Friday, April 13, 2012

Homemade Classic Chicken Soup

When it looks like this outside the last thing I want to do is venture outside the confines of my warm apartment. Early this morning I decided to make one trip out into the deluge. Inspired by the cold I picked up the following items:

It's really (almost) this simple. This recipe tastes better than, and costs less than Progresso Chicken Noodle Soup, with less fat and sodium! Since it was rainy all day and I didn't really have any excuse to leave my house I picked up a whole chicken and slow roasted it all morning. This takes several hours so if you prefer, just use a ready-made rotisserie chicken (typically $7-$10 at your local supermarket). If you roast your own chicken do so an hour in advance to give it time to cool before you dig in and make sure it's well done and moist so the meat falls right off the bone.

Chicken Noodle Soup
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hr

5 cloves of garlic
2 large carrots
3 celery stalks
1.5 white onions
1 whole chicken
1 qt + 1 can chicken broth
1 bag egg noodles
1 bunch parsley
sea salt

Start by sautéing your chopped soup base (onion, carrot, celery, garlic) in a pan for 5-7 minutes or until the carrots start to soften and the onions are almost translucent. 

Transfer the cooked veggies into your large soup pot, cover them in chicken stock and one cup of water, add a dash of black pepper and bring them to a boil over medium heat. Once the liquid boils reduce to low heat and let the veggies simmer in the chicken stock while you take care of your chicken.

 While the stock heats up begin removing the chicken from the bones. This is a pretty messy job so don't be afraid to get your hands dirty. One chicken should provide over a pound of meat. Chop the chicken so that the pieces are less than an inch wide then add it to your simmering veggie mix.
By the time you add the chicken your soup pot will probably be pretty full. Top the liquid off by adding water until level it covers both the meat and veggies an inch of liquid. Turn the heat up and bring the whole thing to a boil. Once you reach a boil fill the rest of the pot with egg noodles and stir the soup to combine them with the rest of the ingredients. Reduce the heat and let it simmer for 30 minutes. 

Get cozy, crank up Netflix and enjoy your warm, delicious, homemade chicken soup! 

Friday, April 6, 2012

(Im)Patiently Waiting for Summer - Summer Squash Pasta Salad Time!

With spring in the air a new host of fresh vegetables and herbs is available. Here in Los Feliz the neighbors have taken to landscaping with a friendly mix of herbs, fruits and vegetables. Rather than spend a fortune on rosemary, chives, citrus…etc. We take a stroll down Finley Ave to chat with the neighbors and return home with our hands full!

To make good use of our fresh finds I whipped up an inviting summer salad and herb infused grilled flat bread (more on that later).

Zucchini and Pasta Salad

Prep: 10 minutes
Cooking: 20 minutes

2 or 3 medium sized Zucchini
1 Yellow Squash
1 White Italian Squash
1 yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
½ package of cherub tomatoes, halved
½ cup fresh grated parmesan
olive oil
½ cup white wine
2 tbl honey
3 springs fresh rosemary
pasta or egg noodles
Sea Salt/Pepper

Large salad/mixing bowl

Cook your noodles first so you can strain and let them cool a little bit before adding them to your salad.

Cook the onions garlic and rosemary in a healthy amount of olive oil until the onions begin to wilt. Once things are really sizzling add the white wine and honey. Let this mixture cook for a few minutes until the onions are translucent and take on a really rich flavor from the wine and honey. Pour the onion/garlic mixture into your salad bowl, leaving some of the liquid in your pan to cook the squash. Add some black pepper to the onions and let them rest uncovered.

 Next, add the squash to your hot, oiled pan. Squash should be cut into ½ pieces. If the pan is too dry, add some oil to keep things from sticking, not too much though as you want your squash to brown a little bit, not drown in oil.  Hopefully you were able to reserve a decent amount of the liquid from the onions to cook your squash so they will pick up some of the rich flavor from the honey/wine mixture.

Once the squash are fully cooked add them to your resting onions, add your tomatoes and Parmesan and then toss the veggies together before adding your noodles. Stir the noodles in with a wooden spoon to keep from breaking them apart. Wait until the last step to add your salt as you might find that the combination of tomatoes cheese and wine does the trick!

This recipe is delicious served both hot and cold. I like to refrigerate it for a couple of hours to let the flavors really come together.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Chocolate & Pear Tart: A Stay-cation Indulgence

I called Aaron at work the other day. I was bored; it was just 3 days before my last day at work and the beginning of our two week staycation. I was hoping he would be willing to take a short break and entertain me - just for a few minutes. 

me: Hi! What's going on... just three more days!!!!
Aaron: Honey, I'm really busy, I can't talk right now. 


