Sick Boyfriend Chicken Soup

soup2 crPoor boyfriend called me up last night to say he still wanted to come over today but he wasn’t feeling well. Although I was sad my man was sick, I was excited to create a nutritious, yummy, comforting chicken soup to make him feel better! This soup only takes a little bit of chopping, and can be modified with whatever you have in your kitchen. Mine features great (and allergy-legal) winter vegetables, fresh herbs, and chicken thighs that remain tender simmered in the tasty broth.

This healthy chicken soup feels and tastes so good, and is perfect for whoever in your life is sick (including yourself)! I present to you: Sick Boyfriend Chicken Soup.

Sick Boyfriend Soup

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: moderate
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1 lb. boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1 in. chunks
1 c. chopped shiitake mushrooms
2 sweet potatoes, cubed
2 medium sized parsnips, peeled and cubed
1 sprig rosemary
1 sprig oregano
3 sprigs thyme
3 1/2 c. water
1/3 c. cream (optional)

Saute the chicken cubes in a skillet with olive oil until lightly browned on the outside. If necessary, do this in two batches so that the chicken gets browned and not steamed. Move the chicken to a Dutch oven. Saute the mushrooms in the same skillet until lightly browned as well. Add the sauteed mushrooms, other vegetables, and herbs to the Dutch oven.

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Pour 1 cup of water into the skillet and deglaze it. This means gently stir the water around the pan, scraping the bottom, to get up all the crispy pieces on the bottom and to mix in with the leftover flavorings. Pour this water, the additional 2 1/2 cups of water, and the (optional) cream into the Dutch oven.

20131231-184426.jpgPut a lid on your pot (loosely, so steam can escape) and cook on medium-low heat for 1 1/2 hours.

Spoon into bowls and, if desired, top with Parmesan cheese. Serve with tea to your poor sick loved one.

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I accompanied this soup with Homemade Dinner Rolls. I am in love with these soft, tender rolls!

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Best wishes for a well and healthy body, and a Happy New Year!

Homemade Apple Butter

apple butter w.spoon(rd) Merry Christmas to all of you!!! Thank you so much for joining me on this StrictlyDelicious journey! I hope you are having a wonderful holiday with your loved ones and that you enjoy today’s recipe: Homemade Apple Butter. It is perfect for this holiday season. ūüôā

Although I’ve only tasted apple butter once before, I just knew making it homemade would be the perfect final element to my Christmas homemade goodie baskets. Along with homemade vanilla, citrus salt, and rosemary salt, this smooth apple butter made oh-so-sweet gifts. This was my first canning experience, but it really is as simple and addicting as they say.

Once I made this apple butter, I couldn’t stop eating it! It’s so creamy and flavorful and delicious. I paired it with everything I could, including a spoon. I hope you and your family enjoy it as much as mine!

Homemade Apple Butter

  • Servings: 8 1/2 pints
  • Difficulty: easy
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6 1/2 lbs. apples (I used a combination of unwaxed Fiji and local Gala apples)
1 c. granulated sugar
1 c. dark brown sugar
1 tbl. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. salt

After washing, peel, core, and slice all of the apples. I cut mine into thin slices, but I’m sure you could cut them any way. Put the slices into your crockpot dish.

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Combine the sugar, spices, and salt in a bowl, and pour over the apples. Stir the apple mixture with a spoon to coat all slices until evenly covered.

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Put the lid loosely on the top of your crockpot dish. By this I mean do not latch it closed as you usually would. I put my lid on a little crooked, leaving space on each side between the lid and the dish. This will allow the apples to cook down. Set the crockpot on low and cook the apples for twelve hours. Whenever you walk past the pot, stir the apples to recoat in the spices and liquid.

After twelve hours, add the apples to a blender and blend until smooth. You will need to do this in batches about 1-2 cups of apples at a time. Add a tiny amount of water if needed to help your blender. (You could also execute this step with an immersion blender.)

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If desired, pour the apple butter into a pot and cook on low heat on the stove to thicken it. Stir consistently. This will not take much time at all, and it is easy to burn the apple butter, so do not walk away!

Once it has reached the desired thickness, it is ready to store. You can store it in a lidded container in the fridge for up to three weeks, or can it for gifts and to store for up to two years. (For canning pints and half pints: fill to 1/2 in. below the rim, seal, and process for 15 minutes.)

Enjoy, and have a blessed holiday!

