Chicken Vegetable Soup with Rice

FullSizeRenderThere’s something extra comforting about chicken soup, and it’s more than just because it’s warm and savory on a cold winter day. If you make your own broth, the boiling of the chicken carcass makes it chock-full of helpful minerals, and the combination of vegetables and chicken stock give this soup anti-inflammatory properties that really DO help you get over a cold or flu. I’ve read countless articles about it. But I’ve also experienced it.

My mom taught me how to make this simple recipe, and I’ve been making it for years. Last year, when we were hosting a student from Japan, I saw it’s healing properties first hand. Poor Hana came down with strep throat while 5,000 miles from home. I felt so bad for the poor girl! We got her a shot of penicillin, and I made her a batch of chicken soup. The soup started her on the mend, and the penicillin finished the job.

A few months ago, my son Justin brought his girlfriend over when she was super sick with a cold and fever. I went into Mom-mode, and had Ashley popping Advil and sucking on cough drops while I stirred up some chicken soup. She spent the day getting hydrated and sipping soup. Again, the healing powers of chicken soup did the trick! (And that girlfriend is now his fiancée—more magical mystery powers of the soup? It may have played a part…)

This week, my friend Marylee came down with a nasty virus. I brought her a couple jars of chicken soup, and the next day she was on the mend. She told me I should post the recipe for “sick soup” and I told her I was sure I’d already posted a basic thing like chicken soup. But surprisingly, I hadn’t! So here it is. Incidentally, it’s also delicious when you’re NOT sick! 

Serves 6-8

For broth
1 rotisserie chicken
5-6 carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
Center leafy pieces of celery bunch
1 yellow onion, peeled and cut into quarters
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon celery seed
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2-3 bay leaves

For soup
6-8 cups home made chicken broth
3-4 carrots, peeled and diced
2-3 stalks celery, washed and diced
1 cup diced cooked chicken
¼ to 1/3 cup white rice, uncooked
1 teaspoon salt
Dash smoked Spanish paprika

Remove chicken from one whole cooked rotisserie chicken, reserving skin and bones. Set meat aside. Put chicken carcass and skin in Dutch oven with carrots, heart of celery, onion, salt, celery seed, pepper, and bay leaves. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce to low and let simmer for 60 minutes. Strain broth off, and discard all vegetables and chicken bone and skin.

Put 6-8 cups of chicken broth in large sauce pan or small Dutch oven. Add carrot, celery, chicken, rice, salt, and paprika. Bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer and cook for 20 minutes. Taste and add salt or other spices as necessary. Serve to your sick foreign-exchange student, friend, or your son’s future bride.

Chicken Tikka Masala

FullSizeRenderFans of Indian food will love this smokey chicken dish, layered with rich spices in a creamy tomato sauce. My son Justin had been hinting that I try a curry dish sometime, but then he got bold and Facebooked me this recipe for Turkey Tikka Masala from The New York Times. It’s a dish that uses leftover Thanksgiving turkey, so I thought I’d give it a whirl. When I realized I didn’t have enough leftover turkey to do the dish, I opted to use fresh boneless, skinless chicken thighs. I had my husband Rich grill them on his Big Green Egg to get that Tandoor-tender treatment. This dish was utterly amazing, and that’s an understatement.

We’ve often wondered why all these Indian dishes that taste so similar have vastly different names, so I did a little research. Apparently, the names differ depending on the region, so a “rogan josh” can taste the same as a “marsala” as they use the same ingredients. “Tikka” refers to chicken cooked in the Tandoor (a cylindrical clay oven), and “marsala” is a sauce made with tomatoes and onions OR a mixture of spices, depending on your source of information. 

And what exactly is garam masala, other than a spice required in Indian recipes that you don’t have on hand? It’s a mix of peppercorns, cinnamon, cloves, mace, cardamom, bay leaves, and cumin—and is sometimes referred to as a “curry.” An Indian curry stew is usually a blend of coriander, cumin, and turmeric, and sometimes chili peppers. There’s no curry powder actually in curries. Curry is a word invented for the British or by the British to describe the delicious stews they “discovered” during their colonization of India.

But enough with the history lesson! Back to the food! I did a few things differently than the original recipe—like I didn’t puree the sauce, and I used half and half, instead of heavy cream. My other adjustments to process and ingredients are reflected below.

