Friday, August 31, 2007

Chicken Cacciatore

I had the best weekend! I am so sorry I am just now updating, but there was the fabulous weekend and then the horrible week of work, class and errands. I won't get into it but my school's beurocracy is annoying me on 2 fronts.

Anyway, happier topic. Since the roomie has come back we have done some cooking, but because of our very exciting weekend (see run-girl-run's blog for details) not as much as I would have liked. One meal that stands out, though, is the chicken cacciatore I made a few days after roomie got back. Actually, i should say "the chicken cacciatore WE made" since roomie got in on the fun. And I say fun because it was a blast. We changed the recipe to be exactly what we wanted and had on hand, joking and having a blast along the way.

It was not the best meal I have ever had, but with a few tweaks it would certainly be a repeat. First, I only had angel hair pasta in the pantry, so I used it despite the fact that I HATE angel hair. It is one of my highly irrational food opinions, but I hate angel hair pasta. It has no texture and no ability to hold flavor. Next time I would CERTAINLY use spaghetti or fettucini. Also, and I think this problem was exacerbated by the angel hair, but I would have liked a little more of a saucy consistency, so I would add more wine and more chopped tomatoes and possibly more diced tomatoes or some tomato paste. Otherwise I think it was great. It was a combination chicken cacciatore and chicken stew by the time I was done with all the changes to the recipe, but I really liked it (minus the pasta).
Chicken Cacciatore (Based off of Mom's Chicken Cacciatore)
2 cups all-purpose flour for coating
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 chicken cutlets, cut into pieces
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 cup red wine
1 handful chopped carrots
1 handful chopped cherry tomatoes
1 handful chopped green beans
salt and pepper to taste
Combine the flour, salt and pepper in a plastic bag. Shake the chicken pieces in flour until coated.
Heat the oil in a large skillet (one that has a cover/lid). Fry the chicken pieces until they are browned on both sides. Remove from skillet. Add the onion, garlic and bell pepper, and carrots to the skillet and saute until the onion is slightly browned.
Return the chicken to the skillet and add both of the tomatoes, green beans, oregano and wine.
Cover and cook on medium heat for 10-15 minutes.
Stir in salt and pepper and simmer on low for 5-10 minutes.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Calimocho Cupcakes

*read the last entry for part one of the work picnic cupcake story*

So, as you have just read (because you are so good at following directions) I wanted to make an alcohol based cupcake for my work picnic. I wanted to make a “cuptail” as some have dubbed it. The decision was off of which wonderful cocktail would I base my cuptail? I wanted something unusual, yet tasty; classy, yet fun. I was going to try a cuba libre cupcake, but those have a chocolate base and frosting, and since brownies were supplied, I didn’t want anything chocolatey. I needed to create my own cuptail.

The cocktail I decided to base it on was the Spanish calimocho. The calimocho is a drink consisting of equal parts red wine and coke. For those who thumb their noses at the sound of wasting wine by making it a cocktail, think. Red wine and coca cola. Can it be that bad?

I had actually stumbled across this fantastic combination quite on accident. In high school I took a trip to Europe and we went on a wine tasting tour. Since I was about 15 at the time, I didn’t drink and had no admiration for wine whatsoever. So, I, the uncouth young American, brought a bottle of coke with me on this wine tasting adventure. After every sip of wine that I didn’t like (which was every one) I washed my mouth out with a swig of cola. Hmm, the combination was actually rather good. I then started liking the red wines, so long as I drank coke before the after taste got me.

Then, this past Spring, I was doing research for my time in Barcelona and found that Spanish people drink wine cocktails, but not normally sangria. Some drink calimochos, that same red wine and coke combination I thought I had created!
So, I decided that this little known and often mocked cocktail deserved its own cupcake. Unfortunately, there were no recipes online, so I had to create one to represent this fine drink. It turned out to be everything I wanted! It was unusual (in that few think of combining wine and coke) and yet really tasty (the boy said this was my best creation yet; even better than the banana pudding cupcake). It is classy (has wine and comes from a European cocktail) yet fun (can you say calimocho without smiling?). Oh, and it wasn’t even chocolate! I have to add at this point that not only was it tasty, it is the softest, moistest cupcake, ever. I added extra wine and coke to increase their flavor, and it ended up making a great texture. Feel free to decrease the amount of liquid if you prefer a more solid cupcake though. Also, without food dye, the cupcakes come out a greenish color, so I added red dye. Feel free to add it or leave it out
Changes for next time: dear G*D I should make regular sized cupcakes. It took FOREVER to make the entire batch into mini cupcakes. Seventy Two mini cupcakes to be precise. And I could only bake 24 at a time. And I could only decorate one at a time. It took forever. Next time, make regular sized cupcakes! Perhaps decrease the oil even further so that the majority of the liquid is flavored with wine or coke. Could also probably try making either a cola or a wine cupcake with the frosting being the opposite flavor. Would be worth trying, but not necessary.
Calimocho Mini Cupcakes
1 (18.25 ounce) package yellow cake mix
1 (3.5 ounce) package instant vanilla pudding mix
3/4 cup red wine
¾ cup coke of other cola
1/6 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
red dye
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, line mini muffin trays.
Combine cake mix and pudding mix in a large bowl. Add wine, coke and vegetable oil and mix lightly. Add eggs and dye and mix until smooth.
Fill muffin tins ½- ¾ full, then bake 10-12 min.

