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Carolyn

Sara

 

Sara and me

I participate in an amazon program that rewards a little tiny $ something (pennies, really) to me if you purchase any books I recommend, or products that I buy and feature on my food blog. 

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Agathe von Trapp was the eldest daughter of the renowned von Trapp family. Some years ago she wrote Memories Before and After the Sound of Music: An Autobiography beginning from her first memories at age 2 (yes, really!). The book tells the honest-truth about the family’s life in Austria and Italy prior to the war, and debunks many of the story lines from the musical, The Sound of Music. Liesl, the part played by Charmian Carr, was supposedly the story of Agathe. But it wasn’t, really. As long as you know that the musical and movie were made for the stage and film, then reading the true stories about their family life, their escape (by train from Italy, with no problems at all, no hiding in an abbey) and eventual settling in Stowe, Vermont, where there still is a family lodge for paying guests. The family singers toured for many years, and earned enough money to then survive for some months in Vermont, practicing and gearing up for their next national or world tour. One of the sad parts for me was reading that although Maria von Trapp certainly kept the family together, as step-children, they didn’t always love and adore her. A good enough read. Not a long book, and not exactly an example of fine, non-fiction literature, but still, it kept my interest mostly because I’ve been a fan of the movie ever since it came out in 1965-66.

Sarah Steele wrote a quite intricate book – probably more interesting to a woman anyway – called The Missing Pieces of Nancy Moon. A young woman going through a breakup of her marriage, and the death of her grandmother, finds a box in the relative’s wardrobe. In it are fabric swatches attached to dress patterns, and a postcard of a woman wearing the dress. It’s all quite mysterious. Florence decides she should re-create the dresses and the journeys. Quite an interesting theme for a book, and it’s well done here. Travel to the Riviera is included, and some fun encounters with new friends. Well worth reading.

I’ve been a fan of C.J. Box for several years. Have read most of his books. Mysteries of a sheriff in Wyoming, solving murders, usually. Box has a gift of suspense. This new book, Long Range (A Joe Pickett Novel) This one starts with the after-effects of a deadly grizzly bear attack, then extends to the murder of a judge’s wife. All interconnected, and complicated. The book was too short . . . I always want more.

Tracy Chevalier has written another fascinating book . . . A Single Thread: A Novel. The time period is between the wars, Britain. So many spinsters were left following the war, and Violet doesn’t want to become an embittered woman, caring for her angry, feeble and declining mother. So she moves on to Winchester. She works at a ho-hum job, but also becomes a volunteer at the Cathedral (ever been there? gorgeous), helping to make needlepoint kneeling pads. There are traditions even for kneeling pads (yes, really), and Violet takes this very seriously. There’s a love story woven into the fabric of this story too, and how Violet blooms and grows. Chevalier has a way with words. A good read.

An unusual book, The Weight of a Piano: A novel by Chris Cander. It begins in 1962 in Russia, a young girl is gifted a Blüthner piano. She has real skill and hopes to keep it forever. Yet, once she marries, she must leave it behind when she emigrates to the U.S. Thence the story begins, of what happens to the piano, its interim stops (even a bit about how the piano feels –  yes, some surrealism here). And about how it survives the voyage to America itself. I don’t want to give it away. You’ll learn a LOT about pianos and equally as much about Blüthner ones, how they’re made. The book does not have a happy ending – at least not in my opinion, if that’s something that’s important to you. Quite a story; and again, unusual.

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 in my life. 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 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.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Chicken Satay Noodle Soup

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

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

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

Posted in Soups, on February 10th, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

faux_zuppa_toscana

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Faux Zuppa Toscana

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

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

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

Posted in Soups, on August 5th, 2019.

creamy_cauliflower_chowder

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Creamy Cauliflower Chowder with Bacon

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

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

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

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

creamy_mush_soup_brandy

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

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

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

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

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

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Creamy Mushroom Pancetta Soup with Brandy

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

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

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

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

creamy_mushroom_soup

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Creamy Mushroom Soup LF

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

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

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

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

chix_enchilada_soup_GFLF

EASY to make soup in the Instant Pot. Lots of flavors to savor.

