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Posts Tagged ‘great fall soup recipes’

finalOn the best of days our cat, Boo, is bizarre. Some days, like today for example, she’s could be deemed certifiable. Early on I was relaxing with my first cup of piping hot coffee enjoying the Sunday paper. As is her habit the cat was canvasing the living room area in search of stray mice to toss about (the stuffed variety) or a piece of leaf to chase. Without any obvious explanation a small picture frame sitting in an easel on our glass TV stand fell over with a resounding crash. The cat, not named Boo for nothing, shot up in the air as if fired from a catapult. Every hair along her spine was at full attention as she bolted across me at rocket speed knocking the arm holding my coffee cup hard enough to spill the steaming contents all over the front of my new tee-shirt. Thank you, Boo. Thank you very much. Nothing I like better than starting off a morning with second degree burns and ruined clothing. Appreciate it. If she is lying on me, as she is prone to do off and on during the day, and a sneeze captures me, if I can’t stop it she is likely to scratch half-inch lines on my chest in an effort to escape. Even if Rick sneezes next to me, the reaction is the same. We feel she was abused in some way as a kitten or very scared. Truth is I can’t imagine my world without her disrupting it. I wish cats could live to be a hundred but unfortunately that wasn’t in the plan.

When Boo gets frightened I can generally locate her under a bed downstairs her behind pointed in my direction. For some reason when frightened she presents me with that end of her anatomy. I offer no explanation for this occurrence other than the cat is odd, very odd. This is why we clicked when first meeting I would most imagine. Both of us have unusual eyes and quirky personalities. Since the earlier strange situation with the picture frame Boo has been seen stalking the TV stand, tail wagging furiously and the well-known cat curiosity at the fore. At one point I saw her checking out the plug with her nose, a practice I discouraged lest she light up like a cartoon cat zapped by a good jolt of electricity.

Perhaps Boo’s strange behavior can be attributed to the change of seasons. Fall is definitely in the air. Leaves litter the ground and hints of others just beginning to change color are scattered about the hillsides. Summer, however, reluctant to give up center stage, keeps insinuating its hot little hands in the middle of it all. Yesterday it approached 100 degrees and today will be the same. Alternating between shorts and jeans I’m still leaning on the side of autumn. I have taken out my fall decorations in celebration of the changing of the guard. Ghosts peer out my windows and goblins huddle about bowls of candy.

Growing up in Nova Scotia the leaves would have turned dramatically by now, reflected in fiery images in many lakes and ponds scattered about (or aboot in Canadian) the province. Our family home sat at the mouth of the Halifax harbor two blocks from Point Pleasant Park, a place I explored often as a youngster. For a child the park offered so many opportunities to run and play. The frog pond inside the gate was where I sat on a rock to watch the busy insect and amphibian population visible on and just below the murky water. When winter arrived and the temperatures dropped the pond froze over and served as the perfect outdoor skating rink for local kids or a place to try out the new hockey stick Santa had placed under the tree.

Fall made it’s presence known dramatically in the heavily treed acreage. Walking along the paths the crunching pad of dead leaves beneath your boots echoed through the canopy of branches overhead. I loved it there. Funny, I don’t remember worrying about boogeymen, though I’m sure there were some lurking about over the years, nor do I remember feeling scared or alone while inside the park grounds.

Rick, coming from Egypt originally, is more of a sun worshiper. Was he a lizard, I can picture him stretched out on a rock soaking in the desert heat. For him the advent of chilly rainy days and darkened skies is embraced with far less enthusiasm than for me. Was I to draw how I feel this time of year in a picture my toes would be twirling, my lips smiling, and my eyes twinkling. Energizing my spirit the change in seasons heading into winter gets me even busier in the kitchen, eyeing my sewing machine for holiday projects, and beginning to look at store sales and seasonal recipes. This George Eliot quote says it all:

Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.

I do think the stores are really getting ahead of themselves this year. Each year they start a little bit earlier. Christmas trees and decorations began showing up in some stores in August. What’s next, bunnies and baskets by Christmas? I like to ease into the holidays. They’re overwhelming enough with all the shopping (I’m not an avid shopper), wrapping, and shipping of gifts to family and friends. To me it’s like being given the whole cheesecake and asked to eat in at one sitting. I enjoy a good cheesecake but prefer to savor each bite and look forward to another piece a day or so later. Well, that made my stomach growl. Going to have to make a cheesecake one of these days.

Comfort food on my mind I decided to make Rick one of his favorites, turkey stuffed pepper soup. Delicious and filling with its mini-grilled cheese. Yum and yum.

Turkey Stuffed Pepper Soup with Mini-Grilled Cheese

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 lb. ground turkey
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 onion, chopped
2 green bell peppers, chopped
5 cups beef stock
1 15 oz. can of diced tomatoes
1 15 oz. can tomato sauce
1 cup cooked rice

Bring olive oil to shimmer in stock pot over med.-high heat. Add turkey and cook, breaking meat into crumbles, until no longer pink. Add garlic and continue cooking 1 min.

Add seasonings, Worcestershire sauce, onion and green peppers. Cook, stirring frequently for 6 mins. Add stock, tomatoes, and tomato sauce. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook 30 mins.

Place 1/4 cup of rice in bottom of four soup bowls.Pour 1/4 of soup over top of each scoop.

Grilled Cheese

4 slices French bread, sliced thin
2 Tbsp. butter softened
2 slices sliced cheddar cheese

Butter one side of each slice of bread. Place two slices butter side down in skillet. Top each with slice of cheese. Place remaining slices butter side up on cheese slices. Heat pan over high heat brown on both sides and cook until cheese has melted. Cut into small squares and serve on top of soup.

