Archive | March, 2012

Goat Cheese, Chicken and Asparagus Fettuccine

26 Mar

 I can’t believe I’m still posting chicken recipes from my one day of cooking, where I made lots of chicken stock (and shredded chicken), then turned it into soup, this pasta and Buffalo-style chicken salad.   I swear this is the end of the chicken recipes… for now!  But in the meantime, this is a pretty delicious and simple recipe to use leftover chicken.  It’s creamy and tangy from the goat cheese.  And, it’s perfect for spring time, since asparagus is now at its prime.

The cream sauce for this pasta is made from a roux, milk and goat cheese.  It’s deliciously creamy, without the cream.  A roux is a mixture of melted butter and flour, combined in equal parts (in this recipe, 1 tablespoon each), which is used to thicken sauces.  Knowing how to make a roux is a great technique to have in your repertoire so you can make cream sauces at any time, for things like this, or homemade macaroni and cheese :).

Goat Cheese, Chicken and Asparagus Fettuccine

Time: 20 min, Yield: 2 servings

  • 6 ounces fettuccine
  • 1/2 bunch asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-2″ pieces
  • 1 cup shredded, cooked chicken (leftover and reheated or from a store-bought rotisserie chicken)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1.5 cups low-fat milk
  • 4-6 ounces goat cheese
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped tarragon

Cook pasta according to package directions in a large pot of boiling water.  While pasta is cooking and water is boiling, drop the asparagus into the same pot to blanch, until tender-crisp, 1-2 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, melt the butter.  Add flour and whisk until smooth, 30 seconds.  Whisk in the milk and simmer gently, until it starts to thicken, stirring often.  Whisk in the goat cheese until smooth.  If sauce is too thick, add more milk.  If sauce is too thin, add more cheese.  Taste, and season with salt and pepper.

Drain the pasta and asparagus, and toss with chicken and enough cream sauce to coat.  Top with fresh tarragon and serve.

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No time to cook?

22 Mar

…. me neither!

I just wanted to write to all my loyal readers and update you on why my posting rate has decreased from 4-5 per week to… like… 1 per week (if I’m lucky). 

My new job has me traveling a LOT.  And a lot more than I expected.  Like, in the past 3 weeks, I have actually been at my desk 4 days.   Which means I have not been home either.  Unfortunately (like really, truly), I have not been able to cook at all in the past 2 or so weeks.  It’s sad because cooking is my hobby – I enjoy it and it relaxes me.  Eating out at restaurants while traveling for work gets old fast.  But, that’s life, and sometimes work gets in the way of it. 

I’m hoping to catch up on my cooking and photographing and writing this coming weekend (though I’m traveling again all next week and weekend), so hopefully I will be able to at least post a few things.  I’m thinking an omelette or crepe tutorial would be fun?  Any ideas?  I’m open to suggestions and would like to post about the things you want to learn about. 

In the meantime, if you haven’t already read them, check back on some of my very first posts.  I wrote a lot before I actually got the guts to make this thing public, so check it out if you need some kitchen advice:

Thanks for reading and thanks for still coming by the blog even if I can’t post as often as I’d like (if it was up to me and money was no object, I’d be doing this blog thing every day, all day…… we can all dream right?!).

Chicken Salad: Buffalo Style

13 Mar

Last weekend, I did one day of real cooking, and it fed us all week.  On Sunday, I made two big pots of chicken stock, which I turned into chicken noodle soup, plus leftover stock and cooked chicken.  To find out about making the chicken stock and chicken used in these recipes, please read my post on cooking Two in One: Chicken Stock and Chicken Soup.

With the leftover shredded, cooked chicken, I made two recipes: Buffalo-style chicken salad and pasta with chicken, goat cheese and asparagus.  I know, I know, it’s a lot of chicken.  And by all means, if you don’t want to be quite that chicken-intense, only make one pot of stock/soup – and you’ll be able to get at least one other chicken meal out of the extra meat.

I got the idea for this recipe when I saw some prepared “Buffalo” chicken salad at the grocery store.  Since regular chicken salad is just about the most boring thing ever, I thought making it Buffalo style was at least worth a try.  I am partial to anything Buffalo-style, since I am originally from there :).  So, I know my Frank’s hot sauce and blue cheese.  Read: blue cheese, not ranch!!

Anyway, the best part about this chicken salad recipe is that the chicken, carrots, and celery are all ingredients in the stock/soup, so if you opt to make those first and then morph them into the chicken salad,  the only things you need to buy (or may already have) are Frank’s hot sauce and blue cheese (and possibly Dijon mustard if you want to include it and/or don’t have it).  This made for a great sandwich for weekday lunches.  I found that if you sandwich the chicken salad between two pieces of lettuce, so that the bread does not come directly in contact with the chicken salad, you won’t have issues with soggy bread.  So when you make the sandwich, layer a piece of bread, then lettuce, then chicken salad, lettuce, and another slice of bread.  As always with my recipes, feel free to tweak them based on your tastes!  The level of Frank’s I include here is nice and Buffalo-tasting, but not too spicy (in my humble opinion).

