Saturday, December 19, 2009

'Cause Baby it's cold outside...

Ooooh baby, it is cold out there! I just walked out to feed the birds, and my toes are chilly!

Both of my cats are sleeping near a baseboard heater, wondering when I'll be slipping back in bed to keep warm.

Oh, but this perfectly clear, crisp December morning can only inspire another gift idea!

Soup!

There is nothing like the gift of soup... It can be interpreted all sorts of way, from spending a day helping out at a soup kitchen, to making soup for a meals on wheels association. Or closer to home: if your circle of friends contains people in their 30s, then you probably know a few people who have very young children, perhaps even newborns. Well, there is nothing a new parent loves more than the gift of homemade food!

Forget about getting stuff for the baby (but who can resist? Baby things are so cute!!!), the child probably already had a whole boatload of stuff from the baby shower. No, think about the tired, overwrought parents who want nothing more than a proper sit-down to a nice home cooked meal.

Short of actually going over to your friends' home to cook in their kitchen, you can give them jars of homemade soup. Like this lovely winter squash soup.

It's easy to make. Easy peasy. You can either roast some squash (I usually have some ready to use in the freezer) or just peel and sauté raw squash. Either way, start with a bit of butter, some chopped onions and garlic. You can add whichever spices or herbs you like, tasty combinations are: sage (a classic Italian); thyme and extra garlic; smoked Spanish paprika; cumin and mustard seeds (my current fetish flavour mix); or combination of the above.

You can also add a chopped carrot, a bit of leek and some celery. These extra vegetables are not necessary, but they will contribute to rounding off the flavours. If you are used to using bouillon cubes or ready-made broths to add some oomph to your soups, try this holy trinity of soup making (onions/leeks, carrots, and celery), and you may forget about store-bought flavour boosters.

Throw in your squash (pre-roasted or not), and stir the whole thing up. When the onions begin to turn translucent, add water to cover. Put a lid on your pot, turn the heat down to medium-low and go read a book, or whatever you want. When the squash is nice and tender (15-20 minutes), take off the stove, and blitz. Check the seasoning, add some milk or cream if you want. And eat a bowlful! You deserve it. I added some smoked coconut as garnish.

Now for packaging your gift... You may have some pretty jars hanging around your kitchen cupboards, or in your recycling box, those used for ready-made pasta sauce are perfect (they contain two adult portions of main course soup!). Make sure the jars are clean and the tops aren't dented. Pour hot soup in the jar, tightly close the lid, and leave to cool down fully before keeping in the fridge.

The lid won't form a tight enough seal for the soup to keep at room temperature, but it will keep in the fridge for at least a month. Otherwise, it'll keep indefinitely in the freezer.

And you've got yourself a great gift for new parents or a friend who is at a loss in the kitchen!

Bon app'!

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