Monday, June 21, 2010

Healthy Comfort Food: Chicken Stew

Awhile back, I happened across a recipe for "chicken stew provençal" in the Washington Post. It was based on a recipe from Runner's World, and was touted as a simple, flavorful recipe that runners could use as a nice post-run dinner to replenish their systems. After making it a few times (even though I'm not a runner anymore and will never be again), I have to say that this has become one of my goto recipes for a healthy dinner. It's also a great way to use up leftover vegetables. The one big difference I've done from the original recipe was that the original recipe called for red potatoes. I am not a big fan of potatoes, so I substituted a can of white beans instead. As written below, it makes about 6 servings. The recipe can also easily be halved, and extra portions freeze very well.

olive oil
approx. 1.5 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
2 small or 1 large onion, cut into thin wedges
2-3 stalks celery, cut into 1/2" pieces
2 carrots, cut into 1/2" pieces
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups chicken broth
28 oz. canned diced tomatoes, with juices
2 cans white beans, drained and rinsed
1 tsp Herbs de Provence, crushed
1/4 tsp salt (or to taste)
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper (or to taste)

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the chicken and cook, stirring frequently, until it is brown on all sides (5-7ish minutes).

Add the onion, garlic, carrots, and celery. Cook until onion is soft, about 5 minutes, stirring every couple minutes.

Add the broth, tomatoes, beans, and spices, stirring so it's all combined. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 45 minutes (so chicken is cooked through).

As I said in the intro, I sometimes use this recipe to use up leftover vegetables. If the vegetables are fresh/stand well to satueeing, I add them at the same time as the onions and celery (stuff like zucchini works well here). For frozen vegetables (like peas or cut green beans), I add them at the same time as the broth. Adding other vegetables might require adding additional broth and/or tomatoes, so just keep that in mind.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Quick Bread Interlude: Mango Tea Bread

I love quick breads. I do not particularly like mangoes, at least served on their own. Mangoes to me are nice accents to other ingredients, but on their own, they're too sweet for me. My mom brought me a couple mangoes the other day, and I had no idea what to do with them (the easy solution would have been to make some Black Bean and Corn Salad, but I'm having surgery Wednesday and am trying to not create any more leftovers, plus I had a spin on that salad last week). So, I went to epicurious and looked for recipes, finding a ton that sounded interesting but a) would take too long (too much standing around hurts my leg) or b) would create too many leftovers. Eventually I came across a recipe for Mango Tea Bread. I modified it slightly, and the result was a smooth bread that was slightly sweet and not overly mango tasting (a win in my book).

1 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup brandy (I actually used Remy Martin V.S.O.P. cognac)
2 large mangoes, peeled, diced
1 3/4 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 heaping tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
heaping 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, brought up to room temperature
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a bread pan (I used a glass 1.5 qt loaf pan, the same I use for all my breads). In a small bowl, mix raisins and cognac and put aside.

Puree the mangoes in a food processor or blender until smooth. It should be about a cup (I ended up slightly less than a cup and it turned out okay. If it's more than a cup, I'd use about a cup and reserve the rest for another use).

Whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, ginger, and nutmeg in a small bowl.

In a large bowl, beat together the brown sugar and the butter until fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then mango puree and vanilla. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the mixture and beat until just combined. Then, using a spoon or spatula, fold in the brandy-soaked raisins.

Pour batter into the bread pan. Bake it for about 75 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. Cool for 20 minutes in the pan on a cooling rack, then turn the loaf out and let cool completely.

This bread was really tasty with a little bit of butter in the morning. This bread doesn't taste too much like mango, but is still tasty. One thing I did notice was that the raisins retained some of the cognac flavor, which was a nice counterpoint to the bread.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Comfort Food: Corn Chowder

When I was growing up, one of my mom's (and dad's) favorite weeknight dinners when things were hectic was corn chowder. It was quick to make, had some good vegetables in it, and easily adaptable. For me, it's become one of my favorite comfort foods. I'm posting the basic recipe here, though it's well-suited to extra add-ins. It also is easy to double, for yummy leftovers or for a crowd.

