Pumpkin Minestrone

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We are having some beautiful fall weather in South Florida!  When fall comes to Florida, it’s more of a pretend season.  It will be 80 degrees and locals will pulling out their boots, light sweaters and scarves…pretty silly looking to the vacationing Northerners who are walking around in their shorts and sundresses.  When you live here for awhile, you feel the change of seasons and get very excited. Continue reading “Pumpkin Minestrone”

Bloody Halloween Red Lentil and Beet Soup

imageI bloody love Halloween.

And I love this soup.  In fact, it will make a reappearance in December for a gorgeous red Christmas soup, minus the drips and fake bloody hand.

Halloween wickedly crept up on me this year.  I’m usually all decorated for Halloween by now.  Pumpkins, skulls, skeletons, witches and brooms tastefully decorating my home.  Thousands of ideas, too little time. Continue reading “Bloody Halloween Red Lentil and Beet Soup”

Gorgonzola and White Wine Bisque

gorgonzola bisqueMust Love Gorgonzola!  I for one, just love the unique taste of gorgonzola.  Its creaminess and green/blue marbling is a gentle version to the sharp taste of blue cheese.  Gorgonzola is always a staple in my fridge, topping it on salads, melted into polenta, sprinkled on pizza or any dish I feel needs a bit of extra zest.

This bisque is very light in texture; the color is enhanced by the carrots used to flavor and thicken the bisque.  I didn’t want to add any more fat into this bisque by using cream, so I used cannellini beans to “cream” and slightly thicken the soup. Sometimes my love of gorgonzola makes it difficult for me to accurately judge how others may take to its taste, so I was able to do a quick taste test last night with a special friend, who gave it a definite thumbs up!! Continue reading “Gorgonzola and White Wine Bisque”

Warm Me Up! Marsala Mushroom Bisque

This past weekend was a cold one for sure!!  The freeze baby I am though was happy as can be.  My bag was packed for a weekend trip to Florida.  As I hugged my son goodbye at the airport, snow lightly falling around us, my smile met his smirk with a “stay warm now” wish as I hurried myself inside!

I heard the temperature in Florida would be chillier than normal, but also knew it could only feel better than where I was.  Spring Breakers were not so happy when the Captain announced the current morning temperature in Florida to be 51 degrees!  Especially the boy sitting next to me ready to hit the beach in his flip flops, swim trunks and tank top!  By the time we landed it hit 58 degrees and as far as I was concerned, it was a gorgeous weekend! Continue reading “Warm Me Up! Marsala Mushroom Bisque”

Tortellini Soup

My week days are a bit longer now.  Gone is the 15 minute commute home with plenty of time to slip in a bike ride before dinner. These days I’m lucky to find traffic moving well enough to make it home in an hour.  Truly a grueling drive, traffic so jammed to a crawl that my GPS will ask me if I want to switch to pedestrian mode!

Once home, the sun has set, the air is chilled and I just want to get inside to  my comfy, soothing, familiar surroundings. Continue reading “Tortellini Soup”

Peachlove: Peach and Basil Gazpacho

It’s Peachlove month with the Love Bloghop!  I am happy to be back hosting again with this group of awesome bloggers.  Each month they select the “love” ingredient to be used as a main part in the recipe.

I was thrilled to see that August was dedicated to the Peach since I’ve moved from the “orange” state to the “peach” state!  While I’ve purchased some Georgia peaches at Trader Joes, I’ve been looking forward to finding some fresh markets to visit.   It’s been on my long to do list and with Gina’s visit, I made it a definite plan to search for a market. Continue reading “Peachlove: Peach and Basil Gazpacho”

Italian Beef Stew

Beef stew was not my favorite dish when I was a child.  I clearly remember not being very happy when it was stew night!  I honestly can’t think of any other dish she made that I didn’t like except this.   I’d pick around the bowl to find something I’d like; a potato, a carrot or two, a piece of beef to slip to my dog Buffy.   Everyone else all seemed to really enjoy the stew, especially Buffy.

Years later after my mom passed, I’d prepare meals from her handwritten notes to bring back memories of her through the dishes she made.  I quickly passed over the Italian beef stew recipe many times before I finally decided to make it.   Surprise, surprise…I loved it!  It certainly had nothing to do with my making it any better but more so my taste for food had grown from when I was young.  And just as surprising to me, it’s a dish my son really likes.

