January 6, 2018

Chicken Tortilla Soup

I clearly like chicken soups and chilis. Just check out my recipes for Italian chicken chilichicken mushroom wild rice soupJamaican jerk chili, and Southwest chicken chili. This recipe is a new favorite since it's full of veggies, lean protein, and spices plus a crunchy tortilla chip topping for extra texture. I like to think of it as the flavors of a chicken taco in a healthy, hearty bowl.

Although this can be a set it and forget it crock pot recipe, I like to brown the chicken and some of the veggies first, like in most of my other recipes. This just gives an extra layer of flavor that you otherwise wouldn't have, since beyond that you'd just be poaching the chicken in the soup, which isn't my favorite. I cook the onions, bell peppers, garlic, and jalapeno in the chicken drippings so none of those tasty flavors and browned bits go to waste.

The chicken and veggies get combined with chicken broth, petite diced tomatoes, black beans, corn, and more spices. The beauty of this recipe is that pretty much all the vegetables are canned, so you can make it year-round. Don't be scared off by not using fresh veggies; canned ones are just as healthy and often taste better since they're picked and processed when they're most fresh. You can go for fresh corn and tomatoes, but I can guarantee if you want a bowl of this now to warm up in the January cold and stick to your resolutions, the tomatoes and corn will taste much better from a can than from your grocery store.

I simmer everything for about 4 hours before shredding the chicken, but you can cut the heat to low and leave it on all day while you're at work or school to come back to a nice, hot, ready-to-eat meal. All you have to do is shred the chicken, add a splash of lime juice, and serve with some crispy tortilla strips. Yes, you can use crushed up tortilla chips from the grocery store, but it takes all of 5 minutes to season and toast your own without all the frying oil. My family couldn't stop snacking on these things while I was cooking and photographing, so it might be a good idea to make more than you need for just the soup. The soup itself is pretty healthy and makes great leftovers, so keep some on hand to warm you up from the cold without abandoning your healthy eating plan for 2018.

1 lb Chicken Breasts
1 Large Yellow Onion, Diced
1 Bell Pepper, Diced
4 Cloves Garlic, Minced
1 Jalapeno, Minced
3 T Tomato Paste
4 Cups Chicken Broth
1 14.5oz Can Petite Diced Tomatoes
1 15oz Can Black Beans, Drained & Rinsed
1 15oz Can Corn Kernels, Drained
Juice of 1 Lime
8 Corn Tortillas
4 T Oil
1 T Garlic Powder
1 T Onion Powder
1 T Cumin
2 T + 1 tsp Chili Powder
1 T Paprika
2 tsp Cayenne
1 1/2 tsp Salt
1 1/2 tsp Pepper

Whisk the garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, 2T chili powder, paprika, cayenne, salt, and pepper together.

Heat 2 T oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season the chicken with 2 tsp of the spice blend and sear until browned, about 4 minutes per side. Remove and set aside, leaving the fat in the pan.

Cook the onion and the bell pepper in the skillet over medium heat for 3 minutes over medium heat or until softened. Add the garlic, jalapeno, tomato paste, and 1 tsp seasoning. Cook for 2 minutes or until fragrant.

Combine the chicken broth, tomatoes, black beans, and corn in a crockpot. Add the sauteed vegetables and chicken. Season generously with a few spoonfuls of the spice mixture, to taste. Cover and cook for 4 hours on high or 6-8 hours on low. Shred the chicken and add the lime juice; cover and cook for 30 minutes on high.

Meanwhile, cut the tortillas in half and cut into thin strips. Whisk the remaining 2 T oil and 1 tsp chili powder together. Toss the tortilla strips in the oil and season with salt and pepper. Spread onto a baking sheet and toast for 4-6 minutes at 450F.

Pour the soup into bowls and garnish with the tortilla strips.

Serves 6-8

December 30, 2017

Top Posts of 2017

As wild a year as 2017 was, at least there was plenty of good food. Here are 30 great recipes to start you off in 2018!

Top 10 Recipes of 2017:

10. Jerk Chicken Chili - A complex, spicy chili packed with chicken, beans, and veggies

9. Cheesy Buffalo Pretzel Ring - Hot, bubbly cheese dip with a buffalo kick and plenty of pretzel bites for dipping

8. Voodoo Shrimp - Shrimp and sausage in a spicy, boozy sauce

7. Italian Chicken Chili - A new take on chili with chicken, sausage, beans, tomatoes, and kale

6. Brownie Pudding - The only thing better than regular brownies: soft, gooey, hot brownies with vanilla ice cream on top

5. Cheesy Sausage Buns - Buns stuffed with andouille, caramelized onions, and pepperjack cheese, though it is easily adaptable to other flavors

4. Mushroom & Caramelized Onion Quiche - Quiche loaded with mushrooms, caramelized onions, and plenty of cheese

3. Chicken Florentine - A quick and easy chicken dinner with spinach and tomatoes in a rich, creamy sauce

2. Spicy Roasted Chickpeas - A spicy, crunchy snack, salad topper, or crunch factor

1. Chocolate Mousse - A rich, velvety chocolate mousse great for eating plain or layering into a parfait

10 Recipes That Need More Love:

10. Apple Pie Shortcake - Buttery, flaky biscuits layered with spiced apples

9. Christmas Light Cookies - Perfectly rolled sugar cookies frosted with Christmas light decor (featured in Madison Magazine)

