Truth: Soup season is OVER.
I crave a steaming bowl of soup when there’s a chill in the air. A pot of soup bubbling on the stove goes with with a fire in the fireplace and slippers on my feet. Those days are gone now, (at least until September). With sun on my skin and bare feet, it’s been all about the grill lately- which is why it took me a week to get around to trying a new recipe I tore out of Cooking Light. A recipe for SOUP.
Something about the Chicken Noodle Bowl seemed fresh and light. This wasn’t stick-to-your-ribs kind of soup. It sounded warm weather-appropriate. Last week, we gave the grill a break. I added more veggies to the pile of ingredients called for in the recipe and dove right in!
First, I got some brown rice spaghetti noodles going on the stove. Next, I chopped up garlic, ginger, red onion, red bell pepper, yellow bell pepper, sugar snap peas, and two kinds of mushrooms. Ginger makes any recipe taste fresh, doesn’t it? Yum!
Next, I drained the pasta and set it aside. I chopped up one big chicken breast, seasoned it with some garlic salt, and browned it in a little olive oil on the stove. The late afternoon light made the trees glow.
The chicken came out and half of the onion went in, along with MANY shakes of crushed red pepper. After a couple of minutes, I added half of the ginger and garlic and let it all soak up some of the chicken flavor in the pan.
It was time to add some liquids and make this a soup! First came some chicken stock, then some water. On a whim, I poured in the rest of my glass of wine. I scraped the browned bits of yummy off of the bottom of the pan, put a lid on it, and let it simmer away for 15 minutes or so.
I poured some sesame oil in a small soup pot and let it warm up. Do you cook with sesame oil? It’s got a serious nutty flavor that goes well in Asian cooking. I added the rest of the onion, the bell peppers, and the mushrooms and sautéed them for awhile (seasoning with garlic salt). Once the mushrooms had softened and cooked down a tad, I added the rest of the garlic and ginger. Between the stock on the stove and the veggies sautéing away, the kitchen smelled heavenly!
I chopped up some green onion and set it aside. It was time to add the liquids to the veggies, so I placed a strainer over the soup pot and poured it right in.
Just a few more additions! A tablespoon of sugar, a tablespoon of soy sauce, and the chicken. Right before serving time, I stirred in the sugar snap peas and some of the green onions. I didn’t let them cook too long so they’d keep some of their CRUNCH.
To serve, I placed some noodles in the bottom of the bowls and ladled the soup right over them. Some green onion for garnish, a shake of sesame seeds- SOUP’S ON!
For a brothy soup, the Asian Chicken Noodle Bowl is super filling. The extra veggies added texture and tasted fresh, brightened up by the ginger-garlic flavor. I swirled some Sriracha sauce into my bowl for even more heat. Scrumptious! John’s the one who said that we should eat this soup all year long- it was light enough for a summer day.
And that’s a good thing. Because the big sun is here to stay- and there are plenty of leftovers. Maybe soup season ISN’T over, after all.
Asian Chicken Noodle Bowl (adapted slightly from Cooking Light)
- 5 ounces skinny pasta (spaghetti or linguine)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large chicken breast, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1 small red onion, chopped
- 2 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons garlic, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 3 cups chicken stock
- 1 ½ cups water
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 ½ cups sliced mushrooms (I used Italian brown and shiitake)
- ¼ cup sliced red bell pepper
- ¼ cup sliced yellow bell pepper
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- ¾ cup sugar snap peas, cut diagonally in half
- 3 green onions, chopped
- Garlic salt to taste
- Sesame seeds for garnish
Cook pasta according to package directions. Set aside.
Heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil; swirl to coat. Add chicken and sauté until browned. Remove and set aside.
