Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Hot Chocolate Ice Cream

What? How can ice cream be hot and icy? Well, of course you knew that “hot” is a polysemous word--a word that has more than one meaning. “Hot” can refer to temperature or spiciness.

The Chocolate Dessert Soup I posted earlier today has some heat to it--of the red pepper flake variety. And since only two of us ate the soup for dessert, I had some soup left.

I always have a Cuisinart ice cream cylinder in the freezer so I can make ice cream, frozen yogurt, or gelato on a whim. In fact, I bought an extra one so I can make two in one day if the mood strikes me. It is so easy, and people are so surprised to have homemade ice cream.

So, back to the Chocolate Soup--I had some left over last night. I poured it into my ice cream maker this morning, turned it on, and ~20 minutes later, the ice cream had set up nicely. I added in some toasted pecans and the cake cubes and toasted coconut left from serving the soup.

I let that all incorporate for another few minutes, then I removed the ice cream from the cylinder and put it into a container for the freezer.

Spicy hot chocolate ice cream! Really, really good!

A Month of Soups: Chocolate Soup

Happy Leap Day! It’s been quite a month. Lil Bro asked if I knew enough soups to fill a month. Can you answer that question for him? Not only did I fill the month--admittedly the shortest one--but I have soups left in my files. I actually made choices about which soups to use.

I could do more. For example, when fresh fruits are in season, I make a chilled peach soup with nasturtiums floating on top. I love making gazpacho for a hot summer day. And my chilled cucumber soup is the stuff of memories--fond ones, of course. That’s not even mentioning my 15-Bean Soup or Turkey Rice or Split Pea or French Onion or Reuben Soup. Need I go on? But we are at the end, and you earned your reward. We’ve had appetizer soups and dinner soups. Today, dessert soup.

Ah! Chocolate, the food of love. Chocolate soup is decadent. To add to the decadence, take a couple of slices of pound cake and cut into cubes. Let them dry a bit. Then toss with butter and cinnamon and bake until lightly browned. Cool and float on top of your soup.

But we’ll leave it here. DH is screaming for dead red! Steak coming up with a dollop of blue cheese on top! Then chocolate soup! Ah! Won’t he be surprised?

Chocolate Soup (serves 4-6)

2 c heavy whipping cream

2 c milk

2 egg yolks, beaten

4 T sugar

~4 oz grated chocolate, at least 70% cacao

1 t vanilla

¼ t red pepper flakes

¼ c toasted coconut

20-30 2” cubes pound cake or angel food cake

Put cake cubes under broiler. Watch closely. When browned, turn over and brown the bottom. Remove to a rack to cool.

Over low heat, bring whipping cream and milk to hot. Slowly whisk in egg yolks and stir until incorporated. Stir in sugar. Slowly add grated chocolate. Whisk until smooth. Add vanilla and red pepper flakes. Serve with cubes of cake and a sprinkle of toasted coconut on top.

DH’s Rating: 4 Tongues Up! You know, he surprised me. I thought he would think this weird, and he did, kind of, but he ate it and enjoyed it. He thought it had too much red pepper (I had used ½ t pepper flakes), so I adjusted the recipe for you. Wait until you see what I’m going to do with the leftover soup!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Month of Soups: Cream of Spinach

Someone asked me why I use a Dutch oven so often. For one thing, it’s good and heavy and it can go right into the oven if I want to cook it, keep it warm, or reheat it. Dutch ovens can get downright expensive, but I read some reviews and found a recommendation for a bargain one at Target.

I hope you plant to stop by tomorrow for the final soup. I have a surprise soup in honor of the month of love and to reward you for sticking with me! But that’s tomorrow; for today, a soup that is good for you: Cream of Spinach. Yum!

Here’s a good site for you: I learned how to make “Cream of Something Soup” from Kristi at She gives a template for you to make any kind of creamed soup you want, veggie or chicken. She even offers dietary variations for those with restrictions. A very nice site!

When you have a recipe that calls for a cream-of-something soup for thickening and flavor, try using some of your own rather than store-bought. You will be surprised at the depth of flavor you can get that way.

Here’s my adaptation of her recipe suggestion for:

Cream of Spinach Soup (serves 2)

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 small onion, diced

1½ c spinach, diced

1 T olive oil

1 stick of butter

½ c flour

2 c milk

1½ c veggie broth

Over medium heat, sauté garlic, onion, and spinach. When onion is translucent, remove all from the pan and set aside. In the same pan, melt the butter and whisk in the flour to make a roux, adding milk and broth after 2 minutes to get the flour cooked.

To the flour mixture, add the set aside veggies. Simmer for about 10-15 minutes, stirring constantly until desired thickness. Pour into blender and pulse until chunks are incorporated. If the soup cools down too much, return to pan to reheat. Serve immediately. Or this soup can be canned or frozen for future use.

DH’s Rating: 3.6 Tongues Up. He ate it, then asked if there were any chili left. Sigh! Come back tomorrow and see what the surprise soup is!

Monday, February 27, 2012

A Month of Soups: 3-Meat Chili

Long time ago, earlier this month, I promised the tale of my creation of this soup. It may well have been the catalyst for the love story I live every day. I think this story is that powerful.

When I first met DH (who, of course, wasn’t DH yet), we were both far from home working on graduate degrees at the University of Georgia. He yearned for southwest food. Taco Bell was the best Mexican food in town, and no offense meant to Taco Bell, but that wasn’t the Sonoran desert food he was accustomed to.

I offered to fix him some chili. I knew chili. I had grown up with it. So I brought the ingredients to his bigger kitchen and set to work. I browned the hamburger and onions which I added to the tomato juice and chili powder. I plopped in a can of kidney beans. Voila! (or whatever the Spanish equivalent is).

I proudly dished it up, not processing until later the looks he was casting at his bowl. “What’s this?”

What was he doing in a graduate program? How stupid could he be? Maybe I didn’t want to meld gene pools with him after all.

