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Soups & Stews

Main Dishes

Utterly Delicious Thai-Inspired Chicken

January 3, 2020

I woke up with an oddly urgent hankering for Thai food. I honestly can’t explain this, since I have rarely tasted Thai food and never been to Thailand. Usually, when I have a strong craving, it relates back to some nostalgic time in my past but, well folks … Not Today!

Now that I’ve prepared this dish, only an hour before this post, I can’t stop eating it. And, as I was cooking, a friend dropped by exclaiming “Oh it smells so good in here!” then happily waited until the Jasmine rice was ready so he could take a batch of this dish home with him.

This dish wasn’t at all complicated!

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 Boneless Chicken Thighs
  • 1 Can full fat Coconut Milk
    (The cream will settle on top. Do not shake!)
  • 1 Cup Chicken Broth (I had home made but any will do).
  • 2 Tbsp (6 teeth/cloves) Minced Garlic
  • 1 Heaping Tbsp Fresh Ginger
  • 2 Heaping Tbsp Thai Curry Paste (does not taste like yellow curry powder)
  • 1/4 Tsp Chili & Garlic Sauce (Hey… red pepper flakes will do just fine!)
  • 1 Tsp. Fish Sauce
  • Zest of a whole lime
  • Juice of a whole lime
  • 1/2 Cup Chopped Cilantro
  • 2 Cups of Steamed, Jasmine rice

PREPARATION

Partial ingredients. Not shown: garlic, ginger, fish sauce, chicken & broth.
  1. Sear Chicken Thighs in some hot oil for a few minutes, skin down, until skin is brown and crispy. Remove and set aside.
  2. Open the can of coconut milk and skim off the creamy, oily top into your medium hot saucepan.
  3. Into the creamy coconut oil, Sautee Thai Curry Paste, Garlic Chili Sauce, Ginger, and Garlic on medium heat for about 1 minute.
  4. Add the remaining coconut milk.
  5. Add the chicken broth.
  6. Add the zest of the lime.
  7. Add the chicken and simmer for 1/2 hour, until chicken is tender.
  8. When you are ready to serve, toss in 1/4 cup of chopped cilantro and the juice of the lime. Reserve cilantro and lime wedges for presentation.
  9. Spoon 1/2 cup Jasmine rice into a bowl, add 1 chicken thigh, coconut broth and garnish with fresh cilantro and lime wedge.

Comfort Food

Chickpea Love, My Version

December 13, 2019

When I came across Alison Roman’s NYT-Famous Chickpea Stew, I thought “Ohhh … I’ll try this one!” Alas, and as usual, I found I had neither the patience nor temperament to read a complete recipe or to follow anything or anyone. But you can find Alison’s recipe here. Famous Chickpea Stew.

I took my own path to delicious (USING double the Turmeric; adding Nutmeg and Curry, Carrots, Celery and the option of adding chicken or shrimp). The result was a hearty, gorgeous soup with a beautiful, golden color. Here is what I did, from me to you, With Love and Butter!

A note to meat eaters!: Look for the notes in Bold below, if you are adding Shrimp or Chicken..

.

THE INGREDIENTS

  • 1, 29 ounce can of Chickpeas, or 2 15 oz cans Rinsed Well!
  • 2 15 oz cans of full fat coconut milk
  • 1 Cube of vegetable or Chicken stock
  • 1-1/2 cups chopped Kale or Mustard Greens.
    This is optional. The soup is also very good without the greens!
    Spinach or Arugula are ok, but not sturdy.
  • NOTE TO MEAT EATERS: Option: If you want to make this meaty, have some raw chicken Breast Chunks OR Fresh Shrimp at the ready.)
  • 3 Sticks Celery, diced small
  • 2 Carrot Sticks, diced small
  • 1/2 a Medium Onion, diced small
  • A knob of fresh, minced ginger (about as big as your whole thumb)
    (I keep mine in the freezer)
  • 3 Teeth of garlic, finely minced
  • 2 Tbsp. Turmeric
  • 1 Tsp Yellow Curry
  • 1/2 Tsp Nutmeg
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 1/4 Tsp (or more) Red Pepper Flakes (Cayenne will work)

