Roasted Root Vegetable and Cauliflower Soup

Root soupI love roasted veggies. I also love home made soup. So why not combine the two and get a heaping helping of vegetables in a thick and creamy soup? Usually a self-imposed kitchen challenge like this takes a while to get right, but this one was a win from the first ladle to the last. Why was it so good? Roasting vegetables brings out the natural sugars, and gives it a level of flavor you don’t get when boiling your veggies in a pot. Toasting the herbs and spices in the butter before making a roux also amps up the flavor. Add in some delicious half and half, and you’ve got yourself a winter soup winner.

Actually, I have to give my daughter-in-law to be, Ashley, credit for the idea. She had texted to ask me if I had a recipe for using up a pile of carrots (I think she’d gone hog wild on a Farmer’s Market run…), and I gave her a recipe I had for straight up carrot soup. But then she asked if she could throw in other veggies and cream, and I thought, hmmmmm, I should try something like that! So here it is, Ashley.

Next time I make it, I think I’ll cut the vegetables into ½-inch pieces before roasting, and then puree half of the mixture until really creamy, and stir that back into the chunkier vegetable mixture. I had only slightly pureed the whole batch, and I didn’t like the texture. The flavor more than made up for it, but as I’m a bit of a perfectionist, I’ve got to make this JUST RIGHT next time I serve it to family and friends. 

Serves 8-10

1 head cauliflower, cut into small florets
2-3 cups cubed red potatoes (skin on)
4-5 carrots, peeled and cubed
3 parsnips, peeled and cubed
1 cup chopped yellow onion
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon dill seed
1 teaspoon dill weed
½ teaspoon caraway seed
¼ teaspoon dried mustard
4 cups water
4 teaspoons chicken soup base (or vegetable soup base, if you’d like to make this strictly vegetarian)*
2 cups half and half

Preheat oven to 375°. Prepare 2 baking sheets by rubbing 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil on each pan. Toss cauliflower, potatoes, carrots, and parsnips onto pans, and roast in oven for 30-35 minutes, or until vegetables are tender, and edges are slightly golden.

While vegetables are roasting, combine onion and butter in Dutch oven (or other large pot), and cook on medium-high until onion is translucent. Sprinkle flour, dill seed, dill weed, caraway seed, and dry mustard over the onion mixture, and stir to combine. Toast flour and herbs for 1-2 minutes, or until fragrant. Gradually stir in water, and stir to combine so no lumps remain in flour mixture. Add soup base, and stir to combine again. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce to simmer and cook for 5 minutes until broth is slightly thickened.

Add in roasted vegetables and half and half. Return soup just to a boil, then reduce heat immediately to simmer so half and half doesn’t curdle. Simmer for 10 minutes to combine flavors. Turn off heat and let mixture cool slightly. Transfer half of the soup, 2 cups at a time, to blender and puree until smooth. Stir pureed mixture back into the soup. Serve immediately, or store in container in frig.

*NOTE: My favorite soup “hack” is to use chicken soup base instead of bouillon or chicken stock, because it has more flavor and less salt. The brand I like is called “Better Than Bouillon” and they make a chicken, beef, and vegetable base. You can find it in the soup aisle at your grocery store. So just march on past those cans of Campbell’s, and pick up a jar so you TOO can make tasty, nutritious soup for you and the fam.

Chicken Vegetable Soup with Rice

FullSizeRenderThere’s something extra comforting about chicken soup, and it’s more than just because it’s warm and savory on a cold winter day. If you make your own broth, the boiling of the chicken carcass makes it chock-full of helpful minerals, and the combination of vegetables and chicken stock give this soup anti-inflammatory properties that really DO help you get over a cold or flu. I’ve read countless articles about it. But I’ve also experienced it.

My mom taught me how to make this simple recipe, and I’ve been making it for years. Last year, when we were hosting a student from Japan, I saw it’s healing properties first hand. Poor Hana came down with strep throat while 5,000 miles from home. I felt so bad for the poor girl! We got her a shot of penicillin, and I made her a batch of chicken soup. The soup started her on the mend, and the penicillin finished the job.

A few months ago, my son Justin brought his girlfriend over when she was super sick with a cold and fever. I went into Mom-mode, and had Ashley popping Advil and sucking on cough drops while I stirred up some chicken soup. She spent the day getting hydrated and sipping soup. Again, the healing powers of chicken soup did the trick! (And that girlfriend is now his fiancée—more magical mystery powers of the soup? It may have played a part…)

This week, my friend Marylee came down with a nasty virus. I brought her a couple jars of chicken soup, and the next day she was on the mend. She told me I should post the recipe for “sick soup” and I told her I was sure I’d already posted a basic thing like chicken soup. But surprisingly, I hadn’t! So here it is. Incidentally, it’s also delicious when you’re NOT sick! 

