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I’m Andrea. I like to cook and bake and take photographs and write about life. Welcome to Bella Eats, where I share these passions of mine with you. I’m glad you’re here.

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Tuesday
Mar312009

striking a balance

March is a big birthday month in our household.  We kick it off right with Brian's at the very beginning, end it with mine and have a whole slew of friend and family celebrations in between.  I've never attempted to actually calculate the numbers, but if I had to guess I would say that 30-40% of the birthdays we actively celebrate fall within March.  That means a lot of cake and cocktails, which, following a winter of heavy comfort foods makes the whole month seem like a last hurrah for indulgent eats before the panic of a looming swimsuit season sets in.  

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The mostly dreary weather of March has put a damper on my running habit as well.  Although the coldest temperatures of the month are typically much higher than those in January and February, the occasional 60* teaser days make the moderately cold ones completely unbearable.  I have a hard time motivating myself to tie my shoes and hit the road on a 40*, overcast evening (which in February would have felt downright warm) when my previous run had me in shorts and a tank top.

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And now here I am on the eve before the start of April, my legs sore from last night’s run after the prior week’s hiatus, my mouth craving a sweet because its become a daily habit and, dare I say, my body a couple of pounds heavier than it was just one month ago.  I started this blog originally to hold me accountable in my healthy eating and exercise habits, but found (along with an amazing community of people and many new friends) that the creative aspects of photographing and writing about food were more compelling for me than the keeping of a food diary.

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Its been about a month since I switched formats, and although the timing may have been poor what with all of the celebrations that March holds, I think the changes I've seen in my daily habits prove a point.  Food diaries work.  At least for me they do, which is why I'll be keeping a closer tab on myself starting tomorrow.  But don't worry, I won't be switching things up on you again.  I really love the direction the blog is heading and from the positive feedback I've received, I think you do to.  What you will be seeing are some lighter, healthier, simpler and hopefully more economical recipes popping up on Bella Eats this month, starting with this one.

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This soup was delicious.  So good that Brian and I haven't been able to stop talking about it for two days.  Its very simple, using ingredients that we always have on hand - carrots, celery, onion, canned beans, canned tomatoes, dried mushrooms, dried grains, good olive oil and fresh herbs are staples in our kitchen.  The mushrooms added such a wonderful earthiness to the broth that I don't know if I'll ever be able to make vegetable soup without mushrooms again.  And the infused olive oil adds so much depth.  Please - please - don't leave it out.  You won't be sorry.

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Mushroom White Bean Soup with Rosemary

recipe inspired by keep it simple foods and the new york times

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 oz porcini mushrooms, dried

  • 6 cups veggie or chicken broth (I used chicken)

  • 1 tbsp olive oil

  • 2 carrots, cut in half and sliced into 1/4" pieces

  • 3 celery stalks, sliced into 1/4" pieces

  • 1 medium onion, diced

  • 4 garlic cloves,  minced

  • 1 tsp fresh rosemary, minced

  • 1 tsp fresh thyme, minced

  • 1 can diced tomatoes, drained (15oz)

  • 1/2 cup quick cooking barley

  • 2 cans cannelini or navy beans (15oz each), drained and rinsed

  • salt and pepper


Method:

  1. First make infused olive oil, recipe below.  It will need to sit for 2 hours before serving, so be sure to plan ahead.

  2. Boil 2 cups of water.  Place dried mushrooms in a glass bowl and pour boiling water over them.  Let sit for 30 minutes.  Place a fine mesh strainer over a separate bowl.  Lift mushrooms out of water and squeeze over strainer, collecting liquid in second bowl.  Rinse mushrooms in strainer with cold water and squeeze out excess over sink.  Chop mushrooms and set aside.  Pour the mushroom soaking water through the strainer into the second bowl.  Add water as necessary to make 2 cups.  Set aside.

  3. Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottom soup pot.  Add the onion, carrots and celery and saute' for 5-7 minutes, until starting to tenderize.  Add the garlic, rosemary and thyme and saute' an additional 30 seconds.  

  4. Add the chicken broth, mushroom liquid, chopped mushrooms and tomatoes and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a heavy simmer and add the barley.  Continue to simmer for 12-15 minutes until the barley is tender.  Add the beans and salt + pepper to taste.

  5. Serve immediately with rosemary + porcini oil drizzled on top.


Rosemary and Porcini Infused Olive Oil

recipe modified from bon appetit

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil

  • 1 tsp fresh rosemary, minced

  • 1 whole garlic clove

  • 1/2 oz porcini mushrooms, dried


Method:

  1. Place mushrooms in a strainer.  Rinse under hot water and drain well.  Pat dry.  

  2. Combine mushrooms, oil, rosemary and whole garlic clove in small, heavy saucepan.  Cook over low heat until thermometer inserted into oil registers 180*F, about 8 minutes.  (I am currently without a thermometer so left my oil on for 9 minutes, just in case).

