Monday Menu – Cheddar Broccoli Soup

broccoli-soup

I love soup! A lot! If I could I’d eat it a few times a week. But it can’t be the salty, processed soup from a can… nope, it must be the homemade kind. It bothers me that my husband hates soup though…. I’m not sure why I guess there is something wrong with him. Because it’s perfect for lunch or dinner and warms you no matter what.

I’d been planning on making broccoli soup for about a week or so now and never got around to it because I wanted to make sure that I had time to make some fresh bread to go with it or bread bowls if I was feeling ambitious. I waited until the weekend so I’d have lots of time and planned it so we’d have it after spending the afternoon outside getting family pictures taken (more on that insanity later). It’d warm us all up after playing outside in the cold!

Broccoli soup is pretty easy and isn’t something that has to sit on the stove and simmer all day. All you need is about an hour and a great recipe… one that I am going to share with you right now.

Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 cups broccoli florets (about 1 head)
  • a handful or so of shredded carrots or 1 medium carrot diced
  • 2 1/2 cups (about 8 ounces) grated sharp cheddar cheese

Directions

Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the flour and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, then gradually whisk in the half-and-half until smooth.
cream & broth
Add the chicken broth, bay leaves and season with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, uncovered, until thickened, about 20 minutes.
broccoli
Add the broccoli and carrot and simmer until tender, about 20 minutes. Discard the bay leaves. Puree the soup in batches in a blender until smooth; you’ll still have bits of carrot and broccoli. Return to the pot. (Or puree the soup in the pot with an immersion blender… my favorite kitchen tool).
blending soup

Add the cheese to the soup and stir over medium heat until melted.

shredding the cheese cheese
Add up to 3/4 cup water or stock if the soup is too thick. Actually, this is perfect for bread bowls because it’s pretty thick and doesn’t soak through the walls of the bread to much and who doesn’t love bread!

What is your favorite soup? What about cheddar broccoli soup… like it, love it, or hate it?

 

Monday Menu ~ Chicken Soup

Fall is upon us and that means cozy sweaters, warm boots, and delicious soups & stews that warm us from the inside. It’s no wonder that it’s my favorite time of the year.

This week on the Monday Menu I have another tasty recipe or so I think. Homemade chicken soup with huge egg noodles!

While I was at the Mitten Mom conference I was given a package of Al Dente Pappardelle. These are the most delicious egg noodles ever… and more importantly the company is based right here in Michigan. Yes, another amazing product made right here in the mitten state.

al dente pasta

Al Dente uses only the best ingredients from the wheat to the spices and care is taken in all of the varieties that they offer such as Spinach, Egg, Garlic Parsley, Basil, Squid, Wild Mushroom and Spicy Sesame. They also have whole wheat and reduced carb options too.

Okay, so back to my recipe. The ingredients are really simple and you can make the recipe simple or take more time and really go all out with it.

Homemade Broth

  • 3 Chicken breasts – bone in with skin.
  • 1 bunch of flat leaf parsley
  • 1 medium onion cut in quarters
  • 1 – 2 tsp chopped garlic
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt & pepper
Put everything in a large stock pot and then fill with enough water to cover everything. Bring it to a boil and then let simmer for 2 hours. Remove from the heat and pull the chicken out and put it on a plate until cool enough to handle. Strain the broth through a fine sieve.

Chicken Noodle Soup

  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 1/2 cup celery chopped
  • 1/2 cup carrot chopped

chopped veggies

  • 2 chicken breast cut up (use the chicken from the broth, a rotisserie chicken from the store, or saute two cut up chicken breasts)
  • Chicken broth (use the homemade broth or 2 32oz containers from the store)
  • 1 -2 Bay leaves
  • 1 package of Al Dente pasta

 Method

In a large pot or dutch oven saute the onion, carrot, and celery just until they start to soften. Toss in the bay leaves, pour in the broth, and then bring it to a simmer. Cook for about 5 – 7 minutes and add in the chicken and the noodles and cook until the noodles are done.

adding the noodles

Pull out the bay leaves and enjoy!

chicken soup

I tossed in a hand full or two of frozen peas when I put the chicken and noodles in just for some extra flavor/color in it.

But look at those awesome noodles! I love really wide egg noodles in my soup and the next day they soak up a lot of the broth and it makes the soup really thick.

soup in a bowl

You can also thicken the soup up with some corn starch or flour and serve it in homemade bread bowls. No matter how you make it your family is sure to love it.

What is your family’s fall favorite soup? 

