We had a blissful weekend.
But it didn't start that way...
It began with one of those days where everything seems difficult; it's hard to get food, we're cranky and tired, and an overall grey cloud rested on our shoulders.
It was a heavy grey cloud, too.
On top of it all, someone had to get sick. And this time that someone was me.
We stayed in a hotel the night before the appraisal of our home; we knew the kind of mess and damage our little crew could make in a short time. I focused on the kids at the hotel, while Paul painted walls, mowed the lawn, and staged the house for show.
It was a 3 and 1/2 star hotel, and I assumed that they would at least have a mini fridge and a microwave. No such luck. The homemade dressing made from fresh raspberries and the cheddar cashew cheese sauce I had made sweltered in the 90 degree heat while we found our room and arranged our things. We would have to find another approach to get sustenance.
I have to tell you that, anymore, I don't really enjoy eating out as much as I used to. Additionally, I am usually disappointed with how distasteful restaurants tend to prepare healthy food. I find that in general I can prepare the same dishes to be much more appetizing and filling, at a much lower price, and without all that oozing oil. I love ethnic restaurants, mostly, because American ones are SOOO meat-and-cheese-centered that they make it difficult to enjoy a good meal. Our favorites in Albuquerque are places like Thai Tip, The Taj Palace, and Richard's Mexican Restaurant where they serve Lentil Tostadas.
We ate at Richard's for lunch and then spent the afternoon at Barnes and Noble Bookstore. They have a lego table, a trains table, a kids' reading loft, great books, and a great toy section. I find a lot of comfort in books, and the kids got to play while I perused and read.
Back at our hotel I turned on the food network, seeing as how at home we don't have cable. It was The Barefoot Contessa with Ina Garten. She was preparing a zucchini and potato soup with grilled vegetables and fried salmon. I wasn't interested in the salmon part, but I watched her as she prepared the soup.
After she cooked the vegetables she pulled out a large, metal contraption and stated that it was a food grinder. For what seemed like forever, (and I am sure they edited how long it REALLY takes) she ladeled the vegetables into the grinder and hand-turned the crank while the vegetables slowly were smashed through the sieve. And all I could think was, "What a waste of time. And vegetables. Half of the food is stuck in the sieve holes. I don't have time for that. And I definitely am not going to spend tons of money on just one contraption that only meshes soup."
But then she said, as she smiled, "No one wants to eat baby food for dinner!"
And she got me.
Clear memories of our church missionaries coming over for dinner one night, over a year ago, came back to me. I had made a pureed Carrot and and Apple soup for them, accompanied by salad and a rotisserie chicken. I was NOT vegan at the time, obviously.
I told these very sweet missionaries that I thought the dinner had failed. I didn't like it, despite the fact that the flavors were good. I grilled them for what they thought of the food. They said, "It's good, but it reminds me of baby food..."
Pureed baby food.
Oh, Ina, how you know what to say to capture my attention.
When I got myself back into my own kitchen again, I would make a fantastic soup that was NOT baby food.
That night we finished Essie's homework and then headed out to Trader Joe's to find food for her school lunch the next day. It had to be hotel friendly. Which meant that it could not be refrigerated, did not need to be heated, and had to be pre-cooked, pre-packaged, and mostly, had to be healthy. This sounds like fruit, what do you think? We also found vegan granola bars, muffins and cookies, and vegan Jell-O!
Paul joined us and after helping the kids swim at the hotel pool, I started to recognize that my throat hurt when I swallowed. Oh, no. I was getting sick.
The next morning, sure enough, it was quite clear that a mean old cold was settling in. After picking up Essie from school, Paul called and gave the all clear. We could go home; the appraisal was finished. And I was starving.
Back in my own kitchen, feeling worn out and hungry, I craved a good soup. Don't ask me why but I wanted Cauliflower soup. Yummy.
Cauliflower is full of phyto-chemicals and other powerful nutrients that fight cancer. If they fight cancer, why couldn't they help me fight my cold? I think I chose well!
And I wanted potatoes to add body and a filling starch.
