Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Chicken & Dumplins

Remember that rotisserie chicken from our chicken tortilla soup?  And I told you that I love rotisserie chicken because of all the things you can do with it??

Well now I'm going to share another one of those uses with you.

Whether you've purchased your chicken as a main course for your meal or to use the meat in a recipe, after you've picked all the meat off the bird DO NOT throw away the carcass!  (Btw, this also applies if you've roasted your own chicken.  Just fyi)

After you've pulled off all the meat, toss everything that's left (skin, bones, everything) into your dutch oven (I told you I love my dutch oven) or a large pot.  Fill the pot with enough water to cover the remains of your bird.  For reference, my dutch oven is 6 qt, and I fill it to about 2 inches from the top.

Now, as I'm sure you know, chicken broth is very bland.  Which is why it's good for upset tummies.

But we want flavorful, hearty stock.  So we're going to add a couple ribs of celery (it can be whole or chopped into large sections), some carrots (chopped into large pieces), a couple of cloves of garlic (smashed and skinned), and some onion.  Season liberally with salt and pepper.

If you don't have these things on hand to season your chicken stock, you can substitute with celery seed, garlic powder and onion powder.  If you are using spices instead of fresh vegetables, don't be afraid to use a heavy hand.  A sprinkle is not going to give you a very flavorful stock.  I'd recommend starting with 2 t. of each.  And don't forget to salt and pepper.

It's everyone into the pool.  Cook on high heat until it starts to boil.  Then reduce heat to low, cover and let simmer for about 8 hours.

Yes.  It takes a very long time to make good chicken stock.

However, as I'm usually using the rotisserie chicken for dinner, afterward I just throw everything together for my stock before I go to bed and let it simmer while I dream sweet dreams of homemade chicken and dumplins.

In the morning, you have lovely chicken stock for use in your recipes.

Let it cool.  Then run it through a strainer into a large bowl or pitcher.    If, like me, you have a colander with large holes in it,  you can put a piece of cheesecloth or a paper towel in the bottom of your colander to strain out all the chicken bits and veggies.

You can use it right away, store it in the fridge in an air tight container (up to a week), or freeze it in freezer safe containers for up to 6 months.

As I spent the night dreaming of chicken and dumplins, I was going to use some of my stock right away.

Chicken & Dumplins:
What you'll need:
3 cups of chicken stock
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 t baking powder
3 T cold butter
1 cup milk
extra flour for rolling out dough
cooked shredded chicken

Heat your chicken stock in a dutch oven or large pot on high heat.  While this is working up to a boil, you're going to make your dough.  (Be sure to taste your chicken stock.  You can add more herbs and spices at this point to season it.)

In a medium bowl whisk together flour, baking soda and a LARGE pinch of salt.  Slice your butter into small pieces.  Cut butter into flour mixture until it starts to resemble a coarse meal.  Pour your milk into the flour mixture; work it with a fork until all flour is incorporated into dough.  The dough will be very wet and sticky.

Divide dough into half and roll out each portion on a HEAVILY floured surface.  Don't be afraid to overdo on the flour.  Extra flour on your dumplins is good because it'll thicken up your stock.  Roll your dough to about 1/8 inch thickness (or thicker if you like a nice thick noodle) Slice your dough however you wish.  I tend to do 3x3 just because that's how my grandma always did it.

Drop pieces into boiling broth, stirring occasionally so your dumplins don't stick together. 

Once you've added all your dumplins, reduce heat to low and let it cook for just a couple of minutes to make sure your dumplins cook through.  This is the point where you add in your chicken.  Then remove from heat.  As it cools, your stock will thicken.

I like to serve mine with biscuits.

Because what chicken & dumplins needs is even more carbs.

Tips & Tricks:
You can season your chicken stock with whatever floats your chicken boat.  Basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, bay leaves (man I hate bay leaves).  The possibilities are endless.  You know what you like.

Opinions differ on how long to cook your stock.  Some people only do it for a couple of hours.  I'm a fan of low and slow.  In my experience, I get the best stock when I simmer on very low heat for an extended period of time.

Cutting in butter- I use a pastry blender, and let me tell you, it's a game changer.  Well worth the $10 investment.

My grandma used shortening instead of butter, but every time I even look at shortening, I imagine it building up in my arteries.  She also used water instead of milk, so if you have dairy allergies, you can easily sub water in your dough

Rolling out dough:
I hate, and I mean HATE, working with dough.  I've always hated having sticky stuff on my hands.  The trick is to spray your hands with cooking spray prior to picking up your dough.  I bought an oil mister you can fill whatever type of oil you prefer.  Love it.  Instead of paying $5 for a can of cooking spray, now I just fill my mister.

