Tag Archives: Barefoot Contessa

You Win Some and Some You Just Don’t Even Show Up For

Here it is, April 5th and I am writing my first blog post in forever.

If that fact is not lost on you or you have noticed my absence, thank you friend for noticing.

Truthfully, you probably weren’t surprised and just though I decided to leave the country, go into hiding or simply never show my face on cyberspace again after that … Super Bowl game.

I can’t believe I just mentioned it. Out loud. Well, kind of.

Really, I just whispered it in that sort of painful rasp that barely escapes clinched teeth. You know the one. That particular method of communication reserved especially for a disrespectful child who has inundated you with repeated arguments over why he should be allowed to take his skateboard down the slide and how you are so mean and just don’t understand his needs, conversation before coffee or the profession of great shame like … oh, I don’t know the acknowledgement of an epically disastrous, horribly embarrassing, absolutely unfathomable, Super Bowl.

You’ve missed my crazy tangent laced run-on sentences, haven’t you?

Yes, you might think after going on and on about the Broncos, declaring my allegiance, professing my love, turning my back on my Seahawk heritage, that it was all just too much.

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And yes, while that game was ugly and painful and seemed as if it would never end (kind of like the last few paragraphs I would imagine), thankfully, when all is said and done, it is after all – just a game.

So, I am okay. My husband is getting there; I asked him this morning if he would like to say anything for the post – “no comment” was all I got in a clenched tooth rasp. Really, he’s getting there. We are still Broncos Fans. All is well.

On the bright side, we got to have a party and spend the afternoon with friends and eat great food. And regardless of the outcome, I would still like to share the party with you – even if it is April and I should really be talking about spring and gardening and Easter. I must finish what I started. So, a Super Bowl wrap up it is!

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The day started with a happy optimism and a lot of team spirit!

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And team effort, including some last minute sprucing up and decorating. This is how a 6 year old who is watching the outdoor patio TV helps wash peanut butter fingerprints and doggie nose smears off of the door. That would be by barely moving the cleaning rag while staring hunched over, mouth agape at said TV. Fitting really as we were getting ready to watch football. Ugg, caveman child clean window.

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I’m not really an artificial turf table cloth kind of gal so my Super Bowl decorating was more of a “nod” to team spirit. Okay, so the flag was a little “in your face” but the blue and orange edible foodie centerpiece was subtle. While peppermint patty candies and tangerine Jelly Bellies do not really taste great together, the colors were perfect so they were forced to get along.

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Orange sparkling soda and blue solo cups kept the team spirit going at the drink station.

I shared my party menu with you in my last post but since that was a really, really long time ago, here it is again …

  • Crockpot Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Slaw
  • Crispy Hot Wings with Blue Cheese
  • Bacon Wrapped Jalapeno Poppers
  • Pigs in a Blanket Bites (for the kids) with ketchup and mustard for dipping
  • Veggie Tray with Hummus
  • Relish Tray
  • Chips and Dips
  • Broncos Cupcakes
  • Beer, Iced Tea, Lemonade and an “Orange Crush” Cocktail

That was my plan and it did come together, mostly. The cupcakes didn’t happen but thankfully friends brought a huge tray of cookies and a cheesecake so all was not lost. The “Orange Crush” cocktail became beer in a cooler and a last minute add of Disaronno and diet coke – which tastes just like Dr. Pepper if you didn’t know. I guess you could just drink a Dr. Pepper, but what fun is that?Superbowl-Food-Relish-Tray

Relish trays are one of my favorite things to do for a party. Yes, they are an old school appetizer but they don’t have to be. There are so many ways to jazz them up and limitless fun options. For this particular tray, I chose items that could pull double duty as toppings or were a good accompaniment for the pulled-pork sandwiches that were my main dish.

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Browse the pickle/olive and condiment aisle and be adventurous. Then just arrange your selections on a tray and you have a fun, easy and versatile appetizer. As “Tessa” would say (that’s what Nathan calls Ina) “now that’s a relish tray with the volume turned up!”

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I found this adorable tray at Tar-jey in the home decorating section. Not safe for food use. Whatever. That’s what parchment paper is for. Sadly, a large portion of “pigs in a blanket” were wiped out by grabby little fingers before I could get a decent photo but this was a really fun way to serve them along with the accompanying condiments.

Could I have just a moment please and ask you to take notice of my phone in the background. Top left corner. Yes, there it is.

