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:

What’s that? Eggplant Disguised as BACON?

Let it be known that I have always hated eggplant. I made this recipe and I can now say that I was wrong. There is ONE way I’ll eat it and this is when it’s disguised as bacon! This stuff is great. Here’s how easy it is to make!

This will be short and sweet.

Make this. You will be shocked over how great it is!

The End.

PS- You’re welcome

Slice up the eggplant, paint the sauce on both sides and bake! How much easier can it be?


Ingredients:

1 medium eggplant

2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

2 tbsp. soy sauce

1 tsp. Hot sauce

1/2 tsp. smoked paprika

1/2 tsp. Liquid Smoke

Freshly ground black pepper

NOTE: Some people use maple syrup in this recipe. I really do not use a lot of sweet in my recipes so I left it out. If you want it, however, use 1/4 teaspoon.

Directions:

1 Preheat oven to 400°.

2 Slice eggplant lengthwise into just shy of quarter inch thick strips. Cut off the skin. (It’s easier than peeling ahead of time)

3 In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, soy sauce, hot sauce, smoked paprika, and liquid smoke. (Maple syrup optional)

4 Place eggplant slices onto a baking sheet and brush both sides with sauce. Season with cracked pepper.

5 Bake until eggplant is cooked through and beginning to get crisp, 35 – 40 minutes.

Enjoy!

See ya tomorrow!

Who Doesn’t love a Kicked Up Grilled Cheese?

Hubs and I decided to make Halloween night a night of favorite comfort food indulgence. What’s better than a fancy grilled cheese, right!?

Hubs and I are usually very regimented when it comes to our meals. He is a body builder, and I am on a never-ending mission to lose weight. We don’t indulge in breads much, because I could eat an entire loaf in one sitting and most commercial breads have a lot of hidden sugar in them. (We try to limit our sugar intake as well.)

Halloween night we were both feeling like doing something fun, so after some discussion, we landed on the option of grilled cheese. When we both let out a simultaneous, “Yuuuummmmmmmm!”, I knew we’d reached our decision.

The next half hour consisted of salivating over the different ways we could amp up this dish. We decided on thinly sliced zucchini, thinly sliced tomato, Swiss and Cheddar cheeses, caramelized onions, freshly chopped basil, yellow mustard and of course some great bread: thick cut sour dough (my favorite).

I confess to being distracted by trick-or-treaters, (or at least the sounds of them), so I didn’t photograph every step. I have to say, with conviction, that everyone should already know how to make a basic grilled cheese! It’s absolutely not rocket science! I have faith you all do!

You should have all of your ingredients gathered together holding hands next to the pan, because once the bread goes down, you want to work quickly so you don’t burn it.

I started by buttering one side of each bread slice. (I always use REAL butter, anything else is unhealthy.) Then I heated a cast iron skillet to medium-high, melted some more butter and about a Tbsp of olive oil, and placed the first piece of bread butter-side down in the pan. These were big slices of bread, so I did one sandwich at a time. I let the bread sit in the pan for about a minute, turned the heat down a tad, then added my first layer of cheese (Swiss volunteered to be first.) Then I sprinkled on a little yellow mustard.

Then came the thinly sliced Roma tomatoes. (We used the mandolin set on super thin to do these these and the zucchini. If you don’t have a mandolin, slice the tomatoes as thinly as possible. You can use a vegetable peeler to pull off long strips of zucchini instead of medallions.) Just like we did with the tarts, we salted them and left them out on paper towels for half an hour to get the water out of them. Blot them dry before you use them.

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Like I said, I didn’t photograph all of my steps so just use your imagination or squint while you look at the next photos. AFTER the tomatoes, I sprinkled on some shredded sharp cheddar, then came the zucchini. I also failed to mention that I season at every turn. So here you can see some freshly cracked pepper. Don’t use salt on the vegetables because you don’t want any more liquid coming out making your sammie soggy. (Sammie soggy; Say that five times fast! -Sammie-soggy, Sammie-soggy, Sammie-soggy…)

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I totally failed at getting the photo of the BEST part and that is the sprinkling of caramelized onions. We keep those on hand most of the time, so I just pulled mine out of the fridge and used them cold. Then a sprinkling of freshly chopped basil, more Swiss and the top goes on.

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By now it’s time to flip because I’m certain the bottom is golden brown. (I forgot to say this earlier. I didn’t do it this time, but it would have been great to have sprinkled a little granulated garlic or garlic salt in that butter before it went in the pan.)

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Yup. Right on the money.

