Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Cream of Mushroom Soup

cream of mushroom soup

Cream of Mushroom Soup

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup flour
5 stalks celery, chopped
2 pounds crimini mushrooms, chopped
5-10 dried shitake mushrooms
8 cups water (or broth)
1 can evaporated milk (can substitute milk, cream, half and half, etc.)
3 Tbsp oil

In a large pot, melt butter.  Let brown just a bit, and stir or whisk in flour very well.  Let it get a little color, and slowly whisk in water or broth.  Add dried shitake mushrooms, and bring to a simmer.  Simmer 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet.  Add celery and crimini mushrooms- saute until softened, about 15 minutes.

Add celery and mushrooms, with pan juices, to soup pot, bring to a boil, and simmer 15 minutes.  Add 1 can evaporated milk and heat through.  Salt and pepper to taste.

If desired, thin down with a little more water before serving- the longer this sets, the thicker it gets.  I cooked it in the afternoon, and added another 2 cups of water before dinner.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


A few weeks ago, my husband and I picked up a mixed bag of seafood from Costco. It had loads of goodies, like mussels, rings of calimari, dime-sized bay scallops, and smallish shrimp. Everything in the bag seemed to be prepared so that it could all cook in the same amount of time. The mussels were partially open, which told me that had been pre-cooked. The shrimp were small, as were the scallops, which meant they could cook in the same amount of time. It took the guess-work out of the preparation, for sure! When I looked at that bag, all I saw was seafood stew. Although, now that I think about it, those would all lend themselves to jambalaya or paella, as well. I'll let you know what I do with the other half of the bag!

If you do not happen to have a mixed bag of seafood waiting for you in your freezer, almost anything will work here. Crab would be amazing, or clams. Just pick up a few pounds of your favorite seafood, and you will love this dinner. We served this piping hot, with a loaf of fresh honey wheat bread and a nice green salad.

Cioppino, LoLo Style
(Adapted from Giadda de Laurentiis, www.foodnetwork.com)

1 onion, diced
5 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 small can tomato paste
2 regular cans diced tomatoes, in their juice
1/4 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp. dried parsley
1/2 tsp. crushed bay leaves
6 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
2 tsp. salt
3 pounds mixed seafood (small scallops, shrimp, calamari and mussels)
Fresh ground black pepper and Tabasco, to taste

1. In a large dutch oven (I loved my ceramic coated Le Creuset for this, but any heavy pan will work), heat up a dollop of olive oil, then add your chopped onion and garlic. Cook until they are translucent, about 10 minutes. (This step is entirely up to you, but I've found that when making soup, if an onion is at all crunchy going into the broth..it will stay that way, or simply disintegrate.)

2. Add a little water to deglaze the pan, then stir in the tomato paste. Cook that until it smells divine, then add the remainder of the ingredients, except for the seafood, pepper and Tabasco.

3. Cover and simmer at least 30 minutes, then blend with an immersion blender. 10 minute before you are ready to serve, add the seafood and cook until just done, in order of necessary cooking time.

Season table side with hot sauce and pepper. Serve with fresh whole wheat bread and a crunchy green salad.

Monday, January 9, 2012

How to Cook Beans

A basic method, but I do this a lot in our kitchen, so definitely worth knowing!  I'll give the most basic method (quick and slow versions) and you can fancy it up however you please.

I am using dried onions and dried garlic here- in my experience, these work better than fresh.  The end result is sweeter and more married.


2 cups dried beans (1 pound)
 about 1 Tbsp baking soda
bay leaves
dried onions
dried garlic

Serves four

Pour dried beans into a large pot and cover with cool water- swish them around with your hand to clean any dust or debris off.  (I've never found any, but it's not uncommon to find small sticks or stones.)  Use your hand to scoop out any beans that float, or anything else that shouldn't be there.  Drain off the water, and cover again, so when you stick your pointer finger on top of the beans, the water comes up to your second knuckle.  Add a shake or two of baking soda.

For a quick soak, put the pot on the stove and bring to a boil over medium high heat.  Watch it, because it will foam up quite a bit (because of the baking soda.)  Let cook 2 or 3 minutes, remove from heat, and drain and rinse. This will give you a fine pot of beans, but they will not be pretty.  The skins might come off, and the beans might lose their shape during cooking.

For a slow soak, leave the pot of beans on the counter overnight.  You might need to add more water, if they soak it all up.  Drain and rinse.

On the stovetop: Fill pot with water again, two finger knuckles above the beans.  Add 1 tsp salt per pound of beans.  Add flavorings- for pinto beans, since they're served straight from the pot, I like a tablespoon or two of dried onions, some good shakes of granulated garlic, 2 or 3 dried bay leaves, and a teaspoon of black pepper if I want it spicy.  If I'm doing black beans or white beans, I often stop with just salt, since the beans are normally made into something else later.  Bring to a boil, and lower to a simmer- let cook until tender, 2 to 3 hours depending on how hard they're simmering.  They keep just fine on the stove, so you can get these done in the afternoon, and keep them warm till dinner.

In the crockpot, add beans and seasonings as listed above, and cook on low for 6 or 7 hours (for best results) or high for 4 or 5 hours.

I like to serve beans over rice, plain or sauteed with oil, garlic, onions, salt, and pepper before cooking.  I set out sour cream, shredded cheese, all the types of hot sauce I can find, and chopped onions.

Cooked beans can be portioned out and frozen for later.

This is my favorite recipe for black beans: Chipotle Black Bean Chili.  Amazing with sour cream and a squeeze of lime juice.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Coconut Curry Pumpkin Soup (Vegan)

This soup is thick and creamy, with a bit of spice from the curry powder (I used a yellow curry powder.)  A green curry paste would be phenomenal here, and you could use a different creamy liquid rather than my coconut suggestion.  Almond or cashew milk would be amazing, or just evaporated milk.  Maybe yogurt or sour cream?  Just be sure to not overcook the soup once you've added that last creamy ingredient, so it doesn't "break."  Or, for a simpler soup, omit the creamy part altogether- I love how forgiving veggie soups are.  This made good use of frozen pumpkin puree, roasted from this years' garden pumpkins.  We served this with lots of fresh bread, for dipping!


Coconut Curry Pumpkin Soup
Serves 8

4 cups pumpkin puree
8 cups water
2 heaping Tbsp curry powder
2 tsp salt
1 onion, sliced
5 cloves garlic, minced or grated
small knob of ginger, minced or grated
3 Tbsp oil

1 can coconut milk (can substitute cream, evaporated milk, other thick creamy liquid like a nut or hemp milk)

Heat oil in a soup pot over medium heat- add onions, garlic, and ginger.  Stir until fragrant and lightly cooked, 30 seconds to a minute.  Add water, and remaining ingredients (except coconut milk).  Heat to a simmer, and let cook 20-40 minutes until slightly reduced.  Remove from heat, puree with an immersion blender, and stir in 1 can coconut milk.