Calimocho Frosting
1 8oz package of Neufchatel Cheese (like low fat cream cheese), softened
¼ cup butter or margarine, softened
1 ½ tsp red wine
1 ½ tsp coke or other cola
Heaping cup of powdered sugar
red dye
In a medium bowl, cream together the cream cheese and butter until creamy. Mix in the wine and coke, then gradually whip in the confectioners' sugar and dye. Store in the refrigerator until firm. Pipe or spread onto cupcakes. Store in fridge

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Key Lime Pie Cupcakes

As the summer closes on us once again, it is time for that age old tradition: Company Picnics. Ours is tomorrow, and I was asked to bring some dessert. Since another woman was already bringing brownies and cookies, I decided to bring mini cupcakes.

I wanted one alcoholic cupcake and one summery, non-alcoholic cupcake. That’s where the key lime pie cupcake comes in.
As I previously have mentioned, I just got back from a cruise. One of the stops was Key West, where I had the best frozen, chocolate covered, key lime pie. TO. DIE. FOR. If you are ever in Key West, you have to go to Kermits and get the chocolate covered key lime pie on a stick. Yum.

Anyway, since then I have been craving more! More key lime please! Since I had a bottle of the juice in my fridge, this picnic was as good a time as any to break it out and make it into a baked good, but a cupcake instead of a pie. I used Vanilla and Garlic’s recipe for the graham cracker base, but since the cupcakes will be out at the picnic, I couldn’t use whipped cream. For the filling/topping I turned to a Betty Crocker recipe. I didn’t like how they sweetened the pudding topping though. Isn’t powdered sugar in pudding really just overkill? The reviewers of the recipe seemed to agree that this was the weak point. So, as I always do, I changed the recipe, yet again. I switched the cream to milk and added a little extra key lime juice and left out the sugar all together. Perfect. Tangy and sweet without the overkill. Once refrigerated it was solid enough to be the topping (note, on full size cupcakes it would make a great filling, but then put the food coloring in the frosting). I added an extra tablespoon or so of juice to the frosting and was ready to assemble.
As you can see in the pictures, it took me a while to get a handle on the decorating. Eventually I got it and they looked good. And boy did they taste good too! Like a key lime pie (but with more of a focus on the crust). They aren’t nearly as messy to eat as you would think. The pudding really is solid enough to stay still (just don’t put a large glob on; use a bag to create a thin layer over the entire top). They get the Amy seal of approval and will be making their appearance at the picnic tomorrow.
Notes for next time: If not trying to make for 40 people, make full sized cupcakes and use the pudding as filling, putting the food coloring in the frosting instead. Make very very tiny holes on the Ziplocs for piping. The pudding kind of just blobs out if you can’t control the pressure, so keep the hole tiny. I learned this lesson for the frosting which made it really easy. The pudding and the frosting made plenty extra, and will likely be enough for a second batch of cupcakes.
Mini Key Lime Pie Cupcakes
1 box (4-serving size) vanilla instant pudding mix
1 1/2 cups milk
1/3 cup Key lime juice
4 drops green food color
In large bowl, beat pudding mix and milk with wire whisk 2 minutes. Let stand 3 minutes. Beat in Key lime juice and the food color. Pour into a Ziploc and refrigerate.

