When time is short and the “to do” list is long, I reach for my slow cooker. Then I throw all my ingredients into the pot and set out to tackle that nagging list that just won’t leave me alone. But I’m always somewhat excited when I walk through the door at the end of the day. It is the next best thing to coming home to one of my mom’s home cooked meals . . . which incidentally is one of the many perks of having my mom stay with us every couple of months. (We’re very lucky because my mom has a wonderful, giving spirit—she’s the most generous and helpful person I know.)
One of my favourite things to make in the slow cooker is soup—especially in January. It’s a time when many of us are trying to lighten things up in the kitchen or being lured to the great outdoors for fun, family snow adventures (well, here in North America anyway). Is there any better way to soothe away the winter chills than with a piping hot bowl of nourishing soup? It just feels like home.
Here are 10 hearty, healthy and delicious soups that may just make you feel as good about yourself as walking up 19 flights of stairs two or three times a day. Some are from my trusty “tried and true” collection of soups and a few are on my “must make soon” list after discovering them on blogs I love to read.
1. Beef and Barley Soup from Karista @ Karista’s Kitchen. This was my first attempt at making Beef and Barley Soup and I’ll never eat Campbell’s again. Thanks for the great recipe Karista! My only modification was to add an extra carrot and extra tablespoon of tomato paste.
3. Fassolada (Greek Bean Soup). I’ve made this soup countless times on the stove top and in the slow cooker. The ponytails never complain when I make this soup and that is really saying something. For my post on this soup, click here.
4. Acini di Pepe with Meatballs from John @ from the Bartolini Kitchen. This is one of four soups that John has posted that are based on his mother’s homemade brodo (broth). I can’t wait to make this soup!
6. Asparagus Soup with Herbed Goat Cheese Balls. For my post on this soup, click here.
7. Chicken Leek and Corn Soup that can also be transformed into Chicken and Leek Pot Pie from Saskia @ One Equals Two. Saskia says that this soup is a hit with parents and kids alike–and I believe her!
8. Cauliflower Soup and Pecorino Puffs from Under the Blue Gum Tree. I’ve been wanting to make a cauliflower soup for a while now and so this recipe caught my eye. I’m equally excited about giving the pecorino puffs a try. I’m sure I could stop at just one puff. . . or ten!
10. Greek Lentil Soup. I made this soup on the weekend because I have a cupboard full of lentils that I need to start using. I pureed one cup of the soup to thicken it, but you could puree the entire soup if you prefer it that way. For the recipe, see below.
Greek Lentil Soup
Adapted from Three Sisters Around the Greek Table
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 cup brown lentils, dried
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 carrots, diced
- 2 celery, diced
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tsp oregano, dried
- 1 tsp salt
- Pepper to taste
- 6 cups water
- Red wine viegar, as desired
- Kalamata olives (for garnish)
- Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the lentils, onion and garlic and saute for 3 minutes.
- Add the carrots celery and saute for 2 minutes further.
- Add the bay leaf, oregano, salt and pepper and stir.
- Add the water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 45 minutes, or until the lentils are soft. If the soup becomes too thick, just add some hot water.
- Discard the bay leaf before serving and adjust the seasoning if needed.
- Ladle the soup into bowls and drizzle with olive oil. Add a teaspoon of red wine vinegar to each bowl and garnish with olives before serving.
Keeping Your Soup Jazzy
Biscuits on the side . . . croutons on top . . . sprinkled with cheese . . . there are so many ways that I try to jazz up soup for the ponytails. I can’t wait to try these Goat Cheese and Scallions Muffins from Anne (at Uni Homemaker) or Naan Bread from Eva (at Kitchen Inspirations) with my next batch of soup. In the meantime, here’s my current favourite biscuit recipe:
Mini Cheddar Biscuits
Recipe from Cuisine Grilling Magazine
Makes 12 biscuits
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 3 tbsp shortening
- 1/3 cup shredded sharp cheddar
- 1 tbsp chopped fresh chives
- 1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
- ½ cup buttermilk
- 1 tbsp melted unsalted butter
- Preheat oven to 450˚. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a bowl.
- Cut in shortening with a pastry blender or two knives until pea-sized. Mix in cheddar, chives and parsley then stir in buttermilk.
- Knead dough on a floured surface just to incorporate. Shape into a 6” square, 1 inch thick. Cut into 12 pieces and arrange on prepared baking sheet, spacing 2 inches apart; brush with melted butter. Bake until golden, 15 minutes.
