Posts tagged ‘soup’

“Anything goes,” so they say.

If you’re like me, you get a lot of emails, many of them not personal. Most of them I bring upon myself as a consequence of my apparent inability to resist the “Subscribe here” urge. I’ve clicked those buttons, or signed up at events, often enough that I created a secondary email address for all of these emails to go to. In turn, this means that just a few actually get read. This is kind of sad, I’ll admit, having written enewsletters myself, because I know the time that goes into them at the other end, with all the concern about format or images or color schemes. That said, the reality is, what I open each month has little to do with any of that. In all honestly, the likelihood that any one of these emails will be read by me is kind of like a game of roulette – one month Organization X gets lucky, the next it might be Retail Store Y.

A few days ago, my random email read of choice was from a store in Minneapolis called Local D’LishOpened a few years ago in downtown, the owners state on their About Us page that “Every purchase from Local D’Lish is helping to support our own local farmers and small businesses.” For those of you who know me, you can guess that this strikes a chord with my commitment to buying local food and supporting the businesses that, in my opinion, are most valuable to our communities. Due to the location, however, I’ve only made it into the store once, about a year and a half ago, but from what I remember, they’ve done an excellent job of connecting with local growers and food creators, mostly small and medium-sized operations, to stock the shelves of the small store with all sorts of culinary delights.

What I discovered in the Local D’Lish enewsletter last week is that each month they feature a recipe (something I guess I either forgot or didn’t know, given the infrequency with which I have read the emails). The quasi-recipe this month was called “Anything Goes Soup.” This one specifically caught my eye because I’ve been working to clean out my freezer and cupboards in anticipation of the coming growing season (yes, I know, I know, we are still several months out from harvest time – a girl can dream, right?). I also had a goal this last year of using everything from 2012 before the 2013 season (or at least by the end of the 2013 summer), and I found that somehow I was still using things from 2011 (I am guessing this is not a phenomenon specific to myself), so I’ve had some extra motivation this winter. As part of this effort, a few weeks ago I made a chicken chili and was quite proud of myself for only using ingredients I already had – it really does speak volumes to the idea of “shopping at home” first before making your next meal, both as a way to save money and waste less food.

As you might guess, a recipe called “Anything Goes Soup” is really more of a guide than a specific set of directions, which made the recipe even more appealing because I’ve been trying to feel a bit more brave with experimenting in cooking versus just doing what other people have already done. Nothing wrong with following a recipe, but there is much to be said for being able to create your own kitchen masterpieces sans a cookbook.

So, here’s the recipe as presented by Local D’Lish:

Ingredients:

  • a can of stewed tomatoes (from your mom’s garden or wherever…)
  • a bag of frozen corn (that you blanched last August and dutifully froze and forgot about)
  • an old yogurt container full of turkey stock from Thanksgiving (or beef stock from Christmas, or chicken stock from who-knows-when)

  • any and all of the wilty celery and slightly wrinkly potatoes that have fallen to the back of your crisper
  • a can of pinto beans that’s been sitting under your kidney beans long enough

  • the tail end of 3 different kinds of pasta, not enough on their own, but who cares if you have rotini, macaroni, and rigatoni in your soup?
  • pretty much anything else that needs to get used up (can of tiny shrimp from that cheese dip you never made, ham hock from your meat CSA, garlic that started to sprout little green tails…). You get the idea.
  • SALT.

  • Ground black pepper
  • any seasoning you like, but hearty dried herbs like oregano, thyme, and rosemary are great with most thrown-together soups

Directions:

  1. Thaw your stock either by putting it in the fridge the day before. OR put it in a warm water bath for an hour or two.
  2. Cook any savory bits (like onions, garlic, ginger…) in a sauce pan with a bit of oil until tender.
  3. Add stock and any juicy stuff (like canned tomatoes).
  4. Add raw/frozen vegetables and cook for a while.
  5. Add any meat.
  6. Save already cooked veggies (like beans) and pasta until the end so you don’t overcook them into mush. Unless you like mush. Which can also be tasty.

Knowing I had plenty of “anything” in the list above, I assessed my freezer, fridge crisper drawers and spice shelf, and assembled the following:

  • onion and garlic, both stored from last fall

    DSC_0291

    A few of the ingredients used

  • quart of homemade veggie broth, frozen in late 2011
  • about one cup of homemade chicken broth, frozen in late 2012
  • gallon bag (about 1/3 full) of homegrown Sungold tomatoes, frozen in 2011
  • half dozen medium, and very wrinkly, blue potatoes
  • two carrots from our fall CSA
  • a few pieces of antelope jerky, made by my parents last fall, that had somehow gotten a bit too salty for straight eating
  • a few handfuls of store-bought SnoPac frozen peas
  • part of a very sad-looking green cabbage
  • store-bought bag (about 1/4 full) of shelled organic edamame
  • half dozen mushrooms
  • two handfuls of penne pasta
  • herbs/spices (all dry): parsley (homegrown), thyme (from our CSA last fall), rosemary, Trader Joe’s Salt Free Pasta Blend seasoning, garlic salt, black pepper
  • small shake of cornstarch to thicken

Following the order of ingredient addition above, the whole process took me about an hour (including gleaning everything from the various nooks and crannies of my freezer and cupboards) – not bad for a soup.

