Roasted Chicken, Corn & Saffron Soup

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Some days just call for soup. Here in Belgium, even though the calendar says it is spring, we still have days that are decidedly chilly. And when it is cool outside nothing warms the body more than a comforting bowl of soup. Chicken soup is a family favorite and this soup, from Saveur , proves that not all chicken soups are the same.

You start by roasting your own chicken, which is incredibly easy (and as a bonus the cooking of the chicken takes the chill off of the house on a cool day). If you aren’t up to roasting your own bird, or are pressed for time, you can substitute a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken but then you won’t have the rich pan drippings which add so much flavor and depth to the soup. The soup is studded with both corn and noodles and the surprising addition of saffron adds both a rich golden color and an earthiness that you simply can’t find anywhere else.

This definitely isn’t your grandmother’s chicken noodle soup but it is so delicious that it is sure to become a new family favorite. So the next time the weather turns chilly, fire up the oven, turn on the stove and make this soup.  You won’t be disappointed.

ROASTED CHICKEN, CORN & SAFFRON SOUP

1 (3–4 pounds) whole chicken
2 tablespoonsolive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
12 cups chicken stock
4 cups frozen corn kernels, thawed
34 teaspoon crushed saffron threads
12 ounces egg noodles
  • Heat the oven to 400°.
  • In a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, rub the chicken with the olive oil and then liberally season the outside with salt and pepper.
  • Roast the chicken until golden brown and very tender, about 1 hour and 15 minutes.
  • Transfer the dish to a rack, lift the chicken from the dish, and place the chicken on a cutting board.
  • Let the chicken stand until cool enough to handle and then pick the meat from the chicken, discarding the skin and bones. Roughly chop the meat and transfer to a large saucepan.
  • Pour 2 cups chicken stock into the baking dish and scrape the dish with a wooden spoon to deglaze the bottom.
  • Pour the stock from the dish into the saucepan with the chicken along with the remaining 10 cups stock.
  • Add the corn and saffron to the broth and bring to a boil.
  • Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer and cook until the stock is slightly reduced, about 15 minutes.
  • Add the egg noodles and cook, stirring, until al dente, about 8 minutes.
  • Season the soup with salt and pepper.
Serves 8

Green Eggs & Ham Deviled Eggs

 

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A few weeks ago I was asked to organize snacks at my school’s literacy night. Wanting to carry the theme of books and reading into the food portion of the event, I decided that each food we served would be derived from a favorite childhood book featuring food. It all started out as a vague idea and ended up being a lot of fun for children and adults alike.

Some books had easy pairings but when I came to the Doctor Seuss classic Green Eggs and Ham, I found myself pausing. First, I was looking for bite-sized food that could be made ahead of time which ruled out the majority of the Seuss themed dishes I found on the Internet. Then I also wanted to be able to incorporate both title components into a single dish. And finally, there was the issue of making the dish green.

Deviled eggs have always been one of my favorite appetizers and whenever I make them they disappear in minutes. Plus unlike scrambled eggs and the like they are portable and can be made ahead of time. So I took to my old stand by recipe and tweaked it a bit to include bits of minced ham and green food coloring. The food coloring is definitely optional but this version of my classic dish is a keeper.

 

GREEN EGGS & HAM DEVILED EGGS

12 eggs, hardboiled, cooled, peeled & sliced in half

3 tablespoons mayonnaise

1/2  tablespoon dried Coleman’s mustard

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon sweet curry powder

1/4 cup minced cooked ham

Green food coloring (optional)

Parsley sprigs and paprika to garnish

  • Using a small spoon, carefully remove the egg yolks from the egg whites. Place the yolks in a small bowl and move the whites to a serving platter.
  • Using a fork, mash the yolks to form a thick paste.
  • Stir in the mayonnaise, dried mustard, Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper and curry powder, mixing until the mixture is smooth and lump free.
  • Stir in the ham, mixing until the meat is evenly distributed.
  • If you are using the food coloring, add one drop at a time, stirring well between each addition, until you have achieved your desired color.
  • Scoop the filling into the egg whites.
  • Sprinkle with paprika and top with a sprig of parsley.

