THE RECIPE BOX - Try award-winning Chicken Cordon Bleu Soup recipe

THE RECIPE BOX - Try award-winning Chicken Cordon Bleu Soup recipe

GLOCESTER – This week’s comfort food recipe was the 1st place award-winning soup featured at the Glocester Senior Center’s annual Soup Challenge held on Jan. 26.

Jackie Aellig, a cook at the center for 10 years, said she acquired the recipe for Chicken Cordon Bleu Soup from her sister, Donna Mascio, who found the original recipe online. Just a quick read through the list of ingredients and you’ll see why it is comfort food, with cheese, chicken, bacon and more cheese.

Jackie has been married to her husband for 37 years, and they have one grown son. She has always worked in a kitchen environment, starting out of necessity to care for her own family. She also did a longtime stint at Fogarty Memorial School as lead cook in the lunch program.

The Soup Challenge has become an annual event at the Glocester Senior Center, but Jackie also began an event of her own for her family and friends. Her soup challenge began nine years ago as a way to curb the winter doldrums.

“After the hustle and bustle of all the holidays, it was a nice way to get together; a low key and no-fuss time just to enjoy being together,” Jackie said.

That first year everyone was to bring a pot of their best homemade soup, as well as some leftover containers to take an assortment home. Non soup makers were still able to come but were asked to bring bread, crackers or dessert.

Over time, Jackie noticed the men were becoming especially competitive, so she had a plaque made for the winner to take home with their name added.

The plaque and bragging rights belong to the winner until the next soup challenge when a new winner is declared. There are about 12 to 15 participants every year. Her personal family/friends soup challenge is on Feb. 16 this year.

Jackie and her hubby like fishing, both fresh and saltwater, hiking and outdoorsy things, she said. But what really makes her happy is the time she spends with the daily visitors to the senior center.

A few minutes sitting and talking with someone who is lonely can make such a big difference to them, she shared. “The people are great, and they need an outlet,” Jackie said. Some have lost a spouse recently and it’s difficult for them. This brings her great satisfaction to be there and make a difference.

“I’m a happy-go-lucky person, I try to keep smiling,” she said. Being grumpy is not worth it and “you don’t want to be grumpy especially when you’re around people who are lonely.”

The second place Soup Challenge winner at the senior center was Beverly Bedard, of Glocester, for her pea soup. “This place saved me, Beverly shared. She first came at a time when she’d been dealing with breast cancer, radiation, a second round of cancer and had lost her job.

“I walked in to see what it (Senior Center) was about, and they gave me a tour,” Bev said. The center offered exercise classes, gardening, arts and crafts, a pool table. … I felt so welcomed, I never stopped coming.”

The center also offers a $3 soup-to-dessert lunch prepared by Jackie every weekday.

Chicken Cordon Bleu Soup
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
2 & 1/2 cups half-and-half
2 & 1/2 cups milk
1 Tbsp. chicken base or (2 chicken bouillon cubes, crushed)
8-oz. cream cheese, softened
2 & 1/2 cups rotisserie chicken (or cooked chicken breast will work)
1/2 cup cooked, chopped bacon
1 cup cubed ham
2 cups grated Swiss cheese
In a large saucepan, melt the butter and then add flour to make a roux. Cook for about 1 minute. Add the half-and-half, milk and chicken base.
Heat for a few minutes then add the cream cheese. While stirring continuously, bring to a boil and add chicken, bacon and ham.
Remove from heat and stir in the Swiss cheese. Place back on stove on low heat and stir until cheese is melted. Enjoy!

Jackie Aellig, a cook at the Glocester Senior Center, won first place for this recipe for Chicken Cordon Bleu Soup. It will warm you up on a cold winter day.
Chicken Cordon Bleu Soup