Sunday, November 30, 2008

BB: Mexican Chicken Soup and Roasted Onions

I'm a little behind on posting my November Barefoot Bloggers recipes. November has gone by so fast - it feels like it should still be October to me. This month's recipes were Mexican Chicken Soup, chosen by Judy, and Herb Roasted Onions, chosen by Kelly. I liked both recipes - although neither turned out exactly as I expected. I didn't get a picture of the onions; they were actually pretty good (I'm not normally a huge fan of eating onions on their own) . . . but I still think they would make a better sandwich or burger topper than side dish. You can see what the other members of Barefoot Bloggers thought of these recipes here.

Mexican Chicken Soup
  • 4 split (2 whole) chicken breasts, bone in, skin on (I used boneless/skinless)
  • Good olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups chopped onions (2 onions)
  • 1 cup chopped celery (2 stalks)
  • 2 cups chopped carrots (4 carrots)
  • 4 large cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 1/2 quarts chicken stock
  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes in puree, crushed (I used tomatoes with green chiles)
  • 2 to 4 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced (omitted)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander seed
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves, optional (I used dried cilantro)
  • 6 (6-inch) fresh white corn tortillas
  • For serving: sliced avocado, sour cream, grated Cheddar cheese, and tortilla chips (I used shredded Mexican cheese - I didn't have avocado, sour cream, or chips on hand)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the chicken breasts skin side up on a sheet pan. Rub with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until done. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, discard the skin and bones, and shred the meat. Cover and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven. Add the onions, celery, and carrots and cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, or until the onions start to brown. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the chicken stock, tomatoes with their puree, jalapenos, cumin, coriander, 1 tablespoon salt (depending on the saltiness of the chicken stock), 1 teaspoon pepper, and the cilantro, if using. Cut the tortillas in 1/2, then cut them crosswise into 1/2-inch strips and add to the soup. Bring the soup to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 25 minutes. Add the shredded chicken and season to taste. Serve the soup hot topped with sliced avocado, a dollop of sour cream, grated Cheddar cheese, and broken tortilla chips.
-Recipe from Ina Garten/

Herb Roasted Onions
  • 2 red onions
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup good olive oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon minced fresh parsley leaves

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Remove the stem end of each onion and carefully slice off the brown part of the root end, leaving the root intact. Peel the onion. Stand each onion root end up on a cutting board and cut the onion in wedges through the root. Place the wedges in a bowl.

For the dressing, combine the lemon juice, mustard, garlic, thyme, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Slowly whisk in the olive oil. Pour the dressing over the onions and toss well.

With a slotted spoon, transfer the onions to a sheet pan, reserving the vinaigrette that remains in the bowl. Bake the onions for 30 to 45 minutes, until tender and browned. Toss the onions once during cooking. Remove from the oven, and drizzle with the reserved dressing. Sprinkle with parsley, season to taste and serve warm or at room temperature.
- Recipe from Ina Garten/

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Chicken Noodle Soup

"Everyone has a doctor in him or her; we just have to help it in its work. The natural healing force within each one of us is the greatest force in getting well. Our food should be our medicine. Our medicine should be our food." - Hippocrates
When Hippocrates wrote this quote, I'm not sure chicken noodle soup is what he had in mind . . . but when I get sick, it is my medicine of choice. I think canned chicken noodle soup is so gross - but fortunately, this version is easy and really tasty. I planned to make the full amount of stock, then half the soup (since I was pretty much only consuming the stock for 2 days) - but I went a little overboard with noodles (using up the rest of a package).

If you're not sick, just in need of a good bowl of soup - I recommend using the optional cream and Parmesan - it really adds a lot. However, if you've got the flu, it's best to skip the optional ingredients. Although it really stinks to be sick, I'm thankful for finding a chicken soup recipe that tastes good, whether you need it for medicine or just for supper.

