Chinese Chicken and Rice Soup

Chinese Chicken and Rice Soup - spin on the traditional Chinese Chicken and Rice Soup
I placed Olive’s bowl at the table first so it would have time to cool down while I got mine and Matt’s ready. I started hearing Olive saying, “Mmm!” and “This is so good and juicy, Mama” and at first I assumed she was putting on another one-act play because Olive hasn’t been too enthusiastic about meals, lately.  Certainly not enthusiastic enough to compliment the food.  Usually, it seems as if she just merely tolerates food until she can get down and play again.  And as I thought back while she was inhaling this soup, I remembered the last time she was this enthusiastic about food, it had very similar ingredients in a potato curry Matt made.  She is apparently our Asian flavor lover.  And I love that.  I love that she won’t bat an eye at cilantro, rice wine vinegar, fish sauce and lemongrass.  She will certainly protest if I try to get her to eat…lettuce, or something else benign like that.  But big, bold flavors are her bag (as long as it’s not SPICY!) And the occasional chorus of “mmm” and “this is good, Mama,” is so few and far between that I make mental note of the dishes that inspire that response in her.  I never thought I’d care so much about someone’s opinion of food until I had a child.  But sharing food and sharing a JOY of food is precious and even more so when that person is family.

We’ve done a few spins on classic dishes in the past and have loved the results. We’ve done biscuits and curry “gravy” and a green chili corn chowder and loved the fusion of classic American dishes and flavors from other cultures.  I made up a spin on the classic Campbell’s Chicken and Rice you may have grown up eating, but instead, included all the flavors we love from Asian cultures.  It was super comforting and would be fantastic for a cold, rainy day like we’re having today.  I didn’t have coconut milk, but I think it would be a fantastic addition in place of the heavy cream.  This soup is built with lots and lots of taste-testing along the way.  Every soup should be, I think.  So I’m giving approximate ingredient amounts, but I encourage you to taste and add things you love for yourself.  We added Sriracha (of course) and lots and lots of cilantro as a garnish and some tasty frozen Vietnamese egg rolls for a side and enjoyed the heck out of this dish.  I hope you do, too!  Happy Monday.

Chinese Chicken and Rice

Chinese Chicken and Rice Soup

2 cups shredded chicken from two chicken breasts or 4 chicken legs/thighs (bone in)
2 kaffir lime leaves
A two inch piece of peeled ginger
2 stalks lemongrass, split
1/2 white onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 TBS rice wine vinegar
1 TBS brown sugar
1 tsp fish sauce
1/2 cup heavy cream (or coconut milk)
salt to taste
1 cup jasmine rice
1 carrot, diced small

In a large stock pot, add the (raw) chicken (bone-in) and cover with water till it’s submerged by abut 2 inches. Add the kaffir lime leaves (can be found at most chinese markets in the freezer or fridge section – this isn’t essential but it gives the soup that thing that I can’t describe but it’s wonderful), ginger, lemongrass, onion and garlic and bring the water to a boil.  Let the chicken boil until the internal temp registers at least 165 when inserted into the thickest part of the meat.  Remove the chicken, let it cool, and pull off all the meat.  Return the bones to the pot and let it continue to boil while you cook the rice.

In a small saucepan, add 1 3/4 cups water, a tablespoon of olive oil, the diced carrot and a pinch of salt and the cup of rice.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, stir and simmer, covered, for 15-20 minutes until tender.

Remove the chicken bones, the lemongrass and onion and discard.  Return the shredded meat to the pot.  Add the vinegar, sugar, fish sauce and salt to the broth until it tastes…right. 🙂 This is the point where you need to trust your palate. You may like it with more vinegar or more sugar, more fish sauce, whatever.  I tasted and adjusted and then added the heavy cream.

Spoon rice into bowls and ladle the chicken soup on top.  Garnish with LOTS of cilantro and serve!

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White Bean Stew with Smoked Sausage and Kale – Using Up Leftovers!

