Category Archives: Soups & Chili

Mike’s crab and corn chowder

We had a potluck at our house on Valentine’s Day because, really, who wants to go out on Valentine’s? Reservations are hard to get, and lines are long. A growing number of restaurants seem to be doing pricey prix fixe menus on holidays. Bleh.

So, we had a potluck. I made chicken and rice. A friend brought ham sandwiches on pretzel buns. Another friend brought baked beans. And our friend Mike, creator of the famed crantinis, brought a terrific crab and corn chowder. It was creamy, but not too creamy. The crab flavor was good but not overpowering. All the vegetables were cut into tiny dice, which I like.

Once again, there’s no picture because we ate it all before I thought to take one. But, I wanted to preserve the recipe here so that I could make it later on my own.

Crab and Corn Chowder
2 medium potatoes, cut into small cubes
1-2 ribs celery, chopped
1 small bell pepper, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 1/2-3 cups corn kernels (fresh cut from the cob, or canned, or frozen)
1 1/2-4 cups milk
1/2 cup half and half (or heavy cream)
2-3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon oil
1/3 cup flour
4 strips cooked bacon, chopped/crumbled
2 6-ounce cans of crab meat, drained (or 8-10 ounces of frozen crab meat)
2-4 cups broth
1/4 cup white wine
salt, pepper, white pepper, parsley, bay leaf, garlic, nutmeg to taste

Heat a deep pot on medium. Add the oil and butter. Saute the onion until tender, but before browned. Whisk in the flour for a couple of minutes. Add all liquids and bring to bubbling. Add all other vegetables, seasonings and bacon. Simmer until the vegetables and potatoes are tender, from 15-30 minutes. Add the crab meat, and heat through. Serve.


My mom’s other lentil soup

Picture of soup

My mom came up with her lentil soup recipe by combining the best traits of several others.

A few winters ago, I spent months learning to make the perfect rice pudding. Another year, I was on a bread pudding kick. What can I say? I like pudding.

It turns out that my mom also fixates on certain dishes and keeps making them until she gets them just right. Last winter, she worked on lentil soup. She eventually created the soup below by combining parts of multiple recipes.

Summer Style Lentil Soup
1 ounce bacon
1/2 cup dried onions
3 garlic cloves
1 cup dried leeks
1 cup sliced carrots
1 cup sliced celery
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 bay leaf
1 parsley sprig
1 tablespoon chopped thyme sprig
4 peppercorns
8 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups dried lentils (Mom uses red.)
3 strips lemon peel
1 tablespoon white wine
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon chopped chives

Cook bacon in a large soup pot until crisp. Add onion and 2 cloves of garlic that you’ve chopped. Sweat the onion and garlic for 4 to 5 minutes.

Add the leeks, carrots and celery. Cover the pot, and sweat that for 4 to 6 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook for 2 minutes.

Tie the bay leaf, parsley, peppercorns and remaining garlic clove in a sachet. Throw that in the pot. Add the broth, lentils and lemon peel. Simmer for 20 minutes.

Remove the sachet and lemon peel.

Add the wine, vinegar, salt and pepper. Garnish with chives and parsley.

Here’s my chili cook-off entry


The secret ingredient in my entry for our recent chili cook-off was chocolate balsamic vinegar.

I entered my condo association’s recent chili cook-off with a lot of confidence: I’m a good cook. I make a decent chili. How tough can the competition be anyway?

Pretty tough, as it turns out. I lost big time.

She didn’t rub it in, but my good friend, who doesn’t cook much but grew up in Texas, did well in the voting with a chili boasting a substantial amount of red wine. Who doesn’t like wine in their food? I certainly do.

A chili labeled simply “Mexican” and served with a side of guacamole also fared well. Who doesn’t like guacamole? I do.

In hindsight, I entered with too much confidence, convinced that I had a secret weapon. My special ingredient was a dark chocolate balsamic vinegar that I picked up in Door County. The label next to the bottles said a tablespoon or two would give chili a wow factor. It was good. I’m not sure that it was wow. At least, it wasn’t as wow as wine or guacamole, but then, what is?

