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Monday, January 6, 2014

Soup for One: Spicy Potsticker Soup

The first time the Christmas tree fell over it wasn't too bad. Yes, a bunch of those shiny silver ball ornaments were crushed and it made a ginormous mess, but none of our special ornaments were damaged. We got it cleaned up, back upright, re-decorated, and moved on.

When it fell over for the second time, landing on my laptop and the glass coffee table and shattering ornaments far and wide, I was so over the holidays. But despite my best efforts, the people who live in my house wouldn't let me cancel Christmas.

So we cleaned up, AGAIN, and this time we threw the stupid Christmas tree out on the deck, all 10 feet, approximately 479 pounds of it. Pretty sure I muttered, "And STAY out!" when it hit the deck. Next, we hauled up the ghetto fake Christmas tree from the garage and the people who live in my house had a wonderful time decorating this Plan B tree with every horrible hand-made Christmas ornament their teachers had inflicted upon us over the years. They took special glee in putting the particularly ugly and tacky ones front and center.

The Christmas spirit was restored. Such that it was.

When I was finally allowed to box up Christmas, there was a definite level of satisfaction. Time for soup! But again with the problems. 3 out of 4 people who live in this house thought that cheeseburgers sounded better than soup. In the past, I may have interpreted this as a challenge to create a Cheeseburger Soup for the win. But I haven't been so much on a winning streak lately. Conceding, I simply put Mr. Soup on hamburger duty and I made myself a delicious soup for one.

And for those of you keeping score, that's People Who Live in My House: 3, Soup-a-Woman: 0.

Spicy Potsticker Soup


2 T. toasted sesame oil
2 T. finely minced fresh ginger
3 cloves garlic, pressed through garlic press
1/4 c. soy sauce
2 T. rice vinegar
2 T. creamy peanut butter
2 t. good quality fish sauce (I like Red Boat)
1 T. sriracha (use less if you don't like it pretty fiery)
4 c. chicken broth
2 c. water

Heat oil in pan over medium heat until hot, but not smoking. Add in the ginger and garlic and sauté briefly, around 30 seconds to 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add in the remaining ingredients, whisking to combine them well and simmer the broth for 20 minutes to combine and balance the flavors. This is quite spicy, so if you're sensitive to heat really watch the sriracha amount.

For the Soup

For each serving:
1 1/2 c. broth
4 frozen potstickers (I use Ling Ling brand)
Sautéed mushrooms
Sliced baby bok choy
Shredded carrot
Sliced green onions

This is a different soup than my normal approach. Normally I make a big pot and freeze individual containers. However, because I'm using frozen potstickers for this soup, I simply made a pot of broth and refrigerated it. The broth will keep 4 or 5 days in the fridge, no problem. Then, I prepped the vegetables and refrigerated them separately. When I wanted a bit of soup, I simply scooped out a cup and a half of broth, heated it to a simmer, then added 4 potstickers and cooked them in the broth 7 minutes (until cooked through) and then stirred in some of my reserved vegetables. Simmer one additional minute to heat the vegetables and Voila! Soup for one!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Late Leftovers: Pepperjack Potato Soup with Bacon

A good blogger would have had a Thanksgiving leftover post pre-planned. A good blogger would have created a recipe ahead of time, photographed and written it up, and posted an update the day after Thanksgiving so that all of you staring at your leftovers could be inspired! A good blogger would not wait until 2 weeks later, when the leftovers were long gone and you all have mentally moved onto Christmas.

Probably a good blogger wouldn't create recipes in nearly illegible handwriting on napkins, either.

<---- my "Creative Process" at work.

Don't judge.

Clearly, I am more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants blogger.

When Thanksgiving was settled this year I didn't have too much in the way of leftovers in the fridge. We pretty much decimated the turkey with sandwiches, and I had sent most of the sides home with guests. However, because I had hoarded them for myself, I had a generous portion of mashed potatoes.

In general, I find mashed potatoes an excellent excuse to eat way more butter than is good for me.

But, after mainlining butter for a couple of days, I was ready for a change. Leftover mashed potatoes seemed like a gimme for a potato and cheese soup, but I wanted something with a little more kick and a little less commonplace. When I found a brick of pepperjack cheese and a package of bacon in the fridge I knew I was onto the start of something delicious.

