Creamy Potato and Braised Kale Soup

March 17, 2017

So today is St. Patrick’s Day, and between several events and promotions at work, I managed to find myself heartily sick of corned beef (I know, I was shocked too).  I still wanted, however, to have a sort of thematically appropriate dinner – well, and I felt like I hadn’t been fun and creative in a while.

I’d also been vaguely craving a good creamy potato soup since last weekend, when I had the potato soup at a local eatery and was rather disappointed to find it was literally chunks of potato in broth.  I mean, it was tasty, but just… not what I wanted, texturally.

I really like how this soup came out – the flavors are very rich, and there’s a lovely little zing from the kale, which was braised quickly in some red wine vinegar.  This can also be easily adapted to be vegetarian or vegan – just sub out the meaty/creamy things! (I’ll offer options in the ingredients)

Okay? Here we go!

The Goods:

1 large sweet/yellow onion, peeled and roughly sliced (or 1 bunch of leeks) ((if you’re not a fan of alliums, this is optional))

1 head of garlic, peeled and cloves slightly smashed.  (Okay, so you may not need the entire head of garlic.  No, wait, that’s crazy.)

4 good sized russet potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks

4 cups broth (I used chicken broth, you can easily use vegetable broth or just plain water, but broth is much more flavorful)

1 pint heavy cream (you can make this vegan by subbing out for.. uh, almond milk? cashew milk? coconut milk? I’d avoid soy milk though because it’s got such a distinct flavor)

1 head curly kale, de-stemmed and chopped

salt, pepper to taste

red wine vinegar

olive oil (er… I used bacon fat)

optional topping: cooked, crumbled bacon

The method:

Get your soup pot heated up on … medium, I guess?  Glug in some oil or whatever fat you’re using.  It should just coat the bottom of the pan.

Chuck in your onion and sautee for a few minutes until soft.

Throw in your garlic.  It’s okay not to chop things carefully, you’ll be pureeing the whole thing later anyway!

Cook onion and garlic until soft and fragrant, a couple minutes.

Toss in your potatoes.  Add your broth.

Bring to a boil, clap on a lid, simmer for… an hour, or until the potatoes basically fall apart if you breathe on them.

If you’ve got a stick blender, that’d be the easiest way to puree the whole lovely mess.  If not, go in small batches in a blender – and be careful! Getting splashed by boiling hot soup is not fun!

You’ll end up with a super-thick puree.  Add your cream or vegan alternative, stir to combine, Add salt and pepper to taste.  Add a little water if it’s too thick for your liking.  Pretty good so far, right?

While your potato goo is simmering (before the pureeing), heat another big pan (or wok, if you’re me) and glug in some olive oil.  I like my kale just a bit charred, so medium-high is good.

Add your kale in (sizzling is good!) and stir/toss around until wilted.

Sprinkle in a good pinch or two of salt and pepper, and splash in your red wine vinegar (I’d say… not more than 1/4 cup?)

Lower the heat to medium and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, and the kale looks… well, pretty gosh-darned done.  If you like your kale super soft, cook longer.  If you like your kale to still have a bit of bite, cook less. If it seems like the liquid is cooking off too quickly, add like 1 cup of water. (I did this. It turned out just great!)

Dump all that lovely kale into your potato soup.  Stir to combine.

Serve topped with bacon! Or, sunflower seeds would also be nice.

I also made some easy Irish soda bread, the recipe for which I found on allrecipes.com.

Happy noshing!

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Coronation Chicken Salad – Vickie’s Variations

March 14, 2017

All right, so let’s talk about Coronation Chicken Salad. It was developed by a couple of Cordon Bleu VIPs, for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953 (source: wikipedia)

Basically it’s a chicken salad with curry powder added.  But as with most protein salads (or pretty much anything you can find a recipe for) there’s plenty of variations and tweaks to be found on the great wide web. What I love about it is the little hint of sweetness that it gets from the dried fruit – classically sultanas which I think are larger, golden raisins, but you can use dark raisins, dried dates, dried currants, whatever you like.

Basically, start with chicken, mayo, and curry powder – and here’s two variations I’ve made recently.  Naturally, no measurements were made, because that’d be like, being smart.  Pfft. For both of these versions, I just picked up a precooked rotisserie chicken from the local megamart.  They’re just so darned convenient!

