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.


Oh, the soup sounds fun. I'm enjoying how things are turning green once again in Oregon with all this rain. (August turned everything straw colored out here in the country.) I have finally found a mac & cheese recipe my kids love, but for years I would make all this effort to make it - feel really good that I'm not feeding my children the boxed processed stuff - and alas, they always hated it too. (Of course, they'd devour the boxed stuff!)

Awww, bummer on the mac-n-cheese. I searched for a link to my go-to recipe from Marian Burros and !ha! this site crossed linked it with the very same Martha Stewart recipe you used.

They do seem kinda similar on paper; don't know how they might differ to the taste buds. Of course you can tweak them to your liking. I usually leave out the hot sauce, amp up the mustard and make a "wetter" ratio of sauce:pasta. And covering with foil until the very end of baking helps that too.

Happy for your good feelings about the cooking and the organizing.

t. a. knight says: October 22, 2016 at 12:19 PM

The ears your little girl is wearing. Can you tell us more about the ears? Ive been thinking of kitty ones, as I know the holoween ones will only last so long and she loves being a kitty! What did you use instead of a plastic head band? Elastic?

Stephanie Patenaude says: October 22, 2016 at 02:54 PM

Just love all of this so much. Inspiring as usual. Happy October.

I recommend cutting some jalapeno and cheese sausages up in your soup too. I use that in my potato soups and my soup beans and it adds just the right kick.
After this crazy, unsettling year is finally over, I think we all need to get back to what is important. Home, hearth and family and make our homes as comfy as possible and cook the most delicious, wonderful smelling things we can in our kitchens. Whatever is going on in the world, we need to make our homes the center of peace, love and comfort.

Oh, and here's my recipe for macaroni and cheese that my grandchildren beg for every time they are at my house.
In a large pan, cook elbow macaroni. Pour off water. Add half a stick of butter, a cup or two of Velveeta cheese cut in cubes, a bit of milk, salt and pepper and stir over low heat until the cheese is melted. You may have to add a little bit of milk at a time to keep it from sticking. Sometimes I add different cheeses with the Velveeta, but not very often as my grandchildren like it best with Velveeta. I haven't made boxed macaroni in decades.

Kiolbassa sausage is made in San Antonio! Yay. It's my absolute faveity fave sausage ever. Our grocery store, HEB, has Hatch sausage which is also wonderful. Let's just talk sausage, k? Turkey sausage is mushy and disgusting. Boudin. YUM. Enough sausagey chat. Cheers.

I completely feel the same way about organizing the home. My children's craft drawers in our desk were out of control, and we need to move the desk in order to move the couch in order to fit the crib : ) It just seemed so overwhelming, so it sat. And sat. And sat. Until one day I cleared out the bottom two drawers, and then - in a stroke of genius - I bought a cutlery tray to organize the pens for the top drawer AND GOT MY 8 YEAR OLD TO SORT IT ALL. And honestly, he's amazing - he already folds and puts away towels way better than I ever well, and he organized the drawer like a boss. So - I get it. : )

I love the picture with the soap bubbles in the puppet theater. Did you realize Amelia's lips' opening forms a perfect HEART ?! The soup sounds great, I will definitely try it!

I know your life is like ours, with ups and downs, but goodness, when I read your blog, I think you live in a fairy tale. Always love your beautiful photos. So warm and cozy.

Ah! Game ON!!! Please send some of your kitchen/cooking mojo my way. Alas, school and work and chasing 3 small people and Halloween and graduate school and 4H and family reunions...why cook? There's nothing left and I desperately need to go to the store. Inspiration from your blog, even the pictures, and the free produce that comes home with my husband from work. Here's to homemade macaroni and cheese and meals the small people may one day learn to love. Here's hoping!

My clever clever daughter just introduced me to chalk markers. A simple kind of soft/greasy chalk marker that writes on glass. WHAT?!! You use them to label jars of stuff. WHAT?!!! FANTASTIC. All those perhaps mystery jars that only I know what's really in them, spice jars, etc. Did I say FANTASTIC?! Wipes off with warm water. LOVE IT.

I have to laugh at how pervasive the urge to hunker down and get back to basics seems to be in response to the darkening days and falling temperature: my house, too, has smelled of poultry stock for the past two days. And I too love the switch to root-vegetable based, slow-cooked, aromatic autumnal cooking. But I'd forgotten about the delights of kielbasa: thanks for the reminder. And those photos of Amelia? I think this is your best blog post ever on that score. She is heart-breakingly lovely, but you've also captured a huge range of moods and aspects of her personality in this one post. Impish, pensive, curious, enthusiastic, playful, open to everything. Beautiful, both your daughter and your photographs of her.

BONNIE Buckingham says: October 23, 2016 at 11:45 AM

Your little girl shouldn't grow up! She is so magically adorable.
You capture her innocence and purity through the lens.

That picture where you caught light in her eyes and she's half turned away, oh my goodness, that's one for framing I think.That little sprinkle of freckles like nutmeg on her nose!! But I did want to mention, does kitty look a little thin? Is she OK? I'm sorry, it's really none of my business but I'm a vet and it's hard to tell in pictures. I tried not to leave this message but I couldn't put that spark of worry to rest. I know she's getting a little older. Please excuse me if I'm wrong, I just thought she was usually a little rounder. Lots of love. :)

Just love the cloud pillow! :-)

There is nothing better than roast Chicken. I have found a great recipe that when cooked in a Le Creuset cast iron casserole dish is just pure heaven. It's the little things!
Lovely photos as always, truely inspirational.

I just said to my SIL yesterday that as much as I love grilling on our charcoal grill and garden foods, I have been just waiting to get back into crock pot cooking, roasting meat and making soups. And baking, oh how missed the baking this past summer as the temps and humidity made my kitchen too hot to use the oven.
Love all your excitement and captured beauty.

I love visiting your blog. I've been so busy I haven't been able to visit more often, but I always scroll through and catch up on everything I missed. Looking at these snapshots of your life, and reading what is going on always, always brightens my day. :)

Oh, my!
I wasn't looking for a... whatever and she is already as big as a kitchen cabinet!
And looks so Andy, I know - but still.
I wish you all the best.

Janine Olson says: October 24, 2016 at 08:16 AM

Oh my! Beautiful pictures, beautiful daughter, and beautiful memories!

Red lentils are the greatest ever. I happened to have all the ingredients for October soup but the leeks (purchased during lunch errands today), and will be making it tonight. Can't wait.

Alicia, your blog has kept me company for years and I hope you never tire of it. It's a gift.

I believe your knitting comments were meant for me! I am making a "design as you go" baby blanket, changing the pattern and colours as I click along ... A little angel sits on my left shoulder reminding me to write it down as I go, while the little devil on the right urges me to continue and not break the momentum!

ah fall. those soup and sweater pics just make me so happy. and those freckles...oh my goodness how cute are they? i must try the october soup if for no other reason than it's called october soup. like you, regardless of what the garden gives us, i so much prefer fall and winter cooking. you have inspired me to throw on the apron and actually get back to the enjoyment of it all. beautiful

What a lovely, "Homey" post. Thank you for sharing. We all need more home days and just chilling out as families...whether it's a family of 20 or just two (as is my case at this time of life).

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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




Since August of 2011 I've been using a Canon EOS 60D with an EF 18-200mm kit lens and an EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens.