Sunday, February 24, 2013

Chicken Soup

Chicken soup is good for the soul.  It's also a good way to warm up when you start thinking that spring is on the way and then Mother Nature decides it's going to snow all weekend.  Okay, so there's been little to no accumulation, but that's not the point.

I'm not sure if I've mentioned this before, but Joe hates chicken.  Naturally, I love chicken.  I've had some drumsticks hanging out in the freezer for awhile.  Joe was supposed to help a friend move after work on Saturday, so I figured that I could re-purpose my drumsticks into chicken soup and everyone would be happy.

His buddy ended up not needing any help, I still got to make my chicken soup (first time ever!), and we had a warm and satisfying dinner.

I am including a recipe for this one, but it's really not a hard-and-fast recipe.  You can add more veggies or less veggies depending on what you have or what you like.  If you have more chicken - use it.  The recipe's pretty flexible, which is what I like about it - you can make it suit your needs without impacting the taste.

I cooked my pasta directly in the soup.  This was easy, since it meant less dishes.  I did a LOT of dishes this weekend, but I guess that's what happens when you make soup, muffins and brownies (those posts coming soon!).  It also made more sense to me.  It came out great, but alas, two people cannot eat a full stockpot of chicken noodle soup in one sitting.  I put the leftovers in the fridge and when I went to have some for lunch today, there was no more broth!  Apparently, I didn't stop to think about the pasta absorbing all of the liquid.  I did some quick google-foo which told me I could add some water to my serving of leftovers when I warmed it up and that would make it more soupy and cut down on the thickness.  It works, but then the liquid doesn't taste that great - it pretty much tastes like water, since it didn't get a chance to hang out and get all the flavor like everything else did.  It was still delicious as leftovers and I'm bringing some to work tomorrow, so don't let that deter you.  However, the easiest remedy for that is to cook your pasta separately and then pour the soup over the pasta for each individual serving.  When you put the leftovers away, keep them in separate containers and warm them up the same way.

Either way, for my first time making chicken soup, I would classify this as a huge success!   For some reason, even though chicken soup was so easy to make, the fact that I did it makes me feel really accomplished.  I think it's the Jewish gramma in me.. now, when I'm sick, I don't have to call my mom or my gramma - I can do it myself!  When other people are sick, I can make them feel better.. or at least feed them something yummy! I've been wanting to learn how to make soup for awhile, so now that I know I can do it, I'm excited to try other kinds - chowder, cream of broccoli, baked potato.. I'm looking at you!

What's your favorite kind of soup?

Chicken Soup
To print this recipe, click here

1 lb. chicken drumsticks (I used 6 of them)
7-8 carrots, peeled and chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
half an onion, diced
2 tsp. minced garlic
3 chicken bouillon cubes
1 tsp. parsley flakes
2 bay leaves
half box of pasta, uncooked

Combine all ingredients in a large stock pot.  Fill the stock pot with enough to water to completely cover all of the ingredients, with enough room for everything to move around once the water starts boiling.  I filled my pot to about an inch from the top.

Cover the pot and let everything boil on medium-high heat for about 30 minutes.  Turn off the heat and remove the chicken.  Once chicken is cool enough to handle, take the meat off the bone.  Cut or chop the meat into bite-size pieces and return to the pot.  Cover and simmer over low heat for 1-2 hours.

When ready to eat, bring the soup to a boil and add noodles directly to the soup.  Alternately (and this is a better option if you're planning on leftovers), cook pasta separately.  When ready to serve, put pasta in a bowl and pour the soup over the noodles.  Store leftovers separately in the fridge.

Thursday, February 21, 2013


Purim starts tomorrow night.  As a kid, I always told my non-Jewish friends that Purim was our version of Halloween, but that's the fairly inaccurate cliff's notes version.  In reality, Purim is a celebration of the Jewish people's deliverance from Persia, specifically as it relates to a plot by the king's advisor, Haman, to destroy the Jewish people.  As to be expected from a Jewish holiday, Haman sought to kill all of the Jews in the Persian empire, but his plan was foiled by Mordechai and his adopted daughter, Queen Esther.  The day of deliverance became a holiday of feasting and celebration - Purim.

