Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Recipe Swap Roundup - Soup Part 2 Recipes

Even though this has been a mild winter for much of the country, winter still means big bowls of soup for many people. Now that I'm getting into soup I thought we'd revisit soup as a recipe swap theme. It also seemed like a good way to usher out winter.

Joanna just started a food blog and this was her first recipe swap. She made Slow Cooker Thai Chicken Noodle Soup:

Melissa had my recipe for Broccoli Soup:

Caitlin enjoyed her Tomato Orzo Soup, which was tangy and filling:

Mary Ellen was very excited to make her Stuffed Cabbage (Galumpki) Soup, which brought back memories of her grandmom's Polish dinners:

Jenna has been wanting to make chicken and dumplings for awhile, so when she got her recipe for Crock Pot Tex-Mex Chicken and Dumplings she was excited:

The Cooking Nurse made Hearty Beef Stew, a delicious Valentine's Day treat:

I messed up and gave Heather a recipe for Stuffed Pepper Soup, which was similar to the one she had submitted for the swap. It worked out fine, though, because her recipe was for the crockpot and this was a faster version for the stovetop:

Jaida loves soup and really enjoyed the rich, creamy Loaded Potato Soup she made:

Once again Nicole cooked outside her comfort zone, and was pleasantly surprised by the results, with her Spicy Blue Cheese and Tomato Soup:

Ammie absolutely loved her Mahogany Beef Stew:

Cathy's Lentil Black Bean Stew worked well for her healthy diet:

Ashley made Stuffed Pepper Soup, which she's been wanting to make for awhile. It lived up to her expectations perfectly:

Leanna couldn't stop raving about her Butternut Squash Apple Soup

Coleen had hoped to try a new soup for the swap, but ended up getting one of her favorites, French Onion Soup. This version tasted just like the one at her favorite diner:

My recipe for Cream of Tomato Soup with Pesto was like a bowl full of summer:

The Cookaholic Wife wasn't sure about her Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Soup with Cilantro-Lime Sour Cream, but she ended up loving it:

Melissa's Creamy Roasted Cauliflower and Broccoli Soup was a surprise hit:

Colleen, a newcomer to the swaps, really enjoyed her Broccoli Cheddar Soup:

Kristina had another Crockpot Stuffed Pepper Soup, which she shared with a friend:

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Monday, February 27, 2012

Secret Recipe Club - Cookies and Cream Brownies

It's that time again, time for another Secret Recipe Club reveal. We had January off so when I feel like it's been a very long time since I did one of these posts I'm actually right.

This month I got the blog Everyday Sisters. It's written by four sisters with 10 kids between them. A lot of the recipes on their blog have been passed down from various family members or are from magazines and cookbooks their mom used. It was fun to look through the blog and get a glimpse into their lives through the food they cook.

When it came time to choose a recipe, though, I was stumped. Thankfully we got our blog assignment in early January and my post wasn't due until the end of February so I had plenty of time to see what the ladies came up with over the next month. We ended up being invited to a Super Bowl party and I was tasked with dessert, which if you've read my blog before you know is not my forte. I decided to see what the sisters had on their blog in the way of dessert and low and behold the first recipe to pop up that day was for these Cookies and Cream Brownies. Perfect!

Since I'm not much of a baker the fact that this recipe has two ingredients (if you don't count what you need to make the brownies) is what sold me. I also knew they'd be a big hit at the party. How can you go wrong with Double-Stuf Oreos and brownies? You can't. Just look at the inside of the brownie:

These took me all of 30 minutes to make, including the 15 minutes for baking. The most time-consuming part is dipping the cookies in the brownie batter. Here they are ready to be baked:

I was right about them being a hit. All the women at the party asked for the recipe. I felt like I was cheating telling them it was just brownie mix and Oreos, but they loved not only the taste but how easy they were to make. I sent the rest of the leftovers to work with SP. We got suckered into buying Girl Scout cookies and I don't need even more sweets around the house.

The only change I made was to the cooking time. Since the brownies have to cool in the tin I suggest under-baking them slightly. The full 15 minutes plus cooling time resulted in a much harder brownie then I typically like. I adjusted the cooking time to 12 minutes to compensate. I think these would be amazing with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Cookies and Cream Brownies
Slightly Modified From Everyday Sisters

1 box family size brownie mix
1 package of Double-Stuf Oreos

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease two muffin tins with cooking spray.

Make brownie mix per package directions. Dip 24 Oreos into the brownie batter until coated completely. Place one in each greased muffin cup. If you have leftover batter, divide it evenly among the muffin cups.

Crush the remaining 6 Oreos in a plastic food storage bag using a rolling pin. Sprinkle crushed Oreos on top of each brownie-battered Oreo. Bake for 12 minutes. Let cool completely before removing from tins.

