Indoor Kitchen Herb Garden in DIY Chalkboard Wine Crate

For gardeners, this is a fickle time of year.    Daytime temperatures on some days soar and flowering trees are bursting into bloom.  But night time temperatures are still plummeting and the impatient gardener has to keep the trowel in the shed for a little while longer.  In the case of my Northern friends and family, spring is in the distant future and they are desperate to get playing in the dirt!    I thought this little project would bring fresh herbs into your kitchen to liven up the spring cooking we all crave while also getting us gardening without the fear of frost killing our plants.Pesto recipe now becomes a French gardening quote! Continue reading

Not Your Mother’s Chicken Soup: Creamy Lemon Pasta Chicken Soup

“Good soup is one of the prime ingredients of good living.  For soup can do more to lift the spirits and stimulate the appetite than any other one dish. ”  Louis P DeGouy , The Soup Book, 1949

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Several years ago when I was under the weather, a kind neighbor delivered a steaming pot of the most delicious “chicken soup”.  This soup was a revelation, totally unexpected in flavor and I often remember how it nurtured me back to health.  It had bright lemony overtones, barely cooked, crunchy sugar snaps peas and al dente penne pasta in a creamy base.  Definately not the chicken soup I grew up with.  I’ve tried to recreate the recipe here.

Every culture has its own tradition of soup and archaeologists have traced soup-making back to 20,000 years BC.  It is the perfect communal meal, ideal for sharing.  There is a meditative quality to the chopping of the ingredients while the anticipation of enjoying the dish builds as the seductive aroma fills the home during the long simmering.  It is a dish that evokes home like no other.

This soup is satisfying as a meal on its own and it is a perfect late winter transitional dish with its spring-like ingredients: sugar snap peas, lemony highlights and  fresh parsley.  Whatever your tradition of soup is, try a new variation of “chicken soup” and experience a burst of springtime flavor and color.  Who knows?  It could become a new family favorite.

CREAMY LEMON PASTA CHICKEN SOUP

6 Main-Course or 12 Starter Servings

3 T butter

1 c sliced celery

1 c shredded carrots

1 c sliced mushrooms

1 diced yellow onion

3 T flour

6 c chicken stock

1 1/2 c light cream

1/4 c packed, chopped Italian parsley

1 1/2 c uncooked chicken breast meat, cut in 1/2 inch pieces

1 c penne pasta, cooked al dente

1 c sugar snap peas, cut in half, diagonally

juice of 2 lemons

salt and pepper

Melt butter in a soup pot.  Add celery, carrots, mushrooms and onions and cook over low heat until onion is translucent.image

Add flour and stir thoroughly for about 2 minutes.  imageGradually add chicken stock, stirring constantly, and heat through, about 5 minutes.  imageAdd cream and parsley and simmer for 5 minutes.  Add chicken and simmer another 5 minutes.  (Soup can be made ahead to this point and refrigerated until ready to use.) Add cooked pasta and sugar snap peas and simmer another 2 minutes.  Finish with lemon juice and salt and pepper, to taste.

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“Soup is the song of the hearth…and the home”  Louis P DeGouy, The Soup Book, 1949

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Virgin and Child with Milk Soup, Gerard David, c1510

Got Leftovers?

One of my favorite forms of cooking  is reinventing leftovers.  It is what Prince Charming, my wonderful husband, thinks is one of my biggest assests.  He looks in the fridge and thinks there’s nothing to eat.  I look in the fridge and see a whole meal I can create out of nothing.  Being quasi empty nesters, it seems we have a lot of leftovers these days as we learn to adapt to cooking for just the 2 of us.  Add to that a frequent  lack of motivation to shop for groceries without 3 hungry teens in the house to feed, the need to get creative with leftovers becomes a necessity!  Or you might say it is my love of creating “giblottes” that just kicks into high gear.  (Giblotte is a French-Canadian slang word for cooking with whatever you come across. ) Continue reading