So, Carolyn here – I’m still alive and well – I made this soup yesterday and it was so good I knew I needed to post it. I was supposed to have a group of friends over to my house to watch the academy awards last night, but a few days ago my Tivo went kaput – everything about my entertainment system goes through the Tivo. Tivo is sending me a new one, free, but it won’t arrive for about another week. Therefore I have no TV to watch in my family room. So we had our academy awards potluck dinner at someone else’s home. And I made soup.

Because I had a whole chicken in the freezer, I chose to use it instead of the chicken thighs noted in the recipe – I used the same timing – so you can do that too, if you choose.

Into the Instant Pot went the chicken, some diced tomatoes (canned), a can of chopped green chiles, an onion chopped up, a shallot minced, a package of chili seasoning (or taco seasoning), a bit of extra ground cumin, canned enchilada sauce and chicken broth. I set the Instant Pot on “soup” for 20 minutes. I let it slow release for 15 minutes, then fast release. The chicken was removed to cool, then I shredded up all the meat from the chicken.

Meanwhile, I used the immersion blender on the broth part, added in the sour cream and crème fraiche, added back in the shredded chicken and let it reheat briefly. Don’t let it boil or the soup part will separate. Then I cut up the garnishes and let everyone help themselves. If you want tortilla chips, smash a few to garnish the soup (I didn’t because I didn’t think it needed it, plus I can’t have tortillas on my diet).

And how am, you want to know? I’m good. Very busy. Have a done any painting yet? Only a little. PEO has been taking up a bunch of my time lately. I’m taking a trip to San Francisco with 3 girlfriends next month which will be great fun. My grandson has been accepted at Clemson in the Fall, although he hasn’t officially told them yet (he’s interested in bio-science) – Clemson is where his sister goes to school (she’s a junior there), although she’s in Argentina studying this semester and is really struggling with the dialect. She got accepted to do a medical internship at a fertility clinic in the city where she is living. And she starts her semester classes later this week, all in Spanish (or, this Argentinian dialect, I should say). Sabrina is planning to take the MCAT in the fall to be accepted to med school. She’s the one who started out wanting to be a vet, but I think she’s certain now she wants to be an MD or a PhD research doctor. My other granddaughter is finishing her senior year at Sacramento State and hopes to go on to get a Master’s in Nursing. By the way, I’m still keeping up the “Currently Reading” section of my blog (left sidebar of the main page) in case you’re interested. Last summer I couldn’t WAIT for winter to arrive. Be careful what you wish for, right? It’s been SO darned cold here in Southern California. Coldest on record almost. But it’s been going on for weeks now. I had to dig to find more coats and wraps because it’s so cold even in the daytime.

What’s GOOD: how easy it was. I could have made it a day ahead, but as it was, I made it just before I toted it to my friend’s home. The flavor of the soup part is really, really good. Lots of Mexican flavor too. It was filling (and fairly low calorie too) and everyone thought it was really good.

What’s NOT: only the shredding of the chicken meat, and that took about 15 minutes, tops. I’m glad I still have some, because I’ll be having it for my lunch today.

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

Instant Pot Chicken Enchilada Soup (also LF and GF)

Recipe By: adapted a lot from All Day I Dream About Food (blog) 2019
Serving Size: 8

2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs — or you may use chicken breast meat
3 cups canned tomatoes — canned
1 whole yellow onion — chopped
1 medium shallot — peeled, minced
1 package taco seasoning mix — or chili seasoning
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3 ounces chopped green chiles — canned
10 ounces red enchilada sauce — Frontera brand if you can find it
salt to taste, if needed
3 cups chicken broth, low sodium
2/3 cup sour cream
2/3 cup creme fraiche
grated cheese, chopped cilantro and chopped avocado for garnish

NOTES: I used a whole chicken (smaller sized one) but used the same 20-minute timing and it was cooked through just fine.
1. Place the chicken, tomatoes, onion, shallot, enchilada sauce, chiles, and seasonings in the bottom of an Instant Pot . Pour the broth overtop.
2. For the Instant Pot, seal the lid and make sure the vent is on seal. Set to the Soup Function for 20 minutes. Let the pressure release naturally for 15 minutes.
3. If you want to use a slow cooker, place the lid on and set to low for 6 to 8 hours or high for 3 to 4 hours.
4. When cooking is complete, remove the chicken to a plate, cool and shred the chicken meat. Remove about 1 cup of the hot broth to a bowl and whisk in the sour cream and creme fraiche, then whisk this combo back into the pot. Use an immersion blender to smooth out the soup. Add chicken to the pot.
5. Adjust seasonings to taste. Serve hot with grated cheese, chopped cilantro and chopped avocados.

