Not Your Bubbie’s Chicken Soup

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of activity. In case you missed it, I announced plans earlier in the week to start a food truck here in Seattle. Getting ready to go big has made life busier than usual, especially between travelling to the East Coast for a wedding and kickball season starting.

Also, it’s June in Seattle now so you know what that means–cold, rainy days with sweaters and mugs of tea.

I’m being 100% serious right now. I am wearing a sweater and thick socks as I write this. If it wasn’t that it’s still light at 9:30 it would be just like…fall. Us locals sometimes refer to June as “Juneuary” and for good reason. Tonight’s game is going to be very muddy.

I’ve been meaning to share this soup for a while. I figure that now is as good a time as ever, since I made it again very recently for a friend who’s been going through a hard time with her health and has had to cut out gluten very suddenly. She declared the soup to be very good, and I promised her the recipe. In fact, I’ve never had anyone tell me that they didn’t like this soup.

Take your time with the stock and you won’t have to do anything else to make the soup good. The stock is a treasure box of spices, but nothing that is too spicy unless you want to make it so. I really do suggest using a roasted chicken to make the stock, for a deeper, meatier flavor. When I made the soup for the photos you see here, I didn’t have a roasted chicken on hand–just one I had cut most of the meat off of to grill–and the soup was not nearly as good. Don’t skimp on the spices either–nobody likes a thin watery broth when they could be eating soup robust enough to knock you back in your seat. Taste as you go, and if it isn’t spicy enough add another pepper, and more cumin to balance if necessary.

Use the sweetest carrots you can find, but don’t use fresh tomatoes unless it’s actually tomato season. You’re not going to add many so you want them to actually taste like tomatoes. I keep a stash in my freezer that I pull out for occasions like this, but I know that’s not something everybody has. Canned ones are fine, just look for cans that say BPA free, because the acid in the tomatoes really will leach the chemical into your food.

Mexican Inspired Chicken and Rice Soup
Serves 6–Gluten Free

For the stock:

1 roasted chicken carcass, either leftover or roasted just for this
2 large carrots
1/2 yellow onion, peel and all
2-3 medium stalks celery
1/2 tsp whole coriander
1/2 tsp whole cumin
1/2 tsp black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
1-3 dried habanero chilies, or more if you use a milder variety

For the soup

3 cups brown or white basmati rice, cooked
2 cups shredded chicken
1 1/2 cups chopped canned or frozen tomatoes (from 1 can is fine)
1 1/2 cups shredded zucchini, from about 1 lb fresh squash
salt to taste

Whether you are using a chicken you roast just for this soup or are using a chicken that was leftover from another dinner, you will want to remove all the meat from the bones and boil the entire carcass. I usually also boil any leftover skin and drippings from the roasting pan. Shred the meat into small bites and set aside.

Chop the onion, celery and carrot into large, rough pieces. Along with the chicken, put them in a large stock pot and add the spices. You don’t need to tie them into cheesecloth because you will have to strain the whole thing anyway. Cover with enough water to submerge entire chicken. Bring to a boil over high heat and then turn it down and let simmer for 2-3 hours, the longer the better.

While the stock simmers, prepare the other ingredients. If you don’t have leftover rice, cook it now and set aside until the broth is ready. For extra oomph, cook it in stock too if you have some already sitting around. For my soup, I used tomatoes and zucchini frozen last summer, which helps the process of removing as much water as possible. I don’t expect you to have stuff just hanging out though, so you can use the following: Drain the canned tomatoes thoroughly–if it’s short of the cup and a half, that’s totally Ok, or you can add another can. Up to you. For the zucchini, shred it on the largest holes of a box grater and add about 1 tsp of salt. Toss to coat and leave in a colander to drain the liquid off as the salt releases it from the zucchini. Occasionally, stop by to press on the solids–this will help release as much water as possible. If you don’t end up with exactly 1 1/2 cups, that’s OK. Better to have less water than more bulk.

Once you are satisfied that the stock has cooked for long enough, drain out all the solids and discard. Put the stock back in the pot and add in the carrots, zucchini and tomatoes. Simmer until the carrots are just tender, then add the rice and chicken. Cook, stirring occasionally and tasting as you go. When the rice has expanded and absorbed all the liquid it can absorb and everything is starting to really meld together, it’s done.

