Soups & Salads

Potato Salad with lime-garlic-basil dressing
I was driving to work the other day and the weather forecast was being read on the radio. And this is what they said – “Cooler temperatures today, with a high of 106F”. That’s when I knew summer in Phoenix has arrived. So when the daring cooks challenge for June was announced, it fit in perfectly with the rising summer temperatures. A healthy potato salad!!! I have never been a fan of the mayonnaise laden potato salads that are so common. So I decided to create my version of a potato salad, healthy and fresh!!!

Jami Sorrento was our June Daring Cooks hostess and she chose to challenge us to celebrate the humble spud by making a delicious and healthy potato salad. The Daring Cooks Potato Salad Challenge was sponsored by the nice people at the United States Potato Board, who awarded prizes to the top 3 most creative and healthy potato salads. A medium-size (5.3 ounce) potato has 110 calories, no fat, no cholesterol, no sodium and includes nearly half your daily value of vitamin C and has more potassium than a banana!
I chose to make a potato and chicken sausage salad with a lime-garlic-basil dressing. The chicken sausage is optional, I added it in because I found these interesting jalapeno-mango chicken sausages, which I thought would go well with the potato salad. And they added an awesome twist to the potato salad. This recipe serves 2 and takes about 1/2 hour to make (most of the time is spent in roasting the potatoes).
  1. 20-25 small red potatoes (halved with skin)
  2. 1 jalapeno-mango chicken sausage (sliced and cooked)
  3. 1/2 cup chopped green onions (only the green part)
  4. salt to taste
  5. 1/4-1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  6. 2 tbsp olive oil
For the dressing
  1. 1/8 cup olive oil
  2. 1/4 cup lime juice
  3. 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  4. 1/4 tsp black pepper
  5. salt to taste
  6. 2 cloves chopped roasted garlic
  7. 1/4 – 1/2 tsp rad chili flakes
  • Mix the potatoes with the olive oil, salt and black pepper.
  • Roast it in the oven till the potatoes are cooked through.
  • Mix the cooked chicken sausages, potatoes and green onions.
  • Mix all the ingredients under ‘For the dressing’ in a grinder.
  • Mix the dressing with the salad and serve it warm.

I promise, you will love it. The dressing adds a fresh zing to the potato salad. And the sausage is completely optional. I loved it though as the sausage added an interesting twist to the potato salad.
Chicken Salad with a Spicy Tangy Dressing

After a simple yet quite a heavy lunch yesterday, I really wanted something light to eat for dinner but Amit wanted something spicy yet light. Now that’s a tough combination. But well a chicken salad with a spicy and tangy dressing sounded just about perfect.

I looked up this recipe online and found this very interesting looking recipe. I just had to try it. I made a few changes to the recipe, but in essence it’s the same. I have added a link to the original recipe at the end of this post.

This serves 2-3 persons and takes about 30 minutes from start to finish. I cooked the chicken in a saucepan but the broiler or grill would be a preferred choice. It would cut the calories from the oil you would otherwise have to use, and if you use the broiler, it’s quicker and less messier.


  1. 8 chicken thigh tenders (cut into small chunks or strips)
  2. 1 large bowl salad greens

Marinade for Chicken:

  1. 3 tbsp fish sauce
  2. 6 garlic cloves (crushed)
  3. 1.5 tbsp soy sauce (low sodium)
  4. 2 tbsp lime juice
  5. 1 teaspoon sesame seeds

For Salad Dressing:

  1. 1/2 cup water
  2. 1.5 stalk lemongrass (cut into pieces)
  3. 1 tbsp fish sauce
  4. 3 tbsp soy sauce
  5. 2 cloves garlic (minced)
  6. 1.5 tbsp brown sugar
  7. 2 tbsp lime juice
  8. 3 tbsp chopped coriander leaves
  9. 1 red chilli (chopped fine) – if you don’t want it spicy, you can avoid this chilli and reduce the brown sugar by 1/2 tbsp


  • Mix the marinade ingredients together in a large bowl. Add the chicken and make sure that the marinade completely covers the chicken.
  • Then sprinkle the sesame seeds over the chicken pieces on both sides.
  • Leave the chicken marinade aside for about 15 minutes.
  • Pre-heat the oven at the broiler setting.
  • While the chicken is marinating, complete the first step of the salad dressing.
  • Add the water to a saucepan and add the lemongrass to it. Bring to a boil and let it simmer for 5 minutes. Now strain thelemongrass out of the water and add the rest of the salad dressing ingredients to the saucepan.
  • Now put the pan with the chicken in the broiler. Turn over the chicken every 5 minutes. You will need to turn it over 3 times.
  • Once the dressing ingredients come to a simmer, take the saucepan off the heat.
  • Cool the salad dressing in the refrigerator. Once the chicken is cooked, toss the salad greens with the dressing.
  • Add the chicken on top and serve while the chicken is still warm.

