Soup Season

It is soup season here in New England and homemade soup is often overlooked in favor of opening a can. I have opened many a can and will in the future I am sure, but this particular day I opted for an easy homemade version.

I used only a couple fresh items (celery, onion, chicken) and the rest came from the pantry and freezer.  It started out as a thought of “chicken corn chowder” but when I discovered that I actually only had a 1/4 of a bag of frozen corn in the freezer, it quickly became “use up some of the other random frozen veggies in the freezer soup.”

creamy chicken veggie and rice soup

I started by sauteing the cut up chicken pieces in butter. (The flavor is in the “brown!”) Next I sautéed the celery and onion  in the pan. (classic technique) I used a can of cream of mushroom soup (everybody’s “favorite recipe-add-in!”) to give the soup a rich creaminess. The frozen veggie selection could really be anything you like that happens to be hanging around your freezer: peas, squash cubes, you name it!  Some left over cooked rice at the end gave this soup a hearty nature.

The Recipe

1 1/2 cups +/- (3-4 small stalks) of celery ( I like to peel the strings first before dicing – it really makes a difference!)

1 1/2 cups +/-  (1/2 medium) onion – diced

1 cup frozen corn (fresh or frozen)

1 cup chopped/sliced carrots (fresh or frozen)

1 cup lima beans (frozen or fresh if you can get your hands on them!)

1 can (10 oz) cream of mushroom soup (I happen to have a version with roasted garlic too – it made a nice difference)

2 cups low sodium chicken broth/stock (heated up)

1 lb chicken cut into bite size pieces – no bones or skin. (I used white meat but dark would be delicious)

2 tsp poultry seasoning

1 tsp dry sage

2-4 tablespoons butter to saute ( use oil if you like instead)

Salt and pepper to taste/season

Coat the chicken pieces in 1 tsp of the poultry seasoning and a pinch of salt and pepper. Brown the pieces with 2 tb of butter in a heavy bottom pot over med-high heat. Remove and set aside. Add more butter if pot is too dry and saute the onions and celery with another pinch of S/P until softened and golden. Add the chicken pieces back in. De-glaze the pan with the 2 cups of stock. Add in the can of soup*.  Add the 2nd tsp of poultry seasoning and the dry sage. ( leave out the extra sage if you’re not a fan of a heavy sage-flavor.) Bring up to a low simmer. Add the corn, lima beans and carrots.** Let the soup simmer, partially covered, for 20-25 mins until chicken is fully cooked and tender. Add the cooked rice and warm through before serving.  Taste for seasoning and adjust salt and pepper to taste. NOTE: I don’t add the rice till just before serving so the soup doesn’t get too gummy.

* use a gluten-free brand of soup if you want this dish to be completely GF.

** if using raw carrots add them in with the celery and onion in the saute to help get them started cooking and softening.

Makes approximately 4-6 bowls depending on how big your servings.








“Big Soup”

I bet you have the makings of minestrone soup in your cabinets right now.

I did. So that is what I made recently on a fall evening.

“Big Soup” is a loose Italian translation to describe a soup that has lots of goodies in it like minestrone. The origin of minestrone soup (aka “Big Soup”) comes from Italy and is based on the idea of stretching or using up leftovers.  A dish that is filling and inexpensive. I am sure that even a small survey of Italy would result in no two soups being exactly alike. And so just as in Italy where the soup is composed of lots of things, so was mine.


I started with bacon. Added onions and garlic. Diced potatoes, white navy beans and gluten-free pasta to make it hearty.  A flavorful broth of tomatoes and chicken stock with a dash of my secret “flavor weapon” A1 Steak Sauce!

I happen to have some fresh herbs in the house so in went fresh basil and even fresher, some parsley at the end.

The recipe (makes a lot!- like 6-8 hearty servings)

1/2 lb thick cut bacon, cut into small bits

1 1/2 medium white onion diced

2 large cloves of garlic minced

3 small white potatoes diced

1 can ( 15.5 oz) white navy beans or whatever bean you like (rinsed)

1 can ( 14.5 oz) diced tomatoes or chopped or stewed or whatever you have

32 oz box of chicken stock/broth ( low sodium is best)

1/8 cup each chopped fresh basil and parsley

2 tablespoons A1 sauce

1-2 lemon wedges or 1/2 of a small lemon

Elbow noodles cooked to package directions – about a 1/4 cup ( measured dry) per serving

