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Dear Mom,

This soup was the result of an empty fridge. I hadn’t gone grocery shopping in over a week and was nearing the end of anything at all resembling edibility (I have since corrected this by making and freezing a few items so that I won’t go hungry in the future).

Anyway, I was looking to make something for dinner but I had nothing but my basic pantry staples. Luckily for me, you taught me to consider a lot of things basic pantry staples, and so I whipped up this simple soup with edamamme and finished it with a bit of coconut milk to make it creamy. It was very tasty, and the leftovers were good too – I ate the soup both warm and chilled. I think it would be great in summer with a little mint and a dollop of Greek yogurt.

Edamamme Soup

Makes about 1 quart

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 (12 oz) package frozen edamamme, shelled
1-2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 cup coconut milk
salt and pepper, to taste

1. In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sweat until translucent, about 4-5 minutes.
2. Add the garlic and sweat until fragrant, about 1 minute more.
3. Add the broth and bring it to a simmer. Add the edamamme and cook until they are heated through, about 7-8 minutes. If you like, reserve some of the cooked edamamme to garnish the soup with later.
4. Puree the soup until smooth, then return to the pot. Stir in the coconut milk and lemon juice and bring to a simmer.
5. Season the soup with salt and pepper and simmer until good flavor develops, about 10-15 minutes.

THE LAST LEEK STANDING

pea shoots

Dear Erin: 

Last week, between snow storms, I harvested the last of the leeks.  We started pulling leeks last October and continued to pull them throughout the winter months.  They were mulched heavily with straw and did not seem to mind the bitter cold days.  Meanwhile, they added some much needed freshness to winter meals.  As I was leaving the garden with that final harvest I noticed that the chives were already about six inches tall so I cut a big bunch of those, too.  A few weeks ago I had started radish, pea, broccoli and onion sprouts in the house and the pea shoots were ready to harvest.  I wanted to cook something that would really show off the taste of these fresh, spring ingredients so I made a simple pasta with a creamy sauce.  The leeks provided some flavor that you could really sink your teeth into while the chives and pea shoots gave the pasta a splash of color and tasted like spring!!  The sauce came together while the pasta cooked so it was quick and easy.  I finished the pasta dish with a drizzle of some Meyer Lemon Olive Oil that I got from Global Gardens, remember the place that we tasted olive oil in Los Olivos?  This Meyer Lemon Olive Oil is so delicious and went so well the with the spring vegies but you could use any good olive oil that you had on hand.

 PASTA WITH LEEKS, PEA SHOOTS, AND CHIVES

  • 4 leeks, washed well and sliced
  • 4 cloves of garlic minced
  • 1T olive oil
  • 1T butter
  • 1T chicken fat
  • 1/4 cup chopped chives
  • 1 package boursin cheese
  • 2 cups pea shoots
  • 1/2 cup concentrated chicken broth (leftover from roasting a chicken)
  • parmesan cheese to garnish
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1# whole wheat pasta, cooked and drained
  • olive oil drizzle to finish

Cook the pasta in a big pot of salted, boiling water.  While the pasta cooks, add the olive oil, butter and chicken fat to a skillet with the sliced leeks.  Cook the leeks on low heat for about 5 minutes then add the garlic and saute briefly.  Add the chicken broth and bring to a simmer until the leeks are softened.  Crumble in the boursin cheese and stir until it melts, adding pasta water if you need to  for consistency.  When this has all come together, season with salt and pepper to taste, add in the chives and pea shoots.  Immediately add the cooked pasta and toss just to combine.  Serve immediately topped with parmesan cheese and olive oil drizzle.  You don’t really want to cook the pea shoots.

Dear Mama,

I came across an article in Fine Cooking about preserving foods in the winter. I love the idea – I normally only think of jams and pickles in the late summer and fall. This recipe for pickled mushrooms sounded amazing – so I whipped it up last weekend. So far, I’m loving them. They are simple but so, so versatile. I’ve eaten them alone, on an antipasto tray (like olives), and in dishes…they make a mean pizza and an excellent addition to sandwiches. Once you open your mind to year-round preserving, the opportunities are endless. I have a Meyer Lemon jelly slated for this weekend!

