Paying dividends

On Saturday we made the lobster and corn chowder from The Barefoot Contessa.  You can find it on Food Network.  It’s a bit of effort but it is so worth it.  It was especially worth it tonight when I had a long day, a long trip home and a homework crisis.  Not having to cook dinner was a big treat.

We’re already thinking of what soup to make this weekend!

Soup night

Fall has arrived in a hurry.  It went from being muggy and sticky earlier in the week to being cold and raw.  It’s been raining all day long but the good news is that it looks like Hurricane Joaquin is not going to be a big threat.  We decided to stay in and make soup.  This soup is one of our favorites.  We got the recipe from a friend.  It is a great blend of Maryland Crab soup and cream of crab soup and it freezes well.

Tomorrow is my birthday so I got the birthday placemat and Keith got out the soup bowls and bread plates that belonged to my great-grandfather.  Delicious meal with a beautiful table setting.

Cream of Maryland crab soup

  • 6 T butter
  • 3 large onions chopped
  • 3 T chopped garlic
  • 48 oz frozen corn
  • 2 28 oz cans chopped tomatoes
  • 2/3 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 1/2 T dried thyme
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon Old Bay (or more for zing)!
  • 3/4 teaspoon crumbled bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 6 1/2 cups bottled clam juice (6 bottles)
  • 2 1/4 cups whipping cream
  • 2 lbs fresh crab meat

Melt 6 T butter.  Add onion and garlic – sauté 8 minutes.  Add 32 oz corn and sauté 5 minutes more.  Add tomatoes and all spices listed above.  Stir 2 minutes.  Purée remaining  corn and 3 cups clam juice in blender and add to pot.  Add remaining clam juice and cream.  Simmer 20 minutes until corn is tender.  Last, add crab meat.

Soup night

The weather here is bitter cold.  This morning it was 0.  Perfect night for soup.  I made the split pea soup on Sunday using the last of the Smithfield ham from Christmas.  This is one of my husband’s favorites – very warming.  And since I made it on Sunday, very easy!

Split pea soup

  • 1 pound dried green split peas
  • 2 qts chicken stock (we had made more so we used 1/2 homemade and 1/2 storebought)
  • 8 oz Smithfield or country ham, cut in pieces
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 sprig parsley
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp dried marjoram
  • 2 onions, halved
  • 4 whole cloves

Combine peas, stock, ham, garlic and herbs in a stock pot.   Pierce each onion half with a clove and add.  Bring to a boil over high heat and then reduce heat to low.  Simmer, partially covered for about 2 hours.  Taste soup and season as needed. NOTE: Since the Smithfield ham is salty, it does not need any salt – if you are using a different kind of ham, you may want to add salt.  Puree in a blender and serve.

Soup weather

My husband is an excellent cook although he doesn’t cook often.  One of his specialties is soup.  He made this split pea soup yesterday and it will hit the spot after paddle tennis tonight.  We still have Smithfield ham from Christmas but you can use any country ham.  Because the ham is so salty, we don’t add any salt to it.

Split pea soup

  • 1 pound dried green split peas
  • 2 qts chicken stock (we had made more so we used 1/2 homemade and 1/2 storebought)
  • 8 oz Smithfield or country ham, cut in pieces
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 sprig parsley
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp dried marjoram
  • 2 onions, halved
  • 4 whole cloves

Combine peas, stock, ham, garlic and herbs in a stock pot.   Pierce each onion half with a clove and add.  Bring to a boil over high heat and then reduce heat to low.  Simmer, partially covered for about 2 hours.  Taste soup and season as needed. NOTE: Since the Smithfield ham is salty, it does not need any salt – if you are using a different kind of ham, you may want to add salt.  Puree in a blender and serve.

The joy of leftovers

Today was the first day of my new job and after a long day of adjusting to being the new kid on the block, it was great to come home to a dinner that was already fixed.  I made this soup last week – it holds up very well and we still have more in the freezer.  If you missed it last week, here is the recipe.  It isn’t hard to make and is well worth the time investment.

Mexican Chicken Soup

  • 2 whole chicken breasts, bone in
  • olive oil
  • 2 chopped yellow onions
  • 2 stalks chopped celery
  • 3 chopped carrots
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 1/2 quarts of chicken stock (I have homemade in the freezer and will use 1 container of store bought to stretch mine)
  • 1 28 oz can of whole tomatoes
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seed and chopped fine
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander seed
  • 6 corn tortillas (6 inch size)
  • sliced avocado
  • sour cream
  • grated cheddar cheese

Optional:

  • chopped cilantro
  • tortilla chips

Preheat oven to 350.  Rub chicken breasts with olive oil, kosher salt and pepper.  Roast for 45 minutes or until done.  Let cool.  Remove skin and bones and chop meat.  Set aside.

In a soup pot, heat 3 TBs of olive oil.  Add chopped onions, celery and carrots and cook for 10 – 12 minutes.  Add garlic and stir in with veggies.  Add chicken stock, tomatoes, jalapeno, cumin, coriander and cilantro (if desired).  Cut tortillas into strips and add.  Bring to a boil and then lower heat to a simmer.  Simmer for 30 minutes.  Add chicken and check seasonings – add salt and pepper if needed.  Serve with sliced avocado, shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream and tortilla chips (if desired).

