Springy Chicken Soup Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

I’m baacckk!! I know some of you missed your weekly Wednesday recipe as some friends had mentioned they hadn’t received something from me in a while. I hope that translates to most of my readers! After writing 272 blog articles for five (five!) years, I really felt a need for a break. It’s nice to just cook without the thought of having to write about it! And meals at home, when I’ve been home, have been simple, nothing fancy, along with a few duds. But now that we’ve turned the corner into spring, I’m feeling like getting back into the kitchen and cooking and writing about it!

But even though the calendar says it’s May and springtime, doesn’t mean the weather is cooperating! After a warmer than normal winter, I’m finding the spring colder than normal. Even when it’s sunny outside, there is still a nip in the air and wind. I spent a few days the first week of the month in New York City and regretted the fact I didn’t have my winter coat with me! Even today as I write this, they have snow predicted in the forecast! #Truth! So the days of soup and other cold weather comfort foods aren’t over yet, but this recipe has a springy twist to it!

I love having romaine lettuce in a soup and I don’t use it enough; it adds a certain lightness and freshness to a soup that you don’t get from spinach or kale. Any chicken soup is comfort in a bowl for me and this was really delicious and using chicken thighs adds much more flavor than white meat. Instead of using fresh thyme, I added about a half teaspoon of dried. This came together quickly on a weeknight and certainly warmed my insides from the cold, damp weather outside. With springtime ingredients like the leeks and peas, it gave me a reminder and faith that yes, warmer weather will be coming. When? I’m just not sure!

springy chickenSpringy Chicken Soup

This recipe first appeared in the May issue of Cooking Light magazine.

1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into small pieces
1 cup thinly sliced leek
1 cup thinly diagonally sliced carrot
4 cups unsalted chicken stock (such as Swanson)
3 large thyme sprigs
1 cup frozen green peas, thawed
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/8 teaspoon kosher salt
3 cups torn romaine lettuce
1/3 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 ounce Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, shaved (about 1/4 cup)

Preparation
1. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons oil; swirl to coat. Add chicken; cook 6 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally. Remove chicken from pan.

2. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add leek and carrot; sauté 5 minutes. Add stock and thyme; bring to a boil. Cover and cook 8 minutes or until carrot is almost tender. Stir in chicken, peas, pepper, and salt; cook 3 minutes. Remove thyme; discard. Remove pan from heat; stir in lettuce and parsley. Place 1 1/2 cups soup in each of 4 bowls; top each serving with 1 tablespoon cheese.

MVK’s *Like* of the Week: Meet the Orb Weaver Cheesemakers!
Orb%20Weaver%20DSC02437%20cowI consider myself lucky beyond belief that I live in a part of Vermont where cheese (and the cows!) and their makers are close by. Orb Weaver Cheese can be found in my tiny town and their cheese is delectable. And for 30 years, the farm has been run by just two women!

This is a great story on Marian and Marjorie’s beginnings and the process of making their cheese. You can read the story here.

 

Easter Sides Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

easterAm I the only one who feels like Easter snuck up on us this year? It seems like I just barely made my Valentine’s Day dinner and now it’s time for another holiday! But since it’s here, planning is in order!

I usually make the first potato salad of the year to serve alongside the traditional ham, but it feels too early to make one in March, so I needed to find another potato side dish. Cooking Light has lots of menu ideas and some delicious sounding potato recipes. For me, springtime is lemon and chives. I thought this roasted vegetable dish sounded divine and decided to make it for my dinner one night. Served with pork chops, it was SO good! But not before a few changes.

I was making this for a solo dinner (not 12!), so my measurements went way down. As I mentioned last week, I can’t eat onions and garlic for a while (although I can eat chives and the greens of scallions), so I didn’t include the Vidalias, but I know they would make this dish even better! I’m not a fan of baby carrots, so I peeled and cut into chunks five small carrots. And I couldn’t find fingerling potatoes, so I used only small baby reds, which I cut into quarters. The vinaigrette is terrific and since this was a smaller portion, I have some leftover for another meal. I served them with pork chops, but this would be excellent served alongside ham, a pork roast, chicken, even fish.

