Cook the Books Fridays: Potato Chowder

I’m back to cooking the books.

I’ve been cooking throughout my blogging hiatus, but changes in my personal and professional life drove changes in the way I cook, too: more fudging of the recipe, less time shopping for expensive ingredients; more time on Pinterest in search of one meal with ingredients that all four of us will eat.

And for my own satisfaction I’ve gone back to Cook the Book Fridays. Continue reading Cook the Books Fridays: Potato Chowder

The most comforting chicken and dumplings

The weather in Chicago continues to be garbage, and we’re all doing the best we can.  It was Sunny Sunday and as warm as 20 degrees – and people flocked to the outdoor mall in droves to enjoy the warm spell and boost their moods a little in the sunshine. Today, however, it’s snowing again, and not quite as warm as the sun made it Sunday.

So I’ve got that, there are still more hours of darkness than daylight every day, and work is heating up in advance of the Big Meeting my office will host at the local convention center next month. At home, I’m searching for comfort food.

Gooseberry Patch

 I went to Gooseberry Patch – specifically, the 2009  calendar I received as a holiday gift.  Gooseberry Patch has a whole line of cookbooks that I go to when I’m looking to make some kind of tried-and-true dish without putting a whole lot of effort into it. Think: crockpot dishes, baked casseroles that have cream soup bases, and anything that involves ground beef.  The good thing is that they’re all good and use a lot of pantry staples. The bad part is that theat sometimes involved “shortening” on the list of ingredients.  Just something to be aware of.

The calendar’s recipe for January was for chicken with dumplings – which was, as expected, cheap and easy: 1 can of cream of chicken soup, 4 cans of chicken broth, chicken, 2 cans of vegetables, and two tubes of refrigerated biscuits.

The recipes in Gooseberry Patch are all like that – folksy foods that can be prepared quickly and inexpensively to feed a crowd: Fruit salad dressed with a mixture of honey, lemon juice and pineapple juice;  a recipe for cheesy herbed biscuits ingredients that you layer in a canning jar to give as a gift; fudge made with shortening; popcorn balls for Halloween.

Regardless, the chicken and dumplings I made last week was perfect for the modd I was in, and the refrigerated biscuits made great dumplings.  I dropped the raw dough in the top of the boiling soup and covered the pot. The dough sort of sat on top of the soup for a combination of boiling/steaming/braising, and absorbed all of the flavors of the soup base.

I made the chicken version of the recipe for myself, and a vegetable version for friends who needed a comforting meal. I thought both were good.  I even slipped a few peas in – which I hate! – but I got them down without hesitating.

TWD: Savory Corn and Pepper Muffins

Before we get to the food, a word about the weather:

It’s crap. Complete and utter crap.

Saturday it snowed wildly, trapping me in the house with my untouched list of errands to run, wistfully looking toward the widow and thinking “I’ll give it another half hour to slow down before I hit the road,” or “maybe in another half hour I’ll just to the stuff in town.”

“HA!” Mother Nature replied as either the snowflakes got bigger or the wind blew harder, pushing me farther back toward the kitchen.  I left the house only once on Saturday, and that was by force at dusk when a realtor wanted to walk through my place with potential home buyers (yes, my place is still for sale).

Monday, it snowed again. Tuesday will bring arctic winds. Wednesday and Thursday promise more of the same.

corn and pepper muffin

The only response on days like these is to make soup (or oatmeal, if it’s breakfast time), and Dorie’s muffins went perfectly with the boxed red pepper and tomato soup I dressed up over the weekend.  Thanks to the blogger from Ezra Pound Cake for the foresight to know that I would need these corn muffins this weekend.  She’ll post the muffin recipe on her blog this week, while I describe how wonderful they are.

To start off, the muffins are pretty. Yellow cornmeal flecked with deep red chili powder makes for a very rich looking muffin, but the bits of finely chopped fresh red pepper and jalapeño pepper and the bright yellow corm make the muffin almost festive – confetti-like. I was really proud to put them on my table (even if I was wearing a stained t-shirt and hadn’t bothered with makeup for 24 hours before coming to the table).

Biting into the muffin puts flavor behind the appearance, as the buttermilk batter and good quality chili powder really do make for a happy mouth.  These are the perfect tomato soup muffins.  Many of my TWD colleagues served them with chili, but I think the flavors would compete.  These are a good companion for a creamy soup.

NOTE: Two days later they have dried out a bit, but I think toasting the leftovers and buttering them will perk things right up tonight. I usually need a snack while I cook dinner after work.

CEiMB: Curried Squash Soup

I’ve never been a fan of squash (I’m not sure exactly what it tastes like, but I’ve never found it enjoyable, however it’s been disguised) but I had high hopes for this soup. I thought the combination of curry and honey would help me choke it down.

Now, I recognize that I had the same high hopes for the squash mac ‘n cheese that Ellie gave us a few weeks ago, and I was sadly disappointed, but I’m trying to eat more vegetables of different colors, and so I tried the soup.


Meet me in the Kitchen made this week’s selection, and you can find the recipe at her blog.  Some of the comments suggested that the curry made the soup too spicy or that the honey made it too sweet, but I don’t necessarily agree with either reaction.

I added apple chicken sausage and oyster crackers to disguise the  stuff, and still it was squash soup.  I liked it, but I’ll never crave it. I might make it again when I am swept by a wave of health consciousness, but I’m not gonna hold my breath for that day to come.

It looked nice in the bowl, though, don’t you think?  And the Other Eater in my Household enjoyed it very much.

I think next week may be the final test for Ellie’s book. None of the recipes have really bowled me over so far, and I’m beginning to lose interest in the book.  We’ll see how the cookies recipes stand up.

Summer Soup

Diet cookbooks are generally a turn off. They use a lot of ingredients I don’t like to have in my house, especially powdered milk, sugar substitute (I happen to be one of those people who thinks Splenda has an aftertaste), powdered dressing mix and plain yogurt, and the texture of the food frequently leaves a lot to be desired. But I really like reading, and I was tempted to try her cookbook.
The author has followed the same Diet Program that I do, and I really like many of the products that she’s promoted online. So, I waited for a coupon from my local bookstore and bought the book.
The first recipe I tried was for shrimp and asparagus corn chowder, and it is freakishly good. It has all vegetables I like to eat (red peppers, asparagus, onion, potato, corn) and the shrimp was easy to roast with the asparagus and created a minimal number of dishes. An overall success!
I’ll let you know how I do in the dessert section of the cookbook…