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Carolyn

Sara

Sara and me

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Esther Freud’s book The Sea House: A Novel is about a small village on England’s southern coast. There are characters galore in this book, and it sometimes takes a bit to figure out which decade you’re reading about (few clues) or which person. Oh yes, her, current day. Oh, that’s him, during the war. Max, oh, I thought he died. No, that’s his son. I think. The book is about love found, love lost, love sometimes found again, sometimes not. About how fleeting it can be or seem. There is family dysfunction. Relationship dysfunction. There is quite a bit of adultery going on, yet I found myself understanding why. The book relays a true story (names changed) about an architect and a woman who is trying to write a book about him. Drawings and paintings of this village play a big part. There is some mental dis-health too. And throughout, it’s about the land, the sea, and this remarkable house. I wondered if in the hardback edition there were any photo plates of the drawings. One character is driven to draw the rooms he’s in, the house he’s in, or the house he conjures in his mind. There are lots of beach walks, and there is a huge tidal flood too. Despite having some difficulty keeping track of the characters, it was a good read.

Amor Towles’ book, Rules of Civility: A Novel was quite a read. It’s NYC, 1937. Twenty-five-year-old Katey Kontent [Kon-TENT she iterates to many] is in a Greenwich Village jazz bar when a handsome banker, happens to sit down at the neighboring table. This chance encounter and its startling consequences propel Katey on a year-long journey into the upper echelons of New York society—where she will have little to rely upon other than a bracing wit and her own brand of cool nerve. She struggles to keep her poverty at bay, and like many women of her time and the day, wished themselves on men of means. There is love. There is loss. And through it all, the thread that holds it all together is the mores – the rules of civility – required of most everyone. To keep up the face. To swing. To survive. Really well developed drama and a very real sense of place. I’m reviewing the book in one of my book clubs; fortunately there is a lot online about this book.

Wesley the Owl: The Remarkable Love Story of an Owl and His Girl by Stacey O’Brien. What an adorable book. True story about Stacey’s 20 years with a feisty but lovable barn owl. She’s a biologist, was working at Cal Tech and someone brought in a tiny abandoned barn owl. She took him home, and he became her “mate” (that happens at year two). Everything about this book is interesting, from how she nurtures him in his tiny habitat, to how she transforms her living space to accommodate a full grown owl. He couldn’t be habilitated to the wild because of a wing injury (likely when he fell out of the nest). It’s a heartwarming story.

Loved The Wedding Officer: A Novel by Anthony Capella. It takes place in the middle of WWII in Naples. A young British officer, Captain James Gould, is sent to Naples to wade through the zilions of applications from soldiers to marry local Italian women (and presumably take them back to England when the war ends). The supposition is that all the women are ladies of the night, and it’s their ticket to a better life. He holds to his principles until he meets lovely Livia, who begins cooking for a group of soldiers (it was a real job). Food plays a starring role in this book, as well as Vesuvius’ eruption. It’s a very interesting story – I don’t know if it’s true there were such positions in the British military, but it sounds like it. Gould has to find his way through the miasma of politics, corruption, provisioning in a war-torn country and the warfront. But all of it is laced with the very sweet love story.

Reading behind Bars: A True Story of Literature, Law, and Life as a Prison Librarian by Jill Grunenwald. So interesting. Jill is  young, with a newly minted degree in library science at a time when the economy was very slow. She accepts a position in a minimum security prison in Ohio. She needs a job, and agrees to the commute, rain, shine or snow. The “library” is limited. The inmates her “staff.” She weaves her way through the pitfalls of limited funds, theft, perversion, jerks, rules, and every myriad of inmate problems. Very interesting read.

The Walls of Lucca by Steve Physioc. A novel that takes place in between WWI and II. Franco is a weary Italian soldier. He stumbles into a vineyard and is hired. It’s hard work (nothing he’s ever done before) but he’s a very diligent worker. He didn’t stop there to find love, but it found him. There’s a lot of sinister Fascist activity throughout the book, plenty of local history, and of course, a bit about the walls of Lucca.

The Hired Man by Aminatta Forna. A novel about Croatia in the aftermath of their more recent wars. A British family buys a very dilapidated house, and a local man (the handyman) begins helping them fix it up. Two children play a part, with the British husband merely peeking in now and then. There is local dissension, town secrets, some violence as the town tries to heal from years of war. And the handyman just keeps working, pondering his own demons as well. Very riveting story.

A Column of Fire: A Novel by Ken Follett. It takes place in the 1500s, in England, and has everything to do with the war between the Catholics and the Protestants, that raged throughout Europe during that time, culminating in the Spanish Inquisition. Some of that is hard to read, but Follett writes sagas, and I was really “into it.” Have always loved his writing, and if you haven’t ever read this sidebar before, or my section on books, his book, The Pillars of the Earth: A Novel  is my#1 favorite book I’ve ever read. In this Fire book, though, there are numerous characters, families really, in France, London and the (fictitious I think) town of Kingsbridge. Riveting reading, as are all of his books.

Having read all of Kristin Hannah’s books, I knew I’d read her latest too: Between Sisters: A Novel.  Two sisters, raised by the same mother but different fathers. At a young age a rift occurs and the sisters go their own way. Anger is there, but deep down you know, reading this, that they care about each other. The one that left is a successful but lonely attorney in Seattle. The other is a single mother who owns a small seasonal cabin rental facility near Seattle. It’s a very sweet story – takes awhile to “get there” but you know they’re going to reconcile and find their sister-groove again. Good book. Worth reading.

Just finished Matt McCarthy’s book The Real Doctor Will See You Shortly: A Physician’s First Year. It tells the true life story of his first year as an intern at a New York hospital. You ride the wave of his first, painful days when he questions if he was ever meant to be a doctor, to the end of the year when he recognized his true passion for infectious disease diagnostics. I really enjoyed the book, and commend him for being so brutally honest about his own vulnerabilities and what he saw as complete inexperience. If you enjoy this genre of book, this is a good one.

Also read Karen Harper’s book The Royal Nanny: A Novel. The time frame is 1890s onward, at Sandringham, when Charlotte Bill (a real person) was hired by the Duke and Duchess of York, to care for their children. She was hired as an under-nurse, but soon became the prime caregiver of the youngest children. She became “Lala” to the children, and they loved her dearly. And she them. This is a serious below-stairs look at that part of the royal family, their foibles, idiosyncrasies, and even the proclivities of the children themselves. It was a great read. Loved it from the first page.

Also read Roger Swindell’s Mendelevski’s Box. It’s an historical novel about the aftermath of WWII in impoverished Amsterdam. It’s an eye-opener. Over the last many years I’ve marveled at authors who have found a niche of some part of that awful war and it was enough to write a great story. Simon is the hero, here. He was a Jew and miraculously survived Auschwitz and returned to his home, hoping to find his mother and sister (who were also at Auschwitz, but he knew not their fates). He knew his father had died in the camp. The family home had been taken over by others. He was destitute. He befriended two young women (one had worked for his father in his clock-making business). There is a “box” in the story – an important element. Simon finds a job, income, friends, and love. Finds some caring people, but also encounters some very shady characters as well. The story is told very well. There is mystery, poignant love and redemption. Well worth reading.

Camille De Maio wrote Before the Rain Falls. Very interesting story about a young doctor who returns to her border town in Texas for a very short vacation. And about a young down-on-his-luck journalist who goes to the same town to get a story. There’s a death/murder long ago, the sharp shards of emotions that remain in the town. The survivors. The grandmother who spent 7 decades in prison. And a love story. Very sweet book about family. Love. Loss. As I write this, it’s $.99 on Kindle.

Also read a very quirky non-fiction book: The Perfect Gentleman: The remarkable life of Dr. James Miranda Barry by June Rose. This is a biography about a person who lived in the mid-1800s. He was a surgeon; graduated from Edinburgh Medical School at the age of 14. Joined the British Army as a medical officer then sent off to South Africa and many other tropical outposts during his career. There was always “talk” about him. He never married. He was querulous. He got high-handed too frequently. He was a tee-totaler, and always had a dog named Psyche. He was a brilliant diagnostician and was appalled at the condition of prisons and even ordinary Army barracks. When he died it came out – Dr. James Barry was really a woman. And a woman who had borne a child. Facts that were suspected by many, but never corroborated. S/he did so because a woman wasn’t allowed to go to college, let alone medical school. When you read it in context, it’s logical what her mentors suggested she do. I can’t say that this book is all that well written – some of it uses the stilted language of the time, even though it’s current in its publication. But it’s a fascinating read nonetheless. So I’ve read, there is going to be a documentary made about her life.