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Citrus Salt

20131220-123333.jpgThis year, my dad asked for “homemade goodies” for Christmas, and I decided to make extras of everything to give as work and neighbor gifts! In addition to bottles of homemade vanilla, I gave little jars of this elegant pink citrus salt, fragrant rosemary salt, and homemade apple butter (recipes to come)! I will claim those projects as the reason I haven’t blogged in so long…

This salt, to be used primarily as a finishing salt, smells so good, looks so unique, and tastes excellent on veggies, poultry, and fish. To make it you can use any combination of citrus fruits and any kind of sea salt. For my recipe I used lemons, limes, oranges, and this course pink Himalayan sea salt that is so pretty and good for you! (Read about the benefits of Himalayan sea salt here.) You can make any amount of this salt, just use 2 tbs. zest per cup of salt. My recipe filled about 8 adorable half pints jars.

Citrus Salt

  • Servings: 8 1/2 pints
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

4 cups pink Himalayan sea salt
1/2 cup citrus fruit zest

Let your fruit sit in a vinegar water bath (1 part white vinegar to 10 parts water) for 20 minutes to wash off all the toxins, pesticides, and who knows what that are on the skin of the fruit. Since you are using the peel in this recipe, this step is highly recommended.

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Zest the fruit until you have the equivalent of 2 tablespoons of zest per cup of salt. (I didn’t have a grater so I used a peeler and a paring knife…. Obviously, it’s much better to use a grater.) Pour the salt and citrus zest into a baking pan and spread it out until it covers the bottom. Bake at 225 degrees F for 1-2 hours, or until a piece of zest crumbles between your fingers.

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Let the salt cool, and process in a food processor until the zest and salt have reached the consistency that you desire. Store in whatever airtight containers are most adorable and best for your use! I loved these quilted half-pint jars for Christmas presents.

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Product Review: Mini Pops

Learning that I was allergic to corn was a hard blow for two reasons: 1. Learning how corn is used in the manufacturing of almost every food, including meat and fresh produce, made me realize how difficult it would be to avoid it. 2. I was a popcorn ADDICT. Truly. Every day after work I made myself a large bowl of stove top popcorn. Sometimes I would even have another bowl for dessert! (It’s a whole grain! I told myself I was being healthy…) If a few days went by where I didn’t have popcorn, my whole world felt out of balance.

But the gaping hole that popcorn left in my life been filled with the discovery of MiniPops. MiniPops is a corn-free company that sells popped sorghum grain. To find out what sorghum grain is, click here. These tiny grains pop like a mini version of popcorn, resulting in delicious, crunchy “kernels” that are legal for me to eat!

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MiniPops come in a variety of flavors. Since I used to make my popcorn using simple olive oil (or occasionally butter) and sea salt, I think I will stick to the more simple flavors of MiniPops: Subatomic Sea Salt and Itty Bitty Butter. They come in packages ranging in size from 1 oz to 16 oz. The 1 oz packages that came in my order are entirely filled with the delicious treat (no empty space at the top like most snack packages) and are easy to take on the go for lunch, a snack, or a movie. Just remember to shake your bag before you open it, because the seasoning has usually settled to the bottom.

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At the risk of sounding dramatic, this tiny popcorn replacement has made my life. No longer will I wallow in misery and self-pity at the absence of my beloved snack. God bless you, founder Ari Taube! And God bless MiniPops!

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Parmesan Rosemary Biscuits

bisThese rich, fluffy, flaky biscuits were the perfect accompaniment to my StrictlyDelicious Pot Roast, and are great on winter mornings with a hot beverage. These are so easy that I can make them with for a quick breakfast on the weekend or to accompany any dinner on a time-crunched weeknight. I will make biscuits using no other recipe! I hope you enjoy this variation, and want to add it to your comfort food recipe bin!

I don’t know about you, but I like my biscuits a little on the sweeter side. It usually makes them different from the biscuits made by others, and I think the sweetness is always a great complement for each of the savory dishes or sweet hot drinks that I pair the biscuits with! But I know not everyone is like me, so the recipe below includes options for you to modify the sugar to your tastes.

Parmesan Rosemary Biscuits

  • Servings: 14 biscuits
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

2 c. King Arthur flour
3/4 tsp. baking soda + 1 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar (or 3 tsp. baking powder)
1 tbs. – 1/4 c. sugar (according to your tastes)
1 tsp. sea salt
2 tbs. fresh rosemary, chopped if desired
1/4 c. shredded parmesan cheese
1/2 c. butter, softened (To soften butter, let it sit at room temperature. Do NOT use the microwave, as you do not want your butter melted!)
3/4 c. cream (for less rich biscuits, use milk)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Whisk together all dry ingredients, including the rosemary and parmesan cheese. Then cut in the butter with your whisk until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. Make a well in the center of your mix and pour in the cream/milk. Mix gently with your hands until just combined.

