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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Canadian Beer and Cheddar Soup

We're already half way through our month of soups and today we have something really special.  For day 16 of Soup Month 2014 we made a Canadian Beer Cheese Bisque that combines the flavors of a strong cheddar cheese with the malty goodness of a light ale beer and the taste is truly remarkable.

This old, handwritten recipe was dubbed as "Canadian", but we chose a British cheese and an English pub-style beer as the base for the soup.  The interesting part of this soup is how the small amount of carrot, celery and green pepper that are added really bring forward just the slightest amount of sweetness and flavor, allowing the cheese and beer to be the main focus of the soup.  Also, since the beer is warmed before being added to the soup, the beer flavor is right up front and not hidden, which is the case if the beer is cooked down and the alcohol is cooked off.

This Beer Cheese Soup can be serve on its own with a loaf of crunch bread or as a side dish it would taste great with a steak or even grilled fish or seafood.  Enjoy!!

4 cups  Chicken Broth
1 TB  Finely Minced Carrot
1 TB  Finely Minced Celery
2 TB  Flour
2 TB  Salted Butter, melted
7 oz  Londoner Cheddar Cheese, grated
1/8 tsp  White Pepper
1/2 tsp  Salt
1/2 tsp  Worcestershire Sauce
1 TB  Finely Minced Green Pepper
1 cup  Boddingtons Ale, heated until just warm

In a medium soup pot heat the chicken broth over medium heat for 5 minutes or until just warm.  Add the carrot and celery to the broth and continue heating to a simmer.

In a small bowl combine the flour and melted butter until smooth, then whisk the mixture into the stock until smooth and blended.  Slowly add the cheese to the broth, followed by the pepper, salt and Worcestershire sauce and stir until the cheese has completely melted into the broth.

Add the green pepper to the soup then remove the pot from the heat.  Slowly pour the warm ale into the soup, stirring continuously until blended, and serve immediately.  Makes about 6 servings.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Irish Cream of Potato Soup with Bacon and Chives

For day 15 of Soup Month 2014 we made what could be the best Cream of Potato Soup I've ever tasted.  This delicious soup comes from an old collection of Irish recipes and even though the original recipe is over 70 years old, after tasting the soup I wouldn't change a thing.  Not only is this soup delicious, it is elegant enough to be served at your Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner.  It's that good!

Some potato soups come across as think and heavy, but this soup is light, creamy and luxurious.  A light sprinkle of chives and cooked bacon are the perfect finishing touches.  We served the soup as a side dish with grilled New York strip steaks and it was an excellent change from the usual baked potato.  Enjoy!!

1/4 cup  Salted Butter
1 large  Yellow Onion, chopped
1-1/2 lbs (about 6) Potatoes, peeled and chopped
3-1/2 cups  Chicken Stock
3-1/2 cups  Milk
1-1/4 cup  Half and Half
1/2 lb  Bacon, chopped and cooked
1 tsp  Salt
1/2 tsp  Ground Black Pepper
1/8 tsp  White Pepper

Melt the butter in a large saucepan and fry the onion until softened, but not browned.  Add the potatoes, stock, and milk, and season with salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent the potatoes from sticking.

Puree the soup using an immersion blender, or use a stand blender, until the soup is completely smooth.  Taste and adjust the seasoning, if needed, and stir in the half and half.  Bring the soup just to a boil then remove from the heat.  Ladle into soup bowls and garnish with chives and the cooked bacon.  Serves about 8.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Shrimp and Chorizo Soup

For day 14 of Soup Month 2014 we made a Shrimp and Chorizo Soup that combines spicy chorizo sausage with fire-roasted tomatoes and fresh shrimp in a white wine broth.  With just a hint of smoky paprika in the background, the broth really completes the soup beautifully.  A loaf of crusty French bread and a glass of white wine are all that's needed to make this a delicious, hearty meal.

This soup is very easy to prepare and features one of my favorite ingredients, chorizo.  (If you are not a fan of spicy chorizo, you could also substitute a mild kielbasa or Italian sausage.)  After a quick saute, the sausage is cooked along with garlic, onion, potatoes and tomatoes and gently simmered to blend all of the flavors.  The shrimp is added to the soup during the last 10 minutes and dinner is ready.  Enjoy!!

1 TB  Olive Oil
1 lb  Chorizo Sausage Links, sliced 3/4-inch thick
1 stalk  Celery, thinly sliced
1/4 cup  Finely Chopped Onion
1 tsp  Minced Garlic
1/4 tsp  Smoked Paprika
5  Medium Red Potatoes, peeled and quartered
1 14.5 oz can  Fire-Roasted Diced Tomatoes with Garlic
1/2 cup  White Wine
1 cup  Water
Fresh Chopped Parsley for Garnish

In a large soup pot, over medium-high heat, saute the chorizo in the oil for 4 minutes, until just beginning to brown.  Add the celery, onion, garlic and paprika to the pan and cook until the vegetables are tender.

Add the red potatoes, tomatoes, white wine and water to the pot and bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.

Remove the pot from the heat, add the shrimp, pushing them gently down into the broth.  Cover the pot and let sit for 10 minutes while the shrimp steam.  Remove the lid and check to make sure the shrimp are nice and pink, sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Cabbage, Andouille and Rice Soup

For day 13 of Soup Month 2014, we used a spicy Cajun Andouille Sausage in our Cabbage, Andouille and Rice soup.  This soup gets a big boost of flavor from the sausage, so buying a good quality sausage is important and will add a tremendous amount of pepper and garlic to the broth.

This is a hearty, warm-you-up kind of soup and I couldn't help but think how delicious it would be on a cold, snowy Midwestern night.

What makes this soup taste even better is that it can be prepared in just about 30 minutes.  Cooking the rice in a separate pan, while you prepare the rest of the soup, saves a lot of time and yet all of the flavors really pop when they come together.  Serve this soup with a cold dark German beer, such as Beck's Dark.  Enjoy!!

2 cups  Chicken Broth
1 cup  Rice Select Organic Jasmati Rice, you can also use basmati or any long-grain rice
1 TB  Canola Oil
1 lb  Cajun Andouille Sausage, or another spicy sausage, thinly sliced
1 medium  Yellow Onion, thinly sliced
1/2 large  Green Cabbage, cored and thinly sliced
5 cups  Chicken Broth
1/4 tsp  White Pepper
Salt and Ground Black Pepper

In a medium saucepan, combine 2 cups of broth with the rice and bring to a simmer.  Cover and cook over low heat for 18 - 20 minutes, or until the rice is tender.

