Homemade Magic Shell

Magic Shell

I’ve been hiding something and I need to finally set it free…I am impulsive.  There, I said it.  My impulsiveness comes in two different flavors.

There is the entitled impulsiveness like when I see a little something that makes me WANT it in the same way that my child WANTS damn near everything (as two year olds do).  That led to an embarrassing amount of consumer debt as I tried to keep up with all of The Joneses around me.  And I’m hard pressed to recall one single thing that I absolutely HAD TO HAVE in those moments.  Thankfully, that debt has been retired and I strive to be more mindful about the why when I feel WANT’S manic urge creeping up on me.

There is a productive impulsiveness that compels me to DO.  I’ll see a project and I simply won’t rest until I start working on it.  That would explain the random assortment of craft related items overtaking the limited storage space in my tiny house.  See, I’m better with the starting the projects than I am with the finishing.  For example, Libby just turned two and I have yet to finish creating the first year of her baby book.  But then again, this is the impulsiveness that gives me a creative outlet and I’ve got one hell of a nice felted wool blanket as proof that sometimes I stick it out and see a project through from start to finish.

Although maybe I am actually hounded by a third kind of impulsiveness…a hybrid of the WANT and the DO (WAND? DONT?)  This is the torment that comes from seeing something that I WANT (NOW!) and then focusing on how and when can I DO it.  And I mean a singular focus on when I can DO it.  Almost obsessive.

That’s how I came to experience Homemade Magic Shell.  That recipe showed up all around the internet and every time I saw it I wanted it desperately.  It made me pretty crazy until I could find the time to make a batch.  It was that itch that you just can’t reach no matter how much you stretch your arm behind your back.  And then, one day, it  happened.

I melted, cooled, and drizzled.  And I decided sometimes impulsiveness tastes like chocolate.

Magic Shell

Adapted from chocolateandcarrots.com

BAH Note:  Scale this recipe to your liking.  I like it too much to keep much of it on hand in it’s magical form so I only make this wee batch.

  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips (dark or milk, your choice)
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil

Combine the ingredients in a microwave safe bowl.  Microwave on  high, stopping to stir every 15 seconds, until the chocolate and coconut oil are melted.

Carefully remove from the microwave and stir to combine thoroughly.  Once cooled to room temp it will magically firm up when you drizzle it over ice cream.

Any leftovers should be stored in an airtight container at room temp.

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The Secret to Homemade Chicken Soup

chicken soup
my grandmother’s secret to chicken soup? her homemade noodles.
flour + egg is all you need.

Seems to me that the people who write recipes must have have some secrets up their sleeves, or a rabbit in their hat.  Because I can’t otherwise explain how they can possibly do things like caramelize onions in 30 minutes or get a really good sear on a cut of meat in 2 minutes per side.  It’s as though time is suspended in their kitchen.

Anytime I read a recipe I feel like I should start mentally marking up the cooking time that is quoted as guidelines.  I need to sweat onion and celery till soft and you say it should take about five minutes.  In my kitchen it’s more like ten or fifteen minutes.  Roast my veg for 30 minutes until tender?  Please, I’m giving that pan a shake every 30 minutes.

Am I responsible for some of the discrepancies?  Absolutely.  Am I using a large enough pan?  Maybe not.  Am I cooking over a high enough heat?  Maybe not.  Have I overcrowded my pan?  Possibly.  All of these differences could partly explain why it takes me longer to get from Point A to Point B than you say it will.  As far as the rest of the explanation…I will never know.

One thing I do know is that some secrets can be cracked.  Like the secret to homemade chicken soup.

The secret is simple, use a rotisserie chicken as both the base of the stock and the meat for the finished soup.  No more taking up valuable freezer space to save random chicken parts until you have enough for a soup.  And no more spending a whole day with a pot slowly simmering away on the stove.  Who has time for that?

One rotisserie chicken is all you need.  Simmering the stripped carcass and skin in chicken broth gives you a full and rich stock in no time at all.  Now, if you want to tell people that this soup took you all day so that you could sneak in some alone time, I can promise that your secret is safe with me.

Easy Chicken Soup

Adapted from Cook’s Country

BAH Note:  Use this as your guide and then fancy it up any way you like.  Add rice or noodles!  Don’t want to give peas a chance?  Substitute frozen corn instead.  Do what makes you happy.

