Posts Tagged ‘soup’

March ended up being a very full month – it included a trip out west to see dear friends in Tucson, the L.A. suburbs and (again) San Diego. Plus a hiring process for a new colleague; lots of running (still building my stamina back after having COVID); both snow and spring flowers, as is normal for March; and dinners with a few friends I hadn’t seen in a long time. Whew.

April is here now, with its blustery winds, sharp spring light and budding tulips (!), and here’s what I learned in March:

  • Sometimes granola needs an extra 10 minutes in the oven. (Jenny’s recipe is my favorite.)
  • I tried this recipe for Thai butternut squash soup – a yummy, spicy alternative to my classic one.
  • Delays can be a chance to explore – as when my Amtrak train in CA was an hour late and I wandered the main street of Moorpark. (And picked up snacks and a yummy burrito!)
  • I might be a legwarmers kind of girl after all.
  • Write it down. You’d think I’d know this, but especially at work these days, if it doesn’t get written down, it flies right out of my brain.
  • I need a bit of margin in my week – especially salient now that the pace of life is picking back up.
  • Just ask. (Still and always working on this one.)

What did you learn in March?


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carrot ginger soup bowl strawberries table

I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions, these days. But I am always looking for ways to add a little more joy to the everyday, especially during the winter. So I floated an idea by my husband recently: how about we try 19 new recipes in 2019?

I know myself, and it’s super easy for me to rotate between the same half-dozen meals (or, in the winter, the same few standby soups). And while there’s nothing wrong with huevos on a Monday night after boot camp, a big pot of simmering tomato soup, or tacos (always tacos), I could always use a little meal inspiration – and a few more veggies – in my life.

Nineteen recipes seems doable: an average of one or two per month, a way to interrupt or spice up the usual pattern without hijacking it altogether. There’s usually at least one recipe in each month’s Real Simple that I want to try, and I have a dozen cookbooks I hardly ever use. I’m hoping this goal will push me to do a bit of experimenting – maybe even find a new favorite or two.

We started off with a simple chicken adobo recipe (from Real Simple, naturally), then dipped back into Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (an old favorite) to try sweet potato-and-spinach quesadillas. With guacamole, of course.

The verdict in both cases? So far, so good. I’ll check back later in the year.

How do you find new recipes to try? Any tips?

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carrot ginger soup bowl strawberries table

We eat a lot of soup around here, especially during the colder months: tomato, black bean, Tuscan sausage, creamy jalapeño. I could seriously live on soup all winter, though the hubs might protest eventually.

These days, we’re mixing a few spring recipes into our menu rotation: a side of sautéed asparagus, a meal of bruschetta on a recent open-window evening. But the nights are still cool enough that I’m making soup frequently. And there’s a spicy carrot-ginger soup – filling but still light and savory – that I’m reaching for on a regular basis.

In case you need a break from your winter soups, but still want something to take the edge off these brisk spring evenings, I thought I’d share it with you.

Curried Carrot Ginger Soup (adapted from Epicurious)
(Major changes: I adjusted the spices, skipped the onions, and swapped in olive oil for peanut oil because my husband is allergic to peanuts. My version is below.)

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2 tsp ground coriander

1 1/2 tsp ground ginger

2 tsp curry powder (or more/less to taste)

1 1/2 lbs carrots, peeled, thinly sliced into rounds

5 cups chicken or vegetable broth

Greek yogurt (for garnish)

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add coriander, ginger and curry powder; stir 1 minute. Add carrots; sprinkle with salt and pepper and sauté about 5 minutes. Add broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer uncovered until carrots are tender, about 30 minutes.

Working in batches (or using an immersion blender), puree soup until smooth. Return soup to pot; season with salt and pepper if necessary. Ladle soup into bowls; garnish with Greek yogurt and serve. (The cool, creamy tang of the yogurt really brings out the warm, spicy flavors here.)


What are your favorite soups (or other dishes) to make in the spring?

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bright bowls mugs anthro

I don’t know anyone who loves chicken as much as my husband.

We eat it more than any other meat around here: wrapped in flour tortillas or warm naan bread; stirred into spicy curries with rice and vegetables; baked in the oven with Jenny Rosenstrach’s mustard-herb butter. Sometimes (don’t tell J) I get a little tired of it.

