Pumpkin Soup

Pumpkin Soup

I just love this time of year! The mornings are brisk, the days are cool and those beautiful fall leaves are right around the corner!

Ah…Fall! My second favorite season, Winter being my favorite. Winter, Fall, Spring and then Summer. That’s my list! ;o)

My sister commented the other day that it has become Pumpkin Central around here at Dianne’s Dishes the past few days and Alexis and I have certainly been rocking the pumpkin recipes! I mentioned before that it is amazing how many things you can make with three small sugar pumpkins! But when they are local, fresh and oh so lovely, why not utilize them?

For years I’ve read about Pumpkin Soup, but I had never tried it because it sounded odd to me. I’m not sure why that is given I love Butternut Squash Soup and the two are very similar, but sometimes you just get an idea about food in your head and it takes actually trying something to knock out a preconceived notion.

I decided to whip up a batch of soup and much to my surprise I loved it! Alexis did too. It’s warm, healthy and hearty. Who can ask for a better combination?

What You’ll Need:
4 cups of raw pumpkin, peeled, seeded and cut into chunks (Note: I like to cut the sugar pumpkins into slices as you would a cantaloupe. From there you can scoop out the seeds on one side and use a potato peeler to peel the skin off the other side. Then it’s simple to cut the slice into chunks once it is scooped and peeled.)
1 large sweet potato or yam, chopped into chunks (Note: You don’t have to remove the skin from the sweet potatoes. They have a lot of vitamins and such you don’t want to get rid of, especially in this soup where it’s all blended in the end anyway.)
2 large carrots, cut into chunks (Note: Again there’s no need to peel them.)
1 small onion, skins removed and cut into chunks
3 or 4 thyme branches (Note: If you want you can strip the leaves off the branches, but you don’t have to. As the thyme cooks the leaves will fall away from the stem and then you can remove the stems before you blend.)
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Water or vegetable broth

Dump all of your ingredients into a large stockpot. Sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt (about a teaspoon or so) and freshly ground black pepper. Cover the ingredients with water and bring to a boil. Lower heat, cover and cook until ingredients are all completely cooked through and tender.

Remove veggies from cooking water and reserve water. Remove thyme branches and discard. Process veggies in a food processor or blender until smooth adding some of the cooking water to help smooth out the mix. You may have to do this in batches depending on the size of your food processor or blender. Return pureed mixture to your empty stock put and cook for an additional 5-10 minutes over medium to ensure it is warm through. Serve immediately.

Notes: You could add any root vegetable that you like to the mix. Parsnips would be good especially. It’s a very simple mixture, but it’s delicious none the less. You could also make this with a couple of cans of canned pumpkin by adding it during the processing stage or you could freeze pumpkin to use later.

Sweet Corn Chowder

Sweet Corn Chowder

When you think Corn Chowder you think rich and decadent, but it doesn’t have to be. You can cut out a lot of fat and calories by reducing the amount of fat you use and slimming down the dairy. It’s a simple way to make things lighter, yet just as delicious.

I’ve seen many recipes for similar chowders that call for a stick or more of butter, topping it off by adding heavy cream, but in this version you use just enough butter to give it flavor, then utilize the healthier fat in olive oil to get the job done. You also let the onions help in that area as well, as they add a heavenly background flavor. The fat free half and half makes it taste decadent too, but it’s a very pleasant illusion. Fresh corn rounds out this recipe and helps thicken and sweeten the pot.

Sometimes you just have to rethink the way you do things. Lighter doesn’t have to be bad.

What You’ll Need:
4 ears of sweet corn, removed from ear
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tablespoon of butter
1 small red onion, chopped
1 pint of fat free half and half
1 teaspoon of sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Cut the kernels off of one ear of corn. Place in the food processor and process until smooth. Set aside.

Cut the kernels of corn off of the remaining three ears of corn set aside.

In a medium sized stock pot saute red onion in butter and olive oil over medium heat until caramelized. Add pureed corn, corn kernels, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and fat free half and half stir to mix. Bring to a quick boil and then lower heat to simmer and cook covered for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Serve hot.

Makes about 4 servings.

