Sunday, April 27, 2014

Chicken Rice Soup

I sampled four canned chicken soups while too sick to cook, and I was not crazy about any of them. The healthiest (lower sodium) version tasted like not much, the next had a strong sodium aftertaste, one had too much celery- if you are on the BRAT diet, you don’t want any celery at all- and the other two were just blah. I did like the carrot rounds in one of them. I was surprised that the majority of contents was rice, with microscopic amounts of chicken.

Now that I’m feeling better, I decided to try and make a chicken rice soup to beat the canned versions. I found an interesting recipe but didn’t have all the ingredients on hand- now, there’s a shock! So I cobbled together my own version like this:

Sautee ½ an onion (chopped) in a tablespoon or two of olive oil for several minutes. Add 8-12 ounces of mushrooms and 2 cloves of garlic, minced. Stir every few minutes until onions reach your preferred done-ness. Add ½ teaspoon each of cumin and chili powder, 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, and 1 tablespoon of steak sauce. Mix, then add 4 cups of water and 2 vegetable or chicken bullion (if you don’t have bullion or prefer, use 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth). Add 12-16 ounces of chicken- I put it in raw and boiled the water until the chicken was done. I also added 10 ounces of spinach.
I had cooked rice separately the day before, and added it to the bowl of soup directly. Much tastier than the canned versions!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Lemony Cheesecake

I enjoyed the Lemony Snicket books, but they are not related in any  way other than the adjective for the food, and the author’s first name/nom de plume. I used to listed to books on tape/cd when I had a long commute, and found that these children’s books were perfectly entertaining during the car ride (advise against listening to romance books or murder mysteries with unpleasant blood spatters while facing road rage). How about an anti-road-rage spring-has-sprung photo?
At any rate, I’ve been baking cheesecakes for decades, but until now, have only shared this recipe for brownie crusted muffin sized ones. I can’t believe that I had never prepared a lovely lemony recipe in my favorite cheesecake cookbook from Philadelphia Cream Cheese. It had previously seemed unduly complicated with lemon peel and juice, but that’s what we’re all about right now.
Here is my modification of the recipe: cut parchment paper to fit the bottom of a 9” springform pan (you can see from the photo that I didn’t do this, but wish I had).

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Combine 1 cup graham cracker crumbs, 3 tablespoons sugar, and 3 tablespoons melted butter. Press into pan and bake for 10 minutes. While the crust is baking, combine 3 packages  reduced fat cream cheese (8 ounces each, softened) with ¾ cup sugar, 3 tablespoons whole wheat flour, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 1 tablespoon grated lemon peel, and ½ teaspoon vanilla. Add 3 eggs, one at a time, blending well. Separate one more egg, and add only the white to the mixture. When you remove the crust from the oven, increase the temperature to 450 degrees. Pour the filling into the pan, and bake at 450 for 10 minutes. Then lower the oven temperature to 250 degrees, and set the timer for 30 minutes. Check for done-ness after 30 minutes- mine seemed a bit soft and I wish I’d left it in for another 5 minutes. When you remove the cheesecake from the oven, run a knife around the edge of the pan, but let the cheesecake cool before you un-spring the springform. While the cheesecake is cooling, heat 2/3 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons of cornstarch, ¼ cup lemon juice and ½ cup cold water in a small pot. Beat the leftover egg yolk in a bowl, and add a small amount of the hot sugar mixture to it, stirring gently. Add the yolk to the pot with the sugar, stir well. Cool slightly, then pour over the cheesecake. Alternately, you could reserve the topping and pour a few spoonfuls over each slice once it’s on a plate.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Lemon Chicken

It’s day 3 of the lemon challenge, and I’m just about tired of lemons. Since the last post, I’ve made lemon bars, lemon cheesecake, lemon granita and lemon chicken. You would be bored by all the photos of lemons I didn’t take, so I’ll include only one of the lemon recipe, along with unrelated "spring has sprung" photos.
Pioneer Woman’s lemon granita was the only recipe I followed to a t, because there were only 3 ingredients to not mess with! Yummy! Will save in freezer for warmer weather.
I’d never made lemon chicken before; barefoot contessa gave a great outline for the boneless, skinless chicken breasts I had in the freezer. Here’s my adaptation:
Pour 2 tablespoons olive oil into baking dish. Mince 4 cloves garlic and place into dish. Add lemon zest and juice from one lemon. Add 1 and ½ teaspoons oregano and 1 teaspoon thyme, and stir it all to combine. Place two chicken breasts into the mixture, then turn them over to coat evenly with oil and spices. Grind salt and pepper over them. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.
I don’t cook chicken very often and this was delicious. It was a bit too lemony for me, so next time I will either use less lemon juice or not place cut up lemon pieces in the baking dish, as instructed in the original recipe.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Lemons, lemons, everywhere!

Last night, Mr. Spice came home from an event with a bag of (drumroll, please)…lemons! Not two days after I’d –unusually- bought three lemons at the store to make lemon poppy seed bread, pictured below, for a church bake sale. Overnight, my imagination turned the 4 lb. bag of lemons into a Santa Clause sized sack, and I woke up reciting like Forrest Gump: lemon meringue pie, lemon chicken, lemonade, lemon soufflĂ©, lemon sorbet, lemon soup?, lemon cookies, lemon mousse?, etc.
I imagined myself to be on an episode of Chopped, receiving a basket filled with lemons, destined to create an appetizer, entrĂ©e, and dessert using them. Thank goodness no time limit for me- whew! 
I adapted a recipe for Lemon Blueberry Muffins from kitchen-concoctions, and brought some to my book group at Simmons Club of Boston. Here’s my version:
Combine  1 cup whole wheat flour, 1 cup white flour, ½ cup sugar, 3 teaspoons baking powder, ½ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon cinnamon in a bowl. Zest and juice one lemon.
Beat ½ cup butter (1 stick, at room temperature) for 1-2 minutes, add 1 egg and 1 teaspoon vanilla, mixing well. Add 1 cup plus 1 teaspoon skim milk. Gradually blend in the flour mixture, adding lemon juice and zest. Stir in 1 and ½ cups frozen blueberries (not pictured).
The good thing about running out of regular muffin tin liners in the middle of baking, is that you can use the many mini muffin liners on hand to make 24 cuties and four regular muffins and one mini loaf (for your own sanity, you can stick to just one size item!).
Bake the mini muffins at 375 degrees for 16-20 minutes (I forgot to time how much longer the regular sized muffins needed). Melt ¼ cup butter, stir in 1 tablespoon lemon juice. I used a bbq brush to apply the butter/lemon mixture to the tops of the muffins, and sprinkled them with sugar. If I hadn’t greased the muffin liners with spray oil, I could have dipped the muffins into the butter and sugar, but they were falling out of the liners, so the bbq brush worked fine. Next time I will use more sugar than the recipe called for, so beware that this version tastes fresh and fruity, not like typical bakery muffins (sweet).  

Stay tuned for lemon chicken, lemon cheesecake, lemon bars, etc. etc. etc.! Will this be the year of the lemon?