“A Simple Snow Day Soup to Melt the Ice & Warm Your Heart”

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This is for all you Mid-Westerners out there…those of you who have to get up in the dark to feed your livestock, milk the cows, feed the hens…every harsh winter day. This winter has been especially cold & snowy for one of my favorite bloggers, Cecillia, at thekitchengarden. She just writes the best stories about her “farmy” in Illinois. Go by for a visit….she is my warm, cozy, lentil soup inspiration.

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It is a simple enough soup that I conjured up on the one & only real “snow day” experienced this winter here at Fifth Avenue North. I, of course, loved every flake that fell, lightly covering the sidewalks & streets. There is something so beautiful about walking in the dark as snow flakes fall under city streetlights. I did not have to care for any sheep, cows or piggies. I just walked the dog leisurely and wandered aimlessly…heading home when I got too cold to enjoy a bowl of “Snow Soup”.

Ingredients: 2 tbsp olive oil, 1 cup chopped onions, 2 cloves garlic smashed, 2 carrots sliced, 1 (28 oz/two 14 oz) cans Fire-Roasted Tomatoes with juice, 4 cups low-fat chicken broth, 1 cup dried sprouted lentils, a generous handful of baby spinach leaves or chopped kale, kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

(All items I had in my pantry, we do not drive to the store on our “snowy day” here in Nashville, TN!)

        Carrots & onions in olive oilFire-roasted Tomatoeschicken broth

1. Saute onions in olive oil until slightly softened. Add smashed garlic cloves & cook 1 minute.  Toss in carrots & stir. Add can(s) of fire-roasted tomatoes & chicken broth. Bring to a low boil.

Sprouted Lentils

2. Stir in lentils. Cook on simmer for a 30 minutes, stirring every so often just until lentils are softened. (Add more broth or water if soup gets too thick for your taste.)

Lentils                    stir soupspinach

3. Toss in the spinach or kale & cook just until greens are wilted. Serve hot with “Parmesan Cornbread Croutons” (recipe to follow)

Snow soup with croutons

“Parmesan-Cornbread Croutons”

Ingredients: 2 cups self rising yellow cornmeal, 1 cup plain Greek Yogurt, 2 eggs, 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup buttermilk or whole milk, 1 cup shredded Parmigiano Reggiano

Directions: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a flat baking pan. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl, spread in prepared pan, sprinkle with shredded Parm & bake until golden brown & puffy, about 15 minutes.  Remove from oven to cool on a rack. When cool, cut into croutons to top off your soup.

                      ingredients for cornbread croutonsParmesan Cornbread Croutons

Parmesan Cornbread CroutonsOutside there were no blizzards, nor banks of snow, no waiting animals or chores to be done. I sat quietly, eating my Snow Soup, looking out my window sending warm thoughts to all the folks on all the “farmys” in the Mid-West this night.

Stay warm, Spring is near.

“Falling in Love…Ines Rosales Tortas with Dark Chocolate & Pistachios”

Ines Rosales tortas

Do you believe it is possible to “fall in love” with an inanimate object? In this case a “food object? Well, it happened to me the first time I bit into an “Ines Rosales Torta” a few years ago. To this day these uniquely crisp sweet olive oil tortas from Seville, Spain are at the top of my indulgent food list. From the style of the packaging to the savory-sweet crispness these tortas appeal to every one of my senses. They are full of rustic charm & rare combinations of flavors.  Originally they made and sold just the Sweet Olive Oil Tortas, but now have flavors such as Seville Orange, Rosemary & Thyme, Cinnamon and Sesame & Sea Salt. Perfect as they are, they are very well suited to a bit of embellishment (previous blog on Ines Rosales).

I had been thinking for a while that a drizzle of really rich dark chocolate & a sprinkle of pistachios would take these tortas to a whole new level of goodness for a special celebration. On New Year’s Eve I pulled out my stash, got out the chocolate & nuts and brought this idea to life.

Ines Rosales Tortas, Chocolate & Pistachios

This is so easy and so elegant.

1. Spread 6 Ines Rosales Tortas out on a sheet pan covered with parchment.

Ines Rosales Tortas

2. Melt 3.5 ounces of good quality dark chocolate (Green & Black’s Organic is a good one) in a saucepan with 3 tablespoons of good butter (Kerrygold is my favorite) over low heat until chocolate is completely melted & silky. Roughly chop pistachios.

melted chocolate & butter

3. Here is what you do. Drizzle chocolate……..

Drizzle Chocolate

…Sprinkle pistachios….

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….take a bite…and fall in love.

Ines Rosales Torta with Chocolate & Pistachios

These large (5 to 6 inches in diameter) round tortas (cracker-like flatbreads) come individually wrapped in printed waxed paper in packages of 6. They are a bit pricey…anywhere from $4.50 to $6.00 per package. I first found them at Whole Foods but you can also purchase them online of course.

Stack of Ines Rosales Tortas

“Hiding Behind Julia..A Week in Postcards”

Postcard #1  ” Mother’s Day Sunday Teacup with Tulips”

Hey, all you sons and daughters…email, call, text, Skype, carrier pigeon a message to your Mother, or someone else’s Mother to tell them how much you appreciate them..It may be a so-called “Hallmark Holiday” but it’s the only one dedicated to all us Mothers…no cards necessary.

Postcard #2 “Hiding Behind Julia”

My friend Rory White sent me this amazing photograph…(he is a great photographer, artist, musician and all round interesting person..check out his blog if you don’t believe me at http://rorywhite.com/blog/)

Imagine you are one of the folks who hid behind Julia on the set of her show… handing up the ingredients for a cassoulet, steak Diane or chunks of dark chocolate..who are you? How did you come to be in that place at that time in history? What was your next career move? Are you still out there basking in the light? Did you realize she would be  the “Mother of TV Cooking” when you were there?

Postcard #3 “Beer Friday”

Some weeks are like that…long, hard, fun and frenzied…then it’s Friday..Beer Friday. How do you punctuate the end of your work week?

Postcard #4 “There Is No Way I Am Cooking-No Cooking Required, Garden Salad”

These are wax beans from our little garden…I had been testing a watermelon-cucumber salad for a photo shoot…I steamed the beans, picked a few more vegetables from the garden, added them to my “shoot” salad…no cooking required. Do you have some simple go-to, no-cook summer recipes that you love?

“Watermelon, Cucumber Garden Salad”

Ingredients: Ripe Watermelon cut into chunks

English Cucumber, seeded & sliced

Fresh mint leaves

Juice of one lime

sea salt & cracked black pepper

2 small golden beets thinly sliced

a handful of fresh wax beans, shelled

3 young fresh carrots, thinly sliced

1 mango peeled & cut into chunks

Instructions:

1. Mix everything in a large salad bowl, chill and eat.

Postcard #5 “A Mother-load of Pretty Saucers”

I  pondered these pretty saucers for while before choosing just the right one for a slice of pie I was styling for a cookbook. I love these random designs that I pick up from flea markets & yard sales, don’t you?

Postcard #6  “Working & Strolling Chicago Tulips”

After work stroll along Michigan Avenue…window shopping. Tulips seems to be a recurring theme in my life..much like my Buddhas. Have you noticed how your life can be full of “themes” you might not even be aware of?

Postcard #7  “A Kitchen Clean”

If I remember correctly our kitchen was clean for a while this week…otherwise it was covered with recipe pages, measuring cups, dirty dishes, food on the floor and in bowls…my work life is very messy so when my kitchen finally looks like this I feel very “zen”. What are some ordinary, homey things that make you feel serene?

Postcard #8  “Any Sunday Morning”

My perfect Sunday morning is coffee in bed (compliments of Wouter), newspaper, book, phone (for texting only) and a few hours to ruminate about everything. This is my weekly gift to myself, my ritual. It is necessary for starting a new week sedately. Do you “treat” yourself with some simple rituals to keep your life balanced? I hope so.