Wednesday, February 29, 2012

You Won't Like Me When I'm Angry...

But you will love me when I'm soupy!  

     As much as girls of my generation wanted to be Wonder Woman, boys wanted to be The Incredible Hulk!  My brother loved the tv show.  I was terrified by it.  I think it's a boy thing.  Somewhere there is a dusty Polaroid of my husband transforming himself into a tiny, menacing Hulk and both of them had their fair share of Hulk tee-shirts and underwear.  What little boy wouldn't want to grow strong and powerful to tackle the injustices rampant in the elementary schoolboy's world?  Chores, Brussels sprouts, early bedtimes, all easily vanquished by THE HULK!!!  GRRRRR!!  Instead, they are stuck in their little Banner boy bodies, and have to go to bed at 7:00 because Mom said so, but a boy can dream... 

And so, in honor of all those little frustrated Hulks out there:

Incredible Minted Split Pea Soup
Yield: 4 servings
1 large onion roughly chopped
3 large cloves garlic, sliced
1 Tbs olive oil
1/2 lb green split peas
4 C water
1 C  fresh or frozen peas
1/4 C fresh mint
salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a large stock pot and brown onion and garlic.  Add split peas and water.  Bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer.  Cook for 30-40 minutes until split peas are soft, adding more water as necessary.  Add fresh or frozen peas and cook until heated through.  Add mint and puree in a blender or with an immersion blender until smooth. 

The little Hulks-in-training around here love this!  Sweet and minty, warm and comforting, it soothes that savage beast!  Welcome back, David.  Good to see you, Bruce.  *cue depressing music... doDOdo dooooo!  doDOdo doooo!*

P.S.  Happy Leap Day Everybody!  See you tomorrow for day four of Soup-erhero Week!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

All the World is Waiting for YOOOOOOU!

     I think every single little girl who lived anywhere near the 1970's wanted to be Wonder Woman.  Linda Carter was kick-ass.  I lived in rerun-ville (the 80's) but that didn't diminish her hindquarters kicking ability in the least.  I mean, my gosh!  Bullet stopping bracelets?  A magic lasso?  The Invisible Plane?  And the ability to spin around really fast and not throw up?  COME ON!!!  You know you so wanna be her! 

     As soon as I thought of Batman Soup, I knew I totally had to do Wonder Woman.  Wonder Woman Watermelon soup.  Word.

Wonder Woman Watermelon Soup
Yield: 4 servings
4-5 C seedless watermelon
1 pt. raspberries
8 oz strawberries
1 mango, in four slices

Blend watermelon, raspberries, and strawberries in a blender until thoroughly liquified.  Slice the mango and cut the logo shape with a knife or just chop it in to small pieces.  Ladle soup into bowls and place or sprinkle mango.  If you want, you can refrigerate it for a few hours beforehand (up to overnight).

 This makes a great smoothie, too!

The boys went nuts for it!  They loved the "W" and they thought soup was a great, chilly dessert!  Hope to see you all again for day three of Soup-erhero Week!

Monday, February 27, 2012

In a World...

...where darkness reigns supreme.  Only one man can save Gotham.  And when he's done?  He's going home for a nice bowl of soup!

     A few months ago, my eldest, just being silly, said, "I wanna bowla BATMAN SOUP!"  And my little brain thought, "Hey!  I could totally make Batman soup!"  And then it thought, "Hey!  I could totally make a whole bunch of Superheroes!"  And this, my friends, is what you are about to witness.  Welcome to Day One of Souperhero Week!

Batman Black Bean Soup
Serves: 4

1 tsp olive oil
1 medium sized portobello mushroom, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 C onion, chopped
2 1/2 C mushroom stock
4 C cooked black beans
salt and pepper to taste
sliced cheese, biscuit cutter, and knife for making the symbol or these cutters
sour cream, optional

I cooked my beans ahead of time in a pressure cooker using this time chart.  You can use canned beans if you want.  Drain beans.  Heat oil in large pot and add mushroom and onions.  Cook until onions begin to soften.  Add garlic and heat until it just begins to cook.  Deglaze the pan with a little of the mushroom stock and then add the rest.  Add beans.  Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes; add salt and pepper.  While your soup is cooking, you can:

When the soup has reached a flavor you like, using an immersion blender, combine it into a smooth puree.  Pour into bowls and top with your symbol! 

