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Saturday, September 29, 2012

These Are a Few of My Favorite...Soups!

We are fast approaching the start of Soup Month 2012 and I am so excited about the great soups, stews, chili and gumbo recipes that we will be introducing.  The selections include something for everyone, from spicy chili, to a variety of seafood chowders, to hearty vegetable soups and a couple of elegant soups for your holiday dinner menus.

My family has been a big part of the soup selection this year with all 3 of my daughters and my husband choosing a few soups that they wanted to try.  All of us love soup, but each of us has our favorite variety.  My oldest daughter loves old-world style rustic soups so anything with mushrooms, mussels or clams is her ideal soup.  The girl in the middle loves bean soups and anything spicy, while my youngest is the exact opposite.  She prefers smooth and creamy bisque-type soups.  For my husband, he is easy to please and will try anything but he leans towards the seafood soups like cioppino and the spicy creole-style soups.  So these are the recipes we have in store for you, a little bit of everything!

Before we get started with Soup Month, I wanted to showcase a few of our favorite soups from the past 3 years of "October is Soup Month".  These are soups that we enjoy on a regular basis and are often requested by my kids, so they have all been kid-approved.  I hope you join us for Soup Month are please do tell all of your friends and family to visit the site to find their own new favorite soup.

French Onion Soup -

Hot and Sour Soup -

Smoky Shrimp and Chorizo Soup -

Swai and Sweet Potato Chowder -

Golden Potato Soup with Spicy Shrimp -

Cincinnati Chili -

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Crock Pot Spaghetti Sauce

Someone asked me if there were any foods that I don't cook from scratch.  They meant this in a joking manner, but I had several foods that quickly came to mind. Spaghetti sauce and tomato sauce are two of them.  I have to tip my hat to all of the Italians out there who gather up dozens of tomatoes, steam the skins off of them and spend hours in the kitchen stirring and seasoning their wonderful sauces. Somehow, even though I have tried to make my own tomato sauce, I just don't have the time and patience to do it.  What an exhausting project!

On the other hand, if you're serving spaghetti, you're going to need some sauce, so off to the store you go.  In our grocery there are no less than 15 different varieties of pasta sauce.  Each contains tomatoes and spices, some have meat or cheese, and one even claimed vodka as its' secret ingredient.  The main ingredient that all of the sauces share is sugar, and a lot of it, up to 10 grams per serving.

Although tomatoes naturally contain some sugar, additional sugar is not necessary.  Adding sweet onions and green peppers to your sauce will deliver a fresh flavor with just a touch of sweetness.

As far as cost, the above mentioned sauces ranged in price from around $1 for the bargain can, up to $7 per jar. ( $7 for a jar of pasta sauce!! That's just crazy!)  To save yourself  a bunch of money and serve a pasta sauce that's much healthier, look for sales on large cans of diced tomatoes, tomato sauce or tomato paste.  These are all you need to create the base to a wonderful spaghetti sauce.  Next, pull out the crock pot or slow cooker and a handful of Italian spices, an onion and some green pepper and you're on your way to a delicious dinner.  Prep for this meal is only about 20 minutes and the crock pot will take care of the rest.  Enjoy!!

1 lb  Italian Sausage
1/2 lb  Ground Sirloin
1 medium  Yellow Onion, chopped
1 large Green Pepper, chopped
12 Baby Portobello Mushrooms, chopped
1 28 oz can Diced Tomatoes with Basil and Oregano, drained
1 15 oz can Tomato Sauce
2 TB  Minced Garlic
1 tsp  Dried Oregano
2 tsp  Onion Powder
1 tsp  Salt
1/2 tsp  Ground Black Pepper
Regular or Whole Wheat Spaghetti, cooked

In a large skillet brown the sausage and ground beef until fully cooked.

Pour the cooked sausage and beef into a slow cooker followed by the chopped onions, peppers and mushrooms, then add all of the remaining ingredients.  Cook on LOW for 6 - 8 hours and serve over cooked pasta with a sprinkle of shaved Parmesan cheese.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Tomato-Rice Meatballs

This recipe has been in my family for so long, I don't think any of us know its true origin, but it has always been one of the top requested meals from all of the husbands in the family!

This is one of the rare recipes in which I use a store bought soup.  I try to avoid most canned soups because of the high levels of sodium they contain and although this soup does deliver a fair amount of sodium, using the one can of soup to serve 6 to 8 people keeps the levels pretty reasonable. 

