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Hearty Chicken Soup – two ways

Around the time of the Great Pittsburgh Blizzard of 2010 (mid-February) I started to get obsessed with making soup. I started with a potato soup with good results, but what I really wanted to make with a chicken vegetable soup. I found a recipe on Epicurious, but kept putting it off and putting it off and off and off and off. Why? Who knows. But when I finally made it…BAM! Magic!

The original recipe called for carrots, onions and celery, but at one point you’re supposed to strain out most of the veggies and discard them. I’m not down with that version. I wanted all my veggies. And then – tragedy! No carrots to be found! After I stopped crying, I decided to go ovaries to the wall and make it veggie-tastic.

My soup had onions, celery, potatoes, peas and green beans – all thick-cut, because I like it that way. And chicken. And rice. And I also made bread, because I felt I was not getting enough carbohydrates.


Who knew?! Soup is easy and delicious! Soup is so easy that I might make it a Lazy Kitchen staple. Even a lazy cook can make good soup!

Earlier in the week (to celebrate St. Patty’s Day, but not on St. Patty’s Day because we couldn’t wait that long) my boyfriend made a boiled meal, complete with corned beef and cabbage and potatoes and carrots. We had some left over veggies and plenty of broth – which we saved, being forward-thinking folks – and tonight I made soup. For a second time!

Last time, I used some soup broth to make rice, but this time I used to to make shells. Who doesn’t love shells?! The beauty of it is that when you’re done cooking the pasta, you don’t even have to strain it – you just pour the whole kit ‘n’ kaboodle back into the pot. It’s a lazy cook’s dream.

Another change was that this time we had carrots – yay! – and I also used cut-up chicken breasts instead of shredded thighs. I left the chicken pieces pretty big, figuring if chunky veggies were delicious chunky meat probably would be too. Wrong. The big chunks are a little dry, so next time I’ll probably cut them smaller.

Again: IT WAS SO GOOD! And I don’t even care that it’s warming up outside and you’re not “supposed” to be making hearty soups anymore. It’s still cold in the apartment and so…it’s still hearty soup season here! Three cheers for hearty soup!

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Experimints (har har) gone awry…

Like anyone who knows their butt from a food blog, I’m pretty much a slave to Bakerella. I also love – LOVE – the pairing of mint and chocolate and there’s two times during the year when it’s okay to let that obsession pretty much take over your life: Christmas (influenced by candy canes and such) and St. Patrick’s Day (you know…green). So when Bakerella’s “Experi-mint-ing” post when up, I knew two things: 1. I had to have these brownies in my life and 2. I should make them for St. Patty’s.

Things did not go exactly as planned. To start, I didn’t get in gear on making these until well after midnight on March 18th, so technically I missed making them for Green Day St. Patty’s. Also…I botched them in an incredible horrible way that I’m still baffled by and, thus, am unable to resolve for next time.

To begin, I didn’t have the mint chips that she used – though, hello, mint chips?! my kitchen needs these ASAP! – so I added 1 tsp of mint extract and it gave the brownies a really light, minty flavor that I loved. I ended up just using semi-sweet chips instead, so these puppies were PACKED with chocolate and also tasted like mint – how could something so right go so wrong?

Well. I don’t know.

I cooked them for about 35 minutes, as recommended, and they puffed up to ENORMOUS proportions. Like a loaf of bread. But brownies. They also got a lovely light brown “shell” on top, but inside they seemed…extremely gooey. My boyfriend suggested that they were perhaps dramatically under-cooked, but if I’d left them in any longer the edges would have started to burn (gross). Also, the middle seemed too firm to be under-cooked, but it’s definitely too gooey to be fully-cooked. Right?

Another theory was that maybe the gooeyness was from all the extra chocolate chips I used. Like, maybe they melted and that’s where the goo is coming from? Bakerella’s mint chips didn’t melt, so hers were significantly less gooified than mine. Although, there are still full, unmelted chips in my brownies, so maybe that’s not the reason?

The whole kerfluffle is kind of a moot point, because I’m for sure going to eat these bad boys anyway (chocolate! mint! goo!). I will probably keep them in-house, though. Mostly to avoid embarrassment; it’s one thing to eat minimally baked brownie batter in the privacy of my own kitchen, but quite another to give it to someone else, especially when I can’t explain exactly what went wrong.

Any ideas? Insight? Wisdom? Help!

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Lunch at Casbah on a sunny day…

On Tuesday, I had a little conference with the owner of Vanilla (my fav pastry shop) about the prospects of me working there (and I’m so excited I could wet my pants – but in a professional, mature way) and then the boyfriend and I wandered up the road to Casbah for lunch. We’ve lived in the neighborhood, more or less, for months and have always wanted to go but never did. Until Tuesday.

The highlight of the meal, for me, was probably the bread. Oh man. OH MAN. I forgot to ask them who supplied their breads, but whoever it is…please allow me to bow at your feet. Wowza. Like I said, it was good. Really, really good.

The lunch menu is, presumably, smaller and cheaper than the dinner menu but there were still lots of choices and we both found ourselves saying, “oh, I want this one…no, this one…no, that…no, maybe this…” and then making a gut decision when the waitress stopped by. I had the BLT and he had the crab sandwich.

I forgot to take pictures until we were almost done - oops!

