Spicy soup is perfect complement to busy autumn schedule

| Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012, 9:03 p.m.

Cool weather and raking leaves, along with all the school games and other outdoor activities will require a warm-up for the team.

Here is a sure winner that will satisfy the team's appetite, warm them up and give them stamina. It can be used as a lunch offering or paired with a salad and sandwich for a light dinner.

Spicy Italian sausage and lentil Soup

(makes eight to 10 servings)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 pound fully cooked hot Italian sausage, cut into cubes, about 1/2-inch

1 large onion, chopped, about 3 cups

2 large carrots, peeled, chopped (about 13/4cups)

2 large parsnips, peeled and chopped (about 13/4cups)

2 large celery stalks, chopped (about one cup)

2 1/2teaspoons dried Italian seasoning blend

1 pound brown lentils (about 21/3cups)

3 quarts or more, low-salt chicken broth

5-ounce package baby spinach leaves

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook until browned, stirring occasionally, about five minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the sausage to a bowl. Add the onion, carrots, parsnips, celery and Italian seasoning to the pot.

Stir to blend the vegetables with the oil and drippings in the pot. Cook until the onion is translucent and the vegetables begin to soften, stirring often. The cooking will be about seven to eight minutes.

Add the lentils and stir to coat. Add three quarts of broth and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the lentils are tender, stirring occasionally and adding more broth by the quarter cup if the soup thickens too much.

Cooking will take about 20 minutes.

Add sausage to the soup and simmer until the vegetables are tender and all the flavors blend, which will take about 10 to 15 minutes.

Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in the baby spinach and cook for three minutes to wilt the spinach. Ladle into bowls and serve to your winning team.

Now here's one that will really make your family happy. Everyone loves fried chicken.

This recipe has southern roots that will give your family a taste of “original fried chicken,” rather than today's frozen specialties.

It is a recipe that is pure simplicity. All it needs is fresh chicken and spices with flour. You'll have an easy time cleaning up, too.

Southern stylecrispy fried chicken

(serves four to six)

4 boneless chicken thighs with skin

4 boneless chicken breast halves with skin

1/2cup all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Sprinkle the chicken pieces with salt and pepper; coat lightly with flour. Place on a plate.

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a heavy extra-large skillet set over medium heat.

When the oil is hot, add the chicken thighs to the skillet and cook until golden, turning once, about eight minutes per side. Add one tablespoon of oil to the skillet with the thighs, then add the chicken breast halves. Cook until golden brown, about four minutes per side.

Cover the skillet and cook until the chicken is cooked through, about five minutes longer.

Transfer to a serving platter and serve.

Here's another fall chicken entree that the troops will enjoy. All you need to accompany this is a simple roasted potato and maybe a green vegetable.

The caraway seeds in the chicken will give it a nutty flavor that will balance off the red cabbage.

The applewood bacon is available in the meat case or deli case at larger markets. Start with a tossed salad and maybe a cake or some brownies for dessert.

Chicken breasts with sweet and sour red cabbage

(two servings)

1 teaspoon caraway seeds

1/2teaspoon (scant) ground allspice, divided

2 skinless boneless chicken breast halves

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 slice applewood smoked bacon cut crosswise into 1/2inch strips

3 cups thinly sliced red cabbage

1/3cup sliced shallots, about 2 medium

1/2cup low-salt chicken broth

2 1/2tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon (packed) brown sugar

salt and pepper

Sprinkle the caraway and a quarter teaspoon of allspice on both sides of the chicken breasts.

Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until crisp.

Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate with a slotted spoon when the bacon is crisp.

Add the chicken to the drippings in the skillet.

Saute' them until cooked through, about five minutes per side. Remove the chicken to a plate and tent with foil.

Next, add the cabbage, shallots, chicken broth, vinegar, sugar and 14 teaspoon allspice to the same skillet. Cook over medium-high heat until the liquid is reduced to a glaze and the cabbage is crisp-tender, about six minutes. Mix in the bacon. Season with salt and pepper. Slice the chicken, and divide it along with the cabbage between two plates.

This dish will have the whole gang clamoring for more.

As always, enjoy!

David Kelly has been a culinary columnist for more than 20 years. He originally is from New England but now calls Western Pennsylvania his home.

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