Chicken Italian Sausage and Zucchini Soup

soup with chicken Italian sausage and zucchini

Last week, a high fever ran rampant through our house.  It threatened to derail all holiday tasks and planning.  Thankfully, I had already made this soup.  The tender chunks of zucchini, zesty tomato base and filling chicken sausage made it the perfect antidote to my sickeness.  My eleven year old preferred gingerale and nutella on crackers to combat his cold.  That’s o.k.  I was so sick, I didn’t even get mad at him for refusing to even try it.  I ‘m glad to have had plenty of this soup to heat up and eat in my bathrobe while I wished my cold away.

All I could think about was how much I still had left to do: the holiday baking, shopping, wrapping and don’t forget all the driving.  It seems my kids are doing just about everything possible at this point in their lives.  It’s good that they are busy and happy to participate in all manner of activities from tap dancing to travel basketball.  But all I wanted to do was lay on the couch and watch Iron Chef.  Needless to say, that didn’t happen.

I am on the mend now and able to document the recipe that brought me back to the living.  The original source is from and incredible cookbook called, Soup Swap by Kathy Gunst.  I changed up a few things.  Mainly the sausage: I used chicken and could not find hot Italian chicken sausage at my local market.  Instead, I used some Italian chicken and cheese sausage and chicken and kale sausage.  It worked.  I also added a parmesan rind to the soup as it simmered to add some richness to the broth.  Fresh basil at this time of year is pretty rough, if you can find it at all in a New England supermarket, so I opted to leave it out.  Here is my version of “Hope’s Italian Sausage-Zucchini Soup”.  I hope you make it in good health.

Chicken Italian Sausage and Zucchini Soup

2-3 tablespoons olive oil

total 16 oz. chicken sausage: Italian, Cheese, or any type you like, casings removed

1 small onion, diced

2 large garlic cloves minced

sea salt

black pepper2 28 oz. cans diced tomatoes

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1 teaspoon sugar

2 lbs. zucchini, diced

3 large celery stalks, diced

1 large yellow or orange pepper, diced

2-4 cups chicken stock

pinch of red chili flakes

parmesan rind

garnish: parmesan cheese, chopped fresh parsley

Heat oil in a large soup pot over medium high.  remove the casings from sausage and add to warm oil.  Cook sausage, breaking up pieces as it browns.  Once the sausage is cooked through, add the onion and garlic.  Turn heat to medium low and cook until onion is softened, about 5 minutes.  Season to taste with salt and pepper, if necessary.  Add the tomatoes, parsley and sugar.  Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

Add the zucchini, celery, yellow/orange pepper, chicken stock, chili flakes and parmesan rind.  Raise the heat to bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes until the vegetables are tender.  Taste and adjust the seasonings, adding more salt and pepper if needed.

To serve: ladle into bowls and top with grated parmesan and chopped parsley.

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Gingerbread Men

cookies made out of gingerbread

Aaah, holiday treats!  Candy canes, chocolate Santas and all manner of inventions to be found on Pinterest!  But truly, nothing says Christmas time more to me than the flavor  and scent of gingerbread cookies.  Especially these gingerbread men cookies: my mother Val’s recipe found in her Woman’s Day Encyclopedia of Cookery.  She accumulated each volume by collecting stamps at the supermarket.  Those books served her cooking repertoire well, long before the internet came along.

I can understand now that I have two kids of my own going here and there, them needing rides and chaperoning in every waking moment of the day that Val had to delegate the cookie making to us kids considering she had three children’s activities schedules to juggle.  Sometimes the cookies came out well but many of them were often burnt on the edges or undercooked and the decorating….let’s just say that after the one time my younger brother was allowed to help, his presence was no longer requested in the kitchen.  Gingerbread men covered in red gel frosting for blood and green gel camo outfits were not what my mother had in mind to hand out to her friends as holiday gifts.  We ate a lot of gingerbread men at home that year.

Whatever your decorating style, I am sure that you will find these cookies to be tasty.  They hit all the right notes in flavor and aroma from the molasses and ginger.  Perhaps you will be brave enough to employ some child labor of your own in the decorating.  Or you can drop the kids off to their scheduled activities and keep the fun of adding frosting and sprinkles to yourself.

