Greek-Lemon Chicken Soup

Hello World!!!!  I’m in the middle of writing my Ph.D. thesis, and fully expect the sporadic posting schedule to continue. However, I have grown to enjoy the convenience of having my favorite recipes available to me in one location whenever I want them (or whenever I have WiFi access), so I’m popping in quickly on this Friday to add another entry in my online recipe book.

This soup, which is known as Avgolemono in Greek, has quickly become a new favorite lunch dish. I adapted this recipe from a couple of sources, and finally have it just the way I like it. I love that this soup is very similar to chicken noodle soup (which I love), but has orzo pasta and a nice tang from the lemon juice to give some variety!  Enjoy!

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Greek-Lemon Chicken Soup

Adapted from: Food Network & Good Housekeeping (February 2015)

Lemony-Greek Chicken Soup

Ingredients:

Base:

2-3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

2 qt. water

½ teaspoon poultry seasoning

2 large carrots, sliced

2 teaspoons salt (optional)

1 teaspoon ground pepper

Soup:

1 bunch green onion, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons olive oil

2/3 cup orzo pasta

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

2 large eggs

Instructions:

In a stock pot, boil base ingredients for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a separate pan over medium heat and add the onions. Cook the onions about 5 minutes, and then set aside.

When chicken is tender and cooked through, remove from broth and cut into 1 inch pieces and set aside. If the liquid has reduced too much you should add some more water at this point (I usually add about 1 quart of water).

After the chicken has been removed from the broth (and additional water added), set aside 2 cups of broth. Then, add the orzo pasta to the gently boiling broth and cook to al dente. Note: my box of orzo recommends under-cooking the orzo by 1-3 minutes since it will continue to cook in the soup after its “cooking” time.

While the orzo is cooking, beat the lemon juice and eggs together in a bowl. Pour the 2 cups of broth slowly into the bowl, whisking continuously. Once all the broth is incorporated, add the mixture into the pot. Finally, return the chicken to the pot and stir to blend well throughout. Serve hot.

 

Pumpkin Chili

So I know April is a little past prime pumpkin season for most people, but I like to eat it all year. I found this recipe a couple of months ago, and it has quickly become one of my favorite lunch go-to’s. It’s simple, tasty, and if you invest the 30 or so minutes it takes to make you will eat great for days!

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Pumpkin Chili

Adapted from: Fitness Magazine (January 2015)

Pumpkin Chili

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 medium onion, diced

1 (14.5 oz) can of diced tomatoes

1 can of pure (100%) pumpkin

1 can of black beans

1/2 cup uncooked bulgur wheat

1 teaspoon dried chipotle pepper

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 tablespoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

3/4 teaspoon salt (optional)

2 1/2 cups water

Instructions:

In a large soup pot (or Dutch oven), heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Then, add the onion, garlic, and salt (optional). Stir occasionally and cook for about 5 minutes, or until the onion is soft and translucent.

Next, add the tomatoes, pumpkin, beans, chipotle pepper, bulgur, cumin, black pepper, and water to the pot. Mix well and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and stir again. Cover and cook for 15-20 minutes, or until the bulgur is soft.

Notes:

Ideas for garnishing: avocado slices, plain greek yogurt, tortilla chips, and/or cilantro sprigs.

Sesame Peanut Noodles

Woo–my first recipe post of 2015!!!! I actually hadn’t planned to do a recipe post this week, but I’ve fallen into some bad habits with my recipe posting cycle. It usually goes a little something like this: 1) make a new dish, usually add a few tweaks, 2) take picture of said creation and make big plans for a forthcoming post, and finally 3) get busy/lazy and forget the tweaks I made to the recipe when (or if) I finally finish the post. In short, it’s not a very efficient system.

I was reminded of this cycle of inefficiency as I was making this noodle dish the past weekend. I’ve made it a couple of times before and decided to tweak the original recipe. I really liked the changes I made and didn’t want to forget them, so I decided to get this post done ASAP! So here it is world!

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Sesame Peanut Noodles

Adapted from: Good Housekeeping

Sesame Peanut Noodles

Ingredients:

2 cups cooked chicken

*~1 pound Rice Noodles (I used a 14 oz box)

1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 clove garlic, minced

1 small red bell pepper, thinly sliced

1 medium onion, thinly sliced.

