Category Archives: Soups & Stews

Cuban Black Bean and Rice soup

Inspired by the marvelous soup from Havana Café, I attempted my own version of their black bean and rice soup.  What made the Havana soup so noticeably delicious was how the fresh lime tied everything toegther perfectly.  The soup was a bit thick because of the rice and bean base, and the lime just freshened everything up.  It was hearty but not heavy.  Everything you could want in a soup!

It turns out that my Cuban soup making skills need some work.  This soup isn’t exactly what I had imagined, but as I was perusing recipes, I was drawn to the idea of making a marinated rice and then adding the broth right before serving,  in order to avoid sometimes over soaked and mushy rice you find in soup.  As a result, this soup wasn’t all that thick, but it ended up being spicy, a bit zesty, and of course fresh because of the lime and cilantro garnishes.  I was very happy with it!

Line up your ingredients to get started:

I tried soaking dry beans this time because I’ve heard it’s better for you health-wise, aaaaand (mostly) because the grocery store didn’t have cans.  Anyways, I loved the soaked beans!  I’m going to make a real effort to plan ahead and soak them from now on.  They just taste so much more beany.

Soaked and Rinsed Black Beans

After you soak them, you have to boil them for a few hours too…

While the beans are boiling, start cooking up the broth.  Sautée the onions, garlic and peppers for a few minutes, then stir in the cumin and oregano.

Add some broth and the beans to the pepper mixture and simmer for about 30 minutes.  Then, add a few scoops of the marinated rice mixture (a bit of olive oil, green onion, diced tomatoes and rice vinegar, by the way) to your soup bowl.  Zesty!

Marinated rice soup base

Pour a few scoops of the simmering broth over the rice and top with cilantro, a dollop of sour cream and of course fresh lime.

Cuban Black Bean and Rice Soup

Cuban Black Bean and Rice Soup Recipe

5 green onions, thinly sliced
3 cups cooked brown rice ( from 1 cup dry)
1 1/2 tomatoes, diced
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar ( or white wine vinegar)
2 (15 ounce) cans black beans
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large red onions, diced
2 jalapenos, with seeds, minced
2 red bell peppers, diced
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 quart chicken broth or 1 quart vegetable broth
1 tablespoons apple cider vinegar ( or white wine vinegar)
cayenne pepper
nonfat plain yogurt (optional) or sour cream (optional)
cayenne pepper (optional)
  1. Prepare marinated rice by mixing cooked rice with green onion, diced tomatoes, olive oil and cider vinegar. Let the mixture marinate at room temperature, if making soup right away. Otherwise, cover, refrigerate, and marinate up to 1 day. Let rice come to room temperature before serving.
  2. Rinse beans in a strainer until canning juices run clear, or soak and boil dry beans if you prefer.
  3. Heat olive oil over medium high, and add onions. Saute for a few minutes.
  4. Add jalapenos, bell peppers and garlic; cook until softened.
  5. Stir in spices.
  6. Add broth, vinegar and beans.
  7. Cover and simmer 30 minutes (or longer, if desired), stirring occasionally.
  8. Taste for salt and spiciness. Add cayenne pepper, if more heat is desired.
  9. Serve soup in bowls over a scoop of rice. Top with cilantro and yogurt, if desired.
  10. Store left-over rice separately from soup, so liquid will not all be absorbed.

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Needless to say, fall is prime minestrone eating time.  There are so many variations of this delicious and healthy soup –  it’s a handy recipe to have when you need to clean out the fridge, just throw in whatever you need to use up! Personally, I prefer a semi spicy tomato-Parmesan flavoured broth with a healthy serving of veggies, beans and pasta with some fresh spinach thrown in right before you eat.  I don’t find soggy soup soaked spinach particularly appetizing, so I usually wait until the last possible minute to add it.  And, if you have some crusty Italian bread on the side, you’ve hit the fall-dinner jackpot 🙂

Fresh Sinach and Minestrone

Give it all a stir and dig in!