PREPARATION

  1. In your favorite a sturdy soup pot, heat 2 Tbsp of Olive Oil plus 1 tbsp butter.
  2. Toss in the chopped Garlic, Onion, Ginger, Celery & Carrots.
  3. Sauté over medium heat, adding a bit of water to prevent sticking or burning, until the onions are clear and becoming soft.
  4. Add the Turmeric.
  5. Now add your rinsed Chickpeas. Stir.
  6. After the Chickpeas are in the pot, add all the coconut milk. Stir.
  7. Into this mix, add the remaining spices:, Nutmeg, Salt & Pepper, Red Pepper Flakes. (Gentle with the pepper flakes. You can add more later.)
  8. Cover and simmer on low for 30 – 45 minutes.
  9. IF YOU ARE USING GREENS, this is when you add your chopped Kale, or whatever greens you prefer. I served some of this dish before adding the Kale! It’s optional, really. See my photos at the end. I have pictures of this soup with and without the kale!

    IF YOU ARE ADDING MEAT, this is the point when you add your Chicken Chunks or Fresh Shrimp!
  10. Cover and cook on low for another 20 minutes.
Celery, Onion, Ginger, Garlic, Carrots
Add Chickpeas, Rinsed!
Here, with Coconut Milk, Turmeric, Nutmeg, Pepper Flakes.
Now, the chopped Kale or Greens.

SERVING & GARNISHES
Ladle into a bowl and garnish with any of these:

  • Sour Cream or Yogurt
  • Fresh Mint OR Cilantro Leaves
  • Chives
  • Orchid, Hibiscus flower or any edible flower (Pansies are nice!)
Here, without the Kale. Garnished with Yogurt & Fresh Mint Leaves.
With the Kale


Comfort Food

20 Minute Lentil Heaven

January 26, 2018

These days, it’s a challenge to find a dish you can serve to everyone, from your manliest meat-eater to your weight-watcher, the animal-conscious vegan or even a diabetic. Here’s a fast and tasty way to provide bowl full of heavily health in only 20 minutes that’s good enough and healthy enough for almost any diet!

Red Lentils are low in fat, loaded with protein and fiber, and chock full of heart-healthy folate and manganese. They are also pretty to look at, which makes them festive enough for company. The best part? They are extremely easy to prepare because, unlike green or brown lentils, red lentils are very quick cooking, i.e., no soaking,  no waiting.

With it’s fresh splash of lemon and bright mint, this recipe will bring a bit of the Mediterranean to your soup bowl and it will keep you feeling full for hours.

EASY RED LENTIL SOUP

In a small soup pot, boil 2 cups of salted water and add to it:

  • 1 Cup red lentils
  • 1 large, or 2 small, minced garlic teeth
  • 1 Tsp. dried, flaked onion

Simmer about 15 minutes, until lentils are soft. Now add:

  • 1 Can “no salt” diced tomatoes. Your choice, but I prefer to add & control my own salt.
  • 1 Tsp. fresh Italian flat parsley, chopped
  • 1 Tsp. fresh oregano, chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
  • 2 Tsp. fresh or jarred lemon juice. Use more or less, to taste.

Simmer soup about 5 more minutes. Add salt to taste and serve.

Notes:  Garnish with fresh Mint or Parsley. Use fresh tomatoes, if you like. Add carrots if that appeals to you.  I did not need to use any type of flavor “cute” or powder as the lentils, garlic, salt I used and fresh herbs created a lot of flavor!

Comfort Food

Caldo Verde, Gringa Style!

January 13, 2018

On a cold day, this soup will bring happy tears to your eyes and warm you to your socks.

I had read that Caldo Verde, a traditional Portuguese soup, was the considered by some to be the comfort soup of all comfort soups and, on this unusually chilly Florida day, it did not disappoint.

Traditionally, Caldo Verde is prepared with true Portuguese sausage called chouriço or linguiça and kale. Since I have never followed a recipe, (or for that matter any agenda one hundred percent), and as I don’t live near a Portuguese butcher, I decided to use the sausages available to me in my local store. I also went for  spinach over kale, because I thought it would appeal to my peeps.

I used both a smoked Polish sausage and a house-made Italian from Publix. I think the smoke factor matters here, but if you have liquid smoke, you could add a few drops of this.

When you create your version of Caldo Verde, try it with the traditional kale (removing the stems) or collard greens (again, sans stems), or a combination of these and/or spinach.

