Don’t Know Until You Try

Anise… licorice  … none of that ever sounded appetizing to me, probably because the taste of black licorice thoroughly sceeved me out. Then, I started hearing about the vegetable called fennel. Being the Dego that I am, I payed attention since it was being used in so many Italian dishes. But then, I started hearing the “licorice ” to describe it. Needless to say, I’ve avoided  this vegetable for, let’s say 24 years.Molly Napolitano » Super Delicious Leek & Fennel Shrimp

Alright, Mario Batali, after countless episodes of The Chew, you have persuaded me to give it a shot.

I found a chicken and apple soup recipe that called toasted fennel seeds. After a little research I found the conversation from seeds to vegetable, and I’m glad I did because I believe it definitely bulks up the soup. This was also my first time pulling apples into a soup, which I was nervous would make it too sweet. I believe that by playing with the combination of spices off sets the sweetness that the apples contribute. The last minute add-in was a small can of sliced carrots, for some color and a little more natural sweetness. This first batch went so quickly, I used raw carrots the next round (see note in recipe).

If you are anything like me, and are completely clueless about fennel prep, I found this great tutorial here. I had no idea there was a hard fibrous center to core out.

Chicken Apple Soup

Inspired by Wholefoods

Makes 8- 1 cup servings20151210_175427 (2)

  • 4 cups reduced fat, lower sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 lb chicken breast, boneless, skinless
  • 1 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cup carrots, sliced into coins, OR a small can of sliced*
  • 1/2 lb (8oz) turnip
  • 2 medium gala apples
  • 1 medium to large onion
  • 1 bulb fennel
  • 2 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp ground sage

Preheat the oven to 425 F while you prep. Place chicken breast in a soup pot along with chicken broth, water, cumin, salt, pepper, and bay leaves. Cover with a lid and keep over low heat.

*If using raw carrots, place in the pot, now, as well.

Peel the turnips, cut in half and each half into thirds. This will help you differentiate between the difference veggies. Next, peel and core the apples, cut into quarters,  and the quarters into more bite sized pieces. Peel the onion, trim the ends, cut into quarters, and the quarters into thirds. You don’t need to separate the rings of the onions prior to roasting. Lastly, following the instructions in the link above, cut about an inch above the bulb, then cut off the base. Cut down its center, and remove the tough outer layer, as well as the triangle-shaped core in each half of the bulb. Slice what remains to a size of your liking.

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Line a 9 by 13 Pyrex with parchment and transfer your prepped fruit and veggies. Sprinkle the garlic powder and sage over the fruit and veg and give them a good toss with your hands. Pour about 3/4 cup of water to the dish, cover with foil and roast in the oven about 40 minutes. After 40 minutes, remove the foil from the Pyrex and carefully pick out the turnips (this is where the different sized turnip will help you), while giving the remaining fruit and vegetables a toss. Once the turnip has been removed,  return the Pyrex to the oven, uncovered, for an additional 15 minutes.

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Transfer the roasted turnips into a food processor and begin to puree. Feel free the add a bit of the broth to help get things moving. Transfer puree to pot of broth and and chicken.

When your fruit and veg have finished the last bit of the roast, transfer everything from the pryex into your soup pot, scraping any seasoning and 20151209_191159whatnot off the parchment.

*If using canned, sliced carrots, add those now.

 

Remove the chicken breast to a separate bowl or plate, and use the two-fork technique to shred the chicken. Transfer the shredded chicken back into the pot, cover, and allow to simmer for another 40 minutes, or longer if you’d like. Salt and pepper to taste.

If you reserved any of the fronds of the fennel, top your soup with it before serving; parsley does wonders, as well. And don’t forget those oyster crackers (yeah, they’re kind of my thing, now).

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The original recipe called for a crockpot, but a low simmer, covered pot did me just fine. And I think I’d have to say that this soup tastes even better the next day, as all the flavors really enhance and marry!

