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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Hamzilla: Winter's 15-Bean Soup with Ham

A few days before Christmas Eve, my mom asked if we could transfer the annual family gathering from her house to my house. Our house is closer to all of the cousins and since most of us had to work that morning, getting to and from my house would be much quicker for everyone. To entice me further, she said she'd provide most of the food, as she was planning a simple dinner of freshly baked ham made into sandwiches with several salads as sides.

No problem, Mom.

And then she dropped IT off. A 25-pound ham. No, that's not a typo. 25 POUNDS of ham... and not pre-cooked, either. I didn't even know you could buy a ham that size! As we shifted it around the fridge, we took to calling it Hamzilla.

On Christmas Eve, everyone enjoyed the sandwiches and raved about the rolls, which we bought from The Breadfarm. At the end of the evening, they departed in the same whirl they arrived in, leaving wrapping paper and bows strewn everywhere and approximately 20 pounds of Hamzilla still sitting on my kitchen counter. I do so love ham, but seriously? That's a whole lotta pork butt.

You remember how I felt guilty when I posted two soups in a row using kielbasa? Yeah. You should probably mentally prepare yourself for Ham-a-palooza. Starring Hamzilla.

Winter's 15-Bean Soup with Ham

1 20-oz bag of 15-bean mix (throw out that weird "ham flavoring packet" that comes with it... we'll be getting our ham flavor from actual ham, thankyouverymuch)
2 T. extra-virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, medium diced, about 2 cups
2 carrots, medium diced
1 stalk celery, medium diced
2 cloves garlic, pressed through a garlic press
2 cups leftover ham, cubed
1/2 t. dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1 ham bone, cleaned as well as you can get it (that's where you got the cubed ham from up above, right?)
2 cups spicy V-8 juice
6 cups chicken broth
1 bunch rainbow chard, stems removed, leaves chopped
2 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice
Tabasco Sauce to taste

Sort through beans, place into a soup pot and cover with water. Soak overnight.

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. This soup starts on the stovetop, but then you'll transfer it to fnish cooking in a low oven. I picked up this tip on 15-bean soup from Cook's Illustrated. There are so many different shapes and sizes in a 15-bean mix and they all cook at different times. By cooking them in a the gentle heat of the oven, all of the beans remain intact. It's possible a crock pot set to low might give the same results... but my crock pot is nowhere near big enough for this soup. And I have to report, the oven method works like a charm!

Drain beans and rinse well. Set aside for the moment. Heat oil in a heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Add onion and sautee until tender, about 8 minutes. Add cubed ham and sautee until it starts to brown, around 3 or 4 minutes. Add carrots and celery and sautee an additional 3 minutes, or until they start to soften. Add beans, garlic, thyme, and bay leaf and sautee an additional minute or so, or until everything is fragrant.

Place the ham bone into the mixture and add the V-8 juice and the chicken broth. Stir well and cover the pot. Bring to a boil, then place in the oven - cook 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Remove from oven and test a bean. They should be slightly tender, but not all the way done. Stir in the chopped chard leaves, re-cover pot and return to oven. Cook another 30 minutes or so, or until the beans are tender.

Remove ham bone and bay leaves from soup. If there was any meat on ham bone, shred it back into the soup. Stir in the lemon juice and several shakes of tabasco, adjust seasonings, and serve.

What's in the Freezer? Sopa de Carnitas with Chipotle and Lime

My deliberate leftovers strategy continues! First, I made pork carnitas for dinner last week. My family absolutely adores carnitas. They've requested them 3 times in under 5 weeks, which is a for-sure sign that a recipe is a keeper. Literally translated, carnitas means "little meats" and are simply a shredded meat filling for tacos. The pork is cooked low and slow in a spicy flavorful mixture until it is falling apart and tender, and then it's shredded. As a bonus, I use the slow cooker, so they're ridiculously easy to make. Although if you do this when you serve dinner, I won't judge you.

There was a slight hitch in my quest for deliberate leftovers, however. The first two times I made carnitas, I didn't end up with any leftovers because Mr. Soup spent the next two days nibbling on a taco here and and a taco there. Sort of like I do with leftover ham... only it's cute when I do it.

Obviously, Mr. Soup eating all the carnitas does not bode well for a soupy forecast. So this time, after dinner was over, I created a small diversion by telling him Die Hard was on (really, it doesn't even matter which one...), and then I threw the leftovers straight into the freezer. Take that!

It doesn't get much better than this, frankly. I have a whole Saturday stretching out before me with no outside-of-the-house plans. The leaves are turning orange and yellow. Best yet, it's absolutely pouring down rain, for the first time in almost 90 days. It's a soup-making kind of day, and I know where there is a secret stash of leftover carnitas.

Spicy Sopa de Carnitas with Chipotle and Lime
Serves 6

2 T. canola or vegetable oil
1 large onion, diced (about 2 cups)
1 clove of garlic, pressed through a garlic press
2 T. minced jalepeno (remove the ribs and seeds if you want less heat)
2 chipotle peppers, minced into a paste plus 1 T. of the adobo sauce they were canned in
1 t. ground cumin
1 t. dried oregano (Mexican, if you have it)
3 cups (or so) leftover shredded pork carnitas (my favorite recipe follows, but any will work)
6 cups chicken broth
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 1/2 cups frozen corn
1/4 c. minced cilantro
1-2 T. fresh lime juice

Heat oil in large soup pot over medium heat until hot, but not smoking. Add onions and sautee until they are softened and transluscent, around 10 minutes. Add jalepenos and sautee an additional 2 minutes. Add garlic, cumin, and oregano and sautee, stirring, until everything is coated. Add the minced chipotle and the adobo and stir again, until coated well.