The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley. The premise of this book is different . . . a woman writer goes to Scotland to connect with distant heritage. She hopes to gain inspiration for her next book. As she investigates, she discovers she’s related to a family that lived in the early 1700s at Slains Castle on the east coast of Scotland near Aberdeen. This was the time of the Jacobite rebellion (the exiled King James and his hoped-for return to England). When I say this woman gets inspiration . . .well, it’s more than that. She questions whether she could possibly have genes that contain memory (what an idea, huh?), because she begins to know how events took place, who the people were, what they said, exactly where they stood, the layout of the castle, even the furniture in the rooms. She wasn’t channeling, actually, but I suppose it could be interpreted so. The book is full of the Jacobite history (more than I’d ever known before, but then I love English/Scottish history). There’s a romance back then, and a romance in the today time. Both lovely. Great book. An historical novel of the first order.

Another great read, The Island of Sea Women: A Novel by Lisa See. Six months ago I attended an author’s talk at the Bowers Museum. Lisa See was the speaker and shared her story about this book. I’ve heard her speak several times before (she lives near me) and have read several of her books. This one, though, is very different. She was sitting in a doctor’s office reading some magazine and spotted a tiny snippet of data about Jeju Island off the coast of Korea where the island as a whole is matriarchal because the women were trained from a young age to deep dive, free dive, for mollusks. These women were the breadwinners. Husbands stayed home and cared for the babies. The island is real. The history is real. And what happened during WWII on this island is horrific – makes me feel ashamed that our military had a hand in what happened to many people. But everyone should read this book. It’s a novel, about 2 girls who are divers and how their lives diverge for a variety of cultural reasons and because of the war.

Radio Girls by Sarah-Jane Stratford. A novel about the early days of radio in London. This book takes place in the 1920s and tells not only the general history of the early days of radio, but also the role women played (a vital one). Initially it was in the background, because women weren’t considered intelligent enough. Maisie, the heroine in the book, works her way up the ranks. It’s a fascinating read from beginning to end. Many famous characters (real) flow through the studios. Early voting rights play a part in the story line also. And some wartime intrigue. You’ll find yourself cheering from the bleachers when women make a tiny inroad into the male-dominated field.

A Well-Behaved Woman: A Novel of the Vanderbilts by Therese Anne Fowler. My friend Ann, from Idaho, brought it with her as we spent a week in Palm Desert in February. She handed it to me and said I’d really like it. Oh, did I! Loved the book. This book is a novel, but based on the life of Alva Smith Vanderbilt (Belmont). Her family was nearly destitute (and faking it) when a marriage was proposed for her with William Vanderbilt. There is lots of dialogue in the book which is made up, but I’m guessing the author probably read many diary entries of Alva (and the family) to create a very intriguing and readable story. A life of unbelievable privilege. Several children, including one who marries into a titled family in England. You see the inner life of Alva – her day to day busy work, charity work, visiting for afternoon tea, the undercurrent of society’s morals – men were nearly expected to have mistresses or affairs. This was the Victorian Age when sex between husbands and wives was not necessarily, and usually not, passionate. I loved this book from page one until the end.  Alva was a suffragette of the first order. Having read the book, I have a lot of admiration for her, even though she lived in the highest echelons of society.

Also read In Falling Snow: A Novel, by Mary-Rose McColl. From amazon: Iris, a young Australian nurse, travels to France during World War I to bring home her fifteen-year-old brother, who ran away to enlist. But in Paris she meets the charismatic Dr. Frances Ivens, who convinces Iris to help establish a field hospital in the old abbey at Royaumont, staffed entirely by women—a decision that will change her life. Seamlessly interwoven is the story of Grace, Iris’s granddaughter in 1970s Australia. Together their narratives paint a portrait of the changing role of women in medicine and the powerful legacy of love. The book  gives you a vivid picture of the state of nursing in WWI, but the story is quite mesmerizing. And there’s a twist almost at the end. Highly recommend.

Also couldn’t put down The Secret Wife by Gill Paul. A long story that begins in war-torn Russia. Cavalry officer Dmitri falls head over heels in love with one of the daughters of Tzar Nicholas. But events intervene, as history tells us. That was 1914. Cut to 2016 when a young woman inherits an ancient cabin in upper New York State and she discovers a jeweled pendant. The two times weave together to make a really riveting story. Lots of Russian history; well written; as I said, couldn’t put it down.

Uncommon Woman. A book about Colonial America, but really the western frontier at that time, which is in western Pennsylvania. The warring native Americans play large in this book. There is a romance, yes, but this book is not “a romance.” It’s more than that – about the hardships of living on the land, away from protection, Tessa and her family struggle to make a living and avoid the angered natives who take revenge when their people are murdered. Clay Tygart is a respected officer/soldier and commands a fort near where Tessa lives. Clay was captured by Lanape Indians when he was a young man, so he straddles both sides of the equation – first hand, he knows how the natives feel, but also his role in the lure of American exploration of the west. The natives wish to preserve their hunting grounds from the encroaching settlers. This book takes place in the mid-1700s I think. Loved it. Not only the history that is brilliantly detailed, even to the summer heat they experience. The crops they raise, the constant fear of attack. And the sweet love that weaves through it. Not a speck of sex in it.

Reading mysteries has never loomed large in my reading life. Occasionally, yes. And some espionage type books. But light mysteries have not intrigued me much. But one of my book clubs had us read Louise Penny’s novel, A Rule Against Murder (Chief Inspector Gamache Novel). The member actually handed out a cheat sheet of the characters in the book (many) and posed several questions of us as we read through it. The cheat sheet really helped. She asked us when (or if) we caught the foreshadowing of the murder culprit (I never did). The book takes place at a lovely inn in Canada and Chief Inspector Gamache (he is quite a character – along with his wife – are vacationing there) when a murder occurs. None of the characters escape the C.I.’s scrutiny. Lois, our book club member, led us through a very thorough and lively discussion of the book. Usually, my complaint about murder mysteries is that they don’t make for good discussion at a book club – but this book was an exception, for sure. Many of my learned book club friends rave about Louise Penny. One told me I should read Still Life next, and probably should have read it before I read this one.

Rachel Hauck is an author I’ve enjoyed reading over the years. Just finished reading The Memory House. It’s about relationships. Love. About family. About secrets. Doesn’t that just describe about 90% of every novel out there these days? Beck is a cop in NYC; a series of events occur and she is forced to take leave. Just then she inherits a house in Florida. She barely remembers the woman who bequeathed the house to her. Then you meet Bruno, a sports agent who will figure large in Beck’s life. Then the book jumps back in time to Everleigh, the woman who owned the house and you learn her story. Really stories of her two husbands. And how do those stories connect to present day. Very sweet book. Not a speck of sex in this one, either.

The Parrot Who Owns Me: The Story of a Relationship by Joanna Burger. Such an interesting book – nonfiction. The author is an ornithologist by profession (and a PhD) and this memoir of sorts is about her Red-Lored Amazon parrot she and her husband own. But no, it’s the parrot who owns her/them.

My Name Is Resolute by Nancy Turner. She’s the author of another book of some renown, These is my Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1901 (P.S.). Resolute is what I’m discussing here. A book club friend recommended this book, I immediately bought it on my Kindle. I could NOT put the book down. I devoured it. Any other “work” I should have been doing was swept aside as I read and read of Resolute’s adventures. It’s fiction, but based some on a true story. Resolute, as a young girl from a privileged life on a plantation in Jamaica, was taken captive by slavers, eventually ended up in Colonial America. This book is the story of her life. The people she met, the men in her life, her children, and always about her indefatigable energy for life. Always hoping to return to Jamaica.

Finished The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek: A Novel by Kim Richardson.  It’s a novel about the first mobile library in Kentucky (this is the 1930s) and the fierce, brave packhorse librarians who wove their way from shack to shack dispensing literacy, hope, and, just as importantly, a compassionate human connection.