Yields: 24 servings.

Green Vegetable Risotto

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Spring is in the air, well sort of. At least it is here in Belgium. And the calendar definitely says it is spring which means that the fresh baby vegetables are beginning to replace hearty root vegetables at the stands in the markets. So what better way to celebrate the new season than with this easy risotto that is filled with the best fresh vegetables that spring has to offer?

Marking risotto is more of a formula rather than an exact recipe. Rice is slowly cooked in a mixture of broth and white wine. When the rice is al dente, you stir in the add-ins of your choice which in this case is the freshest of the baby vegetables I found at the market. Feel free to substitute whatever vegetables you like or that look good. And the final touch is the creamy addition of both parmesan cheese and creme fraiche (you can substitute sour cream if you prefer) which adds a touch of tang while bringing the entire dish together.

Enjoy the risotto as a meal unto itself or alongside your favorite grilled meat. Just be sure to have the rest of your meal ready before you finish the risotto since it truly tastes best when eaten immediately.

GREEN VEGETABLE RISOTTO

3/4  c green beans, blanched and snapped into 1 inch pieces

3/4 c sugar snap peas

3/4 c asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces

1 cup dry white wine

3 cups low sodium chicken broth

1 small shallot, minced

 

1 green onion – white part only- mince

1/4 cup creme fraiche

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

top with sliced green onion  (Green part)

 

  • Fill a medium sized pan with water and bring to a boil.
  • Add the green beans, snap peas and asparagus.
  • Cook for 30 seconds, drain in a colander and immediately rinse with cold water. Set aside.
  • Combine the broth and white wine in a large saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer over medium-high heat.  Reduce the temperature but keep the broth mixture hot.
  • In a large saucepan melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the shallot and saute until it is soft and golden.
  • Add the rice and stir to combine making sure each grain of rice is coated with butter.
  • Gradually add the hot broth to the rice by the ladleful, stirring to combine after each addition.  Continue to stir the rice often to keep it from sticking.
  • Continue adding the broth being sure to add the next ladle before the rice has cooked itself dry.  Repeat this process until the rice is tender to the bite.  You may not need to use all of the broth.
  • Prior to adding the last ladle of broth, stir in the vegetables and the green onion to the rice and stir to combine.
  • Off the heat and stir in the parmesan cheese and creme fraiche.
  • Top with sliced green onion.
  • Serve immediately.

Serves 4

Hamburger Soup

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It is Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion. If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing you want to do to cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat.  The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes.  Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.

Soup is one of my favorite meals and since so many soups are quick to make, they are a  staple in my house. Filling, warming and satisfying soups make for the perfect dinner when paired with crusty bread and make even better leftovers for lunch the next day. And just about anything can be turned into a satisfying soup. This recipe, adapted from The Noble Pig has quickly become a favorite in my house where I liberally substitute the vegetables and even the ground meat depending upon what I have on hand. And thanks to the tangy and flavorful V-8, another favorite pantry staple, the broth is rich and flavorful without hours of cooking.

So if you are looking for a fast and tasty weeknight dinner idea, look no further than this soup. I promise that you won’t be disappointed.

HAMBURGER SOUP

1/4 pound pancetta, diced

2 pounds ground beef

1-1/2 cups carrots, peeled and sliced into 1 inch thick coins

1-1/2 cups celery, sliced into 1 inch pieces

1 leek, white and green parts only, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 cup frozen corn

4 cups beef broth

1 – 14 ounce can diced tomatoes

15 ounces V-8 vegetable juice

1 teaspoon ground oregano

1-1/2 teaspoons salt

1/2 pound small dry pasta

2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar

  • Place a large soup pot over medium high heat. Add the ground beef and cook until browned, using a spoon to crumble the meat.
  • Drain off the fat.
  • Add the carrots, celery, leek, corn, broth, V8, garlic and oregano to the meat mixture.
  • Increase the temperature to high and bring to a boil. Reduce the temperature to medium-low and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.
  • Return the temperature to high, add the pasta to the pot and cook until the pasta is al dental,8-10 minutes depending upon the size of your pasta.
  • Stir in vinegar right before serving.

