Fall into Soup

I have a love/love relationship with Fall.  Sure, I am sad to see this go…

but warm comfort meals?  I’ll take you any day.   Once Fall his, I am a soup queen.  I can’t get enough soup, for realz.  Luckily, there are way many more varieties of soup than I can make, so I need not worry.  Fall is barely here, and already I’ve been whipping up:

smitten’s winter squash soup I have tried many a butternut squash soups are this is hands down the best.  I think you really do need that cream to make it.  I also always add cinnamon, and sometimes add chunks of ham, and you can’t go wrong.

pioneer woman’s corn chowder with chilies This is the first pioneer woman recipe I have ever tried and oh my gahhh.  The smell of this soup is reason enough to make it, but it is Ah-mazing.  I just made a batch for lunches this week.  Try it.  you must.

styleberry’s classic tomato soup I didn’t like tomato soup for 25 years.  Then I tried this soup.  And I couldn’t stop eating it.  Only thing I have to say about it is that when I tried to freeze it got all funny :(.  But to make it for dinner one night….perrrrrfect.

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ruined :)

So, I had this thing, where once I make a really incredible version of something, I can’t go back to the original kind of okay version.  Things that stick out to me like this:  salsa.  Cannot eat the stuff from the jar now.  Chicken parmigiana?  Will probably never eat it from a restaurant again.  But I never, NEVER thought it would happen to this:

Starbucks caramel apple cider.  Until about 2 weeks ago, I was in love with it.  It was a perfect sign of fall.  Getting it was the first sign of Fall.  Then last year, I found out you could buy starbucks caramel at our grocery store.  This stuff, mixed in with fresh apple cider from our local orchard, was amazing, but still, starbucks was a treat.  Then, it happened.  Last week, I was at starbucks getting coffee before class, and I spied something above the coffee.  There sat 3 jugs of apple juice.  Not cider, juice.  A juice, that I had seen in the grocery store many times before.  Could this be in the cider?  No, no, I refused to believe.  Until today.  I stopped before class (again) and decided (okay learned from hyperactivity and shaking before class last week) that another coffee I could not handle, so a cider sounded perfect.  I gave my order to my lovely barista, as the newbie coffee maker looked puzzled.  Then it happened…”…then you steam the apple juice and add caramel on the top”.  UM WHAT?  STEAM THE APPLE JUICE?  It sounded like a fancy drink for a 4 year old.  I was paying $3 for steamed apple juice?  GROSS.  So, now, I am unable to every look at a starbucks caramel apple cider, as I now am convinced it is just a warmed Mott’s juice-box as I liked to drink in 4th grade.  Maybe I’ll be luckier with the peppermint mocha this winter…. 😦


salsa crisis: averted

do you like cooking for other people?

i love standing in my kitchen, whipping up new and favorite meals.  But when I have to cook for other people, I get sooo nervous.  Today, it was just the family.  Over the normal “cookouts” that we’ve had every weekend, we decided to do a “fiesta” themed family picnic this year.  I volunteered to make the guacamole, and some hot fresh salsa.

I make fresh salsa and guacamole all the time, and in fact, today we were talking about how really, fresh salsa and salsa from a jar are really like two different foods.  I always use some basic ingredients:

tomatos

garlic

red onion

cilantro

salt

lime juice

Today, I was making a GINORMOUS batch.  I cut up (tiny), 6 tomatoes that were good sized, a whole red onion, about 4 gloves of garlic, a few splashes of lime juice, 1/4 of fresh cilantro and some salt.  And then, I decided to spice it up.  Just like the last time I made this a few weeks ago, I added 1/2 a habanero (have you ever tasted these babies?  they are hottt).  But, for some unknown reason, this pepper was about 5 TIMES SPICER than that one.  BAH!  I now had about 4 cups of heart-burning salsa.  So, you know, I did what anyone else would do.  I flipped out.  Then, when calm, I added 3 more tomatoes, some lime juice, and a sweet red pepper.  I was so scarred from the experience that I didn’t even want to take it out when we got there, so you can imagine my excitement when it was gobbled up!  I received compliments left and right!  phew!!!!

And, then, there was the guacamole.  If I could eat avocado all day long I could.  But, alas, at 1.99 a pop a whole foods, this is not exactly in the stars.  Anyways, everytime I make guacamole, I fall in love again…

love love love

Anyways, my philosophy with guacamole is the same as salsa.  Add a few signature ingredients and taste until perfection.  For guacamole, avocados, red onion, garlic, salt, lime juice and cilantro and the necessities.  You add significantly more of everything except avocados than you do in salsa.  Let those avocados shine!!  Things to remember:

the avocados should not be hard and not soft, they should have some pull.

to stop the guacamole from turning brown, make it right before you serve it, or cover the top directly with plastic wrap to stop air from getting to it.

Make more than you think  you will eat.  You will eat it all!!


Dessert was best.

Last night I was feeling all hopped up on energy that it was Friday.  Not to mention a 3 day weekend whoohooo!!!

