Monday, January 9, 2012

Easy Chicken Minestrone

A fabulous soup perfect in this cold weather with the flu bug going around.
I can't bring myself to trust this flu shot pushed on us the past few winters, so I'll just make sure my body is stocked up on natural bug-fighting foods.
This soup thickens fast, so the next day it makes a great casserole.  Just add mozzarella, parmesan, and maybe ricotta cheese, toss in the oven until hot, and you have an awesome dinner in no time. Perfect after a busy day.

You'll need:

olive oil
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 lb), cubed
1/2 white onion, chopped
1 fat carrot, chopped
chop the top part of a celery bunch, including the leafy tops, about 1 cup's worth
2 fat garlic cloves, grated
1 (28 oz)can whole peeled tomatoes, with juice, chopped, if desired. (I open the can, and leaving the tomatoes in the can, insert kitchen scissors and chop away for a few seconds until they're the size I like. Easy,  no fuss)
1 (15 oz) can  tomato sauce or puree
1 Tablespoon  tomato paste
1 tsp dried oregano
1 1/2  tsp dried basil
1 1/2 tsp dried marjoram
1  dried bay  leaf
kosher salt
4 cups chicken broth
1 (15  oz) can drained rinsed cannellini  beans  (or  any white  bean)
1/2 cup ditalini  pasta, or any other small pasta like elbow  or  bowtie
12 oz fresh spinach
fresh parmesan cheese, grated, for garnish

In a large pot, or dutch oven, brown chicken over medium-high heat in olive oil with desired amount of salt and pepper.   Brown it quickly on one side, so not to cook the chicken all the way through or it will become overcooked in the minestrone.

Add onion, carrot, celery, grate in the garlic and add pinch of salt and pepper.

When carrots begin to soften, add tomato paste, oregano, basil, marjoram, and bay leaf, stir to blend in tomato paste.
Add tomatoes with juice, tomato sauce, chicken broth and  beans.

Turn heat up and add salt and  pepper to taste.
When stew begins to boil, turn heat back down to a simmer and stir in pasta. Continue to stir until pasta stops sticking to the bottom of the pan.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until pasta is al dente.

Remove from heat, fish out bay leaf  (or just warn everyone not to eat it if they find it, like I do- haha) and add spinach, stirring until spinach is wilted. Serve with parmesan cheese and garlic bread!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Roast Beef and Barley Stew

This is such a wonderful, savory stew.  Perfect for leftover roast and veggies. Use any comb of vegetables you like. Had I had my way, I would  have had this brimming with mushrooms!
While even better the next day, it's thick enough to eat with a fork. More beef broth, or even water can be added to thin it out a bit.

Have fun with this and make it your own, and a winter go-to dinner for leftover roast.

canola or  olive oil for  sauteing 
1/2 chopped  onion
2 ribs celery,  chopped
2 carrots,  chopped
2 Tablespoons  tomato  paste

combo of veggies, I used a  handful each of matchstick cut zucchini, green beans, mushrooms

3 Tablespoons Worchestershire sauce
1 teaspoon soy sauce
2 dried bay leaves
2  teaspoons dried basil
Kosher salt and pepper to  taste
1 1/2  boxes   beef  broth, about 40 oz  or so..doesn't have to be exact
1  cup rinsed and drained uncooked barley
2-4  cups cubed leftover roast beef

2 fat Tablespoons cornstarch..I don't level off the tablespoons, I just scoop out the cornstarch. * If you want  a thinner consistency, try  1  Tablespoon to a couple Tablespoons water first.  After simmering  about 5 minutes, if  it isnt thick enough for you, add  a bit   more of cornstarch melted in a bit of water and stir into the hot, simmering stew.*
1/4  cup cool tap water

 In a large pot  or dutch  oven,  heat vegetable or olive oil over medium heat.
Add onion, celery,  carrots,  and  pinch of salt  and  pepper. Cook and stir just until onion  begins to turn translucent.
Add tomato paste and stir.
Add other  veggies, starting with the ones that will take longest to cook.
Add  bay leaves,  one teaspoon  of the basil, salt and pepper.
Cook and  stir until all  veggies just begin to soften.
Add  broth,  worchestershire,  soy, the  rest of  the basil, pepper, and a pinch of salt. Stir and bring up to a boil, add  barley, stirring  to  ensure  it  doesn't stick  to the bottom of the pan, then turn back down to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally,  until  barley softens.
Quickly stir in  the cornstarch  slurry, stirring constantly until stew begins to thicken, just a couple minutes.

Add  beef and simmer until beef is heated through and  veggies are desired doneness.  Fish out bay leaves and serve!