Monthly Archives: November 2011

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Okay, I know I said I was going to be posting Thanksgiving recipes this week.  I will.  I’m getting there.  But I couldn’t wait another day to share this with you.  I’m so proud of this soup I could take a picture of it.  Oh wait.  I already did that.

This is Chicken Tortilla Soup and if you are lucky enough to live near a Max & Erma’s restaurant you know the addictive lure of this soup.  It’s spicy and hearty, cheesy and creamy.  And it’s topped with fried tortilla strips and shredded cheddar.

The tortilla in this picture?  Yeah, it’s actually a wheat tortilla.  Not gonna lie.  I made this bowl for me.  If I were making this for my husband I would have simply subbed in a fried corn tortilla.  Or, as I’ve done every time I’m in a rush… tortilla chips.  It’s totally NOT the same but my husband doesn’t care.  He just wants it under his mouth as soon as possible.

Years ago, in the days when it took me ten times longer to cook everything because I had to re-read the recipe over and over again, I found a copycat for this soup online.  When we went gluten free 3 years ago I looked at that recipe in my binder sadly thinking I would never make it again.  The basis for the soup – 2 cans EACH Cream of Chicken, Cream of Celery, Cream of Mushroom, and Cheddar Cheese Soup.

Excuse me while I go vomit.

Looking back I can’t even believe we ate that.  Every one of those canned soups has wheat as one of the main ingredients.  But we don’t need no stinkin’ wheat to make soup!  And we don’t need 8 cans of over-processed, over-salted, gelatinous yuck to start it either.  We’re gonna start this the way we start all our soups.  With some oil in a pot, some chopped onion, and some garlic.

…and all this other stuff (minus the pumpkin).  You’ll also need a whole rotisserie chicken – meat torn off and separated into dark and white, one carrot, two celery stalks, cornstarch, cayenne, salt, pepper, chicken broth, a can of diced tomatoes, a can of diced green chiles, shredded cheddar cheese, and Half and Half. (And fresh cilantro and tortillas for frying, not shown, oops.)

To start, dice one carrot, two stalks of celery, and a medium onion.  Mince four cloves of garlic.

Heat 2 Tbsp vegetable oil over Medium-High heat and saute onions, carrots, and celery until soft, about six minutes depending how large your dice is.  Add in minced garlic and cook 60 seconds more.  No more – you don’t want to burn the garlic.  Burnt garlic will ruin a dish.

Add in 1/4 cup of cornstarch.  You can see how carefully I measured that.  It’s fine in this case, actually.  Soup is forgiving.  Mix to coat the vegetables and cook for a minute or so.  Season with 1 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp cayenne, and some freshly ground black pepper.  Don’t skimp on the salt!!!

Now, for those cans.  Dump in the tomatoes, green chiles, four cups of chicken broth…and all your dark meat.  Sorry for the lack of pictures.  I probably had a child glued to my shin at this point.  Bring up to a simmer, cover it, turn the heat down, and walk away for the next 25 minutes.

After 25 minutes, remove soup from the heat, grab your immersion blender and puree it all up nice and smooth.  Don’t have an immersion blender?  You can do the same thing in your food processor or blender in batches. (Small amounts at a time so hot soup doesn’t splatter out of the blender.  Been there.  Done that.  Wouldn’t want to make that mistake again.)

Lastly we’re going to add in our cheddar cheese, half and half, the chopped white meat, and a good handful of chopped cilantro.  Add the cheese in slowly so you don’t end up with one big gob of cheese in your soup.  Keep your soup on Med-Low just long enough to get it back up to temp.

This tortilla has already been fried.  Frying tortillas for garnish is both necessary and easy.  Just heat a shallow pool of oil in a pan over Medium-High heat until the oil shimmers (but not smokes).  Place your tortilla in the oil.  The oil should sizzle and bubble excitedly when you introduce the tortilla.  Fry it for a minute or two on each side, until the tortilla is crisp.  Just don’t walk away from it and it’s fairly foolproof.  Salt and drain on a paper towel lined plate.  Obviously, if you’re cooking for more people than just yourself you can make as many tortillas as you want this way.

Then just slice them up into strips…

…and throw them and some more cheddar cheese on top of your hot soup.

Ahh, so yummy.  I love this soup.  I would proudly and happily serve this to my kids, my boss, my friend the dietician – anyone looking for a hot bowl of contentment.  Enjoy!



