Monthly Archives: January 2013

Roasted Garlic Soup with Chicken and Spinach

I really love garlic. If you haven’t noticed, most of my soups start with directions to “saute chopped onions and crushed garlic in olive oil.” Garlic has been used in cooking for 7,000 years. Garlic can be grown in most climates. Some claim garlic has great health benefits and will reduce cholesterol. I’m sad to report that the National Institutes of Health did a study and this isn’t true. But it tastes good, keeps for a long time and should really be a staple in every pantry.

I found a recipe for Garlic Soup on Epicurious.com. It called for cream and since I am trying to avoid cream, I made some minor modifications to the recipe. This was a bit fussy for me, but it was worth the extra dishes and time.

Roasted Garlic Soup with Chicken and Spinach
26 cloves of garlic (unpeeled)
2 TBSP olive oil

2 TBSP Butter
1 medium onion, sliced
6 whole peeled garlic cloves
1 quart broth of choice
1/2 lb sauteed chicken
1 1/2 cups frozen chopped spinach
1 TBSP basil

1. Place the unpeeled garlic and 2 TBSP of olive oil in a small oven safe bowl.
2. Cover with foil and cook for 45 minutes at 350 degrees.
3. Cool and squeeze out the garlic cloves into another bowl.
4. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add sliced onions and cook until translucent, about 5-7 minutes.
5. Add the roasted and raw garlic and cook for a few minutes.
6. Add the broth. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until the raw garlic is soft.
7. Transfer to another pan. Cool and puree. You may need to puree in batches, depending on the size of the appliance you use. I used a standard kitchen blender. I pureed in two batches.
8. Saute chicken in the same pan over medium until thoroughly cooked.
9. Add the frozen spinach and basil and heat until warmed through.
10. Combine with the pureed broth. If you’re interested, it’s here that you would add 1/2 cup heavy cream. I didn’t do this so my picture reflects no cream.

You can serve topped with Parmesan or Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese. The original recipe calls for a lemon wedge. That sounds pretty good to me but I don’t have any lemons right now.

This recipe would be pretty easy to make either low fat or fat free. You could very easily skip the butter that is used to cook the onion and reuse the olive oil used to roast the garlic. You could choose fat free broth (I actually did). And you don’t need the cheese.

I would have eaten this without the chicken and spinach, but since I take most of these soups for lunch, I decided the addition of some protein and iron would be a good choice. If you’re a soup and sandwich kind of person, this would be great with Grilled Cheese on a nice hard crusted bread, made with some very sharp cheddar. It’s a nice buttery yellow color which could be very soothing on a dreary winter day.

Enjoy!

Chocolate Almond Bacon Clusters

Not soup, I know. But I was challenged to make something with bacon, the gateway meat. Why is it the gateway meat? It’s enticing aroma has converted many a vegetarian back to omnivore.

I personally, have not tried Chocolate Bacon of any kind but many of my friends have, and they really love it. I am astounded at the price people are willing to pay for something that is very easy to make. And on a cold day like today, isn’t a little chocolate coated fat just what the body needs to keep warm?

Chocolate Almond Bacon Clusters
5 pieces of bacon, chopped and cooked until very crispy. I used turkey bacon.
1/2 cup or more chocolate chips
1/3 cup almonds

1. Cook the bacon, drain the fat and let it cool.
2. Melt the chocolate chips. I used the fake double boiler method, on the stove. I put a heat safe bowl over a pot of hot water and put the chips in the bowl. Stir until melted and smooth. The amount of chocolate chips is vague, I know. It’s up to you to decide what you want your chocolate to bacon to nut ratio to be. I used less so there is a better chance of getting all three flavors in one bite.
3. Break apart the little bacon chunks and add, with the almonds, to the chocolate. Stir.
4. Spoon 2 inch clusters onto waxed paper and cool in the fridge for 30 minutes to an hour.

I sprinkled my clusters with some sea salt, ensuring they will be the perfect combination of sweet and salty. The salt has the added effect of giving the clusters a snowy look.

The almonds are to make you think these things have some redeeming quality. They do not. I don’t feel the least bit bad about it either!

Enjoy!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread

We have company coming over later today and it’s always nice to have some freshly baked treat for company. So instead of soup today, I offer you some very delicious Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread.

This weekend I will be trying some new soup recipes. I have a hankering for something with shrimp, so  I may try my hand at a Curried Shrimp Soup. I also have enjoyed my slightly sweet Spinach and Pear soup so much that I’m thinking of trying something with peaches. And there are left over parsnips that need to be used.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread

1 cup sugar
½ tsp salt
2 eggs
½ to 1 tsp cinnamon
1- 15 oz can pumpkin puree
1- 2 tsp vanilla
½ cup oil (I use olive oil)
½ to 1 tsp All spice
1 tsp baking soda
2 cups flour
1 cup chocolate chips

