Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Roasted Carrot Soup with Fresh Ginger

As shared by Once Upon a Plate by Mari
4 to 6 servings  (I like to serve smaller portions of this soup)  Use vegetable broth to make Vegetarian-friendly. For appetizer: Serve in tiny cups/shot glasses.
This soup reheats well, may be made ahead and refrigerated, covered, for up to 3 to 4 days, you may need to add additional liquid while reheating if soup is too thick.
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoon olive oil, divided use
1 cup diced onions
Up to 1/4 cup peeled, minced ginger (according to your preference, the more you add the spicier soup will be)
1 to 2 cloves minced garlic
1 pound carrots, peeled,cut into large chunks 
4 to 6 cups chicken stock/broth* (may need more: see note at end of recipe)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
1 bay leaf

Optional add-ins, to be added after pureeing soup
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
To make it more spicy: 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon (or more if you dare) Harissa from the tube

Suggested garnishes to add to soup when serving:
1 Tablespoon of sour cream
Chopped chives
Grated orange zest
roasted shelled pumpkin seeds (pepitos)
1/2 teaspoon of butter for each serving
toasted chopped nuts of your choice
buttery croutons
a tiny sprinkle of nutmeg or cinnamon

Center rack in oven, preheat to 400ºF
Place peeled carrot chunks on a rimmed baking sheet that is large enough to hold carrots in one layer without crowding. Drizzle 1 Tablespoon olive oil over carrots and toss until they are coated in oil. Place baking sheet in oven and roast until tender, rearranging and rolling the carrots over once or twice during baking so they do not burn, its okay if they char slightly on edges. Timing will vary due to the diameter age, and size of carrot chunks ~ mine usually take between 12 and 20 minutes (pierce with tip of knife to test for doneness.)

Warm large stock pot over medium-high heat. Add remaining 1 Tablespoon olive oil and the 2 Tablespoons butter to pan, when butter melts add onions to the pot. Gently cook until onions are limp, slightly translucent (not crisp or browned), about 4 to 5 minutes.  Add the ginger and garlic to the pot and cook for 30 seconds. Place all of the roasted carrots in the pot and add 4 cups of the chicken broth/stock*, salt pepper and bay leaf and bring to a boil. When contents of pot reaches a boil, reduce to a simmer. Simmer, partially covered for 20 minutes or so.

Remove the bay leaf from the pot and either puree the soup in a blender (working in batches if necessary), or using an immersion blender, puree the soup directly in the pot. 
(consider adding a little honey to soup when pureeing if your carrots are not sweet.) If using the heavy cream or orange zest, stir in when you are finished blending. Adjust the seasonings.  To serve, add your choice of garnishes, serve hot.

*Start out with 4 cups of stock/broth; may need  more as soup simmers, and while blending to make the consistency you like.)  Can make vegetarian friendly by subbing Vegetable stock/broth for the Chicken stock/broth.


Sunday, November 17, 2013

Homemade Taco Seasoning Mix ~ it's better than store-bought!

Homemade Taco Seasoning Mix ~ it's better than store-bought!
As shared by Once Upon a Plate by Mari

One recipe makes the equivalent of one packet store-bought. Enough to season 4 to 6 servings of filling. I always triple or quadruple recipe and store in an airtight jar in the pantry or refrigerator.

Please do adjust the seasonings according to what you like, feel free to increase or decrease the ingredients to your taste. I like to use less salt in the mix, as you can always add more as you're cooking your taco meat, but you cannot "unsalt" the mix!  ;)

1 Tablespoon chili powder* 
1/2 to 3/4 teaspoons garlic powder (not garlic salt)
1/2 to 3/4 teaspoons onion powder (not onion salt)
1/4 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes (I only add a tiny pinch)
1/2 to 1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 to 1 teaspoon paprika
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt*
1/4 to 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Mix all ingredients together. Store in an airtight container until ready to use.

Use about 2 Tablespoons mix to 1 pound of meat (more if you like it more flavorful)

If using to season ground beef: Brown beef in pan, drain/pour off fat. Sprinkle seasoning over meat and add 1/3 cup of water; stir. Simmer until water is absorbed, taste and adjust seasonings. 

