Stupid Easy Greek Chicken Soup (Avgolemono)

from: Jamey Bennett
to: Daniel Larkin
date: Sat, Sep 19, 2015 at 4:08 PM

DOOOOD,
Last week I was at a nice Greek restaurant for a buddy’s birthday, and my friend Stephanie introduced me to the most delicious, lemony chicken soup, avgolemono. Avgolemono refers to the sauce that can be used as a part of any number of dishes.

Anyway, I’ve been dying to have this soup again that I had at the restaurant, so I googled “avgolemono chicken egg soup” and found some common ingredients and some variations. So I wrote my own recipe, and tried to make it stupid easy. I got sick this week and saw the perfect opportunity to make it. Way better than chicken noodle soup. So here goes.

Stupid Easy Greek Chicken Soup (Avgolemono)

Ingredients

  • 8 cups free range organic chicken broth (or homemade broth)
  • salt and pepper
  • ¼ cup diced onions, sautéed in olive oil
  • 4 cups cooked white rice
  • 4 free range eggs
  • 1 rotisserie chicken
  • ½ to 1 cup of lemon juice
  • ¼ to ½ cup freshly chopped dill

Cook the rice. Run to the store for a rotisserie chicken and fresh dill and chicken broth. Don’t take too long, because the rice, idiot.

Simmer most of the stock and season with pepper to taste (and salt if necessary). Hold back a cup or two (see below).

Sautee the diced onions. I like to get the frozen and already diced onions from the grocery store. Saves time and a mess.

Combine the remaining room temp or cool broth in a blender with the eggs, lemon juice, onions and 2 cups of the rice and blend until smooth. Why not hot broth? We don’t want to curdle the eggs. It’s not egg-drop soup or scrambled egg soup either.

Slowly stir the contents of the blender into the broth still simmering on the stove. Add the rest of the rice.

Fork the chicken bare, down to the bone. Add that to the simmering stock. Maybe bring up the heat a little. I don’t know. I did.

Add more lemon juice if you need to. I thought a cup was perfect for the whole pot, but I like it pretty lemony. Finish off with salt and pepper to taste.

After awhile, you’re basically done. It’s instinct.

Chop up the dill, stir it in. Serve that delicious dish.

Jamey

P.S. This is a lot of soup. So cut it in half, or freeze some, or have a lot of people over who eat chicken. 🙂

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Paleo Phở with Bonus Slow Cooker Bone Broth

photo 3

from: Jamey Bennett
to: Daniel Larkin

Dude,
I had a great idea tonight to try out a low carb and paleo pho. Last week I made some pastured organic chicken bone broth, and I was trying to figure out what to do with it, then it popped into my head to make some pho! I will definitely make this again. Also, while it kinda sounds like a lot of ingredients and a lot of steps, it’s quite simple.

Let me start with the broth. Of course, one could always buy a store-broth, but I like to have more control over that, and the health benefits are so much higher from a fresh homemade broth than the high sodium stuff you get in a can. I generally seek out grass-fed beef bones for broth, the omega-3:6 profile is so much better than with chicken, but this was a healthy chicken, so I feel good about it. Essentially, I just put a chicken in the slow cooker all day with a little bit of salt, strained out the meat at the end of the day and had that with dinner. I left the bones in, put in a few cups of water, and added the neck, carrots, celery, parsley, a bay leaf, and a handful of other brothy things, and let it go all night. Strained out the solid matter, and I had a delicious broth.

photo 2

I’ve never done pho at home before, so I did a lot of googling of what other people do for their pho and I devised my own from common themes. In no particular order, the ingredients I put together are:

  • 3 cups homemade bone broth
  • Shiritaki noodles (Miracle Noodle fettucini style, or if carbs are your thing, white rice noodles)
  • About 12 ounces thinly sliced sirloin or skirt steak
  • 1 portabella mushroom
  • Five Spice Seasoning Powder (several varieties should be available in the International Asian-ish section of most conventional grocers, just make sure it has at least anise and cinnamon)
  • 4 tablespoons Fish sauce (watch out for added sugars and either find one with little or no sugar, or just limit yourself to 2 tablespoons…four tastes so great, it’s a small sacrifice 😛 )
  • Two small to medium white or yellow onions
  • A heaping cup of bean sprouts
  • 1 radish
  • 1 small piece of fresh ginger, minced
  • Two jalapenos (I got green and red for color)
  • Salt and pepper (I used regular sea salt and charcoalized black sea salt from Hawaii, but use whatever)
  • 4 Scallions
  • Minced garlic to taste
  • Cilantro (basil works, too, for cilantro haters)
  • 1/2 lime, cut into four pieces
  • Optional: Sriracha

Prep the meat by poking with a fork or pounding it with a meat mallet to tenderize it. Sprinkle salt and pepper on each side of each piece, and set aside.

Slice the mushroom, onions, radish, jalapenos, scallions, and cilantro and set aside. Also mince the ginger and cut the lime.

Heat up a skillet, super hot, use whatever fat you want, lard, coconut oil, whatever…we’re going for smoke point here. Breaking some rules. It’s okay though. Just this once. Sear the thin beef, 10-15 seconds on each side, 30 seconds if you aren’t blazing hot. Take the pieces aside, and slice thin-ish strips against the grain.

photo 1

Oil that skillet back up with some lard or whatever, reduce the temperature to low to medium. Throw in the onions. Give them a minute or two head start. Add the sliced radish and mushroom. Eventually After 4 or 5 minutes, whatever, just make sure you like how the onions are looking, slowly add the garlic and ginger. This is one of those low heat is best treatments. When everything is looking good, slowly stir in the bone broth. Up the heat, bring to a boil, and then scale back to simmer.

Now it’s time to work on the noodles. If you go rice noodle, just follow directions on the package. But I prefer my shirataki noodles, and here’s a brief primer on preparing them. The ones I buy come in a bag, wet, with a solution that smells fishy at first. So what I like to do is rinse them in a collander for about fifteen seconds, and I like to take kitchen scissors and put a few cuts in the middle to make the noodles a bit shorter. Boil them for one minute in water, strain them again in a collander, then throw them back in an empty pan for about thirty seconds to sort of dry them. Set aside.

Now you’ve had five or ten minutes go by with the simmering vegetables and broth. Throw in the jalapenos (deseed them if you want a milder pho), stir in a teaspoon of the seasoning powder, a little bit of salt, and four tablespoons of fish sauce. Taste the broth. Tweak as necessary, but it should be tasting pretty darn good now. Give it a few or five minutes. Add the beef. Give that a couple minutes. Add the bean sprouts.

After about a total of twenty minutes (from the time you added the broth), you should be good. Separate the noodles between bowls (this amount is about four bowls of pho), and spoon out the goods. Garnish generously with scallions and cilantro (or basil), squeeze a lime on top, and if you need an extra kick, add some sriracha.

If you’re willing to accept the challenge, this could be our first paleo-vegetarian challenge. You could easily up the mushrooms and axe the meat, but finding a fish sauce and vegetable broth sub might be more difficult.

Let me know! And enjoy.

PS. If I had it to do over, I’d do more broth, and would have to adjust the seasoning and fish sauce.

Sent from my iPad

from: Daniel Larkin
to: Jamey Bennett

When the hell did Sriracha become optional?

I did a little research, and it looks like veggie fish sauce does exist, so I’m going to try this. If I can’t find any packaged vegan fish sauce, I’ll try to make it. (That may be a blog post in it’s own right.) I’ve been wanting to figure out a way to crust up tofu like a good seared steak. This may be the time to do it, although I may have to use the tofu as a topping rather than cooking it in the sauce for the last few minutes.

