Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Beer cheese soup with roasted cauliflower and crispy bacon

It was a cold January day....it was my sister Dru’s 62nd birthday to be precise. She was in Florida and I was in Indiana. She was warm, I was cold and in need of a warm bowl of soup to go with the homemade pretzels I just baked. My son, Joshua, wanted beer cheese dip for the pretzels, but I wanted to make dinner. So, I set out to make beer cheese soup. But I had a head of cauliflower in my fridge just waiting to be used and five strips of thick cut bacon from Trader Joe’s dying to be eaten. So, maybe I’m exaggerating just a little. It doesn’t really matter because in the end, I came up with this concoction and it turned out pretty tasty.

6 Tbsp butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 large cloves garlic, finely minced
1 large jalapeño, seeded and finely chopped
6 Tbsp flour
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
12 oz. lager beer (I used Corona), don’t used a light beer
1 1/2 cups whole milk
3 cups low sodium chicken broth or stock
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
20 oz. (4 1/2 cups) shredded sharp or extra sharp cheddar cheese
5 strips extra thick smoked bacon
1 head cauliflower, washed and cut into small florets
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Cover a large baking sheet with foil. Lay strips of bacon in a single layer and place on top rack of the oven. Bake until bacon is crisp and brown, but not burnt. This can take 15 to 20 minutes. While this is baking, prep your soup ingredients and wash and cut up the cauliflower. When bacon is done, remove from pan and drain on paper towels and set aside.

In a large stockpot, melt butter. Add onion and jalapeño and cook on medium heat until onion and pepper are very soft and slightly brown. Add garlic and cook about 30 seconds so as not to burn. Add flour to make a thick paste, stirring constantly so as not to burn. Add the cayenne and black peppers.

Slowly pour in the beer, it will foam, but stir in the flour mixture until you have a thick slurry. Add the milk, broth, and mustard. Stir well and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for 20 - 30 minutes, stirring to keep it from burning. It may be foamy, but it will eventually settle down.

Meanwhile, place cauliflower on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with olive oil, salt and pepper to taste (we like it with a generous amount of black pepper). Roast in the 400 degree oven, stirring once, for 20 minutes or until cauliflower is brown and tender, but not burnt.

Cut up or crumble bacon and place into a serving dish. Place roasted cauliflower in another serving dish. Remove soup from burner and stir in the shredded cheese until melted and totally incorporated into the soup. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

Serve soup in deep bowls, topping it with a scoop of cauliflower and a spoonful of bacon. You can also sprinkle a little extra cheese on top and optionally add a sprinkle of fresh diced chives if you have them.

Serve with bread or freshly-made pretzels.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Cheddar and Garlic Drop Biscuits

Do you like Red Lobster's cheddar biscuits? Then you will love this recipe -- made with real, wholesome ingredients instead of those mixes so many copycat recipes out there use. These are easy peasy and are done from start to finish within 20 minutes! Oh, and did I mention they are delicious?

2 cups flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp granulated garlic (garlic powder)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter, melted
1 cup whole milk
8 oz shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Topping
1/4 c. (1/2 stick) butter, melted
1/2 tsp dried parsley crumbled finely
kosher salt

Preheat oven to 450 and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Combine flour, baking powder, sugar, garlic and salt and stir together until well mixed. Add butter and milk and stir until flour is wet and ingredients are combined. Do not overmix (it makes tough biscuits). Add half the cheddar cheese and stir, add the rest of the cheese and mix again to make sure cheese is well distributed.

Drop heaping tablespoons of dough on parchment. Bake for 10-12 minutes, moving pans from top to bottom and visa versa so that the biscuits are evenly baked. Bake only until tops are lightly browns and bottoms are browned, but not burned. Biscuits will spring back when touched with your finger.

While biscuits are baking, combine the melted butter and parsley. Immediately  brush the baked biscuits with melted butter mixture while on the pan. If you want, you can sprinkle a pinch of kosher salt on top.

Remove biscuits from baking sheets and serve warm.

