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Nearly two weeks after Thanksgiving, and we are still eating leftovers.  Turkey sandwiches and quesadillas, french onion soup, breakfast fried mashed potatoes, stuffing frittatas, lasagna, and even a pan of turkey enchiladas.  When it comes to repurposing leftovers, we rule!  Our fridge is finally emptying out and very little has been wasted.

I splurged on a 20-quart stockpot for Thanksgiving this year.  It was a big purchase…  it’s only a cheap-o Target pot, but with cabinet space at a premium, I am still not sure where to store this monster.  No regrets, however, as a 20-quart pot meant nearly as much post-holiday turkey stock.  The old laying hen we brought home from our farm day joined it’s compatriot’s carcass, and I have enough stock to last a very long while.  It is well worth the small up front effort to have homemade stock on hand.

And where there is stock, there is soup.

Leftover Squash Soup

This technique works for any amount or type of leftover mashed veg (root vegetables or squashes in particular) and is merely an exercise in heating things up.  But there are a few basic things to consider for those new to cooking.

Put the squash in a saucepan, breaking it up with a spatula so it is not just a big Tupperware shaped lump.  Liberally season with your choice of spices.  For this go round, I used the Barbecue of the Americas spice blend from Penzeys.  It was a free sample and is a blend of salt, paprika, allspice, nutmeg, cayenne, pepper, cinnamon, thyme and ginger.  The nutmeg and allspice complement squash particularly well, it adds a rich color and a bit of heat, as well as just enough ginger for flavor without pushing it into curry territory.  *sigh* I heart Penzeys and am powerless against the crack like pleasure of Penzeys free samples.

Add enough stock to nearly cover the squash and start reheating, stirring occasionally to incorporate the liquid and keep the bottom from scorching.  A quality silicon spatula works very well for this.  Zyliss makes one which works really well.  The silicon stretches up much of the handle, which is great when you accidentally leave the spatula sitting in the pot between stirs.  (Not that I ever do that…  no…  not me…)

I sliced and toasted some garlic bread from the Gracie Baking Co.  I found a ramekin of goat cheese remnants at the back of the fridge.  Some stray baby spinach was located as well.  Sides were officially done.

Turning attention back to the soup, it had bubbled away during homework negotiations and was now more like babyfood than soup.  No problem, just add more stock until it is just shy of the preferred consistency.

Then turn off the burner before adding the dairy.  In this case I used Straus Whole Milk Plain Yogurt, but cream, half and half, or sour cream would work well too.  Fresh dairy can take a little heat and vigorous stirring, but fermented dairy products can curdle quickly if they are left to boil at this point.  Their proteins have already started to coagulate from the fermentation process and are simply more delicate.  So I just play it safe and turn off the burner before stirring in the yogurt at the end.  Another option is adding the dollop of yogurt or sour cream individually and letting The Child stir it in herself.

Notice there isn’t a measurement of any ingredient through any of this.  This is leftover squash soup.  You start with what’s leftover, you add liquid until it looks right, and then you serve it.  We polished off the squash, the last of the yogurt, some goat cheese, and spinach before any of it went bad.  I love that feeling of rescuing food just before it’s about to go south.  Plus, the entire loaf of bread is now sliced and in the fridge, making garlic toast with eggs much easier next morning before school.

The Child turned her goat-cheesed garlic toast and salad into a spinach sandwich and proceeded to dunk it into her mug (punning about squashing it into the little cup of squash soup).  Then she asked for seconds on everything, even the spinach, and double-checked I didn’t skimp on refilling the soup.

I love it when a meal comes together.

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Farm Day

There was much anticipation of farm day around here.  I’ve written about our monthly community supported agriculture (CSA) meat share before, but this was the first time we visited the farm.  When asked if she would like to help butcher our Thanksgiving turkey at Godfrey Family Farms, The Child’s first question was, “Will I get to help take the feathers off?”  Each time a parent at school innocently asked if she was looking forward to the holiday, she swelled with pride and explained that she would be meeting her Thanksgiving dinner up close and personal.

