Category Archives: Soups/Stews

Leek and Potato Soup

Last year’s resolution was to figure out what makes me happy and to incorporate those things into my life. Last year at this time, I did have a few things in place, such as being married to my best friend and we had recently come to live in a community that we both agreed was perfect for our personalities at this point in time in our life. Those things, I recognized as being okay. Where I felt I was lacking was finding a daily purpose that seemed to fit me, so I focused on that and by the end of last year, I had attained my goal and found a job that truly fits me.

The funny thing about pursuing happiness, is that the more you get things into place, the more things change. It is definitely a moving target and so as I had figured out by the end of last year, this year’s focus needs to be on my health. And so as I joined the millions of others, readying their sights on the cliche of a healthier year, I understand just as every resolution before, that it will be a work in progress. I will fall down, I will get tempted to take the easy way out and I will not always be happy or comfortable. That’s life, the learning process is full of growing pains and boy have I had those over the years.

The great thing about having a resolution, is having a yearly focus and I am always astonished at the end of the year, what the outcome is. So many things not accounted for, but adapted to, it really is amazing when you look back on it. In so many ways, the results aren’t what I expect but in a way, so much better, because it is truly what I wanted and what I am capable of.  When you are blazing a trail, you can’t always foresee the obstacles or envision what the end product will look like and certainly not what it will feel like. So I enter this new year, as always, with hope and with a focus, knowing I have quite a journey ahead of me.

This week in my CSA box, I received quite a few leeks and potatoes, so I decided to make leek and potato soup. Nothing quite tastes like a leek, just such a beautiful flavor. If you have never had one, you should put it on your “to taste” list.  This is an adaptation of a soup that I saw Jacques Pepin make on one of his programs. To make it a little healthier, I used olive oil, in place of butter during the saute. However, I kept the butter addition at the end to keep some the smooth richness that it lends. I switched out the cream that I normally add at the end for low-fat milk. The potatoes already lend the soup a silky, creamy quality and the low-fat milk  just adds the subtle dairy flavor that my taste-buds are searching for. Enjoy everyone! I hope your new year is working out marvelously for you.

Leek and Potato Soup

Leek and Potato Soup
Leek and Potato Soup

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New Year’s Day Soup

Well it’s been a while, there is no denying that. I could give a million and one excuses why I have let the blog sit since last Fall, new job, longer hours, new friendships, on top of…well life in general. The truth is, I just haven’t made the time.

Nothing against coming on here and typing away my thoughts and musings for the day. I love it, it is quite cathartic for me, but my focus last year was on finding happiness. And not just any sort of happiness, but trying to answer the “what are you going to do with the rest of your life” question. While trying to answer this question, I can’t help but look to the past.

One tradition that my family did have was eating black eyed peas, collard greens and pork on New Years. As I have always stated, we had good food and this tradition was supposed to bring good luck and lots of money. Who would want to break a tradition like that? This year, I continued the tradition, but I made it my own by making a delicious soup that would include everything in it.

If you need to break out the ordinary or a great way to use up left overs, this is it.

New Year’s Day Soup

New Year's Day Soup
New Year’s Day Soup

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Kale and White Bean Soup

One of the many things that I love about receiving a CSA box, other than the extreme freshness, is that we have to adapt our menu to what we receive. It is part of the fun of it, kind of like being a contestant on the cooking show “Chopped.” This past week, we received 2 lbs of kale (dinosaur and maribar). Having made kale chips and stewing them down with chard into a southern style greens dish  just recently, I decided to turn to the internet for some inspiration.

Gourmet magazine ran a recipe for Kale and White Bean Soup back in 2002 that had pretty good reviews so yesterday, after a slow morning of putt-zing around the house doing a few random chores and drinking my standard weekend 3 cups of  late morning coffee before accomplishing anything, I set out to make a huge industrial amount of stock. I do this once a month or so (you can read about that here) and we were over due as we had used it all up in my last hankering for Cornbread dressing.

