Balsamic Vegetable Noodle Soup
Balsamic Vegetable Noodle Soup

Balsamic Vegetable Noodle Soup

Balsamic Vegetable Noodle Soup

Balsamic Vegetable Noodle Soup

I am tongue-tied lately. Everything I want to say, I can’t say right, so I try to listen a little more and talk a little less, and, actually, this way of being comes pretty easily to me, as one of the analytic types labeled “extroverted introvert.” I often think what a blessing it is to be able to work from home, on my own schedule; that’s how I work best; but when I go for long stretches where I’m hardly leaving home, that more extroverted end of my personality gets annoyed—annoyed with myself, to be frank with you. I miss people. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told Tim recently that I wish I could change my personality and be the type of person who draws energy from people, even when I’m tired, at least right now, so that I could be copywriting and cookbook writing and still have the mental and emotional energy to go grab coffee with a friend, to boot (I don’t). But the repeated argument that both he and I make back to myself is that I didn’t make myself, and the One who did is worth trusting, and also that this is just a season and seasons always end.

The whole point of that first paragraph was to tell you we’re still caught up in Cookbook World. I just read back over it, and I can’t tell that that’s what I’m saying, so I imagine you won’t be able to either unless I help out. We’re caught up in Cookbook World! You see what I mean now about being tongue-tied? We’ve both learned so much from this process, I know I need to write it all down soon so I won’t forget, and we are learning still. I can’t speak for Tim, but I’ve discovered I hate having things over my head. Any things over my head. I want to finish! Finish everything! And then go rest on the sofa for a minute with a clear head! But having a looming deadline that you cannot take care of in a day or a week or a series of them pushes this part of my personality to the brink. I get lost in my quiet house with thoughts, so many thoughts, that go round and round in my head, and I regularly have to tell myself to throw thoughts out. “I can’t think about that now” has become a sort of habit, and it’s helping me feel like everything will be okay. It’s funny how something like a creative project can demand so much energy from your mind, leaving you with less strength to do simple things, but that’s the way it works for me, and we’re all different.

I guess sometimes life feels like survival mode, you know? That’s what my friends who have small kids tell me, anyway, and I want to say I understand that in a small way, even though “overwhelmed” is relative and what’s hard for you might not be hard for me. I’m afraid to tell you a busy schedule makes me overwhelmed, to be honest, because you might be one of the 70% of people who will respond with, “Well, you shouldn’t be,” as if there are things worth being overwhelmed by and things absolutely not. (Let’s keep being honest: That’s not a helpful response when someone feels like she’s drowning, it never is, so when you feel yourself wanting to say that to a friend who’s breaking down, stop yourself. Maybe watch this video instead. A more helpful response would be, “That’s a bummer” or “How can I help?” or “Can I bring over some soup?”)

Soup. This is a soup we’ve been making for a few months now, every time a little different. While the recipe below calls for vegetable stock, which is what we tend to always have on hand (we save all our vegetable scraps in the freezer—those onion skins and celery ends, the kale stems, etc—and once in a while pull them all out, boil for a few hours, strain, and bottle the liquids), we’ve also used homemade beef stock (when you have leftover beef bones or, when you actually buy soup bones for this purpose, it’s just as easy as vegetable stock, but for a longer amount of time. We usually cover the bones with water, simmering for about six hours throughout the day, adding water as it reduces. The result is rich, fragrant, smells-like-heaven broth that is even better when it’s got leftover brisket sauce mixed in with it, let’s just say for example).

Here are the constants: vegetables, sautéed in oil; stock and water to create the brothy soup; sugar and balsamic to sweeten the flavor; cooked soba noodles; and lots of fresh additions to place on top (I’m partial to the mung bean sprouts on top, personally, but any sprouts would work). The idea is to create a super flavorful, sweet, spicy, rich broth with cooked vegetables and noodles, and then add in fresh, uncooked vegetables to brighten things up. It’s a little like pho, which I’m told gets pronounced like “fa,” a Vietnamese noodle soup I first tried at Nashville’s Far East cafe. Like chicken noodle soup, it’s one of those dishes that, no matter how weird you’ve been feeling, physically or emotionally, whether you’ve had a stomach ache or a mind that won’t quit, will probably make you feel like things will be okay.

