Food for Thought: Chicken Soup for the Soul

We have entered the darkest time of the year — the time when it seems winter will NEVER END. This soup will help you get through, I promise. It is a tangy, bright riff on traditional chicken soup. Make it on a Sunday and have it for lunch all week.  Let it simmer as you write. Sip it as you read over what you’ve written. Muse on revisions as you dunk in a hearty piece of toast and let flavorful broth drip off.

Let this soup nourish you.

Miranda’s Chicken Soup

(serves 4)

  • Meat pulled from a roasted chicken carcass (I often use the dark meat.  You can roast your own chicken, or you can buy one from the store and pull the meat off that. Use as much or little as you like, but probably not less than 1 cup and not more than 2 1/2).
  • Poulet glace gold demi glace (about 2 Tbs) – this is a jellied reduction of chicken stock, available at most grocery stores
  • Olive oil
  • 1/2 a large onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3-4 stalks celery, diced
  • 2-4 carrots diced (depending on size)
  • 2-3 Tbs chives, minced
  • 1 Tbs butter + flour (just shy of 1/4 a cup), for a roux
  • Curry powder (about 2 tsp)
  • Fresh lemon juice (to taste)
  • Salt & pepper

Roast a whole chicken (or buy a pre-roasted one) and pull the meat from the bone. Save as much (or as little) as you like for this soup.

In a large stockpot, heat olive oil (about 2 tbs) over medium heat. Add the onions and saute (do not brown). Add the garlic, celery & carrots and lightly saute till just warm.  Add 5-6 cups of water and sufficient poulet glace gold to flavor and darken the broth (I usually start with about 2 tbs).  Bring to a low simmer (do not boil).

Meanwhile, prepare a roux in a separate pan and cook until beginning to lightly brown and become fragrant (this means: melt your butter, then add flour and whisk, stirring as it bubbles and cooks). Add stock from the soup pan and whisk to bring to a nice, creamy consistency.  Add curry powder and salt to taste.  Incorporate the thinned roux mixture back into the soup (this will give the soup a nice body without making it actually thick).

Add the chicken meat to the soup and continue to simmer on low heat.  Add salt, pepper, and lemon juice to taste. Finally, when the soup is as you like it, add the fresh chives.

This keeps (and freezes) well, so you can have it for lunches all week. I like to toast a piece of whole grain wheat bread to dip in the hot soup.

Bon appetit!

Writer’s Workspace: 2/26

Welcome to this writer’s workspace.  Here’s what’s happening liiiiiiiiiiiiiive at Miranda’s desk:

What’s that? you say. It’s been so long since I posted one of these, I’d forgive you for thinking this writer wasn’t working much these days. But I am! In fact, I’ve been on quite the streak lately. I was a little worried that tackling 3 classes this semester — all different and one a new prep — would ring a death knell for writing productivity. Some weeks, I’ll admit, it kind of has, but overall I’ve gotten a lot more written than I anticipated. Last week I had a 4K day, followed by a 2.5K day, and I’m hoping to top that this week.

What I’m working on:  The last push of revisions on what will hopefully be the last big redraft of ABSENT (my archaeological time travel novel). I’ve got several projects waiting not-so-patiently in the wings, so this one needs to wrap up, and soon!

Snippet from the screen: “Emily slumped forward, tilting, tilting, tilting until she was no longer leaning but falling. Her breath caught. The ground seemed to open beneath her feet–or maybe just vanish–and she fell for what seemed an age. Then, quite suddenly, she was sitting on a low mud-brick wall once again. Only this time the wall wasn’t a ruin. The ancient city of Ur spread around her, hushed as if under some spell. Moonlight glanced off worn cobble streets and dark alleys wound away in every direction.”


Keeping me company: Mr. Ramses, as usual, is my biggest cheerleader. He’s been spending a lot of time snuggled in his Tower of Terror, which is situated right behind my office chair.

On the iTunes: I’ve been listening to a lot of cheery music lately. The Lumineers’ Ho Hey is playing now.

In my mug: Royal English Breakfast. Hot.

Out the window: undifferentiated wintertime. Grey sky. Bare branches. Garbage blowing in the uncaring breeze. Yuck.

…and, that’s my workspace update for today. No time to waste on procrastinatory links, I’m sorry to say.

But I always have time for you – so leave a note in the comments and let me know what you’re up to today!

Wine Country: Dry Creek Valley

WP_20130215_027To yield 2 1/2 perfect days in Sonoma County, add one part gorgeous weather, two parts luscious wine, three parts incredible food, and a final dash of serendipitous encounters.  Stir well and season to taste.

Even our travel day on our trip out to California was great.  Our flight was on time, our seats not too horrible, and Delta served everyone on board champagne and chocolates in honor of Valentines Day.  Once we finished battling traffic up from SF, we found an impromptu tasting of Gary Farrell’s awesome boutique pinots awaiting us at the hotel.

The evening wrapped up with a wild boar chop at Scopa in Healdsburg that was one of the most delicious, juicy cuts of meat I’ve been served anywhere.

WP_20130215_022Jet-lagged, we were up and at ’em early the next day.  A breakfast of fresh huckleberry scones and yogurt at our B & B (the Farmhouse Inn in Forestville) set us up right for our first tour and tasting at Ridge – home of one of the famed winners of California wines over French ones in the 1976 Judgement of Paris.

Ridge hasn’t been slacking since then and the Zins were delicious.  We also ended up making friends with our fellow tasters, two nurses from SF up in the Dry Creek Valley for the day.  They just happened to be going to the same winery as us next (Preston), where one of the girl’s grandfather was a wine club member.  They invited us along for their private tour of Preston’s sustainable farm and we ended up spending the whole afternoon together.


It was a perfect day — bright sun, blue skies, warm weather.  The farm was beautiful, full of frolicking lambs and chickens.  Oh, and the wine was as wonderful as last year.  We bought a case and they even gave us the wine club discount on it because of our new buddies.  Thanks, Evan and Mel! WP_20130215_040

Dinner that night at the Farmhouse Inn’s Michelin starred restaurant was a relaxing end to the day.  Or, almost the end.  Upon returning to our room, we found the staff had kindled a fire in our wood burning fireplace and laid out all the essentials to make s’mores.

As we woke before dawn the next day, we wondered if Day Two could possibly top Day One.  After breakfast (lemon poppy seed muffins and citrus salad) at the Farmhouse, we headed up to Armstrong Redwood Forest to walk off some of the calories we’d been wolfing down.  It was freezing cold, but silent, still, and peaceful in the woods.

To warm up, we drove over to J Vineyards for a tasting of their sparkling wines paired with a three course lunch.  Our tasting buddies this time were fellow New Yorkers.

WP_20130215_011There were two big problems with the tasting at J.  First, the wines were really, really good.  Second, the pours were big.  You do the math.  We had to spend about an hour and a half in the parking lot sobering up before we could drive back to the Farmhouse.  However, I suppose if the day’s biggest inconvenience is having to push your spa appointment back and being “stuck” in a beautifully landscaped setting amidst vines under a warm sun for a few hours…well, life isn’t too bad.

The day seemed like it might end on a downbeat, as our dinner at locally popular Zazu restaurant was a bit of a miss (bad service and mediocre food)…but then we got back to our room and found freshly baked cookies and milk waiting for us.

WP_20130215_003We woke this morning to a deep and lovely fog, as well as the plaintive cries of Charlotte, the Farmhouse cat.  As we pack up, she watches us from her perch on the end of the bed, occasionally licking her paw in contentment.  I know how she feels.

Today we head east to Carneros.  Assuming our stomachs can keep up with our itinerary, we’ve got two more days of excessive eating and drinking.  Wish us luck!


Been meaning to post a quick update, but have been doing such a good impersonation of a chicken with its head cut off that I haven’t found time – plus, its hard to type when you have little chicken feet 😉

Yesterday I escaped the bitter cold of New York and flew out to California for a long weekend in the Napa valley.  Now that I’m lying in bed in the pre-dawn darkness, hanging out with jet-lag as I adjust to Pacific time, I finally have my opportunity to blog.

So…here’s what’s been going on of late:

I turned 38 last weekend.  Which feels strange since I often catch myself thinking things like, “well, when I’m grown up, I will (fill in the blank)”.  So, let’s roll with ‘young at heart’, shall we?  It was a good birthday, including a tasty dinner out with friends who have been in our life well over a decade, nice presents (like a new computer monitor for this increasingly blind 38 year old and a Trogdor the Burninator T-shirt, which is made of awesome), and lots of love and good wishes from friends and family.

My novel BLOOD RED SUN also made the first cut in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest (meaning it survived the hacking of 10,000 manuscripts down to 2,000).  Still a ways to go, but nice to be in the running a little longer.