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Sunday, February 26, 2012

Weekly Menu - Week of February 27, 2012

Here we are at the end of February. I feel like a broke record but how is it almost March? I feel like we were just gearing up for the holidays and now we're almost ready for spring. The Northeast has had one of the best winters in recent memory - barely any snow, temps way above normal and overall gorgeous weather. This is actually really helpful for my diet because cold weather makes me way to eat heavy meals like mac and cheese and potato gratin. So thank you, Mother Nature!

I'm really excited about this week's menu. SP requested Sunday's dinner but the other three meals are things I've seen on blogs and had to make immediately.

Saturday - Eggplant parm pizza using leftover eggplant parm from Friday night's dinner out

Sunday - Swedish Meatballs with Egg Noodles, green beans: this is the meal SP requested. It's one of his all-time favorites.

Monday - SP has a work event so I'm going to have leftover Swedish meatballs for dinner.

Tuesday - hoagies after exercise class

Wednesday - Slow Cooker Thai Chicken Soup: we love Thai food but I rarely make it at home. This was one of the submissions for the recent soup recipe swap and I since I didn't get it for the swap I knew I had to make it soon. And now that I'm home during the day I can watch the slow cooker to prevent burning.
Thursday - Spicy Chicken with Eggplant over Rice: this is one of our favorite dishes to get at a Chinese restaurant.

Friday - Ravioli Primavera: a meal with the starch and veggie mixed together is a winner in my book. I'm subbing ravioli for the tortellini because I have a bag in the freezer that needs to be used up.
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Friday, February 24, 2012

Recipe Swap - Cream of Tomato Soup with Pesto

Want to see what other Soup recipes were made during the swap? Here is the link to the Soup Recipe Swap Roundup

I don't know about your neck of the woods, but in the Northeast we've been having an incredibly mild winter. This makes me very, very happy. I hate the cold. I don't like snow and I don't like the darkness that descends once we change the clocks. Now that we're closing in on the end of February it's staying light later, which is awesome. But the best part about this winter has been the distinct lack of snow. We had one big storm Halloween weekend but after that we've had a few flurries that barely stuck to the grass let alone the roads and was usually gone the next day. Temps have been at least 10-20 degrees above normal as well.

When I chose soup as the theme for this recipe swap I figured we would all be stuck with cold weather by the time it rolled around, but the night I made my Cream of Tomato Soup with Pesto it was 50 degrees and when I had it for lunch the following day it was in the low 60s. Thankfully the flavors were the essence of summer (basil and tomato), so it worked for me.

This soup was much better the next day, especially eaten almost lukewarm instead of piping hot. The flavors came together beautifully and it really tasted like summer in a bowl. It couldn't have been easier to make, although I did have to modify the recipe slightly because I couldn't find diced tomatoes with garlic and onion in my supermarket. I figured subbing fresh garlic and onion wouldn't be a bad thing anyway and I recommend going that route.

Stay tuned for more recipes from the soup swap in my Recipe Swap Roundup!

UPDATE: I made a quadruple batch of this soup for a church meeting and it was a big hit. Since you're basically adding everything to a stock pot and boiling it, this is a very versatile and easy soup to make in big batches. I reheated it in my crockpot (about 3/4 fit in the crockpot and the rest went into a storage container).

Cream of Tomato Soup with Pesto
Modified Slightly from Cooking for Fun

I tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced or grated
1 (32 fluid ounce) container chicken broth
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes with basil and oregano
1 cup half-and-half cream
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons basil pesto

Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until the onion softens, about 8 minutes. Add chicken broth and bring to a boil. Boil until reduced by about 1/3. Pour in both cans of the tomatoes, and return to a simmer. Add the half-and-half, and turn heat to low. Simmer for 15 minutes. Puree in batches in a blender, or use an immersion blender. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Ladle into bowls, and swirl in a spoonful of pesto before serving.
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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Banana Peanut Butter Smoothie

Now that I'm working from home I'm on the lookout for healthy snacks. I'd seen this recipe for a Banana Peanut Butter Smoothie on Carrie's blog and figured I've give it a whirl since we always have all the ingredients on hand.

Just a word of warning - freezing bananas will cause the peel to turn black so don't be alarmed. I stuck a banana in the freezer about 2 hours before I wanted to use it and it was just starting to discolor. It's also harder to peel when frozen.

I ended up needing some more milk because the smoothie was too thick (I cut the recipe below in half). Adjust to your desired consistency. This is a delicious, thick and rich smoothie that tastes like a milkshake with a fraction of the calories. Yum!

