Wednesday, March 31, 2010

White Turkey Chili

I've raved about the glories of chili before, both white and red.  It's easy to make, it's delicious, and it has endless possibilities.  Here is a particularly healthy version that is packed with creamy cannellini beans and chewy hominy, as well as a nice kick of spice. 

This version of chili is a little bit different and fun, featuring new flavors that I haven't worked with before.  It's great for a cool evening, and you can round it out with some warm corn tortillas for dunking. 

I garnished mine with avocado because I just can't resist any excuse to use avocado.  Use whatever garnishes you like.

White Turkey Chili
adapted from Ellie Krieger's So Easy
serves 4-6


1 tablespoon canola oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 pasilla pepper, seeded, ribs removed, finely diced
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 pound ground white-meat turkey
2 15.5-ounce cans white beans, drained and rinsed
3 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 15.5-ounce can hominy, drained and rinsed
1 teaspoon salt (more or less to taste)
cilantro and lime juice for serving


1.  Heat oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add onion, celery, and pasilla pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the veggies are softened, about 8 minutes.  Add garlic, cumin, coriander, and cayenne, and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about one minute.
2.  Add the ground turkey and cook, breaking up the meat with a spoon, until meat is no longer pink, about 2 minutes.  Add white beans, broth, and oregano.  Cook, partially covered and stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes.

3.  Add hominy and salt, and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, uncovered, for about 8-10 more minutes.  Ladle into individual bowls and top with cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice, plus any other garnishes you like!


Monday, March 29, 2010

Honey Wheat Pizza Dough

This is a shockingly easy recipe for fresh pizza dough.  I never knew it could be this simple!  You barely have to wait for it to rise at all.  The result is a thin crust, but it's tasty and has a fantastic texture.  And best of all, it's completely whole wheat.  I am going to be turning to this recipe again and again.

The recipe below makes enough dough for one large pizza, or two small.  I opted to make two - one more exotic for myself (sun dried tomato chicken sausage, artichoke hearts) and one less so for the husband (just cheese).  You can put on whatever you like, but be warned that the thin crust won't hold up really heavy toppings very well, so you'll need to eat with a knife and fork.

I found the basis for this recipe at allrecipes.  My life will never be the same.

Honey Wheat Pizza Dough
makes one large pizza


1/4 ounce dry yeast (in a packet)
1 cup warm water
2 cups white whole wheat flour
1/4 cup wheat germ
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
cooking spray


1.  Combine the yeast and warm water in a small bowl and let sit for about 10 minutes, until creamy.

2.  Stir the flour, wheat germ, and salt together in a large bowl.  Make a well in the center, and pour the honey and the yeast mixture into the well.  Mix everything together well.  You can start with a spoon or spatula, but you'll probably have to use your hands to get everything properly incorporated into a ball.

3.  Preheat the oven to 400.  Set the dough aside to let it rise for a few minutes while the oven warms up, about 10 minutes or so.  Roll out the dough on a floured board, or divide into multiple pieces and then roll out.

4.  Spray a baking sheet lightly with cooking spray and place the pizza dough on it.  Poke a few holes in the dough using a fork or knife.  Bake for 5 minutes.  Remove from oven and top with desired toppings.  Return to the oven and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes, until crisp at the edges.  Serve.


Friday, March 26, 2010

Creamy Asparagus Soup with Grilled Asparagus

The name of this recipe is a bit of a puzzle, if you ask me.  There is buttermilk in this soup, but it doesn't make it creamy so much as give it a silky texture and a bit of a tang that you can't quite place.  The asparagus tips that provide the garnish are, I suppose, technically skillet-grilled, but really seem to be more fried to me, to the point that they are delectably crispy and deeply flavorful.

But whatever you call it, this is a delicious and fresh soup that showcases the bounty of early spring.  Asparagus is everywhere you look right now, and it's time to put it to work.  This soup is easy, quick, and has only a handful of ingredients.  I wasn't a fan of asparagus until the past couple of years, but I find that recipes like this one are exactly what asparagus is born for - to stand out as the star of the show, rather than to adorn a plate as a mere side.

Try it out and see if you agree!

Creamy Asparagus Soup with Grilled Asparagus
adapted from the Lee Bros. Simple Fresh Southern
serves 2


1 bunch of asparagus, woody ends discarded
2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 teaspoon canola oil
1/4 cup buttermilk
fresh ground pepper to taste


1.  Cut the asparagus spears into 3/4 inch pieces.  Reserve about half of the tips and set aside.

2.  Bring the broth to a simmer in a medium pot and season with about 1/4 teaspoon salt.   Add the asparagus pieces (except the reserved tips) and onion and simmer for 10 to 12 minutes, or until tender.

3.  While the soup simmers, heat the oil in a small skillet until smoking.  Add reserved asparagus tips and remaining salt, and fry (or pan-grill), refraining from stirring them more than every minute or so, until browned in places, about 3-4 minutes.  Set on a paper towel to absorb excess oil.

4.  Puree the soup in a blender, food processor, or using an immersion blender.  Return to the pot and stir in the buttermilk.  Bring to a simmer and season with pepper.  Serve garnished with the pan-grilled asparagus tips.


