My life has a superb cast but I can't figure out the plot.
~ Ashleigh Brilliant

Monday, February 21, 2011

More crazy weather = more yummy soup

Ack, really? It's been a week since my last post? Dang.

We've been experiencing "two seasons in two days" craziness again, this time going from sunny and upper 50's for much of last week through Friday, to awakening Saturday to a winter storm warning, snow and temps near minus 20º again, which lasted all weekend. It's not the snow and cold I mind so much, it's the volatile weather swings. They hurt my head.

It was -10ºF when I took these photos of Punky and friends on the patio yesterday. They seem to take this roller coaster weather in stride, of course, but it's fun to pretend they're sharing my barometric burn-out...

Punky says, "Pppffffffttt! to this snow and cold!"

Baby PJ says, "Aaaauuuggghhhh! Lemme in!
I'm freezing my little fawn fanny out here!"

Wish I could, PJ! You could share our warm fire and some of our nice, hot soup! :-) Because when the weather's this frightful we turn to Nava Atlas for comfort...

The last time we had bone-chilling weather like this, at the end of January, you may recall that we'd made her delicious Tomato, Lentil and Barley Soup from this cookbook. And on my post about it I shared a link to another of Nava's recipes that we were planning to try next, Four-Grain Tomato Soup, which she'd adapted from a recipe of the same name in this cookbook and posted on her web site. And make it we did, though we made the version from the cookbook. If you want to try this soup (and I highly recommend it), you can choose from both versions as well because Nava generously gave me permission to share the cookbook version. (It will probably entice you into buying the cookbook, which I also highly recommend!)

Of the two delicious tomato-based, grain and veggie-filled soups we've made so far (both of which we both loved), the Tomato, Lentil & Barley is my favorite and this one is BW's. Packed with healthy goodies, they're both gorgeous...

Four-Grain Tomato Soup
And its aroma while it simmered was gorgeous too! YUM. But don't take my word for it... here's Nava's recipe. (Click on the title for her online version). My notes are in parenthetic italics...

Four-Grain Tomato Soup
"A sublime medley of whole grains and vegetables in a tomato base"

from Vegan Soups and Hearty Stews for All Seasons by Nava Atlas, © 2009, shared with the author's kind permission

Serves: 8 or more

• 2 tablespoons olive oil (for sautéing - we use water)
• 2 medium onions, quartered and thinly sliced
• 2 large celery stalks, finely diced
• 2 medium carrots, peeled and finely diced
• 2 medium potatoes, scrubbed and diced, or 2 large turnips, peeled and diced (we used organic red potatoes)
• One 28-ounce can salt-free pureed or crushed tomatoes (I couldn't find salt-free, so used the lowest-sodium crushed tomatoes available)
• ¼ cup raw brown rice, any variety (we used organic brown basmati*)
• ¼ cup raw wild rice
• ¼ cup raw millet or quinoa, rinsed (we used millet)
• ¼ cup raw pearl barley, rinsed (we use this)
• 2 bay leaves
• 2 teaspoons all-purpose seasoning blend such as Spike or Mrs. Dash (we used Mountain Rose Herbs organic All Purpose Seasoning)
• 6 cups water
• ¼ cup chopped fresh dill (we used one package, which was probably 2-2½ TBSP)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste (we added 1 tsp of salt to the pot)
Heat the oil (or water) in a (non-stick) soup pot. Add the onion and sauté over medium-low heat for 5 to 8 minutes, until translucent.
Add all the remaining ingredients except the dill, salt and pepper. Bring to a rapid simmer, lower the heat, cover, and simmer gently for one hour, stirring every 15 minutes or so.
If the soup is too thick, adjust with additional water and return to a gentle simmer. Add the dill and season with salt and pepper. Simmer gently for 15 to 20 minutes longer, or until the grains and vegetables are tender. Discard the bay leaves.
If time allows, let the soup stand off the heat for an hour or two before serving, then heat through as needed. (We did this, though it was torture!) :-) This soup thickens quite a bit as it stands. Add water as needed and adjust the seasonings. (We like it thick, so we added no additional water at any point).

*Nava has a note with this recipe that says, "If you use brown basmati rice, the soup will be wonderfully aromatic as it is cooked and served."
Boy, I'll say! The brown basmati was wonderful in this.
Computer Clipart ImagesComputer Clipart ImagesComputer Clipart Images

In other news... BW is on vacation this week and we have an awful lot going on - projects (of course!), contractors (we hope!), lots of errands, plus a dental procedure for poor BW (ow!) and another bladder surgery for poor Josie (double ow!), who in spite of our every effort to find the cause and put an end to years of recurring UTIs has yet another bladder infection as well as another bladder mass. :-( Her surgery is tomorrow and she should be coming home on Wednesday. I'll try to post an update on her later this week. Meanwhile, once the contractors have finished (next week, rumor has it) I must reassemble and then spring clean my chaotic house. So count on my being a rotten blogger and worse emailer for a while - too many distractions! But believe me...