All of this preparation, set us up for a wonderful pot of soup that we adapted with the ingredients that we had on hand. One of the beautiful things about the time in between meeting the person you plan on being with forever and the time when you may share your life and home with little ones is the quiet moments that you get with your loved one making a wonderful dinner just for the two of you, catching up on each others lives at the end of the week, and enjoying the serenity of having that special someone to rely on. Just such a gift, I can’t even express how much I love being in this phase of my life.

As with any union, adaptations must be made and this soup is no different. We had two different kinds of kale, so we mixed it up and we had linguica, so we threw that bad boy in the pot too and of course, we used my homemade stock.  What turned out was an absolutely delicious pot of soup with our own little twist to it. Try it out for yourself.

Kale and White Bean Soup
Kale and White Bean Soup

Kale and White Bean Soup

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Cabbage Rolls

When I married into my husband’s family, my last name changed from Irish origins to a name that hails from Slovakia. Luckily for me, along with this new name came some new food traditions.

Cabbage Rolls were lovingly called “pigs” in my husband’s inner circle. He too had a grandmother who could throw her weight around in the kitchen and she would make huge pots of these cabbage rolls for her entire family.

This is a traditional dish for my husband’s family, though I am not sure if it has been Americanized since his grandmother moved to the United States with her husband before she started having children in the 1940’s. Nevertheless, we all think it is wonderful and we make huge pots of it now when there are family get-togethers and celebrations.

Though I never got to meet my husband’s grandmother, I do feel as though I know a little about her through the traditional dishes that we keep in rotation, celebrating the unique life and heritage of the ones  that came before us and made us who we are. Enjoy everyone!

Cabbage Rolls

Cabbage Rolls
Cabbage Rolls

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Santa Fe Soup

After this week, with one of my grandmother’s passing, I am certainly in the comfort food state of mind. However, it won’t do me or anyone else any good if I do a double back flip into a sea of bad eating habits. Luckily, one of the most comforting meals for me is a nice bowl of soup and soup can easily be done in a healthy manner. This soup is one of those that my mother made me as a kid that I have adapted into my own recipe, substituting ground beef for grilled chicken and adding in loads more vegetables to boost the healthy benefits of the soup.  It is yummy and soothes the soul.

Santa Fe Soup

Santa Fe Soup
Santa Fe Soup

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day: Corned Beef and Cabbage

Most of you know that I am of Irish descent and I have been on a quest to find authentic Irish recipes to add to my repertoire. You can read more about that on my Colcannon post.

My husband, who is of Slovak descent, really pushed me to find these roots because his family held on to parts of their cuisine. These traditions really made him and his family feel unique and created strong ties between them. While I do have my Southern roots and am very adept at those flavors, he has helped me find traditional Irish-American recipes to further me on my journey.

What I understand from my research, corned beef is one of those recipes that has been adulterated a little since coming over the pond.  Corned Beef and Cabbage is an actual recipe that was served in Ireland a long time ago, but it has waned in popularity and is viewed more as an old person’s meal. However, it flourished here in the states almost as a snapshot of the Irish cuisine at the time that the Irish immigrants started coming over. There is a debate over the cut of meat that was used in traditional Irish corned beef. This Irish-American will use what is available, corned beef brisket.

When picking out a brisket, you have the option of a point cut and a flat cut. I prefer the flat cut, because as suggested, it is an even piece of meat, which in turn means even heat distribution and cooking times.  Anyway, this corned beef is delicious as is and will provide me with lots of yummy leftovers to play around with for a few days. Happy St. Patty’s Day, Everyone!

Corned Beef and Cabbage

Corned Beef and Cabbage
Corned Beef and Cabbage

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Chicken Mulligatawny Soup

When I lived in the Midwestern part of the U.S. I learned about a true winter. The winter’s were quite brutal and for the most part access to restaurants were limited. I mean, who wants to brave the roads during those winter storms. Even driving 5 miles down the road could be treacherous at times.

Necessity is always a breeding ground for innovation.  Out of boredom, some people need a wardrobe variety. You know the type, a new outfit for everyday. You will never see them wear the same thing twice. It is their way of expressing themselves. For me, I like to keep a varied diet. Constantly changing it up. I will eat left overs, but for the most part I try to keep things moving along with a fresh, clean slate.