If you're not looking for pure Souperhero Awesomeness, you can mix in a little sour cream.  It tastes yummy, but dilutes the color a little...

Holy Black Bean Soup, Batman!  The boys LOVE this!  When I was making this tonight for the shoot they both begged, "Are you going to give us a bat?!"  All your little Batman lovers out there will be all over this, I promise!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Bulgur in My Pantry Makes Me Happy...

     Remember when I said I had an ungodly amount of bulgur in my pantry?  This recipe is why.  I haven't always been the biggest fan of tabbouleh.  Usually because in its store-bought form it's simultaneously too strong, too bland, sorta slimy, tastes like preservatives and is basically righteously awful in general.  Also, I think it might move if you looked at it long enough.  Homemade?  Why that's a horse of a different color!  The only movement this stuff makes is the good kind: riding your fork to your mouth repeatedly.

     This week, I actually decided to go back to the roots of this blog and drag out a recipe from the box.  This one came from a booklet hanging on the tag of a ReaLemon juice bottle once upon a time. 

Prep time: 15 minutes, Chill time: 4 to 24 hours
Servings: 6
3/4 C uncooked bulger
1 (8 3/4-oz) can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 C chopped seeded cucumber
1/2 C chopped fresh parsley
1/4 C finely chopped onion
1/4 C ReaLemon Lemon Juice from Concentrate
1/4 C olive oil or salad oil
1 Tbs chopped fresh mint
1 tsp dried basil, crushed
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
8 cherry tomatoes, quartered

Place bulgur in strainer; rinse with cold water and drain.  Combine bulgur, beans, cucumber, parsley and onion in medium-sized bowl.  For dressing, combine ReaLemon, oil, mint, basil, salt and pepper in screw-top jar.  Cover and shake well.  Pour over bulgur mixture; toss gently to coat.  Chill 4 to 24 hours.  Before serving, stir in tomatoes.

My substitutions/additions:
I use fresh lemon (sorry ReaLemon...) and I cook my own beans.  And if you're using fresh parsley and fresh mint you might as well go ahead and use fresh basil, right?

I love this.  Four hours marinating is good for me.  I know it seems weird to make this with uncooked bulgur, but during the marinating process, the bulgur absorbs plenty of moisture and become nice and chewy instead of soft and mushy.  The boys are generally underwhelmed.  But if at first you don't succeed, right?  I'll definitely be making this keeper again!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day is Not for Sissies...

     I have to say first thing that I didn't really plan on doing a Valentine's Day post.  But then I made the pie pops.  And then I made the cupcakes.  And then I made the Valentines.  And I simply had to. 

Doily Valentines, just like Mom used to make.  The present is a box of candy hearts.  (The boys are nuts for those awful things!)

     The second thing I have to say is I am not a big "pink person."  Until I made the pie pops.  And the cupcakes.  And the Valentines.  And now I am in love with Valentine's Day for the sheer pink girliness of it.

     The boys have a skating party today with a group of other homeschooled kids (shhhh... they don't know yet...).  We're supposed to bring Valentines for 12 kids and a treat to share.  Long, rambling, boring story (involving a frustrating trip to Michael's and an extended fruitless search for chocolate lips) short, I decided to make pie pops for the Valentines.  I know.  Every blogger in the world has made them, but I had to, you see?  They're just so stinkin' cute.  And, Cheese and Sprinkles!  Who wouldn't want to eat pie on a stick?!

     I've been baking my tail off today.  None of it is even remotely original and I don't care.  It's all delicious!  These pie pops are everywhere (originated by Luxirare) and are pretty self explanatory, but I thought I'd share the crust recipe I used.  It's from the Better Homes and Gardens Old Fashioned Baking book on page 76.

