Category Archives: Soups

Meatball and Kale Soup

Saturday was probably my favorite date of the year.  Not day, necessarily; there was nothing particularly eventful, and it wasn’t full of great friends, great food, or everything going exactly as planned.  (Yes, that would be a requirement of my Type-A personality “Perfect Day.”  Pathetic.)  But more a perfect date, being one of the elusive longest days of the year.  It was sunny and warm and slightly humid but not oppressive.  The farmer’s market finally exploded with leafy greens and herbs, radishes and green garlic and pea shoots.  I made progress on goals and crossed things off lists, one by one, satisfying that Type-A personality.  A friend brought over a hand-picked peony bouquet.  We dug a hole and planted a tree in our front yard and wiped the sweat from our brows, warmed from the sun, sticky and dirty but satisfied.

Funny that just a few weeks before was almost exactly the opposite.  A light drizzle had been falling for four days straight, and the damp and chill had permeated.  Cooped up in the house alone, I listened to melancholy songs on repeat and devoured a lovely book, story by short story, each one highlighting the inevitable disappointments of meaningful relationships.  The weekend required a long solo hike, a strong bourbon drink, and a bowl of steaming soup.  I granted it all three.

One bright spot was finding the first bit of leafy green at the farmer’s market, tucked away in a far corner.  A small Hmong woman was selling bunches of petite kale, freshly picked, roots and all.  The morning was gusty and cold, spitting rain and angry gray, and I was one of the few straggling around.  Not many seemed to make it back to the kale corner.   I considered myself lucky and in the solitary walk back home, decided I would consult my not-so-new but new-to-me favorite vegetable book for inspiration.

As soon as I saw the recipe, I recognized it from a handful of food blogs, and my mind was made up.  There were green onions, mint, and the kale from that morning’s market; pork and chicken stock in the freezer.  No fresh chiles this time of year, so dried would have to do.  One soggy hike later and I was prepping meatball soup for supper.  The recipe came almost straight from the book, with the addition of a few potatoes cubed over the pot, thrown in to appease my deep-seeded and ever-present longing for carbs in all forms.  It was filling, but not in a extra-couple-of-pounds-in-winter kind of way.  After a bowl of soup and a whisky smash, the gloomy spring weekend didn’t seem so bad after all.

Nigel Slater’s Chicken Broth with Pork and Kale from Tender (aka meatball and kale soup)
Serves 4

Even though it’s summer, I’ve made this twice since, once with fresh spinach in place of the kale, thrown straight into the soup pot (skip the blanching).  I highly recommend either variation.

1 pound ground pork (I used half pork and half beef)
3 green onions
a small handful each of fresh mint and fresh parsley
2-3 green garlic, or 2 garlic cloves
2 tsp. red pepper flakes (original calls for 2-3 thai or similar chiles)
2 tablespoons oil
4 cups chicken or veggie stock
2 small-medium potatoes, scrubbed
1 bunch kale, rinsed and coarsely chopped (approximately 3-4 cups)

Place the meat in a medium bowl.  Slice or chop the onions, fresh herbs, and mince the garlic or slice the green garlic.  Throw all of it, along with the red pepper flakes or diced chiles, into the bowl with the meat. Mix well with your hands.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a saute pan.  Form the meat mixture into small balls, no more than 2 inches diameter, and place in the pan.  Brown well, in batches if needed- don’t crowd the meatballs or they’ll steam each other.  Once well browned, set aside on a plate.

Put the stock in a large saucepan and bring to a simmer.  Cut the potatoes over the pot into bite-sized pieces (not on a cutting board- a lot of the starch is left on the board, and I like it in the soup to thicken things a bit) and carefully place in the hot stock.  Simmer for 5 minutes or so, then add in the meatballs and the drippings from the meatball plate.  Season with salt and pepper, and continue to simmer for about 10 minutes.

While the soup is simmering, bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil.  Blanch kale leaves for 3 to 5 minutes, depending on how thick or tough they are.  (More delicate kale may only take 2 minutes, so be flexible and watch the pot.)  Depending on the size of the pot, you may want to blanch in multiple batches.  As the kale is blanched, lift from the boiling water with a slotted spoon and drop directly into the soup pot.  Once all the kale is in the soup, bring to a brief simmer, stir, salt to taste, and serve.

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Filed under 30 min. or less, Clean Eating, Gluten-Free, Main dishes, Soups, Spring, Summer, Vegetables, Winter

Souper Bowl: Kale and white bean soup


I haven’t exactly been present on this blog.  This last year has brought a lot of changes to my life: work has been busier than ever, I’m eating more healthfully, and having taken up running means that I get less time at night to prepare (let alone photograph) supper.  But when I saw Branny’s Souper Bowl post invitation, I knew I had to participate.

