March 31, 2015
Aunt Suzy says . . .
This winter, Randy and I had what we called “Downton Abbey Dinner Date”. We would record DA and I would cook a soup which we would have while we watched the latest installment, usually Wednesday evenings. It was a lot of fun and great to have warming soups during our coldest months. While I made a few standbys, I tried some new recipes including this one. Margaux had pinned this recipe a while back and while searching for something to cook it caught my eye. I thought it looked really good and that it would be a really quick weeknight meal. We made a number of adaptations to up the deliciousness, but still keeping fast and easy in mind. How quickly you can make this is determined by how much you cook from scratch (chickpeas, e.g.) or how much you use canned/frozen ingredients.
Margaux says . . .
I don’t remember pinning this recipe, but I’m really glad Aunt Suzy brought it to my attention! I just made it last night and it was a hit with the whole family. My son loved that it was spicy, too…he’s very proud that he has a taste for spicy food. If you have someone in your family that is sensitive to spicy things, I would cut the red pepper flakes back to 1/4 tsp. I used fresh chard because I couldn’t find frozen in my grocery store, but I think using frozen is a great idea as a time saver, and I’ll be keeping my eyes out for frozen for the next time I make this.
5 1/2-6 cups cooked chickpeas (four 14-oz cans or 2 cups dried, cooked)
6-7 cups chicken stock, homemade or boxed (or Better than Bouillon no chicken broth for vegetarian)
3 tablespoons EV olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 carrot, small dice
1 celery rib, small dice
Swiss chard stems, diced (optional)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes with juice
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Small Parmesan rind, optional
1 bunch Swiss chard, stems removed and leaves cut into 1-inch pieces or 1-2 bags frozen chopped Swiss chard (see above note about stems)
Salt & pepper
Cooked small pasta – elbows, fusilli or shells, optional (we like whole wheat shells)
If using dried chickpeas, cook according to directions. 2 cups dried will produce the amount of cooked called for in this recipe. If using canned, drain and rinse.
Combine 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas and 1 cup chicken stock. Using a hand or regular blender, process until the texture is like oatmeal. Set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven or soup pot. Add the onion, carrot, celery, chard stems, if using, and rosemary. Saute over medium heat for 5 or so minutes until softened. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 1-2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and their juices and the pepper flakes. Stir for a couple of minutes. Add the pureed chickpea mixture, the remaining chicken stock, cooked chickpeas, bay leaf and the Parmesan rind, if using. The amount of stock you will use depends on whether you like your soups on the thick or thin side. Bring to a boil, turn down heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
Add the Swiss chard and cook for another 10-15 minutes until cooked but not mushy. Remove the Parmesan rind and bay leaves before serving.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to directions until al dente.
To serve, place a little pasta in the bottom of the soup bowls and ladle the soup into the bowl. Serve with baguette if desired.
February 28, 2015
Back in the relaxing days of only having one small child, I used to watch a lot of daytime TV. My son would only nap for long stretches when he was laying on me…if I tried to lay him down in his own bed, on our bed, or on the couch, he would wake up within 10 minutes. And then would be crabby for the rest of the day. Luckily he was my first born, and got lots of snuggles on the couch, every day, for the first 2.5 years of his life. It got frustrating: dirty dishes would sit in the sink, phone calls would go unanswered, laundry would sit in the dryer, dinner would go un-prepped. I had no smartphone, so no emails, Facebook, or Words with Friends. So, I watched A LOT of television. And after I had marathoned Doctor Who, Firefly and Veronica Mars on Netflix (thank goodness we had Netflix), I turned to daytime TV. And a whole bunch of Food Network. And I’m actually glad for it, because I learned a bunch of really great cooking tips from Ina, and quick meal ideas from Rachel and Giada. This was one of them, and I make it on a pretty regular basis. I remember it was on an episode when Giada was cooking with a child, so it’s meant to be a good recipe for a kid to help with. Which is true, my son has helped me make it many times. It can be prepared in about 30 minutes. A great weeknight meal!
Italian Chicken Casserole
This makes enough for 4 people, in an 8×8″ glass baking dish. I like to double the recipe and bake in a 13×9″ dish so we have plenty of leftovers.
1 cup pastina pasta (or any small pasta)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup cubed chicken breast (1-inch cubes)
1/2 cup diced onion (about 1/2 a small onion)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice
1 cup shredded mozzarella
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until just tender, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Drain pasta into a large mixing bowl.
Meanwhile, put the olive oil in a medium saute pan over medium heat. Add the chicken and cook for 3 minutes. Add the onions and garlic, stirring to combine, and cook until the onions are soft and the chicken is cooked through, about 5 minutes more.Put the chicken mixture into the bowl with the cooked pasta. Add the canned tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, parsley, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine. Place the mixture in a buttered 8 by 8 by 2-inch baking dish. In a small bowl mix together the bread crumbs and the Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle over the top of the pasta mixture. Dot the top with small bits of butter. Bake until the top is golden brown, about 30 minutes.
