Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Basic Chicken Noodle Soup For Two

I know what you might be thinking.  It's the end of summer, it's 93° out... why are you making soup?  Well, starting on Friday I came down with a nasty cold.  Thankfully I'm starting to feel better, but now Paul is starting to show symptoms.  Great.  It is his first week of grad school and I don't want him to feel as crappy as I did the last few days.  I have nothing to do today, so I figured some good old chicken noodle soup would be a nice thing for him to come home to.  The problem is, it's hot as hell outside, and I don't want to make things even hotter by having a pot of soup simmering on the stove all afternoon.  So I decided to go for my trusty Crock-Pot.  I know my tastiest soups have started with sweating the mirepoix in butter, and letting the soup simmer for a couple hours, but A) I have a lot of chores I'd like to get done today after laying in bed the last 3 days, and the Crock-Pot is the perfect solution; and B) it's HOT.  I'm sure this will still be tasty, but most importantly, I want it to be healthy and hearty.  And that it is.

I pretty much threw this together spontaneously, so this is the closest I can come to a recipe.  It's very interesting and challenging to write recipes for meals in which I "wing it" -- but I just make sure I pay attention to the amounts I'm using as I go along.

Basic Chicken Noodle Soup For Two [for a small slow cooker -- about 4-6 cup capacity]
  • 1 skinless boneless chicken breast, cut into chunks
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, chopped
  • about 1 cup of chopped onions
  • kernels from 1 ear of corn
  • salt and pepper to your taste
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped; or 1 1/2 tsp dried parsley flakes
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • enough chicken broth to fill your slow cooker about three-quarters full
  • 6 oz. noodles
  1. Combine first nine ingredients in the slow cooker; cover and cook on low for 4-5 hours.
  2. Cook the noodles separately and add just before serving.
Everything but the broth and seasonings.
Labeling is your friend.
All ready to cook.
This is cooking as we speak and it has a few hours to go.  I was anxious to write a long-overdue new post, so consider this an unfinished work.  Check back later tonight for an update on how it turned out!


That's one chunky soup!
Turned out pretty good!  This was a VERY hearty soup -- I may even venture out and call it a stew.  But that is basically what I was going for.  Chunky, lots of flavor, chock full of good nutrients.  I still prefer to make soup on the stove-top, but this was a great option for a hot day.


Friday, August 27, 2010

Five Senses Friday

Thanks to made by mike for the idea. It's a cool way to reflect on the past week.

Seeing: A cloudless blue sky out the window
Tasting: Coffee, and a lot of fast food (this was a lazy food week for us, but I did get the new Chicken Pecan salad from Wendy's. It was actually quite delicious! Highly recommended)
Hearing: The humorous chatter of bored car salesmen; crickets & birds chirping relentlessly; the sound of the breeze blowing through the large bush outside the open window in front of me.
Smelling: Not much, thanks to a stuffy nose due to allergies
Feeling: Optimistic, cautious, worried, and hopeful... didn't think it was possible to feel those all at the same time!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Improvised Dinner / My Boyfriend Rocks

In my introductory post I mentioned I might blog about non-food related stuff.  This is one of those posts, because I myself haven't really been cooking this past week.  But tonight we cooked a great dinner so, I'll start off with that.

Sometimes the best dinners are ones with no recipe, just improvisation using the ingredients available in your fridge/pantry.  Paul gets all the credit for this because they were his ideas.  Thanks Paul. :)

Pan-Fried Salmon Fillet with Sauteed Garlic, Ginger, and Scallions (cooked by me)

String Bean, Red Bell Pepper, and Hungarian Pepper Stir-Fry with Ginger (cooked by Paul)

There really hasn't been much going on in my kitchen in the past week.  I've been pretty unproductive.  The only thing I remember cooking this week was eggs.  Work has been tiring me out and the weird hours (4pm-9pm) prevent me from cooking (or do they?).  I keep saying I'll put something in the Crock-Pot before I leave for work, but it never happens.  Ah, well... life gets in the way sometimes and that's okay.  Paul usually has something cooking for when I get home around 9:30 which is nice.  Earlier his week he made AWESOME burgers that I wish I had taken pictures of because they were soooo good.  Into the ground sirloin he mixed various fresh herbs (basil, sage, and thyme), garlic, onion, egg, bread crumbs, then stuffed fresh mozzarella cheese in the middle!  So delicious with a little Dijon mustard and a nice thick tomato slice.  The cheese was so melty and wonderful.

As I write I'm listening to Paul play around on the cello, playing along with Of Montreal.  He has been just an all-around awesome boyfriend and helping me out a lot as I adjust to my new schedule and juggle countless job applications and upcoming interviews.  I drive his car to work most nights so he is usually stuck at home, but each night when I come home he's gotten some big project done at the apartment.  Settling in here was very much a team effort between the two of us, but I gotta give him more credit.  We wouldn't have accomplished nearly as much as we did if it weren't for his incredible work ethic and generosity.  Thank you Paul... for the millionth time :)

I'll end with some pictures of some sweet skies we saw on our walk through Glasgow Park this evening.


