Monday, February 28, 2011
Alright, I know. This is not my first chicken soup recipe that I've posted. Still, it was so good and so easy, I felt it must be shared. I married together a recipe from a recipe by Chef Tyler Florence and a soup commonly found in Italian restaurants that I love, Tortellini en Brodo (tortellini in broth). This version is fast, healthy and has simple, clean flavors that promise of warmer weather but is still hearty enough to satisfy on an evening where there's still a chill in the air.
1 pound ground chicken breast
sat and pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced (optional)
1/4-1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
olive oil for sauteing
Remaining soup ingredients:
1 one pound package refrigerated cheese tortellini (or frozen, mine were tri-color)
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes (I used fire roasted, but with basil and garlic would be good too)
2 quarts chicken broth
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon thyme
4 cups fresh baby spinach leaves
juice from 1/2 a lemon
shredded Parmesan cheese for serving
Crusty bread for serving
For the meatballs, preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a medium sized bowl, season ground chicken generously with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Add parsley, if using. Add egg and stir gently to combine. Stir in bread crumbs gradually until the mixture comes together in a mass and the egg is absorbed. Using your hands, form chicken into small meatballs (about 1"-1 1/2" in diameter) and place on a baking sheet. Continue until all meatballs are formed. Drizzle with a little olive oil and roast in 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and set aside. Conversely, you can also pan fry the meatballs in the olive oil, do them in batches using a skillet over medium-high heat, turning occasionally until well browned on all sides.
In a large pot, bring chicken broth to a boil. Stir in Italian seasoning, thyme and entire can of tomatoes. Add tortellini and meatballs and reduce heat to medium high and simmer for 5 minutes or until tortellini is cooked through. Roughly tear or chop baby spinach leaves into smaller pieces and stir into soup. Add in freshly squeezed lemon juice. Serve immediately seasoned with freshly ground black pepper and shredded Parmesan.
Sunday, February 27, 2011
I love brunch foods. I love breakfast foods. I could eat morning foods anytime of day. This is a dish that is especially versatile. A strata is a savory egg casserole using day old (read: stale) bread and this time, it's filled with Mediterranean style flavors--spinach, red bell peppers, feta cheese and diced ham to make it even more substantial. The lovely thing about a strata is that it's begging for you to use any fillings you have on hand (read: a great way to use up leftovers--see my note below for some suggestions). Simple, economical and able to be assembled ahead and popped into the oven whenever you're ready, this is an excellent dish to keep in mind for upcoming brunch-centered celebrations (read: Easter, Mother's Day, Baby Showers) and also lazy Saturday mornings.
Ham and Spinach Strata
6 cups cubed (or torn into bite sized pieces) bread: day old French bread is lovely, croissants are elegant, you can even use leftover hot dog buns if that's what needs to be used up--sometimes they do!
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 medium onion, diced (about 1/2 cup)
1/2 red bell pepper, diced (about 1/2 cup)
1 12 oz. package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
salt and pepper
1 1/2 cups (1 8 oz package) shredded cheese (Italian blend is nice, feel free to experiment)
1/4 cup feta cheese (optional)
2 cups diced ham
1 cup milk or half and half
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
Directions: Lightly grease a 9x13 baking dish. Spread half of the bread cubes in the bottom of the dish. Set aside. In a large saute pan, melt butter over medium high heat. Add onion, and saute, stirring occasionally, until slightly softened (2-3 minutes). Add bell pepper and saute for 2-3 minutes longer or until bell pepper is crisp-tender. Stir in chopped spinach and season with garlic powder, salt and pepper. Spoon spinach mixture evenly over bottom layer of bread pieces. Sprinkle cheeses over spinach layer and cover with remaining bread cubes. In a large bowl, beat together eggs and milk. Stir in dry mustard and season egg mixture with additional salt and pepper. Pour over casserole. At this point, you can cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350. Bake uncovered until puffed and golden, about 45-55 minutes.
note: Experiment with different combinations depending on what you have on hand: Chopped broccoli and cheddar cheese, breakfast sausage and mushrooms, asparagus and Swiss cheese, green chiles, corn and pepper jack...the possibilities are endless.
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
You may have noticed I do quite a few baked pasta dishes. This is because they're economical, can easily feed a crowd, able to be made ahead and who can't resist some form of pasta, sauce and cheese? They're a perfect dish to bring to someone who needs a meal or to feed a crowd when you're hosting.
