Posts Tagged ‘soups’

January is “Discover History” month, so it’s only fitting to bring up a few tidbits of food and domesticity history for us to ponder.coffeeFor starters, move over Starbucks and Caribou Coffee.  This generation isn’t the first generation to LOVE its coffee.  Back in 1675, Charles II of England issued a proclamation to suppress coffee houses. The ban lasted a grand total of 15 days.  I’m surprised the king held out that long…a national headache from coffee deprivation would not be pretty.

Speaking of kings, it is Elvis’ birthday.  And we know what a foodie he was, right?

Yesterday was the 116th anniversary of what we now know as the “Fannie Farmer Cookbook.”  The Boston Cooking School Cook Book, as it was known then, was first published in 1896.

And on January 10, 1894, Clara Peller uttered her famous question for the first time, “Where’ the beef?”  Wendy’s Hamburgers and pop-culture were forever changed.

On this day in 1800, soup kitchens were opened in London.  Soup has a very  long history of feeding hungry souls and crosses all socio-economic boundaries.  Not surprising, January is national soup month.  We enjoyed a pot of chili last night, and potato soup is on the weekend menu.  What’s your favorite soup? If you want to check out our family’s favorite soups, you’ll find the recipes here.

Jan color

So there’s your week’s worth of domestic trivia on this chilly morning.

Happy Tuesday!


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Recipe of the week: Chile Verde

Before Tex-Mex cuisine made inroads into the American culture and took its place on our everyday menus, I spent my formative years in a predominantly Hispanic community.  In southeastern Colorado, chile comes in red or green; never brown and rarely with chunks of tomatoes or beans.  I haven’t perfected a recipe for red chile, but my family loves my green chile, or chile verde.

There are two techniques for cooking the pork in green chile:  one is to boil a roast, then dice or shred the meat; the other is more stew-like:  flour and brown the meat, then cook it in a broth until the meat is tender and the stew is thick and hearty.  I prefer the latter.  You can substitute cooked shredded chicken for the pork, but the name changes – you may find it on menus and in recipes as Pollo Verde.

Chile Verde

3 pounds pork (loin works well, but if you can buy it cubed for stew you’ll save a step)
salt and pepper for seasoning
EVOO or vegetable oil  for frying
4-5 cups chicken broth
1 large can diced green chiles

Cube pork into 1-inch pieces.  Dredge in flour seasoned with salt and pepper and place in large deep skillet with a tablespoon of oil.  Brown on all sides (I prefer to pepper mine after I start browning it.)

Hint:  you may need to brown the meat in two batches to brown it; if you crowd the pieces they will steam instead of brown.

Remove the browned meat and set aside; pour chicken broth into pan to deglaze it, scraping up the browned bits.  Add back the meat and green chiles.  Over medium heat, bring to boil; reduce heat, cover and simmer until meat is tender – approximately 40 minutes to an hour.  Stir frequently and be sure the stew doesn’t stick or scorch.  Add a little more chicken broth if necessary.  When the meat is tender, you can thicken the broth with a little cornstarch mixed with cold water, or flour and water.  Serve as a hearty stew with warm flour tortillas, or pour over burritos, tamales or enchiladas.  Makes 4-5 servings and reheats well.

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Recipe of the Week: Won Ton Soup

As I post my final soup recipe for January, I thought I would end with an old family favorite: Won Ton Soup. 

First, a little back story: I grew up on the high plains of the midwest and the front range of the Rockies where cattle and wheat fields outnumbered people.  My earliest years were spent living in a culture heavily influenced by Dutch, German, Polish and Czechoslovakian immigrants. When we moved to southeastern Colorado,  the ethnic backdrop shifted dramatically:  mostly Hispanic, along with many Italian families whose parents and grandparents had ventured west to work the coal mines and railroads.  Everyone else was a smattering of this and that.  Our little town housed Germans and Italians during WWII and just east was a similar camp for Japanese. I have no idea how many of them remained after the war ended, but I didn’t have any Asian classmates.

