Improvised Two Bean Soup – Saved from Disaster

photo-feb-17-4-59-25-pmI ended concocting this yesterday when I needed something to bring to an event. I made potato salad, but I didn’t like how it tasted. It ended up turning out fine, but I needed to get something else together in case the potato salad was a total fail. It seemed like my normally stockpiled pantry and fridge were empty, and almost every measuring cup or spoon I owned was in the dishwasher. So WTF do I make?

I basically had to come up with something with all of the ingredients I always keep a ton of: diced tomatoes, beans, stock, and onions. Chili wasn’t an option because all of my meat was frozen and I didn’t have time for anything to defrost.

I diced an onion and started cooking it in the dutch oven. I realized I was smart enough to freeze chipotles in adobo, so I chopped up a bunch of that and tossed it in. I added the tomatoes (28oz can), black beans, and pinto beans. I also added 1 box of beef stock. Ideally I would’ve wanted a third kind of bean, but didn’t have it. I also seasoned it with a bunch of salt and some Tastefully Simple Wahoo! Chili Seasoning (probably about 1-2 tbsp of the chili seasoning).

The soup was looking really sad. It needed more beans, but I didn’t have any. This is when I slap realized my knife skills were kind of bad on that onion. I wanted to thicken it. I grabbed the masa harina from the pantry. I would’ve liked to have used beer for this next part, but we didn’t have any. I was also not wasting any of my good wine on this! Grabbed some vodka and made a slurry with about 2/3 cup masa harina (1/3 was the only measuring cup not in the dishwasher). I stirred it into the soup, brought it to a boil, and reduced it.

It was starting to look better, but still looked sad. I decided to get the immersion blender and puree it. It was starting to look pretty good! I adjusted the seasoning, added corn, and just let it simmer for a bit, stirring occasionally. At some point I added about 2 cups of cheddar cheese and probably 8 shakes of Worcestershire. I kept tasting it and it actually tasted good. Yay!

I didn’t really think about how I was going to transport it. I don’t have a portable Crock Pot. I ladled the soup into gallon freezer bags (I made sure they were the ones that can also go in the microwave), put the bags into the crock pot, and taped the lid shut. Not ideal, but it worked!

Everyone really liked the soup, and I didn’t have much at all to bring home.

I did not add an actual recipe for this because of all of the troubleshooting I went through to make it happen, and also because I wasn’t measuring much of anything.

Creamy Chicken Tortilla Soup

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Cold, cold day today, and I spent several hours outside at the barn this afternoon. Soup was definitely a good choice to help me warm up when I got home.

Ingredients

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 tbsp Tastefully Simple Wahoo! chili seasoning
1 jalapeno
1 medium onion
3 cloves garlic
1 chipotle pepper in adobo + about 2tsp of the sauce
28oz can diced tomatoes
3 cups frozen corn
2 tbsp butter
¼ cup masa harina
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup heavy cream
Monterey jack cheese
Tortilla strips (store bought or homemade)
Salt

Instructions

Dice onion and jalapeño (after removing seeds). Mince garlic. Rough chop chili. Don’t worry too much about having perfect knife skills because you’re just going to puree it all later.

Boil chicken breasts in a medium pot. Salt the water! Set the chicken aside when finished.

Melt butter in a dutch oven (or other large pot) over medium heat. Cook onions, jalapeño, garlic, & chipotle+sauce until the onions are translucent.

Add tomatoes and chili seasoning. Cook for a few minutes, then add chicken stock.

Use an immersion blender to puree everything in the pot. If you don’t have an immersion blender, you can use a regular blender. Just be careful because hot/steamy stuff + blenders aren’t always a good combo.

Add the masa harina. Use the immersion blender to get rid of any chunks that form. This is a good time to taste it and add salt. Don’t worry if you think it’s too spicy right now. The cream will take care of that later. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.

Add the corn. (Get the tortilla strips in the oven now if you’re making them)

Pull or shred the chicken. I use the stand mixer for this. Toss the chicken in and use the beater on speed 2 for about 30-45 seconds. I always cover it with a towel because sometimes pieces like to fly out. You can also pull it with a fork instead.

Add the chicken to the soup. Stir in the heavy cream. Taste again, and add more salt if needed. Let it cook on low for about 10 more minutes.

Serve and garnish with the cheese and tortilla strips.

Tortilla Strips

Use a pizza cutter to cut tortillas into strips. I cut small tortillas into quarters, then cut into strips. You have two options – fry until golden, or bake. I baked these since they were going in soup. Coat in olive oil, season with salt. Line up the strips on a baking sheet and bake on 350 until golden.

Mom’s Fruitcake Cookies

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We used to make fruitcake cookies every Christmas when I was little. My mom has come to visit the last several years for Christmas, and we’ve made them again every time. They’re just so good! If you hate fruitcake, don’t assume you’ll hate these. They really don’t taste like an actual fruitcake. The main similarity with actual fruitcake is the candied fruit. And I have no idea how the front and center one in the photo ended up with so much less fruit than the others. It must’ve come from the last bit of dough. Oh well!

