Tuesday, January 27, 2009

honey update.

morning

After all your awesome suggestions on what to do with this honey, I have to admit we've taken the simple approach. We've just been drizzling it on stuff. This morning, my son enjoyed some on his wheat toast.

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Some of you might have noticed that Summer and I have all but given up on trying to make daily posts. We're both very busy and it's getting harder and harder to make time to get together and bake. That doesn't mean we've given up on the blog, it just means that we've got a lot of projects in the works! I'm trying to keep things going over here, but if you get bored in the meantime, make sure to head over to Design Is Mine, which is sporting a new layout and as usual, pointing out all the goodies Summer comes across online.

Look forward to seeing more guest posts in the future from some of my buddies, and the last few soups of the season before it gets too hot to make it. (yeah, like that's ever going to happen. IT SNOWED AGAIN TODAY.)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

ned ludd: holy crap.

NEDLUDD

I don't mean to get all Portland-centric on here, but we've been meaning to get to this place since we first heard it was opening, and tonight we finally got a chance. Ned Ludd is our buddy's restaurant on MLK & Failing, and it is awesome. Located in a former pizza joint, they are making use of the built in wood-fired oven and roasting up a variety of awesome shit. (Blog here.)

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I was too busy downing Laurelwood Pale Ales and chatting up my husband (this was our first date in ages!) to get any pictures of what we ate, but everything on the menu looked great, and what we chose was phenomenal. We shared a baked pasta and braised lamb dish, I had roasted mussels served on top of a tasty broth with chunks of crusty bread soaking it up (damn, dude) and Jason had pork with a spicy orange sauce with rosemary (they called it a stew but it was kind of saucy?) over the fluffiest polenta I've ever seen. We polished everything off with our eyes rolling back in our heads, and then the people next to us got their dessert and we did the full on horny wolf cartoon thing with the giant eyeballs popping out of our skulls and our tongues lolling out on the floor and, well- you get the idea. It smelled amazing, so we ordered the same. What? You can't say no- they have a big ass fire going, and yes- they're serving:

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S'mores, WHAT! Hellz yeah. Seriously? How many times can I say the word awesome in this post? I know that Portland is experiencing what the Willamette Week called a "restaurant apocalypse" but I personally believe the cream is just rising to the top, and I can only hope that Ned Ludd continues to do well. The dudes running the show are awesome, the location is cozy and I love the decor, (and holy crap, I love being able to actually see my food. Not every place needs to be as dim as a dive bar.) and the food is seriously top tier, topping out at only about 15 bucks for the most expensive entree (though the menu does vary, of course).

Ben and Jason, if you're reading this- it was worth the wait, and we are already eager to come back in. Thanks for a great meal.

Monday, January 19, 2009

chicken and dumplings

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When I was a kid, I was a picky eater. The type of picky eater who would look at a plate of food and turn my nose up at it just because it looked weird or gross- kind of embarrassing to admit now. The first time I ever tried a pickle, I was 17. How pathetic is that? Guess what, PICKLES ARE AWESOME. I wasted 17 years avoiding pickles for NOTHING. So stupid. Ever since then, (and more so since I met my husband, many years ago) I've attempted to be a more adventurous eater. Sometimes I find myself too grossed out (DANISH CHEESE? My best friend offered me this Danish cheese when I went to visit for her wedding and I almost barfed when I smelled it. I couldn't get it in my mouth.) but I make it a point to try a bite of whatever is in front of me, because you only live once.

All that said- I'm 25 years old, and (until this evening) I've never eaten dumplings. That doesn't mean I've never been served chicken and dumplings- far from it. My mom made chicken and dumplings on a regular basis growing up, using big cans of Swanson's broth and Bisquick for the dumplings. She even made it a few months ago when we all got together for dinner at my sister's house! For some reason, I've just always avoided the dumplings and spooned myself big bowls of plain ol' soup. "I don't like dumplings!" Whatever, dudes. Guess what, DUMPLINGS ARE AWESOME.