Makes approximately 18 biscuits.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Bulgogi (with Kiwi)

We found this recipe on the Internet and after making it once, we decided to modify it. I think we've almost perfected it. This is an amazing Korean dish that promises never to leave leftovers. In fact, you'll probably want to lick your plate clean and lick the serving dish too!

We served this with rice and stir-fried bokchoy, onions, and peppers. It's good with kimchi too - as the sourness of the kimchi really compliments the sweetness of this sauce.

Meat
2 pounds thinly sliced beef tenderloin (you can use almost any beef, but tenderloin is delish)

Marinade
6 Tbsp  soy sauce
4 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp honey
4 Tbsp Mirin (rice) wine
3 Tbsp sesame oil
2-3 large cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp ground black pepper
4 tsp toasted sesame seeds
2 Tbsp chopped green onions (including tops)
1 whole ripe kiwi, pureed
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and minced

Make the marinade. place in a large bowl and add the beef. Use your hands to massage the beef and marinade together. Be sure it is well mixed and beef is completely covered. Let stand on countertop for at least 1/2 hour. If you use a tougher cut of meat, you should let it marinade longer.

Heat wok to very hot. Add oil that has a high smoke point (grapeseed oil, coconut oil, canola oil). Make sure oil and pan are very hot. Add beef a little at a time. Cook just until done and remove beef to a warm dish. Add more beef and repeat. Drain any sauce that collects on the bottom of the pan, adding more oil and heating the pan to very hot before adding the meat. It's okay for the beef to get a little crispy. Always cook in small batches so the beef is stir-fried and not boiled. It should sizzle when it hits the pan.

You can also cook beef on a charcoal grill with a fine steel mesh or tin foil so beef doesn't fall through the grate. You don't want to burn the meat or it becomes bitter. Also when using beef tenderloin, you want to cook it lightly so it stays tender. Remember the meat will continue cooking even after you remove it from the pan.

If you stir fry veggies, do that first in the wok and set aside with them covered to stay warm. You can use any kind of veggies - try mushrooms, pea pods, julienned carrots and napa cabbage in addition to onions, bok choy and colorful sweet peppers.

Serves 4-6 people



Easy Hot and Sour Soup

16 oz. package of firm tofu, drained
4-6 cups low-sodium chicken broth (can also use vegetable broth)
1/4 c. white vinegar, plus a splash if you use 6 cups of broth
1/4 c. soy sauce
1 Tbsp finely chopped, fresh ginger root
3 large crimini mushrooms, sliced (about 1/3-1/2 cup)
1 large garlic clove, finely minced
2 tsp natural cane sugar
1 tsp. black (or white) pepper, freshly ground (used a lot to make it more "hot")
2 1/2 Tbsp cornstarch
1/4 c. cold water
1/2 cup bamboo shoots, drained and cut into julienne strips
1 large egg, beaten
1/3 cup sliced green onion tops (green part only)
1 Tbsp sambal oelek (hot chili sauce), don't use or use less if you don't like spicy food

Remove tofu from package and place on several layers of paper towel, top with more paper towels and place a heavy pan (like an iron skillet) on top. This will squeeze most of the moisture out of the tofu and keep it together when you add it to the soup. Set aside and assemble the soup.

Pour the broth into a large stockpot. Add vinegar, soy sauce, ginger, mushrooms, garlic, sugar, and pepper. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 10 minutes until the mushrooms begin to get soft.

Cut tofu into 1/2 inch cubes. Combine cornstarch and water and stir until smooth. Add the cornstarch mixture, bamboo shoots, and tofu and boil gently for about 1 minute or until the soup begins to thicken. Meanwhile, beat the egg in a small bowl.

Remove soup from heat and swirl the egg in a circle into the soup. DO NOT STIR. Place the soup back on the heat and cook for about a minute until the egg firms up. It should create strands of egg (like egg drop soup), but if you have large chunks, just break it apart with a spoon. Stir in green onion tops and the sambal oelek.
 Serve immediately in small soup bowls and eat with a Chinese ceramic spoon. Can add crunchy chow mein noodles on top if you want. Soup will be very hot, so eat slowly and enjoy the hot and sour flavor. This is a great appetizer soup or it can be served as a light meal.

