Roasted Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

Todays soup is Chicken with Wild Rice. This chunky, hearty, soul-warming soup is a family favorite.

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Did you know that soup was one of the first fast foods? Since it can be stretched to feed as many as necessary, it’s a great choice when you’re not sure how many people will be stopping by to eat… add a few more splashes of broth here, more vegetables there… and voila! Bowls all around.

Roasted Chicken and Wild Rice Soup
(adapted from Cooking Light)

Ingredients:

1 (6-oz) box long-grain and wild rice mix (such as Uncle Ben’s)
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 cups red onion, chopped
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped carrot
2 garlic cloves, chopped
12 white button mushrooms, quartered
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon leaves
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
2 cups water
2 Tablespoons dry sherry
32 oz fat-free, less sodium chicken broth
12 oz fat-free evaporated milk
3 cups shredded roasted skinless chicken

Directions:

1. Prepare rice according to package directions; set aside. Roast chicken, cool slightly, shred into bite size pieces; set aside.

2. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add chopped onion and next 4 ingredients (onion through mushrooms), and sauté for 6 minutes or until onion is tender. Lightly spoon the flour into a dry measuring cup, and level with a knife. Stir the flour, tarragon, and thyme into the onion mixture, and cook for 1 minute, stirring frequently. Add 2 cups water, sherry, broth, and evaporated milk; bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer for 20 minutes or until slightly thick. Stir in cooked rice and chicken; cook for 10 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Yield: Approximately 8-10 servings.

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Salsa season is here!

My teen is bored, the dogs are hyper with anticipation of a fun activity, probably involving balls, frisbees or sticks. My husband is on a month long working trip. I’m trying to keep up with all things involved in being a business owner, mom, homeowner, activity director, pet owner, and daughter. Yay. It’s summer.

What are you doing to celebrate the season? If it involves food, salsa is a great way to enjoy some of the seasonal fresh veggies out there.  With sweet corn currently priced in my local stores at 5 for $1, and cilantro at 2 bunches for $1, my frugal self is delighted. My daughter told me she could live on this stuff.

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Corn Salsa
4 ears of fresh, grilled sweet corn
1/2 red onion, diced small
2 avocados, diced
1 jalapeño, minced
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
Juice of 1 lime
Lots of chopped cilantro
Grill corn with husks on for 10-15 minutes (see below). Cut corn off the cob, and combine with remaining ingredients. Cover and refrigerate before serving.

My favorite way to grill corn: Pull the husks back to the corn stalk, but don’t remove. Pull off the silks and discard. Return the husks back to their original position, and tie with string. To keep the husks from burning on the grill, soak the corn in cold water for about 10 minutes. When they’re sufficiently soaked, fire up the grill, and roast uncovered on medium high for 15-20 minutes, turning occasionally.

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Up next: tomato season. Tuck this one away, it’ll be here before you know it…

Garden Tomato Salsa
Start with 9-12 medium sized ripe tomatoes
Cut them in half and take out the seeds.
Chop them coarsely and throw them into a food processor
Add:
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 cup of cilantro
3/4 cup chopped sweet onion
2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 spicy pepper (I used an ‘Italian Roaster’ because there were some ripe ones in my garden, but you could use jalapeño or serrano, if you want extra spice)
1 teaspoon coriander (you could also use cumin if you like the flavor… I don’t)
Blend until the salsa is a slightly coarse consistency. Not too chunky, not too pureed. Perfect for scooping up with a corn chip. Place in a sealed container and refrigerate for several hours or overnight so that the flavors have a chance to mingle.

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After all the salsa ingredients have gotten to know each other, call a few good friends, blend up some margaritas, grab a bag of corn chips… and all the good things summer has to offer!

Simple salad sauce

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Who else is loving the abundance of fresh local veggies right now? My garden is overflowing with spinach, lettuces, peas, squash, raspberries and several herbs. Due to the wet, warm, humid weather we are experiencing here in Portland, my hair is constantly curly, and many varieties of weeds are thriving in our yard. But lets ignore those things for now, okay?

I’m grilling, sautéing, roasting… or simply tossing raw veggies into bowls and devouring them in the form of salads every day. When it comes to a dressing for my colorful creations, however, the store bought options are usually … ho hum. The bottled salad dressings are often laden with trans fats, sugar, salt, preservatives and artificial flavors. They can quickly turn fresh, crisp, organic goodness into something unthinkably unhealthy. No thank you!

