Cream of Asparagus Soup

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It’s that time of year when a warm bowl of something for dinner hits the spot perfectly!  Now, there are lots of people who don’t like asparagus.  I’m not one of them.  And I can guarantee you that even if you don’t like asparagus, you will like this Cream of Asparagus Soup.  When I have asparagus either from my CSA basket or catch it on sale at the store ( I haven’t started growing this in my garden as of yet), I always snap one stalk to see where the tough part starts.  Then I lay out the rest of the stalks and cut off the ends at the same spot.  The tips I steam and eat as is as a side dish or cut up to use in a pasta salad.  The hard stalk is what I use to make this soup.

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The next part can be a bit of a production.  Just so you understand, what is pictured is 12 lbs of asparagus that was done at one time.  I wouldn’t go to this much trouble for just a couple of bowls of soup.  If you don’t purchase this much asparagus at once, that’s OK.  You can save the tough ends in a freezer bag, which I also do sometimes.  When you get a good quart sized bag stuffed full of ends, then make this recipe on a smaller scale.  Results are the same and just as delicious!

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All the stalks from the 12 lbs of asparagus were enough to fill two large pots.  I had homemade stock on hand that was made with leftover chicken bones of a chicken I had roasted and vegetable trimmings that were left after I prepped all my onions, carrots, peppers, celery, sliced tomatoes, and other miscellaneous produce from a huge produce stock up purchase.  I added two quarts of stock to each pot then two quarts of water to each pot.

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After I cooked the stalks for a few hours, I turned off the pots then got my area ready.  When liquid has cooled considerably, I drain out the stalks.  Using my cutting board and the backside of my longest chef’s knife, I hold the large end of each softened stalk and press the dull side of knife down onto stalk and push away from my body.  This will push out the soft flesh inside the hard stalk and is what will make up the body of the soup.  Plus, what you think is the tough stalk sometimes will soften so much that it will also push away from with the flesh and once it’s run through the blender will become creamy deliciousness, too.  I collect all this soft, pulpy flesh in a pot with the stock.  Once I finish this step I run the soup through the blender to get a creamy, smooth consistency.

Now the hardest part of the stalk that the knife didn’t take care of, I add to some stock in the blender and run it through as well.  Then this mixture I put through a mesh strainer.  Trust me, you will get even more pulp/flesh from that tough stalk when you add this step.  I know it seems like a lot of steps.  And I have definitely ‘beat that horse to death’ so to speak with all the ways I can think of to get MORE out of this tough end piece of asparagus stalk.  But, what’s left is about four quarts of the most delicious cream of asparagus soup you will ever eat!

What’s your favorite hot bowl of soup?


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Soup-THE Cold Weather Comfort Food

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Nothing hits the spot quite like a bowl of hot soup when it’s cold outside. Truth be told, I’m kind of a soup freak. Not just because I like soup, but because I like soup SO much that I frequently eat soup for breakfast. Yes, you read right. I eat soup for breakfast. I’m looking for a 12 step program if you know of one.

There’s cold soup, hot soup, thin soup, thick soup. Some are hearty and eat like a meal. Some are thinner and get your appetite wet for more. There are chunky, creamy, sweet, and savory soups… Bisque, and chowder, and stew, OH MY! You can be a little indulgent and have something really cheesy or creamy and comforting. Or go a healthier route and leave the table feeling less guilty. My soup repertoire is pretty extensive. I could write a whole cookbook on nothing but soup, I’m sure.

Do you know what the best part is? Most soup recipes you can use some form of leftovers to make; you add at least half liquids stretching the ingredients; and you serve with some form of bread which costs pennies on the dollar. This means making a pot of soup will not only one of the most satisfying meals you can cook for your family, but it’s also one of the most cost effective for your budget, too!

In my eBook, The Beginner’s Guide to Zero Waste Cooking, the majority of the recipes and ideas I share are soup based. It’s one of the most versatile food mediums that even a beginner home cook can create. But today I’ll spare you the book and give you a rundown of my Top 10 Comfort Soups that are repeat staples at my house.

  • New England Clam Chowder
  • Tortilla Soup
  • Tortellini Soup
  • Chicken Noodle
  • Chili
  • Cream of Mushroom Soup
  • Cabbage Stew
  • Chicken & Dumplings
  • Loaded Baked Potato
  • Italian Sausage, Kale, and Potato Soup

My son’s favorite soup is the Italian sausage, kale, and potato soup. It’s serious business at our house. He will LET me eat a bowl the night I cook it. After that, he monitors how quickly the pot starts to dwindle and lays claim to what’s left. Seriously, I’ve gotten the stink eye over even thinking I could fix a bowl the day after! Here’s my recipe.