“It’s chili,” I explained as if he had a mental problem.

He took a small spoonful. “Well, it’s not awful, but it’s not chili.”

We kind of got into an “Is, too!”-“Is not!” argument. “Well, that’s the chili I grew up with. What would you call it?”

“Maybe chili soup. Chili is thick and doesn’t have hamburger OR chili powder in it.”

“So teach me how to make it,” I tossed out. This is the man whose freezer had Jolly Green Giant entrees in it.

“I don’t know how to make it, but I’ll know it when I eat it.”

So back to the store the two of us went. I tried again and again to figure out a recipe he’d love.

Did you know fresh chilis will burn the skin off your fingers if you don’t wear gloves or are extremely cautious? Well, neither did I--the first time! Need I mention to keep said fingers far from eyeballs?

What follows is the final recipe I created that I have made for decades. On another note, I love to take my roasted Hatch chilis from the freezer for this recipe, but I have been known to use a couple of cans of chilis instead. Enjoy!

Three-Meat Chili (serves 8-10)

12 oz. steak, cut into chunks

12 oz. chicken, boneless, cut into chunks

3 T olive oil

2 T flour

1 kielbasa, cut in bite-size chunks

1 large onion, diced

1 large can V-8 juice

1 cinnamon stick

2 cans diced tomatoes

1 can Mexicorn

1 can pinto beans

1 can kidney beans

1 medium Hatch chili, roasted, and cut into chunks (or 2 cans chilies)

1 T sharp cheddar cheese, grated per person

Toss chicken and steak chunks with flour. Brown on all sides in Dutch oven. Push to one side. Add kielbasa and onion. Cook until kielbasa is browned and onions are translucent. Then mix it all back together in the pan and cover. Let cook on medium-low heat for 5 minutes. Remove from pan.

Add a bit of the V-8 juice to deglaze the pan. Keep scrapings in the pan and add the rest of the V-8 juice and the cinnamon stick. Stir to mix well. Add meats and onion back to the Dutch oven. Stir well. Add tomatoes, corn, and beans, and chilies.

Simmer for one hour. Allow to cool down then refrigerate overnight. Next day, remove the cinnamon stick. Reheat and serve with grated cheese on top and cornbread with honey butter. We love this with a big hunk of cheese and grapes and apples.

DH’s Rating: 10 Tongues Up! He’s losing it. I’m glad this month is almost over. He’s not taking it seriously anymore. Then again, he really, really does love this chili.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

A Month of Soups: Chicken and Dumplings Soup

Grandma didn’t have running water in her West Virginia home in the “hollers” of the Appalachians. I remember when she got electricity. She could finally have a light bulb in every room and a refrigerator. That was a big deal! Up until then, she used the springhouse built into the side of the mountain where the temperature was pretty even year round. But never cold enough for ice.

One of my fond memories was watching Grandma make stewed chicken and dumplings. She started out by catching one the chickens, twirling it around to break its neck, and then she dunked it in boiling water so she could pluck its feathers off. Now that is a stinky job.

Making chicken and dumplings was an all day affair in those days. She never had to pre-heat the stove; the wood-burning stove in the kitchen never went out. She just added more wood to increase the temperature. How she knew what the temperature was is unclear to me to this day. But she never burned anything and turned out delectable biscuits and other goodies.

Stewed chicken and dumplings were stovetop fare. I am not even pretending this soup is as good as Grandma’s. She never used recipes, so we have none from her. But I think my taste-o-meter is genetic from her side of the family. Thanks, Grandma!

Also, in the interest of simplicity and modern sensibilities, no killing of chickens here and no stewing chicken. We’ll just use the broth you already made along with some roasted chicken chunks you have in the freezer. Ready? Fire up the wood stove! Er, rather, turn on the oven.

Chicken and Dumplings Soup (serves 6-8)

12 pearl onions, “x” on each end

2 qt. chicken and turkey stock (combine them for more richness)

1 c baby carrots, halved

3 stalks celery, cut bite-sized

2 bay leaves

2 c chopped chicken

2 c flour

4 t baking powder

1 t salt

1 t pepper

2 t dried basil

4 T butter

1 c buttermilk

Peel paper off pearl onions and cut a small “x” in each end so they hold together while cooking. Add onions to broth. Add carrots, celery, and bay leaves, and chicken. Bring broth to a slow boil and cook for 15 minutes.

While broth is heating, mix flour, baking powder, salt, pepper, and basil together. Cut in butter to make mealy dough. Add buttermilk. Mix well. The dough should be sticky but not too loose or too stiff. It should be able to drop from the spoon back into the bowl. Add more flour or buttermilk if necessary.

Adjust heat on broth to a slow simmer. Remove bay leaves. Drop dumplings a teaspoon at a time into the broth. Try to keep the dumplings from touching by dropping dough in different places around the pot. Cover when all dumplings are added.

Check after 10 minutes to see if done. Take one dumpling out and cut into it. The middle should not be raw. Return cut dumpling to the broth. If done, remove from heat and serve. If not, poach for 5 minutes longer, covered.

DH’s Rating: 5 Tongues Up! This is a flavorful, hearty soup. The basil in the dumplings adds a nice little bump of flavor. This is not quite like Grandma’s, but it is pretty darn good for flatlanders!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

A Month of Soups: Mulligatawny Soup

I love the unexpected in soups. The apple in this one is very nice. This is, at essence, at chicken and rice soup with exotic flavors from spices. According to Wikipedia, “mulligatawny” is an Anglo-Indian soup whose name comes from the spices included; it means “pepper water”. But who would ever eat “Pepper Water Soup”? “Muligatawny” just sounds cooler!

The word also is that this is not really an Indian soup, but rather, the English modified a spicy lentil and pea soup to create this. Some versions of the recipe include rice, some include lentils, some have both. Feel free to adapt my recipe to fit your tastes. I certainly do all the time. Count how many times I add a cinnamon stick to layer the flavors! And there’s always garlic. The spices give an oriental flair to this soup.

