Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Pesto Chicken Noodle Soup

It's the time of year for soups to warm us inside and out. It's also the time of year for cold season, and if you're anything like me, when I get sick my taste buds lose their power. I always want strong flavors and typically like any soup that has garlic added to it. Of course, the classic soup used as a cold remedy is chicken noodle, which can be sort of bland. Though I prepared this version of chicken noodles soup when everyone in the house was healthy (knock on wood), I knew it would be the perfect change from traditional chicken noodle soup. This version, spiked with zesty pesto and garlic, not only provides flavor but vegetables full of vitamins, good for an ailing patient or perhaps anyone who just stepped out of the cold. Instead of egg noodles, I used ditalini, which are little thimble pasta (and unfortunately none managed to be seen in any of my pictures, but trust me they're there).

Pesto Chicken Noodle Soup
Printable Recipe

1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 lb bone-less, skin-less chicken breast, cut into chunks
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
5 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 14.5-oz can diced tomatoes
1 15-oz can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup ditalini pasta (or other small pasta)
1 packed cup chopped fresh spinach leaves
3 tbsp basil pesto sauce
salt and pepper, to taste

1. In a large soup pot heated over medium heat, add the oil, then the bell pepper, chicken, onion, and garlic. Saute all the ingredients until the chicken is browned and the vegetables are tender; season with salt and pepper.
2. Pour in the broth along with the tomatoes and beans. Bring the heat to high until the soup comes to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer for 10 minutes, giving a chance for the chicken too cook completely through and the flavors to combine.
3. Bring the soup back to a boil and add the pasta, and cook as long as the package recommends. About 3 minutes before the pasta has completed its cooking time, add the pesto and gently stir until it dissolves, then add the spinach. Once the pasta is tender and the spinach has wilted, the soup is finished.

  • Servings per recipe: 4
  • Per serving:
  • Calories: 335
  • Fat: 9 g
  • Saturated fat: 1.8 g
  • Cholesterol: 52 mg
  • Sodium: 259 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 32.1 g
  • Fiber: 11.4 g
  • Sugar: 6.7 g
  • Protein: 31.2 g

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Tarragon and Meyer Lemon Roasted Chicken, Potatoes, and Sweet Onions

When I moved to Texas, my dad went along with me and helped me with all my unpacking. Through the chaos of boxes and trying to get my new apartment in order, I decided we needed at least one balanced meal. While we were on the road, our diet consisted of peanut butter sandwiches, juice boxes, bananas, and crackers and we were in dire need of vegetables and protein!

Because my dad loves my spice-roasted chicken and vegetables, I decided to do another take on it with ingredients I had on hand. I brought Meyer lemons from Georgia along with fingerling potatoes and sweet Peru onions. Meyer lemons are a hybridization of regular lemons and tangerines, so they're sweeter than average lemons and incredibly juicy. The roasted lemon pulp and juices combined with the chicken juices and the pulp of the cooked onions to make a sweet and savory pan sauce. The tarragon, which typically has an anise flavor, adds a verdant freshness. I loved the mixed fingerling potatoes because there were some purple ones in the mix, which added a nice contrast between the yellow lemons and red paprika on the chicken. The colors stood out particularly well against my dark green plate.

Tarragon and Meyer Lemon Roasted Chicken, Potatoes, and Sweet Onions
Printable Recipe

4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of excess fat
1/2 lb mixed-variety fingerling potatoes, split length-wise with halves and/or quarters
1 medium sweet onion
4 cloves garlic, crushed and unpeeled
1 Meyer lemon, cut into 8 wedges
1 tsp dried tarragon
1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
paprika, for sprinkling on the chicken

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
2. On a large baking sheet (lined with foil), toss all the ingredients together except paprika. Arrange the vegetables in close to a single layer around the chicken. Sprinkle the chicken with paprika.
3. Bake the chicken and vegetables for 35 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Toss the vegetables halfway through cooking.
4. Arrange the chicken and vegetables on each plate, drizzling the pan juices over top.

