Stuff and Nonsense: soups & chowders & stews


Showing posts with label soups & chowders & stews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label soups & chowders & stews. Show all posts

2.22.2018

Sick Day Slow Cooker Chicken Noodle Soup

Various winter-time illnesses have been rampaging through work and it is no surprise that I have finally succumbed to one of them. I blame my compromised immune system on a dip in my generally high stress/anxiety level -- my body took a risk and unbent a little from its constant state of vigilance against everything that could go wrong and **BAM** sickness came upon me.

So I made soup. Nothing as comforting as a bowl of chicken noodle soup when I'm feeling sick, after all. While I had no energy for anything fancy, I've made soups similar to this before -- they're very dump and go (in this case, "go" meant back to bed) and do the job of filling my tummy with something hot and nourishing.


I used boneless thighs in this soup, because they were already in the fridge and it was either shift them to the freezer or cook them. You could use boneless breasts, although I don't find them as flavorful as thighs and they tend to be more expensive, anyway. Also, obviously, you could use fresh aromatics -- using dried simply saved me time and energy.


Slow Cooker Chicken Noodle Soup

Yield:4 generous bowlfuls

Ingredients

  • 1 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 cup chopped peeled carrots
  • 1 Tbsp onion flakes
  • 2 Tbsp celery flakes
  • 1 Tbsp dehydrated garlic
  • 2 tsp salt-free Italian seasoning blend
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth (1 wax carton)
  • 6 oz egg noodles
  • Sea salt & coarsely ground pepper, as desird

Instructions

  1. Add the chicken, carrots, onion, celery, seasonings, broth, salt, and pepper to slow cooker insert. Cover.
  2. Cook on Low heat setting 4 to 5 hours or until chicken is tender.
  3. Shred chicken. Add egg noodles to slow cooker and stir well.
    Cook 1 hour longer.
  4. Stir well. Adjust seasonings as necessary and serve.

11.16.2017

Kohlrabi, Potato, & Leek Soup

As the fall has been so warm and mild, my weekly CSA share has been extended through to December. Unlike the summer, where I cruised the tables at the farmers market every Friday and selected whatever took my fancy, I now get a blind box of seasonal goodness. So far, I’ve received fennel, winter squash, tomatoes, peppers, pears, apples, mustard greens, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, eggplant, napa cabbage ... and a whole bunch of other good things I'm sure I'm forgetting. It’s been a little overwhelming, to be honest, but I’m doing my best to turn everything into tasty eats!


With ingredients from my first “extender” box, I made Betty Crocker's simply yumptious Tomato-Fennel Soup. I’d cooked fennel precisely once before and found it overwhelmingly licorice-y, so was prepared to be similarly disappointed, but -- maybe it is true that tomatoes and alliums make everything better -- this soup was probably one of the best tomato soups I have ever eaten and I really look forward to cooking with fresh fennel again.

Last week, I received two trimmed kohlrabi heads in my box and I was very “Huh. Kohlrabi. I made a slaw out of this last time ... ehhhh.” While the slaw had been fine, I don’t crave slaw in November and my ostomy’s been a bit iffy about raw vegetables so ... soup! Yes, more soup. Since I had leeks and some gnarly looking potatoes on hand, too, I thought I’d make a potato, leek, and kohlrabi soup. One of the cookbooks I’d skimmed at the library had said I could peel the kohlrabi bulbs and treat the flesh like that of a turnip, so that’s what I did. I don’t know if these kohlrabi were in some way physically superior to my previous kohlrabi or, maybe it was just that I already had experience, but peeling them was much easier than I remembered -- just like peeling an apple, really.


My soup spawned from a mishmash of recipes -- some from the internet, others from cookbooks -- so there are probably much better ways to do this than how I did. Also, it’s a very leek-y, turnip-y tasting soup, so you really need to like those flavors to enjoy this soup.


Kohlrabi, Potato, & Leek Soup

Yield: 6 (generously)

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 leek, white & light green parts only, sliced into thick coins
  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp salt-free Italian seasoning blend
  • ¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 large russet potato, peeled & cubed
  • 1 large kohlrabi, peeled & cubed
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and pepper, as desired

Instructions

  1. Heat the olive in a large pot over medium heat. Add the leeks, shallots, garlic, onion, crushed red pepper flakes, and Italian seasoning. Cook gently for five minutes, stirring often, or until the alliums begin to soften and become fragrant.
  2. Add the potato, kohlrabi, vegetable broth, and bay leaf to the pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until kohlrabi and potatoes are easily pierced with the tip of a sharp knife.
  3. Remove pot from heat, discard the bay leaf, and let the soup cool for a few minutes.
  4. When the soup is no longer dangerously hot, blitz it with a stick blender or whathaveyou until smooth.
  5. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.

