Tomato Florentine Soup


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I wanted to a soup that was Weight Watcher friendly to go with my lunches this week.  I decided on Tomato Florentine Soup from my trusty Rosemary Brown's Big Kitchen Instruction Book.  I mentioned how much I like this cookbook before, and I have to say that I've made several soups from here and loved them all!

Then I got thinking and realized I didn't want any jealousy in our house, so I asked Branny if I could submit another soup recipe to her Souper Bowl.  After all, I have 2 "little girls" and I think Coon's feelings might have been hurt if I didn't give her a dedication.

Coon was rescued by JR during a snow storm 4 years ago.  She was 3 months old at the time, and so tiny!  How could someone let her fend for herself, nevermind through a storm!  She's grown into quite the hellion, but we love her nonetheless.

The changes I made to the recipe are included here:
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 21 oz. beef broth (you could use vegetable broth to make this vegetarian)
  • 3 cups water
  • 10 oz. frozen chopped spinach
  • 28 oz. diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 15 oz. tomato sauce
  • 6 oz. tomato paste
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
  • dash Tabasco sauce
In a large saucepan, heat olive oil and saute onion over medium heat until soft. Add beef broth and water, and bring to a boil  Add spinach and return to a boil, stirring often.  Reduce heat to a simmer.

Add remaining ingredients.  Simmer uncovered for 20 minutes.  Serves 6.

Notes: The recipe says to add 3 cups of small pasta 10 minutes before the soup is done, but I decided to leave the pasta out this time and have this soup with a grilled cheese sandwich instead.

I also like to add a bit of light sour cream to give it a creamy soup feel.

Cranberry Orange Mini-Loaves


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So I'm struggling with photos, but I'm going to press on.  In theory I figure I can't get worse, I can only get better.  I actually made this recipe for Christmas Eve, and I had thrown a few loaves in the freezer so I figured it was a great opportunity to practice photos.  Plus my blog really needed a baked good!

Every Christmas I make Cranberry Bread and this year when I saw this recipe I knew I needed to try it.    I'm trying to move away from as many processed foods as I can, so this was a perfect fit since it uses fresh cranberries vs. cranberry sauce which is in my usual recipe.

I really liked this bread, it tasted very "fresh", and was a nice change from all the holiday sweets that seem overly sweet (does this make sense?)!

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp grated orange zest
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries
  • 1/4 cup margarine, softened
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup orange juice
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour 3 mini loaf pans.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Stir in orange zest and cranberries. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together margarine, sugar, and egg until smooth.  Stir in orange juice.  Beat in flour mixture until just moistened.

Pour into prepared pans.  Bake for 1 hour, or until the bread springs back when lightly touched.  Let stand 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool.  Store wrapped in plastic wrap.  Makes 3 mini loaves.

Homemade Chili Powder



Don't you hate it when you're all set to start cooking and suddenly you realize you are missing an important ingredient?  Yeah, that happened to me when I made enchiladas earlier this week.  At first I thought, "What am I going to do?"  Then I remembered, Google is my friend and I found this recipe.  I figured it was worth trying!

Since I used this in a recipe, I'm not really sure how close the flavoring is to the seasoning I buy will no longer buy.  However, my recipe came out fine.

So this post really isn't so much about the recipe, it's more of a reminder that often we have to improvise in the kitchen, and don't be afraid to do so!  And if it's not a seasoning you use often, why buying it when you have all the ingredients in your cabinet!

  • 3 Tbsp paprika
  • 1 Tbsp ground cumin
  • 2 Tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
Mix all ingredients together well. Place in an airtight container. Makes 1/3 cup.

Chicken Enchilada Bake


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I have a confession.  I've only eaten enchiladas 4 times in total, and all within the last 1-1 1/2 years.  I know, what was I thinking?  Honestly, I never knew about their deliciousness until I started seeing posts about them on a cooking forum I frequent.  I am SO glad I've corrected this wrong doing!