The Shepherd’s Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape by James Rebanks. This book was offered as a bargain book from Bookbub, and something about the description resonated with me – maybe because of my Old Testament readings regarding the lives of shepherds back in ancient days. I utterly loved this book. It might not suit everyone – it’s a memoir, so a true story, of a young man growing up in the Lake District of Northern England, the son of a farming family, who sabotages everything in his being regarding going to school and leaves as soon as he is able (probably about 8th grade, I’d guess). And becomes a shepherd. And at night, he read literature that he accumulated from his grandfather. He bickers with his father, eventually moves out. One night in a pub with his blokes (friends) he enters some kind of a contest in the pub and realizes he has a lot more knowledge than he thought he did. In time he applies to get what I’d call here in the U.S. a G.E.D (high school diploma), which he does, and then he applies to Oxford, on a whim. And gets in. He graduates. He applies his knowledge to his rural life. He marries, has children, but still, his day to day life is all about his Herdwick sheep, although he does have a day job too working for UNESCO. You’ll learn more about sheep than you might have wanted to know. I absolutely loved, LOVED this book. If you are interested, James Rebanks has a Twitter feed, called @herdyshepherd1, and you can sign up to get updates from him about his farm and his sheep. I don’t do Twitter or I would.

Moloka’i: A Novel by Alan Brennert. A riveting book about the early days of Hansen’s Disease (leprosy) in Hawaii, and the stigma attached to the victims AND their families. It chronicles the story of a young woman, diagnosed almost as a child, and ostracized from her family, subsequently learning to live alone and remote.

House by the Fjord by Rosalind Laker. What a darling story. From amazon: A touching and atmospheric love story – When Anna Harvik travels to Norway in 1946 in order to visit the family of her late husband, the country is only just recovering from five cruel years of Nazi occupation. So it is with surprise that she finds in this cold and bitter country the capacity for new love and perhaps even a new home. I just loved this book – could hardly put it down; yet it’s not a mystery. You’ll come away with a desire to find that house by the fjord. I want to go there and have some coffee with the Anna, who was a Brit, yet fell head over heels in love with Norway.

Running Blind (Jack Reacher) by Lee Child. A Jack Reacher mystery. From amazon: Across the country, women are being murdered, victims of a disciplined and clever killer who leaves no trace evidence, no fatal wounds, no signs of struggle, and no clues to an apparent motive. They are, truly, perfect crimes. Until Jack Reacher gets in the middle of it. A page turner, as are all of the Jack Reacher stories.

Say Goodbye for Now by Catherine Ryan Hyde. This story, which takes place in a kind of Texas backwater, sets a town into an angry mess when two young boys, one white, one black, become friends, something most folks don’t like. At all. There’s a dog involved, the father of the black boy, the father of the white boy plus a woman who lives in the town and does her best to avoid people altogether. But they all get fused. Wonderful story.

Summer at Tiffany by Marjorie Hart. A sweet book, true story, of the author and her friend, during one summer in the midst of their college years, going by train to NYC and ultimately getting a job of Tiffany’s.  Cute read.

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann. You might think what a stretch – what does an Indian (Native American) tribe have to do with the FBI. Read and you’ll find out. This is back in time, 50s I think, and a number of murders have taken place on the Osage Reservation. A wake up call, even for today.

Oh wow. Just finished reading David Guterson’s book, East of the Mountains. You know this author from his most well known book, Snow Falling on Cedars. I loved the Cedars book when I read it years ago, and assumed I’d like this other book (not new) as well. Have you learned to trust my judgment when I tell you, you HAVE to read a book? If I tell you the story line, I can already hear you thinking . . . oh no, I don’t want to read this kind of a book. Please trust me. You’ll come away from it being glad you did.

A fabulous read – Catherine Ryan Hyde’s newest book, Have You Seen Luis Velez? I marvel sometimes about how authors ever come up with the ideas they do, to create the premise for a novel. And this one is right up there at the top of the list. Raymond, a youngster, an older teenager, who has a big lack of self-confidence and feels like an odd duck sometimes, reluctantly (at first) befriends an elderly woman in the apartment building where he lives with his mother and step-father. He discovers she’s blind and needs some help, which he gives her.

Magic Hour: A Novel

Excellent Women

Pachinko (National Book Award Finalist) by Min Jin Lee

An American Marriage (Oprah’s Book Club): A Novel by Tayari Jones.

Recently finished Sally Field’s memoir (autobiography) called In Pieces.

If you want grit, well, read Kristen Hannah’s newest book, The Great Alone: A Novel.

You’ve got to read Catherine Ryan Hyde’s book – Take Me With You. What a story.  From Amazon’s description: August Shroeder, a burned-out teacher, has been sober since his nineteen-year-old son died. Every year he’s spent the summer on the road, but making it to Yellowstone this year means everything. The plan had been to travel there with his son, but now August is making the trip with Philip’s ashes instead. An unexpected twist of fate lands August with two extra passengers for his journey, two half-orphans with nowhere else to go. What none of them could have known was how transformative both the trip—and the bonds that develop between them—would prove, driving each to create a new destiny together. Have a tissue handy at the end. It’s such a charming, sweet story. You’ll fall in love with the young boys, and fall in love with them again 10 years later.

The Last Letter from Your Lover: A Novel by JoJo Moyes.

Mark of the Lion : A Voice in the Wind, An Echo in the Darkness, As Sure As the Dawn (Vol 1-3) by Francine Rivers.

Flight of the Sparrow: A Novel of Early America

Answer As a Man

Celeste Ng Little Fires Everywhere.

The Rent Collector by Camron Wright.

C.J. Box’s book The Disappeared (A Joe Pickett Novel).

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng.

The Boston Girl: A Novel by Anita Diamant.

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers.

The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen.

Leaving Blythe River: A Novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde.

The Girl with Seven Names by Hyanseo Lee.

The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian.

The Good Widow: A Novel by Lisa Steinke.

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes.

How It All Began: A Novel by Penelope Lively.

 

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 Soups, on May 17th, 2020.

easy_buffalo_chix_soup

This isn’t a “wings” recipe. I know a lot of the world out there adore buffalo chicken wings. Nope, this is soup with the profile of “wings.” But made with just ordinary cooked chicken.

A week or so ago I baked a whole chicken. I’d tried a new recipe (why didn’t I go to my old favorite?) and knew I’d use the leftover chicken for several meals. With what was left I made this soup. And oh, is it ever good. I made it, and ate it every day until it was gone. Now I wish I had more of it.

Perhaps the best part is it’s SO easy you won’t believe it. As most of you know, I’m not known as someone who cooks easy and simple. But this one IS – easy and simple. The original recipe was even simpler, but I tweaked it just a bit  – I added celery, just because I like how celery flavors soup. I added a shallot because I had one that was about to go over the hill. And I added cabbage. Now, I know, any true wings expert will tell me cabbage has no place in the same sentence as buffalo anything. Sorry about that, but I had some roasted cabbage in the frig, and I wanted to use it up, so I added it in. And I loved it. You can choose to leave it out if that offends your wings-senses.

But, there’s one thing that you must have on hand . . . Franks Red Hot Sauce, 12 Ounce. Some markets here in my neck of the woods carry it, but it’s a bit hard to find. And they have a whole line of various sauces. This one is the original plain, but hot sauce. Not the wings sauce, not the thick, just the straight hot sauce. It’s a staple in grocery stores in many places (the South?).  You cannot substitute Tabasco – it would blow your head off. As it was, I scanted the 1/2 cup called for and am SO glad I did, as the soup was plenty hot. If you’re at all sensitive to heat, reduce it even more. But that hot sauce does make the dish. I would not advise eliminating it altogether. I also didn’t add the cayenne – because I tasted it before I was about to do that and decided it was plenty warm for my tastes. I also forgot to add the sour cream garnish. And I didn’t have any green onions. This sheltering in place thing is getting very tiresome. I had cilantro, and that might have been a nice addition.

The vegetables are cooked with oil and butter, then you add broth, the hot sauce, cabbage, cream cheese (which also gives it a lovely flavor and texture) and the small amount of cream. It’s simmered for a short time, then you add in the chicken. Done.

What’s GOOD: how easy it was. How delicious it was. I told you it was easy, right? My mouth is watering as I write this and look at the photo. It’ll be on my soup rotation soon. Really enjoyed the cabbage addition too. Any way to get in more veggies is a good thing in my book.

What’s NOT: nothing at all – unless you don’t like anything with some capsicum heat. And it might be just fine with the addition of tomato paste instead. Not sure . . .

