Creamy Cucumber and Avocado Soup

YIELDS | 4 SERVINGS

PREP TIME | 10 MINS

COOK TIME 0 MINS

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This may be the quintessential summer soup. Served cold, it is light, refreshing and highly nutritious. This versatile soup would look beautiful on a table set for brunch, a wedding or holiday but it is easy enough to make for any weekday meal. Use cashew yogurt and veggie broth for a wonderful vegan option.

INGREDIENTS

* 2 cups cucumber, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped
* 1 small avocado, peeled and coarsely chopped.
* 1 teaspoon cumin
* 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
* 1 tsp kosher salt
* 1/2 cup sour cream or Greek yogurt
* 1/2 cup vegetable stock.Slices of thin cucumbers for garnish.
* 2 tablespoons shelled roasted pistachios, coarsely chopped, optional

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Pour all ingredients into a high-speed blender and process until very smooth.
2. Taste and add additional salt if necessary.
3. Pour into individual bowls, garnish with pistachios, if using, and a drizzle of olive oil.

NOTES

Creamy Asparagus Soup

YIELDS | 4-6 SERVINGS

PREP TIME | 10 MINS

COOK TIME | 15 MINS

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Is there an easier and better tasting soup than this French classic? I think not! I love the creamy texture, earthy flavor and beautiful celadon hue. This dish can be prepared a head of time and then garnished before a fancy dinner party. Served warm or cold, it makes for an easy, filling week day meal too.

INGREDIENTS

* 2 leeks, trimmed, coarsely chopped, white and light green parts only
* 2 large shallots, chopped
* 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
* 3/4 teaspoon salt2 tablespoons butter or ghee
* 2 1/2 lbs asparagus, ends trimmed, coarsely chopped. Save a few spears for garnish
* 4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
* 1 cup milk of choice plus 1/4 heavy whipping cream, optional
* Pepitas for garnish
* Salt and freshly ground pepper

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Wash chopped leek in a bowl of cold water, then lift out and drain well.
2. In a large pot over medium-low heat, add butter or ghee and cook leeks and shallots until the vegetables soften, about 3-5 minutes.
3. Add asparagus and broth and season with 1/2 tsp salt and a few cranks of freshly ground pepper, cover and simmer until asparagus is tender about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from heat to cool for a few minutes. Set the pot aside to reheat the soup.
4. Purée soup in batches in a high-speed blender or food processor until the mixture is smooth about 30 seconds or longer depending on your equipment. Pour each batch into one large bowl. Be careful when working with hot liquid. Do not over fill the blender.
5. Strain the mixture through a strainer back into the large pot. Stir in the milk and cream, if using. Add additional salt and pepper to taste and heat over medium low heat until warmed through before serving.
6. Garnish with halved asparagus spears, a swirl of cream and pepitas.

NOTES

Be careful when working with hot liquid. Do not over fill the blender.

Seafood, Sausage, and Chicken Gumbo

YIELDS | 8-10 SERVINGS

PREP TIME | 15 MINS

COOK TIME | 40 MINS

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This is a southern, classic Creole dish. It is piquant, satisfying and full of sausage, shrimp, chicken and vegetables. The dark roux binds it all together with a deep, rich flavor and the okra adds an earthy, starchy texture. Be sure to use a large enough pot because this recipes make a large batch that won’t last long! Serve with hot, cooked rice and warm, fluffy cornbread.

INGREDIENTS

* 1⁄2 pound bacon, chopped
* About 1⁄2 cup vegetable oil
* 3/4 cup all purpose flour
* 2 celery ribs, chopped
* 1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
* 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
* 1 large jalapeno, minced
* 5 garlic cloves, minced
* 8 cups fish or chicken stock or a combination of both
* 1 (14 oz) can chopped tomatoes with juices
* 1 Lb frozen cut okra, do not thaw
* 1 tsp chopped thyme
* 1 bay leaf
* 1 heaping teaspoon cayenne
* 1 Tablespoon kosher salt
* 1 Tablespoon black pepper
* 1⁄2 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
* 6-7 scallions, chopped
* 1 lb andouille sausage, 1⁄2” slice. If the sausage is larger in diameter then slice 1/2″ and slice in half
* 1 lb chicken thighs, cut into bite-size pieces.
* 1 lb raw shrimp, rinsed, deveined and tails removed
* Big bowl of hot, cooked long grain rice

