Category Archives: Soups/ Salads / Stews

Orange Cauliflower Soup

I love it when a new idea comes together on the first try and is a hit with the family. I just decided to make a cauliflower soup today because I had a head of cauliflower and I needed to make something with it before it was no longer edible. A nice soup came to mind because although we have been having nice warm weather during the day it is a little chilly at night. Besides, I can eat soup any day of the year because I just love soup!

I am calling this one Orange Cauliflower Soup because I used diced red peppers in the soup which made it turn a pale orange color. I was not sure how everyone else would react to the color but I liked it so….. Orange Cauliflower Soup was born. Just making cauliflower soup was not enough. I wanted to add a slight richness to the soup and decided what better way to make it taste rich without a ton of calories than to add a little cheese. I think I have had cheesy cauliflower soup in the past but it was a little too rich for my blood. Adding just a little cheese keeps the calories down, adds thickness to the soup and definitely adds another level of flavor.

Whenever I put together a post I have to set up the food and take pictures of each step of the process. The last step of course is taking a picture of the finished product. After taking a picture of my new creation I figured I would clean up the kitchen so that I could enjoy a bowl of soup without thinking about the slight mess I had made. Well, my youngest son descended upon the kitchen with his girlfriend and immediately wanted to know if I had taken my last picture of the soup. I didn’t think he wanted to eat it (silly me) but he asked if he could taste it. Of course I said sure since I always need a taste tester for my recipes. The first words out of his mouth were “This is what I am going to miss!” That put a smile on my face because he is headed to college in a few months and I know he is going to miss my home cooking. My smile got even bigger when his girlfriend asked if she could try it and again I said sure. She said it was delicious and being the mom that I am I told her to take some home. Seems the soup fairy was on my side today and gave me a hit recipe on the first try. Thanks soup fairy!

Orange Cauliflower Soup

Ingredients:

1 medium head of cauliflower cut into small pieces

1 small onion diced

½ red pepper diced

4 cups chicken broth

1 cup water

1 cup milk

1 cup shredded monterey and/or Colby jack cheese

1 tbsp olive oil

3 tbsp butter

2 tbsp flour

1 tbsp salt

1 tsp black pepper

1 tsp garlic powder

½ tsp parsley

½ tsp basil

½ tsp red pepper flakes

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Add diced onions and red peppers. Saute until slightly browned. Add seasonings and stir. Add cauliflower and stir to mix with onions and peppers. Cook for 2 – 3 minutes. Add chicken broth and water. Stir then bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cover. Let simmer until cauliflower is soft. Using an immersion blender, blend cauliflower until smooth but leave a few florets to create texture. Turn heat down to low.

In a small pan melt butter and add flour. Whisk until flour and butter are blended and form a paste. Add milk and whisk until sauce is thickened. Season with a little season salt and black pepper. Add white sauce to cauliflower and whisk to blend. Stir in cheese. Continue stirring until cheese is well blended into the soup. Taste to see if a little more salt or black pepper is needed.

Enjoy!

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Lentil and Carrot Ginger Soup

Sometimes you just have to cheat. Not cheat other people or cheat in the sense of doing something wrong. I mean cheat by not making everything from scratch. Making my Lentil and Carrot Ginger Soup was one of those times I decided to cheat. At least, partially. This soup is a combination of dried lentils and a box of carrot and ginger soup.

I am not usually a fan of boxed soups but Trader Joe’s has a nice brand of soups I have used in other recipes upon occasion. I have passed over their Carrot and Ginger soup many times but decided to take a chance on combining it with the lentil soup I make for me and hubby.

Creating soup is about building flavors. Combining the light flavor of lentils with the sweet taste of carrots along with the sharp taste of ginger spells yummy. Being the carnivore that I am, I added diced pancetta to build even more flavor. My vegetarian brethern can keep it simple and not include meat in this soup. But, if you are not opposed to meat, I think you will enjoy the flavors and texture with the pancetta. Add some crusty bread on the side of your bowl and you will have a wonderful hearty soup for those chilly or even warm days.