Scrappy Stew - White Beans, Kale and Roast Chicken
So it seems winter is going to beat us down at least one more time before spring officially arrives.  Maybe more, but I’m hoping for just one last hurrah.  I used to love winter and all its coziness and hot tea and warm socks.  But now that I’m a mother of two little people, I find winter to be quite suffocating.  I just NEED there to be the option to go outside.  When I had Ellie back in November, I quickly taught Ollie how to open the backyard door by herself.  That was probably the best move I made all year.  She could come and go while I fed the baby and everyone was happy.  But when it snows, there’s this expectation from Ollie that we MUST GO OUTSIDE NOW AND YOU MUST GO WITH ME.  And it just isn’t that easy.  And frankly, as most of you know, it takes 15 minutes to get a child bundled up to go outside and then 5 minutes for them to get so cold they want to come back in.  I fail to see how it’s worth the effort.

The one thing I DO love about cold weather is the food. I love making a huge pot of beans and eating it over the following days in various ways.  Over cornbread, with smoked sausage, in a quesadilla, with a fried egg, whatever, it’s all good.  And this most recent batch of stew we made was my favorite.  Because Matt made it.  Seriously, though, we both make our beans in the same way and much in the spirit of the Family Meal Blog, I always love when a recipe is made by someone else in this family.  This stew also does my most favorite thing in the entire kitchen-world: it uses up leftovers!  We threw in a half used can of diced tomatoes, a handful of kale, onion, and some leftover turkey and sausage from a local bbq joint and it was frankly, amazing.  The beauty of a good bean stew is that you can add anything and if the beans are good, you’re good to go.  For this, I recommend using dried beans instead of canned, although canned would cut the prep/cook time by a good 8 hours.  They just don’t have the depth of flavor that starting with dried beans does.  And because we’re a part of Rancho Gordo’s Bean of the Month Club, (yes) I recommend you get their beans if you can find them!

White Bean and Kale Stew

 

White Bean Stew with Smoked Sausage and Kale

  • Servings: 8-10
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*start this recipe the day before you want to eat it! Modified for a slow cooker below the recipe!

1 lb dried white beans, such as canellini
2 bay leaves
1 small onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 stalk of celery, diced (these three ingredients together are called mire poix)
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1 can fire roasted tomatoes (we used half a can because that’s what we had leftover in our fridge)
1 smoked sausage link, chopped
4 oz. smoked turkey breast
1 small bunch of kale, rinsed and chopped

The night before you want to eat this stew, rinse the beans and then submerge them in a large stockpot by about 2 inches of water along with the bay leaf.

In the morning, bring the beans to a boil in the same water you soaked them in and add the onion, carrot and celery and garlic cloves.  Season with salt and pepper.  Reduce to an active simmer and cook until beans are tender.  This time can really vary.  I’d say on average, I have the beans simmering for about 2 hours before they are a texture I like.  Some like al dente beans.  I’m not one of those people.  I also don’t like them to be total mush, like canned, but it’s your preference, really.  Just start tasting them after an hour and keep going if you’re not satisfied.

After about an hour of simmering, add in the tomatoes and meats (and honestly, the meats were leftovers in our fridge. You could add bacon, ground beef, no meat at all – this soup will be amazing no matter what).  Toss the kale in about 30 minutes before serving and adjust the seasoning of the stew with extra salt and pepper.  Remove the bay leaves and serve with crusty buttered bread.

Slow Cooker Note: this could all be done in a slow cooker if you wanted to get it on before you go to work.  Just soak the beans in a large slow cooker overnight with the bay leaves with at least 2-3 inches of water covering the beans.  In the morning before you leave for work, add in the mire poix and garlic and turn it to low.  When you get home, add in the rest of the ingredients and turn it on high for about 30 minutes to let it boil.  Adjust the seasoning and serve.

Creamy Roasted Carrot Soup

roasted carrot soup with cayenne and ginger
Fall means soup.  Soup means it’s cold enough outside to not want to die at the thought of eating soup for dinner.  And it being cold enough outside seems to make everything around here better.  I sleep better, we can play outside longer without my redhead overheating and everything just feels fresh.  And I’m a bit of a broken record when it comes to hailing soups as a surefire way to get your kids to eat their vegetables, but I’m going to say it, again.  Cooking just about any vegetable and pureeing it into a soup is the easiest way to get a baby, toddler, picky adult to eat a vegetable otherwise sneered at due to its texture or appearance.  Olive used to eat asparagus.  But then, she turned two and decided she was no longer interested.  But the other day I made a batch of asparagus soup and she drank it down.  Same flavor, different delivery vehicle.  And when you add a piece of crusty, buttery bread on the side, the soup suddenly seems like a complete meal.