How do you put together a meal, sign school forms and change the channel all at the same time? The answer is simple: heat up leftovers + get someone else to manage the TV remote (what are the odds I’d get control of it anyway?).
With three crazy nights of the week where we need to arrive home from school/work, eat and be out the door in less than 30 minutes, leftovers have become my best friend.
Now that September is in full swing, you’ll find me cooking in bulk on the weekends and freezing the leftovers for one of these crazy nights, or making a Sunday night dinner that will provide the key ingredients for a second meal. I’ve been doing this for ages, but I recently discovered a great blog written by Saskia called 1=2. Saskia’s site is brilliant, with every post delivering on this life-saving concept of making a meal and planning for leftovers to prepare a second meal. (Be sure to check out Saskia’s site for some great 1=2 ideas.)
A roasted chicken is the perfect start to a two-for-one meal, as there are just so many meals that you can make with leftover chicken. One of my favourite ways to roast or grill a chicken is to spatchcock it. Before you get any ideas, you should know that this simply means to butterfly a chicken, or to take out the backbone and flatten it. The key benefit is that the chicken cooks faster and more evenly than when it is left in tact. Apparently, spatchcock is the traditional word for the French term “poussin”, which means a young chicken. Years ago, these little chickens were frequently butterflied for faster cooking, and eventually flattened chickens were called spatchcocks.
Often I’ll make a simple chicken pot pie with leftover chicken, or a chicken and brocolli quiche. Sometimes I just add barbeque sauce and serve the tangy leftover chicken with mashed potatoes (preferably leftovers also) and vegetables. I recently used my leftover chicken and corn (from a Sunday night dinner) to make Avocado-Corn Chowder with Grilled Chicken, which comes together in about 10 minutes using leftovers.
If you have some good recipes on how to use leftover chicken, please be sure to share as I see many more crazy nights in my future! How about you?
Lemon and Herbes de Provence Spatchcocked Chicken
- 4 lb chicken, spatchcocked
- 2 lemons: zest one and slice the other
- 2 to 3 tsp herbs de provence
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- Salt and pepper, to taste
Rinse and thoroughly dry the chicken.
Breast side up, carefully separate the skin from the bird, taking care not to rip the skin. Insert two slices of lemon between the skin and the flesh on each half of the bird.
Using a pastry brush, coat the outside skin of the bird with the olive oil. Sprinkle the coated chicken with herbes de provence, lemon zest and salt & pepper to taste.
To Grill: Cook on a preheated barbeque for 45 to 50 minutes until internal termperature reads 180°.
To Roast in the Oven: Preheat oven to 425°. Place prepared chicken (spatchcocked, seasoned and stuffed with lemon as above) breast side up in a greased baking dish. Roast for 45 to 55 minutes, until internal temperature reads 180°. NOTE: When roasting, I like to use butter rather than oil to coat the chicken. I also like to mix a couple of teaspoons of butter with some fresh chopped parsley, thyme and rosemary and slip this between the skin and the flesh of the bird. This doesn’t work well when barbequing, as the butter drips on to the grill and catches fire.
Avocado-Corn Chowder with Grilled Chicken
For the orignial recipe, click here.
- I reduced the water to 1 cup, as I find 1½ cups too watery and I reduced the orange juice to 1/3 cup rather than ½ cup.
- Using left-over grilled chicken eliminates the need to follow the directions for cooking the chicken.
- I used a couple pinches of crushed red pepper rather than ¼ tsp of ground red pepper.
- I also omitted the chopped red pepper.
Lately I keep thinking about those famous lyrics “summertime and the livin is easy.”
There are just so many things that seem to be easier in the summer. It’s easier to get the ponytails out the door in the morning without boots, mitts and heavy coats. It’s easier to drag my butt to the gym on Tuesday and Thursday mornings because it’s not pitch dark out in the mornings—a bit of daylight just makes everything better, even going to the gym. And it’s so much easier to walk out my back door to the garden and pick some fresh herbs whenever I’m cooking, rather than make a last minute dash to the store because I forgot to buy herbs. (Which always seems to happen.) Best of all, you just pick what you need.