9.26.2017

Slow Cooker Soups with my CSA Bounty

My fabulous friend, Kelly, has handed her CSA share over to me as between school, work, and raising a family, she does not have the time or wherewithal to cope with huuuge amounts of produce. So, hooray, extra fruit and vegetables for me! Except, I already have a CSA share of my own. Only a quarter share, mind you, but still a decent amount of produce. I don't want anything to go to waste, but I don't have a lot of time to cook or process everything I've been given.

So! I've made a lot of soup! "Creamy Roasted Cherry Tomato Soup" from this blog as well as Taste of Home's "Cheddar Corn Chowder," "Chicken Barley Soup," and "Curried Leek Soup."


The corn chowder and barley soup recipes were taken from the copy of Taste of Home's Soups: 380 Heartwarming Family Favorites I received in my winter Taste the Seasons box. I've made near a dozen recipes from this book now and only the barley soup came near disappointing. Still, I can see where that soup could be improved with additional seasonings and alliums and will revisit it soon.

The cheddar corn chowder recipe alone earns this cookbook a permanent place on my bookshelves. While I did tart mine up with leftover roasted CSA-share corn and Cabot cheddar the bones of the recipe are good ones. I don't doubt it will also be perfectly delicious when made as written with frozen or canned corn in the dark, cold heart of winter. It's a creamy, cheesy, rich, and filling soup that goes well with a bit of green salad and buttery toast.

The curried leek soup was also fabulous. It's a rich, fragrant, comforting soup that works well for breakfast or lunch and I very happily ate it three days running. However, I dare say it's the kind of soup that only a leek lover would enjoy as the flavor of the leeks, mellow as they are by being sautéed in butter, are still very leeky. Mind you, I may have simply used too many leeks. My leeks were medium sized compared to some of the monsters for sale at the farmer's market, but that doesn't mean they were a cookbook writer's medium. Regardless, it's a tasty soup for leek lover's and I recommend it.

2.09.2017

Slow Cooker Ham & Split Pea Soup w/ Turnips

My lovely, generous coworker gave me another meaty hambone and, of course, I immediately turned it into soup. The recipe follows the same structure as my previous slow cooker ham and split pea soup, but this time I added chopped turnip, changed the seasonings up a bit, and used just water. It was still a magnificent pea soup -- extremely flavorful and hearty (but never stodgy). Good at any mealtime, including breakfast.


Slow Cooker Ham & Split Pea Soup With Turnip

Yield: 6

Ingredients

  • 6 oz dried split peas
  • 8 oz dried whole peas
  • 4 oz chopped onion
  • 4 oz chopped carrots
  • 4 oz chopped celery
  • 6 oz chopped turnip
  • 1 tsp crushed dried rosemary
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp roasted garlic flakes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 meaty ham bone
  • Water, as needed
  • Salt & pepper, as desired

Instructions

  1. Combine peas, onion, carrots, celery, turnip, rosemary, thyme, garlic, and bay in slow cooker insert. Nestle in ham bone and add water until the pea mixture is covered.
  2. Cover and cook on Low 8-10 hours or until peas are tender.
  3. Remove ham bone from slow cooker. Pull meat from bone, discarding bone and other inedible/undesirable bits. Stir ham into soup.
  4. Add more water to soup, if too thick. Season with salt and pepper, as desired, and serve.

I've only recently "discovered" turnips. Probably because I was so resistant to rutabaga for so long -- I just lumped them in together as dreadful root vegetables. But rutabagas and turnips turn out to be delicious. Like broccoli and Brussels sprouts, turnips are in the cruciferous vegetable family and are a great source of minerals, antioxidants, and dietary fiber while being very low calorie. One of my friends uses them as a potato-substitute, as she is allergic to potatoes, and I'm kind-of tempted to try ricing a few, like cauliflower, to see what that's like.

