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The Last Letter from Your Lover: A Novel by JoJo Moyes. Story: Jennifer Stirling wakes up in hospital, having had a traumatic car accident. She’s introduced to her husband, of whom she has no recollection, and is sent home with him eventually, to a life she neither remembers or embraces readily. But this is the life she was raised to have, so surely it must be worth living, underneath the strange, muted tones of her daily existence. Jennifer goes through the motions, accepts what she is told is her life and all seems to bob along well enough, except when she finds a letter that isn’t her husband’s handwriting, and is clearly a link to someone she has been involved with, but whom? London, France, Africa and America all come into play in this story of a woman piecing back together her life in effort to understand what she has lost, and what she threw away. There is a bit of a time-hop from 1964 to 2003. . . from a reviewer on amazon.  I loved this book from page one to the end. There’s some bit of mystery and you so get into the head of Jennifer Stirling. I could hardly put it down. I read this while I was in England just a week or two ago (as I write this) so could so identify with the characters, the homes, the life. Great read.

Francine Rivers, an author relatively new to me, but much admired, is most known for this: Mark of the Lion : A Voice in the Wind, An Echo in the Darkness, As Sure As the Dawn (Vol 1-3) It’s a trilogy. The first 2 books are about Hadassah, a young woman in the time of the Roman Empire. When Jerusalem was overrun and destroyed, the Christians still alive were sent off and away, separated and derided and abused. Hadassah was one of them. She’s a slave to a wealthy family and it takes 2 of the books to read before the son of the family finally realizes that he’s in love with Hadassah. If  you’re a Christian, you’ll learn a whole lot more about the time following Christ’s crucifixion, about the lot of the struggling Christian community. The 3rd book in the trilogy is about a gladiator who is part of book 1 and 2, but not a main character. You’ll learn about his life too, after he regains his freedom from the fighting ring and the battle of his soul. These books are a fabulous read. Can’t say enough good things about them all. I’ve never been a huge fan of old-world Roman Empire reading, but this one was altogether different. Very worth reading.

Amy Belding Brown wrote this book: Flight of the Sparrow: A Novel of Early America, a true accounting in 1676, of Mary Rowlandson, a woman who was captured by Native Americans.  Even before she was captured on a winter day of violence and terror, she sometimes found herself in conflict with her rigid Puritan community. Now, her home destroyed, her children lost to her, she has been sold into the service of a powerful woman tribal leader, made a pawn in the ongoing bloody struggle between English settlers and native people. Battling cold, hunger, and exhaustion, Mary witnesses harrowing brutality but also unexpected kindness. To her confused surprise, she is drawn to her captors’ open and straightforward way of life, a feeling further complicated by her attraction to a generous, protective English-speaking native known as James Printer. The story is riveting, and perplexing once she is traded back to her home. You’ll see a different side to the Indian problem back then and find yourself conflicted. An excellent read.

Taylor Caldwell was a prolific writer, and one I read when I was younger. She died in 1980, and this book, her last, Answer As a Man certainly delivers as her others did. All his life, Jason Garrity has had to battle intolerance and injustice in his quest for power, money, and love. His new hotel will give him financial security, the means to support a loving family and become an upstanding citizen. When family secrets and financial greed combine to destroy his dreams, his rigid moral convictions are suddenly brought into question. . . from Goodreads. Caldwell believed the banking industry was way too powerful, and often took aim at it, as she did in this book. It chronicles the life of a very poor, impoverished Irish immigrant to the U.S. He was an upstanding citizen, God-fearing, but maybe naive in some respects. Good book if you enjoy very deep character study.

Another book by Diney Costeloe, Miss Mary’s Daughter. When a young women is suddenly left with no family and no job or income, she’s astounded to learn that she’s actually a granddaughter of a “grand” family in Ye Olde England. She’s very independent (at least I thought so, for the time period), but is willing to investigate this new family of hers. There are many twists and turns – is she going to inherit the family home – or is the man who has been caring for the home and his daughter the logical inheritors. There’s a villain who nearly sweeps her off her feet, much intrigue from many characters. Well developed plot with a happy ending. A good read.

Celeste Ng is a hot new author. I read another of her books (see below) but this time I read Little Fires Everywhere. There are so many various characters and plots in this book, as in her others. This book focuses on a Chinese baby abandoned at a fire station and the subsequent court battle when the single mother surfaces six months later to try to reclaim her daughter from the family in the process of adopting her. Emotions well up, waxing and waning on both sides of the issue. You may even find yourself changing your own mind about the right or wrong of a child raised with a natural-born mother (albeit late to the raising) or the mother the child has known since near birth. Ng likes to write books with lots of grit and thorny issues. Although a good read, I liked Everything I Never Told You better than this one.

The Rent Collector by Camron Wright. Oh my. This book has so many layers: (1) the young, impoverished couple and their infant son who live, literally, in a dump in Cambodia and about the precarious structure, if you can even call it that, that comprises their “house” in the midst and perched on top of trash; (2) the woman who collects the rent (hence the title and yes, people have to PAY to live there); (3) the young son’s chronic illness; (4) how they make a living out of collecting and selling trash; and (4) the life saving grace and wisdom imparted by characters in the book as the young mother begins to learn to read. If you decide to read this book, please don’t stop at about page 15-20, thinking you just don’t know if you want to read about this. Please continue. It’s so worth it. Have a highlighter pen in your hand because you’ll find so many quotes you will want to remember. Believe it or not, there is also quite a bit in this about literature.

Recently finished C.J. Box’s book The Disappeared (A Joe Pickett Novel). I just love Box’s novels. They take place in present day semi-wild west, and chronicle the fish and game warden, Joe Pickett, as he unravels another crime in his territory. A woman has disappeared, and the governor has asked him to figure it out. He does, but the tale meanders through multiple layers of intriguing story. His books are riveting. Men and women enjoy his books – so if you have a fellow in your life or family that would enjoy an intriguing book (this is not espionage) then gift him one of Box’s books.

Also finished Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng. About a dysfunctional family, through and through. I picked this up from amazon from someone who read the book, named “McReader,” and she says: “Set in the 70s, the story follows a Chinese American blended family in Ohio. When Lydia [the daughter] is found floating in the lake, her family is forced to analyze what put her there. Was it pressure from her family to succeed? Was it pressure to fit in? Was it a crime of passion or convenience? I was spellbound reading the last half of this book. I loved each flawed family member, especially Hannah,. While the story went where I hoped it would go, I was not disappointed at all with the progression. It was also quite insightful on the prejudices that society had about Chinese Americans still during that timeframe and how careful parents have to be to put their dreams onto their children.” Such a good book and definitely worth reading. Would be a good book club read. You’ll be hearing more from this author. Am currently reading her next novel, Little Fires Everywhere.

