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:

Gimmee that Bacon Roasted Tortellini!

A lot of times I adapt recipes that I have made at home in order to serve for a large crowd. This tortellini casserole is a showstopper every time!

 

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By day, I do the finances for a very large, beautiful Baptist church here in Louisville. (Not that it matters, but hubs and I are Catholic and we joke with the members of this church all the time that, “We are the heathen Catholic couple!”) Every Wednesday afternoon I knock off at 1:30 to meet Charlie at the door and walk down to the church kitchen where together, we prepare their Wednesday Night Fellowship meal. This is our fifth year of doing that walk.

I think it’s worth noting here that I haven’t always been a good cook, let alone someone who was trained in feeding the masses!  Raising my daughter alone, I remember a very limited scope of what I actually made from scratch. There for a while, we ate almost all of our meals out at Applebee’s. (Yes, it’s true. If I could do that over, I certainly would.) When Charlie came along ten years ago, he came with the experience of not only being a retired Firefighter, but his firehouse’s cook. Soon enough, he was preparing all of our meals.

That is, until we moved to a new condo that had a wonderful kitchen. It was there, two years prior to my being hired at the church, that I discovered my absolute love of cooking. Turns out, I not only love cooking, I’m told my food is worth eating! (That’s a total plus!)

Just after I was hired, I learned of an opening to aid in the Wednesday Fellowship Meal prep. I am ALWAYS and I mean ALWAYS on the hunt for side job experiences, so I immediately signed us up! (Poor Charlie. He’s sooo stuck with “a joiner”.)

Long story short, after the first season, we ended up taking over the entire meal preparation. That means we decide what to make, we shop for our ingredients, we prepare the food, we help to serve the food and do the dishes and it’s darned hard work. I joke all the time that,”It’s ALWAYS Wednesday in our life”. I feel like it’s true! It’s also true that it’s like planning a huge party once a week and for this reason, I adore it!

A lot of times, I adapt recipes that Charlie and I make at home in order to share with the church. This tortellini casserole is something I saw on TV long ago. It seemed so easy. I made it for us and we loved it, so I figured out an easier way to make if for the church.

I will give you the original recipe and then I will tell you how to tweak it for a crowd! But first, meet my hubs, Charlie Alfredo! LOL!

Charlie Tortellini

 

Bacon Roasted Chicken Tortellini

Makes 8-10 servings.

½-20 oz. pkg.  Hardwood Smoked Bacon

1 pkg. Chicken Breast (about 1 ¾ lb.)

½ tsp. Kosher Salt

½ tsp. Garlic Italian Seasoning

1/2 tsp. Dried basil

¼ tsp.  Coarse Ground Black Pepper

2-19 oz. pkgs. Frozen Cheese Tortellini (I always go for the tri-color variety. It’s just prettier)

1-12 oz. pkg. Frozen Peas

2-16.9 oz. pkgs. Alfredo Sauce (at home, I make my own, but use jarred if you are scared!)

6 slices Provolone Cheese

Preheat oven to 375° & lightly spray a 9″X13″ casserole dish with pan release.

Layout bacon on a baking sheet & bake until crisp (about 15 minutes or so).

Remove bacon from baking sheet & move onto a paper towel lined plate to drain. Do not discard the grease from the baking sheet.

Season both sides of the chicken breast with salt, Italian seasoning & black pepper. Place directly on the already hot baking sheet. Flip chicken so that bacon grease is now on both sides of the chicken. Roast chicken for 10 minutes & then flip. Roast another 10 minutes & check for doneness. The chicken should read 165 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. Remove from oven & let rest on your cutting board for 3-5 minutes before slicing into thin strips.

In a large mixing bowl, combine sliced chicken, tortellini, peas & both jars of Alfredo. Crumbled the bacon over top & toss well to combine.

Pour mixture into your prepared casserole dish. Cover top with sliced provolone cheese. Bake for 25 minutes covered with foil & then 10 minutes uncovered. The casserole should be hot, bubbly, and browned on top.

Tortellini casserole

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Yeah okay, that’s how we made it at home.

For church (or a large group), skip frying the bacon and doing the chicken in the bacon fat. Instead, go to the market and buy prepared chicken. You can find frozen chopped chicken as well OR buy a rotisserie chicken OR boil some chicken tenders. AND for the bacon, buy frozen, chopped bacon OR buy already prepared bacon and chop it up. Skip the entire part about cooking all this stuff and just add it in with the other ingredients.