Garnish with sour cream (we use Tofutti brand which is certified kosher-parve), limes wedges, fresh cilantro, tortilla chips, hot sauce, and anything else you might eat in a taco or burrito.

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Half Birthday’s Aren’t Just for Kids

I know this guy. We get along pretty well, so sometimes we hang out. Usually we don’t get to hang out by ourselves, but that’s OK with us since the rest of the usual group can be fun too, since they’re our kids and all.

Anyway, this guy’s name is Joe, and today is his half birthday. Normally grown-ups don’t celebrate half birthdays but that is just a crying shame. This morning when he flipped the calendar page he realized the date and wanted to know if he could have half a birthday cake.

I think he was a little surprised when I said sure, but who likes to get their hopes up and then have them dashed? Certainly not me.

So I made him one. I cheated a little and used a cake that had been in our freezer, pretty much just waiting for the right moment to come along. One when it would be thoroughly enjoyed.

Slathered with buttercream, who can tell the difference anyway? Ok, so the buttercream was in the freezer too, colored a very garish yellow from Lilli’s first birthday. 

We also had a Thai inspired feast for dinner, to go with our chocolate cake. Most of the foods in the meal weren’t anything special because this week we are trying to kind of clean out our freezers and use up leftovers because Joe’s kind of a frugal guy. I had some leftover teriyaki salmon that I turned into fish cakes with some lime, ginger and some cilantro straight from the garden. And I had some lemongrass and half a container of tofu so I made a quick curry tofu soup with a little bit of coconut milk. Well, maybe a lot of coconut milk.

The soup came straight from my own brain. The fish cakes too, which is maybe why they weren’t very pretty–they ended up more like fish hash than cakes but oh well. I don’t know how to cook Thai food like a pro, but I do love to eat it so I think I at least have that going for me. The recipes probably aren’t that authentic, but they were pretty simple and that’s helpful if you’re also trying to entertain a silly silly little girl while making dinner.

The cake came from Fanny Farmer, a book I use very frequently. There’s something about the old recipes that I really love–they are classic, sure, but mostly it’s how they are written. They’re so matter of fact. I have to tweak them sometimes, but I don’t mind a bit. There are a lot of pages stuck together, and the gold hardcover is starting to break down in places, but that just shows how loved it really is.

Fudge Cake
Adapted from Fanny Farmer, 1965 edition
makes two 7″ or 8″ cakes

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar, divided use
1/2 tsp vanilla
4 oz good semi sweet chocolate
5 Tbsp boiling water
3 eggs
1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350ºF

Sift together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

Cream together butter, vanilla, and 3/4 cup sugar until light and fluffy.

Meanwhile, over a double boiler melt the chocolate. Once it’s melted smooth add the boiling water and the remaining 1/4 cup sugar.

Add to the butter mixture. Next add the eggs, one at a time. Beat after each addition, scraping down the bowl as needed.

Add the flour to this mixture alternating with the milk.

Divide in the pans and bake about 20 minutes, rotating half way through. Check with a toothpick and give it 5 more minutes or so if needed. Cool completely before frosting.

Something Fresh

Thursday was a hard day in computer land if you live in my house and your name is Venessa. My computer completely wacked out and had to be restored from a back-up that wasn’t quite complete.  Joe had to retrieve about 200 pictures from my camera card from over the last 3 weeks. I’m really really glad he knows a thing or two about computers. More than this guy at least.

I also had a lot of trouble getting somethings right in a post I was doing. It took me all afternoon to get it written and put pictures in, and when it finally came time to check the final draft I realized thatmuch of the formatting was way way off. This has been happening more and more over at blogspot and while I have been happy there, I decided it was just time for a change. There’s been too much frustration in my life lately, and that was one area I had some control over. Hopefully the transition goes smoothly.

That post was a recipe for a hearty muffin full of fiber and protein, and since I’m getting a fresh start in this fresh year and I already have been posting a little bit about eating light, I thought I would post this quick soup. It’s bright and rich at the same time. It’s incredibly flavorful and also incredibly easy on the waistline. Maybe your waist will look like this bulb of fennel’s if you eat it a lot.

