Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Chicken and White Bean Soup

My camera is officially broken... forever. I have been using the bigger cam, though, so I'm going to start posting again. The past couple of weeks have been a bit of a whirlwind, as Kevin was on vacation from work (during which he insisted that I NOT cook), and then my daughter had her birthday party, which added another level of complexity to my life. But anyway...

I got the new issue of Cooking Light last week, and I didn't find all that much that excited me. Boo. This recipe caught my eye though, and although I knew I'd have to make some modifications, I figured my family would enjoy it. Cooking Light often uses bacon in their soup recipes, and I always omit it, but this time I figured I'd try to find a substitute. I'm not exactly sure what flavor bacon is supposed to add, but I am thinking it's some sort of smoky and salty undertone, so I threw a tablespoon of smoked paprika into the pot. I definitely think it added a subtle smokiness, but I think I'd add even more, if I make it again. In fact, I might even add hot smoked paprika, instead of sweet, because that might add a nice oomph to the soup.

Anyway, this is a nice, solid recipe. My family really liked it. It's definitely basic, super easy to make, and easy to whip up, with whatever substitutions you have on hand. There were no complex flavors, and it wasn't one of those dishes I ate, and constantly thought, what is that amazing undertone?! I might have felt differently, if I had used the bacon, or if I had used chicken thighs, like the recipe suggests. This would be a great dinner for a house full of sick people, you know? A nice, comforting soup, a la Mommy. I'm sure I'll make it again, but I didn't really think twice about it, after dinner that night... 3 Bowls!

Chicken and White Bean Soup

Cannellini beans, native to Tuscany, work beautifully in this rustic soup because they hold their shape after simmering in the flavorful broth. Serve with a crusty Italian bread, such as ciabatta, and a salad of bitter greens.

Other Time: 40 minutes minutes
Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 1 1/4 cups)

2 smoked bacon slices, chopped (I used a tbl of smoked paprike, instead)
12 ounces skinless, boneless chicken thighs, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces (I used a pound of chicken breasts)
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup chopped plum tomato (I used canned)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano (I used a tsp of dried)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups water
2 cups fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
2/3 cup uncooked orzo (rice-shaped pasta) (I used brown rice)
1 (15-ounce) can organic white beans, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Cook bacon in a large saucepan over medium heat 7 minutes or until crisp. Remove bacon from pan, reserving drippings in pan; set bacon aside.

2. Add chicken to drippings in pan; sauté 6 minutes. Remove chicken from pan. Add onion and garlic to pan; cook 4 minutes or until tender. Add tomato, oregano, and pepper; cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Return bacon and chicken to pan. Stir in 2 cups water and broth, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Bring to a boil. Add orzo, and cook for 9 minutes or until al dente. Add beans; cook 2 minutes or until heated. Remove from heat; stir in parsley, vinegar, and salt.

CALORIES 335 ; FAT 9.9g (sat 2.8g,mono 2.5g,poly 1.5g); CHOLESTEROL 61mg; CALCIUM 64mg; CARBOHYDRATE 35.4g; SODIUM 530mg; PROTEIN 26g; FIBER 5.1g; IRON 3.2mg

Cooking Light, APRIL 2011

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Stay Tuned.

My camera broke. Again.

Please stand by, while I get it fixed.

Don't abandon me now!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Chicken and Cashews

Sometimes I make a meal, and I am very sure that one of us (either Kevin or I) will really dislike it. This time, I was quite sure I would love this, but I knew Kevin wouldn't dig it. He is never a fan of nuts in his meal (something about the texture), but I love them, so I made this anyway. My baby sis sent me the recipe a couple of weeks ago, along with her glowing review, and her strong encouragement to make the dish immediately. Of course, I cannot pass up a rave review, so I made it soon after.

First of all, this is an easy-to-make dinner. The recipe says that it takes 30 minutes, but that's never really right. In reality it was more like 45 minutes to an hour, but that was fine by me. I always like to saute my onions and other veggies for a little longer, so they get nice and soft. Anyway, it comes together quickly and beautifully, and the rice "recipe" at the bottom is a simple but flavorful addition. The flavor of this is actually really mellow - as in, not overly salty or sweet - but it's really complex and has a nice blend of spicy and sweet, with a nice ginger soy undertone, that doesn't overtake the dish. The cashews add such a lovely nutty flavor, and I think they are really essential to making it a unique dish, as opposed to having a generic Chinese food flavor.

