Posted in Food, Soup

Spicy Butternut Squash Soup

This past week we took the opportunity to leave the bitter cold of the Midwest to fly down to our favorite vacation spot. As Disney Vacation Club Members, we frequently visit the land of Mickey and Minnie to enjoy the warm southern breezes and bright Orlando sunshine. Our visit is most relaxing as we love to grab a cold drink and visit the pool, hang out on the deck while reading the latest novel, use the boat system to travel to various hotels and marvel as we view the beautiful flowers and unique shrubbery. We try to avoid the hustle and bustle of the theme parks. “Been there, done that…” is my motto. As our children were growing up, we always made a few trips to the parks. These days, I’d much rather sit back and relax.

The DVC homes are spacious and bright. They have all of the amenities of home. Most nights, I cook in our beautiful villa, other nights we take a short ride to a neighboring hotel to enjoy a meal or dinner show. This year we enjoyed the Ohana dinner show at the Polynesian Hotel. Another evening was spent sharing a meal at Artist Point in the Wilderness Lodge. One of the appetizers served during the “storybook” dinner at Artist Point was a mini vessel of winter squash bisque. The garnish; a “lollipop” marshmallow stick. What a delightful treat. We had a fun night celebrating with Snow White, Dopey, Grumpy, and the Wicked Queen.

Arriving home, the Chicago winds were incredibly cold and the icy rain was pouring from the heavens. Running from the courtesy bus to our car in the economy parking lot, The rain had soaked through my clothing and I was, once again, freezing. I really wanted to turn around and jump back on the flight to return to the warmth of Orlando. I decided then and there that I would make a trip to the grocery store and purchase ingredients to make a big pot of Spicy Butternut Squash Soup to warm our bones and remind us of our last evening in Disney World.

This recipe is certainly not the same as Disney’s version, but it is a favorite. I add lots of ground black pepper to balance the sweetness of the maple syrup and brown sugar. Garnish with pine nuts, walnuts, maple syrup, or pumpkin seeds.

Spicy Butternut Squash Soup

2 large butternut squash (seeded and roasted)

2 tablespoons olive oil

¾ cup chopped shallot (about 2 medium shallot bulbs)

1 tablespoon salt

6 garlic cloves, minced

2 teaspoons maple syrup

1 tablespoon brown sugar

¾ – 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

Lots of ground black pepper, to taste

4- 5 cups chicken broth (or water mixed with chicken base)

½ – ¾ cups half & half

In a large soup pot, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat until. Add the chopped shallot; stir and cook until the shallot has softened and begins to turn golden in color. Add garlic; stir and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add butternut squash, maple syrup, brown sugar, nutmeg, crushed red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Pour in chicken broth. Bring to a boil and turn down heat to simmer for 10-15 minutes. Turn off the heat. Cool slightly before using an immersion blender to cream the soup. Stir in half & half and serve immediately.

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Posted in Chicken, Crock pot, Food, Instant Pot, One Pot Meal, slow cooking, Soup

Seven Can Spicy Chicken Taco Soup

When planning an informal work lunch this week, I reached out to several catering companies to provide the meal. This became tricky because the luncheon was being held off-site, roughly three hours from my home, and my budget was tight. When I quickly added up costs related to preparing and delivering food for the group, I realized that ordering from a local caterer was going to be a far too expensive option. As I searched my mind for an alternative, I was reminded of this recipe for a hearty soup that would hit the spot as the weather forecast predicted rain and 45 degree temperatures for the day. Adding a few other lunch items to the menu would round out the meal.

I ended up ordering a 4-ft. long sub sandwich from the deli department of the area grocery store. I picked up a large vegetable tray and a case of bottled water. Finally, I headed to the store bakery and purchased a box of freshly made oatmeal cookies for the group. I paired this soup with all of the other items that I had purchased and covered the tables with seasonal table clothes. Returning to our meeting room, I quickly popped all of my purchased items in the fridge and plugged in my trusty, 6-quart crockpot. I opened all seven cans and popped them into the slow cooker. Lunch would be served in three hours, so I had plenty of time to warm the soup and meld the flavors. Last, but not least, I crumbled up a bag of Frito’s Corn Chips and opened a package of sharp cheddar cheese to sprinkle over the top of the individual bowls of soup. This step is the game changer; bringing this ridiculously simple soup over the top. The warm hearty soup, paired with a topping of slightly melted cheese and crunchy corn chips really makes for a mighty good, super quick and easy lunch idea.

