Broccoli Cheddar Soup (from my garden)

So I harvested all of my garlic yesterday as well as several zucchini and cucumbers but only one summer squash and a few tomatoes and a couple of onions. We have been getting broccoli pretty steady for a couple of weeks now. My garlic ended up with pretty small bulbs but there are 68 of them so I think we should be OK for a bit. I need to figure out how to grow larger bulbs; the small ones don’t really keep very well. Once it cures for a couple of weeks I will probably have to peel and freeze all of it. Once frozen the only way to use it is crushed but I do that more than anything else so I am pretty OK with it.

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Broccoli Cheddar

 

 

 

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Chicken Divan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Broccoli really doesn’t keep very long in the fridge once harvested so I had to do something with it. I have already frozen a couple of gallon bags so this morning I decide to make something with it. I love broccoli cheddar soup so that took care of some of it and my son loves Chicken Divan so that took care of the rest. We had the soup for lunch and the divan is actually in the oven as I type.

 

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Broccoli Cheddar Soup

1 TBS melted butter

1 medium onion chopped

¼ cup melted butter

¼ cup flour

1 Cup half and half

1 Cup milk

2 cups chicken stock

Head of broccoli (use less if you want) trimmed

1 cup julienne carrot

¼ tsp nutmeg

8 ounces grated good sharp cheddar cheese

Salt and pepper

Sauté onion in butter and set aside

I had a potato that I peeled for breakfast and didn’t need it SO I cut it up; ,boiled it and used my potato ricer and added it to my soup, it helped thicken the soup even more, which we all love.

Melt butter and add flour using a whisk over medium heat for 3-5 minutes.  Stir constantly and add the milks. Add the chicken stock and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the broccoli, carrots and onions. Cook over low heat for 20-25 minutes.

Add salt and pepper to taste. You can puree this if you want or leave chunky (I left mine chunky) return to heat and add cheese. Stir in nutmeg and enjoy. My son doesn’t like broccoli cheddar soup but he did like and eat this one.

Crazy Chocolate Cake

I have been making this particular chocolate cake for as long as I can remember; at least since I was in middle school.

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I am not entirely sure where it came from but I believe it has been around for many many years.  If you are looking for a great recipe to teach a child try this one. It mixes easy in one bowl and is pretty forgiving.  The frosting is pretty simple as well.  The benefit is no box is necessary.

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If your house is anything like mine, any given night an impromptu dinner party can happen.  I am pretty sure the majority of people out there like a little something sweet to have after dinner. I believe it is always a good idea to have a few recipes in your back pocket for such an event.  It also helps if the recipe has everyday ingredients you probably already have on hand. It doesn’t take long to put together or bake.  I think the longest part of the process is waiting for it to cool. I know be impatient; I  have even served it slightly warm.

You know when you go to someones house for dinner and you are asked to bring the dessert.  Even though you are full everyone still wants to at least sample it. The host insists you bring the leftovers home.  Well I have not been asked to bring this one home.

This delicious cake meets all of the requirements I listed above; plus it travels well.

 

Crazy Chocolate Cake

Bake at 350’ for about 25-30 minutes – Cool completely before frosting

You can leave in the pan or remove and plate

1½ cup flour

1 cup sugar

1 tsp baking soda

3 Tbs cocoa

½ cup vegetable oil

1 Tbs vinegar

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup milk

Add all ingredients in a bowl and mix well.  Spray a 9×9 pan or similar.  This makes one small cake I tried doubling it but I didn’t care for the way it came out.  It is so easy to throw together if you want to make a layer cake just add ingredients to the same bowl.

 

Buttercream frosting

1 stick of softened butter

1 tsp vanilla

2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar

If too thick to spread add a dash or two of milk

In a mixing bowl add all the ingredients turn on the mixer on medium until all combined about 3 minutes.  You may need to scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Pan Seared Scallops

If you like Scallops and have only ever had them battered and fried; you are missing out on something pretty special and extremely simple to make.  Sea Scallops need very little attention before you can enjoy them.  Make sure to remove the small side muscle from each scallop, rinse with cold water and thoroughly pat dry.

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Get out your favorite 12 to 14-inch sauté pan heat to about high to medium high and add a small amount of olive oil, once the oil start to shimmer and just before smoking.  Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper each scallop and place them gently into the pan; careful not to let them touch each other.  Sear the scallops for a 1 ½ to 2 minutes per side.  They should have about a ¼ inch golden brown crust on each side.  Take special care not to overcook them; they will become rubbery.  The center should be translucent. 

