Showing posts with label soups and chowders. Show all posts
Showing posts with label soups and chowders. Show all posts

21 August 2014

Improv Challenge: Beans & Bacon

I'm a sucker for Campbell's "Bean With Bacon" soup, but I don't eat it as often as I crave it as it's full of salt. And, yes, I know the Healthy Request version has half as much sodium, but that's still too much considering I'm likely to eat the entire can in one sitting. Also, quite frankly, the stuff I buy now seems neither as beany nor as delicious as the Campbell's "Bean with Bacon" of my childhood memories!

So I decided to just go ahead and make my own version of the soup for August's Improv Challenge. Sure, it's hot and humid out. Sure, the air conditioner is constantly cycling on. It's the best time ever to make soup! Or not. But I wanted soup and soup I would have.


I started by looking at the ingredients on the back of the soup can:
COOKED PEA BEANS, WATER, TOMATO PUREE (WATER, TOMATO PASTE), BACON (CURED WITH WATER, SALT, SUGAR, SODIUM PHOSPHATES, SODIUM ERYTHORBATE, SODIUM NITRITE), CARROTS, CONTAINS LESS THAN 2 % OF: MODIFIED FOOD STARCH, SALT, SUGAR, ONION POWDER, MONOSODIUM GLUTAMATE, YEAST EXTRACT, NATURAL SMOKE FLAVORING.
And then converted them into something I could handle:
Canned small white beans, lower-sodium bacon, tomato paste, carrot, celery, onion, bay, thyme, low-sodium fat-free chicken broth, salt, pepper, liquid smoke.
The soup I ended up with was surprisingly tasty for a first attempt ... although, admittedly, not exactly like the canned version! It's smoky, bean-y, and bacon-y and that's good enough for me. (I do find myself thinking I might get better results using finely shredded bits of smoked ham instead of bacon? My mom makes her split pea soup using the meaty bone from her Easter ham and that might work here, too).
White Bean & Bacon Soup

Ingredients
1 1lb 13oz can small white beans, drained and well rinsed
[Goya]
6 strips lower-sodium bacon, chopped fine
3 Tbsp tomato paste [Amore]
1 carrot, chopped small
1 small onion, chopped small
2 stalks of celery, chopped small
2 large garlic cloves, pressed
1 bay leaf
½ Tbsp dried thyme, crushed
3 cups low-sodium fat-free chicken broth [Pacific Foods]
Salt and pepper, to taste
Liquid smoke, to taste [Lazy Kettle]
Crispy bacon, for garnish

Directions
Pretend it is late October. Cook bacon in large heavy pot on medium-low for about 15 minutes, stirring regularly, or until bacon is crispy and as much fat as possible has rendered out. Remove bacon.



Drain all but 1 Tbsp bacon fat from pot, reserving fat for another use. Add celery, carrots, onion, and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes or until the vegetables are softened and covered in bacon-y goodness.


Add the beans, broth, bay, thyme, and tomato paste. Cover and allow to gently simmer on low for 30 minutes.


Remove bay leaf. Puree a little of the bean mixture with your immersion blender (or puree a few cups in a "proper" blender) so your soup is half puree and half chunk (or however you like it best). Stir in bacon. Let simmer uncovered for 10 minutes (this will help the soup thicken).


Season to taste with salt, pepper, and liquid smoke. Garnish with additional crispy bacon bits, if desired.
(I apologize for my photos! I had to take them with my phone as my camera has gone missing. We had people over last weekend and I did a quick tidy hide-all-the-things before they arrived ... and I hid my camera so well I still don't know where it is!)



23 July 2014

More Beanz!

My bush green beans are quite ... prolific ... this year and I'm having a little trouble keeping up! Usually, by the middle of July, the plants have fallen prey to some hungry critter or been crispified by drought and bean production is over. This summer ... well, I'm pretty sure my cats have zeroed out my neighborhood's rabbit population and, thanks to cooler than normal temps and some decent rain, my bean and chard bed is a dense jungle! I'm not bothered that the chard is getting monstrous (it will be good whenever I harvest it) but leave beans too long and they go all woody and "untasty."

Over the weekend, I made a bean and tuna salad using one of Plated's recipes but subbed with my own green beans instead of their haricot vert as those were brownish and unappetizing looking. Anyway, the salad was dead easy to throw together -- just blanched beans, kalamata olives, cherry tomatoes, parsley, dill, shallot, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, dijon, sea salt, and black pepper -- and I'll definitely make it again with more garden beans and cherry tomatoes (if, by happy coincidence the beans are still bearing when the tomatoes ripen).


The bean salad was meant to be served with oil-poached tuna, but I chose to poach my tuna in low-sodium fat-free chicken broth because the Plated recipe called for poaching the tuna in 1½ cup extra virgin olive oil and my parsimonious brain was like "Dude! That's $7 worth of oil! Duuuude! And you only keep two tablespoons! The rest gets thrown away?! WTF?" Anyway, the salad was fine served with broth-poached tuna as I ended up flaking the tuna and tossing everything together to make two meals for work.