DSC_0297MY NOTES: What a great soup! I am very happy with the way mine turned out. It has a rich savory flavor, but also a hint of sweetness which I think is probably from the Sungolds and maybe the peas. Though I didn’t use much meat (just the cut up bits of jerky) or pasta, both add some nice variety to the veggie medley. Had I thought more about it, I probably should have added the jerky about ten minutes earlier so it could hydrate more, but I’m hoping overnight in the fridge will do the same. The color of the blue potatoes is a bit odd with everything else, but I’m glad I opted to use them. I also decided to add the cornstarch to give it a little more of a stew feel.

Soup really is a great way to use veggies that are still edible but are maybe a bit soft, have bad spots which can be cut off or are a little frosty from too long of a stay in the freezer. So, for those of you out there who are constantly digging through bags and containers of frozen or otherwise preserved and stored foods, now is the time to bring them all out and see what you can create. And don’t worry – as they say, “Anything goes!”

February 17, 2013 at 10:09 pm 1 comment

I’m souped!

Tonight I spent several hours making soup. I know my last post was also about soup, but what can I say, it is probably my favorite category of food to make. Plus, I collected a few recipes over the last month or so that I wanted to try and had some veggies in the fridge in desperate need of using, so it seemed like a good way to spend the evening.

It just so happened that all three of the soups I made were of the pureed variety – two according to the recipes and one by my own choice. Though I love a good hearty, chunky soup, I often enjoy a good pureed soup as a way to use a lot of different ingredients to create exciting new flavors, and they generally make excellent “comfort foods.” Also, though I have done no research whatsoever on this, I feel it might be one of the best ways to help my body really absorb and utilize the nutrients in food. As my husband will tell you, I am not exactly a slow eater, which unfortunately probably doesn’t do my body any favors when it is trying to digest the foods I ingest. I’m working to slow myself down and chew my food more (that sounds ridiculous for a 27-year-old to say, seems like something I should have learned a couple decades ago), but the pureed soups (hopefully) help in the meantime.

On to the soups. First up was basically a homemade version of Cream of Mushroom Soup. My husband and I both love fungi of almost any kind, so this was a great fit for our family.

Here is the recipe for Mushroom Soup:

Cooking the mushrooms

Ingredients

  • 1 pound firm white mushrooms, cleaned
  • Juice from 1 medium lemon
  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 Tbsp minced shallots
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 cups Chicken Stock
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
Directions

  • Sprinkle the mushrooms with lemon juice. In a food processor, fitted with a metal blade, coarsely chop the mushrooms.
  • Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat, and lightly saute the shallots. Add the mushrooms, thyme, and bay leaf and saute for 10 minutes, or until the liquid disappears.
  • Add cream and stock and bring to a boil. Quickly reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
  • In a small bowl, combine cornstarch with 1 tablespoon cold water and add to the soup. Continue to simmer 5 minutes longer, stirring constantly.
  • Correct seasoning to taste.

MY NOTES: This one is definitely not for the faint of heart – it is a full on mushroom fest – loved it. I made the mistake of putting the whole pound of mushrooms in the food processor at once, that did not work, definitely split it in a couple batches. Also, I opted to pureed the whole batch at the end. In the future, I will probably just puree 1/2 or 2/3 and leave a little for texture. One other random thing, when cooking the mushrooms, they looked oddly like ground meat, which could put off the die hard vegetarian. Speaking of which, this could easily be made with veggie broth – though you might lose some of the richness of an animal fat based broth, so maybe add some butter – I did use some homemade chicken broth as suggested.

Next up was Thai-spiced Pumpkin Soup

MY NOTES: If there are two things I love in food, they are squash and curry, so this was a definite winner. Also, this was a super easy recipe, largely because of the curry paste, which includes other spices, so it would be easy for any level of cook to make. I used the Thai Kitchen brand of red curry paste, which I found at my local co-op, but you can probably find many places. Your local Asian grocery will probably have a recommendation for other brands as well, but being new to cooking with curry paste, I can’t say for sure what the differences might be between Thai red curry and other red curry pastes. The flavor of this soup was superb (my husband said, and I quote: “This is probably the best squash recipe you’ve made,” which could be taken several ways – he hates squash, but I also make a lot of stuff with squash, so…)

Finally, I did some serious chopping and made a recipe I got via my weekly email from Blendtec called Roasted Root Vegetable Soup. I cannot, for the life of me, find this recipe online, so here it is:

Ingredients

1 celery root, peeled and cubed
1 large parsnip, peeled and thickly sliced
1 large carrot, peeled and thickly sliced
1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed
1 medium onion, thickly sliced
4 garlic cloves, peeled
3 Tbsp olive oil
5-6 C chicken or vegetable broth
1 ½ tsp white wine vinegar
1/16 tsp cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F. Add prepared vegetables, onion and garlic to 9×13-inch pan and drizzle with olive oil. Toss vegetables in olive oil and bake for 45 minutes until roasted and tender. Add 3 cups of broth and roasted vegetables to blender and secure lid. Puree. Pour remaining broth into large saucepan and add pureed soup. Taste and adjust salt as necessary and add black pepper, if desired and serve warm.
For a creamy touch, try adding ½ cup of half and half or full-fat coconut milk before serving or garnish with a dollop of crème fraîche or sour cream. Serve with a sprinkling of paprika, cumin or fresh herbs of your choice.

