Food & Drink

Quick & Easy Rotisserie Chicken Soup

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This isn’t your grandmother’s chicken noodle soup.  Well, if you had my grandmother, the chicken noodle soup I grew up consisted of blackened chicken infused with a bajillion bitter Asian spices.  On the other hand, my mom was the cool mom who always reached for the can of Campbell’s Chicken & Stars anytime we were sick.

But as an adult, there’s something quite unsatisfying about heating up a can of soup.  There’s some placebo effect that homemade soup will make me feel better much quicker than the storebought stuff.  Over the years, I have perfected the easiest chicken soup using a bunch of shortcuts.  It doesn’t take a lot of ingredients, and most of the items are probably already in your pantry or refrigerator.   It tastes like a cross between a chicken noodle soup and chicken and biscuits stew.  Best of all, it comes together in under 20 minutes.  So make yourself this hot and piping chicken soup and huddle under the blanket and get better soon :)

*I promise this soup tastes good even when you are not sick.

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Quick & Easy Rotisserie Chicken Soup

  • Servings: 4-6
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Ingredients

  • 1 rotisserie chicken
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 3 Tbs butter
  • 3 Tbs flour
  • 5 cups chicken stock, vegetable stock, or water
  • 1/2 cup milk or half & half
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Method

  1. Remove the skin from the rotisserie chicken and shred the chicken until you have around 3 cups of meat.  Save the rest for another use.
  2. In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat.  Stir in onion, garlic, carrot, and celery, cook for 5 minutes, or until vegetables start to soften.  Stir in flour and cook for an additional minute.  Pour in stock or water and bring soup to a boil.  Reduce to low heat.  Add in shredded chicken and cook until you can easily pierce through a carrot, about 5 minutes.
  3. Stir in milk or half & half.  Season with salt and pepper.

Recipe notes

  • If you would like chicken noodle soup, add dried egg noodles once the soup is boiling.  It should cook within the last 5 minutes.
  • Want to use the InstantPot instead?  No problem!  Using the sauté option, melt the butter and stir in the vegetables, make sure it’s all coated in the butter.  Stir in flour and cook for 1 minute.  Cover with stock or water and add the chicken.  Put lid on and lock the pressure valve.  Set to Manual pressure for 5 min.  Natural release for 10 min when done, then release the remaining pressure.  Stir in milk and season with salt and pepper.

 

Food & Drink

Strawberry Pop-Tarts

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Strawberries are finally under $3/pound here in the Northeast and I’m taking full advantage!  At my church’s small group, there’s a running joke whenever someone’s bringing snacks that if they don’t have the time or don’t have the culinary abilities to whip up something, they’ll bring Pop-Tarts.  I decided it’s time to set a new gold standard of Pop-Tarts – homemade Pop-Tarts with the flakiest crust and a perfectly sweet & tart strawberry filling.

As a ’90s kid, my mom would always stock our pantry with Pop-Tarts as an afternoon snack, and my brothers would gobble them up.  I just always lusted after Toaster Strudels (fun fact: I still haven’t had them!).  At least from the TV commercials, Toaster Strudels look flakier, the filling looks like it’s got more body and viscosity.  But since I’ve never had them, I don’t think I can say this is a homemade version of Toaster Strudels.  But I think I’ve maintained the integrity of the look of the Pop-Tart, but elevated it with a buttery pastry crust and delicious jam filling.

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Strawberry Pop-Tarts

  • Servings: 16
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Ingredients

Pastry dough

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cold, unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup iced water

Egg wash

  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbs milk

Strawberry jam filling

  • 1 cup strawberry jam
  • 1 tb cornstarch
  • 1 tb water

Topping

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1-2 tbs milk
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • Sprinkles

Method

  1. For the pastry dough: Using a food processor, pastry blender, or 2 forks, blend together flour, butter, and salt until it resembles small crumbs.  Slowly add ice water, 1 tb at a time, until dough comes together.  Transfer to a floured surface, knead a couple times until smooth.  Divide dough in half and flatten into disks.  Wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  2. In a small bowl, stir together strawberry jam filling.  In another small bowl, mix together the egg wash.
  3. Preheat oven to 400°F.  Roll out each pastry dough into large rectangles.  Using a pizza cutter or a knife, cut pastry dough to PopTart-sized rectangles (about 2″x3′).  You should get 32 rectangles (and have some extra dough leftover).  Set aside.
  4. On one side of the cut rectangular dough, put about a spoonful of jam mixture.  Brush egg wash around the edges.  Cover with another cut dough, crimping the edges to seal.  Brush the top with egg wash.  Repeat with remaining dough & filling.
  5. Bake in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown.  Let cool for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely.
  6. In a small bowl, whisk together powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla extract.  Spoon over the cooled Pop-Tarts.  Add the sprinkles and let the icing dry completely before serving.

