Happy Discoveries in the Kitchen

Ever had one of those aha moments when you tweak a recipe or find a new ingredient and your dish turns out magnificent? My kitchen stars were aligned just right, and I learned something new and exciting about cooking recently.

It started with a magazine/cookbook that my sister gave me a couple of years ago entitled Taste of Home Heartwarming Soups. In fact, she also gave one to my first cousin, who started trying the recipes before I did. Before long, our cooking conversations went like this:

Susanne: “Have you tried page 51? It’s called Black Bean Soup. It’s delicious!”
Me: “No, but I tried page 42, Vegetable Soup with Dumplings, and it’s great!”
Susanne: “I love the barley in the soup on page 17!”
Me: “I think we could add barley to any of these soups.”

And so on. I can honestly say that I have not tried a single bad recipe in the entire book. Susanne either. But what we are learning is that a few simple ingredients, tweaked a little depending on what is in your larder, makes for delicious soups. Want to add a little spice to a simple chicken and vegetable soup? Add a jar of salsa! Want to have a basis for any soup, whether meat or chicken? Start with vegetable broth!

Who ever heard of vegetable broth? I never did! But now I am singing its praises. It seems to bring out the flavors of the meats and vegetables better than either chicken broth (can be too bland) or beef broth (can be too strong).

But what about those vegetables and their flavoring? Many soups from the book also rely on a simple basis of celery, onion, and carrots, finely chopped and sautéed before adding to the vegetable broth. This combination alone adds more flavoring than any spice or seasoning. In fact, even salt and pepper are barely needed.

This past weekend, Chef Kevin Kilburn, of Florence, Alabama, was featured in the TimesDaily with his cooking school and basic skills tips. I just happened to notice one of his definitions: “Mirepoix is a sautéed mixture of two parts onion to one part each carrots and celery that’s the base for stocks and sauces.” Mirepoix! This is the discovery I made by studying recipes from my Taste of Home cookbook! No wonder my soups were turning out so delicious!

Another discovery awaited me just this week. Because I am trying to cook healthier for my family, I am constantly adjusting our meat intake to lower fat products. I use turkey bacon, turkey sausage, ground turkey, and the leanest ground beef available when cooking with meats. For many meals, I leave off the meat altogether and rely on beans and other vegetables for substance and flavor. But, I happened to see ground chicken in the grocery store and decided to try it. Voila! It had beautiful texture and flavor, and I did not have the worry about spoilage as I do with turkey.

Below is a recipe that I threw together inspired by my Taste of Home cookbook using products I had on hand.

Ground Chicken Soup with Vegetables

1 medium onion
3 Carrots
2 stalks celery
3 – 4 medium potatoes
1 – 2 cans vegetable broth (14.5oz ea)
2 cans vegetable juice (6oz ea)
1 can petite diced tomatoes (28 oz)
1 lb ground chicken
2 Tbsp canola or olive oil
1 can dark red kidney beans, rinsed & drained (or whatever is in the larder)
½ cup frozen baby lima beans
½ cup frozen green beans
½ cup frozen English peas
½ cup frozen corn
Salt & pepper to taste

Saute chopped onion, carrots, and celery in skillet until crisp tender and transfer to pot or dutch oven. Brown ground chicken in skillet with your choice of oil and transfer to pot. Add 1 can vegetable broth, vegetable juice and petite diced tomatoes. Bring to boil. Add potatoes and simmer for 8 – 10 minutes so potatoes are softened not quite done. Add kidney beans, baby lima beans, green beans, English peas, and corn. Add second can of vegetable broth if needed. Cook another 8 – 10 minutes until vegetables are warmed and potatoes done.

Substitutions/Additions:
Canned mixed vegetables
Any frozen or fresh vegetable
1 – 2 cups cabbage (yummy)
Black beans, light red kidney beans, garbanzo beans, all rinsed & drained

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4 Comments

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  1. 3
    Lynn Schmauder

    There’s a product called Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP) that is a great meat-substitute in soups and pasta sauce. I get Bob’s Red Mill brand at Whole Foods, but I think you can order it from Amazon too. It has no flavor but takes on the flavor of whatever you put it in. For those who would consider a vegetarian diet if not for worrying about lack of protein, you should try this. fyi – one can get plenty of protein eating a wide variety vegetables and fruits along with a few nuts and nut butters.

    I’m enjoying your writing, Em! Love you!

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