Main Course,  Recipes

Permission to be Imperfect (Beef Soup with Wild Rice)

One of the pleasures of being a comfortable cook and having some basics on hand is that you can throw together something to eat at (relatively) the last minute. Case in point; after the holidays I had a little over a pound of beef from a standing rib roast. It was beautifully cooked rare, and I anticipated that we’d make sandwiches with the leftovers. But days passed and for whatever reason, it was still there. Suddenly I found myself with this delicious piece of meat, and a need to make something with it, lest I allow it to spoil.

I rummaged through my refrigerator and pantry cabinets pulling out remnants from past meals (half a diced onion leftover from brunch, a couple of ounces of sliced bell peppers leftover from making pizza, about of cup of dried wild rice in the cabinet, etc) and slowly the meal came together like one of those chef show’s mystery boxes. In my freezer I had homemade chicken stock. Beef stock would have been better, but chicken stock will work just fine (it’s homemade soup people, not the Bocuse D’Or). In my refrigerator’s vegetable drawers I had the staples I always try to keep; carrots, celery, garlic plus some mushrooms reaching their prime, so into the pot they go.

Some quick slicing and dicing, and in about 20 minutes everything was in the pot. Dinner was ready less than two hours later.

As I was cooking I thought to myself, “I should share this on the blog. It tastes great and it’s something anyone could make.” But then I had one of those moments of self doubt. If I was going to blog about it, I needed a photo. And I didn’t want to have to take a photo when there wasn’t any good light. I also didn’t have time to do the necessary post production. Finally, I didn’t want to delay my dinner by having to set up the perfect shot. When this happens, usually I just share my thoughts on Facebook, like this post.

You may have noticed that I haven’t been posting all that much lately. As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve been doing some freelance writing and photography, plus the constraints of everyday life; job, family, holidays and even other blogs conspire to suck away my time and attention.

But that’s not all.

In thinking about it, one of the other issues preventing me from blogging is the pressure I put on myself to be “perfect”. Many times I’ve made something delicious that I want to share, but the pictures aren’t up to my standard and I can’t bring myself to post without a photo.  Or, at times I have a photo and a recipe, but nothing to “say”, no real introduction or anecdote.

But no more. I am giving myself permission to be imperfect. I may post recipes, like this one, without a photo, just because I think people will like it. Or because I want a record of it. I may put up recipes without much of an introduction in lieu of posting nothing at all. I’m sure many of you can relate, even if you don’t have a blog.

I will admit this causes me no small amount of anxiety, this posting without a photo. I feel like I’m breaking food blogging rule number one. Will people actually read the post if there are no pretty pictures? Can I capture their attention and keep it without photos? I have faith in you, my readers. With no picture, I’m aware the post can’t be “Pinned” or put up on Foodgawker, but that’s ok. It’s not about self promotion, it’s about giving myself permission to be imperfect because really, no matter how hard I try, I will never be perfect. I can just be the best I can be.

What about you? What do you need to give yourself permission to do or be?

Beef Soup with Wild Rice

Beef Soup with Wild Rice
Prep Time20 minutes
Cook Time1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time1 hour 50 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: beef, soup
Servings: 3 Quarts


  • 1.5 lbs beef cooked rare or raw, roast, chuck, or stew meat
  • 1 each small onion diced small
  • 2 each medium sized carrots diced small
  • 2 stalks celery diced small
  • 2 cloves garlic smashed or minced
  • 8 oz mushrooms halved and then sliced
  • 1/2 each bell pepper any color, diced small
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp dried ground sage
  • 2 each bay leaves
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1.5 cups wild rice
  • 2 quarts stock beef or chicken plus 1 quart water (or stock)
  • Kosher salt and cracked black pepper season to taste


  • Cut the beef into 1" cubes
  • Dice all the vegetables as described above.
  • Heat a large heavy bottomed soup pot (about 12 qts) and add the olive oil.
  • Add the onions and the garlic and saute for 2-3 minutes. Add the rest of the vegetables and cook until the mushrooms get soft and begin to color.
  • Add the beef and saute with the vegetables until it begins to brown. Add the dried herbs and stir.
  • Cover with the stock and water and bring to a simmer.
  • In a small pot add the wild rice and cover with about 3 cups of water. The water should cover the rice by 2 to 3 inches. Cook the wild rice until it begins to open, about 50 minutes. If there is any water left, drain it off and then add the rice to the soup. Cook for another 10 minutes so the rice can absorb a little of the soup's flavor.
  • Season with kosher salt and black pepper to taste.