We also eat a lot of soup at our house: tomato, butternut squash, jalapeño, black bean. Chicken enchilada, Tuscan sausage, carrot-ginger, my grandfather’s chili. I love nothing more on a cold night than stirring a warm, spicy pot of something delicious on the stove. I can eat the leftovers for days. The hubs loves soup too, but he gets tired of it faster.

Recently, we discovered a recipe (again via Jenny) that combines my love of soup with my husband’s yen for chicken. And we have made it three times in the last month.

Avgolemono is a Greek soup, which involves not only chicken but chicken broth and also eggs. (There’s a chicken-and-egg joke in there somewhere, but I can’t quite find it.) It is lemony and light, so it tastes springlike to me, and it involves enough chicken to satisfy even my husband. And – hallelujah – it’s almost criminally easy to make. The only downside is that we have never had leftovers, because we lap up the whole pot every time.

Here, in case you’re in need of a new, simple, delicious recipe, are the instructions. (Bonus: the name is fun to say.)

Avgolemono (via Dinner: A Love Story)

4 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup uncooked orzo
salt and pepper
3 eggs
3 tablespoons lemon juice
shredded chicken (optional)

In a large saucepan, bring the broth to a boil.

Add the orzo and cook until tender but still al dente, about 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and reduce heat to low. Let simmer.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and lemon juice until smooth. Ladle about 1 cup of the hot broth into the egg-and-lemon mixture, whisking to combine.

Add the mixture back to the simmering saucepan. Stir just until the soup becomes opaque and thickens as the eggs cook, 1 to 2 minutes. Add salt and pepper (to taste) and chicken if you have it, and serve.

Jenny’s version calls for dill, but I almost never have it on hand, so we tend to make it with just salt and pepper. (Though I bet rosemary would also be good.)

What are your favorite chicken recipes – or your favorite dishes to make in the spring?

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black bean soup book candle dinner

I’ve written before about my soup obsession. In the winter, you can find me stirring a pot of soup on the stove (or making use of my Crock-Pot) at least once a week. Every year, I pull out the old favorites like my grandfather’s chili, my friend Julie’s butternut squash and apple soup and my friend Rachel’s tomato-basil soup.

Recently, I’ve added a newish recipe to the mix, and I thought I’d share it with you, because it’s perfect for these frigid, snowy days.

The recipe came from Epicurious, though it originally appeared in Bon Appetit, according to the website. I usually amp up the jalapeño (using two whole peppers – we like spicy food at our house) and add an extra teaspoon of cumin. (I also toss in more carrots if I have them.)

My husband hates onions, so I skip them, and while the recipe recommends toppings of fresh cilantro, green onions and feta cheese, we prefer grated cheddar or a dollop of Greek yogurt. (You could also use sour cream.) I also like to dip tortilla chips in it.

Black Bean Soup with Cumin and Jalapeño

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin [or more to taste]
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons chopped jalapeño with seeds [or more to taste]
  • 2 15- to 16-ounce cans black beans, undrained
  • 1 15-ounce can petite diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1 1/2 cups low-salt chicken broth

Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrot, and garlic; sauté until vegetables begin to soften, about 6 minutes. Mix in cumin and 1 teaspoon jalapeño. Add beans, tomatoes with juice, and broth; bring soup to boil. Reduce heat to medium, cover, and cook until carrots are tender, about 15 minutes.

Transfer 3 cups of soup to blender and puree until smooth (or use immersion blender). Return puree to pot. Simmer soup until slightly thickened, about 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and remaining 1 teaspoon jalapeño, if desired.

The week before Christmas, when life was spinning at twice its normal speed, I made a double batch of this and we ate it all week long. Several nights that week, when the hubs was working late, I heated up a mug or bowl of soup and ate it in front of the Christmas tree, staring into the twinkling branches, giving my brain a break and my body some nourishment.

It’s supposed to snow at least a foot and then get wicked cold again here in Boston this week. You can bet I’ll be making this soup at some point.

What are your go-to soup (or other cold-weather) recipes?

