Chicken and Corn Chowder

I know, I’ve been absent from the blog lately. It’s not my fault: it’s because of them! You know, the Little Ones. The cutest, most lovable little people in the world, who also have this amazing ability to transform into black holes consuming all their parents’ time and energy. Yeah, it’s been one of those weeks. Those times where I feel like my life has become a constant game of catch-up, revolving around feeding and cleaning and laundry and answering endless questions. Those days when I make mac ‘n’ cheese from a box for dinner and count it as a victory because I didn’t order a pizza.

But it’s not all bad. “Those days” still come with hugs from Big Man and kisses and snuggles from the Little Ones. Plus an excuse to eat extra chocolate because “it helps me de-stress.”

Do you like my non-matching bowls?

I’m always looking for easy recipes are doable on a weeknight but not full of pre-processed ingredients. Fortunately, I recently found Pioneer Woman’s Corn Chowder recipe and after tweaking it quite a bit for my family’s tastes it is now a go-to weeknight dinner. One of my favorite summer foods is fresh corn, and I love how this soup highlights the sweetness with just the right about of background spice. Did I mention it also has bacon?! My version of the recipe is scaled down from the original and feeds 2 adults and 1 toddler perfectly. I’ve been serving it with homemade biscuits, but it would be lovely with a salad as well. So if you are looking for a great summer soup that’s easy even on a weeknight, I hope you will try this one out.

P.S. This post is linked-up at this week’s Company Girl Coffee

Chicken and Corn Chowder (adapted from Pioneer Woman) Serves 2-3

2 slices bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/4 large yellow onion, diced
3 ears fresh corn, shucked
1/2 red bell pepper, hulled and diced
2 Tablespoons white wine
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 (4 oz.) can diced green chilies
1 (14 oz.) can low-sodium chicken broth
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 Tablespoon corn meal
1/8 cup water

Slice the corn kernels off the cob. The easiest way I’ve found to do this is to make a “stand” with a small bowl placed upside down in a larger bowl. Hold the cob upright with the larger end braced on the “stand” and slice downwards. That way you can keep the cob steady and the kernels fall neatly into the bowl (instead of flying all over your kitchen).

Place a medium pot or dutch oven over medium heat and add bacon. Cook until the fat is rendered and bacon is cooked to your desired crispiness. Use a slotted spoon to remove the bacon pieces to a paper-towel-covered plate to drain, and set aside.

Add the chicken to the pot and cook in the bacon fat until nicely browned and cooked through. Remove chicken and set aside.

Add the onion to the pot and cook in the bacon fat (add a pat of butter if needed) until translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Stir in the bell pepper and cook for 2 minutes more.

Add the corn and stir well. Cook for 1-2 minutes, then deglaze the pan with the wine, scraping up any brown bits (a.k.a. FLAVOR) on the bottom of the pan. Add the chicken back in, and stir to combine.

Add the chili powder, salt, pepper, chicken broth, green chilies, and cream. Stir well and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In a small bowl, whisk corn meal together with water. Stir into the soup, cover, and simmer on low for another 10 minutes until thickened slightly. Stir in the cooked bacon from earlier and serve immediately.

Homemade Pancake Syrup

I know what you’re thinking. Is that a pickle jar sitting next to a plateful of pancakes?

Yes. Yes it is.

There is a reason for this, I promise. The pickle jar contains the absolute best complement to a stack of pancakes: warm, sweet, maple-y, homemade syrup. See, this is the syrup I grew up eating. The recipe passed down from my grandmother, to my mom, to me. And for as long as I can remember, my mom stored the syrup in an old pickle jar. No idea why, but I don’t ever remember a time when I didn’t open up the refrigerator and see the pickle jar full of syrup sitting there on the shelf.

So this post is a tribute to my mom. She is a full-time homekeeper too and she is one of the main reasons I chose to stay home with my kids. Homemade syrup is just one of the many things she did when I was growing up that made breakfast special for us. She made a hot breakfast every single day. Pancakes (from scratch) on the weekdays and eggs, biscuits, muffins, or waffles on the weekends. Cinnamon rolls on special occasions or when my brother and I had a test at school. And the pancakes and waffles were always served with this syrup. It’s what I grew up with, and as such it will always be my favorite.

I’m not saying you need to keep it in a pickle jar, but I do hope you’ll try this syrup. It’s really tasty and totally easy to make.

Thanks for the recipe, Mom, and for all the homekeeping inspiration you have given me.

Homemade Pancake Syrup (my Mom’s recipe)

1 cup water

1 cup sugar

1 cup brown sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 tsp. maple extract or imitation maple flavoring

Combine the water and sugars in a medium saucepan. Heat over medium-low heat just until boiling, stirring occasionally until sugar is dissolved. Removed from heat and stir in vanilla and maple flavorings.

Will keep in the refrigerator up to 3 weeks. Reheat in the microwave or on the stove.

Garlic Knots

Things have been busy here! Little Man had his second birthday party this past weekend and loved every minute of it. Rainbow cupcakes, balloons, gifts, and tons of love and attention; what’s not to love? He is talking more and more, learning to kick a soccer ball, and rocking his new “big boy” haircut.

Little Lady is getting so big! She is starting to crawl, babble, and she finds the world utterly fascinating, especially her big brother. She really enjoys trying out new foods and her hair is finally starting to grow (slowly)!

In the midst of all this, we still have all the rest of the normal life stuff, like Big Man’s job, church, grocery shopping, cleaning, and cooking. It can be a bit overwhelming, and I am learning that it is not only OK, but necessary to admit that I can’t do everything all the time. Not that Big Man asks me to do everything; he helps out so much. But there are days when we are both pretty tired and everything just feels a little off kilter.

This past week was a little rough, so when my mom called and asked if I would like her to drop off some homemade chicken soup for dinner, it was a wonderful treat! A yummy, healthy meal (even Little Man loves that soup) that I don’t have to cook? Yes, absolutely. Thank you, Mom! Since the main course was taken care of, I figured it would be nice to make some dinner rolls to go with the soup. I found this recipe on Tasty Kitchen and tweaked it a little to our tastes, and to account for the high altitude.

These rolls were a perfect accompaniment to the soup. Soft and fluffy, with just the right amount of garlic and spices on top. And the recipe was super easy: you don’t even need a mixer! I mixed the dough with a wooden spoon and kneaded by hand. I especially liked that the recipe only made 5 rolls, so I didn’t have to worry about having too many leftovers. I’ll definitely be making these rolls again soon, and I hope you will too!

Garlic Knots (adapted from Tasty Kitchen)

1-1/2 cups bread flour*
1/2 tbs. sugar
1 tsp. quick-rise (instant) dry yeast
1 (scant) tsp. salt*
1 tbs. olive oil
1/3 cup milk
1/2 cup lukewarm water
2 tsp. minced garlic (about 2 cloves)
2 tbs. butter, melted
1/8 tsp. dried oregano
1/8 tsp. dried basil
1/4 tsp. dried parsley
*These measurements are for high altitude baking. If you are not at high altitude, use 1-1/2 cups all purpose flour, and 1/2 tsp salt.

 

In a bowl, combine the flour, sugar, yeast, and salt. Add the olive oil, milk, and water, and mix with a wooden spoon until a dough forms (it will be quite wet and sticky). Turn out onto a well-floured surface and knead until dough is smooth and elastic (you may have to add more flour). Transfer to a bowl that has been lightly oiled or sprayed with cooking spray and turn dough once to coat. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rise for one hour.

Turn out risen dough onto floured surface and divide into 5 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a rope (about 3/4 to 1 inch diameter) and tie into a knot, tucking the ends under. Place rolls on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Cover with a clean towel and let rise 45 minutes, until the rolls look puffy.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. To make the topping, combine melted butter with garlic and herbs. Brush the topping onto the risen rolls, and bake until golden brown, about 16-20 minutes. Enjoy warm with your favorite soup or chili.