Potato Leek Soup – A Primal Soup Everyone Needs to Know

Potato Leek Soup

This one goes out to my friend Sheila, an amazing PE teacher. After a hugely successful field day, she was sitting in her office looking forward to a restful weekend and was trying to figure out what to do with the leftover potatoes. Why you ask are there leftover potatoes after a field day with middle school students? Well, lets just say that Sheila is highly creative. In any case, I immediately told her to make Potato Leek Soup – one of my favorites. It is easy, cheap, and can be varied a ton of ways to make just about any kind of soup you may desire.

So, join me and Sheila on a journey through the ever evolving world of Potato and Leek Soup – you will be glad you did.


 

POTATO LEEK SOUP

Serves 4

Time to Prep – 10 minutes

Time to Cook – 20 minutes

  • 2 cups of cleaned and diced leeks, white and tender green portions only, chopped
  • 2 cups of peeled, chopped potatoes
  • 4 cups of water
  • salt and pepper

Yeah, I know, you are saying “Really, that’s it? Will it taste good?”

Trust me; it will.

 

The hardest part of creating this soup is cleaning the leeks. The easiest way to do this is to slice the leek running down the middle DSCN0446and then run it under the faucet. Because leeks are from the onion family, they tend to get a little grit in between the layers. Don’t want that in our soup.

DSCN0451Place the  leeks, potatoes, water, and seasonings into a pot and let boil for 20 minutes until tender. That’s it.

 

 

 

If you desire, and I always do, you can puree the soup and sprinkle a few chopped chives on top. I also often add a dollop of sour cream, 1/2 cup cream or half and half to enrich the soup. Sheila told me that soy milk works well too.

You can also add different veggies if you want as well. My daughter discovered that pak choi was a wonderful, light addition. Many add watercress. peas, spinach, or even cauliflower or broccoli.

Another nice thing about this soup is that you can serve it cold as well (vichyssoise). I find when served cold, it needs a little more salt and the 1/2 cup of cream to add flavor and body and MUST be pureed.

Enjoy! And have fun playing with this soup. That is half the fun of cooking.

Creative Quinoa – Goin’ Crunchy!

COOL NEW USES FOR A POPULAR GRAIN

Quinoa Crunchies

A few weekends ago, Mark Bittman, NY Times food writer, wrote a fabulous article about new uses for Quinoa. I decided to try the recipe for Quinoa Crumbs with some leftover cooked Red Quinoa I had tucked away in the fridge. Bittman had a variety of flavor options including Smoky Paprika, Sesame Nori, Pumpkin Seed Spice and more. I decided to be daring and create my own flavor blend and used Maldon Sea Salt and  Zahtar Spice Blend, which ended up quite yummy.  Continue reading

Honey and Sriracha Glazed Chicken Thighs

 Honey Sriracha Glazed ChickenWell, the floodgates have opened and am I excited! Do Again suggestions are coming in from all over the country, from followers and I couldn’t wait to share the Honey and Siracha Chicken from my Texas/Wisconsin  friend, Myra (Hey, girl!). She told me about a spicy chicken recipe that she and her husband love. It is ridiculously easy, spicy, and cheap. And, with Super Bowl Sunday coming up, I couldn’t resist trying it. I mean really, all it has for ingredients are chicken, honey, and Sriracha. Who can resist that? Not me!

 The chicken is just spicy enough with just a hint of sweetness. I was tempted to tinker with it by adding additional ingredients such as soy sauce, but found that Myra’s recipe was perfect. Although, a sprinkling of sliced scallions is always a nice addition in my book. In fact, my husband, after tasting it, immediately said it was worthy of doing again and has requested that I make it for the big game using wings instead.

 Serves 4

  • 4 bone-in, skin on, chicken thighs
  • 4 tbsp. honey
  • 4 tbsp. Sriracha

Preheat oven to 400°

SrirachaMix the honey and Siracha in a large bowl, until blended. Place the chicken thighs in and marinate for one half hour.

