Archive for the ‘Soups’ Category

Snow Day Lasagna Soup

December 9, 2018

It’s been too long!  I’ve done some cooking, some traveling, some eating out in the meantime.  But today is a snow day, which means kitchen time and binge-watching tv.  And, of course, taking video of the puppy’s first snow.  I love days like this!

An ad for something called “Instant Pot Lasagna Soup” came across my news feed last week.  I don’t have an Instant Pot.  I feel no need for one.  There was a link to a slow cooker version.  Getting closer.  But on a snow day, I don’t need a hands off solution.  I’m here.  I have time to stir.  And in this case, that’s the only difference between the slow cooker version and the stove top soup pot version.  The stirring.

How do you make a soup version of lasagna?  Basically, you make the goopy filling you’d make for a regular lasagna and add a bunch of liquid to it.  Soup.  The great thing about it is that the filling part can be anything you want. I used a combination of sausage, beef, and turkey in this one.  If you’d usually make a vegetarian lasagna, by all means, do that. Sub in veggie crumbles instead of the meat. This would be great with zucchini and mushrooms.  And what’s even better is that you don’t have to worry about whether it’s going to fall apart when you cut it.  It’s supposed to be soupy!

Now, let’s talk noodles.  Lots of options here too.  What kind of noodles?  I decided to use lasagna noodles broken into pieces.  You could use rotini or radiatore or baby shells, whatever.  You can cook them in the soup.  You can cook them ahead of time and add them to the pot.  You can cook them and portion them into individual bowls.  What you need to consider is your leftovers plan.  If you’re sure you won’t have leftovers, cook the noodles in the soup.  They’ll take on the flavor of the soup.  If you’re mostly sure you won’t have leftovers, but then again maybe, cook the noodles separately and add them to the pot. They’ll take on some of the soup liquid.  Beware that the noodles in the leftovers might be a little mushy.  If you’ve planned for leftovers, cook the noodles separately and put them in individual bowls.  You can either cook all the noodles you’ll need and just store them separately or you can cook fresh ones each time you have leftovers.

This stuff looks, tastes, and smells amazing.  Coming in from playing in the snow to this aroma is a gift.  Truly.  But I noticed that I didn’t have any vegetables.  And since I’m still not convinced that lettuce won’t jump up and kill me at any moment (Google romaine and e coli if you want more info on that), I decided to add some kale to the pot.  I got some end of season lacinato kale at the farmers’ market yesterday so I chopped and added most of the bunch to the pot.  If you’re going to add a hardy green to the pot, just make sure the soup is at a solid simmer.  You want the greens to cook, not just wilt.  If you’re using a softer leaf like spinach, a wilt will do just fine.

Hey now, you’re saying, the best part of a lasagna is the cheesy goodness!  Worry not.  You have a lot of options in the cheese department too.  You can add a dollop of ricotta to the bottom of each bowl before you ladle the soup in.  You can (and should) top each bowl with mozzarella and Parmesan.  Or both!  In this case I used SausageCraft Della Nonna sausage, which has some cheese mixed right into the sausage.  Yummmm.  If you want to make it extra special, use oven safe crocks so you can brown the mozzarella in the broiler before serving!

If you don’t have a lasagna recipe that you’re already using, feel free to follow this one.  This will make 4-6 servings.

Here’s what you need:

  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 C diced onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 lb each, italian sausage, ground beef, and ground turkey
  • 2 T tomato paste
  • 1 can (14 oz) or pint jar peeled tomatoes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 C dry red wine (save the rest for dinner!)
  • 1-2 t dried oregano
  • 1-2 t dried basil
  • 2-3 C stock (vegetable or chicken)
  • 1 small bunch lacinato kale, stemmed and chopped

Here’s what you do:

  • In a medium pot, cook the pasta; set aside

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  • In a large, heavy pot, heat the oil until it shimmers
  • Add the onion and garlic
  • Cook until the onion is soft
  • Add the meat; cook until it’s browned

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  • Stir in the tomato paste

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  • Stir in the tomatoes, wine and spices

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At this point what you’ve got is lasagna filling.

  • Add the stock

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Now it’s soup!

  • Bring to a simmer
  • Cover the pot and cook 30-60 minutes
  • Increase the heat to achieve a low boil
  • Add the kale

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  • Reduce heat and simmer 15-20 minutes.
  • Add pasta to each bowl; ladle soup over the noodles
  • Add some mozzarella and parmesan

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How was it?