THE BEST part about this recipe is that you NEVER have to cook the tortellini; just dump it in as is. Oh and…it’s DELICIOUS,too!!!

PS- Tomorrow’s recipe will be “Zucchini Leak Pie”! Don’t miss it!

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Breakfast Burritos ala Bobbe. My first video.

Breakfast on Thanksgiving was delicious and a personal favorite: breakfast burritos ala Bobbe! Rater than repost the recipe, I decided to try to make my first video!

Trying to teach myself how to do videos. This is too slow, but it’s a good first try.

This was Thanksgiving Day breakfast. I have posted the recipe before. The key to these things is not to skip the step of heating and browning in a medium heated pan. Don’t worry if you burn them a little either; that’s extra flavor!

I will be back next week with some new recipes and blogs. Hubs and I catered a Wedding for 250 people last weekend, so this little blog of mine had to take a backseat for a time.

Here are some pictures of what we did. I was very pleased with the results. It was all simple food, but we made it beautiful.

Hi Gang! Just a Note!

Just poking my head in the door to say hello and that I’ll be back soon!

Just thought I’d pop on and say a quick hello! I am catering a Wedding this weekend, so I have been MIA here for a week. Not to worry! I will be back next week (or sooner) with all sorts of fun appetizers and some easy peasy recipes to use during the Holidays.

Today at church we’ll be serving up some meatball stroganoff over egg noodles with a side of glazed carrots. I’ll be posting this recipe in the days to come.

Meanwhile, I miss you all and thank you for the continued support!

I’d love it if you would subscribe to this blog if you haven’t already done so and pick your favorite recipe and share it. That would be GREAT!

Love to all!

Bobbe

Oh, Those Hot (Not Spicy) Italians! (Sliders, of course!)

Lately I have become crazy about any kind of sandwich. I don’t know if it’s a phase or what, but when I think of comfort food, my thoughts turn right to sliders and then my mouth starts to water!

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Last week when I pre-ordered the supplies for our Wednesday Night Fellowship Meal catering job, I made a mistake. (At least, this is what they tell me.) My original menu idea had been soups and sandwiches, but at the last minute I was inspired to make something else. I thought I’d cancelled my soup order, but when I got to the store, it was there. The store had ordered it in, so they informed me that I had to take it. Graciously, they agreed to store it for me until this week.

Long about 2:00 AM Wednesday morning, I started popping around Pinterest, looking for inspiration for my menu. My tomato basil soup is pretty yummy, so I already knew I’d be making this to go along with the home-style chicken noodle waiting for me at the store. I wanted to try some type of slider we’d not done before, so I settled on a version of an Italian slider I found on Pinterest.

The first step is to lay out all of your rolls in greased pans, taking the tops off. Then I made a softened butter mixture that included fresh basil and thyme (from my garden), granulated garlic, and dried Italian Seasoning.

Next is a layer of smoked ham. It’s important to fold the pieces so each sandwich has volume and texture to it. No one wants to bite into a flat meat sandwich. Yuck!

Next is a layer of pepperoni.

Then, a layer of your favorite Salami. This is Genoa.

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Then a layer of Roasted Red pepper. In the interest of time, I used a jarred variety. Were I making this at home, however, I’d have roasted my own peppers.

Then a layer of smokey provolone cheese. (We cut ours into squarish shapes- you don’t have to.)

The next time I make these, I will add one more layer which will be caramelized onions. I planned on doing it this time, but completely forgot about the onions I left in the car! Here, you simply replace the lids and then the fun part is drizzling a mixture of melted butter, Italian seasoning, garlic and Parmesan cheese over the top. Use a pastry brush to ensure every part of the sandwich is covered in butter.

Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. I like to start them off covered for 15 minutes, then finish them uncovered for 5.

We paired these with a choice of tomato basil bisque or chicken noodle soup and a garden salad with sliced mushrooms and artichoke quarters. It was yummy and very very easy to do.

If you have a crowd to feed, sliders are the greatest option!


