Tag Archives: soup

It’s Only a Diary

While the Winter Olympics feature is winding down, today’s post brings us 1/4 of the way through the 12 Days of Oscar.  Today’s film is the third in this series that was Oscar-nominated but did not win.  Renee Zellweger was nominated for Best Actress for her portrayal of the title character in the 2001 film Bridget Jones’s Diary.  In the film we follow nearly a year in the life of Bridget Jones, who chronicles her affair with her boss along with both her disdain for and attraction to Mark Darcy.

In the film, Bridget attempts to prepare a dinner for friends to celebrate her birthday.  Lacking proper kitchen twine, Bridget decides that some blue thread would be fine to tie together some leeks for her potato leek soup.  As Mark Darcy happens in, Bridget realizes the entire soup is now blue and he comes to her aid.  It’s really a charming scene, but I might be biased as I think any scene in that movie has high charm potential.

This recipe doesn’t require twine of any kind, so you’re not in any danger of serving blue soup.  The leeks and potatoes are boiled together in chicken stock, then pureed and stirred with some cream.  This was almost better reheated the next day than it was when we had it for dinner.  M had three bowls, and I’m pretty sure that prior to this she had never consumed a leek in her life.

potato leek soup

Potato Leek Soup

Ingredients:

  • 8 C. chicken stock
  • 6 russet potatoes, peeled and cut into large pieces
  • 4 leeks, whites only, washed and sliced
  • 3 stalks celery, roughly chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 1/2 tsp. finely chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 C. heavy cream

Directions:

Combine the chicken stock, potatoes, leeks, celery, bay leaf, and thyme in a large pot and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Bring to a boil and boil for 15-20 minutes until the potatoes are soft.

Remove the bay leaf.

Puree the soup using an immersion blender (you can also do this carefully in a blender by allowing the soup to cool for 5 minutes then putting a small amount at a time into the blender, leaving plenty of empty room in the blender jar, then leaving the lid open slightly to allow steam to escape while covering with a kitchen towel to avoid splatters).

Add the cream and simmer for about 20 minutes until the soup has thickened.

Source: adapted slightly from Robert Irvine

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Been Busy

Friday O had a baseball game and following that, the league’s annual Family Hot Dog Night.  Saturday morning started with a freezing cold and drizzly soccer game for M.  Saturday evening, we huddled in Rock Cats Stadium with many other spectators, wondering if the pouring rain was going to mean a cancelled game.  Lucky for all of us, the rain stopped and the game went on.  O and other players in the league got to go onto the field before the game and sit in the dugout and stand on the field during the performance of the National Anthem.  Some of the players were kind enough to stop over and autograph hats or baseballs for them but what the kids were most excited about was that the players were talking to them and high-fiving them.  Sunday was Mother’s Day and I hope everyone had a lovely day celebrating.  I was beyond spoiled with breakfast in bed prepared by Lane and the kiddos, lunch and The Great Gatsby with Lane while the kiddos spent some time celebrating with their mother, and dinner out at a local tapas restaurant that we love.  Monday, my “baby” sister celebrated her college graduation and I could only celebrate in spirit as we have two kiddos to shuffle around, and I’m puppy sitting for my dads while they traveled to Atlanta for graduation.  It has been a busy seven days, and when you throw in baseball practice on Monday, soccer practice Tuesday and having to make a “nothing-like-the-last-minute!” trip to a seamstress yesterday, something had to give.  If you couldn’t tell, I hadn’t spent much time in my kitchen since around Thursday night.

I did get to make a great soup for dinner, and I’m finally getting a moment to share it today.  Last week was a shock to many when the temperatures hovered in the mid-fifties after we had been spoiled with seventy-plus degree weather the week before.  After shuffling the kiddos to activities on Monday and Tuesday, I like to make an easy but comforting dinner on Wednesday.  Wednesdays, it’s just me and Lane and I like to be able to have dinner with a quick clean-up and then enjoy a TV show on the couch that doesn’t involve any talking animals (we really know how to live it up!).  This is a simple tomato-based soup with chickpeas and pasta.  It’s very filling, and I love chickpeas as a healthy source of protein and fiber.  It’s a great soup for “clean out the fridge day” as well.  Have some zucchini or green beans that need to be used up? Toss them in.  Have some leftover chicken? Toss it in.  No chickpeas? Use white or kidney beans instead.  Don’t like spinach? Use some Swiss chard or kale.  This is going to be a staple for soup and sandwich night at our house for a while.  With a sprinkling of Parmesan on top.

