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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 about attending further education 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. I could hardly put it down. 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. You yearn to hug her, comfort her. Yet she finds eventually happiness and peace. A beautiful book worth reading. Was a book club read.

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. If you like Hyde’s novels, for the month of September many of her books are available on Kindle at a very reduced price ($1.99 and $.99 each). Go grab them while they’re available. I just purchased 6 of her books. 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. This took place in the 40s, and at the time no women were ever seen on the showroom floors, but these two pretty young women were the harbinger of equality, though none of that comes into play here. They were “runners,” who whisked orders and money to and fro from the salesMEN to the office. They stood in silence near the elevators on the ground floor and waited for a sale to take place. They lived in cramped quarters. They enjoyed everything NYC had to offer them at the time, and they were wowed by an occasional celebrity sighting. 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. No one can seem to solve them, and those who try also get caught in the crossfire. Finally a man is brought in from back East. That’s where the inception of the FBI comes into play, though there was no FBI then. This is a very interesting read, probably sufficient info to do a book club read. A book everyone should read if you know little (or a lot) about the abominable treatment given to the Native Americans over the last several hundred years. 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? When 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. It tells the tale of a 70ish man, a widower, who has been diagnosed with terminal colon cancer. He’s a retired physician, knows the scenario of death by cancer, and doesn’t want to do it. He decides he’s going to take a bird hunting trip, east of the mountains in Washington State (Guterson writes a lot about his part of the world), with his two dogs, and he’ll commit suicide. He sets up an elaborate ruse with his children and grandchildren, and heads out. All of this, so far, takes place in the first 10 pages of the book. First he has an accident in his car, and that sets off a cavalcade of incidents. You’ll learn a whole lot about flora and fauna (one of Guterson’s writing attributes). You’ll learn a lot about apple and pear orchards, which abound in eastern Washington (I’ve been there, it’s beautiful, pastoral and full of fruit). Flashbacks of his life story are interspersed throughout, his growing up on an apple farm, meeting his wife, his service in WWII, their reuniting after the war and the life they had. You’ll learn some about his cancer pain, the grief of his wife’s death 5 years prior, and about his resolve to end it all. Please don’t NOT read this because  you’ll think it’s depressing. It is and it isn’t. It’s so much more for the better. And I just read, this book is being made into a movie.

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. Then he discovers that there is a lot more to know and understand about this elderly little lady down the hall and he begins a journey to try to find someone for her, the Luis Velez of the title. If you want to use coming-of-age to describe this, that’s partly true. He learns all about himself, the abilities he didn’t know he had, the kindness that lives within him that he never realized was there, and the friends he makes along the way who make some life-changing differences in his young life. He discovers he has some gifts that he can give to others, something most teenagers don’t understand. I can’t recommend this book highly enough – it’s a bit of a tear-jerker, but for every good reason and moral character trait described in the book. It’s there.

Kristin Hannah is quite an author. She’s written upwards of 20 books, I think. This one, Magic Hour: A Novel is another very mesmerizing read. I could hardly put it down. A young, 6-year old child is found in a small town on the Olympic Peninsula. She’s mute and frightened beyond reason. And she seems not to understand English. A psychiatrist is brought to town to try to unravel the mystery and to “reach” the child. I don’t want to spoil the story, but know that the whole subject of nature (biology) vs. nurture comes into play and will keep you hanging onto your seat until the last few pages.

Ever heard of Barbara Pym? I knew the name, but hadn’t ever read any of her work. She was an English author (deceased now), having penned several books. I think she was an inveterate spinster, and in this book, Excellent Women she wrote about a small village community in England with the humdrum, day to day life, but she wrote with such interesting detail. I thought I might be bored to tears reading it, as it describes a 31-year old woman, considered a spinster in the time (1950s), and the book is about her rather boring life with new neighbors who move into her small home (2 units, sharing a bathroom), the local vicar, his sister, and a myriad of other ladies of the parish. Yet you get caught up in the very minor intrigue of the deteriorating marriage of the couple in the building, the love life of the vicar, and the annual planning for a jumble sale at the local church. This book is considered Pym’s best. I loved the book. I highlighted a bunch of phrases and sentences (I will be doing a book review in one of my book clubs). It wasn’t boring at all, and was entertaining right up to the last page!

