Warm & Comforting Chicken Noodle Soup

The polar vortex has finally caught up with me. I feel like my head is an angry balloon. My knuckles are red & cracking from the cold & I am seriously considering giving up on Ohio. Take me to mountain & ocean air!

The sad part about being sick & living alone is that you either have to cook for yourself, hope someone loves you enough to bring you food, or rely on the temporary fix of the fine food establishments surrounding you. Well as it turns out no one loves me & I didn’t want to leave the house multiple times, so this girl zombied around the grocery & made herself some soup.

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Chicken Noodle Soup 
yields approximately 8 servings

1 T. butter
1 onion, minced
2 cloves garlic
3 stalks celery, thinly chopped
2 carrots, cut into quarter inch disks
2 sprigs thyme (leaves only)
2 – 32 oz. chicken broth
2 cups cooked shredded chicken (I used a rotisserie)
salt & pepper, to taste
1 bay leaf
1/4 t. cayenne pepper
1/4 t. turmeric (for color)

In a stock pot on medium heat, combine butter, onion, garlic, and a dash of salt & pepper. Allow the onions to cook down for 1-2 minutes before adding the carrots, thyme sprigs, & celery. Stir occasionally to ensure all the vegetables are cooked evenly. Cook until soft & lightly browned.

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Add both cartons of chicken broth, the bay leaf, turmeric, and cayenne pepper and allow the soup to slowly heat to boiling. In the meantime, we shall make our noodles!

homemade egg noodles:

1 1/4 c. flour
1 egg
1/4 c milk
dash salt

In a bowl, combine the dry ingredients. In a liquid measuring cup, whisk together the milk & egg. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the egg & milk mixture. Gently mix the two together with a spoon or fork until a rough dough is formed. Turn the dough out on a clean working surface and knead for 2-3 minutes, then form the dough into smooth ball.

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With a rolling pin, roll out the dough to the desired thickness, a little thicker than a nickel, perhaps.

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With a knife or a pizza cutter, cut your noodles into long strips, somewhere between 1/4 in. & 1/2 in. If you like long noodles, keep them long or if you prefer those short 1-2 inch noodles, then you can cut them down accordingly.

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When the noodles are cut, simply scoop them up and drop them into the boiling soup. At this time, you can also add the shredded chicken. The noodles will look puffy & rise to the surface.

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Allow the noodles to simmer in the soup for at least 3-5 minutes. Adjust your salt & pepper ratio to taste and serve your soup  with crusty bread or crunchy crackers.

Here’s to feeling better soon.

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Cupcake Craze Part 5: Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

I lied. I thought the cupcake craze was over, but there was another birthday that appeared. Here is a confession: I have no interest in red velvet cupcakes. I think they are just bad chocolate cakes dyed red. They can be beautiful but I don’t feel like there is a lot of creative potential since they are a little too ‘classic.’ I am also a little weary of the nearly necessary use of maddening amounts of food coloring. For your benefit, I shall one day use the scarlet reduction from beets or pomegranates but today is not that day.

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Before beginning, I will say that I made two batches of red velvet cakes. I won’t disclose which site I based my first recipe on for the sake of good blogging manners, but I will say that they were inedibly dry and quite wretched. Instead, this recipe was adapted from our sweet Martha Stewart.

Red Velvet Cupcakes
yields approximately 10 cupcakes

1 1/4 c. cake flour
1 T. cocoa powder
3/4 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
3/4 c. sugar
3/4 c. vegetable oil
1 egg
1 t. red food coloring
1/2 c. buttermilk
1 t. vinegar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, & salt. In a mixing bowl, whisk together sugar & oil. Whisk in the egg & food coloring. Measure out the buttermilk & vinegar in a liquid measuring cup and gradually alternating adding the wet & dry ingredients to the sugar mixture. Whisk together until combined.

Pour batter in cupcake wrappers situated in a muffin pan. Place in the oven for about 15 minutes, or until an toothpick comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

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Cream Cheese Frosting

1/4 c. cream cheese
1/4 c. butter
2 c. powdered sugar
1 t. vanilla
1 T. milk

In a mixing bowl with an electric mixer, combine all the ingredients until the desired consistency is reached. Transfer to piping bag and put in fridge until ready to use.

Arguably, my favorite part of baking cupcakes is thinking up the garnish. For the garnish for these cakes, I really wanted some red sprinkles to bring out the color of the cakes. Unfortunately, I did not have red sprinkles. I did, however, have some raw sugar.

To make your own colored sprinkles:
1 T. raw sugar
one drop of desired food coloring

Drop the color in the sprinkles and stir quickly to coat the sugar.

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When the cupcakes are cool, pipe the icing and garnish with your colored sprinkles & chocolate shavings!

