Saturday, January 28, 2012

Chicken Tortilla Soup

A traveled to Vegas for a "work retreat" earlier this month and came home with a nasty cold. I made him a quick chicken noodle soup during the week. Over the weekend, I picked up a trusty Costco rotisserie chicken to make more soup. As usual, I pick off all the meat and save the carcass to make stock in the crock pot. I love making this enormous $4.99 chicken stretch across multiple meals. To make a stock, simply put the bones and your aromatics (chopped carrot, celery and onion, a bay leaf, and a few whole peppercorns) into a crockpot on low for 6 hours. Your house will smell incredible. Homemade stock really enhances anything you make with it.

Chicken Tortilla Soup
Serves 4

4 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
2 cup cooked chicken, chopped/shredded
1 cup water
1 cup canned tomatoes, diced
1 15 oz canned black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup frozen corn
1 bay leaf
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground chili powder
cilantro, green onions, lime slices, avocado, cheese, tortilla chips

1. Combine stock, water, tomatoes, bay leaf, garlic, spices into a large saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, simmer 5 minutes. Add chicken, black beans and corn until heated through, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

2. Portion into soup bowl. Garnish with chopped green onions, cilantro, fresh lime juice, avocado slices, shredded cheese and crumbled tortilla chips. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Vegetable "sushi" bowl

I've been craving sushi like crazy. I found this delicious brown rice sushi bowl to be a quick and easy weeknight dinner. The brown rice is seasoned with a citrusy dressing and topped with an assortment of common sushi fillings. I loved the creamy avocado alongside the toasted nori, cucumbers and tofu. The recipe is from Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Cooking.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Yogurt-marinated Chicken Kebabs with Israeli Couscous

I was so thrilled with a recent weeknight dinner that I had to share it with you as soon as possible. It definitely exceeded our expectations in terms of taste and ease, and for an added benefit, it's healthy! Work was keeping me late, so A proceeded to prepare dinner for us. Using the whole garam masala from the Spice House, he used my new granite mortar and pestle that I received as a Christmas gift from my in-laws.

I've grown weary of grilling boneless, skinless chicken breasts given their tendency to get dried out and rubbery. Thankfully, the yogurt marinade yielded moist and tender chicken breast pieces. The blend of spices in the marinade was mouth-watering and really whet our appetite in anticipation of dinner. The grilled chicken and peppers were grilled to perfection and delicious on its own. When I dipped the chicken into the yogurt-based feta sauce, there was a party in my mouth. I strongly urge you to make this asap. It would be great with red onions or tomatoes as an addition or alternative to the pepper. For a vegetarian option, I could see this being great with paneer.

Yogurt-marinated Chicken Kebabs with Israeli Couscous
adapted from Sunset

 1 1/2 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1 1/2-in. pieces
2 medium red bell peppers, seeded and cut into 1 1/2-in. pieces
1 1/2 c Israeli couscous
2 tsp olive oil
Six skewers

    1 c plain yogurt
    2 tsp garam masala
    1 tsp Madras curry powder
    2 garlic cloves, minced
    1 tsp salt
    1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

    1/2 c plain yogurt
    1/3 c crumbled feta cheese
    3 tbsp minced red onion
    1 tsp finely shredded fresh lemon zest
    2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley, divided

1. Combine 1 cup yogurt, garam masala, curry powder, garlic, 1 tsp. salt, and pepper in a bowl. Add chicken and thoroughly coat. Let marinate 20 minutes at room temperature. (If using wooden skewers, soak in water while chicken marinates.)
2. In a small bowl, stir together remaining 1/2 cup yogurt, the feta, onion, lemon zest, and 1 tbsp. parsley, set aside.
3. Prepare couscous according to package instructions. Add olive oil and cover to keep warm.
4. Pierce the chicken and bell pepper onto skewers and discard marinade. Preheat grill to medium-high. Grill kebabs, turning once, until chicken is browned and cooked through, reaching an internal temperature of 165 degrees, about 10 minutes. Pile couscous on a platter, sprinkle with remaining 1 tbsp. parsley, and arrange kebabs around it. Serve with yogurt-feta sauce.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Spelt pancakes

I may call Chicago my home, but I have a love affair with New York City. I've been returning to NYC on an annual basis for four years now, and don't plan on breaking that streak anytime soon. During my last visit, my mission was to track down the Wafels & Dinges truck. I stalked their website for updates, followed them on Twitter, and even Tweeted them for their exact location after circling East Village around 7th Ave and Christopher St too many times on a cold wintery night. My friends and I finally gave up and cabbed it over to West Village, where I knew the truck would be easy to spot. I opted for both the brussels wafel and the liege wafe, both topped with speculoos spread. I preferred the light, airy interior with the thin and crispy exterior of the brussels waffle. As a lover of Nutella and peanut butter, I had high expectations of the speculoos spread, especially after having to hunt down the truck. While it was good, I didn't think it was good enough to bring home a 14oz jar since I especially didn't want to check in my luggage.

