Weekly Winner: A Better Idea than Chicken in a Blender!

Chicken-Cordon-Bleu-Soup_EXPS_THN18_128604_E06_06_6b-696x696The first round of holidays are over (hence the delay in my posting) and I am back on the soup bandwagon.  Big Time.  There is nothing like a bowl of creamy, cheesy, luscious soup to give you the courage and sustenance to face the rest of the holiday chores and obligations.

I love the idea of taking an entrée or specific dish and transforming it either into a pizza or a soup.  I’ve done this with chicken tikka masala (into a pizza – fabulous), loaded baked potatoes (into a soup – super yummy), and BLT’s (into both a pizza and a soup at various times).  You get the idea.  So, when I came across this recipe from A Taste of Home for Chicken Cordon Bleu Soup I knew I was going to have to try it.  It did not disappoint.  And while, yes…. having ham, chicken, swiss cheese  and half-and-half does make it a bit rich (which is a good thing), having the base of the soup be pureed cauliflower adds thickness without additional heft.  And, your getting a vegetable which does not exist in the original form of Chicken Cordon Bleu — bonus!  It’s healthy-ish! Yeah, not really but it is super duper tasty!

A quick word about this fabulous picture.  It’s not mine.  I took it directly from the magazine.  I did take a picture of my soup but it just didn’t quite make the cut.  Here it is: cordon bleu soupSee?  Not quite the same.

Chicken Cordon Bleu Soup

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small head cauliflower, coarsely chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups shredded cooked chicken
  • 2 cups half-and-half cream
  • 1 cup finely cubed fully cooked ham
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 cups shredded Swiss cheese

Procedure:

  • In a large saucepan, heat butter and oil over medium-high heat. Add cauliflower and onion; cook and stir until crisp-tender, 8-10 minutes. Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer.
  • Stir in flour until blended; gradually whisk in broth. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly; cook and stir until cauliflower is tender, 12-15 minutes.
  • Puree soup using an immersion blender. Or, cool soup slightly and puree in batches in a blender; return to pan.
  • Stir in chicken, cream, ham, mustard, salt and pepper; heat through. Stir in cheese until melted.
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Weekly Winner: Changing Up Beef Stew – Chinese-Style

beef stewI’m not a huge fan of typical beef stew.  Cubes of beef with veggies in a broth is just not that exciting to me.  Pot roast is a bit better … succulent beef that falls apart or shreds at the lightest touch… better but not perfect.  Spicy shredded beef on noodles (and not just any noodles, but toothsome, slippery Udon noodles) – now you’re talking beef perfection!!!

Slow-Cooker Chinese Beef Stew with Noodles might just become my new favorite comfort food.  This is fancy enough for company but also perfect for cozying up on the couch in your jammies with.  To top it all off, it’s made in the slow cooker!  Hands-off comfort food.  You just can’t beat that!  I got this winner from Food Network Magazine.  It couldn’t be easier to prepare or tastier to eat.   I did change up the recipe one little bit:  it called for watercress as it’s “greenery”.  Hubby doesn’t care for watercress and I already had a combination of spinach and arugula so I used that.

Slow-Cooker Chinese Beef Stew with Noodles

Serves 4

Ingredients:

2 pounds beef chuck roast

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons hoisin sauce

2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce

2 teaspoons tomato paste

2 teaspoons chili-garlic sauce

1 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger

1 pod star anise

1 9.5-ounce package dried udon noodles

1/2 bunch watercress, leaves picked (about 3 cups baby arugula and spinach combination)

Sliced scallions and balsamic vinegar, for topping

Procedure:

  1. Put the beef in a 6- to 8-quart slow cooker and season lightly with salt and pepper. Whisk the flour and 1/2 cup water in a small bowl until smooth, then whisk in the hoisin sauce, soy sauce, tomato paste, chili-garlic sauce and ginger. Pour into the slow cooker and turn the beef to coat. Add the star anise. Cover and cook on low until the beef is tender, 7 to 8 hours.
  2. Discard the star anise and transfer the meat to a plate. Shred into bite-size pieces, removing any large pieces of fat. Skim off any excess fat from the liquid in the slow cooker. Return the meat to the slow cooker and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the noodles and cook as the label directs; drain. Divide the noodles and beef stew among bowls. Top with the spinach/arugula, scallions and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.

