Spring Forward Into Fresh Soups

As winter fades, I long for lighter, fresher flavors and the subtle aroma of new garden vegetables. Yet, it's not quite warm enough for gazpacho or sunny weather soups, so I've been on a quest to find some delicious, easy springtime soups that will stave off the chill without sacrificing zest. Think citrus, spring onions, parsley, and the aromatic spices of March produce. So get ready to shed the heavy layers of winter flavors and embrace the thrill of lighter fares--and be sure to include your favorites in the comments and let us know how you're celebrating the long awaited arrival of spring!

World's Easiest French Onion Soup

4 tbsp. unsalted butter
3 large white onions, thinly sliced into half moons
kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 c. white wine
2 c. chicken stock
4 c. beef stock
8 sprigs fresh thyme, plus more for garnish
4 Baguette slices
2 c. grated Gruyere


In a large pot over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until deeply golden, about 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, then add white wine and let simmer until evaporated, around 3 minutes. Add chicken and beef stocks and thyme and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and remove thyme. Preheat the broiler to high. Place baguette slices on a large baking sheet and top each slice with ½ cup cheese, melted butter, and garlic salt. Place under broiler until cheese is bubbling and golden brown, about 1 minute.

Serve soup in bowls or large mugs with baguette slice on top. Garnish with a thyme spring.

Greek Lemon Chicken and Rice

1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 lb. chicken, cut into 1/2" cubes
Salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 qt. chicken stock
1 c. cooked white rice
2 scallions, thinly sliced


In a large pot over medium-high heat, heat olive oil. Add chicken to pot and season with 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp black pepper, and half the lemon zest. Brown chicken on all sides, 5 minutes. Add garlic and onion and sauté, scraping the bottom of the pan, 2 to 3 minutes. Season with 1/2 tsp salt. Add carrots and celery cooking until softened, about 5 minutes. Add chicken stock, lemon juice, and cooked rice and simmer for 5 minutes. Add scallions just before serving. Garnish with the remaining lemon zest and serve.

Sweet Corn Adobo Chowder

1/2 Stick unsalted butter
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. chili powder
kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
6 ears corn (5 cup kernels)
4 c. vegetable stock
2 tbsp. fresh lime juice
3/4 c. sour cream. divided
2 tbsp. chopped chipotles in adobo


In a large pot, heat butter over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, cumin, and chili powder and season with salt and pepper. Cook until softened and golden, stirring, 8 to 10 minutes. Add corn and stock to the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until corn is soft, 4 to 6 minutes more. Working in batches, purée soup in your blender until smooth, then whisk in lime juice and ¼ cup sour cream. In a small bowl, combine remaining ½ cup sour cream and chipotle in adobo, letting some streaks of chipotle remain. Dollop on soup and serve.

Dreamy Cream of Parsley

1 lb. fresh parsley (about 4 bunches)
3 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup heavy cream
Juice of 1 lemon
Freshly ground horseradish (optional), for serving

Bring a 6-qt. saucepan of water to a boil and add parsley; cook until bright green and wilted, about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Drain and place parsley in a bowl of ice water; let sit for 1 minute. Drain, squeezing out as much liquid as possible. Roughly chop and set aside. Heat butter in a 4-qt. saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic, onions, salt, and pepper; cook, stirring, until onions are soft, about 6 minutes. Add stock and heavy cream, and bring to a simmer; cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly reduced, 15–20 minutes. Add parsley, salt, and pepper; cook until warmed through, about 5 minutes. Transfer soup to a blender along with lemon juice and purée until smooth. Strain soup through a fine mesh sieve, if you like. Divide soup among serving bowls and garnish with freshly grated horseradish, if you like.

Sexy Stay At Home Date Dinner

It's finally February and spring is in the air, along with hints of romance and the fancy-free desire to court a loved one, or maybe even put yourself out there after a long dry spell. But as your mind wanders to intimate dates and arduous evenings, so does everyone else's, meaning restaurants will have wait lists a mile long. Who wants to waste date night queuing for a table, when you could be spending time with your sweetheart?