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My husband came home with a copy of Cook's Illustrated the other night, an issue devoted entirely to soups and stews. First of all- I've never looked at an issue of Cook's Illustrated before, but right in the front, there's a page of "Quick Tips" that are pretty awesome and handy. Some of them are kind of dumb (Snipping off a piece of a plastic bag of frozen veggies to use as a bag tie? Just use a rubberband, dumdums. Or even simpler- twist the bag and then fold it over. Duhhh.) but one that blew my mind that I have to share is to invert the lid on your dutch oven to create a rack for roasting vegetables in tinfoil. Space-saving! Anyway, after perusing the magazine for soup ideas, he settled on chicken soup with dumplings. The recipe in the magazine wasn't anything to write home about- it was billed as a "Quick and Easy!" recipe (lame!) touting the benefits of store-bought broth, and omitting celery just to save time. (!?! like chopping celery takes SOOO long. Crybabies.) So we just based our recipe on the one in the magazine but went ahead and did our own thing.

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So- start with a basic Chicken Soup recipe, and then add some other goodies:

6 or so cups of broth (we made our own chicken broth last night.)
2 large carrots, diced
2 stalks of celery (oh my god, try not to freak out about how LONG IT TAKES TO CHOP IT), diced
1 med-large yellow onion, diced
handful of minced garlic
2 chicken breasts, chopped into bite sized pieces
Oil, butter, flour
about 1/3 cup (or like, a glug) of heavy cream

Saute vegetables in a good sized hunk of butter and a drizzle of olive oil (starting with onions & garlic) for a few minutes until they begin to soften. Throw in a handful of flour and stir in quickly to make a roux. Toast for a moment, then add stock. Stir rapidly until liquid begins to boil, then drop to a simmer. Add the chicken breast, and a glug of heavy cream. Toss in a bay leaf, and let simmer for a few minutes.

In a mixing bowl, prep your dumplings:

2 cups of flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
generous dash of salt
1 to 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
fresh thyme leaves
lemon zest

Mix together dry ingredients, then add cream until "desired consistency" is reached. Jason didn't tell me what the 'desired' consistency is, but I'm guessing something thick enough to spoon into the hot soup that will keep its shape. Cook's Illustrated describes is as "very thick and shaggy." I like describing dough as "shaggy."

Spoon dumplings into the soup pot, covering the entire surface of the soup. Put a lid on the pot and let simmer for 20-30 minutes until dumplings puff up.

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We ate the soup right away, but I found that by the time I got to my second helping a few minutes later, the texture of the dumplings had noticeably improved. They started out rather silky and creamy- very delicious, but maybe a little mushy? As the steam escaped the pot after removing the lid, the tops of the dumplings began to dry out a little bit and the texture became a little firmer as the soup thickened. Having never actually eaten a dumpling, (I'm so lame!) I asked Jason if the texture was right, and he said it felt perfect to him. He described it as being a little gelatinous on the outside, and biscuit-like on the inside. We had enough of this soup to really fill up about 4 people, and since I assumed the dumplings probably wouldn't keep well overnight (I imagine they'd soak up the soup, right?) I called up my buddy to join us for dinner and she headed over. She's from Texas, and she declared the texture of the dumplings perfect. It was Jason's first time making chicken and dumplings and I consider it to be a roaring success- we don't have any leftovers. I think it would be super easy to make a vegan version of this- just sub chicken stock for vegetable, and replace the heavy cream with some soy half & half? Give it a try, if you want.

Friday, January 16, 2009

blueberry scones.



I am not a morning person. Over the years I have fallen in love with the idea of being one, but my body just will not give into it. I used to think this was merely due to the fact that I tend to go to bed very late at night, but I realized that even when I go through periods of falling asleep at a reasonable hour, I still cannot function prior to about ten in the morning. This got even worst after I had children, since now I am required to crawl out of our warm bed, carry the kids downstairs, prepare breakfast (albeit usually just a couple of toaster waffles and microwave veggie sausage), fill cups of milk, and do other various parental duties. In between all this, I am usually either stumbling around with an angry look on my face or falling in and out of consciousness while sitting up on the sofa. Coffee can usually help all of this, but truth be told, it usually takes me about two hours after waking up to gather the energy to make some myself.

