Friday, October 28, 2011

Baked Potato Soup and Garlic Cheese Biscuits

        It hasn't always been so, but fall is my favorite time of year. It seems to me that the seasons of the year we enjoy somewhat follow the "seasons" of our lives. By that I mean, when we are babies and children, we are in the "spring" of our lives. As teenagers and young adults, in the "summer" of our youth. Middle age is alot like "autumn." And as seniors, it could be said when are in the "winter" season of our lives. I'm no philosopher...just thinking out loud.
        Now that I am in the "autumn or fall" of my years I find that I really enjoy the foods that taste so good when the weather turns cooler and meals become warmer and more substantial. I start thinking about stews, chili, spaghetti sauce, and casseroles. But, hands down, my favorite is soup!
        Many of you have a favorite soup recipe and probably have a potato one as well. This baked potato soup recipe is one I prepare often for lunch or Sunday night supper. It is a favorite to take to soup and sandwich suppers we have at church. Garlic cheddar biscuits are a wonderful accompaniment. If you need a little more to make it a meal, add a fresh garden salad.
         Soup and biscuits. It doesn't get any better than that!

Baked Potato Soup
   Double or triple ingredients to fit serving need

2 large or 3 meduim baking potatoes, baked or microwaved
Cooked and crumbled bacon (optional)
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 can (14.5 oz) chicken broth
1 can (12oz) evaporated milk
Shredded cheddar cheese (optional)
Sliced green onions (optiional)
    Melt butter in large suacepan over medium heat. Add onion, cook and stir occasionally for 1 to 2 minutes or until tender. Stir in flour. Gradually stir in broth and evaporated milk. Scoop pulp from one potato and mash. Add pulp to broth mixture. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until mixture comes just to a boil. Peel and dice remaining potatoes and add to soup. Heat through. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Top each serving with bacon, cheese, and green onions if desired.
Yields 4 servings
* Nan's notes: I like a thinner soup so I add more broth and/or milk until the soup is the consistency I want. This soup gets better the longer it sits and may need thinning when reheated.

Garlic Cheese Biscuits
  Like the ones at Red Lobster!

2 cups Bisquick baking mix
1/8 to 1/4 tsp garlic powder
3 tsp chopped fresh parsley
3/4 cup milk
1 & 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
 Mix all ingredients together. Spray cookie sheet with cooking spray. Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto sheet and bake at 400F about 14 minutes until golden brown. Immediately brush with melted butter.

Happy cooking!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Nutella Swirl Pound Cake

If you know me well you know that I am a peanut butteraholic. If at home, you will find me camped out at the pantry door with spoon in hand going to town in the peanut butter jar (for all of you who eat my cooking, don't worry--I have my OWN jar!). I will occasionally put a dab on a banana, squirt chocolate syrup over my peanut buttered spoon, or do the same with grape jelly. I just cannot get enough peanut butter!

About a year ago, I sent B to the grocery store and as usual he came home with at least 3 extra items that weren't on the list. One of the "extras" was a jar of Nutella. I had seen it at the store and knew people who ate it but didn't take a interest due to my peanut butter freakishness. Well, for dessert this particular night, B asks if he could have one of "my" bananas. (I eat a banana every morning and when without it, it gets ugly. In fact, I am out this morning and WW III is about to go down in Montclair!) After I agreed, he proceeded to open the new jar of Nutella and put spoonfuls of it over each bite of banana just as I do with peanut butter. I am standing back thinking, "Oh no he didn't". Then after 2 or 3 bites, he says "Babe, this is amazing; you've gotta try it." So I did and now, admittedly, I am a Nutellaholic. End of story...

Here's a recipe that I have made twice. It's a combination of two of my most favorite things--Nutella and pound cake. Fortunately, I took the pictures on the first batch because the second round under-cooked and was less attractive, yet still delicious nonetheless. Try this scrumptious dessert and I promise you won't have regrets. Enjoy!

"I'm smiling 'cause I'm so good!"

