Roasted Chicken and Bean Soup

I’m always willing to try new recipes, especially if they’re for soup. That’s why I couldn’t wait to throw together a meatball soup recipe that came my way via Brad Almquist.

Brad, choir director at Murray (Ky.) State, is the son of Basil and Senora Almquist of rural Cummings, N.D. The couple travels three to four times a week to exercise at Altru’s Fitness Center, the gym I also attend. The recipe, which is basically carb-free, definitely was a keeper.

So, when Senora passed on another soup recipe from Brad today, I got pretty excited. It’s a roasted chicken and bean soup that also contains tomatoes, onion, garlic and a bevy of spices, including cumin, curry powder and cayenne pepper.

Most of Brad’s recipes contain two or three vegetables and a meat. And he makes up a lot of them, since he has an extreme case of hypoglycemia, a condition commonly associated with diabetes, which means he can’t eat foods that are high in carbohydrates such as root vegetables (white potatoes), English peas and cannellini beans.

Here’s the recipe, which I hope to try soon.

Roasted Chicken and Bean Soup
2 medium-sized roasted chicken breasts, shredded
1 medium onion, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 15-ounce can Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 13-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 32-ounce chicken broth
¼ teaspoon poultry seasoning
¼ teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon curry powder
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper to taste
In a medium-sized Dutch oven, saute onion in olive oil. Once the onion has become translucent, add garlic.
Add chicken broth, shredded chicken, beans, tomatoes and seasonings.
Simmer 30 minutes on low heat.
Serve with a tablespoon of low-fat sour cream as garnish.

Big Bud’s Beer Can Chicken

Some people may find this odd, but one of my favorite things to do while I’m exercising is to watch the Food Network. And one of the shows that I find most interesting is “Guy’s Big Bite.”

The show stars Guy Fieri, also of the Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” and NBC’s “Minute to Win It.” Fieri is easily recognizable because of his spiked haired, tattoos and assorted jewelry.

What you don’t know from the shows is that Fieri is an accomplished cookbook author. He most recently has penned “Guy Fieri Food” (William Morrow, $29.99). Another cookbook that I’m more familiar with is with “Guy Fieri Food: Cookin’ It, Livin’ It, Lovin’ It” (William Morrow, $29.99).

One recipe in the latter that caught my eye was for beer-butt chicken, a favorite of backyard grillers. Fieri calls the recipe Big Bud’s Beer Can Chicken because it starts with a couple of Budweiser beers, ‘one for the bird, one for me.’

Big Bud’s Beer Can Chicken
1 whole chicken (about 3 pounds), preferably organic or free-range
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon dried sage
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 12-ounce can beer
2 cloves garlic, smashed
½ pound bacon (7 to 9 slices)
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Wash chicken with cold water and pat dry with paper towels.
In a small bowl, combine the oregano, garlic and onion powders, paprika, ginger, sage, sea salt and pepper. Rub half of this spice mixture inside the cavity of the chicken.
Gently separate the skin from the chicken breasts and rub the rest of the spice mixture into meat of chicken under the skin.
Open beer can and pour out about ½ cup. Drop the garlic cloves into the beer can. Place chicken, open end down, over the beer can to insert the beer into the cavity. Place chicken, standing up, in large oven-safe skillet. Place 2 or 3 bacon slices in the top neck cavity of the chicken and drape the remaining 5 or 6 slices around the outside of the chicken.
Roast the chicken for about 10 minutes, and then lower temperature to 325 degrees. Cook the chicken for another hour, or until the internal temperature in the thickest part of the thigh reaches 165 degrees on an instant-read thermometer.
Remove from the oven and let the chicken rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove the bacon and serve the chicken whole or cut into portions.
Yield: Serves 4.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving based on 2 pieces of chicken with skin: 588 calories, 65 percent of calories from fat, 42 grams fat (12 grams saturated), 4 grams carbohydrates, 46 grams protein, 784 milligrams sodium, 232 milligrams cholesterol, 1 gram fiber.

Italian Caprese Sliders

People who occasionally go out to eat know that sliders have been the rage the past couple of years.

One of the things that makes sliders so appealing to diners is that they take just a couple of bites to finish, and if you want more, they are there for the taking.

Here is a recipe for sliders, Italian-Style, that was judged among the best submitted to the Los Angeles Times Test Kitchen’s first Battle of the Burgers contest. Among its ingredients are ground beef and hot Italian sausage.

