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Here are the tastingspoons players. I’m in the middle (Carolyn). Daughter Sara on the right, and daughter-in-law Karen on the left. I started the blog in 2007, as a way to share recipes with my family. Now in 2022, I’m still doing 99% of the blogging and holding out hope that these two lovely and excellent cooks will participate. They both lead very busy lives, so we’ll see.

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BOOK READING (from Carolyn):

Am in the middle of Tidelands,  by Philippa Gregory. It tells the tale of a peasant woman, Alinor (an herbalist and midwife), who lives barely above the poverty level, trying to raise two children, during the time of great turmoil in England, the rancorous civil war about Charles 1. Her husband has disappeared. The feudal system at the time isn’t any friend to Alinor. In comes a man (of course) who is a priest, but to the Catholic king, not the Protestant people, and everything Catholic is abhorred and suspect. A fascinating read, loving every chapter so far.

Read Reminders of Him, by Colleen Hoover. A page turner of a story. A young woman is convicted of a crime (young and foolish type). Once released her sole purpose is to be a part of her daughter’s life. Hoover has such a gift of story-telling and keeping you hanging on a cliff.

The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty. Oh my goodness. The wicked webs we weave. How in the world did the author even come UP with this wild story, but she did, and it kept me glued. Sophie walked away from her wedding day, and always wondered if she made the wrong decision. Then she inherits his aunt’s house, back in her home town, where the quizzical Munro baby disappearance provides a living for many of his family. Sophie moves there, only to have to unearth all the bad stuff that happened before. Quite a story.

Very funny and poignant story, Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont, by Elizabeth Taylor (no, not that one). Mrs. Palfrey, a woman of a certain age, moves into an old folks’ home in London. It’s a sort of hotel, but has full time elderly quirky residents. You get to know them all, and Mrs. Palfrey’s subterfuge effort to show off her “grandson.” I might not have ever picked up this book, but one of my book clubs had us read it, and I’m ever so glad I did.

I’ve been on a Moriarty tangent lately, this one Three Wishes, is about three triplets (women), two identical, one fraternal, as they progress through their 33rd year of life. So many twists and turns for each one. As someone said on amazon, Liane Moriarty never disappoints with providing a good story.

For one of my book clubs we read Lessons in Chemistry, by Bonnie Garmus. This book is so hard to describe. Elizabeth is a wizard at chemistry and struggles to be recognized for her intelligence and research. She meets a man at her company who is brilliant too. They make quite a pair. They have a child, then he suddenly dies. Her work isn’t taken seriously, so she leaves her employment and becomes an overnight phenom on a cooking show where she uses the chemical names for things like sodium chloride, etc. You go alongside her struggles, and her raising of her daughter. LOTS of humor, lots to discuss for a book club.

Horse. Oh my, is it a page turner. Loved it from the first page to the last. Sad when it ended. It’s a fictional creation but based on a real racehorse owned by a black man, back in the 1850s. Technically, the story is about a painting of the horse but there are many twists and turns. If you’ve ever enjoyed Brooks’ books in the past, this one won’t disappoint.

The Book of Lost Names, by Kristin Harmel (no, not Hannah). Certainly a little-known chunk of history about a woman who becomes a master forger during WWII to help get Jewish children out of France. Not easy to read, meaning the difficulty of anyone finding the means and place to DO the forgery and right under the noses of the Nazis. Really good read.

Liane Moriarty’s first novel, Three Wishes, follows the travails of adult triplets, so different, yet similar in many ways. Two are identical, the third is not. So alike, and so not. It takes you through a series of heart-wrenching events, seemingly unrelated, but ones that could bring a family to its breaking point and test the bonds of love and strength.

Recently I’ve read both of Erin French’s books, her cookbook, The Lost Kitchen, and since then her memoir, Finding Freedom. About her life growing up (difficult) about her coming of age mostly working in the family diner, flipper burgers and fries (and learning how much she liked to cook). Now she’s a very successful restaurant entrepreneur (The Lost Kitchen is also the name of her restaurant) in the miniscule town of Freedom, Maine. She’s not a classically trained chef, but she’s terrifically creative. See her TV series on Discover+ if you subscribe.

Migrations, by Charlotte McConaghy. To say that this book stretched my comfort zone is the least of it . . .think about a time in the not very distant future, when global warming has done it’s worst and nearly all animals are extinct.

Jo Jo Moyes has a bunch of books to her credit. And she writes well, with riveting stories. Everything I’ve read of hers has been good. This book, The Girl You Left Behind, is so different, so intriguing, so controversial and a fascinating historical story. There are two timelines here, one during WWI, in France, when a relatively unknown painter (in the style of Matisse) paints a picture of his wife. The war intervenes for both the husband and the wife.

Eli Shafak’s Island of Missing Trees. This book was just a page turner. If you’ve never read anything about the conflict in Cyprus (the island) between the Turks and the Greeks, you’re in for a big history lesson here. But, the entire story centers around a fig tree. You get into the head/brain/feelings of this big fig tree which plays a very central part of the story. You’ll learn a lot about animals, insects (ants, mosquitos, butterflies) and other flora and fauna of Cyprus.

If you’re a fan of Kazuo Ishiguro, you’ll find his newest book a league apart. Klara and the Sun. It takes place in the near future when we humans can go to a store and buy an AF (artificial friend). These robotic humanoid “things” have knowledge and personalities.

Also read Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty. Ohhh my, such a good book. I couldn’t put it down. Whatever you do, do not read the ending before you start the book. I’ve never understood people who do this. The book chronicles the day a mom just ups and disappears. The grown children come back home, in panic. The dad isn’t much help, and he becomes the prime suspect of foul play. There is no body, however.

Amor Towles’ new book, The Lincoln Highway: A Novel. Literally it’s a page turner. I think it’s still on the best seller list. A young man, Emmett, is released from a youth work camp (back in the day) and is returned home (by the camp warden) following the death of his father, to find that the home they’d lived in was in foreclosure. His mother abandoned them years before. His intent is to pick up his 8-year old brother and they will head off for Texas.

If you’d like a mystery read, try Dete Meserve’s The Space Between. It’s just the kind of page-turner I enjoy – a wife returns to her home after being away on business for a few days, to find her husband missing and what he’s left for her is an unexplained bank deposit of a million dollars, a loaded Glock in the nightstand, and a video security system that’s been wiped clean.

Read Alyson Richman’s historical novel called The Velvet Hours. Most of the book takes place in Paris, with a young woman and her grandmother, a very wealthy (but aging) woman who led a life of a semi-courtesan. Or at least a kept woman. But this grandmother was very astute and found ways to invest her money, to grow her money, and to buy very expensive goods. Then WWII intervenes, and the granddaughter has to close up her grandmother’s apartment, leaving it much the way it had been throughout her grandmother’s life, to escape the Nazis. Years go by, and finally answers are sought and found. An intriguing book, based on the author’s experience with an apartment that had been locked up similarly for decades, also in Paris.

Susan Meissner is one of my favorite authors. This book, The Nature of Fragile Things tells a very unusual story. About a young Irish immigrant, desperate to find a way out of poverty, answers an ad for a mail order bride.

Also read Rachel Hauck’s The Writing Desk. You could call this a romance. A young professional, a writer of one successful book, has writer’s block. Then she’s asked to go to Florida to help her mother (from whom she’s mostly estranged) through chemo. She goes, hoping she can find new inspiration.

