What Comes First, the Chicken or the Soup?

If my mother would have ever plopped down a bowl of soup in front of my dad for dinner, well, she just wouldn’t have done it. Pork chops, yes; fried chicken, definitely. Cream of broccoli soup? Rethink it, Marg. Rethink it.

I, on the other hand, occasionally plunk down a bowl of soup in front of Bill for dinner, and he doesn’t complain. I’m sure he doesn’t think to himself Wow, in all of my hopes and dreams, I didn’t allow myself to imagine that we would have cream of broccoli soup tonight for dinner. But he doesn’t complain. He simply eats his mandatory one bowl, and then looks longingly at the freezer, hoping there is ice cream. There almost always is, by the way.

I, on the other hand, love soup. I love it for lunch or dinner. I especially love soup if it includes noodles or potatoes. Best yet, both. If my options for a starter at a restaurant are either soup or salad, and if the soup is homemade, I will almost always choose soup. My favorite lunch among all lunch choices is pho – Vietnamese noodle soup. Someday I’m going to get up my nerve and try preparing pho. Someday.

But back to Bill for a minute. There is a restaurant in our Denver neighborhood that is a Jewish deli. In fact, it’s cleverly called New York Deli News. Though their menu is chock full of good, homemade and hearty options such as beef brisket and stuffed cabbage (and a corned beef and tongue sandwich if you are so inclined), we rarely go there except on Fridays. On Fridays they serve a delicious and affordable prime rib, along with boiled potatoes and steamed mixed fresh vegetables. It really is very good. I want it right now.

Their starter options are — predictably — salad or soup, and their soups are homemade. On their busy Fridays, they offer mushroom beef barley and chicken noodle. I always get the beef barley and Bill gets the chicken noodle. And he always raves, nearly weeps with joy, over the chicken noodle soup. He has gone so far as to proclaim it the best he’s ever eaten, and I’m pretty sure he has said these words: IT’S TO DIE FOR.

Well. As a person who prides herself on her soup-making skills, and who is pretty darn sure has never heard IT’S TO DIE FOR as it relates to any of the meals I have prepared for him, I bristled the first time. Really, I said to him, settle down; it’s only chicken noodle soup. Lots of people make chicken noodle soup. I, for example, make chicken noodle soup.

And so I recently decided I would prove to him that I could make chicken noodle soup that is as good as that served at New York Deli News. I immediately chose to use a recipe I’ve had for a long time from Paula Deen.

Why did I choose Paula Deen? Two reasons, really. The first reason is that she is (to put it bluntly if quite inconsiderately) plump. Fat, really. Or at least, she used to be. I can’t say for sure anymore because she was sent packing after she admitted that she had once used the N word. Which brings me to my second reason. I relate to Paula Deen because there have been a number of occasions in which I’ve said something that I wish I could take back almost immediately. I’m pretty sure she wishes she had kept her past mistake to herself. And as for her being overweight being a reason to use her recipe, I go with the philosophy that you should never trust a skinny cook. I’m looking at you, Giada.

Anyway, I made my soup, and I thought it tasted delicious. Bill ate his mandatory bowl, sheepishly asking for some salt, and looked longingly at the freezer. But I’m pretty sure he will show a bit more restraint when praising the chicken noodle soup at New York Deli News.

Look for yourself…..

And here’s my recipe for chicken noodle soup. While I used Paula Deen’s recipe as my guide, I made quite a few changes. She adds cream, which is perhaps why she’s plump. I find cream unnecessary. Deceased Jewish grandmothers world-wide rolled over in their graves at the thought of cream in their chicken noodle soup…..

Chicken Noodle Soup

Ingredients
2-3 bay leaves
3 chicken bouillon cubes
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 2-3 lb. whole chicken, cut up
1-1/2 t. Italian seasoning
3-1/2 quarts water
2 c. carrots, chopped
2 c. celery, chopped
1 c. sliced mushrooms
3 T. chopped fresh parsley
2-3 c. uncooked egg noodles
2 T. dry marsala wine or sherry
Salt and pepper, to taste

Process
To make the chicken stock: Add bay leaves, bouillon, onion, garlic, chicken pieces, Italian seasoning, water, and salt and pepper to a large Dutch oven or soup pot. Cook for about an hour, until the chicken is tender. Remove chicken and bay leaves. You should have about 3 quarts of stock. Allow chicken to cool, and then remove the meat from the chicken, tossing away the bones and the skin, and set aside.

