Crazy Eights Onion Soup

This day started out beautifully, sunny and swiftly changed to a cloudy, then eventually rainy day. In between the breaks of raininess, I walked Daisy-dog and the fog was rolling in and disappearing before my eyes. It was a bit eerie and it reminded me of a book I read when I was a teenager, The Fog by Caroline B. Cooney. Oh that book creeped me out, in the best way. She described the fog in such a way that whenever there is a fog around, it brings me back to the days of sitting, reading it- terrified. I like to scare myself sometimes and on this Halloween-esque night, despite the date on the calender. I saw shadows where there were none. As we walked down the street, I looked back and the fog was coming closer, in my mind- following me, ready to engulf me. I began to walk faster, the fog dissolving before plain sight, turning around again to see it, coming at us, mysteriously. I began to walk faster, my imagination getting the best of me. I started to laugh at my own ridiculousness and calmed down but it was so much fun being mesmerized by the fog this evening and reminiscing a little bit about books that I loved to read; books by R.L.Stine and Judy Blue like Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret and Tiger Eyes, a book called Crazy Eights and that book about the fog…The weather today is perfect for curling up on the couch with a good chilling book and a creamy onion soup in hand with a buttery sandwich on the side. Enjoy and watch out for that fog! ;)

DSC05648

  • 8 onions, varied sizes, about 2 1/2 pounds
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 8 tablespoons half and half, about 1/2 a cup
  • 4 cups homemade or good-quality ready made chicken broth
  • 1 cup water
  • sea salt to taste

DSC05674In a large, heavy bottomed pot, combine the onions along with the butter and a little sea salt, cover and stir often, on low heat. You don’t want the onions to brown even slightly, you want them to sweat. After about 20 minutes, add in the cup of water and simmer for an additional 40 minutes. (If you need to, add in that cup of water earlier.) After the hour, add in the chicken broth and on high heat, bring to a boil. Once at a boil, remove from the heat and let it cool down a bit, and using an immersion blender, blend away. Because you are doing this when the soup is hot, use caution or you can wait till it cools down completely and then blend away. (*Only use that immersion blender if you are completely comfortable.) If you have cooled down your soup and blended it, warm it up on low heat and stir in the half and half. If you have blended your soup and it’s still warm, add in the half and half and adjust the seasonings. Top with minced chives. And if you are serving this for a fancier dinner party, run the soup through a sieve so it can be silky-smooth. Serves about 4-6.

DSC05652To make this quick sandwich, toast a split croissant, lightly butter and top with ham and Jarlsberg cheese. Give an old-school, grade-school hand squash and cut in half. Enjoy!

DSC05671

Chicken, Scallion & Mushroom Soup

Also known as a change-of-weather soup…I always have a hard time accepting the seasons changing and I ended up getting a change-of-weather cold and for this, I need a remedy and a steaming bowl of soup always soothes the soul…Enjoy!

  • 2 drumsticks
  • 2 chicken thighs
  • 2 chicken wings with breast meat
  • 1 pound beef neck bones
  • 1 bunch scallions, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup dried mushrooms
  • 7 garlic cloves, halved or quartered
  • 2 beef bouillion cubes
  • water
  • black pepper
  • sea salt

In a 5 1/2 quart Dutch oven, add in the chicken parts and beef, top with water leaving about an inch from the top of the pot. Season with a little salt, cover and bring to a boil, on high heat. Once the soup comes to a boil, lower the heat to the lowest setting, add in the mushrooms and 1 of the beef bouillion cubes. Cover and simmer for 1 hour. removing any scum that rises to the top. Add in the scallions, garlic and the last bouillion cube, simmer on low for an additional 30 minutes. Season with black pepper and any salt if needed. Serves 4-6.

DSC04806

Simple Beef & Mushroom Stew

Simple beef and mushroom stew, that doesn’t taste so simple. The secret is a Danish seasoning called Gehakt that elevates every savory meal to a new level. (I love the smell, so perfectly spicy and warm. It’s perfect to compliment almost any dish this time of year.) Don’t worry if you don’t have it, just add a pinch each of ginger, mace and nutmeg; taste along the way and adjust the flavor as needed. Serve with mashed cauliflower for a special dish on a weekday. Enjoy.