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Marinated Chicken and Grape Skewers (CEIMB)

This week's Craving Ellie in my Belly recipe comes from her newer cookbook, So Easy.   It's a very original grilled dish, combining sweet-tart green grapes with a beautifully marinated chicken.  I can't say this is something I would have thought to try on my own, but I'm glad someone did.

The chicken is marinated in a combination of citrus, garlic, and far eastern spices, giving it an exotic flavor that pairs nicely with the surprising tang of the green grapes.   The book recommends serving it with a simple warm lentil and spinach salad, made up of sauteed onions and spinach with cooked lentils, parsley, mint, basil, and lemon juice.   The salad complements the skewers  nicely, but of course I think most side dishes would.

I found that making both the lentil dish and the chicken skewers was a bit of work for a weekday, but it didn't take that long.  And it was definitely worth the trouble.  The skewers alone were quite easy to do, so if you want to pick a simpler side dish to make your life a bit easier, that might be a good idea.

Food on skewers is inherently fun to eat, so you could probably convince children and adults alike to give this a try.  It's different, delicious, and healthy. 

Marinated Chicken and Grape Skewers
adapted from Ellie Krieger's So Easy
serves 2


1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
pinch of salt
1/2 pound skinless boneless chicken breast, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
4 10-inch skewers
12 or so seedless green grapes
cooking spray
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint leaves


1.  Whisk the olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic, cumin, coriander, and salt in a bowl.  Toss the chicken pieces in the marinade and let marinate for at least 20 minutes, or up to 4 hours.    If using wooden skewers, soak them in water during this time.

2.  Preheat a grill pan over medium-high.  Thread the chicken pieces onto the skewers, alternating with grapes.  Spray the grill pan with cooking spray, then lay the skewers onto the grill pan.  Cook for 3 to 4 minutes per side, or until chicken is cooked through.

3.  Serve the skewers topped with the scattered mint leaves, two skewers per person.


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Braised Collard Greens

Collard greens are traditionally made with some kind of pork product, but they really don't need bacon to be tasty.  I know, it's shocking.  But this is a completely vegetarian collard green dish that could be served as a side, or as a main course over a bed of grains.  It's spicy and incredibly flavorful, with a great balance of textures. 

I haven't eaten a lot of collard greens in my life, and this is the first time I've cooked them.  I have to say I'm pretty impressed with them.  When they are raw, they are huge, robust leaves that truly overshadow their more delicate counterparts, kale and chard.  When cooked, they shrink down but don't really wilt - they get tender but still hold their shape.   They have a spice all their own that is emphasized here by a tangy and spicy combination of ingredients. 

This is a great way to get collard greens on your plate.  They're in season now, so make this and serve it to your vegetarian or kosher-keeping friends!

Braised Collard Greens
adapted from Mad Hungry
serves 2-3


1 bunch collard greens, trimmed and washed (and still wet)
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
pinch of red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
coarse salt


1.  Remove the tough stems from the greens and chop them into relatively uniform pieces, roughly bite-sized.  

2.  Heat a large saute pan over medium-high.  Swirl in the oil and add onion, bell pepper, and red pepper flakes.  Saute, stirring constantly, until the veggies are softened, about 5 minutes.

3.  Add the greens a handful or two at a time, stirring into the onion mixture as you add.  They will collapse and shrink in the heat.

4.  When all the greens are in the pan and the heat is sizzling, pour in the vinegar.  Stir to evaporate.  Cover and let the greens cook over low heat until just tender, adding a little water if necessary to keep them from burning, about 8 minutes.  Season with salt and serve.


Monday, March 22, 2010

Greek Salad with Seasoned Flatbread

Here is a quick and simple supper to whip up when you get home from work.  Greek salad is kind of a no-brainer - a simple vinaigrette drizzled over a salad of romaine, tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, and feta.  (Good quality feta is key).   You can jazz it up a little, however, with this delicious crispy flatbread on the side.  It's like a giant, flattened crouton.  It just made your salad a whole lot more exciting.

You can add all kinds of things that are traditional in Greek salads, such as red onion (I'm not a raw onion girl myself) or chopped pepperoncinis (totally would have included them if I had any), or chickpeas, or diced roasted red peppers.  Just keep it simple - the more you add to this salad, the less character it will have.  Counter-intuitive, I know - but trust me.  The bottom line is you have a great contrast of textures, with just the right amount of saltiness.  It's refreshing, crisp, and satisfying.

Greek Salad with Seasoned Flatbread
adapted from Everyday Food's Great Food Fast
serves 3


the flatbread
1 large piece whole wheat lavash
1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
salt and pepper

the salad
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
salt and pepper
1 small head of romaine, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 medium vine-ripened tomato, diced
2 persian cucumbers, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
1/4 cup kalamata olives, pitted
4 ounces feta cheese, cut into cubes


1.  Preheat toaster oven (or oven) to 400.  Line a baking sheet with parchment.  Lay the lavash on it.  In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, and lemon zest.  Brush evenly over the lavash, sprinkle with oregano, salt and pepper to taste, and bake for 5 to 10 minutes, or until crisp and golden brown.  Break into large pieces.

2.  In the same bowl you whisked the dressing for the lavash, whisk the dressing for the salad - add the oil and vinegar, and season with salt and pepper.   In a large bowl combine lettuce, tomato, cucumber, olives, and feta.  Drizzle the dressing over the salad and toss everything together.  

