Tag Archives: mama D’s kitchen

Soup Season Has Arrived: Chipotle Cheddar Cheese Soup

It’s soup season. The calendar tells me so, but here in the Midwest we have had a very mild January…in fact it is almost one for the record books. There has been virtually no snow and the temperature has flirted with the 60’s. Still, it is soup season so soup is making many appearances in Mama D’s Kitchen.

Armed with plenty of homemade stock in the freezer I am embarking on serious soup adventures. My first stop was revisiting a pure comfort soup, Broccoli Cheddar Cheese, to be exact. What could elevate this creamy classic? Enter a block of Chipotle Cheddar Cheese. This is a white cheddar studded with bits of chipotle pepper. It is available in a few markets and while bringing a bit of heat is still a sharp cheddar that will please most tastes.

I started with onions, carrots and garlic softened in a little olive oil. My stock of choice was vegetable as “Meatless Monday” was looming. I simmered these together for half an hour or so before transforming it into creamy cheesy goodness. There was going to be a lot of cheddar cheese going into this so I dialed down the dairy fat by using a combination of evaporated skim milk and low-fat buttermilk. A flour and stock slurry insured pleasant thickness and some Worcestershire Sauce and Chipotle Tabasco Sauce added some zip. I added a little Chipotle Chile Powder. Depending on how hot you want to go, this could go as high as your palate can bear.

I blanched the broccoli to help keep its vivid green color and added a cup of frozen corn to keep things interesting.

This is actually a very quick soup to make. It would also lend itself to many variations. The addition of buttermilk was an experiment that succeeded. It added creaminess as well as a little zing to the flavor. If you can’t find chipotle cheddar use any sharp cheddar cheese.

Chipotle Cheddar Soup with Broccoli and Corn
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Chipotle Cheddar Soup with Broccoli and Corn
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot. Add the onions, carrots, and garlic. Cook for 5 minutes or until the veggies are beginning to brown.
  2. Add 1/4 cup broth to the pot and stir scraping up any brown bits. Cook for a minute or so to reduce slightly.
  3. Add 3-1/2 cups of stock, the allspice, and chipotle powder to the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 10 - 15 minutes.
  4. While the stock simmers, blanch the broccoli. Dump the broccoli into a pot of salted boiling water and cook for 2 minutes. Immediately remove the broccoli and submerge in a bowl of ice water. Drain well and set aside.
  5. Once the stock mixture starts smelling wonderful, add the evaporated milk and the buttermilk. Shake together the remaining 1/4 cup of stock and the flour. Slowly pour it into the soup stirring constantly. Continue to stir until it thickens.
  6. Add the broccoli, corn, Worcestershire Sauce and Chipotle Tabasco. Cook for several minutes.
  7. Over low heat, stir in the cheese, continuing to stir until it is melted. Give it a taste and adjust any seasoning. Serve.
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The soup pot sits at the ready for its next great adventure…I wonder where we will wind up?

Nonna’s Cookbook: Entry #1 Scampi

I’ve been sharing my cooking  (and life) adventures here for several years. Here, I’m Mama D, home cook and blogger. I answer to a few other names as well. I’m Mom to my sons, Wife to Papa Diehl, and proudly, I’m Nonna to my beautiful grandchildren. As the holidays draw to a close, the magic of family is the star on my Christmas tree.

Sitting under that tree right now is a small book that was a special gift from my grandson, Jakob. It’s a “fill in the blanks” book designed to preserve recipes. As a new year dawns, one of my “resolutions” is to use this book to record my favorite recipes. It is an exercise in an art that has been lost to me for many years, and perhaps something my grandchildren will look at one day.