I make a mess in the kitchen on my good days.  So when a recipe tells me to pour 8 cups of hot liquid through a strainer, I see danger signs.  Instead of tempting fate, and 2nd degree burns, by trying to pour steaming hot liquid out of the hot stock pot, I break the process down into a few steps.  I place a mesh strainer in a bowl large enough to hold all the liquid.  Then I use tongs to remove the chicken from the pot and place it in the strainer.  Using a big ladle, I run the stock from the pot through the strainer.  Lastly I scrape any bits from the bottom of the stock pot into the strainer.  Once all the liquid has drained off the chicken and vegetables, the strainer rests in the sink until the bones and veg have cooled enough to go in the trash.

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 celery ribs, chopped
  • 1 whole rotisserie chicken
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 cup frozen peas

Break down the rotisserie chicken and shred the meat into bite sized pieces.  Keep the skin and bones for making the stock.  And be sure to scrape any gelled juices out of the chicken carrier.  That’s pure gold right there and it needs to go in your soup pot.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a dutch oven over medium heat.  Add the onion and celery and cook until the vegetables begin to soften about 10 minutes.  Add the chicken bones and skin, broth, water, bay leaves, red pepper flakes, and garlic to the pot and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer, partially covered, for 30 minutes.

Strain your stock through a mesh strainer and press on the solids to get as much liquid out as possible.  Return the stock to your dutch oven.  You want to have about 8 cups of liquid by this point.  If you have less than 8 cups, add water till you get there.

While the stock cooks, take the diced carrot and onion and remaining 1/2 tablespoon (that’s 1 1/2 teaspoons) olive oil and microwave on high for approximately 5 minutes or until the vegetables soften.

Transfer the softened carrot and onion mixture to the chicken stock.  Stir in the frozen peas and chicken and cook for another 5 minutes.  Taste for seasoning and add kosher salt and pepper to taste.

{printable recipe}

Flashback Friday – Notes on a Recipe, Orzo Salad

Flashback Friday

The following originally appeared on 5/6/09 at Exit 51.

Notes On A Recipe – Orzo Salad

Today’s recipe comes to you from the pages of Bon Appetit: Fast, Easy, Fresh. I was still grousing about the feta cheese that was sacrificed in the name of their Garlicky Beans with Feta, but I decided to move on to the next dish I had tagged.  I really don’t know that I can ever forgive them for that one.

ttar_orzo_02_h_launch

After making their Orzo with Tomatoes, Feta, and Green Onion, I really wish I had found this back in the days before our South Beach adventure.  Because it’s that good.  It’s also that easy.  And it does not cause any regrets when it comes to its usage of the feta.

So maybe, just maybe, I can pretend like that whole Garlicky Bean thing never happened after all.

Orzo with Tomatoes, Feta, and Green Onion

Bon Appetit: Fast, Easy, Fresh

This dish would be great for a potluck or a light summer meal.  Although, you may want to scale it down if you’re not feeding a crowd. A pound of orzo is still a lot of pasta.  If you do make the entire pound, be sure you use a bowl big enough so that you can mix and stir without shooting orzo all over your kitchen.  It took me a few tries to get it right.  Feel free to tweak the vinaigrette recipe to your liking.  I like mine more tangy so I used less olive oil than called for, and added more lemon juice and honey.

  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 1 pound orzo
  • 2 cups grape tomatoes
  • 7 ounces feta cheese, cubed
  • 1 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 cup green onion, chopped

Whisk vinegar, lemon juice, and honey in a small bowl.  Gradually whisk in oil.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Boil broth in a large saucepan.  Stir in orzo, reduce heat to medium, and boil until just tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally.  Drain.  Transfer orzo to large, wide bowl, tossing frequently to cool.

Mix tomatoes, basil, green onion into cooled orzo.  Add vinaigrette; toss to coat.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve at room temperature.

Flashback Friday – Alton Brown’s Overnight Oatmeal

Flashback Friday

The following originally appeared on 2/16/09 at Exit 51.

