Archive for the ‘Soups’ Category

A Little Rain … A Little Party …

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2016

Sunday we had quite the little storm. I grabbed a quick ride in the morning and then came home to cook for a housewarming party (finally!)

Sunday morning, October 30th, near Pena Adobe Park.

Sunday morning, October 30th, near Pena Adobe Park.

A few friends came over on Sunday for a housewarming party. We had a fabulous meal.

Lynda brought some yummy mushroom brie and crackers.

Lynda brought some yummy mushroom brie and crackers.

Herbed Chevre and Smoked Gouda.

Herbed Chevre and Smoked Gouda.

The Herbed Chevre is a quick and relatively inexpensive way to “dress up” a plain Chevre. Simply take your favorite plain Chevre cheese, let it come to room temperature. Mix in some chopped fresh herbs (dried will do in a pinch), a couple of splashes of good extra virgin olive oil, and mix until smooth.

Stuffed Mushrooms

Stuffed Crimini Mushrooms

The Stuffed Mushrooms are quick and easy, too. Here’s the recipe. I modified the filling a little bit – the filling was simply light cream cheese, Parmesan cheese, and a few grinds of Trader Joe’s South African Smoke Seasoning Blend (paprika flakes, sea salt, garlic, basil).

One friend brought a beautiful Corn & Shrimp Chowder, which I heard was fabulous. It had bell peppers in it, so I couldn’t eat it. What’s funny is that the soup that I made had peas in it, so he couldn’t eat my chicken soup!

Marsh's Corn & Shrimp Chowder

Marsh’s Corn & Shrimp Chowder

Chicken & Vegetable Soup

Chicken & Vegetable Soup

Another friend made Pork Tenderloins with a Bourbon-Maple-Molasses glaze that was fantastic.


Rick’s Pork Tenderloin with Bourbon-Maple-Molasses glaze.

Of course there was salad …

Mixed Greens with Fresh Fuyu Persimmons, Pomegranate, Feta Cheese, and a light and refreshing Citrus Vinaigrette.

Mixed Greens with Fresh Fuyu Persimmons, Pomegranate, Feta Cheese, and a light and refreshing Citrus Vinaigrette.

… and what is a party without dessert?

Tartlets: Fresh Lemon Curd and Caramel, Macadamia & Chocolate Tartlets.

Tartlets: Fresh Lemon Curd and Caramel, Macadamia & Chocolate.

The Lemon Curd recipe can be found here. I used pre-made tartlet shells … a little “semi-homemade” time-saving trick. I also cheated a bit with the caramel. I used Trader Joe’s Flue de Sel Caramel Sauce. This is my go-to caramel sauce.

Here’s wishing you a wonderful day. If you get the chance, would you please ride a few miles for me today? I’ve got to run to work now.

Cioppino Party

Sunday, January 4th, 2015

Last night I had some friends over for dinner. After the holidays, we’re all feeling a bit, dare I say, overindulged? However, last night was the final “holiday” party for 2014. It just had to wait until 2015 due to everyone’s schedules. So a light and healthy meal with just a touch of decadence was in order.

We had a few appetizers, the usual fresh vegetable platter, some cheese and crackers, and one experimental recipe – Roasted Crimini Mushrooms with Herbed Goat Cheese and a Balsamic Vinegar Glaze.

Roasted Crimini Mushrooms

Fresh Veggies

For the entree, I made Cioppino, mostly based on this recipe from Giada De Laurentiis. I made just a few modifications, but tried to follow her recipe as closely as possible because I’ve never made Cioppino before.


3 tablespoons avocado oil
1 large fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1 onion, chopped
3 large shallots, chopped
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
3/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup tomato paste
28 ounces of chopped fresh Roma tomatoes
1 1/2 cups dry white white
2 cups oyster broth
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth, low sodium
1 1/2 cups water
1 bay leaf
2 1/2 pounds mixed seafood: mussels, shrimp, scallops, calamari
1 1/2 pounds wild caught fresh swordfish, cut into chunks

Mis en place: assemble and prepare all of your ingredients.

In a large pot (at least 5.5 quarts), heat the oil over medium heat. Add the fennel, onion, and shallots; saute about 8-10 minutes, until translucent. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and saute another 2 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste, tomatoes, wine, broths, water, and bay leaf. Stir to combine well. Cover and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and allow to gently simmer for about 30 minutes. This will allow the flavors to blend.

Add the mixed seafood, cover and cook for about 5-10 minutes. Add the fish, stir gently, and cook another 5-10 minutes more. Season to taste with salt and red pepper flakes.

Ladle into bowls and serve with a good, crusty bread. This recipe makes six generous portions.