The Boston Girl: A Novel by Anita Diamant. A very, very intriguing book. The book is written from the voice of a Jewish grandmother as she tells her granddaughter the saga of her life starting about 1910, who struggles with her own individuality, with her domineering mother who never says a kind word to her. It’s certainly a coming-of-age story as she grows up, finds a job, makes friends, joins a literary girls club, moves out, but still suffers under her mother’s thumb and tongue. She becomes a reporter on a local newspaper, which opens her eyes to more of the world than she ever knew. She finally meets the right man (of course!) and she shares the stories about her life, and her friends and family members as she grows up, giving some sage advice along the way. Part of the time she’s talking to herself – to her young self  (really wanting to tell young Addie to keep on, forgive herself for her perceived transgressions, to live life, and experience the world).

One of the best books I’ve read in a long time – Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. Rivers is a prodigious writer of Christian fiction, and I’d never read anything by her until now. As I write this, I’ve already read this, another one (below) and just purchased the Kindle trilogy called Mark of the Lion (Vol 1-3) that I haven’t yet started. (Two of my friends have said the trilogy is her best.) Redeeming Love details the fictional story of a godly man, Michael Hosea, forging his way in the era of the Gold Rush. He’s “driven” to rescue a beautiful prostitute who lives and works her trade in a nearby town. The entire book is about the story, the rescue, and it parallels a bit of scripture about Hosea who rescues a prostitute names Gomer. You get into the heads of both Hosea and the prostitute, named Angel. We read this for one of my book groups. A great read.

As soon as I finished the above book I promptly visited my church library and found a whole shelf of Rivers’ books, and grabbed one called The Atonement Child. This book takes place in the 1980s or 90s, about a young college student who is raped. She was engaged to be married, was a stellar student. The book chronicles what happens to her when she discovers she is pregnant from the rape. Every possible thing goes wrong in her life. I don’t want to spoil the story if you’re interested in reading it, but I couldn’t put it down. I ended up spending a good part of a day plowing through it. You hear her inner voice (I’m guessing this is a common thread in Rivers’ books) from a Christian perspective. Lots of meaty issues to discuss in a book club if your group would be interested and willing to talk about rape, abortion, adoption and the thorny issues surrounding all of those things, but with a Christian bent, for sure.

The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen. It’s kind of amazing how many and varied plot lines can be created from events of WWII. This is another one, about a current day woman who finds papers in the attic, after her father’s death, with references to “the child.” She never knew her father could have had another child – could she have a step-sibling somewhere? Her father she knew, had been shot down over Italy, but he never talked much about it. But of course, she must go to Italy to find out about this “child.” The book flips back and forth from this daughter on the search, to her father during the war, all of it taking place in a very small town in Tuscany. It’s about the varied people she meets who want her to go away and not dredge up anything about the war years (are they hiding something, you question), about how much she loves the landscape, and some of the people. And about the intense love affair between the injured pilot and a caring woman of the village. Very charming story. I could almost smell the flowers, taste the olives, hear the bees flitting, and loved the prose about the simple meals that were described. I really enjoyed the book. Perhaps not enough meat for a book club read, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy reading it nonetheless.

Leaving Blythe River: A Novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde. Almost a page turner. When one uses the phrase “coming of age,” it usually means (I think) love and loss/boyfriend/girlfriend, and in this case it’s somewhat that way. When Ethan, a 17-year old boy and his mother come home unexpectedly to find dad and his young secretary in a compromising position, all hell breaks loose. Separation happens instantly and just as his father moves out, his mother has to go take care of her aging mother. Ethan’s too young to be left in the NYC apartment alone, so Mom sends son to the father who is escaping from the world in Wyoming, living in a primitive A-frame house, and continuing his daily 20+ mile running journeys. Ethan and his father are barely speaking. They live in the middle of nowhere. Ethan feels betrayed by his father in every possible way, and somewhat by his mother for forcing him to live with his father for a temporary period. Then his father doesn’t return one day from his run. The authorities do a cursory search, but they are under the impression the dad wants to “get lost” on purpose. Ethan, although he thinks he doesn’t care, really does. What happens next is best left to you reading this book. Very interesting people (kind of loners) enter the picture and off they go to search. So worth reading.

The Girl With No Name by Diney Costelhoe. What a good book. Perhaps you’ve read before about the huge numbers of German refugee children who were sent to England before Hitler closed down any exits. This is a novel about one particular young girl, who is devastated when her mother puts her on one of the boats. She ends up in London, in an orphanage kind of place, and is eventually placed with a childless couple. She speaks no English. They speak no German, but they manage soon enough. Lisa (who eventually becomes Charlotte) is so homesick. She’s bullied at school, because most people and children don’t want any Germans there. A boy steps up to protect her, and as she grows up, she’s attracted to him. She shouldn’t be – he’s also German and from her own home town. He’s not a good match for her. You live with her through the blitz during all those war years and during one attack, she’s badly injured and loses her memory (and no ID on her). Through a series of mishaps she ends up in a village far from London, with a spinster woman who does eventually come to love her very much – they name her Charlotte and Charlotte she becomes. She goes to school there, still longing, though, for her mother and brother and her London foster family too. Then when she’s 16 she returns to London to help at the orphanage where she was originally placed and tries to find her foster parents. The story goes on from there, with the boy/man who “wants” her, the bad boy, and a good boy/man she befriends in the village in the country. Eventually she regains her memory. SUCH a good read.

The Girl with Seven Names by Hyanseo Lee. If you, like me, know little about North Korea and how it came to be what it is today, you’ve got to read this book. It’s a memoir written by a young woman who escaped from North Korea about 9 years ago. Her journey – and I mean JOURNEY – is harrowing, frightening, amazing, heart-rendering all at the same time. She chronicles the lives of the Kims (Kim Il-Sung, Kim Jong-Il to current Kim Jong Un), shares the strict propaganda that surrounds every North Korean citizen, the poverty and hunger, as well as the underground black market for food and goods. It took her awhile to get from North Korea, to China and eventually to South Korea, where she currently lives. She’s well educated and speaks English quite well. She was invited to be a speaker at a TED talk – you know about those, right? TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is a media organization which posts talks online for free distribution, under the slogan “ideas worth spreading.” I listen to them as  podcasts now and then. Always very educational, if sometimes over my head when it gets very technical. She works diligently for human rights now, doing her best to help other North Koreans escape. You owe it to yourself to read this book.

Also just finished reading The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian. Another WOW book. I’ve always liked the author – many years ago I read his book, Midwives and really liked it. Don’t confuse this book with the one I recently read, The Last Midwife: A Novel by Sandra Dallas that I reviewed recently. I think we read it in one of my book groups. He’s a brilliant writer, and this one has a lot of characters and twists. It’s a novel, but based on a lot of truth regarding the Armenian genocide. Most of the book takes place in Aleppo, Syria with some good Samaritan folk trying to help rescue people (mostly children) following the forced long marches the Turks made prodding the Turkish Armenians to exit their country. But it also jumps to near present day as a family member is trying to piece together obscure parts of her grandparents’ former lives there. She uncovers some hidden truths (many survivors of the genocide never-ever-ever wanted to talk about it) and a bit more about her Armenian heritage. A riveting book – I could hardly put it down. Lots to discuss for a book club read. I simply must read more of Bohjalian’s books (he’s written many).

