Soup and Sandwich…Gourmet

When Fall hits our small part of the world, amazing deep grey clouds roll in, full of character, and sometimes full of rain.  We had two straight days of cold, cold rain last weekend.  The weekend my husband happened to be riding in Salt to Saint, a relay cycling race from Salt Lake City to St. George.  While my boys and I drove through 200+ miles of rain, my husband and his team rode through it on their bikes.  Good thing St. George is always sunny and warm.  We met the team at the finish line with homemade cinnamon rolls, hot chocolate, apple cider, and the good ol’ St. George sun.

Just in case your Fall is starting out cold and rainy, here’s a gourmet soup + sandwich combo you are going to just love: Creamy Corn and Potato Chowder + Tomato Asparagus Tart.

Sauté the veggies for bit, add stock and let simmer until the flavors have had time to shimmy and the veggies are perfectly soft, then add the half and half at the end until warm and creamy and heated through.

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Our town’s Farmers Market runs through October, and we can still find a couple large heirloom tomatoes.  I love the vibrant colors of heirlooms–they look just like the leaves!  Mop up some of the tomato juice with paper towels while poking holes in the pastry.

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Arrange the tomatoes and asparagus, bake, and sprinkle with a little love…aka…chopped walnuts and grated Parmigiano-Regiano cheese…

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CORN AND POTATO CHOWDER

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Time: 30-45 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
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INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 medium carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 medium celery rib, diced
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 6 red potatoes, diced
  • 2 ears fresh corn, cut from the cob
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 3-4 cups half and half
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

DIRECTIONS

  1. Coat the bottom of a large stockpot with olive oil and heat to medium.  Sauté the carrot, celery, onion, potatoes, and corn, with salt and pepper to taste, until the onion is translucent, about 5-7 minutes.
  2. Add the stock and parsley, and reduce heat to low.  Allow to simmer for 30-40 minutes until the potatoes are soft and tender, then add the half and half at the end, to get creamy and chowder-ish.  {Be careful to not let the soup come back to a simmer or boil, or the milk will curdle and your soup will separate.}

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TOMATO AND ASPARAGUS TART

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Time: 30-45
  • Difficulty: easy
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INGREDIENTS

  • 1 store-bought puff pastry
  • 1 bunch asparagus, trimmed
  • 2 large heirloom tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • grated Parmigiano-Regiano to taste

DIRECTIONS

  1. Heat the oven to 425F.
  2. Prepare a large un-rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.  Unwrap the thawed but chilled pastry and lay on the parchment paper.  Don’t worry about rolling or cutting or spreading it at all, just unwrap and lay flat on the sheet pan.  Poke with holes, using a fork.
  3. Prepare the tomatoes–they are too juicy and will make the pastry mushy.  Prepare by slicing thinly and placing on a paper towel.  Gently press the tops of the tomatoes with another paper towel.  When ready, arrange the tomato sliced on the pastry, leaving a 1-2 inch border (this allows the pastry to puff; without the border, it won’t puff as nicely).  Top with the asparagus.
  4. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, and bake until the pastry is puffed and golden brown, about 20-30 minutes.
  5. Before serving, sprinkle with chopped walnuts and freshly grated cheese.

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Balance and Oodles of Noodles

Sometimes life just takes over, doesn’t it?  For the past three months I have felt like I need an extra 5 hours in a day, at the very least, to accomplish my To-Do List.  In some ways it feels whittled down, and in other ways it’s only grown.  One of my first college roommates was a powerhouse of activity, attention to detail, and living life with such clear direction.  She lives this way still–a woman with such purpose!  She recently shared a quote from a book I’ve never read, but was struck enough by the quote to feel like I need to figure out a bit more focus and purpose.

“We fool ourselves if we think balance means giving equal attention to everything in our lives.  Balance only happens in dynamic tension.  Balance is giving not equal but appropriate attention to each of the various categories of your life.”  {-Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy in “Living Forward”}

Children seem to naturally give not equal but appropriate attention to the various categories of their life, and let all else go.  Before Mile-Long To-Do Lists and Adult-Sized Responsibilities you only had a clear Hope of the What-Could-Be.  And What Could Be was huge.  It could be anything.  How bright and how simple.

My mom once made us Oodles of Noodles, served in our very fine china with painted red, white, and yellow flowers and gold around the rim of the bowls.  {Was Top Ramen once called Oodles of Noodles?}  I cradled the tiny tea bowl in my hands and felt like I’d just been served the dinner of a king.  All those noodles!  In such a fancy bowl!  Just for me!

