Potato and Pesto Chicken Soup

I can’t believe how simple and delicious this soup is. You can make your own pesto (I have a really excellent pesto recipe on this blog!) or you can just buy a good quality one from the store. By the way it’s absolutely delicious with or without the chicken. You decide.

You will need:

  • 2 tbsp great extra virgin olive oil -I used Solla Stella from Texas Hill Country
  • 2 slices of bacon
  • 1 small onion -finely minced
  • 1 tbsp butter and 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large baking potato -peeled and cubed into dice that fits on a spoon size
  • 2 cloves garlic – minced finely
  • 4 oz cannellini beans- rinsed
  • 1 litre chicken broth
  • 1 chicken breast – sliced finely and tossed in 1 tbsp pesto.
  • 1/2 cup small pasta
  • 1 tsp chili flakes
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 tbsp pesto
  • fresh grated Parmesan to serve with another drizzle of good oil.

Step 1: I like to assemble everything so I don’t forget things. I chop and have things ready to go when I start.

Step 2: cook bacon in some olive oil until crispy. Drain and set aside. I drain oil and then start with fresh olive oil for the next step.

Step 3: add a bit more olive oil and butter to saute your onions. Cook for 4-5 minutes and then add potatoes.  Toss and cook another 3 minutes until all potatoes are coated .

Step 4: add lots of salt and pepper. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute before adding broth.

Step 5: add your box of chicken broth -if you have homemade even better! and add beans.

Step 6: saute a chicken breast sliced and tossed in a bit of pesto. Add to soup.

Step 7: cook approximately 20 minutes until potatoes are soft. Add pasta shells and  chili flakes – cook another 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and add pesto to taste. Adjust salt and pepper if you want more.

If you don’t want the chicken just add the bacon back in at the last minute, a drizzle of good oil and a sprinkle of grated Parmesan.

If you like add the cooked chicken along with everything else!


Mushroom Soup

You can easily make a mushroom soup that is clear or you can make it thickened without adding cream. I like to add a handful of rice to the broth while cooking it or add a handful of cauliflower. You can then blend half the mix or all of it to make a rich mushroom soup without the added calories.

You will need:

  • 2 pkg 227 grams white mushrooms and cremini mushrooms
  • handful of dry mushrooms – re-hydrated with boiling water
  • 1 litre vegetable broth
  • 1 small onion – chopped finely
  • 3 garlic cloves – minced fine
  • 3 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil – Mandranova Cerasuola
  • 1/4 cup rice  or a cup of chopped cauliflower (or both)
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste

Step 1: cook chopped onion with some salt and pepper in olive oil for 5-10 minutes until just starting to brown.

Step 2: add sliced mushrooms, chopped  re-hydrated dry mushrooms, thyme and chopped garlic. Saute for another 5-10 minutes until they are cooked and most of the water is evaporated.

Step 3: add half cooked mushrooms to a large pot with vegetable broth and rice. Cook 20 minutes until rice is soft.You can also add some cauliflower to thicken without cream instead of rice (or add both!)

Step 4: blend the entire mix in blender until pureed as you like it.

Step 5: add back the soup to the pot and add the other half of your cooked mushrooms. Stir and adjust salt and pepper as necessary.

serve with a drizzle more of great olive oil

or add a drizzle of cream or milk if you prefer.

Tuscan Bean and Lentil Soup – Zuppa Toscano

This is a glorious hearty soup with a bit of Italian Sausage, some smoky bacon, beans, lentils, cauliflower and your favorite hearty vegetables. I have topped it with some fresh chopped herbs and some robust exceptional Franci Villa Magra Olive oil which is a robust and peppery extra virgin olive oil from the region. Feel free to add some grated Parmesan and don’t forget the crusty bread and the red wine!!

You will need:

  • 2 slices of smokey bacon
  • 2 fresh hot Italian sausages – casings removed
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil – like Amelia Oil from Umbria
  • 2 leeks- washed and cut into large pieces
  • 1 carrot- washed stem end removed – chopped into large pieces
  • 1 stalk celery -washed cut into large pieces
  • 4 cloves garlic – peeled
  • 1 small onion – peel and chopped into large pieces
  • 1 tbsp dry Italian seasonings – mine has chili flakes in it if yours does not add 1/2 tsp
  • lots of salt and pepper – you will need to taste and re-adjust a few times while cooking
  • 1 litre chicken stock
  • 1 small can 14oz of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 small can 14 oz of cannelini beans
  • 1/2 cup french green lentils
  • 1/2 small savoy cabbage – sliced
  • 5 or 6 cauliflower florets – sliced thin
  • a handful of fresh basil leaves, chives and parsley – chopped fine
  • a drizzle of great extra virgin olive oil – like a robust and peppery Franci Villa Magra
  • Parmesano Reggiano cheese – freshly grated at serving
  • a glass of red wine and a heel of crusty bread

Step 1: in a food processor add peeled sausages (casings removed) and bacon – you can place them in the food processor uncooked or cooked. I had some left from the previous dinner.  Puree until finely minced.