The Lady's Chicken Noodle Soup

1 (2 1/2 to 3-pound) fryer chicken, cut up - OR - 2 to 3 pounds chicken pieces (drumsticks, thighs, breasts)
3 1/2 quarts water
1 onion, peeled and diced
1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon lemon-pepper seasoning
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 bay leaves
3 chicken bouillon cubes (optional - but use lots of salt if you omit)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 cups sliced carrots (I used baby carrots)
2 cups sliced celery
2 1/2 cups uncooked egg noodles
1 cup sliced mushrooms
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
1/3 cup cooking sherry
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 cup grated Parmesan, optional
3/4 cup heavy cream, optional
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Crusty French bread, for serving

For the stock: add all ingredients to a soup pot. Cook until chicken is tender, about 35 to 45 minutes. Remove chicken from pot and set aside to cool. Remove and discard bay leaves and onion. You should have approximately 3 quarts of stock. When chicken is cool enough to touch, pick bones clean, discarding bones, skin, and cartilage. Set chicken aside.

For the soup: bring stock back to a boil, add carrots, and cook for 3 minutes. Add celery and continue to cook for 5 to 10 minutes. Add egg noodles and cook according to directions on package. When noodles are done, add chicken, mushrooms, parsley, sherry and rosemary. Add Parmesan and cream, if using. Cook for another 2 minutes. Adjust seasoning, if needed, by adding salt and pepper. Enjoy along with a nice hot crusty loaf of French bread.

P.S. I'm trying to rehabilitate the poor little rosemary plant I'd been neglecting this fall:

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Chocolate Chess Pie

Now that you know how to make pie crust, here is a very simple and very, very delicious pie recipe:Chocolate Chess Pie

4 heaping tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup pecans (halves or pieces)
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup unsweetened evaporated milk
optional: 1/2 cup coconut

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix all ingredients and pour into 9-inch unbaked pie shell. Bake 30 minutes. Cool and serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

(Note to my friend B.: this would be a great way to use that pie crust I left in your freezer. It is very easy and wonderful . . . just get the pie crust out of the freezer about 30-45 minutes before you bake the pie.)

Friday, November 14, 2008

How to Make Flaky Pie Crust

Confession: I used to think making pie dough was intimidating. My grandma and my dad both make good pie crust, and I was content to let them bake the pies . . . but then I moved away from home and realized if I wanted a pie with good crust, I'd have to learn to make my own. Trust me, it's not difficult - with a little practice, you'll be an expert before you know it.

Before we get started, I need to make one important point: this is a flaky pie crust, not a pretty pie crust. I'm sure there are experts out there capable of making flaky and pretty pie crust, but for the rest of us . . . we'll just focus on flaky pie crust.

Step 1: Gather all your equipment and ingredients, and get your counter top prepared.
Equipment note: I roll out my pie dough on a silpat (silicone baking mat), but there are lots of alternatives if you don't have one: wax paper, parchment paper, pastry cloth, etc. Which rolling pin to use? I like the plain, cheap, wooden French rolling pin
(I have three rolling pins - including a fancy nonstick silicone type - but the simple one is the best).

Step 2: Cut 1 cup butter and 1 cup Crisco into cubes; place in the freezer for at least 20 minutes. This will prevent melting, thus resulting in tender, flaky crust.
Step 3: Measure 3 cups all-purpose flour and 1 tsp. salt into a food processor (or bowl if you don't have a food processor). Add butter and Crisco; pulse until crumbly and pieces are slightly larger than peas. I press "pulse" 20-25 times, but it could vary. Equipment note: If you don't have a food processor, use a large mixing bowl and a pastry blender for this step. Step 4: Transfer to a large mixing bowl:
Step 5: Pour about 3/4 of the milk into the bowl. Toss with fingers until combined. Add remaining milk to moisten dry particles at the bottom of the bowl, if necessary. The amount of liquid you need varies, depending on the temperature, humidity, and whatever additional strange cosmic forces affect pie dough. Step 6: When all ingredients are combined, divide dough in half, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 30 minutes. Step 7: Remove dough from the refrigerator; allow dough to stand at room temperature a few moments. Begin to shape it into a large disc:Step 8: Generously flour your work surface. Keep additional flour nearby for dusting dough, rolling pin, and work surface. Step 9: Roll dough out to desired thickness and size (be sure to flour rolling pin and top of dough, possibly several times). Keep pie plate nearby to help gauge size; you want dough to be about 2" (diameter) larger than your pie plate. Note: yes, there are chunks of fat in the dough - this is important - it creates the flakiness!Step 10: Pick up silpat (wax paper, etc.) and invert on top of pie plate, gently release dough from silpat. Gently press dough into pan; crimp edges with fingers. Note: sometimes it is helpful to place the pie pan full of dough into the refrigerator for 15-20 minutes before crimping the edges, especially on a hot day. Viola! A homemade pie crust, sure to bake up flaky and delicious!

