Saturday, June 4, 2011

Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread

     Baking bread makes my apartment smell marvelous.  It's a homey smell, one that beckons me to the kitchen.  It makes me want wait by the oven with butter in hand, to slather over that first slice. 

     Home made bread is a treat. Nay, an indulgence.  There is a time investment.  And for those who knead the dough by hand, a built-in work out.

     I rely on my Kitchenaid stand mixer.  I cannot begin to tell you how much fun it is to watch the mixer do all of the hard work for me.  It is a fun, edible science experiment to watch flour come together with various liquids and become playdough.  I love how yeast happily interacts with a warm cocoon of dough to produce an even bigger, but now fluffy dough ball.  It's like magic.

     This is the best home made, 100% whole wheat bread I've ever made.  Most of the time, bread made using only whole wheat flour turns out like a brick.  And it's a bit bitter, too.  This recipe came from the King Arthur website and they got it right.  There's even the addition of a "secret" ingredient: orange juice.  The OJ cuts the bitterness of traditional whole bread, giving it a sweetness that's closer to white breads.

     This bread has a better, finer texture than other whole wheat bread recipes...not as tender as white bread, but certainly not crumbly-coarse either.  It slices very well--if you make homemade bread, you know what a pain slicing it can be!  I didn't even need a bread knife to get thin-ish, uniform slices.

     If you're on the lookout for a 100% whole wheat bread recipe, try this one, from the King Arthur Flour website.  You'll like it.  (Nutrition facts are also listed at the website.)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

15-Minute Chicken Chili

     I shall call this "Magic Chili."  It really is ready to eat in 15 minutes.  It's hearty the way a good chili ought to be.  And it can be spicy...mine isn't as I am congenitally averse to spicy foods.  I don't like to sweat when I eat, ya know?

     Magic Chili goes really well with quinoa; pronounced "keen-nwa", it is a high-fiber, high-protein seed that is quite similar to rice once it's cooked.  I was out of rice (D'oh!) and I wanted something grain-like to eat with the chili.  I had cooked up a batch of quinoa with low-fat, low-sodium chicken broth.  The quinoa was originally supposed to go into a savory breakfast dish but the flavors and textures didn't work out.  I figured, why not try it with the chili?

     And wow, it was awesome.  Beyond awesome.  It was bordering on greatness.  (However, I wouldn't use quinoa in this dish if you have any kidney problems...that's a lot of protein for one meal.) 

    Magic Chili, truly. 

15- Minute Chicken Chili
Adapted from
Makes 4 generous servings

10 oz cooked chicken, chopped into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 tsp- 1 1/2 tbsp chili powder (use less or more according to your preferences)
1 1/2 tbsp cumin
2 large tomatoes, chopped
1 (15 oz) can low-sodium black black beans
1 (4.5oz) can minced green chiles (optional, I didn't use them)
1 cup fresh or frozen and thawed corn kernels
Salt, ground black pepper, and cayenne pepper, to taste


1. Add all of  the ingredients to a medium pot.  Heat over medium-high heat.  Cook for 15 minute, stirring occasionally.  The tomatoes will release their juices and the chili will become more "soupy."  (Have faith, it will happen.)  Taste and add salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper to taste if needed.  Serve over rice, quinoa or with a side salad.

Nutrition Information Per Serving, for the chili only:
Calories: 287, Fat: 6.3g, Cholesterol: 37mg, Sodium: 600mg, Carbohydrates: 34.2g, Fiber: 9.2g, Protein: 23.5g

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Easy, Awesome Roast Chicken

     Forget Mark Bittman.  I've made his roast chicken with dry, tasteless results.  That was 8 years ago.  I swore off of roasting chickens after that; I decided that the grocery store had perfectly delicious rotisserie chickens.  Easy. I need a chicken carcass on a regular basis so that I can make low-sodium, low-fat chicken broth.  Rotisserie chickens from the grocery store are $6...can I roast a chicken at home for under $6? 

     As it turns out, no, even though this particular recipe only needs two ingredients, chicken and lemons. (Salt and pepper aren't counted as they are pantry staples.)  I spent about $8 on this recipe. 

     BUT.  This is the (second) BEST roast chicken EVER.  (The best roast chicken I've had was made by my chef brother-in-law. Heaven.) 

     This is undoubtedly the EASIEST roast chicken ever.  