Serves 6-8

Blueberry Muffins

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Muffins are a favorite breakfast treat at my house. Fresh from the oven they make for a warm and delicious meal on a lazy weekend morning yet they can easily be reheated for a quick breakfast on the go during the week. The options of what you put in your muffins are endless but my go-to ingredient time after time is blueberries.

This recipe from Boston’s Flour Bakery has become my go-to recipe for blueberry muffins. The muffins always turn out big and fluffy, filled with flavor and berry goodness. I always prefer using fresh to frozen but frozen berries will do in a pinch. If you can find wild blueberries, choose them as they are smaller and sweeter than their cultivated cousins. Yum!

BLUEBERRY MUFFINS

3 ¼ cups  all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

4 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon kosher salt

2 eggs

1 egg yolk

1 ½ cups sugar

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

½ cup milk, at room temperature

1 cup crème fraîche, at room temperature

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

  • Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray or line with paper liners. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and egg yolk until thoroughly mixed.
  • Slowly whisk in the sugar, butter, milk, crème fraîche, and vanilla until well-combined.
  • Pour the butter-sugar mixture into the flour mixture and, using a rubber spatula, fold gently just until the ingredients are combined.
  • Gently fold in the blueberries until evenly distributed. The batter may seem lumpy, but don’t try to smooth it out.
  • Spoon the batter into the prepared cups, dividing it evenly and filling the cups until they are almost overflowing.
  • Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the muffins are golden brown on top and spring back when pressed in the middle with a fingertip.
  • Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes, then remove the muffins from the pan.

Yields 12 large muffins or 24 mini muffins

Braised Rabbit In Belgian Ale

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Rabbit is one of those meats you either love or hate; I’m in the camp that loves it. I don’t cook it often but whenever I do I find myself wondering why I don’t cook it more often. After all, it is readily available fresh in Belgian markets. And rabbit is a versatile meat-it can be grilled, baked, or fried in the same ways one would cook chicken. But my favorite method is slow cooking it in a stew or a braise.

Now that the cooler weather is upon us again braised meat is the perfect dinner. This recipe, adapted from Simply Recipes, is easy to make and the ultimate in comfort food. And when using real Belgian ale, I like to think of it as a quintessential Belgian fall dinner. Serve the rabbit over a parmesan infused polenta or other starch that can soak up the juices.

BRAISED RABBIT in BELGIAN ALE 

1 2 1/2- 3 pound rabbit cut into 6 or 7 serving pieces

Salt

1/2 cup flour

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons butter

2 medium onions, thinly sliced

6 whole garlic cloves, peeled

6 sprigs fresh thyme

1 1/2 cups Chimay or other Belgian ale

1/2 cup chicken stock

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 teaspoons whole grain mustard

2 teaspoons brown sugar

  • Place the rabbit on a large plate and sprinkle on both sides with salt. Allow to sit for 30 minutes to an hour.
  • Place the flour on another plate and dredge the rabbit pieces in the flour.
  • Heat the oil and butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat.
  • Once the butter is melted and foamy, add the rabbit in a single layer. Brown on both sides for 5 to 6 minutes per side without disturbing. Remove the rabbit to a plate.
  • Add the onions to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly brown.
  • Add the garlic cloves and thyme and cook until the onions are soft and the garlic is fragrant.
  • Increase the heat to high and add the ale. Simmer for 2 minutes then add the chicken stock. Season with the salt and pepper.
  • Return the rabbit to the pot and bring the mixture to a simmer.
  • Cover the pot and reduce the temperature to low. Cook for 45 minutes or until the rabbit is cooked through and tender.
  • Remove the rabbit to a platter and keep warm.
  • Increase the temperature to high and reduce the liquid by one third.
  • Reduce the temperature to low and stir in the mustard and sugar.
  • Return the rabbit to the pot and rewarm.

Serves 4-6

Ricotta & Spinach Dumplings

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Spaghetti and meatballs is a classic comfort dish but what about switching out the meatballs for ricotta and spinach dumplings instead? That is exactly what I did when I came across this recipe from Cooking Light and all I can say is oh my goodness are they tasty. They are so good I’m not sure that I will go back to old fashioned meatballs again.