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apples massachusetts farmers market

The farmers’ market is still open – but not for long. The sweet stone fruits and berries of summer have given way to piles of squashes and mounds of crisp, tart apples. The nights are drawing in, and we gave in and turned on the furnace this week. So, too, our routines in the kitchen are shifting.

apples cutting board kitchen fall

We adapt a few year-round staples to fit the season. Instead of buying tomatoes or zucchini to add to pasta or risotto, we buy halves of golden butternut squash, or crisp bell peppers. (I love tomatoes, but the fresh ones from the farmers’ market in the summer have nearly spoiled me for their grocery-store counterparts.)

We stir a spoonful of ricotta into the pasta, or sprinkle grated Parmesan on top, or crumble in some creamy goat cheese. We also make burritos regularly, as we do year-round: we are transplanted Texans, and we need our guacamole and our salsa and our spicy chicken.

But I also start turning on the oven to make baked pasta dishes: manicotti stuffed with a mix of cheeses, butternut squash and spinach lasagna, eggplant Parmesan. We love our carbs in this house, but we might love our leftovers even more.

Homemade pizza likewise gets a seasonal makeover. Our recent re-creation of a pizza we tried at Otto (butternut squash, dried cranberries, dollops of ricotta, topped with freshly ground black pepper) was a huge hit. My basil plant is done for the season, but I don’t mind dried basil or rosemary on pizza.

The soup pot is nearly always in use these days. We have already made tomato soup, jalapeno soup and butternut squash and apple soup. (Clearly I am slightly obsessed with butternut squash, which we have taken to calling “squtternut bosh,” á la Ross Geller.) We scoop it up, smooth and steaming, into the colorful bowls I bought at Whittard in Oxford, and eat it at our dining room table with slices of buttered baguette.

I have made fewer apple crisps this year than usual, but the cranberry-orange bread and the ginger molasses cookies are in constant rotation. The former is perfect for breakfast, with a cup of strong, hot tea, and the latter make a perfect denouement to dinner, or a snack when we’re hanging out in the living room, reading or watching TV. (Go Sox!)

My Crock-Pot gathers dust during the summer, but I’ll soon be pulling it out again, to make my grandfather’s chili and a spicy chicken-enchilada-soup concoction. I’m always looking for new recipes to simmer in there all day long, and I find it deeply satisfying to plan out our menu for the week, then write it out on the dry-erase board in our kitchen.

Cooking dinner sometimes feels like a pain or an obligation, but it can also feel like comfort, like pleasure, like providing for my family and friends. My rotation of fall recipes is all about that comfort and warmth. (And the leftovers.)

What are you cooking this fall?

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My one little word for this year is comfort. And it has been elusive so far. I feel like I’ve had to chase it, instead of finding it around every corner, the way I did last year with “brave.”

I’ve been trying hard to provide physical comfort for myself and my husband – not always an easy task during a long, cold winter. Lots of tea and warm boots and tights under my jeans; coats and knitted accessories; bowl after bowl of soup; warm desserts, like apple crumble or soft, chewy cookies. Twinkle lights in our living room. Soft tissues for our constantly leaking noses.

I suppose that has been, more or less, successful. But the kind of emotional comfort I’m after – the feeling of ease, of belonging, of finally feeling like we have a place here in Boston – is still eluding me.

I catch glimpses of it, to be sure, when we’re at Brookline singing and sharing life with friends; when we spend Sunday evenings at Ryan and Amy’s, sharing a meal and then singing some more; when I meet up with Abi and Shanna on Thursday nights. I’m starting to glimpse it in my new office, though I still feel like the new kid. And J and I have had several “friend-dates” lately with new people or couples who live close by.

Still, though, I’m struggling with homesickness. I miss wide streets and spicy salsa and running into people I know at the grocery store. I miss Sunday nights at the Donagheys’, Tuesday nights at Mezamiz with my coffee ladies, lunches with Julie and other girlfriends. When I was in Abilene I longed to leave it for new adventures; now that I’m gone, I miss it keenly, every single day.

I know it’ll always be different up here. But I’m still waiting for that feeling of yes. That feeling of knowing this is our home for a while. Getting a full-time job, and having to adjust to a whole new rhythm, threw into sharp relief how unsettled I still feel here. We are still strangers, and that is not comforting. And that kind of comfort is harder to manufacture than the physical kind.

I suppose the answer is to simply sit with the discomfort, to fall back on the practices I know will nourish me as I keep settling in, keep seeking comfort in this new place. And, of course, a cup of tea or a bowl of soup or a cozy handknit cowl never hurt anyone.

