my favorite fall soup

food with pictures veggie barley soup (12)

I’ve posted a couple other versions of this vegetable barley soup in the past few years, and now I’m posting what I consider the perfected version. I love this soup so much. Since the temperatures dropped this fall I’ve been making it weekly. So easy and delicious. If you’re a soup fan, give it a try! I hope you like it as much as I do.

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Vegetable Barley Soup

In a large soup pot, drizzle olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan.

Chop one onion, many stalks of celery, lots of carrots, and a few cloves of garlic.

Put that all in the pan over medium-low heat. Stir often.

 

food with pictures veggie barley soup (2)

 

When these veggies are starting to get tender, season with salt, pepper, dried basil, and garlic powder.

Note: I use lots of black pepper. Also, you can omit the garlic powder if you’re not a huge garlic fan.

 

food with pictures veggie barley soup (5)

 

Turn the heat to low.

Add 4 cups of chicken broth and 4 cups of water.

 

food with pictures veggie barley soup (6)

 

Add 1 cup barley, half a bag of frozen chopped spinach, and 6-8 ounces of tomato paste.

Stir well.

 

food with pictures veggie barley soup (3)

food with pictures veggie barley soup (9)

 

Cover and cook over low heat for a long time. I usually let it cook for well over an hour.

Stir often.

When the barley is tender, it’s ready to serve.

This reheats well, and freezes well too.

Note: If you substitute white or brown rice for the barley, this will be a gluten-free soup.

 

easy chicken soup

chicken soup

It’s been years since I’ve made regular old chicken soup. I usually make vegetable barley soup or ham and bean soup. But I used to make chicken soup all the time — weekly in the fall and winter. And this week I needed to make chicken soup because my husband was having a medical procedure done (nothing serious) and chicken soup was the requested and recommended food to have on hand for the afternoon of the procedure. When I had the same procedure done just last week, he didn’t make me soup, or pasta …  or anything. He got yelled at by the discharge nurse and then was sent out for takeout from a favorite restaurant of mind. Just to prove I’m a good wife, and a better spouse than he is, I made him homemade chicken soup. Bonus points for me.

Instead of using my standard chicken soup recipe, the one I haven’t touched in a while but made for the first time over 20 years ago, this time I tried some shortcuts. And they worked very well. There is nothing new or unique about this recipe. It’s just basic chicken soup. But you know what? That’s the best kind, in my opinion. Soup like my mother and grandmother used to make. Soup that tastes good alone or with warm from the oven rolls, or with a toasty gooey grilled cheese sandwich, or simply with a wedge of cheese and a crunchy apple. Perfect cold weather comfort food.

I will definitely be making this version of chicken soup more often. So easy and perfect for a cold day, which today is. Hello Winter. Goodbye Fall. Yummy soup.

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Easy Chicken Soup

Into a large soup pot pour 32 ounces of chicken broth. Turn the heat to medium.

Season generously with salt and black pepper (and garlic powder, if desired).

Place into the liquid 3 chicken breasts (skinless, boneless), cut into large-ish pieces. Cover.

chicken in stock

While that is cooking, clean and chop 5 stalks of celery. Then peel and thinly slice 6 carrots. Finally, chop one onion.

veggies

By the time all the chopping is done, the chicken will be cooked through.

Remove the chicken to a cutting board and cut into bite-sized pieces.

chicken

Add the veggies to the pot.

Add the chicken pieces back to the pot.

Also add 32 ounces of cold water to the pot.

Cover and cook for about 15 minutes until you get a gentle boil.

Add 1/2 – 1 cup barley.  *Note: You can also add 1 cup dried pasta or 1/2 cup uncooked rice. If you choose rice, this meal is gluten free.

barley

Reduce heat to medium/low.

Cover and cook until barley (or pasta or rice) is tender, about one hour, or longer if desired or busy or if you just want your house to smell like delicious homemade soup.

Preparing for our Thanksgiving feast

gravy

Do you see that cool swirl from the steam off the gravy? No photoshop tricks here. I didn’t even know this happened until after I was reviewing the photos!

Here are links to the recipes I’ll be using for our Thanksgiving feast this year.

My meal will include:

turkey with gravy (for the gravy, the link will take you to the gravy I made from a roast chicken — same process for turkey gravy)

stuffing To save oven space for the bird, I now make the stuffing in a crock pot.

