January 29, 2012

Delicious Honey-Sweetened Cornbread


Mmmmmm ... cornbread.  Such a wonderfully comforting food.  Especially when served up with a hearty bowl of chili or deliciously tummy-warming bowl of soup.  But not all cornbreads are created equal.

Since moving south from Vermont, I've learned that Northern cornbread and Southern cornbread are distinctly different animals.  Northern-style cornbreads include some form of sweetener ... just a touch to lend a mild sweetness ... and tend to be moister than Southern cornbreads.  Southern-style cornbreads tend to be drier and crumbly, and decidedly do not include any form of a sweetener.

Which style one likes better, I think, depends on what one is used to.  I, for one, prefer the slight sweetness of Northern style cornbreads, with my all-time absolute favorite being this honey-sweetened cornbread from Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen (which also happens to be one of my favorite cookbooks).  The honey in this version lends the perfect subtle sweetness, while the buttermilk creates a beautifully moist result.

Serve up a hunk my Vermont way - slathered with butter or topped with a hunk of Cabot, Vermont cheddar cheese -  and you've got yourself a little slice of cornbread heaven.  Or, go Southern like my North Carolina-native husband's family and eat it just plain alongside a big glass of milk.   Either way, it's delicious!



Delicious Honey-Sweetened Cornbread
Source: Adapted from Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen
Ingredients
1 egg
1 c. buttermilk
1/4 c. honey
1 c. yellow cornmeal
1 c. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
3 T. melted butter

Directions
1.  Beat together egg, buttermilk, and honey.

2.  In a separate bowl, mix together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Combine buttermilk mixture, dry ingredients, and melted butter; mix well.

3.  Spread batter into a buttered 8-inch square baking pan.  Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes.

Enjoy!


This post is linked with Mangia Mondays hosted by Shine Your Light, Savvy HomeMade Monday hosted by Home Savvy A to Z, Cure for the Common Monday hosted by Lines Across My Face, Mingle Monday hosted by Add a Pinch, Tuesday Talent Show hosted by Chef in Training, Totally Tasty Tuesdays hosted by Mandy's Recipe Box, Cast Party Wednesday hosted by Lady Behind the Curtain, These Chicks Cooked hosted by This Chick Cooks, It's a Keeper Thursday hosted by It's a Keeper, Share Your Creations hosted by Kristen's Creations, Inspiration Friday hosted by At the Picket Fence, A Themed Baker's Sunday hosted by Cupcake Apothecary.

January 26, 2012

Lemon Curd Tartlets



I have a definite affinity for what I refer to as "little-bites" - bite-sized sweet treats like these rum balls, cherry-topped brownie bites, or mini mocha-toffee crunch cheesecakes that are just perfect for entertaining.  (Of course, if you just feel like indulging in a variety of tastes for dessert, "little bites" are perfect for that too!)  One of my all-time favorite "little-bites?" You guessed it! ... tart, tangy, and delicious lemon tartlets.  And these tiny tarts pack a huge lemon punch.  Lemon lovers beware, these are nearly impossible to resist.

In my humble opinion, fresh lemon juice is absolutely key for fabulous lemon curd.  So, to get started with Lemon Curd Tartlets, squeeze some fresh lemon juice. 

I use one of these hand-held juicers, which just so happens to be one of my favorite kitchen utensils.  Fav. or. ite.  I mean l-o-v-e love it!  It's easy to use, gets the most juice out of the lemons of any type of juicer I've used, and keeps the seeds out of the juice and juice off my hands.

One of my favorite utensils!
Combine the lemon juice with some sugar, cornstarch, and eggs in a saucepan.  Give it lots of stirring love with a whisk, and watch as it goes from a bright yellow watery mixture to a beautifully pale yellow and thickened lemon curd.

Whisking away to create beautiful-&-thick lemon curd
Once it's thickened, remove the curd from the heat and blend in some butter and lemon rind.

