Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Giving chicken soup a little kick

Homemade chicken soup is such a simply wonderful meal. It’s a great comfort when you’re under the weather, but a warm bowl full of chicken, broth and other goodies is delicious no matter how you feel. The next time you want a little twist on a traditional favorite, give this recipe a try.

Kickin’ Chicken and Rice Soup
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
2 celery stalks, ends removed, diced
1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 tablespoon Creole seasoning
1 cup dry white rice, rinsed
1 cup diced cooked chicken
1 cup (7-8 ounces) diced smoked sausage (I used one of these guys)
8 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons tomato paste
8 ounces large shrimp, butterflied and separated

Heat olive oil over medium heat in large, heavy pot. Add garlic, onion, carrots, celery and bell pepper and sautée for a couple minutes. Stir in Creole seasoning, rice, sausage and chicken and sautée for a couple more minutes. Add broth and tomato paste. Bring pot to boil and then reduce heat, allowing soup to simmer, covered, for 15 minutes, or until rice is cooked. Stir in shrimp, cover, and simmer for another five minutes, until shrimp is fully cooked.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Keeping cans of cannellini beans close

I try not to play favorites, but when it comes to beans, I absolutely love cooking with cannellinis. These white kidney beans are just so versatile. Give any or all of these three quick, no-cook cannellini recipes a try and you’ll see what I mean.

Cannellini Bean Salad 
2 15-ounce cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups roasted red bell peppers
2 cloves garlic juice of half a lemon
Chopped flat-leaf parsley, for garnish

Put peppers, garlic and lemon juice in a blender and process until smooth. Stir dressing in with beans in a bowl and top with parsley.

Pesto White Bean Dip
1 15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
¼ cup pesto
Juice of half a lemon
Possible dippers: Pita chips

Everything goes into the blender for a quick spin, until smooth.

Red Pepper White Bean Dip 
1 15-ounce can cannellini beans
1 cup roasted red bell pepper
1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
Possible dippers: Carrot and celery sticks

All ingredients go into the blender. Purée, adding a little more balsamic if you’d like to thin the dip a bit.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Roast chicken is the gift that keeps giving

The inspiration to roast a chicken is based on my love of a good deal. I can’t resist bringing home a bird when they’re on sale for only 99 cents per pound. I bought a whole chicken for the same price some people pay for just one foot-long sandwich. Please believe I’m going to get a lot of mileage out of this five-dollar fowl. First up was tonight’s delicious roast chicken with potatoes and Brussels sprouts. Tomorrow I’ll make a few quarts of chicken stock with the carcass and start thinking of different ways to use the huge bowl of cooked chicken meat currently chilling out in the fridge.

Roast Chicken with Potatoes and Brussels Sprouts 
One roasting chicken (this one weighed in around five pounds)
1 teaspoon smoked salt
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon melted butter
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
4 cloves garlic
1 pound small white potatoes, washed, dried and cut into quarters
1 pound Brussels sprouts (I used Trader Joe's frozen variety)
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix melted butter, two tablespoons olive oil, salt, paprika, garlic powder, thyme and oregano in a small bowl. Rinse and pat dry chicken. Place garlic cloves in cavity and tie legs together to hold shape. Place chicken on rack in roasting pan and spread seasoning mix on skin. Toss potatoes and Brussels sprouts in a bowl with remaining olive oil, salt and pepper to lightly coat. Place potatoes and Brussels sprouts in roasting pan with chicken, and then place roasting pan in the oven. Bake 80 to 90 minutes, or until chicken is golden and the thickest part of the thigh measures 180 degrees with a meat thermometer.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Not-so-red lentils the base of spice-infused soup

I swear these lentils were red when I bought them. Granted, this delicious, spice-infused dish is nowhere near red in color, but I promise, it does contain tons of red lentils, garam masala and all kinds of other goodies that make it worth a try.

Not-So-Red Lentil Soup with Shrimp 
2 cups dried red lentils
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large white onion, diced
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 teaspoons garam masala spice mix
2 teaspoon smoked paprika, divided
2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 14-ounce can light coconut milk
1 14.5-ounce can petite diced tomatoes with liquid
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 pound large raw shrimp, peeled, deveined and tails removed
Cilantro, for garnish

Put lentils in a bowl and fill with enough water to cover lentils with an inch or two of water. Soak lentils for an hour before draining and rinsing.

Heat oil in large, heavy pot over medium heat. Add garlic, onion and carrot, sautéeing for a couple minutes. Stir in garam masala, tomato paste, salt and one teaspoon smoked paprika and cook for another minute or two. Add lentils, coconut milk, tomatoes and broth to pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and allow soup to simmer, covered, for 30 minutes or until lentils and vegetables are tender. Remove from heat.

Put shrimp in non-stick frying pan and dust with remaining teaspoon of smoked paprika. Cook at high heat for a couple minutes on each side until shrimp are fully cooked.

Ladle lentils into soup bowls, top with four shrimp and cilantro sprigs, and serve.