Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Edible Traditions: Escarole Soup

A holiday tradition I married into is Escarole Soup for dinner on Dec 24th. We gather around, sharing bread and a warm bowl while the house is toasty & smells of rich soup that's been simmering all day. It is so cozy, and pretty darn healthy to boot. (I'll have to see about taking a photo next time I mix some up)

This soup has been on my mind for two reasons... firstly, the woman in the grocery store that stopped me with the hope that I could point out which ball of leafy greens was the escarole (answer: yes, obvs.) and Second, because I made up a huge bowl for the winter team ride I hosted for my super, fantastic, awesome teammates this past weekend. It was a COLD ride, lots of wind, damp, and frozen legs. This soup was just the thing to warm us back up. So without further ado, the recipe;

In a large soup pot - heat oil, and simmer a sprinkling of celery seeds till fragrantSauté 1 chopped onion & garlic clove 
Add chopped carrots, celery, and potato. Keep the veg fairly large, but still bite sizedWhen potato turns golden, add chopped Italian tomatoes (I like Pomi for this) - if tomato does not come pre-seasoned, add in a bit of dried oregano, thyme, and basil. 
Add in two boxes of beef broth, low sodium and organic if you have it.Also add in Italian meatballs. If you use the pre-made, pre-cooked, frozen in-a-bag variety, we won't tell! (turkey meatballs are a fantastic option) 
Once the meatballs are heated thru, add in a head of cleaned & shredded escarole. Simmer until ready to serve. 
Top with freshly grated Parmesan. 
Kick it up a bit with some cayenne pepper, or used roasted garlic. If you have Parm rinds, feel free tho throw those in with the broth as well. Go easy on the salt - chances are the meatballs will bring quite a bit to the party.
I realize there are no measurements. This is what happens when you've cooked the same recipe for over a decade. However, it is a very forgiving recipe, so if you want to venture in to soupery, give this a go! Eye the ratio of chopped veggies, you want to keep them fairly balanced. I think I use about two handfuls of each.

This soup is even better the day after the day after the day it was made. So build up as big a pot as you can fill, and treat your family to a warm and hearty bowl.

A note about escarole....

If you aren't familiar with escarole, you might think it odd that a leafy green would be added (so early!) to a soup. However  it doesn't break down or wilt - even upon reheating. It is a delicious leafy veg. If you can't find escarole, you should complain to the produce grocer, and then substitute with a hearty (not too bitter!) leafy green. It will still be good, just not the same as the original.


Monday, December 17, 2012

Sweet Holidays

It's the most wonderful time of the year! 

I love the holiday season. I'm sure this is influenced by the proximity of my own birthday - but an entire season of fairy lights and good cheer, music, evergreen, parties and goodies, and (if we're lucky) snowball fights followed by warming our toes in front of the fire, and our bellies with cocoa or spicy spiked cider.



My biggest challenge of this season is the internal conflict. Threads of tradition stronger than determination, which effortlessly rewire the smart eating we've worked long and hard to establish. Nostalgia crashing upon the shore of knowledge and good intentions. We know sugar should not be consumed in excess, yet it is the prevalent white substance that we throw at each other with all the love and care we can. I mean look at the hours we spend creaming butter & sugar, baking and frosting, candying and brewing. While I firmly believe that the homemade is far superior to the boxes and bags of sugarlumps that are mass marketed in abundance, it does not bode well to consume in the volumes that are so readily produced.

That said, I have yet to figure out how to reconcile my desire for the treats that have become tradition with the desire to eat healthy. I do not buy in to making fake versions of treats; and I have been playing with reducing the pure sugar content - but honestly you aren't going to get a Healthy sugarcookie. Am I the only one that giggles inside anytime I read a recipe for Paleo Chocolate Chip Cookies? I keep imagining a caveman beating a bush with his club, and watching cookie dough fall to be gathered.  But don't get me wrong - I vastly appreciate the improvements and options that the gluten free (ala paleo) movements have provided to those who need it. But carob will never be chocolate, and I truly enjoy the flavor of homemade cookies and treats.

I do not want to abandon the tradition, the joy I experience when baking and sharing treats. But I do need to sit down and spend a little more time building up my Goldilocks Bakery concept - balancing indulgences with healthier and still delicious treats. Because for now, I'm finding I am avoiding baking, instead of whipping up the ganache covered salted caramel shortbread that inundates my dreams. Until then, I do plan to finish the Gingerbread House S'mores, as they've been on my to do list for the past 2 years.

