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Sunday, October 27, 2013

Tomato Soup with Toasted Parmesan Croutons

I love tomato soup, especially the one they have at Panera.  I tried to figure out what they put in their soup, and I think I came pretty close.  The special ingredient that makes it so delicious is carrots, believe it or not.  They give a kind of sweetness to the soup.  I made a very small pot with the amount of ingredients I have listed.  You will need to double or triple everything to make a more substantial amount.  Here are your ingredients :

1 can plain diced tomatoes (be careful not to get the ones 
that have Italian seasoning)
3 carrots, chopped
½ Vidalia onion, chopped
Chicken broth
roasted red peppers
Parmesan Cheese
Salt and Pepper
fat free half and half (or any type you would like)

Begin by combining the carrots, and onion in your pot with a little butter or olive oil.  When they start to become tender, add the tomatoes and about a cup of chicken broth and let simmer.  Once the veggies are completely cooked,  pour in a small amount of half and half and blend with either a stick blender or a food processor.    Once blended, add your chopped roasted red peppers (how ever many you would like), salt and pepper to taste, and let it stay on low on your stove while you get the croutons ready.

Put the croutons on a small piece of foil.  Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and spray with a little vegetable oil spray.  Put them under a broiler set on low and watch them.  You don't want them to get to brown.

All that is left to do is serve and eat!  So easy and the flavors are pure and delicious.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Delicious Sausage Soup with Kale

The weather is starting to feel like Fall this week, and I thought it would be great to have soup on hand to heat up on a minute's notice.  We LOVE sausage soup, so I decided to whip up a batch.  I usually make it with spinach, but my new favorite ingredient is kale, so I made the switch!  Here are the ingredients you need:

1 package of Italian sweet or hot sausage
1 Vidalia onion, roughly chopped
about 5 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
1 large can of diced tomatoes
2 boxes of chicken broth
1 bunch of fresh Kale, chopped
1 cup of long grain white rice, cooked
salt and pepper to taste
crushed red pepper to "tolerance!"
Parmesan cheese

Begin by removing the casings of the sausages and cook.  When done, transfer to a bowl.
Next, cook up your onions with a little butter.  When they are almost done, add the garlic.

While the onions are cooking, chop and wash one bunch of kale.  When the onions are just about done, throw in the kale to wilt.

Last two ingredients are the chopped tomatoes and chicken broth.  Oh, and sprinkle with a little crushed pepper for some heat.

Let all this simmer on low while you get your rice ready....

In a separate pan, bring to a boil 1 cup of water and 1 tbs of butter.  Add 1/2 cup of long grain white rice and cook until the liquid has been absorbed.   Add the rice to the soup and continue to cook for another 10-15 minutes.  Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese when serving.

Ahhh, food for the soul...

Sauted Chicken Cutlets with a Tarragon and Tomato Sauce

I have made this dinner so many times, and have always used turkey cutlets.  Turkey cutlets are hard to find, so tonight I improvised by using chicken breasts instead.  It came out just as good, so now you have an alternative!  Start with the following:

6 turkey cutlets (or boneless chicken breasts)
about 2 cups of buttermilk

I begin by pounding the chicken breasts so that they are as thin as possible.  I then soak them in some buttermilk.  This is a guarantee that the chicken will come out tender and juicy!  While they are soaking, see what else you need:  

Olive oil
2 tbs butter
2 cups of chopped tomatoes

1/2 vidalia onion
5 cloves of garlic, chopped
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup 1/2 and 1/2
2 tbs tarragon
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Cook the onions in your olive oil and butter.  When they are almost done, add the roughly-chopped garlic.

Next up, add the chopped tomatoes and cook for another few minutes.

Now, add the tarragon, salt, pepper and half and half (the original recipe called for heavy cream, but I am trying to make it a little healthier!) .   Simmer for about 5 minutes.  Add about a cup of chicken broth.  After a few minutes of simmering, I turn off the heat and move on to cooking the chicken.

Set aside and cook your chicken.