This soup turned out to be dreamy warm, hearty, filling and delicious!
It was a meal in itself.

PORTUGUESE CALDO VERDE, My Way

Into a pot full of salted, boiling water (about 4 cups), add:

  • 3 large, russet potatoes, chopped into big chunks
  • 1 large, white sweet potato, chopped into big chunks (this is non traditional)
  • 1 cube of chicken stock flavor
  • Pinch of salt & pepper to taste

Boil for 20 minutes, until the potatoes are fork-tender.

While the potatoes are cooking, into a heavy pot or Dutch oven, sauté together:

  • 3 slices of smoked bacon
  • 6 sliced or quartered large links of Portuguese or hot Italian sausage (or you can use Andouille, or any smokey, spicy sausage)
  • 3 Large teeth of garlic, minced
  • 1 Medium onion

Sauté until the fat is rendered from the bacon and sausage and the onions and garlic are clear.  You’ll notice the sausages are beginning to brown or caramelize. Now just set all this aside.
Do not toss the fat/oils!

Return to your pot of potatoes and with your favorite hand tool, smash them roughly, enough so that they are both creamy and chunky. Do not change the water! Just take your potato smasher and mash it all up until you see both creamy and chunky.

Place your pot of potato mixture on medium low and add all the sausage, bacon, onion and garlic mix to this,

Now, slice up 3 cups of baby spinach OR kale OR collard greens and add to the pot.

Cook another 10 to 15 minutes and serve with grilled, buttered bread.

 

Comfort Food

You Won’t Believe it’s Vegan!

October 12, 2017

Okay people. I’m not gonna lie.
I can’t believe I made this and I also I can not believe it is vegan, gluten-free, low-cal, spicy and deliciously filling!

This soup was inspired by my beautiful friend, Sanchia, who, as a “Taoist Vegan,” abstains from eating the five pungent vegetables; green onion; garlic; onion; chives; and leeks.

I am not nearly as evolved as my friend so as I said, this is a “Sanchia Inspired” dish.
I did use quite a bit of garlic and even some cheap,  dried onion flakes.
I’m just not ready to give up the pungent…

Also, for meat-eaters who have a hard time getting excited about diving into a pile of vegetables, this is a truly delicious way to fill up on healthy squash that tastes smokey, spicy, and dare I say it? more than a tad Manly!

NOTE:  If you’re a vegetarian who consumes dairy, go ahead and use regular sour cream and even add some Monterrey cheese at the end, melted on top!

HERE IS WHAT TO DO:

  1. Turn your oven on to 400.
  2. Into any oven-friendly dish or tray of your choice, place:
    1 Spaghetti Squash (or any type of Squash of your liking), crudely cut into about 3 or 4 pieces, skin on. That’s right. No fussing with peeling.
    1 Large, Red Pepper, cut into about 3 chunks, pith and seeds removed.
    3 Large garlic teeth, skin on (you will easily remove the skin once roasted).
  3. Sprinkle a few tablespoons of White Truffle Oil OR Extra Virgin Olive Oil over the vegetables, and some Sea Salt.
  4. Bake for 30 minutes, or until fork-tender.
  5. Now, using a cloth to hold the hot squash, scrape out your softened squash meat with a large, sharp-edged spoon into a large soup pot.  This is going to go onto the stove.
  6. Pop the softened, roasted garlic teeth right out of their skin and toss them into the soup pot.
  7. Place the roasted peppers into the pot as well.
  8. Add 2 cups of water and two teaspoons of vegetable broth base or cubes.
  9. Now, into the pot with the Squash, Peppers, Garlic & Water, ADD:
    1/2 teaspoon of Chipotle Powder (or a teaspoon of Chipotle Chilis from a jar or can)
    1/4 teaspoon of Chili Powder
    1/2 teaspoon of freshly grated ginger root
    1/4 teaspoon onion flakes (mine, no kidding, are from a Dollar Store)
  10. Take out your hand blender (or toss the concoction into a good blender) and blend until very smooth.
  11. Simmer on low until you are happy with the flavor, about 20-30 minutes.
  12. Ladle your soup into a bowl.
  13. Swirl of Dollop a tablespoon of Vegan Sour Cream.
  14. Shed a few fresh Thyme Leaves onto the top. If you don’t have fresh thyme, that’s ok. Just sprinkle fresh parsley or oregano for decoration and a bit of flavor.
    I have a sense that a bit of Fresh Mint could be very interesting!

