Cauliflower Soup with Roasted Shishito Salsa and Chili Oil, and how to make pureed veggie soups without a recipe

I’m one of those weirdos who really, really likes purees. Basically baby food with salt, cream, and butter to make things delicious. I’ll eat them as a side, as a sauce, as a garnish, as a soup. Mmmm, soup. And guess what? They’re super easy to make, so you should love them too.

Veggie based creamy soups include the same elements. Keep these in mind:

  • Aromatics. Usually mirepoix (carrots, onions, and celery) and garlic. Leeks, shallots, ginger, or occasionally bell peppers are used in this application too. Don’t leave this out. ALL good things start with mirepoix (or at least garlic and onions).
  • The Main Veg. Cauliflower today, broccoli if I was hankering for a Panera knock-off. Whole canned San Marzano tomatoes are popular in the Triniwood house. Sweet potato, russets, or beans are great hearty choices. Spinach or kale if you’re a certain kind of psycho. Other good choices are carrots, split peas, corn, asparagus, mushrooms, or parsnips.
  • A Thickening Agent. Usually people would used a roux (butter and flour, like you’re making gravy) but lately I’ve been leaving this out in favor of using less broth and letting the natural veggie texture do its thang. Definitely saves me some calories. Another low calorie option that will give your soup some body is to cook in a diced potato with the rest of the veg. Some people use cornstarch or tapioca starch or some ish, but I’m not a fan of the gummy texture they impart. ALWAYS use less broth than you think you’ll need–you can always add more, but its difficult to take liquid away.
  • Extra Flavors. This part is important in creating a well balanced soup. A splash of orange juice adds a sweet acidity to tomato soup, bacon fat adds a good smokiness to potato or bean based soups, curry tastes delicious in carrot or sweet potato, and the cheese is what makes broccoli worth stinking up your kitchen (hah!). This is the hardest part of making soup, because you have to have a bit of savvy to know when to introduce these flavors to the party. We’ll get to that later.
  • The Creamy Part. AKA the BEST part. Favorite agents for this are half and half, sour cream, Greek yogurt, butter, and coconut milk. Or, again, you could be a health nut and leave this part out, but I wouldn’t recommend it.
  • Purée. An immersion blender is easy, but I prefer my Vitamix for the silkiest soups. Leave the soup a little chunky if that’s how you like it! Run it through a strainer before serving if you’re real crazy.
  • Garnish. Croutons are ye ol’ standby, but cream, infused oil, some sort of little salad or salsa, or the star veggie in a different preparation are all excellent. Garnishes add textural contrast and a pleasant top note flavor.

The roasted shishito salsa was a bit of a happy coincidence. I specifically made it to serve alongside meat for a BBQ I hosted last weekend, then realized how damn delicious it tasted. Plus, it’s a clever way to re-purpose leftover shishito appetizers I’m often stuck with. Gonna bust that one out frequently.

You’ll Need

  • An onion, peeled and diced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 3 stalks of celery, diced (I saved the leaves on top to garnish my soup with, #roottoleaf)
  • A head of cauliflower, cut into large chunks (cauliflower is softer to cut than you think, just get in there)
  • Leftover bacon fat (olive oil is fine too)
  • 4 cups of chicken broth (or water and buillion cubes)
  • Kosher salt
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • A big splash of half and half
  • Shishito peppers (as much or as little as you have on hand)
  • Red wine vinegar
  • Chili oil (optional)


  1. Put about a tablespoon of bacon fat (or a few good glugs of olive oil) in a large pot over medium heat and add the onions, carrots, and celery. Sweat the veggies for 8-10 minutes, until veggies have softened a bit and onions are translucent. Add the cauliflower, chicken broth, and a dash of kosher salt, then bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and let bubble away for about 25 minutes. Alternatively, you could do this in an Instant Pot and pressure cook for 15 minutes.
  2. While the soup is simmering, toss the shishitos in olive oil and kosher salt, and place in a hot pan (preferably cast iron) over medium high heat. Stir every minute or so until they’ve softened with black spots all over, breaking up into batches if you need to to ensure you aren’t crowding the pan.
  3. Remove shishitos and place on a cutting board, letting them sit until cool enough to handle. Use a knife to chop off the stems, then rough chop the shishitos into slightly uneven, bite-sized pieces. Place in a bowl and toss with a few good glugs of olive oil and a healthy splash of red wine vinegar. Taste and add more salt or vinegar if it needs it. Set aside until ready to use. PS: this can be done in advance and stored in the fridge until you’re ready to use it. PPS: this “salsa” would taste awesome over steak, chicken, pork, or fish, spooned over cream or goat cheese and served with crackers, tossed into a salad or with roasted veggies, or served with eggs.
  4. Remove the soup from the heat and let it cool for 10-15 minutes or so. Puree with a stick blender, or in a regular blender in batches (be sure to hold down the lid with a towel, a hot soup explosion would be a disaster). Pour back into the pot and stir in the half and half, some fresh cracked black pepper, and kosher salt to taste.
  5. Serve soup with shishito peppers, chopped celery leaves, and chili oil as garnish.

