Fall Vegetable Soup

Fall is my favorite food season. I enjoy the hearty, earthy flavors of fall vegetables and wait patiently through the year for the weather to cool down just enough to spur me to make big satisfying pots of chili or stew. Inspired by the produce that has begun to show up in the grocery stores recently, I decided to make a pot of vegetable soup.

For my fall-inspired variation on vegetable soup, I  used:

  • 4 slices of bacon
  • 1 small Sweet Dumpling squash
  • 2 carrots
  • 3 celery stalks
  • 1 small onion
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 4 oz of Baby Portobello mushrooms
  • 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes
  • 14 oz can Cannellini beans
  • 32 oz chicken broth
  • 2 Russet potatoes
  • 1/2 bunch Lacinato kale
  • 1/2 bunch Swiss chard
  • Sage
  • Thyme
  • Salt and pepper
Ingredients for vegetable soup
Ingredients for vegetable soup

For the soup, start with the traditional carrots, celery, and onion. Peel and dice the carrots, cut the celery stalks in half lengthwise and dice the halves, mince the garlic, and finely chop the onion. To this traditional mix, also chop about four ounces of baby portobello mushrooms and prepare a Sweet Dumpling squash.

To prepare the Sweet Dumpling squash, cut the squash in half, scoop out the seeds with a spoon, and carefully peel the the skin of the squash off with a sharp knife. Dice the squash flesh into pieces about the same size as the pieces of diced carrots.

Sweet Dumpling Squash
Diced Sweet Dumpling squash

In a 6-quart cast-iron dutch oven, cook four slices of bacon (halved) on medium heat until crispy. Remove the bacon and set aside for later. For a healthier option, leave out the bacon and add olive oil to the pot instead.

Bacon
Bacon? Yes please.

After removing the cooked bacon, add the carrots, celery, onion, garlic, and squash to the pot with the bacon grease, cooking about 15 minutes until the vegetables soften.

Vegetables for the soup
Vegetables for the soup

Once the vegetables soften, add dried sage and thyme (about a half teaspoon each) and the can of diced tomatoes with their juices. Add in the chopped mushroom and the can of cannellini beans. Mix well and pour in the chicken broth.

Bring the soup to boil and reduce the heat to medium low. Dice the Russet potatoes and add them to the simmering soup.

Diced Russet Potatoes
Diced Russet potatoes

After about 10 minutes, check to see if the potatoes are soft. While the soup simmers, wash and cut the kale and Swiss chard into 1 inch squares., removing the stem. When the potatoes are soft, add kale and chard to the soup.

Kale and chard added to the soup
Add the kale and chard to the soup

As the kale and chard begins to wilt, stir the soup well. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Fall vegetable soup simmering on the stove
Fall vegetable soup simmering on the stove

This hearty, fall inspired soup is full of vegetables and flavor. The Sweet Dumpling squash, mushrooms, kale, and chard provide a tasty twist on more traditional vegetable soups. Bowls of this warm soup offer earthy, satisfying flavors of the season, perfect for the Fall’s cooler weather.

Bowls of fall vegetable soup
Bowls of fall vegetable soup

Happy Valentine’s Day

Happy Valentine’s Day from WhiteHouseDinners.com!

Instead of fighting the crowds, we celebrated Valentine’s Day at home with a spinach-strawberry-parmesan salad and Mushroom-Red Swiss Chard Risotto.

Spinach-Strawberry-Parmesan Salad
Spinach-Strawberry-Parmesan Salad
Mushroom-Red Swiss Chard Risotto
Mushroom-Red Swiss Chard Risotto

Over the weekend, Jill picked up some plain sugar cookie hearts from a local bakery, Tasty Pastry, and decorated them at home. These “Message Heart” cookies were a great finish to a great Valentine’s Day evening.

