Market Fresh: Rutabaga

In an attempt to eat more seasonal food, I occasionally pick up a new vegetable or fruit at the grocery store or the farmer’s market and try out a new recipe. A couple of weeks ago after perusing some cookbooks with winter vegetable recipes, I chose a rutabaga. I just finally got around to using it.

This unusual vegetable is a cross between the cabbage and turnip. Although I’ve read it’s more closely related to the turnip. It has a thick skin (mine was also waxed, which I guess is common) that needs completely cut away with knife before cooking.

Like most root vegetables, rutabagas can be roasted and added into other vegetable mixes. Most recipes I’ve found combine the rutabaga with other vegetables. But I do plan to try Rutabaga Chips some time.

For this recipe, I took a pureed butternut squash soup recipe I loved (I’ll let you in on a little secret, I really don’t like butternut squash all that much, so for me to love this recipe, it means it’s really good!) and adapted it to include rutabaga. It has a smooth, slightly spicy taste, with a gentle sweet edge. It would be great served along a nice green salad.

BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND RUTABAGA SOUP
Print This Recipe

1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed
1 rutabaga, peeled and cubed
1 onion, chopped
1 apple, peeled and chopped
1-2 cloves garlic minced
3 c. chicken stock
2 Tbsp butter
water
1/2- 3/4 tsp curry powder
1/8-1/4 tsp cumin
salt and pepper to taste

Peel and cut squash, rutabaga, onion and apple. Place all in large pot over medium-high heat. Add chicken broth and water to just reach top of veggies. Add garlic. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer until squash and rutabaga are tender.

Remove pot from heat and using an immersion blender, puree soup (alternatively, remove veggies with a slotted spoon and puree in a blender before returning to pot). Add liquid to desired consistency. Add spices, salt and pepper to taste. Heat through.

Before serving, garnish with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of nutmeg.

Note: The spice measurements are just a guess. Use your palate and adjust spices to taste. Just be sure to go heavier on the curry powder, the cumin is intended to be more of a subtle side-kick.

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Weekend Fare: Curried Lentil Soup

This delicious soup was featured in this month’s issue of Bon Appetit. I wished I had doubled the recipe – it was creamy, perfectly spiced, and great for a winter supper. I did not have green onions so we just enjoyed it without. This vegetarian soup would be a wonderful starter for meal or served as the main dish. You could omit the butter for a vegan dish but the addition of the butter took the flavor to a whole new place – so good!

CURRIED LENTIL SOUP – Bon Appetit, December 2010
Print This Recipe

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
2 large garlic cloves, chopped, divided
2 tablespoons (or more) curry powder
1 cup French green lentils* (I used regular green) 
4 1/4 cups (or more) water, divided
1 15- to 16-ounce can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained, rinsed
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 lemon, cut into 6 wedges

*French green lentils are small, dark green, and speckled with black; they can be found at some supermarkets and at specialty foods stores.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add onion and carrot; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook until onion is translucent, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes. Add half of chopped garlic; stir until vegetables are soft but not brown, about 4 minutes longer. Add 2 tablespoons curry powder; stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add lentils and 4 cups water. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Increase heat and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium; simmer until lentils are tender, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, puree chickpeas, lemon juice, 1/4 cup water, remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, and remaining garlic in processor.

Add chickpea puree and butter to lentil soup. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and additional curry powder, if desired. Add water by 1/4 cupfuls to thin to desired consistency. DO AHEAD Soup can be made up to 1 day ahead. Cool, cover, and refrigerate. Rewarm before continuing.Divide soup among bowls. Sprinkle with thinly sliced green onions and serve with lemon wedges.

Weekend Fare: Strawberry Soup

When I first learned about chilled, fruit soups, I was not inclined to give them a try. It was just too weird. However, my opinion has changed! They can be a delicious addition to brunch, a wonderful appetizer, or even a light dessert. I think this recipe would be perfect served in shooter glasses as an appetizer at a garden party. It’s also super easy and great for weekend cooking!

