Creamy Potato Soup…

If you’re anything like me, some nights you’ll end up staring blankly into the fridge with no idea what you’re going to make for supper…and it’s almost suppertime. Lucky for  you (and me!), if you’ve got a bag of potatoes and some onion , you’ve got the beginnings of a mighty tasty potato soup! This recipe isn’t new to the blog- it’s made an appearance before, BUT I just got a handy dandy macro lens for Christmas and couldn’t resist re-shooting this soup. Plus, I’ve made a couple of small changes to the recipe that make it just about perfect in my eyes (and Joel’s!). I made this not too long after Christmas and after a week of being horribly sick, and it tasted SO good! So rich and creamy with a slight tang from the sour cream- I really, really love it!

Creamy Potato Soup
-adapted from my mom’s recipe

5-8 medium size russet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1 onion, chopped
1 chicken bouillon cube
salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup sour cream
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Put the potatoes, onion and bouillon cube in a large stock pot and add enough water to cover. Cook uncovered, over medium-high heat until it begins to boil, then reduce the heat the low and cook for 30 minutes, or until the potatoes are very soft. Stir in salt and pepper. Using a regular blender or a hand blender (that’s what I used), puree the mixture until smooth and free of lumps (*if you use a regular blender, be sure to puree only a little at a time; you don’t want to overfill your blender). Stir in the sour cream and shredded cheese. Check for seasoning and add more salt and pepper as needed.
Garnish with additional sour cream and cheese, bacon bits or green onion if desired.

Playing with my new lens….what do you think? Maybe I should learn to focus better… ;)

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Thick and Hearty Beef Stew…

Well, Christmas is over (sad…) and I hope that everyone enjoyed a safe, happy and joyous time with friends and family. We certainly did! It would have been just about perfect except I caught a terrible 24 hour stomach bug that’s been going around and it really put a damper on our Christmas Day- no worries though, we still had a wonderful, joyous holiday! My sweet, thoughtful husband put 4 kinds of aged cheese in my stocking this year, along with a BIG bottle of Mexican vanilla! He also got me a new set of pots and pans- bye-bye 4 year old, scratched up non-stick pans! Woo!

But now, it’s back to blogging and I’m so excited to share this stew with you! The weather is cold and rainy here (and blizzard-y pretty much everywhere else in the US!), so we need a good, hearty stew that will help to melt away the cold! This one is absolutely delicious- I saw it on Jamie’s blog, My Baking Addiction and was intrigued by the use of A-1 sauce, so I immediately made it. Normally when I make stew I like lots of liquid, so I guess technically what I’ve always made is ‘soup’. After trying this one, I’m not sure I’ll ever go back! It really exceeded my expectations and I can’t wait to make it again.

Thick and Hearty Beef Stew
-adapted from My Baking Addiction

1/4 cup flour
2 pounds beef stew meat, cubed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup red wine
4 cups beef broth (I like to use reduced sodium)
1 teaspoon dried parsley
salt and pepper to taste
3 large potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
4 or 5 large carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
9 or 10 cremini mushrooms, cut into quarters
1 large onion, roughly chopped
1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon A-1 steak sauce

Toss the beef and flour in a bowl until the beef is coated. Heat the olive oil in a large dutch oven over medium heat; add the beef and cook until nicely browned. Set aside.
Deglaze pot with red wine, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pot. Pour in the beef broth and add in the beef, parsley, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 1 hour.
Stir in potatoes, carrots, mushrooms, onion, Worcestershire, ketchup and A-1. Cover and simmer 1 hour more.

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Simple Creamy Chicken and Vegetable Soup…

The weather has been cold and wet the past few days which only means one thing in our house- soup. After forgetting my umbrella yesterday and thus getting soaked on the way to the car, I came home and immediately set out to make a big pot of soup. Nothing makes me feel cozier or more comfortable. Ahhhh. This is just a plain ‘ol, good-for-the-soul chicken soup…with a splash of cream to give it a little richness. Nothing fancy or difficult- just warm and full of comfort. Perfect for cold rainy days! And it tastes even better if you snuggle up to your hubby on the couch while you eat! Now THAT makes for good soup! :)

Creamy Chicken and Vegetable Soup

2 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
4-6 medium-sized carrots, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 medium-sized potatoes, cut into cubes
1 cup frozen or canned corn
6 cups chicken broth
salt and pepper to taste
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup heavy cream or half and half
handful chopped parsley
**Feel free to add in any other vegetables you like- frozen peas, green beans, zucchini…whatever!