Turn the dough onto a floured surface. Knead only a few times (3-4), just until the dough comes together. Gentle kneading is what creates the buttery layers in your biscuits, so do not overknead! Roll your dough out on your surface to about 1/2″ thick. Use a pastry cutter (or like me- a crystal mug dipped in flour) about 3″ in diameter to cut biscuit rounds from your dough. Place them into a 9×13 glass baking dish.

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Bake for 10-12 minutes, or just until the biscuits have turned a pretty golden brown. While not required, waiting about ten minutes after removing them from the oven will decrease the likelihood that the biscuits will fall apart when you remove them from the baking dish!

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These need no butter, so just place on a plate or napkin and enjoy!

What are some of your favorite variations on a standard biscuit recipe? What do you like to pair your biscuits with?

StrictlyDelicious Pot Roast

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All week I have been craving the ultimate comfort food- pot roast. The kind with fork tender meat, chock full of a bunch of delicious flavors, and smothered in its own creamy meat gravy. Unfortunately, the way I’ve always made pot roast has usually either been one of two ways:

  1. In the slow cooker with cans of cream of mushroom soup poured on top (which are loaded with corn, soy, and celery flavorings and preservatives that I can’t eat),
  2. Or slow roasted over top of chopped carrots, onions, and potatoes, all three of which are tragically ALSO on the “do not eat” list.

What was a strict eating girl to do? I really wanted that tender, savory beef! Fortunately, a little creativity, research, and stubbornness was all I needed to make my dream come true.

Important Notes: Parsnips were the saving grace of this dish! With the texture and flavor of both carrots and potatoes, I didn’t feel like I was missing anything by not having those two traditional ingredients. Also, the fresh herbs are VERY important in this dish. Do not shortcut by using dried ones, unless you absolutely have to!

StrictlyDelicious Pot Roast

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

1 3 lb. roast (I used an eye of round roast)
2 tbs. olive oil
1 tbs. butter
1 lb. of parsnips, peeled
4-6 cloves of garlic
1 c. chopped fresh mushrooms (I used shiitake)
1-2 stalks fresh rosemary
2 stalks fresh thyme
1 1/2 – 2 c. dry, full-bodied red wine (I used cabernet)
1 c. homemade beef or chicken broth
1/4 c. cream
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Dry the roast all over with paper towels and generously salt and pepper on all sides. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. When the pan is hot, add the olive oil and butter and heat until very hot, but not burning. Add the roast to the skillet, fat side down, and cook it without touching for 3-4 minutes.

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With tongs (NOT with a fork to avoid piercing your meat), flip the roast over to sear the other side. Cook again for 3-4 minutes without touching, and then remove the roast with tongs to a plate.

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While you’re waiting for the roast to sear on both sides, preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Cut the peeled parsnips into approximately 1″ square pieces, peel and crush (or chop) your garlic, and roughly chop the mushrooms.

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Put your burner on medium low heat and add the vegetables and fresh herbs to the skillet. Stir to coat in the meat drippings and lightly salt and pepper. Add the wine to the skillet and stir, scraping to get all the crispy meat pieces off the bottom of the skillet.

Add the contents of the skillet to a Dutch oven. Make a small well in the center of the vegetables and nestle the beef in there. Pour the broth and cream over the meat, cover, and cook for 2 1/2 hours. When your meat is done, take it out of the oven and let it rest for 15 minutes before slicing.

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Serve vegetables and meat in a bowl, pour gravy over top, and garnish with fresh rosemary if desired. I paired this delicious meal with these sweet rosemary parmesan biscuits (recipe to come). Warm and flaky and rich, they were perfect for dipping in the roast gravy!

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Enjoy the cold weather! What comfort food do you like best in the winter time?

How you can help people with allergies

I was just thinking this morning about how difficult it is to have allergies. You have to be constantly vigilant about what goes into your body and spend time researching food ingredients before you can actually eat the food. You have to worry about making up the vitamins and nutrients that you aren’t naturally getting from the food you’re allergic to. You have to bring alternatives (and/or deny food) if you’re going anywhere away from home, or you go hungry. AND, you have to worry about others. Others who think that it’s all in your head, that you’re making it up, or that you’re just being overdramatic. Others who say, “You’re allergic to ____??? I’ve never heard of an allergy to that before. It must not be real. I bet you’re just a picky eater.” Or my favorite, “Well are you¬†sure it’s an allergy? What happens to you when you eat it?” (As if my statement of allergy is only validated if my allergic reaction is super dramatic.)

