Chicken Dumpling Soup

chicken-dumpling-soup

The week of Thanksgiving always confuses me. Like, it feels like such a short week but Thanksgiving isn’t until Thursday which is really towards the end of the week anyway. And in this year’s case, I feel like I have sooooo much to do. In reality, I have very little to do. I have to make a pumpkin pie and green bean casserole. And yet, I haven’t been putting anything on my calendar because I’ve been feeling like I have to get ready for Thanksgiving. I don’t.

We did do a mini-outing today though, to the Trains at North Park. So cute, so well done, and the boys loved it. Tons of trains just rolling around. One of the little guys kept saying ‘bop bop bop,’ which is his version of ‘beep beep beep,’ which is a truck sound and not quite applicable to trains but I let it slide. They were so happy and cute. Until. Until I thought I had a minute to relax because they loved the trains so much and I pulled out my smoothie. All the sudden it was like the trains disappeared and the Christmas music stopped, and all they could see was my smoothie. When I wouldn’t let them have it (for lots of reasons – messy, etc – but mostly because it was MINE and I love it)- we had our first public dual tantrum.  Two screaming, completely boneless babies. Couldn’t pick them up, couldn’t hold their hand and walk back to the stroller, couldn’t entice them with another snack. I finally had to just pick them both up at the same time (backs arched, arms flailing, etc) and carry them to the stroller so we could get out of dodge. Not my most graceful moment. It’s very hard to look graceful and in control when you have twin toddlers.

Anyway. This soup is a winter staple. Sort of tastes like pot pie and is so comforting and delicious. AND…would be awesome with leftover turkey.

Recipe

  • 1.5 lb cooked & shredded chicken or turkey (~4c)
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 2 cups diced carrot (small)
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 6 cups chicken broth (full sodium)
  • 5 tablespoons corn starch + water
  • 1/2 cup Half & Half
  • 2-3 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • Kosher salt if needed (I used full sodium broth and used an extra 1/2 tsp kosher )

Dumplings

  • 2 cups flour
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • pepper

Add a tablespoon or two of olive oil to a large soup pot. Stir in the onion, celery and carrot. Cook for about 5-10 minutes.  Add chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Whisk together the corn starch with about 1/2 cup water. Add it to the chicken stock and allow to thicken.  Stir in cooked chicken, parsley, half & half, and S&P.

To make the dumplings, mix all ingredients together. Bring soup to a low simmer, and drop the dumplings in teaspoonfuls on top of the soup (messy is ok, they always look misshapen). Once you have dropped in all the dough, cover and cook for about 20 minutes on medium.  If the dumplings cook together a little bit, just break them up with a fork before serving.

Stuffed Chicken Primavera

stuffed-chicken-primavera

I love Primavera pasta. And the funny thing is I can tell you EXACTLY when my love for it started. Trisha Benetti’s kitchen, Rothschild Wisconsin, circa 1996.  New school, new friend, and new snacks. (did you ever get excited about that, btw? A new friend always meant new snacks. Juli Coleman’s house always had Doritos and pudding cups). Trisha’s family had those pasta envelopes (can’t remember what brand and I even looked it up- no luck) – you know like a big bag of pasta with the powder for the sauce in there. One afternoon we wanted a snack so Trisha made the pasta primavera in the microwave and I was blown away. My mom didn’t really cook pre-made stuff out of a bag so I really thought I hit the jackpot.  Afterwards Trisha and I probably went and lit some incense next to her lava lamp.

Today, I eat a more authentic version of Primavera. I get it at Terilli’s Italian restaurant down the street at least once a week. So when my husband came home a couple weeks ago and said I needed to make a stuffed chicken primavera like the one he had at his office cafe, I was sold. He always comes to me with good ideas. Details and execution tips are always elusive, however.  I had to ask about 342 questions before I finally knew what he meant by ‘stuffed primavera.’  To sum it up for you, you cut large slits on the top of a thick chicken breast, then stuff it with fresh thiiiiiiinly sliced veggies. Then you top it with mozzarella cheese and bake it. And you eat it with something like a salad or sweet potato instead of a huge plate of pasta. Healthy! So good! So pretty!

