Soup Swap 2019

Soup Swap 2019 has come and gone.  I’m currently unable to find online evidence but I think I attended my first swap in 2008.  Holy cow!

I haven’t managed to go every year but I’ve been to a lot of them.  And I think there was a year or two where there was no swapping to be had because the host was working on a master’s degree.  

This is the earliest mention on this blog that I could find:

https://awesomesauceeats.wordpress.com/2009/01/28/chinese-black-sesame-soup-dessert-soup/

 

But I know the first thing I ever made for Soup Swan was French onion soup.  I remember crying through 5 pounds of onions and vowed “never again!”

For those not in the know, Soup Swap is a gathering to boost our spirits in the heart of the winter season. All of the attendees bring six quart-sized containers filled with a frozen homemade soup/stew of their choice. If you’re really ambitions, you can bring twelve quarts and secure yourself two picks per round.  All of the soups are lumped together in a spot in the room. Attendees pick out a random number, and proceed, in their numbered order, to explain what they brought in. The dear host likes to call this the “Telling of the Soup.” You can also win bragging rights for best telling.  Once the telling completed, the guests then take turns, in same numbered order, picking out a new soup container to bring home. To be fair, the dear host likes to run backwards during the last two rounds. So, you bring over six quarts of your soup, and you bring home six quarts of someone else’s soup.  It gets a bit competitive and a lot of strategic after the first round because there’s usually 12-14 flavors available, only 6 quarts per flavor, and some flavors are extremely popular.

And true story, I’ve been enough times to soup swap that I printed out my own inventory sheet this year.

I am proud to announce that this was the very first year where I got ALL THE FLAVORS I WANTED!  This was probably definitely only made possible by my severe dislike for cilantro. (A couple of the very popular flavors had cilantro in the ingredient list.)

This year, I made a pumpkin curry soup with black beans.

And here were my “winnings.”

 

I’ve had the Green Monster and the Porq-ue soups so far.  Tonight, I’ll be having the Eatin’ Big Time. I can’t wait.  🙂

If you want to make the pumpkin curry soup that I did, it’s a Libby’s Pumpkin recipe.  The only difference was that I added canned black beans, rinsed and drained, at the end of cooking.  If you want to make six quarts of it, just multiple the recipe by 3.  I will say that I think your results will heavily depend on the quality of your spices.  I am personally fond of Penzey’s house curry blend.

https://www.verybestbaking.com/recipes/28476/pumpkin-curry-soup/?recipeSortBy=Relevancy&keywords=pumpkin+soup

https://www.penzeys.com/online-catalog/penzeys-curry/c-24/p-3037/pd-s

that zucchini and pasta recipe, a Kitchen Conclusion

I did a silly thing.

I kept coming across Meghan Markle’s “zucchini bolognese” recipe on the internet recently.  To the point where I saw the Buzzfeed follow up on it, and was just like “EFF IT.  I’M TRYING IT MYSELF.”

I kept pretty close to the original recipe as posted by Delish, with the only change being a swap for Parmesan cheese with Grana Padano cheese, because it’s cheaper per pound and good enough for me.  (I’m a plebeian who sometimes prefers to be thrifty over being cultured.  Sorry not sorry.)   Oh, and one tiny eggplant found its way into the recipe because it was in my fridge and about a sneeze away from going bad (that’s a unit of measuring time, right?).  These aren’t huge changes in my opinion, but I’m sure someone out there is more than happy to disagree with me.  Anyway…

My personal experience:

  • It’s easy to make.
  • With a tightly fitting dutch oven, it’s hard to burn.  A good amount of liquid exuded from the veggies.  (FYI, I used my 5.5 quart Le Creuset.)
  • It makes a lot, and is a great make-ahead option.
  • There is so much raw zucchini going in that I would not feel comfortable doubling this recipe unless I had access to a really large soup pot.

As for my feelings after cooking and upon consumption, the sauce was kind of “meh” to be honest.  It’s just good enough.  I certainly wasn’t impressed.  If I were to make it again in the future, I’d want to make changes.  Adding herbs is the first thing I can think of.  With some of my leftover sauce, I added fresh basil and marjoram.  Slightly better than without but not quite what I wanted.  Using dried herbs during the long cooking process might make the better choice.  And I’m half wondering what it would have been like had I added some ricotta just for extra depth and texture.

So, am I making this again?  Probably not.  Or at least not the printed version of the recipe.  I’m not against nor above altering it, sticking it in the slow cooker, and declaring it a great summer recipe.  (So that might happen in the future.  Maybe.  A very strong maybe.)

Reference Links:

https://www.delish.com/cooking/recipes/a58228/zucchini-bolognese-recipe/

https://www.buzzfeed.com/michelleno/meghan-markle-zucchini-bolognese-recipe-real-life-test?utm_term=.uyz5Lr3vM#.bddQyl9qO

Previous Kitchen Conclusion Post:

https://awesomesauceeats.wordpress.com/2018/01/13/cardamom-and-loaf-pans-a-kitchen-conclusion/

Sometimes, it’s ok to call it quits

In a perfect world, I’d be experimenting with sourdough breads regularly.  I’d create boules of beauty, and share them with friends and family.

However, this isn’t a perfect world.  A handful of close friends are gluten free.  I rarely get to share the things I cook and bake because I’ve messed something up just enough that it doesn’t feel fit for sharing, or I’m just make enough food for myself for the week.  At the end of the day, I’m just feeding myself.

I do make bread on occasion.  I even had a rye sourdough starter going for over a year.  But those two statements?  Rarely done at the same time.  When I make bread, it’s usually with SAF instant.  When I was maintaining my sourdough starter, I was just finding ways to cook the discarded starter.  I was almost never making proper bread with my starter.  It even got to a point where I forgot I had a starter hanging out in my fridge.  I literally did not notice it in my fridge until about two months after its last feeding.

Even then (!!!), it took me a couple of weeks to finally toss it in the trash.  Some part of me hated feeling like I was giving up on a project.  But logically, it didn’t make sense to try again.  More so, because I have a place in a 10 minute walk away that does a wonderful sourdough.  I’ve started going there a bit more frequently because I absolutely love their sourdough pizzas, but you can pick up bread to take home.  I can spend 2-3 days making sourdough bread on my own, or I can spend $4 – $7 at my local restaurant.

It will do me more good than harm to recognize what I am willing and not willing to do.  If I didn’t live so close to awesome bread, I’d probably feel differently about this.  Or if I had a large family to feed, which I don’t.

But you know what they say: when one door closes, another opens.

Meal prep kit from bfresh

Two posts in one week?  After weeks of nothing?  Yeah, I know.  My posting is inconsistent.  What can I say?  I need to feel inspired.

And inspired is definitely the right word here.  I hadn’t planned on doing another meal prep kit post so soon.  However, a new market opened in Davis Square/Somerville called bfresh last Friday.  There are bfresh stores in Allston and Brighton, which I’ve never been to, but I’ve heard that Somerville is their largest location to date.  I was unsure what to expect other than something that would fit the lifestyle of busy urban dwellers.

Quick review of the market – it’s smart looking.  The price tags on many of the shelves were digital.  It’s bright and small, but probably carries a little bit of everything.  Prices were average.  Some items were expensive.  For example, I saw a package of tempeh for about $5.  I usually pay just $3.  There was onigiri!  At $5 a pop.  But I bought a bottle of coconut aminos because it was a $1 less than what I saw while shopping recently.

They have an app to get coupons and I’m not impressed so far.  There were about 6 coupons available, and I only tried to use one.  My one coupon didn’t apply for some reason when I checked out.  Also, their website said something about getting free shopping bag when you download the app and I didn’t see any coupons in the app for said shopping bag.

I’m not sure if I missed something somewhere, or they just aren’t on top of their communications game.

I was also unimpressed that for a market that has literally only been open for a handful of days, there might be some mislabeled prices already.  My coconut aminos checked out fine, but the meal kit I bought was a $1 more than I thought it was.  I could have sworn that all meal kits were $13.  (Ok, technically $12.99 but I always round up that one silly penny.)

Having said all that, bfresh’s strongest points are their ready made items, their cheese selection, and their bulk selection.  And price annoyance aside, I was there primarily for their meal kits.

(Yeah, that price tag under gnocchi kit looks like it says $12.99.  My receipt, though, shows $13.99.  And I really wasn’t about to turn around and head back into a fairly bustling market to argue over my receipt.)

I didn’t even realize that they were selling ready to go meal kits until a friend of my commented on it recently.  There were about 6 different recipes to choose from – pizza, lemon cod, salmon, sweet potato gnocchi, steak tips, and I think one with turkey.  All of the kits are 2 servings.  These kits don’t claim to be 30 minutes of activity like many other meal kits out there, although most of them probably don’t take too long.

I’m masochistic and picked the sweet potato gnocchi to experiment.  This kit took me almost 2 hours to make, because roasting the gigantic sweet potato in my kit took about an hour in the oven.  I made the sauce easily enough, but the gnocchi making took me more  time than I had expected.  I’ve never made ricotta gnocchi before, and it was quite the sticky mess.