STRAWBERRY SOUP
(adapted from Food Network)
Print This Recipe

1 lb. strawberries, cleaned and hulled
3/4 c. half & half or cream
 3/4 c. sour cream or plain yogurt
1/4 c. sugar
4 tsp. lemon juice

Blend the strawberries until pureed. Pour into a bowl and stir in the half & half, sour cream, sugar and lemon juice. Chill until serving. Top with fresh mint or strawberries if desired. Serves 4.

Off The Shelf: The Cook and the Gardener

The Cook and the Gardener: A Year of Recipes and Writings from the French Countryside by Amanda Hesser is part memoir, part cookbook. The book is designed around the seasons, beginning in January and going through to December. Hesser tells the story of her life in a chateau kitchen in Burgundy and how it intertwines with the chateau’s garden and its keeper, the elderly Monsieur Milbert.

Each month of the year receives its own chapter with a description of what is going on in the garden at that time of year and what gets cooked in the kitchen. The rest of the chapter is devoted to seasonal recipes using the garden produce.

If you are an avid gardener, or, are seriously interested in eating seasonally, you will enjoy this book. I did find that many of the recipes seemed very “French” (of course this is a book about living in France!) and thus perhaps too involved, or too “out there” for my taste. But, the book as a whole is very inspiring, and filled with ideas on what to grow, how to grow it, and how to cook with it. The author gives very clear, detailed instructions, so you are sure to be able to make the recipes she gives you.

I tried two recipes from this book: a soup and a salad. Both turned out very well. I loved the presentation of the egg salad and found that I could make the salad with whatever greens and herbs I had around, improvising on the recipe while keeping to the main idea. And the soup was delicious! I was skeptical at first, but upon tasting it felt like it was worthy of a fancy restaurant. I’ll be making it again, and perhaps taking up the author’s idea of freezing it in large batches when zucchini is abundant.

EGG SALAD WITH TARRAGON, CHERVIL, AND CHIVES
(The Cook and the Gardener)
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4 eggs (not new ones — they won’t peel well)
3 Tbsp. best-quality olive oil
1 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. heavy cream
2 handfuls tender Bibb lettuce, trimmed and washed
2 handfuls lamb’s lettuce, trimmed and washed, or mesclun
coarse or kosher salt
1/2 Tbsp. chopped tarragon leaves (about 1-2 branches)
1/2 Tbsp. chopped chervil leaves (about 4 sprigs — if not available, increase tarragon to 6 branches)
4 blades chive, sliced thin
freshly ground black pepper

Hard boil the eggs: bring a large pot filled with water to a boil. Add the eggs and cook for 11 minutes. Plunge the eggs in cold water and peel them. Sometimes it helps to run them under cold water as you peel them. The water runs between the thin skin that covers the egg and loosens it, making peeling much easier. Use a thin knife to cut them in half lengthwise.

In a small bowl whisk 2 Tbsp. of the olive oil, the mustard, and cream until well emulsified and smooth. Dress the greens: In a large mixing bowl, combine the greens, season with salt, and pour over the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Toss well to coat all the greens.

Pile the greens on a large round plate. Set the egg halves on the greens in the center of the plate. Season them with salt and drizzle on the mustard dressing. Generously sprinkle the herbs over them and then some pepper. Serve immediately. If the eggs are slightly warm, all the better.

Serves 4.

ZUCCHINI-LEMON SOUP
(The Cook and the Gardener)
Print this recipe

2-3 medium or 2 large zucchini (about 2 1/2 pounds)
3 Tbsp. olive oil, plus more for sprinkling
grated zest of one lemon
1 clove garlic, sliced thin
1 shallot lobe, sliced thin lengthwise (or use white onion or green onion)
2 Tbsp. white wine
coarse or kosher salt
1 cup milk, plus more if needed
2 Tbsp. heavy cream
1/2 Tbsp. chopped wild thyme or regular French thyme (about 4 sprigs)

Peel and seed the zucchini: zucchini rarely needs much prepping, but for this dish you want a light-colored, smooth soup, so some work is required. Begin by cutting off the stem and flower ends close to the zucchini flesh. Then use a vegetable peeler to peel the skin from the zucchini. (If it bothers you to waste this, you may include it; or reserve it and saute the strips of skin in olive oil for another meal.) Cut the zucchini lengthwise in half, then in quarters. If the zucchini are older and the seeds are large, you will want to remove them by laying each quarter on its side and cutting along where the seeds and flesh meet. Discard the seeds. If the zucchini are very young, the seeds are usually insignificant and can remain a part of the soup. Now cut the quarters crosswise into even-sized cubes (about 1 inch).