1 can cream of potato soup
1 can of milk (whole milk or 2% work best)
1 can Niblets (or otherwise, about 1-1.5 cups cooked corn)
Butter (or oil) for sautee
2-3 stalks celery, diced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 onion, diced
salt and pepper to taste
other ingredients as desired

Sautee the onions, celery and garlic for a few minutes, until they start to sweat a bit. Add the corn (and anything else you want to add, see note) and any seasonings you may want to add (I usually add Old Bay seasoning). Sautee the mixture until the corn has a little color.

Move the mixture to a saucepan and add the potato soup and milk. Mix well, bring it to a light simmer, and simmer for 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste, serve with chopped scallions.

Without extra mix-ins, the base recipe creates a chunky soup that is pretty hearty. If you add a lot of other items, you may want to add more cream of potato and milk. Other mix-ins include leftover vegetables (diced), cooked chicken (diced), cooked sausage, bacon, lima beans, or anything else you have leftover. When I make it, I like the corn to get a little brown, as it makes things a bit tastier. During the summer corn season, I've also grilled corn and used that instead of Niblets (or frozen corn), it gives the chowder a bit of something extra. If you have any other ideas of items to mix into the chowder, let me know!

Sunday, May 09, 2010

On Not Cooking Much Lately

Yeah, this blog has really turned into a cooking blog. I should probably just rename it to cookingwithkristin or something, but I don't want to bunk up anybody who's actually bookmarked, I still have the occasional interlude of injury, gym, and EDS news.

I haven't been cooking lately. Part of that is because my company just launched another satellite, and I was involved with the rehearsals leading up to the launch, the actual launch, and then the early mission operations activities.

The other part of that is that I managed to get a herniated disc (actually, I got it when I fell while shopping for the ingredients for the Parmesan and Kale pasta), and right now it just hurts too much to stand or walk for any extended period of time. Seriously, the other day I went to Wegman's to get a sandwich and some cat litter, and that was too much, I couldn't wait to get back to a seat and off my leg. The good news is that I'm seeing a doctor now for the disc. The bad news is that he said it's a "substantial herniation" and he has said that my only real options at this point are steroid injections or surgery. I had an injection this past Monday which hasn't helped much so far, but I think I still need to give it some time.

Of course, the sort of advantage of being in so much pain is that my mom's been coming down and buying groceries for me and cooking for me...and really, who doesn't love mom's home cooking when they're not feeling well?

Anyway, hoping to have more soon, sorry for the hiatus.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Another Vegetarian Adventure: Chickpea Burritos with Yogurt Sauce

Now that Lent's over, I'm free to eat meat again, though I do enjoy the vegetarian eating, so I have a feeling that a bulk of my home cooking will be mostly vegetarian. That said, I'm kind of craving a cheesesteak, so I may have to get one this week. ;)

Towards the end of Lent, my mom forwarded an email with a recipe for chickpea burritos that came from The Splendid Table. I love chickpeas and I liked the flavors involved, so I figured I'd give it a go. I can't find the recipe on the website (it originally came in an email newsletter), but it was so good that I kept a copy in my "recipes" folder on GMail.

Not only is the recipe good as a burrito, but it worked quite well when folded into a quesadilla with some cheddar cheese, then using the yogurt sauce as a dip. The yogurt dip itself served as a tasty dip for chips and crackers, too. I think the recipe would work with any bean, though the heartiness/meatiness of the chickpea was quite good. I also tried the filling on its own over couscous with the dip on the side (no tortilla involved). The filling is quite flavorful and works well with almost any starch, even rice. This is a great dish. Even though Lent's over, I'll be making this one again, I most certainly didn't miss meat in the dish.

So, without further ado....