This is a recipe that has gone over quite well with our gang and is a snap to put together. I almost always have ingredients on hand to do some variation of it. The staples are the usual: pasta, marinara and mozzarella but with a tangy surprise of a layer of cream cheese (I will maintain that few things are not improved by the addition of a little--or lot--of cream cheese). This time, I used turkey Italian sausage, sliced mushrooms and roasted red peppers and it was a particularly delicious combination (feel free to modify the mix ins based on your own individual tastes--sauteed onion and bell pepper would be great, shredded rotisserie chicken, olives, artichoke hearts, chopped spinach, you get the idea...). Also, there's a variation at the bottom that allows you to cut down on the prep time even more if you are able to make it ahead!
Crowd Pleasing Pasta Bake
1 20 oz. package turkey Italian sausage, casings removed (or 1 pound ground beef or turkey)
1 16 oz box shaped pasta (penne, rotini etc.)
1 jar of your favorite pasta sauce
8 oz fresh mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/2 cup roasted red peppers, thinly sliced
1 8 oz package cream cheese (I used 1/3 less fat Neufchatel), softened to room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream (I used reduced fat)
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
In a large skillet, brown sausage or ground meat over medium high heat, stirring frequently to break up into small pieces. When fully cooked, drain if necessary and set aside. Prepare pasta according to package directions, making sure to drain it when it is still very firm (a bit harder than you would want to eat it). Drain, return to cooking pot and set aside. Add pasta sauce, mushrooms, red peppers and cooked sausage into pot with cooked pasta. Stir until well combined. In a small bowl, stir together cream cheese and sour cream until smooth and well combined. Lightly grease a 9x13 pan with cooking spray. Pour half of pasta mixture into bottom of baking dish. Spoon cream cheese mixture over pasta spreading as evenly as possible. Top with remaining pasta mixture. Sprinkle with mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses. Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes, or until pasta is heated through and bubbling. Remove foil for last 10 minutes of baking to allow cheeses to brown.
Variation: A shortcut if you're preparing the night before, do not cook pasta. Add 1 1/2 cups water to pasta sauce and continue assembly directions as above. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Bake covered at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. Remove foil and bake for additional 10 minutes.
Sunday, February 20, 2011
I have some serious Spring Fever. The last few days have been really mild and gorgeous and it makes me so excited for warm weather to come for a longer stay. I know that we will have plenty of winter left here in Colorado, but as the first California strawberries are making their way into the supermarkets (and coming down in price), I thought I would celebrate a hint of Spring with this cheery salad. A staple of baby and wedding showers, it's kind of Old School, but there's a reason it's a classic. It's refreshing and lively and a perfect pick-me-up! And, as a bonus, it's pretty healthy and pairing the Vitamin C-rich strawberries with the spinach in the salad helps you get the full nutritional benefits of that green Super-Food! Oh, and the leftover dressing is also really good drizzled on fruit like berries, melon and peaches too!
Strawberry Salad and Short-Cut Poppy Seed Dressing
1 head Romaine lettuce, washed and cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 9 oz bag of Baby Spinach
1 quart sized container fresh strawberries (give or take a couple for quality control sampling)
1/4 medium-sized red onion, thinly sliced
toasted sliced almonds for garnish (optional)
1/3 cup mayonnaise (I use reduced-fat)
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons white sugar
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
3 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
salt and pepper to taste
To assemble salad, toss together Romaine lettuce and spinach in a large salad bowl. Place the sliced onions in small bowl with some ice water and allow to soak for about 10 minutes. This will help remove some of the spicy raw bite. After soaking, drain and scatter over the greens. Remove caps and stems from strawberries and thinly slice length-wise. Add strawberries to salad.
For dressing, in small bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar and mustard until smooth. Stir in milk until desired consistency. Stir in poppy seeds and season to taste with salt and pepper. Just before serving salad, stir dressing one final time to make sure it's fully mixed and pour over salad, tossing to combine. Garnish with toasted sliced almonds if desired.
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
If you were ever in a recipe rut, this is the dish for you! Bobotie is a savory and sweet, traditional South African dish made of curry-spiced ground meat (or "mince" as they call it) covered with an egg-based topping served with rice and mango chutney. Don't be intimidated, it's incredibly easy. The flavors and texture are complex and addictive. To be honest, I was not a fan of curry flavors and still am picky when it comes to ground meat dishes, but I fell in love both when used in this dish!
