Friday, April 27, 2012

Zucchini Soup

Hubby got me a Vitamix blender to celebrate getting our tax return and I'm a little obsessed with it. This soup took all of 5 minutes to put together and it was really yummy. Plus, it cooks in the blender, meaning no pot to clean! Healthy, easy, and delicious all rolled in one? Yes, please!

Zucchini Soup
*Adapted from the Vitamix Whole Foods cookbook

2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 medium zucchini, chopped
1 medium carrot, halved
1 stalk celery, chopped
1/4 cup potato flakes (or half a cooked baked potato)
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
Pinch salt
Fresh cracked pepper

Place all ingredients into the blender (you could certainly use a food processor and then cook this on the stove). Turn the blender on Variable 1 and quickly increase speed to Variable 10, then to high. Blend for 6-7 minutes or until heavy steam escapes from the vented lid. Serve and enjoy!

Chicken Noodle Soup

I make this chicken noodle soup at least once a month and, since it makes such a large amount, Hubby and I eat it for a few days afterward. The best thing about these leftovers: they just get better and better. Another good thing about this recipe is that it is extremely easy. On nights I don't want to bother with cooking chicken, I pick up a whole roasted chicken from the store (Costco has the best ones!) and Hubby shreds it while I chop up veggies. 

I know that chicken noodle soup isn't fancy or "special," but this is one of my all-time favorite recipes. I'd say it's definitely in the top five! This can be made last minute or you can let is simmer for a few hours and really get some amazing flavor out of the stock. As with most dishes, I think homemade chicken stock would make the soup extra delicious, but I always use boxed stock because it's a lot quicker and easier. Try this soup! I promise it won't disappoint!

Chicken Noodle Soup

4 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded (or a whole roasted chicken, shredded)
4 or 5 boxes of chicken stock (4-5 quarts of stock)
A 16-20 ounce bag of baby carrots, chopped small (the smaller the carrots, the quicker they will cook)
4-6 stalks of celery, chopped (about the same size as the carrots)
2 pound bag of egg noodles
A pinch of salt
Lots and lots of freshly cracked pepper

Add your veggies, chicken, salt, pepper, and 2 quarts of chicken stock to a large pot. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat. Simmer at medium heat for 45 minutes or at low heat for a few hours, or until the carrots and celery have softened.

Turn up the heat, add noodles and enough stock to cover, about 2-3 quarts, depending on how much the cooking liquid has reduced. Cook until the noodles are al dente. Serve immediately. Enjoy!

*This keeps well in a sealed container in the fridge for a few days. Just add a little bit of water before you heat it up to give it a little more broth.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Amazing Garlic Alfredo Sauce!

 What makes this alfredo so amazing? How about the fact that there is no cream in it? Or maybe it's the non-oily nature of the sauce when it's reheated? But it might just be the simple deliciousness of it! Our whole house smelled of garlicky goodness while this was cooking. It came together so fast-so make sure you have all your ingredients ready before you start.

We really couldn't tell that there wasn't any cream, as the sauce was gooey and amazing. The lack of cream meant that, when reheated, this alfredo doesn't separate and get all oily. In this house, that makes this recipe a keeper! So, let's recap: yummy, garlicky, easy, quick, delicious, AND it reheats well. Score!
Garlic Alfredo Sauce
*From Mel's Kitchen Cafe

4 tablespoons butter
6 cloves garlic, finely minced
8 ounces of cream cheese (you can use low fat), softened and cut into pieces
2 cups milk (1% or 2% both work just fine)
1 1/2-2 cups grated parmesan cheese
1/2-1 teaspoon ground black pepper, to taste
1/2-1 teaspoon Kosher salt, to taste
1 pound fettuccine

In a large pot, boil noodles in salted water until just al dente.

In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring constantly to make sure the garlic doesn't burn. Add the cream cheese, stirring with a whisk until the mixture is smooth. It will look curdled at first, but with constant whisking for 2-3 minutes, it comes together to form a smooth, creamy paste.

Add the milk about 1/4 cup at a time, whisking as you go to fully incorporate it into the sauce. Stir in the parmesan cheese, pepper, and salt. Stir until the cheese is melted and the sauce is the desired consistency. The longer you cook it, the thicker the sauce will get. Serve immediately.


Michael Symon's Mac and Cheese with Rosemary, Goat Cheese, and Prosciutto

 This is one of those recipes that really makes you believe that a few simple, good ingredients put together in a dish can make an amazing meal. Goat cheese, rosemary, and prosciutto mac and cheese is decadent and delicious. It was so easy to put together and reheated pretty well. While the original recipe called for shredded chicken, we chose to use the prosciutto and cut back on the salt. The result was well balanced and really yummy. I'm so glad to have this dish as one in our permanent recipe file. Hubby loved it too-we fought over the leftovers!

Rigatoni with Rosemary, Goat Cheese, and Prosciutto
*From Michael Symon

Kosher salt
1 pound rigatoni
4 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons rosemary, chopped
8 ounces goat cheese
4-6 slices prosciutto, chopped (or you could use shredded chicken or bacon-or leave all meat out and make it vegetarian)

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. In a large saucepan over high heat, add heavy cream, rosemary, a pinch of salt, and pepper. Bring just to a simmer and then lower the heat to medium. Simmer until the mixture is reduced by half, about 20 minutes. Continue cooking until it coats the back of a spoon.

Add the rigatoni to the boiling water and cook until just al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain the pasta, reserving a cup of cooking liquid. Add chunks of goat cheese to the sauce. Stir and add pasta, thinning with cooking liquid, if necessary.

Bring sauce back to just a simmer and adjust seasoning to taste.


Sunday, April 1, 2012

Pain Au Chocolat (Croissant and Dark Chocolate) Bread Pudding

I am a firm believer in enjoying life as much as possible, particularly since it is so short. Good food is essential to a happy life, and this is good food. Decadent, rich, deliciously good food. Pain au chocolat is a pastry that you can find in any boulangerie or patisserie in France. It's basically a croissant with a piece of dark chocolate in the middle. It's light, but rich because of the chocolate and it's wonderful. We've been unable to find one locally that stands up to those we ate in France.

Enter Pain Au Chocolat Bread Pudding. It isn't quite the same, but as a dessert, dare I say that it is better? Sprinkle some powdered sugar on top or add some sliced strawberries and you have my new favorite dessert with a fancy topping. This was truly a special dish, one that I will make for special occasions from now on, since, let's face it, heavy cream and croissants with dark chocolate isn't exactly body healthy. It is good for my soul though!

Pain Au Chocolat Bread Pudding 
*From The Comfort of Cooking

Nonstick cooking spray
3 large egg yokes
1 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 croissants, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, cut into small pieces

Heat oven to 375ยบ. Coat a 2-quart baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks, milk, cream, sugar, vanilla, salt, and nutmeg. Add the croissants and chocolate and mix to combine.

Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish. 

Bake until set and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. Serves 4.