Recipe

  • 6 large, fat boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1.5 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp italian herb blend
  • Olive oil
  • Pepper to taste
  • 1 large zucchini, very thinly sliced and then halved (so like half moons)
  • 3 medium tomatoes, thinly slice and diced into small pieces
  • 1/2 sweet onion, julienne
  • 1 yellow pepper, julienne
  • 5 mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 6 deli-style slices mozzarella (or shredded is fine)

Preheat oven to 400.  Divide the chicken into two large baking dishes (I didn’t have one large enough to fit them all). Cut about 3-5 slits along the top of each of them (I did 3 the long way), making sure not to cut through to the bottom. Drizzle with some olive oil, then season with the salt and pepper and Italian herbs. Mix the very thinly slices veggies together (you should have about 4 cups total), season with a little S&P, and then stuff them in all of the chicken slits. Top each chicken with a slice of mozzarella. Pour 1/2 cup of wine into each dish.  Cover the dishes, then bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake for about 15 minutes until chicken is done and cheese is browning.

Mexican Lasagna

mexican-lasagna

If I could figure out how to make Taco Bell’s Mexican pizza at home, I would eat it every day.  It’s probably not that hard, but I haven’t figured out what I could use for the crunchy tortilla layer that would be just perfect. Also I would need to go there and steal like 95 packets of their taco sauce because it’s really a key ingredient.  And I wouldn’t want some homemade bull%$## taco sauce. That one is special.  So this Mexican lasagna is definitely inspired by Taco Bell’s pizza variation, but there are enough differences that I don’t feel like I’m trying to make their Mexican pizza but end up with something sub par.

And I decided to make this Mexican lasagna for three reasons: 1) my friend Annie was coming over for a Friday night happy hour/dinner/play date and she loves Taco Bell as much as, or more, than I do; 2) I also sort of had lasagna on my mind; and 3) But I was going to Terilli’s Italian restaurant for dinner on Saturday so I didn’t want back to back lasagna. So if you can follow all that I landed on Mexican lasagna.

So I made it. It was easy. It was super delicious. It was pretty. It was sitting on my stove all bubbly and waiting to be eaten. And then I had to cancel. And let me tell you – when you stay at home with your kids all day, this Friday night plan made me feel like I was going clubbing. Social interaction, good dinner, someone to drink with, kids playing with someone else, etc.  Very sad.

But I had to cancel because one of my kids had Hand Foot Mouth disease for literally the second time in a month. What I thought was a fussy baby due to having some major vaccinations a couple days earlier turned out to be a fussy baby due to 20 blisters covering the inside of his throat/mouth. Fair enough, Price, fair enough.  This second round of HFM was a BEATING. And it’s super contagious so I didn’t want to expose anyone else to it. So it was a very sad day, but I did cut it up into little pieces and froze it. It freezes beautifully and we’ve had a couple easy/awesome dinners this week.

Recipe

  • Ground beef recipe minus water and taco sauce (you’ll add more liquid later)
  • 1.5 cans (2.5-3 cups) tomato sauce
  • 3 large flour tortillas or 9 corn tortillas
  • 1 cup refried beans
  • 3 tablespoons sour cream
  • 1 bottle taco sauce (I like Ortega)
  • 3.5 cups shredded Mexican blend cheese