This bowl of Coconut Lime Soup with Forbidden Rice and Sweet Potato Noodles won’t make your To-Do List magically disappear, but with nutty forbidden rice, sweet potato noodles, hot peppers and chile sauce, zippy lime juice, cool cilantro, and creamy coconut milk, it will make you feel like a giddy kid with a What-Could-Be possibility.

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Here’s your super quick view of ingredients.  10 items.  No, 11 items, including vegetable stock.  That’s all you need to feel like a king!

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And a noodler.  My brother was nice enough to send this to me and I’ve LOVED making oodles of noodles of all sorts!  First peel the sweet potato, slice off the ends, use the petite-est noodle blades, and noodle away.

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COCONUT LIME SOUP WITH FORBIDDEN RICE AND SWEET POTATO NOODLES

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 30-45 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
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INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 cup forbidden rice
  • 1 medium to large sweet potato
  • 1/2 cup diced sweet red pepper
  • 1-2 diced red jalapeño pepper (seeds and ribs may be used or discarded, depending on how much heat you like)
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger
  • 1-3 teaspoons Sambal Oelek (depending on how much heat you like)
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 15oz can of coconut milk
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro
  • 3 green onions, sliced on the diagonal

DIRECTIONS

  1. Prepare the rice according to package directions.
  2. Prepare the sweet potato.  Peel it and slice off the ends to get flat surfaces.  Attach to the noodler and using the finest setting, turn the whole sweet potato into fine noodles.
  3. Coat the bottom of a large stockpot with olive oil and heat to medium.  Sauté the peppers, garlic, ginger, and Sambal Oelek quickly, until you can smell the garlic and chiles.  Add the vegetable stock and coconut milk,  and let come to a gentle boil.  Add the sweet potato noodles and let simmer until the noodles are tender, about 15-20 minutes.
  4. Add the lime juice, cilantro, and green onions.
  5. To serve, evenly divide the noodles and broth between four bowls, divide the rice in fourths and scoop one fourth into each bowl.  Garnish with extra fresh cilantro, green onions, and fresh lime slices.

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Tuscan White Bean Soup and Whole Wheat Biscuits

On soup night my husband always says he feels like he’s being cheated out of a real dinner.  I don’t know what to tell him; in my book there’s nothing more comforting than a hot bowl of homemade soup with biscuits on the side.  It’s been pretty sunny and warmish in our neck of the woods, but I think we’ll still have a few cooler days around the corner, at least one or two for another good soup night.

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The secret to a good biscuit is to keep the cold ingredients really cold, bring all the ingredients together as quickly as possible, and gently knead no more than 10-12 times.  That combination will ensure the flakiest, softest biscuit on your side of the Mississippi.

A note on wheat flour.  I purchase whole wheat berries and grind them to make my bread.  I happened to run out of hard white wheat berries (which has a softer wheat flavor, and yields a softer, spongier bread), and only had hard red wheat berries (which has a “harder” wheat flavor, and yields a heavier, denser bread).  I thought I’d try my hand at whole wheat biscuits instead of cutting them with half wheat flour/half all-purpose white flour.  They were true to hard red wheat form, and had a really wheat-y flavor that worked well with the rustic soup.  Feel free to cut half and half for a softer biscuit, if you’d like!

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TUSCAN WHITE BEAN SOUP

  • Servings: 4-6 bowls
  • Time: at least 1 hour
  • Difficulty: easy
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Soups aren’t hard to pull together, and are a great busy-night-dinner-fixing.  Soup can be served right away, but if you let it all simmer for at least an hour, you’ll draw out deeper layers of flavor. 

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups mixed chopped carrots, celery, and yellow onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and sliced on the diagonal
  • 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, julienned
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups short pasta
  • 1 can white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cups mixed greens
  • salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

  1. Coat the bottom of a large stock pot with olive oil and heat to medium-high.  Add the mixed chopped carrots, celery and yellow onion and salt and pepper to taste, and sauté until the onion is translucent, about 5-7 minutes.  Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant.
  2. Add the diagonally-sliced carrot, sun-dried tomatoes, bay leaves, and vegetable stock and water.  Let come to a boil and add the short pasta.  Let cook for at least 8 minutes, turn the heat down to low and let simmer until the carrots are tender, about 15-20 minutes.
  3. Add more water as needed for the soup-y consistency you want, then add the beans and greens and stir just until the greens are wilted.
  4. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper.

