Healthy Start for dinner

Dill feta scramble

Opa!

Opa!

This is a “healthy start” breakfast recipe, but I don’t generally have time to make much of a breakfast nor do I typically have enough time to make much of a dinner, really.  So this was a breakfast for dinner at our house.  But, really, who doesn’t love breakfast for dinner.

It’s a very tasty and simple recipe.  Pretty much the entire recipe can be found in the name: dill, feta, scramble (eggs).  The recipe has you adding more egg whites than eggs, but D and I decided against that.  Why?  Gluttony and not wanting to try and figure out what to do with an egg yolk besides throw it away or make custard.  I don’t typically make custard on a Thursday…

If you’re looking for a nice, Greek-ish recipe for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and you happen to have dill in the house, this is a good one to try.  One another note, this would be a good recipe to shop for the same week that you plan to make the salmon with mustard dill sauce in this same issue.

So. Many. Cupcakes.

In honor of Halloween, I decided to write my post on Cupcakes Three Ways.  When you make cupcakes in three ways you end up with a lot of cupcakes.  Two dozen to be exact. And as I don’t have any kids to send them off to school or girl scouts with… I had to send them off with the bear I live with instead.  I waited for the perfect moment when he had a work potluck and went for it.

Image

 

When it comes to baking, you really can’t make too many alterations so I stuck with the recipe. I made six vanilla, six chocolate, and 12 black-and-white.  I also made the vanilla buttercream and chocolate buttercream.  However, since it was the “Autumn Potluck”, the bear I live with wanted maple frosting instead.  

So I winged it… it wasn’t a huge disaster but it also was not a huge success.  Mostly it still just tasted like vanilla buttercream with maybe a very small hint of maple at the end.  I think the raspberry would have been much more flavorful.  Or at the very least, I should have looked up a maple buttercream recipe rather than just taking the base vanilla recipe here and adding some maple syrup.

The cupcakes themselves were incredible!  They were that awesome texture that you can’t get with a box mix.  Super dense and buttery tasting.  I know the supposed desire in a cupcake is moist and spongy but I have come to find that texture less than satisfying and prefer the homemade route.  The black-and-white were my favorite so I could get a little of each and I preferred the chocolate frosting because really, who wouldn’t?  I also used some incredibly good (i.e. expensive) baking chocolate so the chocolate frosting was super rich and awesome. 

Like mac and cheese, cupcakes seem to be a favorite of Everyday Food, so while I might say I would make at least one of these variations again, I just don’t know.  Maybe next issue I’ll find a glorious pumpkin cupcake, or a lemon cupcake, or a coconut cupcake.  When it comes to cupcakes, it’s best not to limit yourself!

In which G flashes back to her pregnancy

Chef’s Salad

Those blobs are dressing

Those blobs are dressing

I was terribly swollen toward the end of my pregnancy.  My face was pretty puffy.  I couldn’t wear my rings or watch.  But the real problem was my legs.  It got worse over time, but it ended where there wasn’t much of a taper between my lower thigh and my toes.  These weren’t even cankles.  They were thankles.  There was no ankle bone to speak of and a noticeable ridge just before my toes.  I wore D’s shoes to the hospital.  They were a man’s size 9.  My foot is normally a 7.

Where is she going with this?

The amount of salt that was in this lunch meat and cheese-based salad made my legs swell up in a way I haven’t experienced since my pregnancy.  I got that familiar tightness in the skin.  I had to keep my feet elevated.  I even went to the doctor because I thought there might be something seriously wrong with me.  There wasn’t.  Just way too much salt.  (shout out to D’s family: I managed to move the ongoing salt discussion to the internet!)  I think this recipe would be best with leftover home-cooked turkey and leftover home-cooked ham instead of buying chunks from the deli.  There’s nothing you can do about the salt in the swiss cheese or the bacon.  On that note, I didn’t even add the bacon!  I could have exploded from water retention if I added the bacon.

The dressing is, however, creamy and lovely without being too fatty.  It uses reduced fat sour cream and light mayonnaise.