Place the chicken thighs on a foil-lined, rimmed cookie sheet. Make sure you do this step, otherwise you will be scrubbing your pan for a very long time. Not fun. I found out the hard way. Place it into the middle of the oven and cook for 10 minutes. Baste the chicken with leftover sauce from the bowl, and return to the oven for another 10 minutes. To make sure the chicken is done, pierce it with a knife or skewer. If the juices run clear, then they are done.

That is it!

PS: Myra said her husband, Jake, likes to have some extra Sriracha on the side for dipping. Personally, I think he is dipping crazy; but to each his own. I like spicy food, but that is too much for me. Of course, he plays rugby, so he can handle just about anything.

 

 

 

Taco Night – Done Right

Chicken Tinga Tacos

Please welcome Will Halsey, a new contributor to Do Again. We hope you enjoy his special ode to Taco Night. Not only does this post include a mighty delicious recipe for tacos, but also includes a review of a special spice blend , AND a great beer pairing as well. For more information about Will and his blog, please go the About Us page to read his bio. We look forward to more posts from him in the future! So Will, please take it away. . .

First, I need to let you know that I am in grad school. That makes me poor (relatively). But being poor doesn’t mean you can’t make a ‘do again.’

Taco nights are a cornerstone of cheap, time-friendly, family-centric meals. They are easy to make and a variety of toppings lets everyone have fun, while also getting exactly what they want.

However, good tacos, at least those worthy of a Do Again, require two important things:

1) Flavorful meat

2)  A really good sauce or salsa

But first things first. What is the best friend of someone cooking on tight budget, besides beans and rice? A slow cooker.  Slow cookers allow for any cheap meat (pork ribs, shoulder, any cut of chicken, beef trimmings for stew, etc, to magically, over time become tender, fall-apart goodness. As well, slow cookers are easy to clean and recipes require very little maintenance, once the food is inside. If you don’t own one, get one.

I wanted to make a big batch of food that would last a long time and could be multipurpose in its uses. Enter in, the Chicken Tinga. This slow cooked, mexican-style pulled chicken can be used in tacos, burritos, quesadillas, in salads, with rice and beans, as an appetizer or  just eaten by itself.

For this dish, you make a sautéed spice mixture that is added to the slow cooker with the raw chicken. Once hours have passed, you pick the chicken apart.

Slap Ya MamaMy secret flavor weapons are – Slap Ya Mama Cajun Seasoning and apple cider vinegar. This awesome spice mixture from the bayou kicks everything up a notch, and the apple cider vin also brightens up the flavor. Finally, by sauteing everything, the flavors intensify and form crispy edges on your pulled chicken that add a wonderful crunch.

Finally, if you want to personalize the dish, you can add extras, such as sautéed veggies, pineapple or cheese (like pepper jack). Half of the fun of cooking is making it your own. So feel free to be creative.

Every good taco/burrito/whatever needs one more thing and that is a sauceIt’s all about the sauce. My sauce is a riff on chipotle mayo, but it tastes way better and is even healthier. It’s plain, non-fat greek yogurt, lime juice and hot sauce (I use Chalula). The tartness of this sauce cuts the heat of the spice like sour cream, but then elevates all the flavors on your palate. The goal here is umami.  Also it has no fat, so you don’t end up with the greasy, gloppy mess that chipotle mayo often brings.

Taco’s are delicious, and food comas can be comforting, but nobody enjoys a post meal feeling of self-hatred (see – eating two chipotle burritos back to back).

For the taco itself I prefer frying up some corn tortillas but you can use flour ones if you like. Also important are an arrangement of toppings. I prefer  simple and fresh (as opposed to over loaded). I slice a few red onions, chop some tomatoes and sprinkle on some cilantro. All these flavors go well together, but you could also include some fresh purple cabbage for an added textural crunch.

Finally to pair with your tacos, you need one more thing.

Beer. 

