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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Kitchen Bootcamp Challenge January 2011: Soup (Pho & Wonton)

When I saw that January's Kitchen Bootcamp challenge was soup, I decided to join in. We love soup in our household, and learning to make good homemade soup seemed like an excellent goal. I knew I wanted to focus on chicken broth based soups. During no-chicken-vember, I wasn't even willing to give up chicken broth soups, I love it too much. For something I love so much though, I'd never made my own broth.

I decided to start out with one of Jen's recipes from her blog, mykitchendaddiction. I chose her chicken tortilla soup (revisited) because it is a recipe in which she used the whole chicken for the first time, and I wanted a whole chicken soup recipe for beginners. I started with making the broth. I'd never even bought a whole uncooked chicken before. I crammed my chicken in my dutch oven, threw in the rest of the broth ingredients, and was so happy to realize just how easy it was!

Before I knew it, my broth was done, and I was letting the chicken cool before shredding the meat. The part that really surprised me was how much the whole thing fell apart while simmering. I expected to be able to pull the whole bird back out in one piece. But the meat was fall off the bone tender, and so when some of the meat fell off the phone, the chicken lost its shape. The broth turned out really excellent. I froze 1/4, used 1/4 in my chicken b'stilla recipe, and used 1/2 to make the chicken tortilla soup (halving that part of the recipe, since I halved the chicken and broth I was using in the soup).

While I was happy with how my broth turned out from Jen's recipe, I wasn't ready to stop there. Her broth was great for using in something, like a tortilla soup, where you're going to add a lot of spices.

I'm sure I'll make it many times in the future so that I can have homemade broth in my freezer and fridge. What I really wanted to accomplish was a broth that stood on its own, with just a few add-ins for the soup. I order a chicken broth like this in Wonton soup (Chinese restaurants) or Pho (Vietnamese Restaurants).

For this, I turned to Hyacinth's recipe from Pioneer Woman. I knew from her description that this could be the stand alone broth I was seeking. Her recipe uses all chicken thighs, instead of a whole chicken. My little dutch oven had a hard time fitting it all in.

But I found it just as simple to make as the previous recipe. I don't know why I'd been so scared of making my own chicken broth! The results from Hyacinth's recipe were delicious, just what I was wanting! You wouldn't want to make this flavorful broth for when a recipe calls for broth, but for some special soups.

My recommendations are super quick versions of Pho or Wonton Soup. If you make the broth ahead, you could put these meals together really quickly on a busy night. These are my two recipes below.

For the Pho. (this took me 20 minutes, but if you boil the rice noodles ahead of time, it would take even less time)
2 handfuls raw bean sprouts (from produce section of grocer)
1 lime cut into 8 sections
fresh cilantro
rice noodles
reserved chicken (optional)

Cook rice noodles as directed on box. Place cooked rice noodles in soup bowl, then fill with broth. Top with bean sprouts and 2 sprigs fresh cilantro. Squeeze 1 lime wedge into soup. Enjoy!

For the Wonton Soup:
3-4 frozen wontons* per person

Heat broth to near boiling temperature. Divide into soup bowls. Place 3-4 wontons in each bowl. Allow soup to cool slightly before eating.

*I enjoy the frozen wontons from Trader Joe's, but if you prefer to make your own check out the book Can I Freeze It?: How to Use the Most Versatile Appliance in Your Kitchen

Thanks Kitchen Bootcamp Challenge for challenging me to step out of my shell. I really enjoyed making my own broth. Check out My Kitchen Addiction for more on Kitchen Bootcamp.

Friday, January 28, 2011

FFwD Chicken B'stilla

The recipe for this week's French Fridays with Dorie was Chicken B'stilla. I have to say, I felt like I was making this dish all day. I started it after lunch on Sunday, we were having a friend over and cleaning up the house while I worked on the dish. There were tons of steps, and it seemed to me like each step took an hour.

