Category Archives: Soups/Stews/Curries

Spicy Black Bean Soup with Shredded Chicken

102411 007-1 There are certain people, when they share a recipe with you, that you know you can trust. My friend Alyce is such a person. I have never been disappointed by any of her recipes. We have been making this soup for a number of years, and it is always a favorite with everyone here. Even the self-professed bean haters. Because the beans have been pureed to create a thick and delicious base, there are no longer any objections. With kids, I really think that most disliked foods are more of a texture dislike than a taste dislike.

Alyce’s original recipe was a delicious pureed black bean soup. I usually doctor it up a little by adding shredded chicken, corn, olives and pimentos to the pureed bean base, and serving it with fun and delicious toppings. If you are trying to please kids- it is all about the toppings. Crispy tortilla strips are their favorite. They are fast and easy to make (baked in the oven for 5 minutes) and can be made with either flour or corn tortillas. In the soup shown, I used a multi-grain flour tortilla.

The spiciness of the soup is completely up to you. Alyce’s recipe uses Spicy V-8 juice, but I don’t usually have that around here, so I use a can of spicy Rotel tomatoes (tomatoes with onions, garlic and green chilies). If you want a milder soup, just use a can of regular tomatoes and go easy on the cayenne pepper (Ancho chili pepper has a nice flavor without the heat of cayenne).

RECIPE:

Spicy Black Bean Soup with Shredded Chicken

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2 Tbs olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
1 stalk celery, diced
2 cans beef broth
1 can Rotel tomatoes (or 1 cup Spicy V-8)
1 Tbs dried parsley
1 tsp salt
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp chili powder
½ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp thyme
¼ tsp pepper
1/8-1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (adjust to taste)
2 cans black beans, drained & rinsed
2 cups cooked and shredded chicken (or 2 cans undrained canned chicken)
1 can corn
1 small can sliced olives
1 small jar diced pimentos

Garnishes:
Sour cream
Shredded cheddar cheese
Chopped fresh cilantro
Crispy Tortilla Strips (see below)

Heat olive oil in large stockpot. Cook onion, carrot, garlic, jalapeno, and celery until onions are soft and tender, about 5 minutes. Add broth, tomatoes, seasonings, and black beans. Cover and simmer for one hour. Puree in blender or with an immersion blender. Stir in chicken, corn, olives and pimentos. Cook 15 minutes longer. Serve with sour cream, shredded cheese, cilantro and crispy tortilla strips.

To cook in crockpot: Sauté vegetables in oil and place in crock pot with broth, tomatoes, seasonings and black beans. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours. Puree in blender or with an immersion blender. Stir in chicken, corn, olives and pimentos. Turn crock pot to high and cook 15-30 minutes longer, or until heated through. Serve with sour cream, shredded cheese, cilantro and crispy tortilla strips.

 

Crispy Tortilla Strips

about 4 corn or flour tortillas
1-2 Tbs olive oil
Kosher (or other coarse) salt

Spread olive oil onto a rimmed baking sheet. Cut tortillas into thin strips (a pizza cutter works nicely). Place on the baking sheet and use a spatula to toss the strips with the oil to lightly coat. Bake at 350°F for 5-7 minutes or until strips just begin to brown. Sprinkle lightly with coarse salt.

 

adapted from my friend Alyce

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Thai Red Chicken Curry

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Looking for a great tasting soup that doesn’t have to cook all day? A healthy, flavorful soup chock full of chicken and fresh vegetables?

This Thai curry is more like a soup than a thick curry that you would eat in small amounts over rice. You can still eat it over rice, if you prefer, but it is light enough that it can be eaten on its own. The vegetables and chicken are quickly stir-fried and then simmered for just a few minutes in a red curry coconut milk sauce. I like to marinate the chicken for a little while in some of the curry paste before cooking, but if you need a really fast meal you can skip that step and have this soup on the table in under 30 minutes.

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RECIPE:

Thai Red Chicken Curry

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1 lb chicken breast, cut into thin strips
1 Tbs Thai red curry paste
2 Tbs soy sauce

2 Tbs olive oil, divided
1 large onion, sliced
1 red bell pepper, julienned
1 medium carrot, julienned
1 medium zucchini, shredded
1 cup sliced mushrooms

2 cans (14 oz) coconut milk
2 Tbs soy sauce
2 Tbs Thai fish sauce
1 Tbs brown sugar (or low-carb golden sweetener)
1 tsp salt
2 Tbs lime juice (or 4 kaffir lime leaves, chopped)
2 Tbs Thai red curry paste (adjust amount to personal taste)

1 cup fresh spinach or other greens (I used beet greens)
1/3 cup fresh basil (Thai basil preferably), coarsely chopped

Combine cubed chicken, 1 Tbs curry paste and soy sauce in Ziploc bag. Let marinate 30 minutes at room temperature, or several hours in refrigerator.