One of my book clubs has us reading Matt Haig’s The Midnight Library: A Novel. What a premise for a book. About a library you can whiz to in the middle of the night and discover other lives you could have lived. And experience them. To find out the answers to those questions we ask ourselves sometimes, “I wonder what would have happened if I’d . . . .” taken that other job, gone out with that guy, taken that trip.

James Shipman has written an intriguing book, It Is Well: A Novel, about a man who has lost his wife. And about a woman who has lost her husband. But their relationship stalls, big time, because the guy made a promise to his wife, and he feels duty-bound to honor it.

I wrote up a post about this book: Most Spectacular Restaurant in the World: The Twin Towers, Windows on the World, and the Rebirth of New York by Tom Roston. Go read the full write-up if you’re interested. The book is a complete history of the famous restaurant on the 107th floor of one of the Twin Towers.

Also recently finished The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish. The book goes backwards and forwards in time, from the 1600s in London with the day-to-day lives of a group of Jews (who had to be very careful about how they worshiped) to current day as an old house is discovered to hold a treasure-trove of historical papers.

I’m forever reading historical novels. The Lost Jewels: A Novel by Kirsty Manning is a mystery of sorts, going back in time in London in the time of aristocrats and their jewels (pearls, diamonds, gems of all kinds) sometimes made it into the hands of the digger or a maid.

Not for the faint of heart, Boat of Stone: A Novel by Maureen Earl tells the true tale of some misplaced Jews at the tale-end of WWII who ended up on Mauritius.

Colleen Hoover has written quite a book, It Ends with Us: A Novel, with a love story being the central theme, but again, this book is not for everyone – it can be an awakening for any reader not acquainted with domestic violence and how such injury can emerge as innocent (sort of) but then becomes something else. There is graphic detail here.

Erin Bartels wrote quite a complex story in The Words between Us: A Novel. We go alongside a young girl as she goes to high school, trying (somewhat unsuccessfully) to be anonymous (because her mother and father are both in prison), taking on a fake name.

Nicolas Barreau’s novel Love Letters from Montmartre: A Novel  is very poignant, very sweet book. Seems like I’ve read several books lately about grieving; this one has a charming ending, but as anyone who has gone through a grave loss of someone dear knows, you can’t predict day to day, week to week. “Snap out of it,” people say, thinking they’re helping.

Another very quirky book, that happens to contain a lot of historical truth is The Phone Booth at the Edge of the World: A Novel by Harry N. Abrams. Set in Japan just after the tsunami 10 years ago when 18,000 people died. At a private park miles away, some very special people installed a phone booth, with a phone (that didn’t work) at the edge of the park, and the survivors of the tsunami began wending their way there to “talk” to their deceased loved ones. Very poignant story.

No question, the most quirky book I’ve read of late, a recommendation from my friend Karen, West with Giraffes: A Novel by Lynda Rutledge. Back in the 1930s a small group of giraffes were brought across the Atlantic from Africa to New York, destined for the then-growing San Diego Zoo. The story is of their journey across the United States in the care of two oh-so-different people, both with a mission.

Riveting story of post-WWII- Japan in Ana Johns novel, The Woman in the White Kimono: A Novel. About a young Japanese girl who falls in love with an American serviceman.

Also read Rishi Reddi’s novel, Passage West: A Novel with a very different take on the migration of Indians (East India) to the California agricultural lands east of San Diego during the 1920s and 30s.

Maybe not everyone’s cup of tea, but the Mary Morris book, A Very Private Diary: A Nurse in Wartime tells the true day to day life of a young Irish girl who becomes a nurse, in England, France and Belgium in the midst of WWII and immediately after the war.

Could hardly put down Krueger’s book, This Tender Land: A Novel. Tells the harrowing story of a young boy, Odie, (and his brother Albert) who became orphans back in the 30s. At first there is a boarding school, part of an Indian (Native American) agreement, though they are not Indian. They escape, and they are “on the run.”

Just finished Kristin Hannah’s latest book, The Four Winds: A Novel. What a story. One I’ve never read about, although I certainly have heard about the “dust bowl” years when there was a steady migration of down-and-out farmers from the Midwest, to California, for what they hoped to be the American Dream. It tells the story of one particular family, the Martinellis, the grandparents, their son, his wife, and their two children.

Brit Bennett has written quite a book, The Vanishing Half: A Novel. It’s a novel, yet I’m sure there are such real-life situations. Twin girls are born to a young black woman in the South. Into a town (that probably doesn’t exist) that prides itself on being light-skinned blacks.

What a book. The Only Woman in the Room: A Novel by Marie Benedict. A novelized biography of Hedy Lamarr, the famous actress.  Very much worth reading.

Also read The Secret of the Chateau: Gripping and heartbreaking historical fiction with a mystery at its heart by Kathleen McGurl. There are two stories here. The historical part is just prior to and up to the French Revolution, and the second in current day as a group of friends purchase a crumbling chateau. Very interesting. I love historical novels like this, and this one in particular does have quite a mystery involved, too.

Also finished reading Sue Monk Kidd’s recent book, The Book of Longings: A Novel. It is a book that might challenge some Christian readers, as it tells the tale of Jesus marrying a woman named Mary. I loved the book from the first word to the last one. The book is believable to me, even though the Bible never says one way or the other that Jesus ever married. It’s been presumed he never did. But maybe he did?

Jeanine Cummins has written an eye-opener, American Dirt. A must read. Oh my goodness. I will never, ever, ever look at Mexican (and further southern) migrants, particularly those who are victims of the vicious cartels, without sympathy. It tells the story of a woman and her young son, who were lucky enough to hide when the cartel murdered every member of her family – her husband, her mother, and many others. It’s about her journey and escape to America.

Also read JoJo Moyes’ book, The Giver of Stars. Oh gosh, what a GREAT book. Alice joins the Horseback Librarians in the rural south.

Frances Liardet has written a blockbuster tale, We Must Be Brave. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Although the scene is WWII England, this book is not really about the war. It’s about the people at home, waiting it out, struggling with enough food, clothing and enough heat.

William Kent Krueger wrote Ordinary Grace. From amazon: a brilliantly moving account of a boy standing at the door of his young manhood, trying to understand a world that seems to be falling apart around him. It is an unforgettable novel about discovering the terrible price of wisdom and the enduring grace of God. It’s a coming of age story.

Follow the River: A Novel by James Alexander Thom. This one is also based on the history of a woman (married, pregnant) who was captured by the Shawnee, during the early settlement days east of the Ohio River, about 1755. And her eventual escape.

A Column of Fire: A Novel by Ken Follett. It takes place in the 1500s, in England, and has everything to do with the war between the Catholics and the Protestants, that raged throughout Europe during that time, culminating in the Spanish Inquisition.

My Name Is Resolute by Nancy Turner. She’s the author of another book of some renown, These is my Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1901 (P.S.). Resolute is what I’m discussing here. It’s fiction, but based some on a true story. Resolute, as a young girl from a privileged life on a plantation in Jamaica, was taken captive by slavers, eventually ended up in Colonial America.

The Shepherd’s Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape by James Rebanks. This is a memoir, so a true story, of a young man growing up in the Lake District of Northern England, who becomes a shepherd. Not just any-old shepherd – actually a well educated one. He knows how to weave a story.