During those longs winters, I had to learn how to cook  a lot of things that I have never cooked before. You laugh at the statement “had to,” but for me, I did. My other choice was to be sad and mull around thinking about not being able to leave because a 5 foot snowdrift was blocking my garage door in white out conditions.  Nope, I chose to accentuate the positive and keep myself busy in the kitchen in between any number of the renovation projects that we had taken on. I think of that period of time now and how much it changed me as an individual. I learned so much during those few years about self sufficiency and as always, there were growing pains.

The other night, I made this filling soup, perfumed with deep earthy tones and it reminded me of the winter’s that we moved away from.  The perfect ending note to a winter day.

Chicken Mulligatawny Soup

Mulligatawny Soup
Mulligatawny Soup

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Jambalaya

Well today, kiddos, we’ll be having a southern food 101 class, because today is Fat Tuesday. Every year for Fat Tuesday, I make a big pot of jambalaya, a quintessential low country dish.

When I started working in the Midwestern part of the U.S., I started up Fat Tuesday potlucks on-site, sending out invitations for a Day of Gluttony. It got fairly large the last year I was there. In most cases, I would presume that management was glad to see me go, except management was lined up with the best of them, paper plates and plastic forks in hand. That was the beauty of it, bringing everyone together, talking and laughing, eager to share moments over a plate of food, just celebrating life. It brought me sheer joy to see some of them having their first taste of jambalaya and real southern cornbread. That look of, “Oh, now I get it.”

Though I serve jambalaya on “Fat” Tuesday, it really is not that bad for you, whether or not you can stop at one serving, well that’s on you, my friend. If you get the itch to celebrate today and want a delicious dish, the following recipe is one of my most requested and is packed full of flavor.

Jambalaya

Jambalaya
Jambalaya

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Black Bean and Beer Chili

Well, I am going to show our cards here. We had left over beer after game day. Your like, What?! Some of you would say, “BORING!” but we are pretty low key around here. That’s okay, it’s the way we like to keep things and to each their own. In actuality, my husband likes to make his own small batches of beer at home.

During the holidays, I gifted him some supplies to make a darker ale, so he has been looking forward to trying his hands at that. Anyway the other night, my husband whipped up this recipe for us and I have to say, the beer is quite a nice compliment to this chili. In other words, if you like the flavor of beer or if you find yourself with extra beer that maybe isn’t your favorite, this would be an excellent recipe to make.

Black Bean and Beer Chili

Black Bean and Beer Chili
Black Bean and Beer Chili

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Spicy Ham and Bean Soup

Today, it is a rainy, cold day across much of the United States.  It is definitely one of those days where you want to snuggle up on the couch, under a blanket, and watch a really good movie. Personally, Ferris Bueller is my go to rainy, day movie, but to each their own.

More than watching a movie, I LOVE having something warm to put in my tummy. This kicked up soup, layered with spicy flavor, will definitely warm your belly on these lingering cold, gray winter days. I used leftover black eyed peas, but you could use any cooked bean hanging out in your kitchen. Get creative and make it your own!

Spicy Ham and Bean Soup

Spicy Ham and Bean Soup
Spicy Ham and Bean Soup

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp thyme and 1 bay leaf

1 ½ cups celery, chopped

1 ½ cups carrot chopped

1 cup red bell pepper, chopped

7 cups ham stock

16 oz. black eyed peas, cooked (or your preferred bean)

1-2 cups, ham, chopped

1 tbsp garlic

½ tsp oregano

1 ½ cups onion, chopped

3 tbsp cumin

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1 handful fresh parsley, finely chopped

1 cup scallions, chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot over medium heat, saute onion, celery, carrots, and red pepper in olive oil for five minutes. Add garlic, bay leaf, thyme, oregano, and cumin. Cook 5 minutes. Add stock, beans, meat and parsley, and scallions. Cook for 30 – 40 minutes. Add cayenne pepper, salt, and pepper. Bring back to heat.  Serves 4 – 6. Refrigerate or freeze any leftovers.