Meanwhile, in a large soup pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Add the sausage and cook until lightly browned, about 5 minutes.  Add the onion and cabbage to the pot and cook until softened, about 6 minutes.  Add the remaining 5 cups of chicken broth and the white pepper and bring to a simmer.  Cook over medium-low heat until the cabbage is tender, about 12 minutes.  Season with salt and a generous amount of black pepper, stir in the rice and serve.  Makes about 8 servings.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Slow Cooker Italian Tomato Tortellini Soup

For day 12 of Soup Month 2014 we used our handy slow cooker to make this hearty Italian Tomato Tortellini Soup and the results were delicious.  If you're in need of a fast and easy "go-to" recipe for a weeknight dinner, this is the one.

With just a couple of simple ingredients, and a few hours to slow cook all of the flavors together, this soup tastes like something that must have taken hours to prepare, and it did, but the slow cooker does all of the work for you!

The slow cooking allows the vegetables and spices to blend into a delicious and flavorful broth, then the only thing left to do is add the frozen tortellini during the last hour of cooking and dinner is ready. Serve with a loaf of crunch bread and a side salad for a complete dinner.  Enjoy!!

1 28-oz can  Diced Tomatoes with Garlic, Basil and Oregano
32 oz  Chicken  or  Vegetable Broth
3  Green Onions, chopped
1  Green Pepper, chopped
1  Yellow Onion, chopped
1 tsp  Dried Oregano
1 tsp  Garlic Powder
19 oz bag  Frozen 3-Cheese Tortellini

Combine the tomatoes, broth, green pepper, green and yellow onions, oregano and garlic powder in the slow cooker.  Heat on HI for 1 hour, reduce heat to LOW and cook for 3 - 4 hours.  (For all day cooking, set the slow cooker to LOW and cook for 6 hours.)

During the last hour of cooking, add the tortellini to the pot, cover and cook until the tortellini are tender, about 60 minutes, stirring once after 30 minutes.   Enjoy!!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Mexican Pork, Poblano and Serrano Stew

So far this month we've worked our way through several new soups and one new chili, so it's time to add a stew to the mix.  For day 11 of Soup Month 2014, we made a quick and easy Mexican Pork, Poblano and Serrano Chili Stew.  This is a great way to make something different than the usual tacos for a Mexican dinner night and, it won't take very long to prepare.  This meal can be ready to serve in less than an hour.

My favorite part of this recipe is the mix of the mild poblano peppers and the spicier Serrano peppers, and the way they come together to create such a bright pop of flavor.  Some people have told me they hesitate to buy fresh peppers at the grocery because they see a price $3.99 per pound for Serrano peppers and they think this is too much to spend.  The reality is, since you only use 2 or 3 Serrano peppers, and they weigh very little, those peppers are going to cost you around 60 cents.  Very little cost, but lots of fresh flavor.  That's a bargain.

We served our Mexican Pork Stew with a scoop of steamed white rice, or you could use brown rice, and a squeeze of fresh lime juice over the top.  We even tried a spoonful of Spicy Guacamole with this and it was delicious.  Serve with warm corn tortillas on the side and Enjoy!!

2 TB  Olive Oil
2 lbs  Pork Tenderloin, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
Salt and Ground Black Pepper
1 large  Yellow Onion, thinly sliced
3 large  Poblano Peppers, seeds removed and thinly sliced
2 or 3  Serrano Pepper, remove seeds for mild flavor or leave in for more spice, thinly sliced
3 TB  Minced Garlic
1 TB  Chili Powder
1-1/2 tsp  Cumin
2 cups  Chicken Broth
Lime Wedges, Corn Tortillas and Steamed Rice for serving

In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil over high heat until shimmering.  Season the pork with salt and pepper and add the pork to the pot.  Cook the meat over high heat, stirring occasionally, until browned on the edges, about 5 minutes.

Add the onion, peppers, garlic, chili powder and cumin to the pot and stir.  Continue to cook the vegetables over high heat until softened, about 5 minutes.

Add the broth to the pot and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium-low, cover the pot with the lid slightly ajar, and simmer until the pork is tender and the broth is reduced by about half, about 20 minutes.

Season the stew with salt and pepper, if needed, and serve with steamed rice, lime wedges and warm corn tortillas.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Firehouse Chili

Since today is Friday we wanted to bring you something hot and spicy for the upcoming weekend.  For day 10 of Soup Month 2014 we made a hot and spicy batch of Firehouse Chili.  This is the perfect chili to serve guests for your next football weekend but be warned, it is spicy!!  Hence the very appropriate name, Firehouse Chili.

We served this chili two ways, on its own with a dollop of sour cream and some Fritos, which taste fabulous with the chili, and the kids scooped their chili over cooked spaghetti with a sprinkle of grated cheddar on top.  Both versions were spicy and yummy and the kids gave this chili 3 thumbs up.

As is usually the case, a good batch of chili does take some extra time to prepare, but that extra time is well worth the wait once you taste the chili.  This recipe uses cubes of chuck roast, which gives the chili a hearty, meaty base. The meat is browned and slow cooked with a mixture of beef stock and tomato sauce, then the spices are added at two different points in the cooking process.  This allows the first round of spices to absorb into the meat and the second round brightens the flavor and brings all of the spices together.

This is a great bowl of chili and we will definitely be making it for Super Bowl Sunday.  Enjoy!!

2 TB  Minced Garlic
1 TB  Olive Oil
2 lbs  Chuck Roast, diced into 1-inch cubes
2-1/2 cups  Beef Stock
8 oz   Roasted Garlic Tomato Sauce

1 TB  Paprika
1 TB  Chili Powder
1 TB  Garlic Powder
1/2 tsp  Cayenne Pepper
1/2 tsp  Ground Black Pepper

1 TB  Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning
1 tsp  Cumin
2 tsp  Onion Powder
1 small  Onion, diced
1 can  Pinto Beans, drained

Fritos or Corn Chips, for scooping
Sour Cream and Grated Cheddar for Garnish, optional
Cooked Spaghetti, optional

In a large stockpot over medium heat, saute garlic in olive oil until tender.  Turn heat to high and add the beef to the pan, stirring occasionally until browned.  Add the beef stock and tomato sauce to the pan and stir.  Lower heat to medium, cover and cook at a low boil for 10 minutes.

Add the paprika, chili powder, garlic powder, cayenne, and black pepper to the pot, stir to combine then lower heat and simmer for 1 hour.

After the chili has cooked for an hour, add the remaining ingredients to the pot, stir and cook for an additional 30 - 45 minutes over low heat, until the meat is fork tender.

This is a spicy chili an

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Quick Asian Pork Soup

For day 9 of Soup Month 2014 we made a Quick Asian Pork Soup that has the most amazing flavor! This soup is so easy to make it would make a great weeknight meal, and you won't spend a lot of time in the kitchen.  The leftovers will even make a delicious lunch for you to take to work.