Here’s the recipe:

My Chocolate Chili

1 pound ground beef
3 15-ounce cans of red kidney beans, washed and drained
30 ounces tomato sauce
1 onion, chopped
1 red pepper, seeded and chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
4 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
2 tablespoons Fat Louie’s Dark Chocolate Balsamic Vinegar
salt (if you need it)

Brown the ground beef and drain the grease. Put the beef and the rest of the ingredients in a Crock-Pot and cook on high for one hour. Then cook on low for at least two hours, or until you are ready to eat.

Chicken barley chili


G. and I like this chicken barley stew recipe from Quaker. It’s fast, easy and healthy.

My mom gave G. a box of Quaker medium pearled barley for Christmas a year or so ago, along with a recipe for a manly soup that she thought he should learn to make. He never made the soup.

Eventually, I decided we should do something with the barley. There was a recipe on the back of the box for chicken barley chili. I made it. We liked it. And now, I’ve made it twice in the past two months, even though I haven’t really been cooking much. It’s pretty easy, and it makes a lot so we can have it for dinner and then have the leftovers for lunch.

G. makes the preparation easier on me by getting a rotisserie chicken and cutting it up in pieces. We have a deal in the kitchen. I don’t like to touch raw meat, so he generally cuts it up, and then I cook it. A rotisserie chicken isn’t raw, so in theory, I could cut it up myself. But he seems to be happy being the family butcher.

Chicken Barley Chili

1 can (14 1/2 ounces) tomatoes, diced, undrained (I use frozen tomatoes from our garden and run them through a food processor.)
1 jar (16 ounces) salsa or tomato sauce (I use homemade tomato sauce.)
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) fat-free chicken broth (I omit this and add more water if needed.)
4 cups water
1 cup barley
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 can (15 ounces) black beans, rinsed, drained
1 can (15 1/4 ounces) corn, undrained (I use 15 ounces of frozen corn.)
3 cups of chicken, cut into chunks

Combine the first seven ingredients in a stockpot. Bring them to a boil, then cover and turn down the heat. Simmer for 40 minutes.

Add the beans, corn and chicken. Increase the heat until it comes to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low and cook for another 5 minutes, or until the barley is tender.

If it’s too thick, add a little more water. You can serve it with sour cream and shredded cheddar if you like.

Mom’s lentil soup

Lentil soup

For lunch, I had a bowl of my mom’s lentil soup.

I’m visiting my mom this week, and she made a great vegetable soup for lunch. I often make a similar soup in the summer, when we have fresh vegetables from the garden, but I use white beans. My mom uses red lentils to give it bulk, and they have a nice texture.

Mom’s Lentil Soup

1 onion, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 stalks celery, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
5 Roma tomatoes, peeled and chopped
2 cups dry, red lentils
8 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup spinach, rinsed and thinly sliced
1 cup fresh parsley, chopped (or 3 tablespoons dried)
1 tablespoon thyme (1/2 fresh and 1/2 dried)
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the vegetables (except for the tomatoes) and seasonings in olive oil until tender. Cook for 2 minutes more.

Add the lentils, chicken broth and tomatoes, and simmer for 1 hour.

Add spinach and cook until wilted. Add salt and pepper.

Jamaican pumpkin soup tells G. I love him

A bowl of Jamaican Pumpkin Soup, adapted from The Daily Soup.

This blog has convinced my family and friends that I can cook, and certainly, working on it has improved my cooking. But sometimes, things still don’t go right.

I’ve had two recent kitchen disasters, with persimmon pudding and a galette from one of my new cookbooks. In both cases, I threw the results out. I hate to waste food, but I just couldn’t stomach it, and neither could G.

It was particularly disappointing because I haven’t had a lot of time to cook or blog lately. Among other things, G. had sinus surgery. It was a breeze, as far as surgeries go, but then he developed complications. He got a blood clot in one sinus and a hematoma, which is essentially a pool of blood, in the other. He had to go back in on Friday, and the surgeon cut his sinuses more to drain the blood and remove the clot. He gave G. a local anesthetic but didn’t put him under. Even with the anesthetic, it was horribly painful.

G. lost five pounds in the week between the two surgeries. His throat hurt after the first one from the tube that had been stuck down it. Then as the complications developed, his head and sinuses hurt, and he didn’t feel like eating.

