barley and lentil soup

Convenience is the name of the game these days...food has to be easy to prepare in a relatively short amount of time.  The more 'hands-off' time the better, because my hands are likely to be filled with a squirmy 10 month old.  When we were at the lake last weekend I was browsing a Real Simple magazine and found a few recipes that looked tasty and manageable.  My mom-in-law gave me the magazine to take home (Yay!  I didn't have to sneak it into my bag!...just kidding...kind of)  So I've planned to make a few of the new recipes for upcoming dinners.  

This soup was pretty darn easy to make.  I even managed to make it on an afternoon when Hannah wouldn't nap at all (sometimes I try to prep dinner stuff when she's sleeping).  It was quick to get all the ingredients merrily simmering away together and I just had to give it the occasional stir.  This soup is really thick and filling (I even added some additional water to thin it a bit).  The lentils kind of melt away to nothing, so the barley is good for some texture.  I liked the curry flavour but it was a tiny bit spicy, so if you don't want the heat, maybe reduce the amount of curry powder.  Hannah liked this soup too (I thickened hers a bit more and added a generous spoonful of sour cream), so that's a win!  Something the whole family can enjoy for dinner.  

Barley and Lentil Soup

  • 6 green onions/scallions, sliced (white parts only, save the tops)
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tbsp grated ginger
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 tbsp curry powder
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 cup dried red lentils
  • 1 cup pearl barley
  • 4 cups water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • sour cream or plain yogurt to garnish

Heat a large pot over medium heat and cook the onions, garlic, ginger and olive oil until the onions are softened (3-4 minutes).  Add the curry powder and tomato paste and and cook for an additional 2 minutes.  Add the coconut milk, lentils, barley, water and salt and stir to combine.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the lentils and barley are tender (about 35-45 minutes).  If the soup seems to thick you can add more water to loosen it up.  Serve topped with the reserved green onion tops and plain yogurt or sour cream.  

Recipe adapted from Real Simple Magazine

thai pumpkin soup

I love a good bowl of soup when it's cold outside.  Frequently I make soup by the "little bit of this, little bit of that..." method, but this time I set out actually looking for a recipe.  In my mind I knew what I was looking for - something fairly light, but with some heat and other flavours that reminded me of Thailand.  I thought we had a pumpkin soup recipe in our booklet that we got when we took a cooking class in Thailand - but I couldn't find one there.  An internet search didn't show me quite what I was looking for either.  I ended up finding inspiration in our Cambodian cookbook (I'm planning on posting about that one next).

So I guess I still didn't find a recipe to follow, but I did find the inspiration I needed to make this soup.  It comes together very easily - a good weeknight meal.  If you want to make this soup a little more substantial you could add quinoa and diced cooked chicken (we did that with the leftovers...so good)

Thai Pumpkin Soup

  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 4 cups roasted pumpkin
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 2 tbsp lemon grass paste
  • 1/2 tsp ground corriander
  • 1 can of light coconut milk
  • 2 tsp fish sauce

First roast several large wedges of pumpkin (you don't need to peel it first).  I roasted mine for about 40 minutes at 350 F.  After it comes out of the oven use a spoon to scrape the soft pumpkin off the rind and set it aside.

While the pumpkin is roasting, dice the onion and garlic.  After it comes out of the oven, heat a large pot over medium-high heat.  Saute the onion in the olive oil until just softened, then add in the garlic, chili powder, lemon grass paste and corriander and cook for about 1 minute more.  Add the pumpkin, chicken stock, coconut milk and fish sauce.  Bring everything to a boil, then remove from the heat and use an immersion blender to puree the soup (alternately, you could puree it in the blender in smaller batches).  Return to the heat and simmer for another ten minutes.

Garnish with a drizzle of coconut milk and a few sprigs of fresh cilantro.

cream of mushroom soup

I've been craving cream of mushroom soup for a while now, so while we were grocery shopping in the Italian Center on the weekend I made up my mind at the sight of some beautiful shitake mushrooms.  I mean, how could I resist, right?  I also picked up some portobello and cremini as well, because I like to mix the flavours and textures.  Trevor wanted some meat in this soup, but I didn't want anything to overpower the delicate, earthy mushroom flavours, so we compromised and I fried up some minced speck ham as a garnish.  Speck is like smoked pruscuitto - yummy and salty.  I didn't follow a recipe, this is one of my own kitchen inventions - which means, I had to remind myself to pay attention to how much/what I was adding.  (trust me, that's harder than it sounds).  This soup was realllly good.  It definitely hit the spot - and leftovers made a great lunch at work.  And, as a bonus, it didn't take very long to make.  

