In early November, Greg and I arrived in sunny Southern California for a week of much longed-for and needed vacation. I took no time in shimmying into my bathing suit (and immediately donning a cover-up), loading my tote bag with “beach reads” and a pair of sunglasses. I snapped a picture of the glistening pool, palm trees, blue sky and mountains in the distance, then posted it to Facebook extolling the joys of time away! Savored every moment of sunshine that first day of vacation, went back to the condo enjoyed a relaxing evening and fell asleep.
The next morning I woke to find that my skin was hot, my body aching, my throat swollen, my head felt about twice its normal size, and my ears seemed stuffed with cotton. Greg too had caught the bug, but he had taken the flu shot earlier in the month, so his misery was limited in time and scope. I did not get the shot, so my misery knew no bounds. There was no doubt about it: I had the flu. I don’t really remember much about the next next six days of “vacation” as I spent most of it sleeping or on drugs.
When I am sick, Greg does a fine job caring for me, truly he does. That entire week he was the one who braved getting out and going to the store, ferrying in rations of cold medicine, cough drops and canned chicken soup. But the truth is, I wish I could have a Well Me to take care of the Sick Me, because the Well Me makes a killer homemade chicken soup.
This one uses one of my favorite Trader Joe’s products: Lemon Pepper Pappardelle Pasta. The lemon flavor is not overly strong and the texture of these noodles is perfect for chicken soup: firm but tender –a near-perfect pasta product!
The great thing about this homemade soup is that it only takes 30 minutes to make but tastes like you’ve toiled in the kitchen all day. The special noodles take it to a “gourmet” level that you would be proud to serve to guests.
I believe this easy chicken soup will become your go-to recipe to serve on a chilly day, make for a sick family member or cheer up a friend with the flu. (You might also consider tucking in a copy of We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook for your friend. Nothing cures what ails you like homemade soup and laughter.) It is also easy to “veganize” this dish, and I’ll list alternative ingredients in the recipe below.
Fast & Easy Lemon-Pepper Pappardelle Chicken Soup
2 T. olive oil (or oil and butter combo)
2 T. flour
4 cups of chicken or veggie broth
½ c. water
½ c. milk or almond milk
3 cloves garlic, grated or pressed
4 oz. Lemon Pepper Pappardelle Noodles, broken into 1 – 2 inch pieces (Trader Joe’s brand recommended/ 4 ozs is about ½ a package. Unflavored Pappardelle or other wide noodle will also work if you prefer or cannot find pappardelle pasta at your grocery store.)
4 carrots, peeled and diced (the smaller the dice or slice, the faster they’ll cook)
3 large mushrooms, diced
2 cups of cooked chicken, pulled from a deli roasted chicken (I like to keep some of the pieces fairly large, some small. )
*VEGANS can substitute a can of big butter beans or your favorite vegan chicken substitute for the meat. But add toward the end of cooking.
½ c. frozen corn
½ c. frozen peas
½ to 1 t. salt (you’ll have to taste test because some broths and chickens are saltier than others)
½ to 1 t. pepper (according to your taste)
½ to 1 t. your favorite dried herbs ( I use a little Italian seasoning, a little basil)
Dash hot sauce to taste (like Tabasco)
In a big soup pot, heat the oil or oil/butter combination until it begins to bubble. Add flour and whisk this roux until smooth and bubbly. Very slowly, and while still whisking with one hand, add one cup of the chicken broth, stirring until smooth. Add the rest of the broth, the water, the milk and garlic, then continue to stir and let it come to a boil.
Add the broken pappardelle noodles and carrots and mushrooms. Simmer this until the veggies and noodles are almost tender. Add chicken, corn, peas, seasonings and dash of hot sauce. Continue to simmer until noodles and veggies are tender (but not mushy) and heated through. Adjust seasonings to taste.
We usually serve steaming bowls of this hearty soup with hot buttered cornbread and fresh apple slices.
“Come, let’s be a comfortable couple and take care of each other! How glad we shall be, that we have somebody we are fond of always, to talk to and sit with.” Charles Dickens
My husband Greg and I love our little pleasurable routines. It really doesn’t take much to make us happy. We don’t need high adventure, fast cars, tall mountains, or Broadway plays. We get a kick out of watching Jay Leno’s “headlines” segment on Monday nights and reruns of “30 Rock”. We can’t wait to snuggle up on Sundays to watch Downton Abbey when it reappears on PBS this winter. He often watches sports, while I contentedly piddle on Facebook from a comfy loveseat nearby.