Lentil and Carrot Ginger Soup

Ingredients:

4 cups chicken broth

1 ½ – 2 cups dried yellow lentils (rinsed in cold water)

1 cup shredded carrots

1 cup cubed pancetta (optional)

½ cup diced onions

1 box Carrot Ginger Soup (Trader Joe’s)

1tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp salt

½ tbsp ground black pepper

½ tbsp Adobo seasoning

1 tsp dried parsley

¼ tsp cumin

¼ tsp cayenne pepper (optional)

Place olive oil, pancetta, onions and carrots in a large pot over medium heat. Saute the carrots, onions and pancetta for about 3 – 5 minutes stirring frequently. Add broth, seasonings and lentils to the pot and let simmer for 30 minutes stirring occasionally. Add a little water if the soup gets too thick during the 30 minutes. After 30 minutes stir in the box of carrot and ginger soup. Reduce heat to low and let simmer for an additional 20 minutes.

Serve with crusty bread or croutons.

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Refreshing Tomato Salad

Let me say right off the bat that if you don’t like the taste of mint you can leave it out to this salad. My friend Doll does not like anything with mint so before she makes the “ewww” sound after reading the recipe I want her and all mint haters to know the mint is optional. Doll claims to be a southern girl but how can she really be southern if she doesn’t like the taste of mint. Come on! Mint julpes are a southern staple. At least where my family comes from and they are southern.

Hubby and I both like the flavor of mint in salads. I think it adds a refreshing taste to quite a few dishes. My favorite ice cream is mint chocolate chip and I love an ice cold peppermint patty. The creation of my Refreshing Tomato Salad was my welcome spring and summer gift to the family. It is packed with olives, feta cheese, cucumbers, artichokes and of course Tomatoes!

I was fortunate this year to have a good crop of tomatoes so I was able to add our homegrown tomatoes to this salad. I have not tried growing cucumbers yet but maybe next year I will. I prefer English cucumbers because regular cucumbers have too many hard seeds. But, that is just my preference. Use whatever type of cucumber you like or have handy.

During these last days of summer I have been making this recipe a little more frequently. It is always sad to see the warm weather turn a little cooler because it means the end of short sleeves, sandals and shorts. I for one will miss the warm days but I also look forward to the beauty of fall weather. Good thing for me my Refreshing Tomato Salad is delicious no matter what the weather may be.

Refreshing Tomato Salad

Ingredients:

4 – 6 small tomatoes large dice cut

1 English cucumber diced

1 jar marinated artichokes drained and slightly chopped

½ cup crumbled feta cheese

½ cup Italian black olives

¼ cup olive oil

juice from ½ lemon

½ tbsp red onion diced small

½ tsp chopped fresh mint (optional)

½ tsp dried dill

½ tsp dried basil

½ tsp salt

½ tsp black pepper

¼ tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and toss gently. Refrigerate for 1 hour to allow the flavors to marry. Remove from refrigerator and let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes. Serve as a side dish or add a little bow tie pasta to make it a meal.

 

 

 

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Turkish Lamb Neckbones

Neck bones are a Southern delicacy. There are beef neck bones, pork neck bones and as I recently discovered, lamb neck bones. Beef and pork neck bone recipes are pretty basic. I smother them in onions with a lot of good seasonings and chicken broth. Then I use the strained neck bone broth to flavor some white rice. Add some collard greens or steamed cabbage and you have heaven on a plate.

Lamb Neck Bones are not really Southern or at least not in my mind. When I picked up a couple of packs of lamb neck bones my mind landed on creating a Greek or Turkish recipe. Hence, my Turkish Lamb Neck Bones.

I wish I could say I have experience in making Turkish cuisines but I don’t. So, to make my job easy I bought a package of Turkish marinade to help my recipe along. The marinade was fragrant with the scent of cumin, garlic and tomatoes. These seasonings were deeply infused into the lamb which made it extra flavorful and the meat was very tender from the marinade.

My Turkish Lamb Neck Bones may not have been southern but they were still heaven on a plate. If you ever run across lamb neck bones or feel bold enough to ask you butcher if he has any, you should try this recipe. You will be pleasantly surprised at how delicious it is and how easy it is to make.

Turkish Lamb Neck Bones

Ingredients:

2 pkgs lamb neck bones

4 carrots peeled and cut into large slices

½ large onion peeled and sliced

½ lemon cut into quarters

½ jalapeno pepper sliced

1 pkg Turkish marinade

1 cup chicken broth

1 cup water

1 tbsp salt

½ tbsp ground black pepper

½ tsp onion powder

¼ tsp cayenne

Wash lamb neck bones. Place neck bones in a large bowl and season with salt, black pepper, onion powder and cayenne pepper. Toss to coat with seasoning. Pour marinade over the lamb then place meat in a large plastic zip lock bag and lock. Massage the marinade into the meat. Place in the refrigerator overnight or at least 4 hours. Remove from the plastic bag and place in a large pot with water, chicken broth, marinade, onion slices, lemon and jalapeno peppers. Cook lamb over medium heat for 1 ½ hours. Stir occasionally and add more liquid if necessary.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Remove lamb neck bones from pot and place in a large casserole dish. Top with carrot slices and cover. Cook for 20 – 25 minutes until the carrots are tender. Serve with steamed cabbage or sauteed sweet potatoes.

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Asian Bowl with Lollipop Lamb Chops

Recently, I received a wonderful surprise in the mail. New bottles of Gazebo Room Salad Dressing and Marinade. I immediately started thinking about the kinds of recipes I could create that incorporated the dressings. I didn’t want to just use them as a dressing on top of one of my regular salads. I wanted something new and exciting!

Bingo! I finally decided to make an Asian Bowl with Lollipop Lamb Chops. I topped the Asian bowl with Gazebo Room Asian Vinaigrette Salad Dressing and Marinade. Yes, that is a mouthful to say and a delicious mouthful to taste. If you like tangy salad dressings, I think you will like this Asian dressing. I just would not put a lot of this dressing on a salad. A little goes a long way with this dressing because it is so flavorful.

Now back to my Asian Bowl with Lollipop Lamb Chops. In my mind, this is a very simple dish to make and the Asian bowl is both colorful and nutritious. I kept it simple by combining just a few veggies, thin lo mein noodles and of course the lamb chops. I have to admit I developed this recipe based on the lamb chops. As I usually do on the weekends, I was perusing the meat aisle looking for something other than chicken. Remember, I have nothing against chicken. We just eat it often so I try to break up the week with another meat if possible so that we don’t grow feathers. I spied a lone package of lollipop lamb chops among the packages of bigger lamb chops and grabbed them before anyone else could. It is rare for me to find these little jewels so I was quite happy with this trip to the grocery store.

When I pulled the recipe together I wasn’t totally convinced hubby would be on board since I had never prepared a “bowl”. I wasn’t even sure he had heard of an Asian bowl but he surprised me and said “Sure, go for it”, which meant he was on board. Hubby did come into the kitchen a couple of times to see what I was doing and guided me on how he wanted me to “create” his bowl. Yeah, let’s just call him my assistant on this recipe. Anyway, we both enjoyed the final product. Hubby really enjoyed it because he ate the whole thing. Normally, he leaves a little food on his plate but not this time. All I saw were two chopsticks and lamb chop bones sitting at the bottom of his bowl. That is what I call a successful dish!

Asian Bowl with Lollipop Lamb Chops

Ingredients:

2 Roma tomatoes diced

2 scallions sliced

2 bunches romaine lettuce shredded or small Napa cabbage shredded

1 package (6 – 8) lollipop lamb chops

1 package thin lo mein noodles

1 small can water chestnuts drained

1 cup snow peas

1 cup shredded carrots

¼ cup crispy rice noodles

¼ cup Gazebo Room Asian Vinaigrette Salad Dressing and Marinade

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp minced fresh ginger

1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

1 tbsp salt

½ tbsp black pepper

paprika

Season lamb chops with Worcestershire sauce, salt, black pepper and paprika. Set aside.

Heat olive oil in a medium sized frying pan over medium high heat. Brown lamb chops on both sides approximately 3 – 5 minutes on each side. Remove from pan and place on paper towels to drain.

