White Bean Chicken Potato Soup

This is a soup I made last winter and I  have been craving it again. White beans are wonderful, and always remind me of winter. When I ate this, I recognized it as a good alternative to the traditional “chicken noodle soup”. I would still call this soup a “get well soup” and one that is hearty in its own right. Also, let us all just acknowledge now that because of the crap that is often passed as chicken noodle soup, it is so overrated and often not what it is cracked up to be.

This recipe is one that I just threw together, so I was ultimately very surprised that it was as successful as it turned out to be. When I was thinking last night about what to make for dinner, this soup came to mind, so I figured I’d just write a post about it instead, but make something different for dinner. 

This soup has somewhat of a creamy consistency, I’m guessing because of the starch from both the beans and potatoes, and it has a nice, citrusy bite to it along with the spice from the cayenne. I’m a big fan of roasted garlic, so I threw that in, but alternatively you could go the italian route and just cut the top off of a head of garlic and throw the entire thing in with the simmering white beans.

Because I wanted the flavor of all of the different vegetables to come across cleanly, I used water instead of broth so I wouldn’t muddy up the flavors. The combination of flavors is comforting and bright, and it makes me feel like there’s a little bit of sunshine on a rainy day. The cooking time is lengthy, because I used dry white beans, but you could seriously lessen it by using canned or pre-cooked white beans instead. 

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White Bean Chicken Potato Soup
Cooking time – 2 1/2 hours 

Ingredients: 
1 cup white beans, soaked overnight, or 1 12 oz can of white beans
4 large strips lemon rind, removed from the lemon by using a potato peeler

1 large white onion, 1/4″ dice
2 Tablespoons olive oil
5 cloves roasted garlic
1 chicken breast, bone in
Salt, dried oregano, dried basil to taste
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, more if desired

Directions:
Place the soaked white beans in a medium sized soup pot with plenty of water to cover and the lemon rind. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, adding water as needed for about two hours, or until the beans are tender, checking often (about every 15 minutes) after the one hour mark. The beans should be reasonably tender, but still al dente, with a small amount of bite left to them. They should not be cooked completely.

Meanwhile, in a separate skillet, cook the chicken. Salt and pepper it generously and place it in olive oil, cooking over medium-low heat until the chicken is cooked through and tender, which should take about 10 to 15 minutes. Let the chicken cool and shred it finely. Then sweat the onions in about two tablespoons of olive oil, adding salt and pepper as needed. After about 5 minutes, add the roasted garlic, crushing slightly with the back of the spoon with which you are stirring the onions.

Add the potatoes and stir to combine well. At this point, add the mixture to the beans, adding enough water to cover by about an inch and bring to a boil, return to a simmer and cook for about 12 minutes, until the potatoes and beans are equally tender. Add the seasonings (I didn’t measure, but I would use about one teaspoon of each herb) including the cayenne, and taste. Salt to taste. Adjust the seasoning as needed.

Just before serving, add the chicken to the soup and stir well. Remove the lemon peel. Serve hot, with bread and a side salad with arugula.

 

Notes:

*if you use canned white beans in this soup, you’ll need to adjust the cooking time accordingly. You would instead start by sweating the onions and following the recipe from there, adding the lemon rind when you add the potatoes. Add the white beans within two minutes of the soup being done, just so they can heat.

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

Before I give you this lovely recipe, I will first say that I have a very high respect for cookies everywhere. Among my favorites are the following: snickerdoodles, peanut butter blossoms, jam thumbprints, (good old fashioned) butter shortbread, oatmeal raisin (actually probably my favorite), molasses, gingersnaps. I love them all!

I even like sugar cookies, and sugar cookies with lemon are delicious. Lemon glaze on top; even better! BUT (talk about a cookie that takes the cake) once I made sugar cookie dough and decided it was too boring so I looked in my cupboard for mix-ins. I found nothing but honey nut cheerios and goldfish crackers, so I added them in. They were amazing. Salty and sweet, but not severe, I have to admit they were a hit, and I didn’t record the recipe, but when I make them again, I’ll be sure to post it.

