May 30, 2008

Old School Soups for those chilly Spring Nights

Well I've been SO busy in my garden this month I have barely had any time to work on anything else. Hence the lack of any new items in my store lately.
Spring is "go time" for me in the garden and I am so busy planting veggies, tilling, weeding and watering that I have to put almost everything else on the backburner. Not to mention the 2 stray cats we are taking care of for now until we can find homes for them. Having 6 cats and 3 large dogs in a tiny 1000 sq ft home can get a little crazy and messy!
But back to my point- even though it warms up and we are ready with our shorts on, we still get a sporadic sprinkling of chilly and/or breezy spring days that make us grab the sweatshirts in defeat. As I've mentioned before, my hubby LOVES soup so we pretty much always have some every week even in the summer. I've got a long row of leeks that I planted last summer, they overwintered and then got big enough this spring. Now I think they are getting too old because some are going to seed, look at this big wiggle "scape" growing on one of them. I cooked this one last night and I couldn't bear to throw into the compost so i wrapped it around my neck like jewelry for the evening.

So one thing I have been making lately is potato soup with leeks to use up the leeks. This soup is something my grandma used to make all the time and always in HUGE batches because my mom came from a family of 12, yes 12! My grandma is gone now, and over the years of trying to get this recipe the way she made it I've realized that the most basic of ingredients is all that is needed.

Potato Soup
2-4 leeks (depending on size)
Bag of baking potatoes
Garlic (optional)
Salt Pepper
Chicken or Vegetable Broth (optional)

Slice tops of leeks off the leek and discard into your saintly compost pile. Then trim the end of the leek off, slice in half and thouroughly wash them out under water, to get all the dirt out of the layers. Then slice them up, put a little spray of oil or bit of butter in your pan and start to sautee, chop up the garlic and throw it in the pot too.
While they sautee over medium heat, peel and chop your potatoes up. They don't need to be fancy cause you will be pureeing the soup at the end. Throw em in the pot and pour water or broth over the vegetables until they are covered. Bring to a boil until potatoes are soft, stirring occasionally.
Turn heat to low, and puree the soup in batched or with an immersion blender. You can make it as smooth or chunky as you wish, just try to make sure you blend up those leeks. Then salt and pepper to taste. Voila, potato soup.
I like to serve with fresh snipped chives, sour cream, and/or light cheddar cheese to sprinkle on top.

The other soup I have been making lately is a new favorite for us, but an old favorite for a lot of people, chicken and dumplings. I never had this before I made it for myself and I don't know why. It's satisying, comforting and delicious. The original recipe called for 1 medium chopped onion, but I like to use sliced leeks instead.

Chicken and Dumplings
1 1/2 pounds organic chicken breast tenders
2 tablespoons butter
1 russet potato, peeled and diced
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced or thinly sliced
1 medium onion, chopped or 2 medium leeks, sliced
1 rib celery, diced
1 bay leaf, fresh or dried
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning,
 1/3 palm full (I use season salt)
2 tablespoons flour, a handful
1 quart organic/free range chicken broth (it's one of those boxes- like 4 cups)
2 cups Heart Healthy Bisquick Mix (the lowfat one)
1/2 cup organic milk
Fresh dill
Fresh chives
Handful flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 cup frozen green peas

Dice tenders into bite size pieces and set aside. Wash hands. Place a large pot on stove over medium high heat. Add butter, vegetables and bay leaf and cook 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Season mixture with salt, pepper and poultry seasoning. Add flour to the pan and cook 2 minutes. Stir broth or stock to the pot and bring to a boil. Add chicken to the broth and stir. Place biscuit mix in a bowl. Combine with 1/2 cup milk and mined fresh herbs of choice (like the dill and/or chives).
Drop tablespoonfuls of prepared mix into the pot, spacing dumplings evenly. Cover pot tightly and reduce heat to medium low. Steam dumplings 8 to 10 minutes. Remove cover and stir chicken and dumplings to thicken sauce a bit.
Stir peas into the pan, remove chicken and dumplings from heat and serve in shallow bowls. There you have it. Both recipes are easy and delicious and perfect for those breezy evenings.

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