The days of soup

I’m a huge fan of soup. I’m not always very good at making the soup though. I was spending a lot of money on soup from Panera and Pacific foods up until about a month ago when I got tired of a tiny little Sylvi downing my entire $5 cup of soup before I even got back to the table. She and I had discovered the broccoli cheese soup and I was reduced to eating it either in secret or after she went to bed at night. On one such night, I realized I had a laughable problem: why was I behaving like this when I could just learn to make my own soup for a fraction of the cost?

I did a good deal of reading online before I set forth. I wanted a creamy soup and I must tell you that the answer I’d been looking for came in the form of an immersion blender. I had no idea how awesome that tool was when I bought it on a whim 3 years ago. My little red Cuisinart immersion blender had spent a lot of time in the kitchen drawer until I started making soup and realized how valuable it is. You could always make this in a regular blender, but let’s be honest: it’s way more fun with an immersion blender ūüôā

Creamy Broccoli Cheese Soup

  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • half a stick of butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 cups 2% milk
  • 2 cups chicken stock (I did try this with vegetable broth and while it was very good… the chicken makes it the most like Panera’s soup.)
  • 2 large carrots, coarsely shredded
  • 1/2 pound finely chopped broccoli
  • 1 cup shredded Monterary Jack cheese
  • 1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
Saute the onion until soft in a soup pot. Whisk together the melted butter and flour in the soup pot. Add the garlic and onion powder, whisk well and then stream in the stock. Add the milk, carrots and broccoli and bring to a boil. Boil for 10 minutes and then reduce to a simmer. When the carrots and broccoli are tender, remove 2 cups worth of the vegetables and take the pot off the heat. Puree the remaining vegetables with an immersion blender and stir in the cheeses. Return the carrots and broccoli to the soup, mix through. Serve with crusty bread and revel in how much money you saved making it at home!
*** Are you looking for more soup recipes? ¬†I made this Red Bell Corn Chowder from the fabulous Whitney Ingram last week. It’s from her original blog, Rookie Cookie and I’m so excited to find it her cook book that she’s working on right now! Follow the progress and drool-worthy updates here.

Pantry Comfort

One of my favorite comfort foods is Stroganoff. I don’t really care what’s in it, I’m here for the sauce. And the egg noodles. My grandmother makes it sirloin steak strips. My father made his with mushrooms while we were practicing vegetarians. Depending on who I plan to serve it to, I now use ground beef.

This is¬†definitely¬†a budget version of my grandmother’s recipe, but it doesn’t alter the flavor. It freezes very nicely and if you don’t like egg noodles, it’s wonderful over rice as well. By the time I make supper tonight, it’s supposed to be in the single digits, so I’m looking forward to this warm meal with a side of green beans. Yum!

Stroganoff

  • 1-2 teaspoons olive oil or butter
  • 8 ounces sliced mushrooms (optional, I don’t like them so they aren’t ever in my home ūüôā )
  • 1 ¬Ĺ pounds lean ground beef/turkey, thinly sliced sirloin steak or Portobello mushrooms
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • ¬ľ cup flour
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 cup beef (or vegetable if making the mushroom version of this recipe) broth
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley or 1 tablespoon dried
  • 1 pound egg noodles, cooked
Melt the fat in a large saute pan, add in the onions and garlic and cook until tender and fragrant. Remove from the pan and brown the ground beef. When the beef is cooked, remove it as well, but reserve the drippings. Again, in the same saute pan, heat the drippings and stir in the tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, paprika and flour.  Whisk in the flour and sour cream until the sauce is thick and bubbly. Taste and season accordingly. Return the onions, garlic and beef to the pan and stir to combine thoroughly. Serve over egg noodles and top with parsley.
**Note: If you want to substitute in the mushrooms or steak, you’ll still need to cook them separately until cooked to your liking. The rest of the ingredients can remain the same, unless noted otherwise.

 

Crunch Munch… Lunch

Confession: my weakness is the Taco Bell Crunchwrap. It started when I was pregnant with Liam and Mexican style food was the only thing I could sort of keep down. Ever since then, I think it would be fair to say I have a problem. As in, if the thought of a Crunchwrap passes through my head at 10am, I can’t get it out of my head until my belly has been filled with 500+ calories of sodium.

CRUNCH!!!!