I also made an easy minestrone with green beans, garden basil, canned tomatoes, and a farmers' market zucchini I had kind-of forgotten about in the back of the crisper. It came out pretty well for something that was just "Well, I'll saute some onion and garlic and carrots and celery and then add some chopped green beans and broth and herbs and zucchini and tomatoes and salt and pepper and just keep fiddling until it tastes right."

28 March 2014

Comfort Me With (Slow Cooker) Chicken Soup

We were supposed to have sushi tonight, but work drama and an incipient cold had me hankering for soup. Happily, there were frozen chicken breasts and mixed vegetables in the freezer, so soup was go. (Seriously, is there any food more comforting than a big bowl of soup? Oatmeal on a bitter grey January morning comes close, I guess? Or that first scrambled egg and toast after days of gippy tummy?)

There's really no proper recipe for this soup -- I put three frozen boneless chicken breasts into the slow cooker insert with some chopped celery stalks, carrots, onion, garlic, and tomato. Added low-sodium fat-free chicken broth until everything was just covered. Topped it all off with Bell's salt-free poultry season and a bay leaf and let it cook on low for 6 hours.

Slow Cooker Chicken Soup

Then I shredded the chicken with two forks, added a 12-oz packaged of frozen mixed vegetables, chopped parsley, some hilopetes (pinky-nail-sized square Greek egg noodles) I'd picked up at the Polish grocery, and enough broth to almost fill the insert. I cranked the slow cooker up to high and let it cook for another hour. Then I removed the bay leaf, tasted, and adjusted the seasonings as needed.

Slow Cooker Chicken Soup

Not only was the soup pretty darn tasty and comforting, it made the whole house smell like home. Each time I stepped back into the house between appointments and errands, I took a great lungful in and felt ridiculously contented by the aroma. Soup, it's Feliway for humans.

15 February 2014

Eating A to Z: B is for Bay Boletes & Barley

I've found that Polish import shops are excellent places to pick up an interesting variety of good quality dried mushrooms for much less than regular grocery stores or, godloveaduck, Williams-Sonoma. Unfortunately, as a non-Polish speaker, I'm frequently at a loss as to what kind of mushroom I'm purchasing. This doesn't stop me, of course, and when I get home and run them through Google Translate, I find they're never so weird that I don't know what to do with them.

Most recently I purchased a 20 gram package of dried Bay Bolete. Bay Bolete is found in both North America and Europe and, according to the internets, make a perfectly okay substitute for porcini. They dry very easily and can be used in soups, stews, and sauces.

Mushroom & Barley Soup

Of course, I used mine in soup for February's Eating A to Z Healthy Recipe Challenge hosted by Meal Planning Magic, Sparkles and a Stove and Alida's Kitchen as now is the season for hearty soups that speak comfort and warmth. This is a real ribsticker, so feel free to add extra broth (or vegetable juice!) for a soupier soup.
Bay Bolete Mushroom Barley Soup
Serves 4 as a main dish

Ingredients
¾ oz dried mushrooms [IMBA Suszony Podgrzybek Krajanka aka bay bolete]
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 large carrots, diced small
2 celery stalks, diced small
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tbsp salt-free Italian seasoning blend [Whole Spice]
2 8 oz containers fresh crimini mushrooms, cleaned and coarsely chopped
1 Tbsp concentrated beef base [Penzeys Beef Soup Base and Seasoning]
3 Tbsp sherry [Taylor]
1 Tbsp tomato paste
4 oz quick-cooking barley
32 oz low-sodium fat-free chicken broth [Pacific Organic]
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions
Put the dried mushrooms in a bowl, cover with boiling water, and leave to soak for 25 min.

Heat olive oil in a large Dutch/French oven and add the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, and seasoning blend. Sauté for 5 mins on a medium heat or until softened. Drain the dried mushrooms, saving the liquid, and finely chop.

Add both mushrooms to pan. Sauté for another 5 mins, then add the concentrated beef base, sherry, tomato paste, barley, broth, bay leaf, and strained mushroom liquid.

Cook for 30 mins or until barley is soft. Remove bay leaf and season to taste with salt and pepper, if desired. Serve with garlic bread or biscuits.

Mushroom & Barley Soup

20 January 2014

Lazy Sunday Sausage & Mushroom Soup

We couldn't be bothered leaving the house on Sunday for nonsense like food when there were chunky books like The Crow Trap to be read, but it's hard to concentrate on who might be a murderer when your insides are full of rumblings and grumblings.

So, I made soup. A warming, comforting soup that was sure to quiet any body's rumblings and grumblings. And, more importantly, a fast soup that didn't take me away from Detective Inspector Vera Stanhope for too long.

Lazy Sunday Sausage & Mushroom Soup @ Savory Tart

Lazy Sunday Sausage & Mushroom Soup
Serves 6

Ingredients
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 lb loose-pack sweet Italian pork sausage meat
1 large carrot, quartered and sliced
2 large celery stalks, halved and sliced
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
1 bell pepper, roughly chopped
8 oz sliced mushrooms
5 oz small twist pasta
40 oz lower-sodium fat-free beef broth
8 oz chunky tomato sauce
1 Tbsp salt-free Italian seasoning blend
Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions
Heat the oil in the bottom of a large heavy pan like a Dutch or French oven. Add the sausage and cook, bashing about with a spoon to break up the sausage, until no pink remains.

