Archive for the ‘food’ Category

Chicken Dumpling Soup

This is another one of those recipes that I never made the same way twice and it resulted in dumplings that were ‘hit or miss.’  Well guess what – this recipe?  Naaaaaaaailed it!!!

The soup starts off much like many of my other soup recipes:

I round-up the usual suspects – carrot, celery, onion, garlic, and stock.  I’m also going to throw in some frozen corn and frozen peas, but that’ll come later.  I dice up and saute about a cup each of the carrot, celery and onion. In this case, it was about half an onion, 4 carrots, and 4 ribs of celery.

I let those soften with a little salt and pepper for probably 6- 7 minutes.  Then I mince up a shit-load of garlic and throw that in for another few minutes.  Shit-load, in this case, would classify as 4 large garlic cloves? 3 tablespoons? About this much:

I dunno.  Use however much garlic you like.   After those have married together awhile, I add my stock.  About 8 cups.

Bring that up to a boil, cover, and reduce to a simmer for maybe 15 – 20 minutes until your veggies are just about as soft as you want them.  Also give everything a taste periodically and make sure it has enough salt and pepper to your liking. I also find it kind of funny that the food post immediately following my chicken stock post uses store-bought stock.  But whaddyagonnado?  Sometimes a girl is fresh out of home-made chicken stock.  Sad, too.  Because this is the kind of recipe in which home-made stock really shines through.  Oh well.  Carrying on…

Finally.  We are to the dumplings!  These suckers are quite delicious.  Here is what you will need:

All-purpose flour, milk, butter, salt, and baking powder.

Now these dumplings are the thick, dense, chewy, stick-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth kind of dumplings; not the light, airy dumplings touted in other recipes.  I believe this is due to the low amount of baking powder and the fact that I boil instead of steam the dumplings.  If you like an airier dumpling then…well… I cant help you.  It took me a very long time to determine how NOT to make an airy dumpling, people. Just go consult any other recipe.  Because those are the ones I have already dismissed.  Anyway.  Back to chewy dumplings.  I use 2 cups of flour, 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp of salt, 2 tablespoons of melted butter and 1.25 cups of milk.

Yep. Now stir it all together. It will be a very wet mixture but will still hold together fairly well.

So now you can take the lid off your simmering soup and raise the heat so its at a steady simmer or low boil without the lid on.  This is where you will want to grab 2 spoons.  You only see one below because i had to use my other hand for the camera, but the best way to do this is take a teaspoon of the mixture in one spoon and scrape it off with another.  The dumplings will sink to the bottom and slowly rise to the top as they finish cooking.

I try to work quickly so they have approximately the same cooking time.  I also try to work my way around the pot to give each dumpling a bit of room as they cook in the stock and not all stick together.  Soon the top will be completely covered with the cooked dumplings.  I would say this process take 5 minutes? (Ill time it next time and add it to the comments).

Lastly, I throw in about a half cup each of the frozen corn and frozen peas.  Oh and now is also the time I would add the CHICKEN part of this chicken dumpling soup, but this was also the time I realized I had no ‘snacking chicken’ left in the fridge. But I would have added around 3/4 cups of shredded cooked chicken, so lets pretend that I did.

After you stir it around and defrost the corn and peas, you are done!! Here is the finished product:

Or in our case:

Here is an easy copy/paste version of the recipe:


1 cup diced carrot

1 cup diced celery

1 cup diced onion

3 tablespoons minced garlic

8 cups chicken stock

2 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon of salt

1/2 teaspoon of baking powder

2 tablespoons melted butter

1.25 cups of milk

1/2 cup frozen corn

1/2 cup frozen peas

3/4 – 1 cup cooked shredded chicken

salt/pepper to taste

Saute diced carrots, celery and onion in some olive oil with a bit of salt and pepper to 6-7 minutes.  Add in minced garlic and saute for 1-2 minutes more.  Add 8 cups of chicken stock and bring mixture to boil, cover, and reduce to simmer.  Simmer for about 15 -20 minutes until soft.  In the mean time, make dumplings.  In bowl combine flour, salt, and baking powder.  Stir in melted butter and milk.  Uncover pot, and bring heat up to a low boil.  Drop in a teaspoon of the dumpling mixture at a time, trying to give each dumpling a little room to cook, working your way around the pot.  Work quickly to give about the same cooking time to each dumpling.  Dumplings will rise to the top of the soup once cooked.  After all have risen, add frozen corn, peas, and cooked chicken to pot.  Stir everything together to defrost the frozen veggies and heat the chicken through.  Then Eat!

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We’ve finally reached part III of woznation chicken – chicken stock! For this post I will go through how to make the stock using the leftover carcass of the woznation chicken from part I and part II. Alternatively, I have also made stock using chicken backs or turkey necks (we have a butcher down the street who practically throws these things away so I can get lots of poultry flavor without all the work of roasting the chicken and carving it up).  Making stock is pretty easy no matter what you use, I’ll talk you through it.

So we have our chicken from woznation chicken part II

I pick as much meat off the bone and then place the bones into a large stock pot.

