Roasted Root Vegetable Soup

I’ve been attempting a “no wheat, no dairy” diet for several weeks now. (Why? long story for another time.) This means lots of rice, quinoa, salads, and soups. Here’s one of my recent creations. I know “technically” it is now spring and we should be done with winter root vegetables, but up here in Minnesota it still looks and feels alot like winter . . .

Roasted Winter Root Vegetable Soup

Roasting some of the vegetables before making them into soup really brings out their sweetness.  Use your imagination with this recipe: substitute other root or winter veggies (yellow beets, butternut squash, white potatoes, leeks, etc), roast more or fewer of them (or none at all), and/or swap in other spices (curry powder goes great with this type of soup).

1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 3/4″-1″ pieces
1 medium turnip, peeled and diced into 3/4″-1″ pieces
1 large parsnip, peeled and diced into 3/4″-1″ pieces
2-4 Tbls. olive oil, divided
1 large onion (or 2 small), very thinly sliced
2 ribs celery, diced
5 medium carrots, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 tsp. thyme (or 1 fresh sprig)
1 Tbls. minced parsley (or 1 fresh sprig or 1/2 Tbls. dry)
1 large bay leaf
1 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. fresh ground pepper, or to taste
6-8 cups vegetable stock or water (or a combination)


Preheat oven to 350°F.

While oven is heating, cut up sweet potato, turnip, and parsnip.  Spread sweet potato, turnip, and parsnip pieces out on a baking pan.  Coat with 2-3 Tbls. oil.  Place in oven to roast while you prepare the rest of the veggies (40-60 minutes).

Heat 1 Tbls. oil over medium heat in a large, heavy soup pot.  Add the onion.  Cook, stirring frequently, until it begins to soften, 3-5 minutes.  Add the celery.  Cook, stirring frequently, 3-5 minutes.  Add the carrots.  Cook, stirring frequently, 5 minutes.  Stir in the garlic and ginger.  Don’t let anything brown/burn.

Remove the roasted vegetables from the oven and add to the pot.  Stir to combine everything.  Add bay leaf, thyme, parsley, salt and pepper.  Stir to combine.

Pour in stock/water.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover, and simmer one hour or until everything is nicely cooked and soft enough to blend.

Turn off the heat.

REMOVE bay leaf (and thyme sprig if used).

Blend the soup until smooth with an immersion blender.  Taste to adjust seasonings.

Serve and Enjoy!

Yield: approx. 2 quarts.


  • More obsessive chefs than I would tell you to leave the seasonings (garlic, ginger, bay leaf, thyme, parsley) whole, wrap them in cheesecloth, tie to make a “bouquet garni”, and add to the pot.  This process does make it easier to remove them before blending, but I can’t be bothered.  Just make sure you use a big enough bay leaf to be easily found and removed before blending.
  • There are other ways to purée soup if you don’t have an immersion blender, but why not just buy one?  For smoothies and puréeing cooked veggies the cheap ($9.99) versions work just fine (though apparently you can spend up to $40 bucks on the super-duper motor-a-boat versions).  If you MUST purée your soup in a food processor or blender, just be careful, let the soup cool a bit before blending (or things might explode), and do only a little at a time.
  • Even more obsessive cooks would tell you that after puréeing, you should put the soup through a sieve to remove any possible remaining celery strings, or small chunks of vegetable.  As you may have guessed, (1) I can’t be bothered with that and (2) I consider those strings and bits to give the soup added character.  But if you are serving your soup to the Queen or something . . .

Copyright © 2011, Lucinda DeWitt

[Updated on March 23, 2011 to include the bit about sieving and add correct punctuation to the word purée.]

Red Velvet Cake

Red Velvet Cake

After many requests from friends, I finally made my first attempt at Red Velvet Cake.  I intended to make the Dark Chocolate Red Velvet Cake from the All Cakes Considered book by Melissa Gray, but after reading some negative reviews (e.g., ) and noticing that the ACC recipe used much more butter and sugar and many more eggs than any other recipe I could find, I decided to do one of my “recipe-mergers” where I combine the ingredients and techniques from several recipes into one that makes sense to me.  Links to the three recipes I ended up combining are at the end.  The only thing I retained from the All Cakes Considered version was using sour cream instead of buttermilk (because I had already bought sour cream for the cake and didn’t want to waste it).  You can find both the cake and frosting recipes here.


Red Velvet Cake


Red Velvet Cake sliced

[Yes, I know it is not the blood-red cake some of you are expecting.  For that, you need to reduce/leave out the chocolate/cocoa.  A full explanation of the cocoa/food coloring balance is contained in the recipe.]



Pantry Inventory . . . Part I

Moving from the freezer to the pantry inventory. My dream house would have a huge walk in pantry. My current kitchen cabinets are so few that my pantry spills into the dining room. No way to take everything out at once, so I will start with the one shelf containing the bulk of the staples.

Empty it looks like this:

Pantry Shelf Empty

The contents moved up to the counter:

Pantry Shelf Contents

Whole Peeled Tomatoes (28 oz.—2 regular, 1 plum)
Crushed Tomatoes (28 oz.)
Diced Tomatoes (15 oz.—2 regular, 2 petite)
Prego tomato sauce (24 oz—1 chunky garden, 1 tomato basil)
tomato paste (6 oz.)
chicken noodle soup
tomato soup (2)
tuna in olive oil (5 oz.)
black beans (15 oz.—3 cans)
garbanzo beans (15 oz.)
tahini (16 oz.)
refried beans (15 oz.)
diced green chiles (4 oz.—2)
coconut milk (14 oz.—3 cans; 5.6 oz.—1 can)
sweetened condensed milk (14 oz.)
evaporated milk (12 oz.)
pumpkin (15 oz.)
molasses (12 oz.)
corn syrup (reg & Lyle’s Golden)
cake flour
dark chocolate cake mix
angel food cake mix
dream whip (2 envelopes)
cocoa (dutch processed & regular)
jello (strawberry—8 serving; strawberry—4 serving, 2 boxes)
baking soda
pitted dates
tapioca mix
old fashioned oats
graham crackers
brown sugar
powdered sugar
candied ginger (4 oz., 3 containers)
lemon peel
orange peel

Since I wrote down this list and took the pictures, I’ve used the chicken noodle soup, a can of diced green chiles, and today I made chai mix with the sweetened condensed milk.

