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Just finished a quirky book, Goodbye, Vitamin: A Novel by Rachel Khong. She’s a new writer (newly published, I guess I should say) and this story is about Ruth, a 30+ something, trying to readjust to life without her fiance, who’s dumped her. She goes back home to help with the care of her father, who has Alzheimer’s. Written in a diary style, it jumps all over about her life, her mother, the funny, poignant things her father says on good days, and the nutty stuff he does on not-so-good days, her ex-, and her very quirky friends, too. Then a woman flits through who had had an affair with her father –  you get to observe all the angst from the mom about that. Mostly it’s about her father, as he’s relatively “together” early in the book, but then he disintegrates. Reading that part isn’t fun, although the author is able to lean some humor into it. I’m not sure I recommend the book exactly – I read it through – and felt sad. It doesn’t tie up loose ends – if you want that kind of book – you may not want to read this one.

Also finished Julian Fellowes’s Belgravia. You know Julian Fellowes, the producer and writer of Downton Abbey? He lends his mind to a story about a family or two from the similar time period as Downton, who live in London. There’s some amount of intrigue, romance, observations from within the halls of wealthy Londoners and moderately well off tradesmen and their families. There’s affairs, shady business dealings, an illegitimate child, the comings and goings of the “downstairs” staff too, etc. The characters were well done – I had no trouble keeping all of the people identified. The story is somewhat predictable, but it was interesting clear up to the end.

The Letter by Kathyrn Hughes. It’s a very intricate tale. At first it’s about Tina, a battered wife [at which point I paused and wondered if I wanted to read any further, but I’m glad I did]. She tries to get the courage to leave her husband. Then enters the letter she finds in a suit pocket in the thrift shop where she volunteers. It’s old – sealed and stamped, but never mailed. Then you learn about Crissie, decades earlier, a young pregnant girl who is sent off to Ireland to a distant relative by her father, then to a rigid (meaning horrible) convent [the book takes place mostly in Manchester, England and in rural Ireland]. The letter is addressed to her. Jump forward decades and William, the adopted child Crissie gave up, tries to find his birth mother. William meets Tina in Ireland [a serendipitous moment] as she’s trying to find the woman to whom the letter is addressed. This book is the #2 best seller on Amazon at the moment. It’s a riveting tale and I really enjoyed it.

The Muralist: A Novel by Shapiro. It tells the story of a young woman, an artist, who was part of the U.S.’s WPA mural project from the 1930s-40s (she is fiction, the WPA is not). As with so many artists, even today, they live in abject poverty through much of their lives. This woman, though, had family in France, desperately trying to escape before Hitler’s henchmen rousted them into concentration camps. The story, a bit of a mystery but not of the mystery-genre, is about Alizée Benoit, this young painter, who slightly captivates Eleanor Roosevelt’s help. It also skips into current time when the painter’s great-niece uncovers paintings she believes were painted by her aunt. The painter had disappeared into thin air in 1940, and her relative tries desperately to find out what happened to her. It’s a really good story including such Abstract Expressionist painters as Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, and Lee Krasner well-woven into the narrative. It keeps you guessing right up to the end. A good read. The author also wrote The Art Forger: A Novel a few years ago.

Also recently read News of the World: A Novel by Paulette Jiles. One of my book-reading friends said this is one of the best books she’s ever read in her life. That kind of praise required me to read it and I just LOVED it. It’s about an old man (a widower), who was a former military captain, during the 1800s, who goes from town to town to read out loud the current news of the world (yes, there WAS such a free-lance job.) Newspapers didn’t make it to small towns back then. By chance he’s asked to take a 10-year old girl to East Texas to reunite with relatives. The child had been captured by an Indian tribe as a baby (her family was killed in the raid), raised by the Kiowa and as was often the case of such children, she wants nothing to do with leaving. So the “hero” in this story has his hands full. And yet, they learn to trust each other on the journey. Reaching the destination, there are lots of complications (of course!). This book is truly a wonderful read – I didn’t want it to end. The author has a gift of description and the severe dangers and difficulties of an old (wild) west horse and wagon journey. The relationship is tender. Now I’ve got to investigate the author’s other books, of which there are many. Just read this one first!

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 March 19th, 2016.

 

mex_corn_soup_chix_baconTalk about delicious! Comfort food for a cold winter’s night. A one-dish meal, and it’s relatively easy to make, too.

Another winner of a recipe from a Phillis Carey cooking class I took in January. Over the years I can’t count how many soups she’s taught me to make. This one is just full of flavor, and quite easy to make. You could substitute tortilla chips (packaged) if you didn’t want to make the strips. You start with frozen corn (but defrosted) and add in fresh tomatoes, chicken broth, oregano, and some bacon. Then it has onion, Serrano chiles, garlic, black beans and shredded chicken. Phillis suggested we use chicken from a Costco prepared rotisserie chicken – or some left over chicken or turkey. The soup is garnished with some crème fraiche (or Crema Agria if you have access to Mexican markets), cilantro, some crumbled Cotija cheese (or use cheddar) and lastly, it’s topped with some strips of tortillas you’ve fried in a bit of oil.

The soup will come together in a little over half an hour, providing you have all the ingredients ready, chicken chopped or shredded, onion chopped, etc. This is a complete meal in one pot (except for the fried tortilla strips). This soup IS a carb-centric one – with corn being the main ingredient after chicken broth, but it’s very filling. The tortilla strips add great texture and crunch, and the bacon adds a lot of flavor, as it always does!

What’s GOOD: all the flavors and textures make for a filling and toothsome bowl of soup. Loved this recipe – very satisfying. Am sure you’ll agree if you make it. I did like the home made tortilla strips – to me they’re worth buying the raw tortillas to make your own, but if you’re pressed for time, use packaged chips, broken up in your palms.

