How My Kitchen Works (Steph)

So last night I made this amazing soup, and as I sat down to enjoy it, I thought to myself, “I should totally put this on my blog; it is so good!”…immediately followed by…”Shoot, I should have written it down, or at the very least, measured the ingredients or… wait… what all did I put in it?” This is how I cook, in a chaotic lovely melody that includes screaming children and begging dogs, mixed with moments of serenity as I indulge in delicious aromas and pretend for a moment that I am not in my 1915 fixer-upper kitchen with mismatched counter-tops and most likely original cabinets.

Contrast to tomorrow when The Kitchen Remix will head over to the loveliness of Liam Brex, a design kitchen showroom in downtown Naperville to showcase some of our best stuff (That’s Thursday April 11 at 7pm in case you want to join us). We will have make up on and matching aprons; we will have top line appliances and fantastic kitchen gadgets and the most beautiful organic produce that we can find. But for today, let me give you a glimpse of reality into my chaotic, mismatched, life-happens-wouldn’t-trade-it-for-the-world kitchen. Warning: this is not your typical Martha Stewart/Betty Crocker type of recipe:

Cremini Lentil Soup

It is a Wednesday evening around 6:15; we just got home from soccer practice, and I have three hungry kids (Did I mention that my husband is out of the country probably sitting down to a fantastic dinner sans chaos?). We have been running around since after school, and I haven’t even thought about dinner. Additionally, I am in the middle of a vegan cleanse so the plan is to get the hungry kids fed quickly while I get a vegan soup started.

First, start 2 containers of veggie broth (32 oz each) on medium heat. Next…”Mom, I’m hungry, can I make my own dinner? I want a chicken patty sandwich,” suggests my 8 year old. “I guess so for tonight, but I was going to make macaroni and cheese…do you want some?” “I do, I do!” bellow the 6 year old twins. “Okay,” I think as I watch my 8 year old start his sandwich, “let me boil the water for the mac and cheese.” Then aloud, “Oh, do I have an onion? That soup needs an onion.” Sure enough, there is a half of an onion in the fridge. “Hmmm, I need to use those mushrooms before they go bad…I guess I will use brown lentils instead of red lentils…that sounds better with mushrooms… shoot, there is no way I have two cups of lentils; oh well, I will add brown rice as well,” and I quickly dump or wash/chop my latest ingredients and add them to the pot.

“And you know what else I need…” My thoughts are rudely interrupted, “Mom, can I wash some of these little tomatoes?” asks my eager 8 year old. “Go for it!” I holler from back inside the fridge. “Pharaoh (one of the begging dogs I mentioned above), stop eating the tomatoes!” shouts one of the twins. “Pharaoh, go lay down!” I bark authoritatively (no pun intended!) but with small hope that tonight might be the night my 10 year old lab picks obedience over food. Again, I am disappointed…

“Okay, now where was I…?” My brain gets back to the task at hand (in case you have forgotten, that task is dinner). “I need to add noodles to the mac and cheese and then get back to that soup,” I remind myself. I peek back in the fridge and save some week old broccoli crowns from a future of fridge rot, add them to the pot, and also grab the fresh cilantro. With cilantro in hand I think, “Will this work in my soup?” and then confidently answer myself, “Eh, it will be fine,” as I toss it in (after washing and chopping it, of course). While I am at it, I add 2 cloves of garlic (btw, the clove is actually the small pieces within the garlic bulb, not the whole bulb–been there, done that!) and a bay leaf to the pot.

The aroma of the soup starts to fill the kitchen and sends me off daydreaming of a quiet cafe where I sit savoring this steamy soup and a big chunk of bread with butter. (Vegan cleanse day 6 and already dreaming about butter.) If I would have had more time to dream, I’m sure some cheese and a glass of wine would have been served as well, but I am abruptly brought back to reality by my daughter’s shrill voice, “Mo-o-om, Easton ate the last tomato, and will our mac and cheese ev-ver be-ee reeeeaaaady!!” Oh yes, the mac and cheese! Thankfully my girls like their boxed mac and cheese mushy vs. al dente, so I drain it off and mix it up. Also by now, I realize that my soup should be simmering instead of boiling, so I add a smidge more veggie broth (or water if you run out of veggie broth), turn to low and leave it alone.

I serve the twins their mac and cheese and get out some peppers and cucumbers (I already had these chopped and ready in the fridge.) for everyone to munch on. While the kids are eating, I manage to find out a bit about their day and even share a few laughs over the dinner table. Finally, after dishes are cleared and the kitchen is cleaned up, I turn the soup off (making sure lentils and rice are tender) and get the kids up to bed. When I come back downstairs, the soup smells heavenly and my kids are quiet. Even the begging Labrador Retrievers have given up for the night and have headed to their cozy beds. I sit down with my bowl of soup, take the first warm savory bite and think to myself, “I should put this recipe on my blog!”

*Disclaimer: The boxed mac and cheese was Annie’s Organic, and the chicken patties were Morning Star Chick’n Patties. No animals were harmed in the making of this dinner, LOL.

This is not my kids usual dinner, but it is “crazy activity night” dinner and one that I find perfectly acceptable from time to time. Let’s face it, the alternative would have been a drive-thru.

Life’s Recipe:
Lentil and Cremini Mushroom Soup

8 cups Veggie Broth
1 1/4 brown lentils
3/4 cup brown rice
8-12 baby bella cremini mushrooms
2-3 crowns of broccoli chopped
1/4 onion chopped
1 bay leaf
1/8 cup fresh cilantro (chopped or torn into pieces) and extra for garnish
salt and pepper to taste

Add veggie broth, onion, lentils and rice to a large soup pot and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add mushrooms, broccoli, cilantro, garlic and bay leaf. Reduce to medium heat for 20-25 minutes(Stir occasionally through and add more liquid as needed). Turn to low and simmer until lentils and rice are tender (about another 15-20 minutes) Salt and pepper to taste and garnish with additional cilantro. Enjoy!

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