The Good Widow: A Novel by Lisa Steinke. All I can say is “wow.” In a general sense, this book is based on the premise of The Pilot’s Wife. But this one has some totally different twists and turns. A young wife is met at the door by police, informing her that her husband has died in an auto accident. Then she finds out he died in Hawaii – not Kansas, where she thought he was, on business. Then she finds out there was a woman in the car. Then she meets the fiance of the woman passenger and the two of them embark on a fact-finding mission in Hawaii to discover the truth. Well, I’m just sayin’ . . . the plot thickens. And thickens. And thickens clear up to the last few pages. Hang onto your seat. A really, really good, suspenseful read.

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes. What a WONDERFUL book. It opens up a shameful part of America’s past, but one you might not have heard about before this. In the late 1800s thousands of Chinese workers were brought to the West Coast to help with a variety of construction projects and a myriad of other things where laborers were needed. Many settled, married and made a new life for themselves. But suddenly the white population didn’t want them here anymore and they summarily ordered them ALL out of our country. This book chronicles a young Chinese girl, who was on a ship that was supposed to take her family to China, but the ship’s captain decided en route to dump them all overboard, to drown. The girl’s father knew it was going to happen and in order to save her, he threw his daughter off the ship as they were passing Orcas Island (in the San Juan Islands west of Seattle). She was saved. The book switches from that time to current time as a woman is rebuilding her family’s home on Orcas and finds a beautifully embroidered silk Chinese robe sleeve hidden under a stair step. The book is about that sordid past and the young girl’s descendents, and about the woman who is rebuilding. Stunner of a novel. Good for a book club read, I think. It has a reader’s guide at the back with good questions for book groups.

How It All Began: A Novel by Penelope Lively. I find it hard to describe this book – it’s wonderful. I loved it. But describing it is perplexing. The title relates to one of the characters, a woman of a certain age, who is mugged, and has to go live with her daughter and son in law for awhile since she’s stuck with crutches and has mobility problems. That starts the cavalcade of events that spread around her, with the characters. And she knows nothing whatsoever about them, hardly. They’re all somewhat inter-related (not much family, but mostly by circumstance) and they all get into some rather logical and some peculiar relationships. You engage  with each and every one of them; at least I sure did; and was trying to tell some of them to back away from what they were about to do. Or “be careful;” or “don’t go there.” That kind of thing. There is nothing insidious, no mystery involved – it’s all about these people and what happens to them. I was sad when the book was finished. The author, Lively, does add a chapter at the end – I wonder if it wasn’t part of the master plan – that kind of tidies up everything, and you get to see all of the characters move on with their lives, happy or not, but mostly happy. Really enjoyed the book. Am not sure it would be a good book club read, as the only thing to discuss are the characters themselves. Lively paints these characters well; you can just picture them as they get themselves in and out of relationship mischief.

 

Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small, old and some very dented engraved silver plated tea spoons that belonged to my mother-in-law, and I use them to taste my food as I'm cooking.

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Posted in Dr. Gundry friendly, lectin-free, Soups, on September 16th, 2018.

moroccan_harira_ground_turkey

Extra tasty soup with tons of flavor, and some spiciness. Made lectin-free by using pressure cooked garbanzo beans and strained tomatoes (without skin and seeds).

Most of you aren’t eating this diet I’m on, so you can just not pay any attention to the “lectin free” info. This is just a sure-fire winner of a soup no matter whether you use pressure cooked garbanzos or not. I make a lot of soups around my house. Even in the summer. The A/C is on, so I’m not uncomfortable having hot or cold soups all summer long.

I was craving this harira soup (it’s a real favorite of mine) – I’ve made it before, but in the past I’ve made it with a big bunch of chicken thighs and then you need to cool them, skin them if they’re not already, pull the meat off and wait for it to cool enough to chop up and add back into the soup. This time I bought ground turkey to make it a bit leaner, and easier.

As I’ve continued to be on this diet I’m on (which is still working, otherwise I’d have quit), from the Plant Paradox book (Dr. Stephen Gundry), I’ve been trying to adapt some of my existing recipes, and since I knew I loved this soup already, I wanted to make it a bit more friendly for my diet. Legumes (beans) are a no-no on this diet UNLESS they have been pressure cooked, which cooks out the bad bug lectins in them. (Who knew, right?) Technically, since I’m trying to lose weight, I shouldn’t be adding these beans into my diet, but I decided to seek out the Eden brand canned garbanzos (Whole Foods carries the whole line of Eden pressure-cooked beans) and I didn’t put very many in the soup in any case. You don’t know from the can or the label that they’re pressure cooked, but they just are. I could have pressure cooked my own, but I wasn’t in the mood.

I used most of the same seasonings, pretty much the same quantities of things (less water, though, because I was not adding lentils) and the soup was sensational. Don’t be dismayed by the long-long list of ingredients. None of them are difficult to add (lots of spices) and much of the soup is normal ingredients you’d have on hand anyway.

Another of the lectin no-no’s is tomatoes with skins and seeds. At first I wasn’t eating tomatoes at all, but gosh, that really puts a limitation on soups. So I’ve researched lots of canned tomatoes and found that if it says “strained,” it means no skins or seeds. That type is also called passata in Italian. You can buy canned whole tomatoes and try to cut them open to remove the seeds too. That’s not too difficult. Most whole canned tomatoes already have the skins removed. I am eating fresh tomatoes (albeit not too many) as long as they’re big enough to peel and seed.

So, I made this soup one day and didn’t eat it until the next (always a good thing with soups, IMHO). And oh gosh, was it ever good. I didn’t miss having chicken pieces in it – the ground turkey was very satisfying. And I loved the few garbanzos in it as well. If you’re sensitive to spice (heat) you can tone down the harissa a little bit, and you don’t have to add the chiles, either. I used a small can of whole green chiles (mild) and easily removed the seeds (yes, those are a no-no also, the skin and seeds of any kind of peppers), then chopped them up finely. Although they were the “mild” kind, they did have some heat to them. Just right for me, however.

What’s GOOD: well, for me, it’s that this soup is Gundry diet friendly – but the flavor of this soup is just right down my alley. I love love this soup. Love the spice in it, the texture and flavor of the soup/broth part. It’s very filling. A 1 1/2 cup serving is ample (for me anyway).