TIP: To create my “swirl” design, all I did was spoon some of my sour cream mixture into a small plastic baggie. Then I snipped a corner and piped! Easy, breazy!

This would be lovely served with some warm, grilled herb bread.

SUBSTITUTIONS:

If you are not vegan, just use regular sour cream!
If you don’t have fresh ginger, use powder ginger! Ditto for the thyme, but try to grind it up before adding if it’s dry. This will bring out the flavor.

 

Main Dishes

Make-Ahead Pear Bake (w/Vegan Option)

September 28, 2017

Entertaining is exhausting.  By the time I’ve done the planning, shopping, cleaning, arranging, last-minute cooking to have everything timed just right and served hot, not only am I filling the atmosphere with my nervous fussing, I’m  already on to onto the dishes and I’ve missed out on my own party. My solution? Delicious, make-ahead meals that taste out of this world.

I was able to make this entire dish, including my rice and salad, the night before my gathering.
The day of the party, with my meal cooked, tables set, I went to work a full day.

Once home, I simply popped  my make-ahead pear bake into the oven an hour before my guests were to arrive.  20 minutes before, I simple tossed 1/2 a cup of water into the rice (made the night before and  left on the stovetop, unrefrigerated), poured myself a glass of wine and waited for the eaters to show.

It turned out some people were arriving late but no need to panic! You can leave this dish in the oven until the cows come home. It only gets better. And the rice, once warmed, will happily stay that way on the stovetop, covered. Besides, you are going to spoon piping hot broth from the main dish onto the rice so it doesn’t have to be tongue-singeing hot.

My Goddaughter, Connie from New Zealand, inspired the  recipe below whilst visiting us in Panama.
She claimed it was an easy, fail-safe dish that company just adores. And she was correct.
In her recipe, Connie used local vegetables, pears and pork chops.

I decided to change it a bit, using sausage and chicken, and to brown my meats first.
It was a good call! This was absolutely scrumptious, the sauce had some sophisticated, developed flavors,  and the whole meal was an easy self-serve! So, I got to sit with my company and enjoy the conversation.

The bonus is that this dish is even better the next day and, it’s gluten-free if you omit serving with a roll!

Feel free to change this recipe up or down to suit your personal diet but whatever you decide, you must keep the pears, wine, sage and thyme. I am including a VEGETARIAN/VEGAN option below! So veggie folk, scroll down!  

My peeps and I are meat-eaters, so here is what I did.

Baked Pears with Sausage & Chicken

  • 3 Mild Italian Sausages, cut into halves to make 6
  • 3 Hot Italian Sausages, cut into halves to make 6
  • 4 Large chicken breasts, split into halves, making 8  (Or use 6-8 chicken thighs)
  1.  Brown all the meats in 2 tablespoons of butter or olive oil into a large frying pan
  2.  Set them into a very large baking pan. I used a big lasagna pan.
  3.  Now, into the lasagna or baking dish, and arranged evenly, add:
  • 6 small new potatoes, halved
  • 1 Sweet potato, chopped into large chunks
    (If you dislike sweet potatoes, don’t worry. You will like them in this dish. I promise!)
  • 10 or 12 chunks of  peeled carrots, cut to 2″ long pieces
  • 1 Large, sweet visalia onion, cut into 8 chunks
  • 5 Bartlet pears, sliced into half-moon wedges. Ripe is great but semi-ripe will work.

4.  Into the juices from the meats in your saucepan, sautée:

  • 4 large cloves of garlic, just crushed
  • 3 or 4 cups of white wine
  • 1 cube of chicken stock (vegetarians, just use a vegetable flavor)

5.  Pour the hot wine, garlic & broth mixture over the entire meat and pears dish.
6.  Sprinkle 2 tbsp. of fresh thyme and 1 tbsp. of fresh, cut sage over the entire dish
7.  Salt and Pepper to taste

Bake 335 for 3 hours.
Serve over rice, with a soft dinner roll for dipping into the delicious broth, and a side of salad.

TIP:  When laying an array of food for self-serve, or buffet style, arrange your table so that your guests can serve from both sides of the table. (In other words, do not have your table up against a wall.) All you have to do is add a utensil on each end of the dish. This speeds up service remarkably!