chickpea vegetable soup

Chickpea Vegetable Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes (or 1/2 of a 28 oz. can), with juices
  • 1 quart chicken or vegetable stock
  • ½ tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 C. dry small pasta (shells or elbows recommended)
  • 15 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (or 2 C. cooked chickpeas)
  • 5 oz. fresh or frozen spinach
  • salt, to taste
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • generous pinch red chili flakes (optional)
  • freshly grated Parmesan for serving (optional)

Directions:

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.

Add the onion, celery and carrot to the olive oil and stir to combine.

Saute about 7 minutes until softened but not browned (turn down the heat if you find they are browning).

Add the garlic to the mixture and saute for 1 minute.

Stir in the tomato paste.

Add the diced tomatoes, chicken or vegetable stock and dried oregano and stir to completely combine.

Bring the mixture to a boil.

Stir in the pasta, chickpeas, and spinach.

Simmer about 10 minutes, until the pasta is tender.

Add salt, pepper, and chili flakes to taste.

To serve, top each serving with additional chili flakes and Parmesan cheese, as desired.

Makes 6 generous servings.

Source: slightly adapted from Foodess

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Heal the Hurt

In the aftermath of a long day on Sunday Lane and I found ourselves trying to diplomatically explain some things to M and O and it was hard, because sometimes we can’t explain why people do the hurtful things they do.  When Monday’s events at the Boston Marathon happened, I had already been crying on and off for the better part of the day.  When the breaking news reports started, I couldn’t even fathom how Lane and I were going to sit and explain another tragedy or upset to these children.  I’m just all out of explanations right now.  It’s naive to think there will be a time when we won’t have to, but I can hold onto that hope.  My heart, already heavy, was breaking again at the hands of another tragedy that leaves everyone speculating about who or why or what’s next.  Ultimately we decided that we just couldn’t do it.  We couldn’t have the conversation, not Monday night.  We do our best to explain things like this in an age appropriate manner and to reassure them that the world around them is safe.  I wish I could say we don’t have to do that very often, but the last few months have proven otherwise.

Instead of focusing on the hurt, we’ve chosen to focus on the good.  We applaud the heroes that emerge in the wake of events like this, and we applaud those in the area that have opened their homes and hearts to displaced runners and spectators.  We cheer loudly for emergency responders who have chosen a life of having to rush to the scene most people instinctually flee.  We watched the Yankees game last night and smiled brightly at their show of support when they played Sweet Caroline (a staple at Red Sox games) after the third inning because even though it’s a small show of support in the wake of this tragedy, it is a show of support and it helps us focus on the good in the world.

I fall into the camp that hears about these tragedies and thinks “I need to do something.”  I think that I need to get away from the media coverage and let it sit for a while and do something productive instead.  There are a number of ways to help the victims of the Boston Marathon (and I encourage everyone to do what they can), but I needed to do something to help myself.  There’s something about taking a long time to prepare a meal and then savoring that meal that reminds me of the good things in life, and that takes my mind away from the news and away from the violence and sadness.  Having a junk food binge doesn’t help anything for me, it’s too quick of a fix for it to last long.  For me, comfort food is about going through the motions of slicing and sautéing and knowing that I’m doing something to nurture, something productive.  French onion soup is great for that.  It’s comforting to make as you’re thinly slicing onions and stirring them until they caramelize and turn from raw onions (which many people don’t care for) to golden, sweet caramelized perfection.  There’s something comforting about plunking toasted bread into your soup and topping it with salty cheese, and then dipping a spoon into the bubbly cheese layer and pulling out delicious, warm, comforting soup.  When you’re slicing onions, no one ever asks why you’re crying.  When you’re busy caramelizing onions (which is the most involved and longest step in making this but please don’t rush it because this is heart of the soup and gives it so much of its flavor), you don’t have time to think about what’s wrong with the world.

