Barefoot Contessa’s Mexican Chicken Soup and Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread

Ina Garten’s Mexican Chicken Soup and Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread (click for recipes)
Both of these recipes were fabulous. I think that Ina’s recipe will replace mine for future use. The tortilla slices really give the soup a nice, thick texture. I added a can of black beans (drained and rinsed) for a little extra interest (and nutrition.) The cornbread was great, too, but I exchanged one of the cups of flour for another cup of cornmeal, because the idea of cornbread with more flour than cornmeal just didn’t seem right to me. Very crumbly, but very tasty.
By the way, I used Penzey’s jalapenos in both the soup and the cornbread and it was perfect – just enough of a spicy kick without being too much (particularly for Girl, who is pretty sensitive to heat.)

Chicken and White Bean Soup with Herb Swirl, Parmesan Toasts

This soup (from the always-awesome “Family Style” page in Bon Appetit magazine – March 2009 issue) was very tasty, but I’m not sure that the “herb swirl” added much in the way of flavor. In terms of presentation, too, it just seemed to get lost in the soup, so I would recommend either skipping it (one less skillet to wash!) or just sprinkling some fresh herbs directly into the soup before portioning. The soup was very tasty, though, and quite easy. A hit with all four of us.
I forgot to buy the Italian bread to make the Parmesan toasts, so I improvised with what I had on hand. Any resemblance to halved, leftover hamburger buns is purely coincidental.

Black Bean Soup (with Great Harvest Spinach-Feta Bread)

Yum! This recipe is simple, healthy and delicious. You’ve got to soak the beans overnight and the soup has to simmer for a long time, but the actual hands-on prep time (some chopping and sauteing) for the soup is pretty minimal. All four of us loved this. Is delicious as served in the recipe (sour cream, cilantro and bacon) or is also wonderful served over rice. Very kid-friendly.

Cauliflower Soup with Pecans and Rye Croutons (with London Broil & Salad)


This recipe
sounded really great, but honestly, it was a lot of work for a soup that was just kind of, well….meh. I really LOVE cauliflower, especially when it’s roasted and takes on some caramelization, but in this recipe, it’s basically just boiled and doesn’t get any delicious toasty flavor.
This was OK, but it wasn’t great. There are other soups I’ve had that are more flavorful and other cauliflower methods that are tastier, so this probably won’t be a repeat.

Golden Winter Soup

Golden Winter Soup from Cooking Light magazine
This was really good. It was really mild and creamy; this would be a great recipe to start kids off with that haven’t tasted butternut squash before; it tastes very similar to a creamy potato soup; the butternut squash flavor is very subtle. Boy, Hubby and I liked this soup a lot, but all of us did add some additional spice at the table. Girl wasn’t wild about it, but she’s still not feeling well and her appetite is off. I did add some thyme-infused fleur de sel that my parents brought back from France for me because it was a little bland. I also added some green chiles, as was recommended by some of the online recipe reviewers. This was nice as a small appetizer-ish portion or go-with (we served it with salad and the gruyere toasts in the recipe), but I wouldn’t have wanted to have a whole huge bowl of this. It would be good with some sort of grilled, savory sandwich, too..