This all being said, every once in awhile something unusual happens. The kids will wake me up and I will hop out of bed with a smile and an odd amount of fuel. I have absolutely no idea what brings these rare days on, but I truly appreciate them. The other morning, I had such a day- I awoke feeling refreshed and ready to start my day. After getting some blogging done and spending some time playing with the boys, I decided that I wanted something more than a bowl of cereal for breakfast. We have had a lot of blueberries around here lately since London is obsessed with them, so I chose to go with some fresh blueberry scones, courtesy of the Rose Bakery cookbook. They came out perfect- tart from the orange zest and sweet from the coating of brown sugar on top. I enjoyed mine with a cup of steaming hot black tea and a pile of dried cranberries on the side.

Now, if only these mornings could occur more frequently, then I'd be happy.



Blueberry Scones: recipe from Breakfast, Lunch, Tea: The Many Little Meals of Rose Bakery

Ingredients:

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
1 handful of wheatgerm, whole wheat flour, or cornmeal (optional)
2 very heaped tablespoons baking powder
2 heaped tablespoons of superfine sugar
1 teaspoon salt
grated zest of 1 lemon or 1 orange
scant 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, plus extra for greasing
2 handfuls blueberries
2 eggs
about 1 1/4 cups whole, semi-skimmed, or soy milk
1 tablespoon demerara (light brown) sugar
cream fraiche, to serve

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and grease a baking tray with butter.

Sift the all-purpose flour into a bowl and add the wheatgerm or whole wheat flour or cornmeal, if using. Mix in the baking powder, superfine sugar and salt, then add the butter and rub in with your fingers until the mixture resembles fresh breadcrumbs. Mix in the lemon or orange zest. Add the blueberries and mix well.

Beat one of the eggs in a measuring cup, then add enough milk to reach the 1 1/4 cup level.

Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients, pour in the liquid, and use a fork to work in the dry ingredients. Finish by hand but without overworking the mixture- just lightly bring everything together to form a softish but firm dough If it is too dry add a little more milk, and if it's too sticky add some more flour. It must not be sticky at all.

On a lightly floured surface, pat or roll the dough into a solid shape about 1 1/4 inches thick. Using a 2-inch cutter, cut the dough into rounds and place them on the greased baking tray so that they almost touch. Beat the remaining egg and use to glaze the tops of the scones.

Sprinkle with the demerara sugar and bake for 15-20 minutes until lightly golden.

The scones will stick together, so take them gently apart when they have cooled a little.

Serve warm with creme fraiche.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

guest blog : minaste, an italian new year's meat soup.

minaste.

photos taken by my Aunt Gina


I'm back! I cannot believe that it has been over three weeks since I last posted on here. I was out-of-town until the beginning of the month, then I got sick, and then my computer was hit by a deadly virus. But now I am feeling much better and I have a brand new computer, so posts should be coming much more frequently. I have missed all the baking.

To start, I would like to share a recipe that comes from my mother, something that has been made in my family for years. It was made yet again this New Year's day and it filled the whole house with a mouth-watering smell. Luckily for me, a vegetarian version was also made and I was able to enjoy a delicious and hearty meal with everyone else. Thanks Mom for guest blogging and to my aunt for taking photographs.

minaste.

"My Italian family is from Benevento, a little city about 50 miles from Naples. There are many dishes that come from that region, some that are only served on specific holidays. Minaste, or as my aunts pronounce it, “ah minaste,” is a dish served on New Year’s Day. It is incredibly delicious and hearty, but quite heavy due to the amount of meat used to prepare it. It is the meat cooking for hours that creates the wonderful broth. I eat very little meat these days but decided to prepare it for the men in my life who can’t imagine their lives without dead pig in it. For the more health conscious, I attempted a vegetarian version. This dish is best served with crusty Italian bread to sop up the juice, and a variety of mustards to squirt your favorite on top. Don’t forget the glass of red wine or cold dark ale."

