Friday, November 22, 2013

Red Pepper Garnish

Sometimes even a small detail, like a garnish, can make a monumental difference in the look and flavor of a dish. Not only does this Red Pepper Garnish add a festive look to the top of the suggested omelet, it also adds mouthwatering and unforgettably delicious flavors.

I tasted a similar garnish at a restaurant - it topped a tender steak, but I thought it would do equal justice to the look and taste of a delicate, vegetable and cheese-filled omelet.

The first bite was just as I anticipated...heavenly and made me wish for more!

Red Pepper Garnish

Diced red bell pepper
Italian seasoning with Parmesan flavoring

Dice desired amount of red pepper. Heat a medium skillet on medium high heat - this is to be a dry pan. Add red pepper and stir gently as the pepper begins to roast for 1-2 minutes. Add 1 T butter per 1/4 C red pepper. Remove from heat and stir until butter is melted. Lightly sprinkle with seasoning. Mix well and set aside.

Wipe out pan and return pan to burner on Medium heat.

Omelet for Two
3 large eggs, beaten
2T butter
Sliced sweet onion
Diced green pepper
Baby spinach, Swiss chard, kale and carrot mixture (available at Sam's Club)
1/4 C Shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Melt 1 T butter in the pan on medium. Sauté the onion and pepper in the medium pan and when tender, add the greens. Continue to heat vegetables until the greens are wilted. Remove to a plate and keep warm.
Wipe out pan. Melt 1 T butter in pan. When butter is no longer frothy, add eggs. With a rubber spatula, pull the edges of the egg toward the center to allow the liquid egg to fill in the void. Continue around the pan until almost all the egg has set slightly. Remove pan from heat and turn off burner.
Sprinkle top of egg with 1/4 cup sharp cheddar (shredded). Cover pan with lid and allow to sit for 3 minutes. Remove lid and set pan back on warm burner. Add sautéed vegetable mixture to the front half of the omelet. Loosen the egg from the pan bottom with the rubber spatula and slide the egg out onto a cutting board. As it slides forward, tip the pan so the back half of the omelet folds over the vegetables. Garnish with red pepper. Salt lightly if desired. Cut omelet in half with a sharp knife. Serves 2

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Perfect Morning Omelet (G V)

It usually takes years of trial and error to reach a certain stage of cooking perfection. While trial and error is a good teacher, often it just takes the right recipe, great directions and a willingness to learn something new to turn out perfectly wonderful food.
Fast forward to me rethinking the basic omelet. To me, it had always been nothing more than a scrambled egg left to set up in a pan, layered with various ingredients and folded over. Not a bad idea, but certainly not in the ‘perfection’ category. And, then, there was always the pan with the stuck-on egg to deal with. Hardly a perfect conclusion!
Perfect Morning Omelet is my offering to all who also wish to rethink omelets. As you prepare this dish, your kitchen will be filled with wonderful aromas and mouth-watering deliciousness. I also promise - no stuck on egg in the pan!


Perfect Morning Omelet



1 egg per person (or, you may use more if desired) – beat egg(s)
Sweet onion, sliced
Sweet pepper, diced
Bacon bits (optional or use vegetarian bacon-flavored bits)
Shredded cheddar cheese – ¼ C per person

*Various vegetables may be substituted or added: mushrooms, asparagus, summer squash, chopped black olives or spinach.

Heat pan on medium/high heat. Add 1T butter to pan and when butter has stopped frothing, add vegetables and bacon bits.
 Sauté vegetables until they are tender crisp. Remove vegetables to a dish and wipe out the pan with a paper towel.
Add 1T butter to pan and, again, heat until frothing stops. Immediately pour in beaten egg(s). Let bottom layer set slightly and, with a rubber spatula, lift edges so the runny egg layer can slip to the bottom of the pan. Lift edges all around the pan. Gently scrape the rest of the uncooked egg to the edge.

Let pan sit for 15 seconds. Remove pan from heat and sprinkle vegetable mixture evenly over egg layer. Add cheese evenly.
 Cover pan with a lid and allow the egg to sit for 3 minutes. Uncover pan and place back on medium heat burner for 30 seconds.
 Use a rubber spatula to gently slide the omelet onto a serving plate. The pan may be tilted during this process so the egg folds over.
 Cut omelet into serving slices and garnish if desired.