Because the ricotta cheese is featured so prominently in this recipe be sure to use one you really like. Sometimes I make my own (it really is easy) but when I don’t have the time I buy fresh ricotta cheese at my local market. The same goes for the parmesan cheese. I like to grate my own as I need it since it tastes so much better this way. Combined with the spinach, these dumplings remind me of a spinach lasagne repackaged in a new form. They are simply delicious.

RICOTTA & SPINACH DUMPLINGS

1 10-ounce package frozen spinach, thawed
1/3 cup plus 5 tablespoons all-purpose flour, divided
1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3  ounces Parmesan cheese, shredded
2 large egg yolks
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups marinara sauce

 

  • Cook the spinach in the microwave according to package directions then allow it to cool slightly. Place spinach in a clean kitchen towel. Squeeze until very dry. You want to remove as much moisture as possible.
  • Combine the flour, spinach, ricotta cheese, salt, black pepper, nutmeg, parmesan cheese, egg yokes and egg in a medium bowl. Stir gently just until combined.
  • Sprinkle 4 tablespoons of the remaining flour on a baking sheet.
  • Drop the ricotta mixture by tablespoonfuls onto floured pan to make about 36 dumplings.
  • Sprinkle the dumplings with remaining 1 tablespoon flour, and very gently shape each into a ball; gently roll on pan to lightly coat with flour.
  • Place the marinara sauce in a large skillet over medium heat; cover and keep warm.
  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Add 9 dumplings to water; cook for 5 to 6 minutes until the dumplings float to the surface of the water. Do not allow the water to boil.
  •  Remove dumplings from pan with a slotted spoon, and place in marinara; keep warm.
  • Repeat procedure 3 times with remaining dumplings.
  • Serve on top of your favorite pasta.

Serves 8

Silky Rich Coconut Milk Chocolate Pudding

 

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Chocolate pudding. It is smooth, creamy and comforting and just one bite brings me back to my childhood. Growing up, however, instant J-ello pudding was all the rage. Simply add milk, stir and dessert was ready. Fortunately my taste buds and preferences have changed a lot over the years and now instant pudding simply won’t cut it. Actually any pudding from a box isn’t up to snuff but when real, cooked from scratch pudding is so easy, why would you even need the box?

This recipe is adapted from Smitten Kitchen and is rich and flavorful and is fast to make. Because there are so few ingredients, be sure to use the best ones you can find. I’m partial to using a combination of chocolates because I think it creates a more complex flavor profile. Or you can use a single type; the choice is yours. I’ve also used coconut milk as the base of my pudding but a whole cow’s milk can be used instead. Either way you will be rewarded with a rich and not too sweet pudding that will bring you back to your childhood as well.

SILKY RICH COCONUT MILK CHOCOLATE PUDDING

1/4 cup cornstarch

1/2 cup sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

3 cups coconut milk

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

2 teaspoons vanilla extact

 

  • In a medium saucepan, combine the cornstarch, sugar and salt.
  • Slowly whisk in the coconut milk, in a thin steam at first so that lumps don’t form, then more quickly once the cornstarch mixture is smoothly incorporated.
  • Place the mixture over medium-low heat and stir occasionally, scraping the bottom and sides. Use a whisk as necessary should lumps begin to form.
  • After approximately 15 minutes, before it starts to simmer, the mixture should begin to thicken, enough that it will coat the back of a spoon.
  • Stir in the chocolates, and continue stirring for another 2 to 4 minutes, until chocolate is fully incorporated and mixture is quite thick.
  • Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla.
  • Allow to cool completely before serving.
  • To prevent a film from forming on top of the pudding, press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the pudding surface.

 

Serves 8

Chicken Marsala

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It is Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion. If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing you want to do to cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat.  The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes.  Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.

