tex-mex chicken and black bean soup

Chicken Black Bean SoupSometimes recipes will sit in my Living Cookbook database for a long time before I get around to trying them. Other recipes get made right away when I come across them. Terry had marked a number of recipes in the November issue of Cooking Light for addition to the database. This recipe caught my attention.

It includes chicken, black beans, diced tomatoes, corn, and bell pepper. Spices include chili powder, cumin, black pepper, and chipotle chiles in adobo sauce. The nice thing is that you simply throw everything in the crock pot and leave it. I chopped up the chicken at the outset rather shredding it at the end as the recipe specified, so when it was time to eat all I needed to do was serve it.

The recipe made for a nice hearty autumn supper.

recipe fail

I write a lot about my successful recipes here, but not every attempt is a success.

shrimp on the grillI recently tried an orange-chipotle shrimp recipe which I had successfully made before. The first hurdle was the frozen shrimp that I bought. It was “deveined-tail-on easy to shell and ready to cook.” When I opened the package the shrimp was icy. Not just frozen, but icy. I attempted to remove the shells in the defrost process and in the cooking. But when the dish got to the table there were a couple of shrimp still not properly shelled.

Big fail from my perspective. I’m not Alice Waters or Julia Child, but I do take pride in my cooking. (Though, Julia, I recall, sometimes owned up to her failures.) Terry liked the meal but I was unhappy with the shelling fail.

You can’t win ’em all.

paprika chicken

paprika chickenI saw this recipe for paprika chicken on Trisha Yearwood’s Food Network program. The recipe called for a whole chicken cut up; I used boneless leg meat. The recipe called for onions, which I omitted as usual. I pretty much followed the recipe with respect to the seasonings, browning the chicken, and using bell pepper, tomato paste, broth, and sour cream.

The recipe took less time than the recipe specified because I used boneless chicken rather than bone-in chicken pieces. It turned out quite well.

Terry enjoyed it, which is always the most important thing.

real whipped cream

Terry and I had a good Thanksgiving. We were joined by Terry’s sister Julie who drove up from El Cajon with Laura, long part of the family, who would have been Julie’s mother-in-law had it not been for a fatal car accident decades earlier. With Terry recovering from her knee-replacement surgery we chose not to cook but rather ordered a take-out pack from Hometown Buffet.

whipping creamThe package included two pies, a pumpkin pie that we enjoyed here and a cherry pie that we took out to my brother’s house later in the day. I made the decision, without really telling anyone, that we would have fresh homemade whipped cream. The day before Thanksgiving I made a dinner that called for heavy cream in the recipe, so instead of buying a small single-use carton of cream I bought a large one.

I put the cream in my Kitchen Aid stand mixer bowl, threw in a little sugar, attached the wire whisk and turned the mixer on high. I had a few moments of panic when the cream did not become whipped, but I kept my Kitchen Aid running, kicked it up higher, and soon, voilà!, I had whipped cream.

Terry, Julie, and Laura were surprised and pleased. I was happy with my accomplishment. It made for a nice touch on an already fine Thanksgiving.

cod in spicy Thai sauce

The source recipe for this meal was pan-roasted cod in spicy Thai broth. It appeared in the October 2014 Coastal Living, and was excerpted from the then just-released The Pollan Family Table.

cod in spicy Thai sauceThe broth contains coconut milk, lime juice, garlic, red curry paste, dry white wine, fish sauce, sugar, coriander, ginger, and tamarind paste. I failed to put coconut milk on the shopping list, and so used leftover condensed milk I had in the refrigerator. I bought the lime and failed to use it. That’s me. I couldn’t find tamarind paste so I used a quarter of a package of tamarind soup mix.

It was supposed to be a broth. It came out a sauce. It was marvelous.

I cooked the cod on the stove top rather than in the oven.

The overall result was superb. I rarely give a recipe five stars in my database, but this was one.

berries: fresh or frozen?

frozen berriesI wrote a while back about a technique I learned about on The Kitchen for increasing the refrigerator life of fresh berries. It involved rinsing the berries in a vinegar and water solution and then another thorough rinse in water.

It worked well and the berries did keep longer, I believe. But some berries still did go bad sometimes and it was a little bit of work. Most people who know something about nutrition say that frozen fruits and vegetables are just as healthy as fresh. And in the case of berries, frozen is generally cheaper. After all, when not in season in the region, berries in the store are shipped in from other climes and that is at the cost of a heavy carbon footprint.

Sometimes frozen is better. (Of course that means remembering to move some berries from the freezer to the refrigerator the night before to defrost for breakfast.)

rotini with alfredo sauce and sausage

rotini with alfredo sauceI was looking for something simple for a Sunday dinner and so I put this together with Terry’s help.

I cooked my new favorite pasta, rotini, in boiling water. In this case I used three-color rotini. I sliced up two mild Italian sausages and cooked them in a frying pan. I drained the rotini, put it back in the sauce pan and added half a jar of Alfredo sauce. I cooked under medium heat for a few minutes.

I put the rotini and Alfredo sauce on two plates and topped with the sausage. A quick, simple Sunday dinner.