Aunt Mary B.'s Vegetable Soup

My Aunt Mary B. was a wonderful woman, but she had her secrets. At one of her last family reunions, I asked her what the 'B.' stood for in her name; she hesitated, frowned, then bent forward and said in a gravely voice, "Bell. Now would you rather people call you 'Mary B.' or 'Mary Bell?'" I smiled (thinking neither one), but agreed that 'Mary B.' was preferable. My mom got her secret recipe when we visited her in Louisville, KY, and she has been making it for me since I was about two years old. There is usually a pot of it in her refrigerator; I call it, variously, Mary B.'s Soup and Mary B.'s Vegetable Soup, as I either avoid the tough stew meat altogether or leave it in the bottom of my bowl.

My husband loves her soup and groaned when I told him I was making a vegetarian version: "Why can't you just leave things alone when they're good; why do you always have to fiddle?" His verdict, however, was three servings the first night! This recipe adds more heat than the original and a spice that I'm sure my Aunt had never heard of, but it's good and you don't miss the meat.


Aunt Mary B.'s Vegetable Soup, Revised


1-3 Tbsp. olive oil
3 carrots, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 onion, sliced thinly & chopped
4 cloves garlic
1 long hot green chili (thai, bird's eye)
3 new potatoes, chopped
~ 1/2 small pkg. crimini mushrooms
1/2 cabbage, sliced thinly
vegetable stock or broth
(I used Vegetable Base mixed w/ 3 c. water)
1 can chopped tomatoes, 28 oz.
1 can tomato sauce, 8 oz.
~ 1/2 c. frozen peas
approx. 1/2 t. Panch Puran
1 - 2 dried red chillies, broken (optional)
salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste

* Place a Dutch Oven on medium-high heat and add olive oil. * Add carrots through onions and cook 5 - 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. * Add garlic and green chili, cooking till garlic begins to brown. * Add potatoes, crimini mushrooms, and cabbage and cook two minutes. * Add vegetable stock/water plus base and cook 15 - 30 minutes, partially covered. * Adjust heat if necessary. * Add chopped tomatoes, tomato sauce and cook 15 minutes. * Add frozen peas and spices and cook 10 minutes.

This soup comes together much faster when not made with meat and marrow bones, although it's more work with fresh vs. frozen mixed veggies. Fresh is my preference, however; sorry Mom, you can tell the difference! Be sure to taste as you go. If using a soup base as I did, you may not need to add any salt, and after adding the green and dried red chili(es), you may not need any crushed black pepper. *** Also, this soup "feels right" when the cabbage slices are cooked down to translucent, so get them in early with the vegetable stock. (A better option to get the cabbage just right for this soup is to cook it in water for approx. 30 minutes in a separate pot, then add it to the soup. I will do this next time.)

Aunt Mary B.'s Soup is my entry for the No Croutons Required blog event ... the first I've ever been part of thanks to Holler's invitation. It is hosted this month by Lisa, of Lisa's Kitchen and next month will be hosted by Holler, of Tinned Tomatoes. Both of these wonderful sites have been on my blogroll almost since I started this little adventure.


Thanks Mary Bell. :D


New Year's Resolutions for 2008:

  • stop drinking Diet Cokes, i.e., aspertame poison
  • replace coffee addiction w/ organic green tea obsession
  • reduce sugar intake
  • eat 5 - 7 fruits and veggies per day
  • drink 8 glasses/64 oz. water per day
  • eat unprocessed foods
  • change from boozer to red wino
  • perfect my pie crust

Of course, I'll have slip-ups; I'm a fits and starts, slip-up kinda gal married to a "check-off the to-do-list", success oriented kinda guy. Retraining my sweet tooth will be a greater challenge than the two-week headache that goes with caffeine withdrawal, but I am more convinced than ever of the reasons for doing both.

And what about my goal to bake the perfect pie crust? It doesn't seem to jibe with the rest of my resolutions for 2008, but it's a left-over from 2007 and, like my husband, I sure would like to get it right.

