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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  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
  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.
  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

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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  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
  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.
  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

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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  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
  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


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.

Nana’s cranberry salad

I meant to share this in plenty of time for your holiday celebrations, but I guess it will have to go on the list for next year. This is my grandmother’s recipe for cranberry salad, featured at every Thanksgiving meal as long as I can remember. I believe it was her mother’s recipe to begin with.

Normally I’m not a big promoter of Jello salads, but this one is interesting and it’s really pretty tasty. Of course I changed a bunch of things because I can never leave a recipe alone. But I think it retains its original character. Plus I got to use the grinder attachment on our KitchenAid mixer.

If you don’t have one, you could probably grind the cranberries in a food processor or blender instead. It might also help to make this recipe a day in advance so you have plenty of time to let the flavors meld together and the gelatin to set. It may still be soft, but at least not pure liquid.

Nana's cranberry salad
Serves 8
Old-school Jello salad for your holiday table.
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  1. 2 cups cranberries
  2. 1 large orange, peeled
  3. 1 package strawberry Jello
  4. 8-ounce can crushed pineapple in juice
  5. 1 cup apples, grated
  6. 1 cup celery, finely chopped
  7. 1 cup pecans or walnuts, finely chopped
  1. Put the cranberries and orange slices through the grinder attachment on your mixer until they are finely grated.
  2. Add 1 cup sugar to the mixture. (If you have time, let this sit for a few hours or overnight to pull some of the juice out.)
  3. Dissolve Jello in 1 cup boiling water. Add to the cranberry/orange mixture. Mix in the pineapple with all the juice.
  4. Pour everything into your serving dish and refrigerate for an hour or until it starts to set up. At this point, mix in the apples, celery, and nuts. Continue to refrigerate until it's completely set, at least 1 more hour.
Adapted from my grandmother, Helene Hall
Adapted from my grandmother, Helene Hall
Cara Corey

Thanksgiving recap

Thanksgiving was a little crazy this year, but we managed to have a really good dinner by the end of the day. Harper had been sick all week, so we were pretty stressed out and sleep-deprived by Thursday. It was hard to get all the cooking done since she didn’t want to be put down.

She looks a little out of it here.

But by the afternoon she seemed to finally be feeling better and we all got to eat together. Thank goodness we decided to stay home this year!

These are the recipes I used:
Smothered Pork Chops from the New York Times (half recipe)
Haricot vert with shallots from Smitten Kitchen (lots of butter, skipped the tomatoes)
• Mashed potatoes, similar to the ones in my shepherds pie recipe
Dad’s sweet potato pie from Joy the Baker

We also had some champagne mixed with apple juice, which actually tasted really good and seemed perfect for a fall meal.

I failed to finish that pork chop. But I sure tried.

The pork chops are so, so good. After they’ve cooked in their own gravy for 2 hours they become fall-apart tender. I ended up spending way too much money on them at the Berkeley Bowl, but oh well. It was a special occasion.

I also thought the pie was a home run. The crust was probably the strangest pie crust I’ve ever made. You mix in oil and milk to the dry ingredients and press it into the pan so you don’t have to roll it out. The result is almost like a shortbread cookie.

The recipe is for a 10-inch pie, so I had enough leftover from my 8 or 9 inch pan to make an extra little pie. Sadly, I broke my favorite pie pan while I was washing dishes. I guess I will just have to buy myself another one.

Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving with your family. I am totally in the Christmas spirit now!

Blue Bottle waffles, take 2

A while back I attempted to make waffles similar to the handheld ones Blue Bottle Coffee sells alongside their tiny, expensive, and totally awesome coffees. 😉  

They were tasty, but not quite right. I learned I had bought the wrong kind of pearl sugar to go inside the waffles. So I ordered some Belgian pearl sugar chunks, and they were just right.

I gave myself enough time to let the batter rise overnight and used this recipe for liege waffles.

In the morning the batter had puffed up and was nice and airy.

I dropped in the chunks of pearl sugar and let them soak in the batter for 15 minutes.

The batter was so sticky that it just sort of plopped onto the waffle maker and was really easy to work with. I didn’t try to spread it out, so some of the waffles had those signature rough edges. Definitely closer to the originals!

The waffles got better as I made more, and some of the sugar chunks melted onto the waffle maker.

My only complaint is that the waffles tasted kind of eggy. Which is not surprising since the recipe calls for 5 eggs! There was also a recipe on the sugar box that only called for 2 eggs, so I might try that next time (or a combination of the two).

I suppose it would help to have an actual Belgian waffle maker, but we are so out of space in our kitchen!

Easy peasy pizza

Believe it or not, I have never made pizza from scratch. Mike is the head pizza baker in our house, so I have never been motivated to try it out. But I saw Smitten Kitchen’s recipe for “Lazy Pizza Dough” and that sounded right up my alley!

Dough before rising.

I tried it last week, and it turned out really well. The crust was delicious, and cooked all the way through. I followed her advice for draining the extra liquid off the whole peeled tomatoes before I blended them for the sauce, and that really helped. But the best part is that it really was easy. I followed the instructions for a 6-hour rise. And even though the dogs ruined my first batch of dough while I was out running an errand, I managed to make a second dough and let it rise enough to still have pizza at dinnertime. That’s a forgiving dough!

Dough after rising.

Since the dough recipe makes enough for 2 pizzas, I decided to make them different styles. One with traditional red sauce (whole peeled tomatoes blended up with garlic and basil), plus mozzarella cheese, Italian sausage, caramelized onions, and spinach.

For the second one I mixed up some leftover shredded chicken with barbecue sauce. I used more barbecue sauce in place of the red sauce and then topped it with the chicken, caramelized onions and cheddar cheese mixed in with the mozzarella.

They were both really good. Mike preferred the sausage one and I liked the chicken one, so it worked out well.

Not the most beautiful pizza, but it tasted good!

I did have to add a little extra water to my dough, something she mentions in an edit of her original post. And I had a hard time stretching it out on the pans, but that might have been because the dough did not rise long enough.

I think in the future I will try an overnight rise, and I might also use some whole wheat flour and maybe a little honey. I’m glad to know that I can actually make pizza from scratch, and I will definitely be making this again.