Oh yeah, I also saved all the juices from the roasting pan and put that in there, too.  Thats what those dark juices are.  Yummmm:

So then I take off all the skin from my cut-up chicken and add it to the pot.  We’re not big skin eaters around here – so we just add that flavor to the stock.

Since we also dont eat the chicken right when its made, I go ahead and peel the chicken meat from the legs/thighs and save all the meat for future meals and/or ‘snacking chicken’  for the week.  And then throw the bones into the stock pot.

Boom.  White meat and dark meat.  All ready for the week.  And now all the bones are in the stock pot.

[Now, if I hadnt roasted a chicken and instead had raw chicken backs or turkey necks instead, I would put a little olive oil in the bottom of the stock pot and brown the backs or necks a bit (Dont worry about them being all the way cooked – they will boil for the next 4 hours).  After they had a bit of color (i.e. flavor)  I would continue with the stock in the following manner.]

So now I get some veggies and seasonings ready to throw in to add extra flavor.

I use about 4 ribs of celery, 4 carrots, an onion, 3 cloves of garlic, salt, whole peppercorns, and bay leaf.  I run a wet towel over the carrots and celery to get off any extra dirt and then rough chop them.

Then I quarter the onion, skin-on and all!  And smash about 3-4 garlic cloves.

Then I throw the veggies in the pot and add about a tablespoon each of salt and peppercorns and then 2-3 bay leaves.

Fill the pot up with water (approximately 3 ‘where else?’ glasses full…96 ounces total?).

Bring everything up to a boil and then reduce down to a low simmer.  Simmer for 4-5 hours.  If you are losing water too quickly, you can always add more water but you dont want to dilute your stock too much. Just make sure your simmer is very low.  You can stir the pot occasionally if you’re around, but I’ve also let this go while Ive been out running errands.  It doesnt need a babysitter.  After 4-5 hours you will have pretty much sucked out all the flavor from the chicken and vegetables.

And now you have some liquid gold!  All you need to do it strain out the bones and veggies!  I usually use a bit of cheese cloth in my strainer as well to catch as much of the grit as possible, but I was out this time.

Voila.  Chicken Stock!

All the fat in the chicken stock rises to the top and will solidify in the fridge overnight.  You can just take a spoon and scoop off the layer of fat and throw it away the next day.  Now you are all ready to make some homemade souprisotto, shepards pie,  or anything else you want!

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This is a delicious delicious marinade I got from Jared’s mom Lynn. Before we started making jambalaya I think this was my favorite meal. It can be used on any cut of beef but we like to use it with flank steak because it is a cheap, tough cut of meat which magically becomes delicious after we marinade it.

There are really only 4 ingredients to the marinade as you can see above. Scroll down to the end of the post for amounts. Making the  marinade is very complicated, follow these directions explicitly. Combine the soy sauce, ketchup, brown sugar and garlic. Done with the marinade portion. We like to use a plastic bag to do the marinating because it makes it easy to redistribute over the  meat. Feel free to use the vessel of your choice to combine the ingredients. See  our bag O marinade below.

One optional ingredient to this marinade is red wine vinegar. You can include this if you only have time to let the meat marinade for an hour or two. For a short marinade time, the vinegar starts to break down the meat and allows the other flavors to infuse. For tastiest results we recommend NOT using the red wine vinegar and marinating for at least 6hrs (the longer the marinating the better). One additional tip, use low sodium soy sauce, it just makes everything more delicioiuser.

Once the marinade is made the next step is to prepare your meat. We like to cube our flank steak so we can make shish Ka bobs but feel free to cut your meat in whatever way makes sense for your cut. As an example; Jared’s mom marinades the full flank steak and then cuts small slices at an angle against the grain of the meat after grilling. For our shish Ka bobs we cut then cube flank steak as shown below.

The next step is to poke holes in each cube. This allows for more marinade to soak into the meat over time. For our cubes I like to put two fork punctures in an X pattern on each face of the cube. This takes some time but it is worth it. Additionally, if you have experience with lawn care you can think of this as aerating the meat.

Speaking of cubes, one of the most famous cubes is the Necker Cube shown below with it’s more interesting cousin the un/impossible cube. The most interesting thing about this cube is that it can be interpreted in at least two ways, I like this from a philosophical standpoint.

Back to the steak. Once you have prepared and aerated the meat put it in the marinade, make sure all the meat has been fully submerged (see below). This is very easy to do with our zip lock bag method, you can pretty much man-handle the meat to make sure everything is sufficiently covered.

As I mentioned earlier Amy and I like to let the steak marinade for at least 4-6 hours before we start grilling. Approximately once every hour I like to mix up the bag to redistribute the marinade and make sure all pieces get a healthy dose.

Once the meat has sufficiently marinaded it is time to build our shish Ka bobs or go directly to grilling if you did not go the shish Ka bob route. Anything you typically put on a Ka bob is fine, for this dinner Amy and I just used meat, green peppers, and onion petals. Amy believes these could have used some nice to cherry tomatoes to really make the colors pop.

