January 2012

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Tortilla Soup

I have so many great winter weather recipes to share still, I really need to keep cracking away. Luckily I’ve been taking pictures all along even if I have slacked on writing up the posts. I could eat most of these things 3 seasons a year (just not in St. Louis’s ridiculous hot and humid summers). This tortilla soup recipe is delish and like many soups just gets better the longer you’re able to let it cook, but you can also whip it up in a hurry and it’ll still be good. Maybe the most fun part of this recipe are the toppings. I’ve made this soup for a party and my table looked great with all the little dishes of topping choices.

Tortilla Soup

~10 Chicken Breast Tenders (can also take 4-5 breast halves and slice them up)

2 Tbs. Oil (olive or canola)

1-2 tsp. Penzy’s Southwest Seasoning*

2+ Tbs. Lime Juice

2 Tbs. Tequila (optional)

One medium yellow onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 7oz can chopped green chiles

29 – 30 oz fire roasted tomatoes (you’ll ether find 15 oz cans or a big 29 oz can in the grocery store)

1/2 tsp. paprika

1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

6-8 cups chicken stock (gluten free if you are so inclined)

For topping choices:

avocado, diced

onion, finely diced**

sour cream

lime juice** & slices if you want to be fancy

cilantro (or even italian/flat parsley)**

shredded cheese

crushed tortilla chips

hot sauce

Start with your heavy duty soup pot – I use my Le Creuset dutch oven. Put 2 Tbs. oil in the bottom and heat on medium high. Season your chicken tenders with the southwest seasoning* and place in the oil to cook. Cook chicken through – few minutes a side should do. You want it cooked through but it will cook more in the soup later so try not to dry it out now. Once the chicken is cooked pull it out and set it aside. Deglaze your pot with 2 Tbs. Lime juice and 2 Tbs. Tequilla – scrape the bottom and enjoy the aroma.

Put your diced onion in the pot to cook until translucent (you may need to turn your heat to medium). Meanwhile, shred the chicken – I hold the piece down with a fork and shred portions away with a knife at an angle. Keep shredded chicken set aside. When the onions have about a minute to go, add the minced garlic and cook and stir for about a minute. Next add the chopped chiles and cook another minute or two. Add the fire roasted tomatoes, paprika, cayenne, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Stir and cook 4-5 minutes.

Add shredded chicken and chicken stock, bring to a simmer and simmer, stirring occasionally, for at least 30 minutes, though the longer it simmers the better it gets. Dish into bowls and top as desired.

*Penzey’s southwest seasoning is a staple in my kitchen, especially since typical taco or fajita seasonings often have gluten. This just seems to be the perfect blend for seasoning anything in a semi spicy way. You don’t have to use southwest seasoning, you can make your own blend of cayenne, parika, garlic powder, onion powder, chipotle pepper, salt, etc. Or you could season with your favorite southwest, Mexican, or similar blend.

** I like to combine the chopped onion with some flat parsley, salt and lime juice and let it sit while I cook. I’ll stir it occasionally since I don’t put so much lime juce that the onions swim and I want it all to be coated. This makes a sort of salsa as one of our toppings.

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Wyoming Whoppers may be the only cookie recipe from my pre-GF days that I can still eat with only one very minor change (GF oats instead of regular oats). The recipe naturally doesn’t have any flour in it and in our household we figure there is enough protein in these cookies to make them a breakfast food in addition to a delicious dessert. The recipe came to me from my mother-in-law and I’m not sure how she came by it – and I don’t know what’s behind the name except that you end up with very large cookies. There are two methods to get to the finished product – the one that came with the recipe and the one that I use, because I just can’t seem to get behind making a cookie batter in a saucepan!

Wyoming Whoppers

Yield: ~27 Large Cookies

2/3 cup unsalted butter

1 1/4 cups brown sugar, packed

3/4 cup sugar

2 tsp. baking soda

2 cups of milk chocolate chips (one regular size package)

3 large eggs, beaten

1 1/2 cups of chunky peanut butter (about one regular size container)

6 cups of GF oats (not the quick cooking kind! If you’re making this in a gluten loving household just use the old fashioned oats)

1 1/2 cups of dried cherries, chopped (you can substitute raisins, but the cherries are oh, so good!)

Original recipe directions…

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Take a large saucepan and melt the butter over low heat.