  • Servings per recipe: 4
  • Per serving:
  • Calories: 290
  • Fat: 10.2 g
  • Saturated fat: 2.6 g
  • Cholesterol: 101 mg
  • Sodium: 103 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 14 g
  • Fiber: 1.6 g
  • Sugar: 2.1 g
  • Protein: 34.5 g

Slow-Cooked Minestrone

When my parents came down to Georgia for my graduation and move, I was glad to have some of minestrone soup on hand, which is hearty and affordable. This recipe is derived from a recipe by Ellie Krieger, featured in the 2010 Food Network magazine. I had prepared some dried kidney beans, and this recipe seemed like the perfect use for them. Minestrone is one of my favorite soups, and during the holiday season when we are eating higher quantities of rich food, it's nice to have something full of vegetables to balance our diets. The original recipe was not made in a crockpot, however it was the end of the semester and I did not have the time to tend to a simmering pot on the stove. Therefore I adapted this recipe to be cooked on its own while I was away doing everything I needed to do. The preparation of pasta outside the crockpot ensures it won't be overcooked, and is a method my mom uses on her own soups.

Slow-Cooked Minestrone
Printable Recipe

1 medium onion, diced
2 clove garlic, minced
1 large stalk celery, diced
1 medium carrot, sliced
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen cut green beans
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
1 14.5-oz can crushed tomatoes
4 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1 15-oz can kidney beans, drained and rinsed (or 3/4 cup dried kidney beans, prepared according to package directions)
1/2 cup whole wheat macaroni
1/3 cup shaved Parmesan
salt and pepper, to taste

1. In a crockpot/slow-cooker, combine all ingredients except macaroni and Parmesan; season with salt and pepper. Cook 4-6 hours on high or 6-8 hours on low, or until all the flavors are well-blended and the vegetables are tender.
2. Cook the macaroni in salted, boiling water according to package directions; drain.
3. Stir the cooked macaroni into the soup, then serve, topped with the Parmesan.

  • Servings per recipe: 4
  • Per serving:
  • Calories: 290
  • Fat: 3.1 g
  • Saturated fat: 1.6 g
  • Cholesterol: 0.7 mg
  • Sodium: 416 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 48.8 g
  • Fiber: 12.3 g
  • Sugar: 9.2 g
  • Protein: 18.7 g

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Pumpkin, Cranberry, and Walnut Muffins

One of the weekend breakfasts my mom made most often while I was growing up was muffins, which are something I enjoy preparing for myself. They're a blank canvas; they can take on any flavors you can imagine, and you are only limited by your imagination. Muffin recipes can be revamped and remade in all sorts of fashion. For example, I made a vegan version of pumpkin cranberry muffins a few weeks ago, however my mom and I prepared another version just this weekend that were equally good. I gave this more classic version a sprinkle of raw sugar on top, which gets crunch as it bakes. The pumpkin pie spiced used is a convenient ingredient because it has all the spices you need mixed together, so you only have one spice to measure out. These made a hearty breakfast with the addition of turkey sausage.

Pumpkin, Cranberry, and Walnut Muffins
Printable Recipe

2 egg whites
3/4 cup skim milk
1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
1/2 cup pure pumpkin puree
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
non-stick cooking spray
garnish: turbinado sugar (optional)

1. Heat oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Grease the cups of a 12-cup muffin tin with cooking spray; set aside.
3. In a medium bowl, blend the egg whites, milk, oil, and pumpkin. Fold in the cranberries and nuts along with the remaining ingredients except the garnish until just combined; the batter should be slightly lumpy.
4. Divide the batter amongst the muffin cups, filling each one about 3/4 of the way up. Sprinkle the top of each muffin with a small pinch of the turbinado sugar, if desired.
5. Bake the muffins until they are browned on top, about 20 minutes. Remove immediately from pan after baking.

