Saturday, June 20, 2009

Tortilla Soup

I love tortilla soup but every time I make it I find it lacking. For this reason I have never made it the same way twice, always trying to find my perfect recipe. Well, I think I've come close at last. This is an adaptation from Jen and Lauren's recipes with a chicken marinade I found that I think is what makes the soup.

Tortilla Soup

3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into cubes or strips

Chicken Marinade:

1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp lime juice
2 tsp Worcestershire
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tp pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can beef broth (14 1/4 oz)
1 tsp chili powder

In a medium bowl, mix all ingredients together. Add chicken and mix well to coat all pieces. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight.


I garlic clove, minced
1 onion, chopped
1 Tbsp margarine
2 14 1/2 oz cans chopped or stewed tomatoes
2 14 1/2 oz cans chicken broth
1 cup salsa (we use Pace chunky, a 16oz jar will be about a cups worth)
1Tbsp ground cumin1 can black beans
2 tbs, seeded and chopped jalapeno (Lauren's recipe calls fr this but I never use it since I like my soup more mild)

In a crockpot melt margarine and add onions and garlic. Saute until onions are tender. Or saute them in a pan and pour them into the crockpot when tender. Combine all ingredients in crockpot and add all contents of marinade and chicken. Stir to mix. Cover and cook on low 8-10 hours or on high 4-6 hours.


tortilla chips
sour cream
shredded cheese
diced avocado
To serve put chips on bottom of bowl and ladle soup over top. Add cheese, a dollop of sour cream and avocado on top. Mmmmm.


A great comfort meal. As far as traditional meatloaf recipes go this has been our favorite find so far. My sister Lindsey, also has a yummy version that she made for us while we were in Arizona. Different than other recipes I've seen in that it used honey and a liquid base to keep it moist. Hers was also pretty tasty and I plan on trying that one for myself next time to compare and see which we prefer. It may be that they are both equally good, since hers is a different take on the traditional. Anyway though, this a great go to meatloaf recipe that we all thoroughly enjoy. Jon especially loves it.

Corpening Sisiters/Williams Sonoma

2 tsp vegetable oil
1 small onion, chopped
1/4 cup milk
1 cup breadcrumbs
3/4 cup ketchup
4 tsp Worcestershire
1 lb ground beef round
8 oz (1/2 b) ground breakfast sausage
1 egg beaten
1 1/4 tsp Mrs. Dash Seasoning mix
1/2 tsp garlic powder

Preheat oven to 350. Heat the oil in medium non stick skillet over med heat and saute the onion until tender, 5-7 minutes.

Combine the milk and breadcrumbs in a small bowl and set aside. Combine 1/4 cup ketchup and 2 tsp. Worcestershire in another small bowl and set aside.

In a large bowl combine onions, remaining 2 tsp Worcestershire, remaining 2/4 cup ketchup, egg, seasoning mix, garlic powder, breadcrumbs ground beef and sausage. Mix until well incorporated.

Mound the meatloaf mixture in a greased 9 x 5 x 3 loaf pan. Bake for 45 minutes. Remove from oven, pour off some of the fat and then spread ketchup mixture over top. Return to oven and bake until an instant read thermometer reads 160 F when inserted into the middle, or about 30 minutes more. Let stand for 15 minutes before serving.

I hate when meatloaf turns out dry, so feel free to adjust the cooking times by about 5-10 minutes according to your oven. My oven tends to cook faster so I decreased to 40 minutes and 25 minutes and it turned out perfect. I don't have a thermometer but I think it would be a great investment for things like this so that you don't have to play the guessing game. Also, I never fill my pan all the way up because I like to keep enough of the meat mixture leftover to freeze and use for stuffed bell peppers for a later meal.

Stuffed Bell Peppers

I use the meatloaf recipe for the filling here. If using the entire recipe you will need 4-6 peppers. I usually make a smaller meatloaf and then save about 2 cups worth of the raw meat mixture to make 4 pepper halves, or two whole peppers.