Also, I love these jars. They are wide-mouthed enough that they’re easy to clean, but still a good size for holding refrigerator pickles such as these mushrooms. I got them in a few different sizes at Hobby Lobby!!!

Pickled Mushrooms

6 cups cremini mushrooms, halved or quartered to be the same size

1/2 cup water
1 cup white vinegar
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp sugar
10 peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp red pepper flakes
1 Tbsp salt

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the mushrooms and boil until tender, about 8-10 minutes.
2. Drain the mushrooms and transfer the mushrooms to a large, clean jar.
3. In the large pot, bring the remaining ingredients to a boil over medium heat.
4. Pour the brine over the mushrooms and seal the jar. Transfer to the refrigerator.
5. Let the mushrooms pickle at least 3 days before using. They will keep in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Dear Mom,

What do you do when you haven’t gone grocery shopping in over a week, you have a friend over to watch a movie, and you get hungry after splitting a bottle of wine? Improvise. For me, pasta is always an easy way to satisfy a problem such as this. It goes with anything, as is proved by the fact that I tossed whatever I had into this easy peasy pasta bake. I mean, it’s so easy I don;t even need to write a recipe…but sometimes you need a meal like that, right?

Anyway, since this simple meal, I’ve been grocery shopping and I’ll have some more interesting meals coming up shortly to share with you!

Easy Pasta Bake

1 lb pasta
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper, to taste
2 cups prepared tomato sauce
1 cup ricotta cheese
red pepper flakes, to taste
1 cup shredded cheese – mozzarella or parmesan

1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
1 basket mushrooms, thinly sliced
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Cook the pasta in boiling salted water until tender, about 8-9 minutes.
2. In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent, about 4-5 minutes.
3. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute more. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Stir in the tomato sauce and bring to a simmer. Remove the pot from the heat and add the pasta, tossing to coat.
5. Stir in the ricotta, and season with red pepper flakes.
6. Transfer the mixture to an oiled casserole dish, and top with shredded cheese.
7. Bake until the cheese is melted and the sauce is bubbly, about 20-25 minutes.
8. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and mushrooms and saute until tender, about 6-8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
9. Top the casserole with mushrooms or serve on the side.

TACO SOUP

Dear Erin,

Indian Summer blew away during the night and today dawned chilly, the first really cool day that we have had this fall.  The wind is blowing like only the Kansas wind can blow making it impossible to imagine any outdoor chores.  I haven’t turned on the heat yet and it feels like soup weather!!  I’ve been anxiously awaiting soup weather — you know how we love our soup in this household?!  I muddled my way through some morning chores and then set the soup pot on to simmer.  My lunch of taco soup did the trick and warmed me right up; it was so hearty that I’m even thinking of going outside for awhile.  The only thing better would have been to have you here eating some with me.  My recipe varies a bit with what I have on hand but I think the taste is generally pretty consistent, use the vegies and spices you want to get the flavor that you like.  These are the ingredients that I used today:  

  • 1# ground beef (ground turkey or cubed chicken is also nice)
  • 1 onion diced
  • 3 carrots chunked
  • 2 stalks celery diced
  • 1/2 cup diced red pepper
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pint tomatoes with their juice
  • 1 quart stock
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cans beans ( I used chili beans) 
  • 2 cups frozen green beans
  • 2 cups frozen peas
  • 4 cups frozen corn kernels
  • 1-2 Tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 packet taco seasoning
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground fennel
  • salt and pepper to taste

Saute the onion, carrot, celery, red pepper, and garlic until softened.  Crumble in the ground beef and brown until no pink remains.  Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer for about 30 minutes.  This makes a large pot of soup and would serve 6-8 people.  Serve the soup with sour cream, crumbled tortilla chips, and a sprinkle of cheese.

