Chowder

Creamy Chicken Bacon Chowder

Friends, it’s not often that I eat something so good, I’m compelled to blog about it while the taste still lingers on my tongue and bits of it still linger on my clothing.

I haven’t actually looked down yet so I’m just assuming on that second part.

But back to the matter at hand. This soup.  The soup which compels me to write this post.

This glorious, thick, rich, hearty, soul-warming and life-affirming soup.

Second-best part? It’s a crock pot recipe.

Very best part? My husband created and prepared it himself.

Swoon away, ladies.

He looked around the internet to get down the logistics of creating a soup from scratch, then set about making it.  And on the first try, he hit it out of the park.

Imagine walking into your house at the end of a typically long and yucky Monday to find the aroma of bacon lingering in the air. Yeah. That was me.

Swoon, I say.

In all seriousness, this is a ridiculously good soup, and you should make it happen.

Roasting the chicken before putting it in the pot adds flavor – if you don’t have the time I’m sure you could skip that step.

I’m also sure you could lighten things up a bit, though I can’t imagine why you’d want to.  Okay, I can totally imagine why you’d want to.  Just not at the moment.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some soup to lick off my sweater. Um, I mean, to wash off my sweater.

Yeah.  That.

What’s your favorite soup recipe?

I’m sharing this post at these awesome blogs.  Come check them out!

 
Pork Roast

You’ll have to forgive my photography on this one.  It was night.  And dark.  And the leftovers just didn’t make it.

Those of you who follow my tweets may remember me bragging about this pork roast a couple of weeks ago.

You were probably all “WTF? It’s just roasted pork, nerd”.

 

 

And while you would have been correct – I am a nerd – you’d be wrong about the level of awesome this meal reached.  Never have I enjoyed such a juicy and flavorful roast – ever.  In my entire life.

 

 

Maybe it was the bacon blanket under which the roast cooked.  After all, pork-on-pork action can’t possibly be wrong.     The bacon may have held all that juiciness in, and the drippings could have carried the flavor of the rub throughout the meat, leaving every bite more delicious and flavorific than the last.

Or it may have been magic.  Either/or.  But my money’s on the bacon.

 

 

The veggies sure didn’t suffer in all this, either.  I had to literally restrain myself or else I may have eaten every last bit of potato, every slice of onion.  And honestly, I’m not that much of a potato person.  But this recipe changed my feelings real fast.

In other words, ladies and possibly a few gents: This meal was 100% awesome.  Pure and simple.

I hope you decide to give it a shot.  I hope you enjoy it.  I hope it makes you have bad, sinful thoughts because then I wouldn’t be the only one and would feel a lot better about myself and this is, after all, my blog so it’s kinda all about me.  Right? ;)

This is now my personal favorite way to prepare roast.  What’s your favorite? Bonus question: How much bacon have you eaten in one sitting?

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Drunken Noodles

Drunken Noodles

Sometimes I come up with pretty good ideas when it comes to cooking.  Remember when I dreamed up those Boston cream cupcakes? Yeah.  Sometimes I think I’m a genius.

This is another one of those bits of brilliance.  See, a few months ago Rob and I started eating Thai food.  I’ve talked about it on Twitter a lot, especially when it comes to my undying devotion to pad thai.

Oh, pad thai, how I love thee…

Rob, on the other hand, prefers drunken noodles.  Why are they called drunken noodles, you ask? The name allegedly refers to the amount you have to drink in order to cool your mouth off after all the spiciness.

The thing is, a person can only afford but so much takeout.  And since we’re trying to, ya know, be more responsible with our money (especially our food budget), I figured that it might not be a bad idea to try to recreate drunken noodles in my own kitchen.

But then I made a huge rookie mistake, one which I will not let you make: I didn’t monitor the spice levels as I went along.  In fact I was in such a hurry to get everything finished at the same time (all four burners and the oven were going at once) that I just sorta plopped everything in the pan and hoped for the best.  Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Two glasses of milk later, I managed to get through this dish.  Drunken noodles, indeed.

