Archive for the 'Family Friendly' Category

Roasted Chicken and Butternut Soup

Hi, all! Long time, no post. Since my husband and I started eating a mostly Paleo diet last year, I just haven’t been as inclined to write. Most meals are simple foods, simply prepared (but delicious!). I definitely repeat recipes a lot these days, whereas I used to try something new almost every day. Still, I had a friend request dinner ideas recently, so I’ll try to get back into the swing of things. (And I make no promise that absolutely everything I post will be healthy. A girl’s gotta live a little!)

Since we’re having another snow day here in Denver, I thought it would be the perfect time to post Roasted Chicken and Butternut Soup from the October 2010 issue of Everyday Food. This recipe – like so many of my favorites these days – is what I like to call “accidentally Paleo.” It wasn’t created with the Paleo diet in mind, but the ingredients comply perfectly.

Roasted Chicken and Butternut Soup
Serves 4
Prep time: 15 min. | Total time: 55 min.

Ingredients:
4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (boneless, skinless will work fine too)
1 medium butternut squash (about 2 1/2 pounds), peeled, seeded, and diced medium
1 small yellow onion, diced medium
2 tablespoons olive oil (or coconut oil)
Coarse salt and ground pepper
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth or water (I use Costco’s organic chicken stock)
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Fresh cilantro (optional)

Method:
Preheat oven to 425°. In a roasting pan or rimmed baking sheet, toss together chicken, squash, onion, and oil; season with salt and pepper. Arrange in a single layer and roast until squash and chicken are cooked through, about 30 minutes.

Transfer chicken to a plate and let cool. Transfer squash and onions to a medium pot and add broth, cumin, and coriander. Bring to a simmer over medium-high. With a potato masher or back of a wooden spoon, mash some vegetables until soup is thick and chunky. (I just give it a few pulses with my immersion blender.) Discard skin and bones from chicken; cut meat into small pieces and add to soup. Stir in lemon juice; season to taste with salt and pepper. To serve, top with fresh cilantro, if desired.

roasted_chicken_and_butternut_soup

I do love this soup. It’s hearty and filling thanks to the chicken, but it certainly isn’t heavy; the squash and lemon create a light texture and bright flavor. This one of several recipes I make in big batches and then freeze individual portions for future lunches. (I’m no longer a Lean Cuisine addict – hooray!)

Recipe link: Roasted Chicken and Butternut Soup

Homemade Marshmallows with Chocolate and Toasted Coconut

My cousin has a daughter who was recently diagnosed with celiac disease, in addition to the nut allergy the family has been aware of for years. She’s adjusting well, and there are lots of great gluten-free products these days, but it’s still not easy for a kid to have to be so careful about the things that she eats.

Easter sugar cookies were our tradition previously, but this year, I wanted to make a dessert that everyone could enjoy. After carefully checking my list of potential ingredients to make sure there wasn’t any risk of gluten cross-contamination, I decided to pull out a marshmallow recipe I’ve used previously and then dip the marshmallows in chocolate and toasted coconut. They were a great hit with the children and the adults (and would have been with the family dog, had he succeeded in his quest) – a perfect mix of sweet, chewy, and crunchy.

Homemade Marshmallows with Chocolate and Toasted Coconut
Makes about 60 (depending on how you cut them)

Ingredients:
Vegetable oil, for brushing
4 packages unflavored gelatin (or 3 tablespoons)
3 cups granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 cups sweetened flaked coconut (use unsweetened, if desired)
6 ounces semi-sweet or dark chocolate

To make marshmallows:
Brush a 9-x-13-inch glass baking dish with vegetable oil. Cut a piece of parchment paper large enough to cover the bottom of the dish and to overhang the longer sides. Place the parchment in the dish, brush with oil, and set dish aside.

Pour 3/4 cup of cold water in the bowl of an electric mixer, and sprinkle gelatin on top. Let stand 5 minutes.