Weekly Winner: Pancetta-Pasta-Pecorino Perfection

pancetpastaI am well aware of the fact that I have been sorely lacking in the posting department lately, and I apologize for that.  Life has indeed gotten in the way.  The good news with all that is that I now have quite a backlog of recipes to feature!  Hopefully that means November will be chock-full of tastiness.

I will start with this 5-ingredient winner of a pasta dish.  Yep, that’s right — only FIVE make this amazing dish.  How is this possible you ask?  Well, two out of the five ingredients are absolute powerhouses of flavor:  Pancetta and Pecorino Romano.  You don’t need much else if you’re starting with those two!

Pasta Alla Gricia or Rigatoni with Pancetta and Pecorino Romano apparently comes from Rome.  This particular recipe for the dish; however, comes from Cook’s Illustrated.

Five ingredients and 30 minutes, people — there really is no excuse for not making this.

Pasta Alla Gricia (Rigatoni with Pancetta and Pecorino Romano)

Ingredients:

8 ounces pancetta, sliced 1/4 inch thick

1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1 pound rigatoni

1 tsp coarsely ground pepper, plus extra for serving

2 oz Pecorino Romano cheese, grated fine (1 cup), plus extra for serving.

Procedure:

  1. Slice each round of pancetta into rectangular pieces that measure about 1/2 inch by 1 inch.
  2. Heat pancetta and oil in large Dutch oven over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until fat is rendered and pancetta is deep golden brown but still has slight pinkish hue, 8 to 10 minutes, adjusting heat as necessary to keep pancetta from browning too quickly.  Using slotted spoon, transfer pancetta to bowl; set aside.  Pour fat from pot into liquid measuring cup (you should have 1/4 to 1/3 cup fat; discard any extra). Return fat to Dutch oven.
  3. While pancetta cooks, set colander in large bowl..  Bring 2 quarts water to a boil in large pot.  Add pasta and cook, stirring often, until al dente.  Drain pasta in prepared colander, reserving cooking water.
  4. Add pepper and 2 cups reserved cooking water to Dutch oven with fat and bring to boil over high heat.  Boil mixture rapidly, scraping up any browned bits, until emulsified and reduced to 1-1/2 cups, about 5 minutes.  (If you’ve reduced it too far, add more reserved cooking water to equal 1-1/2 cups)
  5. Reduce heat to low, add pasta and pancetta, and stir to evenly coat.  Add Pecorino and stir until cheese is melted and sauce is slightly thickened, about 1 minute.  Of heat, adjust sauce consistency with remaining reserved cooking water as needed.  Transfer pasta to platter and serve immediately, passing extra pepper and extra Pecorino separately.

Weekly Winner: Sensational Soup, part Deux

Chicken Peanut SoupI am definitely on a soup kick lately.  This usually happens about now as I grow tired of salads and warm weather food and want to “cozy up” with something warmer.  Soup always does that for me and this soup, Indonesian Chicken and Peanut Soup, has it all — noodles, curry, peanut sauce, and just the right amount of heat.  Yummy does not even begin to cover it.  This soup is downright sumptuous.

The recipe comes from Fine Cooking, and thanks to rotisserie chicken and quick-cooking rice noodles, you can be curling up with this bowl of comfort in no time.

