Spring Cleaning Veggie Soup

I want to make everything from scratch, all the time. After all, I’m trying to learn how to really cook. Sauces, broths and doughs are fun to try, but they take time and love, and a lot of exploration. Sometimes they fail at 8pm at night when you’ve worked all day, gone to the gym, still have a term paper to write, and are on the verge of transforming into the hunger-induced raging lunatic doppelgänger of your normally normal self. (Who you then have to apologize for in the morning even though you have no memory of her visit…)

Anyway, it’s finals week for me and I have a big project going on at work, so when I went grocery shopping on Sunday I made a point to put together some quick and easy meals. I already had a bunch of veggies in my kitchen from all the big elaborate meals I thought up and “didn’t get to” this week, so with an additional carton of veggie broth and 1 can of beans I was able to make up this soup. Besides clearing out my fridge, it came out pretty tasty. Sometimes it pays to throw in everything but the kitchen sink and see what happens.

Ingredients:
4 celery stalks, diced
1 medium onice, diced
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cubed
4 parsips, peels and sliced
2 garlic cloves, whole
4 cups vegetable broth or stock
2 cups fresh peas (or frozen, or canned if you have them)
1 can great northern beans
1 small tomato, diced
1-2 fresh basis leaves
a pinch of fresh parmesan
a pinch of herbs de provence
a pinch of crushed red pepper
sea salt and pepper to taste
extra virgin olive oil

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Preheat the oven to 375 F. Cut the sweet potato and parsnips into 1/2 inch cubes, and lay on a greased baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast for 30 minutes. Turn the pieces over half way. Since the veggies will cook a bit more in the soup, they don’t have to be completely cooked through. Watch them and make sure to remove them from the oven before they start crisping.

In a large sauce pan, heat a bit of olive oil and saute the onions and celery on med-low flame until translucent, about 5 minutes. Try to keep them from browning. Add in the rest of your ingredients, except the beans, and bring to a slow boil. Once boiling, add beans and reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for another 20 minutes.

Top with fresh parmesan to serve. I happened to have some amazing kielbasa in the fridge homemade by a friend of mine in the fridge (thanks Kathrin and Sam!), so we sliced that up and threw it in the leftovers for something different. It was refreshing and satisfying both ways.

Enjoy!

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How to Make a Window Herb Garden From Reclaimed Wood

I am finally ready to admit that life can get in the way of blogging. Sometimes I let it, but not today.

We have a little catching up to do. For my birthday earlier this month, my boyfriend built me a window herb garden out of a hundred year old piece of cedar and some mason jars. It is one of the coolest things I have ever seen. Once it was finished we both just sat and stared at it for a while. I try to face it at all times when I am in the living room. I’m just drawn to it in every way.

Needless to say, my cooking has benefited from this enchanting home improvement as well. Instead of battling the winter alone, I’m heading in with something fresh by my side, and I could not be happier.

Top to bottom: oregano, basil, flat-leaf parsley, thyme

From start to finish it only took us about half an hour to build, and the materials did not cost much over $50. I know because $50 is our birthday gift cap. The whole idea of the limit in the first place was to spur a little creativity. Total win.

Here are the instructions for the one we made. It’s pretty user friendly, so you can adjust based on whatever materials you have available.

Materials:
piece of hardwood for a base (piece shown is 3″ thick cedar)
4 widemouth mason jars
4 four inch diameter metal hose clamps
4 one inch sheet rock screws
screw gun
decorative planting stones or small rocks
herb seeds or small seedlings
extra potting soil
khaki colored spray paint, satin finish

Step 1
In a well-ventilated area, spray paint hose clamps and let them dry fully.

Step 2
Mount hose clamps to your base using screws and a screw gun (we did not pre-drill the holes.) Place clamps them where you want the center of each jar to sit. These ones are at an angle so our plants face towards the sun. Leave screws loose enough so that jars can be rotated to upright for watering.
hose-clamp-mounted-to-wooden-herb-garden

hose-clamps-mounted-to-window-herb-gardenStep 3
Line each jar with an inch or two of stone. This will keep the plant from getting waterlogged since there is no drainage hole in the bottom of your container. Then add a thin layer of potting soil.

Step 4
Remove seedlings from their containers and gently break apart the root balls a little bit with your fingers. Place each plant in a jar. The base of the plant should rest just below the mouth of the jar. Add more soil on top of the rocks if necessary. Once placed in the jar, fill in around the root ball of the plant with extra potting soil, using your fingers to push soil it into any gaps. Make sure the soil isn’t too compacted.

basil-in-mason-jar-window-herb-gardenStep 5
Slide jars into the hose clamps and then tighten clamps.

basil-mason-jar-window-herb-garden

Note: Wall mounting materials will vary based on the type of walls you have and how thick your base is. We screwed the base to the wall before mounted the jars, however this can be done in reverse as well.

Slow Cooker Pulled Venison

I love game meats, but there are a few cuts that I prefer with a bit of dressing up. So when I happened across a clean pulled pork recipe in a magazine this week, is was an opportunity I could not flip past. Out came the last winter’s venison stew meat from the recesses of the freezer to defrost overnight. The next morning it took me about fifteen minutes to prep everything for the crock pot, and I was out the door to work.

Slow Cooker Pulled Venison
(adapted from Cuisine Tonight’s Quick and Easy Menus)

Ingredients:
1.5 lbs venison stew meat, cubed
4 lbs extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves chopped garlic
1 tbsp fresh rosemary
1 tbsp fresh oregano
2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp fennel seed
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup dry white wine

Chop garlic, rosemary, oregano, salt, fennel seed, and red pepper flakes and mix with olive oil. Place meat and spice mixture in a plastic bag and shake until the meat is coated. In a saute pan, sear meat on all sides on medium heat.

Place meat along the bottom of a 3-4 qt slow cooker, and then add broth and wine. Cook on high for 4 hours. When meat has cooled, shred into small pieces. Use to spice up that same old lunch sandwich, for a twist in stew or even as filling for enchiladas!

slow-cooker-pulled-venison-clean-eating
Note: This recipe is freezer challenge approved.