Drunken Noodles

The best part is, I only used one chili pepper – the original recipe called for twice that much! Eek! Unfathomable.  You could definitely stick to only half of one pepper (or none, and just use more chili sauce).

Speaking of the chili pepper, here’s a tip: You might want to wear gloves while chopping it up. Because no matter how careful you are about washing your hands, you may still feel as though you dipped your fingers in boiling water hours after the meal is finished and the kitchen cleaned.

I can’t lie to you.  It was agony.

But! The result is pure deliciousness.  It may not be the most authentic version you can find, but Rob said that in terms of flavor it tasted just like what he gets from the restaurant.

And even though our mouths were burning with the heat of a thousand suns, we kept eating.  So that’s gotta say something!

Another tip: If you’ve never used fish sauce, I’m here to tell you that it’s called fish sauce for a reason.  It smells exactly like fish.  Surprise! It may be a turn off at first, but let me assure you, it really adds to the finished product.  So don’t be all “Eww, Jen steered me wrong!” when you open the bottle, okay?

Have you ever eaten Thai food? What’s your favorite dish?

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Spaghetti and Meatballs

Hey, friends!

This is the first post in a new series I’m running, called “Sunday Dinner”.  Every week I’ll be sharing ideas for your family’s big meal.  Of course it doesn’t have to be served on Sunday…but you get the idea!

I don’t know about you, but when I think “family meal”, my immediate reaction is “pasta”.  And then I get all happy and giddy and maybe a little too excited since, after all, it’s just food we’re talking about here.  But sitting down to a bowl of spaghetti and a glass of wine…it warms my soul.

I stay busy on the weekend, as I’m sure most of you do as well.  It’s all fine and wonderful to imagine a lazy Sunday full of pancakes and jammies all day and reading the comics (does anyone do that anymore?).  The reality can be the total opposite – errands, sports, chores…life never stops.

This is why your crock pot doesn’t have to be put away on the weekend! That lifesaving appliance which works magic during the week when you’re just.too.busy. to stand over the stove can be your best friend on a crazy Sunday as well.

I shared this recipe for meatballs a while back.  Normally I’ll pop the raw meat in the oven and let them cook for around a half hour, then drop them into the sauce to simmer for a while on the stove.  Lately I’ve wondered if the meatballs would cook just as well in the crock pot.  So I gave it a try.

And I’m soooo glad I did! This hands-off method was a dream.  Just cover the meat with your favorite sauce (and, if you’re anything like me, your favorite herbs because you just can’t leave well enough alone).  Then set the cook time – I went with 4 hours on “high”, then 4 on “low” to keep them simmering, but 8 on “low” would work just as well.

The meat broke down a little bit on the outside and thickened up the sauce beautifully.  The meatballs were tender and had soaked up the flavor of the sauce.  And all I had to do was skim the fat off the top every once in a while.  I admit, I was worried that the lack of browning would result in mushy meatballs, but my fears were completely unfounded.

This method was just perfect since I was having my family over for dinner that evening and I needed time to clean the place up a bit beforehand.  Then I had the time to sit and relax for a while – which is a miracle in and of itself.

I served my meatballs with spaghetti, salad and bread.  Of course I poured myself a glass of wine as well.  Obviously.

And then I froze the rest in batches because…did you see how many I made in that crock? Um, a lot! They come in handy on weeknights when I just can’t be bothered to do much more than nuke something.

What’s YOUR idea of Sunday Dinner? 

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Bacon Chicken

Sometimes I feel the urge.

The urge to eat chicken.

And not always fried and smothered in buffalo sauce, or shredded…and smothered in buffalo sauce.

I think I need to look into my buffalo sauce addiction.

But anyway.  Woman does not live on buffalo sauce alone, try though she might.  And I’ve tried.  Still, there are times when a good ol’ braised chicken dish hits the spot.  And this dish? Oh, it hit all sorts of spots.

