But Sugar is Sweeter

Soup

Three Bean and Beef Chili

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As much as I love an interesting dessert, or a buttery breakfast baked good, usually when I am scouring the internet for recipes, I am looking for dinner.  After all, it is technically possible to go a day without dessert (well not for me, but for some people); but most everyone would agree that at least one meal is a necessity.  So while classic chili might not be the most exciting thing ever posted here, I can say that this is a tried and true recipe that will keep you warm on a wintery night.  This is a real crowd pleaser, and my mom even requested that we make it as her birthday meal.  Personally, I would’ve gone with the Lobster and Corn Chowder, but I guess that’s why it’s her birthday ;-).

For the longest time I only liked turkey chili, but I’ve found that extra lean beef actually has the same amount of fat as turkey, with the added benefits of a healthy dose of iron and a lot more flavor.   Be careful though, because using anything less than 90/10 will give you that greasy chili that I personally think is gross. (I prefer my fats disguised in baked goods, not floating on top of my soup).  This chili is not particularly spicy, but can easily be toned down or up with the addition of extra jalepenos or crushed red pepper.  Similar to the Cincinnati Chili, this recipe uses bittersweet chocolate, which really adds a dimension of flavor so don’t leave it out.
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Classic Beef and Bean Chili

Makes 8 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds lean ground beef
  • 2 large onions, chopped (2 cups)
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2-4 jalapeño peppers, seeded and finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 2 cups beer (or water)
  • 1 15-oz can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 15-oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 15-oz can chili beans, in sauce
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 ounce semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • Crushed red pepper, if desired
  • Shredded cheddar, green onions, additional jalapeños and corn chips for topping

Directions:
Brown the beef in a large Dutch oven set over medium heat. Drain off fat if necessary. Add the onions, garlic and jalapeños and continue cooking for about 5 minutes, until starting to soften. Add the chili powder and cumin and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the tomato sauce and beer (or water) and increase heat to bring the mixture to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium-low and cover. Simmer for 10 minutes.

While the beef mixture is cooking, place one can of beans in a medium bowl and mash with a fork. Stir the remaining two cans of beans, along with the mashed beans, into the chili and return to a simmer. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in salt, cilantro and chocolate. Continue stirring until the chocolate has melted. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Serve with desired toppings.

Adapted from Cook Like a Champion 

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Lobster Corn Chowder

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Being on away rotations, I haven’t been up to my usual menu planning and weeknight meal routine.  Between applications, scheduling interviews,  and overall crazy hours, I haven’t missed it too much, but I’m not sure I can say the same for John (who has been eating chez chef Boyardee).  But to make up for it,  I was able to rationalize this fancy weekend meal. (It also didn’t hurt that Mom was buying :-)).    After apple picking, running and hiking in the park, this chowder was the perfect end to a fall themed day.   It is really one for the record books. It will make you feel like you on dining on the set of barefoot contessa and it would be the perfect fall meal for company, or if you just feel like indulging yourself.
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This was my first time ever cooking with lobster, and I don’t pretend to know much about it. I did learn that it is very easy to overcook it, and for such an expensive meat, that is really something you don’t want to do.  So err on the side of undercooked, because it will inevitably cook a bit more once you add it to the stew.  Also, while this soup still tasted wonderful the next day, I did notice that there was a bit of color separation, which didn’t make for the most gorgeous photograph.  If you want to see what it looked like the first night, check out this blog. Despite the work, and the amount of cream (once in a while..)  this is definitely something I will be making again.  In fact, it almost makes me wish I actually lived in New England,  which is saying a lot for a girl who hates the cold :-).

Lobster Corn Chowder

Serves 6 

Ingredients:

  • 3 (1 1/2lb) cooked lobsters
  • 3 ears of corn

For the stock:

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 1/4 cup sherry
  • 1 teaspoon  paprika
  • 4 cups milk (skim works fine)
  • 2 cups heavy (whipping) cream
  • 1 cup dry white wine

For the soup:

  • 1 tablespoon good olive oil
  • 1/4 pound bacon, large-diced
  • 2 cups large-diced unpeeled Yukon gold potatoes (2 medium)
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onions (2 onions)
  • 2 cups diced celery (3 to 4 stalks)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh chives
  • 1/4 cup sherry

Instructions:

  1. Remove the meat from the shells of the lobsters. Cut the meat into large cubes and place them in a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Reserve the shells and all the juices that collect. Cut the corn kernels from the cobs and set aside, reserving the cobs separately.
  2. For the stock, melt the butter in a stockpot or Dutch oven large enough to hold all the lobster shells and corncobs. Add the onion and cook over medium-low heat for 7 minutes, until translucent but not browned, stirring occasionally. Add the sherry and paprika and cook for 1 minute. Add the milk, cream, wine, lobster shells and their juices, and corn cobs and bring to a simmer. Partially cover the pot and simmer the stock over the lowest heat for 30 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, in another stockpot or Dutch oven, heat the oil and cook the bacon for 4 to 5 minutes over medium-low heat, until browned and crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and reserve. Add the potatoes, onions, celery, corn kernels, salt, and pepper to the same pot and saute for 5 minutes. When the stock is ready, remove the largest pieces of lobster shell and the corn cobs with tongs and discard. Place a strainer over the soup pot and carefully pour the stock into the pot with the potatoes and corn. Simmer over low heat for 15 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. Add the cooked lobster, the chives and the sherry and season to taste. Heat gently and serve hot with a garnish of crisp bacon

