Cheddar Bacon Corn Chowder… best mix of ingredients ever huh??

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Who doesn’t like bacon, cheese, corn and potatoes??? Like, really?! This one is a bit spicy too!! DELISH! I was sweating by the time I was finished enjoying this bowl of cheesy goodness…. meanwhile my husband was looking at me like I was crazy and telling me it was just a tiny bit of heat… just goes to show the difference in spiciness tolerance! Ha!

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup frozen corn
  • 4 slices (about 1/4 pound) bacon, diced
  • 1/4 yellow onion, diced
  • 1/2 tsp garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose white whole wheat flour
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 cups milk (I used coconut milk)
  • 4 large red potatoes, cleaned and diced into 1/4-inch cubes
  • 1/2 tsp Lawry’s seasoning (Low Sodium)
  • 1/2 tsp Emeril’s Bayou Blast seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon rubbed sage
  • 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 2 TB shaved parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon salt (add more/less to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly-cracked black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • optional garnish: extra shredded cheddar cheese, thinly-sliced green onions, reserved bacon bits, sour cream
  • ***** Optional! Add 1/2 cup of dark beer for a bit of extra yummy flavor! ******

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Directions

Heat a large stock pot over high heat. Add the corn kernels and let them dry-roast for about 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until their edges begin to brown and caramelize. Transfer the corn to a plate to set aside.

In the same stock pot, fry the bacon pieces over medium-high heat until crisp. Remove from the pan using a slotted spoon and set aside. Reserve 1 tablespoon bacon grease in the pan, and discard the rest.

Add the onion and saute for 5 minutes, or until tender. Add the garlic and cook for an additional 1 minute, or until fragrant. Stir in the flour until combined, then cook for an additional 1 minute, stirring occasionally.

Add in the vegetable broth, milk, potatoes, lawrys, Bayou Blast, and sage and cayenne, and stir to combine. Continue heating until the mixture reaches a simmer but not a boil. Reduce heat to medium and let simmer for 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Add in the corn, cheese and most of the bacon bits, reserving a few to save as a garnish if desired. Stir to combine.

Taste test the broth, then season with salt, pepper and cayenne to taste. (I recommended the amounts that I used, but your seasoning preferences may vary.)

Serve warm, with additional garnishes if desired.

Creamy Cheesy Goodness!!!

And now, for the quote of the day:

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Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

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One of my absolute favorite soups from up in Minnesota was Byerly’s Wild Rice Soup… LOVE! This is my adaptation of it. I changed it up a bit, and don’t use ham or almonds in mine. Almonds, because I don’t keep nuts in my house since we have a food allergy in our home… and no ham because I wanted to keep the sodium and fat content a bit lower by using chicken instead.

This one is a “comfort” food… warm, creamy, thick…. eat it with bread or crackers… on a cold rainy/snowy day…  cuddle up by the fireplace and enjoy a bowl of this! My daughter gobbled this up! (So did my husband and I! 🙂 )

Ingredients

  • 3 TB butter
  • 1/4 onion minced
  • 1/4 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 2 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 cup cooked wild rice (that’s about 1/4 cup of uncooked wild rice… follow cooking instructions on bag)
  • 1/2 cup finely grated carrots
  • 1/2 cup diced chicken (I used 4 chicken tenderloins diced… you could also use leftover rotisserie chicken)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup half and half
  • 2 tablespoons dry cooking sherry, (optional)
  • snipped fresh parsley or chives
  • dash cayenne pepper

Creamychickenwildricesoup

Directions
In large saucepan, melt margarine; saute onion and carrots and garlic until tender.  Blend in flour; gradually add broth.  Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil; boil and stir 1 minute.  Stir in cooked rice, chicken, cayenne and salt; simmer about 5 minutes. Bring stove to LOW. Blend in half and half and sherry; heat to serving temperature. Garnish with snipped parsley or chives.

Amount: 4-5 cups.

Enjoy!

And now, for the quote of the day:

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Sausage and Potato Soup (OR Copy-Cat Zuppa Toscana!)

