Jen and Company

Entries categorized as ‘recipes’

With This Tortilla Soup, It’s All About the Fixins

November 12, 2012 · Leave a Comment

So I’m sort of new to this group, but luckily they still added me to the invite when Jen put together a gathering for the ladies, and me. The theme, as Jen is wont to do, was soup. Being the lone male, and knowing these ladies are in favor of gourmet food, I knew I couldn’t go the easy route by bringing Campbell’s tomato.

I’ve been a big fan of fajita soup since my spring break trip to Mazatlan my sophomore year of college. Don’t ask me how, but my buddies and I met this widower who was basically retired in Mazatlan. We’d spend happy hour sharing buckets of Corona’s before we did what sophomore’s in college do in Mazatlan. At the end of the week she wanted to show us a different side of Mazatlan so she took us to her favorite restaurant, and they made some awesome tortilla soup. But I had never tried making it on my own.

I chose this recipe from I was going vegetarian since Meghan was going to be there and I thought this soup suited it well. I actually just doubled it and planned to make one batch veggie, and one with chicken. Instead, Meghan stood us up and decided to look at leaves, and we all ate chicken tortilla soup.

Here are the ingredients:

  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 3/4 cup chopped onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 4 cups canned vegetable broth
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Spray large nonstick saucepan with vegetable oil spray. Add onion and garlic; cover and cook over medium-low heat until almost tender, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomato paste, cumin and chili powder. Add broth and 2 tablespoons cilantro; bring to boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer until flavors blend, about 15 minutes. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; chill. Bring to simmer before continuing.)

I did this part first because I needed to do it a couple days ahead. That worked really well and here’s what it looked like:

Tortilla Soup Base

After cutting onions, garlic and cilantro, my hands had a very unique smell

  • 4 6-inch-diameter corn tortillas, cut into 1/2-inch-wide strips (don’t use these unless you fry them as all the reviews said all they do is get soggy and gross)
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped tomatoes
  • 2/3 cup canned black beans, rinsed, drained
  • 2/3 cup chopped zucchini
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons minced seeded jalapeño chili
Add tortillas (I didn’t use these), tomatoes, beans, zucchini and jalapeño to soup. Cover; simmer until zucchini is tender, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
This last part I did at Jen’s house after reheating the broth. I also added chicken as I mentioned above. For that, I took two chicken breasts, threw them in the crockpot (slow cooker) with about a cup of salsa and some water and let them sit over night. In the morning they were perfect for shredding and I kept the salsa in to add some additional flavor.
The skinny:
The soup was OK, but it needed help. Even though I left the seeds in the peppers for additional spice, and added salsa chicken, it was still a bit bland. Luckily, I had brought cheese, sour cream and fresh avocado, in addition to fresh jalapeño slices. That made it better. Without all that, I wouldn’t make it again. With it, I was a pretty big fan. For the leftovers I also added tortilla strips (which I left in the bag at Jen’s house, oops). Here’s what it looked like as leftovers with all the goodness sitting on top:
Tortilla soup ready for eating

Categories: cooking · recipes · Scott said · Uncategorized

gourmet dinner club: pumpkin (with lots of recipes)

October 29, 2012 · 2 Comments

Last weekend, we celebrated the fall at Gourmet Dinner Club with a Pumpkin Theme at Mike’s. We had a large crowd of folks (13!) who came with full appetites for what was an incredible meal. We also had a gorgeous table to eat at!

Let’s get the party started! I was in charge of cocktails and mocktails.

For my cocktail, I followed this recipe for a Pumpkin and Apple Cider cocktail. I didn’t actually have one since it was the weekend of the half-marathon, but from what I hear, it wasn’t bad. I don’t have a photo of it because apparently my camera ate some photos. Does this happen to anyone else?

My mocktail was a bigger hit. It’s called a Pumpkin Preggatini. I followed this recipe, making a few changes. I used my own pumpkin puree, vanilla almond milk for the regular milk, ginger snaps for the graham crackers and I made my own spiced simple syrup. These were delicious. This would be great at Thanksgiving or any type of fall cocktail party. You could add a spot of vodka for a spiked version.

During cocktail hour we snacked on Sweet and Spicy Pumpkin Seeds (recipe at the end) that Marnie brought. These babies were seriously addicting. Be warned.

