Roasted Carrot & Tomato Soup | National Soup Month

Hey there, Chicago! I hope you’re staying as warm as you can. Today is one of those days where I feel extremely fortunate that I work from home. The “feel like” temperature this morning was -51 degrees and letting the pups out I felt like I had turned into a human icicle. This is dangerous cold so I genuinely hope you all are staying warm and avoiding the cold as much as possible if you’re experiencing this polar vortex. On the bright side, this is perfect soup weather! Nothing warms you up more than a screaming hot bowl of soup, something I’m going to miss in the gorgeous 60 and 70 degree Texas weather in a few days. Fingers crossed my flight gets out tomorrow night!

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Southwestern Beefy Vegetable Soup | National Soup Month

Creating these recipes for National Soup Month, the number one word on my brain was comfort. I wanted each of these recipes to feed the body and the soul while warming you up in the process. Well, we got hit with some pretty rough winter weather in this last week. Nothing outrageous or that we Chicagoans can’t handle but COLD. The kind of weather where you have to eat something piping hot for dinner or you might turn into an icicle before bed. Lucky for all of you (and me, of course), this recipe was written on one of those bitter cold days…

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Creamy Potato Soup | National Soup Month

Next up on our National Soup Month celebration, Creamy Potato Soup. Confession: I love creamy soups. There’s something so comforting about them that warms the soul. You could say that’s the case for all soup, which it is, but extra for indulgent creamy soups. I haven’t yet figured out out to get the same effect without using dairy. So for today, even though I’m significantly limiting dairy in my diet these days, we’ll indulge ourselves a smidge. What’s life without a little indulgence once in a while? This recipe is as easy as it is tasty…

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Classic Minestrone Soup | National Soup Month

Did you know that January is National Soup Month? It’s my favorite thing about this first month of the year. That and it’s usually the first of our two wintriest months. I’m a sucker for the season of hibernation. Between the chunky, cozy sweaters and overdose on comfort food, it’s the best time of the year (other than the holidays, of course). Soup month being in January is also pretty convenience because it’s easy to make soup recipes that are comforting but still good for you. It helps keep you on track with all those new year resolutions. To give you a little soup-spiration, the new recipes coming on Tuesdays this month will all be for soup! I focused on a specific adjective for each recipe: classic, creamy, meaty, and vegetarian. Today’s kicks the month off with a classic but hearty spin…

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3 "B" Chili | Easy Comfort Food Recipes

It’s back to below freezing temperatures here in Chicago (well, except for today). Not the level of cold we went through in early January where we were lucky if the “feels like” temperature rose above zero, but cold nonetheless. This is the cold I prefer. The kind that gets your nose and cheeks all rosy and gives you goosebumps. If you’re outside in it too long it might even chill you to the bone. But once you’re inside, you get to warm up and get all toasty in your favorite blanket. Maybe treat yourself to a fire in the fireplace while listening to the wind blow outside. It’s the kind of cold you see on Christmas cards. The kind of cold that makes you nostalgic and crave comfort food favorites. The kind of cold that deserves this hearty, satisfying, warm you to the bone chili recipe. It seems appropriate for our final comfort food recipe this month. Don’t you think?

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Chili has gained a reputation for being game day food. It’s a fall dish that people make in large batches for tailgating. I think it’s so much more though. Chili is one of those dishes that can either be made in a pinch or whipped up to simmer all day long. It can be made on the stove, in the slow cooker, or even in a Dutch Oven in the oven. It can be made vegetarian or meat-heavy. It can have beans or it can be bean-free. It can have lots of veggies, a few veggies or no veggies at all. The definition of chili is a spicy stew so as far as ingredients are concerned, it’s all up to interpretation!

I’ve made a variety of three bean chilis but I wanted to mix things up for this particular recipe. Make it a little more rich and hearty. So instead of three-bean chili, I came up with this three “B” chili: beef, bacon and bean chili. It’s a rather basic chili recipe using typical ingredients. I didn’t want this to be too calorie and fat heavy so six slices of bacon will do the trick. The bacon’s main role is to add another texture and give it a deeper flavor. When browning the ground beef, you can either crumble it fine for a smoother consistency or you can leave it in larger chunks for a chunkier chili. I do a combination of both to play on the textures. Finally, I love kidney beans. I just love their flavor and color but black beans or any darker bean would work well with this as well.

This particular recipe doesn’t use a ton of vegetables but it is tomato-heavy. Three cans of different types of tomato make a nice thick base for the recipe. Flavor support comes in the form of chili powder, paprika and cayenne pepper. This recipe is not spicy by my own personal standards but if you’d like to tone it down, cut the cayenne pepper out completely and start with half the amount of chili powder. You can always add more spices in but once they’re there, you can’t take them out. Happy eating and stay warm!

