It’s the holiday season! Like, really, really. Christmas is just over one week away–how did it creep up so fast? Considering we’ve been doing our best to set the mood for festive spirits since Halloween, you’d think I’d be feeling prepared. Actually, I am feeling merry and bright but also over-tired, prone to overthinking, a little run down and probably on the edge of the same icky cold that has been waiting in the wings and launching onto my back at every bent, weary opportunity. Chances are, you’re not feeling all that dissimilar…because, holidays! Which makes this super easy, soothing, whole body warming pot of deliciousness perfect for you (as long as you like kimchi).
I got the idea for this lovely one pot meal from a kimchi soup recipe by Dr. Weil in a book I got to peek at while visiting my sister in San Fransisco. I had intended to go back to it to actually read the ingredients and jot down notes, but it was a whirlwind visit and there wasn’t time. When I got home, I guesstimated what might have been in the dish and hope the concoction I threw together wouldn’t offend the esteemed Dr. Weil. Either way, I sure enjoyed it, three times over so far. You can surely transform it to whatever you like in a pinch–scrap the tofu, change up the vegetables, consider simply throwing in a bag of frozen vegetables to save time. Basically, just revel in what a lovely broth base kimchi makes.
Beyond what enthusing has already taken place, I won’t wax on for once about this dish. Because, again, holidays (tiredness/everything that came before this point)! Just know, this aromatic comfort food is effortless to prepare, yet packs a steamy flavor punch that feels like an instant immunity boost. That precious combination is priceless this time of year especially, like a bonus of free expedited shipping with no restrictions Christmas week. Happy holidays, friends. 🙂
- 1 cup mushrooms, sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 medium carrot, sliced on the diagonal
- 1 cup snow peas, sliced on the diagonal
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped
- 16 ounces kimchi (of desired heat--I used mild) with liquid (appro 2 cups)
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- 2 cups water
- 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 14-ounce package extra firm tofu, cubed
- approximately 9-ounces Asian noodles of choice (such as udon or rice noodles)
- Heat a large stockpot, coated with cooking spray, over medium high heat. Add carrots, garlic and mushrooms and cook, stirring, approximately 2 minutes or until edges begin to brown slightly.
- Add carrots and next 8 ingredients, through tofu. Simmer for 5 minutes, or until vegetables are just tender.
- Bring to a low boil and add noodles. Decrease heat to medium and cook until noodles are desired tenderness.
Scotch broth is a traditionally hearty, filling soup principally comprised of barley, stewing or braising cuts of meat, root vegetables, and dried pulses. I’m not qualified to venture a guess as to how much the meatiness is essential. Take it out, is it still Scotch broth? Or are we left with a chunky vegetable barley soup? I’m not sure it matters. To me, back when I did eat meat and had the occasional bowl of Scotch broth, the part I savored most was the satisfying, flavourful warmth of it. I especially loved the smooth and almost melting textures of the root vegetables. So until someone informs me that it’s some kind of blasphemy to call a vegan dish “Scotch broth”, that’s what I’m going with.
Thanksgiving is just weeks away, and this kind of hands-off, hearty soup is the perfect comfort food to give a moment’s pause to think about the many things, even in our broken tumultuous times, to be thankful for. Barley lends such a creamy richness to any dish without the cream, especially when prepared in the slow cooker. Speaking of which, the cooking method may deservedly be up there among the best blessings of the busy season, at least when it comes to dinnertime.
Call it Scotch broth or not, this simple seasonal soup–or whatever variation works for you–should stand a trial chance at becoming a regular as we come into the winter. Meatless, but packed with meaty, nutrient-rich vegetables and chewy grains. And who can help but admire the way the crockpot opens its arms and welcomes whatever ingredients you hastily toss its way, then simmers away all day and fills your house with inviting aromas to come home to? Best of all, the hands-off cooking time frees you up to attend to other things, even if only for an hour. This week, “other things” meant more time crafting with my fluffy-haired little turkey. A perfect combo I’ll take any day.
- 1 cup pearl barley, rinsed
- 1/2 cup red lentils, rinsed
- 1/2 cup split peas, rinsed
- 4 cups vegetable stock
- 2 cups water
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 1 leek, sliced
- 2 carrots, diced
- 1 large turnip, diced
- 1 rutabaga, diced
- 2 sticks of celery, sliced
- 1 large potato, diced
- sea salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley, or to taste
- Place all ingredients in slow cooker and cook on low 8 hours.
I’ve been sitting on this recipe for awhile, and I’m not sure why. Time, mostly, I think. A little of the usual chagrin at my compulsion to record and share something that seems maybe too easy and intuitive, or so versatile that there is barely a skeletal model to vary. Yet that is the beauty of it. All we need is the reminder of all the natural deliciousness that is fall vegetables. A simple medley is both earthy rich and subtly sweet. Roasted, whatever you create is nothing short of sublime.
There’s not much to this dish beyond the idea, though the recipe is an ever toothsome standby. Not into grains? Take them out. Roast vegetables tossed with any sort of greens and a light dressing are a beautiful side. With grains, like chewy farro or nutty quinoa, and maybe some chickpeas or cubed baked tofu–you’ve got an easy, filling meal that takes a little time…but it’s mostly hands-off time.