Remove sausage to a paper towel-lined colander and let drain. If there's a lot of fat at the bottom of the pot, pour it off until only a tablespoon remains.

Add the carrot, celery, onion, peppers, and mushrooms to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes or until softened.

Add in the broth, tomato sauce, and pasta. Give everything a good stir and simmer for about 15 minutes or until the pasta is tender.

Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Portion into bowls and sprinkle with grated Parmesan, if desired.
You could use a a can of diced tomatoes instead of the chunky tomato sauce. I just happened to have leftover tomato sauce that needed eating up. The variety I used, Simply Enjoy (Stop & Shop's house brand), was ridiculously chunky -- more like a big jar of diced tomatoes someone had added a little puree to. It worked fine in the soup, but was too chunky for the pasta dish I'd originally meant it for and I had to smooth it out a bit with my immersion blender. The flavor was good, though. A fresh, bright tomato flavor with lots of garlic bits.

The pasta will keep absorbing liquid so, when you take any leftovers out of the fridge, you may find your soup is now a stew. Just add a little broth to the pot when reheating or, if (like me) you enjoy stewy soups, leave it as it is.

19 October 2013

P/F/G Challenge: Dressed-Up Tomato Soup

Bought a few cans of Campbell's Harvest Orange Tomato Soup on a whim last summer and, as with most things purchased on a whim, they've been shoved to the back of a cupboard and pretty much forgotten. The Harvest Orange actually tastes rather nice -- smooth and mellow like the orange tomatoes I grow, with none of the excessive sweetness I associate with Campbell's regular condensed tomato soup -- but not so nice I want to eat it regularly.

Really, canned soup is not my thing and the only soup I regularly buy is Campbell's Tomato Bisque (or Amy's Organic Chunky Tomato Bisque), because it forms the gravy for my mother's meatloaf. However, I didn't have anything hot to take for lunch this week so the Harvest Tomato soup was suddenly very desirable! However, heating it up with milk seemed a bit boring, so I subbed light cream for milk and then jazzed it up a bit more with curry powder, cashew butter, and a little sriracha.

Dressed-up tomato soup

Dressed-Up Tomato Soup
Makes 3 servings

Ingredients
1 tsp unsalted buter
2 tsp curry powder
[Penzeys Maharajah]
¼ cup nut butter [cashew]
1 can Campbell's Harvest Orange Tomato Soup [Pacific Organic Free Range Low Sodium]
1 cup light cream
1 low-sodium chicken broth
Sriracha, as desired

Directions
Melt unsalted butter in saucepan over medium.

Add curry powder and heat, whisking, until spices bloom.

Add in nut butter and whisk until combined.

Add in can of soup and whisk until combined.

Slowly whisk in light cream and broth and heat thoroughly.

Season with sriracha as desired.
The soup was good this way -- rich, tangy, and very aromatic -- and made a filling lunch when paired with salad and buttered toast fingers. It's quite thick, so you might want to add a bit more cream if you like a looser soup.

11 October 2013

Soup Makes Space

Last Saturday, I opened the freezer to get out some tilapia fillets and a precariously-perched container of blueberries hurled itself onto the floor, scattering berries around the kitchen. And then the bananas tried to escape and it was clearly Time To Do Something About The Freezer.

Bet you're thinking I made another banana bread, right? Well, I didn't! Not yet, anyway. I corralled all the loose frozen bananas into a gallon storage bag, shuffled the vegetables and meats around so they were once again grouped by like, and tossed some unfortunate freezer burnt ice cream cups. And then I made a big pot of soup from all the open vegetables packages.
Vegetable Barley Soup
Serves many

Ingredients
9 oz frozen chopped swiss chard
8 oz frozen diced butternut squash
3 oz frozen chopped onion
3 oz frozen chopped peppers
2 oz frozen corn
14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
1 bay leaf
Salt-free Italian seasoning, as desired
32 oz low-sodium chicken broth
[Pacific Organic Free Range Low Sodium]
Salt and black pepper, to taste
1 cup quick-cooking barley

Directions
Whack the packages of frozen vegetables against your kitchen counter to loosen. Dump the frozen vegetables, tomatoes, and Italian seasoning into the slow cooker insert. Stir. Add bay leaf and broth. Cover and cook on LOW for 6 hours.

Stir in quick-cooking barley, cover, and cook on LOW for 30 minutes.

Remove bay leaf. Taste. Season as desired.

Soup will thicken as it sits so you may need to add a little more broth when you reheat the leftovers, if you want a properly soupy soup.
Overall, this was a pretty good soup. Hearty and rich with vegetable goodness, it made a week's worth of filling breakfasts and lunches. (I admit that, on a few cold and sleepy mornings, I spiked my breakfast bowl with a little sriracha).

29 September 2013

Carrot Fest '13: Carroty Red Lentil Soup

It's officially autumn now, which means it's officially Soup Season! And, oh so conveniently, I happen to have a whole lot of carrots on hand -- a prime soup-making ingredient.

