Monday, December 31, 2012

Lobster Bisque

I've been waiting and waiting for a good time to make lobster bisque and New Year's Eve turned out to be it! My husband and I decided to make it a tradition to have a seafood meal each New Year's Eve and the grocery store was having a sale on lobster tails (a rarity in this land-locked land of Utah) which looked fairly decent. We don't get lobster enough to be snobby about it, so I took a few home to experiment.

Wow, was it a hit! We loved it. My husband could not stop raving about the bisque it during dinner. I have to say it was even better than most restaurant lobster bisques I have ordered in the past. If you like seafood or creamy soups, you will LOVE this.

I did spend the time to make my own lobster stock from the shells, which was amazing, but you could probably use lobster base or seafood stock if you have access to it. You could also easily substitute 2 cups half-and-half for the cream and milk)

I served it with an artisan garlic bread and spinach/pomegranate salad. We also had lemon-butter lobster tails and crab-stuffed mushrooms. How's that for a 3 course meal? The lobster bisque was our favorite part.

Lobster Bisque
1 TBSP olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 TBSP chopped shallot
1 large green onion, chopped
1/2 cup clam juice
1 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp tabasco sauce
1 tsp paprika
1 cup lobster stock (see below)
3 oz. tomato paste
1 bay leaf
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup milk
1/2 cup lobster meat, cut in chunks (meat from 2 lobster tails)

Heat olive oil in bottom of pot. Add garlic, shallot and green onion and saute for 1 minute. Deglaze pan  with 1/4 cup clam juice and reduce liquid down for a few minutes. Add Worcestershire sauce, tabasco, paprika, and thyme and saute, stirring constantly. Deglaze again with other 1/4 c clam juice. Add bay leaf, lobster stock and tomato paste and bring to boil for 10 min. Whisk in heavy cream and milk. Add lobster meat and bring to a simmer. Serve and Enjoy!

To make lobster stock:
Saute 2 garlic cloves, 1 stalk celery, and 1/4 cup onion (all roughly chopped) in a little olive oil in pot and then add lobster shells, stirring for a few minutes until shells start to turn brighter red. Add bay leaf and a couple peppercorns. Pour in enough water to cover the shells (I probably put in about 3 cups) and simmer for 1-2 hrs. on low heat. This yielded ~1 cup stock.

Here's what my stock pot looked like after boiling for a couple hrs.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Sweet Potato Soup

For this end of autumn and beginning of winter, sweet potatoes fit the bill.  What they call "yams" in the grocery store are actually just an orange version of sweet potatoes. Call them what you may, they are delicious. This recipe (adapted from the recipe in Bon Appetit a few years ago) has undertones of a traditional Thanksgiving dish of yams, albeit not half as sweet-which I really liked.

Sweet Potato Soup
1 TBSP olive oil
1/4 onion, chopped
1 large garlic clove, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 1/2 orange sweet potatoes or yams, chopped
4 cups stock or broth
1 cinnamon stick
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
3/4 cup milk
1 TBSP maple syrup
salt and pepper
leafy tops of celery

Saute onion and celery in olive oil for a few minutes, then add garlic and cook for 1 more minute.
Add in yams, stock, cinnamon stick, and nutmeg and simmer for 20 min. Remove cinnamon stick.
Use hand blender and puree until fairly smooth. Stir in milk and maple syrup and heat through (doesn't take more than a few minutes). Taste and add a little salt and pepper.
Garnish with leafy tops of celery.  Serves 2-3.

I served it with a grilled brie, gingered pear, arugula, and fig paninis. It was fantastic. We had a guest for dinner and all of us cleaned our plates.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Vegetable Stock

I know I neglected posting the last couple weeks, which, as my friend pointed out, is unusual given the time of year. There are many reasons but I won't go into those right now. I'll make it up somewhat by posting two this week! Sorry guys!

I kind of cringe at paying quite a bit of money for canned or boxed broths since I use broth so often in cooking. I don't often have a chicken or turkey carcass lying around, even close to the holidays, nor do I have a lot of time to necessarily make my own chicken broth but I DO always have lots of vegetables parts and pieces. Vegetable stock is also much quicker and much more tasty than any vegetable stocks/broths you can buy in the store. You can replace vegetable stock in recipes that use chicken broth fairly easily.

Here's the great thing, the complexity of flavors in a vegetable stock comes from all the different things you simmer in it. So, I just save all my vegetable trimmings for several days (this includes the ends, skins, peels, etc. of any hearty vegetables). This usually includes anything from a root vegetables (like potato, parsnips, turnips, onions and carrots) but also peppers, winter squashes, mushrooms, garlic, celery, tomatoes or anything else I may have used that week. I would only just stay away from any bitter skins (like on cucumbers, eggplant, or radishes).

1 whole large onion
1/2 bunch celery
1/2 bunch big carrots or small bag of mini carrots
1 4 oz. can of tomato paste
1 oz. dried Shiitake mushrooms
3-4 cloves of garlic (crushed, but leave skin on)
other vegetable pieces, parts, skins
1/2 bunch of parsley
fresh sprig of thyme or 1 TBSP dried
4 bay leaves
1 tsp black peppercorns
1-2 TBSP salt

When you are ready to start, get your dried mushrooms and soak them in very hot water for at least 30 min.
Get out your biggest stockpot. You do need to use a whole large onion, celery bunch and carrots as the base. Chop them roughly-they don't need to look nice, they are just going to be boiled to death to give up all their flavor.
Caramelize them in the bottom of the pot with a little olive oil. Stir them often and be patient since it may take a little longer than you would expect to get them browned. It will take about 15 min.
Add the garlic and tomato paste and stir until it turns a rusty color.
Add everything else and pour water over everything until it is about 3 inches from the top.