What’s NOT: nothing I can think of. A great recipe.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Mexican Corn Soup with Chicken, Bacon & Tortilla Strips

Recipe By: Phillis Carey class, 1/2016
Serving Size: 6

3 cups frozen corn — thawed, divided use
2 medium tomatoes — seeded, roughly chopped (or 1/2 can of diced tomatoes)
5 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 teaspoon dried oregano
4 slices thick-sliced bacon — diced
1 cup onion — chopped
1 medium jalapeno chile pepper — seeds removed, diced small
2 cloves garlic — minced
15 ounces canned black beans — drained, rinsed
3 cups shredded chicken Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup creme fraiche — or Crema Agria (Mexican style cream) or heavy cream
3 tablespoons cilantro — chopped
1/2 cup Cotija cheese — crumbled (you can substitute cheddar)
4 whole corn tortillas — cut into thin strips and fried briefly in oil until crispy

1. In a blender add half of the defrosted corn, all the tomatoes, oregano and a couple of cups of chicken broth. Puree until smooth. Set aside.
2. In a 4-5 quart pot, cook the bacon until crisp (about 10 minutes), stirring often. Remove with slotted spoon to paper towels to drain. To the pan add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until onion is soft and tender. Add chile pepper and garlic and stir for about a minute.
3. Add the tomato-corn puree to the pot with the remaining chicken broth. Bring to a simmer and add remaining whole corn. Simmer over medium-low heat until thickened, about 20 minutes. Stir in the canned beans and chicken and continue simmering for 3-5 minutes to warm the beans and the chicken. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then stir in the creme fraiche and half the cilantro.
4. Serve soup garnished with bacon, remaining cilantro, cheese and tortilla strips.
Per Serving: 444 Calories; 17g Fat (31.3% calories from fat); 42g Protein; 42g Carbohydrate; 8g Dietary Fiber; 85mg Cholesterol; 488mg Sodium.

Posted in Soups, on March 15th, 2016.

Ital_sausage_bean_orzo_soup

Good, old-fashioned comforting soup. Easy to make and very satisfying. Serve with a biscuit or bread, or even saltines. Or with nothing else, since it has white beans and orzo in it for carbs.

Very nearly, I forgot to post this soup, and another one I’ll do in a few days. My friend Cherrie and I attended a cooking class a couple of months ago with Phillis Carey, and it was all about hearty soups. She made four, and I really liked two of them. I wrote on my class recipe “Exc,” which is my shorthand for excellent. In the hierarchy of note-taking, the highest rating is “Fab.” This one is special because of the Italian sausage, which is a real favorite of mine. In the recipe below, I’ve upped the sausage by a little bit because it adds so much flavor.

Ital_sausage_bean_orzo_soup_bowlMaking it is pretty easy as long as you’ve got all the ingredients – you cook the sausage, drain it, and use just a smidgen of the fat from the sausage to sauté the carrots, onion, celery and garlic. Then broth is added, canned tomatoes, cannellini beans (also canned) and rosemary. At the last, almost, you add in the orzo, which takes about 10 minutes to cook through (do NOT overcook at this point), and then you stir in the fresh spinach. Done. Serve with Parm grated on top. Altogether yummy.

What’s GOOD: comfort food, hearty, really great flavor from the sausage, a meal in one pot. Love those kinds of dinners! Also has various veggies in it, making it an easy way to get your family to eat their vegetables!

What’s NOT: nary a thing – this one’s an easy recipe and quick to make.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Italian Sausage, White Bean & Orzo Soup with Fresh Spinach

Recipe By: Phillis Carey class, 1/2016
Serving Size: 6

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/4 pounds Italian sausage — mild (sweet)
1 1/2 cups onion — diced
2 small carrots — peeled, diced
1 rib celery — diced
2 cloves garlic — minced
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
14 1/2 ounces canned tomatoes — (diced type)
15 ounces canned cannelini beans — rinsed, drained
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary — chopped finely
1/2 cup orzo
6 ounces baby spinach
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese — grated (use ample)

1. Heat oil in large 5-quart pot. Crumble sausage into pot and cook, stirring and breaking up in pieces, over medium heat until sausage is nicely browned. Pour sausage into a strainer and set over a bowl to drain.
2. Return a tablespoon of the fat from the sausage into the pot and add carrots, onion, celery and garlic, along with the sausage meat and cook until onions are translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Add the chicken broth, tomatoes and the juices, beans and rosemary. Bring to a boil.
3. Add orzo to the boiling soup and cook, stirring often, until the orzo is JUST tender, about 9-10 minutes. Skim off any excess fat and stir in the spinach, cooking just until wilted – less than a minute. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve soup topped with lots of grated cheese.
NOTE: If making this ahead, cook orzo separately and add just to reheat – or place cooked orzo in the bottom of each serving bowl. Also, if making ahead, do not add the spinach until just before serving.
Per Serving: 531 Calories; 35g Fat (54.9% calories from fat); 31g Protein; 34g Carbohydrate; 6g Dietary Fiber; 72mg Cholesterol; 1020mg Sodium.

Posted in Soups, on February 12th, 2016.

chix_tortilla_soup_pioneer_womans_slow_cooker

After Christmas the weather turned cool, and I was craving soup. Having just watched Ree Drummond make this on her show, I decided it would do just fine for one of the family dinners I had here at home after the 1st of the year.

There are a multitude of ingredients in this – chicken, canned tomatoes, black beans, red and yellow peppers, onion, tomato paste, lime and all the toppings (avocado, sour cream, cheese, tortilla chips and cilantro). But once you begin assembling this it comes together pretty quickly. It’s all made in the slow cooker. I chose to use the high setting, so it took about 5 hours (8 hours on low). Into the bottom of the slow cooker goes the chicken, then the seasonings, tomatoes, chicken broth, chopped up onion and bell peppers, a small can of tomato paste, the canned black beans and a chipotle chile in adobo sauce for flavor. My slow cooker has the option of cooking on the stove, so I heated up all the ingredients in the insert, then plopped it into the slow cooker base, on went the lid and I looked in on it once to stir it a little bit, and it was done. My granddaughter Taylor helped make the toppings.

We set up an assembly line – into the big soup bowls went the soup then each person could choose which toppings they wanted. If you have smaller eaters, this will probably serve more than 10. I did have just a little bit left over, but not much.

