Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Chicken Tortilla Soup

We've had a rough winter here in Delaware. We've seen record cold and record snowfall. We pretty much didn't see the grass in our yard from December until late-February... and it's snowing again. I love snow. It's beautiful...

But, it makes for hazardous driving and walking conditions and it often leaves the entire family stuck indoors for days. Cabin fever sets in. We miss sunshine, barbecues, the backyard.

So when I'm not at work, I'm cooking and baking. These days I don't get around to blogging as often because I'm very absorbed in the chronicles of a certain 19 month-old...

But trust me, I'm doing a lot of cooking! In all of this cooking I think I've finally perfected my chicken tortilla soup recipe. I love it because it's hot and a little spicy and warms you up on a cold day, yet at the same time has a burst of fresh flavor that reminds you of summertime. You could definitely serve this all year. I served it back in December at my cookie exchange party (along with butternut squash soup) and it was a hit.

Before I share the recipe, here are a few tips:

1. A pre-cooked rotisserie chicken is great for many meals that contain chicken. It's the basis for my chicken pot pie, chicken and dumplings, chicken tamale casserole and this soup. I pick up a big chicken at Costco for $4.99.

2. You can freeze any pre-cooked chicken (grilled, baked, rotisserie, etc.) and save it for future recipes. In this case, I take leftover rotisserie chicken, remove the skin and bones and seal it with my Food Saver for future meals. I just pop the frozen, cooked chicken in the microwave for two or three minutes, chop it up, and proceed with my recipe.

3. This soup freezes well. You can freeze it in quart-sized deli containers or any freezer-safe food container. I like to add fresh toppings when I serve it (chopped red onion, cilantro, cheese, lime, etc.) to kick up the flavor.

I love topping my soup with shredded cheese, red onion and cilantro and enjoying it with a cheese quesadilla on the side. If you're looking for a kick of summertime freshness during these last few days of winter, try this soup.

Chicken Tortilla Soup
8-10 servings

1 medium onion, diced
1 red or green pepper, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 can Rotel (Original flavor)
4 cups low sodium chicken broth or stock
3 cups water
1/3 cup uncooked long grain white rice
1 cup frozen corn
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups chopped, cooked chicken seasoned to taste with salt, cumin and chili powder
3 tablespoons corn flour (masa) dissolved in 1/3 cup water
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup fresh lime juice (from 1-2 limes)
salt and pepper, to taste
diced red onion, cilantro, shredded cheese, tortilla chips, etc. for topping (optional)

In a large pot, saute onions and green/red pepper in about 4 tablespoons of vegetable oil over medium heat for about 5 minutes, or until softened.

Add garlic, tomato paste, cumin, chili powder and garlic powder to the pot. Stir and cook for 1-2 minutes.

Add Rotel, chicken stock, water, rice corn, black beans, chicken and masa mixture to the pot. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce to simmer. Simmer for 20-25 minutes.

Add lime juice and fresh cilantro. Check for seasonings. Add additional salt, pepper, cumin or chili powder, if desired.

Serve with red onion, additional cilantro, shredded cheese and tortilla chips for garnish. Leftovers freeze well. Soup may thicken in the refrigerator. If this happens, thin it out with additional chicken broth before heating and serving leftovers.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Cheddar Scones

I'm proud to say that over the past year I've mastered the scone technique. What's not to love about a buttery, biscuit-like pastry filled with sweet or savory ingredients? My family loves my cinnamon raisin scones so I wanted to try a savory version that could go beyond breakfast and coffee breaks.

These cheddar scones (pictured here with butternut squash soup) are a burst of cheesy, savory flavor. Yes, you can enjoy them with your breakfast, but they're even more fun when they show up in the bread basket for lunch or dinner.

I encourage you to make double batch and freeze the cut, yet unbaked scones so you can bake them fresh as needed. They're like a cheddar biscuit, only fancier. Enjoy!

Cheddar Scones
yield: about 16 small scones

3 cups all-purpose flour
5 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
2 sticks (1/2 pound) butter (I use salted butter), cubed
1 egg
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese (I love Cabot)
1 additional egg for egg wash

In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, baking powder, salt, garlic powder, pepper and butter. Pulse until butter is pea-sized and mixture has a sandy texture. If you don't have a food processor, place these ingredients in a bowl and combine using a pastry cutter or two forks.

Pour flour mixture into a large bowl. Mix in shredded cheddar.

In a small bowl, whisk together one egg and buttermilk. Stir wet mixture into flour mixture. Mixture will be crumbly. Knead gently with your hands. Pour onto parchment paper (or an oven-safe silicone mat). Roll into a rectangle about 1/2 inch thick. Place in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to chill dough.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cut dough into 16 small triangles. [At this point you can flash-freeze the scones and bake them at a later date.] Place on a baking sheet leaving 1 inch between scones. Whip one egg and brush egg on top of unbaked scones. Bake scones for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature.
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