Creamy Chicken Gnocchi Soup

Creamy Chicken Gnocchi Soup

Creamy Chicken Gnocchi Soup with fennel and chard is just what the doctor ordered. We actually had snow today! Fall can be the most beautiful time of year with all of its autumn reds and golds and crisp chill. However, it can also be damp and dreary as it is today. What’s my cure? Soup, of course.

This Creamy Chicken Gnocchi soup ticks all of my boxes for the perfect weeknight dinner. All it needs is some delicious crusty bread like the wonderful olive bread that I bought at Publican Meat Market and maybe a glass of wine. While I enjoy baking bread almost as much as I do eating it, my apartment oven just doesn’t reach the kinds of temperatures to make truly crusty sourdough, pizza or other kinds of artisanal breads. So while other women may dream of jewels and clothes, I dream of a bread oven.

I came across this recipe on the kitchn.com website and knew immediately that I wanted to make it but with a few modifications. Why is this soup so great? It’s just the ticket when you want something homemade and delicious but with minimal time and effort. Because unless you choose to complicate it by first making your own broth and gnocchi, and shredding carrots yourself, everything is easily available in convenience packages in your supermarket. You could even buy a rotisserie chicken, although as it happens, I had roasted a chicken for dinner on Friday, so had the leftovers I needed.

I chose to use Rainbow Chard and fennel bulb in place of the original celery and baby spinach. The chard and fennel give a little sumpin’ sumpin’ to the soup that the milder celery and spinach won’t. And despite the seemingly generous amount of half & half cream, the soup is not at all heavy or overly rich. Just satisfying and delicious with a slight peppery bite nestled in the creamy broth.

Homemade doesn’t have to mean hours spent slaving over a stove. But you do have to buy quality ingredients. Find a brand of chicken stock that you like (and I always try to buy unsalted stock) and make sure to keep it on hand. A good stock is the basis of many a wonderful meal. And while I do make my own stock on occasion, I simply don’t have the freezer space to have it available whenever I need it. I’m using a fresh gnocchi, but there are also shelf-stable gnocchi or tortellini that you can keep on hand.

Once you have the ingredients together, the soup can be made in well under an hour. Any leftovers will keep in the fridge for several days and only requires a gentle reheating. So go ahead and make this Creamy Chicken Gnocchi Soup this week and beat the autumn drears.

Creamy Chicken Gnocchi Soup

For other delicious chicken soups:

Thai Coconut Chicken Soup with Rice

Yemenite Chicken Soup

Aromatic Chicken and Vegetable Soup (Koli)

Kalguksu (or Korean chicken noodle soup)

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Recipe

Creamy Chicken Gnocchi Soup

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Ingredients

Creamy Chicken Gnocchi Soup
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 1 cup sliced fennel OR 2 stalks celery, sliced
  • 4 to 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 cups chicken broth (32 ounces), preferably unsalted or low sodium
  • 2 cups cooked, shredded chicken
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 pound refrigerated potato gnocchi (not frozen) Alternatively, you could use tortellini.
  • 4 cups of torn Swiss OR Rainbow Chard OR 5-ounces baby spinach or escarole
  • 1 1/2 cups half-and-half

Directions

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed 4 quart pot (or larger) over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion, carrot, fennel, garlic, salt and pepper and sauté, stirring occasionally until softened – about 5 to 8 minutes.

Creamy Chicken Gnocchi Soup

Stir in the broth, shredded chicken and thyme and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and continue cooking for 10 minutes.

Creamy Chicken Gnocchi Soup

Up to this point, the soup can be made ahead, if you wish. Once you are ready to serve, make sure that the soup is simmering. Add the gnocchi and chard and cook until the chard is just wilted and the gnocchi cooked through – about 3 minutes. Now add the cream and quickly mix it through, immediately turning off the heat. The original instructions had you add the cream with the gnocchi, which I did, but it breaks the cream as you can see from the photos. The taste is fine, but it doesn’t look as nice and smooth.

Okay, now serve. Yep, it’s that easy. You’re welcome!

Cranberry Orange Bread

Cranberry Orange Bread


Cranberry Orange Bread is sweet, tart, citrusy and nutty. Perfect for Thanksgiving! Cranberries are one of nature’s superfoods and they taste great. I love their bright tartness that is only enhanced with the addition of orange. And they are so pretty to look at – little scarlet jewels that add a dash of autumn color to any dish. When they are dried, I actually prefer them to raisins.

