February 22, 2011

Spicy Sweet Potato Soup

This might very well be one of the yummiest things I've ever made! HERE is the recipe, I followed it as written other than cutting the peanut butter amount in half and we didn't do the tomato topping. I loved it, the kids loved it, and hubby sort of liked it, so I call that a success! It was such an awesome mix of flavors and it was a fairly simple soup to make. I just love sweet potatoes and coincidentally two of the other ingredients are things I used to hate but now love - cilantro and ginger. The peanut butter might seem like a funny addition but it gave it kind of a Thai flavor. And the lime sour cream 'topping' was like icing on the cake. Seriously, so yummy, I can't wait to make it again!

I was going to mention too that last week on a lazy day, we bought one of those convenience store rotisserie chickens for dinner. After we had eaten all the edible parts, I made broth out of its remains. I got about 5 cups of good broth and didn't add any additional ingredients or seasonings. That is what I used for this soup and still have some leftover. I think that's a good way to get some tasty 'free' broth!

February 19, 2011

Roasting Vegetables

I have discovered that this is a magical way to prepare vegetables! And so far I've had awesome outcomes resulting in the kids devouring a whole pan of cauliflower and being sad when all the broccoli was gone. If that isn't magic, I don't know what is.

Roasting vegetables is a super simple way to cook them that brings out the natural sugars in them, therefore 'caramelizing' them into a sweet treat. It really sounds too good to be true and I don't know why it's taken me so long to discover it. It's basically taking a vegetable, cutting it into uniform chunks, tossing with olive oil, salt and pepper then roasting it at a high temperature in the oven.

Here's three articles I found that are great at explaining it and also include some great tips and recipes.

From WebMd

From the food section of Salon.com

And another from Martha Stewart's Everyday Food

My first experience was with cauliflower a few months ago. Using this recipe as a base, I now make a batch about once a week or whenever my market marks their cauliflower down to 99 cents because they have one or two little brownish spots that can easily be cut off. It turns out so delicious, I could eat the whole batch myself. I've also made green beans with great success and just last week I tried broccoli using Snack Girl's recipe. Her recipe requires the oven to be heated to 500 degrees. That's the hottest my oven has ever been! It made me a bit nervous but nothing exploded or caught on fire and even though broccoli has never been my favorite, I really liked how it turned out. And who knew it would be a perfect after school snack! It was so funny, when hubby came home my son told him, "sorry, we didn't save you any broccoli!" Hubby wasn't to upset about that since he has not caught the roasting vegetables excitement bug as I have. I cannot WAIT to try some more of these ideas and recipes!

February 17, 2011

Mushroom Barley Soup

You know, lately I'm starting to realize how many wonderfully simple things I've never made that are so easy, delicious and nutritious. The produce section is becoming my absolute favorite place to hang out! And it helps that I have a two-year-old helper whom I have nicknamed 'queen of the twist ties.' She's awesome and is always there when I need my bag sort of closed. I'm going to have some magical vegetable recipes to share in the next few days, but before that, here is the next soup I've chosen to make in my two week soup challenge. It is kind of a combination of several recipes I found, since I was trying to use ingredients I had, along with what I thought everyone would like. So, here is the recipe, but keep in mind, I'm just kind of a throw it in the pot kinda gal and don't really measure much, especially the vegetables. So much of it is just to taste.

Mushroom Barley Soup

1/2 medium onion, chopped
1/2 cup sliced carrots
1/2 green pepper, chopped
2 cloves minced garlic
1 cup sliced mushrooms

4-5 cups beef broth
1/2 cup barley

Saute the veggies in a couple tablespoons of olive oil. Add a few cranks of freshly ground pepper if desired.

For my broth portion, I used one can of beef broth since that is what I had on hand, then I dissolved two beef bouillon cubes in 2 cups water for the remainder of the broth. The bouillon portion of the broth I heated and combined in a large Pyrex measuring bowl in the microwave and when it was dissolved, I added the dry barley. I let that soak for about an hour before combining it with the rest of the soup.

Let it all simmer on low for about 20 more minutes then enjoy.

It was rich, hearty and so so yummy! I will definitely make it again.

February 15, 2011

Nothing says love like Asparagus Soup

I've never ever made anything with asparagus and I think I've only eaten it a handful of times, but it was on sale this week and I was pretty sure I liked it so I decided to try to make Cream of Asparagus Soup. It was part of our little Valentine's Day dinner, nothing fancy, just the 4 of us at home. I found the recipe on allrecipes.com and here it is-

Cream of Fresh Asparagus Soup

1 lb fresh asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
1/2 c chopped onion
1 (14.5 ounce) can chicken broth
2 T butter
2 T flour
1 t salt
1 pinch ground black pepper
1 c milk
1/2 c sour cream
1 t fresh lemon juice

In a large saucepan, combine asparagus, chopped onion, and 1/2 cup chicken broth. Cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat, and simmer uncovered until asparagus is tender, about 12 minutes. Process the mixture in a blender to puree the vegetables. Set aside.