  1. Whoa - cute cute pictures of your deer buddies, love their facial expressions! -10? UGH! and vegan soup - i'm in! Hope the surgery goes well for Josie!

  2. Laloofah -- A busy week ahead for you. I might try your tomato four grain soup with a slight variation -- using organic tomato broth instead of the tomatoes. I think this should work. It won't be as thick though (if I find time to make it that is).

    Noticed two books on your reading list that I have enjoyed. They are The Secret Life of Bees and The Tao of Pooh. Will look into the other titles.

    I would be dizzy from your weather changes. -- barbara

  3. Punky is absolutely adorable as usual...and she knows it. Baby PJ looks like he's sending you a great big smooch! Oh, the darlings. How lucky you are to have them as friends.

    Wow, that is some schitzo weather! I guess Mother Nature just can't make up her mind. She's probably going through a rough patch.

    That soup is gorgeous! Thanks to you and Nava Atlas for sharing the recipe. I love tomato soup and adding all those grains sounds so hearty and healthy! I hope to try it this week and take it to work with me. I have all the ingredients on hand. Although, I'll have pearled barley on hand; I'll have to try the unhulled variety next.

    Good wishes to you BW and Josie for the coming week! I 'll be thinking of you guys. I hope all goes well and you come out the other end with a few days to enjoy and relax.

  4. The deer are so very cute!!! I love it! Soup sounds great! I'm really enjoying re-reading The Tao of Pooh and I hope you are also enjoying it. Meanwhile, best wishes to BW for the dentist and Josie for her surgery! What a week you have. Sounds like mine! Take care and stay away from -10!

  5. Boy, Laurie, have you ever had your share of headaches for a while! I hope that Josie is able to come home and recoup nice & fast, then never has another problem ever again. She's been through far too much! Poor BW, too. Ouch! :( Besides those things, I'll be wishing for your week to be a nice one and may you get at least some relaxation time in!

    In the meantime, we're sharing that roller coaster weather that you're having. It's making my head hurt, too (as well as most of the rest of my body). Le sigh.

  6. This sounds heavenly - I've been all about soup this winter, nothing else is as satisfying.

  7. Johnny Nutcase ~ Thanks, I do too ~ I'd love to do a Vulcan mindmeld and figure out what they're really thinking. :-)

    Thank you for your good wishes for Josie!

    Barbara ~ Tomato broth - like tomato sauce? No, it won't be as thick but it should be plenty tasty! I hope you'll be able to find the time.

    I enjoyed those two books too, and now I'm enjoying The Annotated Alice, with its interesting background notes about Lewis Carroll, Alice Liddell, his Alice books and poems, etc. And I always love reading Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, even without the "inside baseball" info! :-)

    Rose ~ Punky has always known it! But I still love to keep reminding her. :-) And Baby PJ is so funny - he'll come stomping right up to me and look up at me with such comical expressions. They are wonderful friends to have for sure!

    I agree, Mother Nature seems to be a bit bipolar these days! Definitely polar lately, anyway. ;-)

    Thank you for your good wishes! I hope they come true. :-)

  8. Daphne ~ I finished The Tao of Pooh last week and did enjoy it, especially the last couple of chapters. Next up in my stack of books is Autobiography of a Yogi. And after that on my library wish list is Crazy Sexy Diet, Phantoms in the Brain and Archy and Mehitable (an eclectic list, as always!) I have no idea where I'm going to find the time to read them all, but I keep hoping things will settle down! (HA!) :-)

    Thanks for your best wishes too, and please give Sasha a hug from me! We do seem to be leading somewhat parallel lives these days!

    Molly ~ Thanks, I hope that too! It's what we'd expected after her last surgery, so we sure hope this one will do the trick. Our vet is going to see if she can find some explanation for it while she's in there. She wonders if Josie's allergic reaction to the dissolving sutures she used last time might have created the new polyp, so she's going to use different ones. Poor Josie indeed! That girl has been plagued something awful, but she stays so sweet!

    "Le sigh" - LOL! I hope your weather settles down soon. The yo-yo stuff makes my neck and shoulder hurt as well as my head, but it's my head that usually knocks me flat. How I envy people who don't have built-in barometers!

