Wordless Wednesday: When the Pyracantha Berries Up

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Chicken & Dumplings Soup or Something

Is it really November? Here in Florida, we had about a week of fall-feeling weather before it went back to feeling like we’re living inside of a cat’s mouth. Happily, my group of girlfriends and I are heading to the north Georgia mountains for a weekend of all the foods, booze, laughter, and cool weather. So I’m making a hearty, flavorful soup to keep us warm. It’s called chicken & dumplings, but really has more of a soup consistency throughout. I first learned the recipe from a coworker/friend and have tweaked it over the years to fit my own tastes.

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Like other soups, this one starts with the holy trinity of carrots, celery, and onion. I add freshwpid-20151112_154310.jpg chopped garlic, as well. I start with some olive oil in the pot and then drop in the rough-chopped carrots. After a couple minutes, I add the onions and celery and cook over medium-high heat until the onions become a bit translucent. Then it’s garlic time.

wpid-20151112_154547.jpgOnce you smell the garlic, turn the heat down to medium and add in the spices, whole chicken, and stock. I prefer to use homemade veggie or chicken stock, but if you’re using store-bought, make sure it is low sodium and that it is stock, NOT broth. Low sodium allows you to add salt to your own taste.

Now set the soup to simmer for about 30 minutes to make sure the chicken cooks through. Once done, remove the chicken from the pot and cool it to the touch. I usually put it in the freezer for about 10 minutes. Turn the heat off on the soup during the chicken cooling period, but leave it on the burner, covered.

wpid-20151112_173041-1.jpgWhile the chicken is cooling, it’s dumpling prep time! I just use home-style canned biscuits for the dumplings. I’ve tried making my own and, frankly, they weren’t noticeably better, so I go with convenience. Cut the biscuits into sixths and toss in flour. I season the flour with some garlic powder.

The chicken should be cool enough to handle at this time. Turn the heat back on to medium and tear the meat off the chicken, adding it to the pot. I tend to keep a little bit of the skin, but not much. Just enough to add some extra flavor.

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Once all the chicken has been added, bring the soup to a gentle simmer and then add the dumplings. I let them set for a couple of minutes before stirring. My stirring method is to put the spoon in the pot at the edge all the way to the bottom and then slowly pull it towards the center. I’ve found that the dumplings don’t break apart doing it this way.

At this time, you can add the frozen peas if you are going to eat the soup the same night. I generally make it the day before and let it sit overnight in the fridge, allowing all the flavors to meld. When I reheat it for dinner the next night, I add the frozen peas at that time.

Whether you enjoy it the same night or wait, you will not be disappointed. This is a simple and scrumptious soup for the cool weather months. Dumpling-mania!

Ingredients

3 quarts veggie or chicken stock

5 pound whole chicken

6 carrots

6 celery stalks

1 large yellow onion

2 large cloves garlic

1/2 tablespoon cumin

1/2 tablespoon oregano

1/2 teaspoon thyme

salt & pepper to taste

1 can 8-count biscuits

flour to coat

1 small bag frozen peas

THE BRUSSELS ARE HERE.

Stopped at the grocery this afternoon thinking I would just pick up a bottle of wine and some sort of veggie for dinner since I had everything else I needed to throw together a meal. Instead, I saw what I’ve been waiting for all summer. There they were…brussel sprouts.

A whole stack of those baby cabbage head-wrapped stalks was right in front of me. Eyes wide, I stared in disbelief for a moment and then, suddenly, I wanted to wield one in each hand and run around the store exclaiming, “THE BRUSSELS ARE HERE. THE BRUSSELS ARE HERE.” I suppressed that urge and picked out just one stalk and put it in my cart.

wpid-20151029_194227-1.jpgI knew instantly what I was going to make, so I added pomegranate, Meyer lemon, shallots, garlic, pecans, bacon, cheese, and yogurt to the buggy. Grabbed a bottle of wine and headed home to start on my favorite ever salad–raw brussel salad with a citrus shallot dressing.

This is a salad I devour throughout the brussel sprout season. I seem to never tire of it and with a few variations, it’s kept fresh. This one also pairs well with different main courses or by itself for lunch.

Start with the dressing. Extra virgin olive oil and plainwpid-20151029_183330-1.jpg
greek yogurt form the base to carry the flavors of the Meyer lemon, chopped garlic and shallot, honey and whole sprigs of fresh thyme. I prepare this first so those flavors can meld together before adding to the salad. I like looking at the pretty levels of colors that form in the jar before it’s shaken up. But you gotta shake it. Shake it real good. Then set aside in the fridge, drop the bacon in the frying pan, and get to the tedious part of the process.

Chopping. Chop, chop, chop it up, people. This is a raw brussel salad, so the little heads must be popped off the stalk, outside leaves removed, and then chopped finely to a shredded lettuce texture. It takes about 30-40 brussels depending on the size. The stalk I brought home had medium to small heads on it, so I actually ended up using about 45-50. That’s a lot of chopping, but I love working with a good knife. It’s meditative. Once they’re shredded, cover them with cold water and let soak while you prepare the pecans and pomegranate.

