Country Chicken Noodle Soup

Country Chicken Noodle Soup

Country Chicken Noodle Soup is one of my husband’s comfort foods. His mom made it when he was growing up, so eating it means that “all is right in the world.” If you aren’t a fan of de-boning chicken (my husband does that for me), you can substitute boneless chicken breasts as mentioned in the recipe. If you do use a whole chicken, however, you can enjoy the added nutritional benefits of bone broth without actually having to collect and boil bones. Want to learn more about bone broth? The Nourished Kitchen has tons of information about bone broth and some of its nutritional benefits. Additionally, Country Chicken Noodle Soup uses lots of fresh veggies and herbs, so you can feel really good about feeding it to your family. Having grown up in a home where our soup usually came from a can, I can say that if you can plan ahead enough to make soup from scratch, the flavor is soooo much richer and more satisfying.

 Even a small chicken will yield enough meat that you only need to use part of it. Save the remainder of this moist, flavorful shredded chicken for another quick meal like California Beans & Rice, and get two meals out of one!
Country Chicken Noodle Soup
2 onions chopped
2-3 carrots, sliced
2 stalks celery, sliced
2 tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper
½ tsp. basil (or 2 tsp. fresh, chopped basil)
¼ tsp. leaf thyme
3 TB dry parsley flakes (or 3/4 cup fresh, chopped parsley)
1 10 oz pkg frozen peas
1 2 ½ lb whole fryer
(or 1-2 lbs boneless chicken breasts)
4 cups water
1 cup noodles (egg noodles)
Place all ingredients in crock pot, except noodles, in order listed. Cover and cook on low 8 hours (high 4-6). One hour before serving, remove chicken and cool slightly. Remove meat from bones and return half of meat to pot. Add noodles and turn heat to high. Cover and cook 1 hour.
Mock Cabbage Lasagna

Mock Cabbage Lasagna

In college, one of my roommate’s favorite meals was Mock Cabbage Lasagna.The first time she mentioned it, I thought she was insane. “Who even eats cabbage?” I thought. “And why would you ruin a good lasagna with it?” (My limited experience with cabbage consisted of boiled cabbage mush.) Obviously, I had much to learn because I was wrong. Very, very wrong. I love this meal, and my 10-year-old loves it, and my husband loves it, and my neighbors love it, and you will love it. Best of all, it is faster to prepare than regular lasagna because you don’t have to pre-boil the noodles or make sure everything is covered perfectly so that you don’t have hard noodles. AND it is HEALTHY. Bonus!

 

Mock Cabbage Lasagna
1 sm head cabbage, coarsely chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 lb ground beef
1/2 c chopped onion
1 can tomato soup
1 1/2 c. water
1/2 c rice, uncooked
1/2 c grated cheese
Place rice in bottom of greased 9×13 pan. Top with half of cabbage.  Brown hamburger with onion in skillet, salt & pepper to taste.  Spoon half over cabbage.  Whisk soup and water together.  Pour half over ground beef mixture.  Repeat layers of cabbage, meat and sauce.
Bake covered at 350° for 1 hour. Remove and top with cheese. Return to oven for 10 minutes or until cheese is melted.

This recipe can be prepared in a pressure cooker. Brown hamburger and layer as above. Cook on high pressure (9-10 psi) for 5-6 minutes. Release pressure, top with cheese and cover 5-10 minutes until cheese is melted.

Pear Gorgonzola Salad

Pear Gorgonzola Salad

I am a reformed picky eater. As a child, I was very sensitive to textures and my stomach was easily upset. As a result, I was very hesitant to try new foods.The rule at our house was that we had to try at least one bite of everything in order to be polite, and I remember politely smiling while I swallowed my one required taste (while tasting it as little as possible). Fortunately, I have a patient husband, who has introduced me to the pleasures of well-flavored foods, and I have greatly expanded my palate. One of my favorite taste combinations now is the contrast of bitter and sweet. The contrasting flavors of sweet pears, bitter Gorgonzola cheese, and tart cranberries in Pear Gorgonzola Salad blend well with the vinaigrette dressing. No single ingredient dominates the taste experience. This is a great special occasion salad – simple to prepare, but full of ingredients and flavors that step beyond the everyday mundane and into the realm of celebrating life.
Pear Gorgonzola Salad
1 head of green leaf lettuce
3 pears, peeled and sliced
Gorgonzola cheese crumbles, to taste (we use about 1/2 of an 8 oz. container
3/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1/2 cup dried cranberries

Mix together lettuce and pears. Top with cheese, walnuts, and cranberries. Serve with dressing.

