Creamy and Comforting Roasted Garlic Soup

or the enhanced healing waters of chicken stock for everyday enjoyment

This month the germs seem to have flown in on the coat tails of the standard post-holiday physical and mental collapse.  Illness has spread through the office here like an avalanche in December, no person was left behind. I thought I was going to make it through this one, as I listened to co-workers cough and complain about various stomach bugs, it seemed to be working its way out of the area.  And then BOOM!  There it was.  I was innocently watching TV on a Tuesday night when all  of a sudden I realized that I had been compromised, symptoms of a potential fever and stomach bug had slipped in when I let my guard down.  Stubborn as I am, I decided I would feel better in the morning and be able to go to work.  I was wrong. 

If you have ever had a stomach bug I know you can relate - you can only eat crackers and chicken broth for so long before you start to lose your mind.  So as my symptoms persisted and I continued on in my off kilter state I began wondering what else my body would let me keep down.   It had to be liquid, not too spicy, and still have flavor.  So, I came upon the idea of garlic soup.  Raw garlic is very potent so it might have been too harsh on my stomach, but roasted garlic would smooth out nicely and had a hint of sweetness to it.  Well, I have to tell you - it was definitely a winner.  For us this recipe is a keeper, not just for sick days but also as a side with dinner with crusty bread or reheated for lunch (it is really amazing the next day).  So now I bring it to the table to share with you, now that I am happily in a fully recovered state, I hope you enjoy!

For the love of the garlic -

2 large whole heads garlic
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
To bring it all together, everything else you'll need -
4 tbsp unsalted butter
4 tbsp flour
4 cups chicken stock
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1 cup heavy cream
1 tsp kosher salt

Hardware: aluminum foil, soup pot

1. Cut the tops off the garlic heads just to expose the tops of all of the bulbs. Place in a sheet of aluminum foil and drizzle tops with olive oil, salt and pepper.

2. Close the foil around them in a sort of packet, leaving some space between the tops and the foil, and place in the oven at 350 degrees F.  Roast until soft and fragrant, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Remove, allow to cool, and squeeze out the garlic into a bowl.

3. In a large, heavy soup pot over medium-high heat melt the butter, add the roasted garlic, and cook for about 5 minutes. Gradually add in the flour and cook until a dark golden roux is achieved, stirring constantly.

4. Next add 1 cup chicken stock, stir well to combine, and repeat until all the chicken stock has been added. Add the Italian seasoning, remaining salt, and stir until consistent throughout. Bring to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes.

5. Slowly add in the cream, cook for 10 minutes more at a very low simmer stirring occasionally. Adjust the seasoning, if needed and serve with crusty bread.


Chicken Nostalgia

Or - Soul Quenchingly Moist Roasted Chicken

Ah, those mouth watering aromas filing the air - somehow not as quite comforting if you worked your butt off all day in the kitchen to make it happen.  Wouldn't it be lovely to just walk in the door after work and have it all there waiting for you?  Impossible you say?  No money for a maid or personal chef?  No worries, I most definitely do not have those in my future either, but what I do have is a delicious roast chicken waiting for me to add the finishing touches to when I get home.  One thing you will need to make this wonderful dinner work is a "delay" cook option on your oven or someone that gets home before you to turn the oven on, since it can be easily prepped and ready to cook in the morning or the night before.  If you are stranded with neither of these options then it may best be saved for a weekend meal, but that does not make it in the least bit less satisfying.  Prepping the chicken can almost be a soothing process in itself, so let's get started!

Other essentials for delicious chicken (aka ingredients):

1 whole roaster chicken (6-7 lbs)
4 tsp minced garlic
2 tbsp olive oil
2 small white onions
2 cups chicken stock
salt & pepper (Sea salt is wonderful in this dish)
aluminum foil

Hardware: roasting pan or disposable aluminum deep baking pan (if at all possible using these once in a while makes clean-up a breeze and doesn't interfere with pure chicken enjoyment)

1. Prep the chicken by removing any giblets/organs/neck and rinse thoroughly.

2. Line a roasting pan with aluminum foil (if not using disposable) and spray with non-stick cooking spray. Lay the bird on its back in the pan tucking the wings up over the shoulders so it lounges comfortably in the pan.

