MEXICAN CORN CHOWDER

You won’t find a lot of soup recipes on here. I don’t love soup enough to eat it when it’s hot outside and as you know, I live where it’s always hot outside. Whenever I go back to Canada in winter though, I am reminded of the comfort of the warmth of a good soup and I feel sad that I can’t appreciate that where I am. I know nobody feels sorry for me living in sunny skies and palm trees all the time. But you have to admit, no matter where you live, there’s always something you miss from somewhere else. And that’s okay. It helps us appreciate other places.

I love corn. One thing I have a hard time with is watching all the food bloggers at the end of summer say how much corn on the cob they have and what are they to do with it???? I can make it through the rhubarb posts (not a big fan), the strawberry posts (a little harder) but once corn arrives in Canada and the USA, so does my jealous rage that I can’t have it. They do sell corn on the cob here but it isn’t even close to what I grew up with and I’ve never grown to like it. I really miss that peaches and cream corn on the cob soaked in butter and salt that got all stuck in my teeth that we would eat for a month straight every year. Ah the memories that flooded back just writing that sentence.

I always have a bag of frozen corn in the freezer. My husband isn’t a big fan but if I had my way, I would add it to so many more things. Besides the taste, I love that it gives food that bright burst of colour. Most veggies are red or green which already brightens up a picture or you plate but that burst of yellow just makes it all the more better.

This soup can be made in less than 30 minutes but it won’t hurt if you leave it to simmer for awhile or even overnight in the fridge. You know things always taste better the next day. The small amount of chipotle gives it a little burst of smokiness and spice to the soft corn taste. You can even half the amount of chipotle. I put too much in the first time and it was too overpowering so you can adjust that to your liking.

If you are using corn on the cob, after you cut off the kernels, add the cobs themselves right to the pot and simmer mixture with those cobs. It will add a depth of flavour to the soup. Don’t forget to remove them before you puree.

And if you try it in summer with all that fresh corn on the cob you have, I know it’ll be even better. Maybe just don’t show me all the gorgeous corn, please and thanks.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 TAB butter
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 1/2 cups frozen corn kernels
  • 3 cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1 tsp finely chopped chipotle in adobo
  • pinch of smoked paprika
  • 2 TAB cilantro leaves
  • 1 lime, zested
  • bacon bits to garnish (optional)
  • chopped cilantro or parsley to garnish (optional)

DIRECTIONS:

In a medium size pot, melt butter. Add onion and garlic and cook on medium heat until onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Add corn kernels and sauté until golden brown, about 5 minutes for frozen, less for fresh or canned. Add stock, chipotle, and paprika. Simmer, stirring mixture occasionally until corn is tender, about 10 minutes. Turn off heat. Remove about half a cup of mixture to separate dish and reserve. With emulsion blender or regular blender, puree mixture until smooth. Add 2 TAB coriander leaves and lime zest and puree a little more. (If mixture is too spicy for you, add the juice from the lime). Add the reserved mixture back into the soup.

Serve hot, and topped with bacon and cilantro if you desire.

Serves 2.

**Note: If you have corn on the cob, cut the kernels off but add the cobs into the soup when it’s simmering. It’ll give it a beautiful depth of flavour!

Dairy Free Creamy Leek & Potato Soup

One of the bonuses of making soups is you can make them at any time, refrigerate, freeze, photograph, eat ….. whenever.  Some food doesn’t freeze well, or even refrigerate well (Pasta a la Carbonara for example), but a soup?  Often better even after it’s sat in the fridge until the next day.

One things that often frustrates me as a mother is that my desire to cook up a storm doesn’t always match the cravings of the people in my house.  My daughter usually asks me for soup on a brutally hot day, when the last thing I want to do is cook.  Or I’m happily making recipe after recipe and, well, my son is playing basketball, my husband “isn’t hungry” and my daughter is over at her friend’s house.  In the past, I have given many a food item away, only to be told the next day by a family member “why did you give that away? I would have eaten it today!”

Ug.  Mom’s can’t win.

Yesterday was one of those days.  Husband is napping.  Teenagers are running around the neighborhood.  And yet, I’m in the mood for soup.  So I took a few of my favorite things and played around and came up with this.  It’s not shockingly inventive, but it’s solidly good, and tastes even better today.

How convenient, considering it’s meatless Monday.

Ever make your own croutons?  Instead of ditching that old loaf of bread, pita, whatever, freeze it and the next time you’ve made soup, make your own croutons too.  Years ago, one of Martha Stewart’s recipes called for pita croutons, and to this day, they’re my favorite.  Just cut slices of the pita, toss some salt (and rosemary if you desire, like I do) on them, and fry them in a little olive oil until crunchy.  Yum.