Recipe notes

  • To save time, you can use a premade frozen pie dough.  Just make sure to thaw it before using.
  • You can use any strawberry jam you like.  However, because different strawberry jams will have different consistencies, you will need to play with the cornstarch and water ratio.  You want it to be very easily spreadable, but not runny like juice.  Think … apple sauce/baby food consistency.
  • Want an easy homemade strawberry jam recipe?  My 3-ingredient strawberry jam recipe comes together super fast and will give you plenty of leftovers for all your pb&j needs!

 

Food & Drink

Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake Bombs

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Recently, I was perusing Pinterest when I read about these “fat bombs”.  To be honest, the name didn’t sound super appetizing.  These “bombs” are basically made from a high-fat source – coconut oil, cocoa butter, cream cheese, etc.  They are mixed with other natural flavors – berries, chocolate, nuts, etc.  You form them into bite-sized shapes and they make for a great snack for that mid-morning boost of energy.  It’s supposedly a really great snack for people on low-carb or ketogenic diets.

Honestly, I was interested because I do not need an excuse to eat cream cheese.  One of my favorite desserts is cheesecake.  For this recipe, I wanted to replicate the flavor and texture of a cheesecake crossed with a peanut butter cup.  It comes together super quickly, and makes for a great snack!  It’s not overwhelmingly sweet, and the cacao nibs add a sophisticated bitterness to evens out the sweetness from the cream cheese and peanut butter.  Just make sure to pace yourself – they are small so you’ll want to eat all of them in one sitting.

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Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake Bombs

  • Servings: 15
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Ingredients

  • 8oz cream cheese (1 block), room temperature
  • 1/2 cup natural peanut butter (I used one of those peanut butter grinders at the grocery store and I chose the honey roasted peanuts)
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 cup cacao nibs
  • Optional: sweetener (sugar, honey, agave, stevia, etc.)

Method

  1. Using a stand mixer fitted with a flat beater or a hand mixer, cream together cream cheese and peanut butter on low until smooth and fluffy.  Beat in cocoa powder.  Refrigerate for 10-15 minutes so it hardens and is easier to work with.
  2. Using a cookie scoop or 2 spoons, scoop out mixture and form into tablespoon-sized balls.  Roll each ball in cacao nibs until generously coated.  Serve chilled.

Recipe notes

  • Because I used a honey roasted peanut butter, I did not find that I needed additional sweeteners.  Taste the cream cheese mixture before refrigerating to make sure it’s to your liking.  If necessary, add sweetener of choice, 1 tsp at a time.

 

Food & Drink

Cauliflower Pizza

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To kick off clean eating in spring and summer, my husband and I have embarked on a low-carb diet for the month of March.  To be honest, the only reason I signed up for this is that low carb still meant I can have dairy.  We’re about halfway through the month, and the one thing I miss the most is pizza.  Since we usually do some kind of housework over the weekend, we usually order pizza on Saturday night when we’re too tired from all the manual labor and too lazy to cook.

Enter – cauliflower pizza.  In the past, I have made cauliflower pizzas, and they were …. meh.  It wasn’t that we didn’t like the taste or the texture, but rather it was a lot of work for something that wasn’t that great.  In most cauliflower pizza recipes, it requires steaming the cauliflower and squeezing cauliflower juices.  It’s a lot of work!

I needed a shortcut – something that will give me the maximum amount of cauliflower pizza goodness, without the effort.

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Cauliflower Pizza

  • Servings: 4-6
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Ingredients

Cauliflower pizza

  • 1 head cauliflower, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1 tsp seasoning*
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten

Topping ideas

  • Tomato sauce
  • BBQ sauce
  • Alfredo sauce
  • Mozzarella cheese
  • Pepperoni
  • Sausage
  • Mushrooms
  • Bell peppers
  • Onions

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.  In a food processor, pulse the cauliflower until it resembles coarse crumbs.  In a large skillet (no oil added), cook the cauliflower for 10 minutes, until cauliflower is somewhat dry and lightly browned.
  2. Remove from heat, quickly stir in parmesan cheese, seasoning, and egg.  On a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, spread out the cauliflower “dough” and flatten with a spatula to the desired shape.
  3. Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes.  Top with sauce, cheese, and toppings.  Return to the oven and bake for another 10-15 minutes, or until cheese is golden brown.