In a separate bowl, mix up about a cup of flour, a little salt and pepper, and a sprinkle of paprika.  Melt about 2 tbs of butter in some olive oil (about two go-arounds of the pan).  Take the chicken out of the buttermilk and dredge in the flour mixture.  On medium-high heat, brown both sides of the chicken and set aside.

 The sauce looks perfect, so I cut the chicken breasts in half and nestle them in the pan of sauce.

Turn the heat off, cover, and quickly cook the egg noodles.  Now it's time to put your masterpiece together!

 The sauce is amazing.....the flavors are intense, and the chicken is so moist and flavorful!  And looks really yummy!  Hope you love it as much as I do....

As for dessert?  Chocolate chip cookies, of course!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Fruit Tart with a Sugar Cookie Crust...

I really love making this dessert because it is one of those ones that look really difficult to make, but isn't!  What you need is a roll of Pillsbury sugar cookie dough, cream cheese and what ever type of fruit you would like to use.

Here is what you do.... Slice the cookie dough and place in a circular pattern on a cookie sheet.  Press the slices together so you have one really big cookie!  Keep in mind that when it cooks, it will be quite a bit larger.  Once you have the size and shape you want, bake at 350 for about 15 minutes.  I like the top to be just a little bit brown.

While your crust is baking, combine 1 package of cream cheese, 1/3 cup of sugar and 3 tsp. of vanilla.  Beat so it comes nice and creamy.  When the crust is cooked and cooled, spread the cream cheese over the top.  Alll you have to do now is arrange your fruit on top.  If you want the fruit to have a "shiny" look, simply mix some flavor of preserve (either peach or orange marmelade....whatever you would like) with a little water, and paint over the fruit.  Easy, beautiful, and delicious!

Gloria's Zucchini Bread

My best friend's mother used to make the best zucchini bread I have ever had, and was kind enough to share her recipe with me.   It is so easy and you get two loaves, which is even better!  Here are your ingredients:

Approximately 3 small zucchini (you need 2 1/2 cups shredded)
3 eggs
1 cup oil
2 1/2 cups sugar
3 tsp vanilla
3 cups flour
3 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder

Begin by mixing the oil, sugar, and vanilla.  Add the eggs and mix well.  Next add the zucchini.  Once it is all blended, add your dry ingredients.

Grease and flour two loaf pans and pour in your batter.  I like to sprinkle some sugar on top.

Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.  Check to make sure they are done.  This time, mine needed another 5 minutes.

My assistant was thirsty....

My kitchen smelled so good as they were cooking.  

 Some day I might experiment and substitute grated carrots or maybe even sweet potatoes.....could be interesting!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Nice and easy Corn Chowder

Corn Chowder is one of my very favorite soups.  The carrots, celery, corn and onion compliment one another, and the Panchetta and ham give it a really nice, rich flavor.  The only seasoning it has is Thyme, bay leaves, salt and pepper, and a touch of crushed red pepper.  I know many recipes I have read call for adding red pepper, but I have always thought that strong flavor would take away from all the other ingredients, so I don't use it.  Feel free to increase or decrease the quantities of ingredients, depending on how much soup you are making.

Here are my ingredients (this made approximately half of a deep soup pot):

Carrots (I had baby carrots, so I chopped up about 3 handfuls!)
Celery, 2-3 ribs
Potatoes (4 red potatoes)
Onion (1 whole vidalia onion)
Frozen Corn (1 bag)
Creamed Corn (1 can)
Fresh Parsley (up to you!)
Thyme (about 2 tsp)
Bay leaves (3)
salt and pepper
crushed red pepper (to taste)
panchetta (2 slices, diced)
ham steak cubed
chicken broth (1 box)
evaporated milk (1 can)
light cream (1/2-3/4 cup)
cornstarch and water (I used 2 tbs cornstarch and enough water to dissolve it)

Saute the onions, carrots, potatoes, and celery in a couple of tablespoons of butter.  Add the Thyme. When the veggies are done,  lightly saute in a separate pan 2 slices of panchetta that are diced, and combine.

Now that the veggies have become tender, add the frozen corn, a can of creamed corn, and a box of chicken broth.