This recipe (with a few changes from me) comes from Beard On Bread and makes one large loaf. I have another recipe which I have been making for over 40 years and can be found hand-written in a book that I keep of favorite recipes. Unfortunately, I have no idea where it originated. It is substantially similar to the Beard recipe but fits a more conventional 9 X 5-inch pan. You can’t go wrong with either one.

Cranberry Orange Nut Bread

A Note on Hoarding (Okay, a justification)

As it happens, I have the larger 10 X 5-inch pan called for in the James Beard version, so that is what I made this time. More Cranberry Orange Bread for me! However, I have given the proportions below for the smaller version as well since that is the size pan that most people will have on hand. Honestly, I don’t even know why I have the larger pan. It sat in the back of a cupboard rarely used and I have no recollection of ever buying it. Probably just one of those things I inherited or picked up over the years.

Matthew and Frances will probably hate me when I die because I have collected so much stuff that they will have to sort through. But I’ve been married for over 36 years. So not only did I manage to buy things during that time, but my mother and some of her friends recognized a kindred entertaining spirit in me and gifted things to me.

Don’t get me wrong. There are some real treasures – beautiful silver serving pieces, antique hors d’oevres plates, some antique table linens that I picked up on a trip to Taormina, Italy. Decorations unique to each holiday. Well, you get the idea. It all seems kind of pointless now since there are no more large family gatherings. But the optimist in me hopes that maybe there will be a few more in my lifetime. Who knows? Maybe a grandchild or niece or nephew will want some of it. It could happen.

But I digress. This Cranberry Orange Bread is lovely on the Thanksgiving table but it’s also great anytime for brunch or an afternoon snack. I have even been known to cut a thick slice, lavishly butter it and stick it under the broiler briefly just to toast the top. OMG that is sooooooooooooooo good.

Since it is almost Thanksgiving, whether you are having any friends or family over, you also might look here for some inspiration:

Let’s Talk Turkey

Orange Cranberry Relish

Cranberry Orange Bread

Recipe

Yield: 10 X 5-inch Loaf (See below for 9 X 5-inch loaf)

Ingredients

3 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon double-acting baking powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 large eggs

1 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup melted, unsalted butter

3/4 cup orange juice plus 1/2 cup milk (non-dairy is fine) (I actually used buttermilk)

Grated orange zest of 2 large navel oranges

1.25 cups fresh or frozen raw cranberries, cut in half (I find that freezing the cranberries first makes them less likely to “bleed” when mixed with the batter.)

3/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

1 to 2 Tablespoons of crumbled brown sugar (Optional)

Cranberry Orange Bread

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour (Baking spray with flour works well) a 10 X 5-inch loaf pan.

In a medium bowl, sift the flour with the baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

Using a standing mixer or hand beater, beat the eggs and sugar until well blended and fluffy. Stir in the melted butter, orange zest, milk and OJ. Add the flour mixture and mix just until blended. Do NOT over-mix.

Gently fold in the cranberries and nuts by hand. Don’t worry if the cranberries “bleed” a little into the dough. Carefully spread the thick batter into the pan so that it is even. If you are using the brown sugar, crumble some over the top and lightly press into the batter.

Bake for about 75 minutes or until the center of the bread springs back when lightly touched or a cake tester comes out clean. If it seems to be browning more than you like but isn’t finished baking, cover it lightly with foil and continue baking. Ovens vary so start checking after one hour and don’t worry if it takes longer.

Allow the bread to cool in the pan for 15 to 20 minutes or until you can just handle the pan with your bare hands before turning the bread out onto a cooling rack. This is best made a day ahead of serving for all of the flavors to fully develop. Wrap it tightly once it is completely cooled.

Note

Because this is a “quick” bread made with baking soda and baking powder, it is normal for a crack down the top to develop during the baking. Why is it called a quick bread? Because it rises without yeast or a long fermentation process. The baking soda and baking powder make the bread rise as soon as it is mixed in and you pop it in the oven.

And because this is a particularly moist bread that will get even moister over time, it is best stored in the fridge or a very cool spot in your house. Bring it to room temperature before serving.