Another reason I hate working with dough is the clean up.  Oy the mess.  I bought a pastry mat.  Much easier.  You can keep everything on the mat, then just dump all the leftover flour into the sink.  In lieu of that, you can tape down wax paper.  Or you can say "Screw the mess! I'm going old school!" and roll out the dough on your counter top.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Spinach & Chickpea Quinoa with Balsamic reduction

When I was in law school, most of my meals were meat free.  Not because of any personal beliefs or ideals.  It was much more basic: meat is expensive, and I was poor.

Even before that, I was never a big meat eater.  Especially red meat.  I feel like it weighs me down.

Plus I'm really crap at cooking red meat... although I'm getting better.

And I can cook the hell out of a chicken breast.  Just thought I'd throw that out there.  Chicken is easy.  You can add pretty much anything to it and make it work. (I said that in my Tim Gunn voice.)

But some nights, you just want something light.  Light but filling.  You know?

Ergo, Spinach and Chickpea Quinoa.

This dish was inspired by my friend Devon.  She's a vegetarian, and I like to tease her with my recipes.

Quinoa is my new food love.  If you are not familiar with it, it's a grain like crop.  Like rice.  Except it's not a grain.  It's a seed.  And it's chock full of good stuff, including lots of protein.

We like protein.

And chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans), are also high in protein.  Yay proteins!  Chickpeas are a very meaty, filling bean.  Fills you up and good for you.  Win/win.

Spinach and Chickpea Quinoa with Balsamic Reduction
What you'll need:
Uncooked quinoa
Vegetable broth
1 bag frozen spinach
1 can chickpeas
1 cup balsamic vinegar

1. In a small saucepan, bring balsamic vinegar to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for approximately 20 minutes, stirring occasionally until vinegar thickens and coats back of spoon.

2.  While your vinegar is simmering, cook your quinoa.  Read the directions on your bag of quinoa.  Some brands require that you soak your quinoa prior to cooking to remove the saponins.  If your directions require this step, do not skip it.  Otherwise, your quinoa will be bitter.  Many brands treat the quinoa prior to packaging to remove the saponins, so you can skip this step.  Every brand of quinoa I've used calls for the same liquid to quinoa ratio - 2:1.  If you use 1/2 quinoa, you use 1 cup of liquid.  The directions on the bag call for water.  Substitute broth for water.  If you want to make your meal herbivore friendly, use vegetable broth.  If not, you can use chicken broth.  This just gives your quinoa some extra flavor.  So add your quinoa and broth to a pot, bring it to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 15 minutes or until broth is absorbed.

3.  After you have 1 and 2 started, cook your spinach.  If you read my first post, you know I'm a big fan of quick and easy.  Therefore, I like to use steam in the bag vegetables.  Including spinach.  If you can't find steam in the bag spinach, most bags of frozen spinach have microwave cooking instructions.  If you have the time (which I usually don't), you can steam or saute fresh spinach with some olive oil and garlic.  I'm determined to do this on a weekend when I have more time.  Because it sounds delish.

4.  Drain and rinse your chickpeas.

5.  Plate cooked quinoa, top with spinach and chickpeas.  Drizzle your balsamic reduction over everything and prepare your taste buds for the orgasmic pleasure.

Okay fine.  Maybe I embellished that last sentence.  But this dish contains some of my favorite things.  This girl gets excited over legumes.

Tips & Tricks:

I absolutely LOVE quinoa.  It's incredibly versatile.  I use in in place of rice and pasta in recipes.

If your grocery store sucks (like mine), you may not find canned chickpeas in the aisle with the rest of the beans.  Check the ethnic food aisle.  They'll definitely have them there.  Chickpeas are delicious and can be eaten right out of the can without any further cooking.  However, if you'd like a little extra something something, I'd suggest you roast your chickpeas.

Roasted Chickpeas
1 can chickpeas (drained, rinsed, patted dry)
1 Tbls olive oil
seasonings of your choice (I suggest a little sea salt and garlic powder)

Stir together oil & seasonings in a medium bowl.  Add chickpeas and toss until coated.  Spread in a single, even layer in a baking sheet and bake at 425 for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until nice and crispy.

You could also try these sweet roasted chickpeas.  Or if you're sauteing fresh spinach, you could toss your chickpeas in there also.

Tons of possibilities.  If you try your own variations, please let me know in the comments.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Hello! Welcome to the inaugural post at The Cutthroat Culinarian.

By the way, lots of love to Squarer Pegs, Rounder Holes for the name suggestion.

And to my friend Marty for making me feel my food is good enough to share.

Most of you know me as Rachel from The Rachel Chronicles: The True and (Un)Amazing Adventures of a Girl and Her Dog.  And you're probably wondering why in the world I'm starting another blog when I barely post on the one I already have.

Good question.

And I don't really have a good answer.  Other than, because I can?  Because I love food?  Because I have an overinflated sense of self and believe people want to read what I write?

Take your pick.

Don't let this blog fool you though.  I am not exactly what you would call a "great" cook.  Far from it, actually.

If I stick to food I grew up eating, I do okay.  But a girl has to spread her wings and fly.  You know?  There's a great big world of food out there.  And I want to eat my way through it.