When I put all the stuff back on the shelf (under the counter) it looks like:

Pantry Shelf

Next: Dry Goods in the Dining Room, Liquid Staples, Flours in the Frig

Freezer Inventory

In the process of throwing a bunch of stuff into my pot of chicken stock, I ended up cleaning out the freezer and taking inventory.  After discarding some REALLY old stuff (e.g., two veggie burgers from pre-2008; pesto from 2005 🙂  here’s what’s left in the freezer part of my refrigerator (I keep saying I’ll get a freezer chest for the basement, but after seeing this list, I’m not sure that’s a good idea).

Ratatouille (1 qt)
Posole (1 qt)
Chicken or turkey stock (1 qt)
Crushed tomatoes (1 cup)
Ground Beef (1 lb)
burger buns (7)
Chicken Breast (1 large)
hot dogs (2) and buns (2)
Pork & Vegetable Pot Stickers (1 large bag)
butter (2 lbs)
8 grain cereal, dry (2-3 cups)
Good Grains Pancake Mix (2 batches)
Thai basil cubes
thai chile peppers
mini corn (half a can, drained and frozen)
lime leaves
jalapeños (canned, chopped, frozen)
chipotle in adobo sauce
curry paste (green and red)
lemon grass
red enchilada sauce
pesto (3 qt bags)
pearl onions (1/2 bag)
baked eggplant (2 qt bags)
corn (1/3 bag)
broccoli (1/2 bag)
peas (1-2 cups)
green beans (blanched) (2 cups)
rhubarb (2 bags: one chopped, one whole)
raspberries (4 bags)
cranberries (2 bags)
cranberry sauce (2 cups)
peaches (2 bags of questionable vintage)
mangos (1 bag of questionable vintage)
strawberries (2-1/2 cups)
1 kit-kat bar
2 Luna bars
3 ice packs
3 trays of ice cubes


Now on to the pantry . . . then time to work on using this stuff !!

So what’s the most interesting thing in your freezer?

Update November 30, 2010: For those non-believers out there, here are some pics . . . I’ve now added 4 quarts of chicken stock, 2 pounds of butter, and some Jimmy Dean sausage (click on the pic to see larger image):

Freezer Inventory Main


Freezer Inventory Door

Five favorite inexpensive kitchen gadgets

Hi there,
I’ve been busy with the Natoma Bay Online Logbook Project and some over on Facebook . . . but now that the Logbook is “done” I’ve been thinking about kitchen gadgets. I’ve already written about my love of my Cast Iron Frying Pan; today I’ve picked out my five favorite kitchen gadgets (in the spirit of all those Facebook things like “Five places you’ve lived” and “Five favorite childhood toys”, etc.

Each of these gadgets was less than $15. Each are worth their weight in gold . . .

#5 “The Boat Motor” (aka Immersion Blender)

"boat motor"

I resisted these for a long time. Eventually Emeril convinced me to ask for one for my birthday. Excellent for making smoothies (fits right in one of my large glasses, so no messy stand blender to clean), as well as pureeing sauces and soups.

#4 Bench scraper


I don’t know how I lived without this one for so long. I used to scrape my work surface with a metal pancake turner! I mostly use this in baking (to scrape flour bits from my kneading board), but it’s also great for gathering up diced onions or other veggies and transporting them from the cutting board to the pot.

#3 Flour wand


I can’t think of many uses for this other than in baking. Any time you need to sprinkle a counter or pan with a little bit of flour, this is the way to go. You squeeze it to gather flour in and then squeeze gently to sprinkle flour out.

#2 Ginger grater


I do not understand why no one uses this on the Food Network! It is SOOOO much better than trying to “mince” ginger with a knife. You peel the ginger and then scrape it along the little knobules on the bottom of this leaf-shaped dish. You end up with both the pulp and juice of the ginger . . . YUMMO!

#1 Zyliss Garlic Press



I’ve had this one for about 25 years. Before finding the Zyliss, I went through lots of crummy $3 garlic presses. This one cost me $12.98, but was worth every penny. You get all the garlic pulp and juice. Plus it comes with a little cleaning tool to poke through the holes (it’s plastic, so mine wore out long ago, I just soak the press in water until the garlic remains just float out). The newer ones are more like $15-20. I hope they are still as good. BTW, the packaging now claims that you don’t need to peel the garlic before you use the press, but I always peel it first (and NO, I DO NOT pound it with the side of a knife like they show on TV; all that does is lose the juice. The skin comes off very nicely if you just cut the root end and make a slit the length of the clove.) EVERYONE SHOULD HAVE ONE OF THESE!

I’m sure after a while I’ll think of other kitchen items that I value just as highly. Certainly good sets of dry measuring cups and wet measuring cups (yes, they are different, you need both) and measuring spoons are all essential to me, but some people manage without them. I also recently bought a good digital kitchen scale, but I haven’t really “bonded” with it yet . . . .