    Jamie ~ We've been making and enjoying a lot of soups this winter too. We just love good hearty soups and homemade bread when it's cold out!

  9. Crikey, a busy week or what? I love soup with barley in it so this one looks like a must-try. Great pics of the deer - such expressive faces. Everything crossed for the surgery going well - hope it sorts everything out. xx

  10. Hoping Josie and BW are recovering uneventfully.

  11. Barbara ~ It's pretty ridiculous around here, alright. This is almost always how BW's "vacations" go - he says it's no vacation, it's just a week at home with pay! This is why we simply must go away to experience a real vacation. Which we plan to do at the end of May for two weeks (can't wait!)

    I love barley soups too. Bet you'd love this, and you might love the other one I posted about, her Tomato, Lentil and Barley soup, even more (it's got more barley in it!) :-) Nava said she hopes to post it on her web site before soup season is over, so if/when she does, I'll provide a link to it and alert you!

    Josie's surgery went well and we'll be bringing her home today after we've finished our next round of errands and appointments! I hope to post Josie's news update blurb tomorrow or Friday. Thank you for your well wishes!

    Vegan Elder ~ And thank you for your well wishes too! I know BW will be very glad when his dental appointment is over and done! (If it were me, I'd have to be sedated. Starting from the time I scheduled the appointment! LOL I HATE going to the dentist!)

    Sorry I've gotten behind on my visits to your blog... hope to catch up soon!

  12. So is Josie home? And did BW survive the dentist (I agree with you, by the way, on the subject of dentists!!) Anyway, don't mean to be a pain, but was just wondering about you all. We are supposed to get 2-6" of snow tonight and have temperatures drop into the upper teens (for lows, that is) and I'm not pleased! Hoping my insulation gets done in spite of (and because of, if that makes sense) the weather. Take care and know I'm thinking of you all.

  13. Hi TW! See ya have a busy week. Hope your projects go well and that Josie's surgery is successful...poor pup!

  14. Melissa is always looking for another soup recipe. It's her absolutely favorite thing to make and I thought this one would be perfect until I got to the fresh dill ingredient which, as you know, I don't really care for. I'm still thinking of giving her this recipe and substitutins something else instead. I wonder what would be good - thyme? rosemary? Italian Seasoning? Let me know if you have a suggestion (or maybe a hint about the seasoning used in the other barley recipe).

    We had the same crazy weather here which is very unusual for us. 50's for and enitire week then cold, 10" of snow and -1 this week. I knew the 50's wouldn't stay but didn't expect to get right back into winter so quickly.

    So glad that Josie's surgery went well and that there was no mass! Hopefully she's recovering nicely. Good luck with your busy week!

  15. Daphne ~ Thanks for asking about the two recuperating patients! :-) We brought Josie home yesterday afternoon - I picked her up right before I picked up BW at the dentist. Josie was very happy to be home! Neither she nor BW were feeling their best last night (BW's dental work was sore, but it was mostly his jaw that was aching from having his mouth open for 2½ hours!) Both are feeling better today. I'm working on my Josie update post, but with lots of interruptions so it'll be a while yet before it's done. Meanwhile, I wanted to let you know that the surgery went well and she's recovering nicely and sends you lots of kisses! xxxx :-)

    It's bloody cold here (sub-zero) with some fresh snow. You're predicted to get as much as we are! Is that much snow and temps that cold unusual for Vashon? I hope you're able to find a way to stay comfortable despite not having insulation yet and that work can continue to progress quickly despite (and yes, because of!!) the weather!

    Spud ~ It's terribly busy with lots of distractions and chaos these days - not my favorite sort of scenario! Thanks for being patient with me on the email front, it's going to be like this for a few weeks yet but I hope you'll keep me updated on your Nad-Grabbers situation! (Anyone else who reads this is probably going to really wonder what THAT means, LOL!) Thanks for at least checking in via my blog from time to time!

  16. Jo ~ I just knew you'd balk over that dill! ;-) But honestly, I think if you have Missy use just half the amount called for, like we did - about 2 - 2½ TBSP - you'll like it fine. BW and I agreed we really couldn't taste the dill, but it does impart a fresh flavor that was really nice. But if you don't want to try that, the other soup uses 1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley instead of dill, so you could do that. Or I think any Italian herb would be fine - I'd go with thyme, basil or maybe oregano. The only other seasoning the Tomato, Lentil and Barley soup uses that's different from this recipe is 2 tsp of paprika, but it does have other ingredients that will give it a different flavor, like the apple cider vinegar and red wine. Nava is going to try to post the other soup recipe on her web site before soup season is over, and if she does I'll let you know!

