Category Archives: Soup

What I’ve Been Cooking Lately

tableHi guys! Long time no see! I hope you had a great Thanksgiving. We had a cah-razy Thanksgiving week with a lot of travel. The weekend before Turkey Day we flew to Kansas City for a night, then drove to Branson, MO and spent a few days with Robert’s family at Big Cedar Lodge. We then drove back to KC for Thanksgiving, flew home to Chicago for a night, and then drove up to Detroit for our final wedding of the year and back home again. Phew! I can’t believe all of that happened within the span of one week. At 25.5 weeks, baby sure has racked up some miles already! I must say, it feels so great to be home.

I haven’t posted a recipe in a while, but I’ve been cooking A LOT. We’ve been so fortunate to host family and friends several times over the past few months. It’s funny, when Robert and I were registering for wedding gifts (best thing ever) he’d joke about the imaginary life I had in my head in which we throw dinner parties all the time. Before we got married we just didn’t do it very often. But over the past year we’ve been hosting more and more and I absolutely love it. We’ve become quite the team when having people over.

I must say: dinner parties at home > dinner out. It’s just so much more laid back and enjoyable!

Currently, I feel like I’m going through a phase where I’m really enjoying following recipes pretty much to the word. It’s a great way to sharpen my skills in the kitchen and get back to basics. At the same time, following recipes gives me the confidence I need to make things I’ve never made before (like penne alla vodka–from scratch!) Lately, I’ve been all about comfort foods and no one does comfort better, in my opinion, than the Barefoot Contessa. So you’ll see quite a few links to her recipes below.

Here are some of my favorite recipes lately:

Barefoot Contessa Italian wedding soup I made this soup for a big group of friends we had over on a Sunday afternoon. I served it with a big salad, cornbread, and apple cider cupcakes.

Barefoot Contessa penne alla vodka This is going to sound insane, but I actually decided to make this recipe on a whim as a way to use up some ingredients we had on hand including lots of frozen pureed tomatoes from our CSA this summer and some heavy cream. It’s probably the most extravagant clean-out-the-fridge meal I’ve ever made. It was delicious.

Barefoot Contessa winter minestrone soup with garlic bruschetta I’d been eyeing this recipe for as long as I can remember and I’m so happy I finally got a chance to make it when a friend visited for lunch one day last month. I cannot recommend it highly enough. I’m definitely going to make a few batches to freeze before baby arrives in March!

Smitten Kitchen sweet and sour holiday brisket in the slower cooker from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook.This November, my parents and sister visited for a weekend. I had this brisket ready for them when they arrived late Friday night. I served it with roasted carrots and potatoes (recipe is also from the cookbook), sauteed shredded brussels sprout salad, and apple spice cake for dessert.

Smitten Kitchen big cluster maple granola from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. I make a batch of this with raisins every week or two so I always have a container of it in my pantry. I love having a big bowl of granola with sliced bananas and milk most mornings. I’ve also been known to have a bowl when I occasionally wake up starving around 3 or 4am : )

Quiche Oh my goodness we’ve been eating so much quiche lately. It’s my favorite way to clean out the veggie drawer and finish up any remaining eggs each week. I use this recipe as my base, mostly for the instructions. Lately I’ve been taking a much simpler approach with shallot, canadian bacon, and arugula or spinach. Yum! I even made two of them while we were away with Robert’s family last week.

Chicken Sausage Vegetable Soup

Chicken Sausage Vegetable SoupOh, this soup! I just can’t get enough. And isn’t it so colorful? It began as a clean out the kitchen meal a week ago: Half an onion, some remaining carrots and celery, potatoes from our CSA, half a bag of spinach, chicken broth and tomatoes from the pantry (I try to keep them stocked)…But as soon as I tasted it I knew it was something special and already couldn’t wait to make it again.

Fortunately, I had the opportunity to do just that this week. Our friends Mallery and Dave recently had a baby (she’s so cute!) and I had planned to bring them dinner one night. Before Mallery was due I asked her if they had any allergies, aversions, or preferences. She said that since they wouldn’t be cooking as much they’d probably be in need of some veggies. Soup seemed like an ideal solution since you can cram as many vegetables in there as your heart desires. Plus, it provides plenty of leftovers so it’s like delivering several meals in one.

Chicken Sausage Vegetable Soup

This soup contains a secret ingredient that I believe elevates it above your run-of-the-mill pot of soup: White wine! (Not to worry, it cooks off.) After browning the sausage really well, add about 1/4 cup of white wine to the pot and use a wooden spoon to deglaze all of that delicious goodness from the bottom. There’s no other way to capture a level of flavor quite like that. Trust me!

