Category Archives: soups

Super Easy Vegetable Soup

The week of Ash Wednesday, I decided I’d eat meatless for every meal. I figured since Lent was about sacrifice, I should give up something for the short term, and something for the long term. So I decided that meat would be nixed for the week, and that I’d give up diet sodas for the duration of Lent. The challenge was trying to eat enough different things without getting bored with my food (which I did, quickly), and while getting enough protein (which I didn’t do). I started that Sunday before Ash Wednesday, and finished up on the following Saturday. By the time that next Sunday rolled around, I was ravenous for meat–my body craved protein, and specifically, I craved meat-derived protein. Needless to say, I don’t think I could be vegetarian, and I certainly could not be vegan.

Last week, I had a craving for a really good vegetable soup. I decided while I was doing the shopping that I’d put together a big pot of it and eat on it all week long. Since SB is trying to eat a Paleolithic-style diet, which eschews legumes and tubers, he wouldn’t be eating this soup, so I was able to put onions in it. The final product was outstanding, and was great for lunches and dinners all week long.

A really simple, flavor-packed vegetable soup that could easily be made vegetarian with the substitution of vegetable broth in place of the chicken broth used here.

Here is how I did it. You will need:

  • 8 small creamer potatoes, skins on, washed and cut into quarters
  • 1 24-ounce jar/can tomato puree, plus water to rinse out the can/bottle
  • 5 carrots, washed, cut into coins (about 3 cups)
  • 4 cups cabbage, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 cups frozen green beans
  • 2 cups frozen corn kernels
  • 1 package frozen chopped spinach
  • 2 cups diced onions
  • 2 cups diced celery
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley
  • 3 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons black pepper
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons chicken base
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt, to taste

In a large stockpot, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. When the oil is hot, add your onions, celery, garlic and parsley. Saute these vegetables until they are soft, but do not brown them. Next, add your chicken stock and tomato puree plus water to rinse out the jar/can–you want all that yummy tomato flavor in the soup.

Add the potatoes, green beans, corn kernels, carrots, cabbage, spinach and pepper. Add enough water to cover everything and stir thoroughly to mix. The soup will be very thick, almost like a stew. Allow this to come to a slow bubble, and then add in the chicken base. Stir this in and allow it to blend in with the soup. Reduce your heat to low-medium-low and allow the soup to simmer for about an hour.

Serve while hot. I cooked mine in a 6-quart stockpot, and had more than enough soup for the week. In fact, I froze what I did not eat (about 2 1/2 quarts) for later. This soup reheats beautifully, and is quite good. It could be made completely vegetarian with the substitution of vegetable stock in place of the chicken stock. Really, you could use any vegetables you like…your palate is your limit!


Beef Stew with Dried Thyme Dumplings

I’d like to apologize in advance for the huge gap in time between my last post and this one.  This school year has been particularly challenging–larger classes, fewer resources, needier students, and the specter of more cuts to come makes for a very stressful and busy work life.  It hasn’t stopped me from cooking, but it has put a sort of damper on my ability to create new things to cook.  Needless to say, we have eaten a lot of the same thing week after week.

This weekend, my local butcher, Hirsch’s Meats, had stew meat on sale, so I decided to use a Groupon for there that I’d bought a while back since it was due to expire.   I considered making chile verde, but really wanted something comfort food-y packed with veggies too.

Enter beef stew.  Many beef stew recipes have the usual beef dredged in flour, then browned in a bit of fat, stewed in stock until tender, and then have carrots, onions and potatoes added for a stick-to-your-ribs meal.  There’s nothing wrong with that, except the onions would aggravate SB’s allergies, so I set about making a stew that omitted the onions and ramped up the flavor in other ways.

A really easy beef stew with tons of veggies, lean stew beef, and lots of flavor! This is a really hearty meal, and is low in fat.

