Orange Carrot Soup

soup 2

I developed a culinary crush on Melissa D’Arabian back in 2009 when she won the Next Food Network Star with her down to earth and wallet friendly menus, with a dash of her tenacious spirit. Then I cancelled cable and we went our separate ways … until we reunited when I purchased her cookbook, Ten Dollar Dinners!

I love buying cookbooks but I rarely cook from them (I read them like a literature), but this one is different. All the recipes look delectable and approachable. They are the culinary version of a girl next door – non-assuming and accessible– just like Melissa herself.

My first attempt from the cookbook:  Orange Carrot Soup (you can find the recipe on the FN website, under the name, Orange-Scented Soup).  The soup is infused with orange zest, which gives this lovely earthy soup a special twist.  I used a lemon zest instead but it was still very lovely.  My husband enjoyed it too, and this will surely become a go-to soup in chilly fall / winter nights.  And yes, the soup cost next to nothing, delivering on her promise.

We paired the soup with Salade Nicoise with Lemon-Thyme Vinaigerette (p.93) from the cookbook for dinner. 

Orange Carrot Soup
Adapted from Ten Dollar Dinners


1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 pound carrots, roughly chopped
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, smashed
2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/4 cup white wine
1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 1/2 cups water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons light sour cream, divided


In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the carrots and the onion and sweat until the mixture starts to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, orange zest and oregano and cook until fragrant, another 1 to 2 minutes. Raise the heat and deglaze the pan with white wine. Add the stock and water. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook until the carrots are tender, about 8 to 10 minutes. Cool the mixture for about 5 minutes before processing.

Process the soup in a food processor or blender until smooth. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Pour into serving bowls and swirl in a heaping teaspoon of sour cream before serving.

I love this cookbook and Melissa’s recipes so much that I created a new categories for it! 🙂

Kale and Okra Soup with Homemade Croutons

I made a soup using the pulps from the Kale Juice and it was amazing. This is a great way to salvage the delicious vegetable bits after juicing, and a great way to add fiber back into your body.

Kale and Okra Soup with Homemade Croutons
(Serves 2-4, depending on your appetite)


Vegetable bits (kale, celery, pepper, and carrots) from the Surprisingly Delicious Kale Juice.
1/2 strip of bacon, chopped (you can omit this if you want to make it vegan)
1 cup okra, chopped
2 tablespoon maple syrup
12 oz. peeled tomato (if you buy the whole tomatoes, chop them into bite-size pieces)
3 tablespoon olive oil (2 tablespoon for the soup, and 1 tablespoon for croutons)
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup bread (preferably a day old), cut into bite-size cubes


When you make the kale juice, make sure to juice the vegetables in this order: kale, celery, bell pepper, and carrots. Before you throw in apples, pears, and ginger, take out all the scraps from the machine and set aside.

In a medium-size pot, sauté the chopped bacon in olive oil in medium heat. Put the vegetable bits in the pot and cook, until they begin to sweat. Add tomatoes and chopped okra, and cook for about 15 minutes until all vegetables are tender. Add water, if you want to thin out the soup a little. Add maple syrup, and salt to pepper to taste.

In a separate pan, heat the olive oil. Add a one day old bread pieces and cook until both sides are golden brown.

Serve the soup in a bowl and top it with the croutons and your herbs of choice (I used fresh dill).

My Weekly Ritual: Japanese Pot Au Feu

I love rituals when it comes to food. Growing up, my mother made my favorite gyoza, Japanese-style pan-fried dumplings, every other Wednesdays for the family. I don’t think she really planned it that way and I’m sure she’s completely oblivious to this, but like Pavlov’s dog, my mouth salivated when a hump day rolled around every other week. There is something really comforting about knowing when and what I’m going to eat. I’m definitely not one of those spontaneous and adventurous diners who can decide their meal as they go. I would prefer to know exactly what I’m going to eat for dinner that night so that I can prepare my taste buds for it all day (and maybe study the menu if I’m dining out). Even when I work out with my personal trainer sister, I always need to know what we’re going to eat for lunch or dinner after the workout. That seems to be the only thing that keeps me motivated for a tortuous few hours.

