Monday, November 7, 2011

Lisa T's Slow Cooker Chicken Taco Soup

I cannot take credit for this deliciousness. It is entirely the brainchild of one of my Auggie moms--the women who became part of my family when I became pregnant with Em and went looking for support online, nearly 15 years ago now. (Let's pretend I didn't say that, OK? Because it makes me feel very, very old. Almost as old as I actually am.) Thanks, Lisa T!

This is perfect for a cold, rainy, hailish day, which is what yesterday was.

(Happy now, @wondermama and @ejwillingham? If you're not, you will be once you try this out! And'd work just as well in a dutch oven cooked long, low, and slow either on the stovetop or in the oven.)

Lisa T's Slow Cooker Chicken Taco Soup

1 onion, chopped
15 ounces chili beans
15 ounces black beans
15 ounces whole kernel corn
8 ounces tomato sauce
12 ounces beer
20 ounces diced tomatoes w/chilis
1 package taco seasoning mix (or, if you're me, just mix up a batch of Goodfountain's Taco Seasoning; the recipe is in the middle of that link)
3 whole chicken breasts, boned and skinned (I often double this; and thighs would work, too)
shredded Cheddar cheese, optional
tortilla chips, optional
sour cream, optional
cilantro, optional
whatever you might like to top this with, optional

1. Place the onion, chili beans, black beans, corn, tomato sauce, beer, and diced tomatoes in a slow cooker. Add taco seasoning, and stir to blend.

2. Lay chicken breasts on top of the mixture, pressing down slightly until just covered by the other ingredients.

3.  Set slow cooker for low heat, cover, and cook for 5 hours.  (I tend strongly toward the impatient and am all about last-minute-ness. Hence, I generally set the slow cooker for high heat, cover, and cook for 3 to 3.5 hours, kvetching all the time about how long it's taking.)

4. Remove chicken breasts from the soup, and allow to cool long enough to be handled. Shred the chicken, then stir the shredded chicken back into the soup. Continue cooking on low for 2 hours. (Or, in the TC Has No Patience version of the recipe, continue cooking on high for half an hour or until you're ready to serve dinner.)

5. Serve topped with shredded Cheddar cheese, a dollop of sour cream, crushed tortilla chips, cilantro, some chopped-up onion, maybe some olives. Whatever you want!

6. Come back here and tell me how wonderful it was, so I can pass your compliments along to Lisa T.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Pasta Caprese (or, Is Anybody Out There?)

It's been forever and a year! (Mostly a year...In fact, truly, nearly a for-real year, since my last post was last June...Yipes!)

Let's pretend that never happened, shall we? I can't make any "will post twice a week" promises (as you'd know if you read my personal blog, which MAYBE gets updated once a month these days), but we can ACT like that will happen. Right? Right.

So. It's Memorial Day. And around here, that means one thing: Pasta Caprese. Well, actually, it means Music in the Park. Every Sunday (or Memorial Day Monday), our gang of four families, plus the occasional extra, heads to a local park, where we drink, eat, eat, drink, talk, laugh, eat, drink, and maybe listen to some music. Oh, and we bring the kids along so they can climb hills and play on the equipment, and sometimes we look up from our drinking and eating and talking and laughing to shoo them away again. (Don't look at me like that. I never said I'd win any parenting awards.)

But Music in the Park has come to mean, for me, Pasta Caprese. I try to make it, if not every Sunday, more Sundays than not. It's adapted from a Cook's Illustrated recipe, which suggests you eat it warm. But I like to make it mid-afternoon, then refrigerate it for the evening. Which means we eat it cold. I've yet to hear a single complaint. (Except from Baroy, who doesn't eat pasta. Don't. I know.)

Pasta Caprese (adapted from Cook's Illustrated's The Complete America's Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook, 2010)

For the marinade:
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon crushed or minced fresh garlic
1/2 small onion, minced (the original recipe calls for a minced small shallot, which is totally yummy, too, but I grow onions in my backyard, so most of the summer I just pull one up and use that, rather than going out to buy shallots; your mileage may vary)
Salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste
1 to 1-1/2 pounds ripe cherry tomatoes, cut in half (they suggest three large tomatoes, which you should then core, seed, and cut into 1/2-inch dice, but I like to do this the easy way; again, you can go your own way)

Then you'll need:
12 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into small cubes
1 pound penne, fusilli, or campanelle
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves

1. Make the marinade by whisking the oil, 2 teaspoons lemon juice, garlic, onion, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a large bowl. (By large, I mean the one you'll eventually dump a pound of cooked pasta into. THAT kind of large.) Add the tomatoes; toss to combine; set aside. (Cook's Illustrated says not to marinate for longer than 45 minutes, and I usually don't, but...I have no idea why. Anyone? What would happen in 45 minutes?)