My go-to soup in the fall is usually butternut squash.  But I nearly always have a half-used bag of carrots in the fridge, waiting to become something more exciting than diced up for chicken pot pie.  The other day I made this soup and I loved it.  We ate on it for several days – always a good side dish or starter, and good for dunking toasted bread.  I don’t need to say it, again, but this batch of soup would fill up about 12 baby food jars.  Can you lend 30 minutes to making a vegetable soup?  How about $3 for a 2lb bag of carrots?  How much is a jar of baby food, again?  You get the point.

Yay, soup!

roasted carrot soup
Roasted Carrot Soup
serves 6-8

1 sweet onion, diced
3 TBS olive oil
2 lbs carrots, peeled and chopped
6 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
Salt and Pepper to taste
ground ginger and paprika for garnish

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium high heat until it shimmers.  Toss in the onion and saute until tender but not browned, about 5-6 minutes.  Add in the carrots and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring to coat in the oil.  Add the stock and let the pot come to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the carrots are tender.  Puree directly in the pot with an immersion blender, or take in batches to a standard blender and puree until smooth.  If you used a standard blender, return the soup to the pot and add the heavy cream.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and then ladle into bowls and sprinkle with ground ginger, paprika and a splash of cream or sour cream.

Rustic Vichyssoise (potato and leek soup)

Vichyssoise 2
Too hot outside for another soup recipe?  What if I told you it was a cold soup?  Would that change your mind or keep you further away?  We are okay with gazpacho so why not potato and leek?  Maybe if it had a fancy French name?  Vichyssoise (pronounced vishy-swah) is a silky potato soup, cooled down with cream and it might just become your new favorite soup.

A French chef at the Ritz in the 1950s, Louis Diat, was credited with this soup’s [cold] invention.  He said as a boy, he and his brother would cool off the potato and leek soup his grandmother would make, by pouring milk or cream into the hot soup.  He loved the experience so much, he wanted to create a soup for his patrons at the Ritz similar to the soup he had as a boy.

I haven’t quite gotten behind the cold version, yet.  I think the silky potato soup is amazing hot and it has so much depth.  For a dish that has so few ingredients, it tastes like it has a dozen. The potato/leek combination is rather magical in and of itself.  Matt loves the cold version (chill the soup first, then add cream, or you’ll just end up with lukewarm soup if you add cream to hot soup) I love it hot, Olive loves it somewhere in between and once again, this is a great way to provide vegetables for a great little eater who is otherwise distracted by the experience of being two 🙂

I, of course, defaulted to my favorite French cookbook for the recipe – Winnie never steers me wrong!

Vichyssoise 1
Rustic Vichyssoise* (rustic because I forgot to peel the potatoes first)

2 TBS unsalted butter
2 medium-size leeks (or one Texas size – white and pale green parts only, halved lengthwise, rinsed and chopped, about 1 cup)
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth (I had beef broth on hand and it turned out great)
1.5 lbs yellow or white potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped(or unpeeled if you forget and want to call it rustic :))
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
1 TBS heavy cream
1/4 cup snipped fresh chives for garnish

Melt the butter in a 4 quart saucepan over medium heat.  Add the leeks and cook, stirring, until tender but not brown, 4 to 5 minutes.  Pour in the broth slowly and then add the potatoes and salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat, cover the pan, and cook at an active simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 30 minutes.

Blend in the pot with an immersion blender until no chunks of potato remain (or, working in batches, puree in a blender).  Stir in the cream and season with extra salt and pepper, if needed.  Garnish with fresh chives and add extra cream to your liking.  For making traditional Vichyssoise, chill the soup for a few hours and then add about 1/4 cup cold cream or half and half to each serving.  Re-season as needed.

*slightly adapted from the Bonne Femme Cookbook

Chilled Strawberry Soup

Chilled Strawberry Soup
I ran across this interesting recipe last week and wanted desperately to try it.  A chilled strawberry soup!  What could be more summery or fun?

The original recipe called for Riesling and a garnish of black pepper and olive oil and next time I do it, I really want to try that version.  Since I would be serving it to Olive and wouldn’t be cooking the alcohol out, I decided to alter the 1/2 cup of Riesling for lime juice and I think the results were so refreshing.  Some might call this a smoothie, and it basically is, but it’s thinner and if you go the adult version route, it would certainly be more elevated than a smoothie.  Olive loved this different snack and I loved it for breakfast this morning!  I garnished the soup with a bit of chocolate mint from my plant out back.  Did you know there was such a thing as chocolate mint?!  I didn’t but was intrigued and I think there is a subtle smooth difference between it and basic sweet mint (which has the quintessential “gum” flavor).  I thought mint and hints of chocolate would be great on a strawberry soup and it was – next time I may even add some dark chocolate shavings as a garnish!