Seven Can Spicy Chicken Taco Soup

1 can black beans, drained and well rinsed(15.5 oz)

1 can pinto beans, drained and well rinsed (15.25 oz)

1 can whole kernel corn, drained (15 oz)

1 can diced tomatoes, do not drain (15 oz)

1 can mild enchilada sauce (10 oz)

1 can chicken broth (15 oz)

1 can chicken breast, drained and flaked with a fork (12.5oz)

1 package low sodium taco seasoning mix

2 teaspoons garlic powder

Directions

Combine all ingredients and cook using preferred method below:

Crockpot – Cook on medium temperature for 3-5 hours

Stockpot – Cook on medium-high heat for 25-35 minutes

Instant Pot – Cook on “Manual” for 4 minutes with quick venting method

Serve topped with crushed Frito or Dorito Corn Chips and shredded cheese.

Note: Can sizes listed above are approximate; this is a very forgiving soup recipe. Add water or extra broth, if needed. Also, use lower sodium versions of the canned products, if your concerned about salt. If you’d prefer to use fresh chicken breasts for this recipe, use about 1 1/2 cups of cooked, diced chicken.

Posted in Chicken, slow cooking, Soup, Uncategorized

Fiesta Crockpot Chili

  
My daughter was recently invited to a surprise party for a co-worker. She had just started working at the facility and was excited to spend time outside of work with this fun group of coworkers. After the party, she commented that she had a great time and was so happy to be included.  

Later, she told me about one of the items on the menu for the event that evening. She called it “white chili” and tried her best to describe all of the flavors she experienced while tasting the flavorful dish. Several days later, I found the recipe as it was placed on my kitchen counter. Her coworker had neatly typed up the recipe for many attending the party had requested a copy. After looking over all of the ingredients, I was delighted to find that most items were already in my kitchen fridge and pantry. We were experiencing a cooler than normal spring day so I pulled out my crockpot and threw all of the ingredients in (with a few minor changes).  

Here’s my version of the original recipe…

Fiesta Crockpot Chili

2-3 frozen chicken breasts

2 (10 ounce) bags frozen corn

1 (15 ounce) can black beans, rinsed

1 (10 ounce) can Rotel diced tomatoes with green chilies

1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes

8 ounces block cream cheese

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon smoked paprika

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 package Hidden Valley Spicy Ranch Dressing

Cilantro to taste

Add all ingredients to the crockpot; except cilantro. Cook 6 hours on high or 8 hours on low setting. Shred chicken 30 minutes before completed hours, return to crockpot and add cilantro. When serving, top with tortilla strips and pour over tender noodles or cooked rice.
Here’s the recipe as I received it…

Jill’s Special Chili

2 frozen chicken breasts

1 bag frozen corn

1 can black beans, rinsed

1 can Rotel diced tomatoes with green chilies

4 oz cream cheese

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon paprika

1 package Ranch Fiesta

Cilantro to taste

Add all ingredients to the crockpot; except cilantro

Cook 6 hours or high or 8 hours on low

Shred chicken 30 minutes before completed hours and add cilantro

Posted in Food, Soup

Easy Beef and Veggie Soup



We woke up this morning to another six inches of snow… Boy, I’m getting tired of the sub-zero temperatures and the heavy snowfall we’ve experienced this winter.  Yet, this is the kind of weather that makes me think of a number of piping hot soup recipes that can be made with simple kitchen leftovers.  No need to head outdoors with a long shopping list of ingredients. Just take a look in the fridge/freezer and you’re sure to find the perfect combination of ingredients on hand.

