My husband asked me to write down the beef barley soup I concocted yesterday, since he said it was "restaurant quality," so here goes (read it all the way through before preparing):
Brown 1lb chunks of stew meat in bacon fat, stir in chopped onion, celery, and carrots, about a cup of each.
After a few minutes, add 4 cups beef stock and 4 cups chicken stock, a half pound more of stew meat (not browned), 2 bay leaves, 1 T Worcestershire sauce, 1 T tamari (or soy sauce), 1 T Trader Joe's umami paste (optional - can use tomato paste), 1/2 t seasoning salt, 1/2 t garlic salt, 1 t chicken bouillon concentrate (because the cartons of stock from Trader Joe's aren't as flavorful, though healthier), and top with a cup of sliced mushrooms.
I did all this in my instant pot. Turn it to the slow cook setting on normal for two hours. Turn it up to high for another hour. Add Trader Joe's quick cooking barley for the last 20 minutes.
How I concocted last weekend’s Turkey Spinach Artichoke Chowder - definitely a rough draft (speaking as a writer), but it was delicious (husband raved) and I will be making a final version the next time I have turkey gravy (may be a while):
I wasn’t paying attention to amounts (I rarely do), but the base of this soup was leftover turkey gravy (from Christmas dinner) and chicken broth.
I made the meatballs out of ground turkey, frozen chopped spinach (defrosted in the microwave), parmesan (the canned stuff, I admit it), garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper, and - here’s the weird part - cream cheese. Next time I would soften the cream cheese and thoroughly mix it with the seasonings before adding it to the meat, but this time I got away with putting it in the mixture in random chunks (I tried to distribute evenly) and letting them melt into the soup.
So basically, I brought the base (gravy/broth) to a boil, added in roasted red potatoes I had frozen (you could use fresh, but just cook longer), reboiled, lowered to simmering, and added the meatballs (making them as I went - plop, plop, plop).
Then I added some quartered (or maybe it was halved) canned artichoke hearts (that I had frozen, but I don’t think that matters).
After ten minutes or so, I thickened it by adding potato starch and sour cream (next time I will dissolve the potato starch into the sour cream - or a cupful of soup - to avoid glops).
Cooked for another five minutes and it was done.
It rained for an hour this afternoon and that was all it took to put me in the mood for soup. I was on the countdown with the spinach from Costco (today is the "best use by" date) and my red potatoes have seen better days, so what better to marry them then a rich broth made from spicy sausage and cream (actually half and half)?
Potato Spinach Sausage Soup
1 T butter (I actually used bacon fat from pastured pigs)
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
4 stalks celery, finely chopped (I used my mini-chopper)
1 1/2-2 lbs small red potatoes, quartered
4-6 cups spinach
1.5 pounds spicy sausage (or add spices to ground pork - I did a mixture of both, from pastured pigs)
4 cups water
1/2-1 cup half and half
1. Saute onion and celery in butter (or bacon fat) for five minutes in a stock pot.
2. Stir in garlic and saute for one minute.
3. Pour in water and add about a teaspoon of sea salt (or to taste).
4. Turn up the heat to high, add potatoes, seasonings (to taste) and bring to a boil.
5. Turn to down to a simmer, form the sausage into meatballs (about 1" in diameter), and drop them into the broth, one by one (or all at once, if you read this and decided to make the meatballs in advance, and then let them cook for a few minutes).
6. Pour the spinach on top, spreading it out across the pot, then gently stirring it (it's okay if the meatballs break up a little, or even if they totally crumble).
7. Simmer until meat is fully cooked and spinach is nicely wilted.
8. Stir in the half and half and simmer until heated through.
9. Serve with freshly grated parmesan cheese, black pepper, and red pepper flakes at the table.
When I got out the red onions at at 1pm to make egg salad (my 3rd attempt), I noticed they were going moldy...so I consulted the slow cooker French onion soup recipe I had pinned to Pinterest, sliced the onions (4) and put them in the crockpot with 1/4 cup butter, 4 cups beef broth, and a splash of worcestershire sauce. Then we had to leave for piano lessons, so I (yet again) didn't have time to make the egg salad (I need the colored eggshells for a mosaic project - also from Pinterest - I'm leading in our co-op art class next week. I also need to use up the lox from Costco whose expiration date was last week).
When we got back home, I thought my husband must have made something really savory for lunch (he had come home right when we were leaving) until I remembered I was cooking soup. About four o'clock it occurred to me to beef it up - literally - with that leftover uncooked slab of pot roast I had saved in the freezer. So I defrosted the meat in the microwave, put it in the soup, and turned it up to high. At 6:15, I pulled the meat out, cut it into smaller pieces, and put it back in. I tasted the broth and decided it needed more flavor, so I added a half cup of red wine and another cup of beef broth, as well as more worcestershire and a good shake of granulated garlic (it's my go-to ingredient). I turned it back down to low.
No gruyere in the house (never is) nor any oven safe soup bowls (been meaning to get some for over a decade), so I got the sliced sourdough out of the freezer, defrosted four large slices in the microwave, meanwhile grated sharp white cheddar and mozzarella (in the form of multiple string cheese sticks) into a gallon ziploc bag (yet another Pinterest find, but I think it may have originated with Cooks Illustrated - it all blurs together after the last million websites or so). I lined a cookie sheet with foil, put the bread (each slice cut in half) on it, and sprinkled the cheese evenly on all the pieces. I stuck it in the broiler and then grated a bunch more cheese which I put at the bottom of each soup bowl. When the cheese toast was done, I ladled the soup into the bowls, floated a toast in each bowl, and topped with the rest of the grated cheese.
With freshly ground pepper, a glass of the aforementioned wine (the soup gave me an excuse to open the bottle), and the oohs and ahs of the whole family (at least in the beginning until my picky ten year-old began to complain of soggy bread), including raves from my husband who deemed it restaurant quality (he used to work in some posh ones), I sat down to a very enjoyable dinner I hadn't expected to make. And that is why I will never be someone who menu plans ;)
I concocted this vivid green soup in an attempt to use up vegetables that were past their prime, and happily, it resulted in one of my best "cream of" soups to date. The best part was that my kids actually ate it...and were shocked to find out it what was in it! I rewarded them with the shocking pink antithesis to this :)
Creamy Asparagus Spinach Soup
1lb asparagus, tough ends snapped off, cut in 1-inch pieces, tips reserved
4 cups spinach
1 bunch scallions (green onions), chopped4 cups chicken stock4 T butter (divided in 1/2)
1 cup sour cream
2 T lemon juice
4 T butter (divided in half)
1/2 t granulated garlic (or garlic powder)
1/2 t granulated onion (or onion powder)
1. Saute scallions and asparagus pieces (not tips) in 2 T butter over medium heat for 5 minutes.
2. Add chicken stock and turn up heat to high.
3. When it boils, turn down to medium-low, add spinach and seasonings.
4. Simmer until asparagus is tender (about 10 minutes).
5. Turn down heat to low, and using an immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth.
6. Stir in reserved tips, remaining 2 T butter, sour cream, lemon juice, and heat through.
7. Serve with freshly cracked pepper and grated parmesan.
*Disclaimer: amounts are approximate - use less, taste, add more, repeat...