  3. Remove from heat, cover and cool to room temperature, about 2 hours.

  4. Oil can be refrigerated for up to 3 weeks.


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Thank You All for the great comments you write on my posts, they really make my day!  Welcome to my new readers who have found your way here from Tastespotting and Foodgawker, I look forward to hearing from more of you and to sharing some simple, healthy recipes with you this month.  Enjoy!
« low effort, maximum return | Main | practice makes perfect »

Reader Comments (26)

Mmm, that soup looks fantastic. Everything on your blog already looks so tasty and good, I'm excited to see what new things you'll be posting. :)

03.31.2009 | Unregistered CommenterMica

That soup looks perfect for a rainy day :)

03.31.2009 | Unregistered Commenterrunsarah

Ahh, don't sweat the few pounds. Seriously, don't.

I know you have no intention of switching formats again, and I do love your blog regardless, but I do miss more of you on a daily basis.

Thanks for the great soup recipe!

04.1.2009 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

Andrea, I'm so glad that you enjoyed the soup and put your own twists on it! The infused oils are fantastic and do add a great depth. Thanks for the shoutout! I'm planning on making one of your recipes very soon :)

04.1.2009 | Unregistered CommenterJessica

The soup looks fabulous and tasty. Gonna try it today since I surprisingly have all the ingredients in my kitchie too.

04.1.2009 | Unregistered CommenterTanya

Infused olive oil sounds lovely - I'm not a fan of mushrooms, but I do love the idea of adding herbs to olive oil. Do you keep non-infused olive oil in the fridge? I've been keeping it in a dark , cool cabinet... is that ok?

04.1.2009 | Unregistered CommenterLauren

Oooh, I LOVE adding rosemary to dishes!!

04.1.2009 | Unregistered CommenterVeggieGirl

March and November are jamPACKED with birthdays! That soup recipe sounds fantastic!

04.1.2009 | Unregistered Commenterksgoodeats

Your photos are gorgeous! Thank you for posting the recipe, it sounds delicious.

04.1.2009 | Unregistered CommenterNicole

that soup looks SO good! I still want soup, but I have such a hard time making sure I make it on the "chillier" days now.

04.1.2009 | Unregistered Commenterbrandi

That soup looks so flavorful and bright. Love all the colors.

04.1.2009 | Unregistered Commentershelby

This soup looks delicious! I really do love the format of your blog and enjoy reading your insights into different recipes.

04.1.2009 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

I love how you are slow evolving into an Orangette-style blog...beautiful photographs, family stories, good recipes. I am enjoying it!

04.1.2009 | Unregistered CommenterLIndsay

I have the same problems with my runs too! Back in Jan. I would be excited that it was finally 20 so I could run and still feel my legs when I get back! Now that we have had some 50/60s, the 30s feels cold! (and don't get to started about the pile of wet snow that fell on my Shuffle....)

Lovely soup pictures. I really need to find myself some sort of external light to help me create some faux natural light in my apt.

04.1.2009 | Unregistered Commenterwhitneyinchicago

I love cannelini beans, and the infused olive oil looks wonderful!

04.1.2009 | Unregistered CommenterTiffany

I love the idea of more economical recipes. Our ideas of staples vary somewhat. :P Everythings looks amazing AS USUAL!!!!!

XOXO,
Christina

04.1.2009 | Unregistered CommenterPruett&Daphne

Lauren - I don't keep my regular oils in the fridge, just the infused ones. I think it probably has something to do with the fact that you've introduced other, quickly perishable ingredients to it (herbs, garlic, mushrooms etc.) that will go bad faster than the oil would on its own.

Whitney - when you learn the secret to good artificial light, let me know! These photos were a struggle, and photoshop definitely helped me out. :)

yum on the soup!!!

04.1.2009 | Unregistered CommenterSarah W.

Awesome! I'm bookmarking them...

NAOmni

04.1.2009 | Unregistered CommenterNAOmni

I hope you had a great birthday!

I really like the balance of your blog - you obviously have healthy goals and habits for yourself, but I still get the feeling you are living your life. :)

this soup looks incredible.

04.2.2009 | Unregistered Commenterlauren (athlEAT)

I LOVE rosemary! I also enjoy your blog too! The pictures and food are always amazing:)

04.2.2009 | Unregistered Commentereatlivelovedream

this looks so good- just perfect!

04.2.2009 | Unregistered CommenterMariposa

Ok- another thing we have in common-

both of our birthdays are in March?

Happy Birthday! Mine just past last week. :)

04.3.2009 | Unregistered Commenterandie

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