Even though I grew up in two very different melting pots, there were were no Japanese, Chinese, Thai or other Asian restaurants in my childhood towns. None.  Nada. Zip.  But my mom was an adventuresome cook and we enjoyed Americanized Asian dishes like stir-fried vegetables, beef pepper steak (the canned variety and homemade), and Won Ton Soup.  She taught herself how to wrap the noodles around the pork filling and how long to cook them thoroughly without disintegrating.

When I married and moved to a college town, I suddenly had access to the entire spectrum of eateries.  And what I found was that my mom’s recipe was pretty authentic, at least in comparison to your typical Asian take-out place.

Here’s her version, which I have made countless times for my own family – I’ve even been asked to make it when someone has the sniffles. 

Mom’s Won-Ton Soup

1/4 pound mild pork sausage (could substitute turkey sausage)
1/8 teaspoon powdered ginger
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 package won ton wrappers
4 cups chicken broth
2 scallions, diced (include the green tops)

In a small mixing bowl, combine the sausage, ginger and soy sauce together – use your fingers to blend it well.  Place a half-teaspoon of filling in each square; fold to form a triangle and lightly wet the two edges of the triangle and smooth with your finger to make them stick together; be sure to press out any airbubbles around the filling as you go.  With the folded edge of your triangle pointing toward you, bring the two lower triangle points together and use a bit of water to get them to stick together.  Here are some tips on won ton folding plus variations if you want to go all fancy.

While making the won-tons, heat the broth in a large saucepan or 6-quart stockpot just to boiling.  Drop the won tons in the gently boiling broth and cook until they rise to the top, approximately 4-5 minutes. Sprinkle with the diced scallions and ladle into serving bowls.  Makes 4-5 bowls.

Once you get the hang of folding the won tons, this is one of the fastest soups you can make for your family and is ready to eat immediately.  It’s a light but filling soup, good for chasing away the sniffles and aches of a winter cold.

Happy cooking!

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Recipe of the Week: Stuffed Pepper Soup

January is national soup month in the U.S., which makes sense.  Most of us are faced with cold and/or wet and/or snowy weather this time of year, so a bowl of hot and hearty soup warms us from the inside out.  

Like last year, I’ve focused on soup recipes each Wednesday in January.  (You can find lots of soup recipes in my Recipe Box here.)  Today’s recipe is a newer one I recently found on Pinterest.  I made it for our family last week, then made it again for the Bunco girls on Monday night. It was one of those recipes that was on the right track, but needed some modifying; here’s my second rendition which was well received:

Stuffed Pepper Soup

1 pound ground beef
1 onion, diced
2 green peppers, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, or 2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 jar mushroom and pepper spaghetti sauce
1 can petite diced tomatoes
3-4 cups chicken broth
1 cup cooked rice (1/2 cup uncooked)

In large stock pot, brown beef.  Drain and remove from pan. Add a tablespoon of olive oil and saute onion and peppers until soft. Add back the beef and all other ingredients except the rice.  Simmer for an hour or longer.  Just before serving, stir cooked rice through.  Makes 6 servings.

The original recipe called for two cans of diced tomatoes and tomato sauce; not spaghetti sauce.  And a LOT more rice. It also had a very short – 35 minute – cooking time.  When we tried it, we found the rice made it very thick; more like a stew. And the flavor of the peppers and tomatoes didn’t really meld together, but remained raw and distinct. I gently modified the ingredients and quantities, and adjusted the cooking time. That is key to most soups:  unless you’re dealing with ingredients that will toughen or fall apart if cooked too long, be sure to give your soup some time for the flavors to release and come together.

Happy cooking!

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Everybody has their rendition of “perfect” chicken noodle soup.  Most of those venerable recipes have been passed down through the generations; they are made with love, replete with fat, pillow-soft noodles, big chunks of meat and vegetables, and a variety of herbs and seasonings.

But I actually like the chicken noodle soup that comes in a can with that familiar red label.

You know the one.  It’s mmm, mmm, good.