So you can see that traditional cookie recipes aren’t really my thing. Oatmeal chocolate chip is so much better than chocolate chip, but a dash of cinnamon elevates them to a new level of home-y-ness. Thus, this recipe, which I have a deep love for. I really do hope you make these cookies. I hope you share them with everyone, because why else would you make cookies? Share this recipe, too, because sometimes sharing recipes is even better than sharing baked goods. In fact, I first got this recipe because one of my roommates best friends made these for her boyfriend and he claimed to fall even more in love with her (so work those womanly whiles). My roommate gave the recipe to me, I tweaked it according to my taste buds (adding the cinnamon, oats and extra vanilla) and the rest is baking history.

These are easy enough, quick enough, and like all cookies ever, have the added bonus of making your house smell divine. Please, please, eat them. That is all.

 

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Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
Serves A Lot

 Dry Ingredients:
1 1/2 Cups All-purpose flour
1 Cup rolled oats
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Wet Ingredients:
1/2 Cup sugar
1 Cup brown sugar
1 Tablespoon molasses
1 cup butter
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanila
2 Cups milk chocolate chips (I use the large variety of milk chocolate chips…I think the brand is Guittard)

In a small bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients, and whisk them lightly until everything is combined thoroughly. It’s important to make sure that the baking soda is well distributed.

In a medium sized mixing bowl, using either a standing mixer (such as a kitchenaid) or a handheld mixer, cream the butter and both sugars on a medium high speed (I used speed 3) for four minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, creaming for about a minute between each addition, and scraping down the bowl. When you cream the butter and sugar this way, you aerate it more than usual, causing more air to be incorporated, making the cookies rise more and giving them a fluffy texture in the center with a beautifully chewy/crisp edge. I read about this technique in the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook, and it really works well.

Add the vanilla and molasses, mix on speed 1 just until combined. Add the chocolate chips at this point, using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon to mix them in. You want, of course, to make sure there is a little chocolate in each bite. Using a 1/2 oz scoop or a tablespoon, portion the cookies into individual dough balls. Place them on a cookie sheet, touching each other, and freeze them for thirty minutes to an hour. Freezing the dough individually before baking it will help the cookies to bake up gooey in the center and crisp on the edges, making the perfect cookie texture. You can forgo this step, but the cookies will spread much more and they will be more crispy and flat overall.

While the cookies are in the freezer, preheat the oven to 425. Place the cookies on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper, 2 inches apart from each other and the edges of the pan. Bake for 9-11 minutes, starting with 9, seeing if you need an additional minute or two. The cookies will seem very gooey in the middle, almost raw, and the edges will be vaguely golden brown.

Notes:

When you bake cookies, you’re looking for color, not texture, to indicate the level of “done-ness”. Cookies like this, with a high fat content, will remain pliable and soft in the middle, even when they are done baking. They will not reach the correct texture until they are fully cool. So look for the browning around the edges, not the “semi-set” center. 

When you first take the pan out of the oven, whack the cookie tray on the counter lightly to cause the middle of the cookies to fall. This will create a crinkly texture, reminiscent of the cookies at your favorite local bakery. If you do this, be warned: your cookies will not be raised in the middle in a lovely mound. They will be primarily flat across the top, but the middle will remain soft and a tad gooey. 

I made a soup

The other day, when the snow was coming down and I needed something to warm me to the bones, something I could eat with bread and accompany with a dark beer, something that felt just right eating in a really big cozy sweater with Caleb beside me while watching an indie drama, I made a soup. I always think that soup fits moods like these, when I want to eat something while sitting on a couch wrapped in plenty of blankets. 

My soups always have multiple forms of carbs, and they are always made up on the spot. I don’t think I’ve ever cooked a soup that I had a recipe for, besides when I was in school. Some of my soups have ended up tasting like little more than water and something vaguely like a vegetable with a hint of salt.  I’m not proud of these, especially because I hate wasting foods, but these can’t be helped much. But this soup was a fairly good specimen. It was flavorful, rich, hearty, with pasta and potatoes, bacon and sausage, and enough vegetables to be considered healthy, even though the broth is luxurious with the addition of cream. 

Potato Kale Soup with Orecchiette
Makes 3 large bowls

Ingredients: 
3 slices bacon, cut into thin shreds
2 kielbasa sausages, cut in 1/4″ thick half circle shapes
1 large yellow onion, 1/4″ dice
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed in a garlic press
2 medium sized russet potatoes, cut into bite sized cubes
1 can corn kernels, drained
3 cups beef broth
water, as needed
salt and pepper, to taste
4 or 5 large kale leaves, stems removed, chopped
5 stems fresh basil, chiffonade*
1/2 cup Orecchiette, dry
1/3 cup heavy cream
smoked paprika, as needed

Directions: 
In a medium sized pot over medium high heat, brown the bacon until almost crisp. Add the sausage. Cook until the sausage is browning on the edges and the bacon is crisp, stirring almost constantly. Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon and sausage from the pot, reserving it in a small dish until the end. Leave the grease in the pot and add the onion. Cook for about three minutes, until translucent and aromatic. Add the garlic and saute for one minute until fragrant.