Monday Menu ~ Bean Soup

A few weeks ago I spent the weekend up north in Petoskey, Michigan at a wonderful conference, Mitten Moms Blog Conference & Retreat. It was a great weekend and one of the awesome things that were in the swag bags were Michigan made Randall Beans.

randall beans

I love beans too! But one of my all time favorite comfort foods is soup and bean soup is one of those things that brings me back to my childhood.

As a child my dad would take me with him to various muzzleloading shoots (something similar to this) and they always had this huge black kettle of bean soup simmering over an open fire, to me it looked like a huge cauldron. It was the smell of the soup mixed with the burning wood, cool crisp fall air, and gun powder that was so warm and familiar to me.

Every fall I try to recreate that feeling by making my own pot of delicious bean soup. Yes, try… because it never turns out perfect, but then again I’m not cooking it out over an open fire.

chopped veggies

This time I was a little closer but I added a little to much broth. So the recipe…

chopped ham

Ingredients

2 (24oz) jars of Randall great northern beans (drained and rinsed)
1/2 cup chopped onion (or more if you like)
1/2 cup sliced carrots
1/2 cup sliced celery
1 – 2 tsp minced garlic
1 cup chopped smoked ham (it has to be smoked! Not honey baked or anything like that or it won’t taste the same)
6 – 8 cups of chicken broth
2 Bay leaves
salt & pepper to taste
1 Tbsp olive oil

How to

Heat the oil in a large pan and saute the veggies just until soft and fragrant and then add in the garlic and ham.

saute veggies

Stir for a few minutes and add the broth.

broth

I’ll admit that this time I didn’t use a homemade broth and thought that I’ve try something new. This Better than Bouillon stuff is pretty good! I followed the directions on the jar to make the 6 – 8 cups of broth that were needed for the soup. Bring it up to a simmer and let it cook for about 10 minutes before adding in one of the jars of beans and returning to a simmer. Let this cook covered for about 30 minutes or so.

Now, the 2nd jar of beans I mash up and add into the soup during the last ten minutes of cooking or so just to thicken it up a bit.

bean soup

Like I said earlier, it wasn’t perfect but it was still incredible and it’s even better the next day!

soup & bread

This is great with some warm, homemade bread or corn bread. Oh yea… I almost forgot… remove the bay leaves before you eat it!

Enjoy!

Monday Menu ~ Sausage and Bean Casserole

If you’re a busy mom … wait, aren’t all busy? Maybe you work full time but still love to cook from scratch for the family, then you have come to the right place. As you probably already know, cooking in big batches and freezing is the easiest way to feed the whole family. And there’s nothing more fun and inviting than placing a big plate of hot, home cooked food in the middle of the table and letting everyone dig in.

It is of course nice to experiment with complicated recipes, but as you know, baking in big batches is much easier, quicker and hassle free. You’ll find that making all-in-one casseroles and soups saves you a lot of time; you might find that it even gives you a spare half an hour to read your book, play a quick round of bingo at Cheekybingo.com or catch up on your favorite show (Once Upon a Time for me!).

Below is a great family recipe you are sure to like and best of all it’s pretty easy & fast.

This recipe is perfect for feeding the whole family. Your kids are sure to love the sound of sausage and beans, and it makes a fun Friday night meal.

Bean and sausage casserole

(Serves 4)

Ingredients

8 large sausages – Italian would be best but you could use brats too
1 jar of tomato sauce
3 14oz cans of butter beans – You can use any beans you want or mix it up and add 3 different kinds (I’d use Randall White Beans)
1 tbsp of sugar
1 tsp English mustard
1 carrot – chopped
1/2 cup of peas
1 onion – chopped
1 teaspoon of tomato paste

Seasonings: Thyme, rosemary, garlic, fennel, salt, and pepper are all options that you can use in this dish.

Method:

In a large casserole dish, fry the onion, chopped carrot and sausages until they are brown all over. This should take about 10 minutes.

Next, pour in the tomato sauce and add in a squeeze of tomato paste. Season well and stir in the beans, along with the sugar and the mustard. Bring the whole casserole to simmering point, cover and cook for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven, pour in the peas and cook for a further 5 minutes.

If you double or even triple it you can portion it out and freeze it for busy nights when you don’t have time to make something.

This warming and filling casserole is great served with crusty bread, rice or pasta, and a big green salad.

Monday Menu ~ Fall Favorites

Fall is my favorite time of year. There is just something about the crisp clean air coming in through the open windows, the bright blue flawless sky, and all of the gorgeous colors the trees change into as summer fades slowly away.

It could be that after a long summer and all those hot and humid days the cooler weather is the reprieve that we all have been waiting for.

It also could be that we can finally pull out all those comfy sweaters, tall boots, and cute scarves that have been hidden in the backs of our closets. Of course there is shopping for new ones too!

