Saturday, November 5, 2011

First Soup of the Season

There is a chill in the air here in Georgia, and that means soup! For some reason, I'm not a big fan of soups during the warmer months, but when the leaves are turning, and the wind picks up, there is nothing better than whipping up a big pot on a Sunday afternoon.

I like them for the sake of convenience too. One pot (read: fewer dirty dishes). Large quantities (read: I only have to cook once and I have meals for several days/nights now, or in the future in the freezer).

The other reason I love making soups is because I can control the ingredients. Yeah, yeah, of course it's better for my health...more veggies, lower sodium, leaner meats.

But, the real reason I like controlling ingredients is because I can be as creative as I want. Sure, there are tons of great recipes out there to follow (which I encourage!), but I've learned to let my imagination run wild with soups and throw a little of this in and then a little of that and viola! A masterpiece. Trouble is, I always forget to write down the magic formulas. Darn.

This past week, I was watching back episodes of Giada de Laurentiis on DVR and came across an episode where she made this delicious, easy tomato soup. It was so easy and absolutely delicious!

Even though I didn't make it up myself, I felt like I did since everything I needed was in my pantry or fridge, and I pulled one of those "on camera" moments where I effortlessly grabbed this and that and ended up with this:

Quick and Spicy Tomato Soup
(by Giada de Laurentiis)


3 tablespoons olive oil
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 (26-ounce) jar marinara sauce (recommended: San Marzano brand)
2 (14-ounce) cans chicken broth
1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup pastina pasta (or any small pasta)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Warm the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat.

2. Add the carrots, onion, and garlic and saute until soft, about 2 minutes.

3. Add the jar of marinara sauce, chicken broth, cannellini beans, red pepper flakes, pasta, salt and pepper.

4. Simmer for 10 minutes.

5. Ladle into bowls and serve.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Hiatus is over!

Wow. It's been a really long time since I've posted. I have good reason though! Well, ok, for six weeks after my last post, life just got busy. But, on July 25, 2011, my world was turned upside down when the entire first floor of my home flooded.

Yep. Every last bit of it was under at least 2 inches of water.

I was literally living in a construction zone for nearly two months (more posts about that soon), not much cooking was going on unless it involved opening a Lean Cuisine and popping it in the microwave or making a deli sandwich.

But, I'm on the other side, and it is glorious! I have a brand new, updated, gorgeous, shiny, elegant, practical, spacious, magazine-like kitchen! There, I said it. It's fantastic. And I have been - and plan to continue - cooking up a storm in it...oh, the holidays have never seen such deliciousness!

I will be writing many, many new posts very soon, but here are a few pictures of the destruction to give you a mental image of why I've been away for so long.


I have missed you. 

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Would You Care for a Spot of Tea?

Tea. It's not something that I've really ever been too jazzed by, but when in London, do as the Londoners do: tea time every afternoon.

My first teatime of my recent trip was at a local Primrose Hill cafe. Now, I'm not the kind of girl that can do the straight up stuff yet, so I enjoyed my tea with cream and sugar. Mmmmmm.

Little did I know that this experience was just the prelude to the mother of all tea experiences.

St. James's Restaurant at the famed Fortnum & Mason (aka The Queen's Grocer) is the absolute mecca for the perfect high tea experience. (Who am I kidding? F&M is a mecca for all things food period.) This amazing mercantile has been in Piccadilly London since 1707, and has every kind of tea, biscuit, cookie, jam and chocolate you could ever imagine. And so much more.

Our "high tea" reservations began with a toast and glass of rose bubbly - cheers!

Soon after, a three-tier tray of tea sandwiches, scones and pastries arrived...

which we slathered with sweet, juicy homemade jam, marmalade and clotted cream.

After perusing a multi-page book of tea varieties, we finally settled on two distinct F&M blends: Royal Blend and Regent's Blend. Hints of spice and herb and citrus flavors permeated the air the moment the hot water hit the leaves (yes, leaves; this is real tea, not instant).

Aren't I fancy?

As if the food weren't enough, just take a gander at the atmosphere...classical music being played on a shiny black grand piano; large, lush, fragrant floral arrangements displayed around the restaurant; and soft, plush chairs and couches covered in rich, luscious fabrics.

At any moment, I fully expected Ms. Jane Austen herself to walk in and join us.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Ode to BlogHer Food 2011

Commercial break: BlogHer Food 2011 was amazing!

I'm still on a high.

High on foodie enthusiasm, inspiration, aspiration, new friends, and most of all, possibilities.

One of the first sessions I attended was on branding (led by Eat the Love and The Tomato Tart) yourself and your blog. I came away so excited to  dive deep into the discovery process of finding the essence of FunGirlCooks. Not only my voice, but also the visual representation of this blog. (Hint: watch for enhancements in the months to come!)

This being my first blogger conference, I was certain that I had just hit the jackpot and experienced the climax of the two-days in my first session. Boy, was I wrong.

Day 1 included sessions on food travel writing with the likes of Donna Pierce of Skillet Diaries to mobile platforms for your blog with Epicurious, Gourmet Live and Scripps Network excutives.

Day 2 included a session with David Leite of Leite's Culinaria and Diane Jacob, author of Will Write for Food, discussing copyright, credit and etiquette in the food blogger arena. I capped off the day with a fantastic session on food blogging for change discussing world hunger, personal health, and engaging in the food community in your local town.

Perhaps the highlight of the day: Sweet Auburn Curb Market.

Come. To. Mama.

Grindhouse burger with vidalia onion rings.

Sweet potato cheesecake a la Sweet Auburn Bakery.

Roasted peach lemonade from Cafe Campesino.

Need I say more?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Headed to the Borough

I just got back from a trip across The Pond. Yep, that's right. I had the opportunity to take two weeks and visit my dear friend, Dr. Nellie, while she was finishing up a bit of studying in London.

My next several posts will be about my adventures with Dr. Nellie...beginning with our trip to London's famed and beloved Borough Market.

I first became aware of this wonderland of food when I saw it on Ina Garten's London special during the holidays last year. Knowing I was headed there in the spring, I have pretty much been obsessed ever since.

The market is made up of of hundreds of vendors selling everything from piping hot Hunstman Pie...

to giant, steaming pots of paella...

to sweet and savory homemade marmalades...

to pastries that will make you want to cry...

and everything in between.

Walking around the market with a zillion of your closest friends takes some patience, but it's hard to really lose your cool when you realize that you are milling through this foodie mecca with your own people.

I mean, how can you fault someone for stopping in the middle of the isle because they just tasted the creamiest, richest cheese of their life? Or for taking 20 minutes in line ahead of you to decide which of the homemade truffles - dark, white, milk, cayenne, chai, strawberry... - is "the" one? I just don't think you can.

If I were an athlete, experiencing Borough Market would definitely be like winning the Superbowl or the World Series.

Dr. Nellie and I roamed and roamed, ogling at all the delights...then, suddenly, there it was: The Flour Station. This is the very vendor where the Barefoot Contessa herself purchased an unbelievably gooey, glistening sweet roll on her trip to Borough Market. I must have one.

I had stood where Ina had been. Happy, happy girl.

After a couple hours of exploring all the cracks and crevices of the market, we picked up some sandwiches and a glass of cold cider to wash them down (I literally watched them pour my cider straight from the cask!) and sat down to rest our feetsies for a bit before heading back to the flat.

Words cannot even begin to describe the swelling in my heart that Saturday morning.  Sheer and utter thrill, complete amazement, crazy wonderment. I felt as if I had come home walking through the market bustling with people, smelling the aromas of the bounties of this earth (and some from grandma's kitchen) and truly savoring every moment.