Sunday, August 15, 2010

Pasta Salad

Today is a rainy Sunday.  Not the downpour kind, but a gentle mist that has persisted throughout the late morning and afternoon.  I love these kinds of days...the rain is soothing, it puts me in the mood to drink that extra cup of coffee, and it [usually] puts me in the mood to cook.  And that I did.

Admittedly, this is not the most exciting dish to blog about.  Pasta salad, macaroni salad, whatever you call it -- a routine summer staple.  Still, it's one of my favorite things to eat, and I have never made it from scratch.  I had fun making this today as I sort of made it up as I went along and it turned out delicious.  So, blog-worthy to me!

Sunday Pasta Salad
dressing adapted from  Taste of Home's recipe

  • 2 cups uncooked pasta -- I used mini penne
  • 1 large celery stalk, diced
  • 1 small-to-medium tomato, diced
  • 1 green onion, chopped
  • about half of a 16 oz. can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
  • Optional: 1/2 cup cooked chicken breast, cubed
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup prepared ranch dressing (eyeball it)
  • 3 tbsp milk
  • 3 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp dried minced onion
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 tsp dried parsley flakes
  • 1 tsp prepared Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp sweet relish
  1. Cook pasta according to package directions.  Drain and rinse with cold water.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, mix together dressing ingredients and let sit.
  3. Toss together the salad ingredients, and add the dressing. Mix well.

 Salad ingredients ready to be tossed.  Not pictured: eggs which I added after this picture was taken, and the chicken, which I decided to add at the last minute after everything was mixed together.  The chicken was left-over from a stir-fry Paul made a couple nights ago, and I didn't want it to go to waste.  I labeled the chicken as "optional" in the recipe because I added it in order to make it more of a meal (I had not yet eaten lunch and was getting hungrier and hungrier as I was preparing it!).  Personally, if this is just a side dish, I'd leave the chicken out.  But it's up to you!

Yummy side-dish or, in my case today, a light lunch.

Hope you're enjoying your Sunday, rain or shine.


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Slow-Cooked Thai Chicken Thighs

I love chicken thighs.  I love Thai cooking.  I love my Crock-Pot.  Put all three together and this is what you get.

Slow-Cooked Thai Chicken Thighs for a small slow-cooker (2-3 quarts), adapted from busycooks.about.com
  • 3 chicken thighs (skin-on/bone-in or skinless/boneless, whichever you prefer... I prefer the former)
  • 1 cup medium chunky salsa
  • 2 heaping tbsp smooth peanut butter
  • juice of one lime
  • 1/2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1-2 inch piece of ginger root, grated/minced
  • dash of Sriracha
  • big handful of unsalted peanuts, toasted and chopped
  • 1 green onion, chopped
  • about 4 lime wedges
  1. Place chicken thighs in slow cooker.
  2. Mix together salsa, peanut butter, lime juice, fish sauce, soy sauce, ginger, and Sriracha.  Pour over the chicken.
  3. Cook on high for 3-4 hours.
  4. Plate the chicken and sprinkle with peanuts and green onions.  Garnish with lime wedges and squeeze juice over the chicken before eating.  Serve with rice or noodles (I chose rice).

Before mixing.

After mixing.

Quite possibly my favorite thing in our fridge.

Chicken thighs nestled in and ready to cook.


Pretty soon I'm starting a part-time job that will have me working from 4pm-9pm on weekdays.  Good hours in terms of convenience (I can still go on interviews & get a ton of stuff done during the day), but not the greatest for someone who likes to cook dinner, because I sure as heck won't feel like cooking when I get home at 9:30.  So, I have a feeling I'll be using the Crock-Pot quite a bit over the next several weeks on days when Paul won't be cooking (did I mention he is a great cook too!).  Any good recipes?  Send 'em my way ;)


    Monday, August 9, 2010

    My Favorite Condiment

    I'm certainly not the first person to discover the wonders of flavored mayo, but I had to share my most recent food obsession.  I kinda ripped this off the Japanese, but over the past few months I've become obsessed with spicy mayo.  For fellow sushi addicts, you know the orange "spicy sauce" you get with certain rolls?  I discovered that a less spicy version of that is freaking delicious on just about everything.  And it only takes two ingredients: mayo (preferably Kewpie, but any kind will do) and hot sauce (I recommend Sriracha, but again, use whatever you like).  I also add 1-2 drops sesame oil, depending on the amount I'm making, to give it a little more depth of flavor.  Paul and I are seriously addicted to this stuff.  We mostly put it on sandwiches and use it as a dip for potatoes/fries/veggies.  It's also delicious on burgers and can be used as a dip for pretty much any fried food.  I've never had aioli, but I can't imagine not loving that, too.  I just Googled "flavored mayo" and got about a billion recipes.  Now I can't wait to try making all different varieties!  They sell bottles of flavored mayo in the stores, but isn't it more economical -- and fun -- to create your own at home?


