Friday, April 23, 2010

Springing Up!

Welcome to my new blog.  I'm Julie, and I'm bananas for bourbon!  Well, booze in general, really.  Not that I hang around drinking all day.  No no.  I love food, you see, and I think alcohol does a fantastic job of adding complexity and depth of flavor to most dishes.  I may take a sip or two for myself while the rest goes in the pot, pan, or bowl, but I'm pretty sure that's some kind of law of the kitchen, right?  Well it's the law in my kitchen, anyway.

So here's a bit about me and my general philosophy.  A year and a half ago I was over 70 pounds heavier, an out of shape couch potato.  Somewhere around 38% body fat, according to my fancy bathroom scale I used to avoid like the plague.  I didn't cook, my husband and I ate out for pretty much every meal most days.  Today I am in the best shape of my life, and overall healthier and happier.  How?  Diet and exercise of course!

Wait!  Don't go!  Hear me out!

I've seen so many peoples' eyes fall in disappointment when they ask me how I lost so much weight and that's how I answer.  Here's the thing.  Diet and exercise doesn't mean I ate boiled chicken and lived at the gym for a year.  Heck no!  No fad diets, no starving myself, and no flavorless food!  A masochist, I am not.  First off, I quit my gym membership.  Seriously!  I looked long and hard at myself and really tried to be honest about what was going to work for me.  Piling myself and my husband in the car and driving 10 minutes to the nearest gym was something at the height of our motivation we only ever did once a week.  Not good enough.  It was an expense we weren't getting anything out of, so we quit!  If you are really determined to exercise, you don't even need to leave your house.  And no, I don't have fancy gym equipment in my house.  What a cop out it would be if there were, right?  I'll get more into that later.

In terms of diet, believe it or not, I started feeding myself better.  I started paying attention to proportions of what I was eating.  Everything in moderation.  Words to live by.  I still eat dessert every night.  I still eat unhealthy foods on occasion.  But most importantly, I still eat good food every single meal, every single day.  That's ultimately what we want, right?  It's not that we want to eat unhealthy food.  We want to eat good food, and fat tastes good.  Well the good news is that so does a whole hell of a lot of other food!  The key is being open.  Think you don't like vegetables?  Instead say that you don't like vegetables as you've had them prepared before.  Just because you don't like broccoli steamed to death in the microwave doesn't mean you wouldn't like it roasted in the oven, tossed with some olive oil, bread crumbs, and Parmesan cheese.  I went 20 years of my life saying I didn't like meat.  It's true that as I matured my taste buds changed, but really what changed was my ability to identify what I didn't like about meat and how I could go about preparing it in ways I do like.  Now I love it!

Over time I was essentially able to retrain my body.  Healthy foods starting tasting better to me, and unhealthy foods tasted worse. Exercise started feeling good, and eating heavy, fattening foods felt very bad. So far I've been able to maintain what I worked so hard to achieve because it really was a lifestyle change.  It changed for the better, and I've never looked back. By getting into the kitchen, and getting outside, I've taken responsibility for myself, and I've managed to keep myself in this non-flabby state.  Yay!

My goal with this blog is to share my recipes, healthy ones when I can help it.  And share some tips, methods, and ideas on how I got healthy and a year and a half later, have stayed healthy.  And, of course, to have some boozy fun!

I'm starting us off with a delicious spring soup!  I love soup.  It's warm and comforting during any season.  It's simple and easy to make.  And just about any combination of ingredients can be a soup.  The world is your oyster soup!  Also, it's pretty darn healthy.  Did you know studies have shown that starting a meal off with soup makes you some very scientific percentage less likely to overeat?  Basically, since it's usually water based (stock), you feel like you're eating a lot when you're not.  Works for me!

This mushroom and asparagus soup is thick and creamy without heavy cream.  It's light and a perfect way to bring in the Spring.  The asparagus is sweet and delicious, the mushrooms add a meaty substance, and the sherry plays a subtle role in the background, as booze in cooking tends to do.  Wine, sherry especially, goes with mushrooms like..bananas on bourbon!

See what I did there?  That's called bringing the conversation around full circle.  It's a gift.

When I first made the soup I thought it wasn't quite creamy enough with the vegetables and broth alone.  Don't get me wrong, it tasted awesome!  But it lacked a certain oomph...a depth of flavor. So I added the milk and butter, and that really gave it the consistency and flavor I was looking for.  Small amounts, that's the key.  Just a little lowfat milk, spiked with a couple of pats of butter, to bring a whole pot of soup to another level of delicious.

I hope you'll give it a try, and check back for more!

Creamy Mushroom and Asparagus Soup

makes about 4 servings

1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 shallots, chopped
5 cloves of garlic, minced
1 bunch of asparagus, chopped into pieces about 1in long
10 oz cremini mushrooms, chopped
1 TB rosemary, finely chopped
1 tsp sage, finely chopped
1 cup dry sherry (a dry white wine would do nicely as well)
3-4 cups chicken stock
2 TB butter
1/3 cup milk (any kind, I used 1%)
1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil

  1. In a dutch oven or heavy pot heat 1 TB of olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until just softened, about 3 minutes. Add the shallot and cook until they both sweat a bit, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the asparagus and mushrooms, then add the rosemary, sage, and salt and pepper. Cook this mixture until the asparagus has started to soften and the mushrooms have given off their water and started to cook down, about 10 minutes.
  2. When the vegetables have cooked a bit, add the sherry (oooooh yeah!) and deglaze the pot (meaning, use a wooden spoon to scrape up the cooked on bits on the bottom, they have flavor you want!). After the liquid has mostly cooked off, add the chicken stock. Add as much as you want for as creamy a texture as you want. I like a thicker soup, so I only added 3 cups. Bring the soup to a boil, then drop the heat to low, place a lid on the pot, and simmer for about 15 minutes.
  3. When the soup is done, remove the pot from the heat and let it cool down for a few minutes. Use a blender, food processor, or my favorite, an immersion blender to blend the soup until creamy.
  4. In a microwave-safe container, combine the butter and milk and microwave until the milk heats up enough to melt the butter. Watch this carefully, it only takes about 20-30 seconds and you don't want to burn your milk. Stir the mixture until the butter is incorporated with the milk, then stir into the soup.
  5. Stir in the chopped parsley and enjoy!


  1. Cute first post! Make sure to post some nice vegetarian dishes for me occasionally :)

  2. Hooray! Love the post, excited for more! :)

  3. The soup looks yummy, can't wait to try it. Love the new blog!

  4. I like your story and your way of thinking. I try to live by the same rules and cook by the same philosophy. Processed=yucky, fresh=yummy, especially if there is some wine involved. Lovely recipes too!