Buffalo-Style Chicken Salad

Time: 10 min, Yield: 2 cups

  • ~2 cups shredded, cooked chicken (leftover from making stock, or from a store-bought rotisserie chicken)
  • 1/2 large carrot, finely diced
  • 1 large or 2 small stalks celery, finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons Frank’s Red Hot sauce (I used the “Wings” variety but any will work)
  • 3 tablespoons Blue cheese dressing
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • Salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients in a bowl.  Adjust Frank’s to your personal taste.  Adjust amounts of blue cheese dressing, mayo and mustard depending on the moisture of the chicken and moisture desired.  Season with salt and pepper.  Serve on bread (using lettuce leaves to help protect the bread from the moist chicken salad to prevent sogginess).

Two in One: Chicken Soup and Chicken Stock

8 Mar

Today I am going to share with you a great way to use 1 bird (chicken) in 2 ways (that’s almost the same as the “kill 2 birds with 1 stone” saying right?).  I decided recently that I wanted to make chicken noodle soup, and figured I might as well make some stock while I’m going to the trouble.  Actually, I ended up making 2 additional meals out of the chicken I cooked for the soup and stock, and I’ll be sharing those recipes later on the blog as well (I made chicken salad, Buffalo style, and also a pasta with chicken, asparagus and a goat cheese cream sauce later in the week).

First I want to discuss the making of stock.  As anyone who cooks knows, chicken stock is one of the most commonly called-for ingredients.  Even when it’s not called for, it’s beneficial to use it whenever a recipe calls for water (rice cooked in chicken stock instead of water, for example, is worlds beyond regular rice in flavor).

Making your own chicken stock is pretty much the easiest thing ever (and that was in the words of my husband).  Additionally, it usually costs next-to-nothing to make it, because the ingredients can be the scraps you have around from other recipes (stray celery/carrots/onions/herbs and leftover chicken bones).  Compared to store-bought stock, homemade stock is also abundantly more flavorful, plus you can control what’s in it (no MSG, not too much salt, no preservatives, etc.).   You can either make it and use it right away, or portion it into small containers and freeze it.  Then, you will always have it on hand when you need it (thaw it on the defrost setting in your microwave for a few minutes, then pop out the ice-block-of-stock into a saucepan and melt it back into liquid over low heat – it takes no time at all.)

Ok, so enough about all the reasons you should try to make your own stock.  Oh wait, one more reason, you will feel like a real chef and can impress all your friends, when secretly all you did was throw a bunch of bones and vegetables in a pot and left it to boil for several hours.  :-D

Since I was planning to make chicken noodle soup, I thought I would save myself some time and effort later in the week, and cook a whole bunch of chicken at once.  The basis of this post is that you can make a big pot of chicken stock, using one or more chickens, and then transform the broth into soup, and the chicken into other meals.  Classically, you don’t need actual chicken meat to make stock, but I used it in this case so that I could take that chicken meat and use it for recipes later in the week (plus that helped make the stock extra flavorful).  Half the stock I made went into my freezer to use other times, and half of it got turned into the broth for soup.

So without further ado….

How to Make Chicken Stock

There are no hard rules or recipes to follow for making chicken stock.  With all of the following ingredients, you don’t even need to peel them (even the onions! Just leave the skin on); just cut each ingredient in halves or quarters and then throw them in the pot.  There are several ingredients you definitely want to include if you can, such as:

  • 1-2 Onions (white/yellow)
  • 2-4 Carrots
  • 2-4 Celery stalks,
  • Whole peppercorns (~1 tablespoon) – whole because then you can strain them out
  • Fresh herbs – throw them in as whole sprigs/bunches – for example, parsley, thyme, tarragon, or whatever you have on hand

…If you have more celery and carrots and herbs on hand, go ahead and throw them in – it definitely won’t hurt!  Other than that, some nice additions for some more flavor are:

  • Leeks (very well cleaned)
  • Garlic (just smash the cloves, no need to peel)
  • Salt (to taste)

Plus, obviously, one of the following:

  • Whole, raw chicken (split in two so it cooks quicker)
  • Raw, bone-in chicken parts (thighs, breasts, wings, etc)
  • Leftover chicken bones

To make the stock, throw all the roughly chopped vegetables in the pot (there will be more than shown below):

Add your chicken bones or chicken meat.

Then fill the pot up with water. Use at least 10 cups, and make sure all of the ingredients are covered with water.

Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for about 3 hours, or as long as possible, loosely covered so you don’t lose too much water to evaporation.   If using whole chicken or chicken pieces, remove them after 45-60 minutes (for a whole chicken, use the upper end of that range), and separate the meat from the fat and bones.  Discard the fat, set the meat aside, and return the bones to the pot for the remaining simmering time.

Using tongs or a skimmer (one of my favorite kitchen tools), remove the chicken bones and vegetables.

Then, strain the hot stock throw a fine mesh strainer.  Please be careful at this step, as the stock is beyond HOT and the steam alone can burn you!

Let the stock sit to allow the fat to separate, then skim it off using a spoon.  As you can see in this picture, the fat floats on the surface and the difference in color will help show what needs to be removed.

