Sunday, December 4, 2016

Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup

Last month a friend offered to treat me to lunch. She had invited me to join her at a restaurant that, for whatever reason, I had no interest in visiting. I don't know why. I hadn't read anything bad about it, it just gave me bad vibes. As it turned out, my vibes were right; the food was horrible. I'd ordered the strata figuring that this was, surely, one item that they absolutely could not mess up. Boy was I wrong. It came out of the kitchen in a brick-like slab, that was not only brick-like in appearance, but in texture and taste as well, although, honestly, I have never tasted a brick.

You're probably wondering why I'm telling you this. It's because the day did have a happy ending. I had decided, wisely, before I left for lunch, to try a recipe for a slow cooker version of chicken tortilla soup. I'm not sure why I did this, because generally when I go out to lunch I'm not particularly in the mood to come home and fix or eat dinner. But intuition told me that day that I needed to have something to fall back on, and I was right. This was a new recipe that I'd found on the Wine and Glue blog. It required nothing more than putting a couple of chicken breasts in the crockpot and dumping beans, corn, and spices on top. I hadn't anticipated that it would be all that good to be quite honest with you, but I had these ingredients and figured, why not?
I really should call this Life-Saving Chicken Tortilla Soup, because it really did save the day for me. When I came home from the disastrous lunch, the house smelled amazing. The aroma was very spicy and delicious, and drew me right into the house. The whole place felt cozy and warm and comfortable, inviting me to sit down and have a nice bowl of soup. It was very easy to make, obviously is low maintenance, and the return is wonderful. This is a great soup to enjoy during the fall and winter. I cannot recommend it enough. It is also economical and, divided into six equal portions, comes in at just under 300 calories. Life saving indeed!
Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup
Slightly adapted from Wine & Glue

1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes
3 cups chicken stock
1 16-oz. can kidney beans, drained
1 15.5-oz. can black beans, drained
1 10-oz. package frozen corn
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 T. chili powder
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
3/4 tsp. ground cumin
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. dried cilantro (optional)

Mix all ingredients together in slow cooker and cook on low for 5 hours. At the end of the cooking time, remove the chicken from the crock pot, shred and return to the soup. Serve topped with a squeeze of lime juice, and garnish as you see fit. I used cheese, scallions, and avocado. Yum!

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Heavenly Slow Cooker Chicken

This year, in an effort to get my decorations up early, I pretty much put everything else on the back burner (if you'll pardon the culinary pun), and that includes cooking. So, these days when I make a meal, it has to be quick, easy, and crockpot friendly. This recipe is based upon one I had in the seventies called Angel Chicken. I decided to make it early one morning before I dug into the Christmas decorations, but had failed to thaw chicken overnight in the fridge. What the heck, I thought, as I tossed two rock hard chicken breasts into the slow cooker, stirred together the few other ingredients, and poured them on top.

As the day went on and my weariness increased, the faint aroma of beautifully spiced chicken filled the house. I was so tired that the thought of making something simple like rice or noodles to use as the base for the chicken seemed daunting. So, I went to the freezer and grabbed a bag of Cipolline onions that I had previously blanched, peeled, and frozen, cleaned a handful of large button mushrooms, and quartered them, scrubbed six Ruby Gold Potatoes, halved them, and tossed everything into the pot on top of the simmering chicken. A one-pot meal was certainly in order for the day.

As I spooned everything into a bowl that evening curled up on the couch with my cozy afghan and a fire in the fireplace, I dug in. That's when I decided that this new dish should be called Heavenly Slow Cooker Chicken because the flavor was absolute heaven. The chicken was perfectly tender and beautifully seasoned, thanks to the packet of Italian dressing mix. The onions were nicely done as were the mushrooms, the potatoes were like butter. It was the best meal I had had in a long time, and took virtually no effort.