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3 “B” Chili: Beef, Bacon & Bean Chili
Ingredients:
6 slices of thick-cut Bacon, diced
1 lb. lean Ground Beef
1 Onion, diced
15 oz. Diced Tomatoes with Green Chiles
15 oz. Diced Tomatoes
15 oz. Crushed Tomatoes
1 tbsp. Chili Powder
1 tsp. Paprika
½ tsp. Cayenne Pepper
15 oz. Kidney Beans, rinsed and drained
Salt & Pepper
Cheddar Cheese, for topping

Directions:
1 - Heat a large pot or Dutch Oven over medium-high heat. Add the bacon. Cook until crisp, not burnt. Move to a paper towel lined plate to drain. Pour out any excess oil remaining in the pot.

2 - Add the ground beef and onion to the pot over medium-high heat. Season with salt and pepper and cook until beef is browned. Pour out any excess grease but a little is ok. Re-add the bacon.

3 - Stir in the diced tomatoes, tomatoes with chiles, crushed tomatoes and spices. Bring to a boil and let simmer 30 minutes. Adjust seasoning to taste. Add the beans and cook 15 minutes longer. Serve with cheese on top.

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Pasta e Fagioli | National Soup Month

National Soup Month is coming to a quick close this week and I can’t help but admit that it makes me a little sad! Soup is one of my favorite foods. You can make hundreds of different soup recipes and never tire of them. At least that’s what I believe. January being National Soup Month gives you an excuse to go nuts on the soup intake. It was a lot of fun to create all these recipes as well. I noticed as I was working on my Q1 editorial planning that I was a little light on soup recipes in the recipe index so I felt a need to come up with more for you guys. I hope you’ve been enjoying them as much as I have!

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My goal was to get a good variety of soup recipes in there. It started off with a Classic Chicken Noodle that is perfect for beating a case of the sniffles. Next we kicked things up a notch with a flavor-packed Creamy Lemon Chicken soup. This one is perfect when you want to impress someone but still give them a meal that feeds the soul. Last week I recreated one of my childhood favorites, Creamy Tomato Soup and paired it with the best grilled cheese sandwich you will ever have. We’re finishing things off with a pasta-inspired soup packed with great ingredients that are not only delightful but economical as well.

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Pasta e Fagioli translates to “pasta with beans.” Now a classic Italian dish, it started as a peasant’s meal using scraps and cheap ingredients (aka, pasta and beans). We gave it a bit of an upgrade, which most people tend to do nowadays, but it still is an affordable meal and one that serves many. I like to add ground beef to simple soups like this because it makes one scoop go a little farther. Adding meat, even a little bit, makes the soup heavier so it takes less to fill up one person. So while it might cost you a few more bucks, it will feed more people in the long run. Make sense?

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I prefer using a traditional white bean like Cannellini Beans with this dish but Great Northern Beans or Navy Beans would also work well. Regardless of whether the dish includes the ground beef, using beef broth makes the soup much more rich in flavor. Chicken and vegetable stock would also work well but the flavors would be lighter instead of hearty. I love that hearty, rich flavor in this soup, especially since it’s simple at its core. Like any other recipe you come across whether on this blog or any other, use your own preferences! If you want to leave the meat out, go ahead. Have chicken stock on hand and don’t want to buy beef stock, more power to you. I am not here to judge. I simply love to share recipes that I enjoy to inspire great eating in your own home. I go rogue on recipes all the time. Who would I be to judge you for going rogue on mine?

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Pasta e Fagioli
Ingredients:
1 lb. Ground Beef
2 tbsp. Butter
3 Carrots, diced
2 Celery Stalks, diced
1 Onion, diced
3 Garlic Cloves, chopped
15 oz. Cannellini Beans
8 oz. Tomato Sauce
2 tsp. Oregano, chopped
1 tsp. Thyme, chopped
1 tbsp. Basil, chopped
4-6 cups Beef Broth
28 oz. Crushed Tomatoes
28 oz. Diced Tomatoes
1 cup Elbow Macaroni (or other small cut pasta)*

Directions:
1 - Add the ground beef to a large soup pot over medium-high heat and cook until browned. Remove the beef to a paper towel lined plate to drain the fat.

2 - Place the pot back on the stove over medium heat and melt the butter. Add the carrots, celery and onions. Cook until softened. Add the garlic and cook a minute or two until fragrant. Add the herbs, all of the tomatoes, tomato sauce, beef broth** and the cooked beef. Bring to a boil and let simmer for about 15 minutes.