You can feel good about this because it’s dairy free too.  I put a butter option in there instead of the olive oil in case somebody doesn’t care and has to have a little butter in their soup (because sometimes you just need the butter).

Hope this warms you up today.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil (or 1/4 cup butter)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 3 leeks, sliced
  • 1/2 jalapeno, seeded and diced
  • 5 potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 TAB thyme
  • 8 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

In a large pot, heat oil or butter over medium heat.  Add onion and saute for 5 minutes, or until translucent.  Add garlic, leeks, and jalapeno, and saute for another ten minutes or so.  Add potatoes, spices, and broth.  Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer until potatoes are fork tender, about 30 minutes.  Turn off heat and let cool about 15 minutes before transferring to a blender.  (Don’t fill the blender up more than 3/4 of the way or have the soup too hot, or it’ll blow the top off).   Repeat until all liquid is creamy.  Return to pot and rewarm.

Serve with grated cheese, croutons, or refrigerate or freeze.

 

 

Thai Ginger Carrot soup

This soup was a recipe that I made and sold when we had our little cafe here in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.  It was very cost-efficient, I could always find the ingredients, and it froze beautifully.  While I love a brothy soup, I also love how thick this is, without being full of heavy cream.  And never mind that colour!

I find a lot of recipes online that I have to adjust because I cannot find all the ingredients for them here.  Or, if I can, I don’t feel like searching for them only to find them today and not tomorrow.  Even when ingredients seem that they’ll always be there, sometimes they’re not.  For example, this week I couldn’t find icing sugar anywhere.  Icing sugar? Really?  Argh.  It’s like there was an icing sugar convention and every bag in town was bought for desserts and displays.

That’s not what cooking is about to me.  I want it to be delicious, beautiful, different, but I just don’t have the time to spend hours going from store to store, wondering why they had an ingredient last week, but not this.  I would love to spend hours scouring farmers markets, trying all those beautiful options out there, but they don’t exist here.   So, I make the best of what I have, literally.

While I don’t need to be warmed up here very often in the Caribbean, you might need to be, and this soup with do the trick without all those extra calories.  Double it, freeze the leftovers, and warm it up again when you get home late because of a snowy day.

It will warm you and brighten your table.

 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 TAB sesame oil
  • 1 sweet onion, chopped (I use the Mexican white onion here, but a vidalia would be lovely)
  • 4 garlic cloves, diced
  • 3 inch ginger root, diced
  • 2 lbs carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 thai chili pepper, chopped (I use whatever chili pepper I can find)
  • 5 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 can coconut milk

DIRECTIONS:

Heat sesame oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add onion, garlic, ginger, carrots, and pepper.   Cook, stirring frequently until hot and fragrant, about five minutes.  Add stock.  Simmer, covered, until carrots are tender, about 20 minutes.

Let cool a little before pureeing in a blender, or use an immersion blender if you have one.  Add coconut milk, puree again.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

When we moved to Mexico 9 years ago, a couple who are our good friends also moved at the same time, within the same week. We didn’t really plan it together, it just sort of ended up happening that way.  It was so comforting dealing with a new way of life with someone else at the same time, struggling with the language, discovering new taco places, and the list goes on.

My husband moved out when he was 15 from the Halifax area to the Annapolis valley in Nova Scotia.  He moved in with a family who already had 7 children and lived with them and worked on their potato farm.  The became his extended family and still are.  There are five boys and two girls, and the wife of this couple was the 3rd child in the line of siblings. Needless to say, a girl with five brothers has to be a little tough.

Visiting their home the first few times was a real eye opener.  I had never see people be so territorial over food.  Of course, I had nobody to fight with over food so why would I.  For example, they used to get milk delivered to the home.  There was always one or two jugs of chocolate milk included.  If, by chance, the two youngest boys inhaled the chocolate milk before the rest returned home, there was hell to pay.  One of my favorite memories of this eldest daughter was that she used to get her own brand of pop (soda) so that she could drink it while doing her duties on the farm.  She stashed it in her room where (she presumed) nobody knew.  One day while visiting I was upstairs and heard a yell and a “WHO DRANK MY POP?”.  By the scurrying of the feet you heard, you could figure out which one of her younger brothers it was.  And scurry they did, for they knew what they had done.  Going into your older sister’s room and stealing her stashed beverage of choice?  Not a good idea if you want to live past tomorrow.

Her and her husband were a lot like us, ready for a new adventure, and so off we all went, ending up in the Mayan Riviera together.  One of the first words I learned in Spanish was “gatito” (kitten), as my animal loving friend was always chasing after abandoned street animals and (usually) forcing me to take them.  I’m pretty sure I ended up with at least three of such kittens from persistence.

