Saturday, November 6, 2010

SW: Beef Stew...or not

So...I had grand intentions to post about beef stew last night. I even wrote out my post and ingredients, waiting only for pictures to grace the post and get put up on regularly scheduled soup week timetables.

But then real life hit. Nothing tragic or upsetting or anything like that, but my inexperience cooking that particular dish over a gas stove versus electric, which wouldn't seem to create much of a difference, except everything changed, and my stew meat wound up carmelizing in a different way than expected, contributing an wild card flavor to the whole. It morphed the meat's texture, and I experienced moments of confusion in trying to determine what the stew was missing before I served it. This, of course, threw my beautifully written post into jeopardy.

I never did figure out what was missing in the stew. And rather than try a bunch of different ingredients to "fix" it, I decided not to risk ruining the stew--I had dinner guests coming over!--and I served it with apologies that it was lacking and my salt and pepper shakers on hand. There was also fresh bread that helped, and frozen custard for dessert.

What I find most interesting is that I've made this stew I don't know how many times before, and this is the first time the results have come out like this. It was a good lesson--sometimes food doesn't come out as expected, no matter how diligently the recipe is followed or even how often it's been made. And maybe it sounds trite to write about learning from mistakes, but that's what happened to me last night. And you know what happened? My dinner guests ate the stew, and our bellies were full, and we laughed a lot at the silly stupid movie we rented, and it was a fun night. So, no harm done, right?

However, this puts me in no mood to post my "recipe," as I'm now questioning it. Still, thank you for joining me for Soup Week, I hope you enjoyed yourselves (I sure did!), thank you for contributing and joining in to the festivities, and go out and soup!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

SW: Chicken Pot Pie Soup

Don't judge me, but I hate crusts. I always have. I make myself eat sandwich crusts because my mom always insisted the vitamins and minerals of the bread was in the crust. I'm not entirely sure that's true now...but something about it has stuck with me. But pie crust? No thank you! If I'm eating a pie, occasionally I'll suck the crust down with the filling because I'm either lazy or worried that people will judge me. But in the privacy of my own home, I usually toss that junk into the garbage. Sorry starving children in Africa. I did not eat my crust. I wasted. But c'mon! It's crust! It's ewwwwww-y!

So...when I first went to Jason's Deli and discovered they had a chicken pot pie soup (teehee, no crust!) I about died. Maybe you are lucky enough to have a JD's close to you. Maybe you are like me and drool at the thought of their chicken pot pie soup. (We're talking copious amounts of saliva, here!)

But when I moved to the midwest, I discovered that my soup need could no longer be met. I had to improvise. Thankfully, the internet can tell you pretty much anything you need to know, and this recipe had already figured out a pretty tasty substitute to squelch my needs. (I use the first recipe, so I can't vouch for the yumminess of the easier version.) Of course, I needed to add my own brilliance to the mix, and the resultant product I'm about to show you certainly got my vote. I've never compared it side-by-side to Jason's, but I have this sneaky suspicion that my version would win in a popularity contest.

A bit of warning--I do bake this, and it gets really thick, so you could argue whether it's still a soup or if it's transformed into a casserole. I don't care either way. It's yum, and that's the important thing.

  • 2 chicken breasts, boiled and shredded
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2-3 small russet potatoes, cubed
  • pot pie veggies in whatever quantity makes you sing, i.e. corn, carrots, peas, etc.
  • 3-4 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 tbsp. chicken bouillon, ground up (or, my favorite, Better than Bouillon, which requires no grinding!)
  • 2 cups-ish chicken broth
  • 4 cups of milk
  • 1/2 tsp. white pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic salt
  • 2 cans Pillsbury Grands Jr. biscuits (I use buttermilk flavor)
1) Cook your potatoes until soft. I did cook mine in chicken broth, though instead of adding water, I just added enough chicken broth to cover them. When they are done, drain and set aside.
2) Over medium-low heat, saute garlic in olive oil for thirty seconds in a large soup pot, then add your seasonings and your flour. Create a roux and let cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally. (If you like more soupy-chicken pot pie soup, cut your flour in half. I like mine really thick, yum!)
3) Add bouillon and chicken broth to the roux, which will form a really thick goop.
4) At this point, I pre-heat my oven to 400 degrees and set aside 2 9x9 inch pans for future use.
5) Slowly add 4 cups of milk to the soup pot.
6) Then add chicken and veggies one at a time. Let everything get acquainted and comfortable.
7) Now, split the soup pot mix to both dishes and pop the biscuits open. Spread 9 biscuits in 3 rows across the top of the dish. You may be wondering, what do I do with that 10th biscuit? Tear it into fourths and plug the small holes in the middle. (Don't mind my shadow on the below pic.)

