Archive for the 'Freezer 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

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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.

Image

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

Moroccan Vegetable Stew

We’ve been undergoing a bit of a food revolution in our house over the past few months, trying to eat as cleanly as possible (when we’re home and can control it, at least!) in the interest of being our best and healthiest selves. We eat lots of organic meat and eggs, lots of fruit and veggies (keeping the Dirty Dozen organic, at least), and a little organic dairy, and we’ve majorly reduced our beer and wine consumption. It’s been tough, but worth it. Lest you think we’re going crazy, I did bring a caramel apple pie to my friend Christopher’s amazing Thanksgiving dinner and enjoyed every single bite. (Life without any indulgence hardly seems worth living, am I right?) Still, we’re doing the best we can as often as we can.

Changing our lunch habits has been a major challenge throughout this process. I used to alternate between Lean Cuisine and turkey sandwiches; Dr. O was eating the previous night’s leftovers, or (horror of horrors!) Lean Pockets, in the event of an emergency. Since I really wanted to get away from processed food, I bought a bunch of glass Snapware at Costco and committed to stocking my freezer with homemade frozen lunches. I’ve made lots of delicious recipes (I’ll share them, promise!), but today’s recipe – Moroccan Vegetable Stew from Peace Meals – is one of my favorites. There’s a lot of prep work with the veggies, but the stew is really simple and tasty. Plus, the ingredients fill my five-quart slow cooker to the brim, which means I have plenty of lunches to freeze.

Moroccan Vegetable Stew
Serves 6 – 8

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried coriander
1 teaspoon dried cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
5 cups vegetable broth (I use organic chicken broth, since that’s what I keep on hand)
2 1/2 cups diced eggplant, about 2 medium
2 cups peeled and sliced carrots, about 5 small
2 cups cauliflower florets, about 1 small head
2 cups sliced zucchini, about 2 medium
1 cup chopped onion, about 1 medium
29 ounces canned stewed tomatoes (I use Muir Glen)
15 ounces canned garbanzo beans
1 cup chopped toasted almonds
3/4 cup currants
1 tablespoon coarse salt
1/2 cup non-fat plain yogurt (optional)

Method:
Heat the olive oil in a medium sauté pan over medium-low. Add the garlic and spices and cook until fragrant, about 1 to 2 minutes; be careful not to burn the garlic. Scrape the garlic and spices into a slow cooker. Add the broth and the remaining ingredients (except the yogurt) and stir. Cook on high for 6 to 7 hours. Allow to cool slightly. Purée 3 cups of the stew in a blender or food processor and return to the slow cooker, stirring to combine. Serve warm with a dollop of yogurt, if desired.

Source: Peace Meals

Moroccan Vegetable Stew

This is such warm, delicious, comforting food. You probably have to like eggplant in order to enjoy this one, but I just adore the way all the vegetables in this dish come together. I also love, love, love the hint of sweetness from the currants and the slight heat from the cayenne pepper.

The first time I made this stew, I was in a huge hurry, rushing to get out the door for some reason. I nearly skipped the almonds since I didn’t want to take the time to toast and chop them. It would have been a huge mistake! I thought it was so strange to put nuts in a slow-cooker stew (surely they would get spongy, right?), but they add such a wonderful texture and flavor to the dish.

TIPS: When I first made this stew, I cut my vegetables into fairly large pieces since I assumed they would cook down quite a bit (especially the eggplant and the zucchini). It didn’t really happen. Now, I use a small dice for the onion, a small-medium dice for the eggplant, and half-moons for the zucchini (and larger carrots). Also, I just put my hand blender right into the slow cooker for a few seconds at the end, rather than dirty my regular blender or food processor.