We were introduced to Bobotie in Switzerland, of all places. Five years ago, we traveled to gorgeous Switzerland (and lovely, romantic, Italy...it was a fantastic trip for this European History major...) for a seminary class for my husband (you think I would've let him go alone? No way!). Our host family was from South Africa and they showed us an incredible example of hospitality. They welcomed us into their home and family for the week, left chocolates on our pillows, taught us about rugby, shared incredible stories of daring escapes from wild animals, introduced us to Settlers of Catan, opened my eyes to the gloriousness that is Rooibos tea, shared with us some divine-tasting Amarula Cream liquor over ice cream and gave us our first taste of Bobotie. Clearly, they made an impression. I carried the recipe home with me in my suitcase and have replicated it many times since. As a nod of thanks to a family that taught me so much about caring for others, I wanted to pass on this recipe and hopefully, create some more Bobotie-lovers in this world!
2 slices white bread
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons vegetable or olive oil
2 medium onions, finely diced
2 pounds ground meat (ground beef and or lamb is traditional, I used 1/2 ground been and 1/2 turkey breast)
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 tablespoon curry powder
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons jarred mango chutney (or apricot jam plus 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger)
juice from half a lemon
1/2 cup raisins (optional)
2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
4 bay leaves (or lemon leaves, if you have access to such things, which in that case you can omit the lemon zest!)
jarred mango chutney (or apricot jam) for serving
toasted sliced or slivered almonds for garnish (optional)
hot cooked rice for serving
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
In a small bowl, pour milk over slices of bread and allow to soak until needed.
Heat oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Add onions and saute, stirring frequently until softened, about 2-3 minutes. Add garlic and saute just until fragrant (about one minute). Add in ground meat and brown, stirring frequently and breaking up the meat so it is crumbled. When meat is fully browned, drain any grease (if necessary) and stir in curry powder, turmeric, salt and pepper. Squeeze milk out of bread, reserving milk and crumble bread into meat, stirring to combine. When fully mixed, stir in chutney (or jam), lemon juice and raisins and almonds (if using). Spread ground meat mixture into a lightly greased baking dish.
Beat eggs and add to milk. Stir in lemon rind and mix thoroughly. Pour custard mixture over top of meat mixture. Stick bay leaves into top. Bake uncovered at 325 degrees for about 30 minutes or until custard is set. Serve over hot cooked rice and garnish with almonds and extra chutney to taste.
Monday, February 14, 2011
Hope you have a great day and have fun doing something a little extra special to show love to others!
To celebrate the day so far, we had heart shaped pancakes for breakfast:
I used the recipe for Perfect Pancakes but to make them more "heart healthy," I stirred a handful of Quick oats into the batter! The heart shape was just trial and error (there were quite a few free-form blobs that didn't make the cut for the picture...)
Also, we had some raspberry hot chocolate:
Maybe I'll also cut sandwiches with a heart shaped cookie cutter for lunch for my little Valentines and I think making some heart shaped sugar cookies are in the future for today too (for people like me who are behind the eight ball, freeze half of your sugar cookie dough and break it out in a few weeks for some St. Patrick's Day clovers or some sweet spring themed cookies)!
How are you planning on observing the day?
Also, a very Happy Birthday to my little sister, Joan! What a fun day to have a birthday! Hope your day is great!
Sunday, February 13, 2011
|See? A heart, for Valentine's Day. Precious, huh?|
Growing up, I never got to be a girl scout. My dad got me started in 4-H (the more rural, science-y, co-ed youth development organization that displays all kinds of things at fairs--someday, I'll have to tell you the tragic story of the rhubarb cake that never made it to judging at the Hennepin County Fair...) because he had very fond memories of showing calves at fairs through his 4-H club. I digress... I don't know if Scouts do fairs...I think they might be too busy earning badges.
Sadly, being in 4-H meant not getting to wear cute berets and sashes and have darling names like "Brownies" (makes me hungry every time...). Despite any competition between Scouts and Clovers (I think that's what 4-H kids are called, and no, I don't think there's any animosity), whenever our neighbors who were Girl Scouts came around with those cookie orders, I loved the Samoas (or Caramel DeLites, depending on where you are, right?) so much, that I would raid my own piggy bank just to make sure I got a box to myself. Then, I would hide the box in some remote place just to ensure that no little sibling (or chocolate and coconut-loving dad) would get a hold of my twelve precious caramel-coconutty treasures. No wonder I was a pudgy kid, I had some serious gluttony issues...
