Ham and Vegetable Chowder

Ham Chowder 2014

Snow! We are in the midst of our first real winter weather here in Pueblo and, while I already miss the long, lazy days of summer, I do love soup and stewed dishes so I plan to focus on the positive and get cooking. Our winters in southern Colorado don’t compare at all to what happens in other parts of the country. Generally, like now, we get a dusting of snow and it doesn’t stick around for very long. This cold front was a bit of a shock to the system, though. On Tuesday, I enjoyed my lunch outside in the sunshine, relishing the gorgeous 70 degree weather. About an hour later the wind was terrible and the temperature had dropped 20 degrees. Now it won’t get above freezing. Extreme shifts in temperature are common for Colorado, but I really wasn’t quite ready for it yet. I still had plans for hiking and running in the fall sunshine. Luckily, there will still be lots of occasions for that because this can’t last too long.

For now, though, it’s cold! So what’s a girl to do? Well I made chowder. I like my chowder with lots of veggies, of course, while my son chose to pick out all the chunks of ham and eat those. One day I’m convinced he’ll like vegetables just as much as I do, but I’m not holding my breath for it! This is a comforting bowl of creamy, salty, smoky deliciousness, just perfect for a chilly day. I cut everything into fairly small chunks so this chowder came together quickly. The next time a storm blows in, consider warming up with a big bowl of this and maybe a glass of wine. I promise not to tell.

Ingredients

2 tsp. coconut oil

1/2 onion

3 stalks of celery

2 large carrots

2 turnips, total about 3/4 lb.

1/2 bell pepper (I used an orange one)

4 oz. mushrooms

1/4 tsp. salt

3 c. ham, cut into 1/2 in. chunks

1/2 tsp. dried thyme

1 tsp. bouquet garni

1/4 tsp. pepper + more to taste

4 c. stock (I used pork stock)

1 c. coconut milk

Directions

1) Gather all of the vegetables together. Peel the carrots and turnips and chop everything into 1/2 in. pieces.

2) Melt coconut oil (or other fat of choice) in a large soup pot over medium high heat and sauté the vegetables with salt until beginning to soften, about 7 minutes.

3) Add the ham and herbs and stir everything together. Then add the stock and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and allow to simmer for about 20 minutes.

4) Once the vegetables are soft, scoop out about a cup of veggies and broth and puree (I used a Magic Bullet for this). Add it back to the chowder, pour in the coconut milk, and simmer vigorously for about 10 minutes.

5) Taste to adjust the seasoning – if the ham is salty, skip any additional salt. Serve in large bowls with lots of freshly ground pepper.

Advertisements

Spaghetti Squash Soup

Spaghetti Squash SoupWhen you love to cook like I do and a friend mentions anything that even remotely sounds like a request, it is often the beginning of a mission. The other day, a dear friend of mine was talking about how busy she’s been and how nice if would be to come home some days to something warm that doesn’t take a lot of time or effort. On top of that, while it may not feel like it some days, soup season is starting to wind down and that makes me a little sad. I happen to love soups and stews year round, but my family doesn’t feel the same way about sitting down to a piping hot curry or chili in the middle of July, so I need to get my soup fix in fast.

This soup does take a little prep, but you don’t have to do it all at once. In fact, I don’t even recommend it. Something I have started doing over the weekend is roasting a spaghetti squash. It takes a little while to roast and it’s easier to string it once it’s cool, so I just do the entire process when I’m not planning on using it. The whole batch gets put in a container in the fridge for whenever I need it, just like this soup.

This soup is a twist on a big bowl of spaghetti. The spaghetti squash will be a bit crunchier than traditional noodles, but it still gives you that same fun feeling. It would be beautiful topped with some fresh basil or parsley or you could sprinkle some parmesan on the top if you’re into cheese. I found it just perfect with some fresh cracked pepper and a great big spoon!

Spaghetti Squash Soup

2 tsp. coconut oil

1/2 large onion, chopped about 1 c.

1 lb. ground beef

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp. dried basil

1 tsp. dried oregano

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1/2 tsp. onion powder

1/2 tsp. paprika

1/4 tsp. fennel seed

1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes

3/4 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. fresh cracked pepper

2 c. beef stock

2 c. water

14 oz. canned tomato sauce

2 c. cooked spaghetti squash

Directions

1) Melt the coconut oil over medium-high heat and sauté the onions for about 4-5 minutes, until translucent. Add the beef and garlic and cook until browned, about 5-7 minutes.

2) Add all the spices, beef stock, water, and tomato sauce, stirring to combine. Bring to a boil and then turn the heat to low. Simmer covered for about 30 minutes.

