in the kitchen ~ mexican chicken soup and jalapeno corn bread...

This is a time of great change in my life with lots of letting go. Letting go of my son as he heads off to college and of my daughters childhood as she turn 16 and fully embraces her young womanhood as best she can in her own unique way. My house is no longer filled with the sounds of a child's laughter and the constant questions of "Mommy why this... and Mommy why that?" Dinner is for two and that is an adjustment for me who is used to cooking for many more.

The kitchen has always been a place of solace and relaxation for me. I love to cook and I love to bake. Chocolate anyone? It is the heart of my home. I knew I would need some encouragement to keep trying new things. So to keep things interesting, I decided recently to join the Barefoot Bloggers. This is a group of incredibly talented cooks and bakers that have one thing in common. We all LOVE Ina Garten the "Barefoot Contessa" and her wonderful food. So each month I will be sharing two to three new recipes from her collection of cookbooks. I am looking forward to sharing this wonderful family style food with all of you. First up we have Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread and to compliment it, a bonus recipe, Mexican Chicken Soup from the cookbook "Barefoot Contessa At Home". I hope you enjoy it.

Bon Appetite,

Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread
from the cookbook "Barefoot Contessa At Home"
makes 12 large servings

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 cups milk
3 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted, plus extra to grease the pan
8 ounces aged extra-sharp Cheddar, grated and divided
1/3 cup chopped scallions, white and green parts, plus extra to garnish (3 scallions)
3 tablespoons seeded and minced fresh jalapeno peppers (2 to 3 peppers)

Combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the milk, eggs, and butter. With a wooden spoon, stir the wet ingredients into the dry until most of the lumps are dissolved. Don't over mix! Mix in 2 cups of the grated Cheddar, the scallions, and jalapenos, and allow the mixture to sit at room temperature for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x13x2-inch baking pan.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top, and sprinkle with the remaining grated Cheddar and extra chopped scallions. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool and cut into large squares. Serve warm at room temperature.

Mexican Chicken Soup
from the cookbook "Barefoot Contessa at Home"
serves 6 to 8 people

4 split (2 whole) chicken breasts, bone in, skin on
Good olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups chopped onions (2 onions)
1 cup chopped celery (2 stalks)
2 cups chopped carrots (4 carrots)
4 large cloves garlic, chopped
2 1/2 quarts chicken stock, preferably homemade
1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes in puree, crushed
2 to 4 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander seed
1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves, optional
6 (6-inch) fresh white corn tortillas
For serving: sliced avocado, sour cream, grated Cheddar cheese, and tortilla chips
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the chicken breasts skin side up on a sheet pan. Rub with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until done. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, discard the skin and bones, and shred the meat. Cover and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven. Add the onions, celery, and carrots and cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, or until the onions start to brown. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the chicken stock, tomatoes with their puree, jalapenos, cumin, coriander, 1 tablespoon salt (depending on the saltiness of the chicken stock), 1 teaspoon pepper, and the cilantro, if using. Cut the tortillas in 1/2, then cut them crosswise into 1/2-inch strips and add to the soup. Bring the soup to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 25 minutes. Add the shredded chicken and season to taste. Serve the soup hot topped with sliced avocado, a dollop of sour cream, grated Cheddar cheese, and broken tortilla chips.