Creamy Sweet Potato Soup

January 19th, 2015

Sweet Potato Soup 1

It has been quite a week.  Even with a simple kitchen remodel, daily tasks can revert to chaos.  We were able to use our kitchen during the facelift, but because of a leak under the sink, washing dishes was a problem.  I ended up washing dishes in the sink in the garage.  We have eaten simple soups, grilled steaks with baked potatoes and homemade pizza.  This sweet potato soup was one of my favorites.  Not only was it easy, but it was delicious.  When you are in the middle of a project, cooking sweet potatoes in the microwave is a blessing.  Add them to some chicken broth, seasonings, and a quick whir in the immersion blender and dinner is ready.  The bacon, shaved parmesan and parsley is just an added bonus if you have the time.

Florida Kitchen New

Here is a sneak peek of the kitchen remodel.  I will show you more later because not everything is finished.  The contractors were one door short on  the order.  The cabinet to the right of the stove is missing a door.  We also need the contractors to come back to re-adjust shelf heights in one cabinet.  Other than that, we are very pleased with the results.  The cabinets are a shaker style with a subtle bead board panel inset in each door.  To break things up, I requested glass doors in the cabinet over the dishwasher.  I store all of my glassware and cream colored dishes there.   Because we still have soffits over the cabinets, I decided to get creative on top.  I bought inexpensive corrugated metal letters spelling out “Dinner” to add an industrial element to the design.  I already had a “Bon Appetit” sign and black and cream plates on the other wall above the stove.  More later.

Sweet Potato Soup 2

This creamy sweet potato soup came together so quickly, that I thought to myself,” I need to have these ingredients on hand at all times for a quick and easy meal”.  David is not always a fan of sweet potatoes, but this soup convinced him otherwise.  It is thick and hearty.  The crisp bacon and Parmesan shavings complement the whole bowl to perfection.

On another note, hold all of your family and friends close.  We have just lost a dear friend from our college years to cancer.  John will be missed.  My, where have the years gone and why do we have to start dealing with the lose of friends?  I am not ready.

I am linking this to Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farm.


2 pounds sweet potatoes, halved lengthwise (about 2 large)
1/4 cup water
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onions
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
4 cups unsalted chicken stock
1/4 teaspoon salt ( I added more )
6 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled
1 ounce fresh Parmesan cheese, shaved (about 1/4 cup)
2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley leaves

Place potatoes, cut sides down, in an 11 x 7-inch microwave safe baking dish.  Add 1/4 cup water; cover with plastic wrap.  Microwave at HIGH 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender.  Cool slightly; discard potato skins.

Heat a saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add oil; swirl to coat.  Add onion; saute 1 minute or until translucent.  Stir in cumin and red pepper.  Add stock to pan; bring to a boil.  Add sweet potatoes and gently mix in breaking them up slightly.  I used an immersion blender to puree the mixture.  If you do not have an immersion blender,  mix half of the mixture at a time in a blender or food processor until smooth.  Return to pan to reheat.

Divide soup evenly among 4 to 6 bowls; sprinkle cooked bacon and Parmesan cheese evenly over top.  Garnish with parsley, if desired.

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Venetian Fish Soup

December 3rd, 2014

Venetian Fish Soup 1

I don’t know about you, but after the Thanksgiving holidays I crave food that is totally different from that table of white carbs and sweet desserts.  Also, for health reasons, David is trying to eat better.  So he has been on a seafood soup kick lately.  He spends his mornings at the gym and then comes home and throws something together like this Venetian fish soup.  Similar to bouillabaisse or cioppino, this fragrant fish soup is vibrant and alive with flavor.

Venetian Fish Soup 2V

Shrimp and fish fillets are the protein in this soup.  Combined with vegetables, clam juice, crushed tomatoes and white wine, you have a relatively light bowl of goodness.  If you wanted to add some carbs to the mix you could add a piece of garlic infused toasted baguette to the bowl before you add the soup.  But for lunch we liked it just the way that it was.

