Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

I took the baby to Wisconsin this past winter to introduce her to family and friends. When I arrived at my oldest friend’s house, a heavenly smell greeted me. She had chicken and and wild rice soup in the slow cooker, which to be honest always struck me as the kind of soup grannies order from the corner café. What a strange stereotype! The rich, homey taste convinced me though, so I brought her recipe back home and adapted it to my non slow cooker having self. I’ve also cut down on the béchamel sauce as I don’t really like extremely creamy soups.

Ingredients:

  • 500 g boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 1 cup wild rice mix (not parboiled)
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 3 carrots, peeled and rough diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 liters (8 cups) water
  • 1 Knorr cacito de pollo (my preferred stock pots)
  • 1.5 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1.5 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp mustard powder
  • 1/2 tsp adobo powder (or salt if you don’t have adobo)
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 40 grams butter
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 250 ml (1 cup) milk

Instructions:

Put raw chicken (don’t bother to cut it up), rice, vegetables, water, stock and herbs/spices into a 5.5 liter dutch oven or other similar heavy pot. Heat over medium heat until the water breaks into a boil and then lower the heat until it’s just the barest simmer. Cover, stirring occasionally and allow to cook for two hours.

After two hours, fish out the chicken breasts and allow them to cool slightly in a bowl. When they are cool enough to handle, shred the meat with your fingers or a fork and then add back to the pot.

Make the béchamel: melt the butter and olive oil over medium heat in a small saucepan. When it’s fully melted, whisk in the flour so there’s no lumps, and allow to cook stirring all the while until the roux bubbles for a couple of minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the milk. Return to the heat and whisk constantly until the sauce thickens. Add to the chicken soup and stir until completely incorporated.

 

 

 

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Spanish lentils with chorizo

Another winter, another lentil recipe. This is a pretty traditional “lentejas con chorizo” recipe, if you make a double batch it freezes really well.

Adapted from Recetas de Rechupete

Ingredients:

  • 250 g pardina lentils, rinsed
  • 3 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large onion, chopped finely
  • 1/2 red pepper, chopped finely
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon Pimentón de la Vera (smoked paprika)
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika (or half sweet, half hot)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 400 g can of tomato sauce
  • 2 TB tomato paste
  • 100 g Spanish spicy chorizo, skin removed and cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • water
  • olive oil

Instructions:

Sauté the onions and garlic over medium heat in a couple of good glugs of olive oil until they start to soften. Add the carrots and red pepper and sauté for 5 minutes or so, until the carrots start to soften slightly. Add the lentils and chorizo and fry them in the oil and vegetables for a few minutes, until the chorizo starts to render fat. Add in the bay leaves, paprikas, tomato paste and tomato sauce. Add three sauce cans’ worth of water and stir. Salt and pepper to taste. Allow the lentils to simmer over medium heat for approximately 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the lentils and carrots are tender.

 

 

White Chicken Chili

It’s nearly that time of year again! Joel actually remarked to me yesterday that he’s tired of summer now and would like for it to be colder. A definite case of “beware of what you wish for!” But I tend to agree if only in that I am really hankering for some fall/winter food. It’s time for stews, casseroles, roasted vegetables and other hearty comfort food. It seems like everyone’s got a recipe for white chicken chili (my mom’s is particularly tasty) but this incarnation is a product of cupboard-scouring. Since most of the ingredients are staples (in my house at least) it makes for a quick and healthy mid-week supper.

Ingredients:

  • 500 g chicken breast, cut into 2″ chunks
  • 2 medium onions, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 Italian green peppers (cubanelle peppers), de-seeded and diced
  • small tin (200 g) of pickled jalapeños, drained and roughly chopped
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp sweet pimentón (paprika)
  • 1/2 tsp smoked pimentón
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 500 ml chicken stock
  • large jar (500 g) white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup (250 ml) frozen corn kernels

Heat the oil over medium heat in a soup pot or dutch oven. Lightly sauté the onions, garlic and green peppers just until they start to become soft. Stir in the jalapeños, herbs and spices. Add the raw chicken and the stock. Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Remove the chicken chunks with a slotted spoon and set aside in a bowl to cool slightly. Add the corn and beans to the pot and continue to simmer. When the chicken has cooled, shred the meat with your fingers and add back to the pot. Add a bit more stock/water as necessary to achieve desired consistency. Simmer for another 15 minutes over medium-low heat, occasionally stirring gently so you don’t beat up the beans. Adjust salt/pepper to taste. Serve on its own or with a bit of shredded cheddar or sour cream.

Servings: Four generous bowls. 449 calories (without added cheese, etc.)

Guinness Irish Stew

I’m going to put this out there: I’m not generally a huge celebrator of Saint Patrick’s Day. On account of my tenuous Irish heritage, my family ate corned beef and cabbage on the 17th of March and my name is Erin, after all. However, years of serving and tending bar soured me on the typical Americanized “everyone is Irish” style celebration and for a long time I have preferred to stay home and enjoy a pint in peace.

