Are you in the Christmas mood yet? To be perfectly honest, I could be in the Christmas mood All Year Long! That’s part of the reason that I was so excited to do this Christmas in July, and I am enjoying it SO much. (Hopefully, you are too!) Of course, in real life, I live in Texas, and it’s hot, humid, and – at least right now – rainy. Since we can’t wish ourselves some cooler weather, you might want to take advantage of a new offer I heard about from Starbucks. From 12-3 PM on 7/13 (this Friday), Starbucks is offering a free tall refresher at participating stores. It looks like a type of lemonade drink, but the flavors being offered are Cool Lime and Very Berry Hibiscus. I’m hoping to be able to drop by and try the Hibiscus; I’ll let you know if it’s as delicious as it looks. (Update – I found the refreshers to be a little “meh”. The flavors sound great, but something about the green coffee extract was off-putting for me and my friend. [We each got a separate flavor, so we were able to try both.] A lot of people seem to like them; it just wasn’t for me.)
Also on Friday, you can stop by a Krispy Kreme, buy a dozen doughnuts, and get a dozen original glazed doughnuts for just 75 cents! My hubby and I brought Krispy Kreme to our Sunday School class a few weeks ago, and they had some delicious lemon and lime doughnuts. I’m hoping they still have those available; my hubby is wanting to try their birthday cake doughnuts. Either way, we will get to enjoy and share some delicious doughnuts.
Another thing that I can do all year round is eat chili. Ever since I was a kid, I have been in love with chili, and I can (and often do) eat it all year round. Most days, you could look in my fridge and find a container of soup that I’m eating throughout the week. This week is no different. I tried a new recipe, and it was so delicious that I wanted to share it with you. (I don’t remember where the recipe came from. If you know, please tell me so I can attribute it properly.)
Chicken Tortilla Soup – 6 servings – 249 cal. Per serving
1 lb. skin removed chicken thighs
3 c. water
2 14 ½ oz. cans fat-free, reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 15 oz. can rinsed black beans
1 15 ¼ oz. can corn
1 14 ½ oz. can diced tomatoes with green chiles
½ tsp. cumin
½ tsp. oregano
1 c. crumbled tortilla chips
½ c. chopped cilantro
1. Bring chicken and water to a boil in large saucepan. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer 25 min. or til chicken is cooked. Remove chicken to cutting board; let cool slightly.
2. Meanwhile, add broth to pot; bring to a boil. Stir in beans, corn, tomatoes, cumin, and oregano, and bring to a simmer. Simmer 5 min.
3. Pull chicken meat from bones and shred.
4. Stir chicken and tortillas into soup; cook 1 min. Remove from heat and stir in cilantro.
Since I knew I’d be working on this for several days, I didn’t stir in the cilantro or chips at the end. Instead, I just top each individual bowl with some cheese and sour cream, and then eat it with a few tortilla chips. I also used chicken breasts instead of thighs, but that’s just because it’s what I had on hand. It was so easy to make, and I’ve really been enjoying it.
I also really enjoyed this week’s movie: Last Holiday. It always manages to make me laugh and bring a big smile to my face (see why here). Queen Latifah plays Georgia Byrd, a cautious, controlled woman who isn’t living her dreams. Because of an accident at work, she discovers that she only has 3 weeks left to live. Feeling regret over missed opportunities, she decides to spend all her savings by taking a lavish trip to a European resort. While she’s there, her new outlook on life starts changing people’s lives. The entire movie is funny, but there are a few special parts that stand out. I really love when she gets her makeover, when she goes BASE jumping, her overall bluntness, and the hilarious bellhop at the hotel. I also picked out a few favorite lines: “Is that a brain specialist?” “No, that’s your HMO administrator.”, “Look what eating saurkraut has done to your heart, Fraulein Gunther.”, “I’m sorry. I just can’t seem to get past that big flashing ‘For Sale’ sign on your forehead.”, and “Oh, ja, I go through everyone’s stuff.”
They make so many beautiful gourmet dishes in this movie, but most of their ingredients are out of my reach. The gourmet chef in the movie does mention how important butter is to making sumptuous dishes, so I thought I would run with that. I decided to make a delicious Maple-Brown-Butter Semifreddo that would combine the richness of butter and cream and the winter-y taste of maple syrup into a summer staple – ice cream! This recipe sounds and looks gourmet, but it was a cinch to make. I actually took my butter off the heat a little too soon, but I was so impatient to finish the dish. This semifreddo has a very fluffy texture and some fantastic flavor. If you wanted to make it even more winter-y, you could add in some spices like nutmeg or cinnamon.
Maple-Brown Butter Semifreddo (from Martha Stewart)
2 c. heavy cream
6 tbsp. butter
3/4 c. maple syrup
5 egg yolks
1. In a medium bowl, beat the cream on high til stiff peaks form, about 2 minutes. Refrigerate til ready to use. In a small saucepan, heat the butter over medium heat, swirling the pan occasionally, til golden brown and most of the foaming has subsided, 8-10 minutes. Immediately pour the butter into a small bowl. In a clean saucepan, bring the syrup to a boil over medium-high heat and cook for 2 minutes.
2. In a medium bowl, beat the egg yolks on high til pale yellow, 1-2 minutes. With the mixer running, add the hot syrup (You want to do this right after the 2 minutes of boiling are up. This is what’s going to cook your egg yolks.) in a slow, steady stream. Then add the melted butter. Beat the mix on high til the mix has cooled to room temperature, about 5 minutes. Gently fold in the whipped cream. Transfer to a 5×10 loaf pan and cover with plastic wrap. Freeze til firm, at least 5 hours.
You might’ve noticed that the semifreddo recipe uses 5 egg yolks, and you might be wondering what to do with those 5 leftover egg whites. I decided to use mine to make a meringue recipe that I had just read about. Last week I read The Craft of Baking by Karen DeMasco and Mindy Fox. When I realized that I would have leftover egg whites, I excitedly remembered having seen a recipe for toasted coconut meringue. I still had the book (I was borrowing it from the library), so I was able to copy out the recipe and get right to work. I got to use 4 of the whites (the other went in my hubby’s egg sandwich) to make an easy and delicious pan of fluffy, crispy, melt-in-your mouth meringue. I would strongly recommend you look for this book in a local library or bookstore since this wasn’t the only mouth-watering recipe in it.
Toasted Coconut Meringue (from The Craft of Baking by Karen DeMasco & Mindy Fox)
1/2 c. room temperature egg whites (about 4)
1/2 c. sugar
1/3 c. confectioner’s sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. unsweetened, shredded coconut (I used regular, and it was just great.)
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12×17 inch pan with a silicone liner. In a bowl, beat the egg whites on medium-low til they become opaque and frothy and begin to increase in volume, about 3 minutes. Slowly add the granulated sugar then the confectioner’s sugar; continue beating for 5 minutes. Increase the speed to high and beat til the mix becomes thicker and shiny, about 10 minutes. Ad the vanilla and salt and beat just to combine. Fold in the coconut.
2. With a rubber spatula, spread the meringue evenly on the prepared baking sheet; it should be about 1/4 inch thick. Bake, rotating halfway through, til fragrant and lightly golden, about 30 minutes. To test the meringue, break off a small piece, let cool for 10 seconds, and taste to be sure it’s dry and crunchy throughout. Cool in the pan on a wire rack, then break into pieces.
I hope you’re in the middle of a wonderful week, and I’ll talk to you again soon.