2 C all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 C shortening or lard (I used 1/3 C shortening and 1/3 C salted, softened butter)
6 to 7 Tbs cold water

In a large bowl, stir together flour and salt.  Using a pastry blender, cut in shortening or lard till pieces are the size of small peas.  Sprinkle 1 Tbs of the water over part of the mixture, then gently toss with a fork.  Push to side of the bowl.  Repeat, using 1 Tbs of water at a time, till all is moistened.  Divide dough in half.  Form each half into a ball.

The rest is my direction:
     Roll the dough out and cut with cookie cutters.  Place bottom half of the pop on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper or parchment.  Gently press lollipop stick onto the bottom half.  Place small amount of jam (about 1/4 tsp depending on the size of your shape) over the stick.  Then put the second half on top and seal the edges with a broken piece of lollipop stick.  You can use an egg white wash over top if you really want to make them special.

     Bake at 375° for 10-15 minutes or until tops are nicely browned.  Remove as quickly as possible to a cooling rack.  Any jam that has leaked out will caramelize on the paper and it's darn near impossible to get them up if they cool completely.  (Trust me on this...)

     These cupcakes are the treat we're bringing.  I used my favorite cupcake recipe of all time by Cheryl Porro over at Cupcake Bakeshop.  The frosting is hers, without the chocolate and considerably less milk.  I added natural food coloring to make the pink and a tad of vanilla extract.  These.  Cupcakes.  Are.  Divine.  (Even though my piping skills are not...)

I hope you are all spending today with the one(s) you love.  Have a sweet and happy Valentine's Day, everybody!  (Wish me luck at the skate party, wrangling two sugared-up kids on skates is one of those wacky times that try men's souls...)

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Staples: It's What's For Dinner...

     This is the pantry that came with the house.  It's a nice pantry.  It's clean.  It's well built.  It drives me crazy.  This picture was taken after I re-re-organized it last week.  I'm not even going to show you a picture of how bad it was before that.  Because, well, I like you guys and I want you to keep coming back...  As you can see, I've filled my pantry with a fair amount of stuff.  I did the same thing in our pantry in our last house.  In our last house, I just didn't bother cooking anything out of the pantry.  Here, I found I actually enjoy cooking and routinely drag everything off one or more shelves to get to whatever I need which is inevitably in the back.  I swear, I don't know what dirty little gnome moves all the stuff I need to the back of the shelf, but if I ever meet him, I'm going to punch him square in the neck.

     As you can see, I've got it pretty well shoved in there.  You can also see my dirty little secret.  Yes.  My name is Crackers on the Couch and I own instant potatoes.  I bought them for my puka dog post last year and they're still in my pantry.  I hate to see food wasted, even if it can only be called "food" in quotation marks.  Two weeks ago, I found some Bob's Red Mill potato flakes that actually have nothing but--get this-- potato in them.  Quite the concept, that. 

     So anyway, ever since I found out that one could have drawers instead of shelves in one's pantry I have wanted and wished and hoped and nagged and grumbled and begged for it.  We're talking years, people.  Well, last night, Mr. Crackers came through! 

Holy crap am I happy.

Things that I learned while cleaning my pantry:
1) Apparently at some point I was afraid the world would go through a massive bulghur shortage.
2) We eat a lot of Italian
3) There are entirely too many varieties of rice
4) There can never be too many varieties of rice
5) We need to eat more pickles
6)We never have to buy popcorn again.  Like, ever.
7) My legs are sore

And now, a little action shot.  You know you wanna see it:

BAY-UM!  Look'a that, Baby!

     You see that spice drawer?  That spice drawer makes my heart flutter.  Every time I go into the kitchen I pace around until I can find a reason to go in there and get something out...  I feel an unhealthy relationship forming... Folks, I think I may have begun stalking my Preeecious pantry... 

Could you excuse me?  I need to go wander around in my kitchen for a little while...
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