Spicy black bean soup

This recipe was born of a sudden cold day, and the accompanying feeling that I MUST EAT SOUP TODAY. I was ready for fall; what can I say? Fortunately I had what I needed on hand (which was very little, honestly) to throw this together. It’s not super spicy, but has just enough kick to warm you up; the protein from the beans makes it deliciously filling.

Spicy black bean soup

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cans (15 ounces each) black beans
  • 1 can Ro-tel
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. chili powder
  • 16 ounces chicken broth
  • Shredded cheese, hot sauce, tomatoes, sour cream, and or green onions for topping

Instructions

  1. Heat the olive oil over medium heat, then saute the onion till it’s nice and soft
  2. Add in beans (you can drain if you want, but either way is fine), Ro-tel, tomatoes, chili powder, salt, pepper, and chicken broth; stir well
  3. Let simmer for at least 20 minutes or so; you can serve as is or blend a little with an immersion blender, which is what I did. Top with whatever sounds good, and enjoy!

Lasagna Soup

I have discovered a new-to-me blog and I’m in love. Have y’all seen The Country Cook? You should! I found this lasagna soup recipe there and I can’t stop eating it. The truth is, I’m not normally a big fan of soup. I like chili (does that count?) and I like my sister’s homemade chicken noodle soup, but I don’t have a long list of ones that I love. This one, however, I love.

The Yankee is not a fan of onions or green peppers, and I wanted to freeze a good bit of this so I altered her recipe a bit; be sure to check out her original as well!

Lasagna Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. ground beef, browned and crumbled, grease drained
  • 2 tsp. onion powder
  • 2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 2 tsp. Italian seasoning or oregano
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. packed brown sugar
  • 1 (32 oz.) box chicken broth
  • 2 (14.5 oz) cans petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 (15 oz.) can tomato sauce
  • 2 cups bow tie pasta
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 2 cups Mozzarella cheese, shredded

Instructions

  1. Combine ground beef through tomato sauce in a slow cooker or pot; simmer for at least an hour or so to let the flavors mingle, then stir in the Parmesan cheese
  2. If you’re serving it all at once, add in pasta and simmer till noodles are cooked, about 10 minutes; serve with Mozzarella cheese sprinkled over top; otherwise see notes below

Notes

I made mine in the slow cooker, and converted it to be an easy freezer meal. Since pasta can be tricky to freeze and reheat without them getting mushy, I didn’t add the noodles into the big pot. I froze two cup portions of the soup in Mason jars, then when I’m ready to eat I can put the contents of the jar and a handful of uncooked pasta in a small pot and cook till the noodles are done and the soup is hot. Practically instant soup!

 

Caesar dressing

We had one glorious almost-70-degree day here in Nashville and it made me SO READY for spring rightnowthisinstant. This, of course, made me want a good salad! I found this dressing recipe in Rick & Lanie’s Excellent Kitchen Adventures, which I love. The recipe is insanely quick, easy and good, which I also love.

Caesar dressing

Ingredients

  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 Tbsp. water

Instructions

  1. Crush peeled garlic (putting it in the microwave for about 5 seconds first will make this easier) into a 2-cup glass jar with a lid
  2. Add all remaining ingredients into the jar, cover tightly and shake
  3. Store in jar in the refrigerator for up to two weeks

Enjoy, y’all. Spring is coming!

Simple crackers

The Yankee and I love to have snacky suppers every so often; just some crackers, some cheese, maybe some salami or dried fruit or nuts. Browsing through How to Cook Everything today I came across a recipe for crackers. Did y’all have any idea how fast it is to make crackers? I certainly did not. I gathered:

Simple crackers

Ingredients

  • 1 cup AP flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 1/4 cup whole milk

Instructions

  1. Combine the flour and salt, then cut in the butter like you’re making biscuits or pie dough (a few pulses in a food processor will do this nicely; I used a pastry blender this time), then add in milk
  2. Either pulse till combined in the food processor or stir in with a fork or dough whisk in a bowl
  3. Roll out 1/8 inch thick and cut out into shapes, or just score it with a knife if you want to simply break them apart later
  4. Bake at 400F on a lightly floured baking sheet or on a pizza stone for about ten minutes, then cool on a rack. Serve warm or save for later

With limitless shape options, these crackers also make a very fun kid snack.

Have fun!

Lissa’s baked jambalaya

Oh I wish I could make this look as good as it tasted!

My fabulous friend Lissa makes this so often that she doesn’t even look at the recipe anymore. That’s the sign of a good supper! She told me how to make it while The Kiddo and I were visiting last fall, and I can’t believe it took me this long to make it. It is absolutely phenomenal, really. You must make this as soon as possible.