2. While the tomatoes marinate, cook the pasta in 4 quarts salted water until al dente, then drain.

3. While the pasta is cooking, cut up the mozzarella, place it on a plate, and put it in the freezer until the cheese is slightly firm, about 10 minutes. (The point of doing this is so that when you add it to the still-hot or at least fairly-warm pasta, the cheese doesn't get too melty and stringy and clumpy and congeal on the bottom of the bowl. And it works really, REALLY well.)

4. Add the pasta and mozzarella to the tomato mixture and stir to combine. Let stand five minutes, then stir in basil and season with more salt and pepper as needed. (They also suggest that, if you want, you can add more lemon juice and/or a little sugar at this point if you want to make things interesting. I never do.)

5. They say to serve immediately, but as I said above, I then stick it in the fridge for a couple of hours before dragging it to the park, where it generally gets devoured. Which makes me happy. Very happy.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Crockpot black-eyed pea soup for New Year's Day

For the past three New Year's Eves, I've had a pot of black-eyed peas soaking overnight.  Sometime on New Year's Day, between watching the Mummers Parade and football, I'll start making this soup. (It's a crockpot recipe - of course - so it's not like I'm slaving away in the kitchen.)

Eating black-eyed peas on New Year's Day is supposed to usher in good luck for the year ahead.  That's almost a bonus when it comes to this soup, which is one of my favorites.  It's filling and has a nice earthy taste.  I can't wait to make it this year.

Crockpot Black-Eyed Pea Soup
from Make It Fast, Cook It Slow, by Stephanie O'Dea (one of my can't-possibly-imagine-how-I-lived-without-it cookbooks)

1 pound dried black eyed peas

1 pound spicy sausage (Stephanie used Aidells chicken habanero and green chile; I use Morningstar's vegetarian sausage)

6 cups chicken broth

1 yellow onion, diced

1 cup diced carrots

1 cup diced celery (I leave this out because I don't like celery)

4 cloves garlic, diced

1/2 tsp Italian seasoning

1 tsp kosher salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

Tabasco sauce (to add at the end to taste)  (I skip this step)

Soak your beans overnight. Drain and pick out the undesirables (broken, discolored beans) in the morning.

Use a 5 to 6 quart crockpot. This will serve about 8 people. Dice the veggies, and dump them into your crockpot with the pre-soaked beans. Add sliced sausage. Pour in broth, and stir in Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper.

Cover and cook on low for 8 hours, or on high for about 6. Before serving, use a stick blender to smash up about 1 cup of beans. If you don't have a stick blender, scoop out 1 cup of beans, blend them in a traditional blender, and add back to the soup. Don't blend too much---just enough to get the broth thicker and creamy-looking.

Ladle into bowls, and add Tabasco sauce to taste.

Wish everyone at the table a Happy New Year before taking the first bite.  (OK, that's not in the recipe ... but it's what we always do.) 

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Pumpkin chocolate-chip muffins

I hadn't gone grocery shopping over the weekend and was in need of something muffin-like for the kids' breakfast on Monday morning.

I was paging through cookbooks and three-ring binders when I discovered a pumpkin muffin recipe that I had printed out somewhere circa the turn of the century when I was a member of several food listservs (Eat Low Fat, KitMailbox, and Fatfree, just to name a few). There were some pretty tasty recipes shared among the participants of those listservs. (Perhaps you were among us?)

Even 11 years later I still remembered how good these Publick House Pumpkin Muffins were, so I made them (with the addition of chocolate chips). 

1 cup Sugar
1/4 cup light vegetable oil
2 eggs
3/4 cup canned pumpkin
1.5 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon Nutmeg (I didn't have any nutmeg, so I omitted)
1/2 teaspoon salt (whoops! totally forgot this)
3/4 cup Raisins (omitted)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts; *opt'l (omitted)

(I added approximately 3/4 cups of chocolate chips)

Preheat oven to 400F. Generously grease a 12 cup muffin tin (even nonstick tins including the flat spaces between the muffins). Mix sugar, oil, eggs and pumpkin. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and spices. Quickly stir together both mixtures. (Don't overmix.)

Fold in raisins and walnuts. (This is where I added the chocolate chips.) Fill prepared muffin cups two-thirds full and bake 18 to 20 minutes, until golden brown. If you prefer large, crusty muffin tops, fill the cups to the top. As they bake, the tops will run together. To test for doneness, use a sharp knife or broom straw. When the knife or straw comes out clean, muffins are done. Remove from oven and let them cool a few moments in the pan before removing. Serve warm with butter or honey butter.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Ethiopian cabbage and potatoes

Over the summer my husband and I received most of our produce from the local CSA we joined. It was an interesting experience, but the jury is still out on whether we'll join again next year or buy weekly from the Farmer's Market.

