Category Archives: Soups

Whole Lotta Chili Goin’ On

As we leave Halloween behind and prepare to make a quick stop at Thanksgiving before plunging headlong into Christmas, it is important to note that as the weather and decorations change, so does what the Kitchen of Love turns out. Friends, we are at the cusp of Chili Season. This is a season (and dish) that loves Fall, adds a bit of zest to Winter, and can make the coldest, dampest Spring day feel a little less bleak.

This dish for almost all seasons has many versions and a history that rivals many urban legends. I would guess that almost every cook has a version and that there are as many dos and don’ts as there are recipes. It’s not from Mexico, but the spice profile is. It is the subject of an ongoing, often heated debate; beans vs. no beans. Native of Texas, but with possible roots in the Canary Islands. Created in a nun’s vision or out of necessity. We may never know for certain and many articles have been written. What is certain, however is that any way you like your chili is all right.

I’ve shared several chili recipes over the years, but I do believe that there is always room for one more. This one features a wide variety of chilis in different forms, hence the name. It starts with my homemade red chili sauce made with ancho and guaillo chilis. There are roasted poblanos and canned green chilis to give some texture and mild heat.

Jalapenos join onions and garlic for the vegetable base.The spices include Ancho and Chipotle Powders, which brings the chili total to seven. That’s a “Whole Lotta Chili.”

There is also debate as to whether tomatoes should be added. I have done chili both ways and they each have their merits. This version uses some tomato paste partly for a little more richness but mostly because there were a couple of tablespoons left in the tube.

All of these flavors require a protein profile that is just as varied. Smoky Bacon, Chicken Thighs, and Turkey Italian Sausage rounded out the meats. There was about 1-1/2 pounds total. I used what I had on hand, but you could go with beef, ground or chopped, or all ground turkey. Even skip the meat and double up on the beans (if you are of the chili with beans army). Remember there are no rules for chili…as long as you aren’t serving it to Texans.

I am a staunch member of the chili with beans club, so I doubled down with Kidney and Black Beans. I love the pasty yet meaty texture of Kidney beans (How’s that for a description?) and the smoky flavor of Black Beans. Together they gave some added depth to the chili.

Chili seasonings are only limited by the chili maker’s taste and spice cabinet. You can choose screaming hot or sweetly spicy depending on your sensibilities. I tend to be a savory and mildly spicy kind of gal ( and Papa D wouldn’t want it any other way). I have even put Mexican Chocolate in my Turkey Mole Chili. For this recipe however, I stuck mostly to tradition and used plenty of Cumin, a touch of Coriander, and a healthy amount of Mexican Oregano. Yes, there is a difference, try it. I opted for Ancho and Chipotle Powder instead of Chili Powder; It was a personal choice, use what you really like.

I added some Corn Broth to the chili sauce mainly because I had it in the freezer. Chicken or vegetable stock works well, too. I like my chili on the thick side. That requires a thickening agent. I used Masa Harina. This is fine ground corn flour. Add some water or stock to the flour and shake it like crazy to create a slurry. It works quickly and cooks out to a subtle corn taste that I love.

This is just one suggestion for chili. I have several of them in my recipe archives, if you are inclined to, browse. A winter kitchen needs at least one chili recipe. Take this one as a starting point and make it your own.

Whole Lotta Chili
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Servings
6
Servings
6
Whole Lotta Chili
Print Recipe
Servings
6
Servings
6
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Heat a large soup pot over medium high heat. Add the bacon and cook until it renders some fat and is just beginning to brown. Remove the bacon from the pan and drain on paper towels.
  2. Add the chicken and turkey sausage to the pot and cook until they are cooked through. Remove from the pan and set aside. Leave the drippings in the pan.
  3. Add the onions, garlic, cumin, coriander, and jalapeno to the pot and cook until the onions soften and everything smells wonderful.
  4. Add the tomato paste and stir to blend it in. Cook for about 5 minutes stirring occasionally.
  5. Add the chili sauce and stock along with the chili powders and oregano. Stir in the green and poblano chilis. Bring to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes to blend the flavors.
  6. Add the rinsed and drained beans to the pot and let everything simmer another 15 minutes.
  7. Increase the heat to a low boil. Shake the masa harina with a half cup of water in a jar until it is well blended. Stir the mixture into the chili and continue to stir until it thickens.
  8. Give it a taste and adjust the ingredients as needed. Serve.
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Maybe It’s Fall and Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Well, once again I begin a post with a weather report of sorts. As of yesterday, Fall seems to have returned to the Midwest. Heavy rain has brought the much-anticipated cold front that in turn has brought out long pants and long sleeves and even the occasional sweater. There is no such thing as a sure thing, but this time it feels different. It is also mid October and it’s more than time.