So please forgive if I deliver a tin full of treats, as I work to distribute and reduce the amount sitting in my kitchen, or in my own belly.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Wherein things come together better than anticipated

Sometimes when life gets heavy, we tuck ourselves in under a blanket. we hibernate until we are stronger, until we regain the confidence to exert ourselves - finding that thin, shimmering thread of extravertedness which we must cultivate, else becoming swallowed by the self absorption named self preservation. But when we follow that thread, when we take the bold move of following where it might lead, one brave step into what Might Be, that is where reward can be found.

And sure, I know that my small brave steps are insignificant in the grand, universal scale of what really matters. But if we are to change anything, we must start with these small, bold steps, and allow those rewards to kindle the next.

Sunday was my first race with my new team. An all women team - made up of some of the kindest, happiest group of women I could have hoped to dream up. And I can't wait to get to know them better, as I work on letting down my own walls and learning how to be more approachable myself. We raced, I raced, gosh darnit! for the first time, Really, in about two years. I was focused! I put my head down and went for it. I found a maintainable pace. For only a portion of only one lap, did the doubt creep in my mind-stream, which was quickly shut down & replaced by a new voice. A voice of confidence. A voice of encouragement. My Own voice, for once, telling me "Yes, I can... just shut up and do it." A new voice that I am hoping to get to know better, as the demands of the racing season increase. I placed an astonishing 8th, in the top 25%! We celebrated after. We basked in the glow as our team mate took 3rd, and saw the wave of accomplishment wash over her. And then gathered that evening for a team BBQ.

We were asked to bring a side or dessert. After much deliberation I settled on a dessert. Figs have been in season, and I've been drooling over tarts and galettes. But perhaps there will be a GF need.. I don't have enough practice with vegan, so I stopped there. I settled on a shortbread crust, thanks to Bob's Red Mill for a delicious GF shortbread mix. I topped that with a thin layer of blackberry jam, frangipane (GF by using some of the shortbread mix to replace the flour) and sliced figs. Bakewell! Maybe. Still not sure if this technically qualifies, but it was gorgeous. Served with fresh blackberries picked up at the farmer's market, and voilà!


This is what I love. Taking concepts, flavors, and melding them together and adjusting to meet a specific need, only to have it turn out even better than you can imagine.. and to be able to share that flavor and experience with others? Especially those who usually have to bypass the desserts and look on as others savor their bite of cake? This is a joyful moment.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Finale

Adios, two thousand ten.  I want to say good riddance, and don't let the door hit you on the way out.  I want to hate you, for all you hated on me, on us.  But I don't.  I know you didn't set out to shit on us... to break us, to test our patience and fortitude.  But here we are - the year quietly raining to an end.  I am a year older, and this time, a year wiser.  A year stronger.  A year more patient, aware, and focused.  These challenges served to temper my will.  

And so I look to begin a new year, with inner peace, with a healthy respect for the fragility of these bodies that carry our spirit, and for the burden we impose upon our earth.  I will not promise grand and sweeping changes; I will not fret over the superficial milestones I might once have placed; for that is not who I am.  

What I Am, I'm seeing with clearer focus.  What is, what may be.  What is important, and what isn't worth the worry it attempts to demand.  

So, on to next year.  With hope, with strength, with optimism.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Race Prep

The day before...  Checking weather reports, and packing bags.  Running out for those last minute items - stopping at bike shops and food shops and the general store.  Wrapping bars, changing tires, filling flasks.  It's a routine, a ritual, and while these tasks were once a last minute stress, they now calm nerves and inspire.

Checklists?  Check.  Dinner done, and the storm rolls in.  Once again we'll rise early, and be on the road with the sun.  Although it's unlikely we'll see any of it.  Instead, a thick downpour of rain will greet us - the promise of mud, of bogs, of soggy slopes.  Tomorrow is such a day as will eat derailleurs for breakfast, and make a mess of us all. 

We flock to it ~ for this is the stuff that cross is made of.  Fitness be damned - I'm gonna ride.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Please Hold

"Please HOLD, I'll connect you.  Please HOLD, I'll connect you.  Please HOLD, I'll connect you.  Please HOLD, I'll connect you...."  We're stuck in a loop, and the operator to the universe is dropping our call.


I won't lie - the piñata of life that is our 2010 was full of shit.  Nothing to do but keep swinging away at it until it is empty, no?  Maybe there Is a prize with a golden ticket stuck in there somewhere?

But, we are learning just how patient we can be.  How tolerant.  How supportive.  How broken we can be and still cling to humor.  That doesn't mean we aren't sending the universe a big ol' middle finger salute - because we are; both hands, and mean faced.  Did we get the worst of it?  Certainly not.  But if I may cry Uncle - and ask for a reprieve, then I do.  Please, world, back off a bit?