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.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Chipotle Chicken Soup

The first time I made this soup, I used some sort of recipe. The next time I wanted to make it, I went back to find it again and couldn’t place it anywhere. None of my favorite cookbooks, magazines, food bloggers or recipe sites had it…so I set out to recreate it by memory. My mind created an extremely simple version but  it still tasted good. This soup is also probably the fastest yet, and super fresh. Chances are you have a lot of the ingredients in your house already.  It is easy to make a lot or a little, too. I listed the amount of ingredients I used for 4 people this time. The ingredients are definitely colorful and very flexible if you need to get rid of some leftovers… Ben absolutely loves this one. Easy dinner for tonight!

 Sauté the garlic in saucepan with just a little oil in a saucepan until they start getting fragrant but not brown. Add chicken broth and chipotle pepper with a little of the sauce. Chipotle peppers are actually dried, smoked jalapenos canned in a sweet red sauce. You don't need much of them to get the flavor/heat.  (I freeze the rest of the can by either separating the peppers in ice cube trays or in a Ziploc baggie to use in the future).  I find them in the mexican foods section of the grocery store.
Stir and smash the pepper against the sides of the pot to release all the juices and infuse it into the broth. The more the pepper disintegrates, the more smoky chipotle flavor and spicy-heat the broth gets. You want that, even if the broth seems a bit potent at first. (Don’t worry, the other ingredients tone it down when you combine them together).  Bring broth to a boil.
Meanwhile, chop up cooked chicken  (I used leftover breast that I cooked the night before already seasoned with chili powder, salt and pepper but you could also use rotisserie chicken), tomatoes, and avocado. Divide into individual bowls, along with a spoon of beans, corn,  and/or anything else you feel like putting in (spinach, olives, Pico de Gallo, green onions, hominy, etc.).

Sprinkle with a little lime juice. Pour boiling broth right  over the fresh ingredients and let it sit for a couple minutes. You can even top with cilantro, cheese, sour cream or tortilla strips, if desired.

Chipotle Chicken Soup
1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
6 cups chicken broth
1 cooked chicken breast, chopped or shredded
1 large tomato, diced
1 avocado, diced
1 green onion, chopped
1 can black beans (rinsed)
2/3 cup frozen corn (thawed)
Lime juice
Sauté the garlic in saucepan with just a little oil. Add chicken broth and chipotle pepper with a little of the sauce. Stir and smash the pepper to release all the juices and infuse it into the broth. Bring to a boil.
Chop up cooked, tomatoes, and avocado. Divide into individual bowls, along with a spoon of beans, corn, green onions, and/or anything else you feel like putting in (spinach, olives, Pico de Gallo, hominy, etc.). Sprinkle with lime juice. Pour boiling broth on top of the fresh ingredients and let it sit for a couple minutes. Top with more black pepper, cilantro, cheese, sour cream or tortilla strips, if desired. Done.