Sunday, April 7, 2019

Soup Sundays...

Recently I wrote about making soup each weekend for our friend Bob who is in his last days on this earth.  It is hard to really put words to the humble honor I feel each Saturday as I plan and prepare soup to share with him the next day.  It has become a bit of a rhythm, an anchor to my weekends and will forever remain in my heart as an act of remembrance for him each spring.  I have found inspiration in Janet Reich Elsbach's book Extra Helping and thought it might be nice to share with you all the various recipes I have made for him thus far.  Each week I add a topping or two for the soups like shredded parmesan cheese or some roasted veg for the side along with some homemade biscuits or bread.  I try to tuck in a jar of something as well like canned peaches from last summer or some jam to top the biscuits with.  Here is my currant favorite biscuit recipe.  The opportunity each week to think about what I would like to share with Bob, to check in on him and see how he is faring between our meetings at mass and the act of making something of sustainable for someone has been central for me throughout this spring and lenten season.  Each week in mass, I catch myself watching Bob as he sits in the front pew seemingly fully captivated by the incredible music of the gospel choir. Many of those songs had already held special meaning for me but are taking on a whole new life as I see him singing along.

March 3, 2019 ~ Sausage and Veg Soup
     This was definitely a wing it, kitchen sink type soup.  I started with sautéing onions and adding veggies like carrots, celery, and yam.  I let this all soften a bit and added some turkey sausage and chicken broth.  I think I even tossed in some white beans just to add a bit of heft for this man that is getting leaner by the day and needs every ounce of added calorie for strength.  This is a typical soup  we eat all winter long around here.  After learning that the "chunky" nature of this soup might be a bit difficult for Bob to get down (throat cancer you are a bitch) you will see I have moved onto softer and puree style soups for him henceforth.

March 10, 2019 ~ New England Bob's Barnacle Bisque
    See the last post for full details on this soup, but suffice it to say you can see I need to enlist Bob to create names for all of my made up soups.  I love the flair he named this one with.

March 17, 2019 ~ Irish Carrot and Potato Puree 
     Today was St Patrick's Day so I went with the theme and shared with Bob how when my girls were very young we were treated with a trip to Ireland with my family.  As I was on one of my very first ever international trips AND I was traveling with a 6 year old and 1 1/2 year old, I remember very little of the vacation other than how in love I was with the incredible vegetable puree soups I feasted on most days.  I was a strict vegetarian back in those days so no Guinness Stew for me.  Sharing a bit of the back story on what I included or why with Bob has become part of my routine.

March 24, 2019 ~ Chicken Congee
   I landed on this choice for two reasons; Bob has started passing items on to me when I deliver the soup on to him each Sunday, notably the book The Art of Eating my MFK Fisher, some beautiful prayer cards, a few pieces of his china dishes and some pantry items like olive oil, rice, couscous and honey.  I had also recently landed on the book Extra Helping and when I spotted the Congee recipe I knew I would use the rice he passed on to make chicken and mushroom congee for him.

March 31, 2019 ~ Red Lentil and Veg
   This soup is another standard in our rotation at home, which though simple, felt so right to share.  I like the idea of sharing a meal with him that we eat on a very regular basis, I am not a fancy cook.  This soup is very similar to the sausage and veg soup but using red lentils rather than meat and adding a jar of canned tomatoes.

April 7, 2019 ~ Butternut Squash Soup
   Bob has commented online recently how he is really battling nausea lately and so I am hoping a smooth soft butternut squash puree will fit the bill this week.  This recipe is another standard of ours that comes from the Seattle Junior League cookbook, Simply Classic.  This soup, I swear will turn even the biggest squash hater around into a lover.

Sadly, today when delivering a fresh batch of soup, applesauce, fresh eggs and bread to Bob he informed me this would be the last week for our little exchange.  He is barely able to take in food at this point due to extreme pain and keeping anything down with the strong nausea is increasingly rare.  He has lost so much weight, he's trying to hold onto his currant 130 pounds to make it to his Celebration of Life gathering next month.  If you are the prayerful kind, send one his way please... for peace of heart and comfort of body.  Thank you.

Monday, March 11, 2019

New England Bob's Barnacle Bisque

What do you do when someone you know is dying?
There really will be a kitchen story here, stick with me please...