Add the carnitas, broth, tomatoes, and beans. Stir well and bring to a gentle simmer. Reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occassionally, until the flavors have come together, about an hour.

Stir in frozen corn, cilantro, and fresh lime juice. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve with a dollop of sour cream.

Slow-Cooker Carnitas
adpted from

4 lbs. pork shoulder*, cut into 5-inch pieces
Juice of one orange
Juice of one lime
1 cup salsa
1 t. cumin
1 t. garlic salt
1 t. paprika
1 t. crushed red pepper flakes
1 T. brown sugar
*I actually use a Farmland pork product cut specifically for carnitas. I can only get it at my local WalMart. If you find and use this as well, all you need to do is put it straight in the slow cooker. Very, very convenient.
Mix all ingredients together except the pork. Place pork in crockpot, add spice and salsa mixture over the top, and toss until the meat is coated. Cover and cook on low for 7-8 hours, or until the meat is falling-apart tender.
Preheat the broiler.   

Shred the pork. I used to shred meat with two forks, which seriously limited my willingness to make recipes that required this step. Then I discovered an amazing tip - you can use your KitchenAid to shred meat!!!! Seriously. It works great, and is the best shortcut I have ever found. Place meat in the bowl of your KitchenAid in smallish batches. Using the paddle attachment, shred meat on the lowest speed. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet. Once it is all shredded, pour remaining sauce from the slow cooker over the pork and mix it gently together.
Place baking sheet in oven and broil meat, tossing once or twice, until the carnitas are brown and caramelized around the edges. (about 5 minutes, give or take)

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Change of Flavor: Spicy Asian Turkey and Soba Noodle Soup

This time of year flavor profiles get awfully predictable around here. Family gatherings abound, and everyone turns to their tried & true holiday recipes. Nothing wrong with that, really... who doesn't look forward to that one particlar dish mom only serves during Thanksgiving or Christmas? But no matter how awesome the turkey was, you can only eat so many turkey sandwiches before you want to hurt someone. Frankly, my kids are already there.

Last year I turned leftover turkey into a Turkey Soup with Lime and Chile, but this year I wanted something different, something with the strong flavors of sesame oil and ginger. I also knew I wanted to use soba, because despite some people thinking they look like worms (you KNOW who you are!) they are nutty and delicious and absolutely a favorite of mine. Plus, this was the first time I ever cooked with baby bok choy, and I was thrilled to discover I like it almost as much as kale. And baby bok choy is WAY fun to say!

This soup breaks one of my normal routines. Normally, I'm a one-pot kind of soup gal. But here, I cook the soba separately and ladle the soup over the top. I think it's worth the extra step to keep the noodles from absorbing too much liquid and getting mushy. You can freeze this soup with no problem, just freeze it without the noodles.

Spicy Asian Turkey and Soba Noodle Soup

1 T. canola or vegetable oil
8 oz. sliced cremini mushrooms
pinch of salt
2 T. dark sesame oil
1/2 c. chopped green onion (mine were small, I used 8 - reserve a few green tops for garnish)
2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
3 cloves garlic, pressed through a garlic press
2 T. soy sauce
1 T. sriracha (or less if you are not a spicy food lover)
4 c. chicken broth
2 c. water
3 c. chopped cooked turkey
2 heads baby bok choy, ends trimmed, washed, and sliced crosswise into 1/2 inch slices
8 oz. soba noodles

Heat canola oil in a heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium heat until hot, but not smoking. Add sliced mushrooms (I cheat and buy mine already sliced, 'cause I'm lazy like that) and sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Toss all together. First the mushrooms will soak up the oil like sponges, then they'll release a ton of liquid. Keep cooking and stirring frequently until the liquid evaporates and mushrooms start to brown on the edges. You want them nice and dense and chewy with crispy edges, NOT slimy.

Remove mushrooms to a separate bowl, and reserve. In the same pot, add the sesame oil, the green onion, ginger, garlic, soy sauce and sriracha. Stir and sautee for around 30 seconds, until everything is fragrant. Add the chicken broth and water and bring to a simmer. Simmer broth for 20 minutes to meld all the flavors.

Meanwhile, bring a separate pot of water to a boil and cook the soba noodles until tender according to package directions. Drain and rinse briefly with cold water.

Add the turkey, bok choy, and the reserved mushrooms to the broth and simmer for 5 minutes.

Using tongs, place noodles into bottom of bowl. Ladle soup over the top of the noodles and garnish with reserved green onion tops. Serve!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Giving Thanks: Creamy Apple, Leek and Brie Soup

Earlier this fall, I had reconsructive surgery to fix the issues caused by my weight loss. I spent most of my seemlingly-endless-recovery (which really was as long as the surgeon told me it would be, even though I totally thought he was nuts and I'd be back up-and-attem in a couple of weeks) in a recliner in the living room, watching the ID channel and cruising Facebook and Pinterest.

Pinterest. Such a simple concept - an online picture version of "favorites," organizable however you wish. To me... the best internet invention. Ever. Little by little, new recipes I've seen on Pinterest have started slipping into our regular dinner rotation. Falling into a same-old-same-old routine in the kitchen happens to the best of us, and for me, Pinterest is the ultimate for rut-busting. No matter how much my family enjoys a particular dish, there's an extremely fine line between last week's "YUM!" and this week's "AGAIN?" These people are a pack of wolves and will turn on me in a heartbeat.