Amanda brought a pumpkin marmalade (here’s the recipe!) and served it on baguette slices and a cheddar goat cheese (have you ever heard of that?) and it was also super yum. The citrus in the marmalade was my favorite part.

We then moved to the table and were served up so many tasty treats.

We started with Jenna’s Curried Pumpkin Soup with Cranberry Apple Compote (recipe at the end). It was velvety smooth and tasted like fall in a bowl. She topped it with crispy five-spiced apple chips using this recipe. I could sit down with a bowl just of the apple chips.

Lee made a gorgeous quinoa spinach salad with roasted pumpkin and pumpkin seeds.


Liza pulled of a beautiful Roasted Pumpkin Quiche. Transferring it seemed to be the most complicated but she handled it well. She used this recipe. I loved the use of phyllo dough for the crust.

Also on the plate was the main dish made by Mike. Of course, there is a story behind it and a pretty funny one at that. Here was Mike’s email just moments before our evening began:

“So, I thought I had an epic fail on my hands today, but I did a little recon and it turned out ok…  
My vision was to make chicken with mole sauce.  My habit is usually to look up a bunch of recipes and pick and choose elements that I think sound best.  But I found this recipe from Epicurious (it has pumpkin seeds in it…)
I’m usually super confident in Epi’s recipes, but I think there is just something absolutely wrong about this one-  It called for 3 baquettes! I had the presence of mind to think that was way too much, so I only bought 2 baguettes…  I think what it should actually be is 3 slices of baguette. I ended up with 10 times the volume I was expecting:
It was too thick and chunky to pass through a sieve, and I had to re-blend with the immersion blender to get a reasonable consistency.  I also used 10 times the stock the recipe was calling for, but by that time I was pretty far down the rabbit hole.  The flavor ended up pretty good, so I decided to just go with it with the thorough explanation about the consistency.  I also tried to make an emergency run to Mercado Centrale to see if some restaurant would sell me some fo’ realz mole.  Nobody had more than their regular quantity for their dishes they are serving, so I ended up getting some pre-made stuff in a jar.  So, we’ll have the two to do taste testing…
The chicken is looking like it worked, though.  I dredged some portioned chicken breast pieces and thighs in flour, salt, pepper, cumin and nutmeg.  Then did an eggwash, then breaded in panko and pepitos.

See y’alls in a little bit!” 


The verdict? The homemade mole was definitely better than the pre-made stuff in the jar. It did make a ton! The chicken turned out great. If you need some extra mole, just give Mike a ring. He can probably hook you up.

Then dessert. There were three of them. Yes, three! No one complained.

We had Henriet’s pumpkin mousse which I could eat a giant bowl of. Funny thing…Henriet is from the Netherlands and pumpkin is just not a thing there. It is so weird to her how gaga we all get over it. I’m not sure if we converted her or not. I’m definitely converted to the mousse which was made using this recipe. The toffee crunch was like crack. She made a few changes to the recipe: She didn’t freeze the mousse and she also substituted some of the whipped cream that needed to be folded in with whipped up egg whites.

Dessert #2 was from Kari who also used phyllo dough. This was a non-traditional pumpkin dish (at least for me): Kataifi with Candied Pumpkin and Yogurt. I really enjoyed the yogurt topping – way less sweet than a whipped cream. The tartness brought everything together.

Finally, there was Ron’s Pumpkin Flan. I went in with low expectations. I do not like flan. I can’t get past the gelatinous texture. I’m squirming just thinking about it. Well….I LOVED this flan. It wasn’t gelatinous! It was more of pudding texture than a jello texture. I don’t have Ron’s recipe but as soon as I’m able to hunt it down, I’ll update the post.

At this point, we were all definitely FULL. We enjoyed great conversations over our protruding bellies and rolled home in a pumpkin stupor. It was my kind of drunk. Any of these recipes would be great for Thanksgiving. Speaking of which….that is our next theme! In two weeks will be doing a spin on Thanksgiving dinner which will hopefully give you all some inspiration for your holiday gathering.