Some 25 years ago when my husband and I began going to the church I had grown up in, we met Bob, Uncle Bob as many referred to him.  Bob is one of those people that just draws the world to him.  He is impossibly tall, pastoral is ways that I continue to stand in awe of (we Catholics are still figuring out that lay people can be incredible ministers without the trappings of titles), and always ready with a smile and a wry observation to share.  Bob, was a leader in our church in spite of himself and in ways that one could not likely find in any other Catholic setting.  Early on, he played a very key role in one of the most devastating times a young couple could ever encounter.  Bob offered himself to us in profound ways that I am still unpacking and will forever look back on with deep gratitude and appreciation.  Skip ahead a few years and Bob was no longer a regular presence in our community, I don't even really know how or why.  It could have been a slow departure, a rift with leadership, or something in his own life pulling in a new direction.  Well, slide to present day and Bob is back... for a while at least.  Some time ago a cancer diagnosis came; illness, treatments, symptoms, and the rollercoaster of feeling better and worse.  In this time Bob resurfaced at our church and brought with him some familiar faces of days past, he always did travel with an entourage.  Now, months in, Bob has made the choice to forgo treatments and live out his remaining days on his own terms.

So what do you do when someone you know is dying? I mean this is really happening, there are no positive thoughts, prayers or well-wishes that are going to chance this reality.  Bob is about to die.  I have not been in this place, of sitting in the presence of someone that is facing the imminent return to their maker since that time many years ago when Bob sat with us.  Full circle moment here.  So I reached out and told him how much he has meant to my husband and myself and offered the only thing I could think of... Can I bring you a soup supper each week?  Cooking for people is my go to way of sharing a bit of kindness and love with them.  So now we are a few weeks in, we have a lovely weekly dance of trading the empty half gallon jar for one filled with a freshly made soup and some biscuits or corn bread for dipping.  Bob refers to this as my lenten journey.

In trying to think about soups that will go down easy for one dealing with throat cancer, as well as something sustaining to help keep a bit of meat on his increasingly lean body, I went with a chowder with corn and smoked salmon this last week.  I consulted a few recipes for some framework but as usual I kinda winged it and crossed my fingers.  Each week as I am making soup for Bob, I feel such a sense of humble honor to be able to do something, anything that might be of help or support to him.  I am thankful for the opportunity to reconnect with this man who has been a pillar of our community, who even in these final days is finding ways to minister to and lift up those around him.  Bob sent me a message last night after sampling the week's soup supper offering and told me that I had not made a chowder but in fact a New England Bisque (I honestly have no idea what the difference is, but will dig into that research eventually), and Bob named my creation -- New England Bob's Barnacle Bisque.  Typically I am really a throw it together and call it good kinda cook, but this time I am going to create a real recipe for this dish and add it to our annual lenten rotation.  As a reminder of the man who gave it a name, the man who will forever dwell in our hearts as a welcomer, a challenger, and a giver.

New England Bob's Barnacle Bisque


2 tbsp butter
1 small yellow onion, diced
2 large carrots, diced
3 yellow potatoes, cubed
2 cups sweet corn kernels (fresh or frozen)
1 1/2 cups smoked salmon, shredded
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 - 2 tsp salt (to taste)
1 tsp fresh ground back pepper
2 cloves garlic chopped fine
1/4 cup flour
6 cups water
1 cup half and half


Sauté onion in butter until just beginning to go translucent then add the carrots.  Continue to sauté these until carrots begin to soften then add the potatoes.  Once potatoes begin to cook through add the garlic, corn, thyme, paprika, salt and pepper.  Once this all gets going add the flour, and mix.  If it feels too dry add a small pat of more butter.  You want to cook the flour and spices with the veggies for a few minutes then add the water.  Turn your burner to a med low now and cook until the potatoes and carrots are soft, about 15 - 20 minutes.  Now you should have a very chowder looking situation going on, add the smoked salmon and the half and half and stir through and let the heat permeate the bisque.  I made this the day before gifting a half gallon and we were left with enough for 3 for dinner.  Serve with corn bread or buttermilk biscuits.  Enjoy and think of Bob!

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Let's Talk Feast Foods...

Do you have must make recipes for holidays?  Foods that if they weren't part of your gathering it just would not be the same?  Foods you just have to make, whether anyone else eats them or not?  Do you potluck your holiday feasts or does one person do the majority of the food prep?  I adore hearing all about other folks holiday traditions when it comes to food.  Just yesterday I learned of two different families traditions that include Friday Pie-Day and a communal scavenger hunt.  I love these ideas and am gleefully working on figuring out how to work these in to our traditions in the future.  I mean Friday Pie-Day???  Seriously, this needs to become a phenomenon!  The woman I heard about this from told me she makes six pies of all sorts for Thanksgiving with the explicit intention of enough leftovers for many days of pie-for-breakfast for her and her kiddos to enjoy as well as a few extra pies for Friday Pie-Day.  They use the turkey leftovers to make turkey pot pie and have friends over for game night with loads of pie, sign me up.

