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Woo hoo! Autumn officially started this week and I’m loving it! Temps are dropping… a little, and everything has pumpkin in it. The one thing I’m missing is the fall foliage. I’m seeing pictures people post of Salt Lake and the leaves are definitely changing there. But in sunny California the leaves are mostly green. Do the leaves change here???

Another great thing about autumn is that it’s the official inception of soup season. You know how much I love my soups. I’ve gushed about my love of a steaming hot bowl of pho on a summer day and the joy of a good soup filled with farmer’s market goodies. I figured since the last post was about making chicken broth, let’s get some recipes for soup made with that beautiful golden broth!

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Remember this? Now let’s make something with it!

I do have one caveat, or confession maybe. All of these recipes I got through process of internet surfing over the years and I always try to give credit to the authors for their creations . I know the authors for all but one and I won’t claim the recipe as my own. I have standards you know. These have just been my favorite recipes that I make several times a year after I’ve made a batch of chicken stock. They have been proven delicious and just circulated into my recipe collection so, I will admit these are not mine but they still need to be shared. Because duh, they’re delicious!

The first soup is a favorite with my hubby (and pretty much everyone who likes chicken soup). Chicken and Dumplings.

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Chicken and Dumplings by Simplyrecipes.com

This is pretty much always the follow-up soup to when I do my chicken stock making dance. It’s soooo good. And my go-to recipe for this soup can be found on one of my favorite food blogs: simplyrecipes.com. My hubby is rarely found in the kitchen while I’m cooking but when I’m making this he tends to hover. I absolutely recommend using cake flour for the dumplings. And really try hard not to lift the lid while the dumplings are steaming. These are the two essential keys to guaranteeing you get fluffy, light, and tender dumplings.

I have just received a request for chicken and dumplings this week. Go figure.

The next soup was a favorite of our (sometimes) paleo, superman, outdoor hero of a roommate, Mike. He was a monster of the back country on his split board (a snowboard that split in to skis so that he could climb mountains on them?!), he volunteered for the ski patrol and in the summer he was biking up canyons for hundreds of miles. He was very interested in learning to cook and finding new ways to pack as many calories into a meal as possible but still be healthy. I would make pots of soup that could feed 8-10 for our household of 3 because Mike was there to pick up the slack. Now… well, let’s just say I really need to learn to cook for 2.

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Paleo Chicken, Sweet Potato, and Mushroom Chili by thetexaspeach.com

This is the ultimate, hearty, healthy, paleo stew. I like a little avocado and salsa on top of my bowl and it’s delicious with tortilla chips (obviously not paleo). I’ve also made a version with butternut squash instead of sweet potato. Very autumny.

The final recipe is the lost recipe without an owner. I emailed it to myself back in July of 2013 and I didn’t include the author. I’m a horrible person. But to the credit of the unknown author, this recipe is delicious! I’ve made it several times and it’s always a crowd-pleaser. So here’s the recipe, but again I am not responsible for this pot of comfort.

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Chicken Tortilla Soup

1 medium onion,  chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. cumin
1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes, (or rotel tomatoes and chilis)
32 oz. chicken broth
1 14 oz. can corn, drained
2 boneless chicken breast, cooked and shredded into bite-size pieces
1 14 oz. can black beans, drained
3  tbsp. corn meal, mixed with water
2 tsp. freshly squeezed lime juice

Optional Garnishes:
fresh avocado, cut into chunks
fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into chunks
fresh cilantro, chopped
green onion, chopped
tortilla crisps
lots of fresh lime slices

In a large stock pot, heat oil over medium heat. Saute onion and garlic in oil until soft. Stir in chili powder, oregano, cumin, tomatoes, and broth. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 to 10 mins. Stir in corn, chicken, and lime juice. Stir in corn meal and water. Simmer 10 mins., or until heated through.

You can put garnishes out for diners to add to soup or you can plate the soup with at least the avocado and mozzarella. Place avocado and mozzarella cheese in the bottom of individual serving bowls. Ladle the soup over the top, cheese will retain some shape but melt into the soup. Top with remaining garnishes to taste.

