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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Sweet potato chicken pot pie

This is a recipe I stumbled upon once and I've made it a couple of times. Let me say that I only use this recipe as inspiration. There's a lot about it that I don't do, such as I omit mushrooms, add a few other veggies not listed, and I don't make it in individual ramekins. However, I like the essence of this recipe and once I truly get a good flow of my own system down, I'll change this post up to have my own method.

Sweet potato chicken pot pie

The Nester's advice

This creative gal has blogged about her way of doing family meals each week. I like her ideas, and I especially like her idea for homemade bread!

Imperfect, do-able, flexible meal blue print

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

This recipe comes from my dear Minnesotan friend, Kristine. She made this a couple of times when she lived with us and it's so hearty and warm and perfect for the season.

Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

½ cups Onion, finely chopped
½ cups Celery, Diced
2 cloves Garlic Clove, Pressed
½ cups Carrots, Peeled And Diced
1 cup white wine
5 cups Chicken Broth
2 cups Water
2 cups Shredded, Cooked Chicken
2-3 cups cooked wild rice
½ cups Flour
½ cups Butter
Salt And Pepper, to taste
1-½ cup Milk/Half-and-Half/Cream (your Preference)

1. In a large dutch oven, saute onion, celery, carrots, and garlic until softened. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Deglaze the pan with white wine and simmer until reduced.
2. Add broth, water, and chicken. Bring to a boil. Add rice. Cover pan and simmer on low.
3. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in seasonings of your choice (salt, pepper, dried thyme, etc.) and mix together until bubbly. Lower heat and stir in flour. Add milk, whisking until fully incorporated. Cook until thickened, stirring occasionally.
4. Add cream mixture into the soup. Check seasonings and adjust as desired. Cook over medium heat until thickened and heated through–about 20-25 minutes.

Pumpkin soup with a bit of a kick

Autumn is in full swing here and it's a beautiful time of year. We've had some pretty cool nights and mornings and it's time to warm things up in the kitchen. I've tried several different pumpkin soup recipes, and this is my current favorite. This recipe yields a velvety, rich soup, with a smooth sweetness and a bit of a spicy kick, but not so spicy that it's hard to eat. Because of it's richness, it's best eaten by the cupful, served along with other foods to round out the meal. Perhaps a cool salad or half a sandwich? It will warm you, heart and soul! Plus, it's quite easy to throw together.

Pumpkin Soup with a kick.

2 Tablespoons Butter
½ whole Chopped Onion
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
2 15 oz. cans Pumpkin Puree
3 cups Water
1/2 cup white wine
1 teaspoon Fresh Cilantro
1 teaspoon Cinnamon
½ teaspoons Cayenne Pepper
½ cups Brown Sugar (or experiment w/ Agave nectar)
½ cups half and half (or coconut milk, almond mild...whatever you use for a dairy substutute)
½ teaspoons Ginger

Melt butter in a dutch oven over medium heat. Once melted, add the chopped onions and olive oil and saute for 5-10 minutes until onions begin to turn soft and you can see through them. Deglaze the pan with the white wine. Add pumpkin, water, and freshly cut cilantro and stir, mixing well. Cover and let simmer on low for about 10 minutes. Add cinnamon, cayenne pepper, brown sugar, half and half, and ginger and stir well. Let simmer, stirring occasionally, for at least 10 minutes. Add additional spices as necessary to suit your tastes.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

School night meals

School starts back tomorrow. As a homeschooling mom, I'm experiencing the opposite of what other mom's are gloating over..."Back to school, back to time for me! Finally, the kids out of the house! Free time!" Yeah, that's not exactly the road ahead for me, but I am thankful to be in a position to homeschool. I know I'm sewing seeds into my children that will hopefully bear much fruit. I'm getting time with them and they're getting more time with their family that can never be taken away. And *gasp*, I'm actually looking forward to sitting around the table, teaching and learning.
However, it means I have to be more intentional with my time. I'll now have to fight to get a workout in. Plan out grocery trips, errands, etc. Plan meals. We end up eating out way more in the summer. Fast food is more frequent and we have no real agenda, which results in less homecooked meals, or meals pieced together by what he happen to have in the freezer. Being at home in the school year allows for me to get back in the kitchen. But the meals need to be simple and easy.

