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Carolyn

Sara

Sara and me

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Erik Larson’s tome, The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz. This book covers the “reign” of Winston Churchill during the height of WWII. You’ll learn so much more about him. About the war. About the inner workings of the British government, including political. I’m a great admirer of the late Mr. Churchill. One of my more recent trips to England I visited Chartwell, the family home and where Winston died. If you’ve never been there, do add it to your itinerary next time. Beautiful grounds, including the small studio he used to paint.

Ken Follett is one of my fav authors, and I pre-ordered his newest, The Evening and the Morning (Kingsbridge), which is a prequel to The Pillars of the Earth: A Novel (Kingsbridge), my all-time favorite book I’ve ever read. Time period: 975 to about 1007 or so. Give or take. It follows a poor, but eager and intelligent builder as he earns his trade. It’s about his loves. His failures. The families all around, and much about the ever-present church (and its leaders, some honest, many not). Could hardly put the book down. Love Follett’s style of writing.

Every so often I read a romance of some kind. Historical ones mostly. And most I don’t include them here. But one I liked a lot is The Secrets of Saffron Hall by Clare Marchant. It happens to be very inexpensive right now on amazon, on Kindle, in case you’re interested. It jumps from 1538 and to 2019. Having to do with a precious book, a Book of Hours, and what secrets it contains. The growing of saffron plays large here and both romance in Tudor times and a tenuous marriage in current time, but nearly all of it takes place at a Tudor castle. Loved the book.

The book Where the Blind Horse Sings: Love and Healing at an Animal Sanctuary shares the story of a number of animals brought to an animal sanctuary in the Catskills. If you’re an animal lover, you’ll enjoy the stories, each animal bringing more to the human-animal relationship than you might even guess. Profound stories of love of animals. Not a long book; I think I got it as a bargain book from bookbub.

The title caught my attention on this one: Threading My Prayer Rug: One Woman’s Journey from Pakistani Muslim to American Muslim by Sabeeha Rehman. She’s written her own autobiography, beginning when she was a young child in Pakistan, to her eventual settling in New York. It’s about the Muslim experience. Their beliefs, their customs and traditions, told in a very pleasing and informational way. She marries in American Pakistani Muslim (an arranged marriage) and it’s the story of everything. Nothing much is left out of the journey she made, and still makes. She became a kind of activist for her religion, trying to bring Muslim customs to integrate into American culture (not always an easy task). Her husband is a doctor; she a hospital administrator. Likely you’ll learn more than you thought about Muslims. Very well written. Enjoyed it very much.

Finished Chinn’s story, The English Wife. What a great read. Could hardly put it down. I’m reading 3-4 books a week these days, and am so happy when I have a book I can’t wait to get back to. Really the story is about two sisters. Partly in Norwich, England, then in Newfoundland. One there, one here. And some of it takes place during WWII in Norwich, and much of it Newfoundland, then, and more recent. I loved the part of the book that took place on 9/11 when flights were diverted to Newfoundland. Family secrets, family lies, much anger between the sisters. There’s romance. There’s war. There is love of family. Particularly I savored the descriptions of Newfoundland, mostly rock, if you’ve never been there. It’s a twisted tale, by that I mean the family secrets which become the undoing. It’s a bargain on amazon right now, as I write this.

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. The story is all about Mary, her growing up, her scholarly pursuits, and then from the moment she meets Jesus as a young man. The story follows along to and beyond his death on the cross. In the time of Christ it was extremely uncommon for a man not to marry. It was almost unseemly. Fraught with suspicions, I’d suppose. Although scripture, as scripture, does not play a very strong part here, if you’ve read the Bible you’ll see many of the stories of Jesus’ life through Mary’s eyes. 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. Her husband was a journalist, and his life was always in danger because he wrote the truth, and that was taking a risk. The story is about her escape, with harrowing chapters as she makes her way north from Acapulco, with various major detours, one step, or sometimes nothing more than a hair’s width ahead of the cartel minions trying to find her. I could NOT put this book down. The author is not Hispanic, and some have criticized her for that, but she did her research, and many authors write about places and people they are not. I have nothing but respect for her having told this story. You need to read this.