Graham Cupcakes
350 F oven
What You’ll Need...
1/2 cup of butter, room temperature
1 cup of sugar
3 eggs, room temperature
1 cup of milk
1 cup of flour
1 1/2 cups of graham cracker crumbs
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1/8 teaspoon of salt
What You’ll Do...
1) Beat the butter for about 30 seconds until well creamed. Add the sugar and mix for 3 minutes using a paddle attachment until light and fluffy.
2) Add the eggs, one at a time, being sure to beat for 30 seconds for each egg.
3) Place graham crackers in a food processor or in a plastic bag and beat the crud out of them until it's been ground into small crumbs and powder.
4) Sift together the flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking soda and powder, and salt. Add about 1/4 of the mixture to the butter mixture, then add some of the milk. Continue to add the ingredients in a dry-wet-dry method, ending with the dry. Continue to mix until just combined.
5) Scoop into mini cupcake papers and bake for 10-12 minutes in a 350 F oven or until a cake tester comes out clean

1 container Betty Crocker® Whipped fluffy white frosting
2 tablespoons Key lime or regular lime juice
½-1 teaspoon grated Key lime or regular lime peel
Stir frosting in container 20 times. Gently stir in Key lime juice and the lime peel. Spoon frosting into Ziploc bag.

Cut tiny wholes in both ziploc bags. Swirl a thin layer of topping on top of each cupcake. Squeeze a little frosting from bag onto topping. Garnish with fresh lime wedge, if desired. Store in refrigerator.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

My First Meme!

A while back I found myself flipping through the glorious entries that form The Domestic Goddess' blog, and was intrigued by a version of a meme that she participated in. She offered to grill (in the non cheese sandwich sense) anyone who wanted to participate. Well I signed up immediatly! Here are her questions for me and my replies. If you would like me to create some questions for you, leave a comment on this post with your blog address and email. But be warned, I am a very curious question asker!

1. I'm so inspired by my own mother in my cooking and writing – what is your own favourite childhood recipe you are dying to recreate or just make again and why?

Oh, this is a hard one. Mom made the baked ziti that I already wrote about. Oh, and my mom’s Mexican dip is to DIE for! She made it for every slumber party I threw, and I remember bringing it up into my room when we all went upstairs to watch chick flicks. I have made that one many times since getting my own kitchen, and have even turned it into a Mexican chicken sandwich so that I have an excuse to eat the dip more often! Mom also made some mushroom orzo thing that I never got quite right. I tried making it for the boy once, and it was so bad, we just ordered pizza. It is the only dish that I like mushrooms in. Gotta give mom credit for that!

2. What gives you the most inspiration for your cooking - your "Mojo" as you put it?

I think my “kitchen mojo” comes from the joy that I get from being in the kitchen and the ability to then share my product with those I love. There is nothing more rewarding than sitting down to have a great meal with great company and having someone say “yum!” I love making everyone happy (one of my faults that I get from mom), and making good food is a great way to do that. My room mate jokes that it may be some psychological thing about wanting to be likeable, but I just like cooking and then sharing it with people to brighten their day!

3. What is your favourite season for food? or What seasonal foods do you wait for each year?

The farmers market down the street from my office has this vendor who sells live basil. I don’t have a garden, so I can’t grow it, but they sell basil with roots that can live with just water for about 3 months. That is, if you remember to water it. I forgot and now have to buy a new one. ANYWHO, the point was that I love that fresh basil sitting on my windowsill in the summer. Perfect for pasta, panzanella or chicken with basil sauce.

4. If you could choose anyone in the world to cook for you, who would it be and what would they make?

Despite my adoration for the darling Ms. Ray, Rachael would not be my choice. For a real meal, I would look to anyone Italian. I have to be honest; I have such a weak spot for anything Italian.
I think I would ask Mario Batali to make some orrichete con broccoli. I can’t find orrichette in my store, and I do not know what goes in the sauce, but in Little Italy in Boston, I once had Orrichette con broccoli and was in heaven. I’m sure Mario could hook me up!
5. What is something you do while cooking that you might not want to mention in your blog (I sometimes pretend I have a television show and talk to the wall or the countertop about how to marinate chicken or slice onions without crying)...?

I do that too! If I am ALL alone (and I mean no one ANYWHERE in the apartment) I pretend the dish rack is a novice cook and I am a FABULOUS chef teaching it all it needs to know.

A second thing I do when cooking, that I don’t mention is…cuss…a lot. I am afraid what will happen if I ever have kids, because I will need to change my kitchen language from “Sh*t I burned the f’ing chicken” to “whoopsy daisies! Mommy made a big flaming mess. Get back so she can use the fire extinguisher!” This is why my friends will all have kids and I will just bring them all cookies (so long as they stay out of my foul-language-filled kitchen and let me talk to my dish rack in peace!)