Fennel (one of my favorite foods for like the past, oh, 2 or 3 years) and bright green apples go in, alongside a hit of fresh thyme and some other minor players. I didn’t really have a recipe but I imagine it would be good with pretty much whatever proportions you like, as long as you remember to balance it out in the end with the lemon juice to brighten it up. At least as bright as this friend’s plumage

I took it on a picnic to the zoo on Friday, in some borrowed thermoses. It was so nice to have a little cup of warmth after tromping around and making all the animal sounds out in the cold of an early January day. Topped with a little dollop of greek yogurt and a few more thyme leaves, it really hit the spot.

(I didn’t have anything witty to say about soup in cups. Sorry.)

Fennel and Apple Soup with Thyme

  • 2 bulbs fennel, fronds removed
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 green apple
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 1 large sprig fresh thyme or about 1 tsp dried, plus more for garnish
  • 2-3 cups veggie stock
  • 1 small winter squash, flesh only (I used a Delicata)
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • plain greek yogurt to garnish, optional

Roughly chop the fennel, celery, carrots, apple and squash. I didn’t peel anything except the squash, just chop it. Put it all in a pot and cover with stock. Add the thyme and a dash of salt, cover and let simmer. Once everything is pretty soft, after about 15-20 minutes, turn off the heat and puree completely either in batches in a blender or with an immersion blender. If it’s too thick you can add a little more stock, or if you like a thicker soup bring it back to a boil and then simmer on low for a little bit until it’s a consistency you like. Add about half the lemon juice and then taste, adding more salt or more lemon juice if you like.

Ladle into bowls and garnish each with about 1 Tbsp greek yogurt or so, and a sprinkling of thyme.

Finally, Fall

Fall has arrived in Seattle, and I have been throwing it a welcome party for the past couple of weeks. Party games included freezing tomatoes, clearing out patches of garden to make room for winter crops, making corn salsa and taking a trip to our local state fair. 

The party also has had lots of good food served at it, including the macaroni and cheese I made tonight (with a few revisions because I very seldom follow a recipe by the letter unless it’s for cookbook club), lots of different soups, and our perennial favorite, tacos with the above mentioned corn salsa. But so far the gem has been what I made last night: Pumpkin soup. 


It’s been busy as usual around here. The boys started school, as well as Hebrew lessons with a new amazing tutor. It was Joe and my 2nd anniversary earlier this month, and now we are planning and prepping for Lilli’s 1st birthday next week. 

Sneak peek.



In addition to this, last week Lilli came down with some sort of nasty virus. When I say nasty, I mean it. One minute she was fine, and literally the next minute she was crying inconsolably and I had no idea what to do. We’ve been very lucky in that she’s been pretty much 100% healthy her whole first year. 


After some of her symptoms set off alarms bells in my head, I decided to take her to the Dr. that afternoon, and they performed some tests, all of which were very stressful and all of which came back totally inconclusive. It was terrifying. I was worried she was having an asthma attack, which is something I occasionally suffer from, so I’m glad I took her, but it’s frustrating to be able to do so little.

She’s fine now, but after doing another triathlon this past Sunday I came down with what is presumably the same virus. Now I know how she felt, and it feels awful. 


This is where the soup comes in. 



Thankfully, my appetite is intact, but Joe isn’t much of a cook so I have still been in charge of meals. And, I wanted comfort food, which to me is soup. I can’t find the kosher version of my favorite chicken soup anymore, and I didn’t really want something out of a can. So I came up with this soup. It was super quick and easy, and I even got a little bit of inspiration from another non-cook friend who happened to mention over the phone that she had a delicious pumpkin curry recently. (Yes, people still talk on the phone.)


It won’t take you long to prepare and you could make any number of substitutions. Any squash would work, as well as any sort of milk or cream. Coconut would have been excellent but I was out. You could add any vegetables you want, perhaps some kale or chard. Just be sure and eat it with warm, crusty, buttered bread.