Per Serving: 308 Calories; 18g Fat (53.3% calories from fat); 24g Protein; 12g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 123mg Cholesterol; 1110mg Sodium.

Posted in Soups, on December 13th, 2018.

burmese_inspired_chix_soup_w_sweetpotato_coconut_milk

Really I’m not certain what parts of this soup make it Burmese-inspired, but what it is, is a 10 in flavor! MAKE THIS!

This recipe came from Food52, that website that is just chock-a-block full of recipes and ideas, posting about 8-10 new things every day, almost. Since sweet potato is something I can have on my diet (in small amounts) I decided to use up a sweet potato I’d purchased some weeks ago and needed to be used! I had a package of boneless chicken thighs in the freezer, so those were defrosted first, then they were marinated for a day in a mixture of turmeric, powdered ginger, ground coriander and a dash of oil.

Once I was ready to make the soup (which didn’t take all that long to do) I whizzed up in the food processor a handful of cilantro STEMS, some fresh garlic and a shallot. I was supposed to add a hot chile, but I forgot! Meanwhile, I used a big deep pot and I browned the sweet potato (peeled, cubed) in a bit of EVOO until at least 2 sides were golden-browned. It took 3 batches as you don’t want to crowd the pan (would steam rather than brown) and those were set aside. Then the chicken was added in and the pieces nicely browned for about 4-6 minutes, then that mixture I’d done in the food processor was added and allowed to cook a bit. Wow, the flavor wafting from the pan had my mouth watering. Then in went chicken stock and the sweet potatoes were added back in. Pan was covered and it simmered for about 15 minutes. The can of coconut milk was added, some fish sauce, broccoli and bok choy plus a bit of salt too. It simmered just long enough to smooth out. I didn’t eat it that day – I cooled it and refrigerated it overnight (and the coconut milk “fat” congealed on the top – but put that back into the soup – do NOT throw it out thinking it’s not healthy). I heated it up in the microwave and added some cilantro on top. I was supposed to add a quarter of a lime – I forgot to do that, too. I also didn’t make the fried shallot topping just because.

What’s GOOD: I just love-loved this soup. Everything about it. The broth is super-flavorful from the spices and the garlic and cilantro. The broth is thin – don’t expect a thick soup – it’s not. (Although you certainly could add rice or whiz up some of the sweet potato in the broth to thicken it some.)  The pieces of chicken thigh were flavorful and tender. The soup was outstanding. I have a friend who is 75% Burmese – I asked her what veggies she would add – she suggested adding the broccoli and bok choy (not in the original recipe), so I’ve added those into into the ingredient list.

What’s NOT: only that it’s best to start this a day ahead, or two, because the chicken needs to marinate overnight, and the soup is best made a day ahead, as with all soups. Otherwise, the time to make the actual soup was only about 35-45 minutes total.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Burmese Inspired Chicken Soup with Coconut Milk, Sweet Potato, Broccoli and Bok Choy

Recipe By: adapted slightly from Food52, 2016
Serving Size: 7

SOUP:
1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon turmeric
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon grapeseed oil — or EVOO
2 cloves garlic
1 piece ginger — peeled (1 inch)
1 whole shallot — peeled
1 chili pepper — on the hot side (de árbol)
1 bunch cilantro
1/4 cup grapeseed oil — or EVOO
2 cups sweet potato — peeled, cubed
3 cups chicken stock
1 cup broccoli florets — (cut small) (optional)
1 1/2 cups baby bok choy — chopped small (optional)
3 cups unsweetened coconut milk
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 limes — 1 juiced and 1 quartered
Salt to taste
SHALLOT TOPPING: (optional)
1 shallot — peeled, sliced thinly
1 cup grapeseed oil for frying the shallot