Serves 4

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Fall is right around the corner. My favorite time of year. The weather gurus are suggesting we might see a hint of it this week, though you’d never know by today with the air conditioning humming away to keep the temperature tolerable in the house. Autumn puts me in the mood to be in the kitchen. I have pulled most of my early fall decorations out and distributed them around the house. A pumpkin candle is poking out of the candle holder in the hall and life, as they say, is good.

September has been a weird month most definitely. Seems in my life after periods of tranquility everything unsettling happens at once. To begin with Rick has been sick. Whatever bug he was sheltering decided to hop across and check out my system so now I’m down. Neither of us has felt like doing anything which makes forward movement less than energized. Instead of our usual meals, we’ve leaned more towards bowls of soup and grilled cheese sandwiches or eggs most of the week. The thought of anything more exciting seeming beyond our interest level or capability. Thankfully, today I feel a little more like me and Rick is on the mend.

Two members of our family are huge animal activists. I too am a big fan of our furry cousins and worked at the local shelter for a year mucking about cat cages. A house without a pet, to me at least, always feels like it is missing a heartbeat. These two girls, however, go the extra mile. Both actually advocate for abused animals or those needing a home. One such fat, furry, beast is presently living in Lake Tahoe. Not a far piece from us, as the crow flies, so it happens. It was suggested that we might have room to house Chubbs, a mid-size mix, and perhaps would like to either foster him or offer him forever home. I am definitely on the yea side of the vote here, but Boo, The Queen of Cats, was quick to put her paw up with the opposition. In her spoiled little life only once was she faced with sharing her space and her people and the result was other than positive for all concerned. Trying to imagine a huge black dog being welcomed by our snotty feline goes beyond what I can conjure up in my mind without special effects thrown in from Hollywood. I cannot think this will end well.

Along with all the other craziness in the air I have been managing a small business on EBAY. Certainly the word “mogul” has never been mentioned in the same sentence when discussing my little store. However, it ambles along happily depositing a little jing here and there and I get the side benefit of cleaning out my closet and making room for more unneeded items I’m sure I’ll purchase down the road. I am learning the ins and outs of such an enterprise. For instance, after several sales where I ended up eating shipping costs to the point of barely clearing a profit, I have learned to evaluate the size and cost of mailing an item before considering selling it. This week I sold a large witch, 26″ tall to be exact. I had a box that appeared perfect for her to travel in, but it turned out to be slightly short. Manipulating her into one corner her head popped off in my hand. Oh-oh. Somehow I felt she would be less valuable to the buyer on the other end without it. Damn. Sooooo, one email later and a little Crazy Glue and the witch once again took up residence in my closet. Sigh.

In the middle of all this fun I got a phone call from my mother saying her roommate was in the hospital. Mother is one tough lady in most instances, but when it comes to staying alone at night she sprouts feathers and begins to cluck. With nearly four hours separating us, both of us sick, a large dog headed my way, and God knows what else I was at loss as to what to do. In the end my mom turned on every light in the house, both TV’s and slept on the couch. Fortunately her roommate returns to the fold today so I can cross that off my list and go on to whatever the universe has in its pocket next with my name on it. Ach.

Funny isn’t it how so many of us fear the dark? When the sun dips below the horizon all manner of sounds and shadows, not the least alarming in the daylight, suddenly assume a far sinister meaning. As a kid I can remember having to take the trash out at night. I would walk quickly to the trash bin and then run like my feet were on fire back to the house as if the devil himself was nipping at my heels. There was nothing there to frighten me except my own active imagination, but that was enough.

Our fascination with the eerie and macabre is evidenced in our love for Halloween, the Zombie craze, and the endless stream of slasher and horror films flowing out of Hollywood studios. Let’s face it, we love to have the snot scared out of us whenever the opportunity arises.

While living in West Virginia I had the opportunity to go through a corn maze just before Halloween. It was a clear fall night. A full moon shone down on us diminished only by an occasional fast moving cloud passing through the area. Voices could be heard in the distance screaming as monsters of all types reached gory hands out to grab arms and legs of people passing through the labyrinth of passageways. On one occasion I turned to find a huge man, or what had been a man, standing nearly on top of me. Blood ran down the front of his white robe and his head, no longer attached to his body resided under one armpit. I believe I set the record for exiting that cornfield and haven’t set foot in another maze or haunted house since that time. Perhaps this year is the time to stick my toe in the water again and see if anything takes the bait.

At any rate I made soup for the infirmary at our house. This is a delicious French soup usually made with cabbage. As I had a ready supply of Brussels sprouts I popped them in instead and they were a perfect match. Enjoy.

Garbure (French Ham & Bean Soup)

2 ham hocks
10 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 cups water

2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 leeks, sliced thin (white part only)
1 onion, chunked
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine (I used chardonnay)
3 large red potatoes, chunked (skin on)
3 large carrots, sliced in 1/2″ slices
1 lbs. Brussels sprouts, halved
1 tsp. thyme
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. Herbs de Provence
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
2 Bay leaves
1 15 1/2 oz. can white beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups chopped cooked ham
1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
Salt to taste

In stock pot bring broth, water and ham hocks to boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 hour partially covered.

In saucepan heat olive oil over medium heat. Sweat leeks and onion for 6 mins. Add garlic and cook for 1 min. Add white wine and reduce until liquid has nearly disappeared.

Add leek onion mixture to pot with all the remaining ingredients through bay leaves. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer partially covered for 90 mins. stirring occasionally. Add beans and ham. Continue cooking for 15 mins. Add white wine vinegar and djust seasoning as desired.

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