Chicken Charlie Alfredo w/ Bacon & Sun-dried Tomatoes!

The recipe has ruined me for all other Alfredo dishes!

Okay people prepare to be dazzled. Prepare to have your spouses and your family and friends drop to their knees and bow their heads in your presence. This dish delivers everything but dollar bills from your Grandma’s purse. I promise!

By the way. Meet Charlie Alfredo. He really has nothing to do with this recipe. I just like to call him, “Charlie Alfredo” and share this photo whenever possible. (hee hee. HI CHARLIE!)

 

Charlie Tortellini

This recipe starts off in the most delicious way possible! Let’s fry some bacon! Six pieces will definitely do!

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While the bacon is cooking, I grate almost a full cup of Asiago cheese and chop up about 1/4 cup of sun-dried tomatoes. You may wish to add more tomatoes, but they have carbs, so I limited them in my recipe.

Once this bacon has delivered on making your home smell delightful and it’s reached the desired brownness, remove it from the pan and set aside but do NOT do a THING with that bacon grease! You want that!

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Here are my ingredients (bacon, cheese & sun-dried tomatoes) getting ready to be added to the pan. This is prior to my crumbling the bacon. I find if I do this at the last minute, it keeps the bacon crumbles from detouring to my mouth.

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To the grease, add in a couple of garlic cloves, minced. They will sizzle quickly, so be prepared to add the chicken almost immediately. Prior to cooking this chicken, you will want to rinse it and pat it dry, then season liberally with Salt and pepper and I also used Trader Joe’s “21 Season Salute” (I adore that stuff!), but you don’t have to. Here you are just aiming to brown the chicken on both sides. No need to try to cook it through. This takes about 2 or 3 minutes on each side. When it’s brown, remove it and set it aside.

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When the chicken is removed from the pan, add in 1/2 cup of chicken stock and with a wooden spoon or whisk, scrape up all the lovely bits of flavor. Here is where I cheated and used store-bought Alfredo sauce rather than make my own. Hey. This is a week night dish. Cutting corners is totally acceptable except for one thing. IF you are keto or low carb, you will want to read the label of your preferred sauce. Most of them have too many carbs for my taste, so I choose to use Rao’s because it doesn’t. (It’s not cheap, but it’s worth it to me.)roas

Whisk continually while you add in the sauce and then keep whisking as you add in the cheese, sun-dried tomatoes and all but one piece of chopped bacon. IF the sauce appears to be too thick, add in some more chicken stock. Bring up to a slow simmer.

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While your chicken is simmering, spiralize three zucchini. I pulled out another large cast iron skillet and sauteed the zoodles in butter, olive oil, salt, pepper and granulated garlic. Just as they were getting tender, I sprinkled in half a cup of Parmesan cheese to give it body.

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Lastly, season again with salt and pepper. Add the chicken back, cover and let simmer for twenty minutes. When you are ready to serve, stir in one Tablespoon of butter (use the real stuff!), sprinkle the remaining bacon and whatever fresh herb you prefer. Here I have added basil and parsley.

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All that’s left is to dish up your zoodles and top it with a piece of chicken and lots of sauce. I don’t add my zoodles to the sauce prior because I feel the zoodles get soggy. By all means, do what you like to do here. This would be delicious over Alfredo noodles, too.

Bonus: If you eat bread, a nice, crusty piece of garlic bread would be wonderful!


Chicken Charlie Alfredo with Bacon & Sun-dried Tomatoes

Serves 4

Ingredients:
4 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts.
3 cloves garlic, chopped
6 pieces of bacon, crumbled
1 15oz jar of Rao’s Alfredo Sauce
¾ cup freshly grated Asiago cheese
¼ cup sun-dried tomatoes (more if you don’t care about carbs)
1 cup chicken stock (possibly more if your sauce is too thick)
1 teaspoon freshly cracked pepper
½ teaspoon salt (Asiago cheese is very salty)
2 Tablespoons freshly chopped Basil
1 Tablespoon freshly chopped parsley
1 Tablespoons butter

Optional: If you have it, you can add additional seasoning your chicken with Trader Joe’s “21 Season Salute”, but it’s not necessary.