 

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 Healthy, Soups, on February 3rd, 2023.

Just the simplest of soups – although there are a LOT of vegetables in it, but the more the merrier, and the merrier the taste. I wasn’t expecting it to be so delicious!

A post from Carolyn. I don’t know about you, but after the holidays, of not-so-healthy eating, desserts served more often and just plain eating more than I usually do, I was so ready for some pure foods, healthier. My refrigerator had a bunch of vegetables and some had to be tossed in the trash, but what was there surely was enough to make a delicious soup. As I’m writing this, we’ve had rain – rain – and more rain. It’s so good for our soil as we’ve been in years of drought, so I’m not complaining. A rainy day makes me want to cook, as long as I don’t have other things I have to do. My usual busy routine has started up but I had a free day, and it was raining.

Often, when I look at recipes for vegetable soup, I think eh, veggie soup doesn’t have enough flavor to make me happy. But I decided to try it anyway since I had so many veggies that needed to be used. I’m SO glad I did, as this soup was scrumptious, and well worth making again.

Into a big pot went a sweet onion and leeks, with some olive oil. As that sweated I chopped up all the vegetables (red bells, poblanos, zucchini, yellow squash, a sweet potato, celery, carrots, garlic) and added them all at once.

Last month at the cooking class in San Diego, Phillis Carey mentioned how much she loves the new Better Than Bouillon Seasoned Vegetable Base. Picture at right. She also mentioned the same brand for chicken, the Roasted Chicken Base. I’ve bought both. And I also bought their Chili Base too, since I make more than a fair share of chili-based soups. All of them are available on amazon (use the links to get right to the pages).

All of these concentrates contain a goodly amount of sodium, so I didn’t add a single grain of salt to this soup. I added water, the vegetable paste/base, some oregano and thyme (my go-to herbs). Once the vegetables were done I removed some of it and whizzed it up with my immersion blender and poured it back into the soup (just to give the soup some thickened texture).

Then I added a little tiny can of corn and a big mound of grated Cheddar. Than I added a can of coconut cream. Now, about that. I buy Trader Joe’s coconut cream when I want that creamy texture, but I don’t want to taste coconut. TJ’s brand doesn’t taste like coconut. Neither their coconut cream or coconut milk has much of any taste of coconut. In this case, that’s what I wanted. I wasn’t making a coconut soup with vegetables, I merely wanted the creamy texture. If you want coconut milk that tastes like coconut, do buy Thai Kitchen. I buy it from a Costco that’s not near me at all as not all Costco’s carry it. Or use the link for amazon.

I scooped about a cup of soup into the bowl, added some grated Cheddar on top and a sprig of Italian parsley. Done.

What’s GOOD: altogether delicious. Healthy for sure. Lots of flavor (maybe it’s the broth that did it – but surely all the various veggies contributed too). The soup has some heat from the poblano chiles. If you’re sensitive to heat, use just one, or substitute green bell peppers. I don’t like green bell peppers, so you’ll almost never see them in my cooking repertoire! This recipe is a keeper in my book, and that’s saying something since I’m a bit reluctant to even make vegetable soup since I assume it’ll be blah. Not so with this one.

What’s NOT: really nothing. It’s a very flavorful soup. Relatively low in calorie too. A keeper, and yes, I’ll be making it again. It should freeze well.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Vegetable and Cheddar Soup

Recipe By: My own concoction, 2023
Servings: 12

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large sweet onion — chopped
2 large leeks — cleaned, chopped
2 cloves garlic — minced
1 cup celery — chopped
2 small carrots — chopped
2 medium zucchini — chopped
1 medium yellow squash — chopped
2 medium poblano peppers — seeded, chopped
2 medium red bell peppers — seeded, chopped
1 large sweet potato
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 teaspoons dried oregano
7 cups vegetable broth — I used Better Than Bouillon, seasoned vegetable base
15 ounces coconut cream
1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese — grated
1 1/2 cups canned corn — optional
1 cup frozen peas — optional
Salt and pepper to taste — (won’t need much salt)
Grated cheddar for serving, plus Italian parsley

NOTES: If desired, add a can of beans, or pasta, or rice, wild rice (precook it), brown rice (also precook it). I try to eat fewer carbohydrates, and sweet potatoes (which are a resistant starch) flow through your body with less absorption as a carb.
1. Heat olive oil in a large pot.
2. Add onion and leeks and stir frequently as the vegetable sweat for about 7-10 minutes over medium-low heat. Add garlic, celery, carrots, zucchini, squash, poblano peppers, red bell peppers and sweet potato. Add bouillon and water, or vegetable broth.
3. Bring mixture to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the vegetables are cooked through.
4. Remove about 3 cups of soup and puree in blender (or use immersion blender), and return to the soup pot. Add coconut cream, grated cheese, corn (if using) and peas (if using). Taste for seasonings. When serving, grate more cheese on top and add some Italian parsley for color.
Per Serving: 336 Calories; 25g Fat (64.5% calories from fat); 11g Protein; 20g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 29mg Cholesterol; 648mg Sodium; 7g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 260mg Calcium; 2mg Iron; 554mg Potassium; 247mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Soups, Vegetarian, on January 20th, 2023.

This has “comfort food” written all over it. First bite to the last.

A post from Carolyn. It’s no secret that I love shepherd’s pie. And traditionally, it’s made with ground lamb. If you make it with beef, it’s considered cottage pie. This version has all the ingredients, but made into a soup instead. I’m not sure when I began making shepherd’s pie – decades ago – maybe I had it on my very first trip to Britain in about 1978. I’ve always made it with beef. Maybe we Americans have adopted the title, but without keeping to the British tradition of lamb. I like it with either. And originally, the “pie” was made with tiny, minced up pieces of leftover roast, not the ground meat we buy at the grocery store. I started with a recipe I found online, but then augmented it with more flavor (mushrooms, celery).

Because I try to limit carbs, I made this with less potatoes. To explain . . . this soup has two quantities of potatoes in it: (1 part) cooked separately, made into mashed potatoes (or use some leftover you have) and added to the finished soup to give it a thick texture; and (2nd part) cubed potatoes added in at the end of cooking and cooked in the soup just until done. You can see a cube right on that spoon in the photograph. Originally this recipe called for a total of 3 pounds of potatoes. I used about 1 1/2 pounds total with half in the mashed potato part and half in the soup. You can change this to suit your wants or your family’s.

Important flavors in this soup: Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste and mushrooms. All umami flavors. Actually, because I didn’t want to have beef, I used Impossible Burger meat in mine. Because it’s mixed into a soup, truly you’d never know the difference. And if you want to eliminate the meat altogether, you’ll have a delicious vegetarian soup. Just make sure the broth you add has lots of flavor.

What’s GOOD: altogether comfort food. Good stick-to-the-ribs winter meal. Serve with some crackers or toasted bread and you have a full meal. This is going onto my favorites list as I’ll be making it again soon.

