Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Broccoli Cheese Soup

So, I think I've mentioned that I watch ALOT of FoodNetwork. A. lot. I'm pretty dedicated, too.  I follow Giada like a lost puppy with Ina Garten coming in a close second.  My perfect Saturday morning is waking up early to watch their new episodes.

Recently, I found a NEW FN Chef to follow: Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond.  Not only is she a great cook, but she is also quirky and creative.  Love it!  Plus, she started off as a blogger!  It's a match made in heaven.

This evening I made her Broccoli Cheese Soup.  Now, when ever I look up a recipe online, I ALWAYS read the reviews.  They are often incredibly helpful.  The reviews for Ree's soup were, sadly, not overwhelmingly good.  Also, she used quite a bit of fatty ingredients (NOT judging here--but I'll cut the calories where I can). So I added 4 of my own twists to what she has done.

Here's the line up:
3 C. reduced sodium chicken broth
3 C. 2% Milk
2 C. Half & Half (I used the reduced fat kind. Judge me.)
1/3 C. flour
1 stick of butter
1/2 of one big onion
3 broccoli crowns
2 potatoes
1/2 bag of matchstick carrots

1 clove of garlic
1 T chopped thyme
1 t Kosher salt
1 T pepper
pinch of nutmeg
2 bags of reduced fat cheddar cheese

I just tried to upload my pictures of the process onto Scrom...guess what?  They were accidentally deleted.  Sigh. Technology.  Another instance of having to use your imagination.

First thing's first: I melted the stick of butter and added the diced onion, garlic and thyme.  I love chopping veggies.  I could make someone a very dedicated sous chef.

Once those were soft/translucent, I added in the flour, whisking the whole time. Next, came the 3 cups of milk, 3 cups of broth, and 2 cups of half and half.  Ree uses 4 cups of whole milk...but I read it made it very, well, milky.  Which is not what I think when I think broccoli cheddar soup.  Chicken broth has sommore I opted to half the milk.

Next I added in the 3 crowns of broccoli, which I chopped into bite sized pieces, along with the potatoes (also bite-sized) and half the bag of carrots.  Ree doesn't use potatoes or carrots..but I can't imagine broccoli cheddar soup without those little pieces of carrots! The pot is getting full by add in that pinch of nutmeg, salt and pepper.

Next, just let it do it's thing, covered on low heat, for about 30 minutes.  Add in ALL of the cheese next.  I had a softball sized round of gouda on hand, so I tossed half of that in, too.

Stir, stir, stir.  It looks a little separated and chunky...just keep stirring! At this point, I mashed it a little with my potato masher (my husband and I like big chunks of broccoli).
I kept it on low heat for another 10 minutes just to let it thicken.

And here is the finished product! (Technology won't hold me down!)  As my mom always says, it will be even better the next day, due to all of the meshing of lingering flavors.

Soon, I will be sharing my Brie mashed potatoes that I am bringing to our Thanksgiving dinner table.  It is absolutely to die for!