Ingredients
1-2 sticks of butter
2 Tbsp. freshly chopped basil (optional)
1 Tbsp. freshly chopped thyme (optional)
1-2 Tbsp. Dried Italian herbs (more if needed)
1-2 Tbsp. granulated garlic (more if needed)
1 package of sliced Hawaiian Type rolls. (I used a generic version.) 1 dozen.
1 package of Smoked Ham
1 package of large Pepperoni Slices
1 package of large Salami Slices
1 package of Smokey Provolone slices
1 jar of Roasted Red peppers (at home I would roast my own, but not for a huge crowd)

Directions
Preheat oven to 375.
Grease a baking pan and lay the bottoms of the rolls inside.
In a bowl combine one stick of softened butter with half the herbs of your choice.
Spread the butter mixture over the bottoms of the rolls.
Layer as follows:
1. Folded Ham Slices
2. Pepperoni
3. Salami
4. Roasted Red Peppers
5. Provolone Cheese
6. Put the tops back on.
Melt the remaining butter, add the herbs and then drizzle this over the tops of the buns being careful to coat each one.
Bake covered at 375 degrees for 15 minutes. Uncover and bake 5 minutes more or until the cheese is melted and the tops of the rolls are a little bit brown but NOT hard.

Cauliflower Fried Rice

I didn’t believe anything could taste as great as fried rice. Trust me, you won’t know this is cauliflower!

When the whole “substitute everything with cauliflower” craze began, I sat there shaking my head, no, no, no. My thoughts? “Yeah RIGHT, this stuff will taste like mashed potatoes”; “Yeah RIGHT, this stuff will taste like rice”, etc. I have tried to like mashed cauliflower, but I don’t. Occasionally, I really like roasted cauliflower, but it’s not something I ever crave, and I mean, EVER. Cauliflower fried rice, however, always leaves me happily satisfied and it’s a dish I make regularly.

(Surprise, it actually does taste like rice!)

This recipe is one that easily lends itself to substitution. I usually just add in whatever vegetables I have on hand; or whatever I think looks pretty; or whatever I have a taste for. Get it? You can use WHATEVER you want. The only rule is that you use the cauliflower in place of rice!

So here I have scrambled four eggs to begin with:

Once they were finished, I removed them to a plate, added in a little more olive oil and then sautéed some chopped onions. (Why? Because I love them.)

Once the onions were translucent, I added in my riced cauliflower. (I always buy this raw, prepared in a bag, but you can use a food processor to get the same result.) I don’t know why I did not get a photo of just the cauliflower, but I didn’t. Just imagine onions and riced cauliflower in a pan.

When the cauliflower and onions are in, I added a few splashes of toasted sesame oil and some minced ginger. Stir, stir, stir and when you are tired of stirring, stir some more. The object is to get the cauliflower cooked through, but you also want to get a little bit of caramelization going. When the cauliflower has softened, knock yourself out adding in whatever vegetables you love. Here I added some frozen peas and carrots and some left over sautéed onions and peppers.

Once your veggies are all in and warmed through, salt and pepper again, add in some more sesame oil and soy sauce, and continue stirring.

Finally, fold back in those yummy scrambled eggs. See that word I used? Fold. That’s fancy. It means to be very gentle so as not to kill the pretty scrambled curds. Dump in the eggs, then using your spatula, scrap the bottom of the pan, folding the contents on top of the eggs until they are incorporated but still in tact.

See how you can still see the pretty eggs?

The entire reason I made this dish was because whenever I make Ahi Tuna, I think it needs to have an Asian flavor to it. I have no idea where this comes from, but oh well. So here you have the finished dish with the tuna (and too much hot sauce on top!) I garnished with fresh cilantro because this lives and thrives in our kitchen 100% of the year.


Ingredients:

1 bag riced cauliflower

4 eggs, scrambled

Half a bag of frozen peas and carrots

1 onion chopped

2 Tbsp butter

2 Tbsp olive oil

1/2 c. Soy sauce

1/4 cup toasted sesame oil

Salt & pepper to taste

1/8 c. Chopped fresh ginger

NOTE: Vegetables are literally ANYTHING else you like. The only thing to remember is that if it’s raw, cook it before you add it in. Every time I make this, it’s a little different based on what I have in the fridge. (See below for photos of the last time I made this, which was last night!)

Directions:

Scramble eggs over medium high heat in 1 Tbsp Olive oil & 1 Tbsp butter. Remove to a separate dish.