Version One:

Chicken, shredded. Add: mix of chopped dried dates and currants, soaked in water or orange juice until a bit softened, and drained (discard liquid).  Add mayo, curry powder, slivered almonds, a splash of lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste.

Version Two (pictured)

Chicken, shredded.  Add: reconstituted dates, mayo (I actually used homemade garlic aioli, because I had extra time), finely diced celery, lime juice, curry powder, cumin, garam masala, salt and pepper to taste.  Not pictured: sunflower seeds, which I added after deciding that the salad needed more crunch.

I’ve heard the first version referred to as “genius” – which, that’s pretty high praise, so I’m quite pleased.  The second version I haven’t shared with anyone else so the only feedback is my own – and I like the extra texture and crunch of the celery quite a lot.

Serve on: crackers, tortillas, celery sticks, bread, I mean – whatever you like! Straight out of the bowl is fine too, I certainly won’t judge. =)

Enjoy!

 

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Red Beans Jambalaya (Vegetarian)

February 27, 2017

Mardi Gras is tomorrow, but since I have rehearsal tomorrow, I figured I would celebrate tonight.  I’ve been eating a bit too much nasty junk food lately, so I was kind of aiming for somewhere between red beans and rice, and jambalaya.  This is packed full of veggies, and can be completely vegan.  And it’s super filling.  So, I’ll count this as a win. (by the way, this recipe makes SIX portions, so plan/adjust accordingly if you hate leftovers.)

The Goods:

1 large yellow onion (or vidalia, or spanish – even red, if you like)

1 large-ish green bell pepper

3-ish stalks of celery

minced garlic, 3 Tbsp or so

1 can (14.5 oz) petite diced tomatoes (I got the kind with jalapenos in it)

1 can (14.5 oz) red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 bag (16 oz) frozen cut okra

rice (brown or white, whichever you like. long grain works better, but I only had short grain on hand)

vegetable or chicken stock/broth

your favorite hot sauce

salt and pepper, to taste

your favorite fat (bacon grease, olive oil, canola oil are all great contenders)

The method:

You’ll want a good sized soup pot/dutch oven/deep pan.  I used my nonstick wok because it’s easier to clean than my le creuset dutch oven. =)

Anyway, get that cranked on medium/medium high heat and add a glug or two of fat.

Dice up your trinity (onion, pepper, celery) and toss that into your pan.

Saute until it’s all softened and onions are translucent.

Add your garlic, cook until it smells AMAZING.

Add the tomatoes and beans, stir to combine.

Fill one of those empty cans with rice and dump that in.

Then fill that empty can TWICE with your broth. (or water, and add boullion to make broth)

Stir everything together, and simmer for 30 min or so until rice is cooked.  You’ll probably want to stir it once or twice to make sure nothing’s burning to the bottom, but it pretty well takes care of itself.

Once the rice is mostly cooked, stir in the okra.  You may want to add a bit more liquid if your rice is looking a little dry.

Heat through, add your seasonings to taste.

Dig in and enjoy!

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Cardamom and Cocoa? Absolutely!

February 9, 2017

So, say you’ve just been outside shovelling after a snowstorm.  Amongst my friends, the proper reward for such toils is a nice hot mug of cocoa.  So when my roommates and I got back in from an epic shovelling attack tonight, I went straight for the cupboard.

Here’s the thing though – I’m pretty sure I am actually incapable of following the directions on those canisters of cocoa mix.  And I’m totally okay with that.

What I do is:

Heat up water or milk to a bare simmer.

Add about 2-3 times as much cocoa mix as the instructions call for. I like my cocoa super thick.

Add some amount (depending on how many people I’m making cocoa for) of semisweet chocolate chips. And sometimes butterscotch chips, if I’m feel extra feisty and have any on hand.

Whisk until everything is blended together (and the chocolate chips have melted, naturally)

Add a dash or two of cinnamon and a dash of ground cardamom.  Whisk to combine.

Dish it out!  Optional: top with homemade whipped cream, or big marshmallows.