What this soup is, is a very easy dinner. And it serves a bunch of people. The chicken breasts make it very easy to put together. Next time I’d use some chicken thighs, I think, and add a few breast pieces. Chicken breasts all by themselves (boneless, skinless) really don’t have much flavor. I tasted the soup all by itself and can’t say that it was all that special. In fact it was kind of ho-hum. BUT, once you add all the toppings, that’s where the flavor lies. There’s almost zero fat in the soup. I added in some pork soup base (Penzey’s) to add some further flavor, but even with that the soup part is kind of plain. So, word to the wise: use lots of toppings – don’t skimp on them because they provide the flavor. Also, once I removed the chicken breasts and cut them up into smaller bite-sized pieces, the chicken began to fall apart. So, don’t do much stirring after you’ve done that part.

What’s GOOD: this feeds a small army and as a meal goes, this was a pretty easy one to make for a crowd. I had 10 people for dinner, and there was enough, fortunately. The toppings carry all the flavor, so don’t not offer them. I’d be very disappointed in the soup if there were no toppings! Just so you know. It was an all-in-a-bowl meal. I didn’t serve anything else with it – no salad or anything. I did make dessert, though.

What’s NOT: really nothing – just know that the soup isn’t all that flavorful all by itself. The toppings are what make it. If you were to use chicken with bones in, it might have more flavor, but we were into easy for this meal!

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 14/15 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup – Pioneer Woman’s

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from Pioneer Woman, 2015
Serving Size: 10

6 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
Salt and Pepper — to taste
1 medium onion — chopped
1 whole red bell pepper — seeded, chopped
1 whole yellow bell pepper — seeded, chopped
28 ounces diced tomatoes — with juice
15 ounces Rotel canned tomatoes with chiles
4 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
4 ounces tomato paste
1 whole chipotle chile canned in adobo
15 ounces canned black beans — drained, rinsed
1 whole lime — juiced (and more to serve with each bowl if desired)
Toppings: sour cream, avocado, chopped cilantro, grated cheddar, green onions and tortilla chips

1. Place the chicken in the slow cooker. Sprinkle on the chili powder, cumin, and salt and pepper. Add the onion, bell pepper, tomatoes, chicken broth, tomato paste, chipotle, and black beans. Stir, place the lid on the slow cooker, and cook on high for 5 hours (or 8 hours on low.) Stir in the lime juice.
2. Using 2 forks, break up the chicken into chunks (or you may shred it more fine). Once chicken is broken up it will mostly disintegrate in the soup, so be gentle with the cutting and stirring from that point on. Taste and add more salt if the soup needs it.
3. Serve it piping hot in a bowl with avocado, sour cream, green onions, grated cheese crushed tortilla chips, and cilantro leaves on top!
Per Serving: 178 Calories; 3g Fat (13.4% calories from fat); 26g Protein; 18g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 41mg Cholesterol; 373mg Sodium.

Posted in Soups, on January 11th, 2016.

veg_soup_bacon_herbs

Sometimes the simplest dishes are amazingly delicious. Vegetable soup can be so good, and yet when I order it out it’s usually got lots of root vegetables in it (which makes it a carb soup in my book – and definitely not my favorite in generic category of “vegetable” soups), tomatoes and has a red hue. This one is nothing at all like that – mostly green veggies with the hint of smoky bacon (optional) and a bit of milk and cream. This is a “dry” soup – not much liquid.

A year or so ago I began subscribing to a blog called Cooking in the Archives. It’s a blog from 2 very erudite women, both professors and researchers in English Lit, books in general, and rare books in particular. They must have become friends somewhere along the way and they both enjoy researching “old-tyme” recipes and updating them to today’s kitchens. I always enjoy reading their own journey as they identify a recipe (always shown in “old-tyme” language as well, then their translations) and about the permutations they make to the recipe.

A recipe that had me interested was one they posted earlier this year, called Herb Soop (no, that’s not a typo). Today I set out to make it – but then when I went to the grocery store I somehow forgot to buy some of the important ingredients that went into it. So I decided to make my own detour with what I had on hand. I’ll make that soup another day.

In February I’m hosting a luncheon here at my house (along with my friend Linda I.) for a small group of my P.E.O. sisters, as we watch a DVD on some thing yet-to-be-selected about American history, and I thought it would be fun to prepare a lunch that highlighted old-tyme food as well. The blog actually highlights recipes from 1600-1800, and not always American ones. But this soup recipe I made was just fabulous – although not necessarily an historical recipe.

Now, this soup. I started off with some very lean bacon, just because I think a bit of bacon adds SO much flavor to soups. You could leave it out if you’re a vegetarian. And you can use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth too. I rendered the bacon, then added a bit of oil (because the bacon had almost no fat in it), then half an onion chopped, and let that cook for a bit. Then I added Savoy cabbage (chopped), a poblano chile chopped up (certainly not in the original recipe) and celery and let that cook a bit. Then I added a package of frozen veggies I had on hand from Trader Joe’s (it’s a mixture of green beans, cauliflower, broccoli and peas). I didn’t really want cauliflower in this and I’ve not included it in the recipe below, but you can add it if you’d like to. Meanwhile I chopped up some fresh parsley and fresh mint and had those ready nearby. I added some chicken broth and allowed the vegetables to cook until they were nearly done, but not quite. Then I added a cup of milk to which I’d whisked in an egg (to thicken the soup just a little – this was in the Herb Soop recipe), and the herbs, plus a little sprinkling of freshly grated nutmeg (so good in creamy things – strictly my idea) and let that heat through and the veggies were cooked just perfectly. I scooped the soup into a wide bowl, garnished it with some more herbs and ate it with relish.

What’s GOOD: I threw this together in about 30 minutes of chopping and stirring. It’s a DRY soup – if you know what that means – it does not have a lot of liquid in it – so it’s mostly vegetables with a bit of a creamy base. I absolutely loved it. It was very filling, had a delicious variety of flavors and textures, enhanced by the herbs. I particularly liked the fresh mint in it – not something you see often. The poblano chile added quite a bit of heat – if you’re sensitive to hot stuff, leave it out. It will be just fine without it. You can add heat to your own taste with cayenne or some of the Slap Yo Mama Cajun seasoning. Don’t overdo it, though.

