Monday, December 21, 2009

Tortilla Soup


  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 (10.5 ounce) can condensed chicken broth
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 1 cup whole corn kernels, cooked
  • 1 cup white hominy
  • 1 (4 ounce) can chopped green chile peppers
  • 1 (15 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 boneless chicken breast halves, cooked and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • crushed tortilla chips
  • sliced avocado
  • shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • chopped green onions


  1. In a medium stock pot, heat oil over medium heat. Saute onion and garlic in oil until soft. Stir in chili powder, oregano, tomatoes, broth, and water. Bring to a boil, and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes.
  2. Stir in corn, hominy, chiles, beans, cilantro, and chicken. Simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Ladle soup into individual serving bowls, and top with crushed tortilla chips, avocado slices, cheese, and chopped green onion.
I read every single review (all 114) prior to making this soup, so I changed a few things. It turned out wonderfully!! Here's how I did it: I diced two boneless, skinless chicken breasts and cooked them prior to starting with the olive oil, 2 cloves garlic and 1/2 cup diced onion. Then I added 4 cans condensed chicken broth (many people said the soup was very thick - chili-like consistency, and I wanted more of a soup). I also added a can of water (filled a broth can with water). I added the crushed tomatoes (28 oz), the hominy (15 oz), the diced green chili peppers (4 oz), 1 tsp each of cumin (instead of oregano as many reviewers suggested), lime juice and garlic powder, and 1/2 tsp of chili powder. I brought to a boil and let simmer for 1 hour (as others also suggested). Top with shredded monterey jack cheese and garnish w/ tortilla chips.

Pasta Fagioli

So a friend of mine used to make this for us years ago. He lived in Italy for a while and picked up some delicious authentic recipes. Pasta Fagioli translates to "pasta and beans." In the winter, this counts as a 'poor man's meal' or pantry meal for me if I use canned tomatoes. But if tomatoes are in season, you should definitely use them! This makes my whole house smell like heaven with fresh tomatoes and basil in the summer.

The recipe calls for adding the dry noodles to the sauce. I prefer to cook the noodles in a pot of salted water separately while the sauce is simmering so I don't have to "babysit" them quite so much.

Olive Oil
Sweet Onion
Canned Cannellini/Great Northern beans (reserve a few for a garnishing the top of each bowl)
Salt and Pepper
Spaghetti noodles

In your blender or food processor combine: 3 T. olive oil, 2 springs of basil, 3 medium size tomatoes or 5 small tomatoes, 2 gloves of garlic, 1/2 cup onion. Blend.

Add: 1 can of great northern beans, rinsed. Salt and Pepper to taste. Blend. The beans absorb alot of the salt, so be generous with the salt.

Pour sauce into large stock pot and cook on medium. Reduce heat and allow sauce to simmer. Sauce will change from pinkish-orange to redish-orange. Once sauce is simmering add noodles.

When I add my noodles, I like to break them in half. Place right on top of sauce, then, take about 2 cups of water and pour into pot just covering noodles. Stir periodically on simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes ~ until water is absorbed.

Serve with generous helping of shredded parmesan cheese, the reserved beans, and a little extra basil.

No-Knead artisan bread

Someone gave me this recipe a few years ago. My only complaint about it is that I need to think about it ahead of time. I start this bread when I know I'm going to make soup/stew/pasta the next day. You can even start two loaves at once and bake them on consecutive days. Allowing it to rise an additional day just makes it better! Kolby claims this is as good or better than any ciabatta we buy at the store.

My notes: if I'm making two loaves and letting one rise an additional day, I'll "punch" the second loaf down with a spatula when I'm getting ready to make the first loaf, and then cover it up with saran wrap and let it rise and get bubbly again.

Also, for baking it I either use a metal mixing bowl and my pizza stone, or sometimes I'll dig out my cast iron camping dutch oven.

And to store the leftover portion, put it cut side down on a cutting board and store in the microwave.

Adapted from Jim Lahey, Sullivan Street Bakery

Time: About 1½ hours plus 14 to 20 hours’ rising

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1¼ teaspoons salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed.

