Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Summer Minestrone

 I've often said that I could eat soup and ice cream every day. Today was a soup day. Normally I would not add any meat to this, but the dietician said to eat more protein and more beans, so chicken was added.

If you don't have homemade chicken broth, use Swanson's. It has the best flavor.

1 small onion, minced

1 large carrot, diced

1 stalk celery, diced

2 lg cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp 

2 bay leaves

2 pinches red pepper flakes or to taste

2 qts chicken broth

1 can diced tomatoes in juice

2 cups cooked or 1 can canellini beans, drained and rinsed

1 zucchini, diced

1 yellow squash, diced

2 lg handfuls greens (kale)

1/2 Cup soup pasta

Half bunch Italian parsley, chiffonaded

Half bunch fresh basil, chiffonaded

Salt and pepper to taste

Serve with parmesan

I added 8 oz diced chicken breast

Thursday, January 04, 2024

Lebanese Chicken and Rice

 My mother-in-law was the best cook in her family, and trust me, that is saying something. I absolutely loved eating at her table, and she appreciated my obviou pleasure. Though she and I sometimes butted heads, she always cooked my favorites for me when we visited. Food was what we had in common, other than her youngest son, and it was the way she showed love in a somewhat contentious relationship. 

However, my mother-in-law absolutely refused to share recipes, or allow me (or her other 3 daughters-in-law) to watch her cook. So, her personal recipes are lost forever. I never understood that reluctance to teach us. 

When we moved across the country to California, we met many Syrian, Lebanese, Jordanians, and Palestinians at church. There were many pot lucks, and my husband and I soon found that two women cooked like his mother, Marge Hanna and Mary Salah. Both of these kind women took pity on this new bride and taught me everything I needed to know about cooking the meals my husband longed for. I thank God for the older women I met there at Church of the Redeemer, who taught me so much, some of it about cooking. I try to pay it forward in their honor. 

Rice is a staple for lebanese people, and it usually takes the form of broken vermicelli and long grained white rice sautéed till golden in butter and olive oil, then simmered till done. There are many versions; some with nuts, some with meat or chicken, some simmered in rich broth, and some in water. 

I used to always make the fanciest version for Pascha with minced lamb, onions, shallots, Arabic spices (see a prior post about my special mix), pistachios, almonds and pine nuts, called snoobah in Arabic. I will post that recipe soon.

This is a simple, every day version, ready in half an hour, made from ingredients readily available in most people's kitchen.

This will serve 3 or 4, with a salad or lubieh (recipe also on this blog) on the side.


1/2 cup broken vermicelli, orzo, or other very small pasta

1 cup basmati rice

1/4 cup butter

2 Tbs EVOO

1 medium onion, minced

2 cups water or broth

1 bay leaf

1/2 tsp allspice (or more, up to 1 tsp)

1 tsp salt

Pinch pepper

1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts, chunked (will be shredded later)

1/2 cup pistachios, almonds or pine nuts sauteed till golden in butter (optional)


In a heavy bottomed 3 qt pot with a tight-fitting lid, melt butter with EVOO over medium low. Sauté the pasta till golden, add rice and continue sautéing till golden, stirring constantly and watching carefully so nothing burns. Add the onions and allspice, stirring constantly till translucent. Pour in the water. Add bay leaf, salt and pepper, stir well and taste for salt. Stir in the chicken, bring to a boil, reduce to low, and cook for 20 minutes. 

When done, let it rest, covered, for a few minutes, then fluff with a fork, shredding the chicken as you go. If you are using browned nuts, and I highly suggest you do, stir them in with their butter, while fluffing and shredding.


Wednesday, January 03, 2024



Minestra is true peasant food, my favorite kind of food! In its purest form, its beans and greens in a simple, garlicky broth. In the US, where I live, Italian Americans tend to add a flavorful meat, like sausage or prosciutto. Either way is yummy.

