Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Quick Broccoli Cheese soup

I found an amazing recipe for some broccoli cheese soup. You can find the original here. As much as I love to cook with raw veggies, sometimes I just don't have the time to peel, chop, etc. Here's how I adapted this fantastic recipe with frozen veggies to make it just a bit faster for you.

4 T butter
1/4 c flour
2 c vegetable broth (use the homemade kind found here!)
2 c half and half
1 16oz bag frozen broccoli florets
1 12oz bag mirepoix veggies (celery, carrot, onion mix)
1 t minced garlic (about 1 clove)
8 oz sharp cheddar

Melt the butter in a heavy soup pan. Whisk in the flour. Make sure the flour is fully incorporated and thick, then slowly add the vegetable broth. Keep whisking. Next add the half and half. Keep whisking. You'll know you did it right if you have a semi-thick base once everything is in. You can simmer about 10-15 minutes here to thicken it up some more. I skipped this step. Add all your frozen veggies, the garlic, and the seasoning. Let it simmer a good 20 minutes. Once the veggies are cooked through you can add your cheese OR you can put your soup in the blender and make it smooth. I like to do that with my broccoli cheese soup. Once it's to your consistency, add the cheese and mix until melted. So very delicious and so quick. You can add rotisserie chicken to quickly make it a little more hearty. I prefer it as is in a homemade bread bowl. Yum...

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Chicken & Noodles

There's something so comforting about chicken and noodles. It's just that kind of dish. It's especially wonderful when you get in from nearly freezing temps and sit down to watch the Wiz.

My favorite thing about cold weather is the savory crockpot dishes that can be made. As you can see, our crockpot is very loved.

One thing I love about this dish is the variety of ways it can be made. You can pretty much add any vegetable, use any kind of base, the only constants are the chicken and the noodles!

Here's how today's version went. I started with 6 boneless chicken thighs. I trimmed the excess parts of fat off, tossed them in the crockpot and then added my favorite seasoning. Chesapeake Bay. It's a must in the kitchen.

Shake the seasoning on to your liking. I like to get a good covering on the whole piece of chicken. After seasoned, add a can of cream of chicken soup to the top. You can use cream of mushroom or cream of celery, either will work. If you have a homemade version, use that. I went with cream of chicken today. Empty the can and spread it around the top of the chicken.

My veggies today were fairly simple. I started with about six carrots. Peel 'em, chop 'em. Add them to the crock pot.

Celery. I cut the stalks in half lengthwise and then chop them.

Two small onions. Peel 'em. Chop 'em.

I had some white mushrooms that needed to be used, so they got chopped up as well. I would estimate that there was about a cup to a cup and a half of each veg.

Look how pretty they all look once in the crockpot. I have a homemade vegetable broth mix. If you have the time and you have the spices, please do yourself a favor and make this mix. I use it ALL THE TIME. I added two teaspoons over the top of the veggies and then added one cup of water to the crock pot.

Shut the lid and let it cook 6-7 hours. It will be pretty thin when you it's finished. You can choose to leave it or add a cornstarch or flour slurry to thicken it up. I like a thick base, so I made the slurry. I add 1/4 cup of flour to 1/4 cup of water. Mix it up and add it to the crockpot. Let it cook another 30 minutes and it will thicken right up for you.

When it's finished take some noodles, I like egg noodles, and get them boiled up.

Add them to a bowl.

Scoop some of that deliciousness on top.

Mix it up and enjoy every single bite.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Sweet Spaghetti Sauce

I'm fairly certain I have multiple blog posts about spaghetti sauce. This is probably for two reasons.
1. I love spaghetti
2. I love to make spaghetti sauce

It really is such a fun thing to make. I don't think I ever make it the same twice. Today I did a sweet sauce with a dark red wine base. Yum. I also threw in some home grown, home canned green tomatoes to mix things up. Another yum. Here's how we started today.

The first thing I did was brown some sweet Italian sausage. This is just over one pound. It was 6 links. I like to season the sausage with onion and garlic powder, thyme, and marjoram. 

