Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Chicken Stock & Chicken Tortellini Soup

I'm all for the convenience of packaged chicken broth, but I do enjoy the sense of accomplishment that comes with cooking from scratch – especially when the process naturally follows a meal I'm already making.

The next time you roast a chicken leave a little meat on the frame and make yourself some chicken stock. It's almost as easy as boiling water – seriously!

You can flavor the broth with whatever herbs and vegetables you have on hand. Experiment until you find a combination you like best. When you're done, you'll have enough chicken stock to make a fragrant Chicken & Tortellini soup (recipe below), plus more to pop into the freezer for later – about 10 cups in all.

P.S. What's the difference between broth and stock, you ask? Traditionally, stock is made from bones. The collagen in the bones breaks down into a gelatin that adds body and a thicker texture to the liquid. Broth is made from meat and seasonings. Since I use both meat and bones to make this soup base, I'm using the terms broth and stock interchangeably.

Mangia! Mangia!

Chicken Stock

1 frame from a 4 to 5 pound chicken
1 large white onion, peeled and cut in quarters
1 shallots, peeled and cut in half
3 peeled carrots
3 celery stalks
2 o 3 crushed or minced garlic cloves
1 lemon, halved
Fresh herbs sprigs, tied into a bouquet with kitchen twine: thyme, rosemary, oregano, parsley or whatever you have on hand
Salt and pepper to taste

Place chicken frame in a 6-quart pot. Add vegetables, herbs and salt and pepper. Fill pot with water to cover chicken frame. Cover pot with lid. Bring to a boil and maintain a rolling boil for about 30 minutes. Lower heat to simmer and cook for 4 hours or longer, keeping pot partially covered.

Let broth cool. Skim any fat from top. Remove chicken frame, vegetables and herbs from pot and discard. Place a colander on top of a large pot or bowl and pour stock through strainer. (You could also use cheesecloth in this step.)

You can use your broth right away or place broth into a covered pot or container and refrigerate overnight. The next day, skim off any fat on the surface. Now you have a delicious base for soup.

Chicken & Tortellini Soup

9 ounces cheese tortellini
4 cups chicken stock
2 cups cooked chicken, shredded or cubed
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional: 4 ounces spinach, Swiss chard or baby kale
Grated or shaved parmesan cheese for garnish

Cook tortellini according to package directions. While tortellini cooks, heat broth on stove top in medium to large pot. Add tortellini and chicken to hot stock and heat through. If using greens, stir them into soup just until wilted.

Ladle servings into bowls and top with parmesan.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Amy's Roasted Chicken

About seven years ago, I taught myself to roast a chicken. I've been roasting birds ever since. I consider it my signature dish. It's one way I know my French heritage is legit.

If someone asked me my favorite meal, it would be this: roasted chicken, green salad, roasted or scalloped potatoes, baguette, red wine.

The roasted chicken is super yummy and super easy. And sometimes I make it for Easter dinner.


Amy's Roasted Chicken
Whole chicken
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon garlic powder

Preheat oven to 425. Remove bird from refrigerator and let sit for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, melt the butter in the microwave and mix together the dry ingredients. Brush the melted butter all over the bird. Press the salt and herb mixture into the bird, covering the entire bird. Place in a roasting pan breast side up. Cook for 15 minutes at 425. Reduce temp to 375 and cook for 60-70 minutes.

Carve. Or, in my case, have hubby carve. (He does a much better job.) Enjoy. Save carcass to make chicken stock and chicken soup.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Spring on Toast (featuring eggs and asparagus)

Last Friday, on the first day of Spring, Erin dropped by Chez George for a little culinary date. Erin brought her son Danny (he's adorbs!) and my daughters Lucy and Penny enjoyed their first "babysitting" stint. She also brought a yummy lemon pound cake, so look for that in a future post.

Erin and I decided to team up today to tell you about our main course, which we shall call Spring on Toast. I'd seen a friend's yummy-looking Facebook photo of toast topped with asparagus, sunnyside up eggs and goat cheese--all finished off under the broiler. (Shout out to you, Kate Y.!)

This dish was the perfect choice for the first day of Spring, a meatless Friday before Lent and for a dinner without the husbands, who are both opposed to "breakfast" for dinner. The hubbies are wrong, just wrong, btw.

Here was our conversation while eating.

Erin (while shoveling yolk-y bites of asparagus into her mouth at warp speed): OMG. Amy. This is the most delicious thing I've ever tasted. It's, like, for realz Spring on Toast.

