Leeky, Creamy Chicken and Dumpling Soup

PhotobucketWhen I planned this week’s menu, I was craving this soup. Maybe with all the icky, sick germs in my house, my body needed the immune-building homemade penicillin that chicken soup always seems to provide.

I first found this ridiculous easy recipe in Rachel Ray Every Day, but over the years, I’ve tweaked it a bit by finding a way to reduce the fat without losing all the creaminess.  I also use less gnocchi than the original recipe.

It’s been a while since I last made it, but one taste and I remembered how much I love it and it’s always a hit with the family too.

With the nasty cold weather expected this weekend, bundle up and stay warm and then get this soup started for dinner tonight.  With this soup, you can prepare it ahead of time and then throw the gnocchi in just before you serve it.  The leftovers reheat and freeze nicely too, so you’ll have it for another cold, winter day.

Leeky, Creamy Chicken and Dumpling Soup
(Adapted from Rachel Ray)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 leeks, white and tender green parts split lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
5 celery stalks, thinly sliced
1 bay leaf
4 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup non-fat milk
Salt and pepper to taste
1 pound chicken tenders, cut into small chunks
1 package gnocchi
1/3 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
3 Tbsp dry sherry
¼ tsp cayenne pepper

In a Dutch oven or soup pot, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add the leeks, celery and bay leaf and cook until the vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes.

Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Stir in the cream and milk, lower the heat and simmer until the soup bubbles at the edges.

Add cayenne pepper, salt and pepper to taste.  Add the chicken and gnocchi and cook for 5 minutes.  Stir in the parsley and sherry.  Serve hot.

Makes  4-6 servings.

Thanks for joining our weekly Friday Food Fight! Can’t wait to see what everyone is flinging this week!

While here, don’t forget to toss some cookies at The Ultimate Virtual Christmas Cookie Swap!

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Denise Mestanza-Taylor+


Day-After Turkey Soup

PhotobucketMy MIL makes a mean leftover turkey soup.  When only the skeletal remains of a once beloved bird were left standing on Thanksgiving, I longed for my MIL’s homemade Scottish penicillin.

It baffles me that my husband, having been raised by a lineage of great cooks, lacks an appreciation for soup made from a turkey carcass.  He just doesn’t like it.  Or maybe he only likes it when he makes it.


This Thanksgiving, we got to the vegetable root of the matter when I begged Iron Chef Allan to make leftover turkey soup.  (Secret ingredient: turkey carcass.)  He accepted the challenge and found a recipe from the Food Network that he could stomach.  The recipe calls for leftover vegetables, such as brussel sprouts, sweet potatoes and green beans although he used roasted root vegetables (turnips, parsnips, celery root, pearl onions and carrots).

The soup simmered for most of Black Friday and the whole house smelled fabulous.  No bones about it.  The final product was spectacular and the best part, it was Iron Chef Allan approved.


Day-After Turkey Soup
(Borrowed from Food Network)

2 quarts chicken broth
1 turkey carcass, all meat removed
1 onion, halved, plus 1 onion, minced
1 carrot, halved lengthwise, plus 1 carrot, minced
1 whole stalk celery, plus 1 more stalk, minced
2 bay leaves
3 cups dark turkey meat
2 garlic cloves, smashed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 carrot, minced
1 stalk celery, minced
3 cups leftover cooked Thanksgiving side vegetables
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage leaves

Put chicken broth, turkey carcass, onion halves, carrot halves, 1 celery stalk and 1 bay leaf in a large stock pot. Bring to a boil, then simmer about 1 ½ hours. Finely dice the remaining onion, carrot and celery and reserve.

Dice the turkey meat. Make sure meat pieces are no larger than the size of a soup spoon. (If preparing soup the next day, be sure to store leftover turkey meat in an airtight container before placing it in the refrigerator, top with 1 or 2 ladles full of broth to keep meat moist.)

Before straining broth, remove large bones and carcass with tongs. Strain the broth through a sieve, covered with wet cheese cloth. Discard the solids. Transfer broth to a bowl set in a bath of ice water, which will cool the broth quickly and help keep it fresher longer. This can be done the night before and stored in the refrigerator until the next day.

In a large soup pot, heat garlic cloves in the olive oil. Allow to brown slightly and add minced carrots, celery, and onion. Sweat over medium-low heat until softened, about 7 or 8 minutes.

Dice the leftover vegetables.  Add the chopped sage to the soup pot along with the turkey broth and the remaining bay leaf. Bring to a simmer. When simmering, add diced leftover vegetables and diced turkey meat to the soup. Bring it back up to a simmer. Turn the heat off and cover. Allow to sit and steam for 5 to 7 minutes.