I gave you two additional potato side dishes below. Rosemary is a great complement to potatoes and an herb vinaigrette with roasted potatoes has to be good, right? Whatever you cook and serve for your holiday meal, I hope you are surrounded by family and friends and it is delicious. Happy Easter!

veg 

Lemon-Chive Roasted Vegetables

Serves 12

This recipe first appeared in the March 2008 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

1 1/2 pounds small red potatoes, halved
1 1/2 pounds small fingerling potatoes, halved
1 pound baby carrots
2 medium Vidalia or other sweet onions, each cut into 8 wedges
1 tablespoon olive oil
Cooking spray
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 425°.

2. Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl; toss well to coat. Arrange vegetables in a single layer on 2 jelly-roll pans coated with cooking spray. Bake at 425° for 30 minutes, turning after 15 minutes or until tender and lightly browned.

3. Combine vegetables, chives, and remaining ingredients in a large bowl; toss gently to coat.

And here are two more ideas for you!

Rosemary Potatoes-From the March 2001 Cooking Light

Roasted Potatoes with Herb Vinaigrette-From April 2007 Cooking Light


Processed-Foods-PhotoMVK’s *Like* of the Week: Nutrition Diva!

I have been listening to the “Nutrition Diva’s Quick and Dirty Tips” podcast for years now. Once a week, nutritionist Monica Reinagel gives a short podcast on a nutritional topic. Each one is well thought out, clearly explained, and less than ten minutes. They’re great!

I also follow her on Facebook and recently she posted this article on a new study about the American diet. While there is a movement for “clean eating,” the study showed more than half of the American diet is comprised of ultra-processed foods and lots and lots of sugar.

Although I found this interesting, I always look at studies with a wary eye. This one was from 2009-2010, so perhaps things have gotten better? Regardless, it does make interesting reading. You can read the article here.

 

Solo Dinner: Greens, Eggs, and Ham (Optional) Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

The sky was absolutely breathtaking the other night on my walk.

The sky was absolutely breathtaking the other evening.

I’m a solo gal this month while the Eater of the House is out of town, which means ME meals, dinners that include some of my favorite foods (eggplant!) and that I can eat when I finally get around to making dinner (8:45 anyone?).

So in honor of St. Patrick’s Day and that spring has finally sprung, I thought I’d bring back one of my favorite dinners which requires no recipe and can be prepped in advance so everything is ready to go when you get home! Also a plus, a salad supper is forgiving to the waistline; summer is coming and you want to be sure you fit into your wardrobe!

I love tender lettuces for this salad, such as butter lettuce or a mesclun mix. When you are home and are doing other things, fill a saucepan with water and boil up some eggs. They require no watching and can cook for as long as you want and they’re also a great snack. The ham in this recipe is the beloved bacon. When I buy a package, I’ll divide it into two strip portions and wrap each individually for recipes such as this. Topped with a tangy mustard vinaigrette, this salad is great served with a nice piece of bread and a crisp white wine and will feed the dream that summer is on its way!

salad
Greens, Eggs, and Ham (Optional)
Vegetarians, leave off the bacon and add crunchy bits (croutons, radishes, carrots) or some nice beans (garbonzos would be tasty). 

One salad bowl of greens (lettuce, spring or mesclun mix)
One hard-boiled egg
3 Tablespoons bacon, cooked and diced

Mustard Vinaigrette
3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons vinegar (your favorite)
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
A little bit of minced shallot, optional

Whisk together with a little bit of salt and pepper.

BLOGFODMAPPICMVK’s *Like* of the Week: FOD What?
Despite loving to cook (and eat!), I have lived a life with an occasional distressed GI system. Upon a recent visit to my doctor, she has me now following the FODMAP eating plan for the next couple of months. I thought I knew every diet out there, but this was completely new to me. FODMAPS are carbs found in foods that have been found to be difficult to digest or absorb well. So the thought is by eliminating these foods from your diet, you are giving your intestinal track a well deserved break, where upon foods can be introduced (or not) after a period of rest.

