Browsing Category: real food recipes

“Get Well Soon” with this simple soup

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Simple Soup

This soup is so simple, it’s really just a dressed-up broth, but that’s the beauty of it. Even when you’re feeling a bit under the weather, it’s easy to make for yourself. Or to ask a cooking newbie in the house to make for you!

Of course, if you like, you can add any number of things to it and come up with a more substantial soup: cooked noodles or rice, diced carrots, peas, celery… But when I’m not feeling quite up to par, I like the simplicity of the broth and just one or two additions.

“Get Well Soon” – a Simple Soup

2 c. good quality chicken broth (such as this one)
1 white mushroom
1 green onion
salt and pepper to taste

In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring the broth just to a boil, then turn down to a simmer.

Thinly slice the mushroom and add it to the broth. Thinly slice the mushroom and green onion; set a few slices of the greenest part of the onion for garnish, if you like. Add the rest to the broth.

Continue to simmer until the mushrooms are done to your liking. If you like them just barely cooked, pull it off the heat then. Or you can leave it on the heat till the ‘shrooms have reduced in size by about a third. They may also turn a little darker; that’s okay.

Once the mushrooms are done to your liking, taste the soup and add salt and pepper to your taste. (Pepper is optional.)

Serves 2

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DIY taco seasoning (sugar-free, gluten-free)

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Did you know that the packaged taco seasoning you buy may contain milk solids, sugar, maltodextrin, corn starch or potato starch? The labels pictured here are from a name-brand seasoning mix and the store brand of a major grocery chain. The latter has more salt in it than it does chili powder!


Whether you’re trying to avoid salt, sugar, or allergens, the great thing about making your own seasoning mixes is that you can control exactly what goes in it.

Here’s a taco seasoning mix I make and keep on hand. It works great in ground beef tacos and shredded chicken tacos. I also use it mixed in with the sour cream layer in my seven layer dip.

It does contain salt, but if that’s an issue in your house, you can leave it out or sub a lower-sodium alternative.

I’ve included two versions: The first will generously season 1 lb. of hamburger; the second gives you plenty to keep on hand.

Taco seasoning mix, single use

1 T. chili powder
1-1/2 t. ground cumin
1 t. black pepper
1/2 t. kosher salt    (if using table salt, use half this amount)
1/2 t. paprika
1/4 t. garlic powder
1/4 t. onion powder
1/4 t. crushed red pepper flakes (or less, to taste)
1/4 t. dried oregano

Taco seasoning mix, big batch

1/4 c. chili powder
2 Tb. ground cumin
4 t.  black pepper
2 t.  kosher salt    (if using table salt, use half this amount)
2 t.  paprika
1 t.  garlic powder
1 t.  onion powder
1 t.  crushed red pepper flakes (or less, to taste)
1 t.  dried oregano

Slightly spicy slaw: for pork or fish tacos

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Slightly spicy slaw

I made these Chipotle Pork Tacos for dinner last night. I love that I can prep everything ahead, throw the pork in the marinade, and chill it while I go do other stuff. Then when it’s time to actually cook dinner, all I have to do is cook up the onions and pork — which just takes a few minutes — warm up the tortillas, and we’re good to go!

I wanted to get some vegetables on the plate, though, and I thought slaw sounded like a nice go-with. I surfed the net looking for a southwestern-y slaw recipe, but didn’t find anything that just fit the bill. So I improvised this, and it was a hit! Because I used half mayo, half sour cream, the mayo flavor doesn’t overwhelm. The spicy-sweet flavor and crispy-creamy texture of this slaw is the perfect complement to the tacos, in my opinion. I think it would also be great on fish tacos, with barbecue, or straight-up on its own. (Which is how I had it for lunch today.)

Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce comes in a little can, but it still takes me forever to use one up. (Spice wimp.) So after I’ve opened a can and used what I need for that recipe, I put the rest in a labeled glass jar and keep it in the fridge.

If you’ve never used chipotles in adobo sauce, here’s what you need to know: the sauce is fairly mild; the flesh of the peppers is quite a bit hotter, and the seeds are ridiculously hot. (To me, anyway. Consider the source.) So adjust what parts you use and the amount you use to your own tolerance for spiciness. Of course, it’s best to start mild, taste it, then add more if you so desire.