Serves 6

For Meat Marinade

2 teaspoons garam masala
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon smoked Spanish paprika
4 teaspoons ground turmeric
1 teaspoon sea salt
6 cloves garlic, finely grated
4 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger
1 cup plain Greek-style yogurt
1¾ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs

For Marsala Sauce

4 tablespoons ghee, divided
1 large onion, chopped
1 teaspoon cardamom
1-2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon garam masala
1½ teaspoons sea salt
2 tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger
4 cloves garlic, minced or finely grated
1 serrano pepper, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes
2 cups half and half
¾ cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
Juice of 1 small lemon (optional)

3 cups cooked basmati or jasmine rice

To make the marinade: Combine the garam masala, coriander, cumin, paprika, turmeric, salt, garlic, ginger, and yogurt in a bowl and stir. Add chicken thighs and toss to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.

To make the masala: Add 3 tablespoons of the ghee to a Dutch oven set on medium-high heat. Add onion, cardamom, bay leaf (or leaves), paprika, pepper flakes, garam masala and salt. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are golden and tender, about 10 to 15 minutes.

Make space among onions in center of pot, and add the remaining 1 tablespoon ghee. When ghee has melted, add ginger, garlic, and serrano pepper, and sizzle for about 10 seconds. Stir into the onions. Stir in tomato paste, then add tomatoes and juice from the can, crushing tomatoes with your hands as you add them. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, stirring often, until the liquid is almost gone, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Add cream and chopped cilantro to the pot. Taste and add salt if needed. Simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens, about 40 minutes. *

While sauce is cooking, grill chicken until done, and no pink remains in center. Cut chicken into bite-sized pieces. Stir into masala sauce, and serve over cooked rice. (If adding lemon juice, stir in just before serving. I forgot the lemon, and did not think it needed it!)

*NOTE: The original recipe called for pureeing the sauce in a blender at this point, before adding the chicken in. I thought that was an unnecessary step, but might try that next time I make this so the sauce is creamier. And there will be a next time for this tasty dish!

Thai Chicken Stir-Fry with Peanut Sauce and Orange Scented Rice Bowl

FullSizeRender-1The light peanut flavor seems like a strange pairing with the citrus rice in this stir fry, but it’s an odd couple arrangement that works. My son Justin got this recipe from his Senior Foods class, and we often joke that it was the only good thing to come out of his high school experience. (At least there was one thing…) It’s become his signature dish, and when he lived at home, I often asked him to make this to give me the night off from cooking. As there is a lot of chopping involved, it’s good to have a couple people in the kitchen doing prep for this one. And that’s where a younger brother comes in handy—especially when that brother is a whiz at keeping the knives sharp for all that chopping… The fresh grated ginger and bit of heat from the red pepper flakes enhance the sauteed vegetables, and have made this another family favorite.

Makes 4-6 servings

For rice:
3 cups water
1 orange, zested
1½ cups white rice (short or medium grain is best)

For stir-fry:
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
1 clove garlic, minced
1 small onion, chopped
½ green (or red) bell pepper, seeded and sliced
2 carrots, peeled and julienned
2 scallions, cut on an angle in 1-inch pieces
½ cup snow pea pods, ends trimmed

For Thai peanut sauce:
3 tablespoons peanut butter
4 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons honey
1-inch ginger root, peeled and grated (about 1 teaspoon)
1 clove garlic, minced
½-1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (Justin likes 1 heaping tsp. – too much heat for me!)
1 orange, juiced

Topping:
Chopped dry roasted peanuts, optional

Rice: Bring water and orange zest to a boil in medium saucepan. Add rice, return to boiling. Stir once then cover pot and reduce heat to low. Cook until rice is tender, 15 minutes. Fluff with fork.

Stir-Fry: Pour oil in large non-stick skillet with heat on medium-high. Add chicken, garlic, and onion – stir-fry 5 minutes. Add carrot and green pepper, stir-fry 5 minutes; add remaining vegetables and stir-fry 5 minutes more or until chicken is done. Be careful not to allow vegetables to cook until soggy.

Thai Peanut Sauce: In a small saucepan over low heat, mix all sauce ingredients. Simmer until combined. Add sauce to stir-fry and toss. Serve mixture over rice in a bowl.

