18 February 2012

I've got another great soup recipe to share with you today.  Remember how I mentioned in an earlier post how much I love soups that can be made by dumping the ingredients into a soup pot and heating it up?  They are great because they are literally hardly any more work than opening up a can, but the taste is beyond compare.  It's so easy to throw together a homemade soup.  Here's another one of these "dump and heat up" soups that I came up a few months ago.  The inspiration came from Blog is the New Black, but I ended up changing it quite a bit to suit my tastes and to make it easier.

Barbecue Chicken Soup

2 cups cooked chicken breast, shredded
1 (15 oz.) can corn, drained
1 cup canned baked beans
3½ cups chicken broth
½ cup barbecue sauce
Salt, as needed
Shredded Monterey Jack cheese
Fresh cilantro, finely chopped

Place chicken, corn, beans, broth, and barbecue sauce in a soup pot.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for a few minutes.  Taste for seasoning, adding salt if necessary.

Ladle into bowls.  Top with shredded cheese and cilantro.

Makes 4 servings.

Easy, right?  And it's the perfect little taste of summer in winter form!  I love it.  Use your favorite barbecue sauce, but make sure it's not overly sweet.  Our favorite is Sweet Baby Ray's Honey Chipotle, and it's perfect in this soup. 

Last month, I made a soup using the exact same method, but with a different flavor profile.  I had some leftover teriyaki chicken, so I used that, with some matchstick carrots instead of the corn, and teriyaki sauce instead of the barbecue sauce.  That was really good too.  

So the next time you are craving soup but don't feel like spending an hour in the kitchen, try one of these "dump and heat up" soups.  You'll probably never buy another canned soup again!

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16 February 2012

Today is reveal day for the Improv Cooking Challenge.  The premise of this challenge is easy: each month there are two assigned ingredients.  The participants must make a recipe using both ingredients and blog about it.

Improv Challenge

This month, the two assigned ingredients were carrots and ginger.  How fun!  My mind immediately went to soup, and in fact I have a great carrot ginger soup recipe in my repoirtre.  But I wanted to try something different.  I checked out my "Vegetable Recipes" board on Pinterest, and saw this recipe for Carrot Souffle on Allrecipes.  That sounded very interesting to me.  I had never made a souffle before, and even though this isn't a real souffle, I was eager to try it.  The original recipe makes for a very sweet dish, with lots of sugar, vanilla extract, and powdered sugar on top.  I wanted to make it a bit more savory, so I adjusted it a little bit.  I added fresh ginger, cut way back on the sugar, omitted the vanilla, and added some salt.  I also cut way back on the butter because it was practically swimming in it.  Here's my version.

Carrot Ginger Souffle
2 pounds carrots, peeled and grated (about 6½ cups grated)
1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
4 tbsp butter, melted
2 tbsp brown sugar
3 tbsp flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 eggs, beaten
½ tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350°.  Coat a 1½ quart casserole dish with baking spray.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add carrots and cook until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain well and place in a bowl.  Mash the carrots and add ginger, butter, brown sugar, flour, baking powder, eggs, and salt. Mix well and transfer to prepared casserole dish. 

Bake in preheated oven for 45 to 50 minutes or until set in the middle.  Serve warm.

Makes 8 servings.

This is very good and makes a very unique side dish.  I love the hint of ginger in it and it's got the perfect balance of sweet and salty.  I made mine in a round casserole dish, so I ended up with pie-shaped wedges, but you can get square pieces if you make it in a square casserole dish.

I'm always in need of different veggie side dishes, so I'm happy to have this one in my collection.

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13 February 2012

Tomorrow is Valentine's Day.  Are you ready?  If you are still in need of a fabulous Valentine's Day dessert, I've got you covered.  I don't know about you, but the combination of chocolate and raspberries always makes me think of Valentine's Day.  I created a version of this recipe back in December when my mom was visiting for the weekend.  Then, last Friday night we had a couple over for dinner.  I was racking my brain trying to think of a good dessert to serve, when I finally remembered these parfaits.  Perfect!  They contain layers of brownie, homemade chocolate sauce, raspberries, and whipped cream.