Click here for recipe for delicious Mexican style chicken meat recipe to use in your favorite Mexican dishes.

*Chili Powder: I just use the kind usually labeled "Dark Chili Powder" ~ check the label;  it usually lists Chili Pepper, Spices, Salt, and Garlic in the ingredients. (Because it already has salt in it, I take that into consideration when adding to other recipes, like this one.)

I hope you love it!

Mexican-Style Cooked Chicken meat ~ For your favorite Mexican recipes

Mexican-style Chicken meat from the Slow Cooker
As shared by Once Upon a Plate by Mari
Mexican-Style chunk/shredded chicken that can be used in a variety of ways. (for Tacos, Enchiladas, Tamales, Nachos, Salads, Casseroles, etc.) I always make plenty as it freezes, in the portion size you want, very well. 
Special Equipment: Slow Cooker
Special Seasoning:  Homemade Taco Seasoning (click)

Recipe yield ~ The basic recipe below is for 1 recipe (increase seasoning, and broth/water in proportion as you increase amount of chicken.)The basic recipe below is for 1 recipe (increase seasoning, and broth/water in proportion as you increase amount of chicken.)this recipe is adjustable, use as much chicken or as little according to your needs, increase Taco Seasoning amount. 
The basic recipe below is for 1 recipe (increase seasoning, and broth/water in proportion as you increase amount of chicken.)

Original Basic Recipe

Basic recipe:
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts*
3 Tablespoons dry Taco Seasoning (Homemade or Commercially made)
1 cup chicken broth (preferably low sodium)
---Stir taco seasoning into chicken broth.  Place chicken (and onion, bay leaves and oregano) in the slow cooker container, pour broth mix over.  Cover and cook on low-setting for 6 to 8 hours.
With 2 forks or your fingers, break apart or shred chicken meat into bite-size pieces.
Use as you wish, or  ~
To freeze: Place shredded chicken meat into freezer bags, dividing juice evenly among bags. Press out as much air as possible, seal and freeze.

My Most Flavorful Version: (This is the favorite at my house.)
Chicken ~ your choice of any of the following:
---boneless/skinless breast and/or thigh meat
---bone-in/skin-on meaty chicken parts
---whole chicken(s) ~ quartered or cut into serving pieces
Homemade Taco Seasoning Mix  (Preferred! ~ Click here for recipe)
or Taco Seasoning Mix* (1 packet commercial mix, additional packs if you are preparing more chicken)
Chicken Broth (preferably low sodium)
Optional (I always add):
1 or 2 onions, chopped
1 or 2 bay leaves
Additional dried Oregano

Follow directions above. If using bone-in/skin-on chicken: After cooking allow chicken to cool enough to handle. Remove skin and bones, discard. Shred chicken or break into bite size pieces. Spoon any accumulated fat from surface and discard. Alternately, place chicken meat with broth  in a container and cover. Chill in the refrigerator for a couple of hours or overnight, when fat has

solidified simply remove and discard.  Note:  We like it VERY flavorful; I always add more of my homemade taco seasoning, and additional low-sodium chicken broth (and a little water if you like at the end of cooking time if broth is too concentrated to your liking.)

You can make a wonderful EASY sauce for enchiladas using some of the juices from this chicken:

Simply whirl in blender or food processor some of the hot cooking juice, your favorite jarred salsa with low sodium chicken broth until smooth. May add water to thin the sauce, taste for seasonings and use in your favorite recipe calling for enchilada sauce.

* 1 commercial Taco Seasoning packet is the approximate equivalent of 2 to 3 Tablespoons homemade Taco Seasoning mix.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Split Pea & Bacon Soup from the Pressure Cooker

Split Pea and Bacon Soup
As shared from the kitchen of Once Upon a Plate by Mari
8 servings

Special equipment, Pressure cooker (stovetop or electric type)

1 pound split peas, rinsed and picked over for any debris/pebbles, etc.
8 cups water or broth/stock (chicken or vegetable)
1 pound thick cut bacon cut into 1/2-inch strips, crosswise
   or 1 pound salt pork, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
   May use a smoked ham hock, or 3/4 to 1-pound ham chunks
1 onion diced
2 large carrots, peeled if desired, diced 
2 or 3 ribs celery, diced
1 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled or scant 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
A bay leaf, or two
Splash or two of sherry wine
Salt and pepper to taste

Optional for garnish:

Reserve some of the cooked bacon
Crisp, buttery croutons
A small lump of butter for each serving
Small sprigs of fresh thyme

PRESSURE COOKER METHOD: Before beginning recipe, make sure your pot is large enough, do not fill over 1/2 full, per pressure cookers instructions.

