Spring Snow Storm

Wednesday we got what I hope will be out last snow day of the season.  We ended up with 14″ of the white stuff.  The hubby was traveling, of course, so it meant shoveling and snow blowing were my responsibility.  I decided if I was going to have to brave the cold, wet snow, I needed sustenance so I made myself a pot of Pennsylvania Chicken Pot Pie.

pot pie

Seriously, a big pot of homemade chicken soup with fat, pillowy homemade noodles…. YUP, it was exactly what I needed.  In fact, it was so good I ate it for lunch AND dinner.  I figured I had used up enough calories shoveling the deck multiple times and then running the snow blower.

My favorite part of a spring snow storm….it never lasts long.  Snow is already starting to melt.  Come on SPRING!  I need sunshine and warmer temperatures.

Snow, snow, go A WAY!

I had the day off last Friday and boy was I glad to be at home. We had a lovely nor’easter that knocked out power to many folks in the area.  We were EXTREMELY lucky, we lost power a total of five times on Friday and only for a total of about 6 hours. After talking with friends and co workers, who are having to throw away the contents of their refrigerators and freezers, not to mention dressing in four layers of clothing to stay warm, I know we dodged a huge bullet.

We had concert tickets for Friday night, I was a bit concerned that the venue wouldn’t have power, but they did, the roads weren’t too too bad, so we left early and made the trek to Reading, PA.  Reading was spared, they didn’t even have snow on the ground.  The wind, however, was FIERCE! We got there early and had a nice dinner before the show.  The concert was fantastic and we got home around midnight.

I had to be at work very early Saturday morning and my event wasn’t supposed to be over until 6pm, making for a very long day on barely any sleep.  Before our power went out on Friday I had decided to make a batch of soup for dinner on Saturday night, I figured it would be so easy to just have to ladle soup into a pot and heat it up.

The hubby is a huge fan of hot italian sausage, so I started with that.  I browned the sausage, added onions, a ton of sliced carrots, a can of diced tomatoes, and two small zucchini. I added in eight cups of chicken stock, brought it to a boil, partially covered the pot and turned it to a simmer.  After 45 minutes, I added a bag of baby spinach and two cans of white beans, then turned the burner off and let it cool down.

Saturday afternoon was a bit of a bear to get home.  All of the side roads I take were blocked by downed trees or wires so I, along with everyone else, were forced onto the main highways.  A trip that normally takes me an hour, took two and a half.  I was doubly grateful that I had planned ahead for our dinner.  When I finally made it in the door at 8:30pm, the hubby had cooked off the noodles and heated up the soup.  He had already eaten early in the evening and was nice enough to do all of the dishes while I ate my dinner. I should have taken a photo but I was just way too hungry!  Believe me when I tell you, it turned out awesome and I was a very, very happy girl.

Chicken Pot Pie

There is a lot going on at work right now, added to being a department of one, I find myself craving comfort foods.  Thankfully, winter allows me to make one of my absolute favorite comfort meals of all time.  Pennsylvania Dutch Chicken Pot Pie.  It is basically a bare bones chicken soup with homemade noodles.

You are supposed to take a whole chicken, put it in a pot, cover it with water and cook it for three hours to make the broth. You remove the chicken, let it cool, remove the meat, put it back in the pot and add the homemade noodles.  Not a bad recipe, for sure, but a bit boring and certainly not how I make it!

I start by dicing up celery, onions, and carrots.  I add them to a stock pot, along with parsley stems, a bay leaf, some fresh thyme, peppercorns, and chicken thighs and legs, bone in, skin off.   I also add the bones from several chicken breasts to the pot, leaving the flesh off to the side for now.

I cook the broth for three hours, then strain and let cool.  I degrease the stock and start the soup.

Carrots, onions, and celery are diced and sauteed in the bottom of a very large stock pot.  Seasoned with a bit of salt and pepper.  Once the vegetables have softened, I add the stock and the boneless, skinless chicken breasts.  I poach the breasts until done, pull them out and shred the meat and add it back to the pot.

While the breasts are poaching, I make the noodles – flour, egg, parsley, salt, baking powder, and crisco.  They are rolled out, cut, and left on the counter to wait their turn.

Once the vegetables are fully cooked, I bring the broth to a boil and start dropping in the noodles.  I let them cook, simmering for approximately 45 minutes, until they are cooked through.  All that’s left to do is ladle it into a nice big bowl and DIG IN!chx pot pie

The process of making this dish is almost as comforting to me as eating it.  Exactly what I need to relieve the stress of my job.

Minestrone

The hubby and I are both soup lovers and whenever I have a day off from Fall until early Spring, you can usually find a pot of soup on the stove.

I ended up being off on Sunday, because the event that was SUPPOSED to take place was postponed so that the attendees could all stay home and watch the Eagles in the Super Bowl.  Gotta love a town that puts football before all else! Anyway, the weather was yucky, snow, followed by sleet, and I decided we needed a warm, comforting bowl of soup.

One of the things I love about soup is that you can add a ton more veggies than the recipe calls for and no one (OK, in this house, my husband) is none the wiser!  I will get that man to eat more veggies if it is the last thing I do….

minestrone

Since we just came off a month of vegetarian meals, I decided not to torture him with a vegetarian soup, so I added a pound of ground hot italian sausage to the soup pot.

sausage

I started by sauteing my mirepoix (diced onion, carrot, and celery) in the stock pot.  I added a bit of salt, pepper, and oregano and let that cook for about 10 minutes while I finished prepping the rest of the vegetables.   I diced up two zucchini and a pound of green beans.  I minced four cloves of garlic.  One the onions, carrots, celery were tender, I added the garlic and four cups of chicken broth.  I brought the broth to boil, turned it down to a simmer and let it cook for twenty minutes.  I added in a 28 oz can of diced tomatoes, the zucchini and green beans, along with a can of drained and rinsed kidney beans and a can of drained and rinsed white beans.  In went the browned sausage and another four cups of broth.