Remix The Dish: For broccoli cheese soup, mix a few handfuls of cheese in with the half and half and add white pepper. For mushroom soup, omit the carrots and celery and add dried porcini mushrooms in with the onions instead, and use 4 pints of fresh mushrooms and use 3 cups of broth. 2 bundles of asparagus should do for asparagus soup, and use greek yogurt or sour cream as the creamy element. Bacon and crouton garnish would taste awesome with split pea, bean, or white potato soup. I love making carrot or sweet potato soup with red curry paste and ginger added in while the aromatics saute, lemongrass and honey while it simmers, then add coconut milk right before you puree. A fall favorite of mine is pumpkin beer cheese soup, which sounds nuts but tastes awesome. Use a large can of pumpkin puree instead of the cauliflower, reduce the broth to 2 cups and stir in a whole bottle of ale mid-simmer, then add some cheddar after you puree. Garnish with croutons and fried sage leaves.

Grilled Pork Chops with Mustard Brussels Sprouts and Blueberry Gastrique

I kinda stumbled into this dish. I’ve been traveling and didn’t want a bag of blueberries I got in my farm bag to go to waste, so I started out making them into a syrup I could freeze and use for cocktails, desserts, or pancakes down the road. After I had it jarred and ready to go, I realized how awesome it would taste with the dinner I had whipped up. Boom roasted, an okay dinner into a clutch one with a simple good idea.

A gastrique is basically just a sweet and sour fruit sauce. This version is pretty basic (just a weeknight dinner) but you can fancy up the sauce with garlic, shallots, and herbs if you’re feeling it. The tangy sauce tasted great with the smokey pork chops, and the sweetness complimented the spicy mustard and vegetal Brussels sprouts. For a meal on the fly, it turned out super balanced!

You’ll Need:

  • Pork chops, thick cut
  • kosher salt
  • pepper
  • 4 tablespoons of course grain dijon mustard
  • 6 tablespoons of olive oil, plus some
  • 1 tablespoon of honey
  • 1 tablespoon of vinegar (red wine vinegar is my default, but apple cider or even white would do in a pinch)
  • A pint or so of blueberries
  • 3/4 cup or so of sugar
  • Lemon juice (the vinegar you used earlier would be fine if you don’t have a lemon)
  • Brussels sprouts (eyeball it…I used like 8 big ones for 2 portion sizes and still had some leftover)
  • Smoked turkey leg (crumbled bacon would be ideal, I just didn’t have any at the time. Or leave this out, totally not a necessary component. You can find these at most grocery stores near the bacon and sausage. They’re super cheap too!)