Nutrition (1/8 of recipe):

Calories:119, Fat: 2g, Sat. Fat: 0g, Cholesterol: 28mg, Sodium: 807mg, Carbs: 14g, Fiber: 4g, Sugars: 9g, Protein: 13g

The end result? Fennel is officially a staple on my grocery list. And I threw out that 1-cup per serving jib-jab. A double serving in each bowl, please! Oh, and the aroma! The smell in the air was enough to cue your salivary glands! As soon as I entered the kitchen its fragrance wrapped around me with a come hither sensation!

Whats your food freaker? I’m still not touching sardines! Leave your comment below!

Pin-tresting

Apples and cheese are a classic fondue pairing. So on Pintrest, it really doesn’t surprise me that there are so many apple-cheddar pies. Some put the cheese in the crust, others in the pie, and others on top. And it didn’t just stop at cheddar and pie. There was Brie, and gallettes, and hand pies, soups, and dips.

You all know my experimentality and how much I adore playing in the kitchen. Needless to say, Pintrest got my gears turning… Some food combos just taste odd together, like this grapefruit protein shake I made one time (not a good post, Pintrest)… But lets face it… bacon goes with EVERYTHING!

Apple-Cheddar-Bacon Pie

serves 8

  • 11 slices thin slice turkey bacon (2 slice for 35 calories)
  • 3 apples (enough to yield 4 cups)
  • 1 medium onion (about 2 1/2 in diameter), finely diced
  • 1/2 cup celery, finely choppedWP_008337
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3/4 tsp ground sage
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp thyme, to taste
  • 1/2 Tbsp garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp Splenda Brown Sugar
  • 1 Tbsp granulated Splenda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon, apple pie spice, or pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 cup fat free shredded cheddar cheese, divided
  • 1/4 cup Fiber One bran cereal
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • salt and pepper, to top

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Spray a 9-in pie pan with nonstick cooking spray and weave 8 slices of turkey bacon. Line the last three slices of bacon around the walls of the pie pan to create the crust. I found that making a little tear in the middle of those three slices helps keep the bacon from rolling down the sides of the pan. Bake for 20 min.

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In the meantime, core and thinly slice the apples. Then, cut your slices in half and measure 4 cups. Combine the apples, celery, and onion in a large skillet on medium heat with 1/2 cup of water. Cover with a lid for 10 minutes. Remove the lid and sprinkle with thyme, sage, garlic, Splendas, cinnamon, salt, pepper, vanilla, and lemon juice. Toss the mixture. Whisk the cornstarch with cold water until dissolved and pour over apple mix. Recover with the lid until bacon crust finishes baking.

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Meanwhile, in a food processor, chop 3/4 cup shredded cheddar. Set aside. Next, process the cereal until extremely fine. Add the remaining 3/4 cup cheddar to the processor, and blend until evenly distributed.

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Stir just the processed cheese into the apple mix, and transfer mix to the baked bacon, spreading the cheesy blend evenly over crust. Return to the 350 F oven for 15 minutes.

Lastly, add the unsweetened applesauce to the processor of cheese and Fiber One crumbs and blend until a crumble is created. Get messy, and use your hands to crumble on top of the warm pie. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper and return to the oven for a final 25 minutes. Let it cool for about 10 minutes, while you make the optional sauce.

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What really is the icing on the pie is this sweetened thyme yogurt sauce!

Thyme Yogurt Sauce

  • 1/4 cup plain non fat Greek yogurt
  • 1 Tbsp sugar free syrup
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme

Blend and dollop!

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Rather than sticking with the sweet/tart, salty feel, I wanted something a little more savory. I was really impressed that the bacon crust stayed perfectly together when the pie was sliced. I was  even more impressed by the the afterthought of dressing up some yogurt. Thank goodness for that afterthought, too, because it tied all the sweet and savory flavors if the pie together.

Nutrition: (1/8 of pie and 1/2 Tbsp sauce)

Calories:119, Fat: 2g, Sat. Fat: 0g, Cholesterol: 14mg, Sodium: 391mg, Carbs: 17g, Fiber: 3g, Sugars: 9g, Protein: 10g

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I would imagine that this could also be served with an over-easy egg, where the yolk would act as the yogurt sauce.

I’ve sort of rediscovered my love for apples recently so you may see another apple pie riff sooner that you think.