Creamy chestnut soup is a lovely way to begin a special meal or to chase away a chill on a long winter afternoon.

3/4 cup butter
1 cup celery
1/2 cup carrots
1-1/2 cup onions
1 teaspoon salt
3 10-ounce cans water-packed cooked chestnuts
2 quarts chicken stock*
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup dry Madeira
2 cups half and half
2 tablespoons chopped parsley, fresh

Wash and dice the celery, carrots and onions.

Melt 1/2 cup of the butter in a Dutch oven. Add the celery, carrots and onions and stir until the onions become transparent and the carrots and celery become wilted but not browned. Add the chestnuts (including the liquid), chicken stock and salt.

Cover the Dutch oven and bring the contents to a boil and then immediately reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer until the chestnuts and vegetables are soft, approximately 45 – 60 minutes.

Transfer the vegetables and broth to a food mill, food processor or blender. You want to purée the vegetables to a coarse texture; so if you’re using a food processor or blender, use a pulse mode. If you’re using a food mill, the fine disk does a splendid job.

Return your purée to the Dutch oven over medium heat. Whisk the remaining butter into the purée 1 teaspoon at a time.

Whisk the egg yolks, Madeira and cream together in a small bowl. Temper the mixture by adding, a few tablespoons at a time, the hot chestnut purée to the egg yolk mixture and whisk thoroughly. The point is to heat the egg yolks so they will mix into and thicken the contents of the Dutch oven, instead of cooking into clumps. Once your egg yolk mixture is warmed, whisk it into the Dutch oven.

Whisk and cook the soup until it’s piping hot but NOT boiling. If you boil this soup at this stage it will destroy the luxurious texture.

Ladle the soup into warmed bowls and garnish with parsley.

Reheat any leftover soup very gently in a lidded saucepan over low heat.

Yield: 6 – 8 servings.

*Use a strong chicken stock for this recipe, as opposed to chicken broth. Chicken broth does not possess the flavor and texture that makes this soup special and satisfying.

*Magic: this recipe is exclusive to I Love You Recipes. It is from my personal, unpublished collection.

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For a change of pace, replace the baked beans at your next barbecue with this easy budget friendly side-dish. These lively beans taste better the following day.

1 pound firm, ripe tomatoes
1 sweet onion
1/2 pound Anaheim chilies
6 cloves garlic
6 15-ounce cans pinto beans (10 – 11 cups)
Salt
Pepper, freshly cracked and ground

Wash, core and chop the tomatoes. Peel and chop the onion. Wash, seed and chop the chilies. Peel and mince the garlic.

Place the tomatoes, onion, chilies and garlic in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Stirring frequently, cook until the onion is slightly browned.

Add the beans and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for approximately 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the beans have heated through, season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve immediately or refrigerate in a tightly sealed container and reheat prior to service.

Yield: 8 – 12 servings.

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This silky carrot soup is beautifully complimented by the light ginger flavor, rich coconut milk and aromatic red curry paste. Truly a recipe for all seasons, you can enjoy this delicious soup hot or cold!

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
6 large carrots
2 – 3 thin slices fresh ginger root
1 medium onion
4 cups chicken stock or broth
2 cups water
1/3 cup unsweetened coconut milk
3/4 teaspoon red curry paste
Salt
Pepper, freshly cracked and ground
1 scallion or green onion
1 tablespoon cilantro leaves
1 tablespoon fresh basil

Preparation:
Peel and slice the carrots; cut 2 into fine matchsticks and 4 into thick slices. Peel and chop the onion. Peel and slice the ginger root. While the soup is simmering, prepare the garnish; cut the scallion into match sticks, pick the leaves from the cilantro and finely chop the basil.

Cooking:
Place the oil in a large saucepan over high heat and add the sliced carrots and ginger. Stir frequently and cook for 6 – 10 minutes, until the carrots are lightly browned and crisp-tender. Add the onion and cook for 2 – 3 minutes, until the onions are soft and translucent but not browned.

Add the chicken stock, water, coconut milk and curry paste to the sauce pan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook until the carrots are tender, 20 – 25 minutes. Reserving the vegetables, strain the cooking liquid into another saucepan.

Finishing:
Remove and discard the ginger slices. Use a stick blender or transfer the carrots to a blender. Add 1 cup of the cooking liquid and blend until very smooth. Whisk the puree into the cooking liquid. Add the carrot matchsticks and cook for about 3 minutes, until tender. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To serve, ladle the soup into warmed bowls and garnish with the scallion, cilantro and basil. Alternately, you can store the soup in a tightly lidded container until it is chilled or serve cold the following day.

