Italian Chicken Soup

The past week or so I’ve been dealing with a slight head cold that just won’t go away. Today was a chilly, windy day, and I decided what better to cook than chicken soup. Normally I go old school with making the broth from scratch, using buttery egg noodles, and cooking a whole chicken, then ripping off the excess meat for a hearty soup. Not today though. Today I opted for something a little out of the ordinary.

All this really means is I wanted to use up the spices, veggies, and meat I was running low on so I can restock next time I go grocery shopping. The end result: Italian Chicken Soup. Here’s the recipe ūüôā

ITALIAN CHICKEN SOUP

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup sliced carrot
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 1 cup diced zucchini
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups dry orzo (or any other small pasta you have. Ditalini or pastina works great too)
  • 1 14 oz can of crushed tomatoes with basil and oregano (a more favorable subsitue would be a 14 oz can of fire roasted petite diced tomatoes. The reason I used crushed is because that’s what was in my pantry :/ )
  • 4 cups organic baby spinach
  • 1 parmesan cheese rind (this is optional)
  • 8 cups organic low-sodium chicken or veggie stock (I used chicken)
  • 2 organic boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • Salt and pepper to taste.

Directions:

  1. Heat the 2 tablespoons olive oil and butter in a soup pot over high heat. Once the butter begins to foam, add the diced onion and cook for 2-3 minutes. Then add zucchini, carrots, & celery, and cook for 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook one additional minute.
  2. While the veggies are cooking, put the 2 chicken breasts in a smaller pot and cover completely with water. Bring the water to a boil (this poaches the meat) and simmer for about 20-30 minutes. (The amount of time to cook these through really depends on the thickness. I used 2 huge thick breasts, but smaller ones will take less time. Just take them out and cut in half or pierce with a fork to check doneness) Once finished cooking, let the chicken cool slightly and then shred.
  3. Place the shredded chicken, can of crushed tomatoes, thyme, oregano, parsley, basil, rosemary, & parmesan rind into the soup pot. Cook for 5 minutes to combine the flavors.
  4. Add 8 cups of stock and orzo. Cook for about another  15 minutes or until orzo appears done.
  5. Once the orzo has softened, add the 4 cups spinach. Using a spoon push down the leaves so they are incorporated into the soup. Taste and add salt & pepper as necessary.
  6. Remove cheese rind from pot before serving. Make sure to save some grated cheese and a crusty roll to have alongside the soup.

 

Enjoy!

 

xo Robin

Snow Day Delights

Ever heard the saying, “winter meals make summer bodies?”. Yeah me too. And it’s stupid lol. Now if it were “spring meals help shape summer bodies”, I’d be a little bit more on board. Spring allows us to get outside, get active again, and (hopefully) eat lighter, healthier meals. Now, it’s supposed to feel spring like here in the Hudson Valley, but instead my three girls and I are hunkered down inside while a howling Nor’easter drops another foot of snow on us.

After playing dolls, arts & crafts, and watching movies, we decided to cook some delicious, and healthy recipes together. Up first, Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies. Note: none of my children are required to have gluten free diets, but I had almond flour left over from a previous recipe and needed to use it up. The results yielded a delicious and more nutritious result than expected.

Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups almond flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt (I used Newport Sea Salt)
  • 1 whole organic egg
  • 2 organic egg whites
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup organic grade A maple syrup (I used Nature’s Promise)
  • 1 cup organic semisweet dark chocolate chips (I used Nature’s Promise)
  • 1/2 cup organic walnut pieces

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the almond flour, baking soda, and sea salt. Set aside.
  3. Using a stand mixer (or by hand if you’re stronger & steadier than I lol) beat the maple syrup and coconut oil on medium for about 5 minutes. (The mixture will give you creamy light brown result)
  4. Next, add the vanilla extract, followed by the whole egg, and 2 egg whites, mixing slightly to incorporate each egg.

Up next was a more substantial meal- a lemon chicken & orzo casserole. (In case you’re wondering: yes we do dessert first in this house on special days).