Cranberry Pecan Curried Rice

FullSizeRender-4The combo of sweet craisins and savory ingredients like curry and garlic give this recipe a blend of flavors that really please the palate. It has the versatility to be a main dish if you want to stir in some chopped rotisserie chicken, a suggestion from others who’ve tried this recipe found on foodfolksandfun.net. I’ve not had the fresh parsley on hand (the three times I’ve made this dish already!), so I’ve used dried herbs instead, which worked fine. We’ve had this gluten-free treat on weeknights with ham, and with turkey, and it would go perfectly with pork chops or roast beef as well. Even though it goes together quick enough to make it an after-work-wonder, it’s going to make an appearance at some holiday dinners in the weeks to come. (Extended family, consider yourself warned!) I’m sure it’ll be gobbled up at those gatherings with gusto as well.

Serves 6-8

3½ cups chicken broth
2 cups basmati or jasmine rice
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2-3 large cloves garlic, minced
¾ cups chopped pecans
2 tablespoons curry powder
2 teaspoons ground ginger
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
¾ cup craisins (dried cranberries)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, or 1 tablespoon dried parsley
¼ cup water

In a large saucepan, bring chicken broth to a boil. Add rice and butter and return to a boil. Then reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

While rice is cooking, heat oil in large frying pan. Add onion, and sauté until onions are translucent. Add garlic and pecans, and sauté for 1-2 minutes more. Add curry, ginger, salt, and pepper, and toss to coat all ingredients with spices. Cook another minute or two to toast spices. Add fluffed, cooked rice, craisins, parsley, and water. Stir to combine, until all rice is yellowed from curry. Transfer to serving bowl, and serve immediately, or place in airtight container and refrigerate. Reheat in microwave or in frying pan to serve.

Mean Mexican Rice

FullSizeRenderWhat looks like a lonely little bowl of rice, is actually a culinary heavy hitter—filling for tacos, or a way to amp up rice as a side dish with any meal. We love this rice in our tacos (tortilla and guacamole recipes previously posted), and if you make it ahead of time and refrigerate (then microwave to serve again), you’ll have more time for chopping and grating all those fresh vegetables. Fresh tortillas, guac, and this rice recipe make the trifecta of tacos.

Not in the mood for tacos? This is a great little gluten-free side dish, to serve with grilled or roasted meat. It’s a side dish without a season—works well in summer or winter. I got this recipe from my friend Terri, and I do not know who or where she got it from. I’ve scribbled it on a piece of scrap note paper, with no indication of it’s origins. (Some of you have a neat box of recipe cards written in D’Nealian cursive, all wrapped in plastic sleeves. I envy you organized people. My recipe collection looks more like kidnapping ransom notes.)

Serves 6-8 as a side or 10-12 for tacos

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup white rice
1 can diced tomatoes (do not drain)
2 teaspoons chili powder
½ teaspoon oregano
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups chicken stock (or 1 – 14-ounce can chicken broth)

In medium saucepan, heat onion in vegetable oil over high heat. Cook until onions are translucent. Add garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes more. Add rice, tomatoes, spices, and chicken stock and stir to combine. Leave heat on high until liquids start to boil, then turn down to low and let simmer for 20 minutes, covered.

NOTE: If you use vegetable stock instead of the chicken stock, this is a vegetarian recipe.

Quick Jambalaya

FullSizeRenderOne-pot wonders. They are the saviors of the working woman (or man). The complexities of flavor in this chicken and sausage jambalaya recipe will make it a favorite at your house, just like it is at ours. When I first tried this concoction, we liked it so much I was making it once a week. My son’s girlfriend joined us for dinner a few nights, and this happened to be on the menu every single time! I had to apologize, telling her it really wasn’t the only thing we ever ate. Not sure if she believed me or not. Didn’t matter though—she loved it just as much as the rest of us, and didn’t mind having the dish repeated.

Traditionally, the New Orleans staple has seafood as well as meat, but we love this Martha Stewart quick jambalaya version with andouille sausage and chicken breast. My big cast iron and enamel Dutch oven* is perfect for stewing and simmering this casserole, and it ends up tasting like a dish that’s stewed all day, rather than 30-45 minutes. Sometimes I assemble this before work in the morning, simmer it for the suggested 30 minutes, and then put it in the frig. The whole pot can be reheated in the oven at 350° for about 20-30 minutes at dinner time. If you don’t have that much time to slam down supper, it reheats in the microwave perfectly well, too.