Classes and course prep continue to swallow me whole, but I have carved out a little writing time here and there (including about 3 hours on the plane yesterday), and am happy to report that the light at the end of the tunnel of my revisions to ABSENT is growing substantially brighter.  Plus, I’m pretty happy with how the manuscript is shaping up.  I think this one has a real chance.

Finally, with a day off for President’s Day, Sid and I were able to sneak away for a 5 day trip to Napa.  We’ll be tasting fabulous wines and indulging in delicious food between now and next Tuesday.  If the slooooow internet connection here at our hotel in Forestville cooperates, I might even post an update or two.

That’s what’s new with me.  How about you?

Book Review: The Night Circus

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (Fantasy. 2012. 528 pages)

The circus is open only at night.  It arrives without warning and is gone again just as quickly.  It is a circus of dreams, of fantasies beyond imagining.  To its spellbound visitors, the Night Circus seems magical.  This is because it is.  Literally.

Morgenstern’s debut novel (and may I just pause here and let my mind boggle at the fact that such a complexly interwoven, beautifully written book is a freshman effort) tells the story of two young magicians locked in a battle of illusions.  The Night Circus is their stage and the stakes are higher than either of them realize or can imagine.  Beyond this, though, the book tells the story of the circus itself — of the performers who call it home, the people who created it, and the visitors who love it.  This tale is whole, round, and complete.

We meet the protagonists, Celia and Marco, in their childhood, when they are apprenticed to two of the world’s most powerful and jaded magicians.  We see their training at the hands of their respective masters, cold and calculating, and are given glimpses of the incredible circus they will help create.  The story is revealed not linearly, but in swoops and arcs that circle back endless on one another.  The opening chapters of the book are instantly compelling — Morgenstern has a true gift for painting pictures with words and the world she builds is one the reader (or at least this reader) will find themselves almost desperate to spend time in.

Then, finally, we watch as the Night Circus itself takes shape.  Celia and Marco — still strangers to one another — create illusions within the circus.  Each illusion is an entry in their decades-long competition.  The things they create are fantastic.  Breathtaking.  Heartbreaking.  And soon they become love letters between the two young magicians.

As the stakes in their contest are gradually revealed — and the consequences to everyone involved in the Night Circus itself are unveiled — Celia and Marco search for a way to escape the cruel destiny their masters have planned for them.  I will not spoil things by revealing whether they succeed or fail.  I will merely say that the denouement is well worth waiting for.

The Night Circus not only tells a beautiful tale — at once sad and joyous — it also tells it with language as gorgeous as it is compelling.  Erin Morgenstern’s novel is not only about magic, it is magic.

Some thoughts on the Superbowl

I’m not a fan of American football.  I find it agonizingly slow and too full of bluster and chest-thumping to really enjoy on a regular basis.  But I do watch the Superbowl.  I mean, most of us do, whether we like football or not, whether we know anything about the teams or not.

Superbowl Sunday isn’t so much about football as it is about a reason to gather.  And who doesn’t love that?  A long stretch of time to sit back and hang out with friends, an opportunity to catch up, to celebrate and to come together for something — something that some people care passionately about and others couldn’t care less about but which brings us all together nonetheless.  For these reasons, I love Superbowl Sunday.

But there are things I despise about it as well.  The Superbowl isn’t just about football and friends gathering together.  It is also about a certain projection of America.  One that is loud and violent and commercial and sexualizes women.  An America that celebrates excess, stereotypes, money, and (apparently) the automotive industry.

Heck, one of the better ads last night featured the much-derided “magical Negro” character (played with aplomb and apparent lack of irony by a disturbingly young-looking Stevie Wonder) and another highlighted the characters from Priscilla Queen of the Desert but chickened out and made them all women.  LAME.  And also not the America I live in on a day to day basis.

These aspects of the Superbowl depress me.

This might sound like a rant against the Superbowl (or against America), but I don’t intend it to be.  I’m just wondering if the Superbowl represents a real part of our country — a place that people live in and that makes sense to them, that they don’t question — or if it’s just another hyperamped, over-the-top fake, made-for-television America that exists one night a year and allows all of us to indulge in a stereotype of ourselves that maybe on some level we need.

Or am I over-(or -under)thinking this?


Well, while I ponder the nature of American culture further and wait to hear what you all think, I may just go and take another Pepto, because last night’s “culinary” indulgences are another thing very, very wrong (and very, very right) about Superbowl Sunday.