Chicken Tortilla Soup

1 whole rotisserie chicken, meat removed, separated into dark and white, and chopped

2 Tbsp vegetable oil

1 carrot, diced

2 stalks celery, diced

1 medium onion, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup cornstarch

1 tsp salt

Freshly Ground Black Pepper

1/4 tsp Cayenne Pepper

1 4oz can Diced Green Chiles

1 15oz can Diced Tomatoes

4 cups chicken broth

2 cups (8oz) shredded cheddar

1 cup half and half

1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

4 tortillas (corn or wheat)

1/2 cup vegetable oil


Heat oil in a large stockpot over Medium-High heat.  Add diced onion, carrot, and celery and saute until soft, about 6 minutes. Add in garlic, saute 60 seconds more.

Add cornstarch to vegetables and toss to coat.  Cook for 1 minute more.  Season with salt, pepper, and cayenne.

Add chicken broth, tomatoes, green chiles, and the dark meat and bring to a simmer.

Cover and turn heat down to low.  Allow to simmer for 25 minutes.

Remove from heat and puree soup using an immersion blender (or in your food processor or blender in small batches).

Add cheddar cheese in slowly, stirring to combine well.  Add in half and half, all the white meat, and the cilantro.  Leave on Medium-Low heat just until soup gets hot again.

Garnish with tortilla strips and more shredded cheddar and cilantro if desired.

For Tortilla Strips:

Heat a shallow pool of oil in a pan over Medium-High heat until the oil shimmers (but not smokes).

Place one tortilla in the oil.  The oil should sizzle and bubble excitedly when the tortilla is introduced.  Fry for 1-2 minutes on each side, until the tortilla is crisp.

Salt and drain on a paper towel lined plate.

Slice into strips.


1 Comment

Filed under Soups

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

Don’t these look totally amazing???  You know you want one.  I want one.  Too bad for me, ’cause they’re gone.

I offered these up to my 8 year old daughter and her best friend as they were being made.  The looks on their faces told me this one was a keeper.  And can I just say now thank goodness for pumpkin???  It is literally the only vegetable my daughter will willingly eat.  No wonder since it’s always paired with sugar.  But that’s okay.  A vegetable it still is.

I like them so much I think they may make the cut for Thanksgiving.  I know.  Thanksgiving already?!?  Where has the time gone???  Usually I take weeks to plan the menu and figure out the logistics of seating 23 people in my smallish kitchen/living room/dining room space.  Suddenly it’s, holy cow, it’s the 8th and there’s just a little over two weeks until the big day.  And yes, I did just scroll over the time on my monitor to check what day it is.  I live in a bubble.

So over the next couple weeks it is likely you will be seeing a few test recipes before we hit the actual holiday.  Yay!  LOVE Thanksgiving.  I mean, I think when asked why we like certain holidays the first thing that comes to mind is the food.  And Thanksgiving is the only holiday explicitly dedicated to the food!  And being thankful and our cultural heritage and all that.

Where was I?  Oh yeah, Pumpkin Whoopie Pies.  Southeastern PA, this one’s for you.


First let’s mix our dry ingredients.  Here we have 210 grams of my All Purpose Gluten Free Flour Mix (or you can use 1 1/2 cups regular flour), 1 tsp Xanthan Gum (only if you’re using GF flour), 1/2 tsp EACH salt, baking powder, and baking soda, 2 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/4 tsp ground ginger, and an 1/8 tsp ground cloves.   Whisk those all together.

As for our wet ingredients, in another bowl we have one egg, 1/2 cup vegetable oil, 3/4 cup pure pumpkin (not Pumpkin Pie Mix), 1 cup brown sugar, and 1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract.  Mix that all up as well.  Pour the contents of the smaller bowl into the bigger one and mix until well combined.

Drop by heaping tablespoonfuls onto a baking sheet and pop into your preheated 350 degree oven.  I used parchment paper.  Obviously.  Makes the whole process run quicker and easier.

Can you tell spatial reasoning is not my strong suit?  Here’s the first batch of…seven.  You’ll get about 28 depending how “heaping” your tablespoons are.

The filling is super easy and it’s probably already in your house waiting to be made.  It’s just 3 oz cream cheese, softened, mixed with 3/4 cup marshmallow fluff.  That’s it.  I nuked mine just a little to get it to come together easily.  I have a “soften cream cheese” setting on my microwave.  I know, I’m spoiled.  Spread some of that loveliness on the bottom of one cookie nice and thick…

Put another soft, fragrant cookie on top and voila!  You have your Whoopie Pie.  Pillowy, sweet, wholesome (haha), portable delights.  So yummy and easy.