So, I'm assembling some of my favorite weeknight meals. Ones that are simple. Notice I didn't say quick. Being home in the morning/afternoon affords me the opportunity to prepare something ahead of time (say, enchiladas, pasta sauce, ground meat for sloppy joes, crock pot meals, etc.) I can chop veggies while administering a spelling test. Saute onions and garlic for a pasta sauce while helping my son with math. Stuff a chicken w/ lemons, garlic and olive oil while the boys are taking a 15 minute reading break. You get the idea.

When I need inspiration while I'm planning our weekly menu, I'll check here for ideas. I'll continue to add to this when I see something that gets my attention, or if a friend passes along a good recipe, hint hint! I'd love hear your family's favorite simple weeknight meals. These are the basic meals...add to them an easy side of veggies and fresh fruit.

And in case you're wondering...no, I don't cook seven nights a week, or even five for that matter. I typically cook about 3 decent meals, eat leftovers a night or two, eat out a couple nights (sometimes just me and my boys when Davids' on the road), and forage through the pantry or freezer a night or two. We're flexible. My goal this year...get my husband to take over a meal once a week! We'll see how it goes!

Pasta night
Veggie pasta primavera
Easy eggplant parmesan over pasta with broccoli
Stuffed shells (from frozen section) with homemade bolognese or marinara sauce.
Pasta with chicken sausage

Chicken
Mango chicken
Italian chicken
Tex Mex bowls with grilled chicken and black beans
Chicken supreme
Parmesan chicken and rice casserole (using chicken breasts instead of thighs and half and half instead of cream, decrease broth to 1 cup, add a couple slices of bacon for more flavor).
Roasted chicken (save bones for broth)

Not-chicken
Roast beef salad with goat cheese and balsamic vinaigrette
Crock pot roast with veggies
Crock pot pork tenderloin (save leftovers for bar-b-q sandwiches another night)
Asian style braised short ribs
Beef stroganoff
Almost Thanksgiving: thick sliced cuts of deli turkey (Boar's Head Golden Catering is good), topped w/ gravy, cranberry sauce, side of sweet potatoes and green beans

From the sea
Lemon butter fish
healthier "fried' fish

Things with a bun
Burgers or dogs on the grill
Maple Bar B Q sloppy Joe's
Turkey burgers
Crock pot Bar-b-q chicken sandwiches, save leftovers for bar-b-q chicken quesadillas with smoked gouda cheese

Casual and fun
Quesadillas - Cheese, Shrimp & cheese, apples & cheese
Chicken fingers and veggies
Homemade pizza

Family Friendly Soups - make on Sunday to have for the week!
Super easy chicken tortilla soup
Tortellini soup
Pepper cheese chowder
Fresh vegetable soup
White chicken chili
Cauliflower soup
Cheesy chicken and rice soup

Easy Sides:
Sauteed green beans
Sugar snap peas
Super simple sweet potatoes
Baked potatoes, regular or sweet
Root vegetable bake - can also be used as a main, or over salad greens
Balsamic brussel sprouts
Turnips - ok, maybe not family friendly, but I LOVE them
sliced tomatoes in season
steamed broccoli w/ cheese
Frozen peas, carrots, green beans and corn, with a bit of butter and cream cheese
braised spinach or greens
angel hair pasta, tossed w/ butter, olive oil, parmesan and spinach

Simple desserts - I'm a fan of letting the kids figure out dessert for themselves. They can get really creative!
Fresh fruit, layered w/ lowfat vanilla yogurt, honey and granola
Ice cream!!
Mini chocolate pies - 6 pack miniature graham cracker pie crusts, fill w/ instant chocolate pudding, top w/ whipped cream
indoor s'mores (make in toaster oven)
easy banana pudding layering vanilla pudding, vanilla wafers, banana slices and whipped cream
chocolate quesadillas
toast with nutella, sliced strawberries or bananas and powdered sugar

Thursday, July 7, 2011

A new addition to the pantry

If you've stepped foot into a health food store or the organic section of a larger grocery store, you've no doubt noticed the variety of oils available: grape seed, avocado, various nut oils...and coconut oil. At my favorite health food store of the moment, there's a large selection of coconut oils. Why would something that has had such a bad reputation in the past be sold at a store specializing in health? Perhaps because that something isn't actually bad for you.