Yield: 4 servings.

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Take red beans and rice to new heights with this delicious Cuban version. This vegetarian recipe is easy on the budget. Cook the beans in a slow cooker on low the for a fast-fix family meal after a long day.

Beans:
1 cup dried small red kidney beans
2 quarts water
1/2 small onion
1 side of a large red bell pepper
2 cloves garlic, peeled
2 cilantro sprigs, fresh
1/2 teaspoon cumin
Salt

Rice:
1-1/2 cups long-grain with rice
3 cups reserved bean cooking liquid

Finishing:
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups onions, chopped
1/4 cup red bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

Tabasco sauce (Crystal Sauce!)

Beans:
Pick through the kidney beans and place in a bowl or pot. Cover by 3 – 4 inches of fresh cold water and soak over night. Drain and rinse the beans. Place the beans, 1/2 small onion, 1 side of red bell pepper, 2 garlic cloves, 2 cilantro sprigs, 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin and water into a Dutch oven over medium heat. Bring the pot right to the boiling point and reduce heat immediately to medium low for a light simmer. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until beans are tender, approximately 1 hour.

When the beans are cooked tender, add salt to taste. Drain the beans. Reserve the cooking liquid. Remove the herbs and vegetables from the beans; discard.

Rice:
Soak the rice in cold water for approximately 5 minutes and then rinse very well several times.

Bring 3 cups of the bean cooking liquid to a boil in a lidded sauce pan. Add the rice and bring to a boil. Stir well and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer for approximately 20 minutes, until nearly all of the liquid has been absorbed. Uncover the rice and fluff with a fork.

Finishing:
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions, bell pepper, garlic, cumin and oregano and sauté until onions begin to brown. Stir in beans and rice; cook until heated through, about 5 minutes; season with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Place a heaping helping of the hot beans and rice on a warmed plate or bowl and add few dashes of Tabasco (Crystal Sauce!) sauce.

Yield: 6 servings.

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Steaming bowl of beans in hand, The Husband turned to me and said, “These are a national treasure.” Whether you choose pinto, navy or great northern beans this easy recipe will earn you raves. It’s a highly nutritional dish that fits most any budget. Use a left over ham bone or omit meat ingredients for a totally vegetarian dish.

1 pound dry pinto, navy or great northern beans
2 – 3 bay leaves
4 – 6 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon whole pepper corns
½ bunch of parsley – about 1 cup, stalks and all
2 carrots
2 stalks of celery
1 medium yellow onion
4 – 8 ounces pork “ends and pieces”
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
Salt 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon
1 sweet onion
Hot sauce (I prefer “Crystal Sauce”)

Pick through the dry beans for stones. Place the beans in a Dutch oven, cover with fresh cold water and soak for 8 hours.

In a section of cheese cloth place bay leaves, pepper corns, garlic cloves and the parsley. There is no need to peel the garlic. You may need to fold or wad the parsley to make a nice bundle. Fold the sides of the cheese cloth over the seasonings and roll up. Secure your bundle with a clean cotton string. Tip: if you’ll start with the bay leaves and work in order, the pepper corns won’t roll away.

Wash the carrots, celery and yellow onion. No need to peel, these will be removed when the beans have cooked. No need to chop, just break the vegetables that are too long to fit easily into the Dutch oven.

Place the carrots, celery, yellow onion, seasoning bag and pork in the bottom of a Dutch oven or slow cooker. Drizzle the olive oil on top. Drain and rinse the beans and add them to the pot. Cover with fresh cold water to a scant inch above the beans. On a stove top, turn the heat on high. Without allowing the pot to come to a boil, immediately reduce the heat to a slow simmer when the water is about to boil. Place lid on top, slightly askew to vent some steam and cook until tender; between 3 and 6 hours depending on the simmer. In a crock pot, cook on low for 10 – 12 hours until tender and creamy.

If you’re serving the beans over rice, approximately 30 minutes before the beans are finished, prepare according to package directions. Peel and chop the sweet onion.

When the beans are cooked, remove the seasoning bag and vegetables. Add salt if you like. Add ¼ cup of vinegar wait a minute or two, taste and adjust to your liking.

Serve the beans with or without the rice. Garnish with a hand full of sweet onion and a few dashes of Crystal Sauce.

These beans taste even better the following day :-)

Tip: Do not add salt or vinegar to your beans until they have finished cooking. Acidic ingredients cause bean skins to become tough during cooking.

*Magic: this recipe is exclusive to I Love You Recipes. It is from my personal, unpublished collection.

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