Split Pea Soup

This is the perfect lunch on a cool fall day…rich, but healthy and freezes well. This recipe will make a lot of soup, so I always freeze half. The smoked paprika used gives this soup a nice, smoky flavor. While I use ham in the recipe, you can easily skip that and substitute vegetable stock to make it vegan.

Prep Time: 25 minutes

Cooking Time: 45 minutes

You can serve with garlic croutons, top with a bit of sour cream or you can add a half ounce of sherry for additional flavor. If you have time and are motivated, fry thinly sliced shallots and crumble on top.


  • 1 large package dried green split peas
  • 1 cup cup finely diced carrots
  • 3/4 cup finely diced celery
  • 2 tbs olive or vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp each, salt and ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 3/4 tsp thyme
  • 24 oz chicken stock
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 2 tbs tomato paste
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 3/4 pound smoked ham, finely diced


  • Add oil to Instant Pot and set to saute
  • Add onions, carrots, garlic and celery; cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes–until the onions become translucent
  • Add the salt, pepper and spices, cook for 3 minutes, until the spices are activated
  • Add the diced ham and cooking, stirring frequently, for 8 minutes–until the ham has browned
  • Add the tomato paste and stock; mix until everything is fully incorporated
  • If using an Instant Pot, set to cook for 45 minutes

Note: for a vegan version, simply omit the ham and substitute vegetable stock for the chicken. While you can use a standard pressure cooker, I suggest using an Instant Pot (or similar electric pressure cooker). The auto-shutoff feature provides additional safety and the timer makes it carefree.

Cheat Meal: Chicken “Cheat” Soup

Chicken soup

This is a shortcut for making very good chicken soup; in a pinch you can even use frozen veggies! The prep and cooking times may vary depending upon the options you choose: employing frozen diced carrots will cut prep and cooking time, although using fresh will produce a better end result.

Prep time: 15 minutes Cooking time: 30 minutes


  • 1 rotisserie cooked chicken (available in most supermarkets)
  • 3-4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced (if pressed for time, you can use frozen, diced onion)
  • 1TBSP garlic paste
  • 1TBSP lemongrass paste
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 cup coined carrots (use pre-peeled baby carrots, thinly sliced, or, use frozen diced carrots)
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked rice (I have even used leftover rice from Chinese takeout!)
  • 2TBSP parsley (fresh is best, but dried is fine)
  • 1TSP each: cumin, onion powder, turmeric
  • 1TBSP olive oil
  • Salt/pepper to taste

Cooking Instructions:

  • Remove meat from cooked chicken; the fastest way to do this is by hand, but you can use a knife if you prefer. Strip the skin from the bird before removing the meat
  • In a pressure cooker, heat the oil until a few drops of water sizzle when dropped in. Add the cumin, onion powder and turmeric, along with the diced onion.; stir for about a minute to activate the spices If you are using fresh celery and carrots, add these to the pot and stir over med-low heat for 3-5 minutes
  • Add stock to pot, along with chicken and cooked rice
  • Add salt/pepper to taste
  • Seal pressure cooker and leave to simmer for 20-25 minutes

Servings suggestions:

  • For a bit of texture, you can top with fried shallots, or onion strings (even the canned ones will do!)
  • This reheats well — bring leftovers for lunch!
  • If you prefer, freeze it in pre-portioned freezer bags (make sure that it is cooled enough!) Using freezer bags instead of containers will allow you to layer multiple portions and lay flat — this is a real space-saver

Thai Meatballs & Noodles

I experimented one night with a different approach to meatballs, just to mix it up–and because I had fresh Thai Basil on hand. I served this to my family over Thai noodles; you can serve it as a noodle soup with meatballs, if you prefer. These also reheat well and are a great sandwich filling; make a big batch and freeze half if you want to have some on hand later.

Prep Time: 15 minutes Cooking Time: 30-45 minutes, depending upon preparation


  • 1lb meatloaf mix with salt & pepper (they sell a ground beef/pork mixture at my local market–if you don’t have that option, try buying the beef and pork separately and mix at home)
  • 1 cup Panko bread crumbs; adjust for proper texture
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce
  • 1 egg (depending upon size; if you are using small eggs, just be sure that you have enough moisture to bind the meat mixture)
  • 2 tbs finely chopped Thai Basil (if you have a mortar & pestle, use this to make a fresh paste–it infuses the flavor better!)
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbs Sriracha paste (use less if you prefer less spicy meatballs)
  • 3 cloves minced garlic (or garlic paste if you are pressed for time)
  • 1 tbs lemongrass paste (I use the lemongrass puree from a tube–I find it mixes better and still gives a nice zing)
  • 1 bunch scallions, finely diced (white and light green parts)
  • 2 tbs all purpose flour (enough to lightly coat meatballs)
  • 1 tbs minced ginger (if you don’t have fresh ginger, use 1 1/2 TSP ginger paste)
  • 2 tbs peanut oil (you can substitute vegetable oil if you don’t have peanut oil on hand)
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped dry roasted peanuts (good whether you are plating, or making soup)
  • 1/4 cup water

Based on preference:

  • Cook one package Thai noodles; I usually add 3 tbs Satay Sauce to the noodles to boost flavor, once drained. Note that Thai noodles cook quickly — make sure that you keep an eye on them so that they don’t overcook!
  • If you prefer to use the meatballs in soup, cook meatballs, heat up 3-4 cups beef stock, season stock with 1/3 cup fish sauce, 1 tbs garlic paste, salt, pepper and Sriracha (to taste). Allow the stock to simmer for 15 minutes, or so, before adding meatballs and noodles; adjust seasoning as needed. Add Thai rice noodles and meatballs to stock — cook until noodles are al dente