2 cups meatloaf mix
2 bell peppers, red or green
1 cup cooked white rice
1/8 cup ketchup combined with 1 tsp Worcestershire

Preheat oven to 350.

Mix rice into meat.

Cut peppers in half lengthwise. Remove the seeds and veins. Brush the insides of the pepper halves with olive oil and season with a little bit of salt. Arrange the peppers cut side up on a foil lined baking sheet and bake until softened, about 20 minutes.

Remove from the oven and fill with meat mixture, 1/2 cup into each half. Spread the ketchup mixture over tops and bake until an instant read thermometer inserted into the centers reads 160F, or about 45 minutes.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Chicken Gyros and Homemade Pita Bread

I love meals that complement the season and these were so fresh and cool that they were a perfect summer dinner. The chicken was so flavorful and delicious, I found myself sneaking pieces as I was constructing the gyros. The tzatziki sauce was a perfect compliment to the warm chicken and pitas. All of the flavors- fresh tomato, biting red onion, cool cucumber and bold chicken combined to make an ideal eating experience.

Now for the side notes: the tzatziki was even better the second day so I would make it a day ahead the next time and I added a little extra lemon to counter the bitterness of the vinegar. Even though when eaten with the gyro as a whole it was a great compliment, I may leave out the white wine vinegar altogether or at least half it due to the bitterness. I ended up marinating my chicken for about 5 hours and all I know was that it was really good. It only calls for an hour but I've always heard that when it comes to marinating, the longer the better. The pita dough was really easy to put together but the whole process was quite time consuming. Was it worth all of the effort to make them fresh? Hmmm. The pride I got out of having created them myself was pleasant, they were tasty and soft, and since I can't recall how they compare to store bought pitas it would just depend on my laziness level on the day. I'd probably be just as satisfied, but I think I'll make them fresh again some time- because I can.

Chicken Gyros
Annie's Eats

Tzatziki Sauce:

16 oz. plain yogurt(preferably nonfat, if possible or actual Greek yogurt)
1/2 hothouse cucumber or 1 regular cucumber, peeled and seeded
2-3 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 tsp. white wine vinegar
salt and pepper
squeeze of fresh lemon juice
extra virgin live oil

for the Chicken:

4 cloves garlic, smashed
juice of 1 lemon
2 tsp. red wine vinegar
2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
2 heaping Tbs. plain yogurt
1 Tbs. dried oregano
salt and pepper
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

pita bread
fresh tomatoes
red onion, sliced thin

To make tzatziki sauce, strain yogurt (if using Greek this step is not necessary) using cheesecloth placed inside a stainer over a bowl. Let strain for several hours or overnight if possible, to remove as much moisture as possible.

Shred the cucumber. Wrap in paper towels and squeeze to remove as much water as possible. Mix the trained yogurt, shredded cucumber, garlic, white wine vinegar, salt and pepper to taste and squeeze of lemon juice. Drizzle lightly with olive oil. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving to allow flavors to meld.

To prepare chicken, combine the garlic, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, olive oil, yogurt, oregano, and salt and pepper to taste in a medium bowl. Whisk together until well blended. Add the chicken to the bow and mix well to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Cook chicken as desired, in the skillet, with broiler or grill. Once the chicken is completely cooked through transfer to plate and let rest for 5 minutes. Cut into strips.

Heat pitas and fill with chicken, tzatziki sauce, tomato and onion. Serve immediately. Mmmm.

Pita Bread

Now this recipe was a pretty basic one that I found all over the internet when trying to compare, the only significant differences were in how many steps or how much rising time, etc required. This one in particular had lots of rising time, lots of steps. This should be started in the morning if you want it ready for dinner or made a day ahead as I probably wold do next time.

