Rosemary and Thyme Mushroom Polenta

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“What’s going on with your…” Roo started, waving a fork towards the vicinity of my face.

“You mean this?” I asked, pointing at my eyes.

“Did you…are you trying something new?”

“What, you don’t appreciate the Clockwork Orange look?”

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“It’s just,” he paused, “different.”

I looked down, pushing the polenta onto my fork. “It’s what happens when your eyeliner pencil breaks mid-application at work.   I got my left eye done and then the tip broke off when I was starting on the right.”

“Why didn’t you just wash it off?”

I sighed. “Well, that would have been the obvious thing to do.”

Roo furrowed his brow.

“You know how I am in a panic.” I said, between bites, “I ran back into the office and tried to sharpen the pencil.”

“With a pencil sharpener?”

“With a blunt pair of scissors.”

“It looks fine.” Roo replied, turning his head slightly, trying to hide a smile.

I sighed, grabbing a napkin and dipping it into my water glass.

“What are you doing?”

I started wiping off the botched makeup job on my right eye, “Trying to fix it.”

“Babe, I don’t even know why you put on makeup.”

“What are you talking about?”

“It’s like,” he paused, “you’re like Beyonce. She looks even better without makeup. Unlike Nicki Minaj who just needs more and more piled on.”

“I don’t know whether to be more surprised about the Beyonce or the Nicki Minaj reference you just made.”

“Fine. It’s like this dish,” he said, tilting his plate of mushrooms and polenta forward. “It doesn’t need a whole bunch of stuff piled on top of it to make it better. It’s just great the way it is.”

I smiled. “You know I would have preferred Rihanna, right?”

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Roasted Summer Vegetables with Tomatoes, Basil and Pasta

Zucchini or summer squash, sweet corn, bell peppers and red onion

I scooped up a piece of zucchini with my fork. “I feel like a lot has changed.”

Roo looked up from his plate. “What are you talking about?”

“I saw a child today; thirteen, maybe fifteen-”

“So you saw a teenager.”

“A child,” I reiterated, setting down my fork, “who was walking in front of me at Fenway and I could see her butt.  Hanging out of her shorts.”

“Like her pants were falling down?”

“Like they were so short, that I wanted to hug her and give her my yoga pants.”

“You do realize you sound about eighty five right now.”

I picked up my water glass and took a sip. “That’s kind of my point. I mean, when did I become so conservative?”

“You’re really asking me this.”

“I know! But I can’t remember caring about how short a girl’s shorts were when I was in my twenties. I don’t think I even noticed what children were wearing.”

“Well, we all change. It’s part of growing up.”

“I guess.” I said, fumbling with my napkin. “Like, when I was in college I didn’t eat carbs.”

“What?”

“I know. This,” I said, tilting my pasta dish towards Roo, “is delicious. Why would I give that up?”

“But I thought you drank Natty Ice in school.”

“Correction, The Beast.”

“So you didn’t eat carbs, but you drank beer?”

“I know, totally logical, right?”

Roo laughed, “I am so glad we all change.”

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Rosemary Polenta with Roasted Asparagus and Tomatoes

I sighed and closed my laptop. “I just ordered $400 worth of shoes.”

“WHAT?!”

“I need a new pair of shoes for the wedding we’re going to. I can’t wear any of the ones I own.”

“Why not?”

“You know why. Stinkee got to them.”

Roo laughed, “They’re not that bad. No one will notice.”

“There are chunks missing! I can’t go to the wedding, looking like I anxiously gnawed on my shoes the whole car ride down.”

“It does make a great story.”

I didn’t laugh. “Listen, I’m planning on returning all but one pair.”

“Ok.”

Three days later

“So…I’m not returning any of the shoes.”

“Lys, you can’t keep them. You said it yourself, it’s $400 worth of shoes.”

I looked up from the floor, hugging the ripped open box, “I like them all. I didn’t think I would, but I do.”

“I’m going to say it again, it’s $400 worth of shoes.”