What’s NOT: nothing at all. This is a keeper.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Cottage Pie Soup

Recipe By: Adapted from an online recipe
Servings: 7

MASHED POTATOES:
3/4 pound potatoes — peeled and diced
2 tablespoons butter
COTTAGE SOUP:
2 tablespoons EVOO
1 cup onion — diced
1 cup celery — chopped
1 cup carrots — diced
2 cloves garlic — chopped
1 pound ground beef — or lamb, or meat substitute
3 tablespoons tomato paste
8 ounces mushrooms — chopped, mixed variety
4 cups low sodium beef broth
3/4 pound potatoes — peeled and cubed (yes, this is listed twice)
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons rosemary
2 teaspoons thyme
2 bay leaves
1 cup cheddar cheese — shredded
1 cup frozen peas salt and pepper to taste
More grated cheddar and chopped Italian parsley for garnish

1. MASHED POTATOES: Place the potatoes in a pot, cover with water, bring to a boil and cook until tender, about 15-20 minutes. When they’re tender, drain them, mash with a potato masher (or mixer), then add butter. Add half of the low sodium beef broth and mix thoroughly. Set aside.
2. SOUP: Meanwhile, cook the beef, onions, celery and carrots in a large saucepan over medium-high heat, breaking the beef apart as it cooks, until the beef is cooked through, and drain off any excess grease. Add the mushrooms, garlic and tomato paste to the beef and cook until fragrant, about a minute.
3. Add remaining half of the broth, the uncooked cubed potatoes, Worcestershire sauce, rosemary, thyme and bay leaves to the soup. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 10-15 minutes.
4. When the diced potatoes in the soup are tender, add the mashed potatoes, grated cheddar and let it melt into the soup, about 2 minutes, until it’s just heated through. Add the peas and heat, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with more grated cheddar and some Italian parsley chopped on top.
Per Serving: 484 Calories; 29g Fat (52.7% calories from fat); 26g Protein; 32g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 86mg Cholesterol; 703mg Sodium; 7g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 307mg Calcium; 3mg Iron; 1101mg Potassium; 411mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Beef, Soups, on October 25th, 2022.

Just look at that deep, dark color. I’d never made chili this way. Read on.

A post from Carolyn. We had a few days of cooler weather, a harbinger of fall, here in SoCal, and my taste buds turned to winter weather foods. First I craved chili, so I decided to try a new recipe. I have a deep respect for the work that the folks at Cook’s Illustrated do, and sure enough, I had a recipe to try. They called it “Best Ground Beef Chili.”

Right off the top, I’ll tell you, this isn’t a 1-2-3 done kind of chili. It requires a few steps and about 2 hours in a low oven too. But oh, my goodness, is this ever good. The dried ancho chiles are the key ingredient in this version. Well, there are a couple of other oddball ingredients in this too, but the ancho chiles are certainly the first and foremost. They are stemmed, seeded, and cut or torn into chunky pieces. They go into a dry Dutch oven and are toasted. You’d think they’re already toasted with the color of them, but they’re not – they’re simply dried chiles. The picture at right shows the ancho pieces as they toast away in the dry Dutch oven. Do watch the pot, though, and make sure they don’t begin to smoke. If they do, turn down the heat – but stir them a lot as they toast. You cannot tell they are getting toasted, just trust the recipe.

Meanwhile, I mixed up the lean ground beef with 2 T of water and a bit of baking soda. Say what, I asked? Why? Well, doing that helps the beef retain its moisture as it cooks and helps the beef to not shed all of its juices. What an idea! That bowl was set aside to rest while I began the other steps. Onion was sautéed in the Dutch oven (same one I used for the chiles). The toasted chiles went into a food processor along with a whole bunch of dried spices and herbs. That got whizzed up into a fine dust and was added to the onion. A large can of whole tomatoes was also pureed (I guess you could buy already pureed tomatoes if you’d rather). They say the whole tomatoes have better flavor; I suppose that’s why you whiz them up yourself. The ground beef was added to the Dutch oven, the spices and the tomatoes. Plus a few other minor ingredients like chipotle chiles in adobo, a can of pinto beans, a tetch of sugar and a couple cups of water. That was brought up to a boil, lid affixed, and it went into a 275° oven for 1 1/2 hours (or up to 2).

Once out of the oven, the mixture needs to get stirred as the fat rises to the top. Stir it in to get more flavor. The chili is so SO dark colored. Those toasted chiles really did their job of coloring the entire pot full. You also add 2 T of cider vinegar. What that does for the chili I don’t know – I couldn’t really taste it. Guess it gave it a bit of tang, perhaps? The recipe recommends serving it over rice and/or tortilla chips. I did neither as I didn’t want the carbs. A serving is about 1 to 1 1/4 cups – it’s rich, so a little goes a long ways. All the toppings give texture too. Grated cheese, avocado, red onion, crushed tortilla chips, sour cream, lime wedges, chopped cilantro – any and all of those go with it.

What’s GOOD: everything about this chili is stellar. Deep, dark flavor from those ancho chiles. The chili is just slightly warm (go easy on the chipotle if you’re sensitive to heat). Notice, there is NO chili powder in this chili. Loved it from the first to the last slurp. A definite keeper. Thanks to Cook’s Illustrated.

What’s NOT: nothing other than it takes a few hours to prepare and more cooking prep than some recipes. But you’ll be rewarded at the end for all your hard work.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Chili with Deep Dark Anchos

Recipe By: Cook’s Illustrated
Servings: 8

2 pounds lean ground beef
2 tablespoons water
Salt and pepper
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
6 whole dried ancho chiles — stemmed, seeded, and torn into 1-inch pieces
1 ounce tortilla chips — crushed (1/4 cup)
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
14 ounces canned tomatoes — whole
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 onion — chopped fine
3 garlic cloves — minced
1 teaspoon chipotle chiles
15 ounces canned pinto beans
2 teaspoons sugar
2 cups water
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
Lime wedges
Coarsely chopped cilantro
Chopped red onion

NOTES: Diced avocado, sour cream, and shredded Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese are also good options for garnishing. This chili is intensely flavored and should be served with tortilla chips and/or steamed white rice. The water and soda added to the ground beef help the meat hold on to moisture, so it doesn’t shed liquid during cooking.
1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 275°F.
2. In a bowl combine ground beef with 2 tablespoons water, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and baking soda in bowl. Mix with hands until thoroughly combined. Set aside for 20 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, place anchos in dry Dutch oven set over medium-high heat; toast, stirring frequently, until fragrant, 4 to 6 minutes, reducing heat if anchos begin to smoke. Transfer to food processor and let cool.
3. Add tortilla chips, cumin, paprika, garlic powder, coriander, oregano, thyme, and 2 teaspoons pepper to food processor with anchos and process until finely ground, about 2 minutes. Transfer mixture to bowl and set aside. Process tomatoes and their juice in empty workbowl until smooth, about 30 seconds.
4. Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 4 to 6 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add ground beef mixture and cook, stirring with wooden spoon to break meat up into 1/4-inch pieces, until beef is browned and fond begins to form on pot bottom, 12 to 14 minutes. Add ancho mixture and chipotle; cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes.
5. Add 2 cups water, beans and their liquid, sugar, and tomato puree. Bring to boil, scraping bottom of pot to loosen any browned bits. Cover, transfer to oven, and cook until meat is tender and chili is slightly thickened, 1 1/2 to 2 hours, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.
6. Remove chili from oven and let stand, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Stir in any fat that has risen to top of chili, then add vinegar and season with salt to taste. Serve, passing lime wedges, cilantro, and chopped onion separately. (Chili can be made up to 3 days in advance.) One serving is about 1-1/4 cup.
Per Serving: 257 Calories; 7g Fat (26.3% calories from fat); 28g Protein; 19g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 70mg Cholesterol; 464mg Sodium; 4g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 91mg Calcium; 6mg Iron; 751mg Potassium; 316mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Soups, Travel, on September 22nd, 2022.