Who knows? I can plan all I want, but I know it’ll all be made up as I go along on the day of.

from: Jamey Bennett
to: Daniel Larkin 

Yeah, I think a couple of the recipes I read said to just mix the beef in at the end, and I think I even saw one that said to serve the beef raw. I just wanted to make sure the beef was served warm!

Vegan Taco Onslaught!!

image

Daniel Larkin:

to Jamey Bennett

Traditional tacos filled a with lentil and mushroom base, and curry tofu and chickpea tacos in a soft tortilla.  Well, that’s really only two, but it kinda counts as an onslaught, right?  Now this looks like a long email, but bear with me because it’s two back-to-back meals that fold seamlessly into each other with very little effort!

I don’t know if I told you or not, but the doc told us that Charlie has some food allergies.  They should pass as he gets older, but in the meantime, Jenny has been told to avoid milk and peanuts while she breastfeeds.  Since Jenny is already vegetarian, that almost veganizes her diet.  (She still eats eggs)  So we’ve been really trying to create new whole food, meatless and dairyless recipes, and for the most part, we’ve had some really great successes – especially these two that I made over the weekend.  VEGAN TACOS TWO WAYS!

These two make great back-to-back meals because they share a ‘creamy’ avocado, lime and cilantro sauce.  And while these are both technically tacos, their flavors couldn’t be more different.  The best part is that both are ridiculously simple and only use a few easy to find ingredients.

OK, we’ll start with the sauce, since that’s the common denominator in both recipes; the Avocado, Lime and Cilantro ‘Cream’ Sauce.

Ingredients

  • 12 oz silken tofu
  • 1/2 ripe Haas avocado
  • 3 tbs lime juice
  • 1tbs apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • A good palmful of fresh cilantro leaves
  • Salt to taste

Put all of these things into a blender, and viola!  That’s it.  You’ll never want sour cream for your tacos again.  I promise.

Now, this makes enough to top all of your tacos, with enough left over to make slaw for your curry tacos.

But let’s start with the Lentil and Mushroom Tacos.  This is going to look stupid simple, because the only thing I was worried about was the “meat” base.  If you’ve got a taco seasoning mix or recipe you prefer, use it.  I’ve made my own taco seasoning before, and for the life of me, I just can’t compete with the 95 cent packets at the grocery store.  Or better yet, I just buy a taco kit.  Again, the only thing I worry about is the filling.

  • 2 cups prepared lentils cooked in veggie stock. (I won’t go into cooking details because different lentils cook differently)
  • 8 ounces portobello mushrooms finely chopped.
  • 2 tbs tomato paste
  • 1/2 tsp each soy sauce and vegan Worcestershire sauce
  • Splash of liquid smoke (optional)
  • Any extra veggie stock you didn’t use on the lentils
  • Packet of favorite taco seasoning

This is easy:

  • Sautee mushrooms in olive oil for 5-10 minutes (until they start to shrink)
  • Add lentils, tomato paste, soy, Worcestershire and liquid smoke.  (Stir this around and check the consistency.  You want extra liquid because it’s going to cook down, so if it looks stiff, add veggie stock.)
  • Slowly add seasoning mix, tasting as you go.  (I say slowly because all of these packets are different, and it’s easy to end up with a salt bomb)
  • Simmer for 15 minutes.  You’re looking for a semi-loose consistency, like beefy taco mix, so don’t be afraid to keep adding stock as you go.

Top those bad boys off with all the usual fixin’s using the tofu cream sauce instead of sour cream. The lentil and mushroom texture will more than fill in for the beef, and the flavor is more smokey and robust than any ground beef.  You’re welcome.

OK, so you’ve enjoyed your traditional tacos one night, but you still have a shit load of tofu and avocado sauce left over.  What do you do?  You make some Vegan Cilantro/Lime Slaw to go with your curry tacos, that’s what!

  • Buy a prepackaged bag of coleslaw veggies.
  • Add a handful of rough chopped cilantro, 2 tbs of lime juice – salt and pepper to taste.
  • Now mix in the left over tofu sauce until you get a good slaw-like mixture.
  • Cover and refrigerate for an hour or two.