Add snow peas, carrots and scallions to frying pan and saute until slightly softened but still has some crispness. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Build Salad:

Place lettuce in the bottom of the bowl. Arrange veggies around the bowl. Add lo mein noodles, water chestnuts and diced tomatoes. Place three lamb chops on one side of the bowl. Drizzle with dressing then sprinkle with rice noodles.

Enjoy!

 

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Coq Au Vin

My first experience of tasting French food was on a business trip to Massachusetts. I don’t remember the name of the restaurant but I do remember the escargot one of my co-workers ordered and insisted I try. It was garlicky and a little rubbery but totally delicious. It was my first and last attempt at eating snails and although I enjoyed the taste, I did not like the texture. At this point, I could not tell you if that is the way snails are suppose to be when you cook them or if my experience was an exception. Like I said, the flavors were good but the snail did not make my mouth happy.

Fortunately, that experience did not turn me against French food. My next experience was much, much better. There are not many ways you can mess up a chicken so I ordered Coq Au Win at a nice little bistro hubby and I happened upon on one of our vacations. Now, we all know chicken can get a bit boring when you have it over and over again. Fried, baked, boiled. Ugh! Chicken can be so much more than fried, baked or boiled. Chicken can be dressed up as a stew with amazing flavors combined with mushrooms, onions and carrots. Yes, carrots. Coq Au Vin traditionally has potatoes instead of carrots. However, I chose to add carrots because I wanted to serve my Coq Au Vin with mashed potatoes. The gravy from the stew drizzled over the mashed potatoes was a delectable combination.

One more thing I changed in my recipe was the use of white wine instead of red wine. I like white wine better than red wine so I figured why not substitute the two wines. Some may say it’s not really Coq Au Vin if you don’t use red wine but don’t listen to them. Remember, make every recipe your own.

Ingredients:

4 chicken thighs bone-in (remove excess fat)

4 large carrots peeled and sliced thick

3 slices bacon

2 green onions sliced

2 pkgs sliced cremini mushrooms

½ white onion thinly sliced

1 cup chicken broth

½ cup white wine or red wine

2 tsp butter

2 tsp flour

1 tsp thyme

salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Wash chicken and pat dry. Season chicken with salt and pepper then set aside.

In a large oven proof skillet or dutch oven, fry 3 slices of bacon over medium high heat until crisp and fat is rendered. Remove bacon and leave drippings in the skillet. Add chicken to the skillet and brown on both sides. Place chicken on a plate and set aside.

Lower heat to medium then add mushrooms and white onions. Saute until slightly browned for approximately 7 – 10 minutes stirring frequently. Stir in flour and butter and cook for 1 minute. Again, stirring frequently. Add wine and stir to mix. Bring to a low boil and scrap brown bits from the bottom of the skillet. Add thyme and a little more salt and pepper. Let simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in broth then add carrots and chicken back to the pan along with drippings. Simmer for another 3 minutes. Cover skillet and place in oven for 30 to 45 minutes. Baste after 20 minutes. Enjoy with mashed potatoes, rice or wide noodles.

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Louisiana Style Soup

During the summer months I often have a taste for gumbo or jambalaya but those dishes can be a little heavy. So, to compensate and satisfy my taste buds, I will make a Louisiana Style Soup in warmer weather. This soup is much lighter than gumbo or jambalaya but it has similar flavors.

Creole food is the soul food of the south mid-west. Creole cooking is a blend of French, Spanish, Caribbean, West African, Portuguese and several other country cuisines. While Cajun dishes originate from a style of cooking by French speaking Acadians that were exiled to Louisiana. (a partial history lesson). Many people think there is no difference between Creole and Cajun foods but there really is a difference. The biggest difference is that Creole cuisines use tomatoes in most dishes while Cajun cuisines do not. Another difference is how each prepares a roux or thickening for dishes like jambalaya. A Creole roux is made with butter and flour while a Cajun roux is made with oil and flour. It may not sound like a big difference but it is when you are talking about flavors.

