Monday, October 27, 2014

I'm back, and I bring soup

Yup, it has been a while since I last blogged anything. Life has gotten in the way, and to be honest, Facebook has made me tired and wary of so much sharing of personal details. But I miss blogging, and this soup has inspired me - it is a soup that everyone in the house loves, and something that good has to be shared.

My dad always brings recipes when he comes to visit; we look forward to not having to cook while he is here, and he looks forward to sharing favorites with a new audience. During his visit in March, he made this one for us, and it was a big hit. It is a broccoli, bean, and pasta soup from an Italian cookbook that he bought in Florence, Italy called Cucina Rustica by Viana La Place and Evan Kleiman (it looks like it is/was available here in the United States as well, if you are inspired to find it yourself). On first glance, it doesn't appear to be magical - just broccoli, beans, and pasta - but there is just something about the way the ingredients come together. Malcolm is not a picky eater by any means, especially compared to other toddlers, but he tends not to eat soup in its fully assembled state; he will eat beans, and vegetables, and pasta, and meat - just not all in one spoonful. This soup? He slurps up and asks for seconds. So do I, and I don't mind that the recipe yields so much soup that I end up eating it for days afterwards. 

I didn't remember to get a picture while it was fresh, so this is a little less soup-like than it is when first cooked, but I think you could add more broth when you reheat it, if that bothers you. I like just as it is.

Without further ado, here it is:
Minestra della Fattoria (Broccoli, Bean and Pasta Soup) from Cucina Rustica by Viana La Place and Evan Kleiman. Serves 6-8. Takes about an hour.

1 red onion, peeled and chopped
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (I confess to using canola some times)
6 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 sprig fresh oregano (I used 1 teaspoon dried)
2 springs fresh thyme (I used 1 teaspoon dried)
1 bunch broccoli, chopped very fine (I use one of the bundled bunches from the grocery store that have three crowns, and use some of the stems too if they look OK)
2 15-ounce cans cannellini beans, undrained, or three cups cooked dried white beans with their cooking liquid
6 cups chicken stock
4 ounces dried pasta, such as elbows, broken spaghetti, or tiny shells (this time I used a mix of elbow macaroni and ditalini)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste (I used about 1 teaspoon of salt this time - the amount may vary, depending on how salty the beans and broth are)
Parmesan cheese for grating at the table

Saute the onion in the olive oil in a soup pot until it is soft. Add the garlic and saute until it turns opaque and releases its aroma, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the herbs and the broccoli, and cook over moderate heat until the broccoli is quite soft. Add the beans with all their liquid and the chicken stock. Cook at least 15 minutes, or until the soup thickens. Add the pasta and cook it in the soup until al dente. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately and pass Parmesan cheese to grate into the soup.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Oatmeal blues

I have a like/hate relationship with oatmeal. It is one of those foods that nutritionists, health magazines, food writers, and bloggers always recommend as a healthy and filling breakfast. According to them, it will fill you up and get you set for the day - you will have energy and not need to eat again until lunch. So, several years ago, after years of only eating oatmeal in cookies or when camping, and then only the instant packets, I set out to reintroduce oatmeal into my life. I tried rolled oats and couldn't stand them, not even when doctored with sugar and spices. Then I discovered steel cut oats (also sold as Irish oats) which are much chewier and heartier. I figured out a recipe that made them taste good without being too sweet or too bland. (And I have tried many, many variations.) Apart from taking a long time to cook (which can be reduced by soaking them overnight) they seemed to be a good breakfast alternative. 

And then I ran into a problem - in direct contradiction of everything the bloggers, food writers and nutrion people said, if I ate oatmeal for breakfast, I would inevitably have a drastic drop in blood sugar about an hour after eating. And when I say my blood sugar drops, I mean I get the shakes, I can hardly do anything and have to eat something else immediately. At first I thought it was because I sometimes ate oatmeal with grapefruit. But even without the grapefruit involved, I still had the problem. Then I tried adding peanut butter, to provide some more protein, and that helped some of the time. But lately, even that hasn't been enough. If I have oatmeal for breakfast, I spend the rest of the day regretting it; I am tired, low energy and can't seem to get my blood sugar back to normal. 

This is kind of a bummer, because I actually do like oatmeal once in a while, but I am on the verge of giving it up as a lost cause. 

Does anyone else have this problem?

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Grandpa's visit

A couple of weeks ago, my dad came to visit Malcolm (well, us too, but mostly Malcolm).

We did all sorts of fun things, like gymnastics. Malcolm loves swinging on the bar. We go almost every week, and today he was practicing letting go and falling on his bottom, which he thought was hilarious.

There was story time at the library. Malcolm enjoyed showing Grandpa the cars that he was playing with before it started, and the scarves and shakers they play with every week.

As usual when he comes to visit, my dad also had to do some yard work. Even after all the raking I did in the fall, there were still plenty of leaves to be raked. Malcolm is getting to the point where he can almost be helpful, instead of just a hindrance.

And of course we had to have some Southern food, so we headed to Cotham's for burgers, fried okra and fried green tomatoes, in matching Hawaiian shirts. Malcolm loves fried okra, Grandpa loved the fried green tomatoes. 

Two of my favorite guys.