Return pan to medium high heat. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add half of the onion, then half of the ginger and half of the garlic. Add crushed red pepper and a little garlic salt. Cook for a few minutes, then add the chicken stock, water, and wine. Bring to a boil, scraping the pan for the browned bits. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
Heat sesame oil in a small soup pot over medium high heat. Add remaining onion, mushrooms, and bell peppers. Sauté for five minutes. Add remaining ginger and garlic, and sauté for a couple of minutes. Through a strainer placed on the soup pot, pour the liquid over the veggies. Discard the solids in the strainer. Add the chicken, soy sauce, and sugar to the soup. Taste and adjust seasonings.
Stir in sugar snap peas and most of the green onion. Cook for 3 minutes. To serve, place pasta noodles in a bowl and ladle soup over them. Garnish with green onions and sesame seeds. Serve any time of year. It’s always soup season. YUM!
**Check out the FOOD BLISS link above for all of my culinary adventures (and a list of recipes)!**
Does it seem like I’m always on the go? Sometimes it feels that way to me. As much as I love HOME, I have a bit of a restless spirit. And guess what? I’m off to ramble a little more.
I’m Colorado-bound again! Cholula will sit shotgun. John’s meeting us there for some time with family, friends, and fun in the San Juan Mountains. This time of year is basically perfect in Durango. Yahoo!!
I’ll be checking in every couple of days, instead of my usual radio-silence. If you’ve got the itch to wander like I do this time of year, click on the Travel Bug link above. It’s got something like 40 links to the different adventures we’ve enjoyed over the last handful of years. Even if you can’t hit the road today, you can escape for a while… and, hopefully, be inspired for YOUR next trip!
Follow me on Instagram (@mrshowiepc) for bits of the trip along the way (#COroadtripbliss). Have a bliss-y week!
“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” – Ernest Hemingway
It’s BLISS BITS Wednesday!
The hardest part of today? Choosing which happy photos from this week to share with you. I’m feeling particularly blissful lately! There is so much to be grateful for in every little thing. Take a peek at some of my itty bitty joys.
Puppy snuzzles never get old.
Wisdom in a magazine ad.
The squirrels have returned to the yard- and are torturing Cholula.
A portrait of John on skis by his nephew. Sweet hair!
Fabulous art arrived!
There are a lot of hikes happening these days.
Watching a storm roll in.
Oven fries are perfect with grilled burgers!
I’ve been loving this purple bloom on the patio table.
An almost-engaged me and a teeny Cholula!
Vitamins, Chinese herbs, and supplements.
Crazy pink clouds on date night.
I had a LOT of fun with the new photo-edit app from A Beautiful Mess!
You can do all sorts of fun things with the app. I might be addicted.
A private moment with her beloved tennis ball.
Fluffy cloud view from the porch.
She’s smarter than we think.
We visited Cholula’s favorite pond for the first time this year!
She did a lot of this:
And some evidence that we MAY be responsible for spoiling our dog from the start:
I pulled this beautiful image from Pinterest. Live in the sunshine.
You know. Just the usual bliss.
**Follow me on Instagram (@mrshowiepc) for more bliss-y bits!**
When I woke up on Sunday, spring was here.
Not a teaser spring day with a snowstorm brewing. For real this time. Full of light, throw open the windows, bare feet in the grass- THAT kind of spring. It took longer to reach Park City than we were used to when we lived in Salt Lake. That might be why it felt like unwrapping a gift as I walked around our yard, greeting each happy plant and squinting a smile at the morning sun.
John made a scrumptious breakfast for us (new title: Hashbrown Champion). With his new job in full swing, we have started to truly cherish weekends again- a couple of big, wide open days together in a row. And this weekend? The theme was AL FRESCO. Whatever we were doing, we wanted to do it outside.
We lingered at the table on the back deck after breakfast, savoring the feeling of dining outdoors. With weather like this, our day was centered around the yard and garden. A trip to Home Depot for patio storage and tree-trimmers (I snagged myself a hummingbird feeder!). A drop-in at the local nursery to scope out front deck herb garden containers. Building patio furniture while Cholula napped offered moral support.