For the zoodles:
3 medium zucchini spiralized
2 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Teaspoon granulated garlic
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan

Directions:

Prepare the chicken by rinsing, patting dry and seasoning both sides with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Assemble the ingredients: grate the Asiago cheese, chop the sun-dried tomatoes, chop the garlic, chop the herbs and then set aside.

In a large cast iron skillet set to medium heat, cook the bacon until crispy, then remove and set aside. Quickly stir in the chopped garlic letting it sizzle only for about 30 seconds, then add in the chicken.

Cook until browned on both sides (about 2-3 minutes per side). No need to cook the chicken all the way through at this step. Brown it and remove it from the pan. Do NOT drain the bacon fat.

Deglaze the pan by whisking in ½ cup of chicken stock making certain to pick up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Whisk in the jar of Alfredo Sauce, then whisk in the cheese, tomatoes and all but one piece of the crumbled bacon. Bring up to a simmer and then add the chicken back to the pan making sure to coat both sides. Cover and let simmer for 20 minutes.

When the chicken is cooked through, just prior to service, stir in 1 tablespoon butter and the fresh herbs and then top it with the remaining bacon.

Serve over zoodles or pasta or alone with a side of lovely Asparagus!

 

 

 

Marinated Zoooooodle Salad

I don’t know where the inspiration for this salad came from. Every time we make it, we add something new. Here is what we did recently…

Happy Summer Solstice! I was just out in my garden this morning telling my zucchini, cucumbers and tomatoes to hurry and grow, grow, grow! This salad is part of the reason why! Summer is here and those of us who have planted gardens or who frequent the Farmers Markets are about to have an abundance of vegetables! OH happy day!!!!!!

Whenever we want to make something special for a summer gathering, this is one of the dishes we select. It’s one of our personal favorites for many reasons: People enjoy all of the different flavors and textures; it can sit at room temperature with no concern; it gets better with age; and it can be made ahead.

Why do I like it?

  • It’s pretty.
  • It’s healthy.
  • It’s easy.
  • It’s delicious!

Because we cater, we have several spiralizers that we use to make large amounts of zoodles (noodles made of zucchini), but you don’t need to buy a big one unless you plan on being the Zoodle-Queen of your neighborhood. If you don’t have one, this little contraption costs about $14.95 and you can find them at Walgreen’s, your local grocery store, or you can order one on Amazon.  Also, the salad works just as well with the zucchini sliced like the cucumbers. We like the zoodles because they create nice texture.

spiralizer

I am going to take a risk and assume everyone reading this recipe knows how to peel and slice, so there will be no photos of the process. One word of advice though, use the biggest vessel you can find in order to mix this salad, then transfer it to a serving bowl. We use our hands, but since you don’t have our hands, you can use a spatula. Or spoons. Or your own hands.


Marinated Zoodle Salad:

This recipe will serve millions.

Okay not really.
This will serve 6-8.

FOR THE SALAD:
2 cups Baby Spinach
2 large zucchini, ends trimmed, spiralized
2-3 cucumbers sliced (we use English Cucumbers)
2 red onions, thinly sliced
1 (15 oz.) can quartered artichokes
2 large ear sweet corn, kernels removed
1 1/2 cups grape tomatoes, halved (I like to use red and yellow)
8 oz. fresh Mozzarella pearls
8 oz. button mushrooms, sliced (use the variety you like)
3 tablespoons freshly chopped basil
3 tablespoons sunflower seeds
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
½ teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon Italian Seasoning

FOR THE DRESSING:
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic
Salt and black pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS:
First, make (or cough cough, “buy) the dressing. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, garlic, salt, and pepper. Set aside. Note: If you are afraid of making your own dressing, use a bottle of your favorite Balsamic or Red wine vinaigrette.

