Taco Soup

This is a perfect summer soup. It doesn’t take long to cook on the stove, it’s easy, and it’s adaptable. If you want to make it more of a scoopable dish with taco shells, use less water. More of a soup, add more broth. You can make it spicier, or add dried herbs like oregano.

We enjoyed this with lots (and lots!) of chips for scooping. The original recipe comes from Delish, but I altered the seasonings here.

Serves 4-6

1 Tbsp. canola oil 
1 large onion, chopped
2 lb. ground turkey
1 15-oz. can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 15-oz. can corn, drained
1 15-oz. can chopped fire-roasted tomatoes, with liquid
1-2 Tbsp. (1-2 packets) taco seasoning
1 1/2 cups water
1 Tbsp. chicken bouillon powder
Freshly chopped cilantro, for garnish

In a large pot over medium heat, heat oil. Add onion and cook until soft and translucent, then add ground turkey and cook until no longer pink.

Add beans, corn, fire-roasted tomatoes, taco seasoning, water, and bouillon powder. Bring to a simmer and cook until all ingredients are heated through. Add more water (or even chicken broth!) if desired to make it more of a soup.

Taste for seasonings and add salt if needed; serve in bowls with chopped cilantro sprinkled on top.

Homemade Chicken Stock

When cooking with a rotisserie chicken, don’t throw it away after removing the meat — make your own stock. Just put the carcass in a large pot, fill with water, and toss in some chunks of vegetables such as carrots, celery, and onion. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 1-2 hours. Now you have stock, and the quality will be so much better than store-bought. It will noticeably improve your recipes.

Once the stock has cooled, save it in containers and freeze. Be sure to mark how many cups are in each, so that when you have a recipe requiring a certain amount, you can take out what you need.

* You can also save some of the stock in ice cube trays. Whenever you need small amounts — like for a pasta sauce or boiling rice — you can use some cubes without having to open or defrost an entire container. (Saving broth in ice cube trays is also a good idea when you have just a little bit left in a container and don’t want to waste it.)

Collard Green Soup with Sausage

This is a soup for cold days and warm. It’s comforting and filling, just the thing when the nights are chilly. But in the spring, when we’re starting to get back to fresher, healthier dinners, this soup can be just right. It has wonderfully healthy collards in a delicious broth, with sausage for extra flavor.

Southern chef and cookbook author Virginia Willis had this recipe in a November issue of Southern Living a few years ago. She noted the sausage is easily replaced by an equal amount of shredded turkey — great for using up Thanksgiving leftovers — or a combination of the two.

It’s easy to make, especially if you have all of the ingredients prepared before the cooking starts.

Serves 6

3 Tbsp. canola oil, divided
1 lb. Italian pork sausage, casings removed, broken up by hand into small pieces
3 Tbsp. all-purpose (plain) flour
1 medium sweet onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 quarts unsalted good-quality chicken stock, divided
1 1/2 lbs. collard greens, ribs removed, chopped (or just over 1 lb. pre-shredded)
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
Hot cooked rice

In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat 1 Tbsp. of the oil over medium heat. Add sausage and cook, stirring often, until sausage crumbles and is cooked through, about 5 minutes. Remove to a sieve set over a plate to drain.

Stir in flour and remaining 2 Tbsp. of oil with a wooden spoon and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture turns golden. Add onion, bell pepper, celery, and cook, stirring often, until onion is translucent. Add garlic and cook, stirring often, until fragrant, 1 minute. Add 1 quart of stock, stirring to loosen any brown bits from the bottom of the pot. Bring to a boil.

Stir in collard greens and cooked sausage, reduce heat to low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until greens are tender, about 45 minutes. Add more stock as needed.

Stir in salt and pepper just before serving. Serve cooked rice on the side for everyone at the table to add themselves.

Golden Split Pea Soup

With fresh ginger, lime juice, apples, and a cinnamon stick, this soup tastes sweet and vibrant. It’s from the famous Moosewood Restaurant, so like many of their recipes it’s very healthy yet doesn’t taste like it. The recipe calls for pureeing the soup, but you can have a chunkier version by removing about 3 cups of the vegetables with a slotted spoon, pureeing what’s left, then stirring the vegetables back in.

Do give yourself plenty of time to prepare the vegetables and other ingredients.


3 cups chopped onions (roughly 1 1/2 large onions)
1 tsp. vegetable oil
1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger root
1 cup dried yellow split peas
7 cups water
2 cups peeled and cubed sweet potatoes
1 cup peeled, cored, and cubed apples
3-inch cinnamon stick
2 tsp. chili powder
3/4 cup chopped tomatoes
Juice of 1 fresh lime (about 2 Tbsp.)
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
Chopped cilantro (fresh coriander) for garnish

In a soup pot, saute the onions in the oil for about 8 minutes, until golden, stirring frequently. Add the cumin, turmeric, coriander, and ginger and cook for another minute.

