Saturday, October 14, 2017

Southwest Chicken Soup

This soup is inspired by chicken tortilla soups I have had a various restaurants. I have made versions of this at home many times because it is my husband's favorite. This is the best version I have made so far. I don't usually serve it with traditional restaurant garnishes, but with crushed tortilla chips.


Ingredients
2 large (or 3 small) chicken breast halves
olive oil to thinly coat chicken breasts
salt and chili powder to lightly coat chicken breasts

olive oil to barely coat bottom of large soup pot
1 large bell pepper, diced
pinch of salt
4 cloves garlic, minced (or 1/2 tsp garlic powder)
2 tsp chili powder

1 12-16 oz jar salsa (mild or medium, depending on heat preference)
2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
32 oz chicken broth (plus water until the desired broth consistency is reached)
2 Tbsp Ortega taco sauce or ketchup
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp basil

2 Tbsp masa harina + water to thin into pourable consistency

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley (optional)
Chipotle Tabasco sauce to taste (optiona1)

Method

Heat oven to 400. Place chicken breast halves in a casserole dish. Sprinkle chicken with olive oil, salt, and chili powder, turning to coat all sides. Roast chicken for 30 - 45 minutes or until thermometer inserted in thickest part of breast measures 165 degrees. Set chicken aside until cool enough to chop.

Heat olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Saute the peppers, with a pinch of salt, until softened.

Turn the heat to low, add the garlic and chili powder, and saute for one more minute until garlic is just fragrant. Be careful not to burn the garlic.

Add the salsa and beans, turn the heat to medium high and cook for 5 minutes until mixture is bubbling and starts to cook down a little.

Add the broth, taco sauce/ketchup, oregano, basil, and water, if necessary, to thin the soup to taste.

Bring the soup to a low boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for 20 minutes or until chicken is done roasting.

When chicken is cool enough to handle, dice it into bite-sized chunks. Add the chicken to the soup pot along with any drippings and juices from the roasting pan. In a small dish, thoroughly mix the masa harina with water until smooth, pourable, and there are no lumps. Stir the masa liquid into the soup thoroughly and simmer for another 5 - 10 minutes. Adjust seasonings to taste. Add parsley if desired.

Serve with tortilla strips for garnish or tortilla chips. This soup is also excellent with precooked/leftover rice stirred into each serving.

Distracted Dish © 2013-2017

Friday, October 6, 2017

Sausage and Bean Soup

This soup is inspired by one we had at a pizza place in Cambridge, MA. It was so good I had to attempt to make it myself. This comes really close.


Ingredients
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 lb mild or medium ground Italian sausage
1 tsp cracked fennel
2 - 3 carrots, diced fine
2 - 3 ribs celery, diced fine
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp salt (1/2 tsp if your broth is less salty or your salt is coarse ground)
1 tsp paprika (smoked paprika, if you've got it)
red pepper flakes to taste
1/4 cup dry white wine (optional)

1 can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 can white beans (navy, great northern, cannellini), drained and rinsed
4 cups chicken broth (plus water until the desired broth consistency is reached)
1 bay leaf
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp basil

2 cups chopped kale or spinach (frozen or fresh will work)
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley (or 1 tbsp dried)
salt and pepper to taste


In a large soup pot (at least 4 quart) saute the sausage in the olive oil over medium heat about 5
minutes, breaking it up to cook evenly. It should start to brown a little.

Add the fennel, carrots, celery, and salt, and cook another 10 minutes or so until they start to soften.

Turn the heat to low and add garlic, paprika, and red pepper flakes. Cook for a minute or 2 until you start to smell the garlic. Add the wine, turn the heat to medium high and deglaze the pan, scraping up any bits stuck to the bottom.

Add the beans, broth, bay leaf, thyme, basil, and enough water to get the desired consistency. Bring the soup to a low boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for 20 minutes, or until the carrots and celery are soft.

When the vegetables are soft, add greens and parsley. Simmer another 5 minutes, or until the greens are just tender. Remove the bay leaf, taste the broth and adjust salt, pepper, and spices. Add more wine or a splash of red wine vinegar if desired.

Serve with grated cheese and crusty bread (or pizza).

Bon appetit!

Distracted Dish © 2013-2017

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Banana Spice Muffins

These muffins are pleasantly spicy, not too sweet, and best with coffee or tea. They make a nice breakfast treat or snack.



Wet Ingredients
1/4 cup butter or coconut oil, melted
2-3 ripe bananas, mashed (about 1 cup or a little more)
2 Tbsp molasses
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla (rum or coffee extract would work well too)
1 egg

Dry Ingredients
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
pinch ground cloves
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup chopped walnuts, raisins, or chocolate chips (optional)


Heat oven to 350 and grease 12 cup muffin tin.