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Vegetarian Corn Chowder

When I think about corn, one of two thoughts emerge: the time in college where my best friend couldn’t be convinced to eat anything but bags of reheated frozen corn or that horrible sensation I get from shucking sweet corn, when the silky hairs creep all over my hands and wrists. I also conjure the pictures my mother loves of my siblings & I grinning with sticky smiles & ears of corns as big as our arms teetering precariously between pudgy fingers.

In the spirit of these grand corn memories, I’ve decided to make one of my most favorite soups. I absolutely love combinations of salty & sweet & spicy. I love how vibrant the fresh thyme leaves make an otherwise dull vegetable broth.

Spicy Vegetarian Corn Chowder
yields 3-4 servings

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Needs:
1 T. butter
1/2 yellow onion, minced
1 clove of garlic, minced
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme, just the leaves
1/2 t. salt
1/2 poblano pepper, diced
1/2 jalapeño pepper, minced (or more if you want more spice!)
3 T. flour
2 cans of vegetable broth (or one of those cartons if you prefer to buy the cartons)
1/2 t. cayenne powder
fresh ground black pepper, to taste
1 medium-large potato, cubed
1 c. cream or half & half
3 ears of corn or 1 1/2 c. frozen corn

To begin, melt the butter in a saucepan or stock pot. Add the onions, garlic, & salt. Cook on medium heat until translucent, about 4-5 minutes. Add the thyme leaves, jalapeño, and poblano pepper. Cook until the peppers begin to soften and the onions brown, maybe another 3 minutes. This caramelization process is where much of the rich flavor will derive from for the soup.

Add the flour (this is important for the subsequent thickening of the broth) and toss it around a bit to coat the vegetables in the pot. Pour in the vegetable broth. Add the black pepper & cayenne pepper. Keep soup on medium heat, slowly bringing the broth to boiling. Add the potatoes and cream and allow to simmer for 7-10 minutes, until the potatoes start to break down and the cream begins to thicken the soup. If using fresh or frozen corn, you can add it in once the potatoes and cream begin to simmer. Once the potatoes are soft and broken down, you can remove the pot from the heat & gently use a pastry blender (if and only if your pot is leaves enough room to do this without putting your entire hand in scalding soup) to mash some of the potatoes to add additional thickness or you can leave them as larger chunks, depending on the consistency you desire.

Garnish the soup with fresh thyme sprigs and serve immediately with warm crusty bread.

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Basic Pasta Dough

The best valentine’s day gift I ever received was a bright red Imperia pasta roller. It’s amazing the epiphany you experience when you’ve spent your whole life eating dried & packaged pasta noodles only to discover it’s fluffier, hand rolled counterpart. I will admit that the first time I rolled out the pasta, I was a bit intimidated by how much more work it was in comparison with the drop-handfuls-of-noodles-in-a-boiling-pot method. In time, it became easier and now I think of homemade pasta as a benevolent side dish instead of a leering task.

This recipe relies on Semolina Flour. I use Bob’s Red Mill which can be some trouble to locate. I’ve always found it at Whole Foods & sometimes in the natural food section of the renovated Krogers. The combination of all-purpose flour & semolina is, I feel, the most important part of this recipe. The all purpose flour evens out the coarser semolina, making the dough softer and smoother while the semolina gives the all-purpose a little grit and absorbs the liquid of the dough eliminating the characteristic stickiness from traditional flour doughs. It’s truly a beautiful match.

Basic Pasta Dough

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Dough:
3/4 c. all purpose flour
3/4 c. semolina flour
1 t. salt
2 eggs
2 T. olive oil

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In a bowl, combine the flours and salt. create a well in the center. In a smaller bowl, combine the eggs & olive oil. (It is probably best to scramble the eggs before including them in the dough, but apparently on the photo taking day, I simply just didn’t think to worry about that). Pour the wet ingredients into the center well.

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Starting in the center, (you could scramble the eggs now) gradually work the surrounding flour into the liquid center. Continue until the wet ingredients are incorporated. Turn the dough out on a clean working surface and knead for 3-5 minutes, or until the dough becomes slightly elastic-y.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap for about an hour to allow the liquids to absorb in the flours.

Follow instructions included with your pasta roller to create delicious homemade fettuccine, spaghetti, ravioli, and lasagna.

Cupcake Craze Part 4: Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Buttercream

Since I was of legal working age, I have found myself holding a series of jobs in restaurants to pay my bills while I pursued other dreams of degrees and art-related jobs. While it is certainly not the most thrilling job one might hold, it offers certain oddities that keep life ever dramatic and interesting. There is absolutely nothing but a job in food service that will can provide a social environment that is at once sickly incestuous and dysfunctional while also filled with friendship, teamwork, and general camaraderie.

