It’s getting cool out and that makes me want to eat like a pre-hibernation bear. I can’t catch salmon with my clumsy paws, nor am I much of a forager, so I go about my consumption in a way more befitting a human–I hope! I thought today I’d show you a few of my favorite recipes to make when the chill’s in my bones.
First up, soup, because that’s totally obvious, right? Wait, I said the word “soup” so now I want to take you down a crazy bunny trail for a minute. At the moment I’m fighting a cold–and it’s winning–so over the weekend I made a big ol’ batch of chicken soup with lots of veggies. I also looked in a home-remedy book and discovered the strangest treatment for the common cold–are you ready? Wet socks. Not even joking.
Supposedly this technique encourages your blood to get a move on around your whole body and quit pooling up in your pressurized head. Step One: Warm your tootsies in a toasty foot bath. Step Two: Soak cotton socks in cold water, wring out, and wear. Step Three: Put dry wool socks over the cotton ones. Step Four: Go to bed.
It sort of/kind of works for me. I struggle to breathe for the first hour or so, then everything settles down until about 5 am, when I awaken once again unable to draw a full breath. But making it through the night unmedicated is pretty impressive in my book. 12-hour Sudafed only lasts me about 6 hours anyway.
Thank you for your patience. Now we can talk about soup.
This one is Chicken Spezzatino. The version pictured above is based on Giada de Laurentiis’ recipe in Everyday Italian. (I have mentioned that GDL rocks my socks, right? See, socks are still relevant to this conversation.) The recipe includes celery, carrots, onion, tomatoes, broth, chicken, basil, bay, thyme, and Great Northern beans–my substitution for the kidney beans in the original. Mmmm, this was yummy!
Next up: an easy spinoff of Chicken Pot Pie. The main meal consists of a cream-based broth with your basic chicken-and-veggie suspects, but instead of an actual crust over it all, there’s a mix of artisan bread cubes, olive oil, salt, and Parmesan cheese. Does that sound good or what?
But if that’s too plain-jane, how about something a little more exotic? Back to my trusty GDL cookbook we go for Shrimp Fra Diavolo. We’ve eaten this over pasta before but agree it’s best as a stew with some sort of sopping-up bread.
In this case the “bread” is a popover. (Note to you detail-oriented people: yes, that popover is in a muffin wrapper; no, it did not come out. It just tore. Lesson learned.) The other weird-looking thing on the plate was one of the most enjoyable: lacy Parmesan circles, made by sprinkling cheese on a parchment-lined baking sheet and, well, baking.
Moving on…. This isn’t a meal in itself, although in terms of calories maybe it could be. Introducing…fried zucchini! Because why eat a vegetable fresh when you can eat it fried?
Just kidding. A little. Actually we dipped these crispy beauts in marinara, appetizer-style. I have to be honest: I don’t remember what we ate for the main meal, if indeed we bothered to move beyond starters.
All these one-dish wonders are easy to carry into the living room and curl up with–and there are few things as cozy as hunkering down on the couch with a bowl of soup in your hands. But more often, I try to offer dinner at the actual dining table, and when that happens I like to do the table up nicely.
Sure, we have our frequent evenings of pizza-and-a-movie on the bean bag, or Refrigerator a la Carte on nights when one of us works late. But when we eat together at a decent time (which for us is anything before 8 o’ clock) I make sure the table is clear of my clutter. When we have company I like to dress it up even more. I photograph the settings for future reference, but that habit has the added perk of shareability. Here you go:
This was the setting for a late-spring meal with a family from church. We had salad, bread, peas, and Crock-Pot chicken. Nothing fancy, but got the job done.
For Thanksgiving last year I got to set a more elaborate spread.
Multiple glasses and forks, oh my! It was tough figuring out how to squeeze that many settings onto our table. I had fun finagling the arrangement but I don’t feel the need to do it again any time soon!
Even so, settings like that are great reminders of how far we’ve come. Though we did host a couple gatherings in our very first apartment, sit-down meals with guests at the table were out of the question. Here’s why:
Isn’t that just terrible precious? A teeny weedle table mooshed up to the window. Seriously, it was all a person could do to squeeze past this table to get to the fridge (which sat about 5 feet away, no exaggeration). Yet my love and I wrangled our knees under here almost every night of our fledgling marriage, sharing Hamburger Helper, homemade pizza, and my bungled attempts at alfredo. Sweet memories.
What are your favorites from the kitchen? It can be furniture, food, an event you hosted or attended, whatever. I think our kitchens do easily become the hearts of our homes, and what could be a more welcoming place to nourish our relationships?