Tag Archives: soup

Savory Beef Stew

Few things are more satisfying on a cold winter evening than a warm, comfy bowl of beef stew.  I love the way the aroma permeates the house, and even wafts outside to invite you in (and make all the neighbors jealous!).  I usually save this one for weekends or days when I’m free in the afternoons since I like to let it cook an hour or two so the beef can get really tender and wonderful.

I’m always amazed that people buy beef stew in a can.  It really tastes nasty compared to the real thing.  It might be different if beef stew was hard to make, but seriously folks, you dump things in a pot and let it cook for an hour or two.  You can do it!  It’s soooo worth the tiny bit of effort.

I never measure anything when I make this so it does tend to vary a bit from time to time, but I’ve made it so many times that this has become the standard version in my house.

A bowl full of love.

A bowl full of love.

Beef Stew

1-2 pounds stew meat or sirloin, cut into bite sized pieces
3 tbsp. flour
1 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. dried rosemary
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
2 tbsp. butter
4 plum tomatoes
1 cup red wine
4 cups beef broth
1 onion, chopped
8 oz. mushrooms, quartered
4 red potatoes, 1/2″ dice
4-5 carrots, sliced

Combine flour, pepper, salt, paprika, rosemary and Italian seasoning in a large ziplock bag.  Add beef to bag and shake up to coat all the pieces.  In a Dutch oven, melt 1 tbsp. butter over medium-high heat.  Add beef in batches (you want to leave a little space in between the pieces so they can brown instead of just steaming.  Brown on both sides and remove from pan, then add another tablespoon of butter and more beef until it is all done.

Brown the beef first for extra tenderness!

Brown the beef first for extra tenderness!

Add onions and tomatoes to pan.  Cook and stir one or two minutes.  Add broth, wine and beef back to pan.  Be sure to scrape the bottom of the pan to get all the little meat bits off.  It adds color and flavor to the soup, plus the bits of flour will help to thicken the broth as it cooks.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat. Cook on low for 45 minutes.

Starts out soupy but as it simmers, the flour from the beef and the veggies will thicken the broth as you go.

Starts out soupy but as it simmers, the flour from the beef and the veggies will thicken the broth.

Add potatoes, mushrooms and carrots.  Cook another 45 minutes or more, until veggies are tender.  Taste and add salt & pepper if needed.  At this point you can eat or let it simmer until dinnertime.

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Simplified Vietnamese-Style Beef Noodle Soup

Vietnamese food is one of my favorite cuisines.  I love the fresh flavors and the complexity of all the ingredients.  The little details are wonderful.  One signature dish is phó, a traditional soup full of flavor.  There are many ingredients in the traditional versions and one of these days, I plan take the time to do it up right.  This night, however, I was working with the fridge and pantry I had on hand, a short period of time and the inspiration of a beautiful dish.

While this is not a traditional recipe, this faux phó hits some of the high notes and comes together in no time for a simplified Asian-ish homey noodle soup that is wonderful no matter what the season or time of day.  If I had had bean sprouts I would have put a little bunch on top, but alas, I did not.  I made do with thinly sliced red bell pepper and the little cool crunch was just right.

Simplified Vietnamese-Style Beef Noodle Soup

Simplified Vietnamese-Style Beef Noodle Soup

Simplified Vietnamese-Style Beef Noodle Soup

8 oz. sirloin, sliced very thinly across the grain
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
1 tbsp. sesame oil
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
6 cups beef broth
6 oz. rice noodles
1 carrot, sliced thinly
1/2 cup green onion
1 tsp. lime juice
1/2 tsp. fish sauce
Red pepper matchsticks and/or bean sprouts for garnish

In a soup pot heat sesame oil over medium high heat.  Add sliced sirloin and crushed red pepper.  Stir fry until beef is browned.  Add mushrooms and carrot and continue to cook another 2-3 minutes.

Meanwhile, place noodles in a bowl and pour boiling water over them.  Let them soak for about 5-10 minutes until soft.

Add beef broth, fish sauce, and lime juice.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat.  Simmer for 10 minutes.  Add noodles and green onion.  Simmer another few minutes.  Adjust seasoning if needed.  Ladle into bowls and top with peppers and/or sprouts.