Bring to boil, then turn heat down to low medium and simmer for 1.5 hrs.
Scoop out all the large vegetable mush with a big spoon or strainer.
Take clean mason jars and put a strainer on top, lined with paper towel and pour the liquid through into the jar. You may need to replace the paper towel several times when it gets sludged up.

This broth is not shelf-stable like canned goods (it's not acidic enough), so I keep a jar or two in the fridge and then freeze the rest. I usually get about 4-5 quarts out of my big stockpot.

Thursday, November 8, 2012


I'm all about soups that are friendly to a variety of tastes. Sometimes it can be difficult to cook for a family where each has food dislikes or preferences and make everyone happy.  Pozole reminds me of how some people make tacos: lots of topping ingredients set out and everyone chooses what to put on their own dish. It doesn't come out super spicy like you might think as long as you don't allow many of the chili's seeds to get in. In fact, most of the kick comes later. My husband added some chipotle tabasco sauce to kick it up a bit while eating. Either way, it is very warming and satisfying for a cold windy night, like tonight.

Most recipes I looked at were for very large groups so I scaled this down for just 4-5 people and made some last minute invitations to dinner at my house. My sister was lucky enough to be available that night. She called it a "fancy version" of the type of pozole she was used to eating with many Latin-American friends of hers in California, because of all the choices of toppings and the amount of meat I used. Everyone loved it. Yum.

1.5 oz. red guajillo chilies (they come dried in a clear plastic package)
4 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp cumin
1 bay leaf
2 tsp oregano
1 lb. pork (shoulder, shank, roast or long as it is well marbled), cut into small chunks
14 oz. can of hominy
1 TBSP or more lime juice
1 tsp. salt

shredded cabbage
radishes (thinly sliced)
green onions
mexican crema
tortilla chips or tostada shells

1. Start 1.5 cups of water to boil in a small pot. Get larger pot with 6 cups of water heating as well.
2. Cut off the stem and any hard parts of the chilies, shake out the seeds. Roast the chilies in a dry skillet a few minutes until they soften. Add to the small pot of boiling water, cover with lid, turn off heat and let sit for 15 min.
3. Pat pork dry with paper towel and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Brown all sides of the pork in a skillet, then add 2 minced cloves of garlic for the last 2 minutes. Add to large pot of boiling water.
4. Take chilies, their soaking water and 2 whole garlic cloves into a food processor and puree.
5. Pour the chili mixture into the large pot, using a mesh strainer, to only let the liquid through.  
6. Add hominy to the large pot and boil for 1.5-2 hrs until pork is very tender. Add 1 tsp salt and lime juice (you could also serve with lime wedges for everyone to add their own lime). Either way you do lime is fine but don't omit. It is important to the taste!
7. Prep garnishes and set out for everyone to pick what add-ins they want.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Autumn Flavor Chili

Do you have Halloween food traditions? It seems a lot of people have either soup, chili, donuts or apple cider. I remember my family having soup or chili very often on Halloween night since it was a busy night for a crazy household of nine plus all the trick-or-treaters at the door. People could come in and grab a bowl before they went to get dressed up, went to a party, etc.
   It wasn't too busy of a night for me this year. My husband was at class so I was home alone and I got only about 20 trick-or-treaters.  I made chili anyway as a remembrance of my childhood days. I added an adult spin and autumn flair with the extra spices and flavors.  They gives the chili a fun, rich tasting base. Thanks to my friends at for the great idea. I really wish I had gotten an orange sweet potato (yam) instead of the white one to get that great halloween color incorporated, but oh well.

1 TBSP olive oil
1/2 small onion, chopped
1/2 small jalepeno, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 bell pepper, chopped
1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
2 (14 oz) cans black beans
2 cups broth
1 can crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 package ground chicken
6 large cremini or shitaake mushrooms, chopped
1/2 tsp oregano
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp cocoa powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon
salt and pepper

Heat onion, jalepeno, garlic and bell pepper in pot with 1/2 TBSP of oil for several minutes until soft. Add in sweet potato, beans, broth, tomatoes and pumpkin. Cook chicken and mushrooms in the other 1/2 TBSP oil. Add in oregano, cumin, salt, pepper, smoked paprika and chili powder to the meat and mix together in a skillet until browned and cooked through, then add to chili pot. Add cinnamon and cocoa powder. Simmer for about 45 minutes until sweet potatoes are nice and soft. Serve with cilantro and avocado garnish.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Chipotle Pumpkin Soup

For years, I have made a spicy pumpkin soup that gets its kick from a load of red pepper flakes.  This year I wanted to try a slightly different flavor profile and create something that would be more tolerable for all of my pregnant friends at a baby shower I brought the soup to. Thanks to for the idea (I did have to adjust a few of the ingredient ratios they used for it to work like I intended).  I had a little leftover, which worked great for an appetizer at a dinner party I hosted the next day.

This soup also ended up being a lot lower fat and healthier than my other go-to pumpkin soup since I didn't need to use coconut milk as the liquid base and source of flavor, just as a garnish.

Chipotle peppers give a bit more depth, smokiness, and southwestern bite than just straight "heat", unless you get a chunk of pepper in your first bite like my husband, then it may seem too hot. I'll have to use a real blender instead of a hand-blender next time. (He still ate the rest...which is impressive considering he has never been a big fan of pumpkin). If you really like heat, give it the whole pepper-I'm just warning you that they are potent.

I made it for a crowd so the listed amounts are adjusted from what I used to create a smaller batch.