Cioppino - light, yet rich and satisfying, this Cioppino will make you want to head back for seconds.

We served a 2011 Luna Canto, which paired nicely and stood up to the spicy kick of this Cioppino.

For dessert, I made a “Paleo” Apple Crisp that I know you’ll want to try.



New Year Tradition – Lentil Soup

Sunday, December 28th, 2014

Legend has it that lentils will bring good health and prosperity in the New Year. How convenient that we just happened to have a bone-in ham for Christmas! I’ve got my batch of lentil soup on the stove right now and it will be ready later today.

I sort of followed the recipe on the bag of lentils, but mostly improvised. I didn’t quite have enough stock, so I used some dry white wine for part of the liquid. I don’t like canned tomatoes, so I used fresh heirloom cherry tomatoes. All of the measurements below are approximate. Normally I would add an onion or shallots, but I didn’t have any on hand (shocking!), so they’re omitted from this recipe.

Lentil Soup - a family tradition for good luck, health, and prosperity for the New Year!

Lentil Soup

2 pounds lentils
1 tablespoon oil (I like avocado or olive oil)
1 cup sliced carrots
1 cup shredded carrots
1 cup sliced celery
1 cup diced lean ham (optional)
1 ham bone*
1-2 cups halved cherry tomatoes
2-3 cups dry white wine
8-10 cups chicken stock (low sodium)

Prepare the lentils – spread the dry lentils out over a kitchen towel and check to make sure there are no pebbles or sand in them. Next, place the lentils in a colander and rinse with cool water. Set aside.

In a large, heavy-bottomed stock pot, heat the oil over medium heat. If you’re using onion or shallots, saute them a bit first, then add the carrots and celery. Saute the carrots and celery to soften a bit. If you’re adding the additional diced ham, add it now and saute a bit with the vegetables. Add the wine and increase the heat to bring to a gentle boil.

Add the ham bone, sliced tomatoes, and lentils; give a good stir. Pour in 8 cups of stock, stir well. Cook on medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook on low heat until the lentils are tender. You’ll want to stir the soup every 30 minutes or so and if necessary, add the additional stock. After about 2 hours, the soup will be ready to eat, but I usually cook it longer (3-4 hours) because I like the lentils more well done.

* For the ham bone … if you’ve recently cooked a bone-in ham, you’ll want to save the bone for making soup like this. If you don’t have a leftover ham bone, then you can use 3-4 ham hocks. One thing to keep in mind, though, is that ham hocks will add more fat to this recipe. They’ve got great flavor, but they are loaded with fat. If you don’t have a ham bone and don’t want to use ham hocks, Trader Joe’s makes a Smoked Chicken Apple Chardonnay Sausage that would also be good in this soup. Just dice it, saute it in place of the ham, and there you go.

You could also make this vegetarian by omitting the ham and using vegetable stock. Oooh, you could use Shiitake mushrooms to give a bit of meaty texture. Adding a bit of brown rice or barley would round out the protein in a vegetarian version, also.

Oh, the possibilities!

This soup tastes even better the next day, and it freezes well, so make a big pot today – just in time for the New Year. Enjoy!

Serving suggestion ... serve with homemade biscuits.

Here’s an idea … take your favorite biscuit recipe, add a handful of shredded Parmesan, Asiago, and/or Romano cheeses, and some chopped fresh herbs. Simple, easy additions are often the best!

Rain, finally!

Monday, December 8th, 2014

We have finally been getting some rain here in Northern California and I am loving it! It does interfere a bit with cycling, but the air is cleaner, fresher, and far more breathable. I am fortunate enough to have access to a fancy Compu-Trainer, elliptical, and treadmill so I am getting at least some exercise.

The rain has held off this weekend, so I was able to get a short ride in yesterday and a longer ride in this morning. Cool temperatures and very little breeze made for a pleasant ride on the American River Bike Trail.

The rainy weather is calling for some serious comfort food.

Cream of Tomato Soup

Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Probably not the healthiest dinner, but sometimes comfort wins out and that’s OK. It’s not entirely unhealthy, though. I always add my little touches that help ease the guilt a bit … organic, lower-sodium cream of tomato soup … whole grain bread … just a touch of butter in the pan, mixed with a touch of olive oil to give a nice, flavorful crisp the the bread … a combination of cheese that included at least half reduced fat cheese.The trick is to use just enough full fat cheese to give a touch of the ooey-gooey melty cheese thing that people love about a grilled cheese sandwich.

So, that was Friday night’s dinner … after what felt like an unusually long week.

