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It is snowing here in Cincinnati.

Again.

I’m starting to think this whole Global Warming thing is a hoax. Because this winter has been so. so. cold.

I have a few standby defenses against cold weather.

1. A fire in the fireplace

2. A hot beverage- coffee, tea, hot toddy, hot chocolate… I’m not picky, just as long as it’s hot!

3. A big blanket. I have at least one throw blanket in every room of my house (except the kitchen), and I am constantly burrowing myself under them.

4. Slippers or shoes. I never go barefoot as a rule. I grew up in a house with my dad, a podiatrist. After hearing the horror stories of various items getting lodged in the bottom of peoples’ feet (and sometimes even getting to see a slide show of such incidents- lucky me), I learned to protect my piggies. Even in the summer, I prefer shoes. And in the winter… shoes keep my toes nice and insulated and warm. And, of course protected- thanks Dad.

5. Soup. I’m obsessed with soup in the winter. I particularly like a spicy soup for it warms me doubly. So, with the snow falling, I whipped up a batch of Spicy Sausage, Potato, and Kale soup.

I first had a soup similar to this at my friend Heidi’s house a few years ago. A group of girls got together regularly for book club. At some point, those pesky books were getting in the way of our imbibing and socializing. So, we became a wine club. Pretty smart, huh?

Anyhow, during weather similar to what we are having now Heidi whipped up this spicy delight and I have been hooked ever since.

I should mention Heidi moved to Rochester, NY. And that is far too far away.

Here is what you’ll need for the soup (if you want to serve 6-8):

1 lb. of sausage- I bought the links because I wanted hot sausage, and they didn’t have that in the bulk packages. If you aren’t into the spicy foods, go for some mild Italian sausage. If you aren’t into pork sausage, go for a turkey or chicken sausage. Right in the regular grocery store there are a plethora of sausage options.

4-5 pieces of bacon, all chopped up

1 onion- I used yellow, but a white or red onion will do

3 cloves of garlic

6 cups of chicken stock

1 1/2 cups of water (oh, I hope you can find this ingredient- it can be a toughie)

4 small potatoes- NEW DEVELOPMENT: I recently read an article that told me that non-organic potatoes are one of the top 10 worst foods to ingest. So, guess what? I switched exclusively to organic, and in my Kroger store they are the SAME price as non-organic potatoes. You really have no reason not to switch.

1 cup of heavy cream

1 bunch of kale

Salt and pepper and possibly some red pepper flake if you are feeling crazy

Start off by browning your sausage. I like a good non-stick pan for this job. It leads to easy clean up, and easy draining of excess fat.

If you are using chicken or turkey sausage, you may need a tablespoon of olive oil to help brown off the meat.

While that is browning in a skillet, pull out your soup pot and put the heat on to medium-high. Drop in your chopped bacon to get that on its way to crispy deliciousness.

Back to the sausage.

Drain off the excess fat. I drain mine into an empty can (usually found right in my recycle bin).

Put your cooked sausage on a plate lined with paper towels. This should grab even more of the excess fat.

Now, back to the bacon.

It should be looking pretty good and browned. Drain off the excess fat… why do I feel like a broken record?

Again, drain the fat into a container and not your drain. You will thank me when you don’t have to call a plumber to come unclog your sink.

Side note: To avoid calling a plumber, you should also never attempt to shove an entire burned lasagna down your garbage disposal. It will most certainly clog your sink. Only an idiot would do something like that.

Chop your onion.

And drop it into the pan. Stir it up.

Then, add your chopped cloves of garlic.

I seriously love my Pampered Chef garlic press.

Stir it again, and let it soften for 5ish minutes. I turned down the heat a bit at this point to medium. I wanted the onion and garlic to soften, but I didn’t necessarily want them to caramelize.

Once softened, add your chicken stock (or broth).

I prefer stock because it has a bit more depth of flavor than broth.

I also added about 1 1/2 cups of water. If you use broth, give the soup a taste. If it doesn’t taste overly salty, go ahead and skip the water step.

Now, crank up the heat to get all of that liquid boiling.

And dice your potatoes.

Now, just imagine that I remembered to take a picture of the potatoes.

And then toss those taters into the boiling stock.

Toss them carefully!

I diced my potatoes pretty small, so they were done in about 10 minutes. The larger the chunks of potato you have, the longer they will take to cook.

I think the best method of testing doneness is actually scooping out a potato and tasting it.

Now, we shall prepare the kale.