     The meat on this chicken is so tender and moist.  Even the breast meat.  The flavor is out of this world.  Uber chicken.  A hint of lemon.  Salt.  Pepper.  Altogether, fabulous.  This ranks as one of my favorite dishes this year. 

     Will I go back to store-bought rotisserie chicken?  Sure, if I don't have time.  Will I make this roast chicken again?  Most definitely--as much as I can.

(I carved out a leg/thigh piece before I took a picture of the whole chicken.  Oops!)

     No nutrition info on this one as it varies so widely, depending on the part of the chicken you're eating.  It's relatively healthy, if you use a roasting pan with a raised rack (you can kind of see it in the picture above).   Have a bit of the crispy skin (just a bit!) so you can savor the loveliness of it all.  Then exercise excellent self-control and strip the rest of the skin (and fat) from the chicken.  Your arteries will thank you.

    The recipe is at Cheap, Healthy, Good; an excellent blog for healthy, cheap eats.  Enjoy!

Eggplant Pomodoro Pasta's the end of May already!  Hardly time to post about the veggie of the month, eggplant.  Picking a "new" fruit/veggie this month was hard, as I like nearly all of the in-season veggies from the Cottage Industrialist's produce calendar.  Except I've never had rhubarb and I've never cooked with eggplant.  It's nearly impossible to find a rhubarb dish that isn't a dessert, so I went with eggplant.  I've nothing against desserts but I wanted to find a recipe that I could incorporate into the meal rotation...and I don't typically eat dessert.

     I was pleasantly surprised to find that eggplant is easy to work with and easy to cook!  Unlike butternut squash and sweet potatoes; I love both of those veggies but cutting them takes serious muscle.  I'd also read stories on the internet that eggplant could be bitter...I must have picked a lucky eggplant (or a lucky recipe that simply works with any natural bitterness) because I didn't detect any bitterness at all.  In fact, I thought the eggplant cut, cooked, and tasted like squash.

     If you like olives and capers then this dish is most definitely for you!  This is a lovely meal, with layers of flavors and textures.  Definitely use a good extra virgin olive oil, if you have one.  It will shine in this dish.

(Sorry for the picture quality...I forgot to set up additional lighting.)

Eggplant Pomodoro
Makes 6 servings

2 tbsp extra virgin olive-oil
1 medium eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 plum tomatoes, diced
1/3 cup olives
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
4 teaspoons capers, rinsed
3/4 tsp coarse Kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper (optional--I skipped this but then I'm a spice wimp)
12oz whole-wheat pasta (I used homemade whole-wheat fettucine.  A shorter, stouter pasta would be better, such as macaroni.)


1. Cook the pasta according the directions the box.  Drain, rinse in cool water and set aside.

2. Chop the olives and set aside.

3. Heat oil in a large non-stick pan.  Add the eggplant and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook about another minute, until it is fragrant.  Add the diced tomatoes, olives, vinegar, and capers.  Add the black pepper and crushed red pepper, if using.  Stir to combine everything and cook until the tomatoes release their juices, about 5-7 minutes more.  Taste.  Add additional pepper and salt if needed.

4. Remove the eggplant mixture from the pan and ladle over the pasta.  Mix well and serve.

Nutrition Information:
Per serving: 282 calories; 7 g fat ( 1 g sat , 5 g mono ); 0 mg cholesterol; 50 g carbohydrates; 0 g added sugars; 10 g protein; 11 g fiber; 467 mg sodium; 416 mg potassium.

Friday, May 27, 2011

My Family, Gia Dinh Cua Toi

     Last week I went out of state to visit my family for my birthday.  We live kinda far apart, so I don't get to see them that often; usually just once a year.  At the back row (l-r) is my sister-in-law, me, then my second brother.  In the front (l-r) is my youngest nephew, my niece, my oldest brother (his wife is in the back row, far left), my oldest nephew, and my Mom.  The kids belong to my oldest brother and his wife.  We're a good lookin' bunch.  I'm not the only girl in the sister lives in yet another state and she wasn't there for this visit.  Yes, my beautiful, petite mom had FIVE kids. 

     It was a wonderful time and my birthday dinner was fabulous! My third brother (he's on the far right in the picture below) and the rest of my family spent the whole day prepping and grilling a five course meal.  What a great birthday present!

    The day began by marinating the veggies, shiitake mushrooms and baby bok choy in a homemade sauce.

