Friday, February 26, 2010

Tomato Chickpea Florentine Soup

Well, it looks as though we are heading toward the end of February—finally! The “cruelest month” certainly earned its dismal moniker this year, in my opinion. There is another storm forecast for us, with high winds and another possible 5-7” of new snow. Fine. Let Mother Nature get this all out of her system. To me, March signals Spring and finally, there is a light at the end of this dismal Winter tunnel.

Of course, once warmer weather does arrive, there will be a lot of cleanup around here. Trees lost branches, the gutters have to be replaced because the weight of the ice dams distorted them, my beautiful holly bushes have been decimated by unusually hungry deer and will need to be severely pruned. One thing that breaks my heart is that my beautiful lilac bush was split into several pieces by the weight of snow and ice. I still cannot get close enough to access the damage, but if I am lucky it will have to be cut back to 25% of its original size. I planted this bush the first spring we were here, in 1984, because I had always loved purple lilacs, and because my Gram had always loved them as well (and I loved my Gram). In the last several years, it has been absolutely stunning when in full bloom. I don’t know, if I am able to cut it back (versus replacing it), if it will ever reclaim even a part of its former glory before we leave here, retiring to a hopefully more temperate climate.

For now, however, we have prepared for another snowstorm. I have filled several large jugs of water in case the power goes out again (although I hope that it will not, I am still a little nervous since we had no heat or water for over six days earlier this month). I am keeping the used dishes and cooking utensils washed, and am making it a point to run the garbage disposal every time put something down it. Until the threat of a power loss is over, I won’t use the dishwasher. Several years ago the electricity went out after a particularly nasty summer storm. There were dirty dishes in the dishwasher, stuff in the disposal waiting to be whirled and swept away into the septic, a load of white clothes soaking in the washing machine… and they all stayed where they were for four days until the power was restored. Ick. I learned my lesson that time!

I’ve planned a couple of days of menus and took everything I need out of the big freezer, so if I have to transfer things from the refrigerator to the back porch, it will only be from the smaller kitchen refrigerator/ freezer. I won’t have to open the big freezer, and recent experience has shown that food will stay well in there for up to 5 days.

I also made a pot of soup which can be reheated on the stove and which we also can wrap our cold fingers around mugs of while waiting for the heat to come back on. If need be.

While making dinner the other evening, I opened a can of garbanzo beans by mistake. I was in a hurry, grabbed a can from the dim basement shelves which I thought was coconut milk, and opened it without looking at the label. Pretty stupid move, there. So today I made a tomato-vegetable-chickpea soup for lunch.

This was a very good soup; thick, flavorful and packed with veggies and non-meat protein. Served with a slice of whole-wheat Italian bread, it was a perfect lunch for a blustery winter day.

* Exported from MasterCook *

Tomato Chickpea Florentine Soup

Recipe By: Vicci

Servings: 4

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method

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1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 cup finely chopped onion

1/2 cup thinly sliced carrot

3/4 teaspoon minced garlic

4 cups low-sodium vegetable stock

1 cup water

14 ounces crushed tomatoes -- (canned)

1 teaspoon brown sugar

1 teaspoon dried basil -- crumbled

3/4 teaspoon dried rosemary -- crumbled

9 ounces cooked chickpeas -- approximate amount from a 15-ounce can, drained

1/2 cup ditalini -- or other small "soup" pasta

2 ounces fresh spinach -- chopped

3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper -- optional

4 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Heat oil in a 2-quart pot. Add onion and carrot and sauté over medium heat until onion is soft, about 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds, then add the stock, water, and tomatoes. Bring to a boil and stir in the brown sugar and herbs. Turn the heat down to simmer, cover partially, and cook for 15 minutes.

Add the chickpeas and ditalini and cook until the pasta is tender, stirring often to prevent sticking. Add spinach, stir, and cook for another minute or two. Season with pepper and divide between soup bowls. Sprinkle with cheese.

