Broccoli Cheese Soup

Where have I been?! I just recently fell in love with Broccoli Cheese soup, I know – right? I am a little picky about it, and really only like the kind from Panera. But, I have had an emulsion blender for ages now and have yet to make any soups, so that is my goal this winter! Soup!

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Tonight I decided to try my hand at one that seemed rather easy.. I looked at a bunch of different recipes, and decided to just combine them and make my own. Nothing really stood out to me, and the supposed Panera recipe sounded just weird, plus it didn’t call for a blender and I wanted to blend, dammit! Maybe next time..

Broccoli Cheese Soup

1 3/4 cups chicken broth
1 small onion, diced (I used half of a big one)
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons salted butter
Salt & Pepper to taste
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups milk
2 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
2 1/2 to 3 cups chopped, lightly steamed broccoli

To make things a little easier, I microwaved my broccoli. Don’t trip, it makes perfect broccoli actually, and you’re going to be blending it all up anyway. No need to lie and say I steamed and blanched it, because I didn’t. Cut the hard stems off, add to a microwavable bowl and add about 1/4 cup of water. Cover and microwave for 4min on high then set to the side.

To make things even easier, I decided to use my trusty Miniature Cuisinart for the garlic. It really is an amazing little thing to have around, especially for someone who doesn’t need a huge food processor. I probably could have left the cloves whole, since I was blending it all up anyway but I wanted to chop it up.

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I started the onion and garlic on low heat with a little EVOO and let it do its thing. Dont be afraid to let your food cook without always messing with it, just make sure the heat is right so it wont burn.

In a soup pot I melted the butter and gradually added the flour, stirring the whole time, about 2min. As the butter was melting on medium heat, I microwaved the milk for 2min and then poured it into the butter flour mixture, whisking constantly, until it thickened – about 5 to 8min. Warm your chicken broth in the microwave and then it to the pot also, still whisking.

By now, your garlic and onions will be nicely browned and aromatic and you can add that to your pot as well.

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Then comes the deliciousness, cheeeeessseeee! Turn the pot to low, and add all of the cheese at once. I used a whisk, but you can use whatever you want, to mix it all together until the cheese is completely melted and mixed in.. Before you add the broccoli, take a small spoon and taste your soup. You may want to add a little more salt or pepper, or whatever you want. Then add broccoli, and blend until the soup is to the consistency of your liking!

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Soupppppper easy! haha

I must share a secret with you before I sign off.. I am lactose intolerant. :O I know, and I decided to make mac n cheese, and cheese soup? I will share my wonder pill with you, only if you promise to USE it! It works, and you can really eat things with lactose! I carry some in my purse with me everywhere I go.

LACTAID

Make sure you get the pills, chewable or swallow ones. I take two if Im going to be eating a ton of lactose and I’ve never had an issue. Some people don’t like the pills, and just don’t eat lactose at all… but I couldn’t live without cheese, ice cream, and yogurt. Sowwie body.

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Crock Pot Ribs with Mac n Cheese!

Im really not a fan of sticky, messy, gooey ribs.. sue me! I dont care about the mess getting on my face, but I can’t stand when stuff gets under my nails. Weird? Cool.

My friend Jessica made some crock pot ribs the other day that looked too dank to pass up, so I decided to make my own version tonight.

Ribs

Pork Loin Back Ribs – 1 slab
1 bottle BBQ Sauce – whatever style you prefer
1/2 Onion – white or yellow
Garlic – 5 cloves (we LOVE garlic in this house)
Water – amount tbd depending on crock pot size

First and foremost, like all meat, I washed it off. No, silly, don’t use soap.. Just rinse the meat in cool water to get all of the blood and “residuals” off. Then pat dry with paper towels. Place the rack meat side down on a cutting board (I used two together since the rack was longer than one single board) and cut into serving size pieces, about 3 ribs.


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After the ribs have been sectioned, turn your broiler on low and dry season them with whatever you like. I rubbed garlic salt, paprika, onion powder, and fresh cracked pepper into the meat like it was lotion and then arranged them on a baking sheet to brown under the broiler. I kept mine in for about 5min before turning the whole pan clockwise to get all of the ribs evenly, and kept them in another 5min.

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While they were browning, I cut the half onion (leftover from last night) into three pieces, and took the ends off of the garlic cloves. Keeping these ingredients as large as you can is helpful when cooking in a crockpot.

When the ribs are browned to your liking, they’re ready for your pot!

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After you get everything into the pot, add your whole bottle of BBQ sauce. I actually used 2 different kinds of sauce and added half of each bottle (hickory and a sweet one). Then add enough water to just barely cover the ribs, cover and cook on low for 6-7hrs or high for 3-4hrs. If you want them to fall off the bone, cook them longer. I didn’t want them that way so I only cooked them this long 🙂 They were PURRRRFECT!