Vanilla Syrup

Dear Mom,

Hold on to your hat. I have started drinking coffee. Well, I’ve started drinking espresso. I know, I know – for years when I would come home from college, Dad would always ask if he could brew me some espresso as the two of you had your daily cup and I would always say no. The truth is, I’m a morning person. A perky morning person, at that, and I just never really got into drinking coffee – I didn’t need it! I love the flavor, but I would reall only occasionally have some – more like a special treat every now and then. But about a year ago I started getting on the daily caffeine band wagon. I drink iced tea on almost a daily basis, which I love. I also ordered some of my favorite Kashmiri Chai tea and brew a concentrate that’s wonderful for making hot and iced chai lattes (I love how spicy and delicious they are). All in all, I’ve been going gaga making my own beverage creations.

Recently Shelly, one of my coworkers, brought her tiny espresso machine into work and I suddenly got giddy. I ordered myself some espresso, and started plotting out my future latte-making.  I love the flavor of vanilla in my coffee, but I don’t like overly-sweet beverages.  So I decided to make my own vanilla syrup to add to my coffee. It’s just a basic simple syrup, but it’s overloaded with vanilla beans, which means I only have to use a little in my morning coffee to get a whole lot of flavor.  It adds just a hint of sweetness that perfectly offsets the bitterness of the coffee, and it makes for an incredibly fancy-tasting coffee house coffee. Best of all, it’s super inexpensive. It would be great for brushing on layer cakes, to glaze pastries, or anything else you can think of!

So tell me, should I make up a care package of vanilla beans so you can make some for yourself? Trust me – you’ll love it!

Vanilla Bean Syrup

1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup water
1 vanilla bean, scraped

1. Combine all ingredients (including the scraped bean, not just the scrapings) in a small pot. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Stir to ensure the sugar dissolves. Ket cool slightly.
2. Pour the cooled syrup into a storage container and use as desired.

Dear Mom,

I love to make cinnamon rolls, and I usually make them with brioche dough. They’re so warm and delicious – and I usually make them with brioche dough. But when I was given some homemade concord grape jelly recently, I wanted to try a new approach – sweet buns. The dough is one I learned in school and it’s wonderful. It’s takes less time to make and it’s ideal for making the night ahead so that it’s ready to bake in the morning.

They turned out really nice – I used salted peanuts to contrast the sweetness of the jelly, and it made for a very PB and J breakfast pastry. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s totally messy and I had to soak the pan for about a year to get all that sticky jelly out, but it was worth it – rich, sweet, and salty. I think it’s a great way to incorporate jams and jellies into baked goods. It would work with a million combinations – fig jam and pine nuts, peach jelly and almonds, apple jelly and pecans. Yum!

Concord Grape and Salted Peanut Sweet Buns

16 oz all purpose flour
pinch salt
3 oz sugar
1 1/2 tsp yeast
7 oz milk, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 oz eggs, room temperature
3 oz butter, room temperature

concord grape jelly
salted peanuts, roughly chopped
egg wash, as needed

1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, mix the flour, salt, sugar, and yeast to combine.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk the milk, vanilla, and eggs together to combine.
3. Add the liquids to the dry ingredients and mix on low speed for 3 minutes.
4. Increase speed to medium high, and add the butter in four additions, mixing until fully combined before adding the next addition.
5. Continue to mix for 2 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the edge of the bowl.
6. Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rest for 30 minutes.
7. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a rectangle about 1/2 inch thick.
8. Brush off excess flour. Spread a thin layer of jelly onto the dough, and sprinkle with peanuts.
9. Roll the dough towards yourself into a loose roll. Cut off the edges, and divide the roll into even pieces.
10. Transfer the rolls to a buttered baking dish. Cover them with plastic wrap and let rise in the refrigerator overnight (you can also put them in a warm place and let rise until double in size – 1 1/2 hours).
11. Egg wash the rolls and sprinkle with more peanuts. Bake in a 350 degree oven until the filling is bubbly and the dough is golden brown, about 20-25 minutes.

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