Sunday, November 28, 2010

Potage Crecy - French Fabulousness

I am so far behind in blogging that today I decided the holiday gift to myself is to give myself the time I need to blog.  I am not feeling too bad about it, though!  My time has been spent with my amazing boyfriend and although I have been cooking often for him (and he for me), I just have not had the time to sit and blog all of the food goodness happening in my kitchen, especially this holiday weekend! 

I have also been to two supper club meetings since my last post and am a month behind.  So, I decided to start with last month's supper club theme which I requested: SOUP SWAP!   Soups included a pasta fagioli, a curried butternut squash and apple, and a coconut Thai soup.  We also ate baguettes and cheese.  It was a perfect autumn meal.  

It was also ideal to post the soup I made for supper club today - Potage Crecy - in case you have any leftover carrots from Thanksgiving!  In New York, it is certainly soup weather!   Cheers! 

POTAGE CRECY (courtesy of Williams Sonoma French)

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 leek, white and tender green parts, rinsed and sliced [see Kitchen Notes]
3/4 pounds carrots [about 5 or 6], diced
3/4 pounds russet or Yukon gold potatoes, diced
2-1/2 cups chicken stock or broth
1-1/4 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves [or 1/2 teaspoon dried]
1 cup half-and-half
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste [see Kitchen Notes]
additional fresh thyme leaves, for garnish [or finely chopped flat-leaf parsley—see Kitchen Notes]

Heat a dutch oven or large soup pot over medium heat. Melt butter and combine with olive oil. Add leeks and sauté, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes. Add potatoes and carrots and sauté for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Add thyme, cover the pot and simmer until carrots and potatoes are tender, about 25 minutes. Purée the soup in a blender or food processor, in batches, if necessary. [Alternatively, use a handheld immersion blender in the pot.]
Return puréed soup to the pot. Add half-and-half, lemon juice and nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper to taste [using a light hand, depending on how salty your chicken stock or broth is]. Bring to a simmer until just heated through. Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with fresh thyme leaves or parsley. Serve.

Kitchen Notes

Cleaning leeks. Leeks like to grow in sandy soil, so you need to clean them carefully. Slice off root end and most of the green tops. Slice leeks in half lengthwise. Rinse under running water, fanning layers to wash out any trapped grit. When they’re cleaned, slice crosswise in 3/4-inch pieces.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Savoring Apple Cider

My favorite time of year to cook is autumn, and I am sure many would agree.  The rich fall flavors of apples, maple, pumpkin, pecans, root vegetables, squash, and spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves make it an exciting season to be in the kitchen.

One of the best memories I have as a child during the fall season was getting the first half gallon of fresh apple cider.  Apple juice is so inferior compared to the thick, almost caramel flavor of pressed cider.  Cooking with apple cider isn't done enough.  When I saw this recipe in this October's Cooking Light, I had to make it, especially since it combined sweet and savory.  Of course the incorporation of pecans into the recipe were also inspiring!   This was listed under the "super fast" recipe section and was so quick to make on a weeknight.

Cider Glazed Chicken with Browned Butter-Pecan Rice (courtesy of Cooking Light Magazine)
1 (3.5) ounce boil-in-a-bag brown rice
2 tablespoons butter, divided
1 pound chicken breast cutlets
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup apple cider
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup pecans
Fresh leaf parsley

1) Cook rice according to directions
2) Melt 1 teaspoon butter in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat.  Sprinkle chicken with 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper.  Add chicken to pan; cook 3 minutes each side or until done.  Remove from pan.  Add cider and mustard to pan, scraping pan to loosen brown bits.  Cook the mixture 2-3 minutes until syrupy.  Add chicken to pan, turning to coat.  Remove from heat and set aside.
3) Melt remaining 5 teaspoons butter in saucepan over medium-high heat; cook for two minutes or until browned.  Lower heat to medium; add pecans and cook for 1 minute until toasted, stirring frequently.  Add rice and remaining salt; toss well to coat.
4) Serve with fresh parsley.