Place granulated sugar, corn syrup, salt, and 3/4 cup water in a medium saucepan. Set saucepan over high heat, and bring to a boil. Insert a candy thermometer, and cook until mixture reaches soft-ball stage (238° at sea level, 228° at my house at 5900 feet, about 9 minutes).

Using the whisk attachment, beat hot syrup into gelatin on low speed. Gradually increasing speed to high, beat until mixture is very stiff, about 12 minutes. Beat in vanilla. Pour mixture into the prepared baking dish, and smooth the surface with an offset spatula. Set dish aside, uncovered, until marshmallow becomes firm, at least 3 hours or overnight.

Place 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar in a fine strainer, and sift onto a clean work surface. Invert large marshmallow onto the sugar-coated surface, and peel off the parchment paper. Lightly brush a sharp knife with vegetable oil, and cut marshmallow into 1-inch squares. Sift remaining 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar into a small bowl, and roll marshmallows in sugar to coat. Set aside.

To dip marshmallows:
Preheat oven to 350°. Spread coconut in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake coconut until toasted and golden brown, about 5 minutes. (Watch carefully because coconut will burn quickly!) Place toasted coconut in a bowl and set aside.

Melt chocolate in a small bowl in microwave according to package instructions. (You could also melt chocolate using a double boiler, if desired.)

Dip one side of each marshmallow first in chocolate and then in toasted coconut. Place chocolate-side up on a rimmed baking sheet.

Once all the marshmallows are dipped, place baking sheet in refrigerator for 15 minutes to allow chocolate to set. Cover loosely with foil until ready to serve. Store leftovers in an airtight container for up to one week.

Marshmallow adapted from MarthaStewart.com

Homemade Marshmallows with Chocolate and Toasted Coconut

Holy cow, are these ever good. What really makes them awesome is the combination of the soft marshmallow with the crunchy, sweet coconut – it’s textural heaven. I love chocolate, so that certainly doesn’t hurt things either. They’re the perfect little size – just a bite, which is great for kids or adults who struggle with dessert guilt.  (I am not one of those adults.)

The dipped marshmallows are definitely best day they’re made, before they’ve spent any time in an airtight container. As we discovered in the backyard fire pit, they’re good toasted, too, though you have to be careful about the coconut catching fire. Never fear if you have leftovers… Even though the coconut lost its crunch in airtight storage, Dr. O still couldn’t stop eating them.

Moroccan Meatball Soup with Sweet Potato

When you make a recipe that’s a bit of a letdown, do you ever give it a second chance? Today’s recipe – Moroccan Meatball Soup with Sweet Potato – is one that I practically live on these days, but it almost didn’t make it to the “repeat recipe” pile after my first try.

When I first made this soup, I used a medium pot as the recipe suggested; in my opinion, at least, a “medium” pot has about a 3- or 4-quart capacity. Once I got to the second half of the recipe, though, and saw the mound of sliced sweet potatoes and carrots that I needed to add to the pot, I knew I was in trouble. Since there wasn’t much else to do, I pulled my 5.5-quart enameled cast iron pot out of the cabinet and forged ahead.

We had the soup for dinner that night. While Dr. O said he enjoyed it, I was less than impressed. Still, there was plenty left over for lunch, so we both dug in again the next day.

Overnight, something magical happened. The previously bland soup seemed so rich and flavorful. I think the seasoning in the meatballs – the majority of which I had lost when I had to switch pots – had a chance to seep into the broth, completely transforming the soup.

Since I was able to see the recipe’s true potential, I decided to give it another chance. Using the 5.5-quart enameled cast iron pot from the beginning this time, I was able to develop a gorgeous fond while cooking the onions and spices. I deglazed the pan with a bit of chicken broth later in the recipe so those delicious browned bits wouldn’t go to waste. In terms of flavor, it made all the difference in the world.

Moroccan Meatball Soup with Sweet Potato
Serves 4 – 6
Prep: 20 min. | Total time: 50 min.