To those with the luxury of having few or no allergies: you are so very blessed! Be thankful for that. But please, never downgrade someone’s health concerns because you do not have experience with them. It is hard enough for that person feeling like they’re unusual and “the difficult one” who has to ask for special care. Trust that he or she is not just doing it for fun!

When encountered with a friend or acquaintance with allergies, try some of the following (some suggestions are adapted from TheOddSpot’s guest post¬†on Modern Alternative Mama. Check it out!):

  1. Unless you are medically trained or have done significant research, please do not tell someone how they should live with allergies. “This one time won’t hurt,” or “A peanut isn’t the same as a tree nut, so you should be fine,” are not valid statements unless you are a professional with knowledge of that person’s medical history.
  2. Remember that no one lives in a bubble. Leaving peanut butter smears on the counter, or using the knife you used to cut fish to cut someone else’s food could seriously hurt them. Please be aware!
  3. Learn the symptoms of an allergic reaction and what to do if someone around you is having one. Learning how to use an Epi-Pen could save someone’s life!
  4. If you know a child who is struggling and feeling like the odd one out because of their allergies, try to reverse this. When I was young, I always got to serve my food first at dinner. This, of course, was to avoid cross contamination, but it made me feel special that I got to load up my plate even before my parents! It helps to turn precautions into special things.
  5. If someone close to you has allergies, be their second checker when they eat food made by someone else. Believe it or not, sometimes I forget to check for certain ingredients, or I accept something on my plate forgetting what it might contain. Having my sister, friend, or boyfriend say, “Does that have ___,” or, “Aren’t you allergic to ____?” is SUCH a life-saving help for me. Even if I’ve already checked, it doesn’t hurt to have them check again. You can never be too safe!

When dealing with difficult health concerns, it’s always easier to have someone supporting you and looking out for you . A little thoughtfulness truly does go a long way!

Roasted Beets with Feta and Crispy Skin Chicken

20131209-210519.jpgWithout fail, every time I starts getting cold, I start craving roasted vegetables. I don’t know what it is about the chilly air, but every time I need to start wrapping myself in scarves, I crave the salty, sweet, slightly nutty, delicious flavors of roasted vegetables. So obviously, the gorgeous crop of roasted beets at the grocery store sucked me in like a moth to the flame.

Last night I opted to try these gorgeous beets (that I can’t for the life of me remember what they are called!) I beg you, don’t balk at beets if you’ve had them before and never liked them. I didn’t like beets before I had them roasted, and now, I’m addicted. You’ve got to try them this way!

Roasted Beets with Feta

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

4 small beets, stems removed
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/4-1/2 tsp. thyme
2 tbsp. feta cheese
2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

Wash beets well and place them in a large pot covered with water. Boil for 15-20 minutes or until skin can slide off with little pressure. Place cooked beets in cold water to cool down, and preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Once your beets have cooled, peel off the skin and root pieces. (Aren’t these so pretty?? Ombre before cut, and this beautiful marbling on the inside! I love beets.)

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Cut beets into cubes. Toss in a bowl with olive oil, salt, pepper, and thyme to coat. Spread on a foil covered baking sheet and roast for 25-30 minutes, or until the edges begin to get a little crispy.

Serve, drizzle with balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with crumbled feta cheese. Enjoy your chilly night!

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I paired these beautiful beets with some skillet crispy skin chicken (my favorite way to have chicken). To make, follow these directions.

Skillet Crispy Skin Chicken

  • Servings: 1
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

2 chicken thighs
1 tbsp. olive oil.
1 tbsp. butter
Sea salt and ground pepper to taste

Add butter and olive oil to the skillet and heat on medium high heat. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

As always when cooking meat, dry chicken thoroughly on paper towels. Season both sides with salt and pepper. When the oil in the pan is very hot and the butter is bubbling (but not brown), add the chicken thighs to the skillet, skin side down. Cook without moving until golden brown, about 3-5 minutes. Flip chicken with tongs and cook for about 3 additional minutes on the other side.

Pop your skillet in the oven and cook for about 20 minutes. Your skin should be crispy, like this, and there should be no red juices running from the meat. Remove from the oven and let the chicken rest in the skillet for about ten minutes before cutting or serving.

Mmm, cracking skin + tender meat = sweet indulgence!