Use a spiralizer to make the zucchini noodles. We use scissors to cut them into manageable spirals (about 2 ½ inches long). Slice the corn off the cob and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine zucchini noodles with the spinach and all of the chopped and sliced vegetables, herbs, seasonings and seeds. Pour on the dressing and toss. At this point, you may serve or cover and refrigerate. I believe this salad is best when allowed to marinate for a few hours.

THE SECRET TO SUCCESS: Do NOT skip the step even if you are using bottle dressing! A few minutes before you intend to serve, take the salad out and toss it once more. Then add a few more shots of pure Balsamic Vinegar and a few more twists of freshly cracked pepper and a little more salt and garlic. Toss and serve.

Options: Think of things you like to eat and add them in.
Here are some suggestions:
Chopped avocado
Bean Sprouts
Pepperoni
Mini corn on the cob
Diced or shredded chicken or ham
Black olives
Bamboo shoots
Sliced carrots & celery
Sliced red, yellow and orange bell peppers

See? The list is virtually endless. Can you think of other variations? If so, feel free to leave suggestions in the comments and IF you are a food blogger and you have a great summer salad to share, by all means drop your link! I’d love to check it out!

Faux Cheesy Grits Casserole (Keto)

Sometimes the best recipes are born by re-purposing left-overs. This is one of them!

One of the first Keto things I attempted to make was cheesy cauliflower casserole. What is easier, really, than coating cauliflower in a beautiful cheese sauce and baking it in the oven, right? Here it is ready to hit the oven.

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Here it is after having been baked. I’ll be honest, it was good, but it just didn’t hit the spot for me. I’m a bit of a texture weirdo and I really wasn’t into the fact that the cauliflower felt watery while at the same time the delicious cheese sauce was creamy. (Next time, I plan on roasting the florets in the oven prior to adding the cheese sauce and baking. I feel certain this will handle the texture issue for my taste.)

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This casserole was entirely too big for just Charlie and I so we put it back in the fridge until the following morning. In the back of my mind, I was almost certain I’d be throwing it out, because I tend not to like left overs and let’s face it, cauliflower in any form isn’t something one dreams about eating again and again.

That is, until I woke up the next morning wishing I could have a bowl of grits for breakfast. (Don’t make a face. I grew up eating grits for breakfast and I still love them!) Grits are not allowed in the Keto plan so I decided to improvise with the left over cauliflower. (After all, if I failed I’d have a real good excuse to throw it all out!)

It was so simple, it’s almost embarrassing to report. All I did was dump the entire left over casserole into a blender with a little more cheese and two eggs. I also added some smokey Paprika and salt and pepper. Then I poured it into a pretty little casserole dish, topped it with more colorful Paprika and baked it at 350 for thirty minutes.

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Pay no attention to the circles. I was being cute with cutting out cheese circles and it didn’t work AT ALL. It just turned out looking weird. I should have layered them all over. Not to worry, it didn’t affect the taste even a little bit!

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I served mine over zucchini fritters and added hot sauce to the top because I love it. This is something I start to crave just by looking at this photo. Seriously, this is good and if you are having a big Easter function, it would be a great addition to the menu!

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Ingredients:
1 head of cauliflower, broken into florets
½ cup heavy whipping cream
2 Tbsp. REAL butter
½ cup cream cheese
¾ cup grated cheddar or whatever cheese you like (& more if you want to top the casserole with it.)
Salt & pepper to taste
1-2 Tbsp. water or more cream if you need to thin it down
2 eggs
1-2 tsp. smoked paprika (save half for sprinkling on top)
½ tsp garlic powder

Optional seasonings:
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp onion powder
½ tsp paprika
2-4 Tbsp. freshly chopped herbs (your favorite)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350.

