Monthly Archives: December 2012

Black Bean Soup

The other night, we had planned on making turkey burgers using freshly ground turkey, courtesy of the Kitchen Aid Food Grinder I got for Christmas. But that fell apart when there was an unfortunate allergy attack and the unplanned rescue of two teens from the mall. I knew I needed to come up with something fast, so I threw together some Black Bean Soup. If you’re planning on staying home tonight, or just want something easy to make the kids before you put on your party apparel and head out for a night of festivities, this is a great soup! 
Black Bean Soup
3 – 15.5 ounce cans of black beans or 3 cups of black beans that you have cooked until soft
1 quart of chicken broth
1/2 onion, chopped
3 stalks of celery, chopped
2 or more cloves of garlic, minced
8 ounces of ham, chopped
2 TBSP of vinegar
Cumin to taste
Cayenne pepper to taste
Saute the onion, garlic and celery in a small amount of olive oil over medium heat until the onion is translucent. Remove from heat.
Puree two cans of drained and rinsed beans with a cup or so of broth until smooth. Pour in a soup pot or small slow cooker with the rest of the ingredients and cook until warm. 
My soup only simmered for 30 minutes and I was still told that it was “my best soup ever,” and “restaurant quality.” By now, my family has very high standards so this compliment was not taken lightly. If you like, serve this over rice (prepared, of course). Do not store the soup with the rice. You’ll end up with a big glop of rice and no soup and then you’ll be sad.
One can easily substitute other beans into this recipe, such as Navy Beans, Red Beans, etc. You can increase this recipe very easily without modifications. And if you select gluten free beans, broth, spices and ham, this recipe can easily be prepared gluten free! You can also include some diced tomato. I chose to leave out tomatoes because the sight of them usually starts a Whine-fest in my home. I avoid these at all costs.
Happy New Year! May 2013 bring you health and happiness!

My Holiday Gift to You: Mini Chocolate Bundt Cakes with Chocolate Ganache

I have been stricken with a nasty cold. This has left me bereft of creativity. But it was very important to me to post something festive today, so as a holiday gift to all my loyal followers, I am posting my recipe for Mini Chocolate Bundt Cakes with Chocolate Ganache. I would call this recipe mildly fussy because you really can’t just throw everything in the mixer, blast it and be done. You must follow the directions as they are written if you want the best possible end result.

Here are some comments about these beauties from people who merely viewed the picture:

“I want one.”
“Triple and double like!”
“me like ganache…me love chocolate! just looking at them makes me need to go to the gym!”

Without further ado….

Mini Chocolate Bundt Cakes with Chocolate Ganache
1 1/4 cup sifted flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter (1 stick) at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup milk, room temperature
generous 1/2 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder (in other words, don’t measure it carefully and smooth off the cup with a knife. Scoop and leave the mound of extra cocoa powder on the top)

1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Sift together flour, salt and baking soda and set aside.

Beat the butter on medium until fluffy. Turn off the mixer (which you will want to use unless your some sort of super hero who can fluff up butter without the aid of an appliance) and add the sugar and mix on medium until it’s thoroughly incorporated.

Add the eggs one at a time and mix slowly.

Combine the vanilla with the milk (this is going to smell amazing so just be careful you don’t fall over in some sort of stupor).

With your mixer of choice on low, add one third of the flour, then one third of the milk unti they are both in the batter. Don’t go mad and think you need to put your mixer on ludicrous speed. Keep it on low and be gentle. When the batter is smooth, add the cocoa powder. We’re still being gentle.

Prepare your pan by spraying it with cooking spray. If you’re using the mini bundt pan, make sure you get the stem in the middle, too. Fill the cups two-thirds full and bake at 325 for 30 minutes. They will be done when a toothpick inserted in the center of a cake comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and after letting them cool in the pan for a few minutes, remove from the pan and cool on a wire rack.

Put the cream and chocolate chips in the top of a double boiler and heat through until smooth. If you don’t have a double boiler, place a heat-proof bowl over a saucepan of boiling water.

Stir, stir, stir, stir, stir while heating. When it is smooth and glistens like a piece of deep brown satin, remove it from the heat. Allow to cool for a couple minutes. Then, take a cake and carefully dip it in the ganache, twisting it as you lift it out. Place the dipped cake on waxed paper for the ganache to set a bit. Dip the rest of the cakes. If you’re lucky, you may have enough ganache for a second dipping or you may just want to start looking around the kitchen for other things to dip; fruit, bread, pretzels, your kid. It is not unusual for the dipper to become a little crazed. It is also not unusual to attract an audience.

12 cupcakes
one single layer cake
one bundt cake

I hope you don’t need me to tell you not to attempt to dip the full-sized cakes. Slowly pour the ganache over them, smoothing with a rubber spatula as you go.

I have also sliced the single layer cake horizontally and filled it with raspberry preserves.


