Slow-Cooker Vegetable Broth

vegetables for slow-cooker vegetable stock

Hmmm….if you can make chicken broth in the slow-cooker, why not vegetable broth? Turns out there is no reason, it just hadn’t occurred to my imagination yet. But thank goodness it did, because it’s my new go-to broth. An animal-free liquid gold poised to enhance any quinoa, risotto and of course soup that meets your heart’s desire. Last October I made a Fall Vegetable Stock that, while equally delicious, included more labor and I’ve learned that in the Texas heat you don’t go looking for more ways to exert yourself or let a simmering stock pot heat up your perfectly air conditioned home. Enter the slow-cooker. Your thermostat will remain constant and you won’t be chained to the stove when you’d rather be out by the pool sipping margaritas and devouring guacamole…..or at least that’s my take on the situation.

Besides the steamy 9 hour bath the vegetables lounge around in, the secret ingredient is coconut aminos. Often employed as an alternative to soy sauce, coconut aminos are nutrient dense, raw, gluten and soy free and are derived from coconut tree sap. When added to marinades, dressings or in this case vegetable broth they provide a rich, savory almost meaty flavor that adds a certain depth that cannot otherwise be achieved. They are inexpensive and found in the Asian section of the grocery. If you haven’t given vegetable broth a try, your golden moment is here. I dare you!

Slow-Cooker Vegetable Broth

Slow-Cooker Vegetable Broth

Ingredients

  • 1 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large leek, white and light green parts chopped into discs
  • 1 large onion, peeled and chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
  • 3 carrots, peeled and chopped into thirds
  • 3 celery stalks, peeled and chopped into thirds
  • 4 cremini mushrooms cut in half
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 10 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 10 sprigs fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley
  • 1/2 TBSP whole black peppercorns
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 3 quarts filtered water
  • 2 TBSP coconut aminos

Instructions

  1. Pour the olive oil in the bottom of the slower cooker pot.
  2. Add all the ingredients except for the coconut aminos.
  3. Set the cooker to low and cook for 9 hours.
  4. Strain the broth through a fine mesh sieve and discard the vegetables.
  5. Stir in the aminos.
  6. Enjoy within 3-5 days or freeze for 90.
http://www.glassjarsoupcompany.com/2014/08/27/slow-cooker-vegetable-broth/

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Summer Corn Chowder

summer corn chowder

This post will be short and sweet….just like the brief window for summer corn. The recipe comes from Martha’s Stewart’s PBS show “Cooking School”, which if you haven’t seen it, is masterfully produced. Martha’s instruction is concisely detailed and her commentary is informative in an approachable way. I personally love how relaxed and focused the show is versus the hyper, over-the-top gimmicky food shows that seem to be flowing out of the TV lately.

I hadn’t intended to post this soup (as evidenced by the image drought) and for the life of me I’m not sure why. However, I quickly changed my tune after spooning it out of the pot for a taste test. It’s a simple chowder. Fresh, sweet and composed of minimal ingredients so as not to overshadow the corn’s delicate flavor. It’s creamy because it’s been mostly pureed, although it is finished with a minimal amount of half and half. Right before serving, snip some fresh chives for garnish- their oniony zip will nicely contrast the sweetness of the corn.

If you are looking for a complete meal idea, I made Garlic Roasted Potatoes with Spinach and Eggs to go along side. Almost forgot to mention….this soup smells like fresh plucked corn and its gorgeous pale yellow hue simply beckons. It’s a treat to all your senses. Please breath it in before you take that first bite…it will only make it better.

Summer Corn Chowder

Slightly adapted from Martha Stewart.

I wasn’t happy with the fresh corn in the market, so I begrudglingly used frozen. I know it’s a perfectly acceptable substitute and my end result wasn’t compromised in the least, but I really wanted to shuck corn! Let me know when you make this and I’ll come by and do the honors.

Ingredients

  • 4 TBSP unsalted butter
  • 2 cups white onion, diced (about 1 large)
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme wrapped in cheesecloth and bound with twine
  • 5 cups yellow corn (frozen or fresh)
  • 4 cups homemade chicken broth
  • 1 lb red new potatoes, cut into 1/2" discs
  • 3/4 cup half-and-half
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • fresh chives for serving

Instructions

  1. Melt butter in a Dutch oven (I used a 6.75 quart) over medium-low heat.
  2. Add onion, thyme, corn and season with salt.
  3. Cook for 20 minutes. Stir occasionally. Do not let the onions brown.
  4. Pour in the stock, add the potatoes and then bring to a boil.
  5. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
  6. Extract the thyme and discard.
  7. Remove 3-4 cups of the soup and set aside.
  8. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth.
  9. Return the reserved soup to the pot along with the half and half. Stir and gently heat.
  10. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  11. Serve with freshly snipped chives.
http://www.glassjarsoupcompany.com/2014/07/21/summer-corn-chowder/

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Summer Broth

summer broth

Yep! You heard me. I didn’t think it could get any easier to make this kitchen essential at home, I mean rotisserie chicken stock practically makes itself. But it’s true.  I recently came across a Cooks Illustrated recipe about the same time Paige sent me one from Smitten Kitchen that slightly adapted the CI version.  Looks like it’s all the rage and I’m late to the party!