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Homestyle Mac n Cheese

4 tbsp butter or margarine, divided
1/4 cup flour
1 cup milk
1 small can Cream of Mushroom Soup
8 oz. VELVEETA®, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 cups elbow macaroni, cooked
1/2 cup Shredded Cheddar Cheese
1/2 cup herb & garlic bread crumbs
This recipe is a little strange, but DON’T get scared.. I got a little worried, but it all worked out in the end.
Cook your pasta about 2min UNDER what the package suggests, this will keep your pasts firm when you bake it, and set aside.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Melt 3 of the 4 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan on medium heat, gradually add flour and mix with a wooden spoon. I’d suggest not using a whisk, like I did at first, because the butter and flour gets clumpy. Slowly add milk and mix *continuously*, making a sort of roux.. Keep the heat so that it is lightly simmering. The flour/butter will start to break down and mix into the milk getting thicker and ticker. Add the velveeta and mushroom soup, stirring continuously until all of the cheese has melted and everything is combined.
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Spray your baking dish with PAM and pour noodles in, topping with cheese sauce. Add shredded cheese and mix until all of the noodles are coated.
I am a fan of breadcrumb topping on my mac n cheese, but you really dont have to add it if you aren’t into that kinda thing..
Take remaining butter and melt in a small dish, then add it to the breadcrumbs and mix well. Spread the mixture over the cheesy noodles, spreading around evenly with your hand, and bake for 20-30min or until lightly browned and bubbly!
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I made some green beans on the side, but I was too hungry to bother taking pics of those, and c’mon now … who doesnt know how to make simple, steamed, green beans?
I hope you all enjoy this meal like we did! We are topping it off with some mint chocolate chip ice cream ❤ 🙂

Tips and Tricks

My Grandmother always hammered into my brain to:

“Never stop learning. Always keep your mind, and heart, open to new things you can learn from the people around you.”

Here are just a few things about the kitchen I’ve learned over the years.

  • Clean as you go!

You will always work better and more efficiently if you clean up after yourself as you go along. Don’t keep dishes piled up in the sink to add to the dishwasher when you’re done. Lay a kitchen towel out and hand-wash *gasp* yes, hand wash, as you go along.

 

  • Never put your kitchen knives in the dishwasher.

Butter knives don’t count, but if you have really nice/sharp steak knives, I’d apply the rule there too. You will dull them out, and even rust them.

 

  • The smaller the garlic clove, the more potent it is!

 

  • Don’t be afraid to freeze things.

We throw out and waste so much food these days.. Freeze it! Pizza and pasta sauces, pestos, soups, even bread. Also cooked bacon, cook the whole pack and freeze the extra slices. Just make sure your freezer is at the correct temperature for the type of freezer you have. Every appliance is different.

 

  • Parchment paper is your friend.

Cut the extra oil by laying a piece down for baking. Get your cakes out of the pan without them sticking by cutting a piece to fit the bottom. Don’t worry about using flour to roll out your shortcrust, put it between two pieces of paper – this will keep the pastry flakey and buttery.

 

  • You can always add salt later, but you can’t take it out.

Salt is actually really bad for you, no matter how good it tastes, and it can ruin your food if you add too much. I am a firm believer of seasoning your food, but leave some salt for the table.

 

  • Hard Boiled Eggs take exactly 8min

Boil the water first, add eggs one at a time with a ladle so you don’t break them, and pull them out at exactly 8min. Then run COLD water over them to stop them from cooking more.

 

  • Perfectly Poached Eggs

The key is shallow water and a splash of vinegar… You only need about 2-3in of water to poach an egg, it helps the egg not have too much room to swim around in. And the vinegar helps the whites set more quickly. 4min, at a simmer, will give you the perfect poached egg.

 

  • Storing Herbs 

The best way to store herbs is wrapped in a damp paper towel inside a plastic bag.

 

  • Room Temperature Meat

If you want your meat to cook more evenly, let it get to room temperature before putting it on the stove or in the oven.

 

  • Above or Below Ground

If its grown underground, put it in the water and then boil it. (potatoes etc)
If its grown above ground, boil and then put it in the water. (corn etc)

 

  • Don’t Overcrowd your Pan

Many times we are in too much of a hurry to correctly brown our mushrooms, or sweat our onions.. By over crowding your pan, you run the risk of making things mushy and not getting fully covered in the flavors we all love so much.

 

  • Caramelizing Onions

Most people have the misconceived notion that you can caramelize onions in a good 10min. Wrong. To properly caramelize onions they need at least 45min in the pan, on medium-low (depending on the strength of your stovetop.

 

I could really go on and on with this, but I will save some for another day 🙂

Chicken Mushroom Flatbread

Sunday is not technically considered a weekday is it? Whether it is or not, I like to count it since it as one because it is one of our days “alone” for dinner. Tonight I realized we had nothing in the refrigerator because we have been eating Adobo and Lamb leftovers from our non-traditional thanksgiving feast.

