…and Pumpkin Soup!

I am in a soup mood these days…tonight I made my pumpkin soup, flavored with Indian spices such as curry and garam masala. I will puree the final results to yield a smooth, thick pool of pumpkin heaven, and then I’ll garnish each bowl with goat cheese and a drizzle of honey (tupelo). Whole Foods offered a bleu cheese-walnut bread today which I will serve with the soup. A hard apple cider pairs well and rounds out the meal. If I used vegetable stock insead of chicken stock it would be vegetarian. I usually serve a salad alongside the soup, but I just didn’t feel like it tonight! I figure I am getting enough vegetables with the pumpkin, carrots and onion…Right?

Tortilla Soup

The weather has turned cold, and that is not only cold by TX standards, but by most folk’s criteria! I made a pot of tortilla soup Saturday night, and for lunch today I finished any remnants still hanging around. Soup is such a cold-weather comfort food…I prefer a thick soup, a soup that sticks with you. My tortilla soup is filled with smoked chicken, brown rice, diced tomatoes, and corn. I top it off at the end with cilantro, fresh lime juice, tortillas, sour cream, cheese and avocado or guacamole. Like I said, I like it thick! There are many versions of tortilla soup floating around…some are creamy, some brothy, others somewhere in-between the two. Some have chicken, others are vegetarian. Mine is a combination of all those aspects of different recipes I liked. I try to keep it healthy, and as long as I watch the amount of cheese and tortillas I add to my bowl it is.

I pondered my menu for the week as I savored the final spoonfuls of my soup. I find it difficult to come up with healthy meals which everyone will happily eat (key words being ‘happily eat’). My oldest son, the one in college, has always been a picky eater. He is home for another (oh-so-short) week, and I am trying to include foods he likes. My younger son is much more adventurous and willing to try most anything I make. And my husband wants food that is healthy…which happens to be the exact opposite of the food my eldest finds acceptable…I love my food, and I prefer it to eating out most of the time. But in the end one is only as good a cook as those who eat their food determine. Hence, the dilemma I now face. Had I been a smart mom, I would have established from the very beginning that my kids would eat the meal I cooked – no special offers, short-order cooking, etc…I suppose I could still do that, but I know I won’t…so back my planning!

Homemade Eggnog!!!

Last night I FINALLY got my homemade eggnog fix. We usually have it before Christmas at an annual caroling party. My neighbor hosts the gathering, which includes several families – kids and all – and I bring the homemade eggnog. This year, however, the caroling party was the night before we left town, which also happened to be within the same week my husband and I returned from London (to find exploded egg all over my kitchen – another story for another time…), the week my son returned home from college for Winter Break, and the day after we celebrated our family Christmas. In addition to all of this I was not feeling well, and somehow the idea of using raw eggs while sick was unappealing. I certainly did not want to serve it to anyone! So this brings me to last night. We returned to TX on New Year’s Eve in time to celebrate the new year with friends. Yesterday I just could not stand the fact that the season was passing without my annual eggnog, so I whipped up a batch. We did have some last night, but it will taste so much better today after the flavors have had a chance to ripen together. Perhaps we will even invite some friends to help us partake of all this goodness…

Our tradition of homemade eggnog goes back many years – even before my husband and I were married. His father made eggnog on Christmas Eve every year. I had never had homemade eggnog until then, but after the first sip I was hooked! I believe his recipe came from the back of a Meyers Dark Rum bottle because it called for an entire bottle of dark rum…lots of nog to go with a little egg! When we moved to TX we really missed the tradition of homemade eggnog, so we began hosting our own eggnog get-together for friends and neighbors. Most had never sampled homemade eggnog, only the falsely-thickened, store-bought, overly sweet variety. Trust me, once you have had the real thing it is difficult to go back to the carton! So over the years this has become our own holiday tradition…a few years back we combined it with our neighbor’s caroling party due to time constraints, and the rest is history!

My recipe is a mixture of several recipes, and it does use dark rum like my father-in-law’s; however, I also add Maker’s Mark Bourbon to mine – generally half rum/half bourbon. I chose to keep with my FIL’s tradition of a high ratio of nog to egg…somehow it seems to be the right thing to do! Some recipes add peach brandy or cognac instead of (or in addition to) rum and/or bourbon…it is really a taste preference and what flavor you associate with eggnog. The consistent part includes separated eggs, hard alcohol, sugar, milk, and heavy cream. I also add freshly grated nutmeg, which in my mind is a must-do. I have found that the flavor is best when the egg yolk and sugar mixture is combined with the milk and alcohol and sits for a minimum of several hours, preferably overnight. Just before serving I fold in the whipped egg whites and whipped heavy cream, then grate the nutmeg on top. I even have a special bowl and ladle I purchased about 8 or 9 years ago specifically for eggnog! Is this over the top? Perhaps…but when the neighbors see that bowl heading down the street they know what the night holds in store!!!