Also read JoJo Moyes’ book, The Giver of Stars. Oh gosh, what a GREAT book. Alice, living in an English home which lacks much, leaps to agree to marry a visiting American. It was an escape for her. He is a man of some family wealth, and she travels from England to Kentucky, during the 1920s. Once settled into the family home, she discovers married life is not what she had expected. Affection is lacking, and she must share the home with her tyrannical father-in-law, the owner of mines in the deep mountains. And with the ghost of the deceased mother-in-law. The family cook won’t tolerate Alice’s help in the kitchen. Alice is terribly lonely and unhappy. The town doesn’t much like this English woman with her funny way of speaking. But then, she meets a woman who encourages her to join the Horseback Librarians. With trepidation, she begins traversing the remote hills, through unbelievable weather, to deliver old, battered and tattered books to the remote inhabitants of the area. She makes friends, wonderful, loving people from all walks of life. There is tremendous tension from the danger of the mines, the unions trying to get a foothold, plus the unraveling of her marriage, including the dreaded father-in-law who feels she should answer to him, behave as he wants. Uh, no. Alice goes her own route. Her new friends become her family, and, oh, what love. There has been much criticism of Moyes’ possible plagiarism of another book regarding the Horseback Librarians. I read the other book – but I didn’t feel remotely as intrigued by that story as I was by Moyes’ version. A feel good story, but it takes some while getting to that “feel good” part, nearly to the end.

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. It’s about Ellen. Her early years, under much hardship. About her teens, some of it as an orphan. Then a young adult, which includes marriage, a marriage blanc, which I didn’t understand until you learn the meaning. Then a child enters the picture, a child that will become a focus for the remainder of the book. Through the war, and beyond. I cried several times, as will you, I suspect. What’s a constant is the descriptions of the place, a town called Upton, near Southampton. About the hills and dales, the flora and fauna, the rain, the mud sometimes, the flooding sometimes. But throughout, it’s about neighbors caring for neighbors, and about love. A must read. Would make a really good book club read.

Jamie Ford has written another good one, Love and Other Consolation Prizes. Remember, he wrote The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. Loved that book. This one takes on a rather ugly part of America’s past, when Chinese people were treated like trinkets. Ernest Young is such a boy, who ends up being a “prize” at an event, and with great angst, ends up as a kind of servant at a high-class bordello in Seattle. Yet, the women and girls there become HIS family. He is intelligent and learns many lessons. Eventually, when society women battle to close down such houses of ill repute, he leaves that life, with his wife. They have children. The bulk of the book is about the early years around the turn of the 20th century, then you pick up the threads nearing the end of his life, and his wife’s. There are any number of small mysteries, which unravel with a word here or there – you know that word foreshadowing? Really interesting read.

In between more literary novels, I bought a comedic memoir . . . Juliette Sobanet’s Meet Me in Paris. There’s the falling apart of a marriage (and divorce), but in the inbetween, she decides to take a trip (sans husband) around Europe to get her head straight. The kind of tour that would drive me crazy, but it was one night, maybe two at each major city. She knew no one, but soon enough bonds with  three other women. Then she has a chance-meeting of a young Frenchman who had been an exchange student in her home town. They’d lost touch, yet there were definitely sparks there, never realized. Some of the touristy stuff was trite, I must say, although the women do try to take in all the major sites, if only for a few minutes. There is plenty of humor. Some steamy stuff too as she meets up with the young man in another city. Apparently it’s a happy-ever-after story. Great literature it is not, but it was a fun romp, so to speak.

Recently finished Thomas Nelson’s The Hideaway. It seems like there are SO many novels out there about families finding, inheriting or otherwise going to an old house with memories. Especially ones on the water. With stories to tell. It’s a great way to introduce some light mystery to the telling of some other family story. In this case it’s Sara’s grandmother who was enigmatic in every way. And Sara inherits the run-down, ramshackle B&B on Mobile Bay. Cute story with lots of twists and turns.

Also just finished James Conroyd Martin’s Fortune’s Child: A Novel of Empress Theodora (Book 1 of 2). Theodora grew up the daughter of a circus performer, but then moved onto “the boards,” as acting was called back in Byzantine times (Constantinople, 6th century). She always had high expectations – she just “knew” she was going to accomplish great things. She was an occasional prostitute, a mistress, and then, behold, the son of Emperor Justin is mesmerized by her beauty, takes her on, and makes her his wife, amid much royal machinations. A young eunuch also plays large in the story too, a man hopelessly in love with Thea, but knows his love can never be returned or fulfilled. He becomes an historian to the Empress. Quite a story – much of it chronicles her early life and not a lot of it in Constantinople. But riveting story.