When we were in Iceland…wait. Is this becoming annoying, how I am infusing little travel notes into every blog post recently? If so, I am sorry. And also, I am bound to keep doing so, just a bit more. Because having scrimped and saved for ages for a month of family travel that is surely a trip of a lifetime, I need to find ways of tucking little notes everywhere I can before I forget them. And also, I am pretty pleased with how we managed to stick to a rather penny-pinching budget during said trip, not least when it came to food. Which brings me back to Iceland. That beautiful, harsh, raw, uplifting country of sharp contrasts, of fire and ice, of Northern Lights fame (that we didn’t get to see)…the one EVERYONE told us was over -the- moon expensive to eat in.
Everyone was right. Iceland is AMAZING. It operates on 100% renewable energy, for one thing. That alone is enough to earn unswerving loyalty in my book. Its vast stretches of varied landscapes, often with an otherworldly feel, has a unique way of stirring a heightened sense of being part of the planet Earth. It’s a feeling that goes beyond even a passionate appreciation for nature. Even in at the sites most heaving with tourists, there is something that speaks to the overwhelming and magnificent connection to the cosmos. And there are also $40 sandwiches.
Having been duly warned, we went to Iceland prepared to eat apples and PB & J all week. We even packed a jar of natural peanut butter, in case we had trouble finding any without addends like sugar and palm oil. We soon found, however, that grocery stores were reasonable. We had hoped, given Icelanders rely on them for groceries, but we’d heard so much about the staggering cost of food we couldn’t be sure. Adding to our relief at the grocery bill, we stayed in a lovely home which the owners kept stocked with a variety of staples for guests to use, including a range of spices, vinegar and olive oil. All we needed was to mix and match the vegetables available for something absolutely satisfying to conclude an adventurous day and fuel the next.
Here is your gentle reminder that dinner can be as simple as roasting and tossing. Fall vegetables are failsafe bliss. Mix and match, and away you go. 🙂
- 1 1/2 cups farro (or other grain, like quinoa)
- 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into approximately 1/2 inch pieces
- 1 large parsnip, peeled, halved, and cut into approximately 1/2-inch pieces
- 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into cubes
- 2 medium golden beets, scrubbed and wrapped in foil
- 4 cups baby kale or other greens
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon honey or maple syrup
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- Prepare the farro: combine with 4 cups lightly salted water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the farro is tender, about 30 minutes. Drain well, and then transfer to a bowl to cool.
- Place the vegetables on a large nonstick rimmed baking sheet. Coat with cooking spray and a sprinkling of salt and pepper to taste. Roast for 20 minutes; turn and roast approximately 20 minutes longer, until vegetables are tender and browning on edges (leave beets wrapped in foil longer in oven, as needed, before removing from foil, peeling and cutting into cubes).
- Prepare the dressing: in a small bowl, whisk the vinegar, honey or maple syrup, oil, salt and pepper until blended.
- In a salad bowl, combine the farro, kale, and roasted vegetables. Add the dressing and toss until coated.
Self, I feel the compulsion to apologize for the radio silence on this little journal of ours. I know it makes me/us uncomfortable. But we have been scrimping and saving in order to travel for an entire month, and that has involved a lot of front-loading of other priorities. And now that we’re away, we have actually been working quite a bit, albeit in a less structured, less orderly, reduced kind of way, squeezing focused time in between oodles of exploring. Amazing how relaxing certain types of busyness can be without actually allowing for time to relax.
There hasn’t been any real time for the likes of posting recipes…and yet at midnight I’m going to, driven by the preoccupying desire to record every moment. Every bite, even. Nothing new there, I guess.
This week we’re in Switzerland, and the scenery that inspired Tolkien’s Rivendell is so truly, magically breathtaking words can’t begin to compete with images, which are forthcoming. Soon, promise. For the moment, there is this:
Because when you’re keeping to a shoestring budget of sorts, having splurged on travel itself, it’s nice to know you can make something suitably satisfying and also rather lovely to look at with a few reasonably priced vegetables you can find at the tiny local Coop, or even the nearby campsite general store. Roasting elevates the sweet and savory flavors and adds a quality that is both homey and elegant to just about everything, imho. This ratatouille is simple, delicious, versatile, and brightly beckoning. It’s so straightforward it doesn’t actually need a write-up. Except, I want to collect memories with gusto right now. So here is where we segue transparently and awkwardly into something sweet that transpired before we left for this trip. Because, it was also bright and colorful, of course.
The Friday before our big trip, our little family trio went to Denver because to see a photography exhibition called Inspired by Nature, from Front Range Wildlife Photographers. Dave had two photos on display which had been selected as among the top ten, and Felix was sooo excited and proud to share in it.
We’d been creating all kinds of cool sculpture art together with cardboard boxes, and Flix was inspired to have our own little exhibition in our tiny living room. He wants to save money for a new Paw Patroller and thought, why not sell tickets? One penny each.