A. It is hard to stage good photos while feeding people at the same time. My friends already think I am a weirdo for always photographing food before they can eat it. Imagine if I fussed over stuff in the background too.

B. Now, could we just observe a few seconds of silence as that phone has since taken a swim in the toilet and is no longer with us. When you pee and try to play Angry Birds at the same time, your mom’s phone can fall into the toilet. Let this be a lesson.

I’ll bet this is the only blog you have read today that hopes to share appetizing food and party ideas and then talks about pee in he same post. Welcome new readers.

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Allow me to redeem myself. I could not let this post hit the internet without sharing my friend Lindsey’s awesome football crockpots with you.

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Yes, she filled them with a really yummy dips but the important thing for you to know that she is also a crafty, party planning, down to the last detail weirdo too. She is also our Kindergarten’s Classroom mom so she is actually even worse than I am. Ha! And that is why I love her. Well, one of the many reasons.

Pulled Pork Teaser …

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I promise, I will tell you all about it sometime soon (remember, in my world “soon” is relative). Yes, those are all of “Tessa’s” cookbooks in the background. Every. Single. One. She’s my girl.

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So that was it, our Super Bowl Party. Great friends, great food, really bad game.

Oh, I almost forgot …

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The Jalapeno Poppers and Hot Wings (no picture – too busy with hot oil and everything) I told you all about, they were both a big hit.

Thankfully, there were actually a few poppers left over so we were able console ourselves with a really amazing breakfast the next morning.

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Bacon always makes things better.

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As always, thank you so much for reading and for continuing to stop by – especially these days when even I don’t stop by as often as I should.

Thankfully, I think that season is behind me and I’ll be back to regular posts!

I’ll explain a bit more next time. For now, let’s just say my absence is due to the fact that I am “That Mom”, or so I’ve recently been told.

Next week will be all about Easter so come back and visit.

You are always Welcome Company!

 

 

 

 

Herbed Goat Cheese Spread

A post or two ago, I shared with you a recent event I did for our Women’s Ministry in which I brought a little bit of the beach to the desert.

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In planning the food for the event, I kept imagining a picnic on the beach. Blanket spread out on the sand, a shady umbrella and a gentle salty breeze.

But what would I want to eat?

Something delicious and satisfying but not too heavy and easy to pack and transport.

Something perfect for a picnic. In this case, I also needed something that would easily feed a crowd with little effort.

As I thumbed through my Barefoot Contessa cookbooks (which is one of my favorite event/party planning rituals) I came across a recipe for “Herbed Goat Cheese Sandwiches” from Ina Garten, Parties!

Hmmmmm.

At first read they seemed more like a tea sandwich, with cucumbers and the crusts cut off, but as it is with so many things, it is all in how you see it. And I saw these little sandwiches in a picnic basket nestled next to chilled grapes, freshly baked cookies and iced tea; all ready for a day at the beach. Or an evening as it were.

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For the Know Event, I doubled the recipe and made the sandwiches on a whole grain bread and a soft potato bread. While I couldn’t enjoy the sandwiches (no bread for me), the herbed goat cheese spread was another story! I made a batch for home and couldn’t get enough of it. I ate it on everything I could think of. Daddy and the big kids loved it too but Mr. Picky wouldn’t go near it; which is in fact a good sign that it is absolutely delicious – unless of course you too currently only eat  grilled cheese sandwiches and chocolate pudding.

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“Ewww! I CAN’T like that! It is eesgusging!”

Herbed Goat Cheese Spread

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The recipe is not “eesgusging” and is very simple to throw together and holds up well in the fridge for at least a week; if it lasts that long. Click the link above (the one under the picture of the picky 5 year old) and it will take you right to it.

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It whips up easily in a stand mixer but be sure to finely mince or even smash the garlic into a paste as it is pretty potent and no one wants to bite into a big chunk of raw garlic. My husband thought the spread was a little heavy on the garlic so you may want to start with just one clove and see how it tastes to you.

The recipe calls for parsley and thyme, which is fantastic, but I am going to get a little creative with the herb combinations next time. Basil, tarragon, chives, maybe even olives or tapenade and sundried tomatoes; endless possibilities! I also think a bit of lemon zest would be delicious.

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Recently, I made this spread as an appetizer for dinner with friends and served it with baguette slices that I drizzled with a little olive oil and toasted in a 425 degree oven for about 5 minutes. They didn’t last long and the tantalizing crunch of those baguettes slathered in that rich goat cheese spread was almost more than this girl could take.