You can buy coconut milk canned. But, it is easy to make your own. Go to and you’ll find a quick and easy recipe that works well in this soup and other dishes requiring coconut milk.

Mulligatawny Soup (serves 8)

2 T olive oil

1 large onion, diced

1 leek, diced

2 large carrots, cut into coins

2 ribs celery, cut into bite-size chunks

2 tart apples, skin-on, diced

3 cloves garlic, sliced

1 large knob of fresh ginger, grated (or 1 T ginger powder)

3# chicken pieces, skin-on; all thighs and legs, or add in a breast half.

8 c chicken and/or turkey broth, divided

2 bay leaves

1 T garam masala

2 T curry powder

1 cinnamon stick

1 T whole cloves

1 T turmeric

2 cups cooked rice (Basmati is the most often used in Mulligatawny)

½ c coconut milk, + ¼ c

cilantro, shredded, for garnish

Preheat oven to 375°.

Heat oil in large oven-proof pot or Dutch oven. Over medium heat, sauté onion, leek, carrots, celery, and apples. Add garlic and ginger when onion is translucent. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring continually. Remove vegetable mixture from pan and set aside.

Add chicken pieces to pot and brown on all sides. Put into oven and roast covered for 30 minutes. Remove chicken from pot and allow to cool. Turn heat to 275°.

While chicken is cooling, puree veggie mixture with a little broth. Leave a few chunks for texture. Put remaining broth in pan. Add veggie mixture to the broth. Add bay leaf other spices. Stir to blend. Bring to a simmer over low heat and cook for 20 minutes.

While broth is heating, remove the skin from the chicken and discard. Shred the chicken and discard the bones. Add chicken meat to the broth mixture. Add rice and stir well. Put pan in oven for 30 minutes, covered.

Remove from oven. Remove bay leaves, cinnamon stick, and cloves. Add in ½ cup coconut milk. Blend in thoroughly and serve immediately with a drizzle of coconut milk on top and a sprinkle of shredded cilantro leaves.

Mulligatawny is even better when served with traditional naan bread. Delicious for sopping up the bottom of the bowl.

DH’s Rating: 4.5 Tongues Up. “Really good. What are those chunks in there?” Better he not know about the apples.

Friday, February 24, 2012

A Month of Soups: Spicy Carrot Soup and Rt. 66

Lil Bro did the big trip he was so psyched about. You know, the trip you want to take, too. The ultimate road trip: Route 66. No Mustang, but still fun.

He began in Illinois and finished in California, just like you’re supposed to. He had a wonderful time and took close to a thousand pictures. He has a pared-down version that he presents to groups near his small Iowa town.

So, loooooonnnngggg story short(er), on his way home by another route, he called me from some place in northern California, or Utah or Colorado, or some other state, and asked me how to make Spicy Carrot Soup. He had stopped at some diner and it was the cook’s specialty, I guess. He wasn’t going to try it, but the waitress convinced him to be adventuresome. That’s what his whole trip was about! So he did, and he loved it.

He left without asking for the recipe (which I suggested he do as soon as he got home), because he was sure his cooking sister could tell him how to do it even though he was unable to identify the spices in it. Brother! I mean, literally, Brother!

So I did what any good sister would do: I googled “spicy carrot soup”. 4,680,000 hits! Okey dokey. I copied and pasted 9 of them that were different enough from one another so he might find one that would come close to his memory of the soup.

Meantime, now he’s got me intrigued by this. Spicy Carrot Soup? I’ll bet I could make up one, too. So here is my version of a Spicy Carrot Soup that I also sent to my brother. I not only used spices, but I also used parsnips, which are a spicy root vegetable. Try it. Compare it to the millions on the Internet, and let me know how many tongues up YOU give it!

Spicy Carrot Soup (serves 6-8)

6 large carrots

2 parsnips

1 large bell pepper, seeded and quartered

1 large onion, quartered

2 celery stalks, no trimming necessary

4 cloves garlic, in skins

2 T olive oil

6 cups vegetable broth, divided

1 cup buttermilk

1 t curry powder

1 t fresh ginger

½ t whole cloves

1¼ cup coconut milk, divided

cilantro sprigs for garnish

Preheat oven to 400°. Rub carrots, parsnips, bell pepper, onion, and celery with olive oil. Place in a single layer on a cookie sheet along with garlic cloves. Roast for 20 minutes until veggies show some brown and are fork-tender. Set aside. When cool, squeeze garlic from skins and discard skins.

Put ½ cup broth in blender or food processor and add roasted vegetables. Puree and strain through colander to remove skins and large chunks. Process in batches.

Combine remaining broth and strained vegetables in large pot. Add buttermilk and spices. Simmer over low heat for 20 minutes. Reserve ¼ cup coconut milk. Add remaining coconut milk to the broth mixture. Bring again to slow simmer. Fish out the cloves. Pour hot soup into bowls and drizzle the reserved coconut milk on top and garnish with cilantro sprigs. Serve immediately.

DH’s Rating: 3.7 Tongues Up. This soup seemed sweet to him and there were no chunks to gnaw on. He asked where the meat was. I threw him a chicken leg so he’d stop whining.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Dog Cookies

In honor of both National Dog Biscuit Day and the wonderful dogs we have had over the years, I'd like to share the cookies I created for Tasha and then made for Pooh and now Maudie. Wonderful dogs deserve wonderful treats.

Tasha's Dog Cookies

5 c. Bisquick, HeartSmart

5 c. whole wheat flour

1 c. wheat germ

6 T. garlic powder

1 qt. beef broth

1 egg

½ c. molasses

22 oz. can chopped meat canned dog food.

Mix dry ingredients well. Blend in broth. Add egg, molasses, and dog food. Mix well. Drop by tablespoons on Pam-sprayed cookie sheet.

