Posts Tagged 'Freezer Friendly'

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

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.

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

Pumpkin Doughnut Muffins

I get so incredibly excited each time I find a recipe that is so fantastic I know I’ll make it, quite literally, for life.  Today’s recipe – Pumpkin Doughnut Muffins from the November 2010 issue of Everyday Food – is one of those recipes.

The recipe isn’t on the Everyday Food site yet, so here it is:

Pumpkin Doughnut Muffins
Makes 12
Active time: 20 min. | Total time: 1 hr.

Batter Ingredients:
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
3 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for pan
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 1/4 cups pure pumpkin puree (from a 15-ounce can)
3/4 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs

Sugar Coating Ingredients:
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Method:
Preheat oven to 350°F.  Butter and flour 12 standard muffin cups.  Make batter: In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and allspice.  In a small bowl, whisk together buttermilk and pumpkin purée. In a large bowl using an electric mixer, beat butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, scraping down bowl as needed.  With mixer on low, add flour mixture in three additions, alternating with two additions pumpkin mixture, and beat to combine.

Spoon 1/3 cup batter into each muffin cup and bake until a toothpick inserted in center of a muffin comes out clean, 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine granulated sugar and cinnamon.  Let muffins cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack.  Working with one at a time, brush all over with butter, then toss to coat in sugar mixture.  Let muffins cool completely on wire rack.  (Store in an airtight container, up to 1 day.)

Note: Freeze muffins up to 3 months.  Reheat in a 350°F oven, then coat in butter and sugar.

High-altitude adjustments: I’m not sure I actually needed to make these changes since this was the first time I made this recipe, but I went with my high-altitude baker’s intuition.  I’m so pleased with the results that I will make these changes again next time.

  • I added 1 tablespoon of flour to the batter (3 cups plus 1 tablespoon total).
  • I cut the baking powder by 1/4 teaspoon (2 1/4 teaspoons total).
  • I used a scant 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda instead of a full 1/4 teaspoon.

Pumpkin Doughnut Muffins

Pumpkin Doughnut Muffins Interior

The interior of the muffin had a mild pumpkin flavor and wasn’t overly sweet.  The texture was light, airy, and moist with a beautiful crumb.  They were a bit more cake-like than a traditional muffin, I think.  The cinnamon-sugar coating was absolutely divine, and the amount of sugar and spice on the outside was a perfect complement to the inside of the muffin.  In short, they were amazing.  I have visions of feeding these to houseguests, lounging with them on Sunday mornings, and bringing them to brunches year after year.

I swear, these are the best muffins I’ve ever made.  In support of this theory, another doctor at my husband’s office lightheartedly suggested he might marry me after sampling them.  They’re THAT good.  Give them a try!

TIPS:  When I need to bring an amount of butter to room temperature quickly and I don’t want to risk overdoing it in the microwave, I thinly slice the butter and let it sit on a cutting board.  In five minutes or so, it’s ready to go.  Also, I always use room-temperature eggs when I bake.  To bring eggs to room temperature quickly, I put them in a container of lukewarm water for three to five minutes.

Daring Bakers’ Challenge: Brown Butter Baked Alaska

The August 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Elissa of 17 and Baking. For the first time, The Daring Bakers partnered with Sugar High Fridays for a co-event and Elissa was the gracious hostess of both. Using the theme of beurre noisette, or browned butter, Elissa chose to challenge Daring Bakers to make a pound cake to be used in either a Baked Alaska or in Ice Cream Petit Fours. The sources for Elissa’s challenge were Gourmet magazine and David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop.
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Baked Alaska is a dessert that has been on my “must try” list for some time now, so I had to go in that direction with this challenge.

Here’s a rundown of my experiences with the recipe components:

Brown Butter Pound Cake: There is nothing like the smell of brown butter!  Good heavens.  I don’t think I’ve worked with it since my very first Daring Bakers’ challenge back in November 2008 (Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting), and now I want to put it in everything.

When I was browning the butter, my splatter screen sure came in handy because the mixture spurted quite a bit.  Also, I really did need to keep an eye on it because my milk solids were the desired chocolate brown when the foam on top started turning a golden brown.  I couldn’t see the solids beneath the foam, though, so I’m glad I pushed it aside to check before the butter burned.

I didn’t modify the cake recipe for altitude (I usually try things as is on the first attempt), so I knew I probably wouldn’t get perfect results.  My cake needed 28 minutes (instead of 25) and it ended up with a sunken center, but I just used my cake leveler to take off the top so I would have nice, even bases for the Baked Alaska.  In terms of flavor and texture, the cake was outstanding.  It was moist, very buttery, slightly nutty, and not overly sweet.  The crumb was perfect.  I enjoyed it so much that it would be worth the work of tweaking it for altitude.

Vanilla Ice Cream: I know, I know, this is the part of the recipe that practically begs for a creative injection.  I like vanilla ice cream, though.  And I really like this recipe, so I’m awfully glad I tried it in its purest form.  The only challenge I had in this part is that I opened my vanilla bean jar to find my last remaining vanilla bean had dried to a crisp.  Boo.  So despite my best vanilla bean intentions, I had to add the 3 teaspoons of vanilla extract indicated for those of us without vanilla beans.

