Category Archives: Kitchen notes

Twisted Chicken Noodle Soup

Maybe the long winter season is getting into my psyche, but I really am tired of being cold.  And here in Missouri, our cold is without the emotional benefits of snow.  We are just in a cold, drab world.

Cooking has a way of making a negative mood positive and tackling the cold winter, soup continues to be a comfort food.  I decided to try something a bit different yesterday.  Using left over stove-top grilled chicken tenders, I created a Twisted Chicken Noodle Soup.  Actually it was a twisted cream of chicken noodle soup, and the twist was in the noodle.

A visit to an Asian market resulted in the purchase of sweet potato noodles.  They have sat in my pantry waiting for me to use them.  As the cold permeated my psyche, I kept thinking there must be a way to use them.  Finding the left over chicken, I put together the idea that sweet potatoes go great with chicken, so why not a chicken noodle soup with sweet potato noodles.

The process began with creating a base of chicken bouillon, chopping the tenders up, I started the pot with my favorite non-MSG chicken bouillon.  Then came my chopped veggie additions–celery, onion and carrot.  For additional flavor, I added  KC veggie seasoning, mixed herbs including a touch of rosemary and rubbed sage, and finally, pumpkin pie spices.  The pot smelled good as it heated up:IMG_2081

As the pot was boiling, I got the noodles out.  I had no idea what I was getting into as I am so accustomed to using traditional pasta; but what problem could there be.  Open up the dried noodles, break into a manageable size and drop in the boiling broth.

Much to my surprise, the noodles are tough.  It was impossible to simply break as I do with regular pastas.  It was even remarkably difficult to cut with a knife.  Therefore, I simply had to drop them in.  The full length of one noodle is about 18 inches long, so stirring them while they begin to soften makes them fit into the pan.

The noodles cooked down quite nicely, but they are translucent.  I began to wonder how my husband would respond to the visuals in the clear broth.  I was letting it cook and began trying to decide whether this soup was going to be any good or not.  Then I started thinking:  if butternut soup is a cream base, and cream of chicken soup includes noodles in some cases, then why couldn’t I modify this into a cream of noodle soup.

I returned to the kitchen, took about a half cup of half and half, poured it in.  Maybe I should have removed some of the broth, but I didn’t.  Then I decided it needed thickening and if you make sweet potato or even potato soup, you use the meat of the potato.  I pulled out instant potatoes and added about half a package to the pot to thicken it.

Oh, I learned another trick concerning the noodles.  Even if you cannot break them up, once they cook and soften, they are very easy to cut.  I used a pastry cutter to cut them in the pan.  A bit of a challenge, but it makes it easier to eat.  I would suggest cooking the noodles in the soup base and then cut them as you serve them.  Maybe there is an easier way to do so, but my pastry cutter worked.

The final result:  YUMMY!  IMG_2082

My husband really liked it and I can’t wait for others to try it, too.  The translucent noodles looked much more traditional once creamed and thickened.  I think the sweet potato noodles and the pumpkin pie spices paired well with a much more traditional chicken noodle soup.  Whew!  another twist for the tastebuds.

If you are interested, here is a rough list of ingredients.  I apologize that I tend to just add and not measure when I cook independent of a regular recipe:

  • 3 cups of water
  • 2 tablespoons chicken bouillon powder
  • 2-3 tablespoons of chopped onion, celery and carrot
  • 1 teaspoon of mixed dried herbs (Italian mix would work)
  • 1 teaspoon of pepper (I prefer veggie pepper)
  • 1 teaspoon of salt (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon of rubbed sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice.
  • 1/3 package of sweet potato noodles
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • 1 cup of instant mashed potatoes
  • 1 tablespoon of butter

I know many might wonder about calorie counts and fats, but I cannot address them.  I use My Fitness Pal, and they do include sweet potato soup and cream of chicken noodle.  I had to guesstimate what the calories were.  I did some research though and know that sweet potato noodles are gluten free and may be a more nutritional option than most wheat-based pastas.

I hope you let me know if you try recreating this Twisted Chicken Soup.  I will be fascinated to know your opinion.  Happy eating!

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Sunshine & Home Cooking

Today was filled with sunshine.  Despite all the negatives that fills the TV news and social media, nothing can soothe one as much as sunshine.

Actually sunshine does not soothe as much as it energizes.  I would suggest that if all of us remembered the rule of thumb of 30 minutes out doors, we would be much healthier–physically and mentally.

Of course there is no doubt that home cooking versus fast food or even restaurant cuisine has additional value.  Tonight’s craving for fresh salmon lead to one of those comfort food meals:  baked salmon, wilted spinach, and homemade mac & cheese.

