April 23, 2012

Chicken Chili

What happened to springtime and sunshine? We've been having clouds, rain and cooler weather for the last two days... today in the 50's, it felt much colder (if it weren't for the green leaves on the trees, I would probably be bummed that winter was still going strong). I hate being cold, and immediately started craving something to warm me up from the inside out.

As I've mentioned before, I don't like chicken soup... But, for some reason, that it where my mind went at first when I started thinking about warm, comforting, rainy day foods with chicken (perhaps because I had defrosted chicken for dinner...). I caught myself, however, and immediately settled on chicken chili.

I have made chicken chili before... usually "white" chicken chili, (meaning not tomato based), but it usually ends up tasting like spiced up chicken noodle soup. (Which, needless to say, disappoints the chicken soup hater in me). Instead of searching for a recipe, I just headed to the grocery store and starting thinking about what flavors I loved in regular chili... and what I wanted to warm me up. My first stop? The bakery for some crusty bread!!

I hate to brag, but this chili was delicious. It had all the flavor I was looking for, was quick and easy to throw together and definitely make a good comforting warm meal on a rainy night. I hope that you have the chance to enjoy it as much as I did!!

Chicken Chili
Serves 4-6

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into "bite-sized" pieces
1 large yellow onion, diced
3/4 cup celery, diced
3/4 cup carrot, diced
1 jalapeno, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp oregano
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1 14.5oz can diced tomatoes with their liquid
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 14.5oz can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 tbsp yellow corn meal
Kosher salt and black pepper
Olive oil

In a large stockpot, heat olive oil (enough to cover bottom of pot), over medium-high heat. Add diced chicken, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp black pepper. Saute until chicken is browned. Remove from pot, set aside.

Add small amount of oil to pot. Add onion, celery, carrot, jalapeno and garlic to pot. Add spices, (1 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp black pepper, 1 tsp oregano, 2 tsp cumin, 1 tsp chili pepper), and cook until onion is translucent. Add can of diced tomatoes, tomato paste and beans. Stir. Add browned chicken and chicken broth. Cover, and simmer on medium heat for 15 minutes. Add 2 tbsp yellow corn meal. Cover, and simmer for additional 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Serve. Would be awesome garnished with some fresh cilantro!

Notes on this recipe: Yum. I thought that this chili had just the right amount of spice*, (warming, flavorful, a little spicy without burning)... Just enough to leave you craving seconds. I will definitely be keeping this recipe nearby- to make whenever I need a light, but comforting meal. *Spiciness can depend a lot on your jalapeno... if you think you want to make it spicier, I encourage you to taste the finished product before adding more spice... you can always add more, but you can't take it away, (trust me, I've made this mistake!!)

April 21, 2012

Asparagus Soup

Happy Spring!! I hope that everyone is enjoying the warmer weather, the greenery, and some fresh spring produce! I really enjoy springtime- seeing everything come back to life, flowers and greenery popping up all over the place, sunshine... the end of winter! Of course, I also enjoy the fresh produce that seems to appear overnight at the grocery store... one of my favorites being asparagus.

I typically enjoy grilled or roasted asparagus... but, for Easter, (I know, this is a pretty belated recipe share), I tried something a little different, and made some delicious asparagus soup. I didn't follow the recipe completely, (no big shock there)... I kept it simple and easily portable by making only the soup, choosing to omit the croutons completely- a decision that I don't regret in the least. Everyone loved the soup, and I will definitely be making it again and again! Delicious, creamy (without any added fat or cream!), and simple- it would be an awesome starter or make a great light meal when paired with a little salad and some crusty bread. Gotta love Cooking Light!!

Asparagus Soup with Cheese Croutons
Yield: 8 servings

1 14oz can fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 1/2 teaspoons butter
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/4 cup thinly sliced shiitake mushrooms
8 1/2oz slices French bread
Cooking spray
1/4 cup (1oz) shredded Gouda cheese
1/4 cup cooked brown rice
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground green peppercorns
1/8 teaspoon sea salt

Place chicken broth and asparagus in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat; bring to a simmer. Cook 8 minutes or until asparagus is tender. Remove from heat.
Heat butter and olive oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add sliced shiitake mushrooms to pan; cook 3 minutes or until mushrooms begin to brown. Set aside.
Preheat broiler.
Place bread on a baking sheet covered with foil; coat bread with cooking spray. Broil 2 minutes or until golden brown. Turn bread over, and sprinkle evenly with cheese. Broil 2 minutes or until cheese bubbles.
Pour asparagus mixture into a blender. Add rice, peppercorns, and salt; puree until smooth. Ladle 1/2 cup soup into each of 8 bowls; top evenly with mushrooms. Top each serving with 1 crouton.

Calories: 86; Fat: 2.6g, Sat. Fat: 1.2g, Monounsaturated fat: 0.9g, Polyunsaturated fat: 0.1g; Protein 4.3g; Carbohydrate: 11.9g; Fiber: 1.9g

*Notes on this recipe: As I mentioned above, I did not make the croutons... and I didn't miss them. The shiitake mushrooms were special in this soup- I would definitely not suggest substituting or omitting them. I do not have green peppercorns in my arsenal, so I used freshly ground black pepper to taste.