Football games… back to school… half time band performances…. visiting apple orchards….

first game

The girl in the middle is my daughter! So proud of her!

One of my favorite parts of fall is the change in the cooking and baking! Truth be told I love being able to create fun new treats with pumpkin and comforting casseroles.

The other day I got the October issue of the Rachael Ray magazine and fell in love with it… it was packed with tasty pumpkin treats and my favorite is the pumpkin risotto. I seriously can’t wait to give it a try one of these weekends!

That one recipe led me on a hunt for other pumpkin based recipes… sweet or savory it didn’t matter. And I hit the jackpot! Holy cow…  Two Peas & Their Pod scoured the internets and found 50 of the best pumpkin recipes! The hard part now is trying to figure out what one to make first and hoping that I can do it in a way that is healthy!

This fall I decided to get a bit crafty and make a fall wreath and sew some pumpkins from cute Halloween fabric that I found at JoAnns… then in the Rachael Ray magazine I found 36 different ways to decorate a pumpkin… I’ll have to find the easiest one and give it a shot. There are a few there that look pretty complicated…. or time consuming… actually it’s both.

RR pumpkins

 

I’ve shared a few of my favorite fall type recipes in the past. Check them out! Pumpkin Pecan Bars… these are beyond delicious! Sweet potato casserole that is perfect for a side dish for Thanksgiving but is sweet enough that you can eat it as a dessert! So, if you’re looking for something just a little bit healthier try the Pumpkin Crunch Cake. But if you want to skip healthy and go for purely sinful then try the Pumpkin S’more Bars!

I may have a slight addiction to pumpkin… I throw a spoonful or two into my oatmeal, use it as the wet ingredient with a cake mix, and even add a bit to a vanilla shake.

What’s your favorite part of fall? 

Monday Menu – Summer Veggie Bake

By now everyone’s garden or farmers market should be over flowing with all sorts of delicious summer veggies, fresh zucchini, summer squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, and everything in between. This year I skipped planting a garden and have just been getting what I need from my local farmers market and it’s been a lot easier but it’s also been a bit more expensive… I guess it’s a trade off… convenience over cost.

Once on a while I like to make a simple dinner that is meat free (GASP…. ). I’d probably be mostly vegetarian if it weren’t for my husband and a couple of the kids. Anyway, this recipe is amazing and as I was making it I realized how versatile it really is! The recipe calls for herbs de provence but you could easily use some fresh basil and thyme instead.

I should mention that this recipe is not of my own creation, although I wish it were. I found it in the August edition of Family Circle and when I happened upon it I knew that I had to make it and of course share it with everyone.

My oldest daughter and I loved it but the younger two girls didn’t like it at all. I’m pretty sure that it was the eggplant… they tried it and immediately made a yuck face!

Summer Veggie Bake

Ingredients

2 medium or 1 large sweet onions
3 tbsp olive oil
3/4 tsp salt
2 cloves of chopped garlic
1 can (15oz) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 1/2 tsp herbs de provence
1/4 tsp pepper
1 large eggplant
3 large summer squash (zucchini & yellow squash combo or whatever you like)
1/2 lb russet potatoes (I used 2 potatoes)
3 plum tomatoes
4 ounces of goat cheese

Preheat over to 400 degrees.

Peel & slice onions and saute in 1 tbsp of the oil and 1/4 tsp salt over medium heat. Cook 8 – 10 minutes or until softened, add garlic and cook for another minute or so, and then stir in the beans and 1/2 tsp of the herbs de provence. Pour into the bottom of a 13×9 pan.

sliced veggies sliced potatoes
Slice the eggplant, summer squash, potatoes, and tomatoes into 1/4 inch or so slices and then toss with the remaining olive oil, herbs de provence, and pepper.

arranging veggies in pan veggies ready for the oven
Arrange the sliced veggies on top of the onion mixture and pack tightly. As you can see I forgot to add the beans to the onion mixture so I tossed them on top of the veggies with the rest of the herbs. Cover the dish with aluminum foil tightly and bake for 30 – 45 minutes (veggies should be tender). Remove the foil and crumble the goat cheese over top of it and bake for 15 more minutes.

veggie bake

I think that this could be a main dish or you could cut the recipe in half and use it as a side dish with some grilled chicken or fish. Either way it’s perfect for a summer dinner! Like I said earlier I think that you can easily change the recipe up and use different herbs such as basil, thyme, or oregano or feta cheese or fresh mozzarella.

If you’re interested in the nutrition stats… made as is you will get 4 servings with 378 calories per serving, 17 g fat, 15 g protein, 45 g carbs, 12 g fiber, and 701 g sodium.