Sauté onion to translucent in same pan. Add in 1 Tbsp Olive oil and 1 Tbsp butter, Salt and pepper.

Add in raw cauliflower, 1/2 the soy sauce, 1/2 the sesame oil, 1/2 the ginger. Stir continually to ensure everything is coated in the soy sauce and sesame oil. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Once the cauliflower is softened and browned a little bit, add in frozen peas and carrots, the rest of the ginger and whatever else you want to add. Salt and pepper. Stir and then add in the second part of the soy sauce and sesame oil.

Don’t forget to savor the aroma. It seriously smells so good!

Vegetable Tartlets! Beautiful and Delicious!

I catered a cocktail party the other day and my clients wanted a vegetarian option. We decided on vegetable tarts, mainly because they are delicious, but also because they are so pretty!

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I catered a cocktail party the other day and tarts were on the menu. I thought long and hard about what kind to make and in the end, I decided on making individual ones because they make a better presentation. I am all about doing things that are beautiful but I don’t bake, so I always opt for pre-made crusts. I was aiming to use Pepperidge Farm tartlets, but of course, I didn’t discover until I was about to bake, that I had actually purchased SHELLS instead. (Shells are bigger than tartlets.) Of course this made me panic, but I decided to bake a few of them to see what happened and to my surprise, I liked how they looked.

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Translate this to, “I don’t want to have to go to the store to start over, so I’m going with this!” It’s hard to tell from this photo but these things are about the size of cupcakes. I was really in search of something half this size. Anyway, they baked up really nicely (18 minutes tops). So that first step was simple.

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Second step is to fill these bad boys with my ricotta mixture. (Ricotta mixed with grated Fontina, Italian spices, lemon zest, a little fresh grated Parmesan cheese & a pinch of nutmeg.)

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Then comes a layer of caramelized onions. We made a huge pot of these the day before, but you can make them whenever you want.

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Toppings come next. We sliced these using a mandolin set on the thinnest setting. The way to make tarts work is to try to get as much of the liquid out of your vegetables as possible. We sliced these, laid them out on paper towels, the sprinkled them with salt and let them sit for half an hour. After this, we patted them dry and they were ready to use.

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I made the little shapes simply by folding my zucchini medallions in half and then in half again. I loved how they turned out. Once you are satisfied with how you’ve decorated your tarts, paint on some garlic olive oil and bake for just about 10 minutes. The key here to remember is that the shells are already baked,so you must be careful not to brown them too much.

Also, I made a huge mistake and covered them after I was finished with them. I wanted them to be warm and poof, they got soggy. These are best served pretty soon OR just leave them out at room temp and if you must warm them, throw them in the oven uncovered, just prior to serving.


Ingredients:

  • 2 package of Pepperidge Farm Puffed Pastry Shells (6 come in a package)
  • 1 c. Ricotta Cheese
  • 1 c. freshly grated Fontina Cheese (you can substitute shredded Swiss cheese)
  • 1/2 freshly grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 3/4 Teaspoon Italian Seasoning
  • 1 Tbsp Fresh Lemon Zest
  • 1 Teaspoon nutmeg
  • 3 onions chopped and caramelized
  • 3-4 Zucchini sliced paper thin
  • 1-2 plum tomatoes diced or sliced (depends on how you want to use them to decorate)
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 3 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Smash your garlic and combine it with 2 Tbsp olive oil. Set aside.
  3. Pre-bake the pastry shells according to package directions.
  4. Slice the zucchini and tomatoes using a mandolin. Lay out on paper towels, sprinkle with salt. Leave them out for at least 30 minutes, then blot them dry as possible using more paper towels.
  5. Thinly slice the onions, saute low and slow in a pan with 2 Tbsp butter & 1 Tbsp Olive oil until they slowly brown and become caramelized. Set aside to cool. (This step can be done a day or two before. Just store them in an air tight container in the refrigerator.)
  6. In a bowl, combine the Ricotta, Fontina, Parmesan cheese, Italian Seasoning, lemon zest, nutmeg and salt & pepper to taste.
  7. Assemble the tarts by starting with a layer of the cheese, then the onions, then arrange your vegetables how you like them. Brush with garlic olive oil and bake uncovered about ten minutes.

**These tarts can sit on the counter up to 2 hours prior to being cooked.**

**Serve warm or at room temperature.

Click here to see another version on this tart.