3. Gently separate the skin from the bird at the bottom by carefully moving your fingertips up to create a small amount of space as far up as you can without tearing the skin, leave three of the four seams attached. Rub 1 tsp of minced garlic in between the skin and flesh of each breast.

4. Tie the legs together with kitchen twine, a cooking band twisted into a figure 8, or use toothpicks to secure them to the breast area (but if doing this be careful not to split the wood, splinters are not so pleasant for you or the bird). Season the outside with the remaining minced garlic, salt, and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil, massaging the spices into the skin.  If you are not feeling particularly compassionate towards your bird you could also simply sprinkle with seasonings and spray with olive oil cooking spray (we won't judge you, not everyone likes get this up close and personal with their dinner).

5. Cut the onions into quarters and nestle around the edges of the bird kind of propping it up a bit while it lounges. Pour the chicken stock into the pan so that it comes up around the bird on all sides (if putting on time bake you'll want to use frozen stock or add a few ice cubes to keep it cold).

6. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil so that the liquid does not escape while cooking. Place in oven and and set "delay" cook to have the chicken ready when you get home, initial time to cook is 1 hour and 15 minutes at 375°.

7. Remove the pan from the oven and discard the aluminum foil that was covering the chicken. Increase the oven temperature to 450°. Baste the chicken with the juices from the pan (optional but helps if you are worried about moistness, you don't have to worry with this recipe, but a little basting won't hurt if it gives you peace of mind) then return to the oven to continue to cook until the skin is golden and the internal temperature is at least 160°

8. Remove the now golden chicken from oven and allow to set for ten minutes before carving.

And there it is!  Easy, quick prep and a delicious roast chicken dinner.  Toss a couple of potatoes in to bake when you put the chicken in and you don't even have to worry about sides.  If you remove the chunks of onions and heat on a burner you can easily make a chicken gravy from the pan juices by adding a few extra spices and then slowly mixing in cornstarch and water (premixed together) until desired thickness, just remember to give it time before adding too much since it does take a few minutes to thicken.  I find the comfort food factor definitely goes up by completing this step and then pouring it over the chicken and potatoes, but everyone is different and it may not be your cup of tea.

When eating for one this can be a great recipe to have leftovers for lunches or dinners later in the week, making it an even more stress reducing option.  Another bonus - make great chicken stock from the bones and leftover onions - just add these with water, salt, other leftover veggies like celery and carrots, and simmer for a couple hours before straining and storing in the fridge or freezer.

As you can see, I am anxiously awaiting my lunch leftovers from this so I will not keep you any longer.  Until we meet again I wish you comforting foods and peace of mind, take care and as always - enjoy!


Taking a step back...

.. and looking around.

There were so many things happening in 2010 that sometimes it becomes hard to wrap my head around it all.  It's hard to believe, really, the changes that have come in so many areas of my life.  The stress was, at times, oppressing.  The blissful moments were uplifting.  And it was everything in between tied it all together.  There are always rough times, there are always joyful times, but the key is to take each for what it is worth and move on because time always will.  One of my favorite poems ("If" by Rudyard Kipling) highlights this motivation quite well "If you can meet with triumph and disaster, And treat those two impostors just the same."  Challenging to do, no doubt, but it is still something to strive for as it is a goal that can rarely be met with any consistency without a concerted effort.  I will keep trying...

