New Year, New Soup (Instant Pot Ham, Chickpea and Swiss Chard)

Well, that was fun wasn’t it? We all ate a little too much pound cake, drank a little too much champagne, gorged on a little bit too much brie, and it was damn good while it lasted. Now, in addition to scribbling out 8s and writing 9s on our checks, we’re back to the gym (ouch, I could barely even wash my hair today after 8000 tricep exercises) and reinserting vegetables into our repertoire. I, for one, love this time of year. It’s a good time of year to set intentions (my preference over resolutions), and I love the opportunity to get back to the healthy meals and regular bedtimes we thrive on.

I first made this soup 8 years ago with leftover ham from my first Thanksgiving with my husband, and I’ve been in love with and tweaking this recipe ever since. It’s bold with flavor, and can be adopted to either the slow cooker or the stove. It’s cheap to make (I’m looking at you Christmas bills), and really versatile (smoked turkey would make a great substitution if you don’t eat pork).

I love how the hearty swiss chard stands up to the smokiness of the ham and the texture of the beans. This soup is a symphony of colors and flavors and one of my all-time favorites. As y’all know, I make a big pot of soup every Monday to eat for the week and this is going to be a great week. Make this (you can easily double it if you have the 8qt Instant Pot, and put some in a jar to give to someone you love (or who needs your support this week). You won’t regret it.

There are so many reasons why I love soup, namely:

  1. It’s super affordable to make
  2. It uses up extra pantry items
  3. It’s a one pot meal – less dishes and clean up
  4. It can be made in the Instant Pot (AKA black magic maker)
  5. It’s a great way to hide vegetables for picky eaters, er toddlers
  6. It’s easy to heat and eat for daily lunches (usually in a mug)
  7. It’s low carb/low starch and usually quite healthy

So, without further ado:

Bean, Ham & Swiss Chard Soup

3 slices of bacon, chopped (if you don’t eat pork, you can easily omit)

1/2 cup of chopped onion or 8 cloves of chopped garlic, or both, depending on your preference or what you have around

2 carrots, peeled and diced

4 stalks of celery, diced

1 cup of diced, smoked ham from a smoked ham steak  (or the same amount of smoked turkey or even smoked chicken)- dice in 1/4 inch chunks

1 can of chickpeas or black eyed peas (or even white beans), drained and rinsed

1 can of fire roasted diced tomatoes, including juice

1 small bunch of swiss chard, washed thoroughly (doesn’t need to be dried)

4 teaspoons of better than bouillon chicken

4 cups of water

red pepper flakes to taste

salt and pepper to taste

First: Start by using a scissors to cut the central rib out of each leaf of your swiss chard, and when you have your leaves destemmed, roll them gently like paper tubes, and using a scissors, cut them into 1/2 inch thick ribbons.

Instant Pot directions: saute chopped bacon until crispy (2-4 minutes); do not drain; add vegetables (garlic, onion, carrot, celery) and sautee until softened, about 4 minutes; add ham (or other meat) and beans and tomatoes, add BTB and water, and red pepper flakes if you are using. Add swiss chard. Set Instant Pot to manual and 0 minutes. Natural release and taste for seasoning. Depending on saltiness of the ham, you may not need any additional salt.

Stove top directions: saute chopped bacon in the bottom of a heavy dutch oven or pot until crispy (2-4 minutes); do not drain; add vegetables (garlic, onion, carrot, celery) and saute until softened, about 4 minutes; add ham (or other meat) and beans and tomatoes, add BTB and water, and red pepper flakes if you are using. Add swiss chard. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for one hour on low. Taste for seasoning. Depending on saltiness of the ham, you may not need any additional salt.

*Soup pictured with perfect, apt tea towel which was a gift from my lovely friend Chelo, and on my new vintage tray. Inspired by my friend Ashley who has about 25 of them, I’m amassing an army of these things from rummage sales and the Restore, and using them to feel civilized as I serve the kids their waffles during Sesame Street.


Instant Pot Chicken Tikka Masala Soup

I have never understood the concept of take-out. While I know that many of you relish your take-out rituals, I am pretty much in the camp of: if I’m home it should be homemade (cereal and scrambled eggs count), and if I’m paying to eat out, I want it to come with a side of atmosphere and no dishes to load. Not counting the first year of life with #twoundertwo, we have probably only had take-out a handful of times in our lives.

Still, life with two toddlers has confined us more and more to eating at home, and lately I have found myself missing the comforting flavors of Indian and Thai food. I have found that my little ones eat really well when I make soups/stews – one pot meals that they don’t have to think about dissecting or picking apart. They tend to be a little pickier when food is separated on the plate. They have also developed more of a flavor for heat lately – stealing my wasabi soy almonds out of my purse, and begging for more spicy chili and chipotle laced sweet potato fries.

