Stormy Soup

comments: 63

























Sparkle and blur, everything rushing by. The days spin past me and I only slow to cook or knit, and, even then, I knit like the wind, finishing entire sweaters that I haven't stopped long enough to put on Ravelry; I can't now remember what the patterns were called or what yarn I used or which needles, though they were finished just weeks, days, minutes ago. Should knitting be done so quickly? On Tuesday, Stacey kindly, kindly helped me reorganize my baking and dry-goods cabinet, emptying mason jars that had been filled with expired flours and grains; hand-washing everything in scalding, soapy water; wiping down shelves and lining up jars (again) like good little soldiers, waiting for me to cook. It worked: I was inspired. It was nice to move the enormous cast-iron Dutch oven three feet higher on the shelves so that I didn't feel like I was breaking my back every time I wanted to make soup but first needed to collect that monstrous beast from (practically) off the floor. Things like this — such practical, obvious things on their surfaces — don't get done because in reality they require not just moving that one pot but actually, like, emptying and reorganizing and entire standing wardrobe of fifty pots, pans, and jars first. Many things like this have fallen to the way, way, wayside over the past four years. That's been okay for a while, but it's time to improve. Slowly I'm reclaiming the domestic territories from their chaotic, swirling depths. Shelf by shelf. Cabinet by cabinet. I impose order in the smallest of ways, facing out labels and sweeping every grain of rice off the floor. I have missed doing these things. Every little stitch, every re-stacked pile of cake pans, every leaking, flour-covered bag of flour emptied into a jar of flour helps restore order to this little corner, when so much in the outside world feels whipped up and wild and wearying. I never seem to have time to do the things that make things feel better.

Cold-weather cooking is preferred over summertime stuff, at least. Fresh tomatoes, heads of lettuce, and mountains of glistening berries delight almost everyone but usually make me feel overwhelmed and vaguely anxious. Give me gigantic pots of things that bubble and thicken. Let me chop piles of onions and carrots and and sweet potatoes, roots that have been waiting, buried in deep, dark soils, to be sweated and roasted and caramelized. Let me preheat ovens and strain gravies and grate Gruyere. Last weekend here was soooo stormy that we scrapped all plans for leaving the house. Amelia wanted macaroni and cheese for her birthday dinner. It didn't even occur to me to make it from a box. Cheeses bubbled and breadcrumbs crisped in their cast-iron skillet under the broiler. Alas, she hated it, and I didn't love it either (er, I made us both some Kraft spirals the next day), but it was great to make. (Luckily, Andy loved it.) On Sunday afternoon, inspired (as with so much) by Amy of Second and Edgemont, I roasted a chicken (using this recipe). It sat on a little bed of potatoes and carrots, and I made a baked rice dish with mushrooms and shallots from The New York Times 60-Minute Gourmet in my little casserole pot. The whole meal pleased me so much and filled me with such a strange sense of satisfaction that I went to bed thinking about it all, and woke up thinking about it, too. I'm just realizing now that that might have been because we made stock overnight in the crock pot and the house, all night long, was filled with the scent of simmering bones and broth and bay leaves. I don't know. It all just felt good and made me happy. My people were fed. The kitchen was clean. The chicken was easy. Its deliciousness far exceeded my expectations and far outweighed the effort involved, and something about all of those things just felt like such a relief, like an actual, existential relief.

Like . . . yeah.

It's been a long time since cooking has made me happy. 

Yesterday, Mimi and I stayed home almost all day. We lit every little lamp we could find. Our grocery-shopping trip was poorly timed, and we managed to venture out during the only fifteen minutes that rain was coming down in sheets. Back at home, she wound three skeins of yarn around every knob, drawer handle, chair leg, and table, making an living-and-dining-room-sized spiderweb of wool. I went into the kitchen and sliced up an entire kielbasa sausage — my first ever, how weird is that? For some reason I've just never had it before — and browned it in the (aforementioned) Dutch oven. I fished the (delicious!) kielbasa out to wait on a plate and threw in handful after handful of leeks, carrots, onions, and sweet potato cubes and let it all cook down until the house smelled like bliss. Lentils, tomatoes, Sunday's chicken stock, and a couple more hours of simmering turned into — I can still hardly even believe it — one of the best soups I've ever had. I can't even believe I just sort of made it up myself (after reading a few recipes and taking parts and pieces out of each of them) because I never cook without following a recipe quite literally. When Andy got home last night I was stepping on his heels like a corgi, so excited was I for him to try it. Still in scrubs, he ate two bowls. I went up to bed with a large smile on my face. He texted me: "It's so good!!!!! Sweet, smoky, even a touch tart." I wrote back immediately: "YES MY KITCHEN GAME IS STRONG LATELY!!!" I'm not sure I've thought, let alone said, much less written, anything even close to that in the last four years. Should you need to feel clever and capable one of these rainy evenings, try it.