My third brother, making the dough for the flat bread.

The flat bread, ready for the grill...

Mom putting a homemade rub on the tri-tip...

Heating up the coals in the chimney.

My second brother's AWESOME grill set up.  I definitely had grill-envy. 

The set up for the smoker (the tri-tip got cooked in here).

And since we're outside, I'll take you on a photo-tour of my brother's garden.  Those baby plants? Corn!  (Cool!)  And string beans that grow in a bush.  

A huge squash...

And some herbs...Thai basil on the left and Parsley on the right.

Two of my brothers, grilling the veggies...

The veggies looked and smelled great!

Grilling the flat bread.

Grilling pizza for the kids, in case they didn't like anything else on the menu!  (My oldest nephew didn't believe a pizza could be cooked on grill.  I had to show him the picture to convince him!)

Me, enjoying a glass of wine and some truly glorious weather.  (Jim, the hat is a nod to you : )

And at last, the feast!

This last one is a Vietnamese dumpling, wrapped in banana leaves and steamed.  The name completely escapes me at the moment and right now it's too late at night to call my Mom and ask her for the name.

     It was a great birthday!  If food is love, then I am overflowing!  Gia dinh cua toi = my family.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Homemade Pasta Dough Tutorial, With Video

Making pasta at home is so much fun!  It's edible playdough!  And it's totally doable by yourself.   

First, the dough.  Most recipes for homemade pasta use an egg dough.  I skip the eggs to keep the cholesterol levels low.  The resulting pasta is good and quite tender.   So the ingredient list is very short: flour (white and whole wheat), a pinch of salt, and water.  Easy. Simple. Brilliant!

On to mixing the dough.  Now, despite the fact that I exercise nearly everyday, I am averse to doing anything that resembles hard labor in the kitchen.  Yes, this is a post about making pasta at home.  By myself.  Which would fall under the classification of  "working harder than I have to."  Weird and ironic, I know.  But the fun factor offsets the time and labor.

One could mix the dough by hand on the kitchen counter.  Meh.  Before I got my stand mixer (woot!), I mixed the dough in my food processor. 

Then add ice cold water by the tablespoon until the dough comes together to form a ball.  It's about 11-15 tablespoons.  I, ahem, lost count during the process....

Here's a view from the top:

Here's a view from the side:

Plunk the dough ball onto a floured countertop and roll it in the flour so that it's lightly coated:

Then knead it for five minutes.  I actually timed it because as you know, I don't want to engage in unnecessary hard labor.  This develops the gluten in the dough to make it pliable. Add more flour as needed to keep  the dough from sticking. 

Divvy the dough into smaller balls about the size of a golf ball.  I got 12 mini-dough balls this time around.  This makes it infinitely easier to roll out the dough on the pasta maker.

Put the dough balls into a plastic baggie and put them in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.  This rest period allows the gluten to relax so that the resulting pasta is tender and pliable.  Or that's what I figure, anyway.  I actually leave the dough in the fridge overnight and bring one dough ball to room temperature at a time as I make the pasta.

Recipe for Eggless Pasta
Adapted from
Makes ~1 lb of fresh pasta

1 cup of all purpose flour
1 cup of whole wheat flour
1/4-1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup ice cold water, plus additional water as needed


1. Place the first three ingredients into the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse to combine.

2. With the food processor running, pour in the 1/2 cup water.  The dough should form into a ball, if it doesn't, add additional water by the tablespoon until it forms a ball.  If the dough is too wet, add additional all purpose flour.  The dough should feel a bit wet, at most. 

3. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for 5 minutes.  Add additional flour to keep the dough from sticking to the countertop.

4. Divide the dough into golf-ball sized mini-balls.  Wrap in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator.  Allow to rest for 30 minutes.

5. Remove one-two of the pasta dough balls and allow them to come to room temperature.  Set up the pasta machine and roll out according to the directions in the Homemade Pasta Tutorial With Video.  Cook or freeze the pasta according to the tutorial.

Homemade Pasta Tutorial With Video

Making pasta at home is a lot of fun!  Check out my tutorial for Homemade Pasta Dough With Video.

This is the fun part!  Rolling out your playdough pasta!