Minestrone Recipe

2 tbsp canola oil
3 slices back bacon, chopped
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tsp red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 can diced tomatoes
6 cups chicken stock
1 can each red kidney beans and chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 cup short pasta (rigatoni, penne, shells, tubetti etc. etc. etc.)
1/3 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 tbsp chopped fresh basil
Grated fresh Parmesean, to taste

  1.  In soup pot, heat oil over medium-high heat and cook back bacon for 2 minutes.  Reduce heat to medium and add onion, garlic, carrots, celery, oregano, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.  Cook for about 10 minutes or until softened and just about golden.
  2. Add tomatoes, pour in chicken stock; bring to boil.  Reduce heat to simmer and add beans, chickpeas and pasta.  Simmer for about 20 minutes or until pasta is tender.  Stir in Parmesean, parsley, and basil.  Add spinach right before eating.

*Skip the back bacon and use veggie broth for an easy vegetarian meal!

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Filed under Main Courses, Soups & Stews

Split Pea and Bacon Soup

Brrrrrrrrr!  It’s getting cold out there, and one of the best ways to warm up is with this hearty, delicious and totally good for you soup.  I used back bacon this time because it’s a salty, wonderful and healthy substitute for regular bacon.  But of course don’t let me deter you from using regular bacon or ham in this soup, they will only add to the deliciousness.   I think the best way to prep the meat is to cook it up in a frying pan until it’s a bit crispy, and then throw it in right before serving.  The crispiness will add some tasty texture.

Split Pea and Bacon Soup Ingredients

Get everything going in a big soup pot. The peas take a while to hydrate, so you’ll have to be patient with this one!

Soupy goodness

But it’s well worth the wait.  And don’t forget the fresh baguette.

Split Pea and Bacon Soup

Bacon and Split Pea Soup Recipe

4 cups vegetable broth
4 cups water
2 cups split peas, rinsed and sorted
4 thick slices back bacon or ham
1 white onion, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
2 tbsp fresh rosemary or thyme, chopped
1 bay leaf
½ tsp each salt and freshly ground pepper

1.    In large soup pot, combine broth, water, split peas, back bacon, onions, carrots, celery, and spices.  Bring to a boil, and skim off any scum.
2.    Cover and simmer for 1 ½ to 2 hours or until peas are soft.

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French Onion Soup

Fall is definitely upon us!  With the cooler weather come endless possibilities for belly warming soups.  I don’t know many people who don’t love French onion soup, so I won’t try and sell it to you on it, I’ll just share this solid (and relatively healthy!) recipe so you can make your own.  Happy Fall!

Throw some thinly sliced onions, garlic and salt into a big soup pot to get started.

Early Stages of French Onion Soup

Add some broth, red wine, sherry and a bay leaf, and simmer until you can’t handle the delightful fragrances emerging from your kitchen any longer.

Sizzling, Aromatic Broth 🙂

Load it up with some bread and cheese, and pop it in the oven until it’s all melty and gooey. Then dig in!

Sidenote:  I bought french onion soup bowls at the dollar store for, you guessed it, a dollar each.  No need to break the bank, and they’re oven safe!  These come in handy for way more than just French onion soup too – individual portions of pasta, baked dips, chicken pot pies, apple crisp etc.  Love these!

French Onion Soup

French Onion Soup Recipe

1 tbsp canola oil
6 onions, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ tsp salt
2 tbsp whole wheat flour
6 cups beef stock (low sodium works best)
½ cup red wine
2 tbsp dry sherry or cognac
1 bay leaf
½ tsp pepper
4 slices French bread
1 cup shredded cheddar or mozzarella cheese

1.    In soup pot, heat oil over medium-high heat.  Cook onions, garlic and salt, stirring often, for about 10 minutes until they start to brown.  Reduce heat to medium-low and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes or until onions are very golden and very soft.  Add flour and stir to coat onions for 1 minute.
2.    Add beef stock, wine, sherry, bay leaf and pepper;  bring to boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.  Remove bay leaf.
3.    Pour soup into desired bowls.  Place bread on top to fit bowls and sprinkle with cheese.  Bake in 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes or until cheese is bubbly.  Broil for 30 seconds to brown top.

