Carrot Soup (Dairy Free)

I forgot how much I loved this broccoli soup recipe. I’m not sure why I haven’t made it in so long. I love that it is non-dairy and meat free. It is a delicious accompaniment to a panini for an easy make ahead week night dinner. Also, it stands perfectly well on its own or with a piece of crusty bread for lunch. You may be wondering why I am talking about broccoli soup if this post is about carrot soup. Well, after re-discovering my love for the broccoli soup I decided to try the same recipe swapping out the vegetable.

This carrot soup turned out really well! I love how it has a creamy texture while it does not contain any milk or cheese. It reminds me very much of the soups my host mother in France prepared for me during my term abroad in Rennes. Whenever we had a particulary hardy lunch, say on a Sunday or a holiday, she would prepare a light dinner of pureed soup like this one. Anything that reminds me of France is a winner in my book!

Side Note: I find it so funny that I posted the broccoli soup recipe exactly three years ago today!

Carrot Soup:

  • olive oil
  • 2 leeks, cleaned, root and green woody top removed, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
  • 8 fresh carrots, peeled and cut into 2 inch pieces PLUS
  • 2 fresh carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 48 ounces of vegetable broth (you can use chicken broth or stock if you prefer)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • a pinch of cayenne
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 425 F.

Drizzle a baking sheet with olive oil and place the 8 2-inch carrot pieces in a single layer on the baking sheet. Roast for approximately 20 minutes or until carrots are soft. Half way through roasting turn carrots over.

Add some olive oil to the bottom of a large soup pot.  (I used my Le Creuset.)   Warm the oil over medium-low heat.  Add the leeks, onion, garlic, and two chopped carrots.  Stir and cook until the onions are translucent. [Note: The above step is extremely important for a maximum flavor soup.  If you aren’t in a rush, cook these ingredients over low heat for a long period of time (even to the point of caramelization if you’d like, though it is not necessary) to fully cultivate the flavor.]

Add the potatoes and roasted carrots to the large soup pot.  Add the broth or stock and bay leaf.  Bring to a rolling boil and then reduce to a low boil.  Stir occasionally, cooking for about 20-25 minutes, or until the vegetables are all tender.

Take the pot off the heat and remove the bay leaf.  If you have an immersion blender, use that to puree the soup.  Alternately, cool the soup in the fridge for a few moments then puree in a traditional blender or food processor, one cup at a time.  Return the pureed soup to the cooking pot and warm it through.  Season generously with salt and pepper.


Tomato and Hearts of Palm Salad

I don’t think I have mentioned on this blog that while I was in college I did a mini term abroad to the island of Martinique.  While geographically in the Caribbean, Martinique is considered to be a “department of France.” While in Martinique I lived with a lovely host family and studied French, Creole, and the culture of the island. The trip was one the best experiences of my life, as I fell in love with the easy going pace of life that contained hints of what I love about France sans the often uptight rules and rigidity of French culture.

The reason I mention this is because last week I picked up a cookbook on sale at Boarder’s. The cover boasted it contained the best recipes of the Caribbean.  It was so cheap I didn’t think twice about the purchase and it was only when I got home that I realized what a great “find” I had picked up. Flipping through the pages of gorgeous photos reminded me of dishes I hadn’t thought about in years! I decided instantly to make the tomato and hearts of palm salad that was served regularly at the table of my host family in Martinique. It is a very simple salad that was served without much thought, sort of the way we might serve a mixed green salad with dinner.  It is easy to make last minute and is a delicious and healthy addition to any roast or sandwich. I served ours over a bed of greens along with Lime Roasted Chicken.

This was a fun way to bring the Caribbean to Boston during hurricane Irene! I was flooded with memories of my time on the island at first bite; the thick humid air, the smell of my host mother’s perfume, and the strong citrusy taste of Shrubb (a traditional liqueur made during the Christmas season).

Aren’t the powers of our senses incredible? The way that a single taste can induce a rush of memories is pretty amazing if you ask me. It ranks pretty high as one of my favorite reasons to cook.

Tomato and Hearts of Palm Salad:

  • 4 ripe tomatoes
  • salt and black pepper
  • 1- 14 oz. can of hearts of palm
  • the juice of one lime
  • 2 teaspoons of Dijon mustard
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil

Slice tomatoes and arrange on serving platter.  Sprinkle salt and pepper over sliced tomatoes. Drain the can of hearts of palm. Cut them into 1/2 inch slices and arrange over tomatoes on platter.  Make the dressing by whisking lime juice, mustard, and oil in a bowl. Drizzle over salad.

Adapted from The Food and Cooking of the Caribbean, Central and South America.

Wild Rice Salad

When I made the Mushroom and Wild Rice Casserole I wasn’t thinking straight! The recipe called for about 2 cups of cooked wild rice but I didn’t account for the fact that rice nearly triples its size when cooked. I ended up with quite a bit of extra cooked wild rice in my fridge. Not a problem, though, because I LOVE WILD RICE!

There was no way I was going to waste the extra so I did some online searching for a quick and easy wild rice salad recipe and I was immediately drawn to this recipe on Simply Recipes.

Until Kelly mentioned it, I had no idea that Wild Rice is a “Minnesota thing.” When I served this salad to my family, my brother-in-law, who is also from Minnesota, was quite vocal about how much he loved this salad! He had no idea about my infatuation with wild rice and said if he had known, he would have asked his dad to bring some out with him this weekend. Unfortunately, his dad had already departed Minnesota so I won’t be tasting any authentic Minnesota wild rice any time soon!  Next time Ed! 🙂

In my opinion, the quality that makes this salad so great is the texture. There is quite a bit of satisfying crunch.

Remember to chop each component to uniform size so that each bite includes a little bit of each ingredient. You don’t want one bite to contain nothing but a giant chunk of celery and the next bite to contain a giant piece of green onion. (I talk more about the importance of chopping uniformly here.)

Each bite should contain a little bit of everything. Doing so allows for each bite to be a little dance party in your mouth!  The peas pop, the pine nuts snap, the celery crunches (and so on) and they are all united by the chewy grains of wild rice. Oh the fun! 🙂

Wild Rice Salad:

  • 2-3 cups cooked wild rice
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 4 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 4-6 green onions (scallions), finely chopped
  • 1 cup frozen peas*
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 -1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2-4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1-2 teaspoons sugar

In a medium bowl combine rice, dried cranberries, celery, green onions, frozen peas, and pine nuts. Use a wooden spoon to gently combine.

In a small bowl whisk together olive oil, vinegar, sugar and salt and pepper. Pour over salad and toss gently to evenly distribute dressing. Season with additional salt and pepper as needed.

*If you plan to serve this dish immediately, use thawed peas. If you are storing overnight in the fridge, frozen peas will defrost by the time you serve.

Adapted from this recipe found on Simply Recipes.

Spinach Squares

This time of year, over and over I find myself  searching for “good” appetizer recipes.  “Good” usually means the following:

  • not too difficult
  • does not require too much time
  • travels well
  • people will actually want to eat it

I recently found myself Googling like crazy and I could not find something that fit the bill.  I have a few go-tos (like this Layered Greek Dip, for instance) but I just get sick of the same thing over and over.  (By the way, if I had a nickel for each time I made that Layered Greek Dip I could buy Greece and all of its feta…and olives…and olive oil…you get the picture.)

After much frustration and interchanging of the words “appetizer” and “hors d’oeuvre” in Google (because technically *I think* an appetizer is something that is served as a plated first course  and hors d’oeuvres are more of finger foody snacks, or at least that’s how I distinguish them) I conceded that Greek Dip it would be.  But then for some reason I remembered to consult my green binder.  My green binder is a vinyl, school binder and it is bursting at the seams.  It contains recipe printouts and handouts and tearouts and recipe cards and papers and clippings from all walks of life.  And there it was:

A little old fashioned recipe card with a little duck wearing a ruffled apron on it and my 8 year-old penmanship staring up at me.  A recipe from the 1980s.  A recipe that reminds me of first communion parties and birthday cookouts and grandparents’ anniversaries.  A recipe that I transcribed from an aunt on June 25.  (It is dated!)