We have two cats.  Ever since I found out that I’m not actually allergic to cats, I’ve known that I wanted a couple and that I wanted to adopt them (rather than buy a specific breed).  Both of ours came from the local shelter, and both have very distinct personalities.  Sierra, the first cat we got and the older of the two,  is a cuddle-bug… for about two minutes. Then she’s out of your arms and dashing away to go off on her own… but if you wait long enough, she’ll be back, for two more minutes of intense cuddling, purring, and marking your chin with her nose. In any case, this post is dedicated to Sierra, our quiet furball.

Up close, wanting some love. (Soup in the background!)

This soup has been one of my winter staples until recently.  Bacon, homemade croutons, and soft slumped kale- what’s not to like?!  It’s filling, salty and almost buttery.  The bacon adds some chew, while the veggies and beans bring the heft. I’ve made it with both curly and lacinato kale, and both work just fine.  And if you’re a fan of chorizo or sausage, you may want to try that instead of the bacon.  But one thing is for sure- do not skip the homemade croutons.

Kale and White Bean Soup
Approximately 4 servings
Adapted from Everything is Better with Bacon and a recipe in the Williams Sonoma Bride and Groom Cookbook

1 pound or 2 cans white beans (if you can’t get fresh dried beans, go with canned)
4 slices bacon, chopped into 1-inch pieces
2 T. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, diced
1 bay leaf
1/4 to 1/2 t. sage and thyme each (to your taste)
3 -4 medium carrots, peeled and diced
2-3 stalks celery, diced (save the leafy greens if you’ve still got them)
5-6 cups chicken stock
1 large bunch of kale, ribs removed and roughly chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Prepare the beans: if using dried beans, soak overnight and boil for 30 minutes, or prepare according to package directions. They don’t need to be totally soft as they will simmer in the soup.  If using canned beans, drain and rinse; set aside.

In a large dutch oven or kettle, fry the bacon in the olive oil for 3-4 minutes over medium or medium-high heat.  Stir in the onion and sautee for 4-5 minutes more.  Add garlic, sage, thyme, and bay leaf, and stir while cooking for a minute.  Add carrots and celery, stir, and saute briefly; add chicken stock and beans, and bring soup to a simmer.

Simmer the soup for at least 25 minutes, but up to an hour to combine flavors and soften vegetables. Stir in the chopped kale (and the celery greens if you’ve got them), return up to a simmer, and allow the kale to wilt in the soup, about 15 minutes. (If you want a bite to your kale, watch closely and only cook for about 5 minutes. I like mine silky soft and slumpy on my spoon.)  Season with salt and pepper, and serve with homemade salted croutons.

For croutons:
Melt 2 tbsp butter in a small sautee pan on medium high.  While melting, add 1/2-3/4 cup bread cubes.  Sprinkle with a few pinches of good salt.  Toss bread around and allow to brown for 2-3 minutes between stirs, for a total of 8-10 minutes. Serve warm or at room-temperature with soup.

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January 20, 2012 · 3:28 pm

red lentil soup with lemon

I knew I had to make this soup as soon as I read Molly’s description of it. “Sings”? A quiet soup that “sings”?!  Um, yeah, I want that.

Making this soup really made me happy. It was easy- a handful of pantry staples in a fresh new soup. One pot, one immersion blender, one hour, and done. It’s filling; it looks like fall; and it smells like home.

I enjoyed my first 4 or 5 bites with the olive oil “garnish” as suggested by Melissa, but went back and sprinkled with a touch of cayenne. The spice really complimented the warmth of the soup and freshness of the lemon. Do not skip the lemon.

And the orange kitty. Don’t skip the kitty.

I froze the remainder of the soup and had it warmed for supper tonight. Honestly, it’s better when it’s first made. The lemon was nearly indetectable, so I would suggest stirring in a bit of lemon juice to taste if having this for leftovers.

Red Lentil Soup with Lemon
adapted from Melissa Clark, via Orangette

Serves 3-4

2 T. olive oil
1 large yellow onion
2 cloves garlic
2 T. tomato paste
1 t. cumin
1/2 to 1 t. kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 t. cayenne
1 quart plus 1/2 c. chicken or vegetable stock
1 c. water
1 c. red lentils, picked over
2 large carrots, diced
juice of 1/2 large lemon

In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, heat the oil over medium.  Add the chopped onion and cook for 4-5 minutes until translucent.  Add the garlic and cook for 2 more minutes.  Stir in tomato paste, cumin, salt and pepper, and cayenne; continue cooking over medium and stir 5-6 more minutes.

