Mushroom Soup with Zaprashka

The last month has been an exciting one! I finished graduate school and earned my Master's in library and information science at the University of Illinois this month. I feel ready to leave, but Champaign, Illinois grew on me more than I expected. I learned a lot about myself and how I want to use my education, I met great friends and colleagues, and I reveled in the markets, theaters, and restaurants of a charming university town. It was sad to pack up and leave this week.

I'm happy to be back home with my parents for the next week and a half, and I have a great job to look forward to in January. I'll be working as a user experience researcher & designer for a small Chicago company. I will be able to use my librarian side to interact with people and learn about their information needs, use my nerdy side to organize information by developing taxonomies and interaction flows, and use my creative side to incorporate these elements into prototypes and visual designs. The work suits me perfectly.

I also just found out that Pro Bono Baker was voted one of the Top 5 Independent Food Websites/blogs by Chicago's New City Magazine! I'm incredibly flattered.

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The last month has had a few low points to balance all this great news. Just after Thanksgiving I came down with a debilitating tension headache/migraine that left me bed-ridden and full of pain killers and muscle relaxers for the better part of two weeks. The stress of feeling so incapacitated during my last few weeks of school and work didn't help.

Worst of all, Nick and I were mugged by two jerks as we were leaving brunch at the Publican recently. Nick had just treated me to a lovely meal to celebrate my new job. We've spent the last two weeks dealing with the aftermath of police reports, credit checks, and card replacements. They made off with my camera (among other things). So... You might not be seeing too many photos around here for a bit. I'm saving up to replace my Canon 60D body and 50mm f/1.4 lens, but it will be a while. Of course, we are grateful that we weren't really hurt.

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I hope all of you are enjoying some holiday cooking with friends and family. I was recently asked to shoot a photo for Travel + Leisure to include in their slideshow of traditional holiday foods. This Russian soup is one of twelve courses served in early January to celebrate the Holy Supper. The soup is thickened with zaprashka - a roux of oil, flour, and the liquid rendered from sautéing onions. There are a number of different recipes available for this unique soup. It has a strong flavor, thanks to sauerkraut juice, and it is great served with a bit of sour cream and chives or dill.

Mushroom Soup with Zaprashka


1 small onion, diced
5 Tbl vegetable oil (divided)
3 Tbl flour
1 C of mushrooms, cleaned and diced
3/4 C of sauerkraut juice 1 quart of vegetable stock (or water)
1 potato, cubed
salt & pepper


Add 1 tablespoon of oil to a large stockpot over medium/high heat. Add the potatoes and cook until tender. Add the sauerkraut juice and stock and bring to a boil. Simmer for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, brown the onions in a skillet in 1 tablespoon of oil. Pour off any liquid into a different skillet. Turn off the heat.

After the stock has simmered for 20 minutes add the onions (not the liquid). Begin making the roux by browning the flour in the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil in the skillet along with the onion liquid. Whisk constantly and be careful not to burn. When it is browned, add one cup of the stock and whisk to combine. Pour the mixture into the soup.

Simmer for 15 more minutes and add salt and pepper to taste.