Winter Days and Garbage Soup

January 15, 2020

 

 

January and February are long-ass months in the Rocky Mountains. Actually, March sucks pretty hard, too but at least there’s a leeetle light at the end of the March tunnel. I probably shouldn’t bitch about this January because we really haven’t had much snow to speak of, but damn, the mornings are cold. It’s an everyday battle to drag this old arse out of bed in the morning, and the early AM walks with the Mozz-man turn my keister to ice. Of course, Mr. Fluffernuts has to smell everything on a fresh winter morning, so I fruitlessly try to hustle him along and he resists mightily. I can almost hear him thinking, “Bitch, why you trying to rush me along, huh?”

Because mommy’s butt is a glacier, but he doesn’t give me an ounce of sympathy. Sheesh.

The only thing that gets me through those morning constitutionals is the knowledge that I have a piping hot bowl of soup waiting for me at home. For breakfast. As weird as it is to eat soup for breakfast, I’m firmly rooted to the habit in winter months. Nothing sustains or warms the bones quite like a bowl of soup, and I give myself extra bonus points if it’s a somewhat healthy offering.

Thus: the birth of Garbage Soup.

In the summer, I breakfast on Garbage Salads–bowls of greens and other odds and ends of gardenly delights tossed together with abandon. In the winter, it’s Garbage Soup, which is pretty much the same thing but in liquid form. I pillage the crisper drawer and throw whatever I’ve got lolling about in there into a pot. Homemade chicken stock from the freezer is definitely welcome but if I’m out, I always have a quart of chicken broth in the pantry and in it goes. Leftover bits of cheese and leafy herbs? In they go. A lone potato or two adds some heft, if I’ve got it around. A half-dead onion? Sure thing. You get the idea.

I’ve been making a pot or two of soup a week since November, and while I sometimes go full-effort and make something with a real name, like minestrone or pasta fagioli or curried butternut squash, many times it’s Garbage Soup. Because I am awesome at keeping plenty of vegetables in the house but not so awesome at thinking of creative ways to use them, so soup it is. Plus, with this stomach assholery, it’s one way to get cruciferous things like broccoli and cauliflower into my belly without a trip to the barf bucket. That’s a good thing.

Garbage soup is not so much a recipe as a method.

Take the broccoli/cauliflower/cheese chowder I made this week.

Here’s what I threw in the pot:

olive oil

half an onion, chopped

one Yukon gold potato, peeled and diced

two peeled garlic cloves

several cups of broccoli flowerets

chopped celery

chopped carrot

a bag of cauliflower rice

several sprigs of fresh thyme

chicken stock (about a quart, maybe more…enough to cover all the veggies in the pot) or you can use vegetable stock

6 ounces of garlic and herb cream cheese or neufatchel cheese (like alouette or, in this instance, a tub of whipped garlic/herb cream cheese from Einsten’s bagels)

a fistful or two of sharp cheddar cheese shreds

salt and pepper and crushed red pepper to taste.

 

Here’s what I did:

Heat a few glugs of olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add onion, celery, carrot and garlic cloves and saute until softened. Throw remaining vegetables, herbs and chicken stock into the pot and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer soup for about a half an hour. Add cream cheese and stir until melted. Whir mixture in a blender or use an immersion blender to get it to the consistency you want. Sometimes I make it chunky like a chowder and sometimes I blitz the whole business into a creamy liquid. Throw in whatever extra cheese and seasonings you want to taste.

Consume. Repeat.

If the garlic cream cheese weirds you out, just use regular cream cheese. It adds a nice richness to the soup but it isn’t heavy. Or if you’d rather just use a nice melting cheese like jack or American, that’s cool too. Huck it in there. I almost always add some Parmiggiano-reggiano on top but anything works, even pepper jack.

 

Is it glamorous? No. Is it particularly attractive? Eh, not so much. Depends on the ratio of vegetables although if I throw in some spinach, it’s a lively green color. Does it taste good on a bitterly cold day? Absolutely. Especially if you’ve got a nice piece of toasty baguette to lop up the extra bits in the bowl.

 

 

It’s January. We’ll make it through. Whatever we need to do to get ourselves there, we’ll hunker down and do it. I’ll do it with Garbage Soup in hand.

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In all honesty, I dread this time of year. As soon as the wrapping paper comes off the presents, it’s time for the Bombardment of Body Shaming. You know what I’m talking about. ‘Tis the season to make you loathe your body and everything you’ve put in it over the holiday season.

Gee, glad you enjoyed your time with family and friends over a warm and sustaining table. It’s over now, so it’s time to hate yourself, mmkay? Time to look in that mirror and scrutinize every dimple and crinkle and patch of soft flesh.

