Sunday, December 7, 2008

A soup to warm your soul

While I wait, hope, and dream for THE job as I finish up my degree, I've been working retail downtown. It helps pay the rent (barely), but it also takes much time away from my usual cooking, baking, and writing pursuits. I have also become amazingly behind on emails and slacking in my efforts to recruit participants into my dissertation study. So, forgive me if my posts become somewhat less frequent. I promise to share as many of my kitchen successes as possible!

When I started this job, I decided my "thing," the thing that would make this job a bit more interesting, is that I would wear a tie everyday. It turns out I am the only woman there wearing a tie.

Ben has an amazing collection of ties, some very pretty and some downright terrible. He likes the pretty ones just as much as the terrible ones. He finds joy in finding some of the most hideous ties he can and flaunting them at work, just as much as he likes flaunting the pretty ones. So, I decided this would be my excuse to wear some of those pretty ties - probably the only time and place in my life when I can wear a tie everyday and not be considered strange. I'm having fun picking out my ties each day, though the rest of my outfit doesn't vary much (that darned dress code!).

There is something I like about working retail during the holidays - it's almost always busy, most people are in good spirits, and there's a vibrant energy in the air. I also kind of like being downtown during the day.

Walking home tonight, I thought about the tradition of lights during the holidays. I walked past several park areas and trees, many of which were lit up with tiny white specks of light, and it felt happy. They seemed to dance in the air. Lighting trees during the holiday season is meant to give a bit more light to a season with little sunlight, to boost spirits. I noticed for the first time in probably my whole life that they really do give more of a sense of warmth to the winter months. I wonder why we don't leave them on until February or later?

I love those twinkling little white lights and the red and green lights with which the downtown buildings are adorned. I especially love that Portland lights up a big evergreen tree right in the middle of downtown, just like the one in New York City. It seems that some of our post-holiday let-down might be due to the removal of those bright little lights we so enjoyed October through December, don't you think?

Anyway, Ben and I have been craving soups lately, to sort of add some inner-warmth as the temperatures dip to the 30's at night, and we're cranking out some good ones this week. This first one is a good, hearty soup, with lots of vegetables, and can easily be done in the crockpot. Done again, I might even leave the peas out, but they do add a sense of fullness to the soup. Throw in some red pepper flakes for a bit of kick.

Vegetable ham and pea soup:

2 cups carrots, chopped

4 stalks celery, chopped

1/2 large red onion, diced

2 medium parsnips, diced

4 cups broth

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 1/2 cups cubed ham

1 pound split yellow or green peas

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

olive oil

black pepper, to taste

In a large pot of water, bring peas to a boil and simmer on low heat until tender, about an hour. Drain and rinse. Set aside.

In a large dutch oven, saute chopped veggies, garlic, and red pepper in olive oil until they begin to soften. Add broth and cubed ham and simmer on medium or medium-low for about 30 minutes to blend flavors.

Add peas and continue to simmer for another 10 minutes or so, to heat through. Add black pepper to taste.

If you are cooking it in a crockpot, add all ingredients to the crockpot and cook on low for about 8 hours or high for about 4 hours.


1 comment:

Sophie said...

I definitely crave soups when it's cold too :); it's supposed to snow any minute now, I could go for a bowl right now :D.