Pumpkin Whoopie Pies (adapted from allrecipes)

1 egg, slightly beaten

3/4 cup Pure Pumpkin (not Pumpkin Pie Mix)

1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

210 grams All Purpose Gluten Free Flour Mix (or 1 1/2 cups regular flour)

1 tsp Xanthan Gum (only if using GF flour mix)

1/2 tsp Baking Powder

1/2 tsp Baking Soda

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground ginger

1/8 tsp ground cloves

For Filling:

3 oz cream cheese (I used light)

3/4 cup Marshmallow Fluff


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl combine flour mix, xanthan gum (if using), baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves.

In a medium bowl combine egg, pumpkin, oil, sugar, and vanilla.  Add to dry ingredients and mix until smooth.

Drop dough (it will be thin) by heaping tablespoonfuls onto parchment paper leaving room for the cookies to spread.

Bake 10-12 minutes.

Allow cookies to cool on racks.

Meanwhile, make filling.  Combine softened cream cheese and marshmallow fluff until smooth.

Spread on the bottom of one cookie and top with another to form a sandwich.

I’ve heard these can be frozen for three days.  Haven’t tried it yet.

Makes about 14 Whoopie Pies.

Leave a comment

Filed under Cookies/Bars

Balsamic Steak Gorgonzola Pizza

Okay, I’ll be the first to admit this is one odd looking pizza.  Bear with me.

I’m starting to think if I ever get myself published in the way way distant future, it will be writing a pizza cookbook.  Just pizzas.  I have soooo many ideas.  Every week I am inspired with new ideas for specialty pizzas.  Not that probably all of them haven’t been done somewhere before…we are a pizza loving country after all.  But still…

This week’s pizza was inspired by my most favorite Olive Garden dish of all time – The Steak Gorgonzola Alfredo.  It’s fettuccine with Gorgonzola-laced Alfredo sauce, medium rare steak medallions, sun dried tomatoes, more crumbled Gorgonzola, finished with a drizzle of Balsamic Glaze.

(Insert Homer Simpson yummy food noise.  Haaaaauuuuuuuggghhh.)

We used to go to the Olive Garden fairly regularly years ago.  You know, before we had kids.  They actually have gluten free pasta options now so yay for the OG!  We would totally go more often if we ever went out to eat at all.  I’ve always loved it there… the breadsticks, the soups, the salad.  I’m not actually a huge pasta fan but there’s something there for everyone .

So anyway, if you know me you know I rarely order the same entree twice.  There is just so much gustatory wonderfulness to experience out there.  I am always  eager to try something new…except when it comes to the Olive Garden and this dish.  I have probably ordered it half a dozen times.  It’s just that good.

So why not make it into a pizza?  No reason – let’s go!

Let’s start out by rolling out our prepared dough on a sheet of parchment paper.  You can make it from scratch.  Or you can do it this way if you’re doing this GF.  Or you can pick up a ball of dough from the deli.  S’all good.

Onto our dough we are going to add this stuff – some of which I realize is not recognizable to anyone but me.  We’ve got half a sirloin steak, cooked medium rare (you do yours to your liking of course), garlic oil, Balsamic Glaze, some thinly sliced red onion, a wedge of Gorgonzola, a tub of pizza cheese, and sun-dried tomatoes.  (You can totally disregard that pumpkin which will probably be in the background of all my shots for the next two months.)

You still have garlic oil left over from the last time we made it, right???  I didn’t either.  But I was dying to make more so I did.  Just put 1/2 cup olive oil, 1/4 tsp Red Pepper Flakes, and 4 sliced cloves of garlic over low heat until it’s bubbling.  Leave it bubbling for 10 minutes and set it aside to cool.

We’re gonna take about a quarter cup of that luxurious garlic oil and spread it all over our rolled/patted/stretched out dough.  Why not just use Alfredo sauce for the base?  Eh, because I didn’t want to.  Is that a good enough reason?

Next we’re gonna throw on some sun-dried tomatoes.  We’re putting them underneath everything else so as not to dry them out further in the oven.  Some of these I bought at the store.  Some I made myself from the 10 billion tomatoes I had in my garden over the summer.  Mine were way better.  Just sayin’.

On top of that we’re going to add 6 oz pizza cheese and the red onions.  You can use the whole 8 oz tub if you want.  I’m just a little neurotic about the “no more than 8 total ounces of cheese on my pizza” thing.  Now let’s slide our pizza onto a hot pizza stone/pan in our 450 degree pre-heated oven.

While the pizza is baking we’re going to slice our steak up as thinly as we can.  Just LOOK at that beautiful medium-rare goodness.  If we threw that in a super hot oven for 12 minutes our steak would turn into leather.  So we’re going to throw it on at the end.