I started pulling out pairs of strappy heels, creamy colored pumps, then a set of ruby peep toes for good measure. “Look at them! Who knew I had such good taste!”

“Lys, you wear leggings and a t-shirt to work everyday. How are you going to wear those on the train? Never mind the bus.”

“I could do it.”

“How are you going to afford your share of groceries?”

I looked away, “We could totally still eat well.”

“What, what will we eat besides ramen noodles and canned fruit cocktail the whole month?”

“Polenta.” I replied, still feeling Roo’s eyes still on me. “Polenta with roasted veg. Super affordable and delicious.”

“Yes, I love polenta, but the shoes. We’re trying to save up for a house, remember?”

“But what good is a house when there are no cute shoes to wear walking around it?”

“This from the  girl who makes everyone take off their shoes upon entering.”

“Polenta, Roo. And cute shoes. It’s a win win,” I replied, and began carefully putting my children new shoes back into their own boxes.

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Mushroom Soup

“Someone fell on me on the train today.”

“So they knocked into you? Doesn’t that happen all the time?”

“No. Someone fell on. to. me.  I was on the ground face up, with them on top of me.”

“What?”

“He was too busy eating a delicious looking lemon poppy seed cake out of one hand and a drinking a coffee out of the other to hold the rail.”

“Well obviously it was because of his delicious looking cake. I mean, lemon poppy seed? Screw. that. rail.”

“Really?”

Roo looks up from his iPad, “Are you ok babe?”

“I cried.”

“Cried and didn’t give a damn what anyone else thought?”

“No, this isn’t an episode of HIMYM on what makes a Real New Yorker. This is real life. ”

“Meaning -”

“The anger cry.”

“I know that cry. It’s kind of…confusing.”

“Yes, a snotty nosed, yelling to getoffofme, anger cry occurred as soon as I realized he was on top of me…And that he was still holding his coffee and cake.”

“Not a drop spilled?”

“Not a single drop.”

“He must have gone to UMass.”

“So not the point Roo. So not the point.”

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Rosemary and Thyme Bread

Sometimes I wonder if the library has a wall mounted with photos of their most notorious card holders.  Members who have been caught repeatedly doing things “against the rules,” like eating, drinking or talking. (Clearly one of the greatest institutions must be worse than prison.)

If there were such a wall, I’m almost positive my photo would be up there for “most fines accrued.”  When I check out a book it’s pretty much guaranteed it’ll be returned overdue.

I don’t know why laziness I can’t get books back to the public library on time, but as of late the circulation desk staff have started asking, “Another one?” when they spot me rounding the corner.  It’s kind of like when the baristas at Starbucks see you coming through the door and start making your drink.

But with shame.

This bread however

is something to be proud of.

This bread would bring back books to the library on time.  This bread wouldn’t be recognized by the staff at the circulation desk because of fees.  This bread is good.  Quite good.

Studded with woodsy herbs, a lovely salted crust that it pulls apart with ease, it just begs to be dipped into a bowl of hearty soup. And when you come back from the library after paying your shame fees, you can find some comfort by tucking into some of that savory warmth.

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Mushroom and Wheatberry Soup with Kale

Some New Year’s resolutions may be to lose weight this year.  Others may want to quit smoking.  And maybe a few would like to spend less money.

I on the other hand, would just like to keep the crew from Hoarders from showing up at my apartment doorstep.

My kitchen cupboards are full, full of pantry staples like flours, dried beans, sugars, canned tomatoes and the like.  Unfortunately, it goes beyond that.

Various dried mushrooms? Shitake, porcini and woodman’s blend (whatever that means…)

Hijiki? Shacking up with arame.  They’re besties.

Dates? Sure, but to get to them you gotta push aside the dried cranberries, raisins, golden raisins, apricots, dried cherries…hold on a sec….where did these cacao nibs come from!?

And with the cupboards being filled to the brim, some items have found “homes” in re-usable grocery bags on the floor.  It just needed to stop.

Soup, was the answer.

