Monday, March 2, 2015

(SRC) Chicken Parm Soup


Chicken Parmesan has always been one of my favorites.  I have ordered it many a time as an entree and even as a sandwich. I have also made it quite frequently for my family and friends using this recipe. Up until yesterday I had never made it as a soup.  And since yesterday,  Chicken Parm Soup is ALL I have eaten.  I ate it for dinner, brunch the next day, lunch and yes, now as I type I have a lovely bowl next to me as a snack. It is beyond delicious.  Would you like a taste? How about the recipe?  Well, not to worry as I will share it with you just like the lovely Elizabeth from Food Ramblings shared it with me. 


I recently met Elizabeth through my March assignment for the Secret Recipe Club.  As soon as I clicked onto Food Ramblings I knew I was going to love every minute of my assignment.  Elizabeth has created a beautiful blog that is delicious, welcoming and absolutely appealing to the eye.  She has a fantastic assortment of recipes - all of which are organized with care.  I began my search for a recipe to make this month by clicking on her "DESSERTS" (no surprise there!).  I drooled over her Peanut Butter Whoppie Pies along with her Cookie Butter Banana Bread but then decided it best that I make something with chicken as I had quite a bit of it in the freezer that needed to be used.  With chicken in mind I browsed through Elizabeth's "Chicken" recipes and discovered Chicken Parm Soup. Delighted that I had everything on hand to make this soup, including a slow cooker, I measured, chopped, sprinkled and poured all the ingredients into my crock pot, pushed the necessary buttons and walked away.  4 hours later my house smelled delicious! The soup was ready and so were the tummies of my family.  Dinner was served with happiness! 



In the above three pictures you may have noticed the bread on the side of the plate.  Because I couldn't get the idea of making banana bread with Cookie Butter (from Trader Joe's) I also baked up a couple loaves of Cookie Butter Banana Bread.  If you would like to do the same you can find the 
recipe here.



In the meantime the recipe for Chicken Parm Soup can be found right here....


Chicken Parm Soup
(recipe from Food Ramblings)

Ingredients:
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 large can crushed tomatoes
2-3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, raw and defrosted
1 onion, chopped
3 cups chicken broth
2 tsp oregano
1 Tbsp chopped basil + more for garnish
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese + more for garnish 
4 oz. pasta or rice of your choice (I used orzo) 
salt and pepper to taste  

Directions:
Place all of the ingredients into a slow cooker except for the pasta.  Cook on high for 3.5 hrs or low for 6 hours. Shred the cooked chicken breasts and put back into soup along with dried pasta or rice.  Cook for another 1/2 hour or until pasta is cooked fully.  Serve garnished with Parmesan cheese and chopped basil if you wish. Enjoy!! 



Happy Chicken Parm Soup Making!


Friday, February 27, 2015

(EASY) Hearty Split Pea and Ham Soup


  Winter is really giving us something to talk about this year here in lovely New Hampshire.  It is COLD outside. There is a @#%^ ton of SNOW every where you look. And there is even icicles hanging from any possible place they can hang from. It is just hard core Winter time.  That is that.  All we can do it complain, pretend to like it, bundle up, lather on lots of lotion to remedy our dry skin, crank up the humidifiers and eat LOTS of soup.  We have to survive it some how! 


 Split Pea and Ham Soup has always been a favorite of mine.  It is delicious, filling and plain old comforting. Believe it or not this was the first time I ever made it.  I have made many a soup in my adventures in the kitchen but not a split pea soup.  I was delighted with this recipe as it is super simple,  foul proof (especially if you follow the directions) and can easily be adjusted to your liking.  If you don't like carrots go ahead an omit them - just add in more of another veggie.  If you wish to keep the soup vegetarian no worries - use vegetable bouillon instead of chicken and replace the ham meat with more vegetables.   I chose to make my broth with a nice big meaty ham bone.  I placed the ham bone in a large pot and covered it with good water (such as filtered or spring water).  I then brought the water to a nice gentle boil and then simmered it for about an hour to get all the flavor possible out of the bone.  Bones truly do give off the best flavor for a broth in my opinion. If you would like to keep things super simple for this soup go ahead and skip the ham bone and toss in some nice bouillon cubes of your choice into good water. 

