September 28, 2010

Chicken Noodle Soup

The powers that be were in line when I decided to make chicken noodle soup for Sunday supper.  Overcast, thunderous, rainy and downright gloomy.  This is a recipe you can speed up or slow down. Your choice too on the spice - leave it out or add more.  Here we go...

Chicken Noodle Soup
2 cups each
   carrots, eyed
   celery, sliced
   onion, diced
4  fingerling potatoes, chunked
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
6 cups chicken broth
1 tsp herbs de Provence
3 cranks Black pepper
2 cranks Mediterranean Sea Salt
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp crushed red pepper
1 tsp hot sauce
2 Bay  Leaves
8.8 oz German Egg noodles
1 bag washed spinach
1 tablespoon olive oil
Add carrots, celery, onions, potatoes, oil, pepper, salt, red pepper, hot sauce, herbs de Provence,  garlic & bay leaves to bottom of crock pot.  Toss together lightly.  Place chicken breasts on top and add chicken broth, cover and cook on low for 6 hours, remove chicken & add pasta & remove bay leaves, stir together, and recover for 45 minutes.  In the meantime shred chicken and hold back from the soup.  After 45 minutes add spinach & shredded chicken 10 minutes before ready to serve supper - serve with saltine crackers or cornbread, Parmesan cheese and hot sauce . Perfect for a Sunday or easy night dinner.  Adjust meat, spice & cooking time as you need - hope you enjoy!

September 19, 2010

Chili Time...

Terrace at Reynolds Plantation
First I have to share my favorite picture.  Not only is this my favorite picture, but this is also from my favorite weekend of 2010, so far.  Me & hubby at a 5 star resort in a suite on the club level on Lake Oconee filled with full moon evenings and amazing food & drinks. We shared beers and pink champagne with the squirrels. We may not go out of town often, but when we do - we do it right! Notice I said we- he is on his way to Atlanta for some stupid meeting and I am at the kitchen table blogging my Chili recipe, but then again the recipe is pretty tasty & I personally do not want to sit through a leadership class (the premise of a "Leadership class" doesn't even make since). Anyway I am pretty proud of myself!  Yesterday in between my chili and playing with my adorable doggy nephew Rudy I made my first dough ever, from scratch!  It paid off because it 
Rudy Rutland
 created yummy cinnamon rolls which I served for brunch this morning on my new china.  The recipe for these is of course The Pioneer Woman's, check out the link for the details. I definitely think my sissy, brother in law and husband enjoyed!  A family brunch is a perfect way to start off the week.  I also served fruit and the left over cheddar, onion, bacon biscuits  I prepared last night to go with our chili.  All in all a great weekend & happy The Tide and The Tigers both pulled through (we are an equal opps kind of house).
OK,  here it is - Lara's Chili ( I finished in the top three at the Chili Kick Off years ago with this - lost to the Publix team).
Lara's Chili
1 onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 pound ground sirloin
2 beers
1 large lime (or 2 small)
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp cumin
1/2 cup, plus 1 TBS Chili powder
Kosher salt
Black pepper
28oz can Tomato puree
1 can Rotel
1 14oz can diced tomatoes
2 14oz cans Dark Red Kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 TBS red pepper flakes
1 TBS olive oil
Garnish with 1/2 red onion, minced, lime quarters, shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, saltines or oyster crackers or cornbread, hot sauce, & chopped avocado
Saute onions and bell pepper in oil for about ten minutes, add 1/2 cup chili powder, cumin and cayenne pepper.  Mix well and then add the beef.  Allow beef to brown (another 10 minutes or so) and add garlic, beans, tomato puree, diced tomatoes, rotel tomatoes, 1/2 beer (do what you want with whats left), juice from 1/2 large lime or whole if small (prep the other half  or other one as garnish for finished chili), 1/2 TBS of Kosher salt & couple of cranks of black pepper.  Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer & cover for about 3 hours, stirring every 20 minutes or so.  Make sure that the bottom of the chili doesn't burn & set heat on the level that ensures it. After about three hours, add 1/2 beer, 1 TBS chili powder, 1/2 TBS Kosher salt and red pepper flakes.  Bring back to a simmer and let liquid reduce for about an hour. You can also add hot sauce at this point if everyone you are serving likes it hot.  Here is the key you must serve it with a squirt of lime juice, minced red onions, chopped avocados, sour cream & cheddar cheese over crushed saltines (crackers or cornbread) - trust me you will adore!  Also please adjust the heat to your liking.  My version of chili has less meat and more beans compared to most, so please add more meat if you like.

September 17, 2010

It is in the air...