Escarole Soup with Meatballs

Girl is home sick today, so I made this for lunch for the three of us.
Escarole Soup with Little Meatballs, adapted from The Sopranos Family cookbook
4 cups chopped escarole, thoroughly washed and spun dry
(about 1/2 of a large head)
chicken broth, 4 to 6 quarts (start with 4 quarts, but have more on hand)
2 cups coarsely chopped carrots
for the meatballs:
1/2 pound ground pork
1/2 pound ground beef
1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
2 large eggs
1 large garlic clove, minced or run through a press
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (Parmigiano-Reggiano is best)
2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 tsp. salt
freshly ground pepper
olive oil for browning, 2 to 3 Tbsp.
Mix all ingredients together, except for olive oil. Shape into balls about the size of a grape. Saute the meatballs (in batches) in the olive oil, in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat, until they are lightly browned on all sides, but not cooked through. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside, on a paper-towel-lined plated to drain and cool.
This is the same meatball that is used in this recipe, which it just so happens I made for dinner on Saturday night. I wanted the meatballs to be half pork-half beef, but could only find both meats in one-pound packages. I made a double batch of the meatballs and browned them all. We used half for dinner Saturday and I froze the other half (browned but not totally cooked through) for future use, so they were ready to go right into this soup.
8 ounces fideo pasta (or spaghetti, broken into small pieces)
extra freshly grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Spread pasta in an even layer on a shallow baking pan and toast in the oven until golden. Set aside to cool.
In a VERY large stock pot, combine the escarole, broth and carrots. Bring to a simmer and cook until the escarole is tender, about 30 minutes, adding more broth, if necessary.
When the escarole is cooked, stir in the reserved browned meatballs and reserved pasta. Add more broth, if necessary. Cook over low heat, uncovered, until the meatballs are cooked through and the pasta is al dente (about 20 minutes). It may be necessary to add more broth as the pasta is cooking and absorbs some. Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
Serve hot with grated Parmesan cheese over the top.
The verdict: The soup was tasty and VERY easy (because I already had escarole and pre-browned meatballs on hand) and is great for someone (Girl) who is not feeling well, but it was a little bit bland. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t GREAT, like the lentil soup last night was. If I make it again, I will saute a little minced garlic and chopped onion in the bottom of the pan before I add the carrots, escarole and broth. I think that would help it a lot. Maybe some chopped, fresh herbs, too. Don’t be afraid to be pretty generous with the salt and pepper, too – this soup really needs it.

Lentil Soup with Italian Sausage and Escarole

Well, it’s only the first day and I’m already off the schedule…
I decided to flip Monday and Tuesday, so we had this lentil soup for dinner tonight. It was absolutely wonderful; all four of us loved it. I served it with Baby Bam croutons (cut your favorite bread into appropriately-sized chunks, drizzle with melted butter and/or olive oil to lightly coat, sprinkle with Baby Bam, bake at 250 degrees – 20 to 30 minutes – until crunchy.)
Note: If you live in Austin: Escarole is difficult to find at most stores. My in-laws’ farm grows it (seasonally), or it is also available at Central Market. I haven’t seen it elsewhere.
Lentil Soup with Italian Sausage and Escarole
Some things came up early in the day today and I knew that I would be getting home (and hence, starting dinner) later than I planned, so I prepped the veggies and sliced the sausage ahead of time and put them in containers in the fridge. I also pulled all of the other non-perishable ingredients (stock, vinegar, olive oil, bay leaf, etc.) out and set them by the stove, so that when I got home, I would be able to get right to work. So, from the time that I started to the time we hit the table, this dish took about 35 minutes. Perfect!
Browning the Italian sausage meatballs
Sauteeing the vegetables (my kitchen smelled AMAZING when I threw this in the pan)
Chopped escarole, waiting for its turn in the soup
I HIGHLY recommend this recipe. Girl ended up coming home sick today, and will likely still be sick tomorrow, so I plan to use the leftover 1/2 head of escarole (the head that I bought was HUGE) to make her some escarole and meatball soup. We’ll plan to have the salmon for dinner tomorrow and fish makes her miserable. Normally, I would just tell her to “get over it”, but since she’s not feeling well, I’ll probably give her a pass…stay tuned for that recipe.
In case you haven’t used lentils before, this is what they look like before they’re cooked; they’re VERY small.
Lentils are VERY easy to cook, are VERY inexpensive, have a mild flavor that nicely absorbs the taste of other ingedients in the dish. Lentils are LOADED with iron, fiber and folic acid, so they are a WONDERFUL food for pregnant women. If you haven’t tried them before, give them a go.
Here are two other great recipes to get you started:
Lentils with Bulgur and Onions from Gourmet magazine

Salmon with Lentils and Mustard-Herb Butter
, also from Gourmet magazine

Asparagus Soup

This was SO yummy and very easy. Asparagus Soup Melt 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter in a large, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Add some coarsely chopped, yellow onion (about 3/4 cup to 1 cup) and a pinch of salt (I LOOOOOOVE my little wooden salt bowl. I bought it in Costa Rica and that little … Continue reading “Asparagus Soup”


This was SO yummy and very easy.