Nutella Swirl Pound Cake
From Easy Desserts, Vol. 45

4 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 jar (13 ounces) Nutella

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 9-inch x 5-inch loaf pan and dust with flour (The first cake I made turned out best in a porcelain dish vs. metal.).

Combine the eggs and vanilla in a glass measuring cup and lightly beat. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium mixing bowl.

Combine the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl and cream with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping down sides as necessary.

With the mixer on medium-low speed, pour the egg mixture into the bowl in a slow stream, stopping the mixer once or twice to scrape down sides.

Turn the mixer to low speed and add the flour mixture, 1/2 cup at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. After the last addition, mix for 30 seconds on medium speed.

Scrape 1/3 of the batter into the prepared pan and smooth with a spatula. Spread 1/2 of the Nutella over the batter and smooth with a clean spatula. Scrape another 1/3 of batter over the Nutella and smooth. Scrape the remaining Nutella over the batter and smooth. Spread the remaining batter over the Nutella and smooth. Run a butter knife blade through the batter to create marbling. Do not overmix.

Bake the cake until it's golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Let the cake cook in the pan for 15 minutes, invert it onto a wire rack, and then turn it right side up on rack to cool completely. Slice and serve.

Store uneaten cake in a cake keeper or wrap in plastic wrap and store at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Enjoy (and be prepared to become a Nutella freak like me!),

Monday, October 17, 2011

Two Grown ChildMen and Slow Cooker Italian Chicken

I have no picture of this dish, which kind of makes me sad but pretty much sums up my weekend. It was a busy one. B and I had company--my brother and uncle. They live with my parents full-time and are unable to drive and prepare meals for themselves; they need reminders of what to wear and to change into clean clothes. My uncle talks too much and follows B around the house, even to the bathroom. My brother barely speaks but makes up for the lack of verbal communication by "sniffing" his nose a thousand times a day. As my uncle commented on Saturday, after I suppose he had heard enough of the sniffing himself, "J, you're gonna blow your brains out!" It was funny; we all laughed. They are sweet men, though, and I wouldn't trade them for anyone or anything. They are a blessing in many ways and we love them. But the extra attention they require can be a little exhausting. So, being the sweet child and child-in-law that we are, B and I agreed to "look after" them this weekend so my parents could catch a break and escape to North GA for the weekend. Now that my brother and uncle have gone back home, all I can say is "bless my parents' hearts." I now know (to an extent) what they deal with Sunday through Saturday, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. God has a special place for them in heaven; I am certain he does.

Back to the recipe...again, there's not a picture and I apologize. But you have to try this. It's super easy and was just what I needed on Friday--a few ingredients that were thrown into the crock pot and cooked all day without my attention. All I added were the sides. I am not sure where the recipe came from. I want to think that my Aunt "Skeeter" gave it to mom and I several years ago. I think you'll find that this will be one of those "go-to" recipes when you're either in a hurry or having company. Enjoy!

Slow Cooker Italian Chicken
Serves 6-8
1/2 stick butter
1- .7 oz package Italian salad mix (dry)
2 cans golden mushroom soup
1 - 8 oz. container/tub cream cheese with chives and onions
1 cup dry white wine (sometimes I substitute with 1/2 c. white wine & 1/2 c. chicken broth)
6-8 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Place raw chicken breasts in crock pot (it's okay if they overlap). Next, in a saucepan, melt butter. Add dressing mix. Stir in soup and cream cheese and wine. Stir constantly until cream cheese is melted.  Pour mixture over chicken breasts. Cover and cook on Low setting for 4-6 hours. Serve on angel hair or fettuccine pasta.

Enjoy friends,

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Cheese and Ham Quiche

Don't you just love a good ham? I mean, you stick it in the oven and let it bake for a while. Then you have the basis for a dozen different dishes. The only problem with that is you and your family will likely get very tired of ham before it is all used up.

Because I have a job, I depend on leftovers for meals. Thankfully, my family doesn't mind but they will only take so much of seeing the same thing set in front of them. That's when you have to get inventive and a little sneaky, if you will, so they won't feel like they are eating the same ham over and over again.

