soup saladWe have been on the party train for several months and it is time for our house to K.I.S.S. From Oktoberfest to Thanksgiving, Christmas, to Valentine’s Day, we have been living it in party mode.  Now it is time to reel it in and get down to the basics.  However, getting down to the basics doesn’t mean we are depriving ourselves of anything, especially tasty wine.

The easiest way I know to get back on track with our diet and our life, is to pull out the crockpot and fire it up. We  are still experiencing frosty weather here in southwestern chilieNew England so this is when I pull out the Chili, the Southwestern Stews and the bean soup recipes.  All of these are easy to make, especially now that calico beans are offered in the grocery store, easy on the budget and the waistline.  Many of these foods are simple to translate into a vegetarian version.

I made Southwestern Green Chile with Pork Stew tonight.  I added three Jalapeno chilies because El Hub loves it spicy hot.  I used boneless pork chops, didn’t want to pay the price of pork tenderloin, and put everything (except the beans) into a crockpot on high for four hours.  Added the beans, some Tabasco sauce and mixed a little cornstarch with cold water into it to thicken it up and continued to cook Charlottes Homein the crockpot for another hour. I drained and rinsed the beans before adding them.  The stew was ready when we were.  We enjoyed this with Rodney Strong’s Charlotte’s Home Sauvignon Blanc.  You could also serve a French White Burgundy (Chardonnay), or, if you’re in the mood for red, go for a slightly chilled Pinot Noir.  I recommend trying Sean Minor’s Central Coast Pinot Noir.

If you’re going back to basics with your recipes, and want to keep things lively, try using a little chipolte pepper, fresh jalapenos or green salsa.  One word of note;  when working with hot peppers, be sure to protect your hands.  If you do not have gloves, try rubbing a bit of olive oil onto your hands before handling the peppers and use dish washing soap to wash your hands afterwards.  I don’t use gloves and have had the bad experience of having burning hands the next day, after washing jalapenomany times, even washing my hair, and they still burn.  And, never touch your face with fingers that have been exposed to the seeds and ribs of a hot pepper.  Here is a good website for more information about handling hot peppers:  The Kitchn – Best Remedies for Hot Pepper Hands

If you’re not in the mood for a spicy stew, try cooking up a bowl of bean soup.  This is especially perfect if you have a ham bone to toss in.  (keep this in mind if you’re serving a spiral ham for Easter Dinner)  Of course I have to change things up.  I use 3/4 of the amount of water and I use one bouillon cube for calico bean soupevery cup of water I do use.  I use calico beans instead of all navy beans, and I add about 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda for every four quarts of water to soak the beans.  This helps to keep the tummy comfortable after ingesting the beans.  I also add real Vermont maple syrup (about 1/4 cup) to the soup.  The wine I serve with a bean soup is a slightly chilled Pinot Noir or a room temperature Merlot. We have been enjoying Castle Rock Merlot.  Either of these reds will bring out the subtle seasonings of the soup.sean minor pinot noir

Finally, if you’re looking for something with less meat, now is a perfectly lovely time for cooking up a pot of Potato and Leek soup.  Again, I cut the water down to about four cups in this recipe (you can always add more), and I use one vegetable bouillon cube for every cup of water.  I like to add bacon crumbles to any Potato Soup I make and I always saute the onion or leeks (one-half of the leeks) in a little of the bacon drippings before I add them to the soup.  I fry the bacon, put that on a paper towel to drain, then pour out the bacon potato leek soupgrease, leaving enough to coat the pan.  Saute the onions and one-half of the leeks.  I like to keep one-half of the leeks uncooked because they are a beautiful green in the soup if they are not cooked, but the cooked leeks give the soup a delicious flavor.  I also add about 1/2 cup of Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Gris to the soup, of course.  It makes a beautiful presentation if you have little bowls of shredded cheddar cheese, finely cut leeks or chives and bacon bits.  You can make this a completely vegetarian dish by leaving out the bacon.

Serve your Potato and Leek soup with a nicely chilled bottle of Chardonnay or White Burgundy.  We enjoyed a bottle of Domaine de Grisy Bourgogne with our soup. grisy

With any of these dishes, all you need to add is a crisp fresh salad, with a balsamic vinegar dressing, and some beer bread.  If your brother is like mine, when you serve the garnish with the Potato and Leek Soup, he will take the little dishes of cheese, chives and bacon and use those in his salad.  No problem, we had more.