Traverse City Record-Eagle

January 11, 2009

Foodie With Family: Girly time too feminine


Since becoming a parent I have blamed my increasingly frequent scatterbrained moments on my ever-present kids.

Because we live in the middle of nowhere I can only make it to the grocery store once a week in good weather and every other week in bad weather. Because I don't plan ahead to grocery shop when my husband is home I inevitably find myself having to shop for a week or two of groceries with all five boys in tow.

I always tell my husband that I'd be able to get through the store more efficiently and spend less money in it if I could go shopping without taking all the kids with me. This was my story and I was sticking to it. Until last week.

In a burst of orderly thinking, I managed to pry myself away from mountains of laundry and the children to clean my purse and get to the store. OK. The truth is I was looking for a reason to get away from the laundry. But at least I fled the Kilimanjaro of dirty clothes for something productive.

List in hand, I entered the store child-free. I made such fantastic time that I decided to tarry a bit in the health and beauty section of the store. I use the all-boy-all-the-time atmosphere that pervades our house to my advantage. I have a seriously girly love of shampoos, lotions, perfume oils, nice candles and anything else that smells wonderful and I decided to indulge myself with a little sniffing of shampoos in the store.

I picked up a pretty purple bottle of shampoo and cautiously opened the top. I'm not sure whether it's frowned on to open bottles for the purposes of smelling them. There is always some part of me that feels naughty when I do that. But wrong or right, I popped the top. I couldn't catch the scent right away so I gave a little gentle squeeze while holding the bottle closer to my nose. That gentle squeeze sent a geyser of shampoo shooting up my left nostril. I was so shocked that I moved the bottle before releasing my hold thus sending the stream of shampoo up my right nostril, onto the right lens of my glasses and all over my right cheek. The blooming bottle must have been pressurized!

Always the thinker, I looked around quickly to make sure no one had seen my gaffe. I was safe. I began digging furiously through my purse to find something -- anything! -- to wipe my face and glasses. I had picked a heck of a day to clean my purse. The only things left in there were lip balm, my wallet and change purse and some feminine products.

Desperation can cause people to do strange things and I was desperate. The only thing I could find to wipe my face was a pad. As I was wiping my face and glasses with the pad in what I hoped was a quick and subtle way, I realized I hadn't looked around to make sure I was still alone in the aisle. A glance to the left showed the coast was clear in that direction. A glance to my right yielded a small group of teenagers staring at me slack-jawed. And thus was the final blow to the remaining vestiges of my vanity delivered.

On the plus side, I can assure you all that Aussie Moist Shampoo smells very, very good.

Even with a snootful of Aussie Moist the aroma of this simmering soup is wonderful. And the taste is even better. It's just the thing to take the edge off frigid winter weather and wounded pride.

Don't let the two cooking stages scare you away from trying this recipe. They're both simple steps and can be done either in quick succession or spaced out over a couple of days. I took inspiration for this soup from Ina Garten's Roasted Potato and Fennel Soup on a day when, by cracky, my little convenience store in the middle of nowhere just didn't have fresh fennel. Go figure!

If you want to make this even heartier, top it with grated cheese and crispy bacon.

Roasted Potato and Onion Soup

4 lb. red potatoes, scrubbed but otherwise intact. No peeling or chopping!

1/4 c. plus 2 T. olive oil

3 cloves garlic, peeled but left whole

1 T. kosher salt

2 t. fresh ground pepper. White is preferable, but black will do well, too.

5 large onions, peeled and chopped. (This is not a typo. I really mean 5 large onions.)

3 qts. chicken stock, low-sodium broth or water

1 to 2 c. heavy cream. Use less for a healthier soup, more for a more decadent soup.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

On a rimmed baking pan that will hold the potatoes in a single layer, toss together the potatoes and garlic with 1/4 c. olive oil, salt and pepper until the oil is evenly coating the potatoes. Roast in the oven for 30-45 minutes or until the potatoes are easily pierced with a sharp knife or skewer.

Saute the onions in the remaining 2 T. of olive oil in a large stock pot over medium heat for about 10-15 minutes or until the onions are translucent. Try not to brown the onions as it alters the finished flavor of the soup.

When potatoes are cooked through, add the entire contents of the baking pan and the chicken stock to the onions in the stockpot. Make sure to scrape the baking pan to get any of the lovely golden brown bits into the soup. Cover the pot and bring to a boil. Uncover, lower the heat and simmer for 1 hour or until the potatoes and onions are very soft. Remove the pan from the heat for 10 minutes and allow to cool slightly.

Working in batches, puree portions of the soup in your blender or food processor until you have pureed the entire pot of soup. When you are done, add all the pureed soup back to the pan and stir in the cream. Adjust to taste with salt and pepper.

What goes better with soup than crackers? I, for one, can't think of anything. These crackers pair perfectly with the roasted potato soup. The pop of both texture and flavor that the mustard seeds provide can't be beat. Don't worry about shaping them perfectly. There is charm to a rustic shape in homemade crackers.

Mustard Seed Whole Grain Crackers

1 c. plus 1 T. whole wheat flour

1 c. all-purpose flour

1/3 c. whole brown or yellow mustard seeds

1/3 c. sesame seeds

11/2 t. salt

11/2 t. baking powder

3 T. olive oil

3/4 c. plus 1 T. water

In a large bowl, use a whisk to combine the flours, mustard and sesame seeds, salt and baking powder. Evenly drizzle the olive oil over the top of the dry ingredients and use your clean hand to mix it. Add the water all at once and use your hand to stir it until it forms a rough dough.

Lightly flour your countertop and turn the cracker dough out. Knead about five times and then divide the dough into 8 equal pieces. Cover with a clean towel and allow the dough to rest for 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside.

Working with one piece of dough at a time, roll out until it is about 1/8-inch thick. You can either lay the strip of dough onto your parchment paper as is or cut down into smaller portions. Either way, bake for 6 minutes, flip the cracker and bake for another 6 minutes. You may need to bake a little longer or a little less depending on how thick you've made the crackers. Just keep your eyes on them and remove from the oven when they're a golden brown and they smell good.

Store leftovers, if there are any, in an airtight container at room temperature.

You can read more of Rebecca's recipes, kitchen tips and parenting adventures at or e-mail her at