In a large saute pan, warm the olive oil with half of the grated lemon zest, all of the zucchini, and the garlic, shallot, and white wine. Season lightly with salt, and lay a piece of parchment paper or a lid over the mixture to cover. Sweat over medium-low heat, stirring from time to time, for 20-30 minutes, until the zucchini is soft all the way through and there are just a few tablespoons of liquid remaining in the pan. You may have to do this in two batches if you do not have a very large pan. If so, omit the garlic and shallots from the second batch.

Puree in a food processor fitted with a steel blade or with an immersion blender directly in the pan (if it is deep enough), then pass through a sieve. Now you’re probably asking, “Why did I have to bother removing the seeds if it’s going through a sieve?” Because the seeds are just small enough to clog your sieve and make this step a slow, painful one. In a large saucepan, combine the puree with the milk, cream, and thyme. The soup should be light and creamy, so you may need to add more milk or water to attain the right consistency. (Water may be better, because you do not want the soup to taste milky.)

Heat through, adjust the seasoning, and ladle into four individual bowls. Serve warm or cool, drizzling with olive oil (or cream) and sprinkling some of the remaining grated lemon zest on top of each serving just before going to the table.

Serves 4.

Note: the author suggests doubling or tripling this recipe, omitting the cream and milk and freezing it in batches to thaw later, finishing it with milk and cream then. (What a good idea!!)

Off The Shelf: Picnics

Don’t we all love picnics! There are many occasions that come to mind when I think back over the picnics I have enjoyed: the hobo sacks on a stick my mother packed for us as children, the doll tea parties under the lilac bush in spring, eating al fresco beside the Nile River, sitting on the sidewalk in the middle of Paris eating bread and cheese, and celebrating my sister’s birthday every year with tea and cake on the lawn of our local Art Museum.

Picnics by Hilary Heminway and Alex Heminway is just the book to inspire you to creating some memorable picnics of your own this summer. The book is filled with beautiful photographs, picnic quotes, and delicious recipes.

Some of the picnic ideas include: sunrise picnic, at your desk, lakeside picnic, in bed, snowshoe picnic, wilderness backpack, riverside barbecue, african picnic, high tea, children’s picnics, and rain date.

Alongside of menu ideas, pictures, and how-to’s, there are many delicious recipes, including: Wheat Montana 7-Grain Cookies, Biker Bread Salad, Curried Egg Salad Sandwiches, Stuffed Italian Chicken with Oven-Roasted Tomatoes, and Chocolate Scat Cookies (which have been a favorite gluten-free recipe for some time in our house).

While this book may not have enough practical recipes to make it a must-have for your cookbook shelf, it is a must-request from your library for summer perusal.

I decided to try the Tanzania Tomato Soup on our first picnic of the season. It was easy to put together and many of the ingredients are easy to keep on hand.

TANZANIA TOMATO SOUP
(Picnics)
Print this recipe

4 cups V8 juice
2 cups tomato juice
juice of one lemon
1 tsp. lemon zest
3 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. curry powder
1/2 tsp. Tabasco sauce
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
1/3 cup chopped fresh mint
2 cups plain yogurt

In a food processor, combine all ingredients and blend well. Serve chilled.

Off The Shelf: April Magazine Review

With the arrival of April we can count on the fact that spring is really here — and I’m sure we all want our cooking to reflect that. I will admit that I want the food magazines to scream SPRING — loud enough to make me want to pull them off the rack and take them home. While there are a lot of good recipes in this month’s magazines, I felt there could have been a bit more “screaming”, especially on the covers.