I’m doing SO much reading of late. Read this book in one day. The Glass Hotel: A novel by Emily St. John Mandel. Loosely based on the story of Bernie Madoff (Ponzi scheme), it tells a novelized version of a man with incredible power and charisma who gathers a group of willing partners. It’s about the people he cuckolded, and the people who took him down. At the beginning drugs come into play and I almost didn’t continue, but that was a very short section. Well worth reading. Lots to discuss if you’re looking for a book club read.

Once in awhile I read a poignant animal story, as you know if you’ve followed this sidebar for any length of time. Craig & Fred: A Marine, A Stray Dog, and How They Rescued Each Other by Craig Gross, tells the story of his military duty in Afghanistan, in a war zone. And how his unit befriended a dog, a stray, and how that dog really did become his lifeline.

Cara Wall’s new book, The Dearly Beloved: A Novel. It tells the story of two couples. The two husbands become co-pastors of a New York City church. The wives? Oh my, are they ever different. They don’t abide. The husbands try to get a grip on their jobs, pastoring, preaching, and keeping the wives happy.

Loved-loved Gregory Buford’s humorous memoir, Kept: An American Househusband in India. He aims to be a U.S. diplomat, takes the tests and fails. On a whim, his wife takes the test and is hired. Their first assignment: Chennai, India. They spent two years there, with his much-loved wife going off to do diplomatic duties (albeit at a low level – everyone must pay their dues at the beginning) and Greg is left at home to deal with the servants, the house, the beggars, the nanny, the construction next door, shopping, and also partly caring for their infant.

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.

Shirley Ann Grau’s book, The Keepers of the House. Hmmm. Much to think about. [from an amazon review]: There is a reason it won the Pulitzer Prize in 1965. Seven generations of Howlands have lived on this rural Alabama plantation in good times and bad. It tells the story of this family from the time its patriarch settled the land in the early 1800s to the mid-20th century.

Marie Martin wrote Harbored Secrets. From amazon: In May of 1935, Blinny Platt’s homestead shack burns to the ground forever leaving her family asunder, scattering them like the embers flew on the Montana wind. She was only 8, sent away and in charge of her little sister. She could handle that because Platts take care of Platts. However, it is the hidden secrets of her parents smoldering beneath the charred remains that haunts Blinny until 1982.

Best book I’ve read recently. Not new. Called 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. I stayed up all hours to keep reading. The book was written from the many journals and writing compiled by her children. Her name: Mary Ingles. And it chronicles her 1000-mile trek in treacherous weather and over uncharted ground. What an amazing woman, and what a story.

Alan Hlad has written quite a novel. From true life. The Long Flight Home. It tells the story based on family history, of the homing pigeons that were used in Britain during WWII that flew back and forth across the English Channel into German-occupied France. It’s a heartwarming story. Heart-wrenching sometimes. War is an awful thing no matter which side you’re on when it comes to how it affects everyday people. You’ll learn a lot about pigeons, but also about love. Great read.

Riveted to Katie Munnick’s novel The Heart Beats in Secret. It begins in Scotland in 1940. A woman, a single mother. A journey across the sea. Then her daughter’s story, and finally the granddaughter’s story, when she inherits her grandmother’s old cottage back in Scotland. Plenty of mother-daughter dysfunction. But it comes right in the end.

Sarah Vallance has written a book about her devastating brain injury. Prognosis: A Memoir of My Brain. What a story. What a saga of her recovery. And how she did it. An open wide sharing of her angst, her anger, her journey. Well worth reading. If you have anyone who has suffered a brain injury, it would be wise reading.

Just love all of Amy Harmon’s books. This one is no exception. Where the Lost Wander: A Novel. A pioneer story of a young woman made a widow on the trail to the west. 1850s. As it was in life, tragedies occur. But there is caring and love too. Loved it.

Read Her Mother’s Hope by Francine Rivers. After leaving her childhood home of Switzerland, young Marta Schneider dreams of one day owning a boardinghouse, until marriage and motherhood change her ambitions. Determined to give her family a better life, she vows to raise strong children. But her tough love is often misunderstood, especially by her oldest daughter, Hildemara Rose, creating repercussions that will echo for generations.