I highly recommend this soup to anyone who enjoys asparagus- its an easy and delicious way to enjoy a little bit of spring!

You can find the original recipe here at CookingLight.com. 

April 18, 2012

Whole-Grain Spaghetti with Brussels Sprouts and Mushrooms

I am sort of a cookbook collector. It's not a huge collection, but definitely a tasty one. I recently discovered the Williams Sonoma Cookbook Club... my idea of a good night out. Once per month, they feature a cookbook and provide cooking demonstration/class comprised of recipes from the featured cookbook. I had the opportunity to go to a class this month, for my mom's birthday, which featured Giada De Laurentiis' new cookbook Weeknights with Giada. I really enjoyed the recipes they featured, and couldn't wait to explore my new book and see what else it had to offer.

Tonight, fueled by fresh spring produce and a desire for some comforting pasta, I tried out Giada's recipe for Whole-Grain Spaghetti with Brussels Sprouts and Mushrooms. Simple, bright, and filling- it was all that I was hoping for. I highly recommend this dish for a yummy spring (or anytime) dinner...

Whole-Grain Spaghetti with Brussels Sprouts and Mushrooms
Serves 4 to 6

1 pound whole-grain or whole wheat spaghetti
1 cup grated pecorino romano cheese
1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 pound mushrooms, such as cremini, button or stemmed shiitake, cleaned and cut into thick slices
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed, halved and thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup (8oz) creme fraiche, at room temperature
1/2 cup vegetable or chicken broth
Grated zest of 1 large lemon
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (from 2 large lemons)
1 cup slivered almonds, toasted

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain and transfer to a large serving bowl. Toss with 1/2 cup of the cheese.

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and mushrooms, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft and the mushrooms are golden, about 6 minutes. Add the Brussels sprouts and garlic. Cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until the sprouts are soft.

Add the creme fraiche, vegetable broth, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Bring to a simmer and stir until the mixture forms a creamy sauce, about 2 minutes. Season with 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper.

Pour the sauce over the pasta, add the almonds, and toss until coated. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup cheese and serve.

*Notes on this recipe: Yum! I only made a half-batch of this pasta, to avoid having loads of leftovers, and could have easily served 4 with what I made. I used spaghetti- as directed, but I will be trying penne next time. Since the sauce wasn't abundant, it was difficult to keep the spaghetti neat and easily mixed. I did not have creme fraiche in my refrigerator, and didn't feel like hunting some down, so I used what I had on hand- part-skim ricotta cheese. It worked well, but in the future, I will hunt down the real stuff to see how the intended flavors come together. The almonds were awesome- they added a little something extra which definitely shouldn't be sacrificed!

I hope everyone is having a good night! What's your favorite cookbook?!? Any suggestions for my library?

Recipe from: De Larentiis, Giada. Weeknights with Giada. New York: Clarkson Potter, 2012. Print.

April 02, 2012

Spicy Asian Lettuce Wraps: Perfect Meal for a Busy Night

Its awesome to find a recipe that is both delicious, and incredibly simple. This is one of those recipes, and I'm delighted to have found it!

Sunday is my menu planning and shopping day. If Sunday gets thrown off, the whole week (of food, at least) is messed up. Of course, there is always the challenge of what to eat on Sunday night... after returning from shopping, (not an activity that I enjoy), I want to make dinner as quickly and easily as possible so that I can enjoy the last few precious hours of weekend relaxation. These would also make a great weeknight meal on the go!

I made this recipe for the first time this past Sunday night, dinner was ready in about 15 minutes, (due to the miracle of store bought rotisserie chicken), and it was delicious... no substitute for P.F. Changs, but still delicious, and worth making again!

Spicy Asian Lettuce Wraps
Cooking Light: 4 servings

2 1/2 ounces bean threads (cellophane/ thin rice noodles)
1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro
1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1 tbsp chile paste with garlic
2 tsp dark sesame oil
2 cups chopped roasted skinless, boneless chicken
12 large Boston or Romaine lettuce leaves

Cover bean threads with boiling water. Let stand for 5 minutes or until softened. Drain, and rinse under cool water. Chop noodles.

While bean threads soak, combine cilantro, soy sauce, chile paste, and oil in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add noodles and chicken to soy sauce mixture; toss well to coat. Spoon about 1/3 cup chicken mixture down center of each lettuce leaf; roll up.

Per Serving: Calories 213; Fat 4.9g, Sat Fat 1g, Monounsaturated fat 1.8g, Polyunsaturated fat 1.5g; Protein 23.2g; Carbohydrate: 18.3g; Fiber 0.7g

Notes on this recipe: Depending on how spicy you like things, and how spicy your chile paste is, you may want to use less chile paste. I used a tiny bit more than a tbsp. and it was pretty spicy! I would also consider using just a little less soy sauce... they were very yummy, (and made a great lunch today), but I could do with a little less saltiness. I would suggest adding the soy sauce to taste.

I hope that you all enjoy :-)