Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Southwestern Chicken and Red Rice Soup

Today, I'd like to share a very tasty soup recipe! As you know, the Midwest had an unusually chilly and snowy first half of April.  Just a week ago, our yard was covered with snow.  The past few days have shown that spring may be here to stay...hopefully.

Since it's still chilly at night,  I recently made this delightful soup recipe, adapted from a good friend's version of soup she had ordered at a local cafe.  Full of piquant peppers and onions, hearty red rice, corn and chicken, this soup was one of the best I've tasted in a long while.

Red rice you ask?  It was the first time I had used it, as I normally use brown rice.  I've since learned that red rice is even more nutritious than brown rice! Red rice gets it's color from an antioxidant called anthrocyanins, which are found in dark purple and red fruits and vegetables.  Anthrocyanins are believed to have properties that reduce inflammation and can prevent the risk of cancer.  The manganese found in both red and brown rice helps to strengthen metabolism, lower blood pressure as well as lower heart attack risk.  And, there is Magnesium in it that can strengthen bones and teeth (if taken along with calcium).  Red rice has a delightful nutty flavor.

With a side of tortilla chips, either crumbled or used as a 'spoon' for dipping into your soup, it will be hard to not go back for seconds.  Believe me, I did :)   The flavors in this soup are bright and flavorful enough to serve all year long and is only moderately spicy, not hot.

Garden and yard clean up is taking up a lot of time now that the snow has finally melted.  It's wonderful to see things sprouting and growing again!

We also had a all-family gathering recently where we celebrated three family birthdays.  It was a delicious event hosted by my daughter and son-in-law.  I'd love to share with you the new 'gallery' of artwork my daughter recently installed, all of which were created by my 6-year-old grandson, Dane. It makes me smile knowing that we may have a budding artist in the family :)

Southwestern Chicken and Red Rice Soup

Printable Recipe

1-2 tablespoons neutral-flavor oil, such as canola or grapeseed
1 large yellow onion, diced
4-5 large stalks of fresh celery, diced (about 1-1/2 cups)
7 cloves of garlic, minced
1 large Poblano pepper, seeded and diced
1 large Jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 28-oz can petite iced tomatoes in juice
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and diced (or use rotisserie chicken breast), about 2 cups
1 12-oz bag frozen white corn (use all or as much as you like)
1 cup uncooked red rice
8 cups chicken stock (I like Costco's Organic Chicken Stock or Kitchen Basic Unsalted Chicken Stock)
Salt and Pepper to taste
Tortilla chips and chopped cilantro or parsley for garnish

In a soup or stock pot, saute the onions and celery in oil over medium heat until transparent.

Add the diced peppers and saute a few minutes more. Add the garlic and saute for another minute. Add the petite diced tomatoes, including juice and chicken stock. Bring to a boil and simmer on low for about 45 minutes.

Add the wild rice, bring to a boil and simmer on low for about 40 minutes until the rice is tender but not soft. It should be 'al dente'.

Add the cooked chicken and corn and simmer until heated through. Add salt and pepper to taste (I like lots of pepper) and serve.

Note: Red rice may be slightly more difficult to find than other kinds of rice.  You should be able to find it at Whole Foods or a very well-stocked grocery store. Lundberg is a very good brand and grown in California. If you are lucky enough to find it locally, I highly recommend it. 

You can find Lundberg red rice on Amazon by clicking here.  

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Thursday, March 29, 2018

Pasta à la Monique and Sourdough Bread!

Even though the first week or so of spring has been challenging weather-wise, I have had a delicious, savory time in the kitchen!

Recently, Monique at La Table de Nana, shared this delightful pasta dish with rapini, bacon and pine nuts that included dry sherry.  I had just used sherry in a stir fry recipe not that long ago, and when she mentioned using sherry in her pasta dish I knew it would taste terrific.  And it did :)

I didn't have any penne pasta which Monique uses, but the campanelle pasta that I did have in the pantry worked fine and I love the spirally trumpet shape.

My pea shoots are still going strong so decided to add some as a garnish. It would be nice to stir them into the dish right at the end so they wilt slightly too. Such a good dish!  My husband loved it too.

I added a little more sherry and pasta water to make it even more saucy and tossed in lots of grated parmesan, as Monique suggests.  I served it with some freshly made sourdough bread.

See that rabbit shape on the far right? That's the shape I was happy to finally create  :)

I've been keeping my sourdough starter alive for over a year but I've never been able to achieve the type of bread I'd been longing for until after I ordered a couple of books to read.  The bread above was made with Ken Forkish's levain ingredients and ratios from his book Flour Water Salt Yeast.  The whole wheat flour added to my starter feeding really made a difference.

Sort of fitting for Easter, don't you think?  My rabbit even has eyes and what looks like a hind leg :)

I used the techniques I found in Emilie Raffa's book Artisan Sourdough Made Simple.   She really does simplify the long process.  So far, I've tried two of her recipes and both worked very well with the greatest success coming from the 'high hydration' recipe.  It was so good I couldn't stop eating it myself :) The crust was amazing. Still not as 'holey' as some breads I see on Instagram but I'm happy with my first new results so far and I'll keep working on it!  I know a lot of people aren't into nurturing sourdough starters, and making bread, but if you are, just send me a private email and I can tell you what I did.

The past couple of weeks we've celebrated two birthdays in our family (including yours truly) and have two more coming up in the next two weeks with my husband's birthday falling on Easter Sunday this year.  Fun times ♥ 

Wishing you and your family a safe and joyous Easter or Passover weekend!

Monique's pasta would make a delicious side dish for your holiday menu :)

Pasta à la Monique for Two - see Monique's instructions here:

1 diced shallot
3 or 4 cloves of minced garlic
1 small bunch of rapini, cleaned and cut into 1-2" pieces, discarding the tough ends
Toasted pine nuts
Cooked bacon, as much as you like - perhaps 2-3 pieces per person, diced
Cooked pasta, perhaps 1/2 pound of dry pasta - save a half cup of pasta cooking water before draining
1/8 cup dry sherry...or more :)
Lots of grated Parmesan - perhaps 4 oz or to your liking
Red Pepper Flakes, a pinch
Salt and Pepper to taste
Fresh basil, parsley or pea shoots for garnish :)

Heat a tablespoon or two of olive oil in a large saute pan over medium to medium high heat. Saute the shallot and garlic about a 30 seconds or so being careful not to burn.  Add rapini and cover pan to let it steam-cook for about 3 minutes until just barely tender.  Remove cover and toss in the rest of the pasta, pine nuts and bacon. Add the sherry and a splash of pasta cooking water and toss.  Add the parmesan and seasonings and toss.  Add more sherry or cooking water if you like.  Pass the Parmesan and red pepper flakes at the table.  Simple and tasty!!