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Soup Season: Updated Tomato-Spinach Soup

Spinach Tomato Soup

It’s been a rough week – mostly for people around me. I found myself retreating to the kitchen often to cook. Definitely helps clear my head and regroup. Soup season is in full swing as Autumn is fast approaching. We may actually blow off work tomorrow and head up to the mountains to see the colors.

Today I decided to make a big batch of one of my favorite soups. It did not disappoint. I ‘beefed’ it up because I had some ground beef that I needed to use up. I’ll do that again. Yum.

Tomato-Spinach Soup

  • 1 lb ground beef (or 1/2 ground beef, 1/2 spicy Italian sausage)
  • 1/4 of a small onion, chopped
  • 24 oz diced tomatoes (fresh or canned)
  • 2 cups loosely packed baby spinach, cleaned
  • 8 oz sliced carrots (I use frozen)
  • 1 cup green beans
  • 1 cup water, as needed
  • 2 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 tsp dried basil, crushed
  • 1 tsp dried oregano, crushed
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (opt)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Grated Parmesan for garnish
  • spinach chiffonade for garnish

blender, saucepan

In saucepan, brown ground beef and onions. In a blender, blend together spinach and tomatoes, until smooth*.  Add to beef mixture, along with vegetables and spices.  Bring to low boil, stirring frequently, reduce heat and let simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.  Serve with Parmesan and spinach chiffonade.  Makes 4 generous servings.

*Blending the spinach, tomatoes together gives you a nice hearty tomato base for the soup.  You can add some additional spinach leaves at the end if you like, letting them get limp but not overcooked.

Original vegetarian recipe is here.


Classic Corned Beef Dinner

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Cheesy Cream of Potato Soup

DSC_9676 (1600x1060)Mmm… shred some potatoes and cook them down in chicken stock for the base soup – then start with those little flourishes that make cooking fun.  This one has onions, celery, and carrots along with the potatoes.  Let them cook down a while then hit it with an immersion blender.  I used some Swiss that I’ve had in the fridge for too long for the cheese component, then stirred in some heavy cream at the end.  Bacon or ham works well in this sort of thing.  Shave some Parmesan on top for a garnish.

Friday Recipe Exchange: Chicken Buttermilk Biscuit Pie

Chicken Biscuit Pie_Snapseed1

They were predicting snow today, it did not show up, but it’s unseasonably cold. SNOW. I am not ready. But it does put me in the mood for cool weather recipes. Soups and tonight’s featured recipe, easy Chicken and Buttermilk Biscuit Pot Pie. 

Life has been hectic, I’ve been busy with house hunting, work and of course the puppy, so I’ve kept meals simple. I haven’t linked to it in a while, but I have a bunch of tips for keeping meals quick, easy and full of flavor right here, which may come in handy now that school and activities are back in full swing.

For the dog lovers, Bixby updates are here and here. He’s now 33 34 lbs and so smart, he’s been a breeze to train.

On to the recipes. Soup is what I miss most in summer, so as soon as the temperatures dip, I break out the soup recipes. Here are three for you:

Cream of Chicken Soup (recipe here).

Spicy Black Bean Soup (recipe and full dinner menu here)

Chicken Tortilla Soup (recipe here)

What’s the weather like in corner of the planet? What’s on your plate for the weekend? Hit the comments and share some of your favorite fall recipes.

For tonight’s featured recipe, I brought together some of my favorite comfort foods into one dish. If you don’t have an oven-safe skillet, you can transfer the chicken mixture to a baking dish and top with biscuits.

Chicken and Biscuits_Snapseed2

Chicken and Buttermilk Biscuit Pot Pie

  • 2 boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 small onion, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 cups sliced carrots (frozen ok)
  • 2 tsp crushed garlic
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups chicken stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 large Yukon Gold Potatoes, scrubbed and diced
  • 1 1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
  • 1/2 cup peas (frozen ok)

Set a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat

In a large bowl, combine the chicken with salt, pepper and olive oil. Sear chicken in pan, stirring occasionally, until the chicken begins to brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the chicken and set aside in a separate bowl. Add butter to the pan and, when melted, add the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic, stirring occasionally, until lightly caramelized, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the flour and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Add the stock, browned chicken, potatoes, and spices.