SPINACH SQUARES.  Spinach Squares are the perfect appetizer (or shall I say, hors d’oeuvre).  They travel well, they are versatile, they are delicious and they are straight out of the 1980s–what could be cooler than that!  (That’s almost retro, right?)  I promise never to forget these little bites of cheesy goodness again.   

Spinach Squares:

  • 4 tablespoons of butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon dried onion
  • 2 packages chopped frozen spinach, thawed and drained well
  • 2  8-oz packages grated white cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Melt butter in a glass 9 x 13-inch dish.  In a medium bowl, mix the remaining ingredients together and spread into dish.  Bake for 30-35 minutes.  Let stand for 30 minutes before cutting.  Cut into small squares.  May be served warm, cool, or at room temperature.

Game Day Loaded Quesadillas


The New England Patriots are a big deal in our household.  Autumn Sundays revolve around the game and I love that it gives me a reason to cook hearty and delicious food.  My husband made a request for some quesadillas yesterday (I love when he makes specific requests!) and I was excited to deliver.

Quesadillas are simple and versatile.  They are an easy go-to and they are an especially great way to use up leftovers.  Do you have some grilled veggies you want to reincarnate? Toss them in a quesadilla.  Leftover roasted chicken?  Do the same.  You can create a last minute masterpiece of a dinner by simply digging through your fridge.  My philosophy about quesadillas is similar to that of tarts.  The options are endless! 

Game Day Loaded Quesadillas:

  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 4-6 thinly sliced chicken breasts*
  • 4 wheat wraps or tortillas
  • 1-2 cups shredded Mexican cheese (about 1/2 cup per quesadilla)
  • 1 avocado, cubed
  • 2 tablespoons canned or fresh chopped chiles
  • 1 cup salsa (make your own or doctor up jarred salsa by adding fresh cilantro, black beans, and/or corn kernels)
  • 1 bunch scallions, finely chopped
  • dollops of sour cream or non-fat Greek yogurt

Combine first three ingredients.

Rinse and pat dry chicken.  Rub both sides of each piece of chicken with cumin/salt/pepper mixture. Grill each piece of chicken until done.  Remove from heat and cut into thin strips. Set aside.

In a non-stick pan place one tortilla.  Top with some cheese then chicken strips, avocado chunks, chiles, a few tablespoons of salsa (not too much or your quesadilla will be soggy), fresh scallions and then more cheese.  Place another tortilla on top.  Press down along edges of tortilla to seal it.  Serve with dollops of non-fat Greek yogurt (or sour cream) and salsa.  Garnish with scallions.

*I purchase fresh chicken that is labeled “thinly sliced breasts.”  I find they cook very quickly and save me the time of pounding or slicing full sized breasts myself.  



Escarole Soup


Wow–it has been a while!  It has been a whirlwind of a summer and the reason for my recent absence is that my husband and I just returned from a fabulous vacation in Spain.  We had a really fantastic time and I have returned so inspired and excited to get cooking with some newly acquired Mediterranean perspective!   We ate so much delicious food and I cannot wait to recreate some of the dishes.

With so many family birthdays and exciting celebrations of all sorts during the summer, I spent quite a bit of my time baking, as you can tell:

Yikes!  Though it seems counterintuitive to spend so many hours indoors baking in a hot kitchen during the peaks of summer heat, in an odd way, it makes some sense.  Summer tends to be a time of indulgence.  Ice cream becomes a priority and my husband plays on 2-3 softball teams each summer, which prevent regular balanced sit-down dinners each night.  Also, when the weather is nice and there are more hours of sunlight we are less likely to sprint home immediately after work to settle in and eat dinner.  Now that fall is here (man do I love fall) it is time to get back into a routine and return to the table for long warm meals.   

In addition to the overabundance of sweet treats, you may have also noticed some changes on!  Yes–we got a facelift!  I’d be happy to hear your thoughts about the new design.  Please email me with any suggestions or feedback: kitchenbelle at ymail dot com.

