Tag Archives: Soups

Blog Neglect and Corn Chowder

I certainly have been neglecting this blog, haven’t I? I started this blog many years ago, when I had a lot of extra time on my hands, I wanted to learn blogging, and I wanted to become a better cook. Keeping up the blog helped achieve those goals. Researching cooking techniques and writing down recipes reinforced them in my head, so that now I can do a lot of cooking without consulting a book or a recipe. I also feel more confident in the kitchen and more inclined to experiment or go off the recipe. But that kind of cooking isn’t very bloggable, especially since I’m not one to take a lot of photos of my food.

(Speaking of photos, my husband has taken up photography as a hobby. If he wanted to do some food photography, I would happily showcase his work on this blog.)

Let’s take last night’s dinner, for instance. It was cold and drizzly, and I wanted to make corn chowder. The first recipe I consulted sounded good, but it called for a pre-baked potato. I didn’t have any on hand, and I certainly wasn’t going to bake a potato for an hour just to put it in a soup. But I marked the recipe as something to try when I had leftover baked potatoes, and I also took note of some of the additions it suggested.

The second recipe was in Joy of Cooking. It was much simpler, but I didn’t care for the idea of a soup with a milk base. I’m trying to reduce my dairy intake these days. Still, it was a good base to build on. Here’s what I did.

I fried 3 strips of bacon until crispy and put them on paper towels to drain. I put a spoonful of the bacon grease into my soup pot, along with about half an onion, diced, and 2 celery stalks, sliced. I let them cook a little while over medium-low until they had gotten tender. Then I added 1 baking potato, peeled and diced, about 1 cup of frozen corn kernels, and about 2½ cups chicken stock. I use the word about because I didn’t measure; I just added things to the pot until I had what looked like a good amount of soup. I seasoned the soup with a healthy amount of Southwest seasoning mix (Penzey’s). I brought it to a boil, covered it, and let it simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the potatoes were cooked. Using a stick blender, I pureed the soup to thicken it up, but I left it relatively chunky.

To serve, I let each person add what they wanted: crumbled bacon; dollop of sour cream; and grated cheddar-jack cheese. It served 3 people with some left over. I thought it was pretty tasty, but when and if I make it again, I doubt I’ll make it the exact same way.

As a matter of fact, this basic formula would work for any potato-based soup. Instead of corn, you could add leeks, tomatoes, carrots, greens, peas–almost any vegetable you like, really. You could vary the seasoning and garnishes as you wish.

After you get experience and confidence cooking, recipes start to seem superfluous–at least for everyday cooking. I’ll still follow a recipe religiously when I’m trying a new and challenging dish. But when I’m trying to get dinner on the table, I tend to follow my instincts and build a dish as a cook, based on the ingredients I’ve got around and how much work I feel like doing.

How do you cook? Do you follow recipes to the letter, or do you improvise as you go along?


Old-Fashioned Turkey Noodle Soup — Foster’s Market

I seem to make this Old-Fashioned Turkey Noodle Soup once a year, around the holidays when leftover turkey is abundant. The recipe is from the Foster’s Market Cookbook, but fortunately, it is also online.

I start by cutting all the leftover meat off the turkey bone. I put the bone in a big pot, cover it with water, and add roughly chopped onions, carrots and celery (don’t bother to peel). Throw in a bay leaf and few whole peppercorns. I simmer this for a couple of hours, then drain and discard the solids. This homemade stock doesn’t take much effort and definitely results in a richer, more satisfying soup.

I like this recipe because it is very adaptable, and thus is a great way to make use of any leftovers hanging around. I omitted the pasta and parsnips this time, but I added a peeled, diced potato and, in the last few minutes, some leftover green beans. Watch the cooking times in the recipe: I think they’re a bit too long, especially at the beginning. I was able to shorten the time for softening the vegetables without any noticeable issues. This recipe will yield plenty of leftovers, suitable for freezing.

This soup is tasty and, after the indulgences of the holidays, very healthy. You can also make it with leftover roast chicken. Here is a link to the recipe on the Foster’s Market website. Enjoy!

Broccoli Soup with Leeks and Thyme from Bon Appétit

I am not finding the time to post new recipes, as I hoped, but I can review some online recipes I discover. With millions of recipes to choose from, maybe this will help you decide what to make for dinner.

I had my doubts about this recipe for Broccoli Soup with Leeks and Thyme from Bon Appétit. It seemed very simple and like it might not be very filling. However, it turned out to have a really creamy texture–amazing because there is no cream or other thickener, like potatoes or flour, in the soup. The flavor is very simple but clean and refreshing. I would recommend using a very good quality chicken broth, or homemade stock, so that the soup has plenty of body, and puree it very well to achieve the creamy texture. You’ll end up with a healthy, light dinner entree.

This soup cannot carry a meal by itself. I served it with open-faced cheese toasts, broiled with cheddar and a little bacon, to give the meal more heft. I reheated leftovers for lunch the next day, adding cooked rice and crumbled bacon to the pot to make a heartier version of the soup.

A Quick Soup for Lunch or Anytime

I have been trying to eat more soup lately, at least for one meal a day. When I’m feeling a little under the weather and rundown, which seems to be the norm this winter, nothing hits the spot like a bowl of soup. Soup is also filling and an easy way to sneak in lots of veggies.

But it can seem like a chore to make a pot of soup, especially in the middle of a busy day. With just a little planning, though, I can turn leftover cooked meat, vegetables, and pasta or rice into a quick soup anytime.

The most important part of the soup is its base, the stock. A rich, satisfying, full-bodied soup requires a homemade stock. Making stock ahead of time is easy to do. Just let a big pot simmer away while doing other things around the house or, better yet, break out the slow cooker. Here is my method for making stock.

