Category Archives: Soups

Soup Season Has Arrived: Chipotle Cheddar Cheese Soup

It’s soup season. The calendar tells me so, but here in the Midwest we have had a very mild January…in fact it is almost one for the record books. There has been virtually no snow and the temperature has flirted with the 60’s. Still, it is soup season so soup is making many appearances in Mama D’s Kitchen.

Armed with plenty of homemade stock in the freezer I am embarking on serious soup adventures. My first stop was revisiting a pure comfort soup, Broccoli Cheddar Cheese, to be exact. What could elevate this creamy classic? Enter a block of Chipotle Cheddar Cheese. This is a white cheddar studded with bits of chipotle pepper. It is available in a few markets and while bringing a bit of heat is still a sharp cheddar that will please most tastes.

I started with onions, carrots and garlic softened in a little olive oil. My stock of choice was vegetable as “Meatless Monday” was looming. I simmered these together for half an hour or so before transforming it into creamy cheesy goodness. There was going to be a lot of cheddar cheese going into this so I dialed down the dairy fat by using a combination of evaporated skim milk and low-fat buttermilk. A flour and stock slurry insured pleasant thickness and some Worcestershire Sauce and Chipotle Tabasco Sauce added some zip. I added a little Chipotle Chile Powder. Depending on how hot you want to go, this could go as high as your palate can bear.

I blanched the broccoli to help keep its vivid green color and added a cup of frozen corn to keep things interesting.

This is actually a very quick soup to make. It would also lend itself to many variations. The addition of buttermilk was an experiment that succeeded. It added creaminess as well as a little zing to the flavor. If you can’t find chipotle cheddar use any sharp cheddar cheese.

Chipotle Cheddar Soup with Broccoli and Corn
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Chipotle Cheddar Soup with Broccoli and Corn
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot. Add the onions, carrots, and garlic. Cook for 5 minutes or until the veggies are beginning to brown.
  2. Add 1/4 cup broth to the pot and stir scraping up any brown bits. Cook for a minute or so to reduce slightly.
  3. Add 3-1/2 cups of stock, the allspice, and chipotle powder to the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 10 - 15 minutes.
  4. While the stock simmers, blanch the broccoli. Dump the broccoli into a pot of salted boiling water and cook for 2 minutes. Immediately remove the broccoli and submerge in a bowl of ice water. Drain well and set aside.
  5. Once the stock mixture starts smelling wonderful, add the evaporated milk and the buttermilk. Shake together the remaining 1/4 cup of stock and the flour. Slowly pour it into the soup stirring constantly. Continue to stir until it thickens.
  6. Add the broccoli, corn, Worcestershire Sauce and Chipotle Tabasco. Cook for several minutes.
  7. Over low heat, stir in the cheese, continuing to stir until it is melted. Give it a taste and adjust any seasoning. Serve.
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The soup pot sits at the ready for its next great adventure…I wonder where we will wind up?

Bay Area Memories and Pot Sticker Soup

We have many memories about the time we spent in the San Francisco Bay Area. My sons consider it home and if you asked them, they would tell you that the experiences they had growing up there are as vivid and varied as ever. A young family living in an area with an incredibly high cost of living (that was then..now it’s insane) had to look for adventures that were off the beaten path and low-cost or free. The Bay Area has plenty of that. Beaches, forests, and mountains were our playground and everything was within reasonable driving distance.

While dining out was an occasional treat, we managed to have some favorites. There was Jack’s for Pizza, Fernando’s for Mexican, and for Chinese, there was Uncle Chen. None of these could be called fine dining. They all were comfortable, family friendly, and reasonably priced which back then was a three run homer. Fernando’s and Uncle Chen’s are still around, while Jack’s has been gone for many years. I don’t know how the survivors have fared over the years, but the memories of the sweet fried wonton skins and the pot stickers at Uncle Chen are a fond memory indeed.