Add in the stock, water, lentils, and carrots. Bring to a boil and reduce heat as needed to keep at a gentle simmer for 35-40 minutes.  In a food processor or blender, or with an immersion blender, roughly blend the soup, but not completely smooth.  Reheat if necessary and add salt to taste; stir in lemon juice, and serve with a few drops of olive oil or a sprinkle of cayenne and kosher salt.


Filed under Clean Eating, Gluten-Free, Soups, Vegetarian, Winter

Chicken stew with homemade noodles

Now that I’ve got homemade noodles and I’ve thrown together some chicken stock, there’s only one thing to do:  make chicken stew with noodles.

Which isn’t quite the same as chicken noodle soup. To me, chicken noodle soup implies something lighter, more delicate; small shreds of chicken, petite noodles, a golden broth with little bits here and there floating around.

Chicken noodle soup is to ballerinas as chicken stew with noodles is to lumberjacks.

Big chunks ‘o meat, hunks of unavoidable veggies, thick noodles, and a touch of cream just to pull it all together.

Chicken stew with homemade noodles
Adapted from Cooking Light and Stolen Moments

One batch of homemade noodles
~1 lb. chicken meat
2 T. butter
4 carrots (about 1 c. chopped)
1/2 medium onion
3 cloves garlic
3 c. chicken stock
4 ribs of celery (about 3/4 c. chopped)
1 1/2 t. thyme 
1 t. sage
salt and pepper
1 T. flour
1 t. cornstarch
1/4 c. half-and-half or cream

Cut chicken into about 6 large pieces; set aside. Chop veggies, mince garlic. In a large skillet, melt butter on medium-high; add onion and carrots and saute, stirring ocassionally, for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and continue to saute and stir for another 3-4 minutes. Put a pot of water on to boil for the noodles.

Add the chicken stock to skillet and bring up to a simmer. Add in chicken pieces and herbs and cover, turning chicken after 5 minutes.

Once the chicken is cooked through, remove the chicken pieces from the skillet and set on a cutting board to cool. Add the celery and continue to simmer uncovered, stirring frequently.

This is where you should be boiling your homemade noodles, which can take anywhere from 5 to 12 minutes, depending on the thickness.

Meanwhile, mix together the flour and cornstarch. Add the cream and shake or whisk well, making sure there are no lumps. Whisk the cream mixture into the broth and veggies over medium-high. While that reduces, cut chicken pieces into bite-size and add back to skillet.

Once noodles are tender, scoop them out of the water and add them to the skillet, stirring to incorporate. Serve hot in bowls.

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Filed under Chicken, Main dishes, Soups

Stock of the chicken persuasion

Have you ever made a chicken in the crockpot? If not, you should do so immediately. It is soooo goooood.  It falls apart and is juicy and tender and very enjoyable in general. This lady will give you some tips for delicious chicken a la crockpot.

I made ours on Sunday, separated leftover chicken into one container and put the bones and skin in another container, then threw out all the unidentifiable bits.

Then, on Monday, take the leftovers and make stock with them.

Mmmmm…. I can almost smell the stocky goodness radiating from that picture.

Okay, here’s what you need:

chicken carcass- bones, skin, leftover chicken meat if you want
celery: leafy parts and 2 ribs
carrots: 3-5
onion: 1 medium, any variety
garlic: 4-5 cloves
dried mushrooms: 6-8 (optional)
lots of water
some herbs (dried are fine)
a big pot or two

I took my chicken bones and skin and divided it betwen two large pots, covered the bits with cold water, and put on the stovetop to boil. While it’s getting hot, chop up some onions, celery, and carrots, and roughly smash your garlic.

* Here’s a tip– the leafy green parts of the celery are SO GOOD in chicken stock. They are super flavorful and fragrant, and you don’t have to use as many actual ribs if you chop up all the leaves. I also don’t bother cleaning the carrots- just chop everything into rough mismatched-sized bits, and once you’re boiling, throw it all in. 

I also like adding 3-4 dried shitaake mushrooms into each pot. They add sort of a dark, earthy flavor to the stock.