Bake at 450° until browned (~ 10-12 minutes). Makes ~10 dozen cookies. Freeze most of them. Put enough for the week in a Ziploc bag in the refrigerator for treats.

A Month of Soups: Garbage Soup

Those dribs and drabs, the bits and pieces, the orts and detritus in your refrigerator and freezer are going to find a home today. Garbage Soup. The dinner of savers. This soup is your reward for not throwing out anything.

Friends and family have suggested other names: Mélange Soup; Medley Soup; Hodgepodge Soup; Mishmash Soup; even Potpourri Soup. But all of those just class it up. The fact is, this isn’t a classy soup. This is the real soup of the people.

Given that background, it won’t surprise you that there is no definitive recipe. How do I know what you have tucked away in the back of your refrigerator? I barely know what’s in mine! Word of warning: any food you find in there that’s wearing a little sweater, out it goes. We do not consider mold one of the food groups for purposes of this recipe.

There is no easier soup and the feel-good result of having a refrigerator where you can find stuff is priceless. So here are some proportions to keep in mind when making this soup. Then go to it!

The good news is this is an unreplicable soup so you will be serving your family a unique dinner they’ll never have again. The bad news is this is an unreplicable soup so if they like it, too bad, they’ll never have it again!

Garbage Soup (serves 6 maybe--could be more or less depending on leftovers)

1 medium onion, diced

3 cloves of garlic, sliced

1T olive oil

~6 c broth (leftover on, from the freezer, or on your pantry shelf) Okay to mix broths so chicken, beef, turkey, vegetable--whatever combo you have

1 T herbs (I surf my spice rack--haven’t used that “Herbs from Provence with lavender” in a while? Is the basil almost gone? Wonder what curry and tarragon will do together? Cinnamon sticks or whole cloves always add an unexpected layer of flavor. Go crazy. Why not? Expectations are low for this soup, but you have the opportunity to create something unique and tasty.)

~2 c assorted veggies (maybe that little cup of corn, spinach that is on its last legs, six green beans?--clean out the refrigerator). If you don’t have two cups in the refrigerator, check the freezer. 8 french fries? Why not? Refried beans left? Sure, dump ‘em in. You find 3 cups of leftover veggies? Use them. It just makes a chunkier soup.

~2 c cooked meats (again, an assortment or single source is fine; I’ve used pork chops and hamburger together. The only thing I don’t do is mix fish with meats. I keep fish bits together in their own Garbage Soup.)

Sauté the onion in olive oil over medium heat in a large pan or Dutch oven. When translucent, add garlic and stir around for about a minute. Add broth and spices. Blend well. Add whatever veggies and meats you have accumulated. Heat to a slow simmer. Simmer for 20 minutes then serve.

To class this up have an excellent bread, great cheeses, and fruit slices to serve alongside. It will then appear to be more than what it is! Garbage Soup. Prepare for a call from the school when your child shares what dinner was the night before.

DH’s Rating: 3.7 Tongues Up. He liked this particular soup (pork tenderloin and sirloin with squash, black beans, corn, and peas), but it wasn’t his favorite of those we’ve had over the years. And he hates when he likes it a lot because he knows he’ll never have it again!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Month of Soups: Beef Stroganoff Soup

Whenever we grill London Broil with my special teriyaki glaze, I have DH do extra meat so we can have stroganoff or stroganoff soup later in the week. I’m very big on cooking the meat once then using it throughout the week in other dishes. This is a slow-cooker soup, so it is even easier.

Cooking tip #1: Every time you remove the lid of the slow cooker during cooking, it adds 15 minutes more of cooking time needed. Keep the dang lid on!

Cooking tip #2: The more flavorful the mushrooms you select, the better the soup. Cremini mushrooms will do the trick in Beef Stroganoff Soup, but portobellos have more flavor. Or try a mélange of three or four mushrooms types for fun.

Beef Stroganoff Soup (serves 6)

2 cloves garlic, minced

¼ c onion, diced

½ c mushrooms, diced

¼ c butter

¼ c flour

1 t pepper

1 can evaporated milk + ½ can of water

4 ¾ c beef broth, divided

1# London Broil, grilled and cut into thin slices

1 c mushroom, sliced

1 c sour cream

½ c noodles, cooked al dente, per person

Spray a pan with Olive Oil Pam and sauté diced mushrooms, onion, and garlic. Set aside. In the same skillet melt the butter and flour. Stir around to make a roux, about 2 minutes of cooking.

Add evaporated milk slowly, stirring to get rid of lumps. When smooth, add pepper, water, and ¾ cup of broth. Pour into the blender along with cooked mushroom mixture. Blend for 30 seconds to smooth out the biggest lumps.

Pour the liquid into the slow cooker. Add the remaining beef broth and stir to blend. Add London Broil slices.

Cook on low for six hours. Add sliced mushrooms and sour cream. Blend and cook for 1 more hour on high. Put noodles in bottom of bowl and ladle soup on top. Mix and eat with garlic bread and a tossed salad.

DH’s Rating: 4.7 Tongues Up. When I asked why, he said, “I can’t give everything a 5.” I asked, “Why can’t you? Besides, not everything has been a 5 Tonguer.” He shrugged. “It’s my tongue.” Now how do you deal with that?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A Month of Soups: Albondigas

“Albondigas” is Spanish for “meatball”. This meatball soup has dozens and dozens of variants. You can “hot it up” if that is your cup of soup, or keep it milder. I prefer milder with the option for people to add heat individually.

In some of the variants, the meatballs include raw rice and are cooked in the soup from the beginning. I like to get some color on them first, and then finish the cooking in the broth.

The blend of spices makes these meatballs very different. Feel free to play with options yourself to add the flavors that your family likes best.

