Classic Creamy Tomato Soup

Creamy Classic Tomato Soup - Big Eats Tiny Kitchen

Our tree is UP, snow is on the ground, my fire is LIT, wool socks are on my feeeeeet, and I’m eating tomato soup and grilled cheese. I do believe I am in a literal winter wonder land.

I made a HUGE batch of this creamy tomato soup yesterday when we had a OU vs OSU bedlam football watch party at our house. My Sooners about gave me a coronary, but managed to pull off a win in the last seconds. It was grueling. I was quite a fan of this soup and the grilled cheese bar that we did. Wish I had pics, but too busy screaming at the TV.

Creamy Classic Tomato Soup - Big Eats Tiny Kitchen

We had several types of cheese, lots o’ butter, and a few bread choices placed on the table for people to build their own grilled cheese dream. I decided to grill all of the sandwiches in the OVEN. It was brilliant (thanks Pinterest). That way we all had hot to trot grilled cheese sandwiches at the same time.

Creamy Classic Tomato Soup - Big Eats Tiny Kitchen

Here are the steps for a grilled cheese and tomato soup party:

1. Make your soup (recipe below). It can just simmer on the stove until you are ready to go. The soup takes a total of about 1 1/2 hours for prep, cook, and simmer. The recipe makes enough for 8 to 10 but can be cut in half for smaller crows. Of course the left overs are Ammmmmmmazing. So why would you cut in in half? exactly.

2. Next…let’s get our cheese on. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Place two cookie sheets in the oven. You will use one to place the sandwiches on and the second as a type of panini press.

3. Set out all of your grilled cheese sammy fixins: cheeses, butter, bread (I used gluten free for me), meat (bacon, ham, etc), veggies (caramelized onions, mushrooms, artichoke hearts, spinach) or go pure. Butter your bread, stack yo cheeeeeeze, and add what you want…or just cheesy peeazy cheese.

4. Place a piece of parchment paper on the table and write everyone’s name on it so that each person has a location to place their masterpiece cheesewich. Then pull out one of the cookie sheets from the oven, and place the parchment paper onto the cookie sheet. Be careful, it’s HOT. (I tell your this because I forgot. NO worries, I have no feeling in my hand anymore.) Place all of the sandwiches on their names on the parchment paper. Remove the second HOT cookie sheet and place it on top of the buttered sandwiches. Place these cookie sheets back into the hot oven.

5. Cook for about 10 minutes. Then pull out the sheet of sandwiches and check them. You may need to flip them and place them back into the oven for another 5 to 10 minutes or until the bread is nice and toasty on both sides.  Pull out the sandwiches and serve the hot and melty cheesywiches with your hot yummy tomato soup.

6. Enjoy that cozy feeling inside. You are welcome.

Creamy Classic Tomato Soup - Big Eats Tiny Kitchen

Classic Creamy Tomato Soup 

(Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit)

Serves 8 to 10

Ingredients

  • 3 Tablespoons unsalted grass-fred butter (or olive oil)
  • 2 medium onions, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, smashed and thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 6-oz can of tomato paste
  • 3 28-oz cans of whole tomatoes (best quality)
  • 8 cups of water or broth
  • 1/4-cup to 1/2-cup half and half (or full fat coconut milk for dairy free)
  • salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. In a large heavy dutch oven or pot placed over medium heat, melt the butter until bubbling. Add the onions and cook until completely soft and translucent (about 10 minutes).
  2. Add the thyme, basil, paprika, and garlic and cook an additional 1 to 2 minutes until fragrant.
  3. Increase the heat to medium-high and add the tomato paste. Stirring frequently, cook the tomato paste and onion mixture for 5 to 6 minutes or until the paste begins to caramelize in spots, but not burn.
  4. Add all of the tomatoes with their juices and 8 cups of water or broth to the pot. Increase the heat to high and bring to a simmer. Lower the heat to medium and maintain a gentle simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the soup has reduced slightly.
  5. Remove the soup from the heat and allow to cool slightly. The soup can be pureed in a blender, a food processor, or an immersion blender. If using a blender or food processor, be careful and work in batches. Also be sure to vent the hot mixture. After the soup has been pureed, return it to the pot and keep the soup warm over low heat.
  6. Stir in desired amount of half and half. Simmer an additional 10 minutes. Season the soup with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle additional thyme on top for serving or some extra half and half.
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Roasted Butternut Squash and Apple Soup

Roasted Butternut Squash and Apple Soup - Big Eats Tiny Kitchen

This week is a time to give thanks and to be with those that mean the most to us. It is my favorite holiday. No pretenses. No gifts that weren’t good enough. No wrong sizes.