Everyday Food (Heather) is once again filled with a number of very appealing recipes, although I felt that some of the recipes belonged more in the category of winter or fall comfort food, rather than fresh spring eating. For instance, Carmelized Onion and Lentil Soup, Tangy Chicken with Orzo Pilaf, Beef and Tomato Stew, Spiced Tomato Soup, and Using Leftover Mashed Potatoes.

On the flip side, there are some spring-specific recipes that look terrific: Roasted Marinated Lamb with Lemon and Rosemary Potatoes, Zucchini Pasta with Ricotta, Tilapia and Quinoa with Feta and Cucumber, Garlic and Chive Dip, Chopped Greek Salad, and Emeril’s Chicken-Patty Pockets. All in all, the magazine is worth your perusal.

We tried the Bean and Cheese Burritos  for a quick and easy (and child-friendly) dinner.

BEAN AND CHEESE BURRITOS
(Everyday Food April 2010)
Print this recipe

1 cup long-grain white rice (I used brown rice which has different cooking times)
1 3/4 c. low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1 can (15 oz.) refried beans
4 flour tortillas (I used Trader Joe’s 100% whole wheat)
1/4 cup sour cream, plus more for serving
1 cup shredded cheese
1/2 head romaine lettuce, shredded
1/2 cup salsa, plus more for serving
avacado and cilantro, optional

Preheat oven to 350F. In a small saucepan, bring rice and broth to a boil over high. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook 15 minutes. Remove pan from heat and let stand, covered, 5 minutes; fluff rice with a fork. (Alternatively, throw the rice and broth into your rice cooker!)

Meanwhile, in another small saucepan, warm beans and 1/4 cup water over low, stirring occasionally. Wrap tortillas in foil and place in oven to warm, about 10 minutes.

To assemble, divide beans, sour cream, rice, cheese, lettuce, and salsa among tortillas. For each tortilla, fold side closest to you over filling, then fold right and left sides toward center; tightly roll up burrito. Serve topped with more sour cream and salsa if desired.

Serves 4.

 Everyday with Rachael Ray (Heather)– I felt this magazine really could have flaunted spring just a bit more too, although they did do a good job of incorporating the season into all of their extra non-food columns. The 30-Minute Meals section does feature spring recipes such as Orecchiette with Pancetta and Peas, Denver Eggs-and-Potato Hash Sammies, and Leeky Salmon with Puff Pastry Toppers.

There is a fun section on dinner at American diners, complete with recipes for Disco Fries, White Chocolate Banana Cream Pie, Crunch-Berry Pancakes, Hobo Plate, and Curried Chicken Potpies. Other sections include Burger of the Month, Roast Chicken, How to Pull Off a Surprise Party, and Omelets for the Family.

I tried the Tortilla-Crusted Goat Cheese-and-Asparagus Quiche because I was so intrigued with using tortillas as the crust. The concept worked well, except that the tortilla was quite difficult to cut through to get a slice of the quiche onto a plate. The savings of time, not having to make a crust, might just be worth it though….

TORTILLA-CRUSTED GOAT CHEESE-AND-ASPARAGUS QUICHE
(Everyday with Rachael Ray April 2010)
Print this recipe

4 7-inch whole wheat tortillas (Trader Joe’s are terrific)
10 asparagus stalks, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
4 ounces sliced mushrooms (about 1 1/2 cups)
salt and pepper
1 (4 oz.) log goat cheese (I didn’t have this so used some shredded cheese instead)
3 eggs
1/2 cup plain yogurt, preferably Greek-style (I used regular)

Preheat the oven to 375F. In a greased 9-inch pie plate, overlap the tortillas to make a crust; place on a rimmed baking sheet.

Meanwhile, fill a large nonstick skillet a third of the way with salted water; bring to a boil. Add the asparagus and cook until crisp-tender, about 1 minute; drain, rinse under cold water and pat dry (or, use leftover asparagus!).

Wipe out the skillet, add the olive oil and heat over medium-high heat. Add the onion and mushrooms, season with salt and pepper and cook until the mushrooms are golden, about 3 minutes. Stir in the asparagus; season with salt and pepper. Spread evenly in the tortilla crust, then crumble in the cheese on top.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and yogurt and season with salt and pepper; pour into the tortilla crust. Bake on the baking sheet until just set in the center and lightly golden, about 30 minutes. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Serves 4.