Noble Pils I never thought I would see the day I would give my support for Sam Adams, but the brewery has come a long way since the Boston Lager. Enter in the Noble Pils – Sam Adams’ take on the pilsner. But this isn’t your average pilsner, which normally doesn’t taste like too much beyond straw, biscuits, and perhaps a whisper of hops. Noble Pils surprised me with a subtle, yet  beautifully  hoppy presence that makes this a pleasure to drink. It is clean, refreshing, but manages to balance its superb hop flavors well.

Skip the Corona, Sol, Dos Equis, Pacifico, Modello or even Tacate. For a dish like this, you want to enjoy every aspect and not just drink something to wash it all down. Having a slightly hoppy beer allows you to keep the spiciness of this dish at bay and the pilsner-style means two things: the hops won’t dominate your mouth and it will be low in alcohol, so you can have several!

Easy drinking and easy on the wallet. At $8.70 a six-pack this is easily one of the cheapest, flavor-filled “sixers” to pick up; I love when price meets quality.

Recipe

Chicken Tinga

  • 3 boneless chicken breasts
  • 3 Limes, juiced
  • 1 bunch of cilantro, minced
  • 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 jalapeno, deseeded and minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 Tbs chicken stock

 Spices

I just add the spices a dash at a time. Be careful when adding the cayenne pepper since it is potent, but the others you can sprinkle to your heart’s content. Personally, I like my chicken quite spicy.

  •  Chili Powder
  • Smoked Paprika
  • Cayenne Pepper
  • Cumin
  • Ground (dry) Mustard seed

Spicy Yogurt Sauce (low-fat)

  • 1 cup non-fat greek yogurt
  • 2 Tbs hot sauce (I use Cholula)
  • 1 Tbs lime juice (half a lime)

You Will Also Need:

  • Corn Tortillas
  • Apple Cider Vinegar ( 1 Tbs vinegar per cup of pulled chicken)
  • Slap Ya Mama Cajun seasoning ( or other seasoning of your choice)
  • Red onion ( optional topping)
  • Cherry Tomatoes (optional topping)
  • Red Cabbage (optional topping)
  • Cheese (optional topping)
  • Guacamole (optional topping)

Instructions (chronologically)

1) Place chicken in slow cooker, add juice of 3 limes and place on high for  (3-4 hours) or low (5-6 hours).

2) Next, saute the onions  for 5 minutes, then add the jalapeno, garlic, and spices.  Continue to cook until onions begin to sweat and become translucent.

3) Add chicken stock, set burner to low and cook for 5-8 minutes more.

4) Add the mixture to slow cooker.

5) A half hour prior to chicken being done  is a good time to whip up your yogurt sauce and make your toppings. Just blend the ingredients together in a bowl and you are done! – Keep yogurt sauce refrigerated until serving time.

6) Once the chicken is cooked, pull apart tender, remove from slow cooker and, um,  pull apart. In a large bowl, add chicken and reserve slow cooker liquid for later.

7) Add in any extras to mixture that you might desire. (See my suggestions above)

8) Get two frying pans – one to cook the tortillas and one to cook the chicken.

9)  Add the chicken mixture to one pan, with apple cider vinegar and any seasoning (such as Slap Ya Mama) and set to medium low heat, stirring occasionally. Once the chicken starts to get crispy edges,  remove it to a serving bowl and  set aside. Garnish with cilantro or green onions if you like.

– (Be careful not to burn or dry out your chicken – use the reserved slow cooker liquid to moisten your Chicken Tinga if needed)

10) In the other pan, start frying up  your tortillas. Place one inch of oil in the pan and heat on high. Once the oil is hot, dip the corn tortilla in the oil. Fry briefly on one side and then gently turn it over to crisp on the other side. You can crisp it up completely to make a tostada (flat taco) or cook it less time to keep it flexible (traditional taco). Or heat up your flour tortillas in a 250 degree oven, wrapped in aluminum foil for about 10 minutes to make them more flexible.

Set table with tortillas, Chicken Tinga and toppings and enjoy!

