Chicken and Rice Soup with Lemon, Tomato, and Oregano

Chopped Chicken  How about a final soup to say good-bye to cold-weather? Am I jinxing us just writing that?

I was going to call this a Greek chicken soup, but it’s really just Greek-inspired. I like to make it when I’m feeling a little tired of our usual chicken noodle with carrot and onion version.

This is less a recipe and more an idea for flavors.

You need:

–chopped cooked chicken (I usually poach* some breasts. Roasting bone-in is probably the most flavorful way you could go, but poaching is quick and painless)

–chicken broth (I use chicken base and water)

–cooked rice

–pre-cooked or drained and rinsed canned white beans. I like navy beans.

Assemble and heat gently until hot. Then add:

–chopped tomatoes (I used cherry ones since they’re always available and good)

–oregano (I grow it in the back yard, but dried is also ok—-as I look at my photo I see what appears to be parsley. hmmm…well, that will work, too and is also growing in the back yard)

–juice from 1/4 to 1/2 lemon

Enjoy! For more of my cooking and eating adventures, click here.

Chicken and Rice Soup

Hoping the weather is sunny and warm wherever you are.

Things making me happy this week (besides the lovely weather): I discovered the NPR Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast. Smart people talking about tv and movies. A dream!

Speaking of dreaming, I’ve been tweeting what my imaginary personal chef would make me for lunch if she existed. If you want to dream-eat with me, find me @emilysmithpearc on Twitter.

Also, Call the Midwife is back! And, I finished a draft of my nonfiction manuscript and sent it off for comment. Wahoo!

And now, trying very hard to focus on finishing this draft of my novel. Nose to grindstone.

*Poaching is like allllmost boiling something, but don’t let it come to a boil. Cook slowly at the almost boiling point until done, and you’ll have tender chicken. Boiling will give you a rubbery mess.

See you again soon!

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Simplest Curried Pumpkin Soup

Golden Nugget Squash

I was in Trader Joe’s yesterday, and my eyes landed on these beauties. According to TJ’s, they are “Gold Nugget Squash,” but they’re similar what we called Hokkaido pumpkins in Germany, and I knew I just had to have some pumpkin soup for lunch. I’d been looking for some similar pumpkins here, but this was the first time I’d seen anything close.

I was psyched to find that the Gold Nugget cooked up just like a Hokkaido, which is loads better than a pie pumpkin when it comes to soup-making.

I wanted to recreate some soup, chef unknown, that I’d had at a school function, but I didn’t want to spend my day making soup, since it was just for me. Sadly, the family is not nearly as enthusiastic about pumpkin soup as I am.  All the recipes I could find were pretty involved, so I came up with my own.

I’m sure the “involved” recipes are, you know, fancier, but this method totally floated my boat. Super delicious and easy! Here’s my Amelia-Bedelia* recipe:

Simplest Curried Pumpkin Soup

1 thin-skinned, dark red pumpkin/ squash (My pumpkin was about the size of a grapefruit. Adjust spices up if your pumpkin is bigger, always tasting to see if it suits you).

water

1 tsp curry powder

1/2 tsp powdered ginger

a few sprinkles dried onion flakes

a few sprinkles garlic powder

small sprinkle red pepper flakes

salt to taste

One of these gold nuggets made about 3-4 bowls of soup (umm….yes, I ate it all in one sitting).

Preheat the oven (I used the toaster oven) to 375 degrees F. Prick the skin of the pumpkin a few times with a fork or knife tip. Roast whole until it’s nice and tender. I think mine took about 35 minutes or so. At this point, you could set it aside to cool and refrigerate until you’re ready to make the soup.

Slice the pumpkin in half and scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Now scoop the flesh out of the skin, and if you have a hand blender, place directly in your soup pot. I mashed mine a little with the potato masher. Add a cup or so of water, mash a little more, and then puree with the hand blender. Add more water if needed to make it the consistency you like.

Alternatively you could place the pumpkin flesh in your blender with water, then empty the puree into your soup pot.

Okay, you’ve got pumpkin puree. Now heat slowly and season with the spices to your taste. I used Penzey’s mild curry powder, which worked beautifully.

Serve and eat. I added a squeeze of lime and a dash of Sriracha sauce to mine. This is definitely going into my rotation for as long as I can get my hands on those little pumpkins!