  1. In a jar, shake together the mustard, olive oil, honey, and a pinch of salt. Salt and pepper both sides of your pork chops, and pour some of the dressing on top of the pork chops to marinade. You don’t need a ton, but enough so that all surfaces of the pork chops receive some lovin’. Leave on a plate to soak in the flavors while you work on the rest of the meal. Add the vinegar to the unused dressing and shake to combine. Set aside.
  2. Throw the berries and half a cup of water, and the sugar into a sauce pan. Bring to a boil, then use a potato masher to break up the berries and release their juices. Add a squeeze of lemon and a pinch of salt, then taste, taste, taste. Does it need more tang? Add more lemon. Is it too cloyingly sweet? Add another pinch of salt. Too thick? Splash in some water. If you’re feeling adventurous, add some fresh thyme or rosemary! Let bubble and thicken on low for 10-15 minutes, checking often to make sure you like the taste and consistency. If you want your fruit sauce chunky, use it as is. If you want it more homogeneous, toss into a blender. If you’re just nuts like I am, blend then pour it through a fine-mesh strainer. This will keep well in the fridge for a week or pretty much forever in the freezer.
  3. Trim the stalky bottom of the Brussels sprouts off and cut into quarters. Use a small knife and your hands to strip the meat the smoked turkey leg, and roughly chop the meat. You’ll have a ton extra, which I like to throw in a jar and freeze to use on other occasions such as this. I also freeze the leftover bone to make stock from, but I also realize that I’m kinda insane. Hashtag nose to tail.
  4. Turn your grill on medium high heat. While the grill is heating up, drizzle the bottom of a frying pan with some olive oil over medium heat and saute the Brussels, making sure they get some nice caramelization on them before stirring around so their opposite sides get some color. After a few minutes, toss in a handful of the smoked turkey.
  5.  Grill the pork chops 2-3 minutes on each side for some clutch grill marks, then move to indirect heat until they’re finished. Be sure to cut into one and check before serving…the only thing worse than overcooked pork is undercooked pork. If you’re using a termometer (you should) I like my pig around 155 degrees, but apparently new studied say 145 is safe to eat.
  6. Once the Brussels sprouts are cooked to your liking (I dig them tender-crisp), take the pan off the heat and stir in several spoonfuls of the mustard vinaigrette, tasting often and adjusting for salt if it needs it. Plop a pile on a plate, lean a pork chop up against them, and drizzle the gastrique around it.

Remix the dish: Use this same technique to turn strawberries, cherries, peaches, blackberries, or raspberries into a syrup. Mix them into cocktails, drizzle over ice cream, or eat with pancakes, french toast, or biscuits.

If you wanted to go real fancy with the sauce, treat it like a pan sauce  and simmer it in a frying pan with shallots, garlic, herbs, and some butter. I just wasn’t into putting that much effort into it that night.

If you’re strapped for time and just want something sweet, fruity, and tangy for a dish, throw a few big scoops of good jam into a frying pan, thin with water, and heat with a dash of salt and some dried herbs/garlic powder. Poor man’s sauce!

Hearts on Hearts Salad, and a chat about making creamy dressings

So I’m aware this is kind of a non-recipe recipe. You guys aren’t morons, you know how to assemble a salad. So rather than give you a play by play on how I sliced the cherry tomatoes in half, I’m going to talk about the one interesting part of this dish–the cool, tangy, vegetal, creamy yet super healthy and guilt-free dressing I made for this salad by blending up a couple of jars of hearts of palm with Greek yogurt.

Wait, what?!

Greek yogurt is great, but would be bland AF as a salad dressing without a little help from its friends. This works out perfectly with hearts of palm, a delicious but strange (and expensive!) little veggie that I never can seem to get enough of. By turning it into a creamy dressing, you get a hit of heart of palm flavor in ever single bite of your salad.

Here’s my general formula for making a greek yogurt sauce:

Greek Yogurt + Veggies + Pop of Flavor + Oil + Acid

Here are some examples:

Greek Yogurt + Jalapenos + Cilantro + Olive Oil + Lime Juice

Greek Yogurt + Roasted Red Peppers + Garlic + Avocado Oil + Red Wine Vinegar

Greek Yogurt + Roasted Shallots + Roasted Garlic + Olive Oil + Lemon Juice

Greek Yogurt + Sun Dried Tomatoes + Shallots + Walnut Oil + Balsamic Vinegar

Greek Yogurt + Mandarin Oranges and/or Pineapple + Honey + Coconut Butter + Yuzu (imagine that on fruit salad or cinnamon pita chips!)

Greek Yogurt + that yummy leftover green sofrito we made the other day + Olive Oil + Lime Juice

On all these bad boys, its important to TASTE after you blend. At that point, you’ll know how much salt and pepper it needs, and how much water or liquid you should splash in to thin it out and make it the right texture. (Or, hell you could leave it thick and use it as a chip or veggie dip instead).