I personally can’t imagine anything better than putting a few ingredients in a pot, going to bed and waking up to a home drenched in a golden homey aroma. But wait, there is a disclaimer. It will seriously mess with your head. Upon waking, you’ll expect to find a plump, rosy, gray haired woman at your stove tending a steaming pot while laying out a rustic country breakfast complete with French press coffee and fresh cream for you to enjoy….yet…she’s not there. Huh? Instead your little work-house of an appliance…the long resisted Slow-Cooker (you know who you are)….has been toiling away all night to produce a bright, clean chicken broth that will rival any “simmered on the stove for hours” version…including dear grandma’s.

I was pretty stunned that it was so good, especially considering that there are very few ingredients bubbling away in there. Chicken wings, water, onion and garlic. The old-stand bys like carrot, celery, bay leaves don’t make the cut, but surprisingly they aren’t missed. Instead the broth has an unfettered purity that results in a lovely, deep chicken-centric liquid. Finally, your “excuse” to join the Slow-Cooker Movement (and save your dignity) has arrived.

Summer Broth

Slightly adapted from Cooks Illustrated.

Yields just shy of 3 quarts. I didn't salt mine so that I could better control the salt when using the broth in various recipes. To salt or not to salt is entirely a personal choice.

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs chicken wings
  • 3 quarts filtered water
  • 1 onion (yellow or white), peeled and rough chop
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • 1-2 tsp salt (optional)

Instructions

  1. Place all ingredients in slow cooker.
  2. Cook on low for 9 hours.
  3. Let the broth cool slightly and then place in the refrigerator overnight to allow the fat to collect on the surface.
  4. Strain the broth through a fat separator to remove the fat and to catch the fine chicken meat particles. This will help yield a clear broth.
  5. Use within 3 days or freeze up to 90.
http://www.glassjarsoupcompany.com/2014/06/10/summer-broth/

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Anniversary Dinner

eggs for Garlic and Chicken SoupBack in September, while shopping at my go-to store, a sales associate who we’ve known for about a year inquired as to how long we’ve been married. Surprised at the answer, she remarked that we still regarded each other as newlyweds and would never have guessed that we’d been married so long. But it’s true! As of December 1 we were officially 13 years and counting, but apparently and happily so, not acting our age.

To commemorate our special day (as you can tell I’m a bit tardy getting this posted!) I wanted to honor my sweetie pie (sorry if this is making you gag) with one of his favorites- roast chicken. Not a week goes by that he doesn’t request it, especially since I’ve tweaked the recipe to taste bud perfection.  The secret is simple. Brine. Butter. Blast. The brine not only ensures a drippingly juicy bird, but it will penetrate deep into the meat to ensure it’s seasoned throughout, not just on the surface.  By buttering the outside and blasting it in a scorching hot oven, the skin turns a deep golden brown that is C-R-R-R-I-S-P-Y! I never ever went near chicken skin until this and now I blissfully risk 3rd degree burns going after it the minute the little birdie is out of the oven. Of course, there are a few other things along the way to pay attention to which I’ve noted in the recipe. And, yes, this is a soup blog not a roast chicken blog, but I feel kind of guilty and secretive not sharing something so unbelievably delicious. I promise your whole chicken world is about to change…and leftovers….M-O-I-S-T!….for days!

garlic for Garlic and Chicken SoupCertainly there are no shortages of perfect sides for your little beauty, but if you are looking for something a little special (maybe like for an anniversary) and out of the ordinary make Perigord Tourain while the chicken is in the oven. It’s a classic French garlic and chicken soup with a soothing lushness that makes your shoulders relax and your eyes close….an experience beyond taste that simply feels good. And although its origin is French, its easy preparation might mistake it for having American roots.  The main ingredient is chicken stock so be sure to use the best you can get your hands on, preferably homemade. It’s traditionally served (from what I read, not by experience…so sad) with bread which we found to be perfect for getting every last bit of the soup out of our bowls and into our mouths! Not to mention sopping up the chicken juices from the roasting pan…….

Perigord Tourain (Garlic and Chicken Soup)

Perigord Tourain (Garlic and Chicken Soup)

Slightly adapted from Tasting Table who adapted it from Sebastien Archambault, L’Epicerie, Los Angeles.

Don’t tell Chicken Noodle, but this soup may just be the next innovation in defending against cold & flu.

