Life with two toddlers is hard. I go to bed exhausted at the end of the day and climb out of bed still tired. It just doesn't seem fair that these little people get so much more energy than we do! Often, I feel like a lackluster witch. By the end of the day, I just have no energy left for magic. Then I remember that the magic doesn't make me, I make the magic. Anything I do can be magic. And one thing I do a lot of this time of year make soup.
Soup is not just the perfect cold weather food, it is the perfect busy mommy food. It requires the use of just four utensils: a cutting board, a knife, a pot, and a spoon. It is prepared ahead of time i.e. while the kids nap so there is no end of day rush. It can be a great way to use up odds and ends in the produce bin before grocery day. And for me atleast it comes with an amazing sense of accomplishment.
Best of all soup is really delicious, nutritious magic! Any time there is a big cauldron bubbling on the stove there is magic in the air. Superman comes home on soup days swearing he could smell his witch's kitchen for an entire block! So I love soup! I think that fact is well established, lets get to the making of this magic.
A my house, there is no recipe for soup. Just like a spell, soup is full of love and intent. It is really more art than science. That said, I do have three rules for soup.
- Start with onions and garlic, plenty of both.
- Clarify the pan with alcohol, drink a little too if you're not pregnant.
- Salt is your friend, use it liberally.
How I make my soup:
I start by heating up my largest pan over medium heat with a splash of oil in the bottom. When the oil is hot, I add a whole diced onion and at least two cloves of garlic. This is like prepping the canvas.
While the onion softens, I start dicing a whole mountain of vegetables. Starting with the root vegetables that take longer to cook. The goal is to fill my pot halfway line. Everything gets tossed in the pot with a good stir as it comes off the cutting board. Just about anything that grows in the garden is subject to my soup pot. Zucchini, celery, kale, and dried tomatoes are some of my favorites. While I dice, I focus on the love and care I feel for my family and the strength they will gain from eating my concoction. Since my hands are all over the vegetables at this stage, it is the perfect time to charge them! If you're feeling creative now is the time to add some herbs. Go with flavors you know work elsewhere and be generous.
Once everything is in the pot, I look at it with a painters eye and ask myself if anything is missing. If it is looking at bit too beige, I add some more tomatoes or carrots. If it seems to heavy, I add corn or peas for a hint of brightness. Ha! Imagine reading these instructions in a cookbook! When the veggies feel balanced, add salt and cover them with the lid to cook slowly for 30-45 minutes, stirring frequently. This is a great time to clean the kitchen.
Now it's time to break open the bottle! White or red wine are probably the acceptable choices, but I have been known to use Wild Turkey very successfully. Clarifying the pan with the alcohol of your choice helps create a very light and lively broth. To me, this step is the blessing of the vegetables. So, pour at least a serving of spirits in the pan and listen to it sizzle happily while the aroma rolls around the kitchen. Let the alcohol stew directly into the vegetable for a few minutes before adding fresh water to fill the pan. I consider full to be about two inches below the lip. At this point I will add 1/2 cup of raw grain and possibly some precooked, mashed squash. Replace lid and turn heat to simmer.
Now, go enjoy your afternoon. Take the kids out to play, sit down with glass of wine, call a friend... Super is well on the way to being ready and you have the evening handled like a boss. In about an hour, peek at your soup and give it a taste. There is a good chance you'll need to add more salt. After three hours or so, your soup is ready and your house smells amazing. I always think of the aroma as my magic diffusing to all corners of our home. If it's not quite supper time, turn the heat to low. Super will be hot and ready when the time comes.