However, as I will never be able to visit all the places I see featured on The Cooking Channel and The Food Network (even though I do keep a list of "Must Eat Places" on my phone), I have to learn to make some of these things myself.

And I'm getting better.  It used to be when I made dinner, there was a 50/50 chance it would be edible. Now I'm probably up to 70/30 in favor of edible. (My boyfriend may disagree with my figures... but he'd never say it to my face.)

And while I may not be a great cook, I AM a great baker.  If I do say so myself.

So this blog will be a hodgepodge chronicling my kitchen journeys.  The good.  The bad.  The OMG open the windows and take the batteries out of the smoke alarm.

Trying out my own creations.  Trying out other people's creations.  What worked.  What didn't.  Dinners.  Desserts.  Snacks.  Tips.  Tricks.  Healthy.  Sinfully delicious and decidedly unhealthy.  The herbivore friendly.  The omnivore friendly.

We'll have it all.

And the plan is to get some guest bloggers in here to share their own kitchen adventures.

To start it all off, I'm featuring one of the few non-dessert related recipes people ask me for quite often.  You see, one night a few months ago, I had a craving for chicken tortilla soup.

Which was weird because up to that point, I had never even eaten chicken tortilla soup....

And I had no idea where I could obtain such a thing in my not so bustling metropolis.

The only option was to make it myself.  And it needed to be quick and easy.  After my day job, I spend two hours a day at the gym, then home to walk the monster dog.  So dinners have to be quick to make.  Otherwise, I'm eating a sandwich.  So I started with my friend Shannon's chili recipe (I'm hoping she'll be one of my guests...) and adapted it for my purposes.

Here's what you will need:
2 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
1- 28oz. can crushed tomatoes
2-3 1/2 cups chicken stock/broth
1 can kidney beans
1 can great northern beans
1 can black beans
1 bag frozen sweet corn
packet McCormicks Mild chili seasoning
Adobo sauce
chili powder
garlic powder
brown sugar
shredded cheddar cheese
tortilla chips

Add crushed tomatoes and chicken broth (2 c. for more stew like, 3 1/2 c. for soupier) to a 6 qt Dutch oven (or pot) on medium heat.  Add half the packet of chili seasoning, 2 t. of chili powder,  1 t. garlic powder, 1 t. adobo sauce, and a sprinkle of brown sugar.  Rinse and drain all beans, add to Dutch oven.  Stir in frozen corn and shredded chicken.  Increase heat and bring to a boil.  Once soup begins to boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.  After it has a chance to cook for a little while, taste it and add more of whatever spices you'd like.

Serve topped with shredded cheese (sour cream would be good, too) and tortilla chips.

Tips & Tricks:
The Dutch oven is, in my humble opinion, the best kitchen invention EVER.  If you do not have one, you should consider investing in one.  I use mine all the time.  Seriously.  I have a Lodge Dutch oven.  And many of my recipes will utilize a Dutch oven, but obviously you can substitute with a pot (or even a crockpot) or casserole dish much of the time.

Because I'm often struck by odd cravings, I rarely plan ahead for meals.  The beauty of this soup is, I can use a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store instead of taking the time to cook chicken for my soup.  Rotisserie chicken is one of my favorite grocery store tips.  They range from $6.50-$7.50.  It can be a meal in itself.  Or you can pick the chicken apart for use in recipes, then use the carcass to make your own chicken stock (more on that later).  It's a pretty good deal.

As I've said, my hard and fast rule is that recipes need to be quick and easy.  I want good food, but I don't have a lot of time to make it.  Therefore, a lot of my recipes will contain easy and convenient ingredients.  If you can substitute ingredients for a "cleaner" recipe, please do and share your own tips.  For example, if you have a garden (and the stupid deer don't eat it all), you can can your own tomatoes for use in recipes.  Also, there are several websites that provide recipes for your own seasoning mixes so you can skip the store bought.  I just haven't had a chance to stock up on my own, but hopefully soon, I'll have time to mix some up.

I have out of control acid reflux that often makes my throat burn hotter than the fires of Mount Doom.  So you'll very rarely find me posting a recipe for spicy foods.  The beauty of this recipe is it's very easily adaptable.  If you want it spicier, instead of using just adobo sauce, opt for chiles in adobo sauce and dice up one of the chiles and toss it in the pot, too.  This is a basic soup you can tailor to your own tastes.  Have fun with it.

Also, if you use less chicken broth for a thicker stew, this makes a good "dip" to use as an appetizer or at a party.  And as with any soup, the flavor is better on day 2.

This blog is a work in progress.  I would say most of the early posts will not have pictures because they're things I've made in the past, and I'm just posting from memory.  As I make them again in the future, I'll go back and add in pictures.  I'll also attempt to figure out how to add in those handy dandy recipe cards you can just print off.

If you have any suggestions, please feel free to share.

Thanks for visiting.  Happy eating.