Monday, July 5, 2010

Artichoke Dip

Lest you think all I make are yummy soups, I'll have you know I do have a large repertoire of recipes. I only recently (I know I'm way behind in the foody scene) fell in love with artichoke dip.

I mean REALLY in love!

I am always watching my calories so I only make it when we have special guests. Thank you John and Sarah for giving me the opportunity to indulge myself!

Artichoke Dip

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup freshly grated Romano cheese
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
salt and pepper to taste
1 (14 ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1/2 cup frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a small baking dish.

In a medium bowl, mix together cream cheese, mayonnaise, Parmesan cheese, Romano cheese, garlic, basil, garlic salt, salt and pepper. Gently stir in artichoke hearts and spinach.

Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish. Top with mozzarella cheese. Bake in the preheated oven 25 minutes, until bubbly and lightly browned.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Chicken Gnocchi Soup

As I've said before, we travel frequently and therefore visit many restaurants on the road. Thankfully, my children have pretty much outgrown many fast food restaurants. They will never outgrow the Olive Garden!

I usually get the soup and salad combo - always watching my calories it seems. Once the girls and I tasted this soup, I knew I had to recreate it at home. It is pure comfort food - creamy chicken soup with soft pillows of potato dumplings also known as gnocchi.

Chicken Gnocchi Soup
Adapted from CopyKat Recipes

1 cup chicken breasts, cooked and diced
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
1 quart half and half
1 14 ounce can chicken broth
1/2 cup celery, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup carrots, finely shredded
1 cup onion, finely diced
1 cup fresh spinach, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon extra virgin oil
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon marjoram
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 pound potato gnocchi

Sauté the onion and garlic in the butter, when the onion becomes translucent, add the flour, and make a roux, let the butter and flour mixture cook for about a minute before adding 1 quart of half and half.

Cook gnocchi according to package directions.

Into the roux add in the carrots, celery, and chicken. Once the mixture becomes thick add the chicken broth. Once the mixture thickens again, add the cooked gnocchi, spinach, and seasonings.

Simmer 10-15 minutes and correct the seasonings with salt and pepper.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Roasted Garlic Cauliflower Soup

What DO you do when you have a veggie in the fridge that the children don't like? Why make it a soup! The flavors of the soup may make the vegetable more palatable. It has to be healthier to turn it into a soup than pouring processed cheese all over the dreaded veggie like many parents do.

I had intended for a head of cauliflower to be used for a chopped salad when we had guests recently but forgot about it for several days. This soup was a huge hit - seconds and all!

Roasted Garlic Cauliflower Soup

Adapted from Group Recipes

1 large head cauliflower, broken into florets
4 cloves garlic, chopped (next time I'll use the whole head)
2 tbsp. olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 small carrots, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
2 bay leaves
2 cups chicken stock
1 tsp. thyme leaves, dried
1 tsp. basil, dried
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 tbsp. butter (I use Smart Balance 50/50 Blend)
2 cups milk
1 tbsp. flour
1 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Toss together cauliflower, garlic and olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour into a baking dish and bake for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until cauliflower is just starting to brown. (Will be somewhat crisp-tender)

Meanwhile, heat the other tbsp of olive oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven. Add celery, onion and carrot and saute until onion is translucent, about 15 minutes.

When cauliflower is ready, add to the skillet along with chicken stock and seasonings; bring to a boil, reduce heat and let simmer another 15 minutes.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter. Whisk flour into the milk and add slowly to the butter, whisking constantly. Increase heat and bring to a boil, whisking until thick. Add cheese, simmer until melted. Remove from heat and pour into the cauliflower mixture.

Simmer another 10 minutes, mashing cauliflower slightly if desired.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Spicy Cheeseburger Soup

Total and complete comfort food! Frugal too. It helps that my family loves this soup!

When I find ground beef on sale, I buy as much as my freezer can take. I bring it home, season it liberally with garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper and cook it until all the pink is gone. I freeze it in 1 pound (precooked weight) bags. So many dinners at my fingertips with frozen cooked ground beef!

