Sunday, February 22, 2009

Blog changes

I have decided to combine this blog with another I was working on. Please come over and check it out!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Mexican Tortilla Chicken Soup

I am going to try to pull a fast one this week and enter the same recipe for both Tyler Florence Fridays and Souper Sundays- is that okay? I have a couple reasons for this- 1. its school vacation and everything is crazy, 2. I have been helping to clean my grandfather's house just about every day this week- and therefore not been here as much, and 3. I bought Rachel Ray's new magazine this week, and have been looking at that more than anything, just about every recipe looks great!!

First, I am going to complain about buying chicken at BJ's Wholesale Club, where I usually shop. They used to carry frozen chicken, 10lbs in a big bag, loose, already cleaned up, easy to get out. When I went last week, they have replaced it with a bag of this:
The bag is only half the size and each breast is individually wrapped! I was disgusted with the waste of plastic here. Since I was out of chicken, I did buy it this once, but I won't again.

I took all 4 kids to the grocery store to get a couple things- I forgot how much I dislike that process. I dislike the grocery store in general (as I said I prefer BJ's) but with the kids- I think I said "no" probably 100 times. can I have, can I have.....

For this recipe I needed to buy jalapenos- which I had never purchased before. There was a bin with at least 6 choices, each with their own "hotness" level. I chose these, which were the most mild as I didn't want to worry about burning my eyes out or scarring the children...

Mexican Tortilla Chicken Soup
(my changes to the recipe)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (canola oil)
2 medium white onions, diced (one very large)
2 garlic cloves, minced (four- we like garlic)
2 jalapenos, seeded and minced
3 ripe medium tomatoes, chopped (one can diced & seasoned tomatoes)
1 quart chicken stock (2 quarts using Minor's Chicken Base)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
I also added some cayenne pepper & cumin
Canola oil, for pan-frying
8 corn tortillas, cut into 1/8-inch-thick strips
1 1/2 cups shredded cooked chicken (2 breasts)
2 avocados, halved, pitted, peeled, and diced (only one)
1 cup shredded Jack cheese, optional (low fat cheddar)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish (parsley)
1 lime, cut in wedges, for serving
In the morning, I poached the chicken breasts by putting them into a 11X14 baking dish, covering with water and cooking in 400 degree convection until they were done- or floating.
Place a stockpot over medium heat and coat with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the onions, garlic, jalapenos, and tomatoes; cook, stirring for 15 minutes until the vegetables are cooked down and pulpy. Pour in the stock, season with salt and pepper, and simmer for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat 1-inch of canola oil in a skillet over medium-high flame. When the oil begins to smoke, add the tortilla strips in batches and fry until they are crisp on all sides. Remove to a paper towel-lined platter and sprinkle with salt while they are still hot. I found I had to begin removing them before they were done as the last ones would end up burnt.
Ladle the hot soup into 4 soup bowls and put a pile of shredded chicken on top of each. Top with the diced avocado and fried tortilla strips (and cheese if using). Garnish with cilantro and serve with lime wedges.

I found this recipe on here.
final thoughts: Very good! Adam is a big fan of spicy things, so he thought it was excellent. I liked it too, but I was glad for the cheese & avocado to temper the heat of the soup. As I was cutting the peppers, they did not seem hot at all so I added in the extra spices. But, judging by how spicy the finished product was; I guess they did have a little kick to them. One of the girls were having a sleepover- so with the remaining three one thought it was good but the other two thought it was too spicy. Although- they had talked me into sushi at the store and had eaten that first so they were not really hungry when this was done.
In other news- our first egg is hatching today and we are all very excited!! If you are interested, you can follow the progress on my other blog Sogkonnite Chickens.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Stuffed French Toast

New goal- use something in pantry/freezer from the summer. I know I have mentioned that I hoard this stuff - why?? I have been good with the relish & jelly- we use mine exclusively, but everything else gets saved for a "special" occasion. Yes, I know, this makes no sense. So, in order to help over come, I will try this tactic.

