Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Broccoli Cheese Soup Revisited

I've posted a broccoli cheddar soup recipe before, but recently decided to tweak it a little. It had a can of cheddar cheese soup as one of the ingredients, but I'm trying to eliminate processed foods from my cooking. So I started using a homemade roux instead. A roux is just a mixture of butter, flour and liquid that is used to thicken soups and stews.

Now my family prefers this version. And I can't say that I blame it. It's thick, creamy and delicious. My kids have even declared it "better than Panera

Here's what you need

1 TBSP butter
1 small onion, diced
2 teas minced garlic
4 cups chicken stock or broth
2 cups water
1 pkg (16 oz) frozen broccoli
2 carrots, peeled and shredded
1 teas salt
1 teas pepper
1/4 teas nutmeg
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (I use sharp white and sharp yellow)

For the roux:
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups milk

In a large pot, melt the 1 TBSP butter. Add the diced onions and cook until softened. Stir in the minced garlic and cook for a few more minutes. Add the broth and water, then bring to a boil. Carefully add the broccoli, carrots, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Allow to simmer for about 30 minutes until the veggies are soft.

When the broccoli and carrots have cooked, remove from the heat. With an immersion blender, blend until about half the soup is pureed. You want to leave some of the veggies chunky. If you don't have an immersion blend, pour about half the soup into a regular blender, making sure you leave some room for the liquid to expand. Blend until you reach the desired smoothness and return to the pot.

Return the soup mixture to the heat and allow to reach a simmer. Now it's time to make the roux.

Melt the butter in a saucepan. Whisk in the flour, making sure there are no lumps. Gradually whisk in the milk. Cook and stir until the mixture is thick. Add to the soup mixture, stirring well. Simmer for 20 minutes.

Now add the cheese and stir until it's all melted.

Serve in bread bowls to really wow your family!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Menu Plan October 28- November 3

And so here we are, at the end of October. Has this month just flown by or what? I realized today that I've done zero Christmas shopping. Zero! And there are only 58 days left! I need to get started!

This week we're hosting a soup supper with friends. Since the weather has turned cooler, it's the perfect time for it. We ask everyone to bring a pot (or crockpot) of soup to share, plus a dessert or bread/crackers or something to drink. We provide little styrofoam bowls and plastic spoons so guests can sample as many kinds of soup as they'd like. I think I'll be making Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup with Bacon.

We've done this before and had a marvelous time of food and fellowship. Most of my week will be spent preparing for the party. So I'm trying to keep my menu plan simple. Here's what I've got planned:

Baked egg rolls, garlic sesame noodles

Broccoli cheddar soup, pretzel rolls

Panko crusted tilapia, Parmesan couscous

Beefy Spanish rice, black bean and corn salad

Stromboli, fries

Soup Supper!


Hope y'all have a great week! For more meal planning inspiration, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Beef and Bean Burritos

Frozen burritos were once a staple in my freezer. It was so easy to pop them into the oven or microwave for a quick meal. But the list of ingredients was a mile long. And frankly, the texture was a little scary at times.

These burritos are simple - just 5 ingredients, plus the tortillas. And they can be customized to suit your family's tastes. But best of all, they freeze wonderfully and taste delicious!

Here's what you need:

1 lb ground beef
2 cups refried beans (or one 15 oz can)
1 cup salsa - here's where you can adjust the heat if you like spicy
2 TBSP taco seasoning
1 cup shredded cheese
8 burrito sized tortillas

In a large skillet, brown the ground beef and drain. Stir in the refried beans, salsa and taco seasoning until well blended.

Spread 1/3 cup of the mixture on the lower half of a tortilla. Sprinkle with cheese.
Fold in both sides, then roll up tightly.

Wrap the burrito in aluminum foil to bake immediately or to freeze for later. I have found it easiest to place the tortilla on the foil, then fill and roll up. Then it's a snap to wrap!

If you're serving these immediately, heat the oven to 400 degrees. Bake for 15 minutes.

If freezing for later, place the foil-wrapped burritos in a freezer bag. These will keep in the freezer for up to 6 months. You have some options for reheating them. Pick the one that is easiest for you!

You can thaw them completely in the fridge overnight. Pop them into a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes.

Unwrap from the foil, then put them into the microwave to defrost. Heat in the oven as directed above.

Or, if you want to reheat them from their frozen state, put them in the oven for about an hour. This method with ensure that you get some crispy goodness on the outside.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Menu Plan October 21-27

Last week was very pleasant. Charles and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary by spending the entire day together. We capped off the lovely day by eating at The Olive Tree in Villa Rica, Georgia. The food and atmosphere was amazing, as was our service. We would highly recommend if you're in the area, take some time to try out this fabulous restaurant.

We started off with the saganaki or flaming cheese. Unfortunately the flame had already died out before I grabbed my cellphone to take a picture. But the Kaseri cheese was melty and delicious. Lemon juice drizzled over the dish added a lovely tang.
Charles ordered the Greek Combo platter with moussaka, pastitsio, and gyro meat.
I ordered the Tour of Greece. It had gyro meat, dolmades (stuffed grape leaves), spanakopita, chicken souvlaki, and house made potato chips seasoned with Greek seasonings. The pita slices that accompanied the appetizer and entrees was amazing.
I am currently hunting down recipes to recreate these traditional Greek dishes so we can have a Greek night here at home.

But until then, I have to keep my family fed. Here's what I've got planned for the week:

Ladies Night Out at church (hubby and kids will eat out)

Pumpkin cashew chicken curry, rice

Philly cheesesteaks sandwiches, waffle fries

Crockpot chicken and broccoli, salad

Taco soup, sweet buttermilk cornbread

Crockpot sweet garlic chicken, noodles

Beef roast in the crockpot, mashed potatoes

For more meal planning inspiration, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Comforting Chicken and Noodles

Chicken is one of my favorite things to eat. And mixing it with noodles and gravy for a lovely, comforting dish is one of my favorite ways to eat it. I used to grab a can of cream of chicken soup for this dish and call it good. Now I make my own homemade gravy - way better for you and so much flavor! Sure, it takes a little more effort but knowing I control the ingredients that go into the food I prepare for my family makes it well worth it.

I like that I can make this on the stove top, or if I want to get fancy, I can mix it all up and pop it into the oven with a breadcrumb topping for some crunch. Either way is delicious!

Here's what you need:

Gravy (makes 2 cups)
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups chicken stock or broth (stock is usually a little richer)
1 teas parsley
1 teas garlic powder
1 teas salt
1/2 teas poultry seasoning
1/4 teas black pepper

The rest
8 oz wide noodles, cooked according to the package directions and drained
1 1/2 cups cooked, shredded chicken
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

In a skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour, making sure there are no lumps. When the mixture starts to bubble, slowly pour in the chicken stock/broth, whisking the entire time. Cook until the mixture boils, allowing it to thicken to your desired consistency. Stir in the seasonings.

Stir in the cheese and chicken, allowing the cheese to melt.
Turn off the heat and carefully add the cooked noodles. Make sure all the noodles are coated with the yummy gravy!
Now serve and enjoy this simple, tasty dish!
Oh wait, you want the fancier version? Okay, just transfer the chicken and noodles to a baking dish. Melt 2 TBSP of butter and mix with 1/2 cup dry Italian bread crumbs. Sprinkle the topping over the noodles. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes, or until the topping is a little crunchy.
You can't go wrong whichever way you serve it!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Menu Plan October 14-20

This week is my favorite week of the year. See, fifteen years ago this week, I married this guy.
He's my best friend and cheerleader. I love him more now than I did then. So we're planning a day to ourselves, thanks to a wonderful friend who's keeping the kids. I can't wait!

Now on to this week's menu plan:

Hot dogs with West Virginia hot dog sauce, fried potatoes

Calico beans, twice-baked potatoes

Beef and quinoa soup, homemade French bread

Anniversay Day! Yay!

Herb crusted tilapia, broccoli

Stuffed shells, garlic bread

Feel Better Chicken Stew (crockpot)

For more meal planning inspiration, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Crockpot Sesame Honey Chicken

I've been giving my crockpot a workout lately, trying to prepare meals that are simple and yummy without spending all my time slaving away in the kitchen. This recipe fits the bill perfectly. I'm thrilled that my kids, who usually don't care for sauce on anything, will eat this one without complaints. They even ask for more!

Here's what you need:

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 cup flour (I used white wheat flour)
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup corn starch
3 TBSP ketchup
2 teas sesame oil
2 teas minced garlic
1/4 teas red pepper flakes
2 teas sesame seeds, toasted

Place the flour in a Ziploc bag. Add the chicken, a few pieces at a time. Shake to coat, then repeat until all the pieces are coated. Heat a little oil in a pan and brown the chicken pieces on all sides. You're not trying to cook it all the way through, just brown it. Set aside.

In the bottom of a crockpot, combine the vinegar, honey, soy sauce, ketchup, corn starch, sesame oil, garlic and red pepper flakes. Whisk until the cornstarch is dissolved.

Add the chicken pieces to the crockpot and make sure all of it is covered with the sauce. Cook on low for 4-5 hours or until the chicken is tender. Stir in the toasted sesame seeds. Serve over rice.

To toast the sesame seeds, simply heat a small skillet over medium heat. Don't add any oil or cooking spray. The seeds will release plenty of oil as they toast. When the skillet is hot, carefully pour in the seeds. They might jump around a bit. Stir so they don't burn or stick to the pan. It will only take a minute or so. When the seeds have browned, remove them from the heat and the skillet. You don't have to toast the seeds, but the nutty flavor is certainly more noticeable if you do.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Menu Plan October 7-13

Last week I used my crockpot and rice cooker like they were going out of style! My stand mixer saw a lot of use as I baked bread and made cookies. I so love being able to free up some time in the kitchen by using my favorite appliances. I don't know what I'd do without them. What are your favorite time-saving kitchen appliances and tools?

This week I'm going to do more oven and stove-top meals, all of which are quick and easy.  Here's what I've got on the menu:

Chicken bacon subs, fries

Beef and bean taco casserole, corn

Tasty tilapia, Parmesan couscous

Spaghetti and Italian meatballs, garlic bread

Steak bites, twice-baked potatoes

Cheeseburger soup, pretzel rolls

Creamy black bean and salsa chicken (crockpot), rice

For more meal planning inspiration, visit Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday.