Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Chicken Soup for the Cold (both the temperature and the illness...)

It’s Wednesday, and we’re halfway through the work week. While it’s a mere -10C in our nations capital today, it was a bone chilling -38C (including the ever-present wind-chill) on Monday morning when I left the house for work. Between Monday and now, I’ve managed to pick up a cold. This is just one in an endless number of minor illnesses from this cold and flu season, and I’m tired of it.  There is only one answer:

Cold Temperature + Cold the illness = One need for Chicken Soup

So, taking the advice of my Mom (eat more garlic), and my Aunt Karen (eat chicken soup) to heart, I whipped up a batch of Chicken  soup last night.  This recipe contains a rediculous amount of ginger and garlic, but that’s because I’m hoping to scare this cold away. If you’re healthy, feel free to tone down the garlic and ginger.

Chicken Rice Soup
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast
2 carrots (one washed and cut in to 1” pieces, one peeled and sliced)
2 ribs of celery (one washed and cut into 1” pieces, one washed and sliced)
2 small onions (one quartered, one diced)
2 inch piece of ginger (cut into 8 pieces)
6 cloves of garlic (3 cut in half, 3 diced)
2 bay leaves
¼ tsp. red chilli flakes
1 tbsp. soy sauce
6 cups of water
1 c. rice (I used a combination of wild rice, white rice and brown rice)

First you make a broth:
  • In a large sauce pot put 3c. of water, the 1” pieces of carrot and celery, the ginger, the halved cloves of garlic, the bay leaves, the chilli flakes, the soy sauce and the chicken on to boil. This will both poach the chicken for the soup, and create a yummy broth. Leave this to simmer until the chicken is cooked through, between 20 and 30 minutes for a thawed piece of chicken, and 30-40 minutes for a frozen piece of chicken.
  • When the chicken is cooked (use a meat thermometer to check, it should read 180F), set it aside to cool and strain the vegetables, bay leaves, ginger and garlic from the broth.
Interesting Food Trivia:  Sometimes the terms stock and broth are used interchangeably. However, there is a difference between the two. Stock, is made using bones, like when you roast and boil the turkey carcass after Christmas to make turkey soup. Broth is made by poaching a meat, in this case chicken, to create soup.

To make the soup:
  • Add the remaining 3 cups of water to the broth and heat to a boil. Throw in your sliced and diced veggies, and the remaining garlic. Add in your rice, and the stock puck as well. Turn the heat down, and let simmer for 20-30 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, tear your chicken into bite sized pieces.
  • Add the chicken in the last 5 minutes of cooking.
This recipe makes enough for about 5 medium bowls of soup. Hopefully it doesn’t take that many to make my cold go away, but if it does, at least it tastes better than cough syrup!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Leftover Deliciousness - Cheese Steak Dippers

The leftover. Many people love the leftover. Cook once, eat several times. Less work, more eating. I do not feel this way in the least. At most, dinner should be recycled once, for lunch the next day and then I don't want to see that dish again until the next time I make it.  That's just how I feel.

There are of course exceptions to this rule. Thanksgiving, Chrismas and Easter are amoung those exceptions. THese are times of year where you don't mind eating that leftover ham or turkey for days on end in various incarnations until you do mind. Until you get what once commercial has so eloquently coined "Turkey Brain."

The other time I don't mind leftovers is when they can be transformed in to something that is truely delicious. Something you'd make for the initial meal, only with leftovers the meal comes together more easily. One of these leftover miracles is what I like to call "The Cheese Steak Dipper."

This dinner is an excellent way to use up leftover beef, whether it is steak, roast beef or even ground beef.

Cheese Steak Dippers
11/2 - 2 cups of leftover beef, sliced thinly or crumbled (I used leftover roast beef)
1/2 large onion, sliced
5-6 mushrooms, sliced
1 green pepper, sliced
1 cup of shredded cheese of your choice
Dipping sauce of choice (I suggest you make up a package of Swiss Chalet Dipping Sauce)
4-6 crusty rolls
Vegetable Oil

Preheat your oven to 300 C.

In a frying pan, heat a tablespoon or two of oil over medium heat. Throw in your veggies, and saute until the onions are translucent and the mushrooms have cooked down. This will take 5-7 minutes. Set aside.

If you're using the Swiss Chalet dipping sauce, I would reccomend putting this on now too. Follow the directions on the package. I believe that involves measuring some water and oil into a pan, and heating it along with the sauce mix, to a boil.

While the vegetables are cooking, slice up your leftover meat. When the veggies are done and you've set them aside, heat up your meat in the same pan. This will only take 5-7 minutes, depending on the amount of meat you are warming.  You can add a tablespoon or two of water to the pan and put a lid on it. The steam will help keep the meat moist.

When your meat is almost warmed through slice your rolls and place them in the oven to warm.  Top each roll with some meat, veggies and cheese. Cut in half and dip away. Delicious.

This is also good with leftover chicken or pork.


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Happy New Year! A new year, and a new start!

Happy New Year everyone!  Here we are 4 days in, and its shaping up to be a good year.

I'm taking advantage of this time of the year to press the reset button on my blog. I apologize for the long absence, but this fall flew by, and was side tracked with the sinus infection that wouldn't end, and my dad (my most dedicated reader) had a heart attack which, no need to say, occupied my mind and thoughts for some time.  The sinus infection is gone, and I'm happy to say that after 9 weeks of rest and relaxation my Dad is back to work today, much healthier than he was before.

His heart attack was a wake-up call for my family that we need to be taking better care of ourselves. Healthy food is a great place to start.  With that in mind, and with an end to holiday leftovers in sight, I'm back to cooking from scratch in my kitchen.

Here's a quick recipe for a hearty soup, great to whip up on a Sunday to have for lunch all week. Sorry no pictures this time, but rest assured its a lovely orangy colour and is delcious to boot!

A note on lentils:  There are many types of lentils, I've chosen red because I think they're pretty. This soup would work equally well with other types.  Lentils are well priced (a bag of dried lentils, enough for many pots of soup, will run you maybe $3), high fibre and very filling. They're a great way to round out a meal or a soup.

Curried Red Lentil Soup
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
1 celery stalk, peeled and chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1c. red lentils, rinsed and sorted**
4c. water
1 tsp. each cinnamon, cumin, curry powder
1 bay leaf
3/4 c. crushed tomatoes or  leftover marinara sauce
Canola oil (or whatever mild tasting oil you might have)
Low Fat Greek Yogourt
Lime, cut in to wedges

**make sure you rinse them to get the dust off, and have a peek through to make sure there are no stones or miscoloured lentils)

1. Saute in a large pot, the carrot, onion, celery and ginger until softened, about 5 minutes.
2. Add in spices, and bay leaf. Saute an additional 2-3 minutes.
3. Add in tomatoes, lentils and water. Mix well.
4. Simmer for 45-50 minutes. This will look more like a stew than a soup.
5. Serve with a dolop of greek yogourt and a squeeze of lime.

There you go, a heart healthy, delicious recipe, ready to fill your lunch bag in just under an hour!