Ingredients:
4 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 medium white onion, diced small
Salt and pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 pounds 90% lean ground beef
2 medium sweet potatoes, cut into thin half-moons
4 medium carrots, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons tomato paste
7 cups chicken broth
Chopped fresh cilantro, for serving

Method:
In a medium pot, heat 2 teaspoons oil over medium. Add onion and cook until softened, 8 minutes; season with salt and pepper. Add garlic, cumin, and cinnamon and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds. Transfer mixture to a medium bowl and add beef. Using your hands, gently combine (do not overmix), then form beef mixture into 1-inch balls.

Add remaining 2 teaspoons oil to pot and heat over medium-high. Add sweet potatoes and carrots and cook until bright orange, 5 minutes. Add tomato paste and stir to coat. Add broth and bring to a simmer; cook until vegetables are just tender, about 5 minutes. Add meatballs and simmer until cooked through, 12 minutes. Sprinkle with cilantro to serve.

Source: MarthaStewart.com

My notes:

  • I used a large pot instead of a medium pot. (Lesson learned!)
  • I used olive oil instead of vegetable oil.
  • I used a 1.5-pound package of organic 85% lean ground beef from Costco for the meatballs. Since my meat had a higher fat content, I skimmed the fat from the soup at the end.  The easiest way to do this (once you’ve had your initial serving of soup, if you’re hungry), is to chill the soup in the refrigerator.  The fat will rise to the top and harden, and you can remove it with a spoon.
  • I used a mandoline to make quick work of slicing the sweet potatoes and the carrots.
  • In addition to seasoning the onion mixture in the first step, I seasoned the meatball mixture as well.

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This is such a great recipe! The meatballs and starchy vegetables make the soup so hearty and filling, and I love the Moroccan spice. Don’t skip the sprinkle of cilantro (unless you hate cilantro, of course); it adds a fantastic layer of flavor to the dish.

Since Dr. O and I try to avoid processed foods as much as possible, I make a batch of this every week (along with another dish, to keep things interesting). I freeze individual portions, and we put them in the refrigerator to thaw overnight for lunch the next day. It beats the heck out of a Lean Cuisine!

Recipe link: Moroccan Meatball Soup with Sweet Potato

Slow-Cooked Vanilla Spice Oatmeal

Recently, I received a treat in the mail: a promotional copy of Pure Vanilla, a new vanilla-centered cookbook by Piece of Cake blogger Shauna Sever. As much as I love chocolate, vanilla has always been my favorite flavor, so I couldn’t wait to dig in and check out the recipes. In a cruel twist of fate, we’re trying to avoid eating too much refined sugar and dairy at this point, so I longingly skipped over Vanilla Bean Bread Pudding, Big Mama Vanilla Cheesecake, Salted Vanilla Chip Oatmeal Cookies, and Candied Vanilla Popcorn. I did manage to find a recipe, though, that (a) is relatively low sugar, (b) is made (almost entirely) with things I already had on hand, and (c) solves a problem we’ve been tackling recently, which is that it’s hard to make breakfast every morning with Dr. O’s ever-changing (and sometimes painfully early) work hours.

Shauna says adding a vanilla bean “transforms this humble food (oats) into something otherworldly,” and she’s right. Throw this one together before bed and wake up to one fantastic breakfast.

Slow-Cooked Vanilla Spice Oatmeal
Serves 4

Ingredients:
1 cup steel-cut oats
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
2 tablespoons light brown sugar (optional), plus more for serving
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
Half-and-half or heavy cream, for serving

Method:
Coat the sleeve of a 5-quart slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray. Place sleeve in slow cooker and combine all ingredients in it; add 3 1/2 cups water and stir to blend. Set slow cooker to low and cook for 8 hours. Remove vanilla bean and scrape any remaining caviar into oatmeal. Stir well and serve with brown sugar to taste and a drizzle of half-and-half or heavy cream.

Variation: Increase the water to 4 cups and add 2/3 cup of dried fruit before cooking.