Flaky Pie Crust
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1 cup butter
1 cup Crisco
2/3 cup milk

Combine flour and salt in a bowl. Cut in butter and shortening until they are in pieces about 1/2-inch square. Pour 3/4 of (2/3 cup) milk in and toss with fingers to combine. Add remaining milk to moisten dry particles at the bottom of the bowl as necessary. Cover and refrigerate at least 30 minutes before rolling out. Makes 2 crusts.
- Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit

What kind of pie are you going to make? Check out my Chocolate Chess Pie and Apple Pie!

P.S. Mom - now you have illustrated instructions!

Thursday, November 13, 2008


I'm back from my trip to the San Francisco area. The business I work for had an exhibit at the Weston A. Price Foundation's Wise Traditions conference.

The conference was great, but one of the highlights for me was finding heirloom tomatoes at Whole Foods (an amazingly big Whole Foods, by the way). Californians are so lucky to have a longer growing season than we do here in the Midwest. I also picked up samples of Celtic Sea Salt at the conference . . . good salt makes everything taste better! As an added bonus, Celtic Sea Salt is unrefined and contains minerals your body needs to maintain good health. This is great news for me, because I like salt!

In addition to sea salt samples, here are the other things I picked up at the conference:
  • Meals That Heal: A Nutritional Makeover (a cookbook to help transition to traditional/nourishing foods). I really want to learn to make some healthy beverages, such as lemon cooler (see below).
  • Chocolate Crispy Almond Cookies from Grindstone Bakery
  • A raw milk t-shirt
  • Raw milk and kombucha from Organic Pastures (we had fun getting to know the Organic Pastures staff; unfortunately, we couldn't bring their products home)
  • Lemon cooler from Three Stone Hearth (we were all sad we couldn't bring this home)
  • Rosemary salt and lavender salt
  • Salsa and relish from Zukay Live Foods
Update: I forgot about these things:
I've got lots of things to cook and lots of things to post about, but I'm still catching up on rest, dishes, and laundry . . .

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Blogging by Mail

My Blogging by Mail package arrived! Look at all the awesome goodies Chef Barbie sent me:

More details coming soon (tonight is the season premiere of Top Chef!) . . . until then, a BIG thank you to Chef Barbie for my awesome package and to Stephanie for organizing Blogging by Mail!

My Blogging by Mail package contained:
  • Peppercot sauce (apricot/pepper)
  • 3 Ghirardelli chocolate bars ("for baking or eating," according to Chef Barbie)
  • A pink potholder and matching towel
  • Watermelon print napkins
  • Recipe cards
  • Locally produced honey
  • Vanilla beans
  • A cupcake ornament - so cute!
  • A cute cupcake card, explaining why she can't live without all these things
  • And finally, my favorite part: little green Le Creuset pinch bowls ("for mise en place") - I love them! They match all my green stuff perfectly and will be great for getting spices and seasonings measured out and organized.
Again, thanks to Chef Barbie for the wonderful goodies and thanks to Stephanie for organizing Blogging by Mail!

Saturday, November 01, 2008

My Halloween Tradition

What we lacked in trick-or-treaters, we made up for in chocolate cookies! Last fall I found an awesome chocolate cookie recipe on Orangette (the recipe is originally from Alice Medrich) and made them on Halloween. They are so tasty and so easy - and not as bad for you as lots of chocolate cookies . . . so they have officially become my Halloween tradition. I also made a variation of this recipe with pumpkin. The variation recipe can be found here; I followed it exactly up to the point where I rolled the balls of dough in powdered sugar prior to baking.

