Saturday, January 14, 2017

Cream Cheese Chicken and Vegetable Soup


I have a file of soup recipes I'd been waiting to try once the dreadful summer we had last year had passed.  Last week we finally had some freezing weather (back to 70 degrees today.....are we ever going to get winter weather that will stick around longer than a weekend?!!!!) and I got to pull one of them out to try.

Oh! this one is so good!!!  Silky and creamy with a deep chicken flavor.  I used reduced-fat cream cheese and it came out perfectly, actually much better than using half-and-half or cream.  I won't be saving this one just for cold weather.

CREAM CHEESE CHICKEN and VEGETABLE SOUP  (4 servings)

2 Tbsp butter
1 onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 stalks celery, diced
1/2 cup diced carrots (about 2 regular carrots or a handful of baby carrots)
3 cups chicken broth see note below
3-4 smallish red or Yukon gold potatoes (I like to leave the peels on)
1 cup milk
4 Tbsp flour
1 (8 oz package) regular or light cream cheese
about 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and diced (I used a rotisserie chicken and just added enough meat until it suited my tastes)

In a large pot, melt the butter and add the onion, garlic, celery, and carrots.  Saute, stirring often, for 3-4 minutes, until the veggies are slightly tender and the onions are translucent.  Add the chicken broth and potatoes.  Bring the soup to a simmer and cook, partially covered, until the potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes.

In a liquid measuring cup, vigorously whisk the flour and milk together until smooth.  Whisk the mixture into the soup, stirring quickly, and cook over medium heat for 3-4 minutes, until the soup begins to thicken slightly.  Stir often to ensure the soup doesn't burn.

Soften the cream cheese in the microwave until it is soft and melty (microwave for about 1 minutes at 30% power to avoid having cream cheese lumps).  Add the cream cheese to the soup in small tablespoon-size pieces.  Let the pieces sit in the soup and warm through then whisk or stir the soup until the cream cheese melts.  Add the cooked chicken and heat through.  Season with S&P.  Serve.

Recipe source:  http://www.melskitchencafe.com/cream-cheese-chicken-and-vegetable-soup/

NOTE:  When a recipe calls for chicken stock/broth, I use a broth mix made by Knorr.  I first found this mix when I worked at a restaurant in Minnesota.  The owner would use this to make soup.  Personally, I found this product to produce a really clean flavor.  And, of course, you can add as much or as little as you like to get the flavor you like.

Thing is, it's not easy to find.  After I quit the restaurant, I couldn't find it anywhere.  Then I just happened across it at a big Asian market in Minneapolis.  We were going to be moving and I asked if they could ship more to me when I ran out.  They did.  So for several years, that was my source.

Since then, I have found it at an Asian market here in Chattanooga and I can find it (sporadically) at my local Aldi's.  It comes in a 35.2 oz tin and stays good until the very bottom.  This tastes different than the Knorr chicken bouillon cubes you can find in the local supermarket soup aisle.  It's nice to have an easy go-to for chicken stock/broth that are required in so many recipes I use.  Photo below:

Image result for knorr chicken flavored broth mix

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Lighter Beef and Broccoli


It's not often that I have a craving for beef, but once or twice a year I do and my choice is often Broccoli and Beef.

This is a really quick and easy recipe, especially if you prep the sauce, beef, and vegetables ahead of time.  It's also easily adjustable.  Next time, I'll add more garlic, ginger, and crushed red pepper.  Also, I think I'll add some grated fresh ginger.

See the link below for step-by-step instructions and her beautiful photography.  Also, her recipe is gluten-free.

LIGHTER BEEF and BROCCOLI (4 servings)

1 - 1 1/4 pound flank or sirloin steak, or something similar, cut very thin against the grain (for easier slicing, leave in the freezer for 15-20 minutes)
1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp soy sauce, divided
2 1/2 Tbsp flour, divided
3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
3 cloves minced garlic (or more to taste)
1/2 tsp ground ginger (or more to taste)
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper (more or less to taste)
1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp water, divided
4 cups broccoli florets
2 Tbsp high-heat cooking oil (vegetable, grapeseed, etc.)
cooked rice, for servings
chopped green onions, dark part only, for garnish

Add sliced beef, 2 Tbsp soy sauce, and 1 Tbsp flour to a ziplock bag; zeal and squish to evenly coat.  Place the bag in the fridge to marinate while preparing sauce.

