We had a very francophile dinner tonight. Lentil soup, mixed greens, bread, and red wine. Perfect for a cold winter evening. Truth be told, I got this recipe for a Canadian and had to convert the measurement from metric to standard with some challenging results. I added the massive amount of liquid (chicken stock in this case) slowly since the lentils drink up so much. But I'm sure you could add it all at once with no ill consequences. I also added a splash of the red wine I was drinking at the end because I thought it needed more broth, but water would due. 

Lentil, Bacon & Oregano Soup

2 tsp. olive oil
1 half large sweet onion, chopped
 2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tbsp. fresh oregano leaves
8 oz bacon, roughly chopped
2 liters (8 cups) chicken broth or stock
16 oz (1 lb) lentils, rinsed
1 can petite diced tomatoes
freshly ground black pepper
fresh oregano leaves, for garnish

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. When oil gets hot, add in the onion, garlic
oregano and chopped bacon. Cook for ten minutes until bacon browns up a bit.

Using a large spoon, drain as much of the bacon fat as possible. (Save for other uses!) Add in
the lentils, stock and tomatoes with juice. Season with pepper and bring to a boil and cook for
10 minutes. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for thirty minutes.

Pour into soup bowls and garnish with some oregano leaves. Serves 8.

I love butternut squash.

My family is less enthusiastic. Squash was on sale at ShopRite this week so I roasted one last night to have with dinner. Even though it was more well received than I expected, we still had half of a squash leftover. Hence, this...

Butternut Squash Soup
(I totally made this one up and the measurements are REALLY rough estimates.)

1/2 of a good sized butternut squash;  previously roasted, skin side down at 400 degrees for 60 minutes, flip halfway through and brush with butter and cinnamon
1/4 c. finely chopped onion
1 tbsp. butter
1/4 tsp. sage
salt & pepper to taste
2 cups chicken stock
1/4 c. half & half

Remove the skin from the roasted squash and cut into big chunks. Melt the butter in a sauce pan on low heat and cook onions for 5 minutes. Add squash, sage, salt and pepper to the pan and mash with a potato masher or fork. Add the broth. Bring to a simmer. Using a immersion blender, blend until the soup is a smooth, creamy consistency. (Alternatively, I'm sure you could use a regular blender.) Add the half & half and warm through but do not boil.


All-American Chili
(adapted from Cooking Light)

6 ounces hot turkey Italian sausage
2 cups chopped onion
1 cup chopped green bell pepper
8 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound ground sirloin
1 jalapeño pepper, chopped
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 bay leaves
1 cup beef stock (Cento makes a perfectly good, inexpensive stock)
1/2 cup Merlot or other fruity red wine
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomato
1 (15-ounce) can diced tomato
2 (15-ounce) cans kidney beans, drained (Mary Torpey told me Goya dark red kidney beans are the best and she is right.)
1/2 cup shredded Monterey jack w/jalapeños

Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Remove casings from sausage. Add sausage, onion, and the next 4 ingredients (onion through jalapeño) to pan; cook 8 minutes or until sausage and beef are browned, stirring to crumble.

Add chili powder and the next 7 ingredients (chili powder through bay leaves), and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in wine, tomatoes, and kidney beans; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

Uncover and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Discard the bay leaves. Sprinkle each serving with cheddar cheese.

Note: Like most chilis, this version tastes even better the next day.

Chicken Stew with Biscuits
(adapted from Ina Garten)


2 split chicken breasts, bone in, skin on
1 tablespoons olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 cups chicken stock, (I use Rachael Ray's)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup chopped onion
1/3 cup flour
1/4 cup 2% milk (you can use any dairy e.g. heavy cream, 1/2 & 1/2; but I wouldn't use skim)
1 cup baby carrots, cut in half, blanched for 2 minutes
1 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley (if you have it)

For the biscuits:

1 cup flour
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 stick cold unsalted butter
1/2 cup 2% milk

1 egg mixed with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F

Place the chicken breasts on a sheet pan and rub them with olive oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, or until cooked through. Set aside until cool enough to handle, then remove the meat from the bones and discard the skin. Cut the chicken into large dice.

In a large pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter and saute the onions over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, until translucent. Add the flour and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Add the chicken stock to the sauce. Simmer over low heat for 1 more minute, stirring, until thick. Add 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and the milk. Add the cubed chicken, carrots, peas, and parsley. Mix well. Place the stew in a medium sized oval or rectangular baking dish. Place the baking dish on a sheet pan. Bake for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the biscuits. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar in a bowl. Add the butter and mix until the butter is the size of peas (with a fork or your hands). Add the milk and combine on low speed. Dump the dough out on a well-floured board and, with a rolling pin, roll out to 3/8-inch thick. Cut out eight circles with a biscuit cutter or a knife.

Remove the stew from the oven and arrange the biscuits on top of the filling. Brush them with egg wash, and return the dish to the oven. Bake for another 20 to 30 minutes, until the biscuits are brown and the stew is bubbly.

Note: To make in advance, refrigerate the chicken stew and biscuits separately. Bake the stew for 25 minutes, then place the biscuits on top, and bake for another 30 minutes, until done.

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