At first Kevin said, "Does this have nuts? Oh, I really dislike nuts in my food." After about 15 minutes though, he said, "You know what? This is actually delicious. I take it back. I don't even notice the actual nuts. It just tastes... GOOD."


Ingredient note: I used to be a tad intimidated by recipes that called for fresh ginger. I have bought it and done the right thing, by peeling and grating it into my dishes. I realized, however, that I never use up the ginger before it goes bad. Now, I buy bottled, grated or minced ginger. You can find it in the produce section, with the bottled, minced garlic. It's such a great ingredient to have on hand. I always skip the "oyster sauce" in these types of recipes, but I wouldn't dare skip the ginger. It really adds great flavor to our Asian inspired dinners. Try it bottled - it's a great time and energy saver!

Try this. It's absolutely delicious, and oh so easy to make. 4 Bowls!

Chicken and Cashews

Preparation Time: 30 minutes minutes
Yield: 4 servings (serving size: about 3/4 cup)

3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce, divided
2 tablespoons dry sherry
4 teaspoons cornstarch, divided
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons sesame oil, divided
3/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 tablespoon grated peeled fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup chopped green onions (about 3 green onions)
1/4 cup chopped unsalted dry-roasted cashews

1. Combine 1 tablespoon soy sauce, sherry, 2 teaspoons cornstarch, and chicken in a large bowl; toss well to coat. Combine remaining 2 tablespoons soy sauce, remaining 2 teaspoons cornstarch, broth, oyster sauce, and honey in a small bowl.

2. Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken mixture to pan; sauté 3 minutes. Remove from pan. Heat remaining 1 teaspoon oil in pan. Add onion, celery, and bell pepper to pan; sauté 2 minutes. Add ginger and garlic; sauté 1 minute. Return chicken mixture to pan; sauté 1 minute. Stir in broth mixture. Bring to a boil; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Sprinkle with green onions and cashews.

Rice pilaf: Heat 1 tablespoon canola oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add 1/2 cup chopped onion and 2 teaspoons grated peeled fresh ginger to pan; sauté 2 minutes. Stir in 1 cup water, 1/2 cup long-grain rice, and 1/4 teaspoon salt; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 12 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat; stir in 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro.

CALORIES 257 ; FAT 9g (sat 1.9g,mono 4.2g,poly 2.3g); CHOLESTEROL 63mg; CALCIUM 45mg; CARBOHYDRATE 17g; SODIUM 584mg; PROTEIN 26g; FIBER 1.9g; IRON 2mg

Cooking Light, MAY 2009

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Cranberry Cashew Biryani

I made this side dish to go along with a roast chicken (which my husband has basically been begging me to make again, since I first made it a couple of weeks ago). If you've never had "biryani," it's an Indian, rice based dish, which usually goes with meat or fish. This a vegan version from Appetite for Reduction, boasts a nice blend of spices, along with dried cranberries and chopped cashews. Usually, my family doesn't go crazy for dishes with dried fruit or nuts, but I had heard amazing reviews of this recipe, so felt compelled to try it. I did make some modifications to the recipe, by using ground cumin and mustard, rather than cumin and mustard seed. We aren't big "seed people," so I have given up on using them. Anyway, this is a super easy side dish, and it's a great way to jazz up my typical brown rice. Plus, it takes care of your carb, fruit, veggie, and fat portion of the dinner. Gotta love those food groups.

Anyway... This was incredibly delicious. Kevin didn't make such a big deal about it, because he was so obsessed with the roast chicken, but I thought it tasted so good. The sweet cranberries, blended so well with the Indian spices, and the nutty cashew chunks in the rice were such a nice flavor and texture touch. The only thing I regret about this dish, was that I didn't add chickpeas, to make it a full meal. This was one of those dishes that I thought about all evening, after we had dinner. It felt like I had eaten at an authentic Indian restaurant. Oh, and another huge bonus - it looked so amazingly beautiful. I want to make this one again, but next time, I will make it a meal.