french onion soup

Julia Child’s French Onion Soup

Ingredients:

for the soup:

  • 1 1/2 lbs. thinly sliced yellow onions (about 5 C. sliced)
  • 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 3 Tbsp.  all-purpose flour
  • 2 quarts (8 C.) beef stock (or mushroom stock for a vegetarian version)
  • 1/2 C. dry white wine or dry white vermouth
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 Tbsp. cognac or brandy (optional but highly recommended)

to finish the soup:

  • 1-2 C. (depending on how much cheese you want per portion) grated Swiss, Gruyère, Fontina, or Provolone cheese (or a mixture)
  • 1 Tbsp. butter, melted
  • 12 to 16 1-inch thick rounds French bread, toasted until hard

Directions:

In the bottom of a 4-5 quart Dutch oven (or other sturdy-bottomed pot) melt the butter and oil together over medium-low heat.

Add the onions and toss them to coat in the butter mixture.

Cover the pot, reduce the heat to low and let the onions cook for 15 minutes.  They don’t need any attention during this 15 minutes.

Uncover the pot, turn up the heat (almost to medium but not quite) and cook the onions, stirring frequently, for 30-40 minutes until they are an even deep golden brown.

After the onions are completely caramelized, sprinkle them with the flour and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes.

Pour in the wine all at once.

Pour in the stock a small amount at a time and stir between each addition.

Season the mixture with salt and pepper to taste, but go easy on the salt because the cheese added at the end is going to add some saltiness to the soup as well.

Bring the mixture to a simmer, then simmer partially covered (I put a wooden spoon handle between the lid and the pot on one side) for 30-40 minutes, skimming fat from the top if needed.

Stir in the brandy or Cognac if you’re using it.

Set the soup aside until ready to serve.

To gratinee the soup (that’s fancy for “top it with melted, bubbly, delicious cheese), heat the oven to 325 degrees.

Place 6 oven safe bowls or crocks on a large, foil-lined baking sheet.

Bring the soup back to a boil and divide it evenly among the 6 bowls.

Add a Tbsp. of grated cheese to each bowl and stir to combine.

Spread a little of the melted butter onto each toasted bread round and then add bread rounds to each bowl of soup so the top of each is almost covered in bread rounds.

Add grated cheese on top of each bowl, depending on how much cheese you want on each portion.  To get a nice bubbly cheese lid on the soup, I suggest at least a generous 1/4 C. of cheese per serving.

Bake the soup for 20 minutes, then heat the broiler.

Broil for 1-2 minutes to lightly brown the tops of the soups.

Remove from the oven using pot holders and serve immediately.

Makes 6 servings.

Source: adapted from Smitten Kitchen, originally adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking

french onion soup bowl

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The Stew Song

Some days when I pick up the kids from daycare, there’s a mom who compliments the green winter coat I’m wearing.  Last week we joked that I should enjoy it, because spring arrives this Wednesday and I won’t wear it much after that until next year.  Apparently we laughed too soon as Lane is currently shoveling snow and slush from the driveway.  The good news is, I don’t have to put away that fantastic green coat just yet :D .  Considering that the kids only have one more day that they can legally hold school before they have to go on legal holidays (like Memorial Day), I’m pretty glad it was only a 90 minute delay for them this morning.  They were appropriately disappointed when they found out school wasn’t cancelled.  We all remember those days when we were too young to understand that every cancelled school day in the winter means one more day of wilting at your desk in June.  Admittedly though, there is something extra fun about a snow day.  We should know, we’ve had plenty of them this winter.  I’d love to say this is the last of it, but this is New England, and we did have the April Fool’s Day Blizzard in 1997.

Last year, it was seventy-five degrees outside and I was grilling steak.  This year, even though Lane has excitedly assembled a new charcoal grill, we are still focused on indoor meals.  This stew is pretty tasty, so I’m definitely not going to complain about being inside with a bowl of this for dinner.  Starting by giving the chicken broth a much deeper flavor quickly by adding a few things and using it to poach the chicken, you have a hearty and flavorful stew in under an hour that tastes like you simmered it all day.

chicken chorizo stew

Chicken Chorizo Stew

Ingredients:

  • 2 C. chicken broth 
  • 2 C. water
  • 1 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 garlic cloves, cut in half
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped
  • 12 oz. skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 6 oz. chopped Spanish chorizo
  • 3 C. cubed red potato
  • 1 1/2 C. chopped onion
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. minced fresh garlic
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. sherry vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

Directions:

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the chicken broth, water, bunch of parsley, halved garlic, quartered onion, and carrot.