As soon as the word casserole is used, my kids tend to run in the other direction. So instead, I told the girls it was a magical pasta and chicken just like the Trolls love to eat. I also had to put on the Trolls movie soundtrack while we prepared it lol. Hey, whatever works, right?

Creamy Lemon Chicken & Orzo Casserole

Ingredients:

  • One 9″ x 13″ baking dish
  • 2 cups orzo (NOT COOKED)
  • 3 cups low sodium organic chicken stock
  • 3 tbsp melted butter (unsalted preferred)
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 3 lemons: 2 of them zested and juiced, 1 lemon just sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 4 organic, boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tsp dried coriander
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried dill
  • Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease your baking dish with non stick cooking spray.
  2. Let’s work on the orzo first. (This will be the base layer of your casserole). Begin by whisking together the chicken stock, melted butter, lemon zest & juice from the 2 lemons, cornstarch, oregano, dill, and 1 tsp of the salt. Once combined, mix in the orzo and fully coat.
  3. Next we will work with the chicken. Rinse and pat dry the 4 chicken breasts. Sprinkle both sides with salt, pepper, and coriander.
  4. Assemble the casserole by placing the orzo mixture into the bottom of the baking dish. Then, take the chicken and lay them on top of the mixture, but at an angle so they are “nestled” among the orzo. Top the chicken with the lemon slices
  5. Bake casserole for about 45 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving, then top with parsley. Enjoy!

***Sorry for not posting a picture- my hubby dug right into this dish when he got home from work. It was literally demolished in a matter of minutes once the kids got their hands on it too. My favorite part of this casserole is that the orzo becomes very creamy- almost like a risotto. The chicken was very tender and flavorful as well. Definitely a recipe I’ll make again. ***

I had plans to try out another recipe or two , but once my husband got home, we honestly needed a glass of wine. With full bellies from the casserole, and giddy from enjoying a local dry riesling, we decided to tackle the 14″ of snow that had accumulated outside. The snow is still falling, and you can most likely expect another recipe post tomorrow.

Hope everyone is staying dry, safe, and happy.

xo Robin

 

Provencal Mustard Braised Chicken “Stew”

It’s been a rough start to March here in the Northeast. Last week we were pounded with snow/freezing rain and another storm is due this Wednesday.

Thus, upon looking out my window yesterday afternoon I could only think of two things: 1. The snow looks pretty but….. 2. I miss warm weather & need some comfort food. So I broke out my trusty dutch oven (see pic below) and decided to make something hearty and filling. But, I’m going to let you in on a little secret: NOT ALL COMFORT FOOD HAS TO BE FATTENING.

GASP!!! Are you wondering if you read that right? Well you did. It’s true. Every once in a while i indulge, but for the most part, I try to “health-ify” all my meals.

This specific dish is something I whipped up with items I had on hand: a yellow onion, a few cloves of garlic, carrots, celery, baby red potatoes, organic boneless skinless chicken breasts, low sodium organic chicken broth, a bunch of spices, and half a bottle of white wine (remnants from the night before…Don’t judge me- it was a looong Saturday lol).

Sounds pretty meager, and I suppose it was at first, but upon adding a tablespoon of flour as a thickening agent to the cooked veggies, followed by a delicious grainy dijon mustard for flavor- yum. Finish it off by pairing with some crusty bread or {to be healthier}¬† serve over a bed of quinoa.¬† If this seems like something you’d be interested in making, read the recipe below. Bonus fact: It basically cooks itself. And quick. This meal is GREAT for prepping ahead of time too, since all “stews” taste better the next day.