Place the cauliflower into a microwave safe bowl, cover, and cook about 3-5 minutes, until fork tender.
Place cooked cauliflower into a clean towel and squeeze out excess moisture. Set aside.

Place the butter and ¼ cup cream into a small saucepan and heat up gently to combine. Add the cream cheese and stir until combined.
When the sauce begins to bubble, remove from the heat and whisk in the cheddar cheese. Add seasonings. Stir until creamy.

Let cool a few minutes. (This is because you are going to add eggs to this mix and you don’t want to scramble them.) If you prefer to temper them over allowing everything to cool first, that’s fine too.

Place cooked cauliflower, eggs, ¼ cup of cream, sauce and whatever seasonings you prefer into a food processor (or blender). Pulse until you reach desired consistency. Grits are tiny specks about the size of pin heads. I took mine all the way down to this size but if you prefer yours larger, by all means do what makes you happy!

Pour into a casserole dish, sprinkle with seasonings, (add extra cheese if that’s what you like) and bake uncovered for 30 minutes.

 

Neato Keto Spicy Spaghetti Squash

The other night I wanted an easy side dish to go along with some swordfish. Hence, this recipe was born.

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I might be the only person on the planet who isn’t okay with subbing spaghetti squash for real noodles. (I think I’ve said this before, come to think of it.) Yet, for whatever reason, I am continually picking them up at the store. I liken it to my feelings about eggs. I really want to like them. I do love the way they look, but more often than not, I’m underwhelmed.

Enter this recipe for Spicy Spaghetti squash.

The other night I was planning on making cilantro lime swordfish. Ordinarily,  I’d pair the fish with some form of rice or noodle, but since these things are off-limits to me right now, I needed to get creative. Besides, the poor little squash had been sitting on my kitchen table for weeks and I felt sorry for it.

I decided to try and see if I could make a spaghetti squash dish that would compliment the cilantro/lime flavors in the fish. First I chopped up some peppers (hot and mild) & onions (red and yellow) and sauteed them in butter and olive oil.

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Meanwhile I had my spaghetti squash roasting the oven (cut side was down while it was in there.) My limes were pretty hard, so I zested them, cut them in half and the put them in the oven with the squash for the last five minutes. It makes them easier to squeeze. You can use the microwave for this as well, but I’m not a fan. (Limes in the oven smell Divine!)

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See how you can tell that the little spaghetti-like strands are loose and ready to be scraped out? That’s how you know it’s ready.  That and the fact that the shell is now paper thin and easily gives when you squeeze it.

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Once you’ve scraped the squash goodies into the pan with the vegetables, it’s just a matter of heating it all up together and seasoning.

Poof. You’re done. Call the news crews because this is delicious!

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I really did like this dish a lot and the best part was the leftovers! In the morning I just cracked some eggs and did a scramble. I added more cilantro and some leftover asparagus tips, (and I made some cheese bowls, too.)

egg bowls

egg bowls 2

 


Ingredients:
1 small spaghetti squash, cut in half & seeded
4 Tbsp. Olive oil
2 Tbsp. Butter-more if needed. (REAL FULL-FAT BUTTER, PEOPLE!)
½ Red bell pepper, diced
½ Orange bell pepper, diced
2 Jalapeno peppers, seeds removed, diced
1 small red onion thinly sliced
½ yellow onion thinly sliced
Zest of 2 limes
Juice of 2 limes
1 bunch of cilantro finely chopped
3 Tbsp. Fresh chopped dill (optional)
1 Tea. Red pepper flakes (optional)
Salt & Pepper to taste

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Cut the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, & coat with a thin layer of olive oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Place cut-side down on a baking sheet. Bake for 40 minutes or until fork tender.

Meanwhile sauté the vegetables in 2 Tbsp. butter & 2 Tbsp. olive oil until tender. (Don’t forget to season them with salt & pepper. I also added red pepper flakes, but this is optional.) Turn off the heat & set aside until the squash is ready.

