Soups for Slow Living

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the colder months, I imagine that something happens to our energies. I can’t quite say whether they are lower in availability or simply hankering for a slower kind of work, but the things that our souls yearn for are markedly different from that in the summer. In the Fall and Winter, I like to slow things down. More than usual, anyway.

In an effort to budget my time in a way that allows me to do more meaningful work, I have recently been trying harder to practice Essentialism when it comes to household chores. And while I thoroughly enjoy cooking and baking (especially when new recipes are in tow), I also like to minimize the cooking and cleaning when the goal is to keep our bellies satiated rather than to experience a new culinary feat.

So with the Fall and Winter season upon us, I’d like to turn your attention to a solution that generations before us frequently exercised but our youth has forgotten about: Soup.

A simple word, and not by any means pretty. Soup is the savior from the holiday rush that befalls all. Soup is the reliable companion ready to comfort you after a long day’s work. Soup is the nutritious meal that you need without the high price. Soup is readily available with a few basic ingredients in the kitchen, stocked. Pun intended.

There are many ways that soup alleviates stress in our lives.

It accepts our rummaging through the kitchen cabinets to collect what we have at hand and eliminates the need to run to the market for that one rare ingredient crucial to its being. It’s forgiving in preparation, usually welcoming a haphazard throwing into the pot. It requires little time (on our end). We usually take a few minutes to prep and let the simmering do all the work. I am the first to say that we put our Crockpot to good use during these short days and long nights. Big batches of stuff, frozen for later and rationed throughout the week, sometimes as appetizer and sometimes the main course, makes soup a practical solution. Cleanup is facilitated by the need to only have one pot.

I don’t know what else to say.

With all the excesses of today, the youth views soup as an add-on. An appetizer and nothing more. An introduction to the meal. Another excess to add to the bill when we are too tired to cook from home.

But may I remind that soup can stand on its own. And it’ll cook on its own while you’re off at work. It’ll let you live your life, however slow or fast that may be, without so much as a fuss.

Soups, therefore, are essential weapons to carry around in the backs of our pockets … and at the forefront of our minds.

Without further ado, a soup recipe for you:

Ciabbotola

(adapted from Kinfolk Table)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 3 yellow onions, cut into 1/4-in pieces
  • 3 green bell peppers, cut into 1/4-in pieces
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/4-in pieces
  • 2 pds zucchini, chopped into 1/4-in pieces
  • 1 eggplant, chopped into 1/4-in pieces
  • 4 large ripe tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • Fresh basil, sliced
  • Parmesan cheese, finely grated

The Process:

  1. Heat the olive oil over medium heat before adding the onions and green and red bell peppers. Cook until the onions have softened and are translucent, approximately 10 minutes.
  2. Add the zucchini, eggplant, tomato, and salt.
  3. Cover and reduce the heat to low. Let simmer for 30 minutes.
  4. Add the eggs and stir gently and constantly until cooked through, approximately six minutes.
  5. Sprinkle with basil and cheese.
  6. Serve with fresh sourdough (optional).

For those looking for soup of a different kind, here are a few favorites:

I’m sure many more soup recipes are to come. How about yours? Would you care to share your favorite soup recipes?

 

Autumnal Adaptations

Autumn has finally arrived, brought on by a time change this Sunday past. “Brisk” mornings, as defined by Californians, was noted upon the recent week’s bread deliveries and dog-sitting duties. Like most wintry things, Fall crept into our lives quite subtly. Just when we thought the Indian summer would last longer than it was welcome, it was gone and replaced by cozy mornings, warm beds, and more frequent occasions for pet snuggling.

To reflect the transition, our home has also undergone its own changes. We’ve created tight reading nooks by the window, encased by bookshelves on either side to instill that cozy feel. The large plush chairs facilitate sinking as the dweller welcomes the early morning light with coffee that wakes, and later in the day, gleans as much evening light with every fervent turn of a book’s page.

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The removal of the sectional chairs from the living room has created more space, which allows for higher awareness of the passing of time. Most notably, the way the light streams into our abode as the sun sets and lands on cleared cement floors, or sets shadows against white walls outlining the few furnishings we own, brings into clearer focus this autumnal transition. Herein lies an opportunity to be mindful of the continual shifts in nature, and to practice gratitude in the present state of our home and the time we spend in them.

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We’ve re-oriented the dining table to resemble a square, for more communal gatherings in the near future. It sits centered in the entire space, facilitated by the lack of walls thereby allowing the freedom to create rooms where there was once none. I felt that creating a square table for twelve was more conducive for conversation and the sharing of plates than a long apostles table where one can converse with four people, at most. Plus, cooking is at the heart of our home, so it suits to have the sharing of that cooking in the center of our space.

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Whereas most people prepare their homes with more stuff in the wintry months (the laying down of rugs on bare floors, the draping of woolen blankets over armchairs, the hanging of tinsel on trees), I don’t really have that luxury. I say this with irony, because I really do think that in having less of this stuff, we have it better. Time, after all, is the ultimate definition of luxury. We simply prep in different ways.