If you don't have wild rice, try substituting a whole grain like barley, farro or wheat berries.
I cook the wild rice separately so that it doesn't suck up all the liquid from the soup during the cooking process.


  • Myra

    That’s funny, I often don’t comment on blogs because I worry it won’t be up to my own standard of the “perfect thing to say.” I say more posts about good food, imperfections and all, the better. 🙂

  • Denene Brox Photography

    Wow, Kristina. This is the kind of post that I wish were on blogs more often. Kudos to you for taking the risk and being vulnerable. I know exactly how you feel about striving to be “perfect” as it prevents me from posting more often too. Thanks for sharing this. It’s really inspiring!

    Happy 2013!

  • Chris

    I’ve missed your posts and I love this one! I’m frankly tired of carefully crafted perfect posts with professional quality photos. They’re all starting to seem the same to me, and I’m delighted to see this recipe, with or without photo. Please keep posting!
    I’m frequently intimidated out of posting myself, when my blog was never meant to be anything more than a way to share with friends (and use as a laboratory for learning more about WordPress).

    • formerchef

      Thanks Chris! I like to hear that people are still reading. I’m not going to stop posting, don’t worry. I have quite a few backlogged, just none “perfect”. Time to let that go…

    • Denene Brox Photography

      “I’m frankly tired of carefully crafted perfect posts with professional quality photos. They’re all starting to seem the same to me.”

      I feel the exact same way. It’s like everyone has the same exact style. It’s kind of hard not to fall into that trap! It’s something that I’m actually striving to do with my blog right now…be myself.

  • Laura

    I was just talking about the same concept for a bag I just sewed up. 🙂 Its fun to give ourselves “room” to experiment and enjoy the results of what we do, even if it takes unexpected twists and turns!

  • Fanny

    You can do no wrong in my book when it comes to your blog. Photo or not the food is always delicious and inspiring.
    As for your travel blog oh my if only I could…..

  • Vivian


    This is a great recipe. Simple and delicious! Who or what defines perfection? I don’t know and honestly I really don’t care. Don’t get me wrong, I love your gorgeous photos, and I enjoy time consuming recipes. One thing I have learned since the babies have entered my life is that time is really precious. When I get our dinners together now they are fairly quick and simple because I need to produce something that both I and the kids can enjoy quickly. This is just the sort of thing I can do that they will enjoy as well.

  • Lisa

    Well you are at the appropriate time for a resolution…let yourself be a little imperfect…you will fit in better with the rest of us! Keep up the posts, 1 line or 100 lines, pic or not…go back and remember why the blog was created. I think you will be surprised by what you learn. Happy New Year!

  • Pam Valente

    Haha – I didn’t even care about it being perfect or imperfect, I just wanted to read the recipe for this soup you like so much to see if I would have made it the same way had I been in your spot – and I have many times. Yippee! That’s pretty much the way I would have done it which makes me feel like I’ve at least accomplished pulling a pot of soup together on the fly. It reminded me of a meal I pulled together while on my sailboat in the islands. I was always out of fresh food. I used half of a semi-rotten onion that made itself known at the bottom of the fridge, a dried up lime I found behind the stove, a sad tomato I traded a beer for, a conch I found under the boat in about 4′ of water, some limp celery, a shriveled orange, hot sauce and garlic. It was delicious. I was so proud.

  • Jan

    Hi Kristina,
    I love your story about imperfection because I’m learning to give up perfection (which really isn’t possible), too! I’ve wrestled for a long time to understand why perfection isn’t a good thing and I finally read something a few weeks ago that made some sense….but I forget what it was!! Hah!! Success!!…..

    Anyway…I love your soup recipe and I’m going to try it with chicken since my husband and I don’t eat red meat. Thanks so much for posting! And really–don’t worry if your photos aren’t perfect–most of us don’t have photographer’s eyes like you do!

    Also–ran into a friend tonight at the grocery store whose son is thinking of becoming a chef instead of a veterinarian as previously planned. Would love to get your take on the profession if possible…my husband read in the WSJ that there are a lot of chef school scams to look out for. Cheers!

  • angela@spinachtiger

    It’s okay. There are many recipes out there without photos. You wanted to keep a record of this and I’m good with not being perfect. I’ll bet it was perfect soup though, and kudos for not wasting food.

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