Ingredients

  • 8 cups homemade chicken stock
  • ¼ cup rendered duck fat
  • 10 garlic cloves thinly sliced (I make mine like matchsticks)
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup egg whites (3-4 eggs depending on the size)
  • ½ tsp kosher salt (more or less depending on the saltiness of your stock)
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Heat the chicken stock in a saucepan until it reaches a simmer. Reduce and keep warm.
  2. Heat the garlic and duck fat in a large pan (I used a 6.75 qt Dutch oven) cook over low heat for 5-7 minutes until the garlic turns a golden brown. Stir frequently.
  3. Sprinkle in the flour and whisk constantly for 5 minutes.
  4. Add the warmed chicken stock, ladle by ladle, stirring to dissolve the flour.
  5. Add the salt and pepper.
  6. Bring to a boil then aggressively simmer for 15 minutes.
  7. Reduce heat to low, pour in the egg whites and stir. Cook for 1-2 minutes until they become white. They will look elegant and wispy when done.
  8. Taste for seasoning.
http://www.glassjarsoupcompany.com/2014/05/11/anniversary-dinner/

Brine. Butter. Blast. Roast Chicken

Brine. Butter. Blast. Roast Chicken

A recipe is only as good as the ingredients, so don’t skimp when selecting your chicken. For obvious reasons go organic, but also make sure it’s been air chilled vs dunked in a disgusting chlorinated water bath. Do these two things (and Brine. Butter. Blast.) and you’re guaranteed to have a chickeny chicken.

Ingredients

  • 1 whole organic chicken (4-5 lbs); air chilled if you can find it
  • 1 ½ cups kosher salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 16 cups cold water
  • ½ TBSP unsalted butter
  • 1 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 lemon, cut in half
  • 1 head garlic, cut in half crosswise
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper for seasoning

Instructions

  1. In a 6 quart stock pot or large bowl, whisk the sugar and salt with cold water until they are dissolved.
  2. Place the chicken in the brine, breast side down. You may need to place a plate on the chicken to keep it submerged.
  3. Refrigerate for a minimum of 5 hours. I generally leave it in for 8 hours. I would not leave it overnight or the meat will get mushy.
  4. Two hours before you intend to roast the chicken, remove it from the brine, rinse under cold water and pat dry with paper towel.
  5. Let the chicken come to room temperature for two hours (1 hour at the least).
  6. Preheat the oven to 450 or if using convection, 425.
  7. Rub the butter and oil over the chicken skin and generously sprinkle with salt and pepper. Put the lemon and garlic in the cavity of the chicken.
  8. Place the chicken on a simple sheet pan.
  9. Roast for 45-60 minutes until an instant read thermometer placed at the thigh joint reads 165. Remove from the oven and cover with foil for 20 minutes to allow the juices to be retained in the meat instead of running all over the carving board.
http://www.glassjarsoupcompany.com/2014/05/11/anniversary-dinner/

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Nice People Get Clam Chowder

bay leaves for No Fuss Clam Chowder

Who might you ask is nice? Just about everyone in Texas.  It sounds like an exaggeration, but I assure you it’s true.  Our relocation here has been met by a welcoming committee that extends far beyond our tiny (but valuable) collection of new acquaintances. Perfect strangers offer such a heartfelt welcome that they barely stop short of a big bear hug. They’re inclusive, helpful, excited and genuinely hopeful that you will be happy in their beloved state. I’m starting to wonder why everyone doesn’t move to Texas…..maybe it’s the heat.

butter and cream for no-fuss clam chowder

My husband’s team at work is simply one more example of this hospitality. For the months and months…and months that he traveled between states, they never waivered in their concern for his grueling schedule or the separation from his family. They routinely inquired after me and eagerly looked forward to when we would all be settled in TX together. Shortly after I got here (and thanks to my husband’s fervent PR campaign) requests from his office came pouring in for Cheeseburger Soup. I was happy to oblige, but knowing my aversion to Velveeta you might have guessed I wanted to prepare something a bit more….well….sophisticated.  Didn’t happen. I’m a pleaser.  Cheeseburger Soup made its TX debut and did not disappoint. I really don’t’ think this soup can. It’s a dirty little secret that I will forever deny should I come face-to-face with Ina.

baby clams for No Fuss Clam Chowder

While serving lunch that day I managed to field requests for lobster bisque, a confusingly described jalapeño something that is served somewhere in Grapevine and clam chowder.  A while ago I made a classic clam chowder for my father-in-law, only to be poked and prodded for the last year by my husband urging me (obviously not subtly) for his clam chowder to make it on the menu. It’s loaded with sweet canned baby clams AND it’s studded with more than its fair share of applewood smoked bacon. I think the recipe originally came from Williams-Sonoma and with a few minor tweaks it’s a household favorite. However, this time around, it’s not only for our dinner table, but a large jar traveled to work with my husband for a very special someone who just happens to fall into the “Nice People” category.