Esther Freud’s book The Sea House: A Novel is about a small village on England’s southern coast.  The book is about love found, love lost, love sometimes found again, sometimes not. About how fleeting it can be or seem.

Amor Towles’ book, Rules of Civility: A Novel was quite a read. It’s NYC, 1937. Twenty-five-year-old Katey Kontent [Kon-TENT she iterates to many] is in a Greenwich Village jazz bar when a handsome banker happens to sit down at the neighboring table. This chance encounter and its startling consequences propel Katey on a year-long journey into the upper echelons of New York society.

Wesley the Owl: The Remarkable Love Story of an Owl and His Girl by Stacey O’Brien. What an adorable book. True story about Stacey’s 20 years with a feisty but lovable barn owl.

Loved The Wedding Officer: A Novel by Anthony Capella. It takes place in the middle of WWII in Naples. A young British officer, Captain James Gould, is sent to Naples to wade through the zilions of applications from soldiers to marry local Italian women (and presumably take them back to England when the war ends).

Reading behind Bars: A True Story of Literature, Law, and Life as a Prison Librarian by Jill Grunenwald. So interesting. Jill is  young, with a newly minted degree in library science at a time when the economy was very slow. She accepts a position in a minimum security prison in Ohio.

The Walls of Lucca by Steve Physioc. A novel that takes place in between WWI and II about a weary Italian soldier.

The Hired Man by Aminatta Forna. A novel about Croatia in the aftermath of their more recent wars.

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.

Having read all of Kristin Hannah’s books, I knew I’d read her latest too: Between Sisters: A Novel.  Two sisters, raised by the same mother but different fathers. At a young age a rift occurs and the sisters go their own way.

Just finished Matt McCarthy’s book The Real Doctor Will See You Shortly: A Physician’s First Year. It tells the true life story of his first year as an intern at a New York hospital.

Also read Karen Harper’s book The Royal Nanny: A Novel. The time frame is 1890s onward, at Sandringham, when Charlotte Bill (a real person) was hired by the Duke and Duchess of York, to care for their children.

Also read Roger Swindell’s Mendelevski’s Box. It’s an historical novel about the aftermath of WWII in impoverished Amsterdam.

Also read a very quirky non-fiction book: The Perfect Gentleman: The remarkable life of Dr. James Miranda Barry by June Rose. This is a biography about a person who lived in the mid-1800s. He was a surgeon; graduated from Edinburgh Medical School at the age of 14. Joined the British Army as a medical officer then sent off to South Africa and many other tropical outposts during his career.

The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley. The premise of this book is different . . . a woman writer goes to Scotland to connect with her distant heritage.

Another great read, The Island of Sea Women: A Novel by Lisa See. It’s about Jeju Island off the coast of Korea where the island as a whole is matriarchal because the women were trained from a young age to deep dive, free dive, for mollusks. These women were the breadwinners. Husbands stayed home and cared for the babies. The island is real. The history is real.

Radio Girls by Sarah-Jane Stratford. A novel about the early days of radio in London.

A Well-Behaved Woman: A Novel of the Vanderbilts by Therese Anne Fowler. This book is a novel, but based on the life of Alva Smith Vanderbilt (Belmont). Her family was nearly destitute (and faking it) when a marriage was proposed for her with William Vanderbilt.  You see the inner life of Alva – her day to day busy work, charity work, visiting for afternoon tea, the undercurrent of society’s morals.

Also read In Falling Snow: A Novel, by Mary-Rose McColl. From amazon: Iris, a young Australian nurse, travels to France during World War I to bring home her fifteen-year-old brother, who ran away to enlist. 

Also couldn’t put down The Secret Wife by Gill Paul. A long story that begins in war-torn Russia. Cavalry officer Dmitri falls head over heels in love with one of the daughters of Tzar Nicholas.

Uncommon Woman. A book about Colonial America, but really the western frontier at that time, which is in western Pennsylvania.

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. This book is the story of her life. The people she met, the men in her life, her children, and always about her indefatigable energy for life. Always hoping to return to Jamaica.

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, the son of a farming family, who sabotages everything in his being regarding going to school and leaves as soon as he is able (probably about 8th grade, I’d guess). And becomes a shepherd. And at night, he read literature that he accumulated from his grandfather. And then what happens to him as he grows up. Riveting.

