Saturday, April 30, 2011

Poached Garlic Soup

I love garlic. It's rare that I cook a meal without it, that's how much we both love it. So when I saw Michael Chiarello's
recipe for Poached Garlic Soup on the Food Network site, I knew I had to make it.

I hadn't poached garlic before, but as per his recipe, poaching it a few times takes away the heat and leaves the sweetness behind. I guess that would be a good thing since this recipe calls for 2 cups of garlic cloves.

With that much garlic needed, I bought the cloves already peeled - a first for me. I'm glad I did...peeling this much garlic probably would have made me crazy. Especially since having my daughter near me in her high chair was the only way I was able to cook this soup (and see, I even gave her a spoon to play with so she felt like she was helping...).

And when the soup was done, I let her taste it. I'm happy to say that I think she's going to be a garlic lover too (she better be in this house!). She didn't even make a face, and was even looking at my mug for more!

This soup was pretty straight-forward and easy, as long as you have the garlic already peeled. Otherwise, I think it would have taken an additional 30 minutes to prep!


  • 2 c garlic cloves
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 c onion, diced
  • 1 c finely chopped leek, white parts only (I used one leek)
  • 1/2 c diced celery
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tbsp grey salt (I used Kosher salt)
  • 1 c diced, peeled, Russet potato
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 c chicken stock or low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tbsp coarsely chopped fresh oregano leaves (I used a few pinches dried oregano)
  • 4 c roughly chopped spinach leaves
  • 1 c heavy cream (I used light cream)
  • Cut the garlic cloves in half lengthwise and remove the central, greenish core. Put the cloves in a small pan of salted water, and bring to a boil. Drain. Repeat this boiling step twice to remove the garlic's heat and leave only the sweetness behind.
  • Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy soup pot over medium heat until hot. Add the onion, leek, celery, bay leaf, and a little salt. Cover and cook until the veggies are soft, but not brown, about 10 minutes.
  • Add the potatoes.
  • Add the blanched garlic and chicken stock/broth.
  • Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  • Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook until the veggies are tender, about 15 minutes.
  • Michael's note, summarized: the soup can be made up to this point, cooled, kept in the fridge, and finished when ready to serve.
  • Add the oregano, spinach, and cream.
  • Transfer to a blender and blend until smooth. I used my handheld immersion blender.
Loved this soup! If you are a garlic lover, I think you will too!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Cauliflower, Swiss Chard, and Chicken Soup

I completely forgot to take a picture of this soup... I made it after putting the baby to bed and was exhausted, and then never remembered to take a picture every time I had a bowl. But I can tell you that it was really good!

I saw
the recipe when browsing through soup recipes on the Epicurious web site, and after reading the list of ingredients, just could not figure out how this would taste. Even when I said the name to Jon and told him that one ingredient was caraway seeds, he made a face. I know, it really doesn't sound good at all! However, curiosity got the best of me and I had to try it. I'm glad I did!


  • 2/3 c chopped onion
  • 1 tsp caraway seeds, lightly crushed
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 3 c chicken broth (I used 5 c low sodium chicken broth and decreased the amount of water)
  • 3 c water (I used about 2 c)
  • 1 small head of cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 1/2 c orzo
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast cut into cubes (I had cooked a bunch of chicken seasoned with s&p to use for chicken salad, so I took 2 breasts and shredded them for the soup instead of cooking the cubed chicken in the soup)
  • 4 c chopped red Swiss chard leaves, washed well and drained
  • In a 4-qt heavy saucepan (I used my Dutch oven), cook onion and caraway seeds in oil over moderately low heat, stirring, until onion is softened.
  • Add broth and water and bring to a boil.
  • Stir in cauliflower and orzo and simmer, stirring occasionally, 7 minutes.
  • Stir in chicken and Swiss chard and simmer until chicken is cooked through, about 3 minutes.
  • Season with salt and pepper.
The flavor from the caraway seeds was very light, and just added a little something interesting. Overall, this was just a good, different chicken soup. I'll make it again!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Kung Pao Chicken

The author of the blog Taste of Home Cooking has been hosting some great recipe swaps. I participated in the pasta swap a few weeks ago and made this recipe - Penne Alla Vecchia Bettola. This week the theme is Asian recipes. I shared my Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps recipe, and was given a recipe for Kung Pao Chicken originally posted here on the blog Innochka's Kitchen. I will post a link to the recipe roundup once the swap is complete.

I love cooking Asian inspired stir fry meals - lots of flavor and usually quick and easy. When I reviewed my recipe for the swap, I saw that it would be a great weeknight meal, so I made it tonight. I made a few changes to the recipe, noted below.


