Friday, January 29, 2010

Chicken Coconut Curry Soup

Coming from Ohio, I don’t get too worked up about snow. It’s sort of just a fact of life in the winter. In my current hometown of Nashville, Tennessee, however, snow is a whole different story. Basically, it is a cause for serious panic. People fear “the big one”. If snow is even a possibility, schools are cancelled – sometimes a day or two in advance. Lines are out the door at grocery stores as people stock up on the ubiquitous bread and milk. And really, someone please tell me, if there is going to be a blizzard, why are bread and milk the most important things to have on hand? Toilet paper I get, but I could certainly live without bread for a couple of days if I got snowed in.

Now in Nashville’s defense, there is some cause for concern with large amounts of snow. Because it is so infrequent, there aren’t adequate snow removal tools – salt, plows, etc. The roads do get bad, relatively speaking, and people hunker down at home and try to stay warm. And what better to keep you warm than a bowl of steaming soup?

This chicken coconut curry soup is the perfect foil for winter’s worst. Bright in color and flavor, it provides a welcome contrast to gray skies and slushy streets. The broth is a little sweet and a little spicy, more likely to make you think of vacation in the tropics than chilly winter weather. Filled out with chicken and rice, the soup makes for a filling pot of warmth you’ll be glad to have around. You know, in case “the big one” comes.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Chicken with Wild Mushroom and Balsamic Cream Sauce

If you are anything like me, you probably wind up with a few unused ingredients hanging out in your refrigerator at the end of the week. Probably you bought said ingredients with good intentions, full of menu plans and dinner ideas. Maybe you changed your mind about what to make, maybe things just got pushed to the back fridge where they were out of sight, out of mind. For whatever reason, you’ve got some odds and ends. The question is, what do you do with them?

The other night, I was faced with a similar quandary. I had a couple packages of mushrooms that were not getting any fresher. I also had a package of chicken that I’d picked up earlier that day, so I had my protein. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my chicken and mushrooms, so I took a quick tour of the internet and landed on this recipe by Rachael Ray. I had everything on hand, and it seemed easy, so I decided to give it a try. I whole-heartedly recommend you try it too.

This recipe is easy and quick enough for a weeknight dinner, but it is also fancy enough to serve to guests. While creamy chicken and mushrooms may be a fairly common combination, the addition of balsamic vinegar gives the sauce an unexpected depth of flavor. You can serve the chicken and mushroom sauce over orzo, as seen in the picture, or over any other type of pasta. Mashed potatoes would be delicious too. If you have any leftover sauce, toss it with a big pot of pasta thinned out with a little pasta water and some extra cream and balsamic vinegar. It’ll be just as delicious as the first night you made it.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Cincinnati Chili

This post is dedicated to all of my readers who have ever lived in Ohio. You know what this stuff is, and I bet you are drooling. For the rest of you, I suspect you are scratching your heads and saying something along the lines of, “Cincinnati chili? What the heck is that?!”

We’ve all heard of Texas chili, white chicken chili, chili with beans, chili without beans… But what is Cincinnati chili? The short answer? It’s unlike any chili you’ve likely ever had, and you should try it right away. The longer answer is, well, a little bit longer. Cincinnati chili is thinner than your average chili with a unique flavor profile. True Cincinnati chili includes seasonings such as cinnamon, allspice, and chocolate or cocoa powder. These additions don’t make it sweet, they just give the chili its distinctive aroma and flavor.

Cincinnati chili is typically served over spaghetti. Prepared as such, it’s known as a Two-Way. Pile a mound of bright orange shredded cheese on top, and you have a Three-Way. Adding either diced raw onions or beans makes it a Four-Way, and adding both gives you the ultimate Five-Way. You can also serve your Cincinnati chili on top of a hot dog with cheese, onions, and mustard. That particular culinary masterpiece is known as the Cheese Coney. And for some reason or another, Cincinnati chili always comes with oyster crackers on the side.