 

Gingerbread Men

(makes about 3 dozen)

1/2 cup molasses

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup softened butter

2 3/4 cup flour, plus more for rolling out dough

2 teaspoons dried, ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup buttermilk (regular will do, in a pinch)

frosting, sprinkles, candy decorations

Mix molasses, sugar and butter, well.  In another bowl, mix together flour, ginger, salt and baking soda.  Add dry ingredients to butter mixture alternately with buttermilk, stirring well until smooth.  Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.  (Overnight is best as this step is CRITICAL.  You will literally pull your hair out if you try to roll out the dough before it is chilled.)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Remove about 1/2 cup of dough from the refrigerator (keep the rest chilled while you are working).  Roll out dough on a well floured board to 1/8″-1/4″ thick.  Cut with floured cutters and place cookies on ungreased cookie sheets.  ( I use Silpat liners or parchment paper would work well, too.)  Bake for 10 to 15 minutes until just before cookies brown on edges.  Remove from oven and allow to cook for 5 minutes.  Transfer cookies to wire racks and cool completely before decorating.

If planning to hang cookies on tree, make a hole about double the size you want the end result to be in the cookie BEFORE baking.

 

 

Spicy Asian Chicken Noodle

soup with carrots, chicken, noodles and Asian flavors

I’ve made a version of this soup before.  This Asian Chicken Noodle has a little more kick and depth of flavor from cooking the chicken in the pot first.  But like most soups, anyone can adapt it to whatever their personal tastes are or what needs to be used up in the pantry.  It’s a good soup to make when you are feeling a little down from holiday stresses.  Right now, everyone, it seems has a cold.  I had a lingering sore throat for weeks.  Hoarse every night after projecting my voice in the school lunchroom ( read: shouting).  It wasn’t until after I took the advice from a colleague to employ the old school treatment of gargling multiple times a day with warm salt water that I was finally cured.  Of course, the soup helped by soothing my throat and warming up my aching bones with its spicy notes of ginger, Sriracha and Thai red curry.  Whatever your December malaise or Holiday woe, this zippy soup will be sure to pick you up so that you can keep going.

 

Spicy Asian Chicken Noodle Soup

 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

2 teaspoons garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

salt and pepper

1 tablespoon canola oil

water

1 red pepper, chopped

1 yellow pepper, chopped

8 cups chicken broth

1 chunk of fresh ginger (about 2 inches)

4 teaspoons Sriracha

1/4  cup soy sauce

2 tablespoons lime juice (from about 1 lime)

4 teaspoons red curry paste

1 teaspoon fish sauce

1 teaspoon cider vinegar

3 oz. uncooked wide rice noodles (flat)

garnishes: grated fresh carrot, cilantro, lime wedges, Sriracha, green onions

Season chicken on both sides with garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper.  Heat a large soup pot on medium high.  Add the oil.  Once the oil is shimmering, add the chicken.  Allow to sear on one side until the chicken releases from the pan.  Flip the chicken and sear for another 4-5 minutes until the second side releases from the pan.  Add 3 tablespoons-1/3 cup water to the bottom of the pan to loosen chicken bits and juices.  Turn heat to simmer, cover and cook chicken for 10 minutes, until just cooked through.  Remove chicken and juices to a dish and cover with tin foil.  

Add peppers to soup pot.  Turn heat back to medium high.  Saute peppers until they begin to soften, about 2-3 minutes.  Add chicken broth and all seasonings through cider vinegar.  Shred chicken and add back to pot along with any accumulated juices.  Bring soup to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and cook for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, add 6 cups of water to a large saucepan.  Bring to a boil.  Add rice noodles.  Cook 3 minutes, then drain.  Place about 1/4 cup-1/2 cup of rice noodles in each serving bowl.

Taste soup and adjust seasonings.  Ladle soup over each noodle serving.  Serve with garnishes on side.

 

Southwestern Chicken Soup

soup with chicken, cheese and southwestern flavors

I really wanted to make chicken tortilla soup.  A hearty tomato based soup thickened with tortilla chips.  Filling and you guessed, it fattening.  But oh so delicious!  After doing a little internet research snuggled up with my cup of coffee and my phone early one  morning, I came across The Pioneer Woman’s recipe for Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup.  No tortillas or taco chips in it.  Huh?  What do I know about Southwestern cooking, anyway?  Not much, except that I like it.  And I liked her basic list of ingredients, most of which I used in the recipe below.  But I forgot to put it in the slow cooker. Or I didn’t have enough time to do it in the morning before I left for work.  Still the recipe I came up with didn’t take long, at all.  And I preferred that I browned the chicken first.

I gave the soup to my soup ladies and they all loved it…especially that it was much lower in calories than what I usually make.  I ate all the leftovers myself, adorning each bowl with the entire list of suggested garnishes.  When there was only a tiny amount left, I poured it on a pile of tortilla chips and pretended that it was a plate of fancy nachos.  Whatever your taste, however you decorate your bowl, this recipe is a winner.