Recipes (I’m only including the recipes below that weren’t linked above):

Sweet and Spicy Pumpkin Seeds

3 T sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4  chipotle chili powder (you can buy in bulk at most co-ops) or Lunds/Byerlys
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp veg oil
1 c raw pumpkin seeds
Set out a piece of parchment paper  to cool seeds on.
Place veg oil in large skillet over med heat. Heat oil until hot.  Add pumpkin seeds and stir to coat.  Cover with lid and cook 1 min.
Sprinkle sugar mixture over seeds, stir to coat.  Cover and cook 1 min until seeds begin to pop.  Remove lid and continue to
cool, stirring for approx 3 min or until most of the seeds have popped.
Place and parchment paper and let cool.  Break apart and store in airtight container for up to 1 week.

 Curried pumpkin soup

  •       1/2 cup butter
  •       1 large onion
  •       2 medium apples (I use haralson)
  •       4 cups roasted pumpkin
  •       4 1/2  cups veg or chicken stock.
  •       1 Tbs curry powder
  •       1/8 tsp  five spice powder
  •       1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  •       1/2 cup cream

Chop onion and apples in food processor  until fine.

In a heavy stock pot combine butter, onions, apples, five spice, curry and the cayenne pepper.

Cook 5 to 7 minutes until onions and apples are soft.

Add pumpkin, stock  and salt and pepper. Cook at medium for 10 min then add the 1/2 cup cream.

Garnish with cranberry apple compote (recipe follows)and creme fraiche.

Cranberry Apple Compote

  • 1    cup whole fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1   haralson  apple peeled, cored and cut in to 1/2 inch dice
  • 1/2   cup sugar
  • 1/3   cup water
  • 2   Tbs lemon juice
  • pinch of salt

In a small sauce pan, combine the cranberries, apple, sugar, water, lemon juice and salt.

Cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until the mixture starts to boil.

Reduce the heat to a simmer and continue cooking, stirring frequently,until the mixture is thick and the berries have burst open, about 20 minutes.

Categories: cooking · dinner clubs · Jen said · recipes

loaded slow-cooker baked potatoes

October 11, 2012 · Leave a Comment

This particular recipe is not one that would normally jump out at me to try. Although I like baked potatoes, I don’t make them all that often – they are just not super exciting to me. Am I alone here?

So, why did I make this? I’m glad you asked. One of my favorite blogs, The Bitten Word, is hosting a bit of a challenge this month. If you’re not familiar with this blog, Zach and Clay cook from the many food magazines they subscribe to and report on how the recipes turned out. I’ve enjoyed their takes on the recipes along with their adventures in gardening and entertaining. Back to the challenge. They are asking help from their readers to make every recipe in 6 different magazines in the month of October. I said I’d be willing to help and then was assigned a recipe. This was the recipe. It’s from the magazine, Everyday Food. I subscribe to 5 cooking magazines. This isn’t one of them. Ironic?

So the recipe intrigued me by making baked potatoes it the slow-cooker. Are they really still baked potatoes? You could easily just bake the potatoes in your oven and make the same recipe. I liked not having to preheat my oven and then spend an hour baking them when I got home. Instead they were ready and waiting for me to load them up. I think this is a great way to do baked potatoes if you’re going to be working late and don’t have the time to prep them the old fashioned way.

The recipe has you scoop out the potato flesh and mix it with yogurt and broth and put it back in. Although I found that step a bit putzy, I enjoyed the result a lot. It was a smoother consistency and very tasty. I don’t think it would have been the same if you just topped the potatoes with the veggies and dollop of yogurt. I encourage you to go the extra step. Do be careful when scooping out the potato. I completely destroyed my first potato. Gentle is key.

I added a bit more veggies than called for in the recipe because well…I like a lot of veggies. This dish would go great with a mixed greens salad on the side. It also goes well with a glass of red wine. Speaking from experience.


Loaded Slow-Cooker Baked Potatoes

from Everyday Food

Note: I added a small head of cauliflower cut into florets along with the broccoli for a bit more veggie power. My potatoes were more than done at 7 hours on low in the slow-cooker. 

You’ll need:

  • 4 medium russet potatoes
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil (I used about half that)
  • 10 ounces cremini mushrooms, quartered (I had about 12 ounces)
  • 1 bunch of broccoli, cut into florets and stalks peeled and chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup chicken or vegetable stock, hot
  • 2/3 cup low-fat plain yogurt, room temperature (I used Fage 2%)

Wrap each potato in foil and place i a 5 to 6 quart slow cooker. Cover and cook on low until potatoes until tender, 8 hours (could be earlier depending on size of potato and your slow-cooker).