It made me very happy this weekend to be able to walk into my backyard and pick the herbs that I needed for this Asparagus Soup with Herbed Goat Cheese Balls. The fresh herbs, along with the goat cheese really make this soup. As the goat cheese melts into the velvety soup, you get a hit of the tang from the cheese and some zip from the herbs. It really is very tasty.
I have to credit my friend Carolyn for introducing me to this soup. She recently hosted a large group of us for an amazing dinner and she made it seem effortless—really! She served the Asparagus Soup With Goat Cheese Balls in small glasses as a starter and the crowd went wild for this soup. I thought it was one of the best soups I’d ever had—so I knew I had to make it. The main change that I made to Giada De Laurentii’s version of this soup was to use a mix of summer herbs (basil, parsley and chives) rather than just basil in both the soup and the goat cheese balls. I also swapped in an onion for the leeks and rolled the goat cheese balls in the herbs rather than mixed them in. This soup is relatively easy to make, and can be made ahead and reheated if you’re having company, which is a little trick I learned from Carolyn. (Thanks Carolyn!)
I hope you are finding the livin a little easier this summer too!
Asparagus Soup with Herbed Goat Cheese Balls
Adapted from Giada De Laurentii, Giada at Home
- 1/2 cup (4 ounces) goat cheese, at room temperature
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil, parsley and chives combined
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 2 pounds medium asparagus, washed, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces (about 2 bunches)
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil, parsley and chives combined
- Pinch of crushed red pepper
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Goat cheese balls: Roll a spoonful of goat cheese into a ball (approximately 3/4″ to 1 inch diameter) then roll into the herb mixture until coated. Arrange on a plate and refrigerate for 15 to 30 minutes.
Soup: Heat the butter over medium heat in a Dutch oven or large saucepan. Add the chopped onions and cook, stirring constantly until softened, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the broth, asparagus, mixed herbs and pinch of crushed red pepper. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Increase the heat to high and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the asparagus is tender, about 15 minutes. Blend the soup until smooth using an immersion blender. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Keep the soup warm over low heat.
Ladle the soup into bowls and top with goat cheese balls.
NOTE: I propped up the goat cheese balls in my picture with an inverted ramekin just so you could see them. They quite naturally sink into the soup once you add them.
Ever notice how simple foods can be extraordinarily good? Think of the way a margherita pizza makes you feel. Fresh and bursting with flavor—it delights us in its simplicity.
Now if I’d said Greek Bean Soup instead of margherita pizza, you likely would have stared at your screen saying “okay, whatever Barb” because chances are it’s not a soup that’s on your radar. But…that may change, if you open your mind to this simple and tasty soup.
I’ve been making this soup quite frequently ever since I discovered it in my Three Sisters Around the Greek Table cookbook. The ponytails love it and it is easy to make—it just takes some time to cook, and you need plan ahead and soak the beans overnight. It is a very healthy vegetarian meal and boy is it budget friendly.
This bean soup, also called Fassolada or fasolada, can be traced back to ancient Greece and is referred to in many cookery books as the traditional Greek dish. Apparently ancient Greeks devoted a whole day to the celebration of fassolada. (As much as I do like the soup, a day devoted to it is way over the top. But hey, after several glasses of ouzo anything is possible.) For many Greek cooks, such as my friend Kerassia (my authority on all things Greek, whom I’ve mentioned before), fassolada is a weekly staple in their kitchen.
There are likely as many versions of this soup, as there are cooks. I’ve changed the soup extensively from the Three Sisters’ version — but I must attribute adding the potato and pureeing it with a cup of the soup to this cookbook.
Greek Bean Soup
- 1-½ cups navy beans, dried (or medium white greek beans)
- 6-½ cups water
- 3 carrots, diced
- 3 celery stalks, diced
- 1 medium onion, minced
- 1 pinch red pepper flakes
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 small potato, peeled
- 2 tbsps olive oil
- 1-½ cups crushed tomato sauce
- 1- ½ tsp salt
- 1 tsp oregano (preferably greek)
- chopped fresh parsley
- crumbled feta cheese
- lemon wedges
- Place the beans in a bowl, cover completely with water, and let them soak overnight.
- Drain and rinse beans. Place in a large stock pot and cover with water. Bring to boil over high heat for 10 minutes.
- Drain beans in a strainer and return to pot. Add water, carrots, celery, onion, red pepper flakes, potato and bay leaf. Bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes.
- Remove bay leaf and add tomato sauce, salt and olive oil and cook for another 45 minutes to 1 hour (until beans are tender).