This is probably my favorite of all the soups here. I LOVE the lime and the cumin in the soup. My mouth is watering just thinking of it! I think I just put in my own request for this week! Long live Soup Season!

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I’ve been told I’m weird about food. There’s a long list involved here but one specific way is that I’m a little too enthusiastic about things at the “wrong temperature” or the “wrong time of day” or the “wrong season” or whatever. So, I don’t mind a warm coke or spaghetti for breakfast and I really do enjoy a bowl of soup in the middle of summer. I’m such a rebel! I regret nothing!

It probably had to a lot to do with my upbringing. Chinese food, aside from dim sum, doesn’t really have rules about when and where and how things are eaten. Things are eaten whenever you’re hungry. There may be special dishes served at certain events, like long beans, fish and noodles on Chinese New Year but the day to day was very open to interpretation in my family. Couple that with two immigrant parents trying to navigate American processed foods for the first time (cereal at any hour is awesome) and you get me.

A few weeks ago on a Sunday, my hubby and I indulged in some pho. Even though the temps were creeping upward and the farmer’s market nearby was in full swing with their summer vegetables, that spicy, steaming bowl of soup was bliss. My hubby and I were sweating and sniffing from the chili sauce and steam was enveloping our faces as we happily slurped away.

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Summer brunch of Champions! Pho and a Vietnamese iced coffee.

Another thing I love about soup in the summer are all of the recipes that are packed with vegetables and can be served both warm and cold. They are also great fridge cleaners. I’m a huge fan of fridge cleaning recipes. I go a little nuts at farmer’s markets and I don’t want my precious produce to go to waste, so once I’m down to scraps of this and that, I make a nice soup to finish them off. And to make room for my next shopping outing :). I found this recipe while hunting online for a soup that does the job perfectly. And it’s such a flexible recipe, you can add pretty much whatever you’ve got on hand. Plus, it was delicious and nutritious!

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This soup has a ton of great vegetables and includes cannelini beans for protein. I’m sure you can substitute whatever you have in your pantry, kidney, pinto, or black beans would be delicious in this. I also like that the recipe says to smash half the beans before adding it to the soup. This is a great way to get a thicker, creamier texture in your soup without adding cream. Great for me because despite my love for dairy products, they really don’t love me back. It’s tragic.

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I made a few changes to the recipe. I used fresh diced tomatoes instead of canned because I found these beautiful ripened on the vine tomatoes. And after making several dishes highlighting these ruby gems, I had just enough left for this soup. I also added whole baby spinach leaves as well. I bought a huge bag that I’m still working on but at least a huge chunk of it was used in this soup. That’s right, two birds – nutrition and fridge cleaning- with one soup. Come to think of it, small pasta like macaroni or shells would work really well in this soup too….

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As promised, this soup is really delicious chilled as well. I ate this the next day for lunch straight out of the fridge with a little side salad. It actually helped me beat the heat outside. I even made extra to put in the freezer for later.

So, maybe I’m a little weird with my food. I don’t really adhere to the food rules of appropriateness, but with a soup like this it’s easy to break the rules. Long live Soup Season!

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Tuscan Vegetable Soup

adapted from Ellie Krieger

makes 6 – 8 servings

1 15 oz can of cannellini beans (or pinto, kidney, or black beans)

1 small onion, diced

2 medium carrots, diced

2 celery stalks, diced

1 small zucchini, diced

2 ripe medium tomatoes, diced

2 generous handfuls of baby spinach leaves

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon of olive oil

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon dried sage

4 cups water or vegetable broth

Salt and Pepper to taste

Grated Parmesan cheese for garnish

Drain and rinse the beans under cold water. Put half the beans in a bowl, you can leave the rest in the can and mash them with a fork or a potato masher, set aside.

In a large soup pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add carrots and onions. Since these take a little longer to cook, let them sweat for a minute or two but no more. Add celery, zucchini. minced garlic and herbs to the pot. Add a pinch of salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally until the veggies are tender. Approx. 5 mins.