We typically grill the meat but these can also be cooked on the stove top. However, if you use the stove top consider taking the batteries out of your smoke detector because the sugar in the marinade will burn (and smoke) when placed directly on the burner. When I say ‘burn’ it is more of the smoking that causes the problem, the meat still tastes amazing. To mitigate this try to get as much marinade off the meat as possible, the flavor is already infused in the meat. That said, we still recommend cooking the meat on the grill for optimum flank steak performance. Feel free to grill the meat to your preferred tenderness.

Now we feast

See Below for Quick Recipe:

The following makes enough marinade for ~3lbs of meat (flank steak is our meat of choice)

1 cup soy (preferably the low sodium soy)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup ketchup
2 teaspoons minced garlic (to taste)
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar (only include this if you are marinating for less than 2 hours)

Thoroughly mix all ingredients in the vessel of your choice (1 gallon plastic bag works well)

Prepare meat if necessary (Example: cut into cubes for shish Ka bobs)

Poke lots of holes in meat with fork (aerate)

Immerse in marinade for at least 4 hours (If you include the red wine vinegar marinade for no more than 2 hours)



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Woznation Chicken Part II

If you missed Part I of Woznation Chicken check it out here.  Part III on its way next.

Now that we have our roasted chicken, you may be wondering ‘How do I eat this thing?’.  Often one hears of buying a ‘8 piece chicken.’  That is generally a term used for a raw chicken broken down into 8 serving sizes.  But I guarantee you that one little chicken isnt going to serve 8 people.  So I will be demonstrating how to break down the chicken Woznation style which is 4 pieces, with 2 wings to boot.  So here is our chicken:

It has been resting at least 20 minutes to cool down.  If you try to break it down too early, it will be way too hot to man handle.  We are going to start with the 2 leg/thigh servings.  Begin by cutting into the skin between the body and the leg, angling as close to the back of the bird as possible.  You can flip the bird oven if youd like, to make sure you are getting as much of the thigh meat as possible.  Is should be pretty easy to cut through the skin and meat – but then your knife will stop when you reach bone / hip socket.  Thats ok.  Dont try to actually cut through the bone, just cut through the meat part for now.

So like I said, you will stop once you have cut through all the meat and skin, and now the thigh piece is hanging on by the bone/hip socket.   Since you have already roasted the bird, this should be a pretty weak connection.  You should be able to see the bone at this point and you can most often separate the thigh by a few twists back and forth, perhaps with a little encouragment from the point of your knife right at the socket.   There is a bit of a learner’s curve on this, so dont fret if you cant jimmy-off the leg on your first try.

So now that you have one thigh off, do the same with the other (and yes, the juice of the thigh meat is a little pink indicating that I slightly undercooked the dark meat of this bird. You have to cook the breast until 170 and the dark meat until 180.  So you can pick between an overcooked breast or an undercooked thigh.  Since I usually throw the meat into something else Im cooking later that week – I always go the ‘undercooked’ route.  If you are planning on serving the thigh meat immediately -you could pop the dark meat pieces back in the oven for 10 more minutes, or nuke ’em for 30 seconds?  I havent actually tried that though – so let me know how it turns out….).

K.  Now you have 2 thigh/leg pieces.  Lets get to the wings. This really doesnt count as a ‘piece’ or a serving.  Its more like a snack for the cook.  Its usually the first thing I take off a eat right over the stock pot and then toss in the bones/skin.  You can use your knife to cut through the skin by the elbow socket, but really the tendons are so weak at this point, you dont really need a knife and the wing will most likely fall part as you are twisting it off.  In fact, bonus points for you if you can get the little wing off in one piece.

Wooo.  Bonus points for me.

Lastly, we need to break down the breast.  This is slightly easier than the legs since we arent going to be dealing with any bones.  But the breast bone is curved, so it can be a little bit of work to get as most meat as possible off in one piece.  Start on one side of the breast bone and cut down curving outward when you reach resistance, following the breast bone.

Once you have that top cut done,  I move to the end of the bird and cut under and back up towards the top, staying as close to the rib cage as possible. This is a lot of hands work as well.  I use the knife to get me going, but a lot of work is done by the hands pulling the meat away from the bones.

I included pictures from both sides, hopefully you get the idea.  Like I said earlier – There is a learners curve to this.  I definitely mangled a few chickens before I got the pieces to come off in nice whole pieces.  But the good news is, the chicken will be delicious no matter how you get it off the bone.  So just start tearing pieces off if its not cooperating with you.  After roasting about 50 chickens, itll become second nature and you’ll have 4 decent sized servings (plus some wings, if you havent eaten them already).  Yaaaay Chicken.

Interesting fact about chicken blood (from phil): Back in the 1950s doctor George Gey was trying to grow human cells in a petri dish outside the body for the first time. Doctors wanted to do this so they could experiment on live human cells without having to experiment on a live human, the IRB would be proud. Doctor Gey was trying to find the optimal environment in which to grow the cells. He tried several substances ranging from chicken blood to goat semen. His first successful ‘immortal’ line was grown in a mixture of human placenta blood, beef embryo extract, and plasma from chicken blood. The successful cell line was grown from a smaple of cervical cancer taken from Henrietta Lacks and are known as HeLa cells. These cells are still used today for all kinds of medical research, aided in the creation of the polio vaccine, and have led to all kinds of advancements in the field of oncology.