  • 1 pound stewing beef, cubed if not already
  • 1 8 oz. container button mushrooms, halved
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 Campari tomatoes, quartered and halved
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • a generous sprinkling of Gehakt or pinches of ginger, mace and nutmeg
  • sea salt
  • ground black pepper

In a large Dutch oven, combine the butter, oil and onions. Let them sweat on low heat until translucent. Pull them towards one side of the pot and add in the beef cubes. Let the beef cubes lightly brown on one side and then give them a good toss. Next, add in the mushrooms, tomatoes and seasonings and give the pot a good stir. Cover and let it simmer on low heat for one hour, stirring occasionally.  You’ll see the tomato skins separate, just pull them out with a fork and discard. Adjust the seasoning as needed. Serves 4.

DSC04244

Beef, Yucca and Sweet Potato Stew

It’s that time of year where the chill is beginning to last a little longer and a big pot stewing away on the stove is just what’s needed. This stew is a little sweet, a little spicy, a little savory and full of flavor. Enjoy over rice, barley, orzo or grits. Serve in vintage gravy pots, while the sun is still out for a rustic, autumn meal outdoors. Enjoy and happy weekend!

  • about 1 pound of beef rib bones
  • about 2 pounds of yucca
  • 1 medium sweet potato
  • 68 ounces water (8 & 1/2 cups)
  • 1 star of anise
  • fresh grating of nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon Sriracha sauce
  • 1 tablespoon good quality, apple balsamic vinegar
  • sea salt
  • fresh ground black pepper

First cut the yucca into larger yet manageable pieces, so that you can easily remove the outer skin and discard. Usually they are coated with wax and if you look carefully there is a thin layer under that wax that is fairly easy to remove with a paring knife. Be careful. Once the outer layer is removed, cut into chunks. Use a good knife and be extra careful. Combine the beef, yucca chunks, star of anise, water and sea salt in a large Dutch oven. Cover and bring to a boil on high heat. Once it comes to a boil, lower the heat to the lowest setting and simmer for half an hour. (Remove any film that rises to the top of the surface along the way.) Add in the sweet potato and simmer for an additional 2 hours. Remove the beef bone and allow to cool. In the meantime, add in the Sriracha sauce, nutmeg and black pepper. Adjust the seasoning as needed. Once the bone is cool enough to handle, remove the meat and break it up, using a fork. Discard the bone and add in the beef to the stew along with the vinegar. Heat long enough so the meat is warmed through. Serves about 6. Great as leftovers.

DSC04032

Spanish Style Chicken & Beans

Ah…a nice soupy-stew with warm flavors of saffron, garlic and lots of Manzilla olives, nice and salty, lets summer linger on a little longer. This is a flavorful pot of beans to have on the stove to enjoy throughout the weekend. It’s great served piping hot for those cool summer evenings and nice at room temperature for those hot afternoons, especially when thickened a bit. Serve with a full bodied Spanish olive oil to drizzle over your chicken and beans and a bowl of chopped olives and capers, so everyone can top their bowls as they like. Enjoy!

  • 1/2 pound Great Northern Beans, soaked overnight
  • 1 whole chicken breast, bone in, skin on, cut into pieces
  • 1 medium size Russet potato, peeled and diced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon tomato paste
  • a few dashes of piri piri hot sauce
  • 4 cups of water
  • generous pinch saffron
  • generous pinch epazote
  • generous pinch ground annatto
  • handful of Manzanilla olives, sliced or halved
  • a few capers
  • sea salt

Heat up the olive oil in a large Dutch oven, until sizzling hot. Season the chicken with sea salt and add to the pot, being careful, as the oil can splatter. Turn the chicken pieces so they lightly brown. Add in the garlic and shallot, giving it a good stir so they turn translucent. It should only take a few minutes. Add in the rest of the ingredients, except for the olives, capers and sea salt and cover. On high heat, bring up to a boil. Once it comes to a boil, lower the heat to a low setting and allow to simmer for about an hour and a half, until the beans are tender, stirring occasionally. If you would like your soup a little thicker, remove the lid and increase the heat, until it thickens. Add in the olives and capers until warmed through. Adjust the seasoning, depending on the saltiness of the olives and capers. Serves 4. Double the recipe if using a pound of beans.

