Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Chicken Tortilla Soup

“No soup for you!”  Do you remember that classic Seinfeld episode?  There really was a Soup Kitchen in NYC and it happened to be a few blocks from where I worked.  We were crazy enough to stand outside in the cold and risk the abuse to purchase a bowl of the soup.  Now, The Original SoupMan has stores nationwide and cartons in the grocery aisle. 

I love soup season (even if it’s shorter in Texas)!  There are as many variations of tortilla soup as there are flavors of enchiladas.  The base of this recipe came from The Junior League of El Paso cookbook, Seasoned with Sun, and was a gift from David’s mom.  I have added chicken and avocado to make this recipe more hearty.  If temps are warm where you are, crank down the AC and let this soup warm you up! 

Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad!
Chicken Tortilla Soup
1.      1 small onion, chopped
2.      1 – 4 oz. can chopped green chiles, drained
3.      2 cloves garlic, crushed
4.      2 T vegetable oil
5.      1 c peeled and chopped tomatoes (@ 2-3 tomatoes which I didn’t peel)
6.      10 ½ oz. beef stock
7.      10 ½ oz. chicken broth
8.      1 ½ c water
9.      1 ½ c tomato juice
10.  1 t ground cumin
11.  1 t chile powder
12.  1 t salt
13.  1/8 t pepper
14.  2 t Worcestershire sauce
15.  1 T bottled steak sauce (like A1)
16.  3 corn tortillas, cut in ½ inch strips
17.  ¼ c shredded cheddar cheese
18.  Cooked chicken, cut into bite size pieces, optional
19.  Avocado, cut into chunks, optional

Sauté onion, chiles and garlic in oil until soft.  Add ingredients #5-15.  Bring soup to a boil; lower heat and simmer covered for 1 hour.  Add tortillas and chicken and simmer 10 minutes longer.  Spoon into a bowl and top with cheese and avocado. 

Delicious soup for you and 5 others!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Pumpkin Bread

It may not feel like the holidays at 75 degrees today but our house smells like the holidays after baking this pumpkin bread and oh, can it put you in a festive mood!  We enjoyed this beautiful day with a picnic at Klyde Warren park.  What a new treasure in Dallas!  It was packed with people and things to do: a kids’ playground, fields for throwing the football or Frisbee or kicking the soccer ball, tables and chairs for eating, food trucks, a dog park, a reading and game room, a putting green, foosball, and ping pong tables…

Our picnic ended on a high note with slices of this pumpkin bread.  A few hesitant taste testers quickly turned into big fans.  This recipe is courtesy of Julie L. and is one of her family’s favorites (soon to be one of ours too - the kids are asking for it in their lunchbox and for breakfast and as dessert after dinner...)!  It is super moist and makes multiple loafs which is perfect for sharing.  Isn’t that what the holidays are about – baking, eating and sharing?  Ho ho ho!

Pumpkin Bread
1.      1 cup margarine or butter, softened
2.      3 cups sugar
3.      3 eggs
4.      1 tsp. vanilla
5.      3 cups sifted flour
6.      1 1/2 tsp salt
7.      1 tsp baking soda
8.      1 tsp baking powder
9.      1 tsp cinnamon
10.  1/2 tsp nutmeg
11.  1 tsp clove powder
12.  1 tsp allspice
13.  1 – 1 lb. can of pumpkin (look for “pumpkin”, not “pumpkin pie filling”)

Cream margarine or butter together with the sugar.  Gradually beat in eggs and vanilla. 

Sift all dried ingredients (#5-12) together.  Add the dry ingredients to the mixture by gradually alternating each addition with the pumpkin.

Transfer mixture to 3 greased 8 x 5 pans (I had 9x5 loaf pans so used 2 of those plus 2 mini-loafs).  For the larger loafs, bake in an oven at 350 degrees for 40-50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  For the mini-loafs, bake at 325 for 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Candied Sweet Potatoes

Certainly I am not the only defender of Thanksgiving.  I am not trying to be a Scrooge because I like the holidays as much as the next guy, but there is a time and place for when the holiday festivities should begin.  If we continue at this rate, then holiday lights will start being lit and 103.7 will change their programming to 100% Christmas carols on July 5th. 

Be a puritan - leave Thanksgiving alone!  It is the only holiday which does not involve gifts, it is a time to spend with family and friends, eat good food, relax and reflect on what we are thankful for. 

If you want to get edgy and untraditional, try this variation on sweet potatoes.  There are no marshmallows involved so no chance to burn them under the broiler (said from experience – my sister-in-law, Jen, and I became too engrossed in our conversation one year.  It's a good thing that you can scrape off burnt marshmallows and try again.  It's the burnt smell and smoke that gives your secret away).

Our Thanksgiving menu is complete.  No matter what you cook, have a restful and grateful Thanksgiving!  Each of us is uniquely blessed.

  • Turkey Breast
  • Caroline's Cornbread Dressing
  • Candied Sweet Potatoes
  • Roasted Vegetables with Balsamic Glaze
  • Baby Spinach Salad with Pomegranate and Oranges
  • Sour Cream Biscuits
  • Chocolate Pecan Pie

  • Ingredients:
    Candied Sweet Potatoes
    1.      3 lbs. large sweet potatoes, peeled and quartered lengthwise
    2.      1 cup packed light brown sugar
    3.      ½ stick unsalted butter
    4.      ¼ cup water
    5.      ¼ teaspoon salt
    6.      ¼ to 1/3 cup bourbon (or substitute an equal amount of water to thin the syrup)

    Preheat oven to 375 F.