Source: Smells Like Home , originally adapted from Back to Basics by Ina Garten


Beef and Barley Stew

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Ah.  Real Food.  This is what January was meant to be.  Not including the peanut M&Ms (which I mistakenly bought a XXL bag of  because I was hungry at Costco….never a good thing)  the food around here has most definitely taken a turn for the more wholesome.  I can’t really promise that this will last long, but while I’m craving healthy food, I might as well take advantage.  There is nothing quite like a warm, hearty, filling and yet healthy stew to warm up with on chilly January evening.  Or considering the 40-50 degree days we have been having I should probably say, “On a abnormally warm, almost balmy  January evening in Ohio”, but it just doesn’t have the same ring.  Global warming is seriously ruining seasonal eating.

No matter what the weather, I could probably eat this stew.  Well I might be lying slightly.  I wouldn’t eat it in the summer.  That would be like some kind of sin- hot stew in the summer?  But anytime September through April would be fine if you are lucky enough to live in a place like tropical Toledo. (Can you sense my bitterness at winter – and this is even after I got an automatic car starter for Christmas!).  But in all seriousness, the first time I made this stew was back in Louisiana, where the humidity never drops below 100% – and it was still good.  It’s the kind of stew that feels well balanced because you get vegetables, grain, and protein all in one place.  I really love the addition of barley because it makes this stew seem extra hearty and yet also somewhat gourmet.

One caution is that the barley continues to absorb water after cooking.  When you go to get leftovers the next day you may find that all the liquid is gone and the barley has doubled in size – but never fear – just add a bit more water, and reheat.  If you are trying to make this in advance, or if you’d like to freeze it, I would probably make it without the barley, and then just add the barley when reheating it.
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Beef and Barley Stew

Serves 6-8

  • Cooking spray
  • 2 pounds beef stew meat, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 teaspoons canola oil
  • 2 ½ cups chopped leaks (about 3 leeks including green stems)
  • 2 ½ cups sliced carrot
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 2 – 14 oz cans beef broth
  • 1 cup uncooked medium pearled barley

1. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add half of beef; cook 5 minutes, browning on all sides. Remove from pan. Repeat procedure with remaining beef.

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2. Heat oil in pan over medium-high heat. Add leek, carrot, and garlic; sauté 4 minutes or until lightly browned. Return beef to pan. Add all ingredients EXCEPT barley and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 1 hour, or longer if desired. Add barley; cook 30 minutes or until beef and barley are tender. Discard bay leaves.
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Adapted from Cooking Light


Potato, Corn & Leek Chowder

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A couple weeks ago, I thought the soup making weather for the year was over – clearly I was wrong.  I guess a good way to embrace  the cold, is to look at it as one last opportunity to make a warm wintery soup!  When I was planning the grocery/menu list this week, I asked John what soup he would want for a (fingers crossed) last soup of winter meal, secretly hoping he would pick this soup.  Without any coaching from me, he said, “How about the potato one you make?”, so that sealed the deal – it went on the menu.  It also happens to be a quick meal (chopping is the only kitchen time), and a one pot deal (less clean up)!

What I like about this soup is that it’s a potato soup, with more than just potatoes and cream.  It has has a lot of vegetables in it, so it really feels like a balanced meal.  It does use some whole milk, but just enough to give it that creamy texture, while still keeping it healthy and relatively low fat.  I do realize that just before this I posted a recipe primarily made of butter and sugar – but what can I say, I like my sweets sinful and my meals, well the opposite.   This soup is pretty filling, and this recipe makes a lot – so if you’re not feeding a crowd, you might want to try halving it.  However, this is one of the few meals where I think the leftovers actually taste just as good or better than the original meal.  This is a rare finding for me, so I don’t mind making the whole thing and eating it later in the week.  I’ve never tried freezing it, but if you try it – let me know how it turns out!
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Potato, Corn & Leek Chowder

Servings: about 8 bowls         Prep Time: 20 minutes (for the chopping)       Stove time: 25 minutes

  • 2 Tablespoons Butter
  • 1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped  leeks (about 2 leeks)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red pepper
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 3 Tablespoons flour
  • 3 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
  • 2 pounds yukon gold potatoes (about 8), peeled and cubed
  • 2 cups corn (frozen or fresh)
  • Dash of Salt & Pepper
  • Scallions/Chives/Parsley for topping

Melt butter in a large dutch oven over medium heat.  Add the leeks, celery and red pepper and stir until tender (3-4 minutes).
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Slowly add the flour and milk to the pan, stirring constantly.  Once mixed, add the rest of the ingredients (chicken broth, potatoes, corn, salt & pepper).  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Then cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for 20-25 minutes (or as long as you want – the starch from the potatoes will continue to thicken the soup).