Just family, friends, food, and laughter.

My grandmother had seven children. However, I can’t imagine birthing 1 child, much less SEVEN, but my wonder-woman of a grandmother did it.  My father was the fifth. And getting together with all of my aunts and uncles is a tradition that I look forward to every year.  When I was a kid, I loved the large gatherings because I was an only child until I was 11. I had always wanted a sister or a brother. A gaggle of over 30 people enjoying each others company (sometimes), telling stories, and eating together was like heaven to me. Sure there was sometimes drama, but as a kid that all didn’t matter to me. Family mattered.

Roasted Butternut Squash and Apple Soup - Big Eats Tiny Kitchen

Roasted Butternut Squash and Apple Soup - Big Eats Tiny Kitchen

Needless to say our family gathering for Thanksgiving is large and fun. The house is warm, but the company is warmer.

On Wednesday night, my aunt hosts “Soup Night”. It’s an easy night with hot soups cooking on the stove as guests trickle in for the big event.  Although Thursday is the day to showcase the TURKEY, Wednesday night is the big Paaaaarhtaaaahy.

The beer flows freely.

The wine glasses are poured large.

The stories get loud, the laughter gets even louder, and the guitars strum.

All the while, the soup stays hot.

Roasted Butternut Squash and Apple Soup - Big Eats Tiny Kitchen

We ladle another bowl. We pour another drink. We toast to those that have passed. We tell stories of previous Thanksgivings.  We argue about the pronunciation of words and mathematical concepts and whether the seed of an avocado really keeps guacamole from turning brown or not.

All the while the soup continues to stay hot.

That is why soup is the perfect party food. You can mingle and be a great host/hostess and not worry about the food getting cold or over cooked or not being ready at the right time. Everyone can serve themselves and you get to serve yourself another tasty beverage!

This Roasted Butternut Squash and Apple soup is particularly “soup”er easy.  Roast all the vegetables at once, blend the veggies with broth using an immersion blender or food processor.  Aaaaand…wait for it…. Your done. Basically. Just keep it heated. Ok. NOW you are done. There.

Breath. Do some stretches.

Now GO HUG SOMEONE! And get them a drink too! Sheeesh.

I hope you and your loved ones have a wonderful, safe, and memorable turkey day.

Cheers to you and yours.

Roasted Butternut Squash and Apple Soup - Big Eats Tiny Kitchen

Roasted Butternut Squash and Apple Soup

(Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Paleo Friendly)

Ingredients

  • 1 3 to 4 pound butternut squash, peeled, deseeded, and diced into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 small red onion, cut into chunks
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 cloves of garlic (in the skin)
  • 2 sweet apples, cored and diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic (in the skin)
  • 4 to 6 cups of low sodium vegetable broth (or chicken broth)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Prepare two shallow roasting pans by spraying with nonstick spray or lining with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, toss the cubed butternut squash and onion with the olive oil and salt. Place in a single layer on a roasting pan. Place in the oven and roast for 40 to 45 minutes, stirring every once and awhile until the squash are cooked through.
  3. With 20 minutes left on the butternut squash, place the apples on a roasting pan with the garlic cloves and into the oven on a separate oven rack.
  4. Remove cooked vegetables from the oven. Remove the skins from the garlic and discard. Place the vegetables and spices into a dutch oven or large pot with 5 cups of vegetable or chicken broth. Using a blender, a food processor, or an immersion blender, puree the soup in several batches, adding more liquid (broth or water) if necessary. Return the soup to the pot and heat over medium heat until simmering. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Crockpot Curry Beef and Sweet Potato Stew

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Most of you know that my favorite kitchen invention is the Crockpot. I have raved about this domestication blessing before. Once temps jump a little lower, I pull this amazing beauty from beneath my counter and place her in her designated spot, front and center on the counter. BAM. Fall and winter scream for ROASTS and STEWS and CHILI! Nothing is better than coming home from work with dinner ready to go. Thank you my lil’ crockpot friend.

The crockpot is great for those tougher cuts of meat that need to be cooked low and slow. This Curried Beef and Sweet Potato Stew was inspired by a recipe for Crockpot Curried Short Ribs in my favorite new cookbook from Danielle Walker of Against All Grain. If you haven’t gotten her cookbook, go…now…run…fast. It’s awesome and filled with the most lovely food porn you will see, especially for grain free meals! Amazing.