Well, I do still love Samoas cookies and since it will be a couple weeks still before our order will be delivered (along with the requisite box of Thin Mints), I thought I would give this recipe a try. Variations of Samoas bars are all over the blogosphere and not wanting to be outdone, I came up with my own take on them. Many of the recipes call for melting chocolate to replicate the chocolate-coated bottom and drizzle on the top. Please feel free to do that. I am lazy so I just sprinkled mini chocolate chips and that worked great for me!
1/2 cup (an 8 oz stick) butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
Caramel Coconut layer:
3 cups grated sweetened coconut
1 14 oz. bag caramel candies (like Kraft brand)
3 tablespoons milk
pinch of salt
miniature chocolate chips
To assemble: Preheat oven to 300 degrees. On a baking sheet (easier if it has sides) covered with parchment paper, spread coconut in a single layer. Toast in 300 degree oven, checking on it and stirring it every 3-5 minutes to prevent from burning until golden brown (about 20 minutes total and I'm sorry, you can not go far during this part because it can go from golden to burned too quickly!). Remove from oven and allow to fully cool. This step can also be done in advance and then just store the cooled coconut in an airtight container until ready to use.
To prepare the cookie base, grease a 9x13 glass baking dish. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, mix together butter and sugar until fluffy. Add in egg and vanilla extract and mix to thoroughly combine. Stir in salt and flour until the mass comes together in a dough. Spread dough in a thin, even layer in the bottom of the baking pan (it might be a bit sticky, just do your best). Bake for about 25 minutes or until cookie base is light golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to fully cool.
Unwrap caramels and place in a medium, microwave-safe bowl. Add milk and salt. Microwave on high power, stopping and stirring every 30 seconds until caramels are melted and almost smooth (it should take between 3-4 minutes). Once caramels are melted, stir in toasted coconut. Immediately spread melted caramel-coconut mixture over cookie base. While the caramel is still warm, sprinkle miniature chocolate chips over top in an even layer, pressing gently into the caramel so they stick.
Allow bars to fully cool before cutting (a pizza cutter works nicely) into bars. I do not recommend using cookie cutters to cut into heart shapes for photographs, it's just plain wasteful for all those edges. These were even better the second day!
Friday, February 11, 2011
This week has been really challenging. Nothing catastrophic, just felt like I was hitting tons of road blocks. Well, in my opinion, one of the best ways to combat frustration is dessert. Cue Dessert One: Apple Brownies. Made for last night's small group (along with Samoas Bars which will be coming soon), these had a crisp, sugary crust covering a gooey, buttery blondie filled with sweet tart apple chunks. Topped with some whipped cream (yes, the kind from a spray can...it's easy), sublime. The dear husband had two in one sitting (yes, I just ratted you out, Honey).
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 medium apples, peeled and roughly chopped (about 2 cups)
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8x8 square baking dish. In a medium microwave safe mixing bowl, melt butter. Blend together sugars, butter and egg until well combined. Stir in vanilla. In a separate bowl (or on a piece of waxed paper to save a dish), combine flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon. Add to wet ingredients. Stir just until moistened. Fold in apple chunks. Pour into baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
Penne pasta and Italian sausage tossed with a zesty pink marinara sauce and dotted with green peas. Tonight's meal was inspired by one of Rachael Ray's 30 Minute Meals. It definitely came together in a snap and was a hit with the big and small ones alike (and I don't even really like sausage). There's lots of room to play around with this one depending on what you have on hand. And, it's one of those meals that if you have some sausage and peas in the freezer, you can keep all the ingredients on hand and throw it together when you're feeling pressed for time and inspiration. Also, try substituting sauteed spinach and mushrooms for the peas for another variation.
1/2 -1 pound penne pasta, (we used a 13 oz box of whole grain penne and had some leftovers from two adults and two kids)
1 pound bulk sweet Italian sausage (I used chicken, feel free to substitute pork or turkey as well. If you get links, you can squeeze the raw sausage out of the casings right into the pan. Gross, but fun! )
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes with basil and garlic
1 15 oz can tomato sauce (can substitute crushed tomatoes)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 cup half and half (can use heavy cream or evaporated milk instead)
1/2 cup frozen green peas
shredded Parmesan cheese for serving
Prepare pasta according to package directions, making sure it is al dente. Drain and keep warm. While pasta is cooking, brown sausage over medium high heat in a large skillet. Once sausage is cooked through, drain off any excess grease and stir in cans of tomatoes. Add garlic and basil. Bring sauce mixture to a boil, reduce heat to medium low and allow to simmer for about 5 minutes. Stir in half and half and peas. Allow to warm through. Toss sauce with pasta. Top with Parmesan cheese for serving.