*for friends unfamiliar with Amelia Bedelia, she’s a children’s book character. Ms. Bedelia is a little dim with housework, but her saving grace is her fabulous no-recipe cooking. She cooks with “a little of this, a little of that.”

It’s been Soup Central around here, with tomato soup, golden chick pea soup, and coming tomorrow, chili. For more of my less-meatarian cooking posts, look here. What have you been cooking lately?

Meanwhile I think our costumes are allllllmost finished. Just need to paint our little ninja’s cardboard weapon. Hope to post directions for his tunic soon. Happy Halloween!

Curried Pumpkin Soup

Stick Chic

Painted SticksDo you ever feel like your subconscious is leaking out?

I was researching decorations for my dear friend’s wedding when I got kind of stuck on sticks. Here’s my pinterest page on stick decorating.

My kids never saw any of this, but somehow, they seemed to know about it, because later that day, after hubs had trimmed some bushes, they hunted down the paint and began decorating these sticks. I’m loving the Dr. Seuss vibe.

I also chopped (with the trimmer) a bunch of sticks into shorter segments for us to make into a new winter wreath. Our old one is kind of sad and decrepit.

I’m alllllllmost finished with a dress I’m making. Just three more buttons! I can’t believe I actually made 9 successful buttonholes. This is a new milestone.

Meanwhile, I hope a certain little ninja will appreciate his costume that’s nearly finished. Who am I kidding? Kids have no idea the work that goes into costume-making. That’s okay. I’ve had fun making it, and I’ve kept it really low-key. I may make a little tutorial about the tunic part of it.

I’m still plugging away at my writing projects. Trying to keep my nose to the grindstone. And made Foster’s Market Jamaican black bean soup last night. Also put up some pesto. Yum!

Pumpkin Soup with Lime and Chipotle

Happy Halloween! It’s officially soup and pumpkin season—so, pumpkin soup.

I don’t know about you, but on the whole, I’m way more into savory pumpkin dishes than sweet. The natural sweetness of the pumpkin is just begging for a little sour/ hot/ salty complement.

Here’s a little riff on a Williams-Sonoma recipe (theirs is Butternut Squash and Roasted Garlic Puree from the Soup book):

Pumpkin Soup with Chipotle

1 Hokkaido pumpkin (also called Red Kuri or Baby Red Hubbard squash)—you could probably use any similar winter squash, but I’m partial to these

5 or 6 garlic cloves

a few tablespoons olive oil

1/4 cup water

2 onions, chopped

5 cups broth (chicken or veggie)

Salt and pepper

Chipotle with adobo sauce (canned, located with Mexican grocery items)

Lime

First, preheat your oven to 350. Peel the pumpkin and cut into quarters or sixths. Scoop out the squishy middle and the seeds.

On a cookie sheet or roasting pan, brush the pumpkin and garlic cloves with oil, then pour in the water. Roast until soft and golden, 35 plus minutes or so.

Meanwhile, saute onions until softened. If you have a stick blender (a soupmaker’s very best friend), combine the onions, pumpkin, and garlic all in your soup pot with the broth. Blend. If you don’t have a stick blender, get one. You’ll love it. In the meantime, use part of the broth to blend up the veggies in your blender, a batch at a time. Then combine with all the broth in the soup pot.

Season with salt and pepper to taste. In individual bowls, garnish with a little teaspoon or so chipotle/ adobo sauce, according to your taste. I never use a full can at once, so I usually freeze the rest of the can to have on hand in the freezer. Love me some chipotle. Squeeze a little lime on top. Yum.

If you have non-spice-loving eaters at your table, just leave the chipotle out. Not that you needed me to tell you that.

Last year at our school’s pumpkin fest, someone made some fantabulous curry pumpkin soup (sounds weird, tastes great) but I never figured out who made it or what recipe they used. ISHR friends, anyone know the whereabouts of said chef or recipe? Or do you have a curried pumpkin recipe? I’d love to try it.

What are you dressing up as? I had hoped to be Effie Trinket from The Hunger Games but realized I just didn’t have the time to devote to making a costume. After all, my little witch and my little green ninja have to come first in the Halloween department. Maybe I’ll have a moment to paint my face, though.

Here’s hoping you have power and water. My prayers go out to those of you who don’t, and I hope all will soon be restored.