 

Southwestern Chicken Soup

2 tablespoons canola oil

2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 taco seasoning pouch, I use McCormick

1 medium sized onion, diced

1 red pepper, chopped

1 yellow pepper, chopped

2 teaspoons chili powder

1 teaspoon cumin

1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes

1 16 oz. can diced tomatoes

1 4 oz. can diced green chilis

4 oz. tomato paste

3 cups chicken stock

1 chili in adobo, chopped

2 16 oz. cans black beans

salt and pepper

garnishes:

lime wedges, sour cream, grated cheddar, diced jalapeno, cilantro, tortilla chips

Heat oil in a large soup pot over medium high heat.  Coat chicken breasts with taco seasoning and add to pot.  Cook until chicken is browned on both sides.  Lower heat and add diced onion and remaining taco seasoning.  Stir to combine.  Cover pot and allow onions to soften, about 5 minutes.  Add chopped peppers, chili powder and cumin.  Stir to combine and cook uncovered for up to ten minutes until the peppers begin to soften and spices are fragrant.  Add tomatoes, green chilis, tomato paste, chicken stock and chili in adobo.  Bring mixture to a boil then reduce to simmer for 20 minutes.  

Remove chicken from soup and shred with forks into large pieces.  Add the chicken back to the pot.  Drain and rinse black beans and add to soup.  Taste and adjust seasonings with salt and pepper.  Serve with garnishes.

 

 

Spicy Butternut Squash Soup

 

butternut squash soup with Sriracha and chives

The texture of pureed butternut squash lends itself well to a creamy soup.  The bright colors are welcome in late fall when the yellow, orange and red leaves begin to turn brown.  To add extra spice, add a few drops of sriracha.  Fresh chives and a dollop of sour cream make the soup a bit more decadent and turn a weeknight meal into something special.

A couple of weeks ago, there was a raging wind storm late on a Sunday night that left half the town without power for 2 days.  Thankfully, the weather was warm enough so that people did not need heat, but refrigerators were filled with groceries for the week and school children feared that Trick or Treating might be cancelled if the electric company didn’t get it all back on before sundown on October 31st.

Huge branches and entire trees littered front lawns, broke through fences, landed on garages and smashed car roofs.  We were lucky.  There is an old, dead tree that grew touching our picket fence just about 12 feet from the front of the house and managed to circle its branches around the power line that connects us to civilization.  It did not come down in this nor’easter. But that storm was enough to scare me into action.

Since I did not want our luck to run out, I called my dad, the master of tree cutting and the family expert on electrical wires. (He is a retired lineman from the local electric company.)  The tree cutting was scheduled for Saturday so that Rob could help out.  Everyday from Monday through Friday, I found my dad outside my house, looking upward, looking at the tree from across the street, leaning back on the fence in the angle of the tree growth, being one with the tree.  Each day when I asked him if he wanted some coffee or if I could do anything to help, he waved me on as if to say, “Nothing to see here.”  He was deep in thought, calculating, planning.  This was not a task for the faint of heart.

When Saturday finally came, I was so stressed out about the project, I had to leave.  I made up errands to run, excuses not to be there.  I had faith in my dad, but the chainsaw and ladder combination scared the crap out of me. I also didn’t want to be around if the tree decided to come down on my roof and rip to wires out with it.

As luck and mother nature would have it, tree cutting day was especially raw and cold with enough wind to whip through multiple layers and freeze your ears and fingertips.  I was glad I had some of this soup on hand.  I heated it up, called the guys in for a lunchtime break, then got in my car and headed far away until the whole thing was over.

I found out days later that my dad envisioned taking out (and possibly demolishing) part of my fence, a necessary casualty in his mind.  But my mother stepped in and lectured him.  She knew that I had faith in his master of tree cutting.  I am glad to report only one picket popped off and the tree is now a stack of perfectly split wood awaiting my dad’s wood stove to heat his shop this winter.

 

Spicy Butternut Squash Soup

1 small onion, coarsely chopped

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

salt

1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded and chopped into cubes

4 cups chicken stock, plus more, if needed

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

2-3 dashed Worcestershire sauce

1 chili in adobo, chopped

1 16 oz. container sour cream

1 hand full fresh basil, chopped

Add the onion, olive oil and 2 large pinches of salt to a large soup pot set over medium low heat.  Stir to combine.  Cover pot and cook, stirring onion occasionally until it is very soft, about 10 minutes.  Stir in the squash.  Cover and cook for 20 minutes.