Add the split peas, water, sweet potatoes, apples, cinnamon stick, and chili powder. Cover and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 40 minutes, or until the split peas are tender.

In a bowl, combine the tomatoes, lime juice, and soy sauce. When the split peas are tender, add the tomato mixture. Remove the cinnamon stick. Puree the soup in a blender or food processor (or with an immersion blender, the easiest option), working in batches and adding more water if desired.

Return the soup to the pot and gently reheat. Serve topped with cilantro if desired.

Homemade Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup

Cream of mushroom soup is a great shortcut ingredient in a lot of baked recipes. I love shortcuts, but sometimes I wonder whether I could make those shortcut recipes completely from scratch so I can call the dish my own. That’s what I was trying to do when I looked for this recipe, so I could use it in some casseroles — but I ended up having it on its own and discovered it’s simply a delicious, comforting soup. I haven’t even used it as a recipe ingredient yet.

Credit for the recipe goes to Culinary Hill, which has more beautiful pictures of this soup than I could ever take.

1 Tbsp. butter
8 oz. white button mushrooms, sliced
3/4 cup chicken broth
1/4 tsp. onion powder
1/8 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup all-purpose (plain) flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, melt butter until foaming. Add mushrooms and cook until they have released most of their liquid, about 5 to 7 minutes.

Stir in chicken broth, onion powder, and garlic powder and bring to a simmer. In a small bowl, whisk together milk and flour.

Stir in milk mixture and cook until soup has thickened, about 1 minute. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Stop here if you want condensed soup. To make this into a soup on its own, add water — the recipe suggests 3 cups, but I prefer it with less. So add a cup at a time until it’s the consistency you like.

Green Chicken Enchilada Soup


When you’re looking for recipes online, sometimes a Google search can get tedious. It seems like the same sites show up in search results each time. That’s when I search Twitter, because I’ll always discover cool food blogs with really creative recipes, maybe some tutorials, or just links to sites I’d never find otherwise and are fun to look through.

The other day, searching Twitter, I landed on a blog called The Modern Proper and saw this recipe. It’s made in one pot with a minimum of work, so it’s easy. And the soup is perfect for cold weather.

We had this with tortilla chips (for dipping and scooping), fresh chopped cilantro (fresh coriander leaves), and chunks of avocado. It was absolutely delicious.

Serves 4

2 tsp. olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups shredded chicken (from a rotisserie chicken!)
1 16-oz. can green enchilada sauce (look for a can, not a jar — this is the one I used)
1 4-oz. can diced green chiles
2 15.5-oz. can great northern white beans
4 cups chicken stock
2 small zucchini, chopped or sliced
2 green bell peppers, diced
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground pepper

Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add in the garlic and cook for 2 more minutes.

Add remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer. Allow to cook for 20-30 minutes until vegetables are soft. Adjust seasoning as needed and serve warm topped with garnishes of your choice.

Moosewood Restaurant’s Coconut-Bean Soup

20181128_191832The most reliable cookbook I own is one from the Moosewood Restaurant. The recipes always work and are always delicious. And they’re healthy. The restaurant, a collective that started in 1973 in Ithaca, New York, is famous as one of the first to highlight vegetarian, natural, and locally sourced food.

Moosewood has a number of cookbooks, and recently I found a treasure — this 1987 copy of “New Recipes from Moosewood Restaurant,” one of their early ones. It’s interesting to see them carefully describe ingredients that are common these days, such as coconut milk, miso, and polenta.

20181128_191620The first recipe I tried from the book was this coconut milk soup with navy beans. It’s a thick soup, made substantial with the beans and a small amount of rice, but kept light with the fresh lemon juice and chopped tomatoes. I served it with flounder sautéed in butter and lemon juice. A light, crispy salad would be nice as a side dish.

I made a few tweaks, including using canned beans in place of dried in order to save time.

Serves 6

3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onions
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp. curry powder
1/4 tsp. cayenne (optional)
1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
Juice of 2 lemons
1 14.5-oz. can coconut milk
1/2 cup cooked rice
1 14.5-oz. can navy beans, drained
Toasted coconut flakes for garnish

In a large pot, heat oil on medium heat and saute onion, garlic, and spices until onions are translucent. Add peppers, tomatoes, salt, sugar, and lemon juice and simmer for 5-10 minutes, until the peppers are tender.

Stir in coconut milk, rice, and beans and simmer for 10-15 minutes, until flavors are blended. Serve garnished with toasted coconut flakes.

Chicken Gumbo

A delicious stew for an autumn day, and very easy to make.

It’s yet ANOTHER recipe I’ve had in my binder for ages. It’s from Parade magazine, the Sunday insert in many newspapers, and it was from the late Sheila Lukins, the magazine’s former food editor and famed author of “The Silver Palate Cookbook.”