To make the soup: Bring the stock back to a boil. Add carrots and celery to the stock. When they are soft (15 to 20 minutes), add the noodles and cook according to package directions. When noodles are done, add the chicken back to the stock, along with the mushrooms and the parsley. Drizzle in the marsala or sherry. Cook for another 5 minutes or so, until the mushrooms are soft. Adjust seasoning if necessary.

This post linked to Grammy’s Grid.

Black-Eyed Peas: It’s What’s for Dinner and Better Than a Funeral

Sunday afternoon, I was watching an episode of Father Brown on Netflix, once again wondering why anyone would hang out with the good Catholic priest when his friends and parishioners are constantly getting knocked off by one murderer or another despite the fact that there are only 250 people in the quiet English village. The way I figure it, anytime Father Brown calls and asks if you want to hang out, you should say you would love to but you are busy washing your hair that afternoon. And, by the way, I’m leaving your church and becoming Anglican like everyone else in England. Oy vey.  Between Father Brown’s Kembleford, England and Jessica Fletcher’s Cabot Cove, Maine, no wonder young people are fleeing from small towns throughout the world!

Suddenly I heard poppity pop pop, the cheerful sound my cell phone makes when I get a text message. I glanced over and saw that it was from my nephew Erik who lives with his family in AZ. Erik rarely texts me, and I immediately began thinking about what I have in my closet that would be appropriate to wear to a funeral in AZ where the temperature remains in the range of 104 to 106 degrees in the shade. My mother would be proud that I went there so quickly.

Anyway, I read the text and it turns out my sister wasn’t dead, nor was anyone else in our family. Instead, Erik was asking me how I made the black-eyed peas I offer every New Year’s Day so that we can all have great luck in the year ahead. Given several cancer scares, a sister-in-law’s broken back, a couple of surgeries, and several hip failures so far in 2017, I am going to go out on a limb and say that relying on legumes for luck isn’t working. I can’t go out on MY limb, however, as my hip is one of them that is failing.

I responded by telling him how I make my black-eyed peas, wondering all the while how he can be planning on making black-eyed peas when 1) It’s 108 degrees outside where he lives; and 2) His wife and his kids can barely be in the same room with a legume, so he would be on his own eating the massive amount of beans the recipe makes. Perhaps he was planning on feeding an entire flatulent village. Who was I to judge?

I called my sister Bec the next day to let her know that Erik had contacted me looking for the recipe. I called her for two reasons (and I must be in a listing mood today): 1) I wanted her to tell me why Erik was seeking to cook something as, well, hearty as beans in unbearably hot weather; and 2) I wanted to tell her that 10 minutes after I communicated with Erik, I lackadaisically logged onto my Pinterest site only to find recipes for black-eyed peas on my feed.  This is the truth, hand to God. Pinterest is reading my text messages.

The answer to (1) is that no matter where you live, sometime in mid-August, your thoughts turn to autumn. And if you like to cook (as does Erik), you begin thinking about cooking things on top of the stove for a very long time. Autumn/winter cooking is all about braising. It turns out that when Erik was in college, his roommate would go home for the weekend, and the boy’s father would always send him back with a big pot of beans. The young men would eat delicious beans for a week. Erik was feeling nostalgic. Our taste buds have more muscle memory than anything else.

The answer to (2), by the way, is that we are fooling ourselves if we think we have even the littlest bit of privacy left in our lives. So really, when people start getting bent out of shape because they fear a loss of privacy, they might as well realize that the horse has already left the barn. No privacy. None.

Anyway,what this all tells me is that since Erik is jonesing  for a pot of beans and the majority of my grandkids are back in school (the Vermonters don’t start until after Labor Day), the deluge of All Things Pumpkin is about to begin. Lord, make me strong.