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The original recipe slow cooks short ribs in coconut milk and asian curry spices, which sounded divine. However, because I didn’t have all of the ingredients, the recipe quickly morphed into something new. The beauty of crockpots and imagination means that stew meat, sweet potatoes, coconut milk, and indian curry spices turns out to be one helluva meal! I have made curry stews with beef and sweet potatoes before, but this one was by far the creamiest because of my fabulous friend, the crockpot.

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The house was filled with warming spicy aroma all day. You can increase or decrease the heat based on the quantity of curry powder and optional cayenne powder. We are SPICY people over here, so things get amped up till our knee pits sweat. Because THAT is living, people. Oh, and we served this stew over cauliflower “rice”. Check out this post for preparation methods. Mmmmm.

Crockpot Curried Beef and Sweet Potato Stew (adapted from the Against All Grain Cookbook)

Ingredients

  • 1 to 2 pounds grass-fed beef stew meat (seasoned with salt and pepper)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 14 oz can diced organic tomatoes (no salt added)
  • 1 medium sweet potato, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
  • 1/2 cup cilantro leaves
  • 1 6 oz can organic tomato paste
  • 1 13.5 oz can coconut milk (light or full fat)
  • 2 to 3 Tablespoons curry powder (such as madras)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne powder (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper

Instructions

  1. Place the seasoned stew meat in the bottom of a slow cooker. Top with onion, garlic, tomatoes, and sweet potato. Stir in cilantro leaves and stems. In a medium bowl, whisk the coconut milk, tomato paste, curry powder, salt and ground pepper until well mixed. Pour the coconut mixture into the slow cooker over the meat and vegetables.
  2. Cook for at least 8 hours on low, stirring the mixture every once and awhile.
  3. Serve over cauliflower “rice” or regular rice and top with additional cilantro leaves.

Red Wine and Balsamic-Braised Pot Roast

It is no secret that I love to cook.  My main reason for cooking is that I love to eat feed people.

But the thing is that I’m a cheap cook.  I typically like to scavenge my cabinets for what we already have in order to come up with a meal.  Don’t get me wrong, I keep my pantry well stocked so that I have plenty of options. However, part of the fun is coming up with new things to cook based on what I have on hand. So when I read recipes with ingredients I do not have or expensive cuts of meat or out of season ingredients, I typically don’t make it.

But lately, I have been wanting to work on certain “cooking school” basic techniques.  This means that I actually need to study master recipes and stock up on ingredients specific to that meal. And who better to learn basic cooking techniques from than the master herself…Julia. Yes, Julia Child and her fabulous “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” series are the best assets to any home cook wanting to improve their skills.  My husband bought me the set for Christmas!!!  I have been wanting to master Julia’s basic braised beef pot roast recipe (Boeuf En Daube A La Provencale). It is basically the love child of Beef Bourgingone and the best pot roast you can imagine. Comfort food at its best. 

Special Equipment – A few items that you will need include:

  • twine to tie up the roast (my butcher did this for us),
  • cheesecloth for making an herb bouquet (I actually didn’t have any and just threw my herbs into the sauce…I fail at basic techniques!),
  • a bottle of full-bodied red wine such as a Burgundy, Beaujolais, Cotes-du-Rhone…(I used half and drink the rest..DOH),
  • aluminum foil or parchment paper, and
  • 5 or 6-quart dutch oven with a tight fitting lid.

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I adapted the original recipe to a 2.5 lb roast (instead of a 6 pounder) and did not use flour in the roux to make it gluten free. Julia would gasp, but the sauce at the end was still magnificent and thick even though it was not thickened with a flour roux.

This really was the BEST roast I have ever eaten. And although I didn’t follow Julia’s recipe to a T (tisk tisk), it was stunning. So I get a big fat F for setting out to “master” basic techniques not actually “following” that said recipe…but GAH…some of those steps just seem extraneous. Seriously….using beef knuckles to flavor my sauce? Julia…come ON! It has a bottle of wine and bacon grease! IT HAS FLAVOR!

So maybe I will never be a master chef, but dang it…my family is well fed!

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Julia’s Notes – If you want to serve this roast the day you cook it, allow 5 hours from the moment you put the roast into the oven to the moment you will be serving it.  Cooking time is dependent on the type and quality of the meat. There are several cuts of beef that work for braising: top round, chuck roast, shoulder/arm roast, bottom round or eye or round, sirloin tip, or middle of brisket. Have your butcher trim and tie the roast tight with twine.