Really, I LOVE cooking.  It de-stresses me, and I love spending time doing it.  Two days ago, a friend made gazpacho that I then tasted and HAD to have, so I had to make it.  My three part meal was pretty good:

1.  Panko crusted sesame ginger chicken:  okay, better as cutlets I think

2.  Gazpacho:  YUM

3.  Chocolate raspberry ganache cupcakes: SLAMMIN!

I love to experiment with desserts, because there are just endless possibilities and it is just almost impossible to really screw something up.

Chocolate Raspberry Ganache cupcakes

One of my dessert secrets is that I always have a box of cake mix in the house.  I rarely make the whole box and usually split it up into two.  That’s what I did today, and used Duncan Hines Moist Deluxe Dark Chocolate Cake Mix. I find that with flavors like dark chocolate, it tastes less out of the box.  But don’t worry, this won’t anyways 🙂  With dinner, I baked 6 cupcakes and let them cool while we ate.  Shortly after dinner I did the assembly.  I spooned a hole in the middle of each cake.  Then, to make the ganache, heavy 1/2 cup heavy cream on your stove, and stir in some semi-sweet chocolate.  To the hole in each cupcake, scoop a tiny amount of raspberry jam (<3 homemade), fill up with ganache, and drizzle the side.  Throw some fresh raspberries on top and you have a delectable dessert 🙂


Morning pick me up

This morning i was feeling beyond tired.  I slept so little last night, I’m not even sure I actually slept.  So this morning, I was craving something fierce, and decided a fruity smoothie was just what I needed.  It was ambitious, I mean, how often do I break out the blender before 8 am?  But in went some milk, yogurt and frozen strawberries, and out came a cup of deliciousness that gave me the kick in the butt I needed to make it to work.

This might just be my new thing.  It kept me satisfied through most of the morning.  I snacked on  peanut butter on bread around 10 and then ate some of Saturday’s penne for lunch.  YUM YUM.


Penne a la vodka

There are certain meals that I keep tucked away in my stash, and only come out on certain occasions.  They are a little more special than normal meals, but most of all, they are sooo good that they are just that special.

Yesterday, we were stuck with a conundrum:

Tomatoes, tomatoes EVERYWHERE!!  We had already canned and made a TON.  So, already in a romantical (yeah, I made this word up), mood, I looked at the juicy tomatoes before me and decided it was a perfect night for penne a la vodka.

It was amazing.  Hit the spot.  After devouring both of our plates, BF exclaimed that it was perfect.  YUM!

Penne a la vodka (makes about 4 servings)

3/4 pound of pasta

salt for pasta water

7 cloves of garlic

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 cups of fresh, crushed tomatoes (I use most with skins off, but leave some on and use a mixture of whatever is in the garden)

crushed hot pepper

1/3 vodka

1/2 heavy cream

1 1/2 TB parsley

Start boiling your pasta water from the beginning.  Then, in a skillet, heat up 1 TB Olive oil.  When its hot, add the cloves of garlic.  (I usually smash them or break them up a bit before I do, but it depends on how I feel).  Cook the garlic gloves for 2 mintes.

When they start to get golden, add in your tomatoes and hot pepper.  At this point, season with a bit of salt and pepper too!  Let these come to a boil for a minute or too and add in your vodka.  Keep this going for about 5 minutes, on a low simmer, until your pasta is ready.  When it is, add in your cream and parsley and turn off the heat.  I usually add another little olive oil and salt then and taste for your flavor (we like ours with a kick with the red pepper, but no everyone does.  Pour pasta in a bowl, top with the sauce and mix.  DELIC!!

Amazing with some parmesan cheese and garlic bread.  And wine, oh course!!


Any day happy hour: Frozen Strawberry Margaritas

One of the secrets that I have learned along my journey to adulthood is the importance of having a well stocked kitchen.  With it, you can whip up essentials like salsa, brushetta and margaritas at the drop of a hat.  So when you had a bad day at work and you know that the ONLY thing that can turn your frown upside down is a strawberry margarita, you can whip one up for yourself.  IN 3 MINUTES.

What you need:

(this makes one margarita, I usually whip up about 4 servings in the blender at once and throw the blender cup into the fridge while I drink the first.  DON’T judge!!  I am not drinking alone)

1 shot Tequilla Silver
1 shot Cointreau
1 shot margarita mix
1 shot lime juice
2 cups of frozen strawberries
ICEEE

What to do:

Throw everything in the blender except the ice, and then add enough ice up to the top.  BLEND and taste :).  The first time I made these I made them a littttle (ok a LOT) strong so I had to go back and add more ice, but everyone has different margarita tastes, that’s what best about making them at home!!

Note:  I have tried making these before, and found that the key to the goodness is this was the FROZEN strawberries.  They were leftover fresh from the beginning of the summer and were perfect to use for these!!  I will defiantly be making them again soon!!

You can salt the rims of your margarita glasses with either sugar or salt.  🙂

Oh and p.s..  I LOVE when recipes come from our garden.  And three months ago, these plants were just these little tiny things:

And now they are strawberry margaritas!!! Gardens are amazing!