Enjoy!  It’s a hot one out there, today!

Chilled Strawberry Soup
makes about 3 cups

3 cups strawberries, hulled
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
Juice from two large limes (about 1/2 cup)
1/3 cup raw honey
Garnish: mint, chocolate, cracked pepper

Put all ingredients except the garnish in a blender or food processor and blend for about a minute, scraping down the sides.  If you want to go the extra mile, strain the soup through a fine mesh sieve to remove the seeds. Chill for at least an hour and garnish as you wish!  (I didn’t chill ours at all and it was great).

Zucchini Basil Soup with Stove Top Fritters

Zucchini Basil Soup
I’m happy to have resurrected this soup!  Matt and I made it a long time ago when we were still doing the 800 sq ft apartment thing and then again when a friend of ours invited her dad over and we needed to fix low sodium, low fat recipes since he had recently had heart surgery.   Matt’s father also has heart troubles, so it’s always refreshing to find healthy recipes to share that taste as decadent as a full-fat option.  This soup is so perfect for the coming zucchini-overload we all will have soon (as it’s the only vegetable that seems to have no trouble in our awful climate) and basil, the herb that’s also hard to kill.  It’s got all the depth of flavor of a soup that has been slowly cooked with butter and cream only – it has neither!  It isn’t even made with stock – just water!  So the sodium is only what you add for taste.  I bet in one batch, I added a little over a teaspoon of salt.  And it serves six!  Can you tell I’m excited about this soup?!
zucchini basil soup and stuffing fritters
One other merit of soups from a mother of a toddler’s perspective, is that they are a perfect way to get more variety of vegetables and flavors into our newly opinionated children.  Olive has eaten zucchini, pesto, fresh basil from the garden, etc, before, but suddenly, she’s on a suspicious, won’t-try-anything-green bender.  Drives me batty because I KNOW she would like most things if she’d just try them.  Sound familiar?  What does NOT work is forcing, tricking, cajoling, pleading, prodding or manipulating your kids to eat.  They can smell your tricks a mile away and they’ve come prepared with an iron will.  This is pretty natural and resistance is futile.  But soups.  Olive has willingly eaten this soup twice in the past 4 days.  It’s green!  It’s got darker green chunks in it!  Why will she try it?  My guess is texture.  No chunks – pureed and easy to sip from a cup so she has full control.  When Olive doesn’t want to try something, I ask her to just smell it.  If she smells it, 99% of the time she’ll try a bite.  And I’ve learned to be happy with One Happy Bite, as much as it flies against my need to control the situation.

So.  If you have a child who is resisting new textures/colors/flavors, try soups.  I know it seems like a regression back to the baby food days, but if that’s what it takes to keep the flavors and colors changing on your child’s plate, I say it’s worth it.  Children get used to variety if variety is the norm.

Without further babbling, here’s the recipe!  Also, I paired the soup with a not-so-saintly fritter made from leftover Stove Top Stuffing.  No kidding.  They were FABULOUS as a little crispy soup-companion!  I topped them with herbed goat cheese and they tasted downright fancy.  Happy Meatless Monday!

Zucchini Basil Soup with Stove Top Fritters
Zucchini Basil Soup with Stove Top Fritters*

serves 4-6

2 lbs zucchini, peeled, trimmed and cut crosswise into 2″ pieces
1 small onion, chopped (about 3/4 cup)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
3 cups of water
1/3 cup packed basil leaves

Cook the onion and garlic in the olive oil over medium heat in a 3-4 quart stock pot until the onion starts to soften.  Add chopped zucchini and about a teaspoon of kosher salt and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring.  Cover with the water and let it come to a boil and cook for 15 minutes, until the zucchini is soft and easily pierced with a fork.