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

Daring Bakers’ Challenge: From Phyllo to Baklava

Erica of Erica’s Edibles was our host for the Daring Bakers’ June challenge. Erica challenged us to be truly DARING by making homemade phyllo dough and then to use that homemade dough to make baklava.
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Whew!  Talk about a project.  I spent the better part of yesterday afternoon making the phyllo and baklava (and a HUGE mess to go with it!) and then had to wait anxiously until this morning (after all the baklava syrup had been absorbed) to even see if it was all worth it.  Thankfully, the results are pretty delicious, even if I can’t say I’d go to all that trouble all over again.  Here are my notes:

  • I doubled the dough recipe (as recommended) and let it rest for 2 hours before rolling it.
  • The wrap-the-dough-around-the-dowel technique didn’t work for me, perhaps because my rolling pin is thicker and is silicone (not wood).  My dough just fused together into a tube instead of growing larger.  I just kept moving and flipping my dough, rolling it from every direction, until it was as thin as I could get it.  Then, as recommended, I stretched it even more with my hands.  I was pleasantly surprised by how well the dough held up for handling despite being rolled so thin.
  • Even though I definitely got my dough sheets to the point of transparency, I only ended up with 11 or 12 sheets.  Since they weren’t huge and I didn’t end up with quite as many of them as I hoped I would, I decided to use a 9-inch round cake pan instead of a 9 x 9-inch square pan for my baklava.
  • I thought I floured well between each sheet, but I apparently didn’t do it well enough; my sheets stuck together pretty badly when I was trying to pull them off to assemble the baklava.  I did my best to make sure I separated all the sheets, but one or two layers might have been doubled.  I had set one perfect sheet aside on the counter under some plastic wrap for the top, though, so I don’t think anyone would really be able to tell that I struggled.
  • I used the recommended nut combination for my filling (almonds, walnuts, and pistachios) and the recommended spices (cinnamon and allspice).  I think I overdid the clove a bit in my syrup.
  • I used an entire stick of butter for buttering between the phyllo layers.
  • The recommended baking time was 60 minutes at 350°F, but mine was a deep golden brown at 45, so I took my pan out of the oven at that point.
  • Since I used a 9-inch round cake pan (6-cup capacity) instead of a 9 x 9-inch square pan (8-cup capacity), I made 3/4 recipes of the filling and the syrup. The filling was just right, but I think there was a bit too much syrup; I should have followed my instinct and left a bit out.  Even after resting for 16 hours, my baklava was still oozing a bit, though the majority of the syrup did get absorbed.
  • In my opinion, the syrup is a bit too sweet.  If I ever make it again (with store-bought phyllo, sorry!), I’ll cut the sugar to 1/2 cup (for a full recipe) instead of 2/3 cup.
  • After the initial cuts (before baking, in the middle of baking, and post-syrup), I continued to cut through my baklava periodically as it cooled.  It came out of the pan very easily this morning.

Assembled, Unbaked Baklava

Baked Baklava

Cut Baklava

The end result was a tasty treat, but it was a LOT of work.  This challenge certainly relieved me of any pride that might get in the way of me buying frozen phyllo dough at the grocery store. 🙂

Thanks for a great challenge, Erica!

Recipe link: Phyllo and Baklava

Peanut Butter Waffles

How do I love thee, peanut butter?  Next to apple slices, tucked inside a chocolate cup, sandwiched with homemade jam, and now, in waffles.  As someone who consumes peanut butter almost daily, I saw this recipe in the May 2011 issue of Everyday Food and couldn’t resist.

The recipe isn’t on Martha Stewart’s site yet, so I’ve posted it for you.  I was able to get 20 small heart-shaped waffles out of the batter.  Two waffles (before you add bananas and syrup) are 6 Weight Watchers PointsPlus points.

Peanut Butter Waffles
Yield varies with waffle maker

Ingredients:
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for brushing waffle iron
6 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
2 cups buttermilk
2 large eggs
3 bananas, sliced, for serving
3/4 cup pure maple syrup, for serving

Method:
Heat waffle iron and preheat oven to 275°F; set a wire rack in a rimmed baking sheet and place in oven.  In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  In a blender, blend butter and peanut butter until smooth, 1 minute.  Add buttermilk and eggs and blend until combined, 1 minute. Add buttermilk mixture to flour mixture and stir just until batter is combined.