You may want to taste test the salad dressing, and add more spice, lime or sugar to adjust the dressing to your taste. This is a very light salad, but very filling thanks to the chicken. The greens, the tangy spicy dressing and the chicken flavors come together very well. ANd it’s a pretty easy to make and quick chicken salad with a twist. You can find the original recipe at this link Hope you enjoy this light, spicy and tangy salad as much as we did.

Mushroom Soup

I am so totally into making soups nowadays. And I remembered one of my friend’s (Chinka) saying that mushroom soup is one of her all time favorite soups. And I love cream of mushroom soup too. So I decided to try out one of the recipes I found online. I modified it a little to reduce the amount of calories and fat. This recipe takes about 45 minutes to an hour to prepare. You can substitute the home-made vegetable stock with store-bought vegetable stock. This would reduce the amount of time required by about half hour.


  1. 10 ounces mushrooms (cleaned and chopped into small pieces)
  2. 5-6 ounces dried porcini / cremini mushrooms
  3. 1 tablespoon olive oil
  4. 1 tablespoon butter
  5. 1 cup chopped onion
  6. 1 chopped potato
  7. 2 carrots chopped
  8. 1 sprig fresh/dried thyme
  9. 1 teaspoon minced thyme leaves
  10. 2 cups chopped leeks (white and light green parts)
  11. 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  12. 1/2 cup white wine
  13. 1 cup cream
  14. 1/2 cup milk
  15. 1/2 cup fresh parley (chopped)
  16. 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  17. salt to taste


  1. Steps 1 –   give directions on how to make the vegetable stock. You can replace this with store bought vegetable stock, if you are in a hurry.
  2. Heat 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil and add the onions to the saucepan. Fry the onions for a couple of minutes. Then add the porcini / cremini mushrooms, potato, the sprig of thyme, salt and pepper along with 2 cups of water.
  3. Cover and cook till the vegetables are soft.
  4. Now add another 4 cups of water and bring to a boil. Let it simmer (covered) for about 30 minutes.
  5. Strain the stock from the vegetables and you should get about 4 – 41/2 cups of stock. If not add some water to the vegetables and strain till desired quantity is reached.
  6. Heat the remaining olive oil and butter in another pan and add the chopped leeks.
  7. Cook the leeks for about 10-12 minutes on low flame or till the leeks turn slightly brown.
  8. Now add the chopped mushrooms to the leeks and let it cook till they brown and are cooked throughly.
  9. Next add the flour and stir the mixture for a couple of minutes.
  10. Add the white wine and mix the ingredients making sure that any vegetables or flour stuck to the pan is removed.
  11. Now add the vegetable stock, minced thyme leaves, pepper and salt to taste and stir till the flour is completely mixed without leaving any chunks.
  12. Simmer the soup for about 10 – 15 minutes.
  13. Add the cream, milk and fresh parsley and heat throughly (do not boil).
  14. Serve hot with a salad, breadsticks or just the soup.

The above amounts result in 4-5 servings. This is a less creamy soup because I was looking for a healthier version of the cream of mushroom soup. The soup tastes awesome and if you are in a hurry you can make it with the vegetable stock (you may want to soak the porcini mushrooms in hot water for about 15 minutes and add this water along with the vegetable soup). It is a pretty quick and easy to make soup. I made the stock the previous night and had a nice hot soup ready in about half hr on the next day. The original recipe can be found at I have made a few changes to the recipe to suit my taste. Hope you enjoy my version of the mushroom soup.

Carrot Soup with fresh Coriander and Parsley

After the not so healthy but awesome chicken wings last night, we needed something a little lighter for our dinner tonight. Our stomachs were definitely ready for a hearty and healthy soup. So this is what I came up with. A carrot soup with some fresh coriander and parsley. I am not a very big fan of large chunks of vegetables in my soup. I love my creamy soups. Since I wanted to use only vegetables in the soup and also make it creamy, I decided to use potatoes. This recipe serves 4 persons.