What’s NOT: Make sure you’ve GOT enough green veggies to make this – variety is the spice of life, and this soup! If you have a meat-eating family, they may not be satisfied with this. If I had to add some protein to this I’d add some shrimp, I think. Maybe some mild fish like sole.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 14/15 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Vegetable Soup with Bacon & Herbs

Recipe By: My own concoction but very loosely based on a recipe from Cooking in the Archives, 2015
Serving Size: 3

2 slices bacon — chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil — optional
1/2 yellow onion — chopped
1 cup celery — thinly sliced
1/2 Savoy cabbage — chopped
1/2 poblano chile — seeded, chopped small (optional)
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup green beans
1/2 cup broccoli — cut in small florets
1/2 cup frozen peas
1 pinch red pepper flakes
2 dashes Slap Yo Mama Cajun Seasoning — or cayenne
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg — freshly ground
1/2 cup Italian parsley — save some for garnish
1/4 cup fresh mint — save some for garnish
2 tablespoons chives — chopped
1 cup whole milk
1 large egg — beaten
1/4 cup heavy cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

NOTE: This soup is very flexible – add what vegetables you like, but I particularly made this to NOT include any root veggies. If you add them you’ll need to adjust the cooking time accordingly and note that there isn’t a lot of liquid, so root veggies won’t be submerged in broth.
1. In a large high sided pan render the bacon over low heat until it has begun to crisp.
2. Add oil (if needed) to the pan then add the chopped onion. Cook for 5-7 minutes until onion is translucent.
3. Add celery and cabbage, and poblano chile. Turn heat to low and continue to cook for another 3-4 minutes, stirring several times.
4. Add chicken broth, then add green beans, broccoli, peas, red pepper flakes, nutmeg and Cajun seasoning. Cover and allow mixture to simmer for about 7-10 minutes until vegetables are not quite tender.
5. In a small bowl whisk the egg, then add the milk. Add it to the pan, then most of the parsley, chives and mint. Bring to a simmer and cook for 1-2 minutes (don’t let it boil), then add heavy cream. Heat just until mixture is hot and vegetables are cooked to your liking. Taste for seasoning (salt and pepper) and add to suit your own palate. Scoop into bowls and garnish with additional parsley and mint.
Per Serving: 314 Calories; 22g Fat (61.6% calories from fat); 13g Protein; 17g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 113mg Cholesterol; 726mg Sodium.

Posted in Soups, on January 3rd, 2016.

lentil_veg_soup_Indian_spices

Lentil Soup. Comfort food at its finest. What you see in that bowl are lentils, multi-colored carrot chunks, tomatoes, onions, a Poblano chile all cut up, celery, broth, some Indian spices (explanation below) and a dollop of Greek yogurt on top. Very easy. VERY easy. And SO GOOD!

I think “hankering” must be an old-time word. I don’t hear people use it much. That’s what I had – a hankering for lentil soup when I walked into my kitchen and decided that I’d make a batch. Lentil soup doesn’t take long to prepare since lentils cook from beginning to finished in about 20 minutes. I could have made my Dad’s recipe. I’ve written up a long post about that soup before. He’d have been so happy to see his recipe here on my blog (my Dad, who only knew how to grill, really, did make lentil soup, about the only time he stepped into the kitchen his entire married life – and never in my mom’s kitchen, only when he was away from home). When my parents came to visit, my Dad would ask if we wanted it. Of course we did. If you want to see that recipe, it’s a fairly standard, plain-Jane kind of lentil soup with bacon.

Searching my cookbooks, and searching online yielded no particular recipes that interested me. I read about the quantities of onion, carrots and celery, thyme, salt and pepper. Some of them included cumin. That’s what got my mind to buzzing. What if I made a lentil soup with Indian spices. I searched for Indian lentil soup recipes, and came up with much the same ingredients (without thyme). So, I just started making my own version. It was easy. I had a poblano chile in the refrigerator, so was determined to use that. I had those rainbow carrots, so I used purple and yellow. I had one big onion, plenty of celery, regular brown lentils. I did not want a pureed soup – I wanted a soup with texture, and that’s exactly what I got here. And the soup was ready to eat in about 45 minutes.

First I rendered a couple slices of bacon (you can eliminate that step if you’d prefer to make this vegetarian), then added onion, carrots and celery. I let those simmer for awhile until they were soft (about 5-8 minutes, I’d guess), then I added in a can of tomatoes and some chicken broth (I used Penzey’s soup base and water). And lastly, I added in the poblano chile that I cut up into short slivers about 1/4 inch wide. I brought it to a simmer, covered it and let it percolate for about 20 minutes. I think it took close to 30 minutes to get the lentils to just the right consistency (the older the lentils, the dry-er they are, and hence will take longer to cook). Ground cumin was added, some turmeric, salt and pepper. Just before serving I added a spoonful of garam masala (it’s best added in just at the end). When I scooped it into the soup tureen you see in the photo, I put on a dollop of Greek yogurt. The fragrance was wonderful, let me tell you!

Oh my YES! This soup was fabulous. Such a humble meal, but long on flavor. I’ll be eating from that batch of soup for days.

What’s GOOD: Chunky. Full of texture. Easy to make. Full of flavor from the vegetables and the cumin and turmeric and garam masala. Altogether delicious and I’m sure I’ll be making it this way again. Soon. This doesn’t have any meat, as such, but you could add some. You could also not use bacon and it would be a true vegetarian meal if you used vegetable broth.