Having a big pot of soup boiling on the stove seems to warm the body and comfort the soul.  This recipe is chocked full of tasty kitchen staples.  When making soup, there’s no need to be exact with measurements.  Just take a careful sip here and there to make sure your headed in the right direction. Use any kind of beef you like, any assortment or fresh or frozen veggies you prefer, and any kind of grain or pasta your family enjoys.  Bona petite!

Easy Beef and Veggie Soup

1 lb. leftover beef roast, cubed

1 onion, diced

3 celery ribs, rough chopped

3 carrots, rough chopped

2 (14 ounce) cans petite diced tomatoes

3 tablespoons beef soup base

2 teaspoons garlic powder

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 cups water

1 pkg. cheese-filled tortellini, cooked as directed

In a large pot or dutch oven, sauté celery, carrots and onion in oil until onion is cooked, about 7-10 minutes.  Add remaining ingredients, bring to a boil.

Reduce heat and simmer uncovered about 30-45 minutes.

Serve over a bed of cooked tortellini and season with black pepper, hot sauce, or shredded Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Posted in Gifts, holiday, holidays, Homemade Mixes, Kids in the Kitchen, Soup

Dry Soup Mix in a Cone

A couple of weeks ago, our local woman’s club held a holiday craft-making session for all of its members.  During one of the sessions, I saw a group assembling a dry soup mix in a cone shaped bag.  The leader of the session had carefully measured out ingredients for all to use for their individual bags.  The layered mix looked colorful and interesting.  I complimented her on the clever idea of making such an inexpensive gift packaged in a compact and attractive cellophane bag.  Two days later, she left a couple of different soup packages on my desk while she visited my office.  She included a little note card explaining how each of the soup mixes should be cooked.  I was so appreciative of her gift.  What a kind gesture!

Naturally, I made a pot of soup when I returned home that evening. The Italian Curly Soup recipe made just the right amount and tasted delicious poured over a few mini-meatballs.  Warm and flavorful with a crisp green salad and some crusty bread…

I’d like to send a big shout out to my dear friend… Thank you for the delicious mixes.  Can’t wait to try the Wild Rice Soup recipe.  This is a great and inexpensive “anytime” gift to pass along to someone special in your life… A warm and wonderful gift from the kitchen.

I recently remade the soup  and I have posted a slightly different recipe below…

Italian Curly Soup In a Cone

Layer in a cake decorating disposable cone (or quart sized-jar) the following ingredients:

  • 2 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • 1teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. pepper
  • 2 T beef bouillon
  • 1/4 C minced dry onions
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 3 cups rotini or curly tri-colored pasta
6 cups water
1 jar of Curly Soup Mix
1 (14 oz) can crushed or diced tomatoes
 
Bring 6 cups of water to a boil in a large soup pot. Add the Curly Soup Mix and can of tomatoes. Bring back to a boil. Lower heat and simmer uncovered for 12-15 minutes or until pasta is tender. Tip: For a full meal pour over Italian sausage pieces or min-meatballs; sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese. Serve with crisp salad and crusty bread.
 
 
 

How about a piping hot bowl of wild rice soup?   


Here’s another great soup in a jar recipe…

http://foodchannel.com/recipes/creamy-wild-rice-and-mushroom-soup-in-a-jar

 

Posted in Dinner, Food, lunch box, Soup

Creamy Tomato Basil Soup

Another school year begins…

Our daughter is beginning her clinical year up in Evanston, IL.  Once again, we loaded up all of her belongings to move her into a cute little apartment, not far from the “Purple Line” in a beautiful part of town, just outside the Northwestern University campus.  The cool breezes off the shores of Lake Michigan have made for an unseasonably cooler summer.  

After settling her into the apartment, we walked into town to find a local place to eat lunch.  We spotted an adorable restaurant called The Farmhouse-Evanston.  The menu touted local foods, brews, and seasonal fare.  With a chill in the air, the tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwich sounded wonderful. My daughter ordered it without hesitation.  All through the meal, she raved about the creamy soup and hearty, three-cheese sandwich.  