Once it's about half way browned, find a good red wine. This week I used Dark Apothic. Apothic is usually a mix of reds and I kind of like it. I saw this dark brand and had to give it a try.

Pour enough in to cover the bottom of your pan. You can add more, it just takes longer to cook out. 

While you're at it, pour yourself a glass to enjoy while you finish cooking. 

Add onions. I cheat and use frozen chopped onions. I actually think it's much better with fresh onions. They absorb the wine better, but these work in a pinch. 

Let everything cook together until most of the liquid evaporates. Once that happens, add some garlic. You can add this to your liking. I used about three cloves, minced. I also like to let it cook a little, about a minute, before adding anything else. 

Canned, green tomatoes. I must admit, they didn't come from my kitchen. It's good to have friends that garden. I've never used green tomatoes in spaghetti sauce, so this was an experiment.

I drained the jar and dumped it on the meat. 

I was making a large amount of sauce, so I also used a 28oz can of diced, red tomatoes as well.

To top everything off, 6oz tomato paste.

Mix everything up and let it simmer for a while. I like to add about a teaspoon of seasoned salt and two teaspoons of sugar at this point as well. I think the salt cuts the acidity and the sugar adds just a touch more sweetness, which my husband enjoys. 

This is about when I start my water for noodles. I like to let the sauce simmer for a while, so that gives it plenty of time. It's also an excellent time to cut yourself some bread. You can use the bread to test the sauce as your noodles cook. You have been warned though, it's hard to stop once you start...

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Baked goodies!

Friends, would you like to know what happens when you forget the fridge isn't working and you buy eggs? You bake. You bake a lot of things. I decided if I was going to be heating the whole house, I might as well try some new things! I have sweet potato chocolate chip cookies, chocolate oat banana bread, gluten free peanut butter cookies, and some good old fashioned plain chocolate chip.

The sweet potato cookie recipe came from Kitchen Queen Eats Clean. I made a couple changes to her recipe and it went as follows:
2 medium sweet potatoes - peeled, chopped, boiled, pureed
1/2 c oat flour (that I made myself in the blender)
1/2 c oats
1/2 c natural peanut butter
3 T vanilla syrup
1 t cinnamon
1 t pumpkin spice
1 t cocoa powder
1 t baking soda
1 t baking powder
1 t salt
1/2 c mini chocolate chips...with more sprinkled on top

Mix your dry ingredients. Add your wet ingredients. Add the chocolate chips. Side note: make sure your potatoes are cool. I got a little impatient and now my cookies are brown because the chocolate all melted. They're still delicious. My batter wasn't really thick. I put everything in the fridge for about 20 minutes to let it firm up. Then bake at 350 F for 15-17 minutes. 

Also, I'm baking all my cookies on foil over my cookie sheets. Why haven't I done this before? Clean up is a breeze. 

I thought these turned out quite good. I don't taste the sweet potato at all so I call it a success.

I had bananas in the freezer so once they started thawing I decided I needed to make banana bread. I found this recipe at The Wholesome Dish. I made a couple of pretty big changes though since I didn't have applesauce and I didn't want to use sugar. Here's what I did:
3 ripe bananas, smashed up
1/2 c raw honey
1/2 canola oil
2 eggs
3/4 c flour
1/2 c cocoa powder
1 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 c oats
chocolate chips and oats for the top

Mash the bananas, add the honey, oil, and eggs, and whisk together. Add all dry ingredient except oats. Mix until incorporated. Add the oats and mix until combined. Don't over mix. Pour into a greased 9x5 bread pan, sprinkle the chocolate chips and oats on top, and bake at 350 F for 50-60 minutes, until tooth pick comes out without any raw batter. Let it cool in the pan 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and let it continue to cool. 

This was also a success. It certainly looks pretty. 

If you search pinterest for peanut butter cookies you will find tons of sites advertising 3 ingredient, gluten free cookies. I decided to try it out. 
1 c peanut butter
1 c sugar
1 egg

Mix together. Scoop into balls. Press down with a fork. Bake at 350 F for 10-12 minutes.