This final installment of the cupcake craze features a cupcake made for the ever dysfunctional rendezvous known as ‘a coworker’s birthday party.’ In the restaurant world, this means a message is sent out via employee messaging & everyone goes to the bar that is the closest to work. Some people get fancy and bring a change of clothes while others trudge over in their precariously stained shirts from the dinner rush. It is in this venue that work crushes are pursued, friendships sustained, and enemy lines erected. It’s quite frankly a zoo and best experienced in extreme moderation.

So anyways, our lady of the evening confessed she loved chocolate & peanut butter and thus:

IMG_1107Sorry again about the bad picture quality. I shall be giving myself more time to use my dSLR from now on.

Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Buttercream
yields 18 cakes

For the cake base, I steal Ina Garten’s recipe because it is moist & delicious. In fact,  it’s always a little amazing that it forms a cake due to all the liquid in the batter. I was more than a little worried the first time I made it.

Her recipe reads:

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
2 cups sugar
3/4 cups good cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk, shaken
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. In a large liquid measuring cup, combine oil, eggs, vanilla, and buttermilk. Incorporate slowly into the dry ingredients. Once combined, slowly stir in the coffee. Pour batter into cupcake papers to just over 3/4 full. Bake in oven for 13-16 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Transfer to wire rack to cool.

Peanut Butter Buttercream
2 c. powdered sugar
1/3 c. butter
1/3 c. crunchy organic peanut butter
1-2 T. milk

Combine in a mixing bowl and mix on medium speed until combined. Gradually add milk until the frosting reaches desired consistency.

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Cupcake Craze Part 3: Maple Cupcakes with Espresso Buttercream & Candied Pecans

Oh maple syrup! How lovely you are, all sweet & sticky and straight from the trees. I chose maple as my final flavor inspiration in the spirit of fall. This will conclude the trio of cupcakes made to bid farewell to my lovely best friend.
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Maple Cupcakes with Espresso Buttercream & Candied Pecans
yields approx 18 cupcakes

2 1/2 c. cake flour
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. ginger

1/2 c. butter
1/2 c. brown sugar
2 eggs
2 t. vanilla
1 1/4 c. maple syrup
1/2 c. buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a bowl, combine dry ingredients. In a separate mixing bowl, cream the brown sugar & butter. In another small bowl, combine eggs, syrup, vanilla and buttermilk. Alternate adding a portion of the dry ingredients and a portion of the wet ingredients until combined.

In a cupcake pan, fill cupcake cups a little over 3/4 full. Place cupcakes in the oven for approx. 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Gently remove cakes from the pan and set aside on a wire rack until cool.

Espresso Buttercream

1/3 c. butter
3 c. powdered sugar
2 T. espresso syrup*
1-2 T. milk

Place all ingredients in a mixing bowl. With an electric mixer, beat on medium speed until the frosting is the desired consistency. Transfer to piping bag and put in refrigerator until ready to pipe the cupcakes!

To make espresso syrup:
Method 1: Combine a double shot of espresso & 1/4 c. brown sugar in a sauce pan. Heat over medium-low until the sugar dissolves.
Method 2: Combine 1/2 c. strong coffee & 1/4 c brown sugar in a sauce pan. Heat over medium-low heat for approximately 10 minutes, until some of the liquid dissolves and the sauce thickens.
**For extra flavor in this buttercream, I added a little spoonful of molasses to the syrup while it was heating!

Now you might be thinking,’wowza wow wowza there is way to many sweet ingredients in these little cakes!’ And honestly, I was worried about it too, but it’s fine. They are just lovely!

Pipe the frosting on the cupcakes and garnish with candied pecans!*

*To candy pecans, simple put one cup of pecans in small saute pan with 1/4 c. maple syrup. Saute over medium heat until the liquid from the syrup has evaporated and the pecans are sticky. They harden as they cool 🙂

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Cupcake Craze Part 2: Pumpkin Spice with Maple Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

The craze goes on! Another perfect fall treat to celebrate the season! These cupcakes were made for my best friend’s going away party in October. She has been my longest & my loyal friend but was leaving me to live in Guam for a year to study as a biologist. I made a ton of cupcakes. The supplies were a little absurd as seen below:

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Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
Batter:
2 c. cake flour
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
2 t. pumpkin pie spice

1/2 c. butter
1 1/4 c. brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 c. buttermilk
3/4 c. pumpkin puree

Preheat oven to 350.

In a bowl, combine dry ingredients. In a mixing bowl, cream the sugar & butter together. In a liquid measuring cup, combine eggs, pumpkin, and buttermilk. Alternate adding a portion of the dry ingredients and a portion of the wet ingredients to the creamed butter & sugar. With a mixer or by hand, combine until smooth.

