Monday, January 17, 2011


It's been two months.  Oops!  I was doing so well there for a while, too!

So, let me catch you up on our lives here on Bending River Drive...

Since November 18th, I have...
Spent a total of 19 days in Texas.
Put up my very first big girl Christmas tree!!! 
It's snowed 3 solid times.
Went to 3 Titans games, including one with Santa.
Went on an ICE! date!
Watched my sister and husband take a nap together...
Had Christmas and Christmas and Christmas and Christmas!
...and Christmas!!
Played two games / 12 hours of Rail Baron.
Bought my first sweater dress and leggings (I know I'm about 2 years late to the party) and hosted a New Year's Eve fiesta!
Learned how to make Mamaw's rolls - all by myself!  (...and many other of her delicious holiday staples, but the rolls are the only recipe I've tested all by my lonesome)
Play 176 hands of dominoes with a much healthier Granddad!  If he keeps looking that good, I'll play all the dominoes he wants!
Bought two dresses and two very un-Amanda like pairs of shoes! And went to Dallas to see the beautiful Meg and Kevin get hitched!!
...and snuck in some Sushi Zushi!
FINALLY got a pair of rainboots...but out of necessity - so Patterick couldn't object, and they're from The Walmarts...
Spent two snow-filled, cold, almost-alcohol-free nights in Bryant, Arkansas, thanks to Winter-ggedeon 2011 and Ruby Tuesday.
Turned 28...with sushi!
Went on a birthday hike in my new favorite pretty place.

...and that's about it. 

Abbey, on the other hand, took approximately 186 naps...

I'll be back before March!  I promise!!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Old Faithful: Chicken Tortilla Soup

Part of our "Week of Soups

Chicken Tortilla Soup was my first attempt to be the wonderful wife* who makes yummy soups for dinner for her husband* who eats soups like it's going out of style, but hates canned soup herself.  It all tastes the same and gives me heartburn.

No actual tortillas are involved or harmed in the making of this soup.  That's just what we call it...don't judge.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

1 lb chicken breasts
1 large yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, diced
6 cups chicken stock
1 can diced tomatoes (14.5oz)
1 can corn, drained
1/4 cup diced pickled jalapenos (use more or less for heat)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (about 1/2 of a bunch - unless you go to the Supermercado where they're not so skimpy with the cilantro - then, about 1/4 of a bunch)
1 1/2 tbsp chili powder
1 1/2 tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp garlic salt
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp oregano
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Serving Suggestion Ingredients
    White Rice
    Sour Cream
    Cheddar Cheese

Season chicken liberally with salt and pepper; sear both sides of chicken over medium-high heat for a couple of minutes, and then transfer chicken and an to a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes.  Cooking the chicken this way keeps it juicier than if you boil the chicken in the soup.  Once the chicken is done, shred it with a fork and set it aside until later.  Rotisserie chicken shredded up works great too!

In a soup pot, sauté onion and garlic in olive oil until tender - about 10 minutes.  Add the chicken stock, tomatoes, corn, jalapenos, garlic salt, paprika, oregano, chili powder, and cumin.  Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat and then reduce heat simmer for about 20 minutes.    Add the chicken and cilantro and simmer for 10 more minutes until everything is delicious!  I usually end up adding more cumin and chili powder and a little salt and pepper at some point - just because I can't leave things alone, and it makes me feel like I know what I'm doing!

Serve over a spoonful of rice and top with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of cheese!

* I use the terms husband and wife loosely since we might have just been engaged at the time I started to develop this recipe.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Gumbo: by me!

Part of our "Week of Soups

I am not Cajun, and I do not claim that I am a gumbo expert, by any means.  In fact, I've never even been to New Orleans.  But this is good stuff my friends, good stuff!

Chicken and Sausage Gumbo
3-4 chicken breasts, cooked and then shredded
I season the chicken with creole seasoning and black pepper, brown them in a cast iron skillet for a couple of minutes on each side, and then put the pan in the oven @ 350 for about 15 minutes to cook the chicken.  This makes it really juicy, and it stays that way in the soups!  Rotisserie chicken works good too though!
4 links of Andouille sausage, cut in half lengthwise and then sliced up - I use Aidell's
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 green bell peppers, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced - that's smaller than diced ;-)
1+ tablespoon Creole seasoning -
I use Tony Chachere's Original Creole Seasoning or Tony Cacciatore's, as my mom calls it
1+ teaspoon dried thyme
1+ teaspoon gumbo filé powder* - it's essential folks!
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
8 cups chicken stock -  that's two boxes
16 oz package of frozen sliced okra
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes 
1/2 cup butter - that's one whole stick kids!
3/4 cup flour
White Rice for serving over
French Bread for dipping and mopping

Prep everything!!!  The roux is a pretty time consuming process, so you want to be able to throw everything else together while whisking with one hand.