Step 2: in a large pot with a drizzle of good oil (ok, I always use a glug!) cook the bacon and sausages until they are crunchy and browned a bit.

Step 3: add leeks, carrot, celery, garlic and onion into food processor pulse a few times until fine but there is still a bit of consistency to the vegetables left. Do not completely puree.

Step 4: add vegetable mix to hot pan and cook for 5 minutes to saute vegetables and cook off most of the water. Add Italian seasonings, hot chili flakes and a generous sprinkle of salt and pepper. You can and should taste after it has cooked for 30 minutes to re-adjust seasonings if necessary.

Step 5: add chicken stock (or a bottle of beer would work well here) and crushed tomatoes. Stir and add lentils. Cook on low heat (nice steady blip not a heavy boil here!) for 30 minutes.

Step 6: add sliced cabbage, cannelini beans, and cauliflower sliced. Cook another 20 minutes. Add a bit of water if you find it too thick. It should be a hearty bowl of soup though. Taste it and adjust as necessary for salt and pepper. You can also add Kale or chard to this kind of soup.

Step 7: finely chop fresh herbs and add to some extra virgin olive oil like Franci -Villa Magra this is a big robust and peppery olive oil and perfect added at the end as a drizzle.

Serve with a spoon of chopped herbs and a good glug of extra virgin olive oil and a fresh grating of Parmesan. Get the bread and wine and enjoy!! It is hearty and warming with a hint of smokiness.

PHO GA – Chicken Noodle Soup

My husband Big Pete has been feeling under the weather for the last few days and I made him this lovely soup to soothe and revive him back to health. Chicken soup is always a good idea!

You can roast an extra chicken when preparing your Sunday dinner or even pick one up already cooked from the grocery store. Toss some flavourings in a large pot with some cold water and let it simmer for a few hours and magic happens! Strain the soup, remove the chicken from the bones, and assemble a wonderful soup with all the toppings you like the best.

You will need:

  • a roasted chicken – remove most of the skin and breast meat. Keep the breast meat and discard the skin (I have a few roast chicken recipes on this site or try this one
  • 6 cups cold water
  • 2 onions – quartered and stems removed but I add the skin for colour
  • 4-6 cloves of garlic – just squished to release flavour
  • 5-6 thick slices of fresh ginger root
  • 2 whole star anise
  • 1/2 – 1 red pepper – whole
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 5-6 szechuan peppercorns – whole
  • 10 black peppercorns – whole
  • a handful of fresh cilantro/coriander

To serve – top with some or all of the following:

  • cooked vermicelli rice noodles or thicker rice stick noodles – mine soak in hot water for a few minutes
  • chopped/shredded chicken (1/2 cup per bowl or more if you prefer)
  • thin sliced yellow onions
  • thin sliced spring onions
  • grated ginger (1/2 tsp or so per bowl)
  • grated garlic  (1/2 clove grated per bowl)
  • bean sprouts
  • fresh cilantro/coriander
  • lime wedges
  • thin sliced radishes
  • thin sliced mushrooms
  • thin sliced snow peas/beans
  • sliced baby greens
  • chili oil
  • sambal olek or other chili sauce


Step 1: Take a roasted chicken (you can buy a quality roasted chicken in many good grocery stores – get one that is plain or has lemon pepper vs a barbecue roasted chicken) Remove most of the skin and remove the breast meat. I discard the skin and then set aside the breast for slices on top of the soup. Break off wings, and legs and place bones and meat in a large pot. Cover with cold water. My pot takes 6 -7 cups of cold water depending on the size of the chicken.


Step 2: add aromatics: chop onions (I like to add the skins of the onions assuming they are clean and organic) remove skins from garlic, squish and toss in the pot. Add slices of ginger, star anise, a red chili, a few szechwan peppercorns, black peppercorns, salt (you need salt in this broth!) and a handful of cilantro stems and leaves.



Step 3: let the broth come to a boil for a minute, turn down to a low simmer and leave it alone for 2-3 hours (you can leave it longer if you like too!) Let it slowly, gently blip away on the stove. If you let it simmer away on low you will get a nice clear broth, if you let it boil it will get cloudy.