Let simmer for 5 more minutes.  Serve over rice or with drop biscuits.

Thanks for joining our weekly Friday Food Fight! Can’t wait to see what everyone is flinging this week! Remember to visit our Thanksgiving food blog hop too!

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Denise Mestanza-Taylor+

Irish Oatmeal Leek Soup

PhotobucketI have to confess.  I found this recipe in a place other than Pinterest.


Remember that social network everyone was obsessed with before Pinterest?  You know, the one where you collected friends instead of ideas, objects, bodies, food, home décor, etc.  you wished you had?

Remember Facebook?

Sometimes I remember to visit Facebook too, which is where I found this tasty soup.

I follow Fila Toning and you should too if you love motivating discussions and recipes related to fitness and healthy living.  Someday I hope to be part of the Fila Toning team.  Until then, I’ll keep lurking following the Fila Toning Facebook page.

Last week, the Fila Toning Team shared a recipe.

Sounds interesting and different, doesn’t it?  My family loves Potato Leek Soup, but it’s not the healthiest soup.  But Irish Oatmeal Leek soup sounds like a healthy alternative.  So, of course I pinned it…

…which led me on a path exploring skinnytaste.com, but that’s a whole other post.

I shared Skinny Taste’s Irish Oatmeal Soup with my non-Pinterest hubby, Iron Chef Allan, to hear his thoughts on it and he thought the same. “That sounds interesting.”

One trip to my local Publix and I found all the ingredients.  You know, the whole six ingredients in the soup.  You have to love a recipe with only SIX ingredients!

Although we don’t use light butter, I opted for the full fat of 1 Tbsp of butter, so my finished soup isn’t quite as healthy as Skinny Taste’s, but the results were tasty nonetheless.

So this once referred to as an interesting Irish Oatmeal Leek Soup can now be called a simple, tasty, slightly healthy soup.

And one we will definitely eat again.

Just out curiosity, I visited Spark People to calculate the nutritional contents of my full fat version.  Incidentally, there is only one fat gram difference between using regular butter over light and no difference between the saturated fat content between light and regular salted butter.  Plus, regular butter has less sodium!  So go on and drop small slice of full fat butter when making this soup or opt for canola oil instead.

Also, the original recipe states to cook the oats for 45-50 minutes, but I found the oats still too raw and chewy after that cooking timeframe.  I continued simmering the oats on the lowest setting for a few hours which allowed the soup to become thicker and creamier (more mushy), but that’s a personal preference.

Irish Oatmeal Leek Soup
(From skinnytaste.com)


1 Tbsp butter

1 ½ cups (3 large) leeks, white and pale green only, sliced thin

1/2 cup Irish steel cut oats

4 cups fat-free reduced sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth

1 ½ cups non-fat milk

Fresh cracked pepper and salt to taste

2 tbsp fresh chives for garnish

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over low heat.  Add the leeks and cook, stirring occasionally until the leeks are soft (about 15 minutes).

Add the broth and then milk to avoid scalding the milk.  Raise heat to high and bring to a boil.

Add the oatmeal and fresh cracked black pepper to taste.  Return to a boil, stirring occasionally. Once a boiling, reduce heat to lowest setting, cover and simmer until oats are tender, 45-50 minutes.  For a thicker creamy soup, allow soup to simmer for three hours.

Serve garnished with chopped chives and fresh ground pepper.

Thanks for joining our weekly Friday Food Fight! Can’t wait to see what everyone is flinging this week!

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Denise Mestanza-Taylor+

Chicken Sausage Gumbo

PhotobucketYou know you’re a foodie when you plan themed meals around holidays, observances and any and all ethnic festivals.  This past weekend was no exception.  Some celebrate Fat Tuesday.  Others flip over Pancake Day.  In this house, we do both.

It’s fun to throw some new meals in the mix and for Fat Tuesday (which we celebrated on Presidents’ Day), I wanted some true New Orleans style gumbo.  So, of course I turned to Pinterest and shared its wonderful world with Iron Chef Allan.  Better than a Google search, within seconds I had hundreds of visually appealing recipes.

As we read the different versions, we both agreed that Kaela of Local Kitchen’s Chicken Sausage Gumbo looked and sounded best.

However, making a roux was definitely out of my cooking comfort zone, but I knew Iron Chef Allan could handle the challenge.  Boy, did my man ever deliver!

In her recipe write-up, Kaela explains the importance of okra in the recipe if not for anything but authenticity, however, Iron Chef Allan is not an okra lover.  And really, is anyone?   Although I was willing to give okra infused gumbo a go, Allan was not and since he was preparing the dish, the okra got eighty-sixed.