Add the water or broth, and the diced tomatoes, let simmer for a minute or two. Bring the pot to a boil and add the beans both mashed and whole. Add the baby spinach and cook until spinach is wilted. Salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with parmesan cheese on top or in a bowl on the side for people to add what they want.

 

I’ve seen Anthony Bourdain ask this on his various television shows while he’s sitting in mixed company. It may be a little morbid but I love asking this question and inciting a good conversation about food. If you were on death row and knew you were going to die tomorrow, what would your last meal consist of?

I’ve heard all sorts of responses. My mom said she would have a bowl of rice and her favorite steamed fish. My sister gave a long, rambling list of items that seemed to have the common theme of “covered in cheese”. My husband said a whole 3 tiered wedding cake. I’m totally lost on the reasoning for that one….

My list is also a bit long and rambling, mainly because that’s so hard to have to pick and choose between may favorite foods and dishes. Most of the dishes I’d want are Asian and many of them are noodle based. But there is one dish that always seems to make it on to my rambling list, so if I really had to choose only one thing. This would be it: Vietnamese vermicelli noodle salad.

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Known as bun cha in Vietnamese, there are several variations but the version I’ve seen the most is grilled pork bun cha. The pork is often marinated in a sweet and salty mixture and char-grilled, allowing the marinade to thicken into a sticky glaze and darken into crispy bits. The vermicelli rice noodles are usually served warm, lettuce and fresh herbs such as cilantro and mint share the bowl as well as pickled vegetables.

I’ve eaten this dish since I was almost too short for the booth at our local Vietnamese restaurant and I love it! But I’ve only recently begun to prepare it myself. I’ve still got a few other recipes to try and I’ll report back on those as well. The recipe I used for this post I found on a blog called pink-parsley.com. It’s a pretty simple recipe and the dressing recipe is a really tasty version of nouc nam, which is a Vietnamese condiment. Well, more like THE Vietnamese condiment.

There were a few things I did differently. I used pork loin chops instead of tenderloin because they’re cheaper. The first time I sliced up the chops first and then marinated them and pan fried them (unfortunately, I don’t have a grill). This left the meat a little tough so the next time I left the chops whole and sliced them after they were pan fried and rested.

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I would also like to make a batch of pickled carrot and daikon radish. It’s a bit more traditional that then marinated carrots and cucumbers in this recipe. But since I did have a cucumber and not a daikon radish in the fridge, it worked out great! I found several recipes for the pickled carrot and daikon by just googling and searching on foodgawker. The other thing I think I might change is using Sambal Oelek in the nouc nam instead of jalapenos. It adds heat but not flavor. For some reason, the jalapeno doesn’t quite taste right to me. I’ll probably make this recipe for pickled carrot and daikon.

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One thing I would absolutely recommend is not to skimp on the herbs! That is half the reason I love this dish! The basil, mint, and cilantro are a knock out flavor combo and they make this dish! These herbs make the salad so refreshing and complex. Don’t skimp on the herbs!

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And just because I know you are out there, a few things to keep in mind to peeps who are new to Vietnamese food. There are a few items that are new to you, maybe they sound a little scary like, fish sauce for example. Don’t be afraid! It’s so delicious! It’s the epitome of umami, that mysterious fifth flavor that’s salty, sweet and sour. It’s in a lot of your favorite Asian dishes like pad thai and bahn mi. I put it in my ground beef when I make hamburgers and it’s transforming! So have no fear! That’s my pep talk for the day – trying for positivity, right? But here’s my confession – when people won’t try something because they think it’s weird, all I can picture is a 3 year old throwing a tantrum over a new vegetable. There I said it. You now know what’s behind that grimace on my face when people turn their nose up at an amazingly delicious adventure. I’m realizing that I’m having dinner at the kids table and I want to leave. All of the foods in this dish have been around for a long time, a culture of proud people have created this dish and hundreds of thousands, possibly more, derive pleasure from eating it. So, it’s hard for me to hide my hurt feelings when others don’t want to enjoy my obsession with me. Obviously, I’ve been burned before…

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I hope you make this recipe or go to your nearest Vietnamese restaurant and order up some bun cha. It’s so perfect for summer and you may just start to develop an obsession of your own. Again, the recipe I made for this post can be found at www.pink-parsley.com.