Step 4: strain the broth and then strain it again through cheesecloth. Remove all the bits of chicken that you have left on the bones. I like to pick away to make really clean pieces of meat with no nasty bits but…if that’s your thing eat everything! Once you have your clear broth taste it and add more salt if necessary (it will be necessary!) then leave the broth in pot to stay hot until you pour over bowls. I find when you remove the skin there is virtually nothing to skim off the soup.


Step 5: chop all your condiments/toppings and soak your rice noodles.


Step 6: assemble your bowls. I add chicken on the bottom, then I grate the fresh ginger and garlic right on the chicken. I add the noodles, the broth and your condiments. If you like it spicy add more fresh chili or chili sauce, if you like mushrooms add a few slices etc… top with some sliced chicken breast etc.


This recipe makes 4 healthy sized bowls of yummy soup!


Spicy Chicken Noodle Soup


This is a slightly spicy chicken noodle soup. Quick to prepare and perfect when you need something nourishing.  This recipe is perfect for two big steaming bowls.



You will need:


  • 1 litre chicken broth
  • 1 chicken breast
  • 1 onion – chopped into large chunks
  • 1 carrot – washed and chopped
  • 1 celery stalk – washed and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic – large rough chopped pieces
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 3-4 dried mushrooms (any kind you prefer – I used porcini)
  • 2 lime leaves (mine were dried)
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 celery
  • 1 garlic
  • 2 spring onions
  • 2 nests of thin egg noodles
  • 1 tsp sambal olek
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • serve with cilantro more spring onions 




Step 1: chop your onion carrot celery and garlic. You are using these vegetables to make a great tasting broth and you will throw them away.



Step 2: add broth to a large pot. You can of course use homemade but, I always have some on hand in my pantry.



Step 3: add your chicken breast, chopped vegetables, a small handful of dried mushrooms and a couple of bay leaves. Add water and salt and pepper.



Step 4: Toss in a few lime leaves if you have them. Cook 20 on medium heat (don’t let it boil vigorously just a nice steady simmer) and then strain out vegetables. Shred or chop chicken breast.



Step 5: add strained broth back to the pot, shredded chicken and add nicely chopped vegetables. You can add other vegetables if you have some on hand. I added carrot, celery, garlic and some spring onions/scallions. Let cook on medium heat for 10 minutes until vegetables are tender.



Add a bit of sambal oleck which is rather salty and spicy (always add a bit and taste then add more to your liking) Add a bit of sesame oil and a few nests of thin egg noddles. You can also add a bit of chopped cilantro (you can add more leaves at serving)


The noodles will cook in a few minutes. Once done serve.



Add a few more cilantro leaves or scallions and serve hot.









Carrot – Coconut Soup from the Clayburn Village Store & Tea Shop


This soup is simple to make with few ingredients, but the flavour is complex and just a bit spicy.


 The recipe comes from the November issue of Bon Appetit magazine. It is a reader favourite from The Clayburn Village Store & Tea Shop in Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada. I was there recently and enjoyed a wonderful lunch.


 It is located just 1 hour outside of Vancouver on Clayburn Rd. and is definitely worth the drive. An old fashioned Tea Shop with exceptional soups and sandwiches. It is the perfect place for a delicious lunch or great dessert. I make a special trip there for their warm current scones and the perfect pot of tea. The store also has a tremendous selection of candy and at the back there is a little section with a wonderful array of olive oils, vinegars, mustards and  loads of special pastas and food products. 


The place is quite special! Follow past this recipe for more pictures.


You will need:


  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 lb. carrots, peeled, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth (a bit more to thin out later if you like)
  • 1 13.5 oz. can unsweetened coconut milk
  • 2 tbsp Thai-style chili sauce, plus more for serving
  • Fresh cilantro/coriander leaves (for serving)





Thai Sweet Chili Sauce is similar to a plum sauce, but with a bit of heat (not much) and can be found in most Asian sections of any grocery store.



Step 1: gather all ingredients. Peel and chop carrots. My bag is a 2 lb. bag so I used half which was 7 small carrots. Chop onion.



Step 2: Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add carrots and onion, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring often, until carrots are softened, 15-20 minutes.




Step 3: Stir in broth, coconut milk, and 2 tbsp chili sauce. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are very soft and liquid is slightly reduced, 40-45 minutes.



Step 4: Let soup cool slightly, then puree in a blender until smooth. Reheat in a clean saucepan, thinning with water or broth to desired consistency; season with salt and pepper.



Divide soup among bowls (serves 4) and drizzle with a bit more chili sauce and some fresh cilantro leaves. Soup can be made 3 days ahead. Let cool: cover and chill.