For the filling:
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 Tbsp minced garlic (I used about 4 cloves, pressed through my garlic press)
1.5 cups thinly sliced onion (I used a whole small/medium Mayan onion)
2/3 cup thinly sliced red bell pepper
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp paprika
2-15 oz cans of garbanzo beans, drained
salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
6 large flour tortillas

For the dip:
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 small cucumber, seeded, peeled and grated on medium holes (about 1/2 cup)
1/2 tsp paprika
salt and pepper to taste

Heat a large saucepan over medium heat and add the oil. Add the onion, garlic, and bell pepper and cook for 6 minutes or so, so the onion is soft and the mixture is aromatic. Add the coriander, cumin, pepper flakes, paprika and mix well. Add the chickpeas and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Season with salt and pepper (to taste) then mix in the cilantro.

While the onion/garlic/pepper mixture is cooking, make the dip. Mix the yogurt, grated cucumber, and paprika. Add salt and pepper, to taste.

To make a burrito, warm up the tortilla briefly in the microwave or on the stove and then spread out some of the dip in the center, and then put about a half cup of the chickpea mixture on top. Add ~1/4 cup grated cheese if desired. Fold the sides in and roll the burrito. For the quesadilla, put about 1/8 cup of shredded cheese on one half of a warmed tortilla. Spoon about 1/2 cup of the chickpea mixture on top, then cover with another 1/8 cup of cheese. Fold the tortilla so it's in a half-moon shape. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes. Serve with the dip on the side.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Recipe Time: Creamy Pumpkin Pasta, Vegetarian-Style

Last October or November, I happened upon a recipe for pasta with creamy pumpkin sauce. It sounded tasty, and as I had a couple of cans of pumpkin lying around, I decided to give it a go. For a variety of reasons, it never quite worked out for me (once it was too salty, once the sauce didn't thicken properly, etc). I was ready to give up on the recipe, but decided during this Lenten time to give it one more shot, this time with a vegetarian twist. While I can't find the original recipe I used, this one is very close. But, to make it vegetarian, what follows is how I made it.

4 cloves of garlic, minced
2-3 T butter (I almost always use unsalted butter...for everything)
1/2 small Mayan onion, chopped (optional, but yummy!)
1 pkg baby bellas or shitake mushrooms, sliced (optional)
1 (15 oz) can pumpkin (about 2 cups fresh, if you have it--I didn't)
2 cups vegetable broth (I used Pacific Organic Vegetable Broth)
1/4 cup half-and-half
1/2 cup light sour cream
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper
1 tsp dried sage
1 lb rotini

In large skillet (I used my 12" All-Clad), melt butter. Add garlic, onion and mushrooms (if using) and saute a bit over medium heat until soft and onions start to turn translucent. Stir in the red pepper flakes and sausage crumbles, cover and cook for about 8 minutes, until the crumbles are cooked, stirring once or twice.

While the sausage crumbles are cooking, in a medium bowl, mix the half-and-half, sour cream, pumpkin, nutmeg, salt, pepper, and sage. Also, start the water for the rotini and cook it according to the directions.

Once the crumbles are cooked, remove the garlic/onion/mushroom/crumbles/paprika mixture from the pan and put them aside. Pour the broth into the skillet to deglaze the pan. When the broth is very warm, whisk-in the pumpkin mixture. Simmer for 10 minutes, allowing the mixture to thicken, stirring as needed.

Once the pasta is cooked, drain it and return it to the pot. Pour the pumpkin mixture over it, then add the sausage crumble mixture to that. Stir and cook over low/medium heat for 3-4 minutes, until the sauce is thickened and sticks to the rotini. Serve with fresh chopped parsley mixed in and/or shredded romano cheese, if desired.

This time, when I made the dish, it turned out amazingly well. I usually divide dishes with a whole pound of pasta into 8 servings, and I ate 2 servings the night I made it. I loved the leftovers, too! I may never try it with real sausage again! If you wanted to make a non-vegetarian version of this dish, you could substitute 1 lb of Italian sausage (sweet or hot, turkey or pork) for the sausage crumbles and use chicken broth instead of vegetable broth. I didn't end up serving it with the cheese, mostly because I didn't have any on-hand. Let me know if you try this, and if you have any other suggestions.