I sorta made it up as I went along, to be honest.  I put a bunch of stuff in the pot which I thought would taste good together.

And you know what? It did.

First, I browned up some bacon pieces.  I just hold them over the pot and snip them with kitchen shears rather than use a knife.

While the bacon was slowly browning, I patted the chicken pieces as dry as possible so as to let the skin crisp up.

Removed the bacon, then added butter and once it melted, in went the chicken pieces in two batches.  I left them in til the skin got nice and crispy and golden.

Yes.  Beauty.

When the chicken was all browned and out of the pan, in went the garlic and onions.  Stir stir stir, sizzle sizzle sizzle.

A little flour sprinkled over, stirred into the fat and browned so as to thicken the cooking liquid.  What’s this called? That’s right, a roux! You’re so smart.

In goes the wine and the stock or broth.  Allow it to simmer and thicken a little bit, then in with the chicken and fresh herbs.

All together it simmers for hours. You will practically crawl out of your skin wanting to dig into it because ohmygoditsmellssogood.  I promise.

Once the chicken was finished cooking, I wanted to thicken up the sauce before adding the – gulp – cream, so I removed the chicken and boiled the sauce for around 10 minutes until it reduced to the consistency I wanted.  Then in went the cream and the chicken, to keep warm til it was time to serve.

And once it’s time to serve? Well, remember that bacon you crisped up waaaay back in the beginning of the process? You know, the bacon you had to move up on top of the fridge in order to get it out of your sight so you wouldn’t eat it all?

Oh, is that just me? Okay.  Well, anyway, you can sprinkle that back on top.

The chicken is so tender, and infused with the bacon and wine and herbs.  The sauce? Probably a crime, it’s so good.

So enjoy.  And enjoy some more.  And pick at the leftovers on the serving platter because they are just.that.good.

Or is that just me, too?

 

 Sharing with Sugar and Dots, This Chick Cooks, The Lady Behind The Curtain, My Girlish Whims, Blue Cricket Design, Lil’ Luna, Pinch of This, That and the Other, The King’s Court IV, Ginger Snap Crafts, Passionately Artistic, Southern Lovely, Sew Much Ado, At Home With Haley, A Glimpse Inside, The 36th Avenue, Momnivore’s Dilemna, Miz Helen’s Country Cottage, A Creative Princess, Delightful Order, It’s A Keeper, Fireflies and Jellybeans, What Allie’s Making Now, Somewhat Simple, Designs by Gollum, Simply Sweet Home, Tidy Mom, 504 Main, Fingerprints on the Fridge, Mangoes and Chutney, Creation Corner, Mom TrendsDelightfully DowlingA Southern Fairytale,  Sumo’s Sweet StuffSkip To My LouMake Ahead Meals for Busy MomsKeeping It Simple

 

 
Pizza

Pizza.

What can be said about pizza that hasn’t been said already? It’s delicious? No.  That’s been said.  Um, it’s awesome? Nope.  Sometimes it’s even better cold, the next day? Everyone knows that.

Here’s one that I didn’t know til now, though: It’s kinda easy to make for yourself.

And once you make the decision to create your own pizza, you suddenly feel like a demi-god of sorts. After all…you control destiny here.  Will this be a white pie? A tomato pie? Will there be meat or all sorts of veggies? Or just about the entire contents of your fridge?

It’s completely up to you, friend, because you are the master of this pizza’s life.

Lucky you.

Of course you already have to be willing to make your own dough (recipe below) – OR you can always buy pre-made dough from the store or even from the pizza parlor.  So I’ve heard, anyway.

Once the dough is ready, preheat your oven and get your ingredients together.

Coat a pizza pan (or cookie sheet or sheet pan) with cooking spray.  Spread the dough over the pan, up to the edges.

You could always try spinning it around, all fancy-like, but you might end up dropping it on the floor.  Maybe.

This would be when you spread your sauce.  I didn’t use sauce so I drizzled olive oil instead.

