Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

It's fall (my favorite season!), which means sometimes all a girl needs is a comforting bowl of soup, and what's more comforting than chicken soup? While all ingredients can be prepared fresh, I admit that I cheated some. I used one can (drained) of wild rice to avoid dirtying a second pot; I also used the meat from a store-bought rotisserie chicken. After all, there is little comfort to be had in a meal that you know you'll have to clean multiple pans after! Using my shortcuts turns this into a one pot meal.

I served this with some slices of Italian bread topped with fresh grilled tomatoes.

Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

5 tbs butter
2 medium onions, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 medium carrots, finely chopped
4 tbs flour
1/2 tbs fresh cracked pepper
6 c chicken stock
1 c milk
1 c heavy cream
3 cups prepared chicken, cubed
8 sprigs fresh thyme
2 tbs fresh oregano leaves, chopped
1 bay leaf
2 c prepared wild rice
salt to taste
1/4 c fresh parsley, chopped

In a large stock pot, heat the butter over medium heat. Add onion and saute until translucent, about 8-10 minutes. Add garlic, celery, and carrot and saute an additional 5 minutes. Stir in flour until thickenedy; add pepper.

Stir in stock, milk, and cream. Add chicken, thyme sprigs, oregano, and bay leaf. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Fish out the thyme sprigs and strip the leaves off; return the thyme leaves to the soup and discard the stems. Add rice and simmer another 15 minutes. Salt to taste; stir in parsley just before serving. Makes about 8 servings of soup.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Buttermilk Waffles with Balsamic Whip Cream

Breakfast isn't something I often make. Working nights, it's just not something that can be done the majority of the time. Having just purchased a waffle iron, however, I thought it was time. Since mornings aren't much of an option for me I made breakfast for dinner, or--as the offspring put it--"brinner."

The waffles are topped with balsamic whip cream, Nutella, and strawberries. Rounding out the meal we had the classic bacon and egg. It's tomato season, so you also see some tomato slices and fresh purple basil in the photo.

The whip cream may sound strange, but the bite of the balsamic vinegar really adds to the flavor. I used my chocolate-infused balsamic vinegar, but any good balsamic will work. This is also a great topping for fruit or ice cream!

Buttermilk Waffles

1 1/2 c unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 c cornstarch
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 c buttermilk
1/2 c milk
12 tbs melted butter
2 large egg, separated
2 tbs sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Heat the oven to 200°F and turn on the waffle iron. Combine flour, cornstarch, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together buttermilk, milk, butter and egg yolks; set aside.

In another bowl, beat the egg whites to soft peaks. Sprinkle in sugar and continue to beat until the peaks are firm and glossy. Stir in vanilla.

Pour the buttermilk mixture into the dry ingredients and whisk until just mixed. Drop the whipped egg white onto the batter by spoonfuls and fold in with a spatula until just incorporated.

Pour the the appropriate amount of batter for your iron onto the hot waffle iron (I needed about 1/2 a cup per waffle) and cook until the waffle is crisp and golden brown (follow instructions for your iron). Set the waffle directly on the rack in the preheated to keep it warm and crisp. Repeat with the remaining batter, placing the prepared waffles in the oven in a single layer. Once all the waffles are cooked, serve immediately. Makes about ten 5" square waffles.

Balsamic Whipped Cream

1 c heavy cream
1/4 c sugar
1 1/2 tbs balsamic vinegar

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and beat to medium peaks. Makes about 1 1/2 cups of whipped cream.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Thai Rice with Coconut Milk, Lemongrass, and Lime

For some reason, no matter what I am making, I seem to only be able to use half a can of coconut milk at a time. I searched for a support group to help me with this problem, but none were to be found. Where is Fight Club's "Jack" when you need him?

I'm not a huge fan of freezing leftovers (little freezer space to speak of), so just making a double-batch of my usual coconut milk-utilizing recipes isn't much of an option. In a mini fridge-busting session, I came up with this super-simple, one-pot, vegan way to get rid of the other half of the can.

I am Jack's satisfied hunger.

Thai Rice with Coconut Milk, Lemongrass, and Lime

1/2 can coconut milk (about 3/4 c)
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 stalk lemongrass, tough outer layers removed, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp lime zest
1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
1 fresh chili, thinly sliced
1/2 c shredded carrots
1 c water
1/2 cup jasmine rice
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
lime wedges

Heat 2 tablespoons of the coconut milk in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the green onions and cook until soft (3-5 minutes). Add the lemongrass, zest, ginger, chile, carrots, remaining coconut milk, and water. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes.

Stir in the rice and salt. Cover and simmer on low heat another 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in cilantro and finish with a squeeze of lime. Makes 2 servings.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Slow Cooked Chicken Verde Tacos with Mexican Rice and Black Beans

It was Taco Night in the anti-Chef household. I've been working a ridiculous number of hours lately, so I wanted a meal that required minimal effort on my part. This chicken uses a crock pot to achieve its slow-cooked status (and allows me to sleep while my electronic sous chef does all the work). The protein has a lot of flavor, so I recommend keeping the toppings simple. As you can see in the photo, I just used some fresh avocado and cilantro to finish my soft tacos. My oldest used some leftover Chilled Avocado Soup to top hers; the youngest didn't use any toppings at all.

Slightly more time-intensive were the side dishes. The black beans and Mexican rice were made for a potluck at work, and I was blessed to have some leftovers. I've included the recipes here, of course. Know that these work quite well made ahead of time! The microwave is my friend....

I finished off the meal with a little shredded cabbage slaw and some roasted bell peppers. Aside from the chicken, this meal counts as vegetarian and vegan. Perhaps some seitan instead for the non-carnivores out there?

Slow-Cooked Chicken Tacos in Verde Sauce

6 tomatillos, husks removed and halved
2 serrano peppers, stems removed and halved lengthwise
1 small yellow onion, quartered
2 cloves garlic
3/4 c cilantro
1/4 c fresh oregano
zest and juice from 1 lime
2 tbs honey
2 tsp salt
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast
1/2 tsp fresh cracked pepper
12 corn tortillas
toppings of choice

Preheat oven to 450F. Place tomatillos and serrano peppers, cut side down, on an oiled baking sheet. Roast in oven 15-20 minutes, or until skins start to blacken.

Place roasted produce in a blender with onion, garlic, herbs, lime juice and zest, and honey. Puree with 1 teaspoon of the salt until well blended. Season chicken with remaining salt and the pepper and place in the crockpot. Cover with the tomatillo blend and cook on "Low" for 6 hours.

Using two forks, shred chicken and stir to distribute the sauce. Allow to cook another hour or two. Serve shredded chicken on warmed corn tortillas with toppings of your choice. Served 6.

Mexican Rice

1 tbs butter or olive oil
1 c uncooked rice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbs fresh oregano, finely chopped (or 1 tsp dried)
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
1 15oz can corn, drained
1 8oz can diced tomatoes with chilis
1/2 c spicy tomato juice
1 1/2 c cold water
1 tsp cumin powder
2 tsp chili powder
salt to taste
1/4 c cilantro or parsley, finely chopped

Heat butter or oil over medium heat in a large skillet (a wok works nicely for this). Cook rice in the oil for about 10 minutes, stiring frequently, until rice just starts to brown. Add the garlic and oregano; cook another minute.

Stir remaining ingredients in and increase heat to high. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to low. Allow to cook for 20 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and let rest 10 minutes. Fluff with fork and salt to taste. Stir in cilantro. Makes about 5 cups of Mexican rice.

Mexican Black Beans

1 tbs light olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbs fresh oregano, finely chopped (or 1 tsp dried)
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp lime zest
1/4 tsp cayenne
2 15oz cans black beans, rinsed and drained
3/4 c Mexican lager of choice
salt to taste
1/4 c cilantro or parsley, finely chopped
lime wedges

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium, then add garlic, oregano, and cumin; saute one more minute.

Stir in zest, cayenne, beans, and beer. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season to taste with salt and stir in cilantro. Serve with lime wedges to squeeze over beans. Makes about 4 cups of black beans.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Fried Rice Balls, Chocolate Banana Muffins, and Bentos--oh my!

I've been experimenting with bento boxes lately. I happened into a beautiful bento box that I've been trying to use. I love the concept of the bento, and the gods know I could use help finishing up leftovers. I've put together a few so far that I'd like to share here, as well as a couple of recipes that have made it into my bentos.

This was my first bento lunch. I made a sushi roll of smoked salmon, avocado, and green onion with some leftover sushi rice and partial package of lox leftover from breakfast. I also had some grilled shrimp from the night before, so I rolled that up with shredded carrot into a spring roll. My teeny sauce bottles held soy sauce and my own plum dipping sauce. To round out my meal, I had miso soup and some watermelon in a separate container.

My next bento saw some more of the grilled shrimp, this time in its originally prepared state. With rice leftover from Chinese takeout, I made the fried rice balls you see in the top section (recipe below). The bottom section had a salad of shredded carrot and fresh mushrooms, and a few watermelon balls. Again, you see the teeny bottle of soy and plum sauce.

My youngest offspring expressed an interest in taking a bento lunch to school, so this is what I packed for her this morning. Once again, we had leftover shrimp (the mild version from last night's dinner). Also included are carrot sticks and broccoli, corn salad, whole wheat tortilla cut into fun shapes, and a Laughing Cow wedge of spreadable cheese. For dessert, she had grapes and a chocolate banana mini muffin (recipe below).

So far, I'm having a great time making these little lunches, and I will likely be making many more in the future. Now on the the recipes!

2 c leftover long grain rice
1 c water
2 tbs cream
1 egg, beaten
3 tbs onion, finely chopped
2 green onion stalks, finely chopped
2 tbs seaweed, finely chopped
1 tsp red pepper powder
1 tsp baking powder
4 tbs protein of choice, cooked and finely chopped (suggestions below)
1 tbs sauce of choice (suggestions below)
1 tbs toasted sesame seeds
2 tsp salt
1/2-3/4 c flour
oil for frying

Mix water with rice in a medium sauce pan and bring to a very low boil. Cook until water is absorbed; remove from heat.

In a large bowl, beat together cream, egg, onions, seaweed, red pepper, and baking powder. Stir in the rice until evenly coated. Mix protein, sauce, sesame seeds, and 1 tsp of the salt into the rice mixture. Stir in flour, 2 tablespoons at a time, until mixture is thick enough to shape into balls.

Heat 1 inch of oil in a heavy pot over medium to medium-high heat. With floured hands, shaped the rice mixture into 2-inch diameter balls.

Fry the balls for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, or until golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain the rice balls on paper towels. Sprinkle with remaining salt and serve.

Protein suggestions:
Salmon (used in the photo above)
Spam (a Korean favorite, of all things)

Sauce suggestions:
Plum sauce (used with the salmon in the photo above)
Teriyaki marinade
Fish sauce
Hoisin sauce
BBQ sauce
Sour cream

1 3/4 c flour
1/4 c cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c unsalted butter, melted
1 c sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 c semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F.

Combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. In a large bowl, beat together butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla, and bananas.

Stir flour mixture into the wet ingredients until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips. Spoon batter into greased muffin tins. For mini muffins, bake 15 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean; standard muffin tins take about 25 minutes to bake.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Shrimp Diablo and Chilled Avocado Soup

Hot and cold, spicy and mild....this duo lends credence to the old saying "opposites attract." The shrimp is marinated in a puree that includes the infamous habanero chili pepper; one whole pepper gave me exactly the spice I wanted without obliterating the flavor of the shrimp. Of course, a milder pepper could be substituted--or just omit the chili altogether and go all the way with the garlic chili sauce. When handling hot peppers, remember to wash your hands well immediately after. Not only do you want to avoid getting the pepper's oils in your eyes, but you also want to avoid touching anything else. I can't tell you how many times I've ended up with burning eyes because I went straight from chopping block to the computer. Trust me, capsaicin lasts a long time on hard surfaces.

The soup is a chilled vegan soup that can easily be adapted to a raw recipe. The creamy cooling action of the avocado and sour coconut cream (recipe here!) tame the spicy kick of the shrimp beautifully. If you choose to serve the soup alone, I'd recommend kicking the cayenne up a notch to help bring out the avocado and lime.

In the interest of time-management, I made the soup first so it would chill the necessary amount of time. Once the soup is in the fridge, I prepped the rest of the ingredients and got the shrimp into the marinade. The corn can be prepared during the last 15 minutes of the shrimp's marinating time, and then all that is left to worry about is babysitting the crustaceans so they don't overcook. After that it's just a matter of whisking the soup ingredients together and plating!

Shrimp Diablo

2 tbs lime juice
1 tbs garlic chili sauce
1/2 to 1 whole habanero pepper
1 tsp cayenne powder
1 tbs oil (chili infused, if desired)
1 lb large raw shrimp, peeked and deveined

Place all ingredients except the shrimp into the blender and puree. Combine sauce and shrimp in a freezer bag and marinate for 30 minutes.

Skewer shrimp, if desired. Grill or broil about 5 inches from the heat for 2-3 minutes each side. Serves 4.

4 ripe avocados
2 tbs lime juice
2 1/2 cups vegetable stock, chilled
1 shallot, minced
3 tbs cilantro, finely chopped
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne powder, or to taste
1 tbs butter or olive oil
1 c corn kernels
1/2 tsp lime zest
1/2 tsp cumin
1/3 c red bell pepper, finely chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
chili oil, if desired to finish

In a blender or food processor, puree the avocados with the lemon juice until smooth. Add the stock, shallot, 2 tablespoons of the cilantro, 1 teaspoon of the salt, and cayenne pepper; blend well. Transfer to a large bowl, cover, and chill for at least one hour.

Meanwhile, in a small skillet, heat butter or oil over medium-high heat. Add corn, zest, cumin, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt; saute until corn is golden brown, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to very low and stir in red bell pepper and last tablespoon of cilantro. Keep warm until ready to serve.

Whisk the sour coconut cream into the avocado puree and salt/pepper to taste. Spoon the warm corn salsa over the soup just before serving. Finish with a drizzle of chili oil. Makes about 6 cups of soup.