[Kitchen Kitten] Chicken Noodle Soup to Warm Your Soul

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Winter – it’s not just coming, it’s here.  From some spotted, drizzling downpour in Los Angeles to the outrageous snow storms on the East Coast, a ridiculous flu season and the Game of Thrones Season 5 Trailer, Winter is making it’s mark this year and it’s making it loud and proud.

Fortunately for me, my housemates and my stomach – I’ve been perfecting an impeccable anti-Winter anecdote. Somewhere, wrangled between my nurturing side, a somewhat new fangled love of food, a nurturing Step Mother who’s been eager to teach me to cook and an incredibly Jewish grandmother who did nothing but dote on her family – I’ve stumbled upon the Chicken Noodle Soup recipe to end all Chicken Noodle Soup recipe’s.  It’s got enough root vegetables to reinvigorate your root chakra and a deliriously delicious, savory flavor.  Perfect for large groups on weekend trips, a cozy night in with good friends and stocking up the freezer, this soup is the cat’s pajamas. So get some of your favorite old movies together, cuddle up with your loved ones – furry, and otherwise, and chow down on some of the best homemade soup you’ll ever have, guaranteed.

Ingredients:

I made the following recipe for four people, but let’s be honest it probably could’ve fed 8 if we weren’t starving.

  • 2 CarrotsMade with Repix (http://repix.it)
  • 2 Ribs of Celery
  • 1 Clove Garlic // or 2 tbs minced Garlic + Juice
  • 1 medium Onion
  • 1 Shallot
  • 1 Ginger Root
  • 3 Radishes
  • 1 Potato
  • 4 tbs Butter
  • EV Olive Oil
  • 2 Qt Boxes of Beef Stock
  • 1/2 cup Pasta Shells
  • Handful of Fresh Cut Herbs: Dill, Basil, Mint, Cilantro
  • Fresh Cracked Pepper
  • Sea Salt
  • 2-3 Chicken Breasts
  • 2 Lemons

Tools: Cutting Board, Sharp Knife, Large Soup Pot, Medium Sauce Pan; Extra Points: Vegetable Peeler 

Directions

  1. Get our your chicken breasts, cut them up into manageable – edible – pieces, and marinate it in a basic concoction of Olive Oil, Lemon, Pepper and SaltMade with Repix (http://repix.it)
  2. While the chicken is marinating, peel, slice, dice and mince down your veggies and herbs.
  3. Heat up your Soup Pot to medium heat, and we’re going to cook down the chicken. Because there are going to be so many aromatics added layer by layer, just toss in the chicken and the marinade; and then add 2 tbs of butter. Trust. Turn 3 times, every 2 Made with Repix (http://repix.it)minutes. Take the chicken out and let it rest on some paper towels; don’t worry if it’s not completely cooked – it’ll get there!
  4. Toss in the shallot, onion, ginger and  garlic. Cook for 3-5 minutes, then add the rest of the veggies, 2tbs of Butter and season heavily with salt; cook for 10 minutes.
  5. Add your beef stock.  And I know what you’re thinking: but AMANDA, we’re making Chicken Noodle Soup! Yep, I know – let me show you the way. Add salt, pepper and fresh herbs to taste and bring it to a boil.
  6. One thing I’ve found over time is that when my noodles sit in the soup for too long, they kind of – take over – the soup; so, to avoid creating an awkward consistency, and for saving’s sake, I’ve been cooking my noodles in a separate sauce pan and really enjoying the flavor of the soup.  While the soup is coming to a boil, add water and a pinch of salt to the medium sauce pan and bring to a boil as well.
  7. Once the soup is boiling, add the chicken and cook for 10 more minutes.
  8. Let the pasta cook until tender, drain – and voila! Made with Repix (http://repix.it)

What are your tips and tricks for your favorite recipes? I’m always looking to try new things; let me know in the comments below!