First, the set up.  You will need an ironing board, a large plastic garbage bag (CLEAN!), a couple of kitchen towels, and a pasta maker.  The advantage of the ironing board is that a) you can get to the pasta maker from all side (this is especially useful if you're making pasta with a couple of friends), b) the height is adjustable for shorties like me (and tall folks!) and c) the clamp doesn't mar your countertop (this happened to my friend, Jim).  You can roll pasta out by hand and there are any number of sites that will show you how to do it.  My friend, Jim, lent me his pasta maker (and then I bought one for my stand mixer).

I also suggest that you lay a sheet on the floor.  Pasta making gets flour everywhere and the sheet would make cleanup faster and easier.

The ironing board isn't thick enough to completely close the clamp on the pasta maker.  So I used a couple of folded kitchen towels to fill-in the extra space.  The picture isn't the best but you'll understand what I'm talking about if you try it at home.

Pull out two balls of dough.  Keep one covered (a damp kitchen towel will work).  Raw pasta dough dries pretty quickly and it's pretty much ruined for pasta making.  Ask me how I know.  Let them come to room temperature.

Generously flour the top of the ironing board.  Then flatten the dough ball. 

Flour the dough ball.  And now you're read to play with the pasta maker!

There's a dial on the side of the pasta machine, this sets the thickness of the dough.  Set it to "1."  It's hard to see in the picture but you get the idea.

Crank the handle to feed the dough through the rollers.  The video wouldn't upload, so click here to watch it. (Sorry for the background noise....I had NPR on while I was making the pasta!)

A few notes about using the pasta roller.  The widest thickness is setting #1.  As the numbers go up, the dough is rolled thinner and thinner.  Setting #1 also acts to knead the dough a little further.  I run the dough through setting #1 three times; folding it in thirds each time.  Then I turn to setting #2; I like to run the dough through each setting twice.  The first run "thins" out the dough then the second run smooths it out further.  I stop at setting #4 for fettuccine. 

As the dough gets thinner, it also gets longer.  The length makes it a bit harder to manage but here's where the plastic garbage bag really helps out:

Here is the final length of that first dough ball.  It's well over a foot long!  Not bad for a golf-ball sized bit of dough!

The pasta dough is now ready to be cut.  The manual pasta machine excels at cutting fettucine.  Hook the fettucine cutter to the opposite side of the machine (you can make it out in the picture above).  Pull the hand crank out of the main body of the machine and insert it into the cutter attachment.  Generously flour the pasta dough.  (The resulting fettucine strands will stick together otherwise.) Using the metal feed plate to support the length of the dough, feed the dough into the cutter.

Finally, here's the fresh, homemade pasta!

Dust the pasta with a bit more flour and allow to dry slightly--about 30 minutes.

To cook the pasta, bring a pot of lightly salted water (I use 1 tsp for a pound of pasta) to a rolling boil.  Drop the pasta in.  Fresh pasta cooks quickly, in about 3-5 minutes.  It floats to the top of the water when it is done.  Toss with the sauce of your choice and enjoy!

You can also freeze fresh pasta; I prefer to freeze mine before it's cooked.  Again, allow the pasta to dry about 30 minutes, then place it into a resealable bag and put it into the freezer.  There is no need to thaw it prior to cooking, just follow the directions above.

Making homemade pasta is fun to do by yourself, with friends, and/or especially with kids!  Have a great time with it!

Recipe for Eggless Pasta (Click here for my tutorial, Homemade Pasta Dough With Video)
Adapted from
Makes ~1 lb of fresh pasta

1 cup of all purpose flour
1 cup of whole wheat flour
1/4-1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup ice cold water, plus additional water as needed


1. Place the first three ingredients into the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse to combine.

2. With the food processor running, pour in the 1/2 cup water.  The dough should form into a ball, if it doesn't add additional water by the tablespoon until it forms a ball.  If the dough is too wet, add additional all purpose flour.  The dough should feel a bit damp, at most. 

3. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for 5 minutes.

4. Divide the dough into golf-ball sized mini-balls.  Wrap in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator.  Allow to rest for 30 minutes.

5. Remove one-two of the pasta dough balls and allow them to come to room temperature.  Set up the pasta machine and roll out according to the directions above.  Cook or freeze the pasta according to the directions above.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Slow Cooker Chicken Broth

Homemade chicken broth is easy.  Eeeaaasy!  Especially if you have a slow cooker. 

It's also cheeeap if you have leftover chicken bits and bones from a roast chicken.  I used the bits and bones from a store-bought rotisserie chicken. 