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Easy Buffalo Chicken Soup

Recipe By: Adapted from Tasteholics blog
Serving Size: 6

3 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 tablespoons EVOO
1 medium shallot — peeled, minced
3 stalks celery — chopped
3 whole carrots — chopped
3 cups cabbage — chopped (optional)
1 quart low-sodium chicken broth
3 ounces cream cheese
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup Frank’s Red Hot Sauce — (use less if you don’t want heat)
1 teaspoon thyme
3 cups cooked chicken — chopped
1/2 teaspoon cayenne — optional (it may be hot enough already)
Optional garnishes: sour cream, green onion

1. Heat large soup pot over medium heat and add oil and butter. When melted and bubbling lightly, add shallot, celery and carrots and saute at medium-low heat until vegetables are wilted, but not browned. Add chopped cabbage.
2. Add chicken broth, hot sauce, cream cheese and cream. Add dried thyme you’ve crushed between your palms.
3. Bring to a simmer, cover and set over low heat for 10 minutes.
4. Add the chopped chicken and heat through. Season with salt and pepper to taste. If desired, when you’re ready to serve, garnish with sour cream and chopped green onion.
Per Serving: 416 Calories; 32g Fat (64.3% calories from fat); 30g Protein; 10g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 119mg Cholesterol; 291mg Sodium.

Posted in Soups, on May 1st, 2020.

chix_poblano_soup_joanna_gaines

You know Joanna Gaines? From Waco, Texas, with the Magnolia empire?

A year or so ago, I was very sad when Joanna and Chip Gaines decided to quit their TV show on HGTV. But she had her hands full – I got that – having another pregnancy in the middle of their very hectic lives with rejuvenating their town, creating a restaurant or two and remodeling homes too. But then I got a little rumor somewhere that they would be back eventually. She’s written a cookbook, and now a second one. A few weeks ago she did a “special” as a forerunner of a cooking show she’s decided to do. But oh – on their own network. Ah-HA! That’s what they had in mind, and I’d heard a rumor about that too. This special she did – I had to laugh – the filming of it was so cute – one of the daughters was in charge of the camera due to the sheltering-at-home. And she did a great job, with Joanna sometimes holding the youngest baby on her hip. None of the recipes she demonstrated (I think there were four) are ones I’ll be making, but that’s okay. Chip breezed in a time or two as did the other children.

Joanna writes a blog, if you didn’t know, also part of the Magnolia empire. And this soup popped up some weeks ago. As you know. sometimes the story itself is what makes me decide to prepare something. This one did. When Joanna and Chip were dating, they drove up to Dallas one weekend and ate lunch at a restaurant there. My guess is it might have been Dean Fearing’s, but that’s really a stab in the dark. Somehow, when the restaurant closed Joanna got the recipe – or maybe she just made her own version – and has been making it ever since.

poblano_peppersPoblano chiles are a favorite of mine. They have such a unique flavor. There is some unusual compound (almost a minerally tinge) to them. So I was all over this recipe when I saw it. My biggest hurdle was getting poblano chiles, and that got accomplished by the high school students at my church who are doing shopping for us seniors. When I talked with the young woman who was supervising these shopping-kids, I asked, “will they know what a poblano chile is?” She said yes, I’ll make sure. Sure enough, I got exactly what I asked for.

I also needed tortilla chips. A whole package of ready-made chips would have been eaten in total by me, so I nixed that idea. Fresh tortillas were the answer and I’d make my own chips. The smallest package of corn tortillas, however, was 36 of them. Chuckle. It’s been a month since I made this soup, and I still have 30 of them in the package. One day soon those telltale black spots will begin to appear and they’ll get tossed. But at least I had them to make the chips for the garnish of this soup.

This soup is a cinch to make – butter (oh, lots), onion, celery, carrots (which gives the soup a more warm color), garlic and the chiles. Seasonings go in, some broth and heavy cream in abundance. Once it’s simmered a bit, you whiz it up in the blender, or use a stick blender. I wanted a super-smooth texture, so I used the Vita-Mix. Then you add in the cooked chicken, pour into bowls and garnish with radishes, the chips, cilantro – and I added some diced avocado. I used chicken thighs that I cooked up, but she recommended using rotisserie chicken to make it easy.

What’s GOOD: the silky smoothness of the soup part, and the crunch of the garnishes. Altogether delicious, but then, what wouldn’t be good with a whole cube of butter and 2 cups of heavy cream? I think I used 6 T butter.

What’s NOT: nothing, really. This recipe is a keeper.

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Creamy Chicken Poblano Soup from Joanna Gaines

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from Joanna Gaines
Serving Size: 7

8 tablespoons unsalted butter — [I used less]
2 cups onion — diced
4 stalks celery — chopped
3 carrots — chopped
2 cloves garlic — minced
3 medium poblano chiles
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
8 cups low sodium chicken broth — (see note below)
2 cups heavy cream
3 cups cooked chicken — shredded cooked chicken breast (home-roasted or rotisserie chicken)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Tortilla chips and sliced radishes — for garnish
1 whole avocado — diced, for garnish [my addition]

NOTE: Suggestion: Add about 3/4 of the chicken broth and taste the soup for consistency – next time I would use less broth to make a slightly thicker soup.
1. In a large soup pot, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the onion, celery, carrots, garlic, and poblanos and sauté, stirring often, until tender, 12 to 15 minutes. Add the salt, pepper, cumin, and thyme and sauté until caramelized and fragrant, 3 to 5 minutes longer.
2. Add the broth and cream, bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring often, for 15 to 20 minutes to meld the flavors.
3. Use an immersion blender to carefully blend the soup until smooth. (Alternatively, let cool slightly and, working in batches as necessary, process in a stand blender until smooth, filling the blender no more than half full and removing the lid slowly after blending. Pour the soup back into the pot.)
4. Add the chicken and simmer for 15 to 30 minutes to meld the flavors to your liking. Stir in the cilantro.
5. Serve warm, garnished with tortilla strips and sliced radishes and avocado.
6. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 1 month.
Per Serving: 601 Calories; 46g Fat (66.9% calories from fat); 35g Protein; 16g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 180mg Cholesterol; 1104mg Sodium.

Posted in Soups, on April 20th, 2020.

caulif_soup_golden_raisins_capers_pinenuts

Oh my goodness, is this soup fabulous. You’d almost not know its base is cauliflower.

There’s a story to go along with this post. Last month before the virus had ramped up, I took a one-week trip to our California central coast. I had a fabulous time – by myself – visiting wineries, window shopping, used book stores, stopping at coffee shops here and there. I thoroughly enjoy driving and I meandered – I was in no hurry to get anywhere so I could enjoy the views. Visiting with old friends in San Luis Obispo, we went to a local hotel (the San Luis Obispo Hotel) for lunch. Cauliflower soup was featured that day – I quizzed the waitress if it was good. She waxed glorious about it – whenever the chef made it, she said she had some – and that I wouldn’t be disappointed.

So here’s what the restaurant’s soup looked like, at right. cauliflower_soup_san_luis_obispo_hotelI think the menu said it was garnished with a sage leaf, but that wasn’t a sage leaf – looked like basil to me. But on top was plenty of the balsamic glaze, toasted almonds, capers, some plumped up raisins (can’t really see those) and a few little pieces of caramelized roasted cauliflower.

Upon my first sip, I swooned. It was SO good. I insisted my friends needed to try it – they agreed it was sensational. My thoughts as I ate it – the golden raisins added so much – they were plumped for sure. The nuts added great texture, and so did the few little pieces of cauliflower. There was no discernible cauliflower flavor to the soup itself. So I decided it probably wasn’t made with caramelized cauliflower. Plus, the soup was super smooth. When the waitress returned I quizzed her some more about the soup – she knew it contained cream (check), and yes, it was balsamic glaze (check), and toasted almonds (I used pine nuts, check) and she knew the raisins had been cooked in something (check). And yes, they used a Vitamix to puree it until very smooth (check).

Soon after returning home I went online to google such a soup. No soup came up, but a bunch of results showed a vegetable dish (from the New York Times, I think it was, plus epicurious) of roasted cauliflower with toasted pine nuts, capers, golden raisins and balsamic glaze drizzled on top. My first thought was that the chef had perhaps made a monstrous batch of that for the dinner service, didn’t serve it all so he created the soup with the leftovers. I don’t know, of course. And it doesn’t matter – I created the soup with what little I could discern.