Ken liked the pumpkin-chocolate cookies but I wasn't as crazy about them . . . I guess I am a purist when it comes to chocolate (I can't stand the thought of chocolate + raspberry or chocolate + orange . . . but pumpkin + chocolate doesn't seem quite as bad . . .). In celebration of Halloween and pure chocolate, here is the recipe:

Chewy Cocoa Cookies
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
4 tbsp. (½ stick) unsalted butter
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar
7 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 cup plain yogurt (sour cream may be substituted)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ cup chocolate chips (or other mix-in)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone liner.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

Place the butter in a medium microwave-safe bowl, and microwave briefly, until just melted. Add the sugars, and sift in the cocoa. Stir to blend well. The mixture will be somewhat thick and pasty, like wet sand. Add the yogurt and vanilla and stir to mix thoroughly. Add the dry flour mixture, and stir to just combine. Add the chocolate chips and stir to incorporate.

Drop the dough by generous tablespoons onto the prepared baking sheet. You should be able to fit about 8 or 9 cookies, nicely spaced, on a standard sheet pan. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes, or until the tops of the cookies have crackled slightly and look set. Transfer the sheet pan to a wire rack, and cool the cookies on the pan for 10 minutes. Transfer them to the rack to cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough. - from Orangette, originally from Alice Medrich

Thanksgiving Menus from Food Magazines, part 3

Bon Appetit
The November Bon Appetit contains a complete "Thanksgiving Almanac." Bon Appetit reached back in time in hopes of capturing the true spirit of Thanksgiving, including traditional/heirloom American foods. The Thanksgiving feature is divided into sections:

1. Menu for a Heritage Feast:
  • Crudites with green goddess dip
  • Dungeness crab and heirloom bean brandade
  • Roast heritage turkey with bacon-herb butter and cider gravy
  • Bacon, apple, and fennel stuffing
  • Wild rice with butternut squash, leeks, and corn
  • Shaved brussels sprouts with currants and chestnuts
  • Garnet yams with maple syrup and maple-sugar streusel
  • Cranberry and tart-cherry compote
  • Pear cobbler with dried blueberries and stone-ground corn biscuits
  • Caramelized apple and pecan pie
2. Turkey (Salt It, Don't Brine It):
  • Salted roast turkey with herbs and shallot dijon gravy
  • Salted roast turkey with orange, fall spices, and sherry gravy
  • Salted roast turkey with chipotle glaze and caramelized onion gravy
3. Stuffing (One Recipe, Four Ways):
  • Herb and onion stuffing
  • Sausage stuffing with fennel and roasted squash
  • Dried cranberry, apricot, and fig stuffing
  • Wild mushroom and spinach stuffing
4. Sides (Make Ahead Makes It Easy):
  • Monday: Cranberry relish with grapefruit and mint; cranberry, pomegranate, and meyer lemon relish
  • Tuesday: Glazed pearl onions in port with bay leaves
  • Wednesday: Citrus-glazed carrots; green beans with pickled onion relish; cauliflower and brussels sprout gratin with pine nut breadcrumb topping; roasted winter squash and parsnips with maple syrup glaze and marcona almonds; creamy corn and chestnut pudding; sweet potato and apple puree; and potato, zucchini, and tomato gratin
  • Thursday: Scalloped yukon gold and sweet potato gratin with fresh herbs; yukon gold and fennel puree with rosemary butter
5. Dessert (Purely Pumpkin):
  • Pumpkin butterscotch pie
  • Pumpkin and brown-sugar creme brulee
  • Pumpkin ice cream pie with chocolate-almond bark and toffee sauce
  • Pumpkin spice layer cake with caramel and cream cheese frosting
  • Pumpkin cheesecake with marshmallow-sour cream topping and gingersnap crust

Bonus: turkey carving guide; keeping food hot; other menu ideas based on the included recipes

Also: Fall fruit and vegetable guide; buttermilk biscuits with green onions, black pepper, and sea salt; pomegranates; and RSVP - readers' favorite restaurant recipes (one of my favorite sections of Bon Appetit).

