I don’t know about everyone else, but for me, whenever my in laws are visiting, I tend to have an above average number of kitchen mishaps. Take for example, the day a kitchen shelf “leapt” from the wall. It smashed my precious mortar and pestle received as a gift from Bjorn as well as a jar of balsamic reduction which spattered most of the kitchen with a thin layer of sticky brown goo. There were also those blueberry muffins that turned out like hockey pucks the day I invited Val for breakfast a few years back. Most recently, I attempted to make deviled eggs out of some lovely, fresh, farmer’s market eggs, and –the eggs would not peel. When the world hands you eggs that are locally grown, fresh, organic and lovely that —will not peel– make Disheveled Eggs! Disheveled Eggs start by following your favorite approach to making Deviled Eggs, mine being a stiff, simple egg yolk mixture with a little mayo, minced celery or shallot, salt, pepper and a bit of mustard to taste. The key to Disheveled Eggs is to pile on eye-catching, creative and tasty garnishes to disguise and distract from your less-than-perfect peeling and filling of the egg halves. Among my great garnish ideas either used or imagined are thinly sliced radishes, finely chopped chives, sprigs of dill and parsley, thinly sliced baby dill pickles, a tiny spoonful of capers, some flaky tuna or a little smoked salmon, a tiny bubble-tower of salty of caviar, a squirt of Sriracha “Rooster Sauce,” tiny olives, a heavy shake of smoked paprika, or a tiny pile of thinly sliced prosciutto. No matter how much you are sweating it in the kitchen, if you bring this platter of fancifully garnished eggs to table you will receive reactions of awe and delight–trust me. My quick-fix to classic deviled eggs was inspired by James Beard Award winning Canal House Cooks Every Day cookbook by Melissa Hamilton & Christopher Hirsheimer not only did this lovely tome inspire many of my imaginative garnishes, but they finally gave me instructions to cook eggs from soft to medium to hard with reliable results. For the ambitious who prefer to follow a recipe, here is a deviled egg recipe using homemade mayo piped into the egg halves recently posted on Amateur Gourmet. Bon Appetit!
For the past month or two, I have been preparing a meal every Sunday that cooks all day in the Crock-Pot on Monday and welcomes us home for an easy, satisfying supper. Earlier this week I made a delicious Wild Rice soup in our Crock-Pot.* I bought Wild Rice that was raised on the Red Lake Reservation, a community about 40 miles from where my parents live in northern Minnesota. When I buy Wild Rice, I seek out rice raised on a reservation from that region, White Earth, Red Lake and Leech Lake Bands all harvest and sell wild rice. It is the very best wild rice, and I like knowing where it comes from, and supporting the local economy in these communities with the purchase. Before establishing a weekly Crock-Pot routine, we often arrived home on a Monday night tired, a little worn down from stress of the new work week and in no mood to cook. Nights like that, we often end up going out to eat. Sure, it is nice to be able to give ourselves a night off, but neither of us are thrilled about using part of our “dining” budget on a last-minute meal that we haven’t anticipated as a nice evening out. As much as I have been resistant to planning meals ahead in the past, I am tentatively starting to use forethought to my advantage. I am glad I didn’t know I would start doing this 6 years ago though. I think I would have been scared by the prospect of becoming a crazed Crock-Pot enthusiast, or at least would have hoped that the meal was served with a touch of irony. It turns out, at this point in my life, the routine is the opposite of scary, and there isn’t a hint of irony involved. Making a small effort to have a meal ready when I come home is breathing new life into Mondays! I leave for work in the morning feeling organized and like a real, functioning grown up. When the evening ahead crosses my mind throughout the day I look forward to being welcomed home by the scent of simmering soup seeping from the cracks of my old house as I approach the door. As I cross the threshold, I have little to do to enjoy a satisfying supper and a relaxing evening.
To make this week’s soup, I chopped and measured all of the ingredients into the liner of our Crock-Pot on Sunday night, covered it, and placed it in the fridge.