Heat 1 Tbs oil in wok or large saucepan. Add onion, red pepper, carrot, zucchini and mushrooms. Cook over high heat until crisp-tender. Remove from pan. Add remaining 1 Tbs oil to pan. Add chicken and cook, stirring, over high heat until cooked through.

Add coconut milk, soy sauce, fish sauce, brown sugar, salt, lime juice and remaining 2 Tbs curry paste to the chicken in the pot. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Stir in spinach, basil and cooked vegetables. Heat until spinach wilts. Serve in bowls with or without rice.

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Indian Curry: Butter Chicken

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Unlike some parts of the country, here in Pittsburgh we are still waiting for spring. Which means I can squeeze in one more post for a warm, hearty, great-for-cold-weather Indian curry.

If you poll my children, all five of them will list this curry in their top three favorite foods, with several of them ranking it right at the top. It is also the recipe that I am most often asked to share. Unfortunately, the ingredient list is a little bit intimidating and some friends never end up making it for themselves. Hopefully a little explanation will make this recipe not seem so intimidating.

There are a few spices and ingredients in this recipe that cannot usually be found in regular grocery stores. Some of the spices below I can get in my local store, some I buy from Penzey’s (which we have locally in Pittsburgh, but they also have an online store) and some at a local Indian grocery store.

Kasoori methi is an herb that is also known by the name fenugreek. Kasoori Methi (sometimes spelled kasuri methi) is the leaves of the plant, while “fenugreek” often refers to the ground seeds of the plant, but I have also seen leaves labeled “fenugreek”. I prefer the flavor of the leaves, which I have only found at an Indian market (online Indian stores sell them as well).

The Tandoori paste I also buy at the Indian store. Tandoori pastes vary a lot in color, depending on brand, from a bright orange-red to a very deep red. I don’t really have a preference. They all taste pretty similar. Just be sure to buy tandoori paste and not a tandoori marinade, which will be thinner and usually have a dairy component. The jar shown above is pretty large (26 oz) and will make several batches. I marinate the chicken in the Tandoori paste in Ziploc bags; a few hours at least, overnight for the best flavor. Since our family really loves this curry, I freeze extra bags with the chicken and Tandoori paste for using another day. I prepare as many bags as the jar of paste will make. I usually make double batches of this curry, and the large jar shown above will make 3-4 double batches. Buy a smaller jar if you don’t want quite that much!

100110 031-1 The batch of Butter Chicken in the above photo was made with a Tandoori paste that was orange-red in color, while the one below was made with the Tandoori paste shown above, which has a very deep red hue.

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Once you have your ingredients, it really is easy to prepare: tomatoes, onions, garlic, chilies and the spices are blended together in a blender or food processor-no chopping necessary! Add to a pot with a little butter, cream and tomato sauce and you have your curry base. To make it extra flavorful, the chicken is marinated in tandoori paste (I like to do this the day before, or even weeks before, and leave it in the freezer until I am ready to make the curry). Over the years I have found that it is easiest to marinate whole boneless chicken breasts (I really dislike chopping raw chicken), bake them and then coarsely chop them with a metal spatula right in the baking pan. The cooked chicken is then stirred into the curry sauce and simmered for 10-15 minutes, or as long as it takes you to finish baking your Naan bread.

View Tandoori Chicken

Indian Butter Chicken can be eaten over rice, or on its own with Naan.

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Tomorrow I will share my Naan recipe, which Little J loves to help me make.

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RECIPE:

Butter Chicken

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4-6 chicken breasts, diced*(see note on alternate chicken prep)
¼ cup Tandoori paste
1 (15oz) can whole or diced tomatoes
1 onion, quartered
2 cloves garlic
2-3 Tbs diced green chilies (about ½ can)
1 ¼ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
1 tsp fresh ginger (or ½ tsp ground)
½ tsp garam masala
½ tsp kasoori methi (fenugreek leaves)
¼ tsp turmeric
¼ tsp ground coriander
¼ tsp cardamom
1/8 tsp ground red pepper (cayenne); add more for a spicier curry
½ cup butter (1 stick)
1 (15oz) can tomato sauce
2 cups heavy cream

Combine chicken, tandoori paste and 2 Tbs water in a Ziploc bag. Marinate several hours or overnight.

Combine tomatoes, onion, garlic, chilies and spices in a blender or food processor; blend until smooth.

Melt butter in a large pot. Add blended tomato mixture, tomato sauce and cream. Bring to gentle boil; simmer 20 minutes.

While sauce is simmering: Spread chicken in a single layer on a shallow rimmed baking sheet. Bake chicken at 350°F for 20 minutes. Stir chicken and any sauce in the pan into sauce mixture on the stove. Cook for 10-15 minutes longer.

