Thursday, February 27, 2014

Roasted Pepper Potato Soup

"Incredibly flavorful" was the first thing my hubby said when he tasted this.
Then he made that happy little face people make with their eyes closed.
That's a good feeling when you cooked what they're loving.
I can see where this would be a great family, or crowd pleaser for an easy and inexpensive meal.

This is a bunch of simple ingredients that really do come together with an awesome flavorful.  Not spicy, just flavorful.  I have to admit, when I saw this good recipe online, I really wondered about adding cream cheese to soup.  However, I must say this really made it delicious and creamy.  I only used half a package in the soup, attempting to reduce the fat a bit, but you could easily add the whole package if you desired. I changed up some of the ratios to the original recipe above, mainly because I had larger cans in my pantry and I really didn't want leftovers.  I really am a lazy cook...

This one is a keeper, I will make this one again for sure.

Serves 6

2 medium onions, chopped
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 jar (12 ounces) roasted sweet red peppers, undrained and chopped
1 can (7 ounces) chopped green chilies, drained
1- 2 tsp ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
4 cups potatoes, peeled and diced
4 cups chicken, vegetable or beef broth
2-3 Tbsp minced fresh cilantro
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 cup (1/2 pkg) cream cheese, cubed
Pepper to taste

In a large saucepan, saute onions in oil until tender. 

Stir in the roasted peppers, chilies, cumin, salt and coriander. Cook and stir for 2 minutes. Stir in potatoes and broth; bring to a boil.
Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Stir in cream cheese, cilantro and lemon juice. Using a stick blender, blend until about half of the soup is smooth. If needed, add a bit of water or broth to thin the soup if too thick. Return all to pan and heat through.

Below is a picture of the soup before I blended it.  Blending it makes it creamy, but leave some chunks.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Homemade Red Enchilada Sauce

Enchilada sauce isn't really that expensive, but it never seems to be on hand when you need it. Plus, if you consider what's in it, it's so much easier and cheaper to make it yourself. 

This tastes so much better than the canned stuff and you know exactly what's in it.

Pictured above- I also use this sauce to make my Heuvos Rancheros,

Makes about 4-5 cups

3 Tbsp. vegetable or canola oil
1 onion, chopped
4 corn tortillas, rough chopped
2 Tbsp chili powder
2-3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tsp salt
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp. cumin
1  tsp. oregano
4 cups broth (chicken, beef or vegetable)

Heat oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, add chopped onion and cook until softened and slightly colored. Add garlic and stir together over the heat for couple minutes. Stir in the remaining seasonings (chili powder through oregano). 

Then gradually add in the broth stirring to combine, add cut up corn tortillas cook for 5-10 minutes over a medium low heat.  It looks something like this.
Add to a blender, cover top with a towel and blend until smooth. Return to the pan, reduce heat and simmer to thicken as thick as you like, OR go ahead and use it right away.
Use immediately, freeze or refrigerate in an air-tight container for up to two weeks.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Spinach Artichoke Bake

I had a whole container of fresh baby spinach in the fridge and it had been there for a week.  I knew I was working on borrowed time with this, before it turned into something yucky and compostable.
So, I started thinking... what to do with a big amount of spinach?
Salad?  Nah... its too cold out?
Sauteed Spinach, yummy for sure, but not what I had in mind.
Something easier... so I Googled Spinach Artichoke Bake.
I got a few hits, but didn't like any of them.  
So this one is my version... of the things I had, and wanted to use.

This made quite a bit, enough for a family function, but we happily ate this for breakfast a couple days.  It was easy to transport to work, warm in the microwave and enjoy.  This would also be good done in muffin tins, if needed.

Serves 6-8

1 cup mushrooms, chopped (optional)
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic, minced
2 Tbsp butter
16 oz fresh baby spinach (or 2 10oz boxes frozen, thawed & drained)
10oz frozen artichoke hearts, thawed & drained
1/2 cup feta, crumbled1/2 cup Parmesan
3/4 cup Italian blend, or Italian grated cheese
1 cup sour cream
4 eggs
salt and pepper  

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9 by 13-inch glass baking dish with cooking spray or butter and set aside. I used individual containers for my version.

In a large skillet, melt the remaining butter over medium-high heat. Add the onions and butter and cook, stirring, until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and mushrooms and cook until they soften, about 5 minutes. Add fresh spinach and cook until wilted and it starts to release some liquid. Cook a bit more until the liquid evaporates. Remove from the heat.

