Lentil Soup, or I Finally Got It Right

All the lentil soup recipes I’ve seen look about the same, and seem simple enough, yet the last time I made it, I somehow managed to get it terribly, terribly wrong.  The only way to salvage it was with copious amounts of Worcestershire sauce, and even then, it was a mushy, salty mess.  So tonight I focused on the savory.  (And following the cooking directions, which, shockingly, also helped a good bit.)

I think it goes without saying that this will not be a vegetarian recipe.  It is, however, gluten free!

The standard recipe calls for a pretty tame list of ingredients:

2 strips bacon
1 whole onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped carrots
1 can diced tomatoes
8 cups chicken broth or water
1 lb dry, rinsed lentils

Seasonings vary, but I most commonly saw 1 tsp Italian herbs, black pepper and salt to taste.  As this clearly didn’t do the trick for me last time, I added some more interesting flavors.

My adjusted recipe:

6 strips bacon
1 whole onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped carrots
1 can diced tomatoes with juice
8 cups chicken broth or beef broth or vegetable broth* (y’know… whatever you have on hand – just not water)
1 lb dry, rinsed lentils
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce*
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp ground mustard
1 tsp rosemary
1 tbsp Italian herbs (specifically tarragon, marjoram, oregano, basil, sage – heavy on the basil)
black pepper

  • Fry bacon and set aside, crumbled.
  • Heat 2 tbsp (or… uh… more) of bacon fat in soup pot over medium high heat for two minutes.
  • Add onions and garlic, and stir-fry until onions start to turn transparent.
  • Add carrots and celery, and continue to stir-fry until onions are golden brown.
  • Add tomatoes and juice, broth, lentils, Worcestershire sauce, cumin, mustard, rosemary, and the crumbled bacon.
  • Bring the mixture to boil.
  • Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 30-35 minutes or until lentils are tender.  (This part is important! Lentils are not split peas – don’t aim for mush!)
  • Stir in Italian herbs, add pepper to taste.
  • Enjoy some damned tasty soup.  Refrigerates and freezes well too.

*Hey, where’d the salt go?  You really shouldn’t need any more salt after the broth, bacon, and Worcestershire sauce.  In fact, I highly recommend low sodium broth and Worcestershire sauce because, seriously, that’s a lot of bacon.  If you’re really serious about reducing salt, use less bacon, use only vegetable broth, and substitute Balsamic vinegar for the Worcestershire sauce.

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Another one bites the dust

It is with a good deal of regret that I mark the passing of another of my mother’s kalanchoes.

image

We had a good run. I managed not to kill it through two insanely hot and dry Central Texas summers (If only the fragile begonia had been so lucky!). Last spring I nursed it through a nasty infestation of mealybugs. Then a couple of weeks ago I went outside to water it, and the roots and base were totally rotted. I replanted the few leaves that had stayed green, but they soon turned grey as well.

It may be an actual blight issue, and not just over-watering, so I’ll be keeping a close eye on the rest. The one that I nearly killed a year ago is still plugging along.

Someday they may actually flower again so I can tell which plants I lost – they were all different colors and bloomed like crazy when they were living on Mom’s back porch. For now I’ll just file this away as another learning experience. My thumb isn’t nearly as brown as it used to be, but I still have a long way to go to green.

I’m Laughing At Clouds

Don’t Quit Your Day Job

So, in regard to the odd comic… hilarious story this week!

After the fantastically annoying down-the-street move a month ago, I finally managed to score a new day job in Austin, so I’m moving again.

My first day was Monday.  The actual move is happening Sunday.  I spent last week meticulously planning out how to survive one week with as little junk as possible.  I cleverly planned ahead and drew and scanned comics for the next two weeks – the hat strip for May 14 and a special birthday comic for my niece for the 28th – and left the scanner in San Antonio.

About two days ago, I realized that I left out a whole week, and generally fail at reading the calendar.

I am pleased to announce that my camera and some surprisingly simple photo editing has produced the perfectly-legible-and-not-too-spotty image you see above.

Now for the content of said comic-

For those of you outside of Texas, we’ve been experiencing a state-wide drought for several months now.  At one point last month, even the coastal counties were under burn bans.  Wildflower season was a total dud.  Until last week, San Antonio had not seen more than an inch of rain in any one go since January 6.

Add to this that the vast majority of the Central Texas water supply is drawn from aquifers that are filled by rain water and, well, you have a worrisome situation, and a whole bunch of people who really, really want it to rain.

Then last week we all woke up one morning to dire warnings of tornadoes and hail and… rain.

And there was much rejoicing.

packingpackingpackingpacking

Don’t Quit Your Day Job

 

So we’re moving.  Down the street.  Long, unpleasant story there, and I will spare you all the ugly details.  Suffice it to say I did not have sufficient time to draw a proper comic this week, and next week I may not have sufficient internet capabilities.

