Monthly Archives: March 2011

Chicken and Rice Soup

It’s March 28th and I woke up to snow falling.  It didn’t last long and it wasn’t cold enough to stick, but it was still a chilly day.  I complain about the cold weather frequently, but I have to admit the snow falling was absolutely gorgeous this morning.  We spent the weekend up in the mountains and it was perfect soup weather…so, I’ve been craving soup for several days now.  I’m hopeful that there aren’t too many cold soup days left, but I figured I’d enjoy a hot bowl of soup for dinner while I still can.

A few weeks ago, on a day off from work, I went crazy in the kitchen and made a huge pot of chicken and rice soup.  The soup is a good weekday lunch meal and it freezes really well.  I had one individual portion of soup left in the freezer – Tim had to fend for himself. 😉

Chicken and Rice Soup

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 medium carrots, cut diagonally into 1/2-inch-thick slices
2 celery ribs, halved lengthwise, and cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
4 fresh thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
2 quarts chicken stock
1 cup of water
1 cup long grain white rice
1 1/2 cups shredded cooked chicken breasts
1 bouillon cube
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place a soup pot over medium heat and add the olive oil.  Add the onion, garlic, carrots, celery, thyme, and bay leaf.  Cook and stir for about 6 minutes, until the vegetables are softened but not browned.  Pour in the chicken stock and water; bring the liquid to a boil.  Add in the rice and chicken; season with salt and pepper. Dissolve bouillon cube in soup.  Cook on medium-low until the rice is tender, about 30 minutes.  Serve hot with saltine crackers.

Slightly adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod

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Posted by on March 28, 2011 in Soup


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Guacamole Salad

Who doesn’t like avocados?  It is one of those perfect foods – healthy, versatile, and so good.  Tim made guacamole salad as a side dish for our chicken soft tacos and it was the perfect side dish, even with red bell peppers (this might be the only recipe you ever see on this blog with red bell peppers).  The salad was fresh and flavorful.  We actually ate most of the guacamole salad as a dip with tortilla chips and as a topping for our soft tacos, but it’s good with a fork, too!

I think this guacamole salad will be a great side dish for days at the park this summer or backyard barbeques. Spring is barely even here, but I’m ready for summer!  I’m already dreaming of lawn games, baseball at Coors Field, rooftop happy hours…and more guacamole salad.

1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 red or yellow bell pepper, seeded and 1/2-inch diced
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup small-diced red onion
1 tablespoon minced jalapeno pepper, seeded (1/2-1 jalapeno)
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated lime zest
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
2 ripe Hass avocados, seeded, peeled, and 1/2 inch dice

Combine the tomatoes, peppers, black beans, red onion, jalapeno, and lime zest in a large bowl. Whisk together the lime juice, olive oil, salt, black pepper, garlic, and cayenne pepper and pour over vegetables. Toss well.  Add in the avocados just before serving.

From Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa at Home via Josie at Pink Parsley

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Posted by on March 23, 2011 in Side Dish


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Chicken Soft Tacos

Taco night is a regular occurrence at our house.  Actually, any meal that we can serve with chips and salsa is a regular occurrence at our house.  I tried to mix things up last Friday night and go a step above our normal ground turkey and taco seasoning.  Enter the Cook’s Illustrated recipe for Chicken Soft Tacos posted on the blog Pink Parsley.


Tim’s response after taking his first bite? “This is definitely a recipe for when we have people over for dinner.”  Well, alright.  I like that response.  And, honestly, I completely agree.  The flavor of the sauce just works.  It’s easy enough to throw together fairly quickly, but the taste makes it seems like you slaved away in the kitchen for hours.  And, if you use uncooked flour tortillas from Costco, then you’re set.  Trust me on this one.  You will never go back to regular flour tortillas again.  The tortillas take about 30 seconds to cook and they make tacos and quesadillas that much better.

We had guacamole salad (more on that in the next post), plus chips and tomatillo salsa with the soft tacos, and a margarita or two, while we watched NCAA basketball – prior to my bracket completing busting…

1 teaspoon canola oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons minced canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
3/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, divided
1/2 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed
1 teaspoon yellow mustard
salt and pepper
flour tortillas, warmed
desired toppings (we used tomatillo salsa, and even put some of the avocado salad on top)

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Stir in the garlic and chipotles and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Stir in 1/2 cup of the cilantro, Worcestershire sauce, and the orange juice.