1. Cut the chicken thighs into about 1-inch pieces and marinate overnight with the dried ginger, turmeric, coriander, and 1 tablespoon of oil. If time doesn’t permit, simply toss the chicken pieces with the spices before you start cooking.
2. In a food processor, mince the garlic, ginger, shallot, dried chile, and the roots and/or stems of the bunch of cilantro.
3. In the bottom of a heavy-bottomed pan over medium-high heat, heat the oil. Then add the cubed sweet potato. Fry until golden brown on at least 2 sides of each cube. Scoop out of the pan, leaving the oil, and set aside. Add the chicken pieces (a few at a time so you can brown them without having them cool the pan down) and let them begin to brown. Season with a pinch of salt. When they are mostly browned, add the minced shallot-ginger-garlic-cilantro stem mixture and let cook out a little. Add a couple tablespoons of the chicken stock and let reduce until the mixture is soft and cooked. Add the rest of the chicken stock and the reserved sweet potatoes and bring to a simmer.
4. Meanwhile use the method below to fry the crispy shallots (this can also be done as much as a week ahead of time, as the shallots will keep in a closed container at room temperature for a week at least). Simmer the soup for about 10 minutes, until the chicken and sweet potatoes are close to tender. Add broccoli and bok choy, if using and simmer until vegetables are barely tender. Stir in the fish sauce, lime juice, and coconut milk and bring up to a simmer. Stir in a quarter cup of cilantro leaves and taste for salt. Serve garnished with the crispy shallots, a couple of sprigs of raw cilantro, and the lime wedges
6. SHALLOTS: In a sauté pan over medium heat, heat the oil. Add the shallots and stir frequently. As the oil continues to heat, the shallots will start to color. When they get to golden brown, scoop them out of the oil and drain on a paper towel. You want to pull them out of the oil a little before dark brown, as they’ll continue to cook and crisp up on the paper towel.
Per Serving: 302 Calories; 18g Fat (52.4% calories from fat); 19g Protein; 17g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 74mg Cholesterol; 1112mg Sodium.

Posted in Soups, on November 12th, 2018.

cr_chix_lemon_tarragon_soup

Tender chicken pieces simmered in an onion/leek-forward soup with tarragon, lemon juice and some zest. Altogether delicious.

It seems, I rarely make anything exactly as written. Are you like that too? Since I’m a big soup eater, recently I sat down at my kitchen table with cookbooks piled up on the table beside me. With this new diet I’m on, lots of soups (carb-centric) won’t do, so I scanned a couple hundred recipes and added sticky notes to about 24 of them.

Next on the agenda was to add the titles and a few ingredients into Evernote (an app on the phone) that is always with me at the grocery store, so when I think about soup, I’ll look up the soup category and will be able to read that this soup needs coconut milk, a pound of chicken, leeks, for instance. I always have onions and celery, and I have chives growing in my herb garden. And I almost always have chicken breast packs in my freezer. So I’ll know I can make this soup if I buy those extra items (leeks, coconut milk).

The original recipe for this came from a cookbook I bought about 10 years ago at Harrod’s in London. New Covent Garden Soup Company’s Book of Soups: New, Old & Odd Recipes. As I recall, the company makes a bunch of fresh soups available at grocery stores in England. The soups are unusual. Not every one, but many of them are ones I’ve not heard of before. Which is a good thing. I’m kind of tired of my usual stable of soup recipes.

But, despite the fact that the recipe looked complete, I wasn’t satisfied with leaving it status quo. I had leeks in the refrigerator, so those were added in. And, I always think celery adds good flavor, so a cup of chopped up celery went in as well. The recipe called for half and half – I didn’t have any, but coconut milk was on the shelf, so that’s what I added. It wasn’t noted in the recipe, but I whizzed up the mixture with my new immersion blender. I didn’t totally puree it because I still wanted some texture. Then the little bits of chicken breast were added and simmered. Then in went the coconut milk, the lemon juice and zest and it was done. I used a combo of low sodium chicken broth and vegetable broth and used double the quantity too.