Venetian Fish Soup 3

The recipe came from Food and Wine Magazine.  David adapted it slightly.  But I am showing it here as it was written.  I am fortunate to have him in the kitchen doing his healthy cooking.  Maybe it will offset all of the cookies I am getting ready to make.


1/2 pound large shrimp, shells removed and reserved
2 cups water
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 carrots, chopped
2 onions, chopped
1 fennel bulb, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 1/2 cups bottled clam juice
2 1/2 cups canned crushed tomatoes in puree (from a 28-ounce can)
1/4 teaspoon dried red-pepper flakes
5 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt or more, depending on the saltiness of the clam juice
2 bay leaves
2 pounds moderately firm white fish fillets such as cod, halibut, ocean perch, orange roughy, or pollack (cut in pieces)
Freshly ground black pepper

Put the shrimp shells and the water in a small pot; bring the water to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes.  Strain the shrimp stock into a bowl.  Discard the shells.

In a large pot, heat the oil over moderate heat.  Add the carrots, onions, fennel, celery and garlic; cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables start to soften, about 5 minutes.  Add the wine; cook until it almost evaporates, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the shrimp stock, clam juice, tomatoes, red-pepper flakes, 4 tablespoons of the parsley, the thyme, salt and bay leaves.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, for 25 minutes.  Taste for salt and, if needed, add more,  Remove the bay leaves.

Add the fish, shrimp, the remaining tablespoon parsley and the pepper to the pot and bring to a simmer.  Simmer until the fish and shrimp are just done, about 2 minutes.

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The Best Tomato Soup

February 19th, 2013

We are in North Carolina celebrating our Grandson’s second birthday.  The weather has been cold and snowy.  It was a treat to walk into our Son and DIL’s home for lunch the other day.  Big fluffy flakes of snow coated our hair and eyelashes and the landscape was being quickly transformed from winter brown to winter white.  Opening the door we were greeted with the aroma of freshly baked butterscotch bars and simmering homemade tomato soup.

The children were excited about the snow and there was a festive air to our lunch consisting of Kristen’s soup and grilled cheese sandwiches on sourdough bread.  The soup was piping hot and had a depth of flavor you just can’t achieve by opening a single can.  It was a little smoky from the bacon, bright from the fresh basil and thyme and rich from the crushed tomatoes, chicken broth and cream.  That is why I am calling this “The Best Tomato Soup”.  It was indeed the best I have ever eaten.

I think you will agree.


olive oil
1 large or 2 small shallots – diced
6 strips of bacon – chopped
1/2 cup white wine
2 garlic cloves – diced
2 tbsp. chopped thyme
2 tbsp. chopped basil
1 tbsp. sugar
1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
3 oz. tomato paste
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup chicken broth



In a large pot, heat 2 tbsp. of olive oil over medium heat.  Add shallots and cook until soft.  Add bacon and cook until golden brown and crispy.  Add garlic, thyme, basil, and tomato paste and continue to cook for another minute or two.  Add white wine to deglaze pan.  Simmer until reduced by 1/3.  Add crushed tomatoes, cream, chicken broth, salt and sugar (to taste).  Bring to a simmer for 10 minutes.  Remove from heat and puree soup in the pot with immersion blender until it reaches the consistency you desire. Return to heat and keep warm on low (or medium low) until you’re ready to eat.

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A Big Pot of Chili

October 4th, 2012

Back in early Summer Larry from Big Dude’s Eclectic Ramblings had a giveaway on his blog.  He was giving away his homemade chili powder to 3 lucky winners.  I was one of the winners.  He uses high quality herbs and spices from Penzy’s in his chili blend.  It is made up of chipotle pepper, ancho pepper, garlic powder, ground cumin, Mexican oregano, paprika, onion powder, cilantro, and thyme powder.

All I can tell you is that it is like chili in a jar.  One sniff of it will transport you to visions of a big pot of chili.  Larry asked for feedback on his blend and all I can say is “don’t change a thing”.  This is now the blend I will use in every pot of chili that I make.  I think he should market it.