Monday, September 10, 2012

Yellow Zucchini Soup

As promised!
I do have some bad news though...I don't have any pictures of this one so you'll have to use your imagination.  The soup being as fabulous as it was, was a TOTAL accident.
I was at my local farmer's market carrying around a HUGE (it was honestly like, a foot and a half long!) Yellow Zucchini.  (It only cost me 50 cents and I didn't even use the whole thing!)  A man spotted me carrying it and said, "That'll make an excellent soup." Challenge: accepted.
So I got to work.  Here's what you need:
-One yellow zucchini
-4 big potatoes
-1 yellow onion
-2 T basil
-1 T Italian seasoning
-1/4 c. marscarpone cheese (sour cream, if your grocery store STILL isn't carrying this great stuff!)
-3 c. chicken broth
-2 c. water
-salt & pepper
-Asiago cheese wedge
-3 T flour
-3 T butter
-roughly 1/2 - 3/4 c. milk
And here's what you'll do:
In a BIG pot, start heating up all of the chicken broth and water.
Give your zucchini a rough dice.  Cut it into a-little-bit-bigger-than-bite-sized pieces.  I used about 2/3 of my zucchini.  You can use the whole thing if you'd like!
Also, peel and quarter your onions and potatoes.
All the veggies into the pot.
Next, chop the basil and add it and the Italian seasoning in.  A good tablespoon of salt and half tablespoon of pepper should be added for flavor.
Now, cover your pot and let it sit on a low heat for 3 hours.
After 3 hours, you'll add in your marscarpone.  At this point, I also blended my soup.  I have one of these fancy guys:
This is called an Immersion Hand Blender.  I call it a juuusher because that's what it seems to do. :-)
Blend your soup so that there are no big chunks.
Next step is the roux.
In a medium saucepan, add your butter and flour.  Stir/mix continuously until it looks paste-like.  Now, slowly pour in milk.  Like I said in the ingredients, it will probably be 1/2 cup to 1 cup.  The consistency you are looking for is that of a cream sauce: thick but smooth.
Add the roux to the soup and give it a good stir.
Let the soup sit for another 2 hours (this can go longer or shorter...but my mom has ALWAYS told me that the longer a soup sits, the better it is).
Next is the best part.  Cube up the asiago and dump in as much or as little as you want.  It slowly melts in the soup and causes some great chewy, cheesey bites (my sister and I like to call these 'cheese surprises' :-) )
That's it!  The soup should be extremely velvety and delish.
This soup made so much, I sent some over to my parents/sister and Dan's parents and we still had lots left over!!
You gotta try this one... it is such a delicious yet light comfort food!

Chicken Cobb Salad

Hello!! It has been a minute since my last post...but I have been SUPER busy starting a new school year (my FIRST "real" year, by the way, as a third grade teacher :-) ) and finishing up planning our wedding (October 13..woop woop!!) but it doesn't mean I haven't been cooking.  I just need to catch up with my blog.  Only so many hours in the day. Le sigh.
Aaanyway.  Since we are SO close to our wedding, we've been trying to eat light.  Also, I have just discovered some awesome local farmer's markets and have been trying to take advantage of them while I can!! Honestly, I don't know what I ever did without Farmer Markets!!
So. Salad. I love Panera Bread's Chopped Chicken Cobb salad so this is kind of a copy cat of that one.  Here's whatcha need:
-2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded thin (about 1 inch thick)
-1 ripe avocado
-1 tomato
-1 bag of lettuce
-Gorgonzola (pre-packaged are cheaper than the big wedge!)
-3 hard boiled eggs
-Kraft Light Ceasar/Italian Dressing
The first thing I did was hard boil the eggs.  Holy cow. It took FOREVER! But I think this step is worth it.  They really add to the salad.
I cooked the chicken next.  I drizzled my grill pan with some (garlic-infused) EVOO.  Regular EVOO will work just fine!  I salt and peppered my chicken liberally on both sides and got them grilling.  When I saw that they were cooked through (no pink) I removed them and let them "rest" on my cutting board, under foil, for about 5 minutes before slicing them into bite sized chunks.  I put it in the fridge to bring the temp down for about 10-15 minutes.
Letting meat rest is something I learned for all of my extensive Food Network watching.  Let me just say, it really keeps your meat JUICY!! It seems like a step worth skipping but I will tell you, it's not.
The rest is all assembly.  I dumped out the bag of lettuce, chopped up the tomato and avocado and sprinkled some Gorgonzola on top.  When the chicken and egg were ready to go, I topped the salad with that.
I drizzled some of the Kraft Light Ceasar/Italian dressing and tossed it all together.  I added some freshly ground black pepper to taste and that's it!
It was SO good!! ANNNND filling.  I turn my nose up at salads often...but this really got me full.  The creamy avocado mixed with the bite of the Gorgonzola was to die!
Some things I MIGHT do next time:
-Add some crumbled turkey bacon (My fiance, Dan opted against this one.  He was sure the chicken and egg would be enough.  We didn't miss it...but coulda been a nice touch)
-Add some toasted walnuts.  I love walnuts on just about everything...but they were just too expensive for my budget today.
-Next time, I might add some craisins for chewy sweetness.
Of course, feel free to use whatever dressing you want!  I thought the Light Ceasar/Italian was a perfect fit.  You definitely want something lighter since the salad is so hearty.
That's it!! Try it out and tell me whatcha think.
Soon, I will be posting an AWESOME recipe for yellow zucchini soup.  Seriously, you will dream about the stuff.
Til next time

Monday, July 30, 2012

Under 200 Calorie Breakfast!

