E&C Food: Veggie Millet Soup

I love soup. It's kind of like cereal, only warm. Like Jerry Seinfeld says about his obsession with the popular breakfast item, "I love the idea of eating and drinking at the same time with one hand without looking.

Enter Veggie Millet Soup, the slightly-more-nutritious dinner version of cereal.

Would you believe me if I told you my grandparents traveled all the way down to the Southwest (not sure exactly where) from South Dakota to bring back this golden recipe? Well they did. Kind of. Last February they went on a guided food tour where they visited with famous chefs and foodies and sampled tons of glorious food ... and I believe there was some Julia Childs in there as well because my Grandpa has now added beef bourgeon to his repertoire. On this trip they attended a Suzanne Landry cooking class (in Santa Barbara?) where they left with an electronic cookbook -- which they naturally shared with me! So far I've tried out a few of the recipes and every one is fabulous. But this simple soup recipe keeps me coming back for more!

If you've never tried millet before, this is the perfect recipe to branch out. Millet really just tastes like rice. But as Landry points out, there's a lot more to it: "It is the most alkalizing grain. It is easier to digest than rice. It is good for people wanting to lose weight and for people who have an overly acidic blood condition. Millet has a calming and warming effect, therefore it is a good grain to eat in the fall and winter. In the summer, I would eat it as a grain salad by adding some lightly steamed vegetables in a vinaigrette dressing." But as I said before, in this soup it really just tastes like rice -- so have no fear. Nothing too scary here. The hardest part of this recipe is probably just chopping the squash, which I've had my share of practice this year (I think I've chopped at least five so far this winter).

Suggested serving with Whole-Grain Skillet Corn Bread, which I made here in a muffin tin (although I'm sure it's better in a cast-iron pan). The whole-wheat flour gives it a nutty taste and the buttermilk keeps it light and fluffy. Great with honey! (I often just add lemon to milk to make my own buttermilk since it isn't something I use enough to keep on hand.)

Here it is in a cake pan (I need to get me a cast-iron skillet!)

Make this soup this weekend - you'll have leftovers for lunch next week!

Veggie Millet Soup
(serves 4-6)

1 Tbs unrefined oil
1/2 cup onions, sliced
1 cup carrots, chopped
1/2 cup winter squash (butternut works well)
1 ear fresh corn or 1/2 cup frozen
1/2 cup millet
5 cups water or veg stock
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried parsley
Optional (and highly recommended!): Add 1 cup precooked, drained beans, such as kidney or garbanzo (Note: I've tried both and prefer the garbanzo since the kidney discolor the soup a bit. And I just love me some chickpeas. Kidney beans might have more flavor though)

1. Wash millet thoroughly and drain, set aside (I sometimes skip this step)

2. Saute onion in oil for 2-3 minutes. Peel, deseed, and cut squash into cubes. To the onions add carrots, celery, corn, and squash, saute another 3 minutes or so until the veggies are beginning to look tender.

3. Add millet, water, salt, and herbs. Cover and bring to boil. Reduce to medium heat and simmer for 25-30 minutes.

Serving Suggestions: To increase protein, add precooked beans.
Variations: For a change, replace herbs with 1 tsp. curry and 1/2 tsp. dried ginger.


***Tonight I tried a new recipe from The Culinary Couple blog: Thai Chicken Wraps. Delicious! And really quick and easy to make, too. Evan was a little nervous about the bean sprouts, but when all wrapped up with the peanut sauce and chicken, they really just added a nice crunch. Looking forward to eating leftovers for lunch this weekend (it uses a panini maker, so hard to bring to work).

What have YOU been cooking up for dinner this week? Send me a link, I love trying out new recipes!

It's a Banquette, Baby!

Did you know that "banquette" is pronounced "ban-ket"? Well I didn't. Not until I'd gone around telling everyone I was building a "banquet" for a while and getting funny looks. Although I'd like to say we've been planning a fancy banquet (mmm, food), we have actually just been pining after what Merriam Webster describes as "a built-in, usually upholstered bench along a wall." Like this:

Source: bing.com via Carolyn on Pinterest
Love the whole color pallet

and this, which was made out of cabinets from IKEA:
                                                              Source: aubreyandlindsay.blogspot.com via Carolyn on Pinterest

And I like the tall cabinets that almost reach the ceiling on this one:
                                                                    Source: theoldpaintedcottage.com via Carolyn on Pinterest

I didn't even think this was going to be a possibility in our space. We have a tiny house with just a little bump-out to serve as our dining room. (Please ignore the miss-matched chairs. I was in the middle of painting them.)
But, then I took a second look. If you can see beyond the cluttered space, the gazillion of plants (hey, it's the only room in our house where plants don't die!), and the hodge-podge of colors, perhaps you can envision a cute little banquette sitting along the far wall where the black chest stands. Even though we'd be adding a rather substantial piece of furniture to the space, I thought it might actually make the space feel bigger and more balanced, especially if said banquette was white and tall on both ends.