Nestle the chicken into the skillet and bring to a simmer, cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook until the thickest part registers 160-165 degrees on a thermometer, about 12-18 minutes, flipping them halfway through.

Remove the chicken from the pan and transfer to a cutting board.  Shred into bite-sized pieces using 2 forks.

Meanwhile, continue to simmer the sauce over medium heat until thickened and reduced to about 1/4 cup, about 5 minutes.

Remove from heat, and whisk in the mustard and remaining cilantro.  Stir in the chicken, and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve with warm tortillas and desired toppings.

From Cook’s Illustrated, Light and Healthy 2010 via Josie at Pink Parsley


Posted by on March 22, 2011 in Main Dish


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Spinach Manicotti with a Creamy Tomato Sauce

After making the huge pot of marinara sauce, I felt inspired to make Spinach Manicotti with a Creamy Tomato Sauce for dinner.  It’s slightly more time consuming than most of our weeknight meals, but it is so good.  Martha, as in Martha Stewart, claims that this is a no-fuss meal perfect for a weeknight dinner.  Clearly Martha is either 1) much faster at stuffing manicotti shells than me, or 2) has more time on her hands to prepare a weeknight dinner.   Regardless, the finished product is worth it, but I wouldn’t call it fuss-free.

A photo of spinach manicotti.

Coarse salt and ground pepper
8 manicotti shells
1 container (15 ounces) part-skim ricotta cheese
1 cup finely grated Parmesan
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 package (10 ounces) frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 cup mushrooms, chopped into small pieces, sautéed
2 cups marinara sauce
Pinch of dried oregano
2 tablespoons heavy cream

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Cook pasta according to package instructions.  Drain, rinse with cold water, and place on a greased baking sheet in a single layer.  Combine ricotta cheese, 1/2 cup of Parmesan, lemon zest, spinach, and mushrooms in a medium sized bowl.  Season with salt and pepper.  Mix well to combine.

Place cheese mixture in large ziplock bag.  Twist and squeeze bag so filling is in one corner.  Using scissors, cut a small opening in the corner of the bag.  Stuff filling in manicotti shells and place in an 8-inch square glass baking dish.

In a medium bowl, whisk together marinara sauce, oregano, and heavy cream.  Pour over manicotti and top with remaining 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese.  Bake for 30 minutes or until cheese has browned and sauce is bubbling in center of dish.  Let dish stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Serve with salad and French bread.

Slightly adapted from Martha Stewart



Posted by on March 18, 2011 in Main Dish


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Basic Marinara Sauce

I cook a lot of dinners that require a cup or two of marinara sauce.  It’s pretty convenient to add spaghetti sauce to my grocery list and pick up a jar of sauce whenever I’m out and about.  But then I discovered a recipe for a basic marinara on Cooking Light’s website.  And I decided I would buy spaghetti sauce no more.

If you happen to be looking for something to do on a Sunday afternoon, look no further.  This basic marinara is not too labor intensive and it makes somewhere around 12 cups of sauce.  I’m already thinking of the unlimited possibilities – manicotti, chicken parmesan, lasagna, and the list goes on and on.  (My head is spinning with all of the future blog posts!)  Did I mention that your house will smell incredibe?

Marinara Sauce

This marinara freezes well and if you freeze it in one-cup increments, you’ll pretty much be set for whenever a recipe calls for marinara.

I used vegetable broth instead of chicken broth, so the vegetarians in my life won’t be left out if we have lasagna at the next Glee watch party.  I also omitted the extra salt, because I couldn’t find no-salt-added crushed tomatoes at the store.  Otherwise, I just followed the recipe.

Basic Marinara Sauce

3 tablespoons olive oil
3 cups chopped yellow onion (about 3 medium)
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons minced garlic (about 6 cloves)
2 teaspoons dried basil
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 cups vegetable broth
3 (28-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes

Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion to pan; cook 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Add sugar and next 6 ingredients (through fennel seeds); cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in vinegar; cook 30 seconds. Add broth and tomatoes; bring to a simmer. Cook over low heat for 55 minutes or until sauce thickens, stirring occasionally.

Slightly adapted from Cooking Light

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Posted by on March 15, 2011 in Sauces


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