No gluten, very little dairy, and a do and don’t eat list of fruits and vegetables. I’ve gone back to reading labels (just because it’s GF doesn’t mean I can eat it) and with a returned focus of eating real food. I was happy to see I can still have my tea, wine, and vodka (yay!), almost every kind of meat and fish (yippee!), but that I can’t have onions or garlic (boo!). That is the hardest, so I’ve been trying to find ways to flavor food without my two favorite alliums. (One tip was to saute them in oil and then remove so you have the flavor. I haven’t tried that yet, but I will!)

This is still a relatively new plan, so doctors are always learning new things and the lists are always changing. You can read about the FODMAP eating plan by clicking here, and I find Boston-based nutritionist Kate Scarlata has a lot of helpful tips, too. And of course, don’t start any diet without talking to your doctor first!

Ham and Cheese Corn Muffins Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

I love homemade muffins. Such an easy recipe, but I find I don’t make them very often. But when I do, I wonder why not?! They are a perfect mid-morning snack and because it’s homemade, I know what is going into it, rather than a mystery extra-large muffin you’d pick up at a coffee shop.

I recently got the urge to make a batch and decided to go with a savory favorite as opposed to sweet. With a hint of cheese, hot pepper, flavorful ham, and a little crunch of corn, I’ve been making these delicious muffins for years. And with good reason, they’re really delicious!

For changes, I used cayenne pepper and two eggs instead of egg substitute. When the muffins finished cooling, I wrapped each one individually in plastic wrap and placed in a freezer bag, so in the morning when I’m putting my lunch together, I’ll pull one out of the freezer and it will defrosted by mid-morning. I’ll warm it for 20 seconds and enjoy it with a cup of tea. These would be a fabulous addition to a chili dinner, too!

Happy cooking!

muffin2

This looks like a huge muffin, but it’s really not!


Ham and Cheese Corn Muffins

This recipe first appeared in the September 2009 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

Makes 12 muffins

7 1/2 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 2/3 cups)
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 1/4 cups low-fat buttermilk
1/2 cup egg substitute
3 tablespoons canola oil
3/4 cup (3 ounces) reduced-fat shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup finely chopped green onions (about 1 bunch)
1/2 cup frozen whole-kernel corn, thawed
1/3 cup (2 ounces) diced extra lean ham
Cooking spray

1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 5 ingredients (through pepper) in a medium bowl; stir with a whisk. Make a well in center of mixture. Combine buttermilk, egg substitute, and oil; add to flour mixture, stirring just until moist. Fold in cheese, green onions, corn, and diced ham.

3. Spoon batter into 12 muffin cups coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 23 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove muffins from pan; place on a wire rack.

COOKED_VERTICAL_KEYART_USMVK’s *Like* of the Week: New Netflix Series, “Cooked”
The quote “Eat Food, Not Too Much, Mostly Plants” that you see on my home page is a quote from author Michael Pollan. Famous for his books, The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food, Pollan is an evangelist for healthy eating and cooking and now has a new project on Netflix called “Cooked.”

The four-part docuseries, which is taken from his book of the same name, focuses on the four parts of cooking: fire, water, air, and earth. In his latest project, Pollan gives a nudge to viewers to get in the kitchen and start cooking.

I can only hope as many people who watched “Making a Murderer” view this documentary, so we have a kitchen cooking revolution on our hands in this country!

Super Bowl Snacks Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

In nearly five years of writing, I have never written an article on snacks for football Sunday! Which, when I think about it, isn’t that odd since I don’t really watch football, except when a game goes into overtime and I’m waiting for “60 Minutes” to come on, although I do usually watch the Super Bowl. But I’m only there for the snacks and the half-time show! And in my opinion, forget chicken wings and everything else, nothing is better than chips and dip.