Cut that thing of beauty in half and pair it with your favorite soup! This is tomato-basil, but I confess that I bought it prepared at my local deli.  No recipe for this today, but I’ll post mine soon.


Do you really NEED a recipe for this?

Ingredients:

• 4 pieces thick cut sour dough bread
• Enough real softened butter to coat one side of each piece of bread (you do the math)
• 1 Tbsp real butter & 1 Tbsp olive oil (for melting in the skillet)
• 1 zucchini sliced as thinly as humanly possible.
• 3 Roma tomatoes sliced like the zucchini
• 4 Tbsp caramelized onions
• 8 pieces of pre-sliced Swiss Cheese
• ½-3/4 c. shredded sharp cheddar cheese
• 2 Tbsp prepared yellow mustard
• Salt & pepper to taste

Directions:

1. Slice your vegetables and lay them out on paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and let them rest for half an hour. Then blot them dry with more paper towels.

2. Spread softened butter onto one side of each piece of bread.

3. Assemble all ingredients prior to putting the first slice in the pan.

4. Heat a cast iron skillet to medium high and melt 1-2 Tbsp butter & 1 Tbsp olive oil in the pan.

5. Put the first slice in, butter-side down, let it sit about 30 seconds.

6. Layer your ingredients: Swiss cheese, mustard, tomatoes, cheddar cheese, zucchini, caramelized onions, more Swiss cheese, then the other piece of bread.

7. Flip and press down. Sandwich is done when the cheese is melted and the outsides are golden brown. Salt and pepper the outside while still hot.

 

Marinated Ham & Cheese Sammies with Caramelized Onions! Delicious!

ne day I was talking to one of my sweet “church ladies” lamenting the fact that I couldn’t figure out what to serve to one of my regular catering gigs. She suggested…

sliders

One day I was talking to one of my sweet “church ladies” lamenting the fact that I couldn’t figure out what to serve to one of my regular catering gigs. She suggested I pull out one of the church cookbooks to see if I could find something and sure enough, I found these little bundles of gooey goodness! I’ve tweaked the recipe to suit myself.

These sandwiches are a hit wherever I take them. What’s best is that they are simple to make and they can feed a huge crowd and bonus, they are even better the second day!

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I was feeding about sixty people this day so I had multiple trays of these going. First, you start by removing the tops of your rolls. Most people prefer to use Hawaiian rolls. I use a variety of this roll but mine is not as sweet.
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Spread a thin layer of Dijon mustard across the bottom. If you hate Dijon, you can use regular yellow mustard. (If you hate mustard…well there is no hope for you. -kidding- just use what you like!)
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Next I added Swiss cheese, then black forest ham, then cheese, then ham. (You can use turkey, or even roast beef here. USE WHAT YOU LIKE.) I prefer Swiss cheese on these, however. It provides a tang that other cheeses don’t have. Buy the best Swiss you can find.
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What completely makes these sliders are the caramelized onions. They add a richness and a sweetness that people talk about. Trust me, you don’t want to make these without the onions!
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Guess what is happening here? Tops are back on and the yummy marinade has been poured and brushed on them. Those little specks are poppy seeds. You can choose to leave them off if you wish but they do add another element to this dish.
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Told you I was making a bunch!

And there you have it. With football season on top of us, these would be perfect to take to a tailgating party!!

Enjoy!


Ingredients:

Marinade Ingredients:
3/4 Cup Melted Butter
1 1/2 TBSP Dijon Mustard
1 1/2 Teaspoons Worcestershire Sauce
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 1/2 TBSP poppy seeds

24 Hawaiian rolls, sliced (or something equivalent)
1 pound sliced Ham (I use black forest)
1 pound swiss cheese sliced.
Caramelized Onions (obviously you need to make these ahead of time)
1 jar Dijon mustard (or whole grain mustard would be good too!)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). (Grease a 9×13-inch baking dish.)

In a bowl, mix together butter, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, poppy seeds, and dried onion. Separate the tops from bottoms of the rolls, and place the bottom pieces into the prepared baking dish. Brush a thin layer of Dijon mustard over the bottom layer. Layer the cheese and ham. Add a generous spoonful or more of the caramelized onions. Place the tops of the rolls onto the sandwiches. Pour the mustard mixture evenly over the rolls. (I always use a brush to ensure every part of the rolls have enough marinade.)

Sprinkle a few more poppy seeds around. It’s fun.

Bake in the preheated oven until the rolls are lightly browned and the cheese has melted, about 20 minutes. Slice into individual rolls through the ham and cheese layers to serve.