White Bean Soup


Mia and I began to plan Thanksgiving this week.  I say began because we got a bit distracted, as we tend to do, and ended up re-seasoning her cast iron skillet and riffling through old recipes.   At least we’ve started the process.   This year there is a hitch in our get-along as the UT vs. A&M game has moved to Thanksgiving Day.  Talk about calling an audible on our turkey day traditions!  So, Mia and I have a little more planning to do this year figuring out how to work in a turkey and football.

While we were sitting around her kitchen table looking through cookbooks and all her tried and true recipes, Mia disappeared for a minute and came back with a container of white bean soup.  She told me I  needed to take it home and have it for lunch.  Isn’t that just like a mother?  I’m glad I listened to her this time, this white bean soup is delicious.

The recipe comes from The Gourmet Slow Cooker a book Mia’s BFF gave her recently.

White Bean Soup

2 cups dried white beans

6 – 8 cups water or chicken stock

2 Tbs olive oil

1 yellow onion, finely chopped

3 carrots, peeled and finely chopped

3 celery stalks, finely chopped

2 large garlic cloves, minced

1 ham bone

1 (14 1/2 oz) can crushed tomatoes

2 sprigs oregano, coarsely chopped

1 cup packed spinach leaves

1 Tbs salt

1/4 cup chopped parsley for garnish

Rinse and sort through the beans.  Place them in the slow cooker and add enough water to cover.  Cover and cook on high for 2 hours, until the beans begin to soften.  Or, soak the beans with water to cover overnight, then drain, rinse, and transfer to the slow cooker.  Add the water to cover.

Heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat and add the oil.  Add the onion, carrots, celery, garlic and saute, stirring frequently for 10 minutes or until lightly browned.  Add the vegetables and ham bone to the beans in the slow cooker.  Cover and cook on low for 6 – 8 hours, until the beans are tender.

Just before serving, stir in tomatoes, oregano, spinach and salt.  Garnish with parsley.

Cooks note:  I added a spoonful of grated parmesan and a dash of cholula to my bowl just to kick it up a notch.


6 Ingredient Supper (Roasted Chicken & Risotto)

It’s nearing noon and I have no plan for supper.  My friends, this rarely happens at The Schell Cafe and when it does it causes the Mama to get a little panicky.  I refuse to go to the store today, and time wouldn’t allow anyway, so I pilched what was left in the produce basket and searched the pantry.  I have six worthy ingredients from which to make dinner:

chicken breasts

olive oil



parmesan cheese


carnaroli rice

Whoops. That’s seven ingredients, isn’t it? Let’s not get lost in details, friends.  Remember I’m in a fragile state of mind.  What to do? What to do?  Why my stand by roasted chicken with 1 million cloves of garlic and risotto, of course.  I make roasted chicken so frequently it barely raises an eyebrow anymore.  Even with 1 million cloves of garlic its getting a little predictable.  So, I’m breaking my very own rule and will make risotto to give the roasted chicken an unexpected flair.  My rule is this.  I don’t make risotto until the temperature finally feels like fall.  Which in Central Texas generally happens mid-November.  But, the littles absolutely love risotto and since I made them work so hard last night, I should spoil them a little.

Excuse me while I go crank up the air-conditioner.

Risotto is not hard to make. It’s just that you have to stir. And stir.  And stir.  And it gets hot standing in front of an open flame stirring for 30 minutes.

First I roasted the chicken breasts.  Which is so simple it’s embarrassing.  Here’s my nothing-fancy-straight-and-simple way to roast chicken breasts.

2 breasts, bone in, skin on

1 million cloves of garlic (maybe a scant one million)

olive oil

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.  Wash and pat chicken dry.  Place chicken skin side up in baking pan.  Toss garlic all around chicken and bake in oven for 15 minutes.  Take pan out of oven, brush chicken with olive oil, sprinkle with salt & pepper.  Turn chicken over, brush this side with olive oil, s&p.  Bake 10 minutes.  Take pan out of oven.  Turn chicken back to skin side up.  Brush again with olive oil. Shake garlic up and move it around a bit in the pan to make sure it’s getting all nice and golden.  Bake 10 more minutes.  At this point, my chicken is always roasted to perfection, but be sure to test that you have completely cooked the poultry.

Clearly I am a fan of roasted garlic.  That is 1/2 million cloves, by the way.

Risotto with Peas

olive oil

one small onion, diced

1 cup peas

1/4 cup parmesan cheese

1 cup risotto

water/chicken broth

I didn’t really measure any of this today, remember I’m crunched for time and all.  But risotto is very forgiving since you slowly add the chicken broth/water in small batches.

