I Didn’t March, But I Made This Girl Power Soup

Last week, the whole family came down with illness.  I won’t go into detail, but this illness prevented me from absorbing or retaining any calories.  Which is nice to kick-start a diet I guess, but terrible when you are breastfeeding.  I NEED all the calories I can get, and being ill and dehydrated on the couch can really impact a girl’s milk supply.

Fortunately, I bounced back in a day or so, but my milk was noticeably less than what it had been.  I honestly started to panic just a bit because I’d never had to play milk catch-up with Tyler.  I texted my neighbor Leigh, who is fabulous and a mom and knows all the non-medical/crunchy/Boulderite things to do to help with such an issue.  Of course, she immediately texted me back suggesting Mother’s Milk Tea (which is nasty, in case you’ve never tried it) and fenugreek pills.  But also, The List of holy foods to eat to increase your milk supply.

Water, oatmeal, easy.  No nuts for me (allergic).  Fennel?  I just saw a Food Network guru using fennel (OK fine it was Rachael Ray) and thought, hey, I should really get into fennel. It’s definitely one of those foods that when I come to it in a recipe, I just turn the page. You know, one of those items that other people apparently stock but I just never have, so I’m unfamiliar with it, like fish sauce, gochujang, leeks, or amaranth.

I decided to make a soup with fennel, carrots, garlic, and ginger.  It’s not a true refrigerator surprise since I did have to buy the fennel, ginger, and carrots (I wanted real carrots, not the flavorless midgets I buy for Eric’s lunches).  But I really did just make it up as I went along and it turned out amazing!  I served it for lunch when my friend Jeana came up to visit since she’s a breastfeeding gal too.  She wanted the recipe, so here it is.

Milk Soup…It’s The Tits!

  • 1 32 oz carton chicken stock
  • 1 fennel bulb, quartered and thinly sliced (I had to Pinterest How to Cut Fennel), save the fronds for garnish
  • 3 medium carrots, sliced
  • 1/2 med onion, roughly diced
  • 2 garlic cloves (I used a garlic press)
  • about 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • fresh ginger to grate
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • Jasmine rice

First, melt butter in a stockpot on medium.  Add fennel, carrots, and onion, season with salt and pepper, and cook until carrots begin to soften.  If more liquid is needed, add a splash of olive oil.  After a few minutes, add lemon juice and pressed garlic cloves.  Cook one minute. Add chicken stock.  Allow to heat through and simmer for as long as needed. While soup simmers, I made 3/4 cup Jasmine rice in my rice cooker (so helpful for making grains at altitude!)  Shortly before serving, grate some ginger into the soup (maybe 2 tsp). Serve soup by scooping one portion of rice into a bowl, and covering with soup.  Garnish heavily with fennel fronds (Pinterest said think of them like dill.)  Makes 4 servings.

You could make this vegetarian by using vegetable stock or Paleo by omitting the rice.

My milk supply seems to be increasing, so I would say this soup is a keeper.  Salem agrees.


Quinoa: Glitter of the Kitchen

Why?  No, not because Quinoa is flashy. Or the name of a Career Tribute.  But because every time I cook with this wondergrain, it gets everywhere.  Just as you find glitter two days later stuck to the back of your knee, I find uncooked quinoa under the coffeepot. Cooked quinoa glued to the tea towel.  I’m a clean-as-you-go cook.  No messy piles in the kitchen of dirty dishes and open bags of food for me.  So how does this happen?!  How does this tiny grain with its itty bitty blond curls take over our kitchen?

Refrigerator  Surprise Mexican Quinoa
Refrigerator Surprise Mexican Quinoa

I needed to use up some corn on the cob, so I added it to the quinoa along with a can of black beans, a couple of sad garden tomatoes, wilted cilantro, and a small container of lime juice I squeezed recently for Nojitos.  Also goat cheese, which should have been queso fresco, as if I had that just chilling in the cheese drawer.  YUM.

Oh and Mom, those carrots you can see on the plate are the ones you left here.  Grilled up great with goat cheese and dill!


Angus, Three Ways

Sometimes you buy a 3-pound package of ground angus because it’s on Manager’s Special. Sometimes you freeze it.  Sometimes you defrost it and eat it three nights in a row because it’s summer and the grill is your best friend.  After the meat brick finally thawed, I cut it into twelve equal lumps to make us two sliders each for three nights.  Combined with the random produce in our refrigerator, this is what we came up with:

goat cheese, arugula, red onion, and golden beets
goat cheese, arugula, red onion, golden beets, and stone ground mustard.
avocado, tomato, lime, cilantro, white cheddar, and a sample packet of green chile from the boulder bolder
avocado, tomato, cilantro, white cheddar, and a sample packet of green chile from the bolder boulder 10k in may, plus a side of grilled asparagus with lime.
"something light" at eric's request.  goat cheese and a side of grilled zucchini.
“something light” at eric’s request. goat cheese, dijon mustard, and a side of grilled zucchini.

