Chicken Vegetable Soup with Rice

FullSizeRenderThere’s something extra comforting about chicken soup, and it’s more than just because it’s warm and savory on a cold winter day. If you make your own broth, the boiling of the chicken carcass makes it chock-full of helpful minerals, and the combination of vegetables and chicken stock give this soup anti-inflammatory properties that really DO help you get over a cold or flu. I’ve read countless articles about it. But I’ve also experienced it.

My mom taught me how to make this simple recipe, and I’ve been making it for years. Last year, when we were hosting a student from Japan, I saw it’s healing properties first hand. Poor Hana came down with strep throat while 5,000 miles from home. I felt so bad for the poor girl! We got her a shot of penicillin, and I made her a batch of chicken soup. The soup started her on the mend, and the penicillin finished the job.

A few months ago, my son Justin brought his girlfriend over when she was super sick with a cold and fever. I went into Mom-mode, and had Ashley popping Advil and sucking on cough drops while I stirred up some chicken soup. She spent the day getting hydrated and sipping soup. Again, the healing powers of chicken soup did the trick! (And that girlfriend is now his fiancée—more magical mystery powers of the soup? It may have played a part…)

This week, my friend Marylee came down with a nasty virus. I brought her a couple jars of chicken soup, and the next day she was on the mend. She told me I should post the recipe for “sick soup” and I told her I was sure I’d already posted a basic thing like chicken soup. But surprisingly, I hadn’t! So here it is. Incidentally, it’s also delicious when you’re NOT sick! 

Serves 6-8

For broth
1 rotisserie chicken
5-6 carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
Center leafy pieces of celery bunch
1 yellow onion, peeled and cut into quarters
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon celery seed
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2-3 bay leaves

For soup
6-8 cups home made chicken broth
3-4 carrots, peeled and diced
2-3 stalks celery, washed and diced
1 cup diced cooked chicken
¼ to 1/3 cup white rice, uncooked
1 teaspoon salt
Dash smoked Spanish paprika

Remove chicken from one whole cooked rotisserie chicken, reserving skin and bones. Set meat aside. Put chicken carcass and skin in Dutch oven with carrots, heart of celery, onion, salt, celery seed, pepper, and bay leaves. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce to low and let simmer for 60 minutes. Strain broth off, and discard all vegetables and chicken bone and skin.

Put 6-8 cups of chicken broth in large sauce pan or small Dutch oven. Add carrot, celery, chicken, rice, salt, and paprika. Bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer and cook for 20 minutes. Taste and add salt or other spices as necessary. Serve to your sick foreign-exchange student, friend, or your son’s future bride.

Hot Cross Buns

FullSizeRender“One a penny, two a penny, hot cross buns…” If that nursery rhyme song is your only exposure to these Easter treats, you may want to try kneading up a batch and see what everyone was singing about back in the 18th Century. This recipe isn’t quite so ancient—it came from Better Homes & Gardens New Cookbook, circa 1996.

The buns are marked with a cross as a symbol of Christ’s crucifixion, and the spices represent His embalming at burial. And as with anything with a religious bent, there’s a long, controversial history with these treats which were traditionally eaten on Good Friday to signify the end of Lent. Queen Elizabeth I, being a total killjoy, banned the sale of hot cross buns expect on Good Friday or Christmas, with punishments for ignoring her decree. Not exactly sure why they were banned…

There are other stories circulating, but they all kind of make you wonder what the fuss is about. These buns were good, but not to die for. (No Easter pun intended!)  I had trouble finding the candied diced orange peel, and ended up “shopping” in my friend Karin’s kitchen when it wasn’t in any of my area grocery stores. She had some buried in her freezer from Christmas. I wouldn’t bother hunting so extensively for this ingredient again, as it makes the bread a bit bitter. 

So why was I so desperate to make these? My sister Susan wanted to serve them for her book club babes since hot cross buns were mentioned in their selection this month. But when she looked up a recipe and saw that scary word “yeast” she called to see if I’d make them. Handy to have a food-blogging sister looking for excuses to try new recipes, isn’t it! (But yeast dough really shouldn’t be so scary, people…) I may have accidentally put a cup too much flour in these, because they were the stiffest little buns (insert joke here) I have ever made. I think the baked dough is supposed to be more light and fluffy. I may try them again, because the sweet bread with spices and currants held promise for being a pleasant pastry.

