Saturday, December 31, 2011

Chicken & Dumpling Soup | Food Blog is COLD out there! I live in Wisconsin, and even though we aren't hitting record lows (we're probably hitting record highs, in all honesty!) it is still pretty darn cold out there. Checking the temperature outside just now, we're at 35 degrees which makes me feel like a baby for even complaining about how cold it is. But in my defense, it is still awfully gloomy. Which makes a great day for soup! Not just any soup though! A slightly smoky, rich & flavorful, dense & slightly creamy soup, with light & fluffy but slightly chewy inside; dumplings. Yep, that sounds perfect.

Except, I made it last night and today we ate leftovers. Don't you fret your pretty little face though, I'm still going to share. Which brings me to my next thing. I'm a pretty good photographer. I spend a lot of time behind the camera. But food photography never ceases to successfully evade me. I'm not a food photographer as much as I may try to be. I'm working on it though! And I am going to master it, part of having a good blog is having GOOD pictures. I'll get there, just be patient with me.

This recipe is slightly my own concoction, as mentioned earlier I am a fly by the seat of my pants type of girl when I'm in the kitchen. Little bit of this, little bit of that. I hardly ever write it down, and my boy: Travis, is always after me to "Write the stuff down!" I'm working on it. But for now, I'm slightly imperfect, but that will have to do. Hopefully you find the imperfections charming and endearing. (Yes, you're allowed to laugh.)

So, I started this recipe with my Dutch oven. I like the flavors I get from it, and I have been using this thing non-stop since receiving it a couple of years ago. I want it to have that perfect flavor everyone raves about: seasoning. You don't have to use one, you can use a plain old stock pot if you prefer.

Chicken Soup:

2 cans low sodium Chicken Broth (Swanson)
1 can Cream of Chicken soup (I used Campbell's)
left-over Rotisserie Chicken - I had about a half of one left.
roughly chopped
(include the gelatinous stuff.)
2 C. water
3 large carrots, sliced
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
fresh green beans, cut
Rubbed sage to taste (no more than 1 t.)
Poultry Seasoning to taste (no more than 1 t.)
salt & fresh ground black pepper to taste

In your pan, combine the broth, soup, and water. Stir until well combined over medium-high heat. If it starts to boil, turn it down to medium. If needed, add more than the recommended 2 C. of water. Once soup starts to simmer, add chicken, carrots, and onion. Save the green bean until the last few minutes of cooking so they still have some bite left to them. Also save the seasonings until last. Cook until onion is clear, and carrot is tender to the bite. Add green beans, and seasonings.

Dumplings (From Better Homes & Gardens New Cookbook)

1 C. flour
1 T. fresh or 1/2 T. dried parsley
2 t. baking powder
1/4t. salt
1/4 t. dried oregano
1 beaten egg
1/4 c. milk or half & half (I used half & half)
2 T. cooking oil

Combine all dry ingredients in a medium bowl and mix well. Make a well in the dry bowl. Combine wet ingredients in a small bowl. Pour wet into dry, stir until just combined. Don't over-stir. The BHG Cookbook says to make 6 dumplings. I made a bunch of small, teaspoon size ones. Use your discretion, either way works perfectly. Make sure you are adding the dumplings to simmering liquid.

Serve soup in bowls with sprigs of fresh parsley as garnish, or chives.

I hope you enjoy this soup recipe! It's New Year's Eve, let's say good-bye to 2011 and Hello! to 2012. Thanks for tuning in to my food blog this year, I'll see you guys again next year. Stay safe, & happy! Now go get your Midnight Kiss!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes | Food Blog

I love Peanut Butter! I mean, who doesn't? I guess with the exception of those who are allergic, and those who are crazy! Peanut butter has a long standing place in my heart. I can still remember spending a lot of time with my grandparents as a little girl. During the week, it was just my grandma & I because my grandpa drove truck during the week. So, for lunches we usually had Peanut Butter & Jelly sandwiches. It was almost a ritual with us, and my grandma knew I could eat pb & j pretty much every meal and be happy. I still remember the brand she used: Peter Pan and she always bought the big, gigantic 64 ounce containers that as a child I thought was amazing! In my mind, I can still hear the jingle of the commercial: "Peter Paaaaaan Peanut Buttah!!" so silly! I think it's where the other jingle "Peanut, Peanut butter, & JELLY!" came from. A little steal from the Peanut butter that was popular in the 80's. You can still buy Peter Pan brand, but unfortunately it just doesn't have the taste I like as an adult.

Now I buy Smucker's Natural Creamy with Honey. Sure, I have to stir it and it can be a pain but oh is it worth all the extra effort! I highly recommend using it in the Peanut Butter frosting that this recipe calls for.