First, it’s exactly as advertised.  It’s lasagna in a bowl!  Nothing to complain about there.  I really like the broken lasagna noodles. My advice – leave the pieces big enough that you really notice them.  It’s much more like lasagna that way.  And as delightful as the mozzarella is, it sticks to the spoon as much as anything.  I don’t like having to scrape it off with my teeth. I might try the leftovers with just the parmesan.  Or maybe cubes of fresh mozzarella instead.

If you’re going to add a kale or chard, add some extra stock or water as well. The greens soak up a lot of liquid and you still want it to be like soup.  I really liked the kale addition though.  I’d definitely do that again.

I’m super happy with my meat choices.  The beef and turkey were very lean and the sausage added just enough fat to add amazing flavor and a silky texture to the broth.  So, not a lot of fat and I didn’t miss it.  But I think I’d be happy with a vegetarian version too.

All in all, the perfect snow day dinner!  All the food groups; warm and comfort-y;  and only a bowl to wash.  I might even have some in the morning after the snow shoveling!

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Farewell Fresh: Potato and Corn Chowder

November 17, 2018

It’s gotten cold here in Virginia.  And I worked pretty hard today – run this morning; housecleaning; and I braved the Kroger the Saturday before Thanksgiving.  There ought to be a badge for that!  But as usual, I bought the stuff I need to make Thanksgiving desserts, but no actual food.  Fortunately I had one more Hello Fresh meal!  Chowder was exactly the right thing for tonight.

There’s a fair amount of chopping in this one, and a fairly long cooking time, but it’s not hard.  The only challenge is adding the milk to the floury vegetables and getting a smooth base.  You’re making gravy here.  Just add a little milk.  Stir until it’s incorporated.  It’ll be thick and glumpy still.  Add a little more.  Stir it in.  There’s a cup of milk and I added it in 5 stages.  By the end it’s very soupy, but it doesn’t have any lumps!  And be sure you bring it all the way to a boil before you start to simmer.  It’s the boiling that helps thicken the chowder.

I simmered it for 12 minutes.  You want the potatoes to be tender, but not soft.  They need to hold their shape.  The corn is yellow and had very large kernels, almost as large as the potato pieces.  It adds a very nice hit of sweetness against the heat of the poblano.  Hello Fresh provided a medium cheddar, which was fine.  On my own I would have used extra sharp. I just like that extra tang.

What’s my favorite thing about this chowder?  The smoked paprika.  It’s a fantastic way to add to add some smoky, almost meaty, depth to a vegetarian dish.  Chowder often has bacon or ham to elevate a dish that’s otherwise mostly potatoes and milk.  No need here.  The smoked paprika does its job.

This is another recipe that makes way more than 2 people need for dinner.  I had a bowl and a half tonight and there are easily 2 and maybe 3 servings left in the pot.  Between this and the orzotto from yesterday (and Thanksgiving!), I’ve got lunch taken care of for the week!

My only word of caution – the poblano isn’t a very hot pepper, but it still stings if you get the juice on your fingers and touch your face.  I speak from experience.

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Thai-ing to Beat a Cold: Coconut Rice Noodles with Ginger and Eggplant

November 5, 2018

I’ve got a few things working against me this week – end of daylight savings (I hate the time change); cold and damp to warm and rainy weather; and some nasty sinus stuff.  Add to that a pretty busy schedule over the last few days and I’m feeling a little run down.  Gotta get myself together before my half marathon on Saturday.  Time for some soup!

I’ve had eggplant on the brain for a week or so, but I’ve never made a soup with eggplant in it.  Melissa Clark’s Dinner: Changing the Game to the rescue again.  I found this recipe for a Thai soup with rice noodles.  It’s a little bit strange in that it’s designed around summer vegetables.  I couldn’t quite wrap my brain around a Thai coconut curry with corn and tomatoes so I made some omissions and substitutions.  No corn or tomatoes.  Added mushrooms and green onions.  I stuck with the spinach because I had some left from last week.  I used chicken stock because I had that leftover too, but vegetable stock would have been my preference.

I only made a half a recipe, two servings, which I think I might be sorry about!

