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My Recipes-of-the-Week are featured here on my Home page. You can find 1000+ of my kitchen-tested recipes using the Recipes tab, watch nearly 100 Kitchen Encounters/WHVL-TV segments using the TV Videos tab, join the discussion about all of my creations using the Facebook tab, or Email your questions and comments directly to me--none go unanswered. "We are all in this food world together." ~Melanie

04/21/2018

~ Easy Does It: Mexican Chicken & Spicy Rice Soup ~

IMG_6960For the most part, I find recipes made from a melange of leftover "this and that" to be a compromise.  With every forkful, they remind me I'm eating a week's worth of leftovers, repurposed to make me feel less guilty about their inevitable demise.  After a few bites, I find myself wishing I'd left well enough alone: made a sandwich out of the chicken, cooked a steak to go with last night's rice, or, eaten the blanched broccoli and carrots hand-to-mouth as a snack.  

"Waste not, want not."  It's admirable -- rah-rah-zis-boom-bah and count me in.  That said, it's my opinion that foodies with the need and/or desire to repurpose leftovers to feed themselves and their family need to be supplied with better recipes for leftovers.  This is not an elitist statement. It's hard-core-culinary honesty.  While generic chicken-rice-veggie casseroles with the standard cream-of-cheesy profile are tasty-to-a-degree, I long-ago vowed to turn my leftovers over to science -- so I could experiment creatively, with my own recipes that don't scream "leftover".

Got chicken?  Got Rice?  Got thirty minutes?

IMG_6963A great soup that doesn't taste one bit like leftovers.

IMG_6903For the soup:

2  tablespoons corn or vegetable oil

1 1/2  cups diced yellow or sweet onion

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

1  teaspoon each: ground cumin, granulated garlic powder, dried Mexican Oregano, sea salt and coarse-grind black pepper

1  4 1/2-ounce can chopped green chiles, undrained

1  15-ounce can fire-roasted, diced tomatoes, undrained

1  15-ounce can black beans, well-drained and rinsed

4  cups chicken stock

2  cups leftover cooked Goya yellow rice mix, prepared as package directs with the addition of 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes to the water while the rice cooks

2-3  cups generically-seasoned* poached- or roasted- and shredded chicken breast &/or thigh meat (*Note:  This recipe is full of Mexican-style flavor.  Obviously, last night's leftover Indian- or Thai-spiced chicken have no place here.)

IMG_6944For the toppings:

Mexican crema, about 1 tablespoon per serving (sour cream may be substituted without compromise)

1/4-1/2 cup minced cilantro leaves, about 1-2 teaspoons per serving

lime wedges, 1 per serving

tortilla chips, for accompaniment (optional but highly recommended for a crunchy side-snack to your soup-dinner)

IMG_6906 IMG_6906Step 1.  In a 4-quart sauce placed over low heat, heat, warm the oil.  Add the diced onion, ground cumin, granulated garlic powder, Mexican oregano, sea salt and coarse-grind black pepper. Give the mixture a good stir, then increase heat to medium- medium-high and sauté until the seasoned onion is soft and translucent, 5-6 minutes.

IMG_6913 IMG_6913 IMG_6913 IMG_6913 IMG_6927 IMG_6927~Step 2.  Stir in the chopped green chiles, the fire-roasted tomatoes and the (drained and rinsed) black beans.  Add the chicken stock, adjust heat to a gentle, steady simmer and continue to cook for 15-20 minutes.  This is a well-seasoned broth.

IMG_6936 IMG_6936 IMG_6936~ Step 3.  Stir in the cooked rice and the shredded chicken.  The moment the soup is steaming and showing signs of returning to a simmer, turn the heat off.  Cover the saucepan and allow the soup time to steep on the still hot stovetop for 15-20 minutes, to allow the flavors just enough time to marry.

Ladle into desired-sized bowls & garnish each portion...

IMG_6968... w/crema, cilantro & lime is nice.  Leftovers?  No way.  