What’s NOT: only that there is a long list of stuff to add – just plow through it – it doesn’t take all that long.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Moroccan Harira with Ground Turkey, Gundry friendly

Recipe By: My own concoction, 2018
Serving Size: 6

1 large onion — diced
4 stalks celery — diced
1 bunch cilantro — see notes
1 bunch Italian parsley — see notes
2 tablespoons avocado oil
1 pound ground turkey
3 cloves garlic — minced
1 1/2 tablespoons cumin seeds
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 1/2 tablespoons ground ginger
1 tablespoon turmeric
1 tablespoon harissa — or sriracha
4 ounces green chiles — canned (skinned and seeded)
2 teaspoons salt — or more to taste
6 cups water — or more if needed
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
12 ounces Eden organic garbanzo beans — drained and rinsed, or use pressure cooked beans you’ve made from scratch
24 ounces canned tomatoes, strained — called “passata” in Italian
GARNISHES:
1/2 cup sour cream chopped
Italian parsley (see quantity above)
chopped cilantro (see quantity above)

NOTES: If you’re not following the Stephen Gundry diet, you can use any kind of garbanzo beans and tomatoes. To make this a Gundry soup, you must use lectin-free beans (only Eden brand are pressure cooked) and tomatoes with no skin or seeds.
1. Cut off the little brown ends of the cilantro and parsley, then cut the stems off and mince them up finely with a knife (you’ll add the leaves as a garnish).
2. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven. Add the vegetables and saute until the onions have begun to turn translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and parsley and cilantro stems and cook for 1-2 minutes just until they’re fragrant, then add the ground turkey and stir to break up the meat. Cook until the meat is no longer pink. Then add canned tomatoes, the chicken soup base, green chiles, garlic and water. Bring to a simmer. While it’s warming up, add all the seasonings.
3. Cover and keep over low heat for about 25 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.
4. Add the garbanzo beans and taste for seasoning. Add more water if needed. This is best made the day before, but I’ve eaten immediately and it’s still delicious!
5. Serve in wide bowls (about 1 1/2 cups per serving) and add a dollop of sour cream on top and garnish with cilantro and parsley.
Per Serving: 321 Calories; 16g Fat (44.5% calories from fat); 21g Protein; 24g Carbohydrate; 6g Dietary Fiber; 68mg Cholesterol; 870mg Sodium.

Posted in Miscellaneous, Soups, on August 21st, 2018.

microwave_bowl_cozy

Isn’t that the cutest thing?

As I mention frequently, soup is a common theme here at my house. I eat soup year ‘round. Recently my best bud, Cherrie gave me one of these things. She’d won it a a Bunko night and didn’t think she’d use it. I loved it so much I ordered the larger size too.

They’re on etsy.com – here’s the link to Mary Egan’s website called “Just 2 Dang Cute”:

https://www.etsy.com/shop/just2dangcute

In the event you want the larger ones, here’s a picture of both sizes:

sm_lg_microwave_bowl_cozy

May I make a suggestion – these would make a great gift – for a birthday, or a housewarming gift, or a Christmas gift (maybe buy 2 matching ones). Or a Bunko prize! I heat soup with the cozy in the microwave and then I take the whole thing to the table and leave it on. You can pull the soup bowl out and off, but it’s just as easy to leave it. Mary makes them with all kinds of sports teams fabric, and plenty of collectible kind of designs. She makes other things too – obviously she’s an accomplished seamstress! I think these bowl cozies are just the most adorable thing! I use mine several times a week.

Mary has kindly emailed me saying that if you order anything from her during August, 2018, and write in BLOG ON THE COZY she will refund the shipping. SUCH A DEAL! Thanks, Mary.

Posted in Soups, on July 19th, 2018.

curried_cauliflower_soup

As I write this, I’ve only eaten this soup warmed up (hot) but I think it would be delicious served chilled. For me, the garnishes are what make it – cilantro, almonds and chives.

The other day I was searching through my own recipes for soups, and ran across this one, and I’d taken a photo of it which was inserted into my MasterCook file, but I’d never posted it. No reason why, I’m sure (other than perhaps I made it before I started my blog in 2007?), as I’d made a note in the recipe that it was really good. So, I decided to make it again. I bought fresh cauliflower and a sweet potato (the latter, something I can have in light moderation on my low-to-no-carbs diet, as sweet potatoes are what are called resistant starches – meaning they mostly pass through the intestinal track without metabolizing much). You can add regular potatoes if you’d prefer.

This soup is a fairly thin consistency, even with the sweet potato, so if you prefer a thicker soup, do add potatoes or sweet potatoes, or use less chicken broth (which will then make less soup). I used just one sweet potato, but two was suggested in the recipe. And the recipe came from Cindy Pawlcyn, the famous chef at Mustards Grill in Napa Valley. I have her cookbook, Mustards Grill Napa Valley Cookbook, published many years ago now, but it’s one I refer to now and then. Coconut milk is now considered one of those good fats, and it gives the soup some wonderful texture, color and flavor.

Don’t skimp on the garnishes – as I mentioned, they’re part of what “makes” this soup, for me.

What’s GOOD: overall flavor, not too thick, more on the thin side, refreshing; can also eat chilled.

What’s NOT: nothing really, other than chopping and mincing the cauliflower.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Curried Cauliflower Soup

Recipe By: Based on a recipe from Mustards Grill Napa Valley Cookbook, Cindy Pawlcyn
Serving Size: 8

2 tablespoons EVOO — or peanut oil
1 large onion — sliced
8 cloves garlic — sliced
1/2 whole jalapeno chile pepper
1 large carrot — halved lengthwise and cut into half-moons (optional)
2 tablespoons fresh ginger — peeled, grated
1 tablespoon curry powder — or more if desired
1 cup dry white wine
2 whole sweet potatoes — (or white potatoes) peeled and diced
1 large cauliflower — trimmed and chopped small (including stem, minced)
8 cups low sodium chicken broth — or vegetable stock
20 ounces coconut milk
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon garam masala
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Minced fresh cilantro (optional)
Toasted sliced almonds (optional)
Chopped fresh chives (optional)

1. To make soup, heat oil in large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute several minutes, then add garlic. Cook for about one minute. Add in chile, carrot (if using), ginger and curry, and cook, stirring, several minutes. Add in wine and cook at medium-high until it is reduced by half. Add in potatoes, cauliflower, chicken stock; bring to a boil, skimming off any froth. Lower heat to a simmer and cook about 20 min, or until vegetables are tender but not falling apart.
2. Stir in coconut milk and season with salt and pepper. Puree about 75% of the soup in blender until smooth (be careful – don’t load bowl too full or it will explode). Leave the remaining 25% of the soup with chunky vegetable pieces. Pour puree back into main soup pot, add butter and garam masala and reheat. Taste for seasonings. Ladle into bowls and garnish with cilantro, almonds and chives. (May also be served chilled.)
Per Serving: 331 Calories; 22g Fat (60.3% calories from fat); 14g Protein; 19g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 4mg Cholesterol; 810mg Sodium.

Posted in Soups, on May 30th, 2018.

fresh_easy_salmon_chowder

It wasn’t too long ago I made a very complex salmon chowder. Here’s another one that’s just about as good, and a whole lot easier. Maybe the steam fogged up my camera lens, you think?

