Green Chicken Enchilada Soup

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When you’re looking for recipes online, sometimes a Google search can get tedious. It seems like the same sites show up in search results each time. That’s when I search Twitter, because I’ll always discover cool food blogs with really creative recipes, maybe some tutorials, or just links to sites I’d never find otherwise and are fun to look through.

The other day, searching Twitter, I landed on a blog called The Modern Proper and saw this recipe. It’s made in one pot with a minimum of work, so it’s easy. And the soup is perfect for cold weather.

We had this with tortilla chips (for dipping and scooping), fresh chopped cilantro (fresh coriander leaves), and chunks of avocado. It was absolutely delicious.

Serves 4

2 tsp. olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups shredded chicken (from a rotisserie chicken!)
1 16-oz. can green enchilada sauce (look for a can, not a jar — this is the one I used)
1 4-oz. can diced green chiles
2 15.5-oz. can great northern white beans
4 cups chicken stock
2 small zucchini, chopped or sliced
2 green bell peppers, diced
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground pepper

Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add in the garlic and cook for 2 more minutes.

Add remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer. Allow to cook for 20-30 minutes until vegetables are soft. Adjust seasoning as needed and serve warm topped with garnishes of your choice.

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Saltine Toffee

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Chocolate, butter, and brown sugar is an irresistible dessert combination, and here’s a way to enjoy it with a crispy layer underneath and a touch of salt. Just like it does when paired with caramel, the salt brings out the sweetness and makes each bite finish with a “wow!”

This was printed a few days ago in an Atlanta Journal-Constitution list of the best recipes of 2018. I was almost turned off by the idea of using saltine crackers. It seemed too easy, too much of a shortcut, and I didn’t think it would look as elegant as the picture made it out to be. But it was being recommended by Wendell Brock, who writes about food for the AJC and whose recipes and articles I really enjoy. So I gave it a shot and was so glad I did.

Brock called the combination of flavors and textures “heaven,” and I’d agree. 100% delicious.

Oh, and it was a fun recipe to make with my children. They laid out the crackers, sprinkled the chocolate morsels, and sprinkled the nuts and watched me do the pouring and spreading.

48 saltine crackers
16 Tbsp. (2 sticks, 225g) unsalted butter
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
12 oz. (340g) semi-sweet chocolate morsels
1 cup finely chopped pecans
Flaky or big-granule salt, such as sea salt

Preheat the oven to 400F/200C degrees. Line a 12-by-18-inch rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Lay the crackers out in one layer, as close together as possible, filling the sheet.

Melt butter and brown sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring frequently. When the butter has melted, raise the heat and bring to a boil. Keep it at a boil for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.

After 3 minutes, add the vanilla, give it a good stir, and pour evenly over the crackers. Spread the mixture around with a spatula if needed. Don’t worry if the surface isn’t completely covered. You just don’t want it pooling in one place.

Bake the crackers for 5 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle the chocolate morsels over evenly over the top. Let sit for 5 minutes, then spread the chocolate evenly over the crackers. Sprinkle pecans and salt over the top. Leave to cool, then place in refrigerator about an hour to set the chocolate.

Break into pieces and store in an airtight container for up to five days.

Printed in the AJC and adapted from “The Southern Sympathy Cookbook: Funeral Food With a Twist” by Perre Coleman Magness.

Chocolate-Dipped Marshmallows

Here’s a little treat that doesn’t take long to make. You can adapt it to any holiday with sprinkles, keep it plain, or try drizzling with icing or white chocolate. It’s a fun snack that would be great to set out at parties or nice to box up and give as a gift.

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All you need are large marshmallows and chocolate morsels — I used peppermint chocolate morsels — then sprinkles, icing, or white chocolate morsels.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper (the baking sheet must be rimmed so sprinkles don’t roll away and make a mess when you decorate).

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In a bowl, melt a large handful of chocolate morsels in the microwave. Do it in 20- or 30-second intervals, stirring in between, to make sure all the chocolate is melted and none of it burns.

When chocolate is completely melted, you must work quickly. Take a large marshmallow and dip it into the chocolate, then set it on the parchment paper with the chocolate side up. Sprinkle it right away, then do the next one. Refrigerate once they’re all decorated so the chocolate hardens, then serve.

If drizzling with icing or white chocolate, let the first layer harden in the fridge before decorating. Melt the white chocolate as above.

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Microwave Poached Eggs

20190201_121915The easiest cooking you’ll ever do, and the simplest way to cook an egg. Finally, eggs can be poached without all the fuss!

Put 8 oz. of water in a glass measuring cup or coffee mug. Break open an egg and quickly pour it in the water. Microwave for 1 minute, then remove the egg with a slotted spoon.