    Sunday, August 8, 2010

    Tomato Sauce from Scratch

    I had the blessing of receiving a whole big batch of home-grown tomatoes from Paul's mom's garden.  They are unlike any tomato you can buy in the store; sweet, tender, juicy, yum.  Unfortunately, there were more tomatoes than I knew what to do with, so I decided to try a batch of tomato sauce (something his mom had also done while I was staying at their house this summer).  I pretty much winged it, eyeballed everything, and threw it in my (CUTE) mini slow cooker (I'm usually cooking for two -- it probably holds about 3 or 4 quarts). Here's my "recipe":

    Homemade Tomato Sauce
    • 4 medium vine-ripened tomatoes
    • 2 tsp tomato paste
    • 3 cloves garlic, pressed
    • a few shakes of dehydrated minced onion
    • generous helping of whatever herb you have on hand (all I had was dried parsley for now)
    • salt and pepper, to taste
    1. Place the tomatoes in boiling water for 30 seconds. Remove, peel, and chop to your heart's desire. Place tomatoes in slow cooker.
    2. Add tomato paste, garlic, onion, herbs, salt, and pepper. Stir.
    3. If, like me, you want a less chunky sauce, stick your immersion blender in there and puree.  I blended until there were just a few tomato chunks left.
    4. Cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 3-4 hours.
    Mine's still simmering, so I'll have to update this post and let you know how it turns out.  Seems pretty foolproof to me, though.  I plan on boiling some frozen (yeah, I know) gnocchi tonight or tomorrow and using the sauce for that.


    UPDATE: Great success! The sauce was sweet but not too sweet, and had a nice kick from the garlic.  The only negative was that it came out a bit watery -- next time, strain the tomatoes after chopping & before adding to the pot.

     Gnocchi (from frozen) with Homemade Tomato Sauce, Freshly Grated Parmesan & Romano Cheese


    The obligatory "first post"... how shall I begin?  Well, I've been thinking about starting a food blog for a while ever since I joined Allrecipes.com.  I review recipes and post pictures there all the time, but you have to be a paying member to have a blog there, so... no thanks.  My older sister, Jess, suggested that I start a food blog in a comment on one of my cooking pictures I had posted on Facebook (she has also repeatedly suggested I go to culinary school...hmmm).  My interest and enjoyment in cooking has increased over the past few years but I still consider myself largely a beginner. I would estimate 75% of my cooking is done without a recipe (this does not include baking).  I feel that's the best way to really learn how to cook...experimenting and creating on your own.  But of course, I do need (and greatly appreciate) help from the pros from time to time!

    Literally a week ago, I relocated from Philadelphia (where I recently graduated from Temple University...go Owls!) to Delaware (where my boyfriend, Paul, will begin grad school this fall). I'm still unemployed (thanks, economy!) and when I'm not job searching, I'm slowly unpacking the apartment and getting back into cooking. I figured since I have all this free time now, it's the perfect time to take advantage of it and cook as much as I can... as well as start blogging. This is the state of my new, bigger kitchen now:

    I love it; it gets plenty of sunlight and opens up to a big patio out back.  Quite an upgrade from our kitchen in Philadelphia.  As you can see, last night I finally unpacked (almost) all our kitchen boxes and unloaded everything onto the counters & stove.  Yikes...what a mess.  It hasn't stopped me from preparing a few meals, though.  Last night it was my favorite way to prepare chicken breasts: Melissa D'Arabian's Versatile 4-Step Chicken.  I love this recipe because you can switch out whichever poultry, aromatics, seasonings, citrus, and green veggie you want (last night I used chicken, onions/garlic, s&p, lemon juice, and American broccoli. In the past I've done pork chops pounded thin, lime juice, orange juice, pineapple juice, spinach...the possibilities are endless).  And, in the corner near the microwave, you can see my mini-crockpot which currently has a batch of homemade tomato sauce simmering away (blog post about that coming soon).

    Anyway, this is my little blog.  I hope to chronicle as many cooking adventures as I can, as well as our experiences dining out.  I may write about non-food related topics from time-to-time, as well. We'll see!  In the coming weeks I may back-track and do some posts about favorite meals I've made or enjoyed at my favorite restaurants in the past.  For now, here are some favorite shots of foods I've prepared:

    Seared Ahi Tuna with Napa, Cucumber & Carrot Salad

    Bacon-Wrapped Roasted Asparagus with Spicy Mayo Dip

    Bacon-Wrapped Salmon Fillet with a Balsamic Glaze (everything's better when wrapped in bacon)

    Cupcakes with Strawberry Icing (icing recipe...so delicious, tastes like strawberry ice cream)

    Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins (recipe)

    General Tao Chicken (recipe)

    Apple Streusel Coffee Cake