Saturday, October 29, 2011

DIY Tortilla Soup

A couple of years ago I went to a Mexican Cantina and ordered their Chicken Tortilla Soup. When the meal arrived, to my surprise, I was served a plate with a bowl that contained rice, beans and chicken in it and a spread of fresh ingredients beside it on the plate including diced tomatoes, avocado slices, pico de gallo, and shredded cheese.  The broth was brought in a pitcher and was poured over the ingredients in the bowl at the table-side.

I then topped the soup with the fresh ingredients from the plate. It was so fresh, tasty and fun.  I thought it was brilliant! Fresh soup, with fresh ingredients and made to order.  I took the idea and thought I would recreate it at home and make DIY Tortilla Soup.

Our small group for church has dinner each week at our home and we decided to do a taco night. In addition to tortillas, we had a pot of broth on the stove.  That way, with the same ingredients we could offer soup and tacos. People could choose the ingredients they like, topped with broth rather than wrapped in a tortilla.

It was a hit.  You can spice it up with salsa and peppers, make it meatless, or bean-less, or experiment with your favorite combinations.  Subsequently, we have embraced it as a new, crowd-pleasing menu at our table.

And it's Do It Yourself - and there is something novel about that. 

the Broth (click to print)
4 cans Chicken Broth
juice of 1/2 lime
1 to 2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 handful fresh cilantro

Place all ingredients into a large pot.
Let broth simmer for a few minutes on the stove, allowing the flavors to meld.
(You might want to alter the seasoning of this to your liking - add spices, add hot sauce, decrease lime, omit cilantro, etc.)

the Beans
1 Can Black Beans, drained and rinsed
1 Can water
2 cloves of garlic, minced
Sprinkle with cumin and salt

Place all ingredients into a small pot.
Heat on the stove.

the Chicken
4 Chicken breasts, cut into medium sized pieces
juice from 1/2 lime
A sprinkle of cumin
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
A pinch of Salt
A dash of Cholula

Place meat in a glass dish and add other ingredients. Toss to coat well.
Grill on stove top grill (or sautee on stove top, or bake in the oven on a baking sheet, or grill on the grill...whatever you choose).

Prepare other toppings:

  • Rice (you can make a pot of white or brown rice or one of the mexican rice packages found in the grocery store for more seasoned rice)
  • Diced tomatoes
  • Shredded cheese
  • Sour cream
  • Chips slightly broken (which are conveniently located at the bottom of the bag of chips)
  • Salsa (my favorite salsa recipe is HERE)
  • Avocado- sliced  (I thought I would share with you how I prepare an avocado.  It can be intimidating but usually this method works like a charm).
Using a sharp knife, cut a lateral line through the center, cutting around the large center pit

Using a large spoon, insert the spoon as close to the skin as you can and shimmy between the edge of the avocado and the skin.

Repeat the process with the other side.

Place the avocado on the cutting board and slice.

Using a sharp knife,
cut a lateral line through 

the center, cutting around the 
large center pit

Using a large spoon,
insert the spoon as close
to the skin as you can
and shimmy between the
edge of the avocado 

and the skin,
Remove the avocado.
Repeat the process
with the other side
Place the avocado
on the cutting board
and slice

Friday, October 14, 2011

Fall Favorites

I'm on my second lap.  It's year 2 for my blog and I have posted through each season.  I like to write about seasonally inspired foods and since I began my blog last August, I posted some of my perennial fall favorites last September and October.  In the next couple of weeks, I plan to make some of these recipes at our house. 
So I wanted to remind you about them. (Or if you have come to my kitchen recently and haven't read the posts of these time honored traditions at my table, I wanted to share them with you).  

My childhood tradition at every holiday.  They are beautiful and delicious!

It says "fall" to me.  It's dense and filled with apples and cinnamony goodness.

A favorite fall meal and our traditional Halloween dinner fare.

Pumpkin Muffins
Some with pecans, some with chocolate chips, some plain...and my new twist...
a good dollup of cream cheese pressed into the batter and baked in.

