December 12, 2012 · 7:00 am
Finally, some cold weather in Texas! We thought it would never come, but it has been in the mid-20’s for the past couple of evenings, which means my thoughts turn to soups, stews and chili. The creamy corn chowder soup mix I purchased at the State Fair of Texas almost two months ago was finally on the menu. I was cautiously excited about making the soup because I love corn chowder, but my experiences with soup mixes has been hit or miss, and it has been mostly miss lately.
Ellie Hughes and her family are the driving force behind the Twisted Pepper Co. (Don’t you love the company name?) This small food manufacturing company specializes in gourmet dip, spread and soup mixes that are easy to prepare and delicious to eat. Ellie, or “Miss Ellie” as she is known, has loved cooking since she was a small girl. The company’s website has an amazing number of dip mixes, soup mixes, BBQ rubs, bread dipping oil seasonings, Tex-Mex seasonings and pasta seasonings. I browsed the virtual “grocery shelves” for quite some time. The selections run the gamut from a classic brisket BBQ rub to a very intriguing cranberry jalapeño pasta salad seasoning mix. The company focuses on healthy mixes, with lower sodium, gluten-free and MSG-free options.
I think one of the reasons this soup mix really works is that it is basically a seasoning mix to which cream-style corn and fresh or frozen corn kernels are added; the “just add water” type soup mixes always seem to fall short for me. I tweaked the recipe on the package a bit, mainly changing the cooking time. The package calls for the soup to be simmered for 10 minutes, but I knew from previous experience with soup mixes that a longer cooking time really blends and intensifies the flavors. The package suggests several variations and I elected to add diced potato. My revised recipe is below. Fair warning: the mix makes a big pot of soup, so plan accordingly!
Creamy Corn Chowder
- 1 package Twisted Pepper Co. Creamy Corn Chowder soup mix
- 2 cups water
- 2 cups half & half
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 1 can (15.25 oz) cream-style corn
- 1 (16 oz) package of frozen corn kernels
- 1 medium sized potato, diced
Combine water, half & half, broth, cream-style corn and frozen corn kernels in a large stockpot. Whisk in the soup mix and bring just to a slow boil over medium heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the diced potato and continue simmering until the potatoes are done and the chowder is thick, about 20-30 minutes.
You will be rewarded with a very well-seasoned, hearty bowl of chowder. Everyone at our family dinner loved it. Miss Ellie also suggests adding chicken or crab to the chowder, and I think it would be fantastic with diced, smoked ham.
Twisted Pepper Co.’s website would be a great place to do some holiday shopping for those on your list who love to cook. Special holiday packaging on some products and free shipping on orders over $50 make it even more fun!
November 27, 2012 · 7:00 am
Karen has been fighting the respiratory crud that seems to be plaguing people coast to coast. We had it at our house for a couple of weeks before finally kicking it. One of Jim’s business partners heard she was sick, and sent her a most thoughtful gift..chicken soup. Karen found a box from Spoonful of Comfort on her front porch containing a cold-pack wrapped jar of chicken noodle soup, dinner rolls and cookies! Chicken soup has long been prescribed by mothers and grandmothers for their loved ones with colds and flu. For many years, the health benefits of chicken soup were considered more myth than medicine, but now researchers believe chicken soup reduces the symptoms of a cold by inhibiting inflammation of tissues in the nasal passage. Karen said that simply smelling the warm soup started clearing her head. The soup definitely looked homemade with large firm noodles, pulled chicken breast pieces, chunky carrots, celery and onions. Karen thought it was very flavorful without being overly salty. The soup is handmade in small batches, just the way it is made at home.
Marti Wymer created Spoonful of Comfort to honor the memory of her mother who had terminal lung cancer. It was especially painful for Marti to deal with her mother’s illness because she lived in Florida while her mom was in Canada. She felt a sense of helplessness, and the traditional gifts she could send, like flowers or fruit, seemed inadequate to express her love and concern. Her thoughts kept going back to the chicken soup her mother made for her when she was a child and didn’t feel well, but she wasn’t with her mom to provide that same loving care. She was comforted by the fact that during her mom’s final few weeks, her siblings and friends in the area provided her with food and care, and she wanted to create a way for people to show care and concern from a distance.
Karen and I can relate to Marti’s frustration because we both live some distance from our parents. I’m several hours away from my mom, and Karen is more than a day’s drive from her mom and dad. Although we have siblings who live close to our parents and help out when needed, it isn’t the same as being there ourselves. Spoonful of Comfort provides the ability to provide a satisfying, healthy meal along with a message of concern to someone who needs it. Marti’s passion for communicating that concern is clear on the company’s website, and is demonstrated in the cheerful product packaging and personalized note that accompanies each gift. A portion of the company’s profits is donated to the American Cancer Society in memory of Marti’s mother, so each purchase provides a double blessing. Keep Spoonful of Comfort in mind when you want to provide someone with a comforting meal and a sincere reminder of your concern for them.
October 1, 2012 · 7:00 am
Karen and I met a new friend, Gabriel, on our recent trip to Central Market. He is a chef in the market’s demonstration kitchen, and he introducedus to a number of very interesting new products to try. Given our love for all things Tex-Mex, Canyon Foods Tortilla Soup was the first thing we tasted. The soup is fully prepared and ready to heat with organic chicken stock, tomatoes, onions, garlic, and cilantro. It is simmered with corn tortillas, which makes it a thick, hearty soup. Of course, we weren’t simply content with the “heat and eat” approach, but used the soup as a base for our own, quick adaptation. It was definitely a winner!
Chicken Tortilla Soup
- 1 jar Canyon Foods Tortilla Soup
- 1 8-oz chicken breast, finely diced and sautéed
- 2 oz tortilla chips, crushed
- 1 oz shredded pepper jack cheese
Simmer the soup and cooked chicken breast for about 15 minutes. Divide crushed tortilla chips between 4 soup bowls. Pour soup over tortilla chips and top with shredded pepper jack cheese.
Canyon Foods is the brainchild of Dallasite Anne Connally, who believed that there had to be a better way to enjoy soup than from a can. She set about to make a shelf-stable ready-to-eat soup and grew her business from a 3,000 square foot space with one employee to a 26,000 square foot facility with her husband, brother, sister and niece making the business a family affair. Her products include soups, starters, relishes, marinades and vinaigrettes, and are available from her website, All Canyon Foods are processed in small batches to assure great tastes.
Stay tuned for more on the delicious pepper jack cheese we used to top our chicken tortilla soup!