Make-Ahead Notes – This is a great dish to make for a crowd because the braised beef can be made ahead of time (up to a day or two in advance), with the flavors improving each day. To make ahead, prepare the dish through the oven-braising (Step 5). Allow the dish to cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate for up to three days. To serve, gently reheat the roast in the pot until the juices are once again liquified. Transfer the meat and vegetables to a baking dish, moisten with some of the juices, cover, and heat in a 325°F oven until warmed through. While the meat and vegetables are warming, proceed with Step 6 as directed below to make a sauce from the juices.

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Red Wine and Balsamic-Braised Pot Roast (Gluten Free, Grain Free, Paleo)

(Adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child and Simone Beck and from Fine Cooking)

Ingredients

  • Herb bouquet, tied in washed cheesecloth: 3 smashed garlic cloves, 2 bay leaves, 6 peppercorns, 2 sprigs of thyme, 1/2 teaspoon each of dried marjoram and oregano, strip of orange zest or rind of 1 clementine orange
  • 2 Tablespoons bacon grease
  • 1 2-3 lb boneless beef chuck roast, tied tight with twine
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 2 medium onions, halved, peeled, and thinly sliced
  • 3/4 cup dry red wine
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 cups beef broth
  • 1 can (14 1/2 oz) diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 2 cups diced carrots (3/4-inch pieces)
  • 1 lb small fingerling potatoes (1 to 2-inches long)
  • 10 oz crimini mushrooms, quartered
  • 2 Tablespoon capers

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 300F.  Set a rack on the lower third of the oven.
  2. Herb Bouquet – To make the herb bouquet, cut a large single-layer square of cheesecloth and rinse it to remove any loose fibers. Spread the cheesecloth flat and add to the center the smashed garlic, thyme sprigs, bay leaves, peppercorns, dried herbs, and orange zest. Gather the edges to form a pouch and tie tightly with kitchen twine. Set aside.
  3. Searing the Beef – Pat the roast dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. In a 5- to 6-quart Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid, heat the bacon grease (or olive oil) over medium-high heat. Brown the well-dried meat thoroughly on all sides and ends, lifting and turning with tongs and using the trussing strings. This should take about 5 minutes per side or about 10 minutes total. The meat should sizzle but not scorch; adjust the heat accordingly. Add more fat or oil if needed. When browned, transfer the meat to a large plate. Set aside.
  4. Preparing the Braising Liquid – Lower the heat to medium, add the onions and cook until they start to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the red wine, balsamic vinegar, beef broth, and the cheesecloth pouch of herbs.  Bring to a simmer and scrape with a wooden spoon to dislodge all coagulated bits of brown flavor into the liquid. Return the meat to the pot, along any juices that have accumulated. Stir the tomatoes and more stock, if needed, so that the liquid comes to 2/3 of the way up the beef. Bring the liquid to a simmer on top of the stove.
  5. Braising the Beef – Cover the beef and the pot with a sheet of foil, pushing the foil down so it touches the meat. Set the lid in place. Slide the pot into the lower third of the preheated oven and cook for 2 hours, turning the roast with tongs after 1 hour. Check to make sure that the liquid in the pot is simmering slowly, not bubbling fast: regulate oven throughout cooking so that the liquid remains at a slow but definite simmer. After two hours, turn the roast over once more and baste. Then,  scatter the carrots, potatoes, and mushrooms into the braising liquid around the roast. Recover the pot with foil, making sure that it touches the meat, and the lid. Place back into the oven and continue braising, covered with the foil and the lid, until the meat is fork-tender, about an hour longer.  Test for doneness by spearing the meat toward the center with a carving fork. Pull out the fork carefully: If it lifts the meat along with it, continue cooking for another 20 to 30 minutes. According to Julia, for good quality American beef, the entire cooking process generally takes 3 1/2 hours. Other grades or qualities may take longer.
  6. Making the Sauce – Transfer the pot roast and vegetables to a shallow platter and place a tent of foil over it. Strain the remaining liquid into a measuring cup, discarding the spent onion and the cheesecloth herb bouquet. Spoon off any fat that rises to the surface. Wipe out the dutch oven with a paper towel. Return the strained juices to the pot and bring to a simmer over medium heat. If the flavor seems weak, simmer the sauce vigorously over medium-high heat for 5 to 15 minutes to reduce the volume and concentrate the flavor. Season the thickened sauce with salt and pepper to taste. Whisk in the chopped parsley and capers.
  7. Serving – Julia says to cut the twine from the pot roast and carve the meat across the grain into 1/4- to 1/2-inch-thick slices. I like mine to fall apart in large chucks, but that’s just me. For family serving, arrange the meat on a serving platter and place vegetables around it. Ladle about half the sauce over all, and serve. Retain the remaining sauce in a gravy boat and pass around the table to drink pour on top.