October Soup

2 T. olive oil
1 lb. kielbasa sausage, cut into 1/8" rounds
4 large carrots, cut lengthwise and sliced
3 large leeks (white parts only), cut lengthwise and sliced
1 large onion, chopped
1 t. Kosher salt
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large sweet potato or yam, peeled and cut into 1/2" cubes
2 c. red lentils
1 14-oz. can of diced tomatoes
6 c. chicken stock

In large Dutch oven, brown sausage in olive oil over medium heat until edges are crispy. Remove from pot and set aside, leaving drippings in pot. Add carrots, leeks, and onion and salt and sautee over medium heat for quite a while — 20 minutes or so — until all vegetables are golden and getting caramelized. Add garlic and sweet potato and cook another few minutes. Add lentils, tomatoes, and chicken stock and bring to a decent simmer. Cook for about an hour and a half, stirring occasionally, until lentils are tender. Return kielbasa to the soup and heat through. Add more stock if soup gets too thick for you, but I like it thick. You could definitely add kale to this — I had a bunch and forgot to put it in!

Serve with garlic bread.

Also: Thank you ever so much for all of your very kind comments on Mimi's party and birthday. She had such a great birthday week and so did we. Thank you for being so sweet — I really appreciate it. You are just so kind. XOXO. And for those who have asked, her invitations were from Minted and a lot of her party supplies were from Sweet Lulu.


yvonne Welty says: October 21, 2016 at 02:28 PM

Your blog is one I always look forward to reading. I have purchased some of your patterns and they are so much fun. Hope you keep writing, creating and mothering that adorable girl of yours!

Jane Corbett says: October 21, 2016 at 02:48 PM

Another lovely post with beautiful photos. I love the felt fawn ears you made for Amelia. She looks beautiful with her hair in a topknot. Also love the photo of her popping out of the puppet theatre. Every one of your photos is frame-worthy. Keep up the great work. xo

Everything looks delicious! Your kitchen must smell wonderful.
Haven't made baked mac and cheese in ages (the real stuff) and now I can't wait to give it a go.
Oh, those freckles across her nose - so sweet.

I don't even know what I liked best: Amelia in the wagon or at her puppet theatre with the ears headband on or on the phone or the pictures of your fabulous fall cooking adventures!!! I do know I am going to go make a bowl of oatmeal for supper though. I eagerly await each and every one of your blog posts with pictures of your utterly charming home and family.

Yum, I can smell the loveliness that is cooking in your kitchen. The photo's of your dishes are inviting.
This weather takes our nesting instincts into full speed ahead. Knitting, cooking, cleaning ~ it's all good and so fulfilling.
Looking forward to your Fall foliage photo's.

Your dinners always sound so lovely and cozy. I'm definitely trying your October Soup!

Well it is just cloudy not storming, but you have inspired me to start making some soup in my Crockpot, Alicia. Thanks! xx

I'm glad the chicken broth in the crock pot worked out! I love making my own broth because it's so gelatinous, and when used in a soup, it makes it gel very nicely in the fridge and so is much less likely to leak out of its container during my commute :P

I was inspired by your cooking mojo.. I have a mac and cheese and peas recipe that is sure to please Mimi and you.. it's from scratch and uses Velveeta for the creaminess and bechamel and a drained can of peas in it and sliced Tillamook cheddar on top. Let me know if you want the recipe.. I can email it to you. Gosh, Mimi is getting more gorgeous every day.. such a doll. We're at the beach for a week.. the sun is setting soon.. gorgeous. ((hugs)), Teresa :-)

What's in the first bowl? Looks delish x

I had my babies at 39 and 41. It took me six full years to feel "normal" again, though it was definitely not the old normal, but a new one. These precious children change us so, and it is lovely listening and watching as you all grow together into the adventure. Bravo for every crumb swept up, every re-organized space. Babies don't keep, but housework can always wait. Thank you, once again, for sharing your beautiful life.

