Easy Egg Drop - involve the kids!

There aren't pictures of this soup today because I wasn't able to take any - you ever try cooking with pre-schoolers? Trust me, you need more than one person or only one kid if you expect to get pictures of just about anything. Plus, scalding kids with hot soup doesn't go down all that well, even in Monressori enviroments. And as a former educator (hard to believe at twenty-four you are a 'former' anything...), I ought to know.

One of the mothers in my primary class gave me this recipe. It's a very simple, very cheap Chinese egg drop soup that takes practically no time to make. I like to whip it up when I want just a little something warm or if I feel like my pot stickers don't need a full-fledged stir-fry to make it a meal (or when i don't just feast on potstickers, fighting people for my share). Earlier today, I heated up leftover soup and just ate it with some delicious toast.

God, I love toast. I could just write a whole entry about toast. But this is soup time! So. Focus. Soup.

It is, in fact, so simple that if you want to let your kids help you out - you can! You'll want to be keeping a close eye, but kids like helping out. I mean, I don't have any, but I arguably once had upwards of twenty...so...just saying. Here is what you need:

- green onion (or onion. whatever. green onion is the best though and, when i'm onionless, i just shrug and don't bother. god i love this soup, it is so forgiving of poverty), sliced fine
- chicken stock (veg would be fine too)
- sesame oil
- egg(s), lightly beaten
- slivered garlic, though feel free to add whatever veg you like or even omit the garlic. Although why anyone would ever omit garlic from anything is beyond me...

So. You have your chicken stock all nicely hot and boiling, add the garlic or any veg that needs cooked. Salt, pepper, and just a little bit of sesame oil. About a teaspoon or so per cup of broth, depending on how much you love sesame. Slowly pour the egg into the soup, stiring quickly if you want shredded egg, slowly if you don't. Taste and season as you need, then sprinkle some green onion in and enjoy.

Clearly, the favorite thing the kids like to do is stir the egg. It's pretty exciting for them.

I have made this soup so many times that it is by now second nature. And while there are probably loads of other ways to do it, this is what I do.


Cricket, cricket.

Well, it certainly hasn't been much a cacophony here, has it? Makes me feel a bit foolish for the name. I have several half-written recipes for posting, a few pictures I ought to throw up of a (pretty damn tasty) stir-fry, and just that sort of thing. I haven't died or anything like that, I've just suddenly been over-run by my actual life and, while I have been doing a lot of cooking with my roommate, I haven't been paying much attention or photographing it.

Which is awful, considering that I made this potato dish earlier in the week and nearly died it was so delicious. Going to have to try that again, this time while taking note of what I am doing. Note and photo.

That said, I do have things to post and things I still want to cook and a rant about Top Chef that undoubtedly needs ranting. I just also have to go to the store and do some laundry and clean my apartment and figure out what I'm eating for Christmas and sleep. Clearly, sleep. And I can probably do a lot of that today since Chicago came through with the fantastic winter storm, if the sound against my window and everything is any indicator, and work told me not to come in.

I am going to try and do much better about making this a cacophony.


No, really. Just bear with me. Things are a-coming.


Top Chef

I don't know about the rest of you, but this season of Top Chef has been pretty disappointing so far. I can't generally remember the very first ones of any given season, so maybe this is typical and I'm really hoping that everyone steps it up. Even with the good moments and the general fun and everything, these contestants are not winning me over.

I do like a few of these guys though. Jamie, for one, as her tattoos and being the sole remaining member of Team Rainbow tend to soften me up. She seems pretty talented and I'm holding out hope that she does well. Carla is mostly just funny, so I like her for her personality more than her cooking at the moment. I think this is mainly because I can not recall anything she's actually done.

I feel obligated to like Radhika because she's from Chicago. Mostly though, she hasn't really wowed me and she keeps falling a little flat with just her personality. Still, the idea that I could pop down to Wicker Park and see what her food is actually like is pretty awesome. I hear there are flower petals on everything. Hm.

I was impressed by Gene building his own cooking apparatus for the Thanksgiving challenge and have been slowly finding Fabio to be more endearing than I would have suspected.

That said, I find Danny to be obnoxious and Ariane keeps annoying me. Padma spit out her food, come on! Though, I mean, she did well last episode, so I guess we will just have to wait and see if she can stick to it. Just so many of the girls this season are lacking in personality - they don't seem to be vivid or passionate. And still, I look forward to Wednesday.

Top Chef Wedneday, where we cook food (once it was just break-n-bake cookies. ha ha ha. blasphemy.) and judge away.


Bacon and Potato Soup

I don't cook much bacon, even though I think it is delicious. Crispy, delicious bacon. It goes so well with sandwiches, with stuffing, with peanut butter. I am totally willing to admit that I have before purchased that microwavable bacon because it is easy and fast and crispy without any effort on my part.

Not that the problem with cooking bacon is the effort. Rather, anything with lots of grease makes me a touch nervous. Still,
when my roommate and I decided we wanted potato soup the other night, I knew that bacon would be a delicious addition.

So I sucked it up. I bought some bacon (and, man, let me tell you how hard it is to find bacon without any corn products in it...frustrating...) and set to it. I can't even remember the last time I tried to cook bacon, so, I've gotta confess that I was pretty pleased about the ease of frying. I broke the strips in half to make it more manageable
and kept the heat no higher than medium. Which leads me to say - cook bacon! Not as bad as you think!