Weighty Carrot
Mighty (delicious) carrot
I wanted something warming, rich with the flavors of ginger and sweet curry, and hearty. Not heavy, stick-to-your ribs, nap-inducing hearty, but something that could stand pretty well on it's own as a meal. I ended up using Food.com's "Red Lentil and Carrot Soup With Coconut for the Crock Pot" recipe as my base, but tweaked the seasonings and liquids to suit me.

Because I was using my monster carrots, I only needed one carrot for this recipe. It weighed over a pound!
Carroty Red Lentil Soup

Ingredients
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 small red onions, finely chopped
2 heaping tsp sweet curry powder
[Penzeys salt-free Maharajah Style Curry Powder]
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
28 ounce can whole tomatoes, including juice [Muir Glen Organic Fire-Roasted Whole Tomatoes]
2 cups red lentils, well rinsed
1 lb carrots, peeled and diced
Juice of half a lemon
3 cups turkey broth
14 ounce can light coconut milk
Sriracha, if desired

Directions
Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add onions and cook until soft. Add curry powder, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute.

Add tomatoes and bring to a boil, bashing the tomatoes about with a spoon to break them up.

Place carrots, lentils, lemon juice, and broth in slow cooker insert. Add tomato mixture and stir to combine.

Cover and cook on high for 5 hours.

Add coconut milk and, using an immersion blender, blenderize soup to desired level of smoothness. Adjust seasonings as necessary. Spoon into bowls and garnish with a  squiggle of sriracha.

Carrot Lentil Tomato Soup

10 August 2013

Delicious Curried Carrot Soup in 30 Minutes

See this cookbook? Cook's Illustrated's The Best Recipe: Soups & Stews? Owned it since 2001, but never cooked from it until yesterday. I think it is actually one of the bookstore's sorryyourpaycheckbouncedsohavesomebooks, that is how long I've owned it! Oh, the shame! The long years this poor cookbook has lurked amongst my other cookbooks, unsplattered and unsmeared.

No more! The carrot soup I made -- "Pureed Curried Carrot Soup" -- was so good that I cannot wait to see what other deliciousness this cookbook has in store for me. Even though I reduced the (olive) oil to one tablespoon and used only one cup (low-fat) coconut milk, the soup was plenty flavorful. Rich, aromatic, warming, and so easy -- this is a soup I could eat every week through the fall and winter!

Carrot soup might sound a bit odd in August, but I harvested carrots last week and, woo boy, did I pull a bumper crop of the orange darlings. Used to think didn't have a lot of luck with root vegetables, but I've harvested enormous carrot crops for two years running so, maybe I've been wrong. Maybe, I've just not known what I was doing?

Anyway, I had a metric buttload of carrots and they needed eating up as I really had no place/way to store them for long. So ... soup!

26 April 2013

Slow Cooker Red Lentil Soup

This soup was inspired by a recipe for "Red Lentil Soup" in Michele Scicolone's The Mediterranean Slow Cooker (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013). I'd been meaning to try her recipe for weeks, but never had quite the right ingredients on hand. I decided to just go ahead and do the best I could with what I had. And I think I did.

Slow Cooker Red Lentil Soup

This is delicious soup, subtle and savory, that will fill you up without leaving you feeling filled up. It doesn't need any accompaniment, although a bit of fresh fruit never goes amiss, and is just as good for breakfast as for lunch or dinner. I've mostly been eating it for breakfast as my tummy's been a bit sensitive lately and this lentil soup's a gentle way to start the day.
Slow Cooker Red Lentil Soup
Makes 6 generous servings

Ingredients
1 pound red lentils, rinsed, drained, and picked over
1 large red onion, chopped
2 large carrots, chopped
1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped
1 14.5 oz can Muir Glen fire-roasted adobo-seasoned petit diced tomatoes
3 large garlic cloves, pressed
1 dried bay leaf
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp salt
4 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1 14 oz can full-fat coconut milk

Directions
Combine all in a slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours or until the vegetables are tender (Do the sweet potatoes break up a bit when you stir the pot? You're good). Remove bay leaf. Puree soup with immersion blender. Adjust seasoning as necessary.
If you can't find the adobo-seasoned tomatoes (while I found them at the grocery store, they don't seem to exist on the Muir Glen website) just use a plain can of fire-roasted tomatoes and add a teaspoon or so of adobo seasoning.

I also made "Balsamic Chicken with Capers" from the The Mediterranean Slow Cooker and they were everything chicken from a slow cooker should be -- tender, moist, and richly flavored. And so easy to throw together as it asks for ingredients that are always in my kitchen. I did not remove the skin from the chicken before cooking and it seemed almost to melt into the meat as the fat rendered out during the cooking process. Yum! I will definitely make this recipe again.

Balsamic Chicken Thighs

22 April 2013

Chard-tastic Sausage and Black Bean Stoup

Trader Joe's was selling ten ounce bags of washed, chopped, and ready-to-cook Kaleidoscope Chard for $1.99 a bag. Of course, I bought two. And then I brought them home and realized there really wasn't room in the fridge for two bags of chard. So I made soup out of one of them. (The other one I keep patting and calling "pretty" ... as if it were a new pet and not something I will be eating soon).

