Roasted Vegetable and Chicken Soup

Eating seasonal can be a drag in the winter. Much as I love the roots, potatoes and carrots (with the occasional golden beets or frozen zucchini) can get a bit hum-drum. Thank goodness for chicken soup though. There are so many ways to change it up and it’s a fantastic mid-week meal after a hearty roasted chicken Sunday dinner. So here’s my latest winter creation and recipe:

Image

Not much to look at, but oh so tasty.

Roasted Vegetable and Chicken Soup

Ingredients:

Chicken carcass or leftover cooked, bone-in pieces
Drippings from Sunday dinner (These can be skimmed off the top later if you prefer a less oil soup, but provide a great base for the broth.)
Black Pepper, Salt, Rosemary, Thyme, Sage, Basil (to taste)
2 tbsp. Soy sauce
3 Medium Red Potatoes
6-8 Carrots
2 Medium Yellow Onions

Process:

1.) Fill soup pot with water and pop in the carcass. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to simmer for two or three hours. (Or longer if you like. No harm in it.)

2.) Preheat oven to 425. Remove carcass from pot and allow to cool while you chop potatoes and carrots into chunky cubes and slices. Slice onions into thin rounds. Toss all vegetables in a large baking pan with olive oil and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally for more even browning.

3.) While vegetables bake, pull off any chicken that has not fallen from the bones and return meat to soup.

4.) When vegetables finish, add to the pot and serve.

For some variation, top with parmesan or asiago cheese. The soup could also take another starch, like Great Northern Beans or barley or some egg noodles. I may also try adding just a little bit of a kick next time with some red pepper.

Enjoy!

For the Love of Beets

I don’t actually love eating beets. They taste pungent, earthy, and sticky-sweet to me. But they’re beautiful. It’s hard to resist their deep purple hue, their pinkish stems, or the summer-green of their leaves. So when four hearty beets turned up in my CSA share from Alstede Farms this week, I had to give them another shot.

Roasting the beets with asparagus, another co-op treat, and a leftover winter onion mellowed the flavor and allowed me to take advantage of Alstede’s oregano and thyme as well as some dried rosemary I’ve been itching to use. I also sautéed scallions, spinach, and arugula (would you believe all of that was in my little half-share?) just before pulling my veggies out of the oven. I layered the greens, asparagus, onions, and beets over brown rice and served it up with a simple salad, which allowed me to finish off last week’s lettuce and radishes, as well as the carrot my roommate bequeathed to me last month.

Well, hello summer vegetables.

Summer harvest...

Arugula, spinach, and scallions. In hindsight, I might have added in the beet greens as well.

The eating of the greens.

Some resilient rhododendron blooms, care of one Gloversville green thumb.

Return of the Lorax

Graduate school is fantastic, but it’s admittedly taking a toll on certain parts of my life.  Like this blog.  And my eating habits. (When was the last time I spent more than ten minutes cooking?)  And, unfortunately, it’s impacting the endearingly hippie-environmental-Lorax-esque lifestyle I’ve tried to adhere to over the last couple of years.  I’m finding it harder and harder to be conscious about the amount of water I’m using, whether or not I’ve remembered my reusable bags, and just how much packaging goes into a cereal box.  And no, reading hundreds of pages and writing thousands of words a week does not excuse me.  

Thankfully, I have friends who remind me what is important.  Over an amazing brunch this past Sunday (at the fabulous Betty’s in Buffalo, NY), a couple of college friends, K. and L., pointed me to some of their own efforts to work for social and environmental justice in small, but meaningful ways.  K. enthusiastically told me about her latest purchase–a toothbrush from Preserve, a company that reuses #5 plastics to make household items.  Best part is that when you’re done with the toothbrush or whatever you’ve ordered from them, you can recycle it again.  Brilliant, right?   And L. pointed me to Better World Shopper, an easy to use and surprisingly thorough website that ranks companies based on their advocacy, or lack thereof, for human rights, the environment, animal protection, community involvement and social justice.  There are rankings in just about every category you could wish for–everything from cleaning products and clothing to mobile phones and automobiles.

So in an effort to put some of that information to good use, I looked up a couple of the products I needed in the bathroom–a razor and a toothbrush.  Turns out that K. was way ahead of me here.  Preserve was right at the top of the list for these toiletries and, by a stroke of good fortune, the local Whole Foods carries their products.  (Whole Foods got an “A” from Better World Shopper as well.)  It was most satisfying to have the cashier slip those necessities into my reusable bag (which I did remember this time) as I checked out of the store.

To be fair, I still have a ways to go in being more intentional about caring for the environment and for the community I live in.  Let’s face it, cultivating a greater degree of selflessness is difficult.  But this was a small step in the right direction.

And the green grass grows all around, all around

I spent most of last week around green and growing things, working side by side with a lot of people who make it possible for those things to be green and growing…and not brown and dead.  I’m not much of a farmer and I’ve definitely inherited my mother’s black thumb when it comes to indoor plants.  To date, I’ve offed one Norfolk Island pine (lovingly called Felix), an oregano plant, three pots of chives and an attempt at cilantro.  A certain aloe plant is only hanging on because it thrives on neglect.

Strange thing is, I love to be around things that are growing.  I would even go so far as to say that I need to be near green plants.  There is something about dirt and roots and leaves and tentative blossoms that is just astonishing.  And the chance to have a very small part in helping things grow is awe-inspiring and deeply refreshing to my soul.  I can’t quite put my finger on why I find weeding or wielding a scuffle hoe quite so amazing, but I have a couple of guesses.

One thought is that productivity is essential to my sanity and well-being.  Not productivity in the post-Industrial Revolution sense in which a human being is reduced to a machine and expected to work 2000+ hours a year.  And enjoy it.  I don’t think that’s particularly satisfying, but I also don’t like being a lump in a desk chair and, to be honest, that is increasingly what I feel like lately.  I’m much more interested in the chance to produce, that is, to put things together and bring forth something worthwhile.  I think the knowledge that I was producing better growing conditions for a few beans and onions and melons this week satisfied that need.

Another idea is that I get a kick out of being a part of creating, of bringing something into existence.  I could give you a whole theological discourse on why I think that’s true, but not now.  I think it’s enough to say that plants are, if nothing else, a stunning view of creativity.  Not to exaggerate, but those first green shoots that emerge from freshly turned earth could give Caravaggio a run for his money.  They’re a beautiful example of nearly nothing becoming something.

Now, I know there’s all sorts of chemical processes involved and a very scientific explanation for how a bean seed becomes a bean stalk then becomes more and more beans.  I’m sure there’s also some scientific explanation for a chemical process that produces my sense of satisfaction when I’m gardening.

I’m just not that interested in chemical processes.  Like any good postmodern gal, I’m content with my own experiences of producing and creating life in the fields this week and I’ll continue to enjoy the sight of that green grass growing all around.  So long as it doesn’t choose to grow too, too close to the onions…