Saturday … the sale I’ve waited all year for! The Meyer Factory Outlet Sale!! I haven’t been to this in years and I had planned to go last year, but I missed it. It’s running until December 15th – if you need any kitchen stuff, now is the time to stock up. Check out their website and you can download a coupon for an extra 30% off. Go ahead – splurge on your inner foodie.

After some shopping and errands, I grabbed a quick late afternoon ride yesterday. The weather cleared up and it was gorgeous!

Tower Bridge

River heading towards Downtown Sacramento

Last night’s dinner was a bit healthier – a spicy beef stir fry with asparagus, green beans, and mushrooms, served over brown rice.

Spicy Beef with Asparagus, Green Beans, & Mushrooms with a little extra chili garlic sauce

This was super easy to make. Simply marinate some thinly sliced beef in a bit of soy sauce, white white (or dry sherry), fresh minced garlic, Tiger Sauce, a little honey, and a little sesame oil. I didn’t measure … just go by taste. Whisk together these ingredients and then taste before adding the raw meat. Next time I make this, I will add some chili garlic sauce or Sriracha sauce. I wanted it spicier!

Clean and trim your vegetables. Be sure to cut them into consistently sized pieces so that they’ll cook evenly. Heat up your wok with a little avocado (or peanut) oil. Quickly stir fry the mushrooms, then set aside. Next cook the asparagus, then green beans, setting aside. Remove the meat from the sauce and set the sauce aside. Cook the beef a few pieces at a time so that they’ll cook quickly. Remove from the heat and set aside, repeat until you’ve cooked all the meat. Pour the reserved sauce into the pan and heat quickly, bringing to a boil. Reduce heat, add the meat and vegetables and toss to combine. Cover for just a few moments to heat through. You want the vegetables to be crisp-tender, so be careful to not overcook.

Serve over brown rice and if desired, add a splash more hot sauce.

Be sure you make a BIG batch, because it makes for terrific and easy leftovers. Enjoy!

Now it’s time to turn the Christmas lights on and enjoy a Christmas movie to get in the spirit. This week I’ve got to get started on my holiday baking.

Suggestions? Requests?

Soup … the Ultimate Comfort Food.

Saturday, November 15th, 2014

As promised, here is the recipe for Chicken Vegetable Soup. This is a very homey and rustic soup recipe. You can use homemade chicken stock or your favorite brand of prepared stock.

Chicken Vegetable Soup

Serve piping hot garnished with a bit of Parmesan cheese

Here’s what you will need:

About 2 tablespoons of olive oil
3 carrots
3 stalks celery
1 medium onion
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
6 ounces fresh cooking greens, such as kale or Swiss chard, roughly chopped
12 ounces cooked kidney beans, rinsed and well drained
1 cup fresh or frozen peas and/or corn
1 cup chopped fresh Roma tomatoes
1 1/2 cups cooked brown rice
1 cup shredded chicken meat (optional)
4 quarts of chicken stock
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
2 teaspoon minced fresh parsley
salt and pepper to taste
freshly grated Parmesan cheese to garnish

Assemble and prepare all of your ingredients. Wash, drain, and cut the vegetables and herbs. You can cut the vegetables into bite sized pieces, or a little larger, depending on your preference. Remember that larger pieces take longer to cook, and you don’t want them so large that they’ll make the soup difficult to serve or eat. If you are using baby greens, you may not need to chop them at all, but I usually give them a chop or two just to make sure I don’t end up with a stem falling off my spoon and making a mess while I’m trying to enjoy the soup.

In a large, heavy bottomed stock pot over medium heat, add about 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add the onions and saute until softened. Add the carrots and celery, stirring to combine with the onions. Saute a few minutes, then add the mushrooms briefly. Cover and reduce heat to low. Allow to sweat a few minutes.

Click here for a culinary definition of “sweat.”

Remove the lid, give a good stir to the onion mixture. Add the chopped greens, beans, peas, corn, tomatoes, rice, and chicken meat.

Add the fresh greens, cooked rice, and beans.

Add the stock and give a good stir. Cover and bring the heat up to medium high. You want to watch this carefully because when it gets close to a boil, you’ll reduce the heat to low. Allow to simmer until all of the vegetables are cooked to your liking. This will take a good 2-3 hours on low heat. Add the fresh herbs in the last hour of cooking; this will help to maintain their fresh flavor.

Add the stock, bring to a gentle boil, and then set to simmer.

This soup is terrific with a hearty homemade bread, like this multi-grain bread.

This recipe is very flexible – you can adjust the amount of any of these ingredients, substitute different vegetables, use pasta in place of rice, omit almost any of the ingredients (except, of course, the stock!). Have fun with it – try different variations and combinations.