Here’s what you need: 2 entree servings

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  • 2-3 oz rice noodles, prepared according to the package
  • 1 hot chile, seeded and chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 inch piece ginger, peeled
  • 1/2 t curry powder
  • 3 T vegetable oil
  • 1/2 C cilantro leaves
  • zest and juice of 1 lime
  • 1 large eggplant, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 2-3 oz sliced mushrooms
  • 1/2 onion, sliced
  • 1 C stock, chicken or vegetable
  • 1 C coconut milk (lite is fine)
  • 1 T fish sauce
  • 1 handful fresh spinach
  • 1 large green onion, chopped
  • 1 T fresh basil, chopped

I know.  It’s a long list.  The good news is that you don’t have to mince the garlic, ginger, chile, and cilantro because you’re going to stick them in a food processor or blender and make a paste.  That will save some time.  Buy the mushrooms pre-sliced. And you don’t have to chop the spinach at all.  So, it’s not as bad as you think.

If you have a wide, deep pan, that will work well.  You want to have a big enough surface to brown the eggplant and other vegetables in a single layer, but you need it to be deep enough for the soupy part.

Here’s what you do:

  • In a blender or small food processor combine garlic, ginger, chile, curry powder and 1 T oil.  Pulse until it’s well blended.  Add the cilantro leaves and lime zest.  Pulse until it becomes a paste.  Set aside.

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  • Heat 2 T oil in a large pan.  Add eggplant and saute until browned. 6-8 minutes.  Remove the eggplant from the pan.  Add the onions and mushrooms.  Saute until they soften.  5-6 minutes.  Stir in the spice paste and cook 1 minute.
  • Add the stock and coconut milk.  Bring to a simmer.
  • Add the eggplant back to the pan along with the fish sauce.  Saute 5 minutes, until eggplant is soft.
  • Stir in spinach.  Cook 1 minute.  Add lime juice and basil.

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  • Divide cooked rice noodles among the bowls and top with the soup.
  • Garnish with green onions and cilantro leaves

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A few tips.  When you’re making the spice paste, go ahead and include the cilantro stems.  They’re tender and they have a lot of flavor. No need to waste them since you’re making a paste.  Also, measure the fish sauce.  The best way to describe the flavor of fish sauce is funky.  It’s a great addition, but too much is really too much.  Make sure you get a good sear on the eggplant.  That will help it keep its shape in the broth.  Finally, if you have leftovers, store the noodles and soup separately or your noodles will be mushy when you reheat it.  You can heat up the noodles by dunking them briefly in hot water.  That will also separate them.

Here’s how it turned out:

So good.  Really, so, so good.  When I make it next time, and there will be a next time, I’ll use more chile.  The thai chiles didn’t look good at the store so I bought jalapenos. (I’m making Mexican later in the week).  Jalapenos are much milder than thai chiles so I should have used more of them.  Better to have too little heat than too much, but more heat would really add something to this dish.  Still, there’s something truly wonderful about the mixture of coconut milk, lime juice and fish sauce.  The eggplant is soft but not slimy and not bitter at all.  The spinach is optional, but add it if you have it.  It looks pretty, doesn’t have a strong flavor, and adds an extra vegetable.

This was perfect for an evening that’s cold and damp and that got dark at 5pm!

A Very Fond Farewell to Greenway: Beef and Butternut Chili

October 14, 2018

Frequently you hear me reference things I got at the farmers’ market.  That’s no mistake.  I buy as many things as I can from local farmers.  I like knowing the people that provide my food.  I like knowing that it comes from nearby.  That it wasn’t trucked from hundreds or thousands of miles away.  I like being educated about what’s in season when for my region.  I have a great appreciation for the tremendous amount of work that goes into running a farm.  And a great admiration for the families that take it on.

I have been buying beef from the Clark family at Greenway Beef for a good many years now.  Anyone who has eaten pot roast or London Broil or short ribs or hamburger or chili at my house has eaten Greenway Beef.  The Clarks are lovely people, local to me, and also distribute pork, chicken and vegetables for other local providers.  I’ve grown quite fond of them.  Mike taught me that cooking grass-fed beef requires different things than grain-fed beef.

Recently I learned that Mike Clark has decided to retire.  Well deserved for sure.  Cattle ranching is hard work.  Being committed to providing hormone-free, antibiotic-free meat is no easy thing either.  Getting ready for and showing up at farmers’ markets weekend after weekend is hard work.  But I’m having a hard time imagining not having Greenway Beef around.  Where will I get the best bacon in the world now? (Crabill’s)  Who will sell me white acre peas?  Hamburgers made with some other beef?  Hard to believe.  I stocked up yesterday because it was Mike’s last day at the market.

So, to the Clark family I say, thank you.  I know that the work was hard, but it mattered.  I don’t know that you can ask more than that.  Your life’s work mattered.  Feeding people matters.  I’ve enjoyed supporting your family while you were supporting mine.  Know that you will be missed.  Enjoy your retirement!

