Chicken Corn Chowder

It’s been too long since I’ve posted, but it was the holidays after all. To make up for it, I’m posting a real gem (woah, I almost spelled that jem…like the 80s cartoon) of a recipe – Chicken Corn Chowder. Its a stick to your bones kind of soup that we ate every last bit of – the entire pot.  I can’t say that about every soup I’ve made.

In addition to the corn and chicken, it has roasted red peppers and potatoes and a little kick from a jalapeno. If you don’t finish the entire pot I’d be mighty surprised. Add in some biscuits and you have a great winter dinner.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 2 medium potatoes, chopped
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups reduced-fat milk
  • 2 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cups chopped roasted skinless, boneless chicken breasts, rotisserie chicken works great here (vegetarians can omit the chicken and its still a great chowder)
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels (about 3 ears, but you can use frozen)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • salt to taste
  • 2 roasted red peppers from a jar, chopped
  • 1 (14 3/4-ounce) can cream-style corn

How To:

Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion, celery, potato and jalapeño and cook for 3 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently. Add flour; cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in milk and remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil and cook until thick (about 5 minutes). Reduce heat and serve (biscuits work great as a compliment).

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Manti

One of my favorite recipes and one of the best soups ever, is manti. I recently tackled manti because a) I really wanted to eat it and b) my mom and nana always talked about what a process it is, and how much money it sells for at the church bazaar. I wanted to prove them wrong and learn that it is a simple thing to make. Well, I was wrong.

This shouldn’t discourage you from making manti, which is actually the name of the little dumplings (but I also call the finished soup manti). Once you’ve got the bowl in front of you, you’ll soon realize all the work was worth it. And maybe that makes the soup even more satisfying. You can also freeze the manti and have them ready for plumping in the tomato-y broth base on any day you need a comfort serving.

A little background: manti is traditionally made with lamb and beef tiny meatballs, wrapped in a little dough, baked, then plumped up in a tomato chicken broth mixture and served with a tangy yogurt. I used ground chicken, and it turned out great. You can use plain greek yogurt or if you are Armenian, you might be familiar with mazoon (Armenian yogurt).

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 pound flour
for the meat mixture:
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground chicken (or sirloin or lamb)
  • 1 cup finely chopped onions
  • 1/2 cup chopped flat parsley
  • 2 cloves finely chopped garlic
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground pepper
for preparation of the dumplings:
  • 2 sticks butter
How To:

Mix the water and egg together and add melted butter, olive oil and salt, thoroughly incorporating. Add the flour all at once. Spread flour on a work surface (i.e. granite counter or waxclothed table) and knead the dough until all of the flour has been mixed in. Knead dough to become smooth.
Divide the dough into 3 equal parts and form into balls. Cover with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rest for 30 minutes.
For the meat mixture, combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Don’t over mix. Separate the mixture into 3 equal parts and cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
For the manti, flour your work surface. Roll out one dough ball to 1/8″ thickness, measuring approximately 20″ in diameter. If you think you’ve rolled thin enough, keep rolling until you feel like it just won’t get any thinner. It needs to be really thin. With a pizza cutter or ravioli cutter, cut the dough into 1″ squares. I eyeballed this at first and realize that wasn’t the best method, but it does work.
Melt the butter and liberally brush it on a baking sheet. Take a portion of the meat, such as a small dab, and place onto each square. This will be a very small amount. squeeze the ends of the dough together, hiding the meat inside the dumpling and preventing the meat from falling out. Your manti will resemble a canoe. Place manti on the buttered baking sheet, and make sure they do not touch each other. Once you’ve filled the tray, lightly butter the tops of each manti. Continue with the remainder of meat and dough.
Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven until golden brown (about 15-20 minutes). Cool on a plate or wire rack. You can freeze manti after baking, and you will want to freeze some because this recipe makes a lot of little mantis. To serve, heat 4 to 6 cups chicken broth with 2 tablespoons tomato paste. Add 2 cups manti and allow to plump up. Serve with a dollop of plain yogurt.

Chicken Fajita Soup

I decided it was time for a fiesta. No reason really, I just felt like making something to help the transition from winter to spring get here faster (as if making mexican food would do the trick). Seems to have worked as the forecast says temperatures in the 60s later this week.

Chicken Fajita Soup is chicken fajitas in a bowl. Add some fun garnishes and you have a one dish meal. No taking out 5+ bowls for all the “stuff” or fussing to make your own fajita (picture an infomercial where everything goes wrong before you try the chicken fajita soup invention). Just a bowl and you, and perhaps some quesadillas on the side.