I grew up with this stuff, and the variations are endless. What type of bean, what type of greens, what type of meat? I've had it with green cabbage, lima beans (butter beans for you Southerners) and chunks of really excellent pepperoni, which is almist impossible to find in the deep South where I live. Then there is the savoy cabbage, cannellini beans and hot Italian sausage. What about my mother's and my favorite of mustard greens, Christmas limas, and sweet Italian sausage. On the rare occasions that I find mustard greens  at the market, this is what I make.

It's a southern tradition to eat black eyed peas on January 1st, and the popularity of various types of greens here made minestra a no-brainer. I have never used a recipe for this; I just throw the basic components in the pot and keep tasting till my grandmother speaks to me from the grave saying, "That's good, Honey", and then I serve it. However, the beateous Laura asked for a recipe, so I'm memorializing what I did.

I normally cook dried beans myself, usually in my Instant Pot, so this recipe begins with looking up how long  black eyed peas take in the Instant pot, which is 10 - 12 minutes with a 15 minute natural release. I had some kale, and that takes 2 minutes in the instant pot. I decided to cook everything together.


2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil (Evoo)

1 med yellow onion, chopped 

5-6 garlic cloves, minced

12 oz Italian sausage, sliced into 1/3" rounds (I used 2 hot and 2 sweet)

1 lb, or more, kale, cleaned, deveined, and chopped (I used bagged kale)

8 oz dried black eyed peas

4 cups chicken stock (taste for saltiness and chickeny flavor if its not homemade and add 1-2 tsp chicken bouillion or Vegeta if needed)

2 cups water.

Salt and a pinch of red pepper flakes (or cayenne) if desired

Shave some parmesan into your bowl for a real taste treat.

Serve with crusty bread to sop up the juices. 


Turn it on to sauté and let it come to temperature. Sauté the sausage till golden around the edges, stirring often, adding Evoo if necessary, about 5 minutes. Add in the onions and garlic to sauté, till translucent and fragrant.

Add in the black eyed peas and broth (reserve the water till later), bouillion powder if using, and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Stir well. Pile in the greens, place the cover and cook on high for 15 minutes with 15 minutes natural release. 

Kale can take the extended cooking time - it will be very soft, but not mushy. Stir well, taste the peas, they should be buttery soft, but still retain their shape. Taste the broth for salt and flavor. My broth was a little bland to begin with, so I didn’t add any salt, but I did add the bouillion. When cooked, it was a little salty, so I added 3 cups water.  

We loved it!


Use 2 cans or 3 cups precooked beans.

In a 5-6 qt dutch oven, sauté the sausage, onions, and garlic in Evoo as above. Follow all directions, but cover the pot and gently simmer for half an hour. Taste for flavor and how tender the beans and greens are. Depending on the greens you use, it might take more or less time. 

Friday, May 19, 2023

Shrimp and Broccoli Spaghetti

Dear Daughter was a vegan while in high school.We sometimes at at a little diner around the corner. over time, we tried pretty much everything on the menu, including broccoli pasta which was simply aglia olio with cruncht broccoli. we put our own spin on it, and it became a staple in our house. This is how I made it tonight for two people in one pot. Cut a small head of broccoli into florets. Put a large pot of well salted water on to boil. Once boiling, stir in 8 oz of spaghetti and return to boiling. Set the timer for 11 minutes. At the 6 minute mark, stir in the broccoli. remove about 4 oz of the boiling water to the serving dish and stir in a scant teaspoon of chicken broth powder. At the 4 minute mark, add the partially defrosted shrimp, bring back to a boil, and boil for the rest of the time, about 2 or 3 minutes. Drain the pot into a strainer, and dump contents into the serving bowl. The spaghetti is well cooked but not mushy, the broccoli is soft, and shrimp is pink and tender. On top of the hot spaghetti, place 2 or 3 Tbs butter, about 1 or 2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil, a scant tsp of mustard, a good sprinkling of garlic salt, and a good pinch of cayenne. Stir well and plate. If you want, top with freshly grated parmesan like I did, stir well, and mangia. So good! Two thumbs up!