It might take a little bit of imagination to picture it, but to help you out (and to help us out) we taped an outline on the floor.

The area that juts out a little is where the tall cabinet will stand (there's another one on the other side) and the space in between will be the bench part.

Initially we planned on finding some short cabinets (like the kind that go over the fridge) at IKEA or a local handyman store like BMO (Builder's Material Outlet), which is how Pinterest photo #2 above was made, but what we found was even better (and cheaper!).

A toy box!
Well, two toy boxes, to be precise. We found them at BMO for $20 a pop, and they happened to be just the right size to fit in that nook, and the perfect bench height for sitting at a table. (3' long, 19" deep, and 18 5/8" tall)

You might think all we needed to do to "assemble" the chests was anchor them in place. But in order to ensure everything was anchored evenly to the back wall, we started by pulling up the old trim, which was easy enough. Evan just used a hammer and a putty knife. A little tap-tap-tappy, and we were good to go.

We snagged two tall cabinets from Menards for $250 a piece. We looked at BMO and Home Depot, but the ones at Menards were the right dimensions (most others were too shallow, wide, or expensive) and they were already white - bonus!

But alas, there were a few flaws where the pieces joined together. At first we were discouraged and wanted to return them, but the friendly man at Menards gave us a nice discount instead ($70 off). I'll take saved money over perfect cabinets any day, especially when we can just doctor these up with a little spackle and paint.

Even though these cabinets were almost the perfect dimensions, there was about an inch of space left on either side once we lined everything up along the wall. Not a big deal, especially since you don't really see the space unless you stick your head way over there. But for the sake of keeping everything seemless and to ensure little pieces of dirt, paper, food - whatever - don't find their way back there, we decided to cover it up with a thin strip of molding. We found some L-shaped molding at Home Depot for a few bucks a piece that we nailed into the wall with tiny finishing nails, and then just pushed the cabinet up to the edge sticking out.

Next, we anchored all cabinets into the back wall.  We used a stud finder to locate the studs and screwed the cabinets directly to the wall instead of using anchors.

We used 2 1/2 inch screws... about 16 per cabinet.

But of course, before sealing up that corner of our wall forever, we first had to leave our mark
My sister Sarah lived with us last summer and is a frequent guest/house-project-helper, so we thought it only fitting she sign our wall too. Just a little surprise for a future home-owner to discover some day.

Now on to the bench! First we set everything in place so we could visualize and make a plan. We knew we didn't want the chest completely flush against the wall, because otherwise we wouldn't be able to open the lid as it would dig into the wall. The solution? Inserting some 2x4s as little extenders.

Which we then covered with a cut piece of white particle board (bought and cut to size at Home Depot)

It might serve as a little space to balance back pillows too!

Here you can see how this solved our door-opening problem. Notice the slight overhang?

But that was just the plan. Now time to dig in and get dirty!

Evan glued the boards into the wall using liquid nails (oops, see the hole in the drywall?!) and then screwed them in at an angle for extra security. And yes, we did cover up an outlet in the process. We considered leaving an opening in the back of the chest so we could still have access to the outlet, but there already are two other outlets in that small room, which we figured is enough. We did mark the location of the outlet on the inside of the chest though, in case we ever get desperate and want to cut through to use it.

And ta-da! Everything is in place.

Isn't it amazing what paint can do? I also repainted the window frame and the surrounding floor boards as they were still a funny off-white color from the previous owners.

We plan on getting a larger, chunkier wood table some-day down the line, but for now this table works pretty well. I tossed one of our outdoor pillows on the bench to see what it would look like.

And I decided, to keep everything streamlined, I really needed to paint that back wall to match the rest of the room. You can see I'm playing with curtain ideas (that's just a tablecloth hanging there, but I love the yellow color!). 
The painted chairs were another project we tackled earlier this fall (I'll have to share that later). I know it's kind of funky, but I love how they add some dramatic color to the otherwise pretty neutral-colored space.

Here's some more pictures in daylight

You can see some future toe-board pieces on the ground there

That is most definitely my desk chair taking it up a notch at the table. I'm trying out an exercise ball in the office ... so far so good. Hard to resist bouncing.