Albondigas Soup (serves 6-8)


6 cups chicken or turkey broth

1 t cumin

1 t basil

3 cloves garlic, sliced

1 c carrot coins

½ c celery, diced

1 medium onion, diced

1 c zucchini, sliced

1 c kale, rough-chopped

1 can diced tomatoes, seasoned

cilantro sprigs for garnish

Put all ingredients into a Dutch oven or large pot. Bring to a slow simmer. Cook for 20 minutes. Let cool. Bring back to a slow boil and add meatballs.


½# lean ground beef

½# ground pork

3 cloves garlic, minced

½ c onion, finely diced

2 t dried mint

1 t cumin

1 c cooked rice

1 egg, lightly mixed

Preheat oven to 375°. Mix all ingredients together and form into 20-24 meatballs. Place in pan with an edge and bake for 15 minutes. Add to slow-simmer broth. Cook for 20 minutes.

Serve with a couple of sprigs of cilantro on top. Tell them to eat that, too. It creates a delicious, fresh green burst on the tongue.

DH’s Rating: 5 Tongues Up! This soup is light, but filling. A delicious soup supper.

A Month of Soups: White Chicken Chili

We do love our Southwest-inspired soups, DH and I. He grew up in AZ; I’m a happy transplant. I’ll tell the story later this month of the first chili I ever made for him (in Georgia) that has since morphed into my three-meat chili, another family favorite. It didn’t start out that way! But I digress.

Today’s chili was an attempt I made to eat lighter and somewhat more healthfully. It is pretty high in fiber and mostly lower in fat, at least compared to some of the soups this month. After yesterday’s soup, you’re going to need this slimmer one.

I experimented with ingredients several times (and it had to be easy) until this White Chicken Chili won out.

White Chicken Chili (Serves 6-8)

1 large onion

2 T olive oil

5 cloves of garlic, sliced

4 oz can green chilies

1 qt turkey broth

½ c white wine

2 cans white beans

2 c leftover chicken, white/dark/or both

In a large pot or Dutch oven, sauté onion in olive oil until translucent. Add garlic slices, chilies, broth and white wine. Let simmer for 20 minutes. Add beans and chicken. Simmer another 15 minutes and it’s ready to serve.

For a special treat, try it in a hollowed out boule bowl (Make the sides pretty thick). Eat the bread bowl around as you empty it. Save the bread inside to make croutons with later.

DH’s Rating: 6 Tongues Up! Sorry, he broke the rules. He told me 5 tongues is an arbitrary measure, and he wouldn’t be bullied by the fact that I was going to publish his transgression.

A Month of Soups: Cheeseburger Soup

Okay. Cheeseburger soup? This one will probably be more of a kid favorite or a SuperBowl party dish than something you’ll do regularly. But, who knows?

And who doesn’t like cheeseburgers? Putting the ingredients together in a soup isn’t so far-fetched. What do you think your stomach does with a cheeseburger and it’s fixings? No way are there separate bins for each part. It all gets mashed together. So go with the flow.

Cheeseburger Soup (serves ~6)

6 hamburger buns, toasted (We like onion buns for more flavor)

1½# hamburger

2 cloves of garlic, minced

¼ c catsup or Worcestershire sauce

¼ c mustard

1 T olive oil

1 medium onion, cut into rings

8 oz dark beer

2 cans diced tomatoes

12 large lettuce leaves

12 slices of fresh tomato

6 (or more) slices of favorite burger cheese

12 pickles (I like dill, but use what they like)

Toast buns. Keep warm. Mix hamburger with garlic, catsup, and mustard. Let sit while you fry up the onion rings until they just have some color. Set aside covered to keep warm. Fry the hamburger until done, adding salt and pepper to taste. Add beer and tomatoes. Simmer for 20 minutes, covered.

Put a bun bottom in the bottom of each bowl. On top of the bun, put a few onion rings and one tomato slice. Distribute soup among the six bowls. On top of the soup put a slice or two of cheese, the remaining onions, a tomato slice, a couple of pickles, and a lettuce leaf. Top with bun. DO NOT PICK THIS UP!!! Serve with a knife, fork, AND spoon!

DH’s Rating: 3.8 Tongues Up. Too heavy for him, but he did like the flavor meld.

A Month of Soups: Chicken Noodle

I've been away, so I apologize for not posting soups. I will catch up today.

The ultimate comfort food is Chicken Noodle Soup. Of course this soup is best with your own, homemade and wonderful thick noodles, but not every one makes noodles. So, if you must buy, I suggest one of the fresh, refrigerated noodles (like Buitoni), rather than the dry ones which tend to be too thin and get too limp. Noodles ought to be able to announce their presence, stand up for themselves. But maybe that’s just me!

The best chicken soup, of course, is made by first boiling the whole chicken, skimming the scum (multiple times), straining out the veggies and whole herbs, skimming the fat, and picking the bones clean. But, we don’t have time for that today, now do we? That’s why we make broth in advance and store it in the freezer. So go to the freezer or your pantry for some prepared turkey stock and chicken stock. The combo makes for a richer flavor. Or you can use only chicken stock.

So, in the promise of keeping things simple, easy, and quick, here’s a recipe my family have enjoyed for many years.

Chicken Noodle Soup (serves ~8)

6 cups broth (half and half turkey and chicken broth is best)

2 bay leaves

1 c carrot strips, julienned

1 c diced celery

½ c diced onion

1-1½ c fettucine

2 c shredded, cooked chicken (Use leftovers in freezer or from just-picked bones)

Parsley springs for garnish and fresh green flavor.

Let the bay leaves sit in the broth for about 20 minutes prior to heating. Add carrots, celery, and onion. Bring broth and veggies to a simmer over medium-low heat. Simmer for 30 minutes. Let cool.

Bring broth back to a slow simmer. Add noodles. Cook for 3-5 minutes until noodles are al dente. Add chicken. Bring to a slow simmer again. Remove from heat and remove bay leaves. Serve with a parsley sprig on top.

