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Posts tagged ‘chicken’

Piano Soup

Sometimes the evening meal hour takes me by surprise. You would think that after all these years the pattern of daily recurrence would be imprinted on my brain, but too often I find myself at 5:00 staring into the pantry wondering how I failed to remember that hungry boys would need to eat AGAIN!

One of my favorite standbys for this sort of predicament is Piano Soup. I learned the basic concept from my friend Christa in Germany when she served it for lunch one day. She used white beans, but when I needed a bigger batch one time and didn’t have enough white beans, I added black ones and re-named the soup to cover my lack of planning. Now I hum “Ebony and Ivory” and dance like Stevie Wonder while throwing it all together. It makes a delicious soup that college students and kids both love, and only takes about 10 minutes.

You’ll need some chopped cooked chicken, which I usually have on hand from periodically roasting rowing chickens….remember these guys? They get de-boned, chopped up and placed in quart-sized freezer bags to be used when I need “some chicken.”

Here are the ingredients you’ll need from the pantry.

Rinse the black and white beans – however many you need for the amount of soup you want. It takes four cans for my family.

Pour in some green chili enchilada sauce. The amount is a matter of taste. I only use half of a can this size and put the remainder in a freezer bag for next time.

And some chicken broth – however much it takes to cover the beans.

Drop in the thawed chicken.

Add a dash of sugar if you need to cut the heat. I throw in about ¼ cup for a batch this size.




Meal time crisis averted!

Next I’ll post a slow cooker recipe…because after forgetting about an evening meal, the pendulum often swings the other direction and I start cooking in the morning.

Chicken & Rice with Fruit Salsa

I’ve been on another peach eating binge. We bought some at a farm about 20 miles from here and they were very good, albeit not Georgia peaches. I used them to make one of my very favorite meals.

Here’s the recipe:

Grilled Chicken:

2 lbs Boneless, skinless chicken breasts

¼ cup lime juice

2 TBSP soy sauce

1/3 cup sugar

¼ cup apple cider vinegar

Fruit Salsa

2-3 medium peaches (plums, nectarines or grapes also work)

2 medium tomatoes

3-4 chopped green onions (be sure to get lots of the green part)

2 TBSP lime juice

½ tsp ground ginger

I clove of garlic crushed and finely chopped

¼ cup apple cider vinegar

1/3 cup sugar

This meat has to be started early in the afternoon which isn’t my strong suit, but fresh fruit sometimes inspires me to unusual feats!

A few hours before you plan to eat, the chicken breasts need to be tenderized with a meat mallet or similar device. I like to zip them into a plastic bag so that raw chicken juice doesn’t fly around my kitchen.

With a good pounding the breasts should flatten out considerably. Don’t skip this step. It really makes a difference in the tenderness of the meat.

Assemble the sweet tangy marinade with sugar, vinegar, lime juice and some soy sauce. If you have fresh limes, that’s obviously better, but we’re back to that planning issue!

When the marinade is ready, drop in the beaten chicken and make sure that it gets entirely dredged.

Cover the chicken and let it sit in the fridge for a few hours.

When the evening sun begins to cast a golden glow, it’s time to start on the salsa. (Perhaps that golden glow is just lousy photography, but I’ll go with it.)

The salsa gets almost the same marinade as the chicken, but without the soy sauce and it has some garlic and ginger thrown in.

Peaches are my favorite centerpiece fruit for this dish, but I’ve also made it with plums and they are an excellent substitute. I bet it would even be good with halved grapes.

Toss the chopped fruits and veggies in their marinade and make sure it all has a chance to sit for about 30 minutes before serving. The timing is just about perfect to pull the chicken out and get it started.

Grilling is not just for guys! My friend Kathy Madison taught me how to grill chicken breasts when we lived in Kansas and could see into each other’s kitchens for a year. She made it sound so simple that I had a hard time believing it would work, but it does – every time. Here’s how it goes: 1) Preheat the grill to medium high.

2) Throw on the chicken. Close the lid and wait seven minutes without opening it to poke, peek or prod. (Who wants to peek into an ugly grill like mine anyway!)

3) Open, turn the chicken over and quickly baste if desired. (I usually do drizzle on some of the remaining marinade.) Close and wait seven more minutes without opening the lid again. When the final seven minutes are up – it’s done. That simple.

Let the meat rest for a few minutes.

Then slice it into thin strips across the grain.

Pile the hot chicken on a bed of Jasmine rice and top it with the cool fresh salsa.