The reason you need to do it individually is to help the egg keep a compact shape. That’s often tricky when trying to poach eggs in a pot of water. A coffee mug or small measuring cup will do that.

Enjoy it on toast with a sprinkling of salt and pepper on top. Heavenly.

Moosewood Restaurant’s Coconut-Bean Soup

20181128_191832The most reliable cookbook I own is one from the Moosewood Restaurant. The recipes always work and are always delicious. And they’re healthy. The restaurant, a collective that started in 1973 in Ithaca, New York, is famous as one of the first to highlight vegetarian, natural, and locally sourced food.

Moosewood has a number of cookbooks, and recently I found a treasure — this 1987 copy of “New Recipes from Moosewood Restaurant,” one of their early ones. It’s interesting to see them carefully describe ingredients that are common these days, such as coconut milk, miso, and polenta.

20181128_191620The first recipe I tried from the book was this coconut milk soup with navy beans. It’s a thick soup, made substantial with the beans and a small amount of rice, but kept light with the fresh lemon juice and chopped tomatoes. I served it with flounder sautéed in butter and lemon juice. A light, crispy salad would be nice as a side dish.

I made a few tweaks, including using canned beans in place of dried in order to save time.

Serves 6

3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onions
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp. curry powder
1/4 tsp. cayenne (optional)
1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
Juice of 2 lemons
1 14.5-oz. can coconut milk
1/2 cup cooked rice
1 14.5-oz. can navy beans, drained
Toasted coconut flakes for garnish

In a large pot, heat oil on medium heat and saute onion, garlic, and spices until onions are translucent. Add peppers, tomatoes, salt, sugar, and lemon juice and simmer for 5-10 minutes, until the peppers are tender.

Stir in coconut milk, rice, and beans and simmer for 10-15 minutes, until flavors are blended. Serve garnished with toasted coconut flakes.

Halloween Eyeball Cupcakes

20181030_1539161. Bake some chocolate cupcakes with cupcake liners.
2. Prepare a thick buttercream frosting and tint it with Halloween colors like purple, orange, green, and brown.
3. Pipe spikes all over the top of the cupcake. (Squirt a small blob and bring the tip of the frosting bag straight back up.)
4. Put candy eyes randomly between the spikes.

As you can see, we didn’t just do spikes — we had fun making crazy monster faces. This is one Halloween treat that doesn’t require a specific shape or design, so just use your imagination!

Chicken Gumbo

A delicious stew for an autumn day, and very easy to make.

It’s yet ANOTHER recipe I’ve had in my binder for ages. It’s from Parade magazine, the Sunday insert in many newspapers, and it was from the late Sheila Lukins, the magazine’s former food editor and famed author of “The Silver Palate Cookbook.”

That book, and her New York restaurant that inspired it, ushered in a new style of cooking in the late ’70s and early ’80s — one that emphasized flavors and seasonings and was still easy to make. Although this gumbo recipe was printed in the magazine much later, probably around 1995, it is still a great example of that kind of cooking.

I simplified the recipe even further, using rotisserie chicken instead of the chicken she laid out in the recipe. But I’ve included her original instructions for that below, in case you don’t have a rotisserie chicken or you want to make it all from scratch.

The only tough part was taking a nice picture of such a basic dish — gumbo may be delicious, but it’s not elegant — so I have no photo to share. But I hope you’ll try it and see for yourself how wonderful Lukins’ cooking was.

Serves 4

1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 stalks celery, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 red bell pepper, cored and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1/2 green bell pepper, cored and cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups sliced okra, fresh or frozen
1 rotisserie chicken, meat shredded*
14.5-oz. can diced tomatoes, juice reserved
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1 bay leaf
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

Place oil in a large, heavy pot. Add celery, onion, peppers, and garlic; cook over low heat, stirring, for 10 minutes. Raise heat to medium, add okra and cook, stirring an additional 5 minutes.

Add chicken, tomatoes, tomato paste, thyme, and bay leaf. Cover with reserved tomato juice, making sure that all chicken pieces are covered in liquid (if necessary, add a touch of water to ensure it’s covered).

Simmer over medium-low heat, partially covered, until chicken is thoroughly tender, about 30 minutes. Stir in half the parsley. Cook, covered, for 15 minutes longer. If gumbo begins to boil, reduce heat. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Garnish with remaining parsley. If desired, serve over hot rice.

*If not using a rotisserie chicken:
1 chicken, 2 1/2-3 lbs., cut into 8 pieces, wing tips removed
1 tsp. dried mustard
1 tsp. sweet paprika
Pinch of salt
Pinch of ground pepper
Pinch of ground allspice
Pinch of cayenne pepper

Rinse chicken and pat dry. Preheat oven to 400F/200C degrees. Combine seasonings in a small bowl and rub over chicken pieces. Place chicken in shallow baking pan and bake for 15 minutes.