8) Pop both dishes in the oven and cook until the biscuits are golden brown on top, about 20 minutes.

9) Cool 5 minutes, then devour!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

SW: Black Bean Soup

The black bean is a marvelous, versatile bean chock-full of awesome. You can eat them solo, you can blend them into a puree and add them to brownie mix, and you can feature them on day of two of soup week! (If you're into that sort of thing.)

I started from dry beans and set my crockpot going yesterday in prep for today, but canned beans work too. In fact, they may work better--black beans a la crockpot does not smell awesome. Likewise, you can use whole black beans in your soup, or, you can puree them into smooth bliss. I choose lumpy black beans, a pseudo half-blended/half-whole hybrid monster.

The ingredients are simple:
  • 2 cans of black beans
  • Minced garlic, 1-2 cloves
  • Something to give your soup "kick," i.e. salsa, green chile, taco seasoning, etc. (I usually opt for spicy taco seasoning)
  • Cumin
  • Lime for garnish and a hint of lime juice flavor
  • Fresh cilantro if you can get your hands on it
  • Sour cream and your cheese of choice for final garnish--I like mine with a sharp cheddar. Then again, I'd use sharp cheddar on nearly anything.
1. In a medium pot, saute garlic in a swirl of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add a pinch or two of cumin (I give my cumin shaker a good healthy heave), and add the black beans, your something spicy, and the juice from half of your lime. Stir and simmer for 20 minutes. Drop your heat down if your pot's contents get too excited.

2. Garnish with a dollop of sour cream, shredded cheese, lime slices, and cilantro.

3. Enjoy with a chicken-mushroom-zucchini-cheddar quesadilla. (Or just tortilla chips if you are quesadilla-less.) Yum!

Monday, November 1, 2010

soup week kick-off: taco soup

Taco Soup
Grab your spoons! It's time for soup week!
To start, I thought I'd make a quick staple from our household: taco soup. I use my friend Amy's recipe, which I can't share on here because hello! It's hers! But this recipe is oh-so-close to it. In fact, it's nearly identical.
I love this soup because it makes a lot of servings, and I freeze what we don't eat and have at least two to three more meals on hand for days when I just can't seem to get around to cooking. In this household, leftovers that freeze well make me want to give the meal a crown. (Maybe I should start writing crowns on my recipe notecards for particularly happy meals? Love this idea!)
And may I just say that in my taco soup recipe search, there were a bunch of recipes that involved Italian seasoning? OMG. It's TACO soup. Who uses Italian seasoning in TACO soup? Apparently quite a bit of America. But this southwest native refuses! No Italian seasoning in MY taco soup!
(Surprisingly, I have no qualms with the fact that tacos and soup seem to be unrelated food options.)
Down to soup business! I brown my meat and sing along with Louis Prima. (Sure, I may say no to their seasoning, but Louis Prima is divine!) After the meat's done, it's time to drain it and dump it into my large crockpot. Now here's the tough part. I take the rest of my ingredients and dump them into the crockpot in no particular order. No rhyme or reason whatsoever. Tough, I know. I usually separate my beans and tomatoes into different layers, but if that doesn't sound good to you, for heaven's sake, lump them together and go crazy! Canned beans are easy, but also feel free to use dried that you've cooked yourself. In the days leading up to taco soup creation day, I set my small crockpot going with dried beans in preparation. When that happens, I usually throw some garlic into the crockpot with it, lending a yummy flavor to the beans. In the past, I've gone crazy and used different types of beans—black beans, garbanzos, white get it. Man, this soup is hard, and the recipe allows for no flexibility whatsoever!
As you can see, this particular batch of taco soup features pintos and garbanzos. I didn't have enough ground beef on hand, but I did have a pound of breakfast sausage, so I used half sausage, half ground beef. Five hours on high in my crockpot, and my house smells like taco soup, and my stomach grumbles with anticipation, and my husband groans because I've made taco soup again, and while I love it enough to eat it three times a week, he only loves it enough to eat it once, maybe twice a month, and while I told him I wouldn't make it again for awhile, it just seemed cruel to have soup week and not make the soup I eat most of all.
Feel free to pour a large amount into a bowl and crown it with lots of sour cream and cheese and fritos. That's how I eat mine, anyway, though I imagine it's a lot healthier without any of those extras.