Loaded Potato Soup

I am required to make mashed potatoes for big holidays. I hear the same line every Thanksgiving and Christmas. “You’re making mashed potatoes, right? With gravy? Right? Right? Right?” The only problem is that I make way too many and no one wants leftovers. Ever. Really. My favorite way to use the leftovers is in Loaded Potato Soup.

I call this Loaded Potato Soup because you can load it with so many different things. And if you have a family tradition of eating Clam Chowder on Christmas Eve, this is an easy way to start it.

This is not a terribly heavy soup, like many potato soups are. Because it’s made with mostly chicken broth, a little milk and just enough cream to enhance the color, you won’t find it overly filling. It will warm you up on a cold day yet not leave you hungry for something more in a couple hours.

Loaded Potato Soup (4 servings)
2 cups mashed potatoes (I recommend all purpose white potatoes)
2 tbsp butter
1/2 cup milk
A splash of cream
1/2 to 1 cup chicken broth
A dash of nutmeg
One glove garlic, crushed
Salt and pepper to taste

Warm the potatoes so they stir easily. Add the butter and milk and stir until smooth. Add the chicken broth, garlic, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Pour in the splash of cream last. I use maybe 1/4 cup, but I doubt it’s that much. Add just enough to calm the yellow of the chicken broth. 

Additions (add as many as you like)
4 slices crumbled bacon
Chopped chives
Grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup cooked chopped spinach
1 leek, sautéed 

Clam Chowder
Start with the Potato Soup
6.5 ounce can minced clams with liquid (reduce chicken broth)
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup potato chunks
1/2 chopped onion, sauteed

Double Alert: Double the milk but do not double the broth. Gradually add up to one cup and continue until the soup is a consistency that you like. 


Creamy Lentil Soup

A few weeks ago, I attended a splendid dinner at a restaurant in St. Paul, MN in celebration of my brother’s 50th birthday. I had Chilean Sea Bass served on a bed of the cutest little lentils drizzled with lobster sauce.
I have never been a fan of lentils. I had a bad experience with them as a college student. The incident involved babysitting and changing diapers. I still shudder at the thought. But these lentils were so delicate and they were so cute! So I thought, I can do something with these. I can make a lovely creamy lentil soup!
Lentils are insanely healthy. A one cup serving of cooked lentils has 1 g of fat, no cholesterol, 16 g of fiber, 17 g of protein, 4% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of calcium and 37% of the RDA of iron. They are also very economical. And did you know that people have been eating lentils for 13,000 years? (source
This soup is so easy to make, it’s really ridiculous. I should exaggerate and say it takes days to pick through the lentils and remove the inferior stock, and that you must watch them simmer at a gentle boil, removing any that split too early. I should issue warnings on choosing the proper garlic. Who am I kidding? You can make this in less than 10 minutes in the morning (if you have the cooked or canned lentils on hand) and bring it to work for lunch.
Creamy Lentil Soup
2 cups cooked lentils – follow the instructions on the package to cook them. You can also get canned lentils but be sure to rinse them. They will be very salty!
2 cups broth of your choice – chicken, veggie, canned, homemade, etc
½ onion, chopped and sautéed
Garlic to taste, also chopped and sautéed
½ cup yogurt
Salt and pepper to taste
Chopped cilantro to finish
Put all the ingredients in a blender and puree. If you are going to serve it right away, heat it on medium heat through. If you are making it serve later, just put it in a covered container in the refrigerate. It will keep for 3-4 days. Top with fresh, chopped cilantro. You’ll find the crisp green of the cilantro makes a nice contrast the very muted tan color of the soup. I have also added sausage to this. It was splendid
This is a small batch soup that makes about two servings. Oh! It’s also gluten free!
Double Alert: Start with 3 cups of broth and add more until it reaches the consistency you like.

Sandy Hook Soup

Our hearts are broken this morning. An unspeakable thing has happened. We feel powerless, sad, angry, sad again. We want to pull the covers over our heads and pretend yesterday never happened. But we must forge ahead. So let’s forge ahead together over a pot of soup.

Do you remember the story of Stone Soup? Two wandering men have only a pot and no one would share any food with them. They are so hungry and tired. But they have an idea. They fill the pot with water and add a stone, and set it over a fire. Curious villagers come to inquire. “We’re making Stone Soup.” Slowly, they convince the villagers to bring items to add to the soup. Spices, vegetables, a bit of meat. Soon, the pot of water is a hearty meal for all to share.

Let’s make some Sandy Hook Soup today. Let’s gather with our friends and loved ones. Let’s all bring something for the soup. And while the soup is simmering in a big pot on the stove, let’s remember to love everyone and look out for everyone and be there for everyone. Say the prayer of your faith. Bow your head in silence.

Here’s a list of things for your Sandy Hook Soup:


Saute the meat and put everything in a big pot and let it simmer. Make sure all the ingredients are covered with liquid. Then spend the 4 or 5 hours while it cooks to perfection with the people you love most.

And hug your kids. Lots.