12.29.2016

Slow Cooker Ham & Split Pea Soup

As a child, winter always meant big bowls of meaty, flavorful ham and split pea soup made with the bone of our Christmas ham. My mother would let the soup simmer all day on the stove and the heavenly aroma would slowly spread throughout the house, driving me mad with desire. Yes, I was a strange kid.

Even now, my mother is my primary source of ham and pea soup. I do, occasionally, make a meatless pea and mint soup using frozen peas or a meatless dried yellow pea soup, but I never make anything even close to her hammy soup as I simply don't cook ham. The Husband won't eat ham and I do not need an entire ham of my own.

But then I was talking to a coworker about soups we grew up on and I mentioned how I never made my mom's soup because I needed a ham bone for it and she said "Mark's making a ham! I bet he'd give you the bone!" and, the next thing I knew, Mark's come into work with a big ham bone just for me.

So I made soup! And while it isn't quite my mother's, it's still pretty darn good. Rich, thick, and savory. I eat a bowlful with a satsuma and that's all I need for breakfast or lunch.


I used a "traditional" split pea soup mix I'd found at the Polish grocery which used a combination of both green and yellow split peas as well as red lentils. It came with a seasoning packet, but I chose to use my own seasonings to try to control the amount of sodium in the soup as I reckoned the ham bone would add lots of salt.

I also used my slow cooker, rather than simmering it on the stove all day, because I needed to leave the house and didn't want to worry about some stove-related catastrophe happening back at home while I was loitering at The Paperstore.


Slow Cooker Ham & Split Pea Soup

Yield: 6

Ingredients

  • 1 package (13 oz) dried split peas
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ tsp crushed dried rosemary
  • ½ tsp dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 meaty ham bone
  • 32 oz carton low-sodium chicken broth
  • Salt & pepper, as desired

Instructions

  1. Combine peas, onion, carrots, celery, garlic, rosemary, thyme, and bay in slow cooker insert. Nestle in ham bone and pour broth over everything.
  2. Cover and cook on Low 8-10 hours or until peas are tender.
  3. Remove ham bone from slow cooker. Pull meat from bone, discarding bone and other inedible/undesirable bits. Stir ham into soup.
  4. Add water to soup, if too thick. Season with salt and pepper, as desired, and serve.

The finished soup did seem rather loose when done, but set up nicely once cooled. If you prefer a looser soup, you may want to add a cup or two of additional broth at the end. I didn't feel it needed any additional salt, but did add lashings of freshly cracked black pepper.

12.01.2016

Creamy No-Dairy Broccoli Soup

As always, I made too much food for Thanksgiving dinner. It was clear, by late Thanksgiving morning, that that was the way things were going, so I dropped the steamed broccoli with thyme and lemon butter and garlicky sautéed spinach from the menu. Which still left us with maple mashed sweet, sour cream and chive mashed white, buttery corn, thyme and onion peas, and garlicky creamed spinach. As well as, of course, the turkey, gravy, and stuffing!


All that for five people. What can I say? I'm a feeder.

Anyway, BROCCOLI. What to do with the broccoli? Roast it? Chop it into a salad? Turn it into soup? Mmm ... soup ...


While this soup has a very smooth and creamy texture, it contains absolutely no dairy or dairy analogue. The home-made turkey broth lends the soup lots of flavor and richness with very little added fat (I made good use of my OXO Good Grips fat separator) -- for all it's deliciousness, this is really quite a healthy soup. Definitely be making it again as winter sets in.


Creamy No-Dairy Broccoli Soup

Yield: 8

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium sweet onion, chopped
  • 2 large carrots, chopped
  • 4 large cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
  • 20 oz fresh broccoli florets
  • 4 cups home-made turkey broth
  • Salt and black pepper, as desired

Instructions

  1. Heat oil in a French/Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and carrots. Cook, stirring occasionally, until carrots are softened and onion is translucent. Add garlic and thyme. Cook, stirring, until very fragrant.
  2. Add broccoli florets and broth. Bring pot to a simmer. Reduce heat and cook until very broccoli is very tender, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.
  3. When cool, puree the soup with a stick blender until desired level of smoothness is reached. Season with salt and pepper, as desired.

This is a very thick soup, so feel free to add more broth if you prefer a thinner one! Also, if you use vegetable broth, this dish is perfectly appropriate for vegans and vegetarians.

