I spend a LOT of time digging up recipes that:

a) the kids might eat

b) involve ingredients I am likely to have on hand

c) can quickly be reheated for frantic weeknights

d) only require one pot.

So I may as well save you some time, right? Here’s what I’m loving this month.

Simple Chicken Soup

I try to bake a whole chicken every Sunday, either in the oven or the crock pot, so I can transform it into meals for the first half of the week.

Last week, I made a classic chicken soup by boiling a whole chicken. Here’s how:

Simple Chicken Soup (adapted from Domino magazine)

1 whole chicken cut in half (or save yourself the gross-out factor and buy a whole chicken already divided)

5 medium carrot, peeled and cut into 2″ lengths

4 celery stalks, cut into 2″ lengths

1 large yellow onion, cut into eighths

2 bay leaves

3 sprigs flat-leaf parsley

In a large pot, comine chicken, carrots, celery, onions, bay leaves and parsley with 8 cups of water. Place over high heat, uncovered, and after it comes to a boil, reduce to a simmer. Cook 1 hour or more, skimming the foam off the top every so often.

Remove as much of the big chicken pieces as you can and transfer to a cutting board. Shred or cut chicken into bite-size pieces. Set aside.

Strain the soup into another large pan (you can use the pasta boiler insert). Go through the chunky veggies and make sure there are no bones/misc. chicken parts. Remove the bay leaves and parsley.

Then reassemble everything, leaving out all the bones and chicken pieces you wouldn’t want to eat.

Mexican Chicken Soup

When some friends stopped by, I transformed the plain chicken soup into a Mexican Chicken Soup fiesta just by serving it with a “topping bar” (jalapeno, limes, sour cream, corn, blue corn tortilla chips, cilantro). The idea came straight out of vintage Domino magazine (Jan/Feb 2006), may she rest in peace.

Domino magazine Jan/Feb 2006

Chicken, Artichoke and Cannellini Bean Spezzatino

After the chicken soup fiesta, I had a ton of shredded chicken left, so I gave it a second life as Chicken, Artichoke and Cannellini Bean Spezzatino from the lovely Giada De Laurentiis.

The pancetta and artichoke gave the chicken soup an unexpected twist. I loved it and can’t wait to make it again.

40-Minute Cassoulet

I absolutely love Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything iPhone app. I pulled the 40-Minute Cassoulet recipe from Bittman’s “Casual New Year’s Eve” menu and it was fantastic. (It looks like you need to get the app to get the recipe–but it’s worth it, I promise!)

Serving a cassoulet (even if Bittman himself said it’s not a real cassoulet) made me feel like I’d graduated up a couple levels in my cooking know-how. And it didn’t hurt that my parents brought the pork and duck back from their day trip to Arthur Avenue in the Bronx (“the real Little Italy” according to Rachael Ray).

The next time I want to serve a hearty winter meal for a crowd, this will be my go-to recipe.

Cranberry Harvest Muffins

Snow days call for baking, and Ina Garten’s Cranberry Harvest Muffins were absolutely perfect. (I made them without figs and nuts, and I cut the sugar down by at least half.) The generous use of cinnamon and ground ginger gave them a spicy depth.

If I were a more confident baker, I would’ve cut the 1/2 pound (GULP) of butter way down and substituted it with something else. But the last time I did that (using olive oil in a “healthy” oatmeal raisin muffin), the result was horrendous–all I could taste was olive oil. If anyone has a trick to share, please do!

Your turn: What are your favorite recipes this month?