(This is a very rich drink – none of my roommates can handle more than a mug of it. Just so you know. =) )

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My Standard Weekend Breakfast (Lately)

January 28, 2017

Hi, yes, I know, I’ve been in hiding for a bit.  Life, busy, etc etc.

Anyway.

So for the past – oh gosh, at least year or so, I’ve found that my weekend breakfast has remained pretty constant – and it’s a treat for me, both to make and consume.  So I figured I’d share.  But of course, since I’m generally puttering around making my breakfast before I’ve had coffee (and at this point it’s purely muscle memory) … I don’t measure anything.  …Oops.

But anyway, this is quick and easy, and I love it, so I’m going to share it.

The Goods:

2 eggs

cornmeal (look, you can buy the fancy stuff in the international aisle marked “polenta” but let’s be honest here – I’m impatient and hungry and the bog-standard cornmeal you can get in the baking aisle is way cheaper and cooks way faster)

water

chicken or vegetable bouillion, 1 cube or equivalent to make 1 cup stock (optional)

milk (optional but highly recommended)

salt, pepper, garlic powder, hot sauce, etc

fat of some kind – oil, butter, bacon fat, duck fat, whatever.

The method:

Whack a pan (any pan – lately I’ve been favoring a nonstick skillet) on the stovetop and start heating up about 1 cup or so of water. Er… on … medium-high heat, I suppose?

When the water gets to a bare simmer, add your bouillion, if using.

Once your liquid boils, add in about… I dunno, 1/4-ish cup of cornmeal, slowly, whisking as you pour it in. (**important note: if you are using a nonstick skillet, you’d BETTER be using a non-metal whisk. or a wooden spoon.)

Lower your heat to … uh, medium-ish and let your cornmeal come to a simmer, whisking occasionally.  (It will thicken so it won’t *simmer* so much as *form a few bubbles*)

(( If, after it simmers for a minute or two, it’s looking too thin, shake in some more cornmeal.  Too thick? Add more liquid.))

Now is a good time to add some seasonings: I like salt, pepper, and garlic powder.  Sometimes I use a generic Italian blend.

Once it’s thickened to your liking, kill the heat and splash in some milk, if desired.  I find that it makes everything deliciously smooth and creamy.  And keeps the polenta from going completely solid as it cools.  Scrape this gooey mess into a bowl and wipe your skillet clean.

Put your skillet back on the heat (medium), and melt/heat a good tablespoon or two of fat.

Crack in your eggs and cook to your desired level. (Mine is ALWAYS over-easy.)

Place eggs on top of polenta, squiggle on some Sriracha (if you’re me) and dig in!

 

See? Easy.

 

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Slow Cooker “Tuscan Cream Soup” (ripped off from BIG CHAIN ITALIAN RESTAURANT)

November 28, 2015

This brings me back to shortly after college, when my best friend from high school and I were still living in our hometown, and we were rather at loose ends with ourselves (I eventually wised up and moved back East) – and we would often drown our sorrows at *Big Chain Restaurant* that always offered unlimited soup, salad, and breadsticks at weekday lunch (yeah, you know who I’m talking about).

There’s actually tons of recipes for this soup – it is a DAMN good soup, and actually quite easy to make – but I didn’t want to actually babysit a pot of soup, so I had to figure out a slow cooker version.  Everything is approximate, since I actually left the house while the soup was cooking away – but this is a little bit of nostalgia in a bowl.  And also saving me tons of money and time, because there’s actually not one of those restaurants near me, and I’m not really willing to drive for like half an hour (with no traffic) just to get this soup.

The Goods:

1 lb hot italian sausage (or mild if you prefer, but Hi, have you MET me?)

1 large yellow onion, peeled and diced

good olive oil, a couple glugs

garlic. lots.  I’d say at least 4 Tablespoons minced, but I just glop it out of my big jar of pre-minced garlic.

2 quarts chicken broth/chicken stock

1 bag cut kale (you might want to actually cut it down further, the pieces are freakin’ huge which makes it a little hard to eat.  Also, this is likely WAY TO MUCH KALE for the normal person, but I happen to really love kale.)

2 large-ish russet potatoes

1 pint heavy cream

salt and pepper to taste

oh, and you’ll need a big slow cooker.  Mine is like… 6 quarts…? and it was FULL TO THE TOP.  Like, I had to smush down the raw kale to get the lid on.