This particular recipe is pretty close to the authentic taste I was looking for. I don’t think it’s 100 percent spot-on, but one of my Cincy chili-loving friends thought it was close to perfect. For those of you who grew up (or learned to love) eating this stuff, let me know how you like it. And if you have another recipe, please share it with us. I’d be more than willing to stage a Cincinnati chili taste test and post the results.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Roasted Broccoli

Think you don’t like broccoli? Think again. Looking for a new, perhaps cheese-less, way to get the kiddos or grownups in your life to eat their veggies? This is the recipe for you. If you hadn’t noticed already (here, here, and here), I love to roast my vegetables. Roasting allows the natural sugars in foods to caramelize. The edges get crispier and the insides get sweeter.

Surprisingly, until recently I’d tried roasting just about every vegetable except broccoli. I had a couple of heads sitting in my fridge, so I decided to give it a go. Let me tell you, this will be my new go-to broccoli recipe. When they came out of the oven, the florets were like little crunchy, salty treats. The slightly charred edges had a smokey flavor that was really nothing short of addictive. In the interest of full disclosure, I have to tell you, the broccoli never made it to the table. We couldn’t stop eating it right off the baking sheet. So the next time you have some broccoli sitting around, give this recipe a try. Just be sure to make some extra – in case you eat half of it before it hits the table.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Chicken and Mixed Sweet Pepper Pilaf

Growing up in the suburbs of Dayton, Ohio, I didn’t eat much Indian food. Really, I think I may have had it once at a friend’s house when I was in elementary school. That’s it. It wasn’t until college that I specifically remember tasting the unique and addicting flavors prominent in Indian cuisine. Thanks for that go out to one of my college roommates whose mom taught her to make one incredible chicken curry. Also appreciated were her dessert-filled care packages and leftovers after visits back home. All packed with intoxicating, exotic flavors that seriously enticed my palate.

Over the past few years, I have continued to educate my taste buds about Indian cuisine’s various flavors and textures. I’ve also discovered that, despite my initial reservations, it’s not hard to make many different Indian dishes at home. If you have never tried it yourself, this pilaf would make a perfect first attempt. The flavor is outrageous. It’s savory with just the right amount of spice. The heat is balanced by sweet bell peppers, and rice fills it out to make it one extra-special one-pot meal. If you’ve never had Indian food, this just might be the dish that hooks you for life.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Baked Fudge

Stan’s been working some long hours lately, and he comes home pretty tired. Since I’m home all day, I can’t really commiserate. What I can do, is have some unexpected sugary goodness waiting for him when he gets home. My hubby has always had a big sweet tooth, and despite him not being a foodie, I learned way back at the beginning of our relationship that the way to his heart was through baked goods. Let me tell you, I baked more apple pies that first year…

The other night Stan was working late again, and I wanted to have a little treat waiting for him when he got home. I also wanted the kitchen to be completely clean by the time he walked through the door so he wouldn’t have to worry about doing dishes. (He hates dishes pretty much more than anything in the world.) Knowing he’d be home soon, I needed to figure out a dessert that could be thrown together in a flash and did not use many dishes.

I’d been sitting on this baked fudge recipe for a while, and it seemed like the perfect solution. The Pioneer Woman created this recipe, which is sort of like a gooey brownie middle with a crispy, crackly brownie-top crust. Not like real fudge, but not exactly your standard brownie either. Clearly, it defies simple definition, but it fit the bill for the sugary goodness I was looking for. Plus, you can whip this up and have clean dishes in under 10 minutes. And while it was a little buttery for my taste, Stan really liked it. Which was really the whole point now wasn’t it?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Roasted Eggplant with Garlic and Parsley

I’ve had this one sitting in my “to post” folder for a while now. I’d almost forgotten about it until my mom put in a request for something involving eggplant, her favorite vegetable. I have several eggplant recipes waiting to be tried in the future, but since I’m a good daughter, I figured I better dig through my archives and post something sooner than later.