Do you think you’re family would like it? What’s your favorite way to use fresh summer veggies?

Monday Menu ~ Baked Sweet Plantains

Have you ever thought about health benefits of eating plantains, one of many fruits which I believe are underestimated and overlooked in this nation? I hadn’t until recently… and I’ll be honest…. I’ve never tried plantains! Here’s a quick and delicious way to cook up plantains.

Baked Sweet Plantains

4 very ripe plantains (black in color)
1 cup (low-fat) milk
1/2 cup sugar or brown sugar
4 tablespoons margarine

DIRECTIONS:
Conventional Oven: Peel plantains, place them on a baking dish and pour the milk and sugar over them. Spread one tablespoon of margarine over the top of each plantain. Bake at 400 for about 1/2 hour.

Microwave: Cut off the ends of the unpeeled plantains and place them on a microwave-safe plate. Place a moist paper towel over them and microwave on high for about 8 minutes or until the skin opens up. Let cool and then peel. Place them in a microwave-safe baking dish and pour the milk and sugar over them. Spread one tablespoon of margarine over the top of each plantain. Microwave on high for about 12 minutes.

Baked Sweet Plantains

SERVING SUGGESTION: Serve as a side dish (like candied yams)

Looking for an easier way to eat plantains? Like maybe something quick and easy out of the bag? Check these out!

Turbana Platain Chips

You can pick these up in 6 delicious flavors and 2 sizes (1oz or 3 oz) in the Turbana online store.

Have you ever tried plantains? If so, how have you prepared them?

Monday Menu ~ Whole wheat sugar cookies

It’s been a while since I’ve shared a recipe with you but since baking is my favorite thing ever and I’ve been really trying hard to lose weight I’ve set aside baking.

Well I couldn’t do it. I just had to bake something! It wasn’t that I really wanted to eat something sweet but more that I missed baking and trying to find a recipe that is great. I was given the chance to try out Melt again and knew that I wanted to use it for a cookie and with that my journey began!

First of all, I want to let you know what Melt Buttery Spread really is. It’s an organic butter alternative that is made from virgin coconut oil, flax seed oil, palm fruit oil, and canola oil with no artificial colors or additives. It is the perfect blend of healthy fats that can be used just the same as regular butter, whether you bake or cook with it or even spread it on your toast it really is one of the more healthy oils that you can use. Best of all…. it’s delicious! I love it!

My first thought was chocolate chip cookies because those are just about everyone’s favorite, but I really wanted something that was lower in calories. What I came up with was whole wheat sugar cookies and the recipe needs some improving.

Whole Wheat Sugar Cookies – Round 1

  • 1 cup white sugar – I used Stevia
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup butter flavored shortening – I used Melt!
  • 2 tablespoons milk – skim
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg – I used egg beaters 1/4 cup
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour

Ingredients

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In large bowl, combine first 10 ingredients and blend well. Stir in whole wheat flour. (I chilled the dough while the oven was pre-heating but I don’t think it was really necessary)
Shape into 1 inch balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet, 2 inches apart. Flatten each cookie slightly with a fork or your hand.

20120722-220721.jpg

Bake in pre-heated oven for 8 to 10 minutes or until light golden brown

cookies

I did succeed in making them healthier and lower calorie than your typical cookie! I mean take a look at those nutrition facts! 50 calories per cookie!
nutrition
Alright here’s the final results…. one kid took a bit, handed me the cookie, and then asked what it was, the 2nd barely took a bite and said she didn’t like it oh… and that they smelled like bread, and my oldest daughter said that they weren’t to bad & agreed with me that they were missing something.
I have to agree… something is missing. I think that they need maybe 1/2 to 1 cup more sugar and 1 1/2 tsp vanilla instead of 1. Another idea is to roll the cookies in sugar before baking.
Alright all of you foodies out there…. what are your thoughts?

Monday Menu ~ Summer Pastabilities!

With the weight loss program well under way I’ve been looking for ways to include pasta into my diet because I love it and it is really hard to give up something that you love so dearly too! But there are ways that you can still have it in moderation and in ways that are a bit more healthy.

One of those ways is to use a whole wheat pasta such as Hodgson’s Mill. The pasta is made with 100% Whole Wheat Durum Flour, and whole wheat pasta is a healthy alternative for  all your favorite meals. Low in fat, sugar-free, and high in fiber, Hodgson Mill whole wheat pasta is both delicious AND nutritious.

I was recently sent a few boxes of pasta from Hodgson’s Mill and given the opportunity to enter their Summer Pastabilities contest by creating my very own summer pasta recipe. I really want to win! And I need your help by going to their Pinterest board and “Liking” my photo! (… you have to follow Hodgson Mill for the pin to count!!)