So, tonight we have Beef and Butternut chili, thanks to Greenway Beef.

Chili is one of those things that doesn’t really have a recipe.  You can make it any way you like:  beef, pork, chicken, with or without beans, only beans, with veggie crumbles, whatever you like.  This is a tomato chili with beef, onions, garlic, and beans and butternut and green chiles.  Throw in a pumpkin beer, some chili powder and cumin and you’re done.  I make my chili on the mild side so that it works for everyone.  You can always add Tabasco or Texas Pete or jalapenos to kick up the heat if you want.  I serve those things on the side.

A couple of things about the ingredients.  I am very fortunate to have many quarts of home canned tomatoes in my basement.  Canning is a hobby of mine.  The tomatoes are background in this chili, so feel free to use cheap ones.  Save the San Marzanos for something else.  I used an Aleworks Pumpkin beer.  It’s my favorite of the pumpkins.  nice sweetness and pie spice.  It goes well with the butternut.  Use whatever you like.

You’ll see I also used pre-cut butternut.  I almost never buy pre-cut vegetables.  I like being in the kitchen so the chopping doesn’t bother me.  Except for butternut squash.  I hate cutting a butternut squash.  They’re super hard and tend to roll.  And then you have to cut the rind off.  If you’re going to cut your own, use a large and very sharp knife.  No shame in buying the pre-cut though.  I did cut this a little finer so it wouldn’t overwhelm the beef and beans.

Here’s what I used tonight (listed above):

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Here’s what you do:

  • Start with a big, heavy pot
  • Drain and rinse the beans
  • Brown the beef, garlic and onions
  • Mix in 2-3 T tomato paste, cook 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently

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  • Add a quart of canned tomatoes, with juice
  • Add salt, chili powder and cumin
  • Add beans and green chiles
  • Add cubed butternut squash

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  • There’s not enough liquid in here to cook the butternut well.  Add 1 bottle pumpkin beer or water or stock if you prefer.
  • Bring to a simmer; put the top on the pot, slightly askew
  • Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the chili thickens
  • If the butternut is too firm, put the top fully on the pot and simmer until it’s done

This is good chili, though not spicy enough for me.  I should have added slightly more chile powder at the beginning.  I like the slight sweetness of the butternut.  The mix of textures with the beef and beans and butternut is really nice.  I served mine with a little Tabasco and some plain greek yogurt.

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Seafood Sunday Fish Chowder

August 26, 2018

One more kitchen adventure for today.  (See earlier posts for today’s fried green tomatoes and quiche). I honestly have no idea when Seafood Sunday became a thing in One Woman’s Kitchen, but it seems to be a thing.  Tonight it’s fish chowder.  Yesterday I bought a beautiful piece of grouper at the farmers’ market.  I planned to have a lovely dinner last night, but I had no recipe in mind and I was way too tired to deal with it so I had crab dip (also purchased at the farmers’ market) and pita chips instead.  As it turns out, it works out well since I also bought a box of potatoes at the market and some corn.  Chowder it is!

Chowder might seem a little weird for August.  Heavy soup when it’s 80+ degrees?  But actually it’s exactly the right thing for summer.  The seafood is fresh and so is the corn and the new potatoes were dug 48 hours ago.  Can’t beat that.  I threw a salad on the side to make it a little lighter.  Some artisan lettuce, mandarin oranges, and olives.  Nice sweetness, citrus, and brine to balance out the creamy chowder.  Yum!

There are only a few ingredients in chowder so they should be good ones.  The fish, potatoes, corn, and broth should all be top notch if you can swing it.  I give myself an A on everything except the broth.  I bought a can of chicken broth.  Sometimes sacrifices have to be made for convenience sake.

What’s interesting, and great, about this chowder is that the fish mostly steams in the pot with the heat turned off.  That means you’re at much lower risk of having over cooked, rubbery fish.  Always a risk for me in seafood soups.   That 10 minutes when it’s just sitting also gives you time to put together a salad or have a little wine or slice some bread.

Amazingly enough I made a relatively small batch of this so only another meal or two.  This is key in seafood dishes since the leftovers only last so long.

So, here’s what you need for 3-4 servings:  you don’t really need the rose, but it’s a nice addition for the cooking process!