First, add some olive oil to the heavy, non-stick saucepan.  Add chopped onion and saute for about 3 minutes or until the onions are translucent, but not browning.  Add risotto and let the grains toast for about 1 minute or so.  Then add some luke warm liquid.  Sometimes I keep chicken broth simmering so I can add it by the ladle full.  I only had a splash of chicken broth left so today I’m using mostly water.  Begin adding liquid to the grains and stir over low heat until all the water is absorbed.  Then add some more and stir until its all absorbed.  After about 30 minutes you should have a yummy, thick consistency.  Add in the parmesan cheese and peas.  Salt and pepper to taste.

In about 30 minutes and with only 6, alright 7 ingredients you can have something like this on the table.

What is your favorite last minute supper fix?  I’d love to know.

Simple Shrimp Supper (Chili-Lime Vinaigrette)

It’s a perfect Saturday. The littles are still relishing their Friday night sleep-overs, we have a rare break in our our typical routine of over-abundantly-scheduled-saturday-activities and Husband is happy the Horns play tonight. Football season is its own religion at The Schell Cafe. Our beloved Texas Longhorns are away tonight which gives us a rare September Saturday night at home.

Husband requested grilled shrimp for supper. Simple enough. And because I already have all the fixin’s in the pantry, I’ll make shrimp tacos for the littles and a salad tossed with a spicy vinaigrette for Husband and myself.

Nothing could be more simple than making a vinaigrette.  Well, maybe the shrimp.  Tonight I’m using only three ingredients: olive oil, lime juice and chili powder.  Use a 3:1 ratio of olive oil and lime juice.  This is the general rule of thumb for any oil/vinegar combo. The lime juice I’m using tonight is an acidic substitute for vinegar.  And add chili powder to taste.  Quickly whisk the ingredients together until the liquid emulsifies and you have an opaque consistency.  Drizzle over salad and enjoy!

A Manly Meal (Coffee Steak Rub)

Cheesy title, I know.  But it started out as A Meal for My Man which sounded too Tammy Waynette for me.  The point is I’m making a Husband pleasing supper tonight.

I’ve been a tad distracted with the start of school and the never-ending-house-renovation project.  Though he’d never say so, I know Husband feels neglected by my diverted attention.  So the dinner is a peace offering of sorts.  A way to thank him for being uber-Hubs and working hard for me and the children.  Well, now I just sound like June Cleaver.  I think I’ll shut up and cook.

The recipe came to me via Mom’s BFF.  Earlier in the summer I offered to take dinner to our good friends whose father was ill.  As a rule I never take a meal to a family without testing the recipe first.  But, this steak sounded so delicious I had to make it right then and there.  I’ve made it a half dozen times this summer and it’s worth sharing.

Coffee Steak Rub***

1/2 cup ground coffee (I used a dark roast from Costa Rica)

1/2 cup coarse black pepper

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup salt

I make this in a baggie and keep it in the fridge.  I’ve tried a few variations, but it’s best to keep it simple.  I do cut back on the pepper some and I like a sprinkle (no more than a tsp) of cinnamon.

I’ve tried a couple cuts of meat and have been having a lucky streak with rib-eye.  Coat the steak liberally with the mix and let the steak sit for a few minutes.  The steak will begin to sweat and really absorb these surprising flavors.  Toss the steak on the grill and enjoy!  I know Husband will.

*** I just made this recipe title up and it’s a little boring. What do you think we should name it??? Send me your suggestions and I’ll pick the best.  The winner will get free Costa Rican ground coffee to try out the recipe!

Best Blueberry Breakfast (pancakes)

I thought I’d share my latest breakfast treat.  I’ve made these pancakes every morning for the last few weeks and I don’t think I will ever tire of them.  They are perfect and pack a punch of nutrition into an amazingly hearty treat.

I’ve promised several friends that I would not become a Clean Eating Evangelist, but when the news is this good you’ve got to share.  One of the best resources for clean eating is Tosca Reno.  You can read all about her at www.eatcleandiet.com.  She has a familiar story and I have been very inspired by her clean eating for life.

It’s been fun to adapt old recipes and even more fun collecting new ones that balance the proportion of complex carbs and proteins for perfect clean meals.

Try these pancakes, you won’t be sorry.  I make them for husband and two of the four children.  The other two will get there eventually….

BBB Pancakes

1/2 cup oatmeal (not instant) ***

5-6 egg whites (I’ve started using 3/4 c Egg Beaters)

2 T ground Flax Seed

3/4 c blueberries


Blend ingredients in mini-blender.  Pour onto skillet lightly greased with Pam.  Makes appx. 8 hearty pancakes.  I splurge with a little sugar-free syrup, but I’m not sure it qualifies as a true clean food.

This recipe is for one serving believe it or not!

*** Gluten-free update: I continue to make these protein-carb balanced pancakes with Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free oats.