1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.

2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

Yield: One 1½-pound loaf.

Lentil and Sausage soup

My friend Nancy made a soup similar to this one night when she had us over for dinner. I tracked down a similar recipe on allrecipes that I make frequently and LOVE. This is Madeline's all-time favorite soup that I make. It makes a huge pot, so I usually freeze it in quart size ziploc bags for a few quick and easy dinners. Serve with yummy bread.

(The recipe calls for pasta at the end...I've never added the pasta.)


  • 1/2 pound sweet Italian sausage (I always use spicy Italian)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 1 (16 ounce) package dry lentils, rinsed
  • 1 cup shredded carrot
  • 8 cups water
  • 2 (14.5 ounce) cans chicken broth
  • 1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 tablespoon salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 pound ditalini pasta (optional)


  1. Place sausage in a large pot. Cook over medium high heat until evenly brown. Add onion, celery and chopped garlic, and saute until tender and translucent. Stir in lentils, carrot, water, chicken broth and tomatoes. Season with garlic powder, parsley, bay leaves, oregano, thyme, basil, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat. Cover, and simmer for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, or until lentils are tender.
  2. Stir in pasta, and cook 15 to 20 minutes, or until pasta is tender.


5 T butter
1 cup chopped onion
2 cups cooked chicken, chopped or shredded
4 oz chopped green chiles
1/4 cup flour
1 T chili powder
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups shredded Monterey Jack
12 tortillas-I prefer flour

Melt 2 T. butter and cook onions until softened. Remove to a bowl. Add chicken and green chiles. Melt remaining butter. Blend in flour and seasonings. Whisk in chicken broth. Cook, stirring until sauce boils. Remove from heat. Stir in sour cream and ½ cup cheese. Stir ½ cup sauce into chicken mixture. Spoon chicken mixture into tortillas and roll up. Place in 9x13 pan. Top with remaining sauce and cheese. Bake uncovered at 350 for about 25 minutes.

Gingersnaps aka Pioneer Woman Molasses Cookies

I have a hard time giving Pioneer Woman credit for these, because 15 years ago my sister-in-law, Jen Blackham, gave me the gingersnap recipe her family had been making for years and gingersnaps have been part of my family's Christmas tradition ever since. The Pioneer Woman recipe is identical, except for the addition of cardamom. I'm not sure if the cardamom adds much, so if you don't have it, don't go spend the $8 on it. (Or if you live close, give me a call! I have two bottles.)

Now PW doesn't say to refrigerate her dough, but I'll tell you that if you don't you will have a very flat cookie. Which isn't necessarily a disaster--we used our first batch of flat cookies with pumpkin icecream to make icecream sandwiches and they were delicious. But I prefer my gingersnaps slightly undercooked and a little puffy. So I refrigerate before baking, and then take them out of the oven just after they start to crack.
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • ¾ cups Crisco (vegetable Shortening)
  • ¼ cups Molasses
  • 1 whole Egg
  • 2 cups Flour
  • 1 teaspoon Cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoons Ground Cloves
  • 1 teaspoon Ground Ginger
  • ¼ teaspoons Ground Cardamom
  • ¼ teaspoons Salt
  • 2-½ teaspoons Baking Soda
Preparation Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix sugar, shortening, molasses, and egg together until well combined. Dump in dry ingredients, stirring dry ingredients together lightly. Mix together until dough is combined.

Refrigerate for 2-3 hours, or overnight.

In your hands roll dough into walnut-sized balls, then generously coat each ball with sugar. Place balls on a baking sheet and bake for 8 to 10 minutes, allowing to bake for about a minute after cookies begin to crack.

Remove cookies from baking sheet and allow to cool…although these are delicious while still warm.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup butter

1 cup dark brown sugar

1 cup white sugar

2 tsp. vanilla

2 eggs

3 c. flour

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. baking soda

12 oz. milk chocolate chips

¾ cup walnuts, finely chopped into a nut flour

Cream together butter and sugars. Add vanilla and eggs. Sift and then add flour, salt, and baking soda,. Once dough is evenly mixed, add the nut flour and chocolate chips. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 mins until lightly brown.

