Tag Archives: soup

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.

Making Ravioli and Memories out of Leftovers

A few days after Thanksgiving I found myself thinking all of these leftovers, what is a girl to do?

Roasted butternut squash and zesty carrots. Soup and ravioli, that is what I’ll do.

So, that is what I made. Soup and ravioli. As it turns out though, I made some pretty good memories too.

Nathan, my 5-year-old, has a sixth sense for when I’m about to do something big in the kitchen and he always wants to be a part of it. My older two like to cook with me as well but have other things going on a lot of the time now that they are “big”. Nathan, however, always has the time to be with mommy in the kitchen and when he saw the mixer and the pasta maker come out, he was on his stool ready to go.

Pasta dough, what could be simpler. Flour. Eggs. Salt. Olive Oil. And in Arizona, water – it’s dry here, everything needs water.

Rested and ready to go.

A little kneading. “It’s like play dough, mommy!” A little bit, but it tastes way better!

A little rolling, flattening and stretching. When my husband first saw these pictures, he pointed out that Nathan’s fingernails were dirty and look kind of gross. So, I am including the following fingernail disclaimer: Nathan’s fingernails are dirty and gross, a lot. He’s five. He plays in the dirt, a lot. He did wash his hands before helping, even though it doesn’t look like it. None of his pasta dough actually made it to final production as it hit the floor at least three times in the kneading process. It is safe to eat at my house. There, now the legal department should be happy.

Kneading, smooshing, pounding, smashing and pulverizing are great but this? This is five-year-old kitchen gadget bliss! I should have edited out the garbage can. Sorry. Where was the legal department on this?

He has made pasta. He has worked pasta into submission. He has conquered pasta. He is so proud. So is his mom. She must be if she is willing to post a picture that clearly shows what a disaster making pasta has made of her kitchen.

Wow! He’s good. Just kidding, that’s mine. Incidentally, it is difficult to roll out past and photograph it at the same time. I need a staff. Correction, I need a staff that is over the age of five.

A little bit about the filling. One of my Thanksgiving side dishes was Zesty Carrots (if you are interested, you can find the recipe here). I had quite a bit left over (my husband would tell you that is because they are awful, they’re not) and decided to get creative. I threw them into the food processor with a little bit of turkey stock (freshly made from the turkey carcass – more on that tomorrow), took them for a little spin and voila’ – ravioli filling. The bread crumb topping acted as the perfect binder and the consistency was great. As this was an experiment and my husband and kids are not zesty carrot fans, I made a ricotta and parmesan filling as well.

Note to self, do not pile uncooked ravioli together on a plate. Raw pasta dough is sticky. Sheet tray. Parchment paper. What was I thinking.

Thankfully, all was not lost, I was able to salvage most of the ravioli and there was the sage brown butter sauce. Things are always better when there is sage fried in butter. And wine. Wine makes things better too. In moderation of course; there’s that legal department again.

The finished product was pretty good. I think I am onto something but it needs a little tweaking. The zesty carrots have a horseradish sauce on them, which is delicious but strong and a little overwhelming for ravioli. Especially when what I really wanted to taste was the brown butter sauce and sage and have the filling be more subtle and secondary. Still, all in all, pretty tasty.

In the interest of full disclosure, this was the cheese ravioli which I served with a jarred four cheese alfredo sauce; evidence that it is always a good idea to have a backup plan.

I almost forgot about the butternut squash soup, although I’m not sure how that is possible as it was delicious. I put my left over roasted squash into a pot with enough turkey stock to warm it and give it a good consistency and then puree’d it with the immersion blender.

Simple but yummy.

Thinking outside the box and experimenting in the kitchen is always fun and rewarding. Spending a Sunday afternoon with your five-year-old making memories is joyous. Dirty fingernails and all. You thought I was going to say priceless, didn’t you? It’s that too.