Imagine my surprise while shopping at Trader Joe's during the holidays when I spotted speculoos cookie butter on their new product shelf. The description definitely sounded similar to the Wafels and Dinges' speculoos spread. I promptly added one to my cart, and I've been dipping honey wheat pretzels ever since. The spread is best described as being similar in texture to peanut butter but tasting more like spiced cookies. With a bag of spelt flour in the cupboard, I opted to make spelt pancakes topped with cookie butter for a weekend breakfast. The pancakes were very easy to whip up and a healthy vehicle for an indulgent topping.
Spelt Pancakes
adapted from King Arthur Flour

2 c spelt flour
2 tbsp granulated sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1 3/4 c milk
2 tbsp butter, melted
2 tsp vanilla

1. Mix together the flour, sugar and salt. Create a well in the middle.
2. Mix together the milk, butter and vanilla. Add it to the flour mixture, just until combined. Allow the batter to rest for 15 minutes.
3. Preheat a non-stick pan or griddle over medium low heat. Melt a little butter or spray with cooking spray. Test the pan with a droplet of water and check for it to sizzle. Add 1/4 cup batter to the pan. Cook for about a 1-2 minutes until golden brown. Flip and cook for another minute. Repeat with remaining batter. Serve immediately or keep in a warm oven until ready to serve.

Chocolate Birthday Cake for me!

I have the best husband ever! Last month, he baked me a chocolate cake from scratch for my birthday! He went through my shelves of cookbooks to pick out an approachable recipe. It was chocolatey, moist, rich, decadent and made with love.

Mississippi Mud Cake
adapted from Williams-Sonoma

2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups milk
3/4 c unsweetened cocoa
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract

1. Position a rack in the middle of an oven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare two 9-inch round cake pans with butter and a dusting of cocoa powder.
2. Sift the flour into a bowl. Add sugar, baking soda, and salt. Stir to combine.
3. In a saucepan over medium-high heat, combine butter, milk and cocoa. Bring to a boil, whisking frequently until the butter melts. Add the cocoa mixture to the flour mixture. Whisk until combined. 
4. Add the eggs and vanilla extract. Whisk until well blended.
5. Pour the batter into the prepared pans. 
6. Bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. 
7. Transfer to a rack and let cool completely. 
8. Turn the cake onto a platter or cake dome. Top with bittersweet chocolate glaze. If desired, top with second layer of cake, and cover with remaining bittersweet chocolate glaze.

Bittersweet Chocolate Glaze
6 tbsp heavy cream
6 tbsp corn syrup
8oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped

1. In a medium sauce pan over medium heat, combine the heavy cream and corn syrup. Bring to a simmer, then reduce to a low heat. Add the chocolate and whisk until smooth, about 1 minute. 
2. Remove from heat and let stand until lukewarm, about 10 minutes. The glaze should have thickened, but still pourable.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Brunch at Bite Cafe

The weekend of my birthday, we walked over to a neighborhood spot, Bite Cafe. We indulged in the most unhealthy breakfast we have ever enjoyed! We started off with a thick slice of warm, fluffy pumpkin bread that was slathered with whipped cinnamon butter. We ordered the Breakfast Poutine and Pork Hash. 

The breakfast poutine consisted of fries, cheese curds and gravy, of course, but more specifically, a gravy made using smoked bacon! To make it even saucier and richer, if that's even possible, two poached eggs with a runny yolk are set on top. 

The Pork Hash was one of A's favorite all time breakfasts: pulled pork shank served with fall flair: brussels sprouts, potato, butternut squash and also topped with two runny eggs and spicy hollandaise. I think our triglycerides level jumped 20 points! But hey, it's not like we eat this regularly, right? Needless to say, we skipped lunch that day and enjoyed a light salad for dinner.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Sweet Potato Gnocchi

During the hustle and bustle of the holidays, I had the crazy notion of making sweet potato gnocchi and freezing them for later use. I made the full recipe, which yielded 120 dumplings! Having these on hand in the freezer is a welcome weeknight meal as I find myself low on local produce at the moment. I submerged my frozen gnocchi into boiling water and cooked them until they started to float. I then finished them in a pan of brown butter and sage. These  pillows were rich, cheesy, indulgent and ever so slightly sweet. We loved these served along side a salad.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Skillet Turnips and Potatoes with Bacon

Four turnips from our fall produce share patiently waited in our vegetable drawer. Surprisingly, turnip recipes seemed few and far between. I turned to epicurious and stumbled upon a recipe for skillet turnips and potatoes with bacon.

Be sure to use your largest skillet because my ten inch cast iron was overflowing before I finally conceded to dirtying a second pan and moved on up to a twelve-inch skillet. I prepared this as a side for our turkey burgers, but this dish was even better as leftovers for breakfast topped with a couple of eggs. Be sure to maintain a runny yolk for a rich, luxurious sauce that transforms this homely side dish into a stellar breakfast hash.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

A Zuni New Year's Eve

I cannot believe it's now 2012. Twenty eleven flew by with the blink of an eye, and December only magnified that feeling. Between my birthday, the holidays, traveling to Buffalo and preparing my old condo for rent, it was difficult to focus on the true meaning of the holidays and get into the spirit of the season. I hope that in 2012 I can take time to slow down and take in the moment rather than focusing too much on what's next. 

With the hustle and bustle of the last week of 2011, the last thing we wanted to do was go out on New Year's Eve. I wanted to make a special dinner at home using the a la card for the Butcher & Larder before the 2011 deck expired. I decided to try another beloved recipe from the Zuni Cafe Cookbook: short ribs braised in beer. 
 Mashed potatoes or browned spaetzle is recommended as sides, and since it was NYE, I decided to try my hand at making spaetzle. I don't have a spaetzle making gadget, and neither pushing the dough through a colander or cutting the strips above the boiling water seemed too appealing to me. I figured that using a potato ricer with the bigger holes would be the next best thing, and luckily, it worked like a charm! 

The spaetzle was increadibly bland upon boiling them, but it soaked up the juices from the short ribs like a champ. The short ribs were tender and leaked their rich flavor into the onion sauce. Brushing the short ribs with dijon mustard for a few minutes in the broiler cut the indulgent richness. Hope you ended 2011 on a delicious bite.