Garnishes: Chopped parsley, sliced tomato, chopped black olive.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Stuffed Zuccchini

During the era prior to the 'boomer' generation, most American families grew up with a garden in their backyards. Following WWI, however, when young job-seekers moved to the cities or one of the newly created, small-lot suburban spaces, gardens were deemed old-fashioned or not possible. It also seemed as if everyone wanted to distance themselves from the less modern past and they turned to corner grocery stores for their supply of fresh produce; it was a lot less work and the public was led to believe that all food was created equal!

When the move back to home gardening in the USA began in earnest following the Viet Nam War era, we were reintroduced to wonderful concepts of home gardening - freshness, vitamins, economy and variety. The gardening resurgence also produced an influx of more fruits and vegetables than most of us had ever seen or heard of. That 'boomer' gardening fashion-trend is still going strong some forty years later and, not surprisingly, it was and is 'big business'.

Leading the crusade to entice people to enjoy their own crops then and now, is the zucchini.

Zucchini is not only easy to grow, it will grow and produce all summer. Amazed first-time gardeners who tend to overplant, will push off their abundance to anyone and everyone and will find that their little club-sized fingers of goodness will have turned into giant bats overnight and then the question became, "What do I do with all this zucchini?"

Having been in this position myself, I developed a wonderful, easy way to use those giant zucchini bats...stuffed zucchini. It can be assembled ahead of time and even cooked in the microwave.

Stuffed Zucchini
1 Large zucchini
Olive oil
Cooked rice
Spaghetti sauce, with or without meat (Classico Spicy Tomato with Basil)
Parmesan cheese
Mozzarella cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. (Microwave directions are given below).
Wash and dry zucchini. Split in half, lengthwise. Scoop out the center, seedy pulp. With a paring knife, score the flesh and baste with olive oil. (Do not cut through the skin).


The size or quantity of the zucchini(s) will determine how much of the next ingredients to use.
Place rice in a bowl and add enough spaghetti sauce to make a flavorful, but not overly runny mixture. (If you do not have time to make your own sauce, the Classico brand listed above is wonderful and is available at Walmart).  Add real grated Parmesan cheese (to taste). I do not recommend the grated cheese powder from those green cans!  Mix evenly.
Using a spoon, fill the center cavity of each zucchini half, mounding the rice an inch or so above the actual zucchini. Place filled halves in a baking dish. (The dish may be covered and refrigerated at this point for use later in the day or even the next day). Add water to come halfway up the sides of the zucchini.


Cover the baking dish with foil. Bake for 30 minutes. Uncover, bake 15 minutes longer. Sprinkle top of rice mixture with mozzarella cheese and put dish back in hot oven to allow cheese to melt.
Remove pan from oven and, using two forks, carefully lift each half to a cutting board. Allow the zucchini to sit for 5 or 10 minutes. Slice large sections and plate. This dish is wonderful with a lovely salad.
(I do not eat the skin, but scoop out soft layers of squash with each flavorful bite of savory rice).
Microwave: zucchini boats might have to be  cut in half crosswise to accommodate a smaller baking dish which will fit in a microwave.
The water is still added to the pan, but should not touch the exposed rice mixture ends if they were cut in half crosswise.
 Cover dish and microwave on high for 15 minutes. Uncover, sprinkle each half with mozzarella cheese, recover dish and allow zucchini to sit while cheese melts. Uncover and lift out carefully to a cutting board. Zucchini will be very hot, allow to cool for 5 min. prior to serving.
More ideas: additions to the rice mixture - chopped pepper, sliced black olives, sliced green olives, slice mushrooms, chopped spinach, chopped Swiss chard, chopped sweet onion.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Swiss Chard with Parmesan

Recently, I was lucky enough to be given a large bag of Swiss chard from a friend’s home garden.
Frankly, it looked like an unremarkable bagful of large, dark green leaves; some with thick red stems and some light green.

My first inclination was to steam my newly acquired leafy produce, but decided a little research might provide me with a tastier recipe.
I discovered that Swiss chard is not from Switzerland, but hales from the Mediterranean and was very popular in Sicily and Greece. It also can have a variety of colorful stems. The real story about chard, though, is that it is one of the healthiest foods in the world and, as far as I am concerned, is a gardener’s gold treasure!

 This lovely vegetable is easy to prepare and is enhanced by Mediterranean-style ingredients. 