So, when my friend Kristine posted a recipe for Chicken Tikka Masala soup straight out of one of my all-time favorite Atlanta restaurants, Souper Jenny, I knew I had to have this recipe, and adapt it for the Instant Pot.  My goal was to make it a little more vegetable-laden, double it so that it would feed us with leftovers, and ensure that it really had the punch of Indian flavors. It isn’t spicy, but it does have a richness and depth of flavor.

I really try to avoid recipes where I have to buy a lot of new ingredients, so I loved that I had most of these in the pantry and only had to buy a new jar of garam masala. Next time, I think I will totally nix the potatoes in favor of cauliflower florets (I was so close to doing it, but didn’t have time to chop up my cauliflower and my Instant Pot was too full to have both.)


Chicken Tikka Masala Soup (adapted from Souper Jenny)

Every Monday night in our house is soup night. As I shared in my meal planning post I try to cook two meals every Monday, and usually they are both soups. We eat one on Monday night, and we eat the other for lunches throughout the week. This will fill your 6 quart Instant Pot; if you have a smaller one, reduce the liquid. This will feed a family of four with three extra bowls for lunches leftover. I served it with cilantro and extra greek yogurt as a garnish.

3-4 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 cups plain greek yogurt
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili pepper flakes
2 teaspoons garam masala
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 large finger ginger, grated (I always freeze mine, and I never peel it)
2 14.5 oz cans of crushed tomatoes
3 cups Yukon gold potatoes, chopped
2 cups of frozen peas
2 cups carrots, peeled and chopped
20 ounces coconut milk (about a can and a half)
2 teaspoons of better than bouillon
fresh cilantro

extra greek yogurt for garnish, or to tone down the heat for little palates

Marinate your chicken thighs whole with yogurt, coriander, cumin, chili, garam masala, salt and pepper for at least an hour, or up to overnight.

While the chicken is marinating, heat your instant pot on the saute function. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and saute ginger and garlic and carrots until softened. Be careful, they will easily burn.

Remove chicken from yogurt, shaking off excess marinade and add chicken to the instant pot, stirring to saute the chicken on all sides (it will be crowded). Add the tomatoes, potatoes, peas, chicken broth, coconut milk and any remaining yogurt marinade. Set to manual for 25 minutes. Remove the chicken with tongs and shred it and add it back to the pot, or shred with a tongs in the pot. I use a scissors to cut up the chicken for the kids once it’s in the bowl.

Garnish with fresh cilantro, more red pepper flakes and greek yogurt.




Drink Your Soup: Butternut Squash, Leek & Apple Soup

Back in California, on a crisp morning last Fall, we were invited to the sweetest little Saturday morning birthday party at a park. She made it a “breakfast” theme and each seat had a little plastic cereal bowl with a built in straw, a box of cereal and little spoons to match. The kids got to decorate their own pancakes and eat them, and the adults noshed on bagels and lox and mainlined Peet’s coffee.

Well, I brought those little bowls home around the same time that I fell in love with this one-pot, instant-pot soup from Skinnytaste. This cookbook of hers is so sticky and coated after a year of constant use, it’s a wonder that the pages even open to my favorite recipes anymore.

The good news is that you no longer need to risk life and limbs to cut butternut squash. I’ll never do that again. Use a 2 lb container of store bought, pre-chunked butternut squash. The leek in this recipe gives it that something special. I put this together today while my kids ate breakfast. When I got back from preschool drop off, I added the coconut milk and used my immersion blender to blend it up. I have a whole jar of the liquid gold in my fridge now. I will typically eat a mug of soup for lunch because it’s easy and I can do it standing while I feed my kids at the counter top.

Oh, and back to those genius bowls. They’re perfect for soup. My children won’t eat this Fall soup without their special bowls, but they will ask for seconds and thirds. Make this, because, October, and don’t be surprised when it becomes an easy stand-by on rotation in your home.


Slightly adapted from Skinnytaste’s Fast and Slow cookbook

2 lbs pre-cubed butternut squash

1 granny smith apple, cored and cubed

2 carrots, peeled and chopped

1 leek, white parts only, roughly chopped (be sure to scrub the grit hiding inside first)

2 tsp better than bouillon chicken

2 cups of water

1/2 cup of coconut milk

Add all of the vegetables, BTB and water to your Instant Pot. Set to manual for 15 minutes. Natural release or quick release. Add coconut milk. Use your immersion blender to blend it til smooth. If you don’t have one, order one (because it’s sooo great for IP recipes like this) or transfer carefully to a blender and blend until smooth.

This whole process can be accomplished in the crockpot on high for 4 hours, and then blended within.

Serve in mugs. Serve children in little bowls with straws. Enjoy!