Monday, February 27, 2012

The Promise Of Spring (Recipe: Chicken Tortilla Soup)

There have been signs of Spring popping up in the yard these past few weeks; a single green leaf emerging through its bud on my pear tree, Gerber Daisies so delicate and happy to greet me in the mornings, weeds dandelions blowing gently in the wind, and the fragrance of the mountain laurel perfumes the air on the walk into work.  I can see Mother Nature making a promise for springtime in the next few weeks.
On the way to Baking Tot's speech therapy sessions, we pass through quite a bit of farm land.  On days we are running early, I find myself pulling over and getting out to visit the cows.  I've noticed that the pastures have become greener each time I pass through.  The cows seem happy for the promise too.
And then we have the grackles.  The noisy, boisterous, bully of a bird swooping in and eating all of my bird feed.  Baking Tot doesn't seem to mind the grackles, refusing to chase them off after I've asked him.  I find them to be a nuisance.  But nonetheless, with their arrival, I know the promise is being kept.
Other than Springtime peeking through the soil this time of year, it is time for Soup-A-Palooza.  I participated in it last year and was so happy to read that it is now a blogging tradition.  If you need any recipes for soup you should visit the blog party, there were so many great ideas last year.  So "come join SoupaPalooza at TidyMom and Dine & Dish sponsored by KitchenAid, Red Star Yeast and Le Creuset." I am sharing this Chicken Tortilla Soup and my Summer Corn Chowder recipe!

Chicken Tortilla Soup
serves 8

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons chili powder
1/4 teaspoon ancho chili powder
2 teaspoons cumin
4 cups Chile-Lime Chicken Broth
1 ancho chile pepper
1 can diced tomatoes
salt and pepper
3 chicken breasts, cooked & shredded
8 oz. frozen corn
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
Sliced tortilla strips

Garnishes:  cilantro, sliced avocado, cheese, sour cream, diced tomatoes, jalapeno
  1. Saute onion, bell pepper, garlic in olive oil until softened, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add chili powder, ancho chili powder and cumin, saute for 1 minute
  3. Add chicken broth, one cup of water, and ancho chile pepper, bring to a boil at medium heat, lower to a simmer and cook covered for 15 minutes or until chile pepper is soft.
  4. Remove ancho chile pepper from pot and pull off the stem, remove seeds (if desired) and chop.  Return back to the pot, add tomatoes and puree mixture with an immersion blender (or puree mixture in a food processor).
  5. Season with salt and pepper and add shredded chicken, bring to a simmer, cover and cook for 30 minutes.
  6. Add corn and black beans and cook for 5 minutes.  Adjust seasonings.
  7. Place tortilla strips in your serving bowls and ladle soup into bowls.  Add garnishes.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Fat Tuesday Celebration: King Cake

We have roughly nine hours until Fat Tuesday (English translation for Mardi Gras), referring to the practice of indulging in rich, fatty, delicious foods before the Lenten season begins.  I have friends talking of gumbo, andouille sausage, boudin and King Cake.  Many of my friends order their King Cake-but I make my own.  After years of making cinnamon rolls at bakeries & restaurants-its something I think I can handle, because a King Cake is essentially a ginormous cinnamon bun!

The King Cake, traditionally served on Kings Day (January 6), though most popular during Mardi Gras, is a brioche type bread swirled with cinnamon, braided and formed into a ring.  It is topped with icing and colored sprinkles, gold (for power), green (for faith) and purple (for justice).

A small trinket is usually hidden inside the cake, usually a plastic baby representing baby Jesus or a golden coin.  Traditionally, the person that finds the trinket either throws next year's Mardi Gras party or buys the next King Cake.  At some parties, the person with the trinket in their slice of cake is crowned king or queen of the party.  Maybe I'll find that wouldn't hurt being Queen for the day, right?

King Cake
yield:  1 cake

4 3/4 all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 packages Active Dry Yeast
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1 stick butter
2 eggs
  1. In a large bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups flour, sugar, and packaged yeast.  Heat milk, water, and butter until very warm, about 120-130 degrees F.  Add to dry ingredients and beat for 2 minutes and medium speed with an electric mixer.  Add eggs and 1/2 cup flour.
  2. Beat on high speed for 2 minutes.  Stir in remaining flour (2 3/4 cups) to make a stiff batter.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours.
  3. Punch dough down.  Move dough to a lightly floured surface and divide into equal portions.  Roll each to 28x4 inches.
  4. Prepare filling (below).  Brush each piece of dough with melted butter and sprinkle evenly with the cinnamon & sugar mixture.
  5. Beginning and the long end, roll each piece up tightly as you would for a cinnamon roll or jelly roll.
  6. Pinch seams to form long ropes.  Braid, then form into an oval.  Pinch ends to seal.  Place on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Cover and let rise in a warm, draft free place until doubled in size, about an hour.
  7. Bake at 375 degrees F, 25-30 minutes or until lightly golden.  Remove from baking sheet and cool on a wire rack.  Drizzle glaze over the cooled cake and sprinkle with colored sugars.
1/2 stick butter, melted (for brushing)
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
  1.  Combine sugar and cinnamon, set melted butter aside.
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2-3 tablespoon milk
  1. Whisk until smooth

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A Book By It's Cover (Recipe: Turkey Meatballs)

Turkey Meatballs over Linguine
I have been a little absent from the blogging world lately.  I have found myself curled up on a couch, snuggled away in the warmth of my comforter or enjoying the mild winter weather on the back porch with my feet propped up and book in hand.