3 - Add the pasta and beans to the pot. Simmer until the pasta is al dente. Serve with crusty bread.

* Note: Elbow macaroni are idea but if you happen to forget it at the store like I did or have another small-cut pasta in the pantry, that works fine as well.

** Note: four cups of beef broth with create a chunkier soup. Six cups of beef broth will still provide a chunky soup but with more liquid. You can start with four cups and add more as desired. I made this recipe twice, the first time with a full six cups and I actually prefer it that way. The second time I made this recipe, I ran out of room in the pot I was using so I used four. It was still delicious, but it had more of a stew consistency.

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Creamy Tomato Soup with Grilled Three Cheese | National Soup Month

Certain combinations are meant to be together. Peanut Butter and Jelly. Bacon and Eggs. Timon and Pumba. Ross and Rachel. The #1 combination that I will never tire of is Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese. It’s a match made in heaven. A match so perfect no other can surpass it. Growing up, my Papa used to make me tomato soup for lunch out of the can. He always made it best using milk instead of water. It was one of my favorite lunches and we always paired it with either a simple turkey sandwich or grilled cheese. No one made it like him and whenever someone tried, it was never as good. Maybe that was just me being a brat but it made a difference. This recipe is inspired by those cold days when we had tomato soup for lunch.

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I think we can all agree that homemade soup is much better for you than canned. For starters, the sodium content alone decreases. You are in control of the ingredients and you know what’s going into the pot. With a medium-sized saucepan and an immersion blender (a regular blender or food processor also work), you can whip up your own version of Creamy Tomato Soup easily and in no time at all. It’s a few basic ingredients, most of which you’ll find in the pantry.

To play off of the canned soup with milk classic I grew up on, I wanted this recipe to also be creamy. Tomato soup is great in any form but I love how comforting a touch of milk, or in this case, heavy cream can be. Start by sauteing the garlic and onion. Not only do you want them to soften, you want them to release the sting so that it brings out the natural sweetness. A little black pepper and basil season the dish but if you’d like a little kick, add some red pepper flakes. It’s a nice metabolism boost. San Marzano Tomatoes are ideal because they naturally have a little more sweetness to them. Any canned tomato would work in any size though. The tomatoes and veggie stock come to a boil and simmer for a few minutes to release the bitterness from the tomato. Once that’s ready to go, blend and then add in the heavy cream for a final touch. You won’t be sorry!

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Let’s talk about the Grilled Three Cheese for a minute. This is no ordinary grilled cheese. It uses a combination of Cheddar, Havarti and Gouda for a balanced flavor combination and...it’s baked. Searing the sandwich on a griddle toasts each side of bread nicely. It doesn’t get the cheese all gooey though and the bread is still too soft. Finish the sandwiches on a baking sheet in a preheated oven for a few quick minutes. The cheese gets so gooey, it might as well be liquid, and the bread finishes toasting for a great crunch without burning. Slice it in half, see the cheese pull and get ready to dip. This is a sandwich you’ll be coming back to night after night.

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Creamy Tomato Soup & Grilled Three Cheese
Ingredients for the Soup:
1 small Onion, diced
3 Garlic Cloves, chopped
2 tbsp. Olive Oil
¼ tsp. Black Pepper
1 tsp. Basil
¼ tsp. Red Pepper Flakes (optional)
28 oz. San Marzano Tomatoes
1 cup Vegetable Stock
1 cup Heavy Cream

Ingredients for the Grilled Three Cheese:
8 slices of Bread
4 tbsp. Butter
4 slices Cheddar Cheese
4 slices Gouda Cheese
4 slices Havarti Cheese

Directions:
1 - In a medium-large soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until softened. Add the garlic and saute a minute or two until fragrant. Add the black pepper, basil, and red pepper (if using) and give a quick stir.

2 - Add the tomatoes and veggie stock to the pot. Break up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon. Bring to a boil and simmer 20-30 minutes until some of the liquid has evaporated and the tomatoes have sweetened. Turn off the heat and let cool.

3 - Using an immersion blender, blend the tomato mixture. If you don’t have an immersion blender, carefully transfer the soup to a blender or food processor and blend. You can blend the soup until it’s smooth or leave some chunks in there for texture.

4 - Turn the heat back on to medium-low. Add the heavy cream and stir in. Let simmer another 5-10 minutes and serve.

For the Grilled Three Cheese:
1 - Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Butter one side of each slice of bread.

2 - Build and grill the sandwiches. Place one side of bread butter-side down on the griddle. Add a slice of Gouda, Cheddar and Havarti cheese and top with the final slice of bread, butter-side up.