In a large bowl, combine the spinach & mushroom mixture, artichoke hearts, parmesan and feta, and toss to combine.  Add salt and pepper, and taste.  This should taste good and flavorful at this point. 

In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and sour cream and add to the spinach mixture. Transfer to the prepared dish and top with a layer of italian grated cheese. Bake until the casserole is firm and the top is golden, about 45 to 50 minutes.

Remove from the oven and serve.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Potato Herb Crusted Tilapia

I'm always on the lookout for yummy, and easy things to do to fish.
I especially like tilapia, so I use it a bunch, but other fish, like halibut, cod or tuna would work out well for this recipe too.

This tastes way more exciting than you would imagine a 15 minute main dish would taste.  The potato flakes get even more crispy than any breading you might have used in the past.  
As to the seasoning in here, I used fresh dill because I had some, but you could use dried herbs to your liking.  The parmesan cheese was a last minute addition, but it's up to you.

I served this over a simple saute of kale for a healthy and somewhat low calorie dinner. 

Serves 2

2 tilapia fillets, or other thin fish fillets
1 egg
1/3 cup instant potato flakes
2 Tbsp parmesan cheese
1 tsp dill, fresh or dried
1 garlic clove, minced, or 1/2 tsp dried garlic
3 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and Pepper

Beat egg and add to a small plate or shallow bowl.  Mix the potato flakes, dill, minced garlic and parmesan in another small plate.
Salt and pepper each fish fillet, on both sides.  Dip each fillet in the egg mixture, and then the potato mixture.  Pat on the mixture so that both sides are fully coated.

In a medium skillet over medium heat, add 2-3 Tbsp of olive oil.  When the oil is hot, gently add the fish fillets.  Cook, uncovered, for about 4-5 minutes per side (depends on the thickness of the fish). Gently turn over, and cook another 4-5 minutes on the other side.  Serve at once.

They should be nice and brown and crispy.
Serve with a little lemon.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Sriracha Lime Salmon

Tangy, spicy and easy to throw together for a yummy and healthy dinner.
I like the frozen salmon from Costco... a lot.
It's so easy, and the price it great.
I used to feel bad about it. 
About eating "farmed" salmon, about being all about the convenience and the price, about not paying more for fresh salmon "because it was so much tastier".  
However, I wasn't convinced that fresh actually tasted so much better, so I felt pretty good when I read this recent article in the Seattle Times about a "taste-off" of different salmons, fresh and frozen.

Don't worry about adding the honey or agave to this mixture, it doesn't add sweetness it just highlights the other flavors without being too overpowering.

Makes 2

2 tsp sriracha hot sauce
2 tsp agave syrup, or honey
1 lime, juiced
2 tsp soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp ginger, freshly grated
1 Tbsp cilantro, finely minced
2 salmon fillets

Add salmon fillets to a ziploc bag, or a low pan.  Add all the other ingredients and combine.  Add over salmon.  Let sit for about 30-60 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375 degrees in a glass baking dish coated with cooking spray, or oil. Add fish, plus any marinade from the bag, and bake for 12-15 minutes.

Serve over rice, or quinoa, or even sauteed napa cabbage, like I did. 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Maple Bacon Butternut Squash Soup

This is a total comfort food that is probably best suited to a chilly Fall day in November.
Oh well...  butternut squash is always available, and frankly, everyone likes bacon year round.
So... why... not... NOW?

A funny thing happened while I was making this soup, I got a text from my niece, who lives very close by, that she was going to bring over some Coconut Butternut Squash soup to us. 
Fun!  Great minds are making soup from Butternut Squash, I guess!
Everyone likes a soup delivery, but it's even more fun to have a soup exchange!  
(I've got a similar soup on  my blog with Coconut Pumpkin Soup if you're interested) .  
Makes about 6 cups

8 slices bacon, cooked crisp, and chopped or crumbled  
1-2 Tbsp bacon grease, or olive oil 
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic
3-4 stalks celery, chopped
4 cups of butternut squash, peeled & cubed
2 bay leaves (remove before blending...)
4 cups chicken stock
2-3 Tbsp maple syrup
1-2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
Salt & Pepper

Bake the bacon on cookie sheets in a 400 degree oven for 10-15 minutes until its crisp.  Drain bacon on paper towels.  Retain a couple tablespoons of bacon grease to saute the veggies.

