Category Archives: soup

Man’s Best Friend

This post is dedicated to a few of my neighbors.

This post is for the happy, loveable yellow lab across the street. She sits in her yard, head cocked to one side, staring longingly across the road when we pull up to our mailbox. Oh, she’s thinking, I want to come and see you SO bad, but there’s this electric fence in the way. Oh please, oh please, come say hi to me!

This post is for the bulldog next door. With his feet turned in slightly, I imagine the low, lumbering notes of a tuba playing in his head as he strolls about, sniffing the grass with his pudgy little nose.

This post is for the dynamic duo from two doors down. An inquisitive pair I have affectionately nicknamed the Tweedle Twins. Occasionally, the Tweedle Twins are seen wandering about, not afraid to explore beyond the boundaries of their own yard. Tweedle Dee is the clear leader – a small-but-fiesty, salt and pepper colored shih tzu. He’s always first to step off the curb and trot down the road en route to some mighty adventure in a neighbors yard. Trotting behind, as if playing a never ending game of follow the leader, is Tweedle Dum, a black lab mix with a rather empty but affectionate gaze. When Tweedle Dee chases a squirrel up a tree, Tweedle Dum does the same. When Tweedle Dee wanders the edge of the forest, Tweedle Dum follows closely behind, exploring each twig and weed as Dee did just seconds earlier. They are a couple of best friends out making neighborhood mischief. I love watching them through my windows.

It’s true we don’t have any pets of our own, but when my pal Branny put the call out for entries for her second Souper Bowl charity event, I just knew I had to participate this time around. See, Branny is a true animal lover and for every entry of a delightful bowl of soup she receives for this event, she will donate $1 to the ASPCA – a definite worthy cause and one I fully support. In the spirit of giving, this post is dedicated to all the furry, four-legged residents in our neighborhood. 🙂 It’s not too late for you to participate too! All you gotta do is whip up some soup, which you totally had planned this week anyway, right? Being that it’s January and all that. Check out Branny’s blog for all the details. 🙂

This Lasagna Soup is like a man’s best friend. Spicy sausage? Yes. Pasta? Of course! Cheesy goodness. Duh. See, totally man-friendly. My man, skeptical of soup most of the time, loved it. I did too. It really does mimic the flavor profile of lasagna. With chunks of spicy Italian sausage, juicy tomatoes and rich ricotta, it’s got all the goodies without the all the spreading and layering of a traditional lasagna. The best part is the generous dollop of ricotta that dots each serving. The ricotta is mixed with some freshly grated Parmesan and mozzarella, and when plopped into the steaming bowl, begins to melt almost instantly, creating a creamy richness in each bite. Oh, it is SO good. Best enjoyed on a cold, snowy January night, of course, where you can warm your hands on the side of the bowl. Maybe even with a furry friend asleep at your feet.

LASAGNA SOUP (Recipe Source: Adapted from Closet Cooking)


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound hot Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 28 ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 pound curly pasta
  • 4 ounces low fat ricotta
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan, grated
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 1 handful basil, chopped


  1. Heat the olive oil in a large stock pot over medium heat. Add the sausage and cook until lightly browned, about 10 minutes, breaking it apart as it browns. Remove sausage from the pot to drain. Discard all but about 1/2 tablespoon of the drippings in the pot.
  2. Add the onion to the reserved drippings and saute until tender and translucent, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes and fennel and saute until fragrant, about one minute. Return the sausage to the pot.
  4. Add the chicken broth, tomatoes, tomato paste, oregano, bay leaf, salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 7 to 10 minutes and remove from heat.*
  6. Meanwhile, combine the ricotta, Parmesan and mozzarella in a small bowl. Serve the soup garnished with a tablespoon of the cheese mixture and top with chopped basil. Serves 5 to 6.

*I always find myself conflicted when it comes to cooking pasta IN soup. On the one hand, I like it, because I think the pasta release just enough starch into the soup to give it a touch of silkiness. On the other hand, there’s Sponge Syndrome to deal with. You know, the next day rolls around and you’re ready to ladle yourself up a big bowl of soup leftovers (which are the best leftovers EVER) and, much to your dismay, you find you no longer have soup. The pasta has absorbed the liquid – just like a sponge! D’OH!

I will say, I DID cook the pasta in the soup this time around and I DID have a major case of Sponge Syndrome the next day. However, it is easily restored to it’s former soup glory by mixing a bit of chicken broth spiked with a shot of tomato base in a sauce pan, adding your leftover “soup” and reheating gently on the stove top. Good as new. You may also cook the pasta separate and add that to the soup at the end, if you prefer. 🙂




Filed under pasta, sausage, soup

Under the weather

Ugh. I’ve been sick. It’s one of those dreaded, lingering sicknesses that grabs on when you least expect it and just will not let go. For the last week, I’ve been sniffling, sneezing and coughing my way through germ filled haze. And due to a particularly intense, deadline-heavy, work week there’s been little rest for this weary soul. It’s Sunday night and I’m still exhausted. I still can’t breathe. My throat still hurts.