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As Soup Week draws to a close, I thought I’d share a recipe given to me by the lovely Julie, who writes, creates beautiful jewelry and posts beautiful photos over at Magic Beans Workshop. Julie and I met in New York last April, and we share a love of words, beads, cuddly animals and yummy soup. She adapted this recipe from Epicurious years ago, and it’s quickly becoming a favorite around here.

Butternut Squash and Apple Soup
2 T butter
1 onion, chopped  (I use minced onion)
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed (about 4 cups)
1 32-oz box vegetable (or chicken) broth
1 apple, peeled, cored and diced
1/2 cup apple juice or the juice of 1 apple

Melt butter in large pot over medium-high heat. Saute onion and nutmeg until onion is brown. Add squash, broth, apple and juice. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer uncovered for about 30 minutes, or until squash and apple are tender.

Working in batches, carefully puree soup until it reaches desired consistency. (Add more water or broth if needed.) Add salt and pepper to taste. Sip from a mug and enjoy!

I hope you’ve all enjoyed Soup Week as much as I have. Here’s to toasty warm kitchens and steaming bowls of yumminess on frigid nights!

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My friend Jon is a gourmet. No, really. The man gets a spice catalog, for heaven’s sake. He was experimenting with dessert flavorings when we were in high school. His favorite herb, he once told me thoughtfully, is rosemary. He has a basil bush (yes, a bush – he lives in Houston) growing on his little patio. He and his mom make dozens of delectable cookies every Christmas. And this is how he looks chopping basil.

Have you ever seen anyone happier about an herb?

Anyway, when Jon told me about this Tuscan sausage soup recipe, I paid attention. And jotted it down in my journal, since no other paper was available. And brewed up a batch the very next day.

The key here is the Greek seasoning, which includes oregano and spearmint. Those two flavors, Jon says, really make the sausage pop. Since he’s been giving me cooking advice for, oh, about half our lives, I believe him.

Tuscan Sausage Soup
Adapted from the Penzeys Spices catalog

3/4 lb to 1 lb sausage
1 can navy beans/northern beans
1 can diced tomatoes
1 32-oz container beef broth
1 clove garlic, minced
a handful of minced onion
1 10-oz block of frozen spinach
1-2 tsp Greek seasoning, or a pinch of spearmint and oregano

Break sausage into small, bite-size balls and brown in the bottom of a large pot or Dutch oven. When sausage is brown, add all other ingredients except spinach. Simmer on medium-low for 30-45 minutes. Add spinach (thawed, squeezed and drained) last; simmer for 15-20 more minutes. (You can cook it on low heat for much longer, if desired.)

The spinach gives this soup a great color and lots of body. (I’m sure you could use kale instead; obviously, you can also use fresh spinach and fresh tomatoes. You can also use dried beans and soak them overnight, but the canned ones require less effort.)

Enjoy. (This is hearty, slightly spicy and SO GOOD.)

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This recipe came from a church cookbook, compiled many moons ago by faithful women from a church in Tulsa or Kingwood or Coppell (Mom had cookbooks from all these places). She’d pull this one out when the nights in Midland grew cold and sharp, with a bitter wind that whipped right through you. (The West Texas plains offer little protection from the wind. The joke is that there’s nothing between Texas and Canada but a barbed-wire fence, and two of the strands are down.)

My dad’s dad, who had high cholesterol, would beg for this soup when he came to visit in the winter – though he wasn’t supposed to have it, because of the cheese content. But Mom would usually give in and make it anyway. And Papaw loved her for it. My cheese-loving husband adores it, and I hope you will too.

Chicken Cheese Soup
4 chicken breasts, cooked and diced
2-3 chopped carrots
3-4 diced potatoes
1 stick butter
1 T chili powder
8 oz Velveeta or cheddar cheese
1 quart milk
Salt & pepper to taste

Boil chicken breasts whole in chicken broth or water (broth gives them a better flavor, I think). Remove chicken from broth and add vegetables, chili powder and butter. Cook 20 minutes, or until veggies are tender. Add chicken (now diced) and cook 5 minutes. Add cheese and let melt. (I know Velveeta is fake, but it melts more smoothly than cheddar. Just sayin’.) Add milk a few minutes before serving. Taste and season if you wish.

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