Monday, August 20, 2007

Impromptu Oven Baked Chicken Parmesan Sandwich

I was going to put up a nice post about the food I had on the cruise and the lovely dinner I created when I got home. Except, I am no longer in any mood to write about the food on the cruise (as fantastic as some of it was) because I could not create a great dinner when I got home. Why you ask? Because the management in my building apparently doesn’t even know the size of their own stove burners. They came to fix the burners in the apartment while I was away, but they inserted the wrong size burner plate and heating coil. They can’t snap in, so it is impossible/unsafe to try to cook on my stovetop. This left me with an interesting dilemma. A lack of fresh food meant I couldn’t have a salad. No ingredients for a no boil lasagna. Hmmm… Chipotle it is.

The next day I really needed to eat lunch. No milk, so cereal was out, and the same issues existed as the day before. Ok, time to improvise. I ended up with an oven baked chicken parmesan sandwich (couldn’t boil water for pasta!). Wasn’t too bad, but is only to be used when the stove top is unavailable, as sautéing makes a much better version. The chicken just didn’t have the same flavor or texture that I get from my normal recipe (a Giada recipe). It was edible, yet not a crispy outside and juicy inside.

For dinner last night, I used the foreman grill to make grilled chicken with barbeque sauce, and I served it with corn muffins (since the oven part worked), broccoli and carrots steamed in the microwave and canned corn, also heated in the microwave.

Oh well, hopefully I will come home to a working stove! Fingers crossed!
Impromptu Oven Baked Chicken Parmesan Sandwich
1 chicken cutlet, frozen
Sprinkling of dried Italian herbs
About 1 cup of pasta sauce
A small handful each of parmesan and mozzarella
Potato roll

Heat oven to 350. Pour a little sauce into an oven safe sauté pan, then put in chicken. Sprinkle with seasoning. Cover with rest of the sauce. Cook in oven for 10 min. Flip the chicken. Cook another 10 minutes. Sprinkle on the cheeses. Bake another 5 minutes. Toast roll and serve chicken and sauce on the roll.

Friday, August 10, 2007

New and Not Improved Chocolate Chip Cookies

“But I think it’s more to do with the fact that it finally occurred to me that the best chocolate cake I will ever make is the one that I actually make. The imagination is delicious, but reality is even more so.

“It occurred to me that it was time to squelch the insecure little baker in me that keeps telling me I can bake a better this or a better that and just get down to the act of baking”

Oh Cream Puff. How you get me. I fell into the trap again. I saw someone recommend a new chocolate chip cookie called the “best big fat chewy chocolate chip cookie” and I bit.
But I was less than happy with my bite. It was bready, not chewy. And they poofed instead of spreading. I once again must bow before my traditional chocolate chip recipe. It is similar to the tollhouse recipe, but not quite. They come out slim, chewy, soft, and chocolaty. So why do I keep trying others? So that I don’t worry about missing an even better cookie. But I will try to be like Cream Puff and let go.
Tips and Changes for next time: I’m not making these again. Other people liked them, but they are not the type I liked. If you like bready cookies, though, try with no changes
In other news, I will be on vacation next week. Posting will likely resume Monday the 20th. You won’t know it, but I will be posting while I am nice and tan and relaxed! Best Big, Fat, Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.
Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt; set aside.
In a medium bowl, cream together the melted butter, brown sugar and white sugar until well blended. Beat in the vanilla, egg, and egg yolk until light and creamy. Mix in the sifted ingredients until just blended. Stir in the chocolate chips by hand using a wooden spoon. Drop cookie dough 1/4 cup at a time onto the prepared cookie sheets. Cookies should be about 3 inches apart. Bake for 15 to 17 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the edges are lightly toasted. Cool on baking sheets for a few minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Cornish Game Hens with Mashed Potatoes and Garlic Broccoli

This was a surprisingly easy meal. I was expecting some major hiccup and the hens would be burnt or raw or the side dishes inedible, but no. This worked out just fine! It took a good bit of time, but was really kind of easy.

I wanted to make a nice, romantic dinner for the boy. Inspired by “My Husband Hates Veggies,” I decided on Cornish game hens. Her description of the little birds as “gluttonously carnivorous” sounded perfect for the boy who wants to eat his way through the animal kingdom. I wanted to edit the recipe slightly since it seemed like it would be rather plain on flavor and dry with no cooking liquid. For that I turned to allrecipes and decided on cornish game hens with garlic and rosemary. The result is a delicious combination of the 2 recipes.