Tuesday for breakfast we had stuffed french toast, YUM!!!

French toast- 4 eggs (all ours, since the RI reds & the aracaunas have started laying, we are getting at least 5 - one day 10! eggs a day- this might have something to do with the light we put into the coop too)

one cup milk

cinnamon sugar mix

bread- i have been using Wonder kids- white bread made from whole grain & with added calcium- can't beat that

mix all ingredients except bread. the cinnamon sugar floats on the top and then only gets to one side of the bread, so I put that side down in the pan and sprinkle the other side with more cinnamon sugar. We have a griddle in our kitchen that would cook all the french toast at once HOW NICE, but we have yet to install the exhaust hood (no we didn't just move, its been years, ahem, new projects have arose like the garage- grrrr) and its a bit too cold to have the door open, so I am stuck to the frying pan.

For the sauce, I warmed up cream cheese in the microwave with my strawberry sauce (some of the strawberry jelly i made that didn't set and therefore turned into strawberry sauce), and stirred until smooth. Well, I gave up before it was actually smooth and had to convince the kids it would taste good even though it looked unpleasantly lumpy.

Very, very good. Megan said it tasted like cheesecake, and what is better than that???

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

I was loving Monday

I didn't get here to the computer yesterday, read thru my google reader list this morning and realized that I missed loving Monday's on just my second week. This might be why I'm not a big fan of resolutions. So, loving Tuesday's because:
1. we got my grandfather safely moved form his own house to a senior appt.
2. my kids are home on vacation this week.
3. we had friends over last night for poker- very fun
4. I found some old cookbooks of my grandmothers and have come up with a great idea- a monthly (maybe, or 2 times a month??) round up of family recipes. I'm still mulling it around in my head.
5. I think I am finally feeling better today!!!

Anyone have any interest in joining with me in a family history cooking round-up?
Or how about a cooking with kids round up- another one of my resolutions. I really need to start cooking with them instead of always for them.

I was just going to post 5 things- but a couple more just popped into my head:
6. Rock Band for the Wii- fun for me & the kids
7. Lego's- has kept my son very entertained for the last couple days
8. my husband- for Valentines Day he gave me many thoughtful things, as well as all the kids, and then my parents, aunt and grandfather too!
9. hubby again because he went down to help with move even when I couldn't go
10. I have 3 of my 4 grandparents still with us. love them!!!!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Chicken Pot Soup

Yesterday was an absolutely gorgeous weather day. The temp got into the 40's here, which after the unseasonably cold weather we have had this winter, was like a major heat wave. The point of the weather report is to say that I was in a hurry last night while making dinner. Because of the nice weather, I took the kids to the playground after school until 5 and we had to be back to the school for the school committee meeting at 7. I had cooked the chicken already- boiled it as directed but it took about 2 hours because I cooked it right from the freezer. The kids have had a problem with whole chickens (I have to admit I do feel a little guilty myself when cooking it) since we got ours last spring so I didn't want to thaw it in the fridge overnight. It cooked fine, just took much longer. Here is Tyler Florence's recipe I used from real kitchen. I also found it online here from which I also used the picture- see the cute little ramekins. I don't have any, and probably wouldn't get them for something like chicken pot pie, but maybe for Ree's Baked Fudge at The Pioneer Woman- OMG yum! It makes my mouth water just thinking of it- but I digress, back to the disaster of chicken pt soup.

