Tuesday, June 30, 2009

My Husband, the Soup Master

We'd been married for 6 months when my husband volunteered to whip up a batch of chicken noodle soup. I rememember thinking, "No way, my husband can make one of the best comfort foods in the world? Brilliant!" It wasn't till I had emptied several bowlfuls that I realized there was no chicken in it - but I didn't miss it at all.

Luke's Recipe:
1 bunch celery, chopped
1 bag of carrots, chopped
1 onion, chopped
lots of chicken broth (two supersize cans)
1 pound pasta (we like orzo and tri-color rotini)
olive oil
salt and pepper

1. Saute the onion and celery tops in olive oil in the bottom of a large pot until the onion is tender. Remove the celery tops.
2. Fill pot with chicken broth. Add the carrots and celery; bring liquid to a boil and then simmer until veggies are somewhat tender. Add a handful of salt.
3. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Season with rosemary, thyme, sage, salt and pepper to taste.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Quick Salmon and a Side

Any recipe that promises to be quick and has garlic in it goes to the top of my list. Plan on serving with another veggie dish and you'll have a light, scrumptious meal.

Garlicky Broiled Salmon and Tomatoes
(Real Simple, September 2008)
Serves 4

4 6-ounce pieces skinless salmon fillet
4 medium tomatoes, cut in half
½ t paprika, preferably hot
2 T olive oil
Kosher salt and pepper
8 sprigs fresh thyme
4 cloves garlic, sliced

1. Heat broiler. Place the salmon and tomatoes, cut side up, in a broiler proof roasting pan or rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle the salmon with the paprika.
2. Drizzle the salmon and tomatoes with the olive oil and season with ¾ t salt and ¼ t pepper. Scatter the thyme and garlic over the top.
3. Broil until the salmon is opaque throughout and the tomatoes are tender, 8-10 minutes.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Poached Chicken

Last fall, Real Simple had an article on interesting things to do with the ubiquitous chicken-breast-for-dinner-scenario. I never planned on poaching chicken - sounds pretty blah, huh? - but this recipe intrigued me. Such a refreshing dish!

Salad with Chicken and Avocado (adapted from Real Simple, October ’08)
Serves 4 first-courses or 2 main courses

Kosher salt and black pepper
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 T evoo
2 T fresh lime juice/juice from one lime
1 t honey
2 bunches arugula or spinach, thick stems removed (about 6 cups)
1 avocado, sliced
1 bunch small radishes, thinly sliced

1. Fill a medium saucepan halfway with water. Bring to a boil and add 1 tablespoon salt. Add the chicken, reduce heat to medium, and gently simmer until cooked through, 12 – 14 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and let rest at least 5 minutes before slicing.
2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the oil, lime juice, honey, ½ t salt, and ¼ t pepper.
3. Divide the greens among bowls and top with the chicken, avocado, and radishes. Drizzle with the vinaigrette.

Note: If you prefer your salad coated in dressing, double the ingredients for the vinaigrette.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

End of Season Strawberries

Oh man, they went on super sale at our local grocery store! What to do? Strawberry shortcake, naturally. Take the time to whip your own cream if you can - the homemade cream soaks into the shortcake biscuits so much better than the stuff from the can! I've been in love with this recipe since my friend Eliza shared it with me nine years ago. (Oh, and a pile of shortcake makes for a great baby or bridal shower centerpiece.)

Yields approximately eight cakes

2 cups flour
¼ cup sugar
¼ T salt
1 T baking powder
5 ½ T butter, cold
1 cup heavy cream/milk

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Combine flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder.
3. Cut in the butter until it resembles small pebbles.
4. Lightly mix in the cream/milk. (Add more flour if the dough is very wet and you plan on rolling it out.)
5. Roll dough ½ inch thick and cut into 2” rounds. Place on greased sheet. Alternatively, pat the dough into a pan that measures smaller than 8 x 11 ½ inches. (Or use a cookie scoop to make dropped biscuits, but they won’t be very pretty.)
6. Cook for 15 minutes or until brown on the bottom.

