Wednesday, November 7, 2018

From Scratch Tuna Casserole

I came upon this tuna casserole recipe on BBC Good Food a while back and decided to give it a whirl.  Tuna casserole is my go to "sick food" when I have a bad cold or something.  It's just cozy, I guess!  My husband is usually the one who ends up making it and he's made this for me a few times now.

This recipe is a little different from the norm because you make an actual sauce instead of using a can of cream of blank soup, and it uses corn instead of peas.  You can definitely use peas instead, though, or go on and add 8 oz of them in addition to the corn, why not?  

My version is pretty loyal to the original, but I add garlic and cut the cheese into cubes instead of shredding it.  Shredded cheddar kind of disappears into the casserole, but cubes give you little pockets of melty cheesiness.

For the pasta, you can use pretty much anything.  I think of egg noodles as being the traditional tuna casserole pasta, and that's very good, but it's also good with macaroni, penne, fusilli, shells, or other short shapes.  I'd stay away from something long like spaghetti or very tiny like orzo, but pretty much anything else is good.  Whole wheat pasta works nicely, too.  

If you're looking for a decent whole wheat pasta option, I have tried a lot of them and the company Bionaturae makes by far the best.  Many of the other brands are pretty gross.  DeLallo makes pretty good whole wheat pasta as well, but Bionaturae tastes almost like regular white pasta.  I've taken to ordering bulk packs of 6 lbs of Bionaturae on Amazon because only one local store sells it, they only have penne, and it's $4 a pound at the store.

From Scratch Tuna Casserole

1 lb short pasta of your choice
8 oz frozen corn
4 Tbsp butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 Tbsp flour
2 1/2 C milk
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
10 oz cubed cheddar
1/4 C minced fresh parsley
2 cans tuna, drained

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 9 by 13 dish and set aside

Boil pasta in salted water and add the frozen corn when the pasta is 2 or 3 minutes from being done.  When the pasta is a little less cooked than you'd prefer (it will continue cooking in the oven), drain it.

While the noodles cook, melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium and add garlic.  Saute the garlic for a minute or so, but don't let it brown.  Increase the heat to medium-high, add the flour and saute for a couple minutes longer, until you have a nice, smooth roux.  Pour in the milk 1/4 C at a time for the first cup, stirring well after each addition until the sauce is completely smooth.  After the first cup of milk has been added, you should be able to add the rest of the milk all at once.  Cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce comes to a simmer and thickens.  Continue cooking and stirring for 2 or so minutes longer.  Remove pan from heat and add the salt and pepper.

Stir sauce into cooked noodles.  Stir in tuna, parsley, and cheese cubes.  Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed.

Spread pasta in greased baking dish.  Bake 20-30 minutes, until hot and golden on top.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Dill Dip for Veggies

I already have a dill dip on my blog (one of the first recipes I ever shared!), but it calls for Beau Monde seasoning, which I did not have.  Instead, I found this recipe on the blog Rachel Cooks and had it all stirred up in just a couple of minutes.  My version uses sour cream instead of Greek yogurt because it's what I had, and I used different amounts of most of the seasonings so it would suit our tastes.  I also added a little apple cider vinegar to give it a bit of a tang.  The sour cream I used was organic and for some reason it's not as sour as regular sour cream, so you may want to taste the dip before adding the vinegar, or just add 1 tsp to start with.  Lemon juice would be fantastic as well, but I had just made Lemon Chive Dip the week before and wanted something different. 
  
This dip tasted good, but average when I put it in the fridge.  After it spent a few hours in there, though, the flavor was completely transformed into something out of this world amazing.  I won't even bother with the Dilly Dip recipe anymore because this one is so incredibly good.  The vinegar thins it a little bit so it would work great as a salad dressing, too. 
 
Dill Dip for Veggies
 
1 C sour cream
1/4 C mayo
2 tsp dried dill
1 tsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
 
Mix together all ingredients in a bowl.  Refrigerate for several hours before serving so the flavors can marry.
 