Fall is around the corner.  Of course it is going to be 96 degrees this afternoon, but it is the air. You can smell it. Yesterday my friend Josh and I started talking about how we couldn't wait for the first outside fire of the year. We sounded like goofy 5 year olds.
I will say that my local haunts are not doing anything to discourage this excitement.  After three miles and seeing some wonderful friends at the gym I headed to the Farmers Market on a mission (took the day off from work).  The "Macho" ferns in our front urns finally gave in to the offensive Alabama heat.  While looking for replacements I found these mums.  They will be that beautiful burnt auburn color. Just remember when buying your mums that they only bloom once & honestly if I didn't have empty urns I wouldn't have bought these so close to full bloom.  I know that with this heat I will have to replace them soon anyway so I went for it!
Then I went to my favorite place, The Fresh Market & was greeted by pumpkins!!!   Beautiful, gorgeous pumpkins - I came home with two and everything I need to make my chili. I will share that recipe later in the weekend.  Chili, pumpkins & mums = Hello Fall!
I also came home with these.  One thing you have to know is that I am fascinated by china - I come by it honestly (I had a strange obsession with Limoge plates as a child).  This is definitely the most affordable of my favorites - Fiesta!  I adore it - it screams funky and out of the ordinary.  It says "I don't stay inside the lines or even want to fit into the appropriate box". Color is good!!! See Jennifer - I told you I was up to something.  In my defense there was a sale, buy 4 and get the 5th free.  And the Fiesta I already had needed company.  Ok now I am off to redo my cabinets to make room for my new friends.  Happy Friday!!!

September 12, 2010

Cipriani Pasta with White Truffle Butter

This is the kind of dish you make for a very special occasion - Valentine's Day, your love's birthday, Christmas Eve.  You are done in 30 minutes and your results will be amazing. It is so wonderful that I am really not even going to suggest substitutes.  If you can not find the pasta or the white truffle butter I will come up with a different dish for you  (By the way if you can't find them at your market you can order both through amazon).  Sounds like a lot of trouble, but it is completely worth it. 
Cipriani Pasta with White Truffle Butter, serves 2
adapted from Barefoot Contessa's recipe
1 package Cipriani Pasta, pappardelle or tagliarelle
3 oz white truffle butter
1/2 cup of fat free Half & Half
Mediterranean Sea salt, fresh pepper & red pepper flakes
2 -3 oz of Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons chopped chives

While you are bringing a large pot of salted water to a boil bring the half and half to a simmer in a large pan.  Turn the heat down to low and add butter, crank of sea salt, pepper and tiny pinch of red pepper flakes. Let butter melt and keep warm on very low heat. Cipriani pasta only takes 3 minutes to cook, watch closely, drain and add to the butter mixture & toss together.  Serve immediately garnished with the Parmesan cheese and fresh chives.

Enjoy - we do!!!
Some notes here - I find both of these items at my local Fresh Market, the pasta runs around $7.99 and the white truffle butter was 5.99.  As a testament to the amazingness of the white truffle butter - even those that can not stand mushrooms adore it!  My husband will not go near any type of mushroom, not at all.  The first time I made this I didn't disclose the truffle angle.  After he devoured his bowl and was so pitifully disappointed that there was no more to have I told him. He didn't even flinch.  Actually I was going to surprise him with this dish for Sunday Supper tonight, but when he stumbled across the pasta and the butter he caught on and I switched it to Saturday Night Dinner.
Also - go ahead and be sinful - add regular 1/2 & 1/2 or heavy cream.  The fat free variety is what I keep stocked for coffee and use in my cooking too.  If it was Christmas Eve or Valentine's I think I would go with the real thing!  I watched the movie The Holiday last Sunday & was craving this dish after listening to Kate Winslet talk about Christmas fettuccine.

September 8, 2010

Chicken Stuffed with Herbed Cheese & Basil

Chicken, risotto & green beans
This is my version of the Barefoot Contessa's Chicken with Herbed Goat Cheese . I have tried many times and I just can not stuff a chicken breast - I either pull the skin completely off or slice my hand attempting to create a "pocket" in a boneless breast. My husband says I look for accidents - I am convinced they look for me! Anyway taking a hint from the Fresh Market I have started rolling up my chicken breasts for a stuffed versionThis is really an easy weeknight meal once you get the rolling down.  Also don't worry about the number of toothpicks you use - it will vary depending on the shape of the chicken.  Some of mine only require 3 while others need many more.
Hope you enjoy!