The Method:

Get your slow cooker going on low. start heating your chicken broth.

In a large frying pan, heat your olive oil, and sautee your garlic and onions until slightly soft.

Peel the sausage out of its casings and cook in the pan with garlic and onions, breaking it up as it cooks.

While your sausage is cooking, quarter the potatoes lengthwise and then slice them into 1/4 to 1/2 inch pieces.  Or whatever looks and feels good to you in the “bite-sized” family.  Add your potatoes to the pot too.  Might as well add the kale now too.  It will obnoxiously fill up your pot.

Once the sausage is all crumbled up and no longer pink, throw that whole mess on top of the kale.  If you’re lucky, it will be hot enough to wilt your kale down a little bit.  I wasn’t quite so lucky.

As gently as you can move things around/stir them up/smush everything down into the broth as best as you can.  Clap the lid on.  Yes, you will have A VERY FULL SLOW COOKER.  It’ll be okay.

Cook on low for… uh… 4 to 6 hours?  Extra cooking will not hurt the potatoes or kale, so really, cook it until it’s dead.  The kale will lose most of its floofy volume.  You will still have like two gallons of soup.  It will be lovely. I believe I gave the soup about 6 hours of cook time, and then held it on warm for another hour or two after I stirred the last of the ingredients in. (see next sentence)

Stir everything together once it’s all cooked down, add your heavy cream, and then add salt and pepper to taste.  I use reduced sodium broth, so I always end up adding more salt than I thought I would need.

Serve with breadsticks or garlic bread or dinner rolls or ciabatta or whatever!

 

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Whoa, how long has THAT been there? All right, time to make a curry!

August 24, 2015

Do you ever go look in the back of your fridge, and have this moment of “whoa, I still have that?  I’ve got to use that up like, TODAY.”

That happened to me the other night, after I finally gave up on my lofty goal of making green smoothies every day for my health. (I need a better blender before that’s really a viable option.)

So I looked in the fridge, and I had just… GOBS AND GOBS of beautiful, lovely spinach and kale, just begging to be cooked. And I thought to myself “well, I can’t just let it go to waste!”  So I went to the store for a few sundries, and got to work.

The Goods: (and this is like, a REALLY ROUGH estimate of what I actually had, okay?  So just… play. Seriously, it’ll be all right.)

– somewhere around 16 oz, combined of baby spinach and baby kale

– 1 large yellow onion, peeled and diced

– minced garlic, as much as you want. (for me, this was at least a quarter of a cup)

– patak’s curry paste, about 1/2 jar (and don’t ask me how long that had been in my fridge, please)

– pickled sliced jalapenos (like for nachos), about 1/2 cup

– diced tomatoes in juice (possibly the kind with chilies and onions, knowing me), 1 15-oz can

– coconut milk (I actually prefer the whole fat stuff, so don’t skimp, okay?  the rest of the dish is lean enough.)

– chicken.  I grabbed some chicken and garlic sausage, but I think it’d be even better with plain chicken thighs. boneless and skinless, and diced.

The method:

  • Heat a HUGE skillet (or wok, that’s my favorite vessel for pot o’ random stuff) on medium, add a couple glugs of oil.
  • Add onion and garlic, sautee until translucent
  • Add chicken, cook through.
  • Add spinach and jalapenos, sautee until spinach is wilted.  Cook another minute or two to burn off some of the liquid the spinach will give off.
  • Stir in curry paste and tomatoes.  Simmer for about ten minutes.
  • Stir in coconut milk.
  • Taste and add salt and pepper if desired.  Now would also be a great time to add in some garam masala, crushed red pepper, curry powder, coriander, or whatever else tickles your fancy.  Or fresh cilantro, that’d be pretty awesome.

Serve over polenta or rice.

Best leftovers ever.

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Winter Storm Comfort Food: Jambalaya!

January 26, 2015
Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya

Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya

As Winter Storm Juno begins burying us out here, I found myself at work earlier today, waiting for the announcement that we would be closed tomorrow, and really just craving the heck out of a nice pile of spicy jambalaya.  Thing is – jambalaya is amazingly easy to make!  It’s very much an everyone-in-the-pool kind of dish.  So yay!

The goods:

1 lb kielbasa, cut into bite sized pieces (Okay, you should traditionally use andouille.  But I don’t *like* andouille. So there.)

1 lb chicken (I like thighs, myself), cut into bite sized pieces

1 large yellow onion, peeled and diced

2 medium green peppers, seeded and diced

4 ribs celery, diced

1 28-oz can diced tomatoes in juice

3ish cups brown rice

((28ish oz beef stock, or water and beef buillion, or however you get there))

5ish bird chilis, minced, or 2 good-sized jalapenos, minced

chili powder, paprika, cayenne powder

garlic, minced, about 1/4 cup

2 ish tablespoon bacon grease or oil

The method:

In a big ol’ pot, heat your fat. add veggies and garlic, saute until soft.

Add meat.  Cook until chicken meat is all white on the outside.  Add seasonings – a good several shakes of each.

Add tomatoes, stock, and rice. Stir well.

Cover and simmer about half hour to 45 minutes, until most of the liquid is absorbed or rice is tender.  Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.

Dish out and chow down!

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Banana Muffins!

December 23, 2014

So I gotta say, I love banana bread.  Not only is it a fantastic way to use up overripe bananas, it’s also so tasty.  Especially nice and warm, with a schmear of cream cheese. Good stuff, man.

I also love muffins, and though they require a bit more work pre-baking, the benefit is that you don’t have to do any slicing to get them into your mouth.  Also, clean-up is a breeze, since I’m a lazy bugger and use paper muffin cups when I bake. =)

The goods:

3 fairly squishy bananas

3/4 cup sugar (you can do a mix of white and brown sugar for extra flavor)

1 egg

1/3 cup butter, melted

1.5 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 to 1 teaspoon vanilla (or just splash some in like I do)

several dashes ground cinnamon

 

The method:

-preheat oven to 350 degrees

– grab a muffin tin and plop in your paper liners (or foil liners, or just spray the everliving tar out of the pan if you’re going liner-free)

– in a large bowl, mash together the bananas, sugar, eggs, and butter.

– add vanilla and cinnamon, whisk to combine

– add all your dry stuff, stir until just combined (the muffin method means DON’T OVERMIX, Y’ALL)

– portion out into your muffin cups – you’ll get 12, I promise.

– bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the tops spring back when tapped with a finger.  or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

You could go ultra-decadent and top them with a cream cheese frosting once they’re cooled, but i almost think that’s overkill.  I do, however, recommend eating them warm, with either some butter or some cream cheese. Enjoy!

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Buffalo Chicken Dip

December 21, 2014

This is something I’ve loved for a very long time but been too lazy to actually try to make until… well, now.  But honestly – it’s so embarrassingly simple, I almost feel bad posting a recipe.  Anyway, here goes.

The goods:

2 8-oz packages of cream cheese or neufchatel (which is low-fat cream cheese)

1 rotisserie chicken, cooked (what? I’m lazy.)

1 16-ish oz jar chunky bleu cheese dressing

1 pint container bleu cheese crumbles

12 oz (1 good sized bottle) AT LEAST your favorite buffalo sauce (I actually used a mix of Frank’s Red Hot and Texas Pete’s)

shredded pepper jack cheese (or “Mexican blend” or, y’know, whatever you like.) a couple handfuls

 

The method:

– Shred all your chicken (get every last meaty bit) into itty bitty pieces in a large bowl.  Discard the skin and bones, but seriously, get all the meat you can off of the bird.  This is incredibly messy, but deliciously so.

– In a saucepan, melt your cream cheese on low/medium heat, stirring occasionally.  Once it’s decently runny, stir in the bleu cheese dressing and crumbles.  Stir it all together into one great gooey mass.

– Pour your hot cheesy goo over your chicken.  Add your hot sauce.  Stir it all together.  Taste.  Add more hot sauce if necessary (for me, it’s necessary).  If for some reason it’s too spicy, you can add some sour cream or mayo to mellow it out.

– Sprinkle shredded cheese over top

– Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 20 ish minutes or until it’s all bubbly.

*Optional: garnish with sliced scallions or chives

 

Serve with tortilla chips and/or celery and/or carrot sticks. Enjoy! =)

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