Season with  2-3 bay leaves,  salt and pepper, and a little crushed pepper for some heat.  Let everything simmer for about 10 minutes, until the veggies are tender.

I love to add ham to my corn chowder.  I have tried using sliced ham from the deli, but it is way too thin, so I get a little creative.  I bought a ham steak, which is usually about 1/2 inch thick.  It's perfect for cutting into bite-sized pieces.  Stir in some fresh, chopped parsley.   The last things to add are the evaporated milk and the light cream.  The cream is totally optional.  I think it gives the soup a little richness, but it is totally up to you.

Pour in on can of evaporated milk, and about 1/2 cup of light cream.   I don't know about you, but when the word "chowder" is in the title, the soup should be thick, so I mix about 2 Tbs of corn starch with some water.  Add in, a little at a time, and stir.  It will thicken up pretty fast.  Only add the amount you need to attain the thickness you like.

Not to sound like a broken record, but make sure you taste the soup all along the way, to make sure the flavors are right.  I found I needed to add more dried chopped onion, because the cooked onion didn't provide enough flavor.   When all was said and done, it really was the perfect bowl of corn chowder!

Squash stuffed with squash!

I really wanted to try to come up with a different stuffing recipe this time.  I went on line and must have read 100 recipes, but they were all basically the same.  Rice, nuts, onions, cheese, meat, veggies,  beans, etc...but nothing interesting and different.  So I put my thinking cap on and thought about what would make it different.  Pasta?  maybe.  I kept going back to the idea of using croutons, the way I did when I made stuffed peppers.  Then it came to me.  I had a whole pan of the bread pudding that I made on Sunday and knew that it would be perfect in my stuffing, and what a great way to use it up!  If you wanted to, you could cube some nice bread and lightly moisten it with an egg/milk mixture, and season with salt and pepper.  Whether you use croutons or the bread, it will come out perfectly!

And the ingredients are:

Acorn Squash - bake first, remove squash
Butternut Squash - diced and roasted
Sweet Italian Sausage - remove casings and cook
1/4 cup Craisins
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup chopped pancetta
cubed fresh Mozzarella
maybe a cup of shredded Parmesan cheese
1/4-1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp sage
salt and pepper
croutons (in this case I had leftover bread pudding that I cut up and used)

The first thing to do is cook the acorn squash.  Cut it in half, scoop out the seeds, and place cut side down in a pan with a little water.  Bake at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until the squash is soft and easy to scoop out.  You should also cut up one butternut squash and roast with a little olive oil and salt and pepper.  You could put both in the same oven, but have the butternut squash on the top rack.


While they are roasting away, take a package of sweet Italian sausage, remove the casings and cook.

Add the sausage to a large bowl.  Combine the craisins, pine nuts, and dried chopped onion, and whatever you chose to use as your "bread".  I had some panchetta in the fridge, so I diced a couple of slices and tossed it in.   If you don't have pancetta, no worries.   You could just go with the sausage.  You could also add bacon bits if you had them.  That is what is so great about stuffing.....there is no right or wrong!

Keep in mind that I never measure ingredients when I make a stuffing.  I tried to watch how much I put in and guessed at the approximate measurements for those of you who really like exact amounts.... You really have to taste it to know how much you need to add.  For example, I began with a small amount of sage because it can be over-powering sometimes.  When I tasted the stuffing, I thought it needed quite a bit more.

I keep building this stuffing, adding the roasted butternut squash, some shredded Parmesan cheese, and even some cubed fresh Mozzarella.  If you don't have the cheese, substitute another type, or you could simply leave it out all together.  This is what is so good and fun about making up a can add as much or as little as you like of whatever you like!

The last ingredient is the acorn squash.  I took a fork and loosened it, and add it to the bowl.  Season with salt and pepper.

Only thing left is to taste, and holy cow.  It was so good!  I could have eaten it right out of the bowl!   I put the two hollowed-out squash in a roasting pan and piled the filling in.

Bake them for about 20 minutes or so.   The cheese should be melted and the tops are just a little browned.

The squash was so large, I cut each one in half .  My idea of squash-stuffed squash was a total success. Have fun experimenting, using whatever you have on hand.