I'm a bit picky about my chicken broth; I only buy the kind that is sodium-free and has reduced-fat.  Unfortunately, that's also the expensive kind at the grocery store.  (Which brings me to my perennial question: Why is healthy food more expensive?? If it's good for you, then it should be cheaper, yes?)  So I decided to make my own. 

The prep work is non-existent if you use frozen, pre-sliced/chopped veggies.  It's still very fast if you roughly chop fresh vegetables.  After cooking, I strain out the solids and refrigerate the broth overnight.  Skim off the solidified fat in the morning and ta-da... Homemade, sodium-free, reduced-fat chicken broth!

The broth is a lovely caramel color and it is great for use in other soups, sauces, and to make couscous.  I used it in my Potato-Artichoke Soup.  I recommend using it Beverly's Parsnip Soup, Chicken And Couscous, and Cuban-style Red Kidney Beans.

Slow Cooker Chicken Broth
Makes 5-6 cups


Carcass of one chicken (including skin and gristle--anything you didn't eat!)
2 carrots, roughly chopped (or 2 cups of frozen, sliced carrots)
1 stalk of celery, sliced*
1 onion, roughly chopped (or 1 1/2 cups frozen, chopped onions)
1 tbsp dried oregano
6 cups of water

Directions: Put all ingredients into a large slow cooker and cover.  Set the heat to low and cook for 8 hours.

*Note: Leftover celery freezes well!

A note regarding the nutrition information: I didn't include it for this recipe because it was simply too difficult to figure it out using the recipe calculator at  The nutrition information on doesn't sound right--there's too much protein.  I do think that this is comparable to a store bought sodium-free, reduced fat chicken broth. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Potato-Artichoke Soup

Artichokes remind me of giant green flowers that haven't blossomed yet.  They look interesting but really, what does a cook do with them?

I'll confess that I've never had artichokes outside of a spinach-artichoke dip.  I decided to try them since they are featured this month in my lovely produce calendar.

I know what you're thinking.  Artichokes don't sound exciting. Or appetizing.  I'm sure that I wouldn't have eaten them as a kid.  Then again, I loved eating canned asparagus.  Straight from the can, no less.  I was weird like that.  I still love asparagus but I've moved past eating the canned ones.  I actually don't like canned asparagus anymore--too mushy.

Back to the soup.  Photographing a green-ish soup is tough.  I couldn't find an angle that would make it look good.

See?  Green veggies swimming in green broth.  Sigh.  No-win.

It's actually supposed to be blended and I suppose that would make it look creamy and therefore photograph well.  I like my soups chunky; I feel like I'm actually eating something, ya know?

Thankfully, it tasted pretty good.  If I had some fat-free yogurt or fat-free sour cream, I would have put a small bit in there--it would definitely round out the taste very nicely but the soup works for me as is.  I paired it with a 3-oz serving of roasted chicken and brown rice.  Enjoy!

This post is linked to 1) Foodie Wednesday at Daily Organized Chaos and 2) Souper (Soup, Salad, and Sammies) Sundays at Kahakai Kitchen.  Click on the links and share the love!

Potato-Artichoke Soup
Makes 8 servings, about 1 cup each


1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, choppped
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme or parsley
3 cups chopped potatoes*
9oz package of frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and chopped
4 cups reduced-fat, reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/2 tsp coarse Kosher salt
1/2 cup half-and-half, fat-free yogurt, or fat-free sour cream, optional
Additional salt and pepper to taste
2 cups water, optional


1) Melt butter and extra virgin olive oil over medium heat.  Add onions, celery, and garlic.  Cook until the onions and celery are soft.  About 5 minutes.

2) Add the chopped potatoes and artichoke hearts.  Add the broth.  Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.  Cook another 10-15 minutes, until the potatoes are tender.  Taste and add additional coarse Kosher salt and/or pepper if needed.

3) This step is optional: Puree the soup using either an immersion blender or in batches in a blender. Add additional water to thin out the soup if necessary.  Be careful!  The hot soup can splatter. 

4) This step is also optional: Stir in half-and-half, yogurt, or fat-free sour cream.

* Note: I used frozen, cubed potatoes.  They are sometimes called "Southern Style Hash Browns."  If using fresh potatoes, you'll need about 1 1/2 lbs.

