Monthly Archives: August 2008

No Soup For You!

Well, maybe just a taste if you ask nicely. 😉

So, technically it’s not soup season yet…but rules are meant to be broken, right? We are starting to get those first chilly mornings that are the true sign that fall is on the way. I can’t believe Monday is September! Summer is officially over. That does make me a little sad…because once it gets to be fall that means winter is close behind. I do love fall though! The food, the smells, the leaves, the pumpkins. Hooray!

On to the soup! About three years ago, Eric bought me a big book of pasta recipes. I wasn’t as big into cooking back then and looking through the book intimidated me like no other. Everything seemed to be way over my head! I put it in my cookbook drawer and basically forgot about it. In doing some kitchen cleaning/reorganizing this week (no computer = must be productive during the day), I hauled out the book again and started flipping through it.

Since I’m much more confident in my abilities these days, I immediately bookmarked a whole bunch of stuff in the book. I’m looking forward to trying more! Kinda funny that the book was a gift from Eric and I’m sure his intention was that he would benefit from me having it. As it turns out, the first thing I try from it was something that I knew he wouldn’t care for on a night he wouldn’t be home for dinner because of class! LOL!

I loved that this tomato soup recipe used all fresh ingredients. It is tomato season, of course, so this was the perfect way to usher in the fall. The fresh flavor was great. Be sure to season liberally with salt and pepper. I thought it was slightly bland the first time around, so I seasoned up my leftovers a bit more and after chilling overnight and reheating, it was FANTASTIC! Yum! I always go easy on the salt. Too easy. There have been too many a-meal ruined in this house because of too much salt. So I blame myself, not the recipe, for the slight blandness the first time around. You could probably also add additional garlic and maybe some crushed red pepper to punch up the flavor a bit.

TOMATO SOUP WITH PASTA AND BASIL (Recipe Source: The Essential Pasta Cookbook)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 large, very ripe tomatoes
  • 2 tbs. olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 small red pepper, finely chopped
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1 cup shell pasta or macaroni
  • Additional basil leaves and parm cheese for garnish

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Score a small cross in the top of each tomato. Plunge into boiling water for 1-2 minutes, then into cold water. Peel skin down from the cross and discard. Remove the seeds and roughly chop.
  2. Heat the oil in a large heavy-based pan and cook the onion, garlic and red pepper, stirring, for 10 minutes, or until soft. Add tomatoes and cook another 10 minutes.
  3. Add the stock, tomato paste, sugar and salt and pepper to taste. Cover and simmer 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and add basil leaves.
  4. Allow mixture to cool slightly before processing, in batches, in a food processor or blender until smooth. Return to the pan and reheat gently.
  5. While the soup is cooking, add the past to a large pan of rapidly boiling salted water and cook until al dente. Drain, add to the soup and heat through. Garnish with basil leaves and parm cheese.

ENJOY! 🙂

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Filed under soup, veggies

Recipe or Marketing Ploy?

There are tons of great resources for recipes out there. One of the places I’m NOT likely to look is the back of packages of conveinece foods from the grocery store. I don’t know…I just feel like it’s less about good food and more about selling their prodects. I don’t need some marketing person telling me what’s good! LOL!

There are two exceptions to this….one is the delicious Jell-O pudding, Philly cream cheese, Cool-Whip laden desserts from Kraft. Ha! Can’t resist those. And the other is this recipe for Taco Bake that I discovred on the back of a box of Ortega taco shells. It’s sooo good! A great cure for the common taco!

TACO BAKE (Recipe Source: Ortega)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 cup (1 small) chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup Taco Sauce
  • 1 4 oz can Diced Green Chiles  
  • 1 package Taco Seasoning Mix
  • 1 package (12) Ortega® Taco Shells or (12) Ortega® White Corn Taco Shells, broken, divided
  • 2 cups Mild Cheddar Cheese, divided
  • Chopped tomatoes (optional)
  • Sliced green onions (optional)
  • DIRECTIONS:

    1. Preheat your oven to 375º F.
    2. Cook beef, onion and garlic in a large saucepan until beef is browned.
    3. Stir in water, taco sauce, chiles, 1/4 cup olives and seasoning mix.
    4. Let this simmer over low heat for 3 to 4 minutes.
    5. Lay out half of the broken shells on the bottom of a greased 12 x 8-inch baking dish.
    6. Cover with half of the meat sauce. Sprinkle with 1 cup cheese, then repeat with remaining taco shells, meat sauce and cheese to create layers of the different ingredients.
    7. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until bubbly and cheese is melted.
    8. Top the casserole with tomatoes and green onions.