3.  Serve salad with flatbread.


Sunday, March 21, 2010

Blueberry-Almond Muffins

Blueberries are at full steam ahead here right now, so it's time to take advantage.  I suppose if you really want to fully appreciate a blueberry in all its natural splendor, you should eat it raw.  But when I have blueberries I can't help but want to bake.  Today I decided to try this delicious muffin recipe, incorporating both almond and blueberry flavors in one portable little package.  Yum!

I am a fan of just about anything almond-flavored, and this muffin did not disappoint.  The sweet-tart juice of the blueberries combines beautifully with the luxurious almond extract, punctuated with the occasional crunch of a slivered almond in the mix.  It's so delicious!  And it's low in fat and sugar, too, and packed with whole grains.  I definitely won't feel guilty eating this for breakfast tomorrow!

Blueberry-Almond Muffins
adapted from Eating Well in Season
makes 12 muffins


2 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup nonfat buttermilk
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups fresh blueberries (other berries would work too)
1/2 cup chopped toasted sliced almonds


1.  Preheat oven to 400.  Coat a 12-cup muffin pan with cooking spray, or use silicon or paper liners.

2.  Whisk flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl

3.  Whisk eggs, buttermilk, brown sugar, butter, oil, vanilla, and almond extract in another large bowl until well combined.

4.  Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, pour in the wet ingredients and stir until just combined.  Add berries and almonds.  Stir just to combine; do not overmix.  Divide the batter among the muffin cups (an ice cream scoop works well).  

5.  Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, 22 to 25 minutes.  Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool.


Thursday, March 18, 2010

Thai Coconut Chicken Soup

This is a simple and quick soup to pull together.  You just need a couple of interesting ingredients in your pantry (namely Thai curry paste and coconut milk), and you can whip this up in no time!  It also just happens to be yet another great way to use up some leftover roast chicken.

I made home-made stock in my slow cooker and used a good amount of it for this soup.  You can, of course, use the stock in a box - it's what I use for most of my soups, and it does just fine!  The result, whether you use home made or store-bought stock, is a slightly spicy, exotically flavorful broth with some tasty chicken and veggies floating throughout.  And I discovered to my great delight that it is extra delicious the next day!  So definitely make more than you can eat in one sitting, as the leftovers are even better.

It's light, it's healthy, it's good.

Thai Coconut Chicken Soup
serves 4


2 teaspoons canola oil
2 tablespoons Thai green curry paste
3 cups chicken stock
one 14 oz. can of lite coconut milk (unsweetened)
juice of 2 limes
2 tablespoons crushed lemongrass
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
pinch red pepper flakes
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1 green bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
2 cups cubed/chopped cooked chicken
salt to taste


1.  In a soup pot over medium heat, heat the oil.  When it's hot, add the curry paste.  Stir and cook until fragrant.  Add the chicken stock, coconut milk, lime juice, lemongrass, ginger, and red pepper flakes.  Bring to a gentle boil, then reduce to a simmer.  Let simmer for about 5 minutes.

2.  Stir in the scallions, bell pepper, and chicken and continue to simmer for 5 more minutes, or until chicken is heated through.  Salt to taste and serve.


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Whole Wheat Irish Soda Bread

It's St. Patrick's day tomorrow, and virtually every food blogger out there has posted a recipe for Irish soda bread this week.  I decided to join the herd and make my own.  The twist is that I've never eaten Irish soda bread before in my life.

I come from an English family.  My ancestors have a bit of Welsh on my dad's side, and a lot of eastern European on my mother's side.  But to the best of my knowledge, there is nary a drop of Irish blood in my family tree.  I have married into an Irish (many generations back) family, and thought I ought to live up to my new-ish name and get into the spirit of St. Patrick's day.  Beyond the traditional way of doing so, which is to drink oneself into a stupor. 

So today I tried my hand at baking soda bread.  It is named for its scientific component - the aspect that makes it rise, which is baking soda.  I don't bake a lot of yeast breads because of a completely irrational fear of working with yeast (which I do overcome from time to time), so this bread was right up my alley.  And this recipe for it was perfect - about as easy as it gets.  It did split a bit in the oven, but I rather like the pac-man shape it took on as a result.  It's crusty on the outside, fairly tender yet dense on the inside.  To top it all off, it's delicious!  It's just begging for a smear of butter and apricot jam, or a slice of sharp cheese.

This is easiest in a food processor, but you can mix by hand if you need to.

Whole Wheat Irish Soda Bread
adapted from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian
makes 1 round loaf


4 cups white whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 cup plain nonfat or lowfat yogurt (more if necessary)


1.  Preheat oven to 375.  Line a baking sheet with a silpat liner, otherwise grease lightly with a neutral oil or baking spray.

2.  Combine flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder in a food processor (fitted with the dough blade, if you have one, but the regular blade is okay).  Process to combine.  Add the yogurt and process for about 30 seconds, until the dough starts to clump together.  If it is not moist enough, add more yogurt.  You want the dough to be mostly cohesive and soft, but not too sticky.  

3.  Turn out the dough onto the prepared baking sheet and use your hands to form a round loaf.  Slash the top with a knife  (if you don't do this deeply enough, you'll get a split like I did, but that's okay!).  Bake for 40 minutes, or until the loaf is golden brown and sounds hollow when you thump the bottom.  Let cool before cutting into slices or wedges.

