Chicken wild rice soup

My mother-in-law made this soup over Christmas and it was so good we decided we had to make it when we got back here. The recipe comes from the Pie Place, the sweet restaurant in Grand Marais, Minnesota where we had our rehearsal dinner 3 years ago. While we were in Duluth last month we picked up some hand-harvested wild rice. It’s hard to find in other places, so you have to get it while you can. Though regular wild rice works just fine in this recipe.

We decided to bulk up the soup with some chicken, carrots and leeks, and it was wonderful. It’s creamy, but not too thick or gloppy. The wine and sherry really makes the flavor. Try it!

Chicken wild rice soup
Soothing winter soup with a hint of white wine and sherry.
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Ingredients
  1. 6 tablespoons butter
  2. 1 small onion, chopped
  3. 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  4. 3 leeks, thoroughly rinsed and trimmed, then chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
  5. 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 1 pound)
  6. 1/4 cup flour
  7. 4 cups chicken broth (homemade stock, if you have it)
  8. 1 cup heavy cream
  9. 1/4 cup white wine
  10. 2 tablespoons sherry
  11. 2 cups cooked wild rice
  12. 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  13. Salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. If your wild rice is not already cooked, boil it while you prep the other ingredients.
  2. Melt the butter in a large soup pot and add the onions, carrots, leeks, and chicken breasts. Season with salt and pepper and saute, turning the chicken once, until both sides are lightly browned and the chicken is cooked through.
  3. Remove the chicken to a plate and let it cool before shredding it with 2 forks.
  4. Meanwhile, add the flour to the pot and stir until the veggies are coated. Add the chicken broth and whisk until smooth. Add the cream and sherry and bring the pot to a simmer.
  5. Now you can add back the chicken and the cooked wild rice. Stir in the cheese.
  6. When the soup is heated through, it's ready to go. Season with more salt and pepper before you serve it.
Notes
  1. • Leave out the chicken and sub veggie broth for a vegetarian version.
  2. • Leftover turkey from a holiday meal works great in place of the chicken.
  3. • If you don't have leeks, just leave them out.
  4. • Rinse chopped leeks in a bowl of water before you cook with them. The dirt will fall to the bottom.
Adapted from The Pie Place Cafe Cookbook
Adapted from The Pie Place Cafe Cookbook
Cara Corey http://www.caracorey.com/

Coming up for air

Whew, this month has been brutal, but it’s finally starting to feel normal again. Harper slept through the night the last two nights. THE WHOLE NIGHT. Without any sleep training. I think I had gotten so adjusted to living on less sleep I didn’t know what to do with myself the last two mornings. Parenting is not getting any easier, we’re just getting better at it. That must be how you manage more kids, because otherwise the thought is overwhelming. 

We had a tiny bit of rain last night. Not enough to make a dent in our rain deficit, but it was nice. This tree in our back yard thinks it’s spring. I love those blossoms. 

My mom was here for 10 days. It felt like 5 minutes. I had this super long project list for while she was here, but I only crossed off one item. I had time to make orders and hold a baby. That’s it. I finally cleaned the house on day 10. 

I have a zillion ideas for my shop. I wish I could just stop everything and work on them, but such is life. It makes me feel good to know that I still have such excitement for what I do after several years of hard work. It feels like the right thing, so I keep going and keep pushing. Same as with a baby — it’s hard but so, so good.

Our first time making sausage

How is this for adventures in cooking — we made our own sausage links. Inspired by the currywurst we ate in LA, we decided to make that with a curry ketchup sauce. 

As I suspected, making your own sausage is the kind of thing we don’t do very often because it is a pretty involved process.

First you run your meat (pork butt, in our case) through a grinder. We used the grinder attachment for our KitchenAid mixer. I think we actually ran it through twice, with the finer plate the second time.


Not surprisingly, Sadie was very interested in this.


Raw meat everywhere, gah!

The currywurst is supposed to be really fine, like a hot dog. So you actually take the ground meat, mix in some other ingredients, and then run it through the food processor.

Then you’re ready to actually stuff the sausage. For that you need the sausage stuffer attachment. You also need casings, which we got at the Local Butcher Shop in Berkeley. Did I mention you also have to pre-soak those, changing the water halfway through, then put water through them so they puff out?

Mike did the actual stuffing while I pushed the flavored meat through the grinder. There was no way for it not to look ridiculous, so of course we laughed a lot. But he said it wasn’t too hard to get it inside the casings and twist it into links.

We sauteed the links in a cast iron skillet while we cooked the currywurst sauce, which also had many steps.

By this point I was like, let’s just eat the f***ing things! But we were rewarded in the end. I thought both the sausage and the sauce were really tasty. We had tons left over, so we’ll be eating currywurst again. Which is good, because I don’t know when we’ll have the patience to make it next.


Toothpicks required for authenticity.

Here are the recipes we used: sausage and currywurst sauce

Enchiladas verdes

I get my fair share of daytime TV watching now that I’m home with Harper, and that’s how I discovered Pati Jinich and her fabulous Mexican recipes (I think on The Chew). I decided to try her enchiladas verdes, which both sounded really good and allowed me to try some new ingredients like tomatillos and Mexican crema. 


Isn’t that color gorgeous?

Her recipes always look really yummy and she seems like a genuinely nice person. Can’t say that about all TV chefs…

So, I tried the enchiladas and they were fantastic. The main reason was the tomatillo sauce. It was super easy to make, and it had this wonderfully tangy, sweet flavor. You could put that on a piece of cardboard and it would taste good. 