Measurements for 9 X 5-inch Cranberry Orange Bread or 3 Mini-Loaves

2 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour

1.5 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon double-acting baking powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 large egg

1/4 melted, unsalted butter

3/4 cup orange juice

Grated zest of 1 large orange

1 cup raw fresh or frozen cranberries, cut in half

1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Follow Directions as above

The baking time is about an hour for the 9 X 5-inch loaf and about 45 minutes if using the mini-loaf pans. Always check when you begin to really smell the baking since all ovens are different.

Red Lentil Soup With North African Spices

Red Lentil Soup with North African Spices

Red Lentil Soup redolent with North African spices – made ahead or on the table in under an hour. This easy and delicious soup has complex flavors but comes together quickly from pantry staples. Serve a cup as a starter or a big bowl with salad and your bread of choice for a complete but light and satisfying meal.

As anyone who reads my blog knows, I love lentils in all of their wonderful forms. Not only are these little nutrition powerhouses good for you but they are versatile and taste great. Red lentils come both whole and split. Either can be used in this soup but I mixed the two for exactly the texture I wanted – and because I always have both on hand. Generally split lentils (also called Masoor dal) are used in Indian cuisine. Now despite the name, when cooked, the lentils turn yellowish unless dyes have been added.

Because countries have different laws and food safety regulations, it’s best to buy certified organic lentils. There have been concerns about the presence of toxic chemicals found in high concentrations in lentils not certified 100% organic by the USDA. This has particularly been a problem in India. Since these superfoods can make up a large percentage of certain diets, it’s best to be safe. Thankfully, with very little effort, it is easy to obtain organic legumes of every variety.

I came across this recipe for Red Lentil Soup with North African Spices in my local newspaper. However, it originates with America’s Test Kitchen. While the original version is not vegan-friendly, it is easy enough to swap out the chicken stock for vegetable stock and the butter for either EVOO or buttery vegan spread without sacrificing any flavor or texture.

Most recipes I find seem to have too much salt and too small quantities of seasonings. Whenever possible, I use unsalted stock and up the ante on my spices. And when it comes to lemon – well, you can’t have too much. And not to get on my hobby horse, but I strongly encourage you to grind your own spices whenever you can. It takes seconds with an inexpensive coffee or spice grinder and the difference in flavor is enormous.

Below is my version of this delectable soup, but play around with it to get exactly the taste and texture you want. If made ahead, the soup will thicken some as it sits. If it is a bit thicker than you want, simply add some additional stock after you puree it and before reheating.

Because lentils break down so easily and quickly, you don’t have to puree the soup if you don’t wish. I have an immersion blender (a gift from Matthew and Frances) and so it is just a matter of seconds for me to get a smooth – ish consistency. You can control the texture and I always like a bit in my finished product.

So get your lentils on today! For some other delicious lentil dishes:

Greek Red Lentil Soup

Red Lentils with Ginger

Roasted Acorn and Delicata Squash, Lentils, Merguez and Spiced Pumpkin Seeds

Lentils du Puy and Potato Salad with Tarragon

Indian Spiced Lentil Burgers

Vegetable Fritters with Mango Chutney

Who knew that being frugal could taste this good?

Recipe

Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients

Red Lentil Soup with North African Spices

4 Tablespoons unsalted butter or EVOO

1 large onion, peeled and chopped

1 teaspoon kosher salt or to taste

1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper

1 teaspoon ground coriander

3/4 teaspoon ground cumin

rounded 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon cayenne or Aleppo pepper (my preference)

1 generous Tablespoon tomato paste (I LOVE the stuff in a tube – no waste!)

1 large or two smaller cloves of garlic, peeled and minced

4 cups stock (chicken or vegetable, preferably unsalted)

2 cups water

1.75 cups red lentils, picked over and rinsed

Zest of one largish or juicy lemon

Juice of one lemon

2 teaspoons dried mint, crumbled

1 rounded teaspoon paprika

Chopped cilantro or parsley (optional)

Directions

Melt the butter or EVOO over medium heat in a 4 quart or larger stockpot. Add the onion and 1 teaspoon of salt. Stirring occasionally, cook until softened but not browned, about 5 minutes.

Add the spices and pepper and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes.

Stir in the tomato paste and garlic and cook for 2 minute. Add the lentils, stock and water and stir through. Bring to a simmer, partially cover the pot and cook for about 35 minutes, stirring occasionally. If you cook it longer, the soup will just get thicker and creamier.