Eggplant Parmesan – Providence Style

Eggplant pretty

Everyone has a recipe for Eggplant Parmesan, so why should you even look at mine? Well, mine is  different. I learned mine from an Italian lady from Providence, RI. they know Italian cooking there.

Mine uses egg instead of breading, so it isn’t doughy – something I hate about most eggplant parms. Also, my eggplant is sliced very thin, so it is lighter in texture. AND mine  only uses Parmesan cheese  (um – it is called eggplant parm – right?) instead of heavy mozzarella or provolone. Plus, even though it is fried, it probably has less calories and is healthier for you. Oh yeah, it tastes great too!

This is probably one of my daughter’s favorite meals. She hovers around to stove while I make it just waiting for the first piece of eggplant to come out of the oil. Many times I have to fight her off with a spatula because she tries to devour all of my fried eggplant before I can transform it into the final dish. That is how good this recipe is.

It may look like it takes a lot of time, but if you prep your space properly, it only takes about 10 minutes to fry the eggplant and then just a few more minutes to assemble the whole thing and you are done. Easy-peesy, lemon-squeezy.

Oh yeah, it is gluten free as well.

Serves 4

  • 1 eggplant, sliced thin (1/4-inch) with the skin left on
  • course salt
  • 2 eggs
  • marinara sauce (mine is homemade – if you use store bought get the best brand you can afford)
  • parmesan cheese

salted eggplantPlace the thinly sliced eggplant in a colander. As you layer the eggplant, sprinkle course salt over the slices. This will remove moisture from the eggplant and make them more pliable. Do not skip this step – it is important.

Let the eggplant slices sit in a sink for about 15 minutes. You will see water droplets all over the slices when they are ready. Rinse the eggplant and pat them dry.

While the eggplant is sweating, mix two eggs, 1 tbsp. of water and a pinch of salt into a shallow bowl. Then place about 2 inches of vegetable oil into a frying pan – I like to use a cast iron pan. Heat on high. You will be able to tell when the oil is at the correct temperature when you drop a small piece of bread into the oil and begins to sizzle and cook immediately.

Fry stationNow set up your frying station. If you look at my picture, you will see that I have my egg wash next to the frying pan with the dry eggplant slices next to the bowl as well. On the left I have placed two paper towels, with four more ready off to the side.

When the oil is ready, dip three to four eggplant slices into the egg wash.  Let the eggwash drip off the slices and then carefully place them into the oil. They will cook quickly, stay at the stove ready to flip them over after about 1 to 1 ½ minutes. The second side will take even less time.

Remove the slices to the paper towels and blot to remove the excess oil. They should be golden brown with little lacy eggy crunchies on the edges. Yum!

Cooked eggplantRepeat this process until all of the eggplant slices have been cooked. You can reserve the slices so that you can assemble the dish later, or just do it immediately. First, place a think layer of marinara in the serving dish, then top with eggplant slices to cover. Then repeat this process until you either get it to the thickness you desire or all eggplant slices are used up.

Or you can make individual towers for a fancier presentation.

Top the dish with a thin layer of sauce and then sprinkle the top with a thin layer of Parmesan cheese. Place the dish in a pre-heated 350° for about 15-20 minutes.

Eggplant ParmLet the dish settle for a few minutes after it comes out of the oven so that it is easier to slice. Serve warm.

In any case, I firmly believe that once you try this method for making Eggplant Parmesan you will never go back. Oh yeah, this method is great for making Zucchini Parmesan as well.

Enjoy!

Pan Sautéed Flounder – A Family Favorite

This one is for my kids because it is one of their favorite dishes. We live in a seaport town that has the last commercial fishing fleet in Connecticut and have the luxury of getting fish literally right off the boat. Flounder, along with scallops and lobster,  is one of the main products harvested by our local fishermen.

The "kids"; awesome aren't they.

The “kids”; awesome aren’t they.

I know this recipe, if you want to call it that, is ridiculously simple, but it is wonderful. And when you eat it you feel healthy and happy; at least my kids do. Sure hope they make this soon in their own apartments. Or come home. I will be happy to make it for them!