This is a must have for you during this busy holiday season. And it's so good, that I really feel it's company worthy. Maybe not for your elegant dinner parties, but certainly for a Christmas tree decorating party, a cookie making party, movie night, football afternoon, or any gathering where good friends and family get together. You have to try this.
Heavenly Slow Cooker Chicken

1-1/2 lbs. boneless chicken breasts (about 3)
1 envelope Italian dressing mix
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1 8-oz. carton cream cheese with chives and onions
can condensed mushroom soup
6 peeled Melissa’s Cipolline onions (or 1 medium yellow onion, quartered)
6 large button mushrooms, quartered
6 Melissa's Ruby Gold Potatoes, scrubbed and halved
Place chicken in slow cooker. Combine dressing mix, butter, cream cheese, and soup, and pour on top of chicken. Cook on low for 7 hours. Add onions,  mushrooms, and potatoes, and cook for an additional 45 minutes to an hour.
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Friday, December 2, 2016

Viki's Granola, Product Review

As you all know from the many recipes that I have shared with you, I make my own granola. Because I do, a commercial variety has to be pretty special in order to turn my head; Viki's Granola does just that. Good-for-you delicious, it has no preservatives, is sodium free, contains no trans fat, is full of healthy whole grain, is gluten free, kosher, dairy free, and gives you high energy while being sweetened naturally, so is not cloying like a lot of other varieties.
Not a cereal eater? There are loads of other ways to enjoy Viki's Granola. My new favorite way is to toss it with popcorn when making caramel or kettle corn.  It is a wonderful addition!  Other ways include:

Sprinkle on muffins or quick breads before baking
Use as a replacement for oats in streusel topping
Turn your favorite fruit and yogurt into a delicious parfait
Toss with salad
Stir into pancake or waffle batter
As a crunchy ice cream topper

I think you'll find that its uses are endless. You won't want to be without it.

Yep, it’s that good.

I received complimentary packages of Viki’s Granola in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Peanut Butter Rocky Road Fudge

Candy making season is upon us! I love candy-making season, don't you? There's just something about the smell of warm caramel, melting chocolate, and marshmallows that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Perhaps it's because my mother used to make candy every year for the church bazaar when I was a little girl. If you like to make candy as much as I do, you are going to love this recipe. No baking is involved, just melting, stirring, pouring, waiting, and then digging in. When I made this last month for my dad he gobbled it up and asked for more, so give this simple and delicious recipe a try, nothing is easier.

Peanut Butter Rocky Road Fudge

1½ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1½ cups peanut butter chips
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk, divided
2 tsp vanilla extract, divided
2 tbsp butter, divided
2 cups miniature marshmallows, divided
2 cups dry roasted peanuts

Line a 9” x 9” pan with foil, leaving a 1-1/2” overhang on each end. Spray foil with Pam; set aside.

Divide sweetened condensed milk between two microwave-safe bowls. (Just eyeball it.) In one bowl add chocolate chips and 1 Tablespoon of butter; in the other bowl add peanut butter chips and 1 Tablespoon of butter. 

First microwave the chocolate and condensed milk combination, stirring every 30 seconds until melted. Next microwave condensed milk and peanut butter chips, stirring every 30 seconds until melted.  Stir 1 teaspoon of vanilla into each bowl.

Pour mixtures into the pan, one at a time, swirling together if you like (I didn't). 

Sprinkle peanuts on top, and then follow with the marshmallows, pressing down lightly. Chill until firm.

Carefully lift out of the pan with the ends of the foil; cut into squares.
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Monday, November 28, 2016

Mr. Tom Turkey Tablescape

If you're anything like me, once Thanksgiving is over, you want to kick pumpkins to the curb. In any case, I still wanted to share the table that I had for Thanksgiving. This year I actually set two tables, but with all of the activity of Thanksgiving Day, only had the opportunity to photograph one. I hope you enjoy it as much as my guests did.

As you can see, I swapped out my more rustic looking turkey from my Neutral Thanksgiving Tablescape for the ceramic turkey from Crate & Barrel as a part of my centerpiece. Easy.

The white turkey plates are among my favorites; I wish I would have gotten more than four. These are years old and from Pottery Barn. They work great as salad plates or sandwich plates when I serve a turkey sandwich along with a hot bowl of turkey noodle soup after the big day.