Bring the liquid to a boil, reduce heat so that the sauce just simmers, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the chicken and potatoes are tender…about 25-35 minutes.

While it simmers, prepare Buttermilk Biscuits, below.

Just before adding biscuits, fold peas into chicken mixture and then remove the pan from the heat.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Place the biscuits on top of the chicken and gravy, with 6 biscuits around the edge of the pan and the remaining 4 biscuits in the center (if you have a left over biscuit or two, bake on a separate baking sheet). Be sure the biscuits do not touch, so they cook thoroughly. Brush the tops of the biscuits with the melted butter and bake until the biscuits are golden brown and flaky…14 to 15 minutes. Allow the pot pie to cool briefly before serving. Makes 4-6 servings.

Buttermilk Biscuits:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp baking soda
  • 1/3 cup shortening
  • ¾ cup milk
  • 4 tbsp powdered buttermilk
  • 2 tbsp melted butter to brush on formed biscuits

Mix dry ingredients, make a center hole in the dry ingredients and add in shortening and milk.  Blend together, then knead 10-12 strokes on a floured surface, roll out to ½” thick, cut into 8-10 biscuits.

That’s it for this week. Have great weekend. – TaMara



copyright 2014 What’s 4 Dinner Solutions Cookbook: Spring



Full Dinner Menu: Black Bean Soup

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Mouthwatering Photo by JeffreyW

Believe it or not, they are forecasting snow by the end of the week. From 90 to snow in 4 days. Fall in Colorado. If it does snow it will be quick and brief I’m sure, then back to warm days and fall leaves. But cool weather means soup to me, so that is what I chose for this week’s menu.

This is a recipe from a restaurant in Ouray, CO that was in an old bank. They gave it to me 20 years ago on my honeymoon and I make it all the time. This was my first experience at having to change a recipe meant for 60 into one for 6-8. It’s spicy, so ease up on the cumin and chili powder if needed, you can always add more during the last 30 minutes if needed.

On the board tonight:

  1. Spicy Black Bean Soup
  2. French Bread
  3. Red Grape Salad
  4. Apple wedges & Cheese

Black Bean Soup

  • 4-14 oz cans black beans
  • 2 tsp to 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 ½ tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tsp to 1 tbsp pepper
  • 1 tbsp thyme
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 3 cubes beef bouillon
  • 1 tsp to 2 tsp cumin
  • 3 carrots, shredded
  • ½ onion, minced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 green pepper, minced
  • ½ cup dry red wine (opt)
  • 1 lb chopped smoked sausage
  • 12 cups water


Add all ingredients to slow-cooker and cook according to directions (usually 8-10 hours on low). Just before serving, take a potato masher or hand blender and blend/mash slightly to thicken

Red Grape Salad

  • ½ head red leaf lettuce, torn
  • 3 cups seedless red grapes, halved
  • 1 pear, peeled, cored and cubed
  • 4 oz shredded carrots
  • Poppy Seed dressing

Serving bowl

Toss ingredients together, chill and serve

Shopping List:

  • 4-14 oz cans black beans
  • 4 -6 carrots or equivalent shredded carrots
  • ½ onion
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 1 green pepper
  • 4 oz dry red wine (opt)
  • 1 lb smoked sausage
  • ½ head red leaf lettuce
  • 3 cups seedless red grapes
  • 1 pear
  • Poppy Seed dressing
  • French Bread
  • Apple wedges & Cheese

Also: salt, garlic, bay leaf, thyme, chili powder, beef bouillon, cumin, pepper

Originally posted December 2009


Mmm… Corned Beef and Cabbage

DSC_8388 (1600x1060)I saved some of the water leftover from simmering that corned beef and used it today to boil the traditional veggies for the dish.  The beef slices were warmed separately.

Chicken Dumplings

DSC_8372 (1600x1060)I found a frozen block of turkey broth while rummaging through the big box and dragged it out.  I added more broth and a few more chicken thighs, tossed in some veggies and a bag of dumplings that have been in the freezer since I can’t remember when.  It all simmered for a good while but the dumplings never did get quite right, they’ll be better tomorrow when they have had more time to soak.

