Aimée’s big batch Chicken Noodle Soup recipe

It’s currently a white-out on the homestead, as the first big storm of winter is blanketing the place in powder. I’m thrilled at the prospect of a white Christmas – and even happier that I have a stash of homemade chicken soup in the freezer for snowed-in suppers like tonight.

I always make an enormous batch of this simple soup before the holidays as it seems like a necessary antidote to all the rich food and sweets to come. I also simmer it in hopes that it will help us combat the seasonal maladies that are always going around. This nourishing soup is such a well-rounded family meal, and that certainly aids my intentions to eat better this month.

In addition, is there anything more comforting than a bowl of chicken noodle soup? Mine uses fennel alongside celery for a fragrant mirepoix and occasionally has a grating of ginger in the broth (and/or turmeric) to help fight colds. I think this soup is special, it’s certainly practical, and today I’m sharing my method for making a nice big batch.

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Spring produce and Cheesy Ramp Pull-Apart Bread

Yesterday, a glance at the weather for the remainder of the week convinced me to abandon the dishes and the laundry and head outdoors. If I was to get only one day of sunshine, I’d better make the most of it.

Today there is a slight stiffness to my shoulders from the garden work and my fingernails need attention, but the raised beds are half planted. The roots of the small seedlings will be kept damp with the coming rain and that is one less chore for me. It feels good to be a step ahead of things, at least in the gardening department. Let’s not speak of the state of my house. The kitchen alone is shell-shocked from Danny preparing two meals on Mother’s Day, bless his heart.

While I worked around our homestead and Clara amused herself by poking grass (and the occasional stick, yikes!) into the chicken coop, I kept a bowl handy to collect edibles. Salad ingredients don’t always show themselves as lettuce leaves and cucumber slices; sometimes you have to think outside of the box.

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Surviving the February Food Blahs

There’s nothing very glamorous about food in February. Our barbecue is currently sitting under a mound of snow, and we’re only capable of dreaming of the grilled Caesar salads and cedar plank salmon instead of executing the dishes.

My Popsicle molds are gathering dust as summer treats such as cherry limeade popsicles just don’t fit the bill on a blustery winter day. In the grocery stores, as much as we embrace what’s in season now, the produce hardly compares to the sweet berries and tender greens of summer.

So how does one survive the February food blahs? How do we get excited to cook on these dark, cold days? And what kind of snacks are worth writing home about?

Today I’ll share what works for me and hopefully you’ll add your tips in the comments!

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Roasted Chicken & Bacon Skewers (Recipe to Riches feature)

Food-themed TV is the only television I tune in for, and even then, it’s mostly watched online, commercial free. Last winter I gave 44 minutes of my week to Top Chef Canada and this fall it is Food Network Canada’s fun new reality show, Recipe to Riches that’s got me hooked.

In full disclosure*, my friend, the always-inspiring, Dana McCauley, is a judge on the show, so I’m not tuning in just to watch the hunky host Jesse Palmer. Honest!

While in Toronto recently for the Blissdom conference, I had dinner with Dana (at Pangaea, no less!) and she regaled us all with behind-the-scenes gossip from Recipe to Riches.

When the show aired three days later, of course I tuned in and a new weekly ritual was born. (Tip: If you want to catch up on Episodes 1 & 2 you can find them online.)

This week on Recipe to Riches, three contestants prepared appetizers and competed for the prize of $25K. New Brunswick native, John Grass swept the challenge with his Grilled Chicken Skewers.

I like to call them Spicy Chicken, Bacon and Havarti Skewers, and mine were roasted, not grilled. Basically, they rocked.

Bacon (I used thick-cut), Havarti cheese and thin slices of chicken are rolled up together, dusted with a sassy Cajun-like spice mix, and baked to a crisp. Talk about addicting.

These chicken skewers were created by a man, but hold plenty of appeal for all, especially this always-hungry pregnant mama. I can totally see them making an appearance over the upcoming holidays.

Noah even gave them the ultimate complement: “Mama, may I have these for my lunch tomorrow?” John Grass, I bet you weren’t thinking ‘school lunch’ when you created these!

Head over to the Food Network’s official Recipe to Riches recipe page to get the recipe for John Grass’s winning appetizer recipe.

* Even fuller disclosure: Recipe to Riches is giving their official bloggers a $100 Loblaws gift cards to offset the time and money spent making the winning recipe and writing a blog post. The opinions expressed here are my own, of course!

The Beauty of Braising {Recipe: Apple Cider Braised Brisket}

Written by Shaina of Food for My Family.

Leaves change color and fall to the ground as the market fills with the bounty of summer. These weeks are my favorite at the market, where a sweater alone keeps you plenty warm and there’s a certain nip in the air that invites hot apple cider as vendors rearrange their goods and offer up the season’s best.

While seasonal shifts in this direction always have me feeling a bit melancholy with the thought of winter to come, pausing time right here in this moment is a thought I’ve welcomed often and freely. The mix of warm and cold, summer and autumn and the slow shift from salad to soup on the dinner table causes me to breathe deeply and enjoy.

Along with soup will come an increase in baking, a return to warm breakfasts and a desire to hole up in the kitchen creating. Let’s not forget, however, roasted meats.

Where summer had me turning off my oven and looking towards the grill and the smoker to provide the heat for the family’s meals, the fall will bring the meat back inside simmering away, especially if you, say, purchased a good portion of a whole cow that is coming to a freezer near you.

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