Best Potato Soup Ever

Make. This. Soup.

I love soup, particularly when the weather here is hovering around 20 degrees (or lower) and I need something to warm my soul. I’ve shared several great soup recipes with you, from clam chowder to sausage and lentil.

But this one, my foodie friends, is awesome. I got this recipe  from my friend Patty, who loves to cook, so I knew it was going to be a winner. And it was. He Who Must Be Fed and I ate every last bit and were left wanting more.

Ingredients:

BaconForSoup

  • 1 pound of bacon (you had me at bacon)
  • 2 stalks of celery, diced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minces
  • 8 potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 4 to 4 ½ cups chicken stock
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon dried tarragon
  • Salt and pepper to taste

In a Dutch oven, cook the bacon over medium heat until done. Remove bacon from pan, and set aside.  Drain off all but 1/4 cup of the bacon grease. Cook celery and onion in reserved bacon drippings (hmm bacon drippings) until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic, and continue cooking for 1 to 2 minutes. Add cubed potatoes, and toss to coat.PotatoesForSoup

Sauté for 3 to 4 minutes. Return bacon to the pan, and add enough chicken stock just to cover the potatoes. Cover, and simmer until potatoes are tender.

RouxIn a separate pan, melt butter over medium heat. Whisk in flour. Cook, stirring constantly, for 1 to 2 minutes. Whisk in the heavy cream and tarragon. Bring the cream mixture to a boil, and cook, stirring constantly, until thickened. Stir the cream mixture into the potato mixture. Puree the soup in batches and return to pan. Salt and pepper to your taste.

If you try this let me know if you loved it. I really want to know.

FinishedSoup

 

Full-recipe disclosure: If you access the original recipe, you’ll see it suggests pureeing only half of the mixture and returning that to your pot with the diced potatoes. As I mentioned, I pureed it all, and it had a lovely, smooth consistency. (Oh, and I didn’t add any cilantro. He Who Must Be Fed isn’t a fan.)

Crispy Gnocchi with Basil Pesto

Last week, I professed my love for basil, shared with you a recipe for pesto and promised to give you something this week you could use with that pesto. I have five words for you: Crispy Gnocchi with Basil Pesto.

You’re going to take that delicious pesto you made – you did make it, right? – and use it to gently coat some pan-friend gnocchi.  Again, this recipe comes from the Two Peas & Their Pod blog.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 (1 lb.) package potato gnocchi (Or, if you have the time, make homemade gnocchi)
  • Parmesan cheese, for serving.

Cook the gnocchi according to package instructions. Drain completely. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the gnocchi in a single layer and cook, undisturbed, until golden and crisp, about 3-4 minutes.

GnocchiInPan

You’re going to be tempted to take a peek at them – I was – but don’t. Let them be. After three or four minutes, turn the gnocchi and cook, turning occasionally, until golden and crisp, about 3 more minutes.

BrownedGnocchi

Remove from the heat and stir in 1/4 to 1/3 cup of the pesto. You might have leftover pesto. Serve warm and garnish with Parmesan cheese, if desired. As you can see, I also made a salad to accompany my beautiful pesto-kissed gnocchi.FinishedGnocchi

Wow. This was so delicious. But don’t take my word for it. Ask He Who Must Be Fed. He won’t steer you wrong.

Perfect Pesto

BasilPlantI love basil. I love basil so much that I have tried and tried over the years to grow it. However, much to my culinary chagrin, I have failed. Until. This. Year.

I don’t know what I did right, but I finally managed to successfully grow basil, and it’s beautiful.

What comes next? Well, making homemade pesto, of course.

There are tons of pesto recipes out there. I used one from the Two Peas & Their Pod blog.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano cheese
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

PestoInFoodProcessor1Combine the basil, garlic, and pine nuts in a food processor or blender and pulse until coarsely chopped. With the machine running, slowly add the olive oil and process until smooth. Add the cheese and pulse until combined. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

You’re done.

Next time, I’ll share with you what wonderful  dinner I made with my pesto. He Who Must Be Fed was delighted.

Shrimp Scampi Casserole

Quick, easy and delicious. During the week, those are the kinds of meals I want to prepare. I found the perfect recipe for a work-week dinner from the Gimme Some Oven blog. Blogger Ali called it Garlicky Baked Shrimp, but I thought Shrimp Scampi Casserole was a better way to describe it.