After returning home, I was inspired to make a big pot of flavorful tomato soup for the family. What a treat.  This recipe makes enough to serve the whole clan with extras to pack into containers for weekday lunches.

…Outstanding soup!  Don’t forget to garnish with pieces of garlic toast, Parmesan cheese, and fresh basil.
Creamy Tomato and Basil Soup

3 tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced

1 large white onion, chopped

2 (28 oz) cans San Marzano whole, peeled tomatoes

1 1/2 cups water

3 teaspoons chicken soup base

2 1/2 tablespoons sugar

1/4 cup half and half

6 – 8 large fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped

1/4 teaspoon dried Italian seasonings

1 teaspoon kosher salt or to taste

3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper or to taste

In a medium pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic and saute for 30 seconds, don’t over cook.  Add onion; stir and cook until translucent.

Add the two can of tomatoes with juice, chicken base, water, and sugar. Bring to a low simmer. Cook uncovered, for 12-15 minutes. Add the half & half, basil, Italian seasonings, salt and pepper.

Using an immersion blender,  puree soup until smooth. Serve immediately with a hearty grilled cheese sandwich or a fresh salad.

Posted in Chicken, Dinner, Food, Soup

Homestyle Chunky Chicken Noodle Soup

This post goes out to all the folks that might be suffering from the effects of this year’s harsh cold and flu season…

My week began with a trip to urgent care as I woke on Monday with the symptoms of a bad flu. My chest felt heavy and I had a low hacking cough that shook my core every time it took a hold of me. After being diagnosed with an upper respiratory infection, I headed home with a supply of medication to help ease my discomfort.  I knew that a bit of rest and a pot of piping hot chicken noodle soup would certainly help me find relief.  

This is a quick and easy recipe that has become a family favorite over the years.  Chunks of onion, carrot, celery and chicken make for a hearty base while the steaming hot broth warms the throat and nestles down into the tummy.  Comfort food at its best. To save a bit of time, I often purchase a rotisserie chicken from the local grocer and shred up the juicy, well seasoned chicken before adding it to the broth.  My favorite stock base to use is L.B. Jamison’s.  I follow the directions on the back of the jar.  Perfect every time…  What a welcome recipe when you’re feeling under the weather.

Homestyle Chunky Chicken Noodle Soup

8- 10 cups water

8 teaspoons chicken flavored soup base (or adjust to taste)

3 medium carrot, peeled and sliced

3 stalk celery, sliced

1 medium onion, diced

2 cups shredded cooked chicken

2 teaspoons black pepper

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon dried parsley

2 cup cooked noodles

Heat water to boiling, add soup base.  Reduce heat to simmer.  Add carrots, celery, onions, pepper, garlic, and parsley.  Simmer vegetables until tender.  Add chicken and cook for an additional 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Keep cooked noodles separate and add a small handful to each bowl of soup before serving.  This keeps noodles al dente.

Posted in Beef, Dinner, Soup

Cheeseburger Soup

Years ago, when our children were little, we used to hold an annual fall party for family and friends on our beautiful wooded lot.  We’d elaborately decorate the barn and yard with hay bales and pumpkins, colored lights and corn stalks.  I’d cook large pots of soup, chili, baked beans and bratwurst.  A dessert table always displayed an abundance of tasty autumn treats to satisfy all of the guests.  This cheeseburger soup was always a staple recipe made for the festive backyard party. I would double or triple the ingredients and separate the batch to freeze a portion in serving sized containers.  This way, we had a supply on hand to enjoy during the cool autumn and winter months. 

Cheeseburger Soup

2 pound ground beef
1 cup diced  onion

1 cup diced carrots

1 cup diced celery

1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil

1 1/2 teaspoons dried parsley flakes

4 tablespoons butter, divided

6 cups chicken broth  (I use chicken soup base mixed with water, as directed on package)

5 cups diced peeled potatoes

1/4 cup flour

4 cups (16 ounces) process cheese (Velveeta), cubed

2 cups milk

1 1/2 teaspoon salt 

1 teaspoon pepper 

In a large soup pot, brown beef; drain and set aside. In the same pot, sauté the onion, carrots, celery, basil and parsley in 1 tablespoon butter until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Add the broth, potatoes and beef; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 10-12 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, melt remaining butter. Add flour; cook and stir for 3-5 minutes or until bubbly. Add to soup; bring to a boil. Cook and stir for 2 minutes. Reduce heat to low. Stir in the cheese, milk, salt and pepper; cook and stir until cheese melts. 