We enjoy quiet road trips with Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra playing in the background more than attending rousing stage concerts. Greg stands and greets me with a kiss every morning as I stumble into the kitchen; me waking up to my first cup of coffee two hours after he’s greeted the morning. We watch Brian Williams tell the news every evening (in his friendly voice, even the worst disasters sound less terrible). Then I serve our suppers, all prettily plated, as we eat in living room, our feet up, hearts at ease. We usually clean up the unbelievably messy kitchen, afterwards, together.
During the summer we meet outside on the porch swing for Happy Hour and conversation at 5:00 p.m. We go to bed, each reading our e-books, a glass of ice water on my bedside table. I slather on Lemon Cream Lotion and Greg always says I smell like lemon pie before he kisses me goodnight, wishing me sweet dreams. Then he hands me the treasures that have somehow gathered on our bed during the day: hair clips, reading glasses, books, jewelry, pens and notebooks, stray socks, apple cores — clearing room for us to ease under the quilt and fall asleep.
We’re mostly One-Note Nellys without much need for variety or grand adventures. We find, in the comfort of each other’s company, all the thrill we generally need. A free evening with nothing planned is typically our idea of perfection.
Our date night’s are inevitably to our favorite Asian restaurant, John Holly’s, followed by a movie. At John Holly’s I always order the same thing: Moo-Shu Veggies. I pile them up on thin rice pancakes with a drizzle of thick salty-sweet Hoison Sauce and dash of sriracha, then rolled the delicious stuff up like a burrito.
This quick and savory-sweet recipe for Moo-Shu uses thin uncooked flour tortillas (easier to find than rice pancakes) and has become one of my favorite veggie based cook-at-home meals now. Greg likes it with chicken but you can substitute edamame, tofu or scrambled egg (or combo thereof) to avoid meat and make this easily vegetarian or vegan.
Easy Moo Shu Veggie or Chicken Wraps
1 16 ounce package of pre-shredded Asian or colorful Cole Slaw mix
1 cup fresh snow peas, chopped into ½ inch pieces
1 cup fresh chopped mushrooms, any kind
1 cup chopped or shredded cooked chicken (or sub 1/2 cup diced tofu, edamame or raw egg, whisked)
1 large clove garlic
1 T. olive oil
1 T. sesame oil
3 T. soy sauce
1 T. maple syrup, honey, molasses or brown sugar
salt & pepper to taste
4- 5 uncooked Tortillas (or the thinnest pre-cooked tortillas you can find)
½ cup Hoison Sauce (in Asian sections)
¼ cup hot chili sauce or sriracha (optional, if you like heat)
1/2 cup cashew pieces or sliced almonds
In a large skillet or walk, heat oils and 1 minced fresh garlic clove. Toss in slaw, chopped snow peas and mushrooms. Add chicken and/or tofu/egg. Cook until tender-crisp. Add soy and your choice of sweetener. Heat through. Add salt or pepper if needed to season.
Lightly cook/brown the tortillas on a flat skillet. Put about ½ cup of the hot veggie mix down the middle of each tortilla. Sprinkle with 2 T. sliced almonds or cashew pieces. Drizzle on Hoison and dot with a little hot chili sauce or shriracha if you enjoy some heat with your Asian food.
Roll up like a burrito and slice on the diagonal, in half to serve.
Variations: Use any veggies you like: peppers, bean sprouts, water chestnuts, celery, some fresh grated ginger – use your taste and imagination. Try using leftover beef, pork or shrimp instead. Experiment with different nuts or sesame seeds, sliced green onions, crispy Chinese noodles or fried won ton strips, perhaps a squeeze of fresh lime.
(Becky, the Mama.)
One of my most-repeated cooking mottos is, “It’s all about the sauce.” Growing up in Texas, pot luck suppers often provided informal competitions for whose mama made the best Bar-B-Que Sauce or home-made Salsa. My palette was set for big flavors at a young age. And I am still like a kid when it comes to tasty dipping sauces.
One of my favorite flavor combinations are foods that use the following layers of flavor and texture: crunchy, spicy, savory, garlicky, tangy and sweet. A tall order, but I think I may have created the perfect irresistible dish that, as we say in the south, “has it ALL going on, ya’ll.”
These spicy oriental style chicken strips get an extra crisp texture by dipping them in a mixture of egg whites and siracha, then rolling in seasoned flour and cornstarch before pan-frying in healthy coconut oil.
