Archive for ‘Soups’

April 23, 2012

Italian Wedding Soup

I’ve always loved a piping-hot bowl of Italian Wedding Soup, but I had never found the right recipe. Until now. I scoured the Web and combined a little bit of this one with a little bit of that one, added a few more vegetables and voila—it was perfection. Everyone had seconds and asked me to make it again.

I started by sauteeing a container of mirepoix from Trader Joe’s, which is basically chopped carrots, onions and celery, in olive oil. Pre-chopped vegetables for a good stock is just what I needed on a rushed day. Then, I added 8 cups of low-sodium chicken broth, plus 1 can of cannellini beans and a the heel of a wedge of Parmesan cheese. I let it simmer for a about 15 minutes and then I added the meatballs.

For the meatballs, I combined:

1 lb. of lean ground beef

1/2 lb. ground mild Italian sausage

1 small onion, chopped

1 tsp dried basil

1 tsp dried oregano

2  tsp minced garlic

1 egg

1/2 cup chopped parsley

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup bread crumbs (leave out if you’re GF)

I shaped them into mini meatballs and dropped them into the simmering broth until they were cooked through. Lastly, I turned off the heat and stirred in a bag of baby spinach. You could substitute endive or Swiss chard, but you’d have to increase your cooking time. Serve with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and season with salt and pepper.

April 10, 2012

Beet and Fennel Soup with Kefir

After a weeklong trip to New York City, I come home to find my pantry completely barren and my refrigerator empty except for a bin full of beets and fennel. They’re the same beets and fennel I was avoiding before I left for spring break. But now they’re staring at me and saying, “Cook us already. Make something different. Cook us together if you have to, and kill two vegetables with one pot.”

I quickly Google “beet and fennel” and this beautiful soup from Epicurious pops up. I’m sold. Plus, I know I need to detox after a week of chicken and duck pate, delectable macarons in every flavor imaginable, homemade Nutter Butters from the famous Bouchon Bakery and potstickers from a hole-in-the-wall in Chinatown. Not to mention: too many glasses of wine.

I start chopping an onion, and dicing the beets and fennel bulb into 1/2-inch cubes. Since I’m almost drowning in root vegetables, I decide to double the recipe and make 8 cups of soup. First, I sauté the onions, fennel and fennel seeds in olive oil. After 5 to 8 minutes, I add the beets and low-sodium chicken broth. It all simmers for 20 minutes in a covered pot. Now that the beets are tender, I drop in my immersion blender and let it do its magic. Ahhh, puree perfection. Lastly, I whisk in some unflavored kefir and season the pink soup with a little salt and pepper. Not only is the soup the prettiest I’ve ever made, it’s also delicious. It has just the right amount of tang, thanks to the kefir, and it ends with a nice licorice note because of the fennel. I have two bowls for lunch and C licks his bowl clean, telling me he also wants it for dinner. How could I not oblige? But truth be told: S turned her nose up at it after a few spoonfuls.

Even after doubling the recipe, I still have two fennel bulbs and eight beets in my fridge. I see more pink soup in my future.

CLICK HERE for the recipe.

March 20, 2012

Turkey and Bean Chili

Brrrrr! It’s cold—okay, at least for San Diego it is. That means soups, stews and the crockpot. And plenty of leftovers. I was craving chili yesterday, but a slightly lighter version of one, so I decided on ground turkey. I had stray vegetables from my CSA, such as a couple zucchinis and some collard greens, so I decided to toss them in my chili.The recipe comes to me from my neighbor and friend, S. This recipe is very easy and quick, perfect for those evenings you really don’t feel like cooking. You can pretty much throw in whatever you have on hand, so it’s a great way to get rid of those lingering items in your fridge.

I sautéed ground turkey, chopped onions, peppers and garlic in a big pot with olive oil. After about 7 minutes, I added three cans of beans (two red kidney and one great northern), chopped tomatoes (I like the ones from Pomi that come in a box), 10 oz. strained tomatoes, 6 oz. tomato paste, a handful of chopped olives and all my chili spices— 2 TB chili powder, 2 tsp ground cumin, 1 tsp dried basil and a pinch of cayenne for a little kick. Season with salt and pepper. I  brought it back to a boil and then added two zucchinis, sliced, and thin ribbons of collard greens, just the leaves. After 20 minutes of simmering, dinner was done! I served it with cornbread and shredded cheese, scallions and Greek yogurt. With all the veggies thrown in, it was the perfect one-pot meal.