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vegetables

veggies

sweet potatoes

sweet potatoes

smashed potatoes

mashed potatoes

rolls

cranberry sauce

cranberry sauce

apple pie (I will post the recipe for the pie pictured below very soon. Can’t believe I haven’t posted it yet!)

apple pie

pumpkin pie (I am not a huge pumpkin pie fan, though my husband and oldest son love it, so I use a can of organic pumpkin and follow the typical pumpkin pie recipe — pumpkin, evaporated milk, eggs, sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves.)

pumpkin pie

chocolate pie (my daughter and youngest son will not eat apple or pumpkin pie … and I don’t mind one bit adding a chocolate pie to the menu!)

chocolate pie

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Here is a link to shortcuts I take to make my Thanksgiving meal easy and less work the day of the feast.

Thanksgiving prep

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To start the day I’ll serve baked French toast. Such a holiday favorite of mine!

baked french toast

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What items are on your Thanksgiving meal menu?

guacamole

guacomole batch 2

Last month I spent a week with family and we all took turns cooking and shared most of our meals together. On the first night one of my sisters made guacamole and everyone loved it. Normally I stay away from guacamole, because of having it once — years ago — and it was as bland as bland could be. Due to that experience, over the years I never had any desire to try it again, even with everyone telling me it’s delicious. This time I couldn’t stay away while watching my whole family fight over the bowl and eat the entire thing in seconds. Could it be that good? Really?

Yes. Yes it was!

I know there are many ways to make guacamole, and I’m sure they’re all terrific, but this is the one I put together after watching my sister make her version. I didn’t write down the quantities or exact directions at the time, but after making it at home since then, I’m happy with this combination.  (Note: My sister includes a finely chopped jalapeno in her version, but I did not add this to the guacamole I made.)

Due to this recipe and my recent lime marinade for chicken, I’m calling this the summer of the limes! I think next week I’ll make both the lime chicken and this guacamole on the same night. Top it off with a gin and tonic (extra lime) and it will be a delicious summer meal!

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Guacamole

4 ripe avocados, pitted and fork-mashed

juice of 2 limes

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 of a red onion, finely chopped

handful of fresh cilantro, roughly chopped

lots and lots of garlic, sprinkled with salt and smashed and mashed until it forms a paste

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Mix all together in a large bowl. Serve with hearty tortilla chips for dipping.

guacomole (1)

on a chip

guacomole (2)

creamy chicken and veggies with cheese biscuit topping

step 9

Remember back in November when I posted the link to Mel’s Kitchen Cafe‘s Chocolate Mousse Cheesecake Pie?  Have you visited her site yet? If so, I’m sure you’re like me and have drooled over so many of her tasty recipes!

The most recent one that caught my eye was called Confetti Chicken with Cheddar Biscuit Topping.  Since that day I read her recipe (less than a week ago) I have not stopped thinking about cheddar biscuits. It was clear I’d have to make those soon, and today proved the perfect opportunity.

Our freezer and refrigerator have been wonky lately. The freezer, even while set at the lowest setting, has become an iceberg. The refrigerator section on the other hand, while at the highest setting, can not keep anything cold. I have had to toss many of the foods that warm temperatures are not so kind to. That also resulted in needing to get a rotisserie chicken from our local grocery store for dinner last night, due to having to purge all the chicken and beef that I had planned to cook, but which had to be tossed for safety reasons. For tonight’s meal, using the leftover rotisserie chicken, I was planning on making creamed chicken and serving it over biscuits. But then I remembered Mel’s recipe! Yes! I was excited to make the creamed chicken as I usually do, but add extra veggies, as per her recipe, and top it all with her cheddar biscuit topping!!! It was the highlight of my day, let me tell you.

So that’s what I did tonight. I adapted her recipe — ever so slightly — to accommodate the fresh veggies I had on hand (onions, celery, carrots, green pepper), my solid as a rock frozen peas, and the technique I usually use to make the creamed sauce (I remove the veggies from the pan before making the cream sauce, and my quantities are a bit different).  For her recipe of the cheddar biscuits, I followed it as is, but used the cheese that luckily was stored in my spare but temperamental basement refrigerator — a mix of cheddar and jack along with a few other white cheeses. (Since this recipe was first posted, I now make this with all cheddar and it is simply divine! Really, really good!).  Her recipe called for a bit more sauce than mine, and my husband gently commented that more sauce would have made this dish even better (though he had no other complaints while eating two large servings). Update: I’ve since changed the quantity of the chicken broth from 1 cup to 2 cups, and noted it as such below in the recipe. Now my husband is very, very happy.

Thanks Mel!