Recipe notes

  • For the seasoning, you can use any blend you like.  You can stick with plain salt & pepper, Italian seasoning, poultry seasoning, steak seasoning, etc.  This is where you can get creative.  The crust will take on whatever flavor you pick.  I personally used the 21 Seasoning Salute from Trader Joe’s.
  • For extra crispy edges and bubbly, golden cheese, after you put on the sauce, cheese, and toppings, return to the oven but broil for 5 minutes.

 

Food & Drink

Mixed Berry Macarons

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To continue the strawberry party from yesterday’s Mini Strawberry Pies, I’m sharing a very simple recipe for berry macarons using both strawberries and blackberries.  Lately, I’ve regained my love for these cookies and have been baking up batch after batch.  We’re on the cusp of spring, it’s time to snag all the berries and make these delicious cookies!

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Mixed Berry Macarons

  • Servings: 30 macarons
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Ingredients

Macarons

  • 100g egg whites (~from 3 large eggs, double check to make sure)
  • 100g granulated sugar
  • 100g almond flour
  • 100g powdered sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • Gel food coloring (optional)

Strawberry Buttercream

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup strawberries, stems removed
  • 1/2 cup blackberries
  • 1-2 cups powdered sugar

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 300°F.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Over a double boiler, whisk together egg whites and granulated sugar until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is frothy, about 2 minutes.  Transfer this to a stand mixer or a handheld mixer with a whisk attachment and beat on medium-high.  Put in a pinch of salt and cream of tartar.  Beat until stiff peaks, about 3-5 minutes.  If you want to color your macarons, add a little bit of gel food coloring at this point and beat for 5 seconds only.
  3. In a food processor, combine the almond flour and powdered sugar.  Pulse 5x.  Sift the mixture into a bowl,  Discard any remaining chunks that cannot be sifted.
  4. Carefully put the almond flour & powdered sugar mixture into the egg white mixture bowl.  Beat on medium-low for 10 seconds.  Use a rubber spatula to fully incorporate the mixture.  Do the figure 8 test by scooping some batter up with your spatula and draw the number 8.  If the batter does not break, it’s done!  Make sure you do not overmix.
  5. Pour macaron mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a round tip.  Pipe out 1-inch circles on a baking sheet.  Bang the pan on the countertop a couple times to release any air bubbles.  Let it sit out to dry until the top forms a skin, about 20 minutes.  You should be able to touch the top without anything sticking to your finger.  When it’s dry, it’s ready to bake.
  6. Bake for 13-14 minutes on the middle rack, rotating the pan halfway.
  7. While the macarons are baking, prepare the buttercream.  In a blender or food processor, purée the strawberries and blackberries.  (Optional: use a mesh strainer to remove seeds.)  In a stand mixer or handheld mixer, beat together softened butter and strawberry purée until creamy.  Add powdered sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, and beat until light and fluffy.
  8. To assemble – pair cooled macaron shells of similar size together.  Turn all of them flat-side up.  Using a pastry bag fitted with a round tip, pipe out a nickel-sized amount of buttercream.  Sandwich the two shells together and press gently so the buttercream spreads to the edges.  Refrigerate in an airtight container until ready to serve.

Recipe notes:

  • The recipe calls for a double boiler.  If you don’t have one at home, no worries.  Simply fill a pot with about 1 inch of water and heat until simmering.  Place a heatproof bowl (glass or metal), and you have a double boiler!
  • If you don’t have a food processor, you can skip processing the sugar and almond flour.  Just know that the tops might not be as smooth.
  • I love my Silpat, but in my many attempts of making Silpat work with macarons, it just doesn’t work.  My shells always end up sticking to the mat.  So I just stick to parchment paper.