As you’ll see below, the recipe calls for various candied fruits. I highly recommend buying the individual packages of each one and cutting them yourself instead of getting the one with chopped mixed fruit. There is usually too much citron in the mixed container. We made that mistake one year and it completely ruined the taste. If you want some citrus, add a small amount of citron or some lemon zest.

I think this recipe yields about 5 dozen, but give me a margin of error of +/- 2 dozen. Next time I make them I’ll update.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 ½ cups all purpose flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 package chopped dates (or you can get whole ones and chop them)
  • 1 package candied pineapple
  • 1 package candied red cherries
  • 1 package candied green cherries
  • 1 cup chopped pecans (optional, I don’t usually add them)

Instructions 

Preheat oven to 375°.

Cut candied cherries into quarters. (If you’re feeling lazy like I am sometimes, a rough chop is ok. Just make sure the pieces are 1/4 size or smaller.) If the pineapple pieces are larger than the quartered cherry pieces, chop into pieces similar in size to the chopped cherries. If your dates aren’t chopped, give them a rough chop. I like the dates a smaller than the cherry pieces, but that’s personal preference.

Combine flour, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon and set aside.

Cream butter. Add sugar gradually and beat well until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and beat well after each addition.

Gradually add flour mixture to the creamed butter and sugar. Make sure the flour from each addition is incorporated before adding the next.

Stir in fruit and optional nuts.

Drop dough by the teaspoonful onto a greased cookie sheet. (Or use a cookie scoop. I seriously love this thing.)

Bake for about 12-14 minutes until lightly browned.

Snow Day Chili-Stew

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We had a blizzard last year, and I wanted to make something warm for us to eat while taking breaks from shoveling feet of snow. I’ll be making this again for sure during the next mega-snow! I call it a chili-stew because it has some elements of a chili and other elements of a stew. I didn’t think it was “chili” enough to just call it a chili.

Ingredients

1 to 1 ½ lb sirloin
¼ package red kidney beans
1 jalapeño 
2 poblano peppers
4 tomatillos
4 cloves garlic
1 medium onion
¼ cup masa harina
Olive oil
About ½ cup fresh or frozen corn
2 cups beef stock
½ bottle beer
Worcestershire sauce
Maggi liquid seasoning (This can be hard to find. If you can’t, just add a little more Worcestershire)
2 chipotle peppers in adobo, roughly chopped
¼ cup apple juice
Cumin
Chili powder
Cayenne

Instead of the cumin, cayenne, and chili powder, you can also use Tastefully Simple Wahoo! Chili seasoning.

Instructions 

Prep kidney beans according to package instructions. This takes about an hour for the non-overnight method. Drain and rinse when done.

While beans are soaking, roast poblanos and jalapeño. Turn on broiler. Coat peppers in olive oil. Roast until charred, about 10 minutes. You can also roast them on a gas burner, but we don’t have a gas range in our new house (sad face).

Dice onion and mince garlic. Set aside (together). Remove husks from tomatillos and roughly chop. Cut off tops of poblanos and jalapeño and roughly chop. Roughly chop 2 chipotles. Set aside tomatillos, poblanos, jalapeño, and chipotles together.

Trim sirloin and cut into small pieces, about the size of your thumb above the knuckle.

Heat approx. 3 tbsp olive oil in dutch oven on med-high. Add sirloin with salt & pepper. Cook until brown. Add masa harina, stir, and toast for 1 minute. If it gets too dry, add more olive oil. It should be a dry-ish paste, not really wet, and but not super dry. Add garlic and onion, cook a few minutes.

Deglaze with beer.

Add beef stock, peppers, and tomatillos. Stir. Salt liberally. Add about 5-8 dashes Worcestershire and 10-15 dashes maggi. Add about 1 tsp each chili powder and cumin. Add about ½ tsp cayenne. (Measurements are approximate. Adjust to taste as it cooks). Add beans and corn.

8. Bring to boil, reduce to simmer. Simmer for about 2 to 2 ½ hours. Stir and scrape the bottom of the pot about every 30 minutes. Taste each time and adjust seasoning to taste. Add apple juice in the last 30 minutes (optional, to cut down the level of spicy).

Troubleshooting 

Too spicy? Add some apple juice. Don’t have apps juice? Toss a peeled potato into the bottom of the pot to absorb some of the spice. Don’t have that either? Add some sugar.

Not spicy enough? Add cayenne or some juice from the chipotle peppers.

Not flavorful enough? Add more cumin, cayenne, & chili powder.

Doesn’t taste brown enough? (Yeah, this is a thing) Add more Worcestershire and/or Maggi.