There are lots of ways we celebrate.  One, we go to Temple and hear the story - Megillas Esther - and everytime Haman's name is mentioned (54 of them, if you're wondering), we make a ton of noise to block out his name.  We also dress up in costumes (that's where the "Jewish Halloween" part comes in), which alludes to the fact that God's presence is always concealed/disguised behind natural events.  This also allows for anonymity during charity giving and receiving, as you don't know who's behind the costumes.  Jews are no strangers to celebrations, so there is also a lot of drinking involved... which means that when you're a kid, finding the right person in Temple who has enough of a buzz and asking him for some money means you will likely be rewarded. Cha-ching!

And what I have really been getting to this whole time...

All of our holidays have specific foods that are eaten, whether for cultural or religious aspects, or both.  For Purim, we eat hamentashen, which are triangle-shaped cookies traditionally filled with poppy seeds or fruit jam.  The triangle shape is a reminder of Haman's hat, and the fruit/nut fillings are reminiscent of what Esther ate while she was in the king's palace, as she could not obtain kosher food.

I made hamantaschen last weekend (poppy seed, chocolate, apricot and strawberry), and have spent the rest of the time since debating whether or not I wanted to share the recipe.  On one hand, I have a baking blog.  Where I share recipes.  On the other hand, even if it's a pipe dream, I want to open a bakery some day.  If I'm going to open a bakery, I can't go around sharing ALL of my recipes with people, because then they won't need me!  I need a couple of trump cards, and I believe this is going to be one of them.  However, I DO have some tips that will help you when you're making your own hamentashen!

  • When you cut out the dough circles (that you will eventually fold into triangles), make sure the dough is thick! When I made mine, the dough was about 1/4" thick.  Basically, when you pick up the circles, you want them to keep their shape.  If they get all stretched out when you pick them up, they're too thin.  This will give you more dough to work with when you turn them into triangles, increasing the chances that they'll STAY triangles when they're in the oven.

  • Fill the cookies with barely a teaspoon of filling, placed right in the middle.  If the cookies are too full, you won't be able to fold them right.  You can always add more filling once you fold them if they look like they need more.
  • Make sure you pinch all those seams closed! Pinching them good means they won't open up when they're baking.

  • Before you fold them into triangles, dip your finger in water and run it around the edge of the circle.  Dough sticks together better when it's wet.
  • Check on your hamentashen about halfway through the baking time.  They'll still be a little soft and moldable at this point, so you may be able to fix them a little if something's starting to look a little silly.   

Have you ever made made homemade hamentashen before?  What do you fill them with and how do they come out?

Chag Purim Sameach!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Cinnamon Butterscotch Muffins

I don't really remember how I came across it, but I stumbled on this recipe from the King Arthur website.  They call them "Simply Sinful Cinnamon Muffins", which is a total mouthful, so I've renamed them to Cinnamon Butterscotch Muffins.  I think I did something wrong when I making the cinnamon filling because it didn't quite look right in the bowl and what I was looking at certainly didn't sound like their description for the cinnamon filling.  I tasted it and it tasted like it was supposed to, so I think I might have misread the substitution and added too much water since mine was really liquidy.

At any rate, these muffins were only okay.  I wasn't too impressed.  Joe "liked" them, but he doesn't like muffins and he only ate the one that I put in his hand.  For me, the muffins tasted like they were missing something and they didn't really seem like they had enough cinnamon flavor in them to warrant the ridiculous name.  I don't know if this is related to my not-quite-right cinnamon filling, but I suspect that it is.