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Creamy Chicken and Veggies with Cheese Biscuit Topping

Step #1: Heat oven to 350F. In a large skillet, heat a small drizzle of olive oil and a tablespoon of butter. Add chopped onion, celery, green pepper, and carrots (and/or other fresh veggies you have available).  Cook until tender, stirring often; about 5 minutes. Add frozen peas if desired (and/or any other frozen veggies you like). Reduce heat to low, cover, and allow to sit for about 3 minutes.

step 1

Step #2: Chop cooked chicken and place into a deep casserole dish.

step 2

Step #3: Add cooked veggies to the cooked chicken in the casserole dish.

step 3

Step #4: In the pan, over low heat, melt 1/2 stick butter (1/4 cup) and add to that 2 heaping tablespoons all-purpose flour. Whisk until combined into a smooth paste. Add 2 cups chicken broth and continue whisking. Once combined, add 1 cup milk. Continue whisking until the mixture thickens. Add salt and pepper, and garlic powder (if desired). 

step 4

Step #5: Pour this cream sauce over the chicken and veggies. Gently stir.

step 5

Step #6: Make the cheese biscuit topping.

In a large bowl, combine:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

In a small bowl stir together:

  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup milk

Whisk the egg mixture into the dry ingredients (or stir with a fork).

Then stir in:

  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

 

step 6

Step #7: Pour this mixture over the chicken and veggies in the casserole dish.

step 7

Step #8: Bake for 30-35 minutes, until topping is golden brown and sauce is bubbly.

step 8

Step #9: Enjoy!

creamy chicken and veggies

Thanksgiving preparation

The day before Thanksgiving is a busy day in my kitchen. I’m not complaining, because I really enjoy all the prep work! I put on my fancy apron, select a fun CD to listen (and sing) to, and off I go.

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Growing up my family of eight would spend Thanksgiving (and all other holidays) at my dad’s parent’s house, which was about half an hour away … over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house we went. When we were old enough to realize that my grandmother woke at 2am in order to prepare everything and have it ready to serve at noon, precisely at noon, it was a shock. So much work. So early in the morning. And we ate it so fast. Almost as soon as the dishes were put on the table *poof* it was time to clean up and back into the kitchen she would go (with all us girls following her, of course). That lovely woman spent so many hours (and so many early morning hours) preparing feasts for her family. She loved feeding us, and was extremely thankful that she was able to.

I feel the same way about feeding my family — putting delicious meals on the table for them to eat pleases me and I think of it as a showing of love. But I am not a wake at 2am kind of gal. I’m usually going to bed at 1am, so that just doesn’t work for me! That’s why I came up with the plan to do all the prep the day before. Since I need onions for three dishes, I prepare them all at the same time — some finely chopped, some sliced, others in big chunks. Same for the celery and carrots and everything else that needs to be cleaned and cut before cooking. As I’m doing all this chopping, I have the cranberry sauce cooking away on the stove.

Here’s a photo of my veggies all prepped and ready for Turkey Day:

See that bag that says “stuffing”? That’s my favorite. In it I put finely chopped onion and celery and garlic, and the half stick of butter, as well as a few teaspoons of poultry seasoning. All I need tomorrow is the saute pan! When it’s time I just open the baggie, dump it all in the pan, and cook them. When they’re tender I’ll transfer them to the baking dish, add bread crumbs and chicken stock, then cover and bake. Not one cutting board or knife needed!

And that bag on the right will be used first thing in the morning. It goes into the roasting pan with the turkey. Lots of onion, celery, garlic and carrots. Just as when I make a roast chicken, these in the pan help to flavor not only the bird, but the gravy as well.

An hour before serving time I’ll make a vegetable mix using those two bags on the left. I separate the veggies because I start with the onion and carrots, which take a bit longer to get tender, then add the broccoli, asparagus and green beans. Normally at Thanksgiving I serve just a simple green veggie, usually green beans, but this year I had the urge to get as many veggies on the table as possible.

Oh, did I forget something? Yes, that little bag of plain carrot sticks. Have I mentioned my super picky children? One of them will not eat cooked veggies … ever … at all … EVER. She instead will eat these, either as is, or in a fruit & vegetable smoothie with her meal.

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Other items I get ready the day before Thanksgiving include the desserts. Always apple pie (my favorite) and pumpkin pie (my husband’s favorite). And my daughter makes a chocolate dessert of some sort (her favorite). And we can’t forget about breakfast for tomorrow …. I’ve prepared Baked French Toast. Yum! I’m so looking forward to a big pot of coffee and this delicious French toast! And I won’t have to worry about being up all night doing the busy work — it’s all done!

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Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  And happy Thursday to all of you non-USA readers!  I’m thankful for all of you!