Chicken Tortilla Soup

I’m sorry. I’ve been a bad blogger lately. I do have excuses, and they are valid. One is that I’ve started working full-time. I’ve been having trouble finding the balance between work life and family/home life. Another thing was daylight savings time. When I work and then go run my errands, come home and help the kiddo with homework then start cooking, we don’t eat until later and pictures really do NOT look good in artificial light. But I’m going to try to do better, I promise.

Today’s recipe was definitely a keeper. I realize it’s starting to get warmer out but some people like me enjoy a good soup anyway. I did take a few shortcuts, but we were really impressed with the depth of flavor. I’ve tinkered with a few different chicken tortilla soups and this is the first that I’ve really liked. And it reheated well too. :)

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Chicken Tortilla Soup
Recipe from The Pioneer Woman

Ingredients:
2 whole boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp. olive oil (another one)
1 cup diced onion
1 cup diced green bell pepper
1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 can Rotel
32 oz. chicken stock
3 tbsp. tomato paste
4 cups hot water
2 cans black beans, rinsed well and drained
3 tbsp. cornmeal
1 bag tortilla strips (usually in the salad topping section)
desired garnishes: sour cream, diced avocado, diced red onion, salsa, cheese, cilantro

Method:
Preheat oven to 375. Mix the cumin, chili powder, garlic powder and salt together in a small bowl. Drizzle 1 tbsp. olive oil on the chicken breasts, then sprinkle a small bit of the mixed seasonings over the chicken, reserving the rest for later. Bake for 25 minutes, or until the juices of the chicken run clear. Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes, then shred using two forks. Set the shredded chicken aside.

In a large pot, heat the other tablespoon of olive oil. Add the vegetables, stirring to combine. Cook until tender, adding the rest of the seasoning mix. Add the shredded chicken and stir. Add the can of Rotel, chicken stock, water, tomato paste an beans. Bring to a boil then lower the heat to a low simmer. Cook 45 minutes, uncovered.

In a small dish, mix the cornmeal with a small amount of water. Pour into the soup and stir well, simmer another 30 minutes. Taste for seasonings. Turn off the heat and allow to sit for 15-20 minutes before serving. Serve with the tortilla strips and desired garnishes.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Praline Pecan Cream Cheese King Cake

I’ve been tinkering around with different versions of king cakes for a few years now and I’ve finally got it. It is a mix of several different recipes.

It is slightly labor intensive since it involves letting the dough rise a couple of times but trust me, it is well worth it. I’ve actually had several people order them from me but now that I work full-time I just don’t always have time.

So here it is, get your aprons on!

This makes two king cakes.

Praline Pecan Cream Cheese King Cake

Ingredients:

For the Cake
1 (16-ounce) container sour cream
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter
1 teaspoon salt
2 (1/4-ounce) envelopes active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
6 to 6 1/2 cups bread flour

For the Cream Cheese Filling
2 (8 oz) blocks Philadelphia cream cheese, softened
1 egg
3/4 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract

For the Praline Pecan Filling
1/2 cup of unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 cups of chopped pecans
1 cup of light brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
2 teaspoons of cinnamon

For the Glaze
Ingredients:
4 cups powdered sugar, get the sifted 10x one
small splash of almond extract
small splash of butter extract
5 tbsp water

Method

Cook first 4 ingredients in a medium saucepan over low heat, stirring often, until thoroughly mixed. Set aside, and cool mixture.

Stir together yeast, 1/2 cup warm water, and 1 tablespoon sugar in a glass bowl, let stand 5 minutes.

Beat sour cream mixture, yeast mixture, eggs, and 2 cups flour at medium speed with a heavy-duty stand mixer until smooth. Reduce speed to low, and gradually add enough remaining flour (4 to 4 1/2 cups) until a soft dough forms.
Attach the dough hook and let it knead for 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic. Place in a well-greased bowl, turning to grease top.
Cover and let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, 1 hour or until dough is doubled in bulk (I put it in my slightly warmed oven).

While that is rising, beat together the cream cheese mixture ingredients until smooth and well blended. In another bowl, mix together the praline pecan ingredients.

