Asparagus-ish Soup

Ha! Say that three times fast.

Remember my disastrous start as a person who cooks?

You can read about it here and here and here if you don’t.

Well last Friday, I was working my PT job and another librarian came in with this huge bag in her hand and stuffed it in the teeny mini fridge. It was crazy, watching her do that. She then told me the bag was filled with asparagus from her garden and said it was free for the taking. Asparagus is one of my favorite vegetables, hands down. So, upon leaving that day, I yanked the bag from the fridge and pulled out maybe a pound of this giant asparagus this woman grew.

Then I had to figure out what to do with it. Obviously, I asked my mom. She suggested asparagus soup and said she had a good recipe. Unfortunately, she never gave me the recipe. Not a huge deal. I then Googled “asparagus soup crockpot” on Sunday, when I decided to make something. I found tons and tons of recipes and they were all different. One thing I kept seeing over and over is that you should blend your asparagus soup to make it, essentially, cream of asparagus, most claimed for better flavor.

I don’t have anything that can do that, so I shrugged off that concern and closed my computer.

I decided it was just soup and I was going to wing it.

Yes, wing it.

I cleaned the asparagus and cut it up. Into the crock pot. It didn’t look like much.

So I dug into my fridge. I had some cauliflower (another veg I love) on hand that needed to be used up. So I chopped that up and tossed it in with the asparagus. I also found a green pepper that needed to be used. Cut up and toss in. And there was half a zucchini. That went in, too. Then I had two small red potatoes that were getting soft, so I scrubbed them, cut them and tossed them in, too.

Now, it was less “asparagus” soup and more “vegetable” soup, but there was still more asparagus than anything else. Thus: asparagus-ish.

I didn’t have vegetable broth on hand. I had some bouillon and could have made some, but that seemed like too much work. So I used the three cans of chicken broth I had on hand. That didn’t seem like enough liquid, so I added the one can of beef broth I had on hand.

Then I threw in a little kosher salt, some garlic powder, some fresh cracked pepper. I stood over it for a moment and gave it some thought, and decided it needed a little heat, for a boost of flavor. So I added some crushed red pepper. No measuring, for anything, just threw things in the crock pot. I cooked it on low, all day long. Probably 8-9 hours. Then I tasted it. It was okay. Not spectacular. I decided that these wise women of the blogosphere may be right. It needed to be creamy.

Some of the recipes called for the adding of heavy cream, but I didn’t want it to be that heavy….or to add the extra fat. So I let it cool, put it in the fridge overnight and left it. On Monday, I stopped at Target and bought a hand blender. This one here. It was affordable (and I had a $5 gift card) and also came with an extra measuring cup, of which I only have one, so win all around.

I went home last night and warmed up the soup, still in the crock pot. When it was warm, I used my new hand blender to blend the soup. Essentially, I pureed it. I did not add anything to it, just blended it together.

Then I tried it.

It was……AMAZING. One of my favorite things I’ve ever cooked and probably the first thing I’ve cooked on my own, without using any sort of recipe. The texture was perfect, the blending was absolutely the right way to go. Because I added the dark beef broth the color of the soup isn’t as attractive as one would hope, but who cares when it tastes like that. It’s got a little bit of kick to it, and is the perfect amount of salty (no extra needed) and it is just awesome. I ate a huge bowl for dinner last night and contemplated eating a second. I was full, but it was so good. I am very excited to have it again for dinner tonight.

So there you go. I’ve told the tales of my flops in the kitchen, I figured it was about time I shared one of my successes as well. Let me know if you try it!

 

The Joy of Cooking

Could you feel the facetiousness dripping from that title?

I don’t like to cook. I really don’t. I DO cook, now that I don’t live with my mom, I don’t have much choice. But I don’t enjoy it, it isn’t fun or interesting or pleasurable or anything but an annoyance and the obstacle standing between me and my meal.

So, there’s that.

But, I do admire and appreciate my crockpot. That is why, the majority of meals that I cook come from a crockpot. I actively search out crockpot recipes, my recipe file is filled with them. They are all variations on a theme, though, I’ve come to realize that crockpot cooking is fairly limited. There is only so much that can be done.

Fine, I don’t really care. I’m a pretty simple eater. I honestly think I could eat tacos every day for the rest of my life and be fine with it. Actually, if I had to only life off of one thing, that is what I would pick. No doubt. Love tacos. Love Mexican in general, which is why I have a plethora of Mexican-themed crockpot recipes.

But, that is not the topic for today’s discussion. Today, we’re going to talk about my frustrations with a process that is already filled with frustration for me. It stems from the recipe I made yesterday, for crockpot chicken teriyaki stir-fry.