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So I toasted up some low-carb Joseph’s pita wedges and shared in the joy. Admittedly, it was not the same as a crunchy French baguette but it was still pretty darn good.

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For all of you Trim Healthy Mamas out there, this spread is fantastic rolled up in a Joseph’s lavash for a snack or just  add a little turkey and veggies for a satisfying lunch wrap.

One word … omelet.

My husband is the resident omelet maker around here and he’s pretty darn good at it. He makes one for me just about every weekend and I was most delighted to find rich and creamy herbed goat cheese pooling from every nook and cranny of this perfect Saturday morning treat (another good THM/low-carb breakfast).

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He also brought me a good strong cup of black coffee. I am a blessed woman indeed.

There are so many ways to enjoy this versatile spread, I’m thinking about piping it into cherry tomatoes or on top of cucumber slices the next time I need an appetizer.

I hope you will give it a try and play around with your own herb and ingredient combinations. Be sure to let me know what you come up with and as always …

Enjoy!

A Very Vintage Event

Before I write another word, I first have to express a very heartfelt thank you for all of the kind words, wishes, support and prayers we received after sharing Nathan’s autism diagnoses. God never leaves us alone in our journey and it is beautiful to be reminded of that. Nathan is very blessed and loved, as are we. Thank you!

Nathan-1I had to put this in because its just so darn cute! Do you ever wish you could have just one more moment with your “baby”? I love my big kid but every now and again I just really miss that baby; soft hair, chubby hands, quiet rocking, sweet snuggles … sigh.

Tangent alert. Sorry,

I know I haven’t been writing as much lately but I’ve been reminded of something recently … summers are busy.

Really busy.

Yes, there is a season to everything and summer, with all three kids at home going in three different directions, just isn’t writing season.

It isn’t just the kids that are busy though, I have also gotten busier but in a really fantastic way and I am excited to tell you about it.

A few months back I was asked by the head of our church’s Women’s Ministry to take over the events team. We are blessed to have a large church and thriving women’s ministry with many activities and events. Needless to say, it is a pretty big job. But it is also an incredible opportunity to serve the women of our church and I must say that I was very humbled and honored when Jodi asked if I would consider it. Women’s ministry has always been where my heart is and has always been where I have served. With three young kids and our focus on their needs and special needs, I have had to serve on a smaller scale but as I said before, to all things there is a season. Nathan will be starting Kindergarten this year and my plate won’t be quite as full.

God’s timing is perfect. I love that about Him.

So, after consideration and prayer, I happily accepted the job and immediately jumped into the first event or series of events as it were – the Spiritual Growth Summer Speaking Series.

My role for this four week event is food and hospitality … hard to imagine, right? My goal each week is to match the hospitality table, food and design with the personality of each speaker as I know three of the four speakers personally. I know I was lead in this direction as it gave me the opportunity to reflect on the very distinct style and unique gifting of each of these women. To consider what each has brought into my life and to pray over each of them as I plan and prepare. What a blessing it has been for me. What a blessing each of these women is to me.

The first week, my friend Christina spoke on living outside of yourself, outside of your comfort zone, truly giving God every part of you. She was so inspirational and is currently spending two weeks in Africa living her words. She is a blogger and mama to six and has gone to Africa with our missions team to chronicle the team’s work and the experience. I encourage you to visit her at The Lang Gang Loves and read about the incredible things God is doing in Malawi and in the hearts of all who are blessed to serve there.

The second week, Christina’s mom Candace was our speaker. I have had the pleasure and privilege of sharing bible study with this amazing woman of God. She is truly a Titus 2 woman and I have been deeply blessed by her nurturing and teaching heart. Her beautiful message of forgiveness and the freedom that comes with it was one so many of us needed to hear.

Last night, my sweet, sweet friend Kristin spoke on knowing and sharing Jesus Christ. This is a gifted and anointed woman who delivers a powerful message. Wow! I am still thinking on her words this morning.

So, three weeks into the events and it only took me two weeks and two events to realize that it might be nice to bring my camera along and share a bit of my new adventure in event planning here on my blog. I wish I could share the first two evenings with you but better late than never, right? So I’ll start with Kristin and last night’s event.

Kristin loves all things vintage, eclectic, shabby chic. I love those things too and was very excited to pull out some of my antique service pieces and my grandmother’s linens and lace.