Once you’ve got your veggies in and everything’s rolling in a nice, tight boil, it’s time to add some herbage.  Depending on your favorite flavors, you can pretty much add anything and any amount. Here’s what I use, from most to least:
kosher salt
black pepper
sage (rubbed)
oregano (leaves, not ground)
2 bay leaves

Now comes the tricky part-:  boil, uncovered, for at least 4 hours, stirring ocassionally. This part is tricky because your house is going to smell sooooo goooood that you will be salivating all over.  

If your stock gets some foamy white stuff on top, you can carefully spoon it out periodically and toss it down the drain.

I don’t really pay attention to time, honestly, but I try to reduce the amount of liquid in half. So if you’ve got one full pot of water when you start, you’re going to boil until it’s about half full. Since I used two pots (8 qt and 6.5 qt), I reduced both pots down, combined them into the larger pot, and reduced a little more to end up with 7 qts of stock.

It’s very scientific, as you can tell.

Once you’ve boiled and reduced, it’s time to strain and store.

Some people will tell you to use a fine mesh strainer; others suggest using cheesecloth to get a clear, attractive stock. That’s cool. I just used my big-holed collander because I’m going for flavor, not looks. Some teeny bits of onion and herbs floated through, and I’m okay with that.

I store my chicken stock in large canning jars in the back of my fridge. I also filled two clean icecube trays with stock and froze it, then broke the cubes into a plastic bag. Just another storing option that doesn’t take up all your fridge space.

Ta-Da! Homemade, low-sodium, delicious and nutritious chicken broth.  Almost makes me want to be sick, so I have an excuse to make chicken noodle soup.


Filed under Chicken, Soups

Summer Barley Soup

While I was prepping and cooking this soup, I sang over and over, “Orange and greens, barley and beans, orange and greens, barley and beans…”

This could easily be a fall or winter soup by using canned or frozen veggies, but because these were all fresh from my garden, I like to think of it as a summer soup. Add a leafy green and it’s definitely a summer soup. So there.  I was in need of an easy lunch recipe that would fill me up, and there’s nothing much easier than warming up a bowl of soup.

I love this sort of recipe because it makes use of whatever you’ve got in your pantry and produce drawer.  You can chop up a tomato instead of using tomato paste. If you don’t have barley, brown rice or buckwheat would be good substitutes. Use a mix of fresh herbs from the garden or market. Any sort of bean– pinto, kidney, northern, canellini, even black bean– would work here.  However, I recommend sticking with red lentils and not subbing in green lentils– the red ones are smaller, and when cooked in this soup sort of fall apart and help to thicken it.

Summer Barley Soup

1 c. dry beans or 1 can beans, any variety
1 c. uncooked barley
3 c. chicken or vegetable stock
1 c. dry red lentils
1 T. olive oil
1/2 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic
1 1/2 c. sliced carrots
2 T. Italian seasoning (or a mixture of thyme, rosemary, oregano, and sage)
2 T. tomato paste
1 1/2 c. peas
1 1/2 c. green beans, cut into bite-sized pieces

If using dry beans, set the beans to soak in 2 cups water overnight, or in a crockpot for 2-3 hours; do not drain the water. If using canned beans, rinse and drain.

In a large pot on medium-high, bring the 3 cups of stock to a boil; add barley and simmer for 30 minutes. Rinse the lentils, then add to the pot. Stir occasionally while simmering.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add diced onion and saute for 3-4 minutes. Add carrots and garlic; stir and saute for 5 minutes. Add tomato paste and seasoning and stir into carrots mixture; carefully mix in peas and green beans and saute for another 5 minutes.

Once lentils and soft, add the vegetable mixture and beans. (If used dry beans, add the retained soaking water; if canned, add an additional cup of stock or water.) Simmer for 30 to 60 minutes, depending on how soft you want your veggies. I like to serve with bread- homemade pita shown above- or a fresh salad.

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Filed under Clean Eating, Soups, Summer, Vegetables, Vegetarian

red lentil and sweet potato curried soup

I love sweet potatoes, particularly because they’re delicious, healthy, and versatile. sweet? spicy? Creamily mashed as a comfort food or cut into fries as the perfect end-of-the-week burger accoutrement. It all works for this orange tuber.

But I’ve been wary of curry and sweet potatoes. I’ve seen offerings at restaurants, read recipes in magazines and online, and not once have thought the combination sounded appealing…. until this week. Monday night at 8:30pm, I decided to suddenly forge into the unknown of using a Thanksgiving staple in an Indian-inspired dish- and I’m so glad I did!

This recipe has, in my humble opinion, the right amount of kick. I’m not a hot-for-the-sake-of-hot person, but I love the complexity of Indian spices. The equal parts curry powder and ginger, plus a kick of cayenne and cardamom on the side, make this a perfect mid-day meal for me. The soft textures and warmth of the soup are relaxing, while the flavor reflects the sunniness of spring.

