Cannellini Bean Soup with Fennel and Swiss Chard

The holiday season can be tiring!  This warm, hearty, veggie-packed soup helped us recharge and reset after so many heavy, meat-filled holiday meals.  It’s the perfect meal to start the new year.  For this soup and many others I make, I use my homemade chicken stock.  I tweaked New York Times Cooking’s slow cooker version to come up with this recipe.


  • 1 pound cannellini beans (dried)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 large onion, thinly diced
  • 1 fennel bulb
  • 3 celery stalks with leaves
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • Tops of 3 celery stalks with leaves
  • 2-3 Fennel bulb stalks
  • 4 Swiss chard leaves, center removed
  • Rind of an 8 oz. block of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese


  1. Pick through the beans to remove any foreign objects and rinse them.  Place them in a bowl and add double the amount of water.  Cover the bowl and allow the beans to soak for at least 8 hours (or overnight).
  2. Drain the beans and place them in a large pot.  Discard the water they soaked in.  Add the chicken stock, Parmigiano Reggiano rind, dried basil, rosemary sprigs, bay leaf , the celery stalk tops,  and the fennel stalks.  If you have cooking twine, you can tie the stalks and rosemary sprigs together for easy removal at the end.
  3. Set to medium/high heat and bring to a boil.
  4. Meanwhile, chop the onion and fennel bulb, mince the garlic, and slice the celery.  When chopping the fennel, cut away the base and cut off stalks, which can be saved for about a week or so in the fridge and used for something else.
  5. Heat the oil in a large saute pan. Add the onion and cook for a minute or two.  Then add the fennel, followed by the celery and the garlic.  Season with red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.  After a couple of minutes, add the white wine and cook for another 3 to 5 minutes.
  6. Add the onion, fennel and celery mixture to the beans, which should be boiling by this time.  Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
  7. Taste to make sure the beans are tender enough and salt is adequate.  Add fresh ground pepper.  Remove the celery stalk tops, fennel stalks, bay leaf, rosemary sprigs and Parmigiano Reggiano rind.
  8. Cut away the center part of the Swiss chard and chop the leaves roughly.  Add the chopped leaves to the soup.
  9. Just before serving, sprinkle each bowl of soup with freshly grated cheese.  If you have fresh basil on hand you may add it as a garnish.

Homemade Chicken Stock


1 whole chicken, cleaned, and, if desired cut into pieces

  • 1 onion, peeled and halved
  • 2 shallots, peeled and halved
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly smashed with the side of a chef’s knife
  • 3 celery stalks with leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1-2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 tsp whole black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt


  1. In a large stock pot, place an entire chicken that has been cleaned or, alternatively, 2 chicken breasts, 2 chicken legs, 2 chicken thighs and 2 chicken wings.
  2. Add 8 cups of water along with the remainder of the ingredients to the stock pot.
  3. Bring it to a boil. Once boiling, cover and reduce the heat to low. Cook for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
  4. Remove the chicken or chicken pieces and set them aside in a large dish.  You can use the chicken in a different recipe later.
  5. Allow the liquid to cool a bit, then strain it through a fine mesh sieve into a large bowl (preferably one that has a spout and handle). Discard the seasoning and vegetables you added, then pour liquid into which ever means of storage you prefer.   I keep mine in large Mason Jars. Allow the fat to stay on the surface before you seal your jar (it can be easily skimmed off before using it).  It will stay fresh in the fridge for several weeks if your jar is sterilized and the fat remains on the surface.  I usually plan on making soup shortly after preparing a batch of stock, so I never store it for long.  Most soup recipes call for about 4 to 6 cups of stock.  This recipe makes 8 cups more or less.

Stay tuned for chicken salad, pulled chicken sliders, chicken vaca frita, chicken pot pie, chicken tacos, chicken fajitas so your chicken does not go to waste!

Effortlessly Elegant Babas Au Rhum

My daughter, Stephanie, recently visited Paris and came back raving about a dessert she had at Cyril Lignac’s bakery called a baba au rhum.  I make my rum flan or a rum cake for Christmas dinner most years, so she suggested I try making a baba au rhum instead.  Anticipating that replicating such a delicious and opulent dessert from one of the best bakeries in Paris would naturally be very complicated and labor-intensive, I cringed at the thought.  But she insisted and I accepted the challenge.

It turns out that babas au rhum are not only delicious but also surprisingly simple to make.  After reading several baba au rhum recipes online and watching lots of YouTube videos showing how to make them, I came up with this recipe.  It will now be a staple at our holiday dinners–and hopefully yours, too!

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Chocolate Hazelnut Crinkle Cookies (from Bon Appetit Magazine)

Everyone absolutely loved, loved, loved these adorable cookies.  I used the recipe from Bon Appetit’s Special Edition “Essential Cookies.”  I’ll just say that every cookie in this edition of the magazine looks amazing, and not just for the holidays but for any time of the year.  I made these Crinkle Cookies and I also made Ultimate Sugar Cookies, which were equally as good.