Yeah, I really do like it – and I even indoctrinated all three of my children: they like the canned stuff, too. And I don’t really care much for most homemade or homestyle chicken noodle soups.  Go ahead, call me crazy or taste-impaired (but just remember, Andy Warhol did an homage to the red label, so it’s iconic if not healthy or particularly delicious.)

However, despite my junk-food-junkie tastes in soup, I do care about the amount of fat and sodium we eat. So I set out to make a healthier, homemade soup that tastes a lot like this without the sludgy layer of fat on top, or a lot of sodium swimming around the broth.

Admittedly, it’s an odd goal to set out to make a food that tastes like canned stuff.  But if you – or your family – also likes the pop-a-top type chicken noodle soup, give this one a try.  Unless you load it up with salt and high-fat chicken stock, it’s got a lot of good things going for it.  And it tastes good.  At least I think it does 🙂

Mmm, Mmm Chicken Noodle Soup

1-2 tablespoons butter
1 onion, diced fine (about 1 cup)
1/2 cup carrots, diced fine
1/4 cup celery, diced
1 teaspoon minced garlic (or one clove, minced)
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme or poultry seasoning
6 cups chicken broth
2 cups diced or shredded cooked chicken meat
1 or 2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced into 1/2-inch cubes
1 teaspoon salt
pepper to taste
1/2 pound thin homemade or home-style noodles*

Directions: In a large Dutch oven or heavy stockpot, melt butter and saute onion, carrots and celery until softened.  Add garlic, seasonings, broth and chicken meat.   Allow to simmer (not boil) for about 20-30 minutes.  Add potatoes and continue simmering until potatoes are soft when speared with a fork.  Add more broth if necessary along with noodles and cook until noodles are tender. – the potatoes will continue to soften and may even break apart. That’s okay, they are mainly for added texture in case your chicken broth is not particularly stock-y (mine is homemade without fat or sodium, so it’s on the thin side, especially in comparison to chicken stock or  commercial broths.)

Add salt and pepper to taste just before serving. Makes 6 hearty bowls-ful. It’s best the first time around, but still edible when reheated.

*About those noodles.  I like the fine/thin Amish noodles from Emmanhaus (see photo at right.)  But if you prefer, you can substitute broken pieces of linguine for noodles to approximate those oh-so-famous thin noodles.

Happy cooking,

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Recipe of the Week: Albondigas Soup

January is soup month, and this week’s recipe was a new one for us: albondigas soup.

“Albondigas” is one of the few words I remember from high school Spanish, because it was just so much fun to say.  But even though I grew up in an area with a high concentration of Hispanics, I don’t remember ever eating “sopa de albondigas,” or seeing it on any Mexican eatery menus.

At any rate, “albondigas” means meatball, and there are numerous twists on this meat and vegetable soup whose roots date back to Moorish times.  I hope you’ll give it a try.  It’s fun to say and fun to eat!

Albondigas Soup

Ingredients for meatballs:
1/2 pound chorizo (look for bulk chorizo near other bulk sausages; if using links, be sure it’s fresh, not precooked, remove the casings)
1/2 pound lean ground beef (90% or 93% – you don’t want greasy soup)
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup diced carrots
1/2 cup cooked rice
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, diced*
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt

Ingredients for soup:
6 cups chicken broth (low-sodium is recommended; I thawed my own frozen stock, which is salt-free)
1/2 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced fresh cilantro leaves
1 teaspoon cumin
1 can petite diced tomatoes
1 zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch chunks or 1 cup frozen peas
salt and pepper to taste

Cook the rice; set aside.  Saute celery and onion with a tablespoon of oil in a medium-size stockpot or Dutch oven.  When softened, add all other soup ingredients and bring to a high simmer; it should cook for about 20 minutes before you add the meatballs.

While it’s bubbling, prepare meatballs by placing all ingredients in a medium-sized mixing bowl and mixing thoroughly with your hands. (It’s messy.)  While your hands are still mucked up, make 20-24 meatballs (each will be about 1 1/2 -2 inches in diameter) Be sure to firmly roll each meatball between your palms as you form it, so it will stick together when it cooks.