[Kitchen Kitten] D.I.Y. Infused Olive Oils

Over the course of the past few years I’ve gone from a complete klutz in the kitchen to a meal maven. Looking back,  it must have been a combination of a few things clicking in my head. First,  there’s this little thing I like to call  ‘ballin’ on a budget‘: as much as I love to live large, I almost desperately needed a way to keep my spending in check. Sushi, Dim Sum, Whole Paycheck Foods; you name it, I ate it on the regular so I had to put a stop to my delivery and dining out habits. Secondly, I was getting pretty sick of people ruining foods that I love. Third, I’m a firm believer that everyone should be adept at crafting their favorite comfort foods so I wanted to make a point of learning how to cook flavored, moist chicken and sear the perfect salmon. And last, but definitely not least: food, more specifically the gastrointestinal system, is the key to everyone’s heart.  No, seriously! With the amount of serotonin receptors in your GI tract and stomach, it’s no wonder that food and mood go completely hand in hand.

My First Cookbook!

I started out slow and basic when I moved into my first apartment in 2008. Right after I graduated from UCSB, my step-mother gifted me with a book ironically titled ‘How to Boil Water‘ that gracefully takes you through simple cooking preparation and elementary dishes to make you cool as a cucumber in your kitchen.  That Christmas after demonstrating I figured out a thing or two about my culinary prowess, I got another gift – a year’s subscription to ‘Cooks Illustrated‘ and the famed ‘Good Housekeeping Cookbook‘.  In the matter of five years, I’ve gone from being an expert microwave user to an amazing (and modest) chef! I’ve learned how to make homemade chicken noodle soup, salad dressing from scratch, craftmy own pizzas and toss up a mean stir-fry.

Since I’m always up for a new challenge, I started scouring the interwebs for ways I could enhance my skill-set.  I’ve been itching to have a ‘make-your-own-sushi‘ party or a fun, date night where my boyfriend and I craft our own ice cream – but when I found recipes to infuse my own olive oils I knew I’d hit the jackpot!  I’m a sucker for a beautiful bottle of wine, beer or hard alcohol and this provides an adorable way to preserve and decorate the bottle for personal use or for your closest family and friends.

Olive Oils can be infused one of two ways – either through ‘Hot Infusion’ or through ‘Cold Infusion.’  The ultimate difference is time and taste – cold infusion should take approximately two weeks but a hot infusion can occur in one day; on the flip side, cold infusions preserve the flavors of your herbs and veggies while doing it ‘hot’ allows for their tastes to be altered. I’ve done this both ways now and can tell you from experience that I prefer doing it the cold route.  One reason some like it hot is to reduce the risk of botulism – but as long are you’re careful and follow these simple steps, you can avoid it with cold infusion as well:

  1.  mix the olive oil + herbs + spices and refrigerate for two weeks
  2.  preserve the added ingredients in a strong brine or vinegar
  3. dehydrate all herbs so all that remains are the essential oils
  4. self-press your olives with the spices in the press

Now, let’s get down to business

: DIY Infused Olive Oils :

Prep: 15-20 min

Equipment

  • a few old wine, beer or liquor bottles; preferably with awesome labels and clear glass (canning jars are an excellent substitute!)
  • rubber stoppers, spouts, or twist on tops for the bottles
  • (hot infusion) sauce pan

Ingredients

  • fresh + fried herbs like rosemary, tarragon, mint, basil
  • salts + spices: lemon pepper, ‘regular‘ pepper, sea salt, cumin, cayenne pepper
  • fruit like citrus, like lemons, limes or oranges; you can even grate or peel the rinds, and peppers, chilies, jalepenos, red + yellow peppers (for color)
  • veggies like garlic, red onion, shallots, etc etc
  • extra virgin olive oil, or whatever oils you typically cook with
  • if you choose to preserve your veggies + herbs first, brine or vinegar

