Monday, April 8, 2013

Zucchini Project: Cooking Light Sopa Ranchera

Zucchini has a reputation for overwhelming production. But let's face it, for the gardener who is concerned that nothing will grow, it's always a safe bet that buoys our spirits. So in about 3 months some of you will start to post silly little questions on Facebook that look something like this, "What do I do with all this zucchini?" Every year when the wave of green starts coming out of the garden and I start hearing and seeing these questions I think, "Oh I know some good recipes." Then I get all overwhelmed and I can't find them in my books and I give up. Which is to say, I ponder the amount of effort it would require to look in my recipe book index and then I get tired and I stop thinking about it. Takes about 2 minutes to arrive at this extreme resignation. 

This year, I'm going to write those recipes down! To be clear, I am not a chef or a cook or a food photographer. I'm not even terribly good at cooking for my family. All of these recipes are from another source and almost always from Cooking Light because those are the fastest recipes to prepare at home. Also, being a self-taught recipe follower, it is the first books from which I learned and once I figured a few of them out I was afraid to follow anything else. 

Today I present the first in tested recipes for my Zucchini Project. 

Cooking Light's Sopa Ranchera
Approximate prep and cooking time: 30 minutes

1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano (I bet you could just use a tablespoon of taco seasoning rather than the oregano, cumin and garlic -- you know, in a pinch.)
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 garlic clove, minced
6 cups chicken stock
1 3/4 cups cubed peeled baking potato
1 15-oz can chickpeas, drained
2 cups shredded cooked chicken breast
1 cup frozen whole-kernel corn
3/4 teaspoon salt (optional)
1 zucchini, diced (actually I used 2)
1 cup diced tomato
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Extra Optional Ingredients, Garnish:
chopped green onion
sour cream
shredded cheese
lime wedges

1. To prepare soup, heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add 1 cup onion; saute 3 minutes. Add oregano, cumin, and garlic, and saute 1 minute. Add chicken stock, potato, and chickpeas; bring mixture to a boil, and cook 5 minutes. Add chicken, corn, salt, and zucchini, and cook 5 minutes. Stir in tomato and 1/3 cup cilantro, and cook 2 minutes. 

2.  Ladle 1-2 cups of soup into a bowl and top with your choice of garnish. 

Based on a serving (1 cup soup, 1 tablespoon onion, 1 tablespoon cilantro, 1 tablespoon sour cream, and 1 tablespoon shredded cheese):

Calories 208, Protein 16.1g, Carb 21.2g, Fiber 3g, Cholesterol 39mg, Iron 2.2mg, Sodium 498mg, Calcium 119mg. 

Mom: I like the taste, but I especially like how quickly and easily this comes together. Basically you chop it all up and throw it in a pot. There are lots of substitutions that you can make when you run out of ingredients. And I don't have to fight the children to eat it.
Dad: It's salty, garlicky, savory, and full of vegetables. (I think he liked it.)
8-year-old: Potatoes are good.
6-year-old: Potato, giggle, potato. I just stuffed my mouth with peeps. Chick peeps. 

When we asked the children to rate this recipe on a scale of 1 to 10 -- 1 being toilet water and 10 being an A&W Rootbeer Float -- they replied a 5. Personally I give it a 9. 

If you would like to share a zucchini recipe on this blog, feel free to send it via e-mail. You can be a guest blogger and write your own review of the recipe. Just message me in comments to start a conversation.

Sunday, January 13, 2013


Let's review a list of ill-advised kitchen implement purchases I have made.

No. 1: The mini muffin pan. Once upon a time I went to someone's house for a playdate and they served miniature carrot cake with raisins muffins as refreshments. I decided this was super cool so I used a 30% off coupon to buy one for myself. I have made miniature muffins one time. That is when I realized that my children don't have miniature stomachs. They ate 26 muffins each and I realized that I could have fed them much more efficiently if I had baked normal sized muffins. Also, I don't actually like baking muffins.

No. 2: The super awesome pizza stone. This seems like a home run. We eat pizza at least once a week. Usually home made or at the very least take and bake from Papa Murphy's – which is to say we’ve made our own pizza like one time in the past year and picked up pizza at a take and bake place almost once a week since 2004. You don't need a stone. But I have a rather heavy, super-duty pizza baking stone in my cupboard. Let’s not overlook how hard it is to find a cupboard that can accommodate its girth.

No. 3: The eggs Benedict pan. If I remember correctly, I paid a measly $16 for a pan that was designed to make it easier to make eggs Benedict. I have never even tried, not once. I bought the pan because I love eggs Benedict; it is usually the thing I order from a restaurant when I eat breakfast out. (Well, when I'm not ordering biscuits and gravy.) I love the dish so much that I'm afraid to try cooking it and ruin it in my taste memory forever. Also, I'm lazy.

No. 4: The 3-shapes melon baller from Crate&Barrel. Ummmmm, I’m allergic to all melons. True story. But I actually bought myself the melon baller set from CB. Just once I would like to go to a party and notice they have balled their melon into star shapes and beehive shapes. Come to think of it, I can’t remember the last time I saw melons balled at all, is this a  trend of the past?

And while we're at it, let's make a list of kitchen implements that I was given but would never have purchased nor seen a need for. And since owning have learned that they are remarkably useful and worth every penny. I'll be listing these in reverse order so as to be a little more dramatic.

Fourth Runner Up
The egg white separator.
Don’t actually buy one of these. But the Pyrex set that includes one. It actually hooks onto the side of the Pyrex measuring cups so you can divide your eggs from their yolks, hands free! Yes, that’s fancy. But I actually like mine. Surprise.

Third Runner Up
The salad spinner.
Even in the days of pre-washed salad bags the salad spinner is a must. I’ve gone through a couple of these in the past decade. I really can’t live without one. But they are a pain to store in the kitchen.

Second Runner Up
The apple corer slicer dicer.
I have children under the age of 8, of course I use this to slice apples. Everyone knows that when your children start loosing their teeth an apple is the last thing they will bite into. I also use them (yes, I have more than one) to cut up onions for fajitas and stir fry. But do not, I repeat do not try it on potatoes. That will not work and will result in you buying a new apple corer slicer dicer. If you are in the market for such a thing, don’t blow your budget. Just pick one up at the dollar store or IKEA. Those are honestly just as good.

First Runner Up
The salad scissors.
I use the salad scissors to cut up big pieces of greens. I also use it to cut up hot dogs – well, actually I did that more when my little kids were at risk of choking on hot dogs. I use the salad scissors to cut just about anything that needs to be cut but at the time it needs cutting I’m too lazy to reach down and pull out a cutting board. Buy one, that’s all I’m saying.  

And the Winner of the most Awesome Kitchen Implement in my possession is:
OK, so technically this isn't an implement. But I've just discovered the beauty of them. The knitted little knots make a natural scrubber and they clean up granite so beautifully. At first I was afraid that it would get all stinky like a sponge. Then I was afraid that by using it to clean the really dirty stuff it would be spoiled. But truly, it cleans up so easy on the Deep Steam Cycle of my washer. You can buy one from my friend Katrine here. Not kidding, they are fab.