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Jake and I are pretty much all set for the baby to come.  The nursery is almost complete.  The gear is put together (the perks of marrying an engineer).  My belly is huge.  So now we just have to sit around for another month and a half and wait for her to make her grand entrance.  What to do, what to do…. 

I know!  Corn chowder!  As though we don’t already eat enough corn in this place.  But it’s summer and it’s corn season, so we might as well take this golden opportunity (pun intended) to eat as much as possible.  What’s funny is that there really isn’t anything as far from summer food as a hot, thick chowder.  It’s a bit of an oxymoron.  But the past week has been cold and rainy so everything worked out well and Jake and I didn’t have too much of a food identity crisis.

Originally, the idea was to make jalapeno cheddar corn bread.  But corn bread isn’t really a meal, and I didn’t want to have to make anything else (lazy).  So I made a chowder instead.  And it was deeelicious. 

The jalapenos make a big difference in the flavor.  They really gave the soup a good kick that you couldn’t get from plain old salt and pepper.  Obviously, use more or less as you like, but I definitely wouldn’t omit them.  Jake usually doesn’t like jalapenos and even he thought that they were great in this recipe. 

Cheesy Jalapeno Corn Chowder (adapted loosely from Ina Garten):

8 – 10 strips of bacon
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup flour
8 cups chicken broth
3 large light-skinned potatoes, unpeeled and cubed
2 tablespoons chopped jalapenos
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
8 cups of corn (if fresh, cook the corn in boiling water for about 3 minutes, if frozen just use the corn as is)
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded monterey jack cheese

In a large stockpot or dutch oven, cook the bacon and olive oil until the bacon is crisp. Remove the bacon set it aside, leaving the fat and olive oil in the pot. Reduce the heat to medium, add the onions and butter, and cook for about 10 minutes, until the onions are translucent.  Don’t forget to stir the onions to keep them from burning.

Stir in the flour, salt, and pepper and cook for 3 minutes. Add the chicken stock, jalapenos, and potatoes, bring to a boil, and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes, until the potatoes are tender.  Add the corn to the soup, then add the heavy cream and cheese. Cook for 5 more minutes until the cheese is melted.  Crumble the bacon on top.  The chowder can be refrigerated for a few days, and the leftovers are just as good as the first night.  Yum.

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Is there anything better than getting home from work, opening up the front door, and entering a house that smells like someone has been slaving away in the kitchen all day?  Probably.  But in that moment when you open the door it doesn’t seem like it.  Plus, chili really needs to sit for a long time so that the flavors have a chance to develop, which makes slow cooking ideal.  And then it’s even better the next day as leftovers.   Poor Buster has to sit in the house and smell it cooking all day, and then he doesn’t even get to eat any.  Must be tough.

The reason this is BBQ chili instead of normal chili is because it has BBQ sauce in it, which makes the flavor less spicy and more… smokey?  Yes, smokey sounds good.  It also adds sweetness, so I leave out the dash of sugar that I would normally put into chili (that and the V8 juice are secrets that my dad let me in on.  Thanks, Dad!). 

 

Most of the prep for this chili can be done the night before you actually make it so that you aren’t running around like a headless chicken before work in the morning.  I cook the meat, chop the veggies, get out the cooker, and put out all of the cans.  I could probably rinse the beans, but I haven’t gone that far yet.  Either way, all you have to do in the morning is throw everything together and turn the cooker on.  Easy!

Slow Cooker BBQ Chili

1 pound of ground beef or turkey
2 28 oz cans of crushed tomatoes
1 cup V8 juice
1 can of black beans, rinsed
1 can of kidney beans, rinsed
1 can of corn, rinsed
1 green pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 Tbsp chili powder (or more depending on taste)
1/2 cup BBQ sauce

Cook the meat on the stove top and put into the slow cooker.  This might not be completely necessary since it will be cooking all day, but the idea of having raw meat (especially turkey) sitting in the slow cooker kind of scares me.  Rinse the beans and add them into the pot.  Then add all of the other ingredients and close the lid.  Cook on low for 8 hours, or however long your workday is.  Mine was on for 10ish hours. 

Don’t open the slow cooker while it is cooking!  I’ve heard that every time you open the top it adds 30 minutes onto the total cooking time.  And with how good this stuff smells, you won’t want to be adding time on at the end!