March 7, 2012

Corn and Egg Flower Soup

My mom used to make this corn and egg flower soup for me when I was growing up. It would show up on the dinner table on hectic evenings and when someone was feeling under the weather. Although I loved it, I never tried making this soup. But then, a chilly day drew out the memory of sweet-savory corn and egg soup from the far reaches of my mind. I had to have it. As a child, I never knew the simplicity of the soup. All I knew was that it was tasty and warm, and made me feel like I was snuggling with my favorite blanket.

I have recollections of my mom over a hot stove, stirring creamed corn into simmering chicken broth. Then, she would add chopped ham and occasionally some peas. Lastly, she would turn off the heat and mix in some lightly beaten eggs. With a few gentle, swift strokes, the eggs would turn into beautiful flower petals. Really, this recipe is Betty-Crocker simple, but it yields very satisfying results. My mom used to garnish the soup with chopped scallions and white pepper, but I leave out the onions because the kids don’t like it. However, those scallions would have brightened up the picture some.

S asked me last night: “How come you’ve never made this before?”

Just to be clear, this beats the socks off the bland egg drop soup you find at virtually every Chinese-American restaurant.

Corn and Egg Flower Soup


6 cups chicken broth, homemade or low-sodium

2 cans cream-style corn

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp sesame oil

2 tsp Chinese rice wine or dry sherry (optional)

salt and black or white pepper, to taste

3/4 cup deli-style ham, thinly sliced

3 – 4 TB cornstarch, dissolved in 1/4 cup water (more cornstarch makes for a thicker soup)

3 eggs, lightly beaten (or you could just use the egg whites)

3 green onions, finely chopped for garnish


1. Bring chicken stock to a boil. Stir in creamed corn and simmer for another 3 minutes.

2. Stir in the ham, sugar, sesame oil, rice wine or sherry and salt and pepper. Return to a simmer for another couple of minutes, bringing it back to a boil.

3. Stir the cornstarch-water mixture until well mixed and then pour into the boiling soup. Stir soup until it thickens. Turn off heat.

4. Pour the lightly beaten eggs into the soup and stir gently but quickly until they form thin shreds.

5. Garnish with scallions.

January 17, 2012

Kale and White Bean Soup

After last week’s Frito Pie, I decided we needed to cleanse our system with kale. Lots of it. Yay for super foods! That’s why I was instantly sold when I came across this kale and white bean soup from It calls for one whole pound of lacinato kale.  And soup was just the thing, in the midst of a few cold chilly days. Yes, contrary to popular belief, it can get quite brisk in San Diego.

The recipe uses dried beans, but you could just as easily substitute canned ones. If you opt for canned, I recommend that you add the beans towards the end, at the same time as the carrots. Otherwise, your beans will disintegrate after all that simmering. Instead of kielbasa, I chose a smoked chicken sausage with apple and chardonnay from Trader Joe’s. It’s lower in fat, but I think ultimately it was also lower in flavor. Next time, I’ll stick with kielbasa. Last bit of advice: don’t leave out the piece of Parmigian-Reggiano rind. It gives the soup so much richness and depth.

Even if your kids aren’t big fans of kale, I recommend that you try this recipe. Once kale is cooked in a soup or stew, its flavor really mellows out and turns from slightly bitter to sweet. S had seconds for dinner and then asked for it for lunch the next day. C only had one serving, but licked his bowl clean.

CLICK HERE for’s Kale and White Bean Soup recipe.

December 13, 2011

Lentil Soup

I love rainy days. You know, the kind that makes you want to stay in your pajamas all day, drink hot tea and make a big pot of soup. In Seattle they might be a dime a dozen, but here in San Diego they’re cherished like a double rainbow. At least, by me.

Yesterday morning as the rain pounded down, I reached for the lentils in my pantry and all the vegetables in the back of my refrigerator that have yet to find a purpose. Carrots, potatoes and celery made their way back into the light—and into my Dutch oven, along with a large onion, chopped. I had been craving soup, so I had a hock of uncured ham in the fridge waiting to flavor a pot of lentils, split peas or whatever the legume du jour may be. Usually, I don’t use ham for my soups, since plain broth is healthier. But I sometimes find it difficult to achieve the same depth of flavor without the smoked ham hock. But it’s a delicate balance, because ham can so easily make a soup too salty, which is why I never salt a soup if I’m going to use ham.