Amy (admiring the crisp-tender spears of asparagus blanketing the toast): It does taste like Spring. This asparagus is absolutely perfect. Seasonal vegetables rock my world.

Erin (now attempting to lick up the puddles of yolk pooling on her plate): I think I'm going to make this for lunch every day now.

Amy (moving her foot just in time to avoid Danny driving over it with a Barbie jeep): So good. So, so good. SO GOOD.

XOXO and let's get cooking!
Amy & Erin

Spring on Toast (featuring eggs and asparagus)
Olive oil
Cracked pepper
Multigrain bread, sliced
Goat cheese

Trim asparagus and place on cookie sheet. Drizzle with a little olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake at 425 for 5 minutes or until slightly tender, but not overdone.

Butter each side of bread and "toast" each side in a skillet. Place toasted bread on a cookie sheet. Top with asparagus.

Cook eggs sunnyside up until the whites are set, just a couple minutes on medium or medium high. Slide eggs on top of the asparagus. Two per piece of toast. Note: This is a two person job and it helps if you and your culinary partner utter things like "careful, careful, careful" and "eek, eek, eek," as you try to coax the eggs on top of the toast, keeping them intact. Top eggs with goat cheese.

Broil on high until the goat cheese is softened and warmed through, about 5 minutes. (Watch carefully when you are broiling! Some broilers are hotter than the surface of the sun and will set your toast on fire in less than a minute. Erin may or may not know this from experience.) Remove and top with cracked pepper. Eat immediately.

P.S. Amy was kind enough to send the leftover Spring on Toast home with Erin, and it reheated beautifully. 425 degrees for 10 minutes and the egg was still runny and perfect.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Shrimp Curry Under Pressure

I don't love grocery shopping. But there are two things that make this chore a little easier for me to swallow.

First, a sale.

Second, and more important, is the ability to shop online, 24/7, and have someone else round up the goods and place them in my car when I wheel up at the curb after a long day at the office.

So when jumbo shrimp recently went on sale for $7 a pound, they went into my virtual grocery cart in a snap. Then I had to decide what to do with them. I had the loose idea of making a shrimp curry.

As I set out to prepare dinner, I realized one snag in my plan: I wasn't going to have time to prep the veggies, devein the shrimp and wait for the curry goodness to simmer away on the stovetop. Not unless I was down with eating after 8 p.m. and getting the kids to bed after 9 p.m. Sigh. This happens a lot as a working mom who is as ambitious putting dinner on the table as she is at the office. Sometimes I bite off more than I can chew. The pressure!

Enter the pressure cooker. So aptly named. Where has that thing been all my life? I now believe every working mother needs a pressure cooker AND a slow cooker if she wants to put dinner on the table. The slow cooker is great for when you are thinking and planning ahead. The pressure cooker is great for when you forgot to plan and need dinner to be ready NOW! Both are life savers. Along with the personal shoppers at my local grocery store.


Shrimp Curry Under Pressure

Note that while the recipe below calls for a pressure cooker, you could make everything stovetop or use the slow cooker to cook everything but the shrimp.

3 carrots, peeled and diced
Green beans, trimmed (a handful or two will do)
15 oz. coconut milk (I use light)
Fresh basil
1 heaping teaspoon curry
1 1/2 tablespoon butter
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 lime (or more if you want to garnish with lime)
Rice (I use jasmine)

Add carrots, green beans, coconut milk, a few basil leaves, and curry to the pressure cooker. Add salt and pepper to taste. Seal and set for six minutes on high.

While the veggies and coconut milk are cooking away in the pressure cooker, make the shrimp.

Melt butter in a skillet over medium to medium high heat. Add shrimp and season with salt and pepper. After about a minute or so add a squirt of sriracha and another of honey. How much is up to you and your taste buds.  Cook until shrimp are pink and opaque, about three minutes total. Transfer shrimp to a plate.

When time is up on the pressure cooker, do a quick release. Add in juice of 1/2 lime to the coconut milk and veggies. Stir in shrimp and heat through. Serve over rice. Garnish with lime wedges and basil leaves. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Traditional Italian Meatballs

Meatballs – easy to make and easy to use. And oh so easy to eat. Pop a few on top of spaghetti or pizza, bake some into a lasagna or cover them in cheese inside a warm submarine roll.

Meatball subs are exactly what my family eats on frenetic nights when we are rushing from after school meetings, to sports practices to church activities and somehow need to sandwich (pun intended) in a quick and tasty meal.