Serves 6-8

For broth
1 rotisserie chicken
5-6 carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
Center leafy pieces of celery bunch
1 yellow onion, peeled and cut into quarters
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon celery seed
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2-3 bay leaves

For soup
6-8 cups home made chicken broth
3-4 carrots, peeled and diced
2-3 stalks celery, washed and diced
1 cup diced cooked chicken
¼ to 1/3 cup white rice, uncooked
1 teaspoon salt
Dash smoked Spanish paprika

Remove chicken from one whole cooked rotisserie chicken, reserving skin and bones. Set meat aside. Put chicken carcass and skin in Dutch oven with carrots, heart of celery, onion, salt, celery seed, pepper, and bay leaves. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce to low and let simmer for 60 minutes. Strain broth off, and discard all vegetables and chicken bone and skin.

Put 6-8 cups of chicken broth in large sauce pan or small Dutch oven. Add carrot, celery, chicken, rice, salt, and paprika. Bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer and cook for 20 minutes. Taste and add salt or other spices as necessary. Serve to your sick foreign-exchange student, friend, or your son’s future bride.

Creamy Potato, Parsnip and Leek Soup

FullSizeRenderBacon, potatoes, and leeks blend together in creamy goodness in this simple soup recipe that goes together in about 30 minutes. Published in a Real Simple article praising potatoes in the November 2016 issue, it grabbed my attention because of the addition of leeks, which have a milder and sweeter flavor than onions, and I love an excuse to use them. Every time I cook with leeks, I remember the verses from the Old Testament where the Israelites complain about missing leeks and garlic as they wandered in the desert (Numbers 11:5). They missed them so much, that they sort of forgot they were enslaved to the Egyptians when they were cooking with those leeks and garlic. That’s the power of good ingredients—they make you forget the misery of every day life, even when that misery includes making bricks for the pyramids without any straw.

So my mind wanders a bit when I cook! What can I say? I’ve made this soup twice already since first trying the recipe, as the first batch was gobbled up in a hurry. I adjusted all the vegetable amounts and added more seasoning to the Real Simple version. And they had garnished their recipe with bacon bits and scallions, and I found the scallions to be overpowering in this mild soup. Chopped chives would be a better garnish. I think even the Israelites would approve of that tweak to this dish.

Makes 8 servings

6-8 slices bacon, cut in half
3 russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 pound parsnips (about 5 medium or 3 large)
2 leeks thinly sliced, including some of tender green portions
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon dried dill
4 cups chicken broth (32-ounce box)
1 cup heavy cream or half-and-half
¼ cup chopped chives, optional, for garnish

In large Dutch oven, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon to plate with paper towels to drain and cool. Add potatoes, parsnips, and leeks to the pot. Cook, stirring now and then, for 10 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. Add garlic and cook a few minutes more. Sprinkle in salt and dill and stir. Add in broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cover and cook for 15 minutes.

Working in batches, process 2 cups of soup at a time until smooth. Return all the blended soup to the pot and stir in cream while element is on low. Top individual bowls with crumbled bacon bits, and chopped chives, if desired.

Smoky Chipotle Corn Chowder

FullSizeRenderSince it’s soup season, you’ll want to tag this smoky potato and corn chowder for a quick, light meal. Aside from the chipotle chili peppers, most of the ingredients may be kitchen staples for you, as they were for me. My friend Terri shared this with me a couple years ago, and I just got around to trying it for the first time. As I’ve gotten a lot of my soup recipes from restaurants (when I wrote for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, and was requesting recipes for readers), they tend to yield mammoth portions, and you gotta be committed to eating said soup for an eternity! This one is a smaller scale recipe, perfect for about 6 tasty bowls.

My only recipe suggestion would be to add more cheese, so I upped the amount to ½ cup below. And you would think the peppers in this would give it quite a burn, but even my mild-mannered palette was not offended by the heat. It was barely noticeable, in fact! I am curious to see if the heat cranks up a notch as the soup sits in the frig—sometimes that happens with chili peppers. I’ll be sure to let you know.

