Monday, November 8, 2010

Chicken and Artichoke Soup

This colder weather (that I love) has me wanting stews and soups every night. Warm and of wine...good bread...losing focus here...

This soup seems to have a lot of stuff to do but it is surprisingly fairly quick to throw together. It is also a great way to use up any chicken leftover from the night before.


olive oil

1/2 package of bacon (yes bacon - do not skip this for this particular soup)

2 carrots - chopped about a half inch in size

2 stalks of celery - chopped as close as possible to size of carrots

1 onion - chopped as well

4 cloves of garlic - minced

about 3 cups shredded or chopped chicken

about 6 cups chicken stock (preferably homemade)

1 package frozen artichoke hearts - thawed and chopped

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 or 3 sprigs thyme

1 bay leaf

fresh basil

a little garlic powder (this seems to give the whole thing a very nice smoky flavor)



1 can white kidney beans (optional - but recommended)


In a dutch oven or soup pot add a little olive oil and crisp the bacon. Remove and let drain on a paper towel - chop up either large or small (my family likes to find big chunks of bacon in here so I leave the pieces pretty good size) then set aside. 
Back to your pot, remove "most" of the bacon grease. To the little bit of bacon grease left, add carrots, celery, onion and garlic and cook everything until the carrots are just softened. Then add the chopped chicken - add salt and pepper. Cook all together for another five minutes or so. Add the tomato paste and mix to coat everything in the pot. FOOD 263

Now stir in the chicken stock, about 1/2 cup of chopped basil, thyme sprigs, a couple dashes of garlic powder and the bay leaf. Bring all to a boil then bring heat to medium low and cover - let simmer about 20 minutes (maybe thirty) Add artichokes, white kidney beans and toss the bacon back in - cook for another 10 to 15 minutes more. 
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Remove thyme sprigs and the bay leaf. Salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with more fresh basil and serve  
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Pound Cake and Berry Compote

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I did make this pound cake. But honestly, I think one purchased from your local bakery will work just fine.

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I probably should not call this a compote since I skipped the whole step of making the simple syrup and adding vanilla or any other flavorings. This is basically a cup and a half of fresh berries - zest from 1 lemon and juice from half the lemon - then 1 tablespoon of sugar (more or less depending on your tastes) Put all ingredients in a small saucepan and cook on low heat just until the liquid looks syrupy (I think thats a word?) Immediately remove from heat - pour over a slice of pound cake - add whipped cream (I forgot that part) serve immediately.

Quick and tasty

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Apple Hill Adventure

Honestly...the yearly Apple Hill trip is torture. We go to the places we think the kids will like. They ride the little sad beaten down looking ponies. We eat 45 pounds of Kettle Korn. There is usually a hot-dog or two involved (definitely fine dining). The traffic is HORRID. It's always too hot and gross or too cold and gross. And then we come home exhausted.

This year was actually really, really fun! Even though it was a little chilly and rainy all day everyone was in a good mood (this means me) There was not the usual gobs of traffic. And we made all the perfect stops for the perfect amount of time.

I'm sharing this because there were a couple things that were outstanding and I think that if any of you get the chance to go you should definitely put this on your to-do list. 

Just to assist with the layout of the land
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Of course the wineries are always a MUST DO 
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We actually stopped at most of the highlighted farms. Crazy - I know.
But this year we stopped at Jack Russell Brewery. HIGHLY RECOMMEND. Totally cool little pub like room serving some pretty excellent beers and ciders. Fantastic customer service. Outdoor tents set up with various vendors and some very good sandwiches. Also suggest you purchase one of these to send your five year old to kindergarten in the following Monday.

I'm getting a little ahead of myself. We actually stopped first at all the places the kids enjoy. They did the usual train rides - pony rides - kettle korn gluttony - too much chocolate sampling - etc...But at the Kids Inc. farm (map #1) they had this very cute little shop that had the best Balsamic Vinegar I have had in a very, very long time. Along with some beautiful Olive Oils to sample and purchase. There was also quite a few pieces of pottery and artwork that I fell in love with.  
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Best Balsamic Vinegar....and the favorite Olive oil of the tastings.

Check this out. It will be worth it.

My favorite small oil dish purchase 
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I cant find the paper that had the name of the artist but if anyone is interested let me know and I will look harder.