Curried Chicken and Butternut Squash Soup

In April, I will be running in the Oklahoma City Half Marathon with my sister Jill. This will be the fourth year that we have participated. The first year we ran the race was her freshman year in High School and now she is a senior!!!!  Valedictorian too!  Now that I live over 5 hours away and do not get to visit as often I would like, running in a long race with her is good quality time together…you know running in rain and sleet, loosing toe nails…the typical sisterly bonding type of stuff.  You can see in the picture below how much she enjoys our yearly tradition of running 13.2 miles for fun! She is so lucky to have me, right? RIGHT????

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April is creeping up fast and my training schedule is beginning to ramp up.  I do CrossFit at least 3 times per week, 1 small run mid-week, and 1 long run on the weekend. This means I need quick and nourishing meals throughout the week that provide nutrients to fuel and refuel my training schedule.

Long endurance training sessions (60-90+ minutes) cause inflammation and deplete our bodies of stored glycogen.  My old refueling routine was through breads, pasta, pancakes, and pizza…but NO MORE.  This will be my first endurance event to do while maintaining a strict Paleo lifestyle.  So, I am refueling with healthy fats, eating grass-fed protein, and incorporating plenty of whole foods and vegetables that contain complex carbohydrates: sweet potatoes, butternut squash, and other winter squash.

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I whipped up this Curried Chicken and Butternut Squash soup last weekend after I finished a cold 8 mile run.  It warmed my frozen fingers and buns. This soup was the perfect recovery meal full of muscle-building protein and glycogen-restoring butternut squash.  I used leftover shredded chicken from a roasted chicken that I had made earlier in the week. 

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Another perk of this meal is that this soup is easy on the pocket-book and nourishes your family.  It also freezes well!  Feeding your family healthy and unprocessed meals can add up, but it is important. My money-saving tip of the week is to buy whole organic free range chickens rather than chicken parts.  This will save you at least $3 bucks PER POUND.  Roast or poach the whole chicken, then shred the chicken for using later in multiple meals.

Wait…..DON’T THROW THAT CHICKEN CARCASS AWAY! Throw it in a crockpot on low with water and some onions, carrots, celery…whatever and make homemade chicken stock overnight as described here.  I’m not afraid to admit that I have actually taken a chicken carcass home (not for voodoo) from a friend’s house to specifically make chicken stock. Should I be afraid to admit this? Maaaaybe…but, folks, I am also the gal that proudly carries around a coupon book….so I am not ashamed. I stand proud…with lots of change in my pocket! And a full belly filled with healthy restoring soup. Mmmm!

Curried Chicken and Butternut Squash Soup

Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients

  • 2 Tablespoons coconut oil, butter, or ghee
  • 2 medium onions, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 Tablespoons curry powder (I used madras curry powder)
  • 3 cups diced butternut squash (about 1 small, or 1/2 large)
  • 6 cups low sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
  • 2 whole chicken breasts or 2 chicken thighs or 2 to 3 cups of leftover precooked shredded chicken
  • 2 to 3 handfuls of fresh spinach
  • 1/3 cup diced fresh cilantro

Instructions

  1. In a heavy stockpot or dutch oven, heat coconut oil over medium heat. Add onions, stirring often, and sauté until translucent (about 5 to 10 minutes).
  2. Add garlic, bell pepper, curry powder, and butternut squash and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring often so that the mixture does not burn. Once the vegetables start to soften a bit, add the broth. Bring to a boil. Add chicken.  Lower heat and simmer covered for 15 to 20 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through and squash is tender when pierced with a fork. 
  3. If you added whole chicken breasts or thighs, remove them from the soup and place them on a cutting board. Let them cool slightly (about 5 minutes). Shred the chicken using either your hands or two forks.  Add the shredded chicken back to the soup.
  4. Add spinach and cilantro.  Cook for about 3 minutes, or until the spinach becomes wilted. Serve with additional cilantro.

Mexican Chicken and Lime Soup

I came down with a horrendous cold last week. My head felt like it was in a vice grip.  Thinking about going on a walk made me too tired.  So all I did was lay on the couch, become a Pinterest addict, and watch guilty pleasures including Downton Abbey, Wes Anderson movies, Lady and the Tramp, and, of course, Varsity Blues.