Besides, it's at least conceivable you might have mashed potatoes for Christmas, right? And then it's like I'm AHEAD of the game.

Pepperjack Potato Soup with Bacon
Serves 4

3 slices thick bacon, sliced into 1/4" slices
1/2 yellow onion, finely diced (about 1 cup)
3 T. canned chopped green chilis
2 cloves garlic, pressed through a garlic press
2 T. all-purpose flour
1 can chicken broth (14 1/2 oz.)
1 1/2 cups leftover mashed potatoes
1/2 c. half and half
8 oz. pepperjack cheese, grated
several shakes of green Tabasco sauce
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Garnish: Diced green onion tops & additional grated cheese

In a heavy-bottomed soup pot set over medium heat, cook the bacon until it is crisp. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and set aside on paper towels for garnish.

You should have about 2 T. of bacon fat in the bottom of your pan. Eyeball it... if it seems like you have way more, pour a little off. If you don't have enough, add a little butter. Add the diced onions to the pan, and sauté, scraping the bottom of the pan often, until the onions are crisp-tender and coated with the bacon fond. (About 8 minutes.) Add the green chilis and sauté another 2 or 3 minutes. Add garlic, and stir to combine.

Add the flour, and stir constantly until the vegetable mixture is well-coated and the flour has lost its raw taste, around 2-3 minutes. Stir in the chicken broth, then add the potatoes and stir well. Add half and half, and then heat soup until it is simmering and thickened slightly. Reduce heat to low and stir in the cheese a handful at a time until it is well combined. Add Tabasco and salt and pepper to taste.

To serve, dish soup into bowls and top with reserved bacon, diced green onion tops, and additional grated cheese.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Maintaining Traditions: Broccoli Cheese Soup with Apple

Thanksgiving was pretty mellow this year. There were only 9 of us, so I bought a 16 lb. turkey, which is the smallest I've cooked in years.

Which actually turned out to be kind of problematic... because the turkey ended up hitting temperature about an hour before I thought it would be done and I hadn't put ANYTHING else in the oven yet. As I'm standing in the kitchen staring wide-eyed at the completely cooked bird while simultaneously calculating all the side dishes that weren't even close to done, Mr. Soup came in and asked if I wanted him to rice the potatoes for me. There was an edge of terror in my voice as I replied, "I haven't even BOILED the potatoes yet!"

So, when I say Thanksgiving was mellow, I'm referring to everything except that final hour before I served dinner. That hour was pretty much hell.

On the bright side, I had already served the annual soup, following our tradition of serving it in teacups. This year I made a broccoli cheese soup, because it's my mom's favorite.  I find broccoli a tad bit bitter - it is part of the cabbage family, after all. So to balance the bitterness a bit I added some apple. Apple is so very Thanksgiving-y anyway. And to make it rich and creamy, I added a generous portion of extra-sharp white cheddar. Calories don't count on Thanksgiving.

And if a creamy broccoli cheesy cup of goodness won't mellow you out, nothing will.

Broccoli Cheese Soup with Apple

3 T. butter
1 medium yellow onion, diced (about 2 cups)
1 t. salt
1 large Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and chopped (about 1 generous cup)
3 T. all-purpose flour
4 c. broccoli florets (I bought a bag at Costco because I'm lazy)
4 c. chicken broth
1 c. cream
8 oz. extra-sharp white Cheddar Cheese, grated (I used Tillamook)
Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper, to taste

In a large heavy soup pot, melt butter over medium-low heat. Add onion and salt and sauté until onon is quite soft and starting to caramelize in spots, stirring often, around 12 minutes or so. Stir in the chopped apple and stir again to combine. Add the flour, and stir and cook until the raw scent of flour has left the pot, around 2 more minutes.

Add the broccoli florets and the chicken broth and bring the whole mixture to a simmer. Simmer, uncovered until the broccoli is entirely soft, around 20-25 minutes. Add the cream, and then use an immersion blender to smooth out the whole soup. This might take a little patience. Stir in the cheese until it's completely melted. Do not boil once you add the cheese.