It’s spicy, salty, and perfect for this time of year- lower in calories and fat than most winter soups. After all, spring is around the corner and that means summer will soon follow…and your bathing suit.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds chicken tenders
  • 1 tablespoon coriander
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 large onion, quartered and thinly sliced
  • 1 large bell pepper, quartered and thinly sliced
  • 1 (28-ounce) can fire roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 quart chicken broth
  • 1 bag white corn tortilla chips
  • Several slices pepper Jack cheese (or shredded)
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
  • sour cream

How To:

Pour olive oil in a large dutch oven over medium heat. Add chicken and begin to brown. Add coriander, salt and pepper to taste, onions, and bell pepper.

Cook 8 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove chicken and shred or dice. Place back in pot. Add the tomatoes and stock.  Heat for an additional 10 minutes or longer.

When ready to serve, crush 1/4 cup tortilla chips per bowl. Top the chips with some of the diced cheese. Dice the avocado and toss with lime juice. Ladle soup into the bowls, on top of the chips. Garnish with sour cream, avocado, cilantro and additional cheese.

Red Chili

There is nothing better than chili on a colder-than-last-week November day. You know, when it feels colder than it actually is because it was in the 60s all week and now its in the 40s? The typical thing that makes you laugh at yourself come February when you thought 40 degrees was sooo cold.

Getting to the subject, red chili warms and satisfies a fall appetite. This particular recipe is so easy and it only gets better the more you let it sit and simmer. If you put it in the fridge overnight, what you have the next day is a mix so amazing; let’s just say I recommend making a big batch because you’ll want it around for awhile. By the end of “day two, red chili,” you might be thinking “why didn’t I use industrial measurements?” Or, it might be time to try white chicken chili instead. Whatever the case, it makes your fondness for chili grow to the point where you stock your pantry with all the necessary ingredients for that impending cold day.

Red Chili

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 medium sweet onions, diced
  • 2 pounds ground beef, ground chicken or ground turkey
  • 2 28-ounce cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 15-ounce can pizza sauce
  • 4 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 15-ounce cans red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • seasoning salt
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • shredded cheese of choice, for garnish
  • sour cream, for garnish
  •  

How To:

Heat olive oil in a large stock pot. Add onions and saute until translucent, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add beef (or chicken or turkey) and break up with wooden spoon. Cook through, adding just a bit of seasoning salt, salt and pepper- you will add more to taste shortly. Once meat is browned, add tomatoes, pizza sauce, beans, and chili powder. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Let simmer 20 minutes. Ladle into bowls with garnishes on the side.

Roasted Sweet Pepper Soup

Before I opened the box I knew – probably tipped off from the mere weight of it- it was the dutch oven I’d been waiting for. I basically cooed like a mezimirized child at the shiny yellow pot with matching lid as if it was the coolest, most amazing new toy ever.

 

And really, it is. Then the inevitable happened, which is me asking myself repeatedly why I waited to get one as a gift when I could have gone out and bought one. Oh right, they are a couple hundred dollars but dare I say they are worth every last penny?  I do say it. They are worth it if you can spare the extra cash. And nowadays you can pick up a cheaper model at Macy’s and they will  most likely do the job. There is one reason I’m so happy to have gotten my dutch oven as a gift – everytime I use it, I’ll be thinking of those nice people who gave it to me (us…I’m going to be honest, it’s mine). Granted I still have to meet them, but the gifters are awesome in my book.

Dutch ovens have been around for hundreds of years, so my exclamation can not be considered new or unique. But if I can convince one more person to run out and buy a cast iron casserole pan (or demand it from someone asap), I’ll be a happy cook. Now about the soup. This easy, basically two-step soup takes minimal time to make and tastes so delicious- creamy, perky, and fresh. I say perky because the peppers give a little oomph you wouldn’t necessarily find in a tomato soup. I think its the perfect addition to a spring menu, topped with a dollop of creme fraiche and some chives.

Roasted Sweet Pepper Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium sweet onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 5 roasted yellow or red peppers (or a combo), sliced
  • 1 quart plus 1 1/4 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 large potato, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • creme fraiche or sour cream for serving
  • fresh chives for serving
  • shredded Monterrey Jack cheese for serving

How To:

Heat olive oil in a large stockpot or dutch oven. Add chopped onion and garlic. Let saute over medium heat for about 5 to 7 minutes, or until onions are transleucent. Add peppers, broth, potato and oregano. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes, or until potato is soft.

Puree in a food processor or blender in batches. Place back into stockpot and heat through. Season to taste. Serve with creme fraiche or sour cream and chives, or shredded cheese (such as Monterrey).

Sausage Tortellini Soup

Yummy hearty soup – so good on a winter day! Although it’s not technically winter as I write this, it is cold and blustery and the Chicago forecast says it is going to snow, which makes me think of warming, comforting things to make, which leads me to a recipe for sausage tortellini soup.