The perfect cup of English Tea which you can buy in the back along with their best selling item a fantastic dill mustard from San Francisco.





They have the best warm scones served with double cream and jam!! heaven.



They also serve excellent pies and desserts like this Sticky Toffee Pudding.




Don’t you want to sit buy the fire and have a nice pot of tea and something delicious to eat?? I wish I was there right now.



Take a bag and fill it up with your favourite candy.



This is my favourite section of the store. I spoke with the owner for a good solid hour about his passion, balsamic vinegar. He shared his knowledge and memories from wonderful trips to Italy. He explained the various differences to the good quality vinegars and olive oils they sold. He then took out a small wooden box and shared a few precious drops of his personal bottle of best balsamic vinegar. A tiny bottle, extremely aged to perfection and worth over 300 Euros. This vinegar was simply glorious, sweet and thick like magnificent syrup!


The shop is closed each Jan, May and Sept so they can travel to places like Spain and Italy discovering wonderful oils, vinegars and speciality products to sell back in Abbotsford.


 Good food and magical experiences can happen in the most unlikely places! 


Thank you Trish and Bryan for a wonderful lunch and fascinating conversations about balsamic vinegars and your travels. Keep up the good work, I will be back soon!


If you are near Abbotsford you must stop by.



















Pasta e Fagioli – Pasta and Beans


Pasta e Fagioli or Pasta and Beans is a simple dish of pasta and beans and can be made dozens of ways. It can be made thick or thin and with or without a bit of leftover beef or pancetta. It is a satisfying dish served with a drizzle of good olive oil, some grated Parmesan cheese and some fresh bread.


You will need:


  • *optional – 1 piece of cooked steak or leftover roast is great here or a few sliced of chopped pancetta
  • 1 onion
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 3-4 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbsp fresh rosemary
  • 2 tbsp fresh basil
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 4 fresh tomatoes or 1 small can diced
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 2 x 14 oz. cans of cannellini beans – I can is rinsed and pulsed and the other is rinsed and whole
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 litre chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 1/2 cups ditale or tubetti pasta
  • optional : a rind from Parmesan cheese, 5-6 chopped artichokes canned or jarred


  • serving suggestions: pour on some good extra virgin olive oil, grate some Parmesan cheese, drizzle some aged balsamic vinegar, add some fresh chopped basil or parsley




This is a great place to use a piece of leftover steak/roast or slice of ham/pancetta. If you are planning on using a piece of meat you can cook it separately and once cooked add it to the soup. I have prepared this steak by sprinkling meat with a bit of Italian seasoning, salt and pepper and sauteing it in a pan with olive oil. Once seared I slowly cooked it in some red wine for an hour until it was tender. If you are using some pancetta or ham you can add it to the vegetables and saute.



Step 1:  in a food processor add your sofrito. Onion, carrot, celery, garlic. Mince until fine.



Step 2: add fresh rosemary and fresh basil. Mice again.



Step 3: in a pot add sofrito, good quality extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. Cook 5 minutes on medium heat. If you are using some prosciutto or pancetta (un-smoked bacon) saute it at this stage with the vegetables. You can also omit the meat entirely.



Step 4: add tomatoes and oregano to the food processor (you can use canned if you prefer) and blend until it creates a tomato puree. Remove to a small bowl.



Step 5: add 1 can of cannellini beans to processor and puree. This will be used as your thickener and the second can is left whole in the soup.



chop or shred your meat if using.



Step 6: add meat, tomatoes, and pureed beans. Mix well.



Step 7: add bay leaf and chicken/vegetable broth and if you have any leftover Parmesan cheese rinds

(I keep them in a bag in the freezer) or some artichokes. Let simmer on medium-low for 30-40 minutes.



Step 8: add your ditali or tubetti pasta and cook another 15 minutes.



thinner soup with beef



thicker version made with a bit of pancetta


You can make this soup thick or thinner by adding more or less broth. You can serve with a drizzle of good olive oil or aged balsamic vinegar. Add some fresh chopped basil or a grating of fresh Parmesan.

















Balsamic Chicken and Winter Vegetable Stew


This is a deeply flavoured chicken stew with the warm flavours of sundried tomatoes and rich balsamic vinegar cooked with hearty, beautiful winter vegetables. I feel better about the long, cold winter after eating a bowl of this along with a heel of crusty bread and a glass of wine.



You will need:

  • 8 boneless/skinless chicken thighs – excess fat removed
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic – finely minced
  • 1 tbsp fresh chili or hot pickled peppers in a jar
  • 1 tbsp Italian Seasoning
  • 1 tbsp fresh chopped rosemary
  • 6 sundried tomatoes – chopped finely = 1/4 cup
  • 1 small onion – chopped
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt and pepper (each)
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 2 heaped tbsp flour
  • 3 cups chicken broth/ or water

Your favourite Vegetables – washed and chopped into pieces that easily fit on a spoon.