This is one of those rare soups that tastes great right out of the gate. I made it 2 days ahead for Thanksgiving, and thought it lost a little oomph in the cheese department as it sat. I ended up adding more cheese right before serving. I wouldn't recommend this one for freezing, but it's still tasty 2 days post-holiday, so it will last in the fridge a few days.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Hamzilla is Dead; Long Live Hamzilla: Smoky White Bean and Ham Soup

Recently I was rooting around deep inside my freezer, looking for ice packs for lunch boxes. Whatever little piece of DNA compels normal humans to clean out their lunch boxes after school and refreeze the ice pack is obviously missing in the genetic makeup of the people who live in my house.

So. Anyway. I'm rooting around deep inside the freezer and I come across a large chunk of something that I can't identify at first. And then it hits me... it's the final remains of Hamzilla!  Okay, fine, he's been in the freezer quite awhile (probably a whole lot longer than the FDA would recommend for food safety purposes). And okay, fine, he's a little frost-bitten around the edges (because I apparently was so sick of him I just threw him unadorned into a gallon-zip-lock without even wrapping him in saran wrap first)... but these are mere trifles and NOTHING a soak in some brothy soup can't cure.

And better yet, I know exactly the brothy deliciousness I want to soak him in. Lately, I have been absolutely craving a particular soup I haven't posted yet. It's hearty, with the perfect notes of smoke from ham AND bacon and a good amount of heat. I scored the original of this recipe from a recipe swapping forum I've been a part of  practically since the internet was invented. The poster who shared said it was her dad's favorite soup and she tried to make a pot of it every year. I've made adjustments over time to suit my tastes... but the basics of his recipe are still there. You can find his original recipe here... shout-out to magnoliainchicago! He called it Ray's Dallas Cowboy Bean Soup.  I call it a perfect send-off.

RIP Hamzilla.
In mah belly.

Smoky White Bean and Ham Soup
adapted and inspired by Ray's Dallas Cowboy Bean Soup

1 lb. white beans, soaked overnight (I have used canned in the past when I didn't have time, and it worked fine too)
1/2 lb. bacon, diced
2 yellow onions, diced (3 cups)
2 carrots, peeled and diced (2 cups)
4 celery stalks, diced (2 cups)
3 cloves garlic, pushed through a garlic press
1/2 t. red pepper flakes
2 t. seasoned salt (I like Johnny's the best)
1 t. paprika
12 c. water
2 t. Tabasco (or less, if you don't like much heat)
1 T sugar
1/2 c. ketchup
Leftover ham - either on the bone or off - today I had about a 2 lb. section.

Heat a large (really, think LARGE) heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium heat. Add diced bacon, and sauté until fat has rendered and it crisps up. Remove all but about 3 T. of the bacon fat and add the onions and sauté until softened, about 8 minutes, stirring often to bring the bacon fond up off the bottom of the pot. Add the carrots and celery and continue to sauté another 5 minutes or so. Add in garlic, red pepper flakes, seasoned salt, and paprika and stir to combine.

Pour water over vegetables, and add the beans, Tabasco, sugar, and ketchup to the pot. Stir to combine well and then add your leftover ham. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to allow soup to simmer, uncovered for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, or until the beans are tender and the ham is falling apart.

Remove ham from soup, allow to cool slightly, then shred and add back into soup.

And in the words of magnoliainchicago's dad, "EAT IT!"

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Soup-a-Season! Roasted Sweet Potato and Onion Soup with Andouille, Pecan & Kale Relish

Yes, I have a new soup for you! No... it's not posted here. I have been asked to do a quarterly seasonal guest post gig on another blog, a little blog told me. For Fall, I created a tasty Roasted Sweet Potato and Onion Soup with Andouille, Pecan, and Kale Relish. Seriously... it is that. good.

Check it out!

Roasted Sweet Potato and Onion Soup with Andouille, Pecan, and Kale Relish

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Tuna Throwdown: Fire-Roasted Pepper and Tomato Soup with Jalapeño Tuna and Cilantro Cream

I was recently contacted by a fabulous local company, Island Trollers, and asked if I would like to come up with a recipe and feature their product on my blog. And my brain was like, "Holy crap! Someone wants me to use MY blog to feature their amazing product!" And my mouth (okay, my fingers, because it was on facebook) was like, "Yes, YES! That would be awesome!"