Wow, gluttonously carnivorous indeed. It was so good, and so filling! I couldn’t finish my bird (the boy could, but really, isn’t that expected?). It was juicy and meaty, yet sweet from the roasted garlic and wine. Oh, it was divine. And the skin! Normally I don’t eat the skin of poultry, but this was crispy and tasty, so I couldn’t help it!

I served it with mashed potatoes like my mom makes and garlic broccoli. It was, indeed, a romantic feast! Or, as the boy put it, “a real gourmet dinner!” I dimmed the lights, put flowers on the table, and it really was just as good as any fancy restaurant.

Tips and changes for next time: I was worried the garlic was going to burn, so I added the liquid early. I think this was wise as it was already dark brown in some spots. Thus, next time, I will put the liquid in after about 10-15 min, as I did this time. I may thicken the pan sauce like it recommends in the recipe, but it isn’t necessary, just a possibility. I will mash the potatoes with a fork before I use the mixer so that I don’t end up with milk and potato all over the kitchen! Oops!
Garlic and Rosemary Cornish Game Hens Stuffed with Mirepoix

½ cup of finely chopped carrot
1 onion finely chopped
1 stalk celery finely chopped
1 tsp chopped garlic
Dried rosemary
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cornish game hens
½ lemon
Olive oil
10 cloves garlic
2/3 cup white wine (divided)
1/3 cup low sodium chicken broth
1/3 cup water
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F
Combine chopped carrots, onion and celery. Add chopped garlic and some rosemary, salt and pepper to taste. This is the mirepoix. Rub hens with a little olive oil. Lightly season hens with salt and pepper. Rub hens inside and out with lemon wedges and then squeeze lemons over the inside and outside of the hens (making sure to hold back the seeds). Stuff both birds with the mirepoix, dividing evenly. Put a garlic clove inside along with the mirepoix. Arrange in a large, heavy roasting pan, and arrange leftover garlic cloves and the used lemon wedges around hens. Roast in preheated oven for 10-15 minutes (until garlic is brown where it was touching the pan).
In a mixing bowl, whisk together 1/3 cup wine, chicken broth, 1-2 tablespoons of oil and some rosemary; pour over hens. Roast 10-15 min. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Pour remaining wine and water over birds if the sauce is starting to dry up. Continue roasting about 25-40 minutes longer, or until hens are golden brown and juices run clear. Baste with pan juices every 10 minutes.
Transfer hens to a platter. Tent hens with aluminum foil to keep warm. (at this point I just served the garlic cloves and poured the pan juices into a bowl, but you can also try this) Transfer pan juices and garlic cloves to a medium saucepan and boil until liquids reduce to a sauce consistency, about 6 minutes.Mashed Potatoes
3 large or 6 small potatoes (I used 3 large Russetts)
¼ - ½ cup milk
2-3 TBSP butter or margarine
Salt and pepper to taste (I like a lot more pepper than salt)

Peel and cube potatoes. Place in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook (depending on the size of your cubes) 15-25 minutes until very tender. Measure very tender by the idea that you want to be able to fully mash these wish a fork if you need to. If you can’t easily break it with a fork, it isn’t done. Drain the potatoes

In the same pan you used for the potatoes, heat the milk and butter until the butter is fully melted and the milk warm. If your pot is big enough you can then just add you potatoes back in, but if it will be too small when mixing, transfer milk combination along with potatoes to a mixing bowl. Use a fork to first break down the potatoes, then use an electric mixer. Add salt and pepper and keep beating until smooth, light and fluffy.

Garlic Broccoli
½ head broccoli
1 TBSP chopped garlic
1 TBSP butter or margarine
A little olive oil

Cut broccoli into “extended florets” where it is the thickness of florets, but include a little bit of the stalk so they are about2 inches long. Lightly steam until crisp-tender (about 2 minutes with high heat).

In a sauté pan, heat olive oil to medium. Sauté garlic for a minute or 2. Add broccoli and butter and sauté until butter is melted and all the flavors are combined. Add salt and pepper if desired. Can also add parmesan.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Banana Pudding Cupcakes

The boy is back! I briefly mentioned it in the previous posts, but I created something especially for the boy’s return. He LOVES banana pudding. Banana pudding and cheesecake are the only desserts he really likes. So I started thinking. Banana pudding. But I don’t want plain banana pudding. Banana pudding in a cupcake form? And so it was born. The banana pudding cupcake.