Red Lentils, Chard, & Sausage Stoup

This soup is based on the recipe for "Black Bean Soup with Sausage and Greens" from Beth Hensperger's Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker for Two. I made Hensperger's recipe a few years ago and, while it didn't turn out as well as I'd hoped (my own fault), I'd been meaning to revisit it.

When I made the recipe before I remember it came out too thin for my taste, so I threw in a diced sweet potato and some red lentils this time 'round hoping it would help thicken things up. I also used more chard and sausage, while reducing the amount of broth, and threw in a can of tomatoes for extra flavor.

Darlings, it was fabulous. Spicy, creamy, meaty ... fab. I ate it for breakfast. For lunch. For supper. And, yes, for a snack. It's been four days and the soup is gone and no-one helped me eat it. I ate it all, yum.
Chard, Sausage, and Black Bean Soup
Serves 4-6

Ingredients
2 tsp coconut oil
1 large carrot, diced small
1 large onion, diced small
2 celery stalks, diced small
1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced small
1 cup red lentils, rinsed, drained, and picked over
10 oz bag Trader Joe's raw washed chopped Swiss chard
12 oz package (5 sausages) Trader Joe's fully-cooked spicy jalapeño chicken sausage, halved lengthwise and sliced
1 ½ cups low-sodium chicken broth
15 oz can Trader Joe's refried black beans with jalapeño peppers
15 oz can Muir Glen Organic fire-roasted adobo-seasoned petite diced tomatoes

Directions
Heat oil in a large pot. Add carrot, onion, celery, and sausage and cook, stirring occasionally, until sausage is browned and onion is translucent. Add to slow cooker with chard, sweet potato, refried beans, tomatoes, and broth. Stir to combine. Cook on High for 3 hours. Stir and season to taste.
This is really thick soup -- much more like a stew -- so you might want to add more broth at the end. I like thick bean soups so left it as was.

11 April 2013

Roast Chicken & Chicken Soup

Last weekend, I thawed and roasted a beautiful four-pound chicken. Stuffed with thyme, rubbed with olive oil, and dusted with Bell's Seasoning, it roasted on a bed of chopped red cabbage, carrots, celery, onion, sweet and white potatoes. Who needs a roasting rack when you have vegetables? A bed of them elevates the chicken quite nicely and they get to soak up all the yummy chicken juices.

Roast Chicken & Vegetables

Indeed, the vegetables were phenomenally good and I freely admit I ate all the cabbage and sweet potatoes in one sitting. The chicken, alas, was merely good and while I enjoyed it at dinner with its roasted companions, I was disinclined to pick from the carcass as I processed it for storage.

Chicken Soup

But that's okay, you know. A merely good chicken can still make a pretty mean soup! We're suffering from a shortage of vegetables (I ate them all) so I made the soup with frozen chopped sweet potatoes, frozen chopped rainbow chard, red onion, garlic, fire-roasted diced tomatoes, carrots, and a scant handful of quick-cooking barley. Ordinarily, I'd have used "traditional" vegetables like peas, carrots, corn, and green beans but needs must. (The Husband loves him some traditional chicken soup, so I don't think it will go over well with him. More soup for me!)

01 March 2013

Slow Cooker Curried Lentil & Kale Soup

Sunday, I cleared a freezer shelf with this surprisingly tasty slow cooked lentil-kale-everything soup. I used low-sodium organic chicken broth, but substituting vegetable broth would easily make it vegan. (Swapping half the broth for coconut milk might also be a good trade).
Slow Cooker Curried Lentil & Kale Soup
Serves many

Ingredients
8 oz bag frozen chopped onions
8 oz bag frozen mixed pepper strips
10 oz bag frozen cubed sweet potatoes
16 oz bag frozen cubed butternut squash
2 14.5 oz cans low-sodium chicken broth
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp Penzeys Maharajah curry powder
½ tsp ground turmeric
½ tsp smoked paprika
30 oz bag chopped frozen kale
17.63 oz package Melissa's steamed lentils

Directions
Combine everything but the kale and lentils in your slow cooker insert and cook for 5 hours on High.

Making Kale & Lentil Soup

Puree with an immersion blender until smooth.

Add lentils and kale. Stir well. Cook for another 15-20 minutes.

Adjust seasonings to taste -- I added a little lemon juice and sriracha for brightness.
I've been eating this for breakfast, of course, and a big bowl with some fruit on the side keeps me comfortable (and happy) until lunch time -- not surprising as the soup is full of dietary fiber and protein!

10 February 2013

The Blizzard of 2013: What We Ate

My cupboards and fridge always have food in them. My mother raised me to keep a little extra laid by in case Something Bad Happened and I didn't think this was unusual until I stopped at a grocery store Wednesday night to pick up cat noms and was bewildered by the number of people zooming up and down the aisles, their carts overflowing with food as if they might lose access to the grocery store for a week or more. Aside from the people whose regular shopping days fell on Wednesday and Thursday, I have to wonder ... do you all not have food at home? Is there nothing in you cupboards or fridge that could tide you over for a few days?

From our preexisting food stocks, I made:

Vegetable Beef Barley Stew

A fabulous pot of vegetable beef-barley stew we ate over three days with buttery slices of toasted home-baked bread.