On Thursday, he sneezed and got a gushing nose bleed. When the bleeding wouldn’t stop, we rushed to the emergency room and spent several hours there. G. came home with a tiny tampon stuffed up his nose, orders to rest and another surgery scheduled for the next day.

While he slept on the couch with Biggie B., I made pumpkin soup using another new cookbook, The Daily Soup. As always, there were adaptations. The recipe called for a specific type of Jamaican pumpkin, I used Rouge vif d’Etampes because that’s what we grow. I didn’t have Pickapeppa sauce, but I had Tabasco. I cut the amount of chili sauce because G. is sensitive to spicy food.

The soup turned out great. It was so great, that after saying he didn’t feel like eating and sitting and looking at his bowl for 20 minutes, G. eventually ate four bowls. Once he started eating, he couldn’t stop. And who could blame him? By then it had been about 20 hours since his last meal.

Then he had to fast again overnight so that he could have his second surgery on Friday. After that painful ordeal, he slept a few hours and then ate three more bowls of soup.

Later, he said to me, “There were chunks in the soup.”

We have an ongoing soup dispute. I like vegetable soups to be smooth purees. He likes chunks of vegetables in the soup. I do the cooking, so you can guess who usually wins out.

“Pumpkin and sweet potato,” I said.

“I like it, usually you blend everything up.”

“I left some chunks in because I knew you’d like that,” I said.

“Thank you,” G. said, “Thank you for my chunks.”

And there you have it: Nothing says “I love you” and “Get well soon” like chunky soup.

Jamaican Pumpkin Soup

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large Spanish onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
4 cups cubed pumpkin
6 cups vegetable stock
1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce

Heat olive oil in a stockpot and add onion, celery, garlic, ginger and sugar. Sweat until vegetables begin to soften.

Stir in salt and spices. Add potato, pumpkin and vegetable stock. Bring to a boil and let simmer until vegetables are soft, about 20 minutes.

Remove half of the soup and puree the rest. Stir in the Tabasco sauce. Stir back in the still-chunky portion of the soup. Serve.

Cholula puts some kick in Texas pumpkin soup

My friend B. is from Texas, but it’s often hard for me to picture. She’s a liberal Methodist minister, and most Texans I’ve ever met are conservative Southern Baptists. They are not people who refer to God as “she.”

But I recently got a strong reminder of B.’s roots when she gave G. and I some soup she’d made from one of our Rouge vif d’Etampes pumpkins. It had a kick. Not right off the bat. At first, the soup tasted a little sweet because the pumpkin hit first. But then there was a kick and a little burn.

“B. eats like a Texan,” I told G.

I wasn’t even sure whether he’d be able to eat the soup. He’s sensitive to heat. On our first date, we went to a Thai restaurant, and they didn’t ask how hot we wanted our dishes. G.’s made him cry. He was brave. He tried to push through it, but as the tears filled his eyes, he finally had to stop eating.

I’ve made a couple of dishes since then — one of them pumpkin soup from Homesick Texan — that had too much heat. I had to throw them out.

I couldn’t place the heat in B.’s soup. I usually use jalapeno peppers to add heat because we grow them, but that wasn’t the flavor I detected. It turned out the soup had a secret ingredient: Cholula Hot Sauce.

B. uses the original flavor, and if you aren’t from Texas, you might want to do so sparingly. The amount B. used, 1 to 2 tablespoons, was O.K. with G.

Texas Pumpkin Soup

1 cooking pumpkin, about 6 pounds
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1-2 tablespoons Cholula Hot Sauce

Cut the pumpkin in half and scrape out seeds. Place halves, cut side down, in a baking dish and add about an inch of water. Bake at about 400 degrees until you can easily puncture the side with a fork. This will take an hour or so. Scrape the pumpkin out of the skin and place in a stock pot. Blend into a smooth puree using an immersion (handheld) blender.

Saute the onion in a little olive oil until it starts to get clear. Fold into pumpkin puree. Stir in spices. Taste and adjust spices as needed.

To serve, you can add a dollop of sour cream (this will cut the heat) and garnish with a sprinkle of dill and a parsley sprig.

This, by the way, is a thick soup with only the natural liquid from the pumpkin. If you want it thinner, you can add a little water or chicken broth.