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Last weekend I decided that I was going to make soup. Bryan loves the Quinoa and Spinach Soup from my first cookbook, but I was not really in the mood for that particular soup. I was thinking more along the lines of chicken noodle soup.

To satisfy both of us, I suggested that I make a soup inspired by the flavors of Peru. I’d have the yummy chicken soup aspect that I was after and Bryan would have the quinoa that he apparently was craving. Sometimes I think this act of finding the middle ground is why we’ve been together for almost 20 years. The soup turned out fantastic, if I do say so myself, and is now on our list of favorites.

I promised some of my friends that I would share the recipe so here it is…

Peruvian chicken & red quinoa soup

chicken & red quinoa soup

chicken & red quinoa soup

makes 4-6 servings

Quinoa (pronounced keen-wa) is the seed of the goosefoot plant, prized by the ancient Incas. It is a complete protein and a good source of the amino acids. Quinoa is also gluten free. If you can’t find aji amarillo, a yellow pepper with medium heat that has been dried and ground, then use 1 tablespoon of fresh jalapeño pepper that has been finely minced. When you make this recipe, it is best to prep all the ingredients before you start to cook. We like to serve it with grilled flatbread or fresh cornbread.

1 cup red quinoa
1 1/2 tablespoons canola or other vegetable oil
1 small onion, diced
3 celery ribs, diced
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 1/2 teaspoons ground aji amarillo or 1 tablespoon jalapeño pepper, minced
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
3 pounds chicken breasts, bone-in, skin removed, and cut into 3 or 4 pieces
1 teaspoon kosher salt
10 cups cold water
3 medium red potatoes, unpeeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
3 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 small zucchini or summer squash, unpeeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons fresh lime or lemon juice
salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 cup fresh cilantro

Place the quinoa in a fine sieve under running water for about 3 minutes or until the water runs clear. Let the quinoa drain after rinsing. Toast the quinoa in a dry frying pan, preferably non-stick, over medium heat until the seeds start to jump or pop in the pan. Remove the seeds from the pan and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large heavy pot or Dutch oven, over medium heat. Sauté the onion and celery until softened but not browned. Add the garlic, aji amarillo or jalapeño pepper, cumin, and oregano. Stir for 1 minute being careful not to scorch the garlic. Add the chicken, salt, water, potatoes, and quinoa. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 20 minutes. Skim off foam, if desired. Remove the chicken and set aside. Add the carrots to the pot and let simmer for 15 minutes. While the carrots are cooking, remove the chicken meat from the bones and shred using two forks. Discard the bones. Add the zucchini and lime or lemon juice to the pot. Continue to simmer for 7 to 10 minutes and add the chicken meat back to the pot. Heat the chicken through and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Garnish each bowl with fresh cilantro before serving.

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With my second book well on the way to being on store shelves, life has returned to some sort of normalcy around my kitchen. That said, I use the term “normal” in a very loose way, because my cooking adventures aren’t of the normal or mundane variety (or at least I like to think that they aren’t).

Yesterday, with that in mind, I decided it was time to clean some of the cupboards. If you happen to be someone who has visited my home then you’ll know that cleaning my cupboards or pantry is far from a simple undertaking and this will be something that takes a few hours each weekend over the next three weeks.

You see, after finishing the writing of my vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free cookbook for backpackers in February, I had a lot of ingredients that would likely never get used before going off. I went through, checked expiry dates, manufacturing codes, and the like. My goal for the day was to tackle the cans, the baking ingredients and the pasta/rice/legumes cupboards. Three cupboards plus a big bin of speciality flours would be more than enough for one Saturday.

The whole process took about two hours. I used two boxes, a compost bucket, a garbage bag, and the recycle bin. One box was for what I would give away to a friend who has a child on a gluten-free diet. The second was for what would go back into my larder. The compost bucket was for things like legumes for the composter. The rest is self-explanatory. Next thing I knew I had two full bags of gluten-free baking supplies for my friend, a whole heap of things that were well past their expiration. Crackers from 2005? Unopened? Seriously? Then there was the brand spanking new box of Bisquick. I don’t use the stuff, obviously and have no idea how long it had been there. How wasteful! I’m not sure how the crackers or Bisquick got missed in previous throw-outs but they did. This is surprising to me, because I am a stickler for expiration dates.

If you decide to go through the food in your cupboards, which you should do from time-to-time, here are a few resources that I found helpful…

“Best Before” dates, “Packaged On” dates, “Expiry” dates…Oh My!

Still Tasty – The Ultimate Shelf Life Guide

Who needs to pay a professional organizer? Not me, that is for sure. Just a little time and some discipline is all that it takes. That and a big lack of cupboard space—small spaces mean that I have to stay on top of the organization or I just run out of room for storage. Next weekend I will tackle the pantry or perhaps I’ll work on the tea cupboard, fridge, and the chef’s cart full of spices, herbs, and oils.

I finished the afternoon off by making a big pot of Peruvian Chicken and Red Quinoa Soup in order to use up an open package of quinoa that I found. It was yummy and I’ll post the recipe (with photos) sometime in the next few days.