Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Cooking with Carmen: Tortilla Soup

Being from Columbus, Ohio I grew up with Max and Erma's restaurants all over the place. When I was a kid they had telephones at the tables where you could call other diners, and play pranks, flirt, or just say hello for the fun of it. They don't have the phones any longer, but what they do still have, and what is one of there best held secrets, is their tortilla soup.
I have never wanted to make tortilla soup unless I some how had found a way to replicate theirs. I've searched the internet high and low for recipes that seem like they MIGHT be the one. All the copycats seemed wrong, I don't have to make them to know that they will not taste the same. Cream of chicken soup is not something Max or Erma would have added to their soup.
Sorry folks.
Can't do it.
No condensed soup for this girl.
While wasting time one Pinterest one day, a recipe came up that seemed promising. Not as a copycat Max and Erma's tortilla soup, just one that sounded like it would taste really good, and maybe make me realize that I can move beyond my childhood memory and try something new. All of the reviews were good, and I had all of the ingredients so I thought I would give it a try. The best thing was, was that I could do it in the crock pot. I have to say...
It was terrific.
It was more than terrific.
It trumped the Max and Erma's soup only in that it wasn't as thick and creamy and so therefore automatically better for you.The soup was full of flavor, spice, and was perfect for a chilly evening.

I made my own tortilla strips from corn tortillas to garnish the top (you can do this in the oven with a little Pam, as long as they are all coated, and not touching each other, they will crisp up nicely. Or you can fry them in oil on the stove)
Here is the recipe, with the slight changes that I made from the original.

Better than Max and Erma's Tortilla Soup

1 pound shredded, cooked chicken ( I used a rotisserie, but you could poach chicken if you like)
1 (15 oz) can of whole peeled tomatoes, mashed ( I just used a can of diced tomatoes)
1 (10 oz) can of enchilada sauce ( you can make your own, but I just used the trusty Old el Paso)
1 medium onion
1 (4 oz) can chopped green chile peppers
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups of water
1 (14.5) can chicken broth ( I used at least 2 cans full, if not three)
1 teasp. Cumin
1 teasp. chili powder
1 teasp. salt
1/4 teasp. black pepper ( I have a heavy hand with pepper you will)
1 bay leaf
1 (10 oz) package frozen corn (I only used half, a whole bag just seemed too much)
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro (didn't have any, so left it out, didn't miss it)

approx 7 corn tortillas, veg oil for frying or Pam for spraying for the oven.

We topped with tortillas and the Sargento Mexican blend cheese. NOT the taco seasoned cheese, the blend. It's wonderful and I use it for so many things, mac and cheese, quesadillas etc.

Try it, it wont disappoint. For those of you who love the Max and Erma's soup, you'll be pleased to find that you'll enjoy this even more.
At least as much!
Happy Souping.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Cooking with Carmen: Zesty Beef, and a request for Apple Crisp

Sunday was cool and cloudy and this pregnant lady wanted some fat curly egg noodles.
What could be better to warm us up than beef stew, beef stroganoff, or goulash.
I didn't want either of those things. The noodles canceled out any need for potatoes and carrots, I didn't want the sauce to be creamy, and I was fresh out of mushrooms.
Here is my zesty beef recipe with no cream, and no veg. Just a delicious gravy and melt in your mouth beef cubes! I call it Zesty, because most goulash and stroganoff recipes call for paprika, I love paprika so used it in addition to salt and pepper. I suppose you could eliminate it, but seriously it wouldn't be as good.

1 package of stew meat
1 small onion, or medium shallot
1 clove grated garlic
1/2 cup of beer
1 cup chicken broth or stock
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 to 1 teaspoon Paprika
1/4 cup AP flour
1 tablespoon Olive Oil
1 tablespoon Butter
 Bag of Egg Noodles

PreHeat oven to 350
Season meat with Salt and Pepper.
In a gallon zip lock bag pour AP flour, and Smoked Spanish Paprika.
Add seasoned meat to bag and shake to coat.
Add Olive oil, and butter to a dutch oven, or any oven safe pan. The butter keeps the olive oil from burning.
Brown meat in batches and set aside.
Add shallot or onion to pan and let soften, add garlic.
De-glaze pan with Beer, and stir/scrape to get brown bits off the bottom, and add meat and any juice accumulated back to pan. Add Chicken broth/stock stir.
Place lid on pot and transfer to the oven. Cook on 350 for about an hour, then lower the temp to 300 for another 20 to 30 min. Keep an eye on the sauce so that it doesn't reduce down too much.
This can also be done in the crock pot.
Boil noodles, and serve meet on top

When people say they don't have time to bake, I say they don't know what they're talking about. Baking, even baking from scratch, does not have to be a lengthy process. As long as you have the staples at hand. Flour, brown and white sugar, butter, eggs, baking powder/soda, and cinnamon.  With these few things you can make a multitude of yumminess.
Seriously give this a shot. You'll be glad you made it yourself instead of buying it from a box. Not that I have anything against box mixes. They are mostly good, I have a Trader Joe pumpkin pancake mix in my cupboard right at this moment. I digress.

Apple crisp is one of my fast and easy go to desserts to bake. It seriously takes minutes to prepare, and no time to bake, and is always good. My grandmother used to make it all the time, and she calls it Apple Brown Betty. It cancels out the need to make a pie crust, which I know freaks people out. Pastry is the one thing in baking that I feel is reasonable to feel freaked out about.

Preheat oven to 375
4 to 5 apples
2 teasp. cinimmon devided
1 1/4 cups oats (quick or whole oats)
1/4 cup AP flour
1/2 cup brown sugar (white works too. )
1 stick of butter
1/2 teasp. vanilla extract, or vanilla paste

 This can be made in a glass baking dish, in individual muffin tins, ramekins, or a cast iron skillet

Peel and slice apples.
Saute apples in a skillet with  two table spoons of butter, a teaspoon of cinimmon, vanilla, and a table spoon or two of brown sugar. Cook until apples are slightly soft, not mushy.
While apples are cooking combine oats, flour, sugar, and the rest of the cinnamon in a bowl. Melt what is left of the butter, and add to the dry mixture. Mix until incorporated.
Once the apples are softish, transfer to baking dish, and top with dry mixture. Bake for 30 to 40 min. until golden brown on the top. You'll be able to tell it's done by the smell.

*Occasionally I like to add to the topping, slivered or sliced almonds, or chopped walnuts or pecans.  When I have them.

I hope you enjoy these fast simple recipes, we sure did!!!