Mar 11, 2011

Rediscovering Life's Aromas

I'm not totally off my rocker, only a little.
To find out what is going on!
Hello Again!

I am hoping this post finds you all well. I have been in the mood lately of throwing things out and cleaning things up. Sort of an early "spring cleaning" that actually started in February. Actually, I think it all began with my Rustic Mushroom soup recipe that was featured in February on the Where Women Cook's Amuse Bouche. I made this wonderful soup on such a cold day (recipe and photos of table design tips at end of post!) and that got me all "domestic"so I started to clean the house and then one thing led to another and before you know it, I am throwing things out. Sometimes it is easier to just throw things out than to clean...have you discovered that? Mainly, it is the basement that I am so sick and tired of. It is (was) filled to the brim of stuff/junk/boxes/and old things that just needed to be sorted through, but instead, I just threw them out. When I married my barber husband, and moved into his tiny bungalow of love, I just had no place for my "things" and my boxes, and so down in the dusty, unfinished basement they went. And stayed. And as I moved in over time, things just piled up in that tiny basement, and after a while, I just couldn't even stand to look at it any longer. 

So, in just one day, I have thrown out two full truck loads from our old pick up truck and I am still throwing. I actually removed the window screen from the basement in the front yard, and my barber husband tosses the giant trash bags out onto the front lawn, instead of dragging them up the stairs. We make great amusement for our neighbors. As they walk by our yard, it looks like our lawn is burping up giant trash bags that come heaping up out of no where from the edge of our home. It is still a very ugly basement, but at least I can move around now. My barber husband is actually talking about a "man cave." If that happens, I will be sure to do a "before and after" photo session. So back in February, as the house filled with the scent of simmering soup, I also empty the house with bags and bags of stuff that I just didn't want to sort out, so I just sort of tossed it out instead and stuffed myself silly with soup! 

So, in the meantime, while my lawn continues to "burp" out trash bags from no where, I thought I would share some photography of the latest Where Women Create as well as some photography of my French table top design from my Rustic Mushroom Soup recipe I did for Where Women Cook website's, Amuse Bouche.

I believe I mentioned that I shot some photos of  2 Martins in a Nest for this issue. Here are some extra photos that didn't make the publication, but I thought you would enjoy it. This paper company's owner, Rachel Martin, designed her own wedding using only paper. Yes, paper!

I was asked to photograph Rachel's wedding's decorations, all made out of paper, and I enjoyed the assignment so much. It was a hot June day, but a beautiful wedding! Please enjoy the photographs and stop by her website and enjoy her creativity. And, in my prior post of my book signing in NYC, the beautiful brooch I am wearing is a gift from Rachel - all made out of paper and a vintage button. Enjoy looking at all the goodies before it was set up and then after....

The brides mom, Cecile is a pretty a blossom herself on the day of the wedding....

And here is the bride herself, Rachel...and owner of 2 Martins in a Nest!

I am not a wedding photographer, but I enjoyed staying and taking a few photos (and trying to stay out of the way of the real wedding photographer). It was a beautiful wedding!

I hope you enjoyed the little paper wedding tour - I know I enjoyed being there. And congrats to the newlyweds...a beautiful couple.

And now on to my little Rustic Mushroom soup table top design and recipe. 

Most people don't know how much I enjoy cooking. And how much I really enjoy cooking for my barber husband. I get immense pleasure in feeding my "Edward Scissor Hands". Mainly because, he is very appreciative and shows it. One would think he is married to Julia Child to hear his little happy "grunts" as he munches down my Spanish rice, or bites into my sour cream pound cake, or as he cuts into my medium-rare strip steak with red wine sauce and finger potatoes. I might share with you some of my favorite recipes in future postings, and maybe take photos. I haven't decided, but I did enjoy this little assignment below and of course, my barber husband loved the assignment probably more than I did...!

Below is our little dining area - my favorite room in our home. We eat breakfast here every morning and yes, I really have a white table cloth on the table almost always. It is a treat that adds elegance to our really simple life and it is so easy to do, so why not do it?

This particular cloth only cost me $5 and is vintage French. We have spilt just about everything you can think of on it. I wash with old fashion Biz. Yes, powder Biz for whites. I may soak it in a sink if we got really happy with a spaghetti dinner, but normally, tossing it in the wash is all I ever do. I usually have three tablecloths washed and ironed and ready to go - hanging on hangers. They are so simple and chic and make everything so special - even peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Having lived in Europe for so long, I just got used to white cloths and fell in love with them. The cheaper the better because you don't think twice about messing them up - and we do mess them up!

Below is a little set up for a buffet style soup party with portobello mushroom sticks and bread sticks as well. I used my vintage ironstone tureen and other ironstone dishes as well as my English soup cups. The key is to keep the table rustic with a little elegance.

I love my antique French trivet and antique grain sack that I use on the table to protect it. I wrap the cheese in a linen napkin and keep the ladle on a dish. I put the dried hydrogenous (from my friend, Renee's yard!) in a vintage French milk can for a rustic feel. Simple white linen, grain sacks, milk can, and elegant tureen makes for a chic, but simple table.

Ironstone custard cup is perfect for bread sticks or portobello sticks and the crazing adds warmth.

Adding old books for height and interest is easy and adds a rustic feel as well. 