Add meatballs one at a time to the gently boiling soup. If the soup stops boiling, wait a minute before adding more meatballs (you want the liquid to be very hot or the meatballs will fall apart.)  Gently shake the pan or carefully and slowly stir through once to make sure the meatballs are submerged.  Cover and simmer at a low boil for another 10 minutes. Serve.  Makes 5-6 generous soup bowls.

*Cilantro:  I used a generous teaspoon of dried cilantro in place of the fresh, because a) IMHO the flavor of fresh cilantro can be overpowering and soapy; and b) I didn’t have any on hand. But when I make it again, I will use the fresh cilantro in at least the meatballs to add a little more flavor.  Some recipes insist that fresh diced mint leaves should be used in the meatballs for authentic flavor.  Your call.

Other notes:  To ramp up the flavor, I would recommend substituting a can of mild Rotel or tomatoes with jalapenos, or adding a can of diced green chilis to the tomatoes called for in the recipe.  You may also want to add some chili powder to give it a bit more flavor.  (Or use the fresh cilantro as called for, if you like the flavor.)  This is one of those recipes that has countless variations floating around; that makes it fun to find the heat and spice combination that suits you.

Happy cooking,

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Yesterday was the annual day to roll back our clocks, and that extra hour makes for a super-sized day.

It couldn’t have come at a better time – instead of getting back from Knoxville at 11:30 Saturday night, we could tell ourselves it was only 10:30.  Reverting to standard time comes with its own adjustments to psyche and Circadium rhythms, but early morning rising will be a little easier – at least until the newness of the time change wears off.

I was mentally patting myself on the back yesterday morning, since I knew I had all the ingredients for a “souper” Sunday with vegetarian chili for dinner.  Then I remembered that lunch comes before dinner.  Eeek!  Fortunately, we had enough tag-ends left over that we all enjoyed something: pasta e fagioli, homemade pizza and tuna fish were up for grabs, along with a gameday bowl of creamy refried bean dip scooped up with big corn chips.

With the mealtime dilemmas out of the way, my afternoon was clear to accomplish some tasks.  For starters, I won this soup tureen on eBay:

Less than $5.  Woot!

I’ve been scouting vintage tureens for years.  And this one was pretty AND dirt cheap – that’s a tough combination to beat.

After I scored the tureen, I turned my focus on the kitchen:  middle son recently requested monster cookies.  A big batch of these oversized monstrosities was in order, before our family devoured the huge bag of M&M’s I bought especially to make them.

And I wanted to try a batch of apple cider caramels (most of which are going with Mr. Official to work today.)  So it was a pleasantly busy, home-centered afternoon, which suited me to a “T.”

I think we are settling into a habit with this weekly routine, and not only did I hit the grocery store just once last week, I managed to stretch out the time between visits to ten days.  Granted, we ran out of milk a few days before I went, but it’s now an optional drink for us, not a necessity.  And our foodbill was well under $100 for the week, due in large part to the stockpile of meats and other more expensive items I already had on hand to incorporate into the week’s menu.

It struck me recently that we have not eaten a dinner out in quite some time, which can be attributed to  a combination of eating in on Sundays and football season, which consumes our Friday and Saturday nights.  That might change when we are no longer chasing after high school and college football games on Friday and Saturday nights, but for now, our food budget is heaving a huge sigh of relief.

I don’t know how many more Mondays I’ll blog about our weekly day of rest, although with the upcoming holidays, I may find us wrestling with time constraints that test my resolve to avoid shopping on Sundays.  But for now, a few simple, deliberate choices have created a new, enjoyable weekly routine.  The next step will be to re-introduce some form of hospitality on Sundays, either hosting a midday or evening meal occasionally.  

I hope you’re intrigued or inspired just a little and considering trying a Sunday of respite, away from the hustle and bustle of eateries and shopping.  It’s nice to not feel pressured to go anywhere, or do anything in particular one day a week.  

Like the 1970s Life cereal commercials told Mikey, “try it – you’ll like it!”

Happy Monday,

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