Friday, December 28, 2012

Too tired to cook

It's a combination of the holidays and entering the third trimester but by about 4 or 5 in the afternoon, I'm exhausted.  Dinner has been pretty sad lately . . . turkey sandwiches, canned soup, Rainforest Cafe, Caesar salad from a bag with spaghetti from a jar . . . I know my family deserves healthier food and I'm turning back to my slow cooker.   For me, this soup is right up there with the White Chicken Chili - I love it and the leftovers disappear pretty quickly.

This is the combination of a few recipes - one from my sister in law where she makes it with rotisserie chicken on the stove top.  If you want to sub the chicken breast for cooked chicken, you can do the whole thing on the stove and only cook it for about a half hour.   This version take a bit longer but then I can make dinner while I still have a little energy.

Hope you enjoyed your holidays as much as we enjoyed ours - Happy New Year!

Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup
(6 servings)

For the slow cooker:
1 lb chicken breast
15 oz can sweet whole corn kernels, drained
15 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
15 oz can diced tomatoes (Mexican style with green chiles)
5 cups chicken stock
3/4 cup chopped onion
3/4 cup chopped green pepper
1 jalapeno pepper, minced or small can chopped green chiles (optional)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. chili powder
1/4 tsp. ground cumin

For topping the soup:
chopped cilantro
shredded jack cheese
avocado, diced
4 corn tortillas
olive oil spray

Add the slow cooker ingredients to your slow cooker.  Season with a little salt and pepper.  Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 6-8 hours.

Remove the chicken breasts and shred the meat.  Season with a little more salt and pepper. Return to the slow cooker.  Sometimes I also squeeze a lime into the soup at this point and adjust the seasonings (usually for me, that means more heat - red pepper flakes, tabasco etc).

Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Spray a baking sheet with olive oil spray.  Cut the corn tortillas in half and then in strips.  Put them on a single layer on the baking sheet.  Spray with olive oil spray and sprinkle with salt.  Cook for 5-10 minutes or until light brown and crunchy.

Top bowls of soup with tortilla strips, a little avocado, some cheese and cilantro.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Merry Christmas from Big & Little

My mom hears from some of her friends and relatives that we're a big hit here on the blog - in fact, some people aren't as interested in her recipes as they are in pictures of us.  So, we wanted to say thanks for reading her blog (even when it's not about us) and Merry Christmas.  

Here are some of the Christmas activities we've enjoyed this year:
My Preschool Christmas program - I'm 4th from the left and for the moment, not touching the angel in front of me.

Taking our mom to the Christmas Parade at Disneyland where I took about 70 pictures on mom's phone.  Mostly of the backs of elves and reindeer.   We also took her to the Monrovia Christmas parade.

Doing crafts with cinnamon dough
Learning that the rolling pin is not easy and not your friend
Baking cookies and learning that the stand mixer shouldn't be turned to high when you add the flour
Trying to read recipes 
Enjoying some sunny weather on our annual family trek to the desert in December
Feeding the giraffes at the Living Desert 
Snuggling with dad on the couch listening to Christmas Carols and watching the fire
Picking out our tree

Decorating it
Ta-dah!  Notice the bottom row of ornaments placed so carefully by my little sister 
We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Monday, December 17, 2012

White Chicken Lasagna

I've read lots of white chicken lasagna recipes over the years and haven't really tried one.  I had some of the ingredients for this on hand and it sounded good when I needed an idea for dinner recently so I gave it a try.  The "lasagna" title is a little deceiving - there's not much cheese (a little parmesan on top) and the sauce that holds it together made the filling seem more like pot pie (between lasagna noodles).  As I was making it, I had the idea that you could take your favorite pot pie recipe, and layer that between lasagna layers and have a very similar dish (and make it vegetarian by adding more veggies).  Here's what the layers looked like as I was assembling it:

It was delicious, light (no cream or cheese), and satisfying.  I'll add it to my rotation of rotisserie chicken recipes and make it again soon!

White Chicken Lasagna (serves 4-6)
adapted from Everyday Food 12/12

3 T unsalted butter
2 stalks celery, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 yellow onion, diced
1/2 cup asparagus, sliced 1/2 inch thick
4 T flour
2.5 cups chicken broth
2.5 cups shredded cooked chicken
1/2 cup roughly chopped marinated artichoke hearts
1/3 cup shredded parmesan cheese
olive oil spray
salt and pepper
6 no-boil lasagna noodles

Preheat oven to 375.  In a saucepan, melt butter mover medium.  Add celery, onion and asparagus; cook until onion and celery are translucent, about 5 minutes.  Stir in flour and cook about 1 minute.  Increase heat and slowly stir in broth.  Bring to a boil, stirring, and cook until liquid thickens, 1 minute. Remove from heat.  Stir in chicken and artichokes; season with salt and pepper.

Spread 1/2 cup chicken mixture on the bottom of a 2 quart pan (I used an 8x8 square).  Top with 2 lasagna noodles and about 1 cup of the chicken mixture.  Repeat for 2 more layers.  On the top lasagna noodles, spray with olive oil and sprinkle with the parmesan cheese.  Bake for 30 minutes.  Let cool 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Sundried Tomato, Mushroom & Pancetta Pasta

The other night I made something new for dinner that wasn't soup!  It was this pasta that I'm now in love with.  I kept patting my own back and tooting my own horn (as I was eating) about how amazing this combination of flavors was.  I hope you love it like I did!

