I had Safeway’s Signature Cafe Jambalaya soup today and it was pretty good. It’s basically a thick tomato-based broth with sausage slices, cubed chicken and rice. There is supposedly bacon and uncured ham, but it’s not really distinguishable.
The soup is quite good and it has a fair amount of umami. It is, however, a bit spicier than I would have preferred. The only problem is the sausage: it really lacks flavor. I’m not sure why they chose such a mild sausage, but it really could be improved. Still, it’s good enough to be worth keeping in your fridge for an improvised lunch or dinner. Unopened, it lasts about 6 weeks in the fridge.
I should note, however, that it’s *extremely* caloric. A single cup/8 oz of soup has 270 calories and no one, ever, in the history of humanity, has ever been filled up by a single cup of soup. A 24-oz container currently costs $8, when not on sale.
In the “battle” between Safeway’s and Panera’s Tomato Bisque, Panera is the clear winner.
I have never been a fan of soup – ramen excluded -, but I became fond of Panera’s creamy tomato soup during the pandemic. It’s warm, creamy and hearty – and most importantly, not too acidic – and feels just like a hug. In retrospect, it’s not a surprise that I would like it. It’s really just a thinner version of pasta sauce, and we all know that pasta is just a vehicle for sauce.
During the pandemic, when I still had kids at home (insert empty nest tears here), we usually got the soup as part of a family feast – my vegetarian daughter didn’t really like the sandwiches, but she did enjoy the soup. Later, I found out that they also sell the soup at the supermarket, it’s almost as good, and at $12 for 32 oz, it’s considerably cheaper than at the store (unless you are ordering a family feast). The store-bought soup is also vegetarian and, as I mentioned, quite tasty. Here are the ingredients: Tomatoes, Water, Heavy Cream, Onions, Contains 2% or Less of: Butter (Cream, Salt), Sugar, Salt, Spices, Corn Starch, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Nisin Preparation and Garlic.
This week, Panera tomato soup wasn’t available at Safeway, so I decided to get their Signature Cafe Tomato Basil Bisque instead. It looks very much like Panera’s and, truth be told, it doesn’t taste that differently. It’s a bit spicier – something I don’t really like -, and seems to have less umami than Panera’s, but it’s also very comforting and good. What it is not is vegetarian. The soup contains chicken base and chicken broth.
Safeway’s soup also uses tomato paste instead of tomatoes, as well as a variety of other ingredients to, I presume, enhance the flavor. That, I imagine, is the purpose of the chicken base and broth. It’s thus interesting that it’s not as tasty as Panera’s far simpler one. For just $2 less for a 32 oz container, it makes little sense to buy the Safeway Signature Cafe brand, unless the Panera brand is out of stock, or they change it.
Here are the ingredients for the Signature Cafe tomato soup:
This year, my sister and her family came to visit us for Thanksgiving. It took me forever to decide in a menu, nothing really inspired me. I knew I wanted to make poultry for dinner – both as a stand for the traditional turkey that nobody likes, and because my mother, who won’t eat poultry, wasn’t coming, so it seemed like a good opportunity. First I thought about making Basque Chicken, and from there do a Basque meal. But I couldn’t find enough vegetarian recipes without peppers to satisfy my daughter’s likes. Then I read a post on FB that mentioned someone was making chicken and dumplings, a recipe I just love and that my father used to make when I was a little kid. So I thought I’d make a menu based on family recipes – but it turns out most of what I used to eat growing up is not special enough for a Thanksgiving dinner. So, I finally decided to make Calypso Chicken, because it was an old favorite, and ended up with an “old favorite” menu. Originally, it was /also/ supposed to include a bunch of persimmon dishes: soup, lassi, sorbet and pie – but this year my persimmons are ripening slowly, so I only managed to get a couple for the soup.
I didn’t sleep well the night before Thanksgiving, however, and I was really exhausted through dinner. That means that I messed up some things as I slept walk through it.
So my original intention was to make a salad based on this Pear & Goat Cheese Salad with Caramelized Walnuts and Cranberries recipe I’ve made before and liked. But the road to hell is paved with new intentions. First, I decided to use butter lettuce instead of mixed green because my kids – who ended up not eating it anyway – only like lettuce. Then I decided to cut corners and use a store-bought Raspberry Poppy Seed dressing instead of making a vinaigrette with olive oil and raspberry vinegar. And I decided to use an apple instead of a pear. But when the time came to actually make the salad, I realized I’d forgotten to buy the cranberries and I had ran out of goat cheese. Then it turned out that my brother in law, like one of my daughters, only likes Caesar salad. So I put out the lettuce, all the dressings I had and the caramelized walnuts – forgetting the apple and green onion slices. At least the raspberry dressing was good.