This tastes like a fancy weekend dinner without having to put all the extra work into it. The most time-consuming part was peeling the shrimp. The rest was easy-peasy.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. raw shrimp, deveined and peeled
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 Tbsp. white wine
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup (4 Tbsp.) melted butter
  • 1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh Italian-leaf parsley, chopped
  • half of a lemon (optional)

Preheat oven to 425°. In a bowl, combine the shrimp, garlic, and white wine. Stir to combine, then pour into a baking dish. Spread out evenly, and then season with salt and pepper.GarlicandShrimp

In another bowl, use a fork to mix melted butter, Panko, and parsley until well combined. With your fingers, sprinkle the mixture evenly in the baking dish over the shrimp.MakingTopping

Transfer dish to oven and bake until the shrimp are pink and opaque, about 11-14 minutes.InTheOven

Full-recipe disclosure. I added more breading by increasing the ingredients by half. I served it with a baked potato, which was the perfect accompaniment.FinishedShrimp

 

Pizza with grilled Italian sausage, peppers and onions

Pizza? Who doesn’t love pizza? One of the wondrous things about pizza is how versatile it is. You can have it with tomato sauce, cheese and pepperoni. Olive oil, fresh mozzarella, sliced tomatoes and fresh basil. Spicy shrimp, pepper jack and cheddar cheeses with sauteed onions and peppers. Pesto, mozzarella, hot peppers and sausage.

Well, I tried a new combination the other day that was out of this world. It was so beloved that He Who Must Be Fed and two of his offspring ate it all up. (They let me have a couple of pieces.) I mean all of it. No leftovers. The recipe  is from Crisco.

Ingredients:

  • Two ready-made pizza crusts
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 pound spicy Italian sausage
  • 1 red bell pepper, cored, sliced in half lengthwise
  • 1/2 large red onion, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch thick wedges
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup goat cheese, crumbled
  • 2 plum tomatoes, halved, seeded, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions

Heat your oven to 375°. Whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, garlic and rosemary. Pour half of the marinade in a small bowl, cover and refrigerate. Spray your grill grate with no-stick cooking spray and heat your grill. Brush your sausage, red pepper and onion with remaining marinade; sprinkle with salt and pepper.BrushingSausage

Grill until sausage is cooked through and peppers and onion are slightly charred and crisp-tender, turning and basting occasionally with marinade to within 5 minutes of being done, about 12 minutes for sausages and 8 minutes for vegetables. Discard any remaining marinade.

Transfer to cutting board and cut sausages into 1/2-inch pieces and peppers into thin strips.

Sprinkle each pizza crust with 1/2 of mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses. Top each with 1/2 of sausage, peppers and onion, then with 1/2 of the goat cheese, tomatoes and green onions. Remove bowl of marinade from refrigerator; drizzle over the pizzas.PizzaBeforeOven

Bake 8 to 10 minutes, until cheeses are melted and crusts are golden brown.

PizzaAfterOvenWhat made this so incredibly delicious was the mix of different flavors that came together so perfectly: the sweetness of the red peppers and onions, the spice of the sausage, the creaminess of the mozzarella, and the tang of the balsamic vinegar.

If you try it, let me know if you loved it, too. I’m betting on it.

Full-recipe disclosure: My man isn’t a fan of goat cheese, so I skipped it and doubled up on the mozzarella.

Barbecue chicken sliders

Everyone seems to prefer breasts, but give me a good thigh …

No, you have not stumbled onto a porn blog. I was just checking to see if you were paying attention.

I have come to greatly appreciate the lowly chicken thigh for two reasons:

  1. They’re incredibly flavorful and juicy, much more so than chicken breasts, which can get rubbery if you’re not careful.
  2. They’re so versatile.

I’ve already shared a couple of recipes with you that featured the lowly thigh, including braised chicken thighs with carrots, potatoes and thyme  and roast chicken with spring vegetables. Here’s another winner: barbecue chicken sliders, which I made after altering this recipe for Buffalo chicken sliders from Jeff Mauro.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1 cup barbecue sauce, such as Frank’s Red Hot
  • Small rolls. I thawed and baked eight Rhodes frozen dinner rolls

Preheat your oven to 400°. Heat an ovenproof skillet – I used a cast iron skillet — over medium-high heat. Add in the oil. Sprinkle both sides of the chicken with salt, pepper, brown sugar and smoked paprika.SeasonedChickenSear both sides of the chicken until golden, about 4 minutes per side.

CookingChicken

Add the barbecue sauce to the skillet.

BBQChicken

Bring to a simmer and then place in the oven for 45 minutes.