No-Fuss Clam Chowder

No-Fuss Clam Chowder

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma “Soup” Cookbook.

Try to make this a day in advance as the flavors will continue to develop as it sits overnight. Feel free to add more clam juice if you want a bolder clam flavor.

Ingredients

  • 2 TBSP unsalted butter
  • 1 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped yellow onion (about 1 large)
  • 3 oz pancetta, small dice
  • 1 cup chopped celery, small chop (about 3 stalks)
  • 2 TBSP all-purpose flour
  • 2 TBSP extra-dry vermouth
  • 1 cup clam juice
  • 14 oz red potatoes, small chop (about 3 medium)
  • 2 10oz cans baby clams, drained
  • 12 oz frozen sweet corn, thawed
  • 3 cups half-and-half
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 ½ tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley

Instructions

  1. Heat the butter and olive oil in a large pan (I used a 4 qt saute/simmer) over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for 5 minutes so it just begins to soften.
  2. Add the pancetta and cook for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the celery and cook for another 1 minutes.
  4. Deglaze the pan by pouring in the vermouth and scraping up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan.
  5. Sprinkle in the flour and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
  6. Deglaze the pan a second time by pouring in the clam juice and scraping up the brown bits.
  7. Pour in the dairy along with the potatoes, corn, bay leaves, salt and pepper.
  8. Raise the heat enough to bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 20 minutes until the potatoes are tender. Stir frequently to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
  9. Add the parsley and clams and simmer for an additional 5 minutes until the clams are warmed through.
http://www.glassjarsoupcompany.com/2014/04/16/nice-people-get-clam-chowder/

 

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Change of Plans

beans for Creamy White Bean and Chorizo SoupDoes the simple mention of this spontaneous course of events send you reeling with excitement into the adventure ahead or does it fill you with dread or maybe irritation that your well laid plans have been disrupted? Perhaps you are cool as a cucumber and so laid back that you simply go with the flow. I’m definitely not in the third camp….no sir! Unless that is I’m feeling inspired and striving to be a better person by working on my “issues” and attempting to be pleasing to those I’m with….rather than being a whiny stick-in-the-mud. I’m more of an obsessive planner. In fact, I’m that annoying person on vacation that has every second of the day accounted for and precisely outlined in a neatly composed, distributed-in-advance itinerary. It’s not complicated to understand, for better or worse I always want to be in control. For me, planning provides a sense of power….like I’m in command of my universe. Yeah, right.

carrot celery onion for creamy white bean and chorizo soupOne of my new gal pals just broke her leg on a skiing trip….talk about change of plans. Learning the news I immediately began playing out how utterly inconvenient this was about to become for her. Everything in her world and her family’s world would have to be altered, modified, shifted, you name it. Routines would become a mere ghost of their former selves. Uh! My stomach is turning right now just thinking about it.  Worse yet….I was selfishly relieved that it wasn’t my plight. I know this is horrible and is one of those “issues” I must work if I am to become that better person. Seeing her for lunch I was amazed at her resilience and downright cheerful stance on the matter. My big spontaneous accomplishment that week had been deciding to switch out the Bacon Date Scones I was planning on bringing her with a Rosemary Parmesan Prosciutto version. Whoa…hold me back…I’m on fire!

rosemary for creamy white bean and chorizo soupI’m guessing that my well-organized self is probably the reason I love recipes. They are carefully curated plans that culminate into something beautiful that you set out to do. Of course it doesn’t always go as planned and cooking has gone a long way to teach me flexibility and patience. I’ve also learned that a change in plan can often result in something even better than originally expected.

I’ve barely modified this soup from the original recipe, but the enhancements are what make it so satisfying to me. More herbs, extra garlic, special beans.  Its puréed, but you hold back some of the soup to add in later for texture, along with some crumbled spicy chorizo sausage (which I’m sure I don’t eat enough of!). I’ve enjoyed this soup many times over and yet it never tasted as good as it did with the addition of my new favorite savory scones. They go together like tomato soup and grilled cheese…it’s that perfect.

Parmesan Prosciutto Rosemary Scones for creamy white bean and chorizo soup

 

Creamy White Bean and Chorizo Soup

Creamy White Bean and Chorizo Soup

Adapted from Bon Appetit.

This is truly one of the most flavorful soups I've ever tasted...you'll find yourself making it over and over until you've shared it with just about everyone you know.