It’s a bowl full of love, comforting, tender and warming.  The amount of potatoes, carrots, garlic and celery can vary to your taste; I’ve added in peas as well at times and used white wine when I didn’t have an open bottle of red.  I’m not sure why she wrote Italian Beef Stew; I’ve never compared it to other stew recipes but the ingredients don’t seem to be too “Italian” to me other than tomatoes!

Italian Beef Stew

2 lbs lean beef, cubed, tossed in flour to lightly coat

4 tablespoons olive oil

2 large onions, sliced

1/2 cup red wine

4 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

2 large potatoes, cut into chunks

3 carrots, peeled and sliced into chunks

1 stalk celery, sliced

1/2 cup fresh parley, chopped

1 14 oz can plum or diced tomatoes

1/2 cup water or enough to cover meat

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

In a large stockpot, heat the oil.   Add in the beef and onions saute until slightly brown.  Deglaze the pan with the wine, simmer for about 10 minutes.  Add in the tomatoes, garlic, chopped parsley and red pepper flakes and let simmer for another 10 minutes.  Add in the potatoes, celery, carrots, and tomatoes.  Simmer for 10 minutes.  Add in enough water to cover the meat and simmer covered for 40 minutes, stirring occassionally.  Uncover the stew and simmer for an additional 10 minutes or until the meat is tender.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Corn Chowder with Roasted Pumpkin

Soups are a nice start to a Thanksgiving meal for a couple of reasons.  First, it immediately slows down the eagerness to jump right into this feast of many dishes and second, it allows the hostess a bit of breathing room should anything need to be warmed up further.  And while the soup dishes are being cleared, hopefully by a few helpful teens, final touches to the dinner can be made and those same teens can begin bringing on the meal!

I like to serve soup in a beautiful tureen, ladling out into small bowls.  I am truly aware of not overstuffing my guests on a day that everyone ends up feeling like taking a nap!  So I offer lots of interesting, small portions of food.  A fresh bread basket is nice to serve with the soup but not wanting to get filled up on bread, I toasted up some of my pumpkin bagels into crutons.

When I was growing up, soups were not a part of our Thanksgiving dinner.  It was pasta that started out the meal!  I believe every Italian family, and as my sister, cousins and Chicago John can attest, had some form of pasta before or with the turkey!  On top of that, as my birthday falls around the holiday, birthday cake was part of the desserts!  Just like Christmas babies, I always wanted my own celebration but having all the family gathered together, it was just easier to celebrate on that day.  (Of course, as soon as I began my own traditions, pasta was eliminated and birthday cake too!!)

Because corn was a prominent part of the first Thanksgiving feasts, I have always tried to have a corn dish included in the meal.  Making a simple corn chowder, I eliminated using potatoes for thickening and added in roasted pumpkin.  I prefer to have a chunkier soup so I used an immersion blender to lightly blend the soup.  For the broth, I used turkey stock, but chicken broth or even a vegetable broth could be used.  (To make vegetarian, omit the pancetta as well.)  Made a few weeks ahead, this soup would freeze well, just don’t add the cream until ready to reheat.

Corn Chowder with Roasted Pumpkin

For the roasted pumpkin and garlic:

1 fresh pumpkin, about 1 lb, seeded, fibers removed and cut into quarters

1 whole garlic bulb, cut in half

1 tablespoon olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the chowder:

3 ears of corn cut off the cob or 3 cups frozen

4 oz pancetta, chopped

1 small onion diced

1 small red pepper, diced

6 cups turkey stock or chicken broth

4-5 sprigs of fresh thyme

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 cup organic cream

Crumbled gorgonzola or grated cheddar for garnish

To roast the pumpkin and garlic:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  On a large baking sheet toss the pumpkin with the olive oil, salt and pepper.  Spread the pumpkin evenly on the sheet.  Place the garlic halves cut side down on the baking sheet.  Bake for 40-45 minutes or until pumpkin is tender.  Cool slightly, peel the pumpkin and set aside or refrigerate overnight.

To make the chowder:

In a large soup pot, saute the pancetta until crisp.  Remove and set aside.  Saute the onion and pepper until soft about 5 minutes.  Add in the pumpkin, roasted garlic (squeezed from the skins), corn, stock, pancetta and thyme.  Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer.  Continue to simmer for about 25-30 minutes.  Using an emersion blender, process the chowder slighty to thicken but leaving partially chunky.  Alternately, use a blender to blend the chowder to your desired creaminess.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Add in cream and cook until heated through, do not allow to boil.  Serve with cheese and toasted crutons.  Pumpkin and garlic can be made two days ahead, chowder can be made one day ahead.  Bring chowder to room temperature before heating.