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Pomegranates are another delight of the season for me. I eat a lot of them while they’re available. Now that I’ve learned the way to get the seeds out easily, I love them even more. For appearances, they add that pop of vibrant red to liven up the salad, but they also bring a unique texture and taste to the table. I used a heaping cup full of those beauties.

 

At that point, the brussels were strained, rinsed one more time, and then spread out on kitchen towels. While they were drying, I prepared about 3/4 cup of chopped pecans, shredded some pecorino medoro, and cut the cooked bacon.

Thrown together, the flavors, textures, and colors create a scrumptious salad for the season and it’s quite lovely to look at as well…

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I hope you all enjoy this seasonal salad as much as I do! I’ve included substitution options in the ingredient list which include a vegetarian way.

I’d love to hear about your own variations and how they worked out.

Dressing:

One shallot chopped

Fresh thyme leaves

Garlic, small clove

Meyer lemons, juice of two lemons

Extra virgin olive oil, about 1/2 cup

Plain Greek yogurt, 2 heaping tablespoons

Honey, 1 heaping tablespoon

salt & pepper to taste

 

Salad Ingredients:

Brussel sprouts, about 3 1/2-4 cups chopped

Half to 3/4 of a pomegranate (or substitute one package of low-sugar craisins)

Bacon, 4 slices (or substitute pistachios for that salty, “meaty” flavor)

Pecans, 3/4-1 cup (or walnuts if you prefer)

Pecorino cheese, 1/2 cup shredded (I’ve also used goat cheese and it was very good)

 

 

 

 

Rustic-ish Apple Tart-esque

It’s fall, y’all! The Autumnal equinox marks the start of my favorite season. And what better way to bring in fall than with an apple tart?! There is no better way, I tell you.

With thoughts of worn-in jeans and threadbare sweaters on my mind, I set out to google up some recipes for apple tarts. In my usual fashion, I read through about five different variations, some of which were done in tart pans and others that were just done on baking sheets. I ended up not following the directions of any of them…shocking, I know.

What I did come up with was a mix of a rustic-style baking sheet tart done in a classic tart pan. Kind of. Or something. Minus nutmeg. What?

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Here we go! First things first, the apples. I chose Granny Smith and Honeycrisp. I love me some Honeycrisp apples, but only wanted a couple for a little natural sweetness since I knew I would cut the processed sugar amount in the mix. And Granny Smiths are the classic choice for these sorts of things, so I did the majority of those.

wpid-wp-1443055757009.jpgFor the dough, I whipped up the same tart dough that I used for the tomato tart I did earlier this summer. I will say, this was my best round of crust to date. It came together easily and actually looked right. Guess I’ve finally started to get the hang of it.

I left some dough hanging off around the edges instead of docking it because I wanted to wrap it over a little bit of the tart in the more rustic style. Kept the dough in the fridge while I prepared everything else.

Next up was coring, peeling, and slicing the apples. Six in total, there were four Granny Smiths and twowpid-wp-1443055768867.jpg Honeycrisp. All of them quite large, they came to a little over three pounds in total. The slices went into a saute pan that had melted butter, dark brown sugar, granulated sugar, lemon juice, and spices. The normal spices are cinnamon and nutmeg. I did not use nutmeg. Not for any reason other than I didn’t have any and I was not about to go back to the store. I substituted ginger for funsies. Simmered wpid-wp-1443055764038.jpgthe apples a leetle too long because distractions. But that means they had more time to soak up more of the flavors…or so I’m saying. Pulled them from heat to cool before piling them into the dough with all their juices poured in as well. My idea about wrapping the dough along the outside of the tart ended up being super rustic because I didn’t roll it out evenly, but I was fine with that. It fit my impatient baking style. Funky-edged tart was ready for the oven.

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This is when things got dicey because there were so many different cooking temps and times depending on the type of tart and since I followed none of the directions, I had to wing it. I went with a 400 degree oven on the second to bottom rack level, covered the edges with foil for the first 30 mins., then did another 20 without the foil so the crust could brown up.

When it was almost done baking, I melted two heaping tablespoons of apricot preserves in a saucepan to drizzle on top. Oh, the smell of cooking apples, sugar, and spices. This was definitely the way to ring in the fall season. And just look at this bubbly beauty…

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Happy start of fall!

 

Tart Dough

1 1/2 cups flour

1/2 cup (one stick) unsalted butter, chilled

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 large egg

2-3 tablespoons cold water

Mix the flour and salt in a bowl, cut the butter into cubes and add to flour. Use your fingers to break into the butter until it is crumbly.

Mix the egg with 2 tablespoons of the cold water and whip together. Make a well in the flour and add the beaten egg, mix until the dough holds together. Add the extra tablespoon of water if needed (I needed it).

Roll dough out on floured surface until it’s big enough to fit the tart pan and press in tightly. Set in fridge while you prepare the filling.

Tart Filling

6 apples, about 3 pounds total

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/4 cup dark brown sugar

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

2 tablespoons apricot preserves

Melt the butter over medium-high heat, add in the sugars, cook until melted (about two minutes), add in the lemon juice, spices, and apples. Cover and reduce heat. Cook just until tender.

Let cool before pouring into dough.

400 degree oven, second to bottom rack for 50-60 mins.

Drizzle melted apricot preserves on top and serve warm or room temp.