Thursday, September 30, 2010

Chipotle Chicken and Tomato Soup

While I am not quite ready for the start of fall and the cold weather ahead, I am very excited about the start of soup season!  Last week I was telling a coworker how anxious I was to start making homemade soup  and she looked at me like I was crazy.  Her response was "you can do that?"  She thought making soup was an all day process.  For those of you that have made soup before you know that it doesn't have to be an all day event.  While I have a few soup recipes that are more labor intensive most can be made in under 30 minutes.

I came across this recipe for Chipotle Chicken and Tomato Soup years ago in Cooking Light Magazine and it is one of my favorites.  This soup is quick and easy to throw together and requires a limited amount of ingredients. 

Chipotle Chicken and Tomato Soup
** adapted from Cooking Light

Prep/Cook Time: 20 minutes
Yields: 6 servings

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
2 (15.5-ounce) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
2 (14.5-ounce) can no-salt-added stewed tomatoes
2 (14-ounce) can fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 chipotle chile, canned in adobo sauce, finely chopped (I add 2 chipotle chiles because I prefer it spicier)
2 cups chopped cooked chicken breast (about 1/2 pound)
sour cream (optional garnish)
cilantro, chopped (optional garnish)

Combine first 5 ingredients in a large saucepan; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes. Partially mash tomatoes and beans with a potato masher. Stir in chicken; cook 2 minutes or until thoroughly heated. 

Top each serving with a bit of sour cream and chopped cilantro if desired.

** If you have an Immersion Blender I would highly recommend using it to mash the tomatoes and beans, it works really well.  A food processor could be used as well.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

Homemade chocolate chip cookies are pretty hard to beat.  Chocolate, sugar, butter, what's not to like? They make me think of baking with my mom and eating raw dough till I got a stomach ache (which I continue to do despite the fact that I can still hear my mom warning me about salmonella poisoning).

I was always a fan of the Nestle Tollhouse recipe. That all changed a few years ago when I came across this recipe on  These cookies were amazing and instantly became my favorite go to chocolate chip cookie  recipe.  Over the summer I came across a recipe that claimed to be the best, I figured I would give it a try and ended up being deeply disappointed.  From that moment I vowed to never try another chocolate chip cookie recipe again!

Award Winning Chocolate Chip Cookies
** adapted from

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 10-12 minutes per cookie sheet
Yields: 36 cookies

2 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 c. butter, softened
3/4 c. packed brown sugar
1/4 c. white sugar
1 (3.4 oz) package instant vanilla pudding mix
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
bag of semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Sift together the flour and baking soda, set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, and white sugar. Beat in the instant pudding mix until blended. Stir in the eggs and vanilla. Blend in the flour mixture. Finally, stir in the chocolate chips and optional nuts. Drop cookies by rounded spoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake for 10-12 minutes in the preheated oven. Edges should be golden brown. (I only bake mine for 8 minutes but my oven temperature is always a bit off.)  Let cookies cool on wire rack or on a piece of parchment paper. Enjoy!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Crock Pot Carnitas

I love cooking with a crock pot.  I don't use one that often but every time I do, I am reminded of how great it is and think to myself that I really should use it more often.  I love walking into my apartment after a long day of work and instantly smelling my hot dinner.  Yes, I usually panic a couple of times throughout the day thinking my apartment is burning down, but so far it has not burned down and it seems that whatever I throw into the crock pot always turns out great despite being left alone for 10 hours. 

This week I made Carnitas in the crock pot and it was delicious!  This is a simple recipe to throw together in the morning before leaving for work and uses very few ingredients which is always a plus!  I served mine with a side of Mexican rice (brown rice tossed with salsa) and some chips and homemade guacamole.

Crock Pot Carnitas
Serves 4
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 8-10 hours on Low

1 pork tenderloin, approximately 1.5 lbs., trimmed of excess fat
1/2 tbsp. kosher salt
2 tbsp. cumin
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tbsp. chili powder
1/2 tbsp. ground coriander
1/2 tbsp. minced orange zest1 medium yellow onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1 jalapeno, diced
1 bottle or can of beer (you want a lager)
2-3 dashes of Cholula (hot sauce)
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped

Suggested Extras:
flour tortillas, avocado, corn salsa, queso fresco

Combine the salt, cumin, cinnamon, chili powder and coriander and rub on to the pork until completely covered. Add the onions, garlic, and jalapenos to the crock pot and place pork tenderloin on top. Carefully pour the beer around the pork, try not to knock too much of the rub off. If you have any extra spice rub, you can add it to the braising liquid. Cover and set the crock pot on low and cook for 8-9 hours.  I left mine on for 10 hours and it was great. You'll know when it's done when the meat pulls apart easily with a fork.

Shred the meat with a fork or your hands.  Mix 2-3 dashes of hot sauce into the pork and taste to see if you need to add any more seasonings.  Mix the cilantro into the shredded pork and serve with warm tortillas and any of your favorite toppings.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Cilantro Lime Linguine with Tequila Shrimp Sauce

While in Seattle over Labor Day I came across a homemade pasta stand in Pikes Market.  Pappardelle's Pasta sells over a 100 flavors of dried pasta and fresh sauces and pestos.  I thought that it was just a local company but apparently they sell at farmers markets all over the United States as well as sell their pasta online.  For those of you here in Chicago, Pappardelle's has a stand at the French Market. Definitely check out their website, if nothing else they have great recipes that you could easily use with your own store bought pastas.  I bought a cilantro lime linguine and found a tequila lime sauce recipe online that ended up complimenting it perfectly.