DH’S Rating: 5 Tongues Up! Yep. The ultimate comfort food never fails to please. I knew this would rate well. He loved my chicken noodle soup from the first time I made it.

Friday, February 17, 2012

A Month of Soups: Vegetable Soup

This time you get two recipes, because to make the vegetable soup you need a good veggie broth. So here’s what I like to do. And both are vegetarian, a bonus for some of our friends. Of course, you could use good quality store-bought vegetable broth, but where’s the fun in that?

When you are preparing vegetables for other meals, you may dispose of the ends of asparagus, green onion ends, herb stems, carrot and potato peelings, corn cobs, eggplant ends, bell pepper ends and seeds, and the like. DON’T DO THAT! Instead, designate a gallon-size freezer zipper bag and put such like in it. You can also add those dribs and drabs of veggies left from dinner--three green beans, ¼ cup of peas, and so on. Don’t throw anything like that away again.

When you are ready to make veggie broth, add these to the broth. All chunks are removed when it is strained. But the more variety you have, the richer the broth tastes.

The reason for rough-chopping veggies is to expose more surfaces to the liquid. Whole carrots will not disperse as much flavor as chopped ones.

Vegetable Broth (makes ~2 qts)

1 gal water

whole bunch of celery, rough chopped, both ends included

6 large carrots, rough-chopped

5 parsnips, rough-chopped

3 onions, rough-chopped

5 cloves garlic, lightly crushed, skins on

2 bell peppers, rough-chopped, seeds and all

5 tomatoes, rough-chopped

+ any veggie choppings/skins/chunks in your freezer

2 bay leaves

2 T mixed peppercorns

1 cinnamon stick

bunch of parsley, chopped

6 sprigs thyme, chopped

Wash any raw veggies as usual, but there is no need to trim them. All skins and root ends will be strained out and discarded.

Add everything to the water and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for one hour. Strain out all chunks. Cool and store in refrigerator or freezer. How easy is that?

To make the soup-du-jour, you will need 2 quarts of that broth. This is a dense soup, almost a meatless stew. Serve with a wonderful dense bread like ciabatta or beer bread.

Spring Vegetable Soup (serves 10-12)

1 c carrot coins

½ c celery

1 T olive oil

2 qts vegetable stock, divided

½ head of cabbage, rough-chopped

1 c kale, rough-chopped

2 cans cut tomatoes, seasoned

1 c spring pea pods

1 c bean sprouts

½ green onions, chopped

1 T fresh basil (or 1 t dried)

Several sprigs of parsley for garnish

Over medium-high heat, sauté carrots and celery in olive oil in the pot you’re using for the soup. Cook for about 3 minutes or until there is a slight bite of browning. Add ½ cup vegetable broth to deglaze the pan. Then add remaining broth. Stir.

Add cabbage, kale, and tomatoes. Cook until cabbage is softened. Add pea pods, sprouts, and onions. Lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in basil. Serve with parsley on top.

DH’s Rating: 4 Tongues Up. Tasty, but he thought it would benefit from some protein source. I offered tofu. He declined.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A Month of Soups: Bread Soup for the 99%

This is the soup for the 99%. Well actually, maybe not that high, but if you’re watching the budget, take some tips from the folk of Italy. This is definitely a folk soup, born of poverty, that can be delicious and nutritious with additional ingredients.

What is better than fresh baked, firm bread? Stale bread, you say? Yes, I do. Stale bread is a necessity for Bread Soup. Through the ages, inventive cooks have found many ways to use up the scraps of bread that have gotten hard and maybe a little off in flavor. Bread pudding, stuffing, croutons--only a few of the inventive ways to use old bread.

Bread Soup is another. For a thorough treatise on Bread Soup and recipes by region, take a look at Kyle Phillips’ series at This site gives many recipes for Bread Soup variants by regions of Italy.

The most basic Bread Soup recipe I found was to pour boiling water over bay leaves and a piece of hard, stale bread to soften it up for eating. I’m sure that fills an empty belly. But I like to delight the belly as well, and since I have more resources, that’s what this recipe is.

The bread is what really makes it, so stale or not, you need a firm bread, not a doughy one, because you want it to hold up to the boiling water. This is one of the fastest soups you’ll ever make!

Bread Soup (Serves 2)

2 cups water

1 T pepper

1 t salt

3 cloves garlic, sliced

8 Roma tomatoes, diced

2 handsful fresh spinach

1 T fresh basil, sliced thin (or 1 t dried basil)

2 stale ciabatta rolls, or other dense bread

4 T Asiago cheese

Boil the water in a medium pan with salt and pepper. Add garlic. At full boil, remove from heat and add tomatoes and spinach. Stir. Add in basil. Pour over bread in bowls. Sprinkle on cheese and serve.

DH’s Rating: 3 Tongues Up. He does like his meat. Still, he said for what it is, it’s good. What does THAT mean? He really liked that there were no leftovers to put in the filling-up freezer! Okay, gotta admit this wasn’t my favorite, either. I will try some of the soups on Phillips' site.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A Month of Soups: BLT Soup Extraordinaire

I was never very good at math. Words are more my thing, but I have an equation for you to solve. When is a BLT >BLT?

How about this one? BLT - L + (S + C + A) = x + CT

“Huh?” I can hear you saying? What the . . .? Bring on the soup recipe, will ya?”

Who doesn't love a great BLT? So what could improve it? Probably nothing, but BLT Soup is a good alternative.

BLT Soup (serves 4)

1# bacon, crispy (I do mine in the oven--less mess)

1 small bag spinach

2 cans diced tomatoes, with seasonings

2 c V-8 juice

2 avocados

4 pieces of whole wheat toast

c melting cheese, divided

Cook bacon. Crumble. Toast bread. Spread toast thickly with cheese and place under broiler until melted. Cut into toast points.