Here, by the way, are the instructions I gave Erik (and Pinterest) regarding my black-eyed peas…..

Soak the black-eyed peas overnight (or do a quick-soak ). Place beans, some carrots and celery diced small, a teaspoon or so of red pepper flakes, some diced garlic, a bay leaf, a couple of ham hocks or a ham bone, and enough water to cover into a slow cooker and cook all night long. Don’t add salt until the end.

Enjoy, but don’t expect good luck. And that’s all I’ll say about that.

Childhood Treats

When I was growing up, I was in somewhat of the minority among my friends as my mother had a job outside the home. It’s true that she wasn’t someone’s secretary or didn’t sell shoes at Monkey Ward’s (though that was the job she DID have when she met my father). But once my dad bought the bakery from my grandfather (and to be honest, I’m not entirely sure how old I was when that transpired), she helped my dad run the business. Dad ran the back end (which included the baking) and handled the finances; she ran the front end and handled the staff. At least most of them.

Bill’s mom was a full-time homemaker, and so Bill talks about her fixing lunch every day for himself and his siblings. I don’t think she fixed anything fancy – maybe a turkey sandwich or a sandwich made from what he proclaims was the BEST egg salad ever known to man. And he always adds that she peeled the skin from her tomatoes and cut the celery really fine. For years, I thought that Wilma was trying to be fancy like Martha Stewart who probably not only peels her tomatoes, but likely turns them into rosettes. Eventually it occurred to me that she suffered from the same stomach ailments as I, and probably peeled her tomatoes for the same reason I peel mine – to avoid the fiber.

Anyway, as I try to recall my youthful years (not an easy task because I can’t even recall what’s in the Tupperware bowl that I put in my refrigerator last night), I’m certain that there was a time when Mom was home with us kids most of the time. But nearly all of my memories are of the times when we were old enough to stay alone and make our own lunches.

As I pondered this reality, I began wondering just what it was that we made for our lunches. My siblings might correct me, but I recall a lot of bologna or salami sandwiches on Dad’s yummy white bread, and opening many cans of Campbell’s soup or Chef Boyardee’s spaghetti or ravioli. Spaghettios had not yet been invented, but let me tell you, once those made an appearance, they were my very favorite lunch. That lasted until — well, frankly, I still secretly love spaghettios. Hold the little weinies and the meatballs. And don’t even try to give me the ABCs. I like the tiny little circular pieces of pasta.

As for Campbell’s soup, my very favorite was Bean and Bacon, but running a close second was Chicken with Stars. There was just something about those teeny tiny little stars that brought Chicken with Stars soup a notch up from regular Chicken Noodle soup.

A year or so ago, I ran across an Italian deli that sold little circular pasta called annelletti. Well, I immediately purchased the pasta, thinking that I would certainly be able to find a recipe to make spaghettios from scratch. I did, indeed, find such a recipe, and then scarcely gave it another thought. Every once in a while I would come across the pasta in my pantry and think, “I should make spaghettios,” but didn’t. The pasta moved from AZ to Colorado, and then moved back to AZ, still unopened.

In the meantime, I was recently at Superstition Ranch Market, a store at which I shop solely because they have the Stewart’s Diet Orange Cream sodas that I love. Remember this post? In addition to Stewart’s sodas, they also have a fairly acceptable selection of Italian products, including pastas. What do you think I found? Pasta shaped like little stars, called stelline.

Which made me think, “I can make homemade Chicken with Stars soup!” And which then inspired me to take out the the well-travelled annelletti and make homemade Spaghettios as well.

pasta-collage

I made the Chicken with Stars first, and later that week I made the Spaghettios.

The result?

The soup was a home run. The recipe, as you can see, is basically a regular recipe for chicken noodle soup, but uses the stelline in place of noodles. As for the Spaghettios, I was sorely disappointed, and here’s the reason why: Chef Boyardee’s Spaghettios are sweeter, which is why kids (and I) like them. I tried adding more sugar, but it just didn’t taste the same. If I’m going to have Spaghettios that don’t taste like the Chef’s, I would just as soon not have my base be tomato sauce, but instead, make a good red sauce of my own.

