Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Chicken, Bacon, and Rice Soup

Hello all! My best friend Lauren from thelittlethingswedo blog just gave birth to a beautiful little girl. Since as a new mom I'm sure the last thing she wants to do is cook, I cooked up a bunch of freezer ready meals that she can heat and enjoy. I made them a barbecue chicken cornbread casserole, some individual pot pies, and this soup. I grabbed the recipe off of Lauren's pinterest so I knew it was something she would enjoy. Believe it or not, this was my first time making a roux, and it seemed pretty lumpy to me, but once mixed in with the soup base, the lumps disappeared. Feel free to add more veggies, I know I will next time I make it. The recipe is highly customizable, you could sub in brown rice (that's what I did) or noodles or some other starch. The soup is so hearty and nourishing that all you really need to accompany it is a fresh green salad. Hope you enjoy, and if you get a chance, hop on over to Lauren's blog and congratulate her!

Chicken Bacon Rice Soup
3 (10 3/4 oz) cans condensed chicken broth
2 cups water
1/2 cup uncooked wild rice (or brown), rinsed
1/2 cup finely chopped green onions - I only had scallions, they seem similar to me!
1/2 cup margarine or butter
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1/8 teaspoon pepper
2 cups half and half
1 1/2 cup cubed or shredded cooked chicken or turkey
8 slices bacon, crisply cooked and crumbled
1 tablespoon chopped pimiento

In a large saucepan, combine chicken broth and water.
Add rice and onions. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 30-45 minutes (or until rice is tender). Once the rice is cooked, there will be some additional broth - do not drain. In a medium saucepan, melt margarine, stir in flour, salt, seasoning, and pepper.
Cook 1 minute, stirring constantly, until smooth and bubbly (mine never got all the way smooth, guess it takes practice). Gradually stir in half and half with the butter/flour mixture and cook until slightly thickened, stirring constantly.
Add this creamy mixture back into the saucepan with the rice/broth. Add remaining ingredients (chicken, bacon, and pimiento).
Heat on low, stirring every once in a while, for at least a half an hour. I cooked mine about an hour and a half. Do not boil. The longer you cook it, the more it will thicken.
This soup is best served after gently heating for an extended period of time (even a few hours) or the next day.
Have a happy week!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Chocolate Honey Walnut Cake

Hello, happy Tuesday! Today I'm sharing a recipe from a cookbook my Aunt sent me for Christmas. It's the first recipe I've ever come across that combines honey and chocolate. Turns out it's a fantastic combo! No sugar is added except for the honey, and the chocolate flavor is rich and dark. I took the intensity a step further, because I believe chocolate cake must have frosting, and added a dark chocolate honey ganache. Then I sprinkled on some walnuts for crunch. Perfect finishing touch in my humble opinion. If you are not a fan of dark chocolate, this cake isn't for you, but if you are.... oh man. It is fabulous!

Here is an excerpt from Mollie Katzen's website that provides some good insight into making a honeycake:
"Baking cakes with honey can be tricky, because it is much heavier and, of course, wetter than sugar, so one has to take extra care that the texture of the finished product be light enough and has "enough crumb." To achieve this, we whip the honey separately at high speed with an electric mixer, until it is opaque. Two minutes is usually enough time. This incorporates air into the honey, increasing its volume, and drying it out some, so it can make a good cake. Please don't skip or skimp on this step"
Point taken, follow the instructions for this one!

Chocolate Honey Walnut Cake
from Mollie Katzen's Recipes "Desserts"
Nonstick spray for the pan
1/2 cup canola oil or softened butter
1 ounce (1 square) unsweetened chocolate
3/4 cup light-colored honey
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup chocolate chips
3/4 cup walnuts
Preheat oven to 350°F (325°F for glass pan). Spray a medium-sized loaf pan with nonstick spray.
Melt the butter an chocolate together over low heat. If using oil, melt the chocolate alone, then remove from heat and stir in the oil.
Place the honey in a medium-sized bowl, and beat at high speed with an electric mixer for about 2 minutes or until it reaches an opaque frothy consistency. Add the eggs one a at time, beating well after each. Stir in the vanilla.
Sift together the dry ingredients in to a separate medium size bowl.
Beat the melted chocolate mixture into the honey-egg mixture.
Fold in the dry ingredients, 1/2 cup pecans (set other 1/4 cup aside) and chocolate chips, and stir until well combined.
Spread into the prepared pan.
Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until a knife inserted all the way into the center comes out clean. Cool before glazing and slicing (seriously or else you will have crumble cake).

Chocolate Honey Glaze
Adapted from Nigella Lawson
1/8 cup water
1/4 cup honey
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
Mix all ingredients together, pour over cooled cake.
Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup walnuts.
I would love to know your favorite unusual flavor combos, let me know in the comments!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Apple Brown Sugar Bars

Hi everyone! Hope you had a fabulous New Years! Mine was spent relaxing and enjoying time with good friends and good food. New Years day, I was invited to dinner and, of course, volunteered to bring dessert. I chose a bar cookie recipe that has been on my "to bake" list for quite a while. Brown Sugar Bar Cookies, I envisioned them turning out a bit like pecan pie but I had no pecans so added apples instead. I made the shortbread crust per the recipe's instructions, and while the crust was baking, whipped up an apple pie filling. The bars were delicious, but not very esthetically pleasing. To tell you the truth, I was a bit embarrassed to bring them to the dinner. Luckily, the blend of rich custard with tart apples and crisp, shortbread crust made up for their less than perfect appearance. I have never tried a bar cookie quite like these. The recipe involves lots of sugar and butter, so if your New Year's resolution is a diet, look away now! Or just start the diet tomorrow...

Apple Brown Sugar Bars
Adapted from this food.com recipe
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup margarine or 3/4 cup butter
3 tablespoons sugar

Apple Topping
2-3 large apples (I used Fuji)
1/4 cup butter
4 tablespoons brown sugar
3 teaspoons cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons flour

Brown Sugar Topping or Filling
3 eggs
2 1/4 cups light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Beat crust ingredients together until crumbly (I used a pastry cutter and my hands).
Press mixture into a 9x13 baking pan. Bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees.
While that's baking, peel and dice your apples.
Melt the 1/4 cup butter in a saucepan on the stove over medium low heat. Add in the apples, cinnamon, nutmeg, and 4 tablespoons brown sugar.
Mix, mix, mix. Cook for about 5 minutes, then add in the flour and mix some more. Cook until the apples are just beginning to soften (I apologize, I didn't calculate how long this took, not long though). Remove from heat and start on the brown sugar topping.
In a separate bowl, combine eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla.
After crust has cooked for 20 minutes, remove from oven.
Spread/pour apples over baked crust.
I had an audience...
Then cover with brown sugar topping. Bake for another 25-30 minutes.
Cut into squares when cool.