That’s my granddaughter’s freezer . . . but I made all those soups – four different kinds.

A post from Carolyn. Last week I spent in Greenville, South Carolina and one day in Blacksburg, Virginia. Daughter Sara (who posts here occasionally) and her husband John, his mother and sister and I flew to S.C. to attend a “white coat ceremony.” Their daughter, Sabrina, my granddaughter, is in medical school at the University of South Carolina/Greenville. She began classes there about 6 weeks ago. First she did EMT training, and now she’s in full-on med school classes requiring lots, lots and lots of studying.

A white coat ceremony is done for nursing students and for med school students (maybe others but I know only of those two). Sabrina was given her white coat to wear when she works at Prisma Hospital, associated with the med school. Families of the 110 students were there (from all over the world, but lots of them from South Carolina). Her undergrad was from Clemson University, 30 minutes away, and that probably helped her get into the med school in Greenville. I think there are three students from California in her class. I removed her last name from the photo, just because it’s the safe thing to do. Can you tell I’m short and she’s tall?

It was a very moving ceremony; so very proud of this sweet girl. So, I flew to Greenville four days earlier than all of the family. I stayed at a B&B about a block away from Sabrina’s apartment. I became a regular at the Publix supermarket down the street, and I spent 2+ days making soup by the gallon. Sabrina spends so much time studying that she doesn’t have much time to cook, so this was my gift to her. If I’d had bigger pots/pans I’d have made double the quantity, but she has a limited repertoire of them, so I made do with her Instant Pot and one other pan.

Since this is a food blog, you probably want to know what I made for her? These soups are favorites of mine. If you haven’t ever made any of these, you’re missing out.

Cabbage Patch Stew – after making the soup with ground beef and veggies, I prepared a batch of mashed potatoes, filled a small snack-sized ziploc with the mashed potatoes and added it inside the main ziploc (quart sized) with the soup in it.

Moroccan Harira Chicken Soup  – chicken soup in a flavorful soup with lentils, rice and garbanzos – this is one of my favorite soups that I make regularly.

Beef, Cheese and Macaroni Stoup – a Rachael Ray recipe I’ve been making for about 20 years or so. This time I made it with Italian sausage.

And lastly my dad’s Lentil Soup – my dad never cooked anything for the family except this soup and grilled burgers and steak. But it’s a regular favorite in my family now (granddaughter Taylor loved it). I used ground beef in it this time, but I often use Italian sausage instead.

There are some more pictures to share, but I’ll do it in the next post. Lots of things to do here at home when you’ve returned from a trip away.

Posted in Appetizers, Soups, Vegetarian, on June 16th, 2022.

Simply the best kind of refreshing first course for summertime. If you haven’t got good, ripe tomatoes or watermelon yet, save this to make in a month or two.

A post from Carolyn. So, a couple of weeks ago I hosted a small fund-raising event at my home. It’s the third time or fourth time we’ve had a wine tasting fund-raiser on my patio. I think we skipped a year, 2020, when we were all housebound from Covid lockdowns. About 10 of my dear PEO sisters bid on attending the event this year. The money all goes to philanthropies to help young women get an education; and we who host pay for the food or activities and the bid money goes to the philanthropies.

I had two co-hostesses, Linda and Lois, and they made most of the food. I made sangria (recipe coming up) and I also made another batch of the tres leches cake I posted a few weeks ago. The one made with pineapple, coconut milk, rum, etc. I made some asparagus appetizers, then we had some Spanish meatballs, and also a baguette slice appetizer. All those recipes coming up soon.

The weather was okay – maybe we should be happy it wasn’t blisteringly hot as that would have been miserable. It was about 70, and we sat outside the whole time. I’d figured out the menu some months ago and decided to go with a Spanish wine and tapas theme. After having the sangria (from Spanish rose cava), we moved on to an appetizer, then we served this lovely gazpacho. I love gazpacho. I found a great website just chock full of tapas recipes, called Spanish Sabores. Most of the recipes came from that website, however all of them had a few modifications so I feel quite comfortable posting them. If you’re ever wanting to do a tapas night, do go to that website for ideas. The couple who post are just the cutest!

So, this recipe. I told Lois to buy really good tomatoes, and to find a ripe watermelon. That’s not always easy, and this was in May, so it’s possible neither would be great, but I sent Lois to my favorite independent grocery store where I can rely, always, on their good produce. She talked to the produce guy and he helped her pick out the best. When in doubt, buy Roma tomatoes as they generally have good flavor year-around.

The gazpacho is so easy to make – whiz up most of the ingredients in a blender, put it through a fine-mesh sieve (or not, if you want more texture) and then add the watermelon and mint, then taste for seasoning. After Lois made it, I tasted it and decided it needed a tiny bit more salt, a bit of sugar (because I could taste the bitterness of the green bell pepper) and then I added some balsamic vinegar. A tetch. Really just a tetch. Oh, perfection. In this soup, you really can taste the tomatoes, the watermelon, the bell pepper. The other ingredients just add layers of flavor.

What’s GOOD: so fresh, and refreshing. Easy to make. Do taste it at the end to add salt, maybe, or a bit of sugar, or the balsamic vinegar (very little). You can make it ahead, too.

What’s NOT: only that you need to seek out and find really ripe (tasty) produce to go into it. Don’t compromise on that or the soup won’t be great.

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Watermelon Mint Gazpacho

Recipe By: Adapted from Spanish Sabores blog
Serving Size: 8

6 large tomatoes — very ripe, roughly cut into large chunks
1/2 cup green bell pepper
2 small cloves garlic — cut into a few pieces
1 small onion — roughly chopped
3 cups watermelon — ripe, roughly chopped with seeds removed
Salt to taste
2 tablespoons EVOO
4 teaspoons sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar — or maybe up to 2 tsp
1 teaspoon sugar — or more to taste (optional)
2/3 cup fresh mint leaves — plus more for garnish

NOTE: If you prefer your gazpacho thicker, do not strain, or use a wider-mesh strainer to retain more of the tomato pulp. You can also top each glass with a little sherry vinegar, olive oil, sea salt, a watermelon ball and a mint leaf.
1. Wash and chop the tomatoes, pepper, and onion. Make sure you are using the best quality fruits and vegetables possible since gazpacho is a raw dish.
2. Blend the tomatoes, green pepper, onion, and garlic until completely pureed.
3. Strain the blended vegetable juice through a fine mesh strainer. (Or not, if you prefer a thicker consistency.)
4. Everything should pass through except for a layer of seeds and skin. Discard this.
5. Add the vegetable juice back to the blender and add the watermelon. Blend again until completely pureed.
6. Add salt to taste (go easy, you can always add more later), and sherry vinegar and blend. Suit your own taste on how much vinegar – and it depends upon the ripeness of the fruit and vegetables used.
7. Finally, slowly add in the EVOO (better olive oil means better gazpacho) as the blender is running. Add balsamic vinegar and sugar and blend until smooth.
8. Taste the gazpacho for salt and vinegar and adjust if necessary. Then, add two to four ice cubes (depending on how thin you like your gazpacho – when we made it we used no ice). Let them melt for a few minutes in the blender and then add a handful of fresh mint and blend for the last time. Can be made the day before; keep chilled.
9. Taste for salt and serve ice cold in glasses, garnished with a mint leaf.
Per Serving: 87 Calories; 4g Fat (35.8% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 13g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 9mg Sodium; 9g Total Sugars; 0mcg Vitamin D; 36mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 392mg Potassium; 44mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Soups, Vegetarian, on April 21st, 2022.