Chicken Pot Pie

Chicken Broth:
1 whole chicken, 3 pounds
1 gallon cool water
2 carrots, cut in 2-inch pieces
2 celery stalks, cut in 2-inch pieces
1 onion, halved
1 head garlic, halved horizontally
2 turnips, halved
4 fresh thyme sprigs
2 fresh rosemary sprigs
1 bay leaf

Pot Pie:
1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 carrots, cut in 1/2-inch circles
1 bag frozen or fresh pearl onions, see note
1 box frozen or fresh peas, see note
Leaves from 4 fresh thyme sprigs
2 frozen puff pastry sheets, thawed
1 egg mixed with 3 tablespoons water
1/4 cup shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano

Put the chicken in a large stockpot and cover with 1 gallon of cool water. Add the vegetables and herbs and bring the pot up to a boil over medium-high heat. Skim well; then simmer, uncovered, for 45 minutes, skimming frequently as the oil rises to the surface. What we're doing here is not only cooking the chicken but also creating the base sauce for the pot pie. Remove the chicken to a platter to cool. Continue to cook down the chicken broth for another 15 minutes to condense the flavor; you should have about 8 cups when you're finished. Using a colander, strain the chicken broth into another pot and discard the solids. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, shred the meat and discard the skin and bones.
Wipe out the stockpot and put it back on the stove top over medium heat. Melt the butter and then whisk in the flour to form a paste. This is a roux, which will act as a thickener. Now, gradually pour in 8 cups of the chicken broth, whisking the entire time to prevent lumps. Whisk and simmer for 10 minutes to cook out the starchy taste of the flour and thicken the broth; it should look like cream of chicken soup. Season with salt and pepper. Fold in the shredded chicken, carrots, pearl onions, peas, and parsley. Stir to combine and turn off the heat.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lay the thawed puff pastry sheets on a lightly floured, cool surface. Invert individual crocks on the pastry sheet and, using a sharp knife, cut circles around the outside of the bowls, slightly larger than the bowl itself. Fill the crocks 3/4 of the way with the chicken mixture, making sure each serving has a nice amount of chicken, vegetables, and broth. Carefully cap each crock with a pastry circle, pressing the dough around the rim to form a seal. Lightly beat the egg with 3 tablespoons of water to make an egg wash and brush some on the pastry. Sprinkle the pastry with the Parmigiano. Set the crocks on a cookie sheet and transfer to the oven. Bake for 20 minutes, until puffed and golden.
Notes: If using fresh pearl onions, blanch for 2 minutes in salted boiling water; then pinch the skins off -- if using frozen, run under cool water for 2 minutes to thaw.
If using fresh peas, blanch for 2 minutes in salted boiling water--if using frozen, run under cool water for 2 minutes to thaw.

So, like I said, I cooked the chicken as directed- only my chicken was frozen and probably 7 lbs, not 3. I put it into a huge pot, covered it with water and added about double the veggies & herbs. When it was done, I shredded the chicken, skimmed the broth the best I could then put them both into the fridge. When we got home, I made the roux, also doubling, then added the broth. And I think this is where I messed up- I cooked it for 10 minutes, and it was relatively thick, but I think I should have cooked it longer- because look at that the finished product was-

Now, I don't know if they were in individual ramekins, would the soupness (like how I make up my own words?!?) have been an issue. But they weren't. I had made 2 large pans and just thru the sheets of puffed pastry on top- I told you I was in a hurry. "F" for presentation today.
The top of the pastry was delicious, but the bottom was soggy. Maybe from the soupiness of the filling? The flavor was just okay, I did add salt and pepper, and the fresh thyme but it needed more of something, it was pretty bland. I liked the pearl onions, that was a bit different from that I usually use. The kids all liked it, needed a spoon, but they ate it. Adam and I were less than impressed. I did like making my own broth, I would do that again. I'm not sure about the pie though.
This will be my recipe for Tyler Florence Friday's- which you should join but clicking here.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

What's local now- more than I thought!

I spent the day finally catching up on all the blog postings I missed while I was on vacation. Really, it was Zen Habits that I still needed to read- everyone else I had caught up with. Leo's sight was going to take some time to read and take it all in. Most interesting I found were two guest posts by Scott and Jonathan about eating raw & simple foods. And that got me to thinking- yes, I should be eating more foods raw, but what a hard thing to do in the winter without feeling like your food has travelled the world to get to you. And then back to my winter dilemma- sigh, I wish I was eating more "local. " Then I went to the fridge and saw the local Arruda's milk and thought, I wonder what else is local right now in my kitchen. There was more that I thought, what a pleasant surprise!

