Crystal Tree

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

This is so easy and fun! I found it here on You could experiment with many different shapes of cardboard--I think snowflakes would be really cool. The crystals began to form within one hour, and spread quickly, much to the excitement of the kids. Be careful not to move the project around, though, because as we discovered (when MOM moved it to take a picture!!!), the 'crystals' are very powdery and fragile, falling off at the slightest movement.

I found the bluing at Meijer by the bleach/laundry detergent. Meijer seems to be the place that carries all the obscure items I am searching for!

  • Thin shirt cardboard
  • Scissors
  • Deep saucer or small bowl
  • Small jar with a tight-fitting lid
  • 1 tablespoon table salt
  • 1 tablespoon bluing
  • 1/2 tablespoon household ammonia
  1. To create the base, cut two cardboard tree shapes (about 4 inches tall and 3 inches across at the widest point). Cut a 2-inch slot in the top of one shape and in the base of the other. Join the shapes at the slots and stand the tree in a deep saucer or a small bowl.
  2. In the jar, combine 1 tablespoon water, the salt, bluing, and ammonia (handling ammonia is a parent's job). Fasten the lid and shake well, then pour the solution into the saucer or bowl.
  3. Leave the tree undisturbed. Crystals may take as little as an hour or as long as a day to begin to form, depending on the humidity in your home (they'll grow better in drier air). The tree will keep growing over the next few days, until all of the liquid evaporates.

Tuna Noodle Casserole II

Saturday, December 10, 2011

While this recipe takes a little longer than my Tuna Casserole I, it avoids canned soups as a binder. It uses a roux to hold the ingredients together (I first heard that term just months ago and had NO idea what it meant...but as you'll see it's simple). The original recipe uses tons of mushrooms, which sounds awesome to me..but one of my little guys can't stand mushrooms right now, so I obliged to his tastes (nice mom, huh?), and substituted 2 cups of fresh green beans (chopped in 2 inch pieces). If I'd had frozen peas on hand I would have used those, because peas really just GO with tuna and noodles, don't you think? I omitted the bread crumbs, but still used cheese, which is my topping of choice for WAY too many foods. ;)

Tuna Casserole
1 11 medium onion, finely chopped
4 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter (I cut it down to 3)
10 oz mushrooms, trimmed and sliced 1/4 inch thick (I used green beans, you could try other veggies)
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1/4 cup Sherry
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup whole milk
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 (6-oz) can tuna in olive oil, drained (I used tuna in oil, and two cans)
6 oz dried curly egg noodles (preferably Pennsylvania Dutch style; about 3 1/4 cups)
1 1/2 cups coarse fresh bread crumbs (from 3 slices firm white sandwich bread)
4 oz coarsely grated Cheddar (1 cup)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 375°F. Butter a shallow 2-quart baking dish.Cook onion in 1 1/2 tablespoons butter with a pinch of salt in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately low heat, covered, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Increase heat to moderately high and add mushrooms, then sauté, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms begin to give off liquid, about 2 minutes. Add soy sauce and continue to sauté mushrooms, stirring, until liquid mushrooms give off is evaporated. Add Sherry and boil, stirring occasionally, until evaporated. Remove from heat.

Melt remaining 3 tablespoons butter in a 2- to 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderately low heat and whisk in flour, then cook roux, whisking, 3 minutes. Add broth in a stream, whisking, and bring to a boil, whisking. Whisk in milk and simmer sauce, whisking occasionally, 5 minutes. Stir in mushroom mixture, lemon juice, and salt. Flake tuna into sauce and stir gently. Season sauce with salt and pepper.

Cook noodles in a 5- to 6-quart pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain noodles in a colander and return to pot. Add sauce and stir gently to combine. Transfer mixture to baking dish, spreading evenly.

Toss together bread crumbs and cheese in a bowl. Drizzle with oil and toss again, then sprinkle evenly over casserole. Bake until topping is crisp and sauce is bubbling, 20 to 30 minutes.