In the pot of the pressure cooker sauté bacon until almost done, slightly crisp but not brittle. Remove bacon from pot, place on a paper towel lined plate, set aside. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of bacon fat from pot, add onions and sauté until translucent but not browned, add diced carrots and celery, cook and stir for 2 to 3 minutes. If using a ham bone or chunk ham omit browning and add 1 tablespoon oil to the pressure cooker pot and sauté  the onion, carrots and celery as directed above, then continue with recipe as follows:

Add rinsed and sorted peas, water/stock, thyme, bay leaf to pot.

Bring contents of pot to a boil over medium heat, lock pressure cooker lid in place (if your cooker has a pressure rocker, put it in place.) Bring pressure cooker to full pressure, set timer for 20 minutes. At 20 minutes, remove pot from heat and allow pressure to disperse naturally.  When pressure is released remove lid from pot (tipping lid away from you as you do so.)  If using ham bone, remove ham from bone and shred or chop meat from bone and return to pot.)  Remove bay leaf and discard.  Stir content of pot, add a splash or two of sherry if using. Taste soup for seasonings adding salt and pepper to taste.  To serve garnish as you desire; with reserved bacon, croutons, a pat of butter, thyme springs, freshly ground pepper, etc.


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Pasta with Cauliflower-Tomato Sauce (Slow Cooker) and Flavorful Crumb Topping

As shared from the kitchen of Once Upon a Plate by Mari

Pasta with Spicy Cauliflower and Flavorful Crumb Topping
Yields 6 servings
Special equipment:  Electric slow cooker


1 small cauliflower (or 1/2 of very large cauliflower), trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes, (or 28-oz. can whole tomatoes, cut into small pieces)
1 cup water
3 to 5 Tablespoons olive oil (divided use between sauce, and crumb topping)
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoons dried oregano, (or more)* crumbled
Pinch of crushed red pepper (I add very, very little. If you like it spicy, add more)
My additions:  
6 ounce jar marinated artichoke hearts, or more if you love them (drained and roughly chopped)
1 Tablespoon capers in brine, (or more to taste) drained
* I add a generous 1 teaspoon of dried oregano, crumbled

Crumb Topping:

1/3 cup plain dried bread crumbs (I use about 1/2 cup plain Panko crumbs)
2 Tablespoon olive oil (a little more if you increase the amount of crumbs)
4 anchovy fillets  (or substitute 3 cloves minced garlic and a bit of kosher or sea salt)
Freshly ground black pepper

1 pound (16 ounces) dried pasta;  fusilli, shells, or similar shape


-In the container of a medium to large slow cooker stir together the water, 2 to 3 Tablespoons oil, tomatoes, garlic, oregano, salt and crushed red pepper. Set slower cooker to high, stir in the cauliflower cover and cook until the cauliflower is very tender (approximately 3 hours.)  Note, if you are sensitive to the odor of cauliflower as it cooks, place the cooker in laundry/utility room, enclosed garage, etc. ;)

-Just before sauce is finished, stir the chopped artichoke hearts and capers into the sauce and allow to heat through.
-Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package directions. 
-While pasta cooks prepare the crumb topping: Heat the remaining 2 to 3 Tablespoons olive oil in a small skillet. Add the anchovies (or the minced garlic) and cook over medium heat, stirring all the while until the anchovies are dissolved (or garlic is golden brown and fragrant), stir in the bread crumbs and cook, stirring frequently until the crumbs are a rich golden brown and crispy, a few minutes more. Watch carefully as they can go from perfect to burned in moments.  Season generously with freshly ground black pepper. (Crumb topping may be prepared ahead.)

To serve: Toss the sauce with the hot cooked pasta. Sprinkle with the crumbs and serve while piping hot.


Recipe adapted from cookbook author Michele Scicolone 
(as shared on