Saturday, August 27, 2011

Lemon Chicken Noodle Soup

I am borrowing from Panera Bread with this soup recipe...kind of. I was there for lunch a week or two ago and loved the combination of the light lemon and the savory chicken broth. I thought...I can make that, and I was able to re-create it at home with stuff that I already had on hand. I often just throw things together and somehow they end up tasting good. This is a trait that I inherited from my mom, but my sisters somehow did not manage this knack for throwing things together. So at their encouragement, I am trying to be better about writing down what I add to the pot and have measurements to create a recipe that others could follow. So here is my re-creation of a great soup I had at lunch out.

Lemon Chicken Noodle Soup

1/2 c. small pasta like orzo, cooked
1 clove garlic finely chopped
1 tbs. parsley
1/4 tsp. celery seed
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Broth from Steamed Chicken (see below)
1 1/2 c. chopped Steamed Chicken
1/2 lb chopped spinach (I used a bundle of fresh Swiss Chard from the Farmers Market)

Put the chicken stock in a pot and place over medium heat. Add the garlic, lemon zest and juice, parsley, celery seed and salt and pepper to the stock and bring to a boil. Add the chopped spinach or chard and let cook until bright green in color. Then add the chicken and pre-cooked pasta. Simmer over low heat for 10-15 minutes and serve hot.

Steamed Chicken

Chicken breasts with the bone, but no skin
1 onion quartered

In a soup pot place the chicken and onion, then cover the chicken with water so that it has a 1/2 of water covering it. Remove the chicken from the pot and bring it to a boil. Add the chicken back into the boiling water and boil for 3 minutes. Cover with a lid and remove the pot from the stove. Allow the chicken to sit covered for 3 hours then either refrigerate or use. Remove chicken and chop for soup or chicken salad, use the broth for soup.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Cupcake Marathon

Today begins the great cupcake marathon! I will start by saying that I am NOT a professional baker and have a very modest kitchen which I use to cook and bake for friends and family. And for a co-worker, I am making 100 cupcakes for her wedding. This is the first time that I am baking anything of this quantity (maybe with the exception of Christmas cookies). I am planning on making this a two day experience with the baking today and icing tomorrow, right before the bride comes to pick them up. I will continue to update this post as the day goes on, so check back for more on the day of baking.

Round 1 - Chocolate with peanut butter icing

8:20 - The AC is on and I am ready to get started. I have all of my supplies together and I am starting off with the cake that is my favorite to make. It is also the one that will stay moist the longest. Yes, I am using the Best Ever Chocolate Cake recipe and expecting to end up with lots of cake, since this recipe makes the most batter. I am also using the Peanut Butter Frosting recipe from when I made the PB&J cupcakes.

Round 2 - Vanilla with vanilla butter cream

10:28 - It is definitely heating up in my kitchen. The chocolate cakes are finished with enough extra batter to make a small grooms cake as a surprise. I have the batter ready for the vanilla cakes and have a good system going so that the oven is never empty.

Round 3 - Strawberry cake with strawberry icing

11:00 - The batter is started and the vanilla cakes are baking. I think it might be time to turn the AC down! I am officially out of eggs, milk and close to being there on the flour. I think I might have to take a baking break and hit up the grocery store for staples. This is gone much more smoothly that I expected and so far I am happy with the results. But there is more to come...

Wish me luck and cloud cover so it doesn't get too hot in the house and kill my AC unit!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Blueberry Lemon Muffins

One of the things that I enjoy about the summer is fresh blueberries. Why yes, I also love the beach, but come on people...when it comes down to it summer is the best not only for the sun, but also for the food! Garden ripe tomatoes, juicy peaches, crisp corn on the cob, sweet melon and tangy blueberries that burst in your mouth when you bite down. It makes me happy just thinking about it!

So when I stopped at a local farm stand on the way home from work and they had boxes of fresh blueberries that were the size of your thumb, I couldn't resist...well those and the peaches and tomatoes. I couldn't help myself and popped a few berries in my mouth on the way home and they were wonderfully sweet with that tangy berry flavor that you get from fresh berries, not bitter or tart like you sometimes find from ones in the store, picked before they are truly ripe and then refrigerated.

Being that I had about two cups of fresh berries, I started by eating a good half cup then decided to use the rest to borrow an idea that I saw in a Martha magazine. I decided to use my old Betty Crocker cook book circa 1969 since she has never steered me wrong. I found a basic muffin recipe and adapted it to create a delicious blueberry muffin with hints of lemon.