  • a couple of handfuls of each vegetables – I used:
  • 1/2 cauliflower = chopped into bite sized pieces
  • 3-4 carrots – chopped
  • 1 small celery root – chopped
  • 1 small turnip – chopped
  • 1 small sweet potato – chopped
  • 5-6 mushrooms – quartered



Gather all your ingredients.



Step 1: in a medium sized bowl add cleaned chicken thighs, olive oil, garlic, hot chilies/peppers (I used a hot pickled pepper product from Italy but, you can use a fresh chili), Italian seasoning and fresh rosemary. Stir and let sit (covered) in fridge for 1-2 hours.



Step 2: in a large pan add onions, olive oil and a generous sprinkle of salt and pepper. Cook 5 minutes to just start the onions to release their water and start to brown around the edges.



Step 3: add chicken and let cook 15 minutes to cook out most of the water and to just start to brown the meat.



Step 4: add balsamic vinegar and cook 5 minutes. This should almost evaporate the vinegar.


Step 5: add white wine and cook another 10 minutes until wine is concentrated.



Step 6: add flour and stir. Cook 2-3 minutes.



Step 7: add broth or water and sundried tomatoes. Turn down heat to medium/low for gently simmer for 30 minutes until meat is tender.




Step 8: remove chicken and once cooled slightly shred into smaller pieces (I always remove any fatty bits here)



Step 9: add all chopped vegetables (look at those pretty carrots!) and chicken back to pot and cook 20 minutes until all vegetables are tender. If you need to add a bit more liquid to thin out feel free to make this the consistency you like in a soup or stew. I have also added a bit more fresh chopped rosemary.



Serve big steaming bowls of soup with a drizzle of your best extra virgin olive oil and some chopped spring onions or a bit of fresh spinach or even shreds of baby bok choy.


Don’t forget the crusty bread and glasses of wine!







Minestrone Soup


It is the first snow of the season today and this is the perfect meal! This is a filling vegetable packed  soup. Hearty and satisfying on a cold evening. A slice of crusty bread and you have a very good meal.



You will need:


  • 2 slices bacon/pancetta or smoked turkey
  • 1 small onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley and basil combination
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 celery stalks-sliced
  • 2 carrots-sliced
  • 1 leek
  • 5-6 small potatoes – sliced
  • 1 litre chicken/beef or vegetable broth
  • 2 small fresh tomatoes
  • salt/pepper
  • 1 tbsp Italian seasoning spices
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 cup orzo or small pasta
  • 1 14oz can of white beans – rinsed
  • 3 brussel sprouts-sliced
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1 tbsp chopped basil
  • 2 tbsp olive oil




gather all your ingredients.



Step 1: chop a bit of smoked bacon, turkey or pancetta.



Step 2: puree onion, garlic, parsley, basil and celery stalks in food processor.



Step 3: add to a large pot with olive oil bacon and saute 10 minutes.



Step 4: add sliced carrots, leeks, potatoes and cook another 5 minutes.



Step 5: add chicken broth.



Step 6: puree tomatoes in food processor.



Step 7: add tomatoes, salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, and bay leaves. Cook


Step 8: rinse beans, chop brussel sprouts, kale and more basil and parsley. I placed herbs in a small bowl with some a bit more great extra virgin olive oil.



Step 9: in the last 10 minutes before serving add remaining ingredients. Taste and adjust salt and pepper if necessary.



Prepare to feel warmed!!



Broccoli and Cauliflower Soup


A nice creamy soup doesn’t have to be made with cream. I like to make many vegetable soups thickened with a handful of rice and for some added richness you can use almond milk or even a bit of milk or yogurt instead of high fat cream and you still get a thick rich warm soup to satisfy.


You will need:

  • 1 small garlic
  • 1 small onion
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small cauliflower
  • 1 small broccoli
  • 2 tbsp white rice
  • 1 litre chicken stock
  • salt/pepper to taste




Step 1: add onion, garlic and olive oil to a large pot. Saute for 5 minutes.



Step 2: slice cauliflower and broccoli into pieces.




Step 3: add to the pot. Add chicken broth and a bit of rice to thicken instead of using cream.  Cook 20 minutes until soft.



Step 4: place in blender and puree.




Place back in pot and add a bit more water or milk if you feel it is too thick. Taste and add salt and pepper.



Serve with a drizzle of olive oil or truffle oil and a shaving of Parmesan.