This weekend, we got to hob-nob with the sexy people. We stayed at the Trump International Plaza in Chicago, IL, and since I normally hate hotels, I will only admit I was mildly impressed. I mingled amongst foreign accents, designer clothing and futuristic technology.  I slept in Egyptian cotton sheets, wrapped myself in a complimentary pima-cotton robe, and donned matching fluffy Tramp-stamped slippers (wait…slip of tongue-that’s Trump stamped), (not) drinking $25 bottles of water.  It was a fun weekend of escape, though I was more than ready to return home to my normal, not-so-boring, everyday life with four kids, three dogs and never-ending hilarity of catastrophic events.

On Saturday evening, we dined at Graham Elliot’s, which was a blend of casual, modern style and distinctive, signature taste. I stopped counting after the 10th course (and second glass of wine) and simply enjoyed each new texture, flavor and presentation. The meal was a dynamic work of art, with the guests, the staff and the food co-creating a moment in time; a dance of celebration and adventure.

We called ahead to let them know the party of 10 would include two vegans, and we were discreetly informed when we arrived that everything “was taken care of”. And it was. We sat back and relaxed, never worrying or asking a question as each course was presented with a thorough explanation of ingredients.

I was feeling exotic and inspired when I got home, so I cleaned out my produce bin and used the following ingredients to create a soup that my kids actually ate without pleading or promised compensation. It was as though we all acquired a little more culture from mom and dad getting a weekend away. (And I didn’t ask Grandma for the dirty details of the discussion between the securty guard and our six-year-old at Target. What happens at Target should stay there… Discretion on need-to-know issues is something that should be learned at an early age.)

  • 2 Delicata squash (though any winter squash would work), sliced in half, seeded and cubed. (Yes, you can leave the skin!)
  • 2-3 baking potatoes, (red, sweet, white or other) quartered
  • 1 bulb of garlic (about 7-8 cloves), peeled
  • 3-4 peppers (sweet or slightly spicy…your choice!)
  • 1 onion (red, white or sweet)

In a stew pot, add enough water to cover 2/3 of vegetables. Bring to a boil. Stir often as veggies soften.

Lower heat to medium, and use a potato masher to gradually reduce and thicken. In the last 15 minutes, add:

  • 1 tbsp fennel
  • 1 tsp clove
  • 1 tbsp sea salt (more or less to taste)
  • 1/2 tbsp black pepper

I considered adding a splash of soy sauce (check brand for GF), but didn’t as my kids prefer a bit more bland… I think it would have been a good idea..:)

Let it cool a bit (or be careful if you don’t) and add it to a blender to achieve the puree. I used a bowl to hold the remainder as it took two full blenders to process. Hold the lid on tight.

In a sautee skillet:

  • 2 pear, chopped small
  • 8 oz shitake mush, sliced thin
  • 1 tbsp Earth Balance spread (or oil of choice)

Use low heat, salt and pepper to taste. Garnish the soup and serve.

Put your drink in a wine glass, raise your pinky, and toast to the simple pleasures. Good food definitely enhances the great experiences in life.