Sunday, January 30, 2011

Stockup Sunday - Broccoli and Cheese Soup

Ok, please trust me and read on even though the word "broccoli" is in the post title.  My kids - all of them - LOVE this broccoli soup and so do I. 

Here's how I got started making it.  One fall a couple of years ago, we were visiting my cousin who has an organic vegetable farm.  The kids and I were out walking in the field, which was full of broccoli plants about to be disked under.  The boys thought it was so much fun picking broccoli side shoots that we ended up going home with bags of broccoli. While trying to figure out what to do with all this broccoli, I found a broccoli and cheese soup recipe on the Food Network web site.  I made it, and it was delicious, but I was scratching my head trying to figure out how to get the kids to eat it.  They were watching a movie in their room, when I said, "Boys, I made this really yummy creamy soup with CHEESE in it.  It's really CHEESY and it's SO GOOD."  I went on and on about the cheese, thinking they would go for that, but they didn't bat an eyelash.  Finally on my way out of their room, I mumbled something about broccoli.  They both jumped up and shouted, "Broccoli!?I?" {well why didn't you say so mom?} and ran into the kitchen to try it.  They each ate a whole bowl full and asked for more.  It was the weirdest thing I have ever experienced.

The recipe is very small, so I almost always double it.  I follow the recipe pretty closely with only a few small adjustments  First, I don't bother with the croutons shown in the original recipe.  Second, I just use salted butter and omit the salt.  Finally, if I make it in the summer, I used fresh broccoli and fresh thyme, but if I make it in the winter, I use frozen broccoli and dried thyme (reduce the amount when using dried).  Believe it or not, the fresh thyme makes a huge difference in flavor, but it's just too expensive at $2.99 a package to buy fresh in the winter.  In the summer, I have it in the garden.  The amount of cream (half and half works fine) and cheese can easily be reduced without ruining the soup.  You can blend the soup very smooth if your kids have food texture issues. 
The other interesting thing that I have discovered is that the kids actually like the soup better without the cream and cheese, so when I make it, they all eat a bowl before I stir in these last ingredients.  Dad doesn't eat it without offsetting all the broccoli with a little cream and cheese, so we add these before he eats any.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Stockup Sunday - Pasta Salad

If you're new to my blog, Stockup Sunday is one of my "working mom" tricks to make my week a little easier.  You can read more here.  Below is one of the things I made last Sunday.  I'm trying to think up a delicious, exotic-sounding name for it, so if you have any ideas, let me know :-)

1 lb pasta shells cooked and drained
1 handful of sun-dried tomatoes roughly chopped
2 handfuls of fresh baby spinach roughly chopped
1 medium red onion chopped
1/2 c crumbled feta cheese
1/4 diced salami
1/4 c sliced pickled hot peppers (any variety you like is fine)
1/2 c grated parmesan cheese
1 c italian dressing*

Toss all ingredients together and let stand at room temperature for an hour or so before eating or refrigerating.

* Italian Dressing - I use this recipe and keep the dry mix on hand in my pantry.

I like this recipe because it's easy, and it lets me use some of the things I preserved from my summer garden (the sun-dried tomatoes and pickled hot peppers).  You can do all the chopping while the pasta boils, then rinse the pasta and toss it all together.  Done in 15 minutes (even faster than Rachel Ray).

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Got leftover chicken?

Chicken Enchiladas

cooking oil
12 corn tortillas
14 oz can enchilada sauce *
1-2 cups cooked chicken (shredded or chopped)
1 can black beans **
1 small bunch of green onions (sliced, including the greens)
16 oz sharp cheddar cheese shredded

Spray the bottom of a large glass lasagna pan with cooking oil.  Pour in a little of the enchilada sauce (just enough to thinly coat the bottom of the pan).  Take

* If you don't have any enchilada sauce, you can use salsa as a substitute.  Just put salsa in the blender, add a little cumin for flavor, and blend until smooth.

** If you can get beans with seasoning, such as cumin, I highly recommend them.  Kuner's Black Beans with Cumin and Chili are my favorite, but I think they're only available in Minnesota (possibly in surrounding states too).

Friday, January 7, 2011

Going Green

The remains of one of my favorite salads.

1 bag of baby spinach
1 bag of mixed greens
1 cup craisins
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 cup candied almonds - see below
1 red onion sliced
dressing - see below

In a large bowl, toss greens with the amount of dressing desired.  Toss in 1/2 to 3/4 of the craisins, cheese and nuts.  Top salad with remaining craisins, nuts and cheese.

Candied Almonds
Start with about 3-4 tablespoons sugar and 1 cup nuts (use almonds, walnuts, pecans or whatever is on hand).  Add nuts and sugar to a pan over medium heat.  Stir constantly until sugar begins to melt and coat nuts.  Add more sugar as needed.  Once all the sugar has melted, remove from heat and set nuts on wax paper to cool.

1-1/2 cups sugar
2 tsp salt
2 tsp dry mustard (you can substitute prepared mustard)
1/4 tsp almond extract
2/3 cup cider vinegar
2 cups oil (such as vegetable or canola)

Mix all ingredients except oil in a large jar with a lid.  Shake until well mixed.  Add oil and shake again.  This recipe makes a lot of dressing, so save some to be used later.