There are different kinds of people in the world when it comes to cooking: the plan aheaders, the last minute frenzy cook, the i-don't-cook cook. I fall somewhere in between the first two. Generally speaking, when I go to the store, I go with some vague notion of one or two meals I'd like to cook within the next few days - a staple meal that is in our regular rotation and for which I know the recipe/ingredients (e.g., tilapia with sauteed kale and lemon pepper dressing or chicken fajitas). I also allow myself to be open to experimenting, as I quickly get bored of cooking and eating the same dishes over and over again. I look for one special, not-usually-in-my-fridge ingredient to bring home and lust over. Last week, I bought a bunch of carrots with the greens on them. I know - carrots are boring, right? But with the greens attached and the dirt from the farm still caked on, these carrots seemed exotic to me. They were destined for something special, but I didn't know what.

So here's what happens. I buy a 'special ingredient' - usually an unfamiliar vegetable or new type of meat/seafood and I let it sit in the fridge. I go about my week as usual, getting rid of my staple, 'I-know-how-to-handle-you' ingredients. I keep an eye out for inspirational recipes and ways to integrate my special friend into a meal. It's trickier than you think, because it has to be something that can be made with the other ingredients in my pantry. And then, I find it: Carrot Soup. I originally came across the idea of making carrot soup when I came across this recipe on my twitter feed from our lovely friend and partner, Sodium Girl. (She had me at garam masala!) The recipe I ended up using was from Food52, because I didn't have some of the ingredients in the Sodium Girl version that seemed important (e.g. orange juice). I used shallots instead of onions, because that's what I had and I thought it would be tasty. And I didn't have thyme, so I skipped that.

It was a warm day - not typically the weather that warrants a bowl of soup. But nonetheless, the silky sweet soup earned a deep, fulfilling sigh from the mister-to-be, accompanied by "that was delicious" and a second helping. Accompanied with some thin sourdough garlic bread, it was the perfect light supper. Oh, and I've said it before, but you've got to buy yourself a Bella Cucina Rocket Blender -- it is amazing for blending (smoothies, soups, etc.) and the clean up is virtually non-existent. If you like making soup but hate the blender clean up and mess, GET THEE TO AMAZON!

When most people think of planning, they think of a laborious task: searching for recipes, figuring out what you need, etc. etc. For me, planning happens in the reverse - I buy something I think looks fun, and I build meals around it. I have the benefit of having a well stocked pantry on hand and having frozen ginger in the freezer (this really came in handy for this soup!), but even if you don't, you can use this backwards planning technique. My only word of caution: only buy one or two new ingredients in a week. Otherwise, it'll get overwhelming.

What kind of cook are you and what tricks do you use to cook efficiently throughout the week?

Roasted Carrot Ginger Soup (adapted from Food52's Roasted Carrot Soup) - Serves: 2

  • 8-10 thin carrots (I really liked working with the fresh kind)
  • 4-6 tbsp olive oil
  • salt
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 1/2 tbsp ginger, grated (fresh or frozen)
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • fresh ground pepper

Thoroughly wash carrots. Then peel and slice into thin rounds. Arrange carrot slices on a baking sheet and toss with 1-2 tbsp olive oil and salt. Turn broiler on, and put baking sheet into oven about 6-8 inches from the heat source. Toss the carrots every five minutes or so, and broil until tender (about 20 minutes).

Put chicken stock in a medium pot. Add ginger and bring to boil. Simmer for 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile, mince shallots and garlic. Pour remaining olive oil into a large stock pot or dutch oven and add shallots to the pot. Saute until browned. Add garlic and saute for a minute or so. Remove carrots from oven and add them to the pot. Add the chicken stock to the onions and carrots pot. Bring to boil and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, until carrots are soft enough to puree.

Use your awesome new Bella Rocket Blender to blend the soup in batches. Pour each batch into the empty stock pot (the one you used for the chicken stock), and then stir the 3 batches together to get an even consistency. Ladle into bowls and generously crack ground pepper over each.