Ingredients: thawed beef (cut into thumbnail-sized cubes), pearl barley, sliced mushrooms, red onion, garlic, carrots, frozen corn, frozen peas, canned diced tomatoes, marjoram, thyme, bay, Penzeys beef soup base, water, leftover Layer Cake Malbec, Worcestershire sauce, black pepper.

Mushroom Barley Pilaf w/ Smoked Lamb Sausages & Green Beans

"Byrdhouse Mushroom Barley Pilaf" with smoked lamb sausages and green beans. The Husband liked this so much he had seconds! I used a combination of pearl and quick-cooking barley, simply because I did not have enough pearl barley left, and the quick-cooking gave the dish a comforting creaminess while the pearl barley remained slightly chewy. It was a good combination and I must remember to do it that way again.

Ingredients: thawed smoked lamb sausages, pearl barley, garlic, red onion, sliced mushrooms, dry sherry, low-sodium fat-free chicken broth, Penzeys herbes de provence, black pepper, parsley, garlic oil, fresh green beans.

Making Pumpkin Oatmeal

"Pumpkin Pie Steel Cut Oats in the Crockpot," because oatmeal is the best comfort food for consecutive snow days and pumpkin is full of good nutrition.

Ingredients: steel cut oats, pumpkin puree, coconut milk, Penzeys baking spice, pumpkin oil flavor. (I sweetened each individual portion to taste with maple syrup and drizzled it with flaxseed oil for extra goodness).

I made pancakes and waffles, as well, but was too hungry at breakfast time to faff about with the camera. Not a morning person, anyway. Food and hot tea must go in my belly before I can function properly.

I heated up a frozen lasagna, too, but since it was made by Marie Callender it does not count as real cooking. It was, however, pretty darn good and I will be stocking up on more "Three Meat and Four Cheese Lasagna" the next time they go on sale. (I know, I know ... "Making and freezing your own is so much healthier/thriftier").

Our regular shopping day is usually Sunday so we're a bit low on milk and I've switched over to green and white teas to save what remains for The Husband's tea. Otherwise, we're in fine kip and could avoid the shops until next weekend. Which would be great, because here's the thing: while I like eating and enjoy cooking, grocery shopping does not fill me with joy. And, yes, we use Peapod quite heavily, but there are things Peapod can't be trusted to supply properly. What I really need is a replicator.

06 February 2013

A Vicious, Delicious Cycle

I made bread, because I made soup. Then I made another soup, because I still had bread. And then more bread, because I still had soup ... oh, what a delicious cycle in which to be trapped! Yes, I know one does not have to have fresh bread when one has soup (or soup when one has fresh bread), but it is such a perfect pairing. Especially in the dark, dreary days of winter when a buttery, crunchy piece of toast dunked in a bowl of hot, savory soup is the only thing keeping madness at bay.

Or something like that.

Soup & Toast

None of the goes-with-bread soups I've made recently could ever be called gourmet. They're just thrown-together affairs using ingredients years of eating soup has told me go well together. And sometimes, I just chuck ingredients in to get rid of them. For example, in this soup, I used some of the tiny pasta rags I'd picked up at an international market. (Google says they're Greek, for what it's worth). They're wee little pinkie-nail sized squares of pasta with uneven sizes and crooked edges -- as if they were cut by hand and not machine-stamped. I bought them on a whim and forgot about them until I went on my bread and soup bender.

Bits of Random Chicken Soup

Ingredients
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup chopped red onion
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup chopped carrots
1 scant cup diced yellow bell pepper
1 cup shredded red cabbage
1 cup frozen corn
1 large potato, peeled and diced small
½ cup pasta rags
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
32 oz low-sodium chicken broth
14.5 oz turkey broth
14.5 oz fire-roasted diced tomatoes [Muir Glen]
1 large bay leaf
Handful dried parsley
salt and pepper to taste

Directions
Heat the olive oil over medium until hot and very fragrant. Add onion, garlic, and chicken. Sauté until onion is transparent and chicken is a bit browned (will not be cooked through). Add bay, carrots, pepper, cabbage, and both containers of broth. Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes.

Stir in potatoes, pasta, corn, tomatoes, and parsley. Simmer, covered, for 15 minutes more or until pasta and potatoes are cooked cooked. Remove bay. Season soup with salt and pepper to taste.

30 January 2013

Accidental Workhouse Porridge

I know. My soup looks like the kind of wretched porridge they would have served at a Victorian workhouse, if the Victorians had known about quinoa. It's not at all pretty. Indeed, it's down right homely. But, O my darlings, it is quite tasty.

Quinoa & Acorn Squash Soup

This soup is based on Crisco's "Butternut and Quinoa Soup," but I used an acorn squash, yellow bell pepper, and no-sugar added cashew butter. Also, I was out of cayenne so seasoned the finished soup with sriracha.

I blame the soup's sad, washed-out color on my choice of ingredients as orange butternut and red bell pepper would have held their own against the brown cashew butter and ultimately yielded a prettier soup. But yellow and yellow, when mixed with the brown cashew butter, just went ... beige.