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

House by the Fjord by Rosalind Laker. What a darling story. From amazon: A touching and atmospheric love story – When Anna Harvik travels to Norway in 1946 in order to visit the family of her late husband, the country is only just recovering from five cruel years of Nazi occupation.

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

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

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

A fabulous read – Catherine Ryan Hyde’s newest book, Have You Seen Luis Velez? Raymond, a youngster, an older teenager, who  lacks self-confidence and feels like an odd duck sometimes, reluctantly (at first) befriends an elderly woman in the apartment building where he lives with his mother and step-father. Sweet story.

Magic Hour: A Novel

Excellent Women

Pachinko (National Book Award Finalist) by Min Jin Lee. Everyone should read this one.

An American Marriage (Oprah’s Book Club): A Novel by Tayari Jones. DIdn’t like it much, but others do.

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

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

You’ve got to read Catherine Ryan Hyde’s book – Take Me With You. What a story.

 

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 easy, Soups, on October 29th, 2020.

IP_broccoli_cheese_soup

SO easy and quick.

While my grandson Vaughan was visiting with me, he was doing online school, and at about 11:15 one day I realized he was going to have his lunch break in exactly 10 minutes, and I hadn’t started the soup. Fortunately, the lunch break lasted for 35 minutes, and I was able to get this soup prepared in time. Whew.

I used an online recipe as a base, but I added different ingredients and quantities. I’d purchased a package of Velveeta about 2 weeks ago. It’s not something I really like to eat, but when a recipe calls for it, it’s usually necessary, as I didn’t want stringy cheese in this soup (like you would get with grated cheddar). There are a few cheeses that melt easily, like Fontina, for instance. And I had some of that, but it wasn’t going to give the same flavor as cheddar, so the Velveeta was the ticket.

My Instant Pot came out, and I sautéed an onion and some celery in butter. Then added the carrots, garlic and lastly the flour, which you need to stir around so it doesn’t lump when you add liquid. Stir frequently as it warms and thickens. Then add the broccoli, paprika and mustard. At this point, put on the lid and pressure cook for about 5 minutes on high. Quick release, stir the soup, then add the dairy. Start IP to sauté to heat the soup through, then you add the Velveeta, cut into big cubes. Stir it continuously until the cheese melts. Fortunately, all that took about 20 minutes, and I was able to serve Vaughan a bowl at his laptop and he was able to finish it on the stroke of class restarting. He was so cute – he muted himself and told me 3 times how good the soup was. I got quite a kick out of watching him over the course of his online school day. He got a couple of breaks, and he has 2-3 friends who play Minecraft, and they managed to play the game during the breaks, and at the exactly as class re-started, he was tuned back into school. One of his friends has a server, so they play together and also use their phones to talk at the same time. All kinds of multi-tasking.

You can add topping to this soup – grated cheddar, croutons, hot sauce, chives, crispy bacon. I didn’t have time, so straight soup was what we got.

What’s GOOD: loved the soup. Simple, straight forward, easy, and just good comfort food. I think the mustard adds a lot of flavor depth to this – if you didn’t know it was in there you might not be able to taste it, but because I knew, you can barely discern it. Now I need to buy another block of Velveeta so I can make this on the fly another day. Another plus, the fact that I could get this made in a matter of about 25 minutes.

What’s NOT: nothing, really. You can adjust quantities to suit your family’s taste. More broccoli, more carrots and celery, more onion? It’ll work. Add shallots instead of onion, no garlic. Whatever suits your fancy.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Instant Pot Broccoli Cheese Soup

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from an online recipe
Serving Size: 5

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup carrots — diced
1/2 onion — chopped
1/2 cup celery — chopped
1/4 cup all-purpose flour — or gluten-free
3 cups low sodium chicken broth — or more if needed
2 cloves garlic — diced
1/4 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon spicy mustard
4 cups broccoli — cut into small florets and finely dice the stems
1 1/2 cups half and half — or use about 1/2 cup heavy cream (bring to room temperature)
8 ounces Velveeta — diced into cubes – or use cheddar

