Happy New Year!

I am off to Montana today to celebrate the end of a wonderful 2011! Wishing everyone a very Happy New Year! Until 2012…

This is where I am ringing in the new year!
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Chicken Tortilla Soup

Now that I am back in Indy I suddenly have so much time on my hands. It’s not that I was really busy in Chicago and now all of a sudden I have nothing to do, it’s just a different way to live now, I guess. I get off work at 5 instead of 7. It takes me 20 minutes to get home instead of an hour. I can still go to the gym, which takes 5 minutes there and back compared to 20 each way. It’s amazing how much more time I get to myself or to find something fun to do.

I also actually get to spend time with people when I feel like it and it doesn’t have to be a production. I can’t remember the last time I got off work in time to go to the grocery store, go to the gym, hang out and then make dinner. That is, until I moved back to Indianapolis.

Now that it’s getting colder out, all I want to eat are soups! I came across this delicious recipe on Pinterest (my new addiction) for Chicken Tortilla soup and have wanted to make it ever since.

Chicken Tortilla Soup (recipe adapted from The Review Lady)

Chicken Tortilla Soup

1 tablespoon butter

1/2 cup yellow onion, finely chopped

6 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoons olive oil

4 to 6 corn tortillas, chopped

1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained

2 tablespoons ground cumin

1 tablespoon chili powder

1/2 tablespoon garlic powder

White pepper to taste

6 cups chicken stock

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 can sweet corn

3 Boneless Chicken Breasts (2 cups shredded chicken)

Cheese of choice for garnish

Tortilla chips

Boil the chicken breasts until cooked and set aside. In a large pot, sauté onions in butter until transparent, add garlic and sauté until aromatic. In a separate skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and sauté tortillas for 2 to 3 minutes.

Stir in tomatoes and tortillas. Bring to a boil and add cumin, chili powder, garlic, pepper, and chicken stock. Return to a boil. Reduce heat. Add salt and cayenne pepper. Simmer 30 minutes.  If you prefer a non-chunky soup, remove from pot  and puree soup. (I didn’t do this, but think it’s a great idea!)

Cooking the vegetables
The Finished Product!

Shred your chicken and add to soup along with the corn. Continue to simmer for 10 to 15 minutes and add more seasoning if necessary. Garnish with cheese and tortilla chips.

Next Up: Nutella and Peanut Butter Christmas Cookies

Pecan Pie

In order to get in the Thanksgiving spirit, I decided to bake my very first pecan pie. And to celebrate my last week of work. That’s right, I left my job. My great, amazing, big time agency dream job that I worked my butt off to get. I might be losing my mind and left reality for crazy town, but I did it. Reality has yet to set in, but I feel it will hit me sooner rather than later. I still feel as if I am on vacation, but I am hoping Indianapolis starts to feel like home again soon.

I decided that my big fat Italian life, what I write about on this blog (besides cooking adventures), is more important to me than any big city job or life. And that big fat Italian life is all in Indianapolis, not Chicago. I’m excited for this new adventure and to be able to spend more time with my family – not wishing I was with them all the time and sad every Sunday when they were all together while I was sitting alone in my kitchen eating a lean cuisine (I’m being dramatic, but you get the point).

So, to celebrate my last full day of work and Thanksgiving, I decided to bake a Pecan Pie. Baking is also what I do when I don’t feel like processing or dealing with emotions. It’s a stress relief and I am able to zone out and focus on the recipe, one line at a time.

Pecan Pie (recipe adapted from Baking)

1 pie crust sheet (I used Pilsbury)

4 tbsp unsalted butter

2/3 cup dark corn syrup (I opted for the water/brown sugar mix)

**If you don’t have dark corn syrup, for 1 cup dark corn syrup: 1/4 cup water and 1 cup packed brown sugar

2 extra-large eggs

1  1/2 tsp Vanilla extract

1 1/2 cup pecan nuts

1 tsp cinnamon

Optional: add 1/2 cup chocolate chips (I didn’t, but want to next time!)

Preheat the oven to 400°F and remove the dough from the refrigerator until it’s room temperature. Line a 9 inch round tart pan with dough once it’s at room temperature.

Place butter, brown sugar and corn syrup (or replacement) in a pan and heat gently until melted. Remove from the heat and quickly beat in the eggs and vanilla extract.

Chop the pecans and stir into the mixture and add in chocolate chips now, if you want.

Mix in the Pecans

Pour into the pie pan and add a layer of whole pecans to the top. Bake for 35-40 minutes until filling is just set. Serve warm or cold.

Pecan Pie

Be sure to take the pie out around 35 minutes when the crust is done. I had never made Pecan Pie before and didn’t know how the inside consistency was supposed to be, so I left the pie in a few minutes too long and the crust was a little burnt on the outside.

I wanted to bring it home for Thanksgiving, but decided to have a small piece anyway! I’ve only had Pecan Pie once before, but I thought it tasted pretty good. It definitely fell apart once I put it on my plate, but the flavor was good!

It was good, I promise!

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving and celebrated everything they are thankful for. I am trying my best to get in the Christmas spirit now and am hoping it will happen with the first snow fall!

Up next: Chicken Tortilla Soup