However….I think this recipe (which I found while trying to find a link to the recipe from this issue) looks vastly better!  This one has such a better ingredients list, and, really, avocado is better than no avocado.  I mean, I added the tomato to this salad myself.  It was originally just bacon, lettuce, ham, turkey, cheese, and some green onion.  Lame.  Plus, this other recipe I found uses buttermilk and cider vinegar, which probably winds up tasting much more interesting than sour cream, mayo, and lemon juice.

So spare yourself a glimpse into the life of a pregnant woman in her third trimester and make your chef’s salad using home-cooked meat, where possible, and try this more-interesting recipe instead.

Mac and Cheese!!! (This is one cheesy post)

www.marthastewart.com/313113/macaroni-and-three-cheeses

September 2007, pg. 116

One thing that Everyday Food does often and does well is mac and cheese.  Loads of variations of mac and cheese.  I’ve never tested the theory, but I suspect there is some form of cheesy baked noodle dish in just about every issue.  No complaints here!

Can you tell it's still bubbling?

Can you tell it’s still bubbling?

While I love mac and cheese, I’m usually too lazy to make it from scratch.  It’s not hard or anything, I just struggle to wait for the baking portion to be over to indulge in the cheesy goodness.  So this was a nice change.  And yes, I still couldn’t wait, so I saved a few noodles from the oven so I could do a quality assurance test (a must when there is cheese involved).

While the recipe says you can mix and match your favorite three cheeses, I actually stuck with the original suggestions and used white cheddar (can you get any other kind in VT?), havarti, and muenster. I’m glad I did!  I had forgotten how much I love muenster!!

I did make two slight alterations to the recipe.  I used cavatappi instead of shells and I used crushed buttery crackers instead of bread crumbs, mostly due to laziness again. I already had to wait for the cheesy delight to come out of the oven, I wasn’t going to delay it going in by having to process bread crumbs.

*Small side note on pasta choice.  The bear and I have recently discovered De Cecco pastas.  They are expensive for boxed pasta, but they are sooo worth it.  The texture is so much closer to fresh pasta its unbelievable.  We try to stock up whenever we can catch a sale.  Give it a try if you can.

Anyway, I waited so very patiently and the outcome was great.  It tasted even better the next day!  I would say I plan to make this again, but there are always so many mac and cheese options I suspect I won’t need to do a repeat!

Chocolate chips and walnuts with blondies

“Blondies with chocolate chips and walnuts”

Look at that hunk of happiness!

Look at that hunk of happiness!

Take a look at the picture of this recipe from MSLO and compare it to my picture.  I’ll give you a minute.  Notice anything?  Either I read the recipe wrong and put a cup of chocolate chips and a cup of walnuts into the batter and another cup each on top (which is possible) or this recipe is not written correctly.  There is a smattering of chips on top of the one in the magazine.  Mine is pretty well covered.

I’m not complaining.  If I had to do it all over again, I would make sure to double them!  This was, essentially, chocolate and walnut bound together by a little blondie.  It’s almost a candy instead of a cookie.  It’s definitely delicious.  D took some extras to work, and they were a hit.  So if you make this recipe, start with 1/2 cup of each add-in and see how it looks.  If it doesn’t look packed with goodies, go ahead and add more.  Trust me, you’ll be glad.

Rice and Noodles: Dinners this week took an Asian adventure

Shrimp Fried Rice (no recipe online, see below)

Chicken, Edamame, and Noodle Stir Fry

September 2007, pg. 18 & 111

Chicken, Edamame, and Noodle Stir Fry

Chicken, Edamame, and Noodle Stir Fry

The hardest part of this dish was finding the ingredients.  I just spent the last five years living in the land of Wegman’s.  For those of you who know Wegman’s, you will already understand why this is an issue for me.  For those of you who don’t, educate yourself.  Needless to say, I started to take Wegman’s a little for granted and just assumed most things could be found at my local grocery store.  So when I moved here and had to deal with (gasp!) normal grocery stores, I have found myself a little lost.  What do you mean they don’t always carry lamb chops?!  Where is my Republic of Tea?!?!?!?! (This issue has resulted in approximately 3 weeks of checking every supermarket and specialty store which could fathomably carry Republic of Tea Earl Greyer.  I’m fairly traumatized.) What is this pathetic olive bar selection?? And where are my 300+ specialty cheeses?!?!  Anyway, I assumed I would be able to run up to the Shaw’s and just grab a package of udon noodles and some pre-shucked edamame.  Wrong! I had to check 3 different stores before I managed to luck out at basically a local version of whole foods.  I couldn’t even find udon noodles at the local Asian Market which strangely had mostly Indian stuff…