  1. 4 medium carrots, cut into chunks
  2. 2 medium potatoes, cut into chunks
  3. 1/2 onion, chopped
  4. 1 tomato, chopped
  5. 2 garlic cloves, sliced
  6. 1 bay leaf
  7. 2 cups vegetable / chicken stock
  8. 1/2 cup freshly chopped parsley
  9. 1/2 freshly chopped coriander
  10. 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  11. Salt to taste
  12. 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper (to taste)


  • Heat the olive oil in a saucepan.
  • Fry the bay leaf till it turns a light brown.
  • Add the garlic and onion and fry till it softens.
  • Add the chopped tomatoes and cook 3-5 minutes.
  • Add 3 cups of water and the chopped carrots and potato into the saucepan.
  • Simmer, covered, for 15 minutes or until the vegetables are almost tender.
  • Add the parsley, coriander and the chicken / vegetable stock and simmer till the vegetables are cooked completely.
  • Discard the bay leaf and puree the soup in a blender.
  • Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Serve with some sour cream, cream and croutons.

This recipe takes about 45 minutes from start to finish. I heat the soup just before serving as I cool it a little before pureeing it. I usually serve the soup with salad. Next time I am going to try making some bread-sticks to go with the soup and salad. Hope you enjoy this soup.

Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup with Fresh Basil

Amit (my husband) was down with a cold the other day and he so wanted to have some soup. So instead of buying the sodium loaded soups at the grocery store, I decided to try making some homemade soup. After a lot of  “you decide, no you”, we agreed on tomato soup. I then found this recipe online for tomato soup with roasted red pepper and fresh basil. The recipe just looked interesting and easy to make. And I can vouch for the fact that it was delicious too. I did make some modifications to the original recipe.

This quantities listed below will serve 3 persons if you are serving just the soup and a salad. We decided to go healthy that night and have a salad and soup for dinner.


  1. Crushed tomato (15 ounces)
  2. 1 Red Pepper
  3. 2 teaspoons white cooking wine
  4. 1 teaspoon oregano
  5. 3 cloves garlic
  6. 1 small onion
  7. 3 teaspoons olive oil
  8. 2 cups chicken stock
  9. 1/2 cup fresh basil (chopped)

For the basil cream

  1. 1/2 cup sour cream
  2. 1/4 – 1/2 cup whipping cream
  3. 1/4 cup fresh basil
  4. 1/4 teaspoon salt
  5. 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


  • Slice the red pepper into 1 inch thin slices (slivers).
  • Mix the white cooking wine and oregano with the red pepper and set aside.
  • In the meanwhile chop the garlic cloves and onion.
  • Heat 1 teaspoon of olive oil in a saucepan and add the marinated red pepper.
  • Roast the red pepper till the edges turn brown.
  • Set the red pepper aside.
  • Add 2 teaspoons of olive oil to the same saucepan.
  • Once the oil is hot add the chopped onion and garlic to the saucepan.
  • Saute the onion and garlic till they turn light brown.
  • Mix in the red pepper, crushed tomatoes and chicken stock and bring to boil.
  • Reduce the heat and let the soup simmer for 10 minutes.
  • While the soup is cooking, mix together the sour cream, whipping cream, basil, salt and black pepper and set aside.
  • Transfer the soup to a blender and blend till smooth. (It takes me a just a couple of minutes to achieve the soup like consistency)
  • Pour the soup into bowls and add the basil cream on top. (I also added a few cut sprigs of basil to give it a very colorful and fresh feel)

This soup takes about 20 – 30 minutes to serve including prep time and cooking time. I love to serve this alongside some fresh salad with a ranch dressing.

The original recipe can be found at I only made a change in the red pepper part of the recipe. Instead of buying a can of marinated red pepper I made my own fresh roasted pepper.

  1. My niece from Bhubaneshwar just send me a message on facebook asking me about what she can substitute basil with. Since Basil is from the Mint family, I would recommend using mint but use a half the quantity and see how it turns out… And do let me know….

  2. Simna says:

    Shilpechi,Does Mint hav a stronger and more dominant flavour than Basil? I personally dont like too much of minty flavour.. Plus could u tell me a little more about ranch dressing?

    • hey chimmu, yes mint does have a much stronger flavor, u shud trying putting just a few springs and see how it goes…. maybe skip it in the main soup and add it only in the cream…..

      And as far as ranch dressing goes, its a dressing that is sold here in the US which can be used either as a salad dressing or as a dipping…. the main ingredients usually are, sour cream, milk / buttermilk, garlic powder, dill weed, parsley, onion powder, mayonnaise….

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