Add the potatoes and corn, stirring until combined. Pour in the beef broth, and if needed, additional water to cover by about an inch. Bring to a boil, then lower to a gentle simmer. After about eight minutes, add salt and pepper to season. Add the kale, the orecchiette, and the basil. Cook for about 10 minutes more. Taste the broth and add more salt and pepper as needed. At this point, keep the soup at a gentle simmer over medium low heat. Drizzle in the cream while stirring gently. When the cream is combined, add the paprika, a pinch at a time, until the broth glows with rosiness. You want it to be a mellow orange with a light hint of paprika fragrance. When the orecchiette and the potatoes are thoroughly cooked, place the bacon and sausage back into the pot and stir until distributed (you’ll want some of the meat in each bite). Eat the soup while it is still very hot.

 

Notes:

Caleb and I ate this with garlic bread, and it was perfect. I’m not a soup and salad person, I’m a soup and bread person. Enjoy.

*orecchiette is a small pasta, shaped like a half clam shell. In Italian, the word literally means “little ears”! 

Citrus Olive Oil Cake with Toasted Almonds

I’ve never been a cake person, favoring cookies, ice cream, pie, muffins, frozen custard, pastries, and almost anything else over something that often reminds me of a really sweet version of crumbly bread (which is actually exactly what cake is). It’s one of those things that I feel like could have a good amount of potential, but it never lives up to what I want it to.

I think a big part of the problem is frosting and icing. Sugar and fat is bad enough, but sugar and water mixed together and then dyed is just revolting to me. Now, if you personally have chosen to like cake, I’ll still be your friend. I just won’t eat cake with you. 

This cake is quite different from the above mentioned atrocities because it’s very thick, dense and rich. It’s both savory and sweet, and it requires no icing of any kind (a bonus of infinite proportions). I first found the original version of this recipe on Molly Wizenberg’s blog, but I have since updated it slightly (although she should still get full credit for the use and creation of this recipe). I like that it contains fruit and toasted nuts, and the olive oil is deep and coats your palette in a thick way, while the spices are a subtle compliment to the orange.

It’s a lovely update of “fruitcake” for the holiday season, because although it is reminiscent of that tradition, it actually tastes good. Because it contains boiled citrus, it makes your house smell mouthwatering while you prep and bake it, that is if you like the smell of lemons and oranges. It’s sweet enough that the only necessary accompaniment is unsweetened freshly whipped cream, and maybe a square of very dark chocolate.

 

Citrus Olive Oil Cake with Toasted Almonds
Preheat the oven to 350º

Ingredients:
1 small to medium orange
1 lemon
6 ounces raw, slivered almonds
1 Cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
4 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 Cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 Cups sugar

Whipped Cream:
1/2 Cup heavy whipping cream, a sturdy metal bowl, and a whisk

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Directions:
in a saucepan, cover the orange and lemon with water. Bring to a boil, and allow to simmer for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350.Toast the almonds on a sheet pan for 5 minutes at first, and two minute intervals after, until they are light brown and omitting a toasted aroma. When the almonds are cool, grind them in a food processor or very clean coffee grinder until they are finely ground, but not pureed into a paste.

Remove the citrus from the water, and when it’s cool, cut it in half and discard all the seeds. Place in a food processor or blender and chop finely (peel and all), but don’t puree fully. You want some chunks, not a smooth paste.

In a small bowl, combine the flour and baking powder along with the nutmeg and black pepper. In a separate bowl, mix the eggs and salt until foamy, by hand or with a mixer. Beat in the sugar, in a few additions. Fold in the flour mixture with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon. Add citrus, almonds and olive oil, and beat to combine, but do not overmix. Pour the batter into a greased 9″ spring form pan. Bake for an hour until a toothpick comes out clean. Let it cool, and serve it at room temp with whipped cream.

 

(The credit for this photo goes to Molly Wizenberg of Orangette, where I originally found a version of this recipe.)