Ok, so I am totally NOT the girl to ever skip breakfast (or any meal for that matter).  I usually buy the English muffin breakfast sandwiches by SmartOnes.  They are delish and keep me full til lunchtime.  They are about 260 calories and can get pretty expensive.  So, I thought to myself, 'There is NO reason why I can't make these myself...healthier AND cheaper.' I did--and they were super easy!

Aunt Millie's 100% Whole Wheat English Muffins are what I used.  They are 100 calories a pop and come in boxes of 6!

 I always use these cheese squares.  They are only 45 measley calories per slice and they actually have flavor!  I have used Kraft before...but they just don't seem to taste like, well, anything. Weight Watchers are the way to go. 

So here's what I did:
I happen to have a silicon muffin top 'pan' (seen below).  I thought it would be the perfect place to make little baked eggs.
I whipped up four (yes, only four for 6 rounds! Can you feel your wallet getting thicker?!) eggs in a bowl.  I added about a tablespoon of 1% milk, salt, pepper, and some parsley.
I used that mixture and poured it into the lightly greased little silicon cups (four eggs for six rounds is PLENTY).
I baked them in the oven at 400 degrees until the eggs were no longer wiggly--about 12 minutes.
 NOTE!  BEFORE you fill your silicon cups, PUT THE PAN ON SOMETHING STURDY! Otherwise, the egg mixture runs all over the place (found this out the hard way). I would recommend using a cookie sheet under your silicon pan.

Ta Da! SO easy!! I wrapped them up in some plastic wrap and froze them for the week. I calculated everything and it comes out to...wait for it...192 calories per sandwich! Take that, SmartOnes.

The best part about these is their versitility.  Next time I will use different spices (I love basil and/or oregano in my eggs) and maybe use some veggies.
I am also BIG into the Laughing Cow cheese wedges--so I might use those instead next time, too.

Happy Cooking!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Delectable Breakfast

Alright, I can't take full credit for this's a Giada De Laurentiis recipe!  However, I took some different twists and turns to make it my own.  Here's a peek:

This thing was SO is an absolute MUST try.  Here we go:

I used a spring form pan for this one. (Giada uses a tart pan.  I would imagine any sort of pie pan could work)

I got Pilsbury Cresent roll dough made with NO LINES.  The no line thing makes life real easy.
Roll out your dough and stick it into your buttered/floured pan. Prick the dough with a fork... this will let the air kind of escape.  Next, Giada says brush the crust with an egg white.  This gives the crust that golden brown color and keeps our egg custard from seeping later.
Stick it in your 350 degree oven for about 18 minutes (just following package directions so far...easy peasy)

Heres the rest of your ingredients:
  • 5 eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces) mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) shredded Swiss (Giada uses Gruyere...but that stuff is EXPENSIVE! Maybe after I've made a small fortune, I, too, will be able to use fancy cheese)
  • 3 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 turkey sausage links (Giada uses panchetta...I am not a red meat eater so I opted for turkey sausage)
  • 6 spears of asparagus

  • Cut up the green onion and the asparagus into bite sized pieces and toss in a big bowl with the eggs, mascarpone (DO NOT skip the mascarpone! this is what makes this dish soo creamy!), bag of shredded Swiss, salt and pepper.

    I used 2 Johnsonville turkey cheddar dogs in this one.  I fried 'em up in the pan beforehand just to get them crispy.  Toss the cut up pieces of  'dog into the egg mixture.

    This is all going to fill in the crust that should be out of the oven by now.