Overall impression of the kit?  Everything seemed pretty fresh.  The spinach in my kit hardly had any bad/slimy bits.  There was less packaging than the ready to go Purple Carrot kit I previously bought.  (Or at least that’s how it felt as I carried it home.)  The only potential downside is that you have to be somewhat comfortable with cooking and ingredients in general.  The recipe card isn’t full of photos.  The packaged ingredients had no labels.  But for me, I was still impressed.

Now, remember how I called the Purple Carrot recipe card mildly cheap in my previous post?  It’s because the bfresh recipe card is seems expensive by comparison.  It’s laminated and shows the full ingredient list up front.

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Shiny laminated card is shiny

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OH HEYYYYY!  I JUST REALIZED THAT THE ESTIMATED COOKING TIME IS UNDER THE INGREDIENT LIST!

Anyway.

The recipe came out fine.  I wish there were a bit more flavoring in it though.  But that might be because, after all these years, I’m still not fond of goat cheese.

Yes, you read that right.  The woman who’s not fond of goat cheese intentionally bought a meal kit with goat cheese in it.  I should have subbed it out, but I thought that if I just didn’t use the full amount that I’d be ok.  So, that’s just me being ridiculous and no fault of the meal kit.

I am sorely tempted to try every flavor of the meal kits.  And since it’s affordable compared to shipped meal kits, I may just do so.

(Here, have another badly lit photo.)

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My gnocchi are… rustic

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Reference Links:

http://www.cambridgeday.com/2017/02/06/davis-square-grocery-eyes-feb-24-opening-testing-bfresh-concept-for-regional-growth/

http://somerville.wickedlocal.com/news/20170227/ribbon-cut-for-bfresh-market-in-davis-square

http://bfresh.com/

Meal prep kit from Purple Carrot and Whole Foods

I heard about Purple Carrot, the vegan meal prep kit, when Mark Bittman left the New York Times to work for them.

I kept my eye on their recipes, but I generally found that I was only interested in *maybe* one recipe a week.  But my interest in Purple Carrot rose when it was announced that they were partnering with Whole Foods in Massachusetts for meal prep kits available in stores.  It was rolled out in Dedham first (I think… or was it Danvers?) which was nowhere near me.  Then last week, a few more stores were announced including the Whole Foods at Alewife/Cambridge.  Finally!  A location that I could get to a little more easily.

So I went on Sunday.  My choices were:

  • a cauliflower/beets/green beans with orange sauce
  • a pesto pasta with brussels sprouts
  • a tofu dish that I would have gotten if I weren’t mildly allergic to soy (sadly, I don’t remember which tofu recipe it was exactly)

I decided on the cauliflower/beets/green beans recipe because it wasn’t something that I’d normally picked from a cookbook.

In hindsight, I wish I had picked the pesto pasta.

Now, some quick disclaimers:

  • I am specifically commenting on the in-store pick up kit.  I have no experience with the online, full-service meal kits.
  • I was not paid to do this.  I paid for this out of pocket because I was really curious.
  • I am not vegan.  However, I think one can never had enough vegetable recipes in their repertoire.  (Maybe because I know it’s something I need to work on?)

Got it?  Good.

The cost was $20 for the kit (which like many kits is only 2 servings).  This seemed a little high to me since there are no at-home delivery costs.  My only consolation was that there was a $2 Whole Foods coupon on the box to encourage the sale of a new product.

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Ok let's try this

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Unboxing

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The kit I picked up had a moldy beet in it.  ONE MISERABLE MOLDY BEET.  The actual recipe on the website says 6oz of beets, and I’m pretty confident that one moldy beet (which was smaller than my fist) was not 6oz.  I tossed it.

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Well… that's disappointing

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Luckily, I had my own beets…

… which I proceeded to not even use out of laziness more than anything.

Then to add insult to injury, the mildly cheap looking instruction card mentioned parsley in the recipe.  There was no parsley in my kit, just a ton of thyme.  Said instruction card also did not have an ingredient list.  I was just smart enough to google it (which I will link to at the bottom on this post).

Overall impression of the recipe?  Tasty but required too much equipment for a meal prep kit.  Technically, it needed a pan to roast the cauliflower, a pot to boil the beets, and a pan to cook the beans.  Oh, and a small pot for the sauce.