This soup is part of my Thanksgiving Countdown.  If you’d like to share your favorite soup for Thanksgiving, please use Linky Tools below.

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My Favorite Color (Carrot & Ginger Soup) at The Orange Bee

Pumpkin Bisque with Shrimp at Rufus’ Food and Spirits Guide

Chilled Mixed Berry and Prosecco Soup

Temperatures this summer have been hot!  Heavy meals are completely off my menu plans and my guests are not complaining when lighter entrées are served.  Even my desserts are lighter; simple fruit based sweets.  I’m all about fresh tasting and easy, that is easy for me the hostess!

This recipe is truly in its most natural state.  The berries, either fresh or frozen, are pureed, not cooked.  I don’t add in any spices, nor have I ever felt the need to.  Simple syrup or agave is added for sweetness and for sparkle, Prosecco, champagne or club soda is stirred in just before serving.  I like the swirl of buttermilk or thinned yogurt as a pretty contrast and its creaminess blends with the sweetness of the fruit.  For a picnic, this travels really well in a thermos, though I have left out bringing along the yogurt or buttermilk.  Along with the chilled soup, I like to serve lemon biscotti cookies (recipe appearing soon!) and a small dessert cheese plate with nuts and dried fruits.

Chilled Berry and Prosecco Soup

¼ cup fresh or frozen blueberries

¼ cup fresh or frozen strawberries

¼ cup fresh or frozen raspberries

1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice or mango nectar

Simple syrup or agave to taste (Simple Syrup is simply equal amounts water and sugar heated until sugar dissolves, cooled and refrigerate until needed)

1 shot crème de cases liquor

¼ cup Prosecco, champagne or club soda

½ cup buttermilk or yogurt thinned with a touch of milk

Process berries and orange juice in a blender until smooth.  Add in agave or simple syrup to taste for sweetness.  Stir in the crème de cases and refrigerate several hours.  Just before serving pour in the Prosecco.  Pour into chilled bowls and swirl in a tablespoon of buttermilk or yogurt.  Serve immediately.

Lemon Chicken Soup

Sunshine, warmth and yummy goodness are in this bowl of chicken soup.  Avgolemono (av- go- le- ma- no) is a classic Greek soup made with egg yolks and lemon juice quickly whisked into simmering broth.  I use this method in various soups I make to lighten and liven the flavor; as I did in the White Wine Soup previously posted. 

Lemon juice and fresh parsley takes chicken soup to a whole new level of brightness and the yolks gently thicken the broth.  Typically rice would be used in a Greek lemon soup; I chose to add pastina to the soup for its delicate lightness and only used small diced carrots and onions to further brighten the soup.   

 A bowl of this gentle sunny soup definitely cheered up my dreary Monday!

Lemon Chicken Soup

6 cups homemade chicken stock or low-sodium broth

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts

Salt and pepper

1 small onion, chopped

3 carrots peeled and chopped

1 bay leaf

¾ cup pastina

2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

3 tablespoons freshly squezed lemon juice

3 large egg yolks

 Heat oil in large stock pot.  Season the chicken with salt and pepper and saute until lightly browned on both sides.  Remove to a plate.  Lower heat and add onion and carrots, cooking until softened and lightly browned, scraping up bottom from bits of chicken.  Pour in the broth, bay leaf and chicken breasts.  Bring to boil, cover and simmer over low heat until chicken is cooked through about 10 minutes.

Remove chicken to a cutting board and continue simmering soup.  Add in pastina.  Fork shred or cut chicken into bite sized pieces.  Return chicken to pot and reduce to very low.

Whisk the lemon juice and egg yolks together in a small bowl.  Continue whisking constantly while gradually adding 1 cup of the hot soup into the egg mixture.  Whisking quickly will temper the eggs so they do not curdle or scramble in the soup.  Add the lemon/egg mixture into the soup continuing to whisk until soup thickens slightly.  Stir in fresh parsley and adjust to taste with additional salt and pepper.  Remove bay leaf.   Serve at once.  Leftover soup may curdle a bit when reheated, but the taste will remain the same.