Yummy Couscous Soup


It was kind of chilly out today and all these people at work are coming down with colds, stomach viruses and such. I'm trying to stay well enough to be able to take my first flu shot this week. One thought that ran across my mind at work was that I wanted some good soup. Something warm and flavorful. Notice I didn't say spicy, but flavorful.

I remembered one of Heidi Swanson's 10-minute couscous soups that I saw the other day and decided to make my own version of that. You know I've got to change it up a little?

Here's my version (and my apologies for not really measuring):

olive oil
grated carrots
a stalk of diced celery
1/2 box of frozen leaf spinach (fresh would be even better)
some quick cook barley
1/2 cup of couscous (I used the original, plain version)
garlic powder
sliced green onion (optional)
crushed red pepper (homegrown and dried, oh my!)
chicken stock or broth (I used Rachel Ray's chicken stock - it had less sodium)

Heat olive oil in a sauce pot. Sauté the celery and carrots. Add the chicken stock and crushed red pepper. Bring to a boil. Then add the spinach and barley. Season with a little garlic powder (if desired). After about 5 minutes, remove the sauce pot from the stove. Stir in the couscous. Cover for 5 minutes. Stir and then ladle into bowls. You can top the soup with chopped green onions, roasted red bell peppers, or cheese. Voila!

I enjoyed this soup. It was accompanied by a slice of garlic bread. This soup was indeed flavorful with a little kick from that crushed red pepper, but not spicy hot. I'll definitely make this again.


Soup's On!


Made another soup this evening - Butternut Squash Soup. I modified a recipe from (if you haven't figured it out yet) my favorite recipe site: Allrecipes.com. Click here for original recipe.

My modifications:

1 butternut squash
1 small onion, chopped
2 small red potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
chicken broth/stock
curry powder
ground cayenne
black pepper

Split the butternut squash in half, lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds, then turn the squash face down in a baking dish. Cover and roast for an hour in a 350 degree oven. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a saucepot and sauté the onion, potatoes, and carrots until browned. Add enough chicken broth/stock to cover the vegetables. Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 25 minutes. After the squash is done, scoop out the flesh of the butternut squash and add to the soup mixture. Add additional chicken stock/broth to cover the vegetables. Simmer until the vegetables are tender. Then, blend the mixture in a blender and return to the saucepot. Season to taste with black pepper, curry powder and cayenne pepper. (I used a couple of dashes of black pepper, a pinch or two of curry powder, and just enough cayenne pepper that you could feel the heat but not enough that you really tell that it was in there. I wasn't going for spicy this time.)

Tis the Season to be Soupy.....


Ok, I'm at my soup-making again. Today I made a modified version of Catherine's Spicy Chicken Soup. A very modified version, seeing I didn't add any chicken and I used a couple other different items as well. Don't you like it when people say, "Mine is exactly like yours, except...."? That's how this soup is.

Here's my version (for today; every time I make this soup, it's a little different depending on what's in the pantry!):

olive oil
garlic powder
onion powder
dried parsley
chili powder
ground cumin
1/2 chopped onion
as many chopped garlic cloves as you like (I used two big ones this time)
1/2 jar salsa (mine was medium heat)
1 can diced tomatoes (I had the Italian kind so that's what I used)
a can of corn (undrained)
a can of black beans (rinsed)
a couple of chipotle peppers and some adobo sauce (that's where the smokey flavor comes from and it also gives you that extra kick in the back of your throat)
* I also had a couple of brown sausages [the kind you see used for sausage dogs] in the freezer so I added them in (I peeled and diced them once they had boiled)

** I didn't measure the dry spices. Just sprinkled. Call me lazy, or rather, I know what I like! :-)

What to do:
In a sauce pot, sauté the onion and garlic in olive oil. Add all the rest of the ingredients except the sausage. Cook it on medium heat for a little while and then adjust seasonings if necessary. Add the cooked sausage and simmer.

Tortilla Strip Topping:
4 corn tortillas
black pepper
olive oil

Brush the corn tortillas with olive oil, sprinkle some black pepper on them, and then cut them into strips. Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 8 minutes.

How to eat this great soup:
Ladle soup in a bowl. Top with a dollop of sour cream and cheese if you like. Add tortilla strips for that extra something special. Enjoy!

One day I'll make this soup without any meat. I know that'll be good too (as I'm eating my bowl of soup now and skipping the meat - Why do I do that? I like the flavor moreso than the meat itself.)!

Can you find the chunk of chipotle? I see it!