*insert Lamorinda-mom cringe here*

Meanwhile I was awash with suburban hyperconsciousness myself:  are the alarms set, where are the work gloves, oh #$%*, it’s going to be 51°F and raining.  We packed enough spare clothes and shoes to enjoy farming to it’s fullest and not need the car detailed afterward.  You would have thought we were leaving for a month.

Enjoying a cinnamon roll with a mason jar of fresh milk from their Jersey cow, Mocha.

We were instantly put at ease upon arrival.  The Godfreys are a remarkably welcoming large family.  Kids far outnumber adults.  While taking in the comforting coordinated chaos, we warmed up with coffee in the kitchen (coffee with real cream from their cow).  The Child dove into the throng of many kids rolling, filling and cutting cinnamon rolls with Rose’s guidance.

That morning she got a full tour of the farm.  She watched Rose milk their Jersey cow.  She learned how to collect eggs from the Godfrey’s genius henhouse set up.  She met cows, chickens, turkeys, goats, rabbits, geese, ducks, sheep, pigs, and quail.  She met the livestock guard-dog puppy.  (It turns out when you cross an Anatolian Shepherd with a Great Pyrenees, you get something akin to a horse.)  In a matter of minutes The Child was off and running with the kids, on the best tour possible… a view of farm life from farm kids.  Every once in a while I would peek around and make sure I could spot her, and it was clear from a distance that she was thrilled and having a ball.

The Child, baby chickens, and many giggles!

The farm didn’t smell like a farm.

I don’t smell very well anymore (anosmia… but that’s another post), so when I could not smell any of the, eh hem, traditional farm smells I assumed it was just my deficient olfactory receptors.  But then I started asking around to the other participants, and no one else smelled anything either.  It makes sense given that every creature has room to be healthy, and nothing goes to waste.  From the bits discarded during processing of birds to the potato peelings left over after making lunch for a crowd.  No resource was squandered.

Then I asked the real finicky nose.  My kid.

“Nope,” she said matter-of-factly. “I didn’t smell anything gross.  Brian said that’s his test.  When he can smell an animal he has too many of them.”

And it seems to be working.  The farm didn’t smell like a farm.  It smelled like being outside in the dirt, cold, rain, and fresh air.  The ewww-factor simply was not there.

Hands on Learning

When it came time to start processing birds, the Godfrey’s were smart and did a practice run.  There were some old laying hens which, while not the best eating, word on the street was they make a superior stock having given their all.  It was a great way to learn a process I’d never seen before.  Learning how to do it properly is daunting;  catching, killing humanely, scalding, plucking and dressing.  There is so much to learn… which organs you probably don’t want to break, how to get entrails out without making a giant mess, all the while keeping the work area clean and the bird safe to eat.

Rose homeschools her children on the farm, clearly a skill set useful when handling a dozen awestruck suburbanites out to pat themselves on the back for their purchasing choices.

Photo Credit: Colleen Cummins/Appeal-Democrat -- Click on the thumbnail for the article

They made the day about relaxed learning.  Assiduous with keeping workspaces clean, tools in good repair, and coolers of ice water at the ready, the backyard classroom had a relaxed, pitch-in-where-you-feel-comfortable attitude with avid discussion amidst shivering smiles.  The Spouse did most of the hands-on work, while I preferred to watch with frozen fingers stuffed in pockets.  The Appeal-Democrat story the following Sunday did a great job covering the actual processing of birds.

Good Teachers Share Mistakes

Brian and Rose are extremely modest given what they have achieved in a mere two years of farming.  The day was full of learning-on-the-job stories from natural born storytellers.

Photo Credit: Godfrey Family Farms

The “chicken mansion” is a source of well-earned pride, giving visiting kids a chance to collect eggs without the daunting prospect of reaching under the actual chicken.  Brian laughed as he admitted the crows got the better of him for a while, as they would wait patiently for lunch to roll down the chute.  Now some fabric covers the treasure until kids come to collect it.  Next to visiting the baby chickens inside their pen, collecting eggs with the other kids was The Child’s favorite part of the day.