If you have been reading my blog for a while, you know that I have a mad love affair with kale.

It is so so good for you, and it is hearty and delicious.

Kale comes in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors, and any of them would work in this recipe.

Kale is extremely high in fiber (good for keepin’ ya regular-I’m just saying!), high in Vitamin A, and high in calcium. Love it.

Rinse it off.

Then pull most of the leafy part off of the stem.

Grab the stem with one hand, and then pull off the leafy part with the other.

The key is to get the bottom, more woody part of the stem off of the veggie.

Once de-stemmed, give it a rough chop.

Right before adding all of that glorious green kale into your soup pot, turn your heat down to medium.

And add in your sausage.

And then, add in your cream.

I ended up using about 3/4 of a cup (because that is all I had left), and it was just lovely.

Doesn’t that just look purty?

Time to toss in the greens.

Mix it all together to incorporate the greens to the pot.

Soup is done!! I turned the heat down to very low while I prepared a little crusty side dish.

I had a ciabatta roll, some salt (again the red clay kind), pepper, a garlic clove, butter and parmesan.

Split your roll.

Slather it in butter. The more the better.

Cut your garlic clove in half.

And rub the cut side of the garlic all over your bread.

Give them a light sprinkle of salt and pepper.

Add some shreds of parmesan.

Put it on some foil, and pop it into the oven on 400 degrees until the cheese gets melty.

You’ll have to imagine the melty delicious bread because I was pretty drool-y by the time it was done. I was ready to eat!

This soup will warm you right up on a snowy winter day. It is comfort food at its best.

And may I humbly suggest ending the meal with a Light-ish piece of Chocolate Cheesecake accompanied by some raspberry sorbet?

You should make this.

I found the recipe on Bake at 350.

It is making my life these days.

Happy eating friends.

XO,

Leah

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Acorn.

This word has had a bum rap in our house for a few weeks.

You know, because of this incident.

Acorns aren’t meant to used as dog food. They just aren’t.

Instead, acorns should be planted so that you can harvest a delicious acorn squash.

Wait.

That isn’t right.

Acorns = oak tree.

Acorn squash seed = acorn squash.

Science is confusing.

These are acorn squash. Squashes. Squash.

Say the word squash out loud three or four times. It starts to sound really strange.

Not only are they pretty, they are also pretty delicious.

And they are easy to turn into a simple supper.

The hardest part of cooking with an acorn squash is the first step in the cooking process… cutting them in half.

You may have to put your back into it.

You may break a sweat.

But I believe in you.

Use those muscles and cut through the squash.

Please keep all fingers out of the way.

I would like for you to retain all of your digits during the making of this Acorn Squash Soup.

We need to get those pesky seeds out of there.

Here is a fun fact: acorn squash was originally harvested for the seeds- not for the flesh.

Turns out that fact wasn’t really all that fun.

It was more of a mundane, fairly-interesting-but-not-really sorta fact.

Sorry.

I like to use a grapefruit spoon for this job- its sharp serrated edges give you the scooping edge.

Blam.

Score these guys.

I don’t mean score them on a scale of one to ten for attractiveness or flavor profiles.

That would be plain silly.

No, I mean use a paring knife to cut slits into the flesh of the squash.

Scoring them will help with three things:

1. Cooking evenly

2. Seasoning them

3. Enhancing your knife skills- how else are you going to win Iron Chef?

Now, oil ’em up.

Get ’em good and greased.

Slather ’em.

Then, salt ’em.

Throw ’em on the pan.

Cook the squash cut side UP.

I added about a cup of water to the pan before putting them into the 400 degree oven.

The water helps the skin from getting scorched.

And it helps the cooking process along by providing a little steamy action in the oven.

Roast these for approximately 40 minutes. Depending on the size, it may take a little less or a little more time. You want the flesh to be tender.

Why does this whole recipe sound like one innuendo after another to me?

Dr. Freud, I’d like an answer.

Scoop out the flesh, and reserve it in a bowl.

Toss out the skins.

Now, we shall begin our soup making.

Turn a burner on medium.

Into a medium sauce pan with a little extra virgin olive oil, throw half of a chopped red onion, two stalks of chopped celery, and 2-3 cloves of chopped garlic.

Push it around to coat it in the oil.

Chop up some herbage.

I think thyme would be the best option for this recipe. Thyme is fall-ish and kind of tastes woodsy.

I didn’t have any fresh thyme.

But I did have some dill.

So, dill it was.

And I don’t regret that decision.