Add remaining 1/2 cup soy, 1 1/2 Tbsp flour, chicken broth, brown sugar, 2 Tbsp water, rice vinegar, sesame oil, garlic, ground ginger, fresh ginger (if using), and red chili pepper flakes to a bowl, then whisk to combine.

Heat a large wok or non-stick skillet over medium-high to high heat then add remaining 1/4 cup water.  Once simmering, add broccoli then stir fry until crisp-tender, 2-3 minutes( don't overcook or you get ugly dark green instead of bright green).  Remove to a plate.

Heat 1 Tbsp oil in wok then, once hot, add 1/2 the marinated beef in one layer.  Let sit undisturbed until seared, 30 seconds, then stir fry until just barely cooked through (some pink showing is best).  Remove to plate with broccoli.  Heat remaining Tbsp of oil, then stir fry remaining beef and add to plate.

Add sauce to wok then simmer until slightly thickened, 2-3 minutes.  Add cooked broccoli and beef back into the wok and then simmer until everything is heated through, about 1 minute.  Serve over cooked rice and garnish with chopped green onions.

Recipe Source:  http://iowagirleats.com/2016/10/17/broccoli-beef-recipe/


Monday, January 9, 2017

Azalea Icicles


We had a few days are bitter (for us) cold.  I happened to notice that as it began to thaw, water dripping from the eaves fell onto this azalea bush and it was covered in icicles.  It was so pretty.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Potsticker Noodles Bowls


I am so bad about thinking outside of the box.  Thank goodness for blogs.  One of my favorites is IowaGirlEats.  She has celiac disease and hers is an all gluten-free blog.  But you can certainly use regular gluten foods.  For example, she had to give up potstickers because the skins contain gluten so she substituted rice noodles.  GENIUS!!!  These have the same flavor/texture as regular potstickers. 

Also, she used ground pork but I had ground turkey on hand so I used that.  Perfect.  An added plus, these reheat wonderfully (a great breakfast for those of us who aren't fond of traditional breakfast foods).

See link below for (as usual) better photos and step-by-step instructions.

POTSTICKER NOODLES BOWLS (4-5 servings)

8 oz wide rice noodles
1/2 cup + 3 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 tsp rice vinegar
1/2 tsp freshly grated ginger (I liked more)
pinch crushed red pepper
2 eggs
1 Tbsp high-temp oil (canola, grapeseed, vegetable, etc)
1 pound ground pork (I used ground turkey)
white pepper
14 oz coleslaw mix
7 green onions, green parts chopped into 2" pieces and light green/white parts cut into 1/2" pieces)
2 tsp minced garlic

Soak rice noodles according to package directions.  Meanwhile, whisk together 1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp soy, chicken broth, rice vinegar, ginger, and crushed red pepper in a small bowl and then set aside.  Whisk together eggs and then set aside in a small bowl.  Mix ground meat with remaining tablespoon in a bowl and then set aside.

When noodles have 5 minutes left to soak, heat oil in a large 12" non-stick skillet (or wok) over high heat.  Add ground meat then white pepper and stir-fry until cooked through, breaking it up as it cooks.  Add cole slaw mix and green onions then stir fry until the cole slaw begins to wilt, 2-3 minutes, add garlic and stir fry for 30 seconds.

Make a well in the center of the skillet or wok then add eggs and scramble, and then toss stir fry together to mix.

Drain noodles and add to wok and cook for 1 minute.  Add sauce and stir fry until noodles are tender, 3-4 minutes, turning heat down slightly if sauce begins to evaporate before noodles soften.  Taste then add a splash of water or broth if noodles are too salty.  Scoop onto plates or bowls to serve.


Monday, January 2, 2017

Chicken Fajitas



I got this recipe from Kristin's blog (see link below) in which she entitles it "The BEST Chicken Fajita" and she is right!!!  Holy Smokes! these were good.  And not only delicious, but super quick and easy (especially if you prep the chicken and vegetables earlier).

I don't have a proper fajita pan so I used a hard-anodized Calphalon pan.  It worked perfectly.  I mention this because, in my opinion, a good sear on the veggies is essential.  Also, I have a smooth-top stove and I started the heat on 8.  I was afraid to turn the burner all the way and it worked great.  I did have to adjust the temp several times in order not to start a fire!