And I felt like I was really getting SOMEWHERE with this whole blogging thing. I was a rock star!

There may have been wine involved.

And then my brain started to nudge me with something. A niggling piece of information I had overlooked in my euphoria. The conversation went a little like this:

Me: I can't believe it! This is going to be so awesome!
Brain: Island Trollers.
Me: I KNOW, right???
Brain: What do they troll for?
Me: Albacore!!!
Brain: So... tuna.
Me: Yes, of course!!!
Brain: Tuna. Soup.
Me:  ........

I LOVE tuna.... but if I'm being honest, I'm strictly a tuna sandwich kind of gal. I like my tuna salad made a very specific way and the most adventurous I get about it is maybe, maybe, mixing up the bread I eat it on. On top of that, I have never, not once in my whole life, eaten nor made tuna casserole. (And have no plans to do so - so please don't send me your grandma's recipe.) So the idea of tuna - in a soup - threw me for a loop.

BUT. If you dare to title your blog Soup-a-Woman, you can't let tuna be your kryptonite. What with leaping over tall soup pots in a single bound and that sort of thing...

So I set out to create something delicious.The first and most obvious choice was a chowder. Seafood and chowder love each other. But when I did a little research I found that not only was there already a tuna chowder in the blogging world, it actually featured Island Trollers! The blog Life Currents actually features several recipes highlighting Island Trollers products, including a chowder.

Once the tuna arrived, however, I realized I didn't have much to worry about. Island Trollers has the most amazing troll-caught albacore, and even better, it's fresh canned in several flavors: Alder Smoked, Garlic, Habañero, Capers, Jalapeño. I decided to use those flavors to my advantage and elevate this soup to a whole new level.

Eventually I settled on a fire-roasted bell pepper soup that would feature their Jalapeño Albacore and started building a recipe from there. The end result is fresh, healthy, and lovely. It turned out not only to be delicious, but a beautiful and surprisingly elegant soup that is company-worthy. Throwdown win.

Kryptonite? As if.

But I'm still not going to eat tuna casserole.

Fire-Roasted Pepper and Tomato Soup with Jalepeño Tuna and Cilantro Cream
Serves 4

4 yellow bell peppers, seeded, roasted, peeled and roughly chopped  (directions below)
2 T. butter
1 1/2 c. diced red onion (1 medium onion)
1/2 t. salt
1 clove garlic, pressed through garlic press
1/2 t. freshly ground pepper
1 t. ground cumin
1 t. paprika
1 14-oz. can fire-roasted tomatoes
4 c. chicken broth (this makes a thin soup, if you want it thicker, reduce broth to 3 or 3 1/2 cups)
1-2 T. freshly squeezed lime juice
1 can Island Trollers Jalapeño Tuna, drained (or Habañero if you want even a little more kick)
Cilantro Cream (recipe follows)

Melt butter in a medium heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium heat. Add the diced red onion and the salt and sautee, stirring occassionally until onions are tender, around 8-10 minutes.

Stir in garlic, pepper, cumin, and paprika and stir to coat all the onions. Add the tomatoes and the roasted peppers and the chicken broth. Bring to a simmer, and let simmer, uncovered, for 10-15 minutes, or until vegetables are very soft. Using an immersion blender (or a regular blender) puree until the soup is very smooth. Stir in lime juice and taste for seasoning.

Cilantro Cream:
1/2 c. packed cilantro leaves
1/2 medium jalepeño, seeded and roughly chopped
zest of 1 lime
juice of 1/2 lime
1/2 c. sour cream

Place all ingredients into a food processor and blend until smooth and creamy. Set aside until ready for garnish. (Tip: Putting the cilantro cream in an empty squeeze bottle makes it easier to make the swirls.)

To assemble soup: Using a shallow bowl, mound a portion of flaked tuna in the center of the bowl. Carefully ladle some of the soup around the tuna, and garnish with cilantro cream.