When the Cold from Hell comes a calling all I want is soup. Not fancy little shooters of creamed imported truffles garnished with foam. I want hearty, homey, soothing soup. A bold, spicy combination that tastes good even when you can’t taste anything at all. The kind that wraps you like a favorite blanket, that eases a raw, scratchy throat, that you pour into a giant mug and eat curled up on the couch with a full DVR.  The kind of soup you just fall into at the end of the day.

Soup like minestrone brimming with pasta, beans, meat and veggies swimming in a flavorful tomato broth. Oh yes. That’s comfort in a bowl.

I did not get to eat this minestrone this week as I made it months ago and all remnants are long, long gone. I just didn’t have the energy to put in the effort to make it. But I dreamed about it. I craved it something fierce as I lopped off the top of a boxed soup from the grocery store and dumped (squeezed?) the contents into a saucepan. It has that kind of slow cooked flavor you expect from your grandmother’s kitchen. I loved the use of Italian sausage here and the slight anise flavor that comes through from the fennel in it. The fresh herbs make it special. And the crusty, cheesy baguette slices? A must. Don’t skip them.

This recipe has a long list of ingredients but it’s really not difficult to make. Just get out your biggest stock pot and start simmering. I made a couple of changes to the original recipe. First, I skipped simmering a head of garlic in the chicken broth. I just pulsed 4 or 5 cloves in the food processor with the other veggies. Also, I had a Parmesan rind on hand, so I tossed that in while the soup simmered. It adds a great salty, cheesy flavor.

This recipe makes a ton (as most soup recipes do) but the flavor only improves over time (again, as most soup recipes do!) It’s the perfect feel better meal. You know, if someone else is making it. 😉

HUNTER’S MINESTRONE (Recipe Source: Tyler Florence via


  • 2 quarts chicken stock
  • 1/2 pound small pasta (I used shells)
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 8 fresh sage leaves
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 3/4 pound loose sweet Italian pork sausage
  • 2 medium carrots, roughly chopped
  • 2 celery ribs, roughly chopped
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 4 to 5 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 Parmesan rind (optional)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans cannelloni beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 bunch fresh parsley leaves, finely minced
  • Coarsely ground black pepper
  • 12 slices baguette
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano


  1. Bring a pot of salted water to boil for the pasta.
  2. Chop the carrots, celery, onion and garlic in the food processor. Set aside.
  3. Pour 1/4 cup olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the fresh herbs and heat the oil over medium heat to infuse it with the flavor of the herbs, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the sausage and cook, breaking it up until well browned.  Add to the saucepan and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until the vegetables are softened but not browned.
  4.  Stir in the crushed tomatoes, bay leaf beans, chicken stock and cheese rind. Bring to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes stirring occasionally.
  5.  Cook the pasta in the boiling water until just tender, it should be slightly underdone. Drain and stir into the simmering soup. Add the parsley, and salt and coarsely ground black pepper, to taste. Discard the bay leaf and herb sprigs.
  6.  To serve, preheat the broiler. Put the baguette slices in a single layer on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with the Parmigiano and broil until the cheese is bubbly and golden brown, about 3 minutes. Ladle the soup into bowls and float a couple of the baguette slices on top.
    Serves 6 to 8.

*Note*: This soup freezes great! If planning to freeze, I recommend only making enough pasta for the servings you plan to eat so that the cooked pasta doesn’t turn to mush. While reheating from the freezer, just cook up a bit more pasta and it will taste just as good as it did the first time around.



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Filed under pasta, sausage, soup

Love it or hate it.

Here’s the thing. My husband did not like this meal. At all.

He did not like it in his bowl, he will not touch it with a pole. He didn’t come right out and say he didn’t like it, but I could tell. I dig.

He was quiet. Ate slowly. Pushing food around with his spoon hoping it would magically disappear. He took giant sips of his drink after every bite. Eventually he told me to stop looking at him. It got awkward real quick. At the end of a silent 15 minutes, he brought picked over his bowl to the kitchen sink and apologized.

For what, I’m not sure. Hey, not everyone likes the same things. It’s cool. Different strokes for different folks, as they say. If anything *I* should have been the one apologizing. Contrary to what he might think sometimes, I don’t set out to feed him things I know he won’t like. Sure, I push the envelope every now and then, that’s just plain fun. But if I seriously think he won’t like a dish, I save it for a night he’s not around.

But, you know what? I’m not apologizing. Because I didn’t think he’d dislike this as much as he did. It was a fluke, I tell ya! There is nothing to be sorry about with this meal. I absolutely loved it. More for me.