Cream of Mushroom Soup

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2-3 tbsp butter
  • 1 leek, finely chopped (tough green parts at the top removed)
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • about 5 cups mushrooms, diced (cremini, shitake, portobello)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups light cream
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 100g sliced speck ham or bacon, diced

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Add the leeks and flour and saute until they are softened and fragrant.  Add the mushrooms, salt & pepper and continue sauteing for another 3 minutes.  Add the wine, stir and allow the mixture to cook for about 5 minutes, then add the chicken stock and bring the soup to a boil.  Allow the soup to boil for about 10 minutes, then turn the heat right down.  When the soup is barely simmering, add the cream gradually, while stirring.  Allow the soup to come back up to a simmer over low heat.  If you heat the soup too quickly it can cause the cream to curdle and separate, so be patient, it doesn't take too long.  Allow the soup to simmer gently for a few minutes, then season with salt & pepper to taste.

While the soup is coming up to a simmer, heat a frying pan over medium heat.  Melt the butter, then fry the speck until it's crispy and brown.  (If you're using bacon, don't use any butter, just fry it).  Serve up the soup while it's steaming hot with a sprinkle of crispy speck on top and some freshly sliced baguette on the side. 

chicken & chorizo stew

When life gets busy it's nice to be able to have a tasty, home-cooked meal waiting for you at the end of the day. A slow-cooker is the perfect way to have dinner all ready for you.  I definitely think I use my slow-cooker more in the winter, I guess when it's warm out a salad is our go-to quick meal, and when it's cold outside a soup or stew hits the spot.

I found this recipe in a cookbook and thought it sounded tasty, with the warm, mexican inspired flavours.  In order to prevent over-cooking the chicken the recipe suggests chilling all of the ingredients, so that when you start the slow-cooker in the morning everything is really cold.  It seemed like a good tip, because it turned out great.  We both really enjoyed it.  I loved the trace of cilantro flavour and the chicken was so tender.  We had our stew with some tortilla chips, but you could also serve it with rice.  

Chicken & Chorizo Stew

  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 2-3 medium sized onions, minced
  • 8 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into large pieces (about 9)
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 15oz. can of diced tomatoes
  • 8 oz. chorizo cut into 1/2" pieces
  • 1/3 cup minute tapioca
  • 1-3 tbsp minced chipotle chiles in adobo sauce (depending on how spicy you want it)
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 cups frozen corn, thawed
  • 2 cups black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, minced
  • salt & pepper

Heat the oil over medium heat.  Cook the onions, garlic and 1/4 tsp salt until the onions are softened and lightly browned.  Transfer the onion mixture to the slow-cooker and add the chicken stock, tomatoes, chorizo, tapioca, chipotle and brown sugar.  Stir all the ingredients together (except the chicken) and refrigerate overnight.  Prepare the chicken and store it in a separate bowl in the fridge. 

In the morning, stir the chicken into the slow-cooker and cook on low heat for 7-9 hours (or high heat for 4-5 hours), until the chicken is tender.  When you get home from work, tilt the slow-cooker to one side and skim off as much fat from the surface as you can.  Stir in the corn, beans and cilantro and allow to cook for about 15 minutes.  Season with salt & pepper to taste then serve.

Adapted from The Best Make Ahead Recipes by America's Test Kitchen.

butternut squash soup with brown butter and sage

I was one of those kids that HATED squash.  I could sniff it out a mile away and would do anything I could to avoid it.  (I guess it didn't help my mom that my dad hates squash too.)  But now, as an adult, I've come around.  I'm not sure what my exact turning point was, now I'm a big fan of all varieties of squash.  I love the flavour combo of butternut squash with sage.  It's so good.  Add in a little browned butter and crisp bacon for even more deliciousness.  (This is also an awesome flavour combination for pasta, especially ravioli).  This time we opted for this yummy combo in the form of soup.  It's that time of year when you just feel like eating soup...in fact, we ate soup almost every night last week!  There were lots for leftovers, and the sage doesn't stay crispy, but it's still a great pick-me-up in the middle of the work day.  

Butternut Squash Soup with Brown Butter and Sage

  • 1 butternut squash (about 5 cups cut into 1" cubes)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 slices thick-cut bacon
  • 1 medium sized onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp fresh sage
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • fresh ground black pepper, to taste
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 8-10 whole sage leaves

In a large pot fry the bacon in the olive oil until browned and crispy.  Remove the bacon from the pot with a slotted spoon, and set it aside.  Add the onion to the pot and saute until translucent, then add the garlic and sage and continue cooking until fragrant.  Add the squash, chicken stock, salt and pepper to the pot and boil over medium-high heat for about 35 minutes, or until the squash is soft all the way through.  Puree the soup using an immersion blender, or transfer the soup to the blender and puree in batches.  Return the pureed soup to the pot and allow it to simmer over low heat while you prepare the butter and sage.

Melt the butter over medium heat and add the whole sage leaves to the pan.  I find that it's helpful to tilt the pan so that the butter pools at one side.  Cook until the sage is crispy and the butter is lightly browned.  Ladle the soup into bowls and sprinkle with bacon, a few sage leaves and a drizzle of the browned butter.