My husband Kenny fell in love with this recipe while visiting my Aunt Virginia Shea in Louisiana several years back. She graciously shared the recipe with me, and I’ve been making this spicy soup for Kenny each year when it gets cold outside. Full disclosure: Now that we live in Miami it doesn’t get nearly as cold as when we were in Orlando, but sometimes we improvise by knocking the air conditioning down a bit when enjoying this meal.
1 package boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 large onion
1 large bell pepper
1 package taco seasoning
1 package ranch dressing
1 can pinto beans with juice
1 can whole corn with juice
1 small can black olives
1 jar Pace picante sauce (I use medium jar/medium spice)
1 can Rotel (original)
1 can tomato sauce (regular size can)
1 can black beans with juice
1 can kidney beans with juice (no chili gravy)
1 can chicken stock
1/2 jar sliced pickled jalapenos
Toppings: tortilla chips, shredded Mexican blend cheese, sour cream, avocado
Brown meat, onions and bell peppers — and then drain. Mix ranch dressing and taco seasoning and then mix into meat. Let cook a couple of minutes. Then, without draining other liquids, add all ingredients. Simmer 1 hour.
Serve with tortilla chips at bottom of bowl. Spoon soup into bowl. Add cheese and a dollop of sour cream. Garnish with avocado slice.
Shrimp and Corn Chowder
This recipe was gifted to me courtesy of my Aunt Mary Zaunbrecher, when she contributed to a recipe collection presented to me at my bridal shower. We savor bowls of this meaty, creamy chowder each winter when we need to warm up a bit.
3 strips of bacon, bacon bits or ready cooked bacon
1 cup onion, chopped
½ cup green bell pepper, chopped
1 bay leaf
2 cups potatoes, peeled and chopped in cubes
2 tablespoons flour
2 (16 ounce) cans of creamed corn
1 (16 ounce) can of whole corn kernels
salt and pepper, to taste
½ cup celery, finely chopped
½ cup carrots, chopped
12 teaspoon olive oil
3 cans chicken broth
1 (13 ounce) can low-fat evaporated milk
1-2 pounds shrimp, cooked and peeled
Fry bacon if using real bacon; set aside. In a skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add cooked bacon, onion, celery, bell peppers, carrots and bay leaf and simmer until onions are soft and transparent. (Veggies may be pureed now if you prefer smoother chowder.)
Place potatoes in water in a large pot – boil until tender and then remove from pot.
Heat broth and sprinkle flour over mixture. It may clump, but will eventually dissolve. Add potatoes and cook for 10 minutes. Add corn, milk, shrimp, salt and pepper. Cover and cook for 15 minutes. Do not boil. Serve hot with French bread and hot sauce.
Italian Wedding Soup
I found this recipe in Food & Wine’s Annual Cookbook 2013, which my late grandmother Riece gave to me for my birthday a few years ago. No, I don’t have an Italian heritage … Riece (my mother’s mom, who passed in summer 2014) actually lived in New Orleans. Yet this traditional soup invokes the kind of warmth one might feel from a loving grandmother like my Riece.
2 quarts chicken stock or low-sodium broth
1 large carrot, finely diced
1 celery rib, finely diced
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
¼ cup orzo
1 pound ground pork
¼ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for serving
¼ cup dry bread crumbs
5 ounces baby spinach, chopped
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
In a large pot, bring the chicken stock to a boil with the carrot and celery. Season with salt and pepper. Add the orzo and cook until al dente, about 7 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a bowl, knead the pork with the ¼ cup of cheese, the bread crumbs and ½ teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Form the mixture into 1-inch balls.
Simmer the meatballs in the boiling soup for 5 minutes. Stir in the spinach and chickpeas; simmer until the meatballs are cooked through, about 5 minutes longer. Serve, passing extra cheese at the table.
Chicken and Sausage Gumbo
My grandmother Mamon (you might remember her Stuffed Artichokes) passed this recipe on from her mother, whom we called Mamon Babineaux. I never met my great-grandmother, as she passed before I was born, yet have heard many wonderful stories of her strength and love as the mother of 12 children. I feel privileged to be able to make her traditional gumbo – and have done so year after year because it’s the epitome of Cajun comfort food.
1 ½ cup oil
1 ½ cup flour
2 large onions, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
4 quarts water
1 large hen (seasoned with salt, black pepper and red pepper)
½ pound smoked sausage, cut up
½ cup green onions, chopped
First, make your roux. Add equal parts of oil and flour in a pot and stir constantly over medium heat until it reaches a caramel brown color. Add onion, celery and bell pepper to hot roux and cook, stirring constantly, until veggies are soft/limp (about 5-7 minutes).
Add water and cut up hen. Cook 1 ½ hours until chicken is tender. Add sausage at this time. Cook until chicken wing is soft to the touch. Taste and add more seasoning if necessary. (For incredible flavor I suggest adding the following seasoning mixture: 1 bay leaf, 1/2 teaspoon basil, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon onion powder, 1/2 teaspoon white pepper, 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, 1 teaspoon salt, 2 teaspoons Tabasco sauce.)
Add ½ cup green onions. Serve with white rice.
Note: I used half water and half chicken broth. You may have to add more liquid when it cooks down as well.