Enjoy, and happy St. Patrick's day!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Easy Chicken Enchiladas

Fun idea for using up leftover roast chicken #1:  chicken enchiladas!  We love enchiladas.  Seriously.  Love.  It seemed only natural to take some of the leftovers from yesterday's perfect roast chicken and turn them into a delicious platter of saucy, cheesy tortillas filled with goodness. 

I will admit, without (too much) shame, that this is barely a homemade recipe.  Enchilada sauce from a jar?  Come on!  Well, if you have the time and the will to make your own, please do.   It's easy enough.  But today I came home from work wanting enchiladas, and wanting them fast.  I had a jar of Trader Joe's enchilada sauce in the cupboard.  It was meant to be.

I experimented with a healthier preparation technique gleaned from the fabulous Simply Recipes blog - rather than frying each tortilla in oil, you stretch a small amount of oil among many tortillas just to soften and warm them.

These came out delicious.  Make sure you use a good enchilada sauce, because it will make a difference - buy one you trust, or go ahead and make your own.  You can, of course, make any kind of enchiladas following this method - double the cheese to make cheese enchiladas, or substitute a different type of meat or vegetable for the chicken.

Easy Chicken Enchiladas
serves 3-4


8 ounces of red enchilada sauce, divided
1 1/2 cups shredded leftover roast chicken, white and/or brown meat
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar, divided
2 teaspoons canola oil (more if necessary)
10 white corn tortillas
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro


1.  Preheat oven to 350.  In a bowl, combine 1/4 cup of the enchilada sauce with the chicken and half the cheddar cheese.  Stir to combine.  Set aside.

2.  In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, warm up 1 teaspoon of canola oil.  When it's hot, add the first tortilla.  Move it around to spread the oil, then flip with tongs after about 5 seconds.  Immediately stack another tortilla on top of the oily side of the first.  This will absorb some of the oil into the second tortilla.  Flip over both tortillas after about 5 seconds.  Repeat this process, gradually adding each tortilla to the oily side of the previous tortilla.  Add additional oil to the pan as oil is absorbed.  When all the tortillas are warmed, transfer them to a plate.

3.  Put a 1/4 cup of enchilada sauce in the bottom of a small baking dish and spread.  Build the enchiladas one at a time - take a tortilla and spoon about 2 tablespoons of the chicken mixture in a line across the middle.  Roll the tortilla around the chicken mixture and place seam-side down in the baking sheet, on top of the sauce.  Repeat with all 10 tortillas, tucking them in to fill up the baking dish.

4.  Pour remaining enchilada sauce over the rolled tortillas in the baking dish, trying to distribute it evenly.  Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup cheddar and 1/4 cup mozzarella.  Bake for 15 minutes, or until sauce is starting to bubble.  Sprinkle with cilantro and serve.


Sunday, March 14, 2010

Perfect Roast Chicken

There is really no excuse for the fact that it took me this long to try roasting a whole chicken.  I know it's not hard, and I know people who cook far less often than I do who have roasted many a chicken in their lives.  I blame the fact that my husband and I are both white meat people, so a whole chicken never seemed like the smartest idea.  But it has always been on my to-do list, a goal I wanted to achieve, simple though it may be. 

So finally, I did it.  And I will be doing it again.  And again.  And again.  I warned my husband (if you can "warn" someone something that is such good news) that this is going to become a tradition.  He seemed okay with that.

But first, a word from our ethics committee (i.e. me).  I consider myself to run a pretty sustainable kitchen.  That is, I don't cook that much meat, and when I do, I try to make it as environmentally friendly as possible.  So if I was going to roast a whole chicken (and I was), I needed to make sure it was from a good source.  Hence a special trip to Whole Foods, where I do not ordinarily shop, to go to their butcher counter and buy a rather pricey (but worth every penny) organic, free-range "Rosie" chicken from Petaluma, California.  If you have access to organic, free-range chickens that are truly humanely raised, I implore you to get one for this recipe rather than a factory farm raised bird.  Yes it costs more, but when you divide the cost by the number of meals you're going to get out of the chicken, it is actually really cheap.

But of course, you can do whatever you want.  I just recommend you try this recipe, tweaked from Martha Stewart's oh-so-educational book, Martha Stewart's Cooking School.  I thought it would be a good starting point for my first attempt at roasting a whole bird.  And was it ever.  I added halved fingerling potatoes and quartered fresh carrots to the roasting pan, and they got golden and crispy and fantastic in the chicken drippings.  Best. Veggies.  Ever.

The result of this recipe was a fantastic, succulent bird, and quite possibly the best chicken I've ever tasted.  Definitely the best that's ever come out of my kitchen. You will be seeing a couple of fun leftover chicken recipes in the week.

Perfect Roast Chicken
adapted from Martha Stewart's Cooking School
serves 4 (or 2 with leftovers to be used for other meals)


1 fresh (organic, free-range) whole chicken, about 4 pounds
coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1 lemon, cut into 1/4-inch rounds
5 sprigs fresh thyme
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup dry white wine or chicken stock


1.  Prepare the chicken.  Remove the bag of giblets and discard (or save for another use).  Let chicken come to room temperature for at least an hour, up to two hours.  Rinse the chicken inside and out, and pat dry with paper towels.  Get the cavity as dry as you can.  Trim excess fat from the cavity.