One more interesting tidbit about Creole vs. Cajun dishes is that Creole cooking is considered “city” food while Cajun cooking is considered “country” food. Hmmm… that may explain why hubby really likes Creole cooking while I enjoy Cajun foods. He is more of a city boy who loves tomatoes while I am a country girl at heart who just loves food.

Louisiana Style Soup

Ingredients:

1 pkg spicy ground sausage

1 cup frozen okra

1 cup frozen baby lima beans

1 cup corn cut off the cob or frozen corn

1 can fire roasted diced tomatoes

2 scallions diced

1 celery stalk diced

1 small green pepper diced

1 small white onion diced

2 cups chicken broth

2 cups water

1 tbsp tomato paste

1 tbsp butter

1 tbsp salt

1 tsp ground black pepper

1 tsp ground ginger

Brown spicy ground sausage in a large pot over medium heat. Remove from pot and drain on paper towels. Add butter to the pan along with green pepper, celery and onion. Season with salt and black pepper then saute for a few minutes until vegetables soften.

Add remaining ingredients to the pot along with sausage. Stir to blend then reduce heat and let simmer for 30 to 45 minutes. Serve with rice or top with garlic croutons.

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Simple Slaw

With the warm weather rolling in to say for a while, I thought it was time for me to create a few light dishes for the blog. Simple Slaw is just that …. simple. No fuss. No cooking over a hot stove. This recipe is as I said, just simple to prepare.

Summertime is my second favorite time of the year. My favorite time of year is fall because I love wearing sweaters and fall weather allows me to do that. Summertime, is the other favorite because I don’t have to wear a coat and I can wear sandals instead of shoes. I am a southern girl at heart so wearing shoes is the last thing I want to do in the summer. Plus, summertime forces me to paint my toenails to add that cute factor to the sandals. In the winter, what’s the point of painting your toenails if nobody can see how cute they are. Some may say “well why not paint them for hubby”? To that I say, he barely sees my toes in the house since we all wear socks to walk on the hardwood floors. Besides, winter is cold and you need to wear socks. But, I digress. Back to summertime and recipes.

Simple Slaw pairs well with just about any entree. I have prepared it with steak and potatoes as well as with hot dogs and baked beans. I think this would be a great dish to take to a picnic or barbeque because it travels well. There is no concern about mayo in the dressing so the slaw will keep much longer if sitting out. I know I have said this on a few occasions and I will say it again, colorful dishes are important to me. Besides the wonderful smell of food, the appearance of food helps to make a meal taste delicious. We first eat with our eyes then with our tongues. So the beautiful bright orange of the carrots and the deep purple of the cabbage will entice you to want to dig in. Go on. Try it! I am sure you will enjoy this light summertime dish.

Simple Slaw

Ingredients:

1 8oz pkg red cabbage shredded

1 8oz pkg carrots shredded

¼ cup golden raisins

½ tsp salt

½ tsp ground black pepper

¼ tsp parsley chopped or dried

¼ tsp cilantro

Dressing:

¼ cup Gazebo Room Greek Salad Dressing and Marinade

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp sour cream

½ tbsp spicy brown mustard

Whisk together dressing ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

Combine red cabbage, carrots, raisins and seasonings into a large bowl. Pour dressing over slaw and mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and allow flavors to marinate for 30 minutes. Stir again prior to serving.

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Salads

Today’s post is dedicated to Salads. Salads are on our dinner table almost every night mostly because they are Healthy, Quick and Easy. Basic lettuce and tomato salads are a little too plain to make it on our table. I prefer adding various ingredients that touch on the five food groups which are vegetables, dairy, grains, fruit and protein.

I have to admit in my early days of cooking I made a lot of plain salads. I thought I was spicing it up if I added avocado or seasoned croutons. I didn’t start experimenting with making more robust salads until I expanded my dining choices from food chain restaurants (no offense) to downtown restaurants with new age names (again, no offense) like “Planet One Bistro” which featured out of this world meals. Cute right? Okay, I made the name up because I didn’t want my local restaurants to be mad at me for saying their name was “new age”.