Ingredients

    Beans
  • 1 lb dried cannellini beans (I used white emergo beans from Zursun Idaho Heirloom Beans)
  • 8 cups water
  • 1 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 3 garlic cloves peeled and smashed
  • Soup
  • 2 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped yellow onion (about 1 large)
  • 1 cup chopped carrots, peeled (about 3-5)
  • 1 cup chopped celery (about 3 stalks)
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cloves chopped garlic
  • 1 TBSP chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 quart homemade chicken broth
  • 1 lb fresh chorizo sausage (links, casings removed)
  • ¼ cup heavy whipping cream

Instructions

  1. Pick through the dried beans and remove any little rocks or debris that may have gotten mixed in, then give them a vigorous rinse in a colander to remove dust and dirt. Place beans in a small stock pot and cover with water by 3 inches. Soak overnight (minimum 12 hours).
  2. Drain and rinse the beans then return them the stockpot with 8 cups of water, 1 TBSP olive oil, smashed garlic, rosemary and bay leaves.
  3. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Partially cover and simmer for 45 minutes.
  4. Add 1 TBSP salt and continue to simmer for another 45 minutes until the beans are just tender. At this point they will be so flavorful that you will want to gobble them with some olive oil and freshly grated parmesan…but, please, try to resist for the sake of your soup.
  5. Drain the beans, but be sure to reserve the cooking liquid. You are going to add it to the soup later. It’s the secret ingredient!
  6. Heat the olive oil in a large pot (I used a 9 quart Dutch oven) over medium heat. Then add the onion, carrots and celery and sprinkle with 1 tsp kosher salt and ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper.
  7. Sauté for about 10 minutes until the onions are soft and translucent.
  8. Add the garlic and thyme and cook for another minute. The garlic and thyme will bloom and scent your kitchen.
  9. Pour in 2 cups of the reserved bean cooking liquid, as well as the chicken stock and cooked beans.
  10. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and gently simmer for 25 minutes until the vegetables are tender.
  11. Meanwhile, sauté the sausage in large skillet (I used a 12” Le Creuset) over medium-high heat for 5-7 minutes until no pink remains. Be sure to break the sausage up so you end up with crumbles. Transfer it to a paper towel lined plate to drain.
  12. Transfer the pot from the heat and let it cool slightly (5-10 minutes).
  13. Remove 1 ½ cups of the soup from the pot and set aside. Then use an immersion blender to purée the soup until it is creamy and no chunks remain. Return the reserved soup to the pot, along with the chorizo sausage and cream.
  14. Gently reheat and serve with Rosemary Parmesan Prosciutto Scones.
http://www.glassjarsoupcompany.com/2014/03/23/change-of-plans/

Rosemary Parmesan Prosciutto Scones

Rosemary Parmesan Prosciutto Scones

Adapted from Bon Appétit and Coastal Living. When these come out of the oven, the smell alone is almost as good as eating one. Almost…..

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¾ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • 6 oz prosciutto di parma, thinly sliced and pulsed into a crumble in the food processor
  • 1 generous TBSP of freshly chopped rosemary
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, diced and chilled
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk
  • Egg wash (1 TBSP milk lightly beaten with 1 egg)
  • Fleur de Sel

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat mat.
  3. Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.
  4. Stir in the chopped rosemary, grated cheese and crumbled prosciutto. Mix with your hands to break up any clumps.
  5. Using a pastry cutter, quickly incorporate the chilled butter into the flour mixture. Blend until the butter is the size of peas and the dough resembles a coarse meal.
  6. Pour in the buttermilk and stir until large clumps develop; then use your hands to knead a few times and shape into a ball.
  7. On a floured surface, pat the dough into an 8” round and cut into 8 wedges. Sometimes I make smaller scones; just divide the dough in half and make 16 smaller wedges instead of 8 large ones.
  8. Place the scones on the prepared baking sheet and chill for 2 hours. This ensures light, flaky scones.
  9. Before placing in the oven, brush the scones with egg wash and sprinkle with Fleur de Sel.
  10. Bake for 16-18 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center of one of the scones comes out clean. Visually the scones should be golden brown.
http://www.glassjarsoupcompany.com/2014/03/23/change-of-plans/

 

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Friendship.

squash for Mexican Squash Soup

I’m always amazed how people come in and out of your life. Sometimes they are there for the long haul, other times they just seem to pop in and out and then there are those in the middle that you expect will endure, but surprisingly fade away. I used to mourn the idea of losing touch with a friend, but I’ve come to realize there is a better way by enjoying the time you have, finding personal growth in the relationship and learning about yourself and the type of friend you are and strive to be. Hopefully, both your life and theirs will be enhanced having spent time together….no matter the duration.  Moving half-way across our country has made me appreciate this sentiment, but I don’t do it with a heavy heart, rather with the awareness of how fortunate I’ve been to have cared for so many who reciprocated with matched affection.

squash and serrano for Mexican Squash Soup

Funny how life works out, but just before I arrived in Texas a special friend also relocated here from NC. I crossed paths with Sarah through the club industry and was quickly impressed by her professionalism and desire to excel and master her field.  It’s almost second nature to her to consider the impact of decisions and policies far beyond the immediate result but rather for the vision of the organization. Impressively her ambitions don’t preclude her from a willingness to seek alternate perspectives nor does she shirk any chore or request as something “outside of her area”. The flip side (there’s always a yang) is that her dedication at work often conflicts with a commitment to self….which leaves going to the market, let alone cooking, a dismal priority. Needless to say, I worry…her poor taste buds need a little week day ooolala!

