You want some soup?

Probably. It’s fall and I hate fall. I don’t like to be cold, windy days make me cranky and leaving work in the dark is super depressing. Yes, fall is pretty, but even crunchy leaves and red-gold trees can’t cheer me up once coat weather sets in.

“Last Conversation Piece” by Juan Munoz

It turns out, though, that there are a *few* things that help with the fall blues. I had a day off in the middle of the week a few weeks ago and spent an afternoon wandering the sculpture garden at the Hirshorn (the best Smithsonian). It was sunny, with only a slight chill in the air, and I realized that this piece, which I fell in love with back in 2003 when I interned in DC, is still here.

Wild rice salad with roasted pecans, cranberries and grapes. Super yum.

Also, my ladyfriend took me out to a fancy vegan brunch at Todd Gray’s Muse Cafe in the Corcoran Gallery. The cafe is set up in the atrium of the museum, there was a jazz guitarist playing and the food is delicious. One small caveat – the staff is very nice and attentive, but not very well-versed in food allergies. I asked our waiter which dishes had gluten, and he told me I could eat everything in the buffet except the Red Curry Cous Cous because the tofu had been “marinated with a little soy sauce.” Cool…but cous cous is NOT gluten-free, so the soy sauce would have been the least of my worries. He didn’t mention anything about the whole wheat french toast or macaroni and cheese (both of which my ladyfriend said were awesome), so if I had taken him at his word, I would have had a very unpleasant Sunday afternoon.

Me: What’s a quince, anyway?
Ladyfriend: I have no idea, but it makes an excellent compote.

The good news: we spoke to someone else on the staff a few minutes later who was able to answer our questions and made me a special fruit salad: poached pears, quince and golden raisin compote, some type of fancy orange, pomegranate seeds and slivered almonds. She also brought me two of Kate Bakes vegan and gluten-free protein bars. I tried the Chocolate Coffee flavor today and I’m saving the Banana Cinnamon Oatmeal bar for later this week.

Kate Bakes is local(!) and more importantly, made by someone with dietary restrictions, which means she gets it. The protein bars have less than 12 ingredients and no preservatives. They are also quite tasty. I kind of want Kate to be my best friend.

IMG_2127AND. Guess what I found at the Safeway this afternoon? Oh yes. Seasonal Silk is a reason to get out of bed in the morning.

So anyway. Fall. It’s apparently going to snow in DC on Wednesday and one of my officemates missed a couple of days of work last week, so we need to get serious about staying healthy. Also, soup is one of my most favorite things to cook and eat, but it’s hard to get excited about simmering something for 40 minutes when it’s 96 degrees and 98% humidity. But I have been thinking about split pea soup for a while now and I am proud to say that I finally made it happen, and it rules.

Here you go:

  • Olive oil
  • 1/2 a yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 2 (loosely packed) cups  baby kale
  • 6 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup split peas
  • approx 2 cups chopped carrots
  • 2 red potatoes, chopped
  • 2 small handfuls Italian parsley, chopped
  • sea salt
  • ground pepper
  • 1 tsp cumin
Saute the pain away, kids.

So this is super simple, as soup should be. Saute your onion and celery in the olive oil until your onion is translucent. Add kale and saute until it’s softened. Add broth, peas and carrots. Bring to a boil. One you’re boiling, add potatoes and parsley. Salt to taste, add lots of fresh ground pepper and at least a teaspoon  cumin. Simmer until your split peas start to dissolve and get all squishy. I think this took at least 40 minutes. It was at least a full episode of House of Cards.

The smell of onion and celery cooking together is one of my most favorites in the universe. I think it’s how my dad starts his stuffing for Thanksgiving so it really evokes childhood for me. I’m also getting braver about greens and other sources of insoluble fiber. I’ve been very, very cautious about avoiding these things to manage my IBS, but in reality, we actually need insoluble fiber to, like, live and stuff. So baby kale, sauteed and then boiled in the soup, allows me to get some greens without feeling terrible.

If you like a very creamy soup, you could blend some or all of this soup. I prefer the chunks of vegetables, but the imperative for me is being patient enough to let the split peas  start to dissolve and thicken the soup. And then you can eat like two bowls of it while you watch House of Cards*.

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood…

*This is my first time through House of Cards. I tried watching it last winter when everyone was talking about it (one of my friends actually called in sick at work to stay home and finish the season) and I just couldn’t get into it. I’m three episodes in and I’m still not sold. More on this later, but for now, here’s a gratuitous photo of the White House, because fall in DC.


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