Yield: 1 1/4 cup

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Bacon Pumpkin Soup

This is the best pumpkin soup I've ever made!  I've tried a few over the years, but it's been a while because they've all been pretty disappointing.  My husband and I both really enjoyed this one, though.  It's a little sweet since pumpkin is sweet, but does not taste like dessert.  It's just all around delightful and nice and creamy without being too heavy, and of course the bacon crumbles make it extra yummy.
  
The recipe comes from the blog Spend with Pennies.  My only changes (other than to make a much larger batch) had to do with the preparation, a couple small changes with the seasonings, and I added soy sauce to boost the umami flavor.  It does not taste like soy sauce, of course- you can't identify the flavor as soy sauce at all.
  
I served the soup with baked butter herb chicken and steamed green beans.  The chicken was just something I tossed together- chicken breasts cut down the middle and topped with butter mixed with dried herbs, a little mustard powder, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and paprika, then baked in a greased pan at 350 until cooked through.  It all made for a very tasty, perfect autumn dinner.
  
Below, I wrote you can use either 1/4 or 1/2 tsp nutmeg.  I used the smaller amount because I didn't want to be punched in the face with nutmeg, but next time I'll try using 1/2 tsp because the nutmeg was quite subtle and I think it would work just fine to use the full amount.  I also used half and half instead of cream because the store was out of cream, and it turned out really great that way.  Next time I'll probably use cream, because why not?
  
I took a bit of a gamble on us liking it because I quadrupled the recipe!  My husband and I are expecting our first child soon and I've been stockpiling food in our freezer, I thought this one would freeze well and be super cozy to enjoy after our baby arrives.  It also only takes, maybe 5 more minutes to make a quadruple recipe, since all you have to do is roughly chop some extra veggies.  You don't have to make them small since they will be blended.
 
One last thing- I'd like to add that you could easily do this in the slow cooker or Instant Pot.  I would have done that if my Instant Pot wasn't being used for something else already when I made this soup.  We really need to get another one!  Anyway, if you decide to do it in a slow cooker, you could just skip the step of sauteeing the veggies and just add everything except the half and half/cream and cooked bacon to the crock and cook it until the veggies are tender, then proceed with the recipe.  If you go the Instant Pot route, you should probably only try it if you have the larger 8 quart model.  Saute the veggies in the bacon grease on the saute setting, then add the remaining ingredients except the half and half/cream and cooked bacon, then put on the lid, seal it, and cook on Manual for probably 30 minutes.  A quick pressure release should be fine, then proceed with the rest of the recipe.
  
Bacon Pumpkin Soup
  
8 oz bacon
2 large onions, peeled and chopped roughly
2 C peeled and roughly chopped carrots
4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
4 tsp brown sugar
10 C chicken broth
4 16 oz cans pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling, the only ingredient should be pumpkin)
4 Tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp salt, plus more to taste (depends on how salty your chicken broth is)
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 to 1/2 tsp nutmeg, depending on how much you like it- I used the lesser amount
6 bay leaves
2 C half and half or cream
  
Set oven to 400 degrees.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil, being sure to cover the sides of the sheet with foil.  Evenly spread out the bacon and bake until crisp to your liking and the fat has rendered out.  Remove bacon, pat off grease, crumble, and refrigerate.  Pour the grease (you want about 1/4-1/3 C, this isn't an exact science) into a large pot.  
  
Heat pot over medium and add onions, carrots, and garlic.  Saute until the veggies begin to soften and turn lightly golden, about 10 minutes.  Add brown sugar and cook another minute.  Immediately stir in broth, then all the remaining ingredients except the cream and crumbled bacon.
  
Bring soup to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for an hour, stirring occasionally.
  
After an hour has passed and the veggies are completely soft, remove the bay leaves, puree the soup well with an immersion blender, stir in the cream or half and half, add salt to taste, and serve with a sprinkle of crumbled bacon.
 
Yield: About 14 approximately 2 C servings

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Cheater's Chicken Noodle Soup

Why is chicken noodle soup so good?  Growing up, I never had it while sick, so I don't associate it with it making me feel better, but I do really like it.  It's so homey and warming and delicious.  My favorite is chicken soup made with both the chicken broth and noodles made from scratch, but that takes quite a bit of time and work.  This recipe is pretty low maintenance and still very good.

