Thursday, February 21, 2013

Comfort for the Sickies....

So we are trying to shake the sickies over at my house…..How about you?  We’ve all had a horrendous cold, or something along the lines of that.  When I am sick, I crave soup.  Not because of its supposed healing properties, but because I find it comforting.  Especially if I have a stuffy nose or a sore throat.  However, when I am sick….I don’t want to put any time into cooking.  I need something quick and easy. 

Today I am going to show you how I make my super quick and easy Roasted Butternut Squash and Apple Soup.  This soup is so easy, you could easily bust a batch out while fighting a fever, helping your kid blow their nose, or even after a hard day at work.  This soup is warm, sweet and savory at the same time, and it tastes rich….but it is actually pretty healthy.

I start by roasting butternut squash and a peeled green apple in the oven.  And no, I don’t cut my own butternut squash.  That’s hard, y’all.  I buy the already cubed squash that is near the bagged salads at the grocery store.  It is already diced up for me in pretty teeny tiny pieces.  I take those pieces and thrown them on a baking sheet with my peeled diced apple.  I drizzle some olive oil over the tops and then sprinkle on some salt and pepper.  This roasts for about twenty minutes at 400 degrees, or until the squash and apple are browned and delicious.

In the meantime, I toss some diced onion and a clove or two of garlic into a soup pot.  I sauté this until the onion is soft and translucent.  Then, I add some dried sage and stir that all around too.  I toss in the roasted squash and apple and some salt and pepper.  Finally, I add some chicken stock and let this all come to a boil.  See?  This soup is super simple with just a few ingredients….but I promise, it will be amazing.

Once the soup has simmered for a few minutes, it is time to blend it.  I use my immersion blender, but you could use a blender or a food processor….whatever is easiest for you.  I like my soup to be velvety smooth.  I think that this type of soup should be, but really, it’s your call.  The last step is to stir some nonfat plain Greek yogurt into your blended soup to really make it smooth and creamy.  You could use heavy cream, but why not lighten it up?  You can’t taste the difference.

I top my soup with some dried cranberries and crunchy walnuts.  This is, of course, optional.  But I find that the crunchy nuts are the perfect topper to a creamy soup.

What goes best with a steamy bowl of soup?  A sandwich, of course.  I like to serve my soup with a grilled turkey, cheese and apple sandwich.  This way I use up another apple that I already bought for the soup.  I like to keep this sandwich light too.  Let me show you what I use.

I like to layer Laughing Cow Swiss Flavored spreadable cheese on some healthy wheat bread.  Have you had it?  It’s only On top of that, I layer on turkey, thinly sliced green apple and arugula.  I grill this sandwich in a skillet with just a touch of butter.


Yum!  Nothing better than a hot bowl of soup and a yummy cheesy sandwich!  It didn’t make our colds go away, but it sure made me feel better about the never ending stream of coughing, nose blowing, not sleeping etc. that is going on around here.

Have a great weekend everybody!  I’ll see you back here next week.

Roasted Butternut and Apple Soup

12 ounces butternut squash, (I use Mann’s diced and peeled)

1 green apple, diced and peeled

2 tablespoons olive oil

½ a white onion, diced

1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon dried rubbed sage

1 teaspoon salt, divided

½ teaspoon black pepper, divided

3 cups chicken stock

½ cup nonfat plain Green yogurt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Spread squash and apple on a baking sheet.  Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil, ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper.  Roast at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or until squash and apple is browned.  Set aside.

In a soup pot, sauté onion, garlic and sage in remaining olive oil.  Sauté over medium heat for about five minutes, or until onion is soft and translucent.  Add salt, pepper and roasted squash and apple to the pot.  Stir in chicken stock.  Bring soup to a boil over medium heat.  Let simmer for an additional 10 minutes.

Blend soup with an immersion blender until smooth.  Add yogurt and heat through.

Serve with dried cranberries and walnuts.

Serves 4.

Grilled Turkey, Apple and Cheese Sandwich

8 slices honey wheat bread

4 Laughing Cow Swiss Flavored Spreadable Cheese wedges

12 ounces sliced deli turkey

1 green apple, sliced thinly

1 ½ cups arugula

Butter for grilling

In a large skillet, melt about 2 teaspoons butter.

Layer spreadable cheese, turkey, apple and arugula evenly over 4 slices of bread.  Top each sandwich with remaining 4 slices of bread.

Grill sandwiches in melted butter over medium high heat, about 3 to 4 minutes per side.

Serves 4

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's Breakfast

Ahhhhh, Valentine’s Day….A day for love.  And for me, a day for eating.  Right?  Most of us go out to eat for Valentine’s Day, or make a special meal at home.  When you are kidless, you go out for a long, romantic dinner.  When you have kids, things change dramatically.  I’ve found that staying home and cooking a special meal is the way to go.  We don’t have to get dressed up, I don’t have to wrestle my kids to brush their hair, and I don’t have to scream at them to stop hitting each other in public.  Win/win.