Punch down dough, and divide in half. Roll each portion into a 22- x 12-inch rectangle. Spread half of the cream cheese mixture over each rectangle then sprinkle half of the pecan mixture on each half. Spread it evenly over the cream cheese.

Roll up each dough rectangle, jelly-roll fashion, starting at 1 long side. Place one dough roll, seam side down, on a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat Bring ends of roll together to form a ring, moistening and pinching edges together to seal. Repeat with second dough roll.

Cover and let rise in a warm place free from drafts, 20 to 30 minutes or until doubled in bulk.

Prepare the glaze by mixing the ingredients until smooth but still a little thick. You may add more water but be careful not to make it too thin.

Bake at 375 degrees F for 16 minutes or until golden and cooked through. Allow to cool completely on a wire cooling rack before spooning the glaze over and topping with purple, yellow and green sprinkles or colored sugar.

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Egg-Free Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake (or Cookies)

I recently went back to work after staying home with my daughter before she started school.  It’s time I treasure more than anything.  But she went to school so it was time for me to do something.  I was faced with the problem of many (all) parents.  What could I do that would enable me to be there for her when she didn’t have school.  She is an only child so I didn’t want to ship her off to grandparents houses for all the holidays and breaks, while I worked.  Obvious answer – work at her school.  So that’s what I’m doing.  Her school has a nursery for teachers children and that’s where I work.  I love it.

One of “my babies” has an egg allergy.  We have to be careful because so many things have eggs, so for our “Happy Birthday Jesus” party I wanted to make something he could enjoy as well.  I set out looking for an egg-free cookie cake recipe.  I didn’t really find one, but I found an egg-free cookie recipe so figured that would work.  I was a little nervous about the middle of the cookie cake not cooking well and the outside being overcooked, so I just lowered the oven temp.  I had a little dough leftover so I made some cookies and my husband raved over them  He says I should make these always!  The cookie cake came out delicious as well.  It was nice and fluffy.  Now I know what to make for a special nursery treat!

Egg Free Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake

Egg Free Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake

Egg-Free Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake
Recipe from Art of Dessert

Ingredients:

2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup white granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 tsp. vanilla
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt

Method:

For regular cookies, preheat oven to 375 degrees.  For cookie cake, preheat oven to 325.

Sift together flour, baking soda and salt, set aside.  In a mixer, cream together the butter and cream cheese.  Add the sugars and vanilla.  Once smooth, slowly add the dry ingredients.  Mix until a smooth dough forms.  Stir in chocolate chips.  To make a cookie cake, I used an 11-inch tart pan with removable bottom and spread the dough evenly.  Bake until golden colored and the middle no longer jiggles.  If decorating, allow to cool completely.

Dan Dan Noodles

My husband and I love trying new things.  I really wish my daughter would, but as a 5-year-old her list of acceptable foods is a short one.  She has gotten better in the last year about trying new things, but still fairly picky.  While planning our menu for the week, I put a few kid-friendly foods but knew there was one that she would not try.  Dan Dan Noodles.

The blog I found this on says that it’s a copycat recipe from the version served at P.F. Changs.  We love P.F. Changs and after skimming the ingredients, I knew we would love it.  I was right.  It was pretty easy to make, the only change is that I used pad thai noodles in place of the chow mein noodles.  I’m not sure how big of a difference that makes, but there ya go.  We served ours with egg rolls, and this dish was also great as leftovers!

Dan Dan Noodles

Dan Dan Noodles

Dan Dan Noodles
Recipe adapted from Wannabite

Ingredients:
2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken, cut into bite-sized chunks
2 tbsp. oil
1.5 tbsp. minced garlic
1 package pad thai noodles, cooked according to package directions
1/2 cup green onion, chopped
1 tbsp. ginger, minced
1/2 cup soy sauce
3/4 cup chicken broth
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
2 tsp. Thai garlic chili paste
2 tbsp. cornstarch
1/2 cup water

For garnish:  bean sprouts, peanuts, Sriracha and green onions

Method:

Heat oil in a nonstick skillet.  Add chicken and season to taste, cook until no longer pink through.  Remove the chicken and set aside, then add the garlic, ginger and green onions to the pan.  Saute’ for one minute before adding the soy sauce, chicken broth, brown sugar and chili-garlic sauce.  Bring to a simmer.