Monday, March 15, 2010

What's for Dinner: A New Spin On Black Bean and Corn Salad

Sometimes, I'm too darn lazy to take much time to cook. One of my favorite go-to "quick" dinners is black bean and corn salad:

1 can corn (I use Niblets), drained
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 - 1/2 red onion, chopped (optional)
fresh cilantro, chopped
avocado, diced (optional)
salt to taste
pepper to taste
hot sauce to taste (optional)
extra virgin olive oil (optional)
juice from a lime
chicken, chopped (optional)
mango, diced
diced yellow or red bell pepper (optional)

In a large bowl, mix the corn, black beans, onion (if using), cilantro, chicken (if using), bell pepper (if using), and mango. Mix in the lime juice and the hot sauce (if using). If a little more liquid is desired, use a little bit of olive oil or more lime juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste. If serving immediately, mix in the avocado and serve.

I love this dish because it scales well to make more, it can easily be made vegetarian (by omitting the chicken), and it is great as a leftover. Recently, I ran across a recipe on the Budget Bytes blog that put a spin on my "classic" recipe: instead of mangoes, it uses roasted sweet potatoes and also adds some roasted poblano peppers. The recipe, as I made it, is:

2 large (about 2.5 lbs.) sweet potatoes
2 large poblano peppers
one 14 oz. can black beans
1 can corn
1/4 diced red onion (optional)
1 medium lime
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 bunch cilantro
2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees on the broiler setting. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray your poblanos with non-stick spray. Place the baking sheet with the peppers about 4 inches below the broiler coils. Roast the peppers under the broiler for 15 minutes on one side, flip them over then broil for another 5 minutes on the other side. You want the skin on the peppers to be all blistered and blackened. This will give them a nice smokey flavor. Don't worry, you will be peeling away the charred skin.

2) While the peppers are roasting, peel the sweet potatoes and cut them into even chunks about one inch square. Place the chunks in a bowl and toss them together with 3 Tbsp of olive oil, 2 tsp of cumin, 1/2 tsp of salt and about half a bunch of chopped cilantro leaves. Mix it all up until the sweet potato chunks are well coated.

3) When the peppers come out of the oven, put them into a resealable freezer bag and let them cool. The peppers will steam themselves in the bag as they cool allowing you to easily peel away the skin.

4) Turn the oven from broil to bake (still on 400 degrees), pour out the bowl of sweet potato chunks onto the baking sheet that was used for the peppers, and roast the sweet potatoes for 30 minutes, stirring halfway through.

5) Drain and rinse the can of black beans. Drain the corn. Finely chop 1/4 of a red onion (if desired). Put the beans, corn and onion together in a bowl. When the poblanos have cooled, peel off their skin, open them up to remove the seeds, seed pod and stem then cut the flesh into chunks. Put the chopped poblanos in the bowl with the other vegetables.

6) When the sweet potatoes are done, let them cool for about 10 minutes. In the mean time, chop the other half of the cilantro, and juice the lime. Mix the sweet potatoes, cilantro and lime together with the rest of the ingredients and serve. This dish can be eaten warm or cold!

I had an issue with my broiler, so it didn't quite roast the poblano peppers like I would have liked, but I felt that the sweet potatoes worked well in this dish, and added a new texture. I didn't get a ton of flavor from the poblanos, but they added volume. I think next time, I'd use 4 poblanos.

The website also suggested using this salad in an enchilada, by putting a bit into a tortilla, adding cheese, then rolling and topping with enchilada sauce and more cheese. I did this, making 6 enchiladas, and found it to be surprisingly tasty. I wasn't sure how the cheese and enchilada sauce would work with the salad, but it was much better than I thought it would be.

So there you have it. 2 black bean and corn-based salads. 3 dishes. A lot of flavor. And a good bit of health. :)

Sunday, March 07, 2010

What's for Dinner: Pasta with Kale & Parmasean

Before last night, the only time I'd had kale was when it was in such small quantities, it might have been considered a garnish. I've never cooked with it, but came across a recipe that used it for a pasta dish, so figured I'd give it a try. The original recipe comes from Bon Appetit, though I modified it slightly.

2 bunches of kale, leaves ripped off the stems and ripped/cut into small pieces
extra virgin olive oil
1 red onion, chopped
5 cloves of garlic, minced (original recipe called for 8, I used what I had)
~10 sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, sliced (I had some leftover from a previous recipe)
1/2 pound pasta (I used ditalini)
~1 cup vegetable broth
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Finely grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Rinse and drain kale.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add garlic and onion and cook until soft and translucent, stirring occasionally, about 6 minutes. Add the sun-dried tomatoes, sprinkle with salt; cook until onion is golden brown, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Add kale, a little more olive oil, and about half of the vegetable broth and toss until the kale is wilted, about 3 minutes. Cover pot and reduce heat to medium-low. Continue cooking until kale is very tender, stirring occasionally and adding broth as required.

Meanwhile, cook pasta al dente in medium pot of boiling salted water. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup cooking liquid. Add cooked pasta to kale mixture in pot. Add lemon juice and ~2 tablespoons broth or reserved cooking liquid; toss to combine, adding more liquid by tablespoonfuls if dry. Sprinkle spaghetti with grated Parmesan cheese and serve.

This dish turned out pretty tasty, though I don't think it requires the pasta. I think it would be equally good served with (but not tossed with) rice. I also think I'd add some white beans to add protein, so it's a complete meal. I'll definitely be making this one again.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

More Vegetarian Adventures: Spanish White Beans with Spinach

Despite having a fridge that still has leftovers in it (2 servings of the pasta e fagioli left and quite a bit of chili left--I see a Mexican lasagna in my future--plus 2 more servings of roasted curried cauliflower and a bunch of baby carrots), I came across a recipe at epicurious that looked really tasty and really wanted to try it out. It looked like it had a good blend of flavors and looked pretty easy. So, the recipe can be found at epicurious, or you can read what I did here. I modified the recipe very slightly.

1 large onion, coarsely chopped (2 cups)
1/2 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and chopped (Kristin's note, I think this could be upped to 3/4 cup or 1 cup)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika (pimentón dulce)
3 (15.5-ounce cans) cannellini beans, rinsed and drained (a slight increase from the 38 ounces total the original recipe calls for)
1 cup water
2 (10-ounces) bags spinach, tough stems removed

Cook onion and sun-dried tomatoes in 1/4 cup oil with 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper in a 5- to 6-qt pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until onion is browned, 6 to 8 minutes. Add garlic and paprika and cook, stirring, 1 minute.
Stir in beans, water, and 1/2 teaspoon salt, and add the spinach in batches, stirring between each batch, to allow the spinach to wilt just a little before adding the next batch. After all the spinach has been added, cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until spinach is wilted, about 5 minutes. Season with pepper and serve.

As expected, this tasted WONDEFUL. I think that there were a LOT of beans--maybe too many. Next time I do this, I may only use ~30 ounces (i.e. 2 cans). Also, 20 ounces of spinach takes up a LOT of space in the pot. In order to get around this, I added the spinach in batches, allowing the spinach to wilt slightly before adding any more spinach. This recipe lends itself nicely to making only a half-recipe. If you do that, I still recommend using the full 1/2 tsp of smoked paprika, it adds a nice depth to the flavor.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Vegetarian Dinner: Vickie Howell's Vegetarian "Beef" Chili