Coconut products have been a hot topic among health nuts of late. If you've been paying attention, you've certainly heard the buzz on coconut water. You've probably heard mention of coconut oil as well. A friend recently told me that all she uses is coconut oil, even for sauteing vegetables. Several weeks ago I discovered I had but a few drops left of vegetable oil in my pantry. Vegetable oil is not something that gets a lot of use in my kitchen. When cooking or sauteing, I reach for olive oil, grapeseed oil, or butter. Vegetable oil is only used in my house for baking (which is something I only enjoy from time to time) and when David makes pancakes or waffles for the boys. I decided try out coconut oil in place of vegetable and just see how it works. I reasoned that it's not something that will get a lot of use, so what's the harm.
I decided on this product:


The first thing that took me by surprise is that coconut oil is in a solid form, much like shortening. I was told that when used for baking, just scoop out more than the amount you need, heat it until it's liquid, and then measure the amount you need just like you would with any other oil. This is exactly what I did when I made brownies using coconut oil. Whatever was left over I just poured back into the container and store the container in my kitchen cabinet. Now that it's stored in my kitchen it's in liquid form. I'm guess the temperature in my cabinet is warmer than the temperature in the store.

So...the brownies, my first cooking experience with coconut oil. I was thrilled to find that not only did the consistency turn out like normal, the taste was improved. Of course, I'm a coconut fan and love the flavor, but the coconut flavor is slight and not overpowering. The brownies definitely had a slight "mounds bar" flavor, without the shredded coconut texture that many people just can't get past. And my guess is that if you don't reveal the secret ingredient, people will never notice. So if you're serving someone with a definite coconut abhorrence, just don't tell them and see if they notice anything different.

My next experiment was to use coconut oil in lieu of vegetable oil for making a pie crust for my homemade chocolate pie. I served the pie on the 4th of July and got many compliments, particularly on the crust. I decided to let my family in on the secret ingredient. Not surprisingly, the reaction was mixed. Several folks were commenting on the saturated fat in coconut oil and the bad reputation it's had in the past. "Isn't coconut oil really bad for you?" was a comment that I heard several times. All I could say was that it came highly recommend from the health food store. This prompted me to do my own research. Turns out, there's tons of information out there on the health benefits of coconut oil. One woman I spoke with even takes a couple of spoonfuls of straight up coconut oil after each meal. She swears by it. I decided to give it a try for the next week or so, and see if I notice a difference. I'm starting with just one spoonful of oil after each meal. Honestly, it's not bad at all. The flavor is light and pleasing and it's not too "oily." Even after one day I can tell you that my energy levels have been up. That may be a placebo effect, but I'll take it over the lethargy I've been feeling for weeks.

I used coconut oil last night for frying up some veggies, and again, the flavor was wonderful. Slightly sweet.

Finally, I'll leave you with a few links so you can do your own reading on this product, but I wanted to highlight one section from a website which gets into the scientific nature of why coconut oil is better for you (and differs) from other oils.
The entire article can be found here:
http://www.coconutresearchcenter.org/article10013.htm

"HL How is it that not all saturated fats are unhealthy? Tell us about medium-chain fatty acids.
BF Fats and oils are composed of molecules called fatty acids. Three fatty acids joined together form a triglyceride molecule. Some fatty acids are smaller than others. Medium-chain fatty acids are smaller than long-chain fatty acids. Likewise medium-chain triglycerides are smaller than long-chain triglycerides. The size of these molecules is very important because our bodies process and metabolize each fat differently depending on its size. Most all of the fats and oils in our diet are composed of long-chain fatty acids, whether they're unsaturated or saturated. There are only a few dietary sources of medium-chain fatty acids, the primary source being tropical oils, particularly palm kernel and coconut oils. That's why coconut oil is different from other oils and it the secret to many of its healing properties.

Because the medium-chain triglycerides are smaller than the long-chain triglycerides that are in most fats and oils, they're digested quicker. In fact, they don't even need pancreatic digestive enzymes to break them down. By the time they enter the intestinal tract, they are completely broken down into free fatty acids, while long-chain triglycerides still need the digestive enzymes to break them down. What's important here is that the long-chain fatty acids, when they're finally broken down, will be absorbed through the intestinal wall. From there, they are packaged into lipoproteins and released into the bloodstream. So the long-chain fatty acids go into the digestive tract and then into the bloodstream. As they circulate in the bloodstream they supply the fat that collects in fat cells and the fat that collects in artery walls.