I must be a sucker for salmon chowder. I do love the stuff. And this one is relatively easy to make. It does have a bit of heavy cream in it, though. If you don’t want that part, just add more chicken stock. It will still be good! Onion and celery are sautéed, then you add some corn (frozen works fine here) and potatoes, some spices and stock. It’s simmered for 15-20 minutes (or less) until the potatoes are just fork tender but not falling apart. The cream is added and brought back to a simmer, then you add in fresh chunks of salmon and fresh dill, and that gets simmered for just a few minutes. You do NOT want to simmer it long or the salmon pieces will fall apart. Scoop into bowls and add another few tender twigs of fresh dill and serve. Hot. To mmmm’s.

If you like smoked salmon, that can be substituted, which will give the soup an altogether different flavor, but still salmon, of course. If you’re not fond of salmon, substitute another firm-fleshed fish in this (halibut, tilapia, sea bass, even sole would work). Altogether delicious in any of those riffs. This came from a cooking class with Tarla Fallgatter.

What’s good: how easy it is to make, first of all. Then the delicious flavor – the aromatics and onion add lovely depth. Plenty of good texture too. Worth making for sure.

What’s NOT: nothing I can think of – this is a great soup.

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Easy Fresh Salmon Chowder

Recipe By: Tarla Fallgatter cooking class, 2018
Serving Size: 6

2 tablespoons butter — or up to 3 T.
1 medium onion — peeled, thinly sliced
2 celery ribs — thinly sliced
1 pound red potatoes — cut in 1″ cubes
1 ear fresh corn — sliced off the cob (or substitute frozen)
salt and pepper to taste
some pinches of a spice rub, your choice
2 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream — or up to 3/4 cup
1 pound fresh salmon fillet — cut in 1″ cubes (or substitute smoked salmon, or other firm-fleshed fish)
2 tablespoons fresh dill weed — chopped, with more for garnish

1. Melt butter in a large saucepan; add onion and celery and saute until soft. Add corn and potatoes and saute to coat with vegetables, adding more butter as necessary. Add spice rub, salt and pepper to taste. Add the chicken broth and simmer until potatoes almost fork-tender.
2. Add cream and bring to a simmer.
3. Add salmon and dill and simmer gently for a few minutes until salmon is just cooked through. Do not over cook or the salmon pieces will fall apart. Scoop portions into serving bowls and top with more dill.
Per Serving: 293 Calories; 14g Fat (42.8% calories from fat); 22g Protein; 20g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 77mg Cholesterol; 332mg Sodium.

Posted in Fish, Soups, on April 5th, 2018.

fresh_salmon_chowder The simplest of ingredients, just a lot of them, to make a really flavorful chowder. With chunks of fresh salmon barely cooked at the last.

Making this happened on Oscar Sunday afternoon. I’d invited 5 widow friends of mine to come to watch the show together. I made soup, and everyone else brought something else to round out the meal. It was simple enough to do, although this took a bit longer than some soups, I suppose! Not by a lot, but there were more than the usual amount of things added to this. I started with a recipe at epicurious, but I altered it so much, it’s really doesn’t bear much resemblance to that recipe.

salmon_chowder_spoonfulIt started out with rendering a bunch of bacon. The meaty bacon I used didn’t give off much fat, but there was enough to then cook down some fresh leeks. Meanwhile, I cooked the potatoes separately in a pot of salted water. I’d cut them into small chunks and that took about 10-14 minutes at most. The potatoes were drained and set aside. Once the leeks were mostly done I added a whole bunch of celery and green onions (4 cups of the latter – I doubled the recipe you see below), including most of the green tops since they would add good flavor. Then I began adding in the other ingredients – corn, garlic, fresh thyme, some dried thyme too, a couple of Bay leaves, red chili flakes and some chicken broth. I brought that up to just BELOW a simmer, then added in the raw salmon chunks, milk, half and half and cream, plus the potatoes – oh, and the bacon. I brought that just barely BELOW a simmer again and let it stew for about 10 minutes until the salmon was cooked through. Discarded the bay leaves and served with chopped dill and chopped chives on top. DEFINITELY don’t bring this soup to a boil or it will separate – the half and half and milk can’t hold together over high heat. Not a pretty sight, so stay close as you watch it as it cooks at about 200°F.

What’s GOOD: Delicious soup. Just plain, simple, but very flavorful soup. Everyone raved, me included. I gave 2-3 portions away to my friend Gloria and her husband, had 2 more portions to take lunch to my friend Judy on a day when she was under the weather, and had one more portion for myself for dinner another night.

What’s NOT: nothing really; takes an hour or so to make, quite a bit of chopping and dicing. Very worth it, though.

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Salmon Chowder

Recipe By: Adapted significantly from an epicurious recipe
Serving Size: 6

1/2 pound red potatoes — scrubbed, but leave skins on
6 ounces thick-sliced bacon — cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-wide strips
1 large leeks — cleaned, chopped
1 cup celery — chopped
2 cups chopped scallions
1 cup corn — fresh or frozen (use more if you like)
1 tablespoon garlic — finely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh thyme — finely chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 Turkish bay leaves — or half the amount of California bay leaves
1/8 teaspoon red chili flakes
1 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth
1/2 quart half and half
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
3/4 pound salmon fillet — skin discarded and fish cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Garnish: chopped fresh chives and fresh dill

1. Cut potatoes, skin on, into 1/3-inch cubes, then cook in a 1- to 1 1/2-quart heavy saucepan of boiling salted water until just tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain in a colander and set aside.
2. Cook bacon in a 5-quart heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp, about 8 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons fat from pot, then cook leeks for about 5 minutes until wilted. Then add celery, scallions, corn, garlic, thyme, bay leaf, and red-pepper flakes in fat in pot over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until scallions are tender, about 5 minutes. Add chicken broth and allow to simmer for about 10 minutes. Then add half and half, milk and cream and bring very low simmer – do not let it bubble or the soup will separate.
3. Reduce heat to moderately low, then add potatoes, salmon, bacon, salt, and pepper and cook, gently stirring occasionally, until salmon is just cooked through and begins to break up as you stir, 5 to 8 minutes. Stir in lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Discard bay leaf before serving. Garnish with fresh chopped chives and fresh dill.
Per Serving: 484 Calories; 31g Fat (56.4% calories from fat); 29g Protein; 24g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 102mg Cholesterol; 886mg Sodium.

Posted in Soups, on March 24th, 2018.

Do you like celery root? If you’ve never had it, this might be the time to try it. Celery root has all the flavor of celery, but not the green or ribs, or strings. The root is a big, hunky brown thing you’ll find in the produce section. Not very pretty, but it makes a great soup.

celery root

There’s a celery root that I’ve already peeled, mostly. See the celery stalks poking out of the top?

