Tag Archives: winter

Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup


I took the baby to Wisconsin this past winter to introduce her to family and friends. When I arrived at my oldest friend’s house, a heavenly smell greeted me. She had chicken and and wild rice soup in the slow cooker, which to be honest always struck me as the kind of soup grannies order from the corner café. What a strange stereotype! The rich, homey taste convinced me though, so I brought her recipe back home and adapted it to my non slow cooker having self. I’ve also cut down on the béchamel sauce as I don’t really like extremely creamy soups.


  • 500 g boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 1 cup wild rice mix (not parboiled)
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 3 carrots, peeled and rough diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 liters (8 cups) water
  • 1 Knorr cacito de pollo (my preferred stock pots)
  • 1.5 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1.5 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp mustard powder
  • 1/2 tsp adobo powder (or salt if you don’t have adobo)
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 40 grams butter
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 250 ml (1 cup) milk


Put raw chicken (don’t bother to cut it up), rice, vegetables, water, stock and herbs/spices into a 5.5 liter dutch oven or other similar heavy pot. Heat over medium heat until the water breaks into a boil and then lower the heat until it’s just the barest simmer. Cover, stirring occasionally and allow to cook for two hours.

After two hours, fish out the chicken breasts and allow them to cool slightly in a bowl. When they are cool enough to handle, shred the meat with your fingers or a fork and then add back to the pot.

Make the béchamel: melt the butter and olive oil over medium heat in a small saucepan. When it’s fully melted, whisk in the flour so there’s no lumps, and allow to cook stirring all the while until the roux bubbles for a couple of minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the milk. Return to the heat and whisk constantly until the sauce thickens. Add to the chicken soup and stir until completely incorporated.




Spanish lentils with chorizo


Another winter, another lentil recipe. This is a pretty traditional “lentejas con chorizo” recipe, if you make a double batch it freezes really well.

Adapted from Recetas de Rechupete


  • 250 g pardina lentils, rinsed
  • 3 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large onion, chopped finely
  • 1/2 red pepper, chopped finely
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon Pimentón de la Vera (smoked paprika)
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika (or half sweet, half hot)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 400 g can of tomato sauce
  • 2 TB tomato paste
  • 100 g Spanish spicy chorizo, skin removed and cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • water
  • olive oil


Sauté the onions and garlic over medium heat in a couple of good glugs of olive oil until they start to soften. Add the carrots and red pepper and sauté for 5 minutes or so, until the carrots start to soften slightly. Add the lentils and chorizo and fry them in the oil and vegetables for a few minutes, until the chorizo starts to render fat. Add in the bay leaves, paprikas, tomato paste and tomato sauce. Add three sauce cans’ worth of water and stir. Salt and pepper to taste. Allow the lentils to simmer over medium heat for approximately 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the lentils and carrots are tender.



White Chicken Chili


It’s nearly that time of year again! Joel actually remarked to me yesterday that he’s tired of summer now and would like for it to be colder. A definite case of “beware of what you wish for!” But I tend to agree if only in that I am really hankering for some fall/winter food. It’s time for stews, casseroles, roasted vegetables and other hearty comfort food. It seems like everyone’s got a recipe for white chicken chili (my mom’s is particularly tasty) but this incarnation is a product of cupboard-scouring. Since most of the ingredients are staples (in my house at least) it makes for a quick and healthy mid-week supper.


  • 500 g chicken breast, cut into 2″ chunks
  • 2 medium onions, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 Italian green peppers (cubanelle peppers), de-seeded and diced
  • small tin (200 g) of pickled jalapeños, drained and roughly chopped
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp sweet pimentón (paprika)
  • 1/2 tsp smoked pimentón
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 500 ml chicken stock
  • large jar (500 g) white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup (250 ml) frozen corn kernels

Heat the oil over medium heat in a soup pot or dutch oven. Lightly sauté the onions, garlic and green peppers just until they start to become soft. Stir in the jalapeños, herbs and spices. Add the raw chicken and the stock. Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Remove the chicken chunks with a slotted spoon and set aside in a bowl to cool slightly. Add the corn and beans to the pot and continue to simmer. When the chicken has cooled, shred the meat with your fingers and add back to the pot. Add a bit more stock/water as necessary to achieve desired consistency. Simmer for another 15 minutes over medium-low heat, occasionally stirring gently so you don’t beat up the beans. Adjust salt/pepper to taste. Serve on its own or with a bit of shredded cheddar or sour cream.