Wondering what this awesome recipe is? Well, look no further…. it’s below.

Southwest Grilled Shrimp & Pasta

1 box of Hodgson’s Mill bow tie pasta – cooked according to package instructions

1lb of shrimp – raw & cleaned

2 Ears of corn – cleaned

1 Poblano pepper – this can be a bit spicy. You can use a regular green pepper if you like.

6 Mini sweet peppers – if you can’t find them just use 1 red and 1 orange or yellow pepper

1 Red onion

1 can of black beans – rinsed & drained

4 Cloves of garlic – divided

1 Lime

8 oz container of light sour cream

1 Avocado – peeled & pitted

2 tsp Cumin – divided

Sea salt – to taste

Fresh ground pepper – to taste

Marinate the shrimp:

Cut the lime in half and squeeze it all over the shrimp, add in 2 of the garlic cloves, which have been smashed & chopped, and 1 tsp of cumin. Stir together and let sit for about 10 minutes.

Make the dressing:

In a food processor or blender place the avocado, sour cream, 1 tsp of cumin, the juice of the other half of the lime, and salt & pepper to taste. Blend until it is smooth and creamy.

Prep the veggies:

Grill the veggies until the skin of the peppers is charred and the corn is bright yellow and has grill marks on it. When the peppers are done place them in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap to allow them to steam. This makes it easier to peel them.

grilled veggies

When the veggies are cool cut the corn off of the cob and place in a large bowl. Peel, de-seed & chop the peppers and then add them to the bowl with the corn.

Dice the red onion and garlic and put it in the bowl with the rest of the veggies.

onions

Pour in the beans and stir it all up.

Cook the shrimp:

Grill the shrimp for a few minutes, until they’re pink and cooked through. Let cool on a plate before adding them to the veggies.

Bring it together:

Mix the veggies together with the shrimp, pasta, and dressing.

Chill for 30 minutes and enjoy!

southwest salad

 Would you like to try Hodgson Mill pasta? One of you can win a delicious selection of assorted Hodgson Mill pasta! I will make entry super easy and I’ll give you two ways to win.

1. Leave a comment telling me what you think of the recipe (mandatory).

2. Like my recipe on Pinterest and tell me that you did (… you have to follow Hodgson Mill for the pin to count!!) (optional).

I will select a winner via random.org on July 7th and will notify them via email. The winner will have 24 hours to respond before another one is selected.

Don’t forget to vote because the voting period ends on July 6th!

Monday Menu ~ The Ultimate Brownie

Last week the girls and I were home alone since the husband was off working in Georgia for a client and they wanted me to make brownies. Now, they weren’t asking for the regular run of the mill type brownie. No… they wanted something different. Something special. Something full of cookies.

What could be better than chocolate chip cookies, oreo’s, and brownies all mixed together into one special bar? Well, nothing really. Of course we didn’t just mix it all together we layered them! I think that the only thing that could make them better is a scoop of vanilla ice cream and some hot fudge.

The ultimate brownie is really easy to make and are pretty simple to change up by using different cookies or other flavored Oreo’s (like the fudge filled ones for the ultimate double/triple chocolate brownie).

Alright, so let’s start with the ingredients.

  • 2 packages of ready to bake cookies
  • Oreo’s
  • Brownie mix 13×9 pan size (plus ingredients to make them)
ultimate brownie ingredients
Making these are simple.
Pre-heat the over to 350 degrees & spray your 13×9 pan with cooking spray.
Press cookies into the pan making sure that you fully and evenly cover the bottom of the pan.
pressing cookies into pan
Now, here comes the fun part. You can place the Oreo’s on top of the cookie dough whole or you can do what we did. Crush them up and spread them all over.
oreos on cookie dough
Kids are great at helping with this part…. as long as they don’t eat all the cookies. Oh… This is where I mention that we just crushed cookies until we felt that there was enough on top of the cookie dough.
Make the brownies according to the directions on the box.
making the brownies
Pour all of the brownie batter on top of the Oreo’s and cookie dough.
pouring the batter
Make sure that you spread the batter as evenly as you can over top of the cookies and put them in the oven to bake for about 30 – 35 minutes or until the brownies are done. Be careful to not over cook them! It’s better to have them a little under done.
ultimate brownie
Now look at that…. that is the ultimate brownie! These are incredible warm out of the oven when they’re still a little gooey but trust me on this one… you can barely eat one because they’re so rich and sinful.
What do you think? Are you going to try the ultimate brownie?
What would you do to change the recipe & make them your own?