After simmering on the stove for an hour, I added four cups of fresh spinach.  While the spinach cooked down, I cooked a box of orecchiette pasta.  I added pasta to the bottom of our bowls and added a ladle of soup.  Perfect mid winter meal, if I do say so myself!  AND it will give me lunch for a few days this week.

It wasn’t as hard as I expected

To get through the month of January without meat, sweets, or alcohol.  Honestly, I expected to miss having a glass of wine at the end of a long week, but it was meat that I missed the most.  I have always wondered if I could ever be a full time vegetarian, since I eat vegetarian meals quite a bit when the hubby travels.  This month proved to me, that yes, it is possible, but it wouldn’t make me happy.

This was a great experiment, it gave me a bunch of new recipes that we can use during Lent.  It was reinforced for me that I DO HAVE incredible will power.  I feel healthier, the scale certainly agrees that this has been a  worthwhile endeavor.  Will I try this again next year, probably.  Although the hubby is lobbying for February….well…until I mentioned that he wouldn’t be able to have a beer during the Super Bowl.  He is rethinking that plan as we speak.

Will we still eat vegetarian meals, you bet!  Will I have an easier time convincing the husband that it is OK to eat vegetarian once a week, maybe.  It was nice to step outside our normal, to stretch my creative muscle to find dinners that would satisfy us both AND still be vegetarian.  Sometimes you need to try something new to truly appreciate the everyday.

To finish out the month, I made a batch of broccoli cheddar soup to have for lunch – it was AWESOME. Thankfully, the hubby has never objected to a vegetarian soup…of course, he prefers to have a meat sandwich alongside!

broc cheddar soup

Lentil Soup

A dear friend and her wife recently welcomed a beautiful baby girl to their family.  The new parents are sleep deprived, terrified, and blissfully happy….all at the same time.  Both Laura and her wife are vegetarians.  I wanted to make them something to nourish their bodies while they are navigating the wonderful, and sometimes overwhelming world of parenting.   The Daily Soup cookbook has an amazing Lentil soup recipe.  I have made it many, many times, and it never disappoints.

lentil soup

I will freely admit, it isn’t much to look at but my oh my is the flavor amazing!  You start by sweating onions, leeks, and celery in butter with a little salt and pepper until they begin to soften.   You add fresh rosemary, a little cayenne pepper, and a can of diced tomatoes.  Pour in a pound of lentils and eight cups of vegetable stock.  Turn it up to a boil, cover, lower the heat to a simmer, and cook for 40 minutes until the vegetables and lentils are cooked.

While that is happening, you take 7 cloves of garlic, yes, I said 7 cloves of garlic and cook them in three cups of heavy cream.  Just a gentle simmer.  After about twenty minutes, you puree the garlic mixture in a blender.  When the soup is done, you pour in the cream and let it cook for an additional minute.  The cream and garlic become so mellow and sweet, it really takes a simple lentil soup to the next level.  It is one of my favorite soups.

I plan on making a loaf of bread to go along with the soup and possibly a dessert (they aren’t big sweet eaters), and dropping it off to Laura.  I figure it gives me a chance to sneak in a little baby time while the parents enjoy a nice, warm, comforting bowl of soup. I think we both win in this situation, and I am totally on board with that!

Happy New Year!

My goodness, 2017 was one for the record books.  I had no intention of taking a break from writing this blog, work kinda consumed my life.  Well – NO MORE!  I truly enjoy writing this blog and I refuse to allow my work life to be my only priority.  Anyway, enough about work – we need to be talking about FOOD.

2017 ended with both the hubby and I feeling under the weather.  I decided we needed delicious and healthy food to get us back on track.  Since that didn’t work, I tried bacon and guess what – it WORKED!

NYE Breakfast

After that hearty breakfast, we had a light lunch of leftover soup (you know the thing that was supposed to cure what ails me….)

chicken barley soup

I took a picture while I was cooking.  I love the colors in this photo and man did it taste amazing.  I joke that it didn’t cure me, but it certainly made me feel better, what more can you ask for when your head feels like it is stuffed with cotton?

Anyway, I was originally going to cook veal chops on the grill for our New Year’s Eve dinner, but the temperature was hovering around 5 degrees and I was afraid the grill wouldn’t get hot enough.  I decided to stuff chicken breasts with spinach and cheese and bake them in the oven.  Good choice – if I do say so myself!

Spinach Stuffed Chicken Breasts

They turned out better than I expected.  I used a 10 oz box of frozen spinach, defrosted and drained.  To that I added a container of Boursin Garlic and Herb Cheese.  I cut a pocket in the chicken and stuffed them with the spinach mixture.   I seasoned the chicken with salt, pepper, and lemon zest.  After browning them in a cast iron skillet, I slide them in the oven to finish cooking.   Dinner was a simple affair – French Onion Soup, Spinach Stuffed Chicken Breasts, and Baked Potatoes.  For dessert, I whipped up a Maple Pear Upside Down Cake – it was amazing!  I found the recipe in the New York Times https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1012862-maple-pear-upside-down-cake 

Maple Pear Upside Down Cake

I highly recommend making it if you have the time. Well, that was our New Year’s Eve – I can’t wait to see what 2018 brings.  Happy 2018!