Pumpkin Dip and Caramel Toffee Dip with Apples
Fun party food- both dips are so yummy with apples and graham crackers!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Bran Muffins (Dirt & Stick Muffins)

If I had to choose one baked good to make, it would be muffins.  They are so easy, versatile and tasty. Since breakfast is my favorite meal of the day, I love that they are a main-course baked good! I appreciate creative, unique muffins and simple classic ones as well.  It's great when you find a quality, basic muffin recipe that you can then add to and tweak depending on your mood.  Furthermore, I think muffins are a great treat to share with people:
with my kids' teachers at school to start their day,
with my college students to offer some homemade goodness,
with my neighbors on a saturday morning to celebrate the weekend,
or a new parent who's been up all night,
or struggling friend who needs some kindness and nourishment,
or a child, because they are so fun to eat!

My former student, Amy, who is now in Colorado in grad school, sent me this NPR article about showing compassion through the gift of food.  If you have a couple of minutes, you should read it. It's inspiring! Thanks, Amy, for thinking of me!
(Speaking of my college students, my student Becca, surprised our 9:30 class this week with a gift of very special pumpkin cream cheese streusel muffins.  They were deliciously fall!  I ate one at class and another for lunch.  Here's the recipe.)

the Bran. You can find it in the health
food aisle of the grocery
Muffins come in all flavors and sizes.  I love a cupcake-like muffin, I mean, how could I not?  It's like a license to eat cake for breakfast! But bran muffins are at the top of my list.  When I'm reaching for a muffin at a bakery, I usually go for a bran muffin.  This bran muffin recipe is my favorite for a hearty, whole grain, rusky muffin.  Dave calls them my "dirt and stick muffins" because they have real wheat bran in them and they feel healthy (though still moist and yummy)!

I have some history with bran muffins.  My mom raised us on raisin bran muffins, which are really tasty, easy to make, and are perfect for those reluctant-to-eat-bran people.  They are fluffy and sweet (lots of sugar in this recipe) and light in their color and texture. If that is the bran muffin that sounds appealing to you, here is the recipe.

If you are more of a hearty, denser, healthier muffin, this one is for you.

In both recipes, the batter is able to be kept in the fridge up to a few weeks, so that you can bake a few of them fresh each day.   (The Raisin Bran ones actually require refrigeration for 6 hours prior to baking them – which for me just means that I mix the batter at night and let it refrigerate for the 6 hours I sleep and it's ready when I wake up; the Hearty Bran don't require refrigeration before baking).

I have tried many mix-ins with these: craisins, blueberries, raisins, apples, pears, walnuts, pecans, peaches, you name it.  A local favorite coffee shop, The Frothy Monkey, has daily muffins and they usually have a bran of some creative variety – i've had mango pineapple bran, blueberry bran, prune bran, and last week they had apricot almond bran.

[I have posted several muffin recipes on this blog, click on THIS ONE that has my tricks and tips that I have learned along the way to help with your muffin-baking pursuit]

1 cup bran soaking in hot water
the batter
3 cups Unprocessed Wheat Bran
1 cup boiling water
1 cup brown sugar
½ cup butter, softened (or I sometimes use ¼ cup vanilla yogurt; ¼ cup butter)
2 ½ cups All-purpose flour (or I sometimes use 1 cup whole wheat/ 1 ½ cups white wheat)
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups buttermilk
¼ cup honey
Any "mix-ins" you would like (craisins, blueberries, nuts, etc)

Mix 1 cup of wheat bran with 1 cup boiling water; stir and let water absorb into bran.  
In a bowl, blend sugar and butter.  
Measure and combine flour, baking soda and salt.  
Combine the moist bran with the beaten eggs, the remaining 2 cups of bran, buttermilk, blended sugar/butter mixture, and the dry ingredient mixture.  
Stir until well blended.  
Add ¼ cup honey and any “mix-ins” you would like.
Place in refrigerator for future use, OR bake at once - (If you are going to wait to make the muffins until later, I think it is best to omit the mix-ins until the time you are baking them).

batter in the fridge for whenever you want to bake them
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  
Stir batter and scoop into greased muffin tins. I like to sprinkle some turbinado sugar (coarse raw sugar) on top before baking.  If I used a "mix-in", I sprinkle some of those ingredients on top to indicate what's inside, and because it's so pretty!  
Bake 15 minutes, or until done.  

Keep remaining mixture in airtight container for 2 to 4 weeks.  Makes about 2 dozen muffins.

Happy Friday muffins for teachers