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So, we really like soup during the winter. One of my husbands favorites is to go to Olive Garden and have the “Soup, Salad, and breadsticks” for lunches or dinners. The problem is, you can’t do it too often because of 1-calories, 2-cost… you gotta tip too! So, I’ve been looking up recipes for some of the dishes… and soups were my first stop! Soups seem to be pretty easy for me to try and recreate. And… so far, are turning out AWESOME!

This is my take on the Copy-Cat Zuppa Toscana. The only change I could recommend, is to possibly use kale instead of spinach, especially if you are going to freeze and reheat, it will hold up MUCH better than baby spinach!

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 slices cooked nitrite/nitrate free bacon, diced
  • 1/2 lb. all natural (no nitrites/nitrates!) Italian Sausage
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 3 cups low sodium organic chicken broth
  • 2 yukon gold potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • dash of cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp rubbed sage
  • 1/4 tsp oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 1/2 cups baby spinach (roughly chopped w/out stems)
  • 1 cup half&half
  • shaved parmesan as a garnish
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

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INSTRUCTIONS

  • Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. (I cook my bacon in the microwave… if you don’t, cook it in this skillet first)
  • Add Italian sausage to the skillet and cook until browned, about 3-5 minutes, making sure to crumble the sausage as it cooks; drain excess fat and set aside.
  • Heat olive oil in a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add garlic and onion, and cook, stirring frequently, until onions have become translucent, about 2-3 minutes. Stir in chicken broth and bring to a boil. Add potatoes and cook until tender, about 10 minutes.
  • Bring to a LOW simmer and add the spices (cayenne, oregano, sage, salt and pepper to taste)
  • Stir in sausage and spinach until spinach begins to wilt, about 1-2 minutes. Stir in half&half until heated through, about 1 minute; season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  • Serve immediately, garnished with bacon and parmesan.

ENJOY!!! It’s a good one! This one had the saltiness and spice of the bacon and sausage combined with the creaminess of the half&half and the crunch of that baby spinach… mmmm!!!! If you put kale in as a substitute, that would add such a good texture as well! AMAZING! Saving this one for sure!

And now, for the quote of the day:

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Creamy Chicken and Gnocchi Soup

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Yes, some could call this a copycat recipe of the famous Olive Garden Chicken and Gnocchi soup! I, personally, think it tasted quite similar, but it wasn’t quite as salty… which I liked! I also didn’t use heavy cream, so it probably cut down on the calories as well. This one was DEFINITELY a winner! We had plenty of leftovers so my husband gets to enjoy this one for lunch for the next few days! He’s excited! 😉

So, here is the recipe! Enjoy, and slurp up this awesome soup as the weather turns more and more chilly outside! It’ll keep you warm inside!

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 TB butter
  • 3/4 lb chicken tenderloins cooked and chopped (about 6-7 chicken tenderloins chopped… makes 1 or 1 1/2 cups chicken)
  • 1/2 onion diced
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp garlic salt
  • 4 cups low sodium chicken broth (1 32oz. box)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 stalk of celery finely chopped (or more if you prefer… I like to go light on celery)
  • 1/2 cup grated carrots
  • 2 TB white whole wheat all purpose flour
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp rubbed sage
  • 1 cup rough chopped (or whole, with stems removed) fresh baby spinach
  • 2 TB parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup half&half

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Instructions:

1. Cook your chicken in 1 Tb olive oil, about 4 minutes each side, and sprinkle garlic salt on each side as cooking. Remove from heat and chop into 1/2 inch pieces and set aside.
2. In a large pot, melt the butter over medium heat and then add the celery, onion, carrots and garlic and stir for 3-5 minutes, or until the celery starts to soften.
3. Whisk in the flour, then add the chicken broth slowly while stirring.
4. Next. add the chicken, nutmeg, thyme, and sage and stir well. Increase heat to bring to a boil, then reduce to let simmer for 15 minutes or so.
5. Bring to low heat so no longer bubbling, and SLOWLY add the half&half so as not to curdle the milk. Then, add the spinach, gnocchi and parmesan cheese. I use fresh gnocchi, so it only needed to cook for 2-3 minutes after, and then it was ready to serve!
6. If needed (I did!), add equal parts corn starch and cold water in a separate bowl, stir, and then slowly incorporate it into the soup as a thickener.

