Kill Two Soups With One Bird

Aaahhh…Autumn is finally here. I love when the cooler weather arrives. I could eat soup every night. Creamy soups are among my favorite. Soups are easy enough to make to serve a cup as a course before dinner or hearty enough to serve a bowl as the main dish. Add some crusty bread or your favorite crackers with cheese and you’ve got comfort food for the cold days that will be arriving soon.

I’m very frugal and don’t like to waste food when I don’t have to. One of my favorite cheats, when I don’t feel like cooking, is to buy a rotisserie chicken from the supermarket. We’ll have it for dinner with potato or macaroni salad and some sliced tomatoes or cucumbers; then I can usually carve off enough chicken to make chicken salad for lunch, too. That’s two super easy meals for busy days.

Next, not wanting to waste perfectly good bones, I’ll make a pot of chicken stock. There will be enough stock for a large batch of one kind of soup or two smaller batches. I prefer to make two kinds to have a variety throughout the week.

Mirepoix

A base for a good soup starts with mirepoix (pronounced meer-pwa). Mirepoix is basically a combination of aromatics, such as onions, celery, and carrots. It can be made by sautéing the vegetables in butter or olive oil or can be added raw to the other ingredients for your stock.

Frugal tip: Instead of composting or throwing away the ends of celery, onions, leeks, carrots, peppers or virtually any of your vegetables, try storing them in a bag in the freezer. Then you can just add them to your other ingredients when making stock.

Today I’m making two soups from one bird. First will be a basic chicken noodle soup. This soup turns out differently each time I make it due to the various vegetables and seasonings used in the stock. This recipe is just here as a guide. You can add whatever kind of vegetables you have and use your favorite seasonings or pasta shapes.

Flavor tip: Even after simmering your stock for hours, sometimes it may not be as flavorful as you would like. If your stock doesn’t seem to have much flavor, add a teaspoon of chicken bouillon. Add a little at a time until you get the flavor you want.

The second soup is a Sausage and Potato Soup. I originally wanted to make a creamy potato and leek soup. Traditionally, that type of soup is usually pureed. But, I was in the mood for a heartier soup with lots of chunks. Of course, I didn’t have to puree the soup, there are no rules that say it has to be pureed. After making the potato and leek soup, I thought it looked and tasted a little boring, so I decided to add some sausage, chicken and kale. Now we’re talking. This soup has all the chunks and pizzazz I was looking for.

Chicken Noodle Soup

A basic starter recipe for beginners. This easy soup recipe can be modified to make a variety of other soups.

Course Lunch, Main Course, Soup
Cuisine American
Keyword chicken, mirepoix, soup
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours
Total Time 3 hours 5 minutes
Servings 6 bowls
Author Lisa York

Ingredients

  • 1 chicken carcass
  • 1 cups onion diced
  • 1/2 cup celery diced
  • 1/2 cup carrots diced
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp poultry seasoning
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cup Stelline pasta or other small shaped pasta
  • 2 cups frozen mixed vegetables
  • water to cover all ingredients in pot

Instructions

  1. In a 5 quart pot, place the chicken carcass, onion, celery, carrots, and seasonings (see recipe note #1). Fill the pot about 2 inches from the top with water.

  2. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 3 hours. Periodically, check to make sure your liquid isn't boiling away.

  3. Strain the stock and set aside the chicken carcass to cool. (See Note # 2)

  4. Reserve 6 cups of stock for the Creamy Potato and Sausage Soup.

  5. Clean the chicken from the bones, chop to bite-sized pieces (reserve 1 cup for the Creamy Potato and Sausage Soup) and set aside. Discard the bones.

  6. Bring the remaining stock to a boil, add the pasta and frozen vegetables. Return to a boil, reduce heat and allow to simmer until pasta and vegetables are tender. Add the chicken.

Recipe Notes

Note #1 – Frugal tip: Instead of composting or throwing away the ends of celery, onions, leeks, carrots, peppers or virtually any of your vegetables, try storing them in a bag in the freezer. Then you can just add them to your other ingredients when making stock and save your fresh ingredients to add to the soup. 

Note #2 – Flavor tip: Even after simmering your stock for hours, sometimes it may not be as flavorful as you would like. If your stock doesn’t seem to have much flavor, add a teaspoon of chicken bouillon. Add a little at a time until you get the flavor you want.

 

Creamy Potato and Sausage Soup

This hearty soup is full of potatoes, leek, sausage, chicken and kale.