Place carrots, celery, onion, garlic, chicken broth, bay leaf, salt and pepper in a large stockpot over medium heat. Bring to a boil and cook for 15-20 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Stir in the chicken, potatoes and corn. Simmer for another 20-30 minutes. Check for seasoning then add in the heavy cream and chopped parsley.

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I’m always so thankful for people in my life who encourage me to try new things and broaden my horizons! My co-worker and friend, Jana brought some homemade carrot soup to work with her a couple of weeks ago, and as she started telling me the ingredients, my interest was immediately peaked- carrots, potato, tomato, cilantro and….peanut butter?!! Peanut butter?? With carrots and potatoes?? But as she heated it in the microwave I realized this was something I HAD to try! It smelled amazing! As luck would have it, since Jana is such a sweet lady, she brought me a bowl the next day!! It was delicious! The peanut butter and cilantro added an almost Thai flavor to the warm spices and sweet carrots. I had to make this soup!

I didn’t even wait a week before trying it myself- only this time, I used butternut squash, carrots and sweet potato. Honestly, it tasted almost exactly the same as Jana’s- YUM! Do me a favor and try this soup SOON! It’s completely delicious and makes a great, easy weeknight meal!

Peanut Buttery Carrot and Butternut Squash Soup
-adapted from my friend Jana’s recipe

1/2 of a butternut squash, peeled, seeded and chopped (save the other half for another dish)
1 small sweet potato, peeled and chopped
1 1/2 pounds carrots (about 8 medium-sized carrots), peeled and chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 cups chicken broth (if you want to make this soup vegetarian, feel free to use vegetable stock instead!)
1 teaspoon tomato paste
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon curry powder
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1/3 cup chopped cilantro, plus more for garnish, if desired

In a large stock pot, sauté the onion, garlic and ginger in the olive oil over medium heat for about 10 minutes, or until soft. Add in the carrots, butternut squash, sweet potato and chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and bring to a low boil and cook for 20-30 minutes, until all the vegetables are soft. Add in the tomato paste, salt, pepper, cumin, cayenne pepper, curry powder, and cilantro. Using a hand blender (or regular blender, a little at a time), puree the vegetables until smooth (you may want to add a little more chicken broth or water if the soup is too thick). Stir in the peanut butter and check for seasoning. Serve with additional cilantro if desired.

**Don’t forget to enter my Dorie Greenspan giveaway!! You have until midnight on Halloween! Go! Go! Go! ;)

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Yee Haw! Project Food Blog: Challenge #2!

Sorry about the ‘Yee Haw‘ in the title….I get a little excited sometimes and the Texan in me really comes out. Yeah, so WOW, I was lucky enough to advance to Round 2 of Project Food Blog!!! But only thanks to YOU. If it hadn’t been for your support, encouraging comments and votes, I totally wouldn’t even be here! So THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart!

In this round of Project Food Blog, our mission is to cook outside of our comfort zones and recreate a classic dish from another culture. The kicker? It can’t be French or Italian. They wouldn’t want to make it too easy on us, now would they? ;) I knew this would be a challenging order, because when you get right down to it…..I’m boring. There, I said it. The majority of my food is American, Mexican, Italian and Cajun, with the occasional Greek thrown in to annoy my mother, who hates Greek food. In all honesty, it’s not often that I step outside of my comfort zone at all. I’m a “play-it-safe” kind of girl. But not anymore. Today I turn over a new leaf. I kick the old, “boring” Amy to the curb and let the new, adventurous, perhaps even slightly dangerous Amy in the kitchen. Who knows what that Amy will come up with! She’s pretty awesome. My husband digs her.