I’m usually a purist when it comes to chili – thick, beefy and bursting with beans. A good kick of spice but not melt your face hot. And cheese! Lots of that, please and thank you.

This recipe is so different. It takes all that familiar chili heat and adds a bit of sweet to the mix with tender sweet potatoes and apples The gobs of cheese are swapped for crunchy, healthy pepitas. It’s not as thick as a traditional chili (I actually added a bit of cornstarch slurry at the end to tighten it up) but the flavorful broth of beer and a pepper puree makes the perfect vehicle for dunking a sweet cornbread muffin. It’s delightfully different.

Be brave. Try it. You’ll love it. Or you won’t. 😉

HARVEST CHIPOTLE CHILI (Recipe Source: Midwest Living)


  • 3 medium orange sweet peppers, halved and seeded
  • 2 canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground pork, ground beef or uncooked ground turkey or chicken
  • 1 large onion, chopped (1 cup)
  • 1 pound sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 15 ounce can reduced-sodium pinto beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 14 1/2 ounce can hominy or one 15.5-ounce can butter beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 14 1/2 ounce can chunky chili-style tomatoes or stewed tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 12 ounce can beer or one 14.5-ounce can reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 14 1/2 ounce can reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 medium Granny Smith or tart red apples, peeled, cored and coarsely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Roasted, salted pepitas and chopped green onions, for serving. (optional)


  1. In a food processor, combine process sweet peppers, chipotle peppers and garlic and pulse with on/off turns until very finely chopped. Set aside.
  2. In a large Dutch oven, cook ground pork and onion over medium-high heat until meat is brown and onion is tender. Drain off fat and return to the pot. Add pepper mixture; cook and for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
  3. Stir in the sweet potato, pinto beans, drained hominy, undrained tomatoes, beer, chicken broth, apples and salt. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low. Simmer, covered, for 25 to 30 minutes or until sweet potato is tender.
  4. Top each serving with pepitas and green onions. Makes 8 servings.



Filed under pork, soup, veggies

The Last Song

This time of year always feels a bit odd. For years late August meant only one thing – school. The start of a new school year was a rejuvenating renewal, a chance to reinvent yourself. Start over. Forget about that highly embarrassing slip on the ice getting off the bus the previous winter. Things like that.

Those day are gone. Let’s be honest, they’ve been gone for a while. Now when late August rolls around I find myself clinging to summer, savoring those last few fire-hued sunsets that fade into inky blue and blue and black. But the heat of day has mellowed and there’s that unmistakable chill first thing in the morning as fall starts creeping in, slow and hushed. Part of me wants to give in to hoodies and scarves that are just around the corner, the spicy, smoldering scent of burning leaves, the piles of plump pumpkins, but the other part is sad another summer is coming to an end. I always hate to see it go. It’s usually when August starts drawing to a close that I start looking around wondering where another year went. September? That’s officially closing in on the end of the year. Blink and it’ll be Christmas. Scary.

I’m not quite ready to let go of summer just yet. All of summer’s bounty is at peak here in the Midwest. Piles of sweet corn fill the backs of old farm trucks. Tomatoes, perfect in their imperfections, scatter across tabletops and fresh herbs permeate the air with they’re savory/sweet fragrance. It’s hard to imagine another growing season coming into an end.

This Fresh Corn Soup with Roasted Corn Guacamole a light and refreshing summer soup to try before fall. I know what you’re thinking – soup in the summer? That’s crazycakes! But soup doesn’t have to be a weighty meal full of meat, pasta and cream. This one right here is the proof. The delicious, delectable proof.

The base of this soup reminded me of a chowder but there’s not a drop of cream in sight. Hooray! The pureed fresh corn adds a great creamy texture and I loved the slight heat in the background from the jalapeno. The soup is wonderful and flavorful on it’s own but the roasted corn guacamole really takes it over the top. The corn gets a bit crispy and pops in your mouth. The avocado adds that unmistakable richness. A bit of fresh brightness is a welcome addition here so I even went ahead and used the cilantro the recipe called for (I know! Shocking!) I did cut the amount way back so it wouldn’t overpower the other flavors. The final product creamy, sweet and savory with great contrasting textures – truly a perfect summer send off.

FRESH CORN SOUP WITH ROASTED CORN GUACAMOLE (Recipe Source: Simply Mexican by Lourdes Castro, as seen at Epicurious)


For the Roasted Corn Guacamole:

  • Kernels from 3 ears fresh corn, or 2 cups frozen corn, defrosted
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped red onion
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, finely chopped (I used 1 tablespoon)
  • 1 lime, finely grated zest and juice
  • 1 jalapeño, stemmed and seeded, finely chopped
  • 1 avocado, pitted and chopped

For the soup:

  • Kernels from 5 ears fresh corn, or 3 cups frozen corn, defrosted
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 1 jalapeño, stemmed and chopped
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • Cilantro sprigs, for garnish


Roast the corn for the guacamole: Preheat the oven to 450°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or aluminum foil.