If you found the above paragraph as exciting as I found it to write I recommend “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot. It is riveting, I would read it directly through if I were you.

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Woznation Chicken Part I

Im kicking off a 3 part series on the life of a chicken in woznation.  And by ‘life’  I mean once its already dead.  Part I consists of roasting the chicken.  Part II consists of breaking down the chicken.  and Part III consists of making chicken stock.  Enjoy!

I roast a chicken just about every weekend.  The main reason I do it is because we are soup junkies and making my own chicken stock is the most economically way to feed the addiction.  You can easily make chicken stock without roasting a whole chicken, but roast chicken is delicious, so if you have the time and a chicken, I say go this route.  Often, we dont even eat the meat of the chicken right when I make it (I usually make it at like 7am saturday morning and a ‘roast chicken breakfast’ is a little weird).  Its usually chopped up and used in various meals throughout the week.  Or it just hangs out in the fridge as phil’s  ‘snacking chicken’ whenever he is hungry.

Roast chicken can be as easy or as complicated as you want it to be.  It kind of depends what mood Im in.  Sometimes I do a beer can chicken  or I do a spatchcock chicken over vegetables. But most often I do it as easily as possible, which includes oiling, salting and peppering.  Then throwing it in the oven.  Here we go:

So, yeah, I wasnt lying.  All you need is a chicken, oil, salt and pepper.  In terms of tools though – I highly recommend a digital, leave-in meat thermometer.  In fact thats the crux of my roast chicken recipe.  If you dont have one, you may want to consult other instructions because I cant tell you cooking time per pounds of bird or anything like that because I always rely solely on the meat thermometer.

First, preheat your oven to 425.  Then you need to make sure your chicken doesnt have any giblets stuffed into the cavity (Ive forgotten to check before and cooked them right in the package.  Amateur hour…).

BTW – this recipe was one of the least appetizing processes to photograph, but Im posting it anyway because the end product is worth it.  Stay with me – its a quick process!!  Next rinse off the whole bird, inside and out  and then pat it very, very dry.

Make sure any time you touch the raw bird, to wash your hands afterwards before you touch something else so you dont contaminate everything with possible salmonella.  That would be bad.  Also please note that my arm is actually WHITER than the uncooked chicken!!  Dear lord I need to get me some sun.  Its been a long winter….

I told you this post was unappetizing until the end.  Anyway.

Next I oil up the bottom of a baking dish.  Then I place the dry chicken in and oil, salt and pepper the whole thing.  Inside and out.  Top and Bottom.

At this point its ready to go in the oven.  But here is where I utilize my very important leave-in thermometer.  It has a timing option that goes off at whatever temperature you set it at.  So I set my timer to go off when the temp hits 163  and then stick the probe into the thickest part of the breast.

Phil!  Dont forget to slide the ‘Temp Alert’ thing on the right over to ‘ON’.

Now place it in the oven at 425 for like 20 minutes

After 20 minutes, knock down the heat to 325 for the remainder of the cooking time.  Once the temp hit 163 the alarm will go off and you’ll have a delicious roast chicken:

I only set the cooking timing to 163 because the chicken actually continues to cook after you take it out of the oven.  So I take it out at 163 and within about 10 minutes of sitting it hits 170.


Told ya so.  There really isnt a copy/paste recipe to type out.  Its more of a method than a recipe.  Here is a quick recap:

Preheat oven to 425.  Unwrap chicken, take out giblets and rinse inside and out.  Pat chicken completely dry.  Oil bottom of a baking dish/roasting pan.  Place chicken in pan and oil, salt and pepper the entire chicken (maybe a teaspoon to a tablespoon of each?  However much you need for a sprinkle on all sides of the chicken).  Place leave-in meat thermometer into thickest part of the breast and set timer to go off at 163 degrees.  Roast chicken in 425 oven for 20 minutes and then decrease temperature to 325 for the remainder of the time.  Let chicken rest 20 minutes before serving.

Stay tuned for Part II and Part III of Woznation Chicken!

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Toasted Oats

This is kind of a silly recipe to post.  But since the original goal of all the recipes was to allow Phil to replicate what we normally eat, I thought I would include this.  This is more like ‘step-by-step assembly’, instead of a ‘recipe’.  I didnt even want to call it ‘granola’ since its just oats and none of the extra good stuff.  So now that I have everyone excited…Toasted Oats:

All I use are oats, canola oil, maple syrup, honey, and a dash of vanilla.  Preheat your oven to 250 degrees.  Then, I use a 1/3 measuring cup and fill it up with equal parts oil, honey, and maple syrup. And top it off with about 1 tsp of vanilla.

I line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and throw about 2 cups of old fashioned oats on it:

Then you just pour your honey-maple-oily goodness all over the oats and stir it all together:

Dont worry if not every oat has some stuff on it yet.  The mix will heat up, melt, and spread out in the oven.  And you will mix it periodically in the oven.  The final result will be crispy, delicious and sweet.  And by sweet, I mean totally awesome (and sugary). So go ahead and pop it in the oven at 250 degrees and set your timer for 7 minutes.