These days, clam dip is non-existent on the fridge shelves at the supermarket and I’m not sure why. But when I came across this simple dip in the New York Times a few years back, I now make my own. Homemade is always best for most everything, because it’s healthier, you’re controlling the ingredient list, and there is no added fake ingredients! It takes five minutes to put together, an hour (or longer if you want to make it the day before) to sit in the fridge, and lots of veggies and chips on the side, you will be the star of the game! And if you don’t like football, the dip will also go well with Episode 6 of “Downton Abbey!”

I’ve made this with either two cans of chopped clams or three cans of minced. I don’t think you can go wrong with too many clams, and I up the Worcestershire to 1 teaspoon. I’m not shy with the cayenne and lemon juice, and like Sifton says, I taste and adjust the seasonings to my palate. I sprinkle a little bit of Hungarian paprika, for yet another kick of hot.

Not into clam dip? Here are some other suggestions healthy and delicious snack idea for game day!

Nachos: The direct opposite of loaded nachos you might find at a bar, my take is simple and delicious. Distribute a layer of tortilla chips on a cookie sheet. Add some grated sharp cheddar cheese and chopped jalapeno. Add another layer of chips, more cheese and peppers. Bake at 350 degrees until the cheese is bubbly, top with chopped scallions and serve with salsa and sour cream.

Black Bean Hummus: Healthy and oh so yummy!

Baked Artichoke Dip: For two years in a row, this has been the most popular recipe on myvermontkitchen.com! If you take this to a party, you will be the most popular cook in the room!

Guacamole: This recipe is for two, but just double (or triple) it if you have a crowd!

Deviled Eggs: In my house, these don’t last very long and are always a hit!

Mediterranean Kebabs: No cooking involved!

Homemade Salsa: Like I say, homemade is always best!

dip2

Clam Dip
This recipe by Sam Sifton originally appeared in the January 27, 2014 issue of The New York Times.

1 pint sour cream

1 cup cooked and cooled chopped clams, from approximately 2 dozen littleneck clams, or 2 small cans of chopped clams, with three tablespoons of their liquor

1 ½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice, or to taste

½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, or to taste

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste

½ teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste

¼ teaspoon ground white pepper, or to taste

Spears of red bell pepper, celery and endive, or salted potato chips, for serving

1. In a small bowl, combine the sour cream and clams and mix well.

2. Add the lemon juice, Worcestershire, cayenne pepper, salt and white pepper. Adjust seasonings to taste. Cover and refrigerate until chilled, at least an hour.

3. To serve, place a bowl of dip on a platter with spears of red bell pepper, celery and endive, or with salted potato chips.

theholiday

The kitchen from “The Holiday,” one of my favorite movies!

MVK’s *Like* of the Week: 13 of the Best Movie Set Kitchens of All Time
With movie award season upon us, I found this article highlighting the best kitchens in movies a lot of fun. I counted and I’ve seen ten of the 13 movies and am having a hard time selecting my favorite kitchen, but it’s a toss-up between “The Holiday” and “Julie and Julia.” But I love the kitchen in “You’ve Got Mail” too! Which is your favorite? You can see all the movies by clicking here.

 

 

From the Archives: Comforting Winter Fare Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

Christmas Eve's sunset in Vermont's capital city.

Christmas Eve’s sunset in Vermont’s capital city.

Happy 2016! I hope your year has started on the right foot! Winter has begun in earnest here in Vermont; with a Christmas Eve high of nearly 70 degrees (yes, you read that correctly!), we now have a little bit of snow on the ground and it’s finally beginning to look like January. While disliking winter weather, I have to admit I have a special fondness for this time of year; the holidays are over, the light is slowly coming back, and when it’s snowing I don’t feel guilty about staying home for the day to cook and read. It’s time to roast root veggies in the oven, make a pot of farro to add to salads, and re-read Sense and Sensibility.

Since I am going into the fifth(!) year of My Vermont Kitchen, I decided to take a trip through the archives to find some warm and comforting recipes to start the year off a healthy foot. Such is the time for warm soups and stews, roasts, casseroles, and all of these recipes are some of my favorites that I make throughout the cold months; they’re healthy, delicious, and perfect to make when the weather outside is frightful. And most of these are either vegetarian and/or can be made vegetarian!