11.26.2016

Gobble-Gobble In My Pot

We'd pretty much picked the turkey carcass clean of white meat by Saturday so I decided to go ahead and make soup right away rather than chucking the carcass in the freezer and making it Someday. Also, the freezer is kind-of full right now and I'm not sure it would have fit ... someone needs to do a no-shopping challenge, again.


Each time I make turkey or chicken soup it comes out differently because I don't have a set recipe -- I always start the same way, but what goes in at the end varies as I tend to simply round up whatever open bags of frozen vegetables I can find and dump them in the pot with whatever slightly wrinkly potatoes or rice/barley/noodle bag ends I find in the pantry. Seasoning depends strongly on taste and mood -- sometimes, I make a spicy turkey soup but more often it is just very garlicky and redolent with thyme.

How I made this turkey soup:
  1. Removed all bits of skin/fat from the turkey carcass and then crushed it down a bit to fit in my big French/Dutch oven.
  2. Surrounded the carcass with carrots, onion, celery, bay, and fresh thyme.
  3. Topped the whole thing off with cold water and let it simmer for about three hours (I took an unplanned nap at this point).
  4. Drained pot contents through a cheesecloth lined colander into a big basin.
  5. Picked vegetable bits out and set aside.
  6. Separated edible turkey bits from inedible.
  7. Used my OXO Good Grips (a Thanksgiving gift to myself and well worth it) fat separator to remove the fat from the broth.
  8. Poured most of the broth back into the pot (reserving four cups for another soup)
  9. Broke the veggies up a bit and put them back in the pot. Ditto the turkey, odds-and-ends of bagged frozen corn and peas, and a half cup of pastina.
  10. Let everything cook for about thirty minutes, then taste-tested and added parsley, salt, and black pepper as whim took me.

And the leftover dark meat? I turned most of that into easy turkey enchiladas using kitchen staples like corn tortillas and salsa verde. They weren't fancy (or in any way authentic), but they tasted good.

Also, the cats got some turkey, because it's Thanksgiving and they deserve a little feast of their own. Unfortunately, they now demand turkey every time we wander near the kitchen ...

2.10.2016

Mellow Red Lentil Soup

I'd picked up a bag of red split lentils around Christmas, because winter is Soup Season, but then the weather kept being so mild and spring-like that, while I still wanted soup, the thick rib-stickingness of lentil soup did not appeal. But then it starting snowing and now it looks as if it will never stop snowing. Hooray. Winter is finally here ... and now it can just go away already.


This soup is based on Chobani's "Red Lentil Soup" but I've mixed it up a little to create, imho, deeper flavors. I really don't know why the original recipe doesn't call for blooming the spices or sweating the onions in the butter first -- doing either (or both) creates a soup with deeper, more integrated flavors and a superior aroma.

I also used low-sodium fat-free chicken broth instead of water, doubled the amount of pepper, and threw in some sweet curry powder for extra flavor. Swapping the butter out for olive oil and omitting the pepper-infused butter drizzle was just because 1) I have lots of olive oil and 2) I didn't want a buttery soup.

Making this soup was also a great excuse for busting out the jar of Aleppo (halaby) pepper I'd picked up at Penzeys after I'd run out of crushed red pepper flakes. I wanted something a bit less brash and generic than red pepper flakes and the sales associate recommended Aleppo. It has a lovely smoky aroma and the heat is about on par with an ancho chile.

Mellow Lentil Soup

Yield: 6

Ingredients

  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • ½ tsp Aleppo pepper
  • 1 Tbsp sweet curry powder [Penzeys Maharajah Style]
  • 1 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 1 cup finely chopped peeled carrot
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 16 oz bag red split lentils, rinsed and picked over
  • 2 qts low-sodium fat-free chicken broth [Pacific Organic]
  • 4 oz cup plain Greek yoghurt
  • Salt and black pepper, as desired

Instructions

  1. Heat olive oil, Aleppo pepper, and curry powder in a large Dutch/French oven. Add carrots, onions, and garlic. Cook, stirring regularly, until onion is translucent and everything is very fragrant.
  2. Add lentils and broth. Bring pot to boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 20 minutes.
  3. Remove pot from heat. Stir in yoghurt and process with an immersion blender until desired level of smoothness is reached. Season to taste.
  4. Serve immediately or refrigerate until needed. Soup will thicken as it sits. If desired, add a bit more broth when reheating to loosen it.