And wait until you try this sweet garlicky sauce made with honey, soy and a touch of molasses. So easy and only has to be heated to a boil then simmered for a minute before serving, but the depth and layers of flavor is amazing.
Move over Colonel, I think I may have given a whole new defination to finger lickin’ good!
Sesame Chicken with Honey Garlic Sauce
Serves 3 to 4 people
½ to 1/3 c coconut oil (may substitute other oil, but this is my favorite)
12 chicken tenders (or breasts cut in 12 tender-sized slices)
2 egg whites
1 T. siracha (or Tabasco or Frank’s Red Hot Sauce)
½ c. flour
½ c. cornstarch
1 ½ t. Tony’s Cajun Seasoning
1 t. steak or grill seasoning
1 T. sesame seeds (black or white, I used black
½ cup honey
¼ cup low sodium soy sauce
3 cloves fresh garlic grated
1 T. vinegar
1 T. molasses
1 T. sweet thai chili sauce
1 T. bourbon (may omit and sauce will still be delicious)
Heat Oven to 250 degrees.
Melt about 1/3 to ½ cup coconut oil in a large skillet, so that there is about ¼ inch of oil in the pan. Heat to medium high.
Rinse and pat dry a dozen chicken tenders. Lightly salt and pepper them. In a side shallow bowl, mix egg whites and siracha sauce. In another bowl, mix flour, cornstarch, Cajun seasoning, grill seasoning and sesame seeds.
Using long tongs, dip tenders first in egg white mixture and then in dry flour mixture, then carefully in hot oil in skillet, about 6 at a time. Turn when golden brown and crispy on one side. Repeat on the other side. Put the first batch in a warm oven on a cookie sheet while waiting for next set of tenders to cook
In the meantime, in a saucepan, mix all the ingredients listed for the sauce. Heat to boiling, stirring occasionally, and then simmer for one more minute. Let cool a bit before pouring into small individual dipping bowls. Serve each person 3-4 chicken tenders about 3 T. of dipping sauce. We enjoy this meal with brown jasmine rice and colorful stir-fried veggies as a side dish. Fresh sliced pineapple makes the perfect dessert.
(Vegan variation: use a vegan chicken-substitute product, extra firm tofu or seitan instead of chicken. Substitute egg white with a 3 Tablespoons water mixed with 1 T. flax meal.)
This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Sesame Chicken with Honey Garlic Sauce
The URL: http://wp.me/p1UwM9-L9
© Copyright 2012 – All Rights Reserved
I was famished after a gym workout this week, and decided to grab a bite to eat on my way home. Cruising through the drive-through lane at Taco Bell, I placed my order for a taco. The voice on the intercom sounded confused, so I repeated my order again, louder and with more clarity. And that is when I actually looked at the menu and realized…. I was in line at Starbucks.
One of my Facebook friends quipped, “So did you ask them to make you a Taco Frappucino?”
Granted, there is nothing appealing about the thought of a Taco Frappucino, but you’d be surprised at how many of my favorite recipes are created because of accidents. Or because I am hungry for a particular something, but out of an ingredient or two, so try to make due with substitutes. Time and again, the substitute often proves to be an improvement on the original recipe.
Such is the case with today’s recipe. Typically, when I make Chicken Parmesan, I use thin cutlets. What I had on hand was a couple of monster size breasts (Yes, my husband could not keep himself from making a few jokes about that) and I was in too much of a hurry to pound them thin.
Secondly, I often dip the cutlets in egg whites and grated garlic before rolling in Panko crumbs and Parmesan. Alas, nary an egg or a clove of garlic anywhere in the house.
That is when I spied a large jar of pesto that I’d purchased at Sam’s Club (it is surprisingly tasty, some of the best purchased pesto I’ve tried). One thing led to another and I ended up covering the breasts with pesto, then rolling them in Panko and grated Parmesan cheese. What we ended up with, eventually, was the best Chicken Parm I’ve ever made. In fact, it was the best Chicken Parmagiano I’ve ever eaten. The chicken inside stayed incredibly tender and when you cut through it, you could see the pretty layer of green pesto, golden Panko, red marinara and white cheese. Now that’s amore.
Pesto Parmesan Chicken
Serves 2 people (with big appetites)
2 large boneless chicken breasts
Salt & Pepper (to taste, to sprinkle lightly on chicken)
2 cups marinara sauce (your favorite bottled brand or homemade)
¼ cup fresh or grated mozzarella
1/4 cup olive oil
1 T. butter
1/2 cup Pesto
1 cup Panko bread crumbs
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
Heat Oven to 400 degrees
Heat the marina in a saucepan until hot.