Note: Serve with fruit and custard/whipped cream.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Jazzy Chicken and Rice

So this is the first time I've ever made a chicken and rice dish. My sister adapted the recipe from allrecipes.com; I wouldn't have thought to add cilantro as a garnish, but it really complements the dish!

Tropical Crock-Pot Chicken
Serves 4

2 ½ to 3 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs

1 large can of pineapple chunks, drained (optional)

2 large red or yellow bell peppers, diced

1-2 sweet onions, diced

1 Tbs. minced garlic

2 tsp. minced ginger

½ tsp. red chili flakes or to taste

¼ c. low-sodium soy sauce

1 Tbs. sesame oil

¼ c. natural style peanut butter

Chopped peanuts and cilantro for garnish, optional

Dash of coconut milk (optional)

brown rice, cooked

1. Season the raw chicken with salt and pepper. Brown chicken in a skillet. Once browned, slice into strips or smaller chunks. Place browned chicken pieces in bottom of crock-pot.
2. Add pineapple, peppers, and onions to crock-pot.
3. Mix remaining ingredients, garlic through peanut butter, in a separate bowl with a whisk. Add to crock-pot.
4. Cover crock-pot and cook on low for 4-5 hours, stir once after 30 minutes or so to mix sauce throughout. When cooking time is over, taste to see if it needs more flavor. Add soy sauce, sesame oil, and coconut milk as needed.
5. Serve over brown rice with chopped peanuts and cilantro for garnish.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Scalding Water + Human Flesh = Big Problem

I don't wash dishes without rubber gloves. I've tried every variety, even the expensive ones that are highlighted in trendy women's magazines. But let me tell you, the most indestructible ones are found at your local restaurant supply store. They seem to run large, so buy a size smaller than you normally would. No, they don't come with a polka dot design, but they do cost under $3 for a pair AND they last blessed forever!

Friday, May 22, 2009

When you want chocolate pudding, with a side of cake

There is enough pudding left over after frosting the cake to enjoy a sumptuous bowl-ful. Don't forget the whipped cream! (Oh, and this is a dark cake - definitely serve with vanilla ice cream.)

Chocolate Blackout Cake (adapted from CooksCountry.com)
Serves 10 to 12

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon table salt
2 cups half-and-half
1 cup whole milk
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2 teaspoons vanilla extract


8 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon Table salt
3/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 cup strong black coffee or coffeee substitute
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. For the pudding: Whisk sugar, cornstarch, salt, half-and-half, and milk in large saucepan. Set pan over medium-high heat. Add chocolate and bring mixture to a boil, stirring constantly with a whisk and scraping the bottom and sides of the pan. The pudding will gradually darken and thicken. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring gently but constantly with a wooden spoon, until the pudding coats the spoon very thickly, 1 ½ to 2 minutes. Stir in vanilla and transfer pudding to large bowl. Place plastic wrap directly on surface of pudding and refrigerate until cold, at least 4 hours or up to 1 day.

2. For the cake layers: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Butter and flour two 8-inch cake pans. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in bowl.

3. Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in cocoa and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Off heat, whisk in coffee, buttermilk, and sugars until dissolved. Whisk in eggs and vanilla, then slowly whisk in flour mixture.

4. Divide batter evenly between prepared pans and bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool layers in pans 15 minutes, then invert onto wire rack. Cool to room temperature, at least 1 hour.

5. To assemble the cake: Cut each cake in half horizontally. Crumble one cake layer into medium crumbs and set aside. Place one cake layer on serving platter or cardboard round. Spread 1 cup pudding over cake layer and top with another layer. Repeat with 1 cup pudding and last cake layer. Spread remaining pudding evenly over top and sides of cake. Sprinkle cake crumbs evenly over top and sides of cake, pressing lightly to adhere crumbs. Serve. (Cake can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.)

Note: Be sure to give the pudding and the cake enough time to cool or you'll end up with runny pudding and gummy cake.