I love celery in soup so I started with onions, celery and garlic as a base. Classic! And then I added my favorite spices. After steaming the vegetables I used my food processor to VERY lightly pulse them together to create a part smooth, part chunky soup. No baby food here.
I must tell you that I am extremely picky about which dinners I decide to keep in my dinner rotation. I am even more picky about what recipes I put on this blog.
When I first tasted the soup after adding cashew cream, I was in heaven. Since I pretty much used three different recipes as a spring board for my own variations, I call this my own creation. I gave myself time to think about whether or not I would put the soup on this blog or not. Trying it again, reheated the second day, I knew. I had to post it!
And this is where the weekend bliss started...
I am learning that when I feed and care for my family well, that caring returns to me ten fold.
Finding that I was sick, Paul took over for me without my saying a word. He stayed home from work the next day (wow!) and took the kids on multiple hikes.
On Friday when he saw that I was feeling a little better he kept the kids, kicked me out of the house and told me I needed to go spend all my money on new clothes. ;). Okay! Who am I to say no?
Multiple times throughout the weekend I would wake up from naps and find this kind of thing going on.
And then I got to help Essie do homework uninterrupted...until I got distracted by a phone call, and Essie made me laugh so hard by making this sign while I was talking.
She would growl and make an angry face as she held it up in front of me.
I made the kids Tofurky and kids' cheesy hummus sandwiches, with orange slices.
Served with dessert of Chocolate Chia Pudding and oreos.
Curried Cauliflower and Potato Soup with Cashew Cream
By Ashlee Crozier
When you ever find a dark cloud coming over your family, and hungry tummies are roaring, may I suggest you get a little bliss in your life and enjoy this savory and chunky soup?
1 large onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
1/4 cup water
3 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1/8-1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (optional, for more heat)
1 tsp (heaping) cumin
1 tsp (heaping) curry powder
1 tsp Mrs. Dash Garlic and Onion flavor (or 1/2 tsp garlic powder, and 1/2 tsp onion powder)
4 cloves of garlic, smashed
5 stalks of celery, washed, and coarsely chopped
1 large head of cauliflower, rinsed and cut into florets
4 gold potatoes, washed and cubed
4 cups of vegetable broth (I used 4 cups water, and 4 teaspoons of Better than Bouillon No Chicken base, but any vegan base would work! For the best flavor I recommend a good base concentrate mixed with water instead of the store-bought broth.)
1/4 cup (heaping) nutritional yeast
1/3 cup coconut milk (optional)
1/2 cup (heaping) cashews
In a large stockpot over high heat, saute onions, salt, pepper, and spices in the onions' own water until it reduces. Add 1/4 cup water to prevent sticking, and continue to saute for five minutes or until you can see through the onions.
Add chopped garlic and celery and saute for a few minutes more. Add the potatoes and cauliflower and pour the broth, or concentrated base mixed with water, over the vegetables. Stir, and cover. Let cook over medium-high heat for 25-30 minutes until the potatoes and cauliflower are tender and fall apart easily when poked with a fork.
If you use a pressure cooker you can reduce the cauliflower and potato cooking time to about 10 minutes.
Working in batches, and using your S blade, pour the soup mixture into the food processor. Very lightly pulse the vegetables until they are chopped into a bite-sized chunks, but be careful to not over-pulse. You don't want a puree, you just want it stirred well with visible chunks remaining. Whether you want these chunks large or small is up to you. What I did was pulse in two different batches; the first batch was pulsed quite a bit smoother, and the second was left chunky. Put the two batches together and you have a slightly smooth and chunky soup.
Take 1 heaping cupful of the smooth batch of soup and place it your blender with 1/2 cup of cashews and the nutritional yeast. Blend until very smooth and creamy. Pour this cashew cream back into your soup and stir well. If you find that the soup is too spicy, you can add some coconut milk. I would recommend tasting it, and adjusting salt and seasonings to suit your taste buds. Serve. (I served this over a bowl of seasoned quinoa, with a side of salad. My children love quinoa the way that I cook it and eat it straight out of the bowl).