Thursday, December 1, 2016

Easy Salted Caramels

I tried these caramels because they looked SO easy, I love caramels, and I had everything on hand. They were very easy and so good! They only use a handful of ingredients and you don't need a candy thermometer.

Easy Salted Caramels
adapted from Creme de la Crumb

1½ sticks butter (12 tablespoons)
½ cup sugar
3 tablespoons light corn syrup (or honey)
14 oz sweetened condensed milk
½ teaspoon vanilla
coarse sea salt

1.  In a medium sauce pan combine butter and sugar and stir over medium heat until melted. Stir in corn syrup and condensed milk.  Bring to a boil and then decrease to simmer. Cook and stir for 7-10 minutes or until mixture achieves deep golden color, stirring constantly.

2.  Pour caramel into a greased 8x8 inch pan (glass is best, I think) and allow to cool completely. Sprinkle with coarse sea salt if desired. When completely cooled, cut into squares and wrap in wax paper.
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Monday, November 28, 2016

Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup

I made this, and liked it well enough for dinner, but the leftovers were SO good- I want to make it again just for that! I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs which was very convenient.  I also used part of a bag of "pasta mista"; or "mixed pasta"; random pasta shapes you can buy here in the grocery store in one bag.  A friend got a bag for me and I was excited; I had never even noticed it here before!
Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup
adapted from Cafe DeLites

1 tablespoon olive oil
6 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 large carrots, sliced
1 celery stalk, diced
⅓ cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley (or 1 tablespoon dried)
1 teaspoon chicken boullion paste (Better than Bouillon)
salt, to taste
4 cups chicken broth
5 cups 2% milk*
10 ounces (300 grams) uncooked noodles or pasta of choice (I'd try 250 grams next time)
⅓ cup frozen peas

1.  Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Sear the chicken thighs on both sides until golden (about 3 minutes each side). Add the onion, garlic, carrots, celery. Sauté for another 5 minutes until the onion becomes transparent and the celery just begins to soften. Add flour, parsley, bullion, and salt. Mix all of the ingredients through and allow to cook for a further 3 minutes.

2.  Pour in the broth; increase heat and bring to a boil for about 4 minutes (the broth will begin to thicken). Reduce heat, partially cover the pot with a lid, and allow to simmer for 20-25 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.

3.  Shred the chicken (in the pot, using two forks, if possible).  Add the milk and noodles (or pasta) to the soup.  Bring to a boil and allow to cook for 6-8 minutes until the noodles are JUST beginning to soften. Add the peas and continue to cook until the peas are cooked and the soup has thickened. At this point, taste test the soup and add extra salt or pepper or bouillon paste if desired to suit your tastes. Serve.
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Friday, November 25, 2016

Joy the Baker's Hot Chocolate

Back on November 9, the day after the election, I was sad, and my son was home from school that day.  It was just us two, and I was flipping through my Joy the Baker cookbook, and came across this recipe.  I thought it was perfect; a comforting hot chocolate, easy enough to make, and great for two. My son and I enjoyed this together and it made me feel a little better.  I always have the ingredients on hand (milk, semisweet & white chocolate), and I love hot chocolate.

Joy the Baker's Hot Chocolate
adapted from Joy the Baker (also on pg. 147 of her first cookbook)
Serves 2 (the one on her website is a tiny bit different)

1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips (I used mini)
2 heaping Tablespoons white chocolate chips (or chopped white chocolate)
2 cups milk (any fat content)
pinch of salt

1.  In a double boiler (or a heat-proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water), place both chocolates and heat over simmering water until the chocolate is melted, stirring constantly.

2.  Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, heat milk until almost boiling.  Whisk the melted chocolate and salt into the milk and whisk until smooth and incorporated.  Pour into 2 mugs and top with marshmallows or whipped cream.  Serve immediately.
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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

DIY Instant Soup "Cups"

I got this idea from The Kitchn last summer.  My husband was eating lots of Cups of Noodles but was wanting a healthier version.  We also wanted a gluten-free option.  For a while, I used dry rice noodles, but those were super hard to manipulate to even get them in the jar.  So I started using leftover cooked rice.  It was way easier, and a great use for leftover rice.  I freeze leftover rice in silicone muffin cups just for this.  Use leftover Thanksgiving turkey for this!
I also freeze portions of rotisserie chicken, with a dollop of Better than Bouillon chicken flavor, and a squirt of Sriracha sauce.   The night before, I take out a portion of chicken and a portion of rice and stick it in the fridge.  In the morning, I put these things into a glass mason jar, top with frozen veggies, and pack in my husband's lunch.  He has an electric hot water kettle at work.  He puts the soup ingredients into a large mug (we're not sure if it's ok to pour boiling water in to a cold mason jar). and pours boiling water on top.
Sometimes, I pack extras like a sliced, hard-boiled egg, a slice of lime, pickled onions, or fresh herbs. Usually I'm too tired for that, though those additions are delicious. Read the full article at The Kitchn to get a lot of great advice.