Dressing
1/2 c vinegar
1/c vegetable oil
juice from 1 lemon
2 1/2 TB. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
2 T. finely chopped red onion

Mix together in a blender. Shake before serving.

Sofrito Sauce

Sofrito Sauce

If you haven’t heard of Sofrito, you aren’t alone! My husband proudly brought home a jar of it one day for a meal he had planned. I had no idea what it was. Much to my surprise (after looking at the ingredients), I really liked it, so I looked up what it was and found some recipes.

Sofrito is a base for many dishes in Spanish and Latin American cooking. It consists of tomatoes, onions, peppers, and sometimes garlic. The exact recipe varies based on the country of origin; similar sauces are used in Cuba, Puerto Rico, Columbia, and Haiti just to name a few.

Our family thinks it tastes similar to Taco Seasoning and tomato sauce (but better), and it is much healthier than the dry, preservative-filled packets from the store! For convenience, I like to make a large batch and then freeze it in meal-sized portions so that we always have it on hand.

Sofrito
1 onion
2 tomatoes
1 green pepper
1 red pepper
2-3 cloves of garlic
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
*optional 10 cilantro leaves & stems

Remove seeds from peppers and peel onion and garlic. Add all ingredients to a blender and pulse until it makes a thick sauce, much like a non-chunky salsa or spaghetti sauce.

This recipe is incredibly forgiving; use what you have on hand. As long as there is tomato and onion, you can probably call it Sofrito. We have even used tomato sauce when we were low on real tomatoes. Sofrito adds an excellent flavor to all sorts of dishes. It can be used in place of taco sauce, as a sauce for meat, as a soup base, with meat inside empanadas, or even as sauce for a casserole or southwestern-style stir-fry.  Even the onion and pepper-haters at our house like Sofrito-flavored dishes!

Snappy Sun-Maid Salsa

Snappy Sun-Maid Salsa

Recently I discovered this recipe for Snappy Sun-Maid Salsa in a cookbook I have had for years. We happened to have all the ingredients on hand, so I mixed up a batch. Really, there isn’t too much better than fresh salsa on a warm day. We ate this with chips just like traditional salsa, but the recipe recommends serving it on bruschetta – grab some yummy artisan bread from the bakery and serve it before your next party as an appetizer. I have also seen several recipes featuring a similar salsa served on grilled halibut. Now that is a real summer treat (Father’s day is coming soon) !

You can find this recipe and many others featuring dried & fresh fruit in Family Favorite Recipes.
Snappy Sun-Maid Salsa
adapted from Family Favorite Recipes
1/2 c. red pepper, diced
1/2 c. yellow pepper, diced
1 c. Sun-Maid NaturalRaisins (or another dried fruit), chopped
1 c. pineapple, diced
1/2 c. red onion, diced
Optional: 1/2 c. jicama,chopped
1/4 c. fresh cilantro or freshparsley, finely chopped
1/2 c. jalapeño pepper,seeded and minced
2 to 3 T. lime juice1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 t. chili powder
1/4 t. cumin
1/4 t. salt 

Enjoy!

Grilled Zucchini & Yellow Squash

Grilled Zucchini & Yellow Squash

In the summer time, the last thing you want to do is turn on the oven and make your house even hotter. So what’s a girl (or guy) to do? Break out the grill, of course! Grilled Zucchini is one of our summer favorites. As an added bonus, you get to use of a few of those numerous zucchini plants that are sitting in your pile of bounty from your garden. We also like to throw in some yellow squash if we have some of those around. The first time we made this for my mother-in-law, she was certain that she didn’t like zucchini and she really didn’t like yellow squash. However, she tried her obligatory bite, and was really surprised that she liked it! If all you have ever tasted is boiled zucchini and squash (tasteless mush), then you are in for a pleasant surprise. So, fire up the grill and enjoy some Grilled Zucchini on your next hot day!