Add 4 cups of chicken stock, ginger, turmeric, pepper and nutmeg.  Bring mixture to a boil.  Reduce heat to a simmer.  Cover and cook for another 20 minutes.  Add Worcestershire sauce and chili in adobo, stir to combine.

Work in batches and puree soup in a blender.  (You will have to allow it to cool, first.) Or, puree soup with an immersion blender until smooth.  Add sour cream and basil.  Puree to blend but leave some small pieces and specks of basil.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  Serve on a cold night or after a long day of dragging brush in the yard.

 

Cream of Broccoli with Cheddar Cheese Soup

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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

School vacation week.  Normally I dread it but I this month, I welcomed slowing down, not having to drive the kids here and there and wake up every morning before dawn to get everything accomplished in a day.  And the kids were actually pretty good, except for Wednesday (Soup delivery day).  Whenever I have something on my agenda that is important to me, I swear they sense it and do everything they can to throw me over the edge of all reason.  That and the fact that they started their day with dentist appointments probably didn’t help, either.  But in spite of all that, me and Punch and Judy managed to get all the soup delivered without killing each other.

Cream of Broccoli with Cheddar Cheese Soup is a few of my customers’ favorite.  Who doesn’t  dream about dunking a crusty piece of homemade bread into warm cream and sharp cheddar cheesy goodness?  I puree the broccoli so according to one of my special customers    ( btw, they are all special), ” I love that it didn’t have big chunks of broccoli so the flavor of the cheddar and the sweetness of the carrots was not “interrupted” by a mouthful of broccoli yet you still get the broccoli flavor.”  I couldn’t have said it better, myself!

Cream of Broccoli with Cheddar Cheese Soup

serves 4-6

6 tablespoons butter

1 small onion, chopped

1/4 cup AP flour

2 cups whole milk, warm

3 cups chicken broth

2 bay leaves

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

salt and pepper

4 cups broccoli florets (about one large head)

1 large carrot, diced

2 1/2 cups (about 8 oz) grated sharp cheddar cheese (mix yellow and white)

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

dash Worcestershire sauce

Melt butter in a stock pot over medium heat.  Add onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.  Whisk in flour and cook until golden.  Gradually whisk in warm milk until smooth.  Add chicken broth, bay leaves and nutmeg.  Season with salt and pepper, if necessary.  Bring to a simmer then reduce heat to med/low-low and cook uncovered until thickened (about 20 minutes).

Add the broccoli and carrot to the soup mixture.  Simmer until tender (about 20 minutes).  Discard bay leaves.  Using an immersion blender, puree until smooth.  Add the grated cheese to the soup and stir until melted.  Add Dijon mustard and Worcestershire.  Stir to combine.  If soup is too thick, add more chicken stock. 

Fresh Chive Butter

1 stick unsalted butter, softened

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

dash Tabasco sauce

dash cider vinegar

1 small bunch fresh chives, chopped fine (about 1/4 cup)

Puree butter, salt, pepper, Tabasco sauce and cider vinegar in a Kitchen Aid with paddle attachment.  Add chives.  Combine thoroughly.  Slather on fresh bread and enjoy.

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The Bread

IMG_6446

For the past few weeks, I have been unhappy with the bread that I offer to accompany the soup.  It has been far too dense, not rising enough or doubling itself in size.  I have to admit, I have been using an inferior flour, rather than King Arthur, as I hoped to cut costs.  When I went back to the book (Jim Lahey’s “My Bread”), I learned that not only was I ruining the bread by using a lesser ingredient, but that I was not adding enough water to let the bacteria and yeast do its work.

This week, I not only added extra water (up to 1 2/3 cups) to adequately hydrate the flour and create a loose dough but I also went back to my beloved King Arthur flour.  There really is nothing like it.  In about 18 hours each bowl full of dough was bubbly with yeasty air pockets and fragrant with the sour sent of active cultures.  As I scraped the dough onto my heavily floured board ( I had to keep adding more), I remembered that the stretchy, flarpy, wet dough makes the best soft loaves with just the right amount of chew.  Yes! I thought to myself as I weighed the portions of sticky dough and added more and more flour to keep it from adhering to every surface in sight.  This is exactly what I was shooting for.

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Now that the loaves are baked with golden, crusty exteriors, I actually feel as if the customers who ordered all the preceding soups got a little ripped off especially if they aren’t getting soup this week along with these well risen lovelies.  Well, I guess all I can do is hope that they come back again and that the bread will continue to be as good.

small no knead peasant bread loaves