Pumpkin Butternut Soup

With all the cooking happening at our house this time of year (birthdays, anniversaries, Thanksgiving!) a shortcut that is not takeout food can be welcome. There are a number of pumpkin and or squash pasta sauces available in markets and gourmet cooking stores, but the one I used for this recipe came from Trader Joe’s and is my favorite so far. I had part of a jar left in the the frig and decided to turn it into soup. It worked! The results were good enough to repeat. If you want to use the whole jar (4 cups) for a bigger pot of soup, double the other ingredients.

Pumpkin Butternut Soup 

1/2 jar or 2 cups Autumn Harvest Creamy Pasta Sauce (found at Trader Joe’s)

2 cups chicken broth

1 cup half and half (more if desired)

1/2 teaspoon pink Himalayan sea salt

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Balsamic vinegar reduction for swirl

Add pasta sauce to heavy sauce pan. Rinse out the jar with chicken broth and add along with salt and cinnamon. Heat on low until mixture begins to bubble. Stir in half and half to heat but do not bring to boil.  Ladle into soup bowls and add a swirl of balsamic vinegar reduction on top. Serve with toasted French bread.

 

Greek Chicken Stew with Cauliflower and Caramelized Onions

This is full of flavor, and uses an interesting mix of ingredients, including cinnamon.  I adapted  my version of a recipe, which appeared online in New York Times Cooking. It caught my attention because it is Greek, uses cauliflower and Kalamata olives, and was a good way to use leftover rotisserie chicken.  The original recipe uses whole chicken thighs and drumsticks, but our family prefers boned chicken in stews.

Greek Chicken Stew with Cauliflower and Caramelized Onions

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 large red onion, chopped

 4 garlic cloves,minced

3-4 cups rough chopped rotisserie chicken

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

28-ounce can chopped tomatoes

Salt and freshly ground pepper

½ teaspoon dried thyme (I use Penzey’s French Thyme)

1 small or 1/2 large cauliflower, cored, broken into florets, and sliced about 1/2 inch thick

1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives

 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

 2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled           

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium-high heat in a large, deep, heavy lidded skillet or casserole and brown the chicken pieces. Add the vinegar to the pan and scrape up all the bits from the bottom of the pan.

Add the remaining tablespoon of the olive oil to the pan, and turn the heat down to medium. Add onion and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring often and scraping the bottom of the pan, until it begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Turn the heat to low, cover and let the onion cook for 10 minutes, stirring from time to time, until it is lightly browned and very soft.

Add the garlic and stir together for a minute or two more, then add the tomatoes and their juice,  cinnamon, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer and simmer 10 minutes, stirring from time to time, until the mixture is reduced slightly. Return the chicken pieces to the pot.  If necessary, add enough water to barely cover the chicken. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat, cover and simmer 20 minutes.

Add cauliflower and kalamata olives and simmer for another 20 minutes, or until the cauliflower is tender. Sprinkle Parsley and Feta cheese on top. Serve over rice.

Shrimp and Chicken Gumbo

There are almost as many versions of gumbo as there are cooks, especially in this corner of Texas, near the Gulf of Mexico for seafood, and near Louisiana, the place of gumbo’s origin. It is said that gumbo is to Louisiana as chili is to Texas!  But, here on the south Texas Gulf Coast, both are famous.  I think that most often gumbo is either Seafood Gumbo or Chicken and Sausage Gumbo, but the gumbo I make in my kitchen can be either or both – or in this case, both Shrimp and Chicken. It is a matter of what ingredients I have on hand to use!  Last week, we had some leftover jumbo boiled shrimp and some chopped rotisserie chicken.  I had put both into the freezer to wait until Gumbo night. Since our garden tomato production is at its peak, I also had ripe heirloom tomatoes that went into the pot.  A simmering pot of gumbo tempts almost any appetite. I have several cookbooks collected through the years from Louisiana. The basic recipes I started with came from 2 of those books:  River Road Recipes II and Shadows on the Teche, Cuisine of the Cajun Country.  

I enjoy making the roux and prepping as I go This dish has quite a story.        www.southernfoodways.org/interview/a-short-history-of-gumbo/

Shrimp and Chicken Gumbo

2-3 cups chopped chicken

2 cups large boiled shrimp

3 Tablespoons vegetable oil (you will use 2 for the roux, and 1 to prep the okra)

2 Tablespoons flour

2 large onions, chopped

1 bell pepper, chopped

3 cloves of garlic, minced

3-4 medium ripe tomatoes, peeled and rough chopped

1/2 lb (or more to taste) okra, small to medium pods, sliced thin

1 hot pepper

2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar

Prepare okra by frying in 1 Tablespoon oil in small iron skillet 5- 10 minutes,  until okra is dried out and beginning to brown. Remove from heat and set aside. Begin making the roux by heating 2 Tablespoons of oil in large heavy pot.  Add flour, stirring constantly while cooking on medium heat until roux is a deep caramel color. Add onions, then bell pepper and garlic. Cook about 5 minutes.  Add okra and stir.  Then add 6 cups chicken broth or stock.  Add tomatoes and chicken and simmer for about an hour. Add shrimp and cook until shrimp are heated through.  (If you are using raw shrimp, follow the same instructions but cook until shrimp are pink and done.) Add 2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar just before serving.