OPTIONAL: Can add meat (such as pork, chicken, beef) or shrimp to make it heartier, but it tastes good and has plenty of protein with the tofu alone.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Colorful Brown Rice and Chicken With Fall Vegetables

A captivating chicken, brown rice, Brussels sprouts, sweet potato, dried cranberry casserole is topped with sliced almonds. It’s flavored with thyme and a touch of cayenne pepper to enhance your taste buds. It reminds me a bit of Thanksgiving stuffing with a nutty flavor and packed with lots of color. It’s what’s for dinner when you don’t know what else to make and you have all of these items in your pantry and fridge just waiting to be used. If you need to make a gluten-free dish, this is one you will want to try. You could even make it your Thanksgiving stuffing or is that called dressing? In any case, try it, you'll like it!

1 cup of raw brown rice, cooked
1/2 medium onion (1 cup), chopped
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp butter
16 oz package of fresh Brussels Sprouts, ends trimmed and quartered
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1-1.5 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
1-2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground pepper
1 tsp dried thyme leaves (or 3 tsp fresh thyme)
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 low-sodium chicken stock
1/2 cup dried sweetened cranberries
1/2 cup sliced and toasted almonds

Cook the brown rice and set aside. 1 cup of raw brown rice will make about 2 to 2 1/2 cups of rice. 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Saute' onion in 1 Tbsp olive oil until tender in a frying pan with high sides. Add butter to pan and swirl it around the pan to coat. Add the fresh Brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes and fry until brown. If you caramelize the sprouts and onions, it will add a rich flavor to your dish. Add cut-up chicken and brown on all sides, pushing vegetables to the sides and top. 

Add salt, pepper, thyme, cayenne pepper and paprika and stir well Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Turn burner to simmer and cover pan, cooking the chicken to doneness and veggies so they are soft enough to eat. This will take about 10-12 minutes.

Add the rice and stir well. You may need a little more chicken stock, but it should not be "soupy, only moist. Add the cranberries and stir well to distribute them.

Grease a 9X12 inch glass baking dish  and scoop rice, chicken and veggie mixture into the baking dish. Sprinkle the almonds on top. Bake for about 15-20 minutes or until casserole is hot. You don't want to overbake or it will become dry. You can cover the dish with foil if you need to.

Remove from oven and serve with a salad. 

This makes at least 8 servings. You can keep this for leftovers the next day. Reheat with a  splash of broth to keep it moist.

ANOTHER IDEA: To make this a vegetarian dish, use vegetable stock in place of the chicken stock and leave out the chicken. 

YET ANOTHER IDEA: You could make this as a side-dish for Thanksgiving and it's gluten-free! It would make a delicious Thanksgiving dressing or stuffing.

To make this even nuttier -- throw in some cooked wild rice. Add some celery and garlic. Increase the heat level by adding more cayenne pepper. This recipe has a wonderful flavor!






Tuesday, October 31, 2017

What inspires my menus and all that jazz......



I recently posted photos on Facebook of a meal I made (see one below). A friend asked me some questions and so I replied. It turned into a wonderful little article that I thought I'd put on my blog. I hope it is helpful to others besides her!



JH: How do you plan your menus, Camille? Do you think of what sounds good or shop sales and build from there? Do you get in ruts? What inspires you???

**Warning: this is kind of a long reply. **

I love your questions! I'm a once-a-week menu planner. I use a small whiteboard that is magnetic to write it out and attach it to my refrigerator. I usually look at the ads and shop the sales or look at what is on sale before I start my menu planning. I use seasonal veggies and fruits to cut cost on fresh produce. Menu planning usually happens on Sunday, so that gives me time to thaw meat from my freezer and make a shopping list. I always keep my lists on my phone, categorized by store. I also have a shopping list on my fridge so I can add those quickly to my phone.