I couldn’t find the Old Bay seasoning from Martha’s recipe, so I subbed in all the seasonings you see listed below. I also found it needed less water than instructed in her recipe, and altered the cooking process a little as well. I’m sure Martha would be proud of me for being my own woman, and making it work for me.

Serves 6

1/4 cup olive oil
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 celery stalks, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped
1 pound andouille sausage, cut into 1/2-inch pieces**
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups homemade or store-bought chicken stock
1/4 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika (or regular paprika)
1/8 teaspoon each dry mustard, cardamom, and ginger
Pinch each of celery salt, black pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, cloves, and nutmeg
1-2 bay leaves
1 can (14 ounces) diced tomatoes with juice
1 cup long-grain rice, uncooked

Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Cook until golden brown, about 5 minutes per side. Set aside to cool.

Add onions to pot and sauté for a few minutes alone, then add the rest of the vegetables to pot. Cook, stirring, 5 minutes. Add sausage; cook 3 minutes. Add garlic; cook 1 minute. Stir in stock, seasonings, and tomatoes; bring to a boil. Cut cooled chicken into 3/4-inch pieces, and add to pot with rice. Reduce heat; simmer for 30 minutes, covered. Stir one or twice. Serve.

*A cast iron and enamel pot is a great kitchen helper, and you do not have to spend a fortune on a Le Creuset dish to get good results. Macy’s carries a pot for under $75, and you can always use their 20% off coupons on merchandise (if you’re on Macy’s mail list). My work-horse of a pot was a gift from my son Brandon, when he was a poor college student, no less. He found one for under $40 at Home Goods, and it works wonderfully well. Thanks again, Brandon! It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

**NOTE: I use 4 links of andouille sausage, and freeze the additional link in the package for another pot of jambalaya. It’s plenty of meat and flavor, and cuts down on the cost a little.

Chicken, Rice, and Almond Casserole

IMG_0693Casseroles feel like cold-weather comfort food, but this savory chicken and rice dish is such a people-pleaser that you can make it any time of year. This is my go-to recipe when I’m bringing a meal to a friend who’s in need of a meal, whether due to the happiness of a new addition or the heartbreaking loss of a loved one. It’s mild enough for even the pickiest eaters, yet has enough flavor to keep everyone coming back for seconds. Make this ahead of time, then cover and keep in the frig for a day or two, and bake up when needed. (I wouldn’t recommend freezing it as the milk or cream in it will curdle. It doesn’t affect the taste, just the appearance.) So how do you make this easy recipe even easier? By purchasing a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store instead of baking, boiling, or grilling your own chicken.

I got this recipe from a friend about 20 years ago, and can barely read my handwriting on the recipe card—that’s how much it’s been used! My guess is that it was published by the makers of Uncle Ben’s rice, as that’s the key ingredient, but I’ve got no proof of that. The recipe calls for half and half, which you can certainly use if you have it on hand. However, it’s great made with milk in place of the cream, especially if you’re watching fat in your food. (My farm-boy father would tell you to make it with cream. End of discussion.)

Serves 6

1 box Uncle Ben’s Long Grain and Wild Rice Original Recipe
1/4 butter
1/3 cup chopped onion
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4–1/2 teaspoon course ground black pepper
1 cup half and half or milk
1 cup chicken broth
2 cups chopped, cooked chicken
1/4 cup slivered almonds

Preheat oven to 400° Fahrenheit. Prepare Uncle Ben’s rice according to package directions. While rice is cooking, melt butter in large sauce pan. Add chopped onion and cook on low until onions are translucent. Remove from heat and gradually sprinkle in flour, stirring until all the flour is combined. Add salt and pepper, stir again. Put pan back on low heat and gradually stir in cream or milk until flour mixture is smooth and creamy. Add chicken broth, and stir to combine. Turn heat to medium-high. Heat and stir until mixture is smooth and bubbly. In large bowl, combine milk mixture, cooked chicken, cooked rice, and almonds. Pour into 2 quart casserole dish and bake uncovered in preheated oven for 30 minutes.

NOTE: If using gluten-free chicken broth, this is a gluten-free recipe.