January 22, 2013

Very Easy Potato and Roasted Broccoli Soup

I really like soups but when they're as easy as this one, I adore them. Here is my potato-broccoli soup in 4 easy steps.

 1. Make mashed potatoes (with butter, without, with milk... however you like). 
 2. Roast the broccoli (or other vegetables... the version pictured also has roasted cauliflower and carrots). 
 2b. Saute onions, garlic, and celery in butter (or roast all that along with your broccoli). 
 3. Dilute mashed potatoes with broth or water until thick or as thin as you like. 
 4. Add your roasted and/or sauteed veg. - DONE!

Bonus: At this point you can add cream, or not. Cheese or bacon or yogurt or not. Puree the soup or leave it chunky: it is totally up to you.

And remember, since I can't write a good recipe I just gave you a general formula. If you like potato broccoli soup that is a whole lota potato and not so much broccoli then prep your quantities accordingly. If you're a broccoli fiend then roast a ton. If you don't think you have enough broccoli then just roast some more and add it later. The cool thing about soup is that even if you end up with too much it freezes well and you can always beef it up, change the spices, or throw in some of whatever you've got at a later time. Such a flexible meal!

Soup in jars cooling for the freezer

January 11, 2013

Winter Vegetable Moussaka

Moussaka is amazing. For those not in the know, it's a Greek casserole made with layers of potato, ground beef, tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, and topped with a creamy blend of yogurt, feta, and eggs.

fun was had with the waffle blade on the mandoline

But eggplant and zucchini are summer vegetables and we try to eat seasonally and domestically (right now all the summer produce in our grocery store is coming from Mexico) so I decided to give it a try with winter vegetables. This version includes potatoes, brussels sprouts, turnips, and onion pre-roasted with olive oil and butter then layered with canned tomatoes, spices, and topped with yogurt-feta yumminess.

It was fantastic. 

It wouldn't be moussaka to me without the buttery potato layer but the rest can be altered. Might I suggest sweet potatoes and kale? Pumpkin was going to go in this batch but I ran out of room so I think a pumpkin-potato-spinach version is coming soon. As far as I'm concerned one can not have to much topping so while I always double what my recipe calls for, I think tripling or quadrupling would not be unreasonable.

Here is my (somewhat unspecific) recipe for Winter Vegetable Moussaka (based on and reworked from a standard version in one of my go to cookbooks The Mediterranean Cookbook)

Winter Vegetable Moussaka

1# Brussels sprouts
3-4 turnips
12 red potatoes
2 onions
lotsa garlic
optional: 1 # ground beef, other vegetables as desired
butter, olive oil, and salt to roast
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
1 Tbl tsp fresh thyme and/or oregano (2 tsp dried)

For the topping:

3 cups strained plain yogurt (I use unstrained Greek yogurt)
4 large eggs
1 cup feta, crumbled
salt and pepper to taste

Slice or chop the vegetables. Coat in olive oil/butter and sprinkle with salt to taste. Roast in a 400* oven until soft and crispy (aprox. 30 minutes). Lower oven to 350*.

{NB - I normally slice some of the veg (like turnips and potatoes) and chop others. Depends on what texture you're looking for. Try it both ways and see what you like best.}

Beat together eggs, yogurt, some salt, and pepper.

Put a layer of vegetables in a large casserole followed by a layer of canned tomatoes with juice. Sprinkle with thyme and/or oregano. Repeat until all ingredients are used. Top with yogurt mixture. Crumble feta over that.

Bake 45 minutes to 1 hour until golden brown.

What favorite recipe have you adapted to use seasonal ingredients?

January 9, 2013

Links to Share

Things I'm reading, thinking about, and working on this week...

- Oh boy, did I learn these lessons in a big way when I did landscape design. "Do You Really Need That Tough Customer?" by Tara Gentile

- What a lovely way to educate our young children about mega-fauna, environmental catastrophe through the ages, and the truth in myth. "The End Of A Chapter" by Brian Kallen at Restoring Mayberry  

- The Power of Concentration.

- Coming soon to an Etsy shop near you.

- How to make a notepad from junk mail.

- "...we’re not all competing for the same slice of pie." The Shocking Truth: I'm Not Your Competition by Carrie Dils

- Weirdly inspiring post from Cracked. 6 Harsh Truths That Will Make You A Better Person by David Wong

What are you working on this week?

January 3, 2013

Winter Solstice

pecan tree
We decided a few years ago that rather than celebrating Christmas and Easter (at least as a family... we still celebrate those other holidays with extended family and friends who observe them), which have no religious significance for us, we would celebrate the solstices (solstici?) and equinoxes. Last winter solstice was the first one scheduled and we had great plans but with a very new baby all we had energy for was cooking dinner and lighting a candle. This year Poppyseed is 1 and while we're not (quite) as exhausted, I don't have a lot of time to prep a big fiesta so this is what we did:

1. Took a walk (we do that every day but this was a festive walk!)
2. Watched the sunset to say goodby to the shortest day and hello to the longest night
3. Ate a seasonal feast (tacos with roasted duck, cabbage cilantro slaw, and roasted carrots)
4. Opened solstice presents
5. Picked greenery to decorate the house (holly, bay, and Mexican firebush)

a lichen covered stick we found on our walk

Next year, if the 2 year old allows, I hope to add solstice cookie making and seed starting to the mix. In this part of the country, not only can I continually grow kale, lettuce, and such through winter but, if I want large tomato and pepper plants to put in the ground come frost free time then I need to start them nowish (because the frost free date is only 2.5 months away)!

Here are some more pictures from our Winter Solstice.

January 2, 2013

Tiny Art Supplies

My mom is the queen of stockings. They're fantastic. Each year she finds amazing, useful, adorable, and unusual small items to fill them to overflowing. There are complex wind-up toys (some of which emit sparks!), glow in the dark decals for wellies, chip-clips that moo, band-aids shaped like monkeys...

...and tiny art supplies. Here is a selection from the past few years, shown with a spool of thread for perspective.

Yes, those are tiny tins of water colors, an itty bitty canvas, microscopic colored pencils, and slightly larger but still small (and awesome because they're twigs) colored pencils.

Can't wait for next year!