Asparagus Soup

Melt 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter in a large, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Add some coarsely chopped, yellow onion (about 3/4 cup to 1 cup) and a pinch of salt (I LOOOOOOVE my little wooden salt bowl. I bought it in Costa Rica and that little spoon holds precisely 1/4 tsp.) and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, translucent and just starting to brown, lowering heat if necessary to avoid scorching.

Add 2 pounds coarsely chopped asparagus,with the woody ends removed and discarded. Continue cooking and stirring for about 5 more minutes. (To remove the ends, I bend each stalk until it snaps and breaks, at the natural junction where the woody part ends.)

Add chicken stock to cover (about 6 cups) and simmer, about 20 more minutes, or until asparagus is softened. Lower heat and/or add more chicken stock, if necessary, during cooking.

Remove soup from heat and stir in 1/4 cup half-and-half (or cream, if you’re feeling naughty) and 1/4 cup sour cream and a tiny squeeze of fresh lemon juice (about 1 tsp.). Puree soup carefully, using a blender, preferably an immersion one. If you must use a countertop blender, do so very carefully as the liquid will be VERY hot and you will likely need to puree it in multiple batches.

Garnish with whatever strikes your fancy: chopped chives or parsley, a shaving of parmesan, croutons, some asparagus tops that have been steamed or sauteed separately or even, ummmm….bacon!

Pork Empanada and Zucchini Basil Soup

These two recipes really don’t “go” together, but they were both delicious. Zucchini Basil Soup from Gourmet magazine (July 2008) This soup was phenomenal and would make an excellent first course or accompaniment for almost anything. Obviously, it would be great with Italian food. It was also VERY easy (I LOVE my immersion blender) and … Continue reading “Pork Empanada and Zucchini Basil Soup”

These two recipes really don’t “go” together, but they were both delicious.

Zucchini Basil Soup from Gourmet magazine (July 2008)

This soup was phenomenal and would make an excellent first course or accompaniment for almost anything. Obviously, it would be great with Italian food. It was also VERY easy (I LOVE my immersion blender) and is quite healthy. I substituted chicken broth for the water, just to take advantage of the opportunity to add a bit more flavor. The hardest part of the soup was figuring out how to make the peel juiliennes. I tried two different methods: a mandoline and a julienne peeler. Neither of them worked well at ALL (I think I need to work on my technique), so I ended up just peeling off wide strips of peel with a paring knife and then slicing them into julienne.

Party-Style Pork Empanada from Southern Living magazine (September 2008)


The empanada was also quite yummy and pretty easy. It reminded me a little bit of our taco ring, but the flavors were more subtle. I actually like this one better and may use the bread dough (instead of “crescent” rolls) the next time that I make “our” taco ring. Girl said that she really liked this (Boy ate dinner at a friend’s house tonight, so didn’t get a chance to weigh in). I did switch the recipe up a tiny bit. Hubby has a pathological fear of raisins. Seriously, it’s just not explainable, but it is not a subtle or remotely ambilavent feeling that he has about them. He says that they taste like dirt. So, to placate Hubby, I substituted black beans for the raisins. The recipe made a TON of filling and I was not able to fit it all into the bread (if you are able to stretch that bread dough out to a 12 by 14 rectangle, you must be a magician!), so I have another entire batch of filling in my freezer now, for future use. I think that it might be good over rice instead. The “picadillo” seasoning is not dissimilar to taco seasoning, but also had some dehydrated raisins (that I had to pick out) and sliced olives in it. Next time, I may try to make my own spice blend instead.