January 07, 2014

Make Soup When the Snow Falls

You know when you use Crest Whitestrips and you fall asleep with them on and you accidentally strip ninety percent of the enamel off your teeth and then they hurt like hell?  Well that's how my chompers felt when I ventured outside earlier today - exceedingly sensitive to the bitter cold.  Incidentally, I haven't ever used any of the tooth whitening products.  I prefer the "natural" look of red wine and coffee-stained teeth.

Chattering aside, I am not sure that today and yesterday's spate of cold weather necessitated a cancellation of school.  As one of my FB friends lamented, "Is it just me or are we in London having a collective case of hysteria? Yes, it is cold and we should be very concerned for our homeless population.  But closing down schools, colleges and universities?  We are all a little less Canadian today."  

I was mulling over the school closures this morning, while tuned into the CBC, and I heard that people didn't know how to dress for the weather.  Seriously?  All the information in the world at our fingertips and we don't know enough to throw on a pair of long-johns?  Okay, I guess we really are becoming collectively dumber:  http://www.cbc.ca/q/blog/2013/10/23/qs-first-debate-show-tackles-internets-effect-on-intellects  

What I do know is that I need my children to return to their normal lives so that I can get on with mine.  

In my last post (HNY), I wrote about my personal goals for 2014.  One of them was to write more frequently.  As a stay-at-home Mum, I have jobs to do.  My list (like yours) includes but is not limited to:  cooking (I don't care if you hate stew.  We are not having Pringles and oranges for dinner); cleaning (who spat food behind the couch?); laundry (you want clean socks? wash your own clothes!); house maintenance (yes honey, I would be happy to plunge the toilet); arranging the children's extracurriculars (I want to do gymnastics, basketball, soccer, skiing, cheerleading and choir, Mumma); buying everything everyone needs to survive (yes, I'll go to the liquor store today); making and taking everyone to all appointments (my wart grew, Mumma); paying bills (how much did we spend at the LCBO this month?????); planning social activities (they are never staying here again; he drank every last drop of scotch!) et cetera.  

Now before all you full-timers bitch at me about having to work FT on top of the above duties, let me just say that the husband has two jobs and all tasks that I have listed are mine alone (except when I go completely crazy and scream my head off and threaten to strike).  In other words, I don't want to hear about your problems -- this is MY blog.  :-)

I guess what I'm really trying to say is that it is hard to change jobs.

Let me put it this way, could you show up at work and announce "I am done with stripping; I think I"ll work the bar instead".  No, you could not.  My current job is here at home and there are people who like what I do.  I am not one of them :-)

My solution is to get the hell out of my house.  Twice a week, I will be writing from a mystery location in London.  I am hoping that this will help with my productivity.  Today was a total bust -- I had the kids here and I just couldn't concentrate with all the distractions -- yelling, fighting, tv, music, board game hysteria, rangy dog-play et cetera.  I was supposed to begin my writing career in earnest yesterday, but there was a snow day.  Today, more of the same.  Tomorrow... my children will attend school even if I have to pay someone to educate them.  

This blog entry is all that I could manage today.  That and the pot of soup below.  I made this recipe up.  Let's call it Souper Duper.  If you are cold and crusty, I urge you to make soup.  I subsist on soup in the wintertime.  

Heat up some olive oil and butter in a pot.  Add:  diced celery, shallots, carrots, parsnips and onions.  Cook, stirring frequently until onions are translucent (around 7 - 10 mins).  You could also add some leeks if you're so inclined.  If you are a fan of garlic, add that for the last couple of mins.  You don't want it to brown or it tastes bitter.  



(A note on garlic and my nose:  I love garlic.  Love it, love it, love it.  The problem is that I am a super-smeller:  the smell of fresh garlic - YES!  The cooked garlic smell emanating from one's pores - NO!
I cannot abide that smell.  Because of my over-sensitive nose, I have stopped using garlic entirely.  I must be partially vampiric).

Diatribe against garlic over.

~  

After the veggies are soft, throw in a pair of ham hocks (pig's feet); a cup of barley


two litres of chicken broth (I used Campbell's); around a litre of crushed / stewed tomatoes / tomato sauce --

(---see, I can't even write this damn blog -- I have three little girls who are demanding hot cocoa... brb)--

a bay leaf, some oregano / Italian seasoning and a can of black beans (you can use any type of bean you like, I almost used chick peas but my family doesn't really like them).  Simmer, covered, for 90 minutes over very low heat so the soup doesn't stick to the bottom of the pot like mine did.  


After 90 mins., you will want to remove the ham hocks.  



They look disgusting, but all that slimy, greasy ooze means flavour.  Make sure you discard all the fatty bits.  And don't ever call ham hocks, "pork hocks".  I once erroneously said this phrase to a repairman at Midas when I was dropping off the car:

Me:  (reaching in the backseat of the car for my grocery bag) "I have to get my pork hocks".

Repairman:  "Your what?"  looks at me amusedly

Me:  "My pork hocks."  ohhhhhhhh... that sounds baddddddd.  "I'm making soup".  turning red; laughing uncomfortably.  

Repairman:  "Sure you are."  hahahahahhaha.  

~

So wait for the hocks to cool and then remove the meat from the bones.  Chop it up and put it back in the pot.   At this point, your soup might be thick.  Add some more broth if it is.  Or some tomato juice.  If you like a more tomato-y flavour, now would be the time to add more sauce.  I added some frozen corn.  After adding more broth and corn, my soup was no longer hot, so I brought it back to a boil.  If you like, you can also add some chopped Italian parsley for colour.  Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Ta-da!


And while I'm on the subject of cooking, here's how to make perfect oven-roasted vegetables, which I have been eating like crazy.  Put your cookie sheet / shallow roasting pan in the oven and heat your oven to 450 degrees.  You want a nice hot cookie sheet to dump your veggies on.  Chop up any combination of red onion, parsnips, carrots, peppers, sweet potatoes, mini potatoes, turnip, and brussels sprouts.  You could probably use other crucifers too (broccoli and cauliflower) but I stick to what I've mentioned above.  Try to cut them the same thickness so that they roast evenly.  Put the veggies in a bowl and drizzle them with olive oil - you don't need a ton, just enough so that everything is coated.  Toss with salt and pepper or Montreal Steak spice.  



When your oven is hot, open it up and quickly dump the veggies onto the hot pan.  Enjoy the sizzle and give the pan a quick shake. You want the veggies to be spread out on the pan - no crowding; you don't want them piled in a heap.  Roast for 20 minutes.  Eat your veggies happily, revelling in your easy dish and your cleverness.

You can also drizzle the cooked veggies with a delicious dressing:  a couple of tbsp of olive oil, 1 tbsp of red wine vinegar, 1 tbsp maple syrup, freshly grated ginger and some minced garlic (for those of you who aren't supersmellers like me).  These measurements should be okay, I just eyeball the amounts and it always tastes good.

Well that's it for today.  I need to rest up for tomorrow by drinking a mondo glass of vino so that I can write like the wind.


Musical pairing:  Oh Marie by Louis Prima