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Cooking with Lady Smokey: Soup IS Good Food

Holding soup in bowl

Regardless of our unseasonably warm weather down here in Nashville this winter, everyone we know seems to have been hit with a cold of some sort. Bronchitis hit our house this week, despite our best efforts to ward it off. This required many pots of soups chocked full of goodness.

Many years ago when I was living in Atlanta, my friend and awesome photographer, Ron Jude, shared a favorite recipe with me for Garlic Lemon Chicken. Sadly, I lost track of Ron, but I think of him every time I make this delicious chicken dish. It is so comforting and easy. You simply brown chicken in olive oil in a skillet, add tons of garlic cloves (20 or 30!), fresh thyme, and fresh lemon slices and bake in the oven. The garlic gets all sweet and yummy. I was thinking of this recipe this week and it provided the inspiration for this first soup.

Chicken Soup

Get Well Soon Chicken Soup

  • 2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 Onion, finely chopped
  • 3 Carrots, chopped into thin rounds
  • 3 Parsnips, cut into thin rounds
  • 6 Garlic Cloves, crushed and chopped
  • 2 Chicken Breasts, cut into small bite-size pieces
  • ½ Lemon
  • 2 tsp Herbs de Provence (or fresh Thyme)
  • 1 cup of Brown Basmati Rice
  • 6 cups Chicken Stock
  • 1 bunch Asparagus, cut into 1” pieces
  • 1 handful Fresh Parsley, chopped
  • Sea Salt & Black Pepper to taste


Heat a soup pot on the stove on medium heat. Add the olive oil and onions. Cook, stirring occasionally until the onion is soft. Add carrots and parsnips and cook for a couple minutes. Add garlic and chicken. Add zest and juice of half a lemon and then toss the lemon half in the soup pot. Stir. Once chicken has begun to brown, add in herbs and rice. Stir. Add in stock, bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for about 30 minutes or until rice is done. Add asparagus, parsley, and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 5-10 more minutes. Remove lemon half and serve. Enjoy!

Traci's kitchen

Our friend Traci has spent the last few months getting her kitchen remodeled. She ate many meals with us as her kitchen was out of service so once the remodel was complete, we were her first dinner guests! She had just purchased Hugh Acheson’s new cookbook, A New Turn In The South, which is simply beautiful. Traci made his recipe for Frogmore Stew. It was amazing! I loved the addition of lemon to this classic low-country Southern dish. It worked so well with the tomatoes.

Frogmore Stew

I found double-duty for this next soup. We enjoyed some and shared the other half with a good friend of ours whose Dad is staying with her currently as he is getting treatment in town for cancer. She mentioned that she was trying to pump him full of good cancer-fighting vegetables such as organic kale and mushrooms. I searched for some recipes and stumbled upon this yummy one from the NY Times. It was delicious and so nutritious. I couldn’t easily find the dried Porcini mushrooms so I instead used a mix of fresh crimini, shiitake, and portobella mushrooms which worked well. I left the dried Porcinis in the recipe below because I bet it will give this recipe that extra layer it needs to make it even more delicious. I made a few changes and noted them here.

Mushroom, Kale, Barley Soup

Mushroom, Kale, Barley Soup

  • 1/2 ounce Dried Porcini Mushrooms
  • 2 cups Boiling Water
  • 1 to 2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 Onion, chopped
  • 1/2 pound Cremini Mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed and sliced thick
  • 3 Cloves Garlic, minced
  • 3/4 cup Pearl Barley
  • 6 cups Chicken or Veggie Stock (and the mushroom broth, if you used the Porcinis)
  • 3 Bay Leaves
  • 1 Tbsp fresh Thyme, chopped
  • A Handful of Fresh Parsley, chopped
  • A Parmesan Reggiano rind
  • 1 big bunch Lacinato Kale, stemmed and washed thoroughly
  • Sea Salt & Freshly Ground Pepper to taste


Place the dried porcini mushrooms in a bowl or a Pyrex measuring cup, and pour two cups boiling water over. Let sit for 30 minutes. Set a strainer over a bowl, and line it with cheesecloth. Lift the mushrooms from the water and squeeze over the strainer, then rinse in several changes of water. Squeeze out the water and set aside. Strain the soaking water through the cheesecloth-lined strainer. Add water as necessary to make two cups. Set aside. Heat the oil in a large, heavy soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, and add the onion. Cook, stirring often, until just about tender, about five minutes, and add the sliced fresh mushrooms. Cook, stirring, until the mushrooms are beginning to soften, about three minutes, and add the garlic and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Continue to cook for about five minutes, until the mixture is juicy and fragrant.