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Rooting for Soup

My daughter had FOUR teeth pulled this week.  After eating nothing but pudding for over 24 hours she was ready for something else.  Something that didn’t require chewing.  So I decided to make soup for dinner.  Or mashed potatoes.  And then I thought, how about mashed potato soup?  But then I thought, I have some other stuff that could go in that too.  Golden beets from farmer’s market (never tried them before, but why not?) and some other root veggies.  Mmmm, sounds like fall to me.  They all blended together to make one of the tastiest soups I have ever invented.  And that’s saying something!

Creamy Root Veggie Soup

Creamy Root Veggie Soup

1 large onion, chopped
6-8 russet potatoes, peeled and diced
4 golden beets, peeled and diced
1 large yam or sweet potato, peeled and diced
2-3 large carrots, peeled and diced
1 bay leaf
4-8 cups chicken or vegetable broth
Salt & pepper
1/4 cup butter
1 tsp. fresh thyme
3/4 cup heavy cream
Milk or extra broth if needed
Bacon (optional)

Saute onions in a little olive oil for a 2-3 minutes.  Add root vegetables and bay leaf.  Cover veggies with broth.  Bring to a boil, turn down to a low boil and cook for 15-20 minutes until tender.  Add butter and cream.  Using an immersion blender, puree the veggies.  Add salt & pepper and fresh thyme.  Add additional milk and or broth if the soup is too thick.  Cook bacon until crispy and crumble for garnish if desired.  Makes 4-6 main dish servings.

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Rustlin’ Up Some Chili

Cowboys have it figured out.  Fresh air.  Horses.  Chuck wagon.  Sleeping under the stars.  And along the way somewhere they discovered the perfect food.  Chili.  Chock full of protein & veggies.  Cooks in one pot on the stove (or campfire).  Does it get any easier -or tastier- than that?

Canned chili is disgusting.  And in my opinion, pointless.  Why would you eat a nasty can of something when it’s so easy to throw a bunch of stuff in a pot, come back 30 minutes later and find chili that is fresh and good?  Any cowboy worth his salt would throw that can to the cows and rustle up a batch on his own.  So hang up your spurs, throw on an apron, and get to rustlin’!

This is about the easiest recipe ever.  Sauté, throw things in, simmer.  I know there are a million recipes for chili, but even when I stray and try new things, I always return to my old standby.  For a vegetarian version, just leave the meat out.  It cooks in about 45 minutes from start to finish, and it’s even better the next day.  Plus the leftovers freeze very well. I like to make it in a double batch and freeze half of it in small containers for easy lunches later.

Three Bean Chili

April’s Three Bean Chili

1 onion, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound lean ground beef (optional)
2-3 tbsp. chili powder
2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. salt
1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes (with juice)
1 15 oz. can tomato sauce (or 2 small cans)
1 can black beans (drain & rinse)
1 can pinto beans (drain & rinse)
1 can kidney beans (drain & rinse)

Sauté onions, peppers and garlic in a drizzle of olive oil.  Add beef and continue to cook until it’s browned.  Add seasonings and stir to mix thoroughly.  Add tomatoes, tomato sauce and beans.  Mix well.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to simmer.  Cover and simmer for 30 minutes (or longer if you want).  Check seasonings.  Adjust if needed.  Chow time!

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Jalapeno-Ginger Butternut Squash Soup

I’ve had a love-hate relationship with squash most of my life.  Mostly hate.  A couple of bad squash experiences in my youth made me sure I would dislike it for eternity.  But then, at a wonderful restaurant in Missouri, I ate butternut squash soup that changed my mind completely.  Velvety, flavorful, with just a touch of sweetness and cream.  I was in love.  With a squash. It was short-lived, since I ate it.  But it lived on in my memory.

Since that fateful day, I’ve eaten butternut squash several times, with varying degrees of success.  Until now, I’ve never actually cooked one.  I hadn’t really thought about it.  But then the other day I found the cutest squash at the store and I just wanted to bring him home.  So I did.  Then I went in search of something to do with him.  As it turned out for the recipe I found I needed a friend for my first little guy.