These were stupid good. Holy cow. 

Last, but certainly not least, some chocolate chip cookies. I found this recipe for Perfect Chocolate Chip cookies on Tastes Better from Scratch. I cut it in half (because seriously, how many cookies do I really need? Just kidding. I'm just running out of room.) I didn't make any changes except that I was out of vanilla so I skipped it. They're amazing. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Apple, Bacon, & Blue Cheese Stuffed Pork Chops

Have I ever mentioned that my husband is the king of finding awesome deals? He is. We have gone to some really great restaurants because of his savvy Groupon and Living Social skills. A couple weekends ago we were in Indianapolis and he had a deal for a butcher shop. Don't ask me how he finds these things, I'm just glad he does. We came home with some amazing 3 peppered bacon, 2 double cut pork chops, and 2lbs of grass fed Angus ground beef (stay tuned for awesome meatloaf when it gets cooler!) Tonight I used two of these wonderful finds to serve up some AMAZING stuffed pork chops that I found on blogger jo cooks website. She was cooking for 4, I'm cooking for 2, so here is her amazing recipe with my adaptations.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. My chops had been thawing over night in the fridge. I took them out and let them set on the counter as I got everything else ready. I started with my cast iron skillet and bacon. This 3 pepper bacon is so delicious that even though I only need 2 strips for this meal, I cooked 4. Once they were finished I removed them from the pan to some napkins to set and removed 2 tablespoons of bacon fat to a bowl for later.

Next up we have half an onion and half a green apple. Chop the onion. Peel and core the apple, then slice it thinly, and then cut the slices in half. The onion and apple went into the skillet and I let them cook about 3 minutes over medium high heat. Afterwards, I added a heaping tablespoon of minced garlic. Technically, that's about double what Jo uses in her recipe for 4 chops. I like garlic and using extra was fantastic. Let the mix cook about a minute longer and transfer into a glass bowl (or something that's ok with heat). Tear or chop up the bacon and add it to the mix along with almost a half a cup of crumbly blue cheese. If you want to be technical, I used 1/4 cup and an 1/8 cup. Extra will only make it taste better! Mix it up so everything is evenly distributed.

Now it's time to get the chops ready. I added the extra bacon fat back to the skillet and set it over low heat. Season each chop with salt, pepper, and rosemary (I used dried) to your own liking, then cut into each chop and create a pocket. I've seen people do this multiple ways: some cut half way through the whole side and then tooth pick it closed, I saw another version that did the same thing but then wrapped the bacon around the chop to close it up (which may not work so well for this version but still, fantastic idea), I like to cut about an inch to an inch and half hole and then hollow out the inside from there. It makes a gigantic mess while you're stuffing them, because you can only stuff a little at a time and the best method I've found is to just use my hands and finger to stuff it. That's what I did this time and each chop was bulging by the time they were done.

Turn the heat up a little on the skillet and add the chops. Sear each side for 5 minutes and then stick the whole pan in the oven for about 20 minutes. Some of the mix will ooze out of the chop, it's delicious. Such a great recipe!

2 double cut (thick cut) pork chops
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1/2 green apple, peeled, cored, sliced thinly
1 heaping T minced garlic (about 3-4 cloves)
2 strips of bacon cooked (more for a snack and to have enough bacon fat)
1/2 c crumbled blue cheese

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Cook the bacon in a cast iron skillet. Once finished, remove from pan and reserve 2 T of bacon fat for later. Chop onion, peel, core, and slice half the apple. Add to the skillet and cook over medium high heat about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another minute. Remove from pan to glass bowl. Chop/tear bacon and add to bowl, add blue cheese, mix up. Salt, pepper and rosemary chops to your personal liking. Cut a pocket in the chop and stuff with the mix, half in each chop. Add reserved bacon fat to skillet and sear each chop, 5 minutes each side. Take skillet and put in oven to bake chops for 20 minutes. Delicious.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Chicken Wings