1. Finding recipes online – It’s hard. It shouldn’t be, because there are a million recipe sites, but I think that is what is so hard. There’s too, too much. I don’t even know where to start, which is saying something, coming from a researcher. Is this how all the rest of you feel all the time on the interwebs? Also, I find that most online recipes, unless you go to a specific chef site (like rachaelray.com) are submitted by real people. How do I know if you can cook? What are your qualifications? I could post a thousand recipes online, but that doesn’t make ME a good cook? Or worse is when the recipe will rave “people couldn’t get enough, everyone was begging for this recipe” or some variation therein and then I will try it and it is terrible. So then I have to wonder, did I cook it wrong? Or do the friends of the recipe submitter ALL just have terrible taste?

2. Explicit and/or unnecessary directions – For example, {explicit} put all the ingredients into the crockpot in the order listed. I see this all the time. I don’t understand it. What difference could it possibly make? Then, the recipe I made yesterday, the teriyaki chicken, she said, put all ingredients into crockpot in listed order. Then stir until all are coated.

If you’re going to stir them all up, who cares what order they go in? Seriously? SERiously?

Or {unnecessary} replace cover. Plug in crockpot, turn to low. I mean, come on. I freely admit I’m a cooking imbecile and even *I* know to plug the damn thing in. (Okay, I did forget once, but figured it out about an hour in).

3. No directions – I hate these. When it says things like “salt and pepper to taste”. What does that mean? Or, even better, it says “add all ingredients and cook until done”. Until done? I should hope so. But, when will that be? 2 hours? 4? 6? 8? Tell me! The teriyaki chicken was one of these. It said “Add teriyaki sauce to taste”. WHAT?!?! I don’t know what that means, plus, it is called “TERIYAKI chicken” doesn’t that sort of imply it is a main ingredient? How much? Just tell me how much?

4. Recipes that don’t work – Like when it says cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours. I don’t like this. First of all, I dispute the fact that that low setting is exactly half the temperature of the high setting. Second, even if it is, I refuse to accept the premise that food cooks the same in these two scenarios. It just can’t. Give me a direction that works. But, even when you do…it has to work. The teriyaki chicken said the above “4 on high or 8 on low” I chose 8 on low because I was headed off to work. (That’s right, I got up in enough  time to make dinner before going to work….who’s the adult now, punk?) At any rate, when I came home, the chicken was mush and it was burnt all around the edges. Granted, it was 9 hours in the pot, but still, this came across like 6 hours would have been plenty.

5. Recipes that I don’t understand – When they say something like braise the spinach before placing in crockpot. What does that mean? How do you braise? How important is it? What happens if it goes into the crockpot raw? Does it change the flavor? Do you see why I have problems? My mother is sick of me calling her with a thousand questions about everything under the sun. People have got to be clear!

Long and the short of it is this. The teriyaki chicken was fine. Not spectacular. It will be when I make it again and make some adjustments (cause, you know, I can do that will all my fancy chef training). Like less water. It was pretty runny for stir-fry. And I’ll cook it less. Yeah.

Oh! Here is an actual cooking tip for you (who laughed?). If you’re making stir-fry and, like me, you don’t wish to buy fresh veggies of a thousand variety and want a nice bagged selection. I’m all about frozen bags of veggies. But, stir-fry veggies always have broccoli in them. I don’t like broccoli. Some have mushrooms. I do not eat mushrooms, under any circumstances. I looked and looked and couldn’t find them without those two items. Then, I happened to see, out of the corner of my eye, in the steam-n-serve section at Rainbow, there are Roundy’s brand “pepper stir-fry veggies”. It is a mix of different colored bell peppers, sliced and onion. That’s it. LOVE it.

What else? This is a long blog about not much of anything. Just stuff on my brain, since I “cook” now and all. Oh, irony of ironies, the absolute only reality show that I love and watch religiously? Top Chef. No lie. I love Top Chef. When I download my tv shows every week, and I am staring at that list of television goodness, the first thing I watch every week is Top Chef. It even beats Castle. ‘Course, that is more about Tom Colicchio than anything else, but I do get mildly depressed when it is out of season. So much so that I have taken to watching the spinoffs, which don’t even have Tom Colicchio in them.

Also, WordPress doesn’t think teriyaki is a word. It is spelled correctly, I double checked, but it still puts that angry, red squiggle under every usage. Teriyakiteriyakiteriyakiteriyaki. Take that spell check.

And, also, it doesn’t like crockpot. I’m fairly sure that’s because it is supposed to be two words. But I like it better as one. And it’s my blog so I’ll misspell if I want to.

And my mom just called and invited me out to dinner. I haven’t been to a sit down restaurant in ages. Ha! I just typed that and then realized I had lunch with Kelly and Christian on Sunday (or 4 days ago) at a sit down restaurant. Guess that sentence isn’t true at all. Unless “ages” can be redefined to mean 4 days. Once again, it’s my blog.

That’s enough craziness afoot in here. (Lanie? Laughing?)

I’m out of town this weekend, so unless something startling happens in the morning, see you next week!