Spicy Pretzels

My friend Stephanie shared this recipe with us a few years ago. It is FABULOUS. The only bad part of the recipe is the wait. You can start eating them immediately--but you really shouldn't. They are so much better once they've "marinated" a bit.

Take gallon ziploc bag and add

3/4-1 cup of OLIVE oil

1 package of dry Ranch dip

1 tsp of lemon pepper

1 tsp of garlic powder (do not use garlic salt)

3/4-1 tsp of cayenne pepper

Mix that around....and then add a bag of pretzels. I usually add pretzels to the top of the bag and then toss bag around and mix up. Every 20 mins or so, move the bag around to mix up the seasoning.

They are best the longer they sit so if you want them for a party tomorrow, make them tonight or early tomorrow am.

Notes from Steph: I think the best pretzels to use are Kroger WINDOW shaped pretzels. I know Rold Gold puts out a Xmas pretzel, which I think are at Walmart and I hate going there..but I usually do a bag of window pretzels and then some of the Rold Gold twists.

I do not like Snyder pretzels...they do not hold the coating well and they have hardly any salt.

Cranberry Salsa

Serve this with tortilla chips, or pour over a block of cream cheese and serve with crackers.

1 bag of fresh cranberries

1 granny smith apple

2 T pickled jalapenos

3 T cilantro

1/3 C red onion

1 t lime zest

1/3 C apple juice

1/2 C sugar

fresh lime juice to taste

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Chicken Pot Pie--weeknight version

My kids love chicken pot pie. Serious comfort food at our house. A few years ago my friend Jodie made a decadent version for a group of us, and I love to make that for guests, or for make-ahead meals.

But a few months ago my friend Stephanie shared this recipe, and I make it every few weeks now. It is the kind of meal you can make before picking the kids up from school, put in the oven with the timer set to turn on, and it's done when you get back from afterschool activities.

This will feed my family of 4 for two meals. It's every bit as good reheated in the oven for leftovers.

Chicken Pot Pie

Refrigerated pie crusts
1 cup diced potatoes, parboiled
1 cup sliced carrots, parboiled
2 cups diced chicken
Frozen peas, pearl onions, and corn as desired
1 or 2 cans of cream of chicken soup
1/4 cup milk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Allow pie crusts to sit at room temperature for 15 minutes until easy to handle. Parboil potatoes and carrots for a few minutes. (I do this step so I don't end up with a burnt crust and crunchy potatoes). Drain. Mix vegetables and cream of chicken soup in a bowl, adding milk if needed for saucy consistency. Place one pie crust into bottom of pie pan. Add vegetable mixture and cover with remaining pie crust. Pinch edges to seal and cut slits in top crust for venting.

Bake for 40-45 minutes until crust is golden brown.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Feta Stuffed Chicken

This is a recipe that I got out of Cooking Light. It's a great dish to impress guests. A nice meal to serve at a dinner party. It's relatively easy to put together and healthy enough to have any night of the week. Enjoy!

1 (4 oz) skinned, boned chicken breast halves
1/4 cup dry breadcrumbs
1/4 cup (1 oz) crumbled feta cheese with basil and tomato (note: I've used plain feta in this with good results)
Vegetable cooking spray
1 1/2 teaspoons margarine or butter, melted
3 cups torn spinach or baby spinach
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1 TBS balsamic vinegar
1 tsp olive oil
1/8 tsp pepper

Place each chicken breast half between 2 sheets heavy-duty plastic wrap; pound with mallet or rolling pin to 1/4 inch thickness. Dredge chicken in breadcrumbs. Spoon 1 tablespoon feta cheese onto each piece of chicken; fold chicken in half.
Place folded breast halves in an 8-inch square baking dish coated with cooking spray. Drizzle chicken with melted butter or margarine. Bake, uncovered at 400 degrees for 25 minutes or until chicken is done.
Combine spinach and basil in a bowl; drizzle with vinegar and oil. Sprinkle pepper over salad; toss well. Serve chicken over salad. Yield: 4 servings. Serving size 1 chicken breast half and 3/4 cup salad.
Calories 207 Protein 29.6, Fat 6.2

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Tomato Soup

I always hated tomato soup from a can, but when I lived in Utah there was a cafe that had the yummiest tomato soup, and I always craved it when we moved to Portland. So one afternoon I had a bunch of girlfriends over for a playdate, and I tried out a homemade tomato soup recipe for the first time. It turned out pretty good, but I've since switched to the Elephant's Deli tomato orange soup recipe.

