Hey there, Chicago! I hope you’re staying as warm as you can. Today is one of those days where I feel extremely fortunate that I work from home. The “feel like” temperature this morning was -51 degrees and letting the pups out I felt like I had turned into a human icicle. This is dangerous cold so I genuinely hope you all are staying warm and avoiding the cold as much as possible if you’re experiencing this polar vortex. On the bright side, this is perfect soup weather! Nothing warms you up more than a screaming hot bowl of soup, something I’m going to miss in the gorgeous 60 and 70 degree Texas weather in a few days. Fingers crossed my flight gets out tomorrow night!Read More
Creating these recipes for National Soup Month, the number one word on my brain was comfort. I wanted each of these recipes to feed the body and the soul while warming you up in the process. Well, we got hit with some pretty rough winter weather in this last week. Nothing outrageous or that we Chicagoans can’t handle but COLD. The kind of weather where you have to eat something piping hot for dinner or you might turn into an icicle before bed. Lucky for all of you (and me, of course), this recipe was written on one of those bitter cold days…Read More
Next up on our National Soup Month celebration, Creamy Potato Soup. Confession: I love creamy soups. There’s something so comforting about them that warms the soul. You could say that’s the case for all soup, which it is, but extra for indulgent creamy soups. I haven’t yet figured out out to get the same effect without using dairy. So for today, even though I’m significantly limiting dairy in my diet these days, we’ll indulge ourselves a smidge. What’s life without a little indulgence once in a while? This recipe is as easy as it is tasty…Read More
Did you know that January is National Soup Month? It’s my favorite thing about this first month of the year. That and it’s usually the first of our two wintriest months. I’m a sucker for the season of hibernation. Between the chunky, cozy sweaters and overdose on comfort food, it’s the best time of the year (other than the holidays, of course). Soup month being in January is also pretty convenience because it’s easy to make soup recipes that are comforting but still good for you. It helps keep you on track with all those new year resolutions. To give you a little soup-spiration, the new recipes coming on Tuesdays this month will all be for soup! I focused on a specific adjective for each recipe: classic, creamy, meaty, and vegetarian. Today’s kicks the month off with a classic but hearty spin…Read More
Happy Monday! I hope your week is getting off to a productive start. It’s been awfully cold around these parts lately. Dinners have been all about soup in my house. Not only is soup easy to make and a one-pot-dish, it’s comforting and warming which is all you need on a cold night. The sun starts setting around 3:30 and is down completely by 5 which is crazy but I love it. I’m still adjusting to the early nights and trying not to go to bed by 8PM but I’m all for the arrival of winter. It’s the season of bundling up, fires in the fireplace, hot cocoa, Christmas music, and comfort food. You can add this recipe for Sweet Potato Soup to your collection of cozy cold weather soups too! It’s a good for you but still stick-to-your-ribs kind of soup…Read More
Another Monday, another to-do list, another day of non-stop coffee drinking. I don't know about you guys but last week was insane. Honestly, the last two weeks have been insane. I’m sure this week will be no different considering work is a little bit out of control right now but the difference is I leave for a trip on Thursday night! I’ll be driving to Syracuse, New York overnight Thursday for a long weekend before heading to Boston on Monday and then Washington, DC on Thursday. It’s been a while since I’ve taken a trip and I honestly can’t wait to leave. The hardest part about going on trips is leaving the pups but they’re always here to come back to which is a lovely homecoming every time. In the meantime, this week is all about easy, low maintenance dinners...kind of like this Farmers Market Soup.Read More
Hey spring, where are you? This winter loving girl is ready for a warm up yet all we seem to get is rainy days and cold temps. It seems a little unfair since we’re in April now, don’t you think? Anyway, I have another cookbook written by a lovely lady to share with you today. A while back, I heard a song on the radio that I instantly fell in love with, “Boondocks” by Little Big Town. It was country through-and-through and their harmonization was on point. This band turned into one of my favorites in country music. Little Big Town just seems like a down to earth, approachable group of people. Little did I know, almost ten years later one of their members would release a cookbook!