1 tsp olive oil
1/2 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2  of 1 chipotle pepper (canned in adobo sauce), chopped
24 oz. canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
3 cups broth
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp salt (if needed depending on how salty your broth is)
1 TBSP lime juice
chopped cilantro
roasted pumpkin seeds
coconut milk

Saute the onion for a few minutes in olive oil, then add garlic, pepper and cumin and cook a minute until very fragrant. Add pumpkin, broth, oregano, salt and simmer for 20 minutes on med heat, stirring often. Add lime juice and then puree soup together (my immersion/hand-blender left a few little I would recommend a real blender).  Add more broth, if needed, for desired consistency. Garnish soup with a drizzle of coconut milk, toasted pumpkin seeds, and cilantro. I had a flask of additional coconut milk available for anyone that wanted to tame down the heat a bit.

If you are feeling in the mood for a "theme" meal, you could serve it in a hollowed-out pumpkin OR a pumpkin shaped bread bowl!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Rustic Cabbage Stew

I made this up one day when I felt like doing theme nights for our dinners...different types of cuisine for each night: Mexican, Italian, Japanese, American, Thai, Russian. This was for Russian night. Most Russian cabbage type soups/stews usually involve a tomato base and pickled cabbage (we'll get to that recipe later) but I took a little different route this night and liked the outcome. My brother-in-law (who lived in Russia for a while) got our leftovers last time and ate it all before my sister even got to taste it, so I believe it was a hit.

We had it with Russian rye bread (you can get some good rye at the European Market at 4700 S. and 900 E. if you live in Salt Lake area).

I didn't write the recipe down that night but recreated it today and got pretty close to my original creation. Ben said it was just as good.

I like my stews like this to have a good spicy feel (it helps accentuate the hot, comforting essence of soup) but you may wish to leave out the extra red pepper flakes and let the sausage be all the spice you use.

1/4 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2-3 oz. hot spicy chicken or turkey or pork sausage (I just bought one link at fresh meat counter)
1 14 oz. can white beans
1/2 head of fresh cabbage, sliced
4 cup chicken broth
1-2 cup water
1/2 tsp coriander
few turns of cracked black pepper
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

Saute onion and sausage in pot until a little brown, add garlic for a minute then add everything else. Let stew (or boil) for a good 15-20 min. until cabbage is relatively soft. You may grate a little parmesan cheese on top if you are feeling sassy.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Pumpkin Coconut Soup

Pumpkin season has started. I usually start by doing my annual pumpkin waffle party. This year I start the pumpkin festivities by making this soup. I created it a couple yrs ago as kind of a knock-off of Zupa's seasonal pumpkin soup.

2 cloves minced fresh garlic
1/2 chopped onion
1 TBSP olive oil
1 TBSP fresh grated ginger (or 1/2 TBSP ground ginger)
1 tsp ground nutmeg
10 oz. canned pumpkin
1 (14 oz) can chicken broth
1 (14 oz) can coconut milk
1 potato (chopped into small cubes)
1 large roma tomato (or 2 little ones) chopped into small cubes1 tsp salt and a pinch of pepper
shredded coconut

In a soup pot, saute the garlic and onion with the ginger, and nutmeg in the oil until fragrant and translucent (do not brown), then add the pumpkin, broth, and coconut milk. Stir to combine, bring to a boil. Add in the potatoes and tomato and cook until the potatoes are soft (I like to precook the potatoes in the microwave to cut down on prep time). Add the salt and pepper. Toast shredded coconut lightly and top soup when serving.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

White Chili

I'm pretty sure the drop in the temperature lately and the gorgeous colored leaves all over the mountains mean that soup season is here!  I couldn't resist making a hearty chili today.

You'll be surprised how the chili flavors still shine through for a great full, satisfying dish. You won't even miss the red meat or tomato sauce of typical chili.  I started with a recipe posted by my friends at ourbestbites but had to adjust it more to my liking in several ways. I loved the outcome. 

1 TBSP olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 boneless chicken thighs, diced
1 smaller potato, diced
1 14 oz. can white northern beans (could use any other white bean)
2 cans chicken broth (28 oz.)
1/2 can green chilies
1/2 jalapeno, minced
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp oregano
lime juice
chopped cilantro
sour cream
salt and pepper

Saute the onions and garlic in olive oil in soup pot for a few minutes. Season chicken pieces with salt and pepper and toss into the pot. Add potato, beans (juice and all from can), green chilies, spices and jalapeno. Boil for 15-20 minutes until potatoes and chicken are cooked through. Top with little more salt and pepper, a sprinkle of lime juice, chopped cilantro and a generous dollop of sour cream.

If you need to go dairy-free, add a spoon of potato starch instead of the sour cream to help make a whiter broth with a bit of substance.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

What is the quintessential comfort/healing food when you are sick? Chicken Noodle Soup, of course. Now, I will admit that I will even resort to Campbell's canned version when I have no energy for anything besides microwaving a pre-prepared food, but it really isn't close to my mom's homemade chicken noodle. I get some of that, a grilled cheese sandwich and glass of milk and I feel magically improved. Even nurses at the hospital believe in the healing properties of chicken broth-they always get me a warm cup of Herb-ox broth to sip on when I get a cold about twice a year, like clockwork, and come to work looking miserable. This soup is more "brothy" than others for that very reason, the best part of the soup is the broth!