 

Provencal Mustard Braised Chicken “Stew”

Ingredients:

  • 4 organic boneless, skinless chicken breasts chopped into cubes
  • 3 full sized carrots, chopped
  • 3 celery ribs, chopped
  • 1/2 a small bag of baby red potatoes rinsed and quartered
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons grainy dijon mustard (I prefer Grey Poupon)
  • 1 tablespoon all purpose flower
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • 2 cups dry white wine (I used Pinot Grigio, but you can also use Savingon Blanc. Other wines will work too, just be mindful that the sweeter the wine, the sweeter the stew will be)
  • 2 cups reduced sodium organic chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (I was out of it so I used cold pressed organic sunflower oil purchased at a local farmers market)

Directions:

  1. Rinse the chicken and pat dry. Using a very sharp knife, cube the chicken breasts, then sprinkle with salt & pepper.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in the dutch oven over high heat. Once shimmering, place the chicken in, cooking for about 8 minutes, or until no longer pink. (Be sure not to overcook. It’s ok if a few larger pieces don’t look fully cooked, as they will be placed back in the pot later.)
  3. Remove the chicken with a slotted spoon and place on a plate. In the meantime, add remaining one tablespoon olive oil and heat until warm. Place the diced onion, carrots, celery, and potatoes in the dutch oven. Cook about 6-8 minutes, or until brown and fragrant. Then put in the 2 garlic cloves and cook 1 additional minute.
  4. Next, stir in the tablespoon of all purpose flour. Stirring constantly, cook 1-2 minutes, or until fully incorporated and light brown.  (This will help to thicken your stew.)
  5. Add the 2 cups white wine. Simultaneously, using a wooden spoon, stir the veggies and make sure to get all the browned bits off the bottom of the pot. Cook the wine until you can no longer smell the alcohol, and reduced by about half.
  6. Add the 2 cups chicken stock, thyme, and oregano, and cook until the mixture comes to a boil.
  7. Add back in the chicken cubes, along with the 3 tablespoons grainy dijon mustard. Taste and add more salt & pepper if necessary.
  8. Bring the stew to a boil, then simmer on low for 30 minutes. Add fresh parsley before serving.

**Note: If cooking for meal prep, let cool, then refrigerate or freeze. When ready, defrost completely and cook on stove top till warm.**

I couldn’t believe it but even my 7 year old loved this meal. It’s hearty, healthy, and warms the soul on a cold day. Hope you & your family enjoy!

xo Robin

Challenge Day 9!

Yesterday was day 9 of my ten-day Positivity and Productivity Challenge. The task at hand was to plan meals for the next week. As a mom, foodie, and list lover, this was a fun one for me. I always try to mix it up when planning family dinners, hoping that at least one of my children will be willing to veer away from the chicken nuggets & mac n cheese train to try some “real” meals. With that in mind, here’s what I chose:

Sunday: Superbowl!!! No dinner needed- just appetizers, as we are going to a party.

Monday: Trying this whole “meatless Monday” thing by making lasagna, garlic bread, & a caesar salad. I’ll do the prep on Sunday afternoon so all I have to do Monday evening¬† is pop the lasagna into the oven.

Tuesday: Leftovers. Because who’s really going to eat a whole 8″x13″ pan of lasagna in one sitting?

Wednesday: Beef stir fry with Asian vegetables and brown rice. This is another easy peasy meal, as I buy the veggies already frozen. I do slice up the steak and sear it prior to combining with the vegetables and condiments, but still a pretty simple one. Here’s a recipe if you’re looking for one:¬†https://www.dinneratthezoo.com/teriyaki-beef-stir-fry/

Thursday: Cedar plank grilled salmon with sun-dried tomato and fresh parsley chutney. Served with quinoa and steamed asparagus. Needless to say this is an adult meal lol. But salmon is my fav. Especially when grilled on a cedar plank. If you haven’t made this yet….try it. I promise to post all these recipes shortly.

Friday: As a treat for the kids I’m going to buy a pre-made gluten-free pizza dough at the grocery store along with all the fixings (sauce {obviously}, three cheese Italian blend, shredded, pepperoni, and mini meatballs.) Then, in the evening we’ll make pizza from “almost” scratch together. We used to do this a lot in the summer and the girls loved it. I let them eat it in the family room while watching a movie too. (I have a feeling the requested movie will be Descendants, but I’ll keep my fingers crossed for an alternative lol)¬† *Note: None of us require a gluten-free diet, but we prefer the taste and elasticity of that pizza crust as opposed to a regular one.*

Saturday: Snow is in the forecast for next weekend, and we have most of the afternoon free while my hubby is at work. That means arts & crafts for the girls while mama makes some comfort food. I’m thinking lemon chicken orzo soup, which is healthy with a nice addition of fresh spinach. The recipe I use is from New England Soup Factory’s cookbook. Check out their website, or better yet, look them up next time you’re in Boston.