Have I mentioned that you need to buy this book?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Perfect Beef Stew

Rarely (if ever) do I claim that something I make is "the best." I am hesitant to call this recipe "perfect," since it's not something I eat (red meat), but my family claims that it's amazing, and Kevin has even proclaimed, "I'd give this SIX bowls if I could!" I have to admit - it makes me feel great!

Anyway, I made this dish for my sister in law, when she had a baby recently. I found it on the Food Network website, and it had gotten very good reviews, so I decided it was worth a try. Now, mind you, beef stew is an afternoon affair. It takes about 3 hours to make. Granted, it's not all "hands-on time," but it's fairly labor and time intensive. I was excited to make it, though, and I put a lot of love into it. When Kevin tried it, he was really blown away, and actually a bit sad, since I had to give it away. I made the stew again last weekend - this time, in the slow cooker. It was equally as good, despite the fact that it was way too big for my crockpot, and basically overflowed onto my counter (oops). Also, because it's such a massive amount of stew, it took a whopping 10 hours to cook (a.k.a. I started it at 7 a.m., and we ate at 6 p.m.). All that being said, it was a great slow cooker meal, because I was able to start it when I woke up at 6, and then I didn't need to think about it until an hour before dinner, when I whipped up the barley.

The point is, you should make this. It's a very basic beef stew recipe, with no bizarre ingredients or directions. Oh, and it tastes terrific. My sister in law even told me that she would order it in a restaurant! You know, my little sis swears by the recipes she finds on Food Network, but I haven't had as much luck. I think I might be coming around, though...

A note about the beef: I have always used "Stew Meat," when I've made stews in the past. I just assumed everyone used stew meat, because it's already cut into perfect "stew sized pieces." Well, a few months ago, Kevin commented that stew beef is usually pretty low in quality. Hmph. So, this time, I bit the bullet, and bought beef chuck, and cut it myself. It makes a HUGE difference, and it's really no big deal. I mean, yes, it takes 10 more minutes to cut it, but it's well worth it. I bought a 3 pound package at BJ's Wholesale, and used the whole thing. I'd highly recommend it!

Make this. 5 Bowls!

Beef Stew


  • Vegetable oil, for searing
  • 2 1/2 pounds beef chuck, cut into 2-inch cubes
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 medium onions, cut into 6ths
  • 5 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour, or to cover
  • 10 cups cold water, or chicken or beef broth, homemade or low-sodium canned
  • 6 sprigs parsley
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 1/4 pounds medium red potatoes, quartered
  • 4 medium carrots, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 2 celery stalks, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 7 canned whole, peeled tomatoes, lightly crushed
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons red wine vinegar, or to taste
  • Cook's Note: Beef chuck, from the shoulder, because of its marbling of intra-muscular fat, is the choice for any type of stew. If you can't find chuck cubed for stew in your meat department, buy a thick chuck steak and cut it into 2-inch cubes.


Heat a large Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid over medium-high heat. Pour in enough oil to fill the pan about 1/4-inch deep. Season the beef generously with salt and pepper, and add to the pan. Saute half the meat, uncovered, stirring only occasionally, until well-browned, about 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the beef to a plate. Repeat with the remaining beef. Discard the oil and wipe out the pan.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Return the pot to the stove and melt the butter over medium high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, until lightly browned, about 1 minute more. Add the reserved beef and scatter the flour over the vegetable and beef mixture (enough to lightly coat) and cook stirring until lightly toasted. Add the water or broth, and bring to a simmer. Tie the parsley, thyme, and bay leaves together with a piece of kitchen twine and add the bundle to the pot. Season with 2 teaspoons salt, or to taste. Cover and transfer to the oven. Cook the meat until just tender, about 1 1/2 hours. (This can also be done on the stove at a low simmer.)

Remove pot from the oven. Skim the fat from the cooking liquid with a spoon or ladle. Add the potatoes, carrots, celery, and the tomatoes, and bring to a simmer on top of the stove. Cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the liquid thickens and the vegetables are tender, about 1 hour. Remove and discard the herb bundle. Stir in the vinegar and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Divide among bowls and serve immediately.