Note: These WERE my resolutions, but all together and published, they do seem somewhat harsh ... especially as I sit here, comfortably posting, sipping my burbon and diet coke, anticipating the good eats I will soon be munching at the neighborhood New Year's Eve party. Coffee is not such a bad thing really ... especially not the Hawaiian Kona my stepson gave us for Christmas. The fruits and veggies, the exercise and the water resolutions, however, are must-dos this year.


It's November and that's Nano month. You may go hungry this month while large numbers of maniacs write furiously to complete the required 50K words of their "novels", translated, first drafts. If you are not a Wrimo, your job is to brew fresh pots of coffee for the one who is working in your house and keep quiet.


While The Wife's Away ...


My husband is fending for himself this week while I am away. He is not suffering. In fact, I cooked more for him in preparation of this week's absence than I usually cook when I'm home. I made him a turkey pot pie, my first pot pie of any kind, ever. Of course, I shouldn't be so proud; I used the dread canned, cream-of-mushroom soup (my mother's favorite ingredient) and the ever so helpful refrigerated pie crust. My aim is to make my own crusts with ease, but so far, the ease factor comes in a little red box in the frig.

This pot pie recipe is a doctored version of one my husband has. His version uses frozen vegetables, while I used fresh -- except for the peas. To the peas, I chopped and added a red bell pepper, a half small head broccoli, one carrot, one celery stick, one small onion, and two cloves garlic. When the vegetables cook down, approx. 10 minutes, mix one can cream-of-mushroom soup into the pan. Add approx. 1/4 cup chicken stock, or more as needed for the proper consistency. Add salt, pepper, and herbs (I used fresh dill and dried thyme). Continue to cook the vegetables and soup another five to ten minutes and set on the back of the stove to cool. If using a refrigerated pie crust, thaw for thirty minutes before unrolling bottom layer into pie plate. Fill with most of the pot pie mixture from the stove, leaving a half cup in the pan. To this, add the cooked turkey pieces, approx. two cups, and stir, coating with soup. Add the turkey on top of the vegetable mixture in the pie plate. Unroll the top crust onto the pie and crimp the edges. Cut steam vents in the top crust and bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes, until top is golden brown.




If you are dieting, as I am, you may find a Diet Journal to be invaluable. Sure it seems more trouble than it's worth. But in keeping my journal for just two weeks, I discovered that even though I stayed within my calorie allotment most days, I blew my fat allotment every day -- by a lot. Either follow a diet plan so you don't have to do the math, or be creative with cookbooks and blog sites that list nutritional information. Lose the weight and then allow yourself a little more leeway ... but not much! I'm sure as hell not going to post "before" and "after" pictures, here, but I will say I want to lose 10 - 15 pounds. Any motivation will be appreciated.


I'm Back!

I'm back posting, for a longer spurt, I hope. I am trying to organize myself at age 43, while my grandmother is clicking along at 103 -- unstoppable. I have much work to do, and if genes are any indication, much time to do it in. My vows for health and long life, according to Nana's example, include -- eat mostly vegetables with lots of broth; eat soups; keep portions of meat small; eat slowly; exercise daily; nap when sleepy; keep up with the news; never forget the 4:00 P.M. bourbon and Fresca (yuk! another beverage may be substituted).

Although she's from Connecticut, Nana loves her green beans "cooked down," the way Southerners do, but with enough water or stock so that some is left. We all know that juice is hers. Same with the squash and onions -- "cooked down," with plenty of juice left. Corn, especially the fresh Silver Queen we get and cream, and the home grown tomatoes, from my garden and Mom's, thrill little Nana. Oh, and fresh cucumbers ... I could go on and on ... but you get the picture of vegetable islands surrounded by a sea of mixed juices, which she may sop up with a roll or mix in with a small mound of mashed potatoes.