You’ll Need:

  • 2 cans of hearts of palm
  • 1 cup of Greek yogurt (regular, 2%, or fat free are all fine)
  • Zest and juice of 2 limes (if you don’t have a microplane, seriously wtf you’re a grown ass adult. Just kidding. Just the juice is totally cool).
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Pepper
  • Romaine lettuce, whole (hearts and leafy greens)
  • Bacon
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Sliced pepperocini or banana peppers


  1. We’re going to start by crisping up the bacon, since that step will take the longest. Take the entire mass of bacon out of the vacuum pack and slice into 1/2 inch strips, crosswise. Throw it in a skillet on MEDIUM LOW heat, and SLOWLY render out the fat until its all brown and crunchy AF, stirring every few minutes and using a wooden spoon to break up the stacked bacon pieces. This is going to take awhile, 20-25 minutes to do it right. You’re going to look at it 10-12 minutes in and panic because it will look more like Canadian bacon (gross) than delicious deep rosey brown crunchy stuff we all know and love. But trust ya girl Chelsea, this is the guaranteed way to get it completely rendered, crispy, and perfect.
  2. While the bacon is frying, making the dressing. Open up the cans of the hearts of palm (reserving the liquid) and roughly chop each piece into 2 or 3 pieces. Go ahead and snag a few bites, hearts of palm make delicious snacks–basically log-shaped artichokes! Toss them all in the blender, then add the Greek yogurt, the lime zest, the lime juice, 4-5 good glugs of olive oil, a pinch of salt, several grinds of pepper, and a small splash of the reserved heart of palm liquid from the cans (for extra hearty palmy flavor). Give it a good blend, and after about a minute, stop the blender to scrape down the sides and taste. From there, use your senses to see whether it needs more salt, pepper, or liquid to thin it out. Blend until smooth, pour in a couple mason jars, and chill in the fridge until you’re ready. This dressing will keep for a week or so, and tastes awesome on anything…more on that later.
  3. Chop up a head of romaine. I’m the waste not want not type, so I used everything from the leafy greens to the very end of the heart. Plus it gives your salad lots of color and textural contrast. Measure out however much lettuce you’ll need in a bowl, and throw the rest in a plastic bag to use later.
  4. Slice the cherry tomatoes in half. You can figure this one out yourself.
  5. The bacon should be about done! Turn off the stove and use a slotted spoon to scoop the bacon out of the sizzling oil, onto a stack of paper towels to drain. Let the bacon fat cool for about 20 minutes, then pour it into a mason jar and throw in the fridge or freezer to use at a later time. You definitely don’t want to waste that flavor goldmine. If you have extra bacon bits, they keep well in the fridge too. They won’t be as snappy, but will still taste awesome.
  6. Sprinkle the bacon, tomatoes, and peppers on top of the lettuce and drizzle it with the heart of palm dressing. The tangy and spicy peppers play off the fresh and mild romaine, the salty bacon compliments the sweet tomatoes, and the heart of palm dressing brightens the whole thing.

Remix this dish: make this a complete meal by adding grilled or rotisserie chicken! The heart of palm dressing is super versatile—use it in place of sour cream on tacos, use as a dressing in potato or pasta salad, drizzle over gazpacho or any warm veggie puree soup as a garnish, use as a sauce on grilled meats and fish. The bacon fat is great for making vinaigrettes, for sauteing veggies, or while searing meats for braises.

Look Mom, I Made A Blog!


Don’t act like you didn’t all see this coming from a mile away.

After years of fashion writing, a long stint as a columnist on a obscure, local, social blog, and a long-ass hiatus, ya girl Chelsea is back at it and ready to start writing again, this time about my one true love: my cavapoopoo Scoutman. Just kidding. I’m here to talk about food. I’d like to take this time to thank everyone who was just trying to being nice but unintentionally gave me an overinflated perception of my cooking ability and encouraged me to start this thing.

Now, I’m aware that blogging is generally nerdy AF and that you’re all probably taking screenshots and laughing your faces off in group text threads right now. Not going to lie, I would be doing the same thing. I included that ridiculous header photo for a reason. It’s cool though, I got over myself a long time ago. Everyone’s entitled to a hobby–you might like to sell beauty products or play rec soccer or paint pictures, I like to cook and write.

Granted, we all know I rock a desk job and haven’t been to culinary school or even worked in a restaurant. Everything I know, I learned through practice, reading books and websites, or from watching hours of Food Network and Top Chef. I’d be eliminated the first round on Chopped, Cutthroat Kitchen, or Masterchef Kids. But by everyday home cook standards, I definitely know what I’m doing, and would love to teach my friends and acquaintances some practical tips.