Serves 6-8

2 tablespoons butter
1 bunch scallions (green onions), sliced
4 cups chopped red potatoes, with skin on
2 cups chicken broth
4 cups frozen corn (16 ounces) *
2 tablespoons dried cilantro (or use ¼ cup fresh, but then add with milk and cheese towards end of process)
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
½-1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons chopped chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
2 cups milk
½ cup shredded sharp white cheddar (or Monterey Jack cheese)
1/3 cup diced cooked ham **

Garnishes:
Fresh chopped cilantro
Chopped scallions

Melt butter in Dutch oven or large pot over medium-high heat. Sauté scallions for 1-2 minutes, then add potatoes and cook for additional 5 minutes, or until green onions and potatoes begin to brown. Add broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, then add corn, cilantro, smoked paprika, salt, and chipotle peppers. Stir well, and cook for about 15 minutes, or until potatoes are tender. Add the milk and cheese, and turn off heat. Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes.

Puree about 2 cups of the soup in a blender, and return to the pot. Heat to medium-low, and stir in ham. Serve with chopped fresh cilantro and green onions as garnishes, if desired.

*NOTE: I used a bag of frozen roasted corn from Trader Joe’s, and I would highly recommend it! I’ve seen the same thing at Cub foods, too, so look for the pre-roasted corn at your grocery store.

** Skip the ham for a vegetarian option. It really didn’t enhance the soup that much, so I don’t think it’s a completely necessary ingredient.

Spicy Chicken and Butternut Squash Stew

FullSizeRenderSoup and stew don’t usually scream “summer,” but the combo of spice and light coconut flavor in this dish will make it a year-round fave. After a week of chomping and chewing salads for Whole30, I wanted something hot and creamy. When I ran across a hard-copy of this recipe (while trying to rid my counters of piles of papers before hosting a party), I was more than a little excited to see that it is Whole30 compliant. A friend had given me this recipe several years ago, and I’d not yet tried it. Truthfully, I think I’d avoided it because it used coconut milk, and not dairy, and that sounded weird for soup. It’s from an issue of Cooking Light (January 2001), and the recipe called for light coconut milk, but Whole30 calls for full-fat coconut milk, so that’s what I used. It also called for pumpkin, but I used butternut squash since it’s not pumpkin season. I added a Granny Smith apple and chicken broth (in lieu of plain water) for flavor, and chipotle powder for smokiness. While it had heat, I didn’t think it was too hot, yet it was spicy enough for my husband to not douse with cayenne pepper, as is his usual habit.

The recipe was intended as a stew to be served on top of rice, and this would be delicious over jasmine or basmati rice. It would serve 8-10 if topping rice. But rice isn’t in the Whole30 plan, so I served it without and it was plenty filling.

Serves 6-8

1½ pounds boneless, skinless, chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
Dash salt and pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 medium yellow onions, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
½-1 fresh jalapeño, minced
1 tablespoon curry powder
1-2 teaspoons salt
½ coarse ground black pepper
Dash to ¼ teaspoon chipotle powder
4 cloves garlic, minced
6 cups cubed fresh butternut squash (or acorn squash, or pumpkin)
1 cup chicken broth
1 (14-ounce) can coconut milk
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Serving suggestion:
2 cups cooked Jasmine or Basmati rice

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a Dutch oven. Add chicken and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sauté for 5-8 minutes, or until lightly browned. Remove chicken from pan and set aside.

Heat remaining tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat and add onion. Sauté until onions are translucent, then add red bell pepper, apple, ginger, and jalapeño and cook 2-3 minutes, or until veggies are tender-crisp. Add curry, salt, pepper, chipotle powder, and minced fresh garlic. Heat and stir for a minute or two to toast spices. Stir in squash, chicken broth, and coconut milk (and coconut cream that has settled to top of can!). Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until squash is tender. Return cooked chicken to pot with fresh cilantro, and let simmer for 3-5 minutes. Serve as is, or ladle over cooked rice.

Wild Rice Soup

FullSizeRenderMinnesotans love their rich and creamy wild rice soup, something unique to the Midwest. So whenever we have out-of-state or overseas visitors, we send them home with a bag of wild rice…and this recipe for making a slightly healthier version of the old standby. I got a recipe similar to this years ago from Lund’s and Byerly’s. The high-end grocery store serves this soup in their deli, and they were handing out the secret recipe in response to frequent requests from patrons. But lately I’ve been adding in a chopped red pepper (which is chock full of vitamin C), and some celery and carrots. I also use only a portion of Half and Half, and then milk to finish it up. It’s still not a low-fat meal, mind you, just a little more substantive. (And I defy you to find another food blog that offers great vocab like “substantive” along with delicious food…)

1 cup wild rice, rinsed and drained
4 cups water
1 cube chicken bouillon
2 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon minded dry onion
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large sweet red pepper, chopped
4 carrots, peeled and grated
2-3 stalks celery, chopped
¼ cup all-purpose flour or Namaste gluten-free flour blend
4 cups chicken broth
1 cup Half and Half
2 cups skim milk
2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken or 1 cup diced ham, optional

Combine wild rice, water, and bouillon cube in large sauce pan. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for 45 minutes, or until majority of kernels are split. Rinse under cold water to shock rice, and halt the cooking process. Set aside.

