in a few days you’ll thank me

Massive apologies for the large gap between posts.  I went on vacation and severely neglected my blog along with much else in life.  It was great, but now I’m back to tell you how much I love fall.  I love it, I do.  Favorite season of the whole darn year.  And even though it was a sticky 90 degrees today by the weekend it will be in the 50’s at night and you will want soup, mark my words.

It definitely felt like fall at the farmer’s market this past weekend.  I wore jeans for the first time in ages and it was kind of gray and windy and I got there early enough to avoid crowds and really take my time perusing the seasonal wares.  Since it was feeling so much like fall I decided to pick up some standard soup ingredients: potatoes, onions, garlic.  Done and done and done.

I made a beautiful soup by roasting the garlic and shallots and then sticking them in a pot with some potatoes, wine, broth, and a little fresh rosemary.  My apartment smelled amazing and the resulting soup was rich, creamy, and filling in a nice, not overly-stuffed way.  With a little fancy “ancient grain” bread I picked up at Whole Foods it fed me well all weekend.  And now hopefully it will feed you well some weekend this season!

Roasted Garlic and Shallot Potato Soup (adapted from recipe found at www.cookinglight.com)

  • 5 whole garlic heads, unpeeled
  • 3 ½ tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons salt, divided
  •  1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 10 shallots, unpeeled (about ¾ pound)
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped onion
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 cups cubed peeled baking potato (about ¾ pound); I used 2 cups unpeeled fingerling potatoes cubed and it worked just fine
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary (can substitute with thyme if you prefer)
  • 1 cup 2% milk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Remove white papery skins from garlic heads (do not peel or separate cloves), cut off tops, leaving root ends intact.  Place garlic in a shallow roasting pan.  Drizzle 1 tablespoon oil over garlic, sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper.  Cover with foil.  Bake at 400 for 20 minutes.  Add shallots to pan.  Drizzle 1 tablespoon oil over shallots, sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper.  Cover and bake for 25 minutes or until tender and browned.  Cool.  Squeeze garlic to extract pulp; peel shallots.  Discard skins.  Set garlic pulp and shallots aside.

Heat 1 ½ tablespoons oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat; add onion.  Cover and cook 15 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring occasionally.  Add garlic pulp, peeled shallots, and wine.  Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, 5 minutes.

Stir in broth, potato, and rosemary (or thyme); bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes or until potato is tender.  Cool slightly.  If you have an immersion blender use in Dutch oven until soup is smooth, if you do not own an immersion blender place half of potato mixture in a blender; process until smooth.  Pour pureed mixture into a large bowl.  Repeat procedure with remaining potato mixture.  If you used a blender return pureed mixture to pan.

Stir in milk, ¾ teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper into pureed mixture.  Cook over medium heat 5 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

rainy days and mondays always get me down (and hungry for soup)

Last weekend I picked up some lovely crimini mushrooms at the farmer’s market.  I’m not gonna lie– mushrooms are not always my favorite, but crimini mushrooms I get really excited about.  I first used them years ago in a roasted vegetable/smoked mozzarella/pasta dish I saw on Everyday Italian and instantly fell in love.  They are woodsy and meaty and just generally awesome so when I saw them at the market I bought them without knowing what I was going to use them for.  Some of the best meals start this way!

The last few days have been quite chilly and grey and rainy in these parts… it is spring after all.  And with the chill and the grey and the rain I wanted one thing: hot and hardy soup.  Combine the idea of soup and my farmer’s market find with a little Googling and you have Turkey Chowder with Wild Rice, Crimini and Pancetta… unless you’re me and want to use up ingredients you have on hand and then you have Chicken Chowder with Wild Rice, Crimini and Bacon.  Don’t be afraid to improvise on recipes.  I used to but with cooking, that is the beauty.  Improvisation in baking is not always as successful, but that is another story for another time.  Now we eat soup!


Chicken Chowder with Wild Rice, Crimini and Bacon (adapted from a recipe found at www.epicurious.com)

  • 2 ½ cups water
  • ¾ cup wild rice (about 5 ounces), rinsed, drained
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 4 slices of bacon, diced
  • 8 ounces crimini (baby bella) mushrooms, sliced (about 3 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • ½ cup chopped shallots
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 5 cups chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon dried crushed rosemary
  • 2 cups chopped cooked chicken meat
  • ½ cups frozen corn kernels
  • ½ cup heavy whipping cream

Bring 2 ½ cups water, rice, and ¼ teaspoon salt to boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until rice is tender but still firm to bite, 45 to 60 minutes (time will vary depending on variety of rice). Drain; set aside.