Last year I told you about my tradition of serving a cup of soup before every Thanksgiving meal. In 2011, it was a Warm-Spiced Roasted Cauliflower Soup. This year I wanted something a little more decadent, and frankly, a little bad-for-you. To the Pinterest Bat Cave!! Somewhere in there I had pinned a very pretty picture of a Roasted Apple, Brie & Thyme Soup from the Spice or Die blog. The concept of an Apple and Brie Soup was exactly what I wanted to serve for Thanksgiving. Creamy, rich, and layered with the flavors of caramelized onions, apples, and cheesy goodness. My version really isn't anything like the original, but a Pinterest nod and thank you for the inspiration.

Creamy Apple, Leek, and Brie Soup
Inspired by Spice or Die

2 T. extra-virgin olive oil
2 T. butter
2 c. diced yellow onion (around 1 large onion)
2 c. sliced leeks (about 1 large leek, white and light green parts only, slice in half and fan out under running water to clean thoroughly)
2 stalks celery, chopped
3 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, quartered, cored and chopped
2 t. fresh thyme leaves
3 T. flour
1 c. hard apple cider
4 c. chicken broth
1 lb. brie, rind removed, cut into 1/2 inch cubes (cut when cold, then set aside to come to room temp while you reaheat the soup)
1 c. heavy cream
Parsley-Thyme Oil (optional)

Heat a heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium-low. Add olive oil and butter and melt, then add the yellow onions. Turn the heat down to low and caramelize the onions. Cook them low and slow, stirring frequently, until they are golden brown and soft. This process can't be hurried, it took me about 30 minutes.

Once the onions are caramelized, stir in the leeks, celery, apples, and thyme. Sautee until the vegetables start to soften, around 8-10 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook 30 seconds to 1 minute, until the flour has lost its raw taste. Add in the hard cider and stir it all together. It will foam up at this point, but it's all good. Add the chicken broth, and simmer the whole thing until the vegetables are good and soft, about 30 minutes more. Remove from heat, and let cool slightly.

I used my immersion blender to blend the soup at this point. Mine is amazing and awesome and purchased for me by my in-laws. If yours is more decorative than powerful, you may wish to blend in batches in your blender. But however you choose, blend the soup well until smooth.

The soup can (and for maximum flavor, should) be made one day ahead at this point and chilled.

Reheat soup gently until hot. Add cubed room-temperature brie cheese and stir and stir and stir until the cheese is mostly melted. I had impatient Thanksgiving guests, so near the end, I used the immersion blender one more time to get everything combined. Add the cream, and bring back temp to hot (not boiling) top with a drizzle of the parsley-thyme oil if you're using it, and serve.

Parsley-Thyme Oil (optional)

1/2 c. chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 T. fresh thyme leaves
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Combine all 3 ingredients in a blender and blend, scraping down sides of blender as needed. Let sit 10-15 minutes, then strain mixture through a fine strainer, pressing on solids. Use the lovely green oil, discard the solids.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Procrastination Soup: Farro and Dried Cranberry Soup with Kale

Apparently I am not good at multi-tasking my life. I can blog as long as I'm not teaching... but I seem to have some sort of blog-fail option that kicks in once I start teaching again... I'm sure it's poor time management on my part.

Well, that and the fact that I currently have 100 seventh-grade language arts students. It took a good two weeks in this position before I had the head-slap moment of realization that every time I had them turn in anything, no matter how small, it generated ONE HUNDRED items for me to correct.

It's a balancing act, I tell you. I need to see their work, and I need to spend time reflecting on each one individually, but if I'm not careful, my bookbag floweth over. Take this weekend, for example. I have two assignments that need to be corrected. Doesn't sound bad, until you multiply 2 x 100. You don't have to be a math teacher to figure out those numbers. Ugh.

I'm queen of the procrastinators. And I rationalize. A lot.

So I made soup instead!

A November kind of soup. Creamy and tangy and full of unusual ingredients! I'm pretty proud of this soup - it's all mine, from the farro to the dried cranberries soaked in raspberry vinegar. What's farro? Here's how I described it on facebook to a friend... "Farro is a grain like barley, but it kicks barley's ass. Chewier, nuttier. It's like brown rice on the best kind of steroids."

And I added sage, because sage is so very November-y.

And kale, because I'm renaming the blog Kale-a-Woman.

Farro and Dried Cranberry Soup with Kale
Serves 4-6

2 T. butter
1 medium yellow onion, diced (about 2 cups)
1 large carrot, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 T. chopped fresh sage
1 clove garlic, pressed through a garlic press
1 T. flour
1 c. farro, soaked in cold water one hour, then drained and rinsed
1 c. dried cranberries, soaked in raspberry vinegar (or balsamic) for one hour, drained and RESERVE the vinegar
5 c. chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
1/2 c. heavy cream
2 c. chopped kale, washed, center ribs removed, and chopped small.
3 T. of the reserved vinegar from the cranberry soak

Rinse 1 c. of farro and then place in a bowl and cover with water to soak for one hour. At the same time, place 1 c. dried cranberries into a bowl and cover with raspberry vinegar (or balsamic vinegar) and set aside to soak for one hour.
Drain and rinse farro. Drain cranberries into a separate bowl. Reserve vinegar.