I am obsessed with golden beets.  If they are not in your rotation, try them.  OMG.  Goat cheese makes them even tastier.  Favorite side dish of the summer, hands down.  I like grilling sliders over full-size burgers; somehow I’m less likely to overcook them.  I put the thumbprint on top just like Bobby, Guy, and Martha all say to do, and it totally works to keep juices in and hockey pucks out.

Summer Paleo Eats

Stephanie Taylor, I take your Italian Bake and raise you the Italian Grill.

Chicken and Veggies just grillin'...
chicken and veggies just grillin’…
...smothered in red sauce, mozz, parm, & fresh basil.
…smothered in red sauce, mozz, parm, & fresh basil.

Steph introduced us not only to Paleo, but also the Italian Bake–very similar to this set-up, except in the oven.  The first time she made this delicious dinner for us, I was having a pregnant moment and ate sour cream and onion chips instead.  I know I missed out, but it was just one of those days.  Anyhow, we just happened to have all of these ingredients on hand, so there was dinner!

What the Kale?

The last few weeks have been crazy with the end of the school year and the beginning of summer, i.e. Cookout Season.  I can’t even remember the last time I really made dinner, what with constantly meeting up with friends and being out of town.  When we are home, we throw something on the grill.  I must have had some kind of dinner aspirations last week, however, because there was a lovely, leafy bunch of kale in my refrigerator eyeing me every time I opened the door to refill my water (tanning in the backyard is quite dehydrating.)  So, we threw the cheddar brats on the grill and I wondered what to do with nature’s superfood giving me the stinkeye from behind the fridge door.

I poked around and found half an onion, 6 mushrooms, half of a lemon, and an open Manager’s Special package of bacon (which means it’s the organic center cut good stuff we don’t usually absolutely never spend money on!)  I sauteed the onions and mushrooms, tossed in the kale to wilt, doused it all in fresh lemon juice and salt & pepper, and crumbled some hot, crunchy bacon on top.  Incredibly tasty.  And satisfying, knowing that apparently kale is so good for you it can singlehandedly stop fracking, cure melanoma, and save baby seals.

Kale Surprise
Kale Surprise

Soy Pollo

I had a package of chicken thighs in the freezer, with which I usually make Crockpot Chicken Tortilla Soup.  I don’t particularly love chicken thighs, but I do love that soup. The problem?  It contains not only (evil) beans but also (devil) corn and corn tortillas.  In other words, NOT paleo-friendly.  So I looked for another recipe for chicken thighs in the crockpot (sans beans, corn, and other foods that make meals taste delicious) and came across this Crockpot Honey Sesame Chicken.

Green onions and sesame seeds make food pretty.
Scallions & sesame seeds make food pretty.

The recipe is simple, and I even substituted cornstarch for coconut flour to thicken the sauce.  Eric loved it.  As it’s an Asian-inspired dish, it contains a significant amount of soy sauce.  And, since Eric is paleo, he omitted the bed of rice and just went for a giant pile of chicken.  Which led to Eric joking, “Soy Pollo!”

Italian Paleo Surprise

It’s Friday night.  The refrigerator is doing a great job keeping the milk and soy sauce cold. We’re on a mission to eat in as much as possible.  I did take a pound of ground turkey out of the freezer earlier this week, so there’s that.

What else?  Half of a red bell pepper, an onion, 2 garlic cloves, a jar of marinara sauce. Some parm for garnish.  Wait!  What’s that behind the pickles?  A container of Manager’s Special mozzarella balls, only half-gone.  Score!

I always shop for Manager's Specials.  I'd never pay full price for treats like balls of cheese.
I always shop for Manager’s Specials. I’d never pay full price for treats like balls of cheese.

Eric went Paleo in January, but didn’t really get strict about it until March.  I am not on the Paleo bandwagon.  Pregnant or not, I’m not giving up Panera bread or cereal.  Or oatmeal.  Or pasta.  But, I try to be a good wife, and I’m the resident cook, so I try to make sure Eric has a Paleo option at every meal.  Mostly he subsists on salads and leftover dinner meats, and he cooks himself bacon and eggs every day for breakfast.

Occasionally I really want macaroni and cheese (Horizon beats Annie’s), and he gets what he can find.  But usually I pull through and on nights like tonight we eat something resembling a meal.

Meat and cheese in a bowl.  It makes Eric happy.
Meat and cheese in a bowl. It makes Eric happy.