Add the lemon juice and zest. Turn off the heat and puree with an immersion blender.

In a small skillet, melt the remaining butter or EVOO. Remove from the heat and stir through the mint and paprika.

To serve, ladle the soup into bowls and top with some spiced butter (EVOO) and sprinkle with cilantro or parsley, if desired.

The soup can be made in advance. It will thicken some as it sits, but you can just add a little additional stock to get the desired consistency. Reheat gently.

Apple Bread Pudding

Apple Bread Pudding

Apple Bread Pudding – three of the most comforting words in the English language. I have always said that I could fairly easily live without meat, but not without bread. In recent years, bread became a symbol of the diet devil incarnate. Of course, the pandemic helped change that somewhat but many people still eschew this most essential of foods. Really good bread – not the stuff that is meant to last on store shelves for weeks and that has neither taste nor structure.

My husband and I bake bread every week and when we don’t bake, we search out great bread, walking or driving miles out of our way, to buy it. And who doesn’t love a good pudding, eggy, fragrant with vanilla, rich, but overall – comforting.

I make this bread pudding with leftover challah, but it could also be made with brioche or other rich, sweetened bread. Since we are now well into autumn, of course I want to add apples and raisins. And while I made this apple bread pudding with real milk and butter, you could use a good non-dairy milk and buttery vegan spread or refined coconut oil.

You can take your fancy desserts and desserts loaded with candy and covered with sprinkles. For me, nothing is more beautiful, yummy and comforting than a delicious bread pudding. It reminds me of childhood when I felt safe and yet appeals to my adult palate.

The genesis of this particular recipe is Classic Home Desserts by Richard Sax. The version I have is out of print, although it can be found on the web. I have made a few modifications to suit our tastes.

Recipe

Apple Bread Pudding

Yield: 6 to 8 portions

Ingredients

3.5 to 4 cups (about 5 to 6 ounces), cubed day-old challah, crusts partially trimmed (I used Raisin Challah, but any would do)

5 large eggs

2 large egg yolks

2/3 cup granulated sugar plus 2 Tablespoons, divided

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

3 cups milk (I used 2% because that is what I had)

1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste

Grated zest of one small orange (optional)

1/2 cup raisins or currants (optional – soak the raisins for at least 30 minutes in 2 Tablespoons Bourbon, Grand Marnier or Calvados)

3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

1.5 cups (about 1.5 apples) peeled, cored and coarsely chopped (I used a Golden Delicious and Pink Crispin, but almost any good baking apple would do)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. with a rack in the middle. Use 2 Tablespoons of the butter to coat the pan. (I used a large, shallow oval gratin pan that holds 7 to 8 cups.)

Allow the bread cubes to sit out at room temperature to dry out some. Do not use fresh bread!

Whisk the eggs, yolks, sugar, zest and salt in a large bowl. Whisk in the milk and vanilla. Add the bread cubes and the raisins. (I drained the raisins somewhat but you could add the liquid. If you do, I would use vanilla bean paste instead of the vanilla extract to cut down on the amount of liquid.) Use a spatula to gently mix everything through, trying not to break up the bread cubes. Set aside for at least 30 minutes to allow the bread to become saturated.

Apple Bread Pudding

Meanwhile, add the remaining Tablespoon of butter to a large skillet and when it begins to sizzle, add the apple cubes and 2 Tablespoons of sugar. Toss for about 4 minutes, coating the apples well. Allow the apples to cool slightly and then add it to the bread and custard mixture.

Apple Bread Pudding

Pour the pudding mixture into the buttered baking dish and set into a roasting pan. Pour in enough hot tap water to reach about halfway up the sides of the baking dish. This is a bain marie.

Apple Bread Pudding

Bake for about 1 hour or until the center just barely jiggles. Depending on the depth of the baking dish and your oven, the time could vary slightly. Do not overbake. The custard will continue to cook somewhat after you remove it from the oven.

Apple Bread Pudding

Carefully remove the baking dish from the bain marie and allow to cool on a wire rack.

The bread pudding can be served slightly warm (the way my husband likes it), room temperature (the way I like it) or from the refrigerator. Any leftovers should be kept in a very cool spot or refrigerated.