    ENJOY! 🙂

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    Filed under beef

    Meet Me In St. Louis!

    You know, it’s kind of hard to believe that I have lived right here in the Midwest my entire life and I had never been to St. Louis! What’s up with that?? I guess it’s probably because all the city I ever needed was right in my backyard in Chicago but now that we are in Iowa there is NO city in our backyard. There are cornfields. Literally, that’s what’s in our backyard. And silos. And barns. And other such rural things.

    It was time for a little change of scenery, so Eric and I planned a weekend trip down to St. Louis. It was his birthday gift from me. A trip to St. Louis with the intention of seeing a Cardinals game at the new Busch Stadium. He hadn’t been yet so he was pretty excited. Now, we are a house divided. I am a Cubs fan….that’s just the way it is. Eric is a Cardinals fan. Those backwards southern Illinois-ians!! LOL! So, I went to the game and cheered on the Cards ONLY because it was Eric’s birthday gift and I love him. NOT because I’m turning to the dark side. GO CUBS GO!

    We saw the game on Friday night. Eric got a foul ball! It came over into our section and he dove for it like a crazy person.

    Today we salute you – Mr. Over-Zealous Foul Ball Catcher!

    We made sure to get a picture of my feelings of the whole cheering for the Cardinals thing. LOL!

    We’ll get the food part in a sec. First, let’s talk BEER! The most wonderful drink in the world, HOORAY!

    The Anheuser-Busch brewery is in St. Louis and, belive it or not, you can tour it for FREE! That’s right. 100% free of charge complete with two free samples at the end. It’s really a great way to spend an afternoon. The brewery has been there since the 1890’s so it’s full of neat, old-timey architecture.

    Here’s the brew house.

    We made sure to collect our samples at the end. Mmmmm….free beer.

    Now, we didn’t have much time so we only had one nice meal while we were there. I always get so overwhelmed trying to pick out places to eat when we go out of town. There are so many choices and I have no idea what’s good. I enlisted the help of Eric in picking the place, since he’d been there before and he decided he’d like to try Mike Shannon’s Steaks and Seafood, right across the street from the Stadium. (620 Market St., St. Louis) Okay, sounded like a plan to me. I made a reservation for later in the evening on Saturday, since we scored a couple tickets to the game that afternoon as well.

    I always get roped into reading restaurant reviews and I just shouldn’t do it. Of course, there are tons of poor reviews of the place and I get all paranoid. But then I think…meh…of course people are going to write if they thought they had a bad experience. Nobody writes about good experiences. I went in with an open mind.

    When we arrived the place was PACKED! That’s got to be some indication of quality, right? The host seemed pretty relieved that we had reservations. I think he was getting tired of being scoffed at when he told people it would be 10:00 before they were seated. We got our table immediately.

    I enjoyed our meal very very much. Everything was delish! Eric had a Caesar salad, prime rib that came with this yummy cheesy popover thing and Irish roasted potatoes in a garlic butter sauce. The potatoes were so good! I very, very, very rarely order steak. It’s not that I don’t like it…it’s just that…ya never know, you know? If it’s not great steak, I’d rather have something else. I decided to just take the plunge and go for it and went for an 8oz. filet. It was perfect! Perfectly cooked, tender and a great flavor. I also had a house salad that had roasted red peppers, artichokes and red onion in a red wine vinaigrette and these super yummy onion rings. They were nice and thin and crispy. Yum! We rounded off the meal with a piece of blueberry gooey butter cake. Oh.My.God. YUM!!! I was so full by that point but it didn’t matter…the cake was sooooo good, we couldn’t stop eating it!

    We had a great experience there, I recommend it. And at about $75 a person, it’s pricey but not ridiculous. I don’t think I’ve ever woken up still full from a meal the night before, but I sure did on Sunday morning!!

    We had a great time in St. Louis! Great city! I can’t wait to go back! Maybe next time, we’ll do it when the Cubs are in town! 🙂

    A few more pics:


    The Arch!


    Feeding the fish at Union Station.


    Upper deck!

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    Filed under Just for Fun

    Summer Gift Swap!

    So it’s been a few days for me. Slight computer malfunction. The power cord for my really old Dell laptop broke. Needless to say, after that, I had about 30 minutes of power left. That went fast, of course! Man, no computer all day SUCKS! Big time! So I’ve confiscated Eric’s laptop for the evening so I could update my blog and play catch up!

    I frequent a message board full of the world’s most fabulous cooks and foodies. These girls have the most inspirational delicious looking blogs, amazing ideas, and not to mention poise, humor and sophistication to boot! Just a great bunch of ladies!