Grilled Zucchini & Squash

2-3 medium zucchini or yellow squash (about 1 lb total)
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 TB olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp papper
juice of 1/2 lemon

Preheat grill to medium (375 F). Wash and dry zucchini. Trim ends. Slice lengthwise, about 1/2″ – 3/4″ thick.
In a medium bowl, toss zucchini with olive oil, salt and pepper. Place slices directly on grill or on a vegetable grilling rack. Grill for 10-12 minutes, turning once halfway through. Zucchini will be lightly charred and cooked through, but still firm. Remove to a serving plate. Sprinkle with lemon juice and parmesan. Serve.
Serves 4.

California Beans & Rice

California Beans & Rice

California Beans & Rice is a great recipe for hot summer days when you just don’t want to heat up the house with the oven. Depending on what is most readily available and affordable, you can use more avocados or tomatoes depending on what is on sale and most readily available. A little shredded chicken also goes well in this if you want this to be a more substantial meal. The leftover chicken from Country Chicken Noodle Soup would be perfect for this. This could also be tossed together like a salad and served with a vinaigrette, or served in individual dishes of rice with the other ingredients used as toppings. I have also heard this dish called “California Sushi,” with the ingredients used to make meatless sushi rolls using pita bread or lettuce wraps which would be perfect served as an appetizer at a summer barbecue.

California Beans & Rice
2-3 cups cooked rice
2 cans black beans, rinsed
2 avocados, cubed (place in lemon water to prevent browning)
2 tomatoes, cubed
2-3 diced green onions
1 lb chicken, shredded (optional)
Sour cream
Salsa
Pita bread (optional)
Directions: Spread in layers or rings on a platter, place sour cream and salsa in middle. Serve with Pita Bread if desired.
Zucchini Bread

Zucchini Bread

You know how it works: you plant zucchini, a single zucchini plant, in your garden, and dutifully eat it in many meals and side dishes from mid-summer on, you share it with all your garden-free neighbors, and finally you can’t handle any more of it in a recognizable form. It’s the time of year to start baking Zucchini Bread. I have tried a few recipes over the years, but this one is by far my favorite. Every time I serve it, someone asks me for the recipe. I even use it as my Banana Bread recipe, just omitting the cloves. I like to make several small loaves at a time, and then freeze them for a later date when I don’t feel like baking but still need a little sweetness in my life 🙂 So, the next time your well-meaning neighbor offers you some extra zucchini from her garden, you can willingly accept the offer and make zucchini bread!

Zucchini Bread
3 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups zucchini (shredded)
Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and flour two 9×5 loaf pans.
Cream eggs, sugar & oil. Add dry ingredients and mix until smooth. Add vanilla and zucchini and mix until just blended.

Bake 55-60 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes on wire racks. Remove from pans, and allow to finish cooling.  Slice & enjoy with a pat of butter!

Kale Chips

Kale Chips

When I first saw the recipe for Kale Chips, I immediately skipped over it because, I admit it, green chips don’t seem that appetizing at first glance. However, a friend recently commented on how tasty kale chips are, so I overcame my reservations, dug out the recipe and gave them a try. Guess what? My family likes them! My husband and I both thought they tasted somewhat like roasted pumpkin seeds; I love roasted pumpkin seeds; their yummy crispy goodness warms up a cold fall day. But we rarely make them because separating seeds from the slimy pulp is messy work, and the seeds get eaten up so quickly! Kale is readily available and doesn’t require separating seeds and pulp. Bonus! Kale can have a slightly stronger taste than pumpkin seeds; it only takes a handful to satisfy a flavor craving

There are many variations of kale chips. I have included a few variations below to get you started.
Baked Kale Chips
1 bunch of kale leaves, washed & dryed
olive oil
sea salt
optional ingredients: garlic salt, grated Parmesan, balsamic vinegar, seasoned salt
Preheat oven to 350 F. Tear the kale leaves into large chip-sized pieces, some shrinkage will occur. Spread over a well-greased baking sheet or a sheet with a silicone liner. Spritz with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with sea salt. Bake 10-12 minutes; edges will lightly brown, but should not be burnt.
Variations:
sprinkle with grated parmesan & sea salt
spritz with balsamic vinegar and sea salt
sprinkle with garlic salt
sprinkle with seasoned salt

