Pumpkin Soup Without the Fuss

posted in Soups, Salads, Sides and Sauces, Vegetarian by Kathy Maister
difficulty rating

The reason I call this recipe “Pumpkin Soup without the Fuss” is because it’s made from canned pumpkin which has been already cooked and mashed. Canned pumpkin tastes great and it is a huge time saver!

For this recipe you will need:

In addition to the canned pumpkin, the only other ingredient you may not be familiar with is evaporated milk. (I have used it in my “Stove-top Macaroni and Cheese” recipe.) Evaporated milk is just slightly thicker than regular milk but it is very rich. It will make this soup really creamy and very rich tasting. A low fat version is available. (Be sure not to confuse evaporated milk with sweetened condensed milk. They are often sold side-by-side.)

You need to chop one medium onion. If you don’t know how to chop an onion, there is a demonstration of it here: How to Mince, Dice and Chop Onions.

Get all of remaining ingredients measured and ready to go. That really only involves measuring the brown sugar, salt and cinnamon. If you are using chicken stock made from a bullion cube you will need to reconstitute the cube in boiling water.

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a medium pot.

Add the onions and cook them until they are soft, about 7-10 minutes. Give them an occasional stir.

Now add the brown sugar, cinnamon, salt and applesauce and cook everything for about 4 minutes.

After 4 minutes it will look like the picture below.

Add the pumpkin and chicken stock, and stir everything together. It will be pretty thick.

Bring the pot to a boil. Turn the temperature down to simmer and cover the pot.

Set the timer for about 20 minutes. Be sure to give the soup an occasional stir.

Pour in enough evaporated milk until the soup reaches your desired thickness. I like about 8 ounces of evaporated but you may want your soup thinner or thicker.

Be sure to add a few grinds of fresh black pepper.

The really great thing about this soup is that aside from the onion, all the other ingredients needed to make this soup come straight from your food cupboard. Next time you go grocery shopping be sure to add the ingredients for this soup to your list. On a cold evening a delicious pot of pumpkin soup can be ready for dinner in no time!

I have added a special touch to my soup by topping it with some cinnamon croutons!


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posted in Appetizers and Snacks, Vegetarian by Kathy Maister
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Guacamole with corn chips is a great addition to any party menu!

The ingredients needed to make guacamole are:

When using avocados, planning ahead is essential. If you try to make guacamole with a hard, under-ripe avocado, both the texture and the taste will be all wrong. When buying avocados, buy the ones that yield to gentle pressure but are not soft or mushy. Fortunately, you can speed up the ripening process by placing hard avocados in a brown paper bag for a couple of days. (That’s why you need to plan ahead!)

Check out my previous posts on how to crush garlic, squeeze juice from a lemon or lime and how to clean and cut jalapeno peppers, because they are what we are gong to tackle first.

Be sure to use fresh limes (or lemons) and fresh garlic and fresh jalapenos for this recipe.

Let’s start cooking!

Crush 2 cloves of garlic.

Squeeze 1/2 of a fresh lime; we will need 2 teaspoons of the juice.

Seed 1 jalapeño pepper and dice it into about 1/8 inch bits. (I always wear disposable gloves when cutting hot chili peppers!)

Cut one tomato in half with the stem end to the right of the knife blade. It is not necessary to peel the tomato.

Squeeze out all the seeds.

Chop the tomato into about ¼ inch bits.

Cut two avocados lengthwise (rather than making the cut around the width.)


Separate the two pieces.

Leave the avocado on the cutting board and give the pit a thwack with a big sharp knife.

Give the knife a twist and carefully remove the pit.

Pinch the pit off the knife with your thumb and forefinger and throw it away.


With a spoon, scoop out the avocado.

It’s OK to put the skin down the garbage disposer, but I just throw the pit in the trash. (It’s sort of like throwing a golf ball in the disposer. You just wouldn’t do it!)

For this chunky guacamole, I like to use a fork to mash it. You could also use a potato masher if you like.

Now add the other prepared ingredients to the avocado. Don’t forget the hot pepper sauce!

With a spoon gently blend everything together.

Give it a taste and see if you need to add some salt and pepper.

It’s important to note that, once exposed to air, an avocado discolors very quickly. Adding lime or lemon juice helps to prevent discoloration. It is widely believed that an avocado pit left in guacamole will help to maintain the lush green color. Wrong! Stick with the lemon or lime juice.

By the way, avocados are almost always eaten raw. They actually turn bitter when they are cooked. Who knew?


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Bean Salad Tex-Mex Style

posted in Soups, Salads, Sides and Sauces, Vegetarian by Kathy Maister
difficulty rating

This cold bean salad tastes as good as it looks!

The ingredient list, may look kind of long at first glance, but chances are you just might have most of the ingredients for the dressing already in your cupboard! (Olive oil, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, sugar, salt, garlic, cumin, and black pepper)

Dressing Ingredients

That just leaves buying the canned beans and corn, bell peppers, and red onion.

Start by rinsing and draining all the beans and the canned corn in a colander.

Then chop the red and green bell peppers, and mince the red onion. (My Vegetable and Dip video will show you how to cut and clean the peppers. Once they are cut into strips, it is just a matter of then lining them up and chopping them up.


Mix together the beans, corn, chopped peppers, and minced onions in a large bowl.

Now for the dressing:

In a medium bowl, whisk together:

Notice how I used one measuring cup to measure both the oil and vinegar together. Saves on clean-up!

Be sure to use fresh lemon juice.

You will only need about 1 teaspoon of fresh crushed garlic.


Garlic – Sliced, Minced, and Crushed

The photo below shows all the dressing ingredients whisked together. Feel free to add a few drops of hot sauce if you like.

Now pour the dressing over the bean mixture.

Mix everything together.

Cilantro is another optional ingredient, often found in Tex-Mex dishes. If you like cilantro, add 1/4 cup – minced to the salad. (You can wash and chop it as you would parsley.) Cilantro has a very distinctive flavor and aroma which people either love or hate! 1/4 cup of chopped cilantro is just enough. A great substitution for cilantro is actually a combination of parsley and mint.

Parsley, Cilantro, and Mint

You may be thinking there is way too much dressing for this salad.

However, the bean salad needs to marinate in the dressing for a couple of hours (in the refrigerator) for all the flavors to meld together. Be sure to cover this salad with plastic wrap and let it chill completely before serving. If there are any leftovers, drain off the excess dressing and store the bean salad in the refrigerator. It will keep for about two days!


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