All I know is we made this batch a few days ago, and when Tim and I slurped big bowls of it for lunch, I looked at him across from me, in his gray crewneck sweatshirt and brown eyes that crinkle when he smiles, with his unflinching enjoyment of baking more loaves of bread, and I thought, you know, this is fun. By this, I guess I meant eating the soup and living with him but, also, knowing that in all the twists and turns of life, in all my late-night panics and wishes for perfection, there are still soups to make and eat for lunch, moments to stop and slurp at the table, little bits of life so sweet and good and beautiful, you can’t help but notice, even when you’d swear you can’t.

Balsamic Vegetable Noodle Soup

By: FoodLovesWriting.com

Serving Size: 4 to 6 servings

Balsamic Vegetable Noodle Soup

A lot of this recipe's components are optional, as you'll see noted below; that's because, as stated in the post, this soup is highly adaptable.

Examples: We've also used grape tomatoes in the cooked vegetable medley. We've used white and red onions interchangeably. We've added varying amounts of sugar and sriracha, to suit our tastes at the time or to counteract a more bitter or bland batch of broth. Just keep in mind that you control the soup, and you can doctor it to your preferences. Sweeter? More sugar. Hotter? More sriracha.

PLEASE BE CAREFUL with the sriracha, though: The second time we made this soup, an accidental two full teaspoons of sriracha went in, which was a great travesty because the soup tasted SO GOOD but simultaneously made me cry like a baby, and so then we had to throw the whole thing out.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 2 cups (250 g) chopped red onion (from about 1 [312 g] red onion) (or white or yellow, perhaps)
  • 1 cup (125 g) chopped carrots (from 4 [203 g] carrots, peeled and sliced into thin coins)
  • 1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8 cup (30 ml) balsamic vinegar (we like the short, squatty bottle from Trader Joe's)
  • 1/4 cup (40 g) sugar (ideally coconut sugar or Sucanat), plus more to taste
  • 4 cups (950 ml) unsalted vegetable stock (or beef stock)
  • 2 cups (570 ml) water
  • 1-2 tablespoons gelatin (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon organic soy sauce (optional)
  • a squirt or two sriracha (optional, but great heat-adder, just do it to taste! start small!)
  • 8 ounces (220 g) organic soba noodles
  • for toppings:
  • mung bean sprouts
  • chopped green onions
  • fresh herbs, as desired

Directions:

In a large stockpot over medium heat, melt a tablespoon of coconut oil. Once oil is hot, add chopped onion, chopped carrots, salt, and pepper. Stir mixture together, letting everything get coated with oil, and let cook for about 10 minutes. At this point, add balsamic vinegar and sugar, stir everything together again, and let cook for 2 to 3 minutes.

Add stock and water, along with gelatin if using. Let everything cook until vegetables are fully softened, about 15 more minutes.

Meanwhile, in a separate stockpot, bring enough water to a boil to be able to cook the soba noodles. Add a dash of salt, if you like. Once water boils, add noodles, cook for 10 minutes, until al dente. Drain and place in a bowl.

Use a ladle to serve soup---in each bowl, soup of the vegetable mixture, some of the noodles, and then your choice of toppings (suggestions above).

Notes

**One last thing! You'll note we added gelatin to the stock, which we sometimes do when we're using vegetable broth as a soup base. Should you have extra grass-fed gelatin laying around from your recent tea gelatin, let's just say, then here's another way to use it!

http://foodloveswriting.com/2014/01/22/balsamic-vegetable-noodle-soup/

Cooksnaps
Shanna Mallon started Food Loves Writing back in 2008, as a way to remember her grandma and write about her life through food. Since then it's become a place leading her to a lifestyle of eating whole foods, a new home in Nashville and the love of her life, Tim. Follow Shanna on Twitter @foodloves, keep up with Food Loves Writing on Facebook and stay inspired with the monthly newsletter.

