Saturday, September 18, 2010
I swear I just cannot stop cooking! We had a bit of a cold streak here in Ashland so I decided a nice soup or stew would be fantastic to keep Renard, Chevalier and I warm. I also happened to be watching The Princess and the Frog, so I felt especially inclined to make a N'awleans styled soup dish. I poked around in my fridge and cupboards and realized I had everything I needed for a Creole style bean soup with Cajun chicken!
Ok, here's a list of ingredients you're going to need for this recipe (mind you I'm estimating, I never really measure stuff out on my own and tend to cook by taste):
- 1 16oz bag of dried assorted beans
- 5 cups chicken broth
- 1/4 cup diced onions
- 2 large potatoes, peeled and diced
- 3 cups diced carrots
- 3 small jalapenos, blended with water
- 2 large chicken breasts, diced
- 1 cup canned diced tomatoes (or 1/2 cup ketchup)
- 3 tbsp Tabasco or Crystal's hot sauce
- salt and pepper to taste
First things first, you've got to prepare the beans! Wash the beans and then fill a large pot with 5 cups of chicken broth (water will work for lower sodium) and begin boiling the beans. Leave them boiling at a medium temperature for about an hour and stir occasionally to prevent sticking.
While the beans are cooking you should begin prep work on your produce. Finely dice the onions, carrots and potatoes and set them aside. Seed 3 small jalapenos and put them in a blender with about 2 tbsp water and blend until you have a mushy consistency. Dice your chicken into bite sized cubes and prepare to pan cook.
Cook the chicken in 2 tbsp olive oil on high heat for 5-7 minutes stirring constantly. While the chicken is cooking add 1 tbsp hot sauce and some salt and pepper to taste. Once chicken is done set aside.
Hopefully your beans are beginning to soften and the amount of liquid in the pot has been reduced. Now add your onions, carrots and potatoes and let cook on high heat for an additional 30 minutes. Once the produce has softened go ahead and add the remaining ingredients and stir. If you don't have canned tomatoes add about 1/2 cup ketchup to give the soup it's sweet and tangy flavor.
I garnished my soup with some finely chopped green onions and a splash of cream (my original recipe was much spicier than this, and the cream helps cut back the burn). This soup is great with crackers or buttered bread. I hope you enjoy it, and if you have any comments or suggestions feel free to let me know!
Friday, September 17, 2010
I'm no stranger to dying my hair. When I was in middle school I started off subtly with blonde or cyan tips, then I worked my way to maroon and black. When I was in high school I was primarily a natural brunette, but opted for some copper and blonde streaks towards the end. My first two years of college had me start experimenting with my whole head including dying everything black (which looked more like a muddy mess) and becoming a complete redhead. I've spent this last year as a blonde. But now I have finally done it, I have finally finished my quest for the holy grail--I have pink hair!
While Amanda and I were in the process of dying my head our group got into a heated discussion about whether or not something like hair can define who you are as a person. I mostly agree, but I also agree that there is some silliness to that statement. Of course hair can't really define you, not the inside you that really counts. But hair is just like clothing or body art of piercings-- they are ways of expressing yourself so that people can get an idea of who you are at a glance. It's sort of like judging a book by its cover or stereotyping, but the reality is when you're walking past a crowd of people the ones with similar clothing or tattoos as you are the ones you're going to want to befriend first.
So why did I choose pink hair and what about myself is it expressing so eagerly? Simple: I want to be noticed. It's not like I want all the attention in the world, but I don't want to fade into the background either. It's my way of saying "look, I'm here, and you can't ignore me." People in my small town will remember me when they see me on my walks with Renard. My professors will definitely learn my name on the first day and people will want to get to know me simply to ask about why my hair is pink. It's like the ultimate conversation starter and ender. My head is pink, now you know, and now you want to know me.