Keeping in the spirit of cooking and growth, I thought I'd share with you a few of the new things that have come my way in 2010 that have shaped my world of food, with a simple recipe tossed in for good measure:

  • I began taking cooking classes each month at Filippa's Wine Barrel with their head chef.  It is a wonderful program that both inspires my cooking and relaxes my mind.  What better way to spend a Monday evening after work then enjoying a drink and a delicious meal while learning via demonstration and recipe guides how to make all kinds of new foods?
  • I went on a culinary adventure with one of my good friends to the West side of the state to enjoy a "Cooking Weekend" through Learning Great Foods.  We spent the weekend with a small group (6-8 people) and went on tours of local farms, took classes from area chefs, visited a co-op market, and enjoyed wonderful food grown locally paired with wine/beer and prepared at a fantastic restaurant.  The entire weekend was inspiring and the immersion in the locally grown food movement was amazing.  After harvesting the ingredients for a meal that we helped to prepare at one of the small farms I found my palette expanding greatly as I enjoyed many foods at their peak of freshness that I normally would dislike.  Definitely an experience that I hope to have the opportunity to repeat soon.

After the cooking weekend, I grew to love Swiss Chard.  This past Summer was the first time I ever really got into sauteing any type of leafy greens, and I have to tell you - I am hooked! 

Here's a quick recipe that is so simple it can hardly be structured:

Saute diced bacon and sliced onions in a heavy skillet.  Once the bacon is crisp and the onions are translucent add some fresh minced garlic and stir to combine.  Let sizzle for a minute or so, continuously stirring.  Toss in some oyster mushrooms, thinly sliced, and asparagus and saute for a few minutes.  Add the freshly rinsed, and shaken dry, Swiss Chard (sliced into strips before adding).  Continue to saute until the greens become brighter and slightly wilted.  Top with grated Parmesan Romano and serve hot alongside broiled fish or a nice steak.

  • I dove head first into home canning.  I had played around with it before, and always did some canning of jam with my mom growing up, but this year it really took off.  Making everything from marinara sauce to pickles to salsa, my passion continued to grow.  Now with my new pressure canner that I received for Christmas I only see good things in the future for home preserving in my life.
  • I spent almost every Sunday at the local Farmers' Market searching for new foods to try and buying about half our groceries at the same time.  As a result we have now had successful encounters with: patty pan squash, brussel sprouts, zucchini, sweet potatoes, and butternut squash.  Many of these recipes will be coming to the blog in the upcoming months.
  • I joined the start up board for Warren Community Gardens and now serve as the board Secretary.  We successfully set up our first site and had an amazing season.  The bountiful harvest contributed food to many in the community, both those who worked it and those in need.  A wonderful movement that I am happy to be a part of as it grows into a full non-profit this year.
  • I more boldly entered into the realm of baking, an area that had for a long time intimidated me.  I found ways to play with the ingredients without destroying the results and learned through trial and error how to balance baking powder and baking soda, though my first attempt during this process of apple brownies turned into more of an apple coffee cake (delicious none the less).
  • I successfully began this blog and kept it moving for 6 months!  It was a rocky start at the inception, but once I got moving I could hardly stop.  I hope that you are enjoying my adventures here as much as I am, and that these recipes have helped to bring a bit of peace of mind to your days as they have to mine.
With so many things that have come and gone, and so many that grew with me over the year, I'm sure there are quite a few that have not made it into this post.  It is not intentional neglect, and it does not mean they were any less influential in my life, but my memory tests me at times and stress during various periods can cloud the events that surround it.  I hope that you have enjoyed the journey that my food has taken in 2010 and will stick with me as it continues to grow in upcoming year.  I certainly look forward to your visits and can't wait to share more delicious foods that hopefully help to in some way bring you even a touch of peace of mind, whether it's through preparation or flavors.  Never stop being inspired and I'll be there right alongside you.  So let's raise a glass to 2010 and drink to the year to come *clink, clink*


The City 2-Step Chicken Pot Pie

or a marriage of methods, crockpot to oven, slow cooker comfort food at its best.

