Soups and Stews

The Beau and I have been going in different directions for weeks, so I wanted to make a special Sunday Supper. Whenever I want to make something lovely, I drift toward the incomparable Julia Child and her beef bourguignon, or at least my version of it.

Tonight’s take on the classic French beef stew uses a rioja rather than a burgundy, and has more of an au jus than a stew-y sauce.


5 slices thick cut, uncured bacon, cut into large pieces
4 beef tenderloins, cut into large pieces
1 cup beef stock
1 cup Rioja (Spanish red wine)
1 tbs minced garlic
1 tbs tomato paste
1 tsp dried thyme
1 lb frozen pearl onions
1 lb fresh carrots, peeled, cut long-ways
2 cups crimini mushrooms, cleaned, sliced


How I Made It

Cook the bacon in a non-stick skillet. Transfer the bacon to the slow cooker/crock pot with a slotted spoon. Brown the tenderloin pieces in the bacon fat, and then transfer them with a slotted spoon to the crock pot. Add the frozen pearl onions on top.


Add the wine to the skillet and scrape the brown bits up with a spoon or spatula.  When it starts to bubble and all the bits have been incorporated, add the beef broth.  Then add the garlic, tomato paste, and thyme and stir to combine. Let it cook on medium-high heat for a minute or two before pouring the sauce into the slow cooker.

Cover and let the concoction cook on low heat for 8 hours.  Add the mushrooms at 4 hours, and the carrots an hour or two before the end (depending on how crisp you want them).

Serve over mashed potatoes. If you need more veggies, green beans are a perfect side.

How It Turned Out

The Beau made all sorts of happy sounds at the table, and was quick to take a big bowl of leftovers for his lunch tomorrow.  I think I might like it better than the original, not just because it’s easier but because the sauce is a bit lighter.


My friend Elizabeth introduced me to African groundnut stew, a wonderfully spicy comfort dish. This version is as easy to make as it is tasty.


2 chicken breasts, skinless and boneless
5 chicken thighs, skinless and boneless
2 tbs olive oil
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
2 lbs of small red potatoes with skins, quartered
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes (no salt if you can find them)
2 cups of  chicken broth
2 tbs tomato paste
2 tsp minced ginger
2 tsp curry powder
2 tsp crushed red pepper
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1 lb baby carrots

How I Made It:

In a nonstick skillet over medium high heat, sear the chicken breasts and thighs in the olive oil.  Don’t cook it all the way through, just get a nice browning on each side of the pieces of chicken.

Put the chicken in the bottom of the crock pot.  Top with the chopped onion and potatoes.  Add the diced tomatoes, then pour 1 and 1/2 cups of the chicken broth over the top.  In the remaining half cup of chicken broth, mix the tomato paste, curry, and ginger.  Pour the broth mixture over the top of the chicken in the crock pot.  Spoon the peanut butter in dollops over the top, then sprinkle with the red pepper.

Cover and cook on high in the crock pot for 4 hours.  Add the baby carrots, stirring the stew with a spoon to ensure that everything is mixed and the chicken starts to break up.  Cook on high for another hour or so.

How It Turned Out:

Holy kamoley — it’s good!  Just spicy enough, the flavors distinct yet complementing each other perfectly. Makes exactly 8 servings, and pairs well with warm naan or flat bread.

African Chicken Stew


This is an easy yet elegant bisque, perfect for family supper on a snowy night or as a soup course of a fancier meal for company.


1 box Pomi strained tomatoes
1 box Pomi chopped tomatoes
1 jar Eden’s Organic crushed  tomatoes with sweet basil
1 cup heavy cream
2 tbs butter
1 heaping tbs Buitoni basil pesto

How I Made It:

In a large heavy bottom saucepan or soup pot (I love my bouillabaisse pot from Le Creuset), heat the three tomato ingredients over low-medium heat. When it is heated through, use an immersion blender to remove any lumps and achieve a smooth consistency.

Whisk in the cream and butter and reduce the heat to low.  Cover and let simmer for about 10 minutes, whisking occasionally to prevent the soup from sticking.  Whisk in the pesto right before serving.

Makes 8 servings.

How It Turned Out:

Tomato Basil Bisque

Rich, creamy, and wonderful with a crusty whole wheat bread.

When it’s cold and miserable outside, I want food that is warm and comforting inside. This potato soup recipe has been handed down for four generations in my mother’s family, probably because it’s so simple and so satisfying.


2 medium yellow onions, minced (I used my recently resuscitated food processor for this task — way better than crying with a paring knife.)
1 tsp minced garlic
1 stick of unsalted butter
3 bags Ore-Ida Steam and Mash potatoes (steamed, not mashed)
2 cups whole milk
2 cups low fat milk (2% or 1%, not skim)
2 cups vegetable stock
black pepper to taste

How I Made It

In a large soup pot, melt the butter over low heat.  When it’s melted, add the onion and garlic. Cook over low-medium heat for about 5-7 minutes.  The onions should turn a lovely foamy yellow and smell wonderful — they should not brown.  Slowly add the milks and the vegetable stock.

While the onions cook, cook the Steam and Mash potatoes as directed.  It used to be that I washed, peeled, chopped, and boiled 5 pounds of potatoes to make this soup, but no more!!  I’m not usually a corner-cutter, but who in their right mind wants to peel 5 pounds of potatoes?!?!?