Then layer your toppings – cheese, veggies, you name it.  I used minced garlic…tomatoes…

…caramelized onions, chopped olives…

…and mozzarella cheese plus a sprinkling of sea salt.

Into the oven it went for 20 minutes.  As soon as it came out I sprinkled fresh, torn basil leaves on top.

The smell? Indescribable.  The taste? Ridiculous.  In that really super good way that only very delicious things can be.

The slice I took a picture of was…not pretty.  In fact it was rather sloppy.  So here’s this instead:

This is the gift that keeps on giving.  Just let your imagination run wild, then reap the rewards.

I know I will be.  Again and again.

What are your favorite pizza toppings?

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Puttanesca

Now, if you’ve been reading my blog or have known me for more than, like, 5 minutes, you know that I’m a lover of pasta.

JB + Pasta = 4ever

And you may or may not know that I snagged my husband by making spaghetti puttanesca for him.  Okay.  It may not have been the puttanesca.  But I like to think it was.

I love puttanesca sauce – so tangy, briny, spicy and rich.  I’ve held back from making it in large batches because I know I’m the only person in my house who would truly enjoy it – Rob would just pick out the olives and I’m sure his Dad wouldn’t even touch it.  What’s the point?

Well Anthony Bourdain, in his infinite wisdom, showed me the light during a recent episode of his show.  Puttanesca doesn’t have to be slow-cooked for hours like I cook my other sauces.  Oh nay, nay.  It can easily be made in smaller batches as a quick sauce.

DUH.  I’ve been making quick sauces for years! Why didn’t I think of that?

Don’t know how to pit olives without one of those olive pitting gadgets? Easy.  Work out your aggressions on them – put a wide knife on top and give it a solid whack, just like you would a clove of garlic prior to peeling.  The pit should then be easy to pull out.

Now, there’s something we need to discuss.  Namely the usage of anchovies.

Wait! Come back! Hear me out!

Don’t be scared.  The anchovies cook down in olive oil until they are nothing more than a paste.

See? I'm not lying!

Why are the anchovies necessary? Because they add such richness, such depth to the sauce.  Just trust that when I took my first taste, my eyes closed in blissful ecstasy.

I’m serious.  Blissful ecstasy, people.  Anchovies took me there.  So don’t turn your nose up at them until you give ‘em a shot.

Remember to cook them low and slow, or else you’ll wind up with crunchy bits.  Don’t ask me how I know this from experience.  Just trust me.

Otherwise, the entire sauce comes together in the time it takes the pasta to cook.

And then it’s time for bliss, people.  Serious bliss.  Anchovies and all.

 

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Byrek Feature

Question: How excited am I today to be sharing this space one of my favoritest people in the whole wide blogging world?

Answer: I am extremely excited! This woman has to be one of the most scathingly, screamingly funny people in the universe.  Don’t visit her blog if you’re somewhere laughing out loud isn’t deemed acceptable.  Because you will most definitely laugh out loud when she starts talking about her feelings for Gwyneth Paltrow, her triumph over both Ben AND Jerry, or good times at the opera.  Many’s the time I’ve had to put my head down on the desk to hide the laughter.

PS? In case you were wondering? I just visited those posts and laughed out loud all over again.

Check out the recipe she shared with us, y’all.  It’s on my master list of recipes I need to try.  Tomorrow.  Or tonight if I can get Rob to go to the store for me.  We’ll see.  I don’t think I’m being unreasonable.

She’s foul-mouthed, she’s crazy smart, she’s a terrific friend who I value enormously.  Here she is, in all her anonymous glory: Suniverse.  Enjoy!

It’s not Greek to me. It’s just so damn tasty.

There are things that I love to eat that my family makes that I can’t eat elsewhere because it’s always such a disappointment when I do.  Like my mouth gets all pissed off – Who the f**k do you think you are, Suniverse, putting this inferior product on my taste buds?  UNCOOL. [As we all know, my mouth is a potty-mouth.]