Food & Drink

Mini Strawberry Pies

fullsizeoutput_5331HAPPY PI DAY!  To be honest, I didn’t even realize it was pi/pie day until yesterday afternoon.  Not wanting to miss the opportunity to celebrate pi day, I decided to do something quick and easy.  What is easier than pie?  Mini pies, of course!  They take half the time to bake, and everybody gets the maximum amount of crust :)

Most strawberry pies call for the filling to be cooked on the stovetop first and then baked.    Personally, I don’t think that is necessary since strawberries cook fast, and letting them macerate in the sugar mixture will soften the berries significantly prior to baking.

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Mini Strawberry Pies

  • Servings: 12
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Ingredients

Pie dough

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cold unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup ice water
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten, mix with 2 tb water
  • Sugar, for sprinkling

Strawberry filling

  • 1 lb fresh strawberries, stems removed and quartered
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Juice from 1/2 of a lemon
  • 2 tbs cornstarch
  • Pinch of salt

Method

  1. Using a food processor, pastry cutter, or 2 forks, combine flour, butter, and salt until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Mix in ice water, 1 Tb at a time.  Stir in just enough until the dough can be formed.  On a floured work surface, knead the dough until smooth.  Divide into two and flatten into disks.  Wrap up the disks and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  2. In a large bowl, combine strawberries, sugar, lemon juice, cornstarch, and a pinch of salt.  Set aside.
  3. Preheat oven to 375°F.  Butter and flour muffin tin.  On a floured surface, roll out pie dough into a large rectangle.  Using a large circular cookie cutter to cut out individual pie dough.  Press into muffin tin and work the dough up the sides.
  4. Fill each mini pie with prepared strawberry filing.  Drizzle the strawberry syrup on top.  Using the remaining dough, top the pie with your favorite design.  Brush each pie with egg wash and sprinkle sugar on top of each mini pie.
  5. Bake in preheated oven for 30-35 minutes, or until the pies are golden brown.  Cool for 15 minutes before taking them out of the muffin tins.

Recipe notes:

  • When cutting out the dough, you are looking for a circle that is about 1.5-2 inches longer in diameter than the opening of the muffin tin.  For me, I used the lid on my wide-mouth mason jar and lightly rolled out the dough a little bit so my dough has enough overhang.

Food & Drink

Baked Honey Garlic Drumsticks

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When I was growing up, my mom made these amazing baked chicken drumsticks.  She would marinate them for 3 days, double bake them, and serve them with a side of disposable gloves.  My friends called them Mama Wang’s Chicken™ and joked that my mom should open up a shop that just sold chicken drumsticks.

Seriously, they were that good.

Unfortunately, my mom is a typical Asian cook and doesn’t believe in measuring cups and spoons.  So when I begged her for her recipe, she gave me gems like “you put sauce until it covers 1/4 of the bowl”.  We then spent the next 30 minutes arguing over how she can’t say things like that because she doesn’t own a universally-sized bowl.

But what I did get out of that conversation was the method that she did that made such a flavorful chicken.  However, I’m very impatient and I don’t have time to marinate things for 3 days.  So I came up with a speedy version that’s packed full of flavor.

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Baked Honey Garlic Drumsticks

  • Servings: 6-8
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Ingredients

  • 4-5 lbs chicken drumsticks (~14-15 drumsticks)
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1-inch piece of ginger, minced
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 tb sesame oil
  • 2 tb mirin
  • salt and pepper
  • Optional garnish: sesame seeds, scallions

Method

  1. In a Ziploc bag or deep casserole dish, mix together garlic, ginger, soy sauce, honey, sesame oil, mirin, salt and pepper.  Dredge each drumstick in the mixture until it’s well coated.  Cover and refrigerate overnight, at least 12-18 hours.  If you put this in a Ziploc bag, you can just shake the contents and massage the chicken every once in a while.  If you did this in a casserole dish like I did, just rotate the chicken every once in a while to make sure the drumsticks are evenly marinated.
  2. Preheat oven to 400°F.  Line a large baking sheet with a Silpat, aluminum foil, or parchment paper.  Place drumsticks on the baking sheet.  Using a pastry brush or a spoon, brush each drumstick with marinade.  Bake for 30 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, take the remaining marinade and put in a small saucepan over medium heat.  As the marinade boils, the liquid will reduce and turn into a thick sauce (think chocolate syrup).  Take off the heat.
  4. Brush the reduced marinade on the chicken.  Return to oven and bake for another additional 20 minutes.  Make sure the chicken’s temperature reaches 165°F.
  5. Garnish with sesame seeds and scallions, if desired.