With medium-chain fatty triglycerides in coconut oil the process is different. They are quickly digested, so pancreatic enzymes are not needed. By the time they enter the intestinal tract they are completely broken down into fatty acids. Because of this, they are absorbed immediately into the portal vein, and sent directly to the liver. In the liver they are used as a source of fuel to produce energy. Therefore, they bypass the lipoprotein stage, and they don't circulate in the bloodstream to the degree that other fats do. Consequently, they do not supply the fat that collects in fat cells or the fat that collects in artery walls. They produce energy not body fat and not arterial plaque."

Other sites for your own research:
http://www.coconutresearchcenter.org/articles.htm
http://www.coconutoil.com/research.htm
http://www.earthclinic.com/Remedies/coconut_oil_facts.html

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Clam Chowdah!

I have Heather to thank for this. Little did she know that at the exact time I was fantasizing about some good clam chowder, she was cooking some up over in her tasty kitchen and let the Facebook world know. Thankfully she shared her recipe, and it's a great one. I made a few small tweaks to lighten it a bit, although I don't think it's light enough for Cooking Light standards. It's super yum, though. It had the husband drooling.

4 slices bacon, chopped
3 (6.5 ounce) cans minced clams
1 jar of clam juice
1 cup minced onion
1 cup diced celery
2 cups cubed Yukon Gold potatoes
1 cup diced carrots
palmful of chopped parsley
1/4 to 1/2 stick of butter
up to 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 quart milk (I used whole)
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
ground black pepper to taste
couple dashes of hot sauce

Directions:

In a large skillet, fry up the chopped bacon until crispy. Transfer to a bowl and drain some of the grease out of the skillet. Leave a bit in there and add a tablespoon or two of butter. Once melted, saute all the vegetables for a few minutes until fragrant.
Drain juice from clams over the vegetables. Add the bottle of clam juice to cover, and cook over medium heat until tender. Toss in the parsley.

Meanwhile, in a large, heavy saucepan (or crockpot), melt the remaining butter (about 1/4 stick) over medium heat (high if using crockpot). Whisk in flour, spoon by spoon, until you have a smooth paste. Whisk in milk slowly and stir constantly until thick and smooth. Stir in vegetables and clam juice. Heat through, but do not boil.
Stir in clams and reserved bacon just before serving. If they cook too much they get tough. When clams are heated through, stir in vinegar, and season with salt and pepper. Serve with hot sauce, if desired.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Maple BBQ Sloppy Joes


My dinner table has been an all out war zone the past several weeks. My children have been on a hunger strike and it's driven me insane! One is having "issues' with his orthodontic appliances in his mouth (expander/braces) as well as reflux, the other is being a copycat. There's been a lot of gagging, spitting, and refusal to eat. There's been bargaining, tears, anger, and kids sent to bed without dinner. It's hard for a mama who loves to cook and finds it therapeutic. Anyhow, we're seeing some progress and slowly starting to eat again around here. One meal that has passed the test is one I stumbled upon while flipping through the channels one afternoon. Rachel Ray was doing a fresh take on sloppy joes and I knew I had to try it. Her recipe is great as is. Since my youngest thinks he doesn't like onions or peppers, I just buzzed them up in the food processor before tossing them into the meat and they went totally unnoticed. In fact, he said to me, "Mom, last time you made these you put vegetables in it and I didn't like it but this time you didn't put them in and I love it." Sure thing, buddy...just keep on thinking that. Now I'm wondering what else I can sneak in there. Chopped spinach? Sweet potatoes?
Anyhow, here's her recipe. They're great on buttered buns, but I ate mine atop mixed greens since I'm trying to be "good." Today I ate the leftovers for lunch scooped up with some pita chips. And yes, I used ground turkey breast.


Sloppy Maple-BBQ Turkey Joes
Ingredients

1 tablespoon EVOO - Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 1/2 pounds of ground turkey or ground lean turkey breast
1 tablespoon poultry seasoning, scant plamful
Salt and pepper
1 small red bell pepper, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 cup tomato sauce
1/4 cup dark amber pure maple syrup
About 3 tablespoons soy sauce
About 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
About 2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 rounded tablespoon Dijon mustard
8 soft burger rolls, split
Shredded cheddar or pepper jack cheese
Chopped scallions, for topping
Chopped pickles, for topping
Yields: Makes 8 Sloppy Sammies

Preparation


In a large skillet, heat the EVOO, 1 turn of the pan, over medium-high heat. Add turkey and seasoning with poultry seasoning, salt and pepper. Cook until browned, then stir in the bell pepper, onion and garlic and cook until the vegetables are tender, 5 to 6 minutes. In a bowl, stir together the tomato sauce, maple syrup, soy sauce, vinegar, brown sugar and mustard. If the sauce gets too tight, loosen it up with a splash of water or chicken stock. Pour the sauce over the meat and simmer over medium-low heat for a few minutes to combine the flavors. Serve the sloppy turkey on rolls with toppings.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Museli