So here is the final look again. You can see how simple it really is. Soup is the main course, bread, mushrooms, butter, and grated cheese. Below are the photos of the soup and ways to serve it and then the recipe. This is by far, one of my barber husband's favorite meals that I make for him. He just laps it up...I don't think we ever have any left overs now that I think about it :-)

I love using my old oval ironstone platter as the main plate, antique soup spoon, vintage salt and pepper shakers, and French soup bowl. A Belgium linen napkin and suddenly, a very simple rustic soup becomes a 5-star meal!

Below is the recipe for my Rustic Mushroom Soup. It all started out years ago with a can of mushroom soup - the healthy kind. Then over the years, I kept adding things to it, and now, well, it is more full But I still keep the can of soup in the recipe because that is how it all started out and I believe it does add some consistency and the flavor we are familiar with as well. I also really, really, really, love and use only cracked pepper and a LOT of it. This does not add a "peppery" flavor, but it does add GOOD flavor, so don't skimp!!

Bon Appétit! 

Total time: Prep and cooking time: 20 - 25 minutes 
2TBL butter
2 TBL olive oil
1 White onion, chopped
2 TBL chopped garlic (from jar) or 2 cloves, chopped
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cracked pepper
1 PT heavy cream
1 - 1 1/2  LBS of mushrooms (washed and stems removed)
2 large portobello mushrooms
3 TBL of chicken bouillon granules  or 2 cubes
2 TBS of dark red wine (not cooking wine)
1 can Campbell’s healthy choice condensed cream of mushroom soup
2 - 3 tsp cracked pepper to finished soup
salt to taste
8 Qt pan
2Qt sauce pan

Tip: Cut onion across, but not all the way through, with the root of the onion down.

Then turn the onion and cut across, and then turn on the side and slice off the little cubes.

When butter is foaming in the oil, add the onion and gariic.

In  8 quart pan, on medium to high heat, melt butter to foam and add olive oil. Add chopped onion and chopped garlic and sauté and add 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon cracked pepper. (Regular pepper may be used, but cracked pepper is more flavorful.) Cook and stir for three or four minutes and reduce heat to medium.

Slice mushroom very thinly and add to melted butter as you go.

In the 2 quart pan, pour in the cream and add the chicken bouillon granules. And turn on medium to low heat. Heat this to dissolve the granules. Make sure you do not boil the cream. While this is heating, you may begin with the mushrooms.
De-stem washed mushroom and slice the caps of the mushrooms very thinly and add to the butter and onions mixture and stir. Keep slicing several mushrooms and add to the onions and stir. You do not have to slice all the mushrooms at once then add them when done. Adding mushrooms as you slice allows the sauté mushrooms to seep out their juices. (Check the cream, make sure it is not boiling. You may turn off the heat once the granules are dissolved.) Once all the mushrooms are sliced and sautéed with the onions, stir several times to coat. 

After you make the cream mixture add it to the mushrooms.

Add the wine to the cream mixture and stir to blend. Pour the cream into the mushroom and onion mixture and stir. Add the can of soup and blend. You may add some water if you want the soup a little thinner. Add 2-3 teaspoons of cracked pepper and salt to taste. Lots of cracked pepper gives this soup a lot good flavor - it does not give it a pepper taste, just wonderful flavor. Reduce heat to low and keep warm while preparing the table and slicing the portobello mushrooms.

Lots and lots of cracked pepper will really adds wonderful flavor!

This serves six people. While the soup is simmering on low heat, slice the bread and portobello mushrooms. 

There is something very comforting about a bowl soup and even more soothing if it is homemade. I especially enjoy hearing my barber husband walk through the door, after a long day on his feet, and take in the scents and hear him call out how good the house smells. Hearing that fills my heart more than the soup fills my stomach. I personally think we have lost the simplicity of eating a real dinner at a real dinner table. It doesn't have to be much. It can be a simple sandwich and a bowl of chips. But the act of sitting at the table that is set with real dishes, not take-out boxes, eating without the television on, and slowing down to eat a real meal is an act that seems so yesteryear, but it isn't. 

Reconnecting at the end of the day with loved ones for an electronic-free hour is something that shouldn't be nostalgic, but a relief. We create and design the life we want for ourselves. And if we complain we don't have time, or we can't, or we have too many activities, then we must ask ourselves who agreed to fill our time in ways we don't find it fulfilling? Who agreed to have us participate in activities that don't add value or joy to our lives? And who forced us to eat food that isn't tasty, good for us, or at the very least adds beauty to our table? 

We know the answers.

We create our lives the way we want to live. The key is this: we just simply stop for a moment, take a breath, and decide what kind of life do we want to live? I mean, how do we really want to live our life? With real joy? Sometimes, we just go, go, go and we just need to get things done without even thinking about all those things we are getting done and if they are even the things we want to do in the first place. I know I get caught up in the rat race and have to stop and breath. And cooking helps me to slow down and rethink how I am living my life. And while I am cooking, I end up with a good meal, a pretty table, and good conversation that allows me to rethink how I am spending my precious time and where and how I am sharing my very valuable self.

Cooking can serve up more than just a good meal - it can serve as a good reminder to slow down and to take in life's delicious aromas.

From my house to your house,

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