Never fear, we at Gourmet Cooking have everything you need to plan, prepare, and serve a sexy date night dinner for two. So skip the reservations, ignore the lines, and take romance into your own hands. We've pieced everything together, from appetizers to dessert, for you to delight your loved one.

To Start: Apple Butter and Bacon Wrapped Shrimp

1/2 cup apple butter
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
6 pieces bacon
6 extra large shrimp or prawns, cleaned and deveined
Chopped cilantro, for garnish (if desired)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment. Add apple butter, maple syrup, red pepper flakes, kosher salt and smoked paprika in a skillet. Whisk together and until the mixture is thick and cooked down by half. Set aside.

In another skillet, add bacon slices and cook just until browned but still flexible. Remove from the pan and drain.

Wrap 1 bacon slice around each shrimp, secure with a toothpick and place onto prepared baking sheet. Once shrimp has been wrapped, baste the top with the apple butter mixture. Bake for 5 minutes, flip, baste, and back for another 5 minutes.

Main Dish: Pork in Port Wine Sauce

1 medium shallot, finely chopped
1/2 cup Port
1 teaspoon sugar
1/3 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup plum preserves, strained
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon pepper, divided
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
4 bone-in center-cut pork chops (about 1 3/4 pounds)
1 tablespoon olive oil

Bring shallots, Port, and sugar to boil in a saucepan; boil until the mixture is reduced to 1/4 cup. Add broth, return to a boil and reduce again to 1/4 cup. Reduce the heat to medium, stir in the preserves, 1/4 teaspoon of the salt, and 1/8 teaspoon of the pepper, and cook 2 minutes. Cover and keep warm. Combine the coriander, garlic powder, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper and sprinkle over the pork.

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high; add the chops in a single layer and cook 5 to 6 minutes per side, until cooked through and an instant-read thermometer registers 145°F.

Serve each pork chop with the sauce spooned over top.

Dessert: Red Velvet Milkshakes

1 cup vanilla Ice Cream
3 tablespoons Red Velvet Cake Mix
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1/2 cup milk

Blend all ingredients together until smooth. Add more or less red velvet cake mix to liking (will alter color and flavor). Also try cake batter flavored ice cream for a more "cake-like" flavor!


Horror Stories: My Worst Day At The 'Buck

It was a hot summer day in Southern California, I was ten minutes shy of finishing my shift at Starbucks and was super excited about my afternoon plans to see my boyfriend, who lived several hours away and was home for the first time in months. It had been a pleasant morning up until that point, lots of nice regulars, easy traffic, good co-workers, and I was feeling prettay, prettay, prettay good. I'd brought a cute outfit to change into and spent time fussing on my hair that morning, making sure I'd look good when he arrived to pick me up. It was dead at that point, so the manager taking over told me to wrap up early and head out.

And then she walked in.

This woman was an afternoon regular that I'd seen only a handful of times over the years I'd worked there, since I was usually the opening manager. But I knew exactly who she was and I *thought* I knew exactly what was coming. Only I had no idea how bad it was about to get for me. She usually ordered a Venti Caramel Frappuccino with two added shots of espresso, which elevated the drink from nasty to nasty plus smelling like dog farts. Sure enough, she ordered her regular drink and I start making it, barely even wrinkling my nose at the smell of the espresso hitting the Frap base.

"Make sure you put EXTRA CARAMEL in there," she hissed, peering at me over the divider. Her eyes were small and darting, following my movements and nodding in agreement with the steps I was taking. I added an extra pump of the caramel syrup and readied the sauce bottle while the drink blended.

"I LOVE THE EXTRA CARAMEL!" she reminded me, literally four seconds later. "So make sure you put EXTRA CARAMEL IN THERE!"