After 7 minutes, take it out and give it a good stir, trying to get as many of the oats covered in goo as you can.  Then put it back in for another 7 minutes.  Then take it out and stir. And then put it in for a remaining 7 minutes.  (So you have 21 minutes total, stirring twice).

Then just let it cool and store it in a airtight container!  I love yogurt, blueberries and oats in the morning.  Its my absolute go-to breakfast. This batch gets me through a whole week!

Here is an easy copy/paste version of the recipe:


~2 tablespoons of canola oil

~2 tablespoons maple syrup

~2 tablespoons honey

1 teaspoon of vanilla

2 cups old fashioned oats

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.  Mix first 3 ingredients (in a 1/3 measuring cup,  or bowl).  Top-off with 1 tsp of vanilla.  Line baking sheet with parchment paper and place oats on baking sheet.  Pour mix over oats and stir to coat oats best you can.  Place in oven and bake for 7 minutes.  Then take out and give it all a good stir.  Place in oven for another 7 minutes.  Then take out and give it another good stir.  Place in oven for a last 7 minutes.  Take out and let cool (oats will crisp as they cool).  Enjoy with yogurt and berries.

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Mushroom-Herb and Pea Risotto

Risotto is a wonderfully easy dish to prepare.  ‘Risotto’ is actually the name of the process in which you cook the rice.  It involves lots of standing and stirring, but the result is worth it.  Before this fetus took over my body, this meal would most often appear on our dinner table after a particularly stressful day.  That is because I would use it as an excuse to stop and get a good bottle of dry white wine ‘for the risotto’ on my way home from work.  You really only need a bit of wine for the dish but, hey, once its open you dont want it to go to waste!  And then I would stand, and stir, and drink my wine and unwind.

These days, I omit the wine, and yell at Phil to go check the rice because my feet hurt and I dont want to stand there all night stirring.

Here is what you’ll need:

Arborio rice (white, short-grain, high-starch rice), chicken stock, mushrooms, frozen peas, onion, butter, thyme and sage.  I first start with the mushrooms.  I had 8 crimini mushrooms (also known as ‘baby-bellas’).  I wash them off with a damp paper towel, because I have heard that if you rinse them in a colendar then they absorb too much water?  I have no data to back this up or why it matters.  Some things I just go with…

This made about 2 cups of sliced mushrooms.  You can also find them pre-sliced and pre-washed, if you dont feel like dealing with them.  I saute these up in about 2 tablespoons of butter.  And I add in my herbs.  I use about 3/4 teaspoon of sage and 3/4 teaspoon of thyme.  This makes the risotto quite herb-y.  If you’re not sure of how herb-y you want it, Id start with 1/2 teaspoon each.

I let the mushrooms cook in the butter and herbs for 5-6 minutes on medium-low heat.  But I do not add any salt yet. If the pan starts getting a little dry, you could add in some olive oil or more butter.  Once the mushrooms have browned up a bit, then I add in a little salt.  This draws out excess liquid in the mushroom and you’ll notice more of a paste on the mushrooms with the herbs.  I have heard if you add the salt too soon, it will draw out the liquid before the mushrooms have developed any flavor.  Apparently this is troublesome? Again, data is lacking.

As the mushrooms cook, I dice up a half an onion. This yielded about 1 cup.

Once the mushrooms are done to your liking, put them in a bowl and attempt to keep as much herb-y sauce in the pan as you can.

Then you are ready to cook up your onions.

You can add a bit of olive oil if you need to at this step.  Saute onions for 4-5 minutes, until soft. And then add in your rice.  I had between 3/4 and 1 cup of rice for this dish.  I let the rice saute for another 2-3 minutes.

This would be an excellent time to add that wine I was talking about. About 1/4 – 1/2 cup.  (Then the rest of the bottle is for the chef!)  But its perfectly delicious without it.  So since Im fresh out – I proceed with the stock.  I had a 4 cup box of chicken stock on hand.  Often I have seen recipes calling for the stock to be heated to the temperature of the rice pan.  Therefore making the cook drag out another pan for heating and then ladling the stock from one pot to the other. This is apparently to eliminate the need for the stock to come up to the simmer temperature each time you add more and, thus, reduce the cooking time.  I did this once.  And decided Id rather increase the cooking time ever so slightly than to fuss with the additional pan.

Anyway, here is where we start the risotto process.  I add about 1.5 cups of stock to the pan and bring it to a low simmer.  I stir the rice slowly and often, but not continuously.  You only add a little bit of the stock at a time so that the rice grains stay close to each other and therefore create friction against each other.  This lets off the starch from the rice, which mixes with the stock and creates the ‘creamy’ texture that is synonymous with risotto. This is also why it is recommended you stir often – to agitate the rice to let off the starch.  If you didnt stir or if you dump in all the stock at once, you wouldnt have nearly as much release of the starch and thus, a non-‘creamy’ dish. It would be more like, well….rice.

