Monday, February 25, 2013

Corn and Cheese Chowder

A few weeks ago, I was looking for something to make for my nephew, Daniel. I just wanted to make him something warm and comforting. Then I saw Ree Drummond making this soup on her show, Pioneer Woman, and decided that this was just the thing. I had half of the ingredients anyway, and a quick trip to the store took care of the rest. In no time at all, I had a delicious soup simmering on the stove, and I brought it right over to him. It was like a big hug in a pot, warm and cozy, and I know he appreciated it. Any time, Daniel Boone!
 This recipe isn't exactly Ree Drummond's. I changed a few things here and there, and everyone loved it. So add this one to your repertoire. It's the perfect thing if you're cooking for a bunch of weary workers just in from the cold, or if someone needs a warm hug.
Hope you like it!

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
1 whole onion, chopped
4 slices thick cut bacon, cut into pieces
1 small green bell pepper, finely diced 
1 small red bell pepper, finely diced
1 (1 lb) bag frozen corn
1 can creamed corn
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups chicken stock or broth
2 cups half-and-half
1 heaping cup grated Monterey Jack cheese
3 green onions, sliced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a large pot, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the bacon and cook until lightly crispy, and then add the bell peppers and the corn and cook for a few more minutes until the vegetables are soft.
Sprinkle the flour evenly over the top and stir to combine. Pour in the chicken stock and stir well. Allow this to thicken for 3 or 4 minutes, and then reduce the heat to low. Stir in the half-and-half, and then cover and allow to simmer and thicken for 15 minutes or so.
Stir in the cheese and green onions. When the cheese is melted and the soup is hot, check seasonings. Add salt and pepper as needed.

If your peppers are quite large, I would just do half of each color. Normally I would just add them in, but I think the flavor of the peppers would compete with the flavor of the corn, and I like for the corn to be the star of the show.
Be sure to simmer it over a low heat and stir it often. You don't want it to burn on the bottom of the pot.
If you'd like to add more cheese, go ahead and add as much as you like!
Feel free to serve this in hollowed out round loaves of bread, if the spirit so moves you!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Crock Pot Honey Sesame Chicken

 Here's an easy crock pot dish that I got from my niece, Katie, who got it from a blog called The Comfort of Cooking. (I love when people send me recipes!!) She had just made it in her crock pot and told me that "this one is a winner." Works for me! It's quick to prepare, it uses simple ingredients, and seriously, ANYONE can make it. Pretty awesome, huh? You just throw some chicken in, pour the marinade over it, and turn it on! I love recipes like this! And who doesn't love a crock pot recipe? It's perfect for a Sunday when you're running errands or doing laundry, etc. And frankly, I can never say no to Sesame Chicken. It's one of my all time faves!!  So give this one a try!
Thanx Kate!!

6-8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs or 4 chicken breasts (about 2 pounds)
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup diced onion

2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup ketchup
1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons vegetable oil or olive oil
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
4 teaspoons cornstarch
1/3 cup water
2 packets minute rice, optional
1/2 tablespoon (or more) sesame seeds
3 scallions, chopped

 Place chicken in Crock Pot and lightly season both sides with salt and pepper.
In a medium bowl, combine onion, garlic, honey, ketchup, soy sauce, oil and red pepper flakes. Pour over chicken. Cook on low for 3-4 hours, or high for 2 hours.
Remove chicken to a cutting board, leaving sauce. Shred chicken into bite-sized pieces; set aside. Prepare rice according to package instructions.
In a small bowl, dissolve 4 teaspoons cornstarch in 1/3 cup water; add to crock pot. Stir to combine with sauce. Cover and cook sauce on high for ten more minutes, or until slightly thickened.
Add cooked rice to 4 plates, top with chicken and spoon sauce over top. Sprinkle evenly with sesame seeds and chopped scallions.

You can add some red bell pepper to it, if you like, or just make it as directed. This would also be great to serve with some steamed broccoli. But whatever you do, be sure to include the chopped scallions over the top.  Katie said that was the best part!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

White Chocolate Mousse

Whenever I mention chocolate mousse as a dessert option, especially white chocolate mousse, the response is usually "mmmm" or "ooo" or "aahhhhh"... It's so rich and velvety and smooth, no wonder it's been a favorite for decades in high end restaurants for years! It also happens to be very romantic if you'd like to make something for your special someone. The thing is, most people think it's difficult to make. Not true! It's actually very simple. You're basically making a custard and then folding whipped cream into it. How can anyone not love that? I'll just bet you'll score extra points if you make it for your special occasion. Topping it with fresh strawberries or blackberries or raspberries just makes everything perfect! Enjoy!

  egg yolks
cup sugar
  cup heavy whipping cream
  cup white baking chips
1 1/2
  cups heavy whipping cream
Chocolate curls or fresh berries or both, if desired

 Beat egg yolks in small bowl with electric mixer on high speed about 3 minutes or until thick and lemon colored. Gradually beat in sugar. 
Heat 1 cup whipping cream in 2-quart saucepan over medium heat just until hot. Gradually stir at least half of the cream into egg yolk mixture, then stir back into hot cream in saucepan. Cook over low heat about 5 minutes, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens (do not boil). 
Stir in baking chips until melted. Cover and refrigerate about 2 hours, stirring occasionally, just until chilled. 
Beat 1 1/2 cups whipping cream in chilled medium bowl with electric mixer on high speed until stiff. Fold refrigerated mixture into whipped cream. Spoon mixture into parfait or martini glasses. Garnish with chocolate curls or top with fresh berries. Store covered in refrigerator.
If you'd like to make regular chocolate mousse, just use 8 oz
semisweet chocolate chips instead of the white chips. The rest of the recipe remains the same. 

Oh, and one other thing... forgive me for not using my own picture...I'll get to it one of these days.. In the meantime, thank you to the folks at Betty Crocker for letting me borrow theirs!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Soda Cake

This is just about the easy thing I've ever heard. It's so easy, you don't even need a recipe. Are you ready? Here we go:

Mix together a cake mix and a can of soda. Pour it into a greased cake pan and bake. The end.

And that's it! Seriously! Can you stand it? How awesome is that?? Doesn't matter what kind of cake mix, doesn't matter what kind of soda. (btw, it's 1 1/2 cups of soda, if you're measuring from a large bottle). You just pop it into a 350F oven for about 30 minutes or until it's done. Isn't that fun? The result is a light and fluffy cake that absolutely melts in your mouth, and it's so easy, anyone can do it!
The cake in the photo is a yellow cake mix and a diet orange soda. I mixed a little orange juice and powdered sugar to make a glaze to drizzle over the top. It turned out great! Chris and Claire loved it. You could do a cherry cola with a chocolate cake mix, or a white cake mix with 7 Up, or a spice cake mix with ginger ale. You could even do a sugar free cake. Just use a sugar free cake mix and a diet soda, or even just plain club soda. Simple! With so many possibilities, I'll definitely be trying this one again soon. Which combination would YOU like to try?