Monday, October 21, 2013

Momma Sally's Brownies

This post is going to be short and sweet - just like Momma Sally, Gabe's wonderful grandmother!  She grew up in the Midwest meaning she's genetically predisposed to having the cooking gene.  She's also a fantastic gardener, brilliant storyteller, devout churchgoer and an all around amazing matriarch to this family.  
Isn't she adorable??

Don't let that sweet exterior fool you though, she's tough as nails and fiercely independent.  Even though we aren't related by blood, I think of her as my own grandmother - the last living grandparent I have.  Thanks for being such a wonderful person and example for the rest of us, Sal.  xoxoxo

These brownies are awesome.  Very simple ingredients and a great brownie comes out of the oven every time.  Excellent basic recipe that I like to throw lots of different things in to and see how badly I can annoy Gabe.

Probably Gabe's biggest annoyance factor - nuts!

Momma Sally's Famous Brownies

makes 1 8x8" or 9x9" pan - could be considered a single serving size if one tries hard enough

2 sq (2 oz) unsweetened baking chocolate (found in the baking aisle)
1 stick butter (1/2 cup)
1 c sugar
2 eggs
1/2 c flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt

Preheat oven at 350 degrees.  Melt chocolate and butter together, either in the microwave (for 30 second intervals, stirring between) or over a double boiler until just melted. Set aside to cool slightly.

First add the sugar to the chocolate mixture, then vanilla, salt, eggs, and finally the flour, stirring only enough to incorporate the flour.  Do not over beat.

Bake at 350, for 25-30 minutes. The edges should be pulling away, and the top of the center of the brownies be a little springy then you gently tap with your finger. You can also test by inserting a knife in the middle.


Of course I couldn't leave well enough alone.  Sometimes I knock down the sugar to about 1/2 c if I know I'll be adding in another sweet ingredient.  I've lessened the flour as well to make a more fudgy brownie.  Play with it and make it your own!

You can also try some different combinations of the below.  Most on this list would annoy Gabe.. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Super Simple One Hour Chicken Soup

Instead of beer, I need to invent some sort of chicken soup tap for my house.  But a beer tap would be nice too, esp. for football season.  

Go Hawks!
I didn't realize this before but now that I have a kid in daycare the beginning of Fall doesn't just mean I get to bust out the boots and sweaters, it also means the start of  cold/flu season complete with snotty-nosed hacking children (mine included, unfortunately).  When Kuen first started, I don't think she made it past her first week before she got her first cold.  Then she just kept getting back to back to back to back colds.  Four colds within the first 5 weeks I think.  

"Oh, their immune systems need it!"  

"They'll rarely get sick after that!!"

I know, but it still sucks.

Kuenie looooves her some chicken soup, especially when she's not feeling well.  With a little bit of prep, this soup takes about an hour from start to finish - like to the table.  I take some super easy shortcuts that allow you to trim some time out of the cooking and you don't even have to skimp on the flavor.  I feel like an infomercial - "it slices, it dices, it juliennes!" 

GENIUS Time Saving Notes (no, seriously): 

Make sure you start a separate pot of boiling water (or chicken stock if you're using it) to add to the soup so you can cut down on time in bringing everything to a boil before simmering.  I have an electric water boiler/warmer so I've always got boiling water on tap, amazing how much it accelerates cooking time.  Plus it's so nice to have when you want a quick cup of coffee in the a.m., tea before bed or whatever you'd need scalding hot water for.

De-bone rotisserie chicken when you get home and pour off the gravy that has accumulated into a separate container.  You can save some time and have the chicken already prepared and skim the fat off after it solidifies in the fridge.

Thyme: Fresh thyme sprigs can be a real pill to strip so if you're in a hurry, just tie a bundle very tightly with some kitchen twine and throw the whole thing into the soup pot to simmer.  Fish the bundle out when you're done simmering.  Or just use dried, jeez.

I use my Vitamix on the lowest setting for minced veggies.  Best thing I found is that if you mince raw cauliflower, it looks like rice in the soup so I can mentally fake myself out to save on the carbs.  Everyone needs a Vitamix.  And a Roomba.

Wash and pare your veggies when you get home from the store.  Makes cooking fresh so much easier than if you had to start from scratch.  I fill up my sink and add about 1 c of white vinegar to wash produce, then rinse w/ cold water.  

Soups generally freeze very well so if you haven't found a way to put chicken soup on tap at your home either, just make a huge pot, portion out and stock your freezer.  You can even used gallon freezer bags - stack and freeze for quick thawing.  Don't forget to write the name and date on the bag BEFORE filling.  So you don't pull out what looks like a science experiment 6 mo. later w/ no idea what the contents are of the bag.

Unless you're planning on eating the entire pot in one meal, I don't recommend boiling pasta or rice directly in the soup.  After a few days, your soup is going to get gummy and thick..not my fave.  Instead, while the soup simmers, in a separate pot you can start rice, egg noodles, any type of short cut pasta, grilled cheese or heat up a baguette to serve alongside.  Mmmmmmmmmm. 

Best picture I could get - sorry the cheese looks gross.
They were pretty curls before melting, trust me.

One Hour Chicken Soup

Makes 4-6 servings, easily scalable

1 yellow onion, diced (baseball size, or 1/2 a large)
2-2 celery stalks
1-2 large carrots
1 tsp fresh thyme, minced (or 1/2 tsp dried)
1 bay leaf
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 rotisserie chicken (store bought)
1 tbsp light cooking oil (I like light olive or canola)
Salt, pepper

optional additions:
2 c minced kale (I throw my kale in the blender and mince it really fine so it just blends into the soup - no picking around that, ha!)
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 - 14 oz. canned tomatoes
1 bell pepper, diced

1 c. cauliflower - minced (blender)
2 cans chicken stock
chicken bouillon cubes
fresh flat leaf parsley, garnish
grated parmigiana reggiano, garnish

Heat stock pot over medium high heat.  When the pan is hot, add oil until it shimmers in the pan, add diced onion and sprinkle w/ 1/4 tsp salt - saute 5 min, until slightly wilted.  Add celery, carrots, garlic, bay leaf and thyme, saute another 5-10 min.  While the veggies cook, remove half of the meat from the chicken and dice.  Stir in any other optional veggies at this point as well.  Make sure to stir occasionally so they don't burn.  If the pan is getting too hot, pull the heat back to med or med/low - all pans and stoves will vary.  

When the veggies are sauteed, add any of the juices in the bottom of the rotisserie tray to bump up the flavor.  Add diced chicken, (chicken stock and/or bouillon) and cover with liquid of your choice until it covers the veggies by about 2-3 inches.  Simmer for 30-40 minutes, salt and pepper to taste.