DSC03535/chicken and beans

Dilled Bean, Collard Green & Kielbasa Stew

You wouldn’t think that spring has arrived here on the east coast. It feels more like February today more than anything else. I took Daisy for a walk and were my hands freezing, as I forgot my gloves! But it’s April, so I didn’t think I really needed them anyway. And at one point of our walk, I wish that I had a hat on, also. But this kind of chilly weather is perfect for a stew! This is a nice stew that will use up any leftover ham from Easter and use a quick soak method for the beans, if you want to make this for a late night dinner. While this stew is really hearty, the dill gives it that touch of spring. Enjoy!

  • 1 pound Great Northern beans, soaked overnight.
  • 5 cups water
  • 1 bunch of collard greens, about 8 loosely packed, heaping cups. (Remove the center stem of the leaves, just cut down alongside the center stem and pile the leaves on top of each other cutting them roughly)
  • 1 cup chopped kielbasa
  • 1 cup chopped ham
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 5 cloves of garlic, smashed and minced
  • 1 Campari tomato, minced
  • 3 heaping tablespoons minced dill
  • 1/2 teaspoon tomato paste
  • about 5 juniper berries
  • sea salt
  • ground black pepper

In a large Dutch oven, combine the olive oil and the garlic and on low heat lightly saute for 5 minutes until the garlic is soft, you don’t want to let it brown. Stir in the beans, juniper berries, a pinch of sea salt and the water, cover and bring to a boil on high heat. (You don’t want to add too much salt, because it depends on the saltiness of the kielbasa and ham.) Once it boils, lower the heat to the lowest setting and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Next, toss in your collard greens, kielbasa, ham, tomato and tomato paste and simmer for half and hour, stirring occasionally. (You can use either kielbasa or ham and it will be equally delicious. And if you have leeks on hand, you can also throw in a cup of finely chopped leeks.) Adjust the seasoning, adding pepper and salt if needed and stir in the dill. Discard the juniper berries and garnish with fresh dill. Serves 6.

Chicken, Arugula & Avocado Soup

Tis the month to be cleansing, clearing and to be taking good care of yourself, to guard yourself from the dreaded cold. It has hit this household and it’s not a pretty picture. It wipes you out and leaves you tired and the thought of doing anything more than getting out of bed is exhausting. The thought of eating, as in chewing got me tired and so this soup came about. I love a good chicken soup from scratch but when you’re not feeling great, the thought of cooking from scratch can wipe you out, so use a good chicken stock and this soup is on the table in a matter of minutes. You want to take it easy when you’re sick and save all your energy for healing. Enjoy and stay well!

  • 32 oz. organic chicken or vegetable broth
  • 5 oz. container baby arugula, roughly chopped
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • sea salt
  • ground black pepper

In a Dutch oven, heat up the broth until it begins to boil, drop in the arugula, until wilted, about a minute or so. Take your pot off the stove and add in the avocado, roughly chopped and with an immersion hand blender, blend until combined. If you like, you can heat it up so the it’s pipping hot. Season with salt and pepper. Serves 4.