Add the basil and puree in two batches in a blender (watch out blending hot liquids and make sure it has a vent or you’ve got your hand firmly on that lid!) or, blend directly in the pot with an immersion blender, which is what I do.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve with fritters, toast, or as a starter for your three-course fancy-schmancy dinner! 🙂

*taken from Epicurious.com

Stuffing Fritters
Stove-Top Stuffing Fritters

2 cups leftover cornbread stuffing
1/4 cup water
1 large egg
olive oil for frying

In a medium bowl, combine the stuffing, water and egg and if the mixture won’t come together after a bit of stirring, add a little more water until you can form the stuffing into small patties.  I used a medium sized cookie scoop and it worked well.  Heat about 4 tablespoons of olive oil (or any vegetable oil) over medium-high heat and fry the fritters about 3-5 minutes per side until golden brown.  Drain on paper towels and keep the cooked fritters in a 250 degree oven until the rest are done and you’re ready to serve.  This will keep them crispy and warm!

 

Irish Lamb Stew – a taste of home, no matter where you’re from

Saint Patricks Day - Irish Stew
Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!  I confess I don’t know a lot about the real dishes of Ireland; the dishes people grew up eating around their family tables.  I only know that around here, people eat corned beef and cabbage and drink copious amounts of Guiness Stout.  In order to do something a little more authentic than four leaf clover shaped cookies, I consulted my fabulous and too-far-away friend, Elisha Clarke on some of her favorite Irish dishes.  Elisha was born and raised in Ireland and TODAY is her birthday!  I very much feel the luck of the Irish because I know her!  She is an amazing photographer and I hope one day I can go hang out with her in Ireland and see first hand the beauty she gets to photograph every day.
Irish Stew with Country Bread
When I asked her about dishes she grew up loving, she listed five or so and Irish stew actually wasn’t one of her favorites, haha.  But then she sent me a link to a cute, Irish celebrity chef doing this stew on Jaime Oliver’s show and he made it look so simple and delicious, I had to try it!  It came together easily and as it cooked for over an hour, I had time to relax with my family!  As I took the first bite, I was immediately transported to my own dining table as a child.  My mom made beef stew quite often and would let it simmer on the stove while we were at church.  I always loved it and she served it with saltine crackers that we’d crush up into our stew.  Tasting this very similar Irish lamb version made me smile – thousands of miles separate the humble meals of working class Americans and working class Irish, yet we are instantly connected by a warm meal.  Elisha mentioned that her country has very poor origins and so therefore, the traditional dishes are very humble in nature.  I think all the best dishes in any culture originate from people making the best of what they have been given.  My family did it, Elisha’s family did it, and if I were to guess, I’d say that probably most of you could relate to that story, as well.  A simple bowl of warm stew on a cold evening can comfort and connect family and friends, no matter how far apart.
Irish Stew
Irish Lamb Stew*
serves 6

2 TBS vegetable oil
2lb 3oz lamb shoulder, trimmed and cut into 1 inch chunks (could also use beef chuck roast)
2 onions, peeled and roughly chopped
3 celery stalks, trimmed and sliced
1 bay leaf
4 large carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
4 1/2 cups beef stock
2 lbs potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch slices
3 TBS butter cut into small cubes
salt and ground black pepper to taste
slices of country bread, to serve

Place a large, flameproof casserole pot over a high heat, add 1 tablespoon of the oil and brown the lamb pieces in two batches. Remove and set aside on a plate. Reduce the heat to medium–high, add another tablespoon of oil and fry the onion, celery and carrot for 4–6 minutes or until the onions have softened.

Preheat the oven to 325F. Return the meat to the pot, along with the bay leaf and stock, season with kosher salt and ground black pepper and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and push the slices of potato down into and across the top of the stew, dot with the butter and give a final seasoning of sea salt and ground black pepper. Cover and place in the oven to cook for about 1½ hours or until the meat is tender, then remove the lid and cook for a further 10 minutes until the potatoes have browned.