For my lentil soup, I sautéed 2 cups of chopped onion, 1 cup of chopped carrots and 1 cup of diced celery in a couple tablespoons of olive oil. Then, I added 1 tablespoon of minced garlic, two bay leaves and some sprigs of thyme. After stirring for a minute, I added 10 cups of low-sodium chicken broth (if you’re using the ham, you could just use water) and 1 ham hock. I let it simmer for about 1 hour until the ham was tender. I then added 2 cups lentils and 2 chopped tomatoes (trying to use up some of those tomatoes from my CSA). After 10 minutes, I added two chopped Idaho gold potatoes and let it simmer for another 20 minutes. Lastly, I removed the ham hock, cut it into bite-sized pieces and returned them to the soup. I seasoned with some coarsely ground black pepper and and chopped parsley. It was perfect for a chilly day. And for leftovers in S’s lunchbox.

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November 17, 2011

White Bean Chili

I have a soft spot for this recipe. My friend, S, first made this for my family shortly after I had given birth to C. At the time, I was sleep deprived, failing at the transition to having two kids, and so mentally and physically exhausted that I couldn’t bear the thought of cooking. Thanks to the awesome moms in my neighborhood, I had dinners brought to me three times a week for a month.

I distinctly remember the evening S brought over this white bean chili. Everyone was starving, cranky and desperate for comfort and sustenance. In walked S with a big steaming pot of chili. I swear she had a halo over her. And she had an assortment of toppings for the chili: crushed tortilla chips, tomatoes, sour cream, cheese, etc. It was satisfying in all the right ways, and super fun for my daughter who got to piece together her own meal. That same week, I asked S for the recipe and I have been making it ever since. Sometimes, I add cumin-rubbed, grilled chicken; other times, I opt for cumin-spiced, grilled shrimp. In either case, it’s always a hit with the family. If you’re in a pinch, you could easily chop up some store-bought rotisserie chicken.

This recipe is very, very simple, and takes hardly any time to cook. The kids have a blast scooping chili with their chips and tailoring the toppings to their liking. When I packed it for S’s lunch this morning, I put all the condiments in a separate container, so she could create the perfect combination at school.

White Bean Chili

1 TB vegetable oil
2 medium onions, chopped (1 cup)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 – 4 cups chicken broth
2 TB chopped fresh cilantro or 1/2 tsp ground coriander
2 TB lime juice
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp dried oregano leaves
1/4 tsp red pepper sauce
1/4 tsp salt
1 bag frozen whole kernel corn
3 cans (15-16 ounces each) white beans, drained (any variety will do — cannellini, Great Northern, white navy, etc.)

2 cups chopped cooked chicken (I just toss some olive oil, cumin, and salt on some breasts and throw them on the grill.)

Heat oil in 4-quart Dutch oven over medium heat. Cook onions and garlic in oil, stirring occasionally, until onions are tender. Stir in remaining ingredients except chicken. Heat to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer uncovered 20 minutes. Stir in chicken; simmer until hot.

Garnish with shredded cheese, crushed tortilla chips, chopped green onions, diced tomatoes, chopped fresh cilantro, sliced avocado, or sour cream.

November 7, 2011

Tuscan Chickpea Soup

It’s looking like it’s going to be a week of leftovers for lunch. And it’s starting with the Tuscan chickpea soup I made last night.

After we got home from Portugal, I went a little crazy at the grocery store because our refrigerator and pantry were so barren. Now, everything is stuffed to the limit—a good problem to have—but I’m also a bit stressed about cooking all the meats and vegetables before they go bad. My plan is to cook large batches of dinner and send the leftovers for lunch the next day. It really is the easiest solution. That way, I don’t have to think about lunch.

Years and years ago, I found the recipe for a Tuscan chickpea soup in the October 2001 issue of Cooking Light. It is a simple recipe that yields great results. Plus, it freezes really well. I will admit, it’s nothing exciting, but that seems to work well for the kids. The recipe calls for water, but over the years I’ve switched to chicken broth to give the soup a bit more richness. I’ve also doubled the amount of tomatoes to give it more flavor. And because I’m always trying to get more kale into our diets, I like to chop up some kale and throw it into the soup as it simmers. If I’m out of kale, I use baby spinach leaves. Since they wilt pretty quickly in the soup, I add them at the last minute. Lastly, I like to serve the soup with grilled chicken or Trader Joe’s chicken-apple sausage. The sausage comes fully cooked in the refrigerated section. I usually warm it on the grill or in a skillet.

Don’t forget to sprinkle the grated parmesan or pecorino over the soup. It makes a big difference!