Minnesota Wild Rice Soup Ingredients:
- 1 Medium Onion, Chopped
- 2 Stalks of Celery, Diced
- 1 large Handful of Julienned Carrots, or about 2 Medium Carrots, Chopped
- 2 Yukon Gold Potatoes, Washed and Chopped
- 5 to 8 Button or Cremini Mushrooms, Wiped Clean and Sliced
- 2 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts optional
- 1 Cup of Minnesota-Grown Wild Rice
- ½ Cup Brown Rice – not necessary, but it is cheaper, and adds additional texture to the soup.
- 1 Teaspoon Dried Tarragon Leaves
- 1 Teaspoon Poultry Seasoning
- 2 Bay Leaves – remove before serving.
- 2 – 32 Ounce Carton of Vegetable, Chicken or Turkey Broth
- A Splash of Skim Milk, Half and Half or Heavy Cream optional.
- Salt and Pepper, to taste.
You might notice that there is no oil or butter in my recipe. Some soup recipes call for sautéing the onion before putting it in the crock. I find that step to be unnecessary. With the long, slow cooking process, everything cooks thoroughly and all of the flavors blend well. As an added bonus, without sautéing any of the vegetables in butter or oil, calories are spared. Monday morning, I added the carton of broth, gave it a stir, and set the crock to cook on low heat for 8 hours. I am not sure if all slow cookers have this feature, but my crock switches to “Warm” when the programmed cooking time is done. It works wonderfully to keep the soup warm, but not to continue to cook it longer than needed. This recipe made a nice amount of soup for us for supper and leftovers for lunch. We don’t need more than two meals of soup, but there would be plenty of room in the crock to double the recipe to feed a larger group, or to freeze extra soup for a later date. If the entire crock of soup will be devoured the night it is first served, I might add just a touch more Tarragon and Poultry Seasoning, because seasoning was a bit faint on first night. We thought that the seasoning in the soup came together nicely when we reheated it for our lunches at work. This is great soup to make in advance and reheat.
If I was making this strictly for meat-eaters,** I would add a few boneless, skinless chicken breasts to the crock when I added the broth. The chicken breasts can be chopped and mixed back into the soup right before serving
If there are vegetarians in your house who are not strict about meat juices in their food,*** you could even cook the chicken breasts in the soup, take them out and then add chopped chicken to the bowls of only those who want it. If you want your soup to be strictly vegetarian, chicken can be cooked separately, and added to the bowls of those who want it, or not cooked at all, if no one is eating meat. There is a continuum upon which every vegetarian places themselves that ranges from unoffended by some exposure of their food to meat at the one end, to completely avoiding meat coming into contact with their food or having meat juices in their food at the other end of the continuum. You need to do what works for you and yours, and this recipe is easily adapted to accommodate varied diets. The only remaining step is optional. About ten minutes before serving you can stir in a splash of warmed milk, half and half or cream. The soup would be fine without it, but I really like having a little milk or cream in my soup.
Tonight, we didn’t top our soup with anything, but some sliced almonds or sunflower seeds would be nice. I also like a little shredded cheddar on my wild rice soup upon occasion. Some people wouldn’t go near soup without a shot of spicy Rooster Sauce, or Sriracha for those who are less familiar with what has become the most popular condiment in the world. The soup is very hearty and satisfying on its own, so you don’t need much to round out the meal. A chunk of warm, crusty bread, with or without butter and cheese would be perfect. Tonight I pulled out a few crackers from the pantry, which I served with some sliced white cheddar and Asiago cheese.
Growing up, my Mom always served egg salad along with soup or chili, so it is what I crave when we’re having soup for dinner, so of course, I made some. The egg salad was mostly made before I realized that we had no mayonnaise. I used Dijonnaise instead, and it turned out to be a surprisingly good substitution for regular mayo. Dijonnaise has the creaminess of mayo, and with the kick of Dijon mustard flavor, I swear that you cannot tell that it is fat-free.
