My paternal grandfather died when I was about twelve. It's hard to know how I really feel about him, but what I know about him leaves me feeling conflicted and sad. He was an alcoholic and, from the snippets of family stories that I remember, had the mixed bag of traits that go with it. He taught me to bake and cook and for that he retains awe and affection in my memory.
There were two cookbooks we used in Bryon, Maine where I spent the summers when he was teaching me. I have one of the two and am not sure what happened to the other one. He started out with cookies and I love making cookies to this day. He taught me how to carefully measure and level flour with the back of a butter knife, and to pack brown sugar so I don't "cheat" a batch of cookies. He also instilled in me the habit of cleaning as I go: to this day I always have at least a bowl of soapy water in the sink to wash utensils and the counter as I go, even if it means I wash the same spot a few times in the course of a batch of cookies. It was very important to him that everything was clean and organized. As he often told me, everything has a home and if it doesn't, then you probably don't need it and it should go.
A flood of memory washes through every time I pull this cookbook out to work with and flipping to the Minestrone soup recipe earlier this week was no different. The call of the chickadee and the smell of soil and forest is strong in my senses and came to the front as I skimmed the recipe. Grampa Sirois is a tough character, and the family history is troubled, but I thank him for teaching me the kitchen basics and leaving me this book.
Gabe and I decided to make a batch of soup each week as a way of increasing our veggie intake and reducing our caloric intake. We started with Minestrone. I was excited to try the recipe out and experiment, but honestly, I was nervous, too. I hate being disappointed by food because food was a big issue in my family. If you don't like something, you had to choke it down anyway after you served yourself some, which was required. I quickly learned to only prepare and serve foods I knew I liked to avoid this unpleasant situation. We also had very few veggies around. It's been a long road to eat the variety of veggies I regularly consume eagerly now.
I was worried that I wouldn't like the Minestrone after it was ready to eat, and even as I was chopping the veggies and stirring the soup as it simmered, I was planning how to get rid of it quickly: There was always the Thursday luncheon at Gabe's office, and the Fellowship luncheon at SCOS, too. I had my escape route planned.
Luckily, I didn't need it!
We ladled some out and spooned it into our mouths while watching Big Love Wednesday night and I spooned each bite with increasing delight. I didn't have to pawn it off! Heck, I didn't want to. I wanted to eat the whole batch myself! =)
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1/3 cup olive oil
1 large onion, diced (I omitted this, of course)
2 large carrots, diced
2 stalk celery, diced
2 medium potatoes, diced
1/2 lbs. green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
6 cups water (I probably put in about 8 or 9 cups as it looked too thick to me - served us well as it is still brothy after sitting in the fridge a few days)
1/2 small head cabbage, shredded
1 16-oz. can tomatoes
1/2 10-oz. bag fresh spinach, coarsely shredded
2 medium zucchini, diced
6 beef flavored bouillon cubes, or 2 tbs. beef flavored stock base
1 tsp. salt
1 16- to 20-oz. can white kidney (cannellini) beans, drained
1 16- to 20-oz. can red kidney beans, drained
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese for garnishing
1. In 8-qt. saucepot over medium heat, in hot oil and butter or margarine, cook onion, carrots, celery, potatoes and green beans until vegetables are lightly browned, about 20 minutes.
2. Add water, cabbage, tomatoes with their liquid, spinach, zucchini, bouillon cubes and salt. Over high heat, heat to boiling, stirring to break up tomatoes.
3. Reduce heat to low; cover; simmer 40 minutes or until all the veggies are very tender, stirring occasionally; do not overcook.
4. Stir in beans; cook 15 minutes longer or just until the soup is slightly thickened.
5. So serve: Ladle soup into bowls and pass cheese separately to sprinkle over each individual serving.
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Last night I was craving cookies so I whipped up a small batch of flourless oatmeal and almond butter cookies with chocolate chips. They are scrumptious!
1-1/2 cups gluten-free oats
1/2 cup almond butter
1/2 cup chopped almonds
1/2 tsp. baking powder
2 tbs. butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
Mix the sugar and butter together; add the egg and mix well. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Bake for 12-15 minutes in a 350 degree F oven. Enjoy!