Snow Day

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Catherine and her girls were here for a little over a week.  We had so much fun but I think I heard my liver breathe a sigh of relief as we watched them pull out of the driveway Sunday morning.  We ate and drank too much but it was worth every bite and every sip.  We were fortunate to get a few inches of snow while we all together and so we spent an amazing morning sledding on the golf course, throwing snowballs and building a snowman.   At the end of our day in the snow we came inside and made the most civilized lunch: homemade creamy tomato soup,  prosciutto and cheese panini sandwiches served with a crisp Sauvignon Blanc.  It was the perfect ending to a really fun day.   What did the kids eat, you ask?  Kids?  PB&Js of course.  This was an adult only dining room.

-Andra

Creamy Tomato Soup adapted from Ina Garten

3 tablespoons good olive oil

1 1/2 cups chopped red onions

2 carrots unpeeled and chopped

1 tablespoon minced garlic

4 pounds vine-ripened tomatoes, coarsely chopped

1 1/2 teaspoons sugar

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1/4 cup packed chopped fresh basil leaves, plus julienned basil leaves, for garnish

3 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade

1 tablespoon kosher salt

2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

3/4 cup heavy cream

Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-low heat. Add the onions and carrots and saute for about 10 minutes, until very tender. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, sugar, tomato paste, basil, chicken stock, salt, and pepper and stir well. Bring the soup to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer, uncovered, for 30 to 40 minutes, until the tomatoes are very tender.

Add the cream to the soup and use an immersion blender to puree the soup discarding.  Serve with julienned basil leaves and a light drizzle of olive oil.

Snow Day Panini 

Lightly spread one piece of country-style bread  with a Boursin type cheese and then layer with prosciutto (roasted until crisp in a 350° oven), sharp cheddar and slices of avocado and basil leaves.  Generously butter the two outside slices of bread and place in a panini press until the cheese is melted.

“Sipping Chicken Soup with Rice”

Chicken Soup January

In January it’s so nice, 

While slipping on the sliding ice,

To sip hot chicken soup with rice.

Sipping once,

sipping twice, 

Sipping chicken soup with rice.
                                        -Maurice Sendak

Make this soup and chant this poem while you enjoy.   Every month, my son’s first grade class acts out the poems from this very fun book, Chicken Soup with Rice  A Book of Months by Maurice Sendak.   The first time I made this recipe, his 6 year old best friend came over for dinner and we sang this poem as we ate.  Our guest was so polite he told me that he loved mushrooms but I later found out from his mom that he actually wasn’t very fond of them but didn’t want to seem impolite.   With manners like that, he is assured an invitation to dinner any time he wants.

With or without mushrooms, this is a really good recipe.  Don’t leave out the vermouth!  It’s a great weeknight meal but could easily be dressed up for a more elegant affair.  Chanting in a formal dining room though might scare your guests.

-Andra

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Chicken and wild rice soup 

3 tablespoons of butter

1 cup onion, diced

1 cup celery, diced

1/3 cup flour

6 cups low sodium chicken broth

6 ounces of baby bella mushrooms, cut into 1/4 inch slices

4 cups cooked wild rice

1 1/2 pounds of boneless skinless chicken breasts, roasted and then shredded

1 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons of vermouth

1- 1 1/2 teaspoon of salt

3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Melt butter in the bottom of a large heavy dutch oven.  Add the onion and celery and cook until translucent.  Add the flour and stir to coat.  Slowly whisk in the chicken broth and cream.  Add the rice, chicken and mushrooms salt and pepper and vermouth and cook over medium heat until the soup has thickened slightly, 20 minutes or so,  but do not boil. Check for seasoning and serve.

Are you feeling lucky?

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One of the main reasons for cooking a ham on Christmas is so that by the time New Year’s day rolls around, you are left with a ham bone to cook with your lucky beans.  Black eyes peas are traditional in the South but  I  believe, if you eat beans, any kind of beans (except jelly), on New Year’s Day, you are assured a year of good luck.  And, if you eat greens on New Year’s Day, you are assured wealth throughout the year.   I don’t believe in tempting fate, so this is our menu every New Year’s Day:  Lucky beans, greens and cornbread.

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We  are a family that likes a good challenge so we powered through all 18 pounds of ham over the week to get to the bone by New Year’s Day.  We had ham and eggs, ham sandwiches, ham potpie, ham biscuits, ham with a side of ham; it didn’t seem to have an end.  We finally reached the bone and  I cooked the beans by  just throwing all of the ingredients in the pot and letting it simmer for a few hours.  My oldest son made the corn bread,  he’s now in charge of a lot of the baking in our house and has produced some mighty delicious breads.   Alongside the beans and cornbread I served kale that had been sautéed with garlic and little balsamic vinegar.  Just to be safe.

We pushed away from the table feeling very lucky and very thankful that the ham was gone.

-Andra

Lucky New Year’s Day Pinto Beans 

1 ham bone

1 pound dried pinto beans, soaked overnight

1 onion, diced

1 tablespoon of ground cumin

2 teaspoons ground coriander

1 tablespoon chili powder

2 teaspoons of dried oregano

salt and pepper to taste

Add beans, ham bone, onions, garlic, spices and enough water to cover the beans by about 2 inches.  Do not add salt or the beans will be tough.  Bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer and cook for 2 – 3 hours until the beans are tender.  Check for seasoning and then add salt and pepper as needed.