Once the squash is tender, rake the flesh with a fork into the skillet with the vegetables and begin to fold everything together. Turn the heat back on to medium-low. Add the lime juice, lime zest, cilantro and dill and stir until combined and warmed through. (I added more butter to mine at this point.)

Enjoy.

BONUS: Here is another spaghetti squash recipe I actually like: Stuff Your Face with This! Spaghetti Squash

The Easiest Shrimp/Seafood Scampi Ever!

If ever I want to make my husband flip out with excitement, I announce that I’m making this dish. It’s his favorite and I love to make him happy! Here is how easy it is!

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Classic shrimp scampi doesn’t involve marinating the shrimp, nor does it involve tomatoes or basil, but I’m not making classic shrimp scampi here. This is a little recipe I made up in order to make life a little more simple and believe me, there is nothing more simple than this dish!

I usually start with a pound (or more) of Red Rock shrimp (because we like it best). Red Rock shrimp are brighter in color and have a consistency closer to lobster. We buy this at Trader Joe’s, but if you don’t have a Trader Joe’s in your area and you can’t find it, by all means just use regular shrimp (peeled and de-veined, of course.)

To a one gallon zip lock bag, I add the shrimp, plus a half cup of olive oil, about about six garlic cloves, minced, fresh cracked pepper and just a pinch of salt. Smoosh it around in the bag so all of the shrimp it coated and then set aside for at least a half hour. I leave it right on the kitchen counter. (Shhhh, it’s fine. I promise. You won’t die.)

Next the pasta pot gets filled with water and salt and brought up to a rolling boil. We like to use angel hair pasta for this recipe because it cooks very quickly (about ten minutes), but you can use whatever pasta you love.  Once I’ve dropped the pasta, I prepare a cast iron skillet with two tablespoons of real butter (never use anything but 100% full fat, real butter!) melting over medium high heat.

When the butter has melted, I pour the contents of the shrimp bag, (olive oil and all), right into the skillet. Using a spatula, I quickly distribute the shrimp so they are in a single layer. Shrimp cook very quickly -literally just a couple of minutes- so it’s important to watch them closely and turn them over as soon as they are becoming pink and opaque.

If this were a regular shrimp scampi recipe, wine would be added early  into this mix, but I am not a fan of cooking with wine, so I ignore this step. Instead I like to pop in some pretty tomatoes right after the shrimp goes in and then fresh basil towards the end. Make sure to continue stirring frequently so the shrimp are not over-cooked.

I said this was seafood scampi, correct? This is because my dear husband, Charlie, likes to sneak off to Trader Joe’s and buy things I would never even consider looking at. For instance; this stuff:

Frozen-Seafood-Mix

I would never have even looked at this, let alone purchased it, but it made him happy, so he did. I obliged him by thawing it out and adding it right into the skillet at the same time I put in the shrimp. (No marinade for the seafood.)

See how colorful these shrimp are? In this photo, they are about 95% cooked. I love how they retain their pretty color. Regular shrimp do turn pink but not like this!

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Finally, I take the skillet off the heat and give the dish a stir as I add in the fresh basil. You might notice that there is no photo of this step. This is because I didn’t have a lot of the fresh basil this time. Oh and by the way, your tomatoes might not smile like mine. I’m magic. You’re probably not magic. ♥

Once the pasta is finished cooking, it gets tossed in with the garlic sauce and seafood, then plated and sprinkled with a little fresh Parmesan cheese.

Finito!

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Ingredients:

½ cup of olive oil

½ Teaspoon cracked black pepper

¼ Teaspoon salt

2-3 Tablespoons butter

6 garlic cloves, minced

1-2 lbs. Red Rock Shrimp, thawed (peeled & deveined)

1 pkg. Pana Pesca Seafood Mix (Optional. You can sub in any seafood mix you like or don’t do it at all.)