Melt butter in a heavy soup pot over medium heat until melted, but not browned. Add diced onions and cook, stirring frequently, until softened and translucent, around 8-10 minutes. They should be tender, but not browned. Stir in carrot and celery and sautee until tender, around 3 more minutes. Stir in sage and garlic and sautee until fragrant, around 30 more seconds.

Stir in flour, and stir and stir until flour is cooked and has lost its raw taste, around 1 minute. Add the chicken broth and the farro. Stir well and simmer around 30 minutes, stirrring occasionally, until farro is nearly tender.

Add in drained cranberries, and simmer 15 additional minutes, until cranberries start to plump up. Stir in cream and kale and simmer 10 more minutes or so, until everything is melded and yummy. Add the 3 T. of reserved vinegar and stir well. Taste and add salt and pepper, even more sage or more of the reserved vinegar if needed. Tweak the seasonings untl just right for you.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Confessions of a Soup Hoarder: Slow Cooker Pasta e Fagioli

Last weekend I started to get "the look" from Mr. Soup. Okay, fine, by the time I finished hoarding freezing the Sopa de Carnitas, I had 29 one-cup containers of soup in my freezer stash. And okay, fine, I officially ran out of my preferred soup containers and went out and bought 12 more. And okay, fine, I was already sketching out/pinning/researching the next soup I wanted to make. I still don't think there's any reason for somone to come upstairs and stand in the living room with fists on hips and demand, "Do you KNOW how much soup there is in the freezer?"


(And the answer was, yes, I knew exactly how much soup there was in the freezer.)

I can't help it this time of year. It's soup season: I love to think about it, I love to make it, I love to eat it, and okay, fine, I love to have a freezer full of it. Deal, Mr. Soup.

The good news for everyone involved is that this week I got a sudden call back to school for a 7th Grade Language Arts leave replacement. I now have an excuse to go ahead and indulge myself with another soup, because now that I'm working again, I'm whittling that stash down by one every day. (There are only 26 in the freezer now! Eek!) It is just so ridicuously handy to grab a cup of frozen soup on my way out the door each morning. Ta-da! Lunch!

Today's soup is my version of a Slow Cooker Italian Pasta and Bean Soup - Pasta e Fagioli (pronounced fah-zhool). There are a lot of recipes for this on the internet, most of which seem to be inspired by Olive Garden. I've only eaten at Olive Garden once in my life, and I hated every bite of the shrimp scampi linguine I chose, so I can't attest to their soups. I can, however, attest to the version I made. It's probably not authentic, especially as I snuck kale in there. (And if you're wondering, the answer to that one is "No, there isn't anything kale doesn't make better.") It's a hearty, flavorful bowl full of yum that makes your house smell terrific. Soup hoarders, unite!

Slow Cooker Pasta e Fagioli (Italian Pasta and Bean Soup)
Serves 6-8

1 lb. ground beef
1 large yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, pressed through a garlic press
2 t. dried Italian Seasoning
1 t. red pepper flakes
2 bay leaves
2 stalks celery, diced
3 medium carrots, diced
1 can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 can white kidney beans (cannellini), rinsed and drained
3 c. marinara sauce (I'm a big fan of Paul Newman's - but make your own if you are so inclined)
1 2-inch chunk of parmesan rind (optional)
4 c. chicken broth
1/2 c. ditalini pasta (or other small pasta)
1/2 head curly kale, washed, stems removed, and chopped (about 3 cups)

In a large sautee pan, brown ground beef over medium-high heat. Once browned, drain excess fat from pan. Turn heat down to medium and add the onion. Sautee until onion starts to soften, around 5 minutes. Add garlic, Italian Seasoning, red pepper flakes and bay leaves and continue to stir and sautee around 1 minute more, until everything is well combined and you can smell the garlic and spices.

Add the ground beef mixture to your slow cooker. Stir in the remaining ingredients EXCEPT the pasta and kale. Turn slow cooker on to low and cook for 7 hours. Add pasta and kale and cook for an additional 30 minutes, or until pasta is tender. Remove bay leaves and parmesan rind before serving.

**The pasta will absorb quite a bit of liquid, so make sure you use a small shape, or you'll end up with a squishy stew instead of a soup. Add a small amount of additional liquid when re-heating, if necessary, to re-brothify. Yes, that is too a word.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Deliberate Leftovers: Slow-Cooker Ham and Great Northern Bean Soup

It's already established I'm soup-obsessed. Clearly. I didn't make any soup over the summer, but now that the leaves are turning, it seems like it's all I think about. I'm pinning soups like mad, I'm making lists of different soup ideas I'd like to try, and I've been covertly buying used soup cookbooks from Amazon on the cheap. (The covert part of that plan hasn't worked out so well since Mr. Soup picks up the mail.)

But I've hit on a new soup strategy that has me more excited about soup than any other. Deliberate leftovers.

Take for example, today's soup. A Slow-Cooker Ham and Great Northern Bean Soup. I originally saw a picture for this here on Plain Chicken. You might remember Plain Chicken. She's the one that inflicted introduced us to Crack Bread. I won't even 'fess up to how many times I've found an excuse to make that since last Super Bowl. Woe.

But back to the soup. The picture was amazing. I wanted that. Bad. It looked like one of those things where the sum was much much greater than the parts. Just a few ingredients to simple peasant-like deliciousness. All I needed was a ham bone. Pay attention now, this is where the genius comes in! I bought a ham.