I usually make chicken stock on a Sunday afternoon. After cooling it in the refrigerator, I freeze it in two-cup containers. In the evening, I pop a container of frozen stock into the fridge to defrost overnight, and I’m all ready to make a bowl of soup for lunch the next day. (Defrost more containers if cooking for more than one person.)

When it comes time to make lunch, I compose the soup out of anything I find in the fridge that is either already cooked or will cook quickly. Of course, I make sure that the flavors are well-matched, too. I usually stick to five or fewer ingredients for a simple, nourishing soup. Here are some ideas for what to add:

  • any cooked meat, shredded or sliced small
  • diced bacon, crisped in the soup pot before adding the stock
  • leftover cooked vegetables
  • fresh greens, such as spinach or bok choy
  • canned or fresh tomatoes, diced
  • canned or cooked beans, rinsed
  • boiled or roasted potatoes
  • cooked pasta or rice

Heat 2 cups of stock per person in a large pot over medium. Add the ingredients and let cook at a low simmer for 10-15 minutes to heat through. Finish the soup with a swirl of olive oil, a pat of butter or a sprinkling of grated cheese, plus salt and pepper to taste. Serve with bread or crackers.

Italian Sausage Soup

It is raining today, and actually feels like fall is coming, so here is a warming soup that is quick and easy enough for a weeknight meal. This is another entry in my favorite recipes series. This soup comes from Sara Foster’s cookbook, Sara Foster’s Casual Cooking.

Italian Sausage Soup

  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 lb. Italian sausage
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 1 14.5-ounce can chopped tomatoes with their juices
  • 1 15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 cups spinach, cabbage, or other greens, washed and trimmed
  • 4 basil leaves, thinly sliced

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Cut open the sausage casings and squeeze the meat into the skillet, discarding the casings. Add the onion and saute 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sausage is light brown all over and the onion is tender and translucent. Drain the fat from the skillet. Add the stock, tomatoes and beans. Season to taste and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 8-10 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the greens and basil.

Patricia Wells’ Double Celery Soup

Over the next several posts, I’m going to be sharing some of my favorite recipes. These are recipes that I don’t make that often but that I want to remember for special occasions. Sometimes when a favorite recipe is buried in a cookbook, it can be forgotten. So my reasons for sharing them on the blog are purely selfish — I just don’t want them to get lost or forgotten over time. But I hope you will enjoy them too.

This first recipe comes from Patricia Wells’ excellent cookbook Bistro CookingIt combines two ingredients I don’t cook with very often: celery and celery root. This unexpected combination make an absolutely delicious soup that can make an appearance at a dinner party or perk up someone who’s feeling under the weather.

This soup is most appropriate for winter or early spring, so apologies for posting out of season. As a light meal, serve it with crisp crackers and a green salad. It makes 6-8 servings, and leftovers can be frozen.

Double Celery Soup

  • 1 med. celery root (about 1 pound), peeled and diced
  • 10 celery ribs, cubed
  • 3 leeks, trimmed, rinsed and cut into thin rounds
  • 1 large sprig of thyme, 3 bay leaves and several sprigs of parsley, tied with a string
  • 2 quarts chicken stock
  • Salt and pepper
  • Handful of fresh chopped herbs for garnish

In a large saucepan, combine the celery root, celery, leeks and whole herbs. Add the stock and season gently. Bring to a simmer over medium-high. Simmer until the vegetables are soft, about 25 minutes. Sprinkle with the chopped herbs to serve.

Super-Simple Chicken Soup with Vegetables and Pasta

I have been trying to eat more soup recently, and not just because it’s winter. There are so many reasons why soup is a great meal that we should strive to eat every day. Soup is easy to make and adaptable to whatever ingredients are available. It’s easy to get a daily serving of veggies in — just throw them in the soup pot. Also, soup is satisfying and filling, a boon if you are trying to eat less and lose weight (which many of us are after the excess of the holidays).

Chicken soup is a classic that everyone loves. I don’t follow a recipe to make this soup, but rather use the vegetables I already have on hand. With small pasta such as orzo or macaroni and boneless chicken breasts, this soup can be prepared in less than 30 minutes.

It’s perfectly okay to use store-bought stock for this soup; I prefer the organic brands, such as Swanson’s or Pacific Natural, which are sold in aseptic containers. However, it is easy to make chicken stock, and it only takes about an hour. Homemade stock tastes much richer than any stock you can buy, so why not make your own?

To make a quick chicken stock, cut up a three- to four-pound chicken and put the pieces in a large pot. Roughly chop 1 large onion, 1 large carrot and 1 celery stalk (don’t bother to peel), and add them to the pot, along with 1 bay leaf and a few whole peppercorns. Pour in 14 cups water. On high heat, bring just to a boil, then reduce to a low simmer. Cook for at least one hour and no more than two hours. Cool slightly and strain out the solids. Reserve the chicken breasts to use in any recipe calling for cooked chicken meat. If you are not making soup right away, refrigerate the stock and use within three days, or freeze it for up to three months.

Now, to make the soup, peel and chop several kinds of vegetables into small pieces. Carrots, celery and onion are classic choices, but use whatever you have available. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large pot over medium-high. Saute the vegetables to lightly brown them. Add 1 garlic clove, minced, and saute another minute or two. Add 4 cups chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Cut 1 boneless chicken breast into small pieces and add to the pot, or if you made your own stock, shred the cooked breast meat and add that. Also add ¼ cup uncooked orzo, macaroni or other small pasta. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer, covered, until the chicken and pasta are cooked, about 15 minutes.

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