I'm adding this meal to a new category of Blue Plate Special dinners since it is one of the family favorites of comfort foods.  It also has that old-fashioned diner-like feel to it.  The meatballs, which are a basic meatloaf-type mixture, are browned and then coated in a mixture of the tomato-rice soup and melted American cheese. Some stores only carry this soup during the winter months and rotate it out during the summer, so if your local market does not have it in stock, try asking the store manager,  Most stores will gladly add requested products to their shelves.  This is a simple recipe than your whole family will love.

2 lbs  Ground Sirloin
1/4 cup  Finely Minced Onion
1  Large Egg
2 cups  Dry Cubed Bread
1/2 tsp  Ground Black Pepper
1/2 tsp  Kosher Salt
1 tsp  Garlic Powder
1/2 tsp  Dried Oregano
1 can  Campbell's Tomato-Rice Condensed Soup
3/4 cup  Beef Stock
6 - 8 Slices  American Cheese

In a large bowl combine sirloin, onion, egg and the dry spices, mixing until fully blended.  Form the beef mixture into 6 or 8 slightly flattened meatballs. 

Place the meatballs in a large skillet, cover, and brown on both sides over medium-high heat.  When the meatballs are browned, drain the pan drippings, reduce heat to low, and move the meatballs to one side of the pan.  Add the soup and beef broth to the skillet and blend with a spoon.  Then coat the patties with the sauce and rearrange the meatballs evenly in the pan.

Place a 1/2 slice of cheese on each meatball and place the remaining cheese in the sauce, stirring until the cheese is melted.  Pour additional sauce over the meatballs as needed.  Serve with garlic mashed potatoes and steamed spinach.  Serves 6 to 8.  Enjoy!!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Crustless Quiche

Crustless quiche or egg casserole?  Regardless of the name, this fluffy egg dish with a mild green chili and spinach filling makes a delicious breakfast or brunch, or in this case a great weeknight meal. 

Since most mornings we are way too busy to fix a "fancy" meal, serving breakfast for dinner is something our family has always enjoyed.  Eggs are a great comfort food and they are also an inexpensive way to feed a family.  Plus with this dish, you'll even have leftovers for a quick breakfast.

12 Eggs
1/2 cup  Flour
1 1/4 tsp  Baking Powder
1/4 cup  Butter
4 oz can  Diced Green Chilies
1 pkg  Frozen Spinach, defrosted and water squeezed out
1 cup  Large Curd Cottage Cheese
2 1/2 cups  Grated Cheddar Cheese

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Melt butter in a glass 13 x 9 inch baking dish and set aside.

In a large bowl beat the eggs until blended, then add all of the remaining ingredients and stir until combined.  Pour the mixture into the baking dish and bake for 25 - 35 minutes or until golden on top and the center is set.

Serve with salsa, sour cream or hot sauce, a side of roasted potatoes and your favorite sausage or bacon.  Makes 8 servings.  Enjoy!!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Grilled Pork Roast with Cherry-Balsamic Sauce

This week I found some beautiful dark cherries on sale at the store and I decided to attempt a recipe that I've been thinking about for a long time.  I've always thought that cherries would taste great with a pork roast and cooking the pork on the grill would add a nice smoky flavor, too.  So that was the inspiration for this dish.

Starting with a simple red wine, balsamic vinegar and sweet cherry base, the addition of some molasses gave the sauce a nice rustic quality that was absolutely amazing.  You could taste each component of the sauce, and when combined with the light rub on the pork the dish was just full of flavor.  Not only that, the picky-eater in the family even asked for seconds!!  That is the best compliment a Mom could ask for.

2 lb  Pork Loin Roast, blade end if possible
1 tsp  Kosher Salt
1 tsp  Garlic Powder
1/2 tsp  Dried Thyme
1/2 tsp  Paprika
1/4 tsp  Dry Mustard
1/4 tsp  Chipotle Powder
1/4 tsp  Ground Black Pepper

Allow the pork roast to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before applying the rub.

In a small bowl, combine all of the dry spices then apply the rub evenly over the entire roast.

Heat grill to the highest heat setting and place the roast on the grill.  Sear the outside of the roast on all sides, turning several times, cooking for about 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to a medium-low temperature, around 400 degrees.  Cook the roast for about 20 minutes longer, until the meat reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees.

While the roast is cooking prepare the cherry balsamic sauce.

1 cup  Cherries, pitted and cut into small pieces
3 TB  Water
1/4 cup  Dry Red Wine
2 TB  Balsamic Vinegar
3 TB  Molasses
1/2 tsp  Dried Thyme
1/2 tsp  Kosher Salt
1 1/2 TB  Cornstarch
2 TB  Water
1 TB  Salted Butter

In a medium saucepan combine the cherries, 3 tablespoons water, wine, vinegar, molasses, thyme and salt.  Bring mixture to a simmer and cook for about 12 minutes, stirring frequently.

(At this point the sauce has thickened slightly, and can be used at this stage, but adding the cornstarch and water the mixture will be a more sauce-like consistency.)  Use a small bowl to combine the cornstarch and water, then slowly drizzle the cornstarch mixture into the simmering sauce while stirring.  When the sauce has thickened add the butter and remove the pan from the heat.

When the roast is finished cooking, slice the meat on an angle and top the slices with the cherry-balsamic sauce.  Enjoy!!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

October is Soup Month - 31 Soup Recipes in 31 Days

Can you believe it's already September?  Even though the summer heat is lingering here in Florida, the cooler days will soon be upon us.  As I wait for those cooler temperatures to arrive, I'm already looking forward to our 4th Annual Soup Month in October. Nothing is more satisfying than a bowl of hot soup on a chilly night and we have some great new soups for you to try this year.

Be sure to check back daily during the month of October and discover a new soup, stew, chili or chowder recipe each day.  We have a delicious variety of soups lined up for you to try.  From hearty harvest vegetable and delicate oriental soups to elegant soups suitable for Thanksgiving dinner, we'll even throw in a couple new versions of chili and stews to round out the month.

To make sure you don't miss any of the recipes, just LIKE us on Facebook by clicking the link at the top right and your daily recipe will be sent to you on Facebook.  Thanks for visiting and we look forward to you joining us for Soup Month 2012!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Chicken Pot Pie with Sweet Potato Crust

Some people would call this peasant food or comfort food, but everyone enjoys a home cooked pot pie.   I've always loved to cook chicken pot pies because you can change the ingredients in the filling and take the flavor in a totally different direction.  And that's exactly what we did with this dish.  This is a very easy and tasty way to use up leftover sweet potatoes and chicken into one yummy pie.

For this pot pie I used some leftover baked chicken, sweet baby peas and a generous cup of little pearl onions, with a quick sauce of milk and white wine/herb broth.  I actually cooked the onions in the broth for a bit so the onion flavor would blend into the sauce.

The topping for this pie was going to be something special.  A creamy blend of leftover mashed sweet potatoes, butter, flour and egg proved to be a delicious crust, and it was a nice change from the traditional crust.

This is also a great "plan-ahead" meal that will save you time in the kitchen.  By baking a chicken for Sunday night dinner, and serving mashed sweet potatoes on the side, you already have the two main ingredients of this dish ready to go for a quick weeknight meal. 

For the Crust
2 cups  Mashed Sweet Potatoes
1/3 cup  Butter, melted
1  Egg
1 1/2 cups  Flour
1 1/2 tsp  Baking Powder
1 tsp  Salt

In a medium bowl combine the potatoes, butter and egg; stir until combined.  Blend in the flour,  baking powder and salt and stir until you have a smooth mixture.  Set aside.

To Prepare the Pot Pie
3 cups  Diced Cooked Chicken  (or use leftover turkey)
1 cup  Cooked Peas  (or peas and carrots)
1 cup  Frozen Small Pearl Onions
1 cup  Milk
1 cup  College Inn White Wine & Herb Broth
3 TB  Flour
1 tsp  Salt
1/2 tsp  Black Pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Lightly butter the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch casserole dish and arrange the chicken followed by the peas in an even layer.  Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, combine the milk, broth and pearl onions and cook over medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes until warm, but not boiling.  Add the flour, salt and pepper to the broth mixture, blending well.  Cook until thickened, stirring constantly.

Pour the mixture over the chicken and peas in the casserole dish, then drop tablespoons of the sweet potato batter on top of the pot pie, lightly smoothing the mixture to fully cover the top of the pie.

Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the sweet potato crust is slightly browned and solid.  Enjoy!!