Generally, when I make soup, I make it the day ahead with the intent of waiting a day to let the flavors meld, but I wanted to taste it and I took the picture at top with some chives from my garden. I dipped my spoon into the soup before I staged the photo (hoping the soup was going to be blog-worthy), and WOW. Was it ever good. I mean REALLY GOOD. What flavor. Can’t wait to have some tomorrow.

What’s GOOD: there is tremendous flavor – the onions, leeks and celery are definitely there, but then you get the tang of lemon. Yum. The zest likely added some nice extra oomph to it too. Delicious soup. A definite one for more often rotation in my kitchen.

What’s NOT: not a thing, really. Easy soup to make – it would likely take about 45 minutes total with the chopping and mincing.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Cream of Chicken Soup with Lemon and Tarragon

Recipe By: Inspired by a recipe in New Covent Garden Soup Company Book of Soups
Serving Size: 6

1 tablespoon EVOO
1 tablespoon butter
1 large yellow onion — chopped
2 medium leeks — cleaned, chopped
1 cup celery — chopped
2 cups low sodium chicken broth
2 cups vegetable stock
2 teaspoons dried tarragon zest from one lemon
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast — chopped in small cubes
12 ounces coconut milk — full fat, or coconut cream
3 tablespoons fresh chives — minced

1. In a large Dutch oven heat butter and olive oil over medium-high and once shimmering, add onion and leeks. Cook over medium heat for 5-7 minutes, then add celery. Cook for 5 minutes, then add dried tarragon, both chicken broth and vegetable broth to a simmer. Add lemon zest and juice. Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes.
2. Using an immersion blender, puree about half of the soup mixture until thickened. Add chicken, cover and simmer for about 12 minutes, then add coconut milk. Heat to just below a simmer and serve with chives garnishing the top.
Per Serving: 353 Calories; 20g Fat (49.8% calories from fat); 25g Protein; 20g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 50mg Cholesterol; 816mg Sodium.

Posted in Soups, on October 23rd, 2018.

watermelon_cuke_gazpacho

Can’t say that I’d ever had gazpacho with watermelon and cucumber. But oh, my, was it ever good.

Hopefully by the time this recipe posts, you’ll still be able to find watermelon in your grocery stores. Because this cold soup is so very refreshing. Maybe for a fall outdoor barbecue? Might be the last.

You begin with about 5 cups of watermelon (buy a seedless one, if possible), diced up. Most of it gets blended until smooth. Pour that out into a bowl. Then the remaining watermelon and the veggies get mixed in – you add a peeled and seeded cucumber, a red bell pepper, a small jalapeno chile pepper, some inner-stalks of celery, some red onion, fresh mint, fresh lime juice, a jot of sherry wine vinegar and salt. Chill and you’re done. Refrigerate for a few hours. Serve with a little dollop of crème fraiche If you’d like. I’d also put a mint leaf on top too (see photo). This recipe came from a cooking class with Tarla Fallgatter.

What’s GOOD: the word refreshing is the best one. Cold. Soothing. Tons of flavor in it. Worth doing. Could be made several hours ahead of time.

What’s NOT: nothing really other than prepping the vegetables. Otherwise, very easy.

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

* Exported from MasterCook *

Watermelon and Cucumber Gazpacho

Recipe By: Tarla Fallgatter, cooking class, 9/2018
Serving Size: 6

3 pounds watermelon — seedless, diced (5 cups)
1 small cucumber — peeled, seeded, diced (1 cup)
1 medium red bell pepper — seeded, diced (1 cup)
1 small jalapeno chile pepper — seeded, minced
1/2 cup celery — use inner stalks only, diced
1/2 small red onion — diced
1/4 cup fresh mint — diced
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup creme fraiche — for garnish
mint springs for garnish

1. For watermelon, use 4 cups to puree, then remaining cup to mix in with other ingredients.
2. Puree 4 cups of watermelon in blender until smooth. Transfer puree to a bowl (or storage container).
3. Add remaining cup of watermelon with all remaining ingredients except creme fraiche and stir (no, don’t blend). Pour into the container with watermelon and chill until cold, at least one hour and up to 4 hours.
4. Divide among bowls and top with a dollop of creme fraiche and a mint leaf, if desired.
Per Serving: 116 Calories; 6g Fat (45.8% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 15g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 18mg Cholesterol; 112mg Sodium.

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