I followed the recipe according to the magazine, however I did tweak it a little; you will notice the changes I made below in the ingredients list.  I really love coffee in anything chocolate, so I added that to the recipe.  I think it really enhanced the flavor, but you can omit it if you prefer.

These cookies are perfect for the holidays to enjoy at home, share with friends and neighbors, or give to your kids’ teachers.  They pack beautifully in a cellophane bag.  You will love them! Continue reading “Chocolate Hazelnut Crinkle Cookies (from Bon Appetit Magazine)”

Sunday Morning French Toast

img_7160My first memory of trying French Toast was in Home Economics class in 7th grade.  My favorite part of the class is when we ventured into cooking!  I can’t remember what grade I earned in that class, but I remember I loved French Toast!

I’ve always loved breakfast.  Sometimes at home, when it’s just my husband and I, I’ll make French Toast for dinner!   The best part is that it seems fancy, but it’s really easy to make and fun for the whole family to get involved in the kitchen.

When making French Toast, there’s just a little planning ahead of time.  It’s always better to use bread that’s about at least 2 days old.  If the bread is too fresh, it will fall apart when you dip it in the batter.  I usually buy the bread and leave it on the counter in it’s packaging a couple of days, and if I buy it early in the week, after a couple of days, I place it in the fridge until the weekend.  I’ve tweaked and added my own flavors to the original method I learned so long ago in that Home Economics class.  I know you’ll really enjoy it too!

Serves 4


  • 4 eggs
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 scant tsp nutmeg
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 pinches salt
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla
  • 4 Tbsp butter for cooking
  • 8 slices Brioche bread sliced about 1 1/2″ thick
  • maple syrup
  • dusting of powdered sugar (optional)


  1. If you have a blender, add all the ingredients, except for the butter, to the jar of the blender and mix.  Pour the mixture into a large bowl.  If you prefer not to pull out the blender or if you don’t have one, simply add the ingredients to a large bowl and whisk it thoroughly so that the cinnamon is well blended into the liquid.
  2. Slice the bread into 8, 1 1/2″ slices.  You can make them thicker or thinner.
  3. Heat a 8 or 10″ pan (preferably non-stick) on medium/high heat.  After about 1 a minute, add 1 Tbsp of butter.  While your pan is heating, immerse a slice of toast to the mixture so it absorbs the batter. Use tongs or two forks to flip the toast around so both sides are drenched.  What I do is dip it in and turn it and then press it down into the liquid and then remove it and immediately place it in the hot butter.  At this time, you should reduce the heat to medium or medium/low, depending on your stove.  It’s better that it doesn’t cook too quickly as the outside will cook and the inside will stay runny.  Repeat with the next slice.  I use a 10″ pan so I can cook two slices at once.  After about 1 minute or 2, using a spatula, flip the first toast you added to the pan, then the other.  If you have a pan that only holds one slice at a time, add the next slice of bread when your first slice is almost ready to come out.
  4. Continue cooking and flipping so both sides are toasty and golden. Have a platter ready to place your cooked toast.  You can heat your oven to 200 degrees or heat up your warming drawer (if you have one), and keep the platter in the oven, placing the toasts in the oven as you prepare them to keep them warm.  We love to sit at our round table as a family and enjoy eating and chatting, so this is what I usually do so that everyone has warm toast.
  5. Serve with a dusting of powered sugar and/or maple syrup.  Place some fresh berries on the side and some Greek yogurt if desired.

    *The batter can be prepared the night before and stored in the refrigerator in a sealed container.  Be sure to re-mix the batter before dipping the toast.

Cuban Style Grilled Churrasco with Chimichurri

If you like grilled meat, this is the perfect meat for grilling.  It cooks quickly and easily and it is delicious!  This is a very easy meal to make and is ready in no time.  I’ve had it in many restaurants, but I really like having it at home because, before I grill it, I season the steak using the same seasoning I use for Cuban style, pan seared sirloin steak.  This time I used outside skirt steak, which needs more trimming than the inside skirt steak, but that what was my only option at butcher’s counter today.  You can use either, just make sure it’s skirt steak and not flap or flank steak; butchers will try to sell you what they have and say it’s the same thing…it’s not.  Here at home we do not have large portions, so 2 large steaks goes a long way.  But if you’re preparing for more than 2-4 people or if  you like larger portions, increase the ingredients accordingly.

Making the chimicurri is also just as easy.  I like to serve this with white rice and some crispy fried green plantains, but you can also serve it with plantain chips or an avocado salad with tomatoes and red onion is nice too!  If you have left over chimichurri, plan on some grilled or pan seared chicken the next night and top it with your left over sauce!  This also works as a great marinade for chicken.  For marinating, simply place chicken pieces in a zippered baggy with the chimichurri, place it in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour, then grill.

Serves 2-4

Continue reading “Cuban Style Grilled Churrasco with Chimichurri”