Sunday, February 19, 2012

Spiced Sweet Potato Wedges & Chicken Leek Soup

Can you smell how good
this is?!!!
This week my daughter had a doctor’s appointment around a half hour away in a suburb of Chicago called Oak Park.  While walking back to the car, we noticed that there was a Penzey’s Spice store just down the street, and decided to take a short field trip to check it out.  We walked into the store and were blown-away by the number of spices in the store (and you’re thinking…What did you expect?  It’s a spice store!) The store didn’t just have your regular variety of spices, they had all kinds of unique and exotic spices as well (What did you expect?  It’s a spice store!).  They have sample jars of spices next to the shelves of the “for sale” jars, so you can actually smell the spices before buying them.  How fun is that?!!  My daughter and I spent at least half an hour walking around and smelling all the fabulous spices they have. Fantastic!  I also asked them about many of the spices they have in stock.  For example, why is it called cracked rosemary?  The reason is because the pieces of rosemary are actually broken into smaller pieces to make them better suited for using in certain dishes.  I did not know that.  I showed my daughter $82 jars of imported saffron and long Madagascar vanilla beans.  It was a great experience.  (Some people take their girls to the mall…we go spice shopping!  It’s all good!).  The sales ladies were incredibly helpful (and nice) too.  It turns out that the store also has catalog magazines with awesome recipes featuring their different spices.  We spent some time looking through them before we left, and ended up buying some wonderful spices with the intention of trying out some of the recipes for this Shabbat – Spiced Sweet Potato Wedges, and Chicken Leek Soup.  The fresh, high quality spices made all the difference.  Everyone that stopped by before Shabbat this week commented on how great my house smelled (and it wasn’t pine cleaner).  When I left the store I had taken the catalogs with me and signed up for the mailing list.  I can’t wait to see what other fragrant and fabulous spices are featured next.

Spiced Sweet Potato Wedges...
We need smell-o-vision!
This week was also Valentine’s Day.  In our house we don’t take it too seriously, but see it as an opportunity to get some great chocolate and creatively say “I love you”.  One year my husband actually wrote out the words: “I Love (a heart shape instead of the word) You” with Hershey’s miniature chocolates pasted to a poster board.  This year, in the interest of doing something totally unexpected, I made my husband a dozen corned beef roses.  The bouquet was hilarious, and my husband was extremely happy to be the recipient of such an unusual gift (he said he should have stopped eating them after the 8th rose!).  Regardless of whether it’s Valentine’s Day or not, I’m thankful for dear husband and “heart” him too!  Oh, and we also made sure to get him some super spicy ground pepper at Penzey’s…just to show how much we love him!

A dozen corned beef roses...
How romantic!!
Spiced Sweet Potato Wedges
Note: The original recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of oil per potato. I cut the recipe to 1 tablespoon for the whole recipe and then gave the potatoes a generous spray with non-stick vegetable spray.  They came out great with less fat.  For them to come out more browned though, you might need to add more oil.  I also doubled the recipe…four potatoes for Shabbat?  That many would be gone by people shnukering them before Shabbat even began!
4              large                   sweet potatoes
1              tablespoon          canola oil
1              teaspoon             thyme
1              teaspoon             cracked rosemary
¼             teaspoon             ground cumin
¼             teaspoon             pepper
¼             teaspoon             Kosher salt (optional)

Preheat oven to 375° F.
Peel and cut the potatoes into wedges.  Toss with the oil and spices.  Bake for 30-45 minutes, turning once halfway through baking.

Chicken Leek Soup
Note:  This is a great recipe for when you are short on time before Shabbat.  It takes minutes to make thanks to ready-made chicken stock, and it’s incredibly fragrant.  You can always use more chicken in this recipe if you like.  I also added more carrots, and you can add you favorite additional vegetables too.  I used 4 cups of low-sodium chicken stock and 2 cups of water instead of 6 cups of stock to reduce the sodium content of the soup.
1              pound                boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1              tablespoon         olive oil
4              cloves                minced garlic
¼ - 1       teaspoon            salt, to taste
1              small                  onion, coarsely diced
2              large                   leeks
½             pound                carrots, sliced
3              tablespoons        flour
6              cups                   chicken stock
1              tablespoon          parsley flakes
1              teaspoon             cracked rosemary
1              tablespoon          thyme

Prepare the leeks by cutting off the roots and the very base of the stalk.  Trim off the dark green top and pull off the tough outer leaves.  Slice them lengthwise down the middle and rinse out any grit under running water.  Once clean, chop as coarsely as you like.  Rinse the chicken thighs and pat dry, then cut into bite-sized pieces.

Heat the olive oil in a stock pot over medium heat.  Add the chicken, garlic, salt and pepper and stir frequently until the chicken is browned and thoroughly cooked, about 10 minutes.  Remove the chicken from the pot and set aside.  Add a little more oil to the pot (if necessary).  Add the onion, leeks and carrots and cook about 5 minutes, stirring often.  Reduce heat to medium low, add the flour and stir to coat the veggies.  Add the stock and stir while it heats and thickens. Add the chicken and simmer for 10 minutes so the flavors blend.  Add the herbs and simmer another few minutes.  Prior to serving, check the flavor once more and add salt, pepper and extra herbs to your liking.

 Spiced Sweet Potato Wegdes:
All the healthy ingredients...
Peel, then cut the potatoes into wedges...
Add the spices then toss...
Put them in a pan & you're good to go!
Baked and delicious!!

Chicken Leek Soup:
All the ingredients....
Saute' the chicken & garlic...YUM!! 
When it's browned remove it from the pot...
Check out these gorgeous vegetables!
Saute' them in the large pot...
Add the stock and the spices...
It smells SO GOOD!!
Soups ready - perfect for Shabbat!!

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