red pepper for Mexican Squash Soup

I’ve not been to Rancho La Puerta (sniff sniff), but this creamy, spicy and yes, healthy squash soup hails from the famed spa. On a good day, if I squeeze my eyes shut and imagine so hard that billows of steam practically puff from my ears, I’m transported there in one delicious spoonful….albeit only for a few brief whiffs of wellness heaven. Obviously I didn’t come by the recipe firsthand (ahem), I came across it 5 years ago in Bon Appétit and have been making it ever since- for me, as well as my close friends  Eileen and Catherine who evidently endorse it because I’ve never seen one remaining speck  in either of their bowls. Sorry ladies! I figure if I make Sarah a pot of this soup she’ll have a dinner waiting for her each night that is tasty, nourishing and perhaps a bit inspiring. It’s the least I can do to express how having her in Texas makes my husband and I less disconnected from our previous life and more like being home…..a sense of family in this vast state.

Mexican Squash Soup

Mexican Squash Soup

Adapted from Rancho La Puerta's Azteca Squash Soup.

I go crazy for homemade chicken broth and you can make this soup with it, but you really don't need to as there are so many bold flavors going on already.

Ingredients

  • 3 lb butternut squash, halved lengthwise and seeded
  • 2 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for squash
  • 2 cups yellow onion, medium chop (about 1 large)
  • 4 celery stalks, medium chop
  • 2 TBSP chopped garlic (about 6 cloves)
  • 5 cups homemade vegetable broth
  • 15 oz can black beans (low or no sodium)
  • 10 oz bag frozen sweet corn, thawed
  • 1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and medium chop
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 TBSP chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 serrano chile, minced (cored and seeded if you want to reduce heat)
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 and line a baking sheet with foil for easy clean-up.
  2. Rub the cut side of the squash with some olive oil, generously sprinkle with salt and pepper and place cut side down on prepared baking sheet. Roast for 45-50 minutes until fork tender. Let cool until comfortable to handle and scoop the flesh out and reserve for later.
  3. While the squash is roasting, heat the 3 TBSP of olive oil over medium-high heat (I used a 9 quart Dutch oven, but a 6 quart pot will do the trick). Add the onions, turn the heat to medium-low and cook for about 5 minutes until soft and slightly browned.
  4. Add the garlic and celery and cook for another minute.
  5. Pour in 1 cup of broth, bring to a simmer and cover and cook for 10 minutes. Stir once.
  6. Add the squash, cumin, remaining 4 cups of broth and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook for 20 minutes.
  7. Remove the pot from the heat and let cool slightly (about 5 minutes).
  8. Using an immersion blender, purée the soup.
  9. Add the beans, corn, both peppers, cilantro, thyme and salt. Cover and simmer for 10 more minutes.
  10. Enjoy as is or with some sinfully delicious toppings! Like cool sour cream and crushed tortilla chips. Fresh chopped cilantro is also a nice contrast.
http://www.glassjarsoupcompany.com/2014/03/03/friendship/

 

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Say Cheese

peppers for chicken chili

I’d forgotten how unbelievably challenging it is to get back on track once you’ve fallen off the proverbial horse. Exercise, smoking, going to bed at a regular time…..or in this case blogging. Obviously I’ve been silent since October so not only did I come crashing down, I stayed firmly glued to the ground.  I’ve missed the writing tremendously. It’s strange, but it’s like having a conversation with myself where I actually connect with “me”. I find it so curious what pours (or sometimes trickles) out of my fingers.  The cooking I’ve continued to do without a break in the action….it’s the photography that keeps me from getting back in the saddle.  In November we moved into a new house, and although there was and continues to be a plethora of “new construction” issues to deal with I could have found time to post had I possessed the required motivation.  I simply found myself leaping at any excuse NOT to pick up the camera.

basil for Chicken ChiliTaking the pictures has got to be THE MOST ANNOYING part of the blogging process for me. Uh. Just the thought of it puts me in a sour mood and fills me with dread. Yes, I’m out of practice, but even when I’m fighting with the camera and chasing down natural light on a more routine basis, I still find this to be an exasperating exercise. I’m pretty good at rationalizing my perspective, but even I cannot devise an argument that supports a picture-free zone on a blog. Relaying my plight to P she offered that I was being too hard on myself and too basically stop stressing, snap a few pictures and be done with it. So, here goes…. Certainly my images were not perfect before, but I’m going to try a new relaxed approach that lets me get back to why I’m doing this in the first place. To enjoy myself. So I give you Chicken Chili with some supporting less-than-perfect photos that will hopefully entice you to make this lovely bean-less chili to ride out the winter chill.

roast chicken for chicken chili

It’s similar to traditional chili in that its flavor is grounded in chili powder and cumin, yet the roast chicken is an enticing alternative to beef and the exchange of basil for cilantro lends a bit of sophistication that is totally not expected when one considers chili. Make it a day ahead if you can so that the flavors have time to get to know each other. Top with lots of cheddar cheese!