Minaste : Italian New Year's Soup

Ingredients:

1-2 pounds beef short ribs
1 small cooked ham, chopped in large pieces
2 sticks of pepperoni
Head of cabbage, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 heads of escarole
5-6 large potatoes, peeled and chopped
Salt
Pepper
Olive oil
Parmesan cheese
Crushed red pepper flakes

Directions:

Brown garlic in enough olive oil to cover the bottom of a very large pan. Add short ribs and brown on all sides. Add ham and brown, and then cover with water – approximately four cups. Be sure there is enough water to create a soupy broth. Add a couple of pinches of salt and some black pepper. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer on low for at least two hours. Add water if it begins to evaporate.

In separate pot, cook potatoes and cabbage until tender. Add escarole once potatoes and cabbage are done, and cook for an additional three minutes. Drain all and combine in meat mixture. Stir gently and serve. Be sure to put a little bit of each meat in bowl. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and crushed red pepper flakes.

Vegetarian version

Ingredients:

Pack of vege ham
Pack of vege beef
Pack of vege pepperoni
Head of cabbage, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 heads of escarole
5-6 large potatoes, peeled and chopped
Salt
Pepper
Olive oil
Parmesan cheese
Crushed red pepper flakes

Directions:

Brown garlic in enough olive oil to cover the bottom of a very large pan. Add all vege meats and saut̩ with garlic. Cover with water Рapproximately two cups- and add 2-3 cans of vegetarian broth. Add a couple of pinches of salt and some black pepper. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer on low for at least two hours. Add water if it begins to evaporate.

In separate pot, cook potatoes and cabbage until tender. Add escarole once potatoes and cabbage are done, and cook for an additional three minutes. Drain all and combine in vege meat mixture. Stir gently and serve. Be sure to put a little bit of each vege meat in bowl. Top with crushed red pepper. If not serving to vegans, the Parmesan really adds needed flavor to the dish.

minaste.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

secret aardvark sauce.

Do you miss us? I have a photo date with Summer in just about an hour, so fear not- your baked goods jones will be fulfilled later today (hopefully)! But, until then- may I sing the praises of Secret Aardvark Sauce? They don't seem to have a proper website, but I think you can find all the information you need through that link to their myspace page.

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Listen, dudes- I'm not a Hot Sauce Person. I've never been one of those people who will sully a perfectly good omelette with tabasco (ahem- Jason?) and I rarely reach for the sriracha unless I'm cooking at home (I keep things somewhat mild for my son, so we do have to add spice to our own plates). I like spicy food, but I don't need spice for the sake of spice. Most of the Hot Sauce People I know are now, or have been vegan- a defense mechanism against bland tofu and unattractive piles of hippie chow? Maybe! I mean, I know hot sauce is good- but you don't have to put it on EVERYTHING, ALL THE TIME, right? Right?

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So let's say that a large bottle of Sriracha or a medium-sized bottle of Tapatio takes several months (or up to a year!) for us to go through- okay? We like hot sauce, we keep a space clear for it on our condiment shelf, but we aren't HOT SAUCE PEOPLE. Or rather, we weren't. Dudes, this shit is so bomb, OH MY GOD! Jason used to have it on his food when he worked at the Paradox Cafe (a vegan/veggie joint- see? See? Vegans need hot sauce to survive.) but I had never tried it before. Because, you know- I'm not a Hot Sauce Person.

Anyway, long story short- I've been eating so many damn burritos since we picked up this bottle, just so I have an excuse to plop hot sauce all over them. It's a habanero sauce, so it's rather spicy, but it has something smokey to it that is really tasty. I have eggs for breakfast so I have an excuse to drizzle them. We've had this bottle for a couple of weeks and it's already 3/4 of the way gone. It has earned a permanent place on our condiment shelf, next to the Sriracha, ketchup, and stone ground mustard. Welcome to the family, Secret Aardvark! I love you.