Heat heavy large pot over medium heat and add bacon and cook until browned, stirring often, about 8 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. Add mushrooms to pot and cook until beginning to brown, about 8 minutes. Transfer to medium bowl. Add butter to same pot. Add carrots and celery. Cover; cook until vegetables begin to soften, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Add shallots; stir until soft, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle flour over and stir 1 minute. Return mushrooms to pot. Mix in chicken stock and rosemary; bring to boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium-low, partially cover, and simmer 15 minutes.

Add rice, bacon, chicken meat, and corn to soup. Simmer to blend flavors, about 10 minutes. Stir in cream. Season to taste with salt and pepper. DO AHEAD: Can be made 3 days ahead. Cool slightly. Chill uncovered until cool. Cover and keep chilled. Rewarm over medium heat before serving.

pinterest digressions and spicy curry noodle soup

I have a confession to make: I think I have a Pinterest problem.

For those of you unfamiliar with Pinterest it is essentially a virtual cork board.  Remember cork boards?  You probably had one on your wall in middle school with pictures of Salt N’ Pepa, INXS, and the Fresh Prince of Bel Air on it.  (Or maybe that was just me…)

Anyhow, I have become almost obsessed with finding cool images of food/signs/flowers/home interiors, etc. on Pinterest and last night found myself up until almost midnight (aka waaaaay past my weeknight bedtime) pinning pretty images to my boards.  (If you’re already on Pinterest or are persuaded to join after reading this and care to follow me, my username is baxterandmain.  Little plug.)

All of this is leading me to a blog-related point or two.  1) I need to step my food photography game up, big time.  2) I need to get a real logo/header because I am tired of the up-close brownie shot.  Real tired of it.  Point 1 can be aided with natural sunlight (which should be more plentiful in Wisconsin in the next month or so, fingers crossed) and more thought put into the mise en scene of my pictures (and maybe a proper camera at a later date.)  As for point 2 I am real lucky to have a talented friend who has volunteered to help in this endeavor which brings me full circle as I have been looking for inspirational images on Pinterest to give to her to create some artwork for this here site.  So there we go.

And now the food!  I made some wonderful sweet potato chicken curry noodle soup to go along with the Thai iced tea for you!

Vegetarians please note that this dish could easily be made with tofu instead of chicken and sub vegetable broth for chicken broth and I bet it’d still be as amazing.

It’s spicy, a little sweet, and incredibly flavorful.  You will love it!  Unless spicy and curry is not your thing.  In that case stay tuned for butternut squash lasagne in my next post!

Spicy Curry Noodle Soup with Chicken and Sweet Potato (by Mai Pham from Bon Appetit magazine)

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons chopped shallots
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh lemongrass* (from bottom 4 inches of about 3 stalks, tough outer leaves discarded; NOTE: if you can only find dried lemongrass in your grocery store you will only need about 1 tablespoon as it is more potent in dried form)
  • 2 tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger
  • 2 tablespoons Thai yellow curry paste*
  • 2 tablespoons curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon hot chili paste (such as sambal oelek)*
  • 2 13.5- to 14-ounce cans unsweetened coconut milk,* divided
  • 5 cups low-salt chicken broth
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce (such as nam pla or nuoc nam)*
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 3 cups snow peas, trimmed
  • 2 cups 1/2-inch cubes peeled red-skinned sweet potato (yam; from about 1 large)
  • 1 pound dried rice vermicelli noodles or rice stick noodles*
  • 3/4 pound skinless boneless chicken thighs, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 3 red Thai bird chiles or 2 red jalapeño chiles, thinly sliced with seeds
  • 1 lime, cut into 6 wedges

Heat oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add next 4 ingredients; stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium-low. Stir in curry paste, curry powder, and chili paste. Add 1/2 cup coconut milk (scooped from thick liquid at top of can). Stir until thick and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add remaining coconut milk, broth, fish sauce, and sugar; bring broth to boil. Keep warm. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Refrigerate until cold, then cover and keep chilled.

Cook snow peas in large pot of boiling salted water until bright green, about 20 seconds. Using strainer, remove peas from pot; rinse under cold water to cool. Place peas in medium bowl. Bring water in same pot back to boil. Add sweet potato and cook until tender, about 7 minutes. Using strainer, remove sweet potato from pot and rinse under cold water to cool. Place in small bowl. Bring water in same pot back to boil and cook noodles until just tender but still firm to bite, about 6 minutes. Drain; rinse under cold water to cool. Transfer to microwave-safe bowl. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 hour ahead. Let stand at room temperature.

