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Lighter Loaded Potato Soup

4 Mar

Since it’s March I would love to say that the balmy, winter weather is over, but I know better than that.  Unfortunately March can be a cruel month, leading you to believe that the worst is over and Spring has sprung, but that’s not always the case.  March is definitely one of those months that you have to pay close attention to the weather because one day it can be close to 70, and the next, low 40s.

It’s always a good idea to have a few quick recipes ready to go for those days that the weather is just a little more balmy than  expected – such as a quick, filling soup.  I first saw this soup a few months ago in a Cooking Light my boss discarded in the magazine pile at work and I knew I needed to make it.  The problem is – I lost the magazine for a few months and couldn’t remember where I saw the recipe.  Upon finding it while cleaning I knew I immediately needed to make this recipe.  I love anything potatoes and I was gearing up for a chilly weekend, and Saturday afternoon alone, so I figured what better time to try it out then a quick weekend lunch.  I have never been so glad to actually make something for a weekend lunch!  Not only was it delicious then, it made for great leftovers for work since it’s always a little chilly in the office!  And, bonus – not too bad for you!  I’m not saying this was an uber-healthy meal, however as starchy soups go this was a light version that wasn’t light on flavor by any means!

Loaded Potato Soup
Ingredients:
2 lbs red potatoes
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 chopped onion
1 1/4 cups fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups 1% low-fat milk, divided
1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
3 bacon slices
1/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese
4 teaspoons thinly sliced green onions

Directions:
Pierce potatoes with a fork. Microwave on HIGH 13 minutes or until tender. Cut in half; cool slightly.

While potatoes cook, heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion; sauté 3 minutes. Add broth. Combine flour and 1/2 cup milk in measuring cup; add to pan then add the remaining 1 1/2 cups milk. Bring to a boil; stir often, being careful to not let the milk boil over. Cook 1 minute. Remove from heat; stir in sour cream, salt, and pepper.

Arrange bacon on a paper towel on a microwave-safe plate. Cover with a paper towel; microwave on HIGH for 4 minutes. Crumble bacon.

Scoop potato into soup and discard potato skins. Coarsely mash potatoes into soup using a potato masher. Ladle soup into bowls and top with cheese, green onions, and bacon.

Source: Cooking Light, October 2010

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Homemade Taco Seasoning

21 Jan

I previously posted about how every year I try to take better advantage of time, store sales, etc. to prepare some meals in advance to either stock the freezer or make the rest of the week easier, however why stop with the perishables?!  One of my favorite pantry staples is definitely taco seasoning, and I finally got rid of all the prepackaged taco seasoning in our pantry and made my own.  It takes less than 5 minutes to make up a big batch of homemade taco seasoning so I don’t know why it took me so long, but now that I have I’ll never buy another packet again!

Sometimes I’m a little nervous to try something homemade when it’s always delicious from a box, packet, etc. because the flavor just isn’t the same, however there was no need to be nervous about this!  Not only is it not full of preservatives, it’s still full of flavor!  Seriously, make a batch of this and you won’t regret it!  Keep it in the pantry and you’ll be one step closer to having a quick meal ready to go!

Homemade Taco Seasoning
Ingredients:
4 tbsp. chili powder
3 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. paprika
3 tbsp. ground cumin
1 tbsp. plus 2 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper

Directions:
Combine all ingredients in a bowl, and mix well to blend.  Store in an airtight container until ready to use.

To prepare taco meat, use about 3 – 3 1/2 heaping tablespoons in place of a package of taco seasoning (cook approximately 1 lb. of beef or chicken, add 1 cup of water with the seasoning, and simmer until the liquid is almost completely gone.)

Source: seen on Annie’s Eats

(edited March 2011 to reflect more accurate measurements for seasoning per 1 lb. of cooked meat)

Classic Chicken Noodle Soup

19 Jan

At the start of every year I resolve to start utilizing my weekends to prepare foods for the week, or to stock the freezer, and this year is no exception, especially with baby on board.  However, this year I have more realistic expectations for myself – I know I won’t spend 1 day a weekend, or even every weekend doing this, so why set myself up to break my resolution in 2 weeks?!  Basically I just want to be less lazy on the weekends and actually think ahead and prep when I get home from the store, take advantage of crappy weather to make a few freezer meals, etc.

When menu planning for the week I had to think of where to start with my resolution.  Well, I am sick of leftovers for lunch and have been wanting Chicken Noodle Soup so why not start there?  I like the recipe I’ve used in the past, but it’s just been missing something.  When searching on foodgawker I saw a fantastic looking picture from Smells Like Home that turned out to be a Barefoot Contessa recipe so I knew I couldn’t go wrong.

This recipe was everything I love about Chicken Noodle Soup, except it was homemade!  I love lots of celery and carrots in my soup, and by using all white meat chicken and whole grain noodles I made it even healthier!  The best part though was that it was quick and it freezes well!  The soup makes a great workday lunch, or companion to a grilled sandwich.