So, after lots of careful thought (I went down the Indian, Israeli, Greek and  Moroccan paths, but ultimately, was left cold), I decided to do a Tong Sui (translation: ‘sweet water’), a delicious Cantonese dessert soup (sounds good, right? Well it is…trust me!). To be honest with you, the only “Asian” food I’ve ever made is Kung Pao Chicken…………….*cricket*, *cricket*…………….I know. I’m ashamed. Everyone knows that doesn’t count. So I thought, “what better culture to choose from?!” I was first introduced to this yummy, sweet soup 4 years ago at our friend Billy Wu’s house. Every year, he hosts a huge BBQ that my husband fondly refers to as “The WuBQ” (and looks forward to year round). There’s a plethora of every food imaginable, and I was lucky enough to sample a dish that would intrigue me for years to come. Billy’s mother is a wonderful cook and loves sharing her Chinese culture with everyone (she once convinced my poor husband to try a smoothie made with Durian, the funkiest, smelliest fruit known to man). She opened the lid to a large pot filled with a rich, coconuty soup and invited me to try a bowl. “Why not?”, I thought – it smelled good enough. One bite and I was hooked. It was sweet, creamy, slightly thick and filled with rich coconut milk, tapioca pearls and taro. I went home that night thinking about the soup. I’ve thought about it ever since.

Upon doing some research, I found out that Tong Sui is Asian comfort food. Like our chocolate pudding or macaroni and cheese, a nice big bowl of this is like a big, warm hug. Very common. Billy’s mom makes it all the time and his whole family loves it. I love it too. Which is why I’m diving in head-first and making my very own traditional Tong Sui! Billy’s mom was sweet enough to give me her own personal recipe and I’m honored to be able to recreate it here!

Tong Sui (Cantonese dessert soup)
-makes a large pot; enough for 6-8 people

**Kam Kwai gave me her list of ingredients and her method of cooking. Just like so many of my grandmother’s recipes, measurements are just approximations- you can add as much or as little of everything as you want.

3 cups water, plus more for boiling the tapioca and barley
approximately 3/4 cup small tapioca pearls
1/2 cup pearl barley
1 small sweet potato, peeled and diced into centimeter-sized cubes (Kam Kwai uses Taro- similar in texture to sweet potato- but the ones at the Asian market were big, long and furry and frankly, they scared me a bit so I used sweet potatoes)
1 12-oz. can coconut milk
1 12-oz. can evaporated milk
1/2 – 1 cup sugar (this isn’t meant to be too sweet, but if you prefer it sweeter, feel free to use the full cup of sugar)
1 teaspoon salt
pinch ginger
pinch cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
*the cinnamon and vanilla isn’t traditional, but I wanted to put my own spin on it

In a medium pot over high heat, bring 1 1/2 cups water and pearl barley to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook covered for 40-45 minutes, until the barley is tender.

In a separate pot, bring another 2 cups water to a boil. Add in the tapioca pearls and cook for 10-12 minutes, until clear and cooked through.

In a large stock pot, bring the 3 cups water and diced sweet potato to a boil. Cook for 10 minutes until the sweet potato is tender. Stir in the cooked barley, coconut milk, evaporated milk, sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger and vanilla. Lastly, stir in the tapioca. Taste for sweetness and add more sugar and spices as needed. Remove from heat. Serve and enjoy!

*Tong sui can be enjoyed warm or cold.

I had lots of fun making this soup- it’s so different and unusual compared to the things I normally make. That’s why I’ve enjoyed this challenge so much. Not only have I succeeded in cooking a delicious dish from a completely different culture, I made my first ever trip to the Asian market! Now THAT was an experience! I’ve discovered so many wonderful ingredients and ideas that I would have never even considered trying before. Like I said, that was the old, boring Amy! Who knows what I’ll try next- Billy also gave me a great recipe for sweet dumplings to make for Chinese New Year! Bring it on! I’m a new woman!

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Minestrone with Summer Vegetables…

It’s that odd time of year again. The period where it’s definitely NOT cool, fall weather yet, but I’m sick to death of summer and want warm, comforting meals. I’m tired of ice cream and popsicles and watermelons. I want fall food. I want sweet potatoes and pumpkins and SOUP! Well, today, I gave myself the best of both worlds! I managed to satisfy my craving for cool weather food, while still taking advantage of summer vegetables. I decided to make a hearty, delicious minestrone using veggies that are still in season. A great success! I went to Sprouts and loaded up on fresh summer vegetables- fresh green beans, tomatoes, zucchini, spinach- tons of goodies! This was a really delicious pot of soup! Plus there’s plenty for our dinner tomorrow night too (I go back to start teaching the kiddos tomorrow, so coming home to a ready-made meal will be quite nice!). Give this one a try- it’s definitely satisfying and comforting, yet really fresh and bright!