Ummm...Comfort Food

The weather is perfect for soups. My mom and I have both started experimenting with soups and sampling each others dishes. Not that long ago I made a lentil soup, with some veggies and such. But this one that my mom made had a little barley thrown in (extra fiber is always good) and some kielbasa sausage. She was going for the all-in-one meal in a bowl. This soup was extra yummy! I ate mine with some Texas Toast garlic bread. Delicious!

Going Nuts...

After age 30 I started enjoying eating some foods that I never appreciated before. Nuts is one of those foods. Almonds to be exact. The people in my family thought I was weird - you know, because I didn't eat nuts. My parents always had bags of raw peanuts in the house that they had gotten from the Peanut Factory in my mom's hometown. They were always roasting them and smackin' on them like they were the best! To me, they were disgusting. Even to this day when they have those pie pans of hot peanuts, I may eat one and then I'm done for the year as far as I'm concerned.

I don't know what happened though. Like I said, one day after 30 I tried some almonds again and they were absolutely delicious! I don't like them salted down, roasted, dipped in honey. I just like them plain. At work today my student teacher was teaching a lesson on identifying the water and oil content in foods through food rubs. When he chimed in about the benefits of eating nuts, I tuned in extra close. I handed my student teacher this empty can of almonds that I'd been saving for the art teacher's recycling project, but before I got it to him I noticed that it was loaded in POTASSIUM! You know that's the nutrient that I need. Go figure.

When I stopped by my parent's house on the way home from work, I was telling my mom about this new discovery, and she began quickly telling me how to revamp my diet (i.e. how many nuts I should eat at a time, how many to buy each month, how many days I would probably be able to manage to eat them without getting sick of the taste - you know the typical "mothering" talk). Then she said, "Look in that bag on the shelf by the refrigerator." What do you know, she has a bag full of unshelled almonds! Why do moms have everything?

I got my stash, cracked a few nuts, and then rushed home to see if I could get a good picture before eating them. I'm starting to think that there's something seriously wrong with me!

The Sauce is Done!


Now, I know it's been a while since I mentioned the marinara sauce that I proposed to make from my tomatoes, but I just wanted to write a brief update letting you know that it is done. I thought I might have tried to can (for the first time) a few jars of sauce, but there wasn't as much sauce as I had anticipated. I did however get 7 cups of sauce, which I froze in smaller portions.

Now I'm done with the ripened tomatoes. I have picked all of the remaining tomatoes, even though they're green, because I heard that they would be destroyed once the frost hit. Humm...I wonder what fried green tomatoes really taste like?

* On another note, I jogged 2 miles today. I gave one of my colleagues an entry form for the Seaboard 5-miler so I guess that means I definitely have to participate as well. My form is complete, but I haven't written and mailed in a check. The good thing is, the mp3 player that I dropped and thought was on the outs, is now working, so I can have some good music to listen to during the race event. I'll let you know how it goes - it's on the 25th.

Health Update:


Every year the FirstHealth hospital in my town offers a Wellness Day. For $25 you can get a complete blood profile, a few other tests may cost, but for the most part, everything else is free. My mom and I went to the health fair this morning to get the results of our blood profiles and to have them analyzed from the area doctors that offered their expertise. I saw one of my doctors in the bunch, so I waited for him.

When I get my profile, I never look at it. I close it up and wait for the person with the knowledge to explain. That way it saves me some unnecessary panic about numbers that make no sense to me. The doctor was like, you're healthy. Eat some bananas for potassium and keep doing what you're doing because it's working! I was very grateful, thankful, and relieved.

The doctor that gave bone density tests gave a good report too. Apparently since I've been jogging, my bone density have increased. It definitely wasn't as good last year.

When I got home, I jogged a mile. I know it's not much, but I want to do a little something, even when I don't quite feel like it. I'm thinking about participating in the Seaboard 5-miler this month. Um...

image source: http://www.ewritermagazine.com/October%202005/happy%20cat.jpg

Hurray for Fall!


Okay, I know it's been fall, or autumn as some might prefer to say, for a few weeks now. But I want to express my deep love for this season. All seasons have their own beauty, but this one in particular is my favorite. I love the temperature, and the change in colors is absolutely fabulous! Another thing I love, is the chance to make and sample some delicious soups!!! I don't like the soups with a thin broth, but rather the ones that are sort of thick.

One of my neighbors grew a crop of butternut squash and I've been waiting patiently for mine to ripen so that I can make a butternut squash soup. I haven't found the recipe that I want to try, but I did purchase a V8 Butternut Squash soup to see if I liked that taste before I tried it on my own squash. Let me just say, DELICIOUS!!! Out of the store-bought butternut squash soups, the V8 version is the one with the least amount of sodium. (I've gotten accustomed to reading labels these days.) The flavors were great and the price wasn't bad either.