Did I mention how quick this is?! I had the idea to make this soup at 8:30, and by 9:30 – one measly hour later – had my kitchen cleaned up and the soup cooling, covered on the stovetop. That easy!

Red Lentil and Sweet Potato Curried Soup
Inspired by The Daily Green

2 medium or 1 large sweet potato, skin on and cut into 1″ pieces
2 cups red lentils
2 cups veggie or chicken stock
1/2 onion, sliced or chopped
3 cloves garlic, diced or minced
1 T. high quality curry powder
1 T. grated or minced ginger
1 t. coriander
1 t. cumin
1/2 to 1 t. cayenne (optional)
ground black pepper, sea salt or kosher salt (to taste)
3 ribs of celery, chopped
1/2 c. green peas, fresh or frozen
unsweetened shredded coconut, dried or toasted (optional)

Wash and pick over the lentils. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil, add the lentils, and simmer for 10 minutes.

While waiting, sautee onions in oil on medium-high until translucent. Add garlic and spices and sautee for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add the celery and peas and sautee for 2-3 minutes and remove from heat.

Once the lentils have been boiling for 10 minutes, drain most of the boiling liquid. Pour in the 2 cups of stock plus 2 cups of water. Add the sweet potato; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for approximately 10 minutes to soften potatoes. Stir in the sauteed veggies and spices and simmer for 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the texture you desire. Longer = softer. (I personally prefer to only simmer until the potatoes are fork-ready, as I like the crispness of celery and don’t like the potatoes mushy).

Remove from heat, cover, and allow to cool at room temperature for a few hours or overnight. Garnish with coconut (optional). If this is too spicy for you or you like a creamier texture, plain yogurt is a great stir-in.

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Filed under Clean Eating, Main dishes, Soups, Vegetables, Vegetarian

Veggies and lentils and chicken, oh my

It’s officially fall in Wisconsin, if anyone was wondering. It’s rainy, the treetops are gorgeous, and a sweater or cardigan is no longer quite enough coverage to provide warmth during the morning commute. So, like a crazy man, N decides he needs to celebrate the 40-degree weather by going out on the water in numerous long-sleeved t-shirts and attempt to bring home supper. This act is affectionately known in our house as “bringing home the fish-bacon.”

fish + bacon ?

So N leaves mid-afternoon and stays out on the water, holding a stick tied to some string dangling in the water, until it’s very dark and cold, and then comes home… usually empty-handed. That means I get the kitchen (and the TV/DVD player) to myself! Hurrah!

lentils hanging out near the celery


My midriff = not buff. I’ve been eating a lot more meat now that I’m eating with N, and that’s not necessary or good for my pants buttons. So I made a flex-soup of lentils and veggies we had around the house, and added cooked shredded chicken to half of it, just to appease the hub’s man-eating urges. Pretty much any veggie can be subbed: wilted spinach or other greens, green beans, cooked firm squash or sweet potato, etc. Work with what ya got, people!

Flexible lentil soup

1/2 pound of dried lentils
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
3+ cups of chopped or sliced veggies– I used carrots, a couple of small potatoes, and 3 ribs of celery
5 cups chicken broth
2 T. tomato paste
2 tsp garam masala
salt & pepper to taste

sauteeing the carroten

Rinse and sort the lentils. I usually let mine soak in a little water, and I sift them in the water with my hands just to clean them up a little. Sautee the onion and garlic in a pot with some EVOO, just until soft. Add 1/2 c. of the broth and any raw veggies to the pot; let simmer/sautee in small amount of broth for 5- 10 minutes. Pour in another 1-2 cups of broth, the seasonings, and the lentils; keep at a slow simmer for 10 minutes, until lentils have soaked up much of the broth and thickened the mixture. Add the tomato paste and remainder of the brother and stir to incorporate the t-paste. (I also added some fresh chopped parsley and another minced clove of garlic at this point) Let simmer for at least 20 minutes, or however long you like, adding additional liquid as desired.

T-paste FTW

I had it simmering on the stove for over 2 hours as I waited for N to get home, and had to add an additional cup of water to keep it the consistency that I was looking for.

wafty steam= tastiness

If you or your H prefer meat, you can add in any cooked meat to the soup once the lentils and veggies are fully cooked. Enjoy!

fuzzy, because my P&S from 2004 is teh suck.

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Filed under Clean Eating, Main dishes, Soups, Vegetables