Corn bread from The Joy of Cooking   (My dad adds chopped jalapeno to the batter)

1 tablespoon bacon fat, lard, butter, or vegetable shortening

1 3/4 cups stone-ground cornmeal, preferably white

1 tablespoon sugar (optional)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt (3/4 teaspoon if using buttermilk with salt)

2 large eggs

2 cups buttermilk

Position a rack in the upper third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Whisk the dry ingredients together in a medium bowl.  Beat the eggs until foamy and then add to the buttermilk.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and whisk until blended.  Place the bacon fat in the pan and then put the pan in the oven and heat until the fat smokes.  Pour the batter all at once.  Bake until the top is browned and the center feels firm when pressed, 20-25 minutes.  Serve immediately from the pan, cut in wedges or squares.

Leftovers, though dry, are nice enough if wrapped in foil and re-warmed in a low oven.

Day After Roast Chicken Soup

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This is what we ate the night after roast chicken, which was fortuitous, as we were all sick.  I used to be squeamish about making stock, but once I did it a few times, I realized how much great potential I was throwing away after roast chicken every week.  It’s so easy and so worth the tiniest effort it requires.  I made this stock in the morning and the soup came together so quickly later in the afternoon.

I should probably tell you instead of show you, because pictures of the remnants of stock are gross:

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I added some frozen tortellini and fresh spinach (at the last minute so it wouldn’t completely disintegrate) to the soup and we passed parmesan at the table.

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It was delicious and I think we’re all cured (of our sickness AND our squeamishness).

- Catherine

Chicken Stock

1 chicken carcass, cut up or not

1 onion, peeled and quartered

2 carrots, roughly chopped

2 stalks of celery, roughly chopped

3 bay leaves

1 tablespoon peppercorns

4 quarts of water

Add all ingredients to a large stockpot or dutch oven and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and simmer uncovered for two hours or more, skimming the white foam off of the surface occasionally.  Strain through a fine mesh colander and refrigerate overnight.  Remove the fat that accumulates overnight and use right away or freeze for 2 months.  OR, skip this step and use the broth right away for soup, like I did.

Day After Roast Chicken Soup

1 onion, chopped

1 clove of garlic, chopped

2 carrots, diced

1 stalk celery, diced

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (or 1/2 tsp dried)

2 quarts chicken stock

2 cups frozen cheese tortellini

2 cups fresh spinach

Freshly grated parmesan

Heat two tablespoons of butter and one tablespoon of olive oil in a large stockpot or Dutch oven.  Sauté onion until translucent, just under five minutes.  Add garlic, carrots, celery and thyme and continue to cook until vegetables soften slightly.  Add chicken stock and bring to a boil.  Reduce and simmer for 10-15 minutes.  When ready to serve, add frozen tortellini until just cooked (about 3 minutes).  When pasta is cooked, add the spinach until just wilted.  Serve with grated parmesan.

The Easiest Potato Soup Ever (or, How I Saved Our Anniversary)

Last night was one of those acts of pantry desperation that turned out so well I acted like it was premeditated.  Yesterday was our eighth wedding anniversary.  I had a babysitter and reservations lined up, but stuff happens and we ended up rain checking the celebration.

Instead we ate my last-minute, completely intentionally delicious soup and salad.  As most good things do, it started with bacon.  Then potatoes and rosemary, a drizzle of olive oil and chives and a simple salad.

At this point, I wasn’t exactly sure which direction I was going, but I hate hand washing my immersion blender, so…

I used a potato masher to break up the cooked potatoes to a rustic, stew-like consistency.

There was a slight rosemary flavor from the rosemary sprig steeping in the broth, but I added another layer on top of the finished soup with this salt:

The salad was simply arugula, hearts of palm and big Spanish olives with olive oil and lemon juice.  (I can’t be bothered to make a vinaigrette on my anniversary.)

It worked.  So well in fact that I think we’ll eat this for our 9th anniversary.  We might actually make it to a restaurant for the big One Oh.

Rustic Potato Soup

5-6 strips of bacon, sliced crosswise into 1/2 pieces

1 onion

6 cups of diced potatoes, about 4 lbs (I used Yukon Gold)

1 sprig of rosemary

4 cups of chicken broth

3/4 cup coarsely grated cheese (I used Gruyère)

Cook the bacon over medium heat in a large Dutch oven until crispy and remove with a slotted spoon.  Reserve bacon.  Add diced onion to rendered bacon grease and cook until translucent.  Add potatoes, chicken broth and rosemary.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and then simmer until potatoes are cooked through.  Remove rosemary sprig with tongs.  Use a potato masher to break up the potatoes until you reach desired consistency.  (Or an immersion blender for a smoother consistency.)  Salt and pepper to taste.  Before serving, stir the cheese into the soup until melted.  Serve soup with reserved bacon, sour cream or plain Greek yogurt and chopped chives.

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