1 large Kirby cucumber, cut in half lengthwise and sliced into half-moons (optional)

peanut sauce

1/3 cup creamy peanut butter

1/4 cup lower-sodium soy sauce

3 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

Dash of crushed red pepper (optional)

~1/2 cup water

garnish

1 cup fresh cilantro leaves

Sriracha (hot chili sauce)

*See notes at the end of the recipe

Instructions:

Heat large covered pot of salted water to boiling on high. Cook pasta as label directs.

In a large bowl, whisk together peanut butter, soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, a dash of crushed red pepper (if desired), and about 1/2 cup of water. Note: To avoid making the sauce too thin, I add the water in stages to achieve the desired viscosity level. The exact amount of water I use varies–sometimes more, sometimes less than 1/2 cup. The result should be a smooth, easily stir-able sauce that is not too thin or too viscous. Set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet. Add garlic, onion, and red pepper. Sauté, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft. Stir in the cooked chicken and warm for 3-5 minutes. Turn the heat to low and add the peanut sauce. Warm for about 5 minutes.

Finally, the add pasta and cucumber to the skillet. Toss until well coated. Garnish with cilantro. Serve with Sriracha, if desired.

Notes:

1) The original recipe calls for spaghetti noodles, but I prefer rice noodles in this dish. Obviously this is a personal preference, so use whatever noodles make you happy. 🙂  

2) We only had an orange bell pepper on hand the day I took this picture. It works just as well as a red one!

November and December 2014 Recap

Oh me, oh my! Is it really already February…of 2015??? I feel like it was just December and I blinked and now it’s February. Alas–such is life. To say January was crazy would be an understatement. I was out of town for work (and had to extend the trip), and then was busy frantically trying to prepare a presentation to present on this work. Basically, I had almost zero time for blogging. I finally had to start putting “spend 10 minutes on blog post” on my to-do list, which is why this post took me greater than 1 month to finish. BUT I FINISHED IT. It’s the little things folks…

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[1]

I read 11 books in November and December, which is surprising considering how busy I was. I even found time to review 4 books! Overall, I read a whopping 59 books in 2014. Holy wow–I think that’s a new record for me. I still plan to summarize my “2014 year in reading” (even though we are well into 2015), so stay tuned for that.

Books read:

1. Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates

2. My Life in Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead

3. The Black Prince by Iris Murdoch

4. Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

5. Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

6. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

7. The Promise of Stardust by Priscille Sibley

8. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

9. Duty by Robert M. Gates

10. Chocolat by Joanne Harris

11. Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham

Book Reviews Posted:

1. Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld

2. A PhD Is Not Enough! by Peter J. Feibelman

3. The Club Dumas by Arturo Perez-Reverte

4. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein

[2]

Recipes Posted in November and December:

1. Bacon Macaroni and Cheese

2. Bacon Chicken Breast with Sweet Potato Mash

[3]

After a strong showing in October, I kind of fizzled out in November but regained some momentum in December. I’m pretty proud of my December mileage because I was traveling most of the month and had to make a real effort to get those miles in.

November-DecemberOverall, I logged a grand total of 704 miles in 2014. Obviously I didn’t hit my original goal of 1000 miles or even my revised goal of 873 miles (my 2013 total + 1 mile), but I think the important thing is that I kept at it even when I realized I wasn’t going to hit either of those goals. I also realize that I probably had way more than 704 active miles in 2014 (since I don’t have one of those fancy fitness trackers that logs my every move), but these were the miles I completed with the intention of exercising. I’m pretty happy with these numbers, and plan to solider on in 2015!

[4]

Fun things I did in November:

1) Attended a “Pre-Thanksgiving” Cocktail/Housewarming Party

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I had a great time at this party hosted be Dan and Deniz. Everyone dressed up, drank fancy cocktails (or champagne in my case), and ate lots of delicious hors d’oeuvres.

2) Spent Thanksgiving in (a very snowy) Michigan

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It started snowing the day we showed up and it continued to snow in little bits for the rest of our trip. While the humans in the house didn’t mind the snow, there was one certain dog who really enjoyed it:

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Snoop, aka Snow Dog

Seriously, he just loves to burrow in the snow and hang out. So cute (but so weird)!

On Thanksgiving day, K’s parents cooked a big, delicious feast. We had two other grad students from the university join us for dinner:

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Snoop wasn’t sure how he felt about having company, but we sure enjoyed it!

Overall I had a really great Thanksgiving. It was very peaceful and relaxing–definitely a nice break from the insanity of graduate school.