Turnip, Leek, and Wild Rice Soup
The underused turnip shines in this cream-based soup with leeks and wild rice.

Lentil Mushroom Soup with Barley
I find lentils and mushrooms cooked together with a little bit of barley to be very cozy. If you want to go the gluten-free route, omit the barley and pump up the lentils.

Hot Peppered Pinto Soup with Garlic
If you feel a cold coming on, make this soup STAT! Spicy with lots of garlic, it will keep those germs at bay!

Chicken Stew with Old South Buttermilk Biscuits
Warm chicken stew topped with homemade biscuits isn’t as hard to make as you think!

Braised White Beans with Garlic and Rosemary
A misread on a recipe turned into a happy mistake that I’ve made again and again!

Farro with Brussels Sprouts and Beans
With the addition of a little bit of bacon and shallots, this dish is easy to make with lots of flavor to warm you on a chilly night.

Sweet-Spicy Chicken and Vegetable Stir-Fry
With an early morning prep, this dinner can come together quickly after a long day.

Spicy and Creamy Pasta
Pasta, sausage, veggies, and a little bit of cream, you’ll think you died and went to heaven!

Roast Chicken
Roasted chicken is my go-to comfort dinner and one bird can make several dinners plus soup!

Barley, Corn, and Provolone Bake
A combination of easy to find ingredients makes for a delicious and nutritious casserole.

(Photo Faith Durand)

(Photo © Faith Durand)

MVK’s *Like* of the Week: 13 Things for Your Grocery List This Month
Along my reasons for liking this time of year (see above), I also love reading articles that highlight how to start the year off right. Here is a great list of things to add to your grocery cart this month. Grapefruits, Cuties, and coconut milk–yes!

You can read the entire list by clicking here.

End (or Begin) the Year on a Healthy Note: Lemon-Herb White Bean and Kale Salad Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

spoon
I can’t believe we are at the end of the year! Last New Year’s is still so vivid in my mind, but now we’re saying goodbye to 2015 and hello to 2016! This year brought challenges and opportunities (making a pie for a movie!), crossing Bonnie Slotnick’s cookbook store off my bucket list, and learning more and more about food, nutrition, and cooking. I’m ready to see what the new year will bring.

And no doubt it will bring more healthy cooking and eating. After a few days of out of the ordinary food, I really wanted a healthy salad. And I hit the jackpot with this one: kale, white beans, a flavorful vinaigrette. It was perfect!

This salad would be perfect on its own as a main dish for lunch or dinner, but will work equally well as a side dish at dinner. Easy to assemble, you can serve it warm (which I did) or chilled (like I had for leftovers) and both are equally tasty. If you wanted to add a little grated cheese or a few pieces of chicken, the salad will only get better.

The Lacinato (or dinosaur) kale at the coop was flimsy and had about three stalks in each bunch, so I decided to go with plain curly, and chopped, you’ll never know the difference. And instead of cannellini beans, I opted for the nondescript “small white beans,” that were just right.

New Year’s will of course include my Good Luck Peas for lunch, with hopes that it brings good luck for the coming year. And as we close the year, my fourth as the author of this blog, I will raise my glass to my readers from near and far tomorrow evening and bid you a Happy New Year! May you find light and love in the coming year!

Happy Cooking!

salad
Lemon-Herb White Bean and Kale Salad
This recipe first appeared in the December 2015 issue of Cooking Light magazine. 

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
4 cups thinly sliced Lacinato kale
1 (15-ounce) can unsalted cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced

1. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 teaspoons oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add kale to pan; cook 30 seconds. Add beans to pan; cook 1 minute.

2. Combine remaining 7 teaspoons oil and remaining ingredients in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Drizzle over kale mixture. Serve warm or chilled.