Minestrone with Summer Vegetables

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
*4 roma tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped (alternatively, you can use one 14-oz. can)
3 carrots, chopped
2 cups fresh green beans, trimmed (snap off the ends, then snap in half)
2 medium zucchini, chopped
1 cup mushrooms, chopped
1 bunch fresh spinach, thoroughly washed and roughly chopped
1 can Cannellini beans, drained
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
1 cup ditalini pasta (any small pasta is fine)
1/4 cup dry red wine (you can leave this out if you want)
3 cups chicken broth
1 cup water
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons pepper
1 bay leaf

Heat the olive oil in a large stock pot over medium heat. Add in the onion and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add in the garlic and cook for one minute more. Add in the tomatoes, carrots, green beans, zucchini, mushrooms, chicken broth, water, wine, salt and pepper, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat. Cook for 10 minutes. Stir in the spinach, cannelloni beans and pasta. Cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, then check for seasoning. Add more salt and pepper if needed. Stir in the parsley at the last minute. Remove the bay leaf. Serve.
Top with fresh grated parmesan cheese, a drizzle of olive oil and parsley. Enjoy!

*To peel the tomatoes, cut a small ‘x’ in the bottom and place in a pot of boiling water for about 1 minute. Remove from water and immediately place in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. The peels should come right off.

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I tend to forget about Cajun food. It’s pretty simple and straight-forward and always totally delicious, yet for some reason, I never think about making it. However, every time I do, I always think to myself, “I really should make this more often!”.  Just one of those things, I guess. But not anymore! I promise, dear Cajun food, that I won’t neglect you anymore!

Now, I know I already have a recipe for okra gumbo posted, but this one is a teensy bit more involved and more complex than the other. Plus, it’s pretty much an entirely different recipe, and I thought you should have both! This isn’t a real, honest-to-goodness ‘Nawlins style gumbo that starts with a roux. Honestly, I’m not a big fan of that “deep” (*cough* burnt) flavor it gives, so I started mine with some good ‘ol bacon grease (to all my gumbo aficionados out there, please don’t hate me). I sort of just threw some things together and ended up with one fantastic tasting gumbo! The great news is, this made a giant pot, so we had enough for 2 meals!

Sausage and Okra Gumbo

3 or 4 strips bacon
1 small onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 15-oz. can chopped tomatoes
1 bag frozen okra (I don’t actually know the size- it’s probably around 4-6 cups), thawed
1 package fully cooked turkey sausage (14 oz.), cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup rice
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning
1 teaspoon Tony Chachere’s seasoning
4 cups chicken broth
salt and pepper to taste (you won’t need much salt at all since Tony C. has salt in it)

Cook rice according to instructions on packaging. In a large dutch oven or stock pot, heat the bacon over medium heat and render fat. Remove the bacon and set aside. Add onion, pepper and celery and cook for 7-10 minutes, or until onions are slightly translucent. Add tomatoes (with their juice), okra, seasonings and chicken broth. Add the bacon back to the pot. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low. Add sausage and rice. Cook for 10-15 more minutes (if it gets too thick for your liking, feel free to add a little more chicken broth or even a little water). Remove the bacon and bay leaves and serve.

*The okra can be a little “slimy” sometimes; adding a splash of white vinegar at the end helps to cut through the sliminess, and you’ll never know it’s there.


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Arroz con Pollo…

…or Chicken and Rice; whichever you prefer. I guess I should call it that since, clearly, I am not Spanish-speaking. But just saying something like, “I’m making Arroz con Pollo” sounds way more interesting (and yummy) than “chicken and rice”. Who wants to eat chicken and rice when you can eat Arroz con Pollo?! I got this recipe from Amy at She Wears Many Hats and it’s totally delicious!

Honestly, the entire time I was making this I kept thinking (and laughing) about that episode of I Love Lucy where Lucy and Ethel switch jobs with Ricky and Fred. Ricky and Fred are in charge of cooking dinner while Lucy and Ethel are out working their new jobs (at the candy factory…love it!).  Ricky suggests Arroz con Pollo and chocolate cake for dinner, and of course it all goes wrong…seriously one of my favorite Lucy scenes of all time!