    Sounds like nearly everyone is experiencing some really schizo weather lately. (But it sure beats earthquakes like poor New Zealand just suffered!) :-(

    I need to head upstairs soon and make this for lunch and get another batch of the 4-Grain Tomato soup started for supper (BW's in the kitchen now making rosemary boule to go with it!), so I'm off to try to knock out more of the Josie post now! At least the contractors made it out in this weather and are making busy little bee noises in the other room! :-)

  17. Glad the patients are recovering well! I hope Josie won't have to go through that again (or you either!). Meanwhile, I've canceled my appointments for tomorrow as the roads are supposed to be really icy thanks to bitter cold (for us) temps overnight. We do get the snow and the cold temps, but usually they don't last for long and of course we aren't really prepared for them so they do tend to wreak havoc! My outside shower head was frozen this morning and probably will be now until Saturday, so I did what I do with Chauncey--used a bucket and the tub spigot. It wasn't actually too bad, although I will sure be glad when the shower head thaws! Glad your contractors showed up. My foam insulation guys said they couldn't come yesterday because of the snow (which we didn't have until after dark!). Today the batting insulation guys came but with the wrong batting, so they had to go back to Tacoma but promised to return. And the foam guys are supposed to be back tomorrow, but the forecast really doesn't look good so they may bail again, which will really mess things up because the sheet rock is supposed to go in on Saturday. Right now I'm thinking maybe 331 sq. ft. is all we really need! Stay warm!

  18. Oh my goodness, those photos had me laughing! Their expressions are so cute! Thanks for capturing and sharing them with us. In my perfect alternate reality, I'd have deer friends too!

    Glad to hear things went well for both patients. I'm always in jitters when I have to send Belle to the vet and they have to put her under anesthesia. She's such a little thing, it's not safe for her undergo it so often.

    I also get sick from weather changes, though ours are never as extreme as yours! There's a chance snow will land here, the first in 35 years, but we're not counting on it. It's cold enough for me as it is! Good thing for yummy soups! Did you know Nava Atlas tweeted about your post?

    I love Autobiography of a Yogi so much that I ended up reading many of his other books. Very enlightening! Look forward to your thoughts on it.

    Hope things settle down for you and you get a chance to breathe. Hope both patients recover soon. :-)

  19. I'm a little behind in my blog reading (and blogging, too) as usual so I'm just reading about poor Josie. It always makes me sad when animal friends have things like this because we can't explain it to them. I don't envy BW a dental proceedure either. Best to both.

  20. Thanks for the suggestion for the seasoning. If it doesn't taste like dill too much maybe it wouldn't be too bad.

    How were the sprouts and mushrooms? I love the story of how the recipe was created. It especially made me laugh because just last night Melissa went on and on about the Musroom barley soup I made a while ago and how ANY recipe that starts with the word mushroom would by default be AWFUL! Wonder what she would think of one that only had brussel sprouts AND mushrooms in the title! I'd love it.

  21. Daphne ~ I'm so behind on my comment replies (and everything else blog-related!), but have a couple of minutes between projects so thought I'd see how far I can get! At this point, both patients are doing great. BW's over his soreness and Josie no longer needs pain pills. Now we wait for Josie's biopsy results and BW's permanent crown...

    We've made progress but suffered setbacks too. Not the least of which was our pellet stove conking out - again! - yesterday afternoon when it was -4º. It was its "brain" again, an expensive part that we just replaced 13 months ago! (Warranty is only for 90 days, natch). We have a new one on the way and are hoping it will arrive today but most likely it'll be Monday. So I can empathize with your cold temps!

    Those batting insulation guys sound like nitwits! First they order the wrong stuff then install it wrong?! (I had time to glance at your latest post last night, but not to read it thoroughly nor comment). Our contractor might have shorted us on ceiling panels, we were informed yesterday - we hope not, like you said when one thing goes wrong it has a domino effect on everything else that must come after! I hope this project is done on Monday, I need my house back! I have so much to do it makes me want to weep - I hate being in Overwhelm Territory, it's not friendly country! I hope things come together for you on your project soon too. I'm glad you are mostly in competent and caring hands, at least!

  22. VW ~ They are funny, aren't they? They make me giggle often with their expressions and their antics. I'm certain you'd have many deer friends if you just lived where you had deer! :-)

    I don't blame you for being nervous whenever Belle has to be put under.

    Did you get your snow? That would be something there where you are! I read an article on The Weather Channel web site a few weeks ago about how many people feel aches and pains when the weather changes. I know people who really feel it like we do, and people who don't notice a thing. (I envy those people!)

    I kind of figured Nava tweeted about it because I had someone show up on this post via Twitter. I had a lot of people show up here from her Facebook page.