For me I love to make fresh cranberry sauce, this year I found a game changing recipe that I do believe will become the keeper from here on out, it is like a cranberry sauce meets marmalade meets cocktail.  The red wine gives such a depth of flavor and cuts the tart of the berry just right.  We held some back from what we took over to my in-laws house just to be sure we had enough for home leftovers.  I also am often put on veg side dish duty for our family gatherings as I love coming up with tasty ways of sharing vegetables with others.  This year there were specific requests for waldorf salad and layered pea salad.  Leading up to Thanksgiving my youngest and I made candied yams to take to a friends-giving event at her school.  I discovered that when one reheats candied yams the marshmallows pretty much melt away, so we turned the leftover sweet yams into a new favorite meal by adding them to some big delicious sautéed brussel sprouts and chopped bacon for an amazing day-before-thankgsiving-eat-lots-of-veggies dinner here at home. My husband and I even enjoyed this for breakfast the day after with some leftover wild rice and a friend egg on top while our girls where off taking in all the Black Friday fun.  I am still thinking of that delish combo and hoping to recreate it soon and often.  This year I also experimented on a whim with a wild rice and sun choke dish that I really loved.  This started with sautéed leeks and sun chokes then added wild rice, pine nuts and dried cherries.  No recipe to share, but I do hope you will try combining these ingredients on your own,  the nutty flavor of the chokes and the rice made me very happy next to the turkey.  We even used leftover rice in soup the following day, repurposing leftovers makes me ridiculously happy.

I would love to hear about your favorite holiday foods to make and share as well as your family traditions, so please share them in the comments below, let's have a virtual feast together.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Goat Love...

So, after milking goats at a neighbor's house for 7 years now, I finally warmed my family up to the idea that we could raise our own goats too.  We have officially taken the leap from casual gardeners and chicken raisers to dipping our toes into the world of urban homesteading.  We now have two beautiful Lamancha doelings, Maizy-Ann and Tula who totally have us smitten.  I am finding all sorts of reasons to stay close to home these days, as I could sit and visit with them all day long.  Looking out the kitchen windows to the chickens and goats grazing about the awesome pen my husband spent the better part of the summer building, brings a ridiculous amount of joy to my heart.  A side benefit that I wasn't fully prepared for has been the way they have brought so many friends, neighbors and even strangers into our yard, everyone loves a good visit with these girls and they are beyond happy for the raisins and treats being shared.  We are loving all the visits as well, it is so much fun when a neighbor stops by with a bouquet of bay leaf branches for our kitchen and a pocket full of saltine crackers for these sweet girls, or when we get a last minute call from a friend in the south end asking if now is an ok time for a meet and greet, and all those that I have heard love to stop in when we are off at work and share smiles and raisins with these two.  Thank you all for sharing in this new journey with us!  I am dreaming of yogurt, ice cream, cheese making, and learning the ins and outs of making our own soaps once these girls are old enough to breed and become milk producers, but until then I am happy to settle for sharing the last of our garden's kale and chard in exchange for the affections of these little ladies.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Where have I been???

Oh my, how many post ideas have I started and abandon over the last many months?  Truth be told, more than I care to admit, but here we are deep in the days of mid fall in the Pacific Northwest.  I do love so much about this time of year, the cool and crisp air, the deep appreciation for every ounce of blue sky and sunshine that shows up, all things orange like squash and satsumas, vibrant and crisp leaves piling up along the walkways of my morning walks, and particularly the feeling of wanting to settle in for the impending winter.  Now that I am rooted in working life as well, my days off are something I am learning to really treasure and put to good use.  So today, after a quick trip to the dog park I am home and in the kitchen prepping several things that have been piling up for a bit now.  I had some extra milking shifts recently so there was a bit of a milk stockpile which I am turning into ricotta for an upcoming lasagna dinner, a bag of tomatoes from my in-laws garden which are being oven dried for soups and sauces in coming weeks, sprouts in various stages waiting for some love and the not so glamorous but oh so needed cleaning out of the fridge.  There were just a few too many last little bits of leftovers that have sat ignored and needed to go to the chickens before they become science experiments.  I do so love sending my compost out to the ladies knowing they will be transformed into lovely eggs for us very soon.  I could spend an entire day finding ways of keeping myself busy in the kitchen; maybe baking something for friends or family, prepping for the week's lunches and dinners, making some staple item like ricotta/yogurt/granola/kombucha etc, or just chilling on the window bench with a cookbook doing a bit of meal planning.  Here is a peek into my prepping today...