And then I had the brilliant idea to puree the finished soup as the large chunks of squash didn't really seem to go with the tiny grains (would really recommend dicing squash into fingernail-sized cubes) ... No, pureeing did not help its looks at all.

But the taste was better! The squash blended with the quinoa and corn forming a spicy/sweet/nutty/creamy amalgam that I couldn't stop sampling.

Since it looks like porridge, I've been eating it for breakfast and find a one-cup serving (4 WWP+ as I made it) is quite filling and doesn't leaving me starving by midmorning. I do look forward to making it again, but with a butternut squash and a red or orange bell pepper.

26 January 2013

Cleaning Out the Fridge With Soup

Made another loaf of bread Friday night (the second this week!) and that made me crave chicken soup and, since Saturday afternoon seemed like a good time to clean out the fridge, I made a big pot of everything-but-the-kitchen-sink chicken soup. Leftover leeks, carrots, onions, peppers, peas, corn, rosemary, parsley -- everything went in the pot and deliciousness came out.

Saturday Night Chicken Soup

I'd put the chicken breasts in the fridge to thaw the night before (planning on enchiladas to use up the manky peppers and onion) and they were still slightly frozen when I went to make this soup. That turned out to be a good thing, because they were much easier to cut! Usually, I detest cutting up raw chicken because it feels like the flesh just flops around on my cutting board, smooshing more than slicing. Slightly frozen chicken has body and doesn't smoosh.

Speaking of chicken, I feel I need to give a shout-out to my local Shoprite as it's now stocking some really nice organic chicken and grass-fed beef that rivals the stuff I buy from Whole Foods. The organic produce is also nothing to sneer at -- the variety is limited, yes, but everything is great quality. The organic Fairtrade bananas I've been buying are the best-tasting bananas I've had in months -- sweet and buttery and wonderful.

And now back to the soup!
Everything-but-the-kitchen-sink Chicken Soup

Ingredients
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 heaping cup chopped leeks
1 scant cup chopped red onion
1 heaping cup chopped red and orange bell pepper
1 scant cup chopped carrots
1¼ lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
32 oz low-sodium chicken broth
14.5 oz turkey broth
1 heaping cup frozen corn
½ cup frozen peas
1 large bay leaf
1 3" sprig fresh rosemary
1 scant cup quick-cooking barley
1 scant cup chopped fresh parsley (do not pack)
salt and pepper to taste

Directions
Heat the olive oil over medium until hot and very fragrant. Add leeks, onion, pepper, and carrots. Sauté until onion is transparent. Add chicken, bay, rosemary, and both containers of broth. Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes.

Stir in barley, peas, corn, and parsley. Simmer, covered, for 15 minutes more or until barley is cooked. Remove bay and rosemary. Season soup with salt and pepper to taste.
We ate this with crunchy, buttery toast and big mugs of tea while watching back-to-back episodes of Dark Shadows: The Revival. It was exactly what I'd been craving.

(We'd been wondering where all the food storage bag clips had gone and now it's clear they're all in the freezer holding closed an improbable number of open bags of veg).

15 January 2013

Eating The Alphabet 2013: A is for Acorn Squash & Apples

[So ... it's come to my attention 2013 The Eating the Alphabet Challenge doesn't start until February! Whoops! In my excitement, I really jumped the gun!]

Woo! It's the 2013 Eating the Alphabet Challenge! I really enjoyed last year's challenge and am chuffed it continues -- so many fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains I haven't tried yet! So many excuses to go shopping at Whole Foods! Yeah!

For my first post, I've used acorn squash and apples. Apples aren't that exciting, but they go very well with winter squash, and winter squash is very exciting. I'm new to winter squash (except butternut, my squashy childhood BFF), but I'm trying to eat more of them as they're good for me (full of vitamins A and C and potassium) and whole ones are fairly inexpensive.

Making Curried Acorn Squash & Apple Soup

The root of this recipe can be found in Weight Watchers PointsPlus Fruits and Veggies A to Z: Get Passionate with Our 175 Delicious Recipes, but I changed it up a bit, because the original recipe lacked oomph. I think the mild sweetness of the squash is well complemented by the tart apple and sweet heat of the curry powder, but if you're not sure about curry, you might want to start with ½ tablespoon curry powder and work your way up from there.

This is an easy soup to make and it keeps well. It should freeze fine, too, if you can't eat it all now. (I've been eating mine for breakfast with crunchy toast slathered with cashew butter, because soup makes a great breakfast).

Curried Acorn Squash & Apple Soup

Curried Squash Soup with Apples & Leeks
Adapted from Weight Watchers PointsPlus Fruits and Veggies A to Z
Makes 6 cups. My math says 2 WWP+ per serving, but ymmv.

Ingredients
1 large acorn squash (23 oz puree)
1 large leek (4 oz sliced white and light green bits)
2 Granny Smith apples, cored, peeled and diced (11 oz apple cubes)
3½ cups organic low-sodium vegetable broth
1 Tbsp Penzeys Maharajah-style curry powder (a sweet curry blend)
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste

Instructions
Preheat oven to 400F°. Line a jelly roll pan with foil and spray with a little oil. Cut squash in half from stem to point and scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Place halves, cut side down, on prepared foil. Roast halves for about 50 minutes or until squash is easily pierced with a knife. Set squash aside until cool enough to handle.