But sometimes you don’t miss what you don’t know, because my man made some crazy good gumbo!   This had to be the best tasting gumbo outside of New Orleans, even if he did omit the okra.

And of course to wash it down, only an Abita beer would do.  The sweetness of an Abita’s Purple Haze is the perfect complement to this savory and oh so spicy dish.

For dessert, we had king cake which was store-bought.  (Hey, only one new recipe challenge at a time!) Next time, maybe I’ll try my hand at this interesting bread machine king cake recipe.

On second thought, being President’s Day and all, cherry pie may have been a better choice for dessert.  Nah, the king cake was a perfect finish to our NOLA meal.  I cannot tell a lie.

Do you like to plan themed meals that revolve around holidays, observances or ethnic celebrations?

Thanks for joining our weekly Friday Food Fight! Can’t wait to see what everyone is flinging this week!

Chicken & Sausage Gumbo

(adapted from Local Kitchen)


1 ½ lbs boneless, skinless chicken meat, cut into 1-inch chunks

1 lb Andouille sausage

2 Tbsp canola oil

For the roux

1/3 cup + 1 Tbsp all-purpose flour

1/3 cup vegetable oil

4 cups chicken stock

1 large onion, diced

3 ribs celery, with leaves if possible, sliced

2 bell peppers, any color, diced

1-bunch scallions, white & light green parts sliced

6 – 8 cloves, peeled & minced

1 red jalapeno, with seeds & ribs, minced

½ lb okra, sliced

3 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

2 tsp Cajun seasoning (a mix of paprika, salt, celery, sugar, garlic, black pepper, onion, oregano, red pepper, caraway, dill, turmeric, cumin, bay, mace, cardamom, basil, marjoram, rosemary, and thyme)

1 tsp sea salt

½ tsp cayenne pepper

½ tsp celery salt

½ tsp dried basil

½ tsp dried oregano

¼ tsp dried thyme

1 dried bay leaf

Salt and freshly ground black pepper


Brown meat. In a large skillet, brown the sausages over medium-high heat in canola oil. Remove sausage to a clean plate. Liberally sprinkle chicken pieces with salt, pepper and Cajun spice. Brown lightly in the sausage grease (add oil if needed), without crowding the pan; cook in batches if necessary. Do not cook all the way through; remove to the sausage plate when lightly browned on the outside. Strain sausage grease into a clean bowl.

Make roux. In a large, heavy-bottomed Dutch oven, cook the flour and canola oil (using any leftover sausage grease as part of the oil) over medium to medium-low heat, stirring constantly. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until roux becomes smooth, silky and a deep chocolate brown, about 30 minutes (or longer at lower heat). Monitor the roux carefully as you stir: if you smell the flour burning, lower the heat; if you see black flecks in the roux, it is burnt, throw it out and start over. When the roux reaches the right color, add the onion, bell pepper and celery to the roux, turn off the heat, and keep stirring until the roux cools down.

Assemble and cook the gumbo.  Add stock, meat (with any juices accumulated on the plate), white & pale green scallions, garlic, jalapeno and spices to the roux and vegetables.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, partially covered for about 45 minutes.  Add the okra and cook for another 30 minutes, partially covered.  Add fresh parsley (add any seafood now if using).  Taste and adjust seasonings.  Remove cover and simmer an additional 15 minutes or longer to thicken the sauce. Taste and adjust seasonings one more time.

Serve hot over rice.  Garnish with parsley and sliced scallions.

Serves 12.

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Chicken Salsa Soup

PhotobucketA few weeks ago, as part of our New Year’s resolution, Iron Chef Allan and I thought it would be fun to have soup for dinner on Sundays, which we would appropriately call “Soup Sundays”.  Original and clever, I know.

Our Soup Sundays would help us spice our usual menus by trying some recipe as well as returning some forgotten favorites into the mix.  Upon our first installment of Soup Sunday, we decided to try a new recipe and Rachel Ray’s Chicken Salsa Soup.

Does anyone tear recipes out of magazines and store them into a notebook?  Well, this particular recipe had been tucked away in my notebook for a couple years.  Such a sin, because this soup is too delicious not to try!  And it was a perfectly delicious pick to start our Soup Sundays!

We modified the soup recipe by adding chicken breast instead of thighs, because we don’t like dark meat.

Also, before you start the soup, you have to make the Rachel Ray’s Salsa Fresca.  It’s the base for the soup, but it is also delicious with tortilla chips or as topping to any Tex-Mex dish.  There’s a ton of cilantro in it, which I love, because you can never have too much cilantro in salsa!