Here is our pizza straight out of the oven!  But wait,  don’t turn off your oven just yet!  Now we’re gonna throw on the steak and the Gorgonzola.

Back into the oven for another 60 seconds.  No longer!  We just want our steak warmed, not further cooked.  Drizzle with the balsamic glaze to finish.  (I made my own glaze by reducing a whole bottle of balsamic vinegar on the stove down to half a cup.  You can also just buy a bottle of glaze at the store.  That’s what I’ve done for years.)

So many wonderful elements in this pizza.  The garlic and the balsamic, the Gorgonzola and the dried tomatoes.  And the STEAK.  Nom nom nom.  This pizza is a flavor powerhouse.


Balsamic Steak Gorgonzola Pizza

1 lb ball prepared pizza dough (GF recipe here)

8 oz Sirlion Steak, cooked to your preferred doneness and sliced thinly

6 oz shredded pizza cheese (mozzarella/provolone)

1/3 cup red onion, thinly sliced

1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes

2 oz Gorgonzola Cheese, crumbled

1 Tbsp Balsamic Glaze

Garlic Oil

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 tsp Red Pepper Flakes

4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced


Prepare your pizza dough as directed (bringing to room temp first if it was in the fridge).

Make your garlic oil.  In a small saucepan, heat olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes over low heat until boiling.  Allow to simmer for 10 minutes.  Set aside until ready to use.

Place a pizza stone on the bottom rack of the oven and preheat oven to 450 degrees.  If using a non-stick pizza pan do the same thing but put it in upside down.  I don’t know why exactly but I’ve read that advice a million times.

On a sheet of parchment paper stretch or roll out your pizza dough to about 1/4″ thickness.  (Roughly the diameter of a large commercially baked pizza, about 12-14 inches across.)  If you’re using gluten free pizza dough you may want to go a little thicker as it does not rise nearly as much in the oven as a wheat-based dough will.

Spread garlic oil on dough, leaving a rim for the crust.

Top with pizza cheese, onions, and sun-dried tomatoes.

Carefully slide pizza onto your hot pizza stone, parchment paper and all (or onto your non-stick pan making sure you turn it right side up first).  Bake 12 minutes.

Remove pizza from oven and top with steak and Gorgonzola.  Put back in oven for 1 minute.

Drizzle with Balsamic glaze and serve.

Serves 8.


Filed under Main Dishes

Harvest Salad

AKA My New Favorite Salad.

I’m gonna tell you right off the bat here my basic formula for a great salad.  Mixed Greens + Fruit + Cheese + Nuts + Dressing.  Other vegetables usually not necessary.  Sometimes I’ll add chicken or some other kind of meat.  I have lots of favorite salads but almost all of them follow this basic formula.

What makes this my new favorite salad is the dressing.  I make my own dressing a lot of the time.  The ratio for a basic vinaigrette is easy to remember – 3:1.  3 parts oil to 1 part acid.  The acid is usually vinegar but it can also be lemon juice or something else that’s similarly sour.  In this case we’re going to make cranberry vinegar for our acid.

In one easy step we get cranberry infused vinegar and plump, juicy cranberries for our salad.  Simply put 1/3 cup Craisins in a small, microwave safe bowl and pour 3 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar and 1 Tbsp water over them.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and nuke on high for 1 minute.  The craisins will absorb some of the liquid and the remaining vinegar will be nice and rosy pink and cranberry…y.   Super yummy on our salad with Honeycrisp apples, pecans, and freshly crumbled Gorgonzola Cheese.  Enjoy!

Harvest Salad

6 cups Mixed Greens, rinsed and dried

1 Honeycrisp Apple, sliced

1/3 cup Pecans, chopped

1/2 cup Gorgonzola Cheese, crumbled (buy the wedge – not the pre-crumbled stuff – it’s much better and lasts longer)

1/3 cup Craisins

3 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar

1 Tbsp Water

2 Tbsp Lemon Juice

2 Tbsp Whole Grain Mustard

3/4 cup Olive Oil

1/2 tsp Kosher Salt

Freshly Ground Black Pepper


Combine craisins, vinegar, and water in a small, microwave safe bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap.  Microwave on high for one minute.  Allow to cool for a couple minutes.

Remove craisins from remaining liquid.

Combine greens, apple slices, pecans, gorgonzola, and craisins.

Add mustard and lemon juice to cranberry vinegar.  Drizzle in olive oil while whisking to get dressing emulsified.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Makes 4 side salads or 2 main dish salads.  Also great with grilled chicken breast.

1 Comment

Filed under Salads