Indonesian Chicken and Peanut Soup

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • Kosher salt
  • 8 oz. rice vermicelli noodles
  • 1 Tbs. coconut or safflower oil
  • 2 large shallots, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
  • 1 Tbs. curry powder, preferably Madras
  • 4 cups lower-salt chicken broth
  • 1 cup well-shaken canned coconut milk
  • 1/3 cup crunchy peanut butter, preferably all natural
  • 2 Tbs. soy sauce; more as needed
  • 2 tsp. granulated sugar
  • 2 cups shredded cooked chicken (about 8 oz.)
  • 1 Tbs. fresh lime juice
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro or small cilantro leaves (on hubby’s and for photo purposes only)
  • Asian chile garlic paste, such as sambal oelek (optional)

Procedure:

  1. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Cook the noodles according to package directions.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a medium Dutch oven or other heavy-duty pot over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until just starting to brown, 3 minutes. Add the curry powder and cook until fragrant, stirring constantly, about 10 seconds. Add the broth, coconut milk, peanut butter, soy sauce, and sugar, and whisk until the peanut butter is fully incorporated. Add the chicken and bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer gently for 15 minutes. Add the lime juice, and season to taste with more soy sauce and pepper.
  3. Divide the noodles among four serving bowls. Ladle the hot soup over the noodles. Garnish with the cilantro and chile paste, if you like. (trust me, you’ll want some sambal!)

Weekly Winner: Keeping it Creamy and Dreamy with Cashew-Cauliflower Soup

soupSoups On!!  It is definitely soup weather and I couldn’t be happier about it.  While I’m a lover of all soups, stews, chilis, and chowders, I gotta admit that my all-time favorite type is a creamy, pureed soup.  And have I found a winner here with this beautiful Cashew-Cauliflower Soup.

The recipe comes from Real Simple and you know what?  It is!  But it is also, quick, vegetarian, gluten-free and dairy-free.  Not that I particularly care about any of that but a lot of my clients do.  If I can produce a soup this luscious and creamy without… well, cream… then I’m a happy camper!  It also freezes great, so I’ll be making vats of this to keep on hand for chilly autumn nights or time-crunched lunches.  Quick, tasty, healthy and of course, creamy and dreamy.  Definitely a weekly winner!

Cashew-Cauliflower Soup

Serves 4

Ingredients:

3/4 cups raw cashews, divided

3 cups low-sodium vegetable broth, divided

1 Tbsp olive oil, plus more for serving

1 yellow onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1 head cauliflower, cut into florets (about 5 cups)

1 15-oz can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

2 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves

1 Tbsp fresh oregano leaves

1 1/4 tsp kosher salt

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, plus more for serving

Procedure:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Place 1/2 cup each cashews and water in a microwave-safe bowl; cover and microwave on high for 3 minutes; let cool.  Transfer to a blender, add 1/2 cup broth, and blend until very smooth
  2. Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until softened, 2 to 3 minutes.  Add cauliflower and cook, stirring, until golden, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add beans, thyme, oregano, salt, pepper, and remaining 2-1/2 cups broth. Bring to a simmer and cook, covered for 10 minutes.
  4. Toast remaining 1/4 cup cashews on a baking sheet until golden, about 6 minutes; chop and set aside
  5. Add cauliflower mixture to blender and puree until smooth.  Serve soup topped with toasted cashews, a drizzle of oil and several grinds of pepper.

 

Weekly Winner: Pork and Pears Perfect a Salad

pork saladThis time of year, weather in Chicago is somewhat psychotic.  One minute it’s still blazing hot, the next a cool, autumnal breeze is blowing and you can just tell fall is around the corner (yay!).

So while it still can be considered “salad weather”, I also find that for dinner at least, a simple salad doesn’t cut it.  I need more.  I need….. pork!  Raspberry-Walnut Pork Salad is the perfect season-changing dinner.  The recipe comes from Taste of Home Magazine (which, by the way has come a long way since I last perused the recipes.  I’m glad I gave it another look!)

Now, back to the recipe:  Coating the pork in a mix of flour and ground walnuts give it a nice crunch and nutty taste.  All in all, this is one of those fabulous salads that give you a different taste with each bite – there’s a lot going on here.  And all of it is super tasty!