Pita Bread
Annie's Eats

For 8 pitas

3 cups flour, plus 1/2-3/4 cups more as needed
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. sugar or honey
1 packet instant yeast
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cup water, roughly at room temp
2 Tbsp. olive oil, veg. oil or shortening

Mix yeast in with the flour, salt and sugar. Add oil and 1 1/4 cup water and stir together with wooden spoon. All of the ingredients should form a ball. If some of the flour will not stick to the ball, add more water.

Once all of the ingredients form a ball, place the ball on a woek surface, and knead the dough for approximately 10 minutes. If you are using an electric mixer, mix it at low speed for 10 minutes. As the dough is mixing, continue to add flour, a tablespoon or two at a time, until the dough clears the sides of the bowl and is tacky but not sticky. ( I added about 1/2 cup extra flour).

When you are done kneading the dough, place it in a bowl that has been lightly coted with oil. Form a ball out of the dough and plce it into the bowl, rolling the dough around so it is fully coated in the oil. Cover the bwl with a damp towel or plastic wrap and set aside to rise until it has doubled in size, approximately 90 minutes.

When it has doubled in size, punch the dough down to release some of the trapped gases and divide it into 8 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, cover the balls with a damp kitchen towel, and let them rest for 20 minutes. This step allows the dough to relax so that it will be easier to shape.

While the dough is resting, preheat the oven to 450°. If you have a baking stone, put it in the oven to preheat as well. If you do not have a baking stone, turn a cookie sheet upside down and place it on the middle rack of the oven while it is preheating. This will be the surface on which you bake your pitas.

After the dough has relaxed for 20 minutes, spread a light coating of flour on a work surface and place one of the balls of dough there. Sprinkle a little bit of flour on top of the dough and use a rolling pin or your hands to stretch and flatten the dough. You should be able to roll it out to between ¼ – 1/8” thick – 6 inches in diameter. If the dough does not stretch sufficiently, you can cover it with the damp towel and let it rest 5-10 minutes before trying again.

Place discs on a lightly greased baking sheet or parchment paper and let rise, uncovered, until barely doubled in thickness, about 30-45 minutes.

Open the oven and place as many pitas as you can fit on the hot baking surface. They should be baked through and puffy after 3 minutes. If you want your pitas to be crispy and brown you can bake them for an additional 3 to 5 minutes, but it isn’t necessary.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Spicy Zucchini Soup

I can never take appetizing pictures of soup, so just know that this soup is wonderful.  Another of Lauren's recipes that we all loved.

Spicy Zucchin Soup
Lauren Webster

1 lrg or 2 med zucchini, washed and sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 lb hot Italian sausage ( i used regular Owen's bran Italian and it had tons of flavor and the perfect amount of spice.)
1 sm. onion, chopped
1 14oz can diced tomatoes
1 clove garlic, minced
1 can cream of mushroom soup
3 can of water

Brown sausage and onion together, drain.  Place all ingredients in crock pot.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cook on low 6-8 hrs or high 4 hours.

Black and White Cheesecake Squares

Jonathan's class hosted the annual TTUHSC PA program picnic welcoming the incoming class who started with them this semester.  We can't believe that it was really just a year ago that we attended that picnic, having rushed out here with two weeks notice ready to start the next chapter in our lives-obtaining a career.  Now they are the upper class men with only two more months of in class work and off to clinicals.  Pretty cool.  I made these brownies for the picnic as well as some cupcakes.  
These little morsels were a real hit.  To be honest, when we tasted them fresh, cooled enough from the oven we weren't terribly impressed.  For all of the steps you go through with this recipe, they didn't seem any better than a boxed version.  But the next morning after they had been refrigerated, we tasted again and they were fabulous.  The cheesecake layer was deliciously prominent and the brownie layer was fudgy goodness.   Definitely worth the work and definitely better than any boxed variety.  So don't be disappointed with the work of your labors, these guys really do need the refrigerator time and for your patience there will be a big payoff.