¼ cup fresh basil (torn)

¼ cup Parmesan (finely grated)

10-12 cherry tomatoes (optional & use however many you prefer)

¼ – ½ lb. angel hair pasta

 

Directions:

To a one gallon zip-lock bag add the shrimp, olive oil, garlic, salt & pepper. Smoosh it around making sure the shrimp is coated. Set aside for at least half an hour. I do not refrigerate the shrimp, but you can if you are afraid.

Prepare pasta according to instructions on the box. (Boil water, add salt, and add pasta…yada yada…)

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a cast iron skillet set to medium high. When the pan is hot, drop in the contents of the gallon bag. (If you are making seafood scampi-add the additional seafood as well.) Quickly distribute the shrimp so they are in a single layer in the pan. Add the tomatoes. Continue stirring keeping careful watch on the shrimp. They are finished when they are pink and opaque. The whole process takes about 2-3 minutes on each side, but it can happen faster, so watch carefully.

Once the shrimp are just about cooked, I like to add one more tablespoon of butter and the basil, then stir once more and remove from the heat. Add a final pinch of freshly cracked pepper.

Drain the pasta, mix it in with the scampi.

Garnish with grated Parmesan and a little more pretty basil!

Enjoy!

Smokey Potato Leek Soup ala Sickly Baba!

Ever since I started making my own soups, I have a hard time with any type of canned soup. (This is mainly because the stuff in the cans is so full of sodium and fat and yet it still tastes bland to me.)Today I made a Smokey potato-leek soup that turned out really well. Here is the recipe.

I am on my second go around with sickness. Thankfully, it’s just a virus, and I’m feeling better today, yet I am still not really into eating anything but mild food. That being said, after having not eaten a thing but saltines yesterday, this morning I woke up feeling hungry for chicken noodle soup. Ordinarily, I would have made my own, but I’m sick, remember? Charlie pulled out a can of chunky chicken noodle and lovingly made it for me. (He takes such good care of me even when I’m not sick. I am Blessed!) I was happy to eat it (and that it stayed down), but it reminded me of why I like to make my own soups. It was borderline tasteless, brimming with sodium and fat and the noodles tasted like rubber.

Now I don’t know what to think of myself. Have I become a food snob? I used to love chunky chicken noodle soup!

This afternoon while Charlie was at the gym, I reached that stage of illness where you are really still too sick and weak to do much; yet you are so bored, your brain tells you it’s okay to get up and go make a pot of homemade soup. (After all, it’s not that hard.) I have a butternut squash sitting on the counter waiting to be cut up and roasted and turned into a beautiful, creamy soup, but instead I focused my attention on the ever present leeks in my fridge. I pulled them out, cut them up and threw them into a bowl of cold water to be certain there was no sand. Meanwhile, I peeled and chopped about two and a half pounds of russet potatoes. (Why? Because if I didn’t, they were bound to start sprouting any day. We don’t eat a ton of russets.) It bears reporting that I prefer to use Yukon gold potatoes in soups, but this is what I had on hand. Use what you have on hand, people!

Next, the leeks got drained, dried; then sautéed in some olive oil and butter for just a short time. Afterward, I added the potatoes, seasonings, and then six cups of chicken stock. The top went on and I let it boil for about thirty minutes-until everything was soft enough to blend.

At this point I was feeling accomplished and it dawned on me that we had a pound of bacon that also needed to be used before it was wasted. What better thing to do then to make some bacon as a garnish, right? I always make my bacon on a sheet pan with a rack, so this too, is really easy to do. I was just about to lay the stuff out in strips when I remembered having seen one of those Facebook videos that showed bacon being weaved together so it would form a perfect square for bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches. OMG! Genius! I just happened to have a big juicy tomato on the counter and some lettuce in the fridge. Poof! Done! I weaved that bacon like a professional bacon weaver and into the oven it went.

