Chicken Soup with Vegetables and Orzo

img_3923

I baked a roasting chicken one night and used the rest of the chicken for soup the next.   You could also shred half of a grocery store rotisserie chicken.  In less than an hour you will have a perfect comfort food that is hearty and full of vegetables and chicken.  And it can be easily modified based on your personal preferences and/or what you have in your refrigerator.  We all know that chicken soup cures what ails you no matter what’s in it.

Ingredients:

1 cup of onion rough chopped

1 cup of celery rough chopped

1 poblano pepper diced (seeded if you want to keep the heat down)

1 cup of carrots sliced

2 cloves of garlic minced

2 T olive oil

6 cups of chicken broth

1 can hominy drained and rinsed

2 cups baby spinach

1/2 cup each of fresh parsley and fresh cilantro

zest and juice of one lemon

1/2 cup uncooked orzo

salt and pepper to taste

img_3909

In a heavy kettle or dutch oven heat the olive oil over medium high heat and sweat the celery, onion, carrots and pepper for about 5 minutes.  Add the minced garlic.  Reduce the heat, partially cover the kettle and cook until the carrots are tender.

img_3910

img_3942

While the vegetables are cooking bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the orzo according to package instructions.

img_3918

Drain and rinse the hominy.

img_3912

Add the broth to the vegetables and bring it to a boil.  Cover the pot, reduce the heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes.

img_3919

Drain the orzo reserving some of the pasta water.  Add the orzo, chicken and hominy to the soup.  Simmer until the chicken is heated through.

img_3920

Stir in the lemon zest and juice, parsley and cilantro and the spinach.

img_3921

Stir until the spinach is wilted.  Season with salt and pepper.  If the soup needs more liquid add in some of the pasta water.

img_3922

Ladle into bowls and serve with toasted tortilla strips.

img_3924

Enjoy!!

NOTE:  I love the lemon in this soup but it’s really a matter of personal taste.  You could substitute peas and mushroom for the pepper and hominy.  Serve with a good crusty bread or your favorite crackers.  Cooking the pasta (or rice) prior to adding it to the soup helps to avoid pasta that is overcooked and absorbs all of the broth.

 

Mac and Cheese

image

Mac and cheese. It’s the ultimate comfort food.  We all remember loving the neon orange stuff we made from the box when we were kids. Truth be known, many of us grown ups have whipped up a box and eaten it right out of the pot.  One of our family’s favorite Mac and cheese stories involves a father, daughter dinner while I was out of town for work. Dad boiled the elbow macaroni to perfection and added the contents of the powdered cheese packet and the butter. What he forgot to do was drain the water from the pasta. Comfort food.

My Mac and cheese never tastes the same twice because I love mixing up the cheeses.  But I always remember to drain the pasta.

Ingredients:

1 onion diced (about a cup)

6 T of butter

4 T flour

4 cups 2% or whole milk

2 T franks hot sauce

2 tsp dry mustard

fresh grated nutmeg

salt and pepper to taste

4 cups of grated cheese; 3 or 4 varieties…you choose

14-16 oz box of pasta…you choose…cooked al dente per package instructions

Preheat your oven to 375.

image

image

In a heavy kettle or Dutch oven melt the butter. Add the diced onion and sauté over medium heat until tender but not browned. I had some poblano pepper left from another recipe so today I added that as well.

image

 

image

Once the onions are tender add the flour and make the roux. Cook for a minute or two stirring constantly.

image

Begin slowly adding the milk and continue stirring until it begins to thicken. Add the franks, the dry mustard, and salt and pepper.

image

Once the mixture has thickened begin adding the cheese a handful at a time and stir until the cheese is melted. Add another handful and so on until all of the cheese has been incorporated. Today I used a sharp Vermont cheddar, asiago, and fontina. I usually like using a bit of smoky cheese like a smoked Gouda but no smoked cheese in my cheese drawer.

image

Grate some fresh nutmeg into the cheese mixture.

image

Drain, but do not rinse, your pasta. Save a cup of the pasta water in case you need to add some liquid. Add the pasta to the cheese sauce, stir and pour into a lightly greased casserole dish.

image

Find some bread in your fridge and use your food processor to make some bread crumbs. Today I had some challah so I used that and added some fresh parsley in the food processor. Melt a couple tablespoons of butter in a skillet and toast the bread crumbs a bit. Sprinkle the crumbs over the Mac and cheese.

image

Bake for 30-40 minutes until bubbly and the top has crisped up and browned a bit.

image

Enjoy as a side dish or as a meal in itself. Great with greens, broccoli or fresh green beans.

I grew up in a rural area in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and attended a small school. We used to enjoy hearty homemade hot lunches that were really very good. Fridays were tuna casserole (not my fav), Mac and cheese or Welsh Rarebit days. The hot lunch version of Welsh Rarebit was very similar to this Mac and cheese recipe minus the pasta. The cheese sauce was served over toasted white bread that had been cubed.  It was one of my favorites.

Enjoy the Mac and cheese. It’s what’s for dinner.