So let the rice simmer in just enough liquid to cover and stir until almost all the liquid has been absorbed.  And then add more gradually, bringing the dish to a simmer each time.

Keep stirring and adding more stock until the rice is done to your liking.  This took about 3.5 to 4 cups for me (also depends on how much wine you added).  I like my rice pretty soft.  It cold be less liquid if you like it more al dente.  Once the last bit of liquid is being absorbed, add your mushrooms back in and add 1 cup of frozen peas.

Stir all together, add salt and pepper to taste. And you’re done!

Like I said, wonderfully easy to prepare.  It can even be done while a bit tipsy. In fact, its recommended.

Phil's serving topped with a 'sprinkle' of parmesan

Here is an easy copy/paste version of the recipe:


2 cups of sliced crimini mushroom (about 8 mushrooms)

2 tablespoons of butter

3/4 teaspoon of sage

3/4 teaspoon of thyme

1 cup diced onion (half a large onion)

3/4 – 1 cup of arborio rice

nearly 4 cups of chicken stock

1 cup of frozen peas

1/4 – 1/2 cup of dry white wine (optional)

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in large pan.  Saute sliced mushroom with dried herbs for 5-6 minutes (add salt towards end of this time).  Once mushrooms are done, put in bowl, leaving behind as much liquid/oil as possible and set aside.  Saute up diced onion in same pan (add more oil if need be) for 3-4 minutes, until soft.  Next add rice to pan and saute for an additional 3 or so minutes.  Add wine (optional).  Start adding stock to pan.  Start with 1.5 cups or just enough to cover the rice.  Bring to simmer and stir frequently until liquid has been absorbed.  Keep adding stock, about 1/2 cup at a time, until rice is done to your liking –  about 3.5 to 4 cups of stock.  Add the mushrooms back in and add in 1 cup of frozen peas.  Stir all together.  Add salt and pepper to your liking.  Serve with a sprinkle of parmesan.

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Hello, my name is Amy. And I am a food network junkie.

There I said it.  Though I am a bit ashamed to admit it, the food network actually taught me quite a bit about cooking.  I first started watching in grad school (basically when my meal plan from my parents ran out) and I could barely fry an egg.  Phil was actually the primary chef when I first got to Purdue; he taught me how to make hamburger helper.  After watching food network for a little while – I finally got the confidence to try and cook a few things for myself.  Im proud to say Ive come a long way over the years.  And I make a damn good fried egg.

The chipotle maple lettuce wraps are a spin-off of Rachel Ray’s Chipotle Cashew Chicken from like 2006.  It was an instant hit and has been a staple in our house from Purdue to Memphis to Jerz.  The meal varies each time I make it due to what is in my pantry and freezer, but the overall chipotle-maple flavor stays the same.  This is what I used the last time I made it:

Boston bibb lettuce, some red beans (instead of chicken), 2 peppers, brown rice, a small can of water chestnuts, maple syrup, chipotles in adobo sauce, walnuts (instead of cashews), garlic, cumin and onion power.

Since Im using brown rice and it takes awhile to cook, I get that started first.  I cook up about 3/4 cup of brown rice according to package directions.  Then I get started on the maple-chipotle filling.  First, I diced up the 2 peppers.  This was about 2 cups worth.

I toss those in the skillet with some oil to saute and add in my spices.

I used about 3/4 tsp of onion powder and 1/2 tsp of cumin.  But feel free to just use regular ol’ onions in your filling, too.  Phil isnt a fan, so I try to make a few of his favorite meals ‘onion free.’  Saute the peppers for 4-5 minutes on medium-low heat and them add in some garlic. About 2-3 cloves.  You can also add a bit of salt at this point, too.  But I wouldnt recommended pepper since you are getting so much heat from the chipotles later on.

Then I get started on my chipotles.  Chipotles are just smoked jalapeños. [How comes wordpress auto-corrects my jalapeños to have an ñ but doesn’t recognize the word chipotle?] They come in a small can in the ethnic aisle.  I only use about 3 tablespoons of chipotles minced up, so I put the remainder of the can into a bag and keep it in my freezer.  Therefore, my chiptoles look like this:

Its actually way easier to deal with them in this state than fresh out of the can.  I hate it when I have to make this meal with a fresh can, it can get very messy.  Regardless of if you are using frozen or canned chipotles, youll want to make sure you wash your hands as soon as you are done handling them!  They are jalapeños after all.   So anyway,  I mince up about 3 tablespoons of chipotles and toss them in the skillet.

Then I get to work on my pantry items.  The beans, water chestnuts, and walnuts.  I only used about half a can of beans this time.  I had red on hand, but Ive used black before, and the originally recipe called for chicken. Use whatever you what.  I rinse the water chestnuts (8oz can) and the beans and then toss everything into the pan.

Lastly, I thrown in 1/3 cup of maple syrup.  I didnt get any pictures of this process, but I assure you its in there.

Now dont forget about your rice!

