Friday, February 21, 2014

Cock a Leekie Soup

Outlander Series fans will love this!  For those of you who are not familiar with the Outlander Series, it’s a book series consisting of 7 (soon to be 8) historical novels written by Diana Gabaldon which I am currently reading (I’m on second book) … and I am so hooked!!!  Coming this summer it will begin as a series on Starz.  You can find the trailer about it here: and about the books here:

I'm of Scot-Irish decent, my maiden name being Scottish and my mother's maiden name being Irish so anything Scottish or Irish interests me especially historical novels set in either country.  My Irish Grandmother cooked a lot of Irish foods and Irish inspired foods growing up but I have never, that I know of, had any foods of Scot origin.  So in reading the Outlander Series, as you fans know, it is based in Scotland, I came across this soup coincidently, at the first mention in the series of my maiden name, so, of course, I had to google it to see if I could find a recipe. 

It was sort of odd that I came across a lot of so called 'traditional' Scottish recipes for this soup calling for rice instead of barley ... odd because rice can only be grown in hot humid climates so therefore, is not grown in Scotland.  And in doing a little more esearch, rice only became available in the 15th century in Scotland and then not readily available for purchase.  Whereas Barley, is a staple crop in Scotland and has been for many many centuries and still is to this day.  So knowing this, I decided that using Barley in this recipe was more traditional then using rice.  I wanted a traditional recipe!!!

As with most recipes, this one can vary from region to region, just like your recipe for meatloaf versus mine, ya know?  But the basis for the recipe is Chicken and Leeks, always!  Hence, the name.

Now I do not cook chicken still on its bones (a strange phobia, I suppose lol) and do not eat dark meat chicken, so I decided to adapt the recipe I found on to my style of cooking so here it is.  Because cooking chicken on the bone in water renders its own 'chicken broth' I substituted chicken broth for the water that is called for in the version.  As far as flavor, I followed the original recipe as closely as I could.  The recipe calls for only 1/3 cup of Barley and since I had only eaten Barley and never cooked with it, I stuck to the original measurement.   Next time I'll up the Barley measure to 2/3 cup.

This is a good comfort soup for those warm winter days or when your just not feeling good.  It's very similar to chicken and rice soup but with a slightly different flavor ... because of the leeks.  If you've never had leeks, best way for me to describe them is a cross between celery and green onions but still its own taste and flavor entirely.

It was kinda cool eating a soup knowing that my ancestors ate something like this many many centuries ago.  I will definitely make it again!

So here's my version of Cock a Leekie Soup.  I hope ya'll enjoy it!!! 

Cock a Leekie Soup

4 Chicken Breasts, cut into bite size pieces
6 cans Chicken Broth
1 Onion, chopped
1/3 cup Barley (Next time I will double this)
1 Tblsp Chicken Base
3 Leeks, sliced
2 stalks Celery, thickly sliced
2 tsp Thyme
1 Tblsp Parsley
1 tsp Sea Salt
1/2 tsp Freshly Ground Black Pepper

In a large soup pot, combine the raw Chicken, Chicken Broth, Onion and Barley.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 hour.

Add the Chicken Base, Leeks, Celery, Thyme, Parsley, Sea Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper.  Simmer for 30 more minutes, or until all vegetables are tender.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Baked Ziti

This is my own recipe and though I've made it for years, I've never really measured anything BUT because I thought I might need to share it, I decided to make notes as I made it so I've got it down as to exactly how I make it.

The key to making great meals is fresh ingredients and I more often then not even use fresh herbs but with the snow and cold we've had here this year my herbs aren't looking so good so I did use dried herbs to make this.  I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to use Fresh Mozzarella and NOT the pre-shredded or block form ... believe me, it makes a huge difference in taste ... huge!!!  Fresh Mozzarella is BEST!!!

Another thing, I never ever use jarred "Spaghetti Sauce" ... I always always always make my own ... it just too easy and taste way better then the jarred stuff.  A lot of times my hubby and I will make a huge pot of sauce and then freeze small portions of it.  That way when we are in a hurry and haven't planned a meal, its quick to put in a pot on simmer and reheat, adding whatever cooked meat we want.

And lastly, I use imported pastas from Italy as they are much better then the non-imported brands.  They have minimal ingredients and hold up better when cooked, do not go mushy!