For my vegan friends, you can easily make this vegan by using a vegan vegetable stock and omitting the chicken meat. There will be plenty of protein from the rice, beans, peas, and corn.

Legumes and grains are complementary proteins. What this means is that pairing a grain with a legume will provide you with a nutritionally complete protein. For example, rice + beans, or corn + peas.

Chicken Stock

Monday, November 10th, 2014

Homemade Chicken Stock

There are so many good quality pre-made stocks available at the store now, but they’re just not quite as comforting as a homemade stock.

I am fortunate that I learned at a very young age how to make homemade stock. My mother, who has always been very frugal, never let anything go to waste. Any time we had roasted chicken or turkey, she saved the carcass for stock.

This is a very rustic, homey recipe for stock.

To make homemade chicken stock from a leftover roasted whole chicken, first removed as much of the meat as you can from the bones. I like to remove the skin, if there’s any left, because it just adds fat to the stock. Set this meat aside for the soup, or to make a chicken salad or curry … whatever you like.

If you’ve saved the neck and giblets from the whole bird, you’ll want to add them, too. Don’t add the liver, though, as it will lend a bitter flavor to the stock.

Clean and trim a few large carrots, stalks of celery, onion, clove or two of garlic, a few sprigs of fresh rosemary, thyme, and parsley. Cut the carrots and celery into about 2-inch chunks, quarter the onions. I also like to add a couple of Roma tomatoes, quartered.

Place the carcass in a large, heavy bottomed stock. Add the vegetables and herbs. Add about 6 whole peppercorns. Cover with cool water. Place over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce the heat to low and allow to simmer a few hours. How long you simmer is going to depend on a lot of factors, so you’ll go by taste and sight. The vegetables will be completely cooked and very soft after a few hours. I cooked this stock for about 4 hours before straining.

Allow the stock to cook a little, then with a slotted spoon scoop out as many solids as you can. I like to place the solids in a colander inside a large bowl so I can catch any liquid that drains from them. Strain the stock through a fine sieve, or if you desire through cheesecloth. Don’t skip this step – you want to be sure to capture any bone fragments that may have separated from the carcass.

Chicken Vegetable Soup

Depending on how much meat there left was on the carcass, you may want to pick through the solids and pick any remaining meat off the bones. You can add this to soup.

If you’re making soup right away, then set the hot stock aside while you’re preparing your soup, otherwise you will want to quick chill it and keep it refrigerated until you’re ready to use it. It will keep a few days in the refrigerator.

Soup recipe coming soon!



True Food Kitchen, San Diego

Sunday, March 30th, 2014

True Food Kitchen, Fashion Valley Mall in San Diego

The culinary highlight of my recent trip to San Diego was an exciting restaurant discovery: True Food Kitchen. It was without a doubt the best lunch out I have had in a very, very long time.

I was feeling a little disappointed because some plans had fallen through, so I needed a little retail and culinary therapy. My retail therapy resulted in a very cool pair of shiny black skinny jeans (found on clearance at Macy’s!), so I needed to keep these in mind when choosing my culinary therapy. I wanted a treat, but a reasonably light and healthy one.


Cool and refreshing Green Arnie

As I enjoyed my Green Arnie, I relaxed and enjoyed a nice cool breeze on the patio. The setting was lovely and I was quite pleased with the cleanliness and overall atmosphere.

Table centerpiece

Patio seating

Cozy fire pit seating

Fresh herb gardens

There were so many choices on the menu that sounded like exactly what I wanted, but since it was cool outside, a little soup sounded perfect.

Starters ...

Miso Soup

The soup was rich with flavor, but also seemed fairly light. It was so good that I am right now trying to duplicate it at home. Close, but not quite. This will require further experimentation!

When I’m in a new restaurant that serves pizza, one of my tests is to try the most basic pie on the menu. This is the foundation of pizza – if their plain cheese or Pizza Margherita is not good, then it doesn’t matter what toppings you try. Their pizza will not be good. You absolutely have to have the right foundation – the basics: crust, sauce, cheese, fresh herbs.

I am a self-proclaimed pizza snob, but I think for good reason. I started working in pizza restaurants when I was just out of high school. My first was a family-owned restaurant and it was rare for a girl to be allowed to “man” the pizza oven. We girls could do all the prep work, make the subs, and for those of us who so aspired, one day we could run the grill and make the cheese steaks. The pizza men might even let us make the dough. I had mastered the subs. Mastered the grill. I had even mastered the dough. Come on! Let me spin the pies!

One day the “pizza man” called in sick and it was an all-girl crew. I enthusiastically jumped in to take over the oven and proved that a girl can make pizza. The “pizza man” took me under his wing and on occasion invited me to work side-by-side with him so he could teach me his tips and tricks. That’s when my love affair with making pizza really started.