    One of these fabulous ladies organized a summer gift exchange using a website called Elfster. It’s been done before, but I had never participated due to extreme busyness. Well…not nearly as busy this summer (yeah…) so I decided to go ahead and sign up! I had a blast both giving and receiving. Thanks Joelen for organizing this!

    I received a wonderful gift from Geriann over at Toby’s Treats. Check out her awesome blog! She sent these really fun mini-cookie skillets that I cannot wait to try! I’m drooling just thinking about a big cast-iron skillet cookie covered in ice cream and hot fudge…mmmmm! She also sent a yummy mint chocolate candle that’s burning away right now and some delicious chocolate! Thanks so much Geriann!

    Unfortunately, the photos I took of my loot are trapped inside the dead laptop, so I will have to add them in a few days when my new cord arrives!

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    The Wild Crunch Bar Chase

    So here’s something I bet you didn’t know: A Nestle Crunch Bar…Yeah, not as easy to come by as you might think! Seriously, as long as you can remember, you have seen Crunch Bars in supermarket check out lines every single time you have gone to the store, right? See, that’s what I thought too…apparently not! And so began the Wild Crunch Bar Chase!

    I was all set to try out a cookie recipe that calls for chopped up Crunch Bars, so I figured I’d grab some when I went shopping for the week. Up and down every aisle….no Crunch Bars to be found. Hmmmm. Weird. An unfortunate fluke for sure. So I go home, put away my groceries and head back out to try another store. Sure enough…no Crunch Bars again! What?? FINALLY, at the last place I could think of that would possibly have these candy bars (outside of a gas station where they’d charge you a dollar each), I found Crunch Bars! Three times the charm, I guess. Sheesh!

    In my previous entry, I mention my old school kids cookbook that I found looking through my mom’s cookbooks. Well, the actual reason I was going through them was to find my old Mrs. Fields cookie book. I used to love to watch her on TV…so blonde and perky. I watched every day after school. My mom and I used to laugh at how she said “fully incorporated” in every other sentence. Heh…

    This book is full of yummy looking cookie and dessert recipes. I’m looking forward to trying more. These were a great first choice. I really enjoyed the different texture the crispy rice brings in and the flavor rocks. I only baked a dozen so I can control myself from stuffing my face with these all week. The rest are in the freezer to bake up later.

    CHOCOLATE CRISPY COOKIES (Recipe Source: Mrs. Fields Best Cookie Book Ever)

    INGREDIENTS:

    • 2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1/4 tsp. salt
    • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
    • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
    • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
    • 1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) salted butter, softened
    • 1 large egg
    • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
    • 1 cup crispy rice cereal
    • 8 oz. crispy rice chocolate bar, coarsely chopped (about 1 1/2 cups – this ended up being 1 giant 5 oz bar and 2 regular size bars for me)

    DIRECTIONS

    1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees
    2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, salt and soda. Mix well with wire whisk and set aside.
    3. In a large bowl, blend sugars with an electric mixer at medium speed. Add butter and mix to form a grainy paste. Scrape down sides of bowl, then add egg and vanilla. Beat at medium speed until light and fluffy.
    4. Add flour mixture, rice cereal, and chocolate chunks. Blend at low speed just until combined. Do not overmix.
    5. Drop by rounded tablespoons onto ungreased cookie sheets, 2 inches apart. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes. Immediately transfer cookies with a spatula to a cool, flat surface.

    ENJOY! 🙂

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    Filed under chocolate, cookies

    T is for…

    Totally Old School! 🙂

    I was at my parents house last weekend, looking through my mom’s cookbooks and I stumbled across this little gem from my childhood!

    I’m not exactly sure when and where I got this, but it must go way way back. It may have been a gift from my grandma, but I honestly can’t remember. I do remember making things from it though! Like “M is for Mud Pie” and “U is for Upside-Down Pineapple Cake.” I was feeling nostalgic, so I decided to break out one of these kid-friendly recipes today. So much fun! I had a blast following along with the little pictures and easy instructions. I can’t wait to be able to do things like this with my own kids someday!