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WHOLE WHEAT BISCUITS

  • Servings: makes 10 biscuits (using a 2 1/2-inch biscuit cutter)
  • Time: 20 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
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This recipe is from The Complete Guide to Country Cooking.  While the recipe calls for 2 cups all-purpose flour, I used 2 cups whole wheat flour.  Feel free to use half white, half wheat flour.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; cut in shortening until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Stir in buttermilk.  On a floured surface, knead 10-12 times.  Roll to 1/2-inch thickness; cut with a 2 1/2 inch biscuit cutter.  Place on a greased cookie sheet (I use a sheet of parchment paper).  Bake at 450F for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.

 

Vegetable Stock and Veg Mix

About once a year I load up on HUGE amounts of carrots, celery, onions, parsley, and garlic, and I spend a couple days making vegetable stock and chopping celery, onions, and carrots to freeze for a pre-made, ready to grab veg mix to use throughout the year.

I store everything in freezer quart bags, label them, and throw them in the deep freeze, laying flat so I can stack them easier.  The chopped mix usually lasts me a whole year, and the stock usually 6-8 months, then I restock my stock {…haha} as I need until the next Veg Day.

{Let me welcome you into the deep insides of my freezer}

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As far as chopping vegetables, that’s it.  Chop them all up into equal-sized bits and pieces, stir in a big bowl to evenly distribute, scoop into a freezer bag.  End of story.  I usually just do the carrots, celery, and onion, and add garlic later when I’m cooking, if I need it.  {My mom loves to do things for me when she visits.  You know, like clean my floorboards or fan blades, all the little things I normally don’t get to.  She once grated an entire Costco-sized bag of whole, peeled garlic cloves for me, and scooped the gratings into an ice cube tray to freeze so I could use later.  She only stopped when she said her fingers were starting to burn.  Moms are awesome.}  Last tip:  Don’t add parsley, it will get goopy and gross hanging out in the freezer then defrosting.

Vegetable stock couldn’t be easier.  Your stock will taste like what you put in it.  For a Basic Vegetable Stock, I always use carrots, celery, onions, parsley, garlic, and salt and pepper.  For a little zing, I’ve added lemon to that mix.  For sweetness, I’ve added parsnips and apples.

Just sauté your roughly chopped ingredients in a large pot, cover with water, and let simmer for about 45 minutes.  Let it cool to room temperature and divide into freezer bags {I usually do anywhere from 2-4 cups per bag, because I know those are my go-to stock amounts I always use}.  Label, lay flat, freeze, and pull out at your leisure for a deeper flavor in your soups, stews, rice, grains, etc.

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BASIC VEGETABLE STOCK

  • Servings: 5 1/2 quarts, made in a 6 quart stock pot
  • Time: 1 hour
  • Difficulty: super easy
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Salt and Pepper to taste…what does that mean?!  Your taste is different from mine.  For such a large batch, I usually add 1 tablespoon of each.  It’s better to start with small amounts–remember the water is reducing, concentrating the salt.  You can always add more salt and pepper, but you can’t take it away once it’s been cooking.  One half of cooking is cooking, the other half is tasting as you cook and adjusting flavors as needed during the cooking process.

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 yellow onions, quartered
  • 3 carrots, cut in 2-inch chunks
  • 3 celery stalks, cut in 2-inch chunks
  • 1 cup whole, peeled garlic cloves
  • 1 handful fresh Italian parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste (you can use whole peppercorns or ground pepper)
  • 7-10 cups water

DIRECTIONS

  1. Coat a 6-Quart stock pot with olive oil and heat over medium high to high heat.  Add the onions, carrots, celery, and garlic, and salt and pepper to taste.  Sauté until the vegetables are just starting to turn golden brown.
  2. Add the parsley and add enough water to cover the vegetables with 1-2 inches of water.  Let the stock come to a boil, and reduce heat to low.  Let the stock simmer for 20-30 minutes.  Add more water to raise the stock level to 1-2 inches above the vegetables, and let simmer for another 20 minutes.
  3. Turn off heat and let cool to room temperature.  Pour through a strainer into  a large pitcher or measure cup with a spout, for easy-less-mess pouring into freezer bags.  If you use a large measuring cup, you’ll also know how many cups per bag you’re pouring.  (Isn’t experience nice like that?)
  4. To freeze, label the bags with the date and amount, lay flat on a large baking sheet, and freeze overnight.  Once they are frozen you can stack them to make more room in your freezer.

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