The flux of warm, re-circulated, dry air in the lab to a drastically different, wet, cold and sometimes windy Boston side-street, has brought on sniffling noses, stiff joints and knuckles begging to be cracked.  Perhaps it’s a lingering bug, but I’m convinced that the constant change has left my body tired and hungry; hungry for warm bowls filled with hearty ingredients and dunkable broth.

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Creamy Oven Roasted Cauliflower Soup

I’ve been holding on to this one for a while.

Pressures of what to write, how to write it and if it would be good enough, have been sitting on top of my chest as I’d lay down to bed at night.  Uncomfortable would be the best way to describe it; a feeling that I should be writing something funny, but I can’t, or won’t.

Yet with the New Year approaching, I decided I should let it go.  Sometimes the recipe needs to speak for itself.

And this soup definitely has a voice: creamy and lush, hints of thyme, bay and a little “something” from the chili powder makes this bowl of assumed homogeneity a contender.  It’s full of body from the blended potatoes and has an unexpected amount of depth from the caramelized bits of roasted cauliflower.

Grab a hunk of warm, crusty bread and enjoy this winter fare tonight.  But be sure to save some for tomorrow, as it’s even better as leftovers.

Adapted from Creamy Broccoli Soup

This Serves About 6

Ingredients

For the oven roasted cauliflower

1 tablespoon of mild flavored olive oil

1 large head of cauliflower, cut into florets (try to keep everything, except for the leaves)

1 big pinch of fine sea salt

For the rest of the soup

1 – 2 tablespoons of olive oil (just enough to coat the bottom of the pot)

1 large onion, diced

6 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon of dried rosemary

Half teaspoon of chili powder

4 cups of low sodium broth (I used homemade vegetable)

4 potatoes (about the size that individually fit in the palm of your hand), cut into about half inch pieces

1 large carrot, diced

1 large parsnip, diced (if you don’t have any parsnips, use two carrots. I’ve done this before when caught in a pinch and it tasted fine.)

1 cup of unsweetened, unflavored soy milk (or any other non-dairy milk)

Quarter cup of nutritional yeast

1 tablespoon of butter, like Earth Balance (optional)

Salt to taste

Equipment

A sharp knife

A medium sized mixing bowl

A cookie sheet (or two) lined with parchment paper (optional)

A very large pot with cover (or dutch oven)

A spatula

An immersion blender or a blender

Ladle

Place the oven racks to the middle and lower position in your oven.  Preheat your oven to 425F.

In your mixing bowl, add the cauliflower florets, olive oil and big pinch of sea salt.  Toss the ingredients together till the cauliflower is well coated with the olive oil.  Place the cauliflower on one to two (optional, lined with parchment paper) cookie sheets, depending on how much cauliflower you have.  If using only one cookie sheet, place it on the bottom rack.  Otherwise, place both cookie sheets on individual racks in the oven, and roast for 20 to 30 minutes, switching position of the sheets halfway through.  Roast the cauliflower until it is tender and the outside is beautifully browned (it does not have to be browned all over, if leaving it in the oven for too long makes you nervous about burning).

Add one to two tablespoons of olive oil to your pot.  Place the pot over a burner on medium heat.  When the oil starts to shimmer, add the diced onion.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion becomes translucent.  Add the minced garlic, rosemary, and chili powder and stir to incorporate the ingredients.  Cook until fragrant, about a minute.

Add the broth, potatoes, carrot and parsnip.  Stir till the ingredients are incorporated.  Bring the pot to a boil, then lower the heat so that the ingredients are at a simmer.  Cover the pot and simmer for about twenty minutes.

After twenty minutes have passed, add the almond milk, sherry and nutritional yeast.  Stir and heat the ingredients through.

By now the cauliflower should be caramelized from roasting in the oven.  In one fell swoop, dump the cauliflower into your pot.  Stir in the cauliflower so that it’s evenly distributed in the soup.

With an immersion blender, blend about half of the soup, or to the consistency that you wish (I like to have some bits left whole in my soup).  If you don’t have an immersion blender, ladle some soup into your blender, but be careful to not fill more than half way.  Lid, cover with a towel (to protect your hand), and immediately blend (do not let steam build up in the blender or else you may risk of eruption and burning your hand!).  Add it back to the soup, and continue this until the soup is down to the consistency you desire.