Soups in general are very comforting, but I would argue that there isn’t a soup in the world more comforting than french onion soup (though tomato gives it a good run for its money!).  I mean, this soup comes with toasted bread and melted cheese as a part of the package!  Not to mention, it is both sweet and savory, and it makes great leftovers.  In the past, I always tried to save the cheese and make it so that I can have a little bit in each bite.  But when I’m making my own, I can put however much cheese I want on top, so I don’t have to be so stingy!  Hooray!

French onion soup always reminds me of this restaurant near Nonnie and Grandpa’s house in Sarasota called Manhattan Bar and Grill.  I don’t even know if it is still in business, but it seriously had the most amazing soup.  Dan and I would insist on going every time we visited.  And since we are spoiled brats, they always obliged.  

When you are picking out your onions for this soup, go ahead and get a couple of different kinds.  Much like apple pie, this is best when you have a variety of tastes coming from the onions.  I used half yellow onions and half Vidalia onions (I think), which ended up working well. 

French Onion Soup (adapted from Tyler Florence):

1/2 cup unsalted butter
6 onions, sliced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 bay leaves
2 fresh thyme sprigs
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup red wine, about 1/2 bottle
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 quarts beef broth
1 baguette, sliced
1/2 pound sliced Provolone cheese

Melt the stick of butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, bay leaves, thyme, and salt and pepper and cook until the onions are very soft and caramelized, about 25 minutes. Add the wine, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the wine has evaporated and the onions are dry, about 5 minutes. Discard the bay leaves and thyme sprigs. Dust the onions with the flour and give them a stir. Turn the heat down to medium low so the flour doesn’t burn, and cook for 5 or so minutes to cook out the raw flour taste. Now add the beef broth, bring the soup back to a simmer, and cook for at least 10 minutes. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper.

Toast the baguette slices in the oven on a large baking sheet (you might as well use the broiler since you will be using it again in a minute anyway).  Just spread the slices out in one layer and toast for just a few minutes.  Keep an eye on it because they will burn quickly..

Ladle the soup into heat-safe bowls and float several of the croutons on top, and then top with the slices of cheese.  Put under the broiler until bubbling and brown.  Be careful while handling the bowls and wait for a few minutes before eating because it will be hot!

While on the hunt for a fantastic tomato soup recipe, I looked at dozens of websites.   Literally.  There are a ton of them out there, but none of them really spoke to me.  I liked some parts of most of them, but there was always something amiss.  I’m sure that sherry is delicious in tomato soup, but I don’t keep it in the house and didn’t really want to go buy a bottle just for this.  I wanted a soup that I can make again in the future without going too far out of my way.   On the other hand, I also wanted the flavor to be more complex than just tomatoes and cream.  This Food Network recipe hit the spot.  It has several vegetables in it, so it isn’t really “tomato-y” and it has bacon in it, which is interesting and delicious.  It doesn’t call for red wine, but I put some in there and it really ended up being a nice flavor.

This soup isn’t really quick to make, but it certainly isn’t like you have to let it simmer for hours on end.  And the actual process of it is quite simple… though it’s easy for me to say that because I made it while I was alone in my house with my mute dog and no time constraints.   But, really, if you have the time to make this, it is way better than canned.  I mean, there’s bacon in it!  How bad could it be?!

Here is the recipe (slightly adapted from Food Network Test Kitchens):

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 slice bacon, finely chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup red wine
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1/2 tsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1 cup heavy cream
1 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Heat the butter in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook, stirring, until crisp and most of the fat has rendered, about 1 minute. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside. Lower the heat to medium, add the onion, carrots, celery, and garlic and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until soft and fragrant, about 8 minutes.

Stir in the flour and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes to get rid of the raw flour taste. I also threw the bacon back in the pot at this point.  Why not, right?  Next, pour in the broth, wine and tomatoes. Bring to a boil while whisking constantly. Throw in the bay leaf, parsley, and thyme.  If you have fresh parsley and thyme then you can put all of the herbs into a little bundle, but it just wasn’t happening for me.  Lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes, and then remove the pot from the heat and let cool.

Remove the bay leaf. Working in batches, transfer the mixture to a blender and puree until smooth. Return the puree to the pot and reheat over medium heat.  If you have an immersion blender then you can do this process a lot more easily and I’m guessing that your clean-up will be quicker, too!

Whisk in the heavy cream, salt, and pepper, to taste. Divide among warm soup bowls and serve immediately.  I served my soup with toasted bagel croutons, which you can make by cutting up an old bagel, sprinkling it with olive oil, and toasting it.  Yum!

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