My problem with meals, especially lunch, is that I have to stop what I'm doing and cook them. So, waiting until the last minute, until I'm famished ... I rush into the kitchen and look for a package, a jar -- anything taking less than five minutes and fewer brain cells to assemble. Sometimes a grilled cheese even takes too long. This habit I got into 10 pounds ago. I have a nice, homemade tomato-basil soup in my frig; but, alas, more than a week has passed and since it contains buttermilk, it's gotta' go. Other concoctions, too exotic for my husband's tastes, meet the same fate. For that lunchtime dilemma, my plan is leftovers -- I will always try to have something cooked/fresh that I can put my hands on quickly. For more flavorful dishes, however, I'll keep the size to 1 - 2 servings.

Today I modified a recipe for Tabbouleh Salad from Coffee and Cornbread. The recipe must be great with mint, but I used cilantro, as my only choice was chocolate mint which somehow doesn't sound right. I used lime instead of lemon, and substituted a Vidalia onion for a green one; I used garden-fresh cucumbers and tomatoes. This salad came together without a trip to the grocery store, making me very happy.



Kale and Chickpea Soup

Kale and Chickpea Soup
Originally uploaded by bookbum.

Pulling a bag of wrinkled and shrunken garbonzos from the bottom of my lentil bin, I wondered if they could be saved. How old are these things? Looks like maybe I've been carrying them around since my college days, piling newer beans and lentils on top, these working their way down, year after year after year. I gave them a try, using a recipe I found at Epicurious.com which morphed into something of my own. Changing recipes to suite myself or what I have on hand was once a sacrilege. Who am I to re-think and present a recipe that's been printed in a book or newspaper? Bloggers taught me that I am somebody to do just that (as long as credit is given). Just what my mother has been trying to tell me all along, when I complain on the phone that I can't make such-and-such because I have no heavy whipping cream or fennel or turkey legs or ....

To see the recipe at epicurious.com, click the link above. My adaptation follows.

Kale and Chickpea Soup:

16 oz. chickpeas
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped (1 c.)
3 garlic cloves, chopped
3 bay leaves (2 if large)
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/8 tsp. fresh ground black pepper

1 large baking potato, peeled and cubed into 1/4 to 1/2-inch pieces
3/4 lb. (approximately 4 c.) stemmed kale, processed finely
32 oz. chicken stock
1 - 2 c. water, as needed

2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 links hot Italian sausage, casings discarded, diced

2 hot green chillies, seeds removed
1/2 - 1 tsp. groung Ancho Chili Pepper
1 tsp. Garam Marsala

Soak chickpeas overnight, changing water several times. Cook beans on the stove, or, as I did, in a pressure cooker for 10 -12 minutes, until tender. Gather and chop ingredients. Stem kale and chop finely in a food processor. In a 5 - 6 qt. Dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, bay leaves, salt and pepper. Cook 5 - 7 minutes, until onions are soft. Add cubed potato, kale, chicken broth, and water. Cook 20 minutes until potatoes are soft. Reduce heat to a simmer. Meanwhile, "skin" Italian sausages and discard casings. Separate into bite-size pieces and fry in a skillet with a little extra-virgin olive oil until the color changes from opaque to brown. Drain on a paper towel and add to soup. Add hot green chillies, Ground Ancho Chili Pepper (Penzey's) and Garam Marsala. Pause; stir, taste. Add salt, and ground pepper as needed.

∗ Note: The chickpeas, however old they were, came out beautifully after soaking a day and a half and pressure cooking; pre-soaking chickpeas is normally not required for pressure cooking. The ground ancho chili pepper, extra garlic, and hot green chillies added some of the flavors of the chorizo that was missing from my version. Garam Marsala was a tasty addition to the chickpeas, here, as it is to Bengal gram in Indian cooking.


Oatmeal-Raisin Cookies


These cookies have been hanging out in my flickr! account so long that I forgot how to post them here. I've made notes in case I have another lapse. The recipe came from Real Simple.