Serve over rice and/or with Naan bread.

*Alternate chicken prep: do not cut chicken; use chicken tenderloins or whole breasts. Mix with tandoori paste and water (if using high water content chicken, skip the water). Roast until cooked through, 20-25 minutes. Use a metal spatula to cut chicken into chunks on the baking sheet. Then stir into the curry.

TO FREEZE: Prepare chicken as above; freeze raw, marinated chicken in a Ziploc bag. Blend sauce ingredients as directed above; place in Ziploc bag. Add melted butter, tomato sauce and cream to sauce bag. Freeze.

TO PREPARE AFTER FREEZING: Thaw chicken and sauce. Bake chicken in a shallow pan at 350°F for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, bring sauce to gentle boil; simmer 20 minutes. Add cooked chicken to sauce and cook 10-15 minutes longer. Serve over rice and/or with Naan bread.

 

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Hearty Beef Chili

092810 018-1This is my standard go-to chili recipe. Thick and hearty. Full of roasted vegetables, ground beef and sausage (chorizo is my favorite), and two kinds of beans in a thick, spicy sauce. No runny broth-that is soup, not chili.

I know that a true Texas chili does not have any beans, but while I love the flavor of a good Texas chili, I also love beans. I love the taste, the contrasting texture they give to chili, and the fact that beans are so good for you! So while my chili may not be approved of by hard core Texans, I will continue to put beans in.

Chili is a great crock pot meal, and tastes even better the second day.

You can make this chili the “fast” way or the “it takes a little longer but is so worth it” way. The difference is: to roast or not roast the veges (onions, peppers, garlic). I have definitely made my share of chili the fast way, but I do prefer the additional flavor you get by roasting the vegetables before adding them to the chili. To roast the onions, garlic and peppers: peel onions and cut in half. Cut larger peppers in half and remove seeds. Smaller peppers, like jalapenos can be left whole. You can roast a whole head of garlic, or roast individual cloves (this will be faster). Place onions, garlic and peppers on a foil-lined roasting pan. Brush with olive oil. Roast at 475°F for about 15-20 minutes, or until veges begin to blacken. See How To Roast Peppers or How To Roast Garlic for quick tutorials.

Top your chili with shredded cheese, sour cream or chopped raw onions (red onions or scallions are great). And make lots: chili freezes wonderfully for another meal another day.

RECIPE:

Hearty Beef Chili

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1 ½ lb ground beef
½ lb chorizo or hot Italian sausage
10 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
2 onions
1 red pepper
1 large banana pepper
2 jalapenos, (use seeds for a spicier chili)
2 cloves garlic
1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, finely chopped (or 1 tsp chipotle chili powder)
1 Tbs adobo sauce from chipotle pepper can
1 can dark red kidney beans, drained & rinsed
1 can pinto beans, drained & rinsed
3 cans (14 oz) diced or crushed tomatoes
1 can (14 oz) tomato sauce
3 Tbs chili powder
1 tsp cumin
2 tsp dried basil (or 2 Tbs fresh)
1 Tbs chili paste
1 Tbs cocoa powder
1 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
Tomato paste, if needed
Toppings: shredded cheese, sour cream, chopped raw onions (red onions or green onions)

Cook ground beef and sausage until browned. Drain and place in a crock pot with the cooked bacon. If desired, roast the onions, red pepper, banana pepper, jalapenos and garlic (Brush with olive oil and roast on a foil-lined baking sheet at 475°F for 15-20 minutes). Chop vegetables and add to the crock pot with the remaining ingredients (except tomato paste and toppings). Cover and cook on low 8-10 hours. Taste after about 4-6 hours. Add additional salt or more heat (more chili paste or crushed red peppers), if desired. Thicken with tomato paste if chili is too thin. Serve with desired toppings.

 

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Southwest Turkey (or Chicken) Vegetable Chowder

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I love soup season. I think that soup is a great year-round food, but some in my family don’t like to see it when the weather gets too warm. So I take full advantage of these cold, snowy months to make and freeze as much soup as possible.

This turkey chowder is definitely one of my favorite soups, and is adaptable to whatever vegetables or meat (turkey vs chicken) you have on hand. It is creamy, filling and has a great southwestern flavor from added green chilies and salsa verde (and some pepper jack cheese).

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This soup is also a good example of my procrastination. Within a few days of Thanksgiving, the family was getting tired of turkey leftovers, so I put the turkey carcass in the freezer to make soup with soon. Is January still considered soon? The resulting turkey stock made a great base for this chowder, but you could also use canned chicken broth and shredded or diced chicken.

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I served the soup with these Cheddar & Herb Drop Biscuits, which were perfect for dipping into all of that creamy goodness.