Put the corn kernels on the baking sheet and toss with the oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and black pepper to taste. Spread the corn out evenly on the baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes, until the corn turns a deep golden brown. Remove the corn from the oven and set aside.

Prepare the soup: Put the kernels in a blender or food processor. Combine the oil and the garlic in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion and jalapeño, season with salt and pepper and sauté until the vegetables are translucent, about 6 minutes. Transfer the vegetables to the blender or food processor and puree until smooth. (You may need to pulse or stir the corn mixture in order to achieve a smooth consistency, but do not add any more liquid.)

Pour the corn mixrure into the soup pot and place over medium heat. Stir constantly until the soup begins to thicken. Slowly whisk in the broth. Bring to a boil, then decrease the heat to a simmer. Cover the soup and cook for 15 minutes.

Prepare the guacamole: In a bowl, combine the roasted corn, red onion, cilantro, lime zest and juice, and jalapeño. Gently stir in the avocado. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

To serve: Ladle the soup into soup bowls. Spoon guacamole into the center of each bowl. Garnish with additional cilantro, if desired. Serves 4 to 6.



Filed under soup, veggies


I started with a man who would turn up his nose at a dish that included beans. Wouldn’t touch ’em, didn’t want anything to do with them.

I, never deterred by the man’s supposed “dislikes,” put beans in front of him anyway. Soon he evolved to eating around the beans. He would still push them to the side of the plate or bowl, but if one or two made it past the gate it wasn’t gag-inducing Armageddon. Still not his favorite, however.

Further down the road, with continued bean-presenting repetition, the man grew tired of trying to push them around and decided, hey, beans aren’t so bad. If they’re surrounded by enough meat, you can’t even tell they are there! The man ate, and enjoyed mind you, a dish containing beans. Then another. Then another.

Progress, people. This is what we call progress.

The next step is to completely remove the meat and get away with presenting beans as the protein source for a meal. We’re not there yet. Soon. These endeavors take much scientific trial and error before the experiment can be deemed a success. That day, my friends, is coming. I WILL make it happen. We will eat a meatless meal with beans in this house someday soon! And, gosh darn it, he’ll like it! As God is my witness!! Cue dramatic Gone with the Wind theme music…NOW.

Here’s a recent bean filled dish my husband enjoyed. As did I, naturally. This smokey, spicy chicken chili really hit the spot on a cold December night. It’s quick, easy, flavorful and, best of all, made with ingredients you likely already have on hand. Like a traditional beef chili, it has a tomato sauce base, which I tend to prefer. I find myself put off by recipes labeled “white chicken chili” because the clear/gray broth that comes with it makes me (the Hater of White Food) a little nervous. Why? Because I’m weird. This one is much more my speed.

I made a few changes to the original recipe, but nothing too drastic. First, I switched out chicken thighs for chicken breasts. The recipe calls for chopped fresh jalapenos, but I subbed in a couple chipotle peppers in adobo because that’s what I had on had. I added about a tablespoon of the sauce too for more smokey flavor. I also added a couple teaspoons of sugar, a trick I learned from my mom. I used brown sugar this time, but granulated works too. It just helps off-set some of the spiciness of the dish, I think, and gives it that extra something-something.

Filling and healthy to boot, you can easily bump up the nutritional value by adding a few more veggies. Colored bell peppers would be great, maybe some corn. Sometimes I like to run a large carrot over my microplane grater into dishes like this just to add a bit of sweetness against the bold flavors without adding actual chunks of carrot. Works great!

SPICY CHICKEN CHILI (Recipe Source: Food and Wine)


  • 2 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound skinless chicken thighs or breasts (about 4), cut into thin strips
  • 4 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon adobo sauce from the can
  • 1 1/2 cups canned crushed tomatoes with their juice
  • 2 cups canned low-sodium chicken broth or homemade stock
  • 1 (15 oz) can drained and rinsed pinto beans
  • 1 (15 oz) can drained and rinsed black beans
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • Your favorite chili fixings, for serving


  1. In a large saucepan, heat the oil over moderately low heat. Add the onion and garlic; cook until they start to soften, about 3 minutes.
  2. Increase the heat to moderate and stir in the chicken strips. Cook until they are no longer pink, about 2 minutes. Stir in the chili powder, cumin, oregano, salt and sugar. Add the peppers, the tomatoes with their juice, and the broth. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes.
  3. Uncover the saucepan and stir in the beans and black pepper. Simmer until the chili is thickened, about 15 minutes longer. Serve topped with your favorite chili fixings. (I like tortilla strips, cheddar cheese and chopped green onion) Serves 4.


