Tuesday, February 14, 2012

In the kitchen: potato leek soup & nostalgia

{I wrote the following excerpt in my journal exactly one year ago during a particularly strong bout of nostalgia for my time living in London. I stumbled across it a few weeks ago and haven't been able to get a good cup of potato leek soup off of my mind since-- so off to the farmer's market I went to pick up my ingredients. I thought I'd share with you my version of this recipe, as well as one of my favorite personal writings about my time abroad :)}
I’ve been getting an itch to make potato-leek soup lately. Maybe it’s the resurgence of winter, maybe it’s the cozy desire to nest I get every February, but I think the real cause lies in a teensy little heartache for London. It’s no surprise to anyone who knows me that my four months there were full of tumultuous ups-and-downs, but everything that happened there was an important cog in the personal transformation that had to happen. And while some days I love to remember the big, life-rattling changes, other days, I simply like to remember the little things. Like potato leek soup. Like taking my typical Sunday morning walk to Hyde Park and planting my little behind at the Serpentine Cafe, people-watching, journal in hand. I remember every single thing I ever ordered there, and how delicious it all was. Pillowy, creamy eggs florentine in a bed of spinach. Ripe, tart red currant muffins with a freshly squeezed strawberry lemonade. A piping hot cup of potato leek soup with a crunchy, crusty piece of sourdough bread. It was all delicious, but that potato leek soup was something else. I don’t think I’d ever had anything like it before, and I guess I was kind of expecting it to taste like baked potato soup. Oh boy, was I ever wrong. It was simultaneously thick, milky and brothy all at once. It was savory and rich, with just a hint of sweetness from the leeks. Rather than the creamy, cheesy potato soups of my past, it was punctuated only by the sharpness of the herbs, the way the scalding broth sat on my tongue, or was soaked up instantly in the hunk of sourdough. It’s the little memories like this one that pervade my consciousness, nag at my brain until I find myself in the grocery store aisle with a basket full of potatoes, heavy cream, and leafy green leek stalks. These are the memories I like to bring to the forefront of my mind, the memories that I love to remember, experience again and again with a sort of sweet nostalgia. The kind of stories I’ll love to tell every time I serve my own potato-leek soup— bringing someone else into my story, making it all the more real and permanent. 

February 27th, 2011
Sunday Afternoon Potato Leek Soup

2 T butter
2 large leeks, trimmed of roots & darkest leafy parts & cut horizontally (so you end up with tons of little concentric circles)
salt & pepper
3 c. diced potatoes (I didn't peel mine because I'm lazy rustic, frankly I think it's tastier that way)
3 c. chicken or vegetable broth
2 c. water
(you can add a splash of cream at the end of cooking if you'd like; I used to, but after omitting it once I never found the need to add it again-- this soup is perfect in its simplicity, and surprisingly creamy enough from the potatoes.)

Heat butter in a large pot until melted; add chopped leeks and sauté until leeks have wilted & turned vibrantly green, roughly 5-10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper (don't be afraid to be generous!) Add in diced potatoes and liquid (broth & water), bring to a boil. Turn heat down to a simmer and cook, covered, until potatoes are fork-tender. At this point, blend either in a high-speed blender, food processor, or with an immersion blender. Side note: I used an immersion blender and it was AWESOME how much more simple the soup-making process became. Scoop into bowls, try to resist licking your ladle until the soup cools down a bit. Enjoy :) It always amazes me how few ingredients are necessary to make such a flavorful, easy soup-- I love how in about an hour on a cold afternoon, I can have a fresh bowl of homemade soup in front of me. The best!

Happy Valentine's Day, lovely readers! Regardless of relationship status, I hope you get to spend the day with those you love (and perhaps some chocolate) :)


Monday, February 13, 2012

Love Swap: the goodies!

It's no surprise that I love (love love loooove) blogger swaps. Presents? In the MAIL? Count me in. So when I saw that Viktoria & Stacia were hosting a valentine's day swap, I was, of course, all over that. I got my package from the lovely Alison of Oh My Vera! a few days ago and couldn't wait to share my new goodies! 

An adorable Vera Bradley notepad, card, and cloth flower pin. 

Much thanks to Viktoria & Stacia for hosting-- it was so much fun! I sent out my gift a few days ago and so hope that she likes it-- I had so much fun shopping for this swap (and am one of those 'suckers for a hallmark-holiday' who actually loves valentine's day :))!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Sunday Morning Poetry

Honey at the Table

It fills you with the soft
essence of vanished flowers, it becomes
a trickle sharp as a hair that you follow
from the honey pot over the table
and out the door and over the ground,
and all the while it thickens,
grows deeper and wilder, edged
with pine boughs and wet boulders,
pawprints of bobcat and bear, until
deep in the forest you
shuffle up some tree, you rip the bark,
you float into and swallow the dripping combs,
bits of the tree, crushed bees - - - a taste
composed of everything lost, in which everything lost is found.

Mary Oliver

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Currently playing: Of Monsters and Men

New music alert! It's safe to say that unless I am having designated music-free time, I am pretty much constantly listening to something-- and if I really like a song, I'm likely to play it over and over (and, um, over) again until I physically cannot listen to it anymore. Let's just say that I discovered Of Monsters & Men yesterday and uh, my play count is already into the double digits. Enjoy!