Well, that’s it for today. I’ll admit that after planning dinners for the next 6 days, I made a shopping list with all the ingredients not stocked in my pantry. I then added all our other weekly necessities. Overall, a very successful and productive use of my time. I did this task while my youngest was sleeping, and still had plenty of time to spare.

Sunday Success!

xo Robin

 

Snow Day Comfort Food: Creamy Buffalo Chicken Soup

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Yesterday into today the Hudson Valley got hit with yet another snow storm. As anticipated, schools were closed and my children rejoiced.¬† However, after all the shoveling, sleigh riding, and snowman-making that accompanies a snow day, there’s nothing better than warming up with a hot, delicious meal. Today’s comfort food meal is a simple creamy Buffalo Chicken Soup, a spin on my buffalo chicken dip, (as I don’t think it would be acceptable to feed dip to my kids for dinner).

It’s really simple to make- prep took about 10 minutes, and at the end of a cold day, who else wants to have a piece of crusty bread and some spicy chicken soup?

I’ve included my original recipe below, however, next time I’d add a bit more celery (more like 5 ribs) and perhaps another veggie such as carrots. But that’s just me. You might like it just the way it is. Otherwise, it came out creamy and tasting like a delicious buffalo chicken wing.

BUFFALO CHICKEN CROCKPOT SOUP

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 organic boneless skinless chicken breasts rinsed & patted dry
  • 3 ribs chopped celery
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 4 cups organic low sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup Frank’s Red Hot Sauce
  • 1/3 cup blue cheese salad dressing
  • 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 6 oz crumbled blue cheese
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Place chicken breasts and chopped celery in your crockpot
  2. Meanwhile, heat the butter in a medium sized saucepan on low, or until melted and frothy. Slowly whisk in flour. Continue to whisk for about 2 minutes or until fully incorporated. Be sure to keep flame low, as to not burn the roux.
  3. While whisking, slowly pour in the 4 cups of chicken stock. Once incorporated, allow mixture to come to a slight boil and thicken, about 6-8 minutes.
  4. Remove pan from heat and add Frank’s Red Hot Sauce & blue cheese dressing. Add a pinch of salt and a couple grinds of black pepper, then set aside to cool slightly.
  5.  About 5 minutes later, add liquid mixture to crockpot. Be sure to fully cover the chicken & celery.
  6. Put the crockpot on low 6-8 hours
  7. Once crockpot cooking has completed, remove chicken breasts and shred using 2 forks.
  8. Add shredded chicken along with shredded sharp cheddar cheese to crockpot and cook for an additional 15 minutes.
  9. When ready to serve, ladle soup into bowls and top with crumbled blue cheese & a few dashes of hot sauce 

     

    xo Robin

 

Not Your Ordinary Meatloaf

I was raised attending big Sunday family dinners at my grandmother’s house. My mom’s mother was a tiny blonde Irish woman, yet she was married to a full-blooded Italian and cooked THE BEST ITALIAN FOOD I’ve ever tasted in my life. I have so many fond memories of walking into her house with the smell of simmering garlic or freshly made sauce wafting through the air.

Since I’m mainly inspired by my grandmother’s cooking (which included EVERYTHING from scratch), I will assume that’s why I tend to put an Italian spin on many of my dishes.