  
This is sort of a copycat Campbell's chicken noodle soup recipe, except it has veggies because veggies are great!  I always make canned chicken noodle soup with half the amount of water because I like the broth being really rich and savory, so I added chicken soup base (Better Than Bouillon brand) and some cornstarch.  The cornstarch does not make it thick, it just gives it a tiny bit more substance.  It doesn't register as, "Wow, this sure is thick!" or anything.  It's also pretty heavy on the noodles, which works for me, because the noodles are the best part!
  
You can add more carrots if you want.  I love carrots, but feel like they make broth very sweet so don't add many.  If you don't mind it being a tiny bit sweet, double the carrots.
  
Quick Note:  This recipe makes a lot of soup.  I made such a large batch because I wanted to freeze it for lunches.  You can halve the recipe if you'd like, but since it's almost as easy to make the full recipe and it freezes well, why not make the whole gallon?
   
Also, I know it's a weird step, but please do strain out the noodles (any chicken or veggies that come out with them is fine as well) before refrigerating, unless you like soggy noodles and not much broth.  Just refrigerate the noodles separately from the liquid.  When you're ready to reheat leftovers, you can scoop some noodles and some broth into your bowl and then reheat, no problem.
   
If you decide to freeze some soup, let it cool completely overnight in the fridge with the noodles separate, then recombine, portion out the soup into freezer containers, and freeze it immediately.  Reheat the soup from frozen and it will be just fine.  If you want to let the soup thaw before you reheat it,  you'll need to freeze the noodles and liquid separately to avoid soggy noodles.

Cheater's Chicken Noodle Soup

4 Tbsp butter
2 stalks celery, sliced
1 large carrot, peeled and sliced
2 onions, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 quarts chicken broth
1 lb fettuccine or linguine noodles, broken into 1 inch pieces
2 chicken breasts, cleaned and chopped fairly small
chicken soup base to taste (I used 3 tablespoons)
1/2 tsp pepper
4 Tbsp cornstarch
1/2 C water

Melt butter in a very large pot over medium, add all veggies except garlic and saute until they begin to soften.  Add garlic and saute another minute.  Add chicken broth.  Cover.  Simmer on medium for 30 minutes, until veggies are completely tender.  Add chicken and cook 10 minutes.  Taste and add chicken soup base if it needs to be saltier, as well as pepper.  Add noodles, cover pot, reduce heat to medium low, and simmer until cooked through , stirring occasionally.  Make slurry with cornstarch and water, pour into simmering soup and stir and cook for a couple of minutes.
If you have leftovers (and you probably will), strain out the noodles before refrigerating and store the noodles and liquid separately so the noodles don't get soggy.

Yield: About a gallon of soup (8 or so large servings)

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Green Chile Chicken

I made this chicken tonight and my husband and I both loved it.  A little spicy from the cajun seasoning, a little creamy and tangy from the sour cream, and the chicken is nice and tender.  It's based on the recipe over at Wildflour's Kitchen, but I changed it significantly.  This is one I will be making a lot!
 
Note that the amount of cajun seasoning you use will entirely depend on the brand and your own tastes, since there's a range of heat levels.  
 
Green Chile Chicken
 
4 large chicken breasts, cleaned and each sliced into two cutlets
3 Tbsp butter
cajun seasoning to taste
2 C water
1 Tbsp chicken bouillon base (Better Than Bouillon)
7 oz can diced green chiles
3 Tbsp cornstarch, dissolved in 1/4 C cold water
1 C sour cream
 
Melt butter over medium in a large nonstick skillet.  Sprinkle cajun seasoning to taste on both sides of the chicken cutlets.  Cook chicken until golden on both sides.  Add water, chicken bouillon base, and green chiles, and bring to a simmer.  Stir around a bit gently with tongs to disperse the chicken bouillon base.  Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for 10 minutes.
 
Remove chicken to a plate, and increase heat to medium-high.  When liquid is simmering nicely, pour in the cornstarch-water slurry in a thin stream while stirring constantly.  Simmer until sauce has thickened.  Reduce heat to medium-low and stir in sour cream until smooth.  Taste the sauce and add salt or more cajun seasoning if needed.  Add chicken back to skillet, turn to coat, and warm through.
 