This year, Valentine’s Day falls on a school night.  It’s tomorrow for those of you that are mentally blocking what day it falls on this year.  I won’t be cooking a special dinner.  Between work, school, homework, etc. I would just feel too rushed.  This year, we are going to have a special Valentine’s Day breakfast.  I am going to make my amazing Red Velvet Pancakes with a Cream Cheese Glaze, Candied Bacon and my “Love Potion”.  I know my kids will love it, and it will be a great start to V-day.

Let’s start with my Candied Bacon.  I know most of you think that bacon can’t get any better.  It can.  I love bacon as much as the next guy, but I am a freak over this candied version.  It is sweet, salty and crunchy.  It’s everything you could want in a breakfast meat.

I start with thick cut bacon.  I coat the bacon in a combination of Gourmet Rooster Carolina Style BBQ sauce and brown sugar.  The BBQ sauce is a mustardy sauce that doesn’t have tomatoes in it.  It is slightly spicy, sweet and tangy.  If you can’t get this sauce, you can totally substitute Dijon mustard.

Once the bacon is sufficiently coated, I bake the bacon on a wire rack placed over a baking sheet.  I bake the bacon until it is browned and super crispy.  Your house will smell amazing.

This bacon is like nothing you’ve had before.  The mustard and brown sugar combine together into something magical.  You will love it.

My Red Velvet pancakes are ridiculously easy.  Why, you ask?  Because I use pancake mix!  I mix the pancake mix with buttermilk, eggs, unsweetened cocoa powder, sugar and red food coloring.  Basically, I follow the directions from the back of the box, but I sub in buttermilk for the regular milk and add in the cocoa and coloring.  A red velvet cake has buttermilk, cocoa powder and food coloring in it, so it’s pretty much the same….just in pancake form.  And it is fast to make…just like a regular pancake.

The Cream Cheese Glaze is cream cheese melted into whole milk with some sugar and a splash of vanilla extract.  The cream cheese melts into a thick yummy sauce.  I could eat this stuff on a shoe and be happy.  It really is the perfect topper to Red Velvet Pancakes….after all, a good red velvet cake always has cream cheese frosting.


Finally, every good breakfast needs a drink, right?  My “Love Potion” is strawberry nectar, peach nectar and lemon lime soda.  For the grown-ups, I use champagne instead of the lemon lime soda….usually.  This Valentine’s Day we will all enjoy this “mocktail”.  It’s a work/school day!


My kids love this drink.  It is sweet and fruity fresh.  The soda makes it fizzy and fancy.  And it is the prettiest shade of pink!

I hope you have a great Valentine’s Day with all of your loves.  I also hope you try one or two of these recipes!

Courtney’s Candied Bacon

1 pound thick cut bacon

¼ cup Gourmet Rooster Caroline Style BBQ Sauce

¼ cup light brown sugar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Arrange on a wire rack placed over a baking sheet that has been lined with foil, without overlapping.

In a separate bowl, mix together brown sugar and BBQ sauce until well combined.  Top each bacon slice with sugar/BBQ sauce mixture, evenly coating each piece.

Bake for about 25 minutes at 400 degrees, or until bacon is browned and crispy.

Serves 6

Red Velvet Pancakes

2 cups pancake mix (Bisquick)

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa

¼ cup sugar

1 ¼ cup buttermilk

2 eggs

.75 ounce red food coloring

Butter for pan

Preheat skillet or griddle over medium heat.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together pancake mix, cocoa, sugar, buttermilk and eggs.  Once blended, stir in red food coloring until desired color is reached.

Coat skillet or griddle with butter. Ladle pancake batter onto hot skillet (about ¼ a cup at a time).  Cook until pancakes look dry on the tops and edges are starting to bubble.  Flip pancakes with a spatula and cook an additional 2-3 minutes or until pancakes are cooked through.

Top with cream cheese glaze.

Serves 6

Cream Cheese Glaze

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

1 cup whole milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons sugar

In a sauce pan, melt cream cheese into milk over medium heat, whisking frequently (about 5 minutes).  Once glaze is smooth, whisk in sugar and vanilla extract.  Cook until sugar is dissolved.

Love Potion

2 cups Kern’s Strawberry Nectar

2 cups Kern’s Peach Nectar

1 cup Lemon Lime Soda

Mix together in a large pitcher.  Serve chilled.

Serves 4-6

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Fat Tuesday Fun!

Laissez les bon temps rouler….

English translation: Let the good times roll! Yep, it’s almost Mardi Gras! Fat Tuesday is February 12th. Fat Tuesday is THE day to celebrate Mardi Gras. To most of us, Mardi Gras is New Orleans, beads, lots of alcohol, etc…... But it really is a religious event. Fat Tuesday is the last day of “feasting” before Lent starts the next day…..Ash Wednesday. And yes, I had to look all of that up. And btw-there are so many more images of Mardi Gras that I would like to fill your head with…..but this is a family show, people.