The kielbasa soup sounds so delicious. I just wanted to tell you, speaking of food, that you inspired me to get a breadmaker, which is sitting in its box right in front of me right now! I hope you still like yours. It really had never occurred to me before, but suddenly I just had to have one.

Anywho, hope you are having a lovely Friday!

hayley taylor says: October 21, 2016 at 07:16 PM

Loving your posts - my first go-to blog each morning. Your photos are simply lovely x

Your October Soup sounds wonderful, and I definitely want to make it this weekend...just happen to have kielbasa in the fridge!! One question about the what point in the cooking of the soup did you return the kielbasa slices to the pot? Thank you for sharing your beautiful photos and recipes with us all!

You didn't ask, but here is the easiest and most delicious homemade mac and cheese recipe:

Cook 1 lb elbows (or your favorite shape pasta) per directions. If you remember, reserve 1/4 cup pasta water before draining.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan melt 8 oz creme fraiche with 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes over medium heat. Add two cups grated sharp cheddar cheese (buy a bag of shredded cheese or grate your own). Stir until all the cheese is melted and smooth. Add the pasta water if you remembered to reserve it. Pour over the drained pasta; stir. Serve.

(We still buy the boxed kind to have on emergency reserve, because sometimes that really is exactly the kind of mac and cheese you crave.)

"I never seem to have time to do the things that make things feel better."--yes, this! Story of my life right now. I know the things I need to do, I just do not seem to have the time or energy to make them happen as I go from one thing to the next. The entire pantry needs to be rearranged, but when to find time to empty/clean/rearrange it, with littles offering so much "help"? I so feel you--making even small changes can feel overwhelming. Glad you are reclaiming corners from the chaos! :)

Your soup sounds yummy! I love red lentils and will make this. Tonight I made vegetarian green pea soup. I'm with you on lovving fall cooking!

I loved this post Alicia, I completely relate to that feeling of organisation. I've been tidying and clearing here too lately, slowly, slowly. There's such a good feeling of positive new energy afterwards when I can easily put my hands on things and easily put them away afterwards. Maybe I should start on the kitchen next... Have a lovely weekend. CJ xx

Nothing like the Fall season to inspire yummy cooking! Will make your soup now that our weather is a little cooler - thanks for sharing! Hope your inspiration rubs off on me!

Thanks for sharing the sentiment that you never have time to do the things that make you feel better! That is exactly where I am now. I have IKEA bookshelves to assemble today in between volleyball tournament and pumpkin patch, laundry, and wash 2 big stinky dogs. I know you are very busy, too busy at times, but I really appreciate your sacrifice of time to share your beauty,hopes and encouragements with other women. Blessings on your day!

Is that oatmeAl in the first pic? It looks AWESOME!

Lovely post. Autumn is my favourite season, for lots of reasons but especially foodwise, the time of year when tastebuds are tickled with the deeper flavours of seasonal ingredients slowly simmered and casseroled. Rounded off, of course, with a proper hearty pud ('not for me, thanks, I'm full, oh, go on then'). Have a great week.

I feel energized . . .
I think you have helped my "kitchen game!"
One of my recipes for our annual family Halloween "Soup Fest"
is very much like your recipe. Tweaking soups into success is such fun!
Your "little poise" is delightful!
Every look, tweak of hair, smile . . . cozy moment . . .
Love following her . . . you . . .

Bethany Hissong says: October 22, 2016 at 08:54 AM

Your stormy soup recipe is perfect for our stormy weekend here! Thanks for sharing! :)

I've never made homemade mac and cheese, growing up as a blue box gal. But I've always wanted to try it. Yours certainly looks delicious. I'm going to save that soup recipe. I'm always in the mood for a good soup. Amelia just gets more beautiful with every passing day, doesn't she? What a sweet face she has.

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About Alicia Paulson


My name is Alicia Paulson
and I love to make things. I live with my husband and daughter in Portland, Oregon, and design sewing, embroidery, knitting, and crochet patterns. See more about me at