In a stockpot, saute the onions, celery and garlic over medium heat until soft, about 5 minutes.  Add the squash, chicken stock, bay leaves, cider vinegar and maple syrup.  Add about 1 teaspoon of salt, and pepper to taste.  Turn heat to medium high and bring mixture to a boil.  Turn heat down to simmer, and cook for 20 minutes or until the squash is soft.  Using a stick blender, regular blender or food processor, blend soup until its smooth.  Return mixture to the pot and bring back to a boil  Taste and adjust salt, pepper and add more maple syrup as desired.

Serve with crumbled bacon on top.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Chinese Corn Velvet Soup

I'm not sure how authentically Asian this soup recipe is, but if you were served this in a Chinese restaurant with your dinner, I think you would be very pleased!  
It's sweet, savory egg drop soup with corn, ham and green onions with a hint of sesame oil.
Very comforting on a cold winter's day, like today.
It's an easy soup that comes together quickly, I finished this for lunch in under 20 minutes.

The soup will appeal to kids too, as I have great childhood memories of my Mom's version of this soup.  This recipe is loosely based on this Food Network recipe from Martin Yan.
However, memories of my Mom's version have made me add a couple of suggestions
This soup was delicious as written below, but next time I will reduce the amount of broth to 4 cups in order to make a thicker, richer sweet corn taste with the soup.  
It's up to you.

If you want to make this soup vegetarian, then omit the ham and replace the chicken broth with vegetable broth.  You could add tofu instead of ham, I bet that's good too.

One other note, if you wanted to avoid using canned creamed corn, I think you could blend cooked corn to make two cups substitute.  If using fresh sweet corn, I bet it's a fantastic alternative.

Serves about 6
4- 6 cups chicken broth (see note above...)
1/2 cup cooked ham, cut into thin strips
1 can (16 ounce) cream style corn
3 tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in 1/3 cup water
2 egg whites, lightly beaten
1-2 green onions, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1-2 tsp Siracha hot sauce (optional)
Salt & Pepper to taste

Place chicken broth in a large pot and bring to a boil. Add sliced ham and creamed corn. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, stirring frequently. Add cornstarch solution and cook, stirring, until soup boils and thickens slightly. Turn off heat. Add egg whites, stirring until they form long threads.

Stir in green onions, sesame oil, pepper and salt, to taste.
Top with additional green onions and slivered ham, if desired.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Chocolate Pretzel Crack

A tiny bit like Christmas crack - - you know, that crazy Christmas candy that people make with Saltine crackers?  Same idea... but better more interesting shape and more salt when you use pretzels.

I found this recipe online on a cute little blog and was immediately intrigued and wanted to try it myself. I give the credit for the recipe to her, however, I know that this same basic recipe exists in a lot of family homes already.  I just never tried it before the other day.

Hey, I know it's not Christmas, so make this for Valentine's day or something.  
No one, just no one will say NO to this candy treat because it isn't Christmas.

Makes quite a lot...
2 stick butter (1 cup)
1 cup light brown sugar
1 bag pretzels (reg size bag- you'll use 2/3 bag)
12 oz chocolate chips
sea salt for sprinkling, optional

Preheat the oven to 400.
Line a large bar pan with parchment paper, cover with pretzels. (you can see I didn't use parchment, but I suggest you do! I had a time getting it off my pan once it was cold!)

In a medium saucepan melt the butter over medium-low heat. When it begins to bubble add the brown sugar. Stirring occasionally let the butter/sugar mixture meld together and brown. This should take about 3-4 minutes. It doesn't look like its going to bind together at first, but it comes together. Do NOT let it boil. When you have a nice, brown caramel pour it over the pretzels, slowly and evenly. 

You can then use a spatula to spread it out, you have to work quickly and gently. It hardens fast so even pouring is the best method. Don't worry too much about gaps, it will spread out more in the oven.
Bake the sheet for 5 minutes.

Remove the sheet from the oven and sprinkle the whole bag of chocolate chips evenly over the mixture.

Place back in the oven for less than one minute. Chocolate burns so don't leave it in there too long.

Remove from the oven and use a silicone spatula to evenly spread the chocolate over the top. Don't worry too much about getting it on every single piece, as it can be tricky to do as the caramel below is hot and keeps shifting around as you try and "spread" it around.

Sprinkle with sea salt (if desired) and refrigerate for a minimum of 1 hour. Break into chunks and store in a tin.  It's best to give it away right away before eating too much of it yourself.