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The two things I wanted to eat were tapioca pudding (a childhood comfort food) and chicken soup…warm brothy chicken soup.  I didn’t get the tapioca (boooh) but I did get chicken soup. I found this Mexican Lime Soup on Pinterest. This amazing brothy and spicy soup hit the spot. 

Note – Be sure to use fresh limes to obtain the 1/4 cup of lime juice. Oh and serve with a fresh avocado. Game changer! I can also see this easily being compiled into a slow cooker and cooked all day.  DSC_0227

Mexican Chicken and Lime Soup (Gluten Free, Grain Free, Dairy Free, Paleo-Friendly, Whole30 Compliant) (slightly adapted from Williams Sonoma)

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients

  • 4 limes juiced to yield 1/4 cup lime juice, extra slices for serving
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 4 to 6 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and diced
  • 3 cups low sodium organic chicken broth (homemade is best)
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 lb boneless chicken breasts and/or thighs
  • 1 teaspoon dried mexican oregano
  • 1/3 cup diced cilantro
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. In a large heavy pot or dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic, red bell pepper, and jalapeño and cook for an additional 2 to 3 minutes, stirring frequently.  
  2. Add broth, water, oregano, and lime juice and bring to a full boil. Add chicken. Bring back to a boil, lower heat to medium-low and cover. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through and no longer pink.
  3. Remove cooked chicken from pot with tongs and place on a cutting board. Shred into pieces with two forks. Add the shredded chicken back to pot. Turn off heat and add fresh chopped cilantro. Serve soup with diced avocado, fresh cilantro, and sliced limes.

Sausage, Kale, and Sweet Potato Soup

I love soup. I love soup like I love sweaters…and throws…and wool socks. I mainly love soup because they require little effort and you get a huge piping hot bowl of comfort. This soup is loaded with sweet potatoes and kale, which are both great fall/winter veggies.  It should be no surprise at this point of my infatuation with kale. So I shall skip forward to my utter love for the amazing sweet potato.

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I love roasting sweet potatoes, making them into sweet potato fries, throwing them into chili, or dumping them into soups and stews.  So I was über pumped when I came home from my family’s farm with a boat-load of home-grown sweet potatoes!

Sweet potatoes are planted in the summer and harvested in late October before the first frost.  The variety that my dad planted are amazingly sweet with red skin and bright orange flesh.  Sweet potatoes are naturally rich in antioxidants, and are great sources of both Vitamin A and Vitamin C.  They pack some powerful nutrients, dietary fiber, and are a great source of healthy carbs for athletes. So stock up on these in-season veggies. Store them in a cool, dark, well-ventilated place (not the fridge). They should keep for at least a month or two. Yay for food hoarding!

This is one of those soups that can be adapted from whatever you have on hand.  I used italian sausage, sweet potatoes, and kale.  If you don’t have sausage, try chicken…no sweet potatoes, try butternut squash or red skinned potatoes…no kale (weirdo), try spinach.  You can even add tomatoes or mushrooms.

The sausage that I had on hand was a spicy italian sausage from my CSA.  If you do not have access to local sausage and you are purchasing sausage from the store, read the ingredients on the package.  Some types of sausage contain preservatives, nitrates, and wheat-based fillers.  So just be aware of what you are buying. If you can not find a gluten-free or organic brand of sausage where you live/shop, then substitute shredded chicken (or a can of white beans for vegetarian version).

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Sausage, Kale, and Sweet Potato Soup (adapted from Bon Appetit)

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground sausage (gluten-free and nitrate free)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 large sweet potatoes, chopped into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 1 bunch of kale, stems removed and leaves cut into 1-inch strips
  • red pepper flakes (optional)
  • salt and pepper (to taste)

Instructions

  1. Heat large heavy pot or dutch oven or medium heat. Add sausage and cook until brown, breaking into pieces (about 5 to 10 minutes).  Transfer cooked sausage to a bowl lined with paper towels to drain.
  2. Add onions and garlic to pot and cook in sausage drippings until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir often.
  3. Add potatoes and cook for about 10 to 15 minutes, stirring frequently, until they begin to soften.
  4. Add chicken broth. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes (stirring occasionally), until potatoes are soft when stabbed with a fork. Using a potato masher, mash some of the potatoes in the pot. Add cooked sausage back into soup. Stir in kale (or spinach) and simmer for about 5 to 7 minutes, until greens are wilted. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat.