Source: Pure Vanilla

Slow-Cooked Vanilla Spice Oatmeal

Talk about an incredibly easy, super tasty breakfast. I tried the variation, upping the water to four cups and adding 1/3 cup of dried tart cherries and 1/3 cup of dried apricots. The fruit cooked down to a lusciously soft consistency and the spices were just right. Dr. O said it was like eating cobbler for breakfast (a good thing in our house!).

My only complaint? I lost about a serving of oatmeal to crust on the sides of my slow cooker sleeve, even with a coating of canola cooking spray.  Maybe next time I’ll combine the ingredients in a separate bowl and dump them in to avoid disturbing the cooking spray.  (Or maybe my slow cooker is a bit too warm, even on low?)  I’m very interested to try this as a single serving in my Crock-Pot Little Dipper.  I’ll post an update when I do.

Thanks for the book and the amazing recipes, Shauna!  Can’t wait to try them all.

Flourless Double-Chocolate Pecan Cookies

“Mayhem” (the only way I can describe my May!) is almost over. Hallelujah. It’s been fun, but traveling every weekend really puts a damper on my cooking, and I’m ready to get back to it.

Today’s recipe – Flourless Double-Chocolate Pecan Cookies – is a treat I’ve enjoyed at my friend Christopher’s house numerous times. Until I actively sought out the recipe, though, I didn’t realize that (a) I’ve had it in my possession since September 2009, and (b) it’s been on my list of must-try recipes for months and months.

The cookies are super simple to make; there’s only six ingredients, and prep time is minimal. The first time I made a batch, though, they did not look like the cookies I’d enjoyed before. Christopher’s had relatively smooth but still slightly crackly tops, while mine were very uneven. I had ignored my kitchen instincts when I made the batter and didn’t beat the egg whites before adding them to the dry mixture (the recipe said nothing about it), so I figured this must have been my problem. This time, with lightly beaten egg whites, the cookies turned out perfectly.

Flourless Double-Chocolate Pecan Cookies
Makes 12

Ingredients:
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
3/4 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder (spooned and leveled)
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped (sub chocolate chips if desired)
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans (or other type of nut)
4 large egg whites, room temperature (I say lightly beaten)

Method:
Preheat oven to 325°. In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, cocoa, and salt. Stir in chocolate and pecans. Add egg whites and stir until just incorporated (do not overmix).

Drop dough by 1/4 cupfuls, 3 inches apart, onto two parchment-lined rimmed baking sheets. Bake until cookie tops are dry and crackled, about 25 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Transfer sheets to wire racks and let cookies cool completely. (To store, keep in an airtight container, up to 3 days.)

Source: Everyday Food, September 2009

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These are one of my top three favorite cookies, easy. The crisp, crackly outside gives way to a chewy, brownie-like center and the combination is absolutely out of this world. The cookies are large (about the size of my palm) and visually impressive, which makes them great for gifts or entertaining.

The quality of cocoa powder used definitely affects the flavor of the cookie, so if you try the recipe, go with the best. I’ve had good results with Savory Spice Shop’s cocoa (I mixed their basic Dutch-process cocoa with their Black Onyx) and with Ghirardelli; Christopher swears by Droste.

Recipe link: Flourless Double-Chocolate Pecan Cookies

Ice Cream Truffles

Here’s another easy, make-ahead dessert for Valentine’s Day (or any day, really). Combine your sweetie’s favorite ice cream with their favorite candy bar and serve up some customized ice cream truffles.

Ice Cream Truffles
Adapted from Real Simple

Ingredients:
1 1/2 quarts ice cream (I used Breyers Smooth and Dreamy Chocolate Chocolate Chip)
8 – 12 ounces candy bars, chopped or processed in the food processor (smaller ice cream shapes will have more surface area and will require more candy; I used 4 ounces each of Butterfinger and Take 5)

For round truffles:
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment or foil.  Freeze for 10 minutes.  Remove one sheet.