Cut to 2013: Our friend Mick was scandalized to hear that we don’t celebrate The Day at all, and sent us a Saint Patrick’s Day Survival Kit in the post to help us remedy the situation. We were treated to sweets, crisps, badges, DVDs and other sundry Irish delights. Quite an indulgence.

Guinness

Not just for drinking!

It would be a shame not to celebrate wholeheartedly, so I decided to make a full Irish dinner to go along with our snacks and desserts – Irish stew and soda bread accompanied by creamy pints of Guinness, of course. Is this authentic? I do not know. But it was wonderful!

Ingredients:

  • 400 grams beef stew meat, cut into 1-2″ chunks
  • 400 grams lamb* stew meat, cut into 1-2″ chunks
  • flour for dredging
  • pinch of salt, pepper, cayenne
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 2 leeks, white and light green parts, sliced
  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 bottle of Guinness
  • 2 tsp mustard (Colman’s or dijon)
  • 2 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 6 medium carrots, washed, peeled and cut into 2″ chunks
  • 400 grams potatoes, washed and cut into 2″ chunks
  • 3 parsnips, washed, peeled and cut into strips
  • 2 medium onions, quartered
  • Sprig of rosemary and thyme or 1 tsp dried of each
  • sea salt

*Lamb is traditional, but if you don’t care for it feel free to use just 800 g of beef.

Instructions:

stew meat

Fresh from the butcher’s: beef (l) and lamb (r) stew meat

Heat up the oil in a pressure cooker pot over medium heat. Dredge the stew meat in flour with a pinch of salt, pepper and cayenne. Shake off extra flour and brown the stew meat in the oil. You’ll probably have to brown it in two batches. Remove the meat to a bowl.

Lower the heat and sauté the leeks, shallots and garlic until translucent, scraping up any bits of meat/flour in the bottom of the pot. Add the bottle of Guinness, Worcestershire sauce, mustard and vinegar, letting it simmer for about 5 minutes. Return meat to the pot and add enough water to cover. Add the cocoa powder, bay leaf  and peppercorns and stir thoroughly.

Put the pressure cooker lid on and turn the heat to high, allowing it to come to full pressure. Turn heat down enough just so that it remains at full pressure and cook for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes take it off the heat and quick release the pressure (see your pressure cooker manual for details).

stew vegetables

Fresh is best!

Use the time while the meat is braising in the pressure cooker to wash, peel and prepare the vegetables. After quick releasing the lid, add the vegetables, rosemary, thyme and salt, to taste. Put the lid back on and return to full pressure, then cook for 5 minutes. Take the pot off the heat and allow it to depressurize using the slow release method.

Guinness Irish Stew

Hearty, delicious stew

Serve with warm bread and butter. There will be plenty for the next day as well, stew is even better the second day!

Note: If you don’t have a pressure cooker, no worries! Just braise the meat in a large pot over medium-low heat for 45 minutes to an hour before adding the vegetables, then cook for an additional 30-45 minutes over low heat, or until the veggies are tender.

Servings: Eight. 400 calories.

Adapted from Juls’ Kitchen and Irish American Mom.

Chewy Gingerbread Cookies

Chewy Gingerbread Cookies

crackly chewy goodness

Mmm ginger. I love crystallized ginger, ginger ale, ginger ice cream, ginger in my gin & tonic, the list goes on and on!

I’ve been hankering for some gingerbread cookies for some time now, but I wanted chewy, not crispy gingersnap type cookies. This recipe is perfect and uses ingredients I can easily source here in Barcelona.

The cookies are fabulous right out of the oven, of course, but I found that if you stored them overnight in an airtight container they became EVEN chewier, how awesome is that?!

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 cups (290 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 cup (200 grams) brown sugar*
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) sunflower oil
  • 1/3 cup (70 ml) ginger marmalade OR molasses**
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 1 cup (115 grams) crystallized ginger, chopped into small pieces
  • a mix of white and brown sugar for rolling cookies

* The brown sugar I find readily available here isn’t exactly like the soft brown sugar you can get in the States or in the UK, but based on experience I like the Azucarera brand best for baking.

** Perhaps more resourceful BCN bakers can find molasses without traipsing all over town, but I cannot be bothered. Ginger preserves are pretty easy to find (Robertson’s, Wilkin & Sons and St Dalfour are all available at my neighborhood supermarket!), so marmalade in, molasses out!

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 180ºC/350ºF.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, and salt. In a large bowl whisk together brown sugar, oil, eggs and ginger marmalade until well combined. Add the dry ingredients to the wet while stirring gently. Mix until a homogeneous dough is formed. Add the crystallized ginger and stir to combine. Refrigerate covered for at least 15 minutes.