Sundried Tomato, Mushroom & Pancetta Pasta (serves 4)
adapted from

8 oz spaghetti
4 oz pancetta, diced (TJs sells it this way)
1/2 cup diced onion & shallots (also from TJs - already diced)
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1 1/2 cups sliced shiitake mushrooms
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup cream
1/4 cup julienne sliced sun dried tomatoes (not packed in oil)
salt and pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of water to boil for the spaghetti.  In a large sauté pan, brown the pancetta until crispy.  Remove with a slotted spoon onto a paper towel lined plate.  In the same pan, add the onion & shallots. Saute until the onions are soft.  Add the red pepper flakes, garlic, thyme and stir for one minute until fragrant.  Add the mushrooms along with some salt and pepper.  Saute for 2-3 minutes until the mushrooms begin to soften.

Add the white wine and stir, scraping the pan with your spoon to break up anything stuck to the bottom.  Bring to a boil and let the wine cook off until only a couple of tablespoons remain (about 5 minutes).  I tried to time it so that the pasta was cooking about this time.  You can turn the pan off the heat if you need to until the spaghetti gets going.

Add the cream.  Let the sauce slowly simmer, keeping an eye on the heat so the cream doesn't boil.  Add the sun dried tomatoes.  Add back the pancetta.  Taste the sauce and add salt and pepper to taste.  Reserve about a cup of the cooking liquid from the spaghetti.  Drain the spaghetti.  Add a little of the cooking liquid to the sauce if you need it to get it the right consistency.  I added about 2-3 tablespoons.  Add the spaghetti to the sauce and toss.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Chocolate Crinkles

In our family, chocolate crinkles always show up at Christmas time.  I was at a friend's Christmas party last weekend and she had the most delicious ones . . . and they were gluten free!  I'm going to be making these for my family this season and wanted to share both versions of the recipe with you.

Chocolate Crinkles (makes 6 dozen)
Betty Crocker Cookie Book

1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
2 cups granulated sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup powdered sugar

Melt the unsweetened chocolate and cool slightly.  Mix oil, chocolate, and granulated sugar.  Blend in one egg at a time until well mixed.  Add vanilla.  In a separate bowl, Combine flour, baking powder and salt.  Mix into the oil mixture.  Chill for several hours or overnight.

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Roll a tablespoon of dough into a ball.  Roll in into the powdered sugar.  Place about 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake 9-11 minutes.  Don't over bake!

GF Chocolate Crinkles (makes 2 dozen)
Original Recipe here

1 1/2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips (about 9 oz)
3 large egg whites, room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar, divided (plus 1/2 cup for cookie coating)
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper or spray with nonstick baking spray.  Melt 1 cup chocolate chips, cool slightly.  Using a mixer, beat whites in a large bowl until soft peaks form.  Gradually beat in 1 cup sugar.  Continue beating until mixture resembles soft marshmallow cream.

Whisk 1 cup sugar, cocoa, cornstarch, and salt in a medium bowl to blend.  On low speed, beat this mixture into the meringue.  Mix in the lukewarm chocolate mixture and 1/2 cup chocolate chips (dough will become very stiff).

Place 1/2 cup powdered sugar in bowl.  Roll 1 rounded tablespoon of dough into a ball; roll in sugar, coating thickly.  Place on prepared cookie sheet.  Repeat with remaining dough, spacing 2 inches apart.

Bake until puffed and tops crack, about 10 minutes.  Cool about 10 minutes before transferring to racks to cool completely.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Cinnamon Apple Cake

Let me start by saying that fruity desserts don't excite me as much as something chocolate, caramel, or otherwise decadent.  And apple cake?  Ehh, I've had it.  But this?  This cake was amazing.  I'm making it for a second time in less than a month.  It could work for a brunch - it's a little like coffee cake - or it's great with a cup of after dinner coffee.

When I made it and poured it into the pan, I told my husband to come taste the leftover batter in the bowl - it was seriously delicious batter and the cake didn't disappoint.  I made it a day ahead, covered it, and served it the next night and it was moist and perfect.

Cinnamon Apple Cake (serves 10)
Original recipe and great photos here

  • 1 3/4 cups sugar, divided
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 6 ounces cream cheese, softened (about 3/4 cup)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3 cups chopped peeled Fuji apples (about 2 large)
  • Cooking spray

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine 1/4 cup sugar and cinnamon.  Take 2 Tablespoons of that mixture, and put it in a bowl with the apples.  Stir and let it set while you do the rest.

  •  eat 1.5 cups sugar, butter, vanilla, and cream cheese at medium speed until well-blended (about 4 minutes).  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Combine flour, baking powder and salt.  Add flour mixture to creamed mixture, beating at low speed until blended.  Stir apple mixture into the batter.

  • Pour batter into a 9 inch springform pan that has been coated with cooking spray (or buttered).  Sprinkle the top with the remaining cinnamon mixture.

  • Bake for 55-60 minutes or until the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan.  Cool completely on a wire rack.  Cut with a serrated knife.