Serve by topping with your choice of parsley, scallions, chives, or a mix.

Slightly adapted from Cooking Light


Stuffed Green Pepper Soup

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If you start taking pictures of the food that you cook at home, it doesn’t take long to realize that a lot of homemade meals are just not that photogenic.  Unfortunately, we don’t eat cookies, cupcakes and sushi all the time .  But I don’t want to fall into the rut of only posting things that turn out pretty – because, well that would mean I’d be making (and eating) an awful lot of baked goods.  Plus, I wanted this blog to be a mix of everything that is good to eat.  Hopefully, if my photography skills improve, I’ll be able to make even “un-photogenic” foods look as delicious as they are.  But for now, you’ll just have to trust me.

This soup doesn’t look like much, but I really love it.  This week is “test week”, so I can pretty much assure you that If I get around to posting anything,   it will be easy to make.  I like to use cooking as a break from sitting, all alone, in the room that John and I like to call “The Dungeon”.  But during a really busy week, being away from my books for more than an hour starts to stress me out.  So sometimes, I just bring my books with me, to the kitchen, or the gym, or the couch… But seriously, this dinner takes about 15 minutes of prep and packs a lot of flavor.  It’s a lot less work than actually stuffing green peppers, but it’s very hearty and will warm you up on a cold winter night.   Really it’s not a “soup” in the sense that you could probably eat it with a fork if you’d like, but there was really not another word to use to describe it.

Stuffed Green Pepper Soup

Makes about 4 servings

  • 1/2 lb. lean ground beef
  • 2 green peppers, seeded and chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 1 cup chopped onion (about 1/2 a large onion)
  • A dash of crushed red pepper & a Pinch of black pepper
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 can (10.75 oz)condensed tomato soup, undiluted
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) of low sodium beef broth
  • Hot white rice (I usually make 3-4cups of rice – it’s cheap and I’d rather have more than enough)

In a dutch oven, over medium heat, cook the ground beef for 3-5 minutes, or until brown and crumbly.  Add the green pepper and chopped onion and cook for about 8 minutes or until slightly softened.  Add a dash of crushed red pepper (or more if you like spice) and a pinch of black pepper.  Pour in the can of tomatoes, tomato soup and beef broth.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 45 minutes.  Serve over hot white rice.

Barely adapted from Cooking Light


Tomato-Basil Soup

Sometimes I think that I missed a few key pieces of information in childhood.  One of them being the definition of a consonant –  I’m pretty sure I missed that day in first grade, and didn’t figure it out until much later.  And the other being that grilled cheese is enjoyed by many people with tomato soup.  One day when I was a little older,  I remember my mom ordering tomato soup and thinking how odd it was for anyone to enjoy a soup that was made entirely of pureed vegetables.  And then I was almost disgusted when  she told me that she used to have grilled cheese and tomato soup for dinner all the time as a kid.

Since my husband loves ALL kid foods (chicken fingers, macaroni, hot dogs…etc), he also loves grilled cheese and tomato soup.  I can’t say I’m a huge fan, but at least eating an entirely vegetable soup makes me feel a little better about eating a cheese sandwich.  I thought this soup would be a great alternative to Campbell’s and it made enough that I could easily freeze some for later (making it just as easy as opening a can next time)!  I used a food processor to blend the soup, but I think this recipe would be great to try a food mill with if you have one.

Make Ahead Tip: This soup is really easy but there are 2 steps that have to cook for 45 minutes each.  Therefore, if you roast the tomatoes the day before, all you really have to do to get this ready is throw everything into a pot, let it simmer for 45 minutes and then blend it in a food processor.  Also, like most soups it tastes better after it has been sitting for a while, so you could make the whole shebang ahead of time – easy peasy!

Tomato-Basil Soup

3 lbs Tomatoes

4 Tablespoons Olive Oil

Salt and Pepper

2 cups chopped onion

6 cloves garlic, minced

Crushed red pepper (to taste)

1 28-oz can whole tomatoes, undrained

2 cups fresh basil

1/2 teaspoon thyme

3 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut the tomatoes in half and scoop out the centers.  Place them in a bowl and add 3 Tablespoons olive oil, tossing to coat.  Then sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Cover a baking sheet with foil, place the tomatoes on the sheet and roast in the oven for 45 minutes.

In a dutch oven, over medium heat, sauté the onions, garlic & red pepper flakes with 1 Tablespoon olive oil  for 8 minutes or until the onions start to caramelize. Add the canned tomatoes, roasted tomatoes, basil, thyme, and chicken stock. Bring to a boil and simmer uncovered for 45 min.

Process small amounts of the soup in the food processor  until it seems very smooth. (Remember not to fill past that “liquid fill line”).  Serve hot or cold (or freeze for later).

Adapted from Annie’s Eats.