Melty, melty butter and yummy, yummy lemon
Then cool and refrigerate for several hours.  The curd will continue to thicken as it cools.

When you're ready to enjoy these delectable tartlets, spoon the curd into phyllo shells, top with a dab of yogurt-&-Cool Whip topping, and sprinkle with a lemon zest garnish.

Gorgeous tartlets
Aren't they cute?    Lemon lovers, make these.  I promise you won't regret it.



Lemon Curd Tartlets
Source:  Adapted from Cooking Light magazine

Ingredients
2 packages mini phyllo shells

Lemon Curd:
1 c. + 2 T. sugar
1 T. cornstarch
1/8 tsp. salt
1 c. fresh lemon juice (approximately 5 lemons)
3 large eggs
2 T. butter
1 tsp. grated lemon rind

Topping:
1 c. vanilla low-fat yogurt
1/2 c. Cool Whip
1/2 tsp. grated lemon rind
Grated lemon rind for garnish


Directions
Prepare the Lemon Curd:
1.  Combine sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a medium saucepan; stir with a whisk.  Stir in lemon juice and eggs.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly with a whisk.

2.  Reduce heat; simmer 1 minute or until thick, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat.  Add butter and lemon rind; stir gently until butter melts.  Spoon mixture into a bowl; cool.

3.  Cover and chill at least 6 hours or overnight.  Lemon curd will thicken as it cools.

Prepare the Topping:
4.  Pour off any liquid from the top of the yogurt.  Combine yogurt and grated lemon rind.  Fold in Cool Whip.

Assemble the Tartlets:
5.  Spoon lemon curd into phyllo shells, filling almost to the top.  Top with a dab of the yogurt topping.  Garnish with grated lemon rind.  Serve immediately. 

Note - The phyllo shells lose some of their crunch as they sit after filling, so it's best to assemble these tarts close to the time of serving.  They are certainly still delicious after the shells soften (I've happily eaten leftovers the next day!), but will be missing the textural crunch from the shells.

Enjoy!



This post is linked with It's a Keeper Thursday hosted by It's a Keeper, Creative Juice hosted by Momnivore's Dilemma, Share Your Creations hosted by Kristen's Creations, Foodie Friday hosted by Designs by Gollum, Potpourri Friday hosted by 2805, Friday Favorites hosted by Simply Sweet Home, Inspiration Friday hosted by At the Picket Fence, Sweets for a Saturday hosted by Sweet as Sugar Cookies, Sweet Indulgences Sunday hosted by A Well-Seasoned Life, Sundae Scoop hosted by I {heart} Naptime, Think Pink Sundays hosted by Flamingo Toes, Link & Greet hosted by Country Momma Cooks, Mangia Mondays hosted by Shine Your Light, Savvy HomeMade Monday hosted by Home Savvy A to Z, Cure for the Common Monday hosted by Lines Across My Face, Mingle Monday hosted by Add a Pinch, Tea Party Tuesday hosted by Sweetology, Crazy Sweet Tuesday hosted by Crazy for Crust, Tuesday Talent Show hosted by Chef in Training, Totally Tasty Tuesdays hosted by Mandy's Recipe Box, Cast Party Wednesday hosted by Lady Behind the Curtain, These Chicks Cooked hosted by This Chick Cooks, Strut Your Stuff Saturday hosted by Six Sisters' Stuff, Gooseberry Patch Recipe Round-UpSaturday Dishes.

January 22, 2012

Hot Corn Dip


I love corn.  I love warm-and-creamy comfort foods.  I love spicy.  I love dips.  And this dip deliciously combines all these wonderful loves of mine.  This recipe is from a friend of mine, who served it at her 40th birthday party.  Let me just say, it was the hit of the party! (Well, aside from the guest-of-honor herself, of course.)  And it's no wonder why.  This dip is so, so, so good.

What could be better than this being a hit-of-the-party kind of dip?  This being a hit-of-the-party kind of dip that is super easy to whip up!