I think that chives or rosemary would also be lovely instead of the dill.

I used about 1 1/2 T. of the fresh stuff.

If you are using dried, I would cut it back to a teaspoon.

You know, ’cause the dried stuff if potent.

Toss in your herbage.

Give it a stir.

Bask in the instant aroma that occurs in your kitchen the moment a fresh herb hits the heat.

Pretty fantabulous if you ask me.

Now, we shall thicken our soup.

Guess what we are using?

That is one heaping tablespoon of either:

A: Cocaine

B: Powdered Sugar

C: Flour

You will have to correctly guess the ingredient here, ’cause I’m not telling.

Stir it in so that it doesn’t have a raw flavor.

Now add four cups of stock.

Veggie or chicken will do.

Toss in one lonely bay leaf.

Add in your roasted squash.

Then a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

Bring that to a boil, then reduce the heat to simmer.

Now, get out your immersion blender.

Or your regular blender.

Blend it baby!

Let it simmer away until you are ready to eat.

Now you can do a few different things to amp this bad boy up.

#1. Mix in a splash of cream. Regrettably, I had none. Boo.

#2. Sprinkle on some crispy bacon. You KNOW I had that. So, YAY!

#3. Chop up a tomato or a green onion or some herbs and sprinkle on top.

Serve it up with a green salad.

My salad had these amazing Burgundy Mushrooms on top.

It is savory and yummy in my tummy.

Hope that you  all are having the happiest of Thursdays.

XO,
Leah

Potato and corn, to be exact.

This year, for the first time, Brad and I joined a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) group. It has been an awesome experience. Once a week, we go to the farmers market and pick up a bag of assorted farm fresh fruits and veggies. We also get a half dozen organic farm raised eggs.

It is always a treat to peek in the bag and see what the good folks at Bergefurds farm have picked for us.

We have received an abundance of corn and potatoes.

Every week for about 6 weeks, we received 4-8 ears of sweet corn.

Now, I love me some corn.

But for 2 people… too much.

I have been giving it out at work.

I have been handing it out on street corners.

I have been selling it on Craig’s List.

I have been racking my brain with clever things to do with corn in the kitchen.

And when one of those cooler late summer days happened upon us, I decided it was time for some Corn and Potato Chowda.

Yummers.

Like any good recipe, this one starts with bacon. However this is an optional step. If you leave the bacon out, the rest of the recipe is vegetarian. If you leave the bacon in, it is not.

That last sentence is my obvious statement of the day.

Throw a tablespoon of olive oil into a pan over medium heat.

Chop up 4 slices of bacon and throw them in a pot. I happened to use uncured bacon here, which is another story for another day.

Anyone out there have an opinion on or experience with cured vs. uncured bacon?

I don’t know a whole lot about it.

However, the man at the farmer’s market selling the bacon made me feel like a sinner for using cured bacon.

So, I caved and bought the uncured.

It was very very delicious, but you have to add in your own flavors (salt/pepper/liquid smoke).

I’m not sure it is worth the extra work.

Someone tell me what to do here.

For, I am lost.

Once the bacon is all browned and delicious, remove the bacon and put it on a paper towel to drain a bit.

Then, toss out some of that extra bacon fat.

Leave 2 tablespoons of the fat in the pan.

Chop up 4-5 potatoes (I used red potatoes- on the smaller side. If you are using larger baking potatoes, you will only need 1-2).

Throw ’em in your pot.

And stir ’em around.

Now we shall prepare a leek.

Do you ever cook with leeks?

I love them.

They add a lovely mild onion flavor to a dish without overwhelming it.

This is a leek:

It kind of looks like a giant green onion.

Chop off the white end.

Then chop off the thick woodier green part.

Now slice it in half lengthwise.

Then, chop it into little half moons.

Now, in between those delicious little half moons of oniony goodness, there may be some dirt.

Why?

Because these are plants, and they were grown in the dirt.

That’s why.

Fill up a bowl with cold water.

Throw in your leeks.

Let the dirt fall away.

In the meantime, cut the corn off of 5-6 ears of corn.

Or open two cans of corn.

And toss the corn in with the taters.

Drain your leeks.

And throw them into your pot.

Also toss in a teaspoon of dried thyme.

Put in a little salt and pepper.

And then some wine.

I used a drier Sauvignon Blanc, and I added about a cup.

The wine will help you to scrape all of those delicious bits of flavor off of the bottom of the pan.

It will also help you reduce the stress level in your life.