I guess I was thinking back to those days when I decided to create my version of Pot Sticker img_2405Soup. The main inspiration came from a bag of Trader Joe’s Goyza (a.k.a. Pot Stickers)  that had been in the freezer for quite some time. I had seen a simple recipe for a Pot Sticker Soup and decided to take it up a few notches. Onions, garlic, ginger, and chili flakes joined forces in a bit of oil. Then I added some Red Curry Paste and a lot of homemade chicken stock. I let all of this simmer for a bit. You could leave the stock as is at this point or add some Fish Sauce for umami, Hoisin Sauce for a touch of sweetness, or some Sriracha to bring the heat. Hey. if you’re feeling randy, add them all.img_2408

I added a serious amount of vegetable matter. Napa cabbage, bok choy, and bell peppers to name a few. Then there were the pot stickers. I browned them as is the usual procedure, then added them to the soup. I kept their cooking time short to preserve there shape and texture.img_2419

The result was a very delicious soup made all the better by a drizzle if sesame oil, a few dots of sriracha, and some sliced scallions. Will this become a staple in Mama D’s Kitchen? Why yes, I believe that it will. Do I think you should give it a try? Absolutely. Here’s the basic recipe to get you started. You know that you can run with this in whatever direction you chooseimg_2423

Pot Sticker Soup
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Pot Sticker Soup
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large soup pot. Add the onions, garlic, ginger and red pepper flakes to the pot and cook stirring occasionally for 5 minutes or so, long enough for everything to get fragrant.
  2. Add the red curry paste and stir it into the onion mixture. Add the chicken stock and stir until the paste is well blended. Bring the mixture up to a boil. Reduce the heat and cook, covered for 15 - 20 minutes.
  3. Uncover the pot and add the vegetables. Simmer for a few minutes...about the time it takes to brown the pot stickers.
  4. In a large skillet heat the remaining oil over medium high heat. Add the pot stickers and cook until the flatter side is golden brown.Drop the browned pot stickers into the soup and continue to cook for another 5 minutes or so.
  5. Divide the pot stickers into 4 soup bowls. Ladle the rest of the soup evenly among the bowls. Garnish with sesame oil, sriracha sauce and the scallions. Serve.
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Fall is here and the official start of “Soup Season” has descended into Mama D’s Kitchen. Now if the weather would just cooperate…

Signs of Spring and Springtime Ham Soup

When I think of soup from a ham bone, visions of thick and hearty Split Pea or Lentil Soup come to mind. There is nothing quite as comforting as losing oneself in the smokey richness that is found in a ham based legume soup.  It’s the perfect partner for a cold wintry night. Winter is gone now (fingers and toes crossed) and Spring is in the air.

Like many, I was left with a ham bone from Easter Dinner (Thanks Jordan & Kelly it was wonderful). I went to the pantry and reached for the lentils, then thought better of it. As tasty as the result would be, the sun coming in the window and the trees beginning to turn green led my inspiration in another direction. Why not make Ham Broth out of the bone and use it as the base to make a lighter, brighter soup. And that’s just what I did.

The mirepoix was leeks, garlic, and carrots. Olive oil made its appearance in the pan to get everything sweating in the best way possible. The broth was added along with more than a few thyme sprigs and everyone took a nice long simmer.IMG_1577

I know that sweet potatoes and corn don’t sound very spring-like, but they are the colors of spring (and often part of Easter Dinner). They were a colorful and tasty addition to this soup. I also added some haricot vert and snow peas. IMG_1581

IMG_1585It wouldn’t be ham soup with out ham so I added a generous cup of the ham bone trimmings. This meat is a little heartier and stands up to the long simmer that soup takes. Speaking of long simmering soup, the haricot vert and snow peas take only minutes to cook and can quickly turn dull, so I added them at the end. I actually blanched them and added them to the bowls before I ladled in the soup. The piping hot soup warmed them up and the crunch they gave to the soup was a bonus in flavor and texture. This soup was the perfect blend of  light yet filling and comforting. Adding a grilled cheese sandwich to the meal would make it a perfect Supper.IMG_1589

Springtime Ham Soup
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Springtime Ham Soup
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot. Add the leeks carrots, and garlic tossing to coat them with the oil. Add a pinch of salt and cover the pot. Allow the vegetables to sweat for 5 - 7 minutes.
  2. Add the Ham Broth and the thyme leaves to the pot. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer covered for 20 - 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. At this point you can remove the thyme sprigs as the leaves have probably fallen off and the sprigs have done their flavor magic. Add the sweet potatoes and corn and simmer 20 minutes more or until the sweet potatoes are tender.
  4. While the soup is simmering, blanch the snow peas and haricot vert. Put them in boiling water briefly, then remove them to a bowl of ice water. When they are cold drain them well. This will leave them tender crisp and bright green. Set them aside.
  5. When the soup is done, taste it and add salt and pepper as needed. Place a few haricot vert and snow peas into each soup bowl. Ladle the soup into the bowls and serve.
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Soup is wonderful any time of year. With the new season’s vegetables coming in, take advantage of them and create your own soup pot of love.