2 tsp oil
2 garlic cloves
1/2 cup chopped onions
1 stalk celery, chopped
6 baby carrots, chopped
2 small chicken thighs (extra fat removed) or 1/2 chicken breast
1 cup dry egg noodles
6 cup chicken broth
Salt, pepper, garlic powder and paprika

Put oil, garlic, onions, celery and carrot in the soup pot and saute for a couple minutes. Add in broth and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, chop chicken into small bite-size pieces and season generously with all 4 seasonings. Drop into the soup (raw) along with the noodles and boil for 10 minutes until all the ingredients are soft and cooked through. Enjoy. Makes about 4 servings

Did I get pretty close, mom?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

New England Clam Chowder

About the beginning of autumn when I start seeing leaves change, I am reminded of a fantastic vacation spent on the coast of Maine.
 A friend and I took a 5 day trip to see the New England leaves, lighthouses, coastline and to eat as much seafood as we could every day. My favorite meal had to be the lobster they pulled right out of the ocean and cooked right there on the dock. It was sooooo tasty.
During that trip, I also made sure to sample everyone's good New England clam chowder. Yum!

 I just HAD to make clam chowder yesterday when it was raining hard (which it also does a lot on the coast of Maine) and brought back all those memories. Here's the best version I have come up with in land-locked Utah (even though we have equally beautiful autumn leaves).

I'm not the kind of girl that has heavy cream just hanging around my house unless I buy it specifically for a recipe a couple times a year. The rest of it tends to go to waste because it doesn't freeze well. I recently discovered a magical thing of UHT shelf-stable whipping cream at Gossners (they also do UHT milk that is great for food storage). I can have it in my pantry and not have to worry about it going bad. I think it tastes just as good, too.

Recipe Ingredients:
2 cloves minced garlic
1/3 cup diced onion
1/4 cup chopped carrot
1/4 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped potato
1 cup clam juice (can use the juice in the can + bottled kind)
1-2 tsp old bay seasoning (I made my own from a recipe online)
1 1/2 TBSP flour
1 1/2 TBSP margarine
1 1/2 cup milk (I use 1% milk)
1/2 cup cream
1 can clams
salt and pepper to taste

Put garlic, onion, carrot, celery and potato in a soup pot and cover with clam juice. Boil until veggies are soft. Add Old Bay seasoning and set aside in a bowl. Turn heat down to med-low. Melt margarine in pot and stir in flour until it forms a firm paste (roux) like this.
Add milk a little at a time and mix thoroughly into paste until it becomes a smooth, thicker liquid. (cooking it during that process helps to get rid of the flour-y taste). Add veggies and stir to combine. Add in cream and clams and just heat through (don't boil). Add salt and pepper and parsley flakes to garnish.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Summer Gazpacho

I made a brilliant discovery this summer, watermelon and tomatoes actually go well together! Before you roll your eyes and stop reading, you have to try it first. The sweetness of the watermelon compliments all the other savory ingredients of a typical gazpacho (cold, tomato soup) so it was much easier to love-most are way too salty for me. It also has a bonus for all you onion haters out there-I don't use ANY in this recipe...which is tough to find for gazpacho.

This soup was inspired by a wonderful watermelon-tomato salad that I made for a party with my girlfriends purely because I stumbled upon it while browsing and the picture was captivating.  Whether it tasted good or not would be irrelevant because of its beauty, I thought. Turns out, it was surprisingly delicious and addicting so that I craved it for weeks before I collected enough of the ingredients to have it again. The next time I made it, I had leftovers so I made it into a great summer gazpacho. I really suggest making the salad first and then having the gazpacho the next day-so you get the best of both worlds. Isnt' it pretty?

This cold soup is fun in that the spicy-heat of it makes you forget it is actually a cold soup you are eating. Despite that, it really isn't as good unless you serve it really cold (this means chilling it for a couple hrs before serving or else pouring over ice cubes). As with all cold soups-use mini portions and you'll enjoy it more.

I even had it one day with lime-marinated shrimp on top, which was awesome! It made me think of having ceviche at a Mexican resort on the beach.

Ingredients for Salad:
tomatoes of different colors
2 TBSP lime juice
Fresh herbs (I used mint and tarragon, but cilantro would be awesome too)
(cut each fruit/vegetable into chunks and arrange on plate, sprinkle with lime juice and herbs)

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 TBSP olive oil
1 tsp ground coriander
(mix into flask and drizzle onto the salad right before eating)

To make Gazpacho:
Any leftover watermelon/tomato salad
2 cloves garlic
1/2 jalepeno (seeded)
1-2 TBSP of dressing (see above)
lime-marinated shrimp (optional)

Put all ingredients into a blender (reserving a few small chunks to use as a garnish). Chill, and serve.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Minestrone soup

I love this time of summer when people hand out fresh produce from their gardens like candy (they taste much better than candy, though). Someday I will have my own beautiful garden of produce, too. I'm starting small with two tomato plants in pots on my tiny back porch this year. They are alive and actually producing so I feel accomplished. I'm not the best at growing but I can sure cook and use up produce quickly. Here is one of the easiest ways to use the tomatoes and zucchini hanging out on your counter.

2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 tsp margarine
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 large carrot (or 10 baby carrots), chopped
4 C chicken broth
2 fresh tomatoes, chopped
1 can kidney beans
1 can crushed tomatoes
1 C zucchini, chopped
1 C ditalini pasta
1-2 tsp each of basil, oregano, thyme and parsley
salt and pepper

Sauté margarine, onion, and garlic in a big soup pot for 3 min. Add broth, carrot and celery and simmer for 5 minutes. Add everything else. Simmer for 10 more minutes. Kind of hard to mess up.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Egg Drop Soup

Ever get a head cold in the middle of a hot summer? Ever need a quick meal with minimal effort?  This was my delicious solution today. Normally I don't go for the Chinese takeout version of this soup because it is too thickened and a little blah. I learned that it doesn't need much thickening and that minimal addition of ginger gives new life to this old staple among soups.