Mine is usually done by now, but I check on it periodically.  Hopefully you did, too.  Once its done, I put it into a bowl and set aside until the rest of the meal is ready.  As I let the maple-chipotle simmer on low and cook all together,  I prepare the lettuce.  The boston bibb is an essential part of the ‘lettuce wrap.’  Its the only lettuce that is malleable for the nice little packages.  I have used romaine for this meal before but it makes more of a lettuce boat than a lettuce wrap.  So anyway, I tear off pieces and run a damp cloth over them to make sure they are clean enough for consumption.

Once the lettuce is ready, I put the maple-chipotle filling in a bowl and we are ready for dinner!  I fill each lettuce leaf up with some rice and filling and have plenty of paper towels standing by! They are messy!

Good stuff.  Make sure you have plenty of water, too.  They are sweet but very spicy!!!  Here is an easy copy/paste version of the recipe:


3/4 cup of brown rice

1 head of boston bibb lettuce

2 cups of diced bell peppers

2-3 cloves of garlic

8 oz of sliced water chestnuts

1/4 cup of cashews or walnuts

1/2 can of beans (or maybe 1 chicken breast?)

3 tablespoons of chipotles in adobo

1/3 cup maple syrup

1/2 tsp cumin

3/4 tsp onion powder

Cook rice according to package.  When done, place in bowl and set aside.  Saute up 2 cups of diced bell peppers in large skillet over medium heat for 4-5 minutes.  Add in 3/4 tsp of onion powder and 1/2 tsp of cumin.  Add in 2-3 cloves of minced garlic. Reduce heat to low.  Add in 3 tablespoons of minced chipotles. Rinse beans and water chestnuts, add to skillet.  Add in nuts and maple syrup.  Simmer all together on low for 5-10 minutes until mix is nice and gooey and delicious (and peppers are cooked to your liking).  Peel off individual lettuce leaves, use damp cloth to ensure they are clean.  Place chipotle-maple filing in bowl.  Assemble each lettuce wrap with a bit of rice and filling.  Enjoy!

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Pizza Dough

We loves us some pizza in woznation.  We use to use boboli crust, then this adorable gay couple started selling pre-made raw dough at the farmers market in memphis.  But unfortunately they never made a whole wheat variety and I started looking into making it at home.  Too bad for them, because they were charging us $5 a pop for each pre-made dough – but as soon as I looked into making it at home, I realized they were robbing us blind.  Homemade pizza dough is so easy and cheap!

Here is my go to recipe:

I use a mix of whole wheat and all-purpose flour.  Then some water, yeast, salt, sugar and oil.  Now I normally do not include salt and oil in the list of ingredients since they are used according to each individual’s personal taste.  But in this case, I measured them out since we are more-or-less ‘baking’ (vs. cooking).  And I never guess with baking.

So first mix 2.25 teaspoons of yeast into 1 cup of warm water (ive heard water temperatures ranging from 85 – 115 degrees.  Warm enough to ‘wake up’ the yeast, but not hot enough to kill it.  I go by my own personal ‘bath water’ gauge.)  So mix those two together and let sit while you assemble the other ingredients.

I use 1 cup all-purpose flour, 1 cup whole wheat flour, .75 tsp salt, 1.5 tsp sugar, and 2 tablespoons of olive oil.

If you dont like whole wheat, you could use all regular flour, but you might want to lower your water liquid to .75 cups.  From what I have read, the whole wheat flour sucks up more water, so that is why I use a bit more than what some other recipes call for.  So far it was worked for me.  After you have assembled your dry ingredients + oil, your yeast and water have probably mixed to a nice frothy consistency.

You can mix your water+yeast with your dry + oil now.  I use a spatula to get it to come together some and then dump to a floured  board to finish the job.  You’ll probably use .25 cups (or less?) of extra all-purpose flour for kneading.

Then you’ll knead the bread, sprinkling in the extra flour, as needed, so that the dough doesnt stick to your hands.  Knead for 3-4 minutes.  If you have a stand mixer with all the fancy attachments, that would work great, too.  The dough will quickly come together.

Then youll want to put it in a clean, pam-sprayed bowl to rise for an hour. Cover with a towel or plastic wrap.

After an hour it will have doubled in size:

Then is my favorite part – punching it down!  And you’re ready to make your pizza.  I preheat my oven to about 415 and I use parchment paper and cornmeal to prevent the pizza dough from sticking onto my pan.

Then just spread it all out and you’re ready to go!

After I add the sauce, cheese and topping – it generally bakes for 15 – 18 minutes depending on how hot your oven is.

Next monday is PI DAY so make sure you celebrate accordingly!!!! We will for sure be making a pizza piiiiiiiii!

Here is an easy copy/paste version of the recipe:


1 cup warm water

2.25 teaspoons (1 packet) of yeast

1 cup plus .25 cups of all-purpose flour

1 cup wheat flour

.75 teaspoons of salt

1.5 teaspoons of sugar

2 tablespoons of olive oil

Mix together yeast and warm water; set aside.  Add 1 cup all-purpose flour, 1 cup wheat flour, .75 tsp salt and 1.5 tsp sugar mix together, then add 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Add water+yeast mixture to flour mixture and mix together.  Dump dough onto floured surface and knead for 3-4 minutes, adding more flour as necessary to keep dough from sticking to your hands.  Then transfer to a pam-sprayed bowl.  Cover and let rise for 1 hour.  Punch down and make your pizza!!

