Saturday, December 5, 2009

"never such a blizzard before"

the food: Vegetable Soup
the song: "Baby It's Cold Outside"

The holiday season is always the time I most enjoy working in a school. There is so much excitement in the air, with none of the cynicism or stress that adults (me included) so often associate with this time of year. I sometimes am a little overwhelmed with my job; working every day with twelve children under 3 years old is not only physically tiring, it also requires a lot of emotional and mental energy. But during the holidays, I feel lucky to be around so much wonder and anticipation, and it gives the long days at school a little shimmer.

And Friday- in Austin Texas- we had snow. Most of the kids in my class have never seen snow. It started up a little after lunchtime and was signaled by squeals and cheers from the older classes across the courtyard. Watching those children giggling wildly, trying to catch flakes on their tongues and I hardly noticed that it was hardly snowing. Nothing stuck and it lasted for maybe twenty minutes. But there was so much excitement, even after the sun came out. I got to enjoy the snow so much more, thanks to the kiddos at school.

On a cold and sort of snowy day, I was pretty excited to have vegetable soup leftovers for lunch. I made it a few nights ago, and it was only better today after the flavors had time to really seep together. Now, I realize there's no real recipe for vegetable soup. I make it a little different every time. Sometimes I'll throw in a handful of pasta or quinoa. This time I tossed in a third of a bag of lentils that had been in my pantry for a few months. Anything goes with soup- the recipe should really just read Chop, Saute, Simmer, and Season. Serve with crusty bread, homemade biscuits, or (like I did for lunch today) crackers.

Vegetable Soup

3 cups low-sodium vegetable broth + 3 cups water (
use whatever combo you like to make 6 cups of liquid- this is the one that works for me.)
Lots of your favorite chopped vegetables- this time I used:
2 carrots
1/2 white onion
a few green onions
3 cloves garlic
1 squash
1/2 green bell pepper
6 cremini mushrooms
1 can of fire roasted diced tomatoes
handful of fresh or frozen corn
can of kidney beans
bay leaf
olive oil or butter
white or red wine OR beer
handful of fresh herbs (I used oregano, spicy Thai basil, and rosemary)
salt & pepper
cracked red pepper (to taste)

In a large pot, saute onions & bell pepper in olive oil (or butter). Cook for a few minutes, then splash in some wine or beer. Add the rest of the chopped vegetables and garlic. When vegetables are coated in olive oil and getting a little soft, add vegetable stock, bay leaf, herbs and as much red pepper flakes as you like (I do a few generous shakes). Add fire roasted diced tomatoes and juices. Simmer for about half an hour, or until vegetables are getting soft and flavors have time to mingle. Add the kidney beans and corn during the last five minutes of cooking. Salt and pepper to taste. Top with parmesan, if you like.
Now about the song choice. I'm not a fan of holiday songs...and in all honesty I'm not a big fan of cold weather. But I adore this song. It's one of those things (like the kids in the snow) that sneaks up on me and make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Plus (unlike the kids in the snow) this song talks about booze, so of course I like it. According to Wikipedia, we have Frank Loesser to thank for this little ditty, all the way back in 1949. Who knew people were allowed to say "your lips look delicious" back in the forties? There are hundreds of versions of this song, but I will suggest three of my favorite versions to help you stay warm:


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