Tuscan Chickpea Soup (adapted from Cooking Light)


2 TB olive oil

2 cups finely chopped onion

8 garlic cloves, minced

4 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 tsp. fresh rosemary or 1/4 tsp. dried rosemary

1/4 – 1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. black pepper

3 (15 1/2 oz.) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

2 (14 1/2 oz.) cans diced tomatoes undrained

Chopped kale (optional)

1 -2 TB balsamic vinegar

6 TB grated fresh Parmesan or Pecorino Romano


Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and garlic, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the broth and the next 6 ingredients (broth through kale, if using), and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes.

Place 2 cups in a blender or food processor, and process until smooth. Pour the pureed soup into a bowl. Repeat procedure with 2 cups soup. Return all pureed soup to pan. Stir in the vinegar, and bring to a boil. Remove from heat. Spoon soup into bowls and sprinkle with grated cheese. Yield: 6 servings.

October 11, 2011

Kale and Chickpea Soup

Yes, I’m on a leftover streak. But it seems silly not to kill two birds with one stone. Last night for dinner I made a kale and chickpea soup with chorizo. In my attempt to give the soup a little more depth, I almost made it too spicy for the kids. I had added more paprika, some cumin and a fat pinch of cayenne. S drank a lot of water with her soup, but I like to tell myself that all those fluids are good for her. In the end, both kids were sopping up the last of their soup with some seedy multigrain bread. This morning, I sent S to school with the soup, some cut-up fruit and a wedge of bread.

Here’s the recipe from Epicurious:

Kale and chickpea soup

Note: I chopped up a few carrots instead of using the potato. And since I couldn’t find cured chorizo sausage, I used pork chorizo instead. Lastly, I used all broth, no water.

October 6, 2011

Cooler Weather Calls for Venison Chili

Soups and stews aren’t just great for cooler weather; they also pack really well as leftovers for lunch the next day. In general, S really likes soups and stews. But she burned out on them a couple of years ago, when I packed soup for lunch nearly every day. So, I’ve been slowly bringing them back in.

Yesterday’s cold rain, a rare occurrence in sunny San Diego but apropos for the day Steve Jobs died, was a good reason to make chili. I figured it would warm my hands and feet, and comfort my heavy heart after hearing about the death of the creative genius that changed the way I and millions of others thought about and used computers—as well as design.

Earlier in the week, I had scored some frozen ground venison at Sprouts for $7.99/lb., and it came in handy for this recipe. After a quick Google search, I discovered an easy recipe for venison chili from Emeril Lagasse. Initially, I followed the recipe to the letter, but after the tomato/beef broth/red wine base had simmered for 45 minutes, I realized there wouldn’t be nearly enough for the amount of ground venison I had. I quickly doubled the base and added a can of kidney beans, which was just the right amount of liquid. The recipe I’m including below is the original recipe. I recommend doubling the liquids and spices.

The entire family loved the chili, and the kids had no idea it was venison. I served it with a dollop of sour cream on top, cornbread on the side and sautéed kale. S asked for me to pack it in her lunch today, with a baked potato. I heated the chili and put it in a Thermos container for soups, and then I wrapped a baked potato (or in my case, microwaved) in foil and put it in a separate stainless feel container. That way, she can pour the chili over the potato at lunch.

Venison Chili (from Emeril Lagasse)


4 strips bacon, diced

2 1/2 lbs. leg or shoulder of venison cut into 1/2-inch cubes (I used 2 lbs. ground venison)

1 cup chopped onions

1 cup chopped green bell peppers

2 garlic cloves crushed

1 cup Cabernet Sauvignon or other dry red wine

1 TB tomato paste

1 TB chili powder

1 tsp. cumin

1 tsp. ground coriander

1 tsp. ground oregano

1 tsp. cayenne pepper

1 24-ounce can chopped tomatoes

1 cup beef stock

salt and pepper

1 cup grated Sonoma Jack cheese


In a large saucepan, cook the bacon until the fat is rendered, 4 to 6 minutes. Remove the bacon using a slotted spoon and transfer to paper-lined plate to drain. Add the venison to the hot oil in the pan and cook, stirring occasionally and in batches if necessary, until well seared. Remove from the pan and set aside. Add the onions, bell peppers, garlic and sauté over medium-low heat until tender. Stir in the wine and the tomato paste. Bring the mixture to a boil. Stir in the dry spices, chopped tomatoes and the beef stock. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Simmer uncovered for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the sauce is very thick and flavorful. Add the venison to the pot and cook, stirring, until just cooked through and hot, 3 to 4 minutes. Check the seasoning and serve with the grated cheese.





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