This also easily adaptable.  I cut this recipe in half, but used all of the mushrooms and onions from the full recipe (because I loves me some good sautéed mushrooms and onions).  And don't omit the lemon....it's what sets this recipe apart.

CHICKEN FAJITAS (4-5 servings)

1 lb skinless chicken breasts, cut into thin strips
2 bell peppers, any color, thinly sliced
1 large sweet onion, thinly sliced
8 oz mushrooms, thinly sliced
4-6 Tbsp high-heat cooking oil (vegetable, almond, grapeseed, etc.)
1 lemon
seasoned salt
cumin
smoked paprika, optional (but why would you not?!!!)
flour tortillas

Season chicken strips with seasoned salt and a pinch of both cumin and smoked paprika then mix and set aside.  Add vegetables to a large bowl then toss with your hands to mix.

Heat 1-1 1/2 Tbsp oil in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet over high heat.  When is begins to smoke, add a third of the vegetables then season with seasoned salt, a sprinkle of cumin and smoked paprika, and a drizzle of fresh lemon juice (1-2 tsp, not too much).  Let vegetables sit undisturbed until seared on the bottom then continue to saute, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are crisp-tender, 3-4 minutes, turning heat down if they begin to burn.  Remove vegetables to a plate.  Repeat searing vegetables in two more batches, each in 1-1 1/2 Tbsp oil, adding seasonings and lemon juice to each batch.

Heat remaining 1-1 1/2 Tbsp oil in skillet then add chicken, drizzle over a little lemon juice, then saute until cooked through, 2-3 minutes.  Add vegetables back into skillet then toss to heat through. 

Recipe Source and step-by-step photos: http://iowagirleats.com/2016/01/15/the-best-chicken-fajitas/

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Welcome Opie!


Happy 2017 and meet the newest member of our family, Opie.

I was at a craft show on November 20th and they just so happened to be holding a dog adoption tent.   I'd been wanting another dog, but I generally look for a special-needs dog, someone who needs a break and a great home.  But this little fella was so darn cute, it was hard to pass him up.  I asked the folks holding the adoption fair if they had any special needs dog.  I figured Roger (his shelter name) would be scooped up in a minute, but if he wasn't to give me a call.  Guess what?!!!

I picked him up on Monday, November 21st and he is the most perfect dog.  He was house-trained, he doesn't shed, doesn't chew up furniture or shoes (although he does have a love for used tissues and napkins, and he is a biter (not hard, mind you, just love nibbles.))

He has made fast friends with Lindie and Nellie and all of our neighbor's dogs, particularly Maggie who often stays with us with her Mom and Dad need to be away from home.  He loves walks and car rides, but is mostly fond of anything edible......regardless of what that may be!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Salmon with Spinach and Feta in Phyllo Dough

(


Want an elegant yet easy salmon entrée?  Try this salmon wrapped in phyllo dough.  With the added yumminess of a spinach/feta mixture included.

SALMON with SPINACH and FETA in PHYLLO DOUGH (4 servings)

4 oz cream cheese, room temp
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled, room temp
1 scallion, white and green parts, chopped
5 oz frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
juice of 1/4 lemon
4 (4-6 oz) salmon fillets, skinless
8 sheets phyllo dough, thawed
melted butter (1/2 - 1 stick butter  (or more) if needed

Preheat oven to 375F.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, combine cream cheese and feta, mixing until smooth.  Add scallion, spinach, and lemon juice; mix well.  Spread 1/4 of the mixture over each salmon fillet.

Unroll phyllo sheets onto a smooth, dry surface and cover with a damp towel.  Working quickly, lay one phyllo sheet on counter, brush with melted butter and top with another sheet of phyllo.  Brush second sheet lightly with melted butter.  Lay one salmon fillet at the short end of the phyllo and roll, tucking sides in.  Place package, seam side down (cheese covered side of salmon up), on parchment-lined pan.  Brush with melted butter.  Repeat with remaining salmon.  Bake for 30-35 minutes until browned. 

NOTE:  You can prepare early in the day and refrigerate until ready to bake.  These freeze well before baking.  Place frozen on parchment-lined pan and bake in preheated 400F oven 30-35 minutes, until golden brown and cooked through.