3) Add the spaghetti squash, simmer for about 10 minutes more to bring all the flavors together, add additional salt and pepper to taste, and enjoy.

Serves 2-4

Purple Sweet Potato Soup

Purple Sweet Potato SoupI fell in love with the purple sweet potato because purple food is unusual and this food in particular is quite striking. Do you remember the antioxidant anthocyanin that’s found in things like blueberries and purple cabbage? It is present in abundance in purple sweet potatoes too! This fantastic tuber is not only beautiful, but it’s potentially able to help ward off age-related diseases, eliminate free radicals, and reduce inflammation. With all of that going on, I couldn’t resist.

First I tried baking it, just to get an understanding of its qualities. It’s less sweet than the orange-fleshed variety and slightly drier, more like the white version. I really liked it with just a touch of ghee and some salt. Easy! Then I got to thinking about a soup because it’s cold out and my Curried Sweet Potato Soup was so good that I felt inspired. A few Facebook fans thought it would be a good idea too so I got back in the kitchen. Here’s the thing, though. It sort of feels like chomping on Barney. My husband decided it was too weird for him. You’ll have to decide for yourself.Barney

At first, I tried different spice combinations but in the end, I went with the simplest of preparations so your taste buds don’t get too overwhelmed – there’s enough going on visually as it is. I asked myself what I liked when I baked it and started there, adding some onion and just a touch of coconut milk. It’s warm and comforting and, well…purple!

Purple Sweet Potato Soup

1/2 Tbsp. ghee

1/2 an onion

1-1 1/2 lbs. purple sweet potato

4 c. vegetable broth

1/2 tsp. salt or to taste

1/4 c. coconut milk

Directions

1) Melt ghee over medium high heat in a soup pot. Chop onion and add to soup pot, cooking until it begins to soften, about 5 minutes.

2) Peel and chop sweet potato. Add it to the pot and stir to coat in ghee. Add vegetable broth and bring to a boil over high heat.

3) Reduce heat to medium, keeping a lively simmer for about 35 minutes. When potatoes are soft and broth has boiled off some, remove from the heat and blend all the ingredients together until smooth. I used an immersion blender, but any type will do. You might find a few purple splatters as you do this.

4) Add salt to taste, this depends a lot on the broth you use, and the coconut milk. Stir to combine and warm everything up before smiling as you eat your purple soup!

Serves 4-6

Curried Sweet Potato Soup

Curried Sweet Potato Soup

There are a lot of reasons to love soup. First of all, it is incredibly nourishing. You can add, fit, squeeze, hide (all depending on whether or not you like your veggies!) so many vitamins and minerals in soup that if you ever made a list, it might look like an 8 year old’s letter to Santa. You can make soups chunky or smooth or somewhere in between and, in my opinion, you can eat them all year round. I generally like to keep my soups on the lighter side with mostly vegetables, sometimes with meat, but this time I was looking for something really comforting, almost like a warm, cozy sweater to wrap up in. Let me tell you – this soup is it! It was so good that I immediately froze some so that I’d have leftovers. I’m thinking I’ll break it out on the very next snow day, which happens to be today!

Curry powders can vary a lot. Mine is a pretty mild one because I like to have some control over the spice in my dishes by adding additional cayenne or ginger, for example. I used enough to give it a little kick at the back of the throat. Make sure you use a curry powder you like and, if you aren’t sure how spicy yours is, adjust the quantity as you go along. I sure hope you love this soul-warming soup as much as I do!

Curried Sweet Potato Soup

2 t. coconut oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1/2 tsp. + 3/4 tsp. salt

1 large orange-fleshed sweet potato, about 1 pound

1 medium carrot

1/2 head of cauliflower, roughly chopped (about 3/4 lb.)

3 cloves or garlic, minced

1 Tbsp. curry powder

4 cups of stock or broth (I used homemade turkey stock)

1/2 c. coconut milk

2 scallions, optional

Directions

1) Peel and roughly chop the onion, sweet potato, carrot, and cauliflower. Melt coconut oil over medium-high heat and sauté the vegetables with 1/2 tsp. of salt until they begin to soften, about 8-9 minutes.

2) Add garlic and curry powder and stir for 30 seconds until fragrant.

3) Add stock and 3/4 tsp. salt, if you are using unsalted stock. If you are using commercial stock or broth, wait to salt your soup at the end. Bring soup to a boil, reduce heat to medium and maintain a rapid simmer for about 30 minutes. Leave it uncovered so that the soup can reduce a little bit while the vegetables soften.