Red Lentil Soup

I just discovered red lentils about a year ago. They seem extra special, and a little more flavorful, than brown lentils. They are a beautiful orange-ish red, and turn yellow when cooked. They may be a little more difficult to find than brown lentils; I looked at three stores before finding them at Meijer.

This soup is delicious! I had just enough celery leaves that I had frozen from this summer's CSA, and I do wonder if the exceptional celery I used made a difference in the flavor. Hopefully when I make it with store-bought celery I'll like it just as much.

The original recipe gave instructions for making pita croutons and cooked onion for garnish. I went ahead with the extra steps and it was very worth it, only I just used my own pita chips, which I make at least once a week anyway. I ate two bowls of this soup, with the suggested garnish, and was full and happy for the rest of the day! For a hungry girl like me, that is an accomplishment for any soup. :)

2 T. olive oil
2 c. finely chopped onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 t. ground cumin
1 t. ground coriander
8 c. vegetable stock
1 3/4 c. dried red lentils
2 carrots, finely chopped
1/2 c. coarsely chopped celery leaves
pinch of red pepper flakes
1/4 c. fresh lemon juice
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste (I found I didn't need any at all!)

2 T. olive oil (I only used a teaspoon)
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 pita pocket breads (I used two of my homemade pita chips for each bowl)

Heat the oil in a dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic; cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the cumin and coriander; stir for about 30 seconds.

Stir in 6 cups of the vegetable stock, the lentils, carrots, celery leaves, and red pepper flakes. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat; cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are tender, about 30 minutes. Stir in the remaining 2 cups of stock and the lemon juice. Season to taste.


Simply slice the onion thinly and cook it in the oil until very tender and lightly browned.
Make pita chips (my recipe here).

Top each bowl of soup with a small mound of cooked onions and pita chips broken up into pieces.

Source: A Beautiful Bowl of Soup by Paulette Mitchell

Breakfast Muffins

Friday, December 9, 2011

Here's the first recipe I actually created myself. I messed around with the measurements and the ingredients until I had a muffin I really liked. I freeze them and take one out each morning to warm up in the microwave. I love the texture and the tiny bursts of just-enough-sweetness from the raisins!

4 medium very ripe bananas, mashed (I puree them in the Magic Bullet)
1/2 c. applesauce
1 egg
1 t. vanilla
1/4 c. honey

(dry ingredients are flexible. If I'm out of any of the various flours/bran, I just make sure I have 1 and 3/4 c. of some combination of them)

1 c. whole wheat flour (I like whole wheat graham flour)
1/2 c. whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 c. wheat bran
1 t. baking soda
1/2 c. raisins

Mix all wet ingredients in one bowl, and the dry in another bowl (including raisins). Dump dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and fold gently until completely moist. Divide into greased muffin tin cups (I get 11 muffins). Bake at 375 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean. If you let the muffins cool in pan for about 10-20 minutes, you should be able to gently pry/twist them out, then let them cool completely before putting in a ziplock gallon bag to freeze. Take one out in the morning, microwave for 45 seconds, and enjoy!

Tip-Tomato Paste

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Just a quick tip!

I'm sure many people do this, so I'm not claiming the idea.

Several of my recipes ask for just a tablespoon or 2 or tomato paste. I used to open a can and leave the rest in the fridge, intending to use it at some point (and then it always went to waste).

Now I scoop the remainder of the paste out onto a plate using my cookie scooper. I put the plate in the freezer, and when the blobs of paste are hard enough, put them together in a baggie or freezer container. Each scoop is ABOUT a tablespoon, so when I need to use a T. or 2 in a recipe the next time, I just get them out of the freezer!


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

As you can see, I've loved this thing so much the handle has broken off! But, it's still usable, so it's not going anywhere. I'm not sure where my mom bought this style, but here is one online; I think this ball-end style works better at getting all the ingredients from the bottom of the bowl or pan. A whisk is a must have, especially when making thickeners for soups or desserts or gravies.