IMG_6973Easy Does It:  Mexican Chicken & Spicy Rice Soup:  Recipe yields 2 generous quarts of easy-to-make soup/4-6 hearty main-dish servings.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 4-quart saucepan w/lid; large spoon; ladle

IMG_0749Cook's Note:  For another Mexican-style soup, one that's all it's crocked-up to be, my recipe for ~ Crockpot Chicken & Enchilada Soup ~, is one you gotta try.  Set it, forget it and six hours later, this enchilada-style soup is ready to be topped with habanero cheddar, deep-fried tortilla whisps and a dollop of crema.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2018)

04/18/2018

~ Roasted Chicken, Strawberry and Brie Sandwiches ~

IMG_6876Looking for a pretty-as-a picture Spring-Summer sandwich to serve at a ladies lunch or brunch -- one that, once they taste it, will appeal to the men-in-your-life as well?  You found it.  Tender and juicy, sliced or pulled, poached- or roasted- chicken breast, served on freshly-baked buttermilk biscuits or toasted English muffins is divine.  Topped with a fresh strawberry vinaigrette, it's sublime.  There's more.  A woman, by the name of Helen Corbett, a food-service mananger for Neiman Marcus, is to thank for promoting several unique strawberry dishes in a big way:

IMG_6836During the 1970's, the chicken, spinach and strawberry salad with poppyseed dressing, and, the strawberry-chicken and Brie sandwich with strawberry mayonnaise were made famous in the Zodiac Room of Neiman Marcus's flagship store in Dallas. The Zodiac also featured giant popovers with a creamy-dreamy strawberry and herb butter. I had the pleasure of eating lunch there on several occasions, and it was those Neiman Marcus salads and sandwiches that caused me to experiment with strawberries, in place of tomatoes, in salad and sandwich recipes using a variety of other greens and proteins too.  It was only natural that I would experiment with sweet and savory salad dressings and vinaigrettes containing strawberries too.

The star of this sandwich is this dazzling strawberry vinaigrette:

IMG_6687For my strawberry vinaigrette:

8-10  ounces fresh strawberries, cut into quarters (8-10 ounces after removing leafy green tops)

10  tablespoons white balsamic vinegar

1/4  cup honey

1/4  cup strawberry jam or strawberry preserves

1/2  teaspoon salt

1/2-3/4  teaspoon coarse-grind black pepper

6  tablespoons vegetable oil

IMG_6689 IMG_6689 IMG_6689 IMG_6689 IMG_6689 IMG_6689 IMG_6689~Step 1.  Place the strawberries in work bowl of food processor fitted with steel blade.  Using a series of 15-20 rapid on-off pulses followed by the motor running for 15-20 seconds, puree the strawberries.  Add all the remaining ingredients, except for the vegetable oil.  With motor running, process until thoroughly combined and smooth.  With motor running, through the feed tube and in a slow, steady stream, drizzle in the vegetable oil.  Dressing will be smooth and emulsified, and, there will be a generous 2 1/2 cups.  Leftovers (if there is leftover vinaigrette) store great in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.

Before making my sandwiches, read this ground-rule carefully:

Please refrain from putting bacon on these sandwiches.  Contrary to popular belief, everything does not taste better with bacon and the refined flavors of this sandwich will be overpowered by it. Ok, go ahead, put bacon on it, but if you do, skip the herbed-Brie, head for the blue cheese, name it after any number of bacon and blue cheese sandwiches, and, don't tell anyone you got the inspiration for your generic sandwich from me.  No bacon.  Got it?  Good.  Now proceed.

IMG_6852For the sandwiches:

8  biscuits, preferably freshly-baked and warm, sliced in half, or, lightly-toasted English muffins, or, small, soft sandwich rolls, sliced in half, your choice

1/2-3/4-pound wedge of herbed-Brie, 1/4" sliced, then sliced to fit one layer of Brie on the bottom of each sandwich

1/2-3/4  cup chopped candied pecans, or lightly-toasted and coarsely-chopped, pecans or walnuts (1-1/2 tablespoons per sandwich)

1  cup each:  chiffonade of romaine lettuce (or iceberg lettuce), sliced or diced fresh strawberries, and, thinly-sliced red onion (cut into half-moon shapes, half-moons cut into thirds), tossed together, (1/3-1/2 cup lettuce/strawberry and onion mixture per sandwich) 

2  whole roasted- or poached- chicken breast halves, pulled into bite-sized pieces

strawberry white-balsamic vinaigrette (from above recipe)