Pizza ...

Pizza Margherita

My Pizza Margherita arrived. The crust was crisp and light. The sauce was rich with fresh tomato flavor. There was just enough cheese and the fresh basil was divine. I had about half of the pizza and saved the rest for later.

My server inquired about dessert. I was not going to have anything, but I love to look at dessert menus. I perused the menu, and politely declined, telling her about my new jeans and how I really should be good. She suggested the Chia Seed Pudding, saying it really wasn’t that bad. Hmm … chia seeds are loaded with all kinds of healthy things like fiber, protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and antioxidants. Hmm … this is a foodie adventure, so I suppose in the spirit of adventure I really should try it.

Chia Seed Pudding with Banana & Coconut

Oh. My. Goodness!

The Chia Seed Pudding was rich and creamy, not too sweet, and the toasted coconut gave it a nice crunch. The creaminess came from coconut milk, so I’m pretty sure it wasn’t as “light” fat and calorie-wise as I wanted to believe, but it was worth it.

I looked up a few chia seed pudding recipes today and have an experimental batch in my refrigerator right now. It will be ready tomorrow. I made it with unsweetened almond milk, low fat lemon yogurt, maple syrup, vanilla, and chia seeds. It thickens overnight in the refrigerator, so we’ll see tomorrow how well it sets up, but an initial taste was quite good!

My server told me that True Food Kitchen will be opening a restaurant in Walnut Creek, California later this year. It will be worth the hour-plus drive to dine there. I am looking forward to dining here again!

The service was awesome – friendly and attentive. The food was fantastic. I look forward to returning.

Minestrone Soup Recipe

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

As promised…



Roma Tomatoes








Minestrone Soup

4 ounces of thick-sliced bacon*
1 medium onion, chopped
3 large carrots, diced
3 large stalks of celery, diced
8 to 12 ounces of crimini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
8 ounces of waxy potatoes (red, purple, gold)
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen peas
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen green beans, snapped into about 1-inch pieces
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen grilled eggplant and/or zucchini**
1 pound fresh Roma tomatoes, cut into 6-8 pieces each
1 pound of hearty cooking greens (spinach, chard, kale, escarole)
32 ounces of beef stock
32 ounces of chicken stock
32 ounces of vegetable stock
3 to 4-inch long piece of Parmesan rind
12 ounces of whole grain shell pasta
4 ounces of Pesto Alla Cycling Foodie
1 can Cannellini beans, well rinsed
fresh herbs – basil, thyme, parsley, rosemary

Trimming the bacon.

Trim as much fat as possible from the bacon, and set aside. Cut the meaty part into about 1/4-inch pieces. Place the fat and meaty pieces into a large stock pot over medium-high heat. Cook until the bacon is just a bit browned. Remove from the pan and drain on paper towels. When it is cool, separate the meat and fat. Discard the fat; set the meat aside for now. You can use the bacon fat or not – it does add a lot of flavor and this amount of this bacon does not really add that much fat for the amount of soup you’re making.

Ready to cook down a bit.

If necessary, add a little olive oil to the pot and heat until it shimmers. Add the onions and saute until slightly softened. Add carrots and celery and saute until fragrant. Remove from pot and set aside. If necessary, add a little more olive oil and saute the mushrooms until softened and much of the liquid is cooked out. Return the onion, carrots, and celery to the pot. Add the remaining vegetables, bacon pieces, then the stock. Drop in the Parmesan rinds. Cover and cook gently until the greens are wilted.

Stir in the pesto. Add the pasta and cook until the pasta is tender. Add the beans and fresh herbs. Allow to heat through before serving.

Serving suggestion …

Place a handful of fresh, hot homemade croutons in the bottom of a soup bowl. Sprinkle with a little freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Ladle in the hot soup,garnish with a bit more Parmesan cheese, and enjoy with a hearty glass of Italian red wine!

This makes a very large pot of soup, so be prepared for leftovers. As with many homemade soups, this one is even better the next day. It also freezes well.

* My favorite bacon for this is Trader Joe’s Uncured Bacon Ends & Pieces – I always trim off as much fat as possible before cooking.

** I used Trader Joe’s Misto alla Grigoia Marinated Grilled Eggplant & Zucchini.

Minestrone Soup

Sunday, February 2nd, 2014
My twist on the Classic Minestrone Soup

Recipe and more photos later …

Finally – A Bit of Rain!

Sunday, February 2nd, 2014

Finally ... some much needed rain in Davis!

Oooh, it’s feeling like soup weather! Minestrone, anyone?