Italian Sausage, Kale, and Potato Soup

We eat this with bacon crumbles and parmesan cheese sprinkled on the top, and toasted, sliced homemade bread.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound Italian sausage, free of casings
  • 4-6 cubed potatoes, depending on size
  • 3 chopped leeks, white and green parts
  • 1 pound bacon, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 4 packed cups uncooked kale (spinach or swiss chard will also work)
  • 1 cup heavy cream, whole milk, or powdered milk mix
  • 2 quarts water
  • 2 quarts chicken stock
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • ½ tsp crushed red pepper, depending on heat level desired
  • Salt, pepper

Directions

In large stock pot, brown diced bacon on medium heat. Strain bacon on paper towel. Leave half the bacon drippings in pot and reserve other half for use later. Brown Italian sausage in bacon grease and break sausages up as the meat cooks. Add chopped leeks and minced garlic. When leeks start to soften and look transparent, strain and set aside in a bowl.

Place potatoes in pot with meat drippings. When potatoes start to brown add crushed red pepper and flour. Stir and cook until flour is well incorporated and a paste starts to form in bottom of pot. Add back the sausage and leek mixture. Put kale in the pot and stir until it starts to wilt down.

Pour in heavy cream. Let cook until mixture starts to thicken. Add chicken stock. Depending on how much room is left in pot, add water to fill. Let soup cook for 30 minutes before checking seasoning. Lots of flavor is going to come out of that sausage and you are going to add bacon and Parmesan at the end. You can always add salt later but you can’t take it out if you add too much. Enjoy!

So, as the temperature is starting to drop and everyone starts staying in,

staying warm, and spending more time together,

treat your family to a hot, comforting bowl of delicious soup.

What’s your family’s favorite bowl of soup?

 

 

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Homemade Kimchi

 

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Korean Kimchi is a diet staple in my house.  The first time I ever ate at a Korean Restaurant was about 23 years ago.  It’s what Guy Fieri would call a dive.  I had a bowl of bibimbap and instantly fell in love with the dish, but mostly with kimchi served as part of the dish.  Fast forward the next 18 years of purchasing kimchi at the local Kroger, and when I started to make everything homemade to save money and be healthier, homemade kimchi was one of the very first dishes I learned how to make.  I have tried soy sauce based kimchi, siracha based kimchi, and traditional kimchi.  Hands down traditional is my favorite and the one I make all the time now.

I eat kimchi with eggs for breakfast; at lunch I will cook steamed rice and have Japanese furikake on half my rice and kimchi on the other half of my rice; and I will eat it alongside anything on my plate for dinner.  A guilty pleasure of mine on a lazy day is a bowl of Ramen, with a fried egg, and a huge amount of kimchi in the bowl.  I call this my poor, lazy man’s bibimbap.

The fermentation process produces healthy probiotics your body needs on a daily basis.  I know fermented, spicy cabbage seems like a stretch for most palettes.  Trust me, you won’t regret giving this dish a chance!

Ingredients:

2 fresh napa cabbage heads, dark green outer leaves removed
kosher salt
3/4 cup Korean chilli powder – also known as gochugaru
1/2 cup fish sauce
2 tbsp white sugar
6 green onions, washed and sliced on an angle into slices about 1-2″ long
5 cloves of crushed garlic
1 tsp ginger or 1 inch knob of ginger, grated

1. Cut the cabbage in halves or quarters, and cut into the stem to remove most of it.

2. Sprinkle a light layer of cooking salt over each layer of leaves, making sure to get more towards the thick, white base of the leaf rather than the thinner, green end. Use as much salt as is needed to give the leaves a light sprinkling – its hard to judge how much salt you will need/use as it depends on how big and how ‘ripe’ your cabbage is.

3. Place the cabbage segments into a bowl and leave covered for 5-6 hours, or till cabbage is floppy enough so that the leaves can be bent over, but still make a crisp ‘snapping’ noise when snapped.

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4. After leaving for 5-6 hours, rinse the cabbage, then squeeze as much water out of the sections as humanly possible and leave on a strainer for another 15-30 minutes to drain the last of the water out.

5. The ‘sauce’ can be made whilst you’re waiting for the cabbage to wilt (in step 3). Combine 1/2 cup water in a bowl with the garlic, ginger, green onion, chilli powder, sugar and fish sauce, and combine well.

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6. Lay out the cabbage and and cut across sections making chunks.  Mix chunks of cabbage with the chilli paste mixture making sure that everything is well coated and incorporated and that no chunks have been missed.

7. Once all the cabbage has been coated, press down into an airtight container and store in a cool, dark place for 3 days to aid the fermentation process. Now, you really should use a fermenting crock for BEST results.  I haven’t invested in one yet, but it’s on my wish list!  Taste the kimchi after 3 days, and if the cabbage tastes slightly tangy, soft but with some crunch and spicy, then place in your fridge. This can be stored in your fridge for up to 3 months.

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I highly recommend to place your container inside a glass bowl, plastic will stain, because in the fermentation process juices will continually bubble out of the lid to your container.  If you have a proper fermentation vessel you won’t have this problem.  But remember my comment earlier about being the poor, lazy man’s bibimbap… well this pickle jar is my poor man’s free fermentation vessel of choice.