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For the flowers, I filled jelly jars with Kristin’s favorite hydrangeas (sorry, I said hibiscus pre-edit), pink tipped white roses (which look very old-fashioned to me), small white mums, and sprays of little purple filler flowers. A larger bouquet of the roses complemented the smaller bouquets.

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I love fresh flowers and I love mixed bouquets.

A person’s favorite flower truly says so much about them.

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I decided to do “old-fashioned” treats and decided on a menu of Red Velvet and Coconut mini-cupcakes, my grandmother’s banana bread and pecan bars served alongside a refreshing platter of watermelon and blueberries and gorgeous bowls of juicy ripe strawberries.

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Watermelon-&-Blueberries

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The small seedless watermelons are great sliced in easy to hold wedges and present beautifully surrounding a mound of sweet fresh blueberries.

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Lace. Lace. Lace. I love handmade lace and am so thankful to have the ivory tatted lace from my grandmothers and great-grandmothers. It is so beautiful atop a white table-cloth.

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Or a black one.

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You can’t go wrong with a simple bowl of  fresh in-season strawberries. I knew there was a reason I couldn’t pass up that soup tureen with the missing lid on my last trip through my favorite antique store.

And now for the baked goods. I can’t eat them but I sure do love making them! I mentioned before that I wanted to serve old-fashioned treats so here’s what I came up with …

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Barefoot Contessa’s Pecan Bars

I make these every Christmas and can’t begin to describe to you how incredibly delicious they are. If I were going to fall off the gluten-free/sugar-free wagon with reckless abandon, I would fall into this plate of Pecan Bars. The honey and orange zest and rich shortbread crust are what make them so special.

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As you may have read before, I love Ina (the Barefoot Contessa) and use her recipes all the time. They always come out perfectly and are certain to be crowd pleasers. Here I made her Red Velvet and Coconut cupcakes in mini-version.

And I made a lot of them.

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I also made my grandmother’s banana bread. It doesn’t get any more old-fashioned than that and you can’t go wrong with her recipes either!

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I didn’t make it into the tea sandwiches this time as I had quite a bit of frosting and richness on the table already. The simple fingers of moist delicious banana bread were perfect just as they were.

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And there you have it, a Very Vintage Event. It was a blessed and wonderful evening. I am looking forward to sharing more “events” with you but for now, I need to get going as we are having a big event at the Hacienda and I’ve got to get busy.

I told you that my boy turned nine a few weeks back, well his party is tomorrow and we’ll be gettin’ our “redneck” on with a Duck Dynasty bash. It’s gonna’ be a party, Jack!

Only in my world do we go from vintage elegance to Duck Dynasty in the same week!

Barefoot Contessa’s Lemon Yogurt Cake

If you have read my blog for a while now, you are pretty familiar with the fact that I adore the Barefoot Contessa. Some people love Kobe or Tom Brady, some love Meryl Streep, some love JT, Adele, Ryan Gosling, or Bono. But me, I love Ina.

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One thing, well, there are many things, but one thing in particular that you will never see on my blog are the words “recipe adapted from the Barefoot Contessa”. 

I love taking a basic recipe idea and tweaking it to add my own unique touches – that is half the fun of cooking. And I will ALWAYS give credit where credit is due but I will never adapt Ina. It can’t be done. I can’t add anything that she hasn’t already perfected. At least according to my taste buds and that is why I love her. Well that and the fact that I feel like I could pull up a chair in her barn (LOVE the barn) and talk with her for hours over coffee and oh, I don’t know, Lemon Yogurt Cake.

And that is just what I am going to share with you today. What a coincidence. Lemon Yogurt Cake, one of my absolute, all-time, favorite “tessa”, as my five-year-old calls her, recipes. We watch her show quite a bit if you couldn’t guess.

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Originally, I had planned on sharing the crustless Quiche recipe I’ve been working on but it still needs some work before I put it out there; the finished product is too “liquidy”. Oh, if only I could pick up the phone and give Ina a ring …

“Ina, hi, it’s Dani. I’m great. Yes, the kids are fine. Thanks for asking. How’s Jeffrey? So glad to hear it. Listen, what are your thoughts on mini-crustless Quiche that turns out  just too soft and liquidy?”

And yes, she would know just what I mean by “liquidy”.

You have your dreams. I have mine.

