Soup Time ~ Irish Chicken Soup with a Twist

With the hurricane brewing on the east coast, the weather around here has been so dreary. My thoughts have been with the people who have and are facing much worse conditions than here in Ohio. Even though the sun has hardly shown up the past few days, I must admit that I enjoy this kind of rainy weather. There's something comforting about a rainy day. When I have the opportunity to stay home and cook on a rainy day, you will find me in the kitchen with the Frank Sinatra station on Pandora, as happy as can be, most likely making a big pot of soup. Those are the days I love most. 

Soups are definitely one of my favorite things to cook, mainly because they are so easy and delicious, but also because a nice mug of soup on a chilly and wet day is hard to beat. This particular soup is one I started making last winter. My family, particularly my dad, loves this creamy and hearty soup. I love it because it is so nourishing. Unlike traditional Irish chicken soup, I use sweet potatoes instead of regular potatoes for the higher nutrient content. With all the orange color going on, this soup contains loads of betacarotene which is great for your skin, protects against cancer, colds, infections, and diseases. When I feel a cold coming on, this is the soup I make.

 Irish Chicken Soup

Like most soups, this soup will taste even better the next day after the flavors have had a chance to combine.

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 stalk of celery, diced
3 large carrots, diced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 large sweet potato, diced
2 chicken breasts, shredded
5 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot sauté the onion and celery in the oil until soft, about five minutes. Add carrot, garlic, and sweet potato; continue to cook about five minutes longer. Add stock and bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer and cover and cook for about an hour, until the sweet potato cubes are easily pierced with a fork. Puree two-thirds of the soup in a blender, and pour blended soup back into pot. Add the chicken, and season to taste.

Chocolate Gingerbread Cake with Orange-Scented Whipped Cream

Ok friends, you are in for a treat today. Last night, when I should have been sleeping, I was restlessly lying in my bed thinking about this cake. Orange, ginger, and chocolate. Seriously, this is a magical combination! I love gingerbread, but combining it with chocolate?! I couldn't wait to try it. As I developed the recipe for the cake I noticed a basket of oranges sitting on the counter, and it struck me that orange zest in the whipped cream atop the cake would be heavenly. Oh was I right! My heart was leaping at the idea of tasting this delicious dessert as it was baking. Upon tasting the first bite, I realized my restlessness had not been in vain; it was so tasty.

In addition, this is not your typical over-the-top rich kind of cake. Although it is a dessert, and should be eaten in moderation, it is healthier and more nourishing than the average cake. I used only natural sweeteners, along with freshly ground whole wheat flour to add more nutrients. If you do not have a grain mill at home, I suggest using unbleached white flour, as store-bought wheat flour tends to be bitter. I also used non-homogenized, and not ultra-pasteurized, whipping cream to make the whipped cream, because it contains more of the beneficial "good stuff" for our bodies. I hope you enjoy this cake as much as I did!

Chocolate Ginger Bread Cake with Orange Scented Whipped Cream

For the Cake:
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup molasses (not blackstrap)
2 eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. freshly grated ginger

2 cups flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

3/4 cup full-fat buttermilk
1/2 cup whole milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and butter and flour a 9-inch bundt pan. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter, honey, and molasses. Add eggs, one at a time, scraping down the bowl occasionally. Stir in the vanilla and ginger. In a medium bowl, mix the remaining dry ingredients together; fold into butter mixture. Once combined, stir in the milks, and beat at medium high speed for two minutes. Scrape batter into prepared pan, and bake for 45-50 minutes, until tester inserted comes out clean, and cake springs back slightly when touched.

For the Whipped Cream:
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
zest of one orange
honey to taste (I think I used about 1 1/2 Tbsp.)

Whip all ingredients together and place a generous amount atop each piece of cake. Go sit down, relax, and enjoy while you indulge in the moment.

With Love,

Harvest Time ~ Baked Honey and Spice Apple Chips

My favorite time of year has decided to set in. The breath-taking color change in the leaves, the cool breeze that rustles through the trees, bonfires with family and friends, and best of all, it's harvest time! Apple harvest time that is. Picking your own anything is exciting, but walking through an orchard and picking your own apples is just too much fun, especially when you can shake the hand of the farmer who grew your food. Be sure to take advantage of your local orchard this fall; get out and go pick some apples!

When you get home from the farm with your muddy shoes and bags of apples, try making these delicious apple chips! They are bursting with flavor, and make a quick and healthy snack. Baking them gives them their crunchy and crisp texture, but you could also dehydrate them if desired. Be sure to leave the skins on the apples, since most of the nutrients are contained in the skin!

Baked Honey and Spice Apple Chips

3 large apples (I like more tart apples such as Jonathon, Suncrisp, or Goldrush)
Juice of one lemon
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. honey
1/4 tsp. nutmeg (preferably freshly grated)
dash of sea salt
touch of vanilla

1. Slice apples as thinly as you can; the thinner the slice, the crisper the finished product will be. Place slices in a large bowl.
2. Mix remaining ingredients in a small bowl; coat apple slices with honey mixture.
3. Align in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake at 225 degrees for an hour. Turn slices over, and continue to bake for another hour or so, until dry and crisp.

Happy Fall!