The benefits of celery: it’s  an excellent source of antioxidants and beneficial enzymes, in addition to vitamins and minerals such as vitamin K, vitamin C, potassium, folate and vitamin B6. AND, it’s also relatively low in carbs.  That’s the part I like. It’s also low in calor too. Do buy one that’s big enough – the recipe here calls for 2 1/2 pounds – which might be 2 of them.

celery root cubedSo, it does need to be peeled, as the knobby root can host all kinds of dirt and sand in the crevices. So wash well, really well, then go at it with a peeler or a knife until you get down to the white root part. Cube it up and set aside briefly while you cook some leek in butter, then add some garlic, then the celery root and chicken stock. It will take about 40-45 minutes for the celery root to get tender. The soup mixture gets pureed until smooth, and once you return it to the pot, perhaps add more chicken stock so it’s less thick, your choice as to how much.  It kind of depends on how much celery root you started with. Then cream is added (only 1/2 cup), salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, you make a gremolata (that’s an Italian word for garnish) of toasted walnuts, olive oil, parsley and some grated Parm. That’s sprinkled on the top when served. The recipe came from a cooking class with Tarla Fallgatter, and it’s a keeper. When I made it myself the other night, I used almonds instead of walnuts (the gremolata gives the soup some really nice texture), and I used Pecorino Romano, which melted into the soup beautifully. I grated it in at the end since I was all out of Parm rinds.

What’s GOOD: the celery flavor is pronounced – and it’s really tasty. I wrote “fabulous” on the recipe. I’m sure it would freeze well, too.

What’s NOT: well, maybe the tedious job of peeling the celery root. Not to everyone’s taste since it’s full of dirt. But so worth doing. If you like celery, you’ll love this soup!

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Celery Root Bisque

Recipe By: Tarla Fallgatter, cooking instructor, 2018
Serving Size: 8

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 large leek — white and light green only, thinly sliced
5 whole garlic cloves — peeled, crushed
2 1/2 pounds celery root — peeled, cut into 1″ pieces
A Parmesan rind, or a chunk of Parm, about 2″ square
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste
GREMOLATA:
1/2 cup walnuts — toasted and chopped (or sliced almonds)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup Italian parsley — coarsely chopped
1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese — grated

1. SOUP: Melt butter in large pan; add leeks and garlic and saute under medium-low heat until soft. Add celery root, Parmesan chunk, chicken broth and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally until celery root is tender, about 40 minutes.
2. GREMOLATA: Chop walnuts and parsley together. In a small bowl mix with olive oil and cheese. Set aside.
3. Puree the soup in a blender until very smooth. Return to pan and add additional stock if the soup is too thick (up to about a cup). Add cream, salt and pepper to taste and reheat. Divide among soup bowls and garnish with the gremolata.
Per Serving: 220 Calories; 20g Fat (69.8% calories from fat); 9g Protein; 10g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 24mg Cholesterol; 155mg Sodium.

Posted in Soups, on March 4th, 2018.

easy_lasagna_soup

Quick and easy soup that has all the flavors of lasagna, but instead of tediously making a layered casserole, it’s combined into a soup. I cooked the noodles separately rather than cooking them IN the soup as the original recipe suggested. If you do cook them in the soup, it’s a one-pot soup dinner.

Two soups in a row . . . sorry about that, but couldn’t wait to share this recipe with you. You may have seen it on pinterest (I think that’s where I found it first) but then clicked through to find the recipe and blog at CarlsbadCravings.com. I just about never make lasagna anymore – sometimes because of the work, sometimes because it’s so carb-centric. But in this recipe, I could control the carbs (used much less lasagna noodles) but it still had all the fabulous flavors of traditional lasagna.

A good friend was visiting me – Lynn’s wife Sue was enjoying an Hawaiian holiday with a girlfriend, so Lynn flew to SoCal and stayed with me as he visited people all over the area (hey used to live here). Lynn also was SO very gracious to take care of a bunch of honey-do items for me. He was a whirlwind of busy-ness during his stay and got all the jobs done! I owe him many thanks! I’ve visited them in Colorado a couple of times, and there are Sue-recipes here on my blog, as she’s a really good cook.

Anyway, since Lynn was here, I decided to invite some mutual friends, 3 widowers, actually, (we all know each other from our church choir) for dinner. I knew they’d enjoy seeing Lynn and visiting. I knew all of their wives well, and all of us (except Lynn) commiserate about being widow(er)s. Anyway, I thought this sounded like a good dinner option for the evening, and oh, was it ever.

Since I doubled the recipe, it wouldn’t fit in my instant pot – so I made it in my big slow cooker. I cooked the pasta separately just before serving. If you’re going to eat all the soup at the first sitting, you can cook the noodles in the soup (and might have to add a bit more chicken broth to the mixture), but if leftovers are in the plan, cook the noodles separately so they don’t get mushy when the soup is reheated.

As it happened, I didn’t have any Italian sausage, so I substituted ground pork and added the seasonings that are used for Italian sausage (specifically fennel). The original recipe called for ground beef, but you could likely use ground turkey too or a mixture. The onion and meat are cooked through, then you begin adding ingredients. That’s the beauty of this dish – once the onion and meat are cooked, you just pile in all the stuff (herbs and spices, garlic, marinara sauce [or your choice of spaghetti sauce], tomatoes, tomato paste, a dash of balsamic, a dash of sugar [to counteract the acidity of all the tomato products], some cream at the end, and then the pasta is added.

A bunch of toppings are prepared – I used shredded Mozzarella, Pecorino-Romano, Italian parsley, fresh sliced basil and a good spoonful of whole milk ricotta cheese. I served the soup in the kitchen and each person added what they wanted of the toppings. Two of the fellows went back for seconds, and we had enough for another dinner for two.

What’s GOOD: the flavor is just super. So very easy to make. Quick! Tastes just like lasagna. I liked everything about it, and will definitely be making it again. I’d double it again, and freeze half, but wouldn’t add the cream to it to freeze.

What’s NOT: can’t think of a thing.

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Easy Lasagna Soup

Recipe By: adapted from Carlsbad Cravings (blog)
Serving Size: 6

1 pound ground pork — or Italian sausage or chicken Italian sausage
1 yellow onion — diced
4 garlic cloves — minced (4 to 5)
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes — or more to taste
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 1/2 tablespoons dried oregano — crushed between your palms
24 ounces marinara sauce — (see notes below)
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth — divided (or more if desired)
14 ounces crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 whole bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt — optional
1/2 teaspoon pepper — optional
1 1/2 cups lasagna noodles — dry, broken into approx. 1-2 inch pieces
1/2 cup heavy cream — optional
GARNISH:
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese — grated
2/3 cup ricotta cheese — whole milk type
1/3 cup Italian parsley — chopped
1/3 cup fresh basil — sliced

NOTES: For a double recipe – for the jarred sauce, I used a bottle of Lucini Marinara sauce, and a bottle of Rao’s Vodka sauce. You can use your own homemade, or bottled. Original recipe called for Prego. If you’re going to eat it all at the first sitting, you cook the pasta in the soup. If not, cook the pasta separately and add it to each bowl – this way the pasta won’t be overcooked for the leftover servings.
1. Heat large Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add meat and onion and cook, stirring occasionally until meat is browned. Add garlic, dried basil, oregano and red pepper flakes and saute for 30 seconds. Drain off any excess fat.
2. Add red sauce, half the chicken broth, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, balsamic vinegar and sugar. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil, add salt and simmer lasagna noodles (or other noodles of your choice) until just al dente. Drain.
3. Discard bay leaf and stir in heavy cream (optional) and more chicken broth to reach desired consistency. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed. Spoon a few lasagna noodles into each bowl and add soup on top. Garnish individual servings with desired amount of cheeses, fresh basil, fresh Italian parsley and a dollop of ricotta cheese.
Per Serving: 587 Calories; 36g Fat (52.7% calories from fat); 34g Protein; 39g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 112mg Cholesterol; 1137mg Sodium.