Transfer them to a plate and enjoy!  OR I personally enjoy making a simple sauce to serve over them.  A little white wine, some fresh crushed garlic and to finish it off a tablespoon or two of butter and life is good!

While the heat is still on add some white wine, with a wooden spoon scrape up all the yummy leftover bits. Cook down the wine for like 3-5 minutes, turn off the heat and add a pat or two of butter.  Once melted you can add the scallops back to the pan to re-heat a little or just pour the love over them and enjoy.

Searing is a very important part of making a wonderful flavorful caramelization to most meat.  It is all about building the depth of flavors.  Most people want to move, flip and lift whatever it is they are searing.  Please refrain from touching it for 1-2 minutes for scallops, 3-5 minutes for pork and beef – time is relative to your personal stove; only you know how hot it gets, how quickly it heats up.  I sear Steak, Chicken, Pork and fish fairly often and finish it off in the oven.

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Make sure your using a pan that can go into a hot oven, make sure you pre-heat your oven.  Size matters; that is the thickness of the meat you are searing and finishing off in the oven.  Times will vary so if you have an instant meat thermometer; that will help you until you get a feel for how long things will take to your doneness.

In one of my cooking classes we were searing chicken.  I had 2 saute pans and 2 students watching them.  I literally had to set the timer on my stove to help them with the timing.  Another good tip is to wait for the meat to release itself; that is another way to know when you should flip to the other side. If you have to fight to remove what you are searing from the pan, it is not done building flavors.

I work with one of the students from this class.  She came up to me last week and told me she waited for the chicken to release before turning and her whole family loved the crust and additional flavor that it added to her dish.  She mentioned it was pretty painful for her to not flip but I was in her head saying let it be; leave it alone…I love hearing these types of stories.

Snacks from the past- Poop Cookies

I am pretty sure afterschool snacks have evolved over the years and some are far healthier that what I used to eat.  When I was growing up, for a spell, we had a housekeeper that also made the most delicious homemade cookies & sugar cinnamon doughnuts for when we got off the bus.  It was for a very short period in our lives, but it was very memorable.  After she was no longer with us we had to fend for ourselves and made due with whatever was in the house; which at times was not much.  I recall eating sardines on saltines, buttered bread cut up in a bowl with maple syrup. I do not have fond memories of either of those but when you go from rags to riches back to rags you figure some things out.

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I do have some fond memories of a couple of afterschool snacks and have shared them with my kids & others.  I really have no idea where my favorite snack came from.  I can’t imagine that I came up with it; but who knows I have always been pretty creative; or at least I want to believe that I was/am.

My favorite afterschool snack was a peanut butter and fluff grilled sandwich.  Don’t knock it unless you try it.  While I know this is not a healthy snack and it shouldn’t be an everyday snack.  If you like peanut butter and fluff I encourage you to try it at least once.  It is made exactly like a grilled cheese just different fillings.  My daughter doesn’t like fluff and my husband is not a fan of peanut butter but my son loves them and makes them on occasion. I recall sitting around one night surrounded by family not sure how they came up but they are so easy to whip up; I made several of them; sliced them up and handed them out. They were a hit!

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The other is a cold bean sandwich; simply buttered bread, beans done!  I am pretty sure this one came from my parents. I remember my dad putting thinly sliced raw onions on his, he loved cold bean sandwiches. Again might not be for everyone one but it is pretty darn good.  I posted that I was eating a cold bean sandwich on FB a few years ago and it definitely stirred up a response.  Some people loved them others not so much.  Same goes in my house the kids and I like them my husband does not, but his brother does.  He was one of the ones that commented on my FB post.

After reading this I hope you reminisce a little about snacks from your childhood.  If they were noteworthy share them!   I also wanted to share a recipe that I made as a child and still make to this day and it is pretty easy for kids to make if you allow them to use the stove top.

Poop Cookies (not sure why my family called them this but we always have)

2 cups sugar

½ cup butter or margarine

½ cup milk

3 TBS cocoa

3 cups oatmeal

1 tsp vanilla

½ cup peanut butter

In a large saucepan, combine sugar, butter, milk and cocoa.  Bring to a full boil over medium heat, boil for 3 minutes (do not skip this step) remove from the heat and stir in the remaining ingredients.  Drop by spoonful onto waxed paper.  Let them set until firm.  If you skip the boiling step they will not set up.  Trust me I’ve done it, my son has done it.  Just be patient and let the mixture boil for a bit.