When the potatoes are done, add them to your pot and combine gently with a large spoon or rubber spatula.  Reduce the heat to the lowest setting and let it cook gently for 30 minutes or so.  About 10 minutes before you are ready to serve, increase the heat to medium so it’s plenty hot. Pepper to taste.  (If you think it’s too lumpy or too soupy, use an immersion blender to achieve whatever consistency you prefer.)

Serve with a variety of garnish (shredded cheese, bacon crumbles, French’s fried onions, green onions, etc.) and fresh bread. Makes 8 heaping servings.

How It Turned Out

Seconds were had by all, so I’ll take that as a good sign.

I feel guilty about going out of town and leaving a full fridge, so I’m always giving away random produce and dairy on my way to the airport. Turns out, that neurosis isn’t unique to me. I was recently asked to rescue some bison, peppers, and other ingredients for chili from a wandering friend’s fridge. This is the result (sadly, the peppers didn’t make it – RIP).


1 lb ground bison (free range, vegetarian fed)
2 cups dried black beans (rinsed and soaked over night)
4 organic tomatoes, diced
1 cup diced onion (I use frozen because I hate chopping onions)
1 8oz package of frozen organic corn
2 cans organic tomato sauce
2 chipotle peppers in adobe sauce, removed from sauce and chopped

How I made it:

Brown the meat over medium-high heat in a large non-stick pot. Once the meat is cooked through (no pink), add the onion and cook until onions are translucent. Add the chopped tomatoes, beans, and corn.  Stir to combine all the ingredients, and then add the tomato sauce. Stir to combine again. Add the chipotle pepper last and stir again.

Turn the heat down to low, and cook for an hour or until the beans are soft.

How it turned out:

Boy, howdy! Two little peppers brought the heat to the entire big pot of chili. For little kids and wimps like me, one pepper would be enough.

Spring weather in Southeast Alaska ranges from warm and beautiful (rare) to cold and rainy (not rare). On cold and rainy days, soup is always on the menu. Today, it’s a chowder using my two favorite vegetables: broccoli and corn. This chowder is packed with veggies and just a little heat.


4 slices uncured bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup chopped onion (if using frozen, be sure it is thawed and patted dry to prevent splattering when added to the pot)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
32 oz reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 large baking potato, peeled and diced
1 bag frozen broccoli, corn, and red pepper mix
8 oz frozen broccoli florets
1  1/2 cup 2% milk
1/2 tbs crushed red pepper

How I Made It

In a large non-stick dutch oven or soup pot, cook the bacon over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon to a paper-towel lined plate.

Increase the heat to medium and cook the onion until it begins to soften, stirring frequently. Add the flour and cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly.  Add the chicken broth and potato and bring the pot to a boil. Then reduce it to a simmer and cook until the potato is tender, about 10 minutes.

Add the broccoli, corn, and peppers, and the milk. Cook until the broccoli is crisp yet tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Season with 1/2 tbs crushed red pepper. Serve topped with bacon (and a little cheese if you’ve been extra good), and a crusty roll. Makes 4-6 servings, depending on the portion.

How It Turned Out


This is not a thick chowder (but it’s not too watery, either). I like my vegetables crisp, so I took my supper bowl as soon as the vegetables were done. Left to simmer for another 30 minutes, it’s much thicker (but the veggies are soft). Either way, this is warm and comforting on a rainy Sunday afternoon.

One way to ensure a balanced meal is to put the vegetables and the protein in the same dish (just make sure there are more veggies than there is meat). This chili is packed with protein and fiber and has just 3.2 grams of saturated fat and 268 calories.


1 lb 93% lean ground beef ($2.75)
6 oz frozen onion ($.60)
2 15 oz cans organic black beans ($1.25/each)
2 10 oz cans Rotel ($1.29/each)
1 15 oz can organic tomato sauce ($1.19)
1 tsp Gourmet Garden organic chili paste ($.03)
1 15 oz can of stewed tomatoes with mexican seasoning ($1.25)
2 cans of whole kernel corn ($1.49/each)
shredded mexican blend cheese ($.30/tbs)

How I made it:

In a heavy stock pot, combine the beans, tomatoes, and corn and cook over medium heat.  Be sure to rinse the beans and corn before you add them, to reduce the extra sodium in the dish.  Add the chili paste. Stir to combine well and cover. Let cook while the ground beef and onions finish.

Brown the ground beef in a non-stick skillet. Because this is not the leanest ground beef, there will be a lot of fat in the pan.  Be sure to skim it all off to reduce the fat in the chili.  Add the onions and cook until they are translucent.

Add the meat and onions to the vegetables and stir well.  Cook until bubbly.  If you like it hot, add some more chili paste or some red pepper flakes. Garnish with 1 tbs shredded mexican blend cheese.

Makes 10 one cup servings. Cost: $1.68/serving.

(My favorite taste tester says a one cup serving is not a real serving, but it’s actually quite filling.)

Nutrition information:

Based on the Recommended Daily Intake values (which not everyone follows), this meal has 1/3 your day’s protein and 30% of the fiber.  Based on the new Choose My Plate dietary guidance, this chili is over half fruits and vegetables and uses lean protein and a little dairy.

Smart shopping:

Coupons and store specials are your friend.  One of the reasons I used ground beef with a higher fat content is that it was buy one package get one free. I got 6+ pounds of ground beef for $17.07 (a savings of over 75 cents a pound).  I’m also always on the look out for coupons and sales on things like Rotel, canned tomatoes, and beans. I use these ingredients a lot, so I stock up when I can.

Store brands can also be your friend. Especially Safeway’s O Organics brand. Often, the organic Safeway brand of canned goods is the same — if not a lower — price than regular brands.

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