One Year Ago: ABC Cookies (As in, already been chewed!)
Two Years Ago: I made all sorts of goodies for an event at work! Click here for links to all my treats!


Filed under chicken, soup

Adventures of a Camera Dummy

One day not too long ago, Eric came to me and said, “I think we should upgrade our camera. I want to try to take pictures of lightening.”

Um. Okay. I guess?<<cough, cough NERD ALERT! cough, cough>>

He added quickly, “And you can use it for your blog too.”

Oh. Well, in that case….I’m listening.

I’ve been thinking about the camera upgrade for a while but found myself reluctant to take the plunge. I’m not sure I have the photographer gene in me. I mean, I do okay here on the bliggity-blog. As my short, stocky, slow-witted, bald friend Mr. Georgey C. would say “Not showing off, not falling behind.”


Photos are generally bright and clear. Food is identifiable. There are recipes that haven’t been blogged because the photos were not up to my (albeit perhaps lower than yours) standards, so I like to think I have some self-awareness in this area. Do I consider myself a photographer? No. Did I start this blog because I was really excited about taking pictures of my dinner? Honestly, that’s a big, fat negative.

Sigh. But photos are important. So I do try.

When a friend of ours recently offered to let us borrow his Nikon dSLR for a few days to try it out, I jumped at the chance. Try before I buy? Yes, please!

So he hauls this piece of equipment over to our house. The bag holding this stuff may or may not be too big for the overhead compartment. Please see an associate to check your camera bag. (Kidding, kidding…) He got about as far as turning it on before my head started to spin and panic set in.

Wait! What am I doing? It took me forever to locate the play button on the DVD remote, how am I supposed to work this thing? I can’t do this! Stop, stop! I wanna get off!

And so our friend left this very expensive and highly breakable piece of equipment in my care. Me. Accidental Dropper of Things. Eternal Mess Maker.

After tooling around (very carefully) with it for a while and getting nowhere, I had a brilliant idea – the manual! YES! I can read. The manual will help.

The manual did not help.

The manual assumes I have basic knowledge of photography terminology.

I do not.

F-stop means nothing to me. ::hangs head in shame::

The manual attempts to show the difference in the setting with tiny little black and white pictures that look exactly the same.

I can’t see the difference. ::hangs head in shame::

This thing is scary…

I know these things take practice, but how to practice when you don’t know where to begin? See, this is why I love writing about food way more than I love taking it’s picture. I learned to work a pencil and paper somewhere around the age of 5. At 10, I learned how to type with my fingers on the right keys. Nothing much has changed with these two items since then and they probably never will. I’ve been scribbling in notebooks and filling blank word docs for so many years, it’s comforting to know they will always be there. The latest and greatest digital camera will become obsolete. Words from the heart are forever.

Ahhh. Hello, old friends.

So maybe I’m no photog. Maybe I’ll have to send that fancy camera back across town to it’s owner without taking one decent picture with it. And that’s okay. Because I feel like my identity with this blog lies within the words. I hope that’s at least part of the reason why you keep coming back. It’s certainly why I do. 🙂 WORD NERDS! Holla!

Oh, who am I kidding. I want to take pretty pictures too!! Please help me. Oh my gosh, I feel like such a camera dummy. I am overwhelmed to the point of anxiety. If you started from the bottom up with your DSLR, what were some of the resources that helped you? How long did it take you to feel comfortable? I want to hear about your experience!

And now for something truly poetic. Lyrical even. Something that dances and sings on the tongue. Silky smooth, creamy, the butteriest of butternut squash soups. Simple and healthy to boot. And with a dollop of smokey roasted red pepper puree in each bowl, it’s downright literary.

Actually, it’s not a bunch of word fluff. It’s a bunch of delicious! I made this soup as the first course for my Project Food Blog luxury dinner party. Upon finishing, I was promptly removed from the competition. Hmpf. But that’s neither here nor there. 😉 This pureed soup is super simple to make, especially if you have a stick blender. With the natural sweetness of the squash, the warmth of the citrus zest and thyme and the toasty yumminess of the squash seeds, this is an easy dish that tastes like something special.


Here’s a not so fantastic photo taken with my not so fantastic camera. 😉

For the soup:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 1/4 cups chopped onions
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 2 1/2-pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut into 1-inch pieces (reserve seeds)
  • 5 1/2 cups (or more) vegetable broth (I used chicken broth. I just like the flavor better.)
  • 3 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated orange peel
  1. Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add onions; sauté until tender, about 12 minutes. Add garlic; stir 1 minute. Add squash and 5 1/2 cups broth; bring to boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer until squash is soft, about 40 minutes. Cool slightly.
  2. Working in batches, puree soup in blender until smooth. Return puree to pot. Add 1 teaspoon thyme and orange peel. Thin soup with more broth if desired. Simmer 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cool slightly. Cover and chill. Rewarm before serving, thinning with more broth if desired.)