Beat Texas-Style Chili with Butternut Squash

As we get older in life, we begin to run out of “firsts”.

Early in life, there are so many firsts….first kiss, first love, first car, first road trip, first house, first job, first successful homemade meal for others. The first meal I made my husband when we met was horrible. I made him Chicken Helper but used ground beef and I think there was some freezer-burned shrimp thrown in for good measure. *Shudder*  The chick-beef-shrimp-arole was barf-worthy. I think the poor boy choked it down…with a smile. What a man.

Lucky for both of us, I have come a long way from the mystery meat boxed meal days.

Last weekend I made a chili…a chili that was a “first” for me. Now, I have a pretty kickass chili recipe that I normally make. But I wing it every time. I’ve been making it for years and we love it.   However, I saw a delicious brisket style chili in Bon Appetit and I wanted to give it a go.

So this chili was the first time that I have ever followed an actual recipe for chili. The first time I have ever made a chili WITHOUT beans! gasp.  The first time that I have added winter squash to chili. The first time that I cooked a chili in the oven..say whaaat??? AND the first time that I have made chili without ground beef (with exceptions of vegetarian chili and white chicken chili)!

*Drumroll* And ladies and gents, I gotta tell ya….that although I totally heart my old standby “throw some beans + tomatoes + ground beef + hoooooopla of chili powder” method of making chili…this chili is OUTSTANDING. Yes…caps are necessary. I will have a hard time making another type of chili now. It’s changed my life.

The original Bon Appetit recipe called for 5 pounds of beef brisket…yes FIVE.  I cut that down to accommodate the 2.5 lb arm roast that I had from my CSA (community supported agriculture) stash. I cut the thawed roast into 1/2-inch to 1-inch portions. Simmered low and slow in my dutch oven in a 350F oven for 3 to 4 hours. The roasted beef chunks just fell apart. Butternut squash is added during the last hour of cooking.  It adds a great chunkiness and heartiness to the dish.  And don’t forget the chili powder….like 1/4 cup of chili powder.  Recipes that only call for 1 tablespoon make me laugh…THAT AIN’T CHILI!  That’s northerners attempt at spicing up marinara sauce, I think.  Well, in my personal (and correct) opinion. No offense, northerners. Ya’ll make a lot of things right…but chili (and biscuits and gravy) ain’t it.

Last weekend, I made this chili on a cold and rainy day when OU beat the crap out of Texas. SO it was only fitting that we ate Beevo for dinner. Mmmm. So I call this the Beat Texas-Style Chili…and beat them we did.

Texas-Style Chili with Butternut Squash (adapted from Bon Appetit)

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 2 slices of bacon, diced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 medium yellow or red sweet bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 to 3-pound beef roast, trimmed and cut into 1/2 to 1-inch pieces
  • 3 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon chipotle chili powder (lower quantity for less spicy)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1 15 oz can of fire roasted tomatoes with green chilis
  • 1 4 oz can of green chilis
  • 1 8 oz can of tomato sauce
  • 2 to 3 cups diced butternut squash
  • 1/2 diced cilantro

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. 
  2. Sprinkle diced beef all over with coarse salt and pepper. Set aside.
  3. Sauté bacon in heavy large ovenproof pot (dutch oven is perfect for this) over medium-high heat until the bacon begins to brown. Reduce heat to medium and add the onions. Cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add diced beef and garlic to pot and stir to coat with bacon and onions. Allow to brown on outside.
  4. To pot, add water, chili powder, cumin, oregano, and 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt. Add tomatoes with juices, green chiles, and tomato sauce. Stir to coat evenly.Bring chili to simmer. Cover and place in oven. Cook for at least 2 hours. Remove from oven. Spoon off grease from top if any. Add squash and stir to coat. Add additional water if the chili is really thick (about 1/2 cup to 1 cup), keeping the meat covered. Place the pot back into the oven, uncovered. Roast uncovered until beef and squash are tender, about 45 minutes longer.
  5. Remove from oven when beef is tender. If it isn’t, put it back into the oven for a little longer. When the beef is tender, spoon off any fat or grease from the top of the chili. Season chili to taste with salt and pepper.  Stir in diced cilantro or serve it as a topping.