I follow crafter and music-lover Vickie Howell on Twitter and I regularly read her blog. About a month ago, she posted a recipe for a vegetarian "beef" chili that uses the Morningstar Farms Grillers meat substitute. Though I was a vegetarian for quite awhile (maybe sometime I'll post about why I went back to eating meat in moderation, but not now), I've always been slightly afraid of meat substitutes. Over the years, I've come to really appreciate Morningstar Farms' Chik Patties, but I've never tried their meal starters. This recipe intrigued me. It is a familiar, comforting food using ingredients I've never used before. Though I'm cutting and pasting the recipe here, I strongly recommend you visit Vickie's website, especially if you're into knitting or crochet, and/or are interested in crafts for children. The recipe was originally posted on this post on her blog. I tweaked a few things (very minor, like using Muir Glen organic diced tomatoes instead of Rotel), my as-made recipe is below. I served it with a little shredded 4-cheese Mexican cheese over a homemade biscuit (I use the America's Test Kitchen "Mile-High Biscuits" recipe) and with roasted cauliflower on the side. I love that I'm going to have leftovers!!!!

1 bag Morningstar Farms Grillers ("beef" crumbles)
2 ~14 oz. cans diced tomatoes (if you can find them with chiles, you should use that
1 15.5 oz. can black beans, drained
1 15.5 oz. can dark red kidney beans, drained
1 11 oz can corn (I use the Green Giant Niblets)
1 6 oz. can tomato paste
1 Mayan onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup red wine (I used a Côtes du Rhône wine)
2 tsp cumin, plus a little more
2 Tbsp chili powder, plus a little more
1/2 Tbsp dried basil
1 Tbsp dried oregano, plus a little more
Pinch of Salt

In a slow-cooker, add garlic, chopped onion and bag of Crumblers. Cover with a layer of chili powder and sprinkle in cumin, oregano, and basil. Stir.
Add tomatoes, beans, and corn, including the liquid in the tomatoes and corn. Add tomato paste, wine, and ketchup. Stir.
Add a pinch of salt and a couple more shakes of cumin, chili powder and oregano.
Let cook on low for ~7 hours. Stir occasionally (if you're home), and add more spices, wine or ketchup to taste, if desired. Serve with shredded cheese and/or a starch of your choice.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

What I Ate Tonight: A Take on Pasta E Fagioli

Now that Lent's officially started, one thing I've "given up" for Lent is meat. In doing this, I hoped to in part try out some recipes I've had for awhile and never tried, and also pick up some new recipes. One of the former category of recipes was something I found on Epicurious (I think) ages ago for a pasta e fagioli "soup" that was originally printed in Bon Appetit magazine in July, 1990. I've only ever had pasta e fagioli at places like Olive Garden, so I don't really know anything about traditional preparations, but the recipe as I found it seemed like it wouldn't be much of a soup or even a stew, but a sauce. Also, when I copied the recipe, I noted that some commenters on it said that they would add any of the following: 1 lb. of browned bulk sausage, and/or 16 oz. of hot water or broth. So the recipe I made is below, where it's an addition to the original recipe, I've noted it:

olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped (my addition)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 16-ounce can Italian plum tomatoes, chopped (reserve liquid)
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
pinch of red pepper flakes (my addition)
1/2 teaspoon dried basil, crumbled
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
1 15-ounce can cannellini beans (white kidney beans), rinsed & drained
Salt and pepper
8 ounces ditalini pasta freshly cooked (I used ditalini, they recommended elbow macaroni)
16 ounces vegetable broth (my addition based on the commenter recommendation)
Grated Parmesan

Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and sauté until the onions start to turn translucent, about 2-3 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and cook 5 minutes. Add parsley, basil and oregano and simmer until tomatoes soften, stirring occasionally and breaking up tomatoes with back of spoon. After about 10 minutes, I added half of the broth, as the tomato mixture was starting to look like it needed liquid to simmer some more. Once the tomatoes are soft (about 15 minutes of simmering), add reserved tomato liquid, broth, and beans and cook until heated through, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Place pasta in bowl. Toss with remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Pour sauce over and toss thoroughly. Serve, passing Parmesan separately.