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Per serving: 289 Calories (kcal); 8g Total Fat (3g Saturated); (24% calories from fat); 15g Protein; 42g Carbohydrate; 4mg Cholesterol; 304mg Sodium

Friday, February 19, 2010

Sausage-Potato Soup

Today, 2 weeks after the big snowstorm, it did not snow at all. This was the first day in the past 14 that we have not seen as much as a single flake. We rejoiced. :)

Ever since the electricity came back on a week ago, we have been in our own hellish version of the movie Groundhog Day. Every other day, we shovel and remove ice then spend the rest of the day in pain. On our “off” days, we just spend the days in pain… We really do only the bare minimum that we have to, but with over 2’ of snow, plus ice dams on the roofs and having to remove the resulting icicles (some of which are 7’ tall), it’s quite difficult.

Spring? Where are you???

On those days we do not feel the need to kill ourselves by working outside, I am able to get into cooking. Funny how being able to stand for more than 10 minutes at a time, and to bend to get a saucepot out of the base cabinet without moaning, makes me more willing to prepare meals. :)

Lunch yesterday was made from a CuisineLite recipe. In my last post I mentioned how much I am enjoying this special edition of Cuisine at Home magazine, and this soup was the third recipe I have taken from there and enjoyed.

We are certainly having “soup weather” and this Sausage-Potato Soup fit the bill perfectly for lunch. It is a thick, creamy soup flavored with smoky turkey kielbasa.

Of course, I made some changes. Not so many, I first thought, but then as I wrote this I realized that there were quite a few. Nothing so drastic, however, to diminish the concept of the basic recipe. My version is below.

* Exported from MasterCook *

Sausage-Potato Soup

Recipe Adapted from CuisineLite

Servings: 4 (2 cups each)

Preparation Time :0:40

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method

-------- ------------ --------------------------------

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup sliced carrot

1 cup diced onion

2/3 cup diced red and yellow bell peppers

1 1/3 cups low-sodium chicken broth

16 ounces mashed potatoes -- about 2 cups

2 1/2 cups skim milk -- divided

7 ounces turkey kielbasa -- diced

1/4 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2/3 cup frozen peas

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper

4 tablespoons lowfat cheddar cheese

Heat oil in nonstick Dutch oven over medium heat, add peppers and carrot and sauté (stirring frequently) for 2 minutes. Add onion and continue to cook, stirring often, for another 4-5 minutes or until vegetables are softened.

Add about 1/2 cup of the chicken broth, stirring up any browned bits that might be on the bottom of the pan, then add the remaining broth. With a whisk, stir in the mashed potatoes until well blended. Stir in 2 cups of the milk, the sausage and the chipotle pepper then turn the heat down a little.

Stir the flour into the remaining milk until smooth, then slowly pour this mixture into the hot soup, stirring constantly. Increase the heat to medium and cook soup until it thickens, stirring often, about 3-5 minutes.

Add peas and cook until they are heated through. Season soup with salt and pepper. Garnish each serving of soup with 1 tablespoon of cheese.


"8 cups"

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Per serving: 316 Calories (kcal); 10g Total Fat; (28% calories from fat); 23g Protein; 36g Carbohydrate; 55mg Cholesterol; 1206mg Sodium

Food Exchanges: 1 Grain(Starch); 2 Lean Meat; 1 1/2 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 1 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates

Basically, the changes which I made to the original recipe were:

Added bell pepper, increased the amount of peas(this adds nutrients, bulk, and flavor)

Increased the amount of chicken broth a little, and some extra flour

Used skim milk (the “super skim” variety) instead of 2%

Used ground chipotle pepper instead of dill

These changes resulted in slightly more soup per serving, with a slight drop in calories but more significantly 3g less fat per serving (1g less saturated). Every little bit counts, right?

I especially liked the chipotle pepper subbing for the dill, since it added both heat and extra smoky flavor.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Spicy Garlic Chicken with Lemon Glaze

I’ve been away from blog-land for a while. The first week of this month was spent visiting my parents, then we returned to the farm to a very cold house. Because of a snowstorm, our electricity had been out for four days and the downstairs rooms were at about 45 degrees, the upstairs around 38 degrees. I’ve always (good-naturedly, mostly) complained about how cold our old farmhouse is in the winter, but I never will again after recently walking through rooms and seeing my breath!