When consumed from a glass.

I recommend pouring yourself one if you are feeling a little stressed today.

I should also note that if you don’t groove on wine, you can leave this step out.

Use some vegetable stock to deglaze the bottom of your pan.

After the wine and vegetables have hung out for 4-5 minutes, add in some vegetable stock.

Enough to cover all of the vegetables… about 4 cups.

Throw in a bay leaf.

Bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat to low.

Now, cream.

Oh, cream.

Yummy creamy cream.

So, I add in a splash of cream (about 1/4 c) for the rich flavor. Then, so that I can sleep at night, I add in about a cup and a half of low-fat milk.

To make a chowda properly, you should use all cream.

But I would like to state for the public record that cream has been known to cause husbands to swoon children to eat all of their food.

So, add the cream at your own risk.

Mmm, savory, creamy deliciousness.

Now, you could stop right there and put this in a bowl.

Life would be very good.

And your belly would be full

However, I do have a way to bring this soup up a notch.

You will like it, I promise.

What if you added jalapeno/cilantro cream to the top?

It is amazeballs. Can I say that word?

It is the only word that seems appropriate.

Here is what it looks like:

And here is how you make it (the jalapeno cream is a Wolfgang Puck recipe, by the way):

Combine all of the following ingredients in a small bowl:

-1/2 cup heavy cream, whipped

-1/4 cup sour cream

-1 jalapeno pepper, cored, seeded, and minced

-2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

-Salt, to taste

-Freshly ground pepper, to taste

-Lemon juice

*Note: This cream is at its best when the flavors have some time to meld together. I had a leftover bowl of soup for lunch the day after I made it for dinner, and the cream was about 100 times better than the night before. So, if you are a plan ahead type of person, I recommend making the cream at least a couple of hours before the soup will be ready. But if not, still make it! Please.

Top your soup with a dollop of the cream and some of those saved bacon crumbles.

Serve with a green salad.

Ooooo-eeeee.

I like the chowda.

Enjoy my friends,

LW

(Please read the title in the voice of the Soup Nazi– a la Seinfeld). Thank you.

As much as I dread cooler weather, it does have a benefit or two attached to it.

For one, the dogs can bear to be outside for more than 5 minutes. In fact, this ding dong kind of likes it:

Another benefit of the cooler weather is that soup once again enters my life.

I love soup.

Love. It.

And French Onion is one of my classic favorites.

Whenever I’m in a restaurant that offers the savory cheesy goodness that is Onion Soup, I tend to indulge.

But I like a homemade version better for a couple of reasons:

1. I can control the salt. For whatever reason, restaurants want to give their diners swollen ankles and restricted arteries through their version of French Onion Soup. It is always so stinking salty.

2. I can control the quality of the bread and cheese that is, in my humble opinion, the most important part of the soup.

Let me provide an example.

On vacation with my sisters, Nurse Stephanie ordered some French Onion Soup. I have no clue what kind of rock bread they used in their soup, but this is what Steph looked like trying to eat it:

Makes for a great picture and memory.

Doesn’t make for good soup.

For Leah’s French Onion Soup, here is what you’ll need for four servings.

Side Note: I almost always make at least four servings when cooking for two people. It gives the Main Man and I a lunch leftover for the busy work week.

3 T. Butter (mmmmmm!)

3 Large Yellow Onions, sliced

1 Clove of Garlic

1 Bay Leaf

1 t. Dried Thyme

2-3 Portobello Mushrooms, chopped (optional, but it makes the soup heartier and more delicious)

1/4 c. Sherry

1/2 c. Dry Red Wine (I used Chianti)- you could use white too if that is more your thing

3-4 c. Beef or Vegetable Stock

Some good white bread

Gruyere Cheese (please, please, please splurge on the Gruyere)

Let’s cook!

Get out a medium saucepan, and put your butter in there. Turn on your burner to medium heat:

Once that melts, throw in all of your sliced onions, your chopped clove of garlic, your bay leaf, and your thyme.

Your house will instantly smell UH.MAZE.ING.

I love the smell of onions and butter.

It lights my world on fire.

Stir that around effectively coating the onions with butter.

Have you seen the movie Julie & Julia?

I love the way that Meryl Streep playing Julia Child pronounces the word butter.

When I write the word butter in a recipe, I hear Meryl’s Julia voice in my head.

Let those onions cook for 3-4 minutes, and then add in your mushrooms if you so choose.