I was so proud when it came out looking pretty! (Seriously, I was envisioning the Instagram praise-fest about to happen! I am a sick girl and not in a good way.) I decided to take some of the smaller pieces of cooked bacon and drop them into the the soup for a little more Smokey flavor. See them?

Truth to be told: I did all of this today…but I made frequent trips to the couch to pass out, drink ice water, take my temperature, cough, etc. See that last soup photo? It’s not even hot. I just forgot to take the money shot so I fudged it. Now I am back, dying on the couch, but this blog is scheduled to go. LOL! (I really did love this soup, however.)

This photo below; now that’s actually hot soup! LOL!


Ingredients:

2.5 pounds potatoes peeled and cut (I used russets but Yukon golds are better.)

3 large leaks sliced into rounds

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons butter (REAL butter)

6 cups low sodium chicken broth (that’s two 32 oz cartons)

1.5 teaspoons red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon hot sauce (optional)

1 tablespoon Italian seasoning

2 bay leaves

1 tablespoon raw honey

2 pieces of cooked bacon crumbled

1/4 cup cream

3 tablespoons full fat sour cream

Juice of half a lemon

Salt & fresh ground pepper

Directions:

1) Clean and slice leeks

2) Peel and cut potatoes (If you use Yukon Gold, skip peeling. It isn’t necessary.)

3) Heat olive oil and butter in a Dutch oven (medium high heat) Sauté leeks for about five minutes. Salt & pepper.

4) Add potatoes, red pepper flakes, bay leaves, hot sauce, Italian seasoning, more cracked pepper. Stir.

5) Add chicken broth and bacon pieces. Turn up heat, bring to boil, reduce to simmer and put the lid on. Simmer 20-30 minutes until vegetables are tender enough to be blended.

6) When the vegetables are tender, turn off heat, remove bay leaves, stir in honey and allow to cool with the lid on about 30 minutes.

7) Pull out and mash (or rough chop) about a cup of the potatoes. Set aside.

8) Add cream and sour cream. Stir. Then blend with an immersion blender (This is what I use.) Add the reserved potatoes back in with the juice of half a lemon.

9) Taste. We like our soup spicy, so I usually add more cracked pepper and red pepper flakes.

10) Stir and cover. Turn the heat back onto low. Let the flavors marry for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Note: The best garnish in the world for this soup are caramelized onions! Also great: crumbled bacon, shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, chopped scallions


PS- I ended up making a grilled cheese sandwich with the bacon lattice for Charlie. (By the time he came home from the gym, I was way too tired and over-extended to make TWO. I didn’t need a sandwich. I needed to be in bed.)

I present the Cha-Cha approved bacon, tomato, caramelized onion, Fontina cheese on Sourdough bread grilled cheese:

Stuff Your Face with THIS! Spaghetti Squash.

This is the only stuffed spaghetti squash recipe I’ve ever loved so much that I will make again. You’re welcome.

I am not really one who likes to get crazy with my vegetables, especially spaghetti squash. I’ve tried it in place of spaghetti with red sauce and I was underwhelmed. My favorite way to make it is to simply roast it with butter, salt, pepper and a bit of garlic. Occasionally I might mix in some steamed vegetables, but by and large I am a Plain Jane Spaghetti squash girl.

The other day I was watching the Food Network (Surprising, I know.) and on “The Kitchen”, Katie Lee made a spaghetti squash stuffed with chicken and steamed broccoli in a lightened version of Alfredo Sauce. (If you want to look up her recipe it’s called: “Chicken and Broccoli Twice Baked Spaghetti Squash”). It looked really good and since I happened to have a very small squash sitting on my counter, I decided to test my own version.

Let it be said here that I am a full fat, real butter, no fake stuff cook, so I knew immediately that I would not be making a lightened version of Alfredo sauce. I also hate sauces made with any type of cream cheese. No. Instead, I would make my tried and true sauce and perhaps not use a ton of it so as not to over power the delicate squash. I also didn’t like the idea of adding chicken to it. (Of course, that might have been because I knew I had two chicken breasts already pounded into cutlets that I intended to pan fry.)