Servings: 1 (can be multiplied easily)

  • ½ cup flour
  • salt, pepper
  • 1 pat butter
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 fillet of flounder
  • lemon

Place the flour, salt, and pepper in a wide bowl. Mix to combine.

Place the butter and olive oil in a sauté pan. Heat over medium high heat until the butter is melted and has stopped bubbling. (The bubbling is the water in the butter boiling off. Once it stops bubbling, the water has evaporated and it is ready for cooking.)

Lightly dusted flounderMeanwhile, dry the founder fillet and dip it into the seasoned flour on both sides. Remove it from the flour and shake off the excess.

Place the flounder in the sauté pan and cook for about  2 minutes. With a spatula, gently turn the flounder over and cook until done. This will just take a few minutes. The flounder should be golden brown.

Flounder sizzlin' awayRemove the flounder from the pan, plate and place a wedge of lemon along side it. We like to serve it with rice topped with black sesame seeds and minced scallions. A green salad with a lemon vinaigrette is a perfect vegetable for the dish.

This my friends, is a BIG Do Again in our household. As long as you have high quality fish, this is a delectable treat. And healthy.

Raiding the Fridge – Wheat Grain Salad

Per doctor’s orders, I hadn’t been able to eat a real meal for the past two days. Did lose 5 pounds but was hungry enough to eat my cat. Now that I am finally allowed to eat again, I wanted something fast; so I raided the fridge. . . the cat was too fast for me to catch.

This is what I found – wheat berries, roasted beets and shallots, roasted sweet potatoes, leftover duck breast, garlic sautéed mushrooms, goat cheese, swiss chard quick pickles, walnuts, and  salad dressing. And this is what I made! It tasted pretty good.

DSCN0250

Rainbow Chard Quick-Pickles

Last week I made a Spicy Asian Pork Soup that used rainbow swiss chard. After finishing the soup,  I just couldn’t throw out the stems – they were just too pretty.

DSCN0241

Aren’t they just gorgeous?

But what do you do with chard stems besides saute them?

Well, when you have leftover pickle juice, you pickle them!

In my fridge, I had leftover spicy pickle juice from some pickled green beans. ( I like to keep pickle juice on hand for a variety of things, deviled eggs, quick pickled beets -you might be surprised how handy it can be) I just dumped the juice into a medium-sized pot and brought it to a boil.

DSCN0242

Then I tossed in the chard slivers and simmered it for about 5 minutes. I then poured the juice and chard into a wide-mouth canning jar, let it cool, and placed it into the fridge.

It was that easy.

DSCN0243

What can you do with these, you ask? You can top a salad with them to give it a little zing or  put it on top of a pulled pork sandwich or fish taco. Or a hamburger. Or hot dog! Or. . .

I bet you could think of even more ideas.

So, next time you are cooking, think outside of the box. Don’t throw out ingredients like swiss chart stems, make them into something new – like PICKLES!

ENJOY!

Spicy Pork Swiss Chard Soup with an Asian Twist – multiculturalism at its best!

IMG_1876Here is my first attempt at making diet food for this Biggest Loser challenge my husband has joined. I found this recipe in the January edition of Bon Appetit. The original recipe called for Sichuan peppercorns, mustard greens and rice noodles and I didn’t have any of these items. Thus, I decided to forage in my pantry to see what alternatives I had for these critical ingredients. Fortunately, I had a beautiful bunch of swiss chard, pequin peppers, and udon noodles. I figured they were close enough and began cooking.

 I like the taste of spicy food – I also find it makes me feel full longer – but if you don’t want to use pequin peppers, feel free to alter this recipe to your tastes. Also, I personally feel that any good pasta would work for this soup, so don’t let the Asian noodle concept keep you from making this recipe. Finally, the first time I cooked this dish we left the noodles long, which made the soup difficult to eat. Simply breaking the noodles into 2-3 inch lengths made a huge difference to our dining experience.