Another achievement is their plucker.  Brian beamed when he recounts Rose discovering the online design for the Whizbang Plucker, and chuckled while sharing his own pride having built a tool himself which works so well.  This contraption was remarkably quick, and speed is essential when getting a bird from slaughter to the cooler to ensure food safety.

Our Bird

Our day at the farm is what community supported agriculture (CSA) is all about.  Brian and Rose Godfrey thoughtfully shared a bit of themselves with the curious and engaged community they are fostering throughout the Bay Area.  It was a day of embracing the ideal that everyone always has something to learn.  The experience reinforced that buying our monthly CSA-share of meat helps ensure the safety and quality of what our family consumes and serves.  And we all in turn brought our well-cared-for, tasty birds home to share with our friends and family to spread the love.  Delicious love.

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It was unbelievably hot this week.

The Child and I were flying solo on dinner and I did not have it in me to cook.  Having been home less than a week, the cupboard was still really bare.  Unless somehow I was going to work magic with evaporated milk, a can of crushed pineapple, and a little lonely leftover baked chicken thigh from the night before… we were out of dinner options.

But our produce delivery from spud! had arrived the day before.  I had one nectarine which seemed ripe enough to eat, one heirloom tomato left, and a single scallion.  Found some flour tortillas and some lettuce in the fridge, and I set to work chopping, muttering lines from The Princess Bride, “Why didn’t you list those among our assets in the first place??”

A quick salad was born of nectarine, tomato, scallion, and a minuscule amount of leftover chicken. It was lovely.

Nectarines and tomatoes are prolific at farmers markets this time of year, and I highly recommend giving this combo a try.  Child loved it, and she beat me to the single second helping.

Nectarine, Tomato & Scallion Salad

1 Nectarine, chopped
1 Medium to Large Heirloom Tomato, chopped
1 Scallion, chopped
1 Cold Chicken Thigh, chopped (any small amount of leftover protein will do – pork chop, steak, crumbled bacon, etc. – even canned black beans – or leave the protein out altogether)

Chop.  Salt.  Mix.

Serve as is, or wrapped in warmed, buttered tortillas with some chopped romaine hearts.

Makes about 3 wraps.  Feeds one mom and one ravenous kid.

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My husband is the daring adventurer in the kitchen.  He will watch something on a television show and say, “Well that looks easy!” subsequently diving in over his elbows into whatever new technique, skill or challenge the kitchen presents.  Usually he has the child ringside to engage and participate.  Yup, The Spouse is an awesome father.  I married well.  *grin*

I am the researcher.  He has always teased that I can put together a binder on just about anything.  Geeking on family traditions and recipes makes me smile.  I enjoy digging up history of ingredients and the provenance of traditions.

This summer I set about on my own learning how to make Boiled Beef Tongue from my dad, just like my grandmother used to make.  I don’t recall ever trying this as a kid, but I remember my father wistfully recounting tales of tasty beef tongue sandwiches.  With mustard.  On rye bread.

I had never even seen one in a market before this summer’s experiment.  But  grandma’s recipe came with the cabin, and the fabulous guy from Futility Farms regularly has them for sale at the Land O’ Lakes weekly farmers market.  Family history and learning a new technique for offal?  I’m in!  Eating nose to tail is an important facet of sustainably consuming animals.

I bought a frozen beef tongue at the farmers market, found locally baked rye bread from the Eagle Baking Company, some proper German-styled mustard, and waited for my dad to visit.

Confession Time

When it came time to thaw and prepare it, it creeped me out… juuuuust a little.  For the first time in a very long while I stood before something bizarre to cook and for a brief moment thought, “Ew…”  It lay there on the cutting board looking like a beef tongue.  It has taste buds, and it looks really strange.  Maybe it felt strange because it looked so familiar?

The photos at Wasabi Bratwurst are vastly better than any of the ones I took! Photo Credit: http://www.wasabibratwurst.com/pickled-tongue/

But we eat anything around here, so I just took a deep breath and dove in.

This recipe could not be simpler and serves as a reminder of what food tasted like when money was tight and ingredients few.

She Likes It!!