When life is busy and stressful, there are little things you can do for yourself and your family to provide warmth and calm. Coming home to delicious soup for supper that has simmered slowly in the Crock-Pot all day feeds the body and soul. We loved this creamy, comforting soup full of vegetables and wild rice. I will make it again soon.
*I apologize if trademark dilution offends you. My slow cooker just so happens to be a Crock-Pot. Words like Crock-Pot, Kleenex and Kraft Dinner are far too deeply embedded in my vocabulary to use their proper generic terminology, especially since I actually use these brands.
**I can’t think of why I would make this soup solely for meat eaters. It is so good! I would want a bowl. Maybe if I made a separate crock of the meat-free version for a party.
***In my reference to vegetarians who are not strict about being meat-free, I might be politely referring to households with picky children.
One of the downfalls of loving to cook and eat is getting into bad habits of having too much of our favorite foods, too often. Like many concerned eaters, we’ve recently watched the documentary, Forks Over Knives, and what we took away was a desire to go “Plant Strong” in our diet. To us, going Plant Strong means that meat (for Bjorn), complex carbohydrates and processed foods (for both of us) are playing a smaller role in our meals. We’re also aiming for scaled back portions when we do use these ingredients. We want to do this for our health, to shake off some bad habits we’ve acquired and to shed what we carry that comes along with those bad habits. We’re trying to put whole fruits and vegetables the center of more of our meals. We’re gardeners, veggie lovers and avid Farmer’s Market shoppers, so this isn’t new. We have just renewed our focus on putting the nutrient dense, delicious natural foods in the starring role they are meant to play in our diet. I am also trying to take little shortcuts and make substitutions to reduce the fat and salt used in our cooking, without sparing flavour. So far, we’re feeling good about the changes and I think we’re enjoying more variety and creativity in making a shift away from our pizza-pasta-burger routine we fell into over the summer. I love pasta a lot so we will still eat it, but a smaller amount, and prepared in a more thoughtful way. Tonight, our supper took the form of a lightened up, veggied-up, cobbled-together concoction with some characteristics that harken back to a traditional tangy and rich Russian-style Mushroom Stroganoff.
The recipe was simple, and came together quickly. I started by sautéing two small yellow onions with non-fat cooking spray, and just a little bit of olive oil. Then, I added chopped button and cremini mushrooms. I love mushrooms and can hardly resist adding them to every pasta meal I make, along with peas and spinach. They go with practically every sauce, and taste great together! Bjorn, being pleasantly open-minded as an omnivore has no problem foregoing the traditional beef in the stroganoff on a run-of-the-mill Tuesday night. To make the sauce, I loosely followed a Beef Stroganoff recipe, minus the beef from on of favorite my blog-haunts, Skinnytaste, using a can of tomato soup. We didn’t have Worcestershire Sauce in the cupboard, but after a quick Google search, Bjorn informed me that soy sauce with a shot of hot sauce would do the trick as a stand-in for Worcestershire Sauce. I used Braggs Liquid Aminos and Sriracha, aka, Rooster Sauce. We like deeply flavored sauce, so I added a healthy shake of paprika and some crushed garlic and let the sauce cook a bit. After cooking the onions and mushrooms and adding tomato soup the sauce was pretty thick, so I used some low sodium vegetable broth to thin it out a little. I cooked egg noodles separately in lightly salted water and when they were well on their way to al dente, I added peas to the sauce pan. When the noodles were nearly cooked, I stirred in some low-fat Buttermilk and a few generous handfuls of fresh spinach leaves into the sauce. Buttermilk gives the creaminess and tang of sour cream you want with a Stroganoff, but is low in fat. I had it on hand because I am planning to make another recipe that subbed buttermilk for a higher fat dairy product, so that is what I used, but low-fat sour cream would have been fine as well. The spinach and peas don’t belong in a traditional stroganoff, but they sure taste good! We enjoyed this cozy, richly flavored, savory dish with a little shaved parmesan and we both found the supper to be tasty and satisfying. With a few little tweaks to our cooking and eating habits, in time, we will see a positive result, I think. I also think we’ll enjoy some delicious suppers in the meantime.