Monday, January 12, 2009

spring roll dip/marinade.

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Man! We have sort of dropped the ball with posting this year. Between Summer's computer issues, (it's ugly, from what little I've heard.) me going out of town, and this awesome flu I've been saddled with since midway through my trip, not a lot has gotten done. And frankly- I greatly prefer it when life gets in the way of blogging rather than vice versa, what can I say? I've been busy and there's not a lot else to say about it.

But here, let me offer you this simple concoction. One of my oldest, dearest friends got married last week at San Francisco's beautiful city hall building. I spent a few days crashing in her apartment with her, and on the first night in, we scoured her cupboards trying to find a snack to hold us over for a few drinks before we went out to dinner with future in-laws. We found enough ingredients for some tasty salad rolls, and she tossed together this little dipping sauce. Usually, when Jason and I have salad rolls, he makes a little peanut sauce. I've never been a huge peanut fan, so this soy sauce based dip ended up being more my speed- I can't wait to make it this summer when we dive back into our tradition of eating salad rolls whenever it's too hot to cook.

In a small bowl, stir together soy sauce, slivers of fresh garlic, a drizzle of agave nectar (or honey), chili flakes, and thin slices of fresh scallions, "to taste." Dana tells me she also uses this as a tofu marinade, but I can imagine it just about anywhere- can you imagine marinating a flank steak in this, then grilling to perfection, served on top of a noodle bowl?

And now, excuse me while I nurse myself back to health on a bowl of my husband's chicken soup (last night, made with big, chewy hunks of mitake mushrooms, a pinch of cilantro, and a small squirt of sriracha. mmm, fortifying.) and a cup of chamomile tea.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

mom pizza.

Man, when it rains, it pours, right? RIGHT? First, Summer's laptop pooped out a few weeks ago, and now she's got some kind of crazy virus on her desktop computer and she can't get online. Regular posting will resume... as soon as we can get it going, haha. Stuff happens, dudes.

Anyway!

mompies

The other day, I dropped in on some friends (actually, their 7 year old spied me walking down the street past their house and they waved me down and invited me in.) around lunch time and they made these simple little snacks. It was one of those DUH moments- something I'm sure everyone has experienced, right down to the first time someone dipped a french fry in ketchup. DUH! I watched them spend all of 3 minutes in the kitchen preparing "pizza" and when it came out, there it was- DUH DUH DUH!

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I am sort of starting to think I should maybe get Trader Joe's to sponsor us (yeah, right) since I'm always namedropping, but what can I say? They're in my neighborhood, they're cheap, and they have all kinds of awesome crap. So anyway, I pointed at the pizzas and said, "Wait, are those-" Yes, just prepackaged flatbreads, a dollop of sauce, some cheese, ta-da. Pizza.

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I always think of food like this as mom food, or bachelor food- just any kind of food that requires almost no effort whatsoever. Boiled hot dogs? Delicious! Mac & Cheese from a box? Okay! When I got pregnant, of course I was convinced that I'd never feed my kid gross kid food (he's going to have a REFINED palate! HA. HA. HA.) but then I find myself asking him if he wants a cheese burrito with ketchup. (He doesn't like quesadillas. Just cheese burritos. Okayyy.) So, anything that gets us out of our regular lunch rut, AND is super easy and tasty- totally fine with me.

So, in case you're way out of the loop like me, here's a heads up. Flatbreads. Sauce. Cheese. Today I layered thinly sliced zucchini on mine because I love zucchini and pasta sauce- for my son's pizza I did finely chopped zucchini so he wouldn't have to bite through the slices. Put them in your oven for a few minutes and then gobble them down. The easiest snack ever.

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Okay guys, this new year is already a little hectic but we do have plans for some fun stuff in the future. Look for more healthy fare (Summer's hopping on my hippie bandwagon, it seems). I'm headed to San Francisco tomorrow morning for a few days to celebrate my best friend for many years getting married, and I'll be back in business by Monday at the very latest.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

mushroom quinoa stew.

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This. Soup.

