Saturday, December 11, 2010

Vegetable (protein optional) Soup

A few months ago I gave up on chicken stock in a box and after my first attempt at stock from scratch I started using the powdered chicken bouillon.  I'm sure it isn't good for you but it sure does taste good.  It is such a staple in my cooking of soups and Mexican rice too.  My recent switch made me try it in a vegetable soup.  I threw into my largest stock pot a huge yellow onion quartered, 4 large garlic cloves, a couple bay leaves, salt pepper, 12 cups of water, 12 tsp of chicken bouillon, 2 sliced zucchinis, 2 sliced and peeled carrots, a peeled and quartered potato and finally a whole cabbage quartered.  You can add meatballs and make Mexican Albondiga soup or throw in some chicken breats, cook them , then remove them and shred them and put them back in.  You can make a fish stew if you like or keep it vegetarian and add some Mexican or arboreal rice.  I like to serve my soup with a small squeeze of lemon or lime juice and dash of Tapatio.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

My First Thanksgiving Dinner!

At the request of Ms. Stephanie, I wanted to document and celebrate cooking my first Thanksgiving dinner. I cannot take all the credit for without my mom's recipes and generous acts of answering her phone no less than 25 times, I wouldn't have survived. I can't remember exactly all the recipes - but I wrote them down and if anyone's interested, don't hesitate to ask.

My menu was: Cornish Hens, 5-Cheese Macaroni, Cornbread Stuffing, Garlic Spinach, Brown 'n' Serve Rolls, an appetizer from Trader Joes and for desert Sweet Potato Pie.

The Cornish Hens have been a tradition that my mom's had for years now. She prefers the taste and I must agree that I do too. I also love how manageable they are. Instead of handling a huge turkey, you season and bake 4-6 hens in the oven. I made 5 hens total and was really happy with the way they turned out. I just washed them, seasoned them, cut up my vegetables and threw them in one of those aluminum baking pans (you buy from the store) with some foil on top and water. After a couple of hours of checking them and spooning their sauce on top of them, they came out juicy and were really tasty.

(--A quick side note - when I unwrapped the hens to clean them and cut the fat off---I FREAKED OUT! Their little bodies gave me a sick feeling in my stomach. It was like holding a miniature body--okay not like--I was holding a miniature body and I got the weirdest feeling that made me understand why some people become vegetarian. It's one thing to see some meat on your plate but it's another thing to see a whole hen without a head sitting there and you're supposed to season it and cook it. YIKES!)

My all-time favorite Thanksgiving food which is saying a lot--for those who don't know me, you'd know I dread Thanksgiving food on the whole--is the 5-Cheese Macaroni. Damn, it's so good and it's soooo bad! Lol! I made mine with macaroni, butter, 4-cheese Mexican-style blend, Parmesan Cheese, American Cheese, Jack Cheese and milk. You have to layer it in a clear baking pan and each layer has macaroni, cheeses and butter. Once you reach the top, you sprinkle milk all over it and it sinks in between the cracks. Then you bake the macaroni until it forms a crust at the top. It's soooooo good. I was really proud of myself for succeeded at my favorite dish:)

The Cornbread Stuffing wasn't too difficult. How it tasted? Oh I wouldn't know, I HATE STUFFING! But I made it because my fiance wanted it and I'm happy I did. It's better to know how to make stuffing even if you don't like it because it is one of the staples for Thanksgiving. Anyhow, so I baked the cornbread with vegetables in it and once it cooled, I broke it into pieces and mixed it with stuffing, eggs, chicken broth and lots of sage. It turned out good, at least I think it did.

The Garlic Spinach was pretty easy, although I have to admit that I feared burning it. Spinach is one of those vegetables that doesn't take long to cook but you have to watch it or you'll burn it. This spinach is cooked with Evoo, lots of garlic, butter and when it's done, you sprinkle parmesan cheese, salt and pepper over it. Spinach is my favorite vegetable so I was pretty happy with the way this dish turned out.

The rolls were easy and I threw in this appetizer from Trader Joes that I really enjoy to kind of add something different to the menu. It's Pastry Bites with Carmelized Onions and once you pop, you cannot stop.

The Sweet Potato Pie was tricky! I bought around 5-6 yams and washed them, took the skin off, cut them into pieces and then boiled them. Once they were soft, I combined them with eggs, butter, and cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and sugar. When the mixing part came, since I don't own a whisk after about 5 minutes my arms started hurting. I kept seeing lumps in the mix so I decided to just throw it in the blender. Ha ha! It came out all creamy and stuff. I thought cool but once I put it in the pie crust to bake in the oven, I noticed it wouldn't firm up.

I frantically called my mom and sent her a picture from my phone. Don't you just love technology? She told me that normally they aren't supposed to be that creamy but to wait and see. I had to let the pies (and everything else) bake longer than instructed and I believe it's because my oven is old. Finally, they firmed up and when I took them out, they were lovely. The only downside was the fork mark I made to see if they were done when they were in the jelly phase. Even thought that mark made the pies less pretty it didn't make them less tasty! Slap some whipped cream on top and you're good to go!

I must say that those pies were eaten almost every night since Thanksgiving. We were able to eat food for 3-4 days and finally said goodbye to 1 Cornish Hen and half of the stuffing. Everything else was devoured and you know what, I am truly thankful that I was able to complete this task. Saying the prayer on Thanksgiving had so much meaning because I realized how much work goes into preparing a meal like this. Feeding those that are hungry is an act of love. And to think, moms have been doing this for years!