Anyway, after all that, it turned out ok.  I just say ok because while it was decent, it was lacking anything that thrilling.  The Bear I live with says it would have benefitted from some duck sauce (hey, what wouldn’t benefit from some duck sauce?!) but he settled for some sriracha sauce (yeah, pretty different from duck sauce I know).  If I decide to make this again, I might try to add in a little more rice wine vinegar and maybe a little sesame oil.

The real star of my Asian romp was the Shrimp Fried Rice (recipe below)!

Ugh, I wish I had some I could eat right now!

Ugh, I wish I had some I could eat right now!

First of all, I had managed to find some incredible deal on some really incredible shrimp (I guess Shaw’s isn’t all bad…) and was super psyched to use them.  I was a little nervous that the Shrimp Fried Rice wouldn’t do them justice but I took the risk and it was sooo worth it!!!!

This recipe uses a fair amount of lime juice and I am certain that is what made all the difference.  It was so sharp and vibrant and the shrimp was so sweet and plump! My only complaint is that it could maybe use a little more crunch.  Next time I will add some thinly shredded Napa cabbage.  And there will definitely be a next time!

Ok here’s the recipe:

Shrimp Fried Rice*

Prep Time: 15 minutes (depending on how fast you are with a knife) Total Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups rice (I used brown rice and was very satisfied with the results)

2 teaspoons vegetable oil (I used coconut oil and again, very satisfied)

2 eggs beaten

1 lb peeled-deveined shrimp coarsely chopped

2 carrots thinly sliced

2 scallions sliced

1 garlic clove minced

1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger (so good!)

1/4 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup lime juice

So have your rice already cooked and ready to go.  I made mine the day before.  Put half the oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat and add your beaten egg.  Don’t scramble it further.  Let it cook until it’s set like an egg pancake then slide it out and slice it up.  Set that aside.  Then add the rest of your oil to the skillet, still on medium heat, and toss in the shrimp, carrots, scallions, garlic and ginger.  Keep tossing it around as it cooks.  It only takes 3 – 5 minutes.  When the shrimp are pink and have firmed up they are done.  Don’t overcook them!  Tough shrimp are the worst! (Well maybe not the worst, they are still shrimp after all…).

When your shrimp look cooked add in the rice, eggs, soy sauce and lime juice.  Keep mixing it up until it all seems heated through and bam!  You have a really awesome dinner ahead of you!  You can add some scallion greens to make it look pretty. Enjoy!

*adapted from Everyday Food Issue 45 (September 2007) p. 18.

It’s a potato

Baked Potato Bar

G here, kicking off the potato post.  The post-tato!

Peer and Pedro Potato or Sven and Salvador Spud

Peer and Pedro Potato or Sven and Salvador Spud

I took the Scandinavian toppings and the Tex Mex toppings.  The Scandinavian one had smoked salmon, sour cream, and chopped green onion.  It was great.  Smoked salmon is delicious and sour cream is a natural choice for a baked potato.  The Tex Mex one has black beans (which are dry), goat cheese (which is pretty dry), and salsa.  The salsa isn’t juicy enough to make up for the rest of it.  It was quite dry.  I wound up scraping all of the stuff off of it, adding butter and sour cream, and adding the toppings back.  There’s really not much to report here.  If I was going to have smoked salmon, I’d want it on a bagel.

G out.

B here.

I don’t have fancy names for my spuds, but if I did, this one would be Giovanni.

Not my best photo here...

