Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Rosy's Test Kitchen #2: Cooking Successes and Cooking Conundrums - "Moroccan Chicken & Vegetable Soup" and Some Comfort Food Favorites

Hello, all.  I'm back and this time it's not failures but successes.

I am going to share some comfort food recipes that I love, but first, since this is a Test Kitchen, I am going to share the latest recipe that I tested and it was a


Soup.  I love soup for a couple of reasons

First, soup is infinitely satisfying.  It takes a long time to eat, so it's filling, the warm broth fills in all of those little hungry nooks and crannies in your stomach. It is the ultimate comfort food. But another reason is that soup is quite forgiving when it comes to experimenting and substituting and getting rid of a bunch of stuff you have festering in the fridge.  Well, not festering, but you know what I mean.  And I love to experiment, substitute and get rid of stuff. 

However, experimenting, substituting and getting rid of stuff can be a blessing and a curse.  On the one hand, when you are in the midst of cooking a dish and discover you don't have something you need and Hubby won't go out and fetch it for you, then it's a gift to be good at figuring out how to get around that by substituting.  Don't have tahini?  How about some peanut butter? Don't have serrano peppers?  Use that can of diced jalapenos that you have in the cupboard.  However, on the other hand, it's possible to get carried away with the experimenting and substituting and getting rid of stuff and ruin the dish, which explains some of my cooking disasters.

Anyway, there is a little of all of that in this soup...the substituting, experimenting and getting of rid of stuff, I mean.

"Moroccan Chicken and Vegetable Soup with Chickpea Croutons"
(Clean Eating Magazine Jan/Feb 2017)

As I said, I love soup, and I like Asian and Middle Eastern flavors, so I thought I would give this a try because it looked yummy and I was intrigued by the chickpea croutons.

So let's start with the Chickpea Croutons
(Make these first. They are a bit labor intensive but totally worth the time and they top off this dish perfectly).
  • 1 can chickpeas drained and rinsed and patted dry
  • 1.5 T coconut oil
  • Pinch salt
  • 1/4 t cumin
  • 1/8 t cinnamon
  • Pinch ground ginger
Place chickpeas on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Roast for 30 minutes at 400 degrees.  Add the oil and salt and toss.  Return to the oven for another 15 to 20 minute until golden brown.  Then turn the oven off and toss the chickpeas with the cumin, cinnamon and ginger.  Return to the oven and leave in there for an hour or until they are crunchy.  Cool.

The Soup

  • 2 T coconut oil
  • 2 stalks of celery, diced
  • 1 carrot diced (I like to use julienned carrots that I buy in a bag at the supermarket and you can just grab a handful and toss it in)
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 1 and 1/4 t turmeric
  • 3/4 t each ground ginger and cinnamon  (I had run out of turmeric but had a curry blend that included it plus some other spices so I used that and it worked well - in fact, who knows, maybe it worked better)!
  • 1/2 t cumin
  • Pinch black pepper
  • 1-18 oz jar diced tomatoes with juices (I think I just used a 15 oz can - worked just as well as I am not big on tomato heavy broths)
  • 1 t sea salt
  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced (I never dice stuff.  I am a chopper and just eyeball it)
  • 6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 cups diced or shredded chicken
  • 1/4 c each chopped fresh cilantro and flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 cups lightly packed baby spinach
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges

Set the stove to medium heat and toss the oil, celery, carrots and onion into a stockpot.  Cook about 6 minutes then add the spices and cook another minute.  add tomatoes and salt and cook another 2 minutes.  Add the potatoes and broth, bring to a boil and reduce heat to low, simmer covered for about 25 minutes (until potatoes are tender).  Add the chicken, cilantro and parsley and heat through a couple more minutes.  Add more broth if desired and season.  Stir in the spinach.

Now here is the piece de resistance: Top the soup with the croutons! (and you can serve the soup with lemon wedges if you want to but I didn't) 

What I liked:

You can vary ingredients and even amounts of ingredients and make it to your liking.  You also don't need to obsess over having to dice stuff.  Unless you are a compulsive/obsessive, don't.  Why bother to dice when it works just as well chopped?  I love cilantro so I go heavy on the cilantro so the flavor shines through. I think recipes never call for enough of it.  But if you are not big on cilantro, again do what you like.  I go easier on the spinach because I'm not a big fan of spinach and the soup was still delicious so add and detract as you wish.  I also add more broth.