Course Appetizer, Dinner, Lunch
Cuisine American
Keyword chicken, kale, leek, potatoes, sausage, soup
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 8 bowls
Author Lisa York

Ingredients

  • 6 cups stock reserved from Chicken Noodle Recipe
  • 3 cups milk
  • 5 medium potatoes peeled and diced
  • 2 cups leek cleaned and sliced
  • 1/2 cup onion diced
  • 5 sausage links (I used mild, but any variety will work)
  • 12 tbsp butter divided
  • 3 – 4 tbsp olive oil divided
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 cups kale (optional) remove stems from leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 cup chicken reserved from Chicken Noodle Recipe

Instructions

  1. Peel and dice the potatoes into bite-sized pieces.

  2. Set potatoes aside.

  3. Dice the onion and set aside with the potatoes.

  4. Prepare the sausage for removal of the casings by slicing each link lengthwise.

  5. Pull the casing off of the sausage. Set the sausage aside.

  6. If using kale, remove the tough stems and just use the leaves then chop into smaller pieces. (You can use the stems, but they would need to cook much longer to be edible.)

  7. Clean the leek. Remove and discard the long leaves and root (or freeze for future stock). Slice the remaining leek into long, thin strips or rings. Rinse thoroughly to remove any residual dirt. Dry on a clean towel or paper towels and pat dry. Set aside.

  8. Prepare a skillet over medium high heat to melt 4 tbsp butter with 2 tbsp olive oil.

  9. Add the potatoes to the skillet then stir until thoroughly coated.

  10. Add the onions, salt and pepper to the potatoes Stir and reduce heat to medium low.

  11. Stir the potatoes occasionally until they are browned and tender.

  12. In another skillet, over medium heat, add 2 tbsp of butter and a drizzle of olive oil. Add the leek and garlic then saute until the leek is tender. (5-10 minutes) Then set aside.

  13. Over medium high heat, crumble the sausage into bite-sized pieces.

  14. Stirring frequently, cook the sausage until thoroughly cooked through then drain and set aside.

  15. If using kale, reserve a couple teaspoons of the sausage fat and olive oil to saute the kale. This adds a little extra flavor to the kale. Saute kale until tender.

  16. In a 5 quart pot, make a roux by melting 4 tbsp butter and constantly whisking in a little flour at a time until you've added all of the 1/2 cup. Roux will be very thick.

  17. Gradually add the milk, whisking constantly. Gradually add the stock. Continue to whisk constantly.

  18. Finally, add the cooked potatoes, sausage, leek, kale, and chicken. Simmer until all ingredients are warm and broth has thickened.

Broth vs. Stock

Broth and stock can be used in place of each other in most recipes. Broth doesn’t need to cook as long as stock. Broth is a liquid made from meat and/or vegetables simmered for a short period of time.

Stock, however, is made using bones. In order to extract the gelatin from the bones, it will need to simmer for a longer period of time. You should simmer for at least three hours, but the longer the better.

As mentioned above, mirepoix will give your stock or broth a boost of flavor. But, adding seasonings will help as well. Try experimenting with fennel, garlic, and parsley, too.

What is your favorite soup? Tell me in the comments below.

Beef Stew Comfort Food For A Gloomy Day

Happy New Year. Welcome to 2019. The first day of a new year. A time for a fresh start. Beef Stew is on the menu today. Some of my readers have noticed that I haven’t been posting much lately. As you may recall, my mother was quite ill over the summer. I’m sad to report that she passed away just before Christmas. So, I thought I’d like to honor her memory and share some of my favorite dishes that she made. I awoke to snow, rain and wind this morning. It’s an overall gloomy, humdrum of a day, so it’s a perfect day for one of my favorite comfort foods.

Mother like Daughter…not exactly

My mother made the most excellent beef stew and her gravy was always perfect. It was never lumpy and always had the ideal consistency. I’ve never quite mastered gravy. It’s usually too thick or more likely, too thin because I’m afraid of the gravy becoming too thick, so I undercompensate with the flour or corn starch.

One thing I never quite understood was why she cooked all the components of the stew separately and then mixed them together. It always seemed like a lot of extra work and a lot more pots and pans to wash. Since I’ve been attempting to duplicate her stew, I’ve tried various methods. I’m not a fan of cooking in the crock pot, but in the case of stew, it does seem rather obvious that would be the easiest process.