Cookie Scoop

Monday, December 5, 2011

It's just a miniature ice cream scooper (which is actually nice to use for those miniature cones), but it makes the job of making cookies very fun and easy! Each cookie will be the perfect size, and you'll keep your fingers clean. My mom bought one for me when you used to only be able to find them in specialty baking stores, but now I've seen them everywhere.

Grandma's Peanut Brittle

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Beware: this peanut brittle is addictive! For me, it brings back very strong memories from my childhood holidays. My grandma made it every year. This is the first year I've tried it, and I was surprised at how easy it is! A candy thermometer is very helpful, even though Grandma didn't use one.

2 c. sugar
1 c. light corn syrup
1/2 c. water

Stir over medium heat until melted, bring to a boil. Boil over moderate heat until a thin thread form when stirring spoon is lifted, about 30 minutes (250 degrees).

1 lb. RAW peanuts

Continue moderate boil until peanuts are golden brown (about 30 minutes more, and until thermometer reads 300).

Walnut sized dab of butter (I use 1 T.), stir quickly until melted, then
2 t. baking soda

Stir quickly until butter and soda is mixed in, and pour onto a lightly greased cookie sheet. (I like the way the brittle turns out better if you don't spread it out...just let it settle on its own).

Cool completely, then break into pieces.

Honey Gingerbread Cookies

Today we had our first Christmas gathering of the year! Which means I whipped out some of my favorite recipes so that I could share. Every time I make these gingerbread cookies, they all get eaten...just like they did today at our gathering. They have a mild honey-ginger flavor, and they are super easy to make. I see more gingerbread men dancing into our kitchen very soon, now that the holiday season has officially begun!

1/2 c. sugar
3 c. all purpose flour
2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
2 t. ground ginger
2 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. ground cloves
1/2 t. ground nutmeg
1 c. butter, cut into dots and brought to room temperature
1/2 c. honey

Combine sugar, flour, soda, salt and spices. Cut dry ingredients into butter with pastry blender. You can work the ingredients together with your fingertips if you do not have a pastry blender. Add honey and stir until well blended.

Cover bowl and refrigerate for at least one hour. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

When dough is chilled, heat oven to 350 degrees. On lightly floured surface, roll the dough out about 1/8 in. thick. (I have found it's helpful to take a handful of dough and spend a minute mashing it together into a ball before rolling it out. The dough will seem crumbly until you do this.) Use cookie cutters to cut out shapes and move the cookies to prepared baking sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes, or until just golden at the edges.

Here are the cookies after adding frosting!

Homemade Pita Chips

Saturday, December 3, 2011

You gotta try these with my favorite homemade hummus!

A couple of years ago, my mom got me hooked on Stacy's Pita Chips. They are incredibly crunchy and tasty, and make you feel like you are eating something healthy. But if you actually look at the label, those pita chips are full of fat and sodium. And, they are really expensive! I started using whole wheat pita breads and thought I'd come up with something inventive...but the truth is, tons of people make these. It's all over the internet!

Now that I learned to make them, I make a batch at least once a week. You can flavor them any way you want, so there are a lot of variations to play around with.

pita pocket breads (any kind you want...I like whole wheat--you could get really motivated and make homemade pitas...hmmm...)

Use kitchen shears to cut the round pitas in half (if they are not already halved), and then into thirds, for a total of 6 triangles. Cut around the bottom edge of each triangle to separate the pocket. Take triangle pieces and lay them on a cookie sheet (what was the inside of the pocket should be facing up). Spray with a little oil, then sprinkle salt or seasonings--some good flavors are garlic, Italian herb, cumin, or try cinnamon/sugar. Get inventive! (sometimes when I'm feeling like something very plain, I only put oil on them). Bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes, checking often. As soon as they start to get browned they are done. I've noticed that some get brown faster, so I take them out and put the rest back in.

Enjoy with dips, soups, or all by themselves!