    Next is where my frustration kicked in.  Giada's recipe says to crank the oven to 400 degrees and in about 18 minutes, it's done set and done.  Mine was in for about 30 minutes.  The middle just would NOT stop jiggling! I didn't want anything to dry after 20-30 minutes, I pulled it out of the oven.  I let it sit for a good 10 minutes before cutting into it.  It was a liiiiittle runny, but still scrom.  The next day it was even better.

    This is another one that can be SO versatile.  You can use whatever meat, cheese, veggies you can dream up.  I liked this mixture and plan on making it again real soon.

    Sunday, June 10, 2012

    Chicken Piccata!

    Hello hello! So it has been a little while. We have been so non-stop busy...I love it! 'Tis the season for swimming, barbeques, and fun in the sun :-)

    This week, my parents went to Key West to celebrate their 35th Anniversary and my dad's 60th birthday!  So, Dan and I are house/dog sitting.  I just recently moved out of my house back in March.  Sadly, I had to leave my sweet little dog, Simsim.  My apartment complex isn't animal friendly (so lame!).  Here he is:
    He is a 7 year old miniture poodle.  How cute is he?!  Needless to say, it won't be hard to spend the week with this face!  Anyway, let's get down to business.

    Below is my chicken piccata.  Okay, well it's Giada De Laurentiis' (culinary IDOL!) chicken piccata, but I added my own twist to it. This is Dan's FAVORITE dish.  I am always trying to beat out chicken piccata as his favorite, but it has yet to happen. 
    It's a little bit tricky and I will admit I have messed it up a few times.  Dan says that he can tell just by how it looks if I have gotten it right.  So here we go!

     Here's the ingredients.
    1/3 cup Chicken stock
    1/4 cup lemon juice
    Thin sliced chicken breasts
    4 T butter
    1 jar of capers
    2 T EVOO
    Flour (for dredging)
    and about a half pound of spaghetti (I used capellini this time, which I REALLY liked... Dan insists plain ol' spaghetti is best)

    Get your pot of water boiling right away, add a generous handful of salt and cook your spaghetti as usual...nothin' fancy there.
    Here is the chicken I used.  I think that using the thin sliced is DEFINITELY the way to go.  I have used regular chicken breasts before....I just think the thin ones REALLY absorb the flavor and cook up real quick.

    So first step, get two tablespoons of butter and two tablespoons of EVOO hot in the fry pan.
    Season your chicken with salt and pepper and dredge in flour. The flour is only just a light coating (see above picture).  Put the chicken in the pan.

    Cook on each side for about 2-3 minutes and remove the chicken.

     While the chicken is off to the side resting, add stock, lemon juice and capers.  Giada suggests that you drain the capers.  I reserve the liquid and add it later.  Make sure you are scraping up all of those bits from the bottom of the pan!  Let the liquid come up to a nice boil and add the chicken back in.  This is where all of those fabulous flavors soak into the chicken.  Let the chicken finish cooking in the liquid. 
    Once the chicken is done cooking, remove it from the pan (Picutred above).  Whisk in remaining two tablespoons of butter.  This is when I usually add some of the caper liquid. 

    Drain your pasta and add it to the frying pan.  I only use half the box of pasta because I find that if I use the WHOLE box, the pasta is not nearly as flavorful.

    Toss the pasta in the sauce until all of the sauce is absorbed into the pasta.

    Et voila! Chicken piccata.  Tried and true this dish is light and packed with flavor.  Enjoy!

    Friday, May 25, 2012

    Happy Friday!! I am SO pumped for the holiday weekend! We have so much going's going to be a blast for sure.

    Now, I like to dedicate weekends of this type to ALL KINDS of amazing foods.  Whether it be new things that I am bringing to the table or awesome dishes my friends cook up.  Dan and I have plans to attend several different Memorial Day parties and I have some great ideas I plan to try out...but before that, I want to share some old favorites.  These are two recipes that I go back  to time and time again AAAND they are SUPER easy!!