Bon Appetit — (Alaina) Bon Appetit has once again provided a wonderful assorment of recipes that feature spring produce including Korean Rice Bowl with Steak, Asparagus, and Fried Egg, Quick chicken Paella with Sugar Snap Peas, and Fresh Pea and Mint Soup. There is also a wonderful section on cakes. The pictures are stunning and inspiring. I think this magazine remains one of my favorites.

I chose to try the Moroccan Carrot Soup. It was amazing! Hands down the best carrot soup I’ve ever had. The flavors combined in a tantalizing and delicious bowl of creamy goodness.


MOROCCAN CARROT SOUP
(Bon Appetit, April 2010)
Print this recipe

2 Tb. (1/4 stick) butter
1 c. chopped white onion
1 lb. large carrots, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch dice (about 22/3 cups)
2 1/2 c. low-salt chicken broth
1 1/2 tsp. cumin seeds (I used 1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin)
1 Tb. honey
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1/8 tsp. ground allspice
1/2 c. plain yogurt, stirred to loosen

Melt butter in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion; sauté 2 minutes. Mix in carrots. Add broth; bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until carrots are very tender, about 20 minutes.

Stir cumin seeds in small skillet over medium-high heat until fragrant, 4 to 5 minutes; cool. Finely grind in spice mill.

Remove soup from heat. Puree in batches in blender until smooth. Return to same pan. Whisk in honey, lemon juice, and allspice. Season with salt and pepper.

Ladle soup into bowls. Drizzle yogurt over; sprinkle generously with cumin.

Saveur — (Alaina) Recently, I qualified for a one-year subscription to Saveur magazine. It came just in time to include in this month’s magazine review. This is a delightful magazine. At first glance, it seemed like it didn’t have very many recipes but the more I read, the more recipes I realized there were. It also has beautiful photos, great articles and information, and wonderful recipes. I’m looking forward to more issues!

I enjoyed the way this magazine is layed out. It included an article and photos on Rome, Italy and then gave a lot of recipes to go with it – Cacio E Pepe, Gnocchi Alla Romana, Fagioli Tonno, and many more. It also had a section Taipei (Taiwanese Cooking) with very traditional and authentic recipes. I think that’s what I liked the most – it seems like they remained true to the cultures they featured.

Cardamom was featured in the April issue and so I decided to try the Cardamom-Ginger Crunch. It’s a shortbread with a candy-like layer on top. Cardamom is a distinct flavor with a citrusy taste. In my opinion, it’s an aquired flavor. I like it, I don’t love it. My dad and my youngest son loved it and the rest of us liked it with the exception of my oldest two. I halved this recipe.


CARDAMOM-GINGER CRUNCH
(Saveur, April 2010)
Print this recipe

2 cups unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing
1 cup sugar
3 cups flour, sifted
11 tsp. ground ginger
3 1⁄2 tsp. ground cardamom
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 1⁄2 cups confectioners’ sugar
3 tbsp. golden syrup or dark corn syrup

1. Heat oven to 375°. Grease a 9″ x 13″ baking dish; set aside. Put 18 tbsp. butter and sugar in a large bowl; beat with a handheld mixer on medium until fluffy. Add flour, 3 tsp. ginger, 1 tsp. ground cardamom, baking powder, and 1 tsp. salt; mix until incorporated but still crumbly. Transfer mixture to reserved dish; press flat with your hands. Bake until shortbread is golden brown, about 20 minutes. Let cool.

2. In a 1-qt. saucepan over medium heat, combine remaining butter, ginger, cardamom, and salt and the confectioners’ sugar and syrup. Bring to a boil and pour over shortbread; cool. Cut into 2″ rectangles.

MAKES 48 PIECES

Off The Shelf: Irish Cookbooks

Margaret M. Johnson has put together several beautiful cookbooks, all with an Irish theme. Each cookbook is full of photographs of the Irish countryside along with mouthwatering pictures of the recipes. If you are at all interested in Ireland, or Irish food, these are a must-see from your local library.