We all do outrageous things from time to time so that we can gain some attention whether it be acting on a dumb dare, dressing garishly or being loud. We all crave the limelight, but for this year I'm focused on the pinklight!
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
I got off of work today and realized that I was very hungry, and furthermore I was reeaally craving a chicken salad sandwich. What was conflicting with this craving, however, is the fact that I recently started a low-calorie diet and a lot of the flavor in said meal comes from condiments like mayonnaise. Thank goodness I have a few tricks up my sleeves about swapping in healthier ingredients while retaining flavor, and I'm going to share a few with you in today's recipe (recipe makes about 5 cups)!
Firstly, you need chicken! I happen to know where some live ones are, and they say the fresher the better...But I actually had some frozen tenderloins that did just fine! I took 6 frozen tenderloins and put them on a cooking sheet in the oven for about 22 minutes with the temp set at 350 Fahrenheit. While the chicken is baking it's a good time to do most of the prep work for the other ingredients.
I like the sweetness of red bell peppers more so than the watery taste of celery, and celery has no nutritional value, so I nixed it in preference of one whole medium red bell pepper diced finely. Next I diced 1/4 of a red onion as well as 2 thinly sliced green onion stalks. I then took a cup of red grapes and halved them so that their juices would mix better.
Hopefully your chicken should be nice and moist after 22-25 minutes (depending on oven strength) so once it's tender go ahead and place it in a large bowl and place in the refrigerator for ten minutes or until cool enough to handle. Once the tenderloins are manageable go ahead and shred them in the same bowl until they're in bite size morsel.
Now add all your produce ingredients (bell pepper, onions, grapes). I also added 2 tsp of salted sunflower seeds and a few unsalted peanuts I had on hand to substitute the traditional cashew, but virtually any nut or seed will do. I tend to vary my spices each time I make chicken salad, but for this particular batch I added salt and pepper to taste. Then I added 1 tbsp dill, 1 tsp garlic powder, a pinch of paprika and a pinch of celery salt. There's other stuff, but I really add things in the heat of the moment so I can't recall... Experiment and I'm sure you'll find a flavor you enjoy!
All these spices are necessary to replace the calorie heavy-hitter mayonnaise, but we still need a wet ingredient to bind the mixture, so I opted for 1 cup of plain greek yogurt and 2 tsp spicy mustard. Once everything is in the bowl just mix it up until you're happy with the consistency. After that serve it on some toasted bread or in some greens--either way is delicious!
Of any of you make this and have suggestions, improvements or comments I would love to hear them!
Sunday, September 12, 2010
Well I've been really bad about updating this the last few days. Sorry for the delay, but I was just having too much fun with my pals! This week has been pretty hectic with plenty of cooking, shopping and playing so I'm just going to sum it up with a few pictures instead of a lengthy text:
A little earlier in the week Amanda and Stacy came by for martinis and dinner, so while Amanda was mixing up our choice beverage for the evening (chocolate martinis) I was cooking up a bacon and asiago chicken buccatini pasta with fresh parsley, basil, onions and tomatoes from the garden.
Since we were already on a chocolate binge the next day Stacy and I set about baking some chocolate inspired cookies. The first batch had dark chocolate chips, marshmallows and plenty of cocoa powder. They were soo good fresh from the oven and all ooey-gooey! The second batch was smaller and we nixed the marshmallows so we could throw in some heavy whipping cream and Bailey's alcohol for some tiny tea cookies. These were scrumptious as well!
The nearby town of Talent was having its annual Harvest Music Festival and our friends in Jive Coulis were playing so naturally we attended it. It was a pretty cool shindig with lots of our friends and some killer break dancers ( whom I was unable to snap pics of). Us girls brought our dogs along as dates, but Renard was more interested in Parker's kitten, Alma, than the music!
That about sums up this week. I had loads more pics, but you have to understand that doing these frames for each picture is literally sucking the life out of me... When I find a more economical way of doing this then expect more photo-heavy updates!