Sweet Corn

Notes: The pureed corn helps to thicken the chowder. You could easily make this soup in the middle of winter with frozen corn kernels by processing 1 cup of corn kernels until pureed and also adding 2 cups of frozen corn kernels or by freezing corn during the summer for later use. It’s good either way, but the fresh corn right of the cob really can’t be beat! Also the leftovers are even better the next day!

Not Your Mama’s Chicken and Stars Soup

Not Your Mama's Chicken and Stars SoupAs a kid I loved Chicken and Stars soup. As I’ve grown older though canned soup just doesn’t cut it anymore. All the preservatives and salt just make it not appealing! I wanted to introduce Alexis to a childhood favorite without resorting to canned soup and I started thinking about making my own. This version has a few more vegetables than the canned variety and of course less salt! Overall I was very impressed and Alexis loved it, so what more can you ask for?

What You’ll Need:
Extra virgin olive oil
4 stalks of celery, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
2 large carrots, chopped
1 leek, chopped
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2-3 cups of chicken, chopped (You can use white or dark meat or even a little of both. Add more or less, it’s up to you.)
2 boxes of chicken stock (Or the equivalent of homemade stock, which I actually used)
1/2-1 cup of star pasta

In a large stock pot saute veggies until tender with a pinch of sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Stir in chicken and chicken broth and bring to a quick boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 20-30 minutes to let the flavors meld. Add star pasta and cook until pasta is tender, roughly 5 minutes. Serve immediately.

Notes: I thought about adding peas in after the fact. I think they would have made a nice addition, especially since I have some fresh peas in the fridge. Alexis thought it would be fun to add tomatoes into the soup and I think we might try that next time. She’s all about tomatoes and tomato based soups. It would take this soup to a whole different level!

Mushroom Broth

Mushroom Broth

I started using mushroom broth about a year ago. A lot of the commercially prepared options have way too much salt in them though! I did a little research and most broths are made from dried mushrooms. I purchased some dried varieties and I put them in the cupboard meaning to make broth. Months passed and I still hadn’t done just that!

Every spring I like to clean out the cupboards and freezer, It’s part of my spring cleaning routine. When I came across the dried mushrooms I decided it was high time to make some broth! This is the first time I’ve made homemade mushroom broth, but it turned out to be delicious! Plus it’s super simple and that’s always a plus.

Mushroom broth can be used in place of any broth. It is especially good at replacing beef broth because many mushrooms have a beefy flavor, especially portabella mushrooms, though there are no portabellas in this rendition. Mushroom broth also makes a very good soup similar to French Onion soup as well.

What You’ll Need:
1 1/2 ounces of dried wild porcini mushrooms
1/2 ounce dried crimini mushrooms
1/2 ounce of dried oyster mushrooms
3 packages of the fresh mushroom of your choice, or a mix of mushrooms
Sea salt
Black Pepper

Place mushrooms in a medium sized stock pot and add enough water to just cover the mushrooms. Add a pinch of sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook for 1 hour. Remove mushroom broth from stove and strain. Keep mushrooms for another recipe. (Mushroom soup is a good choice.) Store broth covered in the fridge for up to 2 weeks or you can freeze it for up to 6 months.

Note: The broth is very strong, so you will need to dilute it with a little water when you actually use it for cooking. You can also use whatever type of dried mushrooms you like or can find. It’s completely up to you.

Vegetarian Irish Stew

Vegetarian Irish Stew

Irish Stew is a traditional dish that usually has lamb or beef in it, but I decided that a vegetarian version would be just the thing! It’s thick, warm, hearty and delicious! It definitely hits the spot!

What You’ll Need:
2 tablespoons of Irish butter (or regular butter)
Extra virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 leek, chopped
2 ribs of celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 parsnips chopped
1 turnip, peeled and chopped
1 large potato, cut into chunks
1 small container of button mushrooms, cut into quarters
1 small container of baby portabella mushrooms, cut into quarters
1-2 teaspoons of dried thyme
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup of Jameson Irish Whiskey
1 box container of vegetable broth

In a large stockpot over medium heat melt butter with some olive oil. Stir in onions, leeks and celery and cook until tender. Add the rest of the veggies and seasonings and top with some Irish whiskey and vegetable broth. Cook for at least two hours until veggies start to break down and stew thickens.