Mother’s Day – Pain Perdu

Firstly I would like to wish all the mom’s out there a wonderful day of peace and relaxation doing whatever it is that makes you happy. I personally hope to get in 9 holes of golf this afternoon. This is my first mother’s day with nothing really planned.  My normal mother’s day consists of me making my mother and mother-in-law either brunch or dinner and sometimes both. Neither is in the state this year so I get the day off, for that matter my own kids are both out of state well actually they are both out of the country.  My son went to visit his sister in Japan; he does arrive home late tonight so off to Boston we will go, my husband and I will go out to dinner somewhere en-route.

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Looking for something a little special for breakfast? Pain Perdu can be as easy or as sexy as you want to make it.  Just the name sounds sexy; you got to just love romantic languages they can make an ordinary meal sound phenomenal.  Case in point Pain Perdu translates to “lost bread” or as we know it French toast nuff said.

My inspiration for how I made this dish was from my favorite local restaurant, they serve something similar for one of their desserts and it is amazing.  It also helps that there were a couple of bananas’ on the counter that needed another purpose and we had some leftover French bread from the previous night’s dinner.  This shows exactly how frugal I can be.  Quick story – my girlfriend was over one night and mentioned something about caramelized bananas so I whipped it up for her YUM!

Sorry a little longer than a quick story – The best French toast I ever had and forever changed the way we make it from that day forward.  For my 25th birthday my husband surprised me with a weeklong trip to the US Virgin Island of St Thomas.  We went into Charlotte Amalie for breakfast at the Greenhouse Café and I ordered French toast.  It looked pretty, but the taste was just amazing.  It was sliced elongated; it was buttery cooked to perfection and sprinkled with confectioners’ sugar.  I asked the waitress if the chef would share how it was made.  Even back then I was a foodie and didn’t know it.  His secret was the wash; it was only egg and rum.  Who knew!

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Caramelized Bananas

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 bananas

In a small sauté pan melt butter medium low heat, add sugar and sliced bananas. Cook until sugar has caramelized; watch carefully it could turn from yummy to yucky pretty quickly.

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Pain Perdu (aka lost bread)

3 Eggs

Splash of rum

Splash of Milk (yes I can’t not put some in)

Few sprinkles of cinnamon

Splash of Vanilla

Loaf of leftover French bread

Sprinkle of confectioners sugar

Slice bread, in a shallow dish add eggs, rum and cinnamon beat till combined.  Add sliced bread to egg mixture soak a minute or two, flip to soak other side.  Pre-heat griddle add soaked bread once up to temperature.  Cook till brown on both sides.  While toast is cooking; make the caramelized bananas.

Ham & Asparagus Soup

Who doesn’t need to use up some of the leftover ham from Easter?  I swear the weather this weekend also helped dictate what I ended up making.  It has been rainy, raw and just plain chilly, kind of like a fall day.  It also helps that one of my favorite soups is creamy ham and asparagus.  It is so satisfying, it is simple to make and warms you from the inside out.   I also make this when I have leftover asparagus; I guess pretty much any excuse works for me.

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I do know many people who are not soup people, I don’t get that at all, and I kind of feel bad for them? Maybe they have never had a good tasting soup?  Maybe when they were little soup was their meatloaf & peas (two of my childhood nightmares) I do like peas now but I still refuse to eat meatloaf.  I love meatballs but no loaf.  It’s a mental thing I know. That must be it!  On the other spectrum  I have had a few people come up to me at work while I was re-heating my yummy soup for lunch and really want to make homemade soups but have had terrible luck so have given up; which is really sad.  I have had a soup class and hope to again – I will help and or convert as many as will let me.

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Passing it on – My son was looking around the kitchen to see if we had any canned soups.  I convinced him that he could make a delicious tomato soup, fairly easily and would taste a million times better than anything he could get from a can.  I got out all the ingredients and while sitting at the island working; I guided him through the process.  He wanted to make the soup all on his own, that’s my boy!

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If you have some things to use up in the fridge and a little time I believe soup is a great way to feed yourself and your family.

