October 25, 2013

This Week in Food: Harvest Corn Chowder…Can You Say Yum?

What can I say, people: I am on a soup roll! Another ace in the soup pot here: Harvest Corn Chowder. Hearty. Filling. And absolutely delish.

Seriously, I am eating leftovers of this soup as I type this and it is SO good. I may actually have a soup crush on this bowl of yummy goodness.

This little-ditty-of-a-recipe I found on simplebites.net, via pinterest…of course. I made some adaptions, most of which I've just adjusted in the recipe below, but one major one is this: I did not make scratch corn stock for this soup. I used store-bought, organic, vegetable stock. And it worked just fine (better than fine, actually). But if you'd like to make your own corn stock, you can visit simplebites.net for the recipe.

Now, on to another fabulous seasonal soup recipe...

photo from simple bites.net

Harvest Corn Chowder (adapted from simple bites.net )
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small sweet onion, chopped
2 small zucchini, chopped
1 small red pepper, chopped
3 fresh sprigs of thyme, leaves removed from stems (about a tbsp of fresh thyme leaves)
2 1/2 to 4 cups vegetable stock (I used 4 cups)
1 cup diced potatoes (or one medium potato, diced)
1 1/2 cups frozen sweet yellow corn, thawed (or fresh corn)
1/2 cup cream (I happened to have some heavy cream on hand, but you could use half-and-half if that's what you have)
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper

Peel and dice onion. In 6-8 qt pot, heat olive oil over medium heat and add onion. Cook for about 5 minutes, until transparent and fragrant and just beginning to brown. Meanwhile, slice zucchini into quarters lengthwise and chop. Half, seed and chop the red pepper. Add the zucchini, red pepper and fresh thyme to the onion. Cook for another five minutes or so. Add the vegetable stock and the diced potatoes (I just used a medium size baking potato, washed, skin on and diced…it was more than a cup). Make sure there is enough stock to cover the potatoes. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Add corn, cream, salt and pepper. Simmer for five more minutes.

At this point you may choose to serve it or to puree part of the soup before serving. You can use an immersion blender or ladle about a third of the soup into a blender, puree, then add back to your pot. Just be careful working with hot liquids in your blender. (I did puree about a third of the soup in my blender, but I think it'd be fine either way.) Serve warm with some crusty bread. Recipe serves 6. Leftovers are delicious.

There you have it: another scrumptious fall soup to add to your repertoire. Trust me, it's so good I'm just going to say this now…You're welcome. :-)

Until next time, happy cooking!

October 20, 2013

This Week in Food…Creamy Chicken and Rice Soup

It is the soup time of year, folks, and this creamy chicken and rice soup is a delicious crowd-pleaser. As the temps start to dip and the days get shorter I find myself drawn to soups and stews. This time of year I typically make homemade soup once a week. We get a delicious dinner one night and leftovers for lunches (dinners too, if my husband is traveling) throughout the week. And soup is one of my favorite dishes. Give me a loaf of crusty bread and a delicious soup and I'm in heaven.

I like a wide variety of soups, but it's nice to find one that pleases everybody. And I think this one did. I mean, who doesn't love chicken and rice soup? And this version is warm and hearty with just a hint of sweetness from the evaporated milk. And, depending on how thick you like your soup, you can easily make this a thick and creamy chowder consistency!

One thing you must know about me and soup-making though…

I tend to use "generous" measurements when cooking them. If a recipe calls for a 1/2 cup of rice (ahem, see below) I tend to think things like, "Boy, that doesn't seem like enough to make this hearty, maybe I should throw in an extra 1/4 cup…and then maybe another 1/4 cup." Who me? No, I didn't do that.

It would appear that I subscribe to the "if 2 is good, 3 must be better" philosophy of soup-making (and chocolate eating). The good news is: I'm not baking. So it really doesn't matter. The bad news is, you can't entirely trust my recipes. If it says use 2-3 carrots, you can bet I used 3 (big ones). If it calls for 1 cup of diced, cooked chicken…well, you can assume I used more than that! Let's just say this: The recipe for this soup called for 5 cups of chicken stock. I used 8 cups. And it was STILL crazy-thick. But it was oh-so-good.

And remember this when you're looking at a soup recipe: most ingredients are negotiable. If you want to use shredded rotisserie chicken instead of diced chicken, have at it. If you don't have frozen corn but you do have frozen peas, change it up. If you want to use brown rice instead of white, more power to you. If you believe broccoli was meant for this soup, by all means. Get creative and tailor the soup to your needs and tastes and what you have on hand. Just don't omit too many things that provide your flavor base, like the garlic, onions, bouillon, etc. or you could end up with a bland disappointment.

