Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Rotisserie Chicken-Brown Rice Soup with Broccoli--Dance While You Cook

When I was a kid, my dad often took soup in a thermos for his lunch.  He did not eat cold food unless he was out on a boat or the food was ice cream on a hot summer evening--in which case he'd have ice cream for supper.  When I started school, he bought me my own thermos and made my lunch, too.  Of course the only way that was possible was because he'd made soup the night before, intentionally making enough for lunches.  He came from a generation of country people, farmers, who knew enough about life to not waste anything.  Chicken necks and butts, bones, the ends of celery bunches, onion peels, and sometimes things we didn't want to know about, went into Dad's soup.  Waste not….

These days, there can be an easier method, though there doesn't have to be.  I'll admit I rarely buy a rotisserie chicken, for instance, but I do on the rare occasion. The carcass or the cooked flesh itself are both good soup materials.  More often, I'll roast my own chicken or boil one up to make homemade broth a la Dad.  However you end up with a little extra chicken, this quick, nutritious, soup is a good weeknight undertaking and stretches the protein into another meal or two. You can eat off of it a couple of days or invite a neighbor, or even take leftovers to work.  Leftover takeout rice can make the soup nearly instant, though, given a choice, I like letting the soup cook with raw rice. All the elements seem to come together and the flavors marry in a way they don't with already-cooked rice.  I also give a tiny idea for a more Asian-style soup; check the notes below the recipe. However you make this, enjoy soup and maybe you'd like to….

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Valentine's Dinner for One

      Happy Valentine's Day to You!

Here's a menu you can make just for you with great leftovers.  This post features big double lamb chops that are grilled first and then finished in the oven;  a piquant tapenade tops them at the table.  Meantime, you'll oven-roast large, whole carrots laced with ground cumin.  There's a make-ahead green bean salad you'll fix again and again and I also give suggestions for wine and tiny, light desserts.  Don't want leftovers?  Cut the amounts in half for a one-time dinner.  Don't want to eat alone?  Invite a friend or neighbor; there's plenty.
Start with a beautiful sparkler that needn't cost much.  I heartily recommend a New Mexico sparkling wine such as  Gruerather than splurging on French champagne.  Despite all, I've found sparklers do keep a day two. Or, if you'd like, choose a half-bottle of a very special sparkling wine from the wine shop.  Add some of the tapenade with baguette or crackers or a bowl of great potato chips--my favorite sparkler pairing.  Stay away from cheese; fresh vegetables would work wonderfully.  Just stick with something light; lamb is loving, but filling.

If you're cooking for just you, open the wine, turn on the music, set the table, and enjoy a beautiful night.  Afterward, get out that novel you've been meaning to read and take it to bed with you along with the last glass of wine.   You could write letters or cards to a few people you adore; make yourself post them in the morning.   Whatever you do,  have fun cooking and taking care of yourself!