What are you listening to lately? I'm always looking for good new music!

Monday, February 6, 2012

A weekend in photos: road trip

For the last five years, my best friend and I have lived at least ninety miles apart, so we've gotten extremely good at the art of the mini-weekend road trip. When we both graduated from college last May, I moved six hours south to Milwaukee, and she moved four hours south from her college town-- voila! Still a magic ninety miles apart, still no big deal for a weekend road trip :) I was so SO excited to visit her (and some other friends) this weekend that I barely remembered to snap any pictures, but I did manage to document a little bit of my trip!

It all begins with a perfectly sunny Saturday to drive, a big mug of tea, and my thank-god-I'm-the-only-one-in-the-car-I'm-singing-so-loud sing-a-longs to whatever is on my iPod.

First stop: delicious brunch with miss Clare of the now-defunct (sniff, sniff) blog, Between Laundry Days. I was lucky enough to meet Clare in real life a few years ago when she was in my hometown for a visit and was so pumped to get to see her again on this trip. I've said it before, I'll say it again: she is kind of the most awesome person in the world. We talked about everything from blogging to grad school to maxi skirts over the world's most incredible scones and it. was. wonderful. After brunch, we made a quick stop at a massive thrift store close by-- let me tell you, thrifting with fellow (or former) bloggers is the best way to do it. It was so so fun and I realize that I am one lucky girl to have her so close by! (although, note to self: remember to snap a picture together next time!) 

Next up: meeting up with my friend and heading to yet another thrift store with her to help her pick up some furniture she'd bought earlier that week. We bided our time there by making googly eyes at vintage china sets, taking pictures of ridiculous people-shaped quilts (I'm serious) and reading cheese-themed mystery novels, of course. 

Next stop: beer! (We do live in Wisconsin, you know.) Also, there was food, but we, ahem, may have eaten it before I thought to take a picture.

The next morning, I had to leave bright & early, but of course still had people to see! I picked up friend #3 for scones at the same place I'd been the morning before (I'm a bit obsessed. It's becoming a problem.) and forced him to partake in my #febphotoaday project (this particular one was what I was doing at 10 AM: which was eating scones and forcing him to be in my picture. What a good sport.) 

And then it was on the road again! And you guessed it: more singing. Why do I always appear to be the only one driving and singing to myself? Anyone? Bueller? 

A quick walk to the market to pick up a few things for a dinner party I was having later that night (confession: I am a chronic schedule over-booker), wherein I proclaimed it to be the PERFECT late winter-early spring weather. Yes, I'm aware we're supposed to get snow here in WI tomorrow. Shhh. 

And finally, apron on, apartment clean, homemade pot pie in the oven, I morphed into a housewife from the 50s. The dinner party was lovely and a perfect way to finish the weekend :)

PHEW! What were you up to this weekend?
(also: are you on instagram? Let me know!) 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Confessions of a style blogger, part IV

Well hello there!

Sweet jeeps, guys, it's been almost a year since we've played my favorite game, Confessions of a Style Blogger! (I know, I know, what a way to come back from two weeks of radio silence. What can I say? I'm enthusiastic. :)) If you're new around these here parts, I occasionally write a post full of random facts about moi and invite you to play along in the comments. Without further adieu: confessions, part IV. 

tee: ON, spring 11; skirt: ON; winter 12; tights: hautelook, fall 11; heels: payless; forever ago

1. Sweeping declaration: fleece-lined tights are the GREATEST THING, guys. Seriously. Sometimes when I'm lazy and tired I just walk around my apartment in a pair of leggings and a giant sweatshirt, but I think I may have found my new comfiest article of clothing. Sorry I'm not sorry, leggings. Also, sorry I'm not sorry, last shred of dignity. 

2. In our last episode of confessions, I proclaimed that my first official big girl apartment would have an entire cabinet devoted to tea. I completely forgot about that until three seconds ago when I dug that old post up from the dusty old archives, and let me tell you! Project: tea cabinet is well underway, just ask my roommate. The largest shelf in our pantry is completely filled with tea. I like to joke that I could feed an entire army with my tea stash... so if you know any armies that would like to have a tea party at my apartment, let me know.  

3. I totally bought this skirt with this pairing in mind. Who has two thumbs and bought a striped skirt far too long for her 5'4" figure just to pair with a striped shirt? This girl. Also, I've discovered I can't wear this with anything shorter than a 4" heel. Dear LORD, please help my poor, poor feet. (Also: help! Styling ideas for this that don't involve seizure-inducing pattern mixing?)

 4. Speaking of roommate shenanigans: Sara & I took our first trip to our local bodega (just kidding... it's just a corner market. But bodega sounds cooler.) and ran through it rampantly like first year college students who had never been grocery shopping for ourselves before. I believe we bought two bags of taco chips, a single can of la croix, and the ingredients for poutine. I promise you, we are civilized adults with day jobs who make valuable contributions to society, but for some reason the realization that we could buy slightly overpriced milk and goldfish crackers a mere three blocks from our apartment was too much to handle. (ps. She took these pictures! Is this girl crazy talented or what? Just assume any time my pictures don't look like I snapped them haphazardly in the half-dark, Sara took them.) 

That's it for me (ahem-- this time.) Let's hear it! What are your confessions?