Monday, October 31, 2016

Creamy (and Cheesy) Veggie Soup

Creamy Veggie Chowder 2

It's soup time!

I love that chill in the air! Every morning I wake up and pick out a pair of chunky socks and wrap a sweater around my shoulders and remember how thankful I am to live in New England.

I think I have a soup cooking on the stove almost every weekend from now until February. I simmer the stock for hour and add in bit of this and that throughout the day.

I'm always trying to come up with new soups and when I can take a little shortcut and utilize frozen veggies, it's a bonus. Frozen veggies are great when you are pressed for time. No peeling or chopping involved! I've been feeding my kids frozen turnips for decades. They still think they are potatoes.

Creamy Veggie Chowder 1

Creamy (and Cheesy)Veggie Soup
recipe from Lisa@The Cutting Edge of Ordinary
The veggie part:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
3 carrots,chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
5 shallots, chopped or 1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 quarts (32oz each) chicken broth
2 cups frozen turnip
2 cups frozen butternut squash
3 cups chopped broccoli florets (from 2 crowns of broccoli) *see note
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1/4 tsp dried thyme
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
The creamy part:
4 tablespoons butter
6 Tbsp all-purpose flour
3 cups milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

For the veggie part
: In a large soup pot over medium heat add in the olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter. Add the carrots, celery and shallot or onion and saute until tender (about 4 mins). Add garlic and saute 30 seconds longer. Stir in chicken broth, frozen butternut squash, frozen turnip and fresh broccoli. Add the Italian seasoning, thyme and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat, cover with a lid and cook 20 more minutes. Test the broccoli after 20 minutes to make sure it's tender. If it's not let it cook a bit more.

For the creamy part: Meanwhile, melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in flour and cook, whisking constantly 1 minute. While whisking vigorously, slowly pour in milk (whisk well until no lumps remain). Cook stirring constantly until mixture begins to gently boil and thicken, stir in heavy cream. Remove from heat and once all veggies are tender pour into the soup and stir. Remove from heat and stir in cheddar and Parmesan cheese until melted. Serve warm.

Note* You don't want big pieces of broccoli in this soup. This is what I did. I bought 2 small broccoli crowns and I cut the stems as close at I could to the top of the floret. You really don't want any pieces of stem, just the floret top. I chopped the tops if they were too big. You want them bite sized.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Soft Batch Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

Soft batch chocolate chip bars 1

I've been slowly easing out of life in corporate America. After working at the same place for 33 years you get comfortable. You get used to your job and the people and the routing of it all. As I said before, it was one of the hardest decisions that I have ever had to make and it was scary, damn scary, but I felt it was the right time and right move for me.

I am so happy with my new life. I have time, precious time. I used to wake up at 5:45am. I left the house at 7:15am and I got home at 5:30pm, 5 days a week. I ran in the door, put dinner together, cleaned up, did the laundry, got my clothes ready for the next day, thought about what I'd make for dinner the next day, tried to keep it simple so I could have something on the table at a decent hour. It wasn't easy. Now I wake up at 6:30am, leave at 7:30am and I'm home by 2:30pm. Those precious few hours make all the difference in my life. I have time to make a nice dinner. I have time to do laundry, organize, clean, craft if I want, plan meals, read a book! My life has really slowed down and I love it.

I work for my friends company and they treat us all like family. I have the best boss on the planet and I'm stress free. You can't put a price on that my friends.

I'm so grateful for this new life. I appreciate every single day and I get to bake for people other than my family and neighbors! We have 3 young techs that I get to bake goodies for. As our first staff meeting approached I was giddy with anticipation thinking about what I could make. I know that young men can eat lots of sweets, my boys are living proof of that, so I choose to make these Soft Batch Chocolate Chip Cookie bars.

These are made on a half sheet tray so you get a lot of bars. This is a thin bar cookie and it makes a lot!

Soft batch chocolate chip bars

Soft Batch Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars
Recipe from Real Life Dinner
¾ cup softened butter (12 tablespoons)
3 ounces cream cheese, softened
1½ cups packed brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
3 tsp vanilla
3½ cups all-­purpose flour
3 tsp cornstarch
1½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp course sea salt or ¾ tsp regular salt
2 cups semi­-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Spray a large cookie sheet 15''x11'' (half sheet tray) with cooking spray and set aside. With your stand mixer or a hand mixer, cream together the butter, softened cream cheese, brown sugar and granulated sugar until well combined. Add the eggs and vanilla and continue mixing for 3 minutes or until mixture is very light and fluffy. Scrape sides down halfway through mixing.

Add the flour, corn starch, baking soda, and salt and mix until well combined. Add chocolate chips and mix or stir until combined. Scoop mixture out evenly over baking sheet. The batter is thick so it helps to drop the dough in increments over the pan and then spread it.

Bake at 350 degrees for 15 - 20 minutes. Place cookie sheet on cooling rack and allow cookie bars to cool completely. You can put them in the fridge to speed up this process if desired. You can eat them warm but they are much easier and less crumby and messy if allowed to cool completely.