What’s NOT: nothing, really. The soup was just what I wanted – I satisfied my hankering, for sure.

printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 14/15 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Lentil Vegetable Soup with Indian Flavors

Recipe By: My own concoction, 2015
Serving Size: 6

2 slices thick-sliced bacon — chopped (optional)
1 large onion — chopped
1 cup celery — chopped
1 1/2 cups carrots — cut in coins
15 ounces canned tomatoes
1 whole poblano chile — cut in thin 1″ long slivers
6 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups brown lentils
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons garam masala — added in just before serving
1/3 cup Greek yogurt, full-fat — or sour cream

1. Heat a large pan, then add the bacon and allow to sizzle on low heat until most of the fat has been rendered. Add the onion and allow to cook for 3-4 minutes.
2. Add the celery and carrots and continue cooking for 3-4 minutes.
3. Add the canned tomatoes (including the juice), the poblano chile, chicken broth, lentils, dried thyme, ground cumin and turmeric. Bring to a simmer.
4. Cover pot and allow to cook slowly for about 20-25 minutes, until the lentils are barely cooked through and the vegetables are fully cooked. Add more broth or water if needed. You may blend part of this if you prefer a more pureed soup. I prefer the texture of the vegetables and lentils. Add the garam masala just before serving and stir into the soup. Scoop into soup bowls and garnish with Greek yogurt or sour cream. NOTE: If you reheat this another day, add another jot of garam masala just before serving.
Per Serving: 286 Calories; 5g Fat (16.7% calories from fat); 22g Protein; 39g Carbohydrate; 17g Dietary Fiber; 9mg Cholesterol; 1688mg Sodium.

Posted in Soups, on December 24th, 2015.

carrot_ginger_lime_soup_&beyond

When I got home from my trip to Africa, this was the first thing I made. A recipe from one of the safari camps in Botswana. The ginger adds just a slight kick and the lime juice gives a hint of citrus and tart. Wonderful soup.

Nearly every night on the 2 weeks of safari trips, we were served hot soup as a first course at dinnertime. It seemed kind of incongruous to me – I almost never make or eat hot soup in hot weather. But we all enjoyed it and savored the varieties we were served. This one was the standout – so much so that I asked for the recipe, as did many others who went on the trip with me. It tasted just as good as it did in Botswana.

First of all, DO start with good carrots. Don’t use a bunch that’s been sitting in your crisper for a week or so. You want flavorful carrots, otherwise this soup will be ho-hum. I generally buy organic carrots, and these were fresh carrots I’d purchased a day before I made this. If you have more carrots than you need, taste them and see if they’re good and use the best ones. Use the others for snacking or something else. You want flavor here.

You sweat some veggies, add the raw, chunked carrots and cook them through in vegetable or chicken stock. It’s pureed in the blender until it’s super-smooth. It’s like silk it’s so smooth. Half a cup of cream is added, some fresh ginger and serve it with a paper-thin slice of lime floating on top. Done. Easy. The recipe said it could be served hot or cold. I’d choose hot.

What’s GOOD: silky, smooth texture, lovely bright carrot flavor, enhanced by the lime juice and the ginger. Altogether delicious soup. A keeper.

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

printer-friendly PDF or MasterCook 14/15 file (click on link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Carrot & Ginger Soup with Lime

Recipe By: From “And Beyond” safari camps, Botswana, Africa
Serving Size: 5

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon fresh ginger — finely grated
1/2 teaspoon fresh garlic — finely chopped
1 cup white onion — thinly sliced
3 1/2 cups vegetable stock — [I used chicken stock]
4 1/2 cups carrots — washed, sliced
1/8 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon fresh ginger — finely grated (added near the end)
5 slices lime — very thinly sliced rounds

1. Heat oil and sweat the ginger, garlic and onion gently for about 10 minutes in a covered saucepan, without browning.
2. Add carrots and stock. Cover, bring to a boil and simmer for about 20 minutes until vegetables are tender.
3. Cool a little, then puree until smooth.
4. Stir in lemon juice, ginger, milk and cream, then add salt and pepper.
5. Serve warm or cold with a thin slice of lime on top.
Per Serving: 320 Calories; 15g Fat (40.9% calories from fat); 8g Protein; 43g Carbohydrate; 7g Dietary Fiber; 38mg Cholesterol; 1202mg Sodium.

Posted in Soups, on September 4th, 2015.

honeydew_melon_soup1

Honeydew. Summertime. Melon. Cool soup. Ahhh. . .

Just a week or so ago I posted a recipe for a Cantaloupe Soup, explaining that I tried to replicate a recipe from a list of ingredients. It was delicious, but I do think this one, made with honeydew, is even better. To recap, when I was visiting my friends Lynn and Sue in Colorado, one day we visited Willow Creek Restaurant in Evergreen, a tiny little town in the foothills of the Rockies. The restaurant overlooks the town lake. It was a warm summer day and the chef had just made this honeydew_melon_soup_closeupsoup. It sounded so refreshing (it was). Sue and I both ordered it and could hardly keep ourselves from licking the little bowl. We asked what was in it. The hostess went back to the kitchen and asked, and there we got the ingredients. It was our job to figure out how much.

Sue made this recently, using her version of the ingredient list, and sent it to me, so I set to work making it. Can I just tell you – MAKE THIS! Not only is it super easy (it’s all done in a blender) but it’s just SO “summer,” SO “light,” and just gosh-darned delicious. I wasn’t having guests and I ate it all by myself over the course of 4 days.

The toasted almonds are a real must – don’t neglect that little tiny aspect as it kind of makes it – it’s the crunch, I think. I sought out every last little speck of toasted almond in the bottom of that bowl up there. And be sure to choose a very ripe and tasty melon – I let mine ripen on my kitchen counter top for several days before I refrigerated it – that’s my one little technique for buying melons. The soup will shine only if the melon flavor is good to begin with.

What’s GOOD: the honeydew flavor is predominant, although honeydew (or any melon for that matter) flavor is subtle. But it shines through here, and the addition of mint or basil is key, as are the toasted almonds. Make a day or so ahead. You’ll hear raves, I promise you. EASY!

What’s NOT: not a single thing.