The Tofu/Chickpea Curry Tacos are really the crown jewel of this whole thing, and they’re also the simplest thing to make.  There is really no heavy cooking involved, just mixing and simmering.  With my slaw premade, I had these tacos on the table in about 30 minutes.

  • 1 lb block extra firm tofu – well pressed and chopped into small cubes.
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped (optional)
  • I can prepared chickpeas – drained
  • 1 can unsweetened coconut milk
  • 2 tbs green curry paste (or more if you prefer)
  • 1 tbs brown sugar
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 10 cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • handful fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 1 tbs lime juice
  • soft tortillas
  • roasted cashews, chopped

And the cooking on these is so simple, it’s ridiculous!

  • First, saute the onion and tofu on high heat for 5 minutes (use coconut oil if you have it)
  • Add next five ingredients and simmer for 15 minutes
  • Turn off heat and mix in the cherry tomatoes, basil and lime juice.  Cover and let sit for 10 minutes while you warm tortillas.

Pile that shit on!  The curry mix should stiffen a bit, but make sure you get enough sauce in each tortilla.  Then top it with slaw, more cilantro and lime juice, cashews, and of course Sriracha.

The taste is amazing!  It’s subtle enough for you to pick out every flavor, but balanced enough that they all sing in perfect harmony.  These are the best things I’ve made in  while.  Seriously.

Now go make tacos!

Vegan Tamales!!

from Daniel Larkin
to jamey w. bennett

So I finally did it.  I took the plunge and made tamales yesterday.  And not to brag, but they kinda ruled.

The plan was to make vegan tamales using this recipe from CheekyKitchen.com.  But you know me, I’m not one to stick to a recipe very long, so I took what I needed and promptly veered off course.  The biggest question for me was how to make the dough.  The article in CheekyKitchen.com was great for that, and I still recommend reading it as a good primer.  Or hell, use the whole thing instead of what I’m about to write.  This is really just an addendum to that article.

I ended up making the majority of the tamales vegan, but I ran out of veggie filling before I did dough and husks, so I just dressed up some left over chicken and finished up with those.  (Chopped chicken, chili, cumin, salsa, and the chipotle sauce you mailed me a while back.)

The Cheeky Kitchen article uses a lentil base for the filling, but I didn’t have any lentils on hand.  I also couldn’t find a can of straight green chilies at Food City (aka, Food Shitty).  This is where I where I went on my own with the recipe.

Here’s what I used for the vegan filling.

  • One can black eyed peas — (insert generic, but accurate Fergie insult here)
  • Two carrots cubed small
  • One zucchini cubed small
  • Half large onion
  • Handful of frozen corn
  • Lots O’ Garlic
  • 10-ounce can of Rotel tomatoes and chilies
  • One small can of Rotel Original tomato sauce
  • 1 TBS chili powder
  • 1/2 TBS cumin
  • A stem of fresh oregano, minced
  • Salt and white pepper

Sauté the onion and garlic until translucent, then add the rest of the fresh/frozen veggies.  Sauté for another few minutes before adding the rest of the ingredients.  Simmer for at least 30 minutes.  Viola, vegan tamale filling.  It tasted spicier in the bowl than it did in the tamale.

I made the dough pretty much exactly like the Cheeky Kitchen recipe, but I subbed Imagine brand No Chicken Stock for the faux-beef bouillon cubes and water.  I loved the use of coconut oil for the saturated fat.  It gave such a light, fresh flavor that you just don’t get with shortening or lard.  I used organic unrefined oil.

Here’s her recipe, verbatim.

For the Tamale Dough:

  • 4 cups masa
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 3 vegan “beef” bouillon cubes dissolved into 3 cups of water
  • 1 (16 ounce) package dried corn husks

Now, I only used a 6 oz package of husks, and I still had WAY too many.  But I have the feeling that I may have rolled mine funny.  Either way, I wouldn’t go overboard and buy more than a 6 oz package of husks.