Cilantro Lime Linguine with Tequila Shrimp Sauce
 ** adapted from Philis Carey's recipe in Fast & Fabulous Chicken Breasts
Serves 4

For the pasta: 
1 Ib shrimp
8 oz. dried pasta- we used cilantro lime linguine but you could use any variety

For the sauce: 
1 T. olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
2/3 c. chicken broth
14 1/2 oz. canned tomatoes, diced, undrained
3/4 c. tequila
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground corinader
1 T. chili powder
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
6 T. fresh lime juice (I forgot the step, oops!  We ended up just squeezing large lime wedges over our bowls and luckily it still tasted great)

For garnish: 
1/4 c. fresh cilantro, chopped
1/4 c. queso fresco, crumbled

Peel shrimp and set aside.  Add oil to a pan and saute onions.  Cook them for about 5 minutes or until they're nearly tender. Add the minced garlic and stir briefly (about a minute). Then add chicken broth, tomatoes, tequila, chili powder, cumin, coriander and cayenne. Bring this mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until sauce has just begun to thicken slightly, no more than 15 minutes. (You actually want ample soupy-sauce as the pasta absorbs some of it.)

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook pasta till al dente, about 6-8 minutes. Reserve about 1/2 cup of pasta water, then drain the pasta.

Add the shrimp to the tequila sauce and cook till no longer translucent, about 3 minutes.  Stir the lime juice into the sauce.  If sauce seems too thick add some of the reserved pasta water until desired consistency is reached.  Toss pasta with sauce and serve garnished with chopped cilantro and cheese.

** Excuse my sloppy photo, I only took one picture because we were both starving! 

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Sausage and Fig Pizza

I came across this recipe for Sausage Fig Pizza on lbroukscooks a few weeks ago and have been waiting for the perfect opportunity to try it out. Last night Brady and I decided to make dinner but didn't want to make anything too labor intensive so we thought we would give this a try. Neither of us were to sure whether or not we even liked figs but it's pretty hard to go wrong when sausage and cheese are involved. I was a bit concerned whether or not we would be able to find figs but apparently they are in season and as luck would have it we found them on sale. This pizza ended up being amazing! The combination of the slight sweetness of the figs and the pomegranate-cumin dressing, the spicy chicken sausage and the creamy fontina cheese was absolutely perfect.


Sausage and Fig Pizza
 ** adapted from lbroukscooks
Serves 4

for the pizza:
1 pound freshly prepared or packaged pizza dough- I recommend Trader Joe's Whole Wheat or Pillsbury
pomegranate-cumin dressing (see below)
3/4 cup fontina cheese, cut into pieces
3 links chicken sausage, cut crosswise (any variety)
6 fresh figs, quartered
1/2 cup grated parmesan
2 cups arugula

for the pomegranate-cumin dressing:
4 T. olive oil
4 1/2 T. white balsamic or champagne vinegar
3 T. chopped fresh mint leaves
1 1/2 T. pomegranate molasses*
1 T. ground cumin

* If you are unable to find pomegranate molasses (which we were not able to find), you can boil 1 cup pomegranate juice until it reduces to about 3 T. This will take about 15-20 minutes.  Be careful not to reduce it too far or it will become too thick.

Whisk all of the dressing ingredients in a bowl, season with salt and pepper and set aside.  This recipe will make about 1 cup which is more than you need for the pizza.  Leftovers can be stored in the fridge or disgarded.

Preheat oven to 450. Spray baking sheet with cooking spray.  Press the dough evenly into the pan, about 1/2 inch thick.  Brush evenly with the dressing.  Top dough with fontina, sausage, and figs so that the crust is evenly covered.  Drizzle with more of the dressing.  Bake until the crust is golden and the cheese is bubbly, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, and sprinkle evenly with the arugula and parmesan.  Return the pizza to the oven for 2-3 minutes, until the arugula wilts and the parmesan is melted and golden.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Salmon Salad with Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette

This past weekend Brady and I went to Seattle with friends.  We had an awesome time; we spent two days in Seattle and then two days out at the Gorge Amphitheater to see Dave Matthews Band.  While on vacation I had some great food, the highlight being an amazing dinner at Tilth (Top Chef Masters contestant Maria Hines' restaurant).  I also had way too much junk: pizza, an Egg McMuffin, fried cheese curds (they were worth it!), beer, and more beer while camping out at the Gorge.  Needless to say when I hit the grocery store this evening I went with a light dinner in mind.  I found a recipe for a cilantro lime vinaigrette and then just threw together the rest of this tasty and healthy salad.

Salmon Salad with Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette
  ** vinaigrette recipe from Cooking Light

Serves 2
Prep time 12 minutes

For the Salad
2 (6 oz) salmon fillets
mixed greens or spinach- about 2 to 3 cups per person
1 ripe avocado, sliced
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
1 T. diced cilantro
dash of salt
dash of pepper
dash of cumin
dash of cayenne pepper (optional depending on how spicy you want the salmon)

For the Vinaigrette
1/8 c. lime juice
1 T. sugar
2 T. rice wine vinegar
1 T. olive oil
1 T. cilantro, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

Heat grill or stove top grill pan.  Sprinkle salmon fillets with salt, pepper and cumin (or optional cayenne pepper).  Spray grill with nonstick cooking spray.  Grill salmon, about 5-6 minutes on each side.  While salmon is grilling, slice red onions, cilantro, and avocado.  Arrange lettuce on plates, top with red onion, avocado and chopped cilantro.  Prepare vinaigrette by whisking all ingredients listed above. Top salad mixture with piece of grilled salmon and then drizzle with cilantro lime vinaigrette.