Lentil Taco Soup

Lentil Taco Soup

This soup is a vegetarian version of your standard taco soup. It’s warm, hearty, and trust me…You won’t miss the meat!

What You’ll Need:
Extra virgin olive oil
1/2 a red onion, chopped
1 large celery rib, chopped
4 large button mushrooms, chopped
1 cup of lentils
1 tablespoon of chili powder
1 pinch of sea salt
1 pinch of freshly ground black pepper
3/4 of a 2 pound box of vegetable stock
1 – 16 ounce jar of medium salsa

Saute onion, celery and mushroom until tender.

Add lentils through vegetable stock and cook for about 50 minutes until lentils are plumped.

Stir in salsa and cook for an additional ten minutes.

Serve warm. You can eat it plain, or top it with a sprinkle of cheddar and a dollop of sour cream.

Notes: Sometimes I add green pepper into this soup and/or textured vegetable protein, but last night was out of both. If you like things a little less spicy then use less chili powder and mild salsa.

Not Your Mama’s Alphabet Soup

Alphabet Soup

As a kid most of us ate alphabet soup, but these days who wants to eat soup with all those preservatives and such a high salt content? Not me! And I certainly wouldn’t feed it to Alexis! So here’s my take on the classic. It’s warm and oh so comforting! It will remind you of your childhood.

What You’ll Need:
Extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup of red onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped into small pieces
1 rib of celery, chopped
2 large button mushrooms, chopped
1 cup of chopped tomatoes
1/2 cup of chopped scallions
1 cup of frozen peas
1 cup of frozen corn
1 1/2 cups of vegetable broth
1 – 15 ounce can of tomato sauce
1 pinch of sea salt
1 pinch of black pepper
1 pinch of dried oregano
1 pinch of dried basil
ABC noodles

Alphabet Soup

In a medium sized stock pot over medium heat saute garlic through scallions until tender. (Note: Carrots will not be tender. They will continue cooking while the soup cooks.) Add the rest of the ingredients except for ABC noodles and cook for 30 minutes to an hour. Add noodles and cook for 8-10 minutes and serve immediately.

Note: You can put in as few or as many noodles as you like. I like more so I added between 1 cup and 1 1/2 cups.

Butternut Squash Soup

Butternut Squash Soup

We woke up this morning with snow on the ground and on days like today I want to bake things and I want to make soup! I decided I wanted to make an old stand by of mine Butternut Squash Soup. This soup is creamy, hearty and just perfect for a cold winter day!

What You’ll Need For the Soup:
1 large butternut squash, peeled and chopped
1 red onion, chopped
1 large sweet potato, cut into cubes
1 large carrot, cut into chunks
1 large parsnip, peeled and cut into chunks
1 large apple, cored and chopped
1 large stalk of celery, chopped
Coarse ground pepper
Pinch of sea salt
1 container of vegetable broth

Place veggies and apple in a large stock pot and pour in broth. Add water until the veggies and apple are just covered. Add salt and pepper. Bring ingredients to a boil over medium heat and cook until tender. Remove vegetables from broth, reserving the liquid. In a food processor or blender process veggies until smooth adding broth as needed to smooth out the mixture. (Normally no more than 1 cup of broth total).

Serve immediately.

Note: Leave the peels on the potatoes and apples for added vitamins. You can also add 3 or 4 garlic cloves if you like. It’s a healthy, easy soup to play with and it’s delicious!! I usually reserve the left over broth to make lentil soup or something later.

Dianne’s Kicked Up Clam Chowder

Dianne's Kicked Up Clam Chowder

I love New England clam chowder. I mean I LOVE it! I have loved New England clam chowder since I was a child and for years I have ordered it at restaurants whenever I had the chance. A few years ago I set out to make some myself. I’ll admit at first I was a bit intimidated, because it’s yet another one of those recipes that have a “hard” mystique about it, though it’s a mystique that is unfounded as I’ve found with many recipes over the years that have that aura about them . So I developed a basic clam chowder that was creamy and good!