This Post Has 29 Comments

  1. Lan | morestomach

    i read this piece last night, it’s about handling grief and how to be around people who are going through it. i’m not saying your feeling of being tongue tied and being overwhelmed is the same as grief, but i think some of the lessons are universal to be in a good person when with someone else going through a tough time: being present, bringing soup, not comparing.

    i will say that yes, this is a just a season and it will end, but if you’re present in it, it’ll make the next season all the more sweeter. (hopefully the msg i’m trying to say came through…)

    1. Shanna Mallon

      Thanks for that article, Lan. It is always easier to see these things when I’m the one overwhelmed than when someone else is, and reading that article made me want to learn more and more to practice the art of presence. Good read.

  2. Emma Galloway

    Hang in there love! I utterly, completely and totally understand your feeling of being overwhelmed. I was so stretched writing my book that at times I felt like I was gasping for air, scrambling to be everyone and everything all at once. My jaw would be locked tight as I woke up from a restless few hours sleep, every morning. I know it doesn’t feel like it right now, but this too shall pass. The book will be done and it will be beautiful!
    xx p.s LOVING your photos lately!

  3. Heather

    You’ve pretty much hit the nail on the head for me lately. I’m in the midst of trying to get my own site up and running and my writing out there. What I’m learning quickly is that it can be very overwhelming. There are so many things that I need to do that at times I don’t know where to start, but I’m excited to start and I feel inspired and creative; yet at times, I feel exhausted from all of it and I can’t bear to focus on it and I just want to plop on the couch and read a book. It can be like drowning.

    But soup…soup is always a good idea. I could eat it every day. To me, it is always amazing how something so simple can seemingly make everything better and nourish the head, the body, and warm you from the inside out. Pho does this (at least for me) almost more than any other soup. It’s like a magical cure-all for me. This soup in this blog post will be the next that I try.

    1. Shanna Mallon

      Yes! The line between super energized and super overwhelmed can be such a fine one maybe because those feelings are both so strong and have such pull! Sending you a big hug as you push through this period, too, and ps let me know if I can help in any way! I might not be lightning fast with responding, but I will respond, promise. Rooting for you.

  4. erin

    I wish I could come over, bring tea, and give you a hug because I know exactly how you’re feeling. I actually had similar thoughts last night because of deadlines and not feeling like there is enough time (when really, there is plenty but feeling overwhelmed doesn’t go away even with that realization.) Hang in there- I can’t wait to see the final result!

    1. Shanna Mallon

      I WISH THAT, TOO! You have such a reasonable perspective, I think it would be very calming in the midst of stress. Thanks for being so open and willing to say “me too,” by the way. It is so super encouraging and helpful, and it reminds me I’m not alone. Bless you, friend!

  5. felicia | Dish by Dish

    Shanna, I understand. I’m also what you’d call an “extroverted introvert” and sometimes when I have too many thoughts crammed in my head (I have to write this draft post, I have to test this new grain-free recipe; I have to shoot those cookies; etc) I feel like each thought is pulling me apart in totally opposite ways. And then I try to focus and decide, I’ll concentrate on the most crucial task at home, and then work my way down the list. Of course, when your task is writing a cookbook, which will take more than half a year, it’s a pending task that begs to be crossed out but can’t be. But please hang in there friend, so we all get to enjoy your beautiful cookbook!

    And in the meanwhile, enjoy that hearty, slurping-at-the-table moments with Tim, and then go bake some more loaves of einkorn bread or cookies or cakes, and eat up every bite of delicious goodness. Who knows, when this cookbook season is over, you might actually miss having the excuse to be baking every single afternoon!

    take care,
    F.

  6. Joanna

    Is it bad form to read a post, then send an email instead of commenting? I just did. But I will stop to say your photos bring so much beauty to my day. I can’t wait for a book full of them.