Butternut squash. Aren't they adorable?

As fate would have it (their fate – not mine so much) I also bought a new kitchen toy for myself this week that I was just itching to break in.

My cool stick blender! Yay!

Oh yes!  Squash meets stick blender.  But that comes later.  First I had to wrestle these two squashes into submission, which was admittedly not as easy as I expected.  Note to self: buy better vegetable peeler.  But I did get them peeled, seeded and chopped eventually.  Afterward, I read the note at the end of the recipe saying you can actually buy it already peeled and cut up.  But where’s the fun in that, huh?

This soup was terrific.  Uniquely spiced with a hint of jalapeno and ginger, it was velvety in texture, with just the right amount of sweetness and spice.  Wondering if your kids will eat it?  Claire (age 11) was a bit trepidatious at first.  But she was a convert after the first bite, ate two big bowls, and requested the leftovers for breakfast.  It probably didn’t hurt that she got to help me blend it up.  She also discovered love for a new ingredient – creme fraiche.  Luke  (16) loved it too, but there’s not much in the food world that doesn’t make him happy.

Jalapeno-Ginger Butternut Squash Soup

Jalapeno-Ginger Butternut Squash Soup
(found on myrecipes.com)

2 tbsp. olive oil
6 gloves garlic, chopped
2 tbsp. grated fresh ginger
1 jalapeno chile, seeded and chopped
1 tbsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cayenne
4 pounds butternut squash, peeled and cut into 2 inch cubes
3 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
3 cups water
1 tbsp. brown sugar
3 tbsp. heavy whipping cream
Creme fraîche (optional)

Heat olive oil in large pot over med-high heat.  Add garlic, ginger, jalapeno, and salt.  Cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant but not yet browned, 1-2 minutes.  Add cayenne and cook for 30 seconds.  Add squash, broth, brown sugar and 3 cups water.  Bring to a boil, lower heat to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until squash is tender, about 20 minutes.  In a blender, puree the soup in batches until smooth and return to pot (or use a stick blender in the pot until it’s all smooth).  Stir in cream and adjust seasonings if needed.  Serve hot, with a swirl of creme fraîche if desired.

Makes 6-8 servings (169 calories per serving)

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Creamy White Chicken Chili

Lots of people have cookie exchanges.  But not me.  Could this be because I’m too selfish to share all of my cookies?  Maybe.  Or could it be that the last time I went to a cookie exchange I lost all control and ate so much sugar I made myself sick and had a migraine for 2 days?  That could be it.  Cookies are dangerous, folks!

This fall I decided to have a soup exchange instead.  A small group of people came to my house, loaded down with containers of the homemade soup of their choice to trade with friends.  We ate soup.  We oohed and aahed over each other’s offerings and we all ended the day with a freezer full of soup.  It was a happy day.  A few weeks later a post appeared on my Facebook wall, saying, “I need that recipe for White Chicken Chili.  NEED!”

Now you might be tempted to play around with this recipe to make it healthier, substituting low-fat milk for whipping cream, or light sour cream for the real stuff.  Don’t do it!  In my experience, using the lighter substitutes in this recipe affects the texture and taste, and the light sour cream has a tendency to curdle, which grosses me out.  Make this soup when you feel like indulging and appreciate it for the full fat, creamy wonderfulness that it is.

This recipe is easy to double, which I almost always do, since I like to have leftovers for the next day.  I always make this recipe with chicken, but I think it would lend itself well to a vegetarian version.  I would recommend adding some extra veggies and/or beans if you decide to go that way.

Creamy White Chicken Chili

Creamy White Chicken Chili

1 pound chicken breast or thighs, cut into bite sized pieces
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 cans great northern beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups chicken broth
1 8 oz. can chopped green chiles
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. dry oregano
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup whipping cream
Avocado (for garnish, if desired)

Saute chicken, onion & garlic in oil until chicken is no longer pink and onion is soft.  Add beans, broth, chiles and seasonings.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes.  In a separate bowl mix sour cream and whipping cream.  Remove soup from heat and stir in sour cream mixture.  Serve immediately.  I like to top this off with some diced avocado & tortilla chips.

