Friday, December 14

Giveaway open!

Entry Form is officially up and active! I'm experimenting with this entry form style so I need your feedback and let me know how you feel about it. Just go to this link and you can enter into the drawing. Contest closes on January 15, 2013 at 11:59 pm est. There winner will be drawn on January 16, 2013 and announced on January 18, 2013. The winner will also be contacted by email where I will confirm the winners choice of prize and where to send your wonderful prize. The winner will be chosen by listing all participants in an excel doc, randomly ordering the list, assigning numbers and using a random number chooser. I am also allowing for extra entries when you share my blog on facebook or pinterest or whatever platform is your favorite! I'm allowing up to 4 entries per person. Good Luck!

Moving on from the giveaway, I really need to find some good new music. Some music that will convince me to continue tearing through my yarn. It's getting difficult to come up with everything to make or what yarn to use. If you have any suggestions, please let me know. I need some new jam.

Busy day, that's all for now. Holiday fun post soon! Follow me at thehappymountaineer on instagram for daily pictures. Subscribe, comment with feedback, and share! Don't forget to enter into the giveaway!

Wednesday, December 12

How to Dominate Some Soup

Soup is delicious and nutritious. Soup making is one of the bedrock skills of the kitchen world. Thing about that is a lot of people seem to skip that lesson somewhere along the line. I have been cooking for years, basically since I was old enough to start helping in the kitchen, but I never really learned to make soup. I never thought that it was an important thing for me to learn to make and I always assumed that I would be able to just do it like I was able to just know how to make most of everything else. My grandma makes soup like nobody’s business, growing up I got used to having all kinds of soups and stews all the time. Whether my grandma made a fresh pot for that nights dinner or had made one earlier and frozen it we almost always had soup around. Now let’s get to how to dominate some fantastic soup. 

First off you need to get your cooking apparatus. A larger pot with handles on the side and a good solid lid is what you’re looking for. Stainless steel is good, it’s light but sturdy and is an excellent material for radiating heat. The best soup pots are taller than they are wide and have a thicker bottom than sides. This allows for better heat transfer and convection. Now that you have your apparatus, let’s get started. I am going to run through how I make a basic  fresh vegetable soup. This will just give you an idea how to put it together. After the recipe I will have a run-down of the basics to keep in your kitchen to be conducive to a soup making environment.

What you will need:
  • 4 tbsp Olive oil
  • 2 cups Leeks - chopped
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped garlic
  • 2 cups carrots - peeled and chopped
  • 2 cups potatoes - peeled and diced
  • 2 cups fresh green beans - broken into smaller pieces
  • 2 quarts chicken or vegetable broth
  • 4 cups tomatoes - peeled, seeded, and chopped
  • 2 ears fresh corn - kernels removed
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley chopped
  • 1-2 tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice - or the juice from 1 lemon
  • Salt and Pepper

Keep in mind that you can use frozen or canned vegetables. For the posterity of this fresh vegetable soup I am using all fresh. First things first, get your pot over some medium-low heat and add your olive oil. Slosh it around a bit and make sure to get all of the bottom of your pot, as soon as it starts to ripple you can throw in your leeks and garlic as well as a pinch of salt to pull out some of that moisture. These are your aromatics. They have the strong full-bodied tastes and will enhance the flavor and experience that your soup puts across. Let those aromatics soften up and get to work. Once they are soft we can go ahead and add the first wave of veggies. We’re going to start with the harder veggies. The ones that need a little longer to cook and to soften up. Get your carrots in there, potatoes next and then the green beans. Now, since these are all foods that contain a little bit of sugar, they will benefit from the added heat. Go ahead and kick it up to medium and let them cook for four or five minutes. Don’t forget to stir occasionally! Time to add so liquidy good-ness. Add your broth, whether it be homemade or store bought is up to you, and there is no shame in using store bought. The soup will be fantastic either way. Stir that beast up and kick that heat up to high. We’re aiming for a simmer here, keep stirring! 

Once you have attained a simmer then it’s time for you to let the second wave of veggies to join the party. Now the way that I add the rest of the veggies is using a strainer spoon. The reason that I use the tool is for safety. It is much safer to slowly lower the veggies in to the hot soup than to just dump them in causing the hot liquid to splash. Get your tomatoes in to the hot mess and then the corn kernels. Now is the time to add your pepper, about 1/2 teaspoon should be good, but season to your taste. If you want to add any other seasonings then now is the time to do it. About now you should also check your veggies. We’re aiming for “fork tender” which means that the vegetables yield to a fork, but they don’t fall apart. Finally, the last minute seasoning. Get some parsley in there to brighten up the flavor a bit and then the juice from one lemon, or about 1-2 teaspoons, to bring up the acidity. And that’s it. Serve and eat or portion out and store by freezing it. There you have it, an easy and super yummy fresh veggie soup that is very healthy!

While fresh is always better, there are some corners you can cut and there are things that you can always have in your pantry so that you can whip up a soup quick if need be. Now you should always have some broths around, or the makings of broth. Make it whatever type of broth you like working with the most. I always kept vegetable broth and chicken broth around. Now from time to time when I would find myself without my chicken broth I would just make my own. Whether I would end up using leftover chicken or just making a broth with chicken base would depend on what else I was making that week. Beef broth is also a good one to keep around. What you keep on hand will depend on your kitchen, cooking style and your family’s taste. Next, you should always have certain spices in your spice cabinet such as cumin, chili powder, curry powder, and the like. Spices that are essential to specific soups like chili or curried wild rice.