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After three days this is how much juice had leaked out of my jar.  When I unscrew the lid for the first time there are bubbles coming up through the top of the kimchi, that means it’s absolutely perfect!  I dump all my kimchi in a big bowl at this point and ad the fermenting juice back into the bowl, mix, then place in long term, plastic storage containers in the refrigerator.

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If you have never tried kimchi, do you think you’re brave enough to give it a go?

For those of you who have, any adaptations to this recipe you care to share?

 


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Homemade Ham Glaze & Honey Butter

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Every time I buy a ham at the store they have these glaze packets inside the packaging.  For years I used them thinking you just had to in order to have ham glaze.  How WRONG I was!  not only is homemade ham glaze easy to make, it tastes so much better than anything you can get at the store.  Plus, you control the ingredients.  I came up with a recipe for ham glaze by sheer coincidence at my step mom’s house a few years ago.  Now before I tell you how the recipe came about, let me remind you that even though we try to live as healthy as we can most of the time, sometimes we do indulge.  So before anyone goes casting stones I freely admit this is an unnecessary indulgence, but oh so good!

Every year at the holidays our family has bacon wrapped, brown sugar smokies.  In case you don’t know what that is, you take little smokies and wrap them in a 1/3 strip of bacon, sprinkle with brown sugar, and bake until brown and bubbly.  My step mom piped up and said, “You know how you try to reuse everything in the kitchen and not waste stuff?”  I said, “Yeah.”  She said, “Well wouldn’t it be a good idea to reuse this bacon/brown sugar syrup after we cook the smokies?  You could put it on a ham or something couldn’t you?”  And that is how it all started…

Ham Glaze Ingredients

  • 1 can of pineapple in 100% pineapple juice OR 1/2 fresh pineapple and 1 cup of pineapple juice
  • 1 tbsp spicy brown mustard
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp bacon grease

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and cook on medium low heat until all sugar is dissolved and mixture starts to thicken.  Set aside and let cool.  Pour cooled mixture over cleaned ham.

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And just in case some of you don’t know how easy it is to make flavored butter, here’s a little bonus recipe for you.  We love hot bread and homemade honey butter at our house.  I usually keep a pound of honey butter made up in the fridge at all times.  You can use honey, agave nectar, molasses, or any other thick liquid sweetener to make this recipe.  You can also use fresh or dried herbs to make herb butters for savory applications as well.  My favorite savory butter combo is parsley and chives.  It’s great melted on a steak!

Honey Butter Ingredients

  • 1 lb unsalted sweet cream butter
  • 1/2 cup honey (or other liquid sweetener you prefer-if you want to make herb butter, substitute 1/4 cup of herbs here)

I use my hand mixer to whip the butter and honey together until well combined.  Simple as that.

Do you have a glaze or butter recipe you’d like to share with us?


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World’s Best Potato Salad

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If you are a fan of traditional, southern potato salad, then you will love my recipe!  I’m not trying to be boastful or anything even though it sounds like.  Anyone I have ever made this potato salad for has told me over and over how they think it is the best they have ever had.  And of course, I’m kind of partial to it myself.

Ingredients:

  • 6-8 Idaho potatoes
  • 4 boiled eggs
  • 1 bunch of green onions
  • 1/4 cup chopped bread & butter pickles, and chopped dill pickles combined-plus 2 tbsp of the bread & butter pickle juice
  • 1/2 mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp spicy brown mustard
  • 1/2 sour cream
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • Crispy, chopped bacon
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Paprika for decoration

I wash the potatoes then boil them whole.  I have really bad wrists and cannot peel and chop all of the potatoes.  When I boil them whole, it makes skinning them a piece of cake.  PLUS, I keep the skins to make homemade potato skins for a snack for my son afterwards.  After the potatoes have cooked through, I dip them out of the water and put my eggs into the boiling water.  I boil the eggs for four minutes then turn off the water and let it sit for about 5 minutes.  Then I place the pan in the sink and run cold water over the eggs until I can comfortably put my hands down inside the pot.  I peel the eggs right then.  If I let them sit too long, the eggs fall apart when I peel them.  But if I peel them while the eggs are still soft and I’ve just submerged them in cool water, the shells slip right off and my eggs stay pristine.

While the potatoes and eggs are boiling I chop the pickles and onions.  After the potatoes are skinned and the eggs are shelled, I chop them and add them to a big mixing bowl with the pickles and onions.  In a separate smaller bowl I combine all the wet ingredients including the milk, sour cream, mustard, mayonnaise, and the pickle juice.  I whisk together all of the wet ingredients and when well combined I pour over the chopped veggies in the other bowl.  Stir gently.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Sprinkle with paprika.  Then top with the bacon crumbles.

BONUS:  Every time I make potato salad, we have homemade potato skins as a snack.  I keep the peelings, season with herbs and spices, bake on stoneware so they are crispy, then enjoy!

What’s your favorite potato salad recipe secret?


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