Bread Twists

Thursday, December 1, 2011

I just can't stop making these awesome bread sticks! I discovered the recipe a few weeks ago on babycenter and have made them at least a half a dozen times already. They go well with just about anything, but especially soup and pasta. I can make the recipe JUST fit on one cookie sheet, as you can see above, although sometimes I have to get creative (like the "O" I made up 3 year old, who is currently obsessed with the alphabet, claimed that one right away). ;)

Bread Twists (4Kowboys)


1 1/2 c. warm water

1 T. yeast

Let that sit for 5 minutes. Then add:

3 1/2 c. flour (I use 2 c. all purpose and 1 1/2 c. whole wheat)

1 t. salt

Mix until smooth, then let raise for 10 minutes. Roll out dough into a large square on a floured surface. Brush with melted butter mixed with garlic and then sprinkle with kosher salt. Fold in half and cut into 1 inch strips. Twist and place on a greased cookie sheet. Let sit for 15 to 20 minutes to raise. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Immediately after baking, brush with more garlic butter and sprinkle with kosher salt (and parmesan cheese, if desired).

Dried or fresh chopped herbs like basil can be mixed into the dough for even more flavor!

Garlic Press

Another one of those super basic tools that I didn't own until I really started cooking. A lot of recipes call for minced or chopped garlic, and this baby makes a short job out of it. Have you ever tried to mince garlic with a knife? I find it next to impossible! Not all garlic presses are created equally, either. You really need a solid, strong press with an attachment (on this one its built right in) to clean out all the little holes.

Whole Wheat Bread

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Another recipe I found on Babycenter, and I made just a few tiny changes (in parentheses) for my own taste. This is a really tasty, basic bread. I think it tastes good on its own, or with butter and/or jam. Dense and chewy, with just a hint of honey flavor. The vital wheat gluten can be found by the flour at the grocery store, and it really adds something good to the texture. I make this often!

Whole Wheat Bread

1 1/3 c. very warm water (110 degrees)
1 1/2 T. canola oil (I use 1 T)
2 T. honey (I use 3 T)
1 t. salt
2 t. rapid rise yeast
2 T. vital wheat gluten
3 1/4 to 3 1/2 c. whole wheat flour (I use 3 c.)

Combine water, oil, honey and salt and mix. Add 1 1/2 c. flour and mix well. Add yeast and vital wheat gluten and mix well. Add the rest of the flour gradually, adding the last 1/2 cup very gradually until dough 'cleans the bowl', if using a stand mixer. If mixing by hand, the dough should be just a bit sticky, but easy to manage with a bit of flour or non-stick spray on your hands.

Let rise until double in bulk (with instant yeast this will take 20-30 min). Form into a loaf (I put mine into a bread pan) and let rise again til double again (20-30 min-don't let it over rise or it may 'fall' while baking). Bake at 350 for 35 minutes.

Perfect Pizza Dough

A double batch makes 4 nice individual pizzas

This is my GO TO dough recipe. I like trying different recipes, but this is the one I love the best. One of the best things about this dough is how easily it rolls out. It doesn't 'bounce back' like most pizza doughs do when you're trying to roll it out. And it doesn't stick to the table. This is VERY good when you like your pizza crust nice and thin. Look at how thin this dough gets! When baked it is the perfect combo of thin and crisp, yet chewy inside.

You don't have to roll it out this thin, but it's nice having the option. :)


I don't use the special pan they ask for in the recipe. I use a regular cookie sheet and take the pizzas off immediately to cool on a rack. One recipe makes one 12 inch pizza, or 4 mini pizzas (our favorite way to do it for lunch!). I usually have to double the recipe to feed the family. I included tripled and quadrupled measurements in the recipe for my own convenience, in case I need more for guests. ;)

Perfect Pizza Dough
(found in Shape Magazine)

                                              x 3                 x 4
1/2 c. bread flour                (1.5 c.)....         (2 c.)
1/2 c. whole wheat flour      (1.5 c.)....         (2 c.)
3/4 t. active dry yeast          (2 1/4 t.)...        (3 t.)
1/4 t. salt                             (3/4 t.)....         (1 t.)
1/2 t. sugar                          (1 t.)...             (1 1/2 t.)
6 T. cold water                    (1 c. + 2 T.)... (1 1/2 c.)
1 T. olive oil (optional, but I really love adding it)

In a large mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients, then create a well in the center and add the water. Using your hands, gently combine dough for about 3 to 4 minutes, or until it comes together.