For some reason, although I’ve been eating them for years, I was under the impression that there were refried beans in the Crunchwrap . And for this mistaken reason, I put off trying to make it in my own kitchen. It took me quite a while, but I did figure out a fantastic recipe for refried beans. I didn’t take a photo because, well, pureed beans aren’t… pretty.

Crockpot Refried Beans

  • 1 pound dry pinto beans
  • 9 cups chicken broth
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/2 cup milk
Put the beans, broth, onion, garlic powder and salt in a crockpot. ¬†Set the temperature on low and cook for 12 hours. Remove the onion from the pot and strain the beans, but SAVE the broth. I have always made my beans in the food processor, but this time I used my¬†immersion¬†blender… I’m a convert. Smooth and silky, they were the perfect texture! Add in the milk and as much broth as you need to make it smooth. The beans get firmer as they cool, so make the beans a little bit watery. Season to taste.
To assemble a Crunchwrap, all you need are large tortillas, small crunchy corn tortillas and whatever filling you desire. I made the refried beans, rice, taco meat, cheese sauce made with¬†Monterrey¬†Jack Cheese and 3 slices of white American¬†I also had salsa, shredded cheese, lettuce and sour cream for the sides. Pile and layer your fillings before folding up the tortilla and then grill. We have a George Foreman grill; it’s pretty quick to set up and use. So yes, it’s still not a candidate for nutritious meal of the year, but man is it good. So, amazingly good. I am trying out freezing a wrap and some of the beans to see how well they hold up for advance pre. I am hopeful. ūüôā
Sadly, my husband took the¬†opportunity¬†to use some of the dozens of stockpiled Taco Bell sauces to add an “authentic” flavor and according to him, the addition made it “perfect”. I made mine with just rice, beans and cheese and a full 2 hours later am still pleasantly¬†sated. Obviously, by making this meal at home, I have control over all the ingredients AND I can make it whenever I’d like… errr… experiment with fillings. ¬†Ahem.
And thus ends my tale of addiction to cheap fast food. Have you ever tried
a fast food remake of your own?

October Freezer Cooking

This past week was one that I was so grateful for a stocked freezer. ¬†Supper prep for the most part involved walking into the kitchen and asking Liam what he wanted to eat. This past week, I needed the ease of a frozen meal, freshly washed lettuce for salads and fruit for the kids. I’m having to make some adjustments with Liam’s routine again and make sure he’s getting a quiet period during the day so he can rest. That boy… just like his mama. Too much busyness and he is a disaster. Thankfully, I’m learning through his needs that I can say “no” to people and activities if it’s just too much. A lesson I really, really needed!

Anyway. ¬†I grocery shopped on Thursday of last week. It took hours because I did Sam’s Club, Kroger, Target, bulk food store, Wayne’s and our butcher shop. But again, I will only have to go to the grocery in the next month for fresh fruit and vegetables and milk. Totally worth it. I did a whole food menu for the month of suppers and made sure to account for leftovers to be eaten on the weekends and for lunches. I also calculated in for a few meals that will not be eaten at home due to birthdays, the tri and Boo at the Zoo. Friday morning, I got up with my list of meals and did the crock-pot prep meals. I started working at 930 and did not put the last dish in the dishwasher until about 830 that night. BUT, I took time out of working to play with the kids, assist in the potty, color, serve meals, read stories, change diapers, answer questions and hand out snacks. If I hadn’t done those things, I think I could have been done in about 5 hours.

