Monday, April 25, 2016

Chicken Tortilla Soup

This week's community soup was Chicken Tortilla Soup.
I based my recipe off of this one from the Pioneer Woman.  I like the way she cooks: casual and home-cook friendly, with no fear of butter and cream.  I don't cook that way myself, but I do think she gets most things right. I am, however, a bit suspicious whenever someone does absolutely everything and makes it look effortless.  She cooks, home-schools the kids, takes photographs, keeps the ranch hands fed, the dogs walked, and the community catered...I can barely get myself to work and get a garden planted.  I'm just saying, I am suspicious.

Anyway-- Her soup in a slow cooker looks easy and good.  I had to vary the method because I am making so much at a time.  12 quarts!  That's 2 large slow cookers full! I used th exact same ingredients as the recipe, just modified the method slightly. I actually sauteed the onions and peppers and added the spices and the chicken (perfectly poached in stock, and cut into bit-sized pieces).  Then I chilled this down in the fridge overnight.  The next day I added the other ingredients and put the soup into the slow cookers to heat.  I only did this so  a) I could give the onions and chicken a head start, and b) I wouldn't have the whole 12 quarts to try and cool down in the fridge.  This worked well to get the soup together and It heated in the slow cookers for about 4.5 hours before serving.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Potato Leek Soup

So here is the recipe that I used as a guide for the Potato Leek soup that I made.  I say “guide,” because I did not use the exact ingredients as this, b/c I try to cook veggie soups and made this one dairy free too (for the Non Dairy types). Also, the proportion of spuds to leeks that  I used was 3 leeks to every 2 baked potato-sized russet potatoes. What I did follow is the idea and procedure for NOT pureeing the soup with a blender, but rather  “rice-ing” the potatoes separately with a food mill.  I have never done this; I usually just put the whole thing in the blender, but this article, and Alton Brown, both talk about how a blender actually breaks up the starch molecules too much and the starch busts out and can make the soup “gummy” or “gluey”.  I think that this is true to a certain extent. 

I also cooked the potatoes separately, by themselves.  This was just so I wouldn’t have to “fish” them out after they were cooked.  If you don’t have a food mill or a potato ricer, you could simply “mash” them. I also added the potato cooking water to the soup (it is a vegetable broth after all).

So do read the attached article.  It is interesting and has a good recipe.  If you want to make the recipe that I made, here are the ingredients:

6 Leeks—Cleaned very well. I do that like this:  
I use most of the green parts too, unless really tough or grundgy
4 TBS butter (olive oil would be ok too)
2 medium large Russet (baker) potatoes--peeled and cut into 2 inch chunks
2 quarts stock (I used veggie stock, but good chicken stock is fine)
Sour cream to garnish

Slice cleaned leeks into 1” slices. Heat butter in a soup pot on medium high heat. Add sliced leeks and sauté. Turn heat down to medium, add 1 tsp salt, and pepper to taste and
slowly sauté or “sweat” the leeks until tender.
In a separate pot, cover the potatoes with water, add salt, and boil on high heat until tender.
When leeks are tender add the stock and stir to combine. Return heat to high and simmer.
When potatoes are tender drain [Reserve cooking liquid] and mash, “rice” or process in a food mill to a fine puree.
Puree soup in a blender (or with a stick blender) until smooth and lovely, return to the pot.  Add potato puree to soup.
Adjust the seasoning, and the consistency using the potato cooking water to create a smooth soup a little thicker than heavy cream.
Garnish with sour cream if desired.


Monday, August 13, 2012

Week 11: Zoinks! Zuchinni

The box this week was a vibrant volume of colors:
Summer Squashes, Swiss Chard, Onions, Carrots, Lettuces, and Golden Beets.

The Beets looked amazing.  We can't wait to get them into a salad with warm goat cheese and some tart dried cranberries and toasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas).

I have so often heard the woes of gardeners that become cranky when the many beautiful squash blossoms in their gardens and pea patches turn into actual zucchini, crookneck, straight neck, or scallop squashes.  The plentiful bounty of these plants can drive even the most creative and prolific cooks mad with an over abundance of vegetables for which new recipes need to be found. After steaming, roasting, slicing, ratatouille-ing, stuffing, bread making, muffin baking and freeze drying, they wind up cursing these harmless little veggies.  Eventually, even the most productive gardener/chefs start bringing bag-fulls of zucchini into their various workplaces, hoping to festoon their bounty onto the less culinarily weary than themselves.