The first of the three books is Irish Puddings, Tarts, Crumbles and Fools: 80 Glorious Desserts. This book features recipes such as Bread and Butter Pudding, Queen of Puddings, Steel Cut Oat Pudding, Sticky Toffee Sponge Pudding, Rhubarb Tarte Tatin, Plum Tart with Oatmeal Crust, Blackberry-Almond Crumble Cake, Apple Fool, Lemon Syllabub, Lemon-Ginger Scones, and Christmas Pudding Ice-cream.

I tried the Pear and Ginger Crumble which I found to be quite delicious. The aromatic yet delicate pears went perfectly with the sharp bite of crystallized ginger and, topped with a crumbly topping,  made for a very “more-ish” dessert.

PEAR AND GINGER CRUMBLE
(Irish Puddings, Tart, Crumbles, and Fools)
Print this recipe

Filling:
3 pounds Bartlett or Anjou pears, peeled, cored and sliced
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/3 c. sugar
2 Tbsp. minced crystallized ginger chips
1 1/2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

Topping:
1 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 c. quick cooking (not instant) Irish oatmeal (I used regular, quick cooking oats)
2/3 c. packed light brown sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
pinch of salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Preheat the oven to 375F. Lightly butter a 9×13-inch baking pan.

Filling: In a medium bowl, combine the pears and lemon juice. Stir in the sugar, crystallized ginger, and flour. Spoon into the prepared pan.

Topping: In a medium bowl, combine the flour, oatmeal, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt. Add the butter, and stir with a fork until moist clumps form. Sprinkle the topping over the fruit. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the topping is golden and the pears are tender. Serve warm with whipped cream or vanilla ice-cream, if you like.

Serves 6-8.

The Irish Pub Cookbook gives recipes for the kind of heart-warming food you would find in a typical Irish Pub. Chapters include: Starters, Soups, Salads, Hot Pots Meat Pies & Savory Tarts, Meat & Potatoes, Seafood, and Sweets.

I found many of the recipes tempting; Salmon Cakes with Dill and Wine Sauce, Parsnip and Apple Soup, Bacon, Blue Cheese and Courgette Soup, Bibb, Bacon and Apple Salad, Ploughman’s Lunch, Guinness Beef Stew, Bacon and Cabbage, Irish Cream Cheesecake, and Irish Chocolate Cake.

I tried the Farmhouse Vegetable Soup which was delicious and down-to-earth with a distinct taste of parsnips.

FARMHOUSE VEGETABLE SOUP
(The Irish Pub Cookbook)
Print this recipe

4 Tbsp. butter
1 small onion, chopped
2 leeks (white parts only), washed and sliced
2 parsnips, peeled and sliced
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
4 cups vegetable broth
2/3 cup half and half
3 Tbsp. minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
salt and pepper

In a stockpot or large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onion and leeks, cover, and cook, stirring once or twice, for 5-7 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft but not browned. Add the parsnips, potatoes, carrots and stock or broth, cover and cook for 25-30 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender. Remove from the heat and let cool for 10 minutes.

Working in batches, transfer the soup to a food processor or blender and puree until smooth. (Or puree in the pot with an immersion blender.) Return the soup to the pot, whisk in the half-and-half, and season with parsley, salt and pepper. Simmer until heated through.

To serve, ladle the soup into shallow bowls.

Serves 4-6.

The New Irish Table: 70 Contemporary Recipes provides more of the same: beautiful photos, gorgeous food, and good recipes. The book is divided into Small Bites, Starters, Main Courses, Side Dishes, and Sweets. Scattered throughout each of these cookbooks are short explanations of various food items or recipes, helping to educate the reader on true Irish food. These books are a delight to look through and Johnson has done an admirable job of creating them.

Weekend Fare: Soup Pot

As I’ve mentioned before, soup is one of my favorite meals. It nearly always tastes even better leftover and it is so comforting which makes it perfect for weekend cooking! One soup I don’t think of nearly often enough is Chicken Noodle. I would submit that it should not be reserved only for illness but rather that it should be enjoyed just because. It’s delicious, it’s easy, and it’s family-friendly. I love chopping up leftover chicken and using it this way.