  • Taco Soup (2 batches)
  • Tuscan Mac and Cheese (2 batches)
  • Meatloaf (2 batches, meatloaf made and shaped then frozen)
  • Greek Casserole (4 batches… this was a mistake, should have only been 2, but they are in the freezer for a quick meal when needed)
  • Pizza (2 batches of dough made and then frozen.)
  • Chicken Tikka¬†(ingredients in a bag that will easily dump into the crockpot whenever I’m ready)
  • Chicken Parmesan Meatballs (not prepped and recipe to be shared… eventually)
  • Meatballs (2 batches, one for stroganoff and one for bbq meatballs with orzo)
  • Cheeseburger Mac (meat and seasonings cooked, and in a bag with the cheese and pasta… will take 10 minutes to finish)
  • Dippin Tacos
  • Sloppy Janes with ground turkey (not sure how great this will be… I was tired by the time I got to this recipe, so this could wind up being a pb&j sort of night.)
  • Pot Roast with mashed potatoes (Meat will go in the crockpot and the mashed potatoes are made and ready to bake.)
  • Spicy Apple Glazed meatballs (new recipe that I can’t wait to share!!)
  • Beef Pot Pie (this will be made with the leftover pot roast meat so it’s not even prepped)
  • Confetti Chicken Pasta (new recipe, not freezer friendly)
  • Chicken Alfredo and Rice Casserole (new recipe and I’m not certain how freezer friendly it will be… we’ll see)
  • Grilled Cheese and Tomato soup
  • Panini
  • Falafel (not prepped, but the garbanzos are cooked and waiting in the freezer)
  • Sloppy Lentils (also not prepped, but the lentils are cooked and in the freezer)
  • Bread (4 loaves made and 3 frozen)
To be entirely fair, the beans and lentils were already cooked and in the freezer (which is how I picked those meals) and I baked the bread Wednesday. I also decided to bake the meatballs instead of frying them and I may never go back. ¬†I made 2 pounds of meatballs and then just baked an entire pan full while I continued to work. In the next few months, I won’t do as many freezer meals because of the holidays, but I do plan a turkey for next month and look forward to some fun casseroles or quesadillas with the leftovers!
So my freezer is stocked and I’m free to spend my afternoons playing in the still pleasant weather or baking. Although… now that I’m not training for something, I probably shouldn’t bake so much. I hopped on the WiiFit this morning and it yelled at me for snacking. I wonder who told that nosy thing?!

Fall and a simple side dish

With the arrival of Fall, I find myself craving foods with deep color. ¬†It’s as though the trees I can see changing subtly tell me that I need carrots and cranberries and spinach. I experimented with a few options for side dishes and while I like all my recipes, this one is by far my favorite.

You can change up the veggies according to your taste. The first time I made this dish, I used carrots, apples, onions and spinach. Since then, I’ve added in a parsnip as well. It amazes me how when you take the time to cook root vegetables slowly in butter and allow them to caramelize, they are so sweet and tender. Once the vegetables are cooked, the addition of red wine vinegar and soy sauce just finishes the amazing flavors and makes it so you can’t stop refilling your plate.

Autumnal Orzo

  • 1 cup dry orzo pasta
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 cups vegetables, diced (carrots, parsnips, apples, spinach, kale, squash; any combo that you like!)
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 2-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp. Red Wine Vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. Soy Sauce
  • cracked black pepper
  • 1 tsp. dry mustard
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika
Boil a stockpot of water and add the dry pasta. Cook for about 7 minutes and taste for doneness.  Drain the pasta and set aside.
In a large saute pan, melt the butter and add the onions and veggies. When they start to get tender, add the garlic,black pepper, dry mustard and paprika. Stir to toss and then lower the burner temperature to low and let the pan contents caramelize.
Add the cooked pasta to the pan and stir to combine. ¬†Pour in the vinegar and soy sauce and stir again. ¬†Serve as a side or cold the next morning as breakfast… if there’s any left, of course!

 

Corny

I feel like the summer just flew by. ¬†Not in a bad way and not really in a good way either. ¬†I woke up this morning and realized that tomorrow the last school in the district starts. ¬†I am starting Liam’s preschool schedule this week and I’m pretty darn excited. He’s just thrilled to have a no-holds barred pass at the crayons and paper while I am over the moon for the opportunity to teach him more and more.

Now that Fall is coming, I’m also excited that my shelves are filled with home-canned produce for me to pick from once the bounty from the garden is gone. There are dozens of jars of canned corn in my basement. Corn must be canned in a pressure cooker and for this reason, I only just learned to do it last year. ¬†I was still just as anxious over the process this year and I was last. ¬†Something about scalding hot steam… anyway, canned corn is delicious and so much more convient than thawing out a quart sized block of frozen corn. One caveat though, home canned corn does not have the same florescent color as those commerically done. ¬†The taste is the same, but the color is not so don’t be put off if you choose to try this method on your own.

I adapted this recipe from A Farmgirl Dabbles and am very pleased with the result. ¬†Lower fat and sodium content and a much less guilty side dish to go along with those end of summer grilled meals. It does keep well in the fridge for a few days, and it’s a wonderful comfort food!