As I type, I'm eating an experiment. Twice this week I've heard about soaking oatmeal overnight in the refrigerator (not cooking) so it's ready to go in the morning. It's more of museli style than hot, cooked oats. We all know the benefits of steel cut oats, but who has 40 minutes in the morning to make it? Breakfast has got to be quick and easy for me. I searched around online late last night and decided to try this:

1 part steel cut oats
2 parts milk (I used skim)
mix in a dollop of honey, cinnamon, and any other spices
let soak overnight in the fridge

So, after my early morning workout, I got the oats out, microwaved them for about a minute so they wouldn't be freezing cold and topped with a handful of fresh blueberries.
The verdict? Honestly, not too bad. The consistency is very liquid and the oats are quite chewy, but I like them that way.That's whats so good about steel cut oats, right? If you like grape nuts, you'd probably like this, although it's not nearly as crunchy as grape nuts. This is a very do-able way to get in some oats and fresh fruit in the morning.

I also saw a recipe from the Today Show that I'll try out. It uses rolled oats instead of steel cut. Here is is:

Overnight muesli

Mark Bittman
Ingredients
2 cups rolled oats
2/3 cup mixed nuts and seeds (like sunflower seeds, chopped walnuts, pecans, almonds, cashews, sesame seeds, etc.)
1/3 cup shredded unsweetened coconut, optional
1/3 cup raisins or chopped dried fruit
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, or to taste
Dash salt
3 cups yogurt, plus more for garnish
Preparation
Combine the oats, nuts and seeds, coconut if you’re using it, raisins, cinnamon, and salt in a medium bowl. Stir in the 3 cups yogurt, cover, and refrigerate overnight. Serve garnished with additional yogurt.
Time: 10 minutes, plus time to chill

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Valentines Day 2011



I can't believe this is my third Valentine's Day post. If you've followed my blog you know it's a special day for my family.
Valentines 2008
Valentines 2009
I departed from tradition temporarily last year since my husband was traveling. Instead of our usual dinner I thew a luncheon for my mom's birthday and the day was lovely.

Anyhoo...
We were back to our tradition this year of an evening dinner, hearts, candles, gifts and lots of love to go around. The guest list...
My parents (and yes, it was also a birthday dinner for my mom)
Aunt Kathy
our friend Kristine
and our little family.

I served my sausage and granny smith apple penne (and turned a complete blind eye to the fat content!), balsamic glazed mixed vegetables (frozen section TJ's), fresh berries and greek yogurt whipped with cream and honey and topped with granola, and my mom brought a carrot cake.
There were small gifts for all, treats, and lots of sweetness to go around. I love that my kids have started to ask when Valentines day is because they love our "love" dinner. That's how I like to spend my Valentine's Day.

Watercress soup


So I've started up with a CSA program again. Sadly, not with Farmer Chad (his pickup window was just too short and inconvenient for me), but with Local Food Stop, picking up at the new Natural Foods Warehouse right by me. I'm so excited about all this!
This CSA allows you to pick from a menu of what you get in your bag and there's no seasonal commitment. This week I got rainbow carrots, watercress, strawberries, apples, kiwi and broccoli. Watercress was a bit of a wild card for me since I don't recall ever using it for anything, but I figured I'd find something creative to do with it. After reading a bit online about the cancer fighting properties of watercress and running across a few recipes I decided to try a watercress soup. You'll need your immersion blender for this one, otherwise you'll have to transfer to a blender in batches, and that's a pain. I can't say enough about how great an immersion blender is. This soup is light and a great starter or a lunchtime accompaniment. OK, after a few tweaks, here's what I got:

Watercress Soup

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
3 small yukon gold potatoes- peeled and cubed
1 onion, chopped
2 or 3 small carrots, peeled and sliced
3 cloves of garlic, pressed
salt, pepper, and seasonings
2 1/2 cups chicken stock or vegetable stock
2 1/2 cups milk
2 nice bunches of watercress, rinsed and large stems removed

