Saturday, February 26, 2011

Spicy Chicken and Mushroom Soup

Soup - By Debra Mayhew

We had another cold and rainy Friday this week, which was calling out for a warm and spicy soup.  My mom had given me this book several years ago when cleaning out her cookbooks.  It was one of those bargain books you see marked down to $5.99 at the store, but it's got quite a few good recipes which are all easy to follow.  This Spicy Chicken and Mushroom Soup is one of my favorites.  It's pretty quick to make and smells so wonderful as it's cooking, thanks to the garam masala and nutmeg


6 Tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon crushed garlic
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon crushed black peppercorns
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmet
8 oz skinless, boneless chicken
1 medium leek, sliced
generous 1 cup sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup whole corn kernels
1 1/4 cups water
1 cup light cream
1 tablespoon fresh chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon crushed dried chilies, to garnish (optional)
(serves 4)

1.  Melt the butter in a medium saucepan.  Lower heat slightly and add garlic and garam masala.  Lower heat even more and add black peppercorns, salt, and nutmeg.

I used a few tablespoons olive oil instead of butter in an attempt to be a bit healthier.  I also used a full teaspoon of garlic and almost 2 cups of mushrooms, simply because I love garlic and mushrooms.  And I used frozen corn since it was already in my freezer.  Your kitchen will start to smell so heavenly when the spices start heating up.

2.  Cut chicken into thin strips and add to pan with leek, mushrooms, and corn kernels.  Cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring constantly, until chicken is cooked through.

3.  Remove from heat and let cool slightly.  Transfer 3/4 of mixture into a food processor or blender.  Add water and process for about 1 minute.

I don't have a food processor and my blender is shoved way into the back of the cupboard.  So I used one of my favorite wedding gifts, my immersion blender, blending the soup in the pot and being careful not to splatter it all over the kitchen.

4.  Pour resulting puree back into the pot with the rest of the mixture and bring to boil over medium heat.  Lower heat and stir in cream.

5.  Add fresh cilantro.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  Serve with red chilies if desired.

I did not garnish with chiles, but I did serve it with a big piece of crusty Three Cheese Semolina Bread from La Brea Bakery.  Sooo good!  Creamy and spicy but with chunks of chicken and veggies.  Perfect for a day that looked like this...

Have a happy, and warm, weekend!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Five Things...

Five Things Making Me Happy Right Now

1.  The Mister is making dinner as I type

2.  Cheeto running to greet me when I came home tonight

3.  A really really long hot shower at the end of the day

4.  The huge cinnamon roll I shared with coworkers at lunch today

5.  A fun Saturday filled with baking and friends this weekend

What's making you happy right now?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Slow Cooker: Shredded Mexican Beef

I usually only work until noon on Mondays and Fridays which means that I have more time on those days to cook a yummy dinner.  Since it's been a cold rainy week, I wanted to make something rich, warm, and hearty and thought that a slow cooker dinner could be perfect.  I read several food blogs every day so imagine my pleasant surprise when this recipe was at the top of The Kitchn page Friday morning.  It was perfect!  Slow cooker?  Check!  Rich and hearty?  Check!  Fairly simple with a short shopping list?  Check!!

Ingredients: (adapted from The Kitchn)

2 large jalapeno peppers
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 pounds boneless beef chuck roast, excess fat removed
salt and pepper
1 medium yellow onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup red wine
1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, minced

Serve with:
Sour cream, or Greek yogurt
chopped lettuce
chopped onions
chopped cilantro

I ran to the store after work to pick up the ingredients.  They didn't have poblano peppers so I got some jalapenos.  There were other varieties at the store such as Anaheim and Habanero, but I'm a wimp when it comes to spice so I stuck with what I knew.  I only had about 45 minutes to get everything ready and into the slow cooker before I had to run off for an appointment.  Luckily the pre-cooking steps were all pretty easy.

First I put the peppers in the broiler for several minutes until they were charred on all sides.  I took them out and let them rest for a few minutes.  Meanwhile, I seasoned the roast with salt and pepper, then seared it on all sides in a hot pan.  Then I sauteed the sliced onions in the same pan until they were browned. Next I sliced open the peppers and scraped out the seeds with a spoon, then peeled the charred skin off.  I chopped them up and added them to the onions along with the minced garlic.

Next I added the wine, reduced it, then added the can of diced tomatoes. 

Then it all went into the slow cooker with the roast on top.  Cook on low for 6-8 hours.  For me, it took about 6 hours on low and 1 hour on high (we were getting impatient and hungry).

When it's all done and the meat was nice and tender, I took it out and shredded it using two forks.  Then it all went back into the slow cooker to mix with the sauce and got sprinkled with chopped fresh oregano.

Look at the pretty bits of fresh green oregano!

We served ours with flour tortillas, Greek yogurt (instead of sour cream), chopped lettuce, onions, and cilantro.  It was soo good, and pretty spicy too!  A perfect dinner for a cold night.

What's your favorite rainy night meal?

Monday, February 14, 2011

I Heart You Cookies! (part 2)

Ok, so now I have all these pretty heart cookies that need to be decorated.  I whipped up a batch of royal icing (again following the recipe on Bake at 350).  I separated it out into 3 bowls for coloring - one white, one pink, and one purple.  I spooned some of the icing into my piping bags with a #3 tip attached and covered the rest in plastic wrap.  Then I piped around each of the hearts in either pink or purple icing.

After the outlining was finished, I thinned out the icing to create the "flood" icing.  I put this icing into squeezy bottles to use for filling in the outlined hearts.

I squeezed the icing onto the cookies then used a toothpick to spread it around to fill out the cookie.