Marbled and Message Heart Cookies
Marbled and Message Heart Cookies
Heart Shaped Cookie with Sprinkles
Heart Shaped Cookie with Sprinkles

Cheesy Polenta with Swiss Chard

Cheesy polenta with Swiss chard is one of my favorite recipes for several reasons.  This dish is quick, simple to make, and smells incredible while cooking.  The greens, reds, and yellows in this dish are beautiful.  I also like how easy it is to create variations of this recipe based on what is fresh in the garden or what I have on hand in my pantry; Kale or spinach can substitute for Swiss chard and the Cannellini beans can be replaced with black beans, garbanzo beans, or virtually any other type of bean.

To make this dish, you will need the following ingredients:

  • Polenta or yellow corn grits (I used Bob’s Red Mill Organic Polenta)
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard
  • 1 15.5oz can Cannellini beans
  • 1 14.5oz can diced tomatoes
  • 4 chicken sausage links (I used Aidells Chicken and Apple Sausage)
  • 1/2 cup cheddar cheese (I used Organic Valley Vermont Sharp)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
Ingredients
The ingredients

To prepare the Swiss chard, run a knife along each side of the chard stems to remove them. With the stems removed, cut across the leafy pieces in about 1.5 inch intervals.  Wash the chard pieces in a salad spinner or under cool running water.  Drain and rinse the Cannellini beans, grate the cheddar cheese, and slice the chicken sausage in half inch rounds.

Prepared Chard
Prepared Swiss Chard

Prepare four servings of polenta according the directions.  For Bob’s Red Mill polenta, this was adding 1/2 teaspoon of salt to three cups of boiling water before adding 1 cup of polenta and cooking for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  When the polenta is cooked, add 1/4 cup of cheddar cheese to the polenta and stir well over low heat.  If the polenta begins to look too thick before you finish cooking the rest of the meal, you can add a little butter or a little extra water and stir well.

While the polenta is cooking, heat about 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Cook the chicken sausage rounds in the oil until lightly browned, about 2 minutes.  Add the Cannellini beans and cook for another 2 minutes.  Add the diced tomatoes with juices and cook for another minute.

Pre-chard mixture
Chicken sausage, cannellini beans, and diced tomatoes

Add two handfuls of Swiss chard to the chicken sausage, Cannellini bean, and tomato mixture and gently mix until the chard is wilted.  It will look like too much chard at first, but chard wilts quickly.

Add the chard
Add the chard

As the chard wilts, add two handfuls at a time and stir gently until all of the chard is incorporated into the mixture.

Post Chard
The chard will wilt quickly

Spoon one serving of the cheesy polenta into a bowl and top with the chicken sausage, beans, tomatoes, and chard mixture. Garnish with extra grated cheddar to taste and serve.

Serve and Enjoy
Serve and enjoy

Square Foot Garden

Maybe it’s in my genes or maybe it’s in my blood, but I love growing things. I have fond memories of digging up sweet potatoes with Papa Burnum and riding in the field checking on the cows and the garden with Papa AE. In school I enjoyed putting dirt and seeds into mason jars and learning about plants while watching the seeds sprout and grow.

Perhaps trying to recapture some of childhood wonder, I decided earlier this year to build a square foot garden in my backyard. It is called a square foot garden, because the grid layout results in individual one foot by one foot squares.

Creating the Grid System
My knot work

Since my garden is four feet by four feet, I have sixteen cells to plant. After constructing the garden, I filled it with a mixture of compost, potting soil, and garden soil. I then planted a variety of herbs and vegetables.

Square Foot Garden
My Square Foot Garden

For the initial spring garden, I planted rainbow chard, kale, cabbage, parsley, lavender, oregano, and a bird eye pepper.

Parsley
Parsley

The bird eye pepper died almost immediately, but the chard, kale, and oregano grew incredibly well. Basil quickly replaced the bird eye pepper spot.

Rainbow Chard
Rainbow Chard

In about a month, the cabbage grew from this:

Baby CabbageTo this:

Adult Cabbage

The garden fresh vegetables have been used in a variety of dishes ranging from Scallops with Chard Risotto to Cheesy Polenta with Kale. Check back for garden updates and recipes featuring our garden fresh herbs and vegetables.