VEGETARIAN/VEGAN OPTION.  Instead of chicken broth, use your favorite vegetarian flavoring.  And in place of the meat, use large chunks of dried bread. Any type of bread you like but they must dry, in the style of a traditional stuffing.  

You don’t have to purchase packages of stuffing mix, but you can.  I prefer cutting up chunks of a favorite bread and place them on a tray into a low oven until they are very firm. Also, this  is a perfect way to make good use of older bread.

Add the dried bread  chunks in after you have cut and distributed your veggies in the pan.  Now, toss  the bread in with all your vegetables and distribute evenly.

Now you are ready to  pour your wine mixture on top.  It is essential that you add the very fresh thyme and sage. You might want to use more sweet potato as well. This will be delicious. I made something similar for thanksgiving last year.

Comfort Food

Mediterranean Inspired Red Lentil Soup

June 19, 2017

We are attracted to food as much by color as by flavor.To my eye, red lentils have always looked so much more appealing than the typical, muddy-colored lentils I usually cook up with a big old ham hock. Their color lies something between creamy orange sickle and apricot.
Plus, they have the added benefit of cooking up pretty quickly.

The pretty soup took only 25 minutes to make … from beginning to end, yet it has a surprising medley of flavors going for it. It’s has  a bit of heat, a touch of tang, and a few surprises. Plus, it is super quick and easy to prepare.

Here’s how I did it.

RED LENTIL SOUP WITH MINT & BASIL

Into a deep sauce pan or soup pot, dribble 2 tablespoons of good olive oil.
To this, add:

  • 2 claws garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped
  • 1 small potato, cubed

Sauté the above mixture about two minutes, then add:

  • 1 cup water (adding more as needed as the lentils cook)
  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 1 tbsp vegetable bouillon, photo below (or 1 chicken stock cube)
  • 2 tbsp real butter or good butter substitute. I use Earth Balance in just about everything.
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric (optional)
  • 1 shake of nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp rice vinegar or white vinegar (or lemon juice). Do not overdo the acid.

Allow this concoction to cook until the lentils are nearly soft, about 10- 15 minutes.
Then add:

  • 10 leaves freshly chopped basil leaves
  • 10 leaves freshly chopped mint leaves

Simmer until the lentils are soft, the carrots and potatoes soft to bite, but not mushy.

TIPS: If you’re a meat-eater and  want to make this into a heartier meal , add 8 ounces of breakfast sausage a few minutes after adding the lentils. Add by breaking the raw sausage up with your fingers or a wooden spatula in order to make small, bite sized bits.  Serve with warm bread or croutons.

My Daily Kitchen

Lemony, Minty Vegetable Soup

June 5, 2017

Here you go people. It’s Grain-Free, Gluten-Free, Vegetarian & Vegan!

Many years ago, I spent about 10 fascinating days in Istanbul where I was introduced to flavors profiles I had never tasted growing up in Greenwich, Connecticut.

My very learned mother was keenly interested in just about everything and she did her best to bring the world to our kitchen table. Well, it was really a counter, probably one of the very first “kitchen islands” before they became popular. It was long, like a bar, and we kids bellied up every night at 6 pm, perched on stools, waiting to see what country was being served on any given night.

She and our dad exposed us kids to an impressive variety of international foods. We were taken to Manhattan for Smorgasbords, but also never left the “city” without stopping at the now famous Papaya King for that then rare and exotic papaya smoothie.  We tasted real Honduranian “Picadillo” with tender raisins. I  watched, bug-eyed,  my sister Madeleine cringing in complete horror, as our mother peeled and sliced up delicious beef tongue. I would sit on the counter by the stove,  fascinated,  as I watched my dad slice and fry up yummy these dark sausages he called “black puddin” which I later learned were also called blood pudding’. Enough said.  But with all my parents’ interest in international fare, never had we been introduced to the flavors I discovered during the few weeks I spent in Turkey.

One afternoon in Istanbul, I stopped to  grab a regular meal at a cheap and local cafeteria style diner. I can’t remember all I put on my tray, but will never forget the surprise in my mouth as I tasted what I expected to be a plan, salty lentil soup. Wow! Turkish Lemon & Lentil soup bursting with unmistakable notes of mint, lemon and heat.  Mint? In a soup? This was new to me. And lemon? Lemon in a soup with tomatoes? The experience, all those decades ago, was something entirely unexpected to this little New England girl.