In the same saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Stir in the flour, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring constantly for 2 minutes. Whisk in the remaining chicken broth, and increase the heat to medium. Cook, stirring constantly until the mixture boils. Stir in the asparagus puree and the milk.

Put the sour cream in a small bowl, and stir in a ladleful of the hot soup. Add the sour cream mixture and the lemon juice to the soup. Stir while heating the soup to serving temperature, but don't allow it to boil. Serve immediately.

It really turned out wonderful! That's my opinion anyway. My son tolerated it and hubby said it tasted like peas, which for him is not a good thing. And, I have to say that it was a lot of steps to make, more than I'm used to and not easy with a 2-year-old underfoot! Not sure if I'll make it again anytime soon but it was really fun to try something new. I also made some stromboli to go with it, which basically was a pizza all rolled up and baked. And that, of course, was a hit with everyone.

I'm still deciding on my next soup, so check back in a couple days :)

February 13, 2011

Tomato Soup

I'd forgotten that this recipe was in my repertoire. It's a Martha Stewart Tomato Soup recipe I copied down several years ago and have tweaked it somewhat. Before I made this soup I wondered why anyone would bother making their own tomato soup when there was a certain Campbell's variety that tasted just dandy. Well, this is much better and oh so easy, it's almost ridiculous! And once you blend it up, it has a wonderful creamy texture even though there is no milk or cream in it.

Tomato Soup

3 T butter
1/2 chopped onion
1 clove garlic
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
1 can chicken broth
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

Melt butter in saucepan and sautee onion and garlic till limp. Add tomatoes, broth, salt and pepper and simmer for 20 minutes or so. Place in blender and puree, return to pot then serve it up!

Of course, it's just splendid with a grilled cheese sandwich. The perfect Saturday night dinner!

February 11, 2011

2 Week Soup Challenge

I've decided I need to make more soup. I've never really made much soup other than the occasional chili or tortilla soup and I'm not really sure why. I read an article in the paper the other day that touted the benefits of eating more soup. It's still so cold and dreary and I feel like I'm in a cooking rut anyway, so I've decided to make the next two weeks very soupy and I'm pretty excited about it. I plan on using the crock pot as much as I can and I've already started scouring for recipes. I'm going to try to document all my soup successes and hope that will be a great motivator. So, stay tuned for all the excitement and if you have any recommendations, let me know!

February 07, 2011

Birthday Gifts

My Mom's birthday was this past week. This year, the kids and I got creative and made her a couple things (along with her favorite birthday cake). Firstly, the tissue paper flowers. They're just flower shaped cut-outs layered together and stuck with pipe cleaners (which by the way, are now called 'chenille stems').

Next we made a little batch of salt scrub. I combined about 1/2 cup kosher salt with the same amount of petroleum jelly. Then I added about 1 tablespoon of jojoba oil and a few droplets of orange and vanilla essential oils. If you've never tried this kind of scrub, it's wonderful. You just massage some into your hands or feet or any other rough dry skin then rinse it off and your skin feels wonderful.

I think she really liked the gifts, she's the kind that appreciates gifts with meaning and/or ones that are made with love. Those are always the best kind!

February 04, 2011

Cranberry Oat Cookies

We were snowed in again for a couple days this week and the occasion called for some home made cookies. We had no chocolate chips in the house and I was in the mood to try something new anyway, so I searched and found this recipe. I still had a couple bags of frozen cranberries from the holidays so we tried these out.

Cranberry Oat Cookies

1 stick softened butter
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 eggs

1/2 tsp of salt
2 tsp baking powder
1 cup oats
1 cup white flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1 1/2 cups cranberries (about half a bag)

In a large bowl, cream together butter, vanilla and sugars. Add the eggs and beat until fluffy. In a separate bowl, combine the remaining dry ingredients then mix with the rest. Fold in the cranberries.

Bake at 350 degrees oven for 11-13 minutes or until lightly brown. Let cool on the pan for about 10 minutes then remove to cool completely.

The cranberries burst and bleed when baking, it makes for a messy cookie sheet! But they are so so good, I just love oatmeal cookies and the cranberries add a pop of tangy tartness. A nice change from the same old same old. Try them!