Carrot Ginger Soup

Spring is here!!!

Carrot Ginger Soup

I was beginning to feel that this day would never come. There was snow and cold and then more snow and more cold. Apparently that little fur ball in Punxsutawney was on to something. I know there are a few of you out there mourning the loss of that one hour this past weekend. I can’t say I blame you but I am extremely happy to see the sun longer and know that when I come home from work there will still be sunlight. Those of you who are food bloggers know what I am talking about!

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I can’t wait for the warm days to arrive and the green to start popping up. Pittsburgh is beautiful in the spring and given the winter we endured I hope that means we are going to get a gorgeous spring. If you need a place to visit this spring then you should plan on making a trip to the ‘burgh.

Ginger and Onions

Since I was full of excitement for spring I knew I had to make something that was the embodiment of spring. Isn’t it obvious that carrot soup is really spring in a bowl?!?! I distinctly remember having an Easter brunch with the family in Virginia and eating carrot soup. I am not sure I had ever eaten it before that brunch but I knew then and there that I loved it. Carrots are amazing, they can be sweet and savory. This soup plays on both characteristics of the amazing orange vegetable.

Carrots/Onions/Ginger/Spices

This is a great soup for your Easter dinner or really any time. You can try different flavor profiles but I am a huge fan of the ginger and carrot combo. I topped mine off with a yogurt drizzle which is optional but it makes for a great presentation (I was actually really proud of my plating skills on this one). Perhaps I am getting in to the groove now that spring is here and my creative juices are flowing!

Quick side bar: I recently reviewed a great cookbook called ‘Soul Food Love‘, you can find my review in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette food section or you can click here.

Now grab a spoon because this is going to make you warm and happy.

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Carrot Ginger Soup

Yields 5-6 servings

Ingredients:
4 Tbsp. Butter
2 Lbs. Carrots Peeled and Chopped
2 Tbsp. Candied Ginger Sliced
1 Large Onion Sliced
2 Tsp. Ground Clove
1 Tsp. Ground Ginger
6 Cups Chicken Stock (veggie stock or water will work too)
1 Tbsp. Honey

Instructions:
In a medium stock pot melt the butter over medium heat. Add onion slices and stir until onions begin to soften. Add the chopped carrots, ginger slices, clove and ground ginger and stir to toast spices. Add stock or water to the pot and bring everything to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to simmer and cooking until carrots are soft, they should be soft enough to mash with the spoon. Remove the soup from the heat and puree using a stick blender or blender, careful not to burn yourself. Once the soup is smooth return to the pot and add honey. Simmer 10 minutes and taste for seasoning, if needed add more spices or salt and pepper to your liking. Garnish with plain yogurt or olive oil.

Blackened Chicken Po’ Boy

I am so jealous!

Po' Boy

This is the one time of the year that I long to be in New Orleans. Honestly, after visiting this past fall I can’t help but dream of our next visit. Mardi Gras is something you must experience at some point in your life. It really is nothing like anything you have seen. The music, the food, the people, it is more than just Bourbon St. and debauchery. Going down those few years ago was the best decision I could have ever made on a whim!

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I long to learn about my Southern roots and having family in Shreveport, LA is some way of dreaming of the romantic history that might exist if I dig deep enough. I am sure there will be heartache and sadness in those stories but it would still be worth the digging I suspect. Mardi Gras brings up these feelings in me and when I visited I was even more enchanted and looking for anything that might be a link to my mother’s family. If you have been there you can see how easy it is to be enchanted, it is unlike any other U.S. city in my opinion. It is no wonder that NOLA is the setting for so many stories that seem impossible anywhere else because for some reason they could be possible there, there is a sort of magic that you cannot ignore.

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I have noticed the abundance of King Cakes popping up in grocery stores and as much as I want to indulge I know that they are nothing compared to the cakes that hail from The Big Easy. It is nice of them to try. When the hubby and I visited The Big Easy in November we did stop and share a Po’ Boy, we shared a blackened chicken on in fact. Most people are familiar with the fried shrimp or oyster versions which are exceptional but sometimes you want something quick and tasty. Blackened chicken is quick and tasty! Please consider making these as you celebrate Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras this week!