Fixing wilted spinach is almost magical.  Creating a dressing with chopped bacon, basaltic vinegar, olive oil, and a little sugar is not difficult, but figuring out how much spinach to use is a challenge.  I dumped all but about a cup of baby spinach into the skillet and started tossing. . .

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I could hardly keep it in the skillet so steamed it a tiny bit before finishing.  The final meal looked like this:

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So tonight we feasted; first on sunshine and then on the home cooked supper.  The meal took only 30 minutes from start to finish to prepare, but it certainly is full of the comfort foods we all need to battle the winter blahs.

I trust that in the midst of all the insanity of our world, that we remember that sunshine and home cooked meals may serve as some of the best medicine we all need.  Take a few minutes outside whenever you can, and take a few minutes in the kitchen.  Your life can fend off some of the worst illnesses.

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Tweaking a recipe: Cranberry-Pistachio Cookie/Biscotti

Well, there is nothing like taking a recipe and trying out something new.  Sometimes tweaking a recipe does not work, but I thought this would be yummy and risked the tweak.  I found this last year on http://www.the-girl-who-ate-everything.com when she posted Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies.  But, I followed the recipe and then added a twist–cook them as biscotti.  Here is what I have done:

Cran-Pistachio Cookies

Recipe base for Christmas biscotti taken from www.the-girl-who-ate-everything.com

 

Special note: Biscotti are twice-baked cookies, basically. This recipe is tasty, but turning them into biscotti makes them even better, I think. I am pretty sure that you could begin with any basic sugar cookie base, just add the extra ingredients and follow the biscotti baking method.

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

 

The basic cookie recipe:

 

1 pouch of sugar cookie mix (the original blogger credits this to Betty Crocker)

1 box of instant pistachio pudding

¼ cup flour

½ cup melted butter

2 eggs

½ cup chopped dried cranberries (I added chopped pistachios too)

 

The cookie recipe goes on . . .

 

Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto a parchment lined cookie sheet and slightly flatten with fingertips. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Do not bake them too long as you will lose the soft texture and they won’t be as green. They will not look done, but take them out and let them sit on the pan for about 2 minutes.

 

Mix everything up, but now comes the biscotti twist . . .

 

Instead of dropping the cookie dough into individual cookies, put into a greased rectangle baking dish. You will have to shape it as the dough is stiff, but think how biscotti is shaped and that will guide you. Then bake the “bar” of cookie dough for 10-15 minutes, maybe a little longer because you will have to slice it.

 

Reduce the heat in the oven to 300 degrees.

 

After it cools enough to slice, do so. Place the cut slices onto a cookie sheet. Then re-bake the cookies for about 7-8 minutes in the cooler oven. Take out, turn the slices and bake another 7-8 minutes. (You may have to adjust your timing. It could be as little as 5 minutes; what you are doing is just drying them enough to hold together for dunking.)

 

After they cooled, I iced, but you can also opt to coat powdered sugar but it is just a bit messy for eating.

 

 

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New Year tradition simmering on the stove

The pot is simmering on the stove and the all-important ingredient this New Years Day is black-eyed peas.  Even though I do have a tendency to follow a menu filled with “seasonal” favorites, today I have to admit that I add in black-eyed peas to accommodate my husband’s superstitious request.

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He believes that to have a good year, one must eat black-eyed peas on New Years Day.  In the past, I have tried to make sure I had a ham bone to use, but this year I am stepping it up with a twist.  I am using a pork shoulder bone-in roast.  Part of the reason is the ham seems to have so much salt anymore, and I prefer the richness of pork that is not cured.

Using a cookbook is usually not necessary as the base is pretty typical.  Oh I have a few twists that I add.  For instance I use a non-MSG chicken powder bullion to add a little flavor, then I chop up the veggies (celery, carrots, onion) so fine that they are not identifiable–another personal request from my family.  And then I let it simmer all day.

As the meat cooks, it becomes tender and pulls apart.  Many would say that is just pulled pork, but this is not barbecue in any sense of the word.  This is more like a stew or soup.  Rich and meaty, but today it is accompanied by black-eyed peas.

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The only addition to a bowl of this will be cornbread.  My favorite is Jiffy mix, but I do add a bit to it, too.  I add an extra egg and I also add vanilla.  That may be a bit of a surprise, but it smells so good as it bakes that it just draws you into the kitchen.

After tonight’s meal, the stew has the potential to serve up in new ways.  A jambalaya is one possibility especially if I add in shrimp and/or sausage. Another option would be to add various beans and even turn it into red/black beans and rice.  Who knows what it will become next, but it will certainly make the week’s menu a bit simpler.

Cooking is a comforting process for me.  In these days with the unbelievable frigid temperatures, cooking fills me with a unique form of warmth.  The process is calming.  The smell warms me up, too.  Of course the heat in the kitchen provides even more comfort.  As I begin a new year, I look for more opportunities to warm up in my kitchen.

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