Classic Chicken Noodle Soup
Ingredients:
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1 1/2 cup medium-diced celery (3 stalks)
1 1/2 cup medium-diced carrots (4-5 carrots)
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 Quarts chicken stock
3 cups wide egg noodles
3 cups cooked chicken, diced
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Directions:
Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.  Add the celery, carrots, salt and pepper and cook for 10-12 minutes until softened.

Pour in the stock, bring to a boil over high heat, and add the noodles.  Cook the noodles for 10 minutes, then add the chicken and parsley.  Allow the chicken to heat through.  Serve hot.

Source: Smells like Home, originally adapted from Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa Family Style

Homemade Chocolate Pudding & a Special Craving!

18 Jan

I know, I know – I’ve been slacking!  But, I assure you, it’s for a very good cause.   Rob and I are having a baby!  Our first child is due June 27, 2011 and we couldn’t be more excited!  I’ve been feeling great, in relation to how I expected to feel, however I’ve just been exhausted.  I haven’t stopped cooking and baking, though admittedly I have slowed down a bit.  However, the lack of blogging lately is just due to pure laziness.  As I mentioned, I’ve been exhausted, so I either didn’t feel like taking pictures of my food, or if I did take pictures they still need to be loaded and/or edited before I can post.

Though we don’t know the sex yet, this baby definitely takes after daddy, or is all girl, because I’ve been having some major chocolate cravings.  Chocolate has never been my go-to flavor choice, though I don’t dislike it, but the last few months I’ve been wanting it all.the.time.  However, not just any chocolate – I want soft and creamy chocolate – pudding, ice cream, hot chocolate, chocolate milk, “leftover” cake and cupcake frosting, etc.

In honor of Baby S., I want to share with you this amazing homemade chocolate pudding recipe I stumbled across while enjoying a breakfast drink (chocolate flavor, of course!)  as a snack at work and poking around the inter-webs.  To be honest, pudding has never been something I’ve thought of making on my own until I started craving it – but believe me, this recipe will definitely get some good use when this baby starts begging for pudding when it’s older!  I saw numerous recipes that were more like custards and mousses (many of which I bookmarked for later!) but I just wanted a basic, aka quick, chocolate pudding.  This recipe did not disappoint.  Silky, creamy, rich but not heavy, and, of course – chocolaty!!

Silky Chocolate Pudding

Ingredients:
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 cups whole milk (I used 1% milk for a lighter version and it was still a-maz-ing!)
6 ounces 62% semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions:
Combine the cornstarch, sugar and salt in the top of a double boiler. Slowly whisk in the milk, scraping the bottom and sides with a heatproof spatula to incorporate the dry ingredients. Place over gently simmering water and stir occasionally, scraping the bottom and sides. Use a whisk as necessary should lumps begin to form. After 15 to 20 minutes, when the mixture begins to thicken and coats the back of the spoon, add the chocolate. Continue stirring for about 2 to 4 minutes, or until the pudding is smooth and thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla.

Strain through a fine-mesh strainer into a serving bowl or into individual serving dishes.

Place plastic wrap on top of the pudding and smooth it gently against the surface before refrigerating. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 3 days.

Source:  adapted from Smitten Kitchen, as found on The Wednesday Chef, originally from The Essence of Chocolate, by John Scharffenberger

Green Bean and Corn Casserole

17 Dec

I have discussed my love for comfort food numerous times on here, and this recipe is just another example of a food that is pure comfort in a casserole dish.  A tweaked version of a classic Green Bean Casserole that I have no idea of the original source, but I do remember the first time my mom made it when I was in high school or college.  She made it for Thanksgiving dinner in lieu of a traditional Green Bean Casserole – just for something a little different.  I wasn’t sure how I felt about it at first because I could take or leave corn, but I’ve been hooked since the first bite.

Green Beans, corn, sour cream, cheese… all the makings of a delicious casserole-style side dish, that admittedly I often made as dinner in college.  When I lived by myself I would make this and live off it for a few days.  My mom hasn’t made it in awhile, but she makes hers a little differently than I make mine.  Her’s is even more of a traditional Green Bean Casserole using French Fried Onions on top, whereas I pull out my ever present box of Reduced Fat Cheez-Its from the pantry and crush those bad boys on top!  Not the healthiest meal in the world but what comfort food really is all that healthy (besides some soups)?!

Eventually I will probably try making this without the cream soup, but for now I’m sticking with the recipe I know by heart, which includes Cream of Celery Soup.  I try not to use it that often, but I do always have a can in the pantry in case I’m ever craving a casserole type dish and don’t have the ingredients on hand to make it with a cheese sauce instead.