In a medium pan, heat tomatoes and V-8 juice until bubbling. While heating, slice avocados. Turn off heat. Add spinach to bubbling tomato mixture. Stir a few times to coat all spinach with tomato mixture and reduce the amount volume of spinach. Pour into bowls. Sprinkle with bacon, remaining cheese, and avocado slices. Serve with toast points.

How easy is that?

DH’S Rating: 4 Tongues Up. He didn’t think he’d like it, being kind of a traditionalist, but it had all the BLT elements (other than the spinach substitution) so he liked it more than he wanted to!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Month of Soups: Pumpkin with Black Truffle Oil

Pumpkin soup! How much more American can you get? Well, that is until you internationalize it with French truffle oil and tropical spices and coconut. Still you got the American peanuts in here. Here's a pumpkin soup with enough elegance to dress it up for company.

This is a special soup to go with your fancy dinner plans. I suggest a small cup of the soup as an appetizer. Serve shrimp kabobs, quinoa, and fruit salad for the entrée, and something lovely and chocolate for dessert.

Warning! Warning! Be sure to get the real-deal truffle oil instead of one of those cheap knock-offs. The harshness of the cheap stuff will ruin your food. If you can’t afford truffle oil (for this special dinner soup), some alternatives are provided below the recipe.

Also, this soup is a little sweet (for V-Day). If you don’t want that, use regular pumpkin, or make your own by roasting a pumpkin and scraping out the insides so you can puree it.

Pumpkin Soup with Black Truffle Oil (serves 2-3)

¼ c onion, finely diced

1 t butter

2 c vegetable broth, divided

1 small can pumpkin pie mix

2 T chunky peanut butter

1 t curry powder

1 t black truffle oil

2 T toasted coconut

6 salted peanuts

In a medium pan, sauté onions with butter until translucent. Use your mini food processor to puree the onions with ½ c broth. Put the remaining broth into the cooking pan where the onions were. Add the pumpkin, onion mixture, peanut butter, and curry powder. Whisk together over low-medium heat. Turn off the heat and let sit until cool. Re-warm to serve.

Lightly, lightly, lightly drizzle the pumpkin soup with black truffle oil. Garnish with toasted coconut and three salted peanuts.

If you don’t have truffle oil, thin 1 teaspoon sour cream with drips of milk until it is pourable. Put a dab of honey in and stir. Drizzle over the soup and sprinkle with toasted coconut and peanuts.

DH’s Rating: 2 Tongues Up. It was better than that! Oh, well. He said he didn’t like a pumpkin soup with curry and peanut butter. Or any pumpkin soup for that matter!

Monday, February 13, 2012

A Month of Soups: Fish Chowdah

Let’s use up that other half-pound of firm fish you bought earlier this week. What? You used it in another dinner? Well, good for you, Heart-Healthy One!

Now get back to the store and buy some more. Just a half-pound for this soup. Also make sure you have some shrimp and a can of clams if you can’t find fresh ones.

Chowders are satisfying dishes because they are rich and creamy, even if they are not heavy on fat, like this one. If you want to substitute Half-and-Half for the evaporated milk, feel free, but omit the butter if you do so.

We’re also going to use up some potatoes in this one, so I hope you have some lovely ones on hand. Yukon Gold are great, but feel free to use any potato you have on hand. Remember how to bake them? If not, read the recipe for “Loaded Baked Potato Soup” from yesterday.

You may have noticed I’m not big on adding salt to foods. Add in salt and/or pepper to your taste to any of these dishes. Most foods have enough natural sodium, that once you get accustomed to it, you will find you rarely need to salt foods.

Fish Chowdah (serves 6-8)

5 large russet (or 15-20 Yukon Gold) potatoes, baked

2 T olive oil

1 large onion, diced

½ pound firm-flesh fish, bite-size chunks

6 oz clams, chopped

12 large shrimp, chopped

2 cans evaporated milk

1 milk can of water

1 T butter

1 can corn

1 green onion, sliced diagonally

Bake potatoes. Mash half pretty well; rough chop the other half to small bite-size chunks. Set aside.

In a Dutch oven or large pan, sauté onion in olive oil. Remove when translucent. Add fish, shrimp, and clams. Cook for 3-5 minutes, turning to get color on fish. Add onion back in. Stir. Immediately add milk, water, and butter. On low heat, bring chowder to a simmer. Add corn. Bring back to simmer. Serve garnished with green onion. Serve with oyster or water crackers.

DH’s Rating: 5 Tongues Up! I told you he likes potatoes. Any variant I do of this soup is a hit with him.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

A Month of Soups: Loaded Baked Potato

DH loves baked potatoes for dinner, either as an accompaniment or as dinner by itself (loaded with goodies, of course). Whenever I am making a bunch for guests, or even just us, I bake up a few extra so I can make this soup or its plainer cousin. We like all kinds of potato soup, even cold vichyssoise. But for you, here’s the deluxe hot potato soup!

First, though, for the best soup, you must bake the potatoes in the oven not in the microwave. Real baking seems to change the flavor as well as the texture.

First, set the oven to 425°. While the oven is heating, I wash the potatoes well, dirty little things that they are, and dry them off. Cut a small x on each side. I coat my hands with a bit of olive oil and give each potato a massage. Last, I roll each potato in a dish with fresh ground sea salt so there’s a nice little coat on each. I learned that bit from Alton Brown.

Once the potatoes are baked, I cut them into big chunks and do a rough mash. Now follow the recipe below to have your very own bowls of this terrific soup.

Loaded Baked Potato Soup (serves ~6-8)

6 large potatoes, baked

1 medium onion, diced

1 T butter

1 T olive oil

¼ pound steak, diced

6 c Half-and-Half, divided

1½ c sour cream

¾ c sharp cheddar, grated, divided

2 green onions, sliced diagonally

6 slices of bacon, crispy-cooked and crumbled

1 T chives

Mash the potatoes, skin on, to make bite size chunks. Set aside the biggest chunks in a bowl. In another bowl, keep the smaller chunks. They should be about equal amounts.