Arroz con Pollo (Chicken and Rice)
-adapted from She Wears Many Hats

4 quarts (16 cups) water approx. (enough to cover chicken)
1  4 lb. (approx.) whole chicken
1-2 stalks celery; rough chopped
1 small sweet onion; diced
1 teaspoon pepper – divided
1 teaspoon salt – divided
1/2 teaspoon celery salt
1 1/2 teaspoons parsley
3 cups long grain white rice

In a large stock pot bring water and chicken to a boil. Cover and reduce to a simmer for at least 1-2 hours.
Once simmering is complete, remove chicken to cool in order to de-bone. Let broth continue to simmer and reduce. When cool enough to handle, de-bone chicken.

Remove all broth from pot (or use another pot) and put approximately 6 cups broth back into pot along with the rice, chicken, celery, onion, salt and pepper. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
After 15 minutes stir in another cup of broth. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes.
Continue to add broth, stir, cover and simmer for 5 minutes at a time until rice is done. Check for seasoning and add more salt and pepper as needed. Serves 6-8.

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Thick, Cheesy, Spicy…

We’re expected to get some snow and ice tomorrow, apparently. I don’t know what it is about me, but everytime I hear that there’s snow or bad weather in the forecast, I automatically think “soup”. I guess a lot of people do, really. In my opinion, really bad weather calls for really good soup. In this case, Mexican Soup.  It’s one of those convenient “throw it all in” types. I saw this recipe in the newspaper recently and knew it would be just delicious. Sure enough….it really was!

Mexican Soup

1 cup water
1 cup instant rice
1 10-ounce can Rotel tomatoes
1 14-ounce can chili beans
1 14-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 cans cream of chicken soup
1 14-ounce can chicken broth
1 package fajita seasoning
2 cups cooked chopped chicken
Bunch of cilantro, chopped
Shredded Mexican cheese blend, for garnish

Heat water in a large pot over stove and add rice. Turn down heat to low while preparing other ingredients.
Add all other ingredients except cheese and heat thoroughly. Ladle into bowls and top with shredded cheese and more cilantro, if desired.

*I boiled my chicken (I used 3 breasts) for about 30-45 minutes, until the meat was extremely tender; then used the cooking liquid instead of the water called for in the recipe. I also added a few tablespoons of Velveeta cheese for extra cheesiness.

This was a really good, thick, cheesy soup – and super easy, to boot! We really, really enjoyed it and thought it seemed to get even better the next day! If you’ve got bad weather in your forecast, or maybe you just need something comforting, give this soup a try – you won’t be disappointed!

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Cheese and Cabbage Soup…

I know I post a lot of soup. Honestly, it’s just about my favorite thing to fix – I could probably eat it every single week and be totally happy. This is one of those soups that gets requested a lot by my hubby. It’s my Aunt Rena’s recipe and it’s not your usual, run-of-the-mill soup – it’s really thick and cheesy, and the cabbage gives it a really great flavor and texture. We really love this one!

cabbagesoup1

This is another one of those recipes that calls for Velveeta – if you aren’t able to find Velveeta in your neck of the woods, just substitute regular cheddar cheese or any kind that melts nicely. And if you can’t find Mexican Velveeta (I sometimes have problems), just use regular and maybe add some chopped green chiles for a little heat.

This is a great soup for cold evenings – it really warms you up. And, like all the rest of the soups I make, this recipe makes a ton, so there’s plenty left over for freezing or for lunch the next day!

Cheese and Cabbage Soup

1 stick butter (I don’t use quite this much butter; maybe half a stick)
2 large potatoes, diced
1 onion, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
1 cup carrots, chopped
*1 small head cabbage, roughly chopped
2 quarts chicken broth
1 1/2 pounds Mexican Velveeta Cheese, cubed
salt and pepper to taste

In a large dutch oven, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot and celery and saute for 5-7 minutes or until they begin to soften. Season with salt and pepper. Add the potatoes and chicken broth and bring to a boil. Add the cabbage and cook until all the vegetables are tender, approximately 20-30 minutes. Stir in the Velveeta cheese until completely melted. Serve immediately.

*It will seem like way too much cabbage at first, but it cooks down significantly.

cabbagesoup2

(Sorry, these aren’t very good pictures…)

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