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Monday, February 22, 2010

Chicken Noodle Soup

Today we are revealing the secrets behind the magical elixir that is homemade chicken noodle soup!

First, we start with our aromatics: onion, carrots and celery. This is about the only way I like celery, souped up! And, of course, you can't have a decent soup without copious amounts of butter. You will NEVER find yellow plastic, I mean margarine, in my kitchen!

Chop up your veggies and get them simmering and sparking in the butter. Medium heat is enough to get them started. We aren't making Cajun chicken soup!

Add salt and pepper to taste. Remember, this is soup, so use a little more than you think you should!

Let them sweat away in the butter bath until they change color.

While this was happening I put two loaves of 100% Honey Whole Wheat bread together to rise.

Next, fetch from your freezer the liquid gold. "What is the liquid gold?" you ask. Ahhhh, the liquid gold is the pan drippings and juices and chicken meat from your last roasted chicken that you saved and froze for just such a time as this! Dry, hard cubes of chicken flavoring...eat your heart out!

Just drop it right in there and let it melt away and savor the aroma!

There we have all the nice chicken bits.

Ahhhh, now that looks divine!

Now you want to add some water, because that much chicken goodness undiluted is toxic. Add some, see how it looks, maybe add some more. It's up to you and your kettle.

For seasoning, I use three bay leaves. Just throw them in...

Run down to your freezer and fetch your bag of homemade egg noodles. What? You don't have bags of homemade noodles in your freezer? You poor thing, we'll have to show you how to have these little babies on hand for the best fettucini and soup you've ever eaten. If you must, buy noodles, but make sure they are egg noodles! You, and your soup, deserve it.

Simply egg and flour...yummmm.

Add the noodles and then add more water, if needed. Enough so that you can't see a noodle poking out of the soup. These babies will expand and take in water. A fact my dad did not know during his first attempt at beef noodle soup. We ate beef noodle porridge that night!

Let the soup bubble, but don't boil it. Egg noodles cook rather quickly so stick around the soup pot. Notice the seeming reduction in liquid...

When ready to serve, pull out the bay leaves. No one likes to chew on pieces of hay in their soup.

Hmmmm, didn't I put three leaves in here? Well, I guess I'll offer a prize to whomever gets the third bay leaf in their bowl!

Here's my supper: soup, apple, and onion parmesan biscuits. The biscuits were an experiment, a successful one at that, so I'll share them the next time I make them.

The money shot. This soup is absolutely wonderful, I guarantee it! It will make a lame man walk! Or, at the very least, get you a backrub from the hubby...ENJOY!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Egg Baskets

This is our second favorite breakfast, Egg Baskets! They are ridiculously easy to make and fun to eat. Here's how to make them:

For each egg basket, you will need two slices of deli ham (other thin sliced meat will work just as well), an egg, a 1/2 tsp of milk or cream and some salt and pepper. That's it!!

Nestle the two slices of ham in a muffin tin, making a space in the middle.

Carefully crack open an egg into the space. I prefer farm fresh "brown betties" myself and when I get my own chickens that's what we'll always have. But for now, I have to rely on the efforts of the chickens of others...

Add a pinch of salt.

And a twist of pepper.

Pour about a 1/2 tsp of cream or milk into each cup.

They are ready for the oven!

Bake them in a preheated 350 degree oven for 20 minutes.

Ta Da!! Egg baskets!

Loosen them gently with a fork and remove. Serve piping hot because no one likes cold eggs! (Even if they have a cool name like egg baskets.)

This was my breakfast...DELICIOUS!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Tamale Pie

The first installment of cooking lessons begins with a old family favorite, Tamale Pie! This is a recipe from my grandmother who made it for years and years. Then my mom made it for years and years. And now I make it. And me, being me, I just can't leave a recipe well enough alone, I've doctored it up a bit which might make my female ancestors a bit nervous.

Tamales are a traditional Mexican dish made with cornmeal and then wrapped in a corn husk and steamed (I think). Anyway, the absence of fresh corn husks out here on the prairie has relegated us to making this into a casserole (or if you are in the south, a covered dish). I will be providing you with two similar recipes. Why two? Well, there is the regular version and then there's the "I haven't been to a grocery store in two weeks so we're scanning the pantry shelves" version. Both are equally delicious!

Let's begin:

Ingredients: tomato sauce, salsa, vegetable oil, corn meal, ground meat, onion soup, beans, olive oil and corn

Use a good sturdy dutch oven because we are browning meat and also adding all the additional ingredients. A frying pan just doesn't hold it all! Add a pound of ground meat, whatever you have on hand is fine, hamburger usually, but in this case I had venison. The venison is extremely lean so I added a couple of swirls of olive oil to the pan.