For the lids, I use the new plastic lids that fit on these mason jars.  That way you're not dealing with the metal tops and rings.  Something like this.
DIY Instant Soup "Cups"
adapted from the Kitchn

Ingredients for each soup cup:

1/2 cup cooked white rice
1/4 to 1/4 cup cooked chopped chicken or other meat
1 to 3 teaspoons flavor base — soup stock paste (like Better Than Bouillon chicken)
1 to 3 teaspoons flavoring extras, optional — Sriracha, chili-garlic sauce, soy sauce or tamari, coconut milk, sesame oil,  or other sauce
1/4 to 1/2 cup veggies — frozen corn, frozen carrots, or frozen peas, or a mix
optional fresh ingredients/garnishes — fresh herbs, sliced green onions, bean sprouts, sliced lime or lemon, sliced hard-boiled eggs

1.  I use a 16 oz. mason jar for this (in the cool new purple color- I got them from Amazon.)  In the bottom, put the rice.  Add the chicken on top, and then the chicken bouillon base, the Sriracha, the veggies.  Add the optional fresh ingredients in a separate container.

2.  When ready to eat, heat up about a cup (a little more) in an electric kettle.  Add to the soup and let sit a few inutes.  (We put this in a big mug before adding the boiling water.) Top with optional fresh ingredients, and enjoy.

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Friday, November 18, 2016

Cranberry Upside Down Cake

This cake was a surprise!!  I made it because it looked easy and I needed to use up some cranberries.  Well, it was SO GOOD!!  Of course I knew it'd be a good cake, but I was blown away by the awesome flavor.  The buttery cake, the caramel layer you cook on the bottom, and the tart cranberries.  So good!  Another great David Lebovitz recipe.  This would be great for Thanksgiving. (Btw, I've made so many of his recipes I'm gonna start a new David L. tag!)  

Note: the recipe calls for 10 oz. of cranberries.  My bag was about 12 oz., but I only used 10 oz.  Next time, I'd just throw the whole bag in there.  It would have been fine.  (The cranberries really cook down, and it wasn't that much extra.)  For now, I'll throw the extra cranberries into some mulling cider, but usually I'm glad not to have a tiny bit of something hanging around in my fridge.  Lol.  
Cranberry Upside Down Cake
adapted from David Lebovitz

4 tablespoons (55g/2 ounces) unsalted butter, cubed (I used salted)
3/4 cup (125g) packed light brown sugar
3 cups (280g/10 ounces) fresh or frozen cranberries (I'd use my whole bag next time- almost 12 oz)

1 1/4 cup (175g) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (50g) coarse cornmeal or polenta (I used regular cornmeal I had on hand)
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, preferably aluminum-free
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (115g/4oz) unsalted butter, cubed, at room temperature (I used salted)
3/4 cup (150g) granulated (white) sugar
grated zest of one lemon
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup (125ml) whole or low fat milk, at room temperature

1. In a 9- to 10-inch (23-25cm) cast iron skillet*, melt the 4 tablespoons of butter and the brown sugar together, stirring frequently, until the sugar and butter is liquefied. When the mixture starts to bubble, remove from heat and set the pan aside. (*You can also use a cake pan, as long as it's ok on the stovetop for the short period of time needed to do this step.)

2. Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC).

3. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal or polenta, baking powder, and salt.

4. In the bowl of a stand mixer, or by hand in a mixing bowl with a spatula, beat the ½ cup of butter, granulated sugar and lemon zest at medium high speed for 3 to 5 minutes, until very light and fluffy.

5. Reduce the speed of the mixer to medium and add the eggs one at a time, stopping the mixer to scrape down the sides. Mix in the vanilla extract.

6. At low speed, add half of the flour mixture, then the milk, then the remaining dry ingredients, mixing just enough so that they’re all combined. Do not overmix. I used a rubber spatula at the end to get the flour fully incorporated.

7. Distribute the cranberries in the prepared pan over the brown sugar mixture and shake the pan so they are in a relatively even layer. Spoon the batter over the cranberries in four mounds, then use a spatula to spread the batter evenly over the fruit.