Lissa’s baked jambalaya

Ingredients

  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • 1 lb. smoked sausage, sliced
  • 1 can Rotel
  • 1 can french onion soup
  • 1 can beef consomme
  • 2 lbs. uncooked chicken, turkey or peeled shrimp
  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped
  • 2 cups uncooked rice
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 14 ounces (or 1 can) chicken broth
  • I also added some chopped dehydrated red peppers out of the freezer from last summer’s garden

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. Mix all ingredients and bake in buttered casserole, covered tightly (I did a tight cover of foil then a lid on top of that) for one hour; stir and cover, then bake 30 minutes more or until rice is done

It’s only one step. Don’t you love that? This expands a lot as the rice cooks and soaks up the chicken broth so allow yourself plenty of room in the casserole dish (I totally pushed my luck there; overflow crisis narrowly averted).

I served this with shredded cheese, hot sauce and cornbread. It went fast. :)

Chicken & dumplings

Another classic Southern comfort food dish. Ahh…. so fabulous.

I learned to make this dish when I was just out of college and had a job that was more handling customers than washing diapers. For the record, I’ll take Cheerios over conference calls any day. ;)  This was one of those “oh I use some of this and a little of that and sometimes those — should I write this down?” sort of things, so I’m doing my best to turn it into an actual recipe.

Chicken & dumplings

Ingredients

  • 4 chicken breasts or one roasted rotisserie chicken
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup butter, cold
  • Chicken broth — about 2 quarts
  • 2 Tbsp. or so cornstarch
  • Salt, pepper, onion powder

Instructions

The chicken
    1. Either boil or slow cook the chicken breasts, saving the water it was cooked in, or (time saver alert!) buy a lovely already-roasted rotisserie chicken from the grocery store. Viola, my Grandma would wittily say, you’re halfway there. With either method, wait till the chicken is cooled and chop it into chunks; set aside for now.
The dumplings
    1. While the pot of broth is heating up, cut the butter into the flour like you’re making biscuits using either a pastry blender, a fork, or a few pulses of the food processor. Now sprinkle in some salt and pour in chicken broth, a little at a time, till the dough holds together enough to be able to roll it out — this will take somewhere around a cup or cup and a half, but it’s not a science. When the dough holds together, roll it out very thin and cut into strips about an inch wide, and two inches long. A pizza cutter is great for this! These, obviously, do not have to be anywhere near perfect.
    2. Returning to your chicken broth: get a big pot of chicken it simmering — either the water you reserved from cooking the chicken breasts, or some homemade you might have in the freezer. If you’re using quarts of chicken broth, pour in one full quart plus whatever is left after making your dumplings. Bottom line: you want plenty in there so the dumplings have room to cook.
    3. After the broth has come to a nice simmer, start carefully dropping in the dumplings; they’ll all sink to the bottom at first and that’s fine. Let them simmer gently for about half an hour, swirling the pot around every so often. You don’t want to do too much stirring because the dumplings are delicate as they’re cooking and you don’t want to make them all into a giant ball of mush; some gentle moving around with a wooden spoon is fine.
Thickening time!
    1. Whisk about 2 Tbsp. of cornstarch into 1/4 cup of cold water till it’s all dissolved and there are no lumps. Pour this mixture into the pot of dumplings and stir gently, then add in your chopped chicken.
Seasoning
  1. Sprinkle in some salt, some pepper and some onion powder, bring the whole mess back up to a simmer, then reduce heat so it’s just below simmer. Let it cook another half hour or so to give the cornstarch time to work its magic and thicken things up and for all the flavors to get to know each other properly.

Now serve! This is crazy good with green beans (cooked with bacon fat, duh) or just on its own. It also freezes like a dream so I make a giant pot once a month or so and freeze quart size bags of it.

Chicken broth

Remember when we made the French chicken and I told you to hold onto the gizzards from the chicken? Here’s why:

Throw them in a pot or slow cooker. Or a pressure cooker! Whatever floats your boat. Now throw in half an onion and a couple stalks of celery. If you have some carrots or a bay leaf, go crazy — throw ‘em in.  Sprinkle some salt and pepper over the whole mess. Now fill with water, turn it on low, and walk away. For about 12 hours.

When it’s done simmering, strain it through a mesh strainer, drain off any excess fat (although there won’t be much from just the gizzards), and store it however you see fit. I usually put a quart in a Mason jar in the fridge, then put quarts of it in freezer bags in the deep freeze so I have it on hand.

Now after you’re done with your French chicken and you’ve had supper and sandwiches with the meat? You guessed it. Throw the chicken bones (“bones” sounds prettier than “carcass” does it not?) in a pot with the other half of your onion, and whatever combination of celery, carrots, bay leaves, salt, pepper, etc. you arrived at earlier. Fill the pot with water and repeat the process. Then shake your head at yourself that you ever spent $4/quart on the store-bought stuff, which isn’t nearly as good as yours is anyway.

And now that you have all this yummy chicken broth on hand, you have no excuse for not making risotto! Or, as I like to call it, Chicken Broth’s Best Reason For Existence.