Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Asian Chicken Soup with Noodles

I tried pho for the first time this summer when I was in San Diego.  It was amazing.  It made me really want to try and make my own.  I was looking through a slow cooker cookbook I borrowed from a friend (almost a year ago) and came across a recipe called "Asian Chicken Soup with Noodles." It isn't traditional pho, but it was a simple recipe that looked tasty.  I almost had a disaster on my hands a few hours into cooking, so I'm posting the recipe with the changes I will make next time.  The recipe told me to use raw chicken.  I ended up with some foamy, gunky stuff floating in the broth.  I ran everything through a strainer and got the nasty stuff out...but it was a lot of work.  I forgot that boiling raw chicken gives off that yucky stuff. A much easier way to make this is to use shredded or cubed cooked chicken. You could even cook the chicken the night before and just dump everything into the crock pot the next morning.
The recipe turned out great! My husband and I loved everything and the kids like the chicken and carrots. The recipe called for Swiss chard or spinach. I had some chard growing in the garden, so I used that.  I think bok choi would also be really good in this recipe. I added the optional chili oil to my bowl of noodle soup. I was having some sinus troubles and it really helped clear things out.  It's pretty spicy, so don't use too much.

Asian Chicken Soup with Noodles
serves 4
Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens

2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms (I used a mix of oyster, shitake, and portabella from Publix)
1 medium onion, cut into thin wedges
3 medium carrots, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 pound cooked chicken, cubed or shredded
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger (or 1/4 teaspoon dried)
4 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons soy sauce
3 cups shredded Swiss chard or spinach leaves
8 ounces rice sticks or Chinese egg noodles.
cilantro leaves (optional)
green onions (optional)
chili oil (optional)

1) Place chicken, mushrooms, carrots, and onion in the bottom of a slow cooker.
2) Combine garlic, ginger, chicken broth, and soy sauce in a large bowl. Pour over vegetables and chicken.
3) Cover and cook on low heat for 8 hours. Stir in Swiss chard or spinach 5 minutes before serving.
4) Cook rice sticks or noodles according to package directions.
5) Divide noodles among bowls. Ladle soup over noodles. Top with optional toppings of cilantro, green onions, and chili oil. Add more soy sauce if desired.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Chicken Broth

My mom taught me how to make chicken broth when I was 13 years old.  Now I can't throw away perfectly good chicken bones!  I generally do not buy a chicken just to make broth. Instead, I try to save bones from cut chicken pieces, or use the carcass when I make a roasted chicken.  Because of the gelatin in the chicken bones, the broth will seem like jell-o when it cools. That is a good thing! It is full of all kinds of good-for-you stuff you won't find in a can or box of broth.  I am posting the directions using a slow cooker.  If you don't have one, cook on the stove top for a minimum of 4 hours. Feel free to add more veggies or herbs to your broth.  This is the combination that my family likes best.

Chicken Broth
Makes about 6 cups

1 whole chicken carcass from a roasted or grilled chicken (or several breast, leg, back, and neck bones)
2 carrots, scrubbed and cut in half
2 stalks celery, cut in half
Celery leaves from the center of the celery
1 onion, cut into 4 large pieces
1 turnip, cut in half
5 whole peppercorns
1 bay leaf
8 - 10 cups of water
2 teaspoons seasoned salt 

1) Combine all ingredients in a slow cooker. Cook on low heat for 8 - 12 hours. 
2) Pour the broth through a strainer to get any large pieces of  chicken or peppercorns out of the broth. Add any additional salt and pepper to taste.
3) Store covered in fridge over night. If you want to skim off the fat, just remove with a spoon. It will rise to the top.
4) Freeze any unused broth in the freezer. 