Grrr... not exactly the reaction that I hoped for. I picked up the phone and dialed again. 

Aaron: What? I told you, I am swamped. 
me: I'm making a pear tart this weekend.
Aaron: Whatever, I have to go. 



Usually the threat of decadent, indulgent baked goods gets him to listen, sometimes because he is looking forward to eating them, but usually because he tries to put the kibosh on future fattening concoctions showing up in the kitchen. His brush off meant that I would be making a tart that evening!  

I raced home from the office and started whipping up a crust so that the tart would be well underway by the time that Aaron got home. Mission accomplished! The crust was complete before Aaron arrived, and I was halfway through the filling before he realized what was taking place in our kitchen.


 Recipe after the jump!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Farm to Table isn't as cool as Garden to Table!

Since moving to the Hudson River Valley, we have decided to fully embrace the farm-to-table movement, eating local and shopping at the farmers market, and even the actual farm when we can. The mild winter and seed displays at the local nursery have inspired me to try growing my own tiny vegetable supply.

Living where the suburbs meets the country has left me with the illusion that I have a green thumb. I had some success in Hoboken with flowers and herbs, but really only fool-proof stuff like basil and hydrangeas. Despite multiple attempts, I was never able to coax an actual vegetable out of a plant. I keep telling myself that this time will be different. Right.

Our backyard looks like it could be a film set for Bambi in the summer, which does not bode well for my potential harvest. I am not willing to fight the bunnies and groundhogs for my produce, so my mini-farm will be limited to what I can fit in pots on the deck.

I started small, ordering only green zebra tomatoes (why not go big with heirlooms on the first try), sugar-baby watermelon and zinnias from the Landreth Seed Catalog to get started. Apparently I am not the first person out here to feel inspired by the area - the local nursery had an entire display of seed germinating kits for dummies at the front of the store. They do everything but actually plant and water the seeds for you. If this doesn't work, I am truly pathetic.

I can do this! Two weeks later, I have a plethora of zinnia sprouts, but only two anemic looking little tomato plants peeking out of the soil. Watermelon seeds will be planted this evening. Stay tuned for updates on how this experiment progresses. Will this be my first and only foray into starting with seedlings, or will I be so successful that a greenhouse is in order to start the variety of seeds I will want next summer?

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Monday, March 5, 2012

Homemade Thai Feast

Los Angeles is the land of sunshine, beautiful people and opportunity. It’s a melting pot of cultures and attitudes. To expect delicious worldly cuisine here goes without saying.

For those of you that are unfamiliar with Los Feliz, it’s a culturally vibrant, creative hotspot adjacent to Hollywood. My one-room studio apartment overlooks the Griffith Observatory and the Hollywood Hills. There is plenty of natural light and a modest kitchen. The all-white kitchen is replete with fridge (a luxury here in the world of Los Angeles rentals), Gas Cooktop, Gas Match-light Oven (affectionately referred to as "vintage"), Sink (also "vintage"), and one power outlet. There is no microwave, nothing is reheated, and all the food is fresh.

What we lack in luxury and fine technology we make up for with creativity and flavor. Even if you find yourself in a tiny space in an expensive city, there is no reason to settle for so-so food and no excuse for not eating fresh, homemade, and in season.

On this particular Thursday night we whipped up one of our favorite take-out specialties. We made drunken noodles with shrimp and steamed shrimp dumplings. Drunken noodles or Pad Kee Mao is a traditionally spicy, Chinese inspired dish that one would find in a Laotian or Thai kitchen. If you find yourself without the means to visit our friends in the East you can pick up a delicious interpretation at Pattaya Bay on Vermont Ave. or try your hand at this simple recipe!

Steamed Shrimp Dumplings

Dumpling Wrappers (found in the refrigerated section of your local grocer)
½ small head of Green Cabbage
½ lb Shrimp
6 cloves Garlic
2 tablespoons chopped Ginger Root
Sesame Oil (a bit pricey but worth it. If you must, cut it 50/50 with a cheaper oil)
Black Pepper
Green Onions
1 Egg

You cannot have too much fresh ginger or garlic in a steamed dumpling, so don’t hold back. We cooked the fresh ginger, garlic, green onion, cabbage and shrimp in a generous amount of sesame oil. After it was done cooking we tried chopping it to get the fine consistency that you normally find in a dumpling, but this proved to be very messy. A whirl in the food processor is a better bet.

The key to successful dumpling folding is raw egg. Crack your egg into a cup or bowl. Every time you reach for a fresh dumpling wrap, use your fingers to coat the inside of it with raw egg; it’s like delicious dumpling glue!

If you don’t have a steamer try this: strainer on top of a soup pot with a lid! Make sure you coat the strainer with a generous amount of oil or cooking spray. Otherwise the dumplings will stick and you will find yourself with yet another delicious mess. Also dumplings will stick together so unless you oil your dumplings avoid letting them touch in the steamer, or risk messy, ugly, albeit delicious dumplings.

Drunken Noodles with Shrimp

Jalapeno Pepper
Serrano Chili Pepper
Thai Chili Pepper
Basically any spicy pepper you can get your hands on
Large Red Bell Pepper
Sweet Onion
Thai Basil (or regular basil)
A ton of Garlic (about 10 cloves for one pack noodles)
Fresh Ginger
Soy Sauce
Fish Sauce (WARNING: Do NOT smell the fish sauce)
Brown Sugar
Wide Flat Rice Noodles
1 Egg

Sauce: For one pack of wide flat rice noodles we use less than ¼ cup fish sauce, 1.5 tablespoons brown sugar and about 1/4 cup of soy sauce.

It's important that you do not boil and strain your wide flat rice noodles. Place the noodles in a large pot or bowl, pour hot water over them and let them soak for about 30-minutes. Stir occasionally so they don’t stick together.

Cook your peppers, onion, garlic, and ginger in a generous amount of oil. Once they are about ¾ of the way cooked, add your brown sugar, basil, soy sauces, and fish sauce. WARNING: fish sauce smells TERRIBLE my cat wouldn’t even eat it. When you smell the fish sauce don’t fret, your food is not ruined. Like strong vinegar, when you reduce the sauce the pungency cooks out and it’s delish.

Once your noodles are soft enough, drain the water and toss them in with the egg and the rest of your ingredients. Serve the searing hot mixture over a bed of lettuce or cabbage.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Lazy Sunday Lunch: Mushroom & Pesto Paninis

Saying that it has been a crazy year is perhaps the understatement of the decade around my house. Since I have been gone, life has completely changed. We moved from a city apartment to a country house, changed jobs, and most significantly, had a baby. In the midst of all that we dealt with hurricanes, blizzards, lay-offs, among other things related to relocating and having kids. This past weekend was the first time in a long time that Aaron and I were able to sit back, relax, and enjoy a few serene and peaceful days. This meant that rather than quickly reheating leftovers for lunch between errands on Sunday, we actually had the time and energy to make something.  

One of our favorite things about living in the Hudson River Valley is that we are really able to indulge in true farm-to-table cooking. We shop almost exclusively at our local farmers market, when we are not visiting the farms themselves. While we do enjoy taking locavor-ism to an extreme, it isn't without challenges during northeastern winters, as the selection becomes, well, pretty limited. After weeks and weeks of all variety of squash, Aaron couldn't take it anymore and demanded a change. So...

We moved on to mushrooms! Not very exciting, but at least something a bit of a deviation from the endless kabocha and butternut we had been eating through the dark days of winter. Fortunately I did have a container of homemade pesto tucked away in the back of the freezer waiting for that moment that comes towards the end of every winter when you are desperate for even the smallest taste of summer.

In 2011, this blog wasn't the only thing to go on hiatus. I also took an unfortunate break from bread making and am only slowly starting to get back into my former loaf-a-weekend groove. I have an enormous lack of trust in my oven - somehow I seem to burn everything - and fear of failure has made me apprehensive about getting started again. Though I dreamed of ciabatta for the panini, a simple white sandwich loaf was about all I could muster.

Add some creamy fresh mozzarella from the Italian dude at the market, and lunch is ready!

Friday, February 24, 2012

It's been a little quiet around here...

Might be time to get this thing cranked back up. I never intended to go dark for so long, but a lot has happened. A move, a baby, a new job...

Hoboken Cupcake is in Hoboken no more. We picked up and moved to Northern Westchester county, just above New York City, where I hope to take advantage of all of the farm-to-table goodness that the Hudson Valley has to offer.

In addition, my sister, the Los Feliz Burrito will be contributing from the west coast. I'm hoping she can keep things exciting in the darkest months of winter when there is nothing but turnips and potatoes for me to write about.

Stay tuned for a blog facelift and some new content.