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and cook 2 minutes, then add broccoli (and any other veg) and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until broccoli is crisp-tender, 8 minutes.

Split potatoes, scoop our flesh (carefully!), and transfer to a medium bowl, reserving skins. Add broth (1/4 at first and add more as needed) and yogurt to bowl, season with salt and pepper and stir until combined. Divid among potato skins. Top each stuffed potato with broccoli mixture.

Categories: cooking · Jen said · recipes

dressed up kale salad

October 1, 2012 · Leave a Comment

Due to an abundance of kale in our garden and a big crop of avocados in our last CSA pick-up, we’ve been enjoying a lot of massaged kale around here. If you have not tried this method for kale, you really need to. It’s simple and delicious – my favorite combo. I’ve described massage kale before when I wrote about vegetarian BLT’s.  Massaging olive oil or avocado into chopped kale makes the most delightful raw salad. Since kale is a sturdy green, the leftovers will keep until the next day without getting soggy.

Massaged kale is perfect on it’s own as a side dish as well. This past week, I dressed it up a bit to incorporate more of my CSA box. I loved this version so much, I made it again two days later. It’s full of veggies and fruit, good-for-you fats, and just plan tastiness. We paired it with steamed edamame. It would also go great along side anything off the grill or with some really good sourdough. It is my new favorite salad.

Dressed up Kale Salad

Serves 4 (may vary depending on other items served)

  • 1 bunch of kale, stemmed and chopped (about 8 loose cups)
  • 1 ripe avocado, diced and separated into two piles
  • 2 tsp olive oil (or more if you’re into it)
  • salt
  • juice of a lemon or a lime
  • 1 mango, chopped into bite size pieces
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened coconut flakes, toasted in a dry pan
  • 3 Tablespoons hemp seeds or sunflower seeds


Start with the kale. Place in a large bowl. Add half of the avocado, olive oil, juice of a lemon or lime and a good sprinkling of salt. Wash your hands. Then dig in and massage the avocado, oil and citrus into the kale. You can be tough on the kale. It is a very sturdy green so get in there and use some elbow grease. You want the kale to be coated in the goodness mixture. It will also wilt down a bit. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if needed.

Add the remainder of the avocado, mango, red bell pepper, coconut flakes and seeds. Toss lightly. Serve.


What’s your favorite salad? Do you have fellow lovers of kale reading this?


Categories: cooking · csa · gardening · Jen said · recipes
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(Coconut) Tres leches: One of the only cakes I’ll eat

September 28, 2012 · Leave a Comment

I am not much for sweets. Given the choice, I will always pick savory over sweet.

I have a short list of cakes that I like and will eat: carrot cake, pineapple upsidedown cake, cheesecake (not really cake but cake is in the name), pound cake, and tres leches.

In fact, the only dessert that I prepare on a regular basis for birthdays and holidays is tres leches. You’re about to see why; it is the easiest dessert to make (that is, if you have a mixer).

Willa’s coconut tres leches cake

6 eggs

1 cup sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 cup flour

1 cup shredded coconut

1 can evaporated milk

1 can sweetened condensed milk

2 cups coconut milk (the good fatty canned type; mix well first!)

1 teaspoon coconut extract

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

heavy whipping cream

seasonal fruit (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 350.

2. Beat the eggs, sugar, and salt until they are pale yellow and have tripled in volume.

3. Sift the flour and fold it into the egg mixture.

4. Pour the batter into a  greased 9 x 13 pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes. It should be a light golden brown when done. Set it aside to cool.

5. Combine the evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, coconut milk, coconut extract, and vanilla extract.

6. When the cake has cooled (it will shrink a lot when it cools – don’t worry, it will spring back to life with the milks) poke a bunch of holes in it with a fork. Pour the milk mixture over the cake and allow it to sit for at least 2 hours before serving, overnight is even better.

7. Whip-up the heavy whipping cream with sugar and vanilla to taste. Top the cake with the heavy whipping cream and fruit (if desired).



Categories: cooking · recipes · Willa said