Chicken Marsala is a family favorite in our house and this recipe from America’s Test Kitchen is my all time favorite.  Sweet Marsala wine combined with mushrooms result in a rich sauce that is the perfect topping for boneless chicken breasts.  If you can find them, I like to use chicken breast filets since they are thinner and cook up in just a few minutes.  If you only have chicken breasts you can either pound the meat into a uniform thickness or slice the breasts in half to make them thinner.  When paired with a pasta or mashed potatoes, this dish is fast and you can have dinner on the table in a matter of minutes.  Alternatively, you can make the chicken ahead of time and let it sit on a warm burner for up to two hours before serving.

CHICKEN MARSALA

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

4 boneless chicken breasts or 8 chicken breast filets

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

3 ounces pancetta, finely chopped

8 ounces white button mushrooms, sliced thin

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon tomato paste

1 1/2 cups sweet Marsala wine

1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons fresh minced parsley

Salt & pepper to taste

  • Place the flour in a shallow pan and generously season with salt and pepper. Dredge the chicken in the flour mixture and set aside.
  • Add 2 tablespoons of oil to a large skillet and heat over medium-high heat until shimmering.
  • Add the chicken and cook until light golden brown on both sides, about 10 minutes for chicken breasts and 3-4 for chicken breast filets.  Transfer to a plate.
  • Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the skillet and heat until shimmering.
  • Add the pancetta and mushrooms to the skillet and stirring occasionally, cook until the pancetta is crisp and the mushrooms are brown, about 10 minutes.
  • Stir in the garlic and tomato paste.  Cook until the tomato paste begins to brown, about 1 minute.
  • Stir in the Marsala, scraping up any browned bits.  Simmer until reduced and slightly syrupy, about 8 minutes.
  • Stir in the lemon juice and any accumulated chicken juices.  Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the butter, one piece at a time.
  • Return the chicken to the pan.
  • If you serving the chicken immediately, proceed to the next step.  Alternatively, cover the pan and return it to low heat until ready to serve.
  • Add the parsley and season with salt and pepper.

Serves 4

Coconut Milk Nutella Swirl Bread

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I love Nutella. There is just something about that creamy chocolate – hazelnut spread that is simply delicious. I’ve been known to slather it on toast or even eat it by the spoonful right from the jar. But it is also a wonderful ingredient to cook with, taking baked goods from ordinary to extraordinary. I’m also a huge fan of coconut and cooking with coconut milk. It is rich and flavorful, providing dishes with a subtle sweetness and baked goods with a moist and slightly tropical consistency that you simply can’t get from other types of milk.

So given my love of both Nutella and coconut, when I found this recipe from NoblePig.com there was no question about my not trying it out. And I’m so glad I did. This quick bread is everything its name promises to be and was such a hit the first time I made it that I immediately got requests for another loaf. I’ve even baked this in the form of muffins following the same method for filling the cups as for making the bread but reducing the baking time to 15-18 minutes. Essentially any way you bake this, it is delicious.
COCONUT MILK-NUTELLA SWIRL BREAD
For the bread:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 large egg

1 cup coconut milk

1/3 cup melted butter

1 cup sweetened flaked coconut

1 cup Nutella, slightly warmed until easily spreadable

For the glaze:

2 cups confectioners’ sugar

Up to 4 tablespoons coconut milk

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat a 9 x 5 x 2.75 loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.
  • Stir together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.
  • In a separate bowl beat egg with a fork and stir in melted butter and coconut milk.
  • Pour egg mixture into the flour mixture and stir just enough to combine. Fold in flaked coconut.
  • Spoon one third of the batter into the bottom of the loaf pan. Add half the Nutella, covering the batter as best you can without mixing the two together.
  • Add another 1/3 of the batter and cover Nutella completely. Finish with the other half of the Nutella and then more batter to top it off.
  • Use a table knife and stick it down, all the way through the batter at one end of the loaf pan. Work your way from one side of the pan to the other in a zigzag motion. Make just one pass for the swirl effect.
  • Bake 55-65 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.
  •  Let cool 20 minutes in pan before flipping over and letting cool completely.
  • For the glaze, add confectioners’ sugar to a medium sized bowl and start with 2 tablespoons of milk poured into the sugar. Mix until it is a thick, pourable glaze, adding more milk as necessary in order to achieve the right consistency.
  • Pour over bread and allow to sit.
  • Slice when the glaze is completely dry.

Yields 12 slices

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