Next you should always keep some dried beans on hand. Play around and see what beans you like the most and keep them in your pantry. They stay good for long enough that you shouldn’t have to worry about having them on hand. Next is barley. It’s an ingredient that can add the extra special something and can give your soup or stew that little extra body that it needed. It can also be used as a thickening agent in place of beans, rice, or noodles. On that note, you should always have some rice and noodles on hand. I always kept rice around because it is one of my absolute favorite side dishes and it is also one of my favorite foods in general. I always had a big bag of jasmine rice and I also would have some regular white or brown rice around if the jasmine rice wouldn’t work for a dish. It’s usually a good idea to keep some noodles, of your choosing, in your pantry to use in your soups and because they are just nice to have!

Now, the next few things I am going to say that you should have around is up to you and the way you cook. I like having some frozen and canned veggies around all the time just because I usually decide that there is a vegetable that I would like to have as a side or would like to add to something at the last minute and I can’t be running to the market for every little thing. Fresh veggies are better, heck you can even save extra veggies that you prepped for other meals and had too much of and through in a soup at the end of the week. And last but not least you should keep some meats in your freezer that you can use for soups, stews, casseroles and the like. I would usually keep chicken breast and some beef chunks in the freezer. Go with whatever meats talk to you and you feel most comfortable making. 

The best thing about soups? It is an awesome starter recipe for kids. Kids should be started in the kitchen young, and soups are something that is straightforward and can be easily taught to children. You can start them stirring or chopping or even breaking up the green beans if they are still too young to be handling a knife. Cooking with kids is an entire post all on its own though! So go, make soup and have fun! Play around with the goods that you have hiding in your pantry and your fridge or freezer and see what you come up with. Comment and let me know how your soup goes!

Sorry about going MIA on Sunday and Monday. My schedule got pushed a few days back and I ended up being without internet for a few days so I'm planning on just pushing everything back by a few days. The giveaway will open on Friday and I will have a pretty little link on the sidebar for entry. The prize will be a beautiful shawl or a bath set with soy candle, handmade soap, wash clothes (2) and soap stand. Winners choice. I shall see everyone on Friday with the weekly post and more details about the giveaway. Comment, Subscribe, and share! Hope you're all having a good week!

Monday, December 3

December Already?! and a Giveaway!

November was a busy month for me, especially the end of it. My birthday, Thanksgiving, moving out of the old apartment and into my grandparents house, along with getting everything straightened out for school in January. (I'm going back to school in January!) This past week we did all the moving and settling, although I have everything moved for the most part to where it is going to stay I still find myself shifting things from here to there and finding that I need to go and search for something amongst the piles of boxes and other stuff we have in storage. I didn’t realize how much stuff I had shoved into that apartment until I had to get all of it out. Now that we are settled and I have been able to get back to crocheting I had time to  also go through my massive yarn stash.

My yarn stash. Only another crocheter or knitter would understand how easily our yarn stashes can get out of control. I am able to always justify buying yarn too, no matter how much I already have because, hey, I don’t have this shade of purple or I don’t have a yarn that feels quite like this one. And so I come to my point, I am going to attempt a stashbust. I am going to use all of the yarn that I have right now by the end of this month and not buy anymore until January. I can do this!! That picture isn't even close to being all of it! I feel like I need to be going to an Anonymous meeting for my yarn addiction. "Hi, my name is Shaunda and I am addicted to yarn."

Now most of the yarn will be going towards items that I will be listing in my Etsy shop, some of the yarn will be going to Christmas presents and projects that I started months and years ago and need to finish, and the last of the yarn will be going to a special prize that I will be having a giveaway for. Exciting! I will be setting up the entry process and it will go live along with next Mondays post. I will also be unveiling the prize in Mondays post. Along with me cleaning out my stash I am offering a coupon code for my Etsy shop that will be 20% off any item in the shop including special orders. Just enter “STASHBUST12” at checkout for the discount. This coupon code will expire at 11:59 EST on December 31. I will also be adding at least one or two items to my shop everyday as I clear out my stash so if you don't see something you like right away either let me know and I'll see what I can make you or keep checking back. Check out the sidebar for some of the stuff I have in my shop now and for a link to my shop.

I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving. My SO, Joey, and I were lucky enough to have 3 days together and with our family and friends. We ended up having a dinner with both his family and mine and then dinners with friends. It was a very good holiday and birthday, I couldn't have asked for anything better. Not only are we finishing up being busy from moving but we are about to get really busy and bustling again with Christmas sneaking up on us relatively quickly. As part of our Christmas we are taking a five day trip out to Boise to see my Dad which I am super excited for. Plus, it will be Joeys first time flying, wish us luck!

Have a good week and I will be back on Sunday with a how-to/recipe for killer soups and Monday with a new post and the beginning of entry for the giveaway. Don't forget to share, pin, comment, or subscribe! I'll see you on Sunday!