(Makes about 4 servings)

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Filed under Comfort Food, Soups & Stews

Pho Bo

I’m so sad that I didn’t know pho existed until university (there weren’t a lot of culinary options in my small, largely Mennonite hometown).  There are so many pho-less years in my life that could have been so much more pho-filling!

But now pho and I are great friends.  I’ve had lots of great restaurant pho experiences, but in my opinion none of them have been better than this homemade version.  It’s all about the broth.  Often it can be a bit on the salty side in a restaurant, but this version offers a great balance of flavours, and you can easily tweak the amounts to suit your tastebuds.   I used chicken broth this time around, but you can easily use vegetable broth instead if you want a savoury vegetarian meal.

Ingredients for Pho Broth

Notice that the onion and garlic have been chopped into big chunks.  They are just used to flavour the broth, and get strained out before eating.  The big chunks ensure nothing gets through the strainer later on.

Pho Broth

Now char up a little fresh ginger and add that to the broth too…it adds a really deep, rich flavour.

Charring some fresh ginger

While the broth simmers away and makes your house smell so good your neighbours may “casually” show up at your door to see what’s going on, prepare whatever garnishes you’d like to add to your soup later on.

This is really where you can customize the pho to your liking.  Bean sprouts are usually a must for me, but my little local grocery store was out this particular day :(.  Nevertheless, I perservered and came up with some other tasty additions.  Specifically, snow peas, thinly sliced carrots, green onion, fresh basil and mint, lime, roasted peanuts and red pepper flakes.

Other garnish options could include cabbage, bok choy (their crunchiness adds great texture), mushrooms, chilis, cilantro, etc. etc. etc.  Use your imagination!

Pho Goodies

We’re getting close…..the rice noodles are cooked, the soup garnishes are prepped, hoisin is all set to add some sweetness…

Pho parts almost ready to eat

After the broth has simmered for about 30 minutes, strain it through a fine mesh sieve.

Strained broth chunks

Put the rice noodles in your pho bowl, and then add the broth.

Pho building - Rice Noodles and Broth

Now dress it up with your garnishes of choice and enjoy!


Mandatory close up…

Pho Close-up

Update:  I made this again for my family and took a few pictures of their different Pho  interpretations.

The Noodle Lover:  (Despite the ample noodles, this one isn’t actually mine)

Pho Variation #1

The Veggie Lover:

Pho Variation #2

The Kid Version:

Pho Variation #3

The Minimalist:

Pho Variation #4

The I Just Can’t Wait to Dig In:

Pho Variation #5

The Little Bit of Everything:

Pho Variation #6

Vietnamese Pho Bo Recipe

Vegetarian Vietnamese-Style Broth
8 Cups Clear Vegetable Stock
3 Tbsp Soy Sauce
8 Medium Garlic cloves, peeled & chopped coarsely*
1 Small onion, chopped, not diced*
1 Inch piece of ginger
2 3 Inch cinnamon sticks
1 Pod of Star Anise
2 Large Bay leaves

1. Put stock, soy sauce, garlic and onion in a large stockpot and bring to a boil over medium heat. *Make sure the pieces of onion and garlic are not smaller than the strainer you will be using.
2. Meanwhile, char ginger on all sides over an open gas flame or in a small skillet. Add to stock.
3. Add the cinnamon sticks, star anise and bay leaves to the broth. Reduce the heat to low. Simmer, partially covered, for 25 minutes.
4. Remove solids with a slotted spoon or strain broth through a fine mesh sieve. Adjust seasoning if necessary. Return to pot and keep hot until ready to use in soup.