While most of my persimmons didn’t ripen in time, I was able to find two of them ripe enough for this recipe. They gave a very pleasant sweetness to this soup. At first, I felt the soup was too carrot-y, but that flavor profile mellowed the second day. Still, next time I might use just one carrot. It’s slightly modified from superchef’s recipe at allrecipes.
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, peeled & thickly sliced
1 bay leaf
20 butternut squash cubes
1/2 cup white wine
4 cups vegetable broth
pulp from 2 Hachiya persimmons
1 Tbsp sherry vinegar
salt & black pepper to taste
Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large pot. Add the onion and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the carrots and bay leaf and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the butternut squash and continue cooking for 5 minutes, also stirring occasionally.
Add the white wine and continue cooking until it evaporates. Add the vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Stir in the persimmon pulp. Cover and cook for 20 minutes. Remove the bay leaf.
Using an immersion blender, puree the soup. Alternatively, wait until it cools down a bit and transfer to a blender, then return to the pot. Stir in the vinegar and season with salt & pepper to taste.
For my appetizers, I reverted mostly to old family favorites. I hadn’t madebacon-wrapped bananasin a long time, and I thought it would go well with the Caribbeanish theme of the dinner. This time I used a maple hickory bacon and it was delicious. I had originally planned to make coconut shrimp, but then I thought I had too many sweet flavors in this meal, so I decided to do shrimp wrapped in cheese and bacon instead – though it was a bit repetitive with the bananas. This time I used Havarti cheese and the maple bacon, and my husband loved them (but he always does).
The goat cheese & caramelized onion tart was a variation on my blue cheese & caramelized onion squares from yester holiday meals. I simply substituted goat cheese for blue and thyme for rosemary. My daughter, who doesn’t like blue cheese, loved it but I think the rest of us prefer it with blue cheese. Still, it’s an easy appetizer to make and you can make the caramelized onions in advance. I used Vidalia onions this time, but any onion will do.
The Sundried Tomatoes and Garlic Butter Bruschettas, from a recipe I found at Scrambled Chefs. It’s not really bruschetta but cheesy garlic bread with chopped sundried tomatoes on top. BUT it was very good cheesy garlic bread, mostly because it had a lot of garlic and I used a lot of butter on each slice.
Heat a thin layer of olive oil over medium-high heat in a sauté pan. Add the sliced onions and turn heat to medium. Sauté, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Season with salt and stir in sugar, if using. Continue cooking for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn heat to low and continue cooking until the onions get the consistency and sweetness you want. Set aside to cool.
Preheat oven to 425F. Grease a large baking sheet or cover it with parchment paper.
Set puff pastry sheets on the baking sheet. Spread goat cheese on the sheets, leaving about a 1/2 ” margin. Spread caramelized onions on top of the cream cheese. Sprinkle chopped thyme on top. Pinch the edges of the tarts, making a border. Bake until the the crust is golden, about 20 to 30 minutes.
Place the butter in a small bowl and stir until soft. Add the parsley, garlic and salt and pepper to taste and mix well. Spread butter on baguette slices. Arrange on baking sheet. Top each slice with shredded cheeses and top with chopped sundried tomatoes. Bake until the cheese starts to brown, about 5-7′
Calypso Chicken is a dish that you can find throughout the Caribbean in different iterations. I’d made a Dominican recipe originally and repeated it for this dinner. Alas, by this time in the meal I was too tired and full, and went to bed before tasting it, leaving it to my husband to do the honors. He apparently just served the chicken without the sauce, and thought it was just OK, though my daughter said she liked it. We all enjoyed the leftovers the next day, however, when I did heat them up and serve them with the sauce. It’s really a solid dish. I made roasted potatoes, carrots, green beans and asparagus to go with it – I just mixed them with olive oil, garlic powder, oregano and salt and pepper, and I’m told people enjoyed them. There were very few left the next day. I had also planned to make air fried plantain slices, but I was too tired to follow through with that.
This used to be my favorite cake as a child, one that I would ask my Grandmother and later my aunt Gladys, to make for my birthday. I’ve made it a couple of times before and my daughter specifically asked that I make it for Thanksgiving. While I didn’t eat it the night of the meal, as I was already in bed by then, everyone else enjoyed it and we had the leftovers the next day. I was extremely proud that the cake tasted exactly like I remembered it from my youth. I made it with no whipped cream in the filling and only 1/4 cup of whipped cream for the frosting. I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary, and I think my grandmother probably didn’t use it, but it does make it easier to spread. In any case, both the cake and the frosting came out perfectly and I was glad that my sister could try something my grandmother – who died years before she was born – made.