I couldn't resist eating one right out of the pan and it was worth not waiting! The top was crispy and dotted with bits of decorating sugar that I had added before popping them in the oven. The inside was striped with the indigo of burst berries and had an underlying hint of lemon. These would be great with a streussel topping or plain as I had them with a bit of butter. This was a fabulous finish to my day, yes I had muffins for dessert and they were wonderful, I hope I leave some for breakfast!

Blueberry Lemon Muffins
Adapted from Betty Crocker Cookbook

Makes 12 muffins or 8 small loaves
Preheat oven to 400 degrees

1 egg
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 tablespoons lemon juice (or juice from lemon that was zested)
zest from one lemon
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup fresh blueberries (if using frozen be sure that they are thawed and well drained)

Grease the bottoms of 12 muffin cups. Beat the egg then stir in the milk, oil, lemon zest and lemon juice. Add the remainder of the dry ingredients to the wet and blend slightly, reserving a table spoon of flour to mix in with the blueberries to coat them. This will prevent them from sinking to the bottom of the batter in the muffin cups. After coating the berries add them to the slightly blended batter and gently incorporate the berries only until the flour is moistened. Over mixing can make the muffins dense or tough, it is okay to have a few lumps or bumps in your batter.

Bake 20 minutes. Tops should be golden brown.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Peanut Butter and Jelly Cupcakes

I do not like peanut butter. I seems criminal, however I just do not care for peanut butter in things. I will eat it on an apple, with carrots, or with honey on toast, but in things like ice cream, cake, candy, etc. I am not a fan. So when I was asked by a friend to make chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter icing, I was at a loss. How do you try out something that you don't really like?

I ended up making PB&J Cupcakes because I had a vanilla recipe I wanted to try and so had cupcakes already on hand. I didn't think that just plain cake and peanut butter icing would be so good alone so I decided to add some flavor by filling the cakes with blackberry jelly. The end result was pretty good. I did try one and liked the flavors together. The icing recipe I got from Cara at Cara Lee Cupcakes and Cake was excellent and I will be using it for the cupcakes that I am making for my friend's wedding. The vanilla cake recipe was pretty good too. It was light and fluffy with good vanilla flavor and stayed fairly moist the next day. I am not sure if it is the best vanilla cake recipe I have found, but it is easy to make and better than others I have tried.

The cake recipe came from Ruth Reichl's book Garlic and Sapphires. It was a great read, not a cook book, but a narrative of her years as a food critic for the New York Times. It was very entertaining as she described the different disguises she would use to avoid being recognized. There are recipes interspersed in the chapters that meld well with each story she tells.

PB&J Cupcakes

Vanilla Cake
Slightly Adapted from
Nicky's Vanilla Cake
Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl

2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons vanilla extract

Makes approximately 18 cupcakes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put papers in cup cake pan.

Mix butter and sugar in a mixer until smooth and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and mix well after each addition.

Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a seperate bowl. Mix well then add to the butter and sugar bowl. Mix well. Add the sour cream and mix until combined. Add the vanilla and stir until blended.

Using a medium cookie scoop fill cupcake liners with batter or use a spoon and fill until 2/3 full. The batter is thick so the cookie scoop works well.

Bake in the oven for 14 minutes. Do not over bake or they will get dry!

Using a paring knife or small sharp knife, cut a small circle into the center of the cupcake and remove the chunk of cake. This will be similar to coring a tomato. You want enough cake cut out to create a small well for the jelly. Don't take out too much or the cake won't hold up.

Fill the depression with your choice of jelly. I used blackberry because that is what I had on hand. Also it helps to mix the jelly in a small bowl first so that it is not chunky. Use a teaspoon to fill the cake.

Peanut Butter Icing
Slightly Adapted from Cara Lee Cupcakes and Cake

1 stick of unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 block of cream cheese at room temperature
3 tablespoons of creamy peanut butter (I used pretty heaping tablespoons)
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla
2 cups of powdered sugar (Add a bit more if you want a slightly thicker frosting)

Cream butter, cream cheese and peanut butter in mixer until well blended and smooth. Be sure to scrape down the sides. Add the vanilla and mix until incorporated. Add the powdered sugar one cup at a time, blending well after each addition and scraping the sides as you go.

At room temperature, pipe onto cupcakes. The frosting can be refrigerated, but let it come to room temperature before using.

I gave these to my neighbor, who has two little boys. They were quite happy to get cupcakes with pirate wrappers!