Alton Brown’s Overnight Oatmeal

My introduction to the Food Network came courtesy of Alton Brown and Good Eats.  In thirty minutes, he not only presents multiple recipes, but he explains the “why” of it all.  I guess I’m not the only person who wants to understand the how and why of the kitchen.  Did I mention he makes it entertaining?  Props and skits illustrate concepts or give brief history lessons.  At the end of a show, I feel like I’ve really learned something and I get new recipes too.  Five years of college and all I can show you is  an unframed degree and student loan payment coupons….I definitely think I’m getting a better value from Mr. Brown.

ff_102_brown1_f1

Since those early days with AB, I’ve branched out to other FN personalities, but Alton remains a favorite.  One recipe that I go back to over and over is his Overnight Oatmeal.  I’ve made this so many times, and it’s so simple, that I no longer pull out the recipe.  With only a few minutes of active prep and a crock pot set to low, I can have a week’s worth of breakfast at the ready. For a non-morning person such as myself, this is gold.

In a different life, maybe I would have the time, or inclination, or personal chef to make a full on breakfast each and every day.  But as it is, I’m lucky to get out of the house dressed and fed each morning.  So anything that saves me time is welcome.  And unlike packaged cereals, I know EXACTLY what is in the food.  No trans fat this, or high fructose corn syrup that.  No guessing needed.

Really, what’s not to love about this recipe?  It’s quick.  It’s easy.  It’s open to countless interpretations.  It may not be the most glamorous dish to hit your table, but not every meal has to look like it came from the five star kitchen of the celebrity chef du jour.

AB’s recipe is below.  I use whatever dried fruit I happen to have on hand – dried apples or dried peaches work very well.  You use what you like.  I also add about one half cup of unsweetened applesauce to the crock pot to give a little more moisture. If you have a cinnamon stick, throw it in crock pot.  Just be sure to remove it before serving.  Serve with a bit of brown sugar, preserves,  jam, or syrup for a hint of sweetness.  Leftovers keep in the fridge for about a week.  To reheat, thin with a bit of milk, stir to combine, and microwave for about 90 seconds.

AB's Overnight Oatmeal

Alton Brown’s Overnight Oatmeal

  • 1 cup steel cut oats (not quick cooking)
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup dried figs
  • 4 cups water
  • 1/2 cup milk or half-and-half

In a slow cooker, combine all ingredients and set to low heat. Cover and let cook for 8 to 9 hours.

Stir and remove to serving bowls. This method works best if started before you go to bed. This way your oatmeal will be finished by morning.

Peppers and Zucchini

This was one of those rare dishes that got a split decision in our house.  The Mistah, he says he is not much for zucchini.  Although he “claims” to like my curried zucchini soup.  And he devoured the zucchini and pepper quesedilla that I made last night.  So I don’t know what to think.

Actually, I know what I think.  I think this makes a lovely, light dish. It’s a refreshing change from the usual suspects that show up on our plates in the role of vegetables. And it’s versatile.  Serve it as a side dish; use it as a condiment to top a burger; transform it into an entree with some couscous or quinoa.

So pay no mind to The Mistah and his zucchini fickleness.  Peppers and zucchini will give you a taste of summer any time of the year.

Peppers and Zucchini

Adapted from Bon Appetit – Fast, Easy, Fresh

BAH Note:  I started out to make a poblano rajas with zucchini.  Bon Appetit – Fast, Easy, Fresh describes rajas as roasted chile strips cooked with onion and spices.  But they wanted me to add a half cup of cream to the vegetables.  And I just couldn’t bring myself to do that.  I also neglected to add any seasoning other than kosher salt.  Maybe when I go to heat up the leftovers, I will add a pinch of ancho chili powder.

While I think this recipe is pretty SB friendly, if I wanted to make it completely South Beachy, I would use olive oil, or a combination of butter and olive oil to sautee the vegetables.

  • 2 poblano chiles
  • 2 red peppers
  • 2 small zucchini, sliced
  • 1/2 cup onions, diced
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Place a rack directly under your broiler and line it with a sheet of foil.  Place the poblano chiles and red peppers on the foil.  Broil until the exterior is completely charred, carefully turning them as needed.  Transfer them to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let sit for 15 to 20 minutes.  Carefully remove the charred skin (and seeds if you like) and roughly chop the peppers.

Heat the butter in a dutch oven over medium heat.  Add the chopped peppers, zucchini, and onions.  Saute until the onions are translucent and the zucchini is tender.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

{printable recipe}

Super Quick Curry

Without meaning to, I find myself coming back to this recipe time and again for quick, satisfying weeknight dinners.  Every few weeks it ends up on the menu but  I can’t say that I’m especially sad about that.  The Mistah and I both like it.  It’s ridiculously easy.  And it’s quite adaptable to whatever protein you happen to pick up at the store or have stashed in your freezer.