The biggest problem I had - and, reading through the reviews on the KA site, most other people have the same one - is that the muffins stick to the liners no matter what you do.  I sprayed mine with non-stick spray and still had a tough time getting them out so I could eat them.  I'd like to try making these again, but I think I'll try it as a bread.  The muffins were really dense anyway, so I think a bread might be a better way to get the flavors across without spending minutes unwrapping them.

This is the 2nd King Arthur recipe I've tried with only "meh" results.  Okay, so to be fair, the first one was scones and I modified it right out of the gate.  Have you ever tried a King Arthur recipe? Which one was it and how did it come out?

Cinnamon Butterscotch Muffins
Recipe from King Arthur

1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup diced pecans
1/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
3 tablespoons soft butter

1/2 cup Baker's Cinnamon Filling mix*
3 to 4 tablespoons water

*Or substitute 3 tablespoons butter, 1/2 cup brown sugar, and 1 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon for the Baker's Cinnamon Filling mix and water.

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
3/4 cup milk
2 large eggs
1 3/4 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
2 tablespoons Signature Secrets(r) Culinary Thickener or cornstarch
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup cinnamon chips or butterscotch chips
Preheat your oven to 400°F. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with cupcake papers, or grease it lightly.

Prepare the topping by mixing the ingredients together until crumbly. Set aside.

Prepare the filling by mixing the Baker's Cinnamon Filling with enough water to make filling with a soft, pudding-like consistency. Set it aside.

To make the batter: In a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter, milk, and eggs. In a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients, including the chips. Add the dry mixture to the liquid, stirring just until combined.

Divide half the batter evenly among the muffin cups. Dollop 2 teaspoons cinnamon filling onto each muffin, then top with the remaining batter. Sprinkle with topping, pressing it in lightly.

Bake the muffins for 20 to 25 minutes, or until they're golden brown. Remove them from the oven, and wait 5 minutes before transferring them from the pan to a rack to cool. Yield: 12 muffins.


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Chicken Pot Pie

I made chicken pot pie this weekend.  Correction: I made TWO chicken pot pies this weekend.

If you’ve been paying any attention to the news, you saw that there was a big blizzard in my part of the world over the weekend.  Nemo dropped about 30 inches of snow on us, which is perfect weather for staying inside and not doing anything, especially when the Governor puts a  driving ban in effect that could land you in jail for a year if you’re not part of the elite group of people to whom the rule does not apply.

So, anyway, on Saturday, Joe and I played in the snow (for like 5 minutes, because it was up to my waist) and ate some leftovers for dinner.  We had my brother over on Sunday and I really wanted to make a nice warm and filling dinner.  Josh told me he didn’t like chicken pot pie, but I forgot to separate and individually wrap the chicken breasts when I froze them, so I decided he’d get chicken quesadillas instead.

For this recipe, a lot of the ingredients are approximations because I didn’t really measure that much.  I normally wrap the chicken breasts individually and then freeze them so I can use one at a time (Joe doesn’t like chicken that much), so if you’re using pre-frozen or already thawed chicken breasts, you probably only need one big one or two smaller ones.  I had three frozen ones and I cooked them all together, shredded them into a huge bowl and divided it out accordingly.

I’ve made chicken pot pie from scratch before, but this is the best one I’ve ever made.  Normally, I use the crescent roll dough for the crust, but because of the snow storm, I wasn’t going to the store for anything that wasn’t a necessity. We were able to drive again on Sunday, but I was pretty sure the shelves were still going to be empty.  I had everything else I needed, so I just used a basic pastry dough recipe for the crust.  Let me tell you: a million times better than the crescent dough! I also used a can of cream of chicken, but the water I used was really the broth that I got from cooking the chicken, and then I added a splash of milk to make it creamy.  I didn’t save the broth that was left because I wasn’t really sure what to do with it, but you could always freeze it and then use it for soup or a roasted chicken or something.


Chicken Pot Pie

To print this recipe, click here


For the filling:

1-2 chicken breasts
3 cubes of chicken bouillon
2 cups diced carrots
2 tsp. minced garlic
1 bag frozen corn
Garlic powder, to taste
Celery salt, to taste
Onion salt, to taste
1 can Cream of chicken + ¾ can broth from cooked chicken + ¼ can milk
(cook’s note: this gave me enough filling for two 9 inch pot pies!)