    First, here's my favorite Turkey Panini.  Sounds boring...but it's so not!

    Ta da!  How good does that look? Super easy's what you need:

    A hearty bread (Here I used Aunt Millie's Crunchy fave if I'm going full-on carb)
    Cheese (of your choice...I used reduced fat, shredded colby jack)
    Mayo (I used reduced fat...can you see a pattern yet?)
    One wedge of Laughing Cow Garlic and Herb wedge
    Slivered Almonds

    I layered them in this order: Shredded cheese, avocado slices (I used one half for one sammie), handful of slivered almonds, tomato, turkey, lettuce, Laughing Cow Wedge and mayo.  I layer them like this because the shredded cheese, avocado, and slivered almonds like to try and escape. If I layer like this and place the 'sam cheese side down first, these slippery ingredients tend to mesh together and less is lost :-)

    I get a little bit of EVOO hot on a grill pan and put the sandwich cheese side down. 
    Now, I don't have a panini press.  Neither do I expect to have one in the near future.  So what I do is put my CLEAN cutting board on top of the sandwich and then top that with a heavy jar of some sort (think big salsa jar, big can of get the idea)  It gives the sammie the perfect squish.  Of course, there comes a point when you need to flip it....but it doesn't take too much skill ;-) 

    Next up is my slow cook spicy chicken.

    This really could not get any easier.  And it's SO versitile! Here's a peek:

    Ok. Not too appealing in a picture, but I promise it's SUPER scrom.

    All you need is chicken breast, taco seasoning and salsa.   .... That's it.

    That's it!!
    I dump it all in my trusty crock pot and cook it long and low.
    This batch cooked for about 6 hours.  After six hours on low, I pull it apart with two forks.  This COULD be the last step, but I like to let it soak in the juices for another hour (I set my 'pot to warm at this point).

    I have used this chicken for SO many things.  I use it for tacos, enchiladas and my super awesome Mexican lasagna (more on that later).
    The best part about this is you can adjust it however you'd like.  I use medium salsa with hot taco seasoning.  Certainly you can use whatever level of spice you want.  Once, I tried it with this great black bean salsa.  Like I said, so versitile. And amaze with a cold beer.

    Well, that's what is on tap for us tonight!!  Can't wait to see all of the awesome dishes that will be brought to the table this Memorial Day weekend.  Hope your table is just as exciting!!

    Have a fun and safe weekend

    Tuesday, May 22, 2012

    Happy Tuesday!  Tonight we celebrate the final week of this season's American Idol...Goooo Phillip Phillips!

    Honestly, Dan and I are trying to make the most out of the groceries that we buy.  Too often I'll find myself throwing out half a pound of turkey or dumping most of the milk down the drain.  So, we are trying to plan our week night menus so that that doesn't happen.

    Tonight I made Alfredo Chicken with Potatoes. Super easy!! Probably not the LOWEST fat...but I tried!

    Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

    Start off with some cheese (I had a brick of peccorrino on hand) and some seasoned croutons.  I LOVE using croutons as bread crumbs!

    I used about half the bag of croutons here.  I also added a nice sized cube of the cheese (I would have used ALOT more if I didn't have a wedding dress to fit into soon). Then I popped in one clove of garlic, just for good measure.

    Pulse until it is the consistency of breadcrumbs.

    Next for the chicken.  I used some BIG chicken breasts.  Looking back, I would have definitely preferred using fillets. Definitely.

    I whacked the chicken with a mallet to pound them down a bit.  (Yes, yes I know you're supposed to use wax paper.  I was careful not to incorporate plastic into our chicken)

    Season both sides of your chicken liberally with salt and pepper.

    Next was the most tricky part (and luckily, it isn't tricky at all!)

    First off, get a big skillet hot with some olive oil.

    Next, dump some alfredo onto a plate (I used the one pictured above..they DO make light alfredo sauce!)

    Dump your breadcrumb mixture on another plate nearby.

    Swish your chicken around in the alfredo, covering entirely.  Next, swish it in the breadcrumbs, again, covering entirely.  Into the pan it goes! Then on to your next piece of chicken! 