Every horoscope and other Myers-Brigg-type personality tests all indicate that I’m a planner, and that’s a really accurate assumption. I always have a copy of driving direction whenever I’m traveling somewhere new (despite my Garmin in the car) and I’m already thinking about where to park once I get there, even before leaving the apartment. This is why I’m envious of those people who live life as they come (and not thinking about dinner all day). Oh, and by the way, I always read books backward (by reading the last several pages before I begin) and beat my boyfriend into telling me the end of movies before I watch them. That way, I can really sit back, relax, and enjoy the journey, whether it be a book or a movie. I just can’t stand the suspense! I’m strange, I know.

One of my and my boyfriend’s culinary rituals is to eat a roast chicken together every Friday. I have always romanticized about eating a roast chicken every week (or at least regularly), after watching one character, Dominique Bretodeau, do it in the movie, Amelie. I forgot whether he picked one up weekly at a local market or he roasted his own, but I remember how he found comfort and joy indulging in the ritual, and feeling that everything in life is going to be okay.

Every Friday, we celebrate the completion of a long work week by picking up a pre-made roast chicken at a local grocery store, where they have the Friday Special, offering small but whole chickens for only $5 each. We pick up deli salads, salsa, avocado (for me), and a loaf of freshly baked white bread, and enjoy the hassle-free meal over a glass of wine, in front of the television. It isn’t that the chicken is anything special (and chowing down a chicken while watching television is definitely not sexy) but there is something really special about doing the same thing over and over again, week after week, with a loved one.

Another ritual that comes out of this is my weekly Pot Au Feu feast that I enjoy throughout the week. I make the Japanese version of this French stew dish (traditionally made with beef) by first making the chicken stock from the leftover carcass, and throwing in vegetables like cabbage, onions, and carrots and cook them down until tender. The Japanese part comes in at the end when I add a little bit of miso paste and soy sauce for flavoring. It’s not quite miso soup and the Asian-aspect is very subtle but these two ingredients help deepen the rich soy flavor in the soup. Keep adding water and vegetables and you can enjoy this soup all week long, until Friday rolls around and we can do it all over again!

Japanese Pot Au Feu (Serves 4)

1 whole chicken carcass (or about 3 cups of chicken stock if not using bones plus enough water to fill the pot), plus leftover chicken
1/2 of whole cabbage, quartered
3 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
3 onions, peeled and halved
2 tablespoon miso (I used white miso)
A drizzle of soy sauce
Salt and pepper
Chopped parsley for garnish
Tabasco to taste

In a pot full of water, boil the chicken carcass for about 3 hours.  Remove the bones from the soup.  When cooled, remove the meat off the bones and return to the pot. If you’re using pre-made chicken soup, simply bring the liquid to the boil and follow the next steps.

Toss in all vegetables in a medium heat and cook until tender.  You might need to remove the excess fat and scum that float to the top a several times.

Season by adding miso paste and soy sauce, and add salt and pepper to taste.  Pour into a bowl, sprinkle chopped parsley and add a few drops of Tabasco if you like your soup spicy.

You can pretty much add any vegetable you have left over in the fridge.  I want to try mine with daikon radish and gobo (or burdock roots) next time.  You can take out the chicken and use it for other dishes, like enchiladas or chicken salad.

Welcome Winter with Chicken and Dumplings

I must admit that I usually spend December running around getting ready for Christmas, and forgetting the real beauty of the holiday season. So this year, I made a commitment to enjoy every second of December by indulging in the true spirit of the holidays – from the woodsy smell of a pine reef that hangs on the wall, to the sweet scent of homemade cookies that fills my tiny but warm apartment.  And most importantly, cherish the time spent with friends and family.

There is nothing better than starting the month by enjoying a warm and hearty bowl of soup. This is the Chicken and Dumplings that I made for my boyfriend when he was recovering from being under the weather the other day. When he told me that he wanted something light and easy for his tummy for dinner, the first thing I thought of was Chicken and Dumplings. The problem was that I had never cooked one before, so I searched through several recipes and came up with my own. This recipe was inspired by Tyler Florence but I modified it significantly to fit whatever ingredients I had in the fridge. The end result may not be as intricate as his, but it still provides a warm and delicious soup that I’m sure you’ll enjoy during the cold winter month!

Chicken and Dumplings
(serves 4 servings)

For soup
8 oz. chicken breast
5 black peppercorns
2 tablespoons milk
1/4 cups flour
3 stalks of celery, chopped
1 cup carrot, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 cup frozen green peas
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
6 cups chicken stock, total

For dumplings

1 cup flour
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
3 tablespoon chive, chopped
Salt and pepper

Boil the chicken in large pot in 3 cups water (or more, if needed) in medium heat, with salt and peppercorn, until chicken is fully cooked, about 30 minutes. Take the chicken out, let it cook, and shred the meat with two forks. In the meantime, simmer 3 cups of store-bought chicken stock in a medium-size pot.

Note: I use 3 cups of store-bought stock and 3 cups of stock made when boiling the chicken. You can do all 6 cups of store-bough kind, or 6 cups of homemade ones, your choice. I find that 1:1 is the perfect combination and there is always at least 3 cups of leftover stock sitting in my fridge.

Sauté garlic, celery, onion, and carrots in a large Dutch oven with olive oil until translucent. Since the vegetables will cook more in stock, you don’t have to sauté them for too long, but I love mine soft and mushy.

Add 1/4 cups of flours to the vegetable mixture and cook for about 3 minutes (add more olive oil, if needed).

Once the flour is cooked, add the chicken stock (both store-bought and/or homemade, for a total of 6 cups) to the vegetable mixture, one cup at a time. Mix well while adding the stock to dissolve the flour. You don’t want little lumps in the soup! Add 2 tablespoons of milk and let it simmer in medium heat. Drop the shredded chicken and frozen green peas into the soup (I totally forgot to put peas in my soup so you won’t see the little green pearls in these pictures … bummer.) 😦

In one bowl, sift together the flour, salt, and baking powder, and set aside (dry ingredient). In a separate boil, bet the egg, milk, pepper, and baking powder, until well combined (wet ingredient). Add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix until well combined (be careful not to over mix!). Mix in the chives.

Scoop the dough with a spoon and drop it in the simmering soup. I personally like smaller dumplings instead of giant ones, because they are cute and easy to eat.

Let the dumplings simmer for about 5 minutes, until they are fully cooked. Because the dumplings have baking powder, they come out light, airy, and totally delicious!

Don’t kid yourself here … you won’t be able to eat just one, two, or even five delicious dumplings. I had six and am still craving for more! This is such a wonderfully warm and hearty soup for the cold winter months! 🙂

Back to Florence I Go: Ribollita

a-ribollitaThere’s nothing more comforting than cooking up a pot-full of hearty soup and enjoying a bowl (or two) in my pajamas. I’m not sure which I enjoy most – cooking the soup or devouring the hearty bowl – but soup making is definitely my ritual when it starts to get chilly outside. Unfortunately, I have yet to venture out to very elaborate recipes (I don’t even own an immersion blender) so, at this time, my meager soup repertoire include those that only require me to chop and, well, open cans. That is probably why Ribolitta is my favorite soup to cook and eat.

But unlike the traditional recipe that requires the baking of the soup (thus the name which means to “re-cook”), I just simmer mine and enjoy it right out the pot. So I guess my version is technically not a Ribollita – perhaps it’s closer to Minestrone – but the flavors of the warm broth, nutty Parmesan rinds, robust cannellini beans and loads of seasonal vegetables are delicious enough to take me back to the streets Florence.