1.     Preheat oven to 325°.
2.     Combine first nine ingredients (everything but the flour). You can use a mixing bowl and a nice sturdy spoon – no need for electricity.
3.     Add the flour and mix until smooth. I use a combination of white and wheat flour. Stir in the chocolate chips. 
4.     Prepare one 9” x 5” loaf pan or 3 3” x 5” small loaf pans by spraying well with pan spray (Pam) or by smearing well with butter.
5.     Fill the pans about 2/3rds full. If you fill them all the way, when the bread rises it will overflow and make a huge mess.
6.     Sprinkle with Sugar in the Raw. You can bake with this sugar, too.
7.     Bake the 3 small loaves for 40 minutes and one large loaf for one hour at 325°or until a toothpick or small sharp knife inserted in the bread comes out clean.
8.     Remove from oven and cool in pan for 5 minutes. Run a sharp knife gently around the edge of the pan and turn onto a cooling rack.
9.     Don’t wrap this until it is completely cool. Store on the counter for a few days or in the refrigerator. You can freeze it too.
10. I have substituted banana for the pumpkin. You’ll need about 3 normal sized bananas. Mush them well.
11. You can also make muffins. Use muffin tin liners and sprinkle with Sugar in the Raw. You should be able to make 12 or more regular size muffins.
Enjoy!

Homemade Sausage? You Betcha!

It is possible I’ve lost my mind. For Christmas, I asked for a Kitchen Aid food grinder attachment for my mixer. You see, I have this irrational fear of ground meat from the store. I don’t care if it’s organic, irradiated, soaked in bleach or blessed by monks. If I can’t see the facility where it was ground and swab the equipment for bacteria, I am not going to eat it. Okay. I do buy ground meat from time to time, but I am wracked with guilt over it.

My Christmas wish came true!

I have used the grinder three times. The first time, I ground chicken for Steamed Chinese Buns. the second time I made turkey burgers. Boy were they good! Virtually no fat at all, yet still moist and delicious. I added low sodium soy sauce, ginger and scallions. Very tasty.

Today I upped my game and went big. I made sausage. With the help of Julia Childs “The Way to Cook,” I was able to find a simple primer on preparing sausage. It was quite easy!

Homemade Sausage
2 1/2 lbs fresh meat of your choice, trimmed of grizzle only and cut into 1 inch strips
1 TBSP sea salt
1 tsp ground fennel seed
2 cloves crushed garlic
1 tsp Herb de Provence ( a combination of Thyme, Basil, Fennel and Lavender)
1/2 tsp salt

I decided to use my mortar and pestle to combine the herbs. I never get to use it and I thought it would be nice to really crush the herbs to get some of the oils out. I have to admit that was fun!

Next, I ground the meat. Follow the instructions on the grinder. It’s very easy and will take about 5 minutes from assembly of the grinder to disassembly after the meat is ground. I am very lucky to have an extra Kitchen Aid bowl. I ground the meat right into it and then put it on the mixer and added the spices.

Mix everything well. Obviously you can’t taste the raw meat. If you need to taste it to see about the spices, most sausage making pros recommend that you saute a bit and taste it. I used the eyeball approach. Once it was mixed, I didn’t see a lot of spices throughout so I added some more. I didn’t add the same amount as in the original mix. It was about half of that.

It’s recommended that you refrigerate the meat for a day before you cook it so that all the flavors can really soak in. I can tell you that it smells fantastic!

What comes next? I have about 2 1/2 lbs of sausage. I will use some in Lentil Soup. I also have a recipe from a friend in Montana for an Italian soup with white beans and pasta, and I will use some in Spinach and Sausage soup.

The Lentil Soup is posted. Consider the others teasers. I want you to come back for more.

Incidentally, when I was a child, we had a hand crank meat grinder that I remember using only to make chopped liver. It clamped to the table. I can remember the smells of the onions as they went through the grinder. There were no lovely sweet onions available then so I would grind away while tears ran down my face. Occasionally, I would put on swimming goggles to try to stop the pain. Good times.

The sky is the limit with this. You can add veggies and cheese and other spices. Please tell me what you try!

Enjoy!

Zesty Tomato Soup

While it’s not terribly cold right now in Central Maryland, it is January and that means cold weather in most parts of the country. Personally, I think cold weather is best faced with a piping hot bowl of tomato soup. And a Zesty Tomato Soup is even better for chasing away the chill. And with a veggie broth, this is a VEGAN soup!

Zesty Tomato Soup
2 quarts broth of choice
1 – 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
1 – 12 oz can tomato paste
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Dash of cayenne
Dash of chili powder

Combine all ingredients in a soup kettle. Stir until the tomato paste has been completely incorporated through the broth.  Heat for 30-60 minutes.

I topped this soup with shredded sharp cheddar and served it with a quesadilla; a tiny bit of an update to the classic tomato soup and grilled cheese.

If you’re looking to jazz this up even more you can add any or all of the following ingredients:

Crumbled bacon or sausage
Diced chili peppers
Spinach (cooked and drained)
Corn
Black Beans
Diced chicken

Add everything except the bacon/sausage and spinach, top with crumbled tortilla chips and you have a very fast Chicken Tortilla Soup!

Enjoy!