Add salt to taste.

*Does it need to be just a little bit creamier?  If desired, add a tablespoon of butter, like Earth Balance.  Otherwise, you’re done!  Serve immediately.

Vegetable and Pearl Barley Soup

I’ve been living with Roo for over a year now, and I feel like I have enough data to say that he’s probably a serial killer.  Or an alien…but better looking than Powder of course.

*The fact that I mentioned Powder and “data,” should be far enough evidence to prove something’s wrong with him for staying with me.

Anyways…

1) When I discovered a few grey hairs and told him about it, he said, “I bet you’d look hot with salt and pepper hair.”

Who says that?  No one wants a 30 year old female to go gray.

Except for serial killers.

2) He always tells me I’m beautiful when I wake up in the morning, despite my insisting that I more resemble a Kraken.

Let me state, I am not “beautiful” when I wake up.  My face is oily, my hair that I put in a bun to keep myself from choking on it in my sleep is all mussed up and sitting on the top of my head, and I have the. worst. breath.  Hence, Kraken.

3) When I come home from the yoga studio, always after a practice where I sweat with such ferocity that it goes into my eyeballs (probably the worst thing to experience since you go both blind and your eyes itch), he’ll hug me even tighter saying that I “just smell like Lys.”

What does that even mean?!

I’ll tell you, it means he’s trying to memorize my scent so when he’s hunting me in the woods he can track me better.

4) Whether we’re sitting on the couch in private or at a bar amongst friends, he always has to have some part of his body touching mine.  At first I thought it was sweet when we were first dating, but now I know it’s just to make sure that when his head is turned he knows I haven’t fled the scene as he can feel me beside him.

Oh, I’m onto you Roo.  But for now, I’ll make you a pot of vegetable and pearl barley soup on this windy December day, insisting that it was made with love, despite my hand rattling the ladle against the bowl.

Chunks of potatoes and carrots, amongst the tender chew of pearled barley, net in by sweet kale makes this soup fit for winter.  This dish has hints of earthiness from the addition of rosemary, only to be paired with two other favorite herbs of mine: thyme and bay.  Adding a big hunk of bread to your plate will practically leave little else to be desired for supper.

Except for my freedom from a serial killer.

Roo is not really a serial killer or alien but a really good boyfriend despite my being a giant pain in the ass.

Adapted from Orangette

Serves 4 – 6

Ingredients

2 – 3 tablespoons of olive oil

1 large onion, diced

Half cup of pearl barley

4 stalks of celery, diced

4 carrots, peeled and diced

4 potatoes (about the size that can fit in the palm of your hand), peeled and cut into one inch cubes

4 cloves of garlic, minced

1 teaspoon of dried thyme

1 teaspoon of dried rosemary

Quarter teaspoon of chili powder

6 cups of low sodium stock (I used homemade)

2 – 3 bay leaves

1 bunch of kale (about a pound), leaves removed from stems and torn into easily edible pieces

Salt and pepper to taste

Equipment

A sharp knife

A vegetable peeler

A very large pot (or a dutch oven)

Add the olive oil to your large pot or dutch oven and place on a burner over medium high heat.  When the oil starts to shimmer, add the onion and pearl barley.  Stir the ingredients together, coating them with oil.  When the onions start to soften, and the pearl barley starts to brown, add the celery, carrots and potatoes.  Stir the ingredients together so that they’re well combined.  Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes or until they are softened.  Add the garlic, thyme, rosemary, and chili powder, stirring them into the other ingredients till well combined.  Cook them for about about a minute, till well fragrant.  Add the stock slowly, just a little at first, to allow the brown bits to come off the bottom of the pot with a spatula.  Scrape them off the pot’s surface, then continue adding all the stock.  Add the bay leaves and bring the liquid to a boil.