You start with a Mexican blend canned corn.  I tried making it with two different varieties - 'standard' Mexicorn and Chipotle White Corn.  They were both good, but I liked the Mexicorn version better.  By just a little bit.
 
Mexican corn blends

Mix the corn up with some cheese, mayonnaise ... ya know, the typical dip creaminess stuff ... and some chopped jalapeno, just to give it a little attitude.
Tasty creamy comfort is on it's way
Now resist the urge to eat it all up just like this.  Trust me ... getting it all hot and bubbly is worth the wait.

After it's all baked up, dig in.  I served it with pita chips, but it's also great with tortilla or corn chips.  And probably most plain-type crackers, too.  Whatever fits your fancy.
Dig in

So good, you may want to consider making a double batch.  I'm just sayin' ...


Hot Corn Dip
Source:  A friend

Ingredients
1 (11 oz.) can Mexican corn, drained
1 c. shredded Monterrey Jack cheese
1/2 c. shredded Parmesan cheese
1 c. mayonnaise
Several slices jalapeno diced, to taste (fresh or pickled)


Directions
1.  Combine all ingredients.  Spoon into a lightly greased baking dish.  Bake at 350 degrees until bubbly and beginning to brown on top, approximately 30 minutes.  

2.  Serve with tortilla chips, corn chips, pita chips, or crackers.

Enjoy!


This post is linked with Sundae Scoop hosted by I {heart} Naptime, Think Pink Sundays hosted by Flamingo Toes, Savvy HomeMade Monday hosted by Home Savvy A to Z, Mangia Mondays hosted by Delightfully Dowling, Mingle Monday hosted by Add a Pinch, Tuesday Talent Show hosted by Chef in Training, Totally Tasty Tuesdays hosted by Mandy's Recipe Box, These Chicks Cooked hosted by This Chick Cooks, Cast Party Wednesday hosted by Lady Behind the Curtain, It's a Keeper Thursday hosted by It's a Keeper, Creative Juice hosted by Momnivore's Dilemma, Share Your Creations hosted by Kristen's Creations, Foodie Friday hosted by Designs by Gollum, Weekend Bloggy Reading hosted by Serenity Now, Cure for the Common Monday hosted by Lines Across My Face, Strut Your Stuff Saturday hosted by Six Sisters' Stuff.

January 19, 2012

Cherry-Topped Brownie Bites



How absolutely precious are these little cherry-topped brownie bites?  I just love them!  I think they have so much potential ... great for a party ... a potluck ... a Christmas dessert tray .... or Valentine's Day!

And they're so absolutely easy, it's not even funny.  Seriously.  Easy.

All you do is bake up a batch of your favorite brownies.  I used a regular ol' box mix.  Then, use a round cookie cutter or biscuit cutter to cut brownie circles from your pan of brownies.  Be sure to eat all the scraps you want.  It's fun that way.




And finally, top each brownie circle with a cherry and a dab of the 'juice' from a can of cherry pie filling.  Sweet!  You've got cherry-topped brownie bites!  


They're just the perfect size for a little finger food sweet treat.  Serve 'em up on a platter and they're pretty, too.  Fun and tasty doesn't get much easier than that!




Cherry-Topped Brownie Bites
Source:  Adapted from King Arthur Flour, as seen in Christmas Cooking Southern Style magazine, Christmas 2011 edition (special edition of Southern Lady magazine)


Ingredients
You'll need:
A baked batch of your favorite brownies  (I use a box mix)
1 1/2 inch or 2 inch round cookie cutter or biscuit cutter
1 can cherry pie filling


Directions
1.  Cool brownies completely after baking.  

2.  Use a round cookie cutter or biscuit cutter to cut as many circles as possible out of the pan of brownies.  (Note - using a 1 1/2 inch cutter, you'll get around 30 brownie bites from a 9x13" pan.)  

3.  Just before serving, top each brownie circle with a cherry and a bit of the cherry liquid from the cherry pie filling.

Enjoy!