I, myself, have never grown the lovely squashes. We tried a pumpkin one year. After winding its vines throughout our entire garden plot, it produced a solitary gourd that was too small to carve and too young to cook. Although we've never experienced this squash angst first hand, our weekly produce box has given us a miniature version of this same situation. We have received summer squash in some variety since week 6.  We, like our gardening friends, are running out of ways to prepare it. All three of us really like zucchini and her cousins, we love to simply slice it and grill or roast it with a simple dredge in olive oil with salt and pepper. Even so, it is becoming a challenge to see squashes sitting there in the freshener, urging us to come up with something clever to cook.

 Here are a couple of ideas adapted from Barbara Kingsolver's book: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. These are a welcome addition to the plethora of recipes available for getting squash to the table in a new format.

Disappearing Zucchini Orzo
   1 lb pkg orzo pasta (multicolored is fun)
Bring 6 cups water or chicken stock to a boil and add pasta. Cook 8 to 10 minutes
   1 chopped onion
   garlic to taste
   3 large zucchini
   olive oil for sauté
Use a grater or mandolin to shred zucchini, sauté it briefly with chopped onion and garlic until lightly golden.
    sprig of thyme & oregano
    ¼ cup grated Parmesan (or any hard yellow cheese)
Add spices to zucchini mixture, stir thoroughly, and then remove mixture from heat.
Combine with the cheese and cooked orzo, salt to taste, serve at room temperature, or cool for a salad.



Zucchini Chocolate Chip Cookies (Makes about two dozen)

    1 egg, beaten
    ½ cup butter softened
    ½ cup brown sugar
    1/3 cup honey
    1 tbsp. vanilla extract
Combine in large bowl
    1 cup white flour
    1 cup whole wheat flour
    ½ tsp baking soda
    ¼ tsp salt
    ¼ tsp cinnamon
    ¼ tsp nutmeg
Combine in a separate, small bowl and then blend into liquid mixture
    1 cup finely shredded zucchini
    12 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
Stir the zucchini and chocolate into other ingredients, mix well. Drop by spoonful onto greased baking sheet, and flatten with the back of a spoon. Bake at 350°, 10 to 15 minutes.

Whichever way you choose to slice it, enjoy the bounty of the season, even if it is a whole lot of summer squash.  As always, eat well and buy local.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Week 9: The Dark Beet Rises

Picked up our produce this week, and then went straight to the iMax movie presentation of the Dark Knight Rises. It was great.  Loud, large, and very menacing, with Anne Hathaway providing some visual and comic relief.  We all thoroughly enjoyed the movie.  We got home late so the result is our own dark night pic.
Cool huh? 
The produce this week was:
Bok choy, Green leaf and Romaine lettuces, Fennel bulb, Beets, and summer squashes.  The new addition to the mix was green beans.

I took the growing number of beets in the cooler as an opportunity to show Maddi how to make pickled beets. We love pickled beets.  Crimson and spicy, sweet and tangy.  They are great right out of the jar or mixed into a salad.  Here's my simple recipe adapted from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything.

Quick Pickled Beets
6 medium Beets cooked like this, (or steamed until just tender) peeled and sliced
1 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1 TB kosher salt
1/2 tsp allspice berries
4 cloves
1/2 cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
2-3 slices of fresh ginger (optional)
1 small onion peeled and sliced

Bring the vinegar, sugar, salt and spices to a boil.

Add the beets and the onion and cook for about a minute.


Put into jars.

Cool and then refrigerate.  Eat within two weeks (if they last that long).

The produce is starting to win the battle.  More veggies and less space in the fridge.  We need to figure out a way to use a whole lot of veggies in one huge batch of cool, refreshing, greens and zucchini gazpacho.  We are trying very hard to keep up.  I will keep you posted on our progress.

Take care.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Week 8: Very Veggie

The produce is starting to build up in the old refrigerator.  We feel like we eat a lot of vegetables, we want to eat a lot of vegetables, but I am guessing that we really don't eat enough vegetables.  Having a lot of fresh, organic produce is not something I am really complaining about.  There are certainly more than enough American families who struggle to get enough fresh veggies on their plates.  I do not take this for granted.  It is a real blessing to be in an area that provides so much wonderful food.

