Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Chicken Tortilla Soup

I have been craving Chicken Tortilla Soup for weeks. I finally went to the supermarket today to gather all of the ingredients needed. If you are interested, here's the recipe:

1 Whole Chicken
3 Carrots, small dice
3 Stalks of Celery, small dice
1 Large Onion, small dice
6 Cloves Garlic, finely minced
1 15oz. can Petite Diced Tomatoes (not drained)
1 15oz. can Chili Beans (not drained)
1 15oz. can Pinto Beans (drained and rinsed)
2 cups corn, more if you'd like
1 cup salsa (use your favorite type)
10-12 cups of water
3 Tablespoons "Better than Bullion"
2 Tablespoons Chili Powder (I use Grandma's Chili Powder)
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
Limes to squeeze on top for that fresh citrus flavor

Optional Toppings:
Sour Cream
Black Olives
Tortilla Chips

Saute onion, celery and carrots in olive oil until soft. Add garlic and saute for a minute or two. Add water and Better than Bullion (make sure the bullion dissolves). Meanwhile, skin the chicken, make sure to remove as much visible fat as possible, and drop it into the pot. Cook the chicken until it reaches 180 degrees. Remove the chicken and cool until you can handle it. Shred the chicken or cut into little pieces and add it back to the pot. Add everything else listed: beans, corn, tomatoes, salsa & chili powder. Simmer until all flavors meld together, approximately 30 minutes or so. The flavors get better as it sits.

*Better than Bullion is indeed much better than bullion cubes or chicken broth. In a pinch, use anything you have, but Better than Bullion is the way to go if possible.

*Use boneless skinless chicken breasts if you don't want to deal with the whole chicken. Sometimes whole chickens are ridiculously cheap, so that's why I used the whole thing today.

*Add more/less veggies to taste. Next time I will probably use a bit more onion.

*Use marinated jalapenos if you want a bit of a kick. I love vinegar, so sometimes I just spoon out some of the marinade to use on top of the soup instead, or in addition to the jalapenos themselves. Using a teaspoon or more of the marinade gives the flavor without the kick of the jalapeno itself.

*The squeeze of lime finishes the soup off nicely. Squeeze the fresh lime into the soup right before serving.

*Use whatever beans you'd like. If you do use other beans besides Chili Beans, rinse and drain before adding to the pot. The Chili Beans are in a marinade that goes well with the recipe. Black, Chili, Pinto, Kidney, etc... work well in this soup too. Use whatever you have on hand.

*This list looks like quite a bit of stuff, but it really is an easy soup to make.

The verdict: I will be keeping this recipe for quite a long time. It is awesome!!! It's kind of an amalgam of a bunch of different recipes I have seen, but of course had to put my own twist on it. Try it, you'll like it. :)

Friday, November 7, 2008

French Baguettes

I found this recipe on my favorite website, allrecipes.com. Click on the link and it will take you to the original recipe. This recipe was so spectacular that I did not change a thing, and will more than likely never change it, save adding half wheat flour instead of all white bread flour. I did, however, change the way I prepared the recipe.

Here is the recipe:

  • 1 cup water
  • 2 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons bread machine yeast
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon water

  1. Place 1 cup water (100 degrees), sugar, and yeast into a stand mixer and allow the yeast to bloom for a few minutes.
  2. Add the flour and salt, mix for 5 minutes. The dough will be sticky.
  3. Place dough in a greased bowl (NOT plastic), turning to coat all sides. Cover, and let rise in a warm place for about 30 minutes, or until doubled in bulk. Dough is ready if indentation remains when touched.
  4. Punch down dough making sure to punch down all bubbles. Cut dough in half, creating two long thin loaves. Roll gently back and forth to taper end. Place 3 inches apart on a greased cookie sheet. Make deep diagonal slashes across loaves every 2 inches, or make one lengthwise slash on each loaf. Cover, and let rise in a warm place for 30 to 40 minutes, or until doubled in bulk.
  5. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Mix egg yolk with 1 tablespoon water; brush over tops of loaves.
  6. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in the preheated oven, or until golden brown.
The verdict: O-H....M-Y....G-O-S-H....the best bread I have ever eaten. Some people who reviewed the recipe said that it was the closest thing to real french baguettes they have eaten since they were in France. I have never been to France, but my gosh, I may just go for the bread......wait a minute.....if I can make bread like that, why go to France? Really though - this is amazing bread. It has just the right amount of sweetness, and the taste and texture are awesome! I can't recommend this recipe enough.