Serve the stew in deep bowls with crusty, buttered bread to mop up all the juices!  Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

*minimally adapted from Donal Skehan’s beautiful recipe

Butternut Squash and Celery Root Soup and trying something new

Butternut Squash Soup
This is one of the best soups I’ve made all winter.  Previously, butternut squash soups were borderline too sweet for me – I could never finish an entire batch and would guiltily throw the leftovers down the sink.  I’ve made this version three times, now, and each time, we eat it all!  It doesn’t get boring – the flavors are so complex and balanced, thanks to that crazy looking celery root.  It’s perfect!  It’s also incredibly filling and very low fat, so I think it’s quite possibly the most wonderful food to have when you’re watching what you eat, but don’t want to feel deprived.  It’s also perfect as a baby food!  With just two simple vegetables, it’s a great way to introduce flavors to a little one just starting out on solids, or a toddler who might eat soup better than they would eat a new vegetable.  For toddlers, I think the best way to serve soup is in a small, handled cup.  Fill it half way and let them sip at their own pace.  They love feeling in control and YOU will feel better with limited soup-spills as would occur most certainly if you handed them a spoon 🙂  This soup is also a great way to introduce YOU to a new vegetable!  Who here has bought and prepared celery root?  (also called celeriac)  If you haven’t, you don’t have to be afraid – it tastes like celery with the consistency of a sweet potato!

I’m happy to announce a little cooking segment I’ll be doing this year on my friend, Paul’s PBS show, 24 Frames!  (this soup makes an appearance!)  It’s very exciting to be a part of something creative and I’m deeply flattered that he included me in his show. I love talking about food more than anything, so once I get over the mortal fear of seeing myself talk on camera, I’ll finally start to enjoy watching my own segment.  Please tune in to 24 Frames every Saturday night at 9 p.m. Central on PBS!  The show should be available online very soon for those who don’t live in this area, and when it is, I’ll post a link!

Thank you all for watching and for reading my blog.  It’s very humbling and I hope you can feel a little more confident in the kitchen with every new recipe you try!

Butternut Squash and Celery Root Soup

Butternut Squash and Celery Root Soup
serves 6-8

 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 – 2lb butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced
1 celery root, peeled, rinsed and diced
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons dried rosemary
4 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable stock, hot
black pepper and cream for garnish
1. Peel and chop the onion, celery root and butternut squash.
2. Heat the oil in a large stock pot.
3. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 5 minutes.
4. Stir the squash, celery root and salt into the pot and cook for about 10 minutes until the squash begins to soften.
5. Add the rosemary and chicken broth and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and let simmer over medium heat, partially covered, for 20 minutes, or until vegetables are tender.
6. Using a blender in batches, or an immersion blender, puree the soup until completely smooth.  Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper and thin out with cream or extra stock as desired.  Ladle into bowls and add a swirl of cream and a few dashes of fresh cracked pepper and serve!

Homemade Creamy Tomato Soup

tomato soup for a cold dayTomato Soup buried

It’s a beautiful, cold fall day!  Yesterday it was dark and very cold and it called for a cup of soup in hand and little else.  When Matt makes us his pizza on the weekends, I am always left with about 9/10ths of a can of tomatoes and inevitably during the week, that gets turned into tomato soup.  I keep adding a spice here or there, fresh basil if I happen to have it, and no matter how I tweak it, it always turns out great.  For this version, I had some stale bread from Matt’s weekly baking that I turned into croutons. I hate wasting his bread, even the stale stuff, so it gets turned into croutons, breadcrumbs or savory stuffings every time.  The good thing about breads that are as plain and rustic as his, is that they don’t mold very quickly – they just dry out.  Perfect!  The croutons were tooth-shatteringly hard, but after a few minutes in the soup, they were extremely flavorful little sponges.

Happy Fall – it’s in the air!  It’s marvelous!  There’s a faint scent of wood burning in our neighborhood and it’s a treat to get to walk outside.  It’s a treat to be alive, today, really.  Tomorrow doesn’t exist, don’t spin all day for it.  Yesterday can’t be changed, don’t regret it.  Live today and today only!  Yesterday I recalled one of my favorite quotes,“Those who make the worst use of their time are the first to complain of its brevity.”
― Jean de La BruyèreLes caractères.  This quote challenges me to not waste my day thinking about what all I have to do, or what all I didn’t get done yesterday.  It helps me to not sit around wasting time on my phone and it helps me to realize that time with 1 and a half year old Olive is extremely rare and won’t be here for long.  So we make a mess drinking our soup and we laugh and I try to take her up on her offers while I’m working to, “mama pay? mama do somting?” a little more frequently.