Render the bacon in a large heavy-bottom pot. Until it’s just crisping.  Remove the bacon and set aside. Remove the bacon fat and set aside. Wipe out the tiny bits of bacon still floating around. (they will just burn later) The goal is not to scrub the pot bottom, but to just get the loose stuff floating with the last the fat. Add the onions and a bit of the reserved fat back in and cook for 3-5 mins on med until onions are getting color and softening. Add back in fat as needed to keep things going. Add the potatoes and a pinch each of salt and pepper, cook for another 3-5 mins. Add the minced garlic and cook a couple mins. Now deglaze pan with the tomatoes and stock, add beans and bacon. Turn heat down to low simmer and add the A1 sauce and fresh basil. Stir and cover. Let low simmer for about 30 mins until potatoes just tender. Taste for seasoning and adjust salt and pepper as needed. Add a squeeze of lemon wedge if you have one on hand and along with fresh parsley. The lemon just “perks” things up and the parsley adds a bit of freshness.

Ladle over hot, just boiled elbow noodles and serve.

Production Notes: I like to boil the noodles separate so they don’t over cook  sitting in soup. And since I never really bring the soup to a high enough boil to cook the noodles, it’s just better to cook them on the side. This way you can let the soup stay warm in the pot longer without mushy, swollen pasta.

This could easily be adapted to a slow-cooker recipe.


longs days, slow cook

open book

I am sorry I have been away for so long! I have been busy. Very Busy. Some may know and some may not, but I am a grad student finishing up my thesis in the next 2 months and I barely have time to breathe never mind cook!

So I am hoping to squeeze in a few things between now and my final thesis deadline in late January but forgive me if I am a little slow about posting. Now as I head into the holidays I am going to have even more things to juggle!

These busy days call for the helping hand of the slow-cooker. There is nothing better than dumping a few things in and hours later having a meal waiting for you. My latest creation was inspired by the cold night and the fact that I happened to have potatoes on hand.

I put scrubbed, chopped to bite size potatoes into the slow-cooker with a couple of tablespoons of butter and 1 smallish-medium onion chopped small. I opened a can of creamed corm and a can of niblet corn and added that. Next a can of low sodium broth, a dash of ground nutmeg, dash of garlic powder and plenty of salt and pepper. I also happened to have a small ham steak in the fridge so that got chopped and added too, but you could leave out for a vegetarian version. I let the whole thing cook on low for 8-10 hours till potatoes were tender. (consult your crock pot directions for times/settings as you may want to do high for a shorter time) At this point I took out my immersion blender and gave the mix a quick couple of pulses just to “thicken it up” with the blended potatoes etc. I added about a cup of half and half, adjusted for salt and pepper and served!

It came out delicious, couldn’t have been easier and sustained me  and my husband for several servings each while I march onward towards my academic goals!


Light And Bright

That’s how I like my chicken soup.

I like a broth that is flavorful and rich but still light and little sparkle from some lemon never hurt any chicken soup.

This soup makes a nice cheerful bowl in March, especially when winter never seems to end !

chicken soup

This soup couldn’t be easier…

I started out with some diced chicken breast and onions in a slow cooker with enough water (fortified with a bouillon cube)  to fill the cooker. (I was out of box stock but you could use that too or homemade if you had it!) I added carrots and lima beans from the freezer about halfway through.  I cooked the light egg noodles separate and just spoon the soup over at serving time with plenty of salt and pepper and a generous twist of lemon when you serve. If you had some leftover rice, that would be nice too. Cooking times vary depending on your slow cooker and whether you use the low or high setting, but basically you need the chicken to be cooked through and frozen veggies too.

Mother’s Challenge

My mom often has a little trouble in restaurants. She is a vegetarian. And she’s allergic to onions. And she only likes romaine lettuce. She doesn’t like heavily spiced food. Or salty food. And there are quite a few other things she doesn’t like. (mushrooms)

Now before you get all judge-y, just picture a nice little lady who wants a salad without iceberg lettuce and more veggies than old shredded carrots and radishes.  That doesn’t seem hard right? Especially in the nice restaurants where the chefs aim to please, where the fresh produce is in abundance, where the chef is professionally trained?

You wouldn’t believe how hard it is to get a decent salad these days. or heck, how about some pasta with a few hot veggies on it. Sometimes she even has trouble in vegetarian restaurants because this community relies so heavily on the use of onions (basis for just about everything) and mushrooms (often a “meat substitute.”)