UPDATE: I've been making these smoothies regularly, although I've also left out the peanut butter and added ice instead of freezing the bananas. Delicious.

Banana Peanut Butter Smoothie
Slightly Modified from Carrie's Sweet Life
Makes 2 smoothies

2 whole frozen bananas, peeled and sliced
1 (6-oz.) carton non-fat vanilla yogurt
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
2/3 cup non-fat milk

Place all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. Add more milk or ice cubes if the smoothie is too thick. Serve immediately.
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Wednesday, February 22, 2012


I did an inventory the other weekend and discovered that I have a lot of ground beef in my freezer. I'm always looking for new ground beef recipes, so I figured this was a great time to branch out. My friend Elly had linked to these Soutzoukakia in a recent post, and they sounded so simple and delicious I put them on the menu.

These were a big hit with the whole family. Baby Girl usually eats a day behind us (although we're trying to change that, depending on when SP gets home from work), but she asked for a taste of mine and ended up inhaling two meatballs from my plate. I saved two meatballs for her for next night's dinner and again she inhaled them and asked for more. This is a big deal because she's been off meatballs for awhile now. I really enjoyed the flavors in the meatballs and loved the tomato sauce over the mashed potatoes. Delicious and easy. Thanks for helping me branch out, Elly!

Elly Says Opa!

1 medium onion, divided
1 lb. ground beef
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 clove garlic, pressed
2-3 tablespoons fresh parsley
1 egg, lightly beaten
1-2 tablespoons bread crumbs (optional)
Olive oil
1 (15 oz.) can tomato sauce
1 (15 oz.) can water
2 bay leaves
1/2 – 1 teaspoon cumin (start with 1/2 and taste-test)
1 pinch sugar
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon corn starch dissolved in 1/2 cup water

Finely mince or grate half of the onion into a large bowl. Mix in the beef, salt and pepper, oregano, garlic, parsley, egg, and breadcrumbs (if using). Form the mixture into elongated/oval-shaped meatballs. (I got 14 meatballs).

Heat enough olive oil to coat the bottom of a medium Dutch oven or pot over medium-high. Pan-fry the meatballs, in batches, until they are browned on all sides. Remove the meatballs from the pot and drain the oil.

Put the pot back over the heat and add 1 tablespoon oil. Dice the other half of the onion, and add it to the pot; cook until translucent. Add the tomato sauce, water, bay leaves, cumin, sugar and salt and pepper to taste. Bring the mixture to a low boil and add the meatballs. Simmer for at least 15 minutes, but longer is fine too. Add the corn starch slurry at the end. Remove the bay leaves and serve over mashed potatoes.
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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Chicken and Broccoli Stir Fry

My friend Melissa recently raved about a stir fry recipe she had thrown together one weeknight. I'm a sucker for a good stir fry and I'm trying to make more of them because they're so simple. Unfortunately I've made plenty of stir fries that don't have very good flavor, but since Melissa only blogs recipes that are fantastic I knew this Chicken and Broccoli Stir Fry would be great.

As expected, this was truly outstanding. Garlicky, gingery, and just slightly spicy (I can't believe I'm saying this but it could have used a tad more kick). The chicken was tender and moist and the broccoli was still crispy. It tasted like the best version of chicken and broccoli I've ever had from a Chinese restaurant. I couldn't believe I made it at home, it was that good. SP felt it needed something, maybe more spice, and I suggested water chestnuts, but he said we need to stop putting so much pressure on the poor water chestnut to solve all our problems. Ha. I still think they'd go well with the dish.

Try this soon. You won't be disappointed.

Chicken and Broccoli Stir Fry
Alosha's Kitchen

1 1/4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
6 scallions, whites only, thinly sliced on an angle (slice and reserve all the tops for garnish)
4 cloves garlic, grated or minced divided*
1 1/2-inch piece peeled fresh ginger, grated or minced, divided*
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 tablespoon + 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 tablespoon + 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 tablespoons xiaoxing wine (or dry sherry)
2 tablespoons dark sesame oil
About 1/2 cup water
4 tablespoons neutral oil
5 broccoli crowns, chopped, separated into florets and stems
1-2 teaspoons Sriracha sauce (chile sauce)
2 tablespoons oyster sauce

In a medium bowl, toss the chicken with the scallion whites, half the garlic and ginger, soy sauce, sugar, 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch, 1/2 tablespoon Kosher salt, xiaoxing wine, and sesame oil. Marinate at room temperature for at least 15 minutes. Mix the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch with 1/2 cup water and set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large nonstick skillet or wok over high heat. Add the broccoli stems, and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Add the florets and the remaining garlic, ginger, 1/4 cup water, 1/4 teaspoon salt and chile sauce. Stir-fry until the broccoli is bright green and tender-crisp, about 4 minutes. You may need to add a tablespoon more water (or two or three) to make sure it stir fries without sticking or searing too much. Transfer to a plate.

