Simple onion barley soup

Chicken soup is the usual prescription for those who are under the weather, but chicken has always been my least favorite part of chicken soup; it’s usually tough, stringy, chewy, and flavorless. When I’m sick, I like to make a stripped-down version of cock-a-leekie soup, with just onions, broth (from bouillon cubes), and barley. It’s easy and relatively quick to make, reheats well (though it thickens as the barley absorbs more of the broth; you can add more broth, or just water), and is flavorful and soothing.

6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 Tbsp butter
1 onion, chopped
1 cup barley
salt & pepper to taste

Saute chopped onion in butter on medium heat in a pan or pot. In a separate soup pot, bring the broth to a boil, and add the barley. (Barley cooking time will vary; check the package for directions. I used Trader Joe’s “Ten Minute” barley, which always needs longer than ten minutes.) A few minutes before the barley is ready, add the buttery onions to the soup pot and stir.

onionbarleysoup

 

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Strawberry Top Water

I meant to post this three months ago* when strawberry season was at its height, but here it is now: strawberry top water!

*”What with one thing and another, three years passed.” -William Goldman, The Princess Bride

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This is an idea I found via Clotilde Dusoulier’s blog Chocolate & Zucchini, and I have very little to add except that it is a delicious idea and you should make strawberry water any time you have strawberries in the house. It’s like that cucumber-infused water they have at spas, only a hundred times better. And it hits that sweet spot: it’s low effort, but looks/tastes impressive.

  • Rinse strawberries. Slice off the tops, put them in a jar of water, put the jar in the fridge for several hours (overnight is okay).
  • Drain the water and toss the berry tops. Drink delicious, pale pink strawberry water right away or store for 1-2 days in fridge.
  • If you have some fresh herbs around, especially basil or mint, a few leaves make a tasty addition. Same goes for a little sliver of lemon. Strawberry-lemon-mint water, anyone?

It’s quite refreshing. And of course, it’s a nice complement to whatever you plan to do with the rest of the strawberry.

 

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Homemade chocolate ice cream

Last summer we made a few flavors of ice cream using the Kitchen Aid ice cream maker attachment. We learned a few things:

  • Don’t even bother trying to make ice cream if it’s already over 80 degrees in the house. The ice cream will not get to a proper consistency no matter how long you churn it.
  • Small batches are better than large batches. Homemade ice cream doesn’t last as long as commercially manufactured ice cream, and it is very, very sad to have to throw it out.

This year, we checked out Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream and Dessert Book from the library. Not that recipes online can’t be trusted (in fact, the peach ice cream we made last year was a Ben & Jerry’s recipe we found online), but the library had it, so why not?

The first recipe we tried (Jerry’s chocolate, with unsweetened chocolate cocoa powder) was a five-star success every step of the way; we have been enjoying it every evening since we made it. (I say “we” but I mean “Ben.” All I did was pour the batter into the bowl. And lick the bowl.) We followed the recipe exactly, except instead of adding the optional chocolate chips, we added Heath bar bits.

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Our friends gave us two excellent reusable containers made for storing ice cream. Before this I didn’t know such things existed, but if you’re making your own ice cream, I can’t recommend these highly enough.

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I suspect they might also be good for freezing soups in wintertime, but I’d be setting myself up for disappointment there: imagine opening a container that says “ice cream” and finding anything other than ice cream inside.

For now, it’s this. And it’s delicious.

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Our trip to Portland

This morning, we got in the car and headed to Portland, Maine, for a day trip. There can only be so many beautiful summer days left in the year, and we wanted to take advantage of this one. We planned to have brunch, go to the art museum, maybe Longfellow’s house; a meadery and a chocolate bar were also on the agenda, and perhaps some time sitting by the ocean; maybe a visit to the Maine potters market, and a peek into the impressive public library. Our friends had agreed to take care of the dog’s evening walk and dinner so we didn’t have to cut the day short. It was going to be great!

Let’s let the pictures tell the story.

Ben staring at his car, minus one functioning ball joint.

11:10am: Ben staring at his car, minus one functioning ball joint.

The lovely Adopt A Visibility Site, Georgetown, MA

The lovely Adopt A Visibility Site, Georgetown, MA. Who knew there was a Georgetown, MA? Or a Rowley?

Ben making friends with a caterpillar on a pine needle.

Ben making friends with a caterpillar on a pine needle while waiting for a tow truck to come.

A whole lot of pretty sky, and no tow truck.

A whole lot of pretty sky, and no tow truck.

Finally! After a mere three hours of waiting. Thanks, Liberty Mutual! Hate to think how long it would have been if it'd been snowing.

Finally! After a mere three hours of waiting. Thanks, Liberty Mutual! Hate to think how long it would have been if it’d been snowing.

The Independent in Union Square, Somerville, MA.

4:02pm: The Independent in Union Square, Somerville, MA.

So no, we didn’t get to Portland today. But on the plus side, if the car had to break down at all, this was pretty good timing: we had nowhere to be, no one to meet, the weather was as conducive as it could possibly be for spending three hours on a highway overpass. We had a frisbee and at least one of us had a book; I learned a lot about ball joints. And we got to have lunch (dinner?) in Union Square, where we never go because it’s inconvenient to get to, but it’s where our trusted auto mechanic is located (Mike!), and we were very hungry by four o’clock. (Thank you to the fine, fine folks at The Independent, who brought us tasty food speedily. Much appreciated.)

Maybe another time, Portland.

My day was great, thanks for asking.

My day was great, thanks for asking.

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Lucky Number Seven(th Birthday)

Two years and two days ago, we brought her home.

Sudo on her first day with us, July 14, 2012.

Sudo on her first day with us, July 14, 2012.

She settled right in.

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If “settled in” is synonymous with “took over the couch.”

She’s a little grayer in the muzzle now, and has a touch of arthritis in her toes, but she’s just as cuddly as ever, and she’s even braved various bodies of water (up to her belly, at least).

Car ride!

Car ride!

Here’s to several more years of snuggles and walks.

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Container garden: July update

Happy to report that everything is going pretty well! Something is getting at the strawberries – even with the net I put over them – but the herbs are doing splendidly and there is even a new rose on the rose bush (originally a Valentine’s Day present from the Whole Foods flower section).

These things. Their name refuses to stick in my head but they are very pretty.

These things. Their name refuses to stick in my head but they are very pretty.

The parsley is most enthusiastic, but sage and basil aren't far behind.

The parsley (middle) is most enthusiastic, but sage (right) and basil (left) aren’t far behind.

Top: flowers and herbs. Bottom: strawberries, peppers, and tomatoes.

Top: flowers and herbs. Bottom: strawberries, peppers, and tomatoes.

The squash, now with two blossoms.

The squash, now with two blossoms.

Rose red.

Rose red.

Here’s what everything looked like in mid-May, for comparison.

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Upside is the best kind of down

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Under the (coffee) table and dreaming

What are you looking at?

What are you looking at?

You can't tell me how to sleep.

You can’t tell me how to sleep…

...or with whom...

…or with whom…

...or where to sleep. This bed is now mine too.

…or where. (This bed is mine now.)

Sleeping in range of the camera is not for the self-conscious.

You also cannot tell me when to wake up.

Especially that.

Especially that.

But perhaps I will wake up if there is a car ride involved.

But perhaps I will wake up if there is a car ride involved.

Or a squirrel toy to chew...

Or a squirrel toy to chew…

Squirrel toys beware!

Squirrel toys beware!

Sleeping in range of the camera is not for the self-conscious.

Sleeping in range of the camera is not for the self-conscious.

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