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Garden Minestrone Evaluation

My sister HoosierRoots and I made the Garden Minestrone soup together on a Sunday in January during a Skype session. I thought it was quite successful – very delicious, as did my Dandy husband. There were some things that I want to remember to do again, and there were a couple of things that I might do differently next time.

Roots and I began the night before by putting the white beans to soak. I am glad that I used dried beans. Next time I might use even more. Then, on Sunday, we started by microwaving the first ingredients together, as per the directions. I can’t say that I have ever used the microwave for this step before. Instead I have always sautéed the onion and other flavorings together on the stove. But this worked quite well and was easy to do. I will try to remember to use this technique when preparing other dishes. I found that I did not have any red pepper flakes, and so I had to leave that out.

We stirred the ingredients into our slow cookers as directed in step 2 of the recipe. I found that I had 2 cups of leftover beef broth, and so I decided to use it up, combining it with the chicken broth. That meant the soup stock was made of one-third beef broth and two-thirds chicken broth along with the tomato sauce and flavorings. And I will say that it was especially delicious!

After the soup cooked for several hours, Roots and I again joined together for step 3. I had a yellow summer squash already, and so I used it instead of a zucchini. It was a bit more mature than I would have liked, and so perhaps I should have cooked it a little longer. At any rate, it seemed somewhat underdone in the end. I also wish I would have cut it into smaller pieces. I quartered it, as the recipe directed, but since it was too big, the pieces were not really bite size. Maybe, too, if the pieces had been smaller, the squash would have cooked more completely.

I was happy that I was able to find swiss chard at the grocery store. Actually, I realized as I began that I could not remember ever having cooked with swiss chard before. I washed it, cut out the central ribs, stacked the leaves, and sliced them as directed. That all went well and was not too difficult, and the swiss chard was wonderful in the finished soup – one of my favorite parts! I will definitely be using it again, although next time I will probably cut the slices in half across their width so that the pieces are more bite-sized. I did not put the pasta in, as I was trying to make the soup as low-carb as possible.

When the soup was finished I stirred in the basil, but as I did not have fresh, I used dried – about 2 teaspoons. Perhaps I should have added the dried basil earlier in the cooking – maybe way back at the beginning, but it tasted fine. If it were summer, I would have loved to have used fresh basil straight from my garden. In fact, as Roots has already pointed out, it really would be best to prepare this soup during the summer, when garden produce could be used. I served the soup with grated Parmesan cheese – a nice touch. The recipe also suggests serving it with extra olive oil, but I was not sure what to do with it, and so I did not do that. I wonder if one is supposed to just drizzle some on top of the soup after ladling it into the bowls. Anyway, the soup really was quite delicious and not too difficult. And I am sure that any number of other vegetables – whatever one had on hand – could be added.


Carrot-Ginger Soup

IMG00373-20120212-1711I wanted to find a soup that needs to be pureed so I can try out my immersion blender. I chose the recipe from America’s Test Kitchen Soup Stews and Chilis cookbook, but found some pieces of other recipes I liked as well. At a pre-appointed time my sister in one kitchen and nephew and niece in another joined with me via video chat as we all cooked together. The soup was declared a success by all eaters.  My main surprise was that the carrot flavor was not particularly strong.


  • olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 ½ lbs carrots , chopped medium (about 9 carrots)
  • 4 shallots, minced (ATK used 1 medium onion)
  • 4 teaspoons grated or minced fresh ginger (do not substitute ground ginger)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (ATK does not use)
  • 4 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • ¾ cup whole milk (in ATKs Healthy Eating cookbook they use 1%)
  • ¼ cup orange juice
  • salt
  • white pepper (ATK uses black)
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh chives