Also, based on my experience with several other ice cream recipes, I only chilled the milk/egg/cream mixture in the refrigerator for an hour (not overnight) before freezing it in my ice cream maker.  Everything turned out great!  This ice cream is so amazingly creamy, vanilla-y, and delicious that I’m lucky the Baked Alaska portions even made it to the freezer.

Meringue:  Everything went according to plan here.  The only “problem” is that the recipe made over twice as much as I needed to cover the outside of my four desserts.

Assembly: I used a Wilton 3 1/2-inch cookie cutter to cut my cake bases; I was able to get 4 bases out of the cake.  I used 1/2-cup ramekins (instead of tea cups) lined with plastic wrap for the ice cream toppers.  When it was time to pipe the meringue, I tried to be somewhat original and do mine in a continuous outside swirl (like a beehive); even with my rotating cake stand, it was hopeless.  The star tip method (shown in my photos) worked so much better.  I used my kitchen torch to brown the meringue.

Baked Alaska

Baked Alaska

I absolutely loved this dessert!  The ice cream was beyond incredible and I loved the toasty, marshmallow-y flavor of the meringue.  The cake flavor didn’t come through as well once it was frozen, but I didn’t think it was dry like some of the other Daring Bakers did.  Each portion was seriously gigantic and built for sharing…  My husband has an endless appetite, and even he eyed an individual portion nervously and said it looked “filling.”  If you were going to serve these to guests (this is a perfect entertaining dessert since it’s meant to be frozen ahead), you could get away with one dessert for every two to four guests.

Thanks for an amazing challenge, Elissa!  You’ve given me my new go-to vanilla ice cream recipe and I’ll definitely try making Baked Alaska again (perhaps with chocolate cake next time?).

Recipe link: Brown Butter Baked Alaska

Update: Ham and Cheese Buttermilk Breakfast Muffins

Forgive me for another update and another breakfast post.  I’ve been entertaining so much for the past two months that I’ve been returning to my “tried and true” recipes…  It seems I learn something new each time, though.

Today’s recipe – Ham and Cheese Buttermilk Breakfast Muffins – is one I first tried back in October of 2008.  It’s written for sea level but works beautifully at high altitude, probably because the muffins are made with buttermilk.  (I’ve had a lot of success here in Denver with baked goods that incorporate buttermilk; buttermilk’s high acidity helps batters set more quickly, which can eliminate the “flat tire” phenomenon that occurs so often with high-altitude baking.)  Anyway, they were a big hit the first time around because they’re easy, delicious, and a great make-ahead option for company.

Back in 2008, I placed the batter directly in a greased muffin pan and had just enough for 12 muffins.  This time, I decided to try paper liners.  I couldn’t fit as much batter into the paper liners as I could with the bare muffin cups; each muffin was a scant 1/4 cup instead of a heaping 1/4 cup, so the baking time was reduced from 28 minutes to 22 minutes.

Since the smaller muffins resulted in leftover batter, I decided to make some mini muffins as well.  Each one was made up of 2 tablespoons of batter (one scoop using my cookie scoop) and the muffins baked for 15 minutes.

Ham and Cheese Buttermilk Breakfast Muffins

They tasted as fantastic as ever, and now I have three different “formats” for the muffins depending on how I plan to serve them.  Here’s the recipe in case you’d like to try them:

Ham and Cheese Buttermilk Breakfast Muffins
Makes 12 muffins without liners, 18 muffins with liners, or 36 mini muffins

Ingredients:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder (use 2 1/4 teaspoons at high altitude)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt (can up this to 1/2 teaspoon if you use unsalted butter)
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 large eggs (I bring them to room temperature)
1 1/3 cups buttermilk
2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup thinly sliced scallions (about 1 bunch)
1 cup diced ham (6 ounces)
1 cup grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup finely diced red bell pepper

Method:
Heat the oven to 400°F.  Coat a 12-cup muffin pan or 12- or 24-cup mini muffin pan with cooking spray or line it with muffin cups.  (The mini muffins will require multiple batches.)

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, pepper, salt, and cayenne pepper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, oil, and butter.  Stir in the scallions, ham, cheese, and bell pepper.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and use a rubber spatula to mix until just moistened.  Scoop the batter into the prepared pan (heaping 1/4 cup each for unlined 12-cup muffin pan, scant 1/4 cup each for lined 12-cup muffin pan, 2 tablespoons each for mini muffin pan).

Bake the muffins until the tops are browned (at high altitude, about 28 minutes for unlined 12-cup muffin pan, 22 minutes for lined 12-cup muffin pan, 15 minutes for mini muffin pan).  Let the muffins cool in the pan for 15 minutes then loosen the edges with a knife (if necessary) and transfer the muffins to a cooling rack. Serve warm.

To store, individually wrap the muffins in plastic and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to a month.  To reheat, remove the plastic wrap, cover the muffin in a paper towel, and microwave on high for 30 to 60 seconds (15 – 20 seconds for mini muffins).

Source: Jim Romanoff, The Associated Press




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