Scalloped Corn

  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 2 Tbsp. flour
  • 1 1/2 c 2% milk
  • 1 c. shredded¬†Monterrey¬†Jack Cheese
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 Tbsp.¬†Dijon¬†mustard
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 c. diced peppers (hot or sweet, which ever strikes your fancy)
  • 2 pints canned corn
  • salt and pepper to taste
Saute the onions, peppers and garlic together until tender and fragrant.  Add in the corn and heat through. Then, pour the mixture into a oven proof casserole dish or bowl and set aside. Using the same skillet you cooked the onions, etc. in, melt the butter until it crackles.  Sprinkle in the flour and whisk until it is combined and thick.  Slowly stream in the milk and whisk until it thins out the sauce (you are making a roux) and then add in the shredded cheese bit by bit until it is thick and cheesy and gooey. (If you need, you can add in a bit more milk to thin the sauce out, but I preferred it thick.) Pour the sauce over the corn and mix so the corn is coated.  Taste and season accordingly.  Place the completed dish in a 375 degree oven for 10 minutes to brown the cheese.  Serves 8-10 as a side dish.

 

Retreeeeaaatttt!!!!

That was me yelling up there in the title. ¬†Yep. ¬†I went away this weekend for the first time since November 2009. ¬†This year, I’m the new Publicity/Media person for my church’s MOPs charter. ¬†I joined MOPs while I was still pregnant with Liam and I think that at times, it’s fair to say my sanity is a direct result of getting connected. ¬†I don’t have much family in the area and it’s been great to make new friends every year.

Anyway, I was wreck about leaving my kids overnight and had a hard time relaxing and enjoying the other moms and our “work” of planning out the 2012-2013 year. ¬†Once I settled in and we started talking I managed to sit back and appreciate this time away from my home to recharge. ¬†Although, use of the word recharge is only applicable in the mental sense as I stayed way past my bedtime and am still feeling the effects of treating my aging body as though I were still in college. ¬†ūüėÄ

For me, one of the best parts of the weekend was coming in from a short morning run and having breakfast already made! ¬†Eggs, pancakes, fruit, yogurt, granola… oh my. ¬†Breakfast is tough in this house because it’s time consuming and the kids almost always steal my plate. ¬†Thankfully, last night, I managed to finally figure out a quick¬†hash brown¬†recipe that will keep overnight in the fridge. ¬†Initially, this was a side dish for our supper last night, but since we had leftovers, I tried them 2 different ways this morning and now cannot wait to get back to the farmer’s market and pick up more new potatoes!

Yes. That's a homemade iced mocha in a Ball jar. Recipe to come!

Farmer’s Market Hashbrowns

  • 2 pounds small red/new potatoes
  • 1 small green pepper
  • 1 small red pepper
  • 1 medium candy onion
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • seasonings of your choice (I used garlic salt, paprika and mustard powder)
Wash the potatoes and cut them however you like best. ¬†I chose to quarter mine since they were so small. ¬†Place them in a steamer basket and then into a medium sauce pan with about 2 inches of water in the bottom. ¬†Steam the potatoes until they are just fork tender. ¬†The fork should be able to pierce the potato, but not smash it. ¬†Bottom line: the potatoes still need to be a bit firm. ¬†In the meantime, chop or slice the peppers and onions in a size that is comparable to the potatoes. ¬†Heat a skillet over a medium burner and add the butter. ¬†Saute the peppers and onions until tender. ¬†When the potatoes are done cooking, add them to the skillet with the peppers and onions and saute for about 5 more minutes. ¬†Add more butter if¬†necessary¬†and then season to taste. ¬†If you are making these ahead, store them in the fridge for up to 3 days. ¬†They can be reheated in the microwave or (like I did) just tossed into the pan after you’ve cooked your eggs.
What do you like to eat for breakfast?

A twist on a favorite standby

I love Pinterest. ¬†For me, it’s the best way to get out of a meal rut. ¬†I just like seeing all those photos of people’s creativity. ¬†And then, I try to figure out how to make it work for me! ¬†Pinterest inspired this recipe, of course, but you know… I changed the original… a LOT.

This recipe, I will be completely honest, is not a favorite of my children, but Matt and I love it. This is our new date night meal. ¬†Yep. ¬†We’re parent of two children under 3, meatballs and pineapple = dinner and a movie. ¬†Personally, I am totally ok with it.

This meal is a perfect freezer meal. ¬†I double bag the sauce to protect against leaks, and then bag the veggies and meatballs. ¬†Finally, I typically add in a bag of rice, just so it’s all ready to go. ¬†Freezer to table, this meal takes only as long as it takes to cook your rice!

