Friday, January 30, 2009

Creamy Tomato Soup

My tastes have really changed in the last few years. I would never even tasted a tomato soup, even 3 years ago. Once I really started cooking everyday, I realized I needed to branch out a bit. And, through cooking, I realized how many great flavors there are out there. They always say, if you want your kids to eat better, have them help you in the kitchen. First, they will take pride and ownership in what they are cooking and want to eat it. Second, in preparing it, they will see it come together and smell it, and it will be more appetizing to them. I think that is totally true.
Now, I could still use some branching-out. It's not like I cook all types of food. But, cooking has helped me to learn and appreciate more flavors. It's- what? you mean, you don't want to hear about my foodie pilgrimage from cheeseburger pie to creamy tomato soup?
Alright, here's the recipe.
This soup is creamy (as the title promises) and not too rich. My kids even liked it!! Of course, they crunched up half a sleeve of Saltines in there's, but who cares. They ate tomato soup!!! We have been enjoying this all week. It makes quite a bit.

Creamy Tomato Soup
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 slice bacon, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
5 Tbsp. flour
4 1/2 c chicken broth
1 (28-ounce) can whole, peeled tomatoes
3 parsley springs
3 fresh thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
1 cup heavy cream
Heat the butter in a large pot on medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook,
stirring, until crisp and the fat has rendered. Remove the bacon. Lower the heat.
Chop your veggies (they don't have to be perfect- you will be blending it all later
in your blender or immersion blender, if your a fancy pants.)
Add the onions, carrots, garlic and celery and cook,
stirring occasionally, until soft and fragrant, about 8 minutes.Stir in the flour, and cook, stirring for 2 minutes.
Pour in the broth,
and crush the tomatoes through your fingers into the pan. Bring to a boil while whisking.
Tie the parsley, thyme and bay leaf together with string and add to the pot. Lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.
Remove and discard the herb bundle. Transfer the mixture in batches to your blender until it is all pureed. Or, just stick your fancy pants immersion blender in the pot and puree away. *I need another kitchen gadget like I need 5 more pounds, but an immersion blender is just so neat.

Reheat puree over medium heat. Whisk in cream, salt and pepper, to taste. Divide among bowls and serve. I topped mine with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

This was perfect this week, when we had ice and no school on Wednesday. Nothing better than a middle of the week "snow" day!!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Pumpkin Yeast Rolls

Make these rolls. Just trust me- you want to make these rolls. Let's see- first off, they are easy. They aren't quick, but they are easy. And second- let's see, how do I put this- they are AMAZING. Buttery, dense yeast rolls- with pumpkin. Oh, I love these rolls.

Pumpkin Yeast Rolls
3 3/4 cup flour
1 package yeast
1 tsp. salt
1/4 c milk
1/4 c honey
1/2 c canned pumpkin
1 egg
1/2 cup warm water
1 stick butter

In a large bowl, mix flour, yeast and salt
(I add more salt, maybe 1.2 tsp.)

Pour the milk into a microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high for 30 seconds.
Whisk in the honey, squash, egg and water.

With a fork, blend the squash mixture into the flour mixture until you have a soft dough. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour. (You can go longer than this. When I made them for Thanksgiving, I did this part the day before and they refrigerated all night.)

Two hours before baking, turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead lightly. Melt the butter and set aside in a small bowl. Divide the dough in half.

Divide each half into 6 sections.
Divide each section into 3 pieces.Roll each section in the melted butter and place in a muffin cup.
There are 3 buttered pieces per cup.
Pour the rest of the butter over each roll.
Let rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
Bake for 15-17 minutes in a 350 oven.
Seriously- these are good rolls. I meant to freeze half of the dough to see how that would work, if they would thaw and still rise a second time, but I forgot. Oh, darn. I guess I will just have to make them again. The sacrifices I make for having a cooking blog.
We are at home today. School's closed!! No snow, just ice. The kids have already been outside sliding around on the driveway and sliding down my dad's driveway in a box (he lives next door). It's not stuff you get to do every winter in Texas, so we are enjoying this "real winter weather" while we have it. It's will be 70 by this weekend.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Twice Baked Potatoes