This dish is ridiculously easy, cheap, and now one of my husband’s favorites. So far he has lost 2 pounds and I am taking credit for a lot of it, thank you. Me and my soup.  Guess that means it is a definite Do Again. Let me know what you think of it! Of course, I have only lost 1 pound so . . . oh well.

** Helpful hint for mincing the ginger and garlic at the end of the recipe. Check it out, it will make your life much easier!

Serves 4

  • 1 small bunch udon noodles, broken into pieces
  •  ½ lb. ground pork
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed and minced
  • 3 tsp. peeled, smashed and minced fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1-2 pequin peppers, crushed, or ¾ crushed red pepper flakes
  • ½ tsp cumin seeds, coarsely chopped, or ½ tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • salt
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 bunch – four stalks of swiss chard, leaves removed from stalks and chopped  (about 4 cups)
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tsp Thai fish sauce
  • 1-2 pequin peppers, crushed – if you like real spicy food like me!

Cook the noodles according to the package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water.

Mix the pork, garlic, ginger, black pepper, hot peppers and cumin seeds into a medium sized bowl and mix together with your hands. Pour the olive oil into a medium saucepan and heat over a medium flame. Place the pork mixture into the skillet and brown the meat stirring occasionally to break it up into small pieces.

Add the chicken broth into the pot with the meat mixture and simmer for about 10 minutes to allow the flavors to combine. Then place the chopped swiss chard leaves, scallions, soy sauce, fish sauce and peppers in the broth and cook over a medium heat until the chard has wilted.

Place cooked noodles in the bottom of a soup bowl and pour the soup over.

 

HELPFUL HINT!

When I need to mince ginger for recipes, I trim off the skin and slice it into thin discs – about the thickness of a quarter. Then I lay DSCN0237the disks on my cutting board and place my chef’s knife with the flat side facing down (see picture) covering the slice completely. I then slam my palm onto the top of the knife. This smashes the ginger (once again, see photo) and makes it crazy easy to mince. This technique can also be used to smash garlic as well.

Enjoy!

Creative Cheesy Creations

Grilled Cheese with Balsamic Cherry Spread

Grilled Cheese with Balsamic Cherry Spread

This isn’t so much as a recipe, as it is a way of thinking. I love grilled cheese sandwiches. You know this if you have read about my experience at The Spotted Pig and my rendition of the $17 Grilled Cheese Sandwich (which is now $18 by the way!). Because of this undying love for all things cheesy and melty, I refuse to settle for a pedestrian grilled cheese sandwich. I want adventure! Therefore, the other day when the craving hit me, I threw open the fridge with gusto and went rummaging.

Thanks to my generous sister-in-law, Julie, I had a plethora of cheeses and other tasty treats to experiment with.

So, I got creative and made a cheese mixture from what was available. I grated the onion gouda and blended it with some remnants of my herbed goat cheese spread and a few glugs of heavy cream and a dash of salt. Mushed them all together and made a spreadable paste. But I wan’t done yet. I dug deep into the recesses of my holiday leftovers and found the Balsamic Cherry Spread Julie had brought for Christmas and became inspired. After prepping my soon-to-be grilled cheese sandwich, I schmeered a bit of the cherry goodness on top of the cheese to create a new masterpiece.

My husband doubted my creative genius and went for a sandwich sans cherry. Poor guy; he knew not what he had done. But, then he made the mistake of asking for a bite of my sandwich.  Being the loving wife that I am, I complied. Must say that he regretted this  once he took a taste of my delectable delight and swooned. That’s okay. I will experiment with dried cherries and balsamic vinegar to re-create this spread so that he can have a whole sandwich next time.

So, I guess what I am saying is –

Be brave like Pocahontas! Dig deep into that fridge or pantry and try out weird combos. You may have to eat come duds, but every once in a while you get a “ta-dah!!!”

So, now I have to figure out what to do with carrot pickles and leftover duck breast. Hmmm. . . .

Cheers!