But back to the tasty soup. Once you get your crispy, non-burned, delicious bacon - you can worry about the rest of the soup. Which is to say - the hard part is already over because this is one of the easiest things I've cooked in a while.


- bacon (about six pieces, cooked, crumbled)
- two baking potatoes (chopped roughly)
- one smallish leek (sliced and chopped)
- four garlic cloves (slivered, though two of them were diced)

- chicken broth (about a cup, maybe more, i used a large mug from starbucks)
- half and half
- sour cream (a few spoons)
- seasoning (salt, pepper, dash cayenne, and dill)
- carrots (three small and sliced and chopped)
- celery (two stalks, chopped)

- one/two tablespoons of flour

(i also used a splash of red wine, maybe a few tablespoons)

So you have your bacon already cooked. I used the grease from cooking and a bit of butter in a soup pot. I added the leek and garlic and sauteed for a moment and then added the carrot and celery and a little red wine. Once the carrots were slightly tender, I added the potato, some of the bacon, and broth - peppered, salted, and left it there for the potatoes to get tender.

Once everything was finished I then poured in the half and half, sour cream, and seasoned with more salt and pepper, dash of cayenne, and dill. I slowly sprinkled flour in and mixed thoroughly, until the soup was thick enough for my liking.

To serve, I sprinkled crumbled bacon on top, handed my roommate a delicious crusty french roll, and ignored the snow outside. It was crazy delicious, very thick, and just - nom nom nom.


The Old Soup (in a manner of speaking)

My roommate and I have already decided that there will be many, many soups made in this apartment. I am planning on mushroom soup and potato soup and, well, lots of soups. But before I can move on to all the new soups, I feel I should remember the old soup.

It isn't fancy, the old soup. It isn't even that old, unless you consider two months to be old and, in fact, think of it as young soup. Still, this soup isn't fancy either way you look at it. It is cheap and easy (floozy soup, you might say, and I am sure that someday I will) but quite tasty. And as a bonus - measurements for things aren't even important because you - and you alone - know how much soup you want!

Unless you are like me and often realize later that you wanted more soup. A problem, but not a horrible problem.

So! For this soup you need!

- chicken (or veg) broth - mine is bouillon cubes that I just make according to the direction.
- chicken breast (poached and made into deliciously tender chunks)
- frozen peas
- mushrooms (sliced)
- garlic (several cloves, poached, and mashed)
- onion (diced)
- carrots (sliced into coins)
- water chestnuts (if you want some crunch)
- other veg that you would like to add. potatoes might be good, celery, you know. whatever.
- butter-and-flour mixed into a paste (roux!) (it doesn't take much, maybe a tablespoon or two)
- salt, pepper, the rest of it.

Now. You have the broth all delicious looking in your pot. Add the veg and chicken and garlic and keep on a-cooking until it the veg is no longer raw, but tender. The water chestnuts, if you are using them, stay crisp and crunchy (but i mean you know that). Season until you are pleased. I like a little kick, so I use cayenne pepper, but I am sort of in love with basil and like to use that as well. Mix in the butter-and-flour mixture and stir until it is dissolved into the soup, which should thicken.

Of course, it might also thicken while leaving lumps. I'm still working on this. I've gotten it right a fair few times, but wrong a couple as well. At any rate, the soup is delicious. Very easy! But still delicious.


Caramelized Butter and Sugar Tarts

Thanksgiving has come and gone, leaving me full of stuffing (bacon/biscuit/mushroom, omg, nom nom nom) and turkey and other deliciousness. I didn't have to cook much (indeed, at all) but I contributed these caramelized sugar/butter tarts to the feast because if there is one thing I have to do for any event, it is make dessert. Typically, my offering is some sort of makes-you-be-my-slave-for-life cupcake, but this year I went a totally different route.

Maybe because I had these adorable little mini tart pans and had never used them. Maybe because the night before, my roommate and I had made pumpkin chocolate muffins. Or, far more likely, maybe because I am broke right now and had these ingredients in my apartment.

The crust was my own shortbread-styled crust.

Sugar, flour, salt, and butter mixed until crumble-y and tasty and then pressed into the pans and cooked briefly in the oven. I am not sure if I would do this next time or if I would do it longer, but either way - this is what I did. I also had to smack my friend and his grabby hands away from the crust as he wouldn't stop eating it. To be fair, he rarely comes over when I am cooking and so is often re-surprised by how tasty everything is. Also, he said it was the best crust he'd ever had.

I let him eat the remainder. I like to fatten up all my friends.

Further proof of this is the rest of the tart, which I from this recipe. The original is behind the link, but my version is as follows....

- 1/3 cup butter
- 1/4 cup sugar (approx)
- 1/4 cup brown sugar (approx)
- 1/2 cup sugar-syrup (cooked sugar and water down to a syrup over the stove)
- one lightly beaten egg
- a little salt
- about a teaspoon of vanilla
I mixed all these together, tasted to make sure it was indeed pure sugar, and then poured this into the tart tins and baked at 350 for about twenty minutes. I then carefully removed and placed on a dishcloth in my fridge to chill them. I also scraped a lot of molten sugar off of the cookie sheet I had placed the tins on because I had filled the tins too high and attempted to destroy the kitchen.

I also whisked some heavy whipping cream into whipped cream. It wasn't sweetened, so it provided a nice change from the sugar I was serving for dessert.
And, really, I am pretty happy with what I got. A very sweet, very gooey, very absurdly delicious tart that has received excellent reviews from all who got to eat any of them.