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Soup is Good Food

by Carilyn on May 9, 2019

Soup is the food of the broken hearted. While Hallmark movies make you believe it is cupcakes, and Lifetime makes you believe it is Chardonnay, the reality is, when our hearts are broken, we need comfort and nourishment, not a sugar crash and a hangover.

Right now, my mother-in-law is broken hearted. My father-in-law has end-stage Alzheimer’s and she has had to say good-bye without being able to let go. She sees him, but he doesn’t see her. And there is no hope that it will ever get better. She’s leaning heavily on Tim and his sister, but there is only so much comfort you can give someone whose heart is breaking minute by minute over the course of years. It is excruciating all the way around.

As the daughter-in-law, I’m not a good source of emotional comfort. As much as I love my father-in-law, he isn’t my dad. I don’t have memories of him buying me my first pair of red Keds, or teaching me how to ski. He came into my life when I was already an adult, so my memories are more muted: a kind, generous, and gentle man who passed on those traits to his son, who I was lucky enough to marry.

So, as daughter-in-law, I want to provide comfort in the way I know best – with food. And it can’t be any food. It has to be able to survive the six hour drive from our home to my mother-in-law’s. It has to be good frozen and then reheated. It has to be gentle on the bruised soul, but hearty enough to say, “This is really hard, but you are going to be okay.” It has to be good enough to share with a friend who may stop by to check on you, but easy enough to eat in front of the TV if you are alone.

Soup. More specifically, soup from scratch, start to finish. Soup with bone broth, chicken, and just enough seasoning to not feel “medicinal” or childish.

To get this just right, you need two days – a day and a half for the bone broth and a few more hours for all the chicken and vegetables to marry well. A third day, like when you are driving to a loved one is ideal, but I realize may be asking too much.

I don’t profess that this soup will mend a broken heart; sometimes that simply isn’t possible. But I do believe it can show someone you love them even if their heart will remain broken forever.

 

There isn’t really a recipe for this. I change up what I used depending on the season and what looks the best in the store. For this version, I used:

onion

carrot

celery

cauliflower

zucchini

kale

swiss chard

homemade chicken stock

salt and pepper to taste

olive oil AND butter

*shredded cooked chicken

 

Rough chop all of your veggies. Heat olive and oil and a few tablespoons of butter in a heavy dutch oven or stock pot. Throw in the onions, celery, and carrots. Saute (but don’t brown) for about 5 minutes. Add the cauliflower and keep cooking for about 15 more minutes. You want the vegetables softened, but not mushy. Add the zucchini, kale, and swiss chard and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Cover and lower to simmer. Cook for about an hour. Five minutes before serving, add some more olive oil and a little more butter (and the chicken, if you are using). This soup needs to taste rich, not like prison rations – don’t be skimpy with the fat.

**If I have an extra parmesan rind in the freezer, I will add that when I add the stock to add another dimension of flavor.

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Saved By Cake

by Carilyn on April 24, 2019

Recently, I found myself feeling more content than I have in months. I was in my office, staring at my wall of “dreams” – photos of gorgeous English landscapes, cards from my sister with little girls in crowns and gowns flying in cardboard planes, a blown glass cross from Todos Santos, Mexico, and one of my World Championship lanyards – remembering who I was, and who I aspired to be, when we started commuting to Pasadena a few years ago.

But then our kids grew up and moved on. Running went back to being a hobby. We became empty nesters with a need for new challenges, new dreams.

We started traveling a lot, trekking through various parts of the world, eating some amazing (and some strange) food. We worked on our house. We got a new dog. We tried new diets and we quit new diets. But despite the concerted effort to adapt to this new phase in life, I felt slightly adrift, askew, as if I was tilting a bit while trying to get more solid footing. And then last week, I realized I didn’t feel wonky anymore.

I think it started with a cake.

Or, maybe, it was the comfort I found (again. always.) in the kitchen on Monday in the midst of an epic hangover. After a three-bottle-of-wine evening out by the fire with Tim when he returned home from a long, stressful weekend away, I struggled through Monday morning, doing laundry, paying bills, and arguing with myself about whether practicing law would be a better option than housewifery.

But an olive oil cake beckoned me.

When we first got to Pasadena, I felt like a lion released into the wild of the Serengeti. I could not get enough of the variety of tastes, colors, and smells. In Pasadena, home of Le Cordon Bleu, good food was everywhere, and I felt like I had accidentally ended up in Nirvana. Every day, I found a new place to eat – food truck, three-table taco stand, upscale cafe. At night, I indulged my culinary curiosity by making my kids whatever sounded tempting. Favorites included: pork tender with apricot/mustard glaze, roasted fingerling potatoes with rosemary, and fresh haricots vert with browned butter; a million variations on bread pudding; double fried chicken; homemade chicken wontons with peanut butter and jelly chile sauce; calabacitas.

We lived a block from Whole Foods, and two blocks from Trader Joe’s. I frequented one of these (and usually both) every single day. My running blog morphed into a food blog, and by the end of our five year stint, I had graduated from The New School of Cooking Professional Cooking Program.

Back in Texas, I landed with a dull thud. Both my kids were gone, one in England, one in NYC, leaving me to figure out how to build a whole new life without three of the passions that had sustained me for most of my adult life – my kids, my running, and food. By the time I got home to El Paso, Tim was heavy, I had lost my “runner physique”, and we were both missing our children. We rekindled our love of continuous cohabitation with each other, but quickly learned that the way I’d been cooking for two growing teen boys was going to lead to our early demise. So, to add insult to injury, not only was cooking relegated to the back burner (pun intended), the little I was doing was morphing into “healthy” cooking. Ugh. Truly, there were days I simply couldn’t see the point.

Over the span of eighteen months, we lost weight (Tim 50, me 12), figured out a satisfactory running regimen (adventuring, no racing) and got (sort of) used to entertaining ourselves sans kids (albeit, at the beginning, way too much alcohol was involved).

But I was still honestly a little aimless and sad. Yes, being healthy and svelte is wonderful. Yes, marching through the days perfectly on schedule, rarely thrown off course by a call from school about a sick child, or the need for a diorama of prehistoric cave dwellers by the next day, or two dozen cupcakes for a bake sale no one mentioned until 8 p.m., made for a less frenetic life. But…

I missed the going, the doing, the franticness. I missed spending a huge part of my day thinking about what I was going to serve my tribe AFTER the diorama was presented, the paper finished, the test taken. I missed the cupcakes.

So after a final foray into the the “ultimate diet” (carnivory) that only lasted a week (five days, really), I made a cake, spurred on by the aforementioned hangover. And I sent pictures to my kids, then ate a slice at the counter, looking out on the backyard with it’s empty treehouse and placid pool. Yes, my kids are all grown up. No, I’m not a professional runner anymore. Yes, Tim and I are middle aged empty nesters who cannot eat ALL THE THINGS, all the time.

But, I can still love food, make food, and feed people I care about. They just don’t always have to be sitting at my table. And everyone seems to appreciate a piece of cake once in awhile.

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You Can’t Get Enough of What You Don’t Really Want

February 18, 2019

I really want doughnuts. Plural. Like a box of doughnuts. Cake doughnuts with icing and sprinkles. Apple Fritters. Simple, light and fluffy glazed doughnuts. But. If you read this blog, you know I’ve figured out that too much sugar makes me feel blerg. I don’t sleep well, my energy level goes up and down all […]

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The Long Run (or: Wandering Around Like a Crazy Person)

January 12, 2019

Now that I’m more of an adventurer than a competitive runner, I have a lot more flexibility with my Saturday long runs. Gone are the days of Saturday fast 20 milers on the track and 20 mile hill repeats. I’m not saying I won’t incorporate some of those things if I pick another big race, […]

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I’m so under caffeinated, I can’t even come up with a title.

January 10, 2019

  I’m doing the black coffee experiment. Again. Sigh. I keep hearing the phrase, “We can do hard things.” I’m inspired by it. I quote it to my kids. I believe it. Mostly. After three days of straight black coffee, I think the phrase should be modified to, “We can do hard things EXCEPT BE […]

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Flourless Cheese Souffles (Or: You’re All That on a simple Wednesday)

October 15, 2018

Ever since Tim figured out he has a wheat allergy (the anaphylaxis kind, not the intolerance kind), I’ve had to really make an effort to rework favorite recipes to be wheat-free. Keto doesn’t necessarily mean wheat-free, but that is the route Tim needs to follow, so I’m constantly trying to make new things that he […]

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Parmesan Chive Scones (Keto/LCHF)

October 2, 2018

Bread, bread, bread. Oh, keto/lchf, you have done so much for me, but your bread game is sorely lacking. Or so I thought. Then I found Carrie Brown and her cheddar chive biscuits. Um, yes, thank you, Carrie. And after a few very happy batches of her savory, bready (yes, actual bread-ness) creations, it was […]

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Chocolate Cream Parfait (Or: If KFC grew up, had babies, and was adulting) keto, LCHF

September 25, 2018

Back in the early 80s, a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken (it was not yet KFC) Extra Crispy was a TREAT. Trust me on this if you were not yet alive and can’t believe this to be true. A couple of times a year, my mom and I would load up in the family land […]

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Almond Hummus (Because we shouldn’t have to live without hummus.) keto, paleo, dairy free, vegan

September 19, 2018

Hummus feels like one of those things that, one day you’ve never even heard of, and then the next, you feel like you must eat it. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. FOREVER. I looooooooove hummus. So, when we went mostly keto, I missed it tragically. I mean, like, I had to avoid my favorite Mediterranean restaurant altogether […]

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I Don’t Eat Tweety Birds Anymore

July 24, 2018

Paleo Chocolate Caramel Cake   As a kid, I always coveted the store-bought birthday cakes with neon cartoon characters on them that all my friends had at their parties. My mom was more of a make-it-from-scratch kind of lady. Which I hated. Sort of. I mean, I loved homemade deserts AT HOME, where they belonged, […]

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