Fun things I did in December:

1) Attended a holiday potluck and celebrated Bernie’s birthday

The 2014 holiday season was chock full of parties and fun events, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. For the last several years my friend Beth has hosted a holiday potluck, and for one reason or another I’ve never been able to go. Luckily I could this year! There was delicious food, mulled wine (which I was a few minutes too late to be able to have before it ran out), and a pretty tree. Basically it had all the perfect elements of a nice holiday gathering.

After the meal, we walked over to Kingston Mines to listen to some blues music in celebration of Bernie’s birthday. There were many photo-worthy opportunities throughout the night (The food! The tree! All. The. Friendship.), but the only picture I have from the entire night is this really grainy selfie…

 

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So I guess it’ll have to do? 🙂

2) Went to Michigan for an early Christmas celebration

About three weeks after we said goodbye to K’s parents and Snoop from the Thanksgiving trip, we were back! And so was the snow…

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Usually we have a brief “re-acquaintance” period with Snoop when we come back to Michigan after having been away for awhile, but since the period between the two trips was so short this time he seemed excited to see us pretty much right away. And boy were we excited to see him! I mean really, how can you resist this face!?

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So cute and surprisingly tolerant of the ears!

As usual, we had a really nice and relaxing time in Michigan. We spent some time with K’s friends from high school, and enjoyed some really great meals. Since we were leaving before Christmas day, we celebrated early with a fantastic meal cooked by K’s dad:

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We also exchanged gifts. I even got to open up Snoop’s stocking, which made me his favorite for about 10 minutes

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It was short-lived, but worth it!

We were sad to say goodbye to Michigan, but we had a great time!

3) Celebrated Christmas in Kansas

A few days before Christmas, we flew to Kansas to spend some time with my family.

We also have lots of little holiday traditions, one of which is to have my grandmother over for dinner on Christmas Eve. We even remembered to take pictures this year!

Family-xmaseve

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My parents also kept another holiday tradition alive–new p.j’s on Christmas Eve!

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Special thanks to our p.j. model, Jen

Thanks Mom and Dad!

Christmas day is always a little crazy in our household. We do our gift exchange in the morning, host my dad’s family for lunch, and travel over to Grandma’s for dinner with my mom’s side. It’s crazy and a busy day, but always very fun. This year was no exception! I’m so happy I was able to be home and got to see everyone!

I also got to catch up with the ladies from high school and my friend Erin while I was in Kansas! I don’t make it home that much (and probably will even less so in the future), so it’s always so nice when our schedules coordinate and we can get a quick visit in.

Overall, it was a great trip back to Kansas. We got in some quality family time and had lots of good food–smoked turkey, smoked pork, prime rib, ham, and of course Chet’s (aka Dad) breakfasts. We sure were spoiled!

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Yay! I finally finished this post! Now on to re-cap January…

Bacon Chicken Breast with Sweet Potato Mash

Apparently I’m on a bacon roll right now with my recipe postings, but there are worse things I could be on a roll with! I made this on a recent weeknight for dinner and was surprised by how easy and tasty it was. I will definitely be making this again!

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Bacon Chicken Breast with Sweet Potato Mash

Adapted from: Good Housekeeping

Bacon Chicken Cutlets and Sweet Potato

Ingredients:

2 sweet potatoes, pricked with fork

4-6 strips bacon

1 pound chicken breasts (I used four 1/4-1/2 pound chicken breasts)

1/4 teaspoons salt

1/4 teaspoons pepper

1/4 cups flour

1/2 cups milk

1/2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoons pressed garlic

1 cups lower-sodium chicken broth

2 tablespoons lemon juice

Instructions:

Cook bacon in 12-inch skillet on medium-high heat for 5 minutes or until crisp. Reserve drippings–don’t clean the pan!

Season chicken cutlets with 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper, and then dredge in flour. Cook chicken in bacon drippings on medium-high heat for 6-10 minutes or until cooked through (165 degrees F), turning once.

Meanwhile, microwave sweet potatoes (make sure they have been pricked with fork) on high 10 minutes or until tender, turning over once. Scoop potato flesh into medium bowl, and mix with milk and 1/4 teaspoon salt.

When chicken has finished cooking, transfer chicken to plates. Stir pressed garlic into skillet and cook for 30 seconds. Add chicken broth and lemon juice to the skillet and cook 3 minutes.

Serve chicken with sauce, bacon, mash, and mash.

Notes:

Steamed broccoli (shown in the picture above) goes really well with this dish!

October 2014 Recap

Oh, hello December! I’ve been meaning to get around to the recap posts for awhile (since I know those are the ones you really like to read Grandma 😉 ), but I was really motivated to post some book reviews and recipes the past few weeks so I went with that instead. But never fear, the recaps are back!