To make ricotta I follow the directions from Smitten Kitchen, heating the milk slowly and adding salt and lemon juice, letting it sit, then straining.  This is my first go around making sprouts, I started with alfalfa and broccoli and just today am starting a salad mix for the next batch, the strainer lids make it so easy.  And last, I am simply leaving the cut tomatoes in a low temp oven for many hours to dry them out, I have done this in the past and it seems to work really well, once they are dry to my liking I just put them in a jar and store in the fridge.  None of this is monumental or earth shattering stuff but there is a odd joy and satisfaction I feel when putting things to use and minimizing the waste going to the landfill.  Happy Monday all, I hope your week brings you some joy and satisfaction as well!

Friday, November 11, 2016

Lessons From The Bee Hive...

A couple weeks ago I had the opportunity to addend a local beekeepers association meeting and it totally got me re-energized on beekeeping.  I have dabbled in backyard beekeeping for a few years now with mixed success, but a couple years ago at the urging of my most awesome badass beekeeper mentor friend I cleanup up a long abandoned hive and added a captured swarm to it.  I have tentatively and inconsistently tended the hive since then.  I was a bit lazy, very unsure of myself, and confident the bees knew what they were doing and didn't really need much from me.  Fast forward to this meeting last month, and my confidence, energy and enthusiasm is bubbling over.  My badass mentor came over the other day to go over hive inspection with me and we found a thriving, happy and very full hive and I was encouraged to grab just a couple frames out to taste MY VERY OWN HONEY!

Can I just tell you, that it was sweet, flowery, fruity and absolutely delicious... my first honey harvest.  I have found myself more than once this past week, wandering out to the back yard to just watch these incredible creatures hard at work.  Watching them fly in, legs loaded fat and heavy with pollen in preparation for a long and dark winter.  Watching them band together to protect each other and keep the hive free of predators.   Watching the dances they do to share vital information with one another.

Feeling the hum in my chest of their hard working wings.  Smelling that lovely bees wax once you get within just a few feet of their domicile.  I can also tell you that my mind floated to all sorts of metaphors, how we really do need to look out and take care of each other, that we cannot go it alone in this world no mater how skilled or prepared we think we are there is always going to be a day we need our hive to feed us, to protect us, to nurture our littles, to share ideas and information with, and really to love us.  My children have a teacher that teaches all the children in her 8th grade class the following call and response... "What's my job?  To love us.  What's Mr _______ job?  To love us.  What's Mrs. ______ job?  To love us.  What's your parents job?  To love us.  What's your job?  To love each other."  I deeply admire folks who work with children who can impart in their unique way this notion of loving and looking out for one another.  So now, I'm going to keep a closer eye on my hive (human and bee), look out for and love on others at every opportunity, start going to beekeeper meetings, because in so many ways (literally and figuratively) the bees are our future and I want to learn and prepare as much as I can so that a sweet future it will be.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

I Can't Stop Canning...

So let me start my saying this is totally unpaid and unsolicited praises for the book that got me hooked on food preservation.  Upon discovering this website and book I have become a total food preservation addict, I'm always looking for new and interesting ways to pickle, can and preserve what's in season at any given time.  Here are a few of the things I have been busy making of late...

All this lovely winter citrus has me loving things like honey and lemon curd as well as marmalade made with Cara Cara oranges and ginger.  Though I have made enough curd over that last few years to feel pretty confident on that front, marmalade is a new one for me so there has been a bit of a learning curve.  My first batch was so very tasty but I fear I cooked it too long and it was rather stiff, I almost recalled the few jars I had given away out of sheer mortification but was quickly assured that the taste was much more memorable than the difficult spreading.  So I tried again, decreasing my cooking time and it is just on the side of too soft.  So, here's to hoping the third time is the charm!  I used a recipe from the Food In Jars (my most loved and used cookbook), it pretty much mirrors this online version with the addition of 1 cup of ginger juice and substitution of Cara Cara oranges for the citrus.  Though it took a bit of work to make the ginger juice, the addition of it in this preserve is totally worth every bit of effort!  Make the time to peal, chop and strain all that ginger for this recipe.
I have also been dabbling in pickling, ANYTHING I CAN GET MY HANDS ON...  My most recent experiment has been pickling red onions, and oh gosh I am hooked.  So far I have loved them straight from the jar, topping hearty green salads, and over eggs, but I imagine slathering these over a fancy grilled cheese sammie for a little punch of something extra would be quite fabulous.

On a side note, my thoughts and prayers are with all those impacted by the explosion in North Seattle early this morning.  That this happened in the middle of the night is something many are thankful for, this is a very busy area and I don't even want to think about what the scene would have been just a few hours earlier or later in the day.  These businesses are neighborhood staples and will be dearly missed, I am sure I am not alone in the hope that rebuilding is swift and we will be popping back in for coffee and gyros very very soon!