Sunday, December 28, 2014

Hearty Vegetable Soup

Raise your hand if you're sad the holidays are coming to an end. You can't see it but my hand is raised. Why does it go so fast? I attempted to slow down a little this December but for some reason the time continuum did not get to memo that it was also supposed to slow down. Oh well. Such is life. It was still a fantastic season and we were able to do some fun things! Plenty of cookies were baked, trees were decorated and lot's of gifts were opened. I am truly blessed and I hope all of you had a wonderful holiday season. 

Now, raise your hand if you ate WAY too much during your festivites.  Again, my hand is up. Actually both hands are up. Shew, I feel the need for a detox. Ok, we all know that's not going to happen because I love to eat. However, I'm going to lighten things up a bit and have some vegetables that aren't covered in cream or cheese. I know, I know. They're delicious but I need a break before I eat more super satisfying, delicious, special occasion foods later this week. 

This is one of those recipes that even people who claim to not know how to cook, can make. If you can open some bags, a can and can read, then you can make this. All you do is soften the fresh vegetable, throw the rest of the ingredients in and let your stove top do the work! Easy peasy. 

I created this vegetable soup recipe years ago after one of my families many, many trips to the Smokey Mountains. My parents used to drag us there twice a year for long weekend getaways. One of the things I always looked forward to during those mini vacations, was our excursion to the Apple Barn. Ever been there? I totally recommend it. The apple fritters and apple butter are ah-mazing. I can taste it right now. The vegetable soup though, is out of this world. It's a basic soup with basic vegetables (please don't put sweet potatoes in my veggie soup. Sorry.). White potatoes, onions, green beans, corn, peas, lima beans, celery, you know. All the good stuff. They kick their soup up a notch though by adding white pepper. It's such a simple concept but adds such a great warmth to an already soul soothing soup. (I just totally got distracted by a piece of brisket on tv. What was I even talking about? Ohhhh soup. Got it.) 

This soup really is souper easy. Haha... Sorry. I really could not resist. I use mostly frozen vegetables. I'm glad that after years of a bad reputation, frozen vegetables are making a comeback. I've always used them and have never understood the fuss. They're all frozen at the peak of freshness and they aren't covered in salt and preservatives. I do use two cans though--tomatoe juice and canned tomatoes. I have no shame in my game. Especially since I used all of my canned tomatoes from my garden. It didn't take long. I'll fix that with my next garden! 

Word of warning: this soup is a little on the spicy side so it might not be a big hit to the little ones. I've never experimented with that so you will want to cut back on the white pepper. Maybe just 1/2 teaspoon. I serve this up in a big ole' bowl with a side of peanut butter crackers because growing up we always had peanut butter crackers with our soup. Don't ask me why. I don't know. It's just what we did and this always brings happy memories for me. 

Hearty Vegetable Soup                                                          Printer Friendly

2 tablespoons butter
1 onion, diced
1 cup carrots, sliced
1 white baking potato, cubed
2 cloves garlic, diced
2 cups frozen green beans
1 cup frozen Lima beans
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
2 cups frozen peas
1 1/2 cup frozen corn
1 (46 ounce) can low sodium tomato juice
1 1/2 teaspoons white pepper
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon celery salt

In a large Dutch oven or stock pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add onions and carrots. Cook for about 5 minutes or until onions have softened. Add garlic and stir in white pepper, black pepper, garlic powder, celery salt and salt. 

Next, add green beans, potato, Lima beans, tomatoes, and tomato juice. 

Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 30-45 minutes. About 10 minutes before serving, mix in corn and peas. 

Adjust seasonings, remove from heat and enjoy! 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Southern Style Green Beans with Bacon and Brown Sugar

Green beans. Bacon. Brown sugar. If those words don't conjure up happy thoughts, I don't know what will. I come from a family full of green bean lovers. You'll find them at every family potluck, normally prepared by my Aunt Carolyn. She makes the best green beans and I always make sure I have plenty of space on my plate for a hefty serving. 

I'm sure I've mentioned this a time or two (or a thousand), but my family will pretty much eat anything as long as you put sugar in it.  I don't know what that's all about. I've cut back on the sugar but I do add some brown sugar to my green beans. I can't help it. It's soooo good. Especially with bacon. There is just something about the combo if bacon and brown sugar that gives me the winter warm fuzzies. It's kind of like a vision of sugar plums dancing in my head. Ahhhhh.... 

What I'm about to tell you will shock and surprise you. When it's winter and fresh green beans are not in season, I use canned green beans. That's right. Canned. Rarely, and I mean rarely, will you hear me say I use anything canned, unless I can it myself and unfortunately I do not have a big enough garden for green beans. One day I will though. One day. There is something about frozen green beans that I just don't like. It's a texture thing. They're so rubbery, no matter what you do to them or how you cook them and I just can't deal. If you can, then by all means, knock yourself out. 