I know in this day and age most of us preserve our recipes and many of our thoughts and ideas, for that matter, on the computer. We post them on social media to be shared with an audience of friends, family, and total strangers. It’s easy, it’s quick, but there is a certain amount of de-personalization in the whole process. We don’t write letters any more, and the paper trail we leave is in the “Cloud” wherever that may be. Most children aren’t learning to write cursive and struggle to read the few words that are written on a birthday card. I’ll get off my soapbox, now. I’m not against modern technology, far from it ( this blog is small proof of that). So, while I will continue to share my recipes here, many will also live on in that little book that’s under the Christmas tree.For the first entry in my cookbook I’m sharing my Scampi recipe. I’ve learned that the word Scampi in Italian means prawn (a.k.a. a large shrimp) thus making “Shrimp Scampi” somewhat redundant. Translations notwithstanding, this is my favorite way to make shrimp, no matter where they are going to wind up. In this recipe, the magic is in the marinade. The ingredients are simple and always available in Mama D’s Kitchen.Lots of garlic, red pepper flakes, lemon zest, and parsley mingle with lemon juice, dry vermouth, and quite a bit more than a little extra virgin olive oil. This mixture gives the sweetly bland shrimp a culinary pair of big girl panties and prepares them for any kind of introduction to heat.After a few hours resting in-robed in plastic within the cool confines of the refrigerator, they are ready for anything; a hot grill basket, a quick bake in the oven, a turn in a skillet, or a brief visit under the broiler. Where they go after that is up to the cook’s imagination, but it is always delicious and never results in left overs.

So here without further ado is Mama D’s Scampi recipe.

Scampi
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Scampi
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Dry the peeled and deveined shrimp between paper towels, then place them in a zip top bag.
  2. Mix the remaining ingredients together in a small bowl. Pour the marinade into the bag of shrimp. Seal the bag and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, but no longer than 5.
  3. Grilling: Heat a grill basket over a medium high fire. Spray the basket with non-stick spray. Remove the shrimp from the bag and add to the grill basket. Cook stirring gently until the shrimp turn pink and curl slightly. This takes 7 -10 minutes.
  4. Broiling: Place the shrimp in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with a little of the marinade. Broil 3 - 4 minutes. turn the shrimp and broil for 3-4 minutes more.
  5. Baking: Lay the shrimp on the baking sheet as for broiling. Bake 3-4 minutes, turn the shrimp and broil 3-4 minutes more
  6. Frying: Heat a large skillet and add about 2 tablespoons of the marinade. Add the shrimp and saute, turning frequently until they turn pink .
  7. Once the shrimp are slightly curled and pretty in pink remove them from the heat source and serve as an appetizer or main dish.
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The recipe will live on as part of this blog post. It is also preserved as the official first entry in “Nonna’s Cookbook.”

Happy New Year!

Autumn Connections; A Tale of Two Pizzas

img_2802Pizza and I go back a long way. I remember the pizza my aunt made. It was thick and chewy, baked on a rectangular sheet pan. She would cut it into what seemed like giant squares with scissors. It was lightly topped with tomatoes, cheese and the occasional anchovy. It was heaven. One can’t live in Chicago without experiencing the Pizza at Gino’s or Due’s. The buttery crust baked in a pan, with cheese on the bottom smothered in sausage and sauce is memorable. Then there were the Friday nights I spent with my own sons. The family feasting on a pizza before we gathered around the TV to watch Full House and Family Matters.

Now I have a slightly different relationship with pizza. It’s a occasional indulgence in carbs and cholesterol that satisfies like nothing else. Still there are times when assorted toppings presented on a baked crust come out of Mama D’s Kitchen.

The tale of these two pizzas starts with a bag of fresh whole wheat pizza dough from Trader Joe’s. I must say that this is the best store-bought crust I’ve ever had. It is however, a lot of dough for two people, and therein lies the birth of two pizzas.img_2791

The first pizza, I’ve named Chicken Pot Pizza. It is similar to the filling that I usually make for my Chicken/Turkey Pot Pie with only a few changes (mainly less gravy). It baked in a small cast iron skillet that was the perfect size to serve 2.

img_2793I like Leeks, Artichoke Hearts, and Crimini Mushrooms in my filling, along with a few Carrots and plenty of Thyme. I had some grilled chicken breast on hand, but you could use the rotisserie variety as well. What is pizza with out cheese. For this pie I used some Smoked Gouda, but again, use whatever you think would be wonderful. This pie stacked up a bit more like lasagna than pizza and would definitely be in the “deep dish” category.img_2800