By the time dinner rolled around, we scrapped the Thai noodle bowl recipe I was going to try in favor of something- anything- on the grill. In honor of Mother’s Day, John made a delicious batch of Peep’s grilled chicken sandwiches. The sun melted into a watercolor painting in the sky. We filled and lit two gorgeous hurricane lamps that were a wedding gift from John’s Aunt BoBo, opened a nice bottle of wine, and clinked glasses to amazing mothers. There was a slight chill in the air after the sun went behind the hill, but just pulled on sweatshirts and dined by candlelight.
The best part?
When I woke up on Monday, spring was still here.
“You’re JUST like your mother.”
Don’t you feel like you’ve heard that line on TV or in movies a lot? It’s usually meant as a rolling-eyes insult of some kind, from a husband to a wife- and prompts steam to come out of the wife’s ears. The mother-daughter relationship is tricky. I’d bet that most women grow up thinking, “I’ll never be like her.” And then, one day, they’ll say or do something and stop short, realizing the inevitable has happened.
My mom grew up with two older brothers, which explains why she’s tough as nails. I never questioned the fact that if someone crossed me, she’d hunt them down- she told me as much. It took a long time and some adult years of my own under my belt to realize she’s really just a big softie (I’m onto you, Mom) with a fierce love for her kids. When we’re together, our family moves as a pack- a somewhat overwhelming freight train of games and laughter and food and drink and love. And, whether we realize it or not, my mom is responsible for it all. She’s absolutely the GLUE.
I always say I take after my Dad. It’s true- we’re alike in a lot of ways. But the truth is, I’m a lot like my mother, too. Last year, this is what I said on Mother’s Day: “We haven’t always gotten along. We had the typical torturous mother-daughter love/hate period in my early teens. I’m becoming more like her as I get older. If you told me that at 15, I would have thrown something at you, but I know now that I’ll be lucky to stay that course.” We were never mother-daughter buddies. She wasn’t my best friend- she was my MOM. I thought she was way too strict. EVERYTHING had to be a life lesson. She was always involved, whether it was as my girl scouts co-leader or driving a load of giggling girls to cheerleading camp. As an adult, I realize how lucky I was to have a loving, present mom.
There are so many parts of me that come from my mom, like my love for homey-camping and secret desire to have a farm full of animals (Dad is laughing). Here are a few things I’ve learned from my mom over the years.
Think of others before yourself. My mom is the ultimate hostess, the self-sacrificing mother, the endlessly supportive wife. She taught me through her actions that empathy for others is invaluable- to them, but also to ourselves.
Family is the most important thing. We are a family of traditions and memories and nostalgia. It’s torturous for my mom that her kids don’t live next door. Or in her guest room. And I’m not kidding: don’t hurt me. She’ll find you.
Fresh flowers are necessary. Whether it’s on her countertop at home or on her picnic table at a campsite, my mom is big on fresh cut flowers. Now I find myself always having colorful blooms in my own home, and the first thing I do at a new campsite is fill a tiny vase with wildflowers. Flowers feel like HOME to me.
Bring a camera with you. Everywhere. I take a lot of pictures. (Captain Obvious strikes again.) I keep a point-and-shoot camera in my purse. I’m the one people roll their eyes at when the camera comes out- and then thank later for documenting the event. My mom ALWAYS has a camera in my face- even before coffee- and because of that, we’ll have lots of memories to enjoy in years to come.
Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be happy. We aren’t the Brady Bunch. Things break. Wine gets spilled. Rolls get burned on holidays. Dads back into classic Porsches in the driveway with a dualie truck. Wedding rings end up in the concrete driveway while it’s being poured. We get frustrated with each other, but we never stop loving each other. And we have a lot of really good stories.
Wherever you are, make friends. My mom will literally walk up and start talking to anyone. In the time it might take me to go to the restroom, she’ll be talking to the couple at the next table about deer in her garden or something. More often than not, her kindness will result in a recommendation on what to order or the discovery of a mutual friend or an offer of season tickets to a Broncos game. Her confidence is inspiring, and the world is way too small not to be friendly.