You're not impressed, I can tell. "Genius?" you're thinking, "Hardly." But you see, my family LOVES ham. All right, fine, everybody loves ham. But my family ONLY loves ham the first night hot right out of the oven. None of the crazy people that live here will lovingly take it out of the fridge on subsequent days and slice off sliver after sliver and eat it straight off the knife. (Okay, maybe one person that lives here will do that.) So when I make a ham, I get an excellent family dinner and then I have all the rest of the ham to myself. Ham joy. And yes, genius.

Slow-Cooker Ham and Great Northern Bean Soup
Adapted from Plain Chicken
Serves 6-8

1 lb. dried Great Northern Beans
1 meaty leftover ham bone
1 large onion, diced
1 t. crushed red pepper flakes
6 cups water

Sort through the beans to check for any small pebbles. Side note: I have always done this and have never once found a darn thing. Until now. Sure enough, there was an itty bitty rock in the bag.

Cover the beans with 2 inches of water and soak for a minimum of 4 hours. Drain and rinse well. (The original recipe doesn't call for the beans to be soaked at all, and I wasn't in the mood to soak overnight. Still, I worried they wouldn't truly get soft without some sort of soak. I opted to soak them for about 4 hours in the morning before I started the slow cooker up.)

Add beans, onions, and red pepper flakes to slow cooker and stir together. Nestle the ham bone into the mixture and add the water. Cook on low for 8 hours. Remove ham, let cool slightly, and then shred the meat and add it back into the pot.

That's it! 5 simple ingredients that cook all day without tending. It doesn't get much easier than that.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Back-to-School: Split Pea Soup with Shredded Ham

This time of year is getting a little bittersweet for me. First, our girls are getting so old! The oldest is starting her junior year in high school this year, and the youngest is entering 8th grade. Next year we'll have two at the high school! Me, the mother of two high school students. Huh. And the year after that? I'm not ready to mentally go there yet.

Second, I always spend the entire month of August hiking as much as possible in the annual Hike-a-Thon for Washington Trails Association. This year I hiked 70 miles in August alone, with a total of 11,500 feet of elevation gain. When September 1st hits, it's a hiking buzz kill. Not that I can't hike other times of the year, but in August I can literally hike to my heart's content, neglect all household duties, and feel not one whit of guilt! Powerful stuff.

I started back-to-school soup prep with a tasty split pea. I had a generous portion of leftover ham on the bone, and my fashion blogger friend Ellbee from a little blog told me keeps tweeting about eating split pea and frankly, the stars just seemed aligned.

There's just one problem. In general, I don't love split pea soup. I will not eat, nor tolerate, a split pea soup that is a bowl full of thick green mush. I've seen split pea that would hold a spoon vertical. That's just wrong, people. If you are that kind of split pea "soup" eater **coughMollicough**- move along. Nothing to see here folks!

This. Is. NOT. Soup.

I like brothy soups best, and I see no reason why split pea can't fit into that category nicely. So today I set out to make myself a split pea soup that suits my tastes. Hey, if I have to face children who keep getting older without my permission as well as end my wanton hiking orgy, I really have no choice but to indulge myself in soup done my way.

Now, this is soup. See, it needs a spoon!

Split Pea Soup with Shredded Ham
serves 6-8

1 T. olive oil
1 T. butter
1 large onion, medium diced (about 2 generous cups)
1 clove garlic, pressed through a garlic press
1/2 t. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 t. dried thyme
1/2 t. red pepper flakes
1/2 t. dry mustard
1 bay leaf
2 large carrots, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
16 oz. dried split peas
1 ham bone, with some meat still attached
10 c. water

Heat oil and butter over medium heat until hot, but not smoking. Add onion, and sautee until transculescent, around 6-8 minutes. Add garlic and sautee briefly until cooked, 30 seconds. Stir in all the spices and stir until the onion mixture is coated. Add the carrots and celery and split peas, and stir again until well mixed. Add in the ham bone, and then add the water.

Simmer, uncovered, until the ham is falling off the bone and the peas are just tender to the tooth, but not falling apart and getting mushy. About an hour to an hour and a half. Remove from heat. Remove ham bone from soup and let cool slightly. Shred the meat from the ham into nice chunks and stir back into the soup. Remove bay leaf and check for seasoning. I ended up adding about 1 t. salt at the end, but I didn't salt in the beginning because you never know how salty the ham will make your soup.

If you do like a thicker soup, feel free to add around 8 cups of water and simmer until your peas are mushy and thick. Just don't ask me over for dinner. :)

12 days of lunches, ready for the freezer! Soup stash joy.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Souper Bowl Sunday: Buffalo Chicken Chowder

We host a Super Bowl party every year. Some years it's just our family and our best friend and his son, and some years it's a full-fledged dealio. Either way, there are recipes I make just one time a year, and Super Bowl is that time. Chili-Bacon Breadsticks, Buffalo Chicken Dip, and my mom's deep fried Crab Puffs: these are foods you cannot eat every day.

This year, thanks to Pinterest, I added something to our annual menu that is so horrible for you that it just HAD to be delicious. A little something called Crack Bread from the blog Plain Chicken. Yeah, like you should make that a part of your regular diet! It was inhaled. Literally inhaled. The whole thing was gone in under 10 minutes and there was an actual hand slap involved when someone went for a piece that another person had their eye on. No lie.

To counteract the need for a defibrulator the Crack Bread might induce, I altered up my usual Buffalo Chicken Dip and turned those flavors - which I consider SO necessary during Super Bowl - into a soup! A chowder, to be precise.

A quick web search proved that I wasn't the first genius to come up with this plan. The blog Closet Cooking had a really good jumping off point for a version that would suit our tastes and the big game, really well.