The first step is to cut the squash in half. I keep seeing people say that it’s so hard to cut a squash and that it’s easier to microwave them first. Nope. I hate the microwave and with a sharp knife, it’s NOT hard to cut a squash. While I am on the subject of cutting squash, let me just say here that it’s NOT hard to work with butternut squash either. Just use a vegetable peeler (the kind you  peel carrots with) to remove the skin, then cut it up. It’s simple!

I digress. Cut the squash in half horizontally, scoop out the seeds, sprinkle it with olive oil, salt, pepper, and a little garlic. I also used some beautiful Bourbon smoked paprika because it’s one of my new favorite spices, but that is optional. Here is what they look like before they get turned upside down to roast.

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Preheat the oven to 400, turn them cut side down, and bake them for 45 minutes to an hour. Make sure they are fork tender and the strands easily flake out with a fork. Be careful with the shells because they are going to become the vessel for this dish.

While the shells are cooking, cut up a head of broccoli and steam it until it’s bright green and a little tender. It’s okay to under cook it a bit because it’s going to go back into the oven later.

Then make the Alfredo sauce and combine it with the broccoli and spaghetti squash. Stuff all of it right back into the shells.

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At this point, I sprinkled mine with some more pepper and paprika. I honestly could have put these right in the oven under the broiler without adding anything else and I think they would have been fantastic. Instead, I added a layer of cheese.

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I grated what I had on hand which was Fontina and Parmesan. You can substitute whatever white cheese you have or like. Then they go under the broiler until brown and bubbly.

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I don’t really know how anyone eats an entire half of one of these. Honestly. I put mine on the plate thinking it was so small, it would be gone in a flash, but I could only finish half of it. Hubs and I put hot sauce on just about everything, so that is what you see on top of it with some chopped parsley to garnish.

We’re also addicted to those tomatoes which is why you always see them in my photos. Seriously, they are that delicious. They are called “Flavor Bomb Cherry Tomatoes”. We buy them at Sam’s Club, but I’m sure you can google them and find where they are in your area. So good! (and no they didn’t pay me to say this.)

Flavor Bomb Cherry tomatoes

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Ingredients

  • 1 medium spaghetti squash (2 1/2 to 3 pounds)
  • 1 head of broccoli cut up into florets
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed
  • 1 stick of butter (REAL butter!)
  • 2 & 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Fontina (Use Mozzarella if you like it better)
  • 2 teaspoons smoky paprika (optional)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Granulated garlic

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

With a sharp knife, carefully cut the squash in half horizontally. Scoop out the seeds. Drizzle the inside with olive oil, salt & pepper, granulated garlic and smoky paprika (optional). Place in a baking dish or on a baking sheet cut side down. Roast for 45 minute to an hour until fork tender.

Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a bowl and prepare an ice water bath. Blanch the broccoli briefly in the boiling water, then transfer to the ice bath to cool. Drain and set aside.

With a large fork, pull the squash fibers away from the outer peel (use a towel to hold the squash in place if necessary). Reserve the squash and the shells. (Shell will be your cooking vessel.)

Preheat the broiler to low.

Make the Alfredo sauce. (I will look away if you want to use your favorite jarred Alfredo but honestly, it’s so easy and tastes so much better to use your own!) Here is how:

In a saucepan, warm the butter and cream. Add the smashed garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Add the Parmesan and stir until melted. (What the WHAT! That was SO HARD!)

Now toss the broccoli and squash with the sauce. Add in some more pepper. Divide the mixture into the two empty shells and top with grated cheese.

Place the stuffed squash onto a baking sheet and broil until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Keep watch after about 3 minutes. I left mine in about five minutes, but your broiler might be stronger than mine.


See ya tomorrow!