Sunday, February 6, 2011
To be honest, I'm not sure that this qualifies as a "true" cobb salad. I think a cobb salad technically requires some hard boiled eggs and bacon along with the tomatoes and avocado. But we deviated already when giving it a Mexican flair, didn't we? Oh well, if you're wanting something more authentically Brown Derby (the restaurant that invented the original Cobb salad in the 1930's), you can add those to the mix (see suggested extra toppings). However you assemble it, the salad makes a great side to grilled chicken or enchiladas (although it's sturdy enough to make a meal of)!
Mexican Cobb Salad with Honey Lime Vinaigrette
Salad: (makes 8 side servings)
2 romaine lettuce hearts, washed, dried and cut/torn into bite-sized pieces (about 8-10 cups)
1/4 cilantro, chopped
2 roma tomatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 small ripe avocado, peeled, pitted and cut into bite-sized pieces
1 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained (about 1/2 of 15 oz can)
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
optional: chopped jicama, crumbled bacon, chopped hard boiled egg, crumbled cotija cheese...
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (about 1 large or 2 small limes)
2 teaspoons honey
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 cup vegetable oil
In a small bowl (preferably one that has a lid) whisk together lime juice, honey and cumin. While continuing to whisk, slowly drizzle in vegetable oil in a thin stream, stirring until thoroughly combined. Set aside while assembling the salad. If dressing separates, you can put the lid on and shake it to remix right before pouring over the salad.
Directions: Prepare dressing and set aside to allow flavors to meld while assembling the salad. In a large salad bowl or on a platter, scatter lettuce. Season the lettuce with a small amount of kosher salt and ground pepper (seasoning the greens directly makes a huge difference in flavor--give it a try in this recipe and your other salads!). Sprinkle cilantro and remaining toppings over top of lettuce. Just before serving, drizzle dressing over top and toss to combine.
Thursday, February 3, 2011
Sorry I've been gone quite awhile, we've had some crazy weeks around here. Anyway, I thought it was high time there was another cake recipe to share (for those of you still keeping your New Year's resolutions, I'll post a salad recipe soon). Back when I worked for Starbucks, there was a very popular pastry, the Marble Loaf Cake. To be honest, I didn't really care for it that much. No offense, Starbucks-affiliated Bakeries, but I never thought it was worth the calories (and I'm sure it had plenty!) and it was so delicate, it was really difficult to keep the pieces intact. Here is a Marble loaf cake I can buy in to. For a "pound" cake, it is actually pretty tame in the indulgence scale and the pudding and extra egg added to the cake mix make for sturdy slices (perfect for furtively eating out of hand while your four year old who you told "did not need a second piece of cake for the day" isn't looking...not that I would ever, ever do that).
Marble Loaf Pound Cake
1 box yellow cake mix
1 small box (3.4 oz) instant vanilla pudding mix
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup water
4 ounces semi sweet chocolate chips (about 1/2 cup)
Grease and flour two 9x5x3 loaf pans. Set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large mixing bowl, combine cake mix, pudding mix, eggs, oil and water. Blend on low speed with an electric mixer, just until combined (about 30 seconds). Scrape down bowl and raise speed to medium, blending another two minutes. Set aside.
In a small, microwave-safe bowl, melt chocolate chips in microwave at 50% power, stopping stirring in 30 second increments until chips are almost smooth. Continue to stir until all the chips are melted. Remove 1 cup of yellow cake batter and stir into melted chocolate until thoroughly combined. Set aside.
Divide yellow cake batter evenly into both loaf pans. Drop the chocolate batter in large blobs (you don't have to be scientific about it) on top of the yellow batter in both pans. Run a knife through the batter in each pan a few times (you can make some circles and drag the knife in all directions, if you want, have fun). Just make sure you don't mix the batters together too much or it won't be "marble" anymore.
Bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean and the top springs back when touched. Remove from oven and allow to cool in the pans for about 15 minutes. Run a knife around the edges of the pan to carefully loosen them and invert onto cooling racks. Flip them back over and allow to cool completely. Use a serrated knife for easy slicing.
p.s. this is fun recipe to make with kids...wouldn't they love to do some (supervised) swirling???