Once baked, it was a marvel of flavor and texture. This (and its inevitable variations) will become a feature in the Kitchen of Love.img_2805

Chicken Pot Pizza
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Servings
2
Servings
2
Chicken Pot Pizza
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Servings
2
Servings
2
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Place a 8" cast iron skillet in the oven. Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Leave the skillet in the oven while you prepare the filling.
  2. Heat a medium skillet over medium high heat. Add the olive oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the skillet.
  3. Add the vegetables to the pan and cook until they are soft and fragrant. This should take 7 -8 minutes or so. Remove the vegetables from the pan and set aside.
  4. Melt the butter in the same skillet. Add the flour and cook and stir for several minutes to create a smooth roux.
  5. Add the milk and stock and whisk constantly. Add the thyme leaves and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the sauce has thickened, stirring often.
  6. Add the reserved vegetables and the chicken to the pan and continue to cook until everything is nice and thick.
  7. Flatten the pizza dough out to a circle slightly larger than the bottom of the cast iron skillet.
  8. Remove the cast iron skillet from the oven and carefully fit the crust into the bottom of the skillet. Return the skillet to the oven to bake the crust slightly. (4-5 minutes )
  9. Remove the skillet from the oven and layer the grated cheese and chicken/vegetable mixture on the crust. Starting and ending with cheese.
  10. Bake 10 -15 minutes or until the cheese has melted and everything is bubbly. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with parsley and cut into wedges.
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The second pizza was born of some leftover ingredients from the firstimg_2857 pie. I already mentioned the dough I had left, but I still had another Leek that was ready to be part of something else wonderful. It joined in a perfect Autumnal match up with Butternut Squash and Gala Apples. Rosemary and Thyme provided the herbaceous background. Everything was roasted to intensify the flavors and add a bit of “fall color.”

I opted to create a “thin crust” pie this time. A bit of olive oil and pre-baking on my trusty pizza stone created a light and crispy crust. All that was needed now was the cheese factor. I used Goat Cheese that I added a bit of honey to. While the combination was far from traditional, it was extremely tasty.img_2866

Butternut Squash, Leek, and Apple Pizza
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Butternut Squash, Leek, and Apple Pizza
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Combine the squash, leek and apple slices in a large bowl. Drizzle with the olive oil and toss until everything is nicely coated.
  2. Spread the mixture in a single layer on two rimmed baking sheets that have been lined with parchment paper. Place the herb sprigs on top of each pan.
  3. Roast in a preheated 375 degree oven for 15 - 20 minutes or until everything is tender and beginning to turn golden.
  4. Raise oven heat to 425 degrees. If you are using a pizza stone, place it in the center of the oven.
  5. Stretch and roll the crust into a circle slightly larger than your pizza pan. Spray the pan generously with the non-stick spray.
  6. Place the crust on the prepared pan and gently stretch into shape. Pierce the crust all over with a fork and bake in the oven (on the pizza stone if you are using it) for 6-8 minutes.
  7. Allow the goat cheese to soften slightly. Fold the honey into the cheese.
  8. Remove the crust from the oven. Top with the vegetable and apple mixture. Drop the cheese by teaspoonfuls evenly over the vegetables.
  9. Return to the oven and bake 6 - 8 minutes until the cheese is melted and lightly golden. Drizzle with balsamic glaze and serve cut in wedges.
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So, it took a bit of time to get this post out there. Life isn’t too complicated, it just seems to be taking more time lately. Since it’s been a while, I’ve tried to give you as much bang for the buck as I could (2 recipes and a link). I hope you try them in your own Autumn kitchen. There have been lots of wonderful things coming out of the Kitchen of Love, hopefully more of them will make it to this site soon. 

A New Chili and a New Season

After a wait that felt far too long, I can say that it is unequivocally Fall. There is crispness in the air. Windows and doors are finally open to let the act of breathing real fresh air become a daily occurrence. Mama D’s Kitchen is ready to produce some heartier fare. So, it is time to get the Slow Cooker out of its hiding place and let it do some of the work of producing something delicious.