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Tips for Cooking Grass-Fed Beef

On a whim, while purchasing other items for my new lifestyle at Whole Foods, I decided to pick up a grass-fed steak. (I’ll be consistently buying grass-fed beef soon enough, but need to empty out my freezer of the existing meat first!)

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I’d read that grass-fed steak is very different than “conventional” steak, but I didn’t know how it would be different. Since grass-fed beef is not fed grains to fatten them up and increase marbling, tasters usually find it less fatty and therefore less tender. This does not necessarily have to be the case, but since I was not prepared for this purchase and I had not done research ahead of time, I had not prepared to cook this meat. (I know, me not doing research first is unheard of! Hopefully, this unpreparedness will cut down on my future impulse purchases….) Unfortunately, I tried to cook it as I would a normal steak. Despite my lack of preparation, it was still delicious, and I could taste a new, wonderful, distinct flavor I can only describe as “natural.” However, next time I will incorporate the following tips I gathered from post-cooking research:

  1. Marinade your beef first in an acidic liquid to break down the tissue. If you do not have time for a marinade, then sprinkle your seasonings on the beef and pound it between two sheets of plastic wrap.
  2. As grass-fed steak cooks more quickly than conventional steak, cook it at a slightly lower temperature that you would a normal one.
  3. Do not turn your beef with a fork. In doing so, you pierce it and release valuable juices. (I’m guilty of this, every time…) Flip using tongs.
  4. Grass-fed beef takes less time to cook, so remove it from heat before you would a “conventional” steak. In fact, remove it from heat about 10 degrees before it reaches the desired temperature. Tent with foil, and let rest for 8-10 minutes. The residual heat will cause it to cook to the desired doneness.

Next time I try this, I would also take the opportunity to make and top my steak with one of the flavored butters I’ve been aching to make! I’m thinking bleu cheese butter?!?

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Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Sage, Balsamic, Brown Butter Parm Sauce

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Unfortunately, learning I’m allergic to white potatoes does not make my love of gnocchi disappear! Fortunately, sweet potatoes are another story and NOT on my list of illegal food. (I will¬†find ways to eat delicious foods legally!)

So tonight, wrapped up in fuzzy sweaters and socks against Richmond’s first “winter storm” of the season, I have decided to embark upon the path of sweet, decadent comfort food.

Makes 6 servings (If cooking for one like me, the extra gnocchi can be frozen and saved for later. And the sauce is easy to cut down for smaller servings.)

Sweet Potato Gnocchi

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

2 cooked sweet potatoes (I used 3 small ones)
1 egg
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
2 tsp. sea salt
2 c. King Arthur flour, plus more for kneading

Peel cooked sweet potatoes and put them in a mixing bowl. Blend with the mixer until the sweet potatoes are pureed. Add the egg, and then the salt, pepper, and flour. Mix until combined. Put dough onto a well floured surface. Knead the dough until it comes together well and is not sticky.

Fill a medium sized pot halfway with water and set on medium high heat to boil. Divide the dough into four equally sized sections. Roll each section into a long rope, about 1/2″ thick. Cut the coil into pieces about one inch long and press all around with a fork. (This will help the gnocchi hold your sauce later!)

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Drop gnocchi into the boiling water. You will have to do this in batches to avoid overcrowding the pot. Gnocchi is done when it rises to the surface. With a slotted spoon, remove the cooked gnocchi and place in a bowl. (Note: If you are making this dish for less than six people, the gnocchi freezes well, so you only need to cook as much as you need. To make the frozen gnocchi later, simply drop, unthawed, into boiling water and cook as normal.)

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Sage, Brown Butter Parmesan Sauce

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

8 tbs. butter
6-8 leaves of fresh sage, chopped (plus additional leaves if desired for garnishing)
3 tsp. King Arthur flour
6 tsp. organic balsamic vinegar
3/4 c. milk
6 tbs. parmesan cheese

Melt the butter in a saucepan on medium heat. (If you will be garnishing your dish with fried sage leaves, go ahead and fry them in the butter now. When you are done frying your leaves, add the chopped sage and stir continuously. When your butter begins turning a light brown color and starts smelling nutty and delicious, turn off the heat. Add the flour and stir into the browned butter.

Add the balsamic vinegar and milk to your roux (butter/flour mixture), stirring gently and consistently until combined. At the last minute, add the parmesan cheese and remove from heat.

Add the gnocchi to the sauce pan and stir until all pieces are fully covered in sauce and reheated. Serve, garnish with fried sage leaves if desired, and enjoy!

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