When I met husband nobody told me about chicken wings. They were this appetizer that people ordered at restaurants that never made sense to me because hello, there's hardly any meat on them. If you had told me then that 14 years later I'd crave them during the week...I'd have called you a liar. My husband has a knack for always getting them when they're on sale, he's taught me how to cook them in the deep fryer, the foreman, and a friend of ours taught me how to make them taste like they'd been fried while baking them. They're forgiving if you leave them in the oven too long, you can season them with anything, and if you really screw it up you can drown them in hot sauce, ranch or bleu cheese dressing. They're kind of awesome in case, like me, you didn't know. They're such a common meal in our house that blogging about them has never seemed necessary. However, every once in a while they come out so amazing that you find yourself wanting to eat all of them and save none for your husband. Tonight was one of those nights.

First, let me talk about technique. I would say that 90% of the wings we make are baked. Sounds crazy, I know, but I think we've kind of perfected it. I have an old 10x13 metal pan that I cover in foil and I place a cooling rack on top of it. The wings go on the cooling rack and the whole thing goes in the oven at 400 degrees for an hour. When they come out, they're crisp and delicious. If you want them crunchier, you can spray them with cooking oil first.

Second, the seasoning. You really can't go wrong here, however you want them to taste. I'm sharing with you my staples. I like to season each side with a different seasoning.

This is Rancher Steak Seasoning. I've only used it on actual steaks once. I love it on chicken.

Next up is Chesapeake Bay. What is actually in this? I don't know. I've never looked it up. This is interchangeable with any kind of Cajun seasoning, in my opinion. I use this on chicken, pork, hamburgers, potatoes, broccoli, green beans - it's good on everything.

Lastly, you have Chef's Choice Lemon Pepper.
This is special. It actually goes on after the wings are finished. Take them out of the oven and sprinkle on both sides. Your mouth will thank you for it.

Do you have a favorite chicken wing?

Monday, June 1, 2015

Sausage, Veggie, Sweet Potato Hash

We eat lots of chicken in our house. Usually I don't mind it. Chicken is pretty versatile and I can pretty much make whatever style meal I want. I just wasn't feeling it today. I remembered my sister sharing something about a kielbasa potato hash and I decided I'd try to make something like that and started pulling stuff out.

I started with two sweet potatoes and a medium sized yellow onion.

 Then I grabbed some white mushrooms

 And some frozen, chopped green pepper

We had 3 hot Italian sausage links in the freezer, so I defrosted those and chopped them into about 1 inch slices. I added those to my cast iron skillet.

I added a little olive oil to my big skillet, put it on medium heat, and then added the chopped sweet potato.

I seasoned the sweet potatoes with turmeric, thyme, seasoned salt, and pepper. Yum.
Once the sausage was cooked through I removed it from the pan and added the mushrooms, chopped onion, and green peppers.

I let that saute in the oil leftover from the sausage. Smelled so amazing. Smelled even better when I added about 2 cloves of minced garlic. Garlic makes everything better.
It's time to put it all together. Add the sausage to the sweet potatoes.
Add the veggie mix to the sausage and potatoes.
Stir it all up and add your last seasoning, lemon pepper. This isn't just any lemon pepper. It's Chef's Choice. We affectionately call it the Lemon Crack in our household. His parents bought it for us and I don't know what we're going to do when we run out. We'll have to drive home to East Chicago just to buy some more (our lovely Fort Wayne Kroger doesn't carry it, I've checked).

Delicious, low glycemic, paleo meal. We don't follow a paleo diet, but I've been trying to cut down on processed, high glycemic foods. This will be my go to recipe for that in the future! I think it'd also be really good to crack a couple eggs in it and scramble them around what's in the pan. Maybe add some fresh salsa to the top. The possibilities are endless!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Pesto & Provolone Stuffed Pork chops

I've been gone for about 2 weeks and after a week of sleep (because really, who sleeps on vacation?) I'm ready to jump back in the kitchen for some creative cooking.