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The Barefoot Contessa’s Lemon Yogurt Cake

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So why is this one of my favorite Barefoot recipes?

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Lemons. I love lemon anything.

No mixer, just a whisk and a bowl – that I love!

It is light, made with yogurt and vegetable oil but it still has an incredibly rich flavor.

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And the lemon simple syrup … WOW!

In prepping for this post, I happened to discovered yet another thing I love about this recipe;

it is forgiving.

What do I mean exactly? Well, you know when you are outside weeding and suddenly you think “OH CRAP! MY CAKE” and run for the back door, bursting into the kitchen to find your assistant lying on the couch, remote in hand as he glances up and casually says “mommy dat stove been beepin”.

Forgiving like that.

Just keepin’ it real. And I can say crap – my kids don’t read my blog yet.

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Crap.

Lucky for him, he’s just too cute to fire.

Lemony. Quick. Easy. Moist. Light. Delicious. AND Forgiving. That is why I love this cake.

Note: the only thing I do a little differently than Ina (I know, I can’t believe I’m saying that) is simply that I don’t often add the glaze to the top as we are not big “frosting” people. We like the cake as is, moist with a bright lemon tang that is just right and not overwhelming. Although the glaze is a nice touch and I do add it when I’m making the cake as a gift.

In retrospect, this probably would’ve been a good time to add the glaze. Then you might have never known about the over-baking. Mistake covered up. But that’s just not my style. I’d rather have a little fun with it.

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Besides, Ina is so good that even when life happens and you overbake one of her recipes, all is not lost and you can still …

Enjoy!

I promise, I’ll bake a prettier one with glaze and update the post; just for you guys and for Ina. Her wonderful cake deserves a little bit better representation. But for now, let’s just bask in the freedom of admitting we aren’t perfect. And that’s okay! Besides, this is nothing. Oh the epic kitchen fails I could share with you – maybe someday.

Of course, you are MOST welcome to comment and share any of your memorable kitchen failures. I would LOVE to hear about them. We can be blissfully less than perfect together.

Love, Laughter and Chicken Soup, the Best Medicine

At the end of Friday’s post, I mentioned my sick little guy – you’ve got to love pre-school, a small room filled with still developing immune systems and every germ known to man. Poor guy was pretty miserable with a yucky stomach bug that was most UN-welcome company. Thankfully, it seems to have stayed confined, especially since we will have a houseful of company this week; welcome company in this case, my mom, my aunt and one of my sisters. I am so excited for us all to be together and would very much like for it to be a healthy visit.

So sorry for the most unappetizing start, how about we switch direction to something that will make all of us feel better, Chicken Soup.

Chicken soup, like French toast, is another thing I have always made intuitively, adding in veggies I have on hand in amounts that “seem right”; a little bit of celery, onion, carrot, fresh thyme. Not surprising seeing as I learned to cook from “dump cooks” as my great-aunt used to say; “dump in a little of this, dump in a little of that”, you get the idea.

Chicken soup is a forgiving concoction that allows for you to play around a little bit. Chicken broth with give you a clearer, lighter soup broth but if you want a darker more richly flavored broth, use stock. I do make my own stock from time to time and freeze it so that I have it on hand but when I run out, I just use the good stuff from the store; just be sure it is low-sodium so that you can control the seasoning.

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This is the post Thanksgiving turkey carcass stock simmering away. One of my favorite “leftovers”.

If you want to make your own stock, I highly recommend it and of course, I recommend following the Barefoot Contessa’s Chicken Stock recipe.

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I use rotisserie chicken from the grocery store in a pinch but have learned (yes, from Ina) that roasting your own chicken breast is the way to go. So, I roast the chicken breasts just how she taught me; bone-in, skin-on, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. I am completely addicted to Herbs de Provence so I can’t help but sprinkle a little on for good measure. Completely addicted. I don’t need all of this chicken for soup but I always roast more to have on hand for salads, casseroles or whatever else I might have planned for the week.

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Once the chicken is cooled, you can shred it or chop it into bite sized pieces. For the soup, two to three breasts (depending on their size) is a good amount but use as much or as little as you like; it’s your soup!

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I always add fresh thyme to my soup and have been experimenting with a sprinkle of fresh parsley just before serving.