I’m sure that part of the reason I like this meal is that it’s very pretty, but it really is SO good!

Hope you enjoy!


Chicken Pasta Salad and Corny Chicken Pictures

My kitchen is unpacked and I have internet access again! Not quite ready to wow you with food from the new Kitchen Catwalk but I still have a summer salad to share from Molly and I can even throw in a couple of crazy chicken pictures.

The directions she emailed with the pictures went something like this: “I can tell you the ingredients for this salad and that it has become a family favorite but you really just judge the amounts by what you have available and what looks right.” She may not be including precise measurements, but as I’m about to start always saying – a picture is worth a thousand measuring cups.

Here’s what goes in the salad.

Start by cooking and draining a box of pasta.

Then you’ll need Cooked, cubed chicken breast (Often, we barbeque extra to use in the salad – any marinade or salt and pepper adds to the taste.)

Red grapes halved

Mandarin oranges drained

Diced Celery

and Diced Onion

Slivered almonds (toasted if ambitious)

Mayonnaise (Real Mayo…NO Miracle Whip at [Molly’s] house)

Salt and Pepper to taste

Mix and Chill….and there you have it!

I think I’m going to try this early next week. At our house it will have to be green onions and the celery probably won’t make the cut, but the combination of cold pasta, oranges, grapes, nuts and chicken sounds perfect in such hot weather.

I happen to have some chopped cooked chicken that I can use and even pictures.

None of you will be shocked that the first time I got out the camera in my new kitchen was because I was cracking up over how a couple of beheaded birds looked in the French oven! The commissary doesn’t have rotisserie chickens, which I routinely use in all sorts of recipes, so now I have to roast my own. In the past I’ve never had trouble fitting two into my beloved French roaster, but these guys were so big they had to sit on Coke cans – (thanks to Betsy for the tech line support on how that worked).

They looked so cute in their little boat and the spoons were right there, looking so much like oars!

Row, row, row your chicken, gently down the stream…merrily, merrily, merrily…

The tune has been stuck in my head for two days.

Okay, seriously I really think the left-over barbeque sounds better for the chicken salad!

Hope you’re all having a great summer and lots of fun in the kitchen!

Pesto Pizza

Here’s a quick and easy favorite that my friend Shannon Cummins introduced me to a few years back.

It takes…

1 pre-baked pizza crust

¼ cup pesto (more or less)

1 cup chopped cooked chicken

4 oz crumbled feta

1 chopped Roma tomato

½ cup shredded cheddar cheese

Salt and pepper to taste.

Optional – Chopped Portobello mushrooms, olives, onions…this is pizza. You get the idea.

Spread the pizza crust with the pesto. You can make your own or buy it in a jar. (This fall I will be making and freezing pesto again, so check back if you want to see how it’s made – and frozen in bags like you see in the picture above.)

It smells delicious to open a bag of pesto! Next comes the chicken.

Then sprinkle on the feta.

Top with well drained tomatoes.

Add the cheddar and then sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

Bake in a 375 degree oven for about 12 minutes.

Blog Outtake: I was baking one regular and two small pizzas when I took these photos. Apparently my cookie stone was offended by the idea of hosting pizza and it spit one off the edge as I took them out of the oven. It was LOVELY to have a piping hot pile of feta, chicken, tomatoes and cheddar in the hinge of my oven door, not to mention what it did to the oven mitt I was using in a futile effort to clean it up. I thought about taking a picture, but I wasn’t quite in the right frame of mind, and you really wouldn’t want to see something that ugly anyway, right? I spent a good portion of yesterday morning trying to pick the last bits of hardened cheese out of the fabric cording that seals the oven door but I’m afraid our renters may still be able to find evidence of the wreck that happened with pesto pizza if they look closely.

Chicken and Corn Enchi-Sagna

When we’re getting ready to move I start to operate under a self-imposed grocery buying moratorium and use up what’s in the cabinets. The creativity that emerges usually doesn’t result in anyone saying, “Ooooh, make sure you write this one down!” but a few nights ago we hit on a keeper – a cross between enchiladas and lasagna.

I had a handful of rotisserie chicken in the fridge and Mr. Nobody left the bag of tortillas unsealed, so they weren’t supple enough for most ordinary applications. I also happened to have enough diced canned tomatoes to feed a small army, and corn enough for a platoon. All of this coupled with the vague recollection of a recipe in one of my Cooking Light cookbooks sparked an idea.

I chopped the onion finely, and sautéed it with minced garlic (out of a jar) in about a TBSP of olive oil.