Kimberly Schlapman released Oh Gussie! back in 2015, 10 years after “Boondocks” hit radios. It’s a compilation of recipes divided into five sections: Family, Friends, Music, Home, & Away. The recipes in each chapter represent some kind of memory or tradition. For example, the chicken and dumpling recipe below was passed down by Kimberly’s mama and tweaked by her for a little personal twist. The apple cake is also in the family chapter and was inspired by a lady who taught her Daddy in school and was also a substitute teacher when she was a student. Finally, the fruit and cheese kabobs are in the music chapter and represent a tradition that Little Big Town has before every performance - squeezing a little honey into their mouths before going on stage. In case music and/or honey aren’t things you’re super interested in, honey is supposed to do wonders for the throat, and in effect, the vocal cords. The drizzle of honey-vanilla over the kabobs represents that tradition.
I love a great cookbook but I love when the cookbook has some sort of story or memory attached to it. Oh Gussie! is all that and more. Each recipe has a little story or reason for why Kimberly included it. It allows you to get to know her through food, and what a treat! I always say that food is so much more than a necessity for our bodies. Food feeds our soul, it feeds our memories. It comforts us when we’re upset, it brings us joy when we’re celebrating. Food is an easy way to find common ground with another human being. So if you love Southern cooking or great food, Oh Gussie! is exactly what you’re looking for.
Fruit & Cheese Kabobs
Kimberly’s Chicken & Dumplings
Fresh Apple Glazed Cake
I used a whole vanilla bean for the first time to make the Fruit & Cheese Kabobs, well, I used half of one. This is a simple appetizer that can substitute a traditional fruit and cheese board if you want something a little more approachable. Fruit, cheese and mint leaves spear onto a skewer getting a drizzle of honey mixed with fresh vanilla. Next time I make these, I’ll leave the honey-vanilla mixture in a little bowl on the side for people to drizzle with a spoon if they’d like. I’m not a fan of honey by itself, and the vanilla was a very powerful flavor. The combination was almost too sweet for me. I’d eat that fruit and cheese kabob any day though. Who doesn’t love muenster cheese and nectarines?!
With this weird transitioning weather, comforting dishes are still appropriate. Kimberly’s Chicken & Dumplings was one of those perfect comfort meals. If you’re willing to put in the work that this dish takes, the reward is incredible. Creamy chicken soup is made even more hearty with homemade dumplings. It was a dish that fed the soul as much as it fed the stomach. My whole family enjoyed this recipe and it was even better for leftovers the next day. The catch? It does take time and patience. I will not play that down. The soup needs to cook first which doesn’t take much time but afterwards, the chicken needs shredding and the dumpling dough needs kneading. Afterwards, the dumplings need to cook. Once you factor in labor, the amount of time the pot takes to boil, the time everything takes to cook through...this is a good 1.5 hour - 2 hour prep. I was not prepared for that when I originally made this recipe. We didn’t eat until 7pm and we had family coming over for a party at 7:30pm. Let’s just say, everyone enjoyed the soup but I got some nasty looks.
Finally, the Fresh Apple Glazed Cake may be one of my favorite recipes out of Oh Gussie!. It’s a really light, moist cake (don’t try and determine the nutritional facts though...yikes!). It’s a pretty simple apple cake that bakes in a bundt pan. After it’s done baking, a bunch of holes get poked into the cake before three-quarters of the glaze gets poured all over. This allows the glaze to seep into the cake making it even more moist and decadent. After it sets for about 30 minutes, the cake flips and the remaining glaze gets drizzled all over. I don’t want to know how many calories and how much fat is in this recipe but I’d like to think it’s somewhat healthy since there are apples! Regardless, it’s a fantastic dessert any time of the year.
Do you have Oh Gussie! by Kimberly Schlapman? How about Eat Like a Gilmore by Kristi Carlson that I featured a few weeks ago? She’s working on her second Gilmore Girls inspired cookbook! If you haven’t heard the news, get out of the rock you’ve been hiding under and check it out! I’m so excited, I can’t even tell you.
Remember French Cooking Fridays? It was my journey cooking through A Kitchen In France by Mimi Thorisson - my first true experience working with French recipes. While it had its frustrations, it also had its accomplishments. It was rewarding making it through some of those harder recipes and eye opening to whiz through the easier ones. For example, there was a chicken recipe that took hardly any time at all and was one of the best chicken recipes I’d ever made in my life. Who knew French food could be so easy? I’ll tell you, no one who is familiar with stereotypical French cuisine.
