Thursday, March 25, 2010

Breaking in a new stock pot with a spicy quick fix...

Instead of singing with the community choir this semester, I decided to audition for my college's very first musical revue (where the cast includes students and staff). Although I added another rehearsal each week, the upside is that I have Monday nights free. In fact, I can sometimes be home as early at 3pm! WOOT! So Monday evenings, I actually have time to make a proper dinner. Still, it is a work/school night, so one doesn't wish for anything TOO involved...

On a recent Monday, I was craving a hearty soup of some sort, and I decided to prepare a white chicken chili, which surprisingly, I have never made before. Moreover, this gave me the opportunity to try out one of my new Tramontina stock pots (the five quart). So I did a quick internet search, and found a recipe that looked good. (As a bonus, I happened upon another neat blog with lots of great, user-friendly recipes!) One of the things that makes this white chili so delicious is that a generous amount of sour cream is stirred in after it finishes cooking and gives the soup a wonderful tang. The soup is plenty yummy on its own, but you can take it over the top with any number and combination of garnishes--a sprinkle of fresh cilantro, crushed tortilla chips, shredded cheese, and/or chunks of avocado tossed with a little lime juice.

Creamy White Chicken Chili
Mel's Kitchen Cafe')

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 medium onion, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 cans (15 1/2 ounces each) Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained*
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) chicken broth
2 cans (4 ounces each) chopped green chilies (if you like less kick, add just one can)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup whipping cream

In a large saucepan, saute chicken, onion and garlic powder in oil until chicken is no longer pink. Add beans, broth, chilies and other seasonings. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Remove from the heat; stir in sour cream and cream. Garnish with fresh cilantro, if desired. Serve immediately. This is especially good served with tortilla chips.

Makes about 6 servings (the amount fit perfectly in my new five-quart stock pot!)

*After we had the chili for dinner (two large portions), the Great Northern beans had cooked down quite a bit, and the soup seemed like it was all chicken. So I threw in a can of cannelini beans to give it more texture and to stretch the leftovers, and I would definitely do that again. In fact, I might opt to use two cans of Great Northern and two of cannelini from the beginning.

Another thing that's wonderful about this soup is that it's a quick fix. I want to say that we had dinner and dessert--both made from scratch--on the table in under an hour! Of course, I had to elicit the assistance of my dear roommate to make the dessert while I was on soup detail. She grumbled about it initially, but once she realized how simple it was to make, she was on board. And it turned out GREAT--another excellent recipe that I ran into on same blog as the white chicken chili. This chocolate chip cake is super-moist and tender, and as easy to throw together as a boxed mix. When I took some to work to share, fights actually broke out amongst my co-workers! I highly recommend that you try this cake...especially if you swap out chocolate CHUNKS for chips and serve it warm. YUM!!

Chocolate Chip Cake
Mel's Kitchen Cafe')

2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups sour cream
2/3 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 eggs
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

cinnamon sugar (about 1/4 cup sugar mixed with 1 or 2 teaspoons of cinnamon--to taste)
1 12 oz. bag chocolate chips, divided (or chocolate chunks!)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (325 if using a glass pan). Grease a 9 X 13 pan with cooking spray. In a large bowl combine all of the cake batter ingredients. Mix for 1 minute at low speed; mix 3 minutes at medium speed. Pour 1/2 of batter into greased pan. Generously sprinkle cinnamon and sugar over batter making sure to get the corners and then sprinkle with 1/2 bag of chocolate chips. Pour remaining cake batter on top and spread across bottom layer. Repeat with cinnamon and sugar and chocolate chips. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out with only a few crumbs (don't overbake or cake will be dry!).

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