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Of course, carrots, onions and celery are a must. Just a bit of trivia, the French culinary term for this trio is mirepoix. According to Wikepedia, a mirepoix (pron.: meer-PWAH) can be a combination of celery (either common pascal celery or celeriac), onions, and carrots. There are many regional mirepoix variations, which can sometimes be just one of these ingredients, or include additional spices. Mirepoix, raw, roasted or sautéed with butter or olive oil, is the flavor base for a wide variety of dishes, such as stocks, soups, stews and sauces. The three ingredients are commonly referred to as aromatics. I love knowing this sort of thing and yes, my “mirepoix” does have some garlic in it. I love garlic so in it goes.

Play around with the vegetables. Add leeks if you like or turnips. Here I’ve used 3 carrots, 3 celery stalks and one small onion, chopped into bite-sized pieces.

Chicken-Soup-8I like to saute’ my aromatics in a little bit of butter and olive oil (a couple of tablespoons of each) and a pinch of Kosher salt, just to soften them up a bit and deepen their flavors; about 5 minutes.

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Add in your stock or broth (about 2 quarts) and the fresh thyme (the leaves pulled from 3 or 4 sprigs) bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Add in the chicken and a handful of chopped parsley and simmer for another 5 minutes. Parsley note: my kids love homemade chicken soup. They DO NOT love the parsley added in. As Nathan says, “what ‘dis green stuff? I can’t like ‘dis green stuff.” Use parsley at your discretion or at the discretion of your pickiest eater.

If I decide to make chicken noodle soup, I’ll add in a package of linguine or wide egg noodles (I like the linguine best – just break it up a little bit) after the soup has come to a boil and then simmer for the amount of time recommended on the pasta package. If you use fresh pasta, allow the soup to simmer for a few minutes before you add the pasta as it only takes a few minutes to cook.

Give the soup a taste and season with salt and pepper accordingly.

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If I am making soup to deliver to someone, I love to put it in mason jars.

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It looks homemade, is easy to deliver, tucks nicely into a care package and your recipient doesn’t have to worry about returning your cookware or dishes to you. Be sure to take along a loaf of crusty bread! I put the care package above together for a friend who was recovering from surgery so flowers and a good magazine were a must.

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I know there are a lot of “abouts” and “a couple of’s” and “sprinkles” and “dashes” in this recipe but that is because I want you to experiment and make it your own. Cook intuitively, to your taste, how you and your family like it. This is a soup that has to be made with love and laughter and fun. You don’t need a recipe, just a willing heart to make something warm, healthy and comforting for someone you love.

Speaking of “someone loved” … happily, my boy is feeling much better. Last night, he crawled up in my lap and snuggled in. I kissed the top of his sweet head and said to him, “I am so glad you are feeling better.” And he said to me, “I am so glad you are my mommy.” I love it when God gives us those moments. I will never forget it. I am so glad to be his mommy too and I will never make him eat chicken soup with parsley in it again.

Barefoot Contessa’s Challah French Toast

I couldn’t get through a week of blogging about food without Ina or a week of blogging about breakfast without French toast, so today’s Post …

Challah French Toast, from Ina Garten

Look, it is so good it made the front cover!

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“Family Style” is probably my favorite of her cookbooks; “easy ideas and recipes that make everyone feel like family” – gee, I wonder why? I love “Barefoot in Paris” but as I looked through this one this morning, I realized just how many of the recipes in it I have made and loved.

Until recently, I have always just intuitively made french toast, I mean “how hard can it be?” (Ina says that all the time if you didn’t know). Eggs, milk, bread, a griddle. No sweat. As I became a better cook, I started playing around, adding things like a bit of sugar, a splash of vanilla, a shake of cinnamon and a little orange zest. Precise, I know but the results were pretty yummy.

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Then one day, I wanted to look up an exact egg to milk ratio – mostly out of curiosity – so I took a peek at this challah French toast recipe. I was excited to find that I was making French toast very similarly but the Barefoot Contessa always does it best. I now have the ratios right and have dropped the sugar for honey – which is far better. I’ve dropped the cinnamon but do like to grate in a little bit of fresh nutmeg, which she does not call for but I love. I also use a rustic artisan bread but will try it sometime with the challah – which I know will be amazing.

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Click the highlighted link above and it will take you right to the recipe.

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For me, the orange zest is what really makes this French toast something special.

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Just like pancakes, a little butter on the griddle will give you a nice crust and a rich flavor.