Each of the sliders also is topped with a slice of mozzarella cheese and one of Roma tomato. A balsamic vinegar vinaigrette adds to the dining experience.

Italian Caprese Sliders
1½ pounds ground beef
1 pound hot Italian sausage, casings removed
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1 onion, finely chopped
1 bell pepper, finely chopped
3 cloves minced garlic, divided
½ pound fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into ¼-inch slices
18 white dinner rolls
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
4 large Roma tomatoes, cut into ¼-inch slices
36 medium-large basil leaves, stemmed
Make the patties: In a large bowl, gently but thoroughly mix together the ground beef, Italian sausage, Italian seasoning, onion, bell pepper and 2 cloves minced garlic. Press the mixture into a jelly roll pan, using a rolling pin to make a flat, even layer. (Cover the meat with plastic wrap, if necessary, to keep it from sticking as it’s rolled.) Cut the meat into roughly 2-inch squares.
Heat a grill or grill pan over medium-high heat until hot. Grill the burgers until cooked to an internal temperature of at least 160 degrees, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. When the burgers are done, place a slice of mozzarella on each burger and tent with foil while preparing the buns.
Warm the rolls: Wrap the rolls in foil and place on the top rack of the grill, or place in a warm oven until warmed through.
In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar and remaining minced clove garlic. This makes a scant ½-cup vinaigrette.
Assemble the sliders: Place a cheese-topped patty on the base of the bun, add a slice of tomato and 2 basil leaves. Drizzle each burger with 1 teaspoon of the vinaigrette. Serve immediately.
Yield: 18 sliders.
Approximate nutritional analysis per slider: 267 calories, 16 grams protein, 16 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 15 grams fat (5 grams saturated), 49 milligrams cholesterol, 3 grams sugar, 313 milligrams sodium.

German Cuban Pork Burger

Have you ever heard of a grilled burger that’s topped with sauerkraut? Or how about one that features a mound of sliced bratwurst?

I’d never seen a recipe like that until a story came my way from Noelle Carter of the Los Angeles Times. The Times Test Kitchen manager challenged readers to submit their favorite recipes for the newspaper’s first Battle of the Burgers. Almost 90 recipes were submitted from all over the country, with readers across the nation voting to choose their favorites.

After the voting, the list was narrowed to 20 burgers, which were judged by Food section editors and staff at the Times. They came up with five favorites, including the following, which I found most interesting, especially since it contained the abovementioned sauerkraut and bratwurst.

German Cuban Pork Burger
4 pounds ground pork
3 tablespoons sweet pickle relish
1 12-ounce jar spicy brown mustard, divided
6 fresh bratwurst links
1 pound bacon, diced
1 onion, diced
1 14-ounce can sauerkraut, drained
1 cup butter, at room temperature
6 pretzel buns or regular hamburger buns, halved
2 large sliced dill pickles
½ pound sliced Swiss cheese
In a large bowl, mix together the ground pork, relish and a tablespoon of mustard. (The relish keeps the pork moist.) Do not overwork, but mix until ingredients are evenly combined. Divide the meat into 6 portions and form the burgers, matching the size to the buns.
Heat a grill or grill pan over medium-high heat until hot. Place the burgers, then the bratwurst links, on the grill to start cooking.
While the burgers and links are grilling, start the bacon. In a skillet heated over medium-high heat until hot (use a cast iron skillet if cooking on the grill), render the bacon, stirring frequently, about 6 minutes. Add chopped onion to the skillet and cook until the onion is softened, stirring frequently, 6 to 8 minutes.
Stir in the sauerkraut with the bacon and onions, cooking down the mixture to marry the flavors. Continue to cook until the hamburgers and sausages are grilled on all sides, an additional 12 to 15 minutes. Remove the burgers, sausages and skillet from the heat, setting all aside to keep them warm. Cut the bratwurst into thin crosswise slices.
In a small bowl, whisk together the butter and remaining mustard; this makes about 2 cups spread, slightly more than is needed for the remainder of the recipe. The mustard butter will keep for 1 to 2 weeks, covered and refrigerated.
Spread or brush the mustard butter over the cut halves of each bun (about 2 tablespoons per half, depending on the size of the bun). Toast the buns on the cooler side of the grill or on the grill pan.
Assemble the burgers: Mound the sliced bratwurst on top of each burger (1 bratwurst per burger), then top with the sliced pickle, kraut, bacon and onion mixture. Divide the sliced Swiss cheese among the burgers, covering each mound of toppings with cheese. Place the burgers back on the grill or on the grill pan, closing the grill or covering the pan with a large roasting pan until the cheese is melted, 1 to 2 minutes. (You can also melt the cheese by placing the burgers on a baking sheet in a hot oven.)
Place the assembled burgers in the toasted buns and serve immediately.
Yield: Serves 6.
Approximate nutritional analysis per burger: 1,773 calories, 88 grams protein, 35 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, 136 grams fat (58 grams saturated),; 406 milligrams cholesterol, 7 grams sugar, 3,012 milligrams sodium.