 

Gran’s Spinach Casserole

Gran’s Spinach Casserole

This was my Granny’s go-to recipe, the one that came with her to all the family gatherings. Other people have Green Bean Casserole at Thanksgiving & Easter; we have Gran’s Spinach. As children, many of us skipped this dish, but eventually we all came to love it. The cream cheese and sour cream combine with the bacon and spinach into a creamy, comforting experience. However, as she got older the horseradish got stronger, so we ate smaller and smaller portions. Maybe she did that on purpose so that she had more left over for later (it wouldn’t surprise anyone)! Since we don’t usually have horseradish on hand at my house, we substitute fresh garlic instead and enjoy Gran’s Spinach with a little less “kick.” For special events, it is a nice alternative to more commonly used vegetable dishes. This could also be served on crackers or crusty bread slices as an appetizer.

Gran’s Spinach
6 slices bacon
2 bunches spinach
1 TB grated onion
1/2 c sour cream
3 oz. cream cheese
1-2 TB horseradish sauce OR minced garlic (for a more mild taste)  *optional* substitute fresh horseradish instead

Directions: Preaheat oven to 350°.  Brown bacon & crumble.  Cook spinach and onion according to directions on box.  Drain.  Soften cream cheese.  Mix everything together & place into greased pan.  Bake for 35-40 minutes. Happy Birthday Gran!

Winter Squash Casserole

Winter Squash Casserole

I must have been in a generous (and adventurous) mood when I first tried this recipe, because Winter Squash Casserole is a little more adventurous than I usually am. However, the entire family liked it – even the previously winter-squash-and-green-pepper-hating ME. It was simple to prepare, and, surprisingly, the only complaint was that we wanted MORE.

Squash Feta Casserole

  • 2 cups winter squash, cut in half
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • ½ – 2/3 of a green bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese
  • 2 strips bacon, chopped
  • cracked black pepper to taste
  • *optional* sliced tomato

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 F (175 C). Lightly grease a medium (9×9) casserole dish. In microwave, heat squash for 9 minutes to soften. Remove from microwave, peel and cube. In a medium bowl, blend the eggs and heavy cream. Mix in the squash, green onions, bell pepper, and Parmesan cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to the prepared casserole dish. Top with feta cheese and sliced tomato, if desired. Season with pepper. Bake 45 minutes in the preheated oven, until lightly browned. If desired, top with cheese.

Enjoy!

Johnny Carino’s Italian Wedge Salad

Johnny Carino’s Italian Wedge Salad

Johnny Carino’s is one of my favorite Italian restaurants. The really strange thing is that my favorite thing there is a salad (?!?!?), specifically, I LOVE Johnny Carino’s Italian Wedge Salad. It has the most amazing blend of contrasting tastes – tangy sweet apples and candied pecans contrast offset the bitter cheese and salty bacon. They offset the tomatoes perfectly, and I don’t even like tomatoes!  Needless to say, I was slightly disappointed when the Carino’s near us in Sandy closed. Disappointed may be too mild a word. I howled and acted like a drama queen, which I usually try not to be. Since, driving 25 minutes to the nearest remaining restaurant wasn’t going to happen very often, I immediately went home and tried to find a knock-off recipe that I could duplicate. There are a few out there that were close, but none that had all the ingredients AND the right dressing. So, I made up my own salad recipe and found one for the dressing. Here for your eating enjoyment, are directions to re-create the full Johnny Carino’s Italian Wedge Salad experience in your own home.

Johnny Carino’s Italian Wedge Salad

  • 1 head of iceberg lettuce
  • bacon crumbles (save yourself some time and get the pre-cooked bacon, it is so very worth it)
  • candied pecans (NOT sugared pecans- there is a difference!)
  • Gorgonzola cheese crumbles
  • diced Granny Smith apples
  • diced roma tomatoes

Directions: Wash and dry lettuce. Remove core and cut head into 6-8 equal wedges. Top with bacon, pecans, Gorgonzola, apple pieces, and tomatoes. Drizzle with Garlic Ranch dressing (recipe below).

Top with GARLIC RANCH dressing from allrecipes.com.