I assured her I would and she responded by pressing against the plastic divider to get an even better view of her drink being made. Her smooshed up face looked like a eager slice of wet ham as she continued eyeballing me while I poured her drink into the cup.

"WAIT!" she shouted, as the cup was half full. "I want caramel in the cup."

Not an uncommon request, but a gross one. I poured her drink back in the blender and did a generous swirl of caramel sauce around the cup.

"MORE!" she implored.

"Sure, but I added extra in the drink as well, so y'know, it's gonna be real caramel-y," I said. This set her the fuck off.

"That's why I said extra caramel! That's why I order the espresso! EXTRA CARAMEL EXTRA CARAMEL!" she chanted.

At this point, the inside of the cup was completely coated in caramel with at least a 1/4 inch of the sauce at the bottom. I poured her drink into the cup, did a nice little dollop of whipped cream and went to give it one last drizzle of sauce before she had another freak out. Except my caramel bottle was empty and now I had to fill a new one.

"Just a sec," I told her, heading to the back to grab a bag of caramel sauce. I heard her say something to my co-worker like, "Can you make sure she puts caramel on top?" and I swear to god, I wanted to run back out there and choke her with the damn drink. Instead I grabbed the bag and headed back out.

At the time I worked there the caramel sauce came in these large slug-like bags. You'd snip the corner, jerk it off into a bottle, and yay. Everyone is happy (except you because you now hate something as wonderful as caramel.) So, I get the bottle full and the bag is about 1/4 full. I know, I KNOW that this nasty caramel Golem is going to ask me about it. I am bracing myself for it as I snap the lid on her drink and place it on the bar. Even though I logically know where this is heading, I'm still shocked when she asks me for the bag.

"I can't give that out, ma'am. Sorry! Have a good one."

I headed to the back room to grab my stuff, leaving her standing there with her sick drink.I'd just finished changing my shirt and touching up my make-up when I heard a huge crash from the floor. I ran out and sure enough, she was trying to reach over the bar to grab the bag and ended up knocking over a stack of clean pitchers and supplies.Her arm was flailing and half of her body was sprawled out on the bar while my poor co-worker was trying to do damage control.

"Ma'am, you are going to have to leave now. This behavior is not acceptable and you're making us uncomfortable," I explain to her.

"Just give me the bag!"

"Ma'am, I am happy to add more caramel to your drink but I cannot give out our supplies. We have been very polite to you and now I need to ask that you GO."

She pulled herself upright, drink in hand, and glared at me like I'd never been glared at before. "You EXPLETIVE EXPLETIVE!" she screamed, throwing her drink at me.

It hit me in the chest, exploded instantly and covered my whole torso and my hair in a repulsive, sticky mess. I was shocked, adrenaline coursing through my veins, and taking very, very deep breaths so that I wouldn't leap over the bar and attack her. Before I could do anything, she turned around and ran out.

My boyfriend arrived a few minutes later and pitched in to help us clean up, but uhhhg. I was just done at that point and wanted to go home and cry/eat pizza in the shower. The next day, my manager informed me that she got the woman's information off her credit card and reported the whole thing to the police. I don't know what, if anything, came of it but she never returned to that store again while I was working.

Holiday Cookbook Guide: The Best Presents For Them...And You

Dandelion and Quince: Exploring the Wide World of Unusual Vegetables, Fruits, and Herbs by Michelle McKenzie

This beautifully illustrated cookbook educates and honors the abundance of farmers markets and grocery stores alike. It features many overlooked and yet to be discovered by domestic cook ingredients, from nettles, to sunchokes, exploring fava leaves, kumquats, mustard and more. The bounty of leaves, roots, blossoms and berries curated in Dandelion & Quince are simple foods that can easily be incorporated into everyday cooking, while bringing some much needed diversity to the kitchen and to our diets. It pays tribute to the care taken by farmers, teaching readers how to select the best produce and where and when to use it. Everything from overlooked leaves, easily dismissed weeds, and previously discarded seeds have found a passionate champion in Michelle McKenzie, who delivers over 150 recipes to satisfy all palates. Her book provides guidance, tricks, tips, and advice, such as tasting your food constantly and how to embrace mistakes. Known as the program director and an instructor at 18 Reasons, a cooking school, event venue, and community gathering place in San Francisco's Mission District, McKenzie has clearly found her calling in communicating her love of food onto the page, making this a handsome, thoughtful gift for anyone who loves to cook.