Also, in other news, if you live in the Charlotte area, our local chapter of the WNBA (no, it’s not basketball, it’s Women’s National Book Association) is a great place to meet people who love books. We’ve got writers, booksellers, editors, agents, and booklovers of all kinds. Our next meeting is a cookbook event called “A Toast to Cookbooks” at Total Wine on Monday November 12. Details about the event and our organization here. Our last event, a multi-author dinner called Bibliofeast, was way, way fun.

Good night, and enjoy your treats, everyone!

Golden Chickpea Noodle Soup (Pasta e Ceci)

My soup kick continues, though our weather is a little better and Hallelujah! the days are getting longer. This is my less-meat answer to chicken noodle soup. It’s a go-to easy recipe, and the best part is most of the ingredients are usually in my kitchen anyway.

This is a Jamie Oliver recipe that I’ve made minor changes to. Basically you’re cooking onion, celery, and garlic together first. I added carrot into the mix, and if I don’t have the celery on hand, I just skip it. Then you’re pureeing the veggies with broth and a can of chick peas. You add a second can of chick peas whole (drained), then add pasta.

You get a rich, creamy soup with lots of hidden vegetable power. The stick blender is your friend here, a master of vegetable disguise. Make it as thick or thin as you like.

The carrots + chickpeas give it a lovely golden color, and I like using spaghetti noodles—somehow they seem more fun. I’ve been leaving out the rosemary, though it’s nice with it as well. You can always make it vegan/ vegetarian if you use vegetable broth. For grown ups: the red pepper flakes, freshly ground black pepper, and chopped parsley add a nice zing. Without the garnishes, it’s a plain-looking soup my kids like. Enjoy!

White Bean Chili

This would be my less-meatarian version of Foster’s Market’s Chicken Chili with Navy Beans. Yeah, I just left out the chicken and used more beans. Rocket science.

I know you thought I was Johnny One Note with Mr. Mark Bittman. I know, I talk about him ALL. THE. TIME. But I do have other cookbook crushes.

Foster’s Market recipes are not what I’d call weeknight friendly (too many ingredients) but nearly every single one has been a must-repeat. Especially the soups, salads, and cakes. I believe there are a few Foster’s Market books out now, but this is from the first, The Foster’s Market Cookbook.

A few notes on this recipe:

#1 It has a nice kick, but the kids thought it was too spicy, so they wouldn’t touch it past the first bite. I might crank down the spice next time. If I feel like sharing. 

#2:  As with the other Foster’s Market bean soups, I’ve found that, while excellent, the spices and flavorings can get a little overwhelming. I think I’d lessen amounts on all the spices, the salt, and especially the Worcestershire.

#3. My beans took way, way longer to cook than the recipe calls for.

#4. Obviously, if you want to be strict vegetarian/ vegan, you would use veggie broth for this soup instead of the chicken broth it calls for and sub veggie Worcestershire sauce or soy sauce.

I may have to less-meatify some more Foster’s Market recipes, since they are all so good. What’s the vegetarian answer to chicken salad, ’cause it’s got some awesome versions?

Tortilla Soup

Once again, a recipe from 101cookbooks. I think this was the first recipe I made of hers, and it’s a favorite. Now that we have access to corn tortillas again (through mex-al.de), I can make it as much as I want.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have to confess that I add chicken to this vegetarian soup (usually braised breast meat) and use chicken broth rather than the vegetable broth the recipe calls for.

I highly recommend adding some of the suggested fixin’s (goat cheese, lime, sun-dried tomatoes, avocado)—the lime especially.

The most popular part of this recipe is definitely the tortilla strips. That blurry motion you see in the photo is due to little hands grabbing strips while I photographed them.

It’s really handy to have a stick blender for soups. How did I get by without one before? The converter I have to use for the stick blender is shared with my sewing machine, way down our long hallway, so there’s lots of running back and forth for two of my favorite activities (sewing and soup-making).

If you like 101 cookbooks, you might want to know that she has a new book coming out and has offered, in advance of publication, a downloadable mini-sampler book on her website. Cool!

I’m currently reading Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and sort of missing my garden back in North Carolina. Not that I was a very successful vegetable grower. I guess I’ll have to try some tomatoes on the balkon and of course visit our many nearby farmer’s markets.

In the whole food vein, loved this post by Holly Ramer of stitch/craft—about her family covering the South Beach Food and Wine Festival. There’s a picture of her young son interviewing Jamie Oliver. Holly’s got some other great stuff on her blog, including quite a few tutorials. I especially like the gifts she makes, in particular children’s book-related gifts like those here.