Raspberry-Walnut Pork Salad

Serves 6

Ingredients:

2 pork tenderloins (3/4 lb each), cut into 1 inch slices

1/3 cup ground walnuts

2 Tbsp flour

1/2 tsp salt, divided

1/2 tsp pepper, divided

4-1/2 tsp walnut oil

1/3 cup chopped shallot

1 medium pear, chopped

3/4 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth

3/4 cup seedless raspberry preserves

1/3 cup raspberry vinegar

2 tsp minced fresh rosemary or 1/2 tsp dried rosemary, crushed

2 tsp minced fresh sage

2 pkgs (6 oz each) fresh baby spinach

1/2 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese

1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted

Procedure:

  1. Flatten tenderloin slices to 1/2 inch thickness. In a large bowl, combine the ground walnuts, flour, 1/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper.  Add the pork, a few pieces at a time, and turn to coat.
  2. In a large skillet over medium heat, cook pork in oil in batches for 2-3 minutes on each side or until browned.  Remove and keep warm
  3. In the same skillet, sauté shallot until tender.  Add pear; cook 1 minute longer.  Add the chicken broth, preserves and vinegar.  Bring to a boil; cook until slightly thickened, 6-8 minutes.  Stir in rosemary, sage and the remaining salt and pepper. Remove from heat.
  4. Place spinach in a large bowl.  Add pear mixture; toss to coat.  Divide among six plates; top each with pork.  Sprinkle with cheese and chopped walnuts.

Weekly Winner: My New Go-To Meatball

ricotta pork meatballsDoes the world really need another meatball?  Heck, yeah!  A more appropriate question might be: “Is there such a thing as too many meatballs?”

These big, beautiful meatballs are incredibly moist and tender and made out of two of my favorite things – pork and cheese! The recipe for Pork and Ricotta Meatballs comes from Cook’s Country magazine and I’m seriously considering making this my “everyday” spaghetti and meatball recipe.  This one takes just about the same amount of total time, but more of it is “hands off” which means I will probably make it more often.  And I should make this often because it is awesome — you should too!  Here’s the deal:

Pork and Ricotta Meatballs

Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients:

Meatballs:

4 slices hearty white sandwich bread, crusts removed, torn into small pieces

8 oz (1 cup) whole-milk ricotta cheese

2 lbs ground pork

1 oz Parmesan cheese grated (1/2 cup), plus extra for serving

1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

2 large eggs

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 Tbsp salt

1-1/2 tsp pepper

1 tsp grated lemon zest

Sauce:

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

10 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled

1 tsp red pepper flakes

2 (28-oz) cans crushed tomatoes

salt and pepper

2 Tbsp chopped fresh basil

Procedure:

  1. For the meatballs: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees.  Set wire rack in aluminum foil-lined rimmed baking sheet and spray evenly with vegetable oil spray.  Combine bread and ricotta in large bowl and let sit, mashing occasionally with fork, until smooth paste forms, about 10 minutes.
  2. Add pork, Parmesan, parsley, eggs, shallots, garlic, salt, pepper, and lemon zest to bread mixture and mix with your hands until thoroughly combined.  Divide meat mixture into 24 portions (about 1/4 cup each) and place on platter.  Roll portions between your wet hands to form meatballs and evenly space on prepared wire rack.  Roast meatballs until browned, 30 to 35 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through roasting.  Remove from oven and reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees.
  3. For the sauce: Meanwhile, combine oil and garlic in Dutch oven set over low heat and cook until garlic is soft and golden on all sides, 12 to 14 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Stir in tomatoes and 1 tsp salt.  Cover, with lid slightly ajar, and bring to simmer over medium-high heat.  Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until sauce has thickened slightly, about 30 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Nestle meatballs into sauce, cover, and transfer pot to oven.  Bake until meatballs are tender and sauce has thickened, about 30 minutes. Transfer meatballs and sauce to serving platter.  Sprinkle with basil and serve, passing extra Parmesan separately.

 

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