Fortunately, by blending a few basic ingredients,  you can quickly and easily create healthier, delicious salad dressings, and feel much better about what you’re ingesting. This honey mustard dressing is my current favorite. It’s slightly tangy, sweet, creamy. It’s also great on grilled, sautéed, or roasted veggies, or drizzled over chicken.

Honey-Mustard Salad Dressing

2 Tablespoons pure honey
2 Tablespoons yellow or brown prepared mustard (I used yellow for the sake of a prettier color, but spicy brown is good too)
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 Cup Greek non-fat, plain yogurt
Whisk these ingredients together until smooth and creamy. Store in an airtight container for up to a week or so. Recipe makes one cup.

Yay, another use for my Weck jars! I can’t seem to get enough of these.

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My favorite St Patrick’s Day dinner

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In Ireland, corned beef and cabbage is about as Irish as spaghetti and meatballs. It turns out this peasant corned beef and cabbage meal is just an American way to celebrate Irish heritage. So, if you’re planning to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with a traditional non-Irish dinner Monday, I have a few recipes you should try. For those of you who have been following me forever, (thank you!) this will be a familiar post. Every year, I alter my recipe just a little, and it just gets better, so I wanted to share the latest with you.

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First, you need to buy the best piece of corned beef you can find. This is of utmost importance to the entire meal, so splurge on a roast that’s the real thing. We’re fortunate to have several stores nearby that sell local beef. Beef from cattle raised without growth hormones or antibiotics on farms where they graze on natural native grasslands, pastures and forests. My favorite local store is New Seasons Market, and this is where I buy corned beef. Their corned beef is a beef brisket that is not overly salted or seasoned.

I’ve often wondered why some meats sold as corned beef are red and others gray, so I emailed the friendly people at New Seasons to find out. Within 24-hours, I received a message back from Daniel Menashe, a customer advocate at the market, who took me to beef school.

According to Daniel, “Red corned beef is a more modern invention. It’s the result of adding potassium nitrate or sodium nitrite to the meat in order to preserve the red color. It may look prettier, but some folks take issue with the safety of these compounds, and most chefs and gourmands feel that they can rob the subtlety from a cured meat.” “Our corned beef is classic gray and proud of it.”

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At New Seasons they use beef brisket because it’s the most tender and well-marbled.

He also explained where the term corn comes in. “The corn in ‘corned beef,’ doesn’t refer to the New World grain, but rather an Old English term for salt — a corn of salt used to mean the same thing as a grain of salt.”

To sum it up — “Brisket is best. Go for the gray. It has nothing to do with corn.”

Now that you know everything you need to know about corned beef, pick up a 3 lb. piece of gray beef, perfectly cured with herbs and spices at your favorite local store. The best way to cook it, in my opinion, is slowly in a Dutch oven.

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St Paddy’s Day dinner

3 lbs corned beef
24 oz Guinness (or other stout beer)
2 leeks, sliced
3 cloves garlic, pressed
1 green cabbage, sliced into 8 wedges
12 small red potatoes
Bunch of carrots, with tops snapped off
Bunch of asparagus, washed and snapped
1 Tablespoon dried parsley
1 Tablespoon dried basil
Sea salt
Horseradish for serving or creamy horseradish sauce (see recipe below)

Place beef, sliced leeks and garlic into a large (7 quart) oven-proof dish and add enough beer to cover the meat. You may need to add some water to fully cover the meat. Place a lid over the dish and place into a 325°F oven for about 3 hours. Add cabbage wedges and bake for 30 minutes, or until the cabbage is soft.

Place the potatoes, carrots and asparagus into a large baking dish, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle on some sea salt and the parsley and basil. Roast in a 325°F oven for at least an hour, or until veggies are tender. You can also throw these items in with the meat and cabbage for an hour or so if you wish. My husband has a thing about carrots cooked with meat, so I roast them separately to accommodate him. I actually prefer this method now.

Lay out the vegetables onto a serving platter. Slice the corned beef, against the grain into thin slices and top with some of that delicious cooking liquid. Serve warm.

Oh, and this soda bread is an absolute must served alongside…

The following recipe is the original Irish soda bread from Grand Central Baking Company, a fabulous local bakery here in Portland.

Grand Central’s Irish Soda Bread
Makes 8 pieces, or two large rounds

4 cups + 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 Tablespoons orange zest
2-1/4 teaspoons caraway seeds
3/4 cup currants
14 Tablespoons (1-3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, cold
1 cup + 2 Tablespoons buttermilk, divided
Egg wash (1 egg whisked with 1 Tablespoon water and a pinch of salt)

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a high-sided mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Stir in orange zest, caraway seeds and currants.