Wednesday, May 03, 2023

Cock A Leekie Soup

If you know me in real life, you know that I am a huge fan of the Outlander books by Diana Gabaldon, and the TV series by the same name. This unhealthy obsession has sparked an interest in all things Scottish, including the food. So, when my SO suggested I make chicken soup for dinner, I immediately thought of cock a leekie, which would use up the beautiful leeks and free range chicken we got at the Commissary a few days ago. I thought that the soup might be a bit too plain for my taste, but I was so very wrong! This recipe, which I cobbled together from some videos and a Google search, is the most flavorful and chickeny soup I've made in a long time. Try it, and don't forget the prunes; you will not be sorry. whole chicken, 2-3 lbs 3 large leeks (1 big bunch) 10 C chicken broth (I like Swanson) 2 bay leaves 1/4 tsp black pepper 3 large garlic cloves, peeled & smashed 1/2 tsp garlic salt 4-5 whole dried prunes 1 small onion 1/2 C pearled barley or more Cut the leeks in half lengthwise, then cut off the tough green tops. set the whites aside. Cut the greens in half again, separate the layers and wash extremely well to get all the sand out. Place the greens in the bottom of a 5-6 qt soup pot. Remove the packet of liver etc from the bird, rinse well inside and out, and place in the pot on top of the greens. Sprinkle liberally with garlic salt and pepper. Tuck the bay leaves, garlic cloves, and prunes around the chicken, and pour in the broth. The chicken will be submerged or nearly so. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce to medium low to maintain a steady simmer, and cover. Crack the lid a bit and simmer for 70 minutes. Meanwhile, slice the leek whites into 1/4" half circles, separate the layers, and swish them in a large bowl of cold water to clean all the sand out of them. Let them sit in the water while you dice the onion. Pick over and rinse the barley. Remove the chicken and let cool. Strain all the solids out of the broth and discard. Taste for salt. Bring the broth back to a boil, add in the onion, pearled barley and leeks, and simmer for 20 - 25 minutes until the barley is cooked. Meanwhile, shred the chicken and discard the bones and skin. when the barley is done, stir in all the shredded chicken to heat it up, and enjoy!

Thursday, July 02, 2020

Italian Wedding Soup

I don't know why this delicious soup is called Wedding Soup. I read somewhere that it was because the flavors are wedded together perfectly. To me, though, it reminds me of a childhood favorite soup called chickarina which was made with chicken meatballs and no greens. This is made with beef meatballs and greens,  but you can definitely substitute ground chicken for the ground beef and have a delicious, lighter soup. In fact, I may do that next time!

I can eat soup every single day, so don't go by me - my dear friend pronounced this soup absolutely delicious last night, so you can take that to the bank. Serve it with lots of freshly grated parmesan on top. Get the soup bubbling on the stove first, then make the meatballs and drop them in, next add the pasta to cook, and lastly, add the greens to cook or to wilt, depending on what greens you have on hand. This is best made with extremely flavorful chicken broth - I make my own chicken bone broth in the instant pot and it is amazing! Save 3 chicken carcasses, picked clean, or the equivalent in bones. Cover with water in the pot, set for one hour at high pressure, let reduce naturally. No need to add anything other than salt - the chicken flavor is divine!

For the soup:
2 large onions, diced small, about 1/4" (about 1 1/2 cups)
2-3 large celery stalks, with leaves, diced small (about 3/4 - 1 cup)
2-3 large carrots, diced small (about 3/4 - 1 cup)
4 cloves garlic minced or pressed (about 1 1/2 Tbs)
1 - 2 Tbs olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
2 1/2 quarts rich chicken bone broth
3/4 cup (for brothy soup) or 1 cup (for a more substantial, thicker soup) small soup pasta, such as:
         acini de pepe, orzo, ditalini, mini farfalle, or even Israeli coucous
6 oz fresh greens, roughly chopped (escarole, spinach, kale, even arugula is good)

In a 5 or 6 quart soup pot with a heavy bottom, saute the onion, celery, and carrots in the olive oil. When onion is transparent, and perhaps just golden at the edges, add the garlic and saute for a minute or two more. Add the broth and let simmer while you make the meatballs

For the meatballs:
1 lb ground beef (or chicken)
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs (put 1 -2 slices in your blender or processor)
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley (or 1 heaping Tbs dry)
1 1/2 tsp minced fresh oregano (or 1 scant tsp dry)
2 Tbs minced onion
2 cloves garlic minced
1/2 cup shredded parmesan
1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp black pepper
1 large egg
1 Tbs olive oil if meat is very lean, skip otherwise

Mix all ingredients well with your hands and form into 1" balls. I use a melon baller for this.