4) Once everything is soft, puree using an immersion blender. This can also be done in a regular blender or food processor, just be careful blending hot ingredients.

5) Add coconut milk, heat through, and taste to see if the soup needs any additional seasoning. Top with chopped scallions and enjoy!

Cumin-scented Zucchini Soup

Cumin-scented Zucchini Soup 2013

Growing up, I could tell when we were in diet mode because one of the things that would make it on the menu was zucchini soup. We would rave about how low in calories it was – it’s just zucchini and onions! – and how healthy – it’s just zucchini and onions! While it is those things, the actual reason for eating it was that we really, truly liked it. So zucchini soup has always been in my cooking repertoire.

Recently I changed it up a bit. I added cumin. This might seem like a minor change, but once you take your first bite, you’ll see that cumin’s warm, earthiness grounds this soup and makes it nearly impossible to stop eating. In each bite, you recognize the cumin, but then you need to take just one more bite because you wonder if, maybe, there’s something else. It seems layered, nuanced. That’s the magic of cumin.

Cumin-scented Zucchini Soup

1 tsp. coconut oil

3 medium zucchini, about 1 1/2 lbs.

1/2 yellow onion, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 1/2 tsp. cumin

4 c. chicken or vegetable broth

1 tsp. salt

Directions

1) Heat coconut oil over medium heat in a 4-5 qt. soup pot. Add the onion and cook for 3-4 minutes.

2) Cut the zucchini lengthwise into quarters, then into approximately 1 in. pieces, and add them to the onions. Add the garlic and salt and cook for about 8 minutes until beginning to soften.

3) Add the cumin, stir for about 30 seconds, then add 4 cups of broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, uncovered, for about 35 minutes, allowing some of the broth to evaporate and concentrate the flavors.

4) Remove from the heat and use a blender or immersion blender to blend the soup until it is silky smooth. Taste to adjust any seasonings and delight in your diet.

Leek and Cauli-Squash Soup

It’s snowing! It’s not even Halloween and we’re having our first snowfall here. I thought fall was in the air, which has made me crave soup lately, but since it’s apparently winter instead, I went past craving and straight to making.

Last weekend, a friend of mine brought some Leek and Potato (yes! real potatoes – shhh…) soup to share and I indulged a bit. I was reminded how much I love that soup and decided to try my hand at a paleo variation.

This one is warm and cozy with a woodsy flavor from the rosemary and I love the sweet pops of roasted squash and crunch from the bacon. I even ate it for breakfast this morning with an egg on top. It was delicious! You can use fresh cauliflower if you want, but this is one of those times that you don’t need to bother. Let me know what you think.

Leek and Cauli-Squash soup Oct13

Leek and Cauli-Squash Soup

4 slices of bacon, chopped

2 cups of peeled butternut squash, cut in 1/2 in. cubes

1 large leek

16 oz. bag of frozen cauliflower

2 cups of chicken or vegetable broth

2 cups of water

1 T. fresh rosemary, minced

2 scallions, chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 425. Begin browning bacon in a large pot on the stove over medium heat.

2. While bacon is browning, peel your butternut squash and cut into 1/2 in. cubes. (Or get pre-cut squash to make it even faster!) Take 1 T. of the bacon grease from the rendering bacon and toss it with the squash in a 9×13 baking pan. Sprinkle in about 1/2 tsp. of salt and roast in the 425 oven for about 20 minutes, stirring periodically, until beginning to brown and caramelize. Once done, remove from the oven and set aside.

3. Cut off the root end of the leek and slice it lengthwise. Rinse it thoroughly under water, being sure to separate the layers and rinse out any dirt. Slice the leek halves into crescents about 1/4 inch thick.

4. Remove the now crispy bacon to a separate plate and set aside. Remove and save for later most of the bacon grease in the pot, leaving behind about 1 T. Add the sliced leeks to the bacon grease and sauté until beginning to soften.

5. Add the bag of cauliflower – frozen is fine – to the leeks and add about a 1/2 tsp. of salt. Cook for about 5 minutes.

6. Once the cauliflower begins to soften, add 2 cups of chicken or vegetable broth and 2 cups of water. Add 1 T. of chopped rosemary to the mix and bring to a boil. Cook the cauliflower for about 10 minutes and then puree until smooth with an immersion blender. (You could certainly do this step in a regular blender, just be careful with hot liquids.)

7. Add the roasted squash cubes and stir to combine.

8. Taste to check for seasoning. You may need a generous amount of salt, depending on the kind of broth that you use.

9. Serve sprinkled with scallions and bacon.

Serves 3-4