Chicken Chili

Chicken Chili

Adapted from Ina Garten's Chicken Chili.

I think this would be divine with the addition of black beans....but due to my husband's lackluster impression of them AND the fact that this was his dinner for 3 evenings in a row....we left them out.

Ingredients

  • 3 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for rubbing on the chicken
  • 4 split bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts (about 3 1/2-4 lbs)
  • 4 cups chopped yellow onions (about 2 large)
  • 2 TBSP minced garlic (about 6 cloves)
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp dried Mexican oregano
  • 1 TBSP tomato powder (or paste)
  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice
  • 2 red peppers; cored, seeded and medium chopped
  • 2 yellow peppers; cored, seeded and medium chopped
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 28 oz cans of whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1 cup fresh basil, minced
  • Toppings
  • Sour cream
  • Freshly grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • Crushed tortilla chips
  • Chopped fresh basil

Instructions

  1. Rub the chicken breasts with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and place on a baking sheet lined with foil. Roast at 350 for approximately 50 minutes. When cool enough to handle remove the meat from the bone and skin and chop into bite-sized chunks. Reserve for later.
  2. In a large pot (I used a 6.75 Dutch oven) heat the olive oil over medium-low.
  3. Add the onions and sauté for 10-15 minutes until soft and translucent.
  4. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.
  5. Sprinkle in the spices (chili powder, cumin, coriander, cayenne, oregano, allspice and tomato powder), stir and cook for 1 minute until fragrant.
  6. Add the peppers and cook for 3 minutes.
  7. Pour in the tomatoes and their juices. Use a wooden spoon to break them up into smaller pieces.
  8. Add the salt and basil and bring to a boil.
  9. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes.
  10. Place the chicken in the pot and continue to simmer for 20 minutes.
  11. Serve with your favorite toppings!
http://www.glassjarsoupcompany.com/2014/02/06/say-cheese/

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Fall Vegetable Stock

parsnips for fall vegetable stockIn the spirit of full disclosure, I don’t use much vegetable stock. It’s always kind of reminded me of dirty dish water and frankly I didn’t think it tasted much better. And FORGET the boxed stuff, they might as well call it “Liquid Salt”, correction “Orange Colored Liquid Salt”. I’ve said before that I’m not big into meat, but I do love homemade chicken broth. Makes me all warm and tingly AND anything I make with it is all the tastier for it. However, I have no business writing a soup blog if I don’t put my heart into learning how to make, not just passable, but really good vegetable stock. It’s taken a while but these days you can find me swooning over vegetable stock as one might say chocolate cake, or in my case a rotisserie chicken stock.

celery root for fall vegetable stock

There are three keys to fabulous vegetable stock. First and foremost use seasonal vegetables as they will be freshest produce available and the flavors will compliment the seasonal dishes being prepared in your kitchen.  Two, sauté your vegetables in order to coax out their flavors.  Lastly, use a parchment lid to trap precious liquid and sinfully sweat your vegetables to sweet deliciousness.  Yes, your vegetarian friends will love you for it, but even chicken stock devotees like myself will surprisingly find themselves keeping a reserve in the freezer.

Fall Vegetable Stock

Fall Vegetable Stock

Consider customizing the vegetables to your preference, but beware of using produce that has a strong, overpowering presence like cabbage, tomatoes or big meaty mushrooms. You’ll find vegetable stock is a whole lot easier to make than beef or even chicken broth, but because it has a delicate flavor it will lose its flavor nuances very quickly, so you’ll want to use it within 24 hours or freeze for future use.

Ingredients

  • 3 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 TBSP unsalted butter
  • 4 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 small celery root, peeled and medium chop
  • 1 fennel bulb, trimmed, cored and medium chop
  • 4 large garlic cloves, skins removed and smashed
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 medium parsnips, peeled and medium chop
  • 20 sprigs of fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley
  • 10 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 1 TBSP kosher salt
  • ½ ounce dried chanterelle mushrooms, crumbled
  • 3 quarts filtered water

Instructions

  1. In large stockpot (I used a 6 quart) heat oil and butter over medium heat.
  2. Add carrots, parsnips, fennel, celery root, mushrooms, onion, garlic and salt. Stir to ensure everything is evenly coated with oil.
  3. Cover with a round of parchment paper that you cut to accommodate the size of your pot.
  4. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 30 minutes.
  5. Add the water and herbs and bring to a gentle simmer.
  6. Barely simmer for 45 minutes.
  7. Strain through a fine mesh sieve and discard the solids.
  8. Use immediately, freeze or cool and refrigerate for use within 24 hours.
  9. Yields 2-3 quarts.
http://www.glassjarsoupcompany.com/2013/10/28/fall-vegetable-stock/