Here are the recipes….

chicken-stars-soup

Chicken with Stars Soup

Ingredients
1 T. olive oil
1-1/2 c. diced onion
1 c. diced carrots
1 c. diced celery
1 clove garlic, minced
8 c. chicken stock
2 c. chopped cooked chicken
2 bay leaves
½ t. dried rosemary
½ salt
½ t. dried thyme
½ t. black pepper
1 c. dried stelline (or other small pasta)
Process
Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and cook for five minutes, stirring occasionally, until translucent. Add carrots, celery, and garlic, and saute for 2 minutes more, stirring occasionally. Add chicken stock, chicken, bay leaves, rosemary, salt, thyme, and pepper, and stir to combine.

Bring mixture to a simmer, the reduce heat to medium and stir in the pasta. Cook until pasta is al dente, stirring occasionally. Season with additional salt if necessary.

db052469-7b8d-43e2-b512-9f4dd89fdc89

Homemade Spaghettios

Ingredients
15 oz. can tomato sauce
2 T. milk
½ t. onion powder
½ t. garlic powder
¾ t. salt
2 T. sugar
1 c. uncooked star-shaped pasta, or other small pasta

Process
In a small saucepan, mix ingredients (except for pasta) and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce to a simmer and cook on low until the butter melts completely. Meanwhile, cook pasta per instructions until al dente (or to your liking, remembering that the pasta will soften up more as it absorbs the liquid). Drain pasta and combine with sauce.

This post linked to the GRAND Social

Keep on the Sunny Side

Keep on the sunny side, always on the sunny side
Keep on the sunny side of life
It will help us every day, it will brighten all our way
If we keep on the sunny side of life. — Ada Blenkhorn

When we were in Salzburg, Austria, in 2008 on our big travel adventure, we were walking to church one Sunday morning. (I kept a blog documenting our adventure and talked about our Sunday in Salzburg here.) It appeared to me that Sundays in Austria were lovely days of family, worship, and food. As we walked to church – the very church in which Mozart was baptized and played the organ – I noticed people eating their breakfasts outdoors in the morning sunshine. I saw sweet rolls, and crusty hard rolls and cups of coffee. At one point, I noticed a woman eating a plate featuring a soft boiled egg sitting in a white egg cup.

I can only imagine the deer-in-the-headlights look a server at Village Inn would get if I answered the question how would you like your eggs cooked?  by saying soft boiled.

I, of course, am very familiar with soft-boiled eggs because that was the only way my Swiss grandmother ever prepared eggs for me. Being a child, I didn’t watch how she prepared them. I only know they showed up on my plate almost too hot to touch. I learned at a very young age how to use the knife to cut off the tip of the egg so that I could reach the gooey yoke inside. I would cut my buttery toast into strips and begin dipping them into the yolks.

To this day, I love soft boiled eggs. It’s beyond Bill’s comprehension. He prefers his eggs scrambled. When I fry eggs for the two of us, he requests that his yolks be broken so they don’t run. He’s simply not a fan of runny yolk. I, on the other hand, love them. When we used to be worried that we were going to die from eating undercooked eggs, I dutifully ordered my eggs over medium. Now that we seemed to have calmed down and don’t worry about that quite as much, I prefer them poached or sunny side up. I love to have my yolk run into my potatoes. Especially when eating Huevos Rancheros. Yum.

I don’t soft-boil eggs very often, and I’m not sure why that is true. They are very easy to do, and I prefer them to scrambled eggs. But since eggs are low in fiber and high in protein, they are a great meal for me. I have to admit that an egg with a piece of white toast spread with real butter makes me feel less deprived.

soft boiled egg

Here’s how to make a perfect soft-boiled egg….

Bring a saucepan of water to a boil, and then lower the heat so that the water is just simmering. It should look sort of like club soda. Once the water is simmering, carefully drop one or two eggs into the water. Set the timer for 5 minutes. (Add a minute if you are cooking more than two eggs.) Don’t set the timer until you have put the eggs in the simmering water. When the timer goes off, remove the eggs and drop them into a cold water bath (a bowl of cold water with ice). Let them sit for a few minutes. That will make them easier to handle and make it easier to open the egg.