So please,  join me in warming your bones and embracing the rest of this looooong WINTER to the fullest and make a pot of this soup.  Your bones will be happy as will your tummy.

Hearty Split Pea and Ham Soup
(recipe slightly adapted from Taste of Home)

Ingredients:
*1 large meaty ham bone
good water (spring or filtered) - enough to cover bone completely plus more to make 8 full cups
1 16oz. bag or 2 cups dried split peas
2 medium onions - chopped
2-3 carrots, chopped
2 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
1/2 cup sliced celery
2 cups chopped ham
1 tsp poultry seasoning
1 tsp dried marjoram
3 chicken bouillon cubes (6 cubes if you don't use a ham bone to make the broth)
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1/2 tsp salt 
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese for garnish/topping

Directions:

*If want to make your broth with the ham bone* - place ham bone in a large pot and cover with good water. Bring to a gentle boil and then lower heat to simmer for another 30-60 minutes.  Remove bone from water and set aside to cool. Once bone is cool enough to handle cut off any meat that is not too fatty and add to soup.  Measure broth and then add in additional water to make 8 cups of liquid. ~ If you chose not to make your broth with a bone just add in 8 cups of water and 6 bouillon cubes along with the rest of the ingredients of the soup ~

Pour the 8 cups of liquid back into your large pot along with all the remaining ingredients.  Stir well and bring to boil.  Lower heat to a simmer and cook soup for at least 1 hour or until all veggies are tender and soup is thick. Adjust seasoning if you wish and serve with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and a piece of yummy bread on the side.  Enjoy! 


 Happy Hearty Split Pea and Ham Soup Making!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Italian Orange Almond Cake


To me, there is no better feeling than happiness.  Happiness makes my skin tingle, my smile grow so big it makes my cheeks hurt and my eyes to tear in elation.  Happiness is such a wonderful emotion.  And it's the simple things in life that brings me to happiness; the laughter of my girls, biting into a fresh sweet peach, walking along the beach and having the feeling of the warm grainy sand on my feet or curling up into the sun for an afternoon nap.  simple yet meaningful experiences in life bring me happiness.  


Baking also makes me happy (no surprise there!). One of the biggest reasons baking makes me happy is that I can take a handful of the simplest ingredients and create the most delicious, melt-in-your-mouth sweet. This Italian Orange Almond Cake is the perfect example of such a creation.  Simple, simple ingredients formed into a deliciously amazing cake.  If possible I would've burst with happiness as I made this cake.  I blame the beautiful, Francesca for my immense happiness as this recipe came from her blog, Della Cucina Povera.  I was assigned to Della Cucina Povera via the Secret Recipe Club this month. I loved and treasured every moment of this assignment. Francesca has a collection of recipes that are deliciously beautiful.  She has a true talent in the kitchen with all the food she puts on her table.  I plan on making the Greek Stuffed Tomatoes along with Creamy Broccoli and Cannellini Soup
that have both caught my eye.


I chose to bake Francesca's recipe for Italian Orange Almond Cake not only because it featured simple ingredients that I had on hand but also because the technique to make it fascinated me. The whole batter is made in a food processor (LOVE it!) which is perfect as 2 whole oranges that have been cooked and cut up into chunks are added into the batter.  Mixing the batter in the food processor allows for everything to come together smoothly.   Almond meal and eggs will hold everything together giving the final outcome a dense texture that is deliciously exotic.   It's truly a very special cake. 







Italian Orange Almond Cake 
            (recipe from Della Cucina Provera)

Ingredients:

2 whole oranges
1 cup brown sugar
2 cups granulated sugar
6 eggs
1 1/4 cup almond flour/meal
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
powdered sugar and grated orange rind  for garnish

Directions:

1. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a gentle boil.  Add in the whole oranges and cook at a gentle boil for 1 hour - add in more water if needed as the water will evaporate as it the oranges cook.  After an hour remove the oranges from the water and cool completely.

2. In a food processor pulse together the sugars. Add in the eggs. Mix well all together until light and fluffy.  Add in almond flour/meal and baking powder. Again mixing well all together.

3. Cut up the cooked oranges into chunks.  Remove seeds if you find any. Place orange chunks into batter and process for a good 1-2 minutes or until batter is smooth with no large chunks remain.  Pour batter into a well greased 9 " round cake pan that is lined with parchment paper on the bottom.

4. Bake in a 350 degrees F. oven for 50-60 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool for at least 30 minutes before inverting cake onto serving plate. Serve and enjoy! 
                                  




Happy Italian Orange Almond Cake Baking!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Decadent SKINNY Chocolate Cake


In my world opposites quit frequently attract.  Loud noises make me crave quietness.  Dark rooms usually suggest providing some light into the room. Cold floors make me want to have warm socks on my feet. And wanting to loose weight usually makes me search out chocolate night and day.  Yup, opposites do attract for me.  As we come out of the holidays into the NEW year I feel a strong tug towards shedding those extra "Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's pounds" yet all I can do keep myself from eating chocolate is maddening.  Chocolate is mouthwatering.  It's comfort food to me.  It just tastes so good! Yet my clothes feel a bit tighter than they did back in the beginning of November before all the holidays kicked into full swing deliciousness.  Thus my ambition to make better food choices at meal and snack times has been a constant priority.  And well, chocolate at every meal and snack really should just NOT happen.  It won't help my pants from feeling snug.  My brain knows this but does my taste buds and will power know this too? Goodness it better, real fast.  And SOON!!



Recently my world of opposites came to a happy, happy place.  Through my January assignment on the Secret Recipe Club I discovered a fantastic recipe for chocolaty chocolate, decadently decadent CHOCOLATE cake on the blog, Burnt Apple. Oh yes, a cake full of sinful chocolate yet NOT full of fat.  My pants still fit nicely even after eating a piece of this cake! And my need for chocolate was completely satisfied too! The best. 

Burnt Apple is a treasure of a blog as it is packed with many, many recipes that are delicious in taste yet conscious and brilliantly altered to have a healthy make-over.  The ingredients used in the recipes are budget friendly for families of all sizes too.  I have my eyes on a couple more recipes from Burnt Apple such as the Whole Grain "Sour Cream" Coffee Cake Bread and the Pear Walnut Waffles.



For this cake,  plain Greek yogurt and unsweetened apple sauce help reduce the usual amount of fat found in a good chocolate cake.  The addition of hot coffee helps enhance all of the chocolate flavor in the unsweetened powdered cocoa and mini chocolate chips.  As suggested in the original recipe I chose to finish off my cake with a lovely chocolate ganache poured on top of it.  This cake is truly a decadent treat even if the fat and calories are less than in a normal chocolate cake.  I will definitely make this cake again when my chocolate cravings take over my will power of super powers.  

Skinny Chocolate Cake 
         (Recipe from Burnt Apple)

Ingredients:

For the cake - 
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup sugar (the original recipe calls for 1 3/4 cup sugar)
1 tsp vanilla extract 
3 eggs
1 1/4 cup non-fat plain Greek yogurt
1 cup unsweetened apple sauce  
1 1/4 cups HOT coffee (milk or hot water can be substituted in place of coffee if you wish) 
1/2 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips 

For the chocolate ganache:
1 cup chocolate chips - dark, milk or semi-sweet is great
1/2 cup heavy cream - 1/4 cup of milk can be used (I used 1/2 cup of half and half with success) 


Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease and flour a 10-12 cup bundt pan.

In a large bowl whisk together the unsweetened cocoa powder, flour, baking soda, salt and sugar making sure all are incorporated well.

Mix eggs, yogurt, applesauce in a medium bowl and then pour into dry mixture.  Stir to incorporate and then add in hot coffee.  Stir well all together.  Add in mini chocolate chips.

Pour batter into prepared bundt pan.  Bake for 45-50 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean.  Cool cake and then invert onto a serving platter.  

While cake cools make chocolate ganache. Pour chocolate chips into a medium size bowl.   In a small sauce pan heat cream (or milk) to a gentle simmer.  Pour hot cream over chocolate chips and then stir together carefully with a rubber spatula.  Mixture will thicken as the chocolate melts into the cream.  It's really magic in a bowl.  Pour ganache over cake.  Sprinkle with mini chocolate chips if you wish.  Serve and enjoy to the fullest.





Happy Skinny Chocolate Cake Baking!



Saturday, January 24, 2015

EASY Sesame Chicken


I cook a lot of chicken for my family.  That's no lie.  Everyone in my house likes chicken and well yes, it's good for you.   I will often buy at least 4 lbs of boneless skinless chicken breasts at a time and divide and freeze it up.   I can then just grab a bag of frozen chicken in the morning out of the freezer to defrost in the sink during the day and when it is time for dinner prep the breasts are ready to go. 



Of course the hard part comes when I have to figure out HOW to cook or bake the chicken.  Do I make a simple stir fry (for the 3rd time this month) or cube into pieces for breaded chicken nuggets or do I bake it in the oven, seasoned well along with a dash of prayer for it to remain moist?  So yes, I do often lack in creativity with all my stock in chicken breasts.  I find myself radiating often to the "chicken boards" on Pinterest in desperation for a new, fantastically DELICIOUS and SIMPLE recipe that will make my kiddos and my darling Jeff swoon with happiness over their dinner plates.


Believe it or not "swooning" did happen just the other night when I made this very dish that you see above.  Yes, purely simple and lovely, lovely praise over the delicious taste of Sesame Chicken that I, myself made with my own two hands came from the mouths of my family.  Honestly, I couldn't blame them!  This recipe for Sesame Chicken is perfection!  It tastes just like the Sesame Chicken we order from Lee Mt. Fuji (our favorite Chinese restaurant). All the flavors of tangy sweetness along with the hint of salt surrounding the tender chicken tenders is there.  And the best part is that YOU can make this very dish yourself and have the pleasure of having all your dinner companions "swoon" with happiness and admiration for YOU over the dinner you just prepared.  Just follow the recipe below.   


EASY Sesame Chicken
(recipe slightly adapted from Cinnamon Spice and Everything Nice)

Ingredients :
3-4 chicken breasts - boneless and skinless, cut into 2" cubes
salt and pepper to taste
2 whole eggs or 3 egg whites 
1/3 cup cornstarch
4 tablespoons olive oil or canola oil
2-3 green onions - sliced thin
 

Sauce Ingredients:
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup honey
2 garlic cloves, minced
fresh ginger - 1/2" grated or minced 
3 tablespoons sesame seeds

Directions:

In a large bowl whisk together eggs and cornstarch until they are well incorporated.  Toss in chicken cubes to coat.  

Heat a large frying pan with oil.  Once oil is hot add in egg coated chicken.  Cook chicken until golden brown on all sides and fully cooked - about 5-7 minutes. 

While chicken is cooking make sauce - whisk all together in a medium size bowl soy sauce, honey, minced garlic, freshly grated ginger and sesame seeds.

When chicken in fully cooked add in prepared sauce. Toss chicken with sauce to fully coat.   Sauce will thicken as it simmers with the chicken.  Take pan off of heat and serve chicken over rice along with steamed broccoli.  Sprinkle sliced greens onions over chicken to garnish if desired.  ENJOY!


Happy Sesame Chicken Cooking!


Sunday, January 11, 2015

(EASY) Rustic Homemade Bread

2015 has officially arrived.  With this arrival I feel that it is important to enter into the NEW year with a really good recipe for homemade, made from scratch, delicious bread.  Who can't use such a thing? I guess those that are living a gluten free life-style might fall into such a category - but for those bakers and gluten eating people out there, this recipe that I share with you today will be greatly and fully appreciated.  


It is a super simple recipe.  It makes TWO large loaves and uses only 4 ingredients (yeast, flour, salt and water).  And the best part is that it is mixed, risen, shaped, risen again, baked and placed into your mouth all within a 3-4 hour period of time. You really can't go wrong by making this recipe.  It is completely the best thing since sliced bread in my opinion.  And yes, it does even slice well.


My family enjoyed it first straight out of the oven with a little smattering of salted butter along side a hot cup of tea.  We then moved onto lightly toasting the bread and layering on butter and jam.  Goodness was that just divine!


We also made big fat tuna melts on it and then delicious french toast.  The french toast was my favorite if you were wondering.  Although I do have to say that when I had the bread toasted and buttered it and then laid on some Bonne Maman mixed berry jam my heart did do a little pitter patter of happiness.  It was just SO good. 

So join me in my happiness over this Rrrrrustic Homemade Bread recipe and grab your yeast, flour, salt and water to mix up a beautiful dough.  You can thank me later.


Rustic Homemade Bread 
(recipe discovered on Somewhat Simple)  
makes 2 large loaves 
 
Ingredients:
3 cups warm water (not too hot as you don't want to kill the yeast)
1 1/2 tablespoon yeast - I used fast-acting but regular is fine too
6 1/2 cups flour 
1 tablespoon salt  

Directions:

1. In a large bowl sprinkle yeast over warm water and gently stir.  Let sit for 10 minutes so the yeast can really come alive and grow.

2.  Add in flour and then salt to the yeast and water mixture.  Stir all together until no remaining dry spots .  Cover bowl with a clean dish towel and then place bowl in a draft-free location.  All dough to rise for about 1-2 hours - it will double in size.  My dough only took 1 hour to full rise - it all depends on how warm your home is.  

3. Once dough has doubled in size divide in half and place each half on a piece of lightly floured parchment paper.  Gently form into a nice rounded bread shape.  Flouring your hands will help for this step.  Cover your breads and allow to rise again - about 30-45 minutes. With a serrated knife cut three slits across each bread.....



4. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.  Place parchment paper and bread dough onto an upside down cookie sheet or pizza stone and then pop into the oven.  On the rack below the bread place a large roasting pan and fill with water about 1" high.  The steam from this water will give your bread a lovely crusty crust.  Yum! I baked the loaves of bread one at a time.

5. Bake bread for 24-28 minutes - until loaf of bread is a beautiful golden brown.  Cool, slice and enjoy! 


Happy Rustic Homemade Bread Baking!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Chocolate Dipped Macaroons



Do you know that today I found an almost empty quart of milk and a plate of half eaten cookies in the fort my kiddos built?  Yes, that's right my girls do not fool around when it's play time to play "house" or hide and seek.  Cookies and milk are invited into their precious little world of make believe.  Fortunately for them my little kitchen has been buzzing with all kinds of baked sweets and treats for this season of holiday festivities.  As a baker and lover of all things holiday my kitchen workshop has been laden with all things chocolate, parchment paper and vanilla extract as I try to keep up with the sweet needs of my girls and wanting to fill tins and baggies up with treats for others.


Today I was able to try my hand at making macaroons for the very first time.  Chocolate Dipped Macaroons at that! Simple, delicious and beautiful macaroon cookies. I have Melissa of Fried Rice and Donut Holes to thank for the recipe. I was honored to have her blog assigned to me as part of the Cookie Carnival 2014 event via the Secret Recipe Club.  This month the Secret Recipe Club is show casing COOKIES because let's face it, December should really be called Cookieber instead as in many, many parts of the world this month is all about cookies along with all things holiday and magical. 





Melissa of Fried Rice and Donut Holes has a wonderful collection of cookie recipes.  I was very tempted to make her Eggnog Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies but then decided to take the road leading to coconut happiness topped off with milk chocolate and decided to make these cookies instead.  Can you blame me!? I didn't think so.  I loved this recipe! All you need is a  short list of simple ingredients along with NO fancy moves to make these cookies.  Just a large bowl, a good mixing hand and a nice hot oven.

Chocolate Dipped Macaroons
(recipe from Fried Rice and Donut Holes)

Ingredients:
14 oz. of sweetened coconut
4 egg whites
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup chocolate morsels (I used milk chocolate but semi-sweet or dark is fine too

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.
2. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well all together.
3. Using 2 spoons or a cookie scoop, drop cookie mixture onto prepared sheets.  Leave about 1" in between each cookie. Bake for 25-28 minutes or until cookies are lightly browned.  Cool cookies on wire racks while you melt your chocolate in a double boiler.
4. Once cookies have cooled completely dip into melted chocolate.  Lay cookies upside down to allow chocolate to cool and harden before placing on platter or into treat baggies to give away. 

  Happy Chocolate Dipped Macaroons Baking! 


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