This dish won’t win any beauty pageants (perhaps why I haven’t posted it already), but it is pretty darn tasty. Slices of eggplant are studded with tons of garlic and parsley and then roasted in the oven until crispy on the edges and melt-in-your-mouth creamy in the center. The garlic packs a serious punch, so make sure you serve some to your sweetie too, otherwise it’ll be a lonely night. I mean, c’mon, two garlics have to cancel each other out, right?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

American Sandwich Bread

Normally I’m a whole wheat, whole grain kind of girl. At least when it comes to bread. I’m still on the fence with pasta. I eat it, but sometimes I have to convince myself I like it as much as white pasta. With my bread though, I like it brown and healthy. I can’t remember the last time I had plain ol’ white American-style sandwich bread sitting in my kitchen.

Normally I find white sandwich bread to be fairly flat in flavor and lacking in the texture I like for my sandwiches. Now, we’re talking grocery store white bread here. Way back in the day I worked at a bread store, so I know there is good white sandwich bread to be had. You just have to buy it from a bakery… or make it yourself. So I did. And let me tell you, it wasn’t lacking a thing, except maybe those pesky whole grains we’re all supposed to be eating more of.

This bread is light in color and texture, slightly sweet, and pretty much perfect for toast, PB&J, or your favorite sandwich fixings. So forget what you thought you knew about white bread and give this recipe a try. Just throw some extra veggies on your sandwich if, like me, you feel a little guilty about ditching the whole wheat stuff.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Creamy Shrimp Enchiladas

If your New Year’s resolution was to drop a few pounds – stop reading now. If your doctor has advised you to cut back on cholesterol and saturated fat – read no further. If you follow a low calorie diet – come back tomorrow, I implore you. If you are still reading, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

For those of you still with me, you are in for a treat. A gooey, creamy, cheesey treat. We’re talking butter and cream and cheese and sour cream and more cheese. Do you feel your arteries clogging yet? Seriously, this may be one of the most fattening main dishes I’ve ever made. But I couldn’t resist. It just sounded so darn good. And the freezing temperatures make me want hearty, comfort food. (They also make me wonder what the heck is up with Tennessee’s weather. Aren’t we in the South??)

These enchiladas really are worth the splurge. They are packed with flavor from the peppers, onion, and spices. The shrimp add little pops of sweet flavor, and the cheesey sauce holds everything together for perfect, belly-warming mouthfuls. The recipe is easy enough to make it a good one for weeknight dinners, but it’s also special enough to be used for entertaining. Either way, you’ll enjoy it. Even if you do feel obligated to eat nothing but salad for the next three days.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

Get ready folks, we are about to embark on a culinary whirlwind. I am feeling both guilty and inspired and you, dear readers, are going to be the beneficiaries. Why am I feeling guilty? Because I am a cheater. I made an unbelievable, from scratch, authentic Boeuf Bourguignon (Beef Braised in Red Wine) for New Year’s Eve dinner, and I was too hungry and distracted by visitors to take pictures of the finished product. Basically, I cheated you out of that marvelous recipe. But fear not, I promise to make it again one day.

In the meantime, I am feeling incredibly motivated to make some high-caliber deliciousness this week. The freezing weather (it snowed this morning!) is making me crave homey, gooey, hearty goodness. Lest I throw all healthy habits to the wind, I will try to balance my love of all things cheesey with more calorie-conscious recipes, you know, for those of you who make New Years resolutions and all. I used to do that too… sigh.

To start the year off on the right foot, here’s a recipe that’s both creamy and healthy. Sweet and savory butternut squash is roasted until it’s tender and caramelized. Combined with coconut milk for luscious smoothness and Thai red curry paste for a little kick, this soup is the perfect foil for winter’s frigid temperatures… and post-holiday waistlines.


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