8. Bake the cake until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 40-50 minutes. (Mine was done at around 40,) Remove from the oven, wait 10-15 minutes, then run a knife around the cake. Place a serving platter overturned on top of the cake in the skillet, then using oven mitts to cover your hands, flip the two over simultaneously, until the cake releases from the pan.

Storage: The cake is best made and served the same day, warm if possible. You can rewarm slices in the microwave. It is also good served at room temperature.
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Saturday, November 12, 2016

Quick & Easy Chicken Tortilla Soup

This is an easy soup that one can use a rotisserie chicken for, or, if you don't have that, just cook raw (even frozen) chicken right in the broth and shred later.  I usually make soups like this in the crockpot, but it's nice to have a quick stove-top version as well.
Quick & Easy Chicken Tortilla Soup
adapted from Valerie's Kitchen via Mom on Timeout

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
2-3 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth, or more as needed to reach desired consistency
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 (15 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15 ounce) can corn, drained or 1-1-2 cups frozen corn
1 (7 ounce) can diced green chiles
2-1/2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken- can also use raw chicken & cook in broth; take out & shred
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Optional Toppings:
Crushed tortilla chips
Chopped jalapenos
Sliced olives
Sliced green onions
Diced fresh tomatoes
Diced avocado
Shredded cheese

1.  Heat the olive oil in a medium saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the diced onion and saute for 4 to 5 minutes, or until the onion is translucent. Stir in the minced garlic and continue sauteing for 1 minute. Add the chili powder, cumin, salt, and pepper, and cook for another 2 minutes.

2.  Add the chicken broth and tomatoes and bring to a boil over medium heat. Simmer for 10 minutes. (If using raw chicken, add it now and simmer about 15 minutes, or until cooked through.) Add the beans, corn, green chiles, chicken, and cilantro. Simmer for an additional 10 minutes.
Lade the soup into bowls and top with a handful of crushed tortilla chips and any of the optional toppings.
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Friday, November 4, 2016

Istrian Maneštra- Croatian Minestrone Soup

Over Columbus Day, we went to the Istrian Peninsula of Croatia.  It was a nice drive and the Istrian Peninsula is beautiful.  We stayed in Pula right by the old Roman amphitheater which is still in great shape.  I forgot my big camera, so I only have phone pics (that aren't downloaded onto the laptop yet) so maybe I'll share some of those later.
Our Airbnb host made reservations for us at his favorite restaurant, which was very good.  The favorite thing I had there was the Istrian Maneštra- this part of Croatia's version of Minestrone.  It was SO good and flavorful, with a perfect texture.  It had a nice sweet, crunchy bite from the corn, too.  Pic below is my phone pic of the soup in the restaurant.
When we were in Croatia, we learned that region of the country was famous for olive oil, and had won awards.  We tasted some wonderful local olive oil at the restaurant.  On our way home, we stopped at a random oil factory, had a quick on-the-spot tour, sampled their oil (they only made one kind; was a very small factory) and bought two bottles.  The owner filled the bottles for us, right there on the spot!!  I used it in this recipe, and to drizzle over the top of the soup.
I didn't think to buy a pršut bone in Croatia- it's a kind of ham bone common there, used in this soup. So I just used a smoked ham hock instead, and it provided great flavor.  Also, our soup had corn in it, so I added it at home.  I guess this turns it into another soup- called Manestra di Bobici- but I'm leaving the title as is because I'm just not sure about the whole name thing.  Lol.

Istrian Maneštra- Croatian Minestrone Soup
adapted from Live Istria 

300 g white or yellow beans (I used Great Northen)
2 large onions (chopped)
3 garlic cloves (chopped)
1 pršut bone * (can use ham bone, smoked ham hock, or chunk of smoked bacon)
1 large potato (cut into small squares)
2 carrots (cut into small chunks)
2 bay leaves
2 tbsp olive oil
1 cup frozen corn, or more to taste
Salt & pepper

1.  Soak the beans overnight and then bring to the boil in the same water.  Boil the beans for a couple of minutes and then drain

2.  Place the beans in a fresh pan with all the other ingredients and pour the olive oil on top.  Add water until everything is well covered and bring to the boil.  Cover and simmer for 1 ½ – 2 hours
3.  Remove the pršut bone (or whatever meat you're using). Trim off any available meat and add back to the soup.  Serve with crusty home-made bread. Drizzle a good olive oil over the top, if you want.
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