  • Per muffin:
  • Calories: 209
  • Fat: 10.9 g
  • Saturated fat: 0.8 g
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg
  • Sodium: 212 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 24.6 g
  • Fiber: 1.3 g
  • Sugar: 7 g
  • Protein: 4 g

Holiday Meat and Cheese Platter

As I told you in a previous post, I received an amazing gift box from Hickory Farm's through Foodbuzz's Tastemakers program. I just wanted to show how I served up some of the goodies for a holiday party carry-in. To make an attractive platter, I sliced up the cheeses and sausages and compactly arranged them in large groups. Arranging the ingredients this way makes the platter look bountiful, and pre-slicing the cheeses and meats makes it easy for everyone to select what they want, otherwise they might be struggling with a plate of food, and their napkins and eating utensils. For this platter, I used a square plate approximately 16"x16". I centered the cheeseball in the middle, then starting from the outside edge I shingled each of the ingredients in groups. On one side, I used the Italian beef sausage and on the other I used the classic beef sausage. On each remaining side when two of the cheeses. I served the cranberry mustard and spicy mustard on the side, along with water crackers.

Western Trails Chili

I'm going to be working to post a big back-log of recipes prepared between November and December, which was a busy period of time for me. Many of the recipes I need to post were made while I was still living in Georgia. I've just graduated and am now spending time with my family in Indiana for the holidays.

This chili recipe was made along the theme of the next step in my career, which you know if you've been following Chow Bella on Facebook. If you haven't, then I have some exciting news. After graduation, I moved to Texas to begin a Ph.D. in plant and soil science. I've been anticipating this westward move for several months now, and I got to thinking about the type of trail foods that might have eaten long ago by people succumbing to their manifest destiny. I imagined dried beans, meat, and old coffee going into the pot to make a hearty stew. I modernized the concept and made a chili in the crockpot including some surprising ingredients, including coffee and cocoa powder. Though coffee and cocoa sound odd in a chili, they don't make the chili taste like mocha. Instead, they add subtle richness in flavor and in color. Also, browning the meat before adding it to the crock provides another layer of flavor, so it's worth it to take the time for this extra step.

This chili is great served with your favorite toppings, like cheese, scallions, avocado, cornbread, and/or tortilla chips. It keeps well for days, too, so it's nice to have a batch around in these cold winter months.

Western Trails Chili
Printable Recipe

1.5 lbs lean stew beef
1 14.5 oz can crushed tomatoes
14.5 oz water or beef broth (just use the empty tomato can to measure)
2 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp cumin
1/2 tbsp sugar
1/2 cup diced bell pepper
1/2 cup diced onion
dried red chili, to taste (optional)
1/2 cup strong, freshly-brewed coffee
2 tsp cocoa powder
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp tomato paste
1 15-oz can kidney beans, drained, or 3/4 cup dried kidney beans, prepared according to package directions
1/4 tsp salt
non-stick cooking spray

1. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat, spray with cooking spray, then add the beef. Season the beef with salt and pepper and brown on all sides.
2. Transfer the beef to the crock of a crockpot/slow-cooker, then stir in all the remaining ingredients. Cook the chili 4-6 hours on high or 6-8 hours on low, or until the flavors are well-blended.

  • Servings per recipe: 6
  • Per serving:
  • Calories: 347
  • Fat: 8.1 g
  • Saturated fat: 2.9 g
  • Cholesterol: 101 mg
  • Sodium: 334 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 26 g
  • Fiber: 7.5 g
  • Sugar: 7.3 g
  • Protein: 42.5 g

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Quick Update

It's been a busy December for me for several reasons. First, I finished my thesis (finally) and submitted it so that I could...


So now I have my master's in biology and exciting news about what's to come, but I'll write about that in future posts. Despite being busy, I have been cooking a lot, so I have a back-log of recipes to post. I hope you're having a nice holiday season. Please stay tuned for more updates coming soon!
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