  7. Kathryn

    You may not think it, but this is such an eloquent way to describe that feeling over being overwhelmed – I have a similar project at work at the moment which is all-consuming and seems to want more of me than I can give it but we’ll get there somehow.

    PS I totally agree with what Joanna says about your photographs. Such talent.

    1. Shanna Mallon

      Oh, as always, you are far too kind, but thank you, you remind me there are generous souls out there who make it worth being honest and vulnerable. High five in the midst of your project! I like thinking of you over there and us over here, both plugging away, feeling the pressures and continuing through them. It’s nice to have blog friends like you out there, K. I think that so often with you because it’s so true.

  8. jessiev

    It’s all overwhelming, isn’t it? I’ve felt that way for almost a year now, and am taking steps to change that. It isn’t a good way to live, and it is completely exhausting. The first step for me is saying NO to things that aren’t a perfect fit for my path, no matter who is asking. It’s really hard. Thinking of you, too – I think almost all of my friends are in this in some form or another right now, it’s weird. LOVE this soup – will make!

    1. Shanna Mallon

      Jessie! Oh my gosh, I couldn’t agree more about saying no to things. I am like the queen of “just say no!” but now I am totally eating my own words in an unexpected busy season that I just didn’t see it coming. Not sure why I didn’t, but I didn’t, ha! So glad for us it is a season, though, because my mind/body/everything gets worn out through these seasons! Anyway, I find it deeply comforting that you have so many friends in similar situations. It is always such a gift to hear you’re not alone, even from strangers, so thank you thank you for saying so!

  9. jacquie

    how dare that 70%!!! no one – no one – has the right to tell another person if they are overwhelmed. what is overwhelming varies from individual to individual and with time and space so it is way to personal for another individual to comment on. if you are overwhelmed you are as simple as that. (and for the record I do think it is understandable as you have lots going on and it is tough to work at home) I wish I could bring you some comfort though it would probably be more along the lines of some cookies or bread than soup. in place of that if I can make a suggestion – light a candle to bring some light in the darkness. Take care.

    1. Shanna Mallon

      Jacquie! The fact that you see things this way shows great wisdom, wisdom that not everyone has. Thank you for your generous, empathetic words. I have the feeling you’re spreading comfort everywhere you go. xo.

  10. Rikki Snyder

    My brain works the same way and trust me, a lot of us creative people go through the same thing when working on big projects. But in the end, all the time it takes, tedious work and feeling like you’re going completely insane will boil down to something so beautiful that you created from scratch and it will prove to have been so worth it. When things get rough, focus on that fact- that it will all work out. I am so excited for you and I can’t wait to hold your cookbook in my hands! It will be nothing short of amazing, don’t you worry.

  11. Jacqui

    I love that first series of photos up there — they totally give off the vibe of “lunchtime getaway,” even if they were taken in your own home, but I can see how a soup so beautiful and comforting can take you away from Cookbook World or any other world inside your head that just begs for an escape, and just makes you feel better. This post makes me feel better. Seasons change! I have to remind myself that too, especially right now, in the absolute literal sense because good god this winter is sucking the life out of all I remember to be good in this world. Enjoy your soup, friend, and I’m cheering you on from #Chiberia.

  12. Katie @ Produce on Parade

    I can absolutely relate to the introverted thing. I wish I drew my energy from people as well. Sometimes I feel like I’m missing out on life, but interacting face-to-face with people can be just exhausting. Even friends! This soba soup looks wonderful and comforting :)

  13. Helene @ French Foodie Baby

    Feeling overwhelmed, being spread thin, the ups and downs of working from home, having to put thoughts aside, being in crisis mode… How I can relate to your turmoil! Life can be so hard that way, hang in there! I can’t wait to see what beauty comes out of this Cookbook World process :-) You’re always so genuine and true, and that can never lead you astray. Also, I love those photos, both you and Tim have beautiful hands! :-)

  14. Pingback: That’s a Wrap, Friday | A Broad At Home

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