Normally, I only have two taste testers when trying a new recipe: me and Robert. This time, I was lucky enough to get Mal and Dave’s opinion and I think they loved it as much as we did. A few hours after delivering the soup, she sent a text saying , “The soup is amazing! Can you send me the recipe? It’s going in my permanent rotation!”

I’d call that a win!

Chicken Sausage Vegetable Soup

Ingredients 

  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound chicken sausage (I used spicy chicken sausage). Leave the casing on, slice each sausage vertically in half and then slice horizontally into bite-sized half moon pieces.
  • 1/4 cup white wine (I used chardonnay)
  • 1 small or 1/2 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 stalks celery, thinly sliced
  • 4 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 2 to 3 Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks
  • 3 big handfuls baby spinach (about 3 oz)
  • 1 to 2 cups water, if needed
  • Salt to taste, if needed

Preparation

In a soup pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add sausage. Cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 10 minutes. Remove sausage to a bowl and set aside.

Pour white wine into pot and use a wooden spoon to deglaze bottom of the pan. Add more wine, if needed, until all browned bits are scraped from the bottom. To the pot, add onion and garlic and sauté until onion is softened and translucent, about 7 minutes. Add celery and carrots and sauté until they begin to soften, about 7 minutes more.

Add chicken broth, diced tomatoes, and potatoes. Add sausage back to the pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, about 20 to 30 minutes. If you feel like too much liquid has cooked off, add 1 to 2 cups of water. Before serving, add spinach and stir until wilted. Add salt to taste, if needed.

 

#Whole30 Slow Cooker Mexican Chicken Soup

#Whole30 Slow Cooker Mexican Soup

Three posts in one week! It’s a miracle! After being away from this blog during our whirlwind spring of weddings and travel it is soooo good to be back. I hope I’m not boring you too much with the Whole 30 thing. I promise not to talk about it allllll the time. Really, I’m just making good, clean food here. You can label it whatever you want or don’t label it at all. Just make it, enjoy it, and feel good. That’s all anyone can ask for, right?

This week I had a mega hankering for my favorite slow cooker chicken tortilla soup. It was a little chillier here in Chicago (though still nice) so I knew it would be great for lunches. I’m happy to say it did not disappoint.

I updated my favorite slow cooker chicken tortilla soup recipe by ditching the beans and corn and packing in even more veggies than before. The result was stellar. It has all of the same kick and flavors as my beloved recipe with an even greater nutritional bonus. That’s what I call a win-win.

Soup’s on!

#Whole30 Slow Cooker Mexican Chicken Soup

#Whole30 Slow Cooker Mexican Chicken Soup

Ingredients

  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 1-1.5 lbs)
  • 15 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 to 3 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, mined
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 cup salsa (read the label to make sure it doesn’t contain any funky ingredients like sugar)
  • 2 to 3 handfuls baby spinach
  • Juice of 1 lime

Preparation

Place the chicken breasts, tomatoes, and chicken broth in the slow cooker. In a microwave-safe glass bowl add the carrots, celery, red bell pepper, onion, jalapeño, garlic, olive oil, cumin, chili powder, and oregano. Mix to coat everything evenly in oil and spices. Microwave on high for 2 minutes. Stir. Microwave for 2 more minutes. Stir. If veggies aren’t softened, microwave 1-2 more minutes. Dump the veggies into the slow cooker. Cover the slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hours. When it’s done cooking, remove chicken breasts to a cutting board and shred with two forks. Return chicken to slow cooker. Mix in salsa and spinach. Continue cooking on low for 15 to 30 minutes more. Right before serving, squeeze juice of one lime.

Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup

Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla SoupWell, shucks. I’m a day late posting a Cinco de Mayo recipe. But once you make this soup you won’t care what day it is, what time it is, or what year it is. You’ll just be focused on shoveling it into your mouth quickly enough. This recipe completely took me by surprise in the best possible way. I dumped the ingredients into the slow cooker Sunday morning and hoped for the best. I was absolutely thrilled when I lifted the lid, took a taste, and discovered it was bursting with flavor. A happy dance in the kitchen ensued. It’s among the best tortilla soups I’ve ever had!

My love for tortilla soup is well established. I order it everywhere. I even have a vegetarian tortilla soup recipe here. And oh man do I still love that recipe. But THIS. This one is a keeper, too. Sometimes you just want some chicken in your tortilla soup and you want to use the convenience of a slow cooker. Feel free to top your soup with whatever you like–cilantro, chunks of avocado, fresh lime juice, or some cheese all work great. I kept it suuuuper simple and just crumbled some tortilla chips on top. It’s so easy and tasty. I’m already planning to continue the fiesta and put it on our menu for next week. I think you should, too!

Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup

Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup

Ingredients

  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 1-1.5 lbs)
  • 15 oz diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup salsa (I recommend one that says “fire-roasted” or “chipotle” for a smoky taste)
  • 1 15 oz can (or box) of kidney beans or black beans, undrained
  •  1 cup frozen corn
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp salt
  • Black pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and chopped
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • Any toppers of your choice: cilantro, avocado, cheese, sour cream, lime juice
  • Tortilla chips for topping/dipping/snacking

Preparation

Place the chicken breasts through the bay leaf in the slow cooker. Combine onion, garlic, jalapeño, and olive oil in a microwave-safe glass bowl. Microwave in 1 to 2 minute increments, stirring after each one until onion is softened, about 4 to 5 minutes total. Add to slow cooker. Cover the slow cooker and cook on low 6 to 8 hours. When it’s done cooking, remove chicken breasts to a cutting board and shred with two forks. Return chicken to slow cooker. Stir, taste, and adjust seasonings as needed. Serve in bowls with toppings of your choice such as cilantro, diced avocado, cheese, sour cream, or lime juice. Serve with tortilla chips.

 

 

Beef Barley Mushroom Soup

Beef Barley Mushroom Soup

Happy Valentine’s Day! I’m sending a big, fat virtual hug to you all today.

Are you doing anything fun with your friends or sweetheart? Robert and I are planning a low-key night at home. I’m making this Greek Chicken and Potatoes {an absolute favorite} for dinner. Then we’ll catch up on DVR–maybe some Olympics, Bachelor, or House of Cards {!!!} A perfectly relaxing evening if you ask me. Robert’s working craaaaazy hours for months so any amount of time we get to spend together is special whether it’s Valentine’s Day or not.

I was perfectly happy to stay in this year, but I was thinking back to this time just a few years ago. We’d only been dating for two months when Valentine’s rolled around. He sent me the most beautiful pink roses, which were completely unexpected, and took me on a date to a fabulous Chicago restaurant called Perennial Virant. I was smitten. Although I’m not one to typically give into the V-Day hype {see: sweatpants and DVR} I had never felt more special in my life.

It’s probably a little late to suggest something you can make for Valentine’s Day if you’re cooking tonight, but I hope you keep this soup in mind for some time soon.

I’ve tried to make the perfect beef barley soup for years and I have finally done it. Truly, this is the last beef barley recipe I ever need. Jackpot! It’s rich, a perfect balance of chunky and brothy, and I even snuck some spinach in there, too. I ate this throughout the week and was totally bummed when it was all gone. Time to make another pot!

Beef Barley Mushroom Soup

Beef Barley Mushroom Soup

Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • 1 lb beef stew meat, cut into bite-sized chunks
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 leek, white and light green parts, thinly sliced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 8 oz mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 4 cups beef broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup pearl barley
  • 3 handfuls baby spinach
  • Parsley for garnish

Preparation

Heat olive oil in a soup pot over medium-high heat. Add beef stew meat, season lightly with salt and pepper, and cook until cooked through. Remove meat to a bowl and set aside.

To the pot, add onion and leek. Saute until softened, about 5 minutes. Add carrots and celery, saute about 5 to 8 minutes. Add mushrooms, garlic cloves, and dried thyme. Cook 5 minutes more. Add beef broth, water, barley and meat. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook until barley is cooked and softened, about 25 minutes. Add spinach, cook until wilted. Serve soup with chopped fresh parsley for garnish.

Sausage Sweet Potato Soup

Sausage Sweet Potato SoupI kind of feel the need to start this post with an apology. We’ve been eating this soup all winter long and I’m just getting around to sharing it with you now. So guys, I’m sorry.

After making yet another pot of it this weekend, I’m finally here to tell you about it. It’s simple, extremely flavorful (especially for a broth-based soup that’s not even made with homemade broth), and totally healthy.

You start by browning a pound of spicy Italian chicken sausage (or any kind you like). Scoop that out and add some fresh onions, garlic, and leek to the pot to really boost the flavor. Dump in your carrots and celery. Add the sausage back to the pot along with sweet potato chunks, chicken broth, and a little water. Once you’ve reached a boil add your greens and parsley. I typically use swiss chard, but you can use anything that strikes your fancy–spinach, kale, and collard greens all work great, too. Keep things at a simmer for about 20 minutes and dig in!

I can confirm that this soup heals all. As much as I like to keep things happy around here I also like to stay honest. So I’ll admit I’ve been fighting a case of the winter blahs this year (it’s hard not to with the constant grey skies, snow, and cold). At the same time, I could feel a cold creeping in late last week that had me down for the count throughout this weekend. A few spoonfuls of this soup helped me keep in mind that despite my sniffles and sighs, you can always take a moment to savor the good stuff and remember that neither will last forever. Though I sure wish this soup would!