I couldn't be happier with this Buffalo Chicken Chowder. It tasted so absolutely delicious. In fact, our best friend declared that he actually liked the soup better than our standard dip. There really can be no higher compliment! This is going to be a regular on my soup rotation. I won't even have to wait for Super Bowl to make it! Yay!

Buffalo Chicken Chowder
Adapted from Closet Cooking

1 lb. bacon, thinly sliced
2 T. vegetable oil
2 lbs. raw chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/4 t. celery seed
1/4 c. butter
1 medium yellow onion, chopped (2 cups)
3 carrots, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, pressed through a garlic press
1/4 c. flour
6 c. chicken broth
1/3 c. Frank's Original Hot Sauce (or more to taste - I ended up using a generous 1/2 cup but we like things spicy)
2 red potatoes, scrubbed, but not peeled, diced
1 c. heavy cream
4 oz. blue cheese (plus more for garnish)

Heat a wide-bottomed heavy soup pot over medium heat. When hot, add in bacon and sautee until crisp. Transfer bacon with a slotted spoon or with tongs to paper towels to drain. Reserve bacon. Wipe out the pot really well.

Heat the vegetable oil in the clean pot and when hot, but not smoking, add the chicken. Sprinkle the celery seed over the chicken evenly. Brown chicken on all sides, but don't cook it all the way through. It will get cooked again later when the soup is simmering and you don't want it to get tough. Remove chicken to a bowl, and reserve. Wipe out pot again.

Melt the butter in the pot. Add the onions and sautee until tender, around 5-6 minutes. Add in the celery and carrots, and sautee an additional 3-4 minutes. Stir in the garlic, and give a brief stir, then add in the flour and stir to coat the vegetables well and cook the raw taste out of the flour, around a minute or so.

Add in the chicken broth and scrape the bottom of the pot well. Stir in the Frank's Hot Sauce. Add in the reserved chicken and the potatoes. Bring to a simmer, and simmer 20-30 minutes, or until potatoes and chicken are cooked through.

Stir in the cream, and crumble the blue cheese in and stir until melted. Remove from heat. Add most of the bacon back into the chowder, reserving a little bit for garnish.

Serve, garnished with additional blue cheese crumbles and crispy bacon.

*** If you chill this overnight, the spice will mellow. Add additional Frank's to bring back that unmistakable Buffalo Wing flavor.

**** This makes a fairly thin chowder because that's how we like it. If you like a thick-cling-to-your-spoon chowder you can decrease the broth and/or increase the amount of roux (flour & butter mixture) you stir in.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

A Chili By Any Other Name: Smoky Chipotle Pork Chili with Beans

This. Is. Awesome.

This is so awesome that my entire bean-hating-won't-eat-chili family (who are these people?) scarfed down bowl after bowl of this.

Okay, fine, I had to call it "pork stew" until after they tried it and THEN I told them it was chili... but whatever works, right?

I'll be honest. This isn't the first time I've had to use lies word-play to get my family to eat something. Words are powerful. My daughters still turn up their noses whenever I use the word "squash," but they will happily eat a bowl of Harvest Soup. Main ingredient? Butternut squash. Several years ago, my youngest spooned suspiciously through her clam chowder and asked me what the "little meaty bits" were. With no hesitation, I answered "chicken" and we were good to go. And frankly, they still don't know that three Easters ago the steak they raved about was actually lamb.

They're teens now, and not as fussy as they used to be, thank goodness. But none of them, including Mr. Soup, will touch chili with a 10-foot pole. And with the epic snowfall the week before, I knew I wanted something hearty to serve to the people who came to the Soup Swap. This chili is absolutely perfect winter food. It has great depth of flavor, falling-apart tender pork, and the exact right amount of heat. The swappers loved it. And with a little mom-perogative treachery, so did my family. Yes.

Smoky Chipotle Pork Chili with Beans
serves 8-10

1 pound bacon, thinly sliced
6 pounds boneless pork shoulder, trimmed and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 large yellow onions, chopped
3 fresh jalapeƱo chiles, seeded and chopped (I left some of the seeds in)
4 large garlic cloves,  pressed through a garlic press
1 T. dried oregano, crumbled
2 T. chili powder (I used ancho chili powder)
2 T.  ground cumin
1/2 t. cayenne
1/4 c. chopped chipotle peppers in adobo  (this was around 5-6 chipotles plus 2 T. of the adobo or so)
1 26-oz box Swanson's Cooking Beef Stock
1 c. strong brewed coffee (I used a Starbuck's VIA for this)
12 oz. bottle of dark beer
3 28-oz cans of crushed tomatoes
2 cans red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained

Cook the bacon in a large heavy soup pot over medium heat until crisp. Using tongs or a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain and reserve until later. Pour off all but about 2 T. bacon fat. Season pork cubes with salt and pepper. Add vegetable oil to pot and heat over medium heat until hot, but not smoking. Brown the pork in batches and transfer with a slotted spoon to a plate. Don't crowd the meat or you'll end up steaming it rather than browning. Add more vegetable oil if needed for the subsequent batches. Reserve pork for later.
Add the onion and jalapeƱos and sautee over  medium heat, stirring, until softened, around 8 minutes. Be sure and scrape up all the fond on the bottom of the pan so that it coats the vegetables. Add garlic, oregano, chili powder, cumin, and cayenne, and chipotles, then sautee, stirring, 1 minute. Return pork to the soup pot along with any juice on the plate and add the beef stock, coffee, beer, and tomatoes.
Simmer the chili, stirring occasionally, until the pork is very tender and falls easily apart, about 2 hours. Stir both kinds of  beans and the bacon back in, and continue to simmer 20-30 minutes longer, stirring occasionally.
Serve chili with the usual chili garnishes: grated cheese, green onions, sour cream, and don't forget the cornbread!  