8. Maple Apple Spice Cake - A moist, fluffy spice cake with saucy spiced apples on top

7. Zucchini Ricotta Crostada - Creamy herbed ricotta filling topped with summery zucchini in a buttery, flaky crust

6. Spinach & Prosciutto Stuffed Shells

5. Frosted Cinnamon Spice Bars - Incredibly moist and cakey cinnamon bars with a luscious cream cheese frosting

4. Tollhouse Pie - Basically a big, gooey chocolate chip cookie baked into a pie crust

3. Thai Squash Soup - The weirdest combination of ingredients in a soup you'll ever try but it works

2. Bourbon Peach Pecan Galette - Bourbon-spiked peaches and pecans in a buttery pecan crust

1. Peanut Butter Chocolate Shortbread - Peanut buttery goodness with plenty of chocolate added in

Top 10 Recipes of All Time:

10. Waffles - Crisp, buttery waffles: one of my all time favorites!

9. Cranberry Apple Muffins - Quick and easy muffins studded with seasonal apples and fresh cranberries

8. Croque Poulet - My favorite sandwich: chicken, bacon, and cheesy goodness

7. Brownies - Rich, fudgy brownies with added chocolate chips for good measure

6. Cucumber Salad - Crisp cucumbers marinated in a salty, tangy sauce with crunchy sesame seeds

5. Meatballs - Juicy, savory meatballs with a secret ingredient to make them absolutely perfect

4. Spicy Beer Chili - A classic made better with beer

3. Chili - Everything spicy and savory all in one bowl

2. Guacamole - The perfect balance of chunky and smooth with a hint of heat and acidity

1. White Chocolate Cranberry Cookies - Once again the most popular recipe on my blog! Buttery shortbread studded with cranberries and white chocolate

December 26, 2017

Eggnog New Years Countdown Cake

I'm sure everyone is in a food coma right now. I'm about to explode from all the Chinese food, latkes, Christmas cookies, and chocolate I've consumed over the last 24 hours. But the best time to plan your next great cooking adventure is while you're immobilized from your last, so boy do I have a New Year's dessert for you. Normally I go with something classy and seasonal, like a cranberry eggnog cheesecake tart or a maple apple spice cake. This year, I wanted something more festive. I got you covered with the seasonal eggnog flavors, but it's frosted as a clock counting down to the new year.

I knew I wanted a clock for this cake; it's the perfect decor for New Years without going too over-the-top with frosting and decorations. As long as you have the numbers and hands, you can decorate the cake however you want. I went with a night sky sort of theme with swirls of blue frosting and gold stars, but you can pick your favorite colors and flavors to work with. To make the numbers and hands, I used white candy melts (you can use white chocolate or white bark coating), scooped them into a piping bag or ziploc bag with the tip cut off, and drew everything on a piece of parchment paper. For some extra pizzazz, I sprinkled on some glittery gold sprinkles before the chocolate dried. I did make a couple extra of the particularly fragile ones since it's better to have some chocolate to munch on than to have a broken clock.

Eggnog is a great flavor for cake; it's rich and custardy with notes of rum and nutmeg. It's like a really rich vanilla cake but so much better. I essentially make a vanilla cake and swap in eggnog for the milk or buttermilk. I also add a splash of rum and a pinch of nutmeg to enhance the flavors of the eggnog. The only problems that arise are the leavening since you lose the acidity of the buttermilk and the makeup of the eggnog makes it weigh down the cake. I combat this by adding a ton of baking powder; it doesn't need acid like baking soda does and adding even more helps to leaven the cake properly.

You can use your favorite cake recipe here; the flavor doesn't really matter. I chose eggnog to bring an extra bit of holiday flair, but the important thing is that your friends and family like it. Keep in mind that darker cakes tend to show through the frosting more, though that's a great excuse to keep piling more frosting on. You also don't have to attempt a night sky feel for the frosting since you can put the clock decorations on pretty much anything.

1 1/2 Sticks Butter, Softened
1 3/4 Cups Sugar
4 Eggs
1 tsp Vanilla
3 Cups Flour
1 T + 1 tsp Baking Powder
1 1/4 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Nutmeg
1 1/2 Cups Eggnog
3 T Rum
4-6 Cups Frosting, Colored as Desired
1/2 Cup Melted White Chocolate/Coating

Heat oven to 350F. Line 3 9" round cake pans with parchment and grease.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg together. Whisk the rum into the eggnog.

Beat the butter and sugar together until fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, then add the vanilla. Add the flour in 3 additions, alternating with the eggnog in 2 additions.

Divide the batter between the pans and bake for 15 minutes or until cooked through.

Let the cakes cool in the pan for 10-15 minutes, then flip onto wire racks to cool completely. Level the tops with a large serrated knife if necessary. Spread a spoonful of frosting onto the center of a platter or cake plate. Flip the first layer onto the plate. Top with 1/2-3/4 cup frosting and spread evenly to the edges. Repeat with the next two layers. Spread 1/2-3/4 cup frosting on the top layer, pushing down the sides as necessary to form a very thin coat of frosting. Spread some of the remaining frosting on the sides of the cake to form a thin but uniform layer. Refrigerate the cake with this thin crumb coat for 30 minutes or until firm.

Meanwhile, pipe the melted chocolate into numbers 1-12 about an inch tall, piping extras as necessary to make up for breakage. Pipe one short arrow and one long arrow, about 2" and 4". Sprinkle with glitter if desired while still wet. Spread the remaining frosting on the top and sides of the cake as desired. Press the numbers on the outer edge of the top of the cake as if making a clock. Add the arrows.

Makes 1 3-Layer 9" Round Cake
Recipe Adapted from AllRecipes