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This soup was phenomenal. We had soup on the menu for this week, and when Jason told me what he wanted to do, I was just kind of like, "Oh, that sounds... pretty good, I guess." I like mushrooms okay, but I've had my share of lousy mushroom experiences so I wasn't super pumped about it or anything. I also like quinoa, (that's pronounced keen-wah, by the way) but I wasn't sure how excited I was to have it in a soup. My reservations couldn't have been more misplaced, this might have been the best soup my husband has ever made for me.

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The soup began a few days ago when Jason made a large batch of chicken stock. It simmered for a few hours and the onions on top began to caramelize, lending a deep golden hue. For this soup, I would HIGHLY recommend starting with your own stock rather than store-bought. Just get a large pot, roughly chop 3 large stalks of celery, 3 large carrots, 3 medium yellow onions, smash some garlic, and throw it in the pot on medium-high heat for a few minutes and let the vegetables sweat for a moment or two. Then add a chicken carcass (or if you don't feel like, or know how to hack up a whole chicken, get some cow bones from the meat dept. at your grocery store and use those. Unroasted beef bones make a "white stock" that tastes a lot like chicken stock.) and cold water. Bring to a boil and immediately turn the heat down, simmering at a low temperature for 4-5 hours, skimming frequently. Jason's culinary school textbooks say to blanch the carcass first by covering it with cold water, bringing it to a boil, and then pouring out that water, but we've never had any problems doing it our way, so whatever you'd like, I guess.

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Mushroom Quinoa Stew:

About 8 cups of chicken stock
A heaping plateful of mushrooms, chopped into bite-sized hunks. (we used shiitake, portabella, and criminis)
1 yellow onion, cut in half then slivered
a few cloves of garlic, finely minced
Juice of half a lemon
Brown mustard (something fancy, if you've got it. Stone ground whatever.)
Large handful of fresh spinach
1 cup of quinoa (Jason suggested subbing barley if you can't find quinoa, but barley will thicken your soup a LOT, so use it sparingly, like half a cup or less for the whole pot, I'm guessing.)
Fresh Thyme
Hunk of butter

In a large stock pot, saute onions & garlic with chopped mushrooms. Squeeze in juice of half a lemon, a generous squirt of brown mustard, and throw in a chunk of butter. Stir frequently while sauteing, and when everything begins to cook down and soften, add 6 cups of chicken stock, and a few sprigs of fresh thyme.

In another pot (or you can just use a rice cooker, like we did) cook 1 cup of quinoa in 2 cups of chicken stock. Keep to the side until the end.

To the soup pot, add 2 whole chicken legs (thigh & drumstick, bone-in, skin removed.) and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, skimming the soup every so often. When meat is cooked, remove chicken legs, shred meat, and return to pot.

Add cooked quinoa, a handful of fresh spinach, and more mustard and lemon juice (and zest, if you'd like) to taste.

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You guys, I know it sounds kind of weird. I totally balked at the idea of mustard in soup, for instance. I don't know WHERE he came up with this shit, I was bugging him about it the whole time we were eating. The conversation sort of went like this:

"So, where'd you come up with the idea for this soup, honey?"
"I don't know, it just sounded good."
"Well, is it based on any traditional type of recipe?"
"No, I just kind of wanted a mushroom soup that wasn't too thick."
"What on earth gave you the idea to put mustard in it!?"
"Mustard tastes good on mushrooms!"

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Seriously, though- this is one of those recipes that had me making involuntary noises the whole time I was eating it. The flavor is almost impossible to describe, but I can tell you that it struck a perfect balance between hearty and light. The flavors were rich and complex without being muddled, the mustard and lemon juice lent a brightness without overpowering or turning it sour. It felt substantial, but it was still brothy enough to feel like a soup. The quinoa gave it an extra dimension of texture without being mushy or overcooked. In short, it was the perfect soup. Starting with a good stock and then cooking the soup with bones in it made it incredibly savory, and left the meat tender and juicy. This soup is going straight on a recipe card and into my box for safekeeping.

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