When the meat is almost done, I add a package of onion soup mix. We eat a lot of venison and I find that the additional of the soup mix practically eliminates any gamey taste. NOTE: If I was using hamburger (or any other ground meat), I would have sauteed a chopped onion in the olive oil first.

I add a few good cranks of ground pepper. No salt in this case as the soup mix contains salt. But again, if using hamburger I would have added salt as well. By this time the meat should be fully cooked and browned. Remove the dutch oven from the heat (and remember to turn your burner off, sometimes I forget that part).

Add a half cup vegetable oil to the meat mixture.

Add two cups tomato sauce. I use homecanned sauce, nothing but the best for my pie! But, if you are short of homecanned sauce, a can will work. Sometimes I go crazy and used diced tomatoes!

Then I added a cup of home canned salsa. This is George's Salsa and the best I have ever had! Don't worry, I'll share the recipe this summer. I know I said a cup, but more happened to "glug" out and my motto is "If some is good, more is better!" My garlic, onions and green peppers were provided in the salsa. If using the traditional recipe, you would have added the ketchup and water here.

Check out those delicious chunks of farm raised goodness. Hey, I think I remember that onion!

Add one cup of cornmeal. Wait a minute, your cup isn't full! Nope, but that's all I had so in it went. When you live 30 miles from the grocery store, you're not making a trip just for cornmeal.

Then add two cups of corn. Again, I used home canned but when I've exhausted my canned corn supply, I go for frozen. No need to thaw the corn, just throw it in there. Add a can of beans. Usually I use black beans, but I only had great northern beans in the pantry so that's what went in. When you live 30 miles from the grocery store, you're not making a trip just for cornmeal and black beans. This is what it looks like prior to mixing. Stir it up. Grease a casserole pan, I used a 9x13 but any kind will work.

Here is my trusty enamel lasagna pan. She's not much to look at, but man does she make a great casserole!

Set your oven to 350 degrees. You can put the casserole in the oven and let them warm up together.

The tamale pie is going to bake for 45 minutes. Set your timer, burned t-pie is not as tasty.

45 minutes is just enough time to wash up your dishes. My husband jokes that he got a dishwasher when he got married, I never laugh.

I got my dishes done and I read a book!!!

OK, this was the book, but it's one of my daughter's and my favorites....a classic I highly recommend!

DING, DING, DING...the tamale pie is done!

Ahhhh, doesn't that look great! Check out the crispy sides. The hubby and I fight over those...

I serve it up with some shredded cheddar, a dollop of sour cream and a few green onions to make it pretty.

Tonight's supper: tamale pie, spinach salad and oranges. How did it go over with the fam?? The hubby had two helpings, the one year old cleaned her plate and I loved it! I hope you will, too.

Tamale Pie - Traditional Recipe
1 lb hamburger
1 med onion, chopped
1 med green pepper, chopped
salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste
Brown the above ingredients in a dutch oven.

Add to pan:
1/2 cup oil
1 can or 2 cups tomato sauce
1/2 cup ketchup + 1/2 cup water
1 tsp chili powder
1 can or 2 cups corn
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup yellow corn meal
Mix and pour into greased casserole. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Tamale Pie - Today's Version
1 lb ground venison
olive oil to fry
Brown meat and then add:
1 pkt onion soup mix

Add to pan:
1/2 cup oil
2 cups tomato sauce
1 cup salsa
2 cups corn
1 can great northern beans, rinsed and drained
3/4 cup yellow corn meal
2 cups tomato sauce

Diet Update & Cooking Lessons

I am more than three weeks into the Sonoma Diet and so far I have lost 16 pounds! I've still got a long way to go, but every weight loss begins with the first pound so I'm off and running!!!

I videotaped my first cooking lesson to post here and discovered that the only way to do a videotaped cooking lesson is without children. I have two under the age of 2 that are very loud and inquisitive, particularly when the video camera is rolling. I was forced to roast my chicken during nap time and whisper...WOW, not a great television moment there! I felt like I was doing an investigative report rather than roasting a rooster in my own kitchen. The cooking lessons have been revised to be pictures (lots of pictures) and recipes with typed commentary by yours truly. That way you are not subjected to my daughter yelling for her "PUP!!!" or asking me to "GO!" or my son screaming in delight because he just ran over his sister's toys (or his sister, for that matter) with his walker. I won't rule out the occasional video, but the pictures just seem to be a much better fit for where my life is at the mommy moment.

So, what to make first...any suggestions?? Don't let the fact I'm on a diet keep you from requesting sinfully delicious things, they don't tempt me in the least and my husband will thank you!