Makes 20-24 buns

4 to 4½ cups all-purpose flour
2½ active dry yeast
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
Dash ground cloves
¾ cup milk
½ cup butter
1/3 cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon salt
3 eggs (room temperature—and yes you need to do this!)
2/3 cup currants
¼ cup diced candied orange peel (optional)
1 beaten egg white plus 1 tablespoon water

Powdered Sugar Icing

1 cup powdered sugar
1-2 tablespoon milk or orange juice
¼ teaspoon vanilla

In a large mixing bowl, combine 2 cups flour, dry yeast, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. In a sauce pan, heat and stir milk, butter, sugar, and salt until butter is almost all melted. Add milk mixture to dry ingredients and stir. Add eggs one at a time, beating on low after each addition. Beat on high for 3 minutes. Add currants, and 1 cup of flour. Add flour in 1/2 cup amounts until dough no longer sticks to sides of bowl.

Turn dough onto lightly floured surface. Knead until moderately soft and elastic, about 3-5 minutes. Shape into a ball and place in greased bowl, turning once to coat. Cover with damp kitchen towel and let rise in warm place until doubled in size, about 1½ hours.

Preheat oven to 375° Fahrenheit. Punch dough down. Turn onto floured surface. Cover with dry kitchen towel and let rest 10 minutes. Divide into 20-24 pieces and shape each into a smooth ball. Place balls on greased baking sheet, a few inches apart. Cover with dry kitchen towel and let rise until nearly doubled, 45-60 minutes.

While dough is rising or baking, make frosting. Combine powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon milk, and vanilla and beat with whisk attachment. Add more milk if needed to make frosting thin enough to drizzle.

Using a sharp (serrated works best!) knife, make crisscross slashes across the top of each bun. In a small bowl, combine egg white and water. Brush across top of each bun. Bake in preheated oven for 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool slightly. Drizzle frosting into slashes in buns to form a cross. Serve warm, or cool completely and store in airtight container.

Chocolate Pasta with Pecans and Caramel Sauce

FullSizeRender-1Hey people—I’m baaaa-aaack! Not that you’ve been waiting with baited breath for the latest posting or anything…I’m well aware I’m no Pioneer Woman! Been a tad cray-cray at my new job lately (my offspring LOVE it when their 50-ish mother gets all hip with the jive talk), as I’ve been trying to update our website and didn’t have a minute to spare. Now that it’s up and running, I can get back to an occasional recipe post.

Also, I have to say, I tried several new dishes in January and February that were bombs, and I won’t share what NOT to make with you. But this unusual chocolate pasta dish from Nigella Lawson is worth trying. I’d gotten Pappardelle’s chocolate pasta from my sister Judy for Christmas, because she knows I like to try weird ingredients and new recipes, but she’d apparently forgotten I’m not doing gluten. So I served it to a group of couples who had no dietary restrictions, and they said it was delicious! It’s more rich than sweet—like the Europeans eat, not the sugar-crazed Americans. You wouldn’t eat it every day or serve in place of spaghetti and meatballs for dinner, but it was fun for something different. So, thanks Judy, for pushing my culinary buttons a little!

Serves 6

8 ounces cocoa or chocolate pasta
Pinch or two of salt
1 cup unsalted pecan nuts, roughly broken up
6 tablespoons soft unsalted butter
½ cup dark brown sugar
1 cup heavy cream, plus more (optional), to serve

Fill a pot with water to make the pasta, and heat on high. When water starts boiling, add a pinch of salt and the pasta, and cook, setting a timer for 2 minutes before the package instructions say pasta will be done. Put a medium non-stick frying pan on the stove and tumble in the pecans, then toast them over medium heat. Once you can smell the pecans toasting, remove from heat and place on a cold plate.

Stir butter and sugar together in the frying pan over low heat, until you have a hot, thick syrup. Carefully, pour in the cream. Stir, and let the caramel mixture bubble up, then add the toasted pecans and a pinch of salt. Turn off the heat.

Just before draining the pasta, dip in a cup to remove a little pasta-cooking water, then toss the drained pasta into the frying pan with the dark and nutty caramel sauce, adding a tablespoon or two of the cooking water to help coat the pasta. Stir to combine before dividing between bowls. Serve with a little extra cream in a small pitcher to pour as you eat, if you wish.