Cheese and ham quiche is just one of the ways I use leftover ham and it is one of my favorites. It can be served for breakfast, lunch, or supper by varying the sides served with it.  Add grits or hash browns when serving for breakfast. Steamed broccoli, asparagus, or green peas and fresh fruit or fruit salad steps it up to lunch or supper standards.

Start by shredding the cheeses and cubing the ham. I hear debates over shredding cheese yourself as opposed to buying it pre-shredded.  Hey, do what is convenient for you. In this recipe, it matters not.
You can even buy ham all ready cubed in  the grocery store if you don't have leftovers to use in this recipe.

I use a frozen, deep dish pie shell for this recipe because it is convenient and I usually have them on hand. Feel free to make your own pastry if you are into that. If using the frozen shell, let it sit at room temperature for a few minutes so it will soften enough to prick the sides and bottom with a fork. The shell is prebaked for a few minutes and pricking helps prevent the crust from bubbling up.

Cubed ham, the cheeses, and minced oinion are sprinkled on the bottom of the crust. Pour egg and milk mixture over this. Ready for the oven !

Let the quiche cool for about 10 minutes so you will get a nice, pretty slice. Enjoy!

Cheese and Ham Quiche
  Adapted from Pillsbury "Simply from Scratch" Vol. 2

9-inch unbaked, deep dish frozen pie shell
1/2 cup cooked, cubed ham
1 cup shredded swiss cheese
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
3 eggs
2 tablespoons finely chopped onion or 1 tablespoon instant minced onion
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 & 3/4 cups evaporated milk (a 12oz can of evaporated milk yields 1 & 1/2 cups..just add a little milk or half & half to make up the difference)

Heat oven to 425F. Prick sides and bottom of pie shell with a fork and bake for about 7 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from oven and reduce temperature to 325F. Sprinkle ham, cheeses, and minced onion into partially baked shell. In medium bowl, beat eggs until well blended. Add remaining ingredients; mix well. Pour over cheeses. Bake 35 to 45 minutes until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 5 to 10 minutes; cut into wedges to serve. Yield: 6 servings

*Nan's notes: Sometimes frozen pie shells need a little reshaping. Let the shell soften a few minutes at room temperature until it can be handled without breaking the crust. Recrimp the crust if necessary. Reshape the edges of the foil pan if they have been bent during shipping. The crust will be full after adding all the ingredients so taking these steps will prevent the mixture from over running the crust.
Just in case, place the quiche on a foil lined baking sheet before baking.

Happy cooking!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Creamy Mocha Frozen Dessert

This is one of my favorites. It came from my Aunt "Skeeter" in Niceville, Florida. I love it because it's flexible in that you can lighten it up, make pies from it instead of one large dish, add your favorite toppings, etc. And because it's frozen, it will keep for a long time. I am going to begin with the original recipe. Then, I will include the changes I made.

Creamy Mocha Frozen Dessert
Marcelle Shelnutt, Niceville, Florida

2 tsp instant coffee
1 Tbsp hot water
1 cup Oreo cookie crumbs
3/4 cup pecans, divided
1/4 cup margarine, melted
2 - 8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 - 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup chocolate syrup
1 - 8 oz Cool Whip, thawed

1) Dissolve coffee in hot water, set aside. 2) Combine cookie crumbs, 1/2 cup pecans, and margarine. 3) Pat into 13x9x2 pan. 4) Beat cream cheese until smooth, blend in coffee, milk, and chocolate syrup. 5) Fold in Cool Whip and spread over crust. 6) Freeze.

*Alternative:  This version makes two pies (and does not include pecans). Use 2 precooked chocolate graham or Oreo pie crusts. Begin with Step 1 but omit Steps 2 and 3. Continue with Steps 4 and 5. Divide mixture among two pie crusts. Freeze. I like to take a Hershey's milk or dark chocolate bar and grate over the top using a lemon zester. I think spinkles of crushed Oreos would be delish as well. Also, it you're missing the pecans on this version, simply add after you've poured the cream cheese mixture into your pie shells. Get creative and have fun with this recipe!