Not my best photo here…

This one consisted of ricotta, spinach and pepperoni.  Instead of using frozen spinach as called for, I sautéed up some fresh baby spinach with garlic, because obviously any kind of spud that can call itself Italian needs some garlic.  I also chose to mix my spinach in with my ricotta like you would for a lasagna filling.  And I used turkey pepperoni, which may have been a mistake.  It was fine really, but I think it would have been tastier with the real thing.  I also think a small amount of marinara would have gone a long way here.  Like G’s Mexican potato, it was a bit dry.  Overall, the flavor was pretty enjoyable, but maybe not to the point I would think to make it again.

And what the heck, I may as well follow through with this naming thing to the end of the post. So here is Jake Spud, the All-American Quarterback potato.

IMG_0690

This one was really classic!  Melted cheddar, peas and cubes of a really delicious ham I had made earlier in the week.  This is the one that reminded me of dinner as a kid.  The melted cheese sort of helped keep the peas in place, but not enough so you didn’t still have to chase a few around the plate.  The obvious solution: MORE CHEESE! I think I am far more likely to make this one again  than the Italian one.  I could see it being a really satisfying dinner on a night when the Bear I live with is at a work function (this happens a lot).

Yellow Squash Four Ways

September 2007, pgs. 20 – 30

B here, starting off our first joint post!!

I do love yellow squash, but I am sad to say I have rarely strayed from one recipe which features yellow squash, zucchini, onion, garlic and FETA!!

image

(You may recognized this from my post of Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Herbed Couscous)

The first recipe I tried was the Quick-Marinated Yellow Squash Salad.  It features shallots (yay!!), lemon juice, and thyme.  I never would have thought to eat yellow squash raw (mostly based on texture issues I have), but by very thinly slicing it and mixing it with the acidity of the lemon juice it changed the texture enough to be very pleasing.  It was crisp but not exactly crunchy.  And the squash itself was much more nutty than when cooked.  I’m pretty sure I’ll be making this one again.

The next squash recipe I went with was Slow-Cooked Yellow Squash, which was very similar to my standard yellow squash sauté.

image

Unfortunately, I was a little heavy handed with the salt in this instance.  It still tasted pretty good, but I drank like a camel after.  Luckily, I can safely say that when properly seasoned this recipe is absolutely delicious (especially if you toss in a little feta at the end)!

Hey, it’s G.  I took care of the creamy fusilli with yellow squash and bacon and the stuffed tex mex yellow squash.  Let me begin by informing you that today’s word is “calabcita.”  Here’s a picture of one:

I have small hands, so this isn't very good for scale

I have small hands, so this isn’t very good for scale

The internets tell me that it is a Mexican squash roughly akin to summer squash and zucchini.  Yellow squash was looking nasty at my store, but they had these instead.  They were sitting right next to the summer squash and looked summer squashy, so I decided to use them.  It was a good choice.  Here it is all hollowed out and ready for stuffing:

doing their best zucchini impression

doing their best zucchini impression

The tex-mex stuffed squash recipe is good, but not at all unique.  I count on the “have you tried?” or “in season” recipes to take the ingredient to new and interesting places.  Anyone who hasn’t had stuffed zucchini a million times, raise their hand.  I don’t see many hands.  This doesn’t break any new ground.  It’s onions, peppers, chopped up squash innards, corn, etc. all stuffed in with a tomato sauce and baked.  Yawn.  I would have liked to see maybe a Greek version with oregano and feta.  That would be something new.  I guess mine is different because of the funny squash.  It’s not different enough for me.

The note in the magazine says that all of the beef and corn and cheese adds “kid appeal.”  I’m lucky enough to a have a kid who is too young to make much of a protest, not that I tried feeding him this.  I think maybe I would, if I broke it up a little.  They say corn kernels are a choking hazard, though…  Goodness knows this kid needs to get used to eating stuff make out of Everyday Food!

at least it's colorful

at least it’s colorful

Before I go on, I’ll tell you something that might make you think of this dish differently.  I guess I have two words for today.  The other is “zuccanoe.”  You pronounce it like the first part of zucchini (the “zucc”) with the word “canoe.”  I was eating the leftovers of this dish in the break room at work when my co-worker came in, looked at my food, and said “Oh!  Zuccanoes!”  It almost sounded like he said “zut alors!”  I asked him what he was so excited about, and he told me that he has an old book that calls stuffed zucchini, zuccanoes.  I’m making up the spelling, by the way.  I thought it was so cute.  I hope it catches on.

