Archive for January, 2014

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Tortilla Soup

Once upon a time, I wrote a blog post for my chicken piccata recipe. I was inspired to share said recipe after a rather unsatisfactory experience at California Pizza Kitchen. As a child of the internet, I always make sure to blast my blog posts on every social media channel possible. The strange thing about Twitter, though, is that you never get much feedback on the 160 characters you send out into the interwebs. That is, unless you’re dealing with a brand that’s just as social-savvy as you are. Here is a little conversation I had back in June with my dear friends Elijah and @calpizzakitchen:

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Side note: For even more Twitter drama, check out Brand Party, a hilarious “social” experiment orchestrated by a friend of a friend who decided to wrangle his favorite brands into one weird-as-hell interaction.

The point is, while CPK simultaneously embarrassed me in front of my friends followers, I decided to invite my home-state inspired chain restaurant back into my life. After all, it’s not called California Piccata Kitchen. Plus, CPK is one of the only decent places to eat in the food court near Emerson.

In particular, I’m hugely supportive of CPK’s tortilla soup. It’s spicy and creamy and punchy all at once. Plus, they don’t hold back on the tortilla strips, which are – as are most fried things – outrageously fantastic.

Homemade tortilla strips

The other day, after my last first day of classes (Woah! I’m almost a real person!!), I headed to CPK for some warm tortilla soup. As I’ve recently been on a soup kick, it got me thinking that I should try to make my own. I mean, you can’t beat four bucks for a bowl of soup, but, clearly, CPK and I are now frenemies and I’m just as competitive as they are Twitter-smart.

I did my research and read countless recipes for chicken tortilla soup. After taking bits and pieces from several of them, I scrapped all the bookmarked recipes and came up with my own.

The result was truly something else. As a tomato based soup, this dish is naturally hearty. The corn gives it a sweet crunch and the black beans and shredded chicken give it body and flavor. Sautéing the onion, garlic, pepper, and spices makes the whole thing fragrant and authentic. Seriously, this soup is good eats.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Side note: I’m extremely afraid of hot oil. This was the first time I’ve used grape seed oil and I now swear by it. No popping, bubbling, or burning, because grape seed oil has a super high smoke point. The tortilla strips were crunchy and not too greasy. This recipe calls for plenty of strips, mostly because you’ll be munching on them as you prepare the soup.

CPK tortilla soup

The other toppings – avocado, sour cream, and cheddar cheese– add some nice creaminess to balance out the bold flavors in the soup. I’d also recommend testing out cilantro, lime wedges, and queso fresco.

the pantry raid

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • ¼ cup grape seed oil
  • 4-6 small flour tortillas, cut into strips
  • Olive oil
  • 1 large boneless skinless chicken breast
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 1 Serrano pepper, remove seeds and cut into small pieces
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • ½ cup canned corn, rinsed and drained
  • ½ cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 avocado, cubed
  • Cheddar cheese, grated
  • Sour cream

1. Heat oil in a small frying pan. Add tortilla strips and turn to coat. Flip occasionally until browned and firm. Place on a paper towel lined plate to drain excess oil. Continue until all strips are fried.

2. Heat cooking spray or olive oil in a skillet. Add chicken and turn occasionally until cooked through.  Let cool and, using two forks, shred into long strings.

3. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large, heavy bottomed pot. Sauté onions over medium heat until just opaque. Add chopped pepper and spices and sauté until fragrant.

4. Add crushed tomatoes, chicken broth, corn, beans, and shredded chicken. Allow soup to simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes.

5. Serve topped with tortilla strips, avocado, cheddar, and sour cream.

Roasted Sweet Potato Mash

Sweet Potato Mash

Back in the day, I was the queen of graphic tees. Some were a little too graphic, like the smiley face shirt with the suggestively placed eyes. Once puberty hit, it was immediately tossed in the Goodwill pile. Others were just confusing, like the “Leaf Me Alone” top and the “I’m a Ski Bunny” long sleeve. Maybe I couldn’t read yet or something, but as a kid I was: a) very social and b) rarely within close proximity to the snow.

There was one particular shirt that will haunt me forever. It was somewhat of a puke green color and was slightly oversized. The words “SWEET POTATO” were plastered across the front in neon orange, outlined in sparkly rhinestones. It was nothing short of gaudy. In school, this earned me the nickname “Yam,” but I didn’t let that stop me. For one, the shirt was super soft. And, for two, I loved sweet potatoes! Always have. Always will.

When it comes to sweet potatoes, I’m kind of a traditionalist. That t-shirt may have been bedazzled, but I like my yams simply roasted whole with a slit in the middle. As such, this recipe came as quite a surprise.