I need to credit my future mother in law for this one. It was absolutely phenomenal to slurp down after making a 6 hour trek to her house, and I am not trying to earn bonus points here. The soup works on so many levels because it’s both filling (thank you tortellinis) and fresh (thank you zucchini, carrots, tomatoes, and green pepper) and uh, delicious. Really, super delicious to the point I eat too much and feel as though I can’t eat anymore, then while putting the soup into containers feel compelled to pick out vegetables and tortellinis.

I made variations to the original recipe because I tend to cook with chicken and turkey, so if you are wondering how this would taste with pork sausage, by all means go for the real thing.  Just drain some of the fat (per recipe instruction) and omit the olive oil in the recipe below. Also, the original calls for beef stock instead of chicken.

If all the above doesn’t woo you to make this soup yet, make it because it’s fun – throwing all the ingredients into one pot and letting it simmer has some kind of throwing caution to the wind feeling, like you are leaving dinner in the pot’s hands now, which leaves you free to do more important things. Like make garlic bread.

Sausage Tortellini Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound chicken sausage, casings removed, crumbled 
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 medium tomatoes, peeled
  • 1 zucchini chopped
  • 3-4 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 5 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1 6-ounce can tomato paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 8 t0 10 ounces uncooked tortellini (I buy a frozen brand allowing the soup to be done quicker)
  • shredded parmesan cheese for serving

How To:

Heat olive oil in a large stockpot over medium heat and add onions and sausage. Cook, stirring occasionally. Once onions are soft and mixture is fragrant, add the rest of the ingredients except tortellini. Let simmer for 30 minutes.

Add tortellini and let simmer another 30 minutes.

Ladle into bowls and serve with parmesan cheese. Yes, it’s that easy.

You can make this soup ahead by following recipe through the first simmer. When you are ready to eat, heat soup and add tortellini, simmer for 30 minutes or less if using frozen tortellini.

Sweet Potato Stew

I had a real collection of sweet potatoes after Thanksgiving and knew I had to find something to do with them – because I love ’em and can’t waste food voluntarily. My mother sent me home with a half-crate full. Thankfully (I’m still in Thanksgiving mode) I had a recipe-in-waiting from one of my new cookbooks, but of course I couldn’t make it as written. I made some changes to make it spicier and less sweet.  I suspect a lot of people prefer the sweet potato with less cinnamony sweetness and more sassiness if given the option. Like I said in a previous post, the sweet potato just seems so nice. I wanted to give it a little edge.

It’s really somewhere between a soup and a stew. The broth gives it that slurpy appeal every soup should have and the potatoes give it a smooth, lavish texture . The best thing about it? It’s so incredibly yummy and comforting on a cold winter night…which we are starting to have. The second best thing about it? It’s actually Healthy with a capital H. Between the sweet potatoes, the lentils, and the beans you not only have a heartily rich and filling soup, but you have a fiber and iron packed powerful bowl of goodness. Not that I have to say more, but another key ingredient in this stew is turmeric- one of nature’s healers. The medicinal properties are still being revealed, but mainly it is has anti-inflammatory properties. I need to  mention ginger! Ginger is in it too and in addition to providing spice, it aids in digestion. I may be rambling, but really you can have your sumptuous soup and eat it too.

Sweet Potato Stew  Adapted from Sweet Potato Lentil Stew in “The Kind Diet”

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup olive or safflower oil
  • 2 medium onions, diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 2 small diced tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne (add more if you like it spicy)
  • kosher salt
  • ground black pepper
  • 4 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1″ inch cubes
  • 6 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1 cup lentils (try to get the no-need-to-soak kind)
  • 1 can black soy beans, drained and rinsed

How To:

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

Place 1 cup of the diced sweet potatoes (approximately 1 sweet potato) on a baking sheet lined with parchment, sprinkle with salt, and bake for about 30 minutes or until tender. Once tender, place into a medium bowl and mash. Set aside.

Heat large stockpot with the oil. Add onions and garlic and saute for about 4 minutes.  Add tomatoes and stir gently. Add ginger, turmeric, cumin, coriander, cinnamon and cayenne. Stir to combine and let cook for about 2 minutes. Add mashed sweet potatoes and stir. Add diced sweet potatoes, allowing to steam lightly in the mixture. Add broth, lentils and beans. Season with salt and pepper. Bring soup to a boil, cover and reduce to a simmer for about 40 minutes or until potatoes and lentils are tender. Check seasonings again, adding more salt and pepper if necessary.

I recommending serving with pita bread, cornbread, or even quesadillas.