Start the roux by melting the butter over medium heat in a small sauce pan or cast iron skillet; add the flour to the butter, and begin to whisk fairly continuously.  It'll start really thick, but you'll want to keep whisking until it becomes thin, and a dark tan color like below.  This takes about 30-45 minutes over medium to medium low heat.  You also have to be careful not to let the roux burn; you'll need to whisk almost constantly.  It's a pain in the ass.
Pay attention to the color near the whisk.  That's the good stuff.  
Stupid florescent lighting.

About 15 minutes after starting the roux, start the rest of the gumbo.  Sauté the onion, bell pepper, and celery in olive oil over medium heat in a soup pot for about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and sauté for 10 more minutes.  Throw in the sausage and all of the spices and saute for 5 more minutes.  Once the roux has reached the right consistency, stir it into the gumbo mixture and coat everything well.  

If the roux isn't ready when you get to this point, you can leave the mixture on low for a good little while.  This time, it took mine almost an hour because I had the heat a little too low.

Now whisk in the chicken stock slowly.  You'll want to do this slowly so the roux doesn't clump up.  Add the tomatoes and okra and stir everything together well.  Taste and adjust your spices - I usually add more creole seasoning, definitely some more gumbo filé powder, and maybe some chicken base or a bullion cube or two...

Bring the gumbo to a boil, and then reduce the heat to low.  Simmer for about an hour.    Add the chicken and simmer for about 30 minutes more, stirring regularly and tasting/adjusting along the way. 

Serve over a big helping of white rice with a chunk of warm French bread!  And maybe a sprinkling more of gumbo filé powder!

This makes about 8 mug sized servings, so it's great for large groups or when you want to have lots o' leftovers. 

And yes, this is ridiculously time intensive and a lot of effort, but it is oh so worth it!  You'll get lots o' love for this one!!

P.S.  It's always better the next day - like spaghetti!

*Anytime there's a "guys" trip planned to New Orleans, Patterick reasons why he should go to me by explaining that if he goes to New Orleans, he'll get to bring me back more gumbo filé powder.  He was devastated when our local grocery started carrying it...

French Onion Soup

Part of our "Week of Soups"

This one isn't one of my favorites, but it is definitely one of Patrick's!  I was sick one time not too long after making this one - unrelated to the soup itself - but once I'd been through that, I just can't eat very much of it...but before that, it was delicious!

That being said, this recipe makes enough for 4 smaller appetizer style servings or two larger it's-what's-for-dinner Patrick style bowls*, so if it's more than two of you, definitely multiply this one!

French Onion Soups
1 super large or two medium sized yellow onions
2 tablespoons of butter
1 box (4 cups) beef broth
A splash of dry sherry or white wine - I like the flavor this brings to the table, so it's usually about 1/4 of a cup
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons fresh ground black pepper

Saute the onions in the butter until they begin to caramelize - usually about 10 minutes.  Most recipes say not to let them get this far, but I think they make the soup better when they get to this flavor!  Once the onions are how you want them, add everything else to the pot and mix it all up.  Bring it to a boil, and then reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 10 minutes.  Taste it, and usually add more black pepper and maybe some salt if you went with the low sodium broth.

Bread / Swiss Cheese "Croutons"
8 slices of french bread about an inch thick each
Swiss cheese to cover each slice of bread

Oven @ 350 (this is the default for my oven, so this is what you get!).  Place the bread on a baking sheet and cover each slice with Swiss cheese.  Bake until the cheese is bubbly!

We like to put one "crouton" in the bottom of the bowl and put soups on top of it, and then float another one up top!  Enjoy!

* We have the most awesome soup mugs!  Thanks Grammy!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The "Week of Soups" Explained

I'm leaving Patterick and the pup-pup for a week to go to my parents for Thanksgiving.

I'm pretty sure they'll survive without me - they'll manage to feed themselves, pup-pup really won't stare out the door waiting for me to come home, and Patrick probably won't run out of clean underwear - but I like to think they won't.

But, in preparation for my abandonment departure, we decided to have a "Week of Soups".  We do love soups, and we're always joking about how we could eat it every day, so we decided to give it a go.  Plus, I have an uncanny ability to make any type of soup in anything even closely resembling a small quantity, so Patrick will have plenty of leftovers for dinners, lunches and breakfasts while I'm away!

Here's the rundown of our week:
Patrick's rating the soups on a scale of 1-10 as we go along :-)

Sunday: Sherried Tomato Soup with Caramelized Onion Focaccia Bread
Patrick's Rating: 9 
Leftover Count: 2 bowls 1 bowl (Patrick had leftovers for lunch)
I'll have to share the focaccia recipe later, since it was a combination of several online and cookbook recipes, and I've got lots of little tweaks to make next time around!  It was amazing though, and I am very frightened that I could now potentially have delicious bread in my house all the time!

Monday: Italian Meatball Soup
Patrick's Rating: 6 
Leftover Count: 3 bowls
I've made this one once before, and I remember it being better a last time, so I'm not sure what I did wrong.  I also add a full can of tomato paste instead of what the recipe calls for, and a can of diced tomatoes.  I'm tomatoey like that.