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  • 1 T butter
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • kernels from 1 ear of corn
  • 2 C cubed potatoes
  • 2 C chicken broth
  • 1 T herbes de Provence
  • 1/2-3/4 lb of firm white fish
  • 1/2 C heavy cream
  • 2 slices cooked bacon for crumbling

Here’s what you do:

  • Melt the butter in a medium soup pot
  • Add onions and celery, saute 5-6 minutes
  • Add corn and potatoes
  • Add chicken broth, making sure it covers the potatoes.  Add water to cover if needed.
  • Add the herbs and some salt.  You’ll want to add more salt than you think you need.  It needs to penetrate the potatoes and fish.

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  • Bring to a boil.  Boil 10 minutes.  Until the potatoes are tender on the outside and firm in the middle.
  • Add the fish.  Reduce heat to achieve a low boil.  Boil 5 minutes.
  • Cover and turn off the heat.
  • Let the soup sit 10 minutes.  The fish will finish cooking.
  • Stir in cream.

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  • If the chowder is too thin, whisk in 1 T of flour and bring the chowder to bubble.  When the consistency is right for you, turn off the heat.
  • Ladle into bowls and crumble bacon over each one.  Add chives or green onions if you like.
  • Serve with bread or crackers and a salad.

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How was it?

I love hearty chowder.  The potatoes and fish go so well together.  The corn adds a little sweetness and the bacon adds a smoky, salty finish.  And the salad with oranges and olives is a terrific balance.  Works for lunch or dinner.  Or serve the chowder as a first course with a seafood platter or nicoise salad.  I’m looking forward to the leftovers!

Umamen! Ramen Take 2

April 29, 2018

I spent my morning standing out in the cold and wind waiting to start an 8K.  Just one part of a very busy weekend.  Comfort food needed.  If possible, comfort food not full of fat.  I know, you’re thinking, um, ramen?  Ramen noodles have plenty of fat.  Thus, the Umamen.  These are udon noodles!  And rich miso and mushroom broth.  And lots of vegetables.  Comfort food.

This is kind of a combination of two recipes, with my own twists thrown in.  Check out the originals here and here.  The first is a vegetarian ramen recipe from umamigirl.com and the second is a buckwheat bowl from Cooking Light.  My version is partly “what I had left in the vegetable drawer” and partly “what looked good at the grocery store.”  I wanted to use bok choy, but it looked awful.  This may be the first ramen with swiss chard in it.  No idea why I picked up the leeks, but here they are.  I had a box of shiitake mushrooms and some carrots left from last week.  I had some udon noodles left from God knows when.  Throw in some green onions and soft boiled eggs and there you have it.  Vegetarian comfort food.  (A little Hardywood Gingerbread Stout added some comfort too).

Honestly, this isn’t easy.  It has a lot of parts and needs a fair amount of tending.  There’s a lot of “bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer.”  The eggs are a little fragile so peeling them takes some care.  You have to pay pretty careful attention to the order in which you add things or you’ll have mushy things or under-cooked things.  Not something to make while you’re doing laundry or packing lunches or talking on the phone.  So, pour yourself a beverage and settle in when you start this.  Of course you can do your chopping ahead of time.

Here’s what you need for the broth: 

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  • 1 T sesame oil
  • 1 C diced onion
  • 1 inch piece of ginger, minced
  • 2 T red miso paste
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 C vegetable stock (stock, not broth – if you use broth use 8 C broth and no water)
  • 4 C water
  • 1/2 ounce dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 1/4 C soy sauce
  • 2-4 eggs

Here’s what you do:

  • Heat the sesame oil in a soup pot
  • Saute the onions, ginger and miso until the onions are soft
  • Add the ginger.  Saute 1-2 minutes,
  • Add stock, water dried mushrooms and soy sauce to taste
  • Bring to a boil
  • Add eggs in shell
  • Reduce broth to a simmer.  Cook 7 minutes.

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  • Remove eggs to an ice water bath.
  • Peel eggs and set aside.

Here’s what you need for the umamen: (use whatever you have or like)

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TIP:  Add vegetables in decreasing order of cooking time.  Hardest vegetables first and soft ones at the end.

  • 1 C sliced carrots
  • 1 large leek, cleaned and sliced
  • 2 cups chopped swiss chard
  • 8 oz sliced shiitake mushrooms
  • 1/2 C sliced green onions
  • 2 bundles udon noodles

Here’s what you do next:

  • Bring the broth to a boil.  Add leeks and carrots.

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  • Reduce heat to a simmer.  Simmer 10-12 minutes.
  • Bring the broth to a boil.  Add chard, mushroom and noodles.