Cheesecake Brownies
Martha Stewart Living

2 cups plus 2 Tbs flour
3/4 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 sticks butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
3 lrg eggs
2 1/2 tsp vanilla
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 325.  Coat a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray.  Line dish with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on both long sides, then spray parchment paper.

Sift flour, cocoa, soda and salt into a lrg. bowl.  In another bowl, cream butter and granulated sugar with a mixer until smooth.  Add 2 eggs and 2 Tbs vanilla, and beat until smooth, scraping down sides of bowl.  Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture a little at a time.  Increase speed to medium and beat until incorporated.  

Reserve 1 cup of dough; cover and refrigerate.  Press remaining dough into bottom of dish.  ( This was kind of difficult for me since the dough was so sticky so I dipped the bottom edge of a rubber spatula in water over and over to press the dough down without it sticking.  I still couldn't get the edges and corners to be as thick as the rest but don't worry this won't matter after baking.)  Refrigerate 30 minutes.  Bake until base is set and edges are puffed, 20-25 minutes(don't over bake or this brownie layer will be too hard and crumbly)  Let cool in dish on a wire rack for about 20 minutes.

Mix cream cheese, powdered sugar, remaining egg and 1/2 tsp vanilla in a medium bowl.  Spread over cooled brownie base ; crumble reserved dough on top in chunks.  Bake until filling is set, about 25 minutes.  Let cool in dish a rack, then lift out using overhang.  Refrigerate for at least one hour.  Cut off edges with a pizza cutter or chopping knife so s not cause cracks and have a cleaner cut,and then into 24 squares.  Will keep, refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Double Chocolate Banana Bread

Lots of chocolate and lightly banana flavored.  I actually made this recipe into cupcakes for the picnic and they turned out great.  I do look forward to making this in bread form next time since I think the density will make it even more moist.  Here is a link to a picture of the bread.

Double Chocolate Banana Bread
The Sister's Cafe

1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 1/4 cup mashed bananas (about 3 and the browner, the better)
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (dutch process suggested)
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup chocolate chips ( I used Gittard brand milk chocolate because they are so yummy and they are also double the size of a normal chocolate chip)

Preheat oven to 350.  Spray bottom of 8x4 loaf pan with cooking spray.

beat sugar, eggs, and oil in lrg. bowl at med speed until combined.  Beat in bananas and vanilla at low speed.  Combine flour, cocoa, soda and salt in a med bowl: beat into banana mixture at low speed just until combines.  Stir in chocolate chips.

Bake 60 to 70 minutes (about 10 minutes if making cupcakes) or until toothpick comes out clean.  Cool ten minutes.  Remove from pan and cool completely or wire rack.

Lemon Cake

With summer here lemon has been a flavor I've found myself drawn to lately.  This cake was moist and perfectly citrusy- not too strong, though  I do think the frosting may have been.  I made mine thinner, more like a glaze so that you still had that extra sweetness, but it didn't overpower.  I thought this cake especially good served warm.  It also made a great breakfast treat the next morning.

Lemon Cake
My Kitchen Cafe

1 cup sour cream
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup oil
4 eggs
1 small package lemon instant pudding

Mix dry ingredients.  Add wet ingredients.  Mix electric mixer on med speed for about two minutes.  Pour into a greased 9x11 pan or two round pans.  Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes.  Don't over bake or the cake will be too dry.

You can also bake cupcakes and bake them for 15 - 20 minutes.  the cupcakes will fall after they come out of the oven, but this is normal.  Just fill in the indentation with more frosting.


1 cup (2 sticks) of butter, very soft
6-8 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 tsp grated lemon zest

In lrg. mixing bowl, using a whisk or mixer on low, mix butter with 4 cups powdered sugar, then add the juice and zest ( I hadn't bought a lemon so I didn't use the zest).  Beat until smooth and creamy.  gradually add the remaining sugar, 1 cup at  time until icing is as thick as you would like it.  Use and store at room temp.  (Don't refrigerate and it will last in a covered container for about 3 days.)  Garnish with berries if desired.