Southern Style Green Beans with Bacon and Brown Sugar                Printer Friendly

4 cans of green beans, rinsed and drained
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 small onion, diced
1/4 cup brown sugar
6 slices bacon, diced 
4 cups of water
Salt and pepper

In a Dutch oven cook bacon over medium heat until done. Remove from pan. 

In the same pan add onion and garlic. Cook for about 2 minutes. Add green beans, brown sugar, water, salt and pepper. Lower heat and simmer for about an hour.  Taste and adjust the seasoning. 

Remove from heat and serve! 

Chicken Noodle Casserole

My grandmother was the kindest, gentlest soul you could have ever met.   She had a fantastic laugh but was relatively reserved a majority of the time.  From what I understand, she made amazing fried chicken. That must be where my mom's pickiness comes from. I have so many random memories of this wonderful woman, like the cookies she kept in her refrigerator, the juice glasses we always drank out of at her house, the fact that I rarely saw her wear anything but dresses. She had a great love for Kentucky basketball and I know she's in heaven cheering on the Cats this season.

I spent all that time telling you about Gom-gom because this Chicken Noodle Casserole belongs to her and it is one of my favorite things in the world (I'm pretty easy to please--low maintenance). It's everything a casserole should be but mostly it's just good old comfort food. The orignal recipe calls for a can of cream of chicken soup and if you want to use that, knock yourself out. I've modified it in order to cut out as many preservatives and chemicals as possible. It's kind of my thing.  This can be thrown together pretty quickly assuming you're like me and keep cooked, shredded chicken in your freezer.  Seriously people, if you learn one thing from me it should be that. Throw it in the crockpot, shred it, portion it, freeze it. Learn it, live it. You'll thank me. 

I've not met anyone who turned their nose up to this dish. Even the man friend was impressed. I believe his exact words were I was expecting something boring and flat. More impressive than that was the 4 year old who ate it! I love seeing children who eat good stuff. 

Chicken Noodle Casserole                                                  Printer Friendly

Serves 6

8 ounces egg noodles, cooked
2 cups shredded chicken
1 1/2 cups sour cream
2 cups low sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
6 pieces of bread, buttered and cubed
Salt and pepper, to taste 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

In a small sauce pan, cook flour and butter together over medium heat until it forms a roux, about 4 minutes. Pour in the 2 cups of chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about  5 to 10 minutes. 

Remove from heat and transfer into a large mixing bowl. Add sour cream, chicken and noodles. Mix well. 

Pour into a 9x13 casserole dish and top with the buttered, cubed bread. 

Bake at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes or until hot. 

Serve with a mixed green salad or your favorite steamed vegetables. Enjoy! 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Brown Sugar

Who doesn't love Brussels Sprouts?  The answer?  A whole bunch of people.  Including most of my family.  My father is the biggest adversary of them that I have ever seen.  However, this Thanksgiving, he went back for seconds.  Yep, another brussels sprout convert--as long as they are made with bacon and brown sugar.  I know, I know.  You're thinking really?  Sugar? Trust me, I wouldn't normally add sugar but this was a special occasion and yes,  I'm implying that it is A-OK to eat anything you want on a holiday.  (I should probably enter a disclaimer here about food allergies, illnesses, blah, blah, blah.  You're an adult.)

I absolutely love this time of the year.  Christmas decorations are going up everywhere.  Twinkly lights are draped over anything that will stand still.  Holiday music is streaming 24 hours a day on a local radio station and the air is full of excitement.  Speaking of 24 hour a day Christmas music,  I'm learning that apparently there are only about five different songs that have been remade approximately 487 times.  I seem to recall much more variety as a child.  Or maybe I just wasn't paying any attention.

Hopefully you all had a super Thanksgiving and the holiday spirit is alive and well with you.  I, once again, fulfilled my yearly tradition of eating wayyyy too much.  I mean, how can it be avoided?  All that delicious food in one place--corn pudding, mashed potatoes, broccoli casserole, rolls, green beans, turkey, gravy, dressing.  Mmmm dressing.  I think dressing is my favorite thing about the holidays.  I should really start having it more.  Maybe I'll add it to my roast chicken menu.  Yeah, that's the ticket.

Wait, what is this post about? Oh yeah, Brussels sprouts. I got distracted. Food has that affect on me. Go, make these sprouts now.  I'll spare you the details of how I could not stop snacking on these when I pulled them out of the oven. I wanted to lick the foil. Ok. Maybe I actually did lick the foil. Don't tell. 

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Brown Sugar                             Printer Friendly

2 pounds fresh Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
5 slices of bacon, diced 
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon Canola oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 

In a large bowl add sprouts and canola oil. Mix well. 

Add the remainder of the ingredients and stir. 

Pour into a foil lines baking sheet. 

Bake for 30-45 minutes or until bacon has cooked through. Serve immediately.