Nutrition Information Per Serving:
Calories: 109 (without the half-and-half, etc.), Cholesterol: 4mg, Sodium: 453mg, Carbohydrates: 17g, Fiber: 3g, Protein: 4g

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Slow Cooker: Turkey Veggie Soup

     This soup smells so good while it's cooking.  I have a hard time keeping my hands off of it while it's simmering in the slow cooker--a quick taste to make sure it's coming along just right.  A cook has to do her duty.

     I also had a neat discovery with this soup: okra that isn't slimy and actually tastes good!  My previous experience with cooked okra has been pretty gross.  You know what I'm talking about.  Green chunks of a weird looking jalapeno pepper swimming in snot.  C'mon, you've thought the same thing. 

     However, there's no slimy okra in this soup!  Hurrah!  And amazingly, I enjoyed the actual taste of okra.  In this soup, it had the texture of zucchini and it had a mild flavor reminiscent of green beans.

     This soup is chock full of veggies but it's not overwhelmed by them.  The main texture and flavor comes from the meat--I used ground turkey but the original recipe uses lean ground beef.

     This is a really thick soup--more like a Rachel Ray "stewp"-- you could certainly eat it with a fork!  It would pair well with a side salad or a good crusty bit of bread.

     This post is linked to Souper Sunday at Kahakai Kitchen.  Click on the link and share the love!

Slow Cooker: Turkey Veggie Soup
Adapted from Slow Cooker Veggie-Beef Soup With Okra

Serves 4

1 lb ground turkey
pinch of salt
1/4 cup onion, chopped
14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes, no salt added
14.5 oz can of Italian diced tomatoes, no salt added
1 cup sliced frozen okra
2 cups cubed frozen potatoes (sometimes sold as Southern style hash browns)
1 tbsp ketchup
salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat a sauce pan over medium high heat.  Spray with oil (I use a Misto oil sprayer).  Add the ground turkey and the onions.  Break up the ground turkey into bite sized pieces.  Sprinkle a pinch of salt over the mixture. Cook turkey and the onions until the turkey is lightly browned.  Drain the grease.  Add the turkey and onions to the slow cooker.

2. Add the diced tomatoes, Italian style diced tomatoes, okra, potatoes, and ketchup to the slow cooker.  Mix everything thoroughly.

3. Cover the slow cooker and cook on low for four hours.  Mix everything once again and add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve with a salad and/or bread.

Nutrition Information:
Calories: 413, Total Fat: 14.1g, Cholesterol: 69mg, Sodium: 589mg, Total Carbs: 44.2g, Fiber: 9.6g, Protein: 27.3g

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Good Eats: Durham, NC

    In two weeks, I say goodbye to my beloved city of Durham, NC.   I was not born or raised here but I've called it home for four of my seven years in NC.  I'll be starting a new job in Greensboro, NC.  I'm excited about my new home but I will miss the Bull City. 

    Durham has a wonderful history, hidden architectural gems, and friendly residents.  While it's widely known as the Town That Tobacco Built, much of its industry revolved around textiles.

    The downtown area has undergone a wonderful revitalization, with the American Tobacco District (shops/restaurants), the Durham Performing Arts Center,  and Historic Brightleaf Square (shops/restaurants).   It was listed in the NY Times "41 Places to Go in 2011." (#35, page four of the article).

    One of Durham's many charms are the awesome local, independent restaurants.  This town has some Good Eats! This area is home to residents from many cultures and the international cuisine adds to the variety and spice of traditional Southern food culture. 

    If you live here or if you're visiting, check out some of my favorite good eats...listed in no particular order.

1) Watt's Grocery: The chef focuses on local, seasonal ingredients so the menu is ever-changing but the food is guaranteed to be amazing.

2) Nana's: The one and only time I went to this restaurant was on a date.  The food was far more memorable than the guy.  Nana's has a world-class wine list and a menu devoted to local, seasonal foods.  Come hungry.

3) Baba Ghanoush: Excellent, inexpensive Mediterannean food.  You can't go wrong with the lunch buffet.

4) Sitar India Palace:  I love, love, love Indian food and I'm lucky enough to live down the street from a great Indian restaurant that has reasonable prices.

5) Firebirds Wood Fired Grill: This is a chain restaurant but I had to include it because it has the best steaks ever.

6) Rue Cler: A cozy French cafe in downtown Durham.  Bring an out-of-town guest here and color them impressed.  Definitely order the beignets. The seating is limited and fills quickly, so make reservations.