Portion the stock into small containers and allow it to cool at room temperature temporarily before refrigerating or freezing (allowing the stock to cool to 140°F before refrigerating is safe because 140 is still hotter than “the food danger zone“. Cooling on the counter first also helps you avoid raising the temperature inside your refrigerator or freezer unsafely, which can happen if you put a large volume of very hot soup or stock right in the fridge).

Chicken Noodle Soup is a no-brainer:

Follow the directions above to make your stock, using whole chicken or bone-in chicken pieces.  Cook the chicken in the stock until cooked through, as indicated above, 45-60 minutes. Remove the chicken and separate the fat from the meat and bones.  Return the bones to the pot, discard the fat, and shred the meat.  Refrigerate the shredded chicken until ready to use.

Continue to simmer your stock for 2-4 hours, or as time allows.

Meanwhile, dice:

  • 2 carrots
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 1 small yellow onion

When the stock is done simmering, strain as directed above, removing the vegetables and bones.  Be very careful, it is very hot!

Return the strained stock to the pot on the stove, and return to a simmer.  Add the diced vegetables and:

  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves if that’s all you have)
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon tumeric (for color)

Simmer for ~10 minutes, until vegetables are tender.  While the stock is simmering rapidly, add 16 ounces of pasta noodles and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes more.

Then, add the cooked chicken to heat through and serve!

When I made this, I made 2 huge pots full of stock/soup, using 2 chickens.  That meant that I had plenty of leftover cooked chicken for recipes later in the week, like Buffalo-style chicken salad for sandwiches and pasta with goat cheese, asparagus and chicken (which I will be sharing on the blog next week!)  The amount of effort and time and money it takes to make a second pot or bigger batch or stock/soup is minimal, so it really is worth it.  Having leftover cooked, shredded chicken around is never a bad thing, since the uses of it are limitless (think tacos, pasta, enchiladas, pizza, quesedillas, etc).

Rachael Ray’s Turkey Club Salad

6 Mar

Today’s recipe is really more of an endorsement for a Rachael Ray recipe I’ve made several times.  It’s for a very hearty Turkey Club Salad with Avocado Dressing.  Since I don’t change much about this recipe when I make it, it’s better that I just send you over to the original recipe on Food Network’s site (see below).

The one requirement I have when I eat salads for dinner is that they have to have some substance.  I don’t want to eat dinner and then be hungry an hour later!  That’s what I like about this salad – it has turkey, bacon, avocado, etc and it really satisfies.  It’s obviously not the healthiest of salads, but there are some switches you could do to make it healthier (eliminate the bacon, or use turkey bacon, reduce the EVOO in the dressing, etc).

I won’t reprint all of the original recipe, but rather give you the link and tell you about the modifications I made and some helpful hints.

Turkey Club Salad with Avocado Dressing

For the complete recipe, click here

This recipe calls for rotisserie turkey breast (which is sometimes hard to find) or store-roasted turkey breast (which is real turkey breast, cooked in the store, as opposed to lunch meat style turkey).  Last time I made this, I couldn’t find either of these in my store, so I substituted a high-quality, thick sliced (just ask at the deli), lunch meat turkey.  Rotisserie chicken or roasted chicken breast would work fine too.  The beauty of this recipe is that there’s no cooking of the meat involved.

Since I could only find lunch meat turkey, I wanted to heat it slightly, so I julienned it and then briefly browned it in a saute pan on the stove top to heat it through and give it a little color.

The original recipe also calls for pea shoots or sprouts, which I did not include.  But I did add crumbled blue cheese :-D

The last thing is the dressing.  Since I love the texture of avocados, I left some of it out of the dressing, and left it chopped on the salad instead.  I also didn’t want to use quite the whole 1/3 cup olive oil in my dressing, since that seemed like a lot of extra fat, so I used less and used a little bit of water to thin it, if needed.

Enjoy!

Did you know? How to keep cookies fresh

1 Mar

Don’t you just hate how fast fresh-baked cookies seem to get stale?  Timely with my recent post about Orange Chocolate Chip Cookies, I thought I would post about a few secrets I’ve learned to keep them fresh, soft and not stale.

Here are a few secrets that I’ve learned to keep cookies tasting fresh:

  • Always keep cookies in a container (like Tupperware) with a tight-fitting lid.
  • Store cookies with a piece of bread!  The moisture from the piece of bread will help keep the cookies soft, moist and fresh (if you don’t want to waste a piece of bread, use the ends of the loaf that no one ever seems to want to eat anyway!)   Change the piece of bread every other day, or when it feels dry.
  • Freeze them!  Did you know that cookies freeze very well?  I didn’t know this until a few years ago.  Again, wrap them well and put them in a container with a good lid to keep them fresh for much longer in the freezer!  All the cookies I made around Christmas time stayed fresh for about 2 weeks because I kept them either in the freezer or in the garage (which hovers at a temperature just above freezing at this time of year!).

And if you want more cookie advice, this is a great article from Good Housekeeping on all your cookie baking questions!