Friday, February 27, 2009

Chicken & Tortilla Soup - Mexican Comfort Food

I have been nursing a "hormonal" headache that has been haunting me for almost a week. Even Imitrex isn't doing a complete job, so I stayed home from work on Friday. When I'm laying low, I want comfort food that isn't labor intensive. My food database in my pounding head decided that my fresh batch of roasted chicken stock would be the answer-- and then I remembered... Chicken Tortilla Soup! I haven't made this recipe for over a year, and it's a meal that's delicious, made with fresh ingredients and very comforting.

I thawed four chicken breasts in water, and lined my crockpot with one of those wonderful liners (for fast and easy cleanup). I added 1/4 cup of homemade taco seasoning (why buy mixes?) to 2 cups water and set the chicken into the crockpot for four hours...

Then I caught up on 3 episodes of the TV Show "24" and surfed the internet and hoped my head would stop pounding....

Later that afternoon, I removed the chicken and shredded it...

I returned the chicken back to the liquid in my crockpot...

Prepped my ingredients...

Added them to my Dutch Oven...

Smelled the aromatic combination of onion, garlic, chile powder, cumin and cilantro (and I absolutely love cilantro)-- and started to feel better and hungry.

I rejoiced that my $11.00 roast chicken dinner had yielded 8 quarters of beautiful chicken stock, as I poured it into my soup base

Now I'm ready to add my shredded chicken (I froze 1/3 of it for future meals)

I forgot to preheat my oven so that I could bake my corn tortillas-- and use less oil. So I took a fast route and cooked cut corn tortilla strips in some canola oil, blotted well with paper towels and sprinkled with sea salt. They were so good, that I vowed never to buy a bag of corn chips again.

Garnishing this soup with tortilla strips...

Adding sour cream and fresh avocado, and some fresh lime juice is what makes this soup the Ultimate Comfort Soup for me. It makes my Mexican DNA very happy.

All by myself (my husband is out of town until Saturday evening), I enjoyed a bowl of soup and I could feel my spirits lift.

Once my husband comes home, I'm sure that I'll be completely on the mend. I'll make a salad with a cilantro lime dressing and some homemade cornbread for him to enjoy. He loves this soup!

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Cranberry-Almond Granola -- Great Way to Start the Day!

I was scrolling through my recipe index, and I realized something-- I love to bake!  This granola recipe satisfies my need to turn on my oven, without the guilt. This recipe is one of the healthier versions that I've made, and it's really the most delicious one by far. I've shared this recipe with a few of my friends, who all rave about it.

I think what makes this granola recipe taste so good is the almond extract. I am a HUGE fan of almond-- especially marzipan. Originally, this recipe called for dried cherries. Cherries and almond are a match made in heaven. Dried cherries are harder to find and a lot more expensive. So, I've started to make this recipe with dried cranberries, that I buy in bulk at the health food store.

Seriously, I can make a batch of this granola in 20 minutes. (A printable recipe is at the bottom of this post)


In a saucepan, combine the brown sugar, milk powder, honey, apple juice concentrate and oil. Cook and stir over medium heat until sugar is dissolved; stir in extract. In a large bowl, combine the oats, cherries and almonds. Drizzle with sugar mixture and mix well.

Spread in a thin layer in two 15-in. x 10-in. x 1-in. baking pans coated with cooking spray. Bake at 375° for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown, stirring occasionally. Cool completely. Serve with yogurt if desired. Store in an airtight container. Yield: 3 quarts.

A word of caution, if you make this-- the granola will burn if you don't pay close attention. I have Silpat (silicone) mats that fit on my baking sheets. Or, I recommend that you use parchment paper.

You'll be glad that you did. I rotate the sheets, halfway through baking. Depending on your oven, the granola should be finished at 15 minutes, but watch it closely. The danger is thinking that you need to leave it in the oven until it looks golden brown. Do not get tricked into this! I've burned a batch of this before, and doesn't taste good at all. The brown sugar will harden and your granola will turn out perfectly. Trust me.

My husband likes to eat this with soy milk. My son likes it with 2% I still say that it's delicious with non-fat vanilla yogurt. It's good sprinkled on ice cream, or eaten by the handful-- you decide!

Cranberry-Almond Granola

I have kept my pact, to myself, that I would ...

See Cranberry-Almond Granola on Key Ingredient.

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Monday, February 23, 2009

German Pancakes - Memories on a plate

My blog has a new feature! Scroll down to the bottom of this posting for a printable version of this recipe!

A few days ago, my son reminded me how much he misses his grandmother, and how he associates German "pfannkuchen" (pancakes) with fond memories of her. I realized I hadn't made these in a very long time-- they are so basic and simple, yet they are truly very "comforting".
My Mother "Gretl" and her Mother (my Grandmother), photographed by me in Bad Reichenhall, Bavaria--both have passed on , but their love of cooking is now in my hands

My mother, who was born and raised in Southern Germany (Bavaria) served these pancakes to her three kids. Sometimes, my mother would chop the cooked pancakes into tiny bite sized pies-- right into the pan. This is called "schmarn"-- loosely translated "junk", but it when used in Bavarian it translates into "nonsense". We loved pouring pancakes syrup all over "schmarn".

Overall, the pancakes, folded in half and filled with strawberry jam is our very favorite.
I've developed my own version of rolling the pancakes, more like a crepe. Sometimes, I like to add fresh squeezed lemon juice and powdered sugar. This morning, I used the rest of the
lemon curd that I had made . Wow! Happy memories. I thought I'd share a few of mine with all of you:

My Great Grandmother, who owned a hotel-restaurant, whose soup tureen I still use
My Great Grandparents Wedding Photo circa1903
My Grandmother "Oma" at the age of 17. Love her "dirndl"!

My Grandparents Wedding Photo, 1923

I hope that you give these a try. My mother would have been pleased to know that you did!

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Pork Marsala and Pappardelle Pasta

Good grief, my photography has dramatically improved since I first posted this.  It's time to re-shoot this recipe, which is one of myfaves.

I have to admit that I admire Rachael Ray, but I have grown tired of her over-the-top too perky and chatty TV personality. How diplomatic was that!? Seriously, I give kudos to Rachael Ray for showing me that I don't need to cook with canned cream soups, or processed foods, to put a good meal on the table in 30 minutes. I also give her a lot of credit for giving me a baseline on what pantry staples I should keep on hand, so that I can throw together a good meal.

I think that the reason I've tuned out of her show, in the last couple of years, is that I noticed a lot of recipes were repeats of others I had made. With that said, I happened to catch Rachael Ray's show when I was home on a school holiday. Pork marsala-- that intrigued me. So, I watched the show and realized that I had an unopened bottle of marsala, a frozen pork tenderloin and I try to keep a bag of Trader Joe's Pappardelle Pasta (a long wide egg noodle). All I needed was some fresh cremini mushrooms, and I was all set!

To prep the pork I cut the tenderloin into equal pieces:

Then I used my offset meat pounder (you can use a heavy skillet, but I'm a gadget freak) and gave the meat a good whack:

After dipping each medallion into seasoned flour, I seared the pork (yes, I am using a non-stick skillet...and I am able to achieve a nice crust-- but I also own some heavy bottomed skillets)).

Once all the pork was seared, I kept it warm under foil and then I started to saute' the cremini mushroms:
I love cremini mushrooms!
Then sprinkled flour over the mushrooms, and got ready to add my liquid:

...and watched the sauce thicken

... and I realized that I wish I had made more sauce (and I admit, I didn't measure)

The sauce was outstanding! I was beginning to feel very hungry, as I added the pork back into the sauce:

I served this with a vegetable side dish I had made on Valentine's Day. My family was very, very happy.

Rachael Ray, great job! This recipe will be a repeat performance. It was that good!

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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Quick Meal Fix-- Shrimp "Skimpy"

I had a pretty rough day at the office, but too tired to cook anything that required a lot of energy. I peeked into my freezer and found a bag of frozen shrimp that I had completely forgotten about (I have to say, I am thankful to have an upright freezer in my garage-- it makes cooking fast meals a little easier on me). I grabbed a box of pasta (I keep a variety on hand, because pasta is one of my favorite "go to" fast meal solutions. I had "Shrimp Scampi" on my mind...

In my fridge, I also found one chicken breast that needed to be cooked. My husband isn't wild about shrimp, but my son and I love it. So, I quickly marinated the chicken in olive and oil and garlic-- and I then I grilled it on my cast iron pan:

I figured I'd slice the chicken and serve that with the pasta-- that way everyone would be happy!

I love Shrimp Scampi, but there is a ton of butter and garlic which adds up to a LOT of fat grams. I thought of a delicious Tilapia Picatta recipe I had recently made, and so I got busy in the kitchen. This version is one that I make as a quick Work Week Meal. I use less butter and more chicken stock, but it's still very tasty and satisfying.

Shrimp "Skimpy:

I didn't measure, so I've tried to recreate what I think would work:

Raw Shrimp, deveined (tails on or off)-- I was cooking this dish for three servings, so I calculated about 8 large sized shrimp per person
(Note: I buy my frozen shrimp at Trader Joe's)
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil, divided
1 Tbsp. Unsalted Butter
Generous Splash (about 1/4 cup)White White (I use sauvignon blanc)
Chicken stock (about 1/2 cup)
2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
Italian parsley, finely chopped (about 1-2 Tbsp)
Linguini (cooked according to box directions-- fettuccine or any kind of spaghetti pasta is OK)
Parmesan cheese (grated)


  • If the shrimp is frozen, I do a "quick thaw" by soaking in water (takes 10 minutes)
  • Cook pasta, in salted water, according to directions.
  • Drain pasta, reserving about 1 cup of pasta water
  • In a skillet, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil and saute' shrimp, until they just turn pink (no more than 2-3 minutes). Overcooked shrimp turns tough!