Yield: 4-6 servings

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

I made these for a friend's birthday when she requested chocolate chip cookies.  We're well into autumn here in Alaska, so a pumpkin twist seemed nice!  This recipe comes from the blog Two Twenty One.  Typical of me, I changed things a tiny smidge.  The recipe says to mix the baking soda with a teaspoon of milk.  That's something I'd never heard of, so I skipped that step and just added the baking soda with the dry ingredients and left out the milk.  I also streamlined the prep a little.

These cookies are super fast and easy to make.  No creaming ingredients together, no thinking ahead to take butter out of the fridge to soften.  You end up with a batter rather than a dough and just plop dollops of batter on a cookie sheet instead of making balls.  I used a 1 1/2 tablespoon cookie scoop to scoop the batter.  Funny thing is the lady who wrote the recipe used the exact same scoop, but somehow got 6 more cookies?  Not sure how that happened!  Guess I just make big cookies.

We really liked these cookies.  They are soft and cakey and pillowy, like blobs of the fluffiest pumpkin bread you've ever had, but studded with a rather obscene amount with chocolate chips.  The cookies themselves are not excessively sugary, all things considered, but the chocolate chips bring the perfect amount of sweetness.  They are also extremely cute, fat little things in the cheeriest shade of orange!  Next time I'm going to experiment with using spelt flour, which bakes up lighter than whole wheat.  I think the texture and flavor of spelt would mesh well with everything about this cookie.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 C white sugar
1 C canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
1/2 C canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
2 C flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
2 C chocolate chips

Mix together sugar, pumpkin, oil, vanilla, and egg until well combined.  Add remaining ingredients, except chocolate chips.  Mix until combined.  Stir in chocolate chips.

Set batter aside to rest for 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350.  Drop 1 1/2 tablespoon blobs of dough onto the prepared cookie sheets, leaving 2 inches between cookies.  Bake until lightly golden, about 10-15 minutes, depending on your oven.

These are rather delicate cookies, so let them cool 15 minutes on the baking sheets before transferring them to cooling racks.

Yield:  2 1/2 dozen cookies

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Lemony Hummus Chicken

This sounds weird as anything, and I wasn't entirely sure what to expect, but my husband and I both loved it.  I don't think I've ever eaten a piece of chicken so quickly!  It's very moist and has a lot of lemon flavor.  Who would have thought hummus and chicken would go together so well?  Some of the hummus slides off the chicken and mixes with the lemon juice and makes a pan sauce.  You will probably like this if you love hummus and lemon like we do!
  
The original recipe is from AllRecipes.  I just changed it up a bit, most significantly by seasoning the chicken first and using more hummus and lemon juice.
  
I didn't measure the spices, just use your own judgment.  The hummus I used is Lilly brand, it's in the organic refrigerated section at the grocery store we shop at.  It's good for this because it's thicker than most packaged hummus so it stays on top of the chicken better, and it has less oil/tahini than most so the finished dish isn't heavy.  Each chicken breast has a quarter of the tub of hummus (about 3 servings), so it's good to use a hummus that isn't too rich.  You could also definitely use the same amount of homemade hummus!  I do make hummus often (and it freezes well), but made this rather impromptu for dinner one night and didn't want to take the time to make hummus from scratch first.
  
Lemony Hummus Chicken
  
4 large chicken breasts (2 to 2 1/2 lbs total)
salt, pepper, and onion powder to taste
12 oz tub of hummus (I used roasted garlic Lilly brand)
juice of 1 lemon
paprika to taste
  
Preheat oven to 450 and line a baking dish with foil.  Grease the foil.  Sprinkle both sides of the chicken generously with salt, pepper, and onion powder, and put in the baking dish.  Spread the hummus evenly over the top of the chicken breasts, then squirt the lemon juice on top.  Sprinkle with paprika to give it a little color.
   
Bake until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees, about 30 minutes.  Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes before serving with the pan sauce spooned on top.
   
Yield: 4 servings