An afternoon was set aside for an official “Felix’s Box Art gallery opening”. We had invited two friends to come view Jack the box robot, Dino World, Sky Flier the plane, Ready Jet Go the rocket, the box Choo Choo camper, egg carton caterpillars, a box telescope, and the grand masterpiece we’d completed that morning, “Pidgie Pirate Ship” complete with its own plank. At the grocery store we even picked up a special veggie tray and grapes to serve our special guests.
Plans at age four must change on the fly more often than not, and our friends looked like they weren’t going to be able to make it. Flix had carefully set up the “snack bar” on the piano bench and insisted on waiting by the door, staring out. “What’s taking so long?” he exclaimed at one point. “We’re never going to get to show off this art!” He was quietly, shyly excited, and I was sweating, internally panicking and shooting off texts on the sly hoping to enlist some others at the last minute.
There were a few tense moments, but then, hurrah! Dear, amazing, I-am-forever-in-your-debt Ms. Sarah made it; she drove from across town even though her daughters were playing at grandmother’s house. She saved the day. Felix beamed as he opened the door for her and explained all the art. He piled his plate with celery sticks, carrots, grapes and tomatoes, and we all shared “bubble water” (seltzer).
The next morning, two little friends and siblings came to see “the big exhibit”, and we had a lovely play date. It made our day! Flix told “the guys”–stuffed animals– all about it all afternoon.
Thank you, Ms. Sarah. Thank you, friends. Thank you creativity and the wonder of being four.
Thank you, ratatouoille. Thank you, simple things. Thank you goodness, and wholesomeness, and all those little moments that keep fueling faith in the power of little joys.
More soon. 😉
- 1 medium eggplant, diced
- 1 medium zucchini, diced
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 1 onion, diced
- 3 cups cherry or grape tomatoes
- ¼ cup olive oil, divided
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon dried Italian herb seasoning
- 1 (8 oz) package Ancient Harvest Supergrain Pasta® Garden Pagodas, or other Supergrain Pasta®, or grains of choice
- 1 cup crushed tomatoes
- ½ cup fresh basil, chopped
- ¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
- salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. In a large mixing bowl, combine diced zucchini, eggplant, and onion.
- In a small bowl, toss tomatoes with 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar. Set aside.
- Whisk together remaining olive oil, garlic, Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes and a dash salt and pepper. Drizzle over the eggplant mixture and toss to evenly coat.
- Arrange vegetables in a single layer on a foil-lined roasting or rimmed baking pan and roast 40-45 minutes, stirring halfway.
- Arrange tomatoes on a separate baking pan. Add to oven midway through roasting vegetables and cook 20-25 minutes, or until tomatoes are soft and bursting open.
- Prepare pasta according to package directions. Drain, and return to pot, stirring in crushed tomatoes to coat. Remove from heat and cover to keep warm.
- Add roasted vegetables and tomatoes, with juice, to pasta pot.
- Add basil and parsley, and stir to evenly combine all ingredients.
Yesterday morning F and I went for a lovely, quiet hike with friends and all throughout we were kissed by notes of fall. Actually, it was light rain that left those soft caresses on our faces, but it was kind of the same thing. The cool drizzle was so welcome after weeks of dry heat, and it only enhanced the colors, fragrances and general changes signifying the turning of the seasons. It offered a chance to pause within and explore without. It inspired feeling that was both contentedly free and pleasantly melancholy.
Time and again, no matter how well we are conditioned to expect it, it’s amazing and startling and mystifying how we can awaken as if magically into a new season. Like watching kids grow. One day back-to-school banners highlight a sort of sullen near outrage because in truth summer is still actually in full swing. Then blink, we may as well be preparing for the departure of pumpkin spice lattes in order to make way for the pleasures of peppermint. Those rare chances to pause, wherever we find them, mean everything.
I’ve got nothing to complain about, but have been feeling a little buried under must-dos lately. That’s why despite plenty of kitchen play I haven’t been recording much, and why this post will be so short. It’s also part of what makes this soup so perfect for sharing right now. The busyness, and ushering in of autumn. This is simple, easily adaptable, robust and flavorful soup that is resonant with the season. Bright and ablaze with one of fall’s signature colors, yet comforting and soothing in a way that grants a moment of stillness in a sip. It’s scrape the pot and savor each spoonful soup. That’s all you need to know. Try it (and tell me how you change it to be a just-right-fit for you). You’ll see. 🙂
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 7 medium carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
- 3 medium gold potatoes, scrubbed and chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger root, minced
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
- ½ teaspoon ground paprika
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- Dash red pepper flakes (quick light shake)
- ¾ cup raw cashews, soaked in water for 1 hour and drained
- 1 cup coconut milk
- Coat a stockpot or large saucepan with cooking spray or heat water to cover bottom of pan. Saute onions over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 4 minutes.
- Add carrots, potatoes, ginger, and spices (garlic powder through red pepper flakes) and cook a further 2-3 minutes, stirring. Add cashews, coconut milk, and 5 cups water to pan and bring to a near boil. Reduce heat to medium, cover and let simmer for 20-30 minutes, until carrots and potatoes are tender.
- Use an immersion blender to puree, or puree in batches in a blender. Adjust seasonings and add liquid to taste as needed.