Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Hoppy Halloween Beer Cheese Soup

Okay I've been slacking lately. I'm a little behind on this blogging business. I've been creating lots of new recipes, but that takes less time than sitting down and actually typing them up. Also I've gotten pretty good at cooking with my babies in the kitchen. Blogging with the munchkins, not so much. It's almost exclusively a nap time activity.

This last week has been crazy and not so much in the good way. Katie got to make a surprise visit to urgent care after being pushed off her brother's bunk bed. I went with her to ensure I wasn't having a panic attack. PRAISE GOD she is okay! The threat of a concussion is so scary for little ones.

The only good part of that entire day was conversing with the doctor. You know how it is. Little people do crazy things. Talking to someone about such events who, a) don't have kids, or b) it's been a while for them, can be funny. I refuse to believe in the other mythological option, c) their children are absolute angels and never do anything wrong. Okay back on topic. The doctor was incredible. She also fell into the b category I think. At the beginning of the visit she asked me, "How did she get up on the bunk bed?" I took a moment to see if she was serious. She was. I replied quite eloquently, "Umm...she climbed up." Ha ha ha. Katie is almost two and a half. She's had that bunk bed mastered for a while now. The doctor then muttered something about how I should child proof the bunk bed and I giggled a little to myself.

About ten minutes into the appointment Katie climbed up onto the examination table, looked at me, and yelled, "JUMP KATIE!" I caught her and quickly told her how unsafe that was. I then turned and looked at the doctor who was laughing. I think she, at that point, had a better understanding of what I deal with on a daily basis. The doctor then said to Katie, "I think this might be the first of many visits like this to come." You are telling me!

So all this back story to tell you I've been a little off my game lately. Now you know. But...beer cheese soup is a good solution to all this don't you think? I don't know about you all, but in my world there are few things more decadent tasting than beer and cheese in soup form.

I swear I put my mood into my food too. Normally I like yummy chocolate stouts and porters when I have the occasional beer. I actually love to cook with beer more than I like drinking it. It's not that I don't enjoy beer. I just rarely can finish an entire beer. I love the heavy stuff, but it's just that. It's heavy. Call me lame. I'll take it. It's who I am and I'm okay with that. I almost always steer clear of IPAs however. I can't handle the bitter hoppiness of them. My sister-in-law Jessica claims that IPAs force you to use the taste buds that would never otherwise get use. This week was rough though so I wanted something with a bite to it.

I also love the black label, extra sharp, Tillamook cheddar. At first I thought I was going out of my mind with and Ipa and an extra sharp cheddar, but it worked out really well. You might already be able to tell that this soup isn't terribly good for you. Ignore that. It's delicious.

My garden is finally coming to it's last hurrah and I am now swimming in leeks. If you haven't ever used leeks before you are truly missing out. They have a very mild onion flavor, but what I love most is that they almost have a buttery flavor to them when cooked. You could omit them, but I think they help to balance out all the harsh flavors of the other ingredients.

Okay so starting with making the delicious roux. Roux is just a fancy word for melted butter and flour mixed together as a soup or gravy base. It helps thicken things. With this recipe I thicken twice. I think that makes it easier to adjust the consistency of your soup.

First lets melt that butter and throw all our chopped veggies in. Cook over medium heat for about five minutes. You want to make sure the leeks turn nice and bright green!

Now it's time to add your flour, salt ,and pepper. Mix it well and let it cook for about three minutes. Continue to stir the mixture. Now you are ready for your beer and chicken stock. For all you vegetarians out there, you could easily do vegetable stock instead. For the beer, I used Pyramid Thunderhead IPA. It's IBU is pretty low for and IPA. I think it's only in the fifties. I recommend you stay with something around this range. Any higher and the beer is going to drown out all that delicious cheese flavor. Also make sure you add all that liquid slowly, giving it time to thicken as you go.
This is now your opportunity to thicken the soup more. Measure out your half and half and then whisk in flour. I did 1/4 cup of flour. If you like your soup thicker do more, thinner do less. Easy peasy! Make sure you get all those pesky flour lumps out, then add the mixture to the soup slowly and stir constantly. Now add all that yummy cheese and you are done! MMMMMmmmmmm.