Dinner in a Box, or Not and Italian Sausage and Cannellini Bean Stew

My goodness but time flies…we are into the double digits of March! There’s been a good amount of stuff going on in the kitchen, but there’s been a lot going on in life so time to sit right down and write has been limited. so here I am to share the highlights of the last few weeks.

Another generous birthday gift from my kids was a three dinner box from Blue Apron. This is one of the increasing number of sites that will send you all the ingredients needed to create home cooked meals. This is totally outside my wheelhouse, but it was a lot of fun to give it a whirl. It was fun to have a virtual mise en place, in place.IMG_1383The Spicy Shrimp Pasta that was the result was pretty tasty, too. IMG_1391

IMG_1415We also enjoyed a Pub Burger on a Pretzel Roll that featured an IMG_1487awesome Cheddar Cheese Sauce and Oven Fried Sweet Potatoes. I added some Honey Mustard Cole Slaw to balance things out.                                       The final dinner was a Trinidadian Curried Chicken with Coconut Grits and Sautéed Collard Greens. By this time, I was I was ready to take a few liberties. I left the chicken thighs whole and cooked them on the grill. I only used a little of the herb mix that was included because I didn’t care for the taste. The grits were heavenly and the collard greens were the perfect side dish. Services like this have a place in many kitchens; great for busy couples that still want to have a home cooked meal.  Being Mama D, I don’t always enjoy being told what to do,but in spite of that, I’m glad I got to try out this way of cooking. In between my Blue Apron Adventures, I was creating some dishes of my own. Here’s one that was particularly enjoyable….

IMG_1420We’re slowly creeping into spring, but cold snaps are still popping up, so something hearty and warm is often a welcome supper. IMG_1417That’s how this Italian Sausage and Cannellini Stew came to the table. The cast of characters predominately came from cleaning out the refrigerator. Small amounts of veggies that couldn’t stand alone were combined with Turkey Italian IMG_1439Sausage and Cannellini Beans. I sliced what seemed to be a ridiculous amount of garlic, which turned out to be just the right amount. Chicken stock IMG_1435and fire roasted tomatoes created the liquid that was fortified with the wine left from the previous night’s dinner (yes, once in a while we don’t finish the bottle). I dubbed this a “stew” mainly because the liquid was less than what I would use in a soup. While stews usually simmer for an hour or more, this pot of goodness only took about 30 minutes Things came together quite nicely resulting in a stew that tasted like it simmered all day.

IMG_1459As with any of my recipes this is just a suggestion of the direction the dish can go. Use what you have on hand or love. Change the ingredients as much as you want. This is not a dish that comes in a box ready for you to prepare (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Here’s what I did…now make it your own.

Italian Sausage and Cannellini Stew
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Italian Sausage and Cannellini Stew
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Slice the sausage links into 1 inch chunks (this is easier if they are slightly frozen) and brown in a soup pot over medium heat. Remove the sausage and set aside. Drain off most of the fat in the pot.
  2. Add the olive oil to the pot and allow it to get hot. Add the onions and the carrots. Cook, stirring occasionally for 3 - 4 minutes until the onions begin to soften.
  3. Add the bell pepper, mushrooms, jalapeno, garlic, and squash. Cook for 5 minutes or as long as it takes for things to get soft and fragrant.
  4. Add the wine to the pot and stir to loosen all the brown goodies on the bottom of the pot. Add the tomatoes and the chicken stock to the pot. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 15 minutes or so.
  5. Return the cooked sausage chunks to the pot along with the cannellini beans and season with the Italian Herbs.
  6. Let everything simmer for another 10 minutes or so to heat things through. Taste and adjust seasonings. Add more herbs or salt and pepper as you like.
  7. Ladle into soup bowls, garnish with the grated Romano, and serve.
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Italian Tomato Soup, Literally

I used to come home for lunch when I was in grade school. I couldn’t wait to get in the door and discover what my mom had made for lunch. Sometimes it was a sandwich, but most of the time it was something hot and that hot item was often soup. Tomato was one of my favorites. My mother always used Campbell’s, but made it her own by adding milk instead of water. It changed the color from rose to salmon and it tasted wonderful. Every once in a while she’d stir in some leftover rice and the bowl of goodness became even more comforting. Back then the Grilled Cheese Sandwich of choice was made with Velveeta. Steaming hot tomato soup and a gooey grilled “cheese” sandwich made coming home for lunch extra special. (Disclaimer: Remember, this was the 1950’s. The world of convenience food was in its prime and my mother being a modern, forward thinking woman, embraced it.)