Stripping down rooms to their bare necessities reduces the distractions that would typically pull one OUT OF bed. Having less areas to mingle and less separation between spaces allow for more human connection. Whereas the cement floors kept this loft cool in the summer months, so, too, does the smallness of space keep it warm on colder days.

Meanwhile, the surfaces of tables and our rooms have been emptied of summer’s clutter. It’s a clean slate for all. I’ve been put-putting around the ovens, baking more than usual and dabbling in pies and desserts. Fatty things to keep our bellies warm. Where I was dreading turning on the ovens in the summer’s heat, I am now grateful for the warmth it lends to the home, along with the beautiful scents wafting through the kitchen.

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It’s funny how our household has adapted to autumn. It’s nice to notice the changes. Suddenly, you take note of where to find the sun light during certain times of the day. You know when to keep the windows shut, and where you can find a brisk draft.

I like to think of our homes as sentient organisms, and as such, it requires us, its keepers, to be attuned to nature’s quarterly changes. Our homes are individualized spaces, and each has its needs and quirks. The door jams in a certain way with the changing of temperatures, the floor creaks here and there, and the stove creates too much steam when kept on too long thereby setting off the fire alarm. These are the things that indicate a symbiosis between home owner and dwelling, and it is environment creation at its best – past the beauty and function – a relationship between living and non-living thing.

Mushroom and Sweet Potato Tacos with Almond Sauce

In the Kitchen is a series created to inspire others to cook more for themselves. It’s an effort to make healthful eating attainable in a zero-plastic way. It’s an ode towards the one life hack that keeps us well on our financial track. Hoping to slow people down this fast-paced track, I suggest giving up the dine-out and to-go habit, even for just a day a week. Some recipes are meant to be shared with your community, lest it be two or twenty. Others, more decadent and perhaps meant entirely for yourself. In either case, these are some of our tried, true, and favorited. 

This recipe, like most of our recent ones, is adapted from Kinfolk Table. At first, I thought maybe I would greatly dislike this recipe. Sweet potato and mushroom translates to, well, mush in my head, and I thought the combination between this and soft tacos topped with an almond paste would make me feel a bit like an old person trying to eat. Surprisingly, with a few changes that added texture and crunch to the taco, it became not so much the case. Also, the almond sauce and sweet potato makes the taco a bit sweet in my opinion, but by topping the tacos with home-made Siracha sauce, I was able to add another dimension that really elevated the taste.

I would admit that the prep work is not the quickest. I found myself focusing entirely on the recipe. I think that the best way to go about the prep work is to prep the potatoes and let them bake in the oven. As they are cooking, the mushrooms are best made next. And lastly, the almond sauce. Everything should finish around the time that the sweet potatoes are ready. A great thing to do would be to pre-prep the different parts of the taco prior, and then simply re-heat and assemble the tacos during dinner time. Despite the long prep-time, this isn’t a very difficult recipe to make. It would make a great tapa for any dinner party or happy hour gathering. Just have someone else make the cocktail.

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Ingredients:

For the almond paste:

  • 1 large head of roasted garlic
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 cup vegetable stock
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup of canola oil

For the tacos:

  • 2 sweet potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • Large pinch of ground cinnamon
  • Large pinch of ground cumin
  • Pinch of cayenne
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 10 ounces mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
  • 3 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • Twelve 6 inch corn tortillas
  • Cilantro leaves
  • Sliced Almonds or Chopped Pumpkin Seeds

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The Process:

  1. If you haven’t any roasted garlic, preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, cut a garlic in half, drizzle with 3 tablespoons of olive oil and season the cut sides with salt. Press the garlic halves together and wrap in foil. Roast in the oven for one hour. Transfer the foil to a rack and reserve for the sauce. This should be done prior to prepping this meal.
  2. Meanwhile, cut up the sweet potatoes and toss with cinnamon, cumin, and cayenne. Drizzle with 3 tablespoons of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Cook in the oven for 40 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit until tender. You can easily see why this is the rate-limiting step.
  3. Next, place the almonds for the sauce in a medium sized bowl and add enough boiling water to cover them by an inch or so. Let soak for approximately ten minutes, then drain.
  4. While they are soaking, melt butter in a large skillet over medium-heat. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Cook for about three minutes or until the mushrooms begin to release liquid. Add the three cloves of minced garlic and cook for five more minutes while stirring continuously so the garlic does not burn. The mushrooms should be a golden color. Stir in the parsley, remove from heat, and set aside.
  5. Meanwhile, using the same skillet, heat one tablespoon of olive oil until shimmering. Cook the shallot, paprika, coriander, and a pinch of salt for five minutes, stirring occasionally, until the shallot becomes translucent and soft. Transfer the shallot to a food processor.
  6. Drain the almonds and add to the food processor, along with the vegetable stock, lemon zest, and if ready, the roasted garlic squeezed from the skin. Pulse until creamy. With the mixer running on high, pour the remaining 3/4 cup of olive oil and the canola oil through the feed tube and continue processing until the oils are completely incorporated. Season with salt and pepper and reserve.
  7. The sweet potatoes should be finishing up soon. Heat the tortillas directly on the stovetop flame for thirty seconds each side. This is Mr. Debtist’s favorite part. He has a particular preference for a bit of char along the edges. Me, I’m just happy if it’s warm.
  8. When potatoes are ready, assemble the tacos by filling each tortilla with sweet potatoes and mushroom. Plop a decent serving of the almond sauce. Top with cilantro leaves and either sliced almonds or chopped pumpkin seeds. The seeds are what give it texture. Drizzle siracha generously or to your liking. Enjoy!