Hoppy Halloween Beer Cheese Soup
  • 1/2 c. butter
  • 4 stalks celery chopped
  • 2 leeks chopped
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 1/4 cup flour plus more to thicken with cream
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 c. chicken stock
  • 12 oz. bottle IPA
  • 1 c. half and half
  • 6 oz. extra sharp cheddar cheese shredded
    1. Melt butter over medium heat
    2. Chop all veggies and cook them in butter for about 5 minutes. You want to be sure the onions soften  and the leeks are bright green
    3. Add 1/4 cup of flour, salt, and pepper. Mix well. Cook for about 3 minutes stirring constantly to ensure the roux doesn't burn.
    4. Slowly add chicken stock and beer.
    5. Increase heat to medium-high allowing soup to come to rolling boil and thicken slightly. Let cook this way for about 10 minutes.
    6. Mix together half and half and more flour. I used 1/4 cup more of flour. Whisk together thoroughly. 
    7. Reduce heat again to medium and add the milk, flour mixture.
    8. Now add cheese and allow to melt. Mix well and serve.
    9. Reduce heat

    Wednesday, October 1, 2014

    Lessons Learned

    Have you ever had one of those days? You know the kind I'm talking about. It starts out frazzled, gets worse, and then just when you see a hint of light, it gets squashed out. That was my Sunday. Jamie has been working a lot of mandatory overtime at work. He came home Sunday morning around 7:00am, which is smack in the middle of what I like to call the pre-church chaos. Let me paint the picture for you:

     I get food in front of the kids. I run into my room (seriously people, I run) and attempt to throw on clothes that don't look like they belong on a homeless person. I then run back out to make sure they are still sitting at the table eating. They aren't. I'm not surprised. I usher them back to the table and remind them if they would like to finish their breakfast, they need to stay sitting at the table. I run back into my room and attempt to throw my hair in a pony tail. It goes on like this for a little while.

    By the time the kids are both dressed, I feel a small sense of accomplishment. Katie has on this cute Nordic looking sweater dress and black leggins. Jamie helps wrangle them into the car and then stumbles into the bedroom to hibernate. Seriously three fifteen hour shifts in a row will do that to you. I feel frazzled as we pulled out of the driveway, but I put on some Kari Job and off we go. The kids are quiet. I am daydreaming about an entire church service with no obligations except to relax and soak in the message. It is glorious for about five minutes. In case you were wondering this is the glimpse of light.

    We are less than five minutes away and I hear IT. Katie makes this terrible cough/retching sound right before she is about to throw up. I look over my shoulder. Driving safety does not apply when your two-year-old is about to vomit. I started pleading with her to hold on. I pull over as soon as humanly possible, but it's too late. I hear it and I smell it. I get out of the car and walk around to see her sweet messy little face frowning. I try to use some wet wipes to clean the mess up a bit, but I know even as I'm doing it that it's a lost cause. Did I mention Elijah is crying? Oh yeah. He's figured out this means we are going home and that is unacceptable to him. I give up and take Katie's once adorable sweater dress off. Elijah looses it even more and is quickly approaching a full melt down. I pretty much resign to the fact there is nothing I can do about it except drive home quickly.

    On the way home, I can't help but feel sorry for myself. Okay maybe I can help it but I don't want to. Poor poor me. Katie is puke covered in the back seat and I'm more concerned about my own little pity party than her. I just want to go to church. I start directing my conversation at God. God, I wanted to go spend time with you without interruptions. I wanted to sing songs to you. Aren't these all good things? WHY? I know this isn't the biggest crisis. I know I have much to be thankful for. I know I'm being selfish. In the grand scheme of things this is nothing to bat an eye at. I'm aware. I'd just really like to know why this is happening now.

    Okay so if this isn't a reflection of just how shallow I can be as a mother and a person then I don't know what is. It was all me's and I's in that moment. I'm just being transparent with you all because it's the only way I know how. I think most of you can probably relate to moments like this as well. The thing is, in my heart and in my spirit, I know God is good. Did He force Katie to throw up in that moment? HA, I don't think so. I'm not saying He couldn't, I'm simply saying I don't think in this instance that's what happened. I think He knew what was going to happen though, and I KNOW He had a plan. Even when I can't see the end game, I know God has a plan. I know this because I believe His word is true. I know this because my life experience has taught me that this is true. I know this because I know the God I serve. He is love. Often, so so often, we don't have the privilege of seeing that end result. It's a brushstroke in a massive work of art. Sunday though, I got my answer.

    We were blocks away from the house and Elijah was in complete hysterics at that point. Suddenly he stopped crying, turned, and asked, "Katie you don't feel good do you?" Katie responded, "No Lijah, I not feel good." Elijah said, "I'm sorry Katie. We'll get you home real soon and then you'll feel better." This seems ordinary, but it isn't. My son has Autism. He often doesn't understand how to sympathize, especially with his sister. He full-on pulled himself out of a complete emotional break down and sympathized with his little sister. That entire frustrating car ride had nothing to do with me. How could I continue to be selfish? There were lessons to be learned in all of it. Elijah learned to sympathize. I learned that it isn't always about me. These are both lessons that we will go on learning in different ways. I'm just thankful that Sunday I got my answer. Sunday I got to watch my son grow. Sunday God watched us both grow.