As I’m writing this post, I’m going to have it for the 2nd day, for my lunch. I have all the garnishes except the roasted cauliflower pieces. And I used pine nuts, as I mentioned. No basil or sage leaf, either. I added more parsley. I tried to make the soup with white onion, but my neighbor who is doing my shopping couldn’t find white onions. So yellow it was. I added celery for flavor, chicken broth, cream, and thickened it a little bit with flour. All of it was whizzed up at length in my Vitamix. I let it whiz for a long, long time  – and truly it resulted in a silky-smooth texture. I added a drizzle of sour cream (not on the restaurant soup), but you could easily use a little drizzle of EVOO for appearance or a tiny drizzle of heavy cream.

caulif_soup_with_cozyLunch at my house is often soup of some kind. There’s a photo of my bowl sitting in the microwave soup cozy (several artisans make them on Etsy). The soup bowl is sitting off center only because I wanted to show you the cute fabric on the back side of it. I have flat bags and bags of various soups in my freezer. I think this one will get eaten in total with none for the freezer. It’s that good. Do try to make this a day ahead of serving – as with all soups, they taste better once they’ve chilled overnight.

What’s GOOD: all the flavors produce an outstanding soup. The garnishes absolutely “make” this soup. Don’t skimp on them – in my opinion they’re all needed.

What’s NOT: a bit more prep with all the garnishes, but really it’s not a difficult soup to make.

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Creamy Cauliflower Soup with Golden Raisins, Pine Nuts, Capers and Balsamic Drizzle

Recipe By: Loosely based on a soup I enjoyed at a hotel restaurant in San Luis Obispo, CA, March 2020
Serving Size: 6

SOUP:
2 tablespoons EVOO
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large white onion — chopped
2 stalks celery — chopped
1 clove garlic — minced
1 head cauliflower — chopped (no leaves)
5 cups low sodium chicken broth
Salt and WHITE pepper to taste
3 tablespoons all purpose flour — or cornstarch
2/3 cup heavy cream — or half and half
GARNISHES:
4 tablespoons golden raisins
1/3 cup water
1 1/2 tablespoons white vinegar
4 tablespoons pine nuts — toasted, or slivered almonds
2 tablespoons capers — drained
2 tablespoons sour cream — drizzled on top, or EVOO Drizzle of balsamic glaze
4 tablespoons parsley — minced

1. SOUP: In a large soup pot warm the butter and EVOO over medium heat. Add onion and saute for 3-5 minutes until onion is soft. Do not burn or brown. Add celery and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add garlic, then chicken broth, then the cauliflower. Simmer for 20 minutes until vegetables are cooked through. Allow mixture to cool for 20-30 minutes, then pour (in batches if necessary) into blender and puree for a long time – until the soup is super-smooth. Add the all-purpose flour during one of the whizzing sessions. Pour all the pureed mixture back into the soup pot, add cream and bring to a simmer again and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring often, as it thickens, watching that it doesn’t burn. Cool and refrigerate overnight if possible.
2. RAISINS: Bring golden raisins, water and vinegar to a simmer and cook over very low heat for about 5 minutes, then set aside to cool, while the raisins plump up. Drain.
3. SERVING: Pour reheated soup into individual bowls and garnish with any and all variety of the garnishes. The raisins are a must, as are some kind of toasted nuts. If you don’t have pine nuts, use slivered toasted almonds. If you don’t have balsamic glaze, you can make it by cooking down about 1/2 cup of regular vinegar until it’s thick and syrupy. Or, in a pinch drizzle soup with a TINY amount of regular balsamic. If you don’t have sour cream, drizzle with EVOO. If you feel particularly creative, sizzle the capers in a little olive oil until they burst and crisp up.
Per Serving: 291 Calories; 21g Fat (63.1% calories from fat); 13g Protein; 15g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 46mg Cholesterol; 491mg Sodium.

Posted in Soups, on March 15th, 2020.

creamy_reuben_soup

Just imagine all the best of a Reuben Sandwich combined into a soup.

Do you always fix a traditional Irish-American corned beef and cabbage dinner on March 17th? Not always for me, and less often since I’ve been a widow. You can’t buy a small corned beef for 1-2 meals. In this instance, though, I cooked a whole corned beef and used almost all of it to make a double portion of this soup. I was having a group of friends over to play Mexican Train and my co-hostess Holly brought part of the meal (salad and dessert) while I did a nice varied cheese tray and this soup. Oh, and also an Ina Garten Guinness wheat bread I baked (recipe up soon).

The original recipe came from Phillis Carey, although I didn’t attend the cooking class when it was prepared. She sent it out to her email list as a recipe of the week. I did make a few changes from the original: (1) I added some celery; (2) I thickened the soup with cornstarch because I thought it needed to have more heft; (3) I used a quite sour brand of sauerkraut, so I added a tetch of sugar which just took the edge off of that sour flavor, but  you’d never think there was sugar added (and I used monkfruit anyway); and (4) I added a little bit more cream. If you are watching carbs, you don’t have to thicken the soup – although you could take out some of the vegetables (not the corned beef) and whiz that up in the blender to provide a thicker consistency.

reuben_soup_simmeringAnd I also changed the way you make and serve the croutons – because I made a double batch of this and was serving a bunch of people, I didn’t want to put 8 bowls of soup in the oven. So, I toasted the croutons in the oven to begin with (drizzled with EVOO), then I kind of mounded them into 8 little crowns and sprinkled the grated Emmental cheese on top and put that into the oven to broil and get golden brown. So, when serving the soup, I scooped the soup into bowls, then used a spatula to take a crouton-cheese crown on top of each bowl of soup.crouton_crowns See photo below.

What I did forget to do was sprinkle the top with Italian parsley, but it made no-never-mind to the flavor. I did make the soup the day before serving, and no question, the overnight chill helped meld the flavors. As I write this, I’ve had leftovers twice now, for lunch, and oh-so-good.

What’s GOOD: oh, my, the flavor. Just like a corned beef and cabbage dinner with the Reuben element of sauerkraut and cheese. The croutons and cheese just put this soup over the top. This is a keeper.

What’s NOT: only that you need to prepare a corned beef – or buy thick slices from a deli counter in order to cut cubes. This soup is better made a day ahead.

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Creamy Reuben Soup with Corned Beef, Sauerkraut and Rye Croutons

Recipe By: Adapted from a Phillis Carey recipe, 2020
Serving Size: 7

CROUTONS:
1 tablespoon EVOO
7 slices rye bread — crusts removed, cut into 1/2″ cubes
SOUP:
1 tablespoon EVOO
1 small onion — finely diced
1 carrot — peeled and finely chopped
1 stalk celery — finely chopped
1 clove garlic — minced
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
5 cups low-sodium chicken broth — reserving 2 cups (set aside)
1/2 pound corned beef brisket — sliced, cubed
8 fluid ounces sauerkraut
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
5 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 tablespoon sugar — or monkfruit sweetener
1/4 cup chopped parsley — plus more for garnish
Salt to taste (probably won’t need it)
6 ounces Gruyere cheese — grated or Emmental

NOTES: Ideally, make this the day before as the taste is enhanced with an overnight chill to meld flavors.
1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Spread rye bread cubes on rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with EVOO then toss well to distribute oil. Bake for about 5-8 minutes until golden but not burned. Watch carefully. Remove and set aside.
2. In a large soup pot, heat EVOO over medium-low. Add onions and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add carrots, celery, garlic, caraway seed and pepper to the pot and cook, stirring often until softened, about 5 minutes. Add chicken broth and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer on low for 20 minutes.
3. Stir in corned beef, sauerkraut, and heavy cream; bring to a boil and then simmer for 5 minutes.
4. Combine the reserved, room temp chicken broth with cornstarch and mix well. Pour into soup pot and stir for several minutes until it comes to a simmer and soup thickens. Add sugar or alternative sweetener. Stir in parsley and add salt if needed – it probably won’t be needed. If soup is too salty adjust by adding small amounts of water and bring back to a boil.
4. Mound portions of croutons on baking sheet and top with grated cheese. Broil 4 to 5 inches from heat until cheese is melted and bubbling, 1 to 2 minutes. Pour soup into bowls then carefully (using a spatula) place bubbling crouton crown on top of each bowl of hot soup. Sprinkle with more parsley if desired. Serve immediately.
Per Serving: 438 Calories; 29g Fat (55.3% calories from fat); 24g Protein; 29g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 79mg Cholesterol; 604mg Sodium.

Posted in Soups, on February 14th, 2020.

chix_satay_noodle_soup

Full of flavor soup, for a cold winter’s night. Or day.

