Friday, July 29, 2011

Black Bean Zucchini Soup

If you like soup, this is a recipe for you. If you dislike zucchini, this is also a recipe for you. (This is where you need to know just how much time I spend on y'all, making sure that EVERYONE is happy!) And this is also where I thank hubby's boss for supplying me with the abundance below.

Actually, zucchini is kind of a non-taste vegetable. It is nicely loaded with nutrients, but it really brings little to the table as a stand alone vegetable as far as taste is concerned. However, it's a real sucker for soaking in other flavors and that makes it a perfect vegetable to add into a soup or casserole just to add nutrition. (Here I'm putting on my boxing gloves for all you people who INSIST that vegetables be liked for what they are and are against hiding them in other dishes.) I'm sorry, but I think certain foods are meant to be blenders, binders, and taste bud bloomers instead of being stand alone foods. (You don't make your kids eat plain garlic, do you????) Zucchini falls into that category for me. It blends into the background nicely while picking up the flavors that are intended to star in your recipe. There is absolutely no point in making your toddler "enjoy" zucchini by itself, when you can put it in something else that they really do enjoy. Shredded zucchini can be added to everything from muffins, to pancakes, to soup, to casseroles, to burgers, to ..... Infinity And Beyond. Buzz Lightyear likes to freeze his shredded zucchini in quart or gallon-sized bags and then make Mr.& Mrs. Potato Head zucchini fritters for their anniversary. But I digress...

Black Bean Zucchini Soup

1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 carrot, 1" dice
2 medium zucchini, 1" slice
1 red bell pepper, seeded, coarsely chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
salt and pepper
a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
2 1/2 cups tomato juice
4 cups chicken stock
1 TBSP cumin
2 tsp Mexican oregano
2 tsp chili powder
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
3 (15 ounce) cans black beans, drained and rinsed

OPTIONAL: one container Secret Ingredient (found in your grocery store in the dairy section by the sour cream and chip dips)

In large soup pot combine all ingredients except OPTIONAL. Bring to a boil and let simmer until all veggies are tender, about 30-40 minutes. Remove from heat and in batches, puree soup in blender. Return soup to pot and stir in Secret Ingredient if desired.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Leave It To Bieber

Dear Maw Maw,

Thank you for the CARS chair. If I were older I would not only have been old enough to watch the new movie, I would also be big enough to get myself into this chair without your help. As it stands however, you had to lift me into the chair, then yell at me to sit still while you took the picture, bribe me with frosted animal crackers if I would sit still, and then threaten to take my milk away from me if I wouldn't make a good picture for you. I love you but you are freaking nuts. (AND for the record.... the next time you say that I have a Bieber haircut, I'm not going to kiss you bye-bye.)

Love (with reservations)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Chicken Cordon Lou (Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole)

With the final season of Rescue Me airing its first episode tonight, I thought I'd do a rerun of Chicken Cordon Lou, which I originally posted on this blog back in April of 2009. Hubby and I are huge fans of the show and have been looking forward to the beginning of its final season, yet are also saddened by the fact that it is about to come to an end. I apologize for the less-than-stellar photo, but promise you that the taste of the dish will make up for my lack of photographic prowess.
(originally posted 4/16/09)

After being on hiatus for nearly a year, Rescue Me finally had its 5th season premiere last week. This is clearly one of television's rawest and gutsiest programs and I love the fact that the writers have thrown political correctness out the window. Drama and dark humor pair well in this series about post-911 firemen and the host of ghosts and dysfunctions that affect them. Aside from Tommy Gavin (Denis Leary,) my favorite character is Lieutenant (Lou) Kenny Shea (John Scurti.) The crass and witty banter between Tommy and Lou is delightfully quick and oozes sarcasm and the aforementioned political incorrectness. Funny. Stuff. I've actually spent the past week renting and rewatching the first four seasons, and that is why this particular blog post came to be.

Lou is known around the firehouse for his cooking skills and this recipe for Chicken Cordon Lou is how I would imagine him to whip up this dish for Tommy, Franco, Mikey and Sean. While the method is a far cry from the traditional chicken cordon blue technique, the result was a very tasty dish with all the basic ingredients plus a few more. Tossed together and thrown in a casserole dish, this makes for a relatively quick and easy weekday dinner.

Chicken Cordon Lou.... (Chicken Cordon Blue Casserole)

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 3/4" cubes
1/2 pound ham, chopped into bite size pieces
2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
salt and pepper
1/2 onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp flour
1- 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 chicken bouillon cube
1/4-1/2 cup fat free half and half
2 ounces reduced fat swiss cheese, shredded
3 ounces Gruyere cheese, shredded
1-2 tsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
handful of chopped parsley
1 cup brown rice, cooked according to package directions
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1 Tbsp butter, melted

Season chicken breast cubes with salt and pepper. Heat one tablespoon oil in skillet and brown/cook chicken cubes, approximately 5 minutes. Add in ham pieces and lightly brown. Remove from pan and set aside. Heat other tablespoon oil and butter in skillet. Add onion and bell pepper. Season with salt and pepper and saute until onion is translucent, 4-5 minutes. Add garlic and saute for another minute or two. Sprinkle veggies with flour and stir to combine. Cook over medium heat for a few minutes so flour loses raw taste. Stir in broth and bouillon, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until thickened. Remove from heat and add half and half and cheeses. Stir until smooth. Add in thyme and parsley. Combine sauce with chicken, ham and rice. Pour into greased casserole dish. Combine panko with melted butter and spread evenly over casserole. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 30-40 minutes.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

We Don't Need No Steenking Chemo...

Pay attention please. We have lots to cover today and I'm fading fast. A couple of cocktails will do that to a 53 year old woman. (That's the first reason for this post.... it's my birthday. Light a candle, say a prayer, and drink a shot in my honor. I'll sleep better, swears.)

Tomorrow starts THE BIG DIET. OK, for all of you who have been readers of my blog long enough to remember the other 20 or so of my BIG DIETS, this time I mean it, just in case you're doubting my sincerity. Over the weekend, hubby and I celebrated the birthday by going to the casino where we lost everything but my virginity, and then we ate these wings for the LAST TIME SINCE I'LL BE GOING ON THE BIG DIET.

Last week was spent with my most perfectly adorable grandson Gavin. A few pictures for you so you'll agree that he is not only perfect, but also adorable. (Do I ever lie to you?) We're not completely sure why he felt the need to smash the face of the female mannequin, but when you're going to grow up to be a professional faith healer...(CAN YOU FEEL IT!!!), one can not start too early, yes?

I'm including a photo of this chicken on my grill because I had no idea that they could play the piano.

And lastly, I found out on Friday that I do not need chemotherapy (YAY!)and I'll be starting radiation next week. BIG TEARS of joy because I still love BIG HAIR.

Thank you again for all of your emails and notes to me on my blog. You have no idea how much strength I garner (and I almost never use that word) from your hope-filled responses. I love you.