Friday, January 27, 2012

En-Thai-sing soup: Chicken-coconut with vegetables

I've made several soups and crock pot recipes over the past few weeks, but nothing that excited me enough to say, "I really need to blog about this." Until today!

Brandon's Thai chicken-coconut soup with vegetables
From a fairly lame husband vs. wife column on CNN.

32 ounces chicken broth
1 13.5 ounce can coconut milk
1/3 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
1 pound boneless chicken breast
4 garlic cloves
3 jalapeños
6 shiitake mushrooms, sliced thinly
4 medium-sized carrots, sliced thinly
6 ounces water chestnuts, sliced thinly
6 stalks fresh lemongrass, peeled
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
1 bunch fresh cilantro
6 ounces frozen corn
3 tablespoons Thai fish sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
Dash red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste

  • Don't want to squeeze limes? Me either. Your supermarket produce section sells lime juice for a reason.
  • Don't know how to prepare jalapeños? Me either. Hot peppers are scary. Thank heavens for YouTube.
    • Sub-tip: Wear gloves, especially if you have a paper cut and/or are prone to biting your fingernails, even hours after the fact. Yow.
  • Squeezy Herb TubesCan't find fresh lemongrass? I actually did (props to ShopRite!), but they didn't have enough. Right below the fresh stuff were what I like to call Squeezy Herb Tubes by Gourmet Garden. I think the name will catch on. One Squeezy Lemongrass Tube equals 6 fresh lemongrass stalks. Perfect! I also got a Squeezy Ginger Tube because I hardly ever use ginger and didn't want to buy a whole root for one tablespoon.
  • I bought a bottle of Thai fish sauce without checking to see if I already had some. Because really, why would I have Thai fish sauce? But I did. So now I have two bottles.  What's a girl to do with so much fish sauce?
  • One bunch of cilantro is way too much for garnish. I'm drying the rest for use in my future spice rack.
  • My supermarket produce section sells fresh, pre-sliced water chestnuts! Also picked up a container of bamboo shoots. Easy.
Let's make some soup!

Finely chop the garlic and 2 jalapeños. Sauté with olive oil over medium heat for a few minutes.

Garlic and jalapeños sautéing

Dice chicken and add to pan.  Season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes.  Sauté for a few more minutes. Don't cook the chicken all the way through. It will cook more in the soup.

Partially-cooked chicken with garlic, jalapeños, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes

Add chicken broth, coconut milk, lime juice, fish sauce, lemongrass, soy sauce and ginger to a big pot. Stir and bring to a gentle boil for 2-3 minutes, then reduce heat to simmer. Add carrots, mushrooms, corn and water chestnuts (and bamboo shoots, if you got 'em). Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Simmering soup

Slice remaining jalapeño and add to soup.  Simmer for 10 more minutes.  Remove lemongrass stalks (if you used fresh).  Ladle into bowls and garnish with cilantro.

Let's eat!
Excuse the lame bowl. I was packing my lunch for work.

If you read the CNN column and are observant, you may have noticed the shiitake mushrooms in the ingredients list, but not in the recipe. That's because the bonehead who wrote it neglected to say what to do with them. I didn't realize this until after the soup was finished and cooled, so now I have a bunch of unused mushrooms. I'd imagine they get thrown in with the carrots so I added that above, but I'll have to wait until next time to find out for sure.

I had to stop myself from sneaking tastes while it was simmering. The lemongrass, lime juice and coconut work so well together. I may add more coconut milk next time, as it was overshadowed a bit by the citrus. The jalapeños add just enough heat for my taste. I don't eat the slices, but I do eat the minced pieces. If you like it hot, consider adding more jalapeños and/or red pepper flakes. Serve with bread if you're looking for more substance. I've been eating an Italian soft roll with each bowl. Perfect for dipping! I've brought this soup in for lunch all week, and every time I take that first spoonful, I do a little happy dance in my seat. I love it that much.

Note: This can be a gluten free soup if you use fresh lemongrass and ginger, and gluten free soy sauce. Squeezy Herb Tubes may contain trace amounts of gluten.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Christmas Cookies and Memories

Taken at Easter, not Christmas, but similar setup.
When I was a kid, my mom baked cookies every Christmas. She'd go all out, baking dozens of cookies for friends, family, coworkers, teachers, you name it. It was quite the undertaking. Each batch went in a holiday-themed tin, which I suspect she bought on clearance after the holidays. Frugal, she was. I would "help," but as I was but a young reluctant domestic, I probably just got in the way. She didn't mind.

My brother and I spent Christmas 2011 apart, but thought the same thing at the same time a few days before: We should bake Mom's cookies this year. Perhaps because it was the tenth anniversary of our last Christmas with Mom.

So, we took to the internets to find recipes.  The AKA's are what we called the cookies as kids.

Peanut Butter Chips and Jelly Bars (AKA "PBJ Cookies")
From Hershey's
  • Fair warning: The dough will be dry and crumbly when you prepare it. It's OK, I promise! The jelly moistens it up.
  • Not a grape jelly fan? Use whatever flavor you like. I prefer raspberry.
Magic Cookie Bars (AKA "Coconut Chocolate Bars")
From Eagle
  • The Eagle Company is smart to create a recipe which requires 14 ounces of sweetened condensed milk. Know why? Because Eagle is the only company that makes 14 ounce cans of sweetened condensed milk. The other brands at the supermarket came in 12 ounce cans. Would the cookies have missed those extra 2 ounces? I didn't want to take that risk. Eagle don't play.
  • It's way cheaper to buy graham crackers than graham cracker crumbs. Besides, crushing graham crackers by hand is a great way to release pent up aggression. Not that I have any.
  • I do not recall Mom including nuts in her bars, but I used chopped almonds and thought they were a nice addition.
Those are the only two recipes I attempted. They are both incredibly easy to make, incredibly hard to screw up, and incredibly delicious. No pictures, because I eated them (I shared!). 

Other cookies recalled from (mostly my brother's) memory include:
  • "Spiral cookies with sugary glaze"
  • "Something with saltines, chocolate, or caramel, or maybe both"
  • "Cornflakes covered in chocolate"
  • "Chocolate balls (heh)"
I'll give myself more time and try more recipes next year.  Maybe someday I'll make them with my kid.

If you remember additional cookies made by Mom, leave a comment and let me know! Even a vague description will probably jog my memory. Dad actually unearthed her recipes, so I will be making copies next time I visit.