Move dough to a lightly floured surface; knead for 10 minutes of until firm and smooth. Form into a ball. Cover with a clean dish towel; let rest for 5 minutes.

Using a rolling pin, roll out dough to form an 11 inch circle; place on a round metal pizza pan with small holes so the dough just reaches but doesn't overlap the edges. Let rest for 45 minutes before adding toppings.

Add your toppings and bake at 450 degrees for 7-10 minutes.


Okay, maybe this is a super basic tool...but I didn't own one until I really started cooking from scratch a lot. Essential for straining out whole herbs and spices, or seeds. Definitely need to have one around, even if its not used often.

Chickpea Soup With Spinach

Monday, November 28, 2011

This is a gorgeous soup that I adore but the family doesn't do cartwheels over. I made it once for everyone, but the reception wasn't stellar, so I make it for myself now, freezing individual portions for lunches. I think it tastes fantastic! It has a strong chickpea and onion flavor. It is 'soupy-brothy', perfect for cold days when you need to sip some soup at the table while reading a book.

1/2 pound dried chickpeas (about 2 1/2 c. cooked)
4 T. olive oil
2 large onions, sliced (I chop them; easier to eat)
1 medium red pepper, chopped
salt and pepper
4-5 c. vegetable broth
good dash of red pepper flakes
1 lb fresh baby spinach, coarsely chopped

Soak dried chickpeas several hours or overnight in water to cover. Drain, and place in a pot with fresh water to cover by at least 2 inches. Bring to a boil, turn down heat and simmer, covered, at least 1 hour, or until tender.

Put oil in deep skillet, and turn heat to medium-high. A minute later, add onions, a large pinch of salt and some pepper. Cook, adjusting heat as necessary so onions soften rather than crisp. Stir occasionally, and cook until onions become very soft and quite brown, at least 10 minutes. Add red pepper and cook a few more minutes.

When chickpeas are tender, remove from heat, and drain, reserving their cooking water. Puree half the chickpeas in food mill, immersion blender or upright blender, adding enough of the reserved cooking water (or fresh water) to keep mixture moving smoothly. (Use care when pureeing hot liquid. If you have time, let mixture cool to room temperature first.)

Return puree to pot along with remaining chickpeas, plus whatever chickpea cooking liquid remains, plus red pepper flakes, plus broth. Stir, adjusting heat so mixture simmers. Add spinach, and stir. When spinach is tender, after 5 minutes or so, taste, and adjust seasoning.

Mom's Vegetable Beef Soup

This is my husband's mom's recipe. Every time she makes it I eat WAY too much! It's a homey and thick pot of magic! I haven't made it myself yet, but I still consider it tried and true. I rarely use ground beef, so when I do finally make it myself, I will probably use ground turkey.

2 lbs. ground beef
3 large potatoes, diced
2 small cans V8 juice (or 2 c.)
1 lb can whole tomatoes, crushed with hands
2 cans green beans, drained
1 can white corn, drained
1 onion, chopped
garlic powder
Mrs. Dash
salt and pepper

Brown the ground beef and onion in soup pot. Add remaining ingredients (spices to taste), and simmer until potatoes are fork-tender.

Mexican Rice

Another babycenter recipe that has become a tried and true for me. It reminds me of 'restaurant' Mexican rice--fluffy and light.

