House of Skip

Thursday, January 29, 2015

And... it's Soup!

Week 3 of the Soup Project here at House of Skip and we are going strong! Two hearty veggie soups this week, that were not too difficult to make.

In case you missed the last two weeks, Skip has taken on a challenge of cooking through a list of at 43 Paleo Soups to Warm You Up compiled by Paleo Grubs. Why? Because instead of just making a few, Skip thought won't it be fun if we make all the soups! In order! Check in with me in a few weeks and ask if I still think this is fun.

First up this week was Pumpkin & Bacon Soup from the blog Things My Belly Likes. I was pretty excited about this soup, because I love pumpkin and bacon! I had to make a slight change due to not being able to find a fresh pumpkin, so that made the recipe easier by cutting down on some steps.

I used canned pumpkin, but instead of cans, I actually found some in a cardboard container!
Here is the brand of pumpkin I used.
Yum. Bacon.

The most fun part was crisping up that beautiful bacon. After cooking the bacon, you then saute the veggies in the bacon fat (YUM!) making sure you get that bacon flavor not only from that step, but then chopping the bacon and sprinkling it on top of the soup before you serve it.

The second soup this week was also a pureed vegetable soup. Saffron Cauliflower Soup w/ Sumac Oil which is from a website called, May I have that Recipe?

Cauliflower browning in the pot, I wish you could smell this.
I love cauliflower and I often roast it or even mash it to serve with dinner, so I was interested in trying a soup, which I hadn't done at home before. The cauliflower looked and smelled so amazing while cooking in the bottom of my stock pot.The other thing that was interesting, or as I like to say "fun", was that the recipe recommended serving this with Sumac Oil. I had never bought or used Sumac and thought it might call for another trip to the Savory Spice Shop, but I did indeed locate it (with the help of my companion) at Whole Foods. Making the oil was pretty easy, mix ground sumac, olive oil and lemon juice and bam! (shout out to Emeril!), you've got it.

The soup was very good and very filling. The sumac oil definitely added to the soup. It was an interesting flavor, it had sort of a tang to it. I describe it was chili powder without the heat, my companion likened it to mustard, I would say we are both on the right track in terms of the flavor profile. I'll have to find more ways to make use of the ground sumac now that I've added it to my spice rack. See what fun this soup project has become?

The final result? My soup came out a little more yellow than what the original recipe looked like, I'm not sure if I roasted the cauliflower too much (let it get too brown) or if the broth I used colored the soup too much.
May I Have that Recipe's soup (left), my soup (right)

I hope you are learning a lot from my experience here with the Soup Project, I know I am. Maybe you'll even try new ingredients after learning of them here. Don't forget to check in next week and keep on soupin' on.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Hooray for Soup!

It's week 2 of Skip's Soup Project and we are still loving soup! Check in with us a few weeks from now and see if we feel the same way!

To recap, the folks at Paleo Grubs compiled a list of 43 Paleo Soups to Warm You Up and here at HOS we thought, instead of just making a few, we'd make all the soups! In order!

So, in week two we have a couple of very yummy and very warming soups.

Chicken Vegetable Soup from Paleo on a Budget and Paleo Tomato Basil Soup from Bravo for Paleo

The Chicken Vegetable Soup was a pretty easy soup to pull together. The work really comes before hand if you plan on making your own broth, etc. During this time of year, I usually like to put a whole chicken in the crockpot with some veggies and water to make not only broth, but to have shredded chicken for recipes during the week. This practice fit right in to making this soup. The day before I planned to make it, I set up my crockpot with the whole chicken.

Then the next day, I strained all the chunky bits out of the broth and shredded the chicken.  Next, as the recipe indicates is really just a "chop and dump". The veggies in the soup are butternut squash, zucchini, onion, carrot and mushrooms. With this method you really could put whatever veggies you wanted in. Once all the veggies are in, you add the broth, chicken and seasoning and boom! you've got soup. The only thing different about this recipe than soups like this that I've made up before is the addition of apple cider vinegar. I didn't really taste it in the soup when I ate it, but I suppose it could add a little tang. This was a great soup, we ate it for breakfast all week, what a great way  to start the day!