One of the vegetables we received in abundant supply was cabbage. Oh, the cabbage. Now, I like cabbage, I do, but 3-4 meals worth per week for 3-4 weeks - well, that was a LOT of cabbage.

Luckily, my favorite recipe website (besides this one of course) came through with this recipe for me. And it is awesome. Positively my favorite way to eat cabbage now.

However, I must warn you, this does not fall in the category of Quick & Easy. Not at all. The dish itself is not difficult to make but it is time consuming. It's worth it though because the taste is unparalleled in the world of cabbage recipes.

If you have a Cuisinart, you'll definitely want to use it.

Here's what you'll need:

1/4 cup olive oil
4 carrots, thinly sliced
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 head of cabbage, shredded
5 potatoes peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
(note: it is important to cut the potatoes small; if they are too big they'll take too long to cook)

Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.

Cook the carrots and onion in the hot oil about 5 minutes.

Stir in the salt, pepper, cumin, turmeric, and cabbage and cook another 15 to 20 minutes.

Add the potatoes; cover. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until potatoes are soft, 20 to 30 minutes. (I usually add a little bit of water to the pan to help the potatoes cook faster.)

This makes an excellent side dish or, as was often the case here, a delicious meal all by itself.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Sweet potato and black bean burritos

I have been eyeballing this recipe on allrecipes for awhile but could never quite muster up the courage to give it a try. I don't know why - with over a thousand reviews and 4.5 stars, it had to be good.

This weekend, with a handful of leftover sweet potatoes in the house and a love for anything made with black beans, I finally tried it.

Boy am I glad I did. Yes, sweet potatoes and black beans seem like an odd combination, but it works. It really does.

(The original recipe calls for kidney beans, but many commenters used black beans and raved, so that's what I did. Remember, I love black beans.)

With sweet potatoes being one of those super foods, it's always nice to have a new way to enjoy their awesomeness. This is a vegetarian dish that can be made vegan by leaving out the cheese, which is what we did. Although I can see how shredded cheese would have have been an excellent and yummy addition.

This recipe made a HUGE amount. Next time I make it, and there WILL be a next time, I intend to halve the recipe.

1 tbsp vegetable or canola oil
1 onion, chopped (or less - I never use as much onion as a recipe calls for)
4 cloves garlic, minced (I did use all the garlic)
6 cups canned black beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups water (approximately - you may use less)
3 tbsp chili powder
2 tsp ground cumin
4 tsp prepared mustard
pinch of cayenne pepper (or more, whatever you like)
3 tbsp soy sauce

4 cups mashed sweet potatoes

Flour tortillas
Shredded cheddar cheese

In a medium skillet saute onion and garlic in oil until soft.

Add the black beans and mash (I ordered a potato masher after making this - would have been much easier). I didn't mash mine completely smooth.

Gradually stir in the water. I used the full 2 cups but next time might use less. Judge based on how runny you'd like your bean mixture. Stir until warm.

Remove from heat and stir in cumin, chili powder, mustard, cayenne and soy sauce.

Spread sweet potatoes and bean mixture down the middle of warmed flour tortilla. Fold like a burrito. (Top with cheddar cheese if you desire.) Makes approximately 12 burritos.

Bake in oven for 12 minutes and serve.

I have never made burritos before so mine weren't the prettiest. Next time (that would be tonight as we have more sweet potatoes and black beans) I will do better.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Creamed spinach in the crockpot

Truth be told, I'm usually more fond of the Thanksgiving side dishes than the actual bird itself.  I am all about the stuffing, the mashed potatoes, the vegetables. 

Yesterday, my mom made an incredible creamed spinach dish that I just had to share, especially since I've been woefully delinquent on posting any recipes here.   (I don't have a photo of it, unfortunately.  It disappeared too fast, and my family doesn't understand the rationale or importance of photographing one's food.)

Even better, this creamed spinach is a side dish that can be made in the crockpot, making it an easy addition to your holiday table.  And even though Thanksgiving has come and gone, there's still post-Thanksgiving meals and Christmas for those who celebrate such, and New Years festivities.  This side dish would be a great addition to any of these holidays or your regular everyday meals.

Mom says she got it from one of her friends in the active-adult community in which she lives, so I apologize for not being able to give any more attribution than that.

2 packages of 10 oz. frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained and squeezed dry
2 cups of cream style cottage cheese (Mom used small curd)
1/2 cup of butter, cut up
1 1/2 cup of American cheese, cubed (Mom used only approximately a cup)
3 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup flour (Mom used slightly less)
1 tsp. salt

Grease crock pot and combine all ingredients.  Cook on low 4-5 hrs. Stir occasionally, put in attractive bowl and serve warn.

Mom says she added a little whole milk and a little piece (about a quarter) of onion, and removed the onion before serving.

There were 6 adults and 3 children at our table and this was enough for all.