My grandmother had egg cups. I have them in Denver, but haven’t bought them yet here in Arizona. So I improvised using a shot glass. I also saw a photo of someone setting a soft boiled egg in a cup with uncooked rice to keep it upright. Take a sharp knife (I use a steak knife) and carefully cut off the tip of the egg. Watch for egg shells. Dip pieces of buttered toast into your egg, or use a small spoon to eat the egg. You can buy fancy spoons, but quite frankly, I use the baby spoons that my grandkids used when they were small.

How do you like your eggs?

Thursday Thoughts

Like Chasing a Rabbit
I’ve had a Fitbit for a couple of years now. Fitbits, as you know, measure your activity. My daily goal is 10,000 steps, and I reach it on the days I work out; other days I have to work a bit harder to reach the goal. One of the incentives is that you compete against others, who agree to compete against you. Bec’s grandchildren got Fitbits for Christmas, and shortly thereafter, they asked me to be on their list of “friends” against whom they compete. I can look at any time and see how I’m faring against the others, and let me tell you, when it comes to Mackenzie and Carter, it isn’t a pretty picture. It’s seriously like competing against Jack Russell Terriers. The numbers are given in 7-day averages, and Carter is always, ALWAYS in the hundred-thousands. How can I possibly compete against someone who has Running Club in the morning and plays soccer every day at recess?  I’ll bet on any given day, he has beaten me by 9 o’clock in the morning. I’m pretty sure he gets up during the night and just runs up and down their hallway for an hour. I wonder if Bill would notice if I did that……

Rich and Famous
I truly wonder how many famous people I have walked past without ever seeing them. When the family was in NYC a number of years ago for Heather’s college graduation, every once in a while as we walked the streets of NY, Allen would say, “Oh look, there’s Yoko Ono,” or “Did you see him? That was Alan Rickman” (the guy who played Hans Gruber in Die Hard (may he rest in peace). In 1995, Bill and I were in the Oak Bar at The Plaza Hotel in NYC having a drink, when Bill said to me, “There’s Marcia Clark.” If you will recall, Marcia Clark had her 15 minutes of fame because she was the prosecuting attorney in the OJ Simpson trial. So it’s of very little surprise that the other night, when we were out to dinner for Bec’s birthday and suddenly there was some commotion at the door, I paid ABSOLUTELY NO ATTENTION. This, despite the fact that a giant of a man accompanied by a bevy of people had entered the Cajun restaurant where we were dining. It was Erik, who actually had his back to the door, who casually said, “Huh, there’s Charles Barkley.” Well, I looked up and confirmed that it actually was the former Phoenix Sun great himself. After getting past being stunned by his sheer size, I made a very quick decision. I grabbed Mackenzie’s and Carter’s hands and briskly led them through the crowded restaurant to his table, just as he was getting ready to sit down. I politely asked him if he would be willing to let me take his picture with my niece and nephew. Now then, that could have gone south very quickly. After all, I was interrupting his private dinner. But it didn’t. See……

Charles Barkley Carter Kenz 1.16

When I’m rich and famous, I’m going to be as nice as Charles Barkley.

Cake Wars Continues
Bill isn’t the only one in this family who can bake. I made some cupcakes from scratch yesterday afternoon, using a wonderful Barefoot Contessa recipe. I changed them up a bit by using leftover icing from Bec’s birthday cake as a filling. I put the icing – a mixture of cream cheese, marshmallow fluff, and powdered sugar – into a squirt bottle and filled the chocolate cupcakes with the cream before icing them.  They were delicious.

cupcakes

Chocolate Cupcakes, courtesy Ina Garten and Food Network

Ingredients
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk, shaken, at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature
2 tablespoons brewed coffee
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup good cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Process
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line cupcake pans with paper liners.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and 2 sugars on high speed until light and fluffy, approximately 5 minutes. Lower the speed to medium, add the eggs 1 at a time, then add the vanilla and mix well. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, sour cream, and coffee. In another bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. On low speed, add the buttermilk mixture and the flour mixture alternately in thirds to the mixer bowl, beginning with the buttermilk mixture and ending with the flour mixture. Mix only until blended. Fold the batter with a rubber spatula to be sure it’s completely blended.

Divide the batter among the cupcake pans (1 rounded standard ice cream scoop per cup is the right amount). Bake in the middle of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes, remove from the pans, and allow to cool completely before frosting.
Nana’s Notes: The Barefoot Contessa wouldn’t even consider OWNING a plastic squirt bottle, but too bad, her loss. The filling makes the cupcakes good. And, unlike Bill, I used store-bought frosting. So there.

My Way or the Highway

I’m going to hear a collective gasp from many of my readers – not the least of which will come from both of my sisters – but I don’t particularly buy into the notion that birth order largely affects one’s personality.

I’m sure birth order – like many things – impacts the way one sees life. However, I think that there are so many variables involved that you just can’t say unequivocally that he or she is that way because of placement within the family. For one thing, any time I read anything about birth order, it talks about first-born, middle child, and youngest. That implies all families consist of three children. So since I am the second of four, I guess that makes me a middle child, and so is my younger sister. And yet I assure you that she and I are not alike in very many ways. Mom always did like her best.

In my family, my brother is the youngest. Supposedly that makes him a free spirit, a risk taker, and charming. Now once everyone who knows my brother stops laughing at the notion of Dave being a free spirit, stop to think that he is the only boy in what was a traditional family. So, despite being the youngest, he had a lot of responsibilities that his sisters didn’t have, particularly when it came to helping Dad in the bakery. On the other hand, I’m pretty sure Mom made his bed every day (and if not, I will soon hear about it from him).

Having said all of the above (implying that I, too, am an amateur psychologist), I will tell you that where the birth order supporters get it right is when it comes to the first-born. Nearly every first-born that I know has many of the same characteristics – they religiously follow rules; they are born leaders; they feel responsible for, well, everything in the world; and they see things as black or white, right or wrong, real or imagined. I love first-borns and am delighted to let them take over my world.

Joseph first day school 2015Because I have three sets of grandkids, I obviously have three grandkids who are first-borns. I am not able to observe Joseph on a day-to-day basis, but when I’m around him I can easily see that he has a strong sense of the way things are supposed to go. When they don’t, he feels responsible. (His younger brother Micah agrees – Joseph is responsible!) He is a sensitive kid, often bearing the woes of the world on his shoulders (when he isn’t sharing his sweet grin).

If you look up first-born in the dictionary, you will see Addie’s picture. She is addie first day of school 2015 (2)responsible for everyone and everything. She is self-confident, ambitious, and successful. She knows what is right, and tries to make sure everyone toes the line. In fact, sometimes when she is visiting with her siblings and her brother is not behaving as she would like, she will begin disciplinary procedures. I gently remind her, “Addie, I’ve got this.” She looks at me as though she is thinking, “Well, you may think you’ve got this, but you don’t got this very well!

Kaiya is a bit of a different story. She is actually not a first-born, having a brother who is 14 years older. Still, she has a lot of the characteristics of a first born since she for all intents and purposes plays that role in the family. Kaiya notices everything, and has a strong sense of the way things are supposed to be. She is the one who notices if I’ve changed something in the house. She doesn’t Kaiya first day of school 2015 (2)hesitate to let me know that I really should have left well enough alone.

I recently got a new cookie jar. I bought it primarily for the color, which goes well with my new kitchen colors. Etched on the cookie jar are the words Fresh Homemade Cookies. For the most part, the cookie jar contains Oreos, because that is the cookie of choice for ALL of my grandchildren as well as their grandfather. But ever since I bought that cookie jar, Kaiya has told me I shouldn’t have the Oreos in that cookie jar because they aren’t homemade. “Nana, you need to make some homemade cookies to put in that cookie jar,” she recently instructed me.

WRONG!

WRONG!

RIGHT!

RIGHT!