My summary: I love Bon Appetit's simple approach to Thanksgiving. The feature has a nice layout, and the photos convey a sense of peace and calmness (they were shot on location in a Shaker village). There are some "gourmet" ingredients, but Bon Appetit does a good job of making the recipes approachable, and gives explanation of the less common ingredients. Lots of the dishes look delicious, but a few I am unsure of, for example: cooked pearl onions . . . yes, that is an entire dish. Maybe I'm missing out on something great, but I don't think it sounds good at all. Bon Appetit is one of my favorite food magazines; it has a nice mix of recipes and articles, most of which are reader friendly and not snobbish. My parents have been Bon Appetit readers since the 1970s; some of our family favorites are BA recipes from the late 70s and early 80s . . . I think the contents of the new issues are timely - but obviously many of their recipes are timeless as well. The November issue is a good one to add to your collection.
(No, I'm not a Bon Appetit spokesperson . . . I wish!)

Everyday with Rachael Ray
First, my disclaimer: I am not a fan of RR's 30-Minute Meals television show. I do sometimes like her magazine though, and I'd heard the Nov. issue had good ideas, so I picked it up to see for myself. In classic Rachael Ray style, this magazine promises to "Get the big meal on the table in 60 minutes (no joke!)." Yes, it actually says "no joke." Hmm . . . kind of makes me want to challenge it to see if it really can be done by the average home cook. Here is the Thanksgiving in 60 Minutes menu:
  • Early bird turkey (turkey breasts and thighs, not a whole bird)
  • Apple and date stuffing
  • Green bean casserole
  • Golden potato mash
  • Spiced pumpkin mousse trifle
  • Bonus: 101 Ways to Make Thanksgiving Easier - lots of random tips, some should be common sense . . . but some could be helpful: Clean out your fridge - purge shelves and inner doors of almost-empty jars and bottles and leftover takeout; and [Turkey] size matters - One pound raw weight per person is the rule of thumb, but when in doubt, buy up. Keep in mind larger birds have a higher proportion of dark meat, so if your family loves only white meat, consider an average-size turkey and roast a couple of extra turkey breasts on the side.
  • Also: election night parties; several twists on stuffed mushrooms; Italian lessons; Thanksgiving travel ideas; 30-minute meals; and a tear out weekly menu + planner.
My summary: It seems like this magazine actually contains Rachael Ray's energy . . . there is a lot going on, not only on the cover but inside the magazine as well. The 60-minute Thanksgiving meal doesn't have much appeal for me . . . you're supposed to cook all day (or all week) for T-Day, right? If you would answer "no" to that question, this menu could be a good fit. I could see this menu, the recipes, and the planner working for a group of college or grad students who aren't able to go home for the holiday, but want a semi-traditional holiday meal without all the work. I haven't tested any of the recipes from this issue yet, but there are several I've got flagged to try - if I can get past all the [annoying] inserts and tear out sections, that is.

Fine Cooking

Fine Cooking's All-Star Thanksgiving was created by notable chefs from NYC, San Francisco, and Seattle. The Ultimate Thanksgiving menu includes:
  • Roasted Turkey with Juniper-Ginger Butter & Pan Gravy
  • Rustic Bread Stuffing with Dried Cranberries, Hazelnuts, and Oyster Mushrooms
  • Mashed Potatoes with Caramelized Shallots
  • Maple-Tangerine Cranberry Sauce
  • Cauliflower with Brown Butter, Pears, Sage and Hazelnuts
  • Green Beans with Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette and Parmesan Breadcrumbs
  • Sugar and Spice Pumpkin Pie with Brandied Ginger Cream
  • Bonus: "The Whys of Pie" - troubleshooting common pie problems
  • Also: Testing stockpots; steak au poivre; features on squash, rosemary, and caramel
My summary: Fine Cooking's menu looks very versatile - as if it would satisfy everyone from the foodie to the picky eater. Fine Cooking is a little bit like Cook's Illustrated; it focuses on recipes, ingredients, and equipment (like Cook's Illustrated and Cook's Country), but it does include advertising and doesn't seem to be quite as obsessive when it comes to testing recipes. The T-day menu nicely balances traditional and new tastes - perfect for those who need a new spin on their traditional holiday staples. (Ahem . . . Dad . . . are you reading this???)
Like Bon Appetit, a good addition to the food magazine collection.

Whew . . . This wraps up my series of food magazine Thanksgiving menu reviews. Good thing, too, because I'm really, REALLY hungry for turkey now!

See my other Thanksgiving menu reviews here and here.