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You’ve heard the idea that kids will eat what they cook themselves and having kids help in the kitchen is a great way to get them to try new things. Well, I have stumbled across the realization that this is true! I am somewhat of a kitchen hog and have not been good about inviting my children to help me except for the obvious cookie or pancake making. We tend to be busy in the afternoon, like most families, and I usually have dinner prepped and ready to go way before they are off the school bus.

Last week my 10 year old informed me that we are not spending enough time together. Really? ” Ok, why don’t you help me with dinner and we can chat?” He agreed. It turned into him doing all of the dinner and me sitting on the bar stool and chatting with him. Turns out he got the kitchen hog gene. My plan that evening was chicken pasta soup and a chopped salad. I had made the salad prior so it was the soup that was left to be made. I chopped the onion, carrot and celery and left the rest to him.

Now you must know that my son is not a soup guy. Too bad for him because his mom is soup crazy. I can really see owning a little soup cart somewhere and dishing out steaming bowls of goodness for hungry customers. I love all soups. I love the idea of soup and all the nutrition and flavor you can pack into one bowl. Soup is the ONLY reason I tolerate winter. Whenever we have soup for dinner, he has a few bites and then reverts to a peanut butter sandwich. He just doesn’t get it. Well that evening after carefully simmering vegetables, tasting the difference between a raw carrot and a caramelized one, building his soup and adjusting the seasonings himself, he got it!  He said ,” Wow Mom, this is really good!” That night he ate his whole bowl and didn’t go to the cabinet for peanut butter once. Amazing.

Here is the recipe for Chicken Pasta Soup. My kiddo added and adjusted the seasonings himself and didn’t measure, so I’ll try to approximate what went on.

Chicken Pasta Soup

serves 8

Chicken from one rotisserie chicken, chopped into small pieces (save the carcass for roast chicken stock)

1/2 onion, diced

2 carrots, peeled and diced

2 celery stalks, diced

1 1/2 tsp. dried thyme

1 1/2 tsp dried basil

4 cups chicken stock

2 cups vegetable stock

1 cup frozen peas, thawed (or not, it really doesn’t matter)

1/4 cup soup pasta per person

salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat and add onions. Cook stirring occasionally for about 5 minutes. Add the carrot and celery and turn the heat down to medium low. Stir occasionally for about 25 minutes. Add the dried spices and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Meanwhile combine chicken and vegetable stock and heat on low. (no use adding cold stock to the soup) Add the stock and peas. Stir all together over medium-low heat. Cook for 10 minutes and add the chopped chicken. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust as needed.

Boil water and add soup pasta for the time instructed on the packaging. You can use any type of pasta you wish. You only want to cook pasta for the number of servings you need. Any leftover soup will be saved without pasta being added because the pasta will absorb all of the liquid. Divide pasta between the soup bowls and ladle the soup over top.

Enjoy!

Need a last minute gift for the neighbors? Try this easy and delicious chutney. These cute glass jars came from The Container Store and have dozens of uses once the chutney is all gobbled up.

Sweet and Savory Fruit Chutney

Yield: 6 4oz jars

1 bottle Crystallized Ginger

2 6oz bags dried apricots

4 oz. dried blueberries

3 oz dried mango

1/2 cup golden raisens

3 oz. dried cranberries

2 1/2 cups apple cider

3/4 cup orange juice

2 fresh pears peeled, cored and diced

3/4 cup sugar

1/3 cup apple cider vinegar

salt to taste

Chop the dried fruit and crystallized ginger into a small dice. Cook the fruit and juice in a large pot over medium-high heat for about 15 minutes. Add sugar and simmer for 25-30 minutes. Add vinegar and salt to taste.  Cook 5 minutes more, then remove from heat and cool. Spoon cooled chutney into jars and refrigerate. This chutney will keep in the fridge for 2 weeks and is great with strong cheeses and grilled meats. It pairs exceptionally well with spicy foods too.

Chef Notes: You can use any combination of dried fuits that you desire. I’ve also used dried apples and they work well. Make sure to taste and adjust the salt and vinegar as needed. You might need more than indicated depending on your fruit mix.

I am from outside of Boston and my husband is from New Jersey. Therefore we do not agree on what is “true” clam chowder. For me it is comforting creamy goodness, full of clams, potatoes and bacon. For my husband it is spicy and brothy, red and bold. We do not agree. Last night, I made my version of New England clam chowder. It came out delicious with a smokey depth of flavor, chuck full of small dice red skinned potatoes and little neck clams. Next week I will make my Aunt Henny’s Manhattan clam chowder. ( She was from Jersey and a wonderful cook). It will not solve the debate but is a good excuse to eat great soup and continue the fight…

The Dinner Belle’s Clam ChowderDSC_0006

6 servings

3 dozen clams in the shell, rinsed and scrubbed

8 slices thick cut bacon

¾ cup dry white wine

1 large onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 leek, including tender green parts, washed and thinly sliced

1 ¾ tsp. dried thyme

1 bottle clam juice

2 cups water

2 cups heavy cream

1 lb red potatoes, not peeled, cut into a small dice

1 Tablespoon chopped fresh chives (for garnish)

Sauté bacon in a large heavy pan over medium heat until crisp.  Remove bacon and transfer to paper towels. Crumble bacon when cool enough to touch. Remove drippings from pan and reserve 2 tablespoons. Heat pan back up and pour in wine, scrapping up brown bits. Simmer for 3 minutes and set aside.