Well, birth order or not, I did as she instructed and made some homemade peanut butter chocolate chip cookies. That should keep all the first-borns in my life at bay for a bit.

homemade cookies closeupPeanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies, adapted from korenainthekitchen.com

Ingredients
2-1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 t. baking soda
½ t. salt
¾ c. butter, room temperature
¾ c. granulated sugar
¾ c. packed brown sugar
¾ c. peanut butter
1 egg
1 t. vanilla extract
2 c. chocolate chips

Process
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar. Mix in peanut butter, egg, and vanilla until combined and creamy. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture, and mix until the dough comes together. Add chocolate chips and mix until combined.

Drop by rounded tablespoons or form into 1-inch balls onto a greased baking sheet, leaving about 2 inches between each cookie. Press each cookie with the back of a fork to give it the classic peanut butter cookie look.

Bake for 11-12 minutes, or until the edges are just beginning to turn brown. Cool on the pan for a couple of minutes before placing them on a rack to cool.

Waiter, My Soup’s Cold

Maybe it’s because I grew up in Nebraska, where, while they might not be able to lay claim to its origin, red beer is king. You know, tomato juice or V-8 (or, in the case of my brother, Clamato) mixed with lager beer. Red beer. Go Big Red. Cornhuskers. As my granddaughter Mylee would say, “Got it?”

Anyway, I love tomato juice. And V-8. And I might like Clamato if I ever tried it. However, not being a beer drinker, I can’t say I like red beer. But I like tomato juice with most everything else. Put a spicy Bloody Mary into my hands, and I’m very happy. I don’t even need all the fancy accoutrements, like okra or bacon or dilly beans. Just tomato juice and vodka jazzed up with hot sauce and spices. Yum. A great excuse for alcohol at 8 o’clock in the morning.

I was thinking about tomato juice the other day as I prepared a batch of gazpacho. Gazpacho, as you might know, is a tomato-based vegetable soup served icy cold in the summer when vegetables are at their freshest. An alcohol-free bloody mary in a bowl. Since I have been trying to cut back on carbs, I have been looking for sandwich-free meals for lunch. I thought about gazpacho, especially now that vegetables are plentiful at the market.

I started looking for a good recipe, and then realized a written recipe is probably unnecessary. Use what’s in your refrigerator and pantry. But I will share my mother’s recipe nonetheless, and then tell you how I modified it.

But first I must tell you a couple of things. The first thing is that I fully admit that I had never heard of gazpacho prior to living in Leadville, when my mother inserted it into her soup repertoire. I loved it from the first bite. That’s surprising, because the second thing I’ll tell you is that I heartily dislike cold soup of almost any kind. And I’m a big fan of soup in general. But don’t give me cold borscht or vichyssoise. Cold melon or strawberry soup? No thanks, though I love both melons and strawberries.

I’m pretty sure gazpacho was new to my mom too. I think she got the recipe from a friend. The recipe card is handwritten, and I don’t recognize the handwriting.

Mom’s Gazpacho

4 c. diced tomatoes
¾ c. chopped green peppers
1-1/2 c. chopped onions
1 garlic clove, minced
2 c. beef bouillon
½ c. lemon juice
¼ c. olive oil
½ c. diced cucumber
1 T paprika
Salt and pepper to taste.

Combine all ingredients except cucumber. Let stand at room temperature for one hour, stirring frequently. Chill. Add cucumber just before serving.

gazpacho

Nana’s Notes: Here’s what I did, using things from my pantry and my refrigerator. I chopped up a cucumber, a jalapeno, two cloves of garlic, a half of a red onion, and a couple of stalks of celery. I would have included a green pepper if I’d had one. I put half of each of the chopped vegetables in the blender with 3 small cans of tomato juice that I had on hand, a tablespoon or so of sugar, a half cup of olive oil, and about a cup of beef broth. I blended it, but didn’t totally pulverize it. I then put that in a bowl, added a tablespoon of sugar and the remaining chopped vegetables. I added a can of fire-roasted diced tomatoes in lieu of a fresh tomato since they aren’t yet in season. I happened to have a half of a container of pico de gallo, so I thought, “why not?” and added that as well. I chilled the whole bowl for several hours and enjoyed a delicious, nutritious, and low carb lunch (several, actually).