Of course, frozen pipes were my main concern. We have 2 small electric fireplaces on the main level which we would turn on for a few hours a day, but this would only result in the temperature rising a few degrees. It was enough, I guess, because the water pipes never froze.

Oh, I should mention that since my MIL is visiting her daughter, Jack and I were able to use her apartment for three days. Unfortunately, the complex does not allow pets, so we had to sneak Spooky in and out (we couldn’t leave him there alone or he would give himself away to the neighbors!). Luckily, the apartment is on the first floor, with a door right next to the reserved parking space, so it wasn’t too difficult.

It has snowed every darn day since we returned—8 days! We felt, at times, as though we were taking our lives into our hands as we drove the hilly roads to the farm and back to our “temporary home”. Because we both work from home, there is never a need to leave during bad weather. We stay put. So this experience was especially nerve-wracking!

I am proud to say that we lost almost nothing from either of the refrigerator/freezers or from the big freezer. The day we returned, we took everything that was in the refrigerators, boxed it all up, and put the boxes on our enclosed porch. We also took the frozen items from those units and packed them, with ice packs, into coolers and stored these in the (unheated) smokehouse. The next day, Jack emptied recyclables from a clean, 55-gallon trash can, and we layered everything from the big freezer with snow, then buried the can in a snowdrift. Had this long of a power outage (6+ days) taken place any time other than January or February, when there was enough snow on the ground to bury our “Eskimo freezers”, we would have lost everything.

The absolute joy of being back in my own home, cooking in my own kitchen, is incredible. Unfortunately, because we have been doing a lot of shoveling, both Jack and I have been experiencing some very sore muscles over the past few days. Yesterday, though, we took a break and last night I felt well enough to actually cook a meal.

Not that we haven’t been eating. After I cleaned out the big freezer and took and inventory of everything I was putting in there, I found several meals which I had frozen last fall and promptly forgotten about. So these got us through 4 dinners.

Yesterday, I made the first (of many more to come) recipes from my new cookbook, CuisineLite. There were so many positive reviews of this publication on the Cuisine At Home forums that I had a difficult time choosing. Based on what I had on hand, I chose Spicy Garlic Chicken with Lemon Glaze.

I altered the recipe only slightly. I increased the size of the chicken breasts, used a different kind of hot sauce, and increased the panko crumbs a little. Also, even though I decreased the amount of chicken (because the recipe made 4 servings), I kept everything else the same. These changes are reflected in the recipe below.

This was a great meal! I never realized how wonderfully the flavor of lemon went with some sort of spice (in my case, habanero pepper sauce). The chicken was crunchy outside, tender inside, and that delicious glaze added just the right amount of flavor. I started some fingerling potatoes roasting in the toaster oven first, then started the rest of the meal a little later. It took less than 30 minutes to get the chicken prepared and on the table (including steaming the broccoli). This recipe will become a staple for us.

* Exported from MasterCook *

Spicy Garlic Chicken with Lemon Glaze

adapted from Cuisine Lite, a publication of August Home Publishing
Servings: 2

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method
-------- ------------ --------------------------------

12 ounces boneless skinless chicken breast halves – (2 pieces)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/3 cup panko
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon habanero pepper sauce
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

Combine lemon juice, honey, Tabasco, and lemon rind for the glaze in a small bowl and set aside.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Stir together panko, garlic, and oregano in a large dish. Dredge both sides of chicken in panko mixture, pressing panko firmly into the chicken..

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add chicken; sauté until cooked through, about 12 minutes (to 160 degrees internal temperature). Remove chicken from skillet.

Add lemon-honey mixture to the skillet and reduce until syrupy (less than a minute).Return the chicken to the skillet, flipping the pieces once to coat with glaze. Serve.

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Per serving: 329 Calories (kcal); 7g Total Fat; (18% calories from fat); 41g Protein; 26g Carbohydrate; 99mg Cholesterol; 390mg Sodium
Food Exchanges: 1/2 Grain(Starch); 5 1/2 Lean Meat; 0 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 1 Fat; 1 Other Carbohydrates