This week we got a few of the now familiar veggies, and a couple of new arrivals.  There was Green Leaf and Red Leaf Lettuce, Carrots, Yellow Summer Squash, Napa Cabbage and Zucchini.  There was also Fresh Fennel Bulb with gorgeous fronds, and Spring Onions...well I call them Spring onions.  I guess in July they are supposed to be called "fresh onions," but I think of Spring when I see onions with great green tops on them.
The lettuce has been building up and I thought I would share how we deal with it so it stays nice and fresh as long as possible. 
We rinse, spin, wrap, and roll. Like this:

Wrap the clean lettuce in a nice clean dish towel, or (eek) paper towels.  (Make sure you use a clean laundry soap like this one.)

 Viola!  You have a nice supply of fresh Lettuce at the ready.  I take one of the rolls to work for the week and we eat one at home.

The abundance of vegetation we are receiving is really a gift.  We are thankful and inspired, and we have no reason to do anything but enjoy the fresh flavors, the nutrition, and the opportunity to eat foods fresh from the farm.  

Eat well and remember to buy local.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Week 7: Zebra Zucchini

Wow! the week really got away from me this time. I can't even blame it on a family vacation. The produce came, and we worked hard to get it prepared and safely tucked away in the chill chest. We got some nice photos and even cranked out a couple of great recipes (see one below). I can't even blame it on my teenager.  She wrote her piece last week.  I just need to get busy and get it going.

The Produce this week included:
Red Lettuce   Carrots  Chioggia Beets  Bok Choi  and Yellow, Green & Zebra Striped
Summer Squash -- aka Zucchini

The new addition to the mix was a big head of Napa Cabbage.
Cabbage is a wonderful vegetable.  I realize it is a Love / Hate food for some people.  Both of Maddi's Grandpas are of Austro-Germanic-Franco decent.  They love them some cabbages.  My Dad would eat it boiled in soups, fried in a bad Eastern Idaho version of Beef Sukiyaki, and in sauerkraut any way you serve it.  I inherited this love of all things cruciferous as did my girl Maddi.  Not so her Mom.  Maddi and I have to have our cabbage nights when Mom has someplace else to be.  We both like pork with cabbage. I make a stir fry with sliced pork loin, shredded cabbage, green onions and Hoisin sauce. The sweet sauce really compliments the cabbage.

Mom does join us when we enjoy sauerkraut:  Really Robust Reubens, Brats with kraut, and she even loves my old pizza specialty from my Me n Ed's pizza days, the ground beef with sauerkraut. We all love Cole Slaw and its various cousins, but cooked cabbages are only really enjoyed by me and the girl.

So make this easy crock pot (or slow cooker of your choice) recipe for the cabbage lovers in your life.

2 Pounds Pork Shoulder Roast
(also called Boston Butt, and you could use Country Style Ribs which are from the same cut)
1 Onion Sliced
2 Bay Leaves
1 Cinnamon Stick
2 Star Anise
2 tsp Mustard Seed
2 tsp Black Peppercorns
2 TBS Rice Vinegar
4 TBS Hoisin Sauce

Place Pork into slow cooker and surround with other ingredients.  Cook on High for 3 to 4 hours.
1 head of Napa Cabbage cut into 2" slices
to top of Cooker, and continue to cook for 1 hour, or until pork is tender.
Serve chunks/slices/shreds of pork with cabbage and the delicious broth over mounds of brown rice.

Even if your culinary descendants were not from cabbage loving stock, you should try cooking some cabbage.  It will warm your heart and feed your soul.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Week 6: Rainbows of Chard

This week we got a lot of good vegetables in our produce bag.  Some of these were veggies we had seen before in the bag and some of them were new.

The repeat vegetables we got were:

  • Romaine and Red Leaf Lettuce
  • Bok Choy
  • Beets
  • Chinese Cabbage Lettuce

The new items included:

  • Fennel Bulb
  • Snow Peas
  • Rainbow Swiss Chard, and
  • Zucchini

 Maddi here! I'm going to tell you about the new veggies we got. Snow peas are a really great snack to just eat raw (they looked so good we had to eat some right out of the bag). Chard is full of vitamins and minerals, so it's a good vegetable to serve on the side of any meal. When I was little, I hated any sort of greens, but my dad made me eat them, and it's a good thing, because they are really healthy. Last night for dinner we wanted to use the fennel and zucchini, so we sliced them up and cooked them on the grill.
It's pretty simple, we brushed them with a mixture of olive oil and garlic, then we just let them cook until each side had some nice grill marks.
We served these with some grilled chicken and pork, and some mushrooms, but you can grill lots of different things!
Grilling is a good way to get more veggies into your diet and it gives food a nice flavor. I encourage everyone to try this if you haven't already! Enjoy!