Heat reserved bacon drippings in a large pot. Add onion and sauté over medium heat until translucent, about 5 minutes. Adds leeks, garlic and dried thyme and continue to cook for about 3 minutes. Add wine (from bacon pan), water and clam juice. Bring to a boil. Turn the heat down a little and add clams. Cover and steam for 7-10 minutes, or until they just open.

Remove clams from the broth with a slotted spoon and place in a large bowl, discarding any that did not open or have cracked.

With the liquid simmering, slowly add cream and stir until incorporated. Add potatoes and cook until potatoes are tender over medium heat, about 15-20 minutes. Meanwhile, pull the clams from the shells. If they are large, cut them into ½ inch pieces.

When the potatoes are tender, add clams and bacon back into the pot and simmer for 2 minutes more until heated through. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls and garnish with chives. Serve with crusty bread.

This past week I have had the supreme privilege of being a guest at the 4 Sisters LoneTree Ranch in Montana. I have always enjoyed trips to Montana and this private remote ranch just added to my love of that great state. Good friends and wonderful hosts, not to mention insanely beautiful scenery, more than made up for the long drive to get there. One memorable meal that we had on the ranch was delicious oven fried chicken. Flavorful and crisp on the outside and juicy on the inside, it was better than any traditionally made fried chicken I have ever had. I made it again for my family last night and my husband could not stop eating!  Try it and let me know what you think.

4-Sisters  Buttermilk Oven Fried Chicken4-Sister's Chicken

1  1/4 C. buttermilk

1/4 C. olive oil

3 T. dijon mustard

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 T. hot pepper sauce

2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

1 large onion, sliced

12 chicken pieces

1 C. unseasoned breadcrumbs ( I used fresh breadcrumbs)

1/3 C. parmesan cheese

1/4 C. flour

2 tsp. dried thyme

1/2 tsp. paprika

1/2 tsp. cayenne

1/2 C. melted butter

Wisk buttermilk, oil, hot pepper sauce, mustard, garlic, 1/2 tsp. salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add onion and chicken, cover and chill at least 3 hours and up to one day.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Combine breadcrumbs, cheese, flour, thyme, paprika, cayenne and 1 tsp salt in a large dish. Roll each piece of chicken in the mixture and place on a rack on a sheet tray. Let chicken sit for 30 minutes.

Melt butter and pour over chicken. Bake for 50 minutes at 400.

This can be served hot or cold. We baked it in the afternoon, let it chill and ate it “picnic style”. You can also do this with boneless chicken breasts, just reduce cooking time to 20 minutes.



I get the whole “buy local” thing. Trust me, I follow it. You can often find me on a Saturday morning at the Boulder farmer’s market, coffee in hand, purchasing my share of local organic farmer fair. I understand the carbon footprint and reduced nutritional value of commercial farm products and I try hard to follow the current trend of supporting your local producers. BUT, have I mentioned that Costco has 2 lbs of organic blueberries for $4.99? Holy Cow! I don’t know how far these babies are trucked to my local Costco but they are a deal, I tell you! And yummy. So get to your local Costco and pick yourself up some cheap, organic berries. With the money you save, invest in some European style butter, like Plugra, and make the following recipe for Blueberry Pie. Your family will thank you for a delicious dessert and you don’t even have to tell them about your little sneaky purchase.

Summer Blueberry Pie

Summer Blueberry Pie

Crust

Heat oven to 350.

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour

18 T butter  cut into pieces( try the european style butters. they are great and make the pie sooooo flakey)

1/4 tsp salt

6-8 T. cold water

Place flour,salt and butter in a food processor. Pulse  a handful of times until butter is the size of small peas.  Add water and pulse a few more times. Turn out onto a board and  divide into 2/3 and 1/3. Form into two disks and wrap each in plastic. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 days.

Take out the larger disk and roll into a 12 inch circle. Take your time to roll this out by slowly applying back and forth pressure with the roller and turning the dough 1/4 turn every few rolls. This will take a few minutes before it seems like you are making any progress, but the dough will begin to roll out and it will be beautiful! Fit dough into a 9 inch pie plate coated with cooking spray. Prick the bottom with a fork to make several holes, line with foil and weight down with dried beans. Bake for 20 minutes and then remove the foil/beans and bake for 10 minute more. This will allow your crust to not get all soggy when you bake it with the filling.

Filling

4 cups blueberries

3/4 cup plus 3 T. sugar

3 1/2 T cornstarch

4 T butter melted

3/4 tsp vanilla extract

juice from 1 lemon

1/8 tsp salt

Combine sugar, cornstarch and salt. sprinkle over blueberries and toss gently. Stir vanilla and lemon juice into butter. fold butter mixture into berries. Pour into prepared crust.

Take out the small disk of dough and roll into a 9 inch circle. Cut into strips. Alternate strips into a lattice pattern on the top of the berries and seal dough to the edge of the crust. Brush with an egg wash of 1 beaten egg with a little milk. Sprinkle top with Sugar in the Raw. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 45-60 minutes until the crust is brown and filling is bubbly. This pairs great with ginger ice cream.