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Gettin' Our Soup On: Sopa de Albondigas (Mexican Meatball Soup)

Nothing's better than soup on a cold winter's day, right?

Snowy weather = soup weather, right?

The 6th annual National Soup Swap Day was January 21st, 2012.

On January 20th, it looked like this at my house:

Which would be great for swapping soup, if we didn't live at the tippity top of this:

How high is that snow, you ask? Higher than a dachshund.

(A friend of mine pointed out that we didn't really need to have a leash on Xena, Warrior Princess Dog since she obviously wasn't going anywhere...) 

So... I called off the Swap for the 21st, and pushed it back a week until the 28th. We don't get snow very often here in Washington State, and when we do, we're really not that prepared for it. I love where we live, but if you don't a have a 4-wheel drive vehicle you're not getting anywhere near my house in the snow.

But, by last night, the snow was cleared and swappers were ready to do their thing. There were 6 of us in all, and we had a great time. At the end of the evening, I had scored some great soups! Residing in my freezer right now are a Shrimp Gumbo made in the Northern Louisiana tradition using file powder as the thickening agent. Nestled nearby is a Spicy Taco Soup made with elk meat (!!), and a Root Vegetable Bisque with parsnips, turnips, sweet potatoes, and carrots. And if that wasn't enough, I also scored a comforting Corn and Bacon Chowder (can't ever go wrong with bacon) and a gorgeous Purple Cabbage and Sweet Potato Soup made with coconut milk and peanut butter!

Lunch is going to be seriously tasty for awhile.

As for myself, I made Sopa de Albondigas, or Mexican Meatball Soup.

I fell in love with this soup while I was making it. The broth alone was so good I could've just sipped it all day long. I really think it has beaten out White Bean Soup with Kielbasa and Kale as my new favorite!

And it doesn't even have KALE in it!!!!  Who knew?

Sopa de Albondigas (Mexican Meatball Soup)

1 lb. lean ground beef
1 lb. lean ground pork
2 large eggs
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1/2 c. chopped cilantro
1 t. dried oregano (preferably Mexican oregano if you can find it)
1/4 t. ground pepper
1/2 c. long-grained rice, uncooked

2 T. vegetable oil
2 large onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, pressed through a press
1 t. dried oregano (again, preferably Mexican oregano)
1 1/2 t. ground cumin
12 c. chicken broth
2 chipotle peppers, chopped, plus 1 T. of the adobo sauce it comes in
2 cans of diced tomatoes
3 large carrots, shredded
3 medium red potatoes, diced
1/4 c. chopped cilantro

To make the meatballs whisk the eggs in the bottom of a large bowl. Add the garlic, cilantro, oregano, and pepper and whisk together. Add in the meat and rice and mix together thoroughly. You're probably going to have to stick your hands in there to get it all mixed up. Form into small balls, around 1" in diameter. I actually used my small cookie scoop to portion them, then rolled in my hands to finish forming. Place on a cookie sheet, and when they're all formed put the whole tray in the fridge to firm up a bit while you make the broth.

For the broth: Heat the oil in the bottom of a large soup pot until shimmering. Add the onions, and sautee until tender and translucent, around 8-10 minutes. Add the garlic, oregano, and cumin, and sautee another minute. Add all the remaining ingredients EXCEPT the potatoes and cilantro. Bring the broth to a boil, stirring occassionally. Reduce heat slightly and let broth simmer around 20 minutes.

Remove meatballs from fridge and add to the simmering broth, one at a time. Do this gently and carefully so you don't splash the broth all over the place. Add the potatoes, and simmer the soup for 30 minutes. Check meatballs for doneness - they should be cooked through and the rice should be tender. If it's not there, continue simmering until they are done. Adjust seasoning as needed, stir in the cilantro, and serve.

Garnish with any of your favorite Mexican accompaniments: diced avocado, fried tortilla strips, diced green onions, and sour cream. Or forget all of that and just eat it as is! (That's my preference.)

This makes a LOT of soup because I was making it for swapping. If you don't particularly want 26-28 cups of soup, feel free to halve it. :)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Green Eggs and Kale: Kale Soup with Poached Egg

You do not like kale.
So you say.
Try it! Try it!
And you may.
Try it and you may, I say.

-paraphrased from Dr. Seuss

I have been obsessed with the idea of this soup for some time now. Literally obsessed. I had this vision of a vibrant green soup with a poached egg floating in it, and I couldn't shake it. And truly, I tried to shake it, because the people that live in my house are getting pretty sick of the kale parade. But it wouldn't go away.

Plus, I really like poached eggs.

And double plus, I'm home alone today and there's no one here to stop me from making it! Ha!

I couldn't really find any working recipes out there for a blended kale soup. Left to my own devices, I simply went with what worked well in my head. (Potentially ugly, I know, but it turned out okay this time.)  I opted to use mild cannellini beans to both slightly thicken the soup as well as add protein. A generous 1/4 cup helping of dijon mustard went into the pot as well. That might seem like an odd ingredient for a soup, but it works really well with the kale, and it mellows during the simmering stage. In fact, you may even find that you want to add one more dollop at the end to bring it back to the front.