Tuesday: French Onion 
Patrick's Rating: 8 
Leftover Count: 0 bowls
Recipe coming soon!   An adapted version of the recipe in my Better Hones and Garden cookbook.  This is the only soup in the whole wide world that I can never have leftovers of.  I think it shrinks while cooking.

Wednesday: Chicken and Sausage Gumbo
Patrick's Rating: 8 
Leftover Count: 4 bowls
Recipe coming soon!  I am by no means an expert in Cajun food, but I give it a try.  This one is a combination of my mom's recipe, Emeril's recipe from Food Network, and my own little adjustments.  And it makes a ton of food!

Day 4 Note: I miss chewing.
Thursday: Chicken Tortilla Soup
Patrick's Rating: 8 
Leftover Count: 2 bowls
My first foray into the homemade "Soup for Dinner" arena is still regular favorite!  We probably have this one more than any other soup I make, mainly because it is super easy and extra delicious!

Day 5 Note: I'm tired of chopping, and Patrick's tired of doing dishes.

Friday: Irish Beef Stew and Buttered Rosemary Rolls Robbie's Mom's Cornbread
Patrick's Rating: 9 
Leftover Count: 2 bowls
This one is my personal favorite!  It's like your mom's beef stew, but with an extra special delicious kick from the wine and the Guinness!!  It's fabulous.  And I forgot to put the rolls out to thaw this morning, so our neighbor's brought some cornbread down and we all chowed down, and still had leftovers.  Make this one tomorrow!!!   You'll love me for it.

Saturday: Homemade Chicken Noodle Soups

...and then I fly to Tejas where I don't have to cook for a week!!!!!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Meatless Monday and My Mother

We attempted Meatless Monday Tuesday for the first time this week!

If you know us, that's a pretty big accomplishment...we do love our animal proteins here in the Broughton house.

The recipe is below, but first I must introduce you to my little friend:
(my momma introduced him to me)
Classico's Traditional Basil Pesto
It's about $3, and it makes two meals!  What a deliciously great deal!

Funny story - Mom gave me a jar of this in the "pantry care package" she made for me when they put our kitchen back together post-flood.  She told me she tosses the whole jar of pesto with pasta and serves it with a chicken breast.  Dad walks over to me and mutters 'a little goes a really long way.'  And that's one of the many reasons why I love my parents - I guarantee my dad eats it every time she makes it!

Funnier story - The "pantry care package" had 3 things in it that weren't expired 1) the pesto 2) a bottle of bbq sauce 3) a box of gravy mix.  Fun fact: a box of spaghetti purchased today generally doesn't expire for 3 years...the one in our care package expired in 2008.  Thanks for cleaning out your pantry, Mom!  Love you!

Amanda's Pesto Pasta
  • One box Whole Grain Penne
  • 1/2 jar Classico's Traditional Basil Pesto - shake it up first so the oil is distributed
  • 1 can black olives - slice 'em up
  • ~1/2 cup Sun-Dried tomatoes - I use the pre-julienned ones so no work for me!
  • 2 8oz. packages of sliced mushrooms - I use whatever type is on sale...
  • Salt / Pepper
  • Parmesan cheese for topping

Boil water and cook the pasta according to the package directions.  While the pasta is cooking, saute the mushrooms in olive oil with a sprinkling of salt and pepper until tender and delicious!  Drain the pasta and return to pasta pot.  Toss in the pesto, sun-dried tomatoes, sliced olives, and mushrooms.  Spoon a large helping onto a plate and top with some Parmesan cheese shavings!

It's nothing fancy, but its kind of healthy, and super-duper easy to make on a week night.  Plus, this makes a ton of food - for the two of us, it's more than enough for seconds and lunch the next day!

P.S.  If we weren't going meatless, it's also super delicious with a grilled chicken breast sliced up and tossed in in place of one of the packages of mushrooms - almost just like Mom makes!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Friday Night Date Night

Friday night date night has returned!!!  And I am oh so happy!!

On Friday nights, we used to regularly have "date night" at home:  try a new recipe together, have some wine, and play a game or watch a movie all cuddly-like on the couch

I know.  We're the boring old married couple.  It's really what we do best.

This past Friday, Patterick surprised me with a shiny new Wii 2.0 for date night game time!!   
In yo' face Harpeth River!!

And then we tried lots of new recipes to make up for all of the date nights we've missed:

Olive Cheese Bread for appetizering while I beat Patrick at Wii jet skiiing...

(apologies for the horrible picture)
then Steak by Patrick with Onion-Blue Cheese Sauce and sauteed Asparagus/Tomatoes
and more amazing bread!!  The Bread.
with Five Rivers wine thanks to Wes and Sydney.  

It was absolutely perfect!

Don't judge.  We love to cook together and on Friday nights, we try new recipes, regardless of how utterly unhealthy the recipe(s) might be.  It's what we do.  We walked Abbey twice that night.