In large Dutch oven, melt butter. Add dry minced onion and cook until golden. Add chopped onion and cook until onion is translucent. Add pepper, carrots, and celery and cook 5-10 minutes more. Sprinkle flour over vegetables and stir to coat, and then cook a minute more. Gradually pour in chicken broth and stir until no lumps of flour remain. Stir in cooked rice, Half and Half, and 1 cup milk. Add in chicken or ham, if you’d like. Add additional cup of milk if needed to thin soup. Serve.

NOTE: Cream-based soups do not freeze well. Refrigerate your leftovers of this soup.

Cream of Cauliflower Soup

IMG_1140As this creamy cauliflower soup prepares in about 30 minutes, you can get a light, healthy lunch on the table fairly fast. I found the basic recipe in Midwest Living magazine (Feb 2013), and it was titled “Cream of Any-Vegetable Soup.” I’ve done cauliflower and also broccoli, but we liked the cauliflower best. One problem—they must have taste-tested this recipe on a family of gnats, cause the first time I made it, it served up 2 small bowls. Not worth the effort for such a small yield! So I doubled it. I also found that their recipe used far too little vegetable, so I significantly increased that—more so than the other ingredients. If you prefer broccoli to the cauliflower, I’ve included the instructions for that at the end of the recipe as well.

Serves 6

4 cups cauliflower florets
¼ cup chopped celery
¼ cup chopped onion
¼ cup (4 tablespoons) butter
¼ cup all-purpose flour or Namaste gluten-free flour blend
1 teaspoon instant chicken bouillon granules or 1 cub chicken bouillon, crushed
1 teaspoon curry powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon course ground black pepper
4 cups milk
Dash Worcestershire sauce
½ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese, optional (but really, since when is cheese in anything “optional”?)

Place half of cut cauliflower in microwave safe bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and microwave on high for 3 minutes. Repeat with other half of cut cauliflower, and set aside cooked vegetables.

In a heavy saucepan or small Dutch oven, sauté celery and onion in butter until tender. Stir in flour and bouillon granules, curry, salt, and pepper. Allow flour and seasonings to “toast” for about a minute to bring out flavor. Gradually stir in milk, whisking it into flour until combined to avoid lumps. Add Worcestershire sauce. Cook and stir until thick and bubbly, then cook and stir for another minute. Stir in cooked cauliflower. Allow mixture to cook slightly, then place in blender (1/3 at a time), and blend for about 3 seconds. Repeat until all of soup has been processed. Return to saucepan to heat through. Add cheese and stir until melted. Serve.

For Broccoli-cheese Soup: Add 4 cups cooked broccoli florets instead of cauliflower, omit the curry and use ½ teaspoon garlic salt or garlic powder instead, and increase the cheese to 1 cup.

Curried Sweet Potato and Lentil Soup

FullSizeRenderIf you’re one of the gazillion American’s who has “lose weight” as a #1 resolution in the New Year, here’s a low cal recipe for you. I figure it’s about 108 calories per bowl, if you get 8 bowls from this batch. And with lentils and sweet potatoes as the main ingredients, this is a super healthy, gluten-free soup, that’s surprisingly hearty and filling. The small amount of jalapeño cuts the sweetness of the potatoes, and it really is a necessary ingredient. I’ve tried making it without jalapeño when I didn’t have it on hand, and the soup was bland and tasteless, even with all that wonderful curry that usually holds it’s own in a recipe. Who knew a little pepper had so much power? It cooks up in about 30 minutes, so it’s not one of the more time-intensive soups in my arsenal. I cut this recipe from a Midwest Living magazine several years ago, and since stumbling on it, you’ll find it simmering on my stovetop at least once a month whenever there’s a nip in the air.

Serves 6-8

1 medium onion, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ or 1 medium fresh jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped, or 1 teaspoons of canned, chopped, jalapeño peppers*
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 cup dry lentils, rinsed and drained (that is ½ of a 1 pound bag of lentils)
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces
1 can diced tomatoes, undrained
2 (14-ounce) cans vegetable or chicken broth (or 4 cups water and 3 teaspoons vegetable or chicken soup base)
1 cup water
1 tablespoon curry powder
Dash salt

In a Dutch oven, cook onion in hot oil over medium heat until onion is translucent. Add jalapeño, garlic, and ginger, and cook a few minutes more. Add dry lentils, sweet potatoes, tomatoes (with juice), broth, water, curry powder, and salt. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer 25-30 minutes or until lentils and potatoes are tender.