Creamy fusilli with yellow squash and bacon

If you’re going to have pasta carbonara, but it makes you feel bad about yourself, I recommend this recipe.  Look, it has a vegetable!  Cream and bacon and cheese justified.  You’re welcome.

This recipe suffers from a problem I find with a lot of recipes, the veggies are too big for the pan.  I cut up my four yellow squash and that was enough to fill the pan:

perhaps they weren't "medium" sized after all

perhaps they weren’t “medium” sized after all

I wound up taking out about a cup and a half of cooked squash.  Otherwise, the recipe is very easy and straight-forward.  I once again failed to read closely and cooked the bacon slices whole, then chopped them after they were cooked.  I know better.  It takes longer that way, and you wind up with unpleasant, little bacon shards in your food.  Also, the recipe says you can substitute parmesan for asiago.  Don’t mind if I do!

There's a veggie in there somewhere...

There’s a veggie in there somewhere…

So if you need to use up some yellow squash (by the way, I can’t see why zucchini or our new friend calabcita wouldn’t be good in this) and/or you need an excuse to eat cream and bacon, this is a good recipe.

G over and out!

Iceland is expensive

Lamb chops with garlic parsley crust*

Issue 45 September 2007 p. 66-68 (no link found online)

Rice pilaf with vermicelli

p. 130

getting all artsy with the angles

getting all artsy with the angles

Shopping at Whole Foods makes me lose all sense of the value of money.  Everything is so expensive, and you’ve already committed yourself to shopping at Whole Foods, so you might as well just go nuts.  I can’t seem to make it out of there without panicking and buying a bottle of wine from a display just because it said something vague like “yummy with beef.”  Yummy with beef?  I’d be stupid not to buy it!  $100 later, I trundle out to the car a broke(n) woman.

This trip was no different.  You see, this recipe calls for a lamb chop.  Does lamb have a season?  It should be spring, right?  Because that’s when baby animals are born?  Something about Easter?  Anyway, my goofy grocery store has entire sides of lamb around Easter.  I don’t want to talk about what a side of lamb looks like sitting in a meat case.  It looks sad.  Anyway, when I went shopping neither the sides of lamb nor any other pieces of the lamb were available.  I should have tried a couple local butchers in the neighborhood.  I really should have.  But my grocery store was also all out of yellow squash.  What magical place would have out-of-season meat and out-of-season vegetables?  Probably Whole Foods.  Sigh.  Whole Foods also sells bulk bacon, which is nice for when you just need it for a recipe and don’t want to buy a whole pound.

*panicked breathing*

*panicked breathing*

I’ll cut to the chase.  I purchased $17.99 per pound Icelandic lamb chops. Here’s the actual text message exchange between B and me in response to these chops:

G: This lamb had better be spectacular.  $17.99/lb at whole foods.  Meep!

B: Gah!  That’s ridiculous!!!  [Did] the sheep graze in pristine alpine meadows and drink nothing but glacial spring water?!

G: Im sure they lived an infinitely better life than I have.  In Norway.  That’s right.  Norway.

B: Well I hear the Scandinavians have a great lifestyle

. . .

G: Oh and the lamb was from Iceland.  Even more absurd.  But oh was it good!!

B: Yum!  Maybe the lamb regularly immersed itself in hot springs to make it extra tender.  That might make it worth $17.99 /lb

Hot spring bath or no, this was very good lamb.  It was delicious and tender and lovely.  In fairness to the good people at MSLO, this is supposed to be a Cooking for One recipe.  I could have saved money by not feeding D.  The spinach was nice, but it was really just there as a foil for that lovely lamb.  If you make this, and I hope you do, please note that there is no reason (except for fussiness) not to get your lemon wedge from the same lemon that provided the zest.  It’s an ugly wedge, but it saves you from buying another lemon just for the wedge.  Also, be confident, but gentle, when placing these chops in the pan.  Press all you like, these suckers are going to shed some crust when you place them and when you flip them.  Speaking of which, take their advice and use tongs.  Finally, wipe out the skillet with a paper towel between the lamb and the spinach.  Because the lamb chops shed some of their topping, some of it gets burned sitting in the oil with no lamb to keep it in check.  There’s really no reason to cook the spinach in burned crumbs.