As I continue reading Julie & Julia, I’m seeing that the majority of the recipes included, or at least the ones she writes about, are expert level recipes. Is that the truth about any cuisine though? Regardless of the country, everyone needs easy weeknight recipes every once in a while. I mean, what about a croque madame or croque monsieur? That’s hardly a major time commitment. A Kitchen In France did more than expand my cooking skills, it expanded my mind when it came to French Food. Not only does it have the traditional laborious dishes that are decadent and rich, it also has dishes that are light, simple and come together in no time. That was one of the reasons I loved sharing my experiences cooking through A Kitchen In France. I wanted to open the definition of French cuisine and show that it’s not all 8 hour cooking sessions and heavy meals. It’s versatile and seasonal like any other cuisine.
When I found out Mimi had come out with a second cookbook, I knew that I needed it for my cookbook shelf (now shelves). French Country Cooking is organized a little different than A Kitchen In France. While AKIF was organized by season, FCC is organized by course: sides, starters, main courses, staff meals, Sunday suppers, desserts, gouter (snacks), and drinks. Mimi was inspired by the pop-up restaurant her and her husband had taken over in the Medoc region of France. Main courses are dishes you’d see in the restaurant. Staff meals are less complicated, quicker options to feed workers on breaks. Sunday supper dishes are meals you’d cook for your family, something very important to Mimi and her family. The others explain themselves except gouter. A little background info...the French do not eat between meals. They hardly even drink. Because dinner is so late (no earlier than 7:30pm and as late as 10pm), to keep hunger at bay they’ll have a little gouter in the late afternoon to tide them over until dinnertime. A gouter is sweet or savory, sometimes a little of both!
The meal I chose to showcase French food for our “Around the World” series is classically French. From onion soup to pears with chocolate, these dishes showcase the finesse of French cuisine, the decadence of French cuisine, and the simplicity. Each dish has a different level of work involved and each dish has a different number of ingredients required. I was hoping to show the versatility of the culture. You tell me if I did it justice.
Plantia’s Onion Soup
French Onion Soup is one of those dishes that are without question French. Mimi’s recipe, by coincidence, mimics the same recipe the woman who owned the restaurant before her used to serve. Her name was Plantia so Mimi named the recipe after her. The secret to both of their soups is duck fat and using comte or gruyere cheese on the toasts. I did not use duck fat but I did use gruyere cheese! Onion Soup is super simple to make. Onions cook down until soft before chicken stock, wine and a few other ingredients get thrown in the pot. Everything simmers for a bit before placing cheese toasts on top for a delightful bowl of soup. This recipe may lack ingredients but it lacks no flavor. It’s a recipes that feeds the soul.
Poule au Pot
I recently read the part in Julie & Julia where Julie makes Pot au Feu for a group of friends. Pot au Feu and Poule au Pot are similar in that they’re both boiled dishes. Pot au Feu is several types of meat all boiled in a large pot with veggies. Poule au Pot is a stuffed whole chicken boiled in a pot with vegetables. Similar, right? Another thing they have in common is that they are not visually satisfactory. They’re actually kind of gross. I wanted to share a photo of the Poule au Pot once it finished cooking to show the stuffing and all that but it was gag worthy. I was not putting a photo of that on the blog.
Poule au Pot is one of those traditional go-to French dishes made for comfort. It’s also one of those dishes that can be made a million different ways. The prep is a little intense for this one with the stuffing but other than that, it’s not too bad. A creamy mushroom sauce finishes the dish using some of the homemade stock from the pot. That’s the biggest pro for this recipe. The water that the chicken and veggies boil in transitions into a beautiful, rich stock that you can use later in the week. I had about 3-4 quarts of stock leftover that I used all week long. So while Poule au Pot may not be visually stunning and translated to English (boiled chicken) might not sound scrumptious, it’s actually a very tasty dish and it’s also comforting. Whip it up on the weekends when you have a little extra time on your hands.
Baked Pears with Chocolate
What comes to mind when you think of French desserts? Macarons? Souffle? Chocolate Mousse? How about a baked fruit drizzled in dark chocolate? Because that’s exactly what this is. Four (five if you use mint) ingredients come together for an indulgent dessert that tastes more sinful than it actually is. Melted butter drizzles over halved pears followed by a hint of honey. They’re baked until tender before finished with a healthy drizzle of melted dark chocolate. It’s a dish where the fruit shines but does not taste one bit healthy. The best part is that you don’t feel guilty or gross after indulging. You feel satisfied, satiated and ready for a glass of bubbles. Might we suggest strawberries in prosecco??