Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Creamy, Cheesy Mexican Chicken Vegetable Soup

This is a re-mix of Laura Lopez's award winning soup. If I had all the ingredients on hand, I would have made her soup exactly as I did last time. But cold weather and a bit of the lazy gene made me put my thinking cap on and I used what was available in my pantry and fridge.

Normally I have loads of cheese on hand. But tonight I only had a partially-made cheese ball (without the outer coating of nuts). Well the cheeses that make up this decadent little hors d'orvre are rich, meltable and easy to find in your market. Nuefchatel, Wispride Spreadable Sharp Cheddar and Crumbled Blue, perfect for this soup! Check out the recipe for the combo of cheeses from a very old blog post. Now let's get cooking. It's soup weather and this is a quick fix.

Creamy, Cheesy Mexican Chicken Vegetable Soup
Serves 3 or 4

1 T canola oil
1 large carrot chopped
1 medium celery chopped
1/2 medium onion chopped
2 Fresno chilies chopped or you can leave them whole- I chopped one and kept one intact
4-5 tsp taco seasoning divided (I use the low sodium)
Pinch of kosher salt
1 can (10.5 oz) Cream of Chicken soup- lower sodium/98% fat free
3 canfulls (10.5 oz) Chicken Broth- low sodium/fat free
2 cups (or more) cooked chicken breasts shredded
1 cup frozen corn
1/2 cup of cheese ball mixture (you can add more- it's so delish)
2-3 oz fresh baby spinach chopped

In large soup pot add canola oil and heat on low. Add the carrots, celery, and onions. Sprinkle with 2 tsp taco seasoning and kosher salt. Now add 1 Fresno chili. Cover and sweat on low until veggies are soft.

Add the cream soup and the broth and stir to incorporate. Now add the remainder of the taco seasoning and the additional Fresno chili. Cover and cook on low for about 5-7 minutes. Now add the chicken, cheese and frozen corn. Stir to make sure the cheese melts and after a few minutes you can add the chopped baby spinach. Cook another minute or two and dinner is done. Serve piping hot.

I'd love this soup topped with a slice or two of Texas Toast. Or fried tortillas. And if I had a can of black beans, they would have made an appearance in the broth as well. What a versatile meal and a big thank you again to Laura, TV star and cook extraordinaire. 

Friday, January 2, 2015

Lemon Explosion

I love when a new cookie idea works, and this one a dream. I had a jar of lemon curd in my pantry and wasn't sure if I was going to use it in an experiment that involved French toast, something savory or maybe another version of my famous cream-filled cookies. Well you know me, I dove head first into the cookie project. Let's make some creamy, dreamy, lemony cookies.

Lemon Cream Filled Lemon Cookies
Makes 16 2 inch sandwich cookies
8 oz Neufchatel cheese softened to room temp
1/2 cup unsalted butter softened
1/4 cup confectioner's sugar
1/2 cup prepared lemon curd

3/4 cup unsalted butter softened to room temp
3/4 cup Splenda Brown Sugar Blend
2 large eggs room temp
1/2 tsp pure lemon extract
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
Zest of one lemon
2 cups AP flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Confectioner's sugar for dusting

To make the filling: In medium size bowl combine all ingredients. I mix the cream cheese and butter first (mix about 2 or 3 minutes to get some air in the mixture). Then add the lemon curd and sugar. I use a hand mixer. Very important step here- wash your hands and dry them well. Now with your impeccably clean pointer finger, scoop as much of this creamy confection onto it and take a taste. Yummy, right?


Cover with plastic wrap and store in the fridge while you wash your hands again and make the cookies. By the way, you could also make the filling a day ahead, which due to time juggling, is what I did.

To make the cookies: Pre heat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. In medium size bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt (I use a whisk). Set aside.

In large bowl, with hand mixer, combine butter and sugar and mix until smooth and airy (about 2-3 minutes). Add eggs, both extracts and lemon zest. When mixture is smooth, add half the dry ingredients into the wet and mix on low. Add the rest of the dry ingredients until incorporated. This is a sticky dough, so you'll want to cover it or wrap it with plastic wrap and let it sit in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.

Using a teaspoon or small cookie scoop, form dough into 1-1/2 inch balls and place on baking sheets.

Looks like a matzo ball, right? Leave enough room between cookies, as these babies spread. Bake in your pre-heated oven for 11 to 12 minutes. Remove from oven and cool slightly on cooling  rack, then remove to paper or kitchen towels to cool completely. Don't these look light and tasty?

And ready to be filled? You bet! Remove filling from the fridge. Take a hefty teaspoon of the creamy filling and place it on the underside/flat side of a cookie. Take a second cookie and cover the filling to make a sandwich. Keep going until all cookies have found their match. Don't use all the cream, as you'll want a few tablespoons to garnish the tops of the cookies.

Dust with confectioner's sugar. I like to dust through a sieve to make the sugar even finer.

And for a final presentation, add a dollop of remaining lemon cream to the top, then add a sprinkling of lemon zest to the dollop and serve in cupcake wrappers.
If fresh herbs looked good in my market, a pretty leaf of mint or thyme would have been the perfect garnish- right on top or next to my creamy dollop. With or without the herbs, this cookie is sure to please all the lemon lovers in your life.