Today, as in the same morning of this posting, I wanted to try to recreate that never forgotten experience. Alas, I’m back on a the no-grain wagon with a renewed commitment.  When  you eat truly grain-free, lentils and other legumes are not on the menu!

What to do?

Well, only days ago, I had bagged up some cups of “riced” cauliflower so I thought I’d try using these in place of lentils.

The result was a low-carb, vegetarian & vegan (without the dollop of sour cream) hot, spicy, minty and lemony medley.

I enjoyed my first taste of this soup in a nice bowl, but I think tonight I will place a poached egg on top for protein.

Lemony, Minty, Spicy Vegetable Soup

  1.  Pop your favorite soup pot on the stove, turn the heat to  medium and fire up 2 tablespoons of good olive oil. To this, add…
  • 3/4 cup of diced onions & 1 tsp salt.  Sautee this for a minute or two, then add…
  • 1 Grated carrot
  • 1 Grated sweet potato
  • 1 diced, fresh tomato.
    Sauté this mixture for a few minutes, then add…
  • 1 can of salt-free, diced tomatoes
  • 1-2 cups of riced cauliflower
    (about 1/2 a head of cauliflower, riced in a food chopper. See photo, below.)
  • 1/4 cup well-chopped fresh parsley  OR 3 tbsp dried parsley
  • 2 tbsp fresh, chopped mint leaves OR dried mint.
  • Juice from 1/2  a fresh lemon
  • 1/2 tsp (or more) of red pepper flakes

2.  Cover and allow  to simmer on low for 10  minutes, adding salt or lemon or mint to taste.

3.  Now add 1 cup of  good quality vegetable stock (or chicken stock if you are not vegetarian.)

4.  Once your vegetables are soft and the flavors have emerged, pull out  your hand-blender (or a regular blender)  – do not puree – and lightly mix up all the mixture until you still have visible vegetables, but not slush.

5.  Now that the mixture is all smooth and lush, I added about 1/2 a cup of sour cream. (Vegans, substitute the same amount of any creamy  vegan product, such as a  Half & Half substitute or any creamy product you like to use.)

6  Ladle into a nice  bowl. Garnish with parsley or mint and a nice dollop of sour cream, or sour cream substitute. 

TIPS:
You can make this same recipe SUBSTITUTING RED LENTILS and OMITTING the Cauliflower. If you do this, do NOT add the sour cream.

If you are serving this as an appetizer, cut up some oldish bread, sautée quickly in salted olive oil until crispy and golden, and serve on top!

I enjoy a nicely poached egg on top of spicy vegetables and the lemon will be fine. Remember, Hollandaise sauce is very lemony! When I really want to make this a warm, late night comfort meal, I melt a slice of mild and  creamy cheese on top of the egg. That is not for vegans though.

Comfort Food

10-Minute Mushroom Soup

October 25, 2016

With all the healthy food I post here on With Love and Butter, you might be shocked,okay,  even disgusted, to discover that I have some truly appalling choices when it comes to what I consider “comfort food.”  But hey, it’s personal, isn’t it?  Doesn’t everyone have a closet comfort food they’d rather not admit to the world? Some sinful, completely non-gourmet slop you eat when you have the house to yourself, curtains drawn, shutters closed, snuggled up in front of the TV?

So here is my confession, the greasy, salty, truth. My go-to favorites usually come from 1. a can and 2. they’re loaded with sodium, usually 800 or 900 mgs.,  enough send the needle on my scale soaring at least 4 extra pounds the next morning, and zoom my blood pressure into the stroke zone.

Give me tamales (I’m not even a little discerning; they can come from the Dollar store!), or mushy, sugary kid-friendly Ravioli, also a frequent dollar find. I’m good for the whole can. Also,  I’m not above devouring  a couple of eggs poached atop a greasy plate of canned corned beef hash, extra crispy on the bottom, occasionally topped with a slice of melting, cheese (um, more salt!).  But my all-time favorite, sinful, salty satisfier is Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup, usually made with Half & Half, and dotted with gooey, melty bits of cheese. There’s just something about that combination that takes me to an emotional comfort zone rarely found anywhere else but the occasional bowl of warm Mac ‘n Cheese.