2 cups chicken broth
1 tsp cornstarch whisked with 2 tsp water
1 egg (beaten smooth)
a few slices of fresh ginger (or if you must, use a few shakes of ginger powder)
white pepper and scallions (optional)

Put chicken broth and ginger in small pot and bring to a boil. Add in cornstarch mixture and whisk. Turn down heat and stir in circular motion while pouring in beaten egg so it makes strands. Simmer for 30 seconds until egg is cooked. Garnish with pepper and scallions if desired.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Chicken and Rice Soup

Ever heard of an elimination diet? Since my gut seems to be very unhappy with me for a while now for some unknown reason, I have decided to put myself on this kind of special diet. That means I have to stick to only a few foods that are least likely to be causing any issue before I can slowly add other foods back in. Two of those simple foods happen to be chicken and rice so that's what we are having for many of our meals. Tonight's menu is the soup form.  Anyone else that may need a simple or nourishing recovery soup, here is your recipe.

Hopefully soon, I will get back to all my plans for fresh soups using all that garden produce or beachfront seafood that I'm craving. 

Have any family members that complain about eating leftovers? This is also a great way to re-purpose extra chicken or rice hanging around. Doing that will also cut your cooking time down considerably. Remember that even though we are going simple, it doesn't mean it has to be unflavorful.

3 garlic cloves, minced
2 green onions, sliced
5 baby carrots, thinly sliced
4 cups chicken broth
1 small chicken breast, cut in small chunks
1/2 C uncooked long grain rice
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp basil or thyme
1/4 tsp celery salt 
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper

Start by a quick saute of the garlic, onion and carrots. Add in herbs, celery salt, bay leaf and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, while cutting chicken. Season chicken with little salt and pepper, then drop into the soup. After a minute or two, add in rice and boil for about 15 min. Serve.

p.s. If you are using precooked rice, only add 1/4 cup. Then only boil 3 min.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Miso Soup

We love Asian cuisine at our house. Lately we've been on a Japanese kick, which means I actually have ingredients like miso paste, nori, bonito flakes, and dashi  in my cupboard. This is very helpful when I get the urge for miso soup. (if you don't happen to have them at your house, they are pretty cheap at any Asain market or grocery stores that have an international food section).

For those days when I am ill or recovering from something, this simple, mild soup can hit the spot. Think of it as a chicken noodle soup with an Eastern flair.

4 cups water
2 tsp dashi granules (1 packet)
2 1/2 TBSP miso paste (I used white but some people prefer red or brown)
8 oz firm tofu
2 green onions, sliced
1 tsp salt

Wrap tofu in 2 paper towels and let rest for 10-15 min. (this pulls out the excess moisture so it keeps its shape). Bring water, salt and dashi to a boil. Turn down heat to a bare simmer, whisk in miso paste. Cut tofu into small cubes, add to broth along with green onions. Let sit for 10 min with minimal heat (do not boil) so the tofu soaks up more flavor.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Summer Corn Chowder

Isn't corn on the cob an essential "summer food"? Have any leftover corn on the cob from a recent barbeque? Perfect! Here's your solution.

Now,  I love the creamy, heavier chowders in the fall and winter but this is summer! The season calls for a fresh, light kind of chowder; a great menu item for the days when it is a little cooler and rainier outside, like it has been this week.

I used tarragon as the herb in this chowder (thanks for the idea "").  I don't actually use it much in my cooking, but I had some for a fun salad I made for a girl's night this week and found it does go well with the corn. Since it has a mild licorice/minty type of flavor, it adds a fresh feel to the soup, which is part of its charm. It you are not a fan of tarragon, I think a little fresh basil would work well instead.

2 cobs of corn (cooked or uncooked)
2 large red potatoes, chopped
2 parsnips, peeled and chopped)
5 cups chicken/vegetable stock
1 TBSP butter/margarine
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup lowfat milk
1-2 tsp lemon juice
fresh tarragon
salt and pepper

First, cut the corn kernels off the cob and set aside. Boil 5 cups of stock with the cobs also in the pot (this will help give that broth some extra corn taste and add a little body to the base). Saute the butter with the onions and garlic in a skillet for a couple minutes. Add in potatoes and parsnips and toss to coat. Then, once the broth is boiling add in the skillet's mixture. Simmer until potatoes are soft (about 10-15 min). Remove the cobs. Add the milk and corn pieces. Add salt and pepper to taste. Thinly slice some tarragon leaves and sprinkle a little lemon juice right before serving.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Strawberry Soup

I remember when I was young, back when my taste buds were much less adventurous, the thought of cold soup made me squirm. Soup was supposed to be comforting and warm. Perfect on a winter day, not something cold and refreshing on a hot day.  When I had tried them, it wasn't necessarily a good experience.

Then, I went on a cruise to the Caribbean and the chefs there changed my mind. They let you order as many appetizers as you wanted so I always had to try a few each dinner and be adventurous as you wanted. This is where I learned that cold soup could be good!

The secret, in my opinion, to cold soups is to eat them in small portions. They aren't hearty or one-dish-meal worthy but work great as a starter/appetizer or dessert. This one, works as both. I thought it more attractive and not too overwhelmingly sweet when eaten from a dessert bowl or ramekin. I created this recipe to mimic my favorite one from the cruise. I tried to keep the added sugar to a minimum-most other recipes you will see for strawberry soup are loaded with sugar. It is sad, because they are missing out on that fantastic, tangy punch the natural fruit provides.