This also works as a vegetarian dish - just use vegetable broth and leave out the chicken.

What I learned: 

The most labor intensive part of this recipe is making the chickpea croutons but they are totally worth it

Secret Ingredient:  I had this wilted Asian cabbage salad on hand and was about to throw it out but had this crazy idea to toss about a cup of it into the soup and guess what?  It was fine and gave the soup some added texture.  But I know.  Doing stuff like that is probably why some of my test recipes don't turn out, but it was just lying there and I couldn't help myself!

What makes this dish special?  The chickpea croutons and the very savory broth (maybe it was that wilted salad I threw in there)!

Verdict:  Successful!!

Now on to Rosy's Comfort Food Favorites that even SHE can't screw up!

These recipes have been tested and re-tested, and I will throw in some tips and what I have learned to make these even better.  Trust me.  I got this!

These are my favorites in a variety of "comfort food" genres: "Picnic Chicken," which is called that because it is delicious hot or cold; "Rescued Fudge Pie," a really easy and fast fudgy brownie for when you absolutely MUST have some chocolate; chicken (or turkey) lettuce cups; and the absolutely best meatballs ever.

"Picnic Chicken"

This is also from Jenny Rosenstrach's "How To Celebrate Everything," which I also featured in my first installment. The recipe calls for four pounds of chicken thighs and legs but you can use either/or.  I just use thighs because those are my favorite.  I think drumsticks are over-rated.
  • Puree 1/2 c. soy sauce, 1/4 c. fresh squeezed orange juice, juice from two small lemons (1/4 c.), 2 T. honey, 2 cloves of minced garlic, 1 T. smoked paprika, 2 t. cumin, smidge of salt and pepper and 1/2 c. olive oil in a blender or food processor.  Put the chicken in a large zip lock bag, pour the marinade over the chicken and marinate in the fridge for 24 hours.
  • The next day, discard the marinade and roast the chicken with wedges from half an orange on a baking sheet at 400 degrees for 40-45 minutes until browned and cooked through, turning the chicken halfway through.
  • You can also grill the chicken if you prefer - 10 minutes for thighs, 12 for legs or how ever you grill chicken. I haven't tried grilling it, because I'm not much of a grilled chicken kind of gal.  Grilled chicken always seems underdone to me, but since you marinade this, it will probably work fine. 
Voila!  Yummy chicken.
I tend to collect recipes for chicken thighs because I can't for the life of me cook a chicken breast without overcooking it.  If you have tips, please share.  But in general, I am also a dark meat kind of gal.

What I liked:

Marinade is very forgiving.  You don't have to be really exact most of the time.

What I didn't like:

I hate peeling garlic so I cheat a lot. Though I have been known to crush and peel the odd garlic clove, when I am in a hurry or feeling lazy, I often just use the minced garlic from Costco that comes in a big plastic jar. One half teaspoon equals a clove of garlic.

I also do not like dealing with honey.  Does anyone have a tip for that?  Most of it sticks to the spoon and then you have to push it off the spoon with your finger.  Yuck.  So here I just kind of poured the honey into the bowl and eyeballed it.  Like I said, marinade is very forgiving.
What I learned:

You don't have to roast four pounds.  You can use whatever amount of chicken you want to have as leftovers.
You actually don't have to blend the ingredients.  You can just mix them in a bowl and then pour them over the chicken or you can even just throw it all on top of the chicken in the zip lock bag and shake up the bag.  Depends on how lazy you are feeling.
I also think that recipes undercook chicken thighs.  I like my chicken thighs well done so you might want to experiment with the roasting time depending on how hot your oven gets and your taste.

What makes this recipe special:

It's very hard to screw it up and the chicken is delicious cold. When you are starving and have to have something RIGHT NOW - grab a piece of this chicken out of the fridge and eat it with a piece of whole grain bread with butter.  Delish!

Verdict:  Successful

"Mama's Rescued Fudge Pie"
(from Linda Ellerbee's book "Take Big Bites")

When you are absolutely craving some chocolate brownies or fudge and you do not have a brownie mix and you are too lazy to get out all of the ingredients to make them by scratch, this fast recipe will satisfy every time.