Add the reconstituted dried mushrooms, the barley, the mushroom soaking liquid, and the stock. Salt to taste. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer 45 minutes. Meanwhile, stack the kale leaves in bunches and cut crosswise into slivers. Add the herbs and Parmesan rind. Add the kale to the simmering soup, and continue to simmer for another 15 to 20 minutes. The barley should be tender and the broth aromatic. The kale should be very tender. Taste and adjust salt, add freshly ground pepper and serve. Then, get well soon!

soup ingredients

This last soup was invented out of necessity. I have a habit of buying things some days that look good but that we don’t necessarily need right away, to sort of stock the cabinet with staples we might need. In other words, I am a grocery store shopping addict. I just love thinking about food and have a hard time resisting buying certain foods sometimes with so many good ideas and intentions. As a result, our cabinets sometimes get full and from time to time, we need to try to create something magnificent out of what we already have. A can of garbonzo beans and a cup or so of farro lead me to create this recipe that turned out quite nicely. It is a Minestrone of sorts.


Italian Farro Soup

  • 1 head Garlic
  • 2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 Onion, finely chopped
  • dozen or so Mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 can Garbonzo Beans
  • 1 cup Farro
  • 6 cups stock
  • 13 oz canned Whole Tomatoes (I used half of that large can)
  • 2 Tbsp Pesto (or a couple Tbsp Italian herbs- oregano, basil, etc)
  • Spinach leaves
  • grated Parmesan Reggiano
  • Ricotta Cheese

Italian Farro soup

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Chop the top off a head of garlic and lace it in a little ramekin or oven proof dish. Pour 1-2 tsp olive oil on top and place in the oven for about half an hour to roast. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Heat soup pan on stove on medium heat. Add 1 or so Tbsp olive oil. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally. Once onion is soft, add mushrooms. Push the roasted garlic cloves out of the skin and into the pot. Stir, using the back of the spoon to crush each piece as you stir. Add the beans and the farro and stir. Add the pesto or herbs and stir. Add the broth and tomatoes (I crush the tomatoes by hand, over the pot) and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the farro has cooked through. Place spinach leaves in each bowl. Ladle the soup into the bowls, on top of the spinach. Top with grated cheese and a dollop of ricotta.

Italian Farro soup

And, its always fun to end on a sweet note. I just made these delectable Buttermilk Pudding Cakes for Valentine’s Day. They were so darn cute, super easy and just perfect. I will for sure make these again. I found this recipe in a great Southern cookbook we have by the Lee Brothers from Charleston, S.C. titled, Simple Fresh Southern. Matt & Ted Lee have it going on and by “it” I mean their Southern food charm. Check out their website here.

Buttermilk Pudding Cakes

Buttermilk Pudding Cakes
Serves 8

  • ¾ cup All Purpose Flour
  • 1 ½ tsp Baking Soda
  • 2 Eggs
  • ¾ cup Buttermilk
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • ⅓ cup Sugar
  • 4 Tbsp Unsalted Butter, melted and cooled to room temp.

For the Topping:

  • 2 cups Fresh Raspberries
  • ¼ cup Sugar 
Buttermilk Pudding Cake with Raspberries

Heat oven to 425 with rack in the top third of the oven. Sift flour with the baking powder in a large bowl. In a second bowl, beat the eggs with a whisk until creamy and yellow. Whisk in the buttermilk, vanilla, sugar, and butter. Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture and whisk until batter is combined and smooth. Divide the batter among the 8 standard-size (3 ounce) nonstick muffin pan cups, filling them two-thirds full. (Note- I used a 6 cup muffin tin which worked just fine.) Bake for 9 minutes. Check the cakes by inserting a knife tip between the rim of the cake and the muffin cup and pulling gently to expose the side of the cake. If the side of the cake appears evenly browned, the cakes will hold together when inverted and are ready. if not, bake for one more minute and check again.

While the cakes bake, place the raspberries in a bowl and shower them with sugar (tee hee, sugar shower sounds nice, eh?), and use your hand to gently toss them to coat them with sugar evenly. When the cakes are done, invert them onto individual plates and divide the berries among them, mounding them on top and around the cakes. Top with a dollop of homemade whipped cream if desired. We had fresh blueberries rather than raspberries so we gave them a sugar shower and then gently heated them in a sauce pan just for a few minutes to let them soften and combine with the sugar. It was delicious.

Buttermilk Pudding Cakes

Then we had cakes leftover so the following evening we added a scoop of coffee ice cream and decided to make a simple brown sugar whiskey butter sauce to top it off. Mmmm..

Eddie Stubbs

For your listening pleasure, be sure to catch the BEST in radio from Nashville- WSM DJ Eddie Stubbs, known as “The Walking Encyclopedia of Country Music,” will comfort you and help nurse you back to good health. His radio show which airs week nights from 7 PM to midnight, Central Time and features all the best classic country stars and many you’ve never heard before. Sometimes, he gets so excited about a certain part of a song that he will actually replay it and you can hear him walking across the room to move the needle on the record. He’s amazing. No matter where you live, you can listen online here.