Rachel Ray’s Salsa Fresca (Borrowed from Everyday with Rachel Ray Magazine.)


1 cup packed coarsely chopped cilantro

2 cloves garlic

½  onion, coarsely chopped

1 jalapeño chile, halved lengthwise

2 ½ pounds ripe tomatoes (7 or 8), cored and quartered

Juice of 1 lime



Using a food processor, pulse the cilantro and garlic together for 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides, add the onion and jalapeño and pulse until finely chopped; transfer to a medium bowl.

Working in batches, add the tomatoes to the food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add to the cilantro mixture. Stir in the lime juice; season with salt.

Rachel Ray’s Chicken Salsa Soup (Borrowed from Everyday with Rachel Ray Magazine.)


¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 onion, chopped

1 head garlic, cloves finely chopped

2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts

One 32-ounce container (4 cups) chicken broth

1 ½ cups Salsa Fresca


1 avocado, thinly sliced lengthwise (optional)

1 cup chopped cilantro (optional)

¼ cup sour cream (optional)


In a large Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 3 minutes. Add the chicken breast and broth, bring to a boil and simmer for 4 minutes. Stir in 1 cup salsa, cover and remove from the heat. Let stand until the chicken is cooked through, about 45 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and shred.

Return the broth to a simmer; season with salt. Add shredded chicken to pot.

When ready to serve soup, top each bowl with avocado, cilantro, sour cream and remaining salsa.

Now link up and see what If I Could Escape and Gone Bananas are flinging for this week’s Friday Food Fight.  

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Recipe Recovery: Chicken Sausage and Bean Stew

What do you when you don’t have all the ingredients necessary to make your favorite dish?  You improvise and do what I call a Recipe Recovery.

Like many moms, I plan our week’s menu every Sunday and then restock our fridge and pantry with grocery items needed to complete our menu.  Usually, our fridge is full of garlic bulbs and Spanish onions because they are the key ingredients in so many of our favorite dishes.

With the weather being so cold here in Florida which is anything below 60 degrees (Hey, we’re spoiled!), soup is always on the menu.  One of my family’s favorite soups is Chicken Sausage and Bean Stew, which was introduced to me by Maris of In Good Taste.

But when I started to sauté my sausage for the soup, I realized there were no Spanish onions in my fridge.  I had forgotten to buy them this week.  Fortunately, I found a red onion and figured it would work and perhaps give the soup a new and interesting flavor.

When I served the soup to my family, everyone ate it happily as usual and no one was the wiser, except for Iron Chef Allan.  He knew something tasted different about it, but couldn’t put his finger (or tongue) on it.  He still enjoyed it, though.  The girls always eat their stew with grated Parmesan cheese and I believe the snowy mountain of Parmesan cheese masked my recipe recovery.

As for the recipe, I’ve modified Maris’ a bit since I first discovered it two years ago.  For one, I’ve omitted the marjoram because I don’t care for the taste of it.  I also prefer Al Fresco Sweet Italian Chicken Sausage because their products do not contain any MSG or nitrates.  These links are typically found in the hot dog section of your local supermarket.

Chicken Sausage and Bean Stew

2 Cans Cannellini Beans
1 Package Al Fresco Sweet Italian Chicken Sausage
2 Tbsp Olive Oil (use more or less, depending on your pan)
1 Large Spanish Onion, chopped
4 Cloves Garlic, minced
1 (14.5 oz) can petite dice tomatoes with juice
1 tsp Oregano
2 cups Chicken Broth
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
Fresh Grated Parmesan (optional)


Place 2 cans cannellini beans into colander placed in the sink. Rinse well with cold water, until no more foam appears. Let drain.

While beans are draining cut sausage into half lengthwise, then cut into half-moon shaped slices. Heat olive oil in stock pot, then sauté sausage until well browned.   When sausage is well-browned, remove to bowl.  Add chopped onion to pot and sauté until onion is translucent and soft.  Then, add garlic and sauté with onions about 2 minutes more.

Add tomatoes and juice, dried oregano and chicken stock to pot with onions and garlic. Add sausage back to pot and cook at very low simmer for 30 minutes, until flavors are well blended.  After 30 minutes, add drained beans and simmer for 15 minutes more.

After the beans have simmered for 15 minutes, add chopped basil and balsamic vinegar and simmer for 5 minutes more.  Add salt and fresh ground black pepper as desired.

Serve stew with freshly grated Parmesan cheese if desired.

Now link up and see what If I Could Escape and Gone Bananas are serving for this week’s Friday Food Fight.

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