My daughter has been asking for tomato soup for a while, and I figured tonight was a good time to make it for her – plus I had all the ingredients! I followed a recipe I found online, with a couple of modifications from the comments, and my daughter was very happy with it. It was quick and easy to do – I actually made the soup in advance, and then had her heat it up and add the coconut milk when she was ready to eat it. Note that I added a diced fresh tomato to the ingredients below – I had it and it was getting close to going bad so I had to use it.
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 28 oz can diced or whole tomatoes
1 cup water
1 tsp. smoked paprika
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. dried basil
1/2 – 1 tsp vegetable broth base
salt to taste
1/3 cup coconut milk
Heat oil in a medium sauce pan over medium-low heat. Add onion and saute until soft. Add garlic and saute, stirring, for a minute. Add the tomatoes. If using whole tomatoes, push with a wooden spoon to break out. Add the water, paprika, oregano, basil and vegetable broth base. Turn heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Using an immersion blender, puree until smooth.
Taste and add salt if needed. At this point, you can refrigerate if you want to use it later. Right before serving, heat the soup until warm and then stir in the coconut milk.
Heat butter or oil over medium heat in a large pot. Add the carrot, celery and onion, reduce heat, and saute over medium-low heat until very soft, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the vegetable broth and stir. Add the parsley, ground clove, bay leaves and chestnuts. Stir, raise heat to high and bring soup to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to medium low and simmer for about 30 minutes.
Remove and discard the bay leaves. Using an immersion blender, puree until smooth. Alternatively, transfer to an electric blender and puree – you may need to do this in batches. Return soup to the pot and add the soy milk. Stir well and warm over medium-low heat.
I wanted to make chestnut soup for my 2017 Christmas Eve dinner, but I wasn’t able to find chestnuts. This time, I spotted them at Safeway delivery and was then able to find them at my local Safeway. It’s a good thing because this soup was very good.
I followed the recipe closely, though I used Madeira instead of ruby port – I just didn’t want to have to buy it and I found many other recipes which used Madeira instead. I also added nutmeg, something I also saw on other recipes. I felt I added too much, but my guests disagreed.
This recipe served six as part of a multi-course menu.
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
1 celery rib, finely chopped
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cups cooked chestnuts (~15 oz)
1 cup Madeira or ruby port
1 sprig of thyme
3 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
a dash of nutmeg
salt & pepper to taste
Add butter to a medium sauce pan and melt over medium-low heat. Add the carrot, celery and onion and sauté until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the chestnuts and cook for 4 minutes. Add the Madeira and the thyme, turn heat to medium-high and cook until the based is reduced by half. Add the stock, turn the heat to high and bring to a boil. Cover, turn heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and discard the sprig of thyme.
Stir in the cream. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup. Alternative, transfer it to a blender and puree it in batches. Add a dash of nutmeg, season with salt and pepper and serve.
I wanted to make mushroom soup for my 2012 Christmas Eve dinner. Mika wanted butternut squash soup. I figured I’d compromise and find something else. For some reason I was set on having a savory fruit-based soup, so when I came across this recipe I felt I had found gold. It got amazing reviews, and I’d had great luck with other recipes from Emeril.
As things turned out, I was not too happy with the soup. I felt it tasted mostly of chicken broth, with only hints of coconut and none of plantains. If I was going to serve it, I felt I had to fix it – so I ended up adding the rest of the coconut milk from the can as well as 3 bananas and some nutmeg. The results were much tastier than before, and Mika was pleased.
I don’t eat shrimp myself, but according to my guests and my husband, the shrimp salad was delicious – both by itself and when combined with the soup. This is high praise coming from my husband, as he doesn’t like either tomatoes or avocados!
Plantain and Coconut Soup
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/3 cup small diced salt pork
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
1 small celery rib, finely chopped
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
4 tsp. curry powder
4 large yellow plantains with slightly green tips and some black spots, peeled and roughly chopped
2 quarts chicken stock
1 can coconut milk
3 small bananas, coarsely chopped
salt & black pepper to taste
pinch of nutmeg
2 Tbsp. lime juice
1 cup sour cream
1 Tbsp. cilantro, chopped
Heat a soup pot over medium heat and add the oil. When hot, add the salt pork and cook until crispy, about 6 minutes. Add the onions, carrots and celery and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and curry powder and saute for 30 seconds. Add the plantains and the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the plantains are soft, about 45 minutes.
Remove from the heat and add the coconut milk and bananas. Puree the soup, either using an immersion blender (easiest) or in batches, in a regular blender. Return to the pot, taste and adjust seasoning.