Preheat oven to 350.  Spray cast iron pan or other round baking dish with nonstick spray.  Prepare beef according to recipe above (2 lb), or just using a taco seasoning packet if you prefer.  Stir in tomato sauce with ground beef. In a separate bowl, warm up the refried beans in the microwave. Stir in the sour cream and set aside. Then, layer about 1 cup of meat sauce on bottom of pan. Drizzle generously with taco sauce. Coat one flour tortilla lightly in taco sauce (if using corn you will use 3 tortillas per layer). Place on top of meat. Spread about 3 spoonfuls of bean mixture on top. Add 1 cup of shredded cheese. Add 1.5 cups meat sauce on top of cheese. Sprinkle with a bit of taco sauce. Coat tortilla with taco sauce. Top with 3 spoonfuls bean mixture, then another cup of cheese. Add another 1.5 cups meat sauce, taco sauce, tortilla dipped in taco sauce, bean mixture. Add rest of meat (less than a cup), then remaining 1.5 cups cheese. Cover and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake 10 minutes more.

chunky-butterscotch-chocolate-chip-banana-bread

Have you guys ever tried Rent the Runway? I have lots of friends that use it and love it. I put off using it for years because I just don’t see how you can tell if a dress will look good on you just by looking at it online. And then have no time to rectify the problem if you don’t like it.  I mean, I do all my shopping online, but I order 75 dresses for an event months in advance and I still usually send them all back. But, we have a wedding this weekend and I couldn’t find anything I loved (and didn’t want to spend a fortune), so I tried it! I ordered a beautiful-looking dress from RTR to be delivered today for a wedding we have Saturday (I am writing this post Friday at 3:24pm)! And guess what! It looks terrible! Just as I always suspected, this is very risky business. Particularly if you had twins in the last year (it’s actually more than a year but I’m milking it a while longer), and your body got all different. So now here I am, about 18 hours before we are leaving for this wedding and I have 0 dresses to wear. And I’m blogging instead of shopping. I actually just tried on a few dresses from weddings past and while they generally fit, I got them shortened so short that I don’t think I could even sit down. My pre-baby self was a braver self. Or at least a sluttier-dressed self.

Onto more important things like Banana Bread.

This recipe isn’t all that different from my traditional, yet it definitely tastes different. That’s doesn’t make sense, I know! But the addition of the fresh sliced yellow (not brown) banana, makes a big difference, and so does the butterscotch chips. Butterscotch and banana, it turns out, go perfectly together. And why haven’t we been putting chunks of fresh banana in our bread all along?? IT’S SO GOOD.

Happy Saturday! Look for me on IG later wearing a very beautiful plush robe at the wedding.

Recipe

  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 large ripe bananas
  • 1 large semi-UNRIPE (yellow, not brown) banana
  • 4 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • Dash salt
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup butterscotch chips

Preheat oven to 350.  Beat the butter and sugars with a mixer. Add in the egg and vanilla.  Mash up the 2 ripe bananas, and add them to the mixture along with the milk. Mix in the baking soda and powder, flour, and salt.  Turn off mixer, then stir in chips and fresh banana slices.  Bake in a greased bread pan for about 50-60 minutes.

dinner-party-menu-thanksgiving

I’m a traditionalist when it comes to Thanksgiving. I like to have all the same good stuff, year after year. It actually takes some of the planning stress out, because I always know what I’m going to make when I host. What IS always stressful, though, is timing everything out. So here is my recommended Thanksgiving menu (of course with all of my favorite things), and an easy outline for when to prepare everything. Also, while I typically recommend buying several items when hosting dinner, I believe in making most stuff for Thanksgiving. The homemade element adds a special touch and the chaos is FUN.

PS the picture above is from the Thanksgiving I thought it would be a good idea to make everyone individual pies. It was a great idea in theory and cuteness, but a terrible idea in manual labor output.

PSS sorry for all the terrible pictures in the links below. Most of them are from when I was in the middle of hosting Thanksgiving, and I was very very busy. And maybe a little tipsy.