When I make this again, I think I'll cut out the yogurt and replace some of the broth with coconut milk. The yogurt adds a welcome creaminess, yes, but the coconut milk would do the same while eliminating a step. Also, I just like the idea of red lentils, curry, and coconut.



2.03.2016

Slow Cooker Sausage & Bean Soup

I had half a pound of raw sweet Italian sausage in the fridge, leftover from the "Tomatoey Macaroni & Bean Soup," and while at first I was all "I'll make a slow cooker Italian sausage pasta sauce all chunky with vegetables and heavy on the garlic" I actually ended up making a soup, because soup is definitely in season now ... and I'm not done experimenting with grilled cheese. The Husband picked up a lovely hearty loaf at Brooklyn Baking Company and it toasts up just wonderfully. Vastly superior to the "farmhouse" white I'd picked up in the Stop & Shop bread aisle.

Anyway, this soup tastes pretty great, is easy to prepare, and reheats well. To make it even easier, I did most of the prep -- chopping, browning, etc -- the night before and just dumped everything into the slow cooker the following morning. I had originally intended to throw the zucchini in with everything else at the start of cooking, but then I thought it might go a bit squishy and no-one wants squishy zucchini. Twenty minutes at the end was just enough time to soften (but not squishify) the zucchini.


Slow Cooker Sausage & Bean Soup

Yield:4-6, depending on appetite

Ingredients

  • ½ lb ground sweet Italian sausage
  • ½ finely chopped onion
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 15.5 oz can Great Northern Beans, drained and rinsed
  • 14.5 oz can crushed tomatoes [Muir Glen]
  • 1 cup finely chopped carrots
  • 1 cup finely chopped celery
  • ½ Tbsp salt-free Italian seasoning
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cups low-sodium fat-free chicken broth [Pacific Foods]
  • 1 cup chopped zucchini
  • Salt & pepper, as desired

Instructions

  1. Brown sausage in a hot skillet. Transfer sausage to slow cooker. Drain oil from skillet. Add onions and garlic and cook, stirring regularly, until onion is translucent.
  2. Put onions, garlic, beans, tomatoes, carrots, celery, seasoning blend, bay leaf, and broth in with the sausage. Cover and cook on Low for 8-10 hours.
  3. Add zucchini, stir, and cook for another 20 min or until zucchini is desired tenderness.
  4. Remove bay leaf, season to taste, and serve.

1.27.2016

Tomatoey Macaroni & Bean Soup

Let's face it, a hearty soup and crispy-yet-oozy grilled cheese is just the best winter food pairing in the world and I'd eat it every day at every meal if I thought I could get away with it. Certainly, last weekend's snow storm was the perfect excuse for getting out the grill pan and experimenting with cheeses to find the perfect combination of melty deliciousness. At the moment, that seems to be a 50/50 blend of Cabot's Colby Jack and Seriously Sharp cheddar -- it's marvelously gooey and sharp.

And what soup did I pair with all those grilled cheese sandwiches? A hearty-but-not-heavy tomato and bean soup. It went together all easy-peasy, was extremely yum, and the leftovers (little as there was) reheated really well. It's just my preference, but I mashed half the beans in this soup to thicken it up for real stick-to-your-ribs-ness. You could leave them all whole, but you'll have a thinner soup. Either way is good for dunking grilled cheese, though.


Tomatoey Macaroni & Bean Soup

Yield: 4-6, depending on appetite

Ingredients

  • ½ lb ground sweet Italian sausage
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • ½ Tbsp salt-free Italian seasoning blend
  • 32-oz carton low-sodium fat-free chicken broth [Pacific Foods]
  • 1 cup elbow macaroni [Hodgson Mill Ultragrain Elbows with Quinoa]
  • 2 15 oz cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 28 oz can crushed tomatoes [Muir Glen]
  • Grated parmesan, if desired

Instructions

  1. Brown sausage over medium heat in a large French/Dutch oven. Remove browned sausage from pan, draining off the oil.
  2. Add the onion and garlic to the pot and cook, stirring, for 3-5 minutes or until the onion is translucent and everything is very fragrant.
  3. Add the seasoning blend and chicken broth to the pot. Heat broth to boiling. Add the macaroni and cook for 5 minutes or until the pasta is al dente.
  4. Pour one can of drained beans into a bowl and smoosh with a fork or potato masher. Add to the pot along with the other can of drained beans, crushed tomatoes, and sausage. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes or until everything is heated through and soup is thickened.
  5. Serve garnished with grated parmesan, if desired.