We had leftovers from a homemade roast chicken, so I think that helped, too. 

I had never tried “passing the tortillas through oil” to get them nice and soft, but it totally worked. 

The only thing I changed was to add a little bit of the queso fresco and tomatillo sauce to the chicken before I rolled it up. I was afraid it would be too dry otherwise. And next time I think I would leave the raw onion off the top. But otherwise, this is a great recipe I can highly recommend. 

Another bonus: I learned that I really like Mexican crema in place of sour cream. It’s just a little bit thinner. I actually used some to make ranch dressing and it turned out perfectly. Cool!

Farro with arugula and pomegranate seeds

I had never cooked with farro before this recipe. But I found I really liked it and will make it again. This makes a light, fresh side dish.

Farro with arugula and pomegranate seeds
Serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup dried farro
  2. 2 cups arugula
  3. 1 cup pomegranate seeds
  4. 2 tablespoons olive oil
  5. Juice from 1 lemon
  6. Salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Heat 2 1/2 cups water and the farro in a saucepan until boiling. Reduce heat and simmer 20-25 minutes, or until the farro is tender. You will probably have to do a taste test to see if it's to your liking.
  2. Drain any remaining water. Transfer the farro to a big bowl.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients and toss together.
Notes
  1. I did not soak my farro before I cooked it, but you certainly can. It will reduce the cooking time.
Adapted from Real Simple
Adapted from Real Simple
Cara Corey http://www.caracorey.com/

Broccoli with cheese sauce

The other day I was feeling nostalgic for a recipe that was my job to make as a kid: cheese sauce for steamed broccoli. With pride, 10-year-old me stirred up chunks of Velveeta and mixed them with milk until I had a creamy sauce. When I think about all the things I grew up cooking, this one stands out as a favorite.

So it was a funny coincidence when my mom, who is visiting this week, pulled out this recipe card from my childhood.

Isn’t that hilarious? I admit I cringed a bit with my spelling of you’re.

I tried to recreate the sauce, sans Velveeta, and it was pretty good. It still seems like a great companion for broccoli. You just make it like your classic bechamel. Recipe below:

Cheese sauce for steamed veggies
Serves 4
Creamy bechamel sauce with cheddar.
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Ingredients
  1. 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  2. 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  3. 3 tablespoons AP flour
  4. 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper if you like it
  5. 1 cup grated Cheddar cheese
Instructions
  1. Heat the butter over medium until it melts.
  2. Stir in the flour, then whisk in the milk and cook until thick and bubbly. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and stir in the cheese.
Cara Corey http://www.caracorey.com/

 

Thai coconut soup

After so many congested days I thought I would try my hand at making a Thai coconut soup. I’ve always loved those at restaurants. This recipe from Real Simple was great. It seemed to need a little something extra, so I would probably add some fish sauce and maybe some sriracha or other spicy seasoning next time. Otherwise I did a very rare thing: stuck to the recipe.

Green smoothie time

So far my New Year’s diet plan goes like this: get sick, lose appetite. Terrible, but effective.

We’ve all been on a rotating schedule of sickness. First some digestive thing (Harper’s first real barf, ugh.) Then colds all around, followed by more serious colds/sinus infections. I think all the stress and germs from holiday travel have caught up to us.

Anyway, now that I can eat again, I’m finding myself wanting healthier foods. I fired up my Nutribullet and made some green smoothies. The formula is pretty simple: stuff the blender cup half-full with greens, then add sliced fruit, nuts or flax seeds or some other superfood, and water. Blend it up and you’re good to go.

I’m finding that the smoothies don’t taste fantastic, but they are refreshing and they’re the kind of breakfast or snack you can feel good about.

My go-to formula has been: kale with pineapple, pomegranate seeds and flax seed meal.

A little love for Vik’s

For some reason I was on a kick a few months ago where I wanted to eat at Vik’s Chaat Corner in Berkeley every week. Vik’s serves some of the best south Indian food I’ve ever had, and it’s quick, cheap, and baby friendly. You always see tons of families with kids there, probably because it’s noisy enough to drown out fussiness and there’s plenty of seating.

Harper loooves chickpeas, and Indian food pretty closely resembles baby purees anyway, so she likes it too. We usually get a masala dosa, which comes with soup and coconut sauce for dipping.

We’ve been loving the cholle bhature, both because it looks so cool when it comes out and because we love dipping pieces of the fluffy bread in chickpeas and tamarind sauce. If you go, don’t forget to lift up the bread and find the condiments underneath!

The lamb samosas and chicken kathi kabob sandwich are also favorites, but you can only get them on weekends.

If you’re in the east bay, I can’t recommend Vik’s enough for a fast casual dinner.

Hot, hot, hot

It’s always been weird to live in a place where the weather is so different from everywhere else (also, awesome), but this year has been super strange. While everyone else is experiencing the polar vortex, we have been having some of the warmest, driest months on record. We basically just didn’t have winter.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s glorious to have sunny 70-degree days in January, but the lack of rain is starting to becoming worrisome. Not only does the weather leave a smoggy mass sitting over the bay area, it is also causing big problems for farmers without water. We have a spare-the-air day pretty much daily. 

My plants are all confused. They think it’s spring. I can’t believe how many flowers are on my succulents out front.

We are planning a picnic birthday party for Harper. Because we might as well — we know it won’t rain!