One of those delicious taste sensations is Byrek – a spinach pie without the spinach.  I mean, you could add the spinach, and sometimes I do, but a lot of times you just want the deliciousness of a mouthful of cheesy goodness and greenery would just get in the way.

Byrek is very simple, but has many variations. It can be more complex, if you want to make your own phyllo dough.  I do not, because that is an art form I haven’t the patience for.  You see those tissue-thin layers of dough? PEOPLE IN MY FAMILY MAKE THOSE BY HAND.  Well, they use a stick to roll the layers out, but you know what I mean.  I choose Option B, which is to purchase premade phyllo.  Or, more to the point, I ask my mom if she’s picked up any from the Arabic grocery store and happens to have any extra because the girl really wants some byrek.  She can’t get it to me fast enough then.

Byrek [Boo-rake]

1 Large Container of Large Curd Cottage Cheese [I’m sure you could use small curd, but I don’t like it – it seems so mealy]

2 Eggs

Feta Cheese – as much as you’d like; I used probably a cup, a cup and a half – crumbled

All Purpose Flour

Kosher Salt

Black Pepper

1 Cup Butter [Not margarine. BUTTER.], melted

1 Package, premade phyllo dough.  Or you could make your own. But you’re on your own there.

1.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2.  Pour the cottage cheese into a mesh strainer and DO NOT SHAKE IT like some people did.  Those mesh strainers? NOT SOLID.  Strain the cottage cheese to remove most of the liquid. Give it up and figure you’ll just add extra flour.

3.  Put [semi-] strained cheese into a large bowl.  Add the eggs, the flour and the crumbled feta. Mix it up. Add a bit of salt [maybe ¼ tsp.] and some black pepper.  Mix some more.  It should look like filling for manicotti or lasagna, but a bit drier.

4.  Get your melted butter, a pastry brush, if you have one [you can be old school and use a teaspoon], and the filling and set them next to the baking sheet.

5.  Try to keep the parchment paper from rolling up.

6.  Swear at the parchment paper and wonder why it never acts up for Martha Stewart.  Stupid parchment paper.

7.  Stare at the package of phyllo.  Realize it’s now or never.  Open the package.

8.  IMMEDIATELY COVER THE PACKAGE WITH A DAMP TEA TOWEL.  Well, don’t freak out about it, or anything, but the pastry is so thin that it crumbles when it dries.  And it dries fast.  So keep the dough covered when you’re not using it.

9.  Decide if you have the patience to make triangles of byrek.  Realize you don’t, because there is no way you’re slicing the paper thin phyllo dough layers into strips.  That way heartbreak lies.

10.  Debate rolling the phyllo layers into ropes and coiling them, like some people in your family do.   Realize that you haven’t the dexterity.

11.  Take about ½ the package of phyllo dough and lay it out on the parchment paper.  [You’ll lay down now, won’t you, you bastard?]

12.   Now here is where it gets tricky, and by tricky, I mean repetitive.  You’ll have a rectangle of phyllo dough layers.  I start by folding it in half.  Then I peel off two sheets at a time and lay them flat again and then butter the layer.  Butter the hell out of it.  Seriously.  You will use A LOT of butter.  But you have to, otherwise the byrek will be dry and people will cry.

13.  Peel off two more sheets, butter the layer, and continue until you have a rectangle again, one half buttered, the other half not.

14.  Spread about ½ the cheese mix out on the buttered half of the dough.  Leave about an inch space around the edges.

15.  Peel off two more sheets of the dry dough and lay them on top of the cheese mix.  Butter. Peel. Butter. Peel. You get the drill.

16.  When you have completed all the layers, butter the edges and then fold them up to form a seal.

17.  Repeat with the rest of the package of phyllo dough and filling.

18.  Put the byrek in the oven and bake for about 25 minutes.  Maybe a bit longer. You want it a good golden brown on top, like this:

19.  Cut into squares or in half or however many servings you want to get out of it.  I usually end up cutting it into small pieces and then snarfing up a bunch of them, because they’re small.  These freeze well and you can reheat in the microwave.

