Mulligatawny

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp coconut oil (Aunt Patty’s)
  • 1 1/2 yellow onions, chopped
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 2 Tbsp freshly grated ginger root
  • 2 tsp ground turmeric (watch out for staining!)
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 4 cloves minced (or pressed) garlic
  • 1-2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (depending on your heat preference)
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 medium carrots, diced
  • 2 large waxy potatoes, such as yukon gold, skin on, cubed to 3/4″
  • 1 small sweet potato, peeled & cubed to 3/4″
  • 1 red bell pepper, julienned
  • 1 28 oz can diced fire-roasted tomatoes, liquid reserved (or 2 cups fresh tomatoes)
  • 1 15 oz can coconut milk
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Directions

Heat oil in a large soup pot over medium-low. Add onions and salt and sauté until onions are softened, about 10 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, turmeric, coriander and red pepper flakes and cook for another minute. Add water, carrots, and both types of potatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add bell pepper and tomatoes and simmer for 5-10 minutes until all vegetables are tender. Stir in coconut milk and lime juice to taste and heat through. Taste and add additional seasoning, tomato or lime juice, or water if needed. Garnish with cilantro and serve with rice or naan.

Soups and Stews

Over the Summer, my work schedule was all over the place. Every week was different – different days off, different shifts, different responsibilities. My desire for routine got flipped on its head. Now that things are starting to calm down, I generally have the same two (not together) weekdays off. Weekdays are great for errands and appointments, and can be great for chores as well, but they are terrible for any sort of social life. I try to focus on the silver lining(s). T has weekends off while I work, so the dog gets four out of seven days with a human at home. My first day off turns into a marathon of laundry, vacuuming, dish-washing, de-cluttering, bill-paying, and one big, slow meal.

This time of year, I love to make a big pot of soup or stew. Every week I make something different, and I have almost enough favorite recipes to make it through until Spring. The first one in September is almost always the creamy, spicy, hearty Caldo Verde (con Crema.) A big pot of Minestrone is sure to follow; I even tossed in some early winter squash and the last of the roma tomatoes this time. As October ushers in cold and flu season, I make the shortcut version of Chicken Noodle with a rotisserie bird, and throw about 4-5 oz of baby spinach in after removing from heat. This year, I got closer to perfecting my take on Mulligatawny, which is based on my memory of the red pepper, coconut & potato soup I used to get at Café Yumm! almost a decade ago. On the same copycat sentiment, I also made a batch of West African Groundnut Stew this last week.

With this becoming a weekly endeavor, I’ve come up with a few tips:

  1. Always stock onions, potatoes, garlic and cilantro
  2. Keep cilantro / parsley in the fridge in a jar of water, with trimmed ends
  3. Before shopping, triple-check recipe against “inventory” and update list
  4. Before cooking, gather all ingredients, utensils and measuring devices
  5. Turn on music
  6. Print the recipe – it’s way easier than trying to keep an iPad or computer awake once your hands are dirty
  7. Keep a compost pail nearby
  8. Peel the garlic, chop the onions, peel and chop the potatoes and carrots and set them all up in prep bowls so you can add them at the proper times.
  9. Clean as you go
  10. After eating, portion out the remaining soup into containers and let cool, uncovered
  11. Glass containers with gaskets and snaps are the best – they don’t leak, and they freeze well
  12. Refrigerate some, and freeze some containers for short and long-term storage
  13. Find a way to label the soup

Camping 2014

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It has become an annual tradition for the three members of Smithnet House to head out for a couple of nights in “the wilderness.” This being year two, we tried to learn lessons from year one, like buy less gear, or bring waaaaaaaay less packaging. We brought a simple dome tent, a couple of sleeping bags, a head lamp, and two coolers. One cooler was packed with food, the other one was empty until we hit the store for ice. I spent about four hours before we left prepping food and portioning it out into eco-friendly tupperwares. T was concerned about all the glass making for a heavy load, but it wasn’t terrible. The most important thing we learned about using the glass jars and containers was to make sure that the cart was well-balanced and secured. When the cart tipped and the cooler dropped to the ground, one serving of juice broke and spilled all over. Luckily, the glass was all contained, and the pieces were big enough to pick out.

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Other than that little mishap, the food prep turned out great! Here are some examples of what we prepared & brought:

Scrambled eggs with a bit of diced onion, butter, salt and pepper

Bell peppers and carrots, sliced into matchsticks

Pre-cooked bacon strips

Pre-toasted whole wheat english muffins

Grated cheddar cheese

A PB&J for hunger emergencies (with toasted bread to avoid sogginess)

Trail Mix

“Popcorn” Tofu

Fruit Salad with cubed watermelon, strawberries, blueberries and basil chiffonade

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At the end, we had very little garbage / recycling to dispose of. That was a pretty great improvement over last year, when I purchased many items specifically for the trip. Almost everything we ate (except for hot dogs, beer, instant coffee and graham crackers) was something we either grew or already had in the fridge. All I did to make it for camp-friendly was chop, cook, season, and pour into reusable containers like these. Or these. Or these.

The beauty of leftovers

While cramming our freezer full of berries, bananas, leafy greens, fresh pesto, roasted tomatoes, chicken, and fish, I found that space was at a premium, so I started to dig deep. Underneath a few layers of recent deposits, I found a frosty tupperware. Luckily, it was one of the air-tight glass varieties, and as it thawed a bit, I started to recognize that this was one of my soups. I didn’t know which one until I opened it and started warming it up. What a treat! I had unearthed two large portions of West African Groundnut Stew that I made last February. This was most definitely the foodie equivalent of finding $20 in the pocket of a Winter coat. It was a bit of a gamble, since I’d never gone that long or done much freezer cooking before, but the glass lock container and the stew recipe were a perfect combo for at least six months.

This was such a huge help on a night that I got off work at 9, and got home at 10. This brings us back to one of *my* Secrets of Adulthood (to steal a catchphrase from Gretchen Rubin): “Do your future self a favor.”

Refractometer

T was super stoked to use his refractometer to measure the sugar levels in our grapes (and grape juice.) IMG_5680

We put a couple of drops of our grape / apple / brown sugar blend on the little glass slide you can see on the right, closed the lid, and peered through the viewfinder on the left. By my reading, we achieved 17º Bx. This may mean nothing to you, as it did me, but here’s Wikipedia’s take on the subject:IMG_5683Degrees Brix (symbol °Bx) is the sugar content of an aqueous solution. One degree Brix is 1 gram of sucrose in 100 grams of solution and represents the strength of the solution as percentage by mass. If the solution contains dissolved solids other than pure sucrose, then the °Bx only approximates the dissolved solid content. The °Bx is traditionally used in the wine, sugar, carbonated beverage, fruit juice, and honey industries.

Grape Harvest 2014

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25.2 lbs of Canadice grapes. This does not include the <10 bunches that went to fresh eating or sharing. My instinct says that this yield is lower than last year, when the grape vines were on the side of the yard in an arch formation with more sun, but we didn’t harvest them all at once or measure, so it’s purely anecdotal.

As you might guess from the bucket, the next project is to make a tasty beverage out of the grapes. T loves science, so I figured I could cultivate his passion for chemistry and try a new method of preserving food if I got him a wine / cider – making kit. IMG_5655 IMG_5671 IMG_5672 IMG_5674