  • 2 chicken breast, chopped into cubes
  • 6 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1/2 c water
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • Crushed red pepper flakes; I didn't use these. Instead, I used one tbsp of chili-garlic paste and was happy with this change.
  • 1/2 tbsp sugar; I used about 1/2 tsp, if that
  • 4 tbsp lemon juice; I should have trusted my instincts - this didn't work in the dish at all. I won't use it next time.
  • Added: 1/2 onion, chopped. 1/2 green pepper, chopped
  • Next time will add (at the suggestion of my husband) bean sprouts
  • Oil; I used about 2 tbsp olive oil
Directions - in my own words
  • Marinate the chicken in 2 tbsp soy sauce. I did this while I was prepping everything else, so about 15 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, combine water, cornstarch, sugar, 4 tbsp soy sauce, chili-garlic paste, and lemon juice (note - I don't recommend the lemon juice) in a small bowl.
  • Heat olive oil in a large saute pan or wok over high heat
  • Add the chicken and cook about 6 minutes
  • Add the onions and peppers, cook another 2 minutes
  • Add the water mixture, lower heat, and let simmer 10-15 minutes.
I served the chicken over thin spaghetti (spaghetti works well as a substitute for Asian noodles sometimes!) and with a side of sugar snap peas sauteed with fresh garlic.

We both really liked this dish, except for the lemon juice - not sure what the purpose of the lemon juice is in the recipe, but I wouldn't use it again. We did both have seconds, and finished everything in the pan! Sorry dad, no leftovers for lunch tomorrow!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Latin-Style Chicken and Rice

One-pot cooking! On a cooking board I frequent, there was a discussion several weeks ago about what makes a one-pot dish. Well, everything cooked in one pot! Some recipes claim to be one pot dishes, but have you start one ingredient in another pot, and then add everything together in the main pot. Close, but not a true one-pot dish.

I need to find or come up with more recipes like this one for Latin-Style Chicken and Rice (found
here on the Epicurious web site). I loved how much flavor I got out of this one, and the easy clean up was a big plus, too. I also got to use the saffron I bought for Jon - we've been looking for a way to use it and this recipe was perfect.

One tip - when you are making a dish like this, or any chicken dish, make an extra breast and turn it into chicken salad the next day. I love using chicken from all different dishes - my chicken salad is always different and has so much flavor.

Ingredients (my version, slightly changed from the original to us chicken breasts and cook for 2 ppl; original recipe called for 2 pounds of chicken thighs)

  • 3 chicken breasts, lightly seasoned with salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 c medium or long-grain rice
  • 1 c low sodium chicken broth
  • 3/4 c water
  • 1/4 tsp crumbled saffron threads
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 c frozen peas, not thawed
  • Heat butter and oil in a heavy skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat until foam subsides
  • Add chicken, cook approximately 4-5 min per side. Transfer chicken to a plate. If you use chicken thighs, pour off all but 2 tbsp of the fat from the pan.
  • Cook onion and garlic with 1/4 tsp each salt and pepper over medium heat until golden, about 6 minutes.
  • Add rice and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
  • Add broth, water, bay leaf, and saffron; bring to a full boil.
  • Return chicken to the pot, nestling it in the rice, keeping as much rice around, not under, the chicken. Also add any juices from the plate.
  • Cover tightly and simmer over low heat until the chicken is cooked through, the rice is tender, and most of the liquid has absorbed; about 20-25 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and stir in peas.
  • Cover pot with a kitchen towel, and then the lid, and let stand until all of the liquid has absorbed, about 15 minutes. Discard bay leaf.
We both really enjoyed this - even the baby got a little taste and seemed to like it. I'm determined to get her to eat everything!!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Orecchiette with Roasted Tomatoes, Roasted Garlic, and Spinach

This pasta dish has everything that I love - roasted tomatoes (I love tomatoes in any form, but roasting them really concentrates the flavors), roasted garlic, spinach, and pasta. Can't go wrong!

My sister and I cooked this one together when she was home for a visit last week. Easy to throw together after putting the baby to bed, and wonderful with a nice cold, crisp glass of chardonnay (Estancia, to be exact).


  • 8 oz orecchiette pasta, cooked to al dente. Save some of the pasta water when draining the pasta.
  • 6 Roma tomatoes
  • 1 bulb roasted garlic
  • 8 oz baby spinach
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 1/3 c shredded cheese; we used an equal mix of Parmesan and Pecorino-Romano.
  • Cut the tomatoes into quarters, toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast in a large baking dish (large enough to use for serving the pasta) on 400 degrees for 30 minutes.
  • Once the tomatoes are done, add the pasta, whole roasted garlic cloves, and spinach to the dish. Toss.
  • Add some of the pasta water, the cheese, salt and pepper to taste, and toss again. Serve.
So easy, fresh, and delicious!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Gorgonzola Bruschetta with Honey

Over the past year or two, I have fallen in love with a few different cheeses, cheeses I never tried as a kid, including gorgonzola. I think I stayed away from it when I was younger because after reading "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" as a child, I had it in my head that it was the gross, stinky cheese that nobody wanted to eat. I'm so happy to know that while gorgonzola might have a bit of a smell to it, it's a nice, strong, creamy blue that I could eat on pizza, in sauces, and sometimes just straight as a little snack as I'm standing in front of the open fridge...