I have always loved Mardi Gras because of the food. I love a good excuse to eat some Cajun food! I usually have a Mardi Gras party the weekend before Fat Tuesday. I don’t think I’ll do that this year, but I still want to share with you some recipes that I normally make. Today I will show you how to make delicious “Princess” Jambalaya and Muffaletta Sliders. So whip up a batch of Hurricanes and let’s get started.

According to the smarty-pants at Wikipedia, a Muffaletta Sandwich is the official sandwich of New Orleans. It is usually on a round Italian loaf of bread, and has an olive salad on it that soaks into the bread and makes it all salty and delicious. It usually also contains salami, ham and provolone cheese.

I went a different direction with my Muffaletta. Perhaps this is sacrilegious to those from New Orleans, but I wanted to make mine tiny. I wanted appetizer size sliders. Please don’t be mad if you only like ‘em big….This is just my take on it

I chose little Hawaiian sweet rolls for my bread. True, this isn’t as crusty and thick as Italian bread, but I toast mine to make it crustier. Also, if the bread is a bit crusty….the olive salad won’t make the sandwich soggy.

I also used salami, ham and provolone cheese, which get layered right on top of the crusty rolls.  On top of the meat, I spread a mixture of olive tapenade and “Italian Style” jarred Giardiniera that I had pulsed together in my food processor.  I put the sandwiches lids back on and threw them all under the broiler to melt the cheese.


Just like a Muffaletta but oh so cute and tiny! I think these are perfect for a Mardi Gras party. They scream New Orleans, but they are easy to pick up and eat while you are holding a Hurricane in your other hand.

On to my “Princess” Jambalaya….Jambalaya is a Cajun (actually Creole if you want to get technical) specialty, sort of like paella or stew.  In my house we call it “Princess” Jambalaya. There is a certain Disney movie that features a beautiful “princess” that is from New Orleans. This princess also cooks, and I am sure she loves jambalaya. I am not going to name names because I don’t want to be sued by the good people at Disney. I am sure you can figure out who she is…..

And yes, I call it that because it makes my kids more likely to eat it.

The jambalaya starts with sausage.  If I was feeding adults, I would use Andouille, which is a Cajun spicy sausage.  If I am feeding kids, which I normally am, I use a milder sausage.  I slice the sausage up and brown it in a big pot.  Then, I take the sausage out and brown up some chicken thighs. 

Once all the meat is cooked, I start on the veggies, which are onion, celery, bell peppers and garlic.  I let the veggies get soft and then I add chicken stock, hot sauce, a can of crushed tomatoes, a bay leaf and Cajun seasoning.  Once this delicious mixture comes to a boil, I add some rice and let it go for about 25 minutes.

For the last step, I add some defrosted okra that I found in the freezer section of my grocery store.  I let that heat through for about five minutes.


That’s it!  This is such an easy “one pot” meal.  It makes a ton, and it really is a crowd pleaser.  This is perfect for a party.  This jambalaya really is so yummy and satisfying….and you can finally say you’ve tried okra!

Happy Mardi Gras!

Muffaletta Sliders


12 Hawaiian Sweet Rolls


1 cup olive tapenade


½ cup Italian Giardiniera, finely chopped


9 slices provolone cheese


9 slices deli ham


18 slices salami


Preheat broiler.


Slice Hawaiian rolls horizontally. Spread one half with tapenade and giardiniera that has been blended together in a food processor. Top other half with meats and cheese.


Broil both halves for about 2 minutes, or until bread is crusty and starting to brown. Cheese should be starting to bubble.


Place top halves back on bottom half and pull sandwiches apart. Serve warm.


Makes 12 mini sandwiches


Princess Jambalaya

1 pound sausage, (Smoked, Andouille, Kielbasa, etc.) chopped into bite sized pieces

1 ½ pounds chicken thighs, chopped into bite sized pieces

2 celery stalks, diced

2 bell peppers, diced (any color)

1 medium white onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 bay leaf

1 Tablespoon Cajun or Creole Seasoning

1 can crushed tomatoes, 28 ounces

2 cups chicken stock

1 cup rice, uncooked

1 cup frozen diced okra, defrosted

Hot sauce, to taste

Green onions, for garnish

In a large (5 quart) pot, brown sausage and chicken in a 2 tablespoons of oil, turning frequently. Once meat is browned, remove from pan and set aside. To pot, add garlic, celery, bell pepper and white onion. Add Cajun/creole seasoning. Sauté veggies for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add crushed tomatoes, chicken stock, and bay leaf.  Stir. Add hot sauce to taste. Add meat back into pot. Bring mixture to a boil and add rice. Cover and cook, over medium heat, for 25 minutes.

After 25 minutes, add okra. Cover and cook additional 5 minutes. Garnish with green onions.

Serves 8