Trials and errors…many errors

I’ve attempted to just throw all the ingredients in the crock pot, but after 8 hours the potatoes and carrots weren’t fully cooked. Plus, I didn’t like the texture of the beef…it was still quite tough. And the gravy was way too thin.

On the second attempt, I seared the beef before adding the meat to the crock pot and upped the slow cooking time to 12 hours. To my dismay, the carrots and potatoes still were undercooked. However, the meat was much more tender and we’re on our way to a win on the gravy.

Well, I was determined, and on my third try, I started it the night before and let the crock pot go for 16 hours. Finally, it turned out pretty good, but I came to realization that it is really quite ridiculous to cook anything for 16 hours. 16 hours…No wonder my mom didn’t like using the crock pot. I eventually chalked it up to the crock pot not working at its peak performance and thought I would buy a new one before I experimented again.

Some Christmas Wishes Do Come True

I have a very generous friend who always gives the best gifts. She is thoughtful and apparently remembers everything you tell her. One day I mentioned in passing about my 16 hour beef stew and we had a little laugh over it. Well, wouldn’t you know, she got me a crock pot for Christmas. It really made my day and my next experiment of beef stew only took 5 hours in the crock pot.

I may be starting to warm up to the idea of experimenting with other recipes in the crock pot. Stay tuned.

Beef Stew

This comfort food has onions, celery, carrots, potatoes, stew beef and gravy. Chop the vegetables to your desired size. The smaller the chop of celery and onions, the more likely they’ll cook away. If you like a heartier stew, leave the pieces large. Either way, they’ll add a wonderful flavor to your stew.

Course Dinner
Keyword Stew
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 5 hours
Cooling time 1 hour
Total Time 5 hours 20 minutes
Servings 8
Author Lisa York

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds stew beef
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 medium onion chopped to desired size
  • 1 cup celery chopped to desired size
  • 1 pound baby carrots
  • 5 large potatoes chopped to bite size pieces
  • 8 cups beef broth
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce

Instructions

  1. Season the stew beef with salt, pepper and garlic powder.

    Beef Stew seasoned beef
  2. Chop the onion to desired size and layer on the bottom of the crock pot. (The order of the vegetables doesn’t really matter, but the vegetables should be at the bottom and the meat should be on top.) 

    Beef Stew onions
  3. Chop the celery to desired size and layer over the onions.

    Beef Stew celery
  4. Add the baby carrots.

    Beef Stew carrots
  5. Chop the potatoes to bite size pieces and add a layer to cover the carrots. You may need more than 5 potatoes depending on size.

    Beef Stew potatoes
  6. In a skillet, over high heat, melt the better and add the olive oil.

    Beef Stew prepared pan with oil and butter
  7. Add small amounts of the stew beef to the hot skillet, turn the pieces to sear each side. Be careful not to overcrowd the pan with the beef otherwise you’ll steam the beef instead of sear it. Searing the beef will lock in the juices and help the meat become tender during the slow cooking process.

    Beef Stew searing beef
  8. Remove the seared beef from the pan and set aside.

    Beef Stew seared beef
  9. Add a cup of the beef broth to the skillet to deglaze the juices and random pieces of beef from the pan. Pour the juices and broth over the vegetables in the crock pot.

    Beef Stew deglaze pan and add to crock pot
  10. Add one cup of flour to the seared stew beef.

    Beef Stew added flour to beef
  11. Stir the beef until each piece is well-coated with flour. The flour will thicken the broth while it cooks. 

    Beef Stew beef coated with flour
  12. Add the flour-coated beef to the crock pot. 

    Beef Stew beef coated with flour added to crock pot
  13. Add the remaining beef broth to the crock pot.

    Beef Stew added beef broth
  14. Be sure to cover all the ingredients in the crock pot. Add the Worcestershire sauce and bay leaves. Resist the urge to stir the pot. It’s best to keep the vegetables at the bottom of the crock pot where it will be the hottest.

    Beef Stew added beef broth to cover all ingredients
  15. Cook on high for 5 hours or low for 8 hours . Turn off approximately 1 hour prior to serving. The stew will remain hot, but the gravy will continue to thicken. Stir prior to serving. (Cooking times may vary depending on manufacturer make and model.) 