I made this recipe twice this summer, and in both cases everyone who tried it has subsequently sought it out on their own.  Including the seven year old!

The first time, my father and I started too late in the day for it to fully cool as directed. So we plunked the entire thing in the fridge in the vinegar solution overnight.  This resulted in the tongue being substantially more sour and grey than the second undertaking, but no less tasty.

The Child favors the pumpernickel over caraway rye, with Hot German Dusseldorf mustard, fresh tomato, and her suggested substitution of cream cheese in lieu of the traditional mayo.

I like the caraway myself, but I must admit, I think she’s onto something with the cream cheese!

I am looking forward to further experimentation!  Simply Recipes has a Lengua Tacos recipe that looks delish.  And Japanese gyutan grilled tongue is intriguing…  Here’s to fabulous, sustainable eating on the cheap!  Huzzah!

Grandma J’s Beef Tongue

Boil covered in salt water for 3 hours.  Remove skin.  (This is much easier than one might think.) Cover with 1 part vinegar to 1 part water solution and simmer about one hour.  Allow to cool in liquid.

Remove from liquid.  Wrap in foil and slice thinly for cold sandwiches as needed.

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Musing about how The Child eats jump-started my writing, especially after we began eating goat at home.  It was the first time we ate goat we prepared ourselves, and the first time we purchased meat directly from a farm.  A positive experience, we were encouraged to search for a regular meat-CSA to join.

Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a food distribution model wherein the consumer and the farmer share the risk and rewards of farming.  Typically a subscription, the consumer pledges a monthly rate for a share of what the farm produces each month.  While it is more common to find fruit and vegetable CSAs, the demand for meat and dairy is on the rise.  Consumers typically seek out CSA food in an attempt to eat local, support small-scale agriculture, or obtain organic products.  They may also supply a greater variety of products, as well as heirloom produce or heritage breeds.

Singing the praises of Godfrey Family Farms is long overdue.  We experimented and signed up for a monthly share at the start of the year.  Having no idea what to expect, we planned to re-evaluate after 6-months.  Honestly, I thought by June our freezer would be bursting, and it would prove to The Spouse that our family was not large enough to justify the 15 pounds of meat each month.  We do not have sufficient square footage for a deep freeze of our own.

But I was wrong.  I love it.

One Saturday morning each month, The Spouse drives to a Home Depot parking lot to fetch our share of the monthly meat.  It runs $100 for approximately 15 pounds of various cuts from various beasts, including fresh eggs.  Rose and Brian Godfrey are remarkable.  They write a blog to keep folks posted about happenings on the farm, and have a Facebook Fan Page as well.  They both have a way with words and wit.  Back in January, I read their post about geese including photos of Thanksgiving…

…looking through the fence at Christmas…

…and I knew these were my kind of people.

Our traditional Easter dinner is rabbit after all, and we call him Thumper.

As it turns out, we consume most of the share each month.  We even purchase extra;  several dozen more eggs, and additional chickens anytime they have them.  We are thrilled when some challenge of farm living means there are extra rabbits, ducks, or veal bones to be had.

The meat CSA has made a profound difference in our diet and our lives. From the very first shipment of duck eggs with a magical double yolk… to guilt-free pastured veal… and a variety of beasts… Yes, it is safe to say I am biased.

To counteract said bias, I will skip the compulsory review of pros (eating local, pastured, and small-scale), and head straight to the cons of any CSA.  But are they really cons?   Seem more like advantages to me.

You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit. My daughter learned this in pre-K, and it is a rule many adults could stand to learn.  When you join most CSAs you do not typically get to place orders.  And if you do it ought be considered a lucky perk worthy of your undying gratitude, not setting an expectation.

We learned how to meal-plan based on what default produce arrived in a box on our doorstep, and this is really no different. So we have tried new things such as guinea fowl, water buffalo, and duck eggs.  Instead of shopping based on a plan, we plan based on the shopping.  One Saturday each month we gather around the cooler to see what Santa brought us while attempting play a game of freezer Tetris with the frozen blocks.