I was grocery shopping today, restocking my fresh vegetables and fruit, and decided to heed my sisters advice to recreate the delicious sandwich we were served on our flight home. It required pesto. I teetered a few minutes on whether I really felt like making my own pesto or just succumbing to the jar on the shelf. If my basil plant had survived the winter this wouldn't have taken a second thought, alas it did not so I came home with the jar. I wanted to do something different tonight for dinner and decided I might as well use the lovely jar of pesto for something other than ham sandwiches.

I took some pork chops out yesterday to cook. I always seem to remember to take something out of the freezer on nights when I am not going to be home to cook. Funny how that works, isn't it? Anyway, pork chops were on the menu tonight and I came home with provolone cheese and decided stuffed pork chops it would be.

Most people use a thick cut chop when doing a stuffing, I had thin so that's what I worked with. I kind of like them this way, you really get to taste the yumminess inside. I use a paring knife to cut a pouch into the chop. I would estimate about an inch slit to start and then I hollow out the middle. I poured a tsp of pesto into each chop and then stuffed a slice of folded provolone inside.

I didn't do much to the outside, just a little seasoned salt and pepper. Cook them about 5 minutes on each side. The cheese gets all melty and starts to ooze out. Delicious.

I paired them with potatoes that were seasoned with a french onion soup mix and then roasted, green beans, salad, and homemade wheat crescent rolls. (I feel like I should also point out that the soundtrack for this dinner is "I'm so Fancy"...yes, I sang it several times while cooking tonight.)

4 thin cut pork chops
4 tsp pesto
4 slices provolone cheese
seasoned salt

Cut a pouch into the pork chop, pour in a tsp of pesto, stuff in the cheese. Cook 5 minutes on each side. So quick, so good.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Ranch Pork Chops w/Buttered Herb Rice

So last month my husband and I were hanging out in the living room when he starts snacking on Cool Ranch Doritos. Those are my favorite. I know I've talked about my husband and his ridiculous discipline, but I stay away from snacks like that because I will open the bag and snack on them until they're gone. I sat here staring at his chips and decided maybe I should make some popcorn. And then my brain started working and said, "You should make cool ranch popcorn." Sometimes my brain is brilliant folks.

I found this homemade ranch dressing mix  and decided I'd give it a shot. Of course, I don't do anything by the book so my version has no dried buttermilk or dried chopped onion. I didn't have any so I just omitted them. I figured since I wasn't turning this into actual dressing, the buttermilk probably wouldn't matter and I used about a tsp more of onion powder to make up for the missing chopped onion. Now, how did the popcorn turn out? Not great. I didn't  have really butter popcorn so the seasoning didn't really stick. I still have hope, but for now the seasoning is getting put to use in other places.

That leads me into tonight's supper. I had some boneless pork chops out and decided the ranch was a good way to go. The mix isn't really salty, so I used a hearty pinch and covered one side of each chop. On the other side, I used this rancher steak seasoning I got from a party my sister had. I did a simple pan fry, about 6-7 minutes each side on med-high heat. I didn't use any oil, I tell you if you don't have a good non-stick pan you need to go get one.

I paired the chops with some butter herb rice. Cook some white (or brown) rice in chicken broth and then add butter, marjoram, basil, and oregano. The ratios will changed depending on how much rice you cook. I cooked about 3/4 cup of dried rice and used 1 T butter and shame on me, I never measure the actual seasoning. I just shake the container until there's a good coating and then stir it up. It's simple but very good.

I use a chicken bouillon mix for my broth and only used about half as much bouillon as required, so it was very light and quite good. It worked out well because I over did it with the steak seasoning and the chops were a tad salty. Paired with a bite of rice though, perfect. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Potato soup!

I am longing for spring. It snowed a bunch over the weekend. And today it rained ice. I'm just ready for warm weather! Until then, soup will continue to dominate my mind.

Potato soup may be my all time favorite soup. There are tons of variations of it out there and I love that it never quite tastes the same every time I make it. Here's what I did this time. You know that Crockpot Ham I posted about? Well, there's a reason I never make ham. There's just too much of it for two people to eat. We even get tired of the leftovers. I'm using "we" here even though I'm pretty sure this only applies to me. My husband could probably have continued eating the ham and been just fine with it. I decided I was finished with it though and took what was left and chopped it up. I would estimate there was about 1 cup chopped when I was finished.