Chicken Ready to Roll

Chicken Stuffed with Herbed Cheese & Basil, inspired by Ina Garten (serves 2)
2 chicken breasts, boneless, skinless
3 tablespoons herbed goat cheese, room temperature
4 fresh large basil leaves
2 teaspoons of Parmesan cheese
sea salt & pepper
olive oil
8 toothpicks
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Pound chicken between wax paper until it is a uniform thickness (doesn't have to be very thin). Add a crank of the sea salt and pepper to each   Divide the cheese between the two pieces and spread evenly over the middle of the chicken (be careful not to get too close to the edges - it will melt out easier), add 2 basil leaves & one teaspoon of Parmesan to each piece. Roll the widest end of the chicken to the narrowest.  Close openings  with toothpicks & coat outside with olive oil and a crank of pepper and sea salt.  Bake at 375 degrees for approximately 35-40 minutes and then at 425 degrees for 5-7 minutes just allowing chicken to brown.

If you can't find the herbed goat cheese you could easily substitute with plain goat cheese or cream cheese with a teaspoon or two of Herbes de Provence mixed well. If the basil is too strong for you liking just leave it out.

September 6, 2010

Sour Cream Potato Salad

Happy Labor Day! Yesterday we enjoyed our last day at the pool.  It couldn't have been a more beautiful, relaxing afternoon.  As you can see not a cloud in the sky & highs only around 90 degrees.  Today we are actually spending the day around the house in a Fall Cleaning mode. Therefore I planned our menu to be easy and as non-messy as possible.We will see...

Labor Day Menu
Grilled Beer Boiled Bratwurst with caramelized onions, sour kraut and mustard
Sour Cream Potato Salad (recipe below)
Baked Beans, canned
Cold Kosher Pickles
Sliced Honeydew for dessert

Sour Cream Potato Salad, serves 4
7 medium red new potatoes, diced, boiled and cooled
2 thin slices of sweet onion, finely diced
3 slices of crispy turkey bacon, crumbled
2 teaspoons Champagne Vinegar
1 hefty tablespoon of Creamy Dijon Mustard
2 hefty tablespoons of light sour cream
Dash of red pepper flakes
Sea Salt & Pepper
Leaves from 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
Crumble bacon onto cooled potatoes, add onion, 2 cranks of pepper and sea salt, and dash red pepper flakes.  Mix together the vinegar, mustard, and sour cream and fold into the potatoes.  After all are coated hit the potatoes with another crank of pepper and sea salt, sprinkle with thyme leaves and paprika.  Chill for at least 4 hours or even overnight (I made ours this morning as the coffee was brewing).  Toss right before serving and add another sprinkle of paprika.
*Please note you can go with real bacon and sour cream - it's your personal preference.  Also on the diced onion - onion size varies so much that 1 slice, thinly diced may be enough - just use at your discretion.  Also the longer the salad chills the stronger the raw onion will become.  Hope you enjoy!

September 4, 2010

Gouda En Croute

Growing up this was my mother's go to appetizer.  My brother, sister and I loved it when my parents had friends over for cocktails before a dinner out, because we would get the leftover Gouda En Croute and Asparagus Dip.  This Gouda is still a family favorite, but goes by many names - Gouda En Croute, Baked Gouda hors d'oeurve, and Hot Gouda Ball. Please note it is best to bake on a cookie sheet to ensure the bottom of the pastry cooks thoroughly.  Hope you enjoy!

Claire's Classic Gouda En Croute
1 7oz  Gouda wheel
1 8oz tube crescent dinner rolls
1 egg,  whisked with a dash of water
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Remove wrapping and wax from the cheese.  Open crescents and separate it in half (save one half for later use), flatten dough and  smooth out the edges so it is one piece.  Place Gouda in the middle of the dough and bring all the sides of the dough to the top of the cheese. Smooth out the dough so that the cheese is completely encased.  Brush the dough with the egg wash and bake for 20 minutes or so.  Watch closely to ensure it doesn't burn. Let it sit for about 5 minutes before serving.

Lara's Sweet Gouda En Croute
 Same recipe as above, but before you add the cheese to the dough place 2 teaspoons of  preserves to the middle of the dough in a circle about the size of the cheese. Place the cheese directly on top of the preserves.  Today I added fresh Alabama blueberry preserves (picture above), but strawberry and raspberry are wonderful as well - try it with your favorite.

Lara's Savory Gouda En Croute
Same recipe as above, but spread 2 teaspoons of spicy mustard all over the dough (not just the center) & then add the cheese and follow through as described above.

Serving notes - with Claire's and the Sweet version serve with fruit and crackers.  Serve the Savory with olives, gherkins and crackers.  Smoked Gouda works well too, as does Edam cheese if you can't find Gouda.

Slight confession to make...