Serve it with grilled cheese sandwiches on sourdough bread. Mmm mmm good.

Elephant Deli Tomato Orange Soup

1/4 cup butter
1/2 medium onion, diced
2 15 oz. cans diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, or 1 T. fresh thyme
1 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup of heavy cream (see notes)

In a saucepan, melt the butter. Add the diced onion and saute until translucent. Add tomatoes, salt, pepper, baking soda, and thyme. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered for about 15 minutes. Puree in a food processor or blender. (I use my Braun hand blender and do it right in the pan.) Return to pan and stir in the orange juice. Heat through. Stir in the cream and serve.

Notes: don't substitute the cream with half and half or milk. It will leave a weird texture. If you want to lighten it up, omit the cream entirely.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Kefte Recipe

I grew up eating Keftes. Over the years I have made some modifications. Here is the latest and greatest version:

2lb ground beef
2 eggs
10 or so crumbled saltines
1/2 cup parsley chopped
1/2 cup onions chopped

In a large bowl crumble the raw ground beef add remaining ingredients as well as a generous amount of salt and pepper. Work together with hands to combine all ingredients. Heat two tablespoons of oil in a skillet and form small (no bigger than 3-4 inches in diameter) patties. Brown patties in pan until nearly cooked through. Place cooked patties on a cookie sheet lined with paper towels to absorb extra oil. Once all patties are browned place them in a 9X13 baking dish and pre-heat oven to 350.
While the oven is heating make the sauce.

Sauce recipe:

1 can of tomato sauce
1 cans of diced stewed tomatoes (pureed)
Pepper to taste
Johnny's Greek seasoning to taste
1/4 to 1/2 cup of lemon juice
Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. This is where you have to decide how flavorful you want your sauce. I add at least on tbsp of Johnny's and a tsp of pepper to start. I like lemon so I would probably opt for the 1/2 c of lemon juice for this size recipe. The consistency of the sauce s/be watery more watery than spaghetti sauce. I believe the sauce should be well flavored so that when it is baked with the Keftes the Keftes absorb the extra flavor. Just add spices and lemon and taste it as you go.

Pour sauce over the Keftes. The sauce should nearly fully cover the Keftes. If you need more add more Pureed tomatos.

Bake for 30 minutes in the oven. If 350 is too hot reduce heat to 300 after 15 minutes. You don't want all of your sauce to burn onto the sides of the pan.

Serve over rice. I usually make a nice Greek Style salad with this meal.

Some modifications you could make: Use 1/2 ground lamb and 1/2 ground beef for a more authentic flavor. You can also use ground turkey. When I use the ground turkey I usually season it with Cumin instead of just salt and pepper. I have also gotten creative with adding chopped spinach to my meat mixture to add additional vegies to my family's diet. Try anything!
Let me know if you have questions...hope I didn't forget anything!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Cooking with girlfriends

A few years ago Kristin and I decided that it was time for Rachel to impart a bit of her Greek cooking wisdom on us and teach us how to make dolmas.  That experience is the first time I can remember, as an adult, cooking with girlfriends.  It was such a fun afternoon sitting in Rachel's sunny kitchen, repeatedly folding seasoned rice into grape leaves while we solved all the world's problems.   Or maybe we discussed the antics of Hollywood celebrities.  I forget which.   Regardless, it made what could have been a very mundane task so enjoyable, and cooking with girlfriends has been on my list of favorite things ever since.

When I can't actually cook with them, I still enjoy using their recipes. 

This is a blog to share the recipes we make for and with each other, and the stories that go along with them.