Creamy Ham & Asparagus

1 ½ Cup fresh asparagus

2-3 carrot, julienned

2-3 tablespoons butter

2-3 small white or 1 large onion, diced

2-3 cloves of garlic, minced

2-3 tablespoons butter (equal to your butter)

2 cups milk

2 cups chicken broth

1 cup fully cooked ham, cut into bite size pieces

Salt and Pepper to taste

Grated Parmesan cheese, optional

Trim asparagus and place in a saucepan, cover with water and cook till just crisp-tender.  Drain and set aside

In a heavy saucepan, sauté carrots in butter for 3-5 minutes; add onions and garlic and sauté a couple of minutes longer or until tender.

Stir in flour; gradually add milk. Bring to a boil; boil and stir for 2 minutes, add broth, ham and reserved asparagus.

Reduce heat and simmer. Add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Slight variation – You can also add a couple of potatoes if you wanted a little heartier soup, you could also add your favorite herb to change it up a bit.  If you add raw potato, cut them up small and simmer long enough to cook them probably 20-30 minutes.  Increase the chicken stock for a lighter soup or a little more milk.  if you wanted a really creamy soup, substitue 1 cup of half and half for 1 of the cups of milk – BUT do not boil the soup once you add the half and half. You can let it simmer to heat through but do not let it boil.

Happy Easter – Carrot Cake – Cream Cheese Frosting

Sorry this is a day late, we have been without internet for 4 days UGH!

 

Today like the last 30 years has started off with a pancake & sausage breakfast to support our local Rotary Club.  Let’s just say I would rather just donate money than actually attend and that is all I will say about it. My in-laws have been going to this event since they moved here in the late 70’s and we, I mean they just cannot break from tradition. I do say this lovingly.

Carrot Cake w/cream cheese frosting

Carrot Cake w/cream cheese frosting

I only added a few nuts and I was too distracted and ended up cooking it a little longer than I should have.  It was still very moist and yummy!

Later today I will be having family over for Linner, late lunch early dinner as I have called it for many years.  It is I think the first year that I didn’t hide eggs for the kids.  Which is kind of funny since they really are not “kids” anymore 21 & 23; but they always insisted that eggs be hidden.  When they were little I used to do a treasure hunt all over the house and yard for them depending on the weather.  I have a feeling if my daughter was home; she would insist on me hiding some for her and her brother to find.

Another tradition we started many years ago was we played four square in the driveway on a huge course with one of those huge plastic balls you see in those bins at the grocery stores.  We have had some crazy games over the years, not only on Easter, but I think that is when it started. We have had marathon games lasting 6-8 hours with everyone playing at some point from as young as 4-5 to as old as 70-80.  It would get pretty crazy at times but always full of laughter.  I do definitely miss playing with my brother, may he rest in peace.  Our main goal was to get him out of the servers’ box not sure how but he had a knack of always being in it.

Yesterday while out getting stuff for dinner I picked up a bag of used golf balls so that we could smackem’ down the driveway; the 3 of us sent all 48 through the woods and down the 1000’ driveway.  We do this periodically, afterwards we walk the driveway hunting for the.  Alex mentioned that we should have done this for a hunt when they were little.  Dad and I could send the balls down the driveway and then send the kids out to find them, whoever found the most would win a prize.  Excellent idea why didn’t I think of that!  This year I think we were only 14 shy of the 48 sent.  Not too shabby!

Today’s menu not unlike many others will be Ham, not the spiraled one, I’m probably on the short list who is not a fan all the ones I have ever had have been so very dry, I go for the monster shank or butt ones, always juicy. Smashed roasted baby potatoes, steamed zucchini and summer squash and I am going to make carrot cake with cream cheese frosting.

Have a wonderful day doing whatever it is your family does on this beautiful (this year) Spring Easter Sunday!

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Carrot Cake – Cream Cheese Frosting

4 Eggs

¾ Cup apple sauce

¾ Cup vegetable oil

2 Cups Sugar

2 Tsp vanilla extract

2 Cup AP flour

2 Tsp baking soda

2 tsp baking powder

½ Tsp Salt

2 Tsp ground cinnamon

3 Cups grated carrots

Optional

1 Cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350’ grease and flour 9×13 pan

In a large bowl beat together eggs, sauce, oil, sugar and vanilla. Mix in flour, soda, powder, salt and cinnamon.  Stir in carrots. If using nuts fold in pecans. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake in preheated oven for 40-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes. then turn onto a wire rack and cool completely.

½ Cup butter, softened

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

4 cups confectioners’ sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

Optional

1 cup chopped pecans

Make frosting: in a medium bowl, combine butter, cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar, and vanilla. Beat until the mixture is smooth and creamy. You can also stir in some chopped pecans in this if you would like.  Frost cake once cooled.