My BLT was pretty good – awesome bread, thick bacon, just the right amount of mayo (“aioli” is what they called it, but let’s be real…it’s mayo). The fries were pretty good, too.

A mini-annoyance: On the menu it said that they used “local tomatoes,” which struck me as weird considering I don’t think anyone local is growing tomatoes yet, but…whatever. Also, everything on that sandwich could/should be local, but if the tomatoes is all they’re willing to do that’s OK. Baby steps, Casbah.

He toughed it out and ate most of the sandwich, mayo and all.

Joe was pretty disappointed with his sandwich. It was too fishy-tasting to me (blech, seafood), but what really got him was all the mayo. He assumed (incorrectly) that it would be sort of like a crabcake sandwich and not a crab salad sandwich and his hatred of mayo is just about in proportion with my love of it, so…you can imagine. Still: really good bread, and that bites that didn’t have a ton of mayo in them he seemed to like.

We skipped dessert and went across the street to Oh Yeah! for ice cream, but it was a nice lunch for under $20 and overall a good first experience. We’ll definitely be back – who knows when, since it took us six months to get there the first time, but…eventually. Baby steps!

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Birthday Dinner – and Cake!

Yesterday was my 25th birthday (thanks) and to celebrate, the boyfriend took me to a little bitty restaurant called CC’s Cafe. From the outside, the place looks like a dive bar, but inside…it’s only half dive bar. The other half is a 10-table Italian restaurant where they make their own pasta and play sappy saxophone renditions of old favorites (even Christmas favorites…).

To start, I had the sausage-stuffed mushrooms and he had crab lumps – not cakes, exactly, but little pyramids of light, delicate crab meat and a honey mustard-ish sauce. I don’t even like seafood and I thought they were pretty yummy. My mushrooms were good, not too wet or dry, bubbly cheese on top. After I’d eaten a few, though, they began to taste more and more salty.

We also got bread and dipping oil. Mmmmmm. Bread.

For dinner, I had the roasted garlic chicken pasta with red pepper fettucine, which was very good. The pasta didn’t have much of a red pepper taste to it, but it was delicious anyway. The chicken was tender, the garlic melted in my mouth. It was supposed to have red peppers in it and I was a little sad at how few there were (just two little slices!) and it needed salt and pepper, but otherwise a good dish.

He had one of the dinner specials, some kind of Hawaiian white fish with a nut crust and a citrus-pomegranate sauce. The sauce was pretty tart, a little weird for me, but the fish seemed good (like I said, I don’t generally eat it at all). He also got wild mushroom risotto with it – and that was GOOD, but not a good pairing for the light fish and fruity-sourness of the sauce.

A table of older ladies was next to us and they chatted the whole time we were there about their lives and their news. It was pretty hilarious. You can have a good dinner without some good eavesdropping, right? (Old ladies like to talk about sex. And they smoke pot. Who knew?)

All told, a delicious dinner, more extravagant than our usual fare (as is only appropriate, given it was to celebrate my 25th year of living). CC’s Cafe wasn’t perfect, but it’s no Olive Garden, for sure. You wouldn’t have to twist my arm to get me back there!

We opted to skip dessert (only 1 chocolate offering? yeah, right) and headed to Gullifty’s across town. I got a sinful triple chocolate mountain and Joe had key lime pie. Both good, as expected.

Dinner? Cake? Made by someone else? No dishes to do? I guess you could say 25 is off to a pretty nice beginning. 🙂

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Third Grade Throwback

After the Samosas Incident, I really needed to reimagine the kitchen as a soothing place, not a place of stress and frustration and total abject failure. For a couple days I stayed out of the kitchen entirely, living off leftovers (to be fair – we did have a TON of leftovers) and then finally the other night the boyfriend and I decided it was time to get back in the saddle.

I knew immediately what we’d be having for dinner that night (Dinosaur Macaroni and Cheese) and the boyfriend suggested we also add sloppy joes to the menu. I countered with canned green beans (the boy has a fondness) and pretty soon we were both 8 years old again, reliving the best meal from childhood.*

It’s important, I think, to follow up a sucky experience with a super awesome experience, and joes ‘n’ mac was definitely the way to go. Plus, we all know macaroni and cheese tastes better when it’s in fun shapes!

*This was also my favorite meal from graduate school. Gotta love eatin’ on the cheap!

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Vegetable Dumb-osas

Spoiler alert: Mine don't turn out like this.

Image from PKU Recipes, which has a recipe for samosas that sounds manageable. Ugh.

So my boyfriend’s been in kind of an Indian mood lately – which is fine by me, I love Indian cuisine. The other day, though, we started thinking: for what we’d spend on ordering Indian, we could probably make it. (And when I say, “we,” what I really mean is, “he.”)

Sunday turned out to be Indian Food Day in our house.

I did not go into this experience with the right mindset. I know that now. What I wanted to do was nap, maybe play a little Tetris, and let him work his culinary magic solo. But that turned into, “hey, honey, why don’t you come keep me company?” and that turned into, “want to mix up the dough for these samosas?” and that turned into, “want to make the samosas?”

The things we do for love, right?

Not only was I (more or less) conned into making them, I had possibly the WORST RECIPE IN THE WORLD guiding me. I’m at a Samosas 101 level. This recipe, I’m pretty sure, is for people who already know what they’re doing and just need a reminder about the order. Or a good laugh at someone else’s expense (ie, mine).

Some ranting and photos after the jump.

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