I feel the need to go on record that I have a love/hate relationship with the Slow Cooker. I love how whatever you cook in it envelopes the house with wonderful aromas. I like the fact  that once the ingredients have been prepped and added, there is nothing more to do. You can set it and forget it and go out and enjoy a perfect Fall afternoon, knowing that when you return home, wonderful smells and tasty comfort food will be waiting. Even though these are great pluses, I have a few issues with this “counter top time saver”. In my opinion there are some things that shouldn’t go in a crock pot. I’m not a fan of pot roast in a slow cooker. I know that borders on blasphemy, but I find the taste and texture of both the meat and its accompanying vegetables to be a bit watered down. I also take issue with the fact that in order to set it and forget it, one must do a certain amount of cutting, measuring, and even pre-cooking to have everything ready to spend the rest of the day getting happy. I’m not afraid of a little work, but at times it seems that there is a lot of active prep time to get to the passive cooking part of the equation.

That being said, I do respect this appliance enough to make space for it in my very small kitchen. The things it does well, it does very well. My favorite things to make in a slow cooker are soups and chilies, which brings us to this recipe; Chicken Chili. Once again I must give credit to a food magazine for the inspiration for this dish. The initial idea came from the October Cooking Light Magazine. It featured a Slow Cooker Chicken Chili. Reading through the recipe, I was taken by several things. The combination of Butternut Squash and Hominy blending with chicken sounded like a “million dollar trio.” There was also a step that called for pureeing a can of beans to add body and thickness to the dish. Now comes the point where I incorporate some Mama D magic.img_2593

The recipe was obviously going to be a chili on the “white side,” but I had something a little different in mind. I also had a random array of ingredients that I wanted to use up. I did puree a can of beans, Pintos, to be exact. I blended this with some homemade chicken stock and a decent amount of homemade chili sauce that had been living in the freezer. Another one of my issues with a slow cooker is that the cooking process creates a lot of liquid. I was making chili not soup so I wanted a thicker sauce. I took the liberty of adding some Masa Harina to act as a thickening and add a little more earthy corn taste. Then there was the matter of vegetables. I added a lot of onion and garlic (this is Mama D’s Kitchen after all) along with some chopped Poblano Chilies. This along with canned green chilies upped the ratio of veg. to meat to about 3 to 1. A can of Black Beans jumped into the pot as well. img_2597The chicken part came from a bag of scraps that was also lounging in the freezer. Any time that I buy boneless/skinless chicken parts, I save the trimmings for some future use, like chili. Waste not, want not is my motto.img_2601

I put the ingredients into the Slow Cooker in a specific order. The veggies went in first and were mixed with the liquid ingredients. I topped this savory bed with the chicken, much like most Slow Cooker recipes suggest. Then, finally, came the set it and forget it part.

We enjoyed a walk and a cocktail and returned home to wonderful smells. A tip of the lid and a rise in temperature (to complete the thickening process) and in a brief half hour it was ready to serve. img_2607

The garnish involved some Queso Fresco and Sour Cream laced with salsa and cilantro. A wedge of lime added some brightness. This is chili on the mild side. Using a hotter chili like Anaheim and Chipotle Chili Powder would definitely up the heat. You could add a different bean or add more of them and it will be great. Since I respectfully borrowed the idea from Cooking Light, any modifications are more than all right.

Chicken and Butternut Squash Chili
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Servings
6
Servings
6
Chicken and Butternut Squash Chili
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Servings
6
Servings
6
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Spray a 6 quart Slow Cooker lightly with non-stick spray. Add the squash, peppers, onion, garlic, hominy, chilies, and black beans to the cooker and stir to combine.
  2. Combine the pureed beans, chicken stock, and red chili sauce in a bowl. Add the masa harina and stir or whisk until the mixture is smooth.
  3. Add the chili powder, cumin, and oregano to the liquid ingredients and stir once more. Pour the liquids into the cooker and stir to combine everything well.
  4. Cut the chicken into bite size pieces. Lay the chicken pieces on top of the vegetable mixture. Cover and cook on Low for 6 - 8 hours (the heat on every slow cooker is different so adjust the time according to how yours cooks).
  5. At the 6/8 hour point, stir the chicken into the other ingredients. Give things a taste and add more of any seasoning you think it needs.
  6. Tilt the lid slightly and turn the heat setting to High. Allow the chili to cook until it is the thickness that you like.
  7. While the chili is cooking on High, mix the sour cream, salsa, and cilantro together. Set aside.
  8. When you are ready to serve, ladle into bowls. Pass the sour cream mixture, lime, and cheese at the table.
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Another thing to remember with Slow Cookers is that the long cooking process pulls lots of moisture out of the ingredients. Once the dish is cooked it is a good idea to taste test for seasoning levels. That sauce with a  spicy zing at the beginning may have gotten watered down over the hours and will be in need of a booster shot of seasoning.