Posted in Soups, on February 28th, 2018.

easy_mex_chix_rice_soup

Don’t we all like EASY now and then? Me, too. And this soup met all the criteria for ease and for taste.

Sometimes when the word “easy” is used in recipe descriptions, I’m leery – too easy and a dish won’t have much taste. With soup, you want layers of flavor and texture. Something about this recipe got me interested, and I thought it could be done in the Instant Pot. I didn’t end up doing that – only because I spent a week in Palm Desert last month and I didn’t feel like lugging the IP in my car. As it was, it makes itself just fine in a regular pot/pan, and indeed, it was quick, but also super-tasty.

All of you who read my blog know that I so believe in Penzey’s chicken stock base, and I did take THAT to Palm Desert, so I can perhaps attribute some of the fine flavor to that.

My friend Ann (who lives in Idaho) flew down for us to enjoy the warmth in Palm Desert (it was in the 80s every day we were there), and I made this one night with the remains of a rotisserie chicken. It was perfect for that, as it calls for 2 cups of left over chicken. The recipe makes plenty – enough for Ann and me to have dinner twice, and a lunch once, and there was still enough that once home I had enough for another dinner and lunch. I could have frozen it, but I didn’t mind having it that many days. It tasted just as good 6 days later as it did the first night – and maybe even better. I may not have put all the rice in – I thought the soup was already carb-centric enough with the corn, so I skimped a bit, but I enjoyed the bit of rice.

There’s not all that much to making it – onion, oil, oregano, canned tomatoes (diced), frozen corn, a little bit of rice, the chicken, good broth, and then all the fun toppings – fresh cilantro, sour cream, shredded cheese and a lime wedge. We bought a package of small (street taco size) flour tortillas, and enjoyed those alongside the soup. Sublime. The recipe came from Simply Recipes.

What’s GOOD: if the flavor wasn’t there, it would’t be here on my blog. It was very flavorful, and I loved all the varied textures (tomatoes, corn, rice, then the toppings). And for sure, it was EASY! And I mean that. It couldn’t have taken me more than 30 minutes to start and finish. That makes it a winner.

What’s NOT: uhm, nothing that I can think of.

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Easy Mexican Chicken and Rice Soup

Recipe By: Adapted a little from Simply Recipes (blog)
Serving Size: 5

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large garlic clove — minced
1 medium onion — diced
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon salt — or to taste
1/8 teaspoon black pepper — or to taste
15 ounces diced tomatoes — canned, fire-roasted, undrained
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 cups frozen corn kernels — or fresh
1/3 cup rice
2 cups cooked chicken — chopped
GARNISH:
1 cup fresh cilantro — chopped
1 whole lime — quartered, for garnish (1 to 2)
5 tablespoons sour cream
3/4 cup cheddar cheese — shredded
Corn or flour tortillas to serve alongside

1. In a large pot over medium heat, warm the oil. Add the onion and oregano. Cook, stirring often for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the onion begins to soften. Add in garlic, then stir in the salt and pepper and continue to cook for about a minute. Do not let the garlic or onion brown.
2. Add the tomatoes, chicken broth, corn, and rice. Bring to a boil over high heat. Turn down the heat and simmer for 18 to 20 minutes, or until the rice is tender. (Don’t over cook.)
3. Add the chicken and simmer for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the chicken is hot. Taste, and season with more salt and pepper, if you like.
4. Ladle the soup into bowls and serve hot with a dollop of sour cream on top, then the cilantro and lime wedges on top, and warm tortillas on the side. You could also garnish this with some shredded cheese (cheddar or Jack) and some crisp tortilla chips (crushed). Don’t serve tortillas on the side if you use the chips.
Per Serving: 416 Calories; 21g Fat (38.5% calories from fat); 39g Protein; 34g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 72mg Cholesterol; 324mg Sodium.

Posted in Fish, Soups, on December 27th, 2017.

shrimp_potato_chowder

Oh – My – Goodness! This soup is just off the charts. When I tell you you need to make this, do you trust me on that?

My friend Cherrie made this soup and brought it to our Christmas cookie baking day a few weeks ago. She said she’d really wanted to try this recipe, and so she brought a big tub of it. She wouldn’t tell Jackie or me what was in it. Of course, we could see shrimp – big, honkin’ ones, most of them bigger than the soup spoon. We cold see onion, potato, and celery and some bell pepper too. Plus some little bacon pieces. And a really rich, creamy soup to go along with it. She said “there’s no cream in it.” We tried guessing – Half and Half? No. Coconut milk? No. Almond milk? No. Non-Dairy Creamer? No. Evaporated milk? No. Is there dairy in it, I asked? Yes, but not what you’d think. Cheese, I said? Nope.

I almost don’t want to tell you – – – but if I do, I think you’ll stop reading right this minute and never go on. And you’ll never make it because you’ll just say no-no, can’t do that. Too rich. Too fattening.

The soup is SO very easy to make – Cherrie found the recipe at allrecipes.com, and made it mostly according to the recipe, although she added some dried thyme, and she DID thin down the soup part with regular milk because it was too thick, she thought.

So, are you ready to hear the “reveal?” It’s cream cheese. Who’d have ever thought to make soup with cream cheese? And yes, it’s rich. And yes, it’s decadent. And YES, it’s fabulous! Well, why wouldn’t it be with cream cheese in it??

I haven’t made this myself – so I’m giving you the recipe exactly as Cherrie made it – using 2 bricks of cream cheese. But that quantity feeds a lot of people. Probably 8 people as a dinner-sized portion. I had the leftovers twice. It’s very filling. I may make this myself . . . and if I do I’m going to use half the amount of cream cheese and use half and half to fill up the quantity of soup part.

This would make a great New Year’s Eve Dinner. My parents, for over 30 years, got together with another couple to play pinochle on that night of the year (other nights too, but almost always on Dec. 31st), and my Mom would make oyster stew. It was their tradition. The score card for their years and years of playing the game was taped to the bottom of the card table and they’d reminisce about previous games and scores. I’m not a fan of oysters, so I wouldn’t be making that, but this would be a great stand-in.