Since it is the 4th of July this week, wouldn't it be great to impress your dinner guests with a patriotic dessert soup?

There are multiple uses for any leftovers. It freezes great into popsicles or to make smoothies.

Strawberry Soup
1 pint strawberries (hulled)
1/2 cup orange juice
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla
1 TBSP  or less of sugar
1/4 cup cream
whipped cream and blueberries for garnish

Put all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Chill in the fridge until you serve (I would recommend at least 1 hr). Add garnish and serve.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Italian Wedding Soup

Although a catchy name, this soup is not about marriage in the traditional sense. It is meant to show how good it is to pair meat and greens together. Makes a good "marriage", don't you think. Now, I have never been a great fan of eating meatballs, mostly because everyone seems to think the only way to eat them is to smother them in some kind of sweet sauce... I have attempted to make my own on occasion for soups like this before but never really succeeded in anything that had much flavor. My greatest find lately is that Costco has some decent meatballs...much to my husband's delight. I think they taste more like Italian sausage. Yum! It also makes this soup very easy to throw together since they are pre-cooked. (you may want to cut them in half so kids can eat them easier)

2 small garlic cloves, crushed
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped carrots
1/4 cup chopped celery
5 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 cup uncooked ditaloni pasta
10 frozen Italian-style beef meatballs
2 large handfuls of spinach
parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
1 tsp oregano

Saute garlic, onion, carrots, and celery together in the saucepan for 2-3 minutes on medium heat. Add broth and bring to a boil. Add the pasta and meatballs and simmer for 10-12 minutes. Add in oregano and enough salt and pepper for flavor. Add spinach right before serving so it just gets wilted then grate the parmesan cheese on top (just like any good Italian recipe). Don't omit this part. Serves 4

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Kielbasa Soup

Every time I take a bite of this, the nastalgia settles in. The warm comforts of home and memories of my mom's cooking flood into my thoughts. It was often her choice of easy dinners that could sit on the stove (it can stay hot for a long time) on those nights everyone's busy schedule couldn't coincide for a sit-down meal together. My mom would also let us choose what we would have for dinner on our birthday. Since shrimp was costly, my next birthday choice was usually Kielbasa Soup, much to the chagrin of my sisters. I can never eat just one bowl, either.  This odd cool spell in the middle of the week here in Utah was a perfect time to bring it out again. I have altered it just a little from my mom's original version.

8 oz of lean kielbasa sausage, sliced and halved
1/2 small onion, chopped
2-3 small red potatoes, chopped
1 cup chopped carrots
1 can bean and bacon soup
3 cups water
1 cup broth

Boil the onions, carrot, and potatoes in water for 10-15 min until tender. Add the kielbasa, broth and canned soup. Bring back to a boil and simmer until warmed through. Serve with some freshly cracked pepper.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Avgolemono Soup

Back to my style... This Greek soup, although served warm, tastes surprisingly light, tangy and refreshing. Citris has a way of doing that to any recipe. Yum. It also looks creamy but uses no dairy. Fun, huh?  This is a version of Avgolemeno that doesn't take all day, it is done in 30 min or less. The only tricky part is getting the broth smooth without cooking the eggs to quick. Ben said I could definitely make this again.

1 TBSP oil
1/2 cup onion
3/4 cup orzo rice
5 cups chicken broth
1 cup water
1 chicken breast (diced in small pieces)
juice of one lemon (please use a fresh one)
3 eggs (whites and yolks separated)
salt and pepper
parsley and lemon zest

Saute the onion in oil for a few minutes (on medium heat or they cook too quickly). Add the broth and water and bring to a simmer. Add rice and simmer on medium heat until rice is mostly cooked (about 7 min.).

Add chicken pieces and boil until chicken is fully cooked (about 5 min.) then turn the heat off. White chicken cooks, whip the egg whites with a hand blender until soft peaks form.

Combine yolks and lemon juice, then add into the egg whites and blend together. Slowly temper the eggs by stirring in a ladle full of broth one at a time (that cooks the egg but don't want to immediately hit the eggs with a lot of hot liquid or it will denature the proteins too fast and you get a version of egg-drop soup). You can also slowly drizzle the broth and whisk the eggs at the same time. Stir everything back together, taste to add in salt and pepper if needed, and ladle into bowls. Top with parsley and lemon zest.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Heinz's Pork and Beans

This is a shout out to all those of you who grew up on hot dogs, spaghettios, and baked beans. Also, for those of you who are very, very limited on budget or cooking time/skill, here is a soup for you. I agreed to humor the idea to try this out.  I admit, though really not my style, it did bring back some childhood memories and I finished my bowl. So, please welcome our first guest cook, Ben, and give him some encouragement for actually wanting to make a soup himself!

1/2 onion
4 hot dogs, sliced (Hebrew Nationals are his favorite)
1 large can pork and beans (28 oz)
1 can stewed tomatoes
ketchup to taste (it looked like about 1/2 cup total)
2 TBSP brown sugar

Saute the onion and hot dogs in sauce pan until slightly brown, dump in pork and beans, tomatoes, ketchup and brown sugar and heat through. Serve with toast. Makes 4-6 servings

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Tomato Bisque

Good tomatoes are starting to come out now that it is early summer. Hooray!!! I went and made a great tomato soup from fresh tomatoes for the first time and it was delicious. "Bisque" means it is creamy, but I didn't much cream in this one so that the flavor of the tomatoes could shine through.