Once at a boil, reduce the heat so that the liquid is at a simmer.  Cover the pot and cook for about fifteen minutes, then add the kale, stirring it into the liquid.  Continue to simmer the ingredients for five more minutes, then check to see if your barley and potatoes are cooked through.  The potatoes should be soft to the touch (be able to poke a fork through easily) and the barley should have a little bit of chew to it.  Season with salt and pepper if desired, then serve.

Quinoa, Greens and Root Veg Soup

I’ve totally been embracing this whole “eating New England style” as November comes to a close.  “New England style” is basically eating the produce that’s available in New England during fall and winter.  It largely consists of storage crops and winter greens.  Produce like potatoes, winter squashes, onions, kale, cauliflower, brussels sprouts and even tatsoi.

Also, soup has been served practically everyday in our little apartment.  LLN basically reflects what Roo and I eat, so hopefully you haven’t grown tired of the seasonal veg and soups that have been featured.  I honestly can’t get enough of it!  I am absolutely in love with swinging by the farmers market at city hall to see what’s available that day.  Sometimes I peruse the tables out of need for a recipe, and other times it’s to just pick up an item or two, if only to support the farmers that trekked into the city, just to sit in the cold all day.  Just a note: the more you frequent a vendor, the more likely they’ll remember you and try to give you a better deal (ie I’ve received a free handful of this or that and sometimes a couple of apples).  It really does pay off to shop local.

Ok, enough about farmers markets.

I’m here to write about soup.  Soup that I was able to make in thirty minutes after a quick chop of some seasonal produce and a stir in of quinoa.  Soup that has a bit of heat from red pepper flake, an earthiness from rosemary, loads of textures and a “complete protein” that makes even the judgmental of a plant-based diet hush as they dunk chunks of warm, crusty bread into the broth.

It’s incredibly flavorful and fast.  It’s a soup that warms our bones on nights when the heat drops below freezing and our uninsulated windows remind us that summer is over and it’s time for tea, blankets and baking.  Lots of baking.

And like most soups, it tastes even better the next day, as the flavors are able to meld together; potatoes completely infused with the spicy earthy broth.

Which leads me to ask, have you made a soup with quinoa before?  What do you typically use quinoa for?  I’ve used it in cakes, salads and now soups.  I don’t think there’s anything this little seed can’t do.

Inspired by The Urban Vegan Cookbook Recipe for Quinoa Soup

Adapted from Spicy and Hearty Potato, White Bean and Kale Soup

Ingredients

1 – 2 tablespoons of olive oil (enough to coat the bottom of the pot)

2 medium onions, diced

5 cloves of garlic, minced (love garlic, LOVE)

1 – 2 teaspoons of red pepper flake (if you’re heat sensitive, start with a half teaspoon)

1 bunch of collard greens, (about a pound) leaves removed from stems, torn with hands into easily edible pieces (you can use kale, collards were all I had.  I would not recommend spinach, unless if it was added right at the end, as it’s incredibly delicate compared to kale, etc.)

8 cups of low sodium broth (I used homemade vegetable)

Half to 1 cup of dry quinoa (1 cup results in a lot of quinoa with very little broth.  If you’d like to have a lot of liquid in your soup, use half a cup)

2 bay leaves

2 teaspoons of dried rosemary

2 carrots, chopped (the smaller you cut them, the faster it’ll cook)

3 to 4 medium potatoes, chopped (the smaller you cut them, the faster it’ll cook)

1 (15 oz) can of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed (optional)

Equipment

One large pot

A sharp knife

A vegetable peeler

A spatula/tongs

Pour olive oil into your pot and place over medium high heat.  When the oil starts to shimmer, add the onions, and cook for about five minutes, stirring occasionally.  When the onions turn golden brown (it may take more than five minutes depending on your burner), add the garlic, red pepper flake and rosemary.  Cook until fragrant, about a minute.

Add the broth, quinoa, bay leaves, greens, carrots and potatoes.  Stir to combine the ingredients.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Once at a boil, reduce the heat to bring the soup at a simmer.  Cook until the potatoes are tender, about fifteen minutes.