And now, onto the soup!  I did some major food shopping immediately upon returning from vacation. In Whole Foods, I picked up a leaflet advertising meals for under $15.  This escarole soup caught my eye.  In need of something easy, filling and nutritionally sound to make for dinner–something that could sit on the stove while I continued to unpack and restore order to the apartment–I settled on this soup.

The moment it began simmering our place smelled like my grandmother’s!  She used to make escarole soup all of the time when I was a child, yet I didn’t realize it until the smell evoked the memory.  The sense of scent is a wonderful thing.

I adapted the recipe by cooking the garlic and olive oil with just the smallest pieces of bacon fat.  I was incredibly and pleasantly surprised by how unbelievably flavorful this soup turned out.  What I found especially strange is that I did not even use any salt AND I used low sodium broth–something I very rarely do. 

Escarole Soup:

  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, sliced thin
  • 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes (less or more depending on your preference)
  • 1 very thin strip of bacon or bacon fat
  • One large bunch of escarole, rinsed, dried and chopped
  • One 48-ounce can of chicken broth
  • Two 14-ounce cans of Pinto beans, drained and rinsed

Heat oil on medium-low and add garlic, bacon, and red pepper flakes.  Be careful not to burn the garlic.  Add the chicken broth and escarole and  bring to a boil for about 15 minutes or until the escarole wilts.  Add the pinto beans and simmer for 20-25 minutes.  Remove bacon.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve with crusty bread for dipping.

Adapted from Whole Foods leaflet.


Curried Chicken Salad


As I previously mentioned, I have been in search of low-fuss no-cook appetizers.  There is nothing worse than slaving over a hot oven in the middle of summer!  (That kind of heat makes me grumpy and that is no way to greet guests!)  Again, with the guidance of editor Ashley Johnson, I decided to make this curried chicken salad.  Not only was it a success with my guests but I have been eating it for lunch every day! 

Some notes:

–I chose to serve this as an appetizer with pita chips, therefore, it was extremely important that I diced the components of the salad into very small pieces.  I made sure there weren’t any large chunks of chicken that would be larger than the pita chips.  The same for the apple, pineapple, and grapes.  Definitely cut each grape into at least four pieces–possibly even six.  When you are chopping envision each pita chip scooping up some of the salad–if your dices are the right size each bite should contain almost every component of the salad. You would never want one scoop to contain nothing but a giant grape!  On the other hand, if I were serving this in sandwich rolls at a luncheon, it would be okay to leave the components of the salad in larger cubes because in that situation your guests are filling an entire roll.  Make sense?

–I substituted Chobani plain-flavored yogurt in place of mayo.

–Some commenters on indicated they used raisins instead of currants.  I suggest sticking to the currants.  They are nice and small and make the salad a little jazzier.

–For the chicken, I grilled fresh cutlets seasoned with salt and pepper and then shredded/diced them up, however, you could use a grocery store rotisserie chicken or even canned water packed chicken (drained) in a pinch. 

–Add the curry powder and then taste.  You may want to add more.

–I think I doubled (or maybe even tripled) this recipe.

Curried Chicken Salad:

  • 1 1/2  cups  chopped cooked chicken breast
  • 1/2  cup  halved seedless red grapes (dice size depends on you want to serve the salad)
  • 1/2  cup  diced peeled unpeeled green apple
  • 2  tablespoons  diced pineapple
  • 1  tablespoon  dried currants
  • 3  tablespoons  plain Chobani yogurt 
  • 1  teaspoon  honey
  • 1/2  teaspoon  curry powder
  • 1/2  teaspoon  fresh lemon juice
  • 1/8  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/8  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
  • Combine chicken, grapes, apple, pineapple, and currants in a large bowl. In another bowl, combine yogurt, honey, curry powder, lemon juice, salt and pepper stirring with a whisk. Pour dressing mixture over chicken mixture; toss gently to coat. Cover and chill.


    Adapted from