Last night for dinner we were a little lacking in the meat department¬†– all I could find in the freezer was a pound of organic ground turkey – so I immediately figured: meatloaf. But, upon looking in the refrigerator to find fresh spinach, garlic, and mozzarella, I knew this meatloaf would be anything but my ordinary recipe. So here’s what I made:

NOT YOUR ORDINARY MEATLOAF

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb organic ground turkey
  • Handful of fresh organic spinach
  • 1/2 lb organic uncured bacon (can be substituted with prosciutto)
  • 1 ball fresh mozzarella, sliced
  • 1/2 cup Italian breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano cheese
  • 1 egg (slightly beaten)
  • 1 small white onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 large carrot
  • 2 ribs celery
  • A few dashes Worcester sauce
  • A few squirts Ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (or 1 tablespoon dried parsley)
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh basil (or 1/2 teaspoon dried basil)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees and lightly grease a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray
  2. Prep the veggies & herbs: dice the onion, carrot, & celery, mince the garlic cloves, and chop [or measure out] the herbs.
  3. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients EXCEPT for the fresh spinach, mozzarella, and bacon.
  4. Take half of the turkey mixture and form into a long flat shape (see pics below) on the baking sheet. Next, take half of the spinach and place it on top of the meat. Cover the spinach with all the sliced mozzarella, then top with the remaining spinach. Finally, take the rest of the turkey mixture and carefully cover the top, being sure to seal the sides together with your fingers so the cheese doesn’t leak out while cooking.
  5. Using one slice at a time, cover the meatloaf with the bacon. (Note: you do not need to cover the bottom). Top the bacon with a few grinds of black pepper.
  6. Cook meatloaf uncovered for 1 hour. Let rest for about 10 minutes until cutting into it. Enjoy!

RESULT:¬†My hubby loved it! I served the meatloaf with mashed potatoes, and the combination actually played out well. In my mind it tasted like an Italian bacon turkey burger and the mashed potatoes acted as the fries. ūüėČ

Hope you enjoy this recipe. I’d love to hear about your unique meatloaf recipes too!

xo Robin

An afternoon of Arts & Crafts with the Kiddos

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Does reading the title of this post fill you with creative, happy thoughts? Or does it make you cringe with horrible visions of spilled acrylic paint and glue encrusted on your couches? I have to honestly say I vary between the two. Today, I fortunately felt positive about the concept of arts & crafts, and spent most of the afternoon creating beautiful keepsakes with the kids. First up on our list- canvas painting. My 7 year old LOVES art, so I try to hit up the local stores when they have sales and buy a bunch of items. For the canvas painting, I asked her to make something Valentine’s Day themed, as we don’t have many decorations. The results exceeded my expectations, as you can see below.

 

Next up, salt dough. This super simple recipe is as follows, and you can make anything from ornaments to hand/footprints (which is what we made)….the opportunities are endless. I have to say this is always a fun project, as all the girls enjoy the entire process of making the dough, completing their unique prints / designs, and finally painting them (after being cooked in the oven). And the best part- NO MESS. Seriously parent friendly. Just had to watch that my 1 year old didn’t try and eat the dough lol.

SALT DOUGH

Ingredients:

  • 1 Cup Salt
  • 1 Cup Flour
  • 1/2 Cup Warm Water

Directions:

In a large bowl mix together the salt and flour. Gradually add the warm water until a dough begins to form. (If it’s sticky, knead a bit more.) That’s it!!

*When we made the handprint keepsakes, our next steps were to split the dough into three equal balls. We slightly flattened each ball with a baking sheet until they were large enough to fit each child’s hand. Firmly press their hand into the dough to make a print. You can also use a dowel or knife to write names , dates, or small designs surrounding the hand print. Once done, bake in a 250 degree oven on a baking sheet until dough is completely dried (approximately 3 hours). Let cool overnight, and then feel free to paint using acrylic paints (washable ones won’t stick). *

**A fun idea is to make paw prints of a pet for your loved one. A friend of mine is a professional dog sitter and made a paw print salt dough ornament for all of her clients last year. **

**ONE MORE fun idea I plan on trying in the fall is to make the salt dough, cut out large leaves using a cookie cutter, and bake into the shape of a bowl. After painting shades of the changing leaves, it will make a nifty little keepsake bowl. Here’s the link to the blog post where I first saw this:¬†http://meaningfulmama.com/salt-dough-leaf-bowls.html

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Last but not least, the girls and I made brownies. Perhaps not an arts & craft, but we did it together. In my mind cooking is an art, and I love sharing time being creative with my kiddos. Afternoon success!!