Thursday, December 30, 2010

Southwestern Chicken Soup

I LOVE making soup in the winter. It is just so hearty, warm, filling, and healthy! I make it pretty often (and by "pretty often" I mean Nick is probably sick and tired of it!), but I have so many recipes that I like such as this one and this one that I don't try all that many new ones. I am really glad I tried this one as it will probably go into the regular rotation :) It is slightly spicy from the jalepeno but not at all too hot (you could add more if you really want spicy), and the sweetness of corn was a great addition! It is also great for feeding a crowd. I tripled the recipe below for our community group, and I think everyone liked it :) The recipe is from Cooking Light, but I made a few changes which are reflected below. 
 Southwestern Chicken Soup (adapted from Cooking Light)
Serves 4
  • Cooking spray
  • 1  cup  diced onion
  • 2/3  cup diced green bell pepper
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1  jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
  • 1  pound of chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 2  cups  fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
  • 2  teaspoons  chili powder
  • 1  teaspoon  ground cumin
  • 1/2  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/4  teaspoon  black pepper
  • 1  (15-ounce) can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1  (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1  cup  diced avocado
  • 1 cup of frozen sweet corn
1. Heat a small nonstick Dutch oven over medium-heat. 
2. Coat pan with cooking spray or a little olive oil. 
3. Add onion, bell pepper, garlic, and jalapeño to pan; sauté for 2 minutes. 
4. Add chicken; cook 3-5 minutes. 
5. Add broth and next 6 ingredients (through tomatoes); bring to a boil. Partially cover, reduce heat, and simmer until chicken is done, stirring occasionally.
6. Add corn and cook until corn has thawed.
7. Remove from heat. 
8. Serve with avocado.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Tate's Bake Shop Sugar Cookies

Let's talk about sugar cookies. Christmas is really their season. While they are delicious any time of the year, I think the time they really shine is during the holidays because of all the pretty colored frosting and sprinkles. Most often though, it is the "cut out" sugar cookies rather than the "drop" kind that you see around. While the cut out ones are awfully pretty and festive, I feel like they just can't compare to the taste of the drop cookies, not-to-mention that they are definitely less time consuming. I think we can all agree that we could use a little extra time during Christmas! I know more hours in the day is definitely at the top of my wish list :) Now, these cookies in particular are something special. My decorating skills may be lacking, but these cookies definitely made up for that in taste! They had a great flavor and texture- soft and chewy on the inside and slightly crispy on the bottom. They will definitely be my "go-to" recipe in the future!
Old Fashioned Sugar Cookies (from Tate's Bake Shop Cookbook, seen on Smells like Home)
(Recipe yielded about 40 med-lg cookies) 
  • 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup salted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup sour cream
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. (You don't have to do this, but the bottoms came out more browned when I didn't)
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  4. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy. 
  5. Add the vanilla and egg.  Mix together.
  6. Then, add the sour cream and mix it well.  
  7. Add the flour mixture and mix it until it is combined.
  8. Drop the cookies onto the prepared cookie sheets 2-3 inches apart as they do spread.
  9. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until they are light brown.  Cool them on the cookie sheets for about 5 minutes, and remove them to wire cooling racks to cool completely.
 For the Frosting:
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • Food coloring (optional)
  1. Beat butter with a mixer for about 1 minute or until smooth.
  2. Add vanilla, salt, sugar, and milk and beat again until smooth.
  3. Add food coloring if you want and spread over cooled cookies. 

    Sunday, December 12, 2010

    Pear Salad with Maple Vinaigrette

    Making your own salad dressing is really quite simple and takes a salad from good to delicious! So often I rely on bottled salad dressing, but the extra 5 minutes it takes to make is really worth it- that is if you have an extra 5 minutes on that given day! I loved how the slight sweetness of the maple came through and also gave it a more seasonal flavor as maple really makes me think of the fall and winter. It was great on the pear salad, but I also used the leftovers through out the week on a salad with apples, which was equally delicious.

     Pear Salad with Maple Vinaigrette (from Taste of South magazine)
    For Salad:
    • Bibb lettuce (or any kind you prefer)
    • Pear
    • Dried cranberries
    • Blue cheese
    • Toasted walnuts
      For Dressing: 
    •  1/4 cup  maple syrup  
    •  1/4 cup  olive oil
    •  3 tablespoons  balsamic vinegar
    •  1 tablespoon  Dijon-style mustard
    •  1/4 teaspoon  ground black pepper
    •  1/8 teaspoon salt 
    1. Place handful or 2 of lettuce on each plate and top with pear, blue cheese, dried cranberries, and walnuts.
    2. Combine all dressing ingredients together in a bowl and drizzle on top of salad.  

    Saturday, December 4, 2010

    Pumpkin Polenta with Turkey Sausage and Greens

     Whenever I come across recipes with greens in them, I instantly think "Oh, delicious! I HAVE to make that," even when it is cooked spinach, which after several tries I am always disappointed in it and never learn my lesson! However, when I stumbled across Cara's Blog, I saw pumpkin polenta (delicious), turkey sausage (delicious), and swiss chard (hmmm- never had it but it sure looks delicious), I immediately knew I wanted to make it! I saw the swiss chard at the grocery store, but i chickened out and went with the safe choice of collard greens because I know I love those! Also, they come in a pre-cut and washed bag, which was a big selling point.

    Nick and I both loved this! The polenta was so creamy without adding any cream or butter, and the addition of the pumpkin was not only healthy, but also really tasty. I may never make polenta without pumpkin again! We had some leftover that Nick ate for dinner the next night, and I have to admit I was a little jealous (not that the leftover soup that I had eaten for the past 5 meals wasn't delicious...) Can't wait to make this again!

    Pumpkin Polenta with Turkey Sausage and Greens (adapted from Cara's Cravings)
    Serves 3 
    For the polenta:
    • 1.5 cups pumpkin puree
    • 3/4 cup course ground polenta (I used Bob's Red Mill)
    • 2.25 cups of water
    • salt and pepper
    For the Turkey Sausage and Greens Saute:
    •  3 links spicy turkey sausage, casing removed
    • 1/2 sweet onion, thinly sliced
    • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
    • 1 tsp olive oil
    • 8 oz trimmed collard greens (I used half a bag of these, which are washed and ready to go)
    • 3/4 cup halved grape tomatoes
    • 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
    • 1/4 cup chicken broth
    • salt and pepper
    1. In a nonstick skillet over medium heat, cook the turkey sausage, stirring to crumble.  Once it has cooked through, remove it from the pan and put on a plate lined with a paper towel.
    2. In the same skillet, heat 1 tsp olive oil over medium heat.
    3. Add onion and garlic, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook until tender.
    4. Add tomatoes and collard greens to pan and cook for a couple of minutes. Then add chicken broth, balsamic vinegar, and season with salt and pepper. Continue cooking until they are wilted.
    5. Turn off heat and add turkey sausage back to the pan. Set aside.
    6. Combine water and pumpkin in medium or large sauce pan. Bring to a boil. 
    7. Slowly stream in the polenta, stirring constantly so it does not clump. Continue to cook stirring often with a whisk until thickened, about 10-15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. If you have a handy assistant, they can complete steps 6-7 while you do steps 1-5 :)
    8. If necessary, reheat turkey sausage and greens mixture.
    9. Serve by dividing polenta among plates and topping with turkey sausage and greens mixture.