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  • Reduce heat slightly.  Cook until the noodles are done.
  • Serve with a soft boiled egg and top with green onions.  Add more soy sauce to taste.

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Here’s how it turned out:

Rich and comforting.  I honestly wouldn’t have said that a vegetable stock could be this rich and creamy, but it absolutely is. The starch from the udon noodles thickens the broth just enough that this dish feels hearty and a little light all at the same time.  The miso and mushroom broth has lots of depth and complexity.  You could use a variety of vegetables here.  Bok choy or napa cabbage instead of chard.  Red bell pepper instead of, or in addition to, carrots.  Maybe a drizzle of sesame oil on the top.  Definitely more ginger.  Maybe some rice wine vinegar.

Take out the egg to make it vegan.  Add some beef or tofu or edamame to bring up the protein.  The options are endless. Umamen!

Chickpea and Cauliflower Curry

March 19, 2018

It’s Meatless Monday!  I had a fridge fully of vegetables that needed to become something so I started roasting them.  You can use roasted vegetables in place of raw vegetables in most things and you get the extra flavor.  It also shortens the cooking time of the dish you use them in.  So today I have roasted broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and garlic.  I did a search on epicurious.com for roasted cauliflower to give me some inspiration.

I found this recipe for chickpea curry with cauliflower, tomatoes, and spinach.  Perfect. All things I have.  One of my favorite chickpea curries is a Thai curry with cauliflower and coconut milk that I make in the Crock-Pot.  Having another chickpea curry in my repertoire seemed like a really good idea.

This is super good and super healthy.  I ate it like stew so no rice or bread.  I only wish I’d had a little plain yogurt to dollop on top!

Here’s what you need:

  • 2 t olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  •  1 T ginger, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 T curry powder
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained
  • 1-1/2 C water
  • 1 small head cauliflower, cut and roasted
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes
  • 3 C fresh spinach, stemmed
  • chopped cilantro, optional

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Here’s what you do:

  • Heat the oil in a large pot until it begins to smoke
  • Add the onions.  Cook until golden brown.

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  • Add the ginger, garlic, and curry powder.  Stir for 1 minute.
  • Add the chickpeas and water.  Salt the water (1-2 t).  Bring to a boil.  Cover.  Cook 7-10 minutes, until the chickpeas are tender.

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  • Add the cauliflower and tomatoes.  Simmer uncovered another 7-10 minutes, until the cauliflower and tomatoes are heated through.
  • Stir in the spinach, in batches if needed to make it fit.  When the spinach is wilted, salt to taste.

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Here’s how it turned out:

Yum!  I like that this is definitely curry, but not overly spicy.  I love a curry that makes your nose run, but not all the time.  With the spinach and fresh tomatoes, this has just the right early Spring feel about it.

I feel like it’s pretty versatile.  You could definitely serve it over rice to bulk it up.  You could dish it up with a slotted spoon to drain the liquid and serve it as a side dish.  You could add some chicken or shrimp.  Have fun with it!

Here’s the inspiration recipe for you to check out!

Tip Be careful biting into these tomatoes.  They are flaming hot on the inside.  If you bite into one it’s going to squirt lava hot tomato all over the inside of your mouth.  Maybe cut them first.

Thai Chicken Soup

March 12, 2018

We had a snowy afternoon here in Central Virginia.  The sky was dark gray all day and the snow is heavy and wet.  It’s a soup night!  Fortunately, that was already in the meal plan for the week.  This is a modified Cooking Light recipe so it’s good for you too!

This didn’t go exactly as planned.  I followed the recipe for the broth pretty closely and I never tasted it.  Rookie mistake!  I added the chicken, udon noodles,  shiitake mushrooms, green onions and cilantro.  So I was all in except for the sugar snap peas.  And then I tasted it.

FireDang y’all!  I thought my head was going to blow off!

So, that was a little depressing.  So now, instead of enjoying my soup I’m on a rescue mission.  There’s a lot of stuff in here.  And I think if I could taste the flavors behind the heat they might be really good.  I have 2 options that I can think of:  turn the soup into a noodle dish by draining off the flaming broth; or make a lot more broth to dilute what I have.  I was determined to have soup.  More broth it is.