  1. Wash, but do not peel carrots. Cut off root end. Place on baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Roast in 375 oven until carmelized, about 45 minutes. Shake pan midway to evenly roast. (This step is not in ATK, but I think I will like the flavor it gives the carrots. ATK peels the carrots.) Allow to cool until able to handle; cut the carrots into 3" chunks.
  2. Melt 1 Tbs unsalted butter and 1 Tbs olive oil in Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. (ATK used all vegetable oil.)
  3. Add the shallot (or onion, and chopped carrots IF you did not roast them); cook until the vegetables are softened, 2-3 if only shallots or onion, 7-10 if doing carrots here. (Some recipes included a couple ribs of minced celery also.)
  4. Stir in the ginger and garlic; cook until fragrant, about 30 – 60 seconds.
  5. Add the chopped carrots, 2 tsp sea salt, and 1/2 tsp white pepper. Add 1 qt broth and bring to a simmer. (Switch from chicken to vegetable broth if you want a vegetarian soup.)
  6. Cover, reduce the heat to med-low, and cook until the carrots are very tender, about 15 minutes. (Longer if you did not roast the carrots, perhaps 20 to 30 minutes.)
  7. Using an immersion blender, or doing in batches with a regular blender, puree the soup until smooth.
  8. In the dutch oven, mix the pureed soup,  1/4 cup orange juice, and 3/4 cup milk; cook gently over med-low heat until the soup is hot. Add extra broth as needed for consistency. (Some recipes added 1/4 cup white wine.)
  9. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  10. Sprinkle individual bowls with chives before serving.
IMG00364-20120212-1557 Minced shallots, garlic, and ginger
IMG00368-20120212-1611 Roasted carrots – think I will cook this way for dinner sometime
IMG00370-20120212-1618 Sautéing the shallots; already smelling wonderful
IMG00366-20120212-1605 The video chat was very successful; we loved sharing notes and discussing topics such as “how do black and white pepper differ?”
IMG00371-20120212-1649 It was wonderful to have cooking be a family affair.
IMG00372-20120212-1649 The immersion blender was a Christmas gift; now that I have it I think we will make soup a lot more.

Smoky Shredded Chipotle Beef Filling

Another ATK Slow Cooker recipe –


  • 2 onions , minced
  • 1/3 cup chili powder
  • 3 tablespoons minced canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 6 garlic cloves , minced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper , stemmed, seeded, minced
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 2 teaspoons light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke
  • boneless beef chuck roast , trimmed and halved
  • salt and pepper


  1. Microwave onion, chili powder, chipotles, oil, garlic, jalapeno, tomato paste, and cumin in a bowl, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes; transfer to slow cooker.
  2. Stir tomato sauce, sugar, and liquid smoke into slow cooker.
  3. Season beef with salt and pepper, add to slow cooker, and coat evenly with sauce mixture.
  4. Cover and cook until beef is tender, 9-11 hours on LOW or 5-7 hours on HIGH.
  5. Transfer beef to large bowl, let cool slightly, then shred into bite-size pieces, discarding excess fat; cover to keep warm.
  6. Let braising liquid settle for 5 minutes, then remove fat from surface using large spoon.
  7. Toss shredded beef with 1 cup braising liquid; add more liquid as needed to keep meat moist and flavorful.
  8. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  9. Filling can be refrigerated in airtight container for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 1 month. If frozen, let filling thaw completely before using.

Garden Minestrone

The Soup Sisters are “back at it” – this time with Garden Minestone in the slow cooker from the America’s Test Kitchen Slow Cooker cookbook.


  •   1 onion, minced
  •   4 cloves garlic,minced
  •   1 Tbs oil oil, plus extra for serving
  •   1/2 tsp dried oregano
  •   1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
  •   6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  •   1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
  •   1 cup dried Great Northern or Cannelini beans (picked over and soaked in salt water overnight)
  •   2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  •   1 zucchini (8 oz), quartered lengthwise, and cut into 1/4 inch slices
  •   8 oz Swiss chard, stemmed and leaves sliced 1/2 inch thick
  •   1 cup small pasta, such as ditalini, tubettini, or mini elbows
  •   1/2 cup minced fresh basil
  •   Salt and pepper
  •   Parmesan cheese for serving


  1. Microwave onion, garlic, oil, oregano, and red pepper flakes in bowl, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, about 5 minutes; transfer to slow cooker.
  2. Stir broth, tomato sauce, soaked beans, and carrots into slow cooker. Cover and cook until beans are tender, 9-11 hours on low or 5-7 hours on high.
  3. Stir in zucchini, chard, and pasta, cover and cook on high until vegetables and pasta are tender, 20-30 minutes. Stir in basil, salt & pepper to taste. and serve with Parmesan cheese and extra olive oil.



  • 2 cans (16 ounces each) diced beets, undrained
  • 2 cans (10.5 ounces each) condensed beef broth
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped (1/4 cup)
  • 2 cups shredded cabbage
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup sour cream, if desired
  • Chopped fresh dill weed, if desired


  1. Mix all ingredients except sour cream and dill weed in 3½ to 6-quart slow cooker.
  2. Cover and cook on low 6 to 8 hours or high 3 to 4 hours, or until cabbage is tender.
  3. Top each serving with sour cream and dill weed. Can be served hot or cold.

* Instead of shredding cabbage, you can use cabbage slaw mix, which can be found with the bagged salads in the produce section of the grocery store.

Serves 6 bowls


I have had borscht only twice before, once at a fabulous restaurant in Chicago and then again in New York City. Both times I enjoyed it immensely. This is the first time I have tried making it myself. The recipe was very easy to prepare – perhaps too easy. Although I certainly liked eating this soup and felt it was nutritious and healthful (low-carb and low-fat), it cannot compete with those two restaurant soups I had. Nonetheless, it certainly is worth making and would work wonderfully as a first course or with a soup and sandwich meal.