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Mmmmm, I can smell the perfume of the orange zest, nutmeg and butter right now. Of course, it is all in my head because I have been eating oatmeal and berries all week; a breakfast I do enjoy but it is impossible for me to write about this French toast and not dream about the scent of sizzling butter. Thankfully, dreaming is calorie free.

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There are those turkey sausages again, which are made even better when they are nestled in a pool of warm maple syrup that has runneth over the French toast, a gooey rich cascading stream of sweet indulgence (sorry, all week – oatmeal and berries).

Is there anyone out there who does not like it when their sausage mingles with their maple syrup? Anyone? I can think of no one.

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I will let you in on a little secret. I like to make this with the thinner sliced Italian bread because I always make enough for leftovers and then freeze them so they can be popped into the toaster for a quick kid breakfast on a busy morning. Sure makes for a happy kid!

Enjoy!

Family Dinner Favorite: Barefoot Contessa’s Lentil Sausage Soup

I can’t remember which dinner favorite number I’m on, so I’ve decided to drop that catchy part of the dinner favorite series. Suffice it to say that this hearty, healthy and insanely delicious soup is most definitely a favorite – even with the kids.

If you have read many of my recipe posts then you will not be surprised to learn that this recipe comes from …

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Right! The Barefoot Contessa. Oh to be “Barefoot in Paris” – well, not all of Paris but I’m sure there are some parts where it is safe to be barefoot – a park maybe? The Jardin des Plantes or the Champ de Mars (I totally googled those) or the Louvre – okay maybe not the Louvre. If you ever do go barefoot in the Louvre in Paris, you really do have to come back here and tell me all about it!

Anyway, all tangents aside, this soup is one of my all time favorite things to eat. In case you were starting to think otherwise, we really do eat pretty healthy around here; apple dumplings and fancy mac and cheese are treats, delicious heavenly treats, but not staples on the regular menu.

Like so much of the food I love, this soup holds special memories for me. One of the first times I made it was two years ago when my high school friend Tara came from San Francisco to spend Thanksgiving with us. She flew in late in the evening, the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, after a long day of work in the corporate jungle. I knew that she needed to walk into warmth and comfort, feeling welcome and at home and wondering what that amazing smell was coming from the kitchen. It’s my job to know, I’m her friend.

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After a big hug and a few tears, I invited her to settle into the guest room, put on her jammies and warm socks and relax by the fire; letting the stress of a hectic pace and demanding job begin to melt away (and be replaced by the stress of three wild, really loud little kids who all want “Auntie Tara’s” attention at the same time – never mind that, just think warm and peaceful thoughts; it helps). I made quite a few yummy things for her during that visit (including Thanksgiving dinner) but that first evening of catching up around a warm fire with a steaming bowl of this soup is what stands out most in my memory. I hope it does in hers as well. I love you my friend.

Barefoot Contessa’s Lentil Sausage Soup

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Yes, it looks delicious and it tastes even better.

Give yourself about two hours. The soup is easy to make but time-consuming with a lot of chopping and important steps that ensure proper flavor development. Take your time and enjoy the process, that is, afterall,  half the joy of creating a dish like this.

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Start with French Green Lentils

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I can only find them at one store (a specialty grocer) and they are pricey but Ina swears they are the most tender and flavorful of the lentils. Who am I to question? I will try it sometime with brown or red lentils though, just to see for myself.

Now for the chopping (which is very therapeutic if you didn’t know) …

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onions and leeks – sorry, I forgot to buy the leeks this time but the soup turned out great anyway.

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Carrots, medium dice.

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Celery, medium dice as well – split the stalk lengthwise and chop; be sure to use the celery leaves too, don’t throw them away.

Lentil-Soup-7Thyme and garlic. Be still my heart.

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Saute’ the onions, leeks (if you remembered to buy them), garlic, thyme and seasonings first.

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Add in the celery and carrots. If you are a food nerd like me, you can tell me what the French term is for the carrot, celery, onion combo – I know you can, even if you won’t admit it.

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Then the chicken stock, tomato paste and lentils.

Lentil Soup 12Use a good chicken STOCK, not just broth – it really does make a difference.

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Add in the Kielbasa – the lower fat Turkey Kielbasa tastes great in the soup and is better for you.

Lentil-Soup-14The recipe calls for a splash of red wine, so since the bottle had to be opened anyway …

Lentil-Soup-18A glass of wine, a slice of crusty bread,

Lentil-Soup-19all that’s left is to sit down with someone you love and make some happy, warm memories.

Enjoy!