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Apple of my eye.

apple for Apple Onion and Cheddar Soup

I LOVE THIS RECIPEEEEEEEE! Hopefully my yelling didn’t startle you. It’s just that I’ve been waiting for an eternity to share it. My version came to be as most greats do by accident. I was following instructions from The New England Soup Factory Cookbook when I brazenly plunged the immersion blender into the pot and puréed the apples and onions until they were just shy of smooth. This step was definitely not called for and I certainly hadn’t planned the indiscretion, yet it just felt right… and tasted even better. Now instead of being distinct flavors, they mingled on the spoon as one and then… just as the heavens opened…..it sang out to me…in perfect harmony… or perhaps I just imagined that part.

This soup is never far from my mind but no matter how much I crave it and how hard I try to imagine things differently, its custom made for the season where leaves crunch, bold wind gusts rein and the falling dusk says light a fire, open a bottle and nestle in for the night. Is there anything better? I adore the ease and energy of summer, yet my soul thrives in the beauty of fall and the oodles of tastes associated with it….especially apples.

apple 2 Apple Onion Cheddar Soup

Worried that my beloved New York McIntosh wouldn’t weather the trip to TX, when the box arrived instead of immediately opening it, I took a moment to indulge and breath in the sweet, fresh fragrance that shrouded the carton and hung in the air as if promising of more pleasures to come.  With baited breath, I broke the calm and tore into the box…revealing (thankfully) the most pristine half-bushel I’ve ever laid eyes on.  They survived! And within an hour they were minus 2.

Apples make delicious savory soups and as you peruse the ingredient list below I’m quite certain you’ll hear “ding” “ding” “ding” and instantly jump on my bandwagon as to why this soup is a must for fall…kinda sounds like a fashion trend.  We’ve already covered the apples, but there’s also apple cider, caraway, cheddar and Calvados….an assembly of fall flavors. I’m sure by now you’re reaching for a cozy wrap (here’s the one I’m coveting, which thankfully for my bank account is sold out) and heading straight to the farmers market.  Last time I made tender whole grain sandwiches with salty ham and a smear of Dijon (perfect complement to the soup), but this time I went for a Ham Gruyere Tart to make things a little fancier, but with practically the same ease  as slapping together a sandwich. Now, the only thing left to do is light a fire (or flip the switch), open a bottle of Champagne and nestle in!

Apple Onion and Cheddar Soup

Apple Onion and Cheddar Soup

Adapted from the New England Soup Factory Cookbook.

Ingredients

  • 2 TBSP unsalted butter
  • 2 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 TBSP chopped garlic (about 3 cloves)
  • 5 sweet onions, sliced
  • 3 lbs McIntosh or Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and chopped
  • 6 cups homemade chicken broth
  • 2 cups apple cider
  • 2 tsp caraway seeds, toasted in a dry skillet over medium high heat until fragrant (about 5 minutes)
  • 1 tsp freshly chopped thyme
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 10 oz sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 2 TBSP Calvados
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly grated black pepper

Instructions

  1. Melt butter and olive oil in a large stockpot over medium heat.
  2. Add the onions and reduce heat to medium-low. Sauté for 25 minutes until the onions are soft and golden. Stir occasionally. Add the garlic for the last 5 minutes of cooking.
  3. Add the apples and sauté for an additional 5 minutes.
  4. Next add the chicken broth, cider, caraway seeds and thyme.
  5. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
  6. Reduce to medium, cover and simmer for 40 minutes.
  7. Remove from the stove and puree. I used an immersion blender.
  8. Add cream and cheese and stir until the cheese is completely melted.
  9. Stir in Calvados, salt and pepper.
  10. Return to the stove and gently simmer for about 3 minutes.
http://www.glassjarsoupcompany.com/2013/10/08/apple-of-my-eye/

Notes:

  1. My go-to cheddar to eat and cook with is Black Diamond. It’s a Canadian cheese that is aged to perfection. I’m in love with the 5-year aged, but it’s difficult to find. Not many stores carry it due to the cost; however, you can usually find the 3-year aged. When you cook or bake with cheese, I think it’s important to use one that is strong and can stand up to the rest of the ingredients, otherwise, what’s the point?
  2. I mentioned champagne above and because the soup is sweeter than most, it’s important to pair it with something dry and crisp. I also like something a bit saltier to eat alongside it as well.
  3. Be sure to use a tart apple variety because sweet ones won’t provide enough contrast in the soup.
  4. If you don’t have or don’t care to use Calvados , replace it with freshly squeezed lemon juice.

 

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