Bring broth to simmer. Add chicken; simmer until chicken is cooked through, about 10 minutes. Add sweet potato; stir to heat through, about 1 minute. Heat noodles in microwave in 30-second intervals to rewarm. Cut noodles with scissors if too long. Divide noodles among bowls. Divide snow peas and hot soup among bowls. Scatter red onion, green onions, cilantro, and chiles over soup. Garnish with lime wedges and serve.

sweet potato and carrot bisque

Last weekend was a total soup weekend. It was cold, it snowed like six inches on top of the six we already had, and I was in no mood to venture out to grocery shop so instead decided to shop my pantry. I had sweet potatoes. I had carrots. I had onions. I had vegetable stock. Done and done and done and done.

With baking you have to stick pretty close to actual recipes but with cooking you can be more free and soup is an especially easy arena in which to experiment. Some of my favorite soups (and salads for that matter) have been a result of the mix of ingredients I happened to have on hand at that moment that all worked together to create something better than the sum of their parts.

This soup is full of orange vegetables– you know, the kind that make you see further and help prevent cancer. Totally awesome. Added bonus: it tastes good too.

Don’t fret if you don’t have an immersion blender, (though I highly recommend investing in one) you can puree this soup in batches in a blender or a food processor. Or you could even leave it chunky– that would be great too. Totally up to you. Experiment!

Sweet Potato and Carrot Bisque

  • 4 medium carrots, peeled and cut into quarter-inch rounds
  • 1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into ½-inch chunks
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 ½ tablespoons tomato paste
  • 5 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Melt the butter in a large pot. Add the onion, cover and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until softened. Add the carrots and sweet potatoes, cover and cook, stirring once, until the vegetables are just beginning to soften, about 2 minutes. Add the tomato paste and vegetable or chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover pot and allow to simmer for approximately 30 minutes or until vegetables are softened. Using an immersion blender, puree soup until smooth. If you do not have an immersion blender, transfer soup to blender or food processor in batches and puree until smooth.

taking stock

I’d heard that making your own chicken stock was simple and that it tastes infinitely better than the stuff you buy in the stuff you buy in the grocery store but I just thought, who has the time?  Turns out I do.  On Saturday night (don’t get jealous now!) I stayed in and cleaned my apartment from top to bottom and made chicken stock at the same time.

It’s as simple as chopping up a few vegetables and throwing them into a pot with a few herbs, a whole bunch of chicken, and some water.  (I did some recipe research and it seems like most recommend using chicken bones, backs, or thighs so that you are not wasting meat.)  You bring all of that to a boil and then let it simmer for a couple of hours.

My apartment smelled wonderful as I cleaned and the stock was done before I knew it.  Straining was simple and Martha’s suggestion of putting the strained stock into the fridge overnight so that the fat rises to the top and can then be easily scooped off is a great one.  The next morning I skimmed off the fat and froze the stock in 4-cup batches.  It will be great to have on hand for soups and of course for Thanksgiving.  Sayonara to the over-salted boxed kind from the grocery store!   Our relationship was convenient while it lasted, but I’m afraid I won’t be needing your services any longer…

Chicken Stock (adapted slightly from recipe found at www.marthastewart.com)

Yield: Makes 1 1/2 quarts

  • 4 pounds chicken thighs
  • 1 medium onion peeled and quartered
  • 5 shallots, peeled
  • 1 large carrot cut into thirds
  • 2 celery stalks cut into thirds
  • 2 large or 4 small leeks cut in half lengthwise and well washed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 12 whole black peppercorns

Place all the ingredients into an 8-quart stock pot and cover with cold water.  Bring to a boil over high heat.

As the stock approaches a boil, remove any impurities that rise to the top by skimming with a ladle. Reduce the heat and simmer the stock for 3 to 4 hours, continuing to skim impurities from time to time while the stock cooks. Taste after 3 hours for the strength of stock you want.

Remove from the heat and let the stock sit for 10 to 15 minutes, then ladle through a fine strainer. Once strained, remove the fat from the stock by skimming with a ladle (see Helpful Hint). Cool by placing the container of strained stock in an ice water bath, then refrigerate. The stock will keep for about 1 week in the refrigerator, or freeze in 1-cup batches.

Cook’s Note: Another way to defat the stock is to place the cooled stock in the refrigerator overnight. The fat will set on the top and can be easily spooned off.

Variation: Use a large (5- to 6-pound) roasting chicken in place of the bones.  Use the meat for chicken salad or croquettes.