This post is linked with It's a Keeper Thursday hosted by It's a Keeper, Share Your Creations hosted by Kristen's Creations, Creative Juice hosted by Momnivore's Dilemma, Foodie Friday hosted by Designs by Gollum, Valentine's Day Linky Party hosted by Momnivore's Dilemma, Inspiration Friday hosted by At the Picket Fence, BFF Open House hosted by The Answer is Chocolate, Friday Favorites hosted by Simply Sweet Home, Weekend Bloggy Reading hosted by Serenity Now, Sweets for a Saturday hosted by Sweet as Sugar Cookies, Think Pink Sundays hosted by Flamingo Toes, Sweet Indulgences Sunday hosted by  A Well-Seasoned Life, Sundae Scoop hosted by I {heart} Naptime, Savvy HomeMade Monday hosted by Home Savvy A to Z, Mangia Mondays hosted by Delightfully Dowling, Mingle Monday hosted by Add a Pinch, Tea Party Tuesday hosted by Sweetology, Crazy Sweet Tuesday hosted by Crazy for Crust, Tuesday Talent Show hosted by Chef in Training, Totally Tasty Tuesdays hosted by Mandy's Recipe Box, These Chicks Cooked hosted by This Chick Cooks, Cast Party Wednesday hosted by Lady Behind the Curtain, Mrs. Fox's Sweet Party hosted by Mrs. Fox's Sweets, Strut Your Stuff Saturday hosted by Six Sisters' Stuff, Sharing Sundays hosted by Everyday Sisters, Friday Food hosted by Mom Trends.

January 16, 2012

A Hearty Bowl of Chili



I don't know about you, but when the weather turns cold I crave warm-&-toasty, hearty soups and stews.  And what's more satisfying and body-warming than a hearty bowl of chili?  Not much.

When it comes to chili, I have a confession to make.  For the looooooongggest time I made my chili with one of those store-bought little envelopes of chili seasoning.  Now, there's absolutely nothing wrong with that ... but once I discovered how easy it is to throw together my own chili seasoning, and how much more flavorful my own chili mix is ... well, there was no turning back. 


I was introduced to this particular chili by one of my friends back in graduate school in upstate New York (which is way longer ago than I'd care to admit!).  And I've been hooked on this recipe ever since.  It's a really nice blend of cumin and chili powder that results in a medium-spicy-with-a-hint-of-cumin-sweetness end product.

To quote my friend's Mom, who used to make this for us on bitter cold football-watching Albany, NY winter days, "You can't have too much garlic powder or too many onions in this!"  But, as I've found out the hard way, it's best not to monkey with the other seasonings in this recipe ... other amounts just don't taste nearly as good as the original.  I guess some combinations are just meant to be left alone!

This chili is a staple in our household - we probably eat it about every-other-week!  The only change I've made over the years is that I now make it with ground turkey instead of ground beef.  It's great either way.

And, Kate, if you're reading, know that I think about you and your Mom every time I cook this.  Love and miss you both!

We invite you to follow The Kitchen is My Playground with Google+, PinterestFacebookTwitter, bloglovin', or Feedburner.  We'd love to have you back soon!


'Kate's' Chili
Source:  My friend Kate & her Mom


Ingredients
1 lb. ground beef or ground turkey
1 large onion, chopped (add more, if you'd like!  I do.)
Garlic powder, to taste (I put in about 2 tsp.)
Salt & pepper, to taste
2 (15 oz.) cans dark red kidney beans
2 (14.5 oz.) cans stewed tomatoes
1 T. chili powder
1 T. ground cumin
1 T. Worcestershire sauce
1 T. white vinegar


Directions
1. Drain and rinse kidney beans.  

2.  Brown ground beef or turkey, onion, salt, pepper, and garlic powder together in a large saucepan.  (Note - when using ground turkey, I put a small splash of olive oil in the pan.  Since ground turkey has so little fat, it may stick to the pan without the olive oil splash.)

