Monthly Archives: November 2013

Sick Day Supper – Crock Pot Chicken Noodle Soup

I came home halfway through the day today, feeling like I was either coming down with the flu or about to barf my brains out. Thankfully, I THINK whatever was making me feel nasty seems to be subsiding. But the first thing I did when I got home was throw chicken noodle soup fixins’ in the crock pot.

 

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I knew I was going to want something bland and easy to digest for dinner, and hubby has been fighting a cold as well – everyone knows soup is good for the body and soul (especially when it’s freezing outside). I’m trying to get in the habit of studying a few recipes and then putting my own spin on them, and that’s what I did with this soup.

-small onion, finely chopped

-celery, chopped

-carrots, chopped

-a big ol’ mess of chicken thigh meat

-4 cups of chicken broth

-1 cup of wine

-egg noodles

-seasonings of choice

When I shuffled through the grocery store on my way home, my usual bags of frozen chicken thighs were nowhere to be found. So I picked up some Tyson chicken thigh “chunks” (I’m pretty sure they called them something more appetizing, but I’m too tired to walk all the way to the freezer to look). This turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because the chunks defrosted in the time it took me to get the dog pottied. Also, the beauty of soup is that you can determine your own proportions. I hate when my soups don’t have enough protein, so I put in about two handfuls of thigh meat (and USE thigh meat, because you’ll want the flavor).

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I diced up the onion fairly fine (don’t be jealous of my mediocre knife skills) because I knew I wanted the finished product brothy, and nothing is worse than big chunks of onion in a delicate broth. I always add more celery and less carrots, because celery is easier to chop and softens more quickly (I used 3 ribs, and 1 1/4 cups of chopped carrots).

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Next, I dumped in about a cup of wine (I’m trying to blow through the bottle of cheap white I’ve been cooking with for the last few weeks), and 4 cups of water with the equivalent amount of bouillon granules for broth. Here’s my secrets: Wyler’s granules, which I MUCH prefer to using regular chicken stock, because I can just keep it in my spice cabinet, and because I don’t have to dissolve it like bouillon cubes unless I REALLY want to. It naturally dissolves while cooking, and I think it imparts more flavor during the cooking process. And my number one cooking secret for every recipe ever? I always keep two specific things with my spices: Greek seasoning, and Cajun seasoning. I use them for everything (Greek was the word of the day for the soup). They work perfectly for everything: mixing into dredges, seasoning before grilling, sprinkling on oven fries or home fries. Seriously. Everything. These are my number one cooking staple.

Cooking trifecta - bouillon granules, booze, and my beloved Greek seasoning.

Cooking trifecta – bouillon granules, booze, and my beloved Greek seasoning.

 

So I tossed some Greek seasoning in my beloved crock pot (I forgot the salt and pepper until later, but if you don’t have addled flu-ish brains you would add some at this point). I topped off the broth with a few sprigs of rosemary (we are rosemary nuts in this house) and set it to high to cook for about 4 hours. Then I holed up on the couch in my comfies and blankets and let the dog warm my icy feet for a few hours. 15 minutes before I wanted to serve it up, I dumped in egg noodles (and took out the rosemary). Again, the proportions are up to you. I like a lot of noodles, so I probably used about 3-4 cups, which worked perfectly.

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This soup was not only easy, it was a hit. At first we thought it was going to be bland, but as we ate it, it kind of became addictive. The rosemary flavor gives it some zing that seems to accumulate as you slurp, and we both had seconds. My tummy is happy once again. All I can hope is that happy tummy continues through the night and into the morning so I can power through to the weekend. Or maybe I’ll be stuck on my couch tomorrow (I hate the thought of hanging out by my bathroom, it really impedes productivity). Either way, chicken noodle soup leftovers are already earmarked for lunch. Would it be too extreme to write “Ode to Crockpot?” Yes? Ok, I’ll try to restrain myself.

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Sunday Night Suppers – Risotto with Shrimp and Peas

I wanted to cook something comforting tonight, since our Sunday nights are usually spent relaxing, watching football with the pets, and dreading Monday. I have been craving risotto, and immediately thought of this recipe I tried a few months ago, inspired by You Can Trust a Skinny Cook. You can adapt it to use whatever you want, but shrimp and pea is one of my favorite combos. Another favorite is dried wild mushrooms. Yum. Risotto just always feels so indulgent, but this recipe isn’t terribly unhealthy either, so I feel okay making it.

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  • olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • butter
  • 2 cloves of minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 c arborio rice
  • 1/2 c white wine
  • 4 c simmering chicken broth
  • 1 lb shrimp, cleaned and cut in half
  • 1/2 to 3/4 c frozen peas
  • 1/3 to 1/2 c Parmesan

First, get the chicken broth up to a slow simmer in a sauce pan. Then, cook down the onion and garlic with 1 T butter and a drizzle of olive oil in a deep pot over medium. Cook at least until the onions become translucent – this time I put a bit of a caramelization on them. This wasn’t intentional so much as I was distracted by the beginnings of the Broncos-Chiefs game, but it worked.

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Next, dump the arborio in and cook without liquid for a minute or two, stirring constantly so that the rice doesn’t stick or begin to burn. I think next time I will legitimately brown the rice, because nothing smells better than ANYTHING cooked in brown butter. Make sure to put a little bit of a toast on it. Pour in the wine and stir until absorbed.