I liked the sauce better than I want to admit.  The sauce was just orange juice, water, cornstarch, brown sugar, and ketchup.  I think that it’s the addition of ketchup rubs me the wrong way.  At any rate, I have more sauce than I need for the cauliflower and the green beans so I’m going to serve with with some baked pieces of chicken.

I am aware that adding chicken will void the vegan-ness of the meal.

Maybe I’ll even throw in the beets by then.

Will I try this again?  Well, I’ll be open minded about it but it’s not the only game in town.**

Oh!  And, fair warning, you might want to measure the ingredients against the original published recipes.  The meal kit gave me almost twice the amount of apple cider vinegar than I needed.

Reference Links:

https://www.purplecarrot.com/plant-based-recipes/cauliflower-l-orange-with-beets-and-fresh-herbs

https://www.purplecarrot.com/plant-based-recipes/kale-pesto-cavatelli-with-crispy-brussels-and-sundried-tomatoes

** = hint, hint… I have another meal prep kit post coming.  Maybe as soon as tomorrow.

Soup Swap 2017

I haven’t been to a soup swap in a couple of years because I got distracted by other things that required a lot of my time.

This year my schedule opened up unexpectedly and the swap was a couple of weeks later than usual, which meant that I had the time to prepare.

My contribution this year was a butternut squash/white bean/ras el hanout soup.  Even though I tried to bribe people with little bags of rye sourdough starter and kombucha SCOBYs, I don’t think anyone took my soup until round 3 or 4.  (There are 6 rounds total.)  Was it my “sales pitch”?  Was it because the soup was vegan?  Or was it because no one knew what ras el hanout was?  It’s always hard to determine what will be popular.   I did have extra starter and SCOBY on hand, and the recipients of the extras were quite happy to have them.  So, that’s still something.

This year’s first-to-sell-out was a cassoulet, and then a beef bourguignon with spätzle.  I took neither because there were other things that I didn’t want to risk losing out on.

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Let the games begin!

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Scribbles

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Soups that I took home that are not pictured: Vegetarian onion-pho, tomato and avocado, tortellini and chickpea, and parsnip and pear.

Overall, I’m pretty happy with what I took home.  (^_^)b

Cook Korean, a cookbook review

Cook Korean, A Comic Book with Recipes by Robin Ha, has to be the only cookbook on my shelf that I wanted purely for visual reasons.

Oh, wait.  I just remembered that I have Modernist Cuisine at Home.  Oops.

Ok, it’s the second cooking I’ve ever wanted just for the pretty.  lol!

Anyway, the book is focused on Korean home cooking.  Nothing looks terribly intimidating, and there’s a good variety recipes.  There’s a fairly typical looking recipe for easy kimchi (mak kimchi).  But then, I was surprised to see chayote pickle (chayote jangachi) a few pages later.  Chayote is one of my favorite vegetables, and I have never thought to swap it with another vegetable in a Korean recipe before.

Some recipes that I don’t think are in my other books are:

Acorn jelly salad (dotorimuk)
Braised daiko with saury (mu kkongchi jorim)
Seaweed soup with beef (sogogi miyeokguk)
Hand-pulled dough soup with potatoes (gamja sujebi)

A lot of the fun, though, is in the illustrations.  They are ridiculously cute.

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You can find a video preview of the cookbook I made here:

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Whee!

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Anyway, I tried my hand at one of the recipes.  I decided to go easy since I didn’t really have time to spend at the grocery store.  In this case, I went with the book’s steamed Asian eggplant (gaji namul) recipe.  The only major substitution I made was to use small hot house eggplants than Asian eggplants.  (Again, this was due to time constraints.)  I even used some of the sauce as a dumpling dipping sauce.

Overall, I really liked this recipe.  I also liked the simplicity of the sauce.  I’ve made other sauces from Asian cookbooks, like Momofuku’s octo vinaigrette, but the combination of flavor and ease of this one might very well make it my favorite.  

I eventually modified the recipe to cut out the sugar.  It wasn’t a lot of sugar to begin with, but I still preferred to swap it out.

 

All-purpose Asian dipping sauce (good for dumplings and vegetables)

– freshly grated ginger to taste
– one part sesame oil
– one part mirin
– two parts soy sauce
– small handful of chopped scallions (optional)

Whisk everything together, and use however you wish!

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(There’s no way to make steamed eggplants look fabulous. *sigh*)

Overall cookbook impression?  I love it!  Obviously, you can’t fully judge a book based on visuals and on one recipe, but I’d be more than happy to cook from it over and over again.

 

Disclaimer – I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.  I’m not getting paid for this post.  But for the record, I had been planning on buying this book long before.  I’m a sucker for cute things.