    Steam peeled and cut potatoes on a steamer rack set over boiling water, covered, until just tender, 10 to 15 minutes, then cool, uncovered.  Transfer to a buttered 3-quart shallow baking dish.

    Simmer brown sugar, butter, water, and salt, stirring occasionally, until sugar is dissolved and syrup is thickened, about 5 minutes.  Stir in bourbon to taste. Drizzle syrup over potatoes and bake in middle of over, basting occasionally, until syrup is thickened, about 1 ¼ hours.

    Note: Sweet potatoes may be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered.  Reheat before serving.

    Sunday, November 18, 2012

    Caroline's Cornbread Dressing

    One of the many reasons why we love having my sister-in-law, Jen, as part of our family is the addition of her mom’s cornbread dressing to our Thanksgiving meal.  Caroline, Jen’s mom, has been serving this dish for 40 years and now you can try it too even without an invitation to her or our house.  The original recipe came from the Southern Living Party Cookbook (1972) as part of a Traditional Thanksgiving Dinner serving twelve.  Caroline has learned to double the recipe for her hungry family because they all want leftovers too.

    Our menu is shaping up nicely:

  • Turkey Breast 
  • Caroline's Cornbread Dressing
  • Candied Sweet Potatoes
  • Roasted Vegetables with Balsamic Glaze
  • Baby Spinach Salad with Pomegranate and Oranges
  • Sour Cream Biscuits
  • Chocolate Pecan Pie

  • Ingredients:
    Caroline's Cornbread Dressing
    1.      4 cups breadcrumbs (Caroline notes that she never uses loaf bread.  She prefers making breadcrumbs from tiny biscuits from either Central Market or Kroger which you can bake and leave them out overnight to dry out. Another good alternative is Bisquick drop biscuits: 2 ¼ c of Bisquick + 2/3 cup milk. These can also be made the night before. They do not have to be left out, but can if you want.)
    2.      4 cups egg cornbread (Caroline likes white (vs yellow) corn meal and not the boxed cornbread mixes.  Follow the directions on the cornmeal bag but change the sugar in the recipe to 1/4 cup.  Caroline likes to cook it in a cast iron skillet in which you have fried up a couple of pieces of bacon and then poured the cornmeal batter into the hot skillet and then into the hot oven. You could also use a glass baking dish and grease it per the directions on the corn meal bag.)
    3.      1/2 cup chopped onion (Caroline cooks the onion and celery in the skillet before cooking the bacon until they are just soft/brown; she says it adds flavor.  You could also sauté in some butter to soften.)
    4.      1 cup chopped celery
    5.      Salt and pepper to taste
    6.      1 teaspoon sage (optional)
    7.      3 cups chicken or turkey broth
    8.      1/3 cup butter
    9.      1 cup milk

    Make the biscuits and cornbread according to the directions on the box.  Once both are cooled, crumble the biscuits into a large bowl.  Slice the cornbread into bite size chunks and add to the bowl of biscuit crumbs.  Then add the onion, celery, and seasonings (ingredients #3-6).  Add hot chicken or turkey broth to make a soft mixture.  Mix well.  Add butter and milk.  Mixture should be very soft to allow for loss of moisture during baking.  Add more broth if necessary.  Pour into greased pan and bake at 350 degrees for about 1 hour, until well browned.

    Monday, November 12, 2012

    Chocolate Pecan Pie

    Don’t look now but Thanksgiving is around the corner.  It is hard to imagine since it was 80 degrees in Dallas on Saturday.  This Thanksgiving brings some new traditions with the Texas Longhorns playing the TCU Horned Frogs on Thanksgiving Day.  I know that as a Fort Worth girl, I should have some affinity for TCU, but I don’t.  I was pretty much brainwashed from a young age to not like any school in the Southwest Conference, except for Rice because really smart people go there.

    If you are being non-traditionalist and looking for a variation or two for your Thanksgiving meal, the next few posts are dedicated to Thanksgiving and might offer some new ideas.  Some of the items on the menu have been posted previously so simply click on the link to view.
    Chocolate Pecan Pie
    Because life is short and the best part of any meal is dessert, the first post will be about dessert.  This chocolate pecan pie recipe is from the Joy of Cooking.  It combines traditional pecan pie with deep, rich chocolate.

    More Chocolate Pecan Pie
    1.      Pie crust (I used store bought: Pillsbury pie crust in the refrigerated section)
    2.      2 cups pecans, coarsely chopped
    3.      3 eggs
    4.      1 cup sugar
    5.      ½ c light corn syrup
    6.      1 T unsalted butter, melted
    7.      1 t vanilla
    8.      ½ t salt
    9.      6 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate (I used semisweet)

    Bake the pie crust following the directions on the package. For the Pillsbury pie crust, it was 10-12 minutes in a 450 degree oven.

    Change the oven temperature to 375. 

    Spread the pecans on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 6-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden and fragrant. 

    Whisk until blended ingredients #3-8.  Chop the chocolate and melt in the top of a double broiler or in a microwave on medium (50% power) for 1 ½ to 2 minutes.  Whisk one quarter of the filling into the melted chocolate, then blend the result into the remaining filling.  Stir in the toasted nuts.

    Pour the filling into the crust.  I covered the edges of the pie crust with aluminum foil to prevent burning.  Bake until the edges of the pie are slightly puffed and the center seems set but still soft, 25-30 minutes (I baked it for 35-40 minutes following the basic pecan pie recipe of "center seems set but quivery, like gelatin" - reminds me of my center).  Let cool on a rack for at least 1 ½ hours.  Serve warm or at room temperature. 
    The pie can be made up to 2 days ahead.  Store in the refrigerator, but let warm to room temperature or warm in an oven at 275 for 15 minutes.