I don’t know what I’m doing. Not with this post. Not with this blog. Not even really with my life. I am 39.5475 years old* today and, as is entirely typical and clichéd for this period most people’s life, I’m restless and bored.
Is this it?
Of course, there’s no universal answer for existential angst; each of us has work through it on our own. For example, I’ve been distracting myself by buying too many handbags and shoes. I’ve also taken up wearing makeup, lost some weight, started exercising sporadically, went camping by myself, purged my wardrobe, began watching QVC 24/7, quit smoking, replaced smoking with perhaps a bit too much wine …
Some of these things make me feel good, some bad.
Some of them I should do more of, others should be cut out entirely.
None of them, however, works consistently to keep the life-questioning at bay.
When these activities fail to distract me and the churning of my brain takes me too far down the path of “What should I be doing with my life? Why am I here? What does it mean? What the hell happened?” I turn to one thing that’s guaranteed to quiet the noise and bring me back to a moment of peace and calm: cooking.
I love cooking. I love trying new recipes and repeating them until they are perfect. I love making up my own recipes. I love seeing and feeling the colors and textures of the ingredients. I love hearing that soft sigh of content people make following their first bite of something that’s just so good and right that they can’t imagine anything being better.
Nothing makes me a happier than a well-chopped carrot. **
So, for the last several months I’ve been cooking as a sort of mid-life crisis therapy. I’ve been cooking like crazy! Not for me – that’s no fun. I’ve been cooking and just giving it away. Like a slutty high school girl with daddy issues, I’ve been putting out big time!*** Off the top of my head, I’ve made and shared: beer bread, mudslide cookies, classic cheesecake, chicken soup, butternut squash lasagna, White Castle burgers, lemon cookies, herb roasted chicken, leek bacon and Swiss quiche, bourbon mustard glazed ribs, scones, Mom’s mustard potato salad, cheese crackers, pumpkin cinnamon rolls, jalapeno popper grilled cheese, gingerbread, buffalo chicken, ranch dressing, tamales, Stromboli and …
A friend requested I try to replicate the soup he has every year during his annual hunting trip in North Dakota. I did some research, found a basic recipe and then played around until I came up with my own version. I think it’s pretty damn good, so I’m putting it out there; which, in a round about way, brings me to this thought:
So, in addition to cooking and shopping and exercising and wining and whatnot – I’m going to try writing about some of it. In public. Where other people can read it and everything! I don’t know where it will go. Maybe it won’t go anywhere. Maybe I’ll write this one lonely post and be done. Or, maybe it will be like cooking and turn into a satisfying outlet for my overactive brain.
One thing I do know – there will be cooking!
So, until I figure out the meaning of life, here’s a kickass soup recipe that I kinda made up. If you are like me, making it and feeding it to people will make you feel good.
* I should have prepared and posted this on November 22, which (coincidentally?) would have been my father’s 66th birthday. The reason it bothers me that I missed the date is stupid, but if you care to do the math, you’ll see one of my OCD tendencies.
** OK, that’s an exaggeration. There are lots of things that make me happier, but a well-chopped carrot is quite satisfying.
*** Just food! Nothing else (sadly).
(click for printable recipe)
1 ½ c all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
2-3 tsp dried parsley
1 egg, beaten
1/3 c milk or half & half
8 oz bacon, diced into bits
1-3 lbs potato, cut into ½” cubes
1 leek, diced
3 green onions, diced
1 head roasted garlic, skins removed
1/3 c all-purpose flour
4 c chicken stock or water
3 c milk or half & half
1 batch knoephla dumplings
2-3 tsp dried parsley
salt & pepper to taste
Prepare garlic: See linked recipes for my preferred method. If you don’t feel like waiting for roasted garlic, substitute 3 cloves of garlic, minced.
Prepare knoephla1: Combine flour, salt and parsley in a medium-size bowl and mix. Combine egg and milk in a measuring cup and beat lightly to mix. Add egg/milk mixture to dry ingredients and mix. Turn the dough out and knead until it comes together in a smooth ball, ~ 5 minutes. Let the dough rest for ~5 minutes and then roll it out on a lightly floured surface to ¼” thickness and cut into preferred dumpling shape. Separate dumplings so sides no longer touch and allow to rest while preparing the soup.
Prepare soup2: Heat a heavy-bottomed pot over medium high heat. Add bacon and cook until crispy and all the fat has rendered. Remove bacon from pot to drain on paper towel and add potatoes. Cook for ~10 minutes on medium heat or until potatoes are slightly tender, stirring occasionally.
Add leeks, green onions and roasted garlic, cook for another ~3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until leeks and onions are tender and garlic has dissolved into the mix. Sprinkle flour over vegetables and cook for ~2 minutes, stirring constantly.
Add chicken broth and turn heat up to medium high, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen the stuck bits. Bring soup to a low boil, add dumplings a few at a time, stirring in between to make sure they do not stick to each other. Cover soup, reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 5-10 minutes. Add milk and cook for another 5 minutes or until soup thickens. Add the parsley and return the bacon bits to the pot. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.
1 Please note that this dough is very stiff – it’s really more of a noodle than a dumpling. The dough will not form into a ball with mixing, so just turn it out onto the counter once the liquid is incorporated and knead until it comes together. Because the dough is so stiff, rolling it out takes a serious effort as well. Feel free to really lean on it. If you want softer dough, add more liquid, but keep in mind that the texture will change and you may not get the chewy goodness of the stiffer dough.
2 You really need to use a pot with a heavy bottom. After adding the flour to the vegetables, a wonderful brown crust will be developing on the bottom of the pot – this is a good thing! A thin pot could cause scorching during this step if not watched very carefully.