Just good vegetable soup – tons of broccoli, a little bit of wild rice and some cheese.

A post from Carolyn. There’s a local restaurant near where I live that always has broccoli cheese soup on the menu. And I’ve had it many times, but the last couple of times it was so thick and gluey (with cheese) I was concerned about choking on it. Not a fun feeling. But when I read something about broccoli cheese soup a couple of weeks ago I just decided I needed to make some at home. And I wanted a little bit of fiber of some kind. Since I had some wild rice on my pantry shelf, that’s what it became. Not broccoli cheese soup; not thickened. Not gluey with cheese!

I rounded up a few recipes and chose the best from them. I made this soup very high in broccoli and relatively low in cheese, and also not a whole lot of broth or milk in it. You definitely know you’re having broccoli with some cheese. And the wild rice gives it a really nice chewy consistency. You can make this in the Instant Pot if you’d like (and one or two of the recipes I consulted had you do that). I had time, so I made it in my big round Le Creuset pot. Low and slow.

It’s the usual kind of start to a soup – onion, carrots, celery, and I had leeks, so they went in there too (good flavor). After sweating them a bit, I added chicken broth, dry marjoram, salt and pepper, some wild rice and let it cook about 10 minutes. Then I added the broccoli (all chopped up into little florets) and basmati rice and let that cook for another 15-20 minutes until both rice ingredients were just barely tender. It came off heat, I added heavy cream, some half and half, some sharp cheddar and reheated it briefly to let the cheese melt. Then served it with some grated cheddar on top, some pine nuts (toasted) and a flicker or Italian parsley.

Is this soup going to blow your socks off? Probably not, but it was delicious (not low in calorie, I’ll add, with all that dairy in it), but a cup of it was plenty for a serving.

What’s GOOD: all the veggies – liked the texture both of the veggies and the rice (wild and white). Very filling, even though it doesn’t have any meat protein in it. I liked it a lot. Yes, I’d make it again. I made enough to freeze several cups for another time. One cup is a sufficient serving.

What’s NOT: really nothing – liked this soup a lot. If you don’t have leeks leave them out. It uses a lot of broccoli.

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Broccoli Wild Rice Soup with Pine Nuts

Serving Size: 10

1 1/2 tablespoons EVOO
1 large yellow onion — chopped
3 large carrots — peeled, sliced
2 1/2 cups celery — chopped
2 medium leeks — cleaned, chopped
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth — or vegetable broth
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup wild rice
1/3 cup basmati rice
8 cups fresh broccoli — trimmed, chopped, stems chopped
1 cup heavy cream
2 cups half and half
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese — grated
6 tablespoons Italian parsley — chopped
1/3 cup pine nuts — toasted

1. In a large soup pot over medium heat add EVOO. Then add onions and leeks. Allow to sweat, turning heat down as needed, while you chop the carrots and celery. Add those to the pot. Add the broccoli, wild rice, salt, pepper, marjoram, heavy cream and chicken broth. If the vegetables aren’t covered with liquid, add water or milk to the pot to just barely cover the vegetables.
2. Bring the mixture to a very low simmer, cover and cook for about 10 minutes. Add white rice and continue cooking for another 20 minutes. Taste the rice to make sure it’s barely tender. A little bite to it is good, but not crunchy.
3. At the very end, add half and half and grated cheddar (or you may add the cheese as a garnish), and bring back to a simmer. Serve at this point or cool and refrigerate. If you’d like a thicker soup, remove about 3 cups of the soup and use an immersion blender to puree and add back into the soup.
4. When serving add Italian parsley to the top. Optional garnishes: croutons, diced red bell pepper, pesto, more grated cheese. You could also add chopped rotisserie chicken. You could also use coconut milk in lieu of heavy cream and/or the half and half. If you use Trader Joe’s brand it won’t have much of a coconut milk taste.
Per Serving: 519 Calories; 37g Fat (60.9% calories from fat); 23g Protein; 30g Carbohydrate; 7g Dietary Fiber; 91mg Cholesterol; 932mg Sodium; 9g Total Sugars; 1mcg Vitamin D; 530mg Calcium; 3mg Iron; 1030mg Potassium; 504mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Soups, Vegetarian, on March 25th, 2022.

Another recipe from my friend Linda

A post from Carolyn. My dear friend Linda is an avid cook. There are any number of recipes of hers on my blog and she so nicely asked if I wanted a couple more recipes to post, favorites of hers. I said of course! This soup, made popular by Ina Garten, actually has different beginnings. It’s from Bobbi Brown, the originator of Bobbi Brown Cosmetics. The recipe is in one of Ina’s cookbooks, but at Food & Wine they introduced the recipe (from Ina) but said that it was from Bobbi Brown. Who knew . . . I went online to read a bit more about Brown – she’s married with three sons – lives in New Jersey and she and her husband recently renovated an old hotel there and it re-opened as one a couple or three years ago. Click on the link above, to Wikipedia, if you’re interested in knowing more.

French Green de Puy Lentils Texture Picture | Free Photograph | Photos Public DomainThe one important note here – it’s necessary that you find and  use French Le Puy lentils. Sometimes they’re a bit harder to find. They hold their shape after cooking. You know that orange lentils dissolve once cooked. Here you want the distinct shape and texture of the lentil. Online it says Walmart and Target both carry French/Le Puy. So does amazon.

Anyway, the soup is quite straight forward – soak the lentils, cook onions, garlic and leeks until tender, then add celery and carrots. Broth, tomato paste and lentils are added and cooked for about an hour, then you add some red wine. Always a flavorful addition to hearty soups. Season it well – sometimes lentils need more salt than you might think. This soup has garlic, thyme and cumin in it. You can drizzle the top of the soup with olive oil and grate some Parm on top too. As with all soups (IMHO) they’re better if made a day ahead. The recipe indicates this keeps for two days. Huh? Just two days? Surely lentil and vegetable soup would keep more than two days; not sure why that would be the case. Thank you, Linda, for the recipe and the soup photo.

What’s GOOD: Linda says this soup is just wonderful. Not hard to make. Good, deep flavor. Freezes well too.

What’s NOT: only that you need to find Le Puy lentils. Buy two so you have some when you want to make this again.