 

 

Origin date: January 16, 2010

A couple of weeks ago I got a call from my sister (of Chinese Bear fame) and after a few moments the underlying motivation for the call was revealed, “I really want cookies.” She wanted to bake a fresh batch of cookies from scratch and was looking for a recipe. I could totally sympathize with this notion. With all of the scariness of trans fats and the strange, un-pronounceable additions to the baked goods found in stores these days, the only way to go is to make the delectable treats yourself. But what recipe to use?

As a regular peruser of many different food blogs and admirer of many much more talented foodies, I knew just where to look for a reliable, fool-proof recipe. SmittenKitchen has been an early favorite food blog for me. When I was completely new to the whole concept of food blogging, I found this little gem almost by accident. I was looking for a recipe for ratatouille that looked like the dish in the movie ‘Ratatouille‘. The animated film had advisement from one of my favorite chefs, Thomas Keller. He actually just whipped up a ratatouille recipe for the producers in his restaurant kitchen and then they used the finished product as a model for the dish in the film. SmittenKitchen had a great adaptation of the ratatouille recipe. Anyway, I’m getting way off topic…

I searched SmittenKitchen and sure enough, I found this great Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe.

My sister brought over these delicious, milk chocolate chips that were gigantic! They were almost too sweet for this recipe but ‘too sweet’ is easily over-looked for such an occasion. We began our toiling in the kitchen as my roommate looked on in anticipation.


My sister always has a knack for suggesting activities that sound like a hassle at first but she is the model of persistence, or obnoxious depending on the tone. At first, I had a knee-jerk reaction: “You want to make cookies now? But its getting late.” Her response: “Getting late? What are you a senior citizen?” How do you argue with such a challenge? She pushes, none too gently, for these activities and it always seems to work out for the better in the end. This instance was no exception to her, somewhat pushy, talents of persuasion.



After all our hard work, which was REALLY not that hard, we had these amazing cookies that we ate warm out of the oven and that filled my little apartment with the most heavenly aroma of vanilla, chocolate and brown sugar. We curled up on my couch and watched Gene Kelly strut his stuff in ‘
Singing in the Rain‘, with a cookie in each hand and blanket wrapped around us.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, my sister is BRILLIANT! I definitely suggest you spring an Impromptu cookie night on your sibling/ loved one/ friend/ roommate. And DON’T TAKE ‘NO’ FOR AN ANSWER! It was the perfect end to a hectic Wednesday night. I’ve already got plans for another Impromptu cookie night that involves Vanilla Almond cookies and maybe It Happened One Night. You in?

Here is that Crispy Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe one more time, courtesy of SmittenKitchen.com.

Origin date: December 1, 2009

Now that I have shown you the wonders of the Food Co-op, lets get cookin’ with it!! Broccoli was one of the items in this month’s order as well as red bell peppers. So in addition to the best broccoli of your life (see previous post), I had some red bell peppers for dinner too! I love the smell of red bell peppers, before you even slice them open you can already taste them.

Red bell peppers are just green bell peppers that have been allowed to fully ripen. They have a much sweeter taste and are easier to digest than green bell peppers. Red bell peppers are also full of vitamins A and C which are powerful antioxidants, and there has been a ton of talk about antioxidants. Many drinks and bottled, sweetened teas tout that they contain them but the best way for your body to absorb them is through natural foods and not artificially flavored drinks.

One of my favorite way to prepared them is stuffed with left-over rice, veggie crumbles (wheat meat) or ground beef, with sauteed veggies and baked with melted cheese on top….. *drool*. There are a plethora of stuffed pepper recipes out there, definitely feel free to mix and match and add anything you like. The recipe I use is a recipe I found online. I added a few things according to my mood that day or what veggies I have left in the fridge.

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This recipe can be tailored to what ever your tastes and is a very effective left-over manager. One stuffed pepper can act as a complete meal too. It has veggies, protein, grains and cheese (!) I like to throw in a palmful of sunflower kernels. The kernels add a beautiful, nutty crunch and provides potassium, magnesium and ‘good fats’ that reduce cholesterol.