DELICIOUS!!!!!

And now, for the quote of the day:

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Lemony Orzo Chicken Sausage Soup

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Ok, so since it’s officially fall, I figured I wanted to do some posts on SOUP! What’s better in the fall and winter than soup? The ultimate comfort food, even when it’s low cal! And this one definitely fits both descriptions. Delicious, filling, high in protein and low in fat. So, over the next 2 weeks you will be seeing a lot of soup recipes as I figure out which I like best, which I will put in jars for freezing and lunches… and which I should leave for someone else to perfect… 😉 . So, this one was a winner. I loved it! It was inexpensive to make too. A box of orzo was only $0.89 at Publix! Woohoo! Try this one out for sure!

Ingredients

  • 1 10 oz package chicken sausage halved and sliced (I used 4 out of the 6 links and froze the remaining 2) I also used “Thin&Trim” brand chicken sausage “Sweet Italian” version that is 95% fat free, and has all natural ingredients w/out nitrites!
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 TB butter
  • 1/2 small onion diced
  • 1/2 tsp garlic minced
  • 2 medium carrots, sliced
  • 1/4 teaspon dried sage
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried tarragon
  • ½ teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 3 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup water
  • splash white wine (only if so desired)
  • 1/2 cup orzo
  • 1 cups fresh spinach
  • juice and zest of 1/2 lemon (about 1-2 TB of lemon juice)
  • 2-3 TB shaved parmesan for garnish

Lemonchickenorzosoup

As you can see, I served this with Grilled cheese that had a couple of sliced of avocado in it… YUM!

Instructions

  1. In stock pot heat sliced sausage until heated through, about 5-8 minutes. Remove and set aside.
  2. Add olive oil to pan. Add onion and garlic, sauté for 1-2 minutes. Add carrots and herbs, lemon zest and juice and 1 TB butter. Continue cooking just until carrots begin to soften. Add splash of white wine if so desired.
  3. Add broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and stir in orzo. Continue cooking for 8 minutes or until pasta has finished cooking. Add 1 cup water. Stir in sausage and spinach, stir and bring back to simmer. Serve.

Enjoy!

And now, for the quote of the day:

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Tips and Tricks!

So, things have been crazy around here lately! It took me forever to get my meals planned, and actually get out to go grocery shopping! UGH! So, due to that, there has been a shortage of posts… oops! So, for this post I am going to explain different cooking terms, give definitions and a couple of kitchen “tips” to make foods turn out the way that you want them! Sound good?? Ok!

So, lets start out by defining cooking terms. This is something I have slowly learned through cooking shows… so, lets define!

To make it easy, I got it from here: http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/recipes/cooking-tips/dictionary-cooking-terms

When a recipe says to cook the pasta: Al dente: Pasta cooked until just firm. From the Italian “to the tooth.”

There are times when you are cooking meat, such as turkey, and you want it moist. People use the term Baste: To moisten food for added flavor and to prevent drying out while cooking. Basically taking the juiced from the pan and occasionally putting back over the meat.

When we say to “beat” an egg… this is what we mean: Beat: To stir rapidly to make a mixture smooth, using a whisk, spoon, or mixer.

When making pesto, to keep the pesto green, you can do this to the basil and spinach: Blanch: To cook briefly in boiling water to seal in flavor and color; usually used for vegetables or fruit, to prepare for freezing, and to ease skin removal.

Bouquet garni: A tied bundle of herbs, usually parsley, thyme, and bay leaves, that is added to flavor soups, stews, and sauces but removed before serving.

If you are one to sear your meat before cooking it in the crock pot,… you are actually braising!! Who knew right?! Braise: To cook first by browning, then gently simmering in a small amount of liquid over low heat in a covered pan until tender.

How do you broil?? In the OVEN! 🙂 Easy! Broil: To cook on a rack or spit under or over direct heat, usually in an oven.

What do I mean when to brown or sear? Brown: To cook over high heat, usually on top of the stove, to brown food.