*If using fresh jalapeño or other peppers, wear gloves when handling peppers. Seeds from peppers can be extremely hot. Wash hands and all utensils thoroughly after handling any fresh peppers.

New England Clam Chowder

FullSizeRenderThis creamy dairy-based clam chowder warms you to the core when there’s a chill in the air. It can be a starter to your meal, or a whole meal in itself. This used to be a staple at our Christmas Eve dinner, but some how it fell off the menu over the last several years. So this year I resurrected the recipe, found in one of my Better Homes & Gardens cookbooks, and our family was glad I did! We’d forgotten what a treat this soup is, with the mild seafood flavor, and bits of hearty potatoes, clams, and bacon. I’ve altered some ingredient amounts from the BH&G recipe, adding more minced clams, bacon, and Worcestershire for fuller flavor.

And does anyone else besides me get confused about the different kinds of clam chowder? When we’re at a restaurant, I have to always remind myself that New England is the more popular cream-based soup, and Manhattan clam chowder is the tomato-based version, so I’m not disappointed when the food arrives. Or at least the New England style is more popular with our family… Give this recipe a try, and see where it ranks in popularity in your home.

Serves 6-8

3 (6.5 ounce) cans minced clams
4-6 slices of bacon
4 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2½ cups milk, divided
1 cup Half & Half light cream
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour or Namaste gluten-free flour blend
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
¾ teaspoon salt
Dash coarse ground black pepper

Drain the canned clams, reserving all liquid. You should have close to 2 cups clam juice. Add water if necessary, to get 2 cups liquid. Set aside. In large Dutch oven, fry bacon until crisp. Drain cooked strips of bacon on paper towels. Once cool, crumble bacon, and set aside for a topping. Add onions to the bacon fat in the pan and cook until translucent. Add the 2 cups reserved liquid and chopped potatoes, and bring liquid to a boil. Cover, reduce to simmer, and let potatoes cook about 10-15 minutes, or until tender. Stir in clams, 2 cups of the milk, and the Half & Half. In a small bowl, whisk remaining ½ cup milk with the flour until no lumps remain. Stir into chowder. Increase heat until mixture begins to boil, and immediately reduce to low again. Cook and stir until bubbly. Stir in Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper. Serve with crumbled bacon on top.

Split Pea Soup

IMG_0775Some find the color off-putting. In fact, I almost posted this split pea soup recipe sans photo, as it isn’t likely to win any beauty contests (unless it could really nail the talent competition). But those who can get past the unappealing color are rewarded with a healthy, hearty, full-flavored soup. We have a pot of this in the frig at least once a month, making for an easy lunch at home or work. It doesn’t magically appear in the refrigerator, lest you think we have a shoemaker-and-the-elves situation in our kitchen. No, it takes a couple hours to make, but it’s not hands-on labor. You get it simmering, and let it be.

I used to only make this soup when I could beg the ham bone off my mother after she’d hosted Christmas or Easter dinners. Then I discovered most grocery stores carry ham shanks just for making soup. Who knew? Now I make this high-fiber soup outside of holiday seasons. Making it yourself means you can control the sodium, a problem with the canned varieties. Making it yourself also means you’re saving big bucks—this is another soup that figures in at about a buck a bowl. Budget buster…BAM!

If a gallon of soup is more than you can handle, no worries. This soup freezes really well. You can have some now, and save some for later. I usually give a quart to my son Justin, who lives on his own, or my co-worker Annette, who loves it as much as we do. Just spreading the love. Oh, and where’d I find this recipe? In my Better Homes & Gardens cookbook, copyright 1981. It’s the one where the homemakers are rockin’ really hot helmet hair-dos as they assemble Jell-O molds. 

Serves 8-10

1 pound bag dried green* split peas, rinsed and drained
8 cups water
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 cube chicken bouillon
1 teaspoon marjoram or summer savory
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 ham shank (or ham bone)
4-6 carrots, peeled and chopped
3-4 stalks celery, washed and chopped
salt and pepper to taste

In Dutch oven, combine dried peas, water, onion, bouillon, marjoram, pepper, and ham shank. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Cover and simmer for 1 hour. Stir occasionally. Remove ham bone and let cool. Add carrots and celery. Bring to boiling again, then reduce to simmer for additional 30 minutes. Once bone is cool enough to handle, remove meat and coarsely chop. Return meat to soup and season with additional salt and pepper, if necessary.

*NOTE: I once tried the yellow split peas, thinking it would be a fun change of pace. It was the most sickening shade of pale chartreuse I’ve ever seen. You practically had to close your eyes to eat it. Never again.