Using a pair of tablespoons, scoop the dough into 24 balls and roll them in the white/brown sugar mix until fully coated. Place the cookies at least 2 inches apart on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake for 13 minutes, rotating halfway through if necessary. When fully baked, the cookies will be cracked on top, but still soft to the touch. Allow cookies to cool completely on the cookie sheets. Store the cookies up to five days in an airtight container, if they last that long!

Servings: 24 cookies. 121 calories each.

Roasted Garlic & Rosemary Mashed Potatoes

It’s wintertime (a relative concept in Barcelona) and nothing goes better than a bit of stodge. There’s not much commentary needed for this post as mashed potatoes are pretty standard, but I feel as if this beloved side dish has been unfairly maligned. Potatoes aren’t terrible in and of themselves, it’s when you cover them with cheese and bacon and sour cream that they become calorie bombs. I think that the addition of rosemary and roasted garlic adds the flavor kick that you need with just a little butter and milk for creaminess.

Ingredients:

  • Three medium-sized yellow skinned potatoes, peeled and cut into 1″ chunks
  • a sprig (about 4″ long) of fresh rosemary, or a 1/2 TB of dried rosemary
  • 4-5 cloves (half a head) of roasted garlic*
  • 75 ml semi-skim milk
  • 1 TB butter
  • cracked black pepper and sea salt to taste

* To make roasted garlic just drizzle a few cloves with olive oil and wrap them in aluminum foil to make a little packet. Place in oven on one of the top racks and roast under high heat for 20 minutes or so, until you can smell the garlic. The garlic will be soft and you can just squeeze it out of the papery skin.

Instructions:

Bring salted water to a boil and add potatoes and sprig of rosemary. Boil for 12-15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Drain and remove the rosemary stem if you’ve used a fresh sprig. Return potatoes to pot and add roasted garlic, milk and butter. Mash potatoes using a hand masher or a ricer. If you use a mixer you run the risk of over-mashing them and then they become gluey. Add salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste.

Servings: Two generous portions. 273 calories.

Mmmmeatloaf

The idea of meatloaf doesn’t necessarily bring to mind the most positive of images. Dry, grey, greasy-spoon (or school cafeteria!) fare, served alongside wilted canned green beans and instant mashed potatoes. This of course is a gross generalization, and I am here to show you that meatloaf can be delicious, a bit spicy and even healthy!

This recipe has been adapted from Alton Brown. In the original, he uses more than a kilo of ground/minced meat, which seems a bit excessive to me. I’ve tinkered quite a bit with the recipe, to find the right vegetable-to-meat ratio so that it holds together well.  The icing on the cake, so to speak, is the glaze on the meatloaf; its tangy/spicy/sweetness really brings out the flavors of the garlicky meatloaf.

And by all means, serve your meatloaf with green beans and spuds, but please use fresh ingredients, no one wants mash from a box.

Ingredients:

  • 500 grams ground beef/veal (carne picada)
  • a package (80 g) of garlic croutons (picatostes de ajo)
  • 1 carrot
  • half an onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 large red bell pepper
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp pimentón dulce (sweet paprika)
  • 1/2 tsp pimentón picante (hot paprika – or you can use cayenne)
  • 1/2 tsp pimentón de la vera (smoked paprika)
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 60 grams ketchup
  • 1/2 TB honey
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • dash of hot sauce, like Tabasco or Espidaler
  • dash of Worcestershire or brown sauce

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 180ºC/360ºF.

In a food processor bowl, combine croutons, paprikas and thyme. Pulse until the mixture is of a fine texture. Place this mixture into a large bowl. Combine the onion, carrot, garlic, and red pepper in the food processor bowl. Pulse until the mixture is finely chopped, but not pureed. (Note: before I had a food processor – thanks Mom! – I used to mince the shit out of the vegetables (technical term) with a knife until they were of a fine texture. And I would pulverize the croutons by beating the bag w- a wooden spoon. In some ways highly satisfying. But I digress.)

Combine the vegetable mixture and carne picada with the bread crumb mixture. Season the meat mixture with the sea salt. Add the beaten egg and combine thoroughly, but avoid squeezing the meat, this is what makes meatloaf tough.

Form a large ball with the meat mixture and place it onto a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Pat the meat into a loaf form. You can also form it into an oblong shape with a round ball stuck to one end of it and call it a cat loaf. (Muffin doesn’t find this amusing.)

In a small bowl, whisk together the ketchup, honey, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce and cumin. Brush onto the meatloaf after it has been baking for 15 minutes.

Bake for approximately 45 minutes, until a meat thermometer reads 70ºC/155ºF. This is a more accurate way of determining doneness, and keeps you from over-baking (and thus drying out) the meatloaf.

Servings: Four generous portions. 430 calories.