Every once in awhile I am able to attend a cooking class that’s not an hour or two away, where my friend Cherrie and I usually drive (to San Diego). Once a month Susan has a class in her home, half an hour away – she used to own a cookware store and still does classes to a small group of fans. This class was all about soup.

This recipe came from Rachel Ray, actually, and although it has a long list of ingredients, this soup is entirely easy to make as long as you have all the ingredients. It’s got lots of veggies in it (cabbage, bean sprouts, scallions – and next time I’m going to add celery) and the flavor comes from peanut butter, soy sauce, red curry paste, some thick tomato paste, chicken broth, and apple juice. You could use leftover chicken, but in this case Susan used a raw chicken breast that she thinly sliced and it cooked in a flash once it hit the hot pan. Literally, the soup comes together in minutes and you’re ready to serve it. You could add different pasta if you don’t have spaghetti. Susan highly recommends Skippy’s super chunky peanut butter (I saw it at Costco the other day, 2 big jars of it, way too much for my minimal cooking needs since I don’t eat peanut butter on much of anything). Susan said that brand got high marks in a peanut butter taste-test somewhere.

What’s GOOD: loved the full-flavored chunky aspect – lots of good things to chew on. Tons of flavor – umami for sure. Easy.

What’s NOT: nothing at all  unless you don’t like Asian-inspired soups.

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Chicken Satay Noodle Soup

Recipe: From a class with Susan V, 1/2020
Serving Size: 4

1/2 pound spaghetti — broken into short lengths
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3/4 pound chicken breast — thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic — finely chopped
3/4 cup peanut butter — (Skippy super chunky)
6 tablespoons soy sauce — or tamari
1/4 cup red curry paste — use less if you’re sensitive to heat
2 tablespoons tomato paste — low sodium, if possible
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 piece fresh ginger — (1 inch) thinly sliced
1/2 head napa cabbage — or savoy cabbage, shredded
1/2 cup apple juice
1 cup bean sprouts
1/4 cup chopped peanuts
4 scallions — thinly sliced
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
Lime wedges — for serving

1. Bring a large pot of water to boil, salt it, add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain.
2. Meanwhile, in a soup pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the chicken and garlic and cook, stirring, until the chicken is opaque, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Add the peanut butter, tamari, curry paste and tomato paste to the pot and stir. Increase the heat to medium-high and whisk in the chicken broth; add the ginger. Bring to a boil, then stir in the cabbage and cook until wilted, about 2 minutes. Return the chicken to the pot and stir in the apple juice.
3. Divide the pasta among 4 bowls. Ladle the soup over the pasta. Top with the bean sprouts, peanuts, scallions and cilantro. Serve with the lime wedges.
Per Serving: 843 Calories; 47g Fat (45.4% calories from fat); 56g Protein; 71g Carbohydrate; 7g Dietary Fiber; 44mg Cholesterol; 2803mg Sodium.

Posted in Soups, on February 10th, 2020.

Oh, is this stuff the food of the Gods? So flavorful.

Recently I went to a soup cooking class. Susan prepared four soups and a dessert. I liked three of the soups and I liked the dessert (raspberry chocolate brownies) but probably won’t post about it (couldn’t really taste the raspberry jam in the middle . . .). But this soup was the standout to me of the class.Image result for annatto seeds

But first I need to talk about annatto (or achiote). This may not be something in your cooking vocabulary. It’s a Latin kind of spice – seed pods, really. The Wikipedia article is very thorough if you’re interested. See them there in the photo at left. They’re a very irregular-shaped seed that come out of a pod of the achiote tree. I see annatto or achiote seeds in the Mexican area of my supermarket, the ones that hang in a cellophane bags. Or you can order them online – Whole Achiote Annato Seeds, 2 Oz. I have some in my pantry and use them so very rarely that I’m certain mine are over the hill. I’m going to be making this soup soon, so I need to buy some new ones. What you need to do is make a flavored oil out of simmering the seeds in a neutral oil (like avocado – definitely not EVOO). The oil will turn a brilliant orange color, which is why the finished soup has that bright hue to it. Annatto doesn’t have a ton of flavor – and yes,  you could leave it out, although your finished soup won’t have that color if you do. Online it says that annatto has a slight peppery taste with a hint of nutmeg. And it used to be used as body paint in tribal life. The tree grows from Mexico to Brazil.

If you make the oil, it will be enough for two batches of this soup. It would be very difficult to simmer 2 tablespoons of oil in a pan with the seeds in it – it would burn, I think. Hence, you simmer the seeds in the oil (to make a larger quantity) over a very low flame. Then you strain out the seeds and toss them. Smelling the seeds they’re similar to a chile pepper (dried), but they have no chile flavor or heat at all. They’re not a chile. They’re just a mildly flavored seed. I remember attending a class decades ago about Puerto Rican cooking where she used annatto oil just like this recipe indicates. If you’re interested here is my PDF recipe from that long-ago cooking class. The one unique thing I remember about that dish was the use of sliced green olives (the ones stuffed with pimento). In any case, annatto is common in Latin cuisine. You can also buy annatto in a paste – but don’t buy that type as it has other things added to it – you want the whole seeds only. And I wouldn’t recommend buying powdered annatto/achiote as it won’t keep long enough.

So back to this soup. If you’re not a shrimp fan, make it with chicken, scallops, or some kind of firm white fish. The shrimp is marinated with some of the garlic, green onions, lime juice and salt – for an hour or up to 3 total. Meanwhile you puree the corn with milk until it’s a smooth puree, then you strain it to remove any of the solids. (No, you wouldn’t have to do that step – you’ll have a bit more texture in the soup if you don’t.) Then you start with a big frying pan or sauté pan, add the annatto oil and cook the rest of the garlic, the onion, bell pepper and cumin. Tomatoes go in, then the corn milk, chicken broth and more seasonings and you bring the mixture to just BELOW a boil (boiling it will curdle the milk), then you add the shrimp. Taste for salt and then serve it with the salsa you’ve made an hour or so ahead (corn, fresh tomatoes, green onions, cilantro and lime juice). That’s it.

What’s GOOD: oh, the flavorful broth for sure. You can use whole shrimp, but I’d suggest (as Susan did) to cut each shrimp in half lengthwise and as long as you didn’t use really large shrimp, the half of one of those is a bite, a mouth full, without cutting. The overall taste is just beyond delicious. I wrote “fab” on the recipe.

What’s NOT: only that you might not have any annatto seeds or achiote paste. Try to find it if you can.
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Shrimp and Corn Chowder with Corn Salsa

Recipe By: From a class with Susan V, 2020
Serving Size: 8

SOUP:
2 pounds medium shrimp — shelled and deveined
6 garlic cloves — minced
2 green onions — minced
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Salt
2 cups corn — fresh or frozen, and thawed
2 cups whole milk
2 tablespoons annatto oil — (see below)
1 large red onion — finely chopped
1 red bell pepper — finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3 plum tomatoes — seeded and finely chopped
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons cilantro — minced
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
TANGY CORN SALSA:
1 cup frozen corn — thawed
3 Roma tomatoes — finely chopped
2 green onions — minced
2 tablespoons cilantro — minced
2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Salt and pepper to taste
ANNATO OIL:
1/2 cup neutral oil
1/4 cup annato seeds

NOTE: This soup could also be made with chicken, scallops, or a firm-fleshed white fish.
1. In a large, shallow glass or stainless-steel bowl, toss the shrimp with two-thirds of the minced garlic, the scallions, lime juice and 1 teaspoon of salt. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or for up to 3 hours.
2. In a food processor, puree the corn with the milk. Pour the puree through a coarse strainer, pressing on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible.
3. ANNATO OIL: Heat the oil and annatto seeds in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer, remove from heat and cool. Strain to remove seeds. Will keep in refrigerator for about 2 months.
4. Heat the annatto oil in a large saucepan or enameled cast-iron casserole. Add the remaining garlic, onion, bell pepper and cumin and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until the vegetables are slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and cook for 2 minutes longer. Add the corn milk, stock, cilantro and cayenne and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderately low heat until very flavorful, about 20 minutes.
5. Pour the soup through a coarse strainer. Working in batches, puree the vegetables in a blender. Return the puree and the strained broth to the saucepan and bring to a simmer. Add the shrimp and its marinade and cook over moderate heat until the shrimp are just opaque throughout, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and serve in warmed soup plates or bowls with the Tangy Corn Salsa.
6. SALSA: Combine ingredients in a bowl, season with salt and pepper and allow to sit for at least an hour (refrigerate) then bring to room temp before serving.
Per Serving: 300 Calories; 10g Fat (27.1% calories from fat); 37g Protein; 25g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 181mg Cholesterol; 245mg Sodium.