Yeah, it was a pretty good dinner….

IMG_7093Roasted Red Bell Peppers

1 lbs. ground beef or veggie crumbles, browned and fat poured off

1 cup prepared long grain rice (brown rice is my favorite in this recipe)

4 large sweet red bell peppers

3 Tbsp of butter

1 medium onion chopped

1/3 cup celery, finely diced

1/3 cup carrots, finely diced

1/2 cup sunflower kernels or shelled seeds

1/4 cup of freshly minced parsley or 2 Tbsp of dried parsley

1 tsp dried oregano

2 eggs, slightly beaten

1/2 cup freshly shredded cheese (sharp cheddar, colby jack or monterrey jack works well)

Preheat oven to 400 F

Cut peppers in half. Remove seeds and white membrane. Quick boil the peppers in boiling, salted water for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and reserve 1/3 cup boiling liquid. Arrange cutside up in a lightly oiled baking dish.

In a skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Added onion celery, carrot, and sunflower kernels. Saute until onion is tender.

Remove from heat and stir in rice. Add parsley, eggs, oregano, black pepper, rice and ground beef or veggie crumbles. Stir to combine and salt and pepper to taste.

Spoon filling into pepper halves and sprinkle cheese on top. Pour reserved boiling liquid into the bottom of the baking dish.

Bake for about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let set for a couple of minutes (the inside is always super hot). Serve and enjoy!

Origin date: November 28, 2009

It’s not a secret among my friends that I love my oven. But, I don’t bake well or that often. Strange? Not at all. I love, love, LOVE to roast things. Particularly vegetables. Potatoes, carrots, parsnips, even broccoli. I have already mentioned a certain food blogger called the The Amateur Gourmet and he is definitely worth checking out. He supplied me with a an amazing recipe titled “The Best Broccoli of your life”, of course this perked my attention.

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This recipe was unlike anything I had ever seen done to broccoli before, but it sounded delicious and I had just received a head of broccoli from the the food co-op. It uses lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic and parmesan cheese. OH! Already I was in love.

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I love broccoli and I must say that my mom prepares it the best. It’s a bright green color and still has a pleasing crunch as you bite into it. It was never like the over-cooked, slightly brown and limp stuff offered by my school cafeteria. She had a great secret to her broccoli. First of all, SHE ALWAYS USED THE STALK. That’s right folks, waste not want not. We always ate and enjoyed the stalk and its mainly because of her little secret…. Okay, okay I’m getting to it.

Before my mother cooked the broccoli, she prepared it by removing the outer layer of the vegetable. If you look at the cut side of the stalk, you’ll notice that there is a fibrous layer around the outside. My mom would take a paring knife and just peel it right off. She also did this to the larger florets before cooking them. This made the broccoli more tender and cook a bit faster. Perhaps this isn’t so much a secret but I suspect that the fibrous, bark-like layer on the outside of broccoli is one big reason kids won’t touch the stuff. But back to the best broccoli of your life…

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I tossed the prepared florets and prepared, sliced STALKS (again – waste not, want not) with olive oil, sliced garlic, salt and pepper. I roasted the veggies in the oven until the edges began to brown and crisp. After removing them from the oven, I zested a lemon and squeezed the juice of half a lemon over the top. I finished with a generous grating of fresh parmesan cheese over the top.

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To say that it was delicious was an understatement. It was amazing! Roasting the broccoli added a sweet smokiness to the flavor of this already beloved vegetable. The lemon made my mouth water and my hand reach for more. And the cheese! Don’t even get me started on the cheese!

I really loved this recipe that The Amateur Gourmet attributed as an Ina Garten recipe, better known as the Barefoot Contessa. As for it being the Best Broccoli of my life? I humbly must disagree. Although this recipe ranks a close 2nd or perhaps even 3rd (*fully anticipating retorts later*), I’d have to say that my mama’s is still the best. After all, she made it great the first time I ever had it and made me a broccoli fan for life! Can’t argue with that. Here’s that recipe one more time.