Bratwurst-Lentil Soup

There’s no reason bratwurst should only be consumed grilled and on a sturdy bun with sauerkraut, spicy mustard, and onions that have, of course, been cooked in beer. In Germany, you just get a tiny piece of rye bread with which to hold your wurst, none of this big old fat sandwich business…and I digress. But sure, there are tons of other ways to use bratwurst and other link sausages, too. If you’re camping, for instance, and happen to have cooked bratwurst, you think nothing of slicing it into a pan of creamy scrambled eggs because you’re not throwing that out, ok, and there’s not enough for lunch. At home, you might mix a few leftover bites into a kitchen sink pasta salad for a fast dinner or throw together a big slow cooker full of brats and sauerkraut when friends are coming to play cards or even make a sheet pan dinner with brats and veggies. I’m partial to cooked bratwurst cut into chunks, stuck with toothpicks, and served up with a couple of different sauces (including spicy mustard!) for a meaty app. If it’s soup night (usually Thursday at our house), I could (and did) sauté a bunch of sliced bratwurst coins, add veggies, broth and lentils, et voilà, time to get out the bowls, pour the wine, and enjoy Bratwurst-Lentil Soup!

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FRIDAY FISH: Tuna-Asparagus Pasta Chowder

You adore clam chowder but your cupboard is full of tuna. It’s ok; I’ve got it covered. You can still have chowder–with tuna!! Does it work? Yes, yes; it totally does. And is it yummy? It definitely is. I thought about making chowder with canned tuna for a long time before I did it, but now that I have, it’s in my playbook for good. Tuna Chowder is easy, inexpensive, and even qualifies for what we’d call, “Cheap Eats.” This version adds some tiny ditalini pasta for fun and texture, but if you don’t like it, just add extra potatoes and you’ll be fine. Last time I cooked shrimp, I saved the shells in my freezer and was able to make a fast shrimp stock to bolster the flavor of the chowder. (Buying fish stock is above my pay grade at $3 a 15-ounce can. You can make it, though.) Vegetable broth is ok, too, and is better when spiked with a little clam juice, which is sold right near tuna at the store. Even chicken broth works in a pinch.

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Mushroom and Leek Lentil-Chickpea Soup

The beauty of a vegetable soup is manifold. It’s mouthwatering, colorful, done in a snap, affordable, versatile, full of vitamins and fiber, accessible, easily vegan/gluten-free, and pantry-friendly. Wow! The beauty of a vegetable soup with legumes, or in this case both lentils and chickpeas, is even greater as there’s the addition of plant-based protein (and lots more fiber) which makes the soup increasingly healthful — to say nothing of filling. Now all those things are true, real, and make me feel happy about putting a pot of this goodness on the table anytime. But I mostly want to make vegetable soup because I like to eat it (especially right after Super Bowl and Valentine’s Day!) and before that, I like to smell it cooking in my house. Is there anything better?

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Creamy Pumpkin-Peanut Soup

Every once in a while, it’s time to cook up an old recipe on the blog, take new photos, and tweak the dish up to today’s standard. That’s exactly what happened the other day with the blog’s very first pumpkin soup from way back in November, 2009. With my book club meeting in my living room last Thursday, I thought I’d move away from the same-old, same-old cheese and whatever….and make a soup I could serve in coffee mugs along with the glass of wine we enjoy. Change = good. I looked at the not few pumpkin soups I’ve blogged and settled on the simple, but fun 12-year-old version that is finished off with peanuts and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. As I sometimes will, I tried making it right from the original recipe, which is so old it’s not even printable. While good, it needed perking up, thickening, and expanding. I was amazed, though, to see how readable the recipe was even then. That’s not to say it didn’t need editing and redoing. It did.

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Pumpkin-Lentil Soup

From one year to the next, I keep a few cans of my favorite Libby’s 100% pumpkin in the pantry. Thanks to my father-in-law, Gene Morgan (who spent years in grocery management), I know that “old” pumpkin makes for better pumpkin pies. I see no difference in pumpkin bread, pumpkin soup, or pumpkin martinis but pie — oh yes. The pie filling is darker, feels richer-thicker though still silky, and sports a deeper flavor profile with the aged cans. This year, I’m very glad I kept those few and a couple more because when I put in an order for pumpkin, my King Sooper’s app indicated zero, nada, zip, nil, nought, nothing, though it allowed as there were a few cans of the organic variety left. I don’t like those for pie (ewww), but I’ll take them in a pinch for baked goods and so tapped the icon. When I went to pick up my groceries, I didn’t even get the organic cans. Yikes. What was the story? Should I be grabbing a few pie pumpkins out of the produce section and getting out the roasting pan? Consider a Thanksgiving featuring sweet potato pie? While I have nothing against sweet potato pie as my parents were both southerners, I like pumpkin pie so much better. What’s a baker to do?