Meanwhile, heat a French/Dutch oven or large saucepan and sauté leeks in a little broth until tender.

Scoop squash flesh from roasted halves and add to French oven with apples, broth, and curry powder. Cooking, stirring occasionally, for about 40 minutes or until apples start to break down. Remove pot from heat and let sit until cool enough to process.

Process soup with an immersion blender or whathaveyou until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste. If soup is too thick, add more broth.
Leeks can be sandy little buggers and you want to may sure yours are thoroughly cleaned before you cook them. I find the easiest thing to do is to give the leek a quick rinse to get any surface grit off then chop off the root and inedible dark green top and slice up the leek however I need it for cooking. Once it's all cut up, I rinse the pieces in a colander until I don't see any more grit. (Of course, the super-easy-and-lazy way is to buy bagged frozen sliced leeks, but they're hard to find).

15 November 2012

Improv Challenge: Sweet Potatoes & Honey

I love sweet potatoes so I was very happy to find November's Improv Challenge ingredients were sweet potatoes and honey. I considered many dishes -- including these beautiful tzimmes from the Boston Globe -- but eventually settled on soup, because it's soup weather here. Too many grey, dreary days that cry out for a beautiful bowl of rich, spicy-sweet, orange goodness.

Making Curried Cauliflower & Sweet Potato Soup

I've made Sue Bee Honey's recipe for "Cauliflower and Sweet Potato Curry Soup" twice now -- the first time I used thawed frozen organic cauliflower instead of fresh and just added them to the pot during the potatoes' last ten minutes of cooking time. The second time I used fresh organic cauliflower. While the flavor was better with fresh -- richer and deeper -- it was still good either way and frozen vegetables are certainly a time saver, so don't be afraid to go frozen.

Both times, I omitted the sour cream and cilantro as I don't like cilantro and simply thought the soup was delicious enough without sour cream. And I couldn't find my cinnamon (!) so I substituted Penzeys Baking Spice -- a blend of cinnamon, mace, anise, and cardamom which made the soup even more aromatic and flavorful. Aaaand I used vegetable stock, making this a vegetarian soup perfect for Meatless Monday or whathaveyou.

Making Curried Cauliflower & Sweet Potato Soup

Cauliflower and Sweet Potato Curry Soup

Ingredients

2 tsp olive oil
1 cup chopped red onion
4 garlic gloves, minced
3½ cups sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
4 cups chicken stock [Emeril's Organic Vegetable Stock]
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp cinnamon [Penzeys Baking Spice]
2 tsp curry powder [Penzeys Maharajah]
1½ Tbsp honey [local]
16 oz fresh cauliflower florets

Directions
Coat bottom of a large French/Dutch oven with cooking spray. Add the oil and heat until fragrant. Add garlic and onion and sauté until softened and fragrant.

Add the curry powder and cinnamon to the hot pot and cook, stirring, until spices are very fragrant. Add in salt, pepper, sweet potatoes, fresh cauliflower (if using), stock, and honey and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

Add in the frozen cauliflower (if using) and cook 10 minutes more or until potatoes are tender/easily pierced with a knife. Remove pot from heat and let sit until soup is cool enough to blend without scalding yourself.

Transfer to a food processor or use an immersion blender and puree until soup is creamy and smooth. Return to the pot and thin with more stock, if desired.
An excellent soup full of fabulous flavors! Velvety smooth with the perfect balance of sweet and spicy. It's impossible to just eat one bowl.



15 October 2012

Eating the Alphabet: S is for Spinach

October's Eating the Alphabet Challenge is S and/or T ingredients. Being pressed for time, I rolled the Alphabet Challenge up with homework for my online Italian cooking class and made "Stracciatella" (Italian egg-drop soup with spinach). I only began appreciating spinach once I reached adulthood and, even as recently has three years ago, I would only eat it raw in salads. Now I love it prepared pretty much anyway imaginable!

Indeed, I've grown to love leafy greens of all kinds and can only shake my head at childhood me who would only eat lettuces and cabbage for leafy greens.

Of course, childhood me would be appalled by many of the things I eat now.

Italian Egg-Drop Soup (Stracciatella)

Beginners Stracciatella

Ingredients
10 cups chicken broth or stock [I used half broth, half stock]
1 bag fresh baby spinach
2 large eggs beaten with ½ cup of cold water
¼ cup olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
⅛ tsp ground nutmeg [I used mace]
1 cup orzo, uncooked

Directions
Heat chicken broth in a large pot over medium/low heat until simmering, add pasta and cook for five minutes, lower heat. Sauté garlic with the olive oil over low heat in a skillet until garlic is fragrant.

Coarsely chop spinach and add to broth. Add the garlic & oil, salt, pepper, and nutmeg to the pot. Stir well. Make sure the broth is hot, but not boiling. Slowly drizzle the beaten egg into the soup as you briskly whisk it so that thin ribbons of egg form. Cook and stir for one minute. Ladle into bowls and serve.

Serves 4 generously.
Peppery and rich, this soup will definitely chase your Monday blahs away!