Combine the corn starch and water and stir into the sauce, simmer until thickened (a couple of minutes).

Once thick, add the chicken and simmer to warm the chicken back up.  Add the noodles to the pan and gently coat with the sauce.  Serve with garnishes of your choice.

Chicken and Sausage Gumbo

“It’s gumbo weather” is a phrase you hear a lot in Louisiana.  What is gumbo weather?  Well basically any temperature under 80 degrees! We had a cool weekend last weekend and I bet you could smell roux cooking from one end of the state to the other!

I couldn’t believe that my gumbo recipe wasn’t on my blog.  I still can’t believe it.  I have several other versions of gumbo but this is a basic traditional version.  I opt to use chicken broth and stock to make it richer and more flavorful.  I’ve heard we are supposed to have a cold winter, so better keep the recipe handy!

Chicken and Sausage Gumbo

Chicken and Sausage Gumbo

Chicken and Sausage Gumbo
A Cooking With Christen Original

Ingredients:

1 carton chicken broth
1 carton chicken stock
1 can Rotel diced tomatoes
1 bag frozen cut okra, cooked down (I cook it in oil until it’s not “slimy” anymore)
1 onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2 cloves minced garlic
1 pkg boneless chicken thighs – raw and cut up (I try to cut some of the fat off)
1 pkg smoked sausage or andouille, cut into bite size pieces
1 cooking spoon full of Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. Garlic powder
1 tsp. Onion powder
1 tsp. Chili powder
½ tsp. ground cumin
1-2 bay leaves if you have some
Salt & Tony’s – season to taste
½ cup oil
½ cup flour

Note:  I have never actually measured my seasonings so just do taste tests and add until it tastes good.

Method:

Make a roux:  heat oil in large stockpot.  Once hot, add flour and stir constantly until it’s the color of a brown paper bag.  It’s time consuming but it’s the key.  Make sure to scrape the sides and corners of the pot.

While you’re making your roux, put your sausage in a microwave-safe bowl and add water just till the sausage is covered.  Microwave for about 8 minutes.  Drain in the sink into a colander and rinse well.  You want to get some of that fatty grease out.

Once your roux is brown enough, add onion, bell pepper and minced garlic, cook until veggies are soft.  Add Rotel, chicken broth and chicken stock, stir well and let heat up again to a slow boil.  This is a good time to start adding the rest of your dry seasonings and Worcestershire sauce.

Once boiling again, add chicken, sausage and okra and let simmer about an hour and a half or until chicken is cooked through.  The longer you let it cook, the better it will taste.  If it looks too thick, you can add more chicken broth or water

Check seasonings and add anything you find it might be missing.

Serve over rice or for the traditional southern Louisiana version, serve over potato salad.

 

 

Shepherd’s Pie

I have a confession to make. Before cooking this recipe, I had never had shepherd’s pie before. It just goes against what I believe in, I’m a firm member of the Foods Don’t Touch club. And here you have your meat touching your carrots and mashed potatoes. It’s madness!! Sidenote: Thanksgiving dinner can be a NIGHTMARE for those of us in the Foods Don’t Touch Club!

Anyway, my mom wanted me to try this recipe and so did my husband so I took one for the team and made it. Like most Cook’s Illustrated recipes, it is more involved than the average shepherd’s pie recipe. But trust me, follow the recipe because they test things so many times and they have this down pat. I followed the recipe exactly and guess what? Not only did I LIKE it, but I went back for a small spoon of seconds. :) The gravy-like sauce on the meat is just to die for! The mashed potatoes were just okay, if you have an easier way of doing mashed potatoes for the top, I won’t blame you. Or judge you. Yeah, you know what I’m talking about.