In a large bowl whisk butter, bananas, molasses, sugar, vanilla, and egg until well blended.

Whisk flour, soda, spices, and salt together in a small bowl.

Use a spatula to gently fold flour into the wet ingredients in the large bowl just until combined. Add walnuts or raisins if using. Don't over mix, some lumps are fine.

Spoon batter evenly into prepared muffin tin. Bake for 20 minutes or until a knife inserted into a muffin comes out clean. Remove from muffin tin when cool enough to touch.


Distracted Dish © 2013-2017

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Chicken Prep Ideas

I only buy chicken breasts when they are on sale under $2/lb. I buy family sized packages, 5lbs+, and usually buy at least 2 at a time to last me until the next time chicken is on sale somewhere. I prep the meat all at once, freezing it for later in quart-sized freezer bags. I use the 3 basic methods below:

Whole breasts for roasting

If I am feeling really lazy I just take sets of 2 breast halves and stuff them in a quart bag, squeezing out as much air as I can and making sure that they do not touch. I don't want them to freeze together. It is best to match equally sized breasts together so they will cook for the same amount of time, but not necessary.

I usually bake whole breasts straight from frozen in 400 degree oven for an hour with some olive oil and salt. Otherwise they take a couple days to thaw in the fridge. This is why I make sure they don't touch. They are a pain to break apart when frozen.

I either use them for roasted chicken breast entrees with various seasoned bread crumb toppings, or I cut the roasted breasts into chunks for lunch wraps, quesadillas, casseroles, soups, etc.


Chunks for sauteing or baked nuggets

The other method I most commonly employ is to cut the chicken breasts into 1" chunks and put 1-1.5lbs of chunks in each bag, pressing out all the air and pressing the chunks into a flat layer as I seal the bag. The flat layer allows for easy stacking in the freezer and efficient thawing.

The sealed bags of chicken chunks thaw in the sink quickly. I put them in a casserole dish full of the hottest tap water I can run. I set a timer for 10 minutes, then I bust the chunks up into pieces as best I can, run fresh hot tap water, flip the still sealed bag over, and set the timer for another 10 minutes. The chicken is usually thawed in less than half an hour this way.

I use the thawed chicken chunks to make chicken nuggets, stir fries, and pasta skillet dishes such as Greek Chicken Pasta.


Chicken Fillets

The final method is to cut each breast into 3rds. I cut the thickest half from the rest of the breast and then filet the thickest half into 2 thinner pieces. I put 5 or 6 of these chicken breast thirds into quart freezer bags, getting the bag as flat as I can and separating the chicken pieces as best I can. If I am really feeling motivated I will pound the chicken fillets flat to even 1/3" or 1/4" thickness.

I thaw these the same way I thaw the chicken chunks above, but they take a couple minutes longer.

I use chicken fillets to make chicken picatta, chicken parmesan, katsu/schnitzel, and also I find they are the best size to poach if I want to make quick chicken broth. Pounded chicken fillets are best for breaded and fried chicken since they cook evenly and have more crispy surface area. Unpounded fillets are better for poaching.

Distracted Dish © 2013-2017

Monday, October 2, 2017

Quick Chicken Broth

This is a flexible base recipe that I use to make broth and chicken for chicken noodle soup, chicken tortilla soup, hot and sour style chicken soup, chicken and rice casseroles, or just to have some broth around because it makes everything taste better.



Broth Base Ingredients

2 quarts water
4 garlic cloves crushed, 1 Tbsp dried garlic chips, or 1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 cup roughly chopped celery, with leaves if possible
handful chopped fresh parsley, with stems if possible (optional)
1 Tbsp salt
10 whole black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp rosemary (optional)
1 tsp basil (optional)
zest and juice of a lemon or splash of dry white wine (optional)

2 chicken breasts, cut into 3 pieces each (6 total). Cut off the thickest half and then slice/filet the thicker piece in half horizontally to get 6 pieces of similar thickness.

Method

Bring all ingredients except the chicken to a boil in a large pot and boil vigorously on high for 10 minutes until fragrant.

Carefully drop the chicken into the boiling water and turn the heat down to the lowest setting. Cover the pot and set a timer for 10 minutes.

Take the chicken out when done (meat thermometer tests at least 165 degrees in thickest part) and slice against the grain into slices, store it in a little of the broth to keep it moist.

Strain the broth into jars and discard the solids. Broth keeps in the fridge for at least a couple weeks and freezes well.

Poached chicken can be eaten as is or in salad, wraps, quesadillas, casseroles, added back to the broth to make soup, etc.

