Sunday, March 29, 2009

Chicken and Noodles

I haven't been cooking nice dinners as much as I used to. I've either gotten lazy or busy. Tonight I told Michael I'd make him a homemade dinner and out of the choices I gave him, he picked Chicken and Noodles. I adapted a recipe from my go-to cook book for savory foods - Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book.

I've made this before and I recall that it's turned out pretty bland, so this time I made a few substitutions to try to rectify this problem. Where the recipe calls for water I used chicken stock (much tastier than broth). I also added a cup more stock than the recipe calls for, and 1/2 cup more milk than it calls for. In addition, I didn't have any frozen peas on hand, so I used soybean succotash (a mixture of edamame, corn and peppers). Finally, I used boneless, skinless chicken breasts in place of chicken legs that the original recipe calls for. The addition of stock rather than water really changed the dish - it's not bland at all. It's actually really delish.

Chicken and Noodles
Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book, copyright 2003

3 chicken breasts
3 cups chicken stock
1 cup water
2 bay leaves
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 1/2 cups chopped onions (3 medium)
2 cups sliced carrots (3-4 medium)
1 cup sliced celery (2 stalks)
3 cups wide egg noodles (6 oz)
1 cup frozen peas (I used Trader Joe's Soybean Succotash)
2 1/2 cups milk (I used 1%)
4 Tbsp all-purpose flour

In a Dutch oven, combine chicken, stock, bay leaves, thyme, salt and pepper. Add onions, carrots and celery. Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Simmer covered for 20 - 30 minutes or until chicken is tender and no longer pink. Discard the bay leaves. Remove chicken from Dutch oven; cool slightly. Chop chicken and set aside.

Bring stock mixture to boil. Add noodles and cook for five minutes. Stir in peas and two cups of milk. In a screw-top jar with a lid, combine the remaining one cup of milk with the flour. Cover and shake until smooth. Stir into noodle mixture. Cook and stir until thicened and bubbly. Stir in chopped chicken. Cook and stir for one to two minutes more or until mixture is heated through.

As originally written, this is a lite recipe (311 calories, 6 grams fat, 5 grams fiber). I'm not sure what my substitutions would do to the calorie count, etc. but I'd imagine it's pretty close since the stock is fat free and I used white meat rather than the dark it originally calls for.

Start to finish, this dinner took about an hour to make. Not much to look at, but it's a delicious home cooked meal for a cold night.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Chocolate Guiness Cake

For our annual St. Patrick's Day dinner at my parents' house I wanted to make a fun dessert, as it's been a while since I got my bake on. I ran across this cake on one of the food blogs I follow through Google Reader. It was very dense and rather moist. However, while you could smell the beer while it baked, you couldn't taste it at all, which was a bit disappointing. Also, the blog where I found the recipe indicated that she had trouble with cutting into the cake and finding that parts of the cake didn't mix well (as if there were clumps of dry ingredients). So the recipe I followed called for sifting the flour and using superfine sugar, in hopes of solving the problem. Alas, it didn't work. Not that anyone else noticed, but as an overly self-critical chef, I did. The icing was very good with the cake.

Looks-wise I was very pleased with the cake, as frosting just the top truly makes it look like a pint of Ireland's finest.

Chocolate Guiness Cake

Source: Annie's Eats, originally by Nigella Lawson

1 cup Guinness beer

10 Tbsp unsalted butter

1/2 cup cocoa powder

2 cups superfine sugar

3/4 cup sour cream

2 eggs

1 Tbsp vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 1/2 tsp baking soda

8 oz. cream cheese (no need to soften)

5 Tbsp butter, softened

2 tsp vanilla extract

2 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour the sides of a 9-inch round springform pan, and line the bottom with parchment paper. In a small saucepan, combine the Guinness and butter. Heat over medium heat until the butter is melted. Remove from the heat. Whisk in the cocoa powder and sugar.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the sour cream, eggs and vanilla. Beat on medium speed until well combined. Add the Guinness mixture to the bowl and mix until incorporated. In a small bowl, sift together the flour and baking soda. Add the dry ingredients to the bowl of the mixer and mix on low speed until just incorporated.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes back clean. Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack. Once cooled, remove the sides of the pan.

To make the frosting, combine the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer. Cream on medium-high speed. Add the powdered sugar to the bowl in batches, beating on low until just combined and then on high speed until desired consistency is reached. For a stiffer icing, add more powdered sugar. Frost cooled cake as desired.

Sweet & Salty Frito Candy

I saw this on the linked blog a few months back and thought it looked interesting and delicious - Frito's and chocolate? Not your usual pairing. It's a super easy recipe to make and is a real treat. I can't think of anything appropriate to compare it to - it's not quite like peanut brittle, not quite like toffee. I'll probably add a touch more Frito's and a bit less pretzels next time I make it, as I enjoyed the Frito bites the most. Also, I may reduce the amount of filler ingredients - the pretzels, Fritos, pb cups - a bit because I didn't feel there was quite enough of the butter/brown sugar mixture to go around. Overall, this was a successful and unusual treat!
Sweet Salty Frito Candy

2 cups pretzels
1 cup Fritos
8 mini peanut butter cups
1 stick unsalted butter (8 tablespoons)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
Optional: Chopped peanuts for the top

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a 13×9 inch pan with parchment paper or no-stick foil. Crush pretzels. You can use a food processor to chop, or just throw them in a ziploc bag and crush with your hands or a meat tenderizer. Add Fritos to processor/bag and break them up with pretzels. Dump into pan. Chop peanut butter cups into quarters and throw them in the mix. Place butter in a non-stick saucepan and melt over medium heat. When butter is melted, stir in brown sugar. Bring mixture to a full boil and boil for one minute, stirring once or twice. Pour over Frito mixture and bake for 8 minutes.Remove pan from oven and sprinkle chocolate chips over hot candy. Return to oven for 1 minute to soften chips. Spread softened chocolate chips over bars. Add chopped nuts if you would like to.Cool at room temperature until you feel the pan is cool enough to be transferred to your refrigerator, then transfer to refrigerator to set the chocolate. When chocolate is set, lift from pan and break the candy up as you would almond toffee. You can eat it cold or let it come back down to room temp.