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Cook bacon in a very large, heavy pot (preferably cast-iron), over medium heat, until browned but not crisp. Transfer bacon to a bowl with a slotted spoon and set aside.
2. Turn the heat down to medium-low, add the oil and the flour and stir with a wooden spoon. Cook the roux, stirring constantly, until well browned to a shade of dark peanut butter, 15-20 minutes. Do not leave the pot because it will burn-promise.
3. Add the tomatoes, celery, bell pepper, onion, jalapeño and garlic and cook for a 2-3 minutes.
4. Add stock, okra, sausage, chicken, thyme, bay leaf, cayenne, salt and pepper. Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are very tender, about 30 minutes.
5. While the Gumbo simmers, make the rice.
6. Add the parsley, scallions, shrimp and cook, stirring, until shrimp is just cooked through, about 3-5 minutes.
7. Stir bacon and simmer until heated through. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Discard bay leaf.
8. Serve with hot, cooked rice.

NOTES

Happy Eating!

Mussels with Tomato, Wine and Herbs

YIELDS | 4-6 SERVINGS

PREP TIME | 10 MINS

COOK TIME | 15 MINS

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I grew up watching my dad make mussels a few different ways but this Provençal recipe is my favorite. It is my go to recipe when I want a no fuss, yet festive meal. This dish makes a beautiful presentation but it is the taste of the garlicky, herbaceous broth and succulent mussels that create the memories. Bonus: kids tend to like them too. Serve with a crisp green salad, crusty loaf of bread and a good chardonnay. Nothing closer to heaven!

INGREDIENTS

* 5 pounds fresh mussels
* 4 tablespoons olive oil
* 4 plump garlic cloves, minced
* 1 large yellow onion, chopped, about 1 cup.
* 2-28 oz cans whole canned tomatoes, coarsely chopped
* 1-6 oz can tomato paste
* 1 cup dry white wine
* 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes or more to taste
* 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, optional
* 4 sprigs fresh thyme, or 2 teaspoons dried
* 1 sprig fresh rosemary, minced or 1 teaspoon dried, be sure it is finely chopped
* 1 bay leaf
* 1/4 cup tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley plus more for garnish
* 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
* Large loaf of warm, crusty bread, optional but really worth the calories

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Remove beards from the mussels, scrub the mussels and place in a large colander and rinse well. Let drain fully. Discard any mussels that are partially open or have cracked shells.
2. In a large pot or dutch oven with lid, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook for 3-4 minutes and then add the garlic and stir for 1 minute more or until fragrant.
3. Add saffron, pepper flakes, thyme, rosemary, bay leaf, salt and pepper and stir to blend the flavors. Add the wine and bring to a simmer and cook for 2-3 minutes to cook off some of the alcohol. Add the tomato paste and stir until blended.
4. Bring the heat to medium-high, add the tomatoes and their juices, mussels and parsley and give the mussels and tomato mixture a good stir. Cover and cook until all mussels are opened, about 4-6 minutes, remove from heat but keep covered and let sit for 2-3 more minutes.
5. Pour the mussels into a large serving bowl (or serve in pot). Sprinkle with additional Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Serve with a warm loaf of crusty bread and a crisp Chardonnay.

NOTES

When our meal was finished and the kitchen was clean, I would scrub the shells and give them to my son, Adam, when he was young. He would plop them into the bath tub and pretend he was at the beach. We did the same thing with clam shells too.

Wild Rice and Pecan Stuffing and Soup

YIELDS | 8-10 SERVINGS

PREP TIME | 25 MINS

COOK TIME | 90 MINS

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This double duty recipe blends several tastes that results in a savory, slightly sweet, chewy and tender stuffing. This dish tastes equally as good with turkey as it does with chicken or stuffed into a pork roast. I removed a few steps I felt were necessary and a fair amount of the fat typically found in many stuffing recipes. Be sure to make extra because you definitely will want to make the soup found below in notes-it is that good!