Feeling bad enough about yourself yet? No worries. Jenny Craig, Whole 30, Veganuary, Weight Watchers, Intermittent Fasting, Keto and South Beach Diet are here to make you human again, you fat, bloated cow of a celebratory poster child for indulgence.

I hate it.

I hate the message they send us: you are not enough. You are lacking. In fact, you are disgusting and need fixing and you need it right now. If you could only become smaller–maybe 15 pounds? 30?

Once you shed those numbers on the scale, you will be complete and happy and worthy. Your whole life will turn around and become magically free of the things that weigh on your soul, because everyone knows that happiness hinges on thigh circumference.

No wonder people are so fucked up about food.

Look.

I’m here to tell you that you can buy into that bullshit if it serves you, but does it really? Serve you? Does feeling ashamed of the skin you walk in make you feel better? Will waking up thinner strengthen your relationship with others? With yourself? Will you lose all of your troubles and concerns about this planet and humanity when that number on the scale goes down? Will your boss treat you better, your spouse appreciate your efforts more, your children suddenly turn into blessed, uncomplicated cherubs?

I could answer that for you but fuck it. You’re an adult.

You can do adult things.

Like figure out how to feed yourself.

Imagine that. I mean, it’s not like you’ve been doing that for decades–feeding yourself. How odd that you’ve never known how to do that before.

 

Le sigh. Okay. Soapbox over but y’all, this time of year is exhausting. Can’t we just be happy and proud of ourselves for navigating a successful holiday season for one dang breath before we’re hit with the guilt and the shame? Holidays are crazy and busy and wonderful and hard and wonderful. And over, which I personally am glad about.

Personally, I don’t make resolutions because I suck at follow-through, but whatever your resolution may or may not be, can I make a suggestion? How about you include a little tidbit of love and caring for yourself in all of your list making and determination. Caring for ourselves means feeding ourselves, and if we can do it in a way that doesn’t feel like punishment, more power to us.

If you’re up for it, I advocate for this soup.

It’s full of things that nourish, sustain, comfort. It’s a warm bowl of “I love you, just the way you are.” It’s a bowl of “I trust you to give me good things–things that will keep me healthy and strong and kickin’ it.”

And you do kick it, Readers. You do.

I have been eating this soup for breakfast (because I am so dang weird about breakfast) and it’s so delicious that it usually is lunch too, if I have a generous pot. This slice of heaven gives me energy and solace. On a cold, deep winter day, there is nothing better that you can do for yourself than hop into a bowl of this. It’s not low-carb, it’s not vegan, and the beans probably take it out of the Whole 30 realm (but really, Whole 30…I can’t eat brown rice or chickpeas? WTF?)

What I can tell you is that it’s delicious. And chock-full of vegetables and stuff that makes you ready for whatever the world throws atcha.

Happy New Year to you.

Keep on shining, you crazy diamonds. Like the wonderful souls you are. Just the way you are.

 

 

 

Cranberry Bean Pasta Fagioli

serves 4 to 6

from Food Network Magazine

5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

5 cloves garlic, smashed

1 small onion, roughly chopped

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or more to taste

1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary

1 2-ounce piece pancetta (optional)

5 canned whole San Marzano tomatoes, crushed by hand

3 cups unsalted chicken or vegetable broth

kosher salt

1 cup dried cranberry beans, soaked overnight

2 bay leaves

1 piece Parmesan cheese rind, plus 1/2 cup grated Parmesan and extra for topping

2 cups small pasta, such as shells or ditalini

1 bunch kale, stems and ribs discarded, leaves chopped

1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley

Freshly ground black pepper

 

Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the garlic, onion, red pepper flakes, rosemary and pancetta and cook 2 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and cook 2 more minutes; season with salt. Add the soaked beans, 3 cups stock, the bay leaves and parmesan rind. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer until the beans are tender, about 2 hours.

Uncover the pot and bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes. Add the kale and cook, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. (The soup should be thick and creamy; thin with water, if necessary.)

Remove the bay leaves, parmesan rind and pancetta. Add the grated Parmesan, parsley, remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Top with more cheese and olive oil, if desired.

 

 

{ 3 comments }

Indian-Spiced “Soupy Rice”

December 27, 2019

I’ve spent most of December being incapacitated. Quite frankly, an invalid. I have thrown up (or been confined to the bathroom) multiple times a day since Thanksgiving, with maybe a handful of days where I was even somewhat functional. No, we don’t know why and yes, we have eliminated anything truly serious. I don’t have a fever and I never feel the vomiting coming, not like when I have a virus. This is stealth vomit (or other); without warning I spew like Vesuvius. I wandered around the house with a bucket at all times, just in case. I did countless loads of unexpected laundry and cleaning of carpets. I have seen every episode of The Office that’s ever existed and spent countless hours tossing restlessly on the couch.