1.      Put the chicken breasts, carrots, minced garlic and bouillon cubes in a large pot.  Fill with enough water to cover everything.  Put the cover on the pot and put on medium-high heat.  Boil until chicken breasts are cooked through, about 30 minutes.  In the last 10 minutes, add the frozen corn to the pot.
2.      Remove chicken only from the pot.  In a large bowl , shred chicken by using two forks and pulling the forks in opposite directions.
3.      Strain the vegetables, making sure to reserve the broth in a separate bowl.
4.      In a large pot, combine the shredded chicken, vegetables, spices and cream of chicken.  Stir until combined.  Heat on low just until everything is warmed thoroughly.  The mixture should resemble a creamy soup.  Remove from heat.

For the dough:
1 ½ c. flour
¾ tsp. salt
½ tsp. baking powder
¼ c. vegetable shortening
¼ c. cold butter, diced
¼ c. cold water
1 egg, lightly beaten

1.      In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the flat paddle attachment, combine dry ingredients.  Add in butter and shortening and stir until mixture is crumbly. 
2.      Add enough cold water to make the dough start to stick together (you may need to add more, but I found ¼ cup perfect).  Knead in bowl until you can form a ball.
3.      Divide the dough into two smaller balls and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Putting it all together:
1.      Preheat oven to 425°F.
2.      Roll out one dough ball so that it’s large enough to fit your pie pan.  This will be your bottom crust.  Place dough in your pie plate, cutting off any excess and adding it to any places that have holes or need some extra dough.  Pinch the edges so that your crust doesn’t shrink too much.
3.      Bake for 5-8 minutes, just enough for it to not get soggy and fall apart when we add the filling. 
4.      Let the pie crust cool for a couple of minutes, then spoon in the filling.  NOTE: I HAD ENOUGH FILLING TO MAKE TWO POT PIES.
5.      Roll out your second crust.  Place it over the filling, then seal the edge.  Brush the top with the beaten egg.  Cut three slits over the top of the crust for some ventilation so your yummy pot pie doesn’t blow up all over the oven.  Bake for 30-40 minutes, until crust is a deep, golden brown color.  Make sure to check on it about halfway; if the outer edges of the crust are already the perfect color, you will need to pull the pie out and cover the edges with foil (carefully – this pan is hot!) to prevent burning.  Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Very Berry Baked Oatmeal

I'm one of those people that has to eat every 2-3 hours.  Literally, from the time I wake up until the time I go to bed, I have to eat every few hours.  I'm not talk about a snack here - I eat those too - but I need to eat something substantial every few hours or else I feel like I'm starving to death.  Yes, I know your body can interpret thirst and hunger, and yes, I do drink a ton of water every day, too.  I've always had a fast metabolism and now that I work out twice a day, it's gotten even quicker.  I usually just have cereal or a bagel/english muffin for breakfast, but I'm a real big fan of oatmeal.  As much as I like the instant stuff, sometimes it's just not good enough.  I have a bunch of Hungry Girl recipes for growing oatmeal, but the secret is that I also don't want to cook breakfast for an hour every morning before I get to eat (although those recipes ARE totally worth it!). 

I saw some recipes on pinterest for baked oatmeal that you can eat right away or stick in the fridge and warm up in the microwave, and I thought it was a great idea.  It's homemade, so I know there's nothing too crappy in it, plus I can make it with all the things I like! I really love blueberry oatmeal, but always feel gypped when there's no real blueberries in them.  It's hard to get GOOD fresh berries here this time of year (thanks, New England), but the frozen ones are just as good and convenient.  What I liked most about this was that I could make it on a Saturday or Sunday, portion it out, stick it in the fridge and voila - breakfast for most of the week!