On it's own, the soup tastes good. But it's when you break open the egg and swirl the yolk into the soup that the magic happens. Do not, under any circumstances, skip the poached egg!

Kale Soup with Poached Egg

1 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, put through a garlic press
1/4 t. dried thyme leaves
4 green onions, chopped (about 1/4 c.)
1 bunch curly kale, center ribs removed, leaves chopped
2 cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
4 c. chicken broth
1/4 c. dijon mustard
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. ground pepper
poached eggs (1 per serving)

Heat oil in a heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium heat until hot, but not smoking. Add onions and sautee, stirring frequently, until quite soft and golden brown, around 10 minutes or so. Add in garlic and thyme and sautee briefly, 30 seconds. Add green onions and kale and continue to sautee until the kale has wilted slightly, around 3-5 minutes.

Add the rest of the ingredients to the pot (not the eggs) and simmer until the kale is quite tender, 10-15 minutes. Don't let it simmer forever, though, you want the kale to retain its bright green color.

Using an immersion blender, you can blend it all together right in the soup pot. Otherwise, let it cool slightly and puree it in batches in a blender. Return to pot and keep warm.

In a separate pan, poach however many eggs you need. I like 1 egg for about 1/2 c. serving of soup. If you want a bigger bowl of soup I would probably add another egg so the yolk doesn't get lost. Ladle soup into bowls and carefully slide poached egg on top of each serving.

And I would eat them in a boat.
And I would eat them with a goat…

And I will eat them in the rain.
And in the dark. And on a train.
And in a car. And in a tree.
They are so good, so good, you see!
So I will eat them in a box.
And I will eat them with a fox.
And I will eat them in a house.
And I will eat them with a mouse.
And I will eat them here and there.
Say! I will eat them ANYWHERE!
I do so like green eggs and kale!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

6th Annual Soup Swap - Coming to a Kitchen Near You?

Recently I followed a twitter link that took me to something wonderful called Soup Swap. Turns out a GENIUS named Knox Gardner (from Seattle!) came up with the idea... the basic principle of which is everyone comes to a central location with the same amount of soup. Taking turns, each person chooses a different container of someone else's soup and in the end everyone goes home with a variety. It runs pretty much exactly like the cookie swap parties that are so popular in the month of December. But with SOUP! I die.

 How could I not get in on that? Did you see the title of my blog? If I don't host a soup swap I'm pretty sure I'd have to shut down my kitchen.

The 6th Annual Soup Swap takes place on January 21st this year. I'm hosting one, and can't wait to see what soups show up on my kitchen counter. You could host one too!  Fellow blogger, Soup Chick has a great post about it today... read more about it and get great ideas for soups that freeze well.

Check back after the 21st for pictures and a report on how our swap went. Maybe I'll even be able to coerce some recipes out of my guests!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Pass the Protein, Please: Hearty Mushroom and Sausage Soup with Farro

Recently, someone asked me if I had any vegetarian soups. I had to pause and think about that for a minute.

I'm not anti-vegetarian by any means. Before my surgery we had lots of meatless meals, usually centered around pasta. However, pasta on it's own isn't a great choice for me anymore, and on top of that, I consciously work at adding protein to my recipes wherever I can. That's why most of my recipes have two different sources of protein, and this one's no different: Hearty Mushroom and Sausage Soup with Farro. I add spicy sausage (a family favorite) as well as farro, which is a terrific whole grain that has a big-time chewy texture and a mild nutty flavor. Farro is also a great source of plant-based protein. It has 7 grams for every 1/4 cup serving, coming in even higher than quinoa or brown rice.  It really adds a special something to this earthy soup.

When it comes down to it, I guess I just don't think like a vegetarian when I'm creating a soup recipe. However, if you're a vegetarian, there are still options here. Usually one of the two proteins I add to my soups is plant-based, so you could simply eliminate the meat protein. In this soup, you could certainly skip the sausage and substitute vegetable broth for the chicken broth, and you'd be good to go.

Hearty Mushroom and Sausage Soup with Farro

2/3 cup farro, soaked in cold water for 20 minutes
3 T. extra-virgin olive oil
24 oz. sliced cremini mushrooms (I cheat and buy the packages already sliced for me)
1 t. salt
1 lb. spicy Italian ground sausage
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 clove garlic, pressed through a garlic press
2 carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1/2 t. red pepper flakes
1/2 t. dried thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
6 c. chicken broth
1 T. red wine vinegar

Heat olive oil in a heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium heat. When hot, but not smoking, add mushrooms and stir to coat in olive oil. Sprinkle salt over mushrooms. (This will help them give up more of their moisture so you can get them crispy.) Sautee mushrooms for 15 minutes or so. First they'll give up a lot of moisture, then that will cook off and you want to continue sauteeing them until they are browned and have crispy edges. When done, remove with slotted spoon and set aside.
Sautee sausage in same pot, pressing with spoon to break up, until browned and cooked through. Remove with slotted spoon and set aside.

Add in onions and sautee until they are soft and golden, about 6-8 minutes. Add in garlic and sautee briefly, around 30 seconds. Add carrots and celery and sautee until vegetables begin to soften, around 4 minutes. Add red pepper, thyme, and bay leaves and stir to coat vegetables.
Add the chicken stock to the pot, along with the reserved mushrooms and sausage. Drain farro and add to pot. Simmer soup until the farro is tender and chewy, around 30-45 minutes longer. Add vinegar, taste, and season with salt and pepper if needed.