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French Lentil and Vegetable Soup

Recipe By: Ina Garten (and from Bobbi Brown)
Serving Size: 8

1 pound lentils — Le Puy French type, picked over and rinsed
Boiling water
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil — plus more for serving
3 large onions — chopped
3 medium garlic cloves — minced
2 large leeks — white and tender green parts only, chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon fresh thyme — chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
8 celery ribs — cut into 1/2-inch dice
6 medium carrots — cut into 1/2-inch dice
3 quarts low sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 tablespoons dry red wine — or red wine vinegar
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese — for serving

1. In a large heatproof bowl, cover the lentils with boiling water and let stand for 15 minutes. Drain and set aside.
2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large pot. Add the onions, garlic, leeks, 1 tablespoon of salt, 1 1/2 teaspoons of pepper and the thyme and cumin and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are very tender, about 20 minutes.
3. Add the celery and carrots and cook until they begin to soften, about 10 minutes. Add the chicken stock, tomato paste and lentils to the pot. Increase the heat to high, cover and bring to a boil. Uncover, reduce the heat to moderate and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are tender, about 1 hour. Stir in the red wine and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of Parmesan.
4. To Make Ahead: The soup can be refrigerated for up to 2 days. Let return to room temperature and reheat gently, adding more stock to adjust the consistency if necessary.
Per Serving: 379 Calories; 10g Fat (22.4% calories from fat); 23g Protein; 54g Carbohydrate; 9g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 158mg Sodium; 8g Total Sugars; 0mcg Vitamin D; 83mg Calcium; 6mg Iron; 1050mg Potassium; 315mg Phosphorus.

Posted in easy, IP, Soups, on March 17th, 2022.

So very easy to make in the Instant Pot. 

A post from Carolyn. For quite awhile I’m been reading a blog called Ministry of Curry. And I’ve made several of Archana’s recipes, since I’m a lover of all things Indian food. This recipe isn’t Indian – that’s not to say they don’t eat barley in India – – – I have no idea, actually. But there are no Indian spices here, as this is very much a simple, lightly seasoned mushroom and vegetable soup with some added barley. I started out with her recipe, although I altered it. You can find thousands of mushroom barley soup recipes on the web and there may be nothing all that unusual about this one. But I’ll just tell you it’s a good stick-to-the-ribs kind of cold-weather soup for these cool/cold evenings. The easy part is that it’s made in the Instant Pot. Love that pot.

A few weeks ago I was out in the desert at the 2nd home (condo) my daughter Sara, her husband John and I purchased in 2020. We’re in the process of renovating it now, and that will likely take a long time to finish. As I write this, the guest bath (mine) is getting a total makeover – new shower and tile, new cabinet, fixtures, lighting. Except for a vessel sink and granite countertop the bathroom was circa 1985. Old. Tired. Eventually we’re going to vinyl (wood-like) plank the floors in the whole house, but for now it’s tile. Anyway, I got sidetracked there – – I wanted to make a batch of butter chicken and the recipe I’ve posted here (that I just love-love-love) is made in the Instant Pot. Well, shoot  – we didn’t have an Instant Pot at that house. So, I went to Costco and bought one. I don’t think I could function anymore without an Instant Pot in my kitchen. My most common use for it is making hard boiled eggs (the 2-10-2 method – 2 minutes manual pressure – 10 resting – release pressure – then 2 minutes in ice water). I eat a hard boiled egg for breakfast seven days a week with a little yogurt and fruit on the side.

So back to this recipe . . . am I giving all of you TMI? . . . I went to a local market and got some bulk barley (I can’t tell you the last time I bought or ate barley), a big honkin’ leek, onions, mushrooms, celery, carrots, etc. This soup doesn’t inherently have any protein in it – although barley has some – but when I reheated bowls of it I added in some chopped up rotisserie chicken so I would have some protein. But many of the heated bowls I ate as is, no protein. It’s very filling, let me say. I really liked the addition of sour cream on top that gets mixed in as you eat it. There’s a little bit of tomato paste in the recipe (good umami flavor), and I also used mushroom soup base (try amazon) that is a regular fixture in my frig. And over a pound of mushrooms. And I added some sherry wine to it also. Every time I heat a bowl of it the sherry aroma wafts from the steam.

As with all soups, this one tasted so much better the next day and I’ve been eating away at it for a week with enough to put some in the freezer too. It’s very filling – a scant cup is plenty for me for lunch.

What’s GOOD: just the wholesomeness of it – healthy, hearty, filling. So very easy in the Instant Pot (15 minutes, that’s it). The chopping up of all the veggies took a lot more time than that! Good for freezing. Good umami flavors throughout.

What’s NOT: nary a thing.

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Mushroom Barley Soup in the Instant Pot

Recipe By: Adapted from Ministry of Curry
Serving Size: 6

1 pound mushrooms — crimini
4 tablespoons EVOO
4 tablespoons dry sherry
1 large leek — or two medium sized ones
1 1/2 cups onion — finely chopped
3 cloves garlic — minced
1 1/2 cups celery — thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups carrots — diced
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons mushroom base — a concentrate
4 cups water
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup barley
1/4 cup parsley — minced
GARNISH:
1 cup sour cream

1. Slice half of the mushrooms. Dice the remaining half.
2. Set the Instant pot to sauté mode and heat half of the oil. Add sliced mushrooms and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes. Add cooking sherry as the mushrooms start to stick to the pot, cooking for additional 2 minutes. Remove cooked mushrooms with liquids and set aside.
3. To the Instant Pot add remaining oil, leeks, onions, garlic, and celery to the pot. Sauté for 2 minutes. Next, add mushrooms and sauté for another 2 minutes. Add carrots, tomato paste, bay leaves, barley, salt, pepper, and mushroom paste and water.
4. Pressure Cook for 15 minutes followed by natural pressure release. Remove bay leaves.
5. Stir in the reserved mushrooms. Cool soup and for best flavor, refrigerate overnight. Reheat then garnish with parsley. Serve hot with bread. You can also add a dollop of sour cream as a garnish.
Per Serving: 290 Calories; 16g Fat (48.0% calories from fat); 7g Protein; 32g Carbohydrate; 7g Dietary Fiber; 19mg Cholesterol; 735mg Sodium; 10g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 107mg Calcium; 2mg Iron; 833mg Potassium; 190mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Soups, on January 7th, 2022.

There’s no question, I do love tortilla soup. This one’s a little bit different, but certainly in the same genre.

This post from Carolyn. Over the holidays (two weeks before Christmas) I came down with a cold. A really awful cold that had me down and out for over a week. It had me cancel several fun things I was going to do which made me quite sad. It had me snuggled under a blanket watching too much television. I had a jillion Rachael Ray shows recorded, so one day I watched about 10 of them. This recipe came from one of those programs. Had I been well enough I would have made this while I was sick, but instead I made it after I was well. My cousin Gary drove down from Northern California where he lives. As it happened we’ve had a lot of rain in California in recent weeks, so his trip would normally take about 7+ hours, and it took him nearly 11 hours because of traffic issues, rain, road conditions and just jam-ups  in various places. This soup was his reward once he arrived.

Rachael said she was looking for a leaner, very green, vegetarian style tortilla soup. And she explained that the toppings are what make this dish. I totally agree. The soup itself is merely the “bed” or the sled to pile on the goodies. The more toppings the better. As it happened, I did end up adding some shredded rotisserie chicken to the soup, but that’s certainly optional. The soup was a bit on the hot side for my cousin, so I’ve tamed down the chiles in the recipe – Rachael used Hatch chiles (which are generally hotter than regular green chiles), so you can decide for yourself if you want hot, use Hatch mild, otherwise, the regular cans of Ortega green chiles will be fine too. For the leftovers I added a little bit of cream to the soup (this was to tame it down) and squeezed a bit of sour cream on top as well.