3.  Add remaining ingredients and simmer over medium-low to low heat for 45-60 minutes.

Serve as-is, or with a sprinkling of grated cheddar cheese and/or chopped onions.  I like mine just as-is.

Enjoy!

Please enjoy these other hearty "bowls" from The Kitchen is My Playground...




This post is linked with Mangia Mondays hosted by Shine Your Light, Savvy HomeMade Monday hosted by Savvy HomeMade A to Z, Mingle Monday hosted by Add a Pinch, FaveDiets Blog Hop hosted by FaveDiets, Tuesday Talent Show hosted by Chef in Training, Totally Tasty Tuesdays hosted by Mandy's Recipe Box, These Chicks Cooked hosted by This Chick Cooks, Cast Party Wednesday hosted by Lady Behind the Curtain, It's a Keeper Thursday hosted by It's a Keeper, Creative Juice hosted by Momnivore's Dilemma, Share Your Creations hosted by Kristen's Creations, Cook It! Craft It! Share It!Full Plate ThursdayShowcase Your Talent ThursdayCreate It ThursdayCreativity UnleashedWeekend PotluckFreedom FridaysFoodie FridayKitchen Fun & Crafty FridaySuper SaturdayBest of the WeekendStrut Your Stuff SaturdaySaturday Night FeverThink Pink SundayNifty Thrifty SundayInspiration MondayMonday Funday.

January 10, 2012

Easy Chocolate-&-Honey Fondue



Oh, fabulous fondue.  This is one of my absolute favorite meals to entertain with.  Why?  Because, truly, it's a really easy meal to prepare ... you gather together the stuff, and guests do their cooking themselves.  I mean, how easy is that??  And another thing? - It's just.  Plain.  Fun.

Fondue holds a very special place in my heart.  Growing up, fondue was my family's Christmas Eve tradition.  Mom would prepare three fondue courses - cheese fondue with bread for dipping, steak and shrimp fondue'd (I may have just made that word up) with peanut oil, and chocolate fondue for dessert.  Yum.  I am hard pressed to say which course was my favorite ... so hard to choose.  I can say for sure what my favorite dipper for the chocolate was - marshmallows!  I loved the marshmallows.

Back in those days, our fondue pots were the ones you had to keep a flame burning under as the heat source.  Anyone remember those little Sterno cup-like-things that burned blue flames?  I remember how hard it was for my mom to keep the pots at the right temperature for cooking with those little things.  We'd have to take breaks from the cooking during the steak & shrimp course to let the oil come back up to temperature!  Now, now we're spoiled.  With electric fondue pots.  If you're thinking of getting into fondue'ing, let me tell ya, electric pots are the way to go.  Easy sneezy (as we'd say in 1st grade). 

Recently, Mark and I had the pleasure of having friends over for an evening of fondue.  We had so much fun just chatting away, and cooking, and eating all evening long.  Way too much eating.  But hey, that's nothing loose-waisted pants can't accommodate, right?

So, just how easy is this easy chocolate-&-honey fondue?  Well, all you do is melt up some chocolate, honey, and evaporated milk in a fondue pot, and then dip away to your heart's content.  We usually make a big platter of dippers for people to choose from ... strawberries, bananas, and fresh pineapple are standard for us.  Other great choices ... pieces of pound cake, angel food cake, Rice Krispy treats, pears ...



... oh, and don't forget the marshmallows!  Happy fondue!

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Easy Chocolate & Honey Fondue
Source:  A Tracey original

Ingredients
  • 12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 3/4 c. honey
  • 1/4 to 1/3 c. evaporated milk
Directions
  1. Melt chocolate chips over medium heat in a fondue pot.
  2. Stir in honey. Add evaporated milk until mixture is desired consistency for dipping (I usually add only about 1/4 c. or so).
  3. Keep chocolate mixture warm in fondue pot.

Enjoy!