Cooking Instructions:

  • Mix spices, breadcrumbs and egg in a medium bowl
  • Add meatloaf mix and gently incorporate meat into the spice/egg/breadcrumb mixture (try not to overdo–over mixing can make the meatballs tough)
  • Once you have a texture where the meat mixture can easily be formed into balls, but are still moist, use 1-1 1/2 oz of the mixture to make each meatball. Gently roll between your palms to make round meatballs–make sure that the size is uniform so that they cook evenly!
  • Place flour in a shallow dish; gently roll meatballs in the flour until lightly coated
  • You can opt to start these in an oven-safe skillet: Place oil in the pan and let heat until a few drops of water sizzle when added to the pot. Move the meatballs to ensure that they are uniformly browned. Drain on paper towels.
  • Mix fish sauce, garlic paste, lemongrass paste and water into a heavy bottomed skillet; over medium heat, stir until sauce begins to thicken
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees; if you plan to serve meatballs over noodles, put water to boil in 5qt pot.
  • If you prefer to skip the oil, simply place the shaped meatballs on a baking tray lined with parchment paper (omit the flour dredge)
  • Depending upon your presentation preferences, drop noodles into boiling water when you put meatballs into the oven. When al dente, drain and mix satay paste into noodles
  • Once noodles are ready, plate family style with meatballs over noodles; if you prefer using them in a soup, follow the directions above. Garnish dish with a sprinkle of coarsely chopped dry roasted peanuts and minced Thai basil

Squash Bisque

squash bisque is a rich, tasty soup with loads of beta carotene

Silky mouthfeel, lots of anti-oxidants and even better when topped with crunchy garnishes. This is a great soup to make in a batch on a weekend morning…enjoy the rich and sweet textures all week long! (It’s also a very economical base for weekday lunches that has nutritional punch!)

Prep time: 10 minutes Cooking time: 45 minutes


  • 3-4 cups cooked squash; you can use acorn, butternut, or other firm-bodied squash
  • 4-6 oz creme fraiche, or plain yogurt (creme fraiche adds more richness, but yogurt is lower calorie option)
  • 1-2 tbs maple syrup
  • 2-3 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp garlic salt
  • 1 cup chicken stock (can be omitted if desired)
  • 1-2 sauteed shallots
  • 3/4 cup toasted pecans or pepitas (for garnish)

Cooking Instructions:

  • Cut squash in half, place on foil-lined baking sheet
  • Brush squash with syrup and oil; sprinkle salt/pepper over flesh
  • Bake in preheated 350 degree over for ~45 minutes until fork-tender
  • Saute spices and shallot until the vegetable is translucent
  • Once the squash is cooked and cooled (so it is easily handled), scoop out flesh, place in blender and add creme fraiche (reserve some for garnishing bowls), shallots and stock. Blend until smooth in texture; if you prefer a more textured soup, try pulsing blender to mix, but not puree.
  • Toast pecan pieces in 300 degree over for about 5 minutes (test — you may want a softer, or a crispier texture and the nuts can burn easily, so you’ll need to stay close to your oven!)
  • Add bisque to bowls and garnish with a swirl of creme fraiche and the toasted pecans, or pepitas

Vegetarian Chili

vegetarian chili is an inexpensive and tasty meal with great depth of flavor

Want to incorporate more vegetarian options in your diet? Looking to get more fiber, more veggies and greater economy into your cooking? Veggie chili is a great way to provide cost-effective, healthy and tasty lunches and dinners. This can be modified to many different taste profiles–experiment and see what you like!

Prep Time: 25 minutes

Cooking Time: 60 minutes

Note: For the sake of convenience, you can use canned beans; if you want better texture and taste, I suggest using dry beans: these need to be cleaned (to remove any small stones, or broken pieces) and soaked.

Cooking Instructions:

“Bean Base” — I suggest using a “mix n’match” approach to veggie chili — a variety of beans can make for better taste, better texture and a more visually appealing dish.

What goes into a good “Bean Base”? It’s a matter of preference, but these varieties, in a mix, provide a balance of taste, texture and color.

  • Canned, or dried beans:
    • Red kidney
    • Pinto beans
    • Black beans
    • White kidney beans
    • Garbanzo beans
    • Navy beans
  • Veggies:
    • 1 large yellow onion, diced
    • 2 bags coined baby carrots
    • 4 stalks 1/2″ celery– 1/2″ dice
    • 1 large sweet potato — 1/2″ dice
    • 2-3 diced bell peppers, to taste
  • Stock/spices
    • 3-4 cups vegetable stock, as needed
    • 4 bay leaves
    • 2 TBSP thyme
    • 2TBSP ancho chili powder
    • 2TBSP smoked paprika
    • 2TBSP salt
    • 2-3TSP pepper, to taste
    • 3-4 crushed garlic cloves
    • 1TBSP Sriracha
    • 1TBSP Cumin
    • 1TBSP ground mustard
    • 2-3TBSP olive oil

If you are using canned beans, heat up oil in stock pot. Add spices and mix for 2-3 minutes to activate. Add in veggies and stir until celery is translucent (approx. 5 minutes).

Once veggies and spices are melded, add beans and stock. Simmer for 40 minutes, testing seasoning periodically.

To produce a flavorful dish, simmer for about 90 minutes. This dish reheats well and is great for weekday lunches!