Note: This can also be made with already cooked chicken. Just saute the onion and garlic on their own, and add the chicken to the bowl with everything and toss.
February 5, 2015
Aunt Suzy says . . .
It’s early February and that means cold where we live – perfect weather for soup. This week, I felt I might be coming down with a cold, so I thought a soup with ginger in it would really hit the spot. I recently filed away this recipe from Bon Appetit, so when I searched for something to make it was at the top of the pile. Randy and I both agreed that we would make this again. Once the ingredients were assembled, it came together in about 45 minutes. Who can ask for more on a cold weeknight?!
Ginger-Spiced Chicken Soup
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced in half-moons
1/2 to 1 cup sliced shiitake mushrooms
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons peeled fresh ginger, finely chopped
2 quarts chicken stock or broth
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
2 cups shredded cooked chicken
2 cups baby spinach
2 scallions, thinly sliced
Cooked small pasta, optional
Lime wedges (for serving)
September 10, 2014
I don’t know why it took me so long to make salsa. I make so many other things from scratch, like salad dressing, hummus, granola, sometimes peanut or almond butter…why wouldn’t I make my own salsa, too? So this summer I’ve been making salsa as often as I make hummus, like, weekly! It’s so much better than store bought. I’m posting this recipe because it’s the easiest, quickest, and most fresh tasting for all your garden tomatoes you’re harvesting (and I’m pining after!).
The original recipe called for grilling the tomatoes, but I tried that once and found that it just dried them out too much, and the salsa ended up really thick. If you have exceptionally juicy romas, it might work better, and then you would get that nice fire-roasted charcoal flavor, but I recommend sticking to the oven method if not. I got the idea of broiling them in the oven from a Martha Stewart chili recipe that we also love. The oven method still chars them, and really brings out the flavor of the tomato (we also love oven roasted tomatoes around here…if you haven’t tried that yet, I highly recommend it).
Roasted Tomato Salsa
This makes a pretty small batch…just a little more than a jar of salsa that you would buy at the store.
4 Roma tomatoes, sliced in half
1-2 jalapenos, sliced in half and seeded (*note on spiciness below)
1/4 red onion
1/4-1/2 cup chopped cilantro
juice from 1/2 lime
salt and pepper
Preheat your broiler on high, and place the rack 3″ from the heat source. Line a large baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray. Place vegetables on sheet and broil for about 5 minutes, until they start to char. Take jalapeno and onion off and place in a food processor or blender. Turn tomatoes over, and broil for another few minutes until they start to char on the other side. Remove from oven, take skins off of tomatoes, and place in the food processor or blender. Pulse a couple times, then add cilantro, lime, salt and pepper. I add about 1/4 tsp salt, and then pulse a few times until it’s the desired consistency. Pour into a bowl, taste, and stir in more salt and pepper if needed. Store in an airtight container for up to a week, or freeze.
*Note on spicy. We like our salsa really spicy, and our son likes it kind of spicy, and our daughter likes it mild. Ha. So it all depends on the jalapeno seeds. If you don’t take out any seeds, you’re gonna have pretty spicy salsa. If it’s a good jalapeno, it’s gonna be really spicy. For medium spicy, I take out all but a tiny bit of the seeds. For mild salsa, I take out every trace of seeds from the jalapeno.
September 5, 2014
Aunt Suzy says . . .
I learned how to make this Creole okra stew from friend Cliff Domio many years ago . . . let’s just say decades! But I haven’t made it in several years, and I’m not sure why it fell off my rotation. Maybe the difficulty finding okra here in the upper Midwest of the U.S. When I first moved here in the 90’s I almost never saw it at the farmer’s markets or grocery stores. Or maybe it was because not many people here were familiar with okra or avoided it because of its slimy reputation. So I had sort of forgotten about this dish.
All of a sudden this year it seems that many of the farmers at the market have oodles of okra, especially the Hmong. (They are a great study in adapting to market demands and I wonder if the recent immigration from countries where okra is a staple has prompted them to grow it.) On a recent trip to the big farmers’ market downtown, I thought the okra looked really good so I decided to revisit a favorite. Serve this over rice for a satisfying meal. You might also consider a side of cornbread or a baguette to round things out.
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, small dice
1 medium green pepper small dice
3-5 garlic cloves, minced (to taste)
1-2 links smoked sausage, sliced 1/4-inch rounds (I like andouille)
3-4 cups okra, cut in 3/4-inch pieces
4-5 cups diced fresh tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 small can tomato sauce, optional (I rarely use)
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper, or to taste
10-12 medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 cup dry rice, cooked according to directions (we used brown)
Saute the onion and green pepper in olive oil on medium high heat, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes or so. Add the garlic and the smoked sausage and saute for another minute or two. Add the okra and saute, stirring, for about 5 minutes. Note that if the heat is maintained, it won’t get slimy. Add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, if using, and crushed red pepper and stir to combine.
Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 45 min or so till okra is done but not massacred.
Add the shrimp and simmer for another 5-8 minutes till shrimp is just cooked through. Serve over rice – we used brown rice. Enjoy!