Dinner Menu: Chicken Satay and Spring Rolls

Chicken Satay Snapseed2

I LOVE spring rolls and they are so easy to make. And you can fill them with a variety of items, so use the recipe below as a starting point, but let your imagination run wild. This recipe is simple but full of flavor. It’s quick and you can buy shredded carrots and shredded lettuce to save even more time. When you pound the chicken, it’s easiest if you place the meat between two pieces of plastic wrap, then pound flat. This keeps things neat and avoids tearing the chicken as it gets thinner. This is also a good recipe to experiment with rice varieties.

I have a sudden trip out of town this week, so I don’t think there will be a recipe exchange on Friday unless I find a quiet moment later in the week. But as the weather has begun to warm up, I find my desire to cook returning, so that’s some good news!

On the board tonight:

  1. Thai Chicken Satay
  2. Rice
  3. Thai Spring Rolls
  4. Pineapple rings w/vanilla yogurt

Thai Chicken Satay

I usually make my own simple peanut sauce – peanut butter, soy sauce, lime juice and a touch of hot sauce.

  • 2 boneless breasts
  • 4 boneless thighs (or 2 breasts)
  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp peanut sauce
  • 1 tsp garlic
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • peanut sauce for dipping

bamboo skewers (soaked in water for at least 10 minutes), broiler

Pound chicken flat and combine with remaining ingredients, except dipping sauce, and mix well. Marinate for 30 minutes or overnight.  Remove chicken from marinade and cut into 1-inch strips. Thread onto skewers, one piece per skewers and broil or grill, about 5 minutes, until cooked through, the thinner they’re pounded, the quicker they will cook. Turn once to ensure they are evenly cooked. Serve with extra peanut sauce and rice.

Thai Spring Rolls

  • ¼ tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce (or white wine vinegar)
  • 8 spring roll wrappers
  • 1 ½ cup shredded leaf lettuce
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, shredded

bowl, plate

Mix together fish sauce and garlic. In a bowl of cold water (I actually use a large, deep sided plate), soak 1 wrapper, until limp. Lay out flat on a plate, add 1/8 of each of the ingredients, in order, then drizzle with fish sauce mixture.  Fold ends up and roll like a burrito.  Moisten seam, press close and set seam side down on plate.  Repeat for all wrappers.  Cover with a moist paper towel and refrigerate until ready to serve, with dipping sauce.

Dipping Sauce

Mix together:

  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar (or fish sauce or rice vinegar)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger (or more as desired)

Shopping List:

  • bamboo skewers
  • 2 boneless breasts
  • 4 boneless thighs (or 2 breasts)
  •  toasted sesame oil
  •  peanut sauce
  • 8 spring roll wrappers
  • 1 head leaf lettuce
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 medium carrot

Also: soy sauce, white wine vinegar, sugar, ground ginger, fish sauce, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice


Lo Mein Pr0n – with Chicken and Shrimp

DSC_8166 (1600x1060)Wikipedia tells me that “lo mein” translates from the Cantonese to “stirred noodles”.  This dish had chicken breast chunks and shrimp with broccoli, onions, and carrots along with rehydrated mushrooms that I bought dried.  I’ve learned to simmer them for at least an hour before they are anywhere near tender enough to eat, and don’t try to save the stems.  I simmered these with the dried cayenne peppers, and used the broth from that in making the brown sauce.  I ran across a good discussion of brown sauces here.  Mine has dark soy, oyster sauce, Chinese cooking wine, chicken paste in that mushroom stock, a little chili paste, tamari, and a lot of garlic.  I sweeten ours with Splenda but sugar is more common.

Mmm… Soup

DSC_8081 (1600x1060)I swear I didn’t see that bay leaf in there.  I actually had it in my mouth and had to take it out.  Nothing special about the veggies or the broth but I did use a different noodle this time:DSC_8089 (1600x1060)The package has several little noodle bundles, each just about right for a single serving.  I boiled two of them separate from the broth and then drained them and plopped them into the bottom of the bowl before adding the soup proper.  It does solve the problem of noodles disintegrating when saved as leftovers.  Tomorrow or the next day it will be a snap to boil a serving of needles, takes five minutes, and the serving size won’t be a problem.


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