Get dirty. Be silly. The best times are the ones when you have dirt on your face or smell like fish or make a fool of yourself playing charades after one glass of wine too many. Life should be FUN, which generally means the opposite of tidy.
I think the best thing about my mom is that in my 38 years of life, she’s never made me feel anything but capable, intelligent, and cherished. She’s absolutely my biggest cheerleader. I know I’m a bit of a mess, but to my mom, that mess is perfect. As John and I enter what we hope will be the parenthood part of our lives, I can already tell you what kind of mom I’ll be. I’ll be too strict. I’ll try hard to use experiences to teach my kids what kind of people to be. I’ll be involved in every activity, whatever they are. And if my kids don’t like it, I’ll just blame it all on Grandma.
One thing I know is that my kids will never, ever question their worth. They will know that they are loved.
In that way, I will be proud to be JUST like my mother.
Happy Mother’s Day to my Mama, and all of the Mamas out there!
Growing up in Southern California means my love for Mexican food is a given.
We lived in an area near groves of avocado trees, with stands by the side of the road selling them cheap. My mom would make simple, delish guacamole (that we kids wouldn’t eat- it was green and weird!). Chips and salsa graced every happy hour display, and remains one of my favorite snacks. Our babysitter and dear friend made tamales from scratch in big batches that filled our freezer. We drove across town to a restaurant called Dario’s fairly often for dinner, where I was a tamale or enchilada kind of girl. As I got older and braver, I started exploring new flavors on Mexican menus. Rich mole sauces. Cheesy stuffed rellenos. Chile verde. And a true favorite: pork carnitas.
In Spanish, “carne” means meat, and adding the “-ita” makes it little. LITTLE MEATS. How cute is that? Carnitas are a juicy, tender hunk of fall-apart pork. At a restaurant, it’s generally served on a plate with tortillas, pico de gallo, guacamole, maybe some rice and beans on the side. It shreds easily, and part of the fun is scooping your preferred accompaniments into a tortilla and constructing the perfect carnitas taco. It’s pretty likely that when John and I go out for Mexican food, ONE of us is going to order carnitas. Positively scrumptious.
I came across a recipe for carnitas right before I left for my weeklong California Adventure. Yum! I’d make a big batch of carnitas, make tasty tacos for our dinner, and pop the leftovers in the fridge for my temporary bachelor. (I didn’t realize at the time that it would be ALL he ate for a week, but whatever.) I was surprised at how few ingredients were needed- just the meat, some citrus, some seasonings, and onion.
I’d asked the butcher to cut the pork butt into chunks for me- the hard part was done for me! I heated up the oven and quartered the onion. The meat and the onion went into an oven-safe pot on the stove.
Next, I squeezed in the juice from an orange into the pot and tossed the peels right in, too. Some fresh lime juice followed, and then some water- enough to just about cover the meat. This was TOO EASY.
I tossed in a couple of bay leaves, and then some generous spoonfuls of cumin and oregano. I added a few shakes of crushed red pepper for heat, and some salt and black pepper. Guys, THAT’S IT.
Once all of the ingredients were in the pot, I turned on the heat to medium-high brought it to a simmer. Then I put the lid on the pot and transferred the whole shebang to the oven, where some magic happened for about two hours.
While the pot was in the oven, I started working on a spicy slaw to go in the tacos. I kept it pretty simple, using bagged coleslaw.
Equal parts mayo and sour cream, lots of spicy seasonings like chili powder, a little bit of lime juice, and plenty of Cholula. You know how we feel about Cholula around here!
After a couple of hours, it was time for the next step in the carnitas process. I brought the pot out of the oven and removed all of the meat with a slotted spoon, placing it on a baking sheet lined with tin foil.