Everybody is in the pool- shredded chicken and veggies
As for the Paleo Tomato Basil Soup, this was also not a difficult soup to make. The ingredients are simple, the most effort comes in blending the soup. Luckily I have an immersion blender so I didn't have to transfer anything to the blender and back into the pot. I highly recommend getting an immersion blender, they come in really handy. Be aware that this recipe makes A LOT of soup. It calls for 4 28 oz cans of whole tomatoes (I always try to by San Marzano) plus broth and tomato juice. While I was blending the tomatoes and the basil it smelled so good, in fact you could stop at that point and use that as sauce on pasta, chicken, whatever. I was shocked to see that the recipe called for a 1/4 lb of butter, but who am I to disagree (hee hee). So, after blending the soup, I stirred in the butter and coconut milk and boy did the smell get even better.The color got a little lighter, but it did really look like a creamy soup.
Before the blending began

When my companion dug into it the night I served it for dinner, he said, "It tastes like pizza sauce" and then after a brief pause he added, "that's not a bad thing.". I had to agree, it did taste like pizza or pasta sauce, but it was also a good soup. The perfect soup to dip a grilled cheese in, however being a mostly paleo household, we had pepperoni and olive tapenade sandwiches on Paleo Bread from Julian's Bakery. Again, a really delicious soup, perfect for a cold night. Now, we just have to finish the leftovers before the next two soups get made! Yikes!
The final product, served with a basil leaf for garnish
Well, that's it for this edition of Skip's Soup Project. I'm off to the store to get the ingredients for next week's soups. Wish me luck and please come back to follow along as I continue this journey!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Soup is on!

What to do when you see a list of soups that you want to try and don't know where to start? Make them all!

This is just what happened to Skip recently, when we came across the list compiled by Paleo Grubs of 43 Paleo soup recipes from other bloggers. They all looked so yummy and when I asked my companion which ones he wanted me to make he said "all of them", so what's a girl to do? Start at the top and make them all. Therefore, I've decided to make 2 soups a week until I've completed the list. Care to join me on this journey? I'll be (hopefully) posting weekly with the recipes I'm trying and feedback on them. Follow along and maybe make some soups too!

Here is where you will find the complete list:

I want to make sure I give credit to not only Paleo Grubs for compiling the list, but also to each recipe creator every week when I share my results at trying their soups!

First up...

Week One:

Persian Roasted Butternut Squash Soup from Cinnamon Eats

This soup sounded so yummy from the start. I had never used dried rose petals before and was really intrigued by the idea. I had no idea if I'd be able to find them, after a few unsuccessful searches, it dawned on me that I forgot the perfect shop to find them! The Savory Spice Shop in Princeton and sure enough, I entered the store and asked the friendly employee who greeted us and he was able to locate them in the store in seconds (this was a short visit to one of my favorite stores, but it also gave my companion and I an excuse to visit our other favorite shop in Princeton, Cool Vines.)  

Butternut squash cubed and roasted
Rose Petals
The recipe had multiple steps but none of them were that complicated. And some parts (roasting the squash) were passive, once I had cubed the squash and put it in the oven, I could do other things I needed to get done. The most fun was grinding the rose petals in my spice grinder, the recipe didn't suggest this, but given that it called for ground rose petals and the pieces in the package were big, I thought it was best. Boy did that smell good! Once the soup was blended it smelled and looked amazing. A quick taste test by Skip and her companion confirmed that it was yummy.
Blended soup

We've been in the habit of eating soup for breakfast recently (it really warms you up on cold mornings). So, I re-heated the soup in the am and added a garnish of more ground rose petals to serve. The verdict: a very yummy, warming and hearty soup.