I cut the tortillas into strips that would act like lasagna noodles. (Note that spelling and see my rant below!) I also cut a few slices of pepper jack cheese into thin strips and dug out a handful of shredded cheddar.

By that time the garlic and onion were heated through and softened. I added the shredded chicken and stirred periodically until it was hot.

Then I dumped in well drained cans of corn and diced tomatoes.

One and a half cups of chicken broth combined with about half of that can of spicy El Pato salsa made the sauce that would be poured hot over the top of all the layers. I put it on the back burner on medium heat while I finished working on the rest of the dish.

Half of the tortilla strips went down in a disorganized layer.

Then I dumped half of the corn, tomato and chicken mixture in and spread it around.

Then half of the pepper jack cheese on top of that.

The rest of the tortilla strips were followed by the rest of the chicken mixture.

The sauce was poured over the top.

Cheddar cheese got sprinkled on last.

It was baked in a 450 degree oven for about 15 minutes until the tortillas were golden brown at the edges and the cheese was thoroughly melted.

We served it with a dollop of sour cream and garnished it with surprised smiles – cabinet cleaning wasn’t so bad this time! In fact, it was good!

Okay, done with the food….now, back to that spelling issue! Did you notice how noodle is spelled with an “l-e” at the end, yet pretzel and tassel are spelled with “e-l”? Admittedly, I stink at spelling but that sort of thing makes me want a refund on my native tongue! If English was run by Adobe, Apple or Microsoft there would have been an update by now!

BUT, Since it’s up to me…here’s my new rule to remember this:

“L” before “e” in
Noodle, Poodle and Puddle 
Causes me no fuddle,

While “e” before “l” in 
Pretzel and tassel 
Causes me great hass-l-e!

P.S. You will be relieved to hear that I just bought a book on how to take pictures of food. If there is any honesty dust-jacket description, then eventually the photos will improve.

White Lasagna

I started making this recipe in Kansas about seven years ago. It’s kind of a pain to prepare, but it is high on the favorites list for almost everyone who has ever eaten at our house. Even my children have come around. At first they were offended by the presence of spinach, and red bell peppers and artichoke parts, but even our toughest critic, Si, has begun to turn in clean plates.

It was back by popular demand last Tuesday night for the college students, and happened to coincide with a happy surprise visit from my cousin Corinn and her two amazing kiddos. That’s about 25 people who eat hearty portions, so the regular recipe had to be quadrupled. (Keep that in mind as you look at the photos.)

Here’s the recipe for one 9×13 pan full of this creamy goodness.

Sauce Layer
1 jar of Alfredo sauce 
1/3 cup of milk
Noodle Layer
Lasagna Noodles – You’ll need about 8
Spinach Layer
Fresh baby spinach – one small bag from the grocery with stems pulled off
Chicken and Veggies Layer
3 cups chopped cooked chicken – I love rotisserie chicken for this
1 can of artichoke hearts – preferably not in oil marinade 
1 or 2 chopped and seeded Roma tomatoes
½ -1 cup finely chopped onion – any kind will do or as I did on this occasion, use a mixture
1 TBSP minced garlic
½ of a red bell pepper finely chopped (optional)
Cheese Layer
12 oz Mozzarella
6 oz crumbled Feta

The first step is to start chopping. No particular order.

Here’s what you have to do when you go to the grocery store late in the evening and the rotisserie chicken case is empty. The house sure smelled good while I was roasting my own though!

I can’t stand chicken gunk under my nails, thus the gloves.

On to the artichokes…

Next up: the tomatoes. They need to be seeded so that they don’t spew their juice into the mixture. And then they need to be chopped.

Scrape seeds out with a knife after cutting them into halves.

Rinse that cutting board one more time and go for the onions.

Those are shallots and green onions by the way. No “real” onions in these pictures.

Now, doesn’t that look nice!

Pull the stems off of the spinach leaves so that you don’t have spinach floss going on at your dinner gathering.

Mix the Alfredo sauce with the milk. I usually pour the sauce out into a bowl and put the milk into the empty jar, reseal it, and shake it to get the last of the Alfredo out of the jar. This is the first step in the process of prepping for the recycle bin.

Now it’s time to start layering. Start by spreading a thin layer of sauce in the bottom of the pan and laying down the first layer of pasta.