Easy Peasy Pumpkin Soup
makes about 3 servings


1 Tbsp olive oil
2 carrots, very thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced fine
1 1/2 cups canned pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
2 tsp turmeric powder
2-3 Cups vegetable stock
Salt and pepper and fresh grated nutmeg to taste
Cream or half and half to finish


Heat a medium sized pot, and add the olive oil. Toss in the carrots and garlic and let soften for a minute or two. Add turmeric and stir to coat all the carrots. Continue stirring until the turmeric is fragrant, then add just enough vegetable stock to cover the carrots. Cover the pot just until the stock comes to a boil, then stir in the pumpkin puree. Add stock until it is a touch thinner than a consistency that you like, then taste for salt and pepper. Add some nutmeg and bring to a boil. Let boil with the lid off for a couple of minutes, to allow the flavors to concentrate and for the soup to thicken up that extra little bit. Turn off the heat and taste again for seasoning. Serve with the cream on the side so that each person can decide how much to add.

Picnic Fever

Oh, it’s been too long since I’ve written anything. We went camping, and soon after that school ended for the boys and Joe took them on a road trip to Lake Chelan. While they were gone, I had absolutely no desire to do anything but revel in being alone with Lilli and taking it very very easy. That is not to say I haven’t been keeping busy though.

Even though the weather here in Seattle has been sort of lackluster–typical gray days with little bursts of warm drizzle–I have nevertheless fallen in love all over again with picnicking. I wish every meal could be a picnic, even though it is much harder to get a 9 month old to eat when she isn’t sitting in a chair. We picnic in parks, and on hikes and out of the trunk of the car. It’s pretty much the Best. Thing. Ever.

I’ve also been working quite a bit in the P-patch, and last week I pulled up a few stragglers of green garlic. I had some garlic planted last season that I had trouble pulling out, and so I just left it, knowing that it would grow back next time around and make wonderful sweet tender green garlic stalks. I have a friend who has always raved about her favorite green garlic soup recipe, and how good it is with a little bit of créme fraîche and some toast, so my plan was to give her a green garlic present and hopefully get an invite to dinner in return. Alas, she injured her back this spring, and while I did give her the green garlic, she has been too laid up to have guests. I decided I could dream up my own good recipe, and try it out for myself. I even perfected the required créme. And even though it wasn’t perfect picnic weather in the evening, we took it to the park and ate it on a blanket, out of real bowls, since the park is so close to our house.

I looked around for recipes for this miraculous soup and came across several, but most seemed to go back to just one, from Alice Waters. I didn’t have any new potatoes, but I did have a leftover baked potato, so I took the peel off of it and put it in to give it some body. This recipe produced a soup that wasn’t very, well, green. I know, I know. The “green” refers to the garlic itself. But I had pictured a green soup so at the end I decided to change that by adding a huge handful of the overabundance of rainbow chard I have growing out back. I have to say, I was rather pleased with how it turned out. Too bad I waited until the end of green garlic season to make it! I think I might try out a version with roasted garlic and baby onions because there won’t be any more green garlic this year. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

A-ny-way.

Back to the picnic. I paired the soup with some zucchini fritters, tomatoes in balsamic vinegar, and a rosé that Joe and the boys brought back for me from Eastern Washington. Oh, and a handful of kalamata olives. And for dessert we had cinnamon grahams smeared with dark chocolate ganache–kind of a fireless, more indulgent s’more. Well, really, I went for a run after dinner and Joe had dessert. Then I had a chocolate protein shake made with coconut milk, which is sort of dessert like. Oh well.

Green Garlic and Baked Potato Soup
adapted from a recipe by Alice Waters
serves 4 (if you don’t kill your blender making it and spill soup everywhere)

1/2 lb green garlic, white and light green parts only, in 1/2″ pieces
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 medium sized baked russet potato, skin removed and cut into chunks
5-6 big leaves of chard, rinsed and roughly chopped
2 Tbsp olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 Tbsp or so heavy cream, sour cream or créme fraîche, plus more for serving

Heat the olive oil in a small stockpot. Add the garlic and turn down heat to medium, toss in a pinch of salt. Cover and let the garlic sweat for a few minutes, until it becomes fragrant. It’s OK if it browns a little. Brown bits just mean more flavor later.

Add the potato and the stock, and bring to a boil. Let simmer until the garlic is very tender, about 5-10 minutes.

Turn off the heat and stir in the chard. Cover and let it sit just a few minutes, maybe 5, until the chard is soft but still bright green.

Process in your blender in 3 or 4 batches, or with a stick blender if you happen to have one. Stir in your cream of choice, and serve. Don’t let anybody stop you if you want to take it out for a picnic, even though soup isn’t usually a picnic food. Bonus points for real bowls.