So delicious and tasty, you’ll wonder why you haven’t made this before.  And then you’ll get pissed that you’ve wasted so much time NOT making this that you’ll eat the whole thing.  Totally worth it, though.  Seriously.


Happy sigh.

I have no words for this.  Other than “Yes, please”.

How much do you love this woman? Surely not as much as I do.  So visit herTweet her.  Stalk her.  Your life will be much richer for it, believe me.

 

 

 

 
featured_olive_pasta

Psst! I’m visiting over at Mandyland today – come read about the crash course I took in child rearing!

Also, I’m in the hot seat at Four Plus An Angel this week, which means you get to ask me any little old question you want and my answers will be posted next week.  So go ahead, drop by and ask me anything.  I can take it.  ;)

You know what I love most about blogging? The sharing.  The sharing of ideas and thoughts and pieces of ourselves with others who we would not otherwise have the opportunity to know.

I love sharing me with you, and I especially love you sharing yourselves with me.

So let’s all share, shall we? Let’s get our comfy lounging clothes on and sit around in a circle and paint our nails and tell secrets about ourselves.

I’ll go first.  You ready?

Here goes (deep breath): I love pasta.  In fact, I’m sorta addicted.  I’ll eat it in any shape or form.  There have been times in my life when I’ve eaten it twice a day.  I just love it.

Wait.  What’s that? Oh.  You already knew that, huh? Well, I’ll work on another secret and be sure to share it with you as soon as I come up with it.

Let’s talk about this pasta dish I just whipped up, shall we?

I had these olives just lolling around in my pantry.  And some pasta (when don’t I?).  And other stuff.  And I was hungry.  So I got to work.  And then I got to work eating the results of my work.  And it was good.

Just a little pinch of red pepper flakes makes a great big impact when they’re simmered with the pasta while it finishes cooking.  Combine that with lots of yummy garlic, olive oil and butter…well, how can you lose? You can’t.  You really can’t.

Oh.  And lots of cheese doesn’t hurt, either.  But then I love cheese almost as much as I love pasta.

Almost.

What’s YOUR favorite pasta recipe?

Sharing with 33 Shades of Green, Designs by Gollum, Simply Sweet Home & Tidy Mom – come see what everyone else has to offer this week!

 
Lemon Asparagus Pasta

As soon as the weather starts to warm up, I become obsessed with two things: lemon and asparagus.

And water ice.  But water ice doesn’t go with asparagus so that will have to be a subject for another time.

I guess lemon and asparagus signal spring for me, at least in the kitchen.  The blast of citrusy goodness, the green snap of the asparagus…it doesn’t get much better than that.

So when asparagus and bags of organic lemons are on sale at the same time, as they were a few days back, it’s on. All I need is an excuse to use them.  “They’re delicious” is usually enough for me and before I know it they’re in my basket.

Add a few ingredients I never tire of – namely garlic, mushrooms, butter, olive oil and of course pasta – and you have a happy Jen.

A little touch of half-and-half to cut some of the tartness of the lemon juice and voila! A pasta masterpiece.  I swear to you.  A masterpiece.

Toss the pasta and a little of the cooking water in the with sauce to finish cooking.  The pasta and especially the mushrooms suck in all that flavor.  A pinch or two of lemon zest and some freshly-shaved Parmesan complete the dish…and then get quickly sucked up by yours truly.  Because, honestly…this lasted all of a minute or two after photos were finished.

But oh, was it good.

I’ll be sharing more lemony recipes throughout the week.  What recipes make YOU think of Spring?

Sharing with Skip To My Lou, Sumo’s Sweet Stuff, Make-Ahead Meals for Busy MomsDelightfully DowlingA Southern Fairytale , All the Small Stuff33 Shades of Green, The King’s Court IV, Tidy Mom, Simply Sweet Home & Designs by Gollum – come check out all the other links!

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