Mushrooms, onion, and thyme just make sense to me. I actually don’t understand why every French Onion Soup doesn’t include them. They add so much substance and depth of flavor.

I guess it may be because of people like my Dearly Beloved Friend Anne.

She has the most incredible gag reflex when it comes to mushrooms.

I have never seen my dad laugh as hard as he did when Anne and I were about 15 years old, and she came over for dinner. Something my mom served had mushrooms in it, and she encouraged Anne to “at least try it”.

Anne obliged.

She ended up with a red face.

Tears in her eyes.

A few dry heaves.

My dad was hysterical. I honestly don’t know how many times I have seen him laugh that hard. I guess he finds joy and hilarity in someone else’s dry heaves.

And that makes him and me not so dissimilar.

So Anne (or anyone in Anne’s camp), feel free to leave out the mushrooms.

The rest of you… throw ’em in the pot!

This is where the recipe becomes less than scientific.

You need to just let the onions and mushrooms spend some time together with the butter.

They need to get to know one another.

Cuddle up next to each other.

Love on each other.

Until the onions and mushrooms are buttery and delicious and softened.

Now it gets fun.

Throw in your sherry.

If you don’t have sherry, you can find it in your grocery store near the vinegars. It is relatively inexpensive, and a bottle of it lasts me a long time.

Now, open your red wine.

Pour yourself a glass.

You deserve it.

After all, you made it through the oppressive heat of summer.

And you made it through the day.

And you are cooking for yourself or your family or your friends.

So, yeah. You deserve it.

Add some of that wine to your soup pot.

Be careful if you are using a gas stove like me.

Alcohol plus live flame equals danger.

Let that simmer together over medium heat for 2-3 minutes.

You have no idea how delicious this smells.

But you will soon.

When ya make it.

Now add in 3-4 cups of stock. The amount of stock will be determined by how hearty or liquidy (yes, I’m aware liquidy isn’t really a word) you would like your soup.

To keep this a vegetarian dish, use vegetable stock.

If you want a little more depth of flavor, use some beef stock.

Or use a mixture of the two.

Let that come to a boil, then reduce the heat to low.

Oh hey, look who finally showed up to help me in the kitchen:

Slacker.

So, at this point, the base of your soup is complete.

Take a taste of it. With all of the stock in there, it is highly unlikely that you will need to add much salt, if any at all. But taste it to make sure. Add some pepper if you’d like.

If you are making this soup ahead of time for a party or guests or just dinner for another night, allow it to cool a bit and then transfer it to an airtight container and put it in the fridge.

To warm it up, just put it back in a pot on the stove over medium-low heat until it gets to temperature.

If you are eating it right away, here is how to finish it up.

We need some bread. Preferably white, crusty, and delicious:

Drizzle them with extra virgin olive oil:

Put them under the broiler (on high) in your oven for 1-3 minutes on each side. Keep an eye on them, because in my oven toasting bread goes from perfect to well-done very quickly.

When all toasty and delicious, pull the bread out of the oven and give it a gentle rub with a halved garlic clove.

Voila! Garlic bread.

Cut that into cubes, and lets grate our cheese.

Gruyere makes a world of difference in this soup. I have made this soup with pre-shredded mozzarella or shredded swiss, and it is OK.

With Gruyere it is perfect and amazing and life changing and life giving and magical.

I’m not even exaggerating.

Not even a tiny little bit.

I’m not.

Grate the gruyere.

Now, we will build our soup.

In an oven-safe bowl.

Oven safe bowls are very important for the French Onion Soup.

If you don’t have oven safe bowls or aren’t sure if you do, we’ll have to alter the final step of the recipe for you.

But never fear, you too can still enjoy the French Onion goodness.

Ladle a bunch of soup into your oven safe bowl or crock, and top that with your cubed garlic bread.

Then add a generous portion of the grated cheese:

Then pop that into the oven under the broiler for 3-5 minutes.

If you don’t have an oven safe bowl, pop it in the microwave for 1-2 minutes or until the cheese gets all melty.

Be careful removing it from the oven. The top of the bowl is extremely hot.

And if you accidentally pick it up with bare hands, you will get blisters.

I may or may not know that from personal experience.

Serve it up with a spinach salad topped with some strawberries and chopped smoked turkey.

Give thanks for the cooler weather.

For it has brought you renewed sanity because your dogs are back out in the yard.

And it has brought you soup once again.

And truth be told, soup- especially one with ooey gooey melty salty cheese on top- makes everything better.

Yours in white bread and cheesy goodness,
Leah

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