Monday, October 11, 2010

My Apartment Never Smelled So Good!

I have made hundreds of dishes in this apartment, but no aroma from any of those dishes can compare to the amazing smell this chicken wafted out of the oven.  The marinade was, by far, one of the best marinades I have ever tasted.

Here in New York, Pio Pio is the place to go to for Peruvian chicken.
It is amazing, moist, succulent chicken served with delicious sides and a great sauce.  The dish I made tonight was not quite Pio Pio style, but just as good and had a lot of kick.  The marinade also made sure that the meat stayed moist - no risk of drying out even though it was white meat. I can't pinpoint the ingredient that sent this dish over the edge.  Was it the chipotle in adobo?  Honey?  Fresh lime juice?  White wine?

I gave up trying to figure it out and just enjoyed it.  I hope you do, too!

Peruvian-Style Chicken Breasts (courtesy of Weight Watchers)

1/4 cup dry white wine
2 garlic cloves, peeled
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 chipotle pepper from a can (en adobo)
2 teaspoons honey
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
2 teaspoons paprika
6 (8 oz) bone-in, skinless chicken breasts (I also scored them so the marinade would penetrate better)
1/4 teaspoon salt

1) Combine the wine, garlic, soy sauce, lime juice, olive oil, chipotle, honey, thyme, and paprika in a blender; pulse on high speed until the mixture is smooth, about 2 minutes. Reserve two tablespoons of the marinade and pour the rest into a zip-lock bag and add the chicken.
2) Refrigerate, turning the bag occasionally, for 45 minutes.
3) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and lightly spray a jelly-roll pan with nonstick cooking spray.
4) Remove the chicken from the bag and discard the marinade.  Arrange the chicken on the pan and sprinkle with salt.  Baste the chicken every 10 minutes with the reserved marinade, cooking about 45 minutes.  Remove from the oven and brush chicken with all of the pan juices.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Sunday Night Supper

In New York, most Sunday night suppers are synonymous with Italian food!  Sauces simmering all day with meatballs or homemade pasta being made in the afternoon or meats roasting in the oven...all for a big family dinner.  This evening I had my twin sister, Jill, over for dinner and felt like making a classic Italian-American dish:  penne alla vodka.  The dish, of course, was a lightened up version, but did not skimp on the most important ingredient: vodka! 

Penne alla Vodka (courtesy of Weight Watchers)
10 ounces uncooked multigrain penne (I used Barilla Plus)
1 (35 oz) can whole plum tomatoes in puree
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 cup chopped sweet onion
5 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup vodka
1 cup 1% whipped cottage cheese (Friendship brand makes this)
1/2 cup of shredded Romano cheese

1) Cook pasta according to directions.  Drain and keep warm.
2) While pasta cooks, place tomatoes and basil in a food processor and process until smooth.
3) Heat oil in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat.  Add onion and saute 4 minutes or until tender.  Add garlic and saute 1 minute.
4) Stir in tomato sauce, salt, pepper, and vodka.  Cook over medium heat for 6 minutes or until mixture has thickened.
5) Stir cottage cheese into the tomato sauce and cook 1 minute until thoroughly heated.  Add pasta to sauce mixture, tossing to coat.  Serve sprinkled with Romano cheese.

Yield: 6 servings
Serving Size: 1 cup pasta and 4 teaspoons of cheese
WW Points per serving: 6

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Soup's On!

This weekend its 70 degrees in New York despite the fact that its Columbus Day Weekend!  Still, October is the month when soup season begins.  In fact, my the theme of my monthly Supper Club is "Soup Swap"!   Later on this month we will gather and enjoy homemade soups and then mix and match containers to bring home and stick in the freezer - perfect to have on a night after a long day at work or on a cold winter afternoon on a blustery weekend.