The recipe I made is going to be dinner for us for the next 3 days (including tonight).  Hooray leftovers!    It’s a really easy recipe, and for the most part, is one you can set on the stove to cook and walk away from.  Here’s how I did it.  You will need:

  • 2 pounds lean stew meat (ideally, all the fat is trimmed from it, as mine was)
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 4 cups beef stock
  • 2 tablespoons beef base (I use Better Than Bouillon)
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons granulated garlic
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper, finely ground
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper, finely ground
  • 1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 bag frozen cut green beans
  • 1 bag frozen cut carrots
  • 3 large red potatoes, peeled and diced into 1/2″ cubes
  • 2 cups diced celery
  • 6 cups water

For the dumplings:

  • 2 1/2 cups Heart Smart Bisquick
  • 1 cup 2% milk
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme

In a large stockpot (8 quarts is best; I have a 6 quart one and everything barely fit), heat the oil and then add the stew meat.  Cook the meat over medium-high heat until it is browned on all sides.  Once the meat is browned, add the beef stock, beef base, 3 cups of water, the Worcestershire sauce and the dried spices.  Stir the spices in and mix them in well and turn the heat down to medium.  Allow the meat to cook in the broth for 90 minutes.  Once the 90 minutes has passed, add the vegetables plus 2 more cups of water, stirring everything thoroughly so that it blends together well.  Allow this to cook for about 35-40 minutes, stirring periodically, or until the potatoes and carrots are cooked all the way through.  In a small mixing bowl, stir the 1 teaspoon of dried thyme into the dry Bisquick mix.  Whisk the milk into the seasoned Bisquick with a fork until you have a sticky batter.  Use a teaspoon to drop blobs of batter into the hot soup.  You may have to push the dumplings down to fit all of them in the pot.  I found that because my pot was small, I had to do this, plus I had to ladle some of the soup over the dumplings as they cooked.  Place the lid on the pot so that the dumplings steam cook, being careful to watch so that the pot does not boil over.  The dumplings will help thicken the stew, so adding a flour slurry (as is sometimes found in many stews) is unnecessary.

Serve once the dumplings are cooked through, about 10-15 minutes.  This recipe will make quite a lot of really tasty stew–I dished it up into bowls that held about 2 cups’ worth per serving.  We had seconds, and have plenty for the next two days’ worth of dinner.

Easy Potato Soup

Earlier this week, I managed to pick up some sort of stomach bug which made eating anything with any real spice unpalatable.  In fact, my dinner Tuesday night was a sleeve of saltine crackers and a couple of cans of Sprite Zero.  Delicious AND nutritious, I say!

Last night, I decided to test the waters with eating something that had a bit more flavor than plain saltines.  When SB and I first met way back when, we’d gone to his folks’ house, and on that particular day, his mother was making a potato soup for his dad, who’d been out hunting all day.  I remember sitting in their living room, smelling the soup and thinking, “Damn, I really want some, but we just ate.”  I haven’t forgotten that, and it’s been nearly 8 years ago since that day.  So the other day when I was feeling wormy, I had SB ask his mama just how she made that soup that smelled oh-so-good.  And from the information he relayed to me, it was quite simple:  potatoes, broth, onions, salt, pepper and cheese, if you wanted.  I changed the recipe up a bit, but it’s still quite good and could be eaten at any time of year, really.

So yeah, it's 100 degrees out, and what did I fix for dinner last night? Potato soup that did NOT require me to stand over a hot stove for long!

This recipe could easily be made vegetarian or vegan with the use of veggie broth and the exclusion of the bacon.  Here’s how I made mine.  You will need:

  • 4 large Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and chunked
  • 6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 3 slices uncooked bacon, cut into 1″ pieces
  • black pepper
  • cheddar cheese, shredded (optional)

In a Dutch oven, heat the oil and cook the carrots and celery until they are slightly soft.  You don’t want them to give too much; you want to cook them until you can smell the sweetness of the carrot, about 10 minutes.  Add the broth, bacon and potatoes.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer, stir in the black pepper and cook for 45 minutes to an hour, stirring periodically.  Using a potato masher, smash the potatoes slightly to break them up.  You do not want mashed potato consistency, but rather a chunky soupy consistency.