This favorite comes together in no time!

Spicy Cheeseburger Soup

Adapted from Taste of Home

4 cups water
2 cups cubed peeled potatoes
4 small carrots, diced
1 large onion, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
4 beef bouillon cubes
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 pound ground beef, cooked and drained
3 cups milk,
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 T butter or margarine
2 c sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1/2 pound sliced bacon, cooked and crumbled (optional)

In a Dutch oven, combine the first nine ingredients; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until potatoes and carrots are tender.

Stir in beef

Melt butter in another pan. Add four and stir for a minute or two. Add milk and stir until thickened and bubbly. Reduce heat; stir in cheese until melted. Add cayenne if desired.
Top with bacon just before serving.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Spaghetti and Meatball Soup

We joke around here that I can turn anything into a soup. My girls (15 & 17) have been bugging me to make a spaghetti and meatball soup and here it is!

This one not only looks good but it tastes good. After dinner tonight they were fighting over whether or not it belongs in the top three of my soup creations!

Spaghetti and Meatball Soup

3 T vegetable oil
1 lg. onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 - 1 t hot pepper flakes
6 c beef broth
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1/4 c red wine, dry (I used Marsala)
1 lg. green pepper, coarsely chopped
2 c green beans, trimmed and snapped into bite-sized pieces
3-4 carrots, sliced
1 t oregano, dried
1 T basil, dried
frozen meatballs, cooked (no time to make my own today!)
1/4 lb spaghetti, broken into bite-sized pieces
Parmesan cheese, shredded

In Dutch oven, cook onion with red pepper flakes in hot oil until softened. Add crushed garlic and cook until fragrant. Add next 8 ingredients and simmer for 20-30 minutes or until vegetables are softened.

About 10 minutes before serving, add cooked meatballs and pasta. Serve with shredded Parmesan cheese.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Enchilada Soup

Not the most appetizing looking soups but I guarantee it's good!

We travel a LOT! When I'm driving to various destinations, I really don't have much of an appetite (sad I know) so I tend to stick to soup and salad on the road. I love to experiment with soups I've discovered on the road and adapt them to my family's tastes. This one is a winner with everyone!

Enchilada Soup

Adapted from Chili's Copycat Recipe

1 T vegetable oil
2 c diced or shredded cooked chicken
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, pressed
4 c chicken broth
1 c masa harina
2 c water
1 14.5 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 10 oz can enchilada sauce
1 15 oz can black beans
1 15 1/4 oz can corn
2-3 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
1 t chili powder
1/2 t cumin
1 t garlic powder
1/2 t thyme, dried
16 oz Velvetta cheese, cubed
handful of fresh chopped cilantro

In Dutch oven, soften onion in oil, add garlic and cook until fragrant. Add chicken broth.

Combine masa harina with water and whisk until blended. Add to Dutch oven.

Add chicken, tomatoes, enchilada sauce, chipotle peppers, and seasonings. Simmer about 30 minutes to allow flavors to develop.

Add cheese and stir until melted. Add cilantro and serve.

Optional garnishes:

Crushed tortilla chips
Shredded cheese
Pico De Gallo

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Cream Cheese Chicken Soup

I've had a terrible, no good, rotten cold for the last few days. What better comfort is there when not feeling well than a bowl of chicken soup?

Cream Cheese Chicken Soup

Adapted from My Kitchen Cafe

2 cups chicken, cooked and diced
1 large onion, finely diced
1-2 Tablespoons butter
4-5 reg carrots, diced
5-6 cups chicken broth
4-5 potatoes, finely diced
1 t marjoram, dried
1 t basil, dried
1/2 - 1 t garlic powder
1/2 - 1 t cayenne pepper (or to taste)
4 T margarine or butter
4 T flour
2 cups milk
12 oz cream cheese, softened at room temperature

Saute onion in 1-2 T butter. Put onion in Dutch oven and add chicken broth, carrots, and potatoes. Add more broth if needed to cover vegetables. Add seasonings and bring to a boil, then simmer until veggies are tender (about ten minutes). Add cooked chicken.

