Sunday, January 3, 2010

Hibernation

Well, my hibernation is almost over, and I'll be going back to work tomorrow. I'm sad the season is over even though Christmas was bittersweet this year. For me, Christmas is always a joyous season filled with love and hope, and we were blessed to spend time with wonderful friends and family to help us celebrate. But, we also tragically lost a dear friend who will always be missed.

Even with my heavy heart, Christmas had to go on, but to make matters more difficult (especially for the kids) Les had to work on Christmas Day. Despite everything, we had a lovely Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. And, lucky for me, everything slowed down right after Christmas, and I was more than ready for the slowdown.

At about noon on the day after Christmas, I finally stopped urging the kids to get dressed, so they stayed in their pajamas all day. We put together new Lego sets (or at least my son did), read our new books, and watched our new movies, and we did all of this in front of a roaring fire. I think we started a new “pajama day” tradition. We liked it so much we had a second “pajama day” on New Year’s Day to include Les who was working the day after Christmas.

With the exception of going to a New Year’s Eve party, we stayed fairly close to home during our time off after Christmas. So, what do you serve your family during hibernation? Well, if you're like me, you serve Pumpkin Black Bean Soup and Minestra with Sausage. Both of these soups are perfect for a quick meal whether you're hibernating or not. And, I had all the ingredients for the Pumpkin Black Bean Soup in my pantry, so I didn’t even have to leave the house. This soup is delicious with a creamy spiciness. I served simple grilled cheese sandwiches with it.
Pumpkin Black Bean Soup
Adapted from Rachael Ray at Food Network
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 cups vegetable stock
1 14 ½ ounce diced tomatoes in juice
1 15 ounce can black beans, drained
2 15 ounce cans pumpkin puree
½ cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 green onions chopped for garnish

Add the oil to a soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add onions, and sauté until the onions are softened about 5 minutes. Add broth, tomatoes, black beans, and pumpkin puree. Stir to combine and bring soup to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low and add the cream, curry, cumin, cayenne and salt. Simmer 5 minutes and taste to adjust seasonings and serve garnished with chopped onions.

My son loves the Minestra with Sausage soup. He is a big fan of sausage, pasta and soup, so this soup was made for him. And I get some green vegetables into him, so I love it too. I’ve made this soup a couple of times. The first time, I used all spicy sausage, but it was too spicy for my daughter, so I adjusted the recipe to make it less spicy. Everyone loved the soup after I adjusted it.
Minestra with Sausage
Adapted from Everyday with Rachael Ray
2 Tablespoons olive oil
4 links of sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
1 link hot Italian sausage, casing removed
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 14.5 ounce can cannellini beans, drained
2 cups fresh spinach, coarsely chopped
Salt and pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg
6 cups chicken stock
1 cup mini penne pasta
Grated Parmesan cheese, for passing around the table

Add the oil to a soup pot or Dutch oven, and heat on medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook until browned about 5 minutes. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Then stir in the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the beans and spinach; season with salt and pepper to taste, and then add a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg. Add the chicken stock and 2 cups of water. Cover and bring to a boil. Uncover the pot and stir in the pasta. Lower the heat and cook until the pasta is al dente. Serve and top with the cheese.

Here are a couple other soups for hibernation or just a quick weeknight meal...
Florentine White Bean Soup
Vegetarian Tortilla Soup

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