Dice butter in 1/2-inch cubes. Use your hands or the paddle attachment to mix butter into dry ingredients until the texture becomes mealy. Cover mixing bowl with plastic wrap and chill overnight, or proceed with the recipe.

Add 3/4 cup buttermilk all at once, mixing just until the dough comes together, 30-35 seconds. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl to incorporate any dry ingredients and add remaining buttermilk.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 2 chunks. Gently shape the pieces into dome-like disks and score each one into quarters.

Place disks on the baking sheet and brush liberally with egg wash. Put the baking sheet in the center of the preheated oven and bake 30-35 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through, until disks are shiny and golden brown.

Creamy horseradish sauce
Makes 1 cup

1/3 cup cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup prepared horseradish
1 T. Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper, to taste

Whip the cream until soft peaks form. In another medium size bowl, combine the mayonnaise, horseradish, and mustard. Fold in whipped cream, and sprinkle in some salt and pepper. Stir well.

Voila! Just add good friends. And Guinness!

And just in case you’re wondering…
IT’S PADDY, NOT PATTY. EVER.
SAINT PATRICK’S DAY? GRAND.
PADDY’S DAY? SURE, DEAD-ON.
ST. PAT’S? IF YE MUST.
ST. PATTY? NO, YE GOAT!
Paddy is derived from the Irish, Pádraig: the source of those mysterious, emerald double-Ds.
Patty is the diminutive of Patricia, or a burger, and just not something you call a fella.
There isn’t a sinner in Ireland that would refer to a Patrick as “Patty”. It’s as simple as that.
Source: paddynotpatty.com

Lá Shona Fhéile Pádraig! Happy St Patrick’s Day!

Asparagus Risotto

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Hi everyone! Welcome to fall! It’s my very favorite season. So much to look forward to… cozy sweaters, crisp mornings, crunchy leaves, rainy days, Halloween, fires in the fireplace, new TV shows, soups… I used to love fall because it meant my birthday was coming, but that doesn’t excite me anymore. It actually kinda freaks me out. I try to believe that those numbers don’t really mean much, but the higher they get, the more I have to tell myself that they’re just numbers and they don’t really mean much. Why does time seem to accelerate with more life experiences? (aka age). Does anyone else feel that way?

Speaking of time, if you’ve ever made risotto from scratch, then you know how much time is involved. The amount of time spent stirring and waiting for all the liquid to be incorporated is almost not worth the effort. Homemade risotto is one of those all consuming tasks that does not allow a bit of multitasking while creating it. Come to think of it, I may have just found a solution to slow down time… risotto. But if you’re like me, you don’t really have enough time to not multitask, so carry on. This post is about saving time right?

Enter microwave risotto! Welcome to my world!

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It’s so simple. I made mine with fresh asparagus, but you can add whatever you like. I can’t wait to try it with delicata squash!

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I served it with a small filet of wild Coho salmon topped with homemade pesto. Oh yea!

Microwave Asparagus Risotto
Serves 4 (serving size: 1 cup)
Adapted from Cooking Light Magazine

Ingredients:
3/4 cup chopped onion
2 Tablespoons butter
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup uncooked Arborio rice
3 cups chicken (or vegetable) stock
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1 1/2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 ounces shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (1/3 cup), divided

Preparation:
NOTE: This risotto is not covered while microwaving, so use a large (at least 2-quart) bowl to allow plenty of room for the liquid to boil.
1. Combine first 4 ingredients in a 2-quart microwave-safe glass bowl. Microwave at HIGH 3 minutes. Stir in rice; microwave at HIGH 3 minutes. Stir in stock and wine; microwave at HIGH 16 minutes, stirring for 30 seconds every 4 minutes. Add asparagus; microwave at HIGH 2 minutes. Stir in rind, juice, salt, pepper, and half of cheese. Top with remaining cheese.

Hail to the Kale

 

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I am in love with a leafy green vegetable!

Who wouldn’t be? Kale, also known as borecole, is one of the healthiest vegetables on the planet. It belongs to the Brassica family. Some of its relatives include cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, collards, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts. One cup of raw kale contains: 30 calories, 5 grams of fiber and 1,020 percent of the daily requirement of vitamin K, 200 percent vitamin C, 180 percent vitamin A, 40 percent magnesium, 15 percent of both calcium and vitamin B6. Recently, the antioxidant qualities have helped kale to gain in popularity because of its high levels of sulfur containing phytonutrients. These phytonutrients and antioxidants rid our bodies of toxins and can assist in the fight against cancer.

