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Lemon Chicken Soup

Hello!! I’m back from my brief hiatus. I really should update this more often…I’ve been cooking & taking a lot of pictures lately, I just haven’t taken the time to sit down and type up this back-log of blog posts.

The past two weeks have been a whirlwind. My boyfriend, Rob, and I went down to Idabel, Oklahoma to shoot a special project we’re working on. Idabel is a tiny, tiny town right on the southeastern edge of Oklahoma, four hours away from Oklahoma City. It’s about 10 miles away from the Texas border, 10 miles away from the Arkansas border, and the local channels are broadcast out of Shreveport, Louisiana. It’s a whole ‘nother world down there.

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On our way back up to OKC, we decided to take a slight detour and explore the culinary wonderland that is Krebs, Oklahoma. This tiny town situated just east of McAlester is known as “The Little Italy of Oklahoma”. Way back in the late 1800’s, Italian immigrants settled there and brought with them many food traditions that are still practiced today. There are three Italian restaurants in this small (population: a few hundred people) town: Roseanna’s, Pete’s Place, and Isle of Capri. It was a Sunday when we made the trip, so some of the restaurants were closed. The main gem I wanted to visit, though, was very open.

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Lovera’s is a magnificent market that prizes itself on their homemade cheese: caciocavera. In Italy it is known as caciocavella cheese, but they wanted to put their own spin on the tasty stuff so they replaced the -vella with -Vera in honor of Lovera’s. I bought a huge braid of the caciocavera cheese, but it is usually made in the shape of gourds. They hang it by rope from the ceiling to “cure” or dry; hence the gourd shape. This mild cheese tastes like mix of mozzarella and provolone, and is absolutely excellent to snack on or to melt.

Rob & I sampled almost every type of caciocavera that they make: goat milk, regular, Italian herb, and “Diablo” which is made from GHOST PEPPERS! Rob almost died the spicy got to him so bad….of course, I had accidentally handed him a piece that was just spiraled with the world’s hottest pepper.

The young man behind the meat counter gave us all sorts of samples and tips on what to buy. We tried some of their house beef jerky that was to die for. I decided I wanted to make a homemade Italian meal that night, so he told us what types of pasta, meat, & sauce to buy. We settled on some homemade spicy Italian sausage, campanelle pasta (our Italian tour guide’s favorite), and Lovera’s own spaghetti sauce. The food was great, but his hospitality and friendliness was best part of the day. Little Italy is the best kept secret in Oklahoma!

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After that, we headed into McAlister’s for lunch and ate at a fantastic Mexican food restaurant. Toured downtown McAlester, explained to Rob where the infamous prison is (think: death penalty), then got back on the highway to come home.

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Later that week, I had to go to Memphis, Tennessee for work. Was there two days, got back home for two and then headed down south to Texas to see my mom’s last play. I travelled so much that week, I think it took me a whole week to recover after that.

Now let’s get down to brass tacks: lemon chicken soup. I kept seeing all of these recipes for this soup on Pinterest, so I decided I finally had to try it. I’ll tell you right now I was NOT let down.

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Lemon Chicken Soup

-2 TBS. olive oil, divided
-1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
-2 tsp. garlic pepper seasoning
-3 cloves garlic, minced
-1 onion, diced
-3 carrots, peeled and diced
-1/2 tsp. dried thyme
-5 cups chicken stock
-3 bay leaves
-1 cup uncooked orzo pasta
-2 to 3 sprigs rosemary
-juice of 1 lemon
-2 TBS. chopped parsley

1. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large stockpot. Season chicken with lemon pepper seasoning & salt, add to oil and cook until golden, 2-3 minutes. Set aside on a plate lined with paper towels.

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2. Add the other tablespoon of oil to pot. Add garlic, onion, and carrots. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender–about 3-4 minutes. Stir in thyme. Whisk in chicken stock, bay leaves and 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil.

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3. Stir in orzo, rosemary & chicken. Reduce heat and simmer until orzo is tender, about 10-12 minutes. Stir in lemon juice & parsley and season with salt and pepper.

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This soup had such a complex flavor profile. Sometimes it would taste lemony with a hint of rosemary…other times it would taste like a semi soft lemon cheese. All the times it tasted excellent, though. It’s especially good when your sick, have a sore throat, or it’s just plain FREEZING outside.

This soup is easy to make paleo, too. Just take out the orzo! The flavor punch is still there even without the orzo. Enjoy!

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