ChickenInOven

Remove from the oven and shred with two forks. You’re going to want to be super careful. The chicken will be hot, and the barbecue sauce will be like molten lava. Yes, I write from experience.ShreddedChicken

Top a roll with a good portion of the shredded chicken and enjoy.FinishedSliders

 

Easy Calzones

I may have already mentioned this, but He Who Must Be Fed is an all-Italian boy. So, in order to keep him happy, there are times when I have to put on some Dean Martin or Louie Prima and cook something that will touch his Italian heart.

He loves calzones, but, I don’t make them often because I tend to think they’re a big pain. Plus, I was never sure what the difference was between calzones and Stromboli. I happened to be watching TV – it sounds like I’m a total couch potato, but I’m really not – and saw Ree Drummond making calzones  for her cowboys and girls. They looked pretty easy. And they were.

Ingredients:

  • frozen unrisen dinner rolls (I used Rhodes) or frozen bread loaves
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 whole medium onion, diced
  • 1 pound breakfast or Italian sausage
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 15 ounces whole milk ricotta
  • 1 1/2 cups grated mozzarella
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Black pepper
  • 2 whole eggs plus 1 whole egg, beaten
  • All-purpose flour, for dusting

DoughBallsPlace the frozen rolls (or frozen bread loaves) on a baking sheet to thaw. Cover with a tea towel and let thaw and rise for 2 to 3 hours. Preheat the oven to 400°.

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the sausage and cook until brown, crumbling the sausage as you stir. CookingSausageAdd the Italian seasoning and red pepper flakes. Remove from the skillet and allow to cool.

In a separate bowl, combine the ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan, salt, some pepper, parsley and 2 eggs.

MixingCalzoneFillingWhen the sausage is cool, stir it into the cheese mixture and set aside.

When the rolls are thawed and risen, roll them out on a lightly floured surface until paper thin. Spoon 3 to 4 tablespoons of the filling onto half of the dough circle. Fold half of the dough over itself, and then press the edges to seal.RawShapedCalzone

Brush the surface of each calzone with the beaten egg, and then bake until nice and golden brown, 10 to 13 minutes. Serve with warm pasta sauce. Fortunately for me, we had some already made.

BrushingwithEgg
These were easy and delicious. Since I was cooking only for the two of us, I had enough filling left over to make them again a couple days later.

finishedCalzone

If you want bigger calzones, use the frozen bread dough.

Hot Browns

When my dad comes to visit, I always try to make him something new that I hope will knock his socks off. Fortunately, that’s not hard to do for several reasons:

  • He’s the original foodie.
  • He loves to eat.
  • He eats a lot.
  • He’ll eat almost anything. Really.

I came across this recipe for Hot Browns, which apparently is a southern dish. Being a Northern girl I didn’t know what they were at first either. but when I watched Damaris Phillips make them on the Food Network, I knew immediately that Dad would eat these up. Literally. And he did. What’s not to love? Bacon, cheese sauce, turkey, tomatoes. All ingredients that when mixed together well create culinary magic.

When Damaris made it, she used cute individual dishes. However, since I didn’t have them, I made it in a 9×13 pan.  And, knowing how much my dad was probably going to eat, I doubled the recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1 bone-in turkey breast (between 4 and 5 pounds)
  • 8 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 12 ounces bacon, cut into pieces
  • 30 or so grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 5 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar
  • 1/2 cup chopped roasted red peppers
  • 4 slices stale sourdough bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (a heaping 4 cups total)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Rub the turkey breast gently with 4 teaspoons of the oil; sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper. Place on a baking sheet and roast until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part reads 160 degrees° F. My turkey, which was just shy of 5 pounds, took about 2 hours. Remove from the oven and let rest.RoastedTurkey

Fry the bacon until crisp then drain on a paper towel.

Lower the oven temperature to 250°. Coat the tomatoes with the remaining 4 teaspoons of oil and season with salt and pepper. Place RoastingTomatoesthe tomatoes cut-sides up on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and bake until they start to dehydrate and wrinkle, about 45 minutes. Doing this really brings out the flavor of the tomatoes.

While the tomatoes are cooking, start the cheese sauce. Add the butter to a medium saucepan and melt over medium heat. Add the milk to a medium saucepan and heat over medium heat. When the butter is melted, add the flour and stir continuously so the roux doesn’t scorch, about 2 minutes. When the milk starts to simmer, slowly add it to the roux, stirring continuously so lumps don’t form. Increase the heat and bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the Cheddar and red peppers and stir until smooth. Remove the sauce from the heat and season with salt and pepper.