Servings: Four generous bowls. 449 calories (without added cheese, etc.)

Guinness Irish Stew


I’m going to put this out there: I’m not generally a huge celebrator of Saint Patrick’s Day. On account of my tenuous Irish heritage, my family ate corned beef and cabbage on the 17th of March and my name is Erin, after all. However, years of serving and tending bar soured me on the typical Americanized “everyone is Irish” style celebration and for a long time I have preferred to stay home and enjoy a pint in peace.

Cut to 2013: Our friend Mick was scandalized to hear that we don’t celebrate The Day at all, and sent us a Saint Patrick’s Day Survival Kit in the post to help us remedy the situation. We were treated to sweets, crisps, badges, DVDs and other sundry Irish delights. Quite an indulgence.


Not just for drinking!

It would be a shame not to celebrate wholeheartedly, so I decided to make a full Irish dinner to go along with our snacks and desserts – Irish stew and soda bread accompanied by creamy pints of Guinness, of course. Is this authentic? I do not know. But it was wonderful!


  • 400 grams beef stew meat, cut into 1-2″ chunks
  • 400 grams lamb* stew meat, cut into 1-2″ chunks
  • flour for dredging
  • pinch of salt, pepper, cayenne
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 2 leeks, white and light green parts, sliced
  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 bottle of Guinness
  • 2 tsp mustard (Colman’s or dijon)
  • 2 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 6 medium carrots, washed, peeled and cut into 2″ chunks
  • 400 grams potatoes, washed and cut into 2″ chunks
  • 3 parsnips, washed, peeled and cut into strips
  • 2 medium onions, quartered
  • Sprig of rosemary and thyme or 1 tsp dried of each
  • sea salt

*Lamb is traditional, but if you don’t care for it feel free to use just 800 g of beef.


stew meat

Fresh from the butcher’s: beef (l) and lamb (r) stew meat

Heat up the oil in a pressure cooker pot over medium heat. Dredge the stew meat in flour with a pinch of salt, pepper and cayenne. Shake off extra flour and brown the stew meat in the oil. You’ll probably have to brown it in two batches. Remove the meat to a bowl.

Lower the heat and sauté the leeks, shallots and garlic until translucent, scraping up any bits of meat/flour in the bottom of the pot. Add the bottle of Guinness, Worcestershire sauce, mustard and vinegar, letting it simmer for about 5 minutes. Return meat to the pot and add enough water to cover. Add the cocoa powder, bay leaf  and peppercorns and stir thoroughly.

Put the pressure cooker lid on and turn the heat to high, allowing it to come to full pressure. Turn heat down enough just so that it remains at full pressure and cook for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes take it off the heat and quick release the pressure (see your pressure cooker manual for details).

stew vegetables

Fresh is best!

Use the time while the meat is braising in the pressure cooker to wash, peel and prepare the vegetables. After quick releasing the lid, add the vegetables, rosemary, thyme and salt, to taste. Put the lid back on and return to full pressure, then cook for 5 minutes. Take the pot off the heat and allow it to depressurize using the slow release method.

Guinness Irish Stew

Hearty, delicious stew

Serve with warm bread and butter. There will be plenty for the next day as well, stew is even better the second day!

Note: If you don’t have a pressure cooker, no worries! Just braise the meat in a large pot over medium-low heat for 45 minutes to an hour before adding the vegetables, then cook for an additional 30-45 minutes over low heat, or until the veggies are tender.

Servings: Eight. 400 calories.

Adapted from Juls’ Kitchen and Irish American Mom.

Chewy Gingerbread Cookies

Chewy Gingerbread Cookies

crackly chewy goodness

Mmm ginger. I love crystallized ginger, ginger ale, ginger ice cream, ginger in my gin & tonic, the list goes on and on!