Right now, I've got black beans in my small crockpot, getting ready for tomorrow! Until then, I wish you a happy soup week, and I bid you adieu! I've got nano!

Friday, October 29, 2010

SW Prep

My grocery list is made, and I'm polishing my spoons. Well, I'm polishing them in my mind so they'll be all nice and shiny for that first delicious bowl of soup. I don't actually polish them in real life. Nathan is on board with the idea of Soup Week, and I'm happy that he is--five straight days of soup would be miserable to someone not as excited, but we both love soup, and he thought dedicating a week to it would be awesome. Maybe I'll always make the first week of November soup week? We'll see. If it's disastrous, well then, maybe not.

After looking over the ingredients (and determining that no, my budget could not afford truffle oil, no matter how delicious the results would be), the final menu is:

Taco Soup
Black Bean Soup with Chicken Quesadillas*
Chicken Pot Pie Soup
Potato Soup
Beef Stew
*Nathan is a bean-hater, therefore Black Bean Soup Day will also feature chicken quesadillas. Potato Soup Day and Beef Stew Day will also include fresh made bread.

Maybe in that order. I'm starting with taco, at the very least. The butternut squash bisque is out *grumblegrumble expensive truffle oil grumblegrumble*--though perhaps I'll post my delicious recipe sans pictures and the thrill of soup week inclusion--and I realized my quesadilla soup recipe didn't exactly add up to a soup. More of a casserole. Unusual, right? But we have to have some standards.

Yesterday was cold, and the thermometer is reading a brutal 30 degrees as of right now. BOO! October, we were becoming fast friends! Don't disappoint me at the end!

Tomorrow, we are going tailgating. I have never been. Ever. Oddly enough, I'm not even attending the game, but tailgating sounded exciting, and I'll be having hot dogs and chips and mimosas at ten in the morning. Unusual fare for that time of day, but I'm fist-pumping and getting my game face on. Tomorrow I'll actually be rooting for the home team, so instead of being the brunt of all sorts of cruel remarks and inappropriate gestures, I'll be able to join in the dance-y movements and cheers of the crowd.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

soup week.

Since October is such a good time for soup, wouldn't it be fun to do a soup week? Granted, there's not enough October left to do a full week, but I'll credit October with the idea. I'm thinking Monday through Friday, I'll make soup every day. (And then blog about it! Hopefully with pictures and the recipe attached.)

I love this idea!

Here are the soups I'm dreaming of:

Chicken Pot Pie Soup
Butternut Squash Bisque
Quesadilla Soup
Beef Stew
Taco Soup
Black Bean Soup
Potato Soup

That's seven, and I'll have to compare ingredients and ponder on what my tummy will want to narrow it down to five. Time will also be a thing to consider--the butternut squash bisque, while tasty, takes a LONG time--and hello! November means Nanowrimo time! I still haven't determined if I'm going to nano or not...I've done it the last four years, and year 5 would make it such a wonderful thing, but um, hello! I have a six, soon to be seven month old. How would I even begin to make that work?

So. Just so we're on the same page. Next week: Soup Week. And I'm thinking, if you're digging the idea of soup week, maybe you should make soup at least one night! And then blog about it! I know, right? Great idea!

PS-I should also credit Aliza for soup week inspiration. I was going to post some recipes...then soup week was born!