Spicy Meatballs

I found a recipe on allrecipes.com that was for "The Best Meatballs You'll Ever Have". Well, I changed the recipe a bit to suit what we had in the house. Here it is:

  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 4 slices of bread, toasted and crumbled
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped sweet onion
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon prepared yellow mustard
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
I threw everything together and mixed it. I then rolled the mixture into small meatballs and baked it at 350 degrees for approximately 25 minutes, then broiled for a few minutes.

The verdict: The meatballs are very spicy. Next time I will use less than half of the red pepper flakes. I also used quite a spicy Cajun mix. I will use half of that too, and possibly add some cheese. So far we have tried them alone, they may be better once we put them in some pasta sauce. Of course Shawn likes them, me, not so much! They are decent, but far too spicy for me.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Slow Cooker Stew

I woke up at the crack of dawn this morning to cook Shawn and Jonathan breakfast (see the cast of players on the right side of my blog to understand who these people are). I wanted it done by the time Jonathan got here because they needed to get on the road ASAP. They are heading up to Donner Lake to help Mamaw and Papaw with their lake house. Every year around this time they need to weather the boat and prepare the deck for the winter. Shawn and Jonathan help them every year prepare the house for winter, then in Spring, the prepare the house for the Summer. What nice grandsons!!!! Back to my point....I got up early to shop for all the stuff I needed to make them breakfast and for the ingredients to make dinner tonight. What's for dinner??? Thanks for asking!

Crockpot Stew!!!! The picture above is partially cooked. I had sauteed the meat and onions, but those are the only two ingredients cooked. Hopefully it will cook down without spilling out, I quite overfilled the crockpot. Here's my recipe:

2-3 lbs. Stew Meat
3 Yukon Gold Potatoes - cut into 1 inch or so pieces
3 Red Potatoes - same as above
3 Celery Stalks cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1-1 1/2 cups baby carrots
2 Onions cut into hearty chunks
5 Cloves Garlic, minced
1 envelope Lipton Onion Soup mix
1 beef bullion - large
1 Bay Leaf
2 cups of boiling water
1 Tb. parsley
1/4 - 1/2 cup red wine
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon Lawry's Seasoned Salt
1 Tb. butter
4 Tb. olive oil
1/4 cup water
2 Tb. flour or cornstarch to thicken

1). Rinse meat, drain and coat with flour and seasoned salt. Brown on all sides in a pan with 3Tb. olive oil. Once browned, add to crockpot.
3). Add butter and remaining Tb. of olive oil and soften onions and garlic.
3). Deglaze pan with wine and add to crockpot.
4). Combine 2 cups of boiling water with Bullion Cube and Lipton Onion Packet, mix well and add to crockpot.
5). Add parsley to crockpot and mix.
6). Add bay leaf, carrots, celery, and potatoes to crockpot and stir.
7). Turn the crockpot on high for 30 minutes, then lower to low setting and leave for 6-8 hours.
8). Once done, you can add the slurry (water and cornstarch or flour) to thicken.

Tips: Here's one of my most important tips to cooking.....are you ready??? Are you sure??? Try to make all of your veggies and meat the same size. This should be self-explanatory, but for some it is not. When people speak of "love" in cooking, this is what comes to mind (for me anyway). Why would people say "It's cooked with love"? I personally think it's because of the amount of time someone takes to cook something, and for a dish like this, that means taking the extra time to cut everything 'right'. Why take the time too cook unless it's extraordinary. :)

The verdict: Well, as is my nature, I didn't like it. Shawn liked it quite a bit, but me, uh no! There was a flavor in it that was a bit off. Jonathan said that it needed salt. I guess I'm still on the hunt for the perfect stew recipe. :)