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Honeydew Melon Soup with Almonds

Recipe By: My friend Sue’s and my collaboration
Serving Size: 6

1 whole honeydew melon — seeded, flesh cut into chunks
1/4 cup Greek yogurt, full-fat — or use low-fat
1/4 cup low-fat sour cream
1 tablespoon champagne wine vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup fresh mint — or fresh basil
1 dash salt
1 dash cayenne — optional
1/4 cup sliced almonds — toasted, for garnish
Mint leaf or sliced basil for garnish

1. Combine in a blender all the ingredients except the garnishes. Puree until smooth. Chill for an hour or two to combine the flavors. You may add pepper if desired, and do remember you can use basil or mint, but not both.
2. Pour 1/2 cup into a small bowl and garnish with the toasted almonds and the mint or basil. Serve immediately.
Per Serving: 136 Calories; 4g Fat (23.4% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 26g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 2mg Cholesterol; 79mg Sodium.

Posted in Fish, Soups, on August 3rd, 2015.

salmon_moqueca

Yes, it’s summer. Yes, this was hot soup. May not be appealing to some, but it was a somewhat cooler evening and I was tired of the usual braised, broiled, steamed or grilled salmon. I had zucchini and a sweet potato, so I improvised with everything else.

Cooking for one can definitely be a challenge. And most often I prefer to make something that will give me at least 2 dinners before I’m tired of it. I simply cannot make any more large quantity things that are frozen in smaller portions, as my freezer is full of them. Recently I made a chicken curry dish that I just love-love, and froze it in about 8 different sizes of ziploc bags. But that’s one that I crave quite frequently, so I agreed with my reasoning to make a big batch. I’m doing my level best to NOT buy more meat since I have a freezer full of meat in my garage.

This day, I’d defrosted a lovely salmon fillet but hadn’t decided what to do with it. Searching through my to-try file I ran across this recipe, from Food 52. It was a “community pick.” I don’t know exactly what that means in their vernacular, but the write-up about it – it’s Brazilian fish stew  – sounded intriguing. I didn’t exactly follow the recipe to the letter – as I mentioned above – I needed to improvise a bit. But I had the salmon, sweet potato, zucchini, part of a hot pepper, onion, a red and yellow bell pepper, garlic, coconut milk, canned tomatoes, cilantro and some fish stock. And fresh limes.

First you marinate the salmon (I cut it up into bite-sized pieces) in lime juice, EVOO, and salt. But only for 30-60 minutes (otherwise the lime juice would start to make ceviche!). That is set aside while you prep the other ingredients. That part didn’t take long. In a big skillet (with lid to use later) you start by sautéing the sweet potato in a bit of oil. As it takes on some caramelization, stir it around to cook it on all sides. I just stirred it several times – I was far too lazy to try to turn each little piece of potato. Perhaps my method of cooking this isn’t exactly true to the original recipe (or to the traditional Brazilian method) but because of some of my ingredients I had to improvise. I added the raw, chopped and sliced onion, and let the two items cook a bit. Then I added the garlic, tomatoes, some of the coconut milk, some fish stock. I covered the pan for about 5 minutes to let the potatoes cook. I had some already cooked zucchini and some cooked pasilla pepper (instead of the jalapeno or serrano), so that was added in at the end, but if you’re using fresh zucchini, add it in during this part so it steam-cooks. I used about half a can of chopped tomatoes, and had intended to use about half the can of coconut milk. Then I added in the marinated salmon and simply let those pieces sit on top of the stew. On the lid went and I allowed it to simmer for about 5 minutes. Into a bowl it went with some fresh minced cilantro on top and my dinner was done.

Afterwards, I realized that I had more than enough for another meal, so I added in the remaining coconut milk. I’ll save the remaining tomatoes for something else, because I thought it would make this too tomatoey. It will be heavy with the veggies and creamy broth rather than salmon, but there’s enough for another soup meal for me. I remember what the Food52 test kitchen person had mentioned, that they couldn’t wait to tell people they had to make this because it was SO flavorful. And yes, it really is. You might not think so because of the rather ordinary ingredients. It all comes together somehow. These Brazilians are onto something!

What’s GOOD: the whole bowl of soup was unctuous. That’s the best word I can come up with. Every bite was delicious – I particularly liked the sweet potato – just barely cooked through with a bit of form to it still. You don’t want to over cook the sweet potato. The coconut milk – well – I think it probably is the star of the dish, but you don’t realize it – it just provides a silkiness to the creamy brothy part. Altogether delicious, and I’d definitely make this again.

What’s NOT: not a single, solitary thing. This is a keeper. And it’s VERY easy.

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Salmon Moqueca

Recipe By: Adapted from Food 52, winner of “Community” Contest
Serving Size: 3

FISH & MARINADE:
1/2 pound salmon fillets — wild
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
STEW:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small sweet potato — peeled and diced
1/2 cup onion — peeled and roughly chopped
2 whole zucchini — chopped
1/2 cup canned tomatoes — undrained
1/2 cup green pepper — chopped (I didn’t use this, so it’s optional}
1/2 cup red bell pepper — chopped (I used red & yellow)
1 large garlic clove — minced
1/2 cup poblano chile — chopped, seeds removed
1/2 cup fish stock — or water
1/4 cup cilantro — chopped
12 ounces light coconut milk
2 tablespoons minced green onion — (bottom parts only) – for garnish
1/8 cup cilantro — chopped – for garnish
Sriracha sauce to taste

NOTES: If you don’t have a pasilla/poblano chile, you may use a jalapeno (half) or a small amount of serrano.
1. Place fish in a shallow non-reactive (non-metal) bowl. Add lime juice, salt and olive oil and set aside, in refrigerator for 30 minutes to an hour (no longer or it will start to cook the fish).
2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add diced sweet potato and cook for 10-15 minutes, adding a little water if needed so it doesn’t burn, until softened. Add zucchini, tomatoes, garlic, onion, green and red pepper and continue to cook until tender, about 5-7 minutes, again adding water to the pan, if needed. Add water or fish stock and stir in coconut milk. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 2 to 3 minutes or until the sweet potato and vegetables are just cooked through.
3. Add fish and marinade and stir very gently. Put lid on pan and simmer over very low heat for 5-10 minutes, or until fish flakes easily with a fork. Just before serving, stir in green onion and cilantro and garnish with more cilantro on top. Serve alone or over rice and pass Sriracha sauce for adding at the table.
Per Serving: 369 Calories; 19g Fat (45.2% calories from fat); 21g Protein; 31g Carbohydrate; 6g Dietary Fiber; 42mg Cholesterol; 356mg Sodium.