  • Remove shrimp and set aside (I put mine in a lightly warmed oven)
  • Add the rest of the olive oil and butter.
  • Add garlic and cook, until just fragrant (about 30 seconds)
  • Add the wine and cook for about 1 minute
  • Add the chicken stock; cook at medium heat until slightly reduced (3-5 minutes)
  • Return the shrimp to the skillet
Add the pasta and combine; turn off heat
  • Note: if the pasta appears too dry or stick, add a little pasta water to moisten
  • Add fresh parsley and parmesan cheese
From start to finish, this meal was on the table in 20 minutes! My husband loved the chicken and pasta and my son ate two huge helpings. I dubbed the recipe "Shrimp Skimpy" since I didn't use nearly the amount of butter that a true Scampi calls for.

I felt much better-- especially when the "boys" did the cleanup!

Shrimp Skimpy

From start to finish, this meal was on the table ...

See Shrimp Skimpy on Key Ingredient.

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Fool Proof Lemon Curd


I've made this lemon curd countless times. It's always perfect. It's also very easy to make.  The remainder of these photos are taken by my old point-and-shoot camera. One of these days I'll shoot entirely new pictures. The recipe remains the same, though.

Here the lemon curd has cooled

Here, the lemon curd is still warm

I found this recipe a few years ago, but forgot exactly where. This recipe is foolproof...honest!
When I make this, I also whip up a batch of ricotta pancakes. It's a wonderful change from pancake syrup.

You can use Eureka lemons, but I might suggest that you increase the sugar-- taste it! If you use Meyer lemons, they are the tastiest-- Myer's have a sweeter taste.

Either way, please try this. You'll never buy lemon curd in the jar again. Trust me.

In a 2 quart saucepan, combine lemon juice, lemon zest, sugar, eggs, and butter.

Starting to thicken....
Cook over medium-low heat until thick enough to hold marks from whisk, and first bubble appears on surface, about 6 minutes.

There! It's thick!

There are a few ways I like to enjoy this wonderful curd-- gently heated

with Aebelskivers...

with scones, or even as the middle layer of a white cake.

For some great tips on making Lemon Curd, from Fine Cooking (I found this link AFTER I posted my recipe, wouldn't you know it?) click here: "Lemon Curd tips"

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Lemon Sunshine-- Ricotta Pancakes and Lemon Curd

I have no idea why, but my fridge has too much ricotta cheese and an abundance of Meyer lemons! Then I remembered a recipe from Bobby Flay (Food Network) on making ricotta pancakes. It's been over a year since I've made these, so I went to my "Recipe Keeper Binder" and there it was! I opened a jar of lemon curd from Trader Joe's (I was feeling lazy) and I paused...

Ugh. The best used by date was March 2007 and the curd looked...well, brown!

I hesitated. Do I really want to make my own lemon curd? My stomach growled.

OK, I'll do it! I was glad that I did-- seriously, it took 10 minutes to make my own and it's so good and so delicious...and so easy!

I stopped buying Bisquick and pancake mix a long time ago. Making pancakes, from scratch, is so easy and I think they taste much better. Adding ricotta cheese to pancake mix produces tender, and fluffy pancakes. Oh, and I realized (after I made the lemon curd) that my son had polished off all of the milk! Fortunately, I keep 2% buttermilk in my fridge as a "staple". My son was redeemed (after a lecture about writing things on my grocery list) because the buttermilk made the pancakes even better!These pancakes reheat, well, in the microwave. I had stashed the last two for my breakfast, since I'm home alone for a day of vacation. Too late! My son found them. He says they were delicious.


Directions Preheat a nonstick griddle.
Combine flour, baking powder, nutmeg, salt, and sugar in a small bowl.
Whisk together the cheese, eggs, milk, lemon juice and zest in a large bowl.
(note: I skipped adding the lemon juice and zest and my pancakes turned out great!)
Whisk the flour mixture into the wet ingredients until just combined.
Brush the hot griddle with butter.
For each pancake, pour approximately 1/4 cup measure of the batter on the griddle and cook on both sides until light golden brown. Repeat until no batter remains.

For those of you who don't make my lemon curd recipe:
Empty the contents of the lemon curd into a small saucepan and warm over low heat. Alternatively, remove the lid and place in a microwave oven on 50 percent power for 2 minutes, stopping after 1 minute to stir the curd.
Drizzle a few tablespoons of the curd over the pancakes, top with fresh raspberries, and sprinkle with confectioners' sugar.
NOTE: I add a thin layer of lemon curd between my pancakes.

A printable recipe card is below:

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