This recipe is freezer friendly.  I like to make 2 small batches at a time.  One in a smaller baking dish, the other in an 8×8 disposable foil pan.  I prepare just until baking and put in the foil pan.  Cover with two layers of foil, label and place in the freezer.  Just thaw in the fridge during the day, or the night before, you plan on baking it.  Bake as directed in the original recipe.
Green Bean and Corn Casserole
Ingredients:
1 can French Style Green Beans, well drained
1 can White Corn, well drained
1 can Cream of Celery Soup
8 oz. sour cream
~ 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
S&P to taste
1 cup crushed French Fried Onions, Cheez Its, Cornflakes, etc. based on your preference
3 tablespoons melted butter
Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly spray a 2 qt. baking dish with cooking spray.
Mix drained green beans and corn in a large bowl with soup, sour cream, cheese and S&P.  Evenly spread in prepared baking dish.  
Combine melted butter and crushed topping and then evenly sprinkle over casserole mixture.  
Bake for 30 minutes or until bubbly.  Remove and allow to set for a few minutes before serving.
** Note, works really well to prepare a few hours to 1 night in advance before baking.
Source: unknown

Chicken Cordon Bleu Risotto

29 Nov
One of my favorite dishes is Chicken Cordon Bleu, and I know I’ve often commented on how I like to make Chicken Cordon Bleu inspired dishes.  One of my most recent recreations was this Chicken Cordon Bleu Risotto.  I love creamy risottos so it was no surprise that I loved this dish.  This dish takes a relatively basic risotto recipe and adds the flavors of Chicken Cordon Bleu (chicken, ham, Swiss cheese and the rich crunchy topping) to the final touches.  
If you’re interested in some of my other Chicken Cordon Bleu inspired dishes, check out:
Chicken Cordon Bleu Risotto
Ingredients:
1 Cup Risotto
3 Cups Chicken Broth
1 clove garlic, finely diced
1/4 onion, finely chopped
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon Butter
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 cups shredded chicken
3 oz. cooked ham, diced
1/2 cup Swiss cheese, shredded
S&P to taste

For Topping:
1 slice high-quality white sandwich bread (without crusts), torn into quarters
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh basil

Directions

Warm up broth in sauce pan and keep at a low simmer until ready to use
Heat butter and oil in skillet/sautee pan over medium heat, adding chopped garlic and onion to cook for about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally
Add dry rice to pan with garlic and onions, coating with Butter and Garlic, stirring occasionally until rice begins to lightly brown, about 2 minutes.

Add wine to rice, stir and cook until it becomes absorbed.  

Add 1 cup of warm broth and stir periodically until rice absorbs most of the liquid.  Add another cup of broth, and continue until broth is gone and rice is creamy.
Add cheese and stir in until melted.  Add chicken and ham and cook until heated through.  

Meanwhile, to make topping:
Process the bread in a food processor (you should have about 1 cup crumbs).

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in the breadcrumbs and cook, tossing often, until golden brown, 3-5 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and toss with 1/4 cup Parmesan and the chopped basil.

Mini Meatloaves

21 Nov

When initially sitting down to eat this dinner I noticed just how “50s & Retro” it was, however I forgot that until I took a look at the pictures.  Wow, what a well balanced meal we have here – protein, starch and a veggie.  Too bad I didn’t think to put a glass of milk in the shot!

With that being said, there is something ultimately comforting about “retro-style” foods, such as meatloaf.  With just two of us to feed it doesn’t make sense to make an entire meatloaf unless I plan to freeze leftovers, which is very possible with meatloaf, however my freezer is a little cramped right now, so I decided to make little mini meatloaves.  I’ve seen a lot of people making them in muffin tins, which is a great idea, however when you’re planning to make a lot of cupcakes and need all the muffin tins you can get, you don’t necessarily feel like dirtying one up.  Bring in the trusted casserole dish – she works for so much more than just casseroles!  Example A: You want to make mini meatloaves and chose to make them free form…. once formed, bake them in your trusty casserole, forget about them until the timer goes off.

I have made many different versions of mini meatloaves, and I’ve liked most of them so after awhile I decided to take what I like from each of the recipes to create my own.

Mini Meatloaves
Ingredients:
1 lb. lean ground beef
1/4 cup Italian Seasoned breadcrumbs
1/2 cup chopped onions
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3/4 teaspoon Italian Seasoning
1/3 cup shredded cheese – I like to make with Italian cheese, or Sharp Cheddar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 1/2 tablespoons ketchup

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and lightly spray a casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray.

Combine beef, breadcrumbs, onions, salt, pepper, Italian Seasoning, shredded cheese and beaten egg in a large bowl.  Divide beef mixture into 4 equal portions and shape in to a small loaf.

Place each loaf on the lightly sprayed casserole dish.  Top each loaf with about 2 teaspoons ketchup and gently spread over the top.

Bake at 400 degrees for about 25-30 minutes or until cooked thoroughly.

For Freezer-Friendly:
If making specifically to freeze before baking – place each prepared loaf on a baking sheet lined with wax paper.  Flash freeze the meatloaves for a few hours and then wrap individually in plastic wrap before putting in a freezer weight plastic bag.  To bake – thaw in fridge during the day and bake as directed in the recipe.

If freezing after cooking, allow to cool in the fridge for a bit and then wrap each loaf in plastic wrap before storing in a freezer weight plastic bag.  Thaw in fridge during the day and bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes or until heated through.

Source: Telly’s Tasty Tidbits Original