Take the saucepan off the heat and add the sugars, eggs, baking soda, & peanut butter – mix until smooth with wooden spoon.

Wait for the mixture to cool enough so that the chocolate chips will not melt when added. Then add and mix the remaining ingredients.

Using a large spoon or #2 ice cream scoop, form large domes of dough and place on cookie sheet. Dough will be loose and seem like it’s going to fall apart, but pack it in and mold it together and your cookies will turn out as planned.

Using the back of a spoon, press down on the top of each dome so that your dough looks more like a hockey puck than a dome.

Bake on 350 degrees for ~12-14 minutes (may be gooey, should be browned). Most of the time, they take extra time – often they even need another 4-5 minutes.* Let them cool mostly on the pan before moving them to a cooling rack. If you try to move them too soon they might break in the middle, if they’re cool enough this won’t happen.

* I find that with baking especially cooking times seem to be phooey. My mother explained that the acceptable temperature variation in an oven is 25 degrees. That’s right – your oven could register 325 when the dial is turned to 350 and the oven man will say it’s performing fine. While mine could register 375 with the dial turned to 350. Clearly my cookies will cook faster than yours. So take times with a grain of salt and look for signs of “doneness” when ever possible, as above. Not relevant with cookies, but never take a cake, cupcakes or quick bread from the oven without it first passing the knife or toothpick test!

{In case you’re interested, my method is the typical bakers method for making cookie dough. Take the butter, room temperature, cream it, add the sugars and beat until fluffy. Add the eggs, baking soda and peanut butter and mix well. Stir in the oats, mix well. Stir in the chips and cherries. The rest is the same – while this requires that you start with room temperature ingredients, this really is always a rule of thumb for baking and my method doesn’t require a cool down before adding the chips.}

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I’ve tried a number of frozen pizzas – and crusts for making my own. So far I like Against The Grain’s Nut Free Pesto pizza the best. We like it just the way it is, but have also added our own toppings. The crust is thin and dense, but I really like the flavor and I’m able to get the bottom crisp. Check it out!

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The minestrone I make is the same that my mom makes which started with Marcella Hazan’s Minestrone from her book “The Essentials of Italian Cooking”. I highly recommend this book. If what I make from memory isn’t dead on with Marcella’s recipe, then it’s pretty darn close. First thing to know – although minestrone is essentially a vegetable soup, this is no vegetarian vegetable soup. I’m sure that an interested vegetarian could easily modify the recipe and switch the beef stock with vegetable stock. Probably the single most important ingredient is the hunk of reggiano parmigiano rind. I’ve had the soup made without it and well, let’s just say that making the soup without it really isn’t an option. My grocery store sells the rind in the specialty cheese section, they also have hunks of the parmigiano for sale that still have a rind side on them. I usually go for the hunk of cheese, cut the rind side off for the soup and save the rest for grating over the top at the end. This is a soup that the whole family loves. If you’re going to make it I sure hope you have some decent knives that are sharp and ready to be put to work!

Minestrone Soup

2 Tbs. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 Tbs. Unsalted Butter

1 medium white onion, diced

4-5 carrots, peeled and diced

3 stalks of celery, washed and diced

1 1/2 handfuls of fresh green beans, ends snipped and beans cut into bite sized sections

2-3 zucchini, washed well, ends cut off, quartered and sliced

3 medium yellow potatoes, peeled and large diced

1 head of napa cabbage, washed and chopped

2 cans of diced tomatoes

6 cups of Beef Stock (GF peeps, make sure you use a GF stock – I often use Kitchen Basics)

Reggiano Parmigiano cheese and rind

Salt and Pepper to taste

In a heavy stock pot (I heart my Le Creuset Dutch Oven), melt butter and oil together over medium heat. Add the diced onions and cook until the onions begin to turn translucent. Add the carrots and celery and cook for 3-5 minutes more, stirring. Then add the green beans and zucchini. Cook, stirring for another 3-5 minutes. Add the diced potatoes, cook and stir for 4 minutes. Add the chopped cabbage, cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the diced tomatoes and then the stock. Stir, turn the heat down as low as it can go for a simmer. Put the rind from the parmigiano into the soup, cover and simmer for at least an hour. Stir the soup occasionally, if you have anything sticking to the bottom of the pan then the heat is too high. Once you are ready to serve the soup, dish it into a bowl and grate some parmigiano on top.

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