The rice pilaf was a rice pilaf.  It was buttery.  It was a little rich with the butter and broth, but not too much so.  It had pasta in it, which is always nice.  Here’s a question, dear readers, do you recognize this as Rice a Roni (the San Francisco treat)?  The MSLO website tries to be coy about this by calling it “our homemade rendition of a long-popular packaged side…”  Nudge. Wink.  Another question: D and I both grew up believing that the long pieces in Rice a Roni were long grains of rice.  Anyone else think this?  It’s ok to admit it.  This recipe reveals that those are, of course, pieces of pasta.

I did not, in fact, use vermicelli.  I used what Aldi calls whole wheat “thin spaghetti.”  What is vermicelli if not thin spaghetti?  Speaking of the pasta, the recipe has you cut the pasta into little pieces with kitchen shears and set it aside before you cook the rest.  This is dumb for a couple reasons.  First of all, you add the rice, pasta, and oil together before you cook them all for 3-5 minutes.  That gives you enough time to snip the little pasta pieces into the pan while the other ingredients get started.  All you sacrifice is a little extra cooking of the raw pasta strands.  Second, cutting the pasta over the pot contains the wildly ricocheting strands and keeps you from having to gather all that up again into a nice, neat pile until you’re ready for them.  Just cut the pasta over the pot when it’s time to add it.

It’s a nice side, and it complemented the lamb and spinach very nicely.  Oh, and in a little more blog synergy, we had the citrus spritzers as a before dinner drink.  Stay tuned for more about that.

*Recipe for the chops and spinach

prep time: 20 minutes; total time: 25 minutes.  This recipe is pretty much all prep and very brief periods of cooking

(NOTE: original recipe is a Cooking for One recipe.  I doubled it to feed me and D)

  • 2 T plain dried breadcrumbs
  • 2 T chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 1 t grated lemon zest, plus lemon wedge for serving (if you don’t care if it’s cute, you can get the wedge from the denuded lemon)
  • 4 t olive oil, divided
  • 4 loin lamb chops (3-5 oz each)
  • 1 bunch flat-leaf spinach, stems trimmed (I don’t think I actually doubled this part.  I thought a whole bunch of spinach per person seemed excessive, even if it is cooked down)
  1. In a medium bowl, combine breadcrumbs, parsley, garlic, zest, and 2 t of the oil; season with salt and pepper.  Dividing that breadcrumb goo equally between the four chops, press the mixture firmly on one side of the chop.  This works…ok.  Just press hard, set it to the side on a flat surface and resign yourself to a mess.
  2. In a non-stick skillet, heat the remaining 2 t oil over medium.  Working gently, but confidently and quickly (lest the crumbs fall off) place the chops, crumb side down; season with S & P again.  Cook until crust is browned, 3-4 minutes; using tongs, turn even more gently than you did before, and cook 4-6 minutes more for medium rare.  Transfer to a plate and cover loosely with foil just to keep the chops warm.  Wipe out the skillet because there are probably burned bits in it.
  3. Add spinach to skillet; season with S & P.  Cook, tossing, until wilted, 1-3 minutes.  Serve lamb with spinach and lemon wedges.

-adapted from Everyday Food Issue 45 (September 2007) p. 66-68

The rare Everyday Food bust

Cream of Broccoli Soup

Issue number 45 September 2007 p. 78 (no link found online)

It even looks like a crime scene

It even looks like a crime scene

prep time: around 20 minutes, depending on how quickly you can chop broccoli; total time: 40 minutes

  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1/2 of a big, white onion or one medium onion, diced
  • coarse salt and ground pepper
  • about 30 ounces of homemade veggie stock (the recipe says to use reduced sodium chicken broth, more on that later)
  • 1 large head broccoli (about 3 pounds) with the leaves yanked off. cut into florets with the stalks coarsely chopped.
  • 1 medium baking potato, peeled and diced small
  • 1/2 c heavy cream
  • 1/4 c fresh lemon juice (from 2 lemons…LOTS more on that later)
  1. Saute the onions in the oil over medium until soft, roughly 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.  Add broth, broccoli, potato, and 2 cups water.  Season with salt again.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer until broccoli and potato are tender, about 4 minutes.
  2. Working in batches, puree soup in a blender and return to pot.  Remember not to overfill the blender jar, and do the towel over the blender lid opening trick to keep the hot soup from exploding all over.  Stir in cream and lemon juice, season again.
  3. (I never got to the freezer part of these directions.  Suffice it to say you let the soup cool, put it in freezer-safe containers with room to expand and freeze for up to three months.)

