chicken soup (a.k.a. flu season soup)

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When my mom was very, very sick from surgeries and chemo, my Aunt Johanna would make her this tummy-warming, cure-all soup. Most days it was the only thing my mom wanted, and the only thing she could keep down. Now that she is a stage 4 cancer survivor (!!!), we still make this soup when anyone is ailing. A cold, the flu, even the slightest sniffle is enough excuse for me to whip up a huge batch of this comforting soup.

In part, that’s where my belief in food as comfort came from (no, I’m not talking about emotional eating…though I have been known to make these cookies at the end of a bad day!) Watching my mom perk up when she ate something she liked (and at that point, eating anything at all) was a beautiful moment to witness. Food was just as healing as medicine. And nowadays, if someone is sick, or has had a new baby, or has suffered a loss, I firmly believe that bringing them a hot meal can make all the difference. If not the food itself, it’s the thought. A Pyrex full of warm soup says I’m thinking about you more than a card or a gift ever could.

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When my little girls have stuffy noses and don’t have much appetite, they’ll still inhale steaming bowls of this soup. But best of all, it takes very little time to make. When you’re caring for someone else, you don’t have time to make everything (or anything!) from scratch. But this soup begins with a store-bought mix, a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken, and fresh veggies. All you need to do is throw everything in the pot and let it simmer. It’s not some secret brilliant recipe. But the results taste like it.

Another thing: it isn’t a brothy soup like something from a can. It’s thick and rich, chock-full of egg noodles, chunks of chicken, carrots and celery. If your patient needs nourishment, it’s all inside the bowl. You can tweak it as you like, adding different vegetables, more or less noodles, a bit of extra chicken stock. Make it the way your family likes it. And then sit back, turn on a movie, and settle in with your sick little patients and a warm bowl of homemade chicken soup.

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Chicken Soup (a.k.a. flu season soup)                                   Printable Chicken Soup

This soup is a creation of my Aunt Johanna. She’s a wonderful cook, and is quick to whip up a batch whenever someone is sick. To double the batch, use 2 packages of soup mix and more stock as needed. Freezes beautifully in Ziploc bags!  

Serves 8-12

  • 1 package Mrs. Grass Homestyle Chicken Noodle Soup mix (available at Kroger stores or online at Amazon)
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 package (6 oz.) egg noodles (add the full package if you like thicker soup with lots of noodles…I do!)
  • 1 pre-cooked rotisserie chicken, skin discarded, shredded or chopped
  • 1 package baby carrots
  • 6 stalks celery, rinsed and chopped
  • 1/2 tsp garlic salt
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • fresh ground pepper to taste

1. Bring soup mix, water (Mrs. Grass mix calls for 8 cups), and chicken broth to a boil in a large pot. Add noodles and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until noodles are cooked, 10-12 minutes or according to the time instructed on your package of noodles.

2. Add chicken, celery, carrots, salts and pepper. Stir and let simmer (covered) an additional 20 minutes. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed. Serve with a hunk of crusty bread for dipping.

kalua pork sliders

I was having one of those days where I wanted to buy a whole pig, dig a pit in my backyard, and just roast the crap out of the damn thing Luau-style. But a couple of things stood in my way: 1) I don’t actually know where to get an entire pig at the drop of a hat. Head? Sure. Feet? No problem. But the whole beast? I think I’d have to order it. Or drive outside the city. Which I don’t like to do on the weekends (Seattle traffic is a bitch).

2) If I came home with a pig carcass my animal-loving 3 year-old would name it, put a leash on it, and try to walk it around the yard. Mommy, why are you burying Puffaluff? Over a bed of hot coals? Oh, Mommy whyyyyyy????!!!!!! I can’t afford the therapy. 3) I live adjacent to the fire department. Quite literally. And with my luck, the boys (and girl–there is one) would be lured over the fence by the smell of roasting swine and write me some sort of citation for, I don’t know, an illegal animal roast.

So I nixed the whole pig idea and settled for a 4-pound roast and this lovely recipe from La Fuji Mama. It has all the flavor of that slow-roasted Hawaiian pork, but you don’t have to locate a whole swine, scar your daughter for life, or burn your house down to get it.

Hawaiian red and black sea salts (available at better grocers or spice markets; I bought mine in bulk for about $1.25 total) lend an earthy flavor, while liquid smoke (usually on the aisle near the BBQ sauce) substitues for the pit and charcoal. I downsized to a 4-pound roast (the recipe calls for 5-6), and it fed six of us with lots of leftovers.

Prick the roast all over with the tip of a sharp knife…

…and rub with the red and black sea salts. It will look super attractive.

Cook on low for 10 hours with a dash of liquid smoke, and that’s it!

Shred.

Take a picture of Charlie, because she spies the camera and is saying “cheeeeeeeese!”

Take a better picture of Charlie.

