Monthly Archives: October 2016

A Soup with No Name

Standard

img_0628

We all have that moment when we open our freezer, fridge or pantry and realize it is time to clean house.  Just like a closet, your food needs to be inspected and weeded out every six months or so.  It is good to check your expiration dates, move items around that need to be  cooked sooner and make a note of what you don’t need the next time you find yourself wandering the aisles of the grocery store.  And this means saying no to the “10 for 10” deal on items your local grocery is trying to clean off THEIR shelves.

For some reason today I found myself trying to come up with something for lunch and the only thing that sounded good was soup.  Fall just lends itself to soups, chilis, and stews to warm the belly when the temperature starts to fall outside.  Today was no exception, and I knew I needed to clean out the pantry.  Of course, I found a plethora of items that needed to be used before going bad.  So I pulled several out of the pantry and came up with an idea for soup as a way to use them up.  The great thing I love about making soups is you can throw just about anything together and make it taste good, so long as your ingredients are wholesome.

Today I had cannellini beans, dried porcini mushrooms, canned tomatoes, some frozen greens, a frozen bag of onions/peppers/celery, and some frozen “meatless” crumbles.  I was feeling an Italian inspiration coming on with this one, considering the tomatoes, mushrooms, and beans were from Italy.

img_0626

Basically, when you are making a soup from scratch you just cook each item in layers.  So I started with the onion blend and some good olive oil on a medium-high heat.  Once that was defrosted and sauteed a bit I added the meatless crumbles.  I let that cook up a few minutes before adding the tomatoes, beans and then the vegetable broth.  I had to let the dried mushrooms soak a bit in warm water before throwing in just a handful to the liquid.  My seasonings were an Italian blend, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.  I used roughly a teaspoon of the blend, 1/2 teaspoon of the garlic and a pinch of the remaining two.  With soups, you need to let all the ingredients cook down a bit and simmer before adjusting your spices.  My last go-to spice I use, thanks to my Mom, is Beau Monde seasoning.  This is the best little gem to having in your cabinet, especially when it comes to soups and sauces.  I can’t tell you what it is, but it really can pull all your seasonings together in the end of the cooking process.  I use it all the time in my cooking.

With soups, you need to let all the ingredients cook down a bit and simmer before adjusting your spices.  My last go-to spice I use, thanks to my Mom, is Beau Monde seasoning.  This is the best little gem to having in your cabinet, especially when it comes to soups and sauces.  My mom used this all the time in her recipes and passed this little secret on to me.  A mixture made of salt, onion, and celery, can really pull all your seasonings together in the end of the cooking process.  I am currently trying to use up my current jar so I can find an all natural version.  The one I have used for years has a couple of hard-to-pronounce names in the ingredient list.  I tend to steer clear of those when grocery shopping.  I may try and make my own Beau Monde blend when I find the time!

For a soup with no name, it turned out pretty tasty and gave me a healthy lunch without spending a dime.  Now I have some leftovers to get me through the weekend rush of activities.  I am trying my best to stay healthy and true to myself and making soups from some great ingredients is a sure way to fill your belly while saving on excess calories and unhealthy fillers.

Now, the only thing to make it better is a good glass of wine…but that would be ringing Friday in a little too soon for this mom.  If I had the chance, I would open up a nice Italian Chianti or Montepulciano.  No need to worry about a specific year or vineyard.  I would just find something that fits your budget but gives you a great punch on the tongue with the robust earthiness typically found in your Italian reds.  At least that is what I often taste when presented with one, others may have a different viewpoint (which is perfectly fine in my wine-tasting opinion).

So I hope your next adventure in the kitchen whips up something tasty while cleaning out the shelves.

Until my next inspiration,

Cheers!

Advertisements

Binging and Purging Social Media

Standard

social-media

On a recent trip, I stumbled across a journal. Titled “52 Lists for Happiness,” I purchased it thinking it would help give me inspiration for my writings. I have to admit, much to my own chagrin, that I have enjoyed filling out these lists each week. It gives me small doses to help get my mind going and to hold me responsible for what I think and feel about the world around me. I enjoy engaging my mind on things that make me get out of my comfort zone and stare hard at myself in the mirror. It is a way for me to hold my thoughts and actions accountable.

One list I completed, asking “what makes me happy right now,” forced me to step back and really contemplate what things make me smile. It all involved interacting with friends or family, or doing something hands-on like journaling on this blog. Not once did I write “scroll the newsfeed on Facebook” or “see the latest pictures on Instagram.” Don’t get me wrong here because I use these sites often, especially when it comes to sharing the things I choose to write and publish for the world (A.K.A. my social media friends) to see and hopefully read. But I also think social media has a very dark and convoluted side to it.

As a mom, I often wonder what the impact, both positive and negative, social media will have on my own kids. The benefits are quite obvious, such as connecting to family members from across the country or even across continents. It can be a way to share news and spread viewpoints or ideas. Take this year’s election as an example of how social media can impact viewpoints and leadership roles. A click of a button can send a message for millions to see in an instant. But is there something frightening about the kind of power that simple act can evoke? Do we become so immune to the images displayed across social media that we turn a cheek away from something that could be vitally important to someone else?

I have young kids who are easily influenced by the technologies our society offers. iPads, iPhones, and other devices become habitual in nature instead of picking up a book or grabbing a favorite toy as a form of entertainment. You hear of health implications from so much exposure to technology, ranging from eyesight problems to sleep disturbances. Then you run into the entire genre of cyberbullying, which affects kids of all ages. Did you ever think one day the image of a single eyeball would represent someone tearing down another individual? The power social media can allow a person who enjoys belittling others is astronomical and it is something we will have to battle and endure for decades to come. In the “old days,” that kind of bullying was done in person or on the school bus.

Another side of social media that may not cross many minds is the loss of arts like letter writing and phone conversations. Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and texting all have left a void for the younger generations when it comes to communicating with other people. Think about all the different texting lingos we use now that shorten words or phrases. How are we to teach our youth the proper way to write, speak and talk to other individuals when it is so much easier to simply send a “LOL” via smartphone? As a writer, this saddens me to see the beauty of the English languish demolished and destroyed and I wonder if we will continue to produce award-winning poets, authors, and essayists now that we are so dependent on a form of virtual language.

Binging and purging myself of social media the last several months has been therapeutic and liberating. Who knew simply not clicking on an icon could bring such peace and happiness? Do I completely stay off? Of course not because I do like connecting with people I don’t get to see on a regular basis. But I am definitely more conscientious of how much time I devote to my favorite social media applications. And I also am greatly aware of how it can and does already affect my children. I am trying to be more consistent with this mindset and not worry so much about who is doing what on a daily basis. Instead, I just need to focus on my family, make time for my friends and really enjoy the beauty life has to offer through relationships that don’t involve a newsfeed.