What a fantastic weekend. October pulled out all the stops the show her beauty this weekend. The reds and gold and leaves still gloriously clinging to their trees for just a wee bit longer. The display at it’s peak just before all of the leaves fall and we finally have to admit that colder weather is coming.
Autumn leaves are awesome, and the slightly cooler weather stirs up that yearning for comfort food. I was inspired on Friday when I saw that snow flurries were expected in some areas to set my next menu plan heavily into the soup zone for the next week.
Now I named this website and blog The Contented Kitchen because while I make absolutely no claim to be an expert in anything culinary, I do strive to be…content with everything related to my kitchen. As far as I’m concerned, the kitchen really is the heart of any home. Not because of the food per se, but because it’s the informal gathering place for a family. The dining room is more formal and it’s where we practice putting our best selves forward, but the kitchen is where we are real. The milk is spilled and we find out if anyone is going to cry over it. It’s where you grab a quick coffee with a friend, plan and prepare for your celebrations, hurry to get everything done and out the door in the morning, and maybe where you take a breather for a few minutes when the in-laws are over for dinner. “Just a sec, I forgot something in the kitchen”.
Whatever it looks like for you, for me the kitchen is a reflection of my life. If it looks like a bomb hit it, then I’m likely stressed. If you see a couple of coffee mugs or wine glasses in the sink, that means friends are welcome here. If you see cereal boxes left out on the counters, it means teenagers are in the house. If there is some semblance of order, either coordinated busyness, or quiet cleanliness, it means I’m content.
One of my secret weapons to combating a busy schedule is that whenever I can, I will take a Saturday and spend it cooking as much food as possible for the coming week. Some of it we eat at meals for a few days, some of it is frozen, and some of it is portioned into lunch containers and frozen for work. I am the first one to back out of cooking after a long day at work and suggest takeout so this is the best way to combat my own weakness for convenience (and high sodium).
Typically these kitchen marathons consists of my cycling through 4-6 different slow cooker recipes, and one of these days I will document for you how I plan and execute one of them. It’s satisfying but takes a bit of organization.
This weekend though was all about the soup, I hadn’t really made any over the summer. It’s really a cold weather food, meant to take the chill out when you’ve been outside. I decided to used both slow cookers and the stove top to make 4 very different kinds of soup:
- Seafood Chowder. The last two summers my husband and I were able to visit Portland, Maine where we discovered this awesome little restaurant called Gilbert’s Chowder House where the chowder was so good you’d sell your brother to get a bowl. We didn’t make it back this year but pined for the chowder something fierce. This had to be at the top of the list.
- Baked Potato Soup. Tastes exactly like baked potatoes. A great meal soup because it’s pretty darn filling. Top with bacon bits and chives and it’s magical.
- French Onion Soup. My husband’s favorite, with the stringy cheese. I like it because you make it with sherry so I end up feeling sophisticated.
- Lentil Soup. This recipe I’ve been using forever. I like the peppery taste and find it light but satisfying. A guilt free meal. In this case I threw it my son’s friend was over and he’s vegan. All of the other soups had chicken or beef broth, this one I used vegetable broth.
The seafood chowder recipe was a new experiment since I’ve never made it before. You can get the recipe here, it’s a cheater recipe since it uses condensed cream of potato soup but who cares because it was delicious! For seafood I used baby shrimp, small scallops, and mussels that had been cooked and shelled. All three were sold in the frozen fish section. I made a double batch of the recipe anticipating great success. It was a wise decision. Nowhere near as good as Gilbert’s, but I didn’t have to travel to get it.
The baked potato and french onion soup recipe are both from my favorite recipe site A Year of Slow Cooking. I always check here first for a slow cooker recipe and I don’t think it’s ever failed me.
The baked potato soup calls for cream cheese and it really does taste like baked potatoes. My father in law had sent me home with a bag from his garden during our last visit and this was a great way to use them.
French onion soup is fancy. It was a great way to use up some of the monster ten pound bag of onions I bought a few weeks ago. Ten pounds for $1.99. I’m a sucker for a good deal. I doubled the recipe and then added extra onions, because I have so many. The house smelled very fancy too. It was also the simplest of the four recipes to prepare. True story.
And finally the lentil soup. A favorite of mine because it’s healthy, a vegetarian meal and full of veggies. It takes about an hour and a half on the stove and is awesome with a stick of fresh bread or rolls.
The recipe is as follows below, as I said previously it has a lovely peppery taste.
- 2 cups of dried brown lentils
- 4 cups of water
- 4 cups of vegetable broth
- 1 cup of chopped onion
- 1/2 cup of chopped celery
- 1/2 cup of chopped carrots
- 1/2 teaspoon of thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
Place water, broth, salt and lentils in the soup pot. Bring to a boil and then simmer, partially covered for 30 minutes. Stir in the rest of the ingredients, partially cover again and simmer for 45 minutes stirring occasionally. Enjoy.
This weekend I am quite contented with my kitchen.