12.26.2015

Easy Corn Chowder from Christmas Leftovers

As always, I over-estimated the amount of sides needed to feed everyone Christmas Dinner and have a fridge full of leftover mashed potatoes, braised cabbage, and corn. There's a tiny bit of tenderloin left (I'm quite good at calculating out the meaty needs of four people, so why not the vegetables?) which I knew we'd use for sandwiches and what goes so well with sandwiches? Soup!


I used all the leftover corn, but only a little leftover garlic mashed potatoes in this recipe. There's still three(ish) cups remaining and I'm probably going to take the easy route with them and make cheesy, chivey potato pancakes for supper.

Also, the corn and mashed potatoes, being Christmas leftovers, were already seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic, thyme, parsley, and the like so I did not season the soup very much. Therefore, you will need to adjust the seasonings according to your own tastes!

Anyway, the soup is tasty (of course), easy, and comforting. Just the thing for the day after Christmas when we're -- or at least I'm -- hungover on sugar, cheese, wine, and too much excitement. And by too much excitement, I mean working on a jigsaw puzzle until midnight and then sitting on the couch until 2 AM, telling The Husband how he should be playing The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.

Easy Corn Chowder from Christmas Leftovers

Yield: 6

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and diced small
  • 1 medium celery rib, diced small
  • 1 medium onion, diced small
  • 1 32 oz carton low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 8 oz finely diced peeled potato
  • 10 oz leftover corn
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • ½ tsp dried thyme
  • ½ tsp chopped dried rosemary
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • ½-1 cup leftover garlic mashed potatoes

Instructions

  • Heat olive oil in a large French/Dutch oven over medium. Add carrot, celery, and onion. Cook, stirring, over medium heat until onion is tender and fragrant. Add broth, bay, and potatoes and bring pot to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes or until potatoes are tender.
  • Stir in the corn, cream, and seasonings and bring to a simmer. Whisk in the potatoes -- starting with a half cup and increasing if needed -- until the soup is thickened to your liking. Remove bay leaf and adjust seasonings as needed.

Of course, this soup makes too much for two people, thus creating leftovers of its own. However, soup is an easy leftover to deal with as it's perfect for every meal -- even breakfast -- and is always ready to go.

And, just for kicks, the puzzle it took way too long for four reasonably clever adults to complete (wine may have had something to do with it?):


12.12.2015

Slow Cooker Beef Stew

It may have been 61°F today, but I still went ahead and made a slow cooker beef stew. It had come out pretty well when I threw it together last week so I'd stuck it on this week's menu plan (along with the fire-roasted tomato and white bean soup), completely disregarding the forecast spring-in-December weather.

Anyway, this was a good stew. Rich, hearty, and filling without being stodgy. The meat was meltingly tender, but the vegetables weren't mushy at all and had kept their own flavors, rather than becoming muddled and tasting generically stewy. You know how sometimes you make a slow cooker dish and after eight hours, all the ingredients in the pot have kind of muddled together and don't really taste like themselves anymore? "Is that squishy orange blob a carrot? Don't know. Just tastes like stew." That didn't happen here.

Hurrah.


I served the stew in bowls I'd made from leftover Pillsbury Grands! (Why the exclamation mark? Is it not enough to simply be grand?) biscuits. I followed the instructions provided in the "Grands!® Biscuit Bowls with Chili" recipe. As a technique, it works pretty well, but I'm not sure it is superior to simply hollowing out a bakery-bought sourdough boule. Certainly, I don't think I'd go out and buy a biscuit tube just to make them ... but I had two raw biscuits leftover from the waffled grilled cheese and biscuit bowls sounded like a fun experiment.

Slow Cooker Beef Stew

Yield: 6

Ingredients

  • 1 lb stew beef, cut into small cubes
  • 12 oz chopped white potatoes (peel or don't ... the power is yours)
  • 3 oz chopped carrot (ditto about peeling)
  • 3 oz chopped celery
  • 3 oz chopped yellow onion
  • 4 oz sliced white mushrooms
  • 14½ oz can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 2 Tbsp Penzeys beef soup base
  • 1½ tsp Worcestershire
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup white whole wheat flour

Instructions

  1. Layer potatoes, carrot, celery, onion, and mushrooms at bottom of slow cooker insert. Add beef. Top with fire-roasted tomatoes and garlic.
  2. Whisk together hot water, soup base, Worcestershire, pepper, and flour. Pour over tomatoes.
  3. Cover and cook on low for 8 hrs. Stir well before serving.