I stock up on items when they are sale, so if there is something I want to make, I often just look at what I might need to buy to complete it. I will also look at items in my pantry and fridge that are about to expire and try to use them up. A huge factor in menu planning is to look at my week to see how busy I am and try to plan meals that are easy for those days when I have no time to spend in the kitchen. I might plan a crock pot meal when I know I'll be gone for most of the day. I also (believe it or not), look at the weather for the week ahead. If it's going to be cold, I plan meals that are warm and cozy and for days when we can grill, I plan a few meals like that. Dave and I cook together so often that he's become a factor in my menu planning! He will chop veggies and meat and I will cook it. He grills, I marinade the meats that go on the grill. If he comes home early, I usually put him to work! He also cleans up my kitchen every night after dinner. Making meals with leftovers is also important because Nathaniel has to take meals with him when he's gone all day. He loves leftovers, so that helps!

I also keep a running list of menu ideas on my phone. I have an app where I can write notes and when I think of things I haven't had in a while, I jot them down so as not to forget (sometimes in the summer I write up ideas for winter meals). It can be as simple as "beef stew" to as complex as an entire menu "meatloaf, mashed potatoes, green beans and baked apples."

I do get into a rut at times and that's when I ask my family for ideas when we are sitting around the dinner table either eating or after dinner when we're all stuffed full. I've found more success when they are hungry! :)

I probably have 100 cookbooks in my personal library (mostly those Pillsbury ones), but I also have about 10 folders with recipes I've printed from the Internet. Some are ones I've made (I date them so I remember) and others that look good and I want to make. I try to separate them into categories, but that has gotten away from me, so one of my tasks this winter is to organize them even better.

My mom was a fantastic cook and planned menus all the time. I still have a few of her written menus and look back at them for ideas. She taught me to have a variety of proteins in the week, so I try to plan at least one beef, one pork, one chicken, one vegetarian, and one fish/seafood menu each week. Some weeks I don't cook them all, but that's my general guideline. I also have menus on my blog which I sometimes peruse for ideas. I also look at the Internet for menu planning ideas. All of these inspire me. Once in a while I go out to dinner and when I find something on the menu that sounds good (or I actually order it), I will try to re-create it at home. This is inspiring too. I've actually looked up menus on the Internet from restaurants and found inspiration.



I've told my children that a healthy meal has many colors, so planning meals has become a challenge to incorporate color into the plate. Taking photos has really helped me to see the colors (or lack thereof) and my family's love for a large variety of food has been helpful.Put simply, we eat just about anything!

Overall, I think I've found a good balance by making family favorites and then adding in a few new recipes so that we don't get tired of the same food. I found that there are so many ways to eat vegetables for example, so if I find I'm in a bit of a rut, I might even try a new way to spice up or cook a veggie (which may not be on my menu).

I hope this has been helpful. I think this just turned into a blog post for my food blog: www.mealsbycamille.blogspot.com

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Cabbage, Brussels Sprout, Apple Slaw with Maple Sweetened Vinaigrette Dressing



"Oh yum!" That's all I could say after making and eating this coleslaw. A wonderful fall side dish, it's addicting to the soul! Give it a try. It really makes a colorful side dish to brighten a fall plate.


1/2 of a medium head of red (purple) cabbage, shredded (about 10-12 oz or 8-10 cups)
8-10 Brussels Sprouts, thinly sliced (about 6 oz)
1 medium apple (I used Honey crisp), cut into matchsticks
1/3 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1/3 cup pecans, chopped roughly

Maple Sweetened Vinaigrette Dressing
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp. maple syrup (plus more if you want it sweeter)
1/4 cup unfiltered raw apple cider vinegar (I use Bragg's)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste

In a large glass bowl (bigger is better so you can toss the salad), place the cabbage, Brussels sprouts and apple.

To make the dressing, whisk together the first 3 ingredients and then slowly stir and whisk in the oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Toss the dressing with the cabbage mixture. Sprinkle the nuts on top and give it a good stir just before serving. This will keep the nuts/seeds crisp. This can be made in advance and it still tastes great a day later!

See how colorful it makes the dinner plate?!



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