1. Start IP on Sauté setting and allow it to heat up slightly. Add butter and once melted, add the onions, carrots, celery and garlic. Sauté for 1-2 minutes, stirring a couple of times or until onion is softened.
2. While still hot, add flour and stir briskly for 30 seconds.
3. Add chicken broth in 2-3 batches stirring with a whisk so there are no lumps.
4. Add the seasonings and mustard, stir through and add the broccoli florets.
5. Close and seal the Instant Pot. Press Manual/Pressure Cook button and adjust the time to 5 minutes, and adjust to HIGH pressure.
6. Once the timer is done, use the Quick Release method to let the steam off and open the lid.
7. Stir the soup, then add cream (microwave it slightly if needed). Mix through and use a potato masher to roughly puree the cooked vegetables into the liquid.
8. The soup may be hot enough to serve without reheating. If you want the soup to be super-hot, press the Sauté function key again to bring soup back to a simmer. Immediately turn off once soup begins to simmer and add the cheese in 2-3 batches, stirring well until it’s fully melted and combined into the soup. Velveeta will sink to the bottom so stir thoroughly. If the soup is too thick for your liking, add a bit more chicken broth.
9. Serve with toppings of your choice, such as shredded cheddar, chopped broccoli, hot sauce, sour cream, chives, crispy bacon, croutons and so on. Storing the soup: Keep in an airtight container for 3-4 days in the fridge. Reheat well and whisk to restore its creamy texture. The soup freezes well. Thawed broccoli cheese soup may have a slight change in texture because the cream may separate during freezing and then thawing. Simply whisk the soup back together and add some more cream to bring it back to life. Refresh the seasonings with salt and pepper and enjoy. One tip is to use evaporated milk instead of cream if you plan to freeze this soup.
Per Serving: 421 Calories; 27g Fat (54.8% calories from fat); 19g Protein; 31g Carbohydrate; 6g Dietary Fiber; 80mg Cholesterol; 867mg Sodium; 12g Total Sugars; 0mcg Vitamin D; 404mg Calcium; 2mg Iron; 1105mg Potassium; 654mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Soups, on July 9th, 2020.

chilled_curried_cauliflower_apple_soup

Needing a nice, gentle curried cauliflower soup to serve chilled? This is your ticket.

In my soup recipe repertoire, I must have 30 or more cauliflower soups. And there are plenty of them already posted and archived in the index. They’re all very different; this one is no exception. When I ate, then prepared the cauliflower soup I posted a few months ago, Creamy Cauliflower Soup with Golden Raisins, Pine Nuts, Capers and Balsamic Drizzle, there’s no question it sailed to the very top of my list of favorite cauliflower soups. Even though I’ve only made it once. It was just sensational. But I’d get tired of making that one over and over. I eat a lot of cruciferous vegetable soups, or soups that don’t have a lot of carbs. Hence broccoli and cauliflower rank high on my soup cooking lists. Recently I made a combo soup of both of those veggies. It was awful. After two servings of it, it got poured down the drain.

So as I perused all of the other recipes to try, this one kept coming back for my review. I had a relatively small head of cauliflower. I had a Gala apple and onion. Everything else was do-able. I made it, thinking I’d serve it hot (which is how the original recipe was served at Campton Place). I made it a couple of days ago and had it chilling in the frig. When I took out the container I needed to taste it for salt. Oh my, it tasted just wonderful chilled. So, although you may serve this hot or cold, cold is my preference. At least now since it’s summer and very hot outside.

The soup is like many others – butter, onion, curry powder (medium heat) and fresh ginger. Sautéed. Then apple, saffron, the cauliflower and low sodium chicken broth. That simmered for about half an hour or less, then I added the milk, whizzed it using my stick blender, then cooled it. I recommend you make it a day ahead.

chilled_curried_cauliflower_apple_soup_closeupIn the original recipe, the garnish was minced apple, saffron and curry powder with a dash of salt. I decided to enhance it with some more vegetables. I love celery, so it got minced up so very fine, some red bell pepper because it would look pretty, a couple of green onions, some cilantro, salt, and some lemon juice. I’d actually gotten out an avocado as well, but at the last minute decided there was enough already. I chose not to add more curry powder. There’s enough in the soup, although it’s not overpowering at all. I saved a few whole cilantro leaves to place on top.

A serving of 1 1/2 cups of this is a whopping 167 calories, including the garnishes. With the apple in it, it does have 24 grams of carbs.