    Beef Stew cook on high

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The Ultimate Comfort Food – Beginning With Mirepoix

Do you know what I like about mirepoix (pronounced meer pwa)? Besides the fact that it is fun to say, it’s the basic foundation of many soups, stews and sauces. It’s commonly made up of aromatics such as carrots, celery and onions. I’m adding garlic and green bell peppers to the trio because I find it packs a lot more flavor. It’s the beginning of many layers of flavor I’ll be using today in my hearty homemade tomato sauce which then goes on to the star of the show, American Chop Suey.

Sweat or sauté

The idea of mirepoix is to sweat the vegetables over a low heat for about an hour in a small amount of fat. I like to use a little butter and extra virgin olive oil for an additional layer of flavor. You don’t necessarily want to sauté the veggies because that method cooks the product too quickly and you will get a much different flavor result. Sweating is similar to sautéing, however, at a much lower temperature and for a longer period of time. Sweating softens the veggies, releases water from them without browning. This will draw out their natural sweetness and will be helpful later when we add the tomatoes. The reward for your patience in the slow cooking of the veggies is that the sweetness from the mirepoix will neutralize some of the acid from the tomatoes.

There are many different combinations to make a mirepoix. The possibilities are endless. Most often you will see a basic mirepoix is 2 parts onion, 1 part carrot and 1 part celery. That is an excellent starting point. However, you may want to experiment with the ratios to find different flavors that suit your tastes. I find I like more carrots than onions and that is what I use in this recipe.

As I mentioned, mirepoix is found in many foods. I like to make a big batch of it so I can have it on hand for a quick soup or stew. Depending on the dish you’re making, you might even consider adding some bacon to the mixture for additional flavor. Likewise, ginger adds a lot of flavor and goes well if you use a mirepoix when making a stir fry. For other recipes, which I will share another time, I use different combinations.

The. Ultimate. Comfort. Food.

For now though, get ready for American Chop Suey, the ultimate comfort food. I’ve made this dish countless times for lunches or casual get togethers. People always seem surprised that this dish has mozzarella cheese in it. How could it not? I mean, all of the ingredients are just screaming to be covered in cheese. *Disclaimer* I am a cheese fanatic. If I could find a way to add cheese to my breakfast cereal that isn’t gross, I would totally do it. Stay tuned, you never know what challenges await.

American Chop Suey

A hearty pasta dish packed with a hearty tomato sauce, ground beef and mozzarella cheese.

Course Dinner
Keyword Pasta
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time 2 hours
Author Lisa

Ingredients

Mirepoix

  • 2 cups carrots shredded or diced
  • 2 cups red and green bell peppers diced
  • 1 cup onion diced
  • 1 cup celery diced
  • 2-3 cloves garlic minced
  • drizzle olive oil
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • pinch salt

Hearty Tomato Sauce

  • 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 3 14.5 oz cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 12 oz can tomato paste (optional - as needed)
  • 4 cups beef broth
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 2 lbs lean ground beef

American Chop Suey

  • 1 lb elbow macaroni
  • 3-4 cups mozzarella cheese shredded

Instructions

Mirepoix

  1. In a large skillet over low heat, drizzle olive oil  to coat the bottom of the pan. Add the butter until melted.

    Mirepoix ingredients
  2. Shred the carrots, dice the onions, celery and bell peppers, mince the garlic. Add to the skillet. Toss the ingredients until well coated. Add the pinch of salt. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally for approximately one hour. (Be sure to keep an eye on the vegetables, you shouldn't hear loud sizzling while it's cooking and your ingredients shouldn't turn brown. If this starts happening, reduce heat.) 

    Mirepoix simmering

Hearty tomato sauce

  1. While the vegetables are sweating, in a separate skillet, over medium heat, brown the ground beef. Add half of the broth, and all of the seasonings. Reduce heat and allow to simmer for 10 minutes.

    Ground beef for tomato sauce
  2. After the mirepoix has simmered for the hour, add the remaining broth to the mixture and bring to a low boil. 

    Mirepoix plus broth
  3. Combine the mirepoix mixture and the ground beef mixture. Then add the crushed and diced tomatoes. Continue to simmer up to another hour. The sauce will thicken and get sweeter the longer it cooks. If the sauce is too thin for your liking, you can gradually add some of the tomato paste a little at a time until your sauce reaches your desired consistency.

    hearty tomato sauce
  4. Meanwhile, cook one pound of pasta according to the package directions.

    Elbow macaroni

American Chop Suey

  1. When the pasta is cooked to your desired tenderness, gradually add the sauce and mozzarella cheese to the pasta and mix thoroughly. 

    American chop suey assembly2