Using a melon baller or ice cream scoop, scoop the ice cream and place individual balls on baking sheet.  Return sheet to freezer.  Repeat this process with second sheet.  Freeze the balls for 30 minutes, or until firm.

Place the chopped candy on a small plate.  (Use multiple plates for multiple candies.) Working with 1 baking sheet at a time, roll the ice cream balls in the toppings, using your hands to gently press in the toppings.  Freeze for 30 minutes before serving. For longer storage, place in a freezer bag or airtight container and freeze.

For heart-shaped truffles:
Allow ice cream to soften on the countertop until it has a spreadable consistency (or microwave on low until spreadable).  Line an 8 x 8-inch baking pan with parchment or foil.  Place ice cream in baking pan, smooth top, and cover with plastic wrap. Freeze for 6o minutes, or until firm.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment or foil.  Freeze for 10 minutes.  Remove one sheet.

Remove ice cream from freezer.  Remove plastic wrap.  Invert over a cutting board and peel away parchment or foil.  Using a heart-shaped cookie cutter (mine was 2 1/2 inches wide at its widest point), cut heart shapes and place hearts on baking sheet.  Return sheet to freezer.  Repeat process with second baking sheet.  If desired, scoop ice cream scraps into balls and place on baking sheet as well.  Freeze for 30 minutes, or until firm.

Place the chopped candy on a small plate.  (Use multiple plates for multiple candies.) Working with 1 baking sheet at a time, gently roll the hearts (and balls, if you scooped the scraps) in the toppings, using your hands to gently press in the toppings.  Freeze for 30 minutes before serving.  For longer storage, place in a freezer bag or airtight container and freeze.

Ice Cream Truffles

The easy way...

Individual Ice Cream Truffle

Take 5... Yum!

Heart-Shaped Ice Cream Truffles

The hard(er) way...

This is one of those recipes (though it’s barely a recipe, I’ll admit!) that really can’t go wrong as long as you start with delicious ingredients.  Plus, I love that the work is already done and these truffles will taste just as good after dinner on Tuesday as they did the day I made them.  Happy (early) Valentine’s Day, everyone!

TIPS:  I suspect that drier candy bars (like the ones I used, or Heath, Toblerone, etc.) work best with this recipe because they won’t bond into lumps due to an excess of caramel, peanut butter, or other delicious ooey-gooey elements.  If you try a gooey candy bar with these, though, let me know how it goes.  Also, I initially intended to make mini heart truffles, but my mini heart cutter was too shallow to cut through the ice cream in the 8 x 8-inch block.  If you want to make minis, put the ice cream in a 9 x 13-inch pan instead.

Recipe link: Ice Cream Truffles

Nutella Hot Chocolate

Today was a cold one here in Denver (it’s 17°F now), and I’ve been under the weather lately with a scratchy throat.  Feeling chilly and a little bit sorry for myself, I decided I deserved a treat: Nutella Hot Chocolate, or the most delicious, bare-minimum effort dessert ever.  I first had it at my friend Christopher’s (on the recommendation of his cousin, Nicole), but we thought it could have been more chocolatey.  I’ve played with the proportions, and I think I have it just right.

Nutella Hot Chocolate
Serves 2

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups milk (I used 1%; use whole for a richer drink)
3 tablespoons Nutella

Method:
Place milk in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan.  Bring to a bare simmer over medium heat.  Whisk in Nutella until completely incorporated.

Nutella Hot Chocolate

That’s it!  It’s so easy, but so delicious.  With these proportions, you get a perfect amount of chocolately, nutty Nutella flavor.  This would be an ideal dessert for Valentine’s Day if you’re looking for something warm and comforting but super easy (especially served with heart marshmallows, which I cut from large store-bought marshmallows using a mini heart cookie cutter).

TIPS:  The first time I made this at home, I used Nutella that had been in the pantry for a while.  Fresh Nutella dissolves much better than Nutella that’s past its prime.




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