2.   Preheat oven to 450.  Season the chicken cavity with salt and pepper, then stuff with lemon, thyme, and garlic.   Rub the skin with the 2 tablespoons of butter.  Tuck some under the skin on the breast if you feel like it (it will add amazing moisture and flavor).  Season all over with salt and pepper.

3.  Put the chicken in a large ovenproof skillet or a small roasting pan with a rack.  Roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh (avoiding bone) registers 160-165, about 55-60 minutes.  Remove chicken to a platter or carving board.  Let rest for 10 minutes.

4.  While the chicken rests, make a pan sauce in the roasting pan.  Spoon and discard fat from juices in pan (or separate in a gravy separator).  Pour accumulated chicken juices from the cavity into the pan.  Place pan over medium-high heat.  Pour in wine or stock to deglaze the pan, stirring and scraping up browned bits with a wooden spoon.  Cook until reduced by about half.  Pour the sauce through a fine sieve into a liquid measuring cup.

5.  Carve the chicken and serve with the pan sauce.  


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Avgolemono Soup (CEIMB)

When I was in law school, we often went to a Greek restaurant called Taverna Tony for lunch.  It was right down the street, and it had (free!) excellent bread and taramasalata dip. There was one menu item that we always had to get.  It was the lemony, creamy soup known as avgolemono - or chicken lemon soup.  It was my favorite soup of all time, and I still get the hankering now and again to drive up the coast to Malibu for a bowl.  No other Greek restaurant makes it quite as well as Taverna Tony, and believe me, I've looked.

It just so happens that this week's Craving Ellie in my Belly recipe is for avgolemono soup (or "Lemon Chicken Soup with Orzo," as Ellie calls it).   I was so excited that this was the pick of the week!  I have to say that it is remarkably like the version I grew to know and love in law school, only with thyme instead of parsley.  I think next time I make this recipe (and there *will* be a next time), I will use parsley and see just how close to Tony's recipe this one is. 

This is a magical, lemony soup that tastes creamy and decadent, but the source of its creaminess is tempered eggs, rather than cream, flour, or any other typical soup ingredient.  It's a rather unassuming variation on chicken noodle soup, but it is so incredibly good, you can't even believe it until you try it yourself.

Avgolemono Soup
adapted from Ellie Krieger's The Food You Crave
serves 3


2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1 skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into small chunks
pinch of salt, plus more to taste
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 medium carrot, diced
leaves from 3 sprigs of thyme
3 cups low sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup orzo
1 large egg
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
freshly ground black pepper to taste


1.  Heat 1 teaspoon of oil in a soup pot over medium-high heat.  Season chicken with the salt, add to the pot, and cook, stirring often, until just cooked through, about 4 minutes.  Transfer the chicken to a dish and set aside.

2.  Add remaining teaspoon of oil to the pot.  Add onion, celery, carrot and thyme and cook, stirring, over medium-high heat until the veggies are tender, about 5 minutes.  Add 2 1/2 cups of the broth and bring to a boil.  Add orzo and let simmer until tender, about 6 minutes.  Turn heat down to low to keep the soup hot but not boiling.

3.  Warm the remaining 1/2 cup broth in a small saucepan until hot, but not boiling.  In a medium bowl, beat the egg.  Gradually whisk the lemon juice into the egg.  Then gradually add the hot broth to the egg-lemon mixture, whisking all the while.  (You are tempering the egg, as opposed to cooking it).

4.  Add the egg-broth mixture to the soup, stirring well until the soup is thickened.  Do not let the soup come to a boil.  If any bits of scrambled egg form, fish them out, but this shouldn't happen if you have the heat all the way down.  Add cooked chicken to the soup, season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve.


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Pasta with Lentils and Kale

You can add just about anything to pasta and call it dinner.  Case in point:  lentils, kale, and caramelized onions.  Not the most obvious combination in the world, but it definitely works!   This is a heaping bowl of pasta you can feel good about eating - it's packed with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and protein.  And, surprise of all surprises, it tastes great!

The key here is to be patient with the onions.  Onions take a long time to caramelize properly.  I'll admit it, I got a little impatient and didn't brown them as much as I should have, so they still had a bit of a bite to them.  But if you cook them low and slow, and let them get brown and sweet, this dish will be utterly transcendental.

If you're not sure whether you're a lentil fan, this is a great way to try them out, as they have a supporting role here.  Give it a go.

Pasta with Lentils and Kale
adapted from Gourmet Today
serves 3


1/4 cup small green or brown lentils
1 cup water
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (divided)
1/2 large onion, chopped
leaves from 2 sprigs of thyme
1 bunch of kale, stems and tough ribs removed
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound whole wheat corkscrew or elbow pasta


1.  Combine lentils, water, and pinch of salt in a small saucepan.  Bring to a simmer and cook, uncovered, until tender but not falling apart, about 20 minutes.  Remove from heat.

2.  Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking.  Add onions and thyme with a pinch of salt, and cook, stirring, for about 1 minute.  Reduce heat to low and cover.  Cook, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes, or until onions are golden and tender.   Remove cover and cook for another 10 minutes, or until onions are golden brown.