That was then and this is now, as the saying goes. I now know that making  homemade tomato soup is super easy. It just takes tomatoes. either fresh or canned and whatever ingredients you happen to have on hand to sweeten the deal. The time for fresh tomatoes has passed, so this soup started with a large can of tomatoes. These weren’t your basic tomatoes, no sir. These were the veritable Cadillac of tomatoes. These were San Marzano.

2015-08-16-1439737857-6365608-sanmarzano1These heirloom tomatoes originated in a town near Naples were they grew in the rich volcanic soil  surrounding Mount Vesuvius. To be authentic they have to grow in that area. This easily makes a can of them twice the price of the domestic variety, but it is so worth it. The San Marzano is sweet and rich and has low acidity. All of these factors make it a perfect choice for soup.

IMG_0665Mama D’s Trinity (onions, garlic, and olive oil) was the foundation. The trio became a quartet when I added a good dose of Red Pepper Flakes.IMG_0668 Besides the tomatoes I decided to continue the Italian theme by adding some Toasted Farro and Cannellini Beans. Both of these have made appearances here before. Farro actually comes from Italy and the beans’ ancestors came over on the boat, too.

IMG_0779The Trinity sweat with the pepper flakes before the tomatoes went into the pot along with some Chicken Broth. I would have used Vegetable stock, but I didn’t have it on hand. Either one will do the trick. I decided to keep the Italian vibe going and added a bit of Marsala Wine, I let this all simmer together for twenty minutes or so before I took a potato masher to it. This gave it a rustic chunky texture that I found quite enjoyable, but you could use an immersion blender if you want your soup base to be silky smooth.

The cooked farro and the drained beans went in next along with some generous grinds of my McCormick Italian Herb Blend. I let things bubble away a bit more before, in a nod to my Mom, I added some half and half.  The soup was delightful. Just rich enough to be satisfying, but light enough to be guilt free.IMG_0676What’s tomato Soup without Grilled Cheese? Incomplete. My version was more cheese toast than sandwich and featured shredded Asiago.IMG_0673 If I’d had a baguette on hand, I would have definitely used it, but I didn’t so some Italian Bread stepped in. Use whatever cheese you love or have on hand. Just goes to show that anything that works for you, works.IMG_0686

Italian Tomato Soup with Farro and Cannellini Beans
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Italian Tomato Soup with Farro and Cannellini Beans
Print Recipe
Servings
4
Servings
4
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
Farro
  1. Toast the farro: Rinse 1/2 cup farro and allow to dry. Place the farro in a dry fry pan. Turn heat on stove to medium and toast the farro, stirring frequently until it is golden and fragrantly nutty, 10 -15 minutes
  2. Bring 2 cups of water (or broth) to a boil. Stir in the toasted farro and return to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until most of the liquid is absorbed, 30 minutes or so. The farro should be chewy but tender. Drain any remaining liquid and set aside.
Soup
  1. Heat a soup pot over medium high heat. Add the olive oil. Once the oil is hot, add the onion, garlic and red pepper flakes. Stir to coat with the oil and cook for 5 minutes or so until the onion begins to soften.
  2. Stir in the stock, tomatoes, Italian Seasoning, and Marsala. Bring up to a boil and reduce the heat to simmer. Simmer for 20 - 30 minutes. Use a potato masher to create a chunky soup. Hit it with the immersion blender if you want it smooth.
  3. Stir in the farro and beans. Simmer for a little longer; 15 minutes is about right.
  4. Ladle into soup bowls and garnish with the pesto and croutons if desired.
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Soup season is upon us and there will be more soup adventures as Fall settles into Winter. There is nothing quite like a bowl of warm comforting soup in the Kitchen of Love.