My base for my soup was taken from the Pioneer Woman because she's awesome. I follow it pretty well too, with just a few changes. Here's what I went with this time.
3 large russet potatoes, chopped
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 celery sticks, chopped
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 T butter
4 c chicken broth
4 c vegetable broth (use the homemade kind!)
1 c milk
3 T wheat flour
1/2 c milk w/1T melted butter (that's what I use when I'm out of cream!)
1 c chopped ham
Cajun seasoning
cornstarch dissolved in water

Chop and dice all of your veggies. In a big stockpot melt 2 T of butter. Once melted, add the carrots, celery, and onion and saute about 2-3 minutes. Add in the potatoes and continue to cook for another 5 minutes, stirring frequently. You can add in your seasonings here. I went really easy on the salt since broth tends to have a high sodium content. Next add in your broths. Let it come to a boil (this may take some time) and then let it cook for another 10 minutes. Mix your cup of milk with your flour. Add it into the soup and stir well. Let it cook another 5 minutes. Pull out your blender and scoop out about 2/3 of whats in the pot. Blend it up and pour it back in. Add the last bit of milk (or cream) and add your ham. Here's where I deviate a lot from Ree, I like thick soup and this was just not thick enough for me. I mixed about 2 T of cornstarch with a little water and added it to the mix to really thicken it up. I let it cook a while longer as well. 

Because of the spiciness of the ham, this soup has a slight kick to it. I love it. I didn't add any cheese, just enjoyed the goodness as is. 

Friday, February 27, 2015

Crock pot Ham!

I'm not sure why I've never thought this was possible before, but now that I know...

I'm not sure who gifted us with the 7lb ham we've had in the fridge for a while, but I'm grateful. It was precooked, so it didn't need a ton of cooking time but ham still takes some planning. I usually make some kind of brown sugar glaze and then reglaze half way through the cooking process. Even then, ham can end up being dry if you're not careful. The crock pot seemed like an excellent way to remedy that.

The recipe I found said to cook it on low for 4 hours. These were instructions for a 6-8lb ham. Obviously, you could use a meat thermometer to ensure it was cooked to your liking. Being that this ham was already cooked, I really just needed it warmed to my liking. I found this brandy brown sugar glazed ham recipe from A Spicy Perspective. I'm not really an alcohol drinker (unless it's wine) but the recipe said you could sub juice so that's what I did. We don't always have juice but this week we have some pineapple orange juice, so that's what I used. I also used regular ground  mustard, because that's what I had, and I tend to not like overly mustardy things so I used half as much. I found this to be amazingly good. Different than your normal brown sugared ham, but different in a really good way. My husband wasn't thrilled, he doesn't seem to like cumin unless it's Mexican food, I know, I pity him too, but he still ate it. It's also the first time I've used the grinding function on my blender. I used fresh ground coriander. Love the way it smells. I omitted the allspice, because I didn't have any.

I wondered what kind of crust we'd get on the ham in the crock pot, but to my surprise it browned very nicely. All in all, I'm quite sure we'll use this method again. It's the perfect way to have Easter dinner done right after church let's out without worrying about burning the house down!

6-8 lb ham
1 c brown sugar
1/2 c juice (apple, orange, mixed)
1 T ground mustard
1 T cornstarch
1 T cumin
1 T ground coriander
1/2 t cayenne pepper
2 t seasoned salt

Mix all the dry ingredients up and add your juice. Stir it well to make sure you've gotten all the brown sugar declumped. Score the ham about 1/4 inch deep. Rub about half the glaze all over the ham. I put the ham in the crock pot cut side down. Really, it was because that's how it fit best, but I'll do it again next time as well because I then poured the rest of the glaze over the ham. You could save the rest and do it half way through the cooking process, but I decided not to do that because with slow cookers you really want to leave the lid on to keep the heat in. Let it cook on low 4-5 hours. You could leave it longer for a larger ham. 

So good folks!