A little tip about slicing green onions: I’ve found that slicing them on the diagonal not only looks fancier, it also keeps the little buggers from rolling off the cutting board.

Slightly Spicy Slaw

1/4 cup mayo
1 teasp. chipotle chiles and/or adobo sauce (more if you like things spicy)
1 green onion
2 t. red wine vinegar or lime juice
1 pkt. Splenda or 2 teasp. sugar or 1.5 teasp. honey
1/8 teasp. salt – or just a few shakes
3 cup slaw-cut cabbage

Dice the chipotle pepper small, and remove any seeds. Slice the green onion thinly, discarding the roots and any wilty parts of the green.

Put everything except for the cabbage in a medium bowl, and stir till well blended. Then add the slaw and stir till all is well combined. Chill for 1-2 hours.

Use to top pork or fish tacos. A topping of cilantro highly recommended.

Serves 4.

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You might also like:
Almost-Panera’s Asian Chicken Salad
Make your own taco seasoning
Pulled Pork Pasta with Ancho Cream Sauce

Roasted vegetables

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The first time I had roasted vegetables was in one of our favorite restaurants on The Plaza in Kansas City. I was blown away by the flavor! This was nothing like any boiled, steamed, pan-fried or grilled vegetable I had ever had. The carrots, onions and peppers tasted like they’d been drenched in a just-sweet-enough sauce. The potatoes were perfectly salted and savory. I asked the waiter what they did to make the vegetables so sweet. “They’re just roasted with a little olive oil, salt and pepper,” he replied.

“There’s no sugar?” I asked, incredulous. He assured me there was not.

When we returned home, I hunted down some recipes for roasted vegetables. None of them called for sugar. I tried one. And just as the waiter had sworn, roasting them brought out their hidden sweetness.

After a few experiments, this is the recipe we’ve settled on. It’s become a standard on the Thanksgiving table, and a family favorite. In fact, my daughter’s request for dinner tonight, before she heads back to the land of dorm food, was chicken with mushroom sauce and roasted vegetables.

Roasted vegetables
Ready in about 1.25 hours    Servings: 3

2 T. olive oil, divided
4 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
2 new potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 yellow onion, cut into generous chunks, to taste
1 red bell pepper
1/4 bunch fresh asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces (or left whole, if you like)
rosemary or thyme to taste (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

Note: to double the recipe, use two pans. Vegetables should not be crowded in the pan.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease roasting pan with 1 tablespoon olive oil.

Place the carrots and potatoes onto the pan, and toss to coat with oil. Give them plenty of room. If the pan is too crowded, the veggies will steam, not roast, and you won’t get that lovely caramelization.

Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and turn each piece over. Don’t be afraid if the carrots are looking really dark, even almost black. Just taste one!

Then add the onion and bell pepper, and drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil; toss all to coat; bake for 10 more minutes. (We were short on onion tonight, so there will be more of them in your pan. Assuming you plan ahead better than I do.)

To remove the woody end of the asparagus, just bend the stalk gently until it snaps in two. It will naturally break where the woody part becomes tender.

After the onion and bell pepper have had their 10 minutes, add the asparagus. Sprinkle all with herbs, if using. Continue baking until all of the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes more. Once tender, remove from the oven, and allow to cool for 10 – 15 minutes in the pan.

Sprinkle with salt and pepper, if desired. Serve warm. Learn how to deal with your new popularity.

Salsa Verde Chicken

Mmm… Made this for dinner tonight! The original recipe from simplyrecipes.com is super simple, but I wanted to get some vegetables and fiber in the meal without making a second dish, so I put one 10-oz. can of Rotel with Lime and Cilantro and part of a can of black beans in the pan before putting the chicken breasts in. It worked great! I placed the hot, cheesy chicken on the dinner plate first, then scooped out some of the saucy beans and tomatoes as a side dish. And all from one pan!

Oh, and I only used one 7 oz. can of salsa verde. Yeah, I’m a spice wimp!