12 Days of Christmas: Decorating the Tree

This past Sunday I had the entire house to myself.  The weather was a little chilly, (for Southern CA at least) and I felt like cooking.  Knowing that we had a busy week of holiday-oriented activities on the calendar, I decided to make all of the dinners for the week which was relatively easy (I thought) considering I was only making soup and bread.  So into the kitchen I went and six-and-a-half hours later emerged covered in flour and chicken fat.

One of Madison’s favorite soups (and mine and Joel’s for that matter) is potato leek.  I kinda have a thing for leeks.  (I don’t know why – I just buy them and mostly forget to use them, but I like the idea of having them available.)  I love the creaminess of this version and I add lots of pepper in the end to give it a little kick.  I also made a yummy savory bread to go with it, blue cheese-bacon-walnut.

Tonight we are decorating the Christmas tree and I wanted dinner to be easy (read: no cooking involved but NOT takeout) so I made chicken noodle soup and honey bread.  I sorta follow Martha’s recipe, but I also delete and add ingredients as necessary, i.e. spiral noodles instead of egg noodles.  (One of my HUGE peeves with Martha is her assumption that we all have a gourmet deli/specialty grocery/100-year old flea market within walking distance.  Um, hello?!?  I can’t exactly just run down to my local hardware store for “an old cedar box”.)

Anyway, I DO love her chicken stock recipe so I follow it pretty closely.  I used the stock for the chicken noodle soup and the Italian Wedding Soup recipe I (mostly) followed from Ina.

When I shop at my local farmers market on Saturdays, I like to support the meat vendors as well as the growers.  We are lucky enough to have grass-fed beef, pork and free-range chicken, handcrafted sausages and fresh seafood.  Unfortunately, I can’t afford to shop at all three vendors every week so I rotate.  This week I bought scallops and sausage.

The sweet Italian sausage was the foundation of the Italian Wedding Soup.  Even though Ina’s version called for fresh meatballs, I figured the sausage (which I sliced and removed the casing from then rolled into balls) made by an old Swiss Sausage Meister was good enough for me.  I used orzo for the pasta and followed the rest of the recipe pretty closely.

The result was delicious!  And, the bread?  I made an apple-lemon loaf which balances the spiciness of the soup wonderfully!  (I may not use all of Martha’s ingredients, but I can speak like her…)

Now we have a fridge full of yummy homemade soups and a bread basket overflowing with tasty breads.

What do you do to cooking-wise to make your holiday season easier?

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