Instructions

  1. wash all of your ingredients and dry them as much as you can; fun fact: botulism can’t grow in olive oil on its own, it’s actually caused by bacteria growing on the remaining water in your herbs!
  2. wash + dry your bottle; then make sure your bottle + stopped have an excellent seal (canning jars work, too!)
  3.  to prep your infusion: expose natural oils in your herbs by bruising them, toast + crush spices, slice fruits + veggies in thin pieces
  4.  (cold infusion) cram salts, spices, herbs, fruits + veggies into olive oil; seal the bottle for approximately 1.5-2 weeks in a dark, cold place (re: fridge)
  5.  (hot infusion) before putting them in the bottle, place all ingredients + oil in a saucepan and cook to 180°.  this is definitely the quickest way, how to-the ever this changes the taste and flavor of both your ingredients and your oil
  6. it’s a personal choice whether you want to strain your ingredients or leave them in; personally, i love the look + taste so i leave them in but if you choose to remove them: (cold) strain mixture after 2 weeks of rest + (hot) strain mixture after cooking
  7.  infused olive oils typically last for a month, give or take a few weeks (or, signs of spoiling). which is more of a reason to make it pretty, because if you don’t finish them they make beautiful table pieces.

Last but not leastremember to enjoy your creation! Infused olive oils are a great way to quickly add flavor to a simple meal like scrambled eggs and for dipping breads pre-meal or as a snack.  Also, if you’ve been gifted with a bottle of wine or liquor, this is the perfect way to return the favor – or, pay it forward.

 

Kitchen Kitten: Pizza, Pizza!

Since I moved into my new place about a year ago, I’ve been on the hunt for easy, breezy and delicious dinner recipes.  It started off with incredibly basic things – like potstickers, rice and a salad – that take little to no planning or preparation.  But, over time, the tried and true meals tasted bland and I found myself getting incredibly bored.  So, for the sake of my taste buds, I’ve taken to the interwebs and a few great cookbooks to get a feel for what’s actually possible in this kitchen of mine.
My research left me with a couple great takeaways. The first thing I learned about creating a meal was this: if you can follow instructions, you can cook.  But what I didn’t realize was that recipes are like templates – sure, they build a great final product, but who says you can’t make any alterations? After all, it’s going in your stomach! The second thing I learned was that, as in life, timing is everything.  It’s one thing to create a mouthwatering salad with pasta and sizzling steaks as individual items;  but if you have no concept of timing then your steak could finish before your pasta is tender and you’ve cut your fresh vegetables.

One of my newest, and most delectable, additions is making pizza!  If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, chances are you’ve seen my ridiculously scrumptious posts floating across your timeline; if not, that’s just too bad because my creations are amazing! It’s super simple to make, it’s affordable and its great for groups.  Simply ask each person to come with a favorite topping – or beverage – and voila, collaborative pizza party!  The one thing I do need to own up to is that I don’t make my own pizza dough, but hey – what do I look like, Papa John?

Pizza – Prep Time :20  //  :15-20

Equipment:

  • 12″ Pizza Tray, but a cookie sheet will work if you’re S-O-L
  • Cutting Board
  • Small, sharp knife
  • Oven

Ingredients*

  • 1 Tbs Flour
  • Pizza Dough: I love the premade dough at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s; I tried the ‘Garlic & Herb’ last night and it was delish!  If you’re feeling crafty, you can even make your own!
  • Sauce: Trader Joe’s makes a great pizza sauce, but I actually perfer using pasta sauce like Ragu’s Old World Style in Meat Flavor
  • 6 oz Grated Cheese: Half a block or half a bag, depending on your preference. You could get fancy, buy a nice block and grate it yourself but I prefer the pregrated cheese assortments like the ‘Three Cheese Mexican Blend’ at TJ’s.
  • Toppings: First of all, there are a world of toppings to choose from so why confine yourself to the basics? Walk over to your local produce spot and take a gander at their fresh veggies then head over to a deli and take a peak at their meats.
  • Dranks: Wine and beer both go great with pizza, and I suggest opening a bottle of either (or, both!) while you get cooking!

Instructions

  • Preheat your oven to 450 F
  • Sprinkle the flour lightly over the pizza tray and set the pizza dough on top of the flour; it’ll take about 20 minutes to properly rise.
  • While you’re waiting on your dough, cut up the vegetables and meat into bite size portions. It’s okay to sneak a few bites, I won’t tell!
  • After 20 minutes is up, spread the dough evenly on the pizza tray using your hands or a rolling pin if one is available
  • Cover the pizza with sauce, leaving about half an inch at the edge for crust.  I’d say use about 4 heaping spoonfuls of sauce, and make sure it’s spread out evenly
  • Sprinkle the shredded cheese on the sauce then distribute your toppings
  • Turn the oven to bake, and put the pizza tray in for 15 minutes
  • Set an alarm, and check the crust at 10 minutes – then leave for longer based on your desired crispiness!