With hints of flavor from ginger, garlic, and a bit of red pepper flakes, the real flavor booster for this soup is the fish sauce.  Although generally used for fish soups and seafood entrees, especially in Thai cuisine, fish sauce can be added to so many foods that need just a touch of saltiness and an added savory touch.  Fish sauce is a great ingredient to experiment with and it's definitely not just for Asian foods.

To add a bit of heartiness to the soup we used savoy cabbage, which is a bit sweeter than regular green cabbage, sliced mushrooms for an earthy taste, and lean pork loin cut into thin strips.

As I mentioned, this soup is very quick to make, with preparation time at just about 30 minutes start to finish.  The soup is a hearty meal by itself or can be served with Homemade Egg Rolls on the side.  Enjoy!!

1 TB  Peanut Oil
1-1/4 lb  Boneless Pork Loin, cut into thin bite-sized strips
8 oz  Button Mushrooms, cleaned and cut into thick slices
1 TB  Minced Garlic
1 tsp  Minced Ginger
1/2 tsp  Salt
1/4 tsp  White Pepper
1/4 tsp  Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
2 cups  Shredded Savoy Cabbage
2  Green Onions, thinly sliced
5 cups  Chicken Broth
2 tsp  Fish Sauce

In a medium soup pot, heat the peanut oil over medium heat, add the pork and cook 3 - 4 minutes, or until most of  the pink color is gone.  Remove the pork from the pan and set aside.

Add the mushrooms, garlic, ginger, salt, white pepper and red pepper flakes to the pan and saute until the mushrooms are tender, about 3 - 4 minutes.

Add the pork back to the pan, then add the cabbage, green onions, chicken broth and fish sauce.  Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until the cabbage is tender, about 8 - 10 minutes.  Makes 4 - 6 servings.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Egg Drop Soup

For day 8 of Soup Month 2014 we have a simple but delicious Egg Drop Soup.  Sometimes a simple soup is just what you need after a long day at work, and this soup is one of my favorites just for that reason.  It's ready to serve in just a few minutes.

This delicate soup tastes great on its own but if you prefer a bit more spice, a generous dash of Sriracha sauce can be added, or you can increase the amount of white pepper.  We did not add any extra salt to this recipe since there is plenty of salt in the chicken broth, but you can adjust this to your own taste at the end of the recipe and add a bit of salt.  If you are watching your sodium intake, low-sodium chicken stock can also be used in place of the regular.

Serve this soup with a few Homemade Shrimp Egg Rolls on the side for a delicious Asian meal that tastes even better than carry out.  Enjoy!!

6 cups  Chicken Broth, refrigerated
3-1/2 tb  Cornstarch
1-1/2 tsp  Fresh Ground Ginger
1/4 tsp  Garlic Powder
2  Large Eggs
2  Egg Whites
3/4 tsp  Sesame Oil
3  Green Onions, sliced thin
Salt and White Pepper to Taste, optional

In a medium saucepan, whisk together the chicken stock, cornstarch, ginger and garlic powder until combined.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally.

While the soup is heating, whisk the eggs and egg whites in a small bowl.

Once the broth reaches a boil, remove from the heat.  Use a fork or whisk to stir the broth while slowly pouring the egg mixture into the soup.  Stir in the sesame oil and green onions until combined and season to taste with salt and white pepper.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Polish Sausage and Cabbage Soup

For day 7 of Soup Month 2014, I prepared a special soup for my husband after his request for a soup made with Polish sausage.  This Polish Sausage Soup with Cabbage is a hearty bowl of soup that will warm you up on the coldest of winter nights.

Cabbage, carrots and potatoes are a timeless combination when it comes to making soup and they are used together in nearly every ethnic cuisine.  Almost any meat can be added to turn these basics into a soup, such as corned beef, pork country ribs, kielbasa or sausage.  The choice mostly depends on what your family cooked when you were growing up.  That's what makes comfort food like this taste even better.

For this soup we were lucky to come across some locally made Polish sausage that was perfectly seasoned with lots of black pepper, garlic and just a hint of marjoram.  The seasonings in the sausage plus the tang of cider vinegar and just a bit of sweetness from brown sugar give the broth a wonderful old world flavor.  Enjoy!!

1 medium head  Cabbage, coarsely chopped
1 medium  Yellow Onion, chopped
2 TB  Minced Garlic
2 TB  Olive Oil
6 cups  Chicken Stock
2 TB  Cider Vinegar
1 TB  Brown Sugar
1 lb  Polish Sausage, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
4 medium  Potatoes, peeled and cubed
3 large  Carrots, peeled and chopped
1/2 tsp  Salt
1/2 tsp  Ground Black Pepper, or more to taste

In a large soup pot over medium-high heat, saute the cabbage, onion and garlic in the oil for 5 - 7 minutes or until tender.  In a small bowl, combine the water, vinegar and brown sugar, then add the mixture to the pot.

Stir in the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for about 30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Creamy Broccoli Soup

For day 6 of Soup Month 2014 we made a classic Creamy Broccoli Soup.  This soup is easy to make and is a great side dish in place of the traditional vegetables.  It's also very good when served with a baked chicken, pork roast or just a simple salad.

Also, if your children are not crazy about eating broccoli as a vegetable, try it in this soup. With a sprinkle of cheese on top and a creamy smooth texture, this might be another way to get them to eat more veggies.  Adding a few croutons on top will add a little crunch, too.

If you would like to make this soup a bit more hearty, add in a few sprinkles of cooked and chopped bacon or ham or any type of grated cheese would taste great in this simple but delicious soup.  Enjoy!!

2 TB Butter
1 medium  Potato, diced
6 cups  Chopped Fresh Broccoli
1  small  Yellow Onion, chopped
1  Green Pepper, chopped
2 TB Flour
6 cups Chicken  or  Vegetable Stock
1 Bay Leaf
1 tsp Dried Thyme
1 tsp Ground Black Pepper
1 Pinch of Nutmeg, optional
3 Egg Yolks, whipped
1 cup Milk
Grated Parmesan Cheese, for garnish

In a large pot, melt the butter and saute the potato over medium-high heat for 7 minutes or until slightly tender.  Add the broccoli, onions and green pepper to the pot and cook until the vegetables are fork tender. When veggies are softened, sprinkle with the flour and stir.

Add the chicken stock, bay leaf, thyme and pepper to the pot and cook the vegetables over medium-low heat for 30 minutes.  Use a stick blender or a regular blender to puree the soup, working in batches if necessary, to the consistency you prefer.  (Sometimes we like to leave the soup with small bits of broccoli visible, but you can also puree the soup until completely smooth.)

Return the soup to the pot and add the pinch of nutmeg and stir. Combine the egg yolks and milk or cream in a small cup, stirring to combine, then add the egg mixture to the soup and stir 3-5 minutes or until the soup is creamy and smooth.

Garnish with a sprinkle of freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Serves 6 - 8.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Gold Potato Soup with Chorizo and Mushroom Ragout

For day 5 of Soup Month 2014 we made a creamy Golden Potato Soup with Chorizo and Mushroom Ragout.  The soup was delicious on its own with just a hint of smoky paprika in the background, but the spoonful of sauteed chorizo and mushrooms on top brings to soup to a whole new level.

This is actually a very frugal soup to make in that you only use a half pound of chorizo, equal to about 2 sausage links, to serve 6 people.

The secret to this soup is the mushrooms, which add a nice earthy flavor to the soup, and pick up the spices from the chorizo to create an old fashioned ragout.  I love to make soups with a spoonful of something special in the center, so this was a really fun soup to create.

We chose to use Yukon gold potatoes to give this soup a beautiful yellow color, and since this variety of potato has less starch, the soup does not have a heavy taste but is full of flavor.  The paprika in the sausage plus just a hint more in the soup create a perfect balance of spices.

2 tsp  Olive Oil
1  Carrot, peeled and diced
1  Celery Stalk, chopped
1 small  Yellow Onion, finely diced
1 TB  Minced Garlic
4 medium  Yukon Gold Potatoes, peeled and finely diced
5 cups  Chicken Broth
1 tsp  Salt
1/2 tsp  White Pepper
1/4 cup  Half and Half
1/4 tsp  Smoked Paprika
1 tsp  Olive Oil
4 oz  Portobello Mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1/2 lb  Chorizo Sausage, casings removed
Chopped Fresh Parsley for Garnish

Heat olive oil in a medium soup pot over medium heat.  Add carrot, celery, onion, and garlic and saute for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the potatoes, broth, salt, white pepper and paprika, and simmer for 15 - 20 minutes or until the potatoes are fork tender.   Add the half and half to the pot, then use an immersion blender (or a stand blender, working in batches if needed) to puree the vegetables until smooth.

While the soup is cooking you can make the ragout.  In a small skillet, heat the olive oil then add the chorizo and brown over medium heat, using a spoon to break up the sausage into small bits.  When the sausage is browned add the mushrooms and continue to cook over medium heat until the mushrooms are tender.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Ladle the pureed soup into wide soup bowls and top with a generous spoonful of the chorizo and mushroom ragout.  Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve.  Makes about 6 dinner servings or 8 - 10 as a first course serving.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Vegan Spinach and Pea Soup

For day 4 of Soup Month 2014 we made a delicious Vegan Spinach and Pea Soup that is packed with nutrient-dense vegetables.  A combination of leeks, onions, carrots and celery provided a healthy base for this soup, and the addition of spinach and peas turn this soup to a beautiful, and healthy, shade of green.

If you're trying to increase the amount of vegetables in your diet or maybe you're following a more "clean-eating" type of regimen, this is a great soup recipe to have on hand.  All of the ingredients are easy to find at your local market and the preparation time is just about 30 minutes.

Although this is a vegan soup, it's easy to transform the soup into something a little more hearty for the meat eaters in your family.  Adding a dollop of sour cream or even a sprinkle of chopped, cooked bacon or ham would be a great way to keep the non-vegans happy, too.  Enjoy!!

1-1/2 TB  Olive Oil
1 large  Leek, white part only, washed and sliced
1 medium  Yellow Onion, sliced
3 medium  Carrots, peeled and sliced
1 stalk  Celery, chopped
1 tsp  Salt
1/4 tsp  White Pepper
1/2 cup  Water
4 cups  Vegetable Broth
1 cup  Frozen Peas
1 7-oz bag  Baby Spinach, stems removed
Garnishes:  Croutons, Sour Cream, Cooked Bacon or Cooked Ham, optional

Heat the olive oil in a medium soup pot over medium-high heat.  Add the leek, onion, carrots, celery, salt and white pepper.  Saute for 3 minutes, then add the water to the pot.

When the water begins to boil add the vegetable broth and bring to a boil again.  Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until the vegetables are very tender.

Add the peas and spinach to the pot and stir until the spinach is wilted.  Remove the the pot from the  heat and use an immersion blender to puree the soup until smooth. (A stand blender can also be used.  Puree the soup in 2 batches, if needed.)  Taste test and adjust the salt and pepper, if needed.

Add garnishes of croutons, sour cream, bacon or ham, if desired.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Chicken and Poblano Chili

For day 3 of Soup Month 2014 we gave ordinary chili a major upgrade with this Chicken and Poblano Chili.  Not only is this a delicious bowl of chili for those cool fall evenings, this chili is even pretty healthy.

This "family-friendly chili" (as in not super spicy) has wonderful layers of flavor starting with the homemade chicken stock (or you could use packaged), and it's well worth the extra time to make your own stock.  The poblanos add a rich medium spice to the chili and the smoked paprika adds a hint of smokey flavor and a beautiful orange-red color.  Since the chili is not overly spicy,  it's perfect for kids, but you can always add the extra chili powder and cumin, as noted below, if you prefer a more spicy chili.

We used great northern beans in this chili because of their delicate flavor and the way they absorb the flavor of the broth.  (If your kids are a little hesitant to eat beans in their chili, try mashing some of the beans into the broth.  Just add a bit of water if the chili becomes too thick.)  Great northern beans can be added to almost any chili or soup and they are a good source of fiber, iron, potassium and protein.

5  Chicken Quarters (leg and thigh), skin removed
4 quarts  Water
2 TB  Olive Oil
1  White Onion, finely diced
1  Poblano Pepper, seeds removed and chopped
2 TB  Minced Garlic
2 TB  Chili Powder  (add 1/2 TB more for more heat)
2 tsp  Cumin (add 1 tsp more for more heat)
2 tsp  Kosher Salt
1 tsp  Ground Black Pepper
1/4 tsp  Smoked Paprika
2 15 oz cans  Great Northern Beans, drained and rinsed
2 TB  Yellow Cornmeal

In a large soup pot, boil the chicken quarters in 4 quarts of water over high heat until fully cooked, and the meat pulls easily from the bone, about 45 - 60 minutes.  Remove chicken from the pot, reserving the chicken stock, and cool until the chicken is cool enough is handle.  Remove the meat from the bones, cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a medium soup pot over medium-high heat.  Add the onion, pepper, garlic, chili powder, cumin, salt, pepper and paprika, and stir to combine.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes.  Add the cooked chicken, beans and 4 cups of the reserved broth to the pot.  (If you do not have enough broth just add a bit of water to equal the 4 cups.)  Simmer over medium-low heat, uncovered, for 20 minutes.

Stir in the cornmeal and simmer until the chili is slightly thickened, about 20 minutes.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Garnish with a sprinkle of diced jalapeno peppers for a little extra spice and a few tortilla chips on the side.  Enjoy!!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Andouille Sausage and Mussel Stew

For our second day of Soup Month 2014 we made a spicy Andouille Sausage and Mussel stew.  Mussels are one of my favorite varieties of shellfish and this dish is a great way to highlight their delicate flavor.

Andouille sausage, which is a type of smoked sausage, is becoming quite popular and is available in a variety of flavors at most supermarkets.  We chose a Cajun variety but any type of Andouille or spicy smoked sausage would work well.

This stew has a rich, flavorful broth similar to the classic San Francisco Cioppino, and is accented with the spices from the sausage and the slight sweetness from the mussels.  We chose Yukon gold potatoes for this stew because they tend to hold their shape and not crumble while cooking and they helped turn this into a hearty one-pot meal.

The stew can be ready to serve in just over 30 minutes and the only things you need to complete this meal are a loaf of crusty French bread, for soaking up all of that delicious broth, and a nice glass of white wine.

14 oz  Andouille Sausage (we used a Cajun variety), casings removed, sausage diced
1 TB  Minced Garlic
1 small  Onion, finely diced
3 cups  Chicken Broth
1-1/4 cups  Dry White Wine
5 - 6 medium  Yukon Gold Potatoes, peeled and diced
14.5 oz can  Diced Tomatoes with Onion and Garlic
1 tsp  Red Pepper Flakes
1 tsp  Salt
1 tsp  Ground Black Pepper
2 lbs  Fresh Mussels, cleaned and beards removed

In a large pot over medium-high heat, brown the sausage for about 5 minutes or until it is beginning to brown.

Add the garlic and onion to the pot and saute 4 minutes until tender.

Add the broth and wine to the pot and stir, then add the potatoes, tomatoes, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.  Continue to cook the stew over medium-high heat until the potatoes are just barely fork tender, but not fully cooked, about 8 minutes.

Add the mussels to the pot, pushing the mussels gently down into the stew, cover and simmer for about 6 minutes or until the mussels are opened.  Uncover the stew and remove any mussels that did not open and discard.

Ladle the stew into wide soup bowls and serve with lots of crusty French bread.  Enjoy!!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Hot and Sour Soup with Shrimp

~~~ Welcome to Soup Month 2014 ~~~

Today is the start of Soup Month, our annual series that will bring you 31 new soup, stew and chili recipes in 31 days.

We have a huge variety of soups coming your way from simple classic soups to economical soups, that will feed your family a healthy meal and allow you to stretch your budget, to elegant soups for your upcoming holiday dinners.  We will even be making a few new batches of chili to serve during football parties and winter events.

So whatever types of soups are your favorite I'm sure we will have something for everyone.  So get your soup pots ready and let's have some fun during Soup Month 2014!

For the first day of Soup Month 2014 we made a spicy Hot and Sour Soup with Shrimp that is better than anything you can get from a takeout restaurant.  This is a unique version of the classic hot and sour soup in that the sour flavor comes from lemon juice instead of vinegar, giving the soup a bright flavor without the lemon being too overpowering.

We spiced up the broth with a mixture of ginger, white pepper and Sriracha sauce, then added shrimp, mushrooms and tofu to complete this hearty Asian inspired soup.  A Homemade Shrimp Egg Roll on the side was the perfect companion for this soup.

This is also a very quick to prepare soup and can be ready to serve in about 30 minutes.  The ingredients are also adjustable to suit your own preferences.  A little more lemon juice will increase the sour level, an extra teaspoon of Sriracha or pinch of white pepper will increase the heat, and more mushrooms or shrimp can be added for a more hearty soup or if you would like to stretch the recipe to serve a few more people.

2 tsp  Peanut Oil
1  Carrot, peeled and cut into small strips
1 tsp  Minced Ginger
6 oz  Fresh Mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
8 oz can  Sliced Bamboo Shoots, drained
4 cups  Chicken Broth
1/3 cup  Soy Sauce
3 TB  Lemon Juice
1 tsp White Pepper (use 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon more for more heat)
1-1/2 to 2 tsp  Sriracha Sauce (or more to taste)
12 oz  Extra Firm Tofu, drained and cut into strips or cubes
1 lb   Medium Raw Shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 TB  Cornstarch
4 TB  Water
2  Large Eggs, beaten
2 TB Green Onions, chopped

In a large saucepan heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Add the carrots and ginger and cook for 3 minutes.  Add the mushrooms and bamboo shoots and cook 3 - 4 minutes or until the mushrooms begin to soften.

Add the broth, soy sauce, lemon juice, white pepper, sriracha, and tofu to the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer 5 minutes. Add the shrimp and cook 2 minutes or until the shrimp are just beginning to turn pink.

Combine cornstarch and water in a small bowl, stirring until smooth. Add cornstarch mixture to pan; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly until the soup thickens slightly. Slowly drizzle the beaten eggs into pan, stirring constantly, to create ribbons in the soup.

Remove from heat and serve with a sprinkle of chopped green onions.  Makes about 6 servings.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

NuWave Oven Italian Pepperoni Chicken Thighs

I'm always looking for new ways to use my NuWave, and cooking chicken is my favorite.  The  NuWave is a great way to roast chicken because so much of the fat is drained off during the cooking process.  The chicken remains moist and tender, but the fat melts off and into the drip pan for easy disposal.  And, by lining the drip pan with heavy duty foil, clean up is fast and easy.

So tonight we tried something new, and this is a super easy recipe for those of you looking for a new way to use your NuWave Oven. We used bone-in chicken thighs and placed two large pepperoni slices under the skin.  Next, a spoonful of garlic olive oil sauce on top added an extra layer of flavor to these perfectly cooked thighs.  Quick and simple, but full of flavor.

8  Chicken Thighs
16  Large Pepperoni Slices

Olive Oil Sauce

1/3 cup  Olive Oil
2 TB  Fresh Minced Garlic
1-1/2 tsp  Dried Oregano, crushed
1 tsp  Garlic Powder
1 tsp  Onion Powder
1/2 tsp  Salt
1/4 tsp  Ground Black Pepper
1/4 tsp  Cayenne Pepper

In a small glass bowl combine all sauce ingredients, stirring until blended.  Let the mixture sit for 15 minutes before applying to the chicken.

Rinse the chicken thighs under cool water and pat dry with paper towels.  Season both sides of the chicken with salt and pepper, then slide two overlapping pepperoni slices under the skin of each thigh, replacing the skin when finished.  Place the thighs skin side down on the 4" rack leaving a bit of space between the pieces, if possible.

Place the heat setting to HI and cook for 12 minutes.  When the timer beeps, turn the thighs over, to skin side up, and brush the tops with the garlic olive oil mixture.  Reset the timer for 12 minutes on HI and press start.  When the timer beeps again check the chicken to make sure the juices are clear and the chicken is cooked through.  If more cooking time is needed, rearrange the chicken pieces to ensure even browning, and add a few extra minutes to the timer.  (The thighs we used were all a medium to large size so I added 3 extra minutes to the cooking time and they turned out beautiful.)

Place the chicken pieces on a platter, drizzle lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with parsley.  Enjoy!!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Baked Pepperoni Rolls

As we approach the end of this incredibly hot and humid summer, I am sooo ready for Fall.  Along with the cooler temperatures and shorter days, we can also look forward to something much more important, the start of football season!  So before the season gets into full swing, this is a great snack to serve at your next football party or as a delicious alternative to homemade pizza.

These tasty little Baked Pepperoni Rolls are like tiny finger-food sized pizzas that are as easy to make as they are to serve.  Add a spoonful of seasoned olive oil dipping sauce on the side and these will be an instant favorite, and the most requested item for future parties!

The Dough setting on my bread machine takes 90 minutes which allows the dough to rise twice.  During that time I have time to prepare the dipping sauce and a salad or other dinner items, and assembly of the rolls only takes about 15 minutes.

Bread Machine Pizza Dough

1 1/2 cups Water
1 1/2 tsp Salt
3 TB Olive Oil
1 tsp  Garlic Powder
1 tsp  Dried Oregano
4 1/2 cups Bread Machine Flour
3 tsp  Bread Machine Yeast

Combine ingredients in your bread machine as outlined in your manual, using a french dough or regular dough setting.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

When the dough is finished, place the dough on a lightly floured cutting board.  Sprinkle the dough with a little extra flour and use a pastry cutter or a sharp knife to cut the dough into about 14 - 16 portions, depending on how large you would like the rolls to be.

For the filling you will need
1 12 oz pkg  Mozzarella Cheese Sticks
1 6 oz pkg  Large 3-inch Pepperoni Slices

Flatten each portion of dough into a 5 inch square.  Place half of a mozzarella cheese stick in the center of a pepperoni slice and wrap the pepperoni around the cheese.  (This will keep the cheese inside of the roll, preventing the cheese from oozing out.)  Place the pepperoni and cheese bundle in the center of a dough square, wrap the edges of the dough inward and roll the dough into a bundle.  Pinch the edges slightly to create a seal and place the roll on a baking sheet, seam side down.  Continue with the remaining rolls.

Olive Oil Dipping Sauce

1/3 cups  Olive Oil
2 TB  Fresh Minced Garlic
1-1/2 tsp  Dried Oregano
1 tsp  Garlic Powder
1 tsp  Onion Powder
1/2 tsp  Salt
1/4 tsp  Ground Black Pepper
1/4 tsp  Cayenne Pepper

In a small glass bowl combine all ingredients, stirring until incorporated.  Let sit for 15 minutes before serving, or this can be prepared an hour in advance.

Brush the rolls generously with the olive oil dipping sauce, transfer the baking sheet to the oven and  bake the rolls for 15 minutes, or until golden brown.  Serve with extra dipping sauce on the side and Enjoy!!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Crispy Chicken Sandwich

During those endless back-to-school shopping trips to the mall, lots of Moms give in to the many, many requests for lunch.  After hearing "I'm hungry" a few too many times, how can we not succumb to all of those requests, especially when you see the Chick-Fil-A sign? Yum.

This is one of the few fast food sandwiches that I enjoy and yes, I know it's fried and not exactly a healthy sandwich, but they just taste so good!  And now you can make them at home.

This is a crispy and perfectly spicy sandwich that is so close, almost exactly, and maybe just a bit better than the mall variety.  With two layers of seasonings you get a combination of hot sauce, lots of pepper and just a bit of cayenne, to create a spicy sandwich with flavor that pops!

This sandwich starts with boneless skinless chicken breasts that are sliced in half horizontally, which allows the chicken fillets to cook quickly.  Next we marinate the chicken in a mixture of buttermilk, Frank's hot sauce and a few seasonings, which adds the first layer of flavor, followed by a quick dredge in seasoned flour.  The addition of a drizzle of buttermilk to the flour mixture adds delicious little crispy pieces to the finished sandwich.  All you need to complete this creation is a whole grain bun, (to keep it a little healthy!), a bit of mayo and a few sliced dill pickles.  Enjoy!!

1-3/4 lbs  Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts, sliced in half horizontally

1 cup  Buttermilk
2 TB  Frank's Hot Sauce
1 tsp  Salt
1/2 tsp  Ground Black Pepper

Dredging Flour Mixture
1-1/3 cups Flour
1 tsp  Seasoned Salt
1 tsp  Ground Black Pepper
1 tsp  Paprika
1-1/2 tsp  Garlic Powder
1-1/2 tsp  Onion Powder
1/2 to 1 tsp  Cayenne Pepper, adjust according to preference
2 TB  Buttermilk

Canola Oil for Frying

Whole Grain Sandwich Buns
Sliced Dill Pickles for Garnish

In a medium glass bowl combine the buttermilk, Frank's sauce and the salt and pepper.  Add the chicken fillets to the buttermilk, turning to evenly coat each piece.  Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes or up to 2 hours, if needed, turning the chicken occasionally.

In a medium bowl combine the flour and the rest of the dry seasonings and stir to combine.  Drizzle the 2 tablespoons of buttermilk into the seasoned flour, stirring lightly with a fork to create small clumps in the batter.

Use tongs to remove the fillets from the marinade, letting the excess liquid drip off.  Dredge each fillet in the flour mixture, pressing down and turning to coat each side, then place the chicken on a platter.  Repeat with the rest of the chicken.

In a large skillet, heat 1/2-inch of oil over medium-high heat until shimmering.  Carefully add two or three pieces of chicken to the pan, without crowding them, and fry for 4 - 5 minutes or until crispy.  Turn the chicken over and cook the other side for about 4 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and juices run clear, being careful not to overcook the chicken. Remove chicken from the pan and place on paper towels to drain.  Serve on sandwich buns with mayonnaise and dill pickle slices.  Enjoy!!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Macaroni and Cheese Stuffed Peppers

Yum!  This was a delicious way to use some of the last green peppers from our garden.  Although you could use any type of macaroni and cheese to stuff these peppers, we knew we wanted to use something with a little spice to blend with the bright fresh flavor of the green peppers, so we chose our favorite, Chipotle Gouda Macaroni and Cheese.

The peppers are super easy to make and this is not so much a recipe as just a guideline for making the stuffed peppers.  These make a great side dish, especially for anything grilled, but they are filling enough to be the main part of a meatless meal, served with a small salad on the side.

This is a also great way to get your kids to enjoy green peppers.  (If it's stuffed with a little mac 'n cheese they might just try it!)   Ideally for this dish try to find large green peppers if you would like to serve just one half per person, but if you can only find the smaller peppers, like the ones from our garden, they will work great, too.  My husband was more than happy to take 2 halves, and I think he even grabbed a 3rd before he was finished..lol.

Large or Medium Green Peppers, cut in half, tops cut off and seeds removed
1 TB  Salt
Your Choice of Prepared Macaroni and Cheese, homemade or packaged will work here too
1/2 cup  Panko Crumbs
1/2 cup  Shredded Parmesan  or Romano Cheese

In a large pot, bring 3 quarts of water to a boil.  Add salt and then add the pepper halves to the water, pushing them down into the pot.

Reduce heat to medium-high and simmer the peppers until they are just flexible, but not overly soft, about 5 - 6 minutes.  Use a slotted spoon to remove the peppers from the pot and place them upside down on a paper towel lined platter to drain.  Allow to cool until easy enough to handle.

In a small bowl combine the panko crumbs and Parmesan cheese, stir and set aside.

Once the peppers are cool, spoon the prepared macaroni and cheese into the pepper halves, pressing lightly to completely fill the peppers.  Sprinkle with the panko and Parmesan mixture and place the peppers in a glass baking dish.

Place the dish of peppers under the broiler for 3 -4 minutes or until browned on top.  Serve immediately and Enjoy!!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Chicken Yakitori Skewers

During these hot summer months my favorite dinners are anything prepared on the grill.  Quick, easy and light dinners and you don't have to heat up the house?  Those are things that make every Mom happy and this meal is something the kids will like, too.

This is a twist on the Japanese classic Chicken Yakatori, which when translated literally means "grilled" (yaki) and "fowl" (tori), which refers to marinated pieces of chicken that are skewered and grilled.  By brushing the skewers several times with a glaze of soy, mirin, sake and just a bit of sugar, you get a light but flavorful coating on the chicken and veggies, and the glaze helps keep the chicken moist and juicy.

We included mushrooms, green onions, and green peppers on our skewers but you could easily change this to use whatever ingredients you already have on hand.  Chunks of regular yellow onion, red or yellow peppers or even slices of summer squash would taste great with the soy and mirin glaze.

The skewers tasted delicious served with steamed brown rice and a package of steamed edamame, which cook quickly in microwave packs and are the perfect finger foods for kids. Enjoy!!

1-1/2 lbs  Boneless and Skinless Chicken Breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
2  Green Peppers, deseeded and cut into chunks
8  Green Onions
16 oz  Mushrooms, any variety such as Portabello or White Button
4 TB  Mirin
4 TB  Soy Sauce
4 TB  Sake
1-1/2 tsp  Sugar
Bamboo Skewers - about 12

Thread the cubes of chicken onto pre-soaked bamboo skewers, alternating with pieces of green onion, green pepper and mushrooms.

In a small bowl combine the mirin, soy sauce, sake and sugar and stir until the sugar is dissolved.

Heat a grill to medium-high heat and brush the skewers with the glaze.  Place the skewers on the grill and cook for 1 minute then turn and apply a second layer of the glaze.  Repeat this process until the chicken is cooked through and the juices run clear, about 6 - 8 minutes.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Cowhorn Pepper Sriracha Sauce

My garden this year has been full of surprises.  The cucumber vines are still producing 1 or 2 new cukes a day, and I wasn't even sure if they would grow, the purple bell peppers were a total experiment and there are still a few more juicy peppers in process, and then there are these cowhorn peppers.

I had never heard of this type of pepper before finding them at Home Depot this spring.  I was ready to cook with lots of peppers this year so I thought I would give this variety a try.

The peppers grew nicely, with most of the fully ripened peppers coming in at about 7 inches long.  The tough part was waiting for them to ripen.  It took almost 3 months before the peppers turned a bright red, but it was worth the wait. As it turns out, this is a delicious pepper to include in any recipe that you might want a little heat.  The peppers are spicy and, although not as hot as a jalapeno, they have this bright flavor that just pops.  I will definitely be growing these peppers again next year.

Now on to the pepper sauce!

Sriracha sauce is a slightly spicy chili pepper sauce that has developed quite a following over recent years.  In the past it was used mainly for cooking Asian cuisine but now you can find bottles of Sriracha on restaurant tables and it is easily found in most grocery stores.  The sauce can be used plain as a dipping sauce, and adds a little zest to anything from burgers and soups to scrambled and deviled eggs.  (My favorite is to add a few spoonfuls of the sauce when cooking scrambled eggs, then add some spinach and a dash of cheese...yum!)

The pepper sauce is very easy to make and the peppers only require an overnight stay in a simple brine mixture before being pureed and the sauce is ready to serve.

Peppers and garlic in the brine mixture.

If you don't have cowhorn peppers this bring mixture will work fine with other types of peppers.  This recipe makes 2 small jars of pepper sauce so it will give you an idea of how you want the next batch to taste.  By adding more or less garlic, or choosing a different type of peppers you can create a pepper sauce that is just the right level of heat for your family.  Enjoy!!

5 or 6  Ripe Cowhorn Peppers, coarsely chopped
4 or 5  Garlic Cloves, whole and peeled
1 tsp  Kosher Salt
1 cup  White Vinegar
2 TB  Sugar

Place all of the ingredients, except the sugar, in a glass bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Allow the peppers to sit at room temperature overnight.

Place the mixture, plus the sugar, in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes.  Remove the pan from the heat and cool to room temperature.

Puree the mixture with an immersion blender until the sauce is as smooth as you would like.  (A regular blender works fine for this step, too.)  You can completely puree the sauce or leave some small bits and pieces of the garlic and peppers.

Deviled Eggs - A few plain for the kids and a few Sriracha Eggs for the adults
Transfer the sauce to glass jars, cover and refrigerate.  The sauce will keep for at least 3 months in the  refrigerator, and probably longer, but we found so many delicious ways to use this sauce it didn't last very long.  Enjoy!!

On the left are the purple bell peppers and on the right are the cowhorn peppers.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Calamari Po'Boy Sandwiches

Until a few years ago I had never tasted calamari.  Growing up in the Midwest, fresh seafood was pretty scarce, and the thought of eating "squid" would have made me cringe, so, I was a little nervous the first time I tried these little rings. Fortunately they had been prepared in a light tempura batter and quickly fried to ensure they were not overcooked, and they were delicious.  (That is the main secret to preparing calamari, don't overcook it or the rings will be rubber bands.)

Since calamari has become so common on restaurant menus, I was looking forward to cooking some at home.  When I spotted calamari on sale at our local fish market, that was just the incentive I needed to give it a try.

For our Calamari Po'Boy Sandwiches we used a double batter.  First the rings are coated in cornmeal, then dipped in an egg wash before being lightly coated in Italian seasoned breadcrumbs.  The result is a crispy coating that cooks fast and doesn't taste heavy.  We used a wok to fry the rings and it worked great to keep the oil at an even temperature, even when cooking multiple batches.

To add a little extra flavor to our Po'Boys we added a few goodies from our garden, a layer of fresh basil leaves and a spoonful of marinated cucumbers.  The cucumbers, with a nice cool sauce, added a delicious contrast to the calamari and all we needed to finish the sandwich was a drizzle of homemade sriracha sauce.


The calamari rings were so good my hubby even made his own snacks while he was waiting for dinner.  A piece of calamari, a slice of cucumber, a little basil leaf and a generous drop of sriracha, and he was a happy man.  Enjoy!!

Cucumber Salad

2 large  Cucumbers, peeled and sliced
1/2 tsp  Salt
Pinch of Black Pepper
1 TB  Minced Chives
1 cup  Sour Cream
1-1/2 TB  Lemon Juice

In a medium glass bowl combine all ingredients, stirring to evenly coat the cucumbers.  Chill for at least 20 minutes before serving.

Fried Calamari Rings

1 lb  Calamari Rings
1/4 cup  Yellow Cornmeal
2  Eggs, beaten
1 cup  Italian Breadcrumbs
Canola Oil for Frying
Whole Sandwich Buns or Hoagie Rolls
Fresh Basil Leaves, washed
Cucumber Salad
Sriracha Sauce, optional

In a large deep pot, or a wok works great if you have one, heat the oil until very hot and shimmering.

Coat the calamari rings in the cornmeal, shaking off any excess breading.  Then dip the rings in the eggs, then into the breadcrumb mixture.  Again, shake off excess breading and lay the rings on a baking sheet.

Carefully drop the rings into the hot oil and cook until golden brown, about 1 - 2 minutes.  Remove the rings with a slotted spoon and place on paper towels to drain.

Place a layer of the basil leaves on the bottom bun, followed by a layer of cucumbers and finally several calamari rings.  A drizzle of sriracha sauce on top adds a little extra spice.  Enjoy!!

Friday, July 18, 2014

99 Fuzzy

We stumbled upon this drink purely by accident, or maybe it was good luck.  Either way this is a delicious cocktail, perfect for these hot summer nights.

When I went to the liquor store to buy some goodies to make our Caribbean Blue Iced Teas, my husband decided to shop with me.  (This should have been a warning to me because this man does not like to shop.)  So off we went.

I was looking for banana liqueur for another recipe I was working on and while I was hunting for the liqueurs, my husband had become the proverbial "kid in the candy store".  He seriously brought me bottle after bottle, and none of them were even close to banana liqueur, just things he thought we might "need".

He had become one of my children right before my eyes.  It was so funny, that I didn't even realize when he brought me this bottle labeled 99 Bananas, that it was not liqueur, but a type of schnapps. So off we went with our shiny bottles, including the 99 Bananas, only to find out the schnapps, in no way, would work in my recipe. Ugh. 

So after a second trip to the store to buy the real banana liqueur, I needed to find a way to use the 99 Bananas.  I loved the name and since it said 99 proof on the label, (hence the name, lol) I didn't think it would be very difficult to come up with a way to use it.  So after a quick search we discovered this recipe and I loved the taste.

This drink is smooth and delicious and not overly sweet like you would expect from a schnapps, but a great balance of orange, banana and just a touch of cranberry.  If you enjoy a Mimosa with your weekend brunch, this would make a most enjoyable replacement.

1 oz  99 Bananas Schnapps
1 oz  Triple Sec
4 oz  Orange Juice
Generous Splash of 100% Cranberry Juice

Fill a large glass with ice, add the Schnapps, Triple Sec and orange juice, then add a splash of cranberry juice.  Stir and taste, adding more cranberry juice, if desired.  Enjoy!!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Blackened Amberjack Fillets

Although there are many ways to prepare fresh fish, I love to be able to season a thick fillet of fish with a generous coating of spices and toss it on a hot grill.  Quick, simple and delicious.  And when blackening fish, all of those spices absorb into the fish and all you need is a squeeze of lemon juice on top as a final touch.

Tonight we were excited to try a variety of fish called Amberjack.  This fish has been enjoyed in Florida for a long time, but this was our first chance to try it.

There seems to be a bit of a disagreement among Florida residents when it comes to Amberjack.  I've spoken with people who love it and would gladly trade their catch of red snapper for a string of Amberjack, while others do not care for the taste.  Since I love fish of all textures and levels of flavor, that divide made me even more excited to try this fish and I'm so glad we did.

The Amberjack fillets are thick and dense, somewhat similar to swordfish, so I knew it would hold up to the flavor of the blackening seasoning and it would grill nicely.  The fillet we bought was just over 2 pounds so we cut it in half before grilling, then cut the cooked fish into 6 portions.  (The seasoning  mix would also taste great on salmon or swordfish.)  By cooking the 2 larger pieces of fish, the center  stayed moist and juicy.

The Amberjack had a great flavor, not "fishy" or too strong, but not bland like many varieties of whitefish.  The best part of the seasoning mix we used would have to be the smoked paprika, which added a slightly sweet and smokey flavor to the mix and greatly enhanced the fish.  Smoked paprika is a bit more expensive that regular paprika, but it's worth every penny when you taste the final result.  Enjoy!!

1 TB  Smoked Spanish Paprika
1 tsp  Onion Powder
1 tsp  Garlic Powder
1 tsp  Dried Thyme
1 tsp  Dried Basil
1/2 tsp  Dried Oregano
1/2 tsp  Sea Salt
1/4 tsp  Ground Black Pepper
2 pounds  Amberjack Fillets (or try with your favorite fish)
Olive Oil
Lemon Wedges for Garnish

Combine all dry spices in a small bowl and stir to combine.

Rinse fish under cool water and pat dry with paper towels.  Lightly coat the fish with olive oil, then sprinkle generously with the seasoning mix and let rest for 10 minutes before grilling.

Grill time will vary depending on the thickness of the fish, but we grilled these fillets about 10 - 12 minutes total, over medium-high heat, turning once halfway through cooking.  To check for doneness, cut into the thickest part of the fillet and cook to your liking, or use a fork to gently flake the edges of the fish.

Serve with Chipotle Gouda Macaroni and Cheese and lemon wedges to squeeze over the fish.