3.  When you have uncovered the onions, bring a medium pot of water to a boil and salt it.  Add the kale and cook just for 2-3 minutes, until slightly wilted.  Scoop the kale out of the pot but leave the boiling water on the stove.  Place the kale in a colander and squeeze out excess water.  Chop it up and add to the lentils.

4.  Cook pasta in the kale cooking water until al dente.  Reserve 1/4 cup of pasta cooking water before draining.  Add kale, lentils (and their cooking liquid), and pasta with reserved cooking water to the onions.  Stir everything together and heat through.  Serve.


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Grilled Steak & Greens with Tomato Vinaigrette

This is a fun and delicious meal for a weeknight.  It's like a preview of summer dining.  I know it's not officially tomato season yet, but I got these amazing greenhouse-grown tomatoes in my CSA bag and decided to take full advantage.  You can, of course, bookmark this one for when tomatoes are properly in season!

Thanks to a grill pan, you can grill any time of year.  And there's no need to stop with just the meat - veggies can go on the grill too.  Even lettuce!  This is a fun twist on a steak salad - it's served warm (though of course the leftovers would be great cold, too) and topped with a delicious cross between vinaigrette and pico de gallo.  It's different, it's yummy, it's what's for dinner tonight.  And it's a great use of my once-a-month beef.

Grilled Steak & Greens with Tomato Vinaigrette
adapted from Eating Well in Season
serves 2


2 medium vine-ripened tomatoes, diced
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon grated parmesan cheese
1/2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 small clove garlic, minced or pressed
1 small head of escarole or romaine, outermost leaves removed
1/2 to 3/4 pound sirloin steak, trimmed; about 1 inch thick


1.  Preheat grill pan over medium-high heat. 

2.  Combine tomatoes, 1/2 tablespoon oil, parmesan, balsamic, parsley, and a pinch of salt and pepper in a small bowl.  Stir to combine; set aside.

3.  Combine remaining 1/2 tablespoon oil with the garlic in a small bowl.  Cut the lettuce in half length-wise (keeping the root intact) and brush the cut side with the oil-garlic mixture.  Place on the grill pan and cook, turning occasionally, until char marks form and the inner leaves are softened, about 3-4 minutes.  Set aside to cool; then chop into bite-sized pieces.

4.  Oil the pan lightly if necessary.  Season the steak lightly with salt and pepper and place on the grill pan.  Cook, turning once, until desired doneness; about 10 minutes total for medium.  Remove from pan and let rest a few minutes before slicing.

5.  Serve the sliced steak over chopped lettuce, and top with the tomato vinaigrette.


Monday, March 8, 2010

Blueberry Orange Coffee Cake

The words "coffee cake" are generally all I need to hear before I'll grab a fork.  I'm sorry I didn't take a picture of the inside of the cake so you could see the luscious blueberry filling - but take my word for it, it's there and it's delicious.  This is a tender and moist cake that works just as well for breakfast as it would for dessert.   And while I can't claim that it's healthy, it's certainly less sinful than your average coffee cake.

This coffee cake has the cinnamon crumbly topping that makes a coffee cake what it is.  It has a thick ribbon of fresh ready-to-burst blueberries, walnuts and orange zest traveling through its middle.  It's delicious straight out of the oven.  What more can you ask for?

Blueberry Orange Coffee Cake
adapted from Stonewall Kitchen Harvest
serves 4-6


the filling:
1 cup fresh blueberries
1/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

the topping:
1/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

the cake:
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup plain lowfat yogurt
2 teaspoons grated orange zest


1.  Preheat oven to 350.  Spray a 9-inch cake pan with cooking spray and flour it lightly.  Set aside.

2.  Make the filling:  mix blueberries, walnuts, sugar, orange zest, and cinnamon in a small bowl, and set aside.

3.  Make the topping:  mix walnuts, sugar, and cinnamon in another small bowl and set aside.

4.  Make the cake:  Sift together flour, baking powder, and baking soda in a medium bowl and set aside.  In a stand mixer or a bowl with an electric hand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until pale yellow, fluffy and soft, about 5 minutes, at medium speed.  Add egg and beat well.  

5.  Reduce speed to low and add half the flour mixture.  Mix until combined, then add half the yogurt and all the orange zest and beat well.  Add remaining flour and then remaining yogurt, using spatula to scrape down the sides and make sure the batter is smooth and fully incorporated.

6.  Pour half the batter into the cake pan and smooth it out with a spoon or spatula to make an even layer.  Sprinkle with all the blueberry filling.  Top with remaining cake batter, using spatula or spoon to smooth slightly.  Don't worry if the batter is thick and difficult to spread; it's supposed to be that way!  Sprinkle with walnut topping.

7.  Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Remove cake and let cool 30 minutes before cutting.  Serve.


Sunday, March 7, 2010

Asparagus Breakfast Casserole

The best way I can think to describe this dish is as a savory French toast.  It has a deep, buttery and delicious flavor that highlights the freshness of just-in-season asparagus spears and creamy havarti cheese.  I served this for brunch this morning along with a lovely coffee cake (to be posted another day) and it was definitely a success.

You can substitute any combination of cheese and vegetable here - the recipe that inspired me featured broccoli and cheddar, which is of course a classic combination.  I wanted to go with something spring-y, since we're just starting to get gorgeous spring produce at the farmers market.  Enter crisp and beautiful thin asparagus spears.  I thought havarti would suit asparagus a bit better than cheddar would, but gruyere would also be excellent for a nuttier flavor.  The point is there's a world of variety here.  This comes together very easily and it tastes fantastic.

Asparagus Breakfast Casserole
adapted from The Splendid Table's How to Eat Supper
serves 4


4 slices whole wheat bread, cut into bite-size cubes
3 large eggs
1/4 cup skim milk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 cup grated havarti cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1 small bunch thin asparagus spears, cut into 1/2-inch pieces


1.  Preheat oven to 350 and butter an 8 x 8 baking dish.  Cover the bottom of the dish generously with the bread cubes.

2.  In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, butter, cheese, salt and sugar.  Mix until combined.  Stir in the asparagus, and pour the mixture over the bread.

3.  Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes.  Remove the foil and bake another 10 minutes until golden brown on top.  Serve hot.


Friday, March 5, 2010

Sweet and Spicy Chicken and Couscous

It's time for a special Friday night dinner.  This recipe will pretty much knock your socks off.  It seems complicated, but it really isn't.  Every bite is like a big pat on the back congratulating you for trying something new.  It's spicy, tangy, sweet, and savory all at once.  Somehow this array of flavors comes together in harmony, like a hybrid between Indian and Moroccan cuisine that is simply delicious.

I first made this recipe a few years ago for Valentine's day with my husband.  I am kind of shocked I've shelved it this long, as it was amazing.  I particularly love the herb yogurt sauce that gets drizzled over the top.  I can definitely foresee using it for other purposes, like a crudite dip, sandwich spread, or salad dressing.  Yum.

If you're looking for something different to wake up your palate, this is it.  I know the ingredient list seems long, but you probably already have most of them in your kitchen.

Sweet and Spicy Chicken and Couscous
adapted from Rachael Ray's Book of 10
serves 2-3


1 1/4 cups low sodium chicken stock
1/4 cup mango chutney
salt and black pepper
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into bite-size pieces
1/2 large onion, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
2 tablespoons fresh grated ginger
zest and juice of 1/2 small lemon
3/4 cup plain (or whole wheat) couscous
1/4 cup plain lowfat yogurt
handful fresh mint leaves
handful fresh cilantro leaves
1 scallion, coarsely chopped
juice of 1 small lime


1.  In a small pot over medium-low heat, combine 1 cup of the chicken broth with the mango chutney.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Bring to a bubble, then reduce heat to low.  Let sit while you prepare the rest of the recipe.

2.  In a large skillet with high sides, or a Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat.  When hot, add the coriander, cumin, and red pepper flakes.  Cook and stir to toast the spices for just a few seconds.  Add the chicken pieces and toss to coat in the spices.  Spread out in an even layer and season lightly with salt and pepper.  Cook until just browned on each side.

3.  Add onion, pepper, garlic, and 1 1/2 tablespoons of the grated ginger.  Cook about 3 minutes, stirring frequently.  Add remaining 1/4 cup of chicken stock and continue to cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 2 minutes.

4.  Scoot the chicken and veggies to the edges of the pot to make a well in the center.  Pour in the chicken broth / chutney mixture and bring to a bubble.  Add lemon zest and juice, then add the couscous to the well in the middle.  Press it down gently with a spatula or spoon to get it into the liquid, but try to keep it in the well.  Cover the pan tightly with a lid and remove from heat.

5.  While the couscous cooks, combine yogurt, mint, cilantro, scallion, lime juice, and remaining ginger with a splash of water in a blender or food processor.  Process until smooth.  Season with salt and pepper.

6.  After couscous has been sitting for five minutes,  remove lid and fluff the couscous with a fork.  Just about all of the liquid should have been absorbed.  Stir couscous with the chicken and veggies.  Serve with a drizzle of the yogurt sauce.


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Peppercorn Pork with Wine Sauce (CEIMB)

Tonight was the first time I ever made pork tenderloin.  I'm not sure what took me so long.  It's a lean, tender (obviously) cut of pork that is a great way to escape the blahs of repeated exposure to chicken breast.   It is packed with flavor of its own, but the recipe for this week's Craving Ellie in my Belly lends extra flavor from dijon mustard, pepper, and wine.  Absolutely delicious and elegant.

In Ellie's original recipe, you take a pork tenderloin and split it down the middle, not cutting all the way through, to make a wider, flatter piece of pork.  Since the tenderloin I bought was fairly small, I decided to cook it whole and cut it into slices after cooking and resting.  This means, of course, that it takes a bit longer to cook.  Below is my version, but if you want the quicker cooking version, check out the link above.

I also reduced the pepper a little bit, since we're not huge black pepper people.  Feel free to increase it if you're a fan of cracked black pepper.

We had ours with parsley potatoes.  It was a simple, yet far from ordinary meal.  I will definitely be making this one again!

Peppercorn Pork with Wine Sauce (CEIMB)
adapted from The Food You Crave
serves 4


1 1/4 pounds pork tenderloin, trimmed of visible fat and silver skin
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
salt to taste
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup dry white wine


1.  Rub the pork loin with the mustard on both sides.  Sprinkle with pepper and a pinch of salt, and gently press in the spices so they adhere to the pork.  