One thing I love about making meatballs is that my boys can help. They get a kick out of rolling the meat mixture into golf ball-sized yumminess. My youngest, Sam, helped me with our latest batch. Meatballs freeze well, too. After one recent Christmas, my freezer was stocked-full for months with the dozens of meatballs left from the 90(!!) prepared by my Mom and Grampy.

So make a double batch and store some for later. When you need a fast meal, warm in the microwave, in the oven or in a pot of your favorite tomato sauce.

This is my family's traditional Italian meatball recipe, with one slight change. My Mom uses 1 cup of breadcrumbs for every 1 pound of meat. Too bready for me, so I use fewer breadcrumbs. Feel free to add your own touches here by using ground turkey or chicken, adding chopped onion, experimenting with different seasonings or swapping out some of the dry herbs for fresh herbs you have on hand.

Meatballs are very forgiving and fun – and that's the point!

Mangia! Mangia!

Traditional Italian Meatballs & Meatball Subs

1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground pork
1 pound ground veal (you can replace with beef or pork)
4 eggs
1 1/2 to 3 cups Italian seasoned bread crumbs
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried basil
2 tablespoons garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat over to 350 degrees. Place meat in large bowl and make a well in the center. Add all other ingredients into the well and mix thoroughly. I recommend using your hands. The consistency should not be too wet or too dry.

Form large or small meatballs and place in foil pans or pans lined with aluminum foil. This is where the kids can help. If you make the meatballs the size of a golf ball you should get about 36.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or longer if your meatballs are larger.

If you plan to serve these meatballs with tomato sauce, let them simmer in the sauce for a bit before eating. This nicely flavors both the sauce and the meatballs.

Meatball Subs

4 submarine or hoagie buns or a large baguette (a softer bread works a little better here)
3 to 4 golf ball-sized meatballs per sandwich
Tomato sauce
Sliced or shredded provolone and/or mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice buns lengthwise. Scoop out some of the inner breading to make a pocket for the meatballs.

Place buns on cookie sheet. Put 3 to 4 meatballs and some sauce inside each bun. Top with cheese.

Toast sandwiches in oven until cheese melts. Enjoy with a green salad.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Cincy Chic...that's us, alright!

Honk! Honk!

Hear that? Yeah, I was just tooting my own horn for a minute there. (Did it sound a little like a migrating goose to you, too?)

I am absolutely tickled to announce that Hot Dinner Happy Home is featured in the Best Kept Secrets issue of Cincy Chic, an online magazine for the lovely ladies of Cincinnati. You can check out the article here to read up on Hot Dinner Happy Home and see a picture of me with my favorite haircut ever.

If you're joining us from Cincy Chic, welcome to the party! You're in for a good time. You can continue the conversation with Hot Dinner Happy Home over on Facebook or follow us on Twitter (Erin, Amy, Andrea) and Instagram.

And since we're the kind of gals who like to feed our friends, here's a Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Mini Muffin for you.

Let's get cooking!

P.S. Hungry for more? Check out all of our recipes here.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Stovetop Veggie Macaroni & Cheese

Hungry for delicious, creamy pasta that is as healthy as it is delicious? I've got you covered.

Want dinner on the table in 20 minutes? Well, here you go.

Trying to trick your kids into eating vegetables? Have I got the meal for you!

Stovetop Veggie Macaroni & Cheese. It's the answer to all of your dinner questions. While the pasta cooks, stir together a creamy sauce rich with nutty Parmesan cheese. Frozen butternut squash puree (so easy!) adds depth and that glowing orange hue that will make your kids think it came from a blue box. Next thing you know your whole family will be begging for seconds...picky kids and meat-loving husbands included.

Let's get cooking!

Stovetop Veggie Macaroni & Cheese
Adapted from Kitchen Daily and inspired by Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese
Serves: 6

16 ounces small pasta (I used little shells.)
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups warm milk (I used 2%.)
12 ounces frozen butternut squash puree*, thawed
1 1/2 cups shredded Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper
Pinch of nutmeg

Cook pasta in salted water until al dente according to package instructions.

Meanwhile, melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in flour and cook until it begins to turn light golden brown and smells a bit toasty, about 2 minutes. Very slowly whisk in warm milk until it's smooth. (Using warm milk helps prevent lumps.) Continue to cook, whisking constantly, until the milk begins to thicken, about 5 minutes.

Stir in squash puree. Then stir in Parmesan cheese until it's melted and creamy. Season sauce to taste with salt, pepper, and a pinch of nutmeg. Stir in cooked pasta and serve immediately.

*Frozen butternut squash puree is typically sold in a little box like frozen chopped spinach. It is fantastically convenient and delicious.