Blackened Chicken Po'Boy 2

Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez!

Blackened Chicken Po’ Boy 

Yields 4 Sandwiches

Ingredients:
2 Chicken Breast
4 French Rolls
2 Tbsp. Cajun Seasoning
2 Tbsp. Butter
Shredded Lettuce
1 Large Tomato Sliced
Creole Mustard (Recipe Below)

Instructions:
Slice the chicken breasts in half by cutting the chicken like you are going to butterfly but cut all the way through making 4 thinly sliced chicken breasts pieces. Place the chicken breasts on a plate and coat with the cajun seasoning, make sure to coat both sides of the chicken. Let chicken breasts chill for 15 minutes before cooking.

While the chicken is chilling prepare the creole mustard. Slice french rolls and lay out the tomato slices and shredded lettuce.

To cook chicken, preheat a medium skillet over medium heat. Add butter to the pan and swirl to coat. Place chicken pieces in skillet and cook evenly on both sides until cooked through. Chicken should get a slightly char coloring from the spices. Assemble sandwich by spreading creole mustard on both sides of the bread, followed by the chicken, lettuce and tomato. Enjoy with a cold beer and beads!

Creole Mustard 

Yields Approx. 3 Tbsp.

Ingredients:
2 Tbsp. Mayonnaise
1 Tbsp. Course or Brown Mustard
1/2 Tsp. Worcestershire Sauce
1 Tsp. Black Pepper
Dash of Hot Sauce

Instructions:
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and chill until ready for use. Add additional hot sauce if need more heat is desired.

Cornish Hens with Cherry Sauce

Time to woo the one you love!

Cornish Hens for Two

It is that time of year when chocolates and hearts can be found everywhere. When you are kid you get really excited about going to school and swapping your valentine cards. I can distinctly remember my 4th grade self getting all worked up over the cards and the words on them. I mean, if I got a card that said “You Rock” that mean’t you were just a friend but if you got a card that said “You’re the 1 I Want” then you are clearly the object of that persons affection…this is how everyone felt right?

Naked Hens

Now that I am married I feel less inclined to give ambiguous notes to my love, usually I give him a card that conveys my love with words I would use on a regular basis. Some examples might be “I love you even if you leave the toilet seat up” or “I am glad we have each other because I need someone to take care of me when I get older”. Ok, these are not exactly true. The hubby knows how much he’s loved, don’t worry!

Stuffing

As an adult I quickly learned that cooking a special meal could be as good or better than any cheesy heart shaped thing I could purchase as a gift. I do my best to cook something that is over the top or special enough that we would not have it frequently. If you feel the same way then I suggest you make these Cornish Hens.

Cherry Sauce

Can we talk about a dish that makes it acceptable to eat an entire “chicken”? I know there are some people out there who do not share the excitement and to those people I apologize. I think any man (a meat loving man) would be excited to get a plate with his very own small “chicken” on it. I think it’s the same feeling when you present someone with an entire lobster or whole fish. You see a challenge set before you and you cannot wait to accept. These hens are delicious and a great centerpiece for your Valentine’s dinner with the one you love. For that extra special effect feel free to top the feet with those white caps they put on roasts, that way you are presenting fancy hens to the one you love!

Cornish Hens for Two #2

Cornish Hens with Dark Cherry Sauce

Adapted from Sunset Cooking For Two (1982)

Ingredients:
2 Cornish Hens
1 Apple Diced
1/2 Onion Diced
2 Celery Stalks Diced
1  1/2 Tsp. Poultry Seasoning Divided
Salt + Pepper
2 Tbsp. Butter
1/2 Tsp. Paprika
1/2 Tsp. Ginger Powder
Dark Cherry Sauce

Instructions:
To prep Cornish Hens make sure to remove any giblets and pat the hens dry. Preheat oven to 425. Combine apples, onion, celery and 1 Tsp. Poultry Seasoning in a bowl. Season stuffing with salt and pepper and combine. Place a handful of stuffing in the cavity of each Cornish Hen. In a small bowl melt the butter, combine the paprika, ginger and remaining poultry seasoning with the butter. Brush the butter on each hen, covering the entire hen.