    Scrumptious Pumpkin Butter

    Scrumptious Pumpkin Butter

    It's time for all things pumpkin. The first day of fall was yesterday I believe. If I'm being honest though, I've been pumpkin crazy for over half a month now. I fully realize not everyone has pumpkin zeal like me, but come on WHY NOT? My husband is definitely one of those pumpkin haters. I still manage to love him.

    So speaking of my husband, his lovely sister was in the area and stopped by to visit the other day. In doing so she gifted me with this cutie little pumpkin
    I mean it's seriously one of the cutest little pumpkins I've seen. I immediately wanted to save him to decorate, but I just knew he wouldn't make it that long. I'm still not entirely sure, but I think he is a sugar pumpkin. I've made pumpkin puree in the past with jack-o-lantern left overs. It was okay, but I knew that this year I'd be seeking out sugar pumpkins for my puree. After much deliberation, I decided to slice and dice him. Let's all take a moment to acknowledge little Pumpkie's sacrifice.

    Okay so moving on! Can I just say there is no good way to cut open a pumpkin?! I labored over this little guy for a while to peel, chop, and de-seed. It is a lot of work, but TRUST ME it will be totally worth it. I'd also like to apologize for my terrible photography. I was not intending to blog this recipe, but after some social media buzz I decided it was necessary.
    Here he is getting all naked. I saved some of my peels for stove top potpourri. The peels are pretty. If you throw them in with around 2 cups of water, a cinnamon stick, a few whole cloves, and little vanilla, it will make your house smell like Fall. I burn it all day long on my back burner on low. You just have to add water throughout the day to be sure your ingredients stay covered. 
    Now back to this pumpkin butter. Chopping time! Cutting the little sucker in half is going to be one of the most difficult parts. Once you get that, it's downhill from there.

     From here all you have to do is chop him up into squares. I did one to two inch pieces and that seemed to work nicely. Throw it all into your slow cooker and look at your progress. I was so relieved at this point. Now all you have to do is add the sugar, spices, and water. The slow cooker will do the rest for you. Okay that's a lie, You still have to mash it a little and fill containers.

    I will warn you, after making this you are going to want to make fruit butters with your slow cooker all the time! It makes your entire house smell better than any candle you can buy. It's incredible.
    Here is a close up of all my pumpkin coated in the yummy good stuff. Cook it on low for 8-12 hours, mash it all with a potato masher and blend with an immersion blender if you have one. BE CAREFUL! Hot pumpkin in your eye is not the ultimate goal here. I added a bit more water at this point and took the cinnamon sticks out. I don't see any reason you couldn't throw them back in for the next step if you want. Then I set it on low for 6 hours more and when I woke up it was ready for the food processor.

    I recommend blending this stuff in small batches. Pumpkin butter is so dense it could create a little problem filling your food processor to the top. Once that is done, fill up your freezer containers and let them rest for a bit. Once they cool freeze it. My batch yielded 4 quart size containers and a little left over for the fridge. I do not recommend you can pumpkin butter. I almost did and then a friend let me on to this link which points out the issues in doing this. Basically pumpkin is so dense that you can't ensure it's getting heated all the way through (even with pressure canning).

    Have fun and enjoy your pumpkin butter. It's fantastic on so many things: toaster biscuits, pancakes, oatmeal, and apparently also in coffee. Seriously it's actually good in coffee with cream and a little extra sugar. ENJOY AND HAPPY FALL!

    Scrupmtious Pumpkin Butter Recipe

    Photo courtesy of Courtney Frainee.

    • 1 sugar pumpkin around 5-7 lbs.
    • 1 cup granulated sugar
    • 1 cup brown sugar
    • 1 cup water (plus more mid-cooking)
    • 2 whole cinnamon sticks
    • 1 Tablespoon Pumpkin pie spice
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
    • 1/4 teaspoon all spice

    1. Cut pumpkin in half and remove all seeds. Remove stem and peel skin off.
    2. Cut into 1-1 1/2 inch cubes and place into slow cooker
    3. Add all other ingredients to slow cooker and give a thorough mixing. Place cinnamon sticks on top.
    4. Set to low for 8 hours.
    5. Remove cinnamon sticks and blend with a potato masher first, then an immersion/stick blender.
    6. Add a little more water (about 1/4 cup) to prevent the pumpkin from burning on the sides of the slow cooker.
    7. Cook on low for an additional 6 hours.
    8.  Ladle your pumpkin butter in small batches into a food processor or blender and puree. I recommend about 2 cups at a time.
    9. Transfer to freezer containers, let cool to room temperature, and freeze. Do not can pumpkin butter.
    10. Enjoy your pumpkin butter on whatever fits your fancy!