The first time I made enchiladas I bought the sauce in the can.  No bueno!  It gave me, and later I found out my BIL, awful heartburn.  So much for a delicious "new baby meal".  For my second attempt I made Mary Ellen's sauce, and it was awesome, but time consuming!  Then I tried this sauce on Pink Parsley's blog; there is no turning back!

Overall this is a time consuming meal for a weeknight, however, I used Jaime's method of layering before, so I turned to this again to save a little time.  If you do a little prep work on the weekend, I cooked and shredded the chicken on Sunday, you can easily assemble and pop this in the oven.

Here is how the whole recipe came together:

Sauce, from Pink Parsley:
  • 1 medium onion, chopped fine
  • 2 jalapenos, seeded and chopped fine (I used 1 chipotle in adobo)
  • 1 tsp canola oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 Tbsp chili powder (I didn't have any so I made some)
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 15 oz tomato sauce (I had crushed tomatoes so that's what I used)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 large beefsteak tomato, seeded and chopped (I used a handful of grape tomatoes with seeds)
Combine the onion, jalapeno and oil in a large saucepan. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the onions and peppers have softened, 8-10 minutes. Stir in the garlic, chili powder, cumin, and sugar, and cook until fragrant, less than 30 seconds. Stir in the tomato sauce, water, and chopped tomato. Bring to a simmer, and cook until slightly thickened, 5 minutes.

Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes.  Turn off heat and set aside.
    Cheese filling, my creation:
    • 1/3 cup light sour cream
    • 1/3 cup low fat cottage cheese
    • 3 oz. light cream cheese
    • 2/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese
    • handful cilantro, chopped
    Mix all ingredients in a small bowl and set aside. 
      Other ingredients:
      • Cooking spray 
      • 12 corn tortillas
      • 2 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
      • 1/2 cup cheddar cheese
      Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

      Spray 8x8 baking dish with cooking spray.  Layer 4 tortillas in the bottom of the baking dish.  Spread 1/2 of chicken over tortillas.  Spread 1 1/4 cup of sauce over chicken.  Spread 1/2 of cheese filling over sauce.  Repeat with another layer of tortillas, chicken, sauce and cheese.  Place the last 4 tortillas on top.  Top with 1 cup of sauce and 1/2 cup of cheese.

      Cover and bake for 20-25 minutes.  Uncover and bake another 10 minutes.  Let sit 5-10 minutes before serving.  Serves 4-6.

      Note: Overall I use more chicken than cheese.  If you want more cheesiness, just increase each ingredient in the cheese filling and/or decrease the amount of chicken.  In my head the less fat I use the more I can eat!  It's a good theory anyway.

        Mini Turkey Meatballs with Mushroom Perogies


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        JR's coworker gives us homemade perogies every once in a while and I was told this latest batch were mushroom.   I wasn't really sure what else was in the filling, but thankfully I had given my sister a few and she cooked them before I got around to it.  She informed me that they were plain, "just mushroom", but after eating them I don't believe her.  There is more in the filling, but I can't pick up the flavoring and it was too finely chopped to recognize.  Anyhow, "just mushrooms" got my mind churning and I came up with this dish.

        How do you make brown food look good in a photo?  Anyone?  Well, despite how the photo looks, this was really good!  That is if you like mushrooms.  If not, well, that's a shame!  I'm secretly, well maybe not so secretly, hoping we get another batch of mushroom perogies very soon!

        Here is my recipe:
        • 1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
        • 8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
        • 1/2 large Spanish onion, diced
        • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
        • 1 tsp dried thyme
        • 1/4 sherry cooking wine
        • 1/2 chicken stock
        • 9 perogies (I used mushroom filled)
        • 12 mini turkey meatballs (recipe below)
        • 1 Tbsp butter
        • salt and pepper
        Heat olive oil in saute pan over high heat.  Add mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally until browned.  Turn heat down to medium-high, add onion, salt and pepper.  Cook until these begin to brown.  Add garlic and thyme, and cook until fragrant.

        Add sherry and stir to deglaze the pan.  Add chicken stock and stir all together.

        Carefully place perogies in pan on top of the vegetables.  Turn heat to medium-low, and salt and pepper again.  Cover and let cook/steam, 6-8 minutes.  Uncover and gently turn over perogies.  Add meatballs and cover, cooking for another 6-8 minutes.

        Turn off heat.  Add butter and allow to melt.  Gently stir one last time and serve.  Serves 3.

        Turkey Meatballs:
        • 2 tsp olive oil
        • 1 1/4 lb ground turkey
        • 1 egg, beaten
        • 1/2 bread crumbs (I use day old bread, but you can use store bought)
        • 1/4 cup grated parmesean cheese
        • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
        • 2 cloves garlic, minced
        • salt and pepper
        Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Brush a baking sheet with olive oil.

        Place remaining ingredients in a bowl.  Mix together just until incorporated (you want to be careful not to over mix).  Roll approximately 1 Tbsp of meat into a ball (just a bit smaller than a golf ball), and place on baking sheet.  Continue doing this will the remainder of the meat, making sure to leave space between each meatball on the baking sheet.

        Bake for 15-20 minutes until cooked through.  Use immediately or freeze for future use.  Makes approximately 24 meatballs, 6 servings.

        Creamy Broccoli Chicken Soup


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        This recipe has been a favorite of mine for at least 10 years. The recipe comes from Rosemary Brown's Big Kitchen Instruction Book which I picked up many many years ago when Caldor was going out of business.  Yeah it's an oldie, but I love this cookbook because it has the basics which got me started in the kitchen all those years ago.

        The actual recipe is for Basic Cream Soup, and the Broccoli Chicken part is my version.  I have a lot of broccoli in the freezer from my garden last year, so I knew this was the soup I'd make for Branny's Souper Bowl.

        If you haven't guessed yet, I'm dedicating this to my little girl, Lacey.  For those who don't know Lacey is a pit bull who was rescued by me from the local dog pound back in November 2000.  She is the sweetest girl and has brought me great joy!

        The changes I made to the recipe are included here:
        • 1/2 cup butter 
        • 1/2 large onion, chopped
        • 2 Tbsp flour (if you want a thicker soup, use more)
        • 1 1/2 cups broccoli stems, chopped
        • 29 oz chicken stock
        • 1 tsp dried dill (I used a dill blend that included garlic and onion)
        • 1/2 tsp salt
        • 1/4 tsp pepper
        • 1 cup broccoli florets
        • 1 chicken breast, cooked and chopped 
        • 1 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
        • 1 cup fat free evaporated milk
        Melt butter in a soup pot, add onion and cook over low heat for 10 minutes, or until onion is soft.  Whisk in flour and cook, stirring for 3-5 minutes, or until the foaming of the flour has subsided.  Stir in broccoli stems, chicken stock, dill, salt and pepper.  Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

        Pour 1/2 of soup into blender and puree.  Pour puree into a bowl and set aside.  Puree rest of soup.  Pour all of the pureed soup back into the soup pot.  Add broccoli florets, chicken breast, lemon juice and milk.  Stir all together and taste to determine if you need more seasonings.

        Continue simmering on low until hot, but do not allow to boil.

        Serves 6.

        Arroz con Pollo


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        Chicken and rice - delicious!  Since JR and I were first together I've tried to make him a good chicken and rice dish.  After all, I knew I needed a few Puerto Rican dishes in my back pocket to keep him content between visits to his parent's home. 

        I didn't have great success, and since no one in JR's family measures ingredients I was sure I'd never get it right.  Then I tried this recipe from Jessica.  This is the one, and JR agrees!  And with each attempt JR says my rice texture gets better (yay me!). 

        I usually make this when I have half a rotisserie chicken to use up, and today was no different.  Since I use cooked chicken, I made a few modifications to the instructions.  There are a few things I'd like to point out: 1)  the bottom of my rice almost always burns a little (don't worry, that's the best part, and we fight for it!) and 2) for the sofrito, if you can't find it in the produce section of your grocery store, use this Goya Recaito from the freezer section (Don't waste you're money on this one.  Trust me.). 

        By the way, if you've never seen Jessica's blog be sure to take a look around.  I think you will like what you see, and her stories are sure to make you chuckle.

        My modifications are included here :
        • 2 Tbsp olive oil 
        • 3/4 cup sofrito or recaito (I prefer Sofrito Ponce, it's local, or homemade)
        • 1/2 cup sliced olives with pimentos (I prefer Goya Alcaparrado)
        • 1 chicken bouillon cube
        • 2 packages Sazon: Con Culantro Y Achiote 
        • 2 tsp Adobo (I prefer Badia)
        • 1/2 rotisserie chicken (I break up the breast meat and put the leg in whole) 
        • 3 cups hot water
        • 3 cups white medium grain rice (I prefer Goya)
        In a large stock pot, heated over medium high, drizzle olive oil.  Add sofrito, olives, and chicken bouillon and cook for 3-5 minutes.  Add Sazon and Adobo, mixing well. Then add chicken and mix together making sure the chicken is coated.

        Add hot water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add rice and stir again. Bring back to a boil, then turn heat to medium low, and stir one last time.  Put the lid on the pot and let sit, without opening or stirring (this is important), for 25 minutes.  When 25 minutes passes, stir once and serve.  Serves 4-6.  

        Rice and Beans


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        No, this isn't Puerto Rican rice and beans as you may have initially thought.  Even though that's what we eat most often in our house, I saw this recipe and decided to give it a try.  Not only do we love beans, we also love chicken sausages and I'm always looking for new ways to use both in meals.  Bonus, this is a quick weeknight meal!

        JR really liked this, but I'm not sure if I like the cumin in it.  It has nothing to do with the recipe, rather my struggle with cumin which is why I used so little.  Next time I may omit it.

        I made a few changes to the recipe which I included here:
        • 1 Tbsp olive oil
        • 1/2 onion, diced
        • 1 stalk celery, diced
        • 1/2 red bell pepper, diced
        • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
        • 1/2 tsp cumin
        • 14 oz hardwood smoked chicken sausage
        • 2 1/2 cups of cooked pink beans (about 1 1/2 (15 oz) cans)
        • 1 (15 oz) can diced tomatoes
        • 1 cup chicken stock
        • salt and pepper
        • 1 1/4 cups medium-grain white rice
        • 1/2 tsp olive oil
        • salt
        In a 3 or 4-quart saucepan over medium-high heat, heat olive oil.  Add onion, celery, pepper, salt and pepper to taste.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables softened and begin to brown.  Add sausage and continue cooking, stirring frequently until sausage begins to brown.  Lower heat to medium.  Add garlic and cumin, and continue cooking about 1 minute.

        Add beans, tomatoes, and broth. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, then cover and reduce the heat to low. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is thick and the flavors have blended, about 30 minutes.

        Meanwhile, add rice, 2 cups of water, a pinch of salt and olive oil to a medium pot.  Cover pot and turn heat to high.  Bring to a boil, then immediately turn heat to low.  Let cook about 15 minutes until you see air holes form throughout the rice. Fluff with a fork.

        Serve beans over rice.  Serves 4.

        Beef Stroganoff (Stovetop and Crockpot methods included)


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        Now that winter is in full swing, our first storm of the year was a Blizzard, I have been craving hearty one-pot meals.  This recipe was adapted from Better Homes and Gardens: Crockery Cookbook.  You see, I had trouble getting up for work this morning after a 11-day vacation, so the crockpot assembly didn't happen as planned. But that wasn't an issue after all, this came together nicely on the stove, and didn't take too long either.

        I made a few changes to the recipe which I included here:
        • 1 Tbsp olive oil
        • 1/4 cup flour
        • 1 lb beef, top round, cubed 
        • 1 bay leaf
        • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
        • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
        • 8 oz. baby bella mushrooms, sliced 
        • 1 medium onion, sliced (I forgot to add this, but I normally do and recommend you do)
        • 2 cloves garlic, minced
        • 1 1/2 cups beef stock, unsalted
        • 1/3 cup sherry
        • 8 oz. light sour cream
        • Salt and pepper to taste
        Heat a dutch oven on medium-high.  In the meantime, coat beef with flour, salt and pepper.  Once dutch oven is hot, add oil.  Once the oil is hot, add beef, bay leaf, thyme and oregano.  Cook meat until browned on all sides. Remove meat from pan. 

        Add mushrooms, onion and garlic to the dutch oven and cook,  approximately 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally until they begin to brown.  Add salt and pepper as desired, but wait for the mushrooms to begin browning before adding salt.

        Lower heat to medium-low.  Add cook meat, beef stock and sherry to the dutch oven.  After liquid is added, scrape the brown bits up from the bottom of the dutch oven using a wooden spoon.  Let simmer uncovered for 15-20 minutes, until the liquid begins to thicken.  Remove bay leaf.

        Lower heat to low.  Add sour cream.  Once incorporated, continue to heat on low to thicken liquid approximately 3 minutes..  Then shut off heat and allow to sit 5 minutes and remove bay leaf before serving.  Serves 4.

        I serve this over yolk free wheat egg noodles.

        Crockpot Instructions (added April 12, 2011):

        You will not use oil for this method.

        Put beef, seasonings, mushrooms, onion, garlic, beef stock and sherry in crockpot.  Cook on low 8-10 hours. 

        About 30 minutes before you are ready to serve, mix sour cream and flour together.  Stir into crockpot.  Turn crockpot to high, cover and cook 30 minutes.  Remove bay leaf before serving.  Serves 4.

        I serve this over yolk free wheat egg noodles.

        Ina's Seafood Stew


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        It's January 1 and I wanted to start the year off with a healthy, yet special meal.  It wasn't difficult for me to choose Ina's Seafood Stew. I think this is the third time I've made this and it's been a winner every time; it's healthy, hearty and delicious!

        I made a few changes to her recipe which I included here:
        • 2 Tbsp olive oil
        • 1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onions (2 small)
        • 2 cups large-diced small white potatoes
        • 2 cups chopped fennel (1 large bulb)
        • 2 tsp kosher salt, or to taste
        • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
        • 1 cup white wine
        • 2 (28-ounce) cans whole tomatoes, with juices
        • 2 cups seafood stock or clam juice
        • 1 Tbsp chopped garlic (3 cloves)
        • 1 tsp saffron threads
        • 1 lb mixed seafood (shrimp, calamari, scallops)
        • 1 1/2 lbs mussels, cleaned 
        Heat the oil in a stockpot, add the onions, potatoes, fennel, salt, and pepper, and saute over medium heat for 15 minutes, until the onions begin to brown. Add the wine and scrape up the brown bits with a wooden spoon. Add the tomatoes with their juices, stock, garlic, and saffron to the pot.  Break up the tomatoes, then bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. Add the seafood and mussels, bring to a boil, then lower the heat, cover, and cook for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow the pot to sit covered for another 5 minutes. The seafood should be cooked and the mussels opened. Discard any mussels that don't open. Serves 6-8.

        Serve with crusty bread to soak up the delicious broth!

        New Beginnings



        Happy New Year!

        I decided to start the year off with one of my favorite recipes.  As I was searching for the recipe I decided the time had come for me to start this blog as a way to help me organize all of my favorite recipes, as well as my future adventures in the kitchen.

        So, here you have it, my cooking blog! Enjoy!