I know one cup of stock doesn't seem like enough liquid but trust me -- the vegetables and meat will release a lot of liquid as they cook. Anyway, we want a thick stew and not a brothy soup, right?

11.21.2015

Creamy Vegan White Bean & Tomato Soup

I was supposed to go to attend a workshop Friday morning and then run a bunch of errands (including much-needed grocery shopping), but my car had other ideas and chose to spend the day at Firestone. Happily, The Husband found the time to pick me up from Firestone and bring me home, so I could do useful home-based things ... and not put a chair through the television in the waiting area, which was playing nonstop daytime talk shows that just ... UGH.

So. Home! No groceries! The lunch I'd planned on eating at a twee juice cafe was obviously impossible. What could I make that would feed both of us? Soup, of course. Comforting, filling, healthful soup. Without carrots or celery, because they were still at the grocery store, unbought.

But I had beans. And garlic. And tomatoes. And vegetable broth.


I pureed half the beans with my food processor to give the soup a dairy-free creaminess. Not that we're dairy-free! I just didn't see the point in "wasting" the remaining milk for The Husband's tea. (Again, no groceries). I also used vegetable broth in this soup, because it was going to be a vegetable soup so why meat it up? I know some people don't like to use vegetable broth -- claiming it tastes "sweeter" than chicken -- but I find College Inn Reduced Sodium Garden Vegetable Broth tastes quite vegetal and is definitely not "sweet."

Anyway, this turned out to be quite a yummy dairy-free vegan bean soup. Well-seasoned, creamy, and tomato-y with just a little kick from the pepper. As with many soups, it's even better the next day so try not to eat it all at once!

Creamy Vegan White Bean & Tomato Soup

Yield: 4

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 oz chopped sweet onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 15 oz cans great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3 cups reduced-sodium vegetable broth [College Inn]
  • 14.5 oz can no-salted-added fire-roasted diced tomatoes [Muir Glen]
  • 1 Tbsp salt-free Italian seasoning blend [Penzeys Tuscan Sunset]
  • ½ oz dried parsley
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • Salt, to taste

Instructions

  1. Heat olive oil over medium in a large French/Dutch oven. Add garlic and onion and cook, stirring regularly, until onion is translucent and everything is very fragrant.
  2. Meanwhile, combine one can of beans with one cup of broth in a blender or food processor and puree.
  3. Add puree, remaining beans and broth, tomatoes, seasoning blend, parsley, and pepper to pot.
  4. Bring pot to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, about for ten minutes. Season with salt to taste, if desired.

11.09.2015

Warming Curried Coconut Squash Soup

My coworker asked me for my dairy-free butternut squash soup recipe and ... I couldn't find evidence I'd ever made one! Yet it seemed like the kind of thing I would have made one winter? Soup's my thing, after all, and butternut squash is the Squash of Squashes as far as I'm concerned. So I concocted this soup which uses coconut milk and vegetable broth, making it not only dairy-free but vegan. Hurrah.


I used Penzeys Maharajah-style curry powder in this soup as I wanted a richly aromatic, but not necessarily hot, soup. Yes, then I added two teaspoons of sriracha. It's a different kind of heat, I tell you. Feel free to use a hot curry powder and omit the sriracha. Or use both and cheerfully weep whilst eating this soup. It's all up to you.

Warming Curried Coconut Squash Soup

Yield: 4 generous bowlfuls

Ingredients

  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 20 oz package chopped butternut squash
  • 6 oz peeled chopped apple
  • 9 oz carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cups low-sodium fat-free vegetable broth
  • 14 oz can unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 Tbsp sweet curry powder [Penzeys Maharajah Style]
  • 1 Tbsp coconut aminos or low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tsp sriracha

Instructions

  • Heat a little olive oil in a skillet and cook onion and garlic until both are fragrant and golden.
  • Add all ingredients to slow cooker insert and cook on High for 4 hours or until squash is falling apart.
  • Using an immersion blender, puree soup until desired smoothness is reached (I like mine a little chunky). Season with salt and pepper, if needed.