If you make the recipe the way I did, one caveat: add some sugar!  I clearly wasn't thinking about this when I made it, but all the berries make this a very tart breakfast! If you add it up front, you'll probably only want to add 1/4 cup; otherwise, a teaspoon or two per serving should be suffice.

Very Berry Baked Oatmeal
To print this recipe, click here

1 cup old fashioned oats
1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup milk (I used whole)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 Tbsp butter, melted and cooled
1 tsp. vanilla
1 bag (I'm pretty sure it's 16 oz - the small size) frozen fruit (I used mixed berries - blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries)

Preheat oven to 375°

Lightly grease an 8" square cake pan.  In a medium bowl, mix the oats, baking powder and cinnamon.  In a liquid measuring cup, combine the milk, egg, butter and vanilla.
Cover the bottom of the pan with the berries.  Sprinkle the dry oat mixture over the fruit.  Pour the liquid ingredients evenly over the oats.  Bake for 35 minutes, until the top is browned and the oats have set.  Let cool for about 10 minutes.  Stir in a small amount of milk and serve.  You can also portion out the cooked oatmeal into tupperware containers and store in the fridge for up to one week.

Have you made your own oatmeal?  What kind did you make? Tell me about it!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Baked Buffalo Chicken Bites

At this point, the Superbowl is only hours away.  (Yes, I'm really writing this at 7am on a Sunday.)  IF you're having people over later, you're probably running around like a lunatic trying to put everything together and make sure you have everything you need - beer, food, toilet paper, etc.  You might also be making some last minute food... or scrambling to find one last thing to make.  Fret not, my friend, these buffalo chicken bites are easy to make AND they taste delicious! OK, so putting them together and getting them ready to cook is a little time consuming, but it's really worth it. Plus, they're baked, not fried, so you can clean up while they're in the oven and feel good about serving your guests something that's moderately healthy.

I made these back at the beginning of football season and I haven't had a chance to make them since.  Mostly, Joe doesn't really like buffalo chicken, but he liked these. Well, liked them enough to eat a couple, but he didn't like them enough for me to justify making 30 of them.  They're crunchy and spicy and the ranch dressing pairs perfectly (you can use blue cheese if you like that better, I'm personally not a fan).  They heat up decently in the microwave and make a tasty lunch the next day, though, so don't worry if you have leftovers.

Note that the recipe calls for using crushed up corn flakes instead of regular breadcrumbs.  If you have regular ones you can definitely use them instead, but the balls will be less crunchy.  At the very least, I would suggest panko crumbs so that you can get some of that crunch.  If you have a food chopper/processor or a blender, crushing the corn flakes is really easy.  If you have a child and/or someone who likes to smash things, it's also really easy - just put the cornflakes in a sealed plastic bag with all the air out, hand them a rolling pin and let them go to town!

Also, a note on the shredded chicken: I used 2 chicken breasts, boiled them in water until they were cooked through, then used two forks to shred them.  If you're short on time, you can use one of those store-bought rotisserie chickens, instead.  If you go that route, you'll just want to remove the skin first.

Now that the intro's out of the way, let's get down to business.

Baked Buffalo Chicken Bites
To print this recipe, click here

3 cups cooked, shredded chicken
1/2 cup Frank's Original Red Hot (more or less to taste)
3 1/2 oz. brick cream cheese, softened
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 cup green onion
1 cup flour
4 eggs, lightly beaten
4 cups crushed corn flakes

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix the chicken, cream cheese and hot sauce until combined.  Stir in the cheddar cheese and green onions.

Roll the chicken mixture into 1 1/2-2 inch balls.  Put them on a plate or a separate, unlined baking sheet until ready to dip.

Set out the flour, eggs and corn flakes in three separate bowls.  Dip each chicken ball into the flour, then the egg, and then the cornflakes.  Place them onto the prepared baking sheet.

Once all of the balls are dipped, bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown on the outside.  Serve warm with ranch or blue cheese dressing on the side for dipping.