MY NOTES: As many of you already know, I do not use olive oil ever on high heat. It is BAD to do, no exceptions! So, the first substitution I did was using canola oil on the veggies, but you could easily use other high heat oils like sunflower oil. I did not have a celery root (celeriac) and didn’t really want to buy one, so to make up for the volume lost, I increased the carrots and parsnips and threw in a couple small potatoes. Also, the directions never said when to add the vinegar (which I did not have so substituted with a bit of white wine and apple cider vinegar) or the cayenne, so I added them both in near the end. For broth, since I had both chicken and veggie thawed out for the previous two soups, I used what I had left of each. The taste on this one was also excellent, as my husband said “rooty!”

March 4, 2012 at 11:36 pm Leave a comment

Blend, baby, blend

This year for my birthday, I received a gift I’ve been wanting for some time now. There aren’t many big ticket items out there that I desire, but this is one thing I had begun to talk about to friends, family, co-workers, anyone who would listen. I may have even told strangers. I’d first heard of this item through my brother and was beginning to have what I referred to as a serious case of “blender envy.”

Yes, that’s right. The item I coveted was a blender. What kind you ask? A serious one. There seem to be two prevailing “high end blender” camps out there and I fall on the Blendtec side of things (Vitamix is the other). This thing has settings for smoothies, soups, sauces and spreads. While not recommended to try at home, it will even blend golf balls.  It has revolutionized our lives. I would go as far as to say I love this blender. May seem a little Enemy of the State, but seriously, this blender is amazing. And after way too many episodes where I only ended up uttering curses at our previous two blenders – brands to remain unnamed – it was time to splurge.

Most of the blender’s work thus far has been fruit drinks in the morning. My husband has concocted a wide variety of combinations, experimenting with strawberries, pineapple, raspberries, mangoes, apples and more. It is fantastic how little work is required and on items like kiwi, you don’t even have to remove the peel – which I have learned is actually quite high in fiber and very good for you. This has been a really great way for us to ensure regular fruit intake, especially on days when time is tight.

Tonight, however, I ventured into the world of soup. The most amazing part of making soup with this blender is the fact that it gets going so fast that the friction – or whatever physics are going on – actually heats it up. No cook soup. Genius. I’ve made one other soup so far, based on a recipe in the handy cookbook that comes with the blender, and tonight I tried a modified version of the “Bacon Cheddar Potato Soup.”

Here is the recipe:

  • 2 c milk
  • 1 medium potato – baked and cut in half
  • ½ c cheddar cheese – shredded
  • 1/4 c onion – steamed
  • 1/4 tsp dill weed
  • 1/4 tsp rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Directions: Place above ingredients into blender jar and secure the lid. Press the Soups button. If soup is not hot after first cycle, press the Soups button a second time.

Add:

  • 3 slices bacon – crisped and broken into bits
  • 1 baked potato – cut in half

Directions: Press the Pulse button approximately 5 times to blend in added ingredients.

MY NOTES: The most obvious change for this pig free diet was removing the bacon, but I also had to improvise on the milk. As I mentioned in my post about French Toast a few weeks ago, we rarely have milk in our house, so alternatives require some creativity. Tonight my two cups of milk looked like this: a fourth cup half and half, a fourth cup plain yogurt and one and a half cups water. Might sound weird, but it worked. In addition, I didn’t have enough cheddar so I used some brick cheese we picked up in Wisconsin and it added a nice creamy flavor. Also adding to the flavor was a bit of parsley I had picked from our garden and had left over from dinner a few nights ago.

The other thing I learned tonight is that baking potatoes in a toaster oven – even when you’re using little potatoes and have the temp at 375º – isn’t the most time efficient idea. I could have popped them in the microwave for a quick cook, but the more I learn about microwaves and how they affect our food, the more I want ours to die so I can take it to the recycler and be done with it forever. So, in the future, I think I’ll need to plan ahead and either start them in the toaster oven earlier or find some other stuff that needs baking and fire up the regular oven for a bit.

And for a final few thoughts. I love dill – my favorite soup is Borscht – so this recipe caught my eye right away. Even with only a fourth of a teaspoon, the dill did not disappoint. And, while August 1 may seem like an insane day to have a hot creamy soup, today we had a huge rain storm and it was rather overcast much of the day, so it seemed appropriate. Overall, this soup had a wonderful rich taste and I look forward to blending up more potato soup combinations in the future.

August 1, 2011 at 9:42 pm 1 comment


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