Place the hens in a roasting pan and cook for an hour, basting occasionally with the drippings in the pan. Hens are done when golden or juices run clear. Allow the hens to rest before serving. Top with cherry sauce and enjoy.

Note: Typically I would serve the hens with wild rice or vegetables.

Dark Cherry Sauce

Ingredients:
1 Can (8oz) Pitted Dark Cherries
2/3 + 1 Tbsp. Cup Water
1 Small Onion Sliced
10 Cloves
1/4 Tsp. Cinnamon
1 Tbsp. Cornstarch
1/4 Tsp. Grated Lemon Peel
1 Tbsp. Lemon Juice
1/4 Cup Port or Brandy

Instructions:
Drain the cherries reserving 1/3 cup of the juice. In a sauce pan over medium heat add the cherry juice along with 2/3 cups of water, onion, cloves and cinnamon. Bring mixture to a boil and drop temperature to a simmer, continue cooking for 10-15 minutes until the sauce becomes fragrant. Strain the sauce reserving the liquid and discarding the solids.

Return the sauce to the pan and continue heating over medium heat. In a small bowl combine 1 Tbsp. water with the cornstarch. Pour the cornstarch and water mixture in to the sauce and stir until combined and no lumps remain. Allow the sauce to boil and thicken. Stir in the cherries, grated lemon peel and lemon juice. Gently stir sauce careful not to smash cherries. Add port and brandy and continue to cook for 5 minutes or until the liquor has burned off. Serve by pouring over hens or on the side.

Buffalo Chicken Sliders

So, apparently I have magic powers…

Buffalo Chicken Sliders #1

In my last post I complained about the lack of snow in my life. Shortly after writing those words it started to snow and it has not stopped. My bad! I guess the saying, “ask and you shall receive”, is real and you better be careful what you ask for. I realize that snow is pretty to look at but it is not fun to drive in. It took us an hour to get home when it usually takes 20 minutes. I think we should be thankful that we aren’t living in NYC or Boston…or anywhere in the northeast. I’ll just enjoy our fluffy white snow and slightly inconvenient commute.

Chicken Thighs

It’s a good thing they aren’t playing the Super Bowl in New England. It would be totally unfair! I personally like watching football games in blizzards but I think it is easy to say that when you aren’t the one playing on the field or sitting in the stands. Speaking of the Super Bowl, I made you these delicious sliders that are sure to please all of your friends and family. I am not rooting for either team this year so instead I’ll be rooting for food! F-O-O-D, FOOD FOOD FOOD!

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When I was younger I craved buffalo chicken everything. If there was a buffalo chicken wrap or sandwich on the menu I would immediately knew what I was going to get. Buffalo chicken salads, pizza, dips, anything! In high school I would rush to the fridge containing the buffalo chicken wraps and hope that there was one left. I can’t even believe I thought those were delicious, but now that I think about it, you could probably put buffalo sauce on a shoe and I would love it. I am embarrassed to confess this to you but I figure you already know my embarrassing food secrets and desires.

Chicken Sliders #2

Slider Single

If you want to do something a little different from the typical buffalo wings then I highly recommend you make these bad boys. You will not be disappointed! Grab a few napkins because it will get messy. Oh, btw, I have been to Anchor Bar (pictured below), home of the original “Buffalo Wings” and it was amazing. If you are a buffalo fanatic like me, then you need to go.