Serve hot, with a salad if you like.  You may garnish the soup with shredded cheddar cheese, or you can stir it into the entire pot at the end of the cooking process if you want your soup to be more cheesy.  I sprinkled a couple of tablespoons on my bowl and stirred them in, which is why the bowl above appears a bit orangey.

This recipe made 6 1 3/4 cup servings.  Since we ate ours as a meal by itself, you could reduce the serving size and serve it alongside a salad or sandwich.

A Green Feast

If you have kids, you know that sometimes getting them to eat their veggies is a chore. Even for some adults, getting in the recommended amount of veggies is tough. There are only so many ways to eat some vegetables, and I’m always trying to find new ways to eat my veggies that’s both palatable and easy to prepare.  I would also like to decrease the amount of meat that I consume, but having spent the last 38 years as a dedicated meat eater, this is going to be a tough task.  I would like to make an earnest go at it, and tonight’s dinner was a step in that direction.

Enter the (nearly) vegetarian fare I fixed for dinner this evening.  A few lazy afternoons ago, SB and I found ourselves watching Giada DeLaurentiis’ show on the Food Network, and she was preparing for a child’s party.  She was going to serve homemade fish sticks (which seem remarkably easy to make) with marinara, and grilled cheese with spinach cleverly hidden inside.  As she prepared the sandwich filling, I thought, “hey, that sounds pretty good, but certainly there is a way to cut the fat and boost the fiber content.”  Lo and behold:

The green grilled cheese can be eaten open-faced, as seen here, or smushed together as a proper sandwich. Either way, it's a good way to get in a serving of veggies and dairy.

For contrast, here’s what the first round of sandwiches looked like:

This one turned out a bit more done than I would have liked. It was still pretty tasty, just a bit overdone. Also, these are the sandwiches that had bacon in them.

I made mine with part-skim mozzarella and a touch of Monterrey Jack, used a canola oil/butter spread and by proportion, doubled the amount of spinach used.  I also served mine on whole wheat bread.  Giada’s recipe calls for pancetta, and I will admit, the first round of these sandwiches I made did have a couple of slices of bacon on them, but I felt the addition of bacon added too much fat.  The second attempt at the sandwiches, I left the bacon off, which made them much better.

Now, you can’t have grilled cheese without soup.  I’d been wanting to make a broccoli soup, but not the usual broccoli-cheese or cream of broccoli soup.  I felt both were too heavy for summer, and laden with more fat than we needed to consume–remember, we were eating grilled cheese as well!  Instead, I went the Gordon Ramsay route and kept it simple:  4 ingredients, easy to make and quite savory.  I think this soup would probably be good served cold as well, but I didn’t prepare it far enough in advance to chill it.  Perhaps next time I make it, I’ll try that.  But here’s how my version of Ramsay’s soup turned out:

A simple soup, this broccoli soup is full of antioxidants, fiber and flavor--all from just four ingredients.

Both of these recipes could be made completely vegetarian with the substitution of vegetable stock for the chicken stock in the soup.  I’m sure the recipes could be made vegan as well with the use of soy-based cheese for the sandwiches, but I am not certain as I have no familiarity with how well soy cheeses melt.