Shepherd's Pie

Shepherd’s Pie

Shepherd’s Pie
Recipe slightly adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

Ingredients:
1.5 lbs. 93% lean ground beef
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tsp baking soda
2.5 lbs. russet potatoes, washed, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
4 tbsp butter, melted
1/2 cup milk
1 large egg yolk
8 green onions, green only, sliced thinly
2 tsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
4 oz. white mushrooms, trimmed and quartered
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp ruby port
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cup beef broth
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
2 tsp cornstarch

Method:

In a medium-sized bowl, toss beef with 2 tbsp water, 1 tsp salt, baking soda and 1/4 tsp pepper until thoroughly combined, then set aside for about twenty minutes while you prepare the rest.

While that’s sitting, place potatoes in a pan and cover with one inch water and 1 tbsp salt.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer until potatoes are soft enough for a knife to easily stick in.  Drain, then return to the pan and cook, shaking the pot occasionally for a minute while the surface moisture has evaporated.  Remove from heat and mash the potatoes with a potato masher.  Stir in the melted butter then whisk the milk and egg yolk together and stir in.  Add the green onions and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Cover and set aside.

In a 10-inch skillet, heat the oil until shimmering.  Add the onion, mushrooms, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper.  Cook until vegetables are softened and dark bits are forming on bottom, stirring occasionally.  Stir in tomato paste and garlic and cook about two minutes, until the bottom of the skillet is turning a dark brown.  Add the port and using the spatula, scrape the browned bits from the bottom, until the port has evaporated.  Stir in the flour and cook for one minute, then add the broth, carrots, Worcestershire, thyme sprigs and bay leaf.  Bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits again.  Reduce heat and add beef in 2-inch chunks and bring to a gentle simmer.  Cover and cook until the beef is cooked through.  Halfway through cooking, break up the beef chunks into small pieces.  Stir together the cornstarch and water and stir this into the beef mixture and allow to simmer for 30 seconds.  Remove the thyme sprigs and bay leaf and season to taste.

Spray a pie dish with nonstick spray and transfer the meat mixture to the dish, spreading evenly.  Spoon the potato mixture into a large Ziploc bag and snip off a large corner.  Pipe onto the top of the meat mixture, then use a spoon to spread it evenly over the top.  Using the tines of a fork, create ridges over the surface of the potatoes.  Place under the broiler on HIGH for a few minutes, watching carefully, until the potatoes turn golden on the ridges.  Allow to sit for five minutes before serving.

Shepherd's Pie

Shepherd’s Pie

Cajun Empanadas (Boudin-Stuffed Empanadas)

We really do not go out to eat often.  There was a time when we did, but now with a child, a mortgage, tuition…well there are just more important things to spend money on!  When we do go out to eat we like to go somewhere GOOD.  A local restaurant serves food made from local ingredients, and we love going there.  Not only is it delicious and a fun night out, but we also like supporting local businesses.

As food nerds, we like to try to figure out how they make things and try to recreate them at home.  One thing we did that with recently was the Cajun empanadas.  It was one of those meals that just made you go “mmmmm” with your first bite.  They were made of puff pastry filled with smoked boudin, and you dipped it in buffalo queso.  I never would have thought to combine those things but oh my, was it amazing!  We bought two different boudins from Guillory’s, the regular smoked and jalapeno smoked.  The regular smoked were just kind of plain tasting, but the jalapeno ones were just right, without being too spicy.  These would be fantastic if you made them smaller as an appetizer I think.  Here is what we created:

Cajun Empanadas

Cajun Empanadas

Cajun Empanadas

Ingredients:

1 pkg. frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 lb. GOOD smoked boudin (the best locally is the jalapeno smoked boudin at Guillory’s in Pineville), removed from casing
1 egg
queso for dipping

Method:

Preheat oven to temperature recommended on the puff pastry box.  On a floured surface, roll the thawed pastry out to thin it out.  Using a bowl, cut out round shapes, whatever size you want.  Fill halfway with boudin, then fold one half over the other and seal.  You may need to rub a little water on the dough to make it seal properly.  Take a fork and crimp the edges.  Place on a baking sheet and repeat with the remaining ingredients.  Before baking, whisk egg and a little water together and lightly brush on top of each empanada.  Bake until golden brown and flaky.  Serve warm with warmed queso to dip it in.