Did you ever watch Sandra Lee on the Food Network? This was in the early days of the network, and I did watch her some, although her cooking style didn’t mesh much with mine, since I’m a bit of a make-things-from-scratch kind of girl. But then, I don’t make my own mayo, or jam anymore. And I understand her philosophy, making it easier for busy women to feed their families and juggle a busy life. I’d never thought about reading her memoir. But then, a friend highly recommended I do so. I found a used copy online, and read Made From Scratch: A Memoir. She had a very, very hard young life. Her mother? Well, she shouldn’t have even been a mother. Sandra was the eldest and from a very early age she took care of all of her younger siblings. She was badly mistreated and nearly raped by a family member. Her grandmother Lorraine was her favorite person from the get-go and Sandra took care of her grandmother in her waning years. Once Sandra was old enough she left home and went to college for 3 years, then her entrepreneurial spirit just took over. She learned by doing in every job she’s ever had, and I have to admire her tremendously for her accomplishments. She made money, then lost it, found another niche, made money, then lost it. Yet she’s got the kind of grit that we should all emulate. There are 2 recipes in the book. Sandra is a Christian, and a paragraph that really gripped me was at the very end: “Grace has become one of my favorite words. To me it means learning to balance the good days with the bad. Grace is about being proud of yourself, your actions, your life, what you stand for, and the way you give back [Sandra is a huge philanthropist]. Its’ being generous when someone hurts you; it’s knowing when and how to react. It’s knowing that someone you’re not fond of today might turn out to be the only person who puts his or her hand out tomorrow just when you’re about to step in front of a moving bus. Grace is offering understanding and acceptance when the rest of the world does not.” This book isn’t great literature; yet I’m very glad I read it. She is an inspiration.

The book Pachinko (National Book Award Finalist) by Min Jin Lee had been recommended to me by several friends. Finally got around to reading it. It’s a novel about a family of Koreans living in Japan and covers several decades, beginning in the 1940s, I believe. They’re poor. Dirt poor, yet the women just get themselves back up and work. The husbands in the story have problems, health and otherwise. But what you see here is work, and work and more work just to keep above water. You’ve probably read about how poorly Koreans are treated in Japan – they’re kind of thought of as scum of the earth. I don’t know if this phenomena is still true today, but it apparently was even up until a couple of decades ago. As  you read this book, you’ll find yourself rooting for various family members as they progress in life. A fateful decision is made by one that reverberates throughout her life and those of her children. Pachinko (the machines and the gaming economy that runs because of it) is thought of as part of the underbelly of Japanese culture. I remember seeing the pachinko machines when I visited Japan back in the 1960s. So the book infers, much of pachinko is even controlled by a kind of Japanese mafia and certainly has no status if you work in the pachinko arena. Wealth, yes. Status, no. Very worth reading, even though it’s tough going part of the way. This isn’t a “happy” book. But still worth knowing and reading about the subject. Reading the author’s afterword at the end was very revealing and interesting.

Also read An American Marriage (Oprah’s Book Club): A Novel by Tayari Jones. The book is set in the south with a young, well-educated, middle-class couple and suddenly the husband is accused and convicted of rape (that he didn’t commit). The book is not about the justice system or his wrongful conviction. Not at all. It’s about the relationship, the husband, wife, and then the 3rd person who inserts himself into the mix. Much of this story is told through the letters that Roy and Celestial write each other during and after his incarceration. Jones recreates the couple’s grief, despair and anger until they finally work their way to acceptance, but maybe not how you would expect it. This is complicated emotional territory navigated with succinctness and precision, making what isn’t said as haunting as the letters themselves.  Some of the above (italics) came from the New York Times’ book review.

Recently finished Sally Field’s memoir (autobiography) called In Pieces. I’ve always admired her and her acting, but never knew much about her. I remember when she was involved with Burt Reynolds, but knew nothing about her dysfunctional coming of age. I think she’s a consummate actress, and was awed by her performance in Norma Rae, and also with her role as Abraham Lincoln’s wife.  She wrote this book herself, with help from a writer’s workshop and with some good advice from various other writers. It’s very well written. She spends a lot of time discussing the very young years and her perverted step-father. But the over-arching person in her life was her mother, be what she may as far as being a good/bad mother. I really liked the book; really enjoyed reading about how Sally throws herself into her tv and film roles over her life. And what a defining moment Norma Rae was in her career. Well worth reading if you enjoy movie star memoirs.