This post is linked with Tea Party Tuesday hosted by Sweetology, Tuesday Talent Show hosted by Chef in Training, Crazy Sweet Tuesday hosted by Crazy for Crust, These Chicks Cooked hosted by This Chick Cooks, Cast Party Wednesday hosted by Lady Behind the Curtain, Mrs. Fox's Sweet Party hosted by Mrs. Fox's Sweets, It's a Keeper Thursday hosted by It's a Keeper, Creative Juice Thursday hosted by Momnivore's Dilemma, Share Your Creations hosted by Kristen's Creations, Foodie Friday hosted by Designs by Gollum, Inspiration Friday hosted by At the Picket Fence, Sweets for a Saturday hosted by Sweet as Sugar Cookies, Weekend Bloggy Reading hosted by Serenity Now, Sweet Indulgences Sunday hosted by A Well-Seasoned Life, Think Pink Sundays hosted by Flamingo Toes, Sundae Scoop hosted by I {heart} Naptime, The Cure for the Common Monday hosted by Lines Across My Face, Mangia Mondays hosted by Shine Your Light, Savvy HomeMade Monday hosted by Savvy HomeMade A to Z, Totally Tasty Tuesdays hosted by Mandy's Recipe Box, Valentine's Day Linky Party hosted by Momnivore's Dilemma, Sharing Sundays hosted by Everyday Sisters, This Week's Cravings hosted by Mom's Crazy Cooking.

January 7, 2012

Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup with Brie, Spinach & Artichokes {Crazy Cooking Challenge}


It's Crazy Cooking Challenge time! The challenge presented for January by our hostess, Tina of Mom's Crazy Cooking, was  CHICKEN NOODLE SOUP.  The rules?  Our soups must include chicken, our soups must include noodles, and we must have found the recipe out there somewhere in blogland.  That was it ... anything else goes.  And you probably know me by now ... I had to find something that was, well, just a bit different.  I love, love, love to try recipes that have a crazy-sounding flavor combination or just a little something in them you wouldn't ordinarily expect.

Enter ...Elizabeth of Pine Cone and Acorns' Chicken Artichoke Brie Soup.    Ah hah!  I had found my 'little something different.'  Brie in chicken soup?  Oh, I was all over trying that.  And let me just say, I'm sooooooo  glad I did.  This soup is so richly creamy and flavorful, and beautiful, too, with the deep dark green of spinach running all through it.  Yum.

Another great thing with this recipe - it's pretty 'flexible' ... I think you could easily make changes to the ingredients to suit your personal taste and it still be just as wonderful as the original.  Here are the changes I made:
- Added noodles ... mini farfalle (bowties), to be exact.  Hey, The Challenge did require me to use noodles, right?
- Increased the amount of spinach
- Substituted whole milk for the half-&-half and whipping cream (I just couldn't bring myself to use three different kinds of milk in this one single soup!)
- Left a little bit of the rind on my brie, instead of cutting it all completely off.  It broke my heart to cut all the wonderful brie-y-ness off.
- Added a little extra seasoning of salt at the end of the cooking process
- Oh, and I changed the name.  Like Elizabeth suggested, I wanted a name that encompassed all the yummy ingredients in this soup!

So ... let's see how to whip up this totally delicious, creamy dreaminess of a chicken noodle soup. 

Just as so many totally tasty soups begin, start by cooking up some onion, celery, carrots, and garlic in a bit of butter.  Just soften them up a little bit and let them get to know each another.
Oh .... this is how sooooooo many wonderfully tasty soups begin!
Add in some chicken broth ... simmer ... then add in some small pasta ... and simmer again.  I chose to use this mini farfalle, also called bowties.  I loved the itty-bitty size of the mini farfalle.  Isn't it cute?
Mini farfalle - it's so cute!
Next, add in some flour that you've shaken up in a jar with some whole milk.  This starts the 'creamy' part of this creamy dreaminess.  Pour it on in ...
Bring on the creamy!
... and simmer it up for a bit.  Now you're ready to add in the green veggies - artichokes and spinach.