Swiss Chard with Parmesan

Equal parts real butter and olive oil

1-2 Cloves garlic, minced

2 T chopped red or sweet onion

10 Swiss chard leaves and stems, washed well

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Grated Parmesan cheese


In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the olive oil and mix evenly. Add the minced garlic and sauté gently. Add chopped onion to butter mixture and cook until the garlic is fragrant and slightly soft. Meanwhile, tear the Swiss chard leaves from the stems. Chop the leaves coarsely and set aside. Chop the stems into 1-inch pieces and add to the butter mixture in the pot. Mix well and cook gently while adding the white wine; lower heat and simmer for 5 minutes.  When stems are softened, add the chopped chard leaves. Stir gently to coat with the liquid. Leaves are finished cooking when they are wilted and limp. Remove pot from heat. Salt lightly and mix well.

Use tongs to lift serving portions to side plates. Squeeze lemon on top of each serving and garnish generously with freshly grated Parmesan. Serve.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Potato-Leek Soup with Poached Egg and Salmon

It was a cold, drizzly spring day and I was in the town of Bath, England where I had toured and trudged up and down hilly streets for two hours by myself because my tour bus was not a group thing. We had visited Stonehenge earlier and by now, it was late afternoon and I had a terrific, lack-of-food headache. There was only an hour left before I was to be at the bus departure spot, but none of the restaurants I had passed had appealed to me – some were overpriced, others pushed out ugly fast food fare or heavy, pasta filled meals. Not great choices for a gluten-free eater.
My arms and back ached from carrying a too-heavy bag and camera and I was cold and miserable. I was about to give up  on the food idea when I found myself in front of The Blue Quails Deli. I went inside and looked at the limited choices which were written on a chalkboard. With a  rather sour attitude, I expressed my doubts that anything on the menu would be gluten-free. The proprietor, who was also the chef, humored me. He said he had just the meal for me - a potato-leek soup. In fact, he said he also had gluten-free rolls to go with it. I skeptically placed my order and sat down at a little table next to a friendly English couple who raved about The Blue Quail's food.
With my purse and camera no longer weighing me down, I relaxed and even smiled as the waiter brought my food. It looked surprisingly lovely with little greens floating on top. The first sip was heavenly and wonderful and then I discovered the egg and the salmon - hidden treasures - in my bowl! I could not believe what I was tasting! This beyond great soup dissolved my sorry state of mind, flushed away my headache and bad attitude and I found I was suddenly very happy.
On the bus ride home I knew I would recreate this beautiful soup in my own home…it is one I will never forget!

Potato Leek Soup with Poached Egg and Salmon 


½ Red bell pepper
3 T butter
3 C diced leeks
2-3 large russet potatoes
6 C broth (chicken or vegetable)
Arugula (optional)
Salt, pepper

Preheat broiler. Place red pepper, cut side down under broiler. Roast carefully until evenly blackened. Remove pepper half to a small bowl and cover for 10 minutes. This will allow the steam to help loosen the skin. Scrape away all of the skin with a knife. Coarsely chop flesh.

Bake potatoes in the microwave using a microwave cloth bag. 4-5 minutes per potato, or until almost soft. Coarsely grate flesh; discard skin.

In a large pot melt butter. Add roasted red pepper pieces and diced leeks. Stir to coat well. Reduce heat, cover pot, cook until leeks are tender and slightly translucent, 6-7 minutes.

Add grated  potatoes and broth. Bring soup to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove ¾ of the vegetable solids to a blender or Vita Mix. Process until smooth. Add thick mixture back to liquids in pot. Mix well. Add more broth if necessary. Season to taste.

Egg: in a small pan of water, poach one egg per serving. The eggs should be cooked long enough so they are NOT runny.

Salmon: Thaw salmon portions (1/2 per person); pat dry. Braise in butter and season with a pepper blend until fish pieces are flaky.

Assemble: Ladle soup into large bowls. Carefully slip one egg and a piece of salmon into each bowl of soup. Garnish with sprigs of arugula. Serve.





Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Tuscan Springtime Vegetable Soup

Soup – glorious soup! I just love the textures, flavors and comfort of a really great soup.
In my ‘mothering’ years, I wanted so much to place steaming bowls of over-the-top soup in front of my family and then, have them clamor for more. Unfortunately, I think I over-tried, over-thought and over-pursued this soup goal for most of those years.
On the plus side, whenever I made  my mother’s split pea or lentil soup, everyone sighed with blissful relief, but those were the only times soup-success was guaranteed. My own forgettable soup offerings would most often languish in the refrigerator until they had to be thrown out.
With time, I have figured out how to make the most wonderful soups - soups I would have been proud to place in front of my now-far-flung family. The variety of soups I prepare today can be counted on to turn out perfectly every time from my easy-to-understand recipes.
Tuscan Springtime Vegetable Soup

(The ingredients list is not rigid - add more if you are cooking for a crowd)

1/2 C celery ribs with leaves, chopped
3 Carrots, cleaned and sliced in 1/2-inch pieces
2-3 Green onions, cleaned and coarsely chopped
1/2 C zucchini, cut into chunks
1 Can seasoned butter beans (other beans may be substituted), drained
1-2 C cooked, fragrant rice
2-3 T butter
Grated Parmesan cheese
Pepper blend
Tuscan Chicken Blend seasoning  (Sam's Club - Tone's brand)
2 tsp Better-Than-Bouillon chicken flavoring
Few dashes Tabasco, chipotle flavor
(Optional vegetables: mushrooms, red pepper pieces, garlic, yellow squash pieces, spinach - chopped)

In a med-sized pot, add 2 C water and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to med-low and add the celery leaves, onions and zucchini. Simmer uncovered until onions are tender. Meanwhile, add cut carrots to a steamer bag and microwave for 3-4 minutes. Add to vegetable mixture in soup pot. Dissolve bouillon in 2 cups hot water. Add to soup stock. Remove celery pieces and a few carrot and zucchini pieces to a blender or Vita mix. Add some stock to keep the mixture from from clumping as it is pulsed. Add pureed mixture to soup pot. Season with pepper blend and Tuscan seasoning and Tabasco; add beans and rice and butter. After butter melts, mix soup gently. Taste and adjust seasoning. If too salty, add 1/2-1 C hot water. Remove pot from heat and ladle soup into serving bowls. Garnish with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Sweet and Sour Chicken

Authentic flavors and textures of food from countries outside of the USA are sometimes worlds apart from the versions modified for the average American palate.  This fact was brought to my attention when I attended a Chinese cooking class. Our instructor was a college professor from China who also happened to love cooking; she told us to embrace the unfamiliar ingredients we were about to encounter - they were not going to be like most of the food stuffed into those little white boxes!
 Jion Liou Yen was a wonderful teacher who not only taught how to cook her country's dishes, she gave us the history behind the food we were to prepare.Yen introduced Szechuan, Mandarin, Cantonese and Hunan cuisine.We learned that the people who lived in cooler climate regions favored meals which included more meat and wheat flour while other regions embraced hot and spicy flavors.
Overall, the Cantonese recipes were the most familiar to our class of student chefs because it included egg drop soup, wontons, spring rolls, chow-mein, pork fried rice and a wonderful Sweet and Sour Chicken.
*One thing to remember when preparing Chinese recipes, there is a certain amount of food preparations which must be done before the actual cooking begins. The cooking process is fast-paced, has a certain rhythm to it and takes concentration!
This recipe for Sweet and Sour Chicken is gluten-free.


Sweet and Sour Chicken
(pork or shrimp may be substituted for the chicken)


1 chicken breast (whole)

½ green pepper, coarsely chopped
½ red pepper, coarsely chopped
1 C cornstarch



1 T soy sauce (gluten free, optional)
1 T sherry or rice wine
½ tsp salt (Himalayan pink, optional)
1 egg white (beat until frothy)
1 tsp sesame oil

Sweet and Sour Sauce (mix ingredients together and set aside)

1 T rice wine or dry sherry
1 T soy sauce
1 garlic clove, minced
1/3 C rice vinegar (pineapple juice may be substituted for a less tart flavor)
1/3 -1/2 C brown sugar
¼ C ketchup
¼ C chicken stock
1 T cornstarch
(taste sauce - if too sour add more sugar)

·         Cut chicken into ¾ inch cubes. Combine marinade ingredients in a med. bowl and combine with chicken cubes. Set aside for 30 minutes.

·         Put pan (wok) on high heat and add oil to coat bottom.

·         Place cornstarch in a plastic bag and toss in chicken pieces. Shake bag to coat chicken evenly.

·         Add coated chicken, a few pieces at a time, and cook for 3 minutes, turning to brown evenly. Chicken should be crisp. Remove and drain on paper towel. Continue with remaining chicken adding more oil as needed.