A new bag of potatoes I bought for the corn chowder. Which, by the way, had only one entry in the vegetable chowder division at that chowder cook off I wanted to enter. So I would have won a ribbon no matter what it came out like! :-)

Here is the pantry shelf- jams & jellies, relish, couple kinds of pickles, dried cherry tomatoes are in the front. Some strawberry sauce and vinegars are in there too.

My favorite wines- I can walk to the vineyard from my house.

And the fridge- some of the same stuff from the pantry, cranberry sauce, cranberry mustard, brandied cranberries (see a pattern here??), some apples and my mother in laws chimichurri.

NOT this!

Hers is my freezer- some cranberry lemon sorbet, tomato sauce, strawberries, blueberries, more soup.

My measly herb pot that I was able to bring inside in the fall. I had hoped to bring more of the herb pots in, but they were all overgrown and scraggly but the end of the fall.
I have another shelf of canned items that I forgot to take a picture of- applesauce, spiced apples and tomatoes. So- I really have a lot here. Now, If I can stop feeling like I have to hoard them all and use more, I'll be all set. But that is another topic for another day.

Monday, February 9, 2009

I'm loving Monday because...

I have been following Danielle LaPorte's blog, White Hot Truth- and I just love some of the things she has to say. I feel like I am coming out of the "babies" cloud I have been hiding under for the last 11 or so years and trying to find out what is going to come next. My youngest will go to kindergarten in the fall and then what?!?! Anyway, Danielle's blog speaks to a lot of those issues. She has a loving Monday's list- sounded like a good idea to me. So here goes-

1. skiing with my family on Saturday night was great- and more importantly no one got hurt.
2. yesterday morning was spent relaxing with my husband & his brother and sister in law, just joking around and talking.
3. I spent an hour walking this morning with my friend at the track.
4. I finally figured out the hyperlink thing- thanks to my hubby!
5. it was warm enough to walk this morning & that I can see the grass & flower beds again.

I did not enter the chowder cook off this weekend because we decided at the last minute to go skiing for my husband's birthday. It was great & I'm glad we went. But, now I have stuff in my fridge for two gallons of chowder and my family didn't like it that much! Thanks to Deb for your encouragement, maybe next year.

And I didn't contribute to Tyler Florence Friday's again this week- but I did make another cake! I better get back to the healthy cooking and away from these cakes because today started Shape up RI and the competition of increasing exercise & dropping pounds which is not going to happen cooking like this! We celebrated Friday night, because ice cream cake does not travel well, with a home made ice cream cake, dad's favorite! I used the Better Crocker cake right out of the box and a new Breyer's flavor with peanut butter ice cream, peanut butter cups and ribbons of peanut butter mixed in- can you guess what his flavor is?

I got some help with the best part form my little man.

I used a cake pan my friend had gotten for me years back as a thank you for watching her house. I have only used it a couple times- but I have visions of a nice summer cake filled with whipped cream & berries- yum.....

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Carrot Cake

I was complaining yesterday that it was snowing- again- but look at what we woke up to this morning. What could be more beautiful than that? And, when I was walking down back to let out the chickens, the sun was reflecting off the snow in the most impressive way- it was like Disney magic dust everywhere! I retract all my complaints!!

Did you know that yesterday was national carrot day? Over the weekend I made a calender for February that had a quirky holiday/famous birthday or event for every day. (can you tell the winter doldrums have set in :-) I had done this when the kids were little, and thought it might be a good thing to do now that they are older to learn a little more history/ social studies type things. For instance, today is Charles Lindbergh's birthday, and as the kids were getting ready for school we had a discussion about his flying & that he invented the first artificial heart (I didn't know this- I guess the learning is not just for the kids!) Yesterday we celebrated by having carrot cake for dessert.