With Fall in the air I knew it was time to get out my big, deep cast iron pot to make a batch of chili.  My chili has always been made as a whim on my part.  I have made it with chunks of beef, flavored it with chocolate, and made one pot with so many peppers in it that our guests couldn’t eat it.  There has never been a set recipe.  But this pot turned out so well that I am committing it to memory and this post.

I like contrast in a bowl of chili so I used three kinds of beans; black beans, cannellini beans and chili beans (flavored pinto beans).  I wanted a quick chili so I used ground beef.  The sauce was a combination of canned crushed tomatoes and canned marinara sauce.  But what made it really good was Larry’s chili powder blend.

Thanks Larry for a great gift.  When I run out I will gladly pay you for a new supply.


1 1/3 pounds ground chuck
1 large onion, chopped
3 heaping tablespoons Chili Blend
Salt and pepper to taste
1 28 ounce can crushed, peeled Italian tomatoes
1 1/2 cups Marinara Sauce (I like Rao’s Homemade Sauce)
1 15 ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 15 ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 15 ounce can Harvest Farms Organic chili beans (not drained)
Cayenne pepper to taste (I did not use it.  The blend was just right for my taste)

Brown ground beef and onion in a pot until cooked through.  Drain off fat.  Return to stove and add chili blend and salt and pepper.  Cook stirring for a few minutes.  Add canned tomatoes and marinara sauce.  Reduce heat to low and cook stirring occasionally for about 30 minutes.  Add beans and continue to cook for an additional 30 minutes on low heat.  Add cayenne pepper if chili is not hot enough for you.

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Chicken Gnocchi Soup

September 28th, 2012

Soup season is upon us.  So many of my favorite blogs are featuring delicious concoctions in a pot; everything from Pasta e fagiolo to Indian-spiced lentils and lamb stew.  Everyone has such warming, stick-to-the-ribs recipes.  This chicken gnocchi soup came about because it was what I had in the pantry and fridge.

The night before I made the soup we had a roasted chicken from an organic bird for which I had gladly paid a premium price.  I flavored it with rosemary, tarragon and lemon.  I turned the pan drippings into a light sauce by adding a little more chicken broth thickened with cornstarch and adding more tarragon.  It was delicious with tarragon flavored rice pilaf.  With a half of a chicken leftover and the pan drippings, I knew I wanted to make a soup.  I did not want to waste one iota of that succulent bird.

In my pantry was a package of mini-gnocchi, which you can find on the pasta aisle of your supermarket,  a box of chicken broth, and onions.  The fridge yielded carrots, celery, broccoli  spears and half and half.  I was good to go.

This was a most satisfying soup and it was easy to make.  Some of the components were influenced by the Chicken Gnocchi Soup that is served at Olive Garden.  But basically it was influenced by what I had on hand.

“There is nothing like soup.  It is by nature eccentric: not two are ever alike, unless of course you get your soup in a can.”   Laurie Colwin, Home Cooking (1988).


1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion chopped
3 stalks of celery, chopped
2 carrots, shredded
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 teaspoons fresh thyme sprigs
1 pound of cooked, cubed chicken (Or 1/2 of a roasted chicken)
4 cups chicken broth
Drippings or gravy from roasted chicken if you have it
1 16 ounce package mini potato gnocchi
2 cups blanched broccoli florets
2 cups half and half
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in large pot over medium heat.  Add onion, celery, carrots, garlic and thyme and cook until the onion is softened.  Add the chicken cubes and broth and cook over medium heat for 5 to 10 minutes.  Add the gnocchi and cook until dumplings come to the top (about 5 minutes).  Add broccoli and cook over low heat for about 10 minutes.  Stir in half and half and heat until hot but not boiling.  Season with salt and pepper and serve.

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© Penny Klett, Lake Lure Cottage Kitchen. All rights reserved.