Sunday, February 26, 2012

New England Style Clam Chowder

Although I have always harbored a secret appreciation for Clam Chowder (and only the creamy New England style where the funny-looking clam pieces are hidden in a wonderfully rich and comforting broth filled with tender chunks of potatoes), I had never attempted to make such an intimidating sounding soup.

I've never gotten to enjoy it on Fisherman's Wharf in San Fransisco nor actually tasted it in authentic New England.  That said, I actually really liked the canned version and I have had it in a bread bowl at Disneyland and California Adventure theme park, so that's a pretty authentic experience right there. totally kidding. 

I was inspired to try my hand at making my own when the Superbowl came around.  I had really clever ideas of making New England (Patriots) Clam Chowder and then something New York-esque (pizza? bagels? coneys?  I didn't get that far).  Although I wasn't so on top of things then, I felt this recipe was still share-worthy.  It's still pretty wintery outside and now, being in the beginning of Lent and seafood specials abounding, perhaps there is an interest in some meat-free recipes? 

In making this soup, I also discovered something extremely interesting (strange).  Both of my boys could not get enough of the chopped clams.  Right from the can.  They were going to town on them and practically downed a whole can before I could stop them.  Who knew?  I'm not sure I recommend their favorite way to enjoy clams, but I whole-heartedly endorse this recipe. 

Serve with the accompanying recipe for sourdough croutons or be really authentic and pick up some bread bowls (you can definitely find them available at Panera Bread Company). 

New England Style Clam Chowder
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 celery stalks, finely diced
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
3 (6 oz) cans chopped clams in juice (I ended up with less because of my two little clam-addicts)
1 cup 1/2 and 1/2 (or heavy cream if you're feeling particularly indulgent)
2 bay leaves
1 pound potatoes (Russet for a softer texture, red potatoes for a firmer texture)
salt and pepper to taste
2-3 tablespoons cornstarch, if needed
2-3 additional tablespoons half and half, if needed

Sourdough Croutons
2-3 tablespoons butter
2 cups 1" cubes of sourdough bread
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
salt and pepper to taste

Heat butter in a large pot over medium high heat.  Add onions and celery and saute until softened, stirring often.  Stir in the flour and cook for an additional minute, stirring constantly.  Stir in the stock and clam juice (reserve clams for later), bay leaves and potatoes.  Bring to a simmer, stirring constantly (the mixture will thicken), then reduce heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are tender (about 20 minutes).  Stir in the clams and half and half and gently reheat.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  If soup is not thick enough, whisk together cornstarch and remaining half and half and stir into soup.  Stir until thickened.  Serve immediately, garnished with sourdough croutons or in a bread bowl! : )

For Croutons:
Melt butter in a large skillet.  Toss bread cubes in butter until brown and toasted, about 2-3 minutes. Add parsley and season with salt and pepper. 

Recipe slightly adapted from: Food Network's Dave Lieberman

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Chili's Copycat Salsa

I am sure I have previously mentioned the fact that my husband is a salsa addict.  The man cannot get enough of the stuff and gets a little um, concerned when we happen to be out of it.  I, personally, am a salsa snob, but when it's good, I prefer more salsa than chip.  One salsa we can both agree on is the salsa from Chili's restaurant (which we especially enjoy on "Kids Eat Free Night" where we sit in the bar area during Happy Hour specifically because of the free chips and salsa...we're such cheapskates...). 

Since we don't eat out that often, and salsa is a staple in our house as well, I was pretty excited when I saw how easy the salsa could be to recreate at home.  I was even more excited/surprised to see how great of a salsa can come from canned tomatoes.  Knowing how much salsa we can go through, I have a feeling this will be in our regular rotation.

Chili's Copycat Salsa
2 cans whole or diced tomatoes, well-drained
1/4 cup white onion, cut into small chunks
1/2-1 small (4oz) can diced jalapenos (I went closer to half and it had a nice kick)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder (or more to taste)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2-1 teaspoon coarse salt, to taste
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves (optional, Chili's doesn't actually put cilantro in but I love the green color and fresh taste it adds)

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend or pulse until mixture is almost smooth.  Taste and adjust for seasonings.  Serve with tortilla chips. 
Recipe slightly adapted from: Six Sisters' Stuff

Thursday, February 9, 2012

P.F. Chang's Style Lettuce Wraps--Healthy Style

Confession: as I think of it, I'm trying to remember if I've even had P.F. Chang's Lettuce Wraps.  After trying this recipe and now knowing I can make a healthier version so quickly and easily, I'm not sure I ever will feel the need.  I am so excited about these, my mouth is watering and I am thinking about how quickly I can make them again. 

I have even bought a new can of water chestnuts (which happen to be one of the grand total of two foods my husband rejects--along with bamboo shoots of all things--and even he loved them!) in anticipation of my next batch.  Please don't omit the water chestnuts either, they just add the perfect crunch to this light, crispy, crunchy, savory dish.  

Seriously, I think these might be my new favorite food.   

P.F. Chang’s Lettuce Wraps
Serves 2-3

1lb ground chicken breast (or 1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into chunks and finely chopped in a food processor)
1/2 medium onion, minced
salt & pepper, a dash of each
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 inch nob fresh ginger, peeled & minced
1 Tablespoon sesame oil
2 1/2 Tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 Tablespoon water
1 Tablespoon natural peanut butter
1/2 Tablespoon honey
1 Tablespoons + 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
2 teaspoons chili garlic sauce (or more if you like it hotter)
dash of fresh pepper
3 green onions, chopped
1/2-8oz can sliced water chestnuts, drained & chopped
1/4 cup peanuts, chopped
10-12 large outer lettuce leaves, rinsed and patted dry

1. Heat a large, non-stick skillet on high. Add chicken, onion, salt & pepper, and cook until chicken is nearly done, stirring often to break up the meat. Add in minced garlic and ginger, and continue cooking until chicken is no longer pink.

2. Meanwhile, in a microwave safe bowl, combine sesame oil, soy sauce, water, peanut butter, honey, rice vinegar, chili garlic sauce and pepper. Microwave for 20 seconds, then stir until smooth. Add into the skillet and stir to combine.

3 Add green onion and water chestnuts into the skillet then cook for 1-2 minutes until the onions are soft and the water chestnuts are heated through.

4. Sprinkle with chopped peanuts, and serve with cold lettuce leaves.  Spoon chicken mixture into lettuce leaves and wrap lettuce around chicken

Recipe Source: Iowa Girl Eats

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Buffalo Chicken Dip

If you check things out on this blog with any regularity, you may have notice that there has not been as much frequency in the posting these last couple months.  I am sorry.  I do have a good reason, though.  We are expecting Baby #3 in early August and I had been feeling so yucky there hadn't been a whole lotta cooking round these parts.  It's pretty hard to share recipes when I've been mostly subsisting off of things like envelops of Instant Noodle Soup (and then freaking out about how much MSG I might be putting into my unborn baby) and Salt and Vinegar Potato Chips.  Also, the thought of revisiting anything I had cooked long enough to blog about it made me so nauseous that I couldn't bear the thought.

Anyway, I do believe I have turned the Morning Sickness corner and I am starting to be excited about food again.  I am also starting to indulge in those wonderful Pregnancy Cravings (which really is pretty fun because it's one of the few times in my life my husband is willing to detour just about anywhere to pick me something up--and I actually feel okay about it).  So far, this baby really, really likes Blue Cheese (yes, I'm making sure it's the pasteurized kind), especially on old school-style wedges of iceberg lettuce with bacon bits and diced tomatoes.

One of blue cheese's natural pairings is of course, Buffalo Wings, and once I saw the recipe for this dip, I knew we had to try it out for our Super Bowl viewing (don't worry, ranch dressing lovers, there is a non-blue cheese variation too).  I am sorry I didn't have my act together enough to share this in time for the Big Game, however, even though football season has come and gone, this dip was such a fan favorite, it will surely be sticking around.  Everyone in our house (even my two young boys who thought it was a little bit spicy but not so much that they didn't eat tons of it) is very excited that we still have all the ingredients to make another batch very, very soon.

Buffalo Chicken Dip
1 8 oz. package of cream cheese, softened (I used reduced-fat)
1/2 cup bottled ranch dressing
1/2 cup Franks Redhot Buffalo Wing Sauce
2 cans (12.5 oz each) chicken breast chunks, drained (and I pick through for any "icky bits")
1/2 cup blue cheese crumbles or shredded mozzarella cheese
thinly sliced green onions for garnish, optional
crackers and or cut vegetables for serving

Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Stir together softened cream cheese, ranch dressing and Wing Sauce until smooth.  Stir in chicken and cheese.  Spoon into a baking dish.  Bake 20 minutes or until heated through and bubbling.  Garnish as desired.  Serve warm with crackers and vegetables.

Note: The recipe can easily be halved, but why would you want to?  I was also thinking if there were leftovers, the dip would make a great filling for a wrap or Buffalo Chicken taquitos.

Recipe Source: Kraft Foods