Posted in easy, Soups, on June 2nd, 2015.

taco_soup_trimmings

Is it past soup season? My apologies for forgetting this recipe when it was still cold, and you wanted warmth in your tummy. And perhaps I’m the very last person on the planet who hadn’t ever HAD this soup. Oh my goodness, is it ever tasty! And it’s unbelievably easy too. I didn’t put all the trimmings on the soup when I took the photo – there should be cilantro and Fritos all over the top too.

My best friend Cherrie and her husband go camping (really, it’s glamping) a lot. They have a huge (long) 5th wheel that attaches to Bud’s BIG truck and they go up the coast of California, down the coast and inland too (and to Arizona for baseball spring training). Everywhere. And truly, theirs is big enough to live in. Cherrie is an immaculate housekeeper and the 5th wheel is always decorated as cute as a bug. They have several sets of friends and some relatives that they meet in these various places. And THIS is one of the gargantuan meals Cherrie now fixes for the gang. They usually take turns preparing dinner for everyone. Cherrie raved about it, so of course (and gave me a sample), so then I had to try this myself. Cherrie got the recipe from one of the other glamping couples.

Did I tell you this recipe is EASY? Yes, I did, but it bears repeating. This is SUPER EASY! Get out your slow cooker, friends. Make a huge batch and if you can’t eat it all now, freeze it in family-sized portions. The only thing you’ll have to do later is prepare the garnishes (of which there are a few).

It’s like a chili – you could use ground turkey – but the ground beef one was awfully good. You brown up the beef and onions, then pour everything into the crockpot (beans, tomatoes, corn, olives, chiles, taco seasoning AND, the surprise ingredient: a package of dried ranch salad dressing mix) and let it slow-cook for about 6 hours. Done. Meanwhile, prepare the toppings: grated Cheddar, sour cream (or yogurt if you prefer), Fritos, cilantro and avocado. That’s it. Put out bowls and have at it. My mouth is watering just writing up this post, and it’s been several months ago that I made it (small batch, all gone, none in freezer).

What’s GOOD: if it wasn’t extraordinarily tasty I wouldn’t be going on and on about it. It’s delicious. Really delicious. Tummy warming. And, it’s EASY. You could make it without meat, too – I bet it would be fine. I absolutely guarantee you’re going to hear “mmmmm’s” from everyone. I’m just sorry I don’t have any in the freezer, although it’s getting to be warmer weather and this is probably best in colder seasons.

What’s NOT: there’s no down side to this recipe. Make it.

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Slow Cooker Taco Soup

Recipe By: This one’s all over the internet, but this is
my friend Cherrie’s version.

Serving Size: 10

2 pounds ground beef — or ground turkey
1 large yellow onion — diced
30 ounces canned pinto beans — drained and rinsed
30 ounces canned kidney beans — drained and rinsed
15 ounces canned corn — drained
15 ounces canned tomatoes with green chiles — (Rotel)
15 ounces canned tomatoes
9 ounces diced green chiles
1 1/4 ounces Taco seasoning mix
1 1/8 ounces ranch-style dressing mix
GARNISHES:
Fritos (the small ones)
4 cups grated cheddar cheese
1 cup light sour cream — or Greek yogurt
1 whole avocado — diced
1/2 cup cilantro — chopped

1. Brown the meat and onions in a large skillet. Drain excess fat and transfer to slow cooker. Add beans, corn, tomatoes, green chiles, taco seasoning and ranch dressing mix.
2. Cook in slow cooker for 6-8 hours.
3. Into each serving bowl place some of the Fritos, then scoop about 2 cups of the soup on top. Serve all the garnishes in bowls for guests to take as they’d like.
Per Serving: 720 Calories; 44g Fat (54.0% calories from fat); 38g Protein; 46g Carbohydrate; 11g Dietary Fiber; 127mg Cholesterol; 1814mg Sodium.

Posted in Soups, on May 20th, 2015.

 

ginger_basil_turkey_meatball_soupHere it is, May, and in SoCal, it’s been downright cold. So soup was the order of the day.

Since returning from my trip, it’s taken me awhile to catch up on all the blogs I read. I hate to tell you how many. At least 50. And some of them post multiple times a day, like Food52 and AppAdvice. But Dorie Greenspan only posts once in awhile, and when I saw this recipe for soup, it just leaped out of the screen saying “fix me.” Dorie wrote this up in her Washington Post column. So, even though I wasn’t feeling good, or maybe it was really because I wasn’t feeling good (as I’m writing this, I’ve been down sick with a bad cold for about 5 days) anything soup + chicken (or turkey) sounded good to me.

It did require a trip to the grocery store – I needed numerous fresh veggies (I used fresh mushrooms, a bag of baby spinach, and a fresh bag/pack of broccoli, snow peas, and carrots). I also needed fresh ginger and  enough shallots to measure 1/2 cup. And, freshly ground turkey and riccotta cheese and Thai rice noodles. Plus fresh mint and fresh cilantro. Actually, that was a lot, but I made it a quick trip in and out.