It amazes me each time we go out to dinner how hard it is for a restaurant to accommodate. Sometimes they can’t even grasp substituting the romaine lettuce that they are already serving  for their Caesar salads as the lettuce for their garden salad. Anyway I digress.

Each time she comes to my house I make it my personal challenge to make delicious, vegetarian, onion-free food for her. (And of course it helps that I know all her likes/dislikes too.)

But if I can do this…

Onion-free, 5 ingredient Carrot Soup
Onion-free, 5 ingredient Carrot Soup with cream swirled in at serving time.

6-8 medium size carrots roasted on a sheet pan brushed with the tiniest bit of oil and the tiniest bit of salt and pepper.**

1 small head of garlic roasted in a foil packet with the same tiniest bit of oil.**

1 tsp fresh ginger, finely grated

1 tsp honey or agave syrup

1-2 tsp dried dill ( or 1 tbsp fresh if you have it)

blend the carrots, ginger, agave/honey and 2-3 of the cloves from the roasted garlic head in a medium size sauce pan over medium heat.  Add the dill. Add enough water till you have your desired consistency. Heat thru. Taste for seasoning and add extra salt and pepper if you need/want it.  Ladle into bowls and swirl a little cream, milk or half and half on top for extra creaminess.

**I roasted these a couple of days ahead when I had the oven on for something else. That makes this soup as easy as opening a can.

Author’s Notes

don’t add too much roasted garlic or this can easily become orange-colored garlic soup – which is okay if that is what you love.

Stock or milk could be used for all or part, as a substitute for the water.

Makes about 2-4 bowls depending on your level of consistency.

carrot soup in pan

Leftover Soup

"Everybody in the pool!"

“Everybody in the pool!”

Like most folks I had more food than people at my Christmas table, so that presents lots of leftover opportunities. And like most folks, soup was the perfect thing to throw some of the items into and create a whole new meal.

Leftover baked ham got sliced into bite size pieces. A random potato or two rolling around the crisper drawer was diced small. There is always an onion available in my kitchen. A can of beans and the extra kale from the salad made the “nutritious factor” sky-high.


Saute the diced potato, onion and ham in a little butter (or fat of choice) and once they start to soften, add some smoked hot paprika, a dash of grated nutmeg and some red chili flakes. Now add a box of stock and another box’s worth of water. (Adjust the liquids based on your amount of leftovers and how hardy you want the soup.) Simmer for about 20 mins and add a small can of beans.(Rinsed and drained first.) I like to add my kale at the end and simmer about 10-15 mins more but if you want your kale cooked even more, than go longer.

I served it in bowls with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil! Some shaved Parmesan would have been good too!

hot soup 2

Chicken Corn Stew

chicken corn stew


1 forgotten random frozen chicken breast on the bone (split breast)

1 large-ish onion peeled and quartered

a pinch of whole peppercorns

1 peeled but whole garlic clove

salt – liberal amount

water – about 6 cups

slow cooker and about 4-6 hours to run it on high

“almost-caramelized-but-not-quite” onions – start with about 1/2 of a large fresh one.

2 +/- tbsp butter

couple diced bacon strips if you happen to have some on hand.

couple cups of frozen corn

roux:  2  +/- tbsp flour   Or   slurry: 2 +/- tbsp water and 2  +/- tbsp arrowroot, mixed

chopped up leftover fresh herbs hanging around the refrigerator from who knows when. (thyme, sage, rosemary, etc)

a couple of red potatoes. dice small and/or parboil if you wish.


Combine the top 6 ingredients together in the slow cooker and turn on high for 4-6 hours. Turn off and let cool while you brown-almost caramelize- a fresh 1/2 onion sliced thin (In the bacon fat/slices if you are using  – plus 2 tbsp of butter) in a heavy-bottom large pan. Now add the flour for the roux method and cook a minute.  (otherwise skip this step and move on)

Deglaze the pan with the strained stock from the slow cooker. Whisk and cook a few minutes. If using slurry method instead of roux, add your slurry now and whisk.

Add the fresh herbs, the cooked chicken meat from slow-cooker breast, the frozen corn, and the potatoes. Salt and pepper liberally. Thin with plain hot water if need be.

Simmer, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are cooked and you can no longer stand the yummy smell filling the house. Serves 4 heartily.