- Place potato and 1 cup of soup in a bowl and puree with hand blender until smooth. Return puree to the pot and stir.
- Taste and adjust seasoning, if required.
- Serve in bowls and sprinkle with feta, parsley and a squeeze of lemon (optional).
- After talking to Kerassia, and researching the best way to cook beans, I discovered that the key to softening the beans is to not add tomato (because of the acidity) or salt until they are almost cooked.
- I replace the navy beans with medium white greek beans that I buy at a local shop here in Toronto called Ararat International Fine Foods. They are quite a bit larger than navy beans and a great option if you can find them.
- Kerassia doesn’t add the potato (and puree it with the cup of soup). You can eliminate the potato and this step if you prefer.
Turkey Soup with Cranberry Parsley Pistou and Turkey Salad
I’m a big fan of cooking without a recipe (except when baking). And, when I’m trying to clean out my fridge I can get pretty creative—although not everything is picture-worthy. Yesterday I was anxious to finish up the leftover turkey in my fridge because last year I stuck the turkey in the freezer at the last possible minute and then never used it—and that is just wrong.
So, this year I made two dishes: Turkey Soup with Cranberry Parsley Pistou and Turkey Salad. The turkey soup is pretty standard, but I spiced it up with the Cranberry Parsley Pistou. If you’ve never tried Soupe au Pistou, it is a French vegetable soup from Provence with a dollop of “pistou” which is essentially pesto without the pine nuts. It’s a puree of olive oil, garlic, parmesan and herbs (usually basil). The version of pistou that I’ve made before has tomato paste in it as well. I really like it because it is a great way to jazz up soup, and shouldn’t soup be jazzy? However, my ponytails don’t like jazzy soup (they call anything they don’t like “spicy”) so they will get the plain version. Isn’t that perfect though? An ingredient so special that it is just for the adults?
I should point out that the cranberry in the pistou is VERY subtle. It just adds a hint of sweetness and you see a few tiny specs of red in the soup, but you really have to look for them. I loved being able to use up the left-over cranberry as well!
Now I have put together a recipe for my soup (below), but it is the perfect dish to try without a recipe or to completely change up my version. Consider mine a starting point and go with what you have leftover in your fridge and how much you have of each ingredient. I’ve also made a small portion of the pistou because it is just for the two of us, but you could easily double it if you are serving a crowd.
I’m not going to include a recipe for the turkey salad. I just chopped up the turkey into cubes, added enough low-fat mayo to cover it nicely, then threw in a couple pieces of chopped celery and green onion and a handful of pine nuts and raisins. I’ve never had it with pine nuts and raisins before, but perhaps it is not that original. I quite liked it.
Turkey Soup with Cranberry Parsley Pistou
For the stock:
- Turkey carcass and bones
- Onion, quartered
- 2 whole carrots
- 2 stalks of celery
- Small bunch of parsley (whole)
- Bay leaf
For the soup:
- 1-1/2 small onions, chopped
- 3 celery, diced
- 4 carrots, diced
- 2 potatoes diced (if you have them – I was out so didn’t use them this time)
- 3 cups chopped turkey
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp pepper
- 2 cups medium egg noodles
- 1 cup peas
For the pistou:
- ½ cup tightly packed flat leaf Italian parsley
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp whole cranberry sauce
- 1/3 cup finely grated parmesan
- ½ clove of garlic, minced (add more if you like garlic)
Place the turkey carcass and bones, along with vegetables (onion, carrots, celery, parsley and bay leaf) in a large stock pot and cover with water. I filled mine pretty close to the top of the pot, because I wanted to maximize my soup yield. Simmer for 1.5 to 2 hours.
Strain turkey stock and throw out the carcass, bones and vegetables. Place the lovely strained stock back in your pot and add all remaining ingredients except the peas and egg noodles. Simmer uncovered for 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Add the peas and egg noodles and cook for 15 more minutes. (You can sauté the vegetables in a bit of olive oil first, but I skipped this step.)
For the Pistou, place the parsley, cranberry, parmesan, and garlic in the bowl of a food processor and puree. Pour in the olive oil with the motor running until the mixture is completely blended.
Ladle your soup into a bowl and add a dollop (or two, pending preference) of pistou. Enjoy.
Here’s a picture of the turkey salad, just waiting for some good bread.