I'll admit I am not much of a reader.  I had been when I was younger, the young age of 9 or 10, but once high school rolled around books disappeared from my life.  I don't know why, but they did.

A promise of Spring
In my adulthood, I found myself reading cookbooks like I would have any other book.  My husband would joke and say if a book didn't involve wizards, werewolves or vampires it would never be able hold my attention.

The past few weeks though, I've read four books.  I succumbed to the pressure and jumped on the bandwagon to read the Hunger Game Series.  I liked it.  I liked it even more because my youngest sister was reading it too and we would talk about our readings quite often.  It was nice to share thoughts of the book with her.

Then last week I did something I had never done...bought a random book.  Just because I liked its cover.  It was a dark and disturbing book and in the end I was pleased with my purchase.  So pleased, I may have to shop by the cover again.

The weather has been cold and wet the past few days.  Perfect for stews, braises, comfort foods and reading.  You'd think because of my recent readings I'd supply you with a recipe for cheese buns, lamb stew, or some type of "stuck in a cabin with a kidnapper" type food, but I am not going to. What I do have is meatballs.  Meatballs on the lighter side-delicious turkey meatballs.
Much needed rain
Turkey Meatballs
courtesy of the lovely Giada, of course
  • 1/4 cup plain dried bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons whole milk
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1 pound ground turkey, (I use 85/15)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 5 cups tomato sauce
  • 1 pound dried linguine
  1. In a large bowl add bread crumbs milk and mix until well combined. Mix in eggs and 1/2 cup Parmesan Cheese and mix well. Add turkey and gently combine, being careful not to overwork the meat. Season with salt and pepper. Shape into golf-size balls.
  2. In a large skillet heat the oil over medium high heat. When almost smoking, add meatballs and without moving or turning the meat, allow it to brown for about 3 minutes. Turn meatballs and brown other side. Continue to cook until all sides are golden brown, about 8 minutes total. 
  3. Add tomato sauce and bring to a boil. Lower heat and allow meatballs to simmer for 5 minutes. Turn off heat and keep warm on stove. Be careful not to overhandle the meatballs since they are soft and fragile.
  4. In a large pot, bring salted water to a boil.  Add pasta and cook until al dente. Drain pasta in a colander.
  5. Remove meatballs from sauce and place in serving bowl. Pour some tomato sauce over meatballs, but leave about 1 cup of sauce in skillet. Place the cooked pasta into the skillet with the remaining sauce and toss well. Pour sauced pasta into a large serving bowl. Serve alongside the meatballs.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

A Birthday Tradition (Recipe: Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes)

At the beginning of the month we celebrated my husband's birthday.  I am always prepared for his birthday dinner request because it has been the same for least the last decade.  We always have pot roast, carrots, and mashed potatoes served with au jus.  This year instead of cake, pumpkin bread took its place at the table.

As I was preparing his meal I realized that I have never shared my mashed potato recipe on the blog.  There are no substitutions for mashed potatoes here at this house.  If I made it any other way there would be a riot on my hands.

I use Yukon Gold potatoes, which I could find  at a drop of a hat living in Idaho but here in Texas the task is a little more pricey and difficult.  If I used any other...remember that riot mentioned before, yeah, you get the picture.

I practice the techniques I learned long ago in culinary school, starting with placing the potatoes in cold water and then bringing them to a boil.  If I can remember correctly, this is to ensure even cooking.

I also dry out my cooked and drained potatoes before mashing them.  We used to lay them on sheet pans and dry them out in the oven-but who has time for that...not me.  So, I just place them back in the pot where they came from and dry them out over the stove top.  Water and cooked potatoes are really not that great of friends and mashed watery potatoes can become a gelatinous, gummy mess.

The potatoes are then put through the finest plate of my food mill transforming into a velvety, silky puree. I add heated milk, butter, salt, pepper, and buttermilk.

These mashed potatoes are silky smooth and the flavor is unbelievable.  I really never feel the need to add gravy to these potatoes because they are that good.

Buttermilk Potatoes
serves 6

3 pounds boiling potatoes, such as Yukon gold, peeled
1/2 cup milk
1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter
3/4 to 1 cup buttermilk
salt & pepper
  1. Place cubed potatoes in a large pot, cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 10 to 15 minutes, until the potatoes fall apart easily when pierced with a fork.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the milk and butter in a small saucepan, making sure it doesn't boil. Set aside until the potatoes are done.
  3. As soon as the potatoes are tender, drain them in a colander and return to the pot.  Heat over medium heat until the potatoes form a dry skin on their surface.  A skin will also form in the pot as well.
  4. Place a food mill fitted with a small disc/blade over a heatproof bowl. Process the potatoes through the food mill, turning the handle back and forth. As soon as the potatoes are mashed, stir in the hot milk-and-butter mixture with a whisk or rubber spatula. Add enough buttermilk to make the potatoes creamy. Add 2 teaspoons of salt and the pepper, to taste, and serve hot.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The week has brought us (Recipe Links: Honey Oat Cookies & Curry Chicken Handpies)

Honey Oat Cookies from Simple Bites
Lovely lighting for the holiday, thanks Pinterest!
Snow brought in to the neighborhood on a 70 degree day
A samosa inspired lunch-Chicken Curry Handpies (an overlooked recipe from this site)
A food trailer run:  The Mighty Cone
A new super hero room...I can't wait to share the big reveal!