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and then melt two squares of unsweetened Baker's chocolate and a stick of butter in a glass pie plate in the microwave at 30 second intervals stirring after each interval (takes about 3 or 4 times but be careful to not overcook the chocolate).

  • Add 1 c. sugar, 1/4 c. flour, two eggs, 1 t. vanilla and 1/4 t. salt.

  • Stir it all up in the pie plate and pop it in the oven for 25 minutes.

Delicious with ice cream too!

What I liked:

Because you bake it in a pie plate, every piece has a crunchy edge that we love brownies to have.  Well I do anyway!

What I didn't like:

Waiting 25 minutes for them to be done and then to cool!

Verdict:  Successful!

"Chicken (or Turkey) Lettuce Cups"
(from "Cooking Light Magazine" September 2011)

Where in heck do you ever find ground chicken?  So I use ground turkey almost exclusively for this recipe but it works either way.  If you can find ground chicken, then fine.

  • Season the t with salt and pepper and cook it over medium high heat in a large skillet.  Stir in 1 c. sliced red onion, 1/2 coarsely chopped artichoke hearts, 1/4 cup diced tomatoes, 1 T. chopped fresh oregano, 1 T. flat leaf parsley and 10 chopped pitted olives.  Cook for about 3 minutes until the turkey is done and then add - wait for it! - 1/2 c. diced fresh mozzarella and 1 T. fresh-squeezed lemon juice.

  • Serve in Bibb, Boston or Romaine lettuce leaves.

What I liked:

I love anything served in lettuce leaves.  Makes me feel virtuous!

What I didn't like:

I don't like olives so I omit them.  Still works fine.

What I learned:

  • The recipe needs more tomatoes, so I add more than what is called for. 
  • You can substitute dried oregano leaves if you have to.
  • The recipe calls for canned artichoke hearts, but I use the marinated ones.  I rinse them off but the marinade that remains gives this dish a kick that I think it needs and that canned artichokes would not deliver.  I know it adds a few more calories but sometimes some extra calories are worth it!

What makes this recipe special:

The diced fresh mozzarella.  It has a lovely melt and gives the dish a creamy texture and unusual taste that pairs nicely with the turkey. Costco sells a two pack of fresh mozzarella that is reasonably priced and it freezes well.

Verdict:  Ding-ding-ding!  Successful!


"Comfort Meatballs"
(from "Woman's Day Magazine" March 2010
 but this is actually one of the Pioneer Woman's recipes)

My son is not a big fan of my cooking.  When he was a teenager I was into low fat cooking and I don't think he ever got over my vegetable lasagna. 

But THIS recipe - he LOVES!  I am always asked to make this.

For the meatballs, mix:

  • 1 and 1/2 lb. ground beef
  • 3/4 c. quick oats
  • 1 c. milk
  • 3 T. finely minced onion
  • 1 and 1/2 t. salt
  • Black pepper to taste

Roll the meatballs into tablespoon size balls and refrigerate for 30-45 minutes.

Dredge the balls in 1/2 c. flour and brown them in 4 T. canola oil over medium heat.

Place them in a baking dish and drizzle the sauce over them.


  • 1 c. ketchup
  • 2 T. sugar
  • 3 T. distilled white vinegar
  • 2 T Worcestershire sauce 
  • 4-6 T. minced onions
  • Dash of Tabasco

Bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees or until hot and bubbly.

What I learned:

  • You can use dried minced onions
  • You can use skim milk if you are worried about that kind of thing
  • Be sure to NOT skip the refrigeration part of the process because refrigerating the meatballs before browning them keeps them from falling apart
  • You don't have to use canola oil.  Use whatever you like to use

What makes this dish special: The sauce is to die and this recipe works well served over or with some pasta.

Verdict:  Very Successful

Well that's it for Installment #2. 

Stay tuned for upcoming posts: "Soup, a Sandwich and a Salad," "Sweets," and "Food Hacks: How to Make Quick, Easy Versions of Complicated Dishes."

In the meantime...

see you Friday

for my review of



The Week in Reviews

(What to See or Read and What to Avoid)
 and the latest on

"My 1001 Movies I Must See Before 

 I Die Project." 


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