Add the beans if using, and stir in.  Simmer for about five minutes longer, then serve.

Creamy Broccoli Soup

Hey.

Did you realize yet that it’s halfway through November?  Are you in denial about cooking for Thanksgiving like I am?

Good.

Roo and I have been keeping warm in our poorly insulated apartment with soups.  Lots and lots of soups.

And maybe cats.

Pissed off cats.

Around this time last year, I made Roo a broccoli soup that was full of cheese, whole milk and half and half.  You’d think I was trying to collect a life insurance pay-off with what I plated for him.

“Oh no, half a block of cheddar is good for your cholesterol level of 250.”

Little did I know at the time, he doesn’t have life insurance.  Little does he know, I have no shame, and like my Aunt Kathy, I planned on putting his ashes into something affordable, like a vase from Pier 1 Imports, where my Uncle Dan now rests.

I’m just keeping it real.

This year, I wanted to make broccoli soup a little differently as Roo and I have recently adopted a plant-based lifestyle.  Yet, when I told Roo what I was making for dinner, he was a little concerned.

“How are you going to make broccoli soup without cheese or cream?”

Thankfully I had a bit of luck with my last supposed-to-be-cream-based-soup so I knew where to start.  Even though Roo hates my mentioning it (it’s all in the name really), nutritional yeast rounds out the flavors that would instead taste like broccoli broth without it.  Paired with almond milk and blended potatoes, it makes a creamy, cheesy soup that I loved submerging large chunks of warm, crusty bread into.

The soup has loads of body, as half of the vegetables are blended, then put back in.  And with just a little bit of chili powder to raise the flavor up a bit (that and the sherry give it “that little something”), you soon realize that it’s not just rosemary that’s added.  It’s good.  It’s, put down the cat you’re using as a shawl, good.

Adapted from Appetite for Reduction

This Serves About 6

Ingredients

1 – 2 tablespoons of olive oil (just enough to coat the bottom of the pot)

1 large onion, diced

6 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon of dried rosemary

Quarter teaspoon of chili powder

4 cups of low sodium broth (I used homemade vegetable)

4 potatoes (about the size that individually fit in the palm of your hand), cut into about half inch pieces

2 carrots, diced

5 cups of broccoli, cut into less than half inch pieces (if you can use only the stems, do it. Save the florets for some roasting, stir fry, etc where you’ll be able to appreciate the textures.  This soup is just going to get blended at the end.)

1 cup of unsweetened, unflavored almond milk (or any other non-dairy milk)

2 tablespoons of sherry

Quarter cup of nutritional yeast

1 tablespoon of butter, like Earth Balance (optional)

Salt to taste

Equipment

A sharp knife

A very large pot with cover

A spatula

An immersion blender or a blender

Ladle

Add one to two tablespoons of olive oil to your pot.  Place the pot over a burner on medium heat.  When the oil starts to shimmer, add the diced onion.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion becomes translucent.  Add the minced garlic, rosemary, and chili powder and stir to incorporate the ingredients.  Cook until fragrant, about a minute.

Add the broth, potatoes and carrots.  Stir till the ingredients are incorporated.  Bring the pot to a boil, then lower the heat so that the ingredients are at a simmer.  Cover the pot and simmer for about ten minutes.

After ten minutes have passed, add the broccoli and simmer for twenty minutes, covered.

After twenty minutes have passed, add the almond milk, sherry and nutritional yeast.  Stir and heat the ingredients through.

With an immersion blender, blend about half of the soup, or to the consistency that you wish (I like to have some bits left whole in my soup).  If you don’t have an immersion blender, ladle some soup into your blender, but be careful to not fill more than half way.  Lid, cover with a towel (to protect your hand), and immediately blend (do not let steam build up in the blender or else you may risk of eruption and burning your hand!).  Add it back to the soup, and continue this until the soup is down to the consistency you desire.

Salt to taste.

*Does it need to be just a little bit creamier?  If desired, add a tablespoon of butter, like Earth Balance.  Otherwise, you’re done!  Serve immediately.