Pizza Soup from Paleo Girl's Kitchen

Sizzling sausage!
Blending the tomatoes
When I saw this soup on the list, I remembered seeing the post from Paleo Girl's Kitchen in the past. It was a collection of "pizza themed recipes", I believe I may have made the soup in the past, but as is Skip's usual practice, I adapted the recipe. For this "project", I want to attempt to make the soups just as the recipes are written, which could get tricky (stay tune for Skip's experience with gizzards!- eek!) I falsely thought this soup was going to be easier to "build" then the other one. There are also a number of steps involved in this recipe as well. The only changes I made, which weren't really changes, but rather alternate methods, were that instead of blending in a blender I used my immersion blender, and therefore I sauteed the veggies in a saute pan and not in the soup pot (because I didn't remove the tomato base from the pot). In addition, I also had to use packaged sausage instead of ground because my market was out of bulk Italian sausage, but I cubed it really small, so we'd get the same feel.

I don't think those small changes affected the feel or taste of the soup. As the delicious tomato base was simmering away and the sausage was crisping up in the cast iron pan, I thought- "wow! it smells just like pizza in here!".

I served this for a weeknight dinner, topped with crispy pepperoni (my companion's favorite part) and sliced black olives. Verdict- this was a very flavorful soup which was full of not only lots of protein, but also veggies (tomato, red bell pepper, onion, and mushrooms).
Garnished soup

 I hope you enjoy this first "installment" of Skip's "Soup Project". Wish me luck with next week's soups and with keeping up on sharing the soups on the blog weekly! :)

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Nashville in a Nutshell

Hello folks!

Skip and her companion recently jetted off to the wonderful land of Nashville, TN for a quick trip with our friends, Mr. & Mrs. Z. Here are some highlights, tid bits and recommendations.

Places to stay: We shacked up at the Hutton Hotel on West End Ave, not far from Vanderbuilt University, but also pretty close to Downtown Nashville. The Hutton is a boutique hotel and is very chic. We found it classy, comfortable and clean-- all very important. They have Nespresso machines on each floor, so you can get your caffeine fix, but you have to leave your room. However, there is a small coffee maker in the room as well with a decent coffee and tea selection. The highlight for Skip's companion was that there were speakers in the bathroom that allowed you to hear what was playing on the tv. The shower was amazing. Skip is not a fan of rain shower heads, but this one was fantastic and you could set the temperature and turn the shower on and off from a panel directly outside of the shower. Pretty cool.

Monday through Friday the Hutton offers a free wine happy hour in the lobby. This is a nice feature and we took advantage of it once- it's a small window of time that it is offered. It's nice to chill in the lobby with a glass of wine and strike up a conversation with fellow travelers. I think this complimentary wine service should include a few snacks. I was disappointed that they didn't have anything to nibble on. I'm not asking for anything elaborate, but I think when you offer free booze, you should probably have some snacks. Being a boutique hotel, Hutton does not have a traditional spa, they do however offer spa services. Mrs. Z and I experienced this strange set up first hand. We booked massages prior to our arrival, we went to the floor indicated and found two empty treatment rooms. We sat down in a small waiting area and soon our massage therapists arrived and we discovered that they work for an off-site spa and are contracted to provide service at the Hutton. Despite it not being the standard set up, we both enjoyed our massages and relaxed before another big night out on the town.

We didn't really check out other hotels while we were there but we heard good things about the Hermitage Hotel. There were also lots of big name hotels and small boutique hotels in the area, meeting the needs of all travelers.

Ryman Auditorium
Places to visit: No doubt, there are tons of places to visit and tour while you are in Nashville. If you are into country music, or even just music in general, the possibilities are endless. Our foursome only hit a few that interested us. We wanted to make sure we had plenty of time on this short trip for drinking, live music and eating (more on those later). We visited the Johnny Cash Museum which was super cool. It gave you a great history of his life and you also got to see some pretty cool memorabilia. We also checked out the Ryman Auditorium (the original Opry) which also has some great memorabilia on display and walks you through the history of the auditorium which touches on American history, Country Music history and Nashville history. Shows still happen there and be sure to check on the wall of signed concert posters which are very, very cool.