Do use less oatmeal than called for, three cups was, with the other additions to the cookies, way too much. And like the recipe says, do not overcook. I wanted to have nice golden cookies for my photo, so I let them go an extra 3 minutes.

Oatmeal-Raisin Cookies

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1c. light brown sugar, packed
1 c. granulated sugar
2 eggs, large
1 tsp. vanilla

1½ all-purpose flour
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg

2½ to 3 c. rolled oats
1½ c. raisins
½ c. walnuts

Set oven to 350°F. Line baking sheet(s) with parchment paper. Cream butter with a mixer. Add sugars and beat for approx. 3 minutes. With mixer going, add eggs, one at a time. Add vanilla. Combine next 4 items. Then add to butter-sugar mixture above. Add last 3 items to all. With a large spoon, shape dough into 2-inch cookies, with at least 2 inches between each. Bake 22 - 25 minutes, until edges are brown, but center is still light. Do not overbake.


Do You Cook Anymore, BookBum?

Yes! I apologize for the delay between posts. I've been cooking and photographing the results (sometimes forgetting, I admit), but I get a little sidetracted with the rest of the process when I sit down at my laptop. First I just wanted to modify a couple things on my page. As I learned more and saw blogs that really caught my eye, I wanted to fancy-up my blog, as well. Posting, here, came to a standstill. I'll work on that. I'll work on everything just a little bit harder.


My Pie Is In The Oven

Apple Pie. I've made my share of pies and eaten even more, but this is the first crust I've tried. A homemade crust can make a pie lover worship a baker; it commands respect. It brings back memories of how Mom or Grandma "use to make it from scratch."

This crust of mine is not pretty, especially the bottom half. I have a lot of practice ahead of me if I expect to become an expert. Is the dough supposed to be this hard to roll out? Should I have added more ice water? My hands were warming the cold butter and shorting as I mixed them with the dry ingredients. Is that why I could not form a dough ball easily in my hands? The top crust came out much better. I was afraid to roll it out further and risk tears, so it's just a tad small; but I'll take that if it tastes good.

Buzz, Ring! Time to get the pie. OH MY GOD! Beautiful.

Apple Pie

Of course, I would never have tried the crust without encouragement from Nic at bakingsheet. Now she is a baker I respect, no, worship! I want to include her recipe for this pie in my format, one that, for me, is easy to follow. But that will have to wait. The required 1 1/2 hours have passed -- tortuously -- and it's ready to cut.

Heaven, if there is such a place, is in my pie plate!

The chart format I am attempting for this post's recipe is eluding me just now. I'll have to hunker down and go back to Food Blog S'cool to get just what I want. Now, it is nap time.

Apple Pie

2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 T. sugar

3/4 c. unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
1/4 c. shortening, chilled
6 - 8 T. ice water

1/2 c. sugar
1 1/2 T. flour
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. allspice
1/4 tsp. salt

6 cooking apples, peeled, cored and sliced

extra flour for rolling

2 T. unsalted butter, (reserved)

more flour

heavy cream (optional)
cinnamon-sugar (optional)

Combine the first three items. Using fingertips, mix butter and shortening with dry ingredients until no large chunks of butter remain. Add ice water. Make two equal size dough balls in your hands (or one ball if your hands are big enough). Wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 1 hr. Combine next five items. Add apples to sugar-flour-spice mixture and set aside. Roll one dough ball into disk; use flour to dust the board, pin, and dough. Use offset spatula or other "helper" to lay bottom crust in the pie plate. After bottom crust and filling are in pie plate, dot the pie filling with butter. Roll the other dough ball out, place on top of filling and butter. Press edges to top and bottom crusts together. Cut steam vents in top. Brush cream on top of pie for a darker color. Sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar mixture. Bake @ 425°F for 10 min. Lower temp. to 375°F and bake for 1 hr. Let pie cool for a 1 1/2 hr. minimum ... if you can!