Next, I removed the onion, oranges, and bay leaves from the pot. They’d done their duty. Only the juices remained. I boiled the juices on high heat while I took a fork and knife and gently pulled the chunks of carnitas apart- not fully shredding them, but creating smaller chunks. According to Cholula’s face, so far, so good.
The semi-shredded meat went back into the pot of juices, which had reduced into a thicker sauce. I stirred it all together into a juicy, meaty mess, then poured it all back onto the baking sheet. It went into the oven and broiled for a few minutes, getting crispy and browned. Cue drool.
While the carnitas were browning, I added the spicy sauce to the slaw and prepped some taco toppings- fresh tomatoes, cilantro, and big slices of creamy avocado.
When the carnitas were crispy-ish, I took them out of the oven. We made our tacos nice and fat, and served them alongside some tasty rice from the local Mexican market. Gorgeous!
The carnitas were beyond tender, and very juicy- but the little crunch from the crispy parts were the best. This recipe would be ideal to make for a big get together- a summertime carnitas party (margaritas required)! I’m not sure how John ate his carnitas leftovers, but it couldn’t have been better than in these tacos. I left for my trip the next morning, and I’m jealous that he got to eat them more than once.
I wonder how soon is too soon to make them again…
Pulled Pork Carnitas (from Barefeet in the Kitchen)
- 4 lbs boneless pork shoulder or butt, trimmed and cut into 2 inch cubes
- 1 onion, ends cut off, peeled and halved
- Juice of one orange (save the halves)
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- 2 cups water
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt
- ¾ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 generous teaspoon cumin (I probably used closer to a tablespoon)
- 1 generous teaspoon dried oregano
- Crushed red pepper to taste
Adjust rack to the lower middle of the oven. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Combine all of the ingredients (including orange halves) in an oven-safe pot with a lid. Bring the pot to a simmer over medium high heat, then move the pot to the oven and cook for two or more hours.
Remove the pot from the oven and switch the oven to broil. Use a slotted spoon or tongs to remove the meat from the pot and set on a baking sheet lined with foil. Remove and discard everything else in the pot, leaving only the liquid. Place the pot over high heat for 10-20 minutes. Boil until the liquid reduces and becomes syrupy, leaving about a cup of liquid in the pot.
While the liquid is reducing, use a pair of forks to gently pull each piece of pork apart into a few pieces. Once the liquid has reduced, place the pork back into the pot and gently mix the pork and juice together.
Transfer the coated pork back onto the baking sheet in one layer. Broil the meat in the oven for 6-8 minutes until it is browned and crispy. Serve immediately.
- 2 cups bagged coleslaw
- ¼ cup mayonnaise
- ¼ cup sour cream
- Tablespoon of Cholula
- Teaspoon each of chili powder and cumin
- Juice of one lime
- Garlic salt to taste
Combine all ingredients besides the slaw in a bowl; taste to adjust seasonings. Pour over the coleslaw and mix well. Serve inside the amazing carnitas tacos (or any taco). YUM!
**Check out the FOOD BLISS link above for more of my culinary adventures (and a list of recipes)!**
I love happy accidents.
You know, when you have a particular scenario in mind, but then something unexpected happens- and the situation turns out better than planned. That happened last July, when John and I tried to go on a hike but ended up rescuing a lost, injured dog. I continually surprise myself in the kitchen- the good stuff usually happens when I mess up and have to improvise. Even my marriage to John wasn’t in my “master plan” – but it’s absolutely where I’m meant to be. I’ve learned that if I keep an open mind to the possibilities in any given situation, I give myself the opportunity to be pleasantly surprised (instead of disappointed). Expectations decrease joy.
My day was wide open on Sunday. I recently designated Sundays as my day off from the blog, and John was out of town. The weather was decent, and Cholula was bored- we both needed fresh air and exercise. It was a day ripe for adventure. I didn’t exactly have a plan, so I packed the car with “just in case” items: a blanket, some hiking shoes, a few dog towels, warm layers, and a bag containing my new book and my camera. My trusty co-pilot is always up for anything.