Mexican Rice
1 c. white rice (I use long grained)
Vegetable oil
3 T. white onion, chopped (I use more...I love onions)
2 cloves chopped garlic
1/2 c. canned plain tomatoes, blended smooth (I like to use salsa)
1 Knorr chicken bullion cube
1 t. garlic powder
1 t. salt (I omit this...bullion cube has enough salt for us)
2 c. water

Pour rice into saucepan and add enough oil that all the rice is evenly coated (I've never measured it, but I'd guess about 2 or 3 T.). Stir almost constantly over medium heat until the rice is very 'tan'. Add the onion and garlic and continue to stir for another minute. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. You can add a bit of frozen veggies at this point if desired. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove lid, fluff it up, and enjoy!

Tuna Casserole I

This is one of the recipes I fall back on when time and inspiration run short, but I want to avoid takeout pizza. It is creamy and delicious...gets a thumbs up from the whole family, which is increasingly difficult to do!

I have to note, however, that anymore I don't have cream soups in the cupboard. They are just so full of yucky things. I'm still experimenting with substitutions for 'cream-of' soups, which I used to rely on for so many recipes.

Tuna Casserole 1
2 c. dry penne, or experiment with other pastas (whole wheat works well in this recipe)
1/2 c. onion, finely chopped
2 (6 oz) cans tuna, well drained
1 can cream of celery soup
1/4 c. low-fat mayo
1/2 c. milk
2 t. Mrs. Dash (original)
1/2 t. powdered garlic
1/4 t. pepper
1/2 c. shredded cheddar (we love sharp)

Preheat oven to 350. Grease an 11x7 casserole pan (the pan I use is actually smaller than this, put the casserole fits in fine). Boil the pasta according to 'al dente' directions on box. Drain the pasta, and add onion and tuna to the pan, mix well.

Put remaining ingredients, except cheese, in a saucepan and warm over medium heat, stirring until combined. Add to pasta mixture, stir, pour into casserole dish and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven, sprinkle on the cheese, and return to oven for 5-7 minutes to melt cheese.

White Chicken Chili

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Simple and delicious! I only use a sprinkle of the cayenne because one of the boys is ANTI-spice right now. Out of all the white chicken chili recipes I've made, this one is my favorite.

1 to 1.5 pounds chicken
1 t. beef base
1/2 c. water
2 c. chicken broth
48 oz Randall Beans
1 t. olive oil
2 c. chopped onions
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 small can green chiles, in juice
2 t. cumin
2 t. oregano
1/4 t. cayenne pepper

Dice up the chicken, cook in pan with water and beef base until water is gone. In separate pan, fry olive oil and onions until onions are transparent. Place chicken and the rest of the ingredients in the pan, simmer for 30 minutes.

Pumpkin Black Bean Soup

Saturday, November 26, 2011

I found this gem on babycenter's cooking board last winter and I've made it countless times. I am in LOVE with this soup!

Pumpkin Black Bean Soup~*~Sandy~*~ via The Six O’Clock Scramble

1 T vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onion (about 1 small onion)
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 can (15 oz) black beans, drained
1 can (15 oz) whole tomatoes, drained
1/2 tsp salt
Pepper to taste
1 can (15 oz) pumpkin
3 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 tsp cumin (or curry)
2 T dry sherry (can use applejuice, but I think the sherry adds awesome flavor)
**pinch of sugar
Sour cream for serving

In a stock pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and garlic and sauté them until they are softened, about 5 minutes.

Chop the beans and tomatoes in a food processor or blender until they are pureed with some chunks remaining. Add them to the onions and garlic. Add the remaining ingredients, except the sour cream.

Mix the soup well, bring it to a gentle boil, and simmer it for 20 minutes. Serve it with a dollop of sour cream.

Makes 6 servings

Calories 140, total fat 3.5g sat fat 0g, cholesterol 0mg, sodium 580mg, total carbs 23g, dietary fiber 6g, protein 5 g, sugar 7g

Baked Potato Soup

Friday, November 25, 2011

I used to have a crockpot potato soup that I swore by. I made it for years. Then one day I tried this recipe, and I'll never go back! It is so simple, and yet the flavors are downright explosive. Like almost everything I do with potatoes, I leave the skins on. The garlic is not overwhelming at all, even though a whole head is used during cooking, and the leeks add just the right amount of onion flavor. One of my absolute favorites for a chilly night, served with a big green salad and fresh bread!