I am obsessed with cupcakes, I think it's just a thing we're all going through right now but honestly, I have always loved cupcakes. As a kid, I remember these plastic toys I had and one was a plain cupcake then you could top it with frosting and a cherry, kind of Mr. Potato Head gone girly toy. I wish I could remember what they were called, but a Google search didn't help. Let me know if you know what I am talking about! Anyway, I'm known to do these completely homemade and then sometimes I play it easy and use store-bought for some things and homemade for others so it's half & half. I debated on giving you guys a chocolate cake recipe and all that but honestly, I did not do a homemade cake with my version. I bought a Duncan Hines cake mix and I used that instead so that's what I would recommend here. So, enjoy these cupcakes! They were a HUGE hit and I have had a ton of requests for them since. The peanut butter frosting truly is the best I have ever had!

1 Duncan Hines Devil's Food Cake Mix
Follow directions on the box with one exception! Pull the cupcakes out of the oven 3-4 minutes before the recommended time. The cakes will continue to cook for a couple minutes once outside the oven and this makes for a more moist & springy cake. I do this with every cake I make, foolproof results every time and people always want to know how I got them so moist. This is how!

Let cupcakes cool. In the meantime, get started on frosting.

Peanut Butter Frosting Recipe (yields 24 cupcakes)

1/2 C. unsalted butter
1 C. creamy peanut butter (use Smuckers! I promise you won't regret it!)
4 C. Confectioner's sugar
1/3 C. cream or milk

In a large bowl, combine butter & peanut butter and beat with electric mixer until light & fluffy. Slowly add confectioner's (powdered) sugar. Add enough of the cream or milk for frosting to reach a good spreading or piping consistency. Makes enough for one 13x9, 2 layer 9", or 24 cupcakes.

Once my cupcakes were cooled, I piped the frosting on. A really cool trick: spoon frosting into a plastic ziplock bag, close it. Snip a corner off the tip and squeeze. I start in the middle of my cupcakes and circle outward to make a clean looking frosted top. Once all the tiny cakes were frosted, I gave them a finishing touch with a tiny Reese's Peanut Butter cup mini. These are nothing short of incredible, they make your cupcakes look adorable & finished. I love Reese's for coming out with these! Just a heads up, usually the King Size bag will not have enough to top 24 cupcakes.

Voila! Easy, beautiful cupcakes for the next occasion that calls for them! Let me know what you think!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Erica Bauermeister School of Essential Ingredients & Molly Wizenberg A Homemade Life | Food Blog

Thankfully there are not enough followers here yet to pick at me about the fact that it's taken me almost 2 years to write another blog post. Yep, this baby started in March of 2010 and here it is the end of December 2011 and I am just now thinking about my food blog I started and whatever happened to that, anyway?

Well, at least I am coming back to it I suppose. Ha.
Anyway, I am still in love with the movie Julie & Julia. I've watched it several thousand more times since my Redbox rental way back when and I also own it. I can see it sitting in it's honorary place amongst my other semi-alphabetized DVD's. In fact, just writing this blog post makes me think that maybe I should watch it again.

Also since my last blog post, I came across a couple other food novels that left me absolutely breathless. Personally, I don't feel as though there are enough cooking related literary masterpieces out there. Nora Roberts, one of my guiltless pleasures and mindless reading mecca's has dedicated several of her books to cooking related plots and I can't say how much I appreciate it. Anyway, one of the books was also based off of a blog, some of you may have heard of it and if you haven't, I highly recommend you wander on over to Orangette and take a peek. Molly Wizenberg, the creator and author of A Homemade Life: Stories & Recipes From My Kitchen Table, successfully wrote one of the most important books of my lifetime. I'm not kidding! It is so beautifully written and at moments, incredibly bittersweet. I highly recommend both it, and the Orangette blog.

The second book was by Erica Bauermeister. The School of Essential Ingredients is a short novel, but a beautiful read. On top of it, Erica is such a down to earth person, only proven by her Facebook page that it seems she personally keeps up with and also answers fans. (Nora Roberts does too, by the way.) For both Molly & Erica's books, I was compelled to write them personal notes of thank you and gratitude, which I don't feel compelled to do very often. A book really has to move me in order to do that...but I did and I was incredibly surprised when I received personal responses from both of them. I'm quite sure I will be a loyal fan & stalker forever, now.

Anyway, this blog post has gotten a little long and I had intended to share a recipe for Peanut Butter cupcakes but I think we'll save that for tomorrow. And yes, Travis...I know you're reading. I WILL do the blog post tomorrow. :)

So, what are your favorite food related books? I'm still looking for more, and need all the help I can get!