We like to add a few hushpuppies on the side.  I usually buy frozen ones and either bake or fry them while gumbo is cooking.

 

 

Ribolitta

This hearty Tuscan soup is kin to minestrone but adds a layer of texture and flavor with its topping of bread and parmesan. There are many ways to add the bread to this soup, including layering it with vegetables, but I like the buttery crunch of toasted bread and cheese browned in the oven. You can use a variety of vegetables, a particularly useful thing when your garden harvest is bountiful.

Ribolitta

  • 5 tablespoons olive oil, divided.
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, sliced
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 cups canned cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 15 oz. diced tomatoes
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4  cups water
  • 1 fresh rosemary sprig
  • 1 fresh thyme sprig
  • 1 bunch kale or chard, washed, stems removed, and chopped
  • 4 thick slices sourdough bread, toasted
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan
  1. Heat 2 Tablespoons olive oil in large soup pot, add onion, carrot, celery and garlic; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes.
  2. Heat oven to 400 degrees.Add beans to the pot along with tomatoes, rosemary, and thyme. Bring back to simmer. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally for 15 minutes.
  3. Remove rosemary and thyme stems and stir in greens. Taste and adjust seasoning. Lay bread slices on top of the stew so they cover the top. Drizzle with the remaining 3 tablespoons oil and sprinkle with Parmesan.
  4. Put the pot in the oven and bake until bread, onions and cheese are browned and crisp, 10 to 15 minutes.  Divide the soup and bread among 4 bowls and serve.

 

 

Thai Coconut Soup

Our time spent living in Southeast Asia increased our family’s love of many types of Asian food.  Thai food is among those.  The traditional soup Tom Kha Gai has so many lovely layers of flavor. This classic chicken and coconut soup gets its flavor from quintessential Thai ingredients: coconut milk, fresh ginger, lime juice, fish sauce, red pepper, basil, and cilantro. I omit the fish sauce in the recipe that has developed in our kitchen over time. Shrimp is a good substitute for chicken.

Thai Coconut Soup

3 cups chicken broth

2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice

4 thin slices fresh ginger

1-2 cups chopped or sliced cooked chicken breast or thighs

1 cup unsweetened coconut milk

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or more to taste

4 ounces snow peas (optional, but very good)

1/2 cup shredded carrots

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

2 Tablespoons chopped fresh basil

Cooked rice

Bring broth, lime juice,and ginger to boil in large saucepan.  Simmer for several minutes before adding chicken, coconut milk, and red pepper flakes. Return to simmer and cook until chicken is heated through.  Add snow peas and carrots and cook only 1 minute. Stir in cilantro and basil. Serve in soup bowls with cooked rice.

 

Split Pea Soup with Sherry

splitpeasoupCold weather and hot soup – perfect combination.  We enjoy a number of different soups, but this split pea soup is one of my favorites. It is a hearty soup, nutritious, and easy on the budget. If you have leftover ham, this is a great way to use it.  Bits of bacon work great too. We like to add a splash of dry sherry at serving time.This is is good served with crusty French bread.

Split Pea  Soup with Sherry

1 lb. dried split peas (2 1/3 cups)

8 cups chicken broth

2 cups chopped ham

1 cup chopped onion

1 cup chopped celery

1 cup sliced carrots

1 Bay leaf

1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice

salt and pepper to taste

Dry sherry, optional

Rinse dried split peas and add to large soup pot. Add ham and chicken broth.  Bring to simmer, cover, and cook on low for 30 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and continue cooking for another 30 minutes, or until it reaches the texture you prefer. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve steaming hot with a splash of sherry stirred in.

Nana’s Barley Burger Stew

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I took a break from my blogs last week since we were still finding our way between boxes. Even though we are not unpacked and settled, I am enjoying a return to being in the kitchen for reasons other than unpacking dishes!  Our area is presently experiencing a history making flood with rain still coming down, so I thought of this hearty stew my mother used to make.  I still have the recipe written in her firm, flowing handwriting on a sheet of lined notepaper although I no longer need to pull it out to go by.  It was a fine meal to have on a cool rainy early June evening. And there are plenty of leftovers for a weekend lunch.

Nana’s Barley Burger Stew

  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 4 carrots, sliced
  • 8 cups tomato juice
  • 2 cups water added as needed as stew cooks and thickens
  • 1 cup medium pearl barley
  • 1 Tablespoon chili powder, or more to taste
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper, optional

In a large pot over medium heat, cook beef until meat is no longer pink; drain. Add onion, carrots, and celery, stirring as vegetables wilt.  Stir in the tomato juice, barley, chili powder, salt and pepper. Add about 1 cup water.  Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 50-60 minutes or until barley is tender, adding water if mixture becomes too thick. Serve in bowls along with crusty French bread.