Do you ever wonder what it means when something is blackened? Here ya go! Blackened: A popular Cajun cooking method in which seasoned fish or other foods are cooked over high heat in a super-heated heavy skillet until charred, resulting in a crisp, spicy crust. At home, this is best done outdoors because of the large amount of smoke produced.

This is something that I do not usually use, but it is popular because it has a long shelf life: Bouillon: A bouillon cube is a compressed cube of dehydrated beef, chicken, fish, or vegetable stock. Bouillon granules are small particles of the same substance, but they dissolve faster. Both can be reconstituted in hot liquid to substitute for stock or broth.

Caramelize: To heat sugar until it liquefies and becomes a syrup ranging in color from golden to dark brown. You can also do this with onions… with the same end results in color.

When baking, if the term “cut-in” is used, here is the definition: Cut in: To distribute a solid fat in flour using a cutting motion, with 2 knives used scissors-fashion or a pastry blender, until divided evenly into tiny pieces. Usually refers to making pastry.

Chefs use this term a lot.. and it adds a lot of flavor! Deglaze: To loosen brown bits from a pan by adding a liquid, then heating while stirring and scraping the pan.

When making fried food, this term is used a lot: Dredge: To cover or coat uncooked food, usually with a flour, cornmeal mixture or bread crumbs.

If I say use the chicken/turkey/beef drippings it means: Drippings: Juices and fats rendered by meat or poultry during cooking.

Ever wonder what starting your dish on fire is called??? (When it’s ON PURPOSE!!???) Flambé: To drizzle liquor over a food while it is cooking, then when the alcohol has warmed, ignite the food just before serving.

And… another baking term: Fold: To combine light ingredients such as whipped cream or beaten egg whites with a heavier mixture, using a gentle over-and-under motion, usually with a rubber spatula.

Poach: To cook a food by partially or completely submerging it in a simmering liquid.

Reconstitute: To bring a concentrated or condensed food, such as frozen fruit juice, to its original strength by adding water.

Reduce: To decrease the volume of a liquid by boiling it rapidly to cause evaporation. As the liquid evaporates, it thickens and intensifies in flavor. The resulting richly flavored liquid, called a reduction, can be used as a sauce or as the base of a sauce. When reducing liquids, use the pan size specified in the recipe, as the surface area of the pan affects how quickly the liquid will evaporate.

Saute: From the French word sauter, meaning “to jump.” Sauteed food is cooked and stirred in a small amount of fat over fairly high heat in an open, shallow pan. Food cut into uniform size sautes the best.

Those are just a few terms. If you have another one that you’d like me to define and give an example of, please let me know!!!

Ok, now tips:

Shrimp: I have found that the best way to get the BEST tasting shrimp is to bake it. It just always comes out evenly and perfectly cooked for me. I start out with thawed UNCOOKED shrimp, peeled and deveined. Wonder how to do it on your own? http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/how_to_peel_and_devein_shrimp/

I always use Ina Garten’s recipe for shrimp. She is the one I followed to get the perfectly cooked shrimp. I sometimes adjust it a bit, but I always use the temperature she says, and I adjust the time based on how large the shrimp are. I’m not the only one either! Other blogs follow her great ways too! http://www.thekitchn.com/tip-from-ina-garten-try-ovenro-115973

Here is Ina Garten’s original recipe showing it: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/lemon-pasta-with-roasted-shrimp-recipe.html

Steak/Meat:

I have found, after trial and error, that my steak always turns out best when I start out by searing it on the stove (or browning) and then finishing it in the pre-heated oven for a certain amount of time until it reaches my desired temperature. Always. If I try to make it on the stove top only, it is usually either under done or over done. Just from my observations.

Mashed Potatoes:

Want them the most creamy? Add sour cream and whip them either in a stand mixer, or with a hand mixer. Seriously… whipped and delicious!

Veggies:

I have found that sauteing or roasting vegetables keeps more vitamins and color in vegetables (even from frozen) than boiling them. Try it!

Want me to post other tips or tricks?? Ask me!! Comment below and I’ll do my best to find them!