3 - Let cook 8-10 minutes* per side until the bread has browned and lightly toasted. Press down with the spatula before flipping. Flip carefully not to ruin the sandwich. Remove to a baking sheet.

4 - Once all of the sandwiches have been grilled, place the baking sheet in the oven. Bake 5-8 minutes until the cheese has fully melted. Serve with the creamy tomato soup.

* NOTE: The first side may cook faster than the second due to the pan getting hotter over time.  

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Creamy Lemon Chicken Soup | National Soup Month

For those of you enjoying a nice, long weekend after the first full week back following the holidays, I hope you’re cozy and snug this morning. For those of you not enjoying a nice, long weekend like me, I hope you’re staying warm through this most recent arctic blast! Working from home definitely has its perks. I don’t have to go out when it’s snowing and feels like 9 degrees outside. Don’t be too jealous though because I have to venture into society the next three days so I’ll be suffering with the best of them. Today’s recipe celebrating National Soup Month is perfect for those extra cold nights when you’re not feeling 100% and want something a little heavier than Classic Chicken Noodle. This Creamy Lemon Chicken Soup is easy to make and gives the immune system a nice boost with the squeeze of lemon and loads of garlic. It’s packed with veggies too which makes you not feel so bad about the cup of heavy cream (which divided into four servings is hardly anything anyway).

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When I was brainstorming soup recipes for this month, I was hesitant about sharing two different chicken soups. It felt redundant but the Classic Chicken Noodle and the Creamy Lemon Chicken have different flavor profiles. While one is comforting and classic, the other is comforting and creamy. Besides that, the ingredients are a bit different. The Lemon Chicken uses several more vegetables and the Classic Chicken is really all focused on the homemade stock. The Lemon Chicken is also starch-free where the Classic Chicken has both noodles and potatoes. So there you have it! Decision made. Two chicken soups for the win. Besides, you can totally make these both in the same week and not get sick of chicken soup. They’re just so tasty. And...if you’re looking for a short cut, use the leftover chicken breasts from making the stock in the Classic Chicken Noodle in this recipe and you’ll skip the entire first step. Not only does it save time, it saves money.

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Another reason this Monday is particularly difficult is because it’s my first official week back in the city. I’ve been living in the suburbs for about three and a half years but recently, I made the decision to split my time between the two. It’s a long and rather personal story I won’t get into but bottom line, I live a few days or weeks at a time in each place. I finally moved into my space downtown this weekend making it a functional place to both live and work which is fantastic! I’ll be able to lead a productive life whether I have a busy week of meetings in the city or absolutely nothing to do but sit at a desk in the suburbs. It will also give me back what’s left of my broken social life. Being away from the pups is something I could not prepare myself for though. We just celebrated Scooby Doo’s first gotcha day and second birthday this weekend. He was so excited, I promise that he knew we were all there for him. It made me so happy to see him so excited. Leaving him for a week is just about killing me but I can’t take him away from his big fenced-in backyard and Lou Lou (who I miss equally as much). So while he’s nice and warm snuggling with my cousins back in the suburbs, I’ll be snuggling a pillow with a big bowl of this soup to fill the void. Dramatic? Yeah, I agree. It still doesn’t change the fact that this soup is perfect comfort food though.

Photo Credit:   Levine-Moore Photography

Creamy Lemon Chicken Soup
Ingredients:
1 tbsp. Olive Oil
3 Chicken Breasts, cut into chunks
2 tbsp. Butter
1 Onion, diced
2 large Carrots, diced
2 Celery Stalks, diced
4 Garlic Cloves, minced
1 cup Frozen Peas
¼ cup + 2 tbsp. Flour
6 cups Chicken Stock
1 tsp. Thyme, finely chopped
1 tsp. Rosemary, finely chopped
1 cup Heavy Cream
Juice of 1 Lemon
Salt & Pepper

Directions:
1 - In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper, add to the pot and cook until golden and cooked through, about 10-12 minutes. Remove to a plate.

2 - Back in the same pot, melt the butter. Add in the onion, carrots, celery and garlic. Cook 8-10 minutes until starting to soften. Add the peas and give a quick stir just to thaw them out a bit. Add the flour and cook until slightly golden and fragrant. Slowly whisk in the chicken stock, avoiding any clumps. Add the herbs and the chicken, bring to a boil and let simmer 15-20 minutes until veggies are cooked through.

3 - Stir in the heavy cream and lemon juice. Bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and serve with a side of crusty bread.

*NOTE: Cooking time(s) may vary. Use this recipe as a guide and adjust anything as necessary.

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