Fill cupcake cups a little over 3/4 full. Place in the oven for about 15-20 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Transfer to cooling rack & begin on the frosting.

Maple Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

2 – 8 oz. packages cream cheese
1/2 c. butter
3 c. powdered sugar
1 T. maple syrup
1 t. cinnamon

Combine ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Beat together on medium speed until smooth. Transfer to piping bag and place in refrigerator until ready to pipe the cupcakes. Once frosted, garnish the cupcakes with a sprinkle of cinnamon & raw sugar.

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Cupcake Craze Part 1: Apple Spice with Caramel Buttercream

I’ve fallen in love with cupcakes. They are the perfect sized treat and allow for so much creativity. I can put alcohol or fruit or coffee or whatever else in the batter. I can think up delicious buttercream with homemade syrups for flavoring. I can garnish them with drizzles, crumbs, candies, or nuts. I have different frosting tips to make each unique. I’m enamored.

So I have four recipes. Three were made for a party & I never really got good photos of them but they were too delicious and received too many compliments to go unnoticed. Forgive my less-than-beautiful iPhone photography. Better documentation will be provided when I undoubtably make them again.
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Apple Spice Cupcakes with Caramel Buttercream
yields approx 20 cupcakes

Batter:
2 1/2 c. cake flour
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. ginger

1/2 c. butter
2 c. sugar
1 t. vanilla
2 eggs
3/4 c. buttermilk
3 c. shredded cooking apples (I used a variety of types!)

Preheat oven to 350.

In a bowl, combine dry ingredients. In a mixing bowl, cream the sugar & butter together. Add the vanilla. In a small bowl, combine eggs and buttermilk. Alternate adding a portion of the dry ingredients and a portion of the wet ingredients. Once incorporated, add the three cups of apples into the batter with all of the juice that has collected (this helps them be moist and so delicious) until combined.

Fill cupcake cups a little over 3/4 full. Place in the oven for about 15-20 minutes,  or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Place on a cooling rack while we whip up the frosting!

Caramel Buttercream:
1/3. c butter
3 c. powdered sugar
1 t. vanilla
3 T. caramel sauce* (plus extra for garnish)
1-2 T. milk

You can either place everything in a bowl and beat on medium speed with an electric mixer -or- you can cream the sugar and butter with the vanilla and caramel and gradually add the milk to the desired consistency. Frosting is a no-brainer. Do what you do (even if that means spraying powdered sugar all over your tshirt).

Place finished buttercream in a piping bag with fitted tip. Pipe the frosting on the cupcakes. Using a small spoon & quick right to left motions, drizzle remaining caramel sauce on top for a pretty garnish.

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Super Bowl Series – Boneless Wings

In the first quarter of my life, it seems I have depended on others to teach me some of life’s little wisdoms. My mom taught me the importance of simple pleasures like fresh cut flowers, warm cookies, & fuzzy blankets. My sister taught me how to ride a bike & how to do my hair & makeup (though let’s be honest, I have no idea how to do my hair or makeup). My grandma taught me that blackberry brandy is the best nightcap for a long day.

Some lessons come at a great price and carry a great deal of nostalgia. This recipe is one that is weighty in my memory. It was developed between my ex-boyfriend, a lover of fried chicken wings, and me, a reformed vegetarian who didn’t love the thought of eating meat from a bone. It’s one of those recipes that you learn because you care about someone & want to make them happy.

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Spicy BBQ Boneless Wings
yields: 2-3 servings
Needs:
2 small chicken breasts

Wing ‘Batter’:
1 c. flour
2 t. salt
1/2 t. paprika
1/2 t. cayenne pepper
1/4 t. garlic powder

1 c. milk
1 egg

Combine dry ingredients in a bowl. Chop chicken breast into bite-sized pieces and coat in flour mixture. Set aside for one hour.
DSC_9553Combine milk & egg in a bowl. Dip coated chicken pieces in the wet mixture and roll in the flour mixture a second time.

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In a cast iron or heavy skillet, fill with oil so it will cover about half of the chicken chunks (I always fry things in my cast iron because it has good, even heat. ‘Tis the cook’s choice. Fry however you love to fry things).  Heat the oil to medium/medium-high heat.

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Place the wings in the oil and fry about two minutes on each side, until lightly browned. Transfer to a paper-towel lined bowl until ready to toss.

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Spicy Wing Sauce
1/4 c. Sweet Baby Ray’s Honey BBQ (or whatever BBQ you have)
1/8 c. hot sauce
1/8 c. sriracha
1 T. Butter

In a small saucepan, heat ingredients until the butter has melted & the sauce is smooth.

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Place sauce in a large bowl. Toss with fried chicken chunks to coat.

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Serve immediately with ranch or blue cheese or celery & a cold beer 🙂

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