·         Remove pan from heat and wipe clean with paper towel. Place back on med. high heat and add 1 T oil. Stir in peppers and cook while stirring for about ½ minute.

·         Turn heat down to med. and add sweet-and-sour sauce. Cook until sauce is hot.

·         Stir in chicken, mix well. Remove from heat. Serve with rice. (serves 4)


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Diane's Sausage-Vegetable Plate (March 12, 2013)

In my beginning home economics classes, our teachers were quick to point out the positive effect colors and textures have on a person's desire to eat. We students were instructed to not only create delicious and well-measured recipes, we were to take special care with the presentation  and compatibility of our creations.

A side dish of deep green, orange or red vegetables was an easy fix for a bland-looking or textured plate of food. If those were not available, we could press into service a spring or two of parsley, carrot sticks or at least a dash of paprika!

Today, most of us have come to realize the health benefits of the more deeply hued foods; they are not just there to enhance the look of the plate! However, colorful food makes me smile and if someone uses color to enhance a plate or dish of food, it is a signal to me that the person cares about the people being served.

The Sausage-Vegetable Plate I created is a beautiful example of color and texture. I wanted to eliminate the traditional and so-boring bed-of-pasta and substituted, instead, crunchy and eye-appealing vegetables. The success of this dish was enhanced with a savory red sauce and a decorative sprinkle of grated Parmesan. Note: the bright color and texture of the broccoli and carrots was maintained by using a Glad Simply Cooking (microwavable) bag.

(There are no exact measurements given for this recipe. It can be made for one person or a crowd - you decide how much to make!)

Diane's Sausage-Vegetable Plate

Sausage links (not breakfast sausage!), I used a veg./cheese/chicken sausage
Sweet onion, sliced
Red bell pepper, chopped
Mushrooms, sliced
Tomato sauce, 15 oz.
Pepper blend
Italian seasoning
Carrots, cleaned and sliced on the diagonal
Broccoli, rinsed and chopped
Olive oil
Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

Put sausage in a pan, (Italian sausage, turkey sausage, chicken sausage may be used). Add enough water to come half-way up the sides of the link(s). Place on med-high heat and bring to simmer. Turn heat down and simmer for 10 minutes. Turn link(s) over and continue to simmer for 10 minutes more.

Remove links to a cutting board and drain water from pan. Turn heat back to med-high and add 1 T olive oil. When hot stir in sliced onions and red bell pepper. Saute until softened slightly. Add mushrooms and continue to stir and cook until mushrooms are golden.

Meanwhile, slice sausage into 1/2 inch pieces cut on the diagonal, (looks prettier), and add the meat back to the onion mixture. Stir and cook until meat is lightly browned on all sides. Add can of tomato sauce and turn heat to med-low. Stir until evenly mixed. Season lightly with a pepper blend, Italian seasoning and a pinch of salt. Add 1-2  T butter and stir until melted. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Put carrots in a Glad bag and steam per directions (3 min). Remove to a bowl. Add broccoli to bag and steam per directions (3 min.). Add to carrots and toss gently. Add 1 T butter and mix until evenly blended.

To serve: Place carrot and broccoli mixture on serving plate. Top with sausage mixture, leaving a slight border around edges to show off vegetables. Sprinkle grated Parmesan attractively in the center of the dish. Serve.

(This dish may be made ahead and reheated. Assemble after meat and vegetable mixtures have been reheated seperately).

Monday, March 4, 2013

Diane's Chipotle-Style Chicken Salad Bowl

I love it when a restaurant serves food with consistency, satisfies my appetite, and does not leave me sickeningly stuffed or with the feeling of having been cheated out of an anticipated dining experience. 
Each time I have visited one of the Chipotle eateries, I have had a happy experience.
The fresh ingredients Chipotle includes in their famous salad bowls and the care the owners take to help customers know exactly what they are eating, is commendable! Fresh food and a mixture of wonderful flavors is what they advertise and what they deliver.
While I am not a spokesperson for Chipotle, I do love their food and my recipe for a chicken salad bowl, similar to theirs, is offered as a tribute to Chipotle!
Chipotle-Style Chicken Salad Bowl

The following ingredients are to be layered in the order given:

Romaine lettuce
Basmati rice (Lime, butter, cilantro)
Black beans
Chicken (smokey seasoning), free range, hormone and antibiotic-free
Tomato salsa (tomato, green chili, lime juice, sweet onion, cilantro, pink salt)
Avocado (optional)
Sour cream (optional)


Lettuce: Chop Romaine lettuce coarsely and layer on serving plates or bowls. Set aside.