(this photo is not mine, it is from

baked potato soup


Serves 6
1 head garlic
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 medium leeks, white and light green parts halved lengthwise, washed, and chopped small
5 to 6 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth (I used 5 cups; add the extra cup after pureeing if you’d like a thinner soup)
2 bay leaves
Table salt
2 1/2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/3 cup sour cream
Ground black pepper
Toppings, optional:
Minced fresh chives or scallions
Bacon bits
Sour cream
Grated cheddar
A drizzle of melted (or melted and browned) butter
Rinse the head of garlic to remove any outside grit or dirt. Cut the top third off the head and peel any loose papery skins off the bottom two-thirds. Instead of discarding the top third (CI’s suggestion), pop out a bunch (or all) of the garlic clove tips and mince them. If you’re Deb, breathe a sigh of relief that you have wasted nothing.
In a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter over medium heat. Add leeks and cook them until soft (but not brown), about 5 minutes. Add the minced garlic and cook another minute. Add the larger part of the garlic head (whole, not chopped), broth, bay leaves and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Reduce heat and simmer until garlic is very tender when pierced with tip of knife, 30 to 40 minutes. Add potatoes and continue to simmer, partially covered, until potatoes are tender, about 15 to 20 minutes.
Discard bay leaves. Remove garlic heads. Optional: If you’d like an extra garlic boost to the soup, using tongs or paper towels, squeeze garlic head at root end until cloves slip out of their skins. Using a fork, mash the garlic cloves to smooth paste and add it back to the soup. [I felt our soup was garlicky enough without this. It had a great suggestion of garlic without overpowering the baked potato flavor.]
Add sour cream to soup and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. Adjust seasonings, adding more salt and pepper to taste. Using immersion blender, process soup until chunky-creamy, leaving lots of potato texture intact. (Alternatively, transfer a portion of the potatoes and broth to a food processor or blender and puree until smooth.) Serve with whatever makes you happy on top, or nothing at all.

Turkey Wild Rice Soup

This is the kind of soup that I would describe as 'soul food'. Thick, hearty, and it warms you up more with each bite. Very fulfilling, and a great way to use leftover thanksgiving turkey. Try not to omit the almonds...I think it is the secret ingredient that gives a little extra 'wow'.



  • 2/3 cup uncooked wild rice
  • 2 cups water
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups turkey broth
  • 1/3 cup shredded carrot
  • 2 cups chopped cooked turkey
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, or to taste
  • 1/4 cup chopped slivered almonds
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup half-and-half cream


  1. Bring the wild rice and water to a boil in a saucepan. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the rice is tender but not mushy, 40 to 45 minutes. Drain off any excess liquid, fluff the rice with a fork, and cook uncovered 5 minutes more. Set the cooked rice aside.
  2. Melt the butter in a soup pot over medium heat. Cook and stir the onion and celery until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the flour, and cook until it turns a pale yellowish-brown color, 3 to 5 minutes. Gradually whisk in the turkey stock until no lumps of flour remain. Stir in the carrot. Bring the mixture to a simmer, and cook, whisking constantly, until the stock is thick and smooth and the carrot is tender, about 2 more minutes.
  3. Stir in the wild rice, turkey, salt, pepper, and almonds. Return to a simmer, and cook 2 more minutes to heat the ingredients. Stir in the lemon juice and half-and-half; bring the soup almost to a boil, and serve hot.

Magic Bullet

My husband bought this thing from the infomercial years ago, when he was really into infomercials and all the useless stuff they sold. I rolled my eyes. It sat in our pantry, unused, for a couple of years. Then we went through a phase of loving smoothies for breakfast; after a few weeks of using my blender, I realized the convenience the Magic Bullet might provide. Less mess, and the smoothie is blended right in the cup that you drink it from.

