Post # 81 I’m Baaack! For Reals!

January 7, 2013 at 12:20 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Well, I’m back to the blogging routine and I’ve got some fun things in store.  Here’s why.  Partner/Spouse is a nurse for nearly thirty years.  In his career, he specialized in emergency care and rose through the ranks.  Recently, he’s been concentrating on troubleshooting ERs that have difficulties.  His company just promoted him to a higher position which required a move to Tucson, AZ.  We didn’t know about the move until around the first of December, and we wanted to complete the move before the holidays.  Knowing what this would entail, I decided to forego all my writing efforts (luckily, I had the novel completed and most of the rewrites done.)  Between the acceptance on Dec 6 and now we took a FAST weekend drive to Tucson from OKC to find a place to live, visit my family, visit the hospital he is now working at, packed up the old house, loaded a rental truck (hired guys for that), drove a three vehicle convoy from OKC (I drove the big truck, whee), unloaded at the new house (hired guys for that too), and started unpacking things.  We were lucky in many ways.  We were able to rent a house from my sister just a couple of houses down the street from where she and her husband and mother in law live.  It’s very reasonable rent, in a very quiet neighborhood and close to all the amenities we need.  We moved to AZ in the winter instead of the summer.  We were able to get to the holiday decorations quickly and enjoy the days with much wine and celebration.  The dogs settled in quickly.  We arrived on Dec 22 and were able to celebrate the solstice, Christmas, and Partner/Spouse’s birthday.  We had two weeks between arrival and start date to unpack and arrange things.  It’s been a whirlwind, but now, a month later, it feels very much like home.

We’re facing a unique situation in our kitchen.  We now have no room for all our kitchen stuff.  We have to economize and store things efficiently.  We are basically rebuilding our kitchen and donating or getting rid of everything we have in triples or quadruples.  Don’t laugh.  We have a lot of those.  Seriously, how many wire whisks does one home kitchen need?  So I’m going to blog about the solutions and decisions we make.  Attached below is a picture of the kitchen so far.  It’s a galley style, very light and airy.  I’ll blog more later about the kitchen.  We still have six large boxes of kitchen stuff to unpack, and have already unpacked ten large boxes of kitchen stuff.  We really need to trim down.  If anyone has questions or suggestions at any time, please send them along.  I’d love to hear what everyone thinks.

So, now to food stuff, which is what this blog is about.

It’s winter in the northern hemisphere.  Duh.  Like that’s news to anyone.  Even here in AZ, it gets chilly.  The days right now are mostly in the 60s and 70s, but as soon as the sun goes down, temps drop into the frosty/freezing range.  It’s the perfect time to make soup.  Soup is an almost magical food.  Soup can be made quickly, or can be left to simmer for hours.  It can be rich and hearty, or it can be mild and tasty, or it can be spicy as hell.  It can be cold for hot days, and hot for cold days.  Whenever I make soup, the aroma permeates the house and for a little while the darkness outside stays outside, and the house feels more like home.

I made soup last night.  It was hot and satisfying and delicious.  I made what I now call Leftovers Soup.  I decided to call it that because I realized that when I make this soup, I start with the base and then throw in whatever else I can find in the fridge that will enhance the flavor.  It’s seldom the same soup twice and that just adds to its mystique.

Here’s what I did.  I had a small chunk of roast beef that I had been planning to use for something else but that never happened.  I had to use it before it went bad.  There were several other things that I needed to use, as well.  I took out my stock pot and heated olive oil gently while cutting the beef into bite-sized chunks.  I didn’t trim any fat off it because to my mind, the fat add flavor.  However, if you’re watching calories or fat intake, leave it out.  I browned the meat in batches as I’ve described before, getting a good sear and seal on each piece.  Then I added a bit more olive oil and sweated up some onion and fresh garlic.  Once they started to release their flavors, I added half a small can of tomato paste which was leftover from a meal earlier in the week.  To me, adding tomatoes to almost any soup gives it a richer, deeper flavor.  If you don’t like tomatoes, leave them out.  Then I added two cups of beef broth leftover from a meal earlier in the week, as well as three cups of water.  I slowly brought this to a boil, stirring to make sure the tomato paste didn’t burn before it dissolved into the broth.  Once the broth was simmering, I added some cracked black pepper, a little salt, one bay leaf and a teaspoon of oregano.  I let that simmer for an hour, then added some leftover sautéed mushrooms, and a can of diced tomatoes.  I left it to simmer for another couple of hours, stirring occasionally to make sure it didn’t burn and to see how the beef was breaking down.  I decided by tasting when the soup was done.  I’ve always felt that tasting soup is the only way to know if the flavors are right.  What I was looking for in the combination of tomato, beef stock, and mushrooms was a deep, earthy flavor.  The herbs and spices contributed to that plus gave it a little extra zing.  The water simmers out of the broth leaving a semi-thick rich broth.  At this point, I put in some leftover frozen pearl onions to provide bites of onion flavor.  It’s hard to know when to stop adding things to soup.  A soup of simple flavors can be exquisite, while a soup of complex flavors can be just as.  I had some green beans I could have added.  I also had some celery and carrots I could have added.  I chose to keep the soup on the simple side.  One thing to note, as well, is how the vegetables will break down in the broth if left in to simmer too long.  Potatoes will disintegrate but add texture and depth and creaminess.  Carrots will go mushy and add sweetness.  Celery will go limp and lifeless with just a ghost of flavor left in them.  But these same vegetables added just prior to serving will remain crisp and flavorful and add great mouth appeal.  It depends on what you’re after in your soup.

The final thing I added was noodles.  Never ever ever put uncooked noodles into a hot sauce or broth.  It won’t work.  Cook the noodles first.  But here’s a trick.  Cut the cooking time of the noodles in half, drain them, and add to the hot stock.  They will finish cooking in the soup; they will remain firm and delicious; and they will pick up the flavor of the soup.  There are other things you can add instead of or in addition to noodles.  Cooked rice comes to mind.  Or you can leave starches out.  Sometimes, I will put the cooked noodles, or rice, or potatoes, or toasted bread in the bottom of the bowl and ladle the soup over it.  That ensures that they stay the correct texture for the meal.

I served the soup with the rolls I made from the recipe in the side list.  Good stuff.  Sometimes, I add cheese as a garnish, but last night it was just the soup and a roll.  Croutons also make a good garnish.  Hope you enjoy a good bowl of soup soon!

kitchen 01

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