I have been in an alternate universe, my friends. A universe where people never sleep, the air smells like strawberry perfume, puke, and alcohol and no one seems to care that a burger costs $22. Ya….I speak of Vegas.
One of my oldest friends was getting hitched last weekend there. It was great to see him and his new wife as well as many old friends from college. It’s funny getting back together with friends that you don’t see that often, but when you do see them, it is as if no time has passed. But then the problem is that I feel like I have to cram so much fun into a condensed time span.
So what do you get when you concentrate fun in Vegas? Drinks that should never be THAT big, beer pong rallies (be sure close to your eyes when the ball hits the floor so that you don’t vom in your mouth), mechanical bull riding that felt like it lasted 10 minutes (I pulled a groin muscle doing this because I’m OLD), no sleep no sleep no sleep. It took only 12 hours for me and my husband to quickly realize that we were in our mid 30s, not early 20s. Ouch.
As a result, mama is in major decompression mode. No bright lights, no floral smells, no alcohol, no loud noises. All I need right now is to be wrapped up in a blanket like a human burrito while I listen to soul music on the record player. Put it on repeat please.
I also need a massive helping of this warm comfy soup to combat the outside temps that are in the teens!
Crockpot Beef and Mushroom Stew (Gluten Free and Paleo-Friendly)
- 2 lbs beef stew meat (seasoned with salt and pepper)
- 2 onions, sliced in 1/4-inch slivers
- 10 oz baby bella mushrooms, quartered
- 1 large carrot, sliced
- 2 cups diced potatoes
- 1 Tablespoon thyme
- 6 cups beef stock
- 1/2 cup dry sherry (optional)
- 2 tablespoons arrowroot powder (or cornstarch)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Place first six ingredients (stew through beef stock) in a crockpot. Cook on low for at least 8 hours.
- In a small bowl, stir arrowroot powder into sherry until a smooth paste is formed. Add sherry mixture to the crockpot and stir to combine. Add salt and pepper as needed.
I have a divided house when it comes to silky smooth soups that only contain vegetables and no cream. Pureed smooth, they show off the amazing flavor of just the vegetables without anything masking their natural deliciousness. I love them…a lot. They are creamy without being loaded with cream. They are smooth and comforting and light. I want them in my belly.
The other person in this house does not like them because, well…they are creamy without being loaded with cream and they are smooth and light and in his words, “like baby food”. He wants heartiness. He wants carbs. He wants meat. He wants cream. He wants butter. He wants bacon. Do I live with Paula Dean?
And I craaaave creamy soups that have NO cream but are just ALL vegetables. I love smooth and creamy tomato soup, or carrot soup, or butternut squash soup. And every time I make them, my poor hubs has to eat this nourishing amazing bowl of yumminess and smile and leave ALL the leftovers for me. GOOD. Best lunches EVER. He can have his can of tuna and weird packages of sardines for lunch. Meanwhile, I will enjoy my creamy roasted soups and everyone at work will smell them and say “whoa…what are you having?”. In a good way. At least, that’s how it plays out in my head.
I stumbled on this Parsnip and Apple soup the other day on the most beautiful blog called Golubka Kitchen and I instantly began drooling. I couldn’t get the soup out of my brain box. I adapted it to roast the parsnips and I swapped out the potatoes for cauliflower. I found fennel on sale at the store and so I through it in as well to round out the awesome white soup. I recommend saving some of the fennel fronds and some thyme for topping these delicious bowls of comfort. The soup is also yummy with a good drizzle of olive oil.
So despite knowing that I have a divided house on smooth and creamy dreamless soups, I MADE it. and I loooooved it. I recommend you do the same, because then you will have a few days worth of amazing lunches and they get stuck with canned tuna.
Creamy Roasted Parsnip, Cauliflower, and Fennel Soup (Vegan, Gluten Free, and Paleo-Friendly)
Adapted from Golubka Kitchen
Serves 4 as a side or 2 as a main dish
- 1/2 lb parsnips, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch rounds
- 1/2 large head of cauliflower, roughly chopped (about 2 cups)
- 1/2 large fennel bulb, sliced into 1/2-inch wide slices
- 2 medium apples, peeled, cored, and cut into eighths
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
- 1 tablespoon olive oil (plus more for drizzling on finished soup bowls)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt (plus more for seasoning)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 Tablespoon fresh thyme leaves (plus more for garnish)
- 3 to 4 cups low sodium chicken broth
- salt and pepper to taste
- Toppings: thyme leaves, olive oil, yogurt, quinoa
- Preheat oven to 400 F. Spray a roasting pan with nonstick spray or line with parchment paper.
- Place chopped parsnips, cauliflower florets, fennel slices, apple slices, and garlic cloves in a large mixing bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and salt. Toss to coat evenly and then spread evenly on baking sheet. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, tossing at 15 minutes.
- Remove from oven. Place half of vegetables into a blender or food processor along with half of the chicken stock, cumin, and thyme. Blend well for 2 to 3 minutes until the mixture is smooth. Transfer the pureed mixture to a medium stock pot. Blend next batch of roasted vegetables and remaining chicken stock for 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer remaining soup puree to stock pot.
- Heat soup in stockpot over medium heat. Bring to a simmer. Add additional liquid if soup is too thick. Adjust seasonings as needed.
- Distribute evenly into bowls and top with a drizzle of olive oil and thyme leaves. I added some quinoa to mine for a more substantial dinner.