If you look carefully you can spot the corncob candles from my last tablescape. Here they are in a pair of my favorite rustic candleholders of pilgrims, perfect for Thanksgiving.

The glass turkey tureens are from William-Sonoma; I have had these for 20 years or more. At the time that I got them they were affordable, but they no longer are, so I am really pleased to have these.
The flatware with the bamboo handles is from eBay. A fun find, and I use these a lot.
You'll see the familiar brown spice route plates from Pier 1 as the dinner plate, and the salad/sandwich/appetizer plate in gold on top of it. These are among my favorite plates, as they are perfect for layering; you will see the brown ones again in a holiday table setting coming up soon.

The pitcher and salt and pepper shakers I've had a long time as well, and they are from Fitz & Floyd. I love the look on the turkey’s face as he peers over the shoulder of the Pilgrim reading the recipe book. Both the salt and pepper shakers and the pitcher add a fun bit of whimsy to the holiday table.

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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Slow Cooker Orange Chicken

Thanksgiving seems to open the season of eating lots of rich food. Don't get me wrong, I like rich food as much as the next guy, but once the season comes to an end I am more than ready for something simple like a slice of meatloaf, macaroni and cheese, a nice salad, or some Chinese food. To get you thinking about what you may want after the holidays during your focus on making the Thanksgiving meal, here is a simple, very delicious recipe for orange chicken made in the slow cooker.
Prior to trying this recipe I’d never had orange chicken before, so I really didn't know what to expect. My number two son and his wife buy the frozen orange chicken from Trader Joe's and really enjoy it, so I figured I would give this a try. If I didn't like it, I reasoned, I could always fob it off on them. :-) Fortunately I did like it, and thought I would pass it along to you. File this away in your folder for recipes that are quick, easy, and a relief from rich holiday food.

Slow Cooker Orange Chicken

8 boneless skinless chicken thighs
3 tablespoons flour
1/3 cup orange marmalade (I used homemade)
1/3 cup barbecue sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger root 

Toss chicken with flour in slow cooker. Stir together remaining ingredients; pour over chicken. Cover and cook on LOW for 6-8 hours or on HIGH for 3-4 hours. Serve with rice.

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Monday, November 21, 2016

Joanne Fluke's Pecan Divines

I have a love/hate relationship with the Hannah Swenson culinary mystery series by Joanne Fluke. Early on I read the books because I enjoyed them. These days I think I read them just to torture myself. I do enjoy the Hallmark movies based upon the series, and I do enjoy the recipes that are incorporated throughout the books. This recipe is one of them. These cookies are called Pecan Divines, and are from the book, Fudge Cupcake Murder. I'm not quite sure why they're called that because, essentially, they're nothing more than a chocolate chip cookie. The difference is they're very crisp, and I like a crisp cookie. These are made with melted rather than softened butter, and it yields a very nice texture. I will be making these again, but I think I'll probably use mini chocolate chips and twice as many pecans. Try them for yourself and see what you think. The cookie baking season will soon be upon us, and this is going to be a crowd pleaser on your tray.
Joanne Fluke's Pecan Divines

2 cups melted butter
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
3 cups white sugar
4 tsps. vanilla
4 tsps. baking soda
2 tsps. salt
4 beaten eggs
5 cups flour (not sifted)
3 cups chocolate chips
4 cups chopped pecans

Melt the butter. Mix in the brown sugar and the white sugar. Add the vanilla and the baking soda. Mix thoroughly. Add the eggs and stir it all up. Then add half the flour, the chocolate chips, and the chopped pecans. Stir well to incorporate. Add the rest of the flour and mix thoroughly.

Drop by teaspoons onto greased cookie sheets, 12 cookies to a standard sheet. If the dough is too sticky to handle, chill it slightly and try again. Bake at 350
° F for 10 to 12 minutes, or until nicely browned.

Let cool on cookie sheet for 2 minutes, then remove to a wire rack.

Yield: Approximately 10 dozen.