Pour another 2 tablespoons oil in the pan and add the chicken mixture. Stir-fry (stir, stir, stir at this point!) until the chicken is brown and cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the oyster sauce, stir, then return the broccoli to the pan and toss to heat through. Stir in the reserved cornstarch mixture and bring to a boil to thicken (add a couple, few more tablespoons of water to make a bit more sauce, if desired - I did).

Serve over rice, with the reserved scallion greens and extra chile sauce on the side.
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Sunday, February 19, 2012

Weekly Menu - Week of February 19, 2012

I survived my first week at my new job. Unfortunately it was a rough week between commuting for training the first three days of the week and then getting settled at home the last two days. As a result I didn't cook much and what I did cook wasn't very exciting or good. I'm anxious to get back in the kitchen this week and make some good meals.

Sunday - Chicken and Broccoli Stir Fry over rice: My friend Melissa only blogs meals that she absolutely loves so I know this is going to be delicious. I'm also making Christmas Morning Strata to eat for breakfast during the week.

Monday - Soutzoukakia over mashed potatoes, green beans

Tuesday - hoagies

Wednesday - Cream of Tomato Soup with Pesto, Texas Roadhouse Knockoff Salads, bread for dipping

Thursday - out for dinner after a late appointment

Friday - homemade pizza
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Friday, February 17, 2012

Recipe Swap Roundup - Potato Recipes

February is National Potato Month, so since potatoes are a pretty standard yet versatile starch I thought they'd make the perfect theme for a recipe swap. As you can see from the number of recipes below, my fellow swappers agreed. These are some seriously delicious recipes with everything from breakfast to side dishes to main courses and even one dessert!

The simple lemon juice and olive oil dressing in Nichole's Lemony Asparagus & New Potatoes took the dish from ordinary to extraordinary:

Jenna's Home Fries were the perfect accompaniment to a steak dinner:

Caitlin was happy to add Salt and Vinegar Roasted Potatoes to her side dish arsenal:

Jaida did double-duty for this swap, filling in for another blogger who had to bow out due to time constraints. Her first recipe was for Pork and Potato Hash:

... and the other was a surprisingly delicious Boxty Potato Cake Salad that took her back to her Irish roots with a crispy potato cake paired with salad:

Leanne loves potatoes but was initially intimidated by her recipe for Potatoes Dauphinois. Thankfully these look fancy but require very little effort:

The Cookaholic Wife had been planning to make these Roasted Jalapeno Mashed Potatoes before receiving them for the swap, and as expected they were a big hit:

Melissa has been looking for a good Oven Baked French Fries recipe and enjoyed this spicy version:

Katie enjoyed the olive oil twist in her recipe for Lemon Rosemary Garlic Smashed Potatoes, even if her husband wasn't a fan:

Christen enjoyed her Baked Eggs with Cheddar and Potatoes, aka love in a pot:

Lishie's husband isn't a fan of chowder so she turned her recipe into Baked Corn, Leeks & Cheesy Potatoes, which was a hit alongside steak:

Colleen, a swap newcomer, loves roasted potatoes. Her recipe for Roasted Rosemary-Onion Potatoes was a winner:

Another swap newcomer, Amy, had the only dessert recipe in the swap, Cinn-ful Sweet Potato Cookies:

Mary Ellen loves potatoes in all forms, and her Potato Roast wins most impressive presentation:

Jey's delicious and healthy Lighter Loaded Baked Potato Soup transported her back to her college days:

Cathy and her husband both enjoyed the Potato Sausage Breakfast Scramble, a perfect one-pot breakfast dish:

Coleen had my recipe for Gratin of Yukon Gold Potatoes, which she also found irresistible:

Nicole had a few issues with her Slow Cooker Sweet Potato Chili, but hopes to try it again with some modifications:

Kristina was thrilled that got to make homemade gnocchi, her favorite dish to order when she eats at an Italian restaurant, for her recipe for Gnocchi with Fontina Sauce:

My Potato Bundles were an easy, delicious side dish that opens itself up to a wide variety of flavor combinations:

Despite being from Buffalo, NY, buffalo-flavored recipes rarely make it on Melissa's table. She was pleasantly surprised by how good her Buffalo Chicken Shepherd's Pie was:

Ashley and her sister devoured her Parmesan Potato Wedges:

Autumn Rose, a newcomer to the swaps, enjoyed the crispiness of her San Francisco Garlic Fries:

The Cooking Nurse thought her Cheesy Roasted Garlic Potato Balls were a bit of work, but the result was worth it:

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