Mmmm, just typing twice baked potatoes makes me lick my lips. Extra creamy, cheesy potatoes and they are great for company. They are the perfect make-ahead side item.
It is raining today and cold (for Texas). There is supposedly freezing rain on the way and all the schools are posting their information about possible late starts tomorrow. We are such wimps in Texas. If it ices just a little bit, we have NO IDEA what to do and everything gets cancelled. Not that I'm complaining- at all. Who doesn't love a snow day in the middle of the week? So, come on ice. We will happily awaiting your arrival.

Twice Baked Potatoes
baking potatoes
grated cheddar cheese
1 egg
sour cream
bacon, cooked and crumbled
salt and pepper
*These are what I like to put in my potatoes. This is very versatile. Use what you like.

Bake the potatoes as usual. Let cool slightly, so you can handle them.
There are two ways to cut your potato. If you have large potatoes,
I cut them in half and serve one half to each person.
If you have smaller potatoes, or just want to serve one potato per person, cut an oval out of the top of your potato. You need a big enough opening to spoon out the insides and fill it back up.
Spoon out the insides and place in a large bowl.
To the potato insides, add an egg. If you are doing more than 4 potatoes, add another egg. Add shredded cheese, bacon bits, sour cream, butter and season liberally with salt and pepper.
Mix well.
Fill potatoes with mixed filling. At this point, you can wrap these and freeze them or top with shredded cheese and bake at 400 for 15 minutes. You want the cheese to melt (and you have that egg in there- you want to make sure and cook it for at least 15 minutes)
One of my favorite potato dishes- definitely top three.
And, yes, I am the type of person that would think about and rank potato dishes.

A great blog with lots of giveaways

I have already mentioned this great site, Southern Plate. She is holding several giveaways in the month of February, and if I mention it on my site, I get extra entries for each giveaway. I made her M&M Oatmeal Bars last week, and they were awesome. I loved them, and they got rave reviews from the friend I made them for.
Wish me luck and go over there yourself to check out her goodies. Happy Monday!!!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Fried Turkey

Have you tried fried turkey?? If you have, you know what I'm talking about. Yeah, it's good- right?? If you haven't, I am sorry. Truly sorry. Fried turkey is juicy, flavorful and just YUM! It's a 2-day process, because we brine our turkey the day before. Brining tenderizes the meat and makes it more flavorful. You can brine it is pretty much anything, but it needs to have salt (to tenderize) and be completely immersed in liquid.

Oh, yeah!! He ate the WHOLE leg by himself.

Our Turkey Brine
1 orange, quartered
1 lemon, quartered
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup salt

*Do this the day before you are cooking the turkey. Keep refrigerated.

In a large pot (remember, the turkey has to be immersed in liquid), add sugar and salt. Fill 1/3 way with warm water, and stir to dissolve the salt and sugar.

Add lemons and oranges, squeezing the juice as you drop them in.
Add herbs, whatever you have on hand. I added rosemary and thyme.
Place turkey in and fill with water until turkey is immersed.
Pull turkey out of pot, discard brine. Pat dry.
Apply with dry rub (we actually used a pork rub because we had it on hand-
I am BIG on use what you got- and alot of it)
Place in basket. Oil needs to be at 350
(it takes about 45 minutes for oil to heat up to temperature)
Cook the turkey 3 minutes/lb plus 5 minutes. Our turkey was 9.65 lbs and we cooked it 34 minutes. It needs to reach an internal temperature of 165. We pull it out
when it is within 5 degrees of that. It drains in the basket, out of the oil for 10
minutes and will achieve that temperature.
Let drain in basket and then let cool for at least 5 minutes before you begin slicing.
Mmmm, let's just take a second and wipe that little bit of drool coming out
of our mouths before we move on, shall we?
The skin is so good. It's not fatty, it's crispy and incredibly flavorful

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Green Bean Casserole

This is based on the "original" green bean casserole, with a few additions. It is a family recipe on my husband's side- I really covet any recipes from his side of the family. They are excellent cooks, and I like knowing I am keeping a tradition alive. There were no daughters to pass recipes down to, so I am grateful my mother-in-law shares them with me.
Our dinner tonight was so yummy!! Jason did a great job on the fried turkey and everything tasted great together. It was some work, but it is fun to do a big meal like this every once in a while. We have leftovers that will be another dinner this week, and lunches for Jason at work.