Put olive oil and butter in a large oven proof skillet and heat to medium high.
Rinse and pat boneless chicken breasts dry. Sprinkle both sides lightly with salt and pepper. Put pesto in a shallow bowl. In another shallow bowl mix Panko and ½ c. Parmesan cheese. Lay chicken breasts, one at a time, into pesto first, coating both sides of breast and edges thoroughly, and then in Panko-Parm mixture, coating both sides and edges of breasts thoroughly again.
Saute the breasts on both sides until the coating is crispy and golden. You may have to add a little more oil depending on size of breasts and your pan. (Drain off excess oil, if there is a lot of it, before putting in oven.)
Then put the entire skillet into the oven and cook for about 5 minutes. Remove from oven and ladle each breast with ¼ cup marinara, 2 T. mozzarella and 2 T. Parmesan cheese. Place back in the oven for 5 to 10 more minutes or until cheese is melted and chicken breast is cooked but not overly so. (A meat thermometer is helpful here, but if you don’t have one, just cut through the middle of one of the breasts to check for doneness.)
Variation: Use thinner chicken breasts or pound smaller chicken breasts thin. Put sauce and cheese on immediately after pan frying, and cook in oven only until cheese melts.
Vegetarian or Vegan Variation: Use a vegan chicken patty (such as Gardien brand frozen chick’n scallopini), tofu, tempeh or seitan instead of chicken breasts. Use or make a vegan pesto (omit the parm cheese in most pesto recipes). The cooking time in the oven following pan-frying may not be needed at all, or just cook for a few minutes with tomato sauce and cheese. Vegans can serve without cheese, or use vegan versions of mozzarella and Parm on top.
One of my friends, Shirley, who knows me well, posted this picture on her facebook page and said it reminded her of one special person, and wondered if that person might recognize herself. I saw it and immediately claimed it.
If you saw our first post on this blog, you know that I’m famous for burning food. I am a good cook, but I just get distracted easily. So the smoke alarm, for many years, was often our dinner bell. One day my eldest son Zach walked into the kitchen as it was billowing with smoke pouring out of the oven. “Mmm mmmm mmm,” he said, “Smells like mom’s home cooking!”
When my second born, Zeke, was about five-years old, I made him a perfectly browned piece of toast. He took it, walked to the trash can and started automatically scraping it with a knife. “Zeke, Honey,” I said, “You don’t have to scrape it today. I didn’t burn it this time!” He looked at me, his eyes wide, and said, “Oh, I thought we always have to whittle our toast.”
Once when my youngest son Gabe was about twelve, he was home from school, feeling sick. I decided to make him some breakfast and put a pan of bacon on the burner to cook. Then I promptly forgot about it and went to take a nice long bubble bath. If it were not for Gabe’s quick action with baking soda and a pan lid, my kitchen could have easily gone up in flames.
Having heard these stories, and seen enough of my absent-mindedness up close, my husband Greg now hovers near when I cook, constantly asking if I remembered to turn off the stove and oven, ready to spring into action at the slightest smell of smoke. My children would agree that I needed, “Someone to Watch Over Me.” Especially in the kitchen. With Greg on the job, they all rest easier.
Today’s recipe is one that I created last week, and I am pleased to report that no kitchen cabinets were burned and no innocent food was scorched in the creation of this dish.
This easy vodka pasta sauce turned out creamy and delicious with lots of flavor layers going on, from the thin salty pieces of Italian salami to the nice bite of the tomatoes and artichokes, to the smoothness of the melted cheese. I learned to make a simple pasta sauce from a New York-Italian friend of mine: it was just lots of fresh grated garlic, a few chopped fresh tomatoes, and about ½ cup of creamy cheese, like a brie or soft Buffalo mozzarella or even cream or goat cheese (or a combination). You simply melt it all together over low heat, and pour over pasta. This sauce springs from that basic idea, but I’ve fancied it up a bit.