After a few years of living here, they deserted us made another move to Antigua, Guatemala.  If you’ve never been, go.  It’s a beautiful colonial city, filled with history, culture, volcanoes, and frankly, some great, I mean great, restaurants. We loved visiting, especially the temperature, which is much cooler than here.

The first time we went to Antigua, after spending a tiring day walking and walking, we came home to supper already made.  My girlfriend prefaced the meal saying it’s nothing exciting just soup hope it’s okay………and all of a sudden the table was full of cheese and avocado and cilantro and tortilla strips, which were all tossed into the bowl and man, did that soup fill my belly.  I may have had two bowls. Okay maybe three.  Who’s counting?

When I asked her for the recipe I’m pretty sure she replied “it’s stupid easy” to which I thought even better!  You can make it in the morning and leave it in a slow cooker, or literally take 15 minutes to make it when you get home.  If you can’t buy tortilla strips where you are, it’s easy to make your own.  Buy some corn tortillas, cut them into strips, and fry them in some vegetable oil until crispy.  But here in Mexico, a massive bag of them costs $1 so I tend to get lazy.  Or just buy a bag of chips and crush them up a little.

Try it, because after all, it’s ‘stupid easy’.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 3/4 cups water (or use chicken broth)
  • 1 14.5 ounce can chicken broth
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1/2 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into smallish pieces
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed
  • 1 cup chunky salsa

TOPPINGS:

  • shredded Monterrey Jack cheese w/jalapeno peppers
  • broken, baked, or fried corn tortilla chips
  • sour cream
  • cilantro

DIRECTIONS:

In a medium sized pot, combine water, broth, chicken, chili powder, and cumin.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, simmer, covered 8 minutes.  Add corn, simmer uncovered 5 minutes more.  Stir in salsa and beans, heat through.

To serve, top with toppings of your choice.

 

Roasted Tomato & Basil soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons

No matter how much we learn from the environment we were raised in, we all have certain preferences ‘just because’. Some of us prefer savory over sweet, spicy over seasoned, saucy over soupy, and the list goes on.

My daughter has always been a sauce/dip person: fries into ketchup, veggies in ranch (she claims that she invented dipping almonds in Caesar dressing as a snack) and the list goes on. She has also always loved soups as well, and of course, dipping things into that. When we moved here to the Mayan Riviera, we didn’t eat soup as often as we did in Canada because of the climate factor. But, after a while , we sure did miss them.  After all, we spent many a winter’s night comforted by a warm soup or stew.

When I make soup, I always double, triple, whatever the batch, so that I can freeze the leftovers.  I buy these handy little one-liter containers here.  They have massive stores here simply for disposable items so they are everywhere and quite cheap.  It saves me from all of my Tupperware ending up in the freezer. Then, when someone is sick in my family or elsewhere, I miraculously pull (usually chicken noodle) one out of the freezer and proceed to appear like the best mom/friend ever. When in reality, it was just a little bit of planning.  Shhh, don’t tell.

I have roasted many a vegetable and pureed it into soup, but this is hands down my favorite. The original recipe is Ina Garten’s and is very popular on the web.  I personally think any recipe of hers that I’ve tried is pretty much perfect and doesn’t need to be messed with, but I will admit,  I do make a few changes to it just because I like to use all fresh, roasted vegetables, no cans (mostly because when we first moved here, decent Italian canned tomatoes were hard to find).

I love a creamy textured soup, but not with all the dairy in it. This soup is so velvety just with chicken stock. The basil is the shining star here. And because I was being so good, I thought I would treat myself, so I made a grilled cheese sandwich . Of course, you can use any cheese you like.

Hope it keeps you warm this winter.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 lbs ripe plum tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1/3 cup + 2 Tab olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped onions
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tab unsalted butter
  • 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 4 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves (or 1/2 tsp dried)
  • 5 cups chicken or vegetable stock

 

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 400F.  Toss tomatoes with 1/3 cup olive oil.  Lay on a baking sheet (use foil to save cleanup). Season with salt and pepper. Roast for 45 minutes.

In a large stockpot over medium heat, saute onions and garlic with 2 Tab of olive oil, butter, and red pepper flakes until onion is translucent and starts to brown, about 10 minutes.

Add the basil, thyme, stock, and tomatoes.  Bring the soup to a boil, turn down the heat, and simmer for about 30 minutes.

Let cool for a few minutes before transferring the soup to a blender and puree.  Pour back into stockpot and keep warm while you make your grilled cheese if desired.

 

Adapted from The Food Network