Now, on to the delicious, crowd-pleasing recipe...

photo from fortheloveofcooking.net

Creamy Chicken and Rice Soup (adapted from fortheloveofcooking.net)
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 sweet yellow onion, diced
2-3 carrots, diced
2-3 stalks of celery, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
5 cups chicken stock (I ended up using 8 cups so have more on hand to adjust consistency as you go)
1 tsp chicken bouillon (I think that's about 1/2 a cube, if you use the cubes)
1/2 tsp dried basil
salt and pepper to taste
1 bay leaf
1 cup cooked chicken breast, diced (While I started the soup, I cooked up two chicken breasts in a pan on the stove, seasoning them with salt, pepper and a poultry herb mix, then diced them. You could also use already cooked, diced chicken or shredded rotisserie chicken.)
1/2 cup long grain white rice
1/2 cup frozen, sweet yellow corn, thawed
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 12 oz. can evaporated milk (I used 2%)

Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots and celery. Cook until tender, stirring occasionally, about 5-8 mins. Add the minced garlic and stir about 1 min. Add the chicken stock, diced chicken, rice, bouillon, basil, bay leaf, salt and pepper. Cover and cook for 15-20 mins. If not boiling already, bring soup to a boil. Mix the corn starch and evaporated milk thoroughly in a bowl, then add the milk mixture to the boiling soup and stir. Lower the heat and add the corn. Mix thoroughly and simmer a few more minutes. The soup will thicken as it sits. Add more stock as needed to achieve desired consistency. Enjoy.

Seriously folks, I thought this was delicious. I served it with a loaf of bakery bread and that's it, and it filled up four adults and two small children with a little left over…so I'd say it serves six.

Until next time, happy cooking!

October 7, 2013

This Week in Food…Parmesan Ranch Pork Chops

Ah yes, another Pinterest-born recipe in my kitchen. So easy. So yummy. My husband commented repeatedly during dinner how much he liked these and requested they be added into the regular rotation. So I'd say they were pretty good. The ranch dressing keeps the pork chops tender and juicy. And it's a quick prep then stick 'em in the oven for half an hour-- wham, bam, thank you ma'am-- kinda recipe. I served them with a rice pilaf and steamed, buttered carrots because that's what I had on hand. But I think they'd be great paired with buttered egg noodles and any veggie you like. (Note: I must say, though, that they are only okay reheated, so I wouldn't plan to purposely cook extra for leftovers.)

So, here you go…

photo from crazyhorsesghost.hubpages.com

Parmesan Ranch Pork Chops (adapted from crazyhorsesghost.hubpages.com)
Ranch dressing (I used Bolthouse Farms Classic Ranch yogurt dressing)
1 1/2 c. Italian seasoned bread crumbs
1/2 pkg dry italian or dry ranch dressing mix (or your own herb mix)
2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
1/2 tbsp garlic powder
4-6 pork chops

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a pan with foil then place baking rack over pan and spray rack with Pam. Prep and ready your pork chops (take out of package, trim fat, etc.). Pour ranch dressing in shallow bowl or on plate. Mix bread crumbs with parmesan cheese, garlic powder and dry dressing mix (or herb mix) in a bowl. Then create your assembly line: pork chops-->ranch-->bread crumbs-->baking pan with rack. And go for it! Dip pork chops in ranch dressing, make sure they're coated on all sides but not dripping. Roll chops in bread crumb mixture, pressing crumbs to the chop to coat well. Then lay chops on the rack. Once all chops are breaded and on the rack, place pan in oven and bake for 30-40 mins. or until the internal temperature of the chops is between 140-160 degrees (depending on how you like your pork). Remove from oven, tent with foil to keep heat in, and let sit for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Note: Pork will continue to cook after you remove it from the oven, so I recommend taking it out when it's between 140-150 degrees. Also, it is important to let pork rest after cooking, before slicing and eating. Trust me, these two things make for much better pork.

A few other thoughts: The original recipe called for dry italian dressing mix. I didn't have any, but had a half packet of dry ranch dressing mix left over from another recipe, so I used that. And it was delicious. The dressing mix is really designed to add flavor to the breading, so if you don't have dry dressing mix, you can substitute an herb mix of your liking. Also, the original recipe called for double all the ingredients listed for the breading. I halved the recipe (as seen above) because it seemed excessive, and still had a lot left over (I made 4 pork chops). So experiment with quantities to see what works best for you. And when pouring your ranch dressing on the plate for coating, don't over do it and waste dressing…start with a relatively small amount--you can always add more!

And that's it.

Far easier than pie.

Until next time, happy cooking!