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[1]

I read 5 books in October, and they were all pretty good reads. I loved The Shadow of the Wind, and I also thought In Cold Blood and The Sun Also Rises were great as well. As of October 31, I have logged 48 books for the year!

Books read:

1. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

2. The Bride Wore Size 12 by Meg Cabot

3. Hollow City by Ransom Riggs

4. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

5. Fiesta: The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

[2]

Recipes Posted:

1. Chili’s Chicken Enchilada Soup

[3]

I did pretty good in the fitness department in October. Obviously 64 isn’t as many miles as I might have liked, but it’s the best I’d done in several months!

October

[4]

Although we didn’t win the World Series (we came SO close), I still had a really great time watching the Royals! My parents happened to be visiting in early October, so I even got to take in a few games with them. I also gave myself a baseball inspired manicure!

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This is not a great picture, but as you can see the lettering came out really nice. I also attempted to free-hand a baseball, but it didn’t turn out as well. It wasn’t my biggest nail-art fail, but it’s not really blog worthy. I’ll have to make another attempt during the next baseball season!

[5]

Fun things I did in October:

1) Attended a Northwestern Football game

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Wildcats!

Honestly, it was one of the more miserable football experiences I’ve had–it was cold, rainy, and windy. Yuck. It was all worth it in the end though because the cats pulled out a surprise win against Wisconsin!!!!

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2) Celebrated Elizabeth’s birthday

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Love this picture!

3) Attended Beth’s Wedding

K and I also traveled to Philadelphia in October to attend the wedding of our friends Beth and Andy. Neither of us had ever been to Philadelphia before (and honestly we spent almost no time in the city itself) but we thought the city was really pretty (from the train window) and that the public transportation was great.

The day of the wedding was a little chilly and rainy, but that didn’t stop these two from making the most of their big day. They had a beautiful ceremony and were greeted by a fountain of bubbles on the way out of the church.

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Of course many of the bubble-blowers were scientists, and we were all really fascinated with how the bubbles clustered and didn’t pop on this bush…

10257720_10100559352569771_3416277451945756644_oThe reception was so nice and very well planned. We really enjoyed all the delicious food! 🙂

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Thanks for inviting us to your wedding Andy and Beth. We wish you many happy years together!

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Hope you have a great weekend!

Bacon Macaroni and Cheese

I love bacon AND macaroni and cheese, but when pair of good friends suggested that I combine them I have to admit I was skeptical. Boy was I wrong–one bite of their delicious mac and cheese and I was hooked! They kindly shared the recipe with me, and today I am sharing it with you all. This recipe is seriously good, and I probably make it about once a month. I actually had to stop work on this post to have lunch because the picture of the finished dish was making me massively hungry. Enjoy!

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Bacon Macaroni and Cheese

Adapted from: Food Network & Kayla and Alex

Bacon Mac and Cheese

Ingredients (* see note below):

Approximately 6 slices of bacon

*1 tablespoon Kosher salt (optional)

Vegetable oil

1 pound elbow macaroni or cavatappi

1 quart milk

*8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, divided

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

4 cups Gruyere (or whatever cheese you desire), grated,

2 cups extra-sharp Cheddar, grated

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

*1 1/2 cups fresh white bread crumbs (5 slices, crusts removed)

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Cook bacon in a large skillet until browned and crispy. Remove the bacon from the skillet and let cool. Once bacon is cool enough to touch, crumble into pieces by hand.

Drizzle oil into a large pot of boiling water. Add the macaroni and cook according to the directions on the package, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain well.

Meanwhile, heat the milk in a small saucepan, but don’t boil it.

In a separate large pot, melt 6 tablespoons of butter and then add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk. While whisking, add the hot milk and cook for a minute or two more, until thickened and smooth. Off the heat, add the Gruyere (or desired cheese), Cheddar, bacon, salt (optional), pepper, and nutmeg. Add the cooked macaroni and stir well. Pour into a 3-quart baking dish.

Note: if you are using store-bought bread crumbs, skip this step. Otherwise, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and combine with the fresh bread crumbs.

Sprinkle the breadcrumbs on top of the macaroni and cheese.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the macaroni is browned on the top.

 Notes:

1) I’m lazy and don’t use fresh bread crumbs. I merely use enough of the store-bought kind to cover the top of the mac and cheese and call it good!

2) If you use store bought bread crumbs, you only need 6 tablespoons of butter.

3) I’ve never used the salt. It’s delicious without it!

 

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