Homemade Tomato Soup

Creamy Tomato Soup from Scratch
serves 3-4

1-28oz can whole tomatoes (I love Cento brand!)
1 tbs red wine vinegar
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tbs olive oil
Whatever herbs you like – dried thyme, rosemary, sage, oregano – they’re all good and they all work.  Stick to about a teaspoon.
A splash of cream – eh, if I had to measure, I’d say 1/8th of a cup
Salt and fresh cracked pepper, to taste

Put the olive oil in a medium saucepan and add the garlic clove.  Saute over medium heat until starting to brown.  Add in the entire can of tomatoes, red wine vinegar, herbs and stir to combine.  With an immersion blender, pulse until completely blended and smooth.  Add in the cream, stir to incorporate and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.  Let it simmer on the stove for about 10 minutes and serve hot with crackers, croutons, or the classic grilled cheese.  Enjoy!

tomato soup face tomato soup tomato baby

Summer Corn Chowder – perfect for a rainy day

Corn Chowder and Cornbread

I hope you’re getting rain.  We got a little bit last night and it’s threatening to rain, today.  The clouds are hanging low and the wind is a cool 65 and I feel for a minute that it could be late September instead of the middle of July.  I live for cold weather and I’m still a little perplexed by why I live here, in the desert.  I grew up around here – maybe that’s it.  We long for things unfamiliar or for the relief we feel on the rare occasions we get a break from our usual reality.  I hear people in Seattle long for the beach.  I bet they don’t long for the desert, though!

Another comforting thing about food is the ability to transport myself into a feeling or a mood simply by the dish I prepare.  Caprese salad makes me long for summer nights, spice cakes make me wish for Christmas, chocolate chip cookies make me think of home.  A warm bowl of chowder with a thick slice of cornbread and a cold slab of butter puts me in the mood for a cloudy day and cooler temps.  So, in the middle of the heat of the summer, on this cooler week with cloudy days and threatening rain, let’s make a memory with a warm bowl of corn chowder and pray the rain stays a while.

Summer Corn Chowder and the Perfect Cornbread*
serves 6

4 teaspoons bacon, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 small onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice (1 cup)
2 ribs celery,cut into 1/2-inch dice (3/4 cup)
8 sprigs thyme
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 cups homemade or low-sodium canned chicken stock
3 ears yellow corn, kernels removed (about 2 1/2 cups)
5 ounces small fingerling potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
1 poblano chile, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 1/2 cups half-and-half

Place bacon in small stockpot over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until bacon is deep golden brown and all the fat has been rendered, about 4 minutes. Remove bacon with slotted spoon, transfer to paper towel, and set aside. Discard all but 2 tablespoons of bacon fat.

Add onions, celery, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste to stockpot; cook over medium-low heat until translucent, about 8 minutes. Add stock; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium; simmer 15 minutes.

Add corn, potatoes, and chile; cook until potatoes are tender, 10-20 minutes. Remove and discard thyme. Add half-and-half, and simmer until soup is hot. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, and garnish with the reserved crisp bacon pieces.

*recipe adapted from Martha Stewart Living

Cornbread

 

We only make one cornbread recipe, anymore.  The New Best Recipe is a wonderful encyclopedia of how to make every recipe basically, perfect.  We love this book and it never steers us wrong.  It’s quite bulky, but all the recipes are tested extensively and done in a myriad of ways, and they give a background as to why the recipes work.  It’s very trust-worthy and a definite go-to in times of need of a solid recipe!  Their Golden Northern Cornbread is our go-to cornbread recipe.  It’s light, fluffy, moist and slightly sweet.  Holds together beautifully to be a base for your bowl of soup, or just on the side with some cold butter.

The Best Golden Cornbread
makes 9 servings

2 tbs unsalted butter, melted, plus more for greasing the pan
1 cup (5 ounces) yellow cornmeal, preferably stone-ground
1 cup (5 ounces) AP flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
4 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup buttermilk
2/3 cup milk

Adjust an oven rack to the center position and heat the oven to 425 degrees.  Grease a 9 inch square baking pan with butter.

Whisk the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and salt together in a large bowl.  Push the dry ingredients up the sides of the bowl to make a well.

Crack the eggs into the well and stir lightly with a wooden spoon, then add the buttermilk and milk.  Stir the wet and dry ingredients quickly until almost combined.  Add the melted butter and stir until the ingredients are just combined.

Pour the batter into the greased pan (we actually love to use our cast-iron skillet for this recipe). Bake until the top of the cornbread is golden brown and lightly cracked and the edges have pulled away from the sides of the pan, about 25 minutes.

Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool slightly, 10 minutes.  Cut and serve warm!