RECIPE:

Southwest Turkey/Chicken Vegetable Chowder

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6-8 slices bacon, diced
1 large onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped**
1-2 cups shredded cabbage
6 cups turkey or chicken broth
1 ½ cups heavy cream
1 cup (8 oz) green salsa (salsa verde)
1 can (4 oz) diced green chilies, undrained
2-3 cups diced or shredded cooked turkey or chicken
1 can corn**
2 large carrots, diced
2 large potatoes, peeled and diced
1 cup chopped cauliflower (optional)
1 1/2 cups shredded pepper jack or cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste (about ½ tsp salt; ¼ tsp pepper)**

In a large stockpot, cook bacon until crisp. Remove bacon from pan. Drain bacon grease, leaving 2 Tbs drippings in pot. Add onion, celery and red pepper to bacon drippings in the pot. Cook until crisp-tender. Stir in cabbage and cook until cabbage is wilted, but not browned.

Stir in broth, cream and salsa. Bring to a gentle boil. Stir in green chilies, turkey or chicken, corn and carrots. Cover and cook for 10 minutes. Add potatoes and cauliflower (or any other desired vegetables). Cook for about 15 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. Gradually stir in cheese, stirring until melted. Taste and season with salt** and pepper. Stir in reserved bacon, or sprinkle on top of individual bowls of chowder.

**I used turkey stock made from a brined turkey, so I did not add any salt. How much you need will depend on taste and the saltiness of your broth. In place of the corn and red pepper, you can also substitute a bag of frozen corn with mixed peppers.

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Southwestern Ham and White Bean Soup

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Thank goodness for crock pots on cold fall days full of errands and after-school activities for both kids and parents.

This soup is best made with a leftover meaty ham bone, but you can also start with a chopped ham steak. If my ham bone is not meaty enough to yield about 3 cups of chopped ham, I will usually add additional chopped ham to the soup.

If you are using a ham bone, this is a two-step crock pot soup. The ham bone simmers in a crock pot full of water and aromatic herbs, onion and garlic until the ham can easily be removed and chopped (about 4 hours on high). I like to strain out all of the little bits that fall off of the ham, along with the herb sprigs, and then return the strained broth to the crock pot with the chopped ham and additional ingredients. TIP: add remaining ingredients to the crock pot first, along with chopped ham. Then add strained broth until crock pot is full (then you don’t risk overflowing your crock pot adding in all of the good stuff).

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This soup has a southwestern flavor with the addition of salsa, diced hot green chilies, mild chilies, beans and corn. Plus some standard soup veges (onions, carrots, celery); you could add anything you are looking to get rid of in your produce drawer.

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Serve it plain or with any number of desired garnishes (cheese, green onions, crushed tortilla chips or baked tortilla strips, sour cream, olives, additional salsa or hot sauce). I have found that the likelihood of my children eating soup is directly proportional to the number of “toppings” they are allowed to pile on.

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Serve with these Cheddar and Herb Drop Biscuits

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RECIPE:

Southwestern Ham and White Bean Soup


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1 meaty ham bone
1 onion, quartered
4-6 cloves of garlic
Sprigs of fresh herbs: rosemary, sage, thyme,
————-oregano, and/or basil**
1 bay leaf
½ tsp cracked black pepper
1 yellow onion, diced
1-2 carrots, diced
2-3 stalks celery, diced
1-2 hot peppers, finely chopped
1 cup corn
3 cans white beans, drained
1 can diced green chilies
OPTIONAL: additional chopped ham, 2-3 cups total,
—————– (if ham bone is not very meaty)
2 cups salsa
salt
1/4 cup fresh parsley or cilantro, chopped
OPTIONAL GARNISHES: shredded cheese, tortilla strips or
———– crushed tortilla chips, green onions, sour cream,
———– additional salsa or hot sauce

Place the ham bone, onion, garlic, herbs, bay leaf and cracked pepper in a large crock pot. Add enough water to cover the ham bone (about 6-8 cups). Cook on high for 4 hours, or until ham begins to fall off of the bone.

Remove ham bone from the crock pot; allow to cool slightly and then chop ham into bite-sized pieces. Strain broth from the crock pot, reserving the broth. Discard herbs and ham bone. Add all remaining ingredients, except salt, parsley or cilantro and garnishes to the crock pot with the chopped ham. Add reserved broth until crock pot is full; add additional water, if necessary. Cover and cook on low for about 6 hours. Taste and salt as needed (about ½ – 1 tsp kosher salt, depending on saltiness of ham). Stir in parsley or cilantro.

Serve in bowls with desired garnishes.

**Note: You can also use dried herbs in place of the herb sprigs. Choose 2-3 herb varieties and add about ½ tsp of each.

 

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