I am very happy that Fall is here and that there will be many more hearty and healthy dishes coming from the Kitchen of love. There may even be a few more Slow Cooker adventures, within reason, that is.

Bay Area Memories and Pot Sticker Soup

We have many memories about the time we spent in the San Francisco Bay Area. My sons consider it home and if you asked them, they would tell you that the experiences they had growing up there are as vivid and varied as ever. A young family living in an area with an incredibly high cost of living (that was then..now it’s insane) had to look for adventures that were off the beaten path and low-cost or free. The Bay Area has plenty of that. Beaches, forests, and mountains were our playground and everything was within reasonable driving distance.

While dining out was an occasional treat, we managed to have some favorites. There was Jack’s for Pizza, Fernando’s for Mexican, and for Chinese, there was Uncle Chen. None of these could be called fine dining. They all were comfortable, family friendly, and reasonably priced which back then was a three run homer. Fernando’s and Uncle Chen’s are still around, while Jack’s has been gone for many years. I don’t know how the survivors have fared over the years, but the memories of the sweet fried wonton skins and the pot stickers at Uncle Chen are a fond memory indeed.

I guess I was thinking back to those days when I decided to create my version of Pot Sticker img_2405Soup. The main inspiration came from a bag of Trader Joe’s Goyza (a.k.a. Pot Stickers)  that had been in the freezer for quite some time. I had seen a simple recipe for a Pot Sticker Soup and decided to take it up a few notches. Onions, garlic, ginger, and chili flakes joined forces in a bit of oil. Then I added some Red Curry Paste and a lot of homemade chicken stock. I let all of this simmer for a bit. You could leave the stock as is at this point or add some Fish Sauce for umami, Hoisin Sauce for a touch of sweetness, or some Sriracha to bring the heat. Hey. if you’re feeling randy, add them all.img_2408

I added a serious amount of vegetable matter. Napa cabbage, bok choy, and bell peppers to name a few. Then there were the pot stickers. I browned them as is the usual procedure, then added them to the soup. I kept their cooking time short to preserve there shape and texture.img_2419

The result was a very delicious soup made all the better by a drizzle if sesame oil, a few dots of sriracha, and some sliced scallions. Will this become a staple in Mama D’s Kitchen? Why yes, I believe that it will. Do I think you should give it a try? Absolutely. Here’s the basic recipe to get you started. You know that you can run with this in whatever direction you chooseimg_2423

Pot Sticker Soup
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Pot Sticker Soup
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large soup pot. Add the onions, garlic, ginger and red pepper flakes to the pot and cook stirring occasionally for 5 minutes or so, long enough for everything to get fragrant.
  2. Add the red curry paste and stir it into the onion mixture. Add the chicken stock and stir until the paste is well blended. Bring the mixture up to a boil. Reduce the heat and cook, covered for 15 - 20 minutes.
  3. Uncover the pot and add the vegetables. Simmer for a few minutes...about the time it takes to brown the pot stickers.
  4. In a large skillet heat the remaining oil over medium high heat. Add the pot stickers and cook until the flatter side is golden brown.Drop the browned pot stickers into the soup and continue to cook for another 5 minutes or so.
  5. Divide the pot stickers into 4 soup bowls. Ladle the rest of the soup evenly among the bowls. Garnish with sesame oil, sriracha sauce and the scallions. Serve.
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Fall is here and the official start of “Soup Season” has descended into Mama D’s Kitchen. Now if the weather would just cooperate…