Note: This is one of those meals that don’t have to be piping hot to taste good, which is why it makes as a great thing to serve for tapas or appetizers at a friendly gathering. 

Spiced Raw Chocolate Mousse

In the Kitchen is a series created to inspire others to cook more for themselves. It’s an effort to make healthful eating attainable in a zero-plastic way. It’s an ode towards the one life hack that keeps us well on our financial track. Hoping to slow people down this fast-paced track, I suggest giving up the dine-out and to-go habit, even for just a day a week. Some recipes are meant to be shared with your community, lest it be two or twenty. Others, more decadent and perhaps meant entirely for yourself. In either case, these are some of our tried, true, and favorited. 

This spiced raw chocolate mousse is adapted from Kinfolk Table.

In this summer’s heat, there are times when the best dessert involves staying as far away from the ovens as possible, even if you ARE a bread baker. In fact, especially so. I came across this recipe in Kinfolk Table and was drawn to the simple ingredients used to make a such a luxurious dessert. I was happy to find that the ingredients are staples commonly found in a pantry, and that the preparation would take about 5 minutes of my time. Just my style. As an added bonus, the presentation requires nothing more than a couple of whiskey cups or water glasses and a smattering of sliced almonds (both for looks but also as an added layer to mouth feel).

We’ve been spending the last few days on our patio set, sweating in shorts and a tee, engorging ourselves on this perfect summer’s treat. Plus, didn’t we determine we would choose chocolate??

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Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup raw almonds, sitting in water for 10 minutes and strained
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of raw cacao powder
  • 1 ripe avocado, peeled and pitted
  • 1 large banana, frozen and coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons raw honey, agave, or pure maple syrup
  • Pinch of cayenne
  • Pinch of ground ginger
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • Cold water, as needed

The Process

  1. Blend together the softened almonds, cacao, avocados, banana, honey, cayenne, ginger, and salt in a blender until smooth. I had to keep scraping down the sides of the blender to make sure that all the almonds and bananas were incorporated.
  2. Add water 1 tablespoon at a time to adjust the consistency to taste.
  3. Topped with sliced almonds. Serve immediately, while cool.
  4. Conversely, make the mousse ahead of time and store in the fridge. This is a great dessert to make for a large group of people. Serve with blueberries for an even more elevated dessert.

Serves 3

Notes: The original recipe called for hemp seeds instead of almonds and 2 tablespoons of cacao powder. I used almonds because that’s what we had in the pantry and 2 tablespoons was just way too much (gasp!). It also says it serves two, but neither of us were able to eat that much mousse for dessert, surprisingly.

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Hearty Barley Salad with Broiled Feta and Tomatoes

As we delve deeper into this sustainable, zero-plastic, less-waste, bread-baking, grain-preserving journey, we keep finding little ‘windows’ (as my friend Heather called it) into different ways of approaching life. Prior to pursuing a more eco-friendly lifestyle, our choices regarding the food industry stemmed from the most frugal of options. Ergo, hardly were our choices supportive of our planet’s well-being, let alone our own well-beings. As we age and start to see the consequences of such choices, we have been attempting to spin our compass needle to something a bit less, destructive(?) Needless to say, efforts have been made in consuming more healthy options, this recipe included. Aligned with my mantra of less is more, a minimalist approach to a simple recipe for a very versatile dish. Adapted from Kinfolk Table. This we eat alone as a salad, or as a side dish with broiled salmon. Upon first make, we eat it warm, but second helpings are eaten cold, straight from the fridge.

Ingredients

  • 8 oz. of feta cheese, purchased from the Olive Bar, cut into small cubes
  • 1.5 cups Roma tomatoes, diced
  • 0.5 cups of mixed black and green olives from the Olive bar, pitted
  • 0.25 cups chopped fresh herbs, such as oregano, rosemary and thyme
  • 0.25 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup barley
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 ripe avocados diced into 0.5 inch cubes
  • 16 oz. artichokes, cut into 1/2 inch thick wedges
  • 1 cucumber, seeded and chopped
  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbs. fresh lemon juice
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Red pepper flakes

The Process:

  1. Turn the oven on to 390 degrees Fahrenheit with a rack in the center of the oven.
  2. While the ovens are pre-heating, combing feta, tomatoes, olives, herbs and olive oil on a foil-lined baking sheet and toss until mixed. Bake for 25 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, bring the barley and water to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium, cover, and simmer the barley for 20 minutes or until tender. Fluff with a fork and transfer to a salad bowl.
  4. Add the avocados, artichokes, cucumber, basil and lemon juice to the barley and toss to combine. Stir in the feta mixture. Season to taste. I add a dash of red pepper flakes to get a little bit of a kick.

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