Please remember it is a farm people!  The animals and crops really do not care what your schedule is, much less your menu.  Sometimes the guinea fowl are too much trouble to raise again.  Sometimes the butcher goes on vacation and instead of pork you get glorious water buffalo from the neighbor’s farm.  Sometimes the momma animals turn out to be less than skilled mommas.   And sometimes the hams, sausages, and bacon come cured by someone else.  We have fallen in love with Rose’s recipes, the Italian sausage and brats in particular, and this is not a con for us.  But it may be for some folks.  If you are particular about what cuts, or which beasts, or what sizes you *need* to have, perhaps this isn’t the right purchasing model for you.

Eating nose to tail. A big part of eating sustainably is eating nose to tail. Philosophically, if you are going to show respect for the animal you are consuming, let nothing go to waste. Economically, if you learn to cook the stuff other people do not want, you will have a wide selection of cheap proteins from which to choose.

It was not our intention to pose the chicken as if it were dancing off stage left. *giggle*

I am confident someone is enjoying the extra bits. (Lucky #$%^&*@!)  And even though Godfrey chickens arrive intact from beak to toes, most of the regular shares do not include offal.  When a family of three buys 15 pounds of meat per month, it reduces our trips to the grocery store.  That puts a dent in how many times we pick up braunschweiger or headcheese for lunch, have calf’s liver for dinner, or discover we like new things like veal kidney chops.

I miss my butcher. Well, not a particular butcher per se.  We predominantly shop at Lunardi’s Market, since the Andronico’s near us went out of business (pout).  It is an average-sized traditional grocery store with a meat counter, and a veritable army of butchers.  They appreciate questions and are quick to ask someone if they don’t know the answer.   I have never been ignored or hustled along.  The Child always loves to visit them.  Since infancy, she has been accompanying one of us, helping to pick things out, watching all the action as the butchers break things down, and fascinated by the various meats hanging from the ceiling.

Approaching this calmly as a reality helped her develop comfort and understanding of what lands on her plate.  But we spend less time visiting the local butchers now that our freezer is packed to bursting once each month.

Maybe it is time to figure out where to put the deep-freeze after all?  The Spouse can park his car in the driveway, right?

Okay, maybe not.

Skillet Sausages

Cast iron skillet (optional)
Bratwurst, bockwurst or favorite sausages
Onions, sliced in half, then in half-rings
A favorite beer or hard cider

Brown the sausages and add the onions tucked in around the edges, i.e. don’t just layer them in on top.   Open up a favorite beer to enjoy and share with the skillet.  Every once in a while check to see that things aren’t sticking.  When they do, add some beer and use your tongs to scrape up the brown bits off the bottom of the pan.

Skip the bun, serve with mustard and a side of sauerkraut or coleslaw… or both!

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Apparently it’s Incredible Ingredient Wednesday!  Who knew?  The box of veggies from spud! arrived yesterday, and tonight for dinner The Child and I had Black Knight Carrots grown by Tutti Frutti Farms in Northern Santa Barbara County.  They were dark and dirty and merely different until I went to peel them, at which point they became jaw-droppingly beautiful.  The Child heard me *gasp* and came running to see these glorious things!!

So I just had to photograph them.

Then I came back in the kitchen to chop ‘em up for dinner.  And *gasp* squared!!  I soon had a pile of sliced, purple, polka-dot carrots.  Sheer awesome!

They taste pretty much like a regular carrot raw, but I wanted to see how they cooked up.  Typically I roast my carrots in the oven, but tonight I wanted to take advantage of the color.  So I rough chopped some onion and sauteed both with olive oil, Penzeys Garlic Salt, and fresh ground pepper.  Then I added a cup or so of homemade stock and slapped a cover on while it simmered away at medium heat for a bit.  When the carrots were nearly cooked, I took the cover off and let the sauce reduce down while I nuked some leftover water buffalo chuck roast from the weekend.  Voila!  Dinner is served in 20 minutes tops.  Ha!  And I was worried we would starve with The Spouse out of town.