Again, to her instructions.
“Soak the corn husks in a large bowl of warm water while preparing to cook the tamales.
“In a large bowl, mix the masa, baking soda, and salt together. Add the coconut oil. Stir well. Add the bouillon flavored water to the mix. Add more water, if needed, to make the masa a soft, spongy dough.”

Filling and tying the tamales was frustrating at first, but it’s an easily acquired skill.  Just remember, you’re not making the giant sized tamales that the masters produce, you’re making smaller, more manageable tamales.

Basically, what you want to do is grab a big husk from the water and spread a good coating of masa across the center part of the leaf, making sure to leave room at the top and bottom to fold and tie the husk down.  Leave some room at the edges, too, so you have space to cover the whole tamale with husk when you roll it.

Spoon some of the mixture into the center of the dough, and roll it up side-to-side.  Pay careful attention to completely cover the filling with the dough when rolling.  This may involve peeling the husk back as you go, kind of like rolling a cigarette in a dollar bill.  Once the dough is closed, and the husk is wrapped, fold the top and bottom edges over and tie them back with peeled strips from another husk.  (Her instructions seemed vague about this, and her pictures made it seem like she only used one tie.  I couldn’t figure that out, so I opted instead to tie the top and bottoms separately.)

She suggests baking the tamales at 400º in the oven on a rack set over water.  This will bake and steam them.  I did it a little differently.  I actually steamed them on the stovetop; in a colander set at the top of a stock pot.

Once all of your tamales are rolled and tied, stand them up in the colander – I had to lay a few flat across to fill it, but they all cooked fine.  Place the colander inside a stock pot filled with a few inches of water and seal tightly with tin-foil.  Once the steam is at a full boil, give it about 30-40 minutes and check them.  The tamales may seem mushy right out of the steam, but they’ll firm up as they cool.

Let me just say that they look as awesome as they taste.  And it makes your house smell wonderful!  We made a ton of tamales, enough to freeze and snack on later.
I definitely recommend giving this a try, dude.  Especially considering how much you like the Mexican cuisine.  It’s damn near authentic!

Easy Jamaican Cornish Game Hens

from: Jamey Bennett
to: Daniel Larkin

Hey Daniel,

I wasn’t going to make a post about this, since I didn’t do much except throw a few things together, but the result was so outstanding, and the ingredients are readily available at many grocery stores, that I thought it was worth sharing. I got all my ingredients at Whole Foods, except for the game hens (though I did seek out cage-free hens).

  • 2 Hens
  • 1 Bottle Jamaican Jerk sauce (like this)
  • 1 Bottle Carribbean-style hot sauce (this one is awesome)
  • 1 8.5 oz package of Seeds of Change Carribbean-style rice and red beans (or similar – SOC is organic, and it only needs to be heated)
  • A small amount of bell pepper, onion, and mushroom slices (or whatever you’d like)
  • Butter

The night before, I brushed the jerk sauce all over the hens, covered them and put them in the fridge.

When I was ready to eat, I preheated the oven to 400 degrees. While that was heating, I sauteed the veggies in butter. When they were about done, I added the rice mix and stirred for about 60 more seconds. I took that mix, and stuffed the birds silly. It was just about the perfect amount of stuffing. Next, I brushed melted butter all over the outside of the birds, put them in a covered dish in the oven. After 30 minutes, I removed the cover and stuck a meat thermometer in the breast. (I think most say you’re supposed to do the thigh, but their thighs are so tiny.) About every 10 to 15 minutes, I got in the oven and re-brushed the butter and jerk sauce (that was in the bottom of the pan) over the birds. I think it was about 40 minutes later that they were ready. Doesn’t really matter, though, if you watch the thermometer, and brushing is the perfect opportunity. (165 degrees.)