Noodle Note: I used “no-boil” pasta straight out of the box once in this recipe and it was terrible. This time, I followed some advice from America’s Test Kitchen (more about that in a future post) and soaked the no-boil noodles for 5 minutes in water before using them. I also had to use some regular “boil ’em first noodles” because we were making an awful lot of lasagna and I’m cleaning out cabinets these days to get ready for our upcoming move.

Next: half of the spinach.

Then: half of the vegetable and chicken mixture

Followed by: half the cheese…

…and half of the remaining sauce spread evenly around on the cheese layer.

, because repetition is the theme of lasagna, here we go again…





And finally, Sauce again. Spread it around.


A big thank you to my cousin Corinn for her help with food and photos!

Bake at 375 degrees for one hour. The first 45 minutes covered in foil, then for another 15 minutes uncovered. When it comes out of the oven give it a few minutes to get its layers coagulated before you try to cut it.

Stay tuned for the post on the Strawberry Pretzel dessert we had the same night which will explain why we had to use foil pans for the lasagna.

Tillamook Cheese in a Beach Rental

I love Tillamook cheese!

Actually, I love most any cheese, but Tillamook is my favorite grocery-store brand.

In high school I remember playing pre-season basketball games against the girls from Tillamook and it stunk – literally. There were dairy cows everywhere and they just don’t smell good. I didn’t appreciate what those bovines produced until the Army transplanted us to Land o’ Lakes territory. I did such a happy dance in the Fort Sill Commissary the first time I saw Tillamook cheese on the shelf. Still makes me smile!

Last week, our family paid a visit to the Tillamook Factory on the way to our vacation in Lincoln City, OR with my Cousin Melissa’s family. While we were there, we ate… and we ate… and we ate and when we finally rolled out of the place with ice cream cones in hand, we were packing a load of cheese with us to the beach rental.

Now, part of the rationale for renting a big house at the beach, instead of cramming into a hotel suite, goes like this: “We’ll have a kitchen, so we’ll cook our own meals and save a lot of money.” It’s a great theory! I’m always really good about this money-saving plan for about one night. I grope around an unfamiliar grocery store trying to figure out what to cook without my own kitchen staples and end up with a bunch of junk food that saves us about twenty-eight cents.

But, on this particular vacation I had vision. I had a Tillamook cheese variety pack! Crackers would be the logical choice, but you can eat crackers in a hotel room. I had to justify a lovely rental kitchen and feed six hungry (and very goofy) kiddos.


Thankfully, this particular kitchen was set up better than most vacation rentals for actually cooking but you still have to keep it simple when all of those cabinets are basically empty.

I decided to make chicken strips as a platform for the cheese sauce I’d been dreaming about all afternoon.

I bought a package of chicken tenders and dredged them in a stick of butter that I melted in the bottom of a 9×13 pan (in that beautiful oven). Then I rolled them in a bowl of crushed tortilla chips and lined them back up in the pan.

Ideally there would be some space between the tenders, but as I mentioned, those cabinets are pretty empty.

The great dilemma was choosing a cheese for the sauce until I discovered there wasn’t an ounce of pepper on the premises. Then, it seemed logical to use the cheese with pepper in the loaf.

I threw together a white sauce, while blessing the soul that left a small supply of four in the cabinet. For directions see the post on Basic White Sauce. The trick for adding cheese and keeping the sauce from turning out grainy is that you can’t let it get too hot. If it’s really steaming the cheese will melt badly.

That’s not my usual whisk, but it worked just fine.

These things don’t photograph very well on Corelle Ware! No Color.

The crispy little chicken tenders were good, but the cheese sauce made me happy all over. I re-heated what was left the next night and used it as dipping sauce for crackers. Yu-um!

Notice how quickly we were back to crackers? Good thing we had such a nice house to eat them in.

Chicken Enchiladas

These don’t blow-your-socks-off or inspire speculation about secret ingredients. They’re just simple, easy goodness. That’s why my children like them.

Tortillas – 9-12, burrito size
2-3 cups of cooked rice – the exact amount isn’t critical (great way to use leftover rice)
2-3 cups chicken cooked and chopped (beef also works nicely or just extra beans)
1 can of beans – I like black, white, pinto, or refried beans
Salsa or Picante sauce – about ½ a cup
¼ cup or so of the enchilada sauce
1 cup shredded cheese (some sort of jack or cheddar)
1 15 oz can of tomato sauce
Chili powder – about 2 tsp
Cumin – about 1 tsp 
1 TBSP Cornstarch dissolved in ½ cup cold water
1 more cup of shredded cheese 
Serve with
Salsa, sour cream, and guacamole

Sauce: Before I start the filling, I begin heating the tomato sauce, chili powder and cumin in a pan. It just needs to get hot before you add the cornstarch dissolved in water to thicken it. (I don’t understand why you have to dissolve the cornstarch in water, but you do. It stays grainy and gross if you dump it straight in – kind of like cornmeal in chili.)