Black Knight Carrots and Onions with leftover water buffalo chuck roast

The carrots typically found at most markets are orange, but they also come in red, yellow, white, and as I found out today…  purple.  And it turns out that this tasty taproot probably originated as red, yellow or purple wild varieties in Afghanistan, before the Dutch developed the first recorded orange carrot in the 17th Century.  We don’t have room for anything but container gardening at our condo, but if you are looking to add a little purple pizzazz to your garden this summer, why not get some Purple Dragons from Seeds of Change and report back on how easy or difficult they are to grow.

Every different color on the plate is a different package of micronutrients.  Sometimes, kids are more interested in sampling a familiar food in a different format.  The kid eats peas, so try crunching some sugar snap peas.  They like carrots, so here is a purple one.  You like purple food?  Maybe you’ll dig beets next week.  Advocating variety is easy to preach, but some families might need baby steps first.  There are families out there struggling with a limited number of ingredients which sidestep drama, especially veggies.  And carrots are often on the shortlist.

Obviously this recipe works for any variety of carrot, including the humble orange one at the grocery store.  But if you stumble across specimens at the farmer’s market or specialty market, it is worth taking the risk.  This was the best $3.27 I have spent in a long time, and The Child loved it.  Thank you spud!.  I just hope I’ll be able to order them again next week.

When you get carrots home, remove the tops to preserve their flavor longer.  I remember reading that carrot greens are inedible but cannot remember where, and when Kevin Gillespie prepared a well received dish using them on Top Chef it made me wonder.  Apparently I wasn’t the only one, and there is an excellent post about the various thoughts on the matter of carrot tops over at The Upstart Kitchen.

Sauteed Black Knight Carrots and Onions

One small bunch of Black Knight carrots, sliced into rounds
One large onion, rough chopped
Olive oil
Penzeys Garlic Salt
Fresh ground pepper
~1 cup homemade stock, wine, or water

Saute carrot slices and onion in olive oil.  Season with Penzeys Garlic Salt and pepper, or your personal spices of choice.  Once the onion has started to brown a bit, add about a cup of homemade stock.  Cover and simmer on medium heat.  When the carrots were nearly cooked (not quite fork tender), uncover reduce any remaining liquid until it gets syrupy.  Serve warm.

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Thanksgiving is a big deal for our family.  Celebrating is typically a three day affair, and the day after is officially French Onion Soup Day.  The carcass goes directly into a stockpot and bubbles away overnight while late night game-playing stretches into the wee hours of the morning.  Last November,  we roasted an extra dozen drumsticks in the oven in addition to the bird out on the grill.  Additional bones would just get added to the bubbling cauldron as guests steadily raided the fridge and consumed leftovers.  A visiting friend remarked, “Some people compost…  you make stock.”  Nothing goes to waste in this house.

Recently The Spouse went back to working some longer hours.  For a month or two, we shall revert to the old days of increased travel for him, and increased single parenting for me.  Back injury be damned, I am going to have to scrape together a meal or two and get in the habit of cooking again, so I practiced a little last week.

The Spouse had roasted a guineafowl earlier in the week, and as is our custom, filled up the stockpot with the carcass, fading veggies to help clear out the fridge, some peppercorns, and a bay leaf or two.  Whether you start with leftover bones, or some cheap cuts from the butcher, the basic technique is the same:  start with cold water, bring it up to a simmer slowly, and skim the scum off the top as it reaches a gentle boil.  Let it bubble away for a few hours, cool, strain, and transfer to the freezer or fridge.  A spare plastic container in the fridge can collect bits from the kitchen throughout the week to save for stock, and a weekend day serves as an excellent time to make a big batch.  In the fridge, all the fat will collect in a solidified layer on top which may be easily removed or used as you prefer.  You’ll know you got it right when it comes out of the fridge set up like gelatin.  If it’s still a liquid, don’t fret, you have likely made a very flavorful broth.  But for stock to be stock, it needs the connective tissue that only bones can provide.

The first night dinner was my responsibility, I actually planned ahead.  With seemingly nothing in the fridge for lunch I boiled half a package of farro, established we had at least one carrot which would not be rubbery by dinner time, checked the volume of meat The Spouse had picked from the carcass was sufficient for three bowls of soup, and confirmed we had a bag of frozen peas.  While I had a scoop of farro with microwaved marinara for lunch, I knew soup for dinner was all set to assemble.