Chicken & Tripe Stew

I was lucky enough to live next door to my best friend when I was younger, that had a mom with a golden touch when she cooked. Everything she made was finger-licking good! She even made liver taste good, something that I cringed at. (They told me it was liver afterwards. They called it “steak” and looked at each other suspiciously, lol, I should have known. But they knew me better. I wouldn’t have tried it, had I known.) After eating dinner at home, I would go next door to hang out and her mom insisted that I eat dinner with them. I would half-heartedly explain that I wasn’t hungry, I already ate at home. But the truth was I was always hungry for her cooking. She would talk me into it by telling me she would only give me  ”poquito,” meaning a little bit in Spanish. And was I so happy for that little bit. My sin of gluttony felt heavenly, every-single-bite. One of my favorite dishes she made was “Mondongo”, a stew of tripe, chicken, yucca, plantain and corn. She served it with a creamy wedge of ripe cool avocado and perfectly made white rice, where the rice didn’t stick to each other, every grain retaining its’ shape and a gentle flavor of garlic permeating the grains. What she did, I tried to recreate but it will never be like hers. I’m sure I will be perfecting this over time and sharing round two one day but for now, this is a nice first try. Enjoy! Serves about 4-6 generous portions.

  • 1 pound of honey comb tripe, cut into 1 inch squares
  • 10 cups water
  • 6 chicken drumsticks
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed and minced
  • 1 green plantain, peeled and cut diagonally
  • 1 yucca (about a pound in weight) peeled, cut into 1 inch rings, those rings, quartered
  • 1 red pepper
  • 2 cubanelle peppers
  • 1 bag of frozen pre-cut corn on the cob, about 4 pieces
  • 1 8oz. can Spanish style tomato sauce
  • 1 packet Sazon (with coriander and annatto)
  • 2 chicken bouillon cubes
  • generous pinch of Vegeta
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • pinch of sea salt
  • nice handful cilantro

First cook your tripe. (A smelly daunting long process. It really is worth making more at once. And freezing it. Once I cooked down the pound of tripe, it amounted to a small heap and after I snuck a few bites, there was even less of it. So, if you are a tripe lover, you can easily cook more of it to add to your stew.) Cover you tripe with enough cold water (enough to cover by 2 inches, so the tripe pieces float), a little sea salt and bring to a boil on high heat, covered. Once it boils, lower the heat and simmer for 2 hours, covered, occasionally stirring the pot, so the tripe doesn’t stick. Drain your tripe and set aside. In a heavy Dutch oven,  heat your olive oil, onion and garlic on low heat until transparent, add the Sazon packet and stir well. Add in the tripe, water, plantain, yucca, tomato sauce and bring to a boil. Once it boils, lower the heat and simmer covered, for 1 hour. During that time, you want to blister your peppers. To blister you peppers, put them directly on an open flame, on the stove, until the skins blacken. It doesn’t take long. Turn them, so they blacken evenly. Please be careful, use grill tongs, and wear gloves in a well ventillated area. Or you can do this on the grill. Place them in a paper bag to cool. Once cool, peel the skins, remove the seeds and the white membrane. Roughly chop them and blend them in a blender or use a hand immersion blender, until pureed. Once your hour is up, add in your chicken drumsticks, (you can remove the skin if you like) pepper puree, black pepper, sea salt and Vegeta. Simmer this for another hour, on low heat, until the chicken is cooked through. Add in the corn and cilantro for about 10 minutes until the corn is cooked through and the stew is equally hot. Adjust the seasoning as needed. Serve with  rice, a wedge of avocado and fresh cilantro or parsley in this case. Serves about 4-6.

Cranberry Bean, Smoked Pork Chop & Sauerkraut Stew

The season of stews is upon us. The cold weather is settling in, bringing its’ wet weather, gloves and frozen cheeks with it. I love those first few minutes walking into a warm house, where you thaw out a bit. And it’s even better when there is a chock full of creamy beans, smoky pork and sauekraut bubbling away on a hot stove, filling the house with savory smells. About two weekends ago, I stopped by a supermarket that I don’t usually frequent and saw these smoked pork chops that I had to bring home to experiment with. It was a sunny and oddly warm day and I was tempted to throw them on the grill, to see what happened but I had a feeling that low and slow cooking would lend that smoky flavor over to the cranberry beans and sauerkraut and it pleasantly did. This stew is great as leftovers, it’s even better warmed up the next day! Enjoy!