If you want grit, well, read Kristen Hannah’s newest book, The Great Alone: A Novel. It’s a gripping novel about a young girl whose family moves to Alaska when her father is gifted a small plot of land with a ramshackle cabin on it that’s barely fit for habitation. The family survives only because some of the townspeople offer to help them learn how to live through an Alaskan winter, which is not easy. The girl’s father is a tyrant and a wife-beater as well. Some pages were hard to read. Surviving on the land with nearly no funds is an arduous task in the best of times, but doubly so when you’re dealing with an Alaskan winter which lasts about 9 months of the year. I don’t want to spoil the story by telling you too many details. The book touches on some very current social issues and is so worth reading. Although difficult at times, as I said. But I’m very glad I did. I think it would make for a good book club read – lots of survival issues to discuss, let alone the other social problems that ensue. But there’s also love, which makes it worth the read.

Recently finished reading a book for one of my book clubs. I’m interested to find out who in that group recommended this book, Tangerine: A Novel by Christine Mangan. Had it not been selected for my club, I wouldn’t ever have picked it up. Most of it takes place in Tangiers, in the 1950s. Alice and John have moved there, newlyweds, when Lucy Mason shows up. Lucy is Alice’s former college roommate. Lucy simply moves in. There’s bad blood between them following the death of Alice’s beau during their college years. Lucy, who might appear as a very sensible woman, has a dark physical and mental obsession with her “friend.” Is it horror? Not really by strict definition. Is it a mystery? Not quite, although there are several murders that take place. Chapters jump between Alice’s voice and Lucy’s voice and you understand the mental fragility of Alice, and this consuming obsession Lucy has for her friend. I’m NOT recommending this book, but I did finish it just because of my book club choosing this very strange book.

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.

One of my book clubs occasionally reads a kind of edgy book. This is one of them. By Mohsin Hamid, Exit West: A Novel is a book set in an age not dissimilar to our own and in current time, but something bad has happened in the world. Something never divulged, although symptoms of a civil war are mentioned. A unmarried couple, Nadia and Saeed, are given the opportunity (as others are, as well) to go through a door (this is the exit part of the title) and to another place in the world – it takes but a second – to go through the special door. They go to England (London), to a palatial mansion. Sometimes the power grid is sketchy. Another door. And yet another. And finally to Marin County (north of San Francisco). You follow along with the ups and downs of the chaste relationship of the two, this couple from a house to living on the streets. And the eventual dissolution of the relationship too. I wasn’t enamored with the book, but after listening to the review of it and hearing others talk about it, I suppose there’s more to this story than it might appear. Hope is the word that comes to mind. The book is strange, but it won the Los Angeles Times book award in 2017. It’s received lots of press. It made for some very interesting discussion at our book club meeting.

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. 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.

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.

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng.

The Boston Girl: A Novel by Anita Diamant.

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.

The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen.

Leaving Blythe River: A Novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde. A

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. W

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 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.

Posted in Soups, on December 7th, 2017.

sweet_potato_chix_peanut_butter_soup

 Lots of flavors going on in this soup and it’s easy to make. The toppings? Chopped peanuts and chopped cilantro plus a drizzle of cream. I’m SO glad I have leftovers.

Back about 9 years ago I posted this soup and hadn’t made it in the interim. I’d attended a birthday party back then, for my friend Cherrie (I think it was when she turned 50) and her friend Robin (the hostess) served the previous version of this soup. There was no particular reason that I forgot about it – except that when you run a food blog, as I’ve mentioned here before, you always need to be trying NEW soups, not old ones. However, I was entertaining a group of women for an event at my house (10 of us) and didn’t want risk to be a factor – I needed a tried and true recipe. I did make a few changes to the soup, though, so it is slightly different than the old recipe. The friends came to watch a movie (A Man Called Ove) and to have lunch and dessert.

The soup – – it starts out with sweet potatoes. You could use either kind (yellow or orange) but I chose the orange because of color only. The potatoes are coated in peanut oil and roasted. The original recipe called for a boat load of oven-roasted Roma tomatoes – I decided to change that – I used San Marzano canned tomatoes which should be just as good. There’s onion, garlic, curry powder and cayenne in it too, plus chicken broth and coconut milk. And chicken pieces, and peanut butter (a lot, actually, but this recipe makes a lot of soup) plus the toppings. I wanted to have a bit more texture to the soup (because you blend the soup to smooth without the chicken). So, I bought a pound of butternut squash and roasted it in the oven, even broiled them at the last minute to get some lovely caramelization on them, chopped them up and those are kind of hidden underneath the little pile of nuts and cilantro in the picture.