This spring, I decided to attempt growing my own kale, and I found that it’s very easy to grow in our mild spring climate. The only problem I see so far is that my chickens seem to like it too.

So, how can you incorporate kale into your diet? I have enjoyed eating kale for the last year in hot soups, in quesadillas, and any recipe that calls for spinach. Kale holds its color and shape, and won’t turn limp like spinach. But, my very favorite way to enjoy kale is in chip form.

When roasted, the leaves are crunchy, with a melt in your mouth quality that’s reminiscent of potato chips. The flavor is fresh and mild, with a finish of salt and garlic.

Here’s what you’ll need to make Crispy Kale Chips:
4 cups kale leaves (torn into bite-size pieces and large middle stems removed)
1 Tablespoons good olive oil
2 large cloves garlic, minced
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat your oven to 375°F. Rinse the kale and pat it dry thoroughly. Remove and discard the thick ribs and roughly chop or break up the leaves a bit. Pat leaves dry again. In a large bowl, toss with olive oil, garlic, sea salt and pepper. Spread out onto a large rimmed baking sheet. The kale leaves do not need to be in a single layer, they shrink in volume as they bake. Bake for 15-20 minutes, giving them a stir every five minutes or so, until its tender, crisp on the edges and slightly browned.

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Raw kale leaves are also good in smoothies, where combined with more flavorful ingredients, they blend very well, and retain all their nutritional value.

Add these items to a blender and mix well: 1/2 cup mango, 1 cup blueberries, 1 1/2 cups coconut water, 1 cup kale leaves (stems removed), 1 Tablespoon lemon juice, 1/4 avocado, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1 Tablespoon flax seeds.

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You’ll have a delicious, spicy, filling snack (or lunch). If you don’t love spice, you can eliminate or decrease the cayenne pepper. This recipe is one of my favorites from the Dr. Oz 3-day cleanse.

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Parenting and a savory tart

We did it! Another year of high school is behind us! Not that I’m in any hurry to have my daughter grow up, but high school has not been a great experience so far. Our neighborhood high school holds approximately 1500 students, which puts 35+ teenagers in each class at any given time. Consider all those different personalities and quirky behaviors in close quarters together for seven hours a day.

“Adolescence is a period of rapid changes. Between the ages of 12 and 17, for example, a parent ages as much as 20 years.” -Unknown

On a positive note, last weekend my daughter was in a spring dance performance where she was recognized for her dance achievements, and given a scholarship for future dance classes and expenses. So proud of her!

During this last week, while getting my daughter through finals and daily dance practices, quick, simple recipes were essential in getting food on the table. There’s one dish I want to share with you. It’s a roasted veggie savory tart. Once you have a few basic ingredients on hand, you can top this tart with nearly anything. So easy, it practically makes itself, and it can multitask into an appetizer, a side dish, a brunch dish, or a complete meal.

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Original recipe by The Decisive Cook

Savory Roasted Veggie Tart
1 box puff pastry shells
2 sweet onions
1 head of garlic
10 small peppers in various colors
2 eggs
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup parmesan
1 Teaspoon dried basil leaves
1 Teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup crumbled chevre
Flour for rolling out pastry
Parchment paper
Cookie sheet with sides (baker’s half sheet, 18×13″)

Defrost pastry shells at room temperature for 40 minutes. On a floured surface, roll out the pastry to the size of the pan with 1 inch fold around edges. Cover pan with parchment paper, and place pastry onto it. Brush with an egg wash (1 egg, 1 Tablespoon water). Prick pastry with a fork on the top surface.

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Place peppers, and garlic in a baking dish. Add 1 Tablespoon olive oil and roast in a 350°F. oven for about 45 minutes, or until peppers are a bit browned.

Add 1 Tablespoon olive oil to a pan, and heat on medium-high heat. Thinly slice the onions and add to the pan. Add sugar and basil. Cook, stirring occasionally for 20 minutes or until onions are slightly browned.

Whisk together ricotta cheese and egg. Slather the mixture onto the egg washed pastry. Top with 1/4 cup of the parmesan, the carmelized onions, roasted garlic, roasted peppers, chevre and sprinkle on the remainder of the parmesan.

Bake at 375°F for 25-30 minutes or until pastry is browned.