Here’s how you can recreate the Green Feast at your place.  You will need:

For the sandwiches:

  • 1 cup part-skim mozzarella, shredded
  • 1/4 cup Monterrey Jack cheese, shredded
  • 2 tablespoons Land O’ Lakes canola oil/butter spread (you can also use butter, softened)
  • 2 cups baby spinach
  • 8 slices whole wheat bread
  • Optional:  cooked bacon

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F.  To make the spread for the sandwiches, pour the cheeses and butter spread into the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse until the cheeses and butter are combined, and then add the spinach a cup at a time, until the leaves are completely blended into the cheese-butter mixture.  The mixture should be easy to spread at this point.  Spread about 2 tablespoons of the spread on each of the bread slices.  If you would like to add bacon to your sandwiches, as I did for the first sandwiches we ate, place a slice of bacon on each piece of bread (this will give you 2 slices/sandwich).  Place the bread with the spread on a baking sheet and bake until the cheese is melted, about 7-9 minutes.  Enjoy while hot.

Additionally, you could use a panini press, if you have one, or cook them on a griddle on the stovetop.  I elected to use the oven so that both sandwiches I was preparing would be hot and ready at the same time.

For the soup:

  • 3 broccoli crowns, chopped into chunks (I used frozen ones we had that I had defrosted; fresh would work just as well)
  • 2 cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock if you want to make it vegetarian/vegan)
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • black pepper to season (4-6 turns of a grinder, if you’ve got one)

Heat the stock up in a saucepan on the stove until it just begins to boil.  Add your broccoli, reduce the heat and place a lid on the pan and allow it to cook in the stock for about 8-10 minutes, or until the broccoli is soft but has not lost its vibrant green color.

Once the broccoli has finished cooking, you have two options:

1.  Pour the cooked broccoli and stock into a large bowl and use a hand blender to puree the soup.  Add the lemon juice and pepper.  Serve the soup while hot.

2.  Carefully pour the broccoli and stock into a blender and puree, adding the lemon juice and pepper during the blending process.

Either way, you will get terrifically tasty soup!  I garnished mine with broccoli sprouts, as you can see in the picture.  SB garnished his with a tablespoon of cheddar cheese and said it was quite tasty with that addition.

The soup recipe made 4 cups of soup, and the sandwich recipe made 4 sandwiches.

White Bean Chicken Chili

Well, the weathermen were right.  We did end up getting about 4 inches of snow yesterday.  However, the snow was not enough to cancel school outright today, but we did get delayed 2 hours.  This delay turned out to be a good thing, as it allowed me to throw dinner together in the slow cooker.  I’d been thinking about making a version of Ruby Tuesday’s chicken chili, because it is pretty damned delicious.  Yes, I am one of those cooks that goes out to eat, tries something on the menu, and then tries to figure out what the ingredients are so that I can replicate it at home.  I think I came fairly close with this one, minus the onions of course.

Filling, hearty and great for a cold winter's night, this chili can go in the slow cooker in the morning and be ready to eat when you get home. Little effort, lots of flavor!

Here’s how I did it.  You will need:

  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 3 cans navy beans, drained and rinsed (I rinse canned beans to remove a bit of the salt)
  • 1 can navy beans, pureed
  • 1 4 oz. can diced hot green chiles (I used Hatch brand)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 carton (32 oz.) chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons white pepper
  • 1 tablespoon ancho chile powder
  • 2 teaspoons Mexican oregano
  • 3 teaspoons ground cumin

For garnish:  Monterrey Jack or Chihuahua cheese would be good.  Tortilla chips and sour cream (if that’s your thing) would also be tasty.

In a 5 or 6 quart slow cooker, place the chicken, beans, tomatoes, stock and spices.  Stir to combine.  If you need to add a little water, do it now.  Set the slow cooker to cook on low for 10 hours (I did, because I knew I’d be gone at work during the day).  During the last hour of cooking, add the bean puree to thicken the soup up a bit.  Serve with cheese garnish.

This recipe made 8 1 3/4-cup servings.  We each ate a bowl and had a small quesadilla, and were quite full afterward.  Needless to say we had leftovers!

To add more depth of flavor, you really need to add 1 medium onion, diced.  I also think a can of hot Rotel tomatoes would boost the spicy factor here.  Next time I am planning on adding crushed red pepper flakes to increase the heat.