Easy broth.  So, I drained the soup into a large bowl through a colander.  So all the noodles and vegetables are in the colander and the broth of fire is in the bowl.  In the soup pot I combine all the broth left in the carton and another can of lite coconut milk and heat it.  I pour all of the original broth in with this mild version.  Ah, much better.  But now I have twice as much broth as I need.  I knew that was coming which is why I drained it through the colander.  I poured half of the diluted broth into a small pot.  And guess what?  Now I’ve got broth for the next time I make a similar soup!  (Here’s hoping that soup broth with coconut milk in it freezes ok).

Whew.  Dinner saved. Poured the noodles and vegetables back in the broth and I’m good to go.  It’s still hot, but now it’s clear your sinuses hot, not set your hair on fire hot.  I can actually taste the flavors now and they’re darn good!  I had 2 bowls!  Now my nose is runny.

So, I’m going to adjust the recipe below so that you don’t end up with gallons of extra broth and you get the flavor right the first time.

Here’s what you need:

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  • 1 T plain oil (canola, safflower, etc)
  • 2 1 inch pieces of ginger, one minced, one whole peeled
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 jalapeno, seeded and chopped fine
  • 1 T green curry paste
  • 3/4-1 lb of chicken breast, chopped into bite sized pieces
  • 2 C chicken broth
  • 1 can lite coconut milk
  • 1/2 C water
  • juice of half a lime
  • 1 package of shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 package of snow peas or sugar snap peas
  • udon noodles, cooked to al dente
  • chopped cilantro
  • salt

Tip  It would be easy to make this a vegetarian soup.  Just leave out the chicken and use vegetable broth.  You might also want to add some more vegetables. Try carrot slices and roasted broccoli.

Here’s what you do:

  • Heat the oil in a large pot
  • Add the minced ginger, garlic and jalapeno.  Cook 1 minute.
  • Stir in the curry paste

Tip Watch the splatter!  When the curry paste hits the oil it pops like popcorn!

  • Stir in the chicken. Sear on all sides.  Be careful not to cook it too long.  It will finish cooking in the broth.
  • Add the broth, coconut milk, water, lime juice, whole ginger, and some salt.  Bring to a simmer.  Simmer 5-7 minutes
  • Add the mushrooms, sugar snaps, green onions and some cilantro
  • Simmer another 5 minutes.
  • Salt to taste
  • Serve with lime wedges

Tip  If you’re using frozen sugar snaps or snow peas (which is what I did) cook them to crisp tender and add them at the end.

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Here’s how it turned out:

Once I made the corrections described above, it was good.  There are two key elements here:  the peas and the salt.  The soup desperately needs the sweetness of the peas.  It would suffer greatly without them.  And the salt.  There’s no salt in the original recipe.  That’s a huge omission.  The salt really helps bring out the other flavors.  It helps the lime juice taste like lime and not just acid.  It brings out the earthiness in the mushrooms.  Really.  It makes all the difference.

There’s still a lot of heat in this.  There’s heat from the jalapeno; a bite from the ginger; heat from the curry paste.  All different, but definitely there.  Leave out the jalapeno if you like.

This is a wonderful one pot meal for a snowy night.  Warm and spicy and slurpy.  Enjoy!

Ramen for Grownups

January 27, 2018

It’s Noodle Saturday!  Yes, normally this would happen on Friday, but I had a very long week and access to leftover pizza last night, so there you have it.  I’ve mentioned my adoration of Asian noodles.  And if you’re interested, you can read all about the disaster that was my last attempt to make them at home.  Still, I wanted to try again, but something else entirely different.  Ramen!

This is not your college ramen.  Well, it kind of is.  You do get to buy those 20 cent packets of dried noodles.  That’s where the similarity ends.  First, you throw away that salt packet they call seasoning.  And you make a really wonderful broth.  And you add a bunch of vegetables.  And it’s amazing.

So, I took a few shortcuts.  My last experience left me a little wary of buying a bunch of expensive stuff or even going very far out of my way to pick up ingredients I don’t keep in the house.  I used the dried packet of noodles instead of looking for fresh noodles.  I used rice wine vinegar with some sugar instead of going to the asian market for mirin. I skipped the miso paste entirely  And still, so, so good!  Even better it falls in the 30 minute meals category!