Directions

Heat the oil and butter in a large saucepan over medium high heat. Add the potato , carrot, garlic and onion, stirring to coat with the oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Reduce heat to medium and saute until tender and fragrant. If you have a bit (1/4 cup) while wine, pour it in to deglaze the pan.
Pour in the chicken stock and the milk, bring just to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes, or until potatoes are tender. Stir in the watercress and simmer, uncovered, for 4 to 5 minutes, or until watercress is just cooked. Turn off heat and let cool for a few minutes. Using an immersion blender puree until smooth. Season to your desired taste. I threw a little dill in mine. Top each serving with fresh cracked pepper and shaved cheese if desired.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Lemon butter fish


For dinner tonight I revisited a recipe I posted some time ago. Sole with sides was it's name, but I prepared it a little differently tonight. Turns out, sole can be a little hard to find, so I substituted talipia tonight. I pretty much made it the same way, but served it a top pasta tossed with garlic, olive oil, spinach, salt and pepper. I also threw in some steamed broccoli and topped it all off with shaved parmesan, salt and pepper. I'm telling you, it was restaurant quality. SO yummy, fresh, and healthy. Amazing what garlic, butter, and fresh lemon juice can do.
Here's the recipe how I did it tonight:

3/4 box of angel hair pasta (whole wheat, quinoa, or another healthier version)
A couple handfuls of fresh raw spinach, to toss in pasta
2-3 garlic cloves
olive oil

Sauce:
2 TBS butter
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/4 tsp. paprika
salt
pepper
juice of half a lemon

3 or 4 filets of white fish (talipia or sole work well)
flour, for coating the fish
1 TBS butter
1 TBS olive oil
seasonings (salt, pepper, lemon pepper, seasoned salt...whatever you have like that)
juice of half a lemon

Get the water for the pasta started and cook according to package directions. Just before draining, toss in the raw spinach, let cook for 30 seconds or so, then drain. While the pasta is cooking, get started on the sauce.

In a small saucepan or saute pan, cook the butter and garlic over medium heat until it sizzles. Wish in the paprika, season with salt and sizzle a bit more. Once it turns golden, add the lemon juice and cook for another minute. Keep warm while you get to the fish.
Heat the butter and oil over medium high heat in a large saute pan. Lightly coat fish filets in flour, seasoned with seasonings, and sauté until golden, salting and peppering each side as you turn. Once both sides are golden and crispy, you're through. Squeeze the lemon juice over just before turning off the heat.

Toss the hot pasta with olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper, Dish out into serving bowls. Top with a fish filet and drizzle with some the the sauce. Top the whole thing with fresh ground pepper, dried or fresh chopped parsley, and perhaps some shaved parmesan.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The easiest soup evah...


I'm really cheating here with this one, but I just couldn't not post this. You'll see why. This is, most definitely, the easiest soup (and one of the most delicious) I've ever made. I wish I could take the credit for it, but it's not my genius behind it. It's the good folks at Trader Joes. This is what they were demo-ing the last time I was there.

For years I've made chicken tortilla soup with painstaking detail. My tried and true recipe is no doubt delicious, but time consuming. After having this one here, I don't see going to the trouble of making it the other way for awhile.
It could not be easier...

Trader Joe's Captain Mark's Chicken Tortilla Soup
1 large can chicken
1 jar garlic chipotle salsa
1 carton chicken broth

Optional items that I like:
frozen corn
cooked brown rice

Toppings:
shredded cheese
sour cream
tortilla chips
Trader Joe's green salsa verde (refrigerated section)
hot sauce

In a heavy pot, heat the chicken, salsa, and broth. Add any optional items and heat through. Ladle out into bowls and top with desired toppings and hot sauce.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Mango Chicken



During the Summer of 2009 I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Europe with my husband. My boys still haven't forgiven me for leaving them for the trip, but I have to say that it was a highlight of the entire year. London, Scotland, and Ireland were the places we visited, and like a good girl, I cleaned many a plate in each locale. While in Ireland, we stayed with my good friend Judith's sister and her family, the Robinsons. Judith is an amazing chef herself, and has a cookbook coming out soon, so be sure to check her out. Good cooking runs in her family apparently because we had a nice little dish at the Robinson's house that Jayne, the sister, swears is easy as pie. I've made it a few times myself, and while it's still very yummy, easy and even passes the little picky eater's test, it's still not as good as Jayne's. I believe this is because Irish chutney must be different from our chutneys found here in the States. Maybe a trip to Whole Foods is in order for a better chutney, although Trader Joe's does have a nice one. Anyhow, here is the recipe for Mango Chicken...great for a quick and impressive weeknight meal.