This turned out really tasty, if not quite as "soupy" as I expected. I think even 8 ounces of noodles is too much--next time I make this, I'm going to use only 4 ounces. It definitely would have been tasty with some bulk hot Italian sausage, or vegetarian substitute, but as I had no vegetarian sausage substitute on hand, I did without. I think it may have also benefited from a smidge more tomato, either via some tomato sauce added to the simmer, or a few extra whole peeled tomatoes (and their juices).

Sunday, February 14, 2010

What's for Dinner: Chicken Cacciatore

So, on Twitter, one of the people I follow, @Wombat5277, posted this past weekend that he made some slow-cooker chicken cacciatore. I'm always a sucker for slow-cooker recipes, so I was intrigued. His recipe seemed pretty easy:
2 cans of diced tomatoes
5 garlic cloves
1/2 cup white wine

Cut up an onion, layer it on the bottom of the slow cooker. Put ~2 lb. chicken into slow cooker over the onion, then pour the sauce over the chicken. Cook on low for 8 hours.

I built a little bit on his recipe, this is what I made:
Garlic (to taste)
6 bone-in chicken thighs, skin removed
2 14 oz cans diced tomatoes
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp Penzeys pasta sprinkle
salt (to taste)
pepper (to taste)
4 Tbsp tomato paste (I use concentrated tomato paste that comes from a tube)

Sautee chopped onion with mushrooms (I used 5 oz. of shitake mushrooms, chopped) and a few cloves of minced garlic in ~1 Tbsp of butter, until just brown. Transfer to bottom of crockpot. Layer chicken on top of mixture, put in a couple whole cloves of garlic (optional). In separate bowl, mix other ingredients, then pour mixture over the chicken. Cook on low for 8 hours, stirring occasionally. Serve over rice or pasta.

I was pretty pleased with how this turned out. Once Lent is over, this will probably be added to my stock recipes for weekends.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

What I've Been Reading: The Wheel of Time

I just finished reading "The Gathering Storm," the 12th book in The Wheel of Time series. I approached this book with a bit of apprehension. On the one hand, Robert Jordan had set up such an intenese world, would it be possible for a different author to take the reins and keep the world in tact? On the other, before reading The Gathering Storm, I went through and re-read every book in The Wheel of Time series (starting with New Spring, a prequel, and then the entire series proper--it took almost a year, what with work and real life getting in the way), and there was a lot to dislike in the series--in some ways, it felt stagnant.

Between reading Knife of Dreams (the 11th book in the series) and The Gathering Storm, I read "Mists of Avalon" as a part of the Sword and Laser online book club. Never having read any Arthurian legends before, I was (slightly) startled to look back at The Wheel of Time series and see all the parallels (some very direct and obvious, down to the names of characters). The 12th book surprised me from this perspective, though, as there weren't as many storylines that paralleled the Arthur stories as I've noted in past books.

I won't go into too many plot detailes here--I don't know how many people here actually read the books or would care about spoilers. I will say that I was surprised by some of the turns this book took. I was also (happily) surprised that this book felt like it brought me back to the wonder I felt when reading The Eye of the World (the first book in the series). I think this book breathed new life into the series. I was sucked into the book pretty quickly (something I can't say for books 9-11), and though there was a slow spot (for me) about 1/3 of the way in, I got through that fairly quickly and the rest of the book went by and left me hungering for more (I finished this book in about 3 weeks, which is very quick for me).

My favorite storyline in the series has definitely become the Egwene storyline. This book didn't dissapoint with that. Though I used to enjoy the Perrin/wolf storyline, over the last few books (and including this one), I have become bored with him. I also really liked where the Mat storyline was going, though this book felt like it was a bit of a slowdown for him...his story hasn't gotten to where I expected it would, yet, and seems to be taking its time now.

Next up for me is a quick "candy" read (actually I'll be listening to it from Audible), Hell Hole, a book in the John Ceepak series by Chris Grabenstein.