Blueberry (or Apple) Crisp

The nice thing about recipes for cobblers and crisps is that the main ingredients often are interchangeable. A recipe for Blueberry Crisp that recently appeared in my One Byte at a Time feature that appears daily in the Grand Forks Herald is a perfect example.

My stepdaughter, Jessie, who lives in Cincinnati, was here last week visiting with her family. She is supposed to stay away from anything with wheat in it, so Therese wanted to make the crisp recipe because it called for gluten-free cookies.

Instead of using blueberries, Therese opted for an equal amount of apples (with 1 tablespoon of cornstarch added) because we have an abundance of them left in our freezer from last fall. The result was very tasty.

Here is the crisp recipe, which also notes other fruits such as peaches, mangoes, etc. can be substituted for the blueberries.

Blueberry Crisp
4 cups blueberries (thawed and drained if frozen)
Juice of 1 lemon
¼ cup sugar
½ cup crumbled, gluten-free oatmeal or ginger cookies
¼ cup oatmeal
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons butter or vegan margarine, melted
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease 8-inch baking dish. Add blueberries, lemon juice, sugar to pan. Mix gently. In small bowl, mix cookie crumbs, oatmeal, sugar, cinnamon. Scatter topping over berries. Drizzle with butter. Bake until crust is golden brown, berries begin to bubble.
Note: You can swap blueberries for chopped mangoes, peaches, apples, etc. Crumble cookies by hand or place in plastic bag and crush with rolling pin.
Yield: Serves 4.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 220 calories, 7 grams fat, 15 milligrams cholesterol, 2 grams protein, 43 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fiber, 43 milligrams sodium.

Fresh Tomato Salsa

Cilantro is one of those foods you either love or hate. I’m one of those people who really likes the fragrant herb that’s a staple in a lot of south-of-the-border dishes.

We’ve been fortunate the past couple of years because we’ve haven’t had to plant any because of all the volunteer plants that have been showing up among our other herbs, flowers and vegetables.

One of the best uses for fresh cilantro is in salsa. I just happen to have a very good fresh tomato salsa recipe (courtesy of Mary Urbanski of UND Food Services) and already have harvested several bunches of cilantro for use in it. My tomatoes are a few weeks away from being ready, so I’ve substituted some hot-house grown ones that we purchased at the supermarket. Other ingredients include jalapeno pepper, red and green onion, garlic, lemon and tomato juice and seasoning salt. The salsa has been a really big hit with relatives who are visiting from Cincinnati.

As far as I’m concerned, when it comes to salsa, nothing beats homemade. Store-bought varieties can’t deliver the taste of summer flavor of salsa made with fresh tomatoes, peppers and onions from your garden or fresh-picked from a local farm. (Your finished product will only be as good as the original produce used.) And you can’t go wrong from a healthwise and cost standpoint, either.

Here’s the recipe for the fresh salsa, just in case your one of those cilantro lovers.

Fresh Tomato Salsa
1 pound, 13 ounces tomatoes, diced, 2¼ ounces green onions, sliced
5½ ounces red onions, diced
2¼ ounces jalapeno peppers, diced (see note)
1¾ teaspoons fresh cilantro, diced (or more depending on tastes)
1¾ teaspoons fresh garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons and 1¼ teaspoons Lawry’s Seasoning Salt
2½ cups tomato juice
2 tablespoons and 1¼ teaspoons lemon juice
Cumin (optional)
Place all prepared vegetables in large bowl. Stir to incorporate. Add garlic, seasoning salt, tomato juice and lemon juice to mixture.
Mix thoroughly. (See note.)
Notes: Wear gloves when handling jalapenos, and do not touch face with hands. For a less chunky salsa, place ingredients in a food processor. Salsa is best when refrigerated 24 hours to blend flavors.