it. Tomorrow, I’ll put it through the food mill, and store it, labelled “soup base” in quarts for the freezer. I use it instead of water to cook rice. I use it with other ingredients to make soups or sauces. It makes a great braising liquid. With only a bit of seasoning and a dollop of sour cream or yogurt, it stands on its own as a pureed soup. It’s flavor is always different, based on what ingredients went in, but it’s always good…and always easy.

Now for grated squash. I grow three types of summer squash and – though they all have slightly different flavors and textures – use them interchangeably in recipes. When I put them up, grated, for zucchini pancakes, zucchini-crust pizza or zucchini bread, I just mix them all together. I like the little flecks of yellow or light green, and they are similar enough in taste to work.

This is one of the few jobs I actually like my food processor for. Though I’ve regretted buying it almost from the moment I got it home, hate the amount of cupboard space it takes up, despise the many small pieces to wash and store, and feel I could easily live a full life without it, the food processor does make quick work of grating a mountain of summer squash. Six quarts, labelled and dated, were in the freezer by noon.

There were four cups left over when I ran out of containers. I’d make zucchini bread! My recipe – actually James Beard’s rendition of Carl Goh’s zucchini bread – calls for two cups of peeled, grated zucchini. Who peels zucchini? Not me! Since my mound of unpeeled, mixed squash measured four cups, I’d have to double the recipe. No problem.

I had six eggs broken and beaten before realizing I didn’t have four cups of sugar in the house.

Okay. Two and a half cups of sugar and one half cup of real maple syrup would have to do.

Two cups of oil seemed like a lot. Aunt Margaret, in her baking days, used to substitute applesauce for part of the oil in recipes.

No apple sauce in my house.

But (aha!), one small jar of yams. I ask myself, might mashed yams be – taste and texture-wise – about the same mushy sweetness as apple sauce? Maybe. One cup of oil, one cup of mashed yams.

Three cups of all-purpose flour means that I need six cups in my doubled recipe.

Yikes!

That ended up being two cups of all-purpose flour, three cups of whole wheat flour and one cup of brown rice flour.

Baking powder, baking soda and vanilla caused no issues.

I spilled the cinnamon, so that was a bit more than what the recipe called for.

I had no walnuts or filberts, but a generous cup of slivered almonds went in.

After filling two loaf pans, I decided to add a half-cupful of dried cranberries to the rest of the batter before filling the third loaf pan and the muffin cups.

Bake one hour, except for the muffins which finished sooner.

Delicious!

This was supposed to be Carl Goh’s zucchini bread as interpreted by James Beard.

I’m calling it mine!

Checking messages, I see I am now supposed to be at work by three-thirty or four. I still have to walk the dogs, refrigerate the soup base, wrap the zucchini bread, change clothes and get out of the house in time to stop at the farmhouse. So much for my supposed day off!

Zoom!

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Today is an overcast, drizzly day here on Beaver Island.

This is exactly what I need!

I’ve been putting  many hours into getting my garden ready for Spring. My hands are dry and wrinkled from spending so much time in the soil. My joints are achy and my back is complaining, too, from shoveling dirt, forking compost and moving rocks.

There is progress. I have given away raspberry plants and strawberry plants that were taking over pathways. I thinned poppy beds and iris beds, and sent the extras home with happy visitors. Day-lilies left with everyone who would take them.

I have staked out my central flower bed, and am working my way down the row.

I first dig out the soil, to a depth of about twelve inches. I sift the weeds out as I’m digging, and have a bucket standing by for them. The next step is to rake the surface smooth, then roll out the weed shield and cover that with a thin layer of soil mixed with compost. Now I’m ready to move some plants. I dig up a clump of day-lilies, pull all grasses and weeds away, separate the plants, then settle arrange them randomly in the new bed. I want them to have distance between them so that they have room to grow, and enough nourishment to make the move without trauma. I do not want them to look  like I’ve placed them in regular rows. I want the tallest specimens mainly down the center of the bed, and the shorter  varieties nearer the stone border. I  cover them over with the rest of the dirt that I dug out, and border that section with rocks.Image

It’s coming along, but is still  only about one-third of the way done. This new bed runs right through space that last year had a 4’x5′ strawberry bed and – at the very front – a peony bed. Before I called it a day yesterday, I finished digging up the rest of the strawberry plants that were in my way. They seem fine, this morning, in their temporary home: a tub lined with soil and stored under the picnic table, out of the sun.Image

Today! Today, with the dampness outside, I will concentrate inside.

There is the usual, of course: rugs to vacuum, floors to sweep and sinks to clean. Every single horizontal surface in the house needs to be cleared of what doesn’t belong on it. Laundry to be done, houseplants to water.

In my studio, should I find time to spend there, I have twenty metal frames to assemble and fill with twenty sheets of plexiglass and twenty finished collages. I have four small paintings to frame and three others to order frames for. I have two large paintings underway and a dozen collages in various stages of completion. The studio could use a good cleaning, too!

I have committed to teaching an after-school art class to high-school students through five weeks in May. Today I need to complete that class plan to turn in to the program director here, and a materials list to send  to the Arts Council for dispensation.

Tomorrow I’ll be back at my regular job, so today I want to make a pot of soup so that I’ll have it to pack for my lunches, or to warm up for dinner if I don’t feel like cooking. As long as it’s drizzly, as long as I’m going to have soup bubbling on the stove, I’d might as well make bread, too! That sounds like it will warm the house up,  doesn’t it?