Tomato Salsa: chop fresh tomatoes, add the juice from 1/2 lime per 1/2 C tomato. Add 1/2 chopped sweet onion, 1 T chopped fresh cilantro, salt and green chilies (canned), to taste. Mix well. Set aside.

Rice: Add 1C Basmati rice (fragrant rice) to a pot. Rinse with cool water three times. Add water to cove rice 1/2 inch above rice level. Add 1 T butter and the juice from one lime. Put pot on med-high heat and boil until water is level with rice. Lower heat to low and pull pot almost off the burner. Cover pot and set timer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in 1 T chopped fresh cilantro. Mix well and fluff rice; cover and set aside).

Black Beans:Open can of black beans and put in microwave safe container. Heat for 2 minutes and set aside, covered.

Chicken: One chicken breast serves two. In a heavy pan, heat 1 T olive oil until hot on med-high heat. Braise both sides of chicken which has been sprinkled with smokey-pepper seasoning. Remove browned chicken from pan and place on cutting board. Slice chicken breast in 1/2 inch, crosswise pieces. Add back to pan and finish browning both sides evenly. Remove from pan and cut chicken into small chunks. Set aside.

Assemble: Place lettuce on plate or in a bowl. Spoon warm, flavored rice down the center of lettuce bed. Add a generous spoonful of black beans. Top the beans with chunks of braised chicken. Lightly drizzle 1/4 C fresh salsa with juices across top of chicken and lettuce. Avocado and sour cream may be added. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Diane's Potato-Vegetable Soup

Soup. Thick, thin, hearty or lean - almost everyone has their favorite; hopefully yours is not of the canned variety! Except for an occasional can of tomato soup, my mother always made meal-time soup from scratch and when their fragrances filled the house, I knew dinner would be just what I needed for the end of a cold, winter day.

When I moved away from home, I experimented with all kinds of soup concoctions. I use that word on purpose, for concoctions many of them were. Some were tasty, but most were tepid, watery, unremarkable pots of liquid which were left in the refrigerator until they had to be thrown out.

I could make my mother’s recipes like Ham and Split Pea, Lentil, Egg Drop, Black Bean or Chicken Soup, but I craved to have the talent to throw together this and that and to have it turn into something wonderful.

With years of experience behind me, I understand what it takes to produce a soup worthy of a place at the comfort-food-table.  Diane’s Baked Potato-Vegetable Soup is one I made up and loved the moment I tasted it. It says m-m-m-m-m-m!
Diane's Potato-Vegetable Soup

4-6 russet potatoes
4-5 large carrots, cleaned and sliced in ½-inch chunks
2 sweet onions, diced
¼ C red bell pepper, diced
1 ½ C fresh broccoli, chopped
2 ribs celery, diced
½ C sliced mushrooms
1 15-oz can northern beans
2 C chicken broth
2 tsp Better Than Broth chicken base (found in the bouillon section)
Pepper blend
Garlic powder
Himalayan pink salt
1 Glad Microwave Steaming bag
 Bake potatoes in oven or use a cloth, microwave baking bag and microwave until tender. Set potatoes aside to cool down enough to handle.
 In a large pot, add the chicken broth and turn heat to med-low. Cut potatoes in half cross-wise and use a spoon to scoop out the flesh and put it in a food processor or Vita Mix blender. Add enough warm broth to potato flesh as it is pureed to a creamy mixture. Add pureed potato to chicken broth in pot. Add enough water to blender carafe and pulse until potato residue is loosened from sides. Pour into pot. Add the 2 tsp of chicken base (bouillon). 
Cut up cleaned, fresh vegetables and divide into 2-cup portions into steaming bag. Seal bag and microwave vegetables following directions (3 min).  Carefully open bag and add vegetables to potato mixture. Continue with remaining vegetables.  Add beans, seasonings and 1 T butter per cup of liquid to pot. Stir and heat through. Adjust seasonings to taste.  Continue to simmer 10-15 minutes. Soup will thicken and potatoes will become a rich, flavorful base for this extraordinary winter soup. Remove from heat and serve. 6-8 servings.
 *Optional vegetables: cauliflower, spinach, green onion, leek, green beans, soy beans.