For the red pepper puree:

  • 1 cup coarsely chopped drained roasted red peppers from jar
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • Puree all ingredients in processor until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; chill. Bring to room temperature before using.)

    For the toasted squash seeds:

    • Seeds from one 2.5 lb. butternut squash
    • 1/2 teaspoon olive oil
    • Salt, pepper and cumin to taste

    Rinse the squash seeds to remove any excess fibers. Spread in a single layer on a paper towel to drain and dry completely. Toss with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and ground cumin. Transfer to a baking sheet and roast at 400 degrees until golden brown and crunchy, 8 to 10 minutes.


    One Year Ago: My favorite Beer Cheese Bread. Made this again just a couple weeks ago. Stuffed. My. Face.
    Two Years Ago: My grandma’s Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies. I was JUST thinking about these. Must make. Now. 🙂


    Filed under soup, veggies

    Don’t Delay, Act Now!

    Soup season is about dry up. If you’re thinking about soup, you better get on it because soup season is fading fast.

    Honestly, I’m not all that sad of the passing of soup season. I like soup. I like it a lot. But I like sunshine and warm breezes and summer berries and fresh tomatoes and sweet corn a just a little bit more.

    That’s what makes this time of the year so hard. It’s not quite winter and it’s not quiet summer. Some may call it “Spring.” I’m curious about this phenomenon known as spring. In the Midwest, I’m not sure we really experience spring.

    There’s an obvious summer. If 90 degrees and 100% humidity doesn’t scream summer, I’m not sure what does.

    There’s fall – full of pumpkins, sweatshirts and football. Summer is great for many reasons but those beautiful days in September and October are probably the best of the year, right? Yes. I agree.

    There’s winter. Please. One word: Blizzards. One more: 35 below. Wait, that’s two. See also: Here.

    And then there’s Not Quite Winter Anymore but Still Pretty Cold, Grey and Windy with One More Wallop of Snow after You Thought it was Over and Already Put Your Snow Blower Away. Also known as: Spring.

    Witness Exhibit A: The view from our back door on a March day.

    Notice the abundance of sunshine and the absence of five foot drifts of snow. Look, there’s the deck! I knew we had one of those! And the grass! It’s still there! We made it! We’re through!

    Oh, Spring – such an evil, cruel tease. 3 days later we woke up to more snow. So, I guess we’re not completely out of soup season yet. If there’s still snow on the ground in your neighborhood, may I recommend a big, warm, comforting bowl of Cheesy Potato Soup.  Guaranteed to improve your mood and warm your soul. I actually made this soup quite a few weeks ago (could it have been January still?? Whenever it was, we were still knee deep in soup season, that’s for sure!) but I was thinking about it again this week with our First Day of Spring Snow.

    This recipe hails from another one of my awesome Christmas cookbook gifts –  The Farm Chicks in the Kitchen! It is all kinds of fun and awesome. It’s full of down-home, comforting recipes and kitschy country crafts. I just love it. It’s too cute for words.

    What intrigued me about this recipe was the fact that soup portion and the creamy cheese sauce portion of the recipe are made separately, then mixed together, heated through and served. This is a different method than I’ve seen in the past and one I like. I avoid whole milk and heavy cream in cooking (baking/desserts…that’s a different story) and will almost always try to finagle a way to use low-fat milk instead (1% usually). I have found in the past that it works well in most applications. The one place it doesn’t work so well is if the milk mixture is cooked too long. Something happens to it – it breaks down, separates, curdles, SOMETHING. It changes the texture and makes it…not good. This is what happened the last time I made soup with a low-fat milk base. General Fail.

    With this method though, I was able to make the cheese sauce on the side, cooking the low fat milk until just thickened. Then I added my cheese to melt and stirred the whole thing into my pot of soup. Total time on the heat for the milk – about 10 minutes. It came out PERFECT. Creamy, cheesy and so delicious. I had some broccoli lying around that needed to be used up so I tossed that in there at the very end of the simmering time for the soup. No need to add that if you don’t have it or don’t prefer it. I also cooked up some bacon to crumble on top of each bowl. Again, just my preference. I like bacon.

    CHEESY POTATO SOUP (Recipe Adapted from: The Farm Chicks in the Kitchen by Teri Edwards & Serena Thompson)


    • 4 tablespoons butter
    • 1 cup diced carrots
    • 4 cups chicken broth (1 32oz. carton)
    • 5 cups peeled and cubed russet potatoes (about 4 medium, 1/2-inch cube)
    • 1 teaspoon dried basil
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1/8 teaspoon ground pepper
    • 1 cup chopped broccoli florets (I added because I had some to lose up, feel free to add more, less or none at all!)
    • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
    • 1 1/2 cups milk (lowfat or whole)
    • 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated (about 2 cups)
    • 6 slices of cooked bacon, crumbled (1 slice per bowl, optional)


    Make the soup: Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large pot over medium high heat. Add the carrots and cook until softened-about 4 minutes. Add broth, potatoes, basil, salt,, and pepper. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes (or until potatoes are tender). If using broccoli, add about 5 minutes prior to the end of the simmering time.