You’ve probably heard that risotto is time consuming. Well, you’ve reached the time consuming part, but it’s really not terrible. And it’s worth it in the end to put the time in. You can tell a difference if you try to rush. Pour one ladleful of broth at a time into the rice/onion mix, add a pinch of salt, and stir until the liquid becomes absorbed. I stir with a wooden spoon, and if I can stir and see the bottom of the pot for more than two seconds before it’s filed in with liquid, I know I’m on the right track. Give each ladle of broth time to absorb before adding another. It will probably take 20-30 minutes in all. Really, NOT THAT BAD. Plus it will smell delicious by this point, so you really wont mind standing over the stovetop. As you can see from the next photo, everyone wanted to help out with this meal, so I had lots of company. The animals just wanted me to drop something. It wasn’t their lucky day.

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When you’ve ladled in the last of the broth and you can see the rice kind of simmering in the pot, add in the frozen peas and shrimp (make sure the rice has pretty much cooked). Stir occasionally for a few minutes until the shrimp cook (they become opaque and loose some of that shiny look). Tonight, it took about 5 or 6 minutes. I usually make Shayne check it, because I’m not confident with meats of any sort. To finish it off, stir in the cheese and one more tablespoon of butter for good measure. Season with pepper to taste and get a big ol’ heaping bowlful. This makes between 4 and 8 servings, depending on how hungry you are.

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Recipe adapted from Allison Fishman’s book You Can Trust a Skinny Cook. Buy it here: http://www.amazon.com/You-Can-Trust-Skinny-Cook/dp/0470876352 You won’t regret it, I swear.

Now Monday, BRING IT! I AM FUELED! Also I can make it through this week, because it’s followed by a nice short Thanksgiving week. Splendid days!

What about you? Do you have a typical “Sunday night meal” that you make to transition out of your weekend on a good note?

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Philly Cheesesteak Peppers

All day, I contemplated what to make for dinner. The big Oregon-Stanford game is tonight, and I wanted some food that was fit for football (aka delicious and slightly sinful). I finally settled on cheesesteak stuffed peppers, which were a conglomerate of inspirational recipes I found on Pinterest. And on Juanita’s chips with salsa and guac, but all I that was store bought. I just thought it sounded good. Now, for the peppers:

Ingredients
-two green bell peppers
-small onion, chopped
-6 to 8 oz. of chopped mushrooms
-a package of precut roast beef
-sliced provolone cheese
-a tablespoon or two of minced garlic
-butter, EVOO, salt, and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400. Cut peppers in half, cut out ribs, and deseed. Line each half with a slice of cheese.
2. Sauté onion, mushrooms, and garlic over medium with a few tablespoons of butter and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Continue to cook until onions are caramelized.
3. Dice roast beef. I was too cheap to get it from the deli case, I just bought a package of good ol’ Oscar Mayer and diced it up. Toss this in with the mushrooms and onion mix for a few minutes. Get a few crispy pieces, those are the best.
4. Scoop mixture into the peppers, as much as you can stuff in. Mine were overflowing and I was ok with that. Top each half with another piece of provolone.
5. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until cheese is browned.

This recipe was good (which kind of makes up for how the ducks are playing right now) but I need to experiment more with cooking times and temps. I prefer my peppers a little softer than these came out. Also, next time I think I will add more cheese on top. It did get nice and brown, there could have been a better crust on it. Oh well, live and learn.

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Life, Lately

I was looking forward to a delightfully relaxing Saturday, and that’s just what I’ve gotten today. First of all, I slept in until the absolutely horrid time of 11:30 (I don’t think that has EVER happened before. When I woke up, I was pretty sure I was dying), when my husband finally came to check on me and inform me that I had missed almost the entire Hawkeye game. Then, a trip to the biannual library book sale. If you know us, you know that we have amassed an insane collection of books. We NEED a library, but right now we are surviving with five or six bookshelves packed to the gills, along with a few more boxes full tucked into the garage somewhere. We managed to only spend $18, and we found a first edition of The Fountainhead. I thought Shayne was going to pee his pants in excitement. Then, a trip to Home Depot, which seems to be our new weekend haunt, and a dinner at McMenamins. Now, HGTV, laundry, and snuggling with the dog on the couch. I love it.

Life lately has been delightfully hectic. We are still getting rooted down in our home, and are finally getting started on some projects to really make it our own. Up until now, it has felt pretty much like a rental, as we haven’t painted, upgraded, or really done anything with the interior. We spent most of our summer outside, throwing together enough of a vegetable garden to get some kale, tomatoes, and bell peppers. Now that the real Oregon weather is returning, it’s time to turn our focus indoors. Shayne has been laying plywood flooring in the attic, so that we can clear some boxes out of our garage. We’ve picked a new front door that actually has some style. We have paint colors picked for downstairs (I’m excited to get that project going, the colors are bold, and I look forward to sharing photos). And, with all the HGTV we’ve been watching, we are getting grand visions of knocking out walls and expanding our master bedroom and etc. etc. etc. But we are taking it slowly. Trying to, anyways.

Exercise-wise, I’ve been failing. I did go on a little run the other day, and survived, and hope to do it again this week, because I’m sick of my pants being tight. There’s a new Planet Fitness going in near our home that we are debating joining up with, because I still haven’t been able to bite the bullet and pay for another CrossFit membership (and Shayne won’t let me buy a rowing machine and put it in the garage).

I’ve also become somewhat of a Goodwill maven. I’ve always been a little grossed out by Goodwill, but there is one near our new place that is both clean and awesome. Also, it’s like someone with my identical body measurements goes there weekly and drops off barely used designer clothes. I have scooped up three pairs of designer jeans for no more than $12/piece, plus a lot of cute shirts, AND an accounting book I had been looking for. I can spend hours there. I’ve been good about not buying new clothes, so I hope here instead

I’ve also been cooking more, since we are trying to save money by eating out less (ignore the fact that I mentioned we went out to dinner today). Here’s some of my latest meals:

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