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Friday, October 23, 2009

Book Cooks: Three Courses from Lara Zeises

Ok, so I knew going into this that Lara Zeises, author of a number of fantastic YA books and now-available THE SWEET LIFE OF STELLA MADISON is a gourmand, in addition to being a beloved YA author. So it shouldn't surprise me that she gave me not one but three delicious recipes for the Book Cooks series. How could I choose? I couldn't. So I present all three, in thanks to Lara and her generosity. Voila, a whole weekend of meals!


Nancy’s Spicy Pumpkin and Sausage Soup


1 lb. fresh andouille sausage
¼ cup butter, divided
1 large Vidalia onion, diced
1 t dried thyme
1 29 oz. can pure pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
¼ cup Frangelica
4 cups chicken stock
3 cups vegetable stock
½ cup brown sugar
3/8 cup heavy cream


Remove sausage from casings and brown in the bottom of a heavy bottomed stock pot with 2 T butter.
Remove sausage; leave oil in the pan. Add onion and sweat over medium-low heat until soft.
Add thyme and pumpkin and cook 5 minutes.
Add liqueur, stocks and brown sugar.
Cover and simmer over low heat for several hours (longer simmer = thicker soup).
Add ½ of the cooked sausage to mix; use stick blender to puree. Add remaining sausage after pureeing.
Stir in cream and remaining butter. Serve warm.


Chicken Pot Pie


6 skin-less, bone-in chicken thighs
2 cups water
2 Tbsp. poultry seasoning
1 Tbsp. onion powder
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
5 cups chicken stock
2 chicken bouillon cubes
12 tablespoons (1.5 sticks) unsalted butter
2 large onions, chopped
3 stalks celery, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. dried thyme
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup heavy cream
5 medium carrots, diced (approx. 2 cups), blanched for 2 minutes
1 (10-ounce) package frozen peas
1 cup frozen small whole onions
1 Tbsp. dried parsley
1 box store-bought pie crust (2 rolled sheets to the box)
Eggs for egg wash


Place two cups of water in a 3- to 5-qt. large pot or Dutch oven and mix with poultry seasoning and onion powder. Bring to a boil. Add chicken thighs (if you buy them with skin, make sure to remove before adding to pot). Cover and simmer for 25 mins. Remove chicken to cool, dump water from pot, and replace on stove top. When chicken has cooled, remove the bone and cut into cubes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. In a medium saucepan, heat the chicken stock and dissolve the bouillon cubes in the stock.

In the large pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter and saute the onions over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until translucent. About half way through, add the celery, garlic, and dried thyme. When vegetables are fully softened, add the flour and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Add the hot chicken stock to the sauce. Simmer over low heat for 1 more minute, stirring, until thick. Add 2 teaspoons salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and heavy cream. Add the cubed chicken, carrots, peas, onions and parsley. Mix well.

Divide the filling equally between two eight-quart casserole dishes OR freeze half of the mixture for a later date. Brush the outside edges of each casserole will one egg that’s been beaten with a fork. Place pie crust over top and crimp the edges against the casserole to seal. Brush the dough with egg wash and make 5 slits in the top. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 1 hour, or until the top is golden brown and the filling is bubbling hot.


Quiche in Frozen Pie Shell


1 frozen 9-inch deep dish pie crust
5 large eggs
¾ cup half and half
1 tablespoon olive oil
5 slices bacon, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
5 oz. white mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
9 oz. pkg. frozen chopped spinach, thawed, well drained, and re-chopped
1 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
1 large clove garlic, minced
½ cup part-skim ricotta cheese
½ cup shredded cheese (we used a four-cheese Italian blend)
Salt and fresh-ground pepper


Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs and whisk together with half and half, 1 teaspoon of salt and a ½ teaspoon of pepper. Set aside.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium high heat and add bacon. Saute until crisp. Remove with slotted spoon to a plate lined with paper towels. Do not drain grease from pan.

Reduce heat under skillet to medium and sauté onions until they start to get soft. Add mushrooms and a sprinkling of salt to draw out moisture. When mushrooms are soft and golden, push them and the onions to the outer rim of the pan and add spinach to center. Add the nutmeg and garlic and cook for one minute. Toss in the drained bacon and stir to combine the whole mixture. Turn off heat.

Mix ricotta and shredded cheese together. Add to egg mixture and whisk until well combined.

Place pie crust on cookie sheet and fill with hot mixture, making sure to distribute equally. Then pour egg mixture over top. There might be a little spillage; it’s okay and won’t hurt the quiche or the pan. Bake for 50 minutes, or until center is set and the top is a dark golden color. Let rest 15 minutes before serving.


Thank you, Lara!


  1. Thanks, Holly! Glad to be of some help!

  2. It was a pleasure to have you, Lara!