Soup

This soup is one of my favorites and makes a nice big batch – leftovers!  My 5 year old helped with the assembly and decided she wanted to try a little bit.  She had 5 bites and gave me a big thumbs up.  Any time that I can get her to try something, it’s a bonus.  Here is the recipe:

Mexican Chicken Soup

  • 2 whole chicken breasts, bone in
  • olive oil
  • 2 chopped yellow onions
  • 2 stalks chopped celery
  • 3 chopped carrots
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 1/2 quarts of chicken stock (I have homemade in the freezer and will use 1 container of store bought to stretch mine)
  • 1 28 oz can of whole tomatoes
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seed and chopped fine
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander seed
  • 6 corn tortillas (6 inch size)
  • sliced avocado
  • sour cream
  • grated cheddar cheese

Optional:

  • chopped cilantro
  • tortilla chips

Preheat oven to 350.  Rub chicken breasts with olive oil, kosher salt and pepper.  Roast for 45 minutes or until done.  Let cool.  Remove skin and bones and chop meat.  Set aside.

In a soup pot, heat 3 TBs of olive oil.  Add chopped onions, celery and carrots and cook for 10 – 12 minutes.  Add garlic and stir in with veggies.  Add chicken stock, tomatoes, jalapeno, cumin, coriander and cilantro (if desired).  Cut tortillas into strips and add.  Bring to a boil and then lower heat to a simmer.  Simmer for 30 minutes.  Add chicken and check seasonings – add salt and pepper if needed.  Serve with sliced avocado, shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream and tortilla chips (if desired).

Home again!

I was in Austin, Texas this week for my company’s annual User conference.  I hope you didn’t starve!  Although I didn’t have much free time to explore Austin, I was treated to some really delicious food.  I’m always paying attention to food and looking for inspiration.  Here are a few things that I noted while traveling that I’ll try to incorporate into future planning:

  • Quesadillas – the first night we feasted on a buffet of heavy hors d’oeuvres which included a quesadilla station.  The three options were spinach and mushroom, grilled chicken with veggies and shrimp with black beans.  I have made a shrimp and black bean quesadilla before but all three of these were excellent.  They were served with salsa, sour cream and guacamole and sliced into wedges.  This would be a good option for a casual party and the variety of flavors offered something for everybody.  I’m going to do some more research on quesadillas and look to include in future menu plans.
  • Poblano corn chowder – lunch included soup each day (one was a chunky chicken served with avocado that reminded me of the Mexican chicken soup I make).  The first day we had a smoked poblano corn chowder that was really delicious.  It was served with toasted pumpkin seeds.  I would love to try to replicate it.
  • Tapas – our farewell dinner was a buffet at a tapas restaurant in Austin (Malaga).  The restaurant was lovely and we were treated to a flamenco show.  I was interested to see how the dishes compared to some of these things we have made in our New Year’s Eve Tapas feasts.  (Search tapas if you want to reread the reports.)   All of the food was really good and some tasted very familiar (patatas bravas, chicken with garlic, grilled lamb chops all reminded me of dishes we have made.)  One of my favorites which I think we could replicate in the future was a grilled scallop wrapped in a basil leaf and serrano ham.  It was outstanding.  As we were getting our dessert I remembered that my husband had promised to make Magdelenas – little Spanish teacakes for our daughter’s pretend trip to Spain.  I texted him and he managed to borrow an egg from a friend and have them baked and ready despite the fact that it was 10:00 when he started.  Good job honey!
  • Small containers – the spreads that our hotel put out for breakfast and lunch were delicious and pretty.  One of the things I noticed is that they served a lot of things in small containers.  One day had a lettuce-less Greek salad in little glasses, they served an orzo salad in small, shallow “boats” and a trifle like dessert in a petite glass cylinder.  This method encourages people to try things.  I’ll keep my eyes open for inexpensive, single serving options to use for parties.  (I think Pier One would be  a good place to look.)
  • Labels – when in a buffet line, it is human nature to ask “What is that?” before taking a serving.  The hotel (and the tapas restaurant) had everything labeled.  One day the lunch buffet table was covered with brown paper and the names of each dish had been written on the paper.  I thought that would be a clever idea for a casual buffet.  I’m also going to look for reusable labels for buffets.  My parties aren’t so big that I can’t tell people but still, it’s a nice idea.

It was a good week but I’m very happy to be home.  I’m also happy to report that my daughter is fully recovered from the stomach bug she had the night before I left.  We went out to dinner together last night to celebrate my return (I had a delicious spinach salad topped with fried oysters – another inspiration for future replication) and tonight is the next installment in our International Eating project – Mexican.  I’ll be back tomorrow with a report on our Mexican feast and a menu plan for the week – assuming I remember how to cook after a whole week!

Soup is good food

We had a very good mushroom soup out last week and it inspired me to make some. This will be perfect for dinner tomorrow when our competing schedules make things challenging. I stuck with my new favorite combination of mushrooms but use any combination you like. I also used a mix of cream and milk – if you’re trying to gain weight you could use just cream! 🙂

Creamy mushroom soup

– 1 lb assorted mushrooms (I used a mix of cremini, shiitake, oyster and standard), cleaned and chopped
– 1 large shallot, minced
– 1 stick butter
– 3 cups of milk or cream or mixture of both
– 3 TB flour
– 1/4 cup white wine

In a heavy saucepan melt butter over medium heat. Add shallots and sauté until soft. Add mushrooms and cook covered about 10 minutes. Chop for a few seconds in food processor – mushrooms should be coarsely chopped, not puréed.
Melt remaining butter and stir in flour. Gradually add milk/cream, stirring until smooth and thick. Add wine and stir. Add mushrooms and season to taste with salt and pepper (I also added a little dill). Simmer for 5 minutes. Serve or refrigerate so you can come home from work and have dinner ready,