I'm pretty sure I made a mistake towards the end. We were supposed to have the chicken broth reduce to 1 cup, and I may not have left it reduce long enough. Mr. Hobby and I were standing over the pot, holding a liquid measuring cup in one hand, and trying to decide if we thought it was down to 1 cup or not. When we were satisfied and I reduced the heat, it was still pretty hot since I was using my dutch oven. When I whisked in the egg and honey mixture, I started to get some strands of cooked egg, even though I never stopped whisking. I think I should have either let the pot cool more before mixing the eggs in, or tempered the eggs by putting a little of the chicken broth into the eggs, and then mixing that in with the larger portion of chicken broth. But, I'm a new cook, so I only think of these things after my mistakes have been made. Anyway, my sauce wasn't setting up the way Dorie described it in the book. So, after whisking for a long time, and still not getting a thick texture I decided to put another egg in. We buy free range eggs, and I'd noticed an egg that didn't come close to meeting the standards for American Large eggs in my 12 pack, so I cracked the little guy in there. It helped some, but I never got the sauce consistency I needed. You can see what it looked like in the picture of the mixture in the pot.

But, the final dish was very pretty. And the best part was that Mr. Hobby was willing to eat the leftovers all week!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

First book done - 11.11.11 project

I was very excited this morning when I realized it was 1/11/11 and I only had about 20 pages of my book left to read. I was exhausted when I got home today, I've been working 10.5 hour days this week when my normal schedule is 7.5 hour days. Normally if I was arriving home so tired I'd just turn on the netflix, but I made myself finish the book and blog tonight. How exciting, eleven days into my 11.11.11. project, and I'm done with book one!

The first book I read was called
Mexican Enough: My Life between the Borderlines by Stephanie Elizondo Griest. I first became familiar with Ms. Griest's writing by reading a preview on Amazon.com of her previos book Around the Bloc: My Life in Moscow, Beijing, and Havana about her time spent living in Communist and former Communist countries. I loved what I read on the preview, but as often happens, I didn't end up buying the book. But I did buy
from Amazon instead. Did I mention I bought this book in the summer of 2009? It gets sadder, I took this book with me on my trip to Mexico (clever, right?) but never finished the first chapter. Since then, this book has been mocking me on my bookshelf. Of all the unread books on my shelf, this one spoke loudest, as I couldn't even find the time to read it when I was on vacation! So I knew it was first on my "To be read" list.

The premise of this book is that Stephanie, a twenty-something child of one white parent and one Mexican parent travels to Mexico in attempt to learn and understand her Mexican roots better. Unfortunately, I found her desire to be a journalist often took away from the story.

She was constantly setting off to interview people who were involved in Mexican current events, and cramming their stories and issues into a book that had been sold to me under the premise of a story about someone searching for themselves. After all, the quote on the cover says "This is a travel journal for the new millennium, a biracial woman searching for herself among the complexities of the borderlands." -Sandra Cisneros, author of The House on Mango Street

The parts in the book where she was exploring herself and truly open I enjoyed -like when she considers adopting a Zapotec girl, and what that would mean for her lifestyle, and for the girl. But there were so many interviews in the book, with so many people, on so many subjects, at times it just felt like I was reading a newspaper with articles about Mexico. I'm still considering picking up Around the Bloc: My Life in Moscow, Beijing, and Havana
at some point.

I'd only give Mexican Enough a three star rating on a five star scale.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

2011 New Years Resolutions

Blog Resolutions:

1. Post at least 111 times in the next year. That is about once every three days.

2. Improve the layout and tags on my blog to make reading and finding related posts easier.

3. Write about my 11 in '11 project, as mentioned in this previous post.

4. Continue to explore new blogging groups that will challenge me to try new things.

Personal Resolutions:

1. Be more organized. This will be a challenge for me, so I'll specify especially with my paperwork related to finances.

2. Keep in better touch with friends who do not live in St. Louis.

3. Move all my registrations etc. to one name and one mailing address. No more mail in my old name or at my old address.

Couple Resolutions (things my husband and I have both decided we will work on together)

1. Keep a budget.

2. Prepare delicious and healthy meals at home (this will help with the budget, and our health!) at least five dinners a week.

3. Exercise (walk or go to gym) for at least 210 minutes a week (30 minutes a day, seven days a week).