CHICKEN NOODLE SOUP
Print This Recipe

2 Tb. butter
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 med. onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
12 c. liquid (I use 8 c. chicken stock and 4 c. water)
2 lg. potatoes, diced
2-3 c. cooked chicken, chopped
1/2 lb. egg noodles
1 Tb. dried parsley (or 1/4 c. chopped fresh)
salt & pepper to taste

In a large soup pot, saute celery, onion, and carrots in butter until onions are translucent. Add liquid and then the potatoes and chicken. Bring to a simmer. Add noodles (I use medium width) and parsley; continue cooking soup until potatoes and carrots are tender and noodles are fully cooked – probably 15-20 minutes but it depends on the noodles. Season to taste.

Serve with bread, biscuits, crackers, or muffins.

Simple Supper: Bean Soup

Our family likes to eat vegetarian at least once or twice a week and beans are one of the ways that we do that. They offer great nutrition and are filling! Here is a bean soup that we all enjoyed and it was great as leftovers!

A VERY BIG POT OF BEAN SOUP (you can 1/2 this if you prefer less but it really does make great leftovers!)
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4 c. dried beans (I used a mix)
1/2 c. rice
4 quarts water
1 Tb. salt
1 tsp. pepper
2 med. onions, diced
2 c. carrots, diced
1 c. celery, diced, opt.
1/4 tsp chili powder
2 cans (15 oz. each) diced tomatoes
2 clove garlic, minced
3 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp. baking soda 
Parmesan Cheese, opt.

Rinse the beans and place in a pot. Cover with water and soak overnight. Or for a quick soak – bring the pot of water to a boil, turn it off and let the beans soak for 1 hour. Drain and follow the recipes below.

Drain the beans and add the rice, water, salt, and pepper. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 1-1/2 hours until the beans are tender.

Add onions, carrots, celery, chili powder, tomatoes, garlic, lemon juice, and baking soda (soup will foam with the addition of the soda). Simmer 30 minutes more, stirring occasionally or until vegetable are tender. Serve topped with freshly grated parmesan cheese if desired.

Lots of Snow = Lots of Cooking

Indiana finally got snow (of significance) this week! While there are always downsides to being stuck at home on snowy days, there are lots of benefits as well, one of the biggest being more time to cook! Years ago I had so much more time to spend hours on end baking in the kitchen. Nowadays it is rare that I spend more than the time necessary to make our meals. This week was different.

I was reminded this week of the wonders of homemade bread and how delightful it is to have it around all the time. Three days in a row I made bread and I’ve been trying to work out in my mind just how I could continue keeping homemade bread made when life gets back to normal (read busy). Where there’s a will, there’s a way….we’ll just have to see how strong my will is on this matter.

Another item made in quantity this week was soup — three different batches turned out in the space of 18 hours! And they were so good. We had White Chili from Food Network Magazine as well as their Vietnamese Soup and then a tried and true recipe for Italian Sausage and Red Lentil Soup. All were made in quantity and it was helpful to have freezing temperatures so I could use the back patio for extra cooling space!

I did have one moment of kitchen panic this week. After putting off starting supper until way beyond when I should have, I went down to have a look again at the recipe I had chosen only to read that I needed to allow 3 hours for simmering! Oooppps!! That wasn’t going to work in the less than 40 minutes I had. I whisked a few chicken breasts out of the freezer where they were just beginning to harden after a shopping trip and pulled out the Food Network magazine and opened to their white chili. And that’s how we tried that delicious recipe.

We’ve had little company this week other than family, a change from the past few months. New Year’s Day found me calmly sipping tea at 4:30 when my sister called to see if we could change our dinner plans from quiet family dinner to dinner party for 14. Why not? I decided on 10 more minutes to sip tea and then dived head first into the deep waters of a Chinese meal. The results were good, we all had a ton of fun, and the recipes will appear next month!!!

And now, I think I’ll pull some of that frozen soup out of the freezer for dinner. I’m just about baked and cooked out! I’m off to the knitting shop and an afternoon of quiet tea and knitting with a few friends. And maybe I should hope the snow sticks around for awhile….