"I'm ready for my dip in the hot tub!"
Stir the veggies in and behold your beautiful soup!  Isn't it just gorgeous with all that deep dark spinachy green in it?  I think so!  Is it weird that I think food can be gorgeous?  I hope not, 'cause I sure do think foods can be stunningly beautiful.
Beautiful soup
Oh, and don't forget the Brie!  Stir this in at the end and get it all melty and creamy.
So-soft-and-squishy Brie
Now, let's talk about the Brie for a minute.  Two things.

Thing 1 - Does the Brie add a flavor element?
In Elizabeth of Pine Cone and Acorns' post, she pondered about whether the Brie added flavor to this soup, or if it simply made it nice and creamy.  Well, I had to explore that question further to find out.  Ya know, that's just what I like to do ... I'm always full of "I wonders."  So, I scooped out some of the soup before I melted in the Brie and later put it to a head-to-head comparison with the Brie'd version.

The verdict??  Brie does add a flavor factor, though it's indeed very mild.  Without doing a side-by-side, head-to-head taste test, I think it would be difficult to discern the Brie flavor element.  But the Brie flavor is indeed there.  The Brie absolutely adds quite a bit of a creaminess factor.  While the non-Brie version is certainly still creamy, the Brie puts this soup over the top in terms of creamy dreaminess.  That being said, if you're not a fan of Brie or just don't feel like running to the store to get some Brie, rest assured that this soup is totally wonderful and flavorful even without it.

Thing 2 - To rind or not to rind? -  that is the question!
The original recipe instructs us to remove the rind from the Brie.  Well, as I mentioned earlier in this post, cutting off all that Brie-y-ness in the rind just broke my heart.  So, I cut off some but also left some on.  I think the answer to this question is a matter of personal preference.  The rind that I left on melted into the soup just like the creamy inside, so there weren't any big ol' rind lumps.  I do think the rind gave fabulous flavor to the soup.  Next time I make this soup, I will simply shave off just a tiny bit of the rind and leave most of it intact.  Personally, I love the flavor of Brie rind.  But, if you don't, cut it off.

Serve this flavorful soup up with a salad and some biscuits or crusty bread, and you've got yourself one tasty and hearty meal.  Enjoy!




Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup with Brie, Spinach & Artichokes
Source:  Adapted from Pine Cone and Acorns Chicken Artichoke Brie Soup
Ingredients
3 T. butter
1 c. chopped carrots (about 2 carrots)
1 c. chopped celery (about 2 stalks)
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 (14.5 oz.) cans chicken broth
1/2 tsp. ground white or black pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
2 c. whole milk
1/4 c. all purpose flour
1 c. small pasta (I used mini farfalle - a.k.a. mini 'bowties')
2 c. cooked chopped chicken (I used the white meat from a store-bought rotisserie chicken)
Additional 1 c. whole milk
1 (10 oz.) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and well-drained
1 (9 oz.) package frozen artichoke hearts
4 1/2 oz. Brie or Camembert cheese, some or all of the rind removed, and cut into chunks


Directions
1.  In a large saucepan, melt butter.  Add carrots, celery, onion, and garlic; cook until tender, about 5-7 minutes. 

2.  Add chicken broth, salt, and pepper.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes.

3.  Increase heat to return broth mixture to a slow boil.  Add pasta; reduce heat to medium and simmer until pasta is al dente, about 5-7 minutes.

4.  Combine 2 cups whole milk and flour in a large screw-top jar.  Cover and shake well until smooth.  Stir into soup.  Increase heat back to medium-high; cook and stir until thickened and bubbly, about 8 minutes.  Reduce heat to medium.

5.  Stir in chicken, additional 1 cup whole milk, artichokes, spinach, and Brie.  Cook and stir over medium heat about 5 minutes more until the soup is heated through and the Brie is melted.  Be careful not to let the soup scorch.

6.  Give the soup a taste, and add salt as needed.  I found that an additional 1/2 teaspoon or so of salt added at the end of the cooking time really brightened up the flavors in this hearty soup.