Now, I feel that I am ready to try out my own recipe. Happy Fall!!!


Whew! I just finished washing a mess-load of dishes. I never really liked doing dishes, but someone wise once said to me that you shouldn't complain about things that have to be done. So if you cook, dishes are a natural part of that. Oh well.

Today I thought that I would try my hand at making and processing my own marinara sauce, using fresh produce from my garden. (Why don't I try these things on the weekend.) Anyways, I boiled a huge stockpot of water while I was washing my stash of tomatoes. Once I boiled the tomatoes for about a minute, I gave them an ice-cold bath in the sink. This helps the tomato peels come off easily.

Taking the tomato peels off and seeding the tomatoes was one messy process. Ewww! I pureed most of the tomatoes and chopped the rest. I added the tomato mixture to a sauteed pot of onions, green bell peppers (from my garden), and garlic. Then I added my spices, brought it to a boil, and now it's simmering for like 4 hours!!!

Even though I used a bunch of tomatoes, after it was pureed and then started cooking down, I realized that there would be no use of canning this batch. I plan to freeze most of it and use one portion for a meal this week.

It has been fun, but oh, the dishes! Good thing they're done. I had to use a whole lot of self-talk and willpower to get it done though.

Getting Back on Track


It's been a while since I've had a good run. The mornings have been rough. But what I've discovered, is that if I can get in at a descent hour, the evening right before the sun sets is another perfect running time - for now. I'm not too much a fan of running around my yard, but you do what you have to do, right?

I did the math a few blogs ago and I know how many laps would take approximately 2 1/2 miles, so I did some more math, and calculated the laps for 3 miles. 3 miles was my goal today, AND, I made it - nonstop. The sun set, the temp dropped a little, but I was listening to Kirk Franklin on my mp3 player and tried to focus on that instead of how many laps it was until I was finished.

Dinner tonight is really simple, since it's late and I've still got some work to do. It's so simple that I won't even bother telling you what it is. (Is the suspense killing you?) At any rate, while the mystery dinner is cooking, I'm snacking on pretzels and water. Yum Yum. (I played around with my pretzels pic, but I didn't bother taking a picture of my delicious water - you'll just have to use your imagination for that!)

(I made the image bigger so that you could see the effect.)

Sunday Dinner

I know Sunday dinner can be some big traditional meal, but for me today, it was very simple - lentil soup and cornbread. I've made lentil soup before, but I can't remember what recipe I used. Honestly it may have been one my aunt Joyce gave me about two years ago. She's the most amazing cook, but her recipes are hard to follow because she doesn't measure and she uses so many different spices and such that you can't really duplicate her meals. But they are good! So, I found a lentil-barley soup recipe online and added a few extra spices to make it my own.

I was for sure that I had some barley. In fact, I thought I remembered purchasing some very recently, but after I looked in the cupboard like 4 times for it, I realized that I had planned to buy some, but it was before payday and I had said to myself that it could wait. Then I forgot. Oh, well. I made the soup anyways. It was pretty good, but it could have used a bit more spice and the barley would have changed the texture some.

Here it is:

I've been in a cooking mood lately. I plan to make some pumpkin bread really soon too! I've never had any, but the recipe sounds delicious!

Tomatoes on the Ledge


I stopped by my waning garden and picked a small handful of tomatoes that were ripening. I placed them on the ledge with the others I'd picked this week. I've been browsing online for a homemade marinara sauce recipe that I could trust to use with my homegrown produce. I think I've found the one I'd like to use and hopefully this weekend I can start on that project.

I remember going with our college Spanish class to one of the professor's homes to sample "authentic" Spanish food, but what caught my eye was the array of mason jars filled with all of these neat food items. I grew up in an environment where people canned every summer, but what I saw in this professor's home was different. Maybe because it wasn't just cucumbers, preserves, and peaches. I don't know, but the array of colors was impressive. Since then, I've stored that image in the back of my head, waiting for the day that I could try it for myself. It's been over 10 years since that experience, but I can remember it as if it were yesterday.

My mom says that she has tons of jars from her "canning days" and I hope that I can use them this weekend on my project. It'll be nice to make my own spaghetti sauce from my own base instead of relying on Hunts or Heinz for a change. Who knows, maybe I'll make my own labels: Libby's Special Sauce. Ok, I'll work on the name. Until then, let the processing begin!!!