Because I’ve watched The Next Food Network Star for years, I’m aware that when dealing with something as universal as food, it’s important to have a distinctive point of view that makes your food and storytelling unique. After several minutes of consideration, here’s a breakdown of my culinary credo:

  • Nose to tail, root to leaf, tupperware to table. Food waste is something that bothers me to my core. I’ll spare you my hippie ideologies, and instead come at it from the practical cost-saving perks of adopting this outlook. There is a way to eat on a budget without sentencing yourself to the same dang casserole for a week straight. I’ll do my best to include ways to “remix” my all of my recipes and ingredients, and show ways to up-cycle food and make other delicious things to eat. Not only will you save cash, but you’ll save time and get your creative juices flowing to boot. I could wax poetic about honoring our resources, respecting ingredients, and my other crunchy spiritual thoughts, but that’s another post.
  • Learn not follow. Just as assembling an Ikea console doesn’t make you a brilliant woodworker, following an exact recipe doesn’t make you a good cook. It makes you good at obeying instructions. I’m going to give you a lot of approximates, talk about methods and skills, and hopefully teach you how to solve problems you may encounter. I’ll talk about what ingredients are optional, and which ones you can sub out for whatever’s in your fridge. Working with what you have saves money and makes you a better home cook. Hopefully, over time this will give you the skill set and confidence to go “off the book” and invent your own meals.
  • Eat your damn veggies. I know this is super judgy of me, but one of my biggest pet peeves are grown adults who won’t eat vegetables. You don’t have to like or even love them, but I have trouble relating to people who don’t at minimum tolerate veggies, if only just for sake of convenience. My husband Alex used to be one of those people. After nearly three years of ignoring his complaints, one day while eating a bowl of Sicilian chicken soup, he looked at me and proclaimed “wow, you get full so much faster if you don’t dodge the carrots and onions.” Who would have thought, right?
  • Enjoy the butter, okay? Or cheese. Or drizzle some olive oil. Or the kosher salt. You’re going to be way more satisfied eating flavorful food than you would be eating mountains of bland rabbit food. I’m obviously not a healthcare professional. Of course my philosophy doesn’t work for everyone, but I’ve found that I actually end up eating less by not depriving myself of the things that make food taste good. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not some kinda Paul Dean glutton. I make an effort to incorporate healthy substitutions, but ya know I’m also comfortable with my body’s perpetual and realistic softness. Also, I’m a bit distrustful of the processes uses to make things “fat free” or “fortified” or even “decaffinated.” Which leads me to my next rule…
  • Shop the perimeter. I’m a simple girl. I don’t pretend to know if organic fruit or grass-fed beef is worth it. There are TONS of practical benefits of genetically modified produce, but I’m open to the possibility that they could cause some negative freakonomic effects down the line. Plus, to be honest it’s not worth it to me right now to blow a bunch of money on free-range chickens from Whole Foods. (Plus the sheer volume of food that Alex consumes in a day is just astonishing). It’s common knowledge that the less processed foods you eat the better, as fresh food retains more nutrients. The way I keep myself on that path is by shopping the perimeter of the grocery store, and filling up my cart with perishable ingredients.

Let’s be real here. I’ve got a full time job, I try to fit in a workout everyday, I have a robust social life, and I dedicate at least two hours a night to watching Netflix. I’ve also got a husband, two dogs, a cat, a garden, and a big kid house to take care of. This is just a creative outlet and an fun way to document recipes (and maybe teach some friends a little bit about food). I’m not going to optimize my photo dimensions for Pinterest. I don’t have a DSLR camera, so all of the photos here will be taken with my iPhone and video will be cut on Snapchat. *Maybe* you’ll get an occasional Instagram filter.  My content will probably be a little sporadic…I mean, I do have TV shows to binge and stuff. I’ll probably write these posts on my iPhone in the 15 minutes after dinner that it takes Alex to throw tennis balls and tire out the doggos, so ya know give me a break.

In exchange for my less than dazzling images and prose, I will promise you guys few things: I’ll never have a stupid long rambling intro before I get to the dang recipe. I’ll never use the word “wanderlust.” The very nature of talking about food is pretentious in itself, but I’ll try to keep it in check. I won’t write in the cliche “little ol’ me” meet-cute romantic comedy ingenue voice that every other Mommy-blogger adopts. I’ll do my best to stay away from humble-braggy lifestyle porn because those people are just the worst.

Let’s all just be cool, hang out, laugh at the bizarro things I find entertaining, and talk about food, k?

xoxo, Chelsea