Well, we are out of our smoothie phase for now, but my the Magic Bullet found a permanent home on my counter. I use it so much! A lot of recipes call for a little of this or that to be pureed, and getting the blender out every time is just not practical. I can't say enough how much more convenient this thing makes cooking for me. There are other brands out there, and I am not endorsing Magic Bullet exclusively...just any small blender like this would be nice to have.

As a sidenote, if you have a Keurig coffee maker, the Magic Bullet fits under it nicely for storage. ;) If you've seen my counter space (nearly non-exsistant), then you know how important that is for me!

Green Rice

Monday, November 21, 2011

Another variation of rice that we enjoy with our Mexican-themed suppers!

2 fresh green chiles, preferably poblanos (in a pinch I use a small can of green chiles)
1 small green pepper
1 c. long grain white rice
1 garlic clove
large bunch cilantro
small bunch flat-leaf parsley
2 c. chicken stock
2 T. vegetable oil
1 small onion, chopped

1. Dry roast the chiles and green pepper in a griddle pan, turning them frequently so that the skins blacken but the flesh does not burn. Place them in a strong plastic bag, tie the top securely and set aside for 20 minutes.

2. Put the rice in a heatproof bowl, pour in boiling water to cover and let stand for 20 minutes.

3. Drain the rice, rinse well under cold water and drain again. Remove the chiles and peppers from the bag and peel off the skins. Remove any stems, then slit the vegetables and scrape out the seeds with a sharp knife.

4. Put roasted vegetables in a food processor (I use Magic Bullet), with the garlic. Strip off the leaves from the cilantro and parsley stalks, reserve some for garnish and add the rest to the processor. Pour in half the chicken stock and process until smooth. Add the rest of the stock process the puree again.

5. Heat the oil in a saucepan, add the onion and rice and fry for 5 minutes over medium heat until the rice is golden and the onion translucent. Stir in the puree. Lower the heat, cover and cook for 25-30 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed and the rice is just tender. Add salt and garnish with the reserved herbs.

Oil Mister

One of my newer discoveries. I love this thing! Perfect for salads, roasting veggies, or making pita/tortilla chips. I still use regular spray cans for some jobs, but I like the idea of having a spray of oil on certain foods without the added propellants. I use my mister for olive oil, but wouldn't mind having another one designated for vegetable or canola oil. It does require cleaning every once in awhile to prevent clogging. There are several brands out there, and I couldn't tell you which is the best; this one is Farberware and has worked just fine for me.

Black Bean Smothered Sweet Potatoes

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

No pic yet! 

This makes for a very filling lunch. I like to make a batch of the topping and freeze it in portions. Then I can pull a portion out the night before, pack a microwave-baked sweet potato, and then assemble it at lunch for something very special. I have to say, the cilantro and lime add crazy-amazing flavor, so try to include them if possible.

Black Bean Smothered Sweet Potatoes
(OP JunqueGirl) modified from EatingWell December 2005

4 medium sweet potatoes
2 t. olive oil
1/2 to 1 medium onion
1-2 garlic cloves
2 15-oz cans black beans, rinsed
1 15-oz can diced tomatoes
1 t. ground cumin
1 t. ground coriander
1/2 t. cinnamon
salt to taste
one lime
4 T. chopped fresh cilantro

1. Prick sweet potatoes with a fork in several places. Place in a baking dish and bake at 425 degrees until tender all the way to the center, about 1 hour.

2. Meanwhile, saute onion and garlic in olive oil on medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes, until onion is translucent and staring to brown. Add beans, tomatoes, cumin, coriander, and cinnamon and simmer for five minutes. Add salt to taste.

3. When just cool enough to handle, slash each sweet potato lengthwise, press open to make a well in the center and spoon the bean mixture into the well. Top each with a squeeze of fresh lime juice and sprinkle of cilantro.

*readers comments suggested mixing leftover with an egg, flour and breadcrumbs to make veggie burgers. Other comments suggested adding diced jalepeno or crushed red pepper fora little heat.

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