I'm a sucker for a good homestyle meal, this should come as no surprise considering my recent focus on comfort food here on the blog, but I don't always have time to put the necessary care into making some of these heart warming dishes.  In fact, as a result of our busy schedules with work and other activities there are some that only make it to our table once every few years.  A travesty, I know.  So how can these long neglected meals be made accessible on a more regular basis?  This quandary has puzzled me for some time, and unable to tackle all of these such meals at once I decided to focus first on one in particular that my husband has been *somewhat* patiently been asking for - chicken pot pie. 

Now I am generally too worn out at the end of the day between work, the wintry weather, and the shorter periods of daylight to put the energy into a meal like this.  I have made a couple different versions in the past, my favorite of which was Chicken and Dumplings Pot Pie, but I never really enjoyed a lot of the recipes that I came across that offered typical time saving "short cuts."  They just lacked a richness and depth of flavor that I expect from chicken pot pie.  So I began to consider ways to get that same flavor without all the hands on time, naturally I settled on my slow cooker.  I have relied on my trusty slow cooker to bring together the delicious flavors of chili, soups, honey ginger chicken, and even creamy chicken scampi, so why not chicken pot pie?  The obvious obstacle was the topping, it simply won't crisp while the pie is cooking.  So the finish takes a little extra love, good food is worth it (particularly when it means only 20 extra minutes of attention at the end of the day) and your oven and slow cooker will work together to bring this homestyle dish to your table any day of the week. 

Here's where we begin: the essentials

6-8 chicken tender
4 cups chicken stock
8 oz frozen corn
8 oz frozen broccoli
8 oz frozen green beans
1/2 cup carrots, medium dice
1/2 cup celery, diced small
3 tbsp dried minced onion
1 tsp each: garlic powder, dried parsley, celery salt, house spice blend

1 can condensed cream of chicken soup
2/3 cup milk
3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp flour

2 cups baking mix (I use James Beard's basic recipe or a ready made mix, i.e. Bisquick)
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 tsp each: ground Rosemary, dried parsley, garlic powder, kosher salt

Hardware: slow cooker/crockpot, 6 individual or 1 large baking dish
View full recipe
1. Add the chicken stock to the slow cooker, stir in the fresh vegetables and spices.

2. Cut chicken tenders into 1" pieces and add to the slow cooker, stir to combine.  Then add the frozen vegetables and mix well.  Turn to low and cook, covered, for 6-8 hours.

3. Stir in the condensed soup and turn the slow cooker to high.  Melt the butter in a pan and stir in the flour to create a golden roux (paste-like consistency).  Stir or whisk the milk into the roux slowly then mix into the pie filling until well blended.  It may take a few seconds to get it fully incorporated but it will thicken up the filling nicely and is definitely worth the effort.  Allow the mixture to continue to cook while preparing the biscuit tops.

4. For the biscuit tops - combine the baking mix, spices, and cheese.  Then stir in the milk until a sticky dough forms. 

5. Pour the pie filling into either a large baking dish or 6 individual serving sized baking dishes.  Drop the biscuit mix in a thin layer over the filling, too heavy of drops will sink too much so watch it as you go at the beginning so that you can get the feel for how much to use.  Don't worry if the first few sink, it will just create a dumpling style filling in that spot, which I personally enjoy, just add a touch more on top so some of it is showing.

7. For any remaining mix - drop tablespoon sized biscuits onto a greased or parchment covered baking sheet and place in the oven with the chicken pot pie.  Bake at 450 F for 10 min or until the biscuit tops start to turn golden on the peaks.

Let the pot pie sit for a few minutes before serving to cool a bit and settle.  Scoop into bowl if using one large dish and serve along side any biscuits that were made with the remaining dough.  I prefer to leave some of the pot pie filling in the slow cooker to have for lunch with the extra biscuits, that way when you reheat it the topping won't be there to get soggy but you'll still have those delicious biscuit to eat along side or to break up and drop on top once hot.  You may want to add to the seasoning a bit to your preference, just taste it and make adjustments before pouring it into the baking dish. 