    Make the cheese sauce: Melt the remaining butter in a medium saucepan. Stir in the flour and cook for about 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the milk and simmer until slightly thickened – about 2 minutes. Add the cheese and stir until melted and thoroughly combined. Gradually pour the sauce into the soup and stir until blended and heat through. Garnish each bowl with a crumbled bacon. Makes 6 generous servings.

    ENJOY! 🙂

    One Year Ago: Amazing Slow Cooker Pork Tenderloin – super easy and so delicious!
    Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Cream – as good as it sounds!


    Filed under soup, veggies

    Soup Season!

    Let me tell you why I love soup. It’s warm, it’s comforting, and there’s always enough left for lunch. And, let’s be honest, soup always tastes better the next day. There’s just something about soup leftovers. The best leftovers you’ll ever eat!

    Soup is pure weekend food for me. This is how I roll with soup. Do all the chopping/prepping/simmering first thing in the morning. Then transfer to crockpot. Turn on low. Go about very busy day. This particular Saturday it was baking a TON of cookies and Christmas shopping. When feet are sufficiently tired and all urge to be in the kitchen has left your body, scoop into bowls and eat. Preferably in pj’s under a blanket on the couch. Perfect.

    I actually don’t make soup as near as often as I would like. Mostly because Eric is not real big on soup. That said, he wolfed down this one. HA! I spotted this soup in a holiday cookbook my mom gave me a few years back. It sounded right up my alley. First, it contains The World’s Greatest Meat – SAUSAGE! Second, the broth is simmered with red wine. Oh my goodness – YES, PLEASE! Third, it’s loaded with pasta. And veggies. And it tastes really good with a sprinkle of parm cheese and a big ol’ hunk of bread dipped in it. Mmmm.

    I liked this recipe because it’s pretty customizable. Lighten it up a bit by subbing turkey Italian sausage for pork (which I did. I always do.) Swap out the pasta for an assortment of your favorite beans. Add mushrooms. Or roasted red peppers. Even spinich or your favorite leafy green. Really, you can clean out your fridge with this soup. It’s perfect for these busy pre-holiday evenings when you’re pulled in a million different directions (out in the snow and cold, no doubt!)

    ITALIAN SAUSAGE SOUP (Recipe adapted from: Coming Home for Christmas)


    • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 1.5 pounds of sweet or hot pork, turkey or chicken Italian sausage, casings removed
    • 2 medium onions, chopped
    • 1 large green bell pepper, chopped
    • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
    • 64 ounces beef broth
    • 1 1/2 cups red wine
    • 1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained
    • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
    • 2 teaspoons hot pepper sauce
    • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (I omitted, because I accidentally bought cilantro instead. BOO!)
    • 2 medium zucchini, sliced
    • 2 cups small, short pasta, cooked (such as elbow macaroni or small shells. I used mini-bowties.)


    1. Heat olive oil in a large stock pot. Add green pepper and onion. Cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook one minute more. Remove from pot and set aside.
    2. Crumble and cook sausage in the same pot until cooked through and no longer pink. Drain if necessary. Return sausage and pepper/onion mixture to pot. Add beef broth, wine, tomatoes, Italian seasoning, salt, Worcestershire sauce, hot pepper sauce, and parsley. Bring to a boil, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pot, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Add additional salt and pepper to taste.
    3. Add zucchini and simmer 15 minutes more. Add pasta and simmer until heated through, about 5 minute.
    4. Serve with crusty bread.

    Note: If you want to put the soup in the crockpot to simmer for most of the day, let it cook on the stove top for a half hour before transferring to the crock. Then let it simmer on low as long as you’d like. Do not add pasta until just before serving. You don’t want mushy pasta!

    ENJOY! 🙂


    Filed under sausage, soup, veggies

    Holy Freakin’ Deliciousness, Batman!

    Taste buds…Prepare to be Delighted! POW! ZAP! ZWAP! MMMM! YUM!

    Hee hee….old school Batman is funny.

    Okay, moving on…

    Seriously this is the most delicious soup I’ve ever had. Ever. I’m not kidding. Go make this. Now. What are you waiting for??? Hurry, hurry! I promise you will not be disappointed. This is a soup loaded with garden fresh ingredients, and the texture is ultra smooth and creamy. But since there’s not a drop of cream anywhere in this recipe, you can feel good about eating it. It’s spicy and sweet and super flavorful. Wow. Just wow. I don’t know what else to say except that it is insanely delicious.