7) Lime & Basil: This is actually in Chapel Hill, on Franklin Street.  However, it is the BEST Vietnamese food I've eaten in the Triangle.  I took my Mom here when she came for a visit and she gave it her stamp of approval.  Authenticated by a Vietnamese mama, do you need any more persuasion??

8) Mama Dip's Country Cooking Restaurant: Holy amazing hush puppies, Batman.  I brought two friends here for dinner about four years ago...and they STILL remember it with awe and reverence!  Southern food at it's deep-fried best. (Located in downtown Chapel Hill.)



Friday, March 4, 2011

Chicken Pot Pie Soup

     Doesn't this look delectable?  A hearty winter soup to warm you up for sure.

     I wanted some comfort food that wasn't going to expand my waistline and I found this recipe at Gina's Skinny Recipes.  (One of my favorite food blogs.) For those who are on Weight Watchers, she always includes the WW points.  I like her blog because her recipes are good AND she includes the nutrition information!  

     The recipe looked like it would be easy to double; it is easy to double so but you need a huge pot.  Half of it went into the freezer.  Soups are easy to freeze: ladle single servings into a resealable bag and place them flat in the freezer.  Once they are frozen, they stack easily to save space.

     This was a "use up what's in the veggie bin" recipe, so I used three fresh carrots instead of frozen and I left out the green beans because I didn't have any.  I'll admit that I'm not a fan of green beans in soup so that's the other reason why I didn't include them!

     The original recipe also called for portabella mushroom--these can be expensive but it is worth it to buy one large strongly flavored mushroom to add depth to the flavor of the soup.  You can also use one dried, rehydrated mushroom.  (Rehydrate by soaking in boiling hot water for 5-10 minutes).  You can then use button mushrooms for filler.  

      The soup is everything it promises to be: creamy and savory with hearty chunks of chicken and vegetables.  I will admit that I added more than a teaspoon of coarse Kosher salt but that was my personal taste.  Overall, this was a good find!  
      This post is linked to Foodie Wednesday Blog Hop at Daily Organized Chaos, hosted by Bibi.  Please click on the link and check out her blog! 

Chicken Pot Pie Soup
Adapted from Chicken Pot Pie Soup from Gina's Skinny Recipes

Makes 6 servings,  1 1/2 cups each

16oz chicken boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
4 cups skim milk (I used lactose free skim milk)
1/2 medium onion, chopped
2 cups water
1 large celery stalk, sliced
8oz mushrooms, sliced
10 oz frozen mixed veggies: peas, corn, carrots, and green beans
2 cups of frozen, cubed potatoes.  (These are often sold as hash browns)
2 teaspoons Wyler's Sodium Free, Fat Free Instant Chicken Boullion
Ground black pepper to taste
Pinch of dried thyme


1. Put about 2 inches of water into a medium size pot.  Place the raw chicken breast in the pot and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.  Cover.  Cook the chicken until they about 1/2 cooked.  Drain the chicken, lightly salt it, and set it aside.  (You can fully cook the chicken but I really hate overcooked chicken, so I partially cook my chicken breasts and finish cooking them later on in the cooking process.)

2. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour and 2 cups of the skim milk.  Set aside.

3. Heat a large pot or a large, deep sauce pan over medium-high heat.  Mist with oil. (I use a Misto Oil Sprayer).  Saute the onions.  Remove the onions from the pot and set them aside in a bowl.

4. Re-whisk the flour-milk mixture.  Pour it into the same pot you used to saute the onions.  Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring constantly.  Add the remaining 2 cups milk and the water.  You must constantly stir the milk mixture or the milk will scald on the bottom and you get a really ugly brown "skin' on the bottom of the pan.  (It doesn't taste great, either.)

6.  Add the sauteed onions, celery, mushrooms, frozen mixed vegetables, frozen potatoes, and the Wyler's Instant Boullion.  Stir constantly and bring the soup to a simmer.  Cook for 10-15 minutes or until the frozen vegetable are thawed.

7.  Add the cubed chicken.  Again, stirring everything constantly, cook for another 5-10 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.  Add a pinch of dried thyme.  Add pepper to taste.

Nutrition Information Per Serving:
Calories: 225.6, Fat: 1.5g, Total Carbohydrates: 25.1g, Fiber: 2g, Protein: 27.1g, Cholesterol: 47.1mg, Sodium: 406mg,