As we left our neighborhood, I turned the car eastward. I had a blurry idea that mostly involved Mexican food and a margarita at Taramuhara in Midway- it was Cinco de Mayo, after all. Ahead of me, the snow-capped mountains tickled a huge blue sky. I sang along with the radio and hoped the weather would hold for at least an hour or two.
I saw a sign for a trailhead to Dutch Hollow, so I drove down the dirt road to check it out. Multiple mountain bikers and a few horse trailers confirmed that this was not the trail for us. I decided to see if the road that went over Guardsman Pass into Park City was open yet- maybe we’d find a sun-filled meadow, where I could read and throw the tennis ball for Cholula.
The gate was still padlocked for the season, so I decided to walk up the vehicle-free road for a while. There were a couple of cars parked there, but I didn’t see anyone at first. Then, I spotted a family and wagging dogs, ending a hike on a dirt trail off of the paved road. That’s where we wanted to be.
Green grass lined the trail, and new growth was sprouting all around us. Cholula’s nose went into overdrive. I stopped now and then to take photos of the springtime flowers or read one of the Wasatch Mountain State Park signs describing the native plants and trees. I had no idea where the trail would lead, but it was mostly shady and followed a trickling stream, so we kept going.
A kind woman named Chrissy passed by with an Australian Shepard fur-ball, stopping to chat while the dogs romped. She described her favorite loop to hike on this trail system before moving on. The sky was clear and blue, and Cholula waited patiently for her slow human to catch up. She led the way through grassy fields, over old wooden bridges, and through groves of trees just starting to display their green buds.
We followed Chrissy’s suggestion, stopping here and there for a rest or a sip from the stream. On the exposed back end of the loop, though the snowy peaks in the distance were shaded by thick clouds, I wondered if my sunscreen was working. By the time we passed through the locked gate again, a storm was brewing on all sides of us.
What a lucky day! We’d found a quiet, dog-friendly trail, met a woman who directed us toward our ideal hike, and enjoyed warm sunshine the whole time. I could swear that Cholula was smiling as we drove past a flock of llamas toward my intended lunch spot.
It was closed.
After such a lovely morning, I didn’t let this bump in the road ruin it. Instead, I stopped in to one of our favorite restaurants for a plate of Cinco de Mayo-worthy street tacos. They were Korean, but I figured they still counted. And they were scrumptious!
The storm held off just until we got inside the house. Cholula and I dozed on the couch, lulled by the pat-pitter-pat of the rain on the roof. Little happy accidents. Being open to whatever the day had in store resulted in more fun than I’d expected. The only thing missing was my husband.
Oh, and that post-hike margarita.
I’ll save that for my next unexpected adventure.
It’s BLISS BITS Wednesday!
As I sit at my desk, the patio door is open and the sweet song of some neighborhood birds is my soundtrack. Some days, every little thing makes you smile. Here are the little bits of happiness from the last week!
Now, on to the bits…
The springtime sky has been lovely lately.
Sweet Winnebago! Daydreaming about the season’s Betty adventures.
This 1961 ‘Vette sounded even better than it looked. **Swoon.**
Lemon zest made this pasta super fresh!
I was pretty excited about this braid.
Weather warm enough to kick it in the backyard!
I spy a beggar. (The ears get me every time.)
A hiking dog is a happy dog.
Hot hubby got to go zip-lining on his business trip!
Gluten-free brownies are healthy, right?
Teensy periwinkle flowers are everywhere right now.
Spring storm ahead.
It’s like “Where’s Waldo?”…but with Cholula. Do you see her?
View from my desk.
Prettied-up toes and bare legs! (I need a tan.)
Beautiful tulip petals.
Date night prep! So over the bangs…
Reason 894 why I love John: he sings along to YAZ.
I woke up to this today.
Morning coffee. Life is good.
You know. Just the usual bliss.
**Follow me on Instagram (@mrshowiepc) for more bliss-y bits!**