Vodka Sauce with Chicken, Italian Salami and Artichokes
¼ c. thin Italian style salami diced (any hard salami can be substituted)
1/2 c chopped artichoke hearts (mine were canned in water)
¼ c chopped sun-dried tomatoes
1/2 c. soft white cheese (brie, fresh mozzerela, cream cheese or goat cheese — or a combination)
3 cloves garlic, minced
¼ – 1/2 c. vodka (according to your taste)
1 c. crushed tomatoes or 1 c. fresh tomatoes whirled in blender until as chunky as you’d like in your sauce
1 t. dried oregano or Italian seasoning
1 cup chopped or shredded cooked or roasted chicken
Fresh basil and grated Parmesan cheese for garnish
Pasta of your choice, cooked al dente (save some of the pasta water to add to the sauce) to serve four people
While the pasta is cooking (according to package directions), chop the salami and render out the fat in a skillet until it has crisped a little.
Add the rest of the ingredients (except for the chicken, basil and Parmesan) and stir over medium heat until the cheese melts.
Add pasta water until it is the sauce is at desired thickness. Finally, add chicken and stir until heated through. Serve over pasta, and garnish with Parmesan cheese and ribbons of fresh basil.
Vegetarian Option: Substitute roasted chick peas for meat and add 1 t. smoked paprika
Vegan Option: Sub roasted chick peas for meat, add 1 t. smoked paprika and sub vegan cream cheese like Tofutti for cheeses
This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Vodka Sauce with Chicken, Italian Salami and Artichokes
The URL: http://wp.me/p1UwM9-AN
© Copyright 2012 – All Rights Reserved
My daughter Rachel posted a story about her “nesting instinct” gone wild in the kitchen this week. I am now close to menopause but my husband would swear that I have the strongest nesting instinct of any woman who has ever lived. And the most quirky one. The thing is, my nesting instinct is to make a literal ‘pack rat’s nest’ out of our bed.
Every night Greg climbs into bed and hands me various and sundry items he finds on and under the bedspread. Last night it was a camera. (Before you get the wrong idea: I was posting pics of food on my blog.) There is always the standard computer, books, paper and pen, eye glasses, but other items that have made their way into our bed-nest include, but are not limited to: earrings, scissors, credit cards, clocks, various food stuffs, Legos, lost keys and checks. Greg actually loves to find things: looking for lost golf balls and coins makes him happy. I am sure he was a champion Easter Egg hunter as a little boy. So he rather gets a kick out of what unusual items he finds each night, nestled among the sheets and blankets.
Last night I was in the bathtub when I heard Greg shout, with a Eureka!-like tone in his voice: “I just found your running shoe under the covers a the bottom of the bed!”
When I happened upon this recipe, a variation of one that Rachael Ray made on her show, I was almost as thrilled as Greg was to find my missing shoe in the bed. It’s definitely a “Eureka!” dish. Very few ingredients, very little time, very inexpensive and the sauce is so scrumptious, you’ll want to eat it with a spoon. I made this twice for two different groups of girlfriends, serving it alongside risotto and a a crisp salad. They lapped it up! Another of my best “go-to” recipes, this one yields lots of praise and requests for the recipe, for so little effort on the cook’s part.
Becky’s Peachy Balsamic Chicken
2 T. olive oil
6-7 boneless chicken thighs
grill or steak seasoning (or your favorite seasoned salt)
1/2 c. chicken or vegie broth
1/4 c. aged balsamic vinegar
1/3 c. peach preserves or jam (or try orange marmalade, cherry or apricot jam/ preserves if you prefer)
1 T. grainy mustard (or hot Chinese mustard)
1/3 c. chopped green onions for garnish
Lightly season both sides of chicken pieces with your favorite seasoned salt. In a hot large skillet with about 2 T. olive oil, saute and brown boneless chicken pieces on high heat until both sides are golden brown and chicken is cooked through. (You may want to turn down heat and cook with a lid on top if the chicken doesn’t get done in the middle, after the searing.) Remove pieces at this stage on to a platter and cover to keep warm.
In same skillet, pour in chicken broth, balsamic vinegar and peach preserves and mustard, stirring to loosen all the good bits from the bottom of the pan. Bring to a boil, then turn heat down to medium high. When the sauce is reduced and syrupy, add chicken pieces in, coating both sides as you lay them in the sauce. Simmer until the sauce thickened a bit more and chicken is hot. Garnish with chopped green onions. (Apologies — no green onions on hand, so none in this picture. But they are truly wonderful, so add them if you’ve got them!)
Vegan Variations: This glaze, above, is fabulous drizzled over a dish of roasted butternut squash and walnuts or sauteed tofu. Just sub vegetable broth for the chicken broth.
This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Peachy Balsamic Chicken
The URL: https://welaughwecrywecook.com/2012/05/04/apricot-balsamic-glazed-chicken