Baked Ziti

1 lb of Ground Beef
1/2 Red Onion, chopped
3 Garlic Cloves, minced
1 tsp Italian Seasoning (or a bit more)
1/4 tsp Fennel
1/4 tsp Savory
Sea Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper, to taste
1 can Tomato Sauce
1 can Diced Tomatoes
1 Tblsp Tomato Paste*
1 Tblsp Grated Parmesan
Handful of Fresh Spinach, optional
12 oz Ziti, uncooked
16 oz Fresh Mozzarella, sliced thinly

Brown the Ground Beef in a splash or two of Extra Virgin Olive Oil until almost browned.  Drain, if needed.  Add the Onions, Garlic, Italian Seasoning, Fennel, Savory and Salt and Pepper with a bit more EVOO and finish browning the Ground Beef.  I don't measure my Salt and Pepper but usually twist both into the sauce 6-7 times (both of mine are in grinders).  I suggest adding a bit of both and then tasting to see if it needs more, remember you can always add more Salt at the table, if needed.

Once Onions are softened up a bit, add the Tomato Sauce, Diced Tomatoes, Tomato Paste and Parmesan, reduce heat to low and simmer for at least 30 minutes but longer makes it better.  I usually simmer mine for an hour or so.

Cook Ziti as directed on package, drain and add to sauce.  Now is time to add handful of Spinach, if desired.  The Spinach doesn't really change the flavor but adds more vitamins and your daily dose of green leafy veggies.

Grease an 8x8 casserole dish.  Pour in enough sauce to cover bottom, cover sauce with slices of Mozzarella, repeat until you get to top and then finish with a layer of cheese.  (Just like making a lasagna)

Cook at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes, until bubbly and cheese is gooey.

* A note about Tomato Paste here ... I rarely, if ever, use a whole can so what I do when I open a can is take out Tablespoons and space them out on a sheet of wax or parchment paper, place a second piece of parchment paper over them, smash down a bit (to flatten), fold them over each other, accordion style, and then place into a freezer bag.  Then I take out what I need as I need it.  It will keep for several months in the freezer.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Chicken Verde Soup

‘Stole’  this recipe from a blog via Pinterest … I changed the name to more suit its ingredients … it was named ‘white chicken chili’ and as you can see from ingredients it does not contain anything to make it ‘white’ besides fact that chicken is white LOL  I used Cannellini Beans cause that’s what I had on hand.  You can easily substitute Navy or Great Northern Beans ... the taste would be just a slight difference and not at all wrong.  This soup is not only EASY (just 5 ingredients) it is also very flavorful ... yummm yummmm yummm ... a definite keeper!!!

I served mine with chopped Green Onions and Diced Avocado ...
second time around I added a sprinkling of Shredded Mexican Cheese!  Yummy!

Chicken Verde Soup

4 cans Chicken Broth
4 cups cooked Shredded Chicken
2 cans Cannellini Beans, drained
2 cups Salsa Verde
2 tsps Ground Cumin

Topping Suggestions: Diced Avocado, Chopped Fresh Cilantro, Shredded Mexican Cheese, Chopped Green Onions, Sour Cream, Crumbled Tortilla Chips

Place all ingredients in a soup pot and stir to combine.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for at about 20-30 minutes.  NOTE: This could easily be made in a crock pot set on low!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Valerie's White Chicken Chili

This recipe comes from a good friend and faithful blog follower.  Every time I would read one of her Facebook posts about having a pot of White Chicken Chili in the crockpot and describing how wonderful it smelled … my mouth would water … so I finally asked her for her recipe and it is so so good!  And second day for leftovers … even better!!!   I made it exactly as it is written but for a lighter version you could substitute Greek Yogurt for the Sour Cream and Half-n-Half for the Heavy Cream … I’ve done this many times in other recipes and it really doesn’t change the flavor much, if at all!

Valerie's White Chicken Chili

4 - 6 Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts, cooked & shredded
3 cans Great Northern Beans, drained
2 cans Navy Beans, undrained
2 cans Chicken Broth
1-4 oz can of Diced Chiles
2 tsp Salt
2 tsp Cumin Powder
2 tsp Oregano
1 tsp Pepper
1/4 tsp Ground Red Pepper
1 tsp Onion Powder
1 tsp Garlic
16 oz Sour Cream
8 oz Heavy Whipping Cream

After you cook your chicken mix everything together in slow cooker (or in a pot on the stove).  If cooking in a crockpot, put temp on low and let cook all day.  Stove top … I let mine cook slowly (simmer) for a couple hours.

Serve with Shredded Cheese, Chopped Green Onions, Sour Cream or Crushed Tortilla Chips.