2.  Heat the oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat.  When it's hot, add the pork tenderloin.  Cook for about 5 minutes on each side (all four of them) to brown, then loosely cover the skillet with foil to trap in the steam.  Cook for another 5 minutes, or until an instant read thermometer stuck into the thickest part of the meat reads 155.  Remove from pan and tent the meat with the foil.

3.  Add broth and wine to the pan and stir, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the skillet.  Cook until reduced by about half, 8-10 minutes.

4.  Slice the pork after it has rested (the time it takes to cook the sauce should be enough) into 1/4 inch slices.  Serve drizzled with the sauce.


Note:  Be careful not to overcook the pork - it should still have a slight pink blush when you cut into it.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Spicy Vegetarian Tortilla Soup

I love tortilla soup.  I've posted before about how much I love it.   Part of what makes it so amazing is how different it is every time I have it.  For instance, this version is way spicier than I've ever had before, but it is probably also the tastiest.

This is a rich, tomato-y, deeply spicy soup that will make your nose run, but in a good way.  If you don't want it too spicy, feel free to reduce the chiles to one instead of two, but where is the fun in that?  You can also mix up the toppings if you like, but I highly recommend the avocado as it cuts the spice nicely.

The traditional topping for tortilla soup, of course, is tortilla chips - but I didn't realize I was out of corn tortillas until I started cooking.  Oops.  To be honest, I really didn't miss them!

Spicy Vegetarian Tortilla Soup
adapted from Eating Well magazine
serves 4


2 dried pasilla, ancho, or New Mexico chiles
1 15-oz. can fire roasted diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 large onion, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 large clove garlic, peeled
2 cups low sodium vegetable broth
2 cups chopped spinach or chard
handful chopped fresh cilantro
salt to taste
juice of 1/2 lime (or more if you like)
1 ripe large avocado, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1/4 cup shredded Monterey jack (or similar) cheese
1 cup roughly broken tortilla chips (optional)


1.  First, toast the chiles.  You can either cook them over an open flame using tongs until fragrant and starting to char, or you can cook them in a dry skillet over medium heat, pressing down on them and flipping them over every few seconds.  Set aside to cool.

2.  When chiles are cool enough to handle, remove stems and seeds.  Put in a blender with the tomatoes and their juices, and puree until smooth.  Set aside.

3.  Heat the oil in a medium Dutch oven or soup pot until hot, then add onion and garlic.  Saute until golden, about 5 minutes.  Use a slotted spoon to scoop out the onion and garlic, and add to the blender. Puree with the chile mixture until smooth.

4.  Return pot to medium heat and pour in the puree.  Bring to a bubble and cook, stirring often, until thickened, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the broth.  Bring to a boil, reduce to a bare simmer, and cook for 20-30 minutes.

5.  Stir in spinach and cilantro (reserve some for garnish) and cook until wilted, about 1 minute.  Season to taste with salt and lime juice.  Ladle into soup bowls and serve garnished with avocado, cheese, and chips if using, as well as remaining cilantro.


Monday, March 1, 2010

PW Macaroni & Cheese

This is my absolute favorite recipe for macaroni and cheese.  It seems like a fairly traditional recipe for mac & cheese, but there are a few sneaky secret ingredients (dry mustard, seasoned salt, and an egg, in fact) that make it absolutely spectacular.  It comes from everyone's favorite blogger, the Pioneer Woman (if you haven't heard of her, you seriously have some catching up to do - she's amazing).   And it is, in a word, amazing.

This is a cheesy, creamy, fantastic dish of deliciousness.  You might want to whip up a little salad to go alongside to alleviate the guilt a bit.  I've tried to make it a little healthier by using whole wheat pasta and skim milk - have to do my part for mankind, and all that.

Use whatever cheeses you like - I've made it with all sharp cheddar before, and it was fantastic.  This time I made it with a combination of medium cheddar and mozzarella, which was also great.

PW Macaroni & Cheese
adapted from The Pioneer Woman Cooks
serves 4


cooking spray
2 cups dry whole wheat elbow pasta
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose (preferably whole wheat) flour
1 1/4 cups skim milk
1 teaspoon dry mustard
2 cups grated cheese (cheddar is pretty much a must)
1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper


1.  Preheat oven to 350 and coat a medium-sized baking dish with cooking spray.

2.  Bring a pot of water to a boil and salt it.   Cook the pasta until just barely al dente - it should be a bit too tough to eat - and drain; return to the pot.

3.  While water is coming to a boil, melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add flour and whisk constantly for about 5 minutes to cook out the floury taste.  Be careful not to burn.  Add milk and mustard, and whisk until smooth.  Cook for another 5 minutes or until very thick, whisking almost constantly.  Reduce heat to low.

4.  Temper the egg - beat it first in a small bowl, then add about 1/4 cup of the sauce from step three, whisking constantly to avoid cooking the egg.  Add the mixture to the rest of the sauce and whisk until smooth.

5.  Stir in all but 1/2 cup of the cheese(s) to the sauce until melted.  Add seasoned salt and pepper - increase to taste as you see fit.

6.  Pour the sauce into the pot with the drained macaroni and stir to combine.  Top with reserved cheese.  Pour into the prepared baking dish and bake for 20 minutes, or until bubbly and golden on top.  Serve.