Archive for the ‘Soups and Stews’ Category

Salt: my worst frenemy

Friday, December 10th, 2010

Yes, I did just use the word “frenemy”.

Photo by Nathan Clendenin

Photo by Nathan Clendenin

I never really think of salt as being part of a recipe.  It’s in there, sure, and I take it pretty seriously in baking.  But I can’t remember the last time I actually measured salt into a recipe, whether baked goods or mashed potatoes.  You just kinda dump some in, right?  That’s looks like a teaspoon, right?  Right?!

And sodium freaks me out.  There’s so much of it.  Everywhere.  And it’s not good for you.  So I buy low sodium anything they have at the local grocery.  I drain and rinse my canned beans because so much of the sodium is in those tasty juices.  I often under-season my soups, and if I don’t, I feel like I’m going to die from some sort of sodium overdose.  Sodium is scary stuff, and salt… well, we’re not exactly the friendliest.

But I made this chili the other night.  It’s adapted from Jennifer’s adaptation of two other recipes, so I’m pretty sure the original recipe is completely unrecognizable now. It went like this:

  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1/2 onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon chipotle chili pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1 Tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 cans kidney beans
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes (I used “petite” so they were smaller)
  • 1 can hominy (you could use corn, too)
  • 1 bottle of a full-bodied beer (Jennifer uses a stout, but that’s a bit too much for me to ever have around the house)
  • 1/2-1 cup of water (to desired consistency)

And I browned the meet with the onion, garlic, and pepper.  I added the spices, and then the cans of stuff.  Lastly, the beer and the water.  And I let it simmer for awhile.

And then I tasted it.  And I was not happy.  It needed more.  A lot more.  So I started thinking through which of these spices and how much to add.  The chipotle could be good.  And chili powder would certainly help.  And you know how much I love cumin.  And I was about to start throwing in more spices when I saw a note at the bottom of the sheet of paper Jennifer had given me.  Salt.  She added 2 tablespoons.  I opted for one.

But it was a big step for me.  I think I often add more spices, when a little salt would be more appropriate.  And boy oh boy, did the chili taste better for it.  I crumbled cornbread into it.  Topped with cheese.  Amazing!  Try some.  For reals.

Photo by Nathan Clendenin

Photo by Nathan Clendenin

Also, look at what Rebecca did to my cornbread:

Photo by Nathan Clendenin

Photo by Nathan Clendenin

It was amusing at the time.  I’m pretty sure it still is.

Can you tell it’s fall?

Friday, November 5th, 2010

Because it is.  It so is.

I woke up with a chill this morning, absolutely certain that getting out of bed will cause me to freeze to death.  Wanting to preserve my life, I stayed in bed longer.  And longer.

This is how I excuse my laziness in the fall and winter.  It’s like the whole world is telling me that I’m making the right decision.

And then I make soup.  ‘Cause it’s delicious.  And warm.  And makes the season feel more “real” to me.  I like that.

I also like this.  So did a lot of other people.

Photo by Nathan Clendenin

Photo by Nathan Clendenin

I kind of did my own thing with this soup, but I kept the original idea.  Here’s what happened:

Creamy Cauliflower Soup:

Adapted from My Man’s Belly

  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 3 red skin potatoes
  • 1 lb. bratwurst, casings removed
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • olive oil
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup beer
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • sharp cheddar cheese

Chop up the cauliflower and put it, the garlic, and the onion into two baking dishes.  Coat thoroughly with olive oil.  Roast at 350 for 40ish minutes.

Meanwhile, chop up the potatoes and boil them until soft.  Brown the sausage.  Mash up the potatoes, then add them and the chicken broth to the sausage.

When the cauliflower stuff is done, throw it into the food processor and process those babies.  Then dump the puree into the soupy mixture.  (Set aside a little bit for the ridiculously cute baby boy that you live with, if applicable.)  Add the milk, salt, pepper, and beer.  (Finish off the beer.)  Heat the soup on medium-low, and bring to simmer.  Serve.  Top with cheese.  Because it’s yummy.  For real, it is.

I make no promises, but a certain boy has declared this the yummiest thing I’ve ever served him.  Keep in mind, that I have served him this and this and this, among others.  … so yea…

Slow Cooking on-the-fly

Saturday, February 6th, 2010

(Valerie here again) Over Christmas I got a slow cooker, rice cooker, and food processor. Of course, I immediately went to work finding recipes that used them. I started by making my first-ever Spaghetti and Meatballs which required the food processor (for making breadcrumbs) and the slow cooker.