Christmas Worthy Potatoes (Twice Baked Blue Cheese Sweet Potatoes)

Cooking is as much about intuition as it is skill.  You can master all kinds of techniques, sauces, chopping and such, but at the end of the day you need keen senses to guide you.  To me cooking is an art not a science.  I’m sure Alton Brown (who I adore) would argue with me as well as any purists out there.  But, I am not a chef. I am merely a housewife running a 24 hour cafe for six regulars and a few occasional guests.

As such, I am learning to trust my instincts.  Timing is a big one.  Is the salmon finished? What about the pork?  I know I could use my meat thermometer, but I’m getting quite good at turning out well timed products.  Pairing the right foods requires good intuition as well as a honed palate.  I don’t profess to have this ability but it’s certainly fun trying to make a symphony out of dinner.  Just enough heavy, light, soft, and bold to make the whole experience a delight to the senses.

What I’m really trying to say is that I made Christmas worthy potatoes tonight.  And the individual parts of my Christmas symphony feast are beginning to come together.  I’m not aiming for Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus or anything….my ability is more in alignment with the kindergarten school rendition of Jingle Bells.  But I am on the right track nonetheless.

My instincts told me last night that the Boursin Potatoes were wonderful, but perhaps not worthy of a once a year meal.  While a definite crowd pleaser with my children, the mild flavor of the boursin just didn’t hold up to the strong presence of the beef tenderloin.  But tonight’s potatoes my friends were out.stand.ing.

I wish I could attribute these potatoes to the genius who created them.  The recipe comes from The Dallas Dish which is the latest cookbook offering from the Dallas Junior League.  However this modern cookbook has updated itself so completely that names of the women no longer grace the pages of the recipes they’ve submitted.  Isn’t half the fun of reading Jr. League cookbooks looking at who’s best friend’s mother’s aunt makes beef stroganoff?

Since I can’t properly credit Mrs. W.R.U. Soinso IV for these potatoes I will simply encourage you to buy the Dallas Dish Cookbook.   It’s wonderful and tastes like home.

Twice-Baked Blue Cheese Sweet Potatoes

4 sweet potatoes

1/4 c butter, softened

1/4 c sour cream

1/2 c crumbled blue cheese

Jalapeno Maple Cream

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Place sweet potatoes on a baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes or until tender.  Cut the sweet potatoes lengthwise into halves and scoop out the pulp.  Reduce oven temperature to 350.

Combine the pulp, butter and sour cream in a bowl and mix well.  Mound the pulp mixture  into the potato shells and arrange on a baking sheet.  Bake for 5 minutes and sprinkle with blue cheese.  Serve with Jalapeno Maple Cream.

Jalapeno Maple Cream

1/2 c sour cream

1 T maple syrup

2 tsp minced seeded jalapeno

1 tsp fresh lime juice

salt to taste

Tabasco sauce to taste

Combine the sour cream, maple syrup, jalapeno chile and lime juice in a bowl and mix well.  Season with salt and Tabasco.

Chicken Pasta Something or Other

Every once in a while I make something that everyone at The Schell Cafe really likes.  I don’t mean the meals that are tolerated with rolled eyes or the obligatory ‘thank you bite’.  I mean a meal that produces a clamor for seconds! I can always count on my homemade guacamole and chicken quesadillas to please the crowd.  Spaghetti, meat-loaf and grilled pannini sandwiches are appreciated too.

But my most frequently used fall back meal doesn’t even have a name.  Or a recipe.  One night I just tossed everything together and miraculously it worked!  So at least twice a month, occasionally more, I make this chicken pasta something or other.

My concoction makes a lot of pasta so I serve it for dinner one night and then pack it in school lunches for at least two days.  No one complains and I have more time to think about all the other dishes I would rather cook.  You know, the meals every one rolls their eyes at!

Chicken Pasta Something Or Other

1 lb. whole wheat pasta (I like shells or farfalle) ***

1/2 (mas y menos) package of frozen petit peas

1/3 cup toasted pine nuts (I toss mine  in butter for 2 minutes over medium heat)

fresh spinach (as much as I have) chopped

roasted chicken (store bought rotisserie or left over roasted) as much as I have

1 C parmesan cheese, finely grated

evoo to toss the hot pasta


There is no magic to the amounts I use with these ingredients. I always have these items on hand so depending on how much in the fridge is what goes into the pot!

P.S. I jinxed myself when I prematurely suggested that everyone in the family likes this meal.  The children all like it.  Husband, not so much apparently.  He informed me after I made it for dinner tonight that this was not his favorite pasta.

Tant pis for me, huh?!?

*** Gluten-Free update: The Littles love this dish and I’m happy to say with the substitution of Tinkyada or DeBoles gluten-free pastas this all time favorite is back on our rotation!