Normally for tomato soups, I use stewed tomatoes from a can (which actually works fine) so if it's not tomato season when you are making this, I would go that route. I do recommend finely pureeing this one (leaving not chunks) so, if you are going to use fresh tomatoes, you will need to peel them. I didn't remember this until later, after the picture. Peels just do not give in the blenders well (unless, you have a Vitamix...then they might). The best way to peel tomatoes is to quickly blanch them in a pot of boiling water. That means, drop them in and pull them right back out after 15-20 sec. or so. Cool them slightly and then the skins slide off easily.

Note that I did make this one for only 2 servings.

1 TBSP olive oil
2 large garlic cloves
1/2 yellow onion
1 carrot, diced (or about 12 baby carrots)
4 large, ripe tomatoes (peeled)
2 cups vegetable stock
2 TBSP tomato paste
1/3 cup cream
1 bay leaf
1 sprig fresh thyme
salt and black pepper

Heat olive oil in small soup pot. Add onion, carrot and garlic until they get soft (they can burn easily if you get distracted cutting up tomatoes-so watch carefully). Then add the tomatoes, stock and tomato paste. Bring to a boil.

Cut down heat to only a simmer and add bay leaf and thyme. Cover and allow to simmer for 30 min. Let cool slightly (you don't want your blender to explode) and remove bay leaf and thyme. Use blender to puree to a smooth consistency (hand mixers or immersion blenders don't work well for this one). If your blender didn't do a great job, you also might strain it (I had to do this to get the right texture). Stir in cream. Add salt to taste and top with fresh ground pepper, parsley leaves, and maybe a few shavings of Parmesan cheese.
I can't think of a better way to serve this than with a grilled cheese sandwich and fresh green salad. Yum!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Carrot Soup Fail

I have been trying to use my "Chopped" skills and use up as much as I can of the perishables in my fridge before going on vacation. I found amongst the few remaining options: carrots and ginger. I thought they'd be a great combo and set on making a soup for my Saturday lunch. There are many gingered carrot soups out there so I browsed through a bunch of recipes and picked parts that seemed to be what I was looking for... It was beautiful looking (see the picture?) but didn't taste right. I tried several things to fix it but still didn't succeed. It was edible but not good. I just couldn't post it. Even you few, valued readers deserve something better. I rarely won't finish a soup... and I didn't finish this one. I did, however, happen to knock several ingredients on the floor, including spilling cream all over my rug and my freshly mopped floor, missed the garbage more than once and sprayed myself with water during this ordeal. I decided I needed a break from cooking.  So sorry guys, no new soup this week. Go watch an episode of "Chopped" and see how much better they do with their mystery ingredients. 

Anyone else have a good recipe for carrot soup that turns out well?

Monday, April 30, 2012

Black Bean Soup

My mom was usually the cook at our house. There were nights she was gone and my dad had to take on the role and cook for all 7 kids. From what I can remember, his specialties were spaghetti, pancakes, fast food runs, and occasionally canned soup. The two soups that made a memorable impression (aka: long-standing family jokes) were the "cheese soup" and "chocolate soup". They are in quotations because there was nothing related to real cheese in the cheese soup (even for kids that would eat velveeta cheese plain, we refused to eat more than a few bites...our dad finally tasted it and let us dump it out and scavenge for something else). The "chocolate" soup was actually black bean soup, but since there were several bean-haters in our family, he thought he could get us to eat it by calling it chocolate. Ha ha. Nice try dad. One bite in we knew he was trying to trick us.  I was one of the few that would eat beans but I don't remember liking that soup. This recipe, however is nothing like canned bean soup. It is awesome! My friends at gave me the great idea of adding green chilies to the soup, which I think is a great addition. It doesn't make it too spicy so I still add the kick of red pepper flakes too. Then, as I was writing this, I thought...maybe my dad has something there...wouldn't a little cocoa powder add an extra layer of depth to this soup? I'm dying to try that next time. I'll let you know if it turns out even better.


Black Bean Soup
1-2 tsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup carrot, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 14 oz. can black beans
1/2 can green chilies
2 cups broth  (chicken, vegetable, or beef)
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp cumin
salt and black pepper
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp lime juice
Start with the mirepoix (onion, carrot, and celery) and garlic sauteing in the oil until they start to get soft. Add all the spices and allow it them to soak in and get fragrant. Then add the black beans, green chilies and broth. Let it simmer for 15 min. Use your immersion blender and briefly blend it to get the base of the soup creamy. Don't get it too smooth, I think it is best with quite a bit of the beans and texture left. Squeeze the lime juice at the end and mix in. We like it without any significant garnishes or fat put on top.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Making Menus

Do you ever look at the weather report to make your menu plans for the week?  Am I weird?  Is it just a dietitian thing?  I love organization so it just makes more sense to me to do that. I like the feeling of knowing exactly what we are making when we get home from work since there is often little time to dilly-dally before Ben has to head off to school in the evening. In theory, it would also mean we would only take 1 trip to the grocery store each week. I admit, that isn't necessarily true, but a good thought. I have learned lately that having a husband in the house that also eats stuff in the fridge for snacks/lunches, that my carefully planned meals around a certain ingredient/leftover have to be either changed or replenished. (I was certain that we had a whole bunch of tortillas left last time I looked...) I'm sure someday when we have teenagers, I might give up trying to be creative on using things that might "go bad" because nothing will ever last that long. We don't stick to our menu like glue, there are always things that come up, but it is a good guide for me.

Does anyone else make up weekly menus?  What are the determining factors as to what ends up on your menu? Do you have theme nights or a rotation?