Yes, I know we’re really just eating spaghetti sauce in a bowl, but I made it sound fancier than that, right?






Potato Soup, Better the Next Day

I usually grocery shop on the weekends as I can just find the most time on Sundays. However, going to the store during the week is extremely gratifying.  No crowds!  All those Manager’s Specials!  But this past weekend, we went to Steamboat Springs to ski, hot tub, and play euchre with the Floods and the Taylors.  After the five-hour trip up (weather, traffic) and four-hour trip down (weather, traffic) I just didn’t feel like hitting up King Soopers.  So, Eric is in for some real treats this week, food-wise!

I knew I had two lonely potatoes in the pantry (which I never buy, but did when Eric went through a Paleo phase in January).  I though I would make some potato soup.  Years ago a friend gave me a basic recipe involving potatoes, carrots, and corn in a broth of chicken stock and fat free cream cheese.  I had those ingredients, so I proceeded.  But why stop there?  I also tossed in the celery tops I save specifically for soup-making purposes.  And a few broccoli trees I brought home last week from the school cafeteria (I can’t stand it when kids waste food!)  There might have been a couple of cauliflower pieces as well.  It simmered nicely with salt and pepper.  I served it with the remaining 1/2 oz of cheddar cheese in the fridge as well as some fresh-ish dill from a potato salad I’d made a couple of weeks ago.  Overall, the soup was a little better than OK.  (Sometimes the “surprise” in Refrigerator Surprise is that it’s not actually all that fantastic.)

potato soup and bacon tomato grilled cheese

There were two servings left over, so Eric and I both had potato soup for lunch today.  And it was so much better!  I know many soups and stews do taste better the following day, and this one served as a reminder that it’s true.  A coworker of Eric’s even asked for the recipe.  (Ha!)  Anyhow, at least I don’t have to look at those two sad potatoes anymore.

Chili and Wax Party

Last Friday, we hosted a chili-eating and ski-waxing party at our house.  We watched ski porn and the 90s classic Aspen Extreme, chowed on chili AND Skyline chili dip, and waxed skis and snowboards to get ready for the season.  [“Skiing’s the easy part.”–TJ Burke.]  I figured out that I was in middle school when Aspen Extreme was released.  Another party guest said she was two.  Sometimes you feel old when you least expect it!  But overall, a very good time.

People commented on the chili, which we finished off tonight for dinner.  I don’t use a recipe for chili.  Meat, veggies (fresh and canned), beans, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, cumin, chili powder…that about does it.  But I tossed in a new liquid ingredient this time in order to make sure we had enough to go around, plus it gave the chili that extra kick.  Half a bottle of Blood Mary mix from the fridge from Lord knows when.  I’ll be doing that again!

Bloody Mary Chili
Bloody Mary Chili

Welcome to Hollewood

Welcome to Hollewood!  I’ve been meaning to start a blog for awhile now.  In my mind, our blog would serve two purposes.  The first is documenting my culinary adventures of Refrigerator Surprise.  The second is a baby blog…except we don’t have a baby.  Yet.  More on that later.

Refrigerator Surprise started on Valentine’s Day 2013.  I hadn’t been to the grocery store in ages, but it was a holiday so I wanted to make something better than Annie’s Mac & Cheese for Eric.  I threw together quite a random array of ingredients from the pantry and the fridge.  Pasta, chicken stock, fat free cream cheese, kielbasa from a few nights prior, and some jalapenos that were awfully wrinkly.  There were probably some other interesting surprises in there too.  The crazy thing was, Eric LOVED it.

Before we were married, I wasn’t much of a cook.  I was busy, broke, and not usually home for dinner.  After we tied the knot, I started using recipes.  I remembered them and would cook from memory.  If I was missing an ingredient, I could substitute and the dish would still turn out OK (or sometimes better).  Somewhere along the line, I stopped using recipes for weeknight dinners.  It seemed that anything I threw together tasted pretty good.

Oh yeah.  I also have an obsession with not throwing food away.  I love recycling leftovers, sometimes two or three times.  Pork tenderloin on the grill night one becomes spicy pork quesadillas night two becomes spicy pork on a salad for lunch day three.  People tell me that fruits and vegetables go bad.  I prefer the phrase, “less fresh,” and guess what?  The aforementioned wrinkly jalapenos still taste like jalapenos.  When you cook fruits and veggies they get limp anyway, so does it really matter if they’re snap-fresh when you toss them in the pan?

So that’s the backstory on Refrigerator Surprise.  I solemnly swear that nothing I’ve made has ever made me or Eric sick.  When I post photos of food, I’ll let you know what’s in it and how I made it.  Stay tuned for the next post on why this is also a baby blog…sort of.