I am always interested in what my step-daughter would like for dinner, since I’d like to make something she would enjoy eating. Tonight she requested a Flatbread of some sorts. Seeing as though I’d never made a flatbread before, I figured it would be a great first recipe to feature here!

Lets keep it really real for a minute, I’m not some stay at home mom with a million hours in the day and a bank-load full of cash to spend on fancy ingredients. We budget ourselves around here, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have delicious food for a reasonable price. I went to the grocery store this evening and spent under $100 ($92.60 to be exact, after my club card) on groceries for 4 substantial meals that will definitely be wonderful for leftovers.
When the 3 of us go out to dinner on a regular night, its well over $120, for ONE meal.

Anywhoozer..

Tonight I started with making the flat-bread dough.

Pizza Dough

2 ½ teaspoons dry active yeast
2 ½ to 3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 cup warm water

Mix yeast and warm water in a bowl, or I use a pyrex measuring cup, and let stand for 15min. You will notice a foam start to grow, thats completely normal and what should be happening! This means the yeast is growing and doing its job.

I don’t own a large mixing bowl with a hook attachment, so I do all of the kneading by hand like my father taught me. 

In a large mixing bowl, add flour, salt and yeast mixture. Make sure to add the yeast slowly and gradually, mixing together with one had as you go along. Mix and knead until the dough is squishy, elastic, and somewhat firm. Drizzle a little oil over the dough and use your hands to coat the entire blob, place it back in the bowl and cover with saran wrap to let it “rise”.

When the dough is finished rising, it will have grown in size about two times.

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While the dough is rising, you can prepare your toppings.

Toppings

1/2 cup sliced mushrooms (we used Portabella)
4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1/2 of a yellow onion – sliced
3 very thinly cut chicken breasts (seasoned to your liking)
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 tbs pesto

ALWAYS always always season your food, people. Please. This isn’t hometown buffet for 90yr olds. We want flavor! I used a little salt, pepper, onion and garlic powder to season my chicken breasts, you may use whatever seasoning you like. Browned the chicken in a skillet and set aside to cool. Roughly chopped the onion, diced the garlic, and sliced the mushrooms.

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I then added a small drizzle of EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) to the pan I had just cooked the chicken in. Don’t get rid of that yummy flavor by starting over in a new pan! Add the onion first and let it sweat, then add the garlic and mushrooms and let it all swim together and absorb the juices and leftover seasoning from the chicken. You can use a wooden spatula/spoon to scrape the bottom of the pan and loosen the little bits that are stuck, thats ALL flavor!

After about 2min of everything in the pan, you’ll have something that looks like this:

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man that photo sucks…

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees

Cut up your cooled chicken into small, bite-size pieces. Your dough should be nice and ready by now so pray some PAM, or whatever cooking spray you have, on your preferred baking sheet and, gently, begin to roll or stretch your dough out to the size you’d like it to be at. After the dough is rolled to your desired thickness, put it in the oven to “set” (about 5min).

When you take the dough out, drizzle a small amount of EVOO on top and spoon your pesto on next. With a plastic spatula, spread the pesto evenly around the dough as it were pizza sauce. It should look similar to this:

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Covered just enough so that your dough doesnt dry out.
And then begin to add your toppings! I added the onion, garlic, mushroom mixture first and scattered the chicken on top of that. As soon as the oven is ready to go, sprinkle with all of our parmesan cheese and bake for 20-25min!

If you’re into crispier crust, roll your dough as thin as you can and cook it until the edges are to the doneness you prefer.

This is how our Flatbread turned out. Nice and melty cheese, crisp edges, moist chicken and mushrooms… I will definitely be doing this again! Next time I’ll experiment with different ingredients. I feel like sliced brussels sprouts, pancetta or prosciutto, and bleu cheese crumbles would be amazing.

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Hello, My Name Is…

Welcome!

Where does one really start with something like this??
I guess I could tell you a little about myself and why I decided to make this blog!

My name is Stephanie and I am a sunny Southern California resident.
Current Interior Design student, fiancé, and soon to be step-mother. At the moment, my (lets just call him “hubs” from now on, since thats where this is going) hubs is strting a new job with a wonderful Solar company and is gone around 4-6 days a week. That leaves me and my step-daughter here to spend time bonding, and moping around because he is gone. lol

I am an avid cook that once had the dreams of going to culinary school, my father is a chef and taught me a lot growing up. That was curbed when I realized I would take all of the fun out of my passion for cooking by going to school for it. So now I do it during the week while hubs is away, and sometimes the kid helps me, which is awesome!

In this blog I will mostly be making food that is new to me. Things that I have always been afraid to try, in fear of failure. <– BIGGEST fear in the world btw. Some of the dishes will be my old favorites, and some will be picks by the kid. I really hope people like what I have to share 🙂 You may even meet our alien kittens at some point.

xoxo
Stephanie