Menu:

Appetizer: Trader Joe’s cranberry goat cheese + Ginger snaps

Appetizer: Cranberry Avocado Salsa

Main: Perfect Roasted Turkey + gravy

Side: Herb & Sausage Stuffing

Side: Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes

Side: Brussel Sprout Salad 

 – I would simplify this salad for Thanksgiving purposes: saute the brussels instead of roasting (oven space), buy balsamic glaze instead of boiling down your own, and buy bacon from the salad bar if you can (otherwise make bacon day ahead)

Side: Green bean casserole – using the Campbell’s soup recipe! It’s hard to beat.

Side: Sweet Potato Rolls – gotta have bread!

Dessert: Pumpkin Pie with Cream Cheese Swirl

Dessert: Store bought Apple or Pecan Pie

How to execute:

Up to a week before:

Make the sweet potato rolls. Put them in a freezer storage bag and keep them in the freezer until Thanksgiving day. Take them out morning of.

1 day before:

Make the mashed potatoes. Yes! These are great for make-ahead. When warming them up on Thanksgiving day you can add a little cream or butter if they need more moisture.

Make the pumpkin pie; store in fridge

Brown the sausage for the herb sausage stuffing. Keep in ziploc bag in fridge.

If using a frozen turkey, start thawing.

Day of:

~6-7 hours before – prepare the Turkey and put it in oven (varies depending on turkey size)

Have a sip of wine.

Anytime- prepare green bean casserole in casserole dish, and cover; wait to bake.

Have a sip of wine.

~2 hours before- cook celery, onions, etc and assemble sausage stuffing; wait to bake.

Have 2 sips of wine.

~1 hour before – prepare brussel sprout salad

Have 4 sips of wine.

~45 min before (delegate here!) – remove turkey from oven and let rest. Prepare gravy. Put green bean casserole and stuffing into the oven and bake. Prepare cranberry avo salsa and set out cheeses. Warm up mashed potatoes.

Have 87 sips of wine.

Happy Thanksgiving!!

 

 

My Best Chili

my-best-chili

It’s rainy here! And sort of chilly! So I have chili on my mind! Why all the exclamation points! Because we’ve been waiting for cooler weather here, and I think we finally have it. For a few days in a row. No more sweating while putting the boys in the car, no more feeling like the sun is literally aging me the second I step outside the door, and no more wearing white floral dresses in November (at some point I just stopped shopping). Speaking of aging, I went to the dermatologist this week for a mole check and few skin tips, and I came home with 3 prescriptions, 2 pricing quotes on procedures that I “need,” and a sheet of anti-aging essentials with about 80% of them circled based on my skin type.  Basically I need to invest in a new face.

So onto my chili. This is officially my chili. What I will make forever. Because there are soooo many recipes out there, and I already have this one  on my blog. I made this one loosely based on my previous version, but I tweaked quantities and did two simple things that made a HUGE difference: 1) I ground the beef down reeeeally small so there were no large pieces and 2) I cooked it for a long time.  Amazing what this did for the texture and flavor.

Recipe

  • 2 lb 90% lean ground beef
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1/2 clove garlic
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1.5 teaspoons kosher salt, more or less to taste
  • ~43 oz diced tomatoes with juices (1 large can + 1 regular)
  • 1 can tomato sauce (15 oz)
  • 1/2 can or full can black beans, drained (I used 1/2)
  • 2-3 tablespoons chili powder (3 if you like more heat; I used 2)
  • 1/2 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 heaping teaspoon cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon pasilla powder if you can find it, or ancho chili powder
  • ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch mixed with 1/4 cup water

Brown meat, adding onions and garlic.  Using a wooden spoon to break beef down into very small pieces. An immersion blender works well here too.  Cook beef, onion and garlic through.  Add in red wine and salt. Cook down for a few minutes. Add in tomatoes, tomato sauce, beans, and all spices.  Bring to a simmer. Stir in corn starch + water mixture.  Simmer uncovered for about 20 minutes.  Cover, turn heat to VERY low, and cook for at least one hour, but preferably 2 or 3. Taste for salt and add more if necessary.

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