I made it straight from the recipe out of my tried and true Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book. Whenever I am looking for something basic & easy- I know I can find it here. I just looked at their website which has a modified recipe including pineapple- yum!

Best-Ever Carrot Cake

4 beaten eggs
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon (optional)
1/2 tsp baking soda
3 cups finely shredded carrots (lightly packed)
3/4 cups cooking oil
1 recipe cream cheese frosting
1/2 cup toasted pecans (optional)

1. allow eggs to stand at room temp for 30 minutes. Meanwhile grease and flour 2 9x1 1/2 inch round cake pans. Set pans aside. In a large mixing bowl stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and baking soda.
2. In a medium bowl combine eggs, carrots, and oil. Add egg mixture to flour mixture; stir until combined. Pout into prepared pans.
3. Bake in 350 degree oven for 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden toothpick comes out clean. Cool on wire racks for 10 minutes then remove from pans and cool completely.
4. Frost tops and sides with cream cheese frosting. If desired sprinkle with chopped pecans. Store in refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Cream Cheese Frosting
1 8 oz package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 tsp vanilla
5 3/4 to 6 1/4 cups sifted powder sugar

Beat cream cheese, butter and vanilla with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Gradually add 2 cups of the powdered sugar, beating well. Gradually beat in additional sugar to reach spreading consistency.

notes: I made the cake with the cinnamon, but not the pecans. I did use the oil- usually I substitute oil with apple sauce in baking, but I was in the mood for the real thing last night. I shredded the carrots in my Cuisinart with the shredding attachment fearing that the pieces would be too big (the recipe mentioned to be sure they were finely shredded or they would sink to the bottom of the pan) and that was fine- no sinking. The frosting I made just as suggested.
It was delicious!! I loved it, have not had a good carrot cake in years, and this certainly hit the spot. It got three out of four thumbs up from the kids too.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Corn Chowder

First- today is the mid-point of winter, yea! A good thing to know as I watch the snow falling- again!

Last night I made corn chowder, a bit late, I had hoped to make it over the weekend but it's kind of hard to make corn chowder with no corn! So, I am submitting it for next Sunday's Souper Sunday at and I think also to this weekend's chowder cook-off here in town. The community center is holding a chowder cook-off to raise money for a new stove. I have to the end of the day to decide, we'll see, I might still chicken out.

Here is the recipe I used. I took what I liked from 4 recipes- Tyler Florences', Rachel Ray's Vegetable Choup and 2 I found on allrecipes.
4 cups frozen corn
2 red peppers
2 zucchini
1 large onion
5 cloves garlic
1 tbsp dried thyme
1/4 cup flour
6 cups chicken stock
4 small potatoes
2 cups light cream
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp Frank's hot sauce
1 tbsp paprika

Pour corn into broiler pan, drizzle with olive oil and stir to coat. Convection roast at 400 degrees for 30 minutes, stirring frequently.
Chop into small pieces peppers, zucchini & onion. Put into a large pot with finely chopped garlic and thyme. Saute in 2 tbsp butter until soft, about 6-7 minutes.
Dust with flour and stir to coat everything well.
Pour in stock and bring to a boil.
Stir in potatoes, cream and seasonings. Bring to a boil, boil hard for about 7 minutes until potatoes begin to break down.
Stir in corn and simmer until corn is soft, about 10 minutes.
makes about 3 quarts.

notes- Roasting the corn was a bad idea. It really dried out the corn and made it stick to the teeth- I hate that. I was hoping for a little extra flavor, didn't happen. I adjusted the spices as I went along, so I really can't think of anything else to add. If I make it for the chowder cook off, I will make it with vegetable stock to enter it into the vegetarian category. The paprika gave it a nice color- I was trying to document the recipe as I went along so I forgot the pictures, oops!

If anyone has any suggestions of something else I could add, please let me know. I've never entered a contest before either, so if there are any suggestions for that, I'd appreciate that too.