So, uhh… yeah.  Moving.  See you in two weeks, maybe?

Birthday Cupcakes!

Fellow bakers, I have a delicious bit of advise for you.  If you don’t already, find a special person in your life with similar tastes in sweets and a birthday very close to yours.  Then you have the perfect excuse to make the kind of birthday cake you like best, without feeling like a loser for baking your own birthday cake!

No really.

Stop looking at me like that.  It’s perfectly sound logic.

So Boy’s birthday is four days before mine, and he is just as big a chocolate fiend as I am.  Being the loving (and otherwise gift-less) girlfriend that I am, I naturally had to bake not one but two types of chocolate cupcakes for – ahem – his birthday.

I started with the known hit.  Last year I baked a devil’s food recipe I found somewhere on www.foodnetwork.com.  Naturally, I have long since lost track of which one – I just wrote down the critical things and “Food Network” in my recipe notebook and then cried a little when I searched the site for devil’s food again and came up with a few dozen results.

I topped said devil’s food cake with the chocolate frosting recipe off the back of the Hershey’s cocoa powder container.  I did something wrong with the frosting such that it came out super-fudgy, very tasty, and not at all easy to spread.  I wound up stuffing part of the cake with the fudge then thinning the rest until I had nearly double the intended quantity.  This year I knew to start with half the ingredients and then be sparing with the sugar and generous with the milk.

Just to add a little more variety – and to finally satiate my curiosity – I took advantage of the opportunity to test drive another recipe I’d been wanting to try for well over a year.

I’d heard some of the buzz around Jessica Seinfeld’s Deceptively Delicious when it first came out a few years ago.  For those not already familiar, this is a cookbook aimed directly at moms who can’t get their little ones to eat healthy things.  All the recipes are for pretty standard comfort and snack foods, but with secret ingredients like sweet potato, cauliflower, or spinach.

Being a relatively health-conscious non-mother, I was intrigued by the concept, but not quite enough to run out and buy the book.  Then a friend with the world’s pickiest two-year-old showed up with a copy and started raving about the chocolate cupcakes made with avocado puree.  Madness, I thought, but as I continued my search for the perfect chocolate cake recipe, I vowed I would try it one day.

As it happened, the stars aligned and that day was… three days ago.  Roommie’s mother happened to have the cookbook and loaned it to me a few months back, and I decided the birthday baking bash would be the ideal time to try these mysterious cupcakes.

Let me first say that trying to puree straight avocado in a blender is ridiculously difficult, bordering on just plain stupid.  Let me follow that by saying that pureeing avocado with the 1 cup of milk called for in the recipe anyway is kinda fun.  (heheheh whoosh!)  There is something more than a little creepy about dumping bright green sludge into what otherwise looks like perfectly good chocolate cake batter, but sure enough, it blended in without a trace and produced cake batter so tasty it almost didn’t make it into the cupcake tins.  The recipe notes that the avocado taste is still detectable while the cupcakes are warm (and it is – barely), but then it disappears into the chocolate-y goodness of some of the densest and most delicious cupcakes I have ever encountered.

Suffice it to say that Boy has a new favorite cake.

Sadly, I was unable to procure cauliflower in appropriate quantities for the accompanying cream cheese frosting recipe, but my old standard unhealthy recipe served just fine…

…at least up to the point where Boy suggested that the obvious improvement was simply to cover that chocolate cake with more chocolate.

This is what trial and error is all about – next year we will have the perfect chocolate-covered-chocolate-avocado birthday cakes!

Behold!  The very tasty chocolate fruits of my labor!  The normal-looking cupcakes are the devil’s food recipe.  The lumpy ones are the avocado recipe.  Yeah, they look funny.  Yes, you can see the occasional green fleck of a not-quite pureed chunk of avocado.  Yes, they weigh at least three times as much as the other cupcakes, but that just means they’re extra dense and tasty!

We interrupt your “Is it Friday yet?” doldrums to bring you…

…our very, very stupid special puppy.

Dear Roommie was not in any mood for Jacob’s foolishness last night, but I could not possibly let an opportunity pass to get photographic evidence of his latest brilliance.

Allow me to set the scene for you.  I half-listen from the kitchen to the tiny metallic tinkling of his tags that tells me that he is poking around somewhere other than under my feet.  Then the sound is joined by a decidedly panicked thump-skitter-skitter-thump, and Roommie says something to him that I can’t quite make out, except for a sharp, “No.

I wander ’round the corner to investigate:




You know that scene in The Fifth Element where Leeloo has just dropped into Korben’s cab, and she’s trying to ask for help, but it comes out as, “HAAAAAALP?”

Yeah, that’s pretty much how I translate the sad little whimper that goes with that last picture.

The good news (for him, anyway) is that he does eventually make it out of the tub when properly motivated.  He was out of the bathroom and back in the kitchen by dinner time.