Sure, I can cut down on the salt by choosing the so-called healthier version, but check the label. There’s still a load of sodium in there plus, I usually end up adding more.

Finally, speed is a factor. When you are in need of an emotional food high, comfort food is something you need now.  No waiting. So I came up with an admittedly still slightly sinfu– l but much healthier — home version and it took only 10 minutes. That’s no lie.

10 MINUTE MUSHROOM SOUP MAGIC

  1. Melt 3 tablespoons of your favorite healthy butter substitute in a saucepan. To this, add:
  2. 1/2 Sweet, white onion, very finely chopped. Let this cook a few minutes, until the onions are clear but not burned. Now add:
  3. 1 Teaspoon of finely chopped, fresh Tarragon.
    TIP: Substitute fresh Thyme if you have it. Now add:
  4. 1 cup finely chopped, white mushrooms.
    TIP: I like to leave my mushrooms uncovered, in the refrigerator,  for a few days. They develop a deeper flavor as they dry out a little.  Stir these until the mushrooms are supple, about 2 minutes. Now add:
  5. Salt & Pepper to taste.
    I used very little salt and I like the pink, Himalayan, Kosher, or Sea Salt.  Now add:
  6. 1 Cup of Half & Half (or any non-dairy creamer that you like, but nothing sweet!)
    (TIP: If you want to save calories, use milk. We are going to thicken this in a moment.)
  7. Once your mixture is bubbling away, grab a tablespoon of Gluten-Free Flour (or regular, white flour if you use that but I find the Gluten-Free flours tend to incorporate easily, without needing to make a roux. Also, I use my fingers to sprinkle it gently over my mixture, like a fine snow. Then quickly whisk it in to avoid clumping.  If your soup seems to loose and you want it thicker, just sprinkle in more, a half teaspoon at a time.

Voila! You’re all done! Now you have a rich and creamy, home-made mushroom soup with very little salt, the benefits of fresh mushrooms, onions and herbs, fit for company!

DON’T FORGET: You may substitute Fresh Thyme for Tarragon, and if you don’t have fresh herbs, just use dried.

Comfort Food

Everything’s Better with Bacon

March 29, 2016

Let’s face it. Most things really are better with bacon.

The key to getting a lot of flavor into this soup is the bacon, and also using either a good, home  made stock, a high-quality store bought stock, or a combination of the two. No hard, dried little flavor cubes!

Here is how I make my truly mouth-watering, Lentil Soup.

FIRST

Boil 1 cup of dried, quick cooking lentils in about twic 2-1/2 times as much liquid.
Add 2 small cloves garlic, minced.
(If you need or want more liquid, go ahead. I just add more if I think I need it.)

For liquid/broth, I use a combination of good quality beef stock and my own, delicious, super healthy bone broth, if I have some.
My lentils take about 20-25 minutes to really soften up so you ca  get these bubbling away on the stove top while you prepare the remaining ingredients.

WHILE YOUR LENTILS COOK…

Peel and dice a medium potato (I used red but removed the peel). You can set these to boil about 15 minutes OR you can toss them in to boil with the lentils for the last 15 minutes of lentil cooking.  Peeled and diced potatoes will not require that much time to soften and you don’t want them too mushy.

NEXT…

In a frying pan, sauté 6 strips of bacon, cut up (I use scissors leaving all the fat right in the pan as the bacon sizzles away.

  • Slice 2 small or 1 medium carrot
  • Dice 1 stick celery
  • Chop 1/4 cup of onion

By now, your bacon is nearly done so toss the carrot, celery and onion into the bacon pan and cook for about 5 minutes.

FINISHING UP

When the lentils are soft and the potatoes are cooked (i.e., easily stabbed with a fork), add the bacon and vegetable mixture and every drop of bacon fat.  Salt and pepper to taste.

TIPS:  For a heartier meal, add chunks of  sauteed ham or bratwurst. You can also add some of the tender celery leaves, chopped, for additional flavor.

The better your broth, the more flavorful your soup will be. I recommend reading up on the health benefits of your grandma’s good, old fashioned bone broth. Real bone stock imakes a pivotal difference not only on how flavorful your soup will be, but how healthy!