I think I was being too stingy with the icing because I don't like the way you can still see the outline.  As I went on, I started using more icing and the cookies ended up looking smoother.  I also think I may have over-beat the icing when I was making it because it looked a little dry and brittle.

After I let the cookies dry for several hours, I went back over with the piping bag and added wording to the hearts.  I should have used a #1 piping tip but the smallest I had was a #3, so the writing came out a bit thick.  I still need to work on my piping skills, but I think these turned out pretty good for only my second try!

I personalized a heart for each of my co-workers and brought them into work this morning.  They were a hit!   Let's face it....even if you don't have a Valentine, everyone loves cookies!

Wishing you all a lovely V-Day!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

I Heart You Cookies! (part 1)

This past Christmas I tried my hand at decorating cookies with royal icing, using piping bags and squeezy bottles as described on Bake at 350.  I am in awe of her cookies and hope one day to make mine look as pretty and perfect as hers.  For my second attempt I decided to make heart shaped Valentine's Day cookies, using the Lemon Cut Out Cookie recipe also found on Bake at 350.  Here's how it went...

First, I whisked the flower and baking powder...

Then I creamed the butter and sugar...

Added an egg, vanilla, lemon juice and zest...

Then blended it all together with the flour mixture.  Next came the rolling and cutting...

Then they baked for about 11 minutes until they came out like this...

Stay tuned for Part 2 - Decorating, and making a huge mess!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Pasta with Basil Tomato Sauce

I've had a hankering for pasta all week.  I had a bunch of basil left over from something I made earlier this week and a couple cans of tomatoes in the pantry so I decided to try some homemade tomato basil sauce.  A quick search led me to this recipe on   I substituted the fresh tomatoes for one can of crushed and one can of whole tomatoes, and I used almost a full cup of fresh basil.  The result was pretty tasty, without the sugar found in many jarred sauces.  I may tinker with the seasonings a bit more in the future, but I think this recipe is a keeper!

Here's what I used:

1 15oz can crushed tomatoes
1 15 oz can whole tomatoes
1 cup fresh chopped basil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
thin spaghetti pasta

1.  Chop the whole tomatoes (I like big chunky pieces).  You could skip that step altogether, I suppose, and just buy a can of diced tomatoes instead. Put both cans of tomatoes into a medium saucepan with the basil.  Heat on medium low heat.
I LOVE the smell of fresh basil!

2.  Meanwhile, heat some olive oil in a medium pan and saute the onions and garlic until they're translucent.

3. Add the onion mixture to the tomatoes.  Season with salt and pepper.  Simmer on low heat for 2 hours until sauce thickens.
* I may have added a splash (or two) of red wine at this point too.  But nobody was home to see me so you can't prove it!

Kinda looks like salsa
4. Heat a large pot of salted water to boiling.  Add pasta.  Cook until al dente.  Serve with a generous helping of tomato sauce and a sprinkling of parmesan.  And wah-lah....Dinner is Served!

Look at all that chunky goodness!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Five Things...

I love about my husband...

1.  You come home cheerful almost every. single. day  No matter how long or stressful your day was.

2.  You made me a chips & salsa appetizer a  mere 5 minutes after I gave you attitude about the knife  and cutting board.

3.  You talk to Cheeto, and feed him the smelly wet food that I won't.

4.  You bought me Airborne

5.  You laugh at stupid jokes with me.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Veggie Chili Touchdown!

We didn't have any plans for the "Big Game" this year, so we invited a friend over that we hadn't seen in a while. Since she's a vegetarian, I figured we could whip up a batch of veggie chili for us all to nosh on while watching the game. I started by, what else, Googling "veggie chili" recipes and ended up using a mish-mash of 3 or 4 recipes that popped up. And I have to say, it turned out pretty darn good!

Here's what I used...

1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 onion (we actually used 1/2 red and 1/2 white that we had left in the fridge)
1 red pepper
1 green pepper
1/2 yellow pepper (again, something that was found in our fridge)
3-4 cloves garlic
1 jalapeno pepper
11 oz can of corn
1 zucchini
2 Tablespoons chili powder
1 Tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
salt & pepper to taste
1 can black beans, drained
1 can kidney beans, drained
28 oz can of whole tomatoes, chopped, with juices *
shredded cheddar cheese
sour cream
green onions, sliced

Start by chopping all the vegetables, garlic, and peppers. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Saute the onions, peppers, garlic, and jalapeno a couple minutes until they start to soften (about 3 minutes). Add the zucchini and corn and cook about 5 more minutes until they all soften. Add the spices and herbs and cook another minute or so.

After sauteing all the veggies and spices. Smells so good!

Add the beans and tomatoes. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 30-45 minutes.  This really lets all the seasonings seep in and mix together deliciously.  Serve hot and garnish with cheese, sour cream, and green onions. Enjoy!

The finished version

* Note - I used a can of whole tomatoes we had at home and chopped them myself. You could probably just use a can of chopped tomatoes and save yourself that step.

Also, initially I felt the chili didn't have enough liquid so I added about 1/2 cup water, but you could probably just use some of the liquid from the beans instead. And actually, after letting it all simmer for a while, the veggies released some liquid and it ended up being just fine.

Please pardon the bad iphone photos. I promise my photography will get better!


And So It Begins

I'm a recently married California native with a penchant for Googling recipes. I've always enjoyed cooking, and especially baking, and am constantly on the lookout for something new and fun to make. I started following blogs while planning my wedding and always wanted to give it a shot myself. I go! I hope to fill this space with a variety of recipes, my cooking successes, and my cooking Fails, as well as random musings from life with my tall guy and orange tabby cat. I hope you enjoy!