Here’s what you need for 2 servings:

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  • 2T sesame oil
  • 1T minced garlic
  • 1T minced ginger
  • 4-5 sliced green onions, green and white parts separated
  • 2T soy sauce
  • 1T rice wine vinegar
  • 1/2t sugar
  • 2C chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1/2 chicken breast, sliced thin
  • matchstick carrots
  • 2C baby bok choy, chopped
  • 1C sliced shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 package dried ramen noodles, season pkg discarded
  • 1 soft boiled egg

Here’s what you do:

  • Heat the stock in a small pot, bring to a boil
  • Poach the sliced chicken 3 minutes, remove from the stock
  • Keep stock at a simmer
  • Heat the oil in a medium sized pot
  • Add ginger, garlic, onion whites
  • Simmer until onions are soft
  • Add soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sugar and 1/4C of stock
  • Stir 2 minutes
  • Add carrots, bok choy, and mushrooms

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  • While the vegetables soften, bring the stock to a boil and add the noodles
  • Cook the noodles until they’re soft

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  • Add the stock and noodles to the vegetables
  • Bring a small pot of water to a boil and add the egg
  • Boil 5-6 minutes
  • Place the egg in an ice bath
  • Peel and halve the egg
  • Serve half the noodles, vegetables and broth and half the egg in each of two bowls

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How was it?

So, so good!  I’ve redeemed myself in the asian noodle arena!  Next time I’ll get the special ingredients and search for fresh noodles and maybe add some Chinese pork and broccoli.  The possibilities are endless!

Catfish Curry

January 2, 2018

Yep, catfish curry, Thai style.  It’s really flipping cold in Virginia this week and I wanted something warm.  I also had a drawer full a vegetables that I bought with a plan I have long since forgotten.  And also some catfish that needed a plan ASAP.  Curries are pretty flexible about what you put in them and I adore anything in coconut broth, so here we are.

You’ll need a few pantry staples if you want to be able to throw a curry together on the fly.  All of this is readily available in the Asian foods section of a standard grocery store.  Curry paste – red, green, yellow, all of the above.  Coconut milk, the canned kind, not the refrigerator kind.  Lite is fine.  I only use regular coconut milk if a recipe specifically says that Lite won’t work.  Fish sauce.  It’ll be in a bottle, not a jar.  And it’s funky, but adds a lot of depth.

Pretty much every fish curry recipe you’ll find calls for “firm, white fish.”  Something like haddock or cod or sea bass.  If you’re worked with catfish you know there’s nothing firm about it.  It dang near falls apart when you cut it in pieces.  Still, it’s what I had and mild enough that I figured it would work.  I actually started with a Chicken and Vegetable Curry recipe from my Cherry Bombe cookbook.  That’s how flexible Thai curries are.  Fish instead of chicken.  Cauliflower instead of bok choi.  No jalapeno.  Add brown sugar.

You really can kind of wing it as long as you pay attention to your substitutions and their cooking time.  It takes fish much less time to cook than chicken and cauliflower much longer than bok choi so I adjusted accordingly.

What do you need?

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2 T oil (canola, safflower, something plain)

1/2 an onion, 2 cloves garlic, 1 inch peeled fresh ginger – all chopped fine

2 bell peppers, sliced

2 portobello mushroom caps, sliced or diced

1/2 small head of cauliflower, cut small and pre-roasted

2 T green curry paste

1 can lite coconut milk

1 T fish sauce

2 catfish fillets, cut into 1 inch chunks

1 diced jalapeno (optional, and not included above)

1 pinch brown sugar (optional)

How do you do it?

It looks like kind of a long list of ingredients, but it’s really easy to make.  Do all your chopping ahead of time.  Keep items that go in the pot together, together on the cutting board.  Then you can just scrape them right off the board into the pot.

I recommend dicing your own onion, garlic and ginger.  The flavor is just nicer.  But if you have to choose between ordering a pizza or using frozen diced onions and garlic and ginger from a jar, do what you have to do.  Be aware that there’s water in the pre-chopped things so when they hit that hot oil they splatter!  Be prepared!

Heat the oil in a medium stock pot or large pan.  Add the onion, garlic and ginger.  Saute 3-4 minutes.

Add the mushrooms, peppers, and cauliflower.  Saute 5 more minutes.

Stir in the curry paste.  Cook 2 minutes.

Add the coconut milk and fish sauce.  Bring to a low boil.

Add the catfish.  Make sure it’s covered by the liquid.  Reduce to a simmer.  Simmer 10-15 minutes until the fish is cooked through and the sauce thickens a little.

Stir in a pinch of brown sugar.

Serve as a soup or over rice.

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How did it turn out?

It’s ugly, but it’s good.  Not my favorite curry, but good.  I think it needs another vegetable.  I’ve got some carrots that I can roast tomorrow and add in to the leftovers.  They’ll add some sweetness and some texture.