Sweet and Sour Meatballs

  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 cups chopped peppers and onions
  • 1 1/2 c. chicken broth
  • 1/4 c. cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 4 tsp. soy sauce
  • 6 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1 cup brown rice
Using the ground beef, egg, whole wheat flour and seasonings, make meatballs.  Fry them in a saute pan until they are browned.  Drain them on a paper towel. (Cool them if you are planning to freeze, before you put them in a Ziploc bag.)  Cook the rice.  Saute the onions and peppers for 5 minutes.  Then, mix together all the sauce ingredients (chicken broth through sesame oil) and pour into the pan with the peppers.  Cook until the sauce is thick.  Add the meatballs and thoroughly coat with the sauce.  Serve the meatballs and sauce over the cooked rice.

Checking off my jam list

Last week, the newest issue of Kaia came out and I was more than a little excited to see my article on canning in it. ¬†I grew up making freezer jam and terrrified of the idea of a boiling water canner. ¬†I learned to can because as a wedding gift I was given a Ball start up kit from Lehmans and since I had everything, I needed to bite the bullet and get over my fear of getting burnt. ¬†Some people get hooked on shopping or running races, I discovered that I love making jam. ¬†I really, really do. ¬†I love testing for the jelling point, wiping the threads of each jar and then listening to the jars sound their triumphant “ping” as they seal.

Every year, I mean to make strawberry rhubarb jam and every year, and yet every year passes and somehow, I have not managed to make any!  This year was the year though and I am thrilled with how it turned out.  The berries were really sweet, so there is a much lower amount of sugar in this jam than in other recipes I found.  I think that there is just enough sweetness to overcome the tartness of the rhubarb without overshadowing the flavor.

Strawberry Rhubarb Jam

  • 4 cups Rhubarb
  • 6 cups Strawberries
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla extract
Place all the ingredients in a large, heavy bottomed pan. ¬†Heat through and then mash well. ¬†(I used an immersion blender to do this, even though I knew it is incredibly unsafe. ¬†I still have strawberry bits on my wall. ¬†If I were you, I’d use a potato masher.) ¬†If you allow the fruit to heat through, it will mash better which is extremely beneficial for the rhubarb as it can be a bit stringy. ¬†Continue to heat the jam, skimming foam from the top of the pan as necessary. ¬†The jam will reduce in volume by about a quarter in 15-20 minutes. ¬†Put a metal spoon in the freezer while the jam is reducing. ¬†When the jam seems thick enough, put a drop of the jam on the spoon to check and see if you leave a clean streak through it if you run your finger through. ¬†If the spoon is clear, then the jam has thickened up enough and will set nicely. ¬† Pour the jam into the jars, wipe the threads of the jars with a damp cloth and screw on the caps and rings tightly. ¬†Process the jars for 10 minutes in a boiling water canner. ¬†Set the finished jars on a towel in a dry place where they cannot be disturbed for at least 12 hours. ¬†Enjoy on fresh toast!

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Just for fun, this recipe takes a basic meal and spices it up just a bit for Cinco de Mayo! ¬† I tried cooking it in my crock pot for the first time yesterday and it was a revelation of ease. ¬†Apparently I am the last home cook on the planet to discover cooking meatloaf in a crockpot. ūüėõ ¬†Because of the salsa, the meat loaf stayed moist even after cooking all afternoon. ¬†I served it with peas and chipotle sweet potato fries. ¬†A simple, run-of-the-mill supper was made just a little bit more exciting just by changing the flavor¬†palate!

Fiesta Meatloaf

  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 cup salsa
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup shredded¬†Colby¬†jack cheese (optional)
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 2 Tbsp. dried cilantro
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
Mix together the spices and the bread crumbs thoroughly.  Beat the egg with the salsa and add the ground beef.  Sprinkle the bread crumb mix over the meat and blend well.  Form into a loaf and place in a casserole dish.  (I do not grease my baking pan as I find that the runoff from the cooking meatloaf coats the pan well enough that additional fats are not needed.)  Bake at 375 for 1 hour 15 minutes Р1 and a half hours, or until the internal temperature reaches 150-160 degrees.
*Note: To cook this in a crock pot, follow the instructions as above, place in the crock pot and cook on low for 7-8 hours or high for 4 hours.