My hubby and I have been reeling from the effects of sleep deprivation, lack of consistent excercise and a steady stream of good, wholesome food. The best I could do for dinner most nights was frozen skillet-ready dinners...full of veggies. It wasn't awful, but it certainly wasn't good. Boy, did our taste buds miss the real thing. Hubby promised to spend all of Sunday being Ryan's primary caregiver if I could start cooking for the week again. This week was our first try at this arrangement, and it worked out beautifully.
I had forgotten what a fun experience it was to look through all of my cookbooks - especially Mark Bittman's books - then casually stroll through the Whole Foods contemplating meals. As hard as it is to walk away from Ryan for thirty minutes , I managed to leave him in the care of his capable daddy and just do it already :-)
Fall is my absolute favorite time to cook, because I'm a squash girl. Love it. Any gourd is a friend of mine. Because I was craving it, I had to make the Barefoot Contessa's Butternut Squash Risotto with Saffron. But I also experiemented on my own a bit. I started out making a roasted root vegetable soup and wound up with a cross between a hearty stew and a casserole. Here's what I did:
1 lb of sliced baby potatoes
1/2 lb sliced parsnips
5 cloves of whole garlic
2 T extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground pepper
large bunch of kale, trimmed of stems
6 cups of vegetable broth
1 cup of orzo
1 can of White Northern beans, drained
Parmesan, monterey jack and cheddar cheese (as desired)
I started out by placing all the root vegetables (potatoes, parsnips and garlic) in a casserole dish and mixed in the olive oil and my preferred amount of salt and pepper. I also added a generous amount of a spice blend called "Tuscan Seasoning" by Victoria Taylor's Seasoning. I highly recommend that you add your favorite spice blend - I love Penzey's, too - to customize this stew to your liking.
I roasted the veggies at 400F for 40 minutes. Check on it three times and move the contents around a bit. They are finished when you can poke a fork in the potato and it's nice and soft.
Meanwhile I boiled about 2 cups of salted water and put in the strips of kale I had sliced off the stem. I boiled it quickly - about five minutes- to take away the bitterness. I drained the pot, left the kale in, and added the beans and broth. I brought it all to a quick boil, added in the root veggies, and put the temp to low and simmered it for about 45 minutes. I also added in another generous dash of Tuscan seasonings. Then I added in a cup or so of orzo.
Now came the insane part. It literally took me three hours to make this soup from start to finish. Wait! Don't get freaked. This had nothing to do with the complexity of the recipe - which you can see is not at all complex. Did I mention that I tried to make this starting at 4pm on a Tuesday afternoon. Big no-no in this house, as that's the beginning of the "unhappy hour." I had to keep stopping and starting again to feed, change and love (oh so hard, right) a very fussy Ryan.
One thing that went out the window on this meal, was any kind of measurement. I guessed at everything. No time to measure..so that's where my soup turned into a stew/casserole. The orzo took over the whole thing and the broth basically disappeared. Oh well. Still turned out really yummy. Oh, and the cheese? Just add in any of the three, or all of them, when you serve it hot.
What's that I hear? Ryan's waking up from his nap for another bottle. I've got to run. But here's another picture of the future heartbreaker: