Good morning, friends!

It's been so rainy & cold lately, which is perfect weather for soup.  I cannot stop making it.  I make the same ones over & over again and no one around here complains.  All you have to do is make soup & buy a fresh crusty loaf of bread and voila, dinner is served.  I also like serving it up at 4pm on weekend afternoons which is sort of a very late lunch / early dinner meal because we don't eat at regular times most weekends.  I always make them with veggie stock because my husband is a vegetarian so it feels healthy & comforting. The most popular soup I've been making is mushroom barley - it's so hearty - onions, carrots, celery, garlic, thyme, lots of chopped mushrooms, barley (or farro), and broth - the grain thickens it up and the mushrooms add so much flavor.  I like to chop the mushrooms in the food processor because I like the texture of small chopped mushrooms instead of large slices.  Just drizzle some good olive oil on the top & sprinkle with parmesan cheese and it looks very sophisticated when you serve it up.  I also love roasted tomato soup, which I used to make with just roasted tomatoes & lots of sautéed onions & garlic, but then I started roasting zucchini, yellow squash & onions and I started to like it even more.  Basically, just roast the heck out of everything (season with olive oil, salt & dried thyme), dump into a soup pot add some broth and use your immersion blender to puree it.  Garnish with a dollop of greek yogurt or sour cream & some shredded basil and a drizzle of good olive oil & balsamic vinegar.  It's pretty mind blowing.  And then there are the legume soups - so many to choose from... Black bean is a family fave - start with sautéing onions, peppers & garlic then add smoked paprika & chili powder & oregano, crushed tomatoes and canned black beans & broth - let it simmer away until all the flavors come together and use your immersion blender to puree.  Top with greek yogurt or sour cream, chopped scallions & some crushed tortilla chips & shredded cheddar - so good!  And lentil soup is always a big hit - start with sautéing onions, celery, carrots, garlic & dried thyme, then add lentils (you can use canned, dried or those steamed ones in the refrigerated veggie section of the market), crushed tomatoes & broth - add some chopped swiss chard towards the end and it will taste very italian & healthy.  Garnish with fresh parsley & parmesan cheese.  If you have guests coming to dinner, make some grilled cheese sandwiches - cut them up into small squares and you can have fun plopping them into your soup - such a cute & tasty garnish.  

And here's my new favorite salad - I made it three times this week and on the fourth night my daughter asked why I didn't make it again - total hit - and it's healthy!  I got the recipe from the Pioneer Woman - it's called Killer Kale Salad - I adapted it a little bit, of course.  Sauté a sliced onion, then saute a bunch of sliced mushrooms - add these warm veggies to lots of shredded kale and drizzle with balsamic vinegar and olive oil - sprinkle with a little salt then add crumbles of goat cheese - prepare to swoon.  Ree (the pioneer woman) uses pancetta in her version and uses butter to saute the veggies and adds wine to the mushrooms - this is all good stuff - I'd probably do that for catering or if I was having company for dinner but for a weeknight, my version will do.  Oh, and you know those bags of shredded kale, brussel sprouts & cabbage?  You can use that as well - that's an easy short cut.  Of course when you wash & shred lacinato kale yourself, it's way better but if you are feeling lazy and you want to take the easy way out, go for it.

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