My favorite breakfast spot in the house (especially once I get around to making a cushion)

I owe you a chair-painting story one of these days.

In this picture you can see some of the spaces we need to cover up, like the crack between the two chests. We're thinking we'll use some sort of pencil trim and then paint it all white. But thankfully this is usually covered up by the table.

Next up?
-adding toe-boards under the cabinets (in process right now)
-adding cute little knobs to the cabinets for some personality (will check out Anthropology)
-adding a few more shelves (they only came with two each) by cutting laminate boards to fit at Home Depot and painting, if need be
-covering up gaps between bench and cabinet, back of cabinets and wall, etc. with thin trim
-consider adding wainscoting somewhere, just because I love it and it has yet to make an appearance in our house
-curtains (make or buy)
-cushion for bench (I have to buy a sewing machine first!)
-new chandelier (or paint this one?) and swag it so it hangs above table (my dad hit his head about 10 times when he was visiting over Thanksgiving)
-Chunky wooden table (we're watching Craigslist like hawks!). I'd love to have nice wood instead of always having to use tablecloths to cover the cheap laminate. But we basically got our current table for free, so I can't complain.
-and hopefully someday we'll re-do our kitchen so we can get rid of our ugly and cumbersome - yet very useful - portable dishwasher.

But for now, I'm going to relax in my favorite nook!
(pillows from Restoration Hardware a few years ago when my sister worked there)

Perhaps some day I will serve a banquet on our banquette! Now wouldn't that be nice. I'll invite you over and we can practice saying ban-ket while sipping tea and savoring crum-pets!

Wrapping up 2011

Just a few weeks ago my family was all home in New Jersey for Christmas, decorating the tree, rolling out cookies, prepping one of my favorite meals of the year, and trompsing through the woods and fields with dog in tow. With four of us sisters spread across the country, it is a treasured moment when we all are under one roof, let alone home in good ol' NJ.

When we were little we turned into little ballerinas around Christmas time, pausing from our sugar-high-induced Nutcracker "performance" long enough to grab a taste of some "food to eat" (as Karrin used to say, aka sugar cookie dough) before resuming our "dance" - which, much to our frustration, inevitable turned into skipping and galloping in a circle.

I thought it only fitting that I set the following video of us decorating the tree in NJ to the much beloved tune from the Nutcracker. (and I'm happy to say I finally undecorated our Minnesota tree and gave it the boot last night ... so nice to have some more space in our house!)

(I think my favorite part is when, just for a second, Scott pretends to run in front of the camera with lots of animation)

One of my favorite meals of the year: Swedish meatball!

Apple Salad with walnuts and homemade whipped cream

Our sugar cookies are kind of a big deal ; )
The recipe is actually my great-grandma's, and won the purple ribbon at the South Dakota State Fair years ago. Perhaps I will share next Christmas season. The key to decorating is to make an icing, not a traditional frosting.

The Pearson family

the Girls! KCKS (I'm in the process of starting up a sisters blog - I'll let you know once that's up and running)

Christmas morning


Sarah gave us all snuggly mittens!

Evan and dad got matching robes!

Christmas Day hike at Baldpate

Bryant Park, NYC


We wanted to go skating, but the line was way too long

Toparepa at a stand in Bryant Park. YUM.

Rockefeller Center: the tree! Great photo taken by my dad.

Nice pic of the parents in Central Park

Mike can't help but climb on rocks (Central Park)

We walked to the Upper East Side where we used to live (when I was a toddler). Up on one of the top floors!

On our way to the Brooklyn Bridge, here in the subway

Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge, with the Freedom Towers in the background

Impromptu visit with childhood friend Ariella (fellow Nutcracker dancer!) at a coffee shop in Brooklyn!

View of the city from Brooklyn, photo by John Pearson

We all met up at the Tree to congratulate Kirsten and Scott on ....


It was so much fun being in NYC to celebrate with them right away. Probably the highlight of the trip! We're so excited for them and can't wait for all the planning to begin : )

We also enjoyed lots of quality time with Max ... I won't mention who's butt this is ; )
See this post for more pics/videos of us playing with Max last year ... when there was tons of snow!

It's always sad when we all go our separate ways at the end of our visit, but there's a lot of exciting adventures in store for everyone this year .... Kirsten and Scott are planning their wedding (!!!!!), Karrin is headed to Madagascar, Sarah is moving to Alaska in June and will then be off to Africa for a bit, and Evan and I have lots of house projects and trip ideas in the works. Here's to a great start to 2012!

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