Distracted Dish © 2013-2017

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Mediterranean Ceci Beans and Spinach

I have adapted this amazing recipe from Smitten Kitchen, one of my favorite blogs. It was originally inspired by a Spanish dish, which I changed a ton based on my own preferences and general kitchen laziness

This can be served both as a hearty side and as a light main dish over toast or with pita bread. It's crying out to be served with a dry red wine. The leftovers are even better, I tend to just eat them plain, which is saying something because I don't really like leftovers.


Ingredients
1-2 tablespoons olive oil (enough to coat bottom of large skillet)
3-4 garlic cloves, minced (depending on size)
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin (or whole seeds if you have them)
1/4 tsp whole fennel seeds
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
Red pepper flakes to taste

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar (could additionally use a splash of dry red wine here if you'd like)
3/4 cup tomato sauce (I used tomato basil marinara from a jar in my fridge, any tomato sauce would work I think)
1/2 pound dried ceci beans (aka chickpeas) soaked overnight and cooked until soft (or from two 15-ounce cans, drained and rinsed)
1/2 pound baby spinach or other baby greens, washed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste (I used some smoked sea salt for extra smokey kick)

Heat oil on low in a large skillet. Add garlic and spices, stirring to keep them from burning. Saute garlic and spices on low for a minute or two until garlic is fragrant, watching closely to make sure it does not brown.

Add the vinegar and turn up the heat to medium until it starts to bubble, then add tomato sauce and ceci beans, stirring thoroughly to coat the chick peas in sauce.

Simmer until the sauce is slightly thickend and the chick peas are hot and have absorbed some of the sauce, 5-10 minutes.

Add spinach and cook just until it is wilted. Take off heat and add salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 3-4, depending on whether it is a meal or a side. Reheats wonderfully in the microwave.

Distracted Dish © 2013-2017

Friday, September 8, 2017

Sausage Roll

Sausage Roll is the ultimate party food. It is a crowd pleasing finger food appetizer that holds up well for a couple hours at room temperature. It is not likely to last that long, though. It's also good reheated the next day for breakfast.


Ingredients
1 lb bulk ground medium Italian sausage
1 small red pepper, diced
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp oregano
Hot red pepper flakes to taste
4 eggs
1 lb refrigerated bread/pizza dough
12oz-16oz shredded cheese (I use half mozzarella and half pepperjack, but cheddar, provolone, etc would work)
1/4 cup Romano (or Parmesan) cheese

1 Tbsp butter (optional)
1-2 cloves garlic, minced (optional)

Heat oven to 350

In a large skillet, saute the sausage and peppers until the sausage is browned. Season with hot pepper flakes, garlic powder and oregano. When brown, move all the sausage mixture to one side of the pan, crack the eggs into a cup and beat them lightly with a fork, same as making scrambled eggs. Pour the eggs into the other side of the pan in a thin layer. Cook them until about half set, stirring them with a spatula to keep the bottom from sticking. Then mix the half-cooked eggs and sausage together while the eggs finish setting. Remove the pan from the heat, taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.

Measure a sheet of tin foil (or parchment paper) slightly larger than a cookie sheet. Roll the bread dough into a rectangle that will fit inside the cookie sheet (it will expand when it bakes so leave room on the long side). Be careful not to roll too thin or the dough may break when rolled up and cause a mess. Spread the sausage and eggs evenly onto the dough, leaving an inch on all sides clear.

Shred the cheese and sprinkle it evenly on the top, finishing with the Romano. Start with 12 oz of cheese and shred more if necessary to cover to your linking. It depends on the size of the cookie sheet/dough rectangle. Carefully roll the dough up from the long side into a log of rolled up dough and filling. This works best with an extra set of hands to hold one end of the roll in place while the other end is gently tucked under itself. Pinch the seam and ends of the roll sealed.


Roll the sealed up dough roll onto the tin foil, seam side down, and lift the foil onto the cookie sheet. Gently cut 3 or 4 small slashes across the top of the roll to release steam. Optionally you can melt the butter on low heat in the skillet and gently saute the minced garlic until it is fragrant and just barely starting to color. Brush the garlic butter on the top of the sausage roll just before putting it in the oven. This step is not necessary for a great sausage roll and I often don't do it, but it adds a little extra kick.

Bake for 30 - 45 minutes or until lightly browned and the dough is cooked through. Tapping on the roll should produce a hollow sound. Cool until safe to touch, then transfer to a cutting board and slice into 1/2" - 1" slices for serving. Best served warm or at room temperature. Leftovers reheat well and keep for up to 3 days in the fridge.

Variations on this recipe can substitute crumbled bacon, chopped mushrooms, greens, chopped broccoli, or mixed peppers for the sausage. Saute the alternate ingredients, season as desired, add eggs, and proceed with the recipe from there.

Distracted Dish © 2013-2017