Chocolate Raspberry Parfaits

1 box brownie mix
Eggs, oil, and water called for on brownie mix box
1 cup sugar
2 tbsp flour
⅓ cup cocoan powder
1 cup milk
2 tbsp butter
1 (21 oz.) can raspberry pie filling
1 (8 oz.) tub Cool Whip
8 fresh raspberries

Prepare and bake brownie mix according to directions on box.  Let cool.  Cut into ½” squares.

Meanwhile,  in a small saucepan, combine the sugar, flour, and cocoa.  Stir to remove any lumps.  Add milk and stir.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Boil until sauce has reached desired consistency.  Stir in the butter until melted.  Let sauce cool.  Transfer to a squeeze bottle, if you have one.

You will need 8 parfait glasses.  In each glass, put three brownie cubes in the bottom.  Drizzle a generous amount of chocolate sauce over brownie cubes.  Spoon a bit of raspberry pie filling over chocolate sauce.  Top with a layer of Cool Whip.  Repeat layers one more time.  You should end with Cool Whip and it should be almost flush with the top of the parfait glass.  Place a fresh raspberry on top of each parfait.

If making ahead of time, cover each parfait with plastic wrap and store in the fridge until ready to serve.

Makes 8 parfaits.

So easy to make and kind of unique.  I mean, it's not something you can just buy pre-made at the store, right?  I love that they can be made ahead of time; especially helpful if you are entertaining.  The first time I made these, for my mom, I used chocolate fudge pudding instead of the chocolate sauce.  That was okay, but they are much more decadent with the chocolate sauce.  And yes, you could use Hershey's syrup, but making your own chocolate sauce is so easy, and I love how you can customize the consistency to suit your preferences.  I make mine thicker than Hershey's.

You will probably end up with extra ingredients left over.  I have never measured exactly how much of each ingredient goes into each parfait, it's one of those things you just eyeball.  It's not hard to come up with some way to use the leftovers.  A good starting place: ice cream.

Happy Valentine's Day!

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07 February 2012

It's time once again for the Crazy Cooking Challenge!  In this challenge, all the participants make and blog about the same dish each month.  Each blogger is to scour other blogs for the "ultimate" version of whatever that month's dish is.  The goal is to highlight and promote personal food blogs. This month's assigned dish was chocolate cake.  So we were to find the "ultimate chocolate cake" recipe, make it, and blog about it. 


Not long after the announcement was made that this month's dish was chocolate cake, I saw Debbie at The Friday Friends post a recipe for Black Magic Chocolate Cake.  It sounded amazing.  I had never made a cake from scratch before, sans boxed mix, so I was eager to try it.  Debbie made hers into a 9x13" cake, but I decided to go for broke and make a layer cake.  My daughter's birthday is coming up later this month, so I thought I could use some exercise in cake making and decorating!  I didn't make a single change to Debbie's cake recipe, but I did use a different frosting.  The frosting recipe came from Food.com.  Here's how I did it.

Mocha Fudge Chocolate Cake

1¾ cup flour 
2 cup sugar 
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder 
2 tsp baking soda 
1 tsp baking powder 
1 tsp salt 
2 eggs 
1 cup strong black coffee, cooled 
1 cup buttermilk 
½ cup vegetable oil 
1 tsp vanilla extract 

Mocha Frosting:
2 packets Starbucks Via instant espresso powder
2 tbsp hot water
6 oz. butter, softened (1½ sticks)
5 cups powdered sugar
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ -½ cup milk 

Preheat oven to 350°.

Combine flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl or stand mixer.  Add eggs, coffee, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla.  Beat at medium speed for two minutes. Batter will be thin. 

Pour batter into a greased and floured 9x13” pan or two 9” round cake pans.  Bake for 35-40 minutes for a 9x13, or 30-35 minutes for layer pans.  Remove from oven and let cool.

For the frosting, dissolve espresso powder in water.

Beat butter until light.  Sift the sugar and cocoa into the butter.  Combine, stirring with a spoon until well blended.  Stir in the coffee and milk.  Beat frosting on low speed until until smooth and light.
If necessary, adjust consistancy by adding 1 tbsp of sugar or milk at a time.  Frosting will get thicker as it stands.  Makes about 5 cups of frosting.

Frost cake when cool.

Makes a 9x13” cake or a 9” round layer cake.