First you make the meatballs – the ground turkey (the store didn’t have the dark turkey mix, only light), ricotta, ground ginger, fresh garlic (I probably used more than the recipe called for – isn’t garlic supposed to be good for a head cold?). Eggs are added to bind the mixture together, along with some bread crumbs, salt and pepper, fresh lemon zest and the shallots. Dorie recommended using a cookie scoop to make the meatballs because they’re sticky – they do require a little bit of light rolling in your palms to make them round and you drop them into the 10 cups of chicken broth. I used my Penzey’s soup base for the broth, and I also added a little dollop of the mushroom soup base I have in my refrigerator just because it’s full of flavor. I had to cook the meatballs in 2 batches, about 12-14 of them in each batch. They don’t want to touch or they might attach to each other. The broth is kept at a very low simmer, and the meatballs cook in about 10 minutes. Then they’re removed. The broth, at this point, is a bit cloudy from little tiny pieces of things from the meatballs. Dorie suggested you can strain it at this point. I didn’t. Too lazy. Meanwhile, I prepped all the veggies (the bag-packed mixed veggies needed some chopping, the box of crimini mushrooms sliced, the herbs minced). Meanwhile you soak some Thai rice noodles. This was the first time I’d used Thai rice noodles (she recommended Taste of Thai, which I found at the market). They’re soaked for 20 minutes in hot water, then cooked in a separate pot for 4 minutes before being added to the soup.

The only thing I’ll tell you about rice noodles is that they go from cooked just right to sludge in a matter of half a minute. So watch them carefully as you cook them for 4 minutes. Since the noodles are long, I chopped them some after soaking them (to make them mouth-manageable) and I didn’t use anywhere near as much as Dorie did – 8 ounces makes a lot of noodles. Fine for a family with carb-hungry children, but I didn’t want that much. I was in it for the meatballs and the vegetables! I’ve left the recipe below as-is, so you can decide if you want to use that much of the rice noodles.

The veggies are added in (carrots first if you want them to be mostly cooked through) and lastly the meatballs to just heat through. It all came together pretty easily. You serve it with ample fresh herbs (I used cilantro and mint), a drizzle of sesame oil (yum) and you can add some sriracha sauce too, and soy sauce if you’re so inclined. Do taste for seasonings – my soup needed more salt and pepper.

What’s GOOD: the word that comes to mind is FRESH. Loved all the veggies and the little drizzle of sesame oil at the end gave it a lovely hint of Asia. Choose veggies you like – carrots add nice color. The fresh herbs are a must – don’t NOT do that part as they impart lots of flavor. The meatballs are, well, turkey meatballs. Good. Not exactly exceptional, but good. Certainly this soup is super-healthy. The only fat in it is what might be in the chicken broth, the tiny bit in the ground turkey and the tiny jot of sesame oil at the end. Make sure your chicken broth is flavorful, otherwise it will be a bit ho-hum.

What’s NOT: nothing in particular. The meatballs take a little bit of time to make, but only about 15 minutes. If you buy ready-to-cook veggies, it’s pretty easy, really.

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Ginger, Cilantro and Garlic Turkey Meatball Soup

Recipe By: Dorie Greenspan’s recipe from her column in Washington Post, 2015
Serving Size: 6

2 1/2 quarts low sodium chicken broth
2 large eggs
1/2 cup ricotta cheese — (full fat) excess liquid drained
1/2 cup shallots — finely chopped, or onion, rinsed in cold water and patted dry
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro — or basil
1/4 cup bread crumbs — plain dried {I used fresh, whizzed in the food processor]
2 cloves garlic — finely chopped
1 teaspoon grated ginger root — peeled, grated
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound ground turkey — preferably organic (light or dark meat; may substitute chicken)
8 ounces rice noodles — (dried) such as Taste of Thai straight-cut thin rice noodles (you can opt to not use it all)
4 cups vegetables — sliced and/or shredded mixed vegetables, such as carrots, onions, broccoli, sugar snaps or snow peas, mushrooms, cabbage, mustard greens, kale and spinach
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup fresh herbs — chopped, such as cilantro, basil, parsley and/or mint, for serving Sriracha (optional)
Soy sauce (optional)
Toasted sesame oil to drizzle on top (optional)

1. For the meatballs: Bring the broth to a boil in a large pot over medium-high heat, then cover the pot and reduce the heat to medium-low while you put the meatball mixture together.
2. Use a fork to break up and lightly beat the eggs in a large bowl. Add the ricotta, shallots or onion, cilantro or basil, bread crumbs, garlic, ginger, lemon zest, salt and pepper, stirring to blend. Add the ground meat; use the fork and then your clean hands to turn and gently combine the mixture, which will be sticky.
3. Use a medium cookie scoop (one with a capacity of about 1 1/2 tablespoons) — my favorite tool for this — or a tablespoon measure to scoop out 24 to 30 portions. Roll them between your palms to shape into meatballs.
4. Uncover the pot of broth; drop in the meatballs, adjusting the heat as needed so the broth barely bubbles at the edges; cook for about 10 minutes, turning the meatballs over once, until cooked through. (Depending on the size of your pot, you might have to do this in batches.) Use a slotted spoon to transfer the meatballs to a large bowl. The meatballs sink to the bottom when first added; as they cook they rise to the top.
5. After the meatballs are done, the broth will be a little murky. If you’d like it to be clearer (I always do), line a strainer with dampened cheesecloth (or a triple layer of dampened paper towels) and pour the broth through. Rinse out the pot and return the broth to it.
6. For the soup: Put the rice noodles in a large bowl and cover them with very hot tap water. Soak for 20 minutes, replacing the water after 10 minutes.
7. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Just before you’re ready to serve the soup, drop in the soaked noodles; cook until tender, about 4 minutes (but NOT any longer than that). Drain. (This step will help prevent the noodles from absorbing too much of the soup broth.)
8. Meanwhile, reheat the broth over medium-high heat; once it comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium. Drop in the cooked meatballs; let them warm through for 5 minutes, then stir in the 4 cups of vegetables and cook for 5 minutes or until they are tender. (If you’re using carrots, they’ll remain slightly firm.) Taste, and season with salt and pepper as needed.
9. Divide the noodles among deep soup bowls. Ladle over the broth, meatballs and vegetables. Scatter the herbs on top, and, if you’d like, let everyone have a go at the Sriracha, soy sauce, toasted sesame oil or olive oil. Serve hot.
Per Serving: 422 Calories; 11g Fat (23.4% calories from fat); 37g Protein; 43g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 141mg Cholesterol; 1381mg Sodium.

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