Our Last CSA Box
OK so I will come clean - we canceled our CSA membership. This was hard for me to do because I am totally behind the CSA mission and really want to support the local farmers. It just came down to the lack of variety for the expense. My husband is such a picky eater and tires of things very quickly. After giving away rounds of corn and squash I knew we had to do something else. My Sissy (my sister in law & that is what we call each other - goofy I know, but I love it) had a great question about the whole CSA box concept - what do you do with the things you know you are not going to eat?  A real problem in the home of a picky eater.  Sissy then suggested that my husband and I go to the farmers markets together on Saturdays & pick out things we really want to eat for the week & we would really be supporting local farmers.  I never thought he would go for it - Saturday mornings are his time to sleep.  However when we talked about it as a solution to canceling our $170/ month veggie box delivery he was very responsive.  We have had a blast.  The first week we stocked up on what we would receive in our weekly veggie box for $18 & it was completely customized. This morning  we went all out and stocked up on local honey & preserves.
CSAs are a wonderful resource and down the road I will explore rejoining one. I live in a city with a state farmers' market that is open 7 days a week.  I can't get any more local than that.
Bounty from the Alabama State Farmers Market on 9/4 - honey, blackberry preserves, pickled peaches, tomatoes, okra, oranges, avocados, peaches, and pink eyed peas

September 3, 2010

Fingerling Potatoes with Thyme

Simple and delicious.  I came across this new potato recipe, and was inspired to make some changes.  This has become my favorite potato recipe.  You can make it as healthy or as decadent as you want.  Also don't be discouraged if you can't find fingerling potatoes you can use new potatoes, red skinned or white rounds.

Fingerling Potatoes with Thyme
1 1/2 to 2 lbs of fingerling potatoes
4 cups low sodium chicken broth
6 sprigs of thyme
Mediterranean Sea Salt & Pepper
*This is best prepped in a cast iron skillet

Wash potatoes and cut the larger potatoes in half so they are all about the same size. Place as a single layer in the skillet and add the thyme sprigs, crank of pepper, & 2 cups of broth.  Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.  Allow the broth to evaporate (30 minutes), add another cup and allow to evaporate (30 minutes)  then add the final cup, again allowing it to evaporate.   Add a crank of pepper & sea salt. Remove the thyme sprigs (the leaves have fallen off at this point) and transfer to your serving dish.

At this point these are very healthy and delicious.
The following are the things I have added: caramelized onions, sherried onions and mushrooms, caramelized onions with Parmesan cheese and sour cream & every combination plus butter.

Approximate cooking time is 1 & 1/2 hours, but please keep an eye on them - you may want to keep extra broth on hand just to be safe.

Fingerling Potato on FoodistaFingerling Potato

September 2, 2010

Grilled Lemon Chicken

Goggle search Grilled Lemon Chicken and you will get over a quarter of a million hits, honestly.  After trying many different versions, this adaptation is my home's favorite. Hope you enjoy!  *** Please note this recipe requires marinating time so just keep that in mind.  Even better to prep and marinate the evening before.***

Grilled Lemon Chicken  
4 chicken breasts, skinless, boneless (strips work well too)
2 Lemons
1/3 cup of creamy Dijon Mustard
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup of olive oil
1 teaspoon garlic
Dash hot sauce
2 tablespoons of chopped Fresh Herbs (basil & rosemary) or 1 tablespoon dried Herbs de Provence
Salt & Pepper

In a mixing bowl add juice of 1 & 1/2 lemons, mustard, honey, hot sauce, garlic, herbs & S&P, lightly stir.  Wisk the olive oil  into the dressing slowly & set aside.  Slightly pound the chicken between wax paper and then place your chicken breasts in a gallon size ziploc bag. Pour half of the dressing over the chicken and seal bag.  Refrigerate for at least 2 hours (overnight if you can), flipping it several times.
Thinly slice the remaining lemon half , cover the remaining dressing and refrigerate both.
The rest is simple - grill your chicken, place on your serving platter, pour over the remaining dressing and top with thinly sliced lemons.  Cover tightly with foil for at least 10 minutes and serve. 
Adapt this recipe as you like. I hope you find it to be a "go to" as I do. It is a great thing to prep on a Thursday evening for a delicious easy Friday night dinner.

Gameday Margaritas

In honor of the start of football season & to kick off the Labor Day weekend I am sharing the recipe for my favorite margarita.  This is not a fruity, girlie cocktail.  This is a drink all the guys and girls will love.

Gameday Margaritas, by Brad (these will knock you on your buttums)
1 can of frozen margarita starter
1 can dark rum (using the same can from the mix)
1 can of water
1 beer, can be a light or full calorie just not a dark or heavy variety

Pour all over a pitcher of ice and blend (you can also mix lightly  & let it sit for a bit for an over the rocks option). Serve with limes and salt. The beer takes the tart out the mix and really finishes the drink off. Brad also suggests tasting it after adding about 3/4 of the beer to see if the whole can is necessary.  Trust me you will know.  Enjoy.