Mama D’s Kitchen has become soup central. Bubbling pots of chicken and vegetable stock have been perfuming the air with savory scents.  The first soup of the season has appeared and it is a beauty. Roasted Butternut Squash Soup. It is anchored by homemade Vegetable Stock (kitchen recycling at its best) and features butternut squash, a true harbinger of Fall. It is almost meatless, the unapologetic inclusion of Pancetta was the perfect salty counterpoint to the sweet squash.

Looking for an excuse to turn on the oven, I decided to roast the squash. I love how the roasted flavor is richer and somehow more satisfying. It changes the color of the finished soup, but it still has beautiful golden tones. I let the carrots roast too, because I am currently in love with the resulting nutty sweet flavor.The pancetta was finely chopped and rendered delicious fat as it crisped up in the soup pot. That fat, along with a little butter gave the leeks and garlic something to sweat in that made their presence well established.I added some ground sage and let it release its earthiness into the leek mixture. Then the stock went in, along with a bundle of thyme sprigs, and a time to simmer began. The fragrance that permeated the house was wonderful. The squash and carrots came into the party fashionably late, but in enough time to become the stars of the show. Once everything was perfectly married, it was time to bring in the immersion blender. What else would a fall soup need to thin it out a bit? Why some heavy cream, of course. This is comfort food after all and it really was a modest amount…

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Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
Servings: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 2Lb. Butternut Squash Peeled and chopped 1" dice
  • 1 Cup Baby Carrots Chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. Olive Oil Divided
  • 4 Oz. Pancetta Finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. Butter
  • 2 Cups Sliced Leeks
  • 4 Cloves Garlic
  • 1 Tsp. Ground Sage
  • 4 Cups Vegetable Stock
  • 4 Sprigs Fresh Thyme
  • Salt & Pepper To Taste
  • 1/2 Cup Heavy Cream More or less as needed
  • 2 Oz. Goat Cheese Crumbled
Instructions
  1. Toss the squash cubes with some of the olive oil. Spread out on a rimmed baking sheet in a single layer. Roast for 40 minutes in a 425 degree oven, stirring every 15 minutes. Set Aside.

  2. Toss the carrots with a little of the olive oil and spread on a rimmed baking sheet in a single layer. Roast for 20 minutes in a 425 degree oven stirring every 10 minute or so. Set aside

  3. In a large soup pot heat about 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the pancetta and cook until it is brown and crispy 7 - 10 minutes. Remove the pancetta and allow it to drain on paper towels. Spoon out all but 1 tablespoon of the drippings.

  4. Add the butter to the pot and once it is melted, add the leeks and garlic. Toss to coat and cook for 5 minutes. Add the ground sage and cook an additional 5 minutes until the leeks are wilted and just beginning to brown.

  5. Add the stock to the pan. Tie the thyme sprigs together with a long piece of kitchen twine. Drop it into the pot and tie one end of the string to the pot handle. Bring up to a simmer, cover and allow to simmer for 20 - 30 minutes.

  6. Remove the thyme sprigs (they will now be stems) from the pot. Add the reserved squash and  carrots. Return to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes or so to allow the flavors to blend. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes.

  7. Once the soup has cooled slightly, use an immersion blender to puree the soup. (waiting 10 minutes helps the splatters not sting as much). Once the soup is smooth, return it to the stove.

  8. Stir in the cream and allow the soup to heat gently until it is nice and hot. Use as much cream as your waistline will allow. Check for flavor and add salt and pepper as needed.

  9. To serve, ladle into bowls and top with the crispy pancetta and crumbled goat cheese.

Serving it up only required a sprinkle of goat cheese and those wonderful crispy pancetta bits.

This was wonderful, but it got better with the addition of Skillet Corn Bread. Remember those little boxes of Jiffy Mix that our moms always reached for. Well, I reached for one, too. I embellished the regular directions with corn, green onions, cheddar cheese, and sour cream in place of milk.

It baked up with a golden brown crust on top and crispy goodness on the bottom (the result of heating the skillet in the oven before adding the batter). 

Joined by a simple salad it completed what was indeed a perfect Supper.

We are enjoying a week of mildly cool weather here in the Midwest. Let’s hope that this time it stays.

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
Print Recipe
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
Print Recipe
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
Print Recipe
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.