Small Victories: Recipes, Advice + Hundreds of Ideas for Home Cooking Triumphs by Julia Turshen, Gentl + Hyers and foreword by Ina Garten

In this stunningly designed and deeply personal collection Chef April Bloomfield's "simple, achievable recipes," you will find a focus on bold flavors, pure ingredients, and hearty dishes for meals around the clock. Not only does Turshen provide straightforward recipes, but includes two or three spinoffs for each one, allowing variation and encouraging experimentation. Nothing is fussy, nothing is rigid, and everything is open for a home cook's delicious exploration. As well, Small Victories has a genius section of 7 Lists of 7 Things You Can Do, featuring chicken, ground beef, pizza dough, seafood, soup, and more. This is the perfect cookbook for busy, on-the-go folks who come home at 6pm and confront a fridge of leftovers, wondering "what can I possibly cook?" With more than 160 to-die-for photos, concise instructions and inspirational modifications, this book is an essential and covetable gift for both novice and advanced cooks--and it's sure to get you an invitation for dinner!

Molly on the Range: Recipes and Stories from An Unlikely Life on a Farm by Molly Yeh

The charming, eloquent, and effervescent Molly Yeh celebrates her Jewish and Chinese background with lovingly tested recipes for Asian Scotch Eggs, Scallion Pancake Challah Bread, Cardamom Vanilla Cake and Marzipan Mandel Bread, as well as dishes to surprise and delight everyone. Food almost takes a backseat to Yeh's writing, which is powerful, funny, and so filled with life that you'll want to curl up with this book and a plate of cookies for a long afternoon. Fans of Yeh's blog, My Name Is Yeh, will be delighted with this gracing their kitchen shelves and newcomers to Yeh's kitchen witchery will delight in getting to know her, her husband, and their brood of chickens. Packed with everyday classics, updates to traditional comfort food, and unique ingredients, each recipe is backed by a personal story from Yeh's life, cementing the connection between living and eating well. This is a great gift for someone who just moved into their own place for the first time, a new cook, or someone who has recently transplanted, as Yeh is a city girl turned farm girl, hauling herself from New York to North Dakota--but really, there aren't many people who won't fall head over heels for Molly on the Range.

Dorie's Cookies by Dorie Greenspan

Need a gift for someone with a sweet tooth or are you dying to dig into a delicious New Year? Then you simply must pick up a copy of Dorie's Cookies! Written by Greenspan, otherwise known as 'The Cookie Jedi,' brings her 25 years of culinary mastery into this delightful ode to everyone's favorite dessert. The IACP and James Beard award–winning chef and New York Times bestselling cookbook author playfully admits in the introduction that she has wanted to create an all-cookie cookbook for over twenty years, every since she wrote her first book back in 1991--so you know she has thought through every single recipe in this decadent bible. In the gorgeously photographed pages, you'll find everything from her famous Lunch-box Blueberry Buttermilk Pie Bars to They Might Be Breakfast Cookies packed with raisins, dried apples, dried cranberries, and oat, to her three ingredient only Almond Crackle Cookies, and holiday favorites like Italian Saucissons and German jam sandwich cookies.

Modern Potluck: Beautiful Food to Share by Kristin Donnelly

If you want to give a gift with the sentiment of dining, look no further than Modern Potluck. What better way to bring loved ones together than over savory, simply recipes designed to delight every palate? With over 100 day of and make-ahead recipes, this is the perfect present for busy households or fans of one-dish-dining.

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