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Curry Butternut Squash Soup

Nearly every Sunday I make a soup that phil and I can pull out of the fridge for lunches.  I usually get about 6 servings – so its a good three days of lunch for the both of us.  This curry butternut squash soup makes an appearance every few weeks.  I love to make this soup.  Everything I put in it is so wholesome.  The ingredients arent altered in any way what-so-ever.  I tell phil that I want to make this soup in a cauldron over a fire someday.  ‘Oregon Trail’ style.  Meals like this remind me that food comes from the earth.  Not a package.  And it makes me feel good.

So heres what we’re working with:

Chicken stock (that I made the day before), onion, carrots, celery, sweet potato, white potato, garlic, butternut squash, curry powder and cayenne.  This recipe calls for a lot of peeling and chopping.  But I honestly enjoy it – its a stress reliever for me.  Especially in a dish like this, where we are going to blend it all together – you dont have to worry about the size of the vegetables.  Just a rough chop and dump it in.  So I start with the onion, carrot and celery:

This was 1.5 – 1.75 cup of onion, 1.25 cup of carrot (didnt even peel them), and .5 cup celery.

Let those all saute for 5-7 minutes together with a bit of salt and pepper until soft.  Then throw in some garlic.

This was about 5 small cloves, or 2 tablespoons.  And I loooove that I can rough chop this.  Mincing garlic is a necessary evil in my book.  I dont like to buy extra gadgets (i.e. garlic press) or buy the pre-minced garlic, but I will still complain all night long about how sticky the garlic is and how I hate to chop it.

So throw in the garlic and peel up your potatoes.  Do a rough chop on these and thrown them in the pot as well.  I used about 1.25 cup of white potato and 1.5 cup of sweet potato.  You could add a touch more salt and pepper to flavor these guys up, too.

Now – my ode to butternut squash:

This can be an intimidating and fussy vegetable in its whole form.  But like I said earlier, I kind of love working with these vegetables in their original state.  The skin is much thicker than a potato though, so you will want a peeler that can stand up to it (I definitely broke a flimsy peeler before Mark and Char bought me a heavy-duty peeler that has worked like a charm – Thanks guys!).  Also, as you are peeling and rotating it around, you will notice that the butternut squash is pretty sticky, too.  You’ll definitely want to wash up once you are done.  So here is phil helping me peel:

In the far right picture, notice there are varying degrees of peeling the butternut squash, you’ll want to go all the way down to the thicker orange part, getting off as much white as you can. (twss).

It is awkward to peel the rounded part.  If you’re dealing with a big butternut squash, sometimes I just peel the long part and then use a knife to cut off the peel of the rounded part.  But since phil was helping, he peeled up the whole thing for me.  So here is your final peeled product.

First you can cut out the long part and rough chop it.

The lower rounded part has seeds you will have to deal with.  So chop off the end, trim up any parts that still might have peel on them and cut in half.  Then scoop out the seeds just like you are seeding a pumpkin.

Then chop up the last bit and throw all your butternut squash into the pot.  This particular butternut squash yielded about 6 cups of chopped squash.  About 4 cups from the long part and 2 cups from the seeded round part.

Now add your extra spices.  About 1 teaspoon of curry powder and 1/8 teaspoon of cayenne.

And then add your stock.  I use just enough to cover all the vegetables.  Once we blend the soup – it will make a very smooth soup.  But feel free to add more or less depending on the thickness you like.  I used 5 cups of chicken stock.

Bring everything to a boil.  Then cover it and knock it back to a simmer.  Simmer all together for 20 – 30 minutes until the squash and potatoes are soft enough to blend.

Then I break out my immersion blender.  I dont think they had these on the Oregon Trail, but its a magical invention that allows you to blend the soup in the pot.  If you do not have one of these, you could ladle the soup into a blender or food processor.  Or just have your soup in a more ‘rustic’ style and eat as is.

This is now an excellent time to re-taste and make sure it has enough salt, spice, and curry to your liking.  Add more salt, pepper, curry, cayenne as you please.   We enjoyed a small bowl as soon as it was ready.  But then got 7 decent sized lunch portions!  At least there is something to look forward to on Monday!

Here is an easy copy/paste version of the recipe:


1.5 – 1.75 cup onion

1.25 cup carrot

.5 cup celery

2 tablespoons garlic

1.25 cup white potato

1.5 cup sweet potato

6 cups butternut squash

1 tsp curry

1/8 tsp cayenne

5 cups chicken stock

Chop onion, carrot, celery and saute in large stock pan with salt and pepper to taste, about 5-6 mins. Peel and dice garlic, add to pot.  Peel and chop white potato, sweet potato, and butternut squash, add to pot.  Add curry powder and cayenne.  Add chicken stock.  Bring to boil, then cover and reduce to simmer for 30 minutes or until potatoes and squash are soft.  Blend soup with immersion blender, food processor, or blender.  Taste for additional seasonings.  Serves ~7 bowls.

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