March 23, 2011

Chicken & Potato Soup with Bacon

Hello! I swear I haven't given up on blogging. I have a wonderful recipe to share, but first, some updates: These last few weeks have been very fun, busy and exciting. First, Zak and I took a road trip to visit some friends in beautiful Salt Lake City, we learned a lot about Mormons, had some delicious milkshakes (SLC has milkshake and frozen yogurt places to serve as a gathering place for the youth since many of them don't drink alcohol), enjoyed the lovely mountains, and had a bonfire. All in all, the perfect weekend vacation.

The Great Salt Lake

Then, we got back to Denver and I turned 25, which means I am no longer as young as I think I am. Yikes! You know when you fill out a survey and it asks you your age range? Well I just moved up a whole age range, 25-30, not to mention I got summoned for my first even jury duty (didn't get called). All of this, plus the fact that I am currently incubating a child leads me to believe that I must really and truly be getting older. I suppose I will just have to embrace it :)

Finally, on my birthday we went to get an ultrasound, with hopes of finding out what type of little person is residing in my belly. I remember the day before, when it was still a big mystery, I said to Zak "tomorrow, we will be living in a completely different world than we are today, a world where we'll know if we are going to have a son or a daughter." Such a crazy experience! Well I laid on that table for an hour, watching the little thing (that actually looks like a baby now, and not just a goo ball) thrashing around on the screen. The tech did all the measurements, but my belly button was creating a shadow right over the goods, so we were kept in suspense. Then a more seasoned tech came in, and within a matter of moments the great mystery was revealed:

we are going to have a girl! She is growing right on track, everything is looking healthy and good. It really was the best birthday present ever. Afterwards, my dear husband surprised me with a celebration at my favorite pizza place with all our friends, and a delicious gift bag of some of my favorite cheeses (he truly knows the way to my heart!). So we celebrated, and I had the most perfect birthday ever.

Now, for a delicious soup recipe. I got this from the meal planning website Relish! which I adore. I love to make up my own recipes, but I can get stuck in a rut, and Relish! is a great way to get inspire by new recipes. Basically you create a menu for your week by selecting from their recipes, then they create a pdf with a shopping list and all the recipes you selected. The shopping list is great, because they organized it by aisle in the grocery store, and they even have a category for stuff you probably already have (olive oil, flour, salt, etc.) I also love that they include the nutritional info for each recipe. I have been using this service for over a year now, and I love it. It eliminates the whole "I just spent $60 on groceries, but there is nothing to eat" situation, now I use everything I buy which saved us money, and I have picked up some amazing recipes. *disclaimer* I am not paid to recommend this service. I simply felt compelled to share this because it has made my life easier, and is a service I really value.

So here is the recipe, this soup is easy to make, and so satisfying to eat. I did the bacon differently than the recipe, I just cooked it separately, and crumbled it up, adding it to the soup with the potatoes. I also used about half the cream, because I can't handle super creamy soups.

Chicken and Potato Soup with Bacon  
Prep and cook time: 45 minutes

2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
1 white onion , chopped
6 bacon slices, sliced
2 leeks , washed and sliced
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
4 cups chicken broth
1 pound new potatoes, chopped into 1/2 inch dice
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into cubes
4 tablespoons heavy cream
  coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/4 cup Italian parsley, chopped

per serving: 438 calories; 31 grams protein; 24 grams total fat; 3 grams fiber; 10 grams saturated fat; 23 grams carbohydrates; 99 mgs cholesterol; 1006 mgs sodium; 10 weight watcher points
  [1] Melt the butter in a large stock pot over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion and cook, stirring for 3-4 minutes until slightly softened. Add bacon and leeks and cook for another 5-7 minutes, stirring.

[2] In a bowl, mix the flour with enough of the broth to make a smooth paste and stir it into the pan. Cook, stirring for 2 minutes. Pour in the remaining broth, then add the potatoes and chicken. Season well with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for 25 minutes until the chicken and potatoes are tender and cooked through.


March 1, 2011

Sweet Potato and Goat Cheese Empanadas

I love empanadas. In addition to being one of my favorite things to eat, they are also one of my favorite things to cook. I love foods that you can really get creative with, and when it comes to empanada filling, the sky is the limit! They can be sweet or savory, vegetarian or carnivore friendly, you can just look in your cupboard and fridge and use whatever you have on hand. Which is exactly what I did for these.

I also pride myself in my ability to make a pretty delicious pastry crust. Empanada dough is very similar to making a pie crust. I just use an egg instead of water, and cut in the butter a little more thoroughly, to help keep the pastry from crumbling so much when you eat it. One thing that has completely revolutionized my pastry crust making has been to use a food processor to cut in the fat, rather than doing it by hand. You can do it in half the time, therefore keeping the butter colder, and this results in a flakier crust. I highly recommend trying this next time you make any kind of pastry crust. I might actually write an entire other post just on pastry crust alone.

Without further ado:

Sweet Potato and Goat Cheese Empanadas
(makes 6)

1-2 Sweet potatoes
2 cloves garlic sauteed in olive oil
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 Crushed hot chili pepper
1/4 soft goat cheese
Salt to taste

Cook the sweet potatoes thoroughly (either by baking or microwaving them). Scoop the cooked potato into a medium bowl and mash to your preferred consistency. Heat up some olive oil in a skillet, then add about 2 cloves worth of minced garlic and saute until the garlic is just starting to brown. Pour the garlic and oil into the mashed sweet potatoes, then mix in the apple cider vinegar, crushed red pepper, salt and soft goat cheese (or feta). Once this is all mixed together, cover and set aside.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup cold butter
1 egg

In the bowl of a food processor mix the flour and salt. Take the butter out of the fridge and cut it into several pieces, then add them to the flour mixture. Pulse the mixture several times until it looks crumbly with BB sized pieces of butter. Now add the egg and pulse again, just until the dough starts to come together into one piece. Put the bowl of the processor in the fridge to keep the butter from melting. Make a space to roll out the dough, either on your cutting board or counter and lightly flour the surface. Dump out the dough onto the surface and get a little flour on your hands. Form the dough into one cylinder and cut into 6 different pieces. Use a rolling pin to roll out each piece to approximately a 3.5in circle.  As you are working with the dough, try to handle it as little as possible. The ultimate goal here is to keep the butter from melting and mixing into the dough completely. This is what gives pastry the light flakiness.

Once you have your 6 circles of dough, spoon some of the filling into them and fold the dough in half. press the edges together, then press a fork around them to create the cute little lines. Place them on a lined baking sheet and bake at 350 F, for 15-20 minutes or until the edges start to brown.

One last note, BE CAREFUL taking your first bite, the filling basically becomes molten lava. I break them in half to let out some of the steam before I take my first bite.