Slow Cooker Beef and Sweet Potato Stew

One of my favorite kitchen gadgets (besides my amazing food processor) is my slow cooker…a.k.a Madame Crockpot.  My mom bought Madame Crockpot for me when I left for college *cough* many moons ago. Madame has been my constant companion through many tough seasons. Madame Crockpot has saved me numerous times and has always provided a nutritious and hot meal when I came home from a long day of studying, or working, or camping, or skiing, or fishing, or running, or lounging around watching Last of the Mohicans on a rainy day.

If only she fit in my pocket! I would take her everywhere!!!!

Lately I have been studying and studying and studying every chance I get. So, as always, Madame Crockpot came to the rescue this past weekend and made me an amaaaazing beef stew.

The beauty of stew is that it is really hard to screw it up.  It’s quite a simple recipe….(1) brothy substance, (2) veggies, (3) herbs, (4) toss in meat if you want, and (5) cook it low and slow. So feel free to swap some things out for what you have on hand. I think mushrooms would be a fabulous addition or even butternut squash.

Slow Cooker Beef and Sweet Potato Stew (Gluten and Grain Free)

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 1 to 2 pounds beef stew meat, diced into 1-inch cubes (include beef bones if you have them)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 cup carrots (about 3 to 4 medium-sized), cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes (I used 1 sweet and 1 white), leave skin on and dice into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes (or 2 cups fresh)
  • 4 cups of organic beef broth
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 cup frozen green peas
  • salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Add diced beef to slow cooker. Place vegetables in order as they appear above (onions through sweet potatoes).  Pour canned tomatoes with juice on top.  Mix beef broth, tomato paste, balsamic vinegar, and herbs together in a bowl. Pour on top of vegetables in crock pot.
  2. Put lid on crock pot and cook on low for 10 to 12 hours or on high for 4 to 6 hours. Add peas during last 15 minutes of cook time. Season with salt and pepper.

Chilled Avocado and Roasted Corn Chowder

Two chilled soups within a week! Sounds crazy I know. But hang with me on this. It’s creamy and cold. And no, I am not on an all liquid Vita-mix juice diet.

Corn is finally hitting the market. Nothing is more sweet and rewarding than fresh grilled corn. I love eating it directly from the grill right off of the cob. I can barely wait for it to cool down and I always burn the roof of my mouth. A small price to pay for juicy corn! I love corn that is so sweet that it needs no butter, just tons of flaky kosher salt. Mmmmm.

The corn crop is pretty light this year due to the drought that the midwest is currently experiencing. Prices are going up and the yield is going down. So grab these babies now while they are hot! Get extra to freeze and pack away like a good little food hoarder. Here is a great resource for preserving extra corn on the cob safely.

This recipe is inspired by Mark Bittman’s Avocado-Corn salad from the Food Matters Cookbook. The original recipe was chosen by Jenn of Vanilla Lemon. Although the salad itself sounds incredibly delicious, I was also inspired by this Avocado Chipotle Bisque recipe. Seems like the best of both worlds!

My chilled avocado and roasted corn chowder gets a great smoky flavor from chipotle powder and from roasted corn.  I roasted the corn easily using my gas stovetop oven. Place the shucked corn cob on the burner. Turn the burner on medium-high heat, turning the cob with tongs until it is lightly charred on the kernels to your desired doneness. The kernels can be removed easily by using a serrated knife. Rub the flat backside of the knife up the cob to release all of those great corn juices, allowing the corn juice to drip into either a bowl or the bowl of the food processor.

This chowder can easily be made with frozen corn that you wisely stored from the summer harvest. Also, after cutting the kernels from the cob, save the cobs and boil in water to make a corn broth to use in this soup! Handy dandy.

Chilled Avocado and Roasted Corn Chowder (Dairy Free), Adapted from the Food Matters Cookbook and Vegetarian Times.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 medium avocados, diced (2 cups)
  • 2 ears of corn, roasted and kernels removed from cob
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, diced
  • 3 1/2 cups of water, vegetable broth, or corn cob broth
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • juice of 1 lime (about 1/4 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons white miso paste
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder

Instructions

  1. First, take shucked corn and roast over an open flame or grill. I turn the gas on my stovetop range to medium-high heat and hold the corn over the flame with tongs. Allow the kernels to blacken. This will take about 2 to 3 minutes to roast one cob.
  2. Using a serrated knife, cut the kernels from the ears of corn. Using the dull side of the knife, scrape the juices from the cobs into the bowl. The cobs can be reserved and used to make corn cob broth which is detailed here!
  3.  Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor fitted with the steel blade. Blend until smooth. Serve immediately or chill for up to 1 day. Serve topped with diced cherry tomatoes, roasted corn, and cilantro.