Brush waffle iron with butter and pour in 1/2 to 3/4 cup batter, leaving a 1/2-inch border on all sides.  Close iron and cook until waffles are golden brown, 2 to 4 minutes.  Transfer waffles to rack in oven to keep warm; repeat with remaining batter.  Serve with bananas and maple syrup.

Note: Waffles can be frozen in zip-top bags, up to 1 month; reheat in the toaster or a 325°F oven.

Source: Everyday Food, May 2011

Peanut Butter Waffles

I’m not sure I’ve ever had a bad waffle, but these are tastier than most.  They have a subtle peanut butter flavor when eaten plain; I think the bananas and syrup bring out the peanut butter a bit more.  In terms of texture, they’re pretty light and fluffy. The oven time crisps the outside edge a bit (a plus in my book!).  Since I am always looking for good make-ahead recipes to take the stress out of entertaining (or even just getting Dr. O out the door in the morning), I love that I can make a whole batch and either hold them in the oven or freeze them for later.

These aren’t going to dethrone my favorite classic waffle recipe, but they are certainly delicious and a nice change of pace.  Give them a try!

Heart Cookie Pops

For as much as I love making decorated sugar cookies, I often wish the process could be shorter.  It takes several hours (not all hands-on time, thankfully!) to even get to the point where you have cookies to ice.  Icing then takes a minute or so per cookie and they have to rest for at least four hours (!!!) before you can pipe anything on top.  I get exhausted just thinking about it.

So when I saw this recent cookie pop project in a Fancy Flours e-mail, I knew I had to give it a try.  The cookies were so cute, but they didn’t have any icing.  I am completely in love with my regular cookie recipe (No-Fail Sugar Cookies), so I decided to use my usual recipe with their technique.

I have made hundreds and hundreds of sugar cookies over the last five years, but I had never colored the dough before.  Talk about an easy way to dress things up!  I used Wilton’s gel paste food coloring in rose, and I added it after the butter and sugar were creamed but before the egg, vanilla, and flour mixture.  Once the dough was chilled and firm, I rolled it as usual and cut it with a 2-inch heart cookie cutter. I put each heart on top of a popsicle stick (my stash of white candy sticks is MIA, so I used what I had) and pressed the dough gently so it would adhere.  Fancy Flours suggested silver dragées in the corner of each heart but I had pearl ones; again, I used what I had.

My perfect baking time for 2-inch cookies was 8 minutes at 350°F.  I cooled the cookies for five minutes on the baking sheets before carefully transferring them to wire racks to cool completely.

Heart Cookie Pops

Pretty cute, huh?  And I loved that they were done once they were cool…  No additional decorating necessary!  Here are a few notes for any of you who want to give this one a whirl:

  • Based on the scale of dragée to cookie, I’d say Fancy Flours used a 1 1/4-inch cookie cutter.  I used a 2-inch cutter.
  • I think the white candy sticks look nicer, but the popsicle sticks will provide better support for a larger cookie.
  • I experimented with dragées around the entire perimeter of the cookie, but the results weren’t good.  Some of them dissolved a bit and shrunk during the baking process, which was really obvious when there were 10 or so per cookie.  One is perfect (and less time-consuming to place).
  • You could make a really cute Valentine’s Day “bouquet” with these if you stuck the bottom of the sticks into craft foam (maybe shaped like a heart and painted red or pink?).  They’d make great gifts individually wrapped and tied with a bow as well.

Update 2/15/11: I baked some mini (1 1/2-inch) heart cookies yesterday afternoon and the dragées held up beautifully.  I think the shorter baking time (5 1/2 – 6/1/2 minutes for the minis) made all the difference.  Heart-shaped Red Hots worked well as decorations for both the mini and larger cookies.

Recipe link: No-Fail Sugar Cookies




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