Roasted Peppers:

I find it much easier to clean and roast the peppers if you prepare them this way: Cut each pepper in half, remove the seeds and the white pithy membranes inside each half and carefully cut out the stems. Place the halves, skin side up on a broiler pan or cookie sheet and broil on high about 3" away from the heating element. Rotate the pan around as necessary to ensure even cooking. Remove from oven when skins are charred and puffed up in sections, but the flesh is still firm... around 10 minutes or so. Transfer peppers immediately to a gallon-sized zip-lock bag and seal it shut. Let pepper sit 10-15 minutes in the bag. This will steam them and allow the skins to come off more easily. Remove skins from peppers - do NOT rinse them... you'll just wash all the flavor away.

Monday, September 9, 2013

A Season of Change: Creamy Brie, Bacon, and Kale Soup

Ah, September. My nemesis.

August, now, August is amazeballs. It's the one month in Washington State where you are pretty much guaranteed gorgeous weather. It's the one month that I get to participate in the Washington Trails Association's Hike-a-Thon - which is like a license to hike! Whenever. I. Want. This August I hiked 100 miles and raised $1275.00! It's the one month where after an entire summer of automatically waking up at 6:00 am, I start to be able to sleep in just a little bit... luxuriously stretching out until 7:30 some mornings. Awesome.

And then September comes and ruins ALL of that!

No more hiking. September is for running around like crazy people trying to get everything done before school starts. September sucks money from our bank account like a leech: back-to-school supplies, clothes, yearbooks, ASB cards, pictures, sporting equipment, clothes, parking passes, clothes. Clothes. Clothes. Clothes. (We do have two teenage girls, after all.) And most rudely, the alarm starts going off at 5:30 five mornings a week. September is stupid.

Except for one small redemption. The leaves start to turn, the nights are a little chillier, we actually close the windows for the first time in a month, and my soup cookbooks drift off the bookshelf like falling leaves and start to scatter themselves around the house. One by my laptop, three by the bathtub, one in the kitchen windowsill, four by my bed. Soup season has arrived. Ah, September. Maybe it's a love-hate relationship after all.

Creamy Brie, Bacon, and Kale Soup is pure comfort in a bowl. Some of my friends expressed reservations about the calorie count, but as I told them, it's soup. That makes it automatically good for you. And it has KALE in it. Besides, I've had to put aside my August nirvana for another 11 months, so dammit, I deserve a little decadence in my life.

Creamy Brie, Bacon, and Kale Soup
serves 6-8

6 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into thin strips
1/4 c. butter
1 large leek, washed well, white and light green parts sliced thinly (about 2 c.)
2 celery stalks, thinly sliced (about 1/2 c.)
1 clove of garlic, pressed through a press
1/2 t. fresh thyme leaves, chopped
1/4 c. all-purpose flour
4 c. chicken broth
3/4 lb. Brie cheese, cut into cubes, rind left on
1/2 c. heavy cream
1-2 large leaves of curly kale, stemps removed, washed, and minced very finely. (about 2 c.)
Salt and Pepper to taste 

In a skillet, cook the bacon until crisp. Remove to a paper-towel-lined plate and set aside.

In a large heavy-bottomed soup pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the leeks and sprinkle them with a little kosher salt. Let the leeks sweat, stirring occasionally, until they're quite soft, 8-10 minutes. Add the celery and cook until it softens, 2-4 minutes longer. Stir in the garlic and the thyme and combine well.

Add the flour, and stir continually until the flour loses its raw taste, about 2 minutes. Add the broth, and whisk it all together. Bring the mixture to a boil, and then let it simmer for 10 minutes longer.

Reduce heat to medium-low and add the brie. Keep the rind on... it will add that distinct brie taste. The rind won't melt at this stage, but don't worry, once you use the immersion blender it will all smooth out. Stir until the cheese has melted. Add the cream. Then, using an immersion blender (or a regular blender in batches) blend the soup until it is perfectly smooth. Stir in the bacon, the kale and salt and pepper to taste. The kale should cook in the residual heat of the soup since you've minced it so finely. Serve hot.

This soup chills well, and I thought it was even better the next day. Do reheat gently, though. Don't boil as the cheese may separate.