Anchor Bar

Buffalo Chicken Sliders 

Yields 12 Sliders

Ingredients:
6 Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs
2 Tsp. Dry Mustard
1 Tsp. Salt
1/2 Tsp. Pepper
2 Tbsp. Butter
1 Bottle Buffalo Sauce
1 Cup Chicken Stock
12 Whole Wheat Slider Buns
12 Pieces Romaine Lettuce
Blue Cheese Sauce (Recipe Below)

Instructions:
Heat large pot or skillet with matching lid over medium heat. While pre-heating pot, season chicken thighs with dry mustard, salt and pepper on both sides. Add butter to pot and swirl to coat. Lay chicken thighs down and cook until golden brown. Turn chicken thighs and repeat on the opposite side. Once both sides are seared add the buffalo sauce and chicken stock. Stir to move any pieces of chicken that might be stuck to the pan. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and cover, allow chicken to simmer for 30-40 minutes or until chicken starts to pull apart with a fork. Remove chicken and place in a bowl, allow to cool slightly. Using two forks shred the chicken, make sure no large chunks remain. Return shredded chicken to the pot.

To serve toast slider buns in the oven. Top with lettuce followed by chicken and blue cheese sauce.

Blue Cheese Sauce 

Ingredients:
1 Tbsp. Blue Cheese Crumbles
2 Tbsp. Mayo
1 Tsp. Lemon Juice

Instructions:
Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Taste for seasoning, add more lemon juice if desired. Refrigerate sauce until ready for use. You may also replace mayo with greek yogurt for a lighter sauce

Mediterranean Chicken Sandwich

I love sandwiches!!

Medi Sandwich

I could easily eat a sandwich for every meal. The only trouble is that I prefer to build the sandwich myself and never opt for a sandwich that has been sitting in a fridge for hours. I take being a sandwich artist seriously.  Living in DC, I got used to having some sort of sandwich for lunch and I could list for you all of my favorites but I’ll spare you this time. I will say that if you take a hearty salad and wrap it up in some bread I am one happy lady. Those of you who believe I should just eat a salad, I want to say that I understand and I agree 100%. Generally, I eat the salad all on its own so don’t worry.

Sandwich Assembly

Can I take a moment to express my disappointment that there has hardly been any snow this winter? I know, be careful what you wish for. It is no fun when it is cold outside but there isn’t fun snow to accompany that cold air and dry skin. If I have to suffer through dry itchy skin, feelings of cold, and having to start my car in negative degree temps I should at least have a scenic view of snow-covered trees to entertain me. My biggest concern is that I’ll get used to this lack-of-winter only to get surprised by a massive snow storm next month or the middle of March. I hope I didn’t just speak that in to existence…I apologize to all of my fellow Pittsburgher’s if that becomes the case.

Assemble Station

Switching subjects again; can we talk about the winter break that tv shows take? I hate waiting for my favorite shows to come back, I want them to never end!! I recently binge watched a show with the hubby and it is not coming back until February, are you kidding me?!?!?! All of my shows like to play with my emotions and then disappear in hopes that I’ll come crawling back…I mean, I always come back. I can’t wait for everything to be back only to leave me once again and then I am waiting an entire year for the next season. Gah, I think I need a sandwich…

Chicken Pita Sandwich

Mediterranean Chicken Sandwich

Ingredients:
1 Pkg. Chicken Tenders (approx. 6 tenders)
1/2 Lemon Thinly Sliced
1 Clove Garlic Minced
1 Tbsp. Oregano
1 Tsp. Basil
2 Tsp. White Wine Vinegar
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper
Pita Pockets
Hummus (any flavor)
Spring Salad Green Mix
Cherry Tomatoes (optional)
Cucumbers (optional)
Cherry Peppers (optional)
Feta Cheese Crumbles (optional)

Instructions:
Combine first 8 ingredients in a bowl and  allow to chill for ten minutes. Set up sandwich assembly station while your chicken is marinating. Dice the tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and set aside. Heat a skillet or grill to medium heat. Cook chicken strips until done, 5-7 minutes, and then allow them to cool slightly. Once cooled dice the chicken strips in to small pieces. Assemble sandwich by spreading hummus on inside of the pita pocket, follow by filling with desired fixings. For additional flavor drizzle balsamic vinegar on top.

Variations:

Sandwich can be made vegetarian by leaving out the chicken and adding additional vegetables or toppings.

 

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