INGREDIENTS

Preheat oven to 350 if not using as stuffing

* 1 ½ cups chopped celery
* 1 cup chopped onion
* 2 cups uncooked wild rice or 1 cup wildfire e and 1 cup long grain brown rice, will yield 6 cups cooked rice
* 2 garlic cloves, minced 
* 1 Tablespoon fresh sage, minced
* 2 cups chicken broth
* 1 ½ tablespoons chopped fresh sage 
* 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
* 4 egg yolks, Save the egg whites to use in another recipe
* 1/2 cup sherry or good cooking wine
* 3 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/2 orange, peeled, pith removed and chopped
* ½ cup chopped pecans, toasted
* ½ teaspoon salt
* ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

INSTRUCTIONS

1. In a medium to large pot or Dutch oven over high heat, bring 5 cups water to a rapid. Add 1 tablespoon kosher salt. Add wild rice and brown rice, if using and gently stir rice only once only, reduce heat to simmer and partially cover pot and cook until rice is tender, about 35-50 minutes. Drain and transfer rice to a large bowl.
2. In the same Dutch oven or pot, Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions, garlic and celery and sauté until onions are golden, 10–15 minutes. Add sage and cook for 1-2 more minutes or until fragrant.
4. Add flour and cook, stirring, for 1-2 minutes. Slowly add the stock, one cup at a time, stir to thicken and then add next cup, stirring for about 4-5 minutes. Add rice back into pot and stir.
6. Whisk egg yolks and sherry together in a small bowl and then gently mix into rice mixture. Add chopped pecans and orange pieces and mix to incorporate.
7. season to taste with salt and pepper. Mix well and season with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.
9. Stuff cavity of turkey just before roasting. If not using as stuffing, bake in oven for 45 minutes at 350 degrees.

NOTES

Double Duty Recipe:
Make a Greek inspired soup with lemon and leftover turkey or chicken. Mix 2 cups stuffing with 4 cups chicken broth, juice from one lemon and leftover cooked, chopped turkey or chicken. Heat through, season to taste with kosher salt, freshly ground pepper and serve.
If you have extra stuffing leftover, put it into a small baking dish, cover it tightly with foil and then place it in the oven for the last 45 minutes the turkey roasts. Add additional broth if necessary.
Add chopped mushrooms in apricot and/or walnuts for different variations.

Chicken Pumpkin and Black Bean Chili

YIELDS | 4-6 SERVINGS

PREP TIME | 15 MINS

COOK TIME | 45 MINS

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Black beans, vegetables and chicken simmering in a rich pumpkin sauce spiked with herbs, garlic and chili. This warm and savory dish will warm you up on the coldest of evenings. It tastes even better the second day. Swap out chickpeas for the chicken and vegetable broth for the chicken broth for an amazing Vegetarian option.

INGREDIENTS

* 1 tablespoon olive oil
* 3 cloves garlic, minced
* 1 medium onion, chopped
* 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
* 1 jalapeño or Serrano pepper, seeded and diced
* 1-14oz can crushed tomatoes
* 2-14oz cans black beans, drained and rinsed
* 3 cups chicken or turkey broth
* 2- 14 0z cans pumpkin puree or 4 cups fresh pumpkin
* 2 stalks celery, trimmed and chopped
* 1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
* ¾ teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
* 2 tablespoons chili powder
* 2 teaspoons cumin
* 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
* ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper or to taste, optional
* 3-4 cups boneless skinless chicken or turkey thighs or breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
* Chopped partially for garnish, optional

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Place olive oil in a large pot or dutch oven, over medium high heat. Once oil is hot, add garlic, onion, hot pepper, red bell pepper, carrot and celery. Reduce heat to simmer, cover pot and sauté for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
2. Add the crushed tomatoes, broth, pumpkin puree, black beans, chili powder, cumin, cayenne, if using and rosemary. Stir until combined.
3. Add chicken or turkey. Cover and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Add additional salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

NOTES