Thursday, November 12, 2009

Getting My Zen Back

I'm still here! This lingering cough is annoying but not even the seasonal plague can keep me out of the kitchen. I spent the better part of the day yesterday doing some batch cooking. I made two beautiful pans of soup and marinated the country ribs in rosemary, garlic, lemon zest and honey brown ale that just went into the slow cooker this morning with golden potatoes, diced rutabaga, ruby red radishes and baby carrots. I never cooked with radishes before but I'm always up for something new so I look forward to seeing how they taste.

As for the soup, I made homemade Minestrone that I added a piece of Parmigiano-Reggiano rind that flavors the soup like nothing else can. This is how it looked when it was just starting to simmer.

The color deepens as the vegetables cook and release all their wonderful goodness. I used a mix of fresh and frozen veggies. Fresh organic delicata squash, zucchini, carrots, celery, onions, garlic, radish greens (from the radishes,) and frozen organic super sweet white corn and cut green beans. It came out so rich and delicious. I'm going to make a loaf of homemade Italian bread to serve for Sunday dinner. The rest is in single serving containers in the freezer for warming winter lunches.

This one is the most amazing Beef and Barley Soup in the Entire Universe. It's my mother's recipe and mine will never be as good as when Mom makes it but it's still pretty tasty. Whole Foods had grass fed bone-in beef shank from a local Georgia farm for a great price. I didn't like grass fed beef the first time I had it (sirloin steak on the grill) but I took a chance on it for the soup and it paid off. You have to have bones to make this soup. The collagen from the bones and the barley make the broth so rich and thick, I can't wait for Saturday night! I'm working day shifts this weekend so I don't have to worry about cooking when I get home.

I didn't make the homemade stock for the Minestrone but look...

I saved all the scraps and they are waiting for me in the freezer. I will be making veggie stock before 2010 draws to a close. It's my last chance victory so watch this space!

Not only is eating homemade soup medicine, making homemade soup is like making magic. You cut up all these wonderful things that came from the ground, put them in a pot with some liquid, add some heat and poof! you have this nutritious and delicious elixir that with one mouthful can make even the worst of days fall away. I love to cook but when life gets busy it can seem like a chore. In trying to relax and rejuvenate these past few days, I really focused on how much joy there is in spending time in my kitchen making delicious and nutritious meals for us. Our kitchen is my absolute favorite room in the house, we have a fireplace and a lovely view of our tree filled back yard. It's a wonderful spot to enjoy a cup of tea.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I wanted to get back to that simple pleasure of making and enjoying a cup of tea without all the other distractions so I've made that a priority this week. Being married to an Englishman, there's no way around having tea as part of daily life. Our electric tea kettle is one of the most used appliances in the house. I also love teapots and loose tea, I have a Brown Betty that Rob and I use to make pots of tea on the weekends and I even have an adorable pink tea cozy that my dear friend Margaret sent me from England, but busy lives take over and tea bags become the rule of the day. But not today. This morning I got out my teapot for one that I bought on one of my first trips to England along with my very favorite loose tea, Kusmi Prince Vladimir tea which is a mixture of black tea from China flavored with natural essences of citrus, vanilla and spices. I mix it with a bit of honey and a splash of milk. Not only is the tea delicious but the whole process is very centering. Boiling the kettle, warming the pot and the teacup with hot water, measuring the loose tea into the pot while enjoying the fragrance of the spices and vanilla. Pouring the hot water and stirring the leaves watching the color go from clear to a rich golden brown. It's even soothing writing about it.

I stood at the back door and watched the brightly colored leaves fall in the breeze while I sipped my tea. It may be a few more days before this cold is completely gone but I'm starting to get my Zen back and it feels so nice. I can hear my pumpkin pie porridge bubbling away so I better get to stirring. I'll be sure to share the recipe next time. Have a beautiful day!


  1. That minestrone soup! I can practically smell it through the screen. Continue to feel better.

  2. I love minestrone soup! I will make a huge pot (we have 7 kids) and freeze half for later. It heats up so beautifully!

    I hope you keep feeling better.

  3. Those soups look wonderful! Yuuuum.

    I didn't know you were English by proxy!! My grandmother was from Maidenhead-my dad was born in Windsor and currently lives in Nottingham :)

    This post reminded me of tea with grandmother. It's a tradition I need to start back up with my own kiddos!

  4. Mmm, soup! I haven’t been able to stop thinking about soup lately, maybe it is this cold weather. Homemade minestrone and vegetable stock…I am getting so hungry! It looks very delicious, and seems very easy to make. I agree with you that soup is magic…it makes the whole house smell so wonderful. I love tea! I used to drink it all the time. But I have only had herbal tea since I started my new lifestyle. That was almost one full year ago, and now, I am a little scared about what caffeine would do to me after so long without it. I miss it a lot, although herbal is delicious, they make a lot of good blends. There is nothing like a cup of hot tea on a cold day!

  5. You have me craving minestrone now! I didn't have an Italian mom to teach me any tricks, but would you believe I read that trick about the Parmesan rind in Gourmet magazine when Jeff and I were newlyweds? =) It really takes it to another level.

    Like I need a few more piles of junk in my house - but sometimes I wish I had saved those (now) old issues of Gourmet, especially now that they've gone under.