I started with a banana cupcake recipe on allrecipes. Then I wanted to find a way to incorporate the pudding flavor and the nilla wafers. I decided to swap part of the flour with nilla wafer crumbs and top and fill with a combination of vanilla pudding, bananas, cream cheese frosting and nilla wafers. OMG! Phenomenal!
When it was time to give them to the boy, I took them out of the fridge to take the chill off. Once warm, he had it and said it was “amazing! It tastes just like banana pudding!” I’d call that a success.

As I just mentioned, I had these stored in the fridge. The combination of cream cheese frosting and pudding made me think that was the best place to keep them. They tasted and felt better at room temperature though, so be sure to sit them out a bit before eating.
Overall, these were great! I loved the texture, the color, and the flavor. They weren’t too crumbly or too heavy. They were a lovely light golden brown with banana flecks inside and a creamy colored frosting. And they tasted just like banana pudding (with a little touch of cream cheese).

Tips and changes for next time: only real change I would make is altering the frosting a bit. I would start with the 2 pudding packs, banana and nilla wafer crumbs, then only add as much frosting as is needed to keep the frosting on the cupcakes. This would minimize the cream cheese flavor (while it tasted good, it wasn’t the flavor I wanted to emphasize). Otherwise, I need to remember to limit the amount of batter in the mini muffin cups because, once again, some overflowed on me. I think this is partially to do with my oven because ones in the front were fine, but the back overflowed.
Banana Pudding Cupcakes
1/2 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup mashed ripe bananas
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 ¼ cups all purpose flour
¾ cup nilla wafer crumbs
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 vanilla pudding snack packs
½ cup nilla wafer crumbs, divided
¾ cup cream cheese frosting (will use less next time)
1 ½ ripe bananas, mashed

In a large mixing bowl, cream shortening and sugar.
Add the eggs, vanilla, bananas and buttermilk.
Combine the flour, wafer crumbs, baking powder, baking soda and salt; add to banana mixture.
Fill 18 paper-lined muffin cups two-thirds full.
Bake at 350 degrees F for 15-20 minutes (much closer to 20 min) or until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove to wire racks to cool completely.
In a small mixing bowl, combine pudding, ¼ cup wafer crumbs and bananas. Add frosting to taste.
Cut a small cone from the top of the cupcake. Frost the inside of the cone (but do not completely fill). Replace top. Frost. Sprinkle with remaining wafer crumbs for decoration.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Chunky Chicken and Vegetable Soup

This was another recipe from my long weekend alone. I wanted a semi-good for me recipe with chicken that would make good leftovers. Despite the oppressive heat outside, I had been in air conditioning all day, so I decided on Chunky Chicken and Vegetable soup. It’s from the “Chicken: Best Ever Poultry Recipes” book that a friend got me last year. I’ve made this recipe before and I certainly intend to make it again. It is hearty without being heavy. And it is so easy to make! The whole trick is just the prep. Have the veggies and chicken cut up before you start and there is virtually no work involved.

I love the combination of the savory chicken, pasta and veggies with the sweet but tangy fresh tomatoes. I add about ¾ of the tomato when it says to, and I add the rest to the bowls as I am serving to give it even more of a fresh tomato bite. Because of the pasta in the soup, I will be listing this for Presto Pasta night. This time I used orzo pasta, but you can use whatever pasta you want. Next time I may try macaroni to just switch it up a little bit.

Tips and changes for next time: try different pastas. Perhaps use more pasta to thicken the soup a bit. Add some chopped garlic to the pan when I add the chicken.
Chunky Chicken and Vegetable Soup
1 TBSP oil
1 carrot, sliced
1 leek, chopped (I used ¾ of an onion)
2 chicken thigh fillets cut into 2cm pieces (I used a chicken breast)
1/4 cup ditalini pasta (I used a little more than that of orzo)
1 liter vegetable stock (I used 3 cups chicken broth and 1 cup water)
2 ripe tomatoes, diced
Salt and pepper
(Pinch red pepper)
(Pinch garlic powder)

Heat the oil in a saucepan and cook the carrot and leek over medium heat for 4 minutes, or until soft. Add the chicken and cook for a further 2 minutes, or until the chicken has changed color.
Add the pasta and the vegetable stock, cover and bring to the boil. (Add garlic powder, red pepper, salt and pepper to taste.) Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, or until the pasta is cooked. Add the tomato halfway through cooking (or just add 3/4 of the tomato and add the rest at the end). Serve with fresh crusty bread.

Serves 4