Of course, you could just buy a can of enchilada sauce, but I don’t usually plan that well. I almost always have tomato sauce on hand though and dressing it up makes me feel like a real cook.

The filling is simple. I don’t have the patience for artistic layering of ingredients into tortillas. I plop it all into a bowl and stir it together. The salsa and enchilada sauce go in last so that I can make sure not to add too much. Indiscriminate dumping can turn the whole project sloppy.

Imagine a cup of shredded cheese in these pictures. I forgot it. Bad blogging, I know. But, the enchiladas were still very good and my hips were better for the omission.

The next step is assembly. I start by spreading some of the sauce on the bottom of the pan. Then it’s time to roll.

I’m never going to be a hand model!

Thanks to JP for the nice set of action shots.

Pour sauce over the top.

Sprinkle on the cheese.

Bake in 350 degree oven for 35-40 minutes. You want the cheese bubbly and hot. The ingredients are all pre-cooked so it’s just about getting them nice and hot.

Oh…and I forgot to mention that I sprinkle paprika on top when I want the finished pan of enchiladas to look pretty for company or for blog browsers. It doesn’t mess with the flavor, but it looks nice and this is a catwalk. The models must accessorize!

Chick-a-Pot Pie

I know this isn’t an end-of-March dish, but March has been full of November here on the Palouse, so we’re still wallowing in winter comfort food. This is one of our favorites for a bone chilling day.

Chicken Pot Pie

Pie crust for a 2 crust pie
¼ cup butter
1/3 cup of flour 
2 cups milk
Salt & Pepper
2 cups chopped cooked chicken
1 cup chopped fresh carrots
1 cup frozen peas
1 can corn – drained

I start with the carrots first because they need time to cook. They get chopped with my usual imprecision and placed in a small sauce pan with plenty of extra water to simmer on medium heat while I work on the sauce. Later: When they are tender and the sauce is nearly done I dump the frozen peas and the drained can of corn in and bring the water back to a boil for just long enough to tenderize the peas and heat the corn. If you start them all at the same time, the green and yellow will be mush by the time the orange is tender.

Next I chop the chicken. My favorite is a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store, but any chicken will do.

The next step is to start the sauce. See All-Purpose White Sauce AKA “Cream-of-Whatever” for instructions.

While the sauce is thickening, I start on the crust. I wish I could say I do this from scratch, but the truth is: I usually don’t. But I’m planning to get better about that.

I’m not proud of the perfectly able bodied food processor next to the Pillsbury box.

After spreading one of the rolled out crusts in the bottom of the pie plate, it’s time for some play-dough style fun – unless there’s a child on hand. Then I maintain my dignity and let them handle the next couple of steps.

I (or the child) get out a cookie cutter and cut the dough into shapes, usually leaves. Then with the scraps that are left, we make snakes!

CAUTION: Don’t let child helpers become emotionally attached to their snakes. The next step is to chop the snakes to bits and roll the bits into balls.

Waiting on the Filling

Those little balls turn out to be the stuff my family squabbles over when the pie is finished. After all, who doesn’t like little balls of pie crust! The trick is to keep dough lovers from eating them before they make it into the oven.

The veggies and the sauce are about done by now. Turn the oven on to pre-heat at 375 degrees.

Stir the chicken into the sauce.

Drain the vegetables thoroughly before adding them to the sauce. I let them stand and dry for 3-4 minutes in the strainer, because wet carrots and their friends can ruin the sauce you’ve worked so hard to thicken.

Bring the sauce back to steaming hot on the stove before filling the pie plate otherwise the crust will be soggy.

Arrange the fruit of your art atop the steamy filling. I like to group the little balls of goodness into threes. It looks pretty that way and it allows my children to practice skip counting while they’re making sure nobody got more than their “fair” share.

Bake at 375 degrees for 15-25 minutes until you like the look of the crust. If you like a really crispy crust you can bump the temperature up a bit.

Not Perfect – but Very Tasty!

This one probably could have used another 5 minutes or so in the oven, but it was already about 7:00PM and the boys were circling the kitchen like piranhas. It was better to sacrifice blogging perfection than keep them waiting any longer.