Put the larger chunks in your food processor or blender with ½ cup of the Half-and-Half. Puree. Set aside.

Sauté the diced onion in the sizzling oil and butter in a Dutch oven or large pot. Stir to keep from burning. Remove the onions when they are translucent. Put in cubes of steak and brown on all sides. If you want your steak less rare, cook longer. Remove the steak to another bowl.

Put onions back in the pot. Add the Half-and-Half and potato puree and the bowl of small chunks of potato. Simmer over low heat for 30 minutes. Add sour cream and ½ cup of the cheese. Stir until well blended. Put soup into bowls and sprinkle with green onions, cheese, bacon, chives, and steak chunks.

DH’s Rating: 4.5 Tongues Up. His only complaint--too filling! Hey! Did I claim this was a diet food?

Saturday, February 11, 2012

A Month of Soups: Tortilla Soup

This is a soup I have made for years. When we have visitors in Arizona for the first time, it’s for sure on the menu at some point. I am a wimp when it comes to heat in Southwest cuisine. I love to savor all the flavors, not be overpowered by chilies. Remember the cumin adds some heat, too.

So, knowing that, try this as written being aware you can always add more heat. I use Macayo’s diced chilies, but you could use jalapeños or others that are hotter.

Tortilla Soup (serves ~6)

4 T butter

1 lg onion, chopped

3 carrots, diced

6 ribs celery, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 can (14 oz) diced tomatoes

6 cups chicken broth

4 oz can diced chilies

t cumin

1 t pepper

1# cooked, boneless chicken breasts or leftover chicken, diced

2 T lime juice

tortilla chips

6-12 cilantro stems

sour cream

avocado, diced

Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

In large pot, sauté onions in butter until translucent. Add carrots and celery and cook until they give slightly. Add garlic and stir for 2 minutes. Add tomatoes, chicken broth, and chilies. Stir well. Add cumin and pepper. Stir and add in chicken.

Cook for 30 minutes at a slow simmer. When done, add in lime juice. Prepare bowls with tortilla chips in the bottom. Pour soup over the chips. Garnish with cilantro stems, sour cream, avocado, and cheese.

DH”s Rating: 5 Tongues Up! This soup is a family favorite! Make it one for yours, too. Delicious AND easy!

A Month of Soups: Seafood Bisque

Sorry about not posting yesterday. But that just means two soups today! Today's soup is one you can fancy up with additional seafood to add more richness and flavor or just keep it simple.

Remember those two cups of tomato-basil soup I told you to reserve. Find ‘em! If you can’t find the soup, you have two options, as I see it: make another batch or buy some canned tomato-basil soup. Them’s yer choices!

But, I am assuming you did save those two cups, so let’s use them up for our soup-du-jour: Seafood Bisque.

I’m not normally a fan of tomatoes and fish together, but of course I’ll eat anything. Still, I don’t normally prepare fish that way. I make an exception for my seafood bisque.

What is a bisque, you might be asking. Bisques traditionally are thick, creamy soups with seafood, especially lobster.

My seafood bisque is for the 99%--no lobster, but, gosh, if you can get some, go for it!

Seafood Bisque (serves 2-3)

8 oz fish like monkfish, sea bass, mahi mahi, or other firm-fleshed fish

2 c tomato-basil soup

¼ t red pepper flakes

1 can Mexicorn

1 can evaporated milk, undiluted

Grill or broil fish to get a nice brown on the edges. Cook until just done. Remove from heat and cut into bite-sized chunks. Set aside. Pour tomato-basil soup, red pepper flakes, Mexicorn, and evaporated milk into blender. Pulse six times to blend. Pour mixture into medium pan and heat uncovered over low heat. When bisque is hot, add in fish, stir, and serve immediately.

Variation: to the grilled fish, add in 8 oz of other seafood like shrimp, lobster, crab, or clams. Makes for a richer flavor and varied textures. It will serve more people, too.

DH’s Rating: 3.5 Tongues Up. What he liked best was that this was enough for the two of us without a lot of leftovers! The freezer is filling up.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

A Month of Soups: Eggplant Soup

A lot of people told me they don't like eggplant. I get that. But, this soup has conversion power!

It's almost a vegetarian recipe, well, except for the beef and pork! But, if you took those out, I’ll bet you’d still like the soup this makes. It is a very flavorful with the unexpected honey and spices.

Of course, removing the meats makes the soup serve fewer people.

Eggplant Soup (serves 8-10)

1 T olive oil

1 med onion, diced

½ pound ground beef

½ pound ground pork

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 ½# eggplant, cubed

4 medium carrots, cut into coins

1½ ribs celery, diced

2 cans diced tomatoes with seasonings

4 c vegetable broth

2 t honey

1 t nutmeg

1 cinnamon stick

2 end rinds of parmesan cheese, 1-2” long

½ c quinoa

1 T fresh parsley, chopped

½ c Asiago cheese

In Dutch oven, heat olive oil on medium high. Add onions, carrots, and celery. Add garlic after a couple of three minutes. When onion is translucent, remove mixture from pot. Add beef and pork. Cook until no longer pink.

Turn heat to medium-low. Add eggplant and salt. Cook covered for 5-10 minutes, until eggplant has softened and reduced in size. Add in onion mixture. Cook for five minutes, stirring continually. Add tomatoes and broth. Cook until mixture comes to a slow simmer.

Add honey, spices and end rinds of parmesan cheese. Simmer for 30 minutes.

Add in quinoa and simmer for another 20 minutes. Remove cinnamon stick and rinds (if you can find the pieces) and discard. Serve in bowls with parsley and Asiago cheese on top. Great with ciabatta bread and fruit slices.

DH’s Rating: 4.3 Tongues Up! He’s not an eggplant fan, but he really liked this soup. He was surprised at some of the ingredients that gave depth to the soup, like the cinnamon stick and cheese rinds.