Melt 4 T butter with flour. Stir for one to two minutes. Add milk all at once. Stir until thick and bubbly. Add cream cheese and stir until melted. Add cheese sauce to soup pot and stir until fully incorporated.

Season with salt and pepper.

Viola! Perfect comfort food!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Cutest Aprons Ever!

At Flirty Aprons

Seriously cute.

One size fits all.

They also carry aprons for men and children.

You gotta check it out!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Extreme Stew - 100 Cloves of Garlic

Looks pretty benign doesn't it?

This is 100 cloves of garlic stew and it has flavor to the extreme!

We love garlic at our house. I put garlic in just about every thing I make. When I saw this recipe using 100 cloves of garlic over at River City Food and Wine, I was inspired to create this stew.

As I separated and peeled all 100 cloves of garlic, I was fearful of my families response to the stew. I mean they love everything I cook. They are used to unusual and strong flavors but was I taking advantage of their love by putting this on the table?

Was I about to create my first cooking disaster?

Cooking for my family and their appreciation means a lot to me. I've never had a major cooking disaster.

NEVER. (Knocking on wood)

As the wondrous smell of garlic filled my home and permeated everything, I worried and worried.

But to no avail - they loved it in all its garlicky goodness!

100 Cloves of Garlic Stew

2 - 2 1/2 lb. chuck roast
3/4 c all purpose flour
1/2 t seasoned salt
1/2 t cayenne pepper
1 t onion powder
1 t black pepper
1/4 c vegetable oil

Trim and chop chuck roast into bit-sized pieces. Place flour and seasonings in plastic bag. Coat chuck roast with flour /seasoning mixture. Heat oil in Dutch oven. Brown meat in small batches and remove to platter.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

1 c dry red wine
4 c beef broth
100 cloves of garlic (8-10 bulbs)
2 T tomato paste
2 bay leaves
1 T Marjoram leaves, dried
1 T Basil, dried
Cayenne pepper to taste (optional)

Pour the wine into Dutch oven and deglaze the pot - scraping all the little small bits off the bottom and sides. Add beef broth, garlic, seasonings and browned chuck roast back into pot.

Cover and place dutch oven into hot oven and cook 2 - 2 1/2 hours, stirring every half hour to break down the garlic cloves.. When the beef is tender and garlic incorporated remove Dutch oven to the stove top.

8 oz. fresh mushrooms, sliced
1/4 c butter or margarine

Melt butter in skillet. Cook mushrooms 20-30 minutes until nicely carmelized.

1 large onion,
3-4 red potatoes,
3-4 carrots
Water, as necessary, for desired consistency.

Cube or slice vegetables into bit-sized pieces. Add vegetables and mushrooms to stew and simmer for 30-45 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

1 10 oz. bag frozen peas
1-2 T Worcestershire sauce

Add to stew, simmer a few minutes.

Season with salt* and pepper and serve.

*Note: This stew seemed to need a lot of salt

Would I make this stew again? My family is already begging for it!

Would I make it for company? Probably not - just because of the extreme nature of the garlicky goodness.

Friday, February 5, 2010

THE Best Clam Chowder EVER

Our family has vacationed on Captiva Island in Florida for many years. When we first started traveling our beautiful island getaway, the place had the feel of 'old' Florida. The charm of the place led us to keep coming back despite the move to bring Captiva into the 21st century.

One of my early food memories of Captiva Island was lunch at a local watering hole called Timmy's Nook. We would sit there with the best bowl of clam chowder I had ever tasted and linger over every spoonful. Timmy's Nook has long since disappeared and been replaced by a monstrosity thoroughly modern restaurant on stilts as required by code.

When the new property owner tore down Timmy's Nook, I was prepared to never again taste the velvety goodness of that wonderful chowder. I tried many recipes but none could live up to what I remembered of the chowder at Timmy's Nook. There was a depth missing that I had failed to recreate.