Sausage Sweet Potato Soup

Sausage  Sweet Potato Soup

Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • 1 pound raw spicy Italian chicken sausage (casings removed), or any kind of sausage you like
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 leek, white and light green parts, chopped (be sure to clean thoroughly, they collect a lot of sand/dirt)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 3 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 medium-sized sweet potato (about 1 lb), peeled and cut into bite-sized cubes
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 bunch swiss chard (or other green) stems removed, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Preparation

Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a pot over medium-high heat. Add sausage and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned. (Once it’s cooked, I like to take a wooden spoon and break it up into really little pieces.) Transfer sausage from pot to a bowl and set aside.

Add additional olive oil, about 1 Tbsp, to pot if needed. Add onion, garlic, and leek. Season with some salt and pepper. Saute until softened, about 5 minutes.

Add celery and carrot to pot. Saute until they start to soften, 5 to 8 minutes.

Return sausage to the pot. Add the sweet potato, chicken broth, and water. Raise heat and bring to a boil.

Add swiss chard and parsley to pot. Lower heat and simmer, uncovered, until vegetables are very tender about 20 minutes.

White Chicken Chili

White Chicken Chili. ABalancedLifecooks.comThis chili makes me so stinkin’ happy I can hardly stand it. It is soooooooo good. If I made it once a week every week for the rest of the winter I’d be one seriously happy camper. All of the credit goes to my sister, Leah, who’s tweaked this recipe over time to get it just right. The recipe, however, only lived in her brain…until now!

All day Tuesday while I’m sure she was doing more important lawyering things, I sent her a flood of emails to get the deets: ingredients, quantities, instructions. The good stuff.

Be sure to give yourself some time while cooking it. Maybe save it for a Sunday afternoon when there’s a holiday movie on TV. It takes a little while to brown the chicken and cook down the liquid so it slightly thickens, but it’s worth every single second–and then some. The longer your chili cooks the better it tastes.

In addition to your usual suspects like tender chunks of chicken, white beans, corn, and heaps of spices I love that she sneaks swiss chard in here, too. I mean…what? Yeah, not the first chili ingredient you’d imagine. But trust me, you’ll love it. Or at least you’ll barely notice it.

Serve your chili with some chopped avocado and cilantro and a delicious pile of buttery cornbread. Not only is it hearty and healthy, we loved eating leftovers for as long as they lasted.

White Chicken Chili. ABalancedLifeCooks.com

White Chicken Chili

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

  • 4 chicken breasts, bone-in and skin on
  • Salt and pepper
  • olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 leek, white and light green parts, chopped (optional)
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 jalapeño, seeds removed, chopped
  • 3 Tbsp ground cumin
  • 2 Tbsp dried oregano
  • 3 Tbsp chili powder
  • 2 Tbsp fennel seeds (optional)
  • 1 cup white wine or beer (enough to deglaze the pan – you may need more or less)
  • 6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 3 (15 oz) cans white beans, drain and rinse all but one*
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard, stems removed, chiffonade leaves
  • 2 cups frozen corn
  • 1/2 tsp crushed chili pepper

Preparation

Season chicken breast with salt and pepper. Heat about 1 Tbsp olive oil in a big stock pot. In two separate batches, brown chicken breast two at a time, about 5-8 minutes per side. Chicken doesn’t have to fully cook through. Remove to a plate and set aside.

To the pot, add onion and leek. Saute until onion softens, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and jalapeño, sauté about 30 seconds until fragrant. Add cumin, oregano, chili powder, and fennel seeds if using. Coat vegetables in spices and toast in pan, about 1-2 minutes, until slightly browned and fragrant.

Pour wine or beer into pot and use a wooden spoon to deglaze bottom of the pan. Add chicken broth, white beans, and all four whole chicken breasts to the pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer about 60 minutes.

Transfer chicken from the pot to a cutting board. Remove skin, pull chicken off the bone, and chop into bite-sized pieces. Discard the skin and bones, place chopped chicken meat back into the pot. Add the swiss chard, corn, and crushed chili pepper. Cook about 10 minutes more until corn is heated through.

To serve, ladle chili into bowls. Top with any toppings of your choice such as avocado, cilantro, or cheese.

*In order to avoid BPA, I limit cooking with canned foods as much as possible. I almost always use organic beans from Whole Foods that come in a cardboard box/TetraPak. Since I know they’re not as widely available I use the word “cans” in the ingredients to avoid confusion.