Just before serving, reheat the soup and add the lime juice.
Place the sour cream in a small serving bowl and sprinkle the cilantro on top of it. Serve the soup with the salad (recipe below) and sour cream on the side. Before eating, combine the three elements.
Shrimp, Tomato and Avocado Salad
1/2 pound shrimp, peeled, deveined and diced
1 tsp. creole seasoning
2 Tbsp. butter
2 tsp. chopped garlic
1/2 cup diced tomatoes
1/2 cup diced avocado
1 Tbsp. cilantro, chopped
1/2 tsp. salt
Season the shrimp with the creole seasoning and set aside.
Heat a saute pan over medium heat. Add butter and melt. Add garlic and saute for 1 minute. Add the shrimp and cook for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, avocado and cilantro and mix. Turn heat to very low. Season with salt and continue cooking until the shrimp is completely cooked through.
Once again, my daughter Mika asked me to make butternut squash soup as part of my Christmas Eve menu. I had made a version of it for my 2008 Christmas Eve dinner, but I hadn’t been that thrilled with it. I found a number of well-rated recipes online, but many reviewers suggested that they were quite bland without some doctoring. So I decided to start with Claire Robinson‘s recipe as a base and add extra seasonings to make it tastier. The results were quite good, even my husband liked the taste. I didn’t blend it as much as I should have, however, so parts of it were a bit chunky 🙁 The soup, as I made it, was unfortunately a bit too spicy for Mika, though perfect for the rest of us. To make it child friendly substitute regular curry powder for the Madras curry powder I used. I made this soup the day before I served it, it heated up very well. This recipe should serve 12 adults easily, half it if there are fewer of you. Serve with sour cream.
Cut off tops and bottoms of the squashes. Cut them in two, lengthwise. Scoop out and discard the seeds. Brush with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and put facing down on a baking sheet. Bake in the oven for 1 hour. Remove from the oven and carefully turn the squash around, so the flesh faces up. Let cool and then scoop out the pulp into a bowl, discarding the peels.
Heat 3 Tbsp. of olive oil over medium-high heat in a stock pot. Add the chopped shallots and the ginger and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the sage and spices and cook, stirring, for a minute or two. Add the reserved squash and the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for at least 10 minutes. Let cool and then blend with an immersion blender until smooth. Alternatively, blend in a blender in batches. Return to the pot and cook for at least five more minutes to let flavors blend. Season with salt and pepper.
For some reason, my daughter Mika got it into her head that she liked butternut squash soup, and she requested that I make it for Christmas. Now, butternut squash soup is not my favorite, but she was pretty insistent, which she rarely is for any food item.
I made this soup based on a (surprise, suprise) epicurious.com recipe. The recipe got great reviews, and people at my dinner table really liked it. In particular, Mika loved it.
Personally, I wasn’t sold by it, but I felt the cider cream was an essential ingredient for the soup to work – the sour element gave it an extra dimension to what would otherwise have been pretty bland results. I used Trader Joe’s sparkling apple cider, because that’s what I found at TJ’s. I used Better than Bouillon for the chicken stock – I usually just add the water and the appropriate amount of concentrate, rather than make the stock before hands. It’s easier and just as effective
I made the soup a day in advance and I think that improved it. I’d make it again if my daughter requested it.
On a different note, I found that the easiest way to peel the squash was to cut it into sections and then use a pairing knife to peel.
I didn’t change the recipe very much (if at all) – though below I’m providing adjusted ingredients. The original recipe turned out twice the amount of soup I needed to serve 8 as a soup course. There were no leftovers, though.
Butternut squash soup with cider cream
2 Tbsp. butter
1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into small chunks
2 medium leeks, coarsely chopped
1/2 medium carrot, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 stalk celery, coarsely chopped
1 Granny smith apple, peeled, cored and coarsely chopped
3/4 tsp. dried thyme
1/4 tsp. dried sage leaves
2 1/2 cups chicken stock.
3/4 cup apple cider
1/3 cup sour cream
1/4 cup whipping cream
half bunch of fresh chives, chopped.
Melt butter over medium-high heat in a stock or large pot. Add squash, leeks, carrot and celery. Sautee for about 15 minutes, until soft. Add apples, thyme and sage and mix. Add chicken stock and 1/2 cup of cider. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 30 minutes, until apples are tender. Cool.
Puree the soup in a blender, in batches. Return to the soup.
Meanwhile boil 1/4 cup cider in a small pan and reduce it by half. Cool. Place sour cream in a small bowl and whisk in the cider.
Bring soup to a slow boil. Add the whipping cream and mix well. Transfer the soup to a serving dish and drizzle with the sour cream. Top with chopped chives.