I remember big giant pots of soup as a kid.  Often my dad would freeze a bunch to thaw for quick supper on a cold day, but sometimes we would be having soup all week.  It was great the first two nights, but by the end of the week we were all poking around the fridge seeking alternative leftovers.  I think that’s why to this day I prefer drop dumplings to noodles in my chicken soup (the noodles are all mushy by the end of the week), and why I have never been compelled to make split pea soup at home, even though my Grandma’s recipe is fabulous.  Instead of freezing soup or eating leftover soup all week, we are more likely to freeze the stock if need be and only prepare small batches of soup at a time.

My first night re-entering the Mom’s-responsible-for-dinner world, I failed and overdid it during the day.  But at least I could greet The Spouse with a game plan when he walked in the door to no dinner and a wife laying on the couch.  So a chopped carrot was sauteed with some onion in a medium saucepan.  Stock was poured in on top of the veg.  When brought to a simmer, some frozen peas were added, the burner switched off, and The Child called to dinner within a few minutes of starting.  Leftover ginueafowl and cooked farro were portioned into individual bowls and the hot broth and vegetables were poured over top.  Served with some fresh sliced garlic bread to dip and Parmesan grated over top, it was a perfect spring meal.  Obviously this works for the more typical roasted chicken as well, but the key is to not boil the already roasted bits of bird all over again.  No one likes stringy bits of tough or flavorless meat floating around in their soup – no matter how flavorful the broth.

The next night I was flying without a net, as he was out of town and not just working late.  To be honest, I considered having the same sort of soup again, but winced knowing The Child would whine at repetition just like I used to.  I considered using up the last of my sweet potatoes for soup too, but it seemed too warm and springy outside for such a hearty main course.  So instead I went pseudo-Asian.  The bag of frozen wontons from Trader Joe’s said, “Boil your favorite vegetable or chicken broth, add FROZEN wontons to soup for the last 1 -2 minutes.”  Really?  I can do that!

“Hey kid!  Do you want frozen peas or frozen edamame in your soup tonight?”  Giving a kid a say in what is for dinner does not have to mean sacrificing variety for the sake of a box of mac ‘n’ cheese.  Back with she was little, this question might have gotten a negative response to both options.  “It’s very simple.  You pick, or I will pick for you.”  The Child would never abdicate the ability to have a say, and it was then more likely she would try it with less protest.

We often use canning jars in lieu of plastic containers in the refrigerator, running the lids and rings through the dishwasher until the lids look like they need replacing. A simple funnel helps pour the goods into the jars.

Easy Wonton Soup

In the time it took me to heat a jar of our homemade stock on the stove, the ginger was grated and the scallions chopped.  A smidge of miso and a splash each of soy sauce and mirin were added to each individual bowl.

When the stock came to a boil, I added wontons, set the timer for 2 minutes, and scarfed a titch of boiling stock to dissolve the miso paste in each bowl.  Dividing the ginger, scallions, and a handful of frozen Trader Joe’s Soycutash directly from the bag, each bowl was then topped off with boiling stock and wontons.

Dinner was great!  And I’m happy to report that it was exactly 15 minutes from opening the freezer and finding the wontons to sitting down to dinner – – including the time it took me to take a few photos.

While The Child scarfed dinner and posed for a photo I asked her for the first time why she thinks she eats so well.  She paused, wonton poised in her chopsticks over her bowl, and said, “Cuz you guys make me try stuff and cuz Daddy cooks so well.”

“Hey, isn’t this soup good?  I made this!”

She shrugged, “Yeah, it’s awesome.  But it’s because Daddy roasted such a tasty bird.”

She’s got me there.

Invest in making your own stock.  It will pull together even store-bought ingredients into something quick and tasty.  Make small batches or individual bowls of soup to avoid repetition with your kids.  And then ask them targeted questions about what choose to have in it.  With any luck they may even even try it.

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