Building a salad is like creating a work of art. Various colors, textures, shapes and sizes blend together into a beautiful edible piece of art both pleasing to the eyes and mouth. One of my signature salads is one made with a 50/50 mix of greens, bright red tomatoes, English cucumbers, deep blue blueberries, shaved parmesan cheese, croutons and crumbed bacon. I top it off with my favorite dressing Gazebo Room Greek Salad Dressing and Marinade. Yummy! My Big Salad is also a family favorite.

If you ask me, it is hard to make a bad salad. No matter what you add to a salad it is a reflection of you and your taste in food. So, go crazy and create your own master piece salad. It’s sure to get rave reviews.

Salads

Ingredients:

Fruity Salad:

1 bag 50/50 mixed greens

2 roma tomatoes cut into quarters then sliced

¼ English cucumber cut in half then sliced

¼ cup blueberries (sliced strawberries and raspberries optional)

¼ cup walnuts

¼ cup kalamata olives

¼ cup shaved parmesan cheese

parmesan flavored croutons

Gazebo Room Greek Salad Dressing and Marinade

Avocado Salad:

1 bag 50/50 mixed greens

2 roma tomatoes cut into quarters then sliced

1 ripe avocado cut half then sliced

¼ English cucumber cut in half then sliced

¼ cup walnuts

¼ cup kalamata olives

¼ cup shaved parmesan cheese

ranch flavored croutons

Gazebo Room Greek Salad Dressing and Marinade

Mushroom and Egg Salad:

1 bag 50/50 mixed greens

4 large baby bella mushrooms sliced

2 roma tomatoes cut into quarters then sliced

2 boiled eggs diced

2 slices bacon cooked and chopped

¼ English cucumber cut in half then sliced

¼ cup kalamata olives

¼ cup crumbled feta or goat cheese

seasoned croutons

Gazebo Room Greek Salad Dressing and Marinade

Layer the ingredients for each salad into two bowls. Top with Gazebo Room Greek Salad Dressing and Marinade or your favorite salad dressing.

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Chicken and Gnocchi Stew

Since my #1 food tester is in college now (yes, hubby is my #2 taste tester) I sometimes have to rely on myself to eat leftovers. Even though I don’t mind eating leftovers for lunch or sometimes breakfast, there are times I have to make them more exciting in order to eat them. That is why I came up with Chicken and Gnocchi Stew. I had a leftover roasted chicken that needed a little tender love and care so it was perfect for a new recipe.

Using an already roasted chicken meant my prep time was cut in half which made pulling the rest of the recipe together easy. Chicken and Gnocchi Stew is mostly a different take on chicken and dumplings. Instead of nice big fat dumplings, there a little plump pillows of potato gnocchi. Gnocchi are right up my alley because I love potatoes. Adding gnocchi also eliminated the need to include potatoes in the stew. It was like a two for one deal!

I put Chicken and Gnocchi Stew in the comfort food category. It is packed with vegetables and protein along a little of the other stuff we shouldn’t eat too often. Fortunately, the best ingredient in comfort foods like this one is love.  Corny but true.

Chicken and Gnocchi Stew

Ingredients:

1 roasted chicken skin and bones removed then shred meat or

2 chicken breasts

2 chicken thighs

3 carrots peeled and sliced

2 stalks celery sliced

1 pkg gnocchi

1 pkg frozen peas

½ onion diced

½ onion sliced

1 can cream of chicken soup

3 cups chicken stock

2 tbsp salt

1 tsp black pepper

½ tsp dried parsley

Prepare gnocchi per package instructions. Drain and set aside.

If using chicken breasts and chicken thighs, cook in 4 cups water with 1 tbsp salt for 25 – 30 minutes. Remove chicken from pot and let cool then remove skin and bones. Cut into bite-size pieces.

Pour chicken stock into a large pot. Add carrots, celery, peas and onions along with remaining salt, pepper and parsley. Cook over medium heat for 15 minutes. Whisk in cream of chicken soup. Add chicken and gnocchi cook for 15 minutes more. Serve with or over biscuits. Tastes even better the second day.

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