3.01.2015

Curried Cauliflower & Carrot Soup

This unending, bitterly cold winter has left me starved for color -- leading me to run amok in the produce and florist departments of the local grocery stores. Apparently, I was fixated on orange and red this week as I returned home one day with an armful of sunset-orange roses, garnet-red vegetable smoothies, and an orange cauliflower.


Seriously, why eat a plain ol' white cauliflower when you can have an orange one? Also, its label said orange cauliflower has 25% more beta-carotene than the white variety and, as eating fruits and vegetables rich in beta-carotene may reduce risk of heart disease, I'm all for orange cauliflower.


And then I thought, well, since it's freakin' cold outside and I'm doubtlessly going to turn the cauliflower into soup, why don't I combine it with that other beta-carotene power house, carrots? And what's extra warming on a day spent digging out Death Mountain for the umpty-umpth time? Curry.

So, "Curried Cauliflower & Carrot Soup" was born. It's really good, even if I do say so myself, and will definitely warm up your frozen insides. I use Penzeys Maharajah Style Curry Powder, which is wonderfully fragrant "sweet" mix that adds lots of rich flavor, but not a lot of heat. I figure, if I need more heat, then I'll stir in a little sriracha as the mood moves me at serving time. I frequently eat soup for breakfast, after all, and find flavorful but mild soups work best first thing in the morning. Bring on the heat at lunch time and supper!

I used plain unsweetened almond milk for this recipe, since the folks at the cardiovascular life-style modification clinic are quite keen on non-dairy milks like almond or soy. Obviously, you may use whatever kind of milk you like best.

Curried Cauliflower & Carrot Soup

Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ onion, chopped small
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped small
  • 1 tsp curry powder [Penzeys Maharajah Style]
  • 1 large head orange cauliflower, cut into chunks
  • 5 carrots, cut into chunks
  • 6 cups low sodium, low fat chicken broth [Pacific Foods Organic]
  • 1 cup plain unsweetened almond milk [Almond Breeze]

Instructions

  1. In a large French/Dutch oven, heat olive oil. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until onion is translucent. Add curry powder and cook, stirring frequently, until it is very fragrant.
  2. Add cauliflower and carrots. Stir to scrape up any browned-to-the-bottom bits and. Add broth. Broil pan to a boil. Reduced to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
  3. Using an immersion ("stick") blender, puree until as smooth as you like. Stir in 1 cup of almond milk and cook for an additional minute or until hot. Season as needed with salt, pepper, and additional curry powder.

I say this recipe serves six, but I really mean it serves one hangry woman for two days. What that translates to regular folk is probably six cups.

11.08.2014

A Soggy Saturday Means Soup

This soup is based on a Taste of Home recipe for "Stuffed Pepper Soup" that went a little awry. First, I intended to simply halve the original recipe. Then, I thought it needed additional seasoning. Then, I realized the original recipe wanted cooked rice instead of raw. So mine is a very rice-y soup. But still yummy!


Stuffed Pepper Soup

Yield: 6 generous servings

Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground beef [Nature's Promise Organics]
  • 1 small red onion, chopped [Farmers Market]
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped [Connecticut Garlic & Harvest Festival]
  • 2 32 oz containers beef stock [Nature's Promise Organics]
  • 28 oz crushed fire-roasted tomatoes [Muir Glen]
  • 1 cup medium grain rice
  • 1 large chopped green pepper [Farmers Market]
  • 2 Tbsp light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp kosher flake salt
  • 1 Tbsp parsley flakes
  • 1 Tbsp salt-free Italian seasoning blend [Penzeys]

Instructions

  1. Heat olive oil in a French oven. Add onions, garlic, and beef and cook until beef is no longer pink.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients; bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce heat; cover and gently simmer for 30-40 minutes or until rice is cooked the way you like it.
Medium-grain rice became my white rice standard in 2010 when The Husband bought a bag by mistake. Medium-grain rice is, unsuprisingly, shorter and plumper than long-grain rice. In my experience, it's also a little bit stickier. I find that I prefer it's flavor and texture and now use it wherever I would use long-grain white rice.

8.21.2014

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 ribs 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!)



7.23.2014

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."

1.26.2013

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).

11.15.2012

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.