Add the chicken to the saucepan and bring the mixture to a boil.

Reduce the heat to medium or medium-low and simmer, uncovered, for 14 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.

Remove the chicken and reserve the cooking liquid.

Using two forks, shred the chicken.

Strain the cooking liquid through a mesh strainer or fine sieve over a bowl.  Reserve liquids, discard the solids that have collected in the strainer.

Wipe the saucepan with a paper towel.

Saute the chorizo over medium-high heat for 2 minutes.

Add the potato, chopped onion, and bell pepper to the saucepan and cook for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the minced garlic, cumin, and salt and cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the reserved cooking liquid, bring to a simmer, and simmer for 12 minutes.

Add the shredded chicken and simmer for 5 minutes.

Remove from heat, stir in vinegar, and serve hot.

Makes 4 (roughly 1 C. each) servings.

Source: adapted from Cooking Light January 2012

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Buried in Snow

Thursday, Lane and his friends arrived safely in Canada and I ran a few errands as projected snow totals climbed higher and higher, stopping at two feet.  I thought about all of the great projects I was going to get done around the house while I was home alone for the weekend.  Friday morning I dropped the kids off at their mother’s house for her weekend with them, and was unfazed by the small amount of snow already accumulating on the side streets at 9 a.m.  I figured I was pretty well prepared for the two feet of snow that was threatened.  Snow fell so fast on Friday night that snow plows and emergency vehicles had to be removed from ditches and shoveled out by payloader, before they were finally pulled from the roads in my town due to whiteout conditions.  I went outside and couldn’t see my hand in front of me, then the hail and thunder and lightning came.  That was when I saw the last weather report before I went to sleep, that we could be looking at up to thirty inches of snow.

When I woke up Saturday morning, the snow had stopped, and I had snow from the top of our porch railing across the lawn to the bottom of our mailbox.  Forty inches of snowfall was the total in my town, the highest total anywhere for this storm.  Because of the high wind drifts, I had snow over five feet high in some places.  I couldn’t do much but put on Lane’s spare snow pants and grab a shovel.  I finally made it down our driveway in the dark around 7 p.m. Saturday night.  I have never been so happy to see a street in my life.  I’m one of the lucky ones who lives on a street that had one lane plowed open on Saturday.  Many people in the area have taken to forming snow blowing their streets in teams.  The fire trucks leaving the fire station on my street are still leaving with their sirens blaring but moving at a snail’s pace because the road isn’t at its full width.  The police have been asking to borrow snowmobiles so they can get to emergencies, and snow removal teams spent the better part of Saturday following emergency teams to calls, plowing the way for fire trucks or ambulances.  Another factor hindering snow removal is that it can’t just be pushed, there’s too much of it.  It has to be loaded into a truck and removed from the area, to local parks or other open areas.  I have snow five feet from our curb, there is too much for the crews to plow the roads clean from curb to curb.  We have freezing rain right now, making roof collapse a concern for some.  There is more snow forecasted for Thursday and for Saturday, and there just isn’t anywhere for it to go.  I am fortunate that my loved ones are all safe right now, and that life is slowly emerging from the snow banks and returning to normal.