So when I saw this recipe for Bruschetta with Gorgonzola and Honey on the blog, The Piggly-Wiggly, my mouth started to water and I HAD to have it. Luckily my friend Jenny was coming to visit that weekend, so I had a good excuse to try a few new recipes.


(the original recipe had amounts, so if you want them, see the link above. But I don't think they are really necessary for this recipe - but that's the "just wing it" cooking attitude in me I guess!)

  • 1 baguette
  • Olive oil
  • Crumbled gorgonzola cheese
  • Honey
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Slice the baguette into 1/2 inch thick slices and place on a baking sheet Brush the top of each slice with some olive oil. Bake until each slice is slightly golden and crisp, about 7-8 minutes.
  • Top each slice with a spoonful of gorgonzola cheese. Return to oven and bake until the cheese is melted, about 3 minutes.
  • Place the slices onto a serving dish and drizzle with honey.
DELICIOUS!!!!! I love gorgonzola, but I really, really love melted gorgonzola. The honey went really well with it too - nice balance of flavors.

Dijon Garlic Chicken

I came across this recipe in the blog So Tasty, So Yummy several months ago. Can it get any easier than marinating chicken overnight, then baking it the next day?

When I make chicken, I usually go crazy trying to create flavor - I either stuff it, coat it, pan roast it then make a pan sauce, or make some other sort of sauce. So the simplicity of this recipe intrigued me, but also made me doubt that it could be all that good. Well, it proved me wrong - it was absolutely fabulous. Full of flavor and juicy, and easy on top of that.

I made slight adjustments to the amounts, as seen below, with any other changes in italics.


  • 3 large chicken breasts
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 c Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 c dry white wine
  • 1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce (I always use low sodium soy sauce)
  • 1 tsp Tabasco
  • A few pinches each: dried thyme, rosemary, basil, oregano, and a touch of salt (instead of using Herbs de Provence, as the original recipe noted)
Mix all of the ingredients, pour them over a single layer of chicken in a bowl, cover, and marinate overnight. Cook in the oven on 425 for 25-30 minutes, until the juices run clear.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Recipe Swap: Penne Alla Vecchia Bettola

I participated in a recipe swap last week - the focus was on pasta recipes. I was given a recipe for Penne Alla Vecchia Bettola shared by the author of the blog, So Tasty, So Yummy. Here is a link to all of the recipes shared in the pasta swap.

When I first read the recipe title I had no idea what it was, but as I read the recipe, I got really excited. A slow cooked vodka sauce, made in the oven?? I was intrigued. The recipe starts off with about 20 minutes of active cooking, then cooks in the oven for 90 minutes, then finishes with another 5 minutes of active cooking, so it is really pretty easy. And the mouth-watering smells that will come from your kitchen for those 90 minutes make it all worth it!

I followed the recipe almost exactly. Any changes are noted in italics below.


  • 1/4 c good olive oil
  • 1 medum Spanish onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 c vodka
  • 2 28-oz cans whole peeled plum tomatoes
  • Kosher salt (used 2 pinches)
  • Freshly ground black pepper (used just 4 turns of the pepper mill)
  • 1 lb penne pasta
  • 4 tbsp fresh oregano, roughly chopped
  • 3/4 to 1 c heavy cream
  • Grated Parmesan cheese
  • Added: pinch of sugar
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  • Heat the olive oil in a large oven-proof saute pan (I used my Dutch oven) over medium heat; add the onions and cook for about 5 minutes until transluscent. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, and dried oregano and cook for 1 minute more. Add the vodka and continue cooking until the mixture is reduced by half (about 5 minutes).
  • Meanwhile, drain the tomatoes through a sieve, then crush them into the pan with your hands (once the vodka mixture has reduced by half). Note: I saved the tomato juices because I thought I might need them later on. I ended up adding about 1/2 c of the juices to the sauce at the end).
  • Add salt and black pepper. Cover with a tight fitting lid and place in the oven for 90 minutes. Remove from the oven and let sit for 15 minutes. This is when I actually placed it over low heat and added 1/2 c of the tomato juice.
  • Cook the pasta, drain.
  • Place the tomato mixture into a blender and puree in batches until the sauce is a smooth consistency. Return to the pan. Note: I used my handheld immersion blender and roughly pureed it in the Dutch oven. I still had a few chunks, which I like.
  • Reheat the sauce, add 2 tbsp fresh oregano, and enough heavy cream to make it a creamy consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste, and simmer for 10 minutes. Add Parmesan cheese. At this point I tasted it and it was very tangy, so I added a pinch of sugar.
  • Toss the pasta into the sauce and cook for 2 minutes more. Note: I did not toss the pasta in the sauce. Instead I let everyone take the sauce they wanted. Every can then garnish with more Parmesan and fresh oregano.
I absolutely loved this! It was so rich and concentrated, and although my grandmother did not make vodka sauce, it really tasted a lot like her delicious tomato sauce. Definitely give this one a shot! Great Sunday meal.