I consider this more of a "city" version of the dish because of the use of frozen vegetables and the slow cooker factor, you can certainly use fresh vegetables instead but it will take considerably more time to prep.  Look at that dish, how can you say no to that crispy golden goodness resting a top such a rich creamy center?  Admit it, you can't.  Even if you've shied away from chicken pot pie in the past I suggest taking on this simple version for yourself, who knows?  Maybe you'll come around...  Give it a try, add your own little twists, and as always - enjoy!


A Trio of Trifles

or praise inspiring quick and easy desserts to boost your ego without bursting your wallet.

"I've made a resolution not to destroy my ego or self-esteem by declaring any New Year's resolutions.  I usually break them within a week, so I decided to give up on them"  - Frank Sheridan, Irish Consul

I'll keep this short and sweet, like these desserts, since the end of the year has taken its toll on my cognitive processes (as I'm sure many of you have experienced as well).  What I bring to the table today is a delicious dessert that requires no baking, limited financial investment, and minimal mental focus.  What more could you ask for?  Sounds like a pretty good deal to me.  And the icing on the cake - so to speak - is that people will "oooo" and "aaaa" over your tasty and impressively decorative treat, never knowing how easy and affordable it really is to make.  Don't worry, I won't tell.  So go ahead, show off your hidden dessert talent, and bring one of these delightful dishes to your next gathering. 

Caution - the author of this blog is not responsible for any resulting over-indulging that may take place.  If you are the "New Year's Resolution" type you may want to wait until you've broken it before attempting these desserts at home.  Don't say I didn't warn you...

Angel Berry Trifle
  • 1 Angel Food Cake
  • 1 carton of fresh strawberries, sliced
  • 3 bananas, sliced
  • 2 boxes of instant custard
  • 1 large tub of whipped cream

Panettone Holiday Trifle
  • 1/2 Panettone
  • Dried apricots
  • Golden raisins
  • 1 cup amaretto or other similar liquor
  • 2 boxes of instant custard
  • 1 large tub of whipped cream

Strawberry Delight Trifle
  • 1/2 Angel Food Cake
  • 1 small container of frozen sliced strawberries, thawed
  • 1/2 bag frozen sweet cherries, thawed
  • 1 large box of instant pudding, cheesecake flavored
  • 1 large tub of whipped cream

First select which ingredient list you would like to work with or develop your own combination of cake/sweet bread, pudding, and fruit.

1. Slice the angel food cake or panettone into cubes that could reasonably be one or two spoonfuls in size.  For the first layer, cover the bottom of the dish with "cake."  You'll want to make sure there are no gaps, it is done in a single layer if possible, half of the "cake" is used, and that it presses up firmly against the outside of the clear bowl. 

2. Make the pudding or custard of your choice and allow it to cool to at least room temperature.  Pour half of the mixture over the first layer and spread it out evenly, again making sure that it covers completely and comes to the edges of the bowl.

3. The third layer is a little less then half of the fruit.  Arrange around the outside edges first to create a pattern along the glass.  Then fill in the center, scattering the fruit around so that there is some in each scoop.
* If using dried fruit reconstitute by bringing to a boil in the liquor, turning off the heat and allowing it to sit for about 30 min, remove and chill until room temperature, drain liquid before using.

4. Now half of the whipped cream is spread evenly in a thick layer over the fruit.  At this point you should be able to see four distinct layers forming a pattern along the edge of the bowl.

5. Repeat the layers again, starting with the "cake," remembering to reserve a small amount of the fruit for the top if desired.  Once the second layer of whipped cream is in place, use the reserved fruit to make a design on top.  This will not work well if the fruit is frozen, but fresh or dried turns out quite lovely.

6.  Chill for at least 3-4 hours before serving, this can even be made the night before if using panettone or other heavier sweet breads/cakes.  It can then be taken out and kept in the center of the table as a centerpiece or among other desserts until served.