It’s a clear sky. The almost full moon is rising. I leave the warmth of the bakery behind, stepping into that December chill. Tonight is the night. With the first Sunday of advent behind me and St. Nicholas Day just ahead, it’s time to pick out a Christmas tree.
These days, we like to go to The Chief. But back in the day, we often made it into an adventure. We would drive out to the farm, walk around until we found the right one and then sawed it down. With mitten-clad hands, we would carry it back to the car and put it on the roof for the ride home. I would make hot cocoa to warm everyone up and as dusk fell, we would string up the lights. We always had two boxes of ornaments: the fragile ones packed carefully with tissue paper in a cardboard box and the sturdier ones stored in a tin cookie box. Each ornament has its story, often linked to a friend or a trip. My favourite were the two knitted dancing cats given to my daughters by my friend, Laura, and modern spiky metal stars from the John Hancock building in Chicago.
There is something about bringing the scent of fresh pine into the house during this season of cold. It reminds me that nature is still alive even though it is dormant. And just this little bit of pine makes the house smell fresh. Along with setting up the tree, I like making natural garlands with cinnamon sticks, dried citrus fruit, bay leaves and cranberries. And then there are the candles — as I reach the shortest day of the year, the extra light and warmth of candles really makes a difference in my mental state. At a time when I want to hibernate and shut down, using my five senses revives me.
I don’t know about you, but for me, in the kitchen, these are the days of comfort. I want to make dishes that bake in the oven or steam on the stove. Anything to put a little more warmth into the house and a little more meat on my bones. That’s why, on the weekend, we make a large batch of soup that will last over several meals. Add good bread and my favourite Comté cheese and I’m warm and satisfied.
Here is my recipe for a soup that warms and feeds the body and the soul.
Chicken Tortellini Soup
Makes about eight servings.
- 1 tbsp. butter
- 3 carrots, peeled and diced
- 3 celery stalks, sliced
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 potatoes, peeled and diced
- ½ tsp. black pepper
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. herbes de provence
- 10 cups chicken broth or water (you might need to add more water later, if needed)
- 1 can corn
- 2 lbs. of cooked chicken (you can cook it ahead and then use the broth for the soup)
- ½ cup white wine
- 2 cups cheese tortellini (I usually use fresh pasta)
- 3 green onions
Stir-fry the carrots, onions, celery and potatoes in the butter. Add broth and spices. Cook for 15 minutes or until tender. Add corn, chicken and white wine. Bring to a simmer. Add tortellini and cook until al dente. Sprinkle on green onions just before serving.