Posted in Gundry-friendly, lectin-free, Soups, on August 12th, 2019.

faux_zuppa_toscana

I know – I can hear you – this isn’t soup weather. Well, sorry about that. I eat soup year ‘round.

You may remember me mentioning a few weeks ago that I was on my 4th batch of a soup – this is the one. This time makes 5 times (over the course of 3 months). I just love-love-love this soup. I wasn’t sure that you, my readers, would be all that interested in this soup because it’s not got any carbs in it and really it’s cauliflower – Italian sausage – kale – and a creamy soup base. I now make a big batch of it whenever I do. I use part pork Italian sausage and part turkey Italian sausage. There’s a lot more flavor in the pork, obviously, but I like to make it a bit more healthy with the turkey type. Making it with all turkey lacks flavor (I tried that also), so do use some of the pork style.

There’s bacon in this which helps with the flavor. I’ve had the original recipe in my arsenal for awhile – it came from Kalyn’s Kitchen. After making it according to her recipe, I adapted it a little bit (a bit more broth, more cauliflower, adding coconut cream or milk to it). The recipe is a riff on Olive Garden’s Zuppa Toscana, which is a potato based creamy soup with a tiny bit of sausage in it, and the kale. Kalyn did a really super job of adapting the recipe to a low-carb soup – no potatoes, obviously. She added more meat to it. The only other change I made was how I cut the cauliflower. At Olive Garden, the potatoes in their soup are sliced. Small slices, actually. So, I did the same with the cauliflower. You’re not going to be able to avoid some florets out at the tips, but I sliced up the deeper parts, the stems and the main stem too.

Kalyn’s recipe was made in the Instant Pot, and I think the first time I made it that way too. But the next time I forgot and just made it in a regular big, deep pot. It doesn’t take much longer to cook it that way, in any case. I find that this soup tastes better after it’s sat in the frig for a day – as with lots of soups. If you want carbs in this, add some rice, maybe. Or some pasta. But not a whole lot – you might need more broth if you did that. When I made it today I used 2 heads of cauliflower (they were smaller than some) and with the cauliflower and kale in the pot, it was FULL. No room for anything else, unless you added more liquid. In any case, I thank Kalyn for devising the faux style of this soup, cuz it’s really delish.

What’s GOOD: the flavor profile is altogether good. Maybe I’ve gotten used to cauliflower, but I can’t really tell it IS cauliflower when I’m sipping on this soup. Unless you see some of the small florets, you can fool yourself that it’s potatoes in there.

What’s NOT: hmmm. Maybe just all the cutting and chopping of the cauliflower, but I do it so much, I’ve got it down pat.

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

Faux Zuppa Toscana

Recipe By: Adapted some from Kalyn’s Kitchen
Serving Size: 9

2 slices thick-sliced bacon — cut into short cross-wise slices (use more bacon if you prefer)
1 large yellow onion — chopped small
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2/3 pound Italian sausage — removed from casing, crumbled
1/3 pound turkey Italian sausage — removed from casing, crumbled
6 cups cauliflower — cut in small slices, not florets
7 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 squirt sriracha sauce — or more to taste
salt and fresh-ground black pepper to taste
16 ounces coconut cream — Trader Joe’s preferred
4 cups chopped kale — baby kale if you can find it
1 cup heavy cream
freshly-grated Parmesan to add at the table

NOTE: I use Trader Joe’s coconut cream because it has next to no coconut flavor; but it’s a healthy fat and provides a lovely creaminess to the soup. If you want coconut flavor, use Thai Kitchen. But that’s not the flavor profile you’re looking for in this soup.
1. Slice the bacon crosswise into short rectangular strips. Chop onion, cauliflower, and the kale.
2. Saute bacon in a large, deep pot until it begins to brown. Add chopped onion and cook until it’s begun to take on a golden hue, 4-6 minutes..
3. Add the minced garlic and cook another minute.
4. Remove Italian sausage from its casings and add to the soup pot. Chop up sausage into small pieces as it cooks.
5. Add the numerous cups of low-sodium chicken broth and bring to a boil. Add the chopped cauliflower, sriracha, salt, fresh-ground black pepper. Bring to a low simmer, cover and cook for about 10 minutes. The cauliflower should still be fairly firm.
6. Add the chopped baby kale and press it below the surface. Bring to a simmer again and cook for 7 minutes. At this point the cauliflower should be cooked perfectly.
7. Remove about 2 cups of the cauliflower and 2 cups of broth to a deep bowl. Try not to get chunks of the Italian sausage. Use an immersion blender to puree well, then add back to the soup pot. This step is not necessary if you are fine with the thin broth of the soup – if you like it slightly thickened, then do add this step into the process.
7. Add the coconut cream and heavy cream and bring up to a simmer again, then remove from the heat. Serve hot, with freshly-grated Parmesan cheese to add at the table. This soup is best made the day ahead to allow the flavors to mellow and merge.
Per Serving: 443 Calories; 41g Fat (74.0% calories from fat); 19g Protein; 14g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 63mg Cholesterol; 345mg Sodium.

Posted in Soups, on August 5th, 2019.

creamy_cauliflower_chowder

Vegetable chowder – with a medium hint of the bacon and tons of cauliflower, but enhanced with cheese and creamy products. Not vegetarian, obviously.

In the last 18 months I’ve consumed more cauliflower, probably, than I’ve eaten in my entire life put together. That’s a lot of cauliflower. It’s a bland vegetable. It’s full of fiber and good things for you, but to make it interesting, I have to add other things to it (in this case bacon) to make it worth eating. I started out with a recipe I’d downloaded from somewhere, but once I got started I began adding other things to make it better. I used Trader Joe’s coconut cream (canned) because it’s a creamy substance that adds no coconut flavor, really. Maybe eating it straight you could tell it’s coconut, but mixed in with all the other flavors, no. You can use coconut milk if preferred. If you use Thai Kitchen coconut milk (the best out there) you’ll definitely have a more coconut flavor profile to the soup. I had some crème fraiche in my refrigerator – it was close to its expiration date, so I added that into the soup too. Don’t use a yellow cheddar or it will change the color of the soup. I  used goat cheddar (from Trader Joe’s) because it’s a cheddar I can have on this Gundry diet and it’s a white color.

The soup is fairly straight forward to make – render the bacon, add in onion and celery – then most of the other ingredients. Add lots of chicken broth, then the cream products at the last. Simmer for 10-15 minutes, add in the cheddar, chop up the chive garnish and you’re done.

I ate this soup for days on end (soup is my regular lunch nearly every day). By day 9 or 10 I was ready to move on to some other soup. I’m amazed that I don’t get tired of eating these soups day after day, but I don’t. I thought about freezing some of this soup, but I was certain the cauliflower wouldn’t come through defrosting without some change in texture since it’s a very water-dense food.

What’s GOOD: for me it was the creamy, bacon-rich taste that I liked the best. The cheddar added a lovely flavor too. I ate it both hot and cold. We had some days that were mid-90s and even with the A/C on, it was warm, so I ate it cold those days. My preference is served hot, however. My serving was 1 1/2 cups and it satisfied my hunger very well. Probably because of all the cream and cheese in it.

What’s NOT: nothing, really. Slicing the cauliflower is a bit tedious, but I’ve gotten the technique down pat so it can’t take more than about 5 minutes total. I prefer the cauliflower in tiny slices rather than florets (although you can’t avoid florets totally).