Pho Bo
8 Cups Vietnamese Style Broth
1 Pound Rice Noodles
1/4 Cup Bean Sprouts
1/2 Cup Shredded Cabbage
1/2 Tender Greens, torn into bite sized pieces
1/2 Cup Basil Leaves
1/2 Cup Cilantro, coarsely chopped
3 Scallions, thinly sliced (both green and white parts)
3 Tbsp chopped, roasted, unsalted peanuts
1 Lime, cut into wedges
3 Fresh red or green chili peppers, seeded and cut into five rounds
Salt & Freshly ground pepper to taste

1. Make the broth as directed. When broth has been simmering for about 10 minutes, soak the noodles as follows. Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. Remove from heat, add noodles, and let soak around 15 minutes, stirring occasionally until noodles are pliable and easily separated.
2. Drain the noodles and divide them among 6 Bowls.
3. Assemble the soup by placing the bean sprouts, cabbage, greens basil, cilantro and peanuts on top of the noodles. Ladle the hot broth onto the noodle mixture.


Filed under Soups & Stews, Vegan, Vegetarian

Thai Peanut Soup

Thai Peanut soup is so flavourful,  and all the different veggies bring a satisfying crunch and variety of textures.  Perfect for a filling lunch or a lighter dinner.  Adding the veggies at the last minute keep them tender-crisp and delicious.

Simmering Soup

Top with peanuts, green onions, fresh bean sprouts, basil and cilantro.

Halfway there - so tasty 🙂

Thai Peanut Soup Recipe

2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/3 cup chopped onion
4-6 Cloves Garlic, chopped
1 Tbsp freshly grated ginger
2 Cups Roasted Chicken, bite size pieces
1 sweet red pepper
1 tablespoon finely chopped lemongrass (white portion only)
1 teaspoon chopped red chile (to taste)
2 Cups each chopped broccoli and cauliflower
14 ounces chicken broth
1 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut milk
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 Tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons soy sauce
½ cup fresh basil, chopped

1.  Heat oil, Cook onion, and garlic until softened.  Add red pepper, ginger and lemongrass until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the red chili, stir and cook for 1 minute. Add broccoli and cauliflower, stirring until slightly softened, about 5 minutes.

2.  Add chicken broth, coconut milk and soy sauce, lime juice, and stir to combine well. Add the peanut butter. Keep stirring until well combined (the peanut butter will go kind of stringy, but it will melt in after a bit). Heat until hot and bubbly.

Serve with chopped fresh roasted peanuts, cilantro, bean sprouts and green onions as a garnish.

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Roasted Tomato and Bean Soup with Back Bacon

I love this soup.  It’s tasty, hearty, and very healthy.  Roasting the veggies really brings out the natural sweetness and nice rich flavours.

It freezes nicely too, so make a big batch and put half into single serving Tupperware containers for a last minute lunch, or lazy dinner.

Soup Ingredients

Chop up the veggies and toss with olive oil and cumin.  Roast for about an hour and get ready for some intoxicating smells emerging from your oven!

Roasted Veggies

Remove carrots from the mix, throw everything into a soup pot, and purée.  I used my trusty Immersion blender, because it’s much less messy than transferring everything to a blender or food processor.  But really, whatever tools you have to mash things up will do the trick!

Veggies puréed = soup

Add, the rest of the ingredients to the pot and bring it to a boil.  That’s it!  Now you can eat!

Hearty, Chunky Tomato Soup

Roasted Tomato and Bean Soup with Back Bacon

2 lbs Plum Tomatoes, halved lengthwise
1/2 Large Onion, cut into chunks
2-3 Carrots, cut into chunks
4 Cloves of Garlic
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 Tsp Ground Cumin
2 ½  Cups Broth (Beef, Chicken or Veggie will work fine)
1 Can Black Beans, drained and rinsed
3 Thick Slices Back Bacon, cooked and chopped
Salt & Pepper to taste

1.  Preheat oven to 375 Degrees.
2.  In roasting pan or big baking dish, toss together tomatoes, onion, carrot, garlic, oil and cumin.  Roast until veggies are starting to brown, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour.
3.  Remove carrots and set aside.  Place remaining veggies in a big soup pot, along with broth.  Use Immersion blender to purée mixture until smooth with some small chunks remaining.  Or transfer ingredients to blender or food processor to purée.
4.  Add carrots, beans, bacon, salt and pepper, and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer until heated through.

From:  The G.I. diet Cookbook

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