  • 1 cup cranberry beans, soaked overnight
  • 2 smoked pork chops
  • 2 cups drained sauerkraut and carrots from a jar, (usually found in the Polish aisle)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • a few dried champignon mushrooms
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed and minced
  • 5 cups water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 5 juniper berries

Place the cranberry beans in a large heavy bottomed pot, top with the pork chops. Add the bay leaves, juniper berries and water to the pot. Bring to a boil on high heat, covered. Remove any foam that comes to the surface. Once it boils, lower the heat and stir in the the tomato paste and simmer on low heat for 1 hour, covered. Stir occasionally, so nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot. I love my wooden spoons for that! After your hour is up, remove the pork chops and set aside. Add in the sauerkraut (squeezed super dry), mushrooms and the garlic. Remove the meat off of the bone, shredding and cutting the meat into small pieces and add back into the pot. Increase the heat to high, so your stew begins to boil again. Once it does, lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove the bay leaves and juniper berries before serving. Makes about 4 servings.

Oxtail & Lentil Stew in a Pumpkin

This could be a potentially cute couples night, (with a couple that doesn’t squirm at the thought of eating oxtails, lol) With two sugar pumpkins filled with steamy stew and a bottle of wine, this could be the perfect couples night, at your place. Oxtails are really good once cooked down, till the meat is falling off the bone, combined with sage flavored lentils and creamy potatoes, this is a comforting meal. This stew is time consuming to make but the reward is a not-so-ordinary-dinner and the warmth and coziness it brings to your kitchen, is a definite plus, as the longer it simmers on the stove, the better it gets. Serve each couple with a pumpkin, 2 bowls and spoons and good bread on the side. Present each pumpkin with its’ own mini ladle, so each couple can help themselves. Enjoy!

  • 2 sugar pumpkins, each weighing about 3-4 pounds each
  • 1 pound oxtails
  • flour
  • vegetable oil
  • 4 oz. dried lentils, soaked overnight
  • 1 small carrot, sliced and cut into half-moons
  • 1 Yukon Gold potato, peeled and diced
  • 1/3 cup pumpkin puree, plus 1 tablespoon
  • 1 beef bouillon cube
  • 2-3 small sage leaves
  • pinch marjoram leaves
  • pinch freshly grated nutmeg
  • 4 cups water, plus more as needed
  • fresh ground pepper
  • sea salt

Salt and pepper your oxtails and dredge them in flour. Heat up a generous drizzle of oil in a Dutch oven until hot. Sear the oxtails on all sides, on medium-high heat, keeping an eye on them so they don’t burn. Remove them from the pot and lower the heat and add your shallots. Quickly saute them and add in the lentils, giving them a good stir. Add in the water, potatoes, carrots, pumpkin puree, sage leaves, marjoram and nutmeg. Stirring up the brown bits on the bottom of the pot. Add in your oxtails and bring to a boil on high heat with the pot covered. Add in the bouillon, and stir until it’s dissolved. Lower the heat and simmer covered for a minimum of 3 hours. Adding water, as needed, as it reduces. And you could enjoy this as a soup or as a stew, depending on how much liquid you add or reduce. While your stew is simmering away, you can prepare the pumpkins. Begin by cutting the lids off the pumpkin. (Leave about an inch to the stem, so none of the stew comes spilling out, once it’s poured in.) Remove the seeds and the pumpkin threads and don’t be shy about carving into your pumpkin with a spoon, to remove all of the threads. You want a pretty smooth surface inside the pumpkin and the lid. (Reserve your pumpkin seeds for roasting, another day.) Place them in a 13×9 baking pan. Pour two cups of water into the pan and place them in a 325 degree pre-heated oven for 1 hour. After the hour is up, cover with aluminum foil, (with the stems sticking through) and bake for another hour. Let them cool a bit before handling. Using good oven gloves, carefully, move the pumpkins to their serving platter and divide the stew into the pumpkins and serve! You can also scoop some of the pumpkin with the soup, it’s really good! Serves 2 couples or makes 4 servings.