I renamed it "Mocha Fudge Chocolate Cake" because I feel that it is more descriptive of the cake.  This cake is AMAZING!  It is literally the best chocolate cake I have ever had.  You can't really taste the coffee in the cake itself, but I took that idea and ran with it, and used a mocha frosting using instant espresso powder.  You can definitely taste the coffee in the frosting and it is so good.  It really rounds out the lovely chocolate flavors very well.

This is a very heavy and dense cake; super fudgy.  I really thought that should be reflected in the name.  The texture of this cake is so different from anything you can get out of a boxed mix.  And I was really surprised at how little extra work was involved versus using the box.  It only took a few minutes to throw the batter together.  That was definitely the easiest part of making this cake!  I am new to cake decorating, so it's always a struggle for me.  Thankfully, my mom was visiting the weekend I made this, so she helped me out with the icing of the cake.

 I made the frosting a tad on the thin side (because that was how I wanted it), so I had a little trouble getting it to fill in the gap between the layers.

 My best attempt at smoothing out the top.

 Layers of chocolatey goodness!

 One big slice of heaven!

I was so glad that my mom was here to help us eat this cake!  Not only that, but she took some home with her for my dad, sister, and brother-in-law.  It got rave reviews from all of them, except my brother-in-law, who waited too long and lost his piece to my sister.  (You can't leave a piece of heavenly chocolate cake around a pregnant woman who just started getting her appetite back for too long!)

I am so glad that I stepped out of my comfort zone and ditched the box mix.  I had no idea how easy making a cake from scratch was.  I'm baking twice for my daughter's birthday later this month: a nice big cake for her party, and then cupcakes to take to school.  Should be fun!

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06 February 2012

It's time again to reveal our picks for the Secret Recipe Club.   The Secret Recipe Club is a group of food bloggers who secretly make one of someone else's dishes and post them all on the same day at the same time.  It's really fun, choosing a recipe to make, making the recipe, then reading about everyone else's recipes.  It's a great way to "meet" other bloggers and check out some great blogs that you never knew about before.

Secret Recipe Club

I was very pleased to be assigned Dinners, Dishes, and Desserts this month.  I have been reading Erin's blog for quite a while now, so I was pretty familiar with it and knew I would have a ton of great recipes to choose from.  I had a really hard time narrowing it down! She has tons of drool-worthy desserts, like Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Brownies and Cookie Dough Truffles.  I bookmarked several main dish recipes too, Taco Pizza, Spicy Asian Noodles with Chicken, and Chicken Burrito Pizza.  In fact, I was so indecisive, that I ended up making two of Erin's recipes this month.  I made her Smokey Garlic Chicken Pasta, which is amazing!  My family couldn't get enough.  Even though we are having a very mild winter here in Michigan, I am still in soup mode, so I chose her Creamy Chicken Wild Rice Soup for the reveal.

Creamy Chicken & Wild Rice Soup

¼ cup butter
½ large onion, chopped
1 cup matchstick carrots
½ cup flour
6 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
3½ cups wild rice, cooked
2 cups chicken, cooked and chopped or shredded
Salt, to taste
12 oz. evaporated milk

Melt butter in a large soup pot over medium heat.  Sauté onion and carrot in the butter until soft and tender, about 5 minutes.  Stir in flour until blended.  Slowly add broth.  Stir in rice and chicken.  Bring to boil over medium heat.  Cook for a few minutes until it starts to thicken.  Stir in milk and cook for 3-5 minutes.  Taste for seasoning and add salt if desired. 

Makes 8 servings.

I made just a few adjustments to Erin's original recipe.  I used matchstick carrots instead of chopped, just because I love the convenience of them.  I omitted the celery because we are not big fans.  I used a wild rice blend instead of just wild rice.  The blend was so much cheaper at the grocery store, and I thought the textures of the different kinds of rice would be really good.  The blend that I used contained long grain brown rice, sweet brown rice, wild rice, whole grain Wehani rice, and whole grain Black Japonica rice.  It was really tasty!

This soup is so delicious and perfect for a winter day.  I made it the weekend my mom was visiting and she loved it, and I sent some home to my sister and she enjoyed it too.  I will definitely be making this soup again.  I'm always thrilled to add a new soup to my repertoire, so thanks for the great recipe, Erin!

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