There’s only one word of caution that I will offer.  If you are using bagged frozen seafood, be sure to put the bag in a bowl while it defrosts in the refrigerator.  I don’t know why, but the last few times I’ve made this, my bag of frozen seafood has leaked.  And there is nothing I like less than cleaning up shrimp or scallop juices from the glass shelf of the Fridigaire.

Super Quick Curry

Adapted from Jaden Hair’s 10 Minute Shrimp Curry

BAH Note:  I most often use shrimp or bay scallops when I make this but don’t think that’s all you can use.  Chicken, pork, or tofu would work well in this dish.  I have also been known to throw a tablespoon or so of smooth peanut butter into the pot to give the sauce a little something unexpected.

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons mild curry paste
  • 1/8 teaspoon red chili paste
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1/2 – 1 tablespoon fish sauce (optional)
  • 1 to 2 red bell peppers, diced
  • 1 pound shrimp (peeled) or bay scallops
  • juice of 1 lime (optional)

Heat the oil in a large saucepan or dutch oven over medium high heat.  Add the curry paste and chili sauce, stir, and cook for about 30 seconds until the spices become fragrant.  Add the shrimp or scallops and cook until they are mostly cooked through.  Add the coconut milk and stir to combine.  Cook for another 5 minutes until your shrimp or scallops are just cooked through.  Taste for seasoning and add fish sauce and lime juice if using.  Ladle into bowls and enjoy.

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12 Hour Braised Onions

There are moments when the Universe throws a distinct pattern into my online adventures.  Take the day that I saw Barb at Vino Luci Style’s post about French Onion Soup. In the post she provided a Sur laTable recipe for slow braised onions.  Then over on Twitter, SmithBites was also talking about her love of the very same braised onions.  In my world, two things make for a pattern.  I know it’s not empirically sound, but it works for me.

So I heeded the Universe’s pattern, bought a boatload of onions, and got to braising.  As I type this, my onions are still doing their thing in the crockpot. It’s been almost 12 hours since I started them.  Clearly, while this is an easy recipe it’s far from quick.  But the beauty is that it makes enough braised onions to use for soups, sandwiches, salads, pizzas, or whatever you can imagine.

Actually, I raided the crockpot a few hours ago and pulled out a bunch of onions to add to the chicken casserole I was making for dinner.  After slicing up about a dozen onions, I had no desire to chop up another one.

***Update***

In the time that this post has been sitting in my ‘draft’ folder, I have started making braised onions on a regular basis.  Every other week or so I tie the crock pot up for day so that I can have a steady supply of these.  I have found that I use them interchangeably in recipes where onions are called for.  These onions go so quickly that they have evaded my camera lens.  The picture at the top of the post was some other recipe entirely, but it was the only photo of onions in my library.  Deb at SmithBites has some lovely pictures of them in her post.  So maybe you can mosey on over there and take a look.

Butter Braised Onions

Adapted from Sur la Table’s Gifts Cooks Love

BAH Note: Unless you’re a glutton for punishment, or have onion goggles, I recommend using a mandolin to slice the onions.  I give a range of how many onions to use.  Start with the least amount and see how much space you have left in your crockpot.  If you’ve got room for more, by all means add them.  I didn’t think about this and came very close to having more onions than my crockpot could accommodate.  Thankfully, the lid is somewhat domed so I was able to cram them all in.  In hindsight, perhaps that’s why it took mine over 12 hours to braise.

  • 8 to 12 onions –  sweet, red, or a combination, sliced about 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 stick butter
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme, minced
  • kosher salt

Slice the butter into tablespoons and place them on the bottom of your crockpot insert.  Add the onions and thyme.  Cover and cook on high for 2 hours.

After 2 hours, stir the onions.  Replace the cover and cook on high, without stirring, for another 6 to 8 hours until the onions are tender.  If you still have a lot of liquid in the crockpot, remove the lid and cook on high for an additional 1 to 2 hours or until most of the liquid has evaporated.  Turn the crockpot off and let the onions sit uncovered for 1 hour to cool.

Transfer to quart jars or plastic containers and store in the refrigerator.

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