Some things in life take a bit of extra time and extra effort to get a great result. French onion soup is a prime example. This will take a good 2 to 2 1/2 hours…but dear sweet MOSES it is worth it. You will have your mind BLOWN that you are enjoying a simple bowl of slow cooked onions under a gooey mound of cheese haven. Smells of sherry, deep caramelized onions, earthy beef broth, and fresh thyme fill your home.
I closed my eyes while enjoying this amazing bowl of soup and could hear the sounds of the tiny cafe in Paris with people whispering, rain falling outside, vespas rushing by, and the an espresso machine running nonstop. But all the while, nothing mattered but the delightful bowl of french onion soup that revealed long beautiful onions and drippy cheese with every bite. It makes me have FOMO (fear of missing out)…FOMO on amazing food.
This soup makes me want to slow down. I stir onions for an hour until they are caramelized. I breathe deep and enjoy all the smells that flow through my home as the snow falls outside the windows. It’s a lazy Sunday and a steady stream of different vinyls are on rotation…from Sam Cook to Ryan Adams and then the Band gets tossed on for good measure.
Grab the one you love, throw some good soulful music on, and dance. The soup will continue to cook and the longer the better. Don’t worry, you have some time. Get comfy and enjoy every bite of life.
Gluten Free French Onion Soup
Adapted from Julia Child’s The Art of French Cooking
Makes 6 servings
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 lbs of sweet onions (about 8 cups), sliced thinly in half rounds
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon coconut palm sugar
- 2 tablespoons arrowroot powder
- 1/2 cup dry sherry (or dry white wine or dry vermouth)
- 2 quarts (64 ounces) of good beef broth
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 8 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated
- Get ready…this will take at least 2 hours. But it’s worth it.
- Melt butter in a large dutch oven over medium-low heat. Place all of the onions into the dutch oven. Stir and coat the onions with the melted butter. Place lid on dutch oven and allow to cook for 15 minutes.
- Remove lid from dutch oven. The onions should have cooked down. Stir. Add salt and palm sugar. Stir again and crank heat up to medium. Stir onions frequently and continue to cook until onions are soft, melting, and golden brown. This will take 40 minutes to an hour.
- Sprinkle arrowroot powder over onions. Stir and cook for about 1 minute. Add sherry, broth, and thyme. Bring soup to a simmer and place lid slightly off of pot so that steam can escape the simmering soup. Allow to simmer for an additional 40 minutes, scooping off froth from the top every once and awhile. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper.
- Ladle hot soup into 6 ovenproof bowls. Place at least 1/4 cup shredded Gruyère on top of each soup bowl. Serve immediately or broil the cheese. To broil the cheese, place all of the bowls onto a rimmed baking sheet. Place under a pre lit broiler set on high. Place under broiler until cheese is melted and bubbly. Remove from oven and serve immediately.
Black eyed peas are a traditional southern dish that are eaten for good luck for the new year. Every year since we have moved to KC, I have made a huge cauldron of Hoppin John: a spicy, smoky black eyed pea stew-ish thing. Stew-ish things are so creamy and comforting. And while I lounge all day in stretchy pants, this black eyed pea stew just simmers away and brings a soul-warming smell to every corner of my home. You could easily throw everything into a crockpot as well and let it cook, cook, cook away while you get to be as lazy as you want.
As this lucky black eyed pea stew simmers away, it gives me time to reflect at how lucky I am. Maybe it’s all the black eyed peas that I have consumed over the years, or maybe I have just been blessed to be surrounded by amazing people.
It is very rare to find true friendships in life, much less multiple times. I have been so blessed to have met a several strong and amazing women in my life. Women that I look up to and that give me the strength to move on during incredibly hard times in life. Women that I consider my sisters. Days, weeks, months may go by that we don’t speak, but as soon as we do, it’s as if no time has passed at all. These are friends and moments that make life amazing. We have share hugs and tears that cure heart aches, provide hope for the future, and heal wounds. I cherish these times.
I am the lucky one to be a part of your life. I love you.
Cheers to hope and love and what may come in 2014.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium onion, small diced
- 1 red or green bell pepper, small diced
- 3 ribs of celery, small diced
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 pound black-eyed peas (if dried you will need to soak overnight in 6 to 8 cups of water; if fresh, add them straight to the pot)
- 1 smoked ham hock or ham bone
- 1 cup of leftover ham (if you were lucky to wrangle some from your family from Christmas ham or other dinner)
- 1 quart of water
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne
- 1 teaspoon cajun or blackened seasoning
- salt and pepper to taste
- In a large Dutch oven or kettle, heat oil and add the ham hock and sear on all sides. Ad the onion, celery, bell pepper, and garlic and cook for 4 minutes. Add the soaked black-eyed peas, stock, bay leaf, and thyme.
- Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer gently for 40 minutes to an hour. If you don’t soak the beans overnight, you can add unsoaked beans to the pot but will need to cook for 2 to 3 hours. Peas will be creamy and tender. If liquid evaporates, add more water or stock.
- Remove the ham hock bone and cut off the meat. I usually add leftover ham from the holidays that I freeze.
- Remove and discard the bay leaf.
- Using the back of a wooden spoon, mash some of the peas against the side of the pot until the stewed peas have some body (slightly thick). Add the cayenne, salt, and pepper to taste. I like to top this with tabasco and green onions. Serve over brown rice or cauliflower rice