Tip: I make my own croutons to top the soup.  Just cube a few slices of day old bread or leftover buns and sprinkle them with oil, garlic powder and salt (to taste).  Bake in a 350 degree oven for 12-15 minutes or until crispy and golden brown.  Cool; store in an airtight container.

Posted in Beef, Food, Main Dish, Soup

Chilly Weather Chili

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The past few days, I’ve been thinking of those living in New York that have been hit with an unimaginable amount of snow. While many in the Midwest might feel the need to complain about the bitter cold (late fall) temperatures, in comparison, we’ve certainly got nothing to complain about.
As the cold winds begin to blow down the length of Lake Michigan, I often turn my attention to chilly weather recipes that seem to comfort us as we make our way through a season of bitter cold and snow.
This Chilly Weather Chili recipe fits the bill as the spicy notes bring their own kind of warmth to the tummy. The recipe makes a nice sized pot of goodness that can be easily scooped into serving sized containers and kept frozen for a quick future meal.

Chilly Weather Chili

3 lbs lean ground beef
1 (29 ounce) cans tomato sauce
1 (29 ounce) cans kidney beans ( with liquid)
1 (29 ounce) cans pinto beans ( with liquid)
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 cup diced green chili pepper
1/2 cup diced celery
3 or 4 medium tomatoes, chopped
2 teaspoons cumin powder
3 tablespoons chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups water

In a large (thick bottomed) pot , cook ground beef over medium heat until no longer pink; drain. Combine beef with the remaining ingredients, and bring to a simmer over low heat. Continue to cook while stirring every 15 minutes, for 2 to 3 hours.

Posted in Dinner, Food, Main Dish, One Pot Meal, Soup

Hearty Pepperoni Pizza Soup

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A couple of weeks ago, a friend mentioned that she had enjoyed a cup of pizza soup when visiting a local restaurant. It sparked a memory of a hearty soup that I had made years ago. So I headed to my trusty files to see if I could track down the recipe. I was quite pleased when I found what I was looking for.
As I began to assemble the ingredients for the recipe, I remembered that I had an interesting ingredient in the fridge that I hoped would be a flavorful addition to my soup recipe. You see, I have grown quite fond of a new item called basil paste, that I found in the produce section of the grocery store some time ago. It’s flavor is so similar to the wonderfully unique taste of fresh basil that we pick in abundance during the summer months, here in the states. A dollop of this paste stirred into a piping hot bowl of soup just transforms the flavor into something along the lines of a pizza margherita; one of my favorite pizza recipes.

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Like much of the country, we in the Midwest, are experiencing some mighty cold temperatures this winter. (I feel like I am cold all the time.). After making this soup this past weekend, I carefully packed it into serving sized containers so that I could carry it to work along with a salad for lunch. There’s something about the fresh hearty flavor and its piping hot state that just warms me to the core. I find myself counting the minutes until lunch time. When paired with a salad, and maybe a slice of crusty bread, this soup makes for a warm and comforting meal.

Hearty Pepperoni Pizza Soup

1/2 lb. Italian sausage, casings removed
1/2 cup green pepper, diced
1/2 cup mushrooms, chopped (optional)
1/2 cup onion, diced
2 cups water
15 ounces pizza sauce
8 ounces sliced pepperoni, finely chopped
1 cup chopped tomatoes
1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon basil paste

In a large saucepan, sauté Italian sausage, green pepper and onion until onions are translucent and sausage is no longer pink; drain. Add water, pizza sauce, pepperoni, tomatoes, and Italian seasoning. Cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat; and simmer covered for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Before serving, stir in basil paste and top with Parmesan cheese.