What’s GOOD: I loved everything about this soup. The texture of all the varied toppings IS what makes the soup. Tomatillos are the strongest flavor of the soup base itself. But the crunch of the various things on top give it so much variety. This recipe is a keeper.

What’s NOT: nothing, really. Easy to make. The hardest part is chopping up all the toppings!

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Green Mean Tortilla Soup – with or without chicken

Recipe By: adapted slightly from Rachael Ray show, Dec. 2021
Serving Size: 4

6 corn tortillas — halved and cut into ½-inch strips, baked to a golden brown in a 400°F oven for 7-8 minutes
1/4 cup EVOO
3 medium zucchini — seeds removed, diced
3 poblano chiles — chopped
1 onion — chopped
Salt and pepper
4 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried oregano
6 cups vegetable stock — or chicken stock
1 cup Hatch chiles — use mild, or if you’re sensitive to heat, use Ortega regular mild chiles
12 ounces tomatillos — papery skin removed, washed and quartered, or use canned
2 cups shredded chicken (optional)
Garnishes: thin sliced radishes, crumbled queso fresco, scallions sliced on bias, diced avocado with lime, toasted pumpkin seeds, cilantro, crema or sour cream, pickled jalapenos

1. Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium-high to high heat, add zucchini, poblanos, onion and salt. Partially cover, turn heat to medium and soften 7 to 8 minutes.
2. Remove half of the vegetables from the pan and set aside. Grate garlic into the pan, add the spices and black pepper. Add the stock, chiles and tomatillos and let come to a boil. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes until the vegetables are very tender.
3. Puree in a high-powered blender or with an immersion blender, then add back the reserved vegetables and simmer together 5 minutes. Add chicken at this point if you’re using it.
4. Serve soup in wide bowls and top with your pick of garnishes – the more the merrier.
Per Serving: 318 Calories; 17g Fat (44.0% calories from fat); 8g Protein; 40g Carbohydrate; 7g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 1020mg Sodium; 14g Total Sugars; 0mcg Vitamin D; 116mg Calcium; 4mg Iron; 1071mg Potassium; 266mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Soups, on August 23rd, 2021.

A dry soup? Well, it’s a conundrum. Here it means you add a bunch of things (avocado, chicken, tortilla chips, bacon, sour cream and cilantro) to a bowl, then you add (pour) in an amount of fairly thick, chunky “soup.”

A post from Carolyn. This soup is very hard to describe. And I haven’t made it in years and years – before I started writing this blog in 2007. It is a Phillis Carey recipe, from a class I took from her many, long years ago. But I’ve modified it a little bit – mostly made it thicker. What this soup is not is a traditional chicken tortilla soup. Bacon? Probably not. Everything else – of the ingredients – is traditional – but it’s not served in a traditional way.

The base of the soup comes from dried chiles. They provide a depth of flavor you just can’t get from fresh ones. I had on hand some various types – and didn’t have ancho (those are dried poblanos). But I did have dried Anaheim, Cascabel and New Mexico ones, so I used a combination – with very few New Mexico ones as they would be the hottest. I removed all of the seeds, since the heat comes more from seeds than from the skin/shell. Once chopped up, they went into a food processor to mince more finely, then canned tomatoes were added and garlic. Also some broth to make the mixture more fluid. I like this soup chunkier – not big chunks – but didn’t want it to be a puree, either. Use your own judgment about this.

That mixture is simmered for 10-15 minutes, with some added oregano. There is some chicken broth in this, and you may use your own preference on how much. I liked the thicker style. Meanwhile I cooked some chicken breasts (or buy the ready-made ones and make sure they’re warm when you serve them), chopped the cilantro, made the tortilla chips (actually I did that first thing), chopped and cooked the bacon and got out the sour cream. And crumbled Cotija (or you can use shredded Jack), and diced avocado. Then you hand each diner a bowl – a dry bowl – and they put in what they want from the various condiments. Then you use a measuring cup (about a cup per person) to pour the soup part into the side of the bowl. If you pour it on top, everything is submerged. You want to see some of it.

For me, this soup is all about texture. The crispy tortilla chips, the chicken, the cilantro, the bacon, even the sour cream. And the background is the sort-of chunky soup poured in last on the edge, so you can still see the chunks of whatever you’ve chosen to add to the bowl. Afterwards, put the tortilla strips in a sealing plastic bag and they’ll keep for several days. Everything else will refrigerate well and make for a quick 2nd meal a night or two later. Add in your own extra condiments – maybe shredded cabbage, some tiny cherry tomatoes, halved, some green onion? Or two different kinds of cheese, perhaps?

What’s GOOD: as mentioned above, it’s all about texture for me. Loved the flavors (from the dried chiles, most likely) and cooling notes from the sour cream and Cotija cheese. Altogether delicious, and easily refrigerated for another meal in a day or two.

What’s NOT: only that you do need dried chiles – I keep several on hand always – and they keep forever. Try to seek out the ancho. Otherwise this soup is easy to make and really tasty. Nothing to complain about at all.

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Dry Chicken Tortilla Soup

Recipe By: Adapted from a Phillis Carey recipe
Serving Size: 8

4 tablespoons vegetable oil
6 whole corn tortillas — cut in strips
4 ounces dried ancho chilies — rinsed and seeded
1 ounce dried New Mexico chiles — rinsed and seeded
30 ounces canned tomatoes — crushed, with juices
1 small onion — cut in chunks
6 large garlic cloves — peeled
3 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 1/2 cups chicken breast — cooked, shredded or cubed (and warmed just before serving)
2 cups Monterey jack cheese — grated, or Cotija cheese, crumbled
4 pieces bacon — cooked and crumbled
3/4 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups avocado — diced
3/4 cup cilantro — chopped

NOTE: If you puree this soup mixture in a blender it will make it very smooth – I prefer a more chunky style, hence the food processor is better for this. If sodium is a concern, use low-sodium tomatoes. If you are sensitive to heat from chiles, use fewer of them and make sure to remove every single seed from inside each one. The New Mexican are the hotter ones. Ancho chiles are dried poblano peppers.
1. In a wide pan heat oil and sauté the tortilla strips until golden brown. Remove to paper towel to drain. Keep the oil in the pan.
2. Open the dried chiles and discard all the seeds. Cut the chiles into small chunks. Pour into a food processor and finely chop. You may need to scrape down the bowl one or more times. Add canned tomatoes, onions and garlic to the processor and coarsely chop. Add some of the broth if it’s too thick.
2. Then pour the mixture in the food processor into the pan, with the remaining broth and simmer over medium heat, adding oregano. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Can be made several hours ahead. Heat to a simmer when ready to serve. You may add more broth if you prefer a more brothy soup.
3. SERVING: Prepare all the additions (warmed chicken, cheese, bacon, avocado, sour cream and cilantro) and set out in a row. Serve the dry soup bowl to each person, ask them to add the condiments they want. Then take the bowl to the soup pot and using a measuring cup, pour about a cup of soup at the side so some of the chunky stuff floats.
Per Serving: 661 Calories; 48g Fat (64.1% calories from fat); 37g Protein; 23g Carbohydrate; 6g Dietary Fiber; 120mg Cholesterol; 787mg Sodium; 6g Total Sugars; 1mcg Vitamin D; 542mg Calcium; 3mg Iron; 849mg Potassium; 565mg Phosphorus.

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