Put it all together:
Once the soup has simmered for 20 or more minutes and the carrots are tender, add in the meatballs, and return to simmer 10 minutes. If using a tough green, like kale, add the kale with the meatballs. Stir in the pasta after the meatballs have cooked 10 minutes, and simmer 5 more minutes. If using a tender green like arugula or escarole, add in and cook for about 3 minutes. If using spinach, add on top and let it wilt - no further simmering is necessary. Taste for salt and pepper. Depending on the broth used, you may need up to 1 Tbs of salt and 1/2 tsp of black pepper for the pot.

Ladle into bowls and serve with freshly grated parmesan on top.


Nota Bene: for a similar, but lighter soup, check out my recipe for Brodetto con Polpetti 

Monday, October 16, 2017

White Bean and Chicken Chili

I can't believe that I never made white bean chili before. This may be my favorite chili
yet! I made it in my instant pot because I cooked the beans from dry in it, but you can substitute 3 cans of beans, rinsed and drained, and cook it on the stove top. I used cannelini beans because that's what I had on my shelf, but any white bean would do. While the beans were cooking, I cooked the butternut squash. I cut it in half length wise, scooped out the seeds, and sprayed the cut sides with olive oil (I have a mister that I use instead of Pam for everything), placed them cut side up on a baking sheet in a cold oven, and baked at 375F for 45 minutes, which was perfect.  I will use the other half for something else, maybe as a filling for ravioli, or in a risotto later this week. I used homemade double strength chicken stock which is very flavorful, but you can add 1 Tbs of chicken bouillion paste or granules to improve the flavor of your chicken stock. This works great when I have to use commercial chicken stock - unless I use Swanson's brand. Swanson's brand is the tastiest and doesn't need any help in the flavor department. You can use any cut of chicken, though I think the flavorful thighs would be best. I used tenders because they were on sale AND marked down, and I couldn't resist them at the store today. You can use any flavor of Rotel that you like - I used the one with jalapenos because I like spicy food. You can add plain tomatoes, or Rotel without the heat, and you can add a little heat yourself via cayenne, pepper, or hot sauce. It's up to you.

And without further ado, here is the recipe.


12 oz white beans, picked over, rinsed, cooked until tender without salt, and drained
Half a butternut squash, cubed and cooked
2 Tbs olive oil
1  onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
1 Tbs dried oregano
1 Tbs ground cumin
1 tsp salt
4 cups flavorful chicken stock
1 can RoTel tomatoes
1 lb skinless, boneless chicken, cubed

Start by cooking the beans and the squash. While they are cooking, drink a glass of wine, and then peel and dice the onion and smash and mince the garlic (or you could put it through a garlic press).

In a soup pot (or your instant pot set on saute), saute the onion in the oil until translucent and the edges are just starting to turn toasty. Add the garlic and stir for a couple of minutes. Add in the oregano, cumin and salt, then the tomatoes and broth. Add in the beans and cook for about 15 minutes to let the flavors meld a bit. Then, add in the chicken and squash cubes, and simmer until the chicken is done, about another 10 or 15 minutes. Taste for salt and pepper, and serve.

Garnish with whatever you like: sour cream, some shredded cheese, chopped cilantro, avocado.... it's delicious without any additions. Or, you could serve it over rice or soft polenta, which I may do for dinner later this week.

This made a lot, about 10 cups of a very, very thick chili.

2 Smart points per cup, if you count all the veggie points; about .75 smart points if you don't.