Random thoughts:
- This soup is flavorful and delicious both with and without the Brie.
- Including the Brie's rind or cutting it off is a matter of personal flavor preference.
- I think this soup would be equally good with or without the artichokes.  So, if you're not an artichoke fan, simply leave them out.
- You could make this with turkey, too.  Great to use up leftovers from a big ol' turkey!
- Make sure to taste the soup at the end of it's cooking and add some salt, if needed.  I found that a little sprinkling of salt at the end really brightened up the flavors.



Have fun checking out the other Crazy Cooking Challenge participants through the links below. Looks like there are some fabulous chicken noodle soup variations. Hmmm ... which shall I give a whirl first??
Photobucket

This post is linked with Think Pink Sundays hosted by Flamingo Toes, Sundae Scoop hosted by I {heart} Naptime, Mangia Mondays hosted by Shine Your Light, Savvy HomeMade Monday hosted by Home Savvy A to Z, Tasty Tuesday, Tuesday Talent Show hosted by Chef in Training, Totally Tasty Tuesdays hosted by Mandy's Recipe Box, These Chicks Cooked hosted by This Chick Cooks, Cast Party Wednesday hosted by Lady Behind the Curtain, It's a Keeper Thursday hosted by It's a Keeper, Creative Juice Thursday hosted by Momnivore's Dilemma, Share Your Creations hosted by Kristen's Creations, Foodie Friday hosted by Designs by Gollum, Inspiration Friday hosted by At the Picket Fence.



January 3, 2012

Traditional New Year's Day Collards {Pressure Cooker Method}


Every Southerner knows the traditional New Year's Day meal is collards, some form of pork, and black-eyed peas.  Why, you ask?  Because this, according to lore, brings you luck and good fortune for the upcoming year.

According to Southern Living, collards and black-eyed peas "all but guarantee a prosperous year. Some say the greens represent dollar bills and the peas, coins, ensuring wealth and luck."  And, one reason pork is traditional for New Year's Day according to About.com is that "pigs have also long symbolized progress. A pig can't turn his head to look back without turning completely around, so it's believed that pigs are always looking to the future. They fit in perfectly with other New Year's celebrations."

Now, I'm not sure if this is true or not, but I'd rather not tempt fate to find out!

My husband Mark took point to prepare our New Year's Day meal this year, giving his pressure cooker a whirl for the collards and pork.  And boy oh boy, were those collards tasty and tender!  I can absolutely say they were the best collards I've ever had.  And I'm not just saying that because my cute husband made them.

He loaded his pressure cooker up with collards ...


... and then put in some onions, garlic, ham hocks, and other good stuff.


He cooked it for about 20 minutes or so, and delivered up the most super tasty and tender collards I've ever had. 



So, whether or not you ate your collards, pork, and black-eyed peas on New Year's Day, Mark and I wish you much luck and prosperity in 2012!

Collard Greens {Pressure Cooker Method}
Source: Adapted from Yummly
Ingredients
1 bunch fresh collard greens
1 1/2 c. chicken broth
2 T. olive oil
2 T. tomato paste
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 T. balsamic vinegar
2 tsp. salt
2 large onions, quartered
2 ham hocks
1/4 lb. hog jaw or fatback


Directions
1.  Clean your collards by filling your sink with cold water and soaking them for 1/2 hour. Remove the thick part of the stems at the bottom of the greens. Give the collards a rough chop to cut them into large pieces.

2.  Place the chicken broth, olive oil, tomato paste, minced garlic, balsamic vinegar, and salt in the bottom of the pressure cooker; stir to combine. Add collards and toss a bit to coat them with the chicken broth mixture.

3.  Place the onions, ham hocks, and hog jaw on top of the collards.

4.  Seal the pressure cooker pot. Pressure cook for 20 minutes.

Enjoy!

This post is linked with It's a Keeper Thursday hosted by It's a Keeper.

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