Here, on the Eastern Shore, chicken & dumplings might as well be a food group. My mom made chicken or turkey and dumplings as I was growing up, but she made drop dumplings. Tender, biscuit-like little pillows. Fluffy dumplings. While they were delicious, they were never my favorite. My first “slick” dumpling was at the local Chincoteague Fire Department Pony Penning dinner. The Ladies Auxiliary sells tickets for a chicken & dumpling dinner, served immediately following the saltwater cowboy’s return to the carnival grounds with the wild horses that have made the swim. It’s really more like lunch, considering it’s served at around noon – but, here on the shore lunch is “dinner”, and dinner is “supper”.

After my first bite at the fair grounds, I was sold on rolled dumplings. Thick, chewy pieces of eggless pasta – swimming in a rich chicken broth, with lots of tender pieces of chicken. Comfort food at it’s finest! Once I married a man from the island, I knew I had to get my chicken & dumps recipe straight. Like I said before, for a Chincoteaguer, it’s almost a food group. For a couple of years I used dumplings I found in the freezer section, which is well and good. But, I knew I’d really take pride in making them from scratch. Flour, milk, and salt is all you need to make them happen. I usually do a double batch of the dumplings, as I’ve found this recipe doesn’t produce as many as I like. Homemade chicken stock is always your best bet, but a low-sodium store-bought stock is okay in a pinch. I’ll usually just pull the meat off a roasted chicken and refrigerate, make the stock from the carcass, and use the reserved chicken to combine with the dumplings.  A favorite dish in our home, it doesn’t get more comforting than this!

Did you know that September is National Mushroom Month? I didn’t. It seems as if every day of every month is a different National Food  Holiday.  I figured with the slight chill of Fall in the air… what is a better way to welcome it than a delicious soup?

There is this fabulous little carryout place here called Sea Star Cafe. The owners are there, everyday, churning out wonderful sandwiches and homemade soups. They are very small, but take a ton of pride in what they offer. Most items are cold sandwiches. There’s usually one “special” that is a hot sandwich, their Cuban is to die for! And, there is usually 2 or 3 soups that rotate on a daily basis. One of my favorite soups is mushroom-brie bisque. I’m not a huge fan of mushroom (love the flavor, hate the texture), so I stayed away from it for years. One day my girlfriend had gotten it with her lunch, and I stole a bite. I was hooked!

I was also pregnant at the time, so as luck would have it, I developed a craving for this soup. Sea Star closes for a few months in the off-season, and I had to come up with a version I could make at home. I’ve played around with a couple of batches since last fall and think I’ve finally got it!

This soup is rich, silky, and delicious. It’s also a breeze to make. I made it for a lunch date with a girlfriend. Even with an infant and a toddler to look after, I didn’t break a sweat getting everything ready. So easy! I  think the wedge of brie, as opposed to the small wheel, is better for this application. It seemed to melt down better. Next time around I might try a Camembert cheese, switch things up a bit! I hope everyone is as ready for Fall as I am. Enjoy!

It’s springtime here on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, and that means that crabs are starting to come back into season. Crab soup traditionally comes in two varieties; Cream of crab – a, well, cream based soup. And, Maryland crab – a tomato based soup. My husband is a fan of the Cream, where I am a Maryland kind of gal.

This recipe is for the tomato based soup, and it’s wonderful. A little heat from the old bay, lots of flavor from the crab meat, and tons of veggies! My 3 year old loves it. I always find that soup is a good way to get anything I want to into him!

On another note, we have a new addition to the family. I’m such a horribly slack blogger, you would think I would have posted something earlier…but time is just running away with me these days! So, without further adieu, this is William or “Will” for short. He was born December 19th, and was a hefty 10 lbs at birth. He’s now going on 5 months, and is close to weighing 20 lbs. He is a beast! While Andrew is a carbon-copy of Jon, I think I’ve finally got one that resembles me now. He’s such a sweet and happy baby boy, we are truly blessed!

Okay, back to the soup. It makes a relatively large batch. But, leftovers freeze well. I like to make my own seafood stock with various shells that I leftover from seafood. Crab, shrimp, lobster – all cook down to make a beautiful stock. If you don’t have any of those things available though, try substituting bottled clam juice. I think it would be just as good!

minestrone

We’ve had a slight chill in the air this week. As you might be able to tell from my last post, I’m thinking about fall. I’ve really been trying to go through my collection of cookbooks, as I have collected such a wonderful assortment over the years. This one is no exception. It’s written by Henry Hill, the notorious mobster that the film “Goodfellas” is based off of. Now, let me just say what a great “food movie” Goodfellas is. The razor thin garlic? The cannoli incident? So many good scenes. But, I digress. You get me talking about any classic mafia movie, and I could go on for days!

There are so many great recipes in this book, I diddn’t even know where to begin. After much deliberation, I decided on this wonderful minestrone. It was delicious, and a relatively easy. It wasn’t super quick as far as cooking time goes – at 2 hours. But, for me, as a general rule of thumb – a good soup can’t come together quickly. Just the way it is folks!

I like to pre-cook my pasta first. I find that it doesn’t get quite as overcooked in the leftovers that way. I used elbow macaroni in this batch – but feel free to use whatever you like or have handy. This is really a “clean your fridge” out kind of meal. Lots of room for additions and substitutions. I kind of felt like maybe it would benefit for corn? Or some canelli beans perhaps? I was out of Parmesan cheese (I know! I know!), but I’d definitely top the soup with some before serving. Or, if you happen to have a rind laying around in the refrigerator or freezer, feel free to toss that into the mix as well. Just make sure you remove it before dishing it up!

Serve with a nice green salad and some crusty bread. Perfect for the cool fall evenings we have ahead of us!