It’s sucked.

Any solid food seemed to trigger this suckage, especially things that were acidic or spicy or cruciferous. You know, things I love to eat. Medications that I need? Not staying down, which has caused other pesky issues that are boring and I won’t talk about.

Suffice it to say I’ve consumed more bowls of broth and saltines than a human should have to. Ever. And yes, sometimes I’ve thrown those up, too. Then I’m reliant on gummi candies or things that are pure sugar (like Sprite) to keep the old body at least mobile enough to make it to the bathroom.

We’re tinkering around with a lot of things, including medical marijuana–which thank goodness is helping a little with the nausea end of things. We’ve been sad and so frustrated we want to spit and everything in between. We’re working on it. We’re trying to be patient but Jesus, let’s cut the girl a break, okay?

I haven’t even had the energy most days to read, which double sucks. It’s crushingly dull. The kitchen is barren, unless I have a good day (like, I only throw up once or twice).

On days when I feel functional and able to eat, I’ve been making this dish I call “soupy rice,” because that’s literally what it is. I’ve made several incantations of it–some flavored with Asian/Indian spices, some with just broth and ginger, some with a few sprigs of thyme and a knob of butter.

It’s not exciting but it’s oddly comforting and quite digestible, which is good on low days. It’s not quite soup and it’s not quite rice and it’s not porridge-ish like congee (although I’ve made that, too). Sometimes, if I have a bit of chicken in the house, I’ll shred it in. If I have the good fortune to have any kind of fresh produce in the house, it’s lovely topped with green onion, cilantro, and a drizzle of sesame oil. Or infused with the unmistakable zing of star anise and cinnamon. But days when I have anything fresh in the house have been rare. Those times it’s just a savory broth and some rice, and that’s been just fine.

I’m going to include one of my favorite versions of it here, not because it’s exotic but because it’s literally saved my butt from drying up and turning to dust, and we still have plenty of dark days (and sick days) of winter ahead of us. So maybe you need it, too.

This is subtly spiced but not bland; it’s for days when you can’t look at another saltine cracker. It slides down the chute with ease and most often will stay there. Omit the chicken if you are especially afflicted, but it makes things nicely substantial.

I’m hoping you don’t need “soupy rice” in your life anytime soon, but if you do, give it a try. It’s kinda like a hug for your guts. And we could all use a hug nowadays, right?

It’ll be okay. Better times are coming.

 

                                                                                              ~not much to look at but it works

 

 

Indian-Spiced “Soupy Rice”

serves several bowls-ful*

 

1 cup long-grain rice like basmati or jasmine or even Texmati works in a pinch

1 tablespoon butter (it’s even better with two tablespoons but go easy if you are queasy)

2-2 1/4 cups chicken stock** (this is a full half-cup more liquid than you need for normal rice but you want soupy. If you want really soupy, you can use a bit more to your liking)

1 fat knob of ginger, sliced (I store my ginger in the freezer and always have it on hand in case there’s no groceries in the house)

1 clove garlic, peeled and smashed

 

Aromatics (and yeah it’s odd I always have these but we got Indian people in this house, ya know):

2 fat star anise pods

2 cardamom pods

3 whole cloves

1 large cinnamon stick

a pinch or two of saffron

 

Optionals:

shredded cooked chicken

slices of scallion

a drizzle of sesame oil

a handful of cilantro or basil

a few sesame seeds

any kind of toasted nuts…just a few…I particularly like toasted peanuts or almonds or cashews

Sriracha, if you can stomach it

 

Rinse the rice and drain. Add it to a large pot with the broth, ginger, garlic and any aromatics you have around. Bring to a boil and then cover, turning the heat to a bare simmer. Cook for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit for ten minutes. Check it and if you want it more broth-y, add more.

Remove garlic, ginger and aromatics.

Top with any optionals you might have on hand.

Serve in slightly warmed bowls.

 

*If you have leftovers, store covered in the refrigerator. You may need to add a bit more broth when re-heating

**If you have homemade chicken stock on hand, GO for it. Lately I have not been so lucky, dammit. Otherwise, I use Swanson chicken broth or a fat teaspoon of Better than Bouillion. When I’m really sick I prefer not to use the low-sodium broth because I’m so dehydrated that I crave the salt, but do as you deem wise.

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