Telescope vs. Steamer



During a visit to the island of Puerto Rico in July, 2004, we made what turned out to be a challenging drive up a mountain to see the Arecibo Observatory. As this picture I took shows, the telescope there bears quite a resemblance to a collapsible vegetable steamer, don’t you think?

Boiled Water

Bethany called me on her way home from class and requested that I cook something.  I have an app on my iPhone called How to Cook Everything.  It’s based on this book.  The top rated recipe in the app is called “Boiled Water.”



  • 6 to 10 garlic cloves, lightly crushed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 slices French or Italian bread (slightly stale bread is fine)
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese
  • Chopped fresh parsley leaves, for garnish

I thought to myself, “Hey!  I have all that stuff. It’s boiled water time!

1. Combine 4 cups water with the garlic, bay leaf, and some salt and pepper in a saucepan or stockpot.

OK, so I put the water in the pot and put the burner on high.  I got out some garlic cloves and stuck them in our garlic press.  After pressing a couple cloves, the garlic press exploded:

Hmm. That didn’t work so well.  Then I noticed that the recipe said to use “crushed garlic.”  Maybe that means I just do the thing where I squish it with the side of a knife.  So I did that for the rest of the cloves.

Next, I looked for the bay leaves in our giant pile of spices:

The bay leaves were nowhere to be found.  I later found out that Bethany had thrown them away when they started looking rotten.  While I was looking for the bay leaves, a giant cloud of smoke started coming out of the burner:

Bring to a boil, cover partially, and turn the heat to very low.  Let the liquid bubble gently for 15 minutes.

I was afraid that the smoke detector would go off, but somehow it didn’t.  I went around and opened up all the windows to try to prevent smoke inhalation.

2. Meanwhile, put the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  When hot, brown the slices of bread in the oil, turning once, for a total of about 5 minutes.

This step went pretty well, except I burned the bread pieces and had to scrape all the burned part into the sink:

3. Put the bread in bowls and top with the grated cheese. Strain the soup into the bowls, garnish with parsley, and serve.

This part struck me as kind of weird.  I’m supposed to dump the soup on top of the bread?  I didn’t have any grated cheese, but I did have a can of Parmesan cheese powder in the fridge:

I used some kind of metal object for a strainer.  It has a lot of holes in it and looks like a satellite dish.  I think if you hook it up to your TV you can pull in HBO.

Here’s the final product:

All in all, with 1 being the worst soup I’ve ever had, and 10 being AWESOME, I’d have to rank this soup in the negative numbers.  It completely fails at bearing any resemblance to a tasty soup.  Here is Bethany enjoying the bowl I made for her when she got home from class (while the koala on my monitor looks on):

Luckily, she already knows about my cooking skills, so she stopped on her way home to pick up some backup food.  She will post her review of my soup in the comments.

February’s Soup

I have decided that I will make borscht this month. I had some delicious borscht at the Russian Tea Time restaurant in Chicago a couple of years ago. Husband does not really like beets, but I think he might be willing to give my soup a try.

Acorn Squash with Brown Sugar


  • 1 acorn squash
  • Salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar


  1. Cut squash in half, top to bottom; use spoon to scrape out seed.
  2. Sprinkle squash halves with salt and place halves cut-sides down in glass baking dish. Add 1/4 cup water to dish. Cover with plastic wrap (it may take more than one piece.); cut slits in plastic warp.
  3. Microwave for 15 minutes on high. (Time may differ by microwave and size of squash.) When done paring knife should easily slip into squash.
  4. Melt butter, brown sugar, and a pinch of salt, whisking to combine.
  5. When squash is cooked, transfer cut side up to metal baking sheet. Spoon in butter mixture. Place under broiler for 4 minutes to brown and caramelize.

Serves 2


Easy and wonderful. Hubby did not expect to like, thinking it would be too sweet, but declared it good. I think the salt helped cut the sweetness. I used Splenda brown sugar.

Potato Leek Soup


  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3 leeks, sliced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 quart chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 4 cups Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 2 cups heavy cream


  1. In a large pot over medium heat, melt butter. Cook leeks in butter with salt and pepper until tender, stirring frequently, about 15 minutes.
  2. Stir cornstarch into broth and pour broth into pot. Add the potatoes and bring to a boil. Season with salt and pepper. Pour in the cream, reduce heat and simmer at least 30 minutes, until potatoes are tender. Season with salt and pepper before serving.

Serves 5 bowls


Pretty good. I wish it was a little thicker or creamier.