Mashed potatoes are awesome, but without a ton of butter and gravy, they’re just kind of boring. Mashed sweet potatoes, however, are a whole different ball game. This side dish is super sweet, while the roasted garlic infuses an earthy flavor, making it a worthy companion to roasted chicken, skillet steak, or basically anything.

This stuff is super healthy, incredibly easy to prepare, and makes for great leftovers. I highly recommend it for mashed potato buffs, sweet potato traditionalists, and spud supporters alike.

healthy mashed potatoes

Ingredients (serves 2-3)

  • 2 large sweet potatoes
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & Pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400o.
2. Peel potatoes and cut into 1-inch slices. Place in bowl with olive oil and toss to coat well.
3. Place potatoes and garlic on a piece of tin foil. Drizzle with a bit more olive oil and seal into a packet. Bake on a cookie sheet for 40 minutes, or until soft and tender.
4. Pour potatoes, garlic, and juices into a food processor. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pulse until mixture is smooth and consistent. Serve immediately.

Cornish Game Hens with Herb Rub

cornish game hen recipe

If you’ve ever read my writing or had a conversation with me, you’ve likely witnessed my addiction to hyperbole. I don’t exaggerate about everything, just the best things. The best things ever, in particular. My informal title is “Spokesperson For Everything” because I tend to label anything remotely awesome, “The best thing ever.”

I’m fairly generous with this label. There are a lot of best things ever. By simple mathematical standards, this means that there are few things that are not the best ever. Let me tell you, Purdue is at the very top of that short list.

In case you didn’t know, roasting chicken is just about my favorite thing to do (it’s the best ever). I love experimenting with different marinades and rubs, watching the skin change color and get all crispy, smelling the flavors throughout the whole house, and putting it on the table. I mean, what’s more badass that being able to cook an entire effing bird? Probably a lot of things. Though, as far as I’m concerned, this is it.

A couple of months ago, I decided to roast myself a chicken. I went to the grocery store and saw a plump Perdue bird. Manager’s special! I should have stopped there. I’ll spare you the slimy details, but in so many words, this bird was pumped with more hormones than all the 15 year old girls in the world put together. It was sticky and fat and while the outside got tough and dry, the inside stayed raw and slippery. I threw the whole thing away and went out for Chinese, where, in retrospect, I ate some more questionable chicken.

I know it wasn’t my fault, but this experience really took its toll on my self-esteem. I took a long sabbatical from roasting chicken after that and solemnly swear that I will never ever buy another Perdue product. I suggest you do the same.

The anniversary of my learning how to roast a whole chicken just passed. Last year at Christmas, I somehow managed to only get gifts encouraging me to learn this new skill. I got a Spanek vertical roaster, thermometer, baster, injector…all the good stuff. This holiday season, with my Purdue experience in mind, it was tough not to think back to last year’s festivities. Lo and behold, my wonderful father knew just the thing to get me out of my funk. He gave me this amazing meat thermometer that tells you when your meat has reached the appropriate temperature. No more arbitrary timing or opening and closing the oven. This was a game-changer.

With my new tool, I’ve learned a new trick. Cornish game hens are tiny little chickens and they are the latest “best things ever.” I mean, who doesn’t want to eat a mini chicken? They’re a little more gamey, but mostly more flavorful and juicy.

herb roasted chicken

This wet herb rub is the perfect companion for the hens. Because everything is blended together in a food processor, all the flavors meld to create a tangy, spicy, and earthy flavor.

herb butter

pantry raid

The infused butter soaks into the chicken so that every bite has that awesome herb-y taste. What could go wrong? Especially when you have a psychic thermometer that tells you when your food is done.

game hen recipe

I get it: roasting a whole big bird is kind of intimidating and it’s a lot of food. But you have no excuse not to make a Cornish game hen. It’s easy, delicious, and won’t leave you with more leftovers than you know what to do with.

thyme butter chicken

And with that, here’s my rendition of a recipe that’s been floating around the food-blogosphere.

Ingredients (serves 6)

  • 3 Cornish game hens
  • 4 sprigs rosemary*
  • 8 sprigs thyme*
  • ¼ cup parsley*
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 4 tablespoons salted butter, melted
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • Salt & pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 400o
2. In a food processer, blend rosemary, thyme, parsley, garlic, butter, lemon juice, salt, and pepper until combined. Mixture should be slightly thick with a little residual liquid.
3. Clean hens thoroughly and pat dry.
4. Truss them. (I’m not even going to try to explain this one. Let YouTube do the talking.)
5. Use a spatula or your hands to cover each chicken, front and back, with the wet rub.
6. Bake in a roasting pan for 50 minutes, until a meat thermometer reads 165o.
7. Let rest for five minutes. Use a sharp knife and kitchen sheers to cut in half, along the breast bone, or serve whole.

* Best to use fresh herbs

rosemary garlic chicken

Resolution Cookies

resolution cookies

Now that all that Yuletide binge eating (and drinking) is through, it’s officially “New Year’s Resolution” time. When January 1st rolls around, gym membership purchases skyrocket and Whole Foods has lines out the door. The New Year, for most, means being healthy, losing weight, and all that boring stuff. Naturally, all of this lasts just about a week, when hopeful health nuts remember that ice cream tastes better than anything else and that watching a movie is way more fun that hitting the treadmill.

With its always impeccable timing, Bon Appetit’s January issue, titled The New Healthy, is on shelves now. The New Healthy basically just means eating all things trendy and delicious. We’re talking grains, greens, and gluten free in 2014.  While I’ve not yet hopped on the sans-gluten bandwagon, I couldn’t help dog-earing the recipe for Chocolate Brownie Cookies. How could so few ingredients (mind you, none of which are butter or flour) create something as delicious as the picture suggests?

chocolate meringue

The answer is, I don’t know, I’m no scientist.  But hear me when I tell you that the first batch was gone before the second batch came out of the oven.

healthy cookies

Imagine this: you think you’re eating a cookie. A moment later, it hits you…“Wait, is this a meringue?” Then, your world is rocked when you get to the middle, which is like the richest brownie you ever did eat. I’m talking bittersweet chocolate that’s crunchy, fluffy, chewy, and gooey all at the same time. Who even knew that was a thing? I didn’t.

brownie cookie

gluten free cookies

My New Year’s Resolution is to bake more. It’s not exactly on track with everyone else’s health-centered goals. But, if you’re going to break your diet, you might as well do it with these cookies. They’re gluten free! Whatever that means…

Adapted from Bon Appetit’s Chocolate Brownie Cookies

Ingredients (makes 2 dozen cookies)

  • 3 cups gluten-free powdered sugar
  • ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 pinch sea salt
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 egg
  • 4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons cacao nibs*

*These aren’t easy to find, but I used Trader Joe’s dark chocolate covered cacao nibs

1. Preheat oven to 350o . Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl.
3. Whisk in egg and egg whites.
4. Fold in chopped chocolate and cacao nibs.
5. Spoon batter by the tablespoon onto cookie sheets, spaced two inches apart.
6. Bake for 14 minutes. Let cool for two minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack.

pantry raid

Best Ever Lentil Soup

best ever lentil soup

A good cookbook is hard to find. Many recipes are too difficult to execute for real people (who actually has an espuma gun lying around?), there aren’t enough photos (what’s even the point?), or everything looks delicious but you never actually make any of it. Well, boys and girls, I present to you Who Wants Seconds, a fantabulous cookbook chock full of photos, drawings, and lots of great recipes. Author and caterer extraordinaire, Jennie Cook, has collected and created these recipes over many years, and my favorite part is that most people already have most of the ingredients in their pantries. Her recipes are budget friendly, vegan friendly, and food-lover friendly, spanning from breakfast all they way to desert.

Who Wants Seconds

But before I get wrapped up in my obsession with this quirky cookbook, I’ll direct you here, to the January issue of Your Magazine. I’ve served as the Living Editor for Your Mag for a while now, and this piece is my last for the publication. With graduation and (dun, dun, dunnnn) real life in the immediate future, I’m focusing on finding a job and all that stuff. I hope you’ll read the magazine, or at least page 26, where you can learn more about Jennie and her book.

sienna mintz your magazine

Below is the recipe for her Best Ever Lentil Soup, a hearty, cold-weather friendly soup that rivals any I’ve ever had before. Sorry Grandma! This soup has all the right flavors, and if you get your pantry stocked just right, you’ll only need to pick up a few things to bring it to life. I suggest serving it with some nice crusty bread and a tall glass of Porter or a full-bodied red.

lentil soup recipe

Ingredients (serves 8 to 12)

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup finely chopped carrot
1 cup finely chopped celery
2 bay leaves
3 sprigs of thyme
½ teaspoon freshly ground coriander
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 pound lentils, picked and rinsed
2 cups peeled and chopped tomatoes, fresh or canned
6 cups vegetable stock
1 cup thawed frozen corn  puréed in 1 cup water
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar

Heat olive oil in a soup pot and sauté onion, carrots, celery, garlic, bay leaves, thyme, coriander, and celery seed over medium heat until onions are soft and translucent for about 6 minutes. Add lentils, tomatoes, and broth and stir to combine. Increase heat to high and bring just to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer until lentils are tender, approximately 45 minutes, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon in 10-minute intervals. Add corn purée and stir. Add salt, pepper, vinegar, and sugar. Taste and add more salt and pepper if desired.

This is a thick, chunky soup; if you want it creamier, remove 4 cups, purée in a blender, and return to soup pot.

*This recipe appears exactly as is in Who Wants Seconds. Buy it here!

the pantry raid

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