I saw this soup recipe in the latest Weight Watchers Magazine and had to try it.  I tweaked it just a little by adding some crushed red pepper flakes.  Other than that, I followed the recipe exactly as instructed and a quintessential bowl of soup was the result.

What soups will you be making this fall?  Happy Slurping!

Tuscan Chicken Soup (courtesy of Weight Watchers)
Cooking spray (I use Canola oil cooking spray for its neutral flavor)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 pound ground chicken breast (make sure its not dark meat!)
2 (14 oz) cans of fat-free, less sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup uncooked orzo pasta
1 (14.5 oz) can stewed tomatoes, undrained and chopped
1 (16oz) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (I added this for a bit of zing)
6 oz fresh baby spinach leaves
6 teaspoons of freshly shredded parmesan cheese

1) Heat a large saucepan over medium heat; coat pan with cooking spray
2) Add garlic and onion and saute for 5 minutes or until just tender
3) Add chicken and cook for 5 minutes, crumbling with the back of a fork
4) Add the chicken broth and the next 6 ingredients
5) Bring to a low boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 22 minutes
6) Stir in spinach and cook for 3 minutes or until spinach has wilted
7) Ladle soup into bowls and top with 1 teaspoon of cheese

Yield: 6 servings
Serving Size: 1 1/2 cups of soup and 1 teaspoon of cheese
WW Points per serving: 4

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Spicy Football Sunday

It is rather apropos that the first posting of this food blog is on a football Sunday!  Autumn is, by far, my favorite time to be in the kitchen.  Football Sundays are even better, and if you dig a little and hunt for the right healthy recipes, you don't have to miss out on the delicious foods associated with tailgating.  I look forward to making chicken wings (baked), loaded backed potatoes (with healthy chili in the middle), and even some guilt free spinach and artichoke dip!

Today was the first cool, crisp day in New York.  Since it feels so much like fall, I could not wait to turn the oven on for a comforting casserole.  I wanted something to go with a good light beer, and this dish seemed like the perfect food to have with one as I wait for the New York Giants to begin their game this evening against the Bears.  I liked this recipe when I read it because there are no substitutes here for butter or cheese.  Its all about portion control, and my goal for this blog is to highlight the recipes that use fresh and flavorful ingredients in moderation.  

I have been on the Weight Watchers plan for 3 weeks and have already lost 5 pounds, and I am not missing anything because all the foods and recipes are so good!  This dish was one I honestly rolled my eyes with pleasure as I had the first bite!  Its spicy and creamy to the point where I can't believe its healthy!  Oh, and it paired perfectly with the light beer! 

Spicy Chicken-Spinach Pasta Bake 
(courtesy of Weight Watchers Magazine)
8 ounces uncooked rotini pasta (I used Dreamfields)
2 teaspoons butter
1/2 cup chopped onion
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup all-purpose flour, measured and leveled
2 1/2 cups 1% low-fat milk
1 (6 ounce) package of fresh spinach, coarsely chopped
1 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups of chopped cooked chicken breast (I used Bell and Evans and poached them in light chicken broth so the meat stayed moist)
1 1/2 cups salsa (medium or hot, depending on your tastes)
Cooking spray

1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
2) Cook pasta according to directions, cooking 2 minutes less so the pasta stays al dente in the casserole
3) While pasta cooks, melt butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add onion and garlic and saute for 4 minutes until tender.  Add flour to pan and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Add milk, stirring constantly with a whisk, for 11 minutes until thick.  Add spinach and stir until wilted.
5) Remove from heat and add 1/4 cup cheese, salt, and pepper.
6) Stir in chicken, salsa, and 3/4 cup of cheese.  Fold in pasta and then spoon the mixture into a 13x9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.
7) Sprinkle remaining cheese on top and bake 35 minutes or until bubbly.

Yield: 8 Servings
Serving Size: 1 Cup
WW Points per cup: 6