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Creamy Zucchini-Wild Rice Chowder

We don’t always associate soup with summer, but in the same way fresh, sweet-scented peach pie demands to be baked in the dog days of August, we have to stir up zucchini soup at the exact moment the counter begins piling up once again with unending stacks of zucchini (tomatoes, cabbage…). Or when a very inexpensive, but large bag of zucchini somehow gets into our cart at Costco. And we get home only to wonder just what to do with all of that squash.

August 8: National Sneak Some Zucchini onto Your Neighbor’s Porch Day

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Chilled Carrot-Ginger Bisque

Yes, you can eat chive flowers. Whole or torn into florets. Promise. Didn’t you eat or suck on sweet clover flowers as a kid?

One day last week I went out to the garage refrigerator for carrots. It’s a common occurrence at our house as I typically buy and store a 5-pound bag of carrots in the produce bin of that fridge. While it sounds like a lot of carrots, they’re cheap in that quantity ($2.99 for 5 pounds–what else is less than 60 cents a pound?) and they last a long time. Even better, I’m never out of them for soup, stew, or just for a vegetable. It’s also not terribly unusual for me to make carrot soup as it’s lovely, healthy, fast, and can be made in several different flavor profiles. I didn’t start out with carrot soup in mind on said day, but I certainly got there pretty fast as my carrots were growing white hair — sprouting, getting ready for planting! I peeled and used the carrot I needed, but knew carrot soup, cake, bread, soufflé, salad, or gratin was in the offing. Because I wasn’t throwing away 8 or 9 carrots no matter how little they cost.

I’m reminded of a simple meme that says volumes. It goes something like, “A single carrot doesn’t seem too awfully important. Unless it took you 3 months to grow it.” And, by the way, if you’re lucky enough to get carrots with all the green frills on top, the green part is edible, too. A little carrot top pesto might be good for the soul. VEGETABLES ARE AMAZING!

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Cauliflower-White Bean Soup with Pancetta

Listen to the Julliard String Quartet/Last Movement, Beethoven String Quartet in E minor, Op. 59, No. 2….while you read!

You might — or might not — know that around my own house I’m known as “The Soup Queen.” I’m proud of my moniker and after all these years of souping, I choose to believe I deserve it. I can make a fancy-schmancy soup, having bought every single ingredient for it at a certain expense (Let’s say a gorgeous seafood stew for Christmas Eve, for instance), but there’s also the very good chance I’ll look in the refrigerator and pantry to come up with dinner based on what just happens to be lying around looking sad and sorry. Folks who know me have probably had a pot or bowl of soup left on their doorstep at some time or another — maybe when they weren’t feeling up to snuff or when I had more soup than my freezer would hold. Others have shown up for a dinner party only to find two big pots of soup on the stove and a big basket of bread on the counter along with several bottles of my favorite wines. My friend Jean, who gets a little soup every week lately as she’s recovering from a back injury, likes to say, “Please keep me on your soup list!” It makes a woman feel good.

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Slow Cooker Elk Stew for Valentine’s Day Dinner

Date night meals have been unique and even innovative for a lot of folks during the pandemic, mostly because instead of jumping in the car and heading for the nearest $$$$ restaurant, we’ve been forced to plan, create, and cook (clean up/boohoo) at home. Ordering food online or even shopping only once a week to limit time in stores means we must think ahead, deciding on a menu and making sure all of the ingredients are available, ready to use, and even thawed. (I hate thawing.) Not only that, there’s setting the table. Locating a bottle of wine. Turning on some decent music. Maybe finding a movie you haven’t seen. Getting out of your pajamas for dinner. Or not.

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Turkey Minestrone

Do you have a container of frozen turkey from the holidays in the freezer?

Just a short drive from our house in Colorado Springs is our favorite Italian market and deli Mollica’s, which is perhaps best known as a popular, packed lunch spot on Garden of the Gods Road just west of I-25. Mollica’s is the happy kind of place that still serves old school “red sauce” meals like spaghetti and meatballs or a very good lasagna (all made with fresh pasta) as well as yummy pizza and calzone — though I couldn’t call it a “pizza place.” A large part of the lunch menu has always been devoted to stellar sandwiches (think grinders from house made sausage, scratch meatballs, heroes, and hot Italian beef) and a full line of filling salads that of course are served with fresh bread and butter. While I’m ready to eat anything Mollica’s makes –check out their dinner specials, too — I nearly always choose a salad because I can also get a cup of their minestrone–a simple and herby vegetable soup that just hits the sweet spot in my tummy. Occasionally I wonder why I don’t make some minestrone at home, but for some reason, I rarely do. That just changed.

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