After a failed attempt at a visit to the Grand Ole Opry (we didn't want to wait an hour and a half when the only thing nearby was an outlet mall), we ended up at The Hermitage home of President Andrew Jackson. While initially there was disappointment over the Grand Ole Opry, we felt a little like Dorothy and her crew getting denied access to the Emerald City, we decided against fighting our way in and made a choice to visit another historical site. The Hermitage (not to be confused with the hotel of the same name) was a great experience. It is a walking tour with an audio component, guides dressed in period clothes and features both indoor and outdoor exhibits. You can see Andrew Jackson's family home, learn about and see slave quarters, visit the family cemetery and of course, check out the gift shop!

The Hermitage (home of President Andrew Jackson
There are many other museums and sites to be seen in Nashville, so do your research and pick the things that interest you, perhaps you want to see the life size replica of the Parthenon.

Places to drink and listen to music:  On to the good stuff. There are a plethora of places in Nashville to drink and hear live music. It is after all, Music City. What you do is you travel your little booty down to Broadway, imagine if Las Vegas was just three blocks and didn't have casinos- now you've got it. Along Broadway there are boot and hat shops, souvenir shops, bars, restaurants and the like. Our main focus was finding music and hitting some legendary spots. I think we did a good job. Here's the list of where we went.

Layla's Bluegrass Inn

Tootsies World Famous Orchid Lounge

Acme Feed & Seed

Robert's Western World

Legends Corner

Tin Roof  

Places to Eat:

Adele's- You could call it hipster or Farm to Table and either way you can start to get the picture of Adele's. It was crowded, we sat outside on a lovely evening. The atmosphere is interesting given this was a garage (where they worked on cars) that has been converted to a restaurant. The service was slow, however our waiter was pleasant. Whatever you do, get the chicken, there may be lots of other things that look good, but trust me, make sure someone at your table gets the chicken. Mr. Z and I can attest that it was amazing and delicious. Mrs. Z had some pretty great gnocchi's (she's an expert) and my companion had some sort of fish, as can be predicted most nights.
Brisket Platter at Martin's

Martin's BBQ- A nice joint to grab a quick bite and a drink. This is a glance at the menu, order at the counter and find a seat type of joint- and it was perfect. I had amazing brisket, my companion had pulled pork, as did Mrs. Z, but her's was on a sandwich and his was on a platter, they both thought it was excellent.Mr. Z was adventurous and tried the "Redneck Taco" which was pretty much a cornbread pancake topped with pulled pork and cheese, etc. It looked yummy and he wasn't complaining.

Husk- This place was voted as our least favorite of the trip. Not that it was bad, but I think it was a combo of us being tired and also having had such good food the whole trip. Husk could also be described as a bit "hipster" but not in the same way as Adele's. It's like they are trying too hard. The menu I felt was limited and the servings small. Now, I'm all about little bites in certain types of restaurants, but this was not that time. Our main dishes were better than the appetizers. They have a great, unique cocktail list, which is a plus.

Etch- The decision to go here for dinner was based on one thing only- butter tasting. Etch delivered in every way possible. Decor, atmosphere, service, food, even the awesome parting words we had with the chef. A+++++ for Etch as far as this foursome was concerned. The butter tasting was definitely a highlight, 4 beautifully flavored butters served with warm, crusty bread- just yum. The truffle butter was probably the favorite of those including in the tasting. Truffle oil was again used in a pea pesto served with the roasted cauliflower appetizer, really unique flavors.

So, there it is, the quick and brief (well, as brief as I can be) review of Nashville. I just wanted to hit the highlights and give you a taste of where we went.