You are now ready to assemble the dish. Heat the broiler. Distribute the bread cubes evenly among the 9×13 pan.BreadCubes Cut the turkey into bite-size pieces, about 1/2 inch each, and layer on top of the bread. Pour the cheese sauce over the bread and turkey then top with the tomatoes and bacon pieces. I added just a bit more shredded cheddar. Place under the broiler on the bottom rack of the oven until golden and bubbly. It’ll take about 10 to 15 minutes. Serve immediately.HotBrownDone

If you are the observant type, you may have noticed that there are no red peppers in my sauce. That’s because when I went to get them out of the refrigerator, they had grown hair. But the next time I make this, I’ll add the peppers.

If you try this let me know how it turned out. We had no leftovers. You may not either.

The perfect soup for summer

If you’ve been following along, you may remember that I’ve shared several recipes for soup, including stuffed pepper soup potato soup with shrimp, and sausage and lentil soup.

However,with Memorial Day – and the unofficial start of summer – just around the corner, you may think soup season is over. Well, for most soups it is. But there is one exception: this delicious calm bake soup, which is perfect for summer. It has all of the ingredients of a delicious clam bake, except for the sand in your shorts. This recipe comes from Rachael Ray. 

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound kielbasa, diced
  • 1 ½ pounds small red or Yukon gold potatoes
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 ribs celery, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 5 to 6 sprigs fresh thyme
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 rounded tablespoon seafood seasoning (recommended: Old Bay)
  • 3 cups frozen corn kernels
  • 1 (15-ounce) can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 32 littleneck clams
  • Hot sauce, to taste
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced

Heat a large soup pot with extra-virgin olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the kielbasa and brown for 4 to 5 minutes. Add the potatoes, onions, celery, bay leaf, thyme, and salt and pepper and let the veggies soften up, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.ClamBakeSoupInPot

Pat shrimp dry and toss with a rounded tablespoon of seafood seasoning.

Add to your pot the corn, tomatoes and stock. Cover and bring to a boil. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes. Add the shrimp and clams and cover. Cook until shrimp are pink and firm and the clams have opened up. It usually takes 5 to 6 minutes. Finish off the soup with a few drops – or more, if you like – of hot sauce and  lemon zest and juice.

This soup is almost like  having a clam bake at the beach. If you’re landlocked, like I am, eat it on your porch, close your eyes and imagine you’re in New England.

ClamBakeSoupDone

Kid-Tested Macaroni and Cheese

My granddaughter is an itty bitty scrap of a thing, who, for a long time, ate itty bitty bites of food that never really amounted to a meal. At nearly 4, she’s becoming a better eater, though I haven’t really seen her chow down on anything, that is, until I saw her eat macaroni and cheese. We were having lunch at Applebee’s and while I was working my way through a burger that was bigger than my head, she was going to town on some Kraft macaroni and cheese.

So, the next time she stayed overnight with us, I knew what I was making for dinner. With no disrespect intended to the folks at Kraft, I was going to make real macaroni and cheese. Although, just to hedge my bets, I bought a box of Kraft just in case she didn’t like this.

I have made this recipe before, which calls for lobster and is heavenly. by the way, but this time I left out the seafood.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
  • 1 quart whole milk
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups grated gruyere cheese (12 ounces)
  • 2 cups grated extra-sharp cheddar (8 ounces)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh white bread crumbs (5 slices, crusts removed)

Preheat the oven to 375° F. Add the oil to a large pot of boiling salted water, add the pasta and cook al dente according to the directions on the package. Drain well.
Heat the milk in a small saucepan, but don’t let it boil. In a large pot, melt 6 tablespoons of the butter and add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring constantly with a whisk. Still whisking, add the hot milk and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until thickened and smooth. Off the heat, add the Gruyere, cheddar, 1 tablespoon salt and the pepper and stir until the cheese melts. Stir in the cooked pasta. Pour into a 9×13 pan.MacAndCheeseIntoOven

Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, combine with the bread crumbs and sprinkle on top. Bake for about 40 to 45 minutes until the sauce is bubbly and the pasta is browned on top.BakedMacAndCheese
BriarEatingMacAndCheeseWas it a success? Well, take a look. She obviously loved the creaminess of the sauce-covered pasta, the nutty bite of the Gruyere, the buttery crunch of the bread crumbs on top.

So, this recipe is officially kid tested. If you have one or two of your own, why not try it out?