Well, after all these years, I believe I've come very close. Perhaps my memory has faded just enough to call this a good replica but this IS the best clam chowder I've had since Timmy's Nook. Perhaps the best clam chowder ever!

Can you see its rich, velvety goodness? Trust me, this chowder is perfect.

Clam Chowder

2 - 10 ounce cans of baby clams

Drain over:
1 cup diced potatoes
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced onion

Reserve drained clams in refrigerator for later.

Cover veggies with:
4 cups of water mixed with 4 teaspoons of *clam base
(add a little more water if necessary to cover vegetables)
1 tsp. each basil, marjoram, and thyme (optional - dill)
Cayenne pepper to taste

Simmer veggies until tender.

Cook until crisp and crumble:
1/2 pound bacon
Reserve for later.

In another pan, make a white sauce:
Melt 3/4 cup butter or margarine
Add 3/4 cup flour. Stir for one minute.
Add 4 cups of half and half or a combination of half and half and milk.
Cook until thick and bubbly.

Add white sauce to vegetables and clam broth; stir until mixed well.

Just before serving, add clams - they only take a minute to cook.
Add crumbled bacon and 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar.

Now, if I could just get to my island paradise...

*Clam base - the secret to this chowder's rich, velvety taste. When I found it on my grocer's shelf I was ecstatic. It has long since disappeared from the shelf so I now order it online.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Soup Tutorial

As I've said before, I'm all about soup in the winter. Not to brag or anything, but I can make soup out of anything and everything. It is all about technique.

I've run across a great soup tutorial at Daily Decadent which explains the soup making techniques. All the mystery of soup thoroughly explained with pictures! Soups are my comfort food - most are quite hearty (especially the way I like them) AND frugal! I only but meat on sale and often in bulk.

OK, I confess to, on a rare occasion, splurging on a special meal here and there. I has to be a pretty special occasion though.

I also confess to having 3 chest freezers and 2 upright freezers (long story) to store my meat purchases and soups/sauces. I love cooking once and eating twice!

I can't forget to mention my Foodsaver which dramatically increases the freezer life of my sale purchases. No more freezer burned to the trash meat for me! Nothing makes me sadder than to throw away money like that. Well, almost nothing.

Have fun learning all about the technique for making soup: Soup Toujours at the Daily Decadent

Monday, February 1, 2010

Italian Sausage Tortellini Soup

It is winter in central Illinois which means it is soup season! Is there anything more comforting on a cold winter day than a bowl of steaming soup? I can't think of anything better!

I first had this soup at a church function - where I discover many delectable delights. My friend, Shelly, is an awesome cook and loves to share her culinary skills. Shelly served this as a vegetarian dish without the sausage but the carnivore that I am had to make it with meat.

Italian Sausage Tortellini Soup
Adapted from All Recipes

1.5 lbs hot Italian sausage
1 c chopped onions
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1/2 cup red wine (I used a dry Marsala)
1 lb. 12 oz. can of crushed tomatoes
4 c beef broth
3-4 carrots, sliced
1 med. zucchini, quartered and sliced
1 t dried basil
1 t dried oregano
1/2 t dried thyme
1/2 t dried marjoram
1/2 t red pepper flakes (or to taste)
8 oz. cheese tortellini, frozen
Parmesan cheese, grated

Optional: 2 t cornstarch dissolved in a little cold water for thickening

Place sausage in a dutch oven with a little water over med-high heat for about 10 minutes or until cooked through. When water bubbles away, turn frequently to brown on all sides. Remove to plate to cool.

Add onions and cook until softened. Add garlic and cook until fragrant. Add red wine, scraping all the brown bits off the bottom of the pan. Let wine reduce to half its volume.

Add the beef stock, tomatoes, carrots and seasonings. Reduce heat and let simmer 30-45 minutes or until carrots are easily pierced with a fork.

While the soup is simmering, slice Italian sausage.

Add the zucchini, sausage and tortellini to the pot and simmer for about 10 minutes or until the tortellini is fully cooked.

If you like your soups a little thicker, dissolve the cornstarch in cold water and stir until thickened.