The other favorite thing... 
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They call this "The Walkin Pie"  nough said...(yes - it was as big as it looks)

Get this to pour on top of this crazy piece of pie
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Yes - it is as delicious as it looks - and Yes - pour it on everything else after

We of course did the tour of wineries with all us adults taking turns playing with kids outside. Ended the day at Boeger where the kids played and ran through that beautiful little park area out front and I tried to figure out how to get the following items into my vehicle
Apple Hill 17 oct 2010 044

Good day. Go if you get the chance. Take the kids. It'll be fun.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Rubber Eraser Fruits served on a hand Sculpted Play-Doh Platter

Me to my daughter "go play please...I need to post on the blog" 

Daughter "why cant you play with me?!" (yes - in that rather bothersome tone they can have)

Me "not right now - I will come play when I'm finished"

Daughter exits

I start typing

About 15 minutes later daughter runs into kitchen to get large baking sheet

Daughter exits

5 minutes later daughter returns carrying tray with "food ready for photo for the blog"

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"WAIT MOM! The bananas are falling!"

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I'm trying really, really hard NOT to laugh and discourage her so we take several photos and I let her pick the best ones.

1 container play-doh.....$1.00

several pieces rubber fruit erasers.....$2.87

large baking sheet.....2 pack from large warehouse center $11.75

daughter saying "PLEASE post on the blog so I can be famous like you mom!"..... priceless .....

i love this child

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Butternut Squash Soup w/Homemade Croutons

So I'm looking through all my food photos lamenting the poor quality of every single image when I hear the voice of a five year old yell from the dining room "stop complaining mom! You get whatcha get and ya dont throw a fit!"   Do I ground her forever  - or do I kiss her for the wise words?

I'm going to go ahead and post and just apologize for not having a professional photographer with all the cool gear at my disposal every time I need to take a photo.

Butternut squash soup - everyone I know seems to be making it right now so I figured I would get on the bandwagon and make some myself. I also did a little reading on where this particular squash originated and apparently it is Made in the USA and was an accident - something about a farmer not wanting a squash as awkward and ugly as a Gooseneck but smaller than a Hubbard.

Okay.....I'm getting on with it. I like this soup rather thick but you can go ahead and adjust the liquid until you reach your desired consistency. And as usual - adjust the seasoning to make it as sweet or peppery as you wish.


dutch oven or some other large pot

vegetable steamer (unless you have one of those nifty pots with the steamer thing in it)

immersion blender (if you have not invested in an immersion blender - which i highly recommend you do - use a regular blender but do the chunks of squash in batches - removing creamed parts when done and adding chunky parts...etc....also adding liquid a little at a time as needed)

1 large Butternut Squash

4 tablespoons butter

1 shallot

6 cups water

1/2 cup heavy cream

dark brown sugar

fresh nutmeg




Prep your squash. Cut in half crosswise (the part with the seeds will all be on the one half) - then cut each half in half again - now exposing two halves with seeds and strings - DO NOT toss the seeds and strings. In your dutch oven - melt the butter then add the shallot and cook until translucent. Now add the seeds and strings and cook until the mixture is reddish/orangish and pretty - 7 or 8 minutes.

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Now add 6 cups of water and a little salt then bring it all to a boil. Reduce heat to medium - place steamer basket in 

This is what I have that works just fine
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Add squash pieces
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Cover and steam 30 minutes to almost an hour depending on the size of your squash. After 30 minutes I start poking the biggest piece with a fork to see if they are done (the constant removal of the lid is probably why mine take almost an hour)

When done - remove the pieces to let cool for a few minutes. Remove steamer basket then strain all the liquid into another large bowl or very large measuring cup - this will make it easy to add liquid as needed. 

Scrape the flesh from the skin and put back into the pot. Puree with the immersion blender adding a little liquid every few minutes - just enough to keep the mixture smooth and easy to mix. 
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Once the mixture is completely smoothed out add 1/2 cup of cream - 1 or 2 teaspoons brown sugar - 3 or 4 scrapes of fresh nutmeg - little salt and pepper then start adding the reserved liquid until you reach the desired consistency (you will probably have some liquid left over) Season to taste and serve immediately with yummy bread or homemade croutons or both.

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