-adapted from Everyday Food Issue number 45 (September 2007) p. 77-78

Have you ever been relieved to throw food out?  I hate to waste, so I rarely throw things away unless they’ve gone bad.  This soup was an exception.

Let me begin by saying everything that was right about this recipe.  It’s a “Freeze It” recipe.  I love those recipes.  Of all of my EF go-to recipes, most of them are Freeze It’s.  I like having some buffer in my meal planning, so I don’t have to pick from three choices: cook, order in, or heat up a frozen pizza.  The beauty of a Freeze It is that it’s as good and wholesome as cooking, but as fast as heating the frozen pizza.  So this recipe had that going for it.  Also, it’s cream of broccoli soup.  When has that ever not been good?  Not that I can remember.  I was somewhat suspicious because this is not cheese and broccoli soup.  Obviously, cheese improves all soups by a power of…let’s say five to be on the conservative side.  Well, as long as we’re playing the hindsight game, the recipe also had a note saying “Just a small amount of potato and a whir in the blender make soups smooth and rich-tasting, so you can get away with using less cream.”  Potato + air = cream.  Interesting….

So it should have been a creamy, yummy, freezer-friendly recipe.  What it turned out as was an oddly sour and thin soup that was thrown away soon after eating.  The pieces of bread you see on top of the soup were my own addition.  I figured if cheese would have made the soup better, then I could add cheese to the top.  Plus, cheese toasts would give us something to dunk.  And I like bread with soup.  The cheese toasts were the best part of the meal.  I toasted pieces of wheat bread, threw some grated Swiss cheese on top, and put them under the broiler for a couple minutes until they were melted.  The toaster and the broiler?  Yeah.  I don’t trust my broiler not to burn things, so I try to use it as little as possible.  If I had a toaster oven, I would have used that.

Back to the icky soup.  Where did it go wrong?

Some theories:  Theory 1: I used homemade veggie stock and it was too rich or intensely flavored for the soup.  The stock itself was very robust and flavorful.  If you’re at all curious, here’s a good post on how to do it.  I got the recipe from this amazing book, The Urban Homestead.  It’s also where we got the homemade yogurt recipe.  You know how usually veggie stock doesn’t taste like much of anything?  This tasted like earth and roasted veggies and strong coffee and going to see a man about a horse.  I think it’s possible that my brawny stock was too much for cream of broccoli.  The recipe might have just needed a base slightly more flavorful than water.  If I ever try and cross this bridge again, I think I would try store-bought veggie stock or, better yet, use the chicken broth the recipe actually calls for.  Chicken broth would give it saltiness and richness without overpowering the rest of the soup.  I have to disagree with the reduced-sodium idea, though.  This recipe needs salt badly.

Theory 2: There is too much lemon juice in this recipe.  The recipe calls for a 1/4 cup of lemon juice.  Before the lemon juice went it, this was a lackluster soup with an off-putting earthiness that probably needed a ton more salt (and some cheese).  After the lemon juice?  Shudder.  It tasted like sour broccoli blended with milk and heated up, which, come to think of it, was pretty much true.  A quick squeeze of lemon juice might have brightened this dish up a little, but 1/4 cup was far too much.

All that wasn’t enough to make me throw it out.  I threw it out because we forgot about it after dinner and left it on the stovetop over night.  I’m kind of a food safety nut (a food safety nut who eats cookie dough, so that’s the glass house from which I throw all of my rocks).  I didn’t think it was safe to eat a cream soup that sat out for 12 hours.  Boo hoo.  Off to the trash, sour soup!

It was the rare Everyday Food bust.