    Good to know you too are a fan of Autobiography of a Yogi! I have it sitting here, but have no idea when I'll get a chance to read it. (I'm still trying to finish The Annotated Alice but only have time to read after I get in bed at night and am lucky if I make it through two paragraphs before I conk). Hopefully no one else will put a hold on the Yogi book and I can just keep renewing it till I get my life back someday! I'm looking forward to reading it.

    Argh, I'm being summoned for the next project - sanding spackle and moving furniture. (Somebody save me!!)

  23. I'm glad to hear that the patients are both doing well! Sorry about your pellet stove though! Hope you got the part today! My insulation was finished yesterday and I noticed that even though it was bitter cold here last night (for us--21 when I got up at 9AM), my furnace ran very little--a testimony to insulation! I decided since my heat loss is no longer outrageous that I could turn my thermostat from 65 to 68! Daring of me, I know, but at least I'm warm and probably using far less power! Yes, the insulation fiasco was a nightmare, and I was very glad that my contractor, my plumber, and my extra carpenter were willing to step up to the plate and get it done right yesterday so that the schedule wasn't messed with. The insulation company then had to give us money back for their incompetence! I've had two guys here today, Saturday, installing all my sheetrock and I'll post photos later or tomorrow. I have yet to "negotiate" what happens during the mudding/sanding phase as I will not be taped into my studio/bedroom again! I need to be able to use that door even if that means more dust. The door doesn't seal tightly but right now I find the cure worse than the disease. Monday will tell the tale and meanwhile no one is to be here tomorrow!! Sure hope you weren't shorted ceiling panels!! Don't work too hard and do stay warm!

  24. Andrea ~ That's probably what makes it hardest for me ~ the fact they don't understand. It's especially hard when we have to leave one of them at the vet and can't explain to them why! Leaving Josie there for her heartworm treatments, knowing she'd be in pain for about a week afterward, was the hardest. It didn't help that she'd load right up in the kennel there and then give us a long-suffering, "I don't understand but if you say I must then I will" look! We'd have traded places with her if we could have!

    Josie and BW appreciate your good wishes, and both are doing great ~ now we just wait for Josie's biopsy results and to see if this latest treatment will have fixed her chronic infections. I sure hope so!

    Jo ~ We made the 4-grain soup again this week and this time added the full 1/4 cup of dill. We like dill, so we loved the flavor it added and agreed that although it's a pretty subtle background flavor, we definitely tasted the dill this time. If you decide to add fresh dill instead of fresh parsley or one of the Italian herbs, you'll definitely want to use half the amount: 2 TBSP. That's what I'd recommend, but it depends on how sensitive you are to the taste of dill, and if the merest hint of it in a medley of other flavors would ruin the entire batch of soup for you!

    As for E's Super Brussels Sprouts and Mushrooms, it was great! A lot more flavor than I'd expected. We really liked it and it'll be a new favorite way for us to enjoy Sprouts. I'm the opposite of Missy ~ any recipe that starts with "Mushroom" gets my immediate attention! :-)

    Daphne ~ The pellet stove part did arrive yesterday, but unfortunately (and to our surprised dismay) it didn't fix the problem! All the pellet stove repair places are closed all weekend, of course (and none of them are local), so we'll have to call tomorrow and see what they recommend next. We have a plan, but it may be quite a while before we get the stove running again if our plan doesn't work and we have to have someone out to service it. Fortunately, we're supposed to have mild temps and lots of sunshine all week. I'm just hoping we CAN get the stove fixed and don't have to go to the huge expense and hassle of replacing it.

    I'm sure you've already been told you'll have to go through the mudding step. When we had the sheet rock repairs done in our living room, the guys used "hot mud," which required little to no sanding. Maybe your sheet rock crew can go that route. Or maybe you can go over your wall with paintable beadboard paneling and the sheet rock joints won't matter so much, but that's more expense and will take time to install, never mind to paint.

    Glad you got at least some of your money back from those insulation yahoos! I'd report their sorry butts to your local BBB and/or Angie's List!


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  • THE HUMANE GARDENER ~ Nancy Lawson
  • THE WORLD WITHOUT US ~ Alan Weisman

There is still strong in our society the belief
that animals and the natural world have value
only insofar as they can be converted into revenue.
That nature is a commodity.
And that the American dream is one of unlimited consumption.
There are many of us, on the other hand,
who believe that animals and the natural world
have value by virtue of being alive.
That Nature is a community to which we belong
and to which we owe our lives.
And that the deeper American dream is one of unlimited compassion.

~John Robbins, "The Food Revolution"

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