Granny's Green Bean Casserole
1 can green beans
1 can cream of chicken and mushroom soup
1/2 soup can milk
8 saltine crackers, crushed
1 can french fried onions
1 Tbsp. dry Italian seasoning (I used Mrs. Dash garlic and herb seasoning)
*This is easily doubled or quadrupled for a large crowd

Mix green beans, soup, milk, crackers, 1/2 can onions and Italian seasoning in large baking dish.

Top with remaining onions and bake in a 350 oven for 30 minutes (45- 1 hour if quadrupled)

Chicken Pot Pie

Chicken Pot Pie??? But that isn't even on the menu for the rest of the month... Yes, you're right. Most of the time, I stick to what is written because I have all the ingredients for those recipes. However, my mom sent me home on Sunday with leftover roasted chicken and twice baked potato casserole. Yes, I know- aren't mothers great?!
Those leftovers will go bad before the frozen meat I have in my freezer, so I decided to make something with the chicken first. My inclination was furthered by a post on Sunday Baker. She did a post on mini chicken pot pies that looked divine!!! I just knew that was the perfect thing for my leftover roasted chicken and mashed potatoes.
I used Pillsbury crust, because I had it on hand and I'll be perfectly honest, I really like it. Her crust does look really good, and I will be trying it...eventually.
Chicken Pot Pies
1 whole chicken, pulled from bone and cut into chunks (I had 3 thighs, and 1/2 a breast)
1/3 c butter
1/3 c flour
2 tsp. minced garlic
1/2 tsp. salt
dash of pepper
2/3 c milk
1 1/2 c warm water
3 chicken bouillon cubes (Instead of water and bouillon cubes, I used chicken stock)
1 c frozen veggies
*My amount of filling made 3 mini pies

In a saucepan, melt the butter. Stir in the flour, garlic, salt and pepper.
*I also added fresh rosemary
Slowly stir in the milk, water and bouillon cubes (or stock)Roasted chicken, chunked

Bring it to a soft boil and stir constantly for 2 minutes until thickened.
Remove from heat and add chicken and frozen veggies.

I used the mini tins to trace the circle shape for the bottom crust.

Fill with filling, and put top crust on
Bake at 425 for 20 minutes (my smaller ones only needed 15 minutes)
I already had a great chicken pot pie recipe. Notice I said had. That is because this is my new chicken pot pie recipe. The only things that bothered me about my old recipe was the filling was to liquid-y and never got thick enough. That is exactly what I love about this filling. It is thick and creamy and oh-so delicious!!
I'm very excited about dinner tonight. Fried turkey, green bean casserole, stuffing balls (what?? I know, sounds weird- just trust me:), pumpkin yeast rolls, twice baked potatoes. I bought two turkey's before Thanksgiving. If you spent $20 on groceries, you got a turkey for 19 cents a pound. Whoo-hoo!!! I did two grocery trips that week, and broke up my list, just so I could get 2 turkey's at this great price. We used one turkey on Thanksgiving, and saved the other. I got both turkeys for less than $4 each.
Today is the day!! My husband is home and frying a turkey! I will be posting all the recipes and the whole process for the fried turkey. *Side note- I ALWAYS type fired when I am trying to type fried- it drives me crazy!!! OK, rant over. Thanks!*
Enjoy your weekend- we will be curled up inside with a fire, eating a great meal and playing dominoes. I just love family time!!!