I’ve been hankering for some gingerbread cookies for some time now, but I wanted chewy, not crispy gingersnap type cookies. This recipe is perfect and uses ingredients I can easily source here in Barcelona.

The cookies are fabulous right out of the oven, of course, but I found that if you stored them overnight in an airtight container they became EVEN chewier, how awesome is that?!


  • 2 1/4 cups (290 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 cup (200 grams) brown sugar*
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) sunflower oil
  • 1/3 cup (70 ml) ginger marmalade OR molasses**
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 1 cup (115 grams) crystallized ginger, chopped into small pieces
  • a mix of white and brown sugar for rolling cookies

* The brown sugar I find readily available here isn’t exactly like the soft brown sugar you can get in the States or in the UK, but based on experience I like the Azucarera brand best for baking.

** Perhaps more resourceful BCN bakers can find molasses without traipsing all over town, but I cannot be bothered. Ginger preserves are pretty easy to find (Robertson’s, Wilkin & Sons and St Dalfour are all available at my neighborhood supermarket!), so marmalade in, molasses out!


Preheat oven to 180ºC/350ºF.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, and salt. In a large bowl whisk together brown sugar, oil, eggs and ginger marmalade until well combined. Add the dry ingredients to the wet while stirring gently. Mix until a homogeneous dough is formed. Add the crystallized ginger and stir to combine. Refrigerate covered for at least 15 minutes.

Using a pair of tablespoons, scoop the dough into 24 balls and roll them in the white/brown sugar mix until fully coated. Place the cookies at least 2 inches apart on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake for 13 minutes, rotating halfway through if necessary. When fully baked, the cookies will be cracked on top, but still soft to the touch. Allow cookies to cool completely on the cookie sheets. Store the cookies up to five days in an airtight container, if they last that long!

Servings: 24 cookies. 121 calories each.

Roasted Garlic & Rosemary Mashed Potatoes


It’s wintertime (a relative concept in Barcelona) and nothing goes better than a bit of stodge. There’s not much commentary needed for this post as mashed potatoes are pretty standard, but I feel as if this beloved side dish has been unfairly maligned. Potatoes aren’t terrible in and of themselves, it’s when you cover them with cheese and bacon and sour cream that they become calorie bombs. I think that the addition of rosemary and roasted garlic adds the flavor kick that you need with just a little butter and milk for creaminess.


  • Three medium-sized yellow skinned potatoes, peeled and cut into 1″ chunks
  • a sprig (about 4″ long) of fresh rosemary, or a 1/2 TB of dried rosemary
  • 4-5 cloves (half a head) of roasted garlic*
  • 75 ml semi-skim milk
  • 1 TB butter
  • cracked black pepper and sea salt to taste

* To make roasted garlic just drizzle a few cloves with olive oil and wrap them in aluminum foil to make a little packet. Place in oven on one of the top racks and roast under high heat for 20 minutes or so, until you can smell the garlic. The garlic will be soft and you can just squeeze it out of the papery skin.


Bring salted water to a boil and add potatoes and sprig of rosemary. Boil for 12-15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Drain and remove the rosemary stem if you’ve used a fresh sprig. Return potatoes to pot and add roasted garlic, milk and butter. Mash potatoes using a hand masher or a ricer. If you use a mixer you run the risk of over-mashing them and then they become gluey. Add salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste.

Servings: Two generous portions. 273 calories.



The idea of meatloaf doesn’t necessarily bring to mind the most positive of images. Dry, grey, greasy-spoon (or school cafeteria!) fare, served alongside wilted canned green beans and instant mashed potatoes. This of course is a gross generalization, and I am here to show you that meatloaf can be delicious, a bit spicy and even healthy!

This recipe has been adapted from Alton Brown. In the original, he uses more than a kilo of ground/minced meat, which seems a bit excessive to me. I’ve tinkered quite a bit with the recipe, to find the right vegetable-to-meat ratio so that it holds together well.  The icing on the cake, so to speak, is the glaze on the meatloaf; its tangy/spicy/sweetness really brings out the flavors of the garlicky meatloaf.