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

Creamy Cauliflower Chowder with Bacon

Recipe By: Adapted from a ketogenic recipe found online, Free to Keto
Serving Size: 10

3 slices thick-sliced bacon — sliced crosswise into small pieces
1 medium onion — chopped
3 medium celery stalks — chopped
1 teaspoon salt — or to taste
1 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
2 cloves garlic — minced
4 ounces cream cheese
4 ounces creme fraiche — optional
12 ounces coconut cream — Trader Joe’s
1 head cauliflower — sliced into small pieces
7 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups white cheddar cheese — grated (I used goat cheddar)
4 tablespoons chives — chopped, for garnish

NOTE: I use Trader Joe’s canned coconut cream in this recipe because it really has no flavor – no discernible coconut flavor anyway. I didn’t want coconut flavor in this soup, but liked the creaminess that coconut cream adds. You may substitute heavy cream in a smaller quantity, about 3/4 cup maximum. You can use riced cauliflower, but you’ll lose a lot of chewy texture by doing so. I prefer something to bite into, which you won’t get with the riced type.
1. Heat large soup pot and cook chopped bacon until it renders a tablespoon or two of fat.
2. Add onion and celery to the pot and saute until well softened.
3. Add in garlic and saute until fragrant, about 30-45 seconds.
4. Add in the cauliflower and spices and saute for about one minute only.
5. Add in the coconut cream, creme fraiche and chicken stock. Bring to a boil and then lower heat to a simmer and cover to simmer for 10 minutes.
6. Remove about 3 cups of broth from the soup and use immersion blender to puree with the cream cheese. Pour back into soup pot.
7. Heat through and simmer until cauliflower is just barely cooked. Add in the cheddar cheese. If preferred, use immersion blender to make smoother. Taste for seasonings (probably will need more salt).
8. Serve with chopped chives on top.
Per Serving: 300 Calories; 27g Fat (79.9% calories from fat); 9g Protein; 6g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 44mg Cholesterol.

Posted in Dr. Gundry friendly, Soups, on May 21st, 2019.

creamy_mush_soup_brandy

A very easy soup, tummy-warming, with oodles of mushrooms and good flavor.

Hi all – Carolyn here – after making this soup, I decided you needed to have this one if you’re inclined to make mushroom soup. I got the original recipe included in an email from The Splendid Table, but I amplified it just a bit (adding onion and a bit of cream). The recipe indicated you would puree it (or at least half of it) but I didn’t. I have a big tub of it so I could still do the pureeing part, which might give the soup a bit more texture. As it is, it’s a more brothy soup with lots of mushrooms.

After melting some butter in a big honking pot, I added the shallot, then added onion and celery, pancetta, then the mushrooms, which I sliced up fairly small. They do shrink when you cook them down. Chicken broth is added, salt and pepper, and lastly some brandy and sour cream. After making it and eating it (good) I decided to add in about 1/4 cup of cream just to give the broth part a bit more creaminess. Actually I don’t think I had a cup of sour cream (what was called for) so it kind of balanced out. You could choose. If you’re not into creamy soups, leave out the sour cream altogether. Usually I make soups with coconut milk (which could be used here also) and less cream. I don’t recall ever making a soup that had a cup of sour cream in it – maybe borscht? Just a guess. I do like mushrooms, and the calorie and fat content is quite minimal here – I was surprised once I finished it. I served myself about 1 1/2 cups at a time and it’s what I’ll be eating for my lunch for about 4-5 days. We’re still having very cool weather here in SoCal, so soup still tastes mighty good. If you want variety, add some cooked rice and/or some ground turkey or chicken, or chunks of chicken. All would be good in this.

Last weekend I spent up in the Sacramento area visiting my daughter and family there, where my granddaughter Taylor graduated from Sacramento State (cum laude, no less!). Very proud of her. She still wants to be a nurse, so is planning to go to an accelerated program at a private college in Sacramento within the next 6 months or so. She wasn’t able to get into nursing school 2 years ago (if you didn’t know, it’s very, very competitive and very high GPA’s are required), so is choosing this alternate route, but will require another 12 straight months of concentrated study. She’s taking the next 6 months off, though she’s taking 3 classes this summer through an online college, for classes she wasn’t required to take at Sacramento State, but are required at this private college. Anyway, I had a really lovely time celebrating it all with her, the family and a bunch of their friends. Taylor works at the local hospital ER (as a secretary/admissions clerk) about 20+ hours a week. She loves the job and perhaps after she graduates she’ll be able to get a job there as a Labor/Delivery nurse, which is what she wants to do.

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Creamy Mushroom Pancetta Soup with Brandy

Recipe By: Adapted from The Splendid Table
Serving Size: 6

3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup shallots — peeled and finely chopped
1 medium yellow onion — peeled, minced
1/2 cup celery — finely chopped
4 ounces pancetta — finely chopped
2 pounds cremini mushrooms — finely sliced
1/2 cup parsley — finely chopped flat-leaf
1 teaspoon salt — plus more to taste
1 teaspoon pepper — plus more to taste
6 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons cognac

1. In a large pot over medium-high heat, melt the butter and sauté the shallots, onion and celery until soft, about 10 minutes. Add the pancetta and cook for another 5 minutes, until it’s just beginning to crisp. Add the sliced mushrooms, parsley, salt, and pepper and continue to cook until the mushrooms have softened and are beginning to break down, about 15 minutes.
2. Add the chicken stock and simmer for 15 minutes. Lastly add sour cream, cream, and brandy.
3. Use a large liquid measuring cup to scoop up half the soup mixture and transfer it to a blender to puree. (Alternatively, use an immersion blender but don’t completely puree the soup.) Return it to the pot and stir to combine. Have a taste and season with a little more salt and pepper if you feel it needs it.
4. Store, covered, in the refrigerator for several days. Should you want to freeze it, don’t add the sour cream until after you have thawed the soup.
Per Serving: 237 Calories; 16g Fat (64.4% calories from fat); 6g Protein; 15g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 38mg Cholesterol; 2609mg Sodium.

Posted in Gundry-friendly, lectin-free, Soups, on March 25th, 2019.

creamy_mushroom_soup

Since I’m really into soups these days, and since I’ve made this one three times in the last couple of months, I decided I should post it.

When Ree Drummond made a version of this soup, I decided to adapt it to my low carb diet and to a LF (lectin free) diet. You can find her recipe for this online – she adds flour and also prepares some of the mushrooms as a garnish. I merely cut to the chase – removed the flour altogether and partially blended the soup so it still had some chunkiness to it. And didn’t bother with the mushroom garnish. And, as mentioned above, since I’ve made it three times since early January, you should have this recipe.

Probably the Custom Culinary Gold Label Vegan Mushroom Base I use has a lot to do with the flavor. Buy it on amazon (link shown) for $16, I think it is. I use it often and it’s been in my frig for a couple of years without any problem. It pumps up the mushroom flavor. I added heavy cream, but you could use coconut milk if you’d prefer. And note there is 3/4 cup of sherry wine in it. That’s more than most soups would add, but I really like it – whatever it is that does! You do not taste the wine at all, but it must add some depth of character to the soup. The little squirt of balsamic vinegar is unusual, but also adds to the flavor profile.

What’s GOOD: the flavor, the texture, and by far, the low calorie aspect, though you’d not know it. In recent days I’ve had this for my lunch (with nothing else). At 200 calories or less, it’s a winner for me. And yes, I’m still losing weight, albeit slowly. At 77, you don’t lose weight very fast. The soup freezes well.

What’s NOT: really nothing – easy to make.

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

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Creamy Mushroom Soup LF

Recipe By: Adapted from The Pioneer Woman
Serving Size: 8

4 tablespoons butter — or EVOO
2 pounds cremini mushrooms
1 large onion — diced
3 stalks celery — sliced
4 cloves garlic — minced
2 teaspoons dried thyme
salt and pepper to taste
3/4 cup sherry — dry type, not sweet
1 tablespoon mushroom soup base — Custom Culinary Mushroom Base (or use low sodium chicken broth)
3 1/2 cups water (or up to 4 cups)
1/2 cup heavy cream — or full fat coconut milk
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
fresh parsley, chopped, for garnish

1. Heat butter or EVOO in a pot over medium-high heat. When melted, add mushrooms. Reduce the heat to medium and add the rest of the mushrooms, along with the onion, celery, and thyme (crush the dried thyme between your palms as you sprinkle it over the soup). Cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables are soft, about 5 to 6 minutes.
1. Season with salt and pepper then slowly add the sherry, stirring while you add. Allow it to heat and bubble up for a couple of minutes, then slowly pour in the stock.
4. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove it from the heat and let it cool for 20 minutes. Remove about 1/3 to 1/2 of the soup and puree in a blender. Return to pan. NOTE: You may use an immersion blender in the pot if you have one, and you don’t have to let the soup cool first. Transfer the soup back to the pot, add the cream and heat it to a simmer. Add balsamic, then taste and adjust seasonings.
Per Serving: 171 Calories; 12g Fat (67.5% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 10g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 36mg Cholesterol; 104mg Sodium.

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