MVK’s *Like* of the Week: 15 Ways to Shop Smarter

shoppingI am always looking for ways to save money on food for my household, as it is one of the largest bills each month. Thekitchen.com created this list of past articles that is a great start for your new year! You can read the article by clicking here. Happy Savings!

Tis the Season: Mexican Chocolate Cookies Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

Look at this sunset!

Look at this sunset!

Since we are in the thick of the holiday season, I’ve been craving a really good homemade cookie. But just one! If I’m going to make anything this time of year, it will be my family’s butterball cookies, but I certainly don’t want them in the house because they are the perfect accompaniment to a cup of tea. The Eater of the House doesn’t really eat sweets, so I know I’ll start looking like a butterball myself eating the entire batch! But I recently had the opportunity to try something new and these cookies were it! The melding of chocolate, cinnamon, and pepper is a classic Mexican mixture and it all came together in this cookie. A soft cookie with a deep chocolate peppery flavor, this made the perfect sized batch to accompany the casserole I took to a recent dinner party. And it made just 24 cookies for me, so it was a sized offering of cookies.

If you don’t have a microwave like me, you can easily melt the chocolate in a water bath. Just take a saucepan filled with water and set a glass bowl over. Bring the water to a boil and stir occasionally, the chocolate will start to melt gently.

I realized as I started this that I was out of cayenne pepper. To be honest, when I see “red pepper” in recipes I don’t exactly know what that means; I always take it to be a spicy red pepper. So without cayenne, I added a dash of spicy Hungarian paprika since that’s what I had on hand. Success!

Happy Cooking!

cookies
Mexican Chocolate Cookies

This recipe first appeared in the December 2007 issue of Cooking Light.

5 ounces bittersweet (60 to 70 percent) chocolate, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup all-purpose flour (about 3 1/3 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Dash of black pepper
Dash of ground red pepper
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cooking spray

1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. Place chocolate in a small glass bowl; microwave at HIGH 1 minute or until almost melted, stirring until smooth. Cool to room temperature.

3. Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 5 ingredients (through red pepper); stir with a whisk.

4. Combine sugar and butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended (about 5 minutes). Add egg; beat well. Add cooled chocolate and vanilla; beat just until blended. Add flour mixture; beat just until blended. Drop dough by level tablespoons 2 inches apart on baking sheets coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 10 minutes or until almost set. Remove from oven. Cool on pans 2 minutes or until set. Remove from pans; cool completely on a wire rack.

MVK’s *Like* of the Week: Ben’s Kosher Deli and Restaurant
matzoIn the last *like* of my trip to New York City (see Like 1 and Like 2 here!), lunch on Monday was at Ben’s Kosher Deli and Restaurant. This restaurant right off Broadway didn’t seem to cater to tourists, or at least it didn’t seem so when I was there; at the height of lunchtime, it seemed to be more business and family lunches. Our meal began with a platter full of pickles and some coleslaw, which were both delicious. I ordered a bowl of matzo ball soup and half of a corned beef sandwich for my lunch. The matzo ball were the size of a tennis ball, yet light and fluffy, nothing like the ones I make at home. It was a good thing I ordered half a sandwich, it was layer upon layer of corned beef on a really nice rye bread. These were both delicious and gave me sustenance for an afternoon of walking around the city. This restaurant is definitely worth seeking out!

Ben’s Kosher Deli and Restaurant
209 West 38th Street
New York, New York
www.bensdeli.net

Creamy Butternut Squash Soup Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

I hope everyone had a delicious Thanksgiving dinner last Thursday! Now it’s full speed ahead to the December holidays!

A few weeks ago, I read Ruth Reichl’s newest book, My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life. In 2009, Reichl, and the rest of the country, was shocked when Gourmet magazine, the oldest cooking publication in the country, closed its doors immediately. After almost 70 years, Conde Nast folded the monthly with nary a reason. At the helm was Reichl, who along with being blindsided, also blamed herself. With no job and no prospects, she tweeted on Twitter and retreated to the kitchen and cooked. The book encompasses her tweets and recipes she created during that year.