What’s GOOD: almost any cauliflower soup is a bit bland, so adding other flavors is imperative in my book. The curry powder (not much) adds just a lovely hint of curry flavor. The apple added into the mix also mellows out the cauliflower. Really liked that part. I couldn’t distinguish the saffron – I suppose if it was taken out the soup would have a different flavor profile, but truly saffron didn’t come to mind as I tasted it. But the star of the soup was the garnish. It’s a way to get more veggies, but it’s tempered by the addition of some apples too. You can serve it hot or cold. The garnish will keep for a day or two with the addition of lemon juice.

What’s NOT: nothing that I can think of – making it a day ahead is helpful – the flavors will meld better. Maybe preparing the garnish, but it still only took about 5 minutes to do that part.

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Chilled Curried Cauliflower and Apple Soup

Recipe By: Adapted from Bon Appetit, from Campton Place
Serving Size: 5

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 medium onion — chopped (~1 cup)
2 teaspoons curry powder — medium heat
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads — soaked in 1/4 cup hot water for 10 minutes
1 cup Gala apple — peeled, cored and chopped (2 small apples or 1 large)
1 medium head cauliflower — greens and stem removed, and broken into small florets
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth — (1 quart)
1 1/4 cups whole milk — or half and half
1 pinch cayenne pepper — optional
salt to taste
olive oil (for garnish)
GARNISH:
1 cup apple — very finely minced, leaving skin intact for color
1 cup celery — very finely minced
3 whole green onions — very finely minced
1/2 red bell pepper — very finely minced
3/4 cup fresh cilantro — most finely minced in garnish
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest
2 tablespoons lemon juice
salt to taste
a few cilantro leaves to place on top when serving

1. Heat the butter over medium heat in a large soup pot. Add onions, curry powder and ginger and cook, stirring frequently, until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the chopped apple and cook for an additional 3-5 minutes, until soft.
2. Add the cauliflower, saffron and the water it soaked in, then add chicken broth and bring to a boil.
3. Reduce heat and simmer for an additional 15-20 minutes, or until the cauliflower is fork tender. Stir in the the milk or half and half and continue to simmer over low heat for an additional 5 minutes. Do not bring it to a boil or the milk may separate.
4. Use a stick blender to puree the soup in the pot. Otherwise, working in batches, transfer the soup to a blender and puree until smooth. If serving chilled, cool and refrigerate overnight if time permits. If serving hot, return pureed soup to pot and heat over low flame. Add cayenne pepper (if using) and season with salt and pepper. Cool and chill at this point, or you may serve it hot.
5. GARNISH: In a medium bowl combine the minced apple, celery, green onions, bell pepper, lemon zest, lemon juice and the minced cilantro. Season with salt.
6. Soup may be served chilled, or piping hot. Add a generous couple of spoonfuls of apple garnish and drizzle of olive oil, if desired. Place a few cilantro leaves on top.
Per Serving: 167 Calories; 6g Fat (29.7% calories from fat); 7g Protein; 24g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 12mg Cholesterol; 112mg Sodium; 16g Total Sugars; trace Vitamin D; 113mg Calcium; 1mg Iron; 565mg Potassium; 151mg Phosphorus.

Posted in Soups, on May 17th, 2020.

easy_buffalo_chix_soup

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Easy Buffalo Chicken Soup

Recipe By: Adapted from Tasteholics blog
Serving Size: 6

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

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

Posted in Soups, on May 1st, 2020.

chix_poblano_soup_joanna_gaines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Creamy Chicken Poblano Soup from Joanna Gaines

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

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

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

Posted in Soups, on April 20th, 2020.

caulif_soup_golden_raisins_capers_pinenuts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Soups, on March 15th, 2020.

creamy_reuben_soup

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Creamy Reuben Soup with Corned Beef, Sauerkraut and Rye Croutons

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

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

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

Posted in Soups, on February 14th, 2020.

chix_satay_noodle_soup

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

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

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

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

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

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Chicken Satay Noodle Soup

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

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

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

Posted in Soups, on February 10th, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s NOT: only that you might not have any annatto seeds or achiote paste. Try to find it if you can.
printer-friendly PDF and MasterCook 15/16 file (click link to open recipe)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Shrimp and Corn Chowder with Corn Salsa

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

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

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

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

faux_zuppa_toscana

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Faux Zuppa Toscana

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

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

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

Posted in Soups, on August 5th, 2019.

creamy_cauliflower_chowder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Creamy Cauliflower Chowder with Bacon

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

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

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

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