Once I pulled them out, I carefully put them each on a plate, and drizzled the jerk sauce – now a gravy – over the tops of the birds. I served with a bowl of the hot sauce as a dipping sauce. That fruity spicy sauce was a delight! We both devoured our own hens, even after a salad. There were leftover rice and beans and veggies, but I’m going to let them soak up the gravy goodness and have it as leftovers.

Now the little carcasses are on the stove making broth! Easy, delicious, and effective.

jamey

Whole Food Veggie Tacos FTW!

from Daniel Larkin
to jamey w. bennett 

I finally did it!  Veggie tacos made with real food!

My main qualm with vegetarian options at home is that they usually involve some sort of processed fake meat.  Not that I’m staunchly opposed to using them (my Skyline Chili knock-off and my chicken-less tacos both rely on faux-meats) but I’ve always wanted another option.  What comes next in this email is an approximation of what I did.  I didn’t do any prior research, I took no notes, and I’m writing this three weeks after the fact.  I tried to mentally tally everything, but you may still have to rely on your ninja skills of adaptation.

In all honesty, I’m not really going not on memory for all of the measurements, but rather guessing at how much I would add if I were to make this again.

Here’s a list of what made up the filling.  It’s kind of like refrigerator soup, in that I just used whatever I had on hand.  But as anyone who’s read about nutrition knows, variety is the best recipe.  The key to making this more taco-meat-esque is to chop all whole foods very small before cooking.  Obviously, you don’t need to chop the beans or corn, but you get the idea.

•    1 can of black beans (rinsed)
•    about a cup of frozen corn kernels
•    about 1/2 cup of carrot (finely chopped)
•    the tips off one head of broccoli (finely chopped)
•    One or two pablano peppers (finely chopped) — add more or different peppers if you like it hotter
•    1/2 onion (finely chopped)
•    3 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
•    a handful of walnuts (you guessed it, finely chopped)
•    1 pack of firm tofu (it’ll break into small pieces when added and stirred) — extra firm tofu won’t break up enough and silken tofu will just dissolve
•    (I wanted to add small cubes of sautéed sweet potato, but I forgot.  I still think that would be good!)
•    1 tbs soy sauce
•    8-ish oz Guinness Draught
•    3-ish tbs tomato paste
•    2-ish tbs chili powder
•    1-1/2-ish tbs cumin
•    Pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg
•    A few sprigs of chopped cilantro
•    Salt and red and black pepper to taste

Sauté garlic and onion for a minute in the oil of your choice.  Mix all other veggies and sauté for about 10 minutes.  Then add the liquid and spices – again, tasting as you go because I didn’t measure shit.  Simmer everything for 30 minutes, and add walnuts and cilantro in the last 5 minutes.

Fair warning, this made a ton!

Now I didn’t want to just top the tacos off with lettuce and be done with it.  I wanted to go fancy pants.

So I filled a large mixing bowl with green cabbage sliced thinly and evenly with the mandolin.  Then I threw in a good handful of chopped cilantro, and an half-and-half mix of plain greek yogurt and sour cream —enough to make a slaw-type consistency.  I mixed in some salt and pepper, about 3 tbs of granulated sugar, about 1 tbs red wine vinegar and the juice from 2-1/2 limes.  (I used the other half lime to keep the avocado from browning) Then I tossed it all by hand until it was even and put it in the fridge to settle for about an hour.

The final setup went like this; tortilla, veggie filling, cheese, cilantro slaw, sliced avocado and hot sauce.  And it was phenomenal!  The mix of veggies and tofu was the perfect consistency, and the small crunch of walnuts kept the texture interesting.  The fresh slaw was a perfect compliment, and was way more interesting that lettuce and sour cream could have been by themselves.

These tacos made me realize that vegetarian eating doesn’t have to be about avoiding meat.  When done right, it’s really just a tasty way to eat your vegetables.  The variety of plant-based foods on this plate made for one of the most wholesome meals I’ve had in a long time.  And one of the tastiest.