Roasted Sweet Potatoes

I planted sweet potatoes a few months ago.  Some of the vines produced potatoes, others didn't.  My first harvest consisted of 3 small to medium sized sweet potatoes.  I wanted to do something fun with them, so I roasted them and served them as a side dish with lunch the other day.  They were really easy and yummy.  They weren't crispy like a french fry, but I've learned that unless you batter and deep fry sweet potatoes, they will turn out soft.  I know I will be making these again soon.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes
makes 4 servings

2 or 3 medium to large sweet potatoes
2 tablespoons sunflower or peanut oil
cinnamon sugar

1) Preheat oven to 400. Peel sweet potatoes and cut into wedges.
2) Toss in oil.
3) Bake for 20 - 25 minutes. Toss is salt and cinnamon sugar.

Friday, August 26, 2011

End of Summer 2011

This spring/summer was definitely an adventure in gardening. For the first time ever, I planted everything early in the season.  We ended up having record heat and very little rain this spring and early summer, so a lot of my plants either died or didn't produce.  I even lost 2 eggplants...and those were made for Florida!  I did end up with a ton of tomatoes in May and June.  Nothing beats a homegrown tomato!

Heirloom tomato from my son's garden.

We bought an Earthbox for my 5 year old son this spring.  He planted an heirloom tomato seedling, sunflower seed, small strawberry plant, and a ground cherry seed.  The ground cherry had a little too much shade from the tomato...other than that he had a wonderful garden. I was a little jealous of his tomatoes!

My son's Earthbox

Sunflower from the Earthbox
I had quite a bit of success with my rosa bianca eggplant this year.  This was the only eggplant to survive the freeze from the winter.  I've enjoyed cooking with these eggplants this summer. I also had some beautiful nasturtiums and very productive sweet potato vines.

Rosa Bianca Eggplant


Sweet Potato Vine

Sweet Potatoes (they were delicious)

I had fun with some herbs...but the heat got to them and now the only herbs I have left are some basil and chives.  I'll plant more in a few weeks.

Pineapple Sage

My big flop this year was corn!  I started out with beautiful stalks that produced several ears of corn...then everything just dried up.  I think I may have had more luck if I went for a late summer planting.  We've had quite a bit of rain the last month. 

After a lot of dry weather, followed by a ton of rain, and a few weeks out of town for vacation...my garden was in bad shape.

I spent a few hours in the garden one day and the hard work paid off. Now my garden is getting ready for fall.  I'll post soon on my plans for the fall garden.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Thousand Island Dressing

My mom introduced my son to thousand island dressing a few months ago.  Right now he will eat just about anything, as long as this dip is on the table.  I like to use this dressing on salads, sandwiches, burgers, and as a dip for veggies and french fries.  I made some roasted potatoes cut into large wedges (my potatoes are much prettier in this picture than they were in the roasted potatoes post). I mix this up about once every 2 weeks and we go through it pretty fast.  I really like the homemade because it is much less sweet than the stuff from a bottle.

Thousand Island Dressing
Adapted from Betty Crocker

1 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley (or 1 teaspoon dried)
2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 teaspoon dried minced onion
1/2 teaspoon paprika

Mix all ingredients. Store covered in refrigerator.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Christina's Spinach Dip

College football season is 2 weeks away.   That means football food is 2 weeks away! My friend Christina makes this spinach dip for football games and parties.  When I was pregnant, I requested it...and ate a ton of it! My 5 year old son decided that he likes spinach now.  The last time we were at a party with this dip, he ate quite a bit of it. This dip is great for parties, brunches, and baby/bridal showers.  I like to make it the day before so the flavors from the soup mix have a chance to blend in with everything else.  
I'm looking forward to more football-food posts in the next few weeks.  I should probably exercise more if I'm going to enjoy all of my favorite foods while sitting on the couch watching football!