As with most soups, they’re so much better the next day, so I did that and merely had to re-heat the soup and prepare the toppings and I was ready to serve it to my friends. The drizzle of cream wasn’t in the original (you could use a drizzle of coconut milk if you wanted to be more authentic). You don’t taste the peanut butter, which is surprising since there was 3/4 cup of it in the soup. I’ve added my new photo to the old post since the photo I had before wasn’t all that great. Boy, I’ve come a long way taking photos for my blog!

What’s GOOD: uhmmmm, this soup is so delish. Love the smooth texture, but also the toppings – the crunch of the peanuts particularly. You could easily make this vegetarian if you want to, by using vegetable broth and no chicken. The soup itself is thick (hearty). You could try different toppings if you prefer to. Freezes well.

What’s NOT: there are a variety of steps to make this – roasting the sweet potatoes and the butternut squash (ideally do those at the same time, or use only sweet potatoes and no butternut squash). I have a good Vitamix blender which did a really good job of smoothing out the soup, but you could use an immersion blender too.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Senegalese Sweet Potato and Peanut Soup with Chicken

Recipe By: Originally from Emeril Lagasse, but adapted
Serving Size: 10

1 1/4 pounds sweet potatoes — yellow or orange
12 ounces butternut squash — (approximate) seeded, peeled, cut into 1″ pieces
1/4 cup peanut oil — divided uses
3 tablespoons curry powder
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
2 large garlic cloves — minced
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper — (use more if you’d like)
1 1/2 quarts low sodium chicken broth
28 ounces canned tomatoes — San Marzano type
3/4 cup peanut butter — smooth type
20 ounces coconut milk — use full fat
2 teaspoons salt — or more to taste
3/4 teaspoon white pepper — or more to taste
2 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts
GARNISH:
4 tablespoons fresh cilantro — minced
1/2 cup chopped peanuts
10 tablespoons heavy cream — or coconut milk

NOTE: the butternut squash is used as a garnish, not to be pureed into the soup.
1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
2. In a large bowl place the sweet potatoes that have been cut into large chunks. Use a small part of the oil to coat the pieces and pour out onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Do the same with the butternut squash on a separate baking sheet.
3. Roast the sweet potatoes and butternut squash for about 45-50 minutes until they’re just fork tender. Remove and set aside to cool. Remove skins from the sweet potatoes and discard.
4. In a large pot, use the remaining oil and heat it until it begins to shimmer. Add the curry powder and gently saute it for 30-45 seconds while the oil bubbles. Do not burn. Add the chopped onion and stir frequently as the onion softens, 3-4 minutes. Add garlic, cayenne, then the chicken broth. As it heats to a simmer, add the peanut butter and stir well, breaking up the pieces. Add the coconut milk, canned tomatoes and the reserved sweet potatoes and bring soup to a full simmer, reduce heat, cover and cook for about 10 minutes. Add salt and white pepper to taste. Puree soup in a blender until smooth, or use an immersion blender in the soup pot.
5. CHICKEN: Cut the chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces. Coat with peanut oil, salt and pepper and bake them for about 10 minutes at 350°F. You can use the same baking sheet you used for the sweet potatoes. Do not overcook – you want them to be just barely cooked through. Remove and cool. Add to the soup, or keep them separate and add a portioned amount to each bowl.
6. BUTTERNUT SQUASH: Even though you’ve cooked the butternut squash, it’s nice to have the small pieces caramelize. Just before serving, chop the squash into small bite-sized pieces and place on the same parchment-lined baking sheet and broil them until the edges have begun to brown.
7. TOPPINGS: Prepare the minced cilantro and peanuts. When serving, scoop about 1 1/2 cups of soup into a wide bowl, add the caramelized butternut squash pieces, chicken (if you didn’t add it into the soup before), chopped peanuts and cilantro. Use a soup spoon and drizzle a tablespoon of cream or coconut milk around each serving.
Per Serving: 628 Calories; 40g Fat (55.0% calories from fat); 43g Protein; 30g Carbohydrate; 7g Dietary Fiber; 86mg Cholesterol; 1043mg Sodium.

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