For a casual dinner party we piled the pork on soft slider buns with good coleslaw. Everyone went back for seconds. And thirds. And the best part? The pork took no time at all to make, so I could sit back, relax, and plot where to dig my pig-roasting hole.

-RDG

 

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Kalua Pork Sliders quantities and times adjusted from La Fuji Mama’s fabulous recipe 

Serves 8

  •  4 lb pork shoulder (butt) roast
  • 1 tbsp red hawaiian sea salt
  • 1 tbsp black hawaiian sea salt
  • 1 tbsp liquid smoke
  • slider buns (I like King’s Hawaiian)
  • good slaw, for topping
1. Rinse pork roast and pat dry. Prick all over with the tip of a sharp knife. Rub with salts.
2. Place roast in slow cooker , pour liquid smoke over the meat, cover and cook on low for 10 hours (you may be able to cook it longer, depending on how “low” your lowest setting is on your slow cooker).
3. Discard 1/3 to 1/2 the juices and shred the meat with two forks, tossing with the rest of the juices (if you later chill the shredded meat without discarding some of the fat, you’ll find the solidified fat hard to pick around).
4. Pile slider buns high with pork and top with slaw. Enjoy!

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cookie dough truffles, and a giveaway!

One of my favorite bloggers, Lindsay Landis of Love and Olive Oil, has come out with a gorgeous cookbook.

It’s entirely about cookie dough! No more sneaking naughty tastes of raw egg dough straight from the bowl: Lindsay’s recipes are egg-free, so there’s no guilt.

You can make dreamy concoctions like cookie dough cheesecake…

Mexican chocolate cookie dough tartlets…

Cookie dough ice cream sandwiches…

And cookie dough layer cake, for a special someone’s birthday.

I was most intrigued by her recipe for chocolate chip cookie dough truffles, so I gave them a go. All you do is mix up a quick, egg-free chocolate chip cookie dough…

Form into balls and dip in chocolate (I decided to make them into pops–it made them easier to dip and fun to eat)…

And swoon. Cookie dough wrapped in chocolate? Dude. This lady is genius.

The best part about her new cookbook? You can win it. Right here, right now.

To enter, just leave me a confession in the comments: do you eat raw cookie dough? Me: yes. Always. With a spoon. Or a finger. Or a spoon and a finger. And the winner is: MeganM . Congrats, Megan! I’ll be emailing you for your address soon.

The fine print: U.S. Addresses only. One entry per person. I’ll announce the winner a week from today (monday, June 11). Good luck! 

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Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles from The Cookie Dough Lover’s Cookbook by Lindsay Landis

Makes: 30 to 40 truffles  Active Time: 1 hour   Total Time: 2 hours

For Cookie Dough:

  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 tablespoons milk or cream
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup mini semisweet chocolate chips

For Chocolate Coating:

  • 8 ounces dark-chocolate candy coating

In a large bowl, beat butter and sugars with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Mix in milk and vanilla. Stir in flour and salt and mix on low speed (or by hand) until incorporated. Stir in chocolate chips. Cover and chill dough for 30 minutes or until firm enough to handle.

Form dough into 1-inch balls and arrange them on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Place sheets in freezer for at least 15 minutes. Meanwhile, melt chocolate candy coating in a double boiler or microwave according to package directions, being careful not to overheat it. Using a fork or dipping tool, dip truffles one at a time in candy coating to cover. Tap fork on the edge of the bowl to shake off excess coating, and return truffles to baking sheets to set. If you have any leftover coating, transfer it to a piping bag or squeeze bottle fitted with a small round tip and pipe decorative lines over top of truffles—or simply drizzle coating with a fork for an abstract finish.

Refrigerated in airtight container, truffles will keep for up to 1 week, though I dare you to make them last that long.

the organic dilemma

Probably like many of you, I shop according to sales. Buy one get one free? Sign me up. Grapes for $0.99/lb? Heck yes. 10 for $10? I just peed myself a little bit.

But that being said, I won’t buy just anything. I stay mostly away from pre-packaged stuff, unless it’s healthy-ish snacks for the kids to stash in my purse on the go. There are items where I go full-hippie: cage-free, hormone-free eggs, humanely-raised, organic meat and poultry, wild-caught seafood, milk, etc. There are foods where I’m willing to compromise and go non-organic when the price is right (strawberries, grapes, certain new-crop apples, and some other fruits and veggies, but not all).

At certain points in my life when I’ve insisted on walking to the grocery store and wearing crystal deodorant (which does in no way, shape or form deodorize anything, in case you were wondering. I’m sorry if you were in my company during that phase.), I’ve splurged and gone full organic on everything. And what I’ve found, I’m sorry to say, is that it’s not always worth it. I don’t know the science behind organic farming, but I’m fairly sure that the chemicals that could scare a Deadhead away from a reunion show are there partially for pest control and partially to preserve produce from farm to table. I can count on five hands the number of times I’ve spent double digits on organic fruits and vegetables only to find them spoiled the very next day in my crisper.

