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chicken soup

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I’m normally an anti-bouillon, build it from scratch, chicken soup girl.  I really hate the either too salty or no flavour qualities bouillon brings to the table so hardly a carcass, asparagus end, mushroom stem or handful of wilted parsley crosses my path without being tossed in a bag and frozen for future use in homemade soup stock.  One day I will get around to documenting my process for creating homemade soup stock but today is not that day.  Last night, out of a lack of time & energy & the need to provide the eldest sprog with the nasty bottom sustenance in somewhat liquid form, I caved and made a not-from-scratch chicken soup.  It gave me an opportunity to get rid of some rice leftovers and to test drive a product I’ve only recently discovered.  It was the quickest, easiest chicken soup I’ve ever made & it was pretty damned good so I’ll share that recipe with you instead.

What you need:

1 tablespoon of olive oil

A good pinch of black pepper

1 large cooking onion

2 inch chunk of ginger, peeled

4 cloves of garlic

6 bay leaves

6 cloves*

A healthy pinch of ground nutmeg

8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs**

2 (UK) quarts of water (10 cups)

2 cups of pre-cooked rice

1 and 1/2 tablespoons of Better Than Bouillon(tm)***

3 cups of vegetables of your choice (I used a frozen mix of carrots, broccoli & cauliflower)

6 sprigs of fresh thyme or 1 tablespoon dried

I started with heating the olive oil in my large stock pot over medium-high heat and because I was concerned with getting the oniony/garlicky flavours into the soup quickly I puréed them together before adding them to the pot.  I should have added the ginger to that mess as I neglected to tell my family that there were large chunks of it they may not want to consume and I think everyone but me got one.  Good times.  So, then I added the onions, garlic, ginger, cloves, nutmeg & bay leaves to the pot and cooked until everything was a lovely, translucent slop.  I then added the thighs and cooked those until lightly browned.  At this point they were easy to pull apart into bite-sized pieces in the pot with a couple of wooden spoons so I did that.  Then in went the water, the bouillon-esque stuff and the rice.  I brought all of that to a boil then added the frozen vegetables & thyme sprigs & let the lot of it simmer until the vegetables were tender.

*The French word for cloves is clous which translates back to english as nails.  I don’t know why I like that so much but it always makes me think of making orange/clove pomanders as a kid at Christmas time.
**Why thighs?  The slightly higher fat content lends itself to better flavour distribution as well as holding its own against other flavours & being easy to pull apart once cooked.
**This stuff is like magic.  The instructions on the jar called for 1 and 1/2 tablespoon per quart of water used but I got away with 1 and 1/2 for the entire batch of soup.  It wasn’t too salty (the stuff is worth about 39% of your daily sodium intake recommendations per 6 gram serving which, compared to others with 45% for 3.5 grams is pretty decent) and my chicken soup tasted chickeny and not bouillony.
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Over and under an orange-cranberry pound cake

This is my second favourite thing to bake for the holidays. Where traditional pound cakes use a pound each of flour, butter, sugar and eggs, this one is a slightly (just slightly) lighter and easier on the stirring arm version. My recipe makes 8 mini loaves for sharing but is easily reduced by two thirds for a single, normal-sized loaf.

What you need:

1.5 cups butter

3 cups granulated sugar

6 eggs

4.5 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp. salt

1.4 cups of milk

3 tsp. vanilla

1.5 cups dried cranberries

grated peels and squeezed juice of 4 oranges

Start by creaming the butter, sugar & eggs together until fluffy with a hand mixer. Combine the flour, salt, baking powder and add to the creamed mixture slowly, alternating between it and the milk. Once all of that is combined add the vanilla (for this batch I ran out of vanilla so I substituted 3 teaspoons of Angostura bitters and I think I’ll keep using them as a replacement because the results are sooooo good) and mix again. Now it’s time to get out ye olde wooden spoon and stir in the cranberries and orange peels.

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease whatever it is you’re choosing to bake them in – I used two 10×12″ casserole dishes then I divide the cakes into 8 after they’re cooked. Bake in the preheated oven for 20-30 minutes or until a test with a toothpick comes out clean.

Use the orange juice with 3/4 of a cup of granulated sugar to make the glaze by mixing them together then pouring over the cakes as they come out of the oven. Allow to cool then refrigerate immediately or the cakes will be eaten.

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