Pour into individual bowls and garnish with cheese.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Beer, Brat and Cheese Soup

Otherwise known as Milwaukee in a Bowl Soup.

I had the pleasure of living in Wisconsin for the last few years while my hubby attended seminary. We are back home (Illinois) now but I can only recall our time in Wisconsin with longings to return. There are many things to love about Wisconsin - the every Friday night fish fry, cheese curds, a local Penzys, snow that stays for the winter, ice fishing (NOT) but it is their love of brats that took me in. AND they do 'em right - ketchup is a no-no. They are simmered in beer and onions then off to the grill they go. Then placed in a roll and topped with Dijon mustard, mayo if you like, and those onions from the initial cooking. YUM!

This soup is the best of the tastes I've come to love from Wisconsin.

Milwaukee in a Bowl: Beer, Brat and Cheese Soup
adapted from Liz's Cooking Blog Savory Spicy Sweet

3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 c. carrots, peeled and diced
1 c. celery, diced
1 c. onions, dicedd
1/3 c. flour
2 lg. potatoes, peeled and diced
6 c. stock (I used combination of beef and chicken)
12 oz. beer
1/2 tsp. cayenne or to taste
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. mustard powder
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 c. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
6 bratwurst

Simmer the brats in a little water for about 20 minutes turning frequently. Brown brats after the water simmers away. Remove from pan and slice. Add beer to the pan, scraping the little brown bits up and reducing the liquid by one half

In a Dutch oven (or other large soup pot) cook carrots, onions and celery in oil until softened - about 15 minutes. Season wit a little salt and pepper. Stir in flour and cook for a minute or two.

Add the potatoes, broth, and beer reduction to the veggies. Add garlic powder, and mustard. Simmer until the potatoes are soft, 15-20 minutes.

Remove about 2 cups of soup from pot and place in food processor - pulse until smooth. Return to pot with brats. Stir in cheese and Worcestershire sauce. Season with salt and pepper.

This soup is so rich and flavorful - heaven on earth! It needs nothing more than hot rolls and a fresh green salad to accompany it.

I promise you your family members will praise you as they raise their spoons with this delicious soup!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

My Magic Pot

This Dutch oven seems to always been a part of my home. My mom swears it was my grandma's but I have no recollection of anyone giving it to me. It is obviously very old so it could have belonged to my grandma. I guess I know in my heart it was her Dutch oven I just wish I could remember how I got it!

My inspiration for this blog is symbolized by this pot but its origin really goes back to my grandma. My grandma was one of those people who gave her love fully and unconditionally. When I was with her I knew I was loved and each of my cousins (about 50 of us) knew that special connection. I feel so bad that many families are no longer geographically close and don’t know what they have lost out on.

I did not know my grandma as a cook. She did not cook for us when we visited. When we had family gatherings, every one brought a dish. She was known for a few special dishes – fried chicken and strawberry cake but I can’t remember her as serious cook. She gave birth to ten children. One died at birth and the remaining nine more or less raised each other. My grandfather left her for another woman fairly early in their married life so grandma worked long, hard hours to put a roof over the heads of her children and food on their plates.

The roof changed often. It was very hard to find places that would rent to such a large family. Often a child or two lived with other relatives so the rest of the family could have a roof. The fatherless family ate a lot of what I call survival foods. Bread and gravy was a common dinner in their childhood home. Meat was rarely seen.

Back to the pot. What is interesting about this pot is that everything that goes in it comes out tasting absolutely wonderful! Is it the cook or is it the pot? I believe it is the pot. I mean I love to cook. It is one of the ways I show my family my love for them. My meals are filled with the flavor of life and love – and layers of seasoning! Grandma couldn’t stay at home to show her children and show them just how much she loved them. She was out working literally from dawn to dusk. Her family had to sacrifice to survive - the closeness most children know with their mothers just could not be due to a broken home. Grandma had a second chance with her grandchildren and she showed me how to love others with her unconditional love. Now, in my own way, I use her Dutch oven – my magic pot – to pass on some of the love.