All I’ve wanted to eat all weekend long is comfort food.  I meal planned knowing that I’d be home for most if not all of the weekend, but after shoveling snow for hours, lifting my arms to make coffee became a chore.  So today, I’m going to share a recipe that I’ve been meaning to share for one of my favorite comfort foods that also requires very little hands-on preparation.  If you should find yourself needing to be outside shoveling snow for nine hours or more, put the ingredients into the crock pot before you head out and maybe knowing that this pea soup is waiting for you will be good motivation.  It’s warming from the inside out, and is very comforting.  I made this after I made ham for dinner, using the ham bone to give it a great flavor.  If you don’t have a ham bone hanging around, you have some other options.  You can check with a local butcher (or even my grocery store sometimes has them), he may have one to sell.  You can also not add the ham bone and double the amount of diced ham.  I add the whole frozen peas at the end because I like the texture they give to the soup, but if you like a creamier soup it’s fine to skip that step.  You can also add the carrots at the beginning with the other ingredients, but I like to add them later in the process if I can because adding them earlier causes them to cook down until they blend into the soup.

crock pot pea soup with ham

Crock Pot Split Pea Soup with Ham

Ingredients:

  • 1 meaty ham bone
  • 2 C. dry split peas
  • 1 C. cooked ham, cut into small cubes (double if omitting the ham bone)
  • 1 C. finely chopped onion
  • 1 C. finely chopped celery with leaves
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 4 C. chicken or vegetable broth (reduced or low sodium is preferable)
  • 1 C. water
  • 1 C. sliced carrots
  • 1 C. frozen peas, thawed

Directions:

Layer the ingredients except for the carrots and frozen peas  in the order they are listed above into a crock pot.  Do not stir.

Cook on the low setting for 4-5 hours (or on high for 2-3 hours), then add the carrots and stir.

Continue to cook on the low setting for 4-5 more hours (or on high for 2 more hours), adding the frozen peas about 45 minutes before serving.

Remove the ham bone, scrape any meat remaining on it into the soup, and stir to combine ingredients before serving.

Source: adapted from Soupbelly

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Beer Factor

Yesterday, I mentioned various reasons for wanting to make bread bowls for soup.  I blamed it on Panera, and I blamed it on my new obsession with homemade bread.  I lied.  This soup is really what caused me to think about bread bowls (which I previously had zero interest in) constantly.  When I saw this soup, I knew the only thing that could possibly make it better would be to serve it in a carbohydrate vessel.  Once you have beer, cheese, and bacon together in one place the only thing missing from the party is bread.  Or is it that once you have a great bread bowl, the only thing missing is to have beer, cheese, and bacon in one place?  In my case, I saw the soup first and noticed that Jessica (How Sweet It Is) served it in a bread bowl and that she had a recipe for that bread bowl and I couldn’t help but be a total copy cat at that point.

The bread bowls are entirely optional, and I should know because when I inhaled  enjoyed this soup for lunch the following day I put it into a soup mug and still had a “wow this is good” moment with every bite.  For this recipe, freshly grated cheese is the only way to go.  Pre-grated cheese usually has stabilizers in it which are going to keep the cheese from melting just right for this soup.  You are going to taste the beer in here, so choose a beer that you like to drink.  A lighter wheat beer is what was suggested, I used Shock Top Belgian white and thought this was great.  Because of the nature of melted cheese, I recommend eating this the day you make it.  If that’s not possible, add a splash of liquid (milk or more beer) and reheat the soup over medium-low heat, stirring constantly.  Garnish with any herb you like, but I did find that sprinkling some fresh cilantro over this made for even more fantastic eats.  While the bread bowl is optional, it is very highly recommended.

beer cheese soup

Bacon Beer and Cheese Soup

Ingredients:

  • 3 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, finely diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 2 Tbsp. flour
  • 2 C. of your favorite beer 
  • 1 C. half and half
  • 4 oz. sharp white cheddar, freshly grated
  • 4 z. extra sharp yellow cheddar, freshly grated
  • 4 oz. Colby jack, freshly grated
  • fresh herbs (I like cilantro) for garnish (optional, but recommended)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Heat a large pot over medium heat and add the bacon.

Cook until bacon is crispy then remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and place it on a paper towel-lined plate.

Reduce the heat to low and add the onion, pepper and garlic.

Cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes until the vegetables are translucent.

Increase the heat to medium-high and add the butter.

Once the butter sizzles, add the flour and cook for 3-4 minutes until nutty and golden.

Add in the beer and cook, stirring constantly, for 3-4 minutes.

Stir in the half and half, then reduce the heat to low and gradually add the cheese, stirring constantly.

Stir until the mixture is smooth, then fold in the bacon.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Top with herbs if using, and serve immediately.

Source: How Sweet It Is

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