Baby- it’s cold outside!

It has been so cold in Salt Lake that every one I know is wearing layer upon layer of clothes and still can’t get warm. Today I’m wearing four layers on top and two on the bottom and I’m still an ice cube. My office is freezing, my car is freezing and I have to get really motivated to go outside. My friends and I all walk around vibrating in a perpetual shiver and can’t wait to get home and into our warm pajamas, slippers and robes and dive under the blankets.

This year I have looked forward to having a warm “rice bag” heated up in the microwave every night and put into bed before I get in. I made a super large one (about 16″ x 10″) for Rick a few years ago and he is nice enough to share it with me.  If you don’t know what a “rice bag” is I’ll explain. It is usually a smallish bag made of muslin or flannel -or muslin with a flannel cover, that you fill with uncooked white rice and sew it shut. (You can use well screened feed corn also- but your heated bag will smell like Fritos and if you overheat it, it may burn.) Then you heat the bag in the microwave for a few minutes and it will retain heat for several hours. Sort of an unplugged heating pad or bed warmer. They are heavenly when you have freezing feet or a sore body part! BTW you can chill it in the Summer too.

Another warmer for Wintry days is soup, of course- so today I am bringing you two. We also have some delightful green onion biscuits and my version of a salsa from Chile called Pebre. It is a cilantro based salsa that really perks up the flavour of soups and is also good on warm bread spread with butter and a little of the Pebre.


Black Lentil Soup with Pebre

  • 4 cups of black beluga lentils, cooked for about twenty minutes in 8 cups of water and then drained (or two 14 oz cans of black lentils drained and rinsed)
  • 1 large onion chopped finely
  • 2 to 3 large purple shallots, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons of minced garlic, can used jarred
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground toasted cumin seeds
  • one 28 ounce can of San Marzano whole tomatoes, whizzed up in the blender for a few seconds.
  • 4 to 6 cups of water or chicken stock
  • 1 sweet potato, cooked, peeled and cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 1 bunch of beet greens, washed well, large veins removed and coarsely shredded
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Pebre (recipe follows)

Cook the lentils or use canned and drain them well. Saute the onion and shallots in the olive oil until translucent and then add the garlic, paprika and cumin. Cook stirring until fragrant and onions are beginning to brown. Don’t let the garlic burn or it will turn bitter. Add the lentils, tomatoes, sweet potato and enough stock or water to cover and make soupy to your taste. Cook for about twenty minutes and then add the greens. Cook for a few more minutes until the greens are bright green and tender. Stir about three Tablespoons of the Pebre into the pot. Taste and adjust for salt and pepper. Serve topped with a dollop of additional Pebre. You can also a topping of sour cream and avocado cubes if you wish.


Pebre (Gabi’s version)

I always make this when I make Ajiaco but have found that it is good in most soups!

  • 2 bunches of Cilantro
  • 1 bunch of  Italian Parsley
  • 4 shallots, chopped
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 4 large garlic cloves
  • 2 small Serrano chilies, seeded and deveined
  • 1 pinch of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon or so of salt to taste and several grindings of black pepper
  • 3 or so Tablespoons of red wine vinegar
  • about 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, to make a pesto like consistency

Wash the Cilantro and Parsley well and spin them in a salad spinner or shake them in a kitchen towel to remove the moisture. Remove just the leaves and discard the stems. Place in the bowl of a food processor. Add the onion, shallot, garlic and peppers and pulse until a fairly fine paste forms. Add the vinegar, sugar, salt, pepper and olive oil to tase and to make a pesto like consistency. Makes about 1-1/2 cups. Store in the refrigerator for up to a week. Delicious in many, many things.


Mushroom White Bean Soup with Serrano Ham

  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 2 large white onions, diced
  • 2 large shallots, diced
  • 2 Tablespoons garlic, minced
  • about 6 slices of Serrano Ham shredded
  • 8 ounces sliced button, cremini or other mushrooms you like
  • 1 teaspoon fresh time or a pinch of dried
  • 2 bay leave
  • 2 cups of cooked, canned or fresh prepared white beans
  • 1 cup of white wine (optional)
  • 6 cups of chicken stock
  • Toast and cream cheese or Boursin cheese optional.

Heat a heavy bottomed soup pot over medium heat and add the olive oil and butter. When it shimmers add the onions and shallots and reduce the heat slightly. Cook for about 25 minutes over medium low heat until they are caramelized and brown but not burned. Add the ham and cook until sizzling. Add the garlic, thyme and the mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms release their juices and begin to brown. Add the wine if using, the stock, beans and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for about 20 minutes longer. Good in a mug with a biscuit or you can spread some toast with cream or Boursin cheese and broil until bubbly, place in the bottom of the bowl and spoon the soup over it.


Green Onion  and Buttermilk Biscuits

  • three green onions, sliced
  • 4 Tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup cold butter
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk, plus a little to brush on the tops
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream

Saute the green onions in the 4 Tablespoons of butter in a small skillet until they are soft. Set aside to cool. Mix the flour, baking powder, soda and salt together in a medium bowl. Cut the cold butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal with a few pea sized bits. Make a well in the center and pour the buttermilk and cream and the green onions in and stir with a wooden spoon just until mixed. Turn out onto a lightly floured board and knead a few times until the dough comes together. Pat out and cut circles with a 2″ biscuit cutter or you can cut free form shapes. Brush the tops with a little buttermilk and bake in a preheated 425F oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden and risen. These are best eaten warm with butter fresh from the oven or at least by the next day.

Hope these will help keep you warm on a cold night!



  1. clumsy says:

    What a cool idea, the rice bag! I’m going to make one for my boyfriend, Jim—his feet are always freezing!!

    And your soup is exactly the thing I’ve been looking for—a lentil soup with cilatro. I’m crazy about cilantro (and not always crazy about lentil) so I think it will be a great balance. Thanks!

  2. brilynn says:

    I once made a ‘rice bag’ with cleaned cherry pits. It worked great and smelled wonderful until one day I put it in the microwave for too long, ugh, burnt cherry pits are NOT good!

  3. Maryann says:

    I think my mom had the one that smelled like Fritos..haha.
    Your post is wonderful. Warm and comforting food.

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