What’s GOOD: the flavor of this soup is a 10 and or a 100, whatever scale you want to use. Is it rich? Yes. But I’d definitely make this myself, though as I mentioned I’d try using half the cream cheese and adding half and half. Do not boil the soup or it will separate. Am sure this would freeze just fine. Don’t over-cook it, either, because you don’t want to dry out the shrimp.

What’s NOT: well, the fat content is about the only thing! Other than that, it’s so worth making.

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Shrimp Chowder

Recipe By: Adapted from allrecipes.com
Serving Size: 8

6 slices lean bacon — chopped
1 cup celery — sliced
1/2 cup yellow onion — finely chopped
1/2 bell pepper — chopped
4 tablespoons butter — any color
1 teaspoon dried thyme
16 ounces cream cheese — diced
3 1/2 cups milk — or more as needed
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 large Russet potato — unpeeled, cubed
1 pound shrimp — thawed and drained
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Chopped Italian parsley for garnish

1. In a large stock pot saute bacon until lightly browned and crispy. Remove to a paper towel and pour off most of the bacon grease. Add to the pot the celery, onions and butter. Saute for 3-5 minutes until the vegetables are translucent. Crush the dried thyme between your palms and add to the mixture.
2. Meanwhile, in another pot simmer the cubed potatoes in water until they are nearly tender. Drain and set aside.
3. To the vegetables add cream cheese and milk; stir over low heat until cream cheese is completely melted.
4. Add cooked potatoes, shrimp, reserved bacon, dry white wine and salt. Heat thoroughly (until shrimp have turned white), stirring occasionally. Add fresh pepper and taste for seasoning. Add more milk as needed to thin it to your desired consistency. Serve. May add chopped Italian parsley on top if desired.
Per Serving: 423 Calories; 32g Fat (69.5% calories from fat); 21g Protein; 11g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 167mg Cholesterol; 594mg Sodium.

Posted in Soups, on December 11th, 2017.

mushroom_soup_wo_cream

Thrilled with the results of this home made mushroom soup without a speck of cream.

Sometime recently I ordered mushroom soup at a restaurant, and expected it to be a nice little cup with mushrooms swimming in it AND in a creamy broth. Nope. It had no cream in it, and wow, was it good. So I promised myself I’d try to replicate it at home. Couldn’t be that hard, right? I found several recipes, but settled on one from the New York Times, that actually was a pureed soup. That I didn’t want, but I stuck with their recipe for the most part.

The secret to making this is layering lots of flavors – all things complementary to soup, of course. Like shallots, leeks, onions. I bought crimini mushrooms, regular button mushrooms, plus some shiitake. And to help with layering, I used some dried mushrooms. Once I found them at my local market, I had a several choices. Mostly they contained oyster mushrooms and chanterelle. Those were fine – they’re in a tiny little clamshell box. They got soaked in hot water for 30 minutes before I began. Most recipes tell you to use the soaking liquid, but on this little box from Melissa’s Produce, it said NOT to use the water, so I discarded it. Sometimes that mushroom water can taste a little off.

What I have in my refrigerator is a plastic one-pound tub of mushroom concentrate (broth, like chicken broth concentrate). And oh, was it perfect for this. If you can find it in your stores, please use it. Mine is from “Custom Culinary” in Oswego IL. Here’s the link at Amazon for it: Custom Culinary Gold Label Vegan Mushroom Base, 1 Pound. I’ve had mine for at least a year or more and it’s shown no degradation of quality at all.

Chopping up all the fresh mushrooms took awhile, but the 3 different kinds added different texture. One little surprise ingredient is a jot of soy sauce, and I just KNOW it added great flavor. You don’t taste it – there’s not enough in there to do that, but it’s good umami flavor. I simmered the soup for about 45 minutes, cooled it and packaged it up for freezing and left one container for eating. As of tonight, I’ve had it for 3 meals. I just LOVE the flavor of it – love the leeks, the broth, and the tooth of the mushrooms themselves. The original called for a Parmesan rind, but I didn’t bother, although I do have one in my refrigerator. For me, this soup doesn’t need cheese! But a nice piece of toast with some melted Parm on top would be a great little topper for this soup. And, of course, you could drizzle in a little bit of sour cream or cream if you wanted to. I’m amazed at the calorie count (low, really low).

What’s GOOD: for sure the super-over-the-top mushroom flavor. Might be from the mushroom base – don’t know for sure. Love the meatiness of the mushrooms and there were lots in this soup. Freezes well. A keeper.

What’s NOT: you’ll likely have to go shopping for some of the ingredients (leeks, maybe shallots, and the mushroom base, the dried mushrooms and maybe all the varieties of fresh mushrooms too).

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Mushroom Soup without Cream

Recipe By: Adapted from a New York Times recipe
Serving Size: 6

1/2 ounce dried mushrooms — prefer porcini, or a mixture of dried mushroom types
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium onion — chopped
2 medium shallots — peeled, chopped
1 large leek — white and light green part only, sliced lengthwise, then chopped, rinsed well
Salt to taste
1 1/2 pounds mushrooms — (white and cremini) sliced
4 ounces shiitake mushroom — stems discarded, sliced
5 cups low sodium chicken broth — or mushroom stock or vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons dried thyme — crushed between your palms
Freshly ground pepper to taste
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon dry sherry — to taste (optional) (1 to 2)
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1/3 cup Italian parsley — chopped (garnish)

NOTE: I use Custom Culinary Mushroom Base – for the recipe to serve 6 I used a heaping tablespoon (plus the water, of course) in lieu of the low sodium chicken broth. It’s available from Amazon.
1. Place the dried mushrooms in a bowl or pyrex measuring cup and cover with 1 cup boiling water. Let sit for 30 minutes. Remove mushrooms and discard the water. (Some chefs use the hydrating water, but most dried mushroom packages recommend discarding the water as it often has “off” flavors.) Chop up the rehydrated mushrooms in small pieces and set aside.
2. Heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat in a large, heavy soup pot or Dutch oven and add the onion, shallots and leek and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring, until tender and, about 5 to 8 minutes. Do not brown. Add fresh and reconstituted mushrooms and cook, stirring, until they begin to sweat and smell fragrant, 3 to 5 minutes.
3. Add the broth, bay leaf, thyme, soy sauce and salt to taste, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer 45 minutes. Remove the bay leaf.
4. If desired, you may blend the soup until smooth. Taste and adjust salt, and add pepper and the sherry, if using. Add the extra half cup of stock and heat through, stirring. If the soup seems too thick, thin out a little more but remember to taste and adjust seasoning. Serve in espresso cups or in bowls, garnishing each serving with chopped Italian parsley.
Per Serving: 215 Calories; 7g Fat (26.7% calories from fat); 15g Protein; 28g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 10mg Cholesterol; 792mg Sodium.

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