Christina's Spinach Dip

1 box frozen chopped spinach, thawed
8 oz sour cream
4 oz cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 envelope dry vegetable soup mix

1) Squeeze excess water from spinach using paper towels.
2) In a glass bowl, combine spinach, sour cream, cream cheese, and mayonnaise. I like to use an immersion blender to break up large pieces of spinach.
3) Stir in soup mix.  Refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Buffalo Chicken Pizza

I went to a baby shower for my best friend over the weekend.  There were quite a few Publix fried chicken tenders left over.  Since I have small children, quite a few of the chicken tenders were went home with my family.  My son started school on Monday, so I wanted to do something simple for dinner on Sunday evening.  We invited another family over and made pizza. I made a cheese pizza for the kids and buffalo chicken pizza for the adults.  It was a good way to use some of the leftover chicken tenders. I sprinkled some ranch dressing on my pizza before I ate it to cut down on the spice of the buffalo sauce.  This could easily be made with sauteed chicken breast pieces instead of leftover chicken tenders.
This pizza was easy and tasted amazing!  I will definitely be making it again.

Buffalo Chicken Pizza

1 ball pizza dough
3 chicken tenders, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/4 cup tomato sauce, or less
buffalo wing sauce, to taste (I use Frank's)
1/4 cup mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese (I only had sliced)
2 tablespoons Gorgonzola cheese

1)Preheat oven to 375.  Roll the pizza dough into a circle. Bake the dough for 10 minutes.
2) Toss the chicken tenders in the buffalo sauce. Let it sit while the dough is baking.
3) Top the pizza with the pizza sauce, chicken, and cheese.
4) Bake for 10 minutes.
5) Optional: top with ranch dressing.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Shortcut Croque Madame

My friend Shelley invited me over for lunch and a playdate a few week ago.  This is what she made for lunch. My son loved it, so I decided to add these to the menu at our house.  This is not a traditional Croque Madame that you would find in France.  It is a shortcut from the Food Network.  It is also much cheaper than a traditional Croque Madame because it uses Swiss cheese instead of Gruyere. I followed the recipe exactly as it was on the website, so I will post the link instead of rewriting everything.  If you don't keep wine in the house, leave out the white wine.  If your family doesn't like Swiss cheese, any good white melting cheese would work great in this recipe. For the recipe, check out Quick Croque Madames on the Food Network website.

My husband enjoyed this sandwich so much that he offered to make himself a second one.  I was so flattered that I got up from the table, turned on the skillet and oven, and made him another one!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Spaghetti with a Fried Egg

I first tried a variation on this recipe a few months ago, after reading about it in Cooks Illustrated.  The article I read scared me.  It went on and on about the importance of timing the spaghetti and the egg just right. I was pretty scared the first time I made it.  It was also a very white meal.  Just spaghetti, bread crumbs, eggs, and parmesan cheese.  As I mentioned in a previous post, I'm learning that I'm not cooking for gourmet chefs and foodies, I'm cooking for my family and friends...I don't have to follow all the "rules."  I decided to try and make this again and I added some veggies for color.  I left out the bread crumbs because I felt like they didn't really add anything.  I also left out the parmesan cheese because I felt like there were enough flavors in the dish.  My experimenting and relaxing paid off!  It went from something my husband thought was "ok" to something he truly enjoyed and will gladly eat again.  My son even loved the pasta with egg yolk.  I used eggs from a local farm for this.  Since the yolks stay very runny in this recipe, I would recommend either farm fresh eggs or organic eggs.  Feel free to substitute the vegetables in this recipe.  I used up things that were in my fridge.

Spaghetti with a Fried Egg
serves 2

4 oz spaghetti
4 tablespoons butter, divided
1 red onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 handful matchstick carrots
1/2 bag spinach
2 eggs
salt and pepper, to taste

1) Cook spaghetti according to package directions. Drain
2) While you are waiting for the water to boil, melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add onion and garlic and saute 10 minutes. Add bell pepper, matchstick carrots, and crushed red pepper. Saute 5 minutes.  Stir in spinach until wilted.  Set aside.
3) When the spaghetti has 5 minutes of cooking time left, heat a large skillet over medium heat.  After 5 minutes, add 2 tablespoons butter. When butter is melted, crack the eggs into the skillet.  Cover, and cook for 2 - 3 minutes.
4) To serve: place half the drained pasta a bowl.  Top with half of the vegetables, and 1 egg. Add salt and pepper to taste. Repeat for second bowl.
5) Break the yolk as soon as you sit down.