Friday, January 13, 2012

A Merry Weather Endeavor

January has been unseasonably warm, but we finally had some snow recently, and Todd scooped out some rock salt for our walkways and steps. I love the colors in rock salt. They remind me of sea glass...

...and the special yarn I bought last year.

Unfortunately, we only got about an inch of snow. Just enough for it to pile up prettily on the fences...

...on the bushes...

...and in the trees.

We love to see the little backyard creatures frolicking in it, though. This fox squirrel dug busily for buried nuts.


The squirrels are so tame that they don't mind posing for an occasional close-up.

"No, this is my better side!"

We filled all the bird feeders, and hundreds of little martins, sparrows, and chickadees came. We haven't seen any European starlings yet but they should be migrating through soon.

Cold weather outside means sleepy, cozy days inside for our little cats.

They take many more naps in the winter time. So do we!

With this recent dusting of snow came a wicked wind chill. Last week Todd and I dutifully got up early, went to the gym, and ran some errands. By the time we got home, though, we were chilled to the bone. I decided to make one of our favorite soups to warm us up, along with some fresh baguettes. These are not only a great taste combination, but easy to make at the same time. Forty-four cloves of garlic sounds like a lot, and it is. Your hands will be fragrant, and your kitchen will smell divine. The soup, however, will be light and creamy, and not overwhelmingly garlic. It's amazing, and you have to try it. Garlic is cheap, too, and it's unbelievably good for you!

44-Clove Garlic Soup
From Smitten Kitchen
Serves 4

26 cloves garlic, unpeeled
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 1/4 cups sliced onions
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme, or about 1/3 heaping teaspoon ground thyme
18 garlic cloves, peeled
3 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/2 whipping cream or milk
salt and pepper, to taste

Basic Baguettes
Makes 2 baguettes

1 cup water, 110 - 120 degrees
2 cups white flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon sugar or honey
a splash of olive oil
1 teaspoon salt

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Place your 26 cloves of peeled garlic in a small baking dish. Toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Roast for 45 minutes.

I can't help but notice the beautiful shades of lavender here...

Once your garlic is in the oven, start on the bread. Add yeast, honey, and hot water to your mixer. Add the remaining ingredients* and mix for about 8 minutes. Add more flour if needed...dough should be tacky but not too sticky. After mixing, cover mixer with a hand towel and let sit in a warm location for 40 - 45 minutes.

*note: I never wait for the yeast to proof - I just warm my flour in the microwave for 40 seconds to give it a boost and I've never had trouble getting a rise!

After your garlic is done roasting, take it out of the oven and let it cool. Crank the oven temperature up 25 degrees, to 375. Quickly take your bread dough and split it in half. Form two long baguette shapes and cover with a towel for another 20 minute rise. I have a special baguette pan, but you could use a greased cookie sheet, too.

Isn't your garlic lovely? The smell is just wonderful!

While the bread is rising, saute your onions and thyme in olive oil for about 6 minutes.

Add the roasted garlic and your 18 unpeeled cloves and saute for another 3 minutes, and then add chicken broth. Bring to a boil, cover, and let simmer for about 20 minutes. When it's simmered for about 5 minutes, I usually pop my bread in. It's done in about 18 minutes. I take it out to cool just as the soup is finishing up. While it's baking, I usually clean up the kitchen, because it's a real disaster after preparing this meal!

After the soup is done boiling, puree it in the blender and return it to the original pan. Add the whipping cream or milk and salt and pepper it to taste.

Voila! Your homemade soup and baguettes are done and ready at the same time. It's perfect for warming you up after a cold morning out and about. You can't beat the taste, or the smell. I usually make a double batch, and it's hard to believe that the soup made with almost 100 cloves of garlic is so subtle and mild...but it is.

And did I mention the fresh bread?

I hope you try it this week!