I usually include:
- at least one new recipe I've seen in a magazine or on my favorite recipe blogs
- items to use up large leftover ingredients (extra cooked ground beef, etc)
- items to use up bulk produce that needs to get used up (either from Costco or Bountiful Baskets that my in-laws give us) 
- one vegetarian meal
- and then consider the weather (usually planning my soup for a rainy/snowy day). I only make soup at most once a week now so my poor husband doesn't get "souped-out".

P.S. Thursday or Friday is supposed to be rainy and cold...

Friday, April 20, 2012

Spicy Turkey Soup

My ward and neighborhood has a lot of people having babies.  That means I get to take dinner to a lot of families lately. I have several recipes that I know I can put together quick enough that even if I get home late from work, I can still have it ready by 6pm to bring it over. This is one of those. It gets good reviews and happens to use things I keep in my house all the time.

It is a popular combination of flavors because I have seen other blogs/websites that have very similar soups. I guess you can't go wrong with tomatoes, beans, meat and spinach, right? The hardest part I had with this post was actually naming the soup. So, forgive me if the name is dumb.

I use a combo of ground Italian sausage and ground turkey. I really think it needs the Italian sausage for the flavor but I mix it with the turkey so I feel better about the fat content. The rest of the ingredients are also very healthy so it's really a good meal. You may have noticed that I leave basil out of almost every recipe, but that is because it makes my husband very sick...I know, odd. But, then again, I am allergic to every tree, grass, weed, feather, dog, cat, etc. so I guess he's allowed one. But, you can feel free to add it in here, it is delicious. I used parsley instead and still thought it was good.

1 TBSP olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 lb. Italian pork sausage/ground turkey mix
1-2 tsp oregano
1 TBSP chopped parsley (or basil)
pinch red pepper flakes
24 oz. broth
1 can white navy beans, drained
1 can diced tomatoes
4 Cups fresh spinach
black pepper and salt

Saute the onions and garlic in the oil for a minute, then add the meat, oregano, red pepper flakes. Brown the meat completely then add in broth, beans and tomatoes. Before serving, taste and add more pepper or salt if needed and mix in spinach. 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Butternut Squash Stew

I know it is not autumn yet but I love butternut squash year-round. This recipe is probably my most used and requested of all my soups. I was going to wait to post it until the fall season but I got a request to teach a cooking class yesterday about butternut squash. So...we made this. Everyone loved it. This recipe has an ancestry dating back to one I found in a "Cuisine at Home" magazine. Each year I've used it, a new generation has been born with some new and improved characteristics. I haven't altered it much lately so that means I am really happy with it now.

Butternut Squash is a winter squash so it keeps a long time. It can stay in your cool storage for months without going bad. This is great, because you don't have to fit it in your menu the same week you impulse-bought it at the store or when your neighbor graciously gifts you one from their garden. If you get the choice, try and find a squash that has a long, skinny neck. You actually get more squash-meat (I don't think that is the right term but it is all I can think of right now). The bulby part of the squash is full of strings and seed, kind of like a pumpkin, and a very thin layer of squash so you don't get much from it.

Always use a large, sharp knife when dealing with butternut squash. It is hard and I don't want any injuries. Second, wear disposable gloves when it is raw. Touching the raw flesh will leave a weird film/residue on your hands you will not be able to get off for days, no matter how much you scrub.

There are a few ways to cook butternut squash. I usually just slice it in half lengthwise and bake it in the oven (brushed with a little oil). I know others that do the same thing only cook it in the microwave for about a third of the time. The flavor/consistency will change a bit but not noticeable to everyone. OR, for other recipes I will peel and dice the raw squash (as seen in the picture below) and steam it in a covered skillet with chicken broth for 10-15 min. I hear you can even buy pre-diced chunks at Costco... Really, I think any of these ways would work for this soup.

Last but not least, I think the lime cream really adds something special to the soup, as do the tortilla strip for texture. They aren't just garnishes to make it look pretty. Don't leave them out unless you have to.

Stew Ingredients:
1 butternut squash (2 lbs)

1 cup corn (fresh or frozen)
1 C chopped onion
2 large garlic cloves
1 jalapeno, seeded (this doesn't make it spicy...if you want that, leave in the seeds)
2 TBSP canola oil
3 corn tortillas, cut into strips
2 C chopped Roma tomatoes
2 TBSP tomato paste
1 1/2 TBSP ground cumin
1 tsp chili powder
6 C chicken broth
1 lb. turkey kielbasa sausage
6 oz spinach
1 can (15 oz) white hominy, drained
salt and pepper

Lime Cream
1/2 C sour cream (use lite if you can to cut fat)
1 TBSP lime juice
zest from 1 lime
1 tsp ground cumin

Half the butternut squash, remove strings and seeds, brush with 1 TBSP canola oil and place on baking pan in oven at 350 degrees for ~40 min. Cool until easy to handle. Peel and dice.

While squash bakes, finely chop onion, garlic, jalapeno and corn together.  Add 1 TBSP oil and corn mixture and cook a few minutes until fragrant. Add in cumin, chili powder, tomatoes and tomato paste and cook about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Stir in broth and 1/2 of the squash, bring to a boil and simmer for 10 min. Use hand blender in pot to blend until smooth.

Slice sausage and brown it in a skillet until well-cooked through.

Slice the corn tortillas into strips and separate on an ungreased baking sheet, sprinkle with salt. Bake in oven for 8-10 min. or until crisp (watch these closely because they can burn fairly easily)

Stir in remaining squash cubes, sausage, and hominy into stew. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 min. Mix ingredients for lime cream in small bowl and set aside.

Stir in spinach into soup 1-2 minutes before serving. Salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with lime cream and crunchy tortilla strips. Makes about 10 cups.