Her recipes, such as they are, are more a listing of ingredients with a description of what to do. I love this way of cooking, but I know it’s not for everyone. And her writing is so beautiful, she makes everything she cooks sound delicious. Including a butternut squash soup.

I’ve never been one for squash soups; squash in soup, yes, but a pumpkin or butternut squash soup is something I’d tried on occasion but never liked. I’ve always found the flavors odd and would always avoid it in restaurants. This mindset shifted a couple of months ago when my mom ordered a pumpkin soup that was really delicious. Reichl had a recipe for a butternut soup and her description of it made me want to make it immediately. I took a glance at the ingredient list, decided to make my version, and cooked it up as the first snowflakes fell outside the kitchen window. And she was right. It’s good. And comforting. And is the best kind of soup to eat this time of year; it’s easy on the wallet and takes maybe 30 minutes at the most to make.

Dairy-free, wheat free, vegetarian, this is so simple that anyone can make it. For lunch, it’s satisfying and warms you up and fills you up, too. You’d think that just five ingredients would make for a not so exciting soup, so I was skeptical when I put everything together. But something about the melding of the flavors is delicious. And don’t worry about precise chopping, everything is going to be blended; it’s a lot easier to use a hand blender if you have one, but a standing blender will work, too.

You’ll find you’ll need more than the first two cups of water. I always add a little bit to my lunch container to get the consistency I like. If you want a little bit more flavor, I thought some cumin or thyme would be a good addition.

Happy Cooking!

butternutsoup
Creamy Butternut Squash Soup

1 Tablespoon olive oil

One butternut squash, 1 pound

2 peeled carrots, chopped

2 celery stalks, chopped

1 medium onion, diced

2+ cups water

Salt and pepper to taste

Warm the olive oil in a soup pot. When ready, add the carrots, celery, and onion and saute until soft over medium heat. Add the squash and saute for about five minutes or so. Add the water, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cook the vegetables until everything has completely mushy. With a hand blender (or standing blender) puree until everything is blended, adding additional water if needed. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve warm.

bs1MVK’s *Like* of the Week: Bonnie Slotnick’s Cookbook Store

Number two on my New York City adventures (Part I can be read here). When I went to New York, I had very little on my agenda except for one thing, I had to go to Bonnie Slotnick’s cookbook store in Greenwich Village. I really wanted to check it out and after more than ten years, I finally made it!

My friend, Jen, and I got there Sunday afternoon at 12:56, only to discover the store opened at 1 p.m. and we were famished. So instead of waiting four minutes, we went to another bookstore for lunch and then I made my way back while Jen went shopping.

bs2I walked in and it was like walking into someone’s kitchen. A lovely table with the season’s colors and cookbooks was in the middle of the room. Cookbooks lined the walls, all neatly divided into ethnicity and topic. The lighting was golden with lamps on various bookshelves and the colors were of retro kitchens, light greens, oranges, yellows. Vintage aprons, linens, and cookware sat on wooden kitchen tables, and I immediately spied the recipe box my mother has in her kitchen since I was born! A box in the back had a pile of old menus from long ago New York City restaurants now closed. It was warm enough to have the back door open, which led to a small enclosed garden with a small table and chairs, where you could read your cookbooks.

bs3I thought it was curious she had no Julia Child books in the French section, but I soon discovered she had a reserved spot for the masters right in front of her counter! Child, James Beard, Elizabeth David, Jane Grigson, a variety of editions of The Joy of Cooking, she had all of the greats. I was so pleased to find they had such a special space all together!

bs4After everyone left, I was able to have a chat with Bonnie and it was everything I thought it would be. I ended up buying a book, Clementine in the Kitchen, a book Ruth Reichl reissued when she was editor of Gourmet, the recipe box, and a small cooking booklet titled Meals for Two. I found the book prices to be reasonable, especially for New York City and for being vintage. If you are into cookbooks and want a treat, don’t hesitate to check it out. Her hours change weekly, but she always posts them on her website, bonnieslotnickcookbooks.com.

bs5Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks ~ 28 East 2nd Street, New York, New York