Microwave Baked Potato Soup

BakedPotatoSoupMy kitchen cupboards and pantry are almost bare, making me feel like Mother Hubbard. But eating take out food and in restaurants can get old as well as pricey.  Plus, today it is raining buckets. Again.  We are staying in so I opened the refrigerator to stand and browse like  our teenagers have done in the past, hungry, and surveying possibilities. I found eggs, bread, juice, a half jar of elderberry jelly, and leftover baked potatoes. Last night we stopped and picked up loaded baked potatoes for a late dinner, only to find after we sat down to eat that we were more tired than hungry.  The remains sat in a ZipLoc bag on the refrigerator shelf, looking very unappetizing.

Changing roles from Mrs. Hubbard to a Chopped contestant, I opened the contents of my basket and made potato soup in the microwave (all pans packed, only a few serving dishes remain). I  took the peeling off the cold potatoes, warmed them in the microwave to soften, and mashed them.  Then I added a sprinkle of sea salt plus milk to the right consistency, and reheated in the microwave, turning out a large bowl of delicious soup loaded with bits of bacon and green onion.  We ate in coffee mugs and recharged enough to head back to packing  for movers to come on Monday.  Simple, and tasty enough to remember for the next leftovers, or to bake extras the next time I serve baked potatoes as a side. If you have no loaded bakers as leftovers, use the following recipe.

Microwave Baked Potato Soup

2 large baked potatoes, cooled

1 1/2 cups milk

salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup sour cream

1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese

1/3 cup crumbled bacon

1/4 cup chopped green onion

Peel potatoes, coarsely chop into microwave safe bowl.  Microwave on high for 1-2 minutes, to soften potatoes.  Mash with fork or potato masher.  Add milk, sour cream, salt, and pepper and stir to combine.  Microwave for another 2 minutes or until hot for serving.  Ladle into mugs or bowls, and sprinkle with cheese, bacon, and green onion.

 

 

Greek Beef Stew

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Continuing to post ways I used lovely leftovers during the holidays! We had a family favorite on our table for Christmas – Pancetta and Rosemary wrapped Beef Tenderloin. The pieces of leftover beef  and roasted potatoes were perfect in this pot of Greek Beef Stew, and fed a bunch of us again!  The spices keep holiday fragrances and flavors too!

Do not let the long list of ingredients keep you from trying this!  The many layers of flavor are so worth a little measuring!

2-3 cups cubed beef (I used leftover beef tenderloin.  If using uncooked beef, brown meat in olive oil)

1 onion,chopped

3 cloves of garllic, minced

1/2 cup red wine

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1/2 cup beef broth

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 Tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped fine

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

several grinds of freshly cracked black pepper

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 pinch ground cloves

1 Tablespoon brown sugarr

1 (28 ounce) can roasted diced tomatoes (do not drain)

1/2 cup water (add more if stew is too thick

2 potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces or equivalent of leftober roasted potatoes

2 carrots, peeled and sliced

salt to taste

In stew pot, heat several Tablespoons olive oil, add beef, onion, then  garlic. Pour in the red wine, red wine vinegar, and beef broth; stir in the tomato paste and mix well..Mix spices and add along with bay leaves and brown sugar..Pour in tomatoes and their juice; rinse the can with 1/2 cup water and add. Stir in potatoes and carrots.  Cover the pot and simmer until vegetables ae desired tenderness. Serve with crusty hot bread.

Chicken, Kale, and Gnocchi Soup

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Someone asked me this week about my favorite type of food to cook. I quickly replied: “Soups!”  Of course, I love to cook many things, but this is my answer because there are so many wonderful, nutritious soups, often the main course of a meal. Most are very inexpensive per serving. I like trying new recipes, too. This one definitely belongs in Kitchen Keepers. I used fresh mini potato gnocchi found at Costco.  Make your own if you if the time, but these were perfect for the recipe. Is there any prettier soup on the table for a cold Christmastime evening?  The hearty, creamy goodness was just what we needed.

 

Chicken, Kale, and Gnocchi Soup

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup finely diced celery
1 cup finely diced onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups half-and-half
1 (12-ounce) package gnocchi*
1 cup finely shredded carrots
1 cup diced cooked chicken breast
2 (14-ounce) cans chicken broth (if you enjoy thick soup, use just 1 can)
1 cup coarsely chopped fresh kale (original recipe used spinach, but I have kale in my garden!)
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more if needed
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg (optional)

*You can find dried gnocchi in the pasta section of most grocery stores; some stores also sell fresh or frozen gnocchi. You may want to cut your gnocchi in half before cooking if it is large, or purchase the mini size if available.

Directions:
1. Heat the olive oil and butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, and garlic and sauté until the onion becomes translucent. Whisk in the flour to make a roux. Let the flour mixture cook for about a minute and then stir in the half-and-half.

2. Cook the gnocchi according to the package directions. Drain and set aside.

3. Meanwhile, add the carrots and chicken to the roux. Once the mixture has thickened, stir in the chicken broth. When the mixture thickens again, add the cooked gnocchi, spinach, and seasonings; simmer the soup over medium-low heat until it is heated through. Taste and adjust the seasoning with more salt if needed.