That book, and her New York restaurant that inspired it, ushered in a new style of cooking in the late ’70s and early ’80s — one that emphasized flavors and seasonings and was still easy to make. Although this gumbo recipe was printed in the magazine much later, probably around 1995, it is still a great example of that kind of cooking.

I simplified the recipe even further, using rotisserie chicken instead of the chicken she laid out in the recipe. But I’ve included her original instructions for that below, in case you don’t have a rotisserie chicken or you want to make it all from scratch.

The only tough part was taking a nice picture of such a basic dish — gumbo may be delicious, but it’s not elegant — so I have no photo to share. But I hope you’ll try it and see for yourself how wonderful Lukins’ cooking was.

Serves 4

1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 stalks celery, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 red bell pepper, cored and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1/2 green bell pepper, cored and cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups sliced okra, fresh or frozen
1 rotisserie chicken, meat shredded*
14.5-oz. can diced tomatoes, juice reserved
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1 bay leaf
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

Place oil in a large, heavy pot. Add celery, onion, peppers, and garlic; cook over low heat, stirring, for 10 minutes. Raise heat to medium, add okra and cook, stirring an additional 5 minutes.

Add chicken, tomatoes, tomato paste, thyme, and bay leaf. Cover with reserved tomato juice, making sure that all chicken pieces are covered in liquid (if necessary, add a touch of water to ensure it’s covered).

Simmer over medium-low heat, partially covered, until chicken is thoroughly tender, about 30 minutes. Stir in half the parsley. Cook, covered, for 15 minutes longer. If gumbo begins to boil, reduce heat. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Garnish with remaining parsley. If desired, serve over hot rice.

*If not using a rotisserie chicken:
1 chicken, 2 1/2-3 lbs., cut into 8 pieces, wing tips removed
1 tsp. dried mustard
1 tsp. sweet paprika
Pinch of salt
Pinch of ground pepper
Pinch of ground allspice
Pinch of cayenne pepper

Rinse chicken and pat dry. Preheat oven to 400F/200C degrees. Combine seasonings in a small bowl and rub over chicken pieces. Place chicken in shallow baking pan and bake for 15 minutes.

Tortellini in Brodo

Easy gourmet and perfect for a weeknight.tortellini

This is a dinner in itself. Just pick your favorite store-bought tortellini and boil it in a homemade bone broth with leafy greens, vegetables, and pork.

While the recipe isn’t quick, it’s certainly not difficult, and it’s easy to make ahead of time. I made the broth this morning and added the tortellini and pork just before dinnertime. The house smelled wonderful all day.

The recipe is another winner from the Food Network. The only thing I changed from the original was using chard instead of escarole. And I recommend using the Parmesan rind, which adds a rich flavor. A touch expensive but worth it.

2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 leeks (white and light green parts only), halved lengthwise, thinly sliced and rinsed
2 carrots, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
2 small celery stalks, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups chicken broth
1 small piece Parmesan rind
2 wide strips lemon zest (removed with a vegetable peeler)
1 12-oz. bone-in pork chop, meat diced and bone reserved
1 9-oz. pkg. refrigerated cheese or meat tortellini
2 large leaves of swiss chard, spine removed and leaves chopped

In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the leeks, carrots, celery, and garlic, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the leeks wilt, about 5 minutes.

Add 2 cups water, the chicken broth, Parmesan rind, lemon zest, and pork bone. Bring to a simmer and cook until the vegetables are almost tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and take out the Parmesan rind, lemon zest, and pork bone from the pot with a slotted spoon.

(You can make the broth up to this point and save it in the refrigerator, proceeding with the next steps when you’re ready to prepare dinner.)

Bring the broth to a boil over medium heat. Add the tortellini, chard, and diced pork; season with pepper. Cook until the tortellini is tender, about 5 minutes.

White Bean Soup

20161203_134150This easy soup looks and tastes like it could be served in a restaurant. I love the creamy base, which you get not from cream, but from pureeing some of the beans. It’s a trick I didn’t know before, and I love it because it keeps the calories and fat content low.

The recipe came from Dallas chef David Holben and was served at his former restaurant, Mediterraneo. I clipped it years ago from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The original recipe called for cooking bacon, then using the bacon fat to cook the onions. I omitted the bacon and replaced the fat with olive oil.

Makes 4 servings

Olive oil
1/2 large yellow onion, finely chopped
2 15-oz. cans white (Great Northern) beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 tsp. dark brown sugar
1 large clove garlic, minced
2 cups chicken stock
1 heaping tsp. dried thyme
1 heaping tsp. dried rosemary
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

In large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and cook until translucent.

Add beans, sugar, garlic, stock, and herbs. Simmer 20 minutes or so, checking to make sure the beans don’t get too soft. (You may also have to simmer longer.)

With a slotted spoon or ladle, remove half the beans and place in a food processor or blender, then puree. You can also place the beans in a bowl and puree with an immersion blender. Stir the puree back into soup and add salt and pepper to taste.