    I went to work making this after lunch (had the day off today) and when it was ready, I sat down and practically had me a second lunch. I literally had to tear myself away. Must.Stop.Eating. I can’t wait to chow down on this for lunch all this week.

    SWEET AND SPICY PEANUT SOUP (Recipe Source: The Food You Crave by Ellie Krieger)


    • 1 tbs. canola oil
    • 1 large onion, diced (about 2 cups)
    • 1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and diced (about 1 cup)
    • 2 medium carrots, diced (about 1 cup)
    • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
    • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
    • 1 clove of garlic, minced
    • 1 tsp. peeled and grated fresh ginger
    • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cubed (about 2 cups)
    • 6 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth (I used chicken broth)
    • One 14.5 oz can no-salt added diced tomatoes, with their juice (I couldn’t find no-salt added and opted for regular here)
    • 2/3 cup creamy natural peanut butter
    • 2 tsps. honey
    • chopped scallions for sprinkling


    1. Heat oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, and carrots and cook, sitrring until the vegetables soften, about 5 minutes. Add the cayenne, black pepper, garlic and ginger and cook for 1 minute more. Stir in the sweet potato, broth, and tomatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.
    2. Puree the soup in the pot using an immersion blender or in a regular blender in two batches (I used a regular blender) and return to the pot. Add the peanut butter and honey and stir, over low heat, until the peanut butter melts. Serve warm, garnished with scallions.

    ENJOY! 🙂


    Filed under soup, veggies

    Guess who’s back…back again…

    Erin’s back…tell a friend…

    Hello!!! Miss me?? 😉 LOL.

    I’m beyond thrilled to announce that I successfully completed the NaNoWriMo challenge and finished my 50k word novel on Thanksgiving afternoon. I gotta be honest though…I still haven’t read it from start to finish, so I’m pretty sure it sucks and makes no sense but I’m so tired of looking at it now, that I’ve decided to just put that aside for a while and get back to blogging! I’ve got boatloads of updates to do and now that the holiday cooking and baking season is here (yay!) I’m sure there will be a lot more coming in the month of December.

    Eric and I were talking in the car on our way home that once it gets to be December 1, bets are off as far as the weather goes. Winter is officially here. What would have been some minor flurries just one week ago turns into a major storm as soon as the calendar clicks over to December. We actually had to cut our weekend at home short and head on back to Iowa to beat the snow…one day shy of the December 1 deadline! So here I am, cuddly and warm on my couch, watching the flakes fall outside our picture window and dreaming of a big bowl of comfort. Although it’s technically been weeks since I made this chili, tonight would be the perfect night to enjoy a big old helping of this. Mmmmm….

    This is my absolute favorite chili recipe. Let me tell you why I love it…I’m telling you, it’s the BBQ baked beans in it. They give the whole dish a bold, smokey flavor that I adore. I also like the mixture of beef and sausage, it keeps things interesting. And I had never tried making anything with chipotle peppers in adobo sauce but…wow, love that smokey heat! I don’t care for chili when it’s all soupy…it needs to be thick and hearty. This one has the perfect texture.

    I’m just going to say it flat out…this is the best chili ever. Seriously…ever. 🙂 It makes a HUGE pot and it freezes beautifully. Perfect for when you want something warm and quick.

    TEXAS CHILI (Recipe Source: Bride & Groom First and Forever Cookbook)


    • 1 tablespoon bacon grease or vegetable oil (I use veggie oil)
    • 2 medium yellow onions, chopped
    • 3 tablespoons chopped garlic
    • 3 tablespoons chili powder
    • 2 tablespoons paprika
    • 1 tablespoon cumin
    • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
    • 1 pound ground beef chuck (I use a 96% lean, but that’s just my preference)
    • 1 pound Italian sausage links, removed from casings and crumbled (I use turkey Italian sausage, again – just my preference)
    • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more as needed
    • 2 cans (28 oz) crushed tomatoes
    • 1 can (15 oz) kidney beans, rinsed and drained
    • 1 can (15 oz) BBQ baked beans, drained
    • 1 tablespoon minced canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, plus more as needed.


    1. Heat oil in an 8 quart heavy-bottom stockpot over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally until tender, 7 to 10 minutes.
    2. Add the chili powder, paprika, cumin and oregano and stir until the spices are well combined. Add the ground beef, sausage, and 1 teaspoon of the kosher salt.
    3. Increase heat to medium-high and cook the meat, stirring frequently, until cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes.
    4. Stir in remaining ingredients. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour. Adjust the seasonings with more kosher salt or chipotle chiles if necessary. Serve with your favorite chili fixin’s. (I’m a purist…just shredded cheddar for me!)

    ENJOY! 🙂


    Filed under beef, sausage, soup