IMG_6856 IMG_6856 IMG_6856 IMG_6856 IMG_6863 IMG_6863~Step 1.  Slather the bottom of each biscuit with a scant tablespoon of strawberry vinaigrette. Place 4-5 small pieces of sliced herbed-Brie on the bottom of each biscuit half, sizing them to fit. Scatter a generous tablespoon of the chopped nuts over the cheese.  Top with a generous 1/3-1/2 cup of the lettuce, strawberry and onion mixture.  Heap a generous mound of pulled or thinly-sliced roasted or poached chicken, about 1/4 of a chicken breast, which a lot of meat) atop the lettuce mixture.  Drizzle with dressing and garnish with a few more nuts.  Top with the other half of the warm biscuit.  Serve each sandwich, as soon as possible, with additional strawberry-vinaigrette to the side for dipping or drizzling.

A pretty little sandwich with an interesting history.  Sweet.  

IMG_6895Roasted Chicken, Strawberry and Brie Sandwiches:  Recipe yields 2 cups strawberry vinaigrette and 8 biscuit- or English-muffin-sized sandwiches.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; food processor

IMG_6809Cook's Note:  If it's something more carnivorous you crave, you can make today's chicken sandwiches substituting my perfectly-cooked 18-minute flank steak for the chicken, or, you can try my ~ Strawberry, Steak, Blue-Cheese and Arugula Salad ~ (which gets its sweet & savory crunch from candied pecans.  Trust me when I tell you, sweet, tart strawberries (used in place of tomatoes) hold their own quite well against bold-flavored meat like steak and lamb.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2018)

04/15/2018

~Tangy-Sweet Strawberry White-Balsamic Vinaigrette~

IMG_6772Strawberries are no stranger to salads -- spinach and strawberry salads with poppyseed dressing were trendy on restaurant menus in the 1970's.  Those salads caused me to experiment with strawberries, when appropriate, in place of tomatoes, in salad recipes using a variety of other greens and proteins too.  It was only natural that I would experiment with sweet and savory salad dressings containing strawberries too.  This vinaigrette recipe is the one that captured my strawberry loving heart.  My Strawberry, Steak, Blue-Cheese and Arugula Salad (pictured in the background), is not only perfect for Spring, it's dazzling dressed with this vinaigrette:

IMG_6687For my strawberry vinaigrette:

8-10  ounces fresh strawberries, cut into quarters (8-10 ounces after removing leafy green tops)

10  tablespoons white balsamic vinegar

1/4  cup honey

1/4  cup strawberry jam or strawberry preserves

1/2  teaspoon salt

1/2-3/4  teaspoon coarse-grind black pepper

6  tablespoons vegetable oil

IMG_6689 IMG_6689 IMG_6689 IMG_6689 IMG_6689 IMG_6689 IMG_6689~Step 1.  Place the strawberries in work bowl of food processor fitted with steel blade.  Using a series of 15-20 rapid on-off pulses followed by the motor running for 15-20 seconds, puree the strawberries.  Add all the remaining ingredients, except for the vegetable oil.  With motor running, process until thoroughly combined and smooth.  With motor running, through the feed tube and in a slow, steady stream, drizzle in the vegetable oil.  Dressing will be smooth and emulsified, and, there will be a generous 2 1/2 cups.  Leftovers (if there is leftover vinaigrette) store great in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.

For drizzling or dipping, even on an all-strawberry salad: 

IMG_6792Tangy-Sweet Strawberry White-Balsamic Vinaigrette:  Recipe yields 2 1/2 cups strawberry-balsamic vinaigrette.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; food processor; appropriately-sized food-storage containers with tight-fitting lids.

IMG_5827Cook's Note:  I have no idea who prepared the first salad.  Whoever it was, I'm guessing it was an accident, and likely a result of hunger.  Gathered from fields, around streams and in wooded areas, greens, an herb or two, mushrooms, flowers and berries and/or seeds would stave off hunger.  As time passed, a pinch of salt, later, a squirt of citrus, next a splash of vinegar, last: oil.  To learn what I know about vinaigrette, read:  ~ In the Beginning:  Demystifying Basic Vinaigrettes ~.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2018)