A year or so ago I happened to try the clam chowder at Outback Steakhouse and it had a zing to it. It took me about two seconds to realize their “zing” was Old Bay Seasoning or something like it and I decided to take my basic clam chowder recipe and add a little Old Bay and see what happened. The results were delicious!

What You’ll Need:
Extra virgin olive oil
1 red onion, chopped
2 large celery ribs or 4 small ribs, chopped
1 potato, unpeeled and cut into small cubes
1 pinch of sea salt
1 pinch of freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons to 1 tablespoon of Old Bay Seasoning (Add the amount of Old Bay in preference to your own tastes. If you want it a bit zingier go for the tablespoon, less so go for the teaspoons instead.)
1/4 cup of unbleached all purpose flour
2 – 8 ounce bottles of clam juice
1/2 a quart of half and half
3 bay leaves
1 -15 ounce cans of steamer or baby clams, drained and rinsed(If you’re in the mood for bigger clams go for the steamers. If you’ve in the mood for small bits of clams then go for the baby clams. Last night I chose the steamer clams.)

In a large stock pot over medium heat saute onion, celery and potato with salt, pepper and Old Bay seasoning until tender, but celery and onion still retain some of their color. Add flour and cook for 1-2 minutes. Then add clam juice, half and half and bay leaves and bring to a quick boil. Lower heat to simmer and cook covered stirring occasionally for 30-40 minutes. Add clams and cook for an additional 10-15 minutes and serve immediately.

Notes: I drain and rinse my clams because sometimes there is some residual sand and it’s always better to wash that away.

You add the clams at the last minute because you just want them to heat through since they are already cooked. You don’t want them to get too tough.

You can also serve this with chopped parsley if you like.

If you leave out the Old Bay seasoning you have just basic New England clam chowder.

One day I’m going to make it starting with fresh clams, but I haven’t gotten that brave yet.

Creamy Tomato Soup

Creamy Tomato Basil Soup

Earlier today when Alexis and I were at the grocery store there was a heavenly smelling tomato basil soup near the salad bar. It was one of those smells that just screamed out “Eat me! Eat me!” So when I got my salad for dinner (which I didn’t end up eating and will eat for lunch tomorrow instead) I got some of the tomato soup for lunch since we were running behind schedule. We bustled home and I couldn’t wait to try the heavenly smelling soup! Unfortunately it smelled much better than it tasted as is often the problem with store bought items.

The first bite of the soup was sickeningly sweet. I was shocked by the sugar content in this soup! Then after you got over the sugar shock you were hit by a secondary spicy heat sensation that was disturbing in that it didn’t hit your tongue in the area that normally senses heat! It was just weird! I tried to eat a little bit of it to see if I could figure out what they had done to the soup, but I just couldn’t get over the weird sweet/hot flavor combination that sort of made you feel as if you had vertigo!

So as always my brain kicked into gear and I started thinking about how easy it would be to make a simple Creamy Tomato Basil Soup and I decided to test my idea and what do you know…It worked! And it was perfect with the No Knead Bread I made yesterday! It’s simple, fast and delicious! You can have Creamy Tomato Basil Soup on the table in under an hour!

What You’ll Need:
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 red onion, chopped fine
2 large button mushrooms, chopped fine
2 baby portabella mushrooms, chopped fine
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 teaspoons of dried basil
1 pinch of sea salt
1 pinch of freshly ground black pepper
2 – 15 ounce cans of tomato sauce
1 – 6 ounce can of tomato paste
1 cup of cream

In a medium sized pot saute onion, mushrooms and garlic with basil, sea salt and black pepper until tender in a little olive oil.

Add tomato paste, tomato sauce and cream and stir until mixed.

Bring to a quick boil and then reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 30-minutes to an hour and serve.

Notes and Thoughts: Tomato sauce in and of itself is sort of sweet so I’m not sure why they thought they needed to put so much sugar into the soup. I’m all for letting nature do it’s thing and there was absolutely no need to ruin the entire soup by sugaring it up.

If you wanted you could add some red pepper flakes for a kick if you like that sort of thing.