    I know we never made this bread when I was kid. I would have remembered it for sure. So cute! It uses quick-acting yeast, so start to finish time is about half that of other breads. I contemplated just using regular yeast, because that’s what I had on hand, but I got nervous and ran back out to the store for a package of quick-acting. I’m glad I did. It’s a really easy, kid-friendly recipe. The finished product is okay. It’s not the best bread I’ve ever had, but let’s be honest. This is just for a cuteness show. Taste is secondary! 🙂

    “T is for TURTLE BREAD”(Recipe source: Gold Medal Alpha-Bakery Children’s Cookbook)

    INGREDIENTS:

    • 2 1/2 to 3 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1 package of quick-acting dry yeast
    • 1 tbs. sugar
    • 1 tsp. salt
    • 1/2 cup water
    • 1/3 cup milk
    • 1 tbs. of butter
    • 1 egg
    • 2 raisins (I used candy, because that’s what I had on hand.)

    DIRECTIONS:

    1. Mix 1 1/2 cups of flour, the yeast, sugar and salt in a large bowl.
    2. Heat water, milk and butter to 125 -130 degrees; stir into yeast mixture. Stir in egg. Stir in enough of remaining flour to make the dough easy to handle.
    3. Sprinkle a surface lightly with flour. Turn the dough onto the surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Cover and let rest 10 minutes.
    4. Lightly grease a cookie sheet. Shape a 2-inch piece of dough into a ball for head. Shape 4 walnut-size pieces of dough into balls for feet. Shape 1 walnut-size piece of dough into tail. Shape remaining dough into a ball for body; place on cookie sheet and flatten slightly. Attach head, feet and tail to secure. Press raisins into head for eyes. Cover and let rise 20 minutes.
    5. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Make crisscross cuts in body, 1/4 inch deep to look like a turtle’s shell. Bake until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes.

    ENJOY! 🙂

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    Encilada Deja Vu

    I laughed when I took my pic of this enchilada slop I made because it looked alarmingly similar to this recipe that I make quite frequently. The general consensus is…looks bad, tastes good. I have decided that enchiladas are just ugly. What are you gonna do, ya know? They are sloppy. And they are messy. And, oh my goodness, they are heaven on a plate.

    Enchiladas are quickly becoming one of my favorite thing to make and eat at home. They are so simple, filled with ingredients I almost always have on hand, and taste even better the next day! This time, I tried a different recipe for the red sauce. Now, I’m a red sauce fan. I’d try a green sauce but that would scare Eric so I think I’ll stick with red for now. I can’t do a sour cream or cheese based sauce though…not my style. This one was simple and delicious! I stuffed my enchiladas this time a mixture of ground beef, brown rice, salsa and cheese. Yum!

    BEEF AND RICE ENCHILADAS WITH RED SAUCE (Sauce recipe: allrecipes.com)

    **Note**: You will notice that the original recipe calls for a 6 oz can of tomato sauce. Then you probably notice, when you attempt to purchase such a thing, that a 6 oz can of tomato sauce doesn’t exist. Ha! Reviewers of the recipe concluded that there was an error and what is actually required is a 6 oz can of tomato PASTE. Which, low and behold, does in fact exist. So that is what I used. Came out great! I changed the ingredient list below to reflect that. Other changes are in italics.

    Annnnddd…cue the ugly photo. Ready, GO!

    SAUCE INGREDIENTS:

    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1 teaspoon minced onion (I upped this, I probably added closer to 1 1/2 tsps. What can I say…I like onion)
    • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano (I used 1 tsp. of fresh)
    • 2 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil  (I used 1 tsp. of fresh)
    • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
    • 1/8 teaspoon salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
    • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
    • 1/4 cup salsa
    • 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
    • 1 1/2 cups water

    ENCHILADA INGREDIENTS

    • 1 lb. lean ground beef, turkey or chicken
    • 1 cup cooked rice (I’m on brown rice kick…better for you and I notice no difference in taste)
    • Salt & Pepper to taste
    • 1/4 cup salsa
    • 8 flour or corn tortillas
    • Your favorite shredded cheese (I used a cheddar jack blend this time)

    DIRECTIONS:

    1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the onion, oregano, chili powder, basil, ground black pepper, salt, cumin, parsley, salsa and tomato paste.
    2. Mix together and then stir in the water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.
    3. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Brown beef in a large skillet. Drain. Return to skillet, add cooked rice, s&p and salsa and simmer until heated through.
    4. Grease a 9×13 baking dish and coat the bottom with about a quarter cup of sauce. Heat tortillas, fill with beef mixture, sprinkle with about a tablespoon of cheese. Roll tightly and place seam side down in the dish.
    5. Pour remaining sauce over the top of enchiladas and cover the entire dish with cheese. (I like lots of cheese…I probably used about 1 1/2 cups. Feel free to adjust)
    6. Cover with foil and bake 15 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional ten minutes or until cheese is brown and bubbly. Let sit 5 minutes before serving.

    ENJOY! 🙂

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    Filed under beef