And by all means, serve your meatloaf with green beans and spuds, but please use fresh ingredients, no one wants mash from a box.


  • 500 grams ground beef/veal (carne picada)
  • a package (80 g) of garlic croutons (picatostes de ajo)
  • 1 carrot
  • half an onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 large red bell pepper
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp pimentón dulce (sweet paprika)
  • 1/2 tsp pimentón picante (hot paprika – or you can use cayenne)
  • 1/2 tsp pimentón de la vera (smoked paprika)
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 60 grams ketchup
  • 1/2 TB honey
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • dash of hot sauce, like Tabasco or Espidaler
  • dash of Worcestershire or brown sauce


Preheat oven to 180ºC/360ºF.

In a food processor bowl, combine croutons, paprikas and thyme. Pulse until the mixture is of a fine texture. Place this mixture into a large bowl. Combine the onion, carrot, garlic, and red pepper in the food processor bowl. Pulse until the mixture is finely chopped, but not pureed. (Note: before I had a food processor – thanks Mom! – I used to mince the shit out of the vegetables (technical term) with a knife until they were of a fine texture. And I would pulverize the croutons by beating the bag w- a wooden spoon. In some ways highly satisfying. But I digress.)

Combine the vegetable mixture and carne picada with the bread crumb mixture. Season the meat mixture with the sea salt. Add the beaten egg and combine thoroughly, but avoid squeezing the meat, this is what makes meatloaf tough.

Form a large ball with the meat mixture and place it onto a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Pat the meat into a loaf form. You can also form it into an oblong shape with a round ball stuck to one end of it and call it a cat loaf. (Muffin doesn’t find this amusing.)

In a small bowl, whisk together the ketchup, honey, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce and cumin. Brush onto the meatloaf after it has been baking for 15 minutes.

Bake for approximately 45 minutes, until a meat thermometer reads 70ºC/155ºF. This is a more accurate way of determining doneness, and keeps you from over-baking (and thus drying out) the meatloaf.

Servings: Four generous portions. 430 calories.

Chicken Pot Pie


Pie! Pot pie! Cutie pie! Joel and I can’t  say the word “pie” without shouting it, I guess to show off our enthusiasm for pie. We sound like Cartman from South Park.

A savoury pie makes for a great one-dish meal in the winter time.  This recipe doesn’t include a homemade bottom and top short-crust because I have little patience. In effect it’s a casserole topped off with yummy puff pastry. I adapted this recipe from Martha Stewart, but have  made a considerable number of modifications, particularly in cutting down the amount of chicken and increasing the veg.


  • 500 g boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 2″ chunks
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • Two carrots, peeled and sliced 1/4″ thick
  • 1 cup (approx 200 g) peeled and cubed sweet potato (or parsnip, turnip, swede, etc.)
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large leek, washed and trimmed (white and light green parts only), split lengthwise and chopped roughly
  • 2-3 shallots, peeled and chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon each thyme & rosemary*
  • 2 TB all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp paprika (I use pimentón de la Vera)
  • black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 300 ml semi-skim (1%) milk
  • 1 cacito de caldo de pollo (or 1 chicken stock cube)
  • 2 cups frozen peas
  • 1 TB fresh lemon juice
  • 1 package masa de hojaldre (puff pastry)

* I have rosemary and thyme plants, so I used a sprig of each (stem removed and coarsely chopped) but dried works just fine. You can even use 1/2 tsp of herbs de provence.


Preheat oven to 200ºC/400ºF. Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the chicken and brown lightly on all sides. When the chicken is browned add the chopped onion, leek, shallots, herbs, spices, carrots and potatoes. Sauté until the carrots are crisp tender, about 8-10 minutes. Add the flour and cook, stirring for 1 minute. (The flour will become pasty like a roux.) Gradually add the milk, stirring until the mixture is smooth. Add the frozen peas and stock cube, and then cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mix starts to thicken.

Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice. Pour mix into a 8×8 square casserole dish or a deep round pie plate. Unroll the puff pastry and lay over the top of the chicken and veg mixture. Don’t worry if there’s excess pastry that flops over the side of the casserole dish – the pastry will contract as it bakes. Prick the pastry in a couple of places with a fork so that steam can escape.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden and bubbling. Let the potpie set for 10-15 minutes before serving.

Servings: Four. 540 calories, approx.

Sweet Potato & Leek Soup


It’s October, so I can start making autumn/winter food now if I want, even if the temperatures don’t really match (the high today was 25º C / 77º F). This time of year you start seeing little huts all over town near the metro stations and at major intersections where they roast sweet potatoes and chestnuts and sell them in paper cones. The first time you buy a roasted sweet potato it looks pretty dubious, as it’s sort of blackened and shriveled and not at all appetizing to look at. The attendant wraps it in paper and lops off the top with a sharp knife, and inside the sweet potato is bright orange, steamy and soft and you eat it with a spoon.

I’m a big fan of the sweet potato in nearly all its incarnations (save the sickeningly sweet marshmallow topped version you see at Thanksgiving) and the flavor and nutritional value far outshines that of regular potatoes. This soup is a twist on traditional potato & leek soup and it can be spicy or not depending on your tastes.


  • 1 kg sweet potatoes*, peeled and cut into 1″ cubes
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 2 leeks, washed and trimmed (white and light green parts only), split lengthwise and chopped roughly
  • 1 medium onion, chopped roughly
  • 2 large garlic cloves, peeled and chopped roughly
  • 2-3 tsp raw ginger, chopped finely
  • 1 liter of chicken stock (or vegetable stock to make this recipe vegetarian-friendly)
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne (optional)
  • fresh cilantro and smoked paprika for garnish

* If sweet potatoes aren’t in season or you’re looking for a little variety in your life, you can substitute 1 kg of any mixture of orange vegetables (pumpkin, carrots, etc.)


In a large soup pot, sauté leeks, onion, garlic and ginger in olive oil over medium heat until the onions are translucent. Add the chopped sweet potatoes, broth and spices. If the liquid doesn’t cover the vegetables add a bit more water. Simmer over medium heat until the sweet potatoes are soft, approximately 20-25 minutes. Purée the soup using an immersion blender (or mini-pimer as we call it here) until it’s smooth. Serve immediately with a bit of smoked paprika sprinkled on top and some freshly chopped cilantro.

Servings: Six, approx. 206 calories.

Sopa Lusicana


Flat-sharing is an integral part of the Barcelona experience. Very rarely does anyone live on their own right off the bat, as the city takes some time to get used to and it’s rather expensive living on your own. I shared a flat for four years until Joel and I moved in together. I made some lifelong friends and met some interesting characters. One of those interesting characters was a Portuguese woman called Iris. She could be alternatively very generous and caring or moody and sanctimonious. It was an interesting experience, to say the least. The best thing about Iris is that she could cook her socks off and she liked to share. This recipe comes from her and it’s the best cold remedy I’ve ever found. Joel’s at home with a stuffed-up head so this is what we’re having for dinner tonight.


  • 250 grams (about half a pound) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1″ chunks
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 5-6 slices of fresh ginger
  • as many slices of canned jalapeños as you can stand
  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled & cut into 1″ chunks – you can also sub more potatoes for chicken to make this a vegetarian recipe
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • chopped fresh cilantro
  • one avocado
  • fresh lemon juice


This soup couldn’t be easier. Put the raw chicken, onions, potatoes, garlic, ginger, jalapeños and salt in a stock pot. Cover with water. Bring mix to a boil and then simmer until chicken is cooked through. (Approx 20-25 minutes.) In the meantime, slice the avocado and divide between two bowls. Throw a handful of chopped cilantro in each bowl and squeeze the juice of one big slice of lemon over the top. When the soup is finished cooking, carefully ladle the soup over the top of the avocado mix in each bowl. Keep Kleenex on hand as this will clear out your sinuses. Whee!

Servings: Four bowls, approx. 210 calories per bowl.