This blog post began seeding in my brain when I was out in the garden planting grape starts. Once I had them in the ground, surrounded by organic compost and ready to grow away on their hand built trellis, I needed a way to feed them. The only thing I had in the garage was scary-looking Miracle Grow crystalized all-purpose plant food, which is dyed a shocking electric blue. I use it to feed my potted flowers. Although the package insisted it could be used for fruits and vegetables, there was no way I was going to put that stuff on grapes I was eventually going to eat.

But the very same day I went to the market and purchased a package of non-organic strawberries (on a great sale), which had probably been fed with something akin to the electric-blue Miracle Grow.

Why am I a hypocrite?

It’s partially the distance; I don’t see the pesticides on the strawberry farm. I just know that the berries are sweet and pretty and two pounds for $5.99. Moreover, they won’t go bad in two days, giving my family more time to eat them. The organic ones are not as pretty and maybe as sweet, but twice (or three times) the price, and will go bad if I don’t use them in a very short window, wasting their expensive juiciness.

I suppose we all have choices to make when it comes to quality and budget. Sometimes our values of one override the other, and sometimes the two intermingle, as in my case. In an ideal word I’d shop for everything at the farmer’s market and not have to think twice about paying $15 for apples. But the reality is that our family goes through an enormous amount of food and we’re enormously busy. I make the best choices I can and try to keep the credit card in check.

Tell me in the comments: What do you absolutely buy organic? What do you compromise on?

cinco de leche {tres leches cake}

One of the reasons I seem to have fallen off the face of the food blogging planet is that I used to have a tiny assistant in the kitchen. Lucy would “help” me with everything from stirring flour and salt to icing cakes to tasting sauces. When her younger sister Charlie was tiny we still went on our merry way in the kitchen, Charlie napping in her swing or basking on a stack of blankets on the dining room floor. But now that my baby is not quite a baby anymore and demands my attention at all times (that fun but taxing “up!” “down!” “water!” “grapes!” “I crapped my pants!” “The car seat? What are you, insane?!” stage), my time in the kitchen (with or without Lucy) has grown slim.

But when some dear friends asked us over for fish tacos and margaritas for Cinco de Mayo, I knew we had to bring tres leches cake. I fall back to Pioneer Woman’s recipe for this one, because it’s easy and delicious and I knew that Lucy and I would have a blast making it together.

{Lucy grew tired of poking the cake with a fork and decided a chopstick would be more efficient.}

We carved out some time to bake, just the two of us. I hadn’t gotten down and dirty in the kitchen (read: flour flying into the corners of the ceiling, egg whites dripping down the countertops) with her for a long while, and as we went through the steps of making the cake I came to realize that my oldest baby was no longer a baby anymore, either. Instead of wanting to simply make messes for messes sake, she began asking questions about the process.

“What is that [baking powder] for, Mom?”

“Why do you spray that [cooking spray] into there [a 9×13 pan]?”

“What’s going to happen when we mix them together?”

“Why does it go in the oven?”

A few of her questions were the simple “3 year old why’s” but many were so pointed that I began explaining what each ingredient was for, why we used it, and how it would make the cake taste. She was fascinated. I’d like to think that she’s so interested because I’ve been letting her cook with me since she could hold a spoon, but more than likely it’s simply because she’s a curious girl. Whatever the reason, I was in delighted awe as we mixed, poured and spread.

We baked the cake in the evening, and I told her that the next morning her job would be to pour the milk mixture over the top, help me whip the cream, stem the strawberries (for topping), and frost the cake. As I was putting her to bed she said, “Mom, I can’t wait for my special cake job tomorrow!” And then I melted into a puddle of tears onto the floor and cried because my baby girl is certainly not a baby, at all. When the old granny in the grocery store quips “they just grow up so fast!” she doesn’t say that their first word will be dada and seemingly the next will be “why do the egg whites get all puffy when you turn the mixer on really fast?”

{Pink on pink on pink. A mind and style of her own.}

But back to the cake. If you’ve never tried tres leches, come on over to the dark side. Essentially you bake a very dry, airy cake and soak it with a mixture of sweet milks. Each slice oozes with caramel-flavored cream. I make this several times a year for different occasions and everyone seems to think that it’s sent from a magical dessert deity. I’ve tried different versions, but I think Ree’s is the best. Plus, if you make it with your kids you will create 1) a giant, fun, magical mess, 2) a giant, fun, magical cake, and 3) memories in the kitchen with your wee ones. Just don’t collapse into the closet into a pile of tears like I did when you realize they’re old enough to crack an egg by themselves.

You can find my step-by-step instructions in an older post on tres leches here, or Ree’s prettier photos and recipe here.