Ps. Tips!

For meats, it depends how much work you want to put into it – Trader Joe’s carries something called ‘Just Chicken’ that’s precooked, or you could prepare your own chicken.  Then there are the packaged meats like salami, ham and prosciutto; I can’t give you a favorite because they’re all so good

There are so many different vegetables you can throw on pizza, but so far I’ve really enjoyed are: avocado, bell pepper, tomatoes, onions, garlic and mushrooms.  Now, I’ve tried using two different types of tomatoes – the larger, ‘off-the-vine’ variety and smaller, grape tomatoes.  I thought the size of the grape tomato would be better to deal with, but in actuality I prefer the larger ones!

You can pick all of these up at any supermarket, but if you want to kickass in your community find a mom and pop produce and deli store to make your purchases.  It’s a lot more affordable with a bigger variety of veggies to choose from, and to boot you’re helping stimulate your local economy.

Kitchen Kitten: What the French, Toast?

In the past year, I’ve shifted my focus on a lot of things – one of those changes has been spending a considerable amount of time in the kitchen, cooking and baking up a storm. I’ve perfected my stir-fry technique, developed my own special way of cooking chicken, and have a go-to recipe for lamb.  I filleted salmon the other week just to see if I could find a cooked fish recipe that I could enjoy.  I tried my hand at baking cupcakes, pretzels, and cookies all with the other hand firmly on a glass of wine.

It all started because I was sick of being a picky eater, and figured if I could learn how to make the things I enjoyed eating, then I would eat more.  Isn’t it great when you’re right?! The me from 5 years ago would laugh at my 27 year old self, because now I absolutely love it. Being in the kitchen is such a calming and cathartic process, and there’s no better feeling than cooking something up that you as the chef can’t get enough of. This thought goes into my head each time I savor a bite – this is amazing, and I did it all myselfIt’s such a source of pride, and I gift that’s so easy to share with friends and family.

Way back in the day, back when I was a litttttttle girl, my mom and I would indulge ourselves by making breakfast for dinner.  Sometimes we had pancakes, other times we had waffles…and then every once in the bluest moon she would make me my favorite – French ToastApparently, I wasn’t as helpful as I like to remember being because I’ve avoided making it for most of my adult life.  Good thing that’s recently changed for the better.  I have a super simple recipe – and kind of like Yan said, ‘If I can cook, so can you!’

French Toast – Prep Time :05 // Cook Time :15

Equipment:

  • Non Stick Skillet, 12″
  • Pie plate, or plate deep enough to soak the bread
  • Cookie Sheet
  • Whisk or fork

Ingredients for 2 Servings:

  • 3 Large Eggs
  • 3/4 Cup of Milk
  • 1/8 Teaspoon Salt
  • 4 Tbs Butter / Margarine
  • 8 Slices (1/2″) of White Bread – Challah, Sourdough, etc
  • Soft Butter
  • Maple Syrup
  • Optional, but I’d have it: Nutmeg, Cinnamon, Vanilla Extract, Fresh Berries, Powdered Sugar, Whipped Cream

Instructions:

  1. Add milk, salt, and a dash of nutmeg, cinnamon and/or vanilla extract to pie plate
  2. Break eggs into plate and whisk until consistent
  3. In your non-stick skillet, melt 2 tbs of butter on a medium-low heat
  4. Dip bread, one slice at a time, into the mixture – coat both sides well!
  5. Once four slices are dipped and ready, put them in the skillet for 4minutes a side, or until browned
  6. When finished, place the 4 slices on the cookie sheet and repeat with the other 4

Add some maple syrup, fresh fruit, powdered sugar or whipped cream and – voila, breakfast (or dinner) is served!