    Now they sit happy in the pan for 5-7 minutes on each side.
    After they are nice and brown, stick them uncovered in the oven for about 10 minutes.
    Put the cover one for about another 15-20 minutes (until chicken is done).  Otherwise it could get horribly dried out.

    Here was our side for the evening.  It was just frozen parmesan potatoes I picked up at Trader Joe's.  They had them out at a sample once and I loved them!  Just sautee these up!

    Ta-da!  They wound up being quite scrom (and made the apartment smell amaaaaze)....but like I said, next time I will use fillets or even tenders...these guys were just a little too thick for me.

    Let me know if you try it!

    Saturday, May 19, 2012

    First Post

    Hmm..first post. 
     Let's start with breakfast.

    This morning I made a breakfast casserole for my fiance and I.  We have a BIG afternoon: going to the Cubs/White Sox game!  We needed some serious fuel.

    After scouring my pinterest page searching for something other than scrambled eggs and toast...I came across these tiny mini muffin cups.  Awh, how cute!  Sadly, I would need to eat at least 20 of them to feel satisfied. Hm. What to do...
    I started with four red potatoes, sliced thin.  I wished I had some frozen hashbrowns or AT LEAST a good grater....alas, my knife worked just fine.

    So, I lined my little casserole dish with potatoes that I had seasoned with salt, pepper, and dried rosemary.  Then, I drizzled them with some extra virgin olive oil.

    These guys went into a 450 degree oven for about 20 minutes.


    I got some turkey bacon cookin up in the skillet. (I don't eat red meat, pork, most seafood...etc.  Basically, I will only eat chicken and turkey.  I AM dabbling in seafood these days...but I am finding I am quite picky.)

    It was just my fiance, Dan and I (plus my 8X8 casserole) so I only used a half dozen eggs. Obviously, if you are entertaining alot of people, you'd need more eggs.
    Then I had some fat free half and half on hand (that was not yet expired--what luck!) and I added probably about 2 good tablespoons.

    These are what I used to season my egg mixture.  Now, I was TOTALLY wishing I had some asparagus or broccoli to throw in there...sigh.

    Those potatoes felt like they were taking I washed some dishes. ;-)

    Bacon is done and cooled! I tore it into bite sized pieces and threw it in with the egg.

    FiNALLY the potatoes were done. I added in some reduced fat colby jack. Be as liberal as you wish.

    On goes the egg!  The bacon was being a pain and didn't want to swim freely in the egg mixture.  I used a fork to distribute the bacon a little better.

    Into a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes (I checked it a buncha times.  Just make sure nothing is wigglin.)

    Voila!  The eggs should appear springy and spongey.

    I served it with a nice big hunk of homemade French bread, Louisiana Hot Sauce and ketchup.

    DELISH! It was fabulous AND not too heavy.  The extra virgin olive oil on the potatoes made the pieces slide right out of the dish, too.

    Like I said, I wish I had some great veggies to put in there.  And I could have done without the rosemary.

    This dish is something I call Scrom.  You might have seen the following pictures around the internet:

    A few years back, when I discovered this "om nom" craze...I started using it when I would eat something particularly, well, nom.  Soon, "nom" evolved.  If I ate something ESPECIALLY nom, it turned out to be "nombly."  Nombly evolved into the even more desirable, "scrombly" (which I think I created out of nom and scrumptious).  Then, one day...I must have eaten something SO amazing, all that came out was, "Scrom." 

    So, scrom, to me is the utmost wonderful compliment I can give to a food.  If I say something is scrom, you KNOW it's good.

    Sometimes, my fiance will say, "So, is it scrom?"  and I will reply with, "Meh, it's pretty nom, but not scrom."

    Now, I know this sounds absolutely off the wall...but it's catchy! Try it, rate the next food you eat.  To say that something is scrom is quite fulfilling. :-)

    If you try my recipe, PLEASE let me know what you think! I would love feedback and/or different things you add or take out.

    Thanks for reading~