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Project Veggie: Day 23 – Asparagus Soup

It was bound to happen.  Cooking every night for 30 days, making tons of new recipes, trying unfamiliar things, bragging about my many successes…it was probably inevitable.  Recipe fail.  And the worst part is it was all my fault.

Spring is coming.  That makes me think of asparagus, among other things.  It’s one of the first spring veggies to come into season and I love it.  I wanted cream of asparagus soup.  So I was looking for the perfect recipe to try since I’ve never made it before.  While I was looking I came across a recipe for a Greek-style asparagus soup.  It sounded intriguing.  Different.  Maybe a little weird but I’m okay with that.  The picture looked great.  And it had a cool name: Asparagus Avgolemono.

But here’s the problem:  I got cocky.  I didn’t follow my own cardinal rule. Whenever I make a new recipe, I follow it the first time. That’s my rule.  It’s a good rule.  I tend to play with it from there but the first time I do it the way the author intended, to get a baseline.  I should state that I actually think this would be a good recipe if it was followed correctly.  It tasted good.  The thing I didn’t like, which was caused by the changes I made, was the texture.  First, I doubled the recipe, which for most recipes is no big deal, but might have had a bad effect in this case.  The second thing I did was add more pasta.  It just didn’t seem like enough, and I wanted this to be a hearty main dish soup so I added more.  The third thing I did was puree some of it to make it thicker before I finished it.  I should have waited until it was done and seen how thick it was to begin with before doing things to make it thicker.  I also added some parmesan cheese on top as a garnish, which didn’t improve things.  What I ended up with was something that had a good flavor, but a thick, gloppy texture that I did not enjoy.  Luke loved it and ate two or three bowls, so maybe it was just me.

I’m determined to try this one again, and follow the directions, and hopefully have a better outcome.  In the meantime, I will say this one was less than successful.  But if you want to try it, here’s the recipe I SHOULD have followed.  Don’t deviate.

Asparagus Avgolemono

Asparagus Avgolemono
(from Moosewood Restaurant Simple Suppers)

I quart veggie broth
1/4 cup pastina or orzo
2 cups asparagus, cut into 1 inch lengths
1 tbsp. fresh dill, chopped
2 eggs
2 tbsp. lemon juice
Salt & pepper

In a soup pot, bring the broth to a boil.  Add the pasta and cook until almost al dente.  Add the asparagus and dill and simmer until the asparagus is just tender, about 5 minutes.  While the asparagus cooks, in a bowl, whisk the eggs and lemon juice.  When the asparagus is tender, whisk a ladleful of the hot broth into the egg-lemon mixture.  Lower the heat and slowly pour the egg mixture into the soup in a thin stream, stirring briskly all the while.  Continue to stir until the soup is thickened somewhat and heated through, a couple of minutes.  Constant stirring and low heat prevent the eggs from curdling.  Add salt & pepper to taste.

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Project Veggie: Day 15 – Black Bean Soup

Today marks the halfway point of Project Veggie.  I’m happy to report we are doing great!  I feel terrific, have lots of energy and haven’t been missing the meat at all.  We may just keep going with it after the month is up.

My daughter, Claire, has a recurring dream.  She calls it the “monster stealing my soup” dream.  She gets up from the table for something and when she returns there is a tiny, poofy, green monster who grabs her bowl of soup and disappears.  The only thing that changes is the kind of soup.  I’d like to think the underlying cause of these dreams is the irresistible soup I make.

One year for Christmas my dad and stepmom gave me two Calphalon hard-anodized pans.  One soup pot, and one sauce pan.  This was about 15 years ago and I still have them and they are still like new, and my favorite pans.  They are indestructible.  I wish I had an entire set.  They came with a little cookbook that I’ve used so much it’s fallen apart and is now being held together by binder clips.  Whenever I make a recipe out of a cookbook, I draw a face on it describing how I feel about it for future reference.  This book is riddled with happy faces.  One of the happy faces is on the recipe for Black Bean Soup.  It’s quick, easy to make, and very satisfying.  But beware, it’s so good a monster may try to steal it!

Black Bean Soup

Black Bean Soup
(adapted from Weeknights, by Calphalon Cooks)

1 tbsp. olive oil
2 onions, chopped
6 cloves garlic
1 green bell pepper, chopped (optional)
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
3 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can stewed tomatoes with onion, celery, and green bell pepper
1 tbsp. minced fresh cilantro
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
sour cream
lemon wedges
Salt & pepper

Saute onions, pepper and garlic in oil about 5 minutes.  Add cumin and saute 5 minutes more until onions are soft.  Stir in beans, tomatoes, cilantro and oregano.  Remove from heat.  Spoon into a blender or food processor a portion at a time.  Puree coarsely – there should still be some whole beans.  Return to cooking pan and add broth.  Bring to boil.  Taste and add salt & pepper if needed.  Ladle into soup bowls and finish with a swirl of sour cream and a squeeze of lemon.  Serves 4.


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Project Veggie: Day 7 – Potato Broccoli Soup

This marks the end of week one of Project Veggie.  I’m happy to say that I’ve felt great, and it has not been difficult at all to stick to the plan.  We’ve eaten some great food, and enjoyed cooking and planning meals together.  I have even discovered I enjoy writing these little blogs and get a tiny (huge!) thrill when I find out people are reading it, commenting, subscribing…how cool is that?

At the beginning of January, I started a “Biggest Loser” contest with my family.  Hoping to lose a few pounds, I counted calories and started exercising.  In the first 6 weeks I lost 3 or 4 pounds…and gained them…and lost them again.  I went to my dreaded weekly weigh-in yesterday and in the last week, I’ve lost 2.5 pounds!  My exercise this week consisted of making it 20 minutes into a 1 hour Bob Harper DVD where he promised to transform my body (didn’t happen this time, but I’m still hopeful), one 25 minute walk, and a couple of hours of “Just Dance” on the wii with Claire.  I didn’t count a single calorie .  So, I could be wrong, but I’m thinking all the veggies and no meat might have something to do with it.  We’ll see how the scale looks next week.

Yesterday I started doing battle with a little head cold.  Which meant two things.  Dinner needed to be something easy, quick and warm & comforting.  I guess that’s four things.

Back in art school my roommate Terry taught me how to make potato soup, and being one of a very small handful of things we actually knew how to cook we ate it a lot.  I’ve played with the recipe some since then, but it’s still one of my go-to soups for when I just want a belly full of love and warmth.  Recently I changed up the recipe some to add more veggies, turning it into a potato broccoli soup.  Of course I didn’t write down the recipe, throwing things in the pot at random as I am wont to do.  So I was determined to do my best to reproduce that lovely concoction and actually put it in writing this time.  I think this batch actually turned out even better than the first one.

A bowl full of love.

Potato Broccoli Soup

3 leeks, sliced – white and light green parts only
1/2 red or orange bell pepper, diced
1 stick butter
4-6 russet potatoes, peeled & cubed
1-2 cups chopped broccoli
approximately 4 cups of milk (I used 1% but any kind you have will work)
1-2 tsp. salt
1-2 tsp. pepper
1-2 tsp. dill
pinch of paprika
cheddar cheese for topping (optional)

Saute leeks and peppers with butter in a skillet over medium heat.  When they are soft, put in a blender or food processor with a cup of milk and puree.  Meanwhile, put potatoes in a pot, cover with water and bring to a boil.  Boil 5 minutes or so, then add broccoli.  Cook another 10-15 minutes until veggies are soft.  Drain off most of the water, put back on stove.  Add leek & pepper puree to the potato mixture.  Add another cup of milk, and use a potato masher to mash around in there.  I like to break it down, but still leave plenty of chunks.  Feel free to puree the whole thing, part of it, or  none of it, depending on the texture of soup you like.  I prefer the masher method.  Add seasonings, starting with one teaspoon each of salt, pepper & dill and adding more if needed.  Add a pinch of paprika.  Add more milk until it is the consistency you like.  It’s easier to add more than to take it away, so add a little at a time, stirring in between.  Heat through and serve.  I like mine with some shredded cheese on top and some toasted bread on the side.

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