Mango Chicken

What you need:
boneless skinless chicken breasts
Jar of good mango chutney
Heavy cream or plain yogurt or mixture of both both
cooked white or brown rice

Optional:
mushrooms
bacon

Take a good jar of mango chutney, mix together with heavy cream or plain yogurt (or a mixture of both) until you have a thick, but pourable consistency and pour into a baking dish.
Throw in a few raw chicken breasts and bake, uncovered at 350, until nice and caramelized. Serve over rice.
For a different twist, use a spicy chutney, toss in some mushrooms and wrap the chicken in bacon. Garnish with fresh mango slices. That will impress people!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Red Beans and Rice


Have I ever mentioned I have a cajun mother in law? My husband laughs when I say this and tells me that she's really Creole, not cajun. Maybe that's a fact, given her french heritage, however, the woman has some cajun tendencies. Ever seen The Waterboy? The mom in that, Kathy Bates, eats just about anything, including snake. While my mother in law may not eat snake, she's not afraid to try just about anything. There's nothing that scares her in the way of food. I love that about her. She's always willing to try something different, new, and unexpected. She's been known to suck the marrow out of chicken bones. She grew up on the bayou in south Mississippi and Louisiana. And she makes delicious cajun food. I didn't know so many spices existed until I started dating David and eating dinner with his parents. I loved having steak on Sunday nights, always complete with twice baked potatoes, rice and french bread. Her oyster stew on Christmas Eve was a hit with me, as were her griods on Christmas day. I certainly owe a lot of my cooking knowledge to her.
She makes a mean red beans and rice dish, and she made it for us recently. I jotted down her recipe, which she says is the way Maria, The Help, made it for her family growing up. The ingredient that makes it stand out from the others is cloves. Let me preface this recipe by saying I have not made this myself yet, but wanted to post it so I'll remember to make it. I'll revisit the recipe if I need to make changes. It can be made either in the crock pot or simmered on the stove on low heat for hours. So, here's Red Beans and Rice Maria's way:

Red Beans and Rice

1 pkg. dried red kidney beans, soaked overnight according to pkg. directions.
diced bell pepper, onions, and garlic sautéed in oil or bacon fat
ham hock or ham bone
5 bay leaves
salt
Italian seasonings
ground clove (1 tsp. or more according to taste)
worcestershire sauce

Add the soaked beans to a crock pot or dutch oven. Add the sautéed mixture of pepper, onion and garlic. Cover the beans with water. Toss in the bay leaves, salt, Italian seasonings, clove and worcestershire sauce (all to taste). Let simmer on low heat until tender.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Tortellini Soup

It's a new year, and time to breathe some new life into this forgotten blog of mine. I'm ready to post a few recipes and inspiration. I'll get right down to business.

This here recipe is an old one for me, actually. I started making it as a newlywed 14 years ago, so I can tell you it's quite simple. I originally found this recipe in a Betty Crocker cookbook and have made a few tweaks of my own. It's a versatile soup and can be used for lunch or dinner. Since my oldest and I are a bit under the weather, we're having it for dinner. I'm hoping that the little picky eater will eat it as well since it's got pasta in it. I consider it a twist to classic chicken noodle, even though there's no chicken in it. It wouldn't be a bad idea to throw some in!

Tortellini Soup

1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 medium celery stalks, chopped (1 cup)
3-4 medium carrots, chopped or sliced
1 small onion, chopped
White wine
2 cartons (32 oz each) chicken broth
4 cups water
2 packages (9 oz each) dried cheese-filled tortellini or refrigerated tortellini
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon freshly grated whole nutmeg, or more to taste (the nutmeg makes this soup, IMO)
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Melt butter and olive oil in 6-quart Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Saute garlic, celery, carrot and onion until fragrant and onions are translucent. Deglaze the pan with a few glugs of white wine.
Stir in broth and water. Heat to boiling; reduce heat. Stir in tortellini. Stir in parsley, pepper and nutmeg and any other seasons you desire (I like Italian seasonings). Cover and simmer about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tortellini are tender. This may take less time if using refrigerated pasta. Top each serving with cheese.

*This makes a large amount. I don't know how well it would freeze because of the pasta. Once it's refrigerated, the pasta tends to soak up more of the broth so you may need to add more water when reheating. Or, you may just use 1 pkg. of pasta to begin with. Just depends on how much broth you want.