A couple of weeks ago I was scraping the bottom of the barrel with my food. I wanted to see what I could do without taking a trip to the grocery store. This is what I found in my house:

  • 1/2 pound pinto beans
  • 1/2 pound black eyed peas
  • Several carrots
  • Onions
  • 1 white potato
  • 1 sweet potato
Before I started the cooker

Before I started the cooker

I figured, here’s my chance to use my slow cooker for what it’s best at – throwing food together and letting it do its thing. I soaked the beans, chopped up the veggies, then threw them in the slow cooker with water, thyme, bayleaves, and oregano. I turned the cooker on low and let it cook overnight.

It turned out pretty good. I wasn’t so sure when I first smelled the soup in the morning (sometimes beans smell funny). It tasted good though, especially when I mixed in some half & half to make it creamy.

of potato soup and snowball fights

Monday, February 1st, 2010

When I was a kid, my brothers, sister and I use to play out in the snow all day.  When we’d finally come in, exhausted and numbed by the cold, we’d sit by the fire where my mom would bring us potato soup.  This weekend, the snow left me with cravings for childhood and potato soup.  We had potatoes, so I didn’t waste time.

One time when I was looking for a pretty easy potato soup recipe, I came across this one.  It turned out moderately well, but not at all like momma’s.  Today, I stuck with the idea of starting with mashed potatoes (though I made them from scratch just before I started in on the soup recipe).

Potato Soup

Photo by Nathan Clendenin


  • 4-5 c. mashed potatoes (I made mine with butter, milk, and sour cream)
  • 6 oz. (half a bottle) beer
  • 1/2 pkg. bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 1/2 c. milk
  • 3-4 c. chicken broth (I went cheap with water and chicken bouillon)
  • 1/2 medium onion
  • salt and pepper to taste (be prepared to add a lot)
  • grated cheddar cheese for topping


In large pot, whisk together mashed potatoes, beer, milk, chicken broth, bacon, and onion.  Since all mashed potatoes come out at a different consistency, use your eye to make sure to add enough (but not too much) chicken broth for the soup.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Cook until thickened.  Top with cheddar.


  • In all honesty, the beer was just an excuse for me to not have to drink an entire bottle, and you likely would be fine without it.  Moreover, this certainly isn’t like momma made it growing up.  :)

Chilaquiles Soup

Monday, November 9th, 2009

Some friends of mine from work began the wonderful idea of the “culinary collaboration” where people take turns bringing lunch for the whole group on a specific day.  Tomorrow, chilaquiles soup, a recipe I got when…

<flashback>Quentin was in desperate need of a suit for a job interview he had the very next day.  Despite our cooking styles, I am actually the planner and Quentin likes to “go with the flow”.  [Insert contradiction from Quentin here.]  If you’ll remember, Quentin didn’t have a car at school, and I did.  When I got off work, I picked him up, drove all over town before finally finding a nice pair of pants to go with a sports coat he already had.  We picked out a nice shirt and tie, and he was set.  It was 8:30 p.m. before we headed back to his place, we were starved and stressed.  Quentin had a meeting for work at 9, and his pants were in desperate need of hemming.  I made dinner during his meeting (pasta with canned vodka sauce cooked in a rice cooker in his dorm, if you must know), and set to hemming the pants as soon as he got back and we could see how long they needed to be.  It was a late night, and I had to be at my school for student teaching at 7:00 the next morning.  In the end, we both agreed that he “owed” me.

The following weekend, he made me and my roommates dinner: tacos and a variation of this soup.  I can hear the “aw”s through the time-space continuum now.  Yes, dinner was delicious.  Yes, he’s quite a man.</flashback>

The recipe has been modified on various occasions.  When Quentin last visited, we had it without chicken or zucchini.  Tomorrow, it will be had without the chicken since a coworker is vegetarian.  That night, he made it without the zucchini.  It’s what a friend of mine calls an “easy-going” recipe in that it’s wonderfully flexible.  Hope you enjoy!

Recipe for Chilaquiles Soup

Time: 20-30 minutes, tops


  • 1 small onion, roughly chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1/2 jalapeno, diced
  • 2 cans tomatillos
  • 2-3 cups chicken broth (I typically use water and chicken bouillon because I don’t figure there’s much difference)
  • 1 can corn
  • 2 zucchini, chopped into bite sized chunks
  • 2-ish cups shredded chicken (I’m totally just guessing here)
  • 1/2-ish cup fresh cilantro, chopped (as Quentin would say, too much cilantro is impossible)

Saute onions, garlic, and jalapeno in large pot.  Pour into blender along with tomatillos.  Blend until smooth.  Saute zucchini in same pot.  Add blended mixture, chicken broth, corn, and chicken.  Bring to a boil.  Stir in cilantro.  Serve.

Possible additions: tortilla chips and sour cream.

Possible substitutions: I totally forgot to get a jalapeno at the store yesterday and didn’t realize it until I had started to saute the onions and garlic.  My replacement was a dash of red pepper flakes and a couple dashes of black pepper.  Initial taste tests say go for it.  Quentin, please forgive me.