Monday, October 17, 2016

A&P Spanish Bar Cake

Spanish Bar Cake

Do you remember A&P Grocery Stores? I remember going to one of the last A&P's in Rhode Island quite a long time again. For those of you who are not familiar with A&P....

The Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company (A&P) began back in 1859 in New York City, and quickly made a name for itself as an innovator and leader in the grocery industry. Before long, the company even began making its own brand of products, including the beloved Spanish Bar Cake. By the 1930s, there were over 16,000 A&P stores across the country. Sadly, in the 1950’s, A&P lost ground to newer, more modern stores. I'm not sure if there are any A&amp stores still left operating in the United States, but I'll always have memories of shopping at them when I was little.

I saw this cake on Pinterest and some kind of light bulb went off. I remember this cake. I don't remember eating it or what it tasted like, heck I don't even know if I tasted it, but this cake was familiar to me, so I called my Mom and as soon as I said "do you remember a cake from A&P called Spanish Bar Cake?" she immediately remembered and told me that my great grandparents bought it often from the local A&P. Ah ha!

She said it had raisins and was cut lengthwise and had a buttercream frosting on it decorated with lines running over the top. BINGO! This was the cake! Mom said "oh wow you just took me on a trip down memory lane". Well, isn't that what the best desserts will do?

So I give you A&P's famous Spanish Bar Cake. Think Spice Cake with raisins layered in between buttercream frosting. Bake yourself up a memory!

Spanish Bar Cake 1

Spanish Bar Cake
Adapted from a recipe at Baking Blond
In a bowl whisk together:
2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 tablespoons cocoa
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
Stir in:
1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil
2 cups unsweetened applesauce
2 eggs (room temp)
1 1/2 cups raisins (plump in hot water for 15 minutes and drain before adding)

For the Buttercream Frosting:
1 stick butter, room temperature
5 cups confectioners sugar
2 teaspoons of vanilla
1/4 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350°. Spray a 9 x 13 baking pan with baking spray.

Whisk first 10 ingredients together in a large bowl. Stir in oil, applesauce and eggs, mix well. Add raisins, stir just until combined. Bake at for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center tests clean. Cool completely before spreading with a butter cream frosting.

For the buttercream frosting:
Beat the butter until light and fluffy. Add in the confectioner sugar one cup at a time. Add in the vanilla and milk.

Note: If you would like to make the cake like the original Spanish Bar Cake, cut the cake length ways into two halves. Spread the frosting between the layers and on top. Use a fork to make the lines on the top.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Skillet Green Beans and Mushrooms

Green beans & mushrooms 1

There are a lot of recipes that I don't share with you all. My every day recipes. The ones that I never really think you would like to see posted, but as friends of mine started to ask me about some every day recipes I started to think about the simpler things I make during the week that become part of our everyday meals. Everything doesn't have to be a show stopper dessert, or a brand spanking new recipes. So I'll be posting some staples here in our household, which vary season to season.

I love to cook with veggies from my garden, but we don't grow everything we eat. I don't have a yard big enough for that. I'm luck enough to live near a wonderful farm stand. I visit it weekly in the summer and fall and pick up the things I don't grow there. I choose whatever is in season and whatever looks good that day. A few weeks ago was green beans.

This is a recipe I make quite often. It's quick and easy to make during a weekday night.

Green beans & mushrooms

Skillet Green Beans and Mushroom
recipe from Lisa@The Cutting Edge of Ordinary
1 pound fresh green beans, rinsed, root end cut off.
16oz portabella mushrooms, sliced
6 slices bacon. chopped into small pieces
1 small red onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
olive oil
salt & pepper

Place the chopped bacon in a large skillet with a lid. Cook until crispy. Remove from pan to a paper towel to drain. Take out all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon grease. Cook the onion in the bacon grease. You might have to add a little olive if they start to brown too fast. Cook the onion under just translucent. Add in the chopped garlic, the green beans and the sliced mushroom. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. The liquid that the mushroom releases will help to steam the green beans in the pan. If you like soggy green beans (yuck) you can cook them a bit longer.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Homemade Boursin Cheese Spread

Boursin Cheese Spread 2

When I see Boursin cheese I always think of the holidays. Why? Because that's the only time I would splurge and pick some up. My oldest son loves the stuff but it's pretty pricey, so unless there was a good sale or it was a holiday, I just pass that delicious cheese spread by.

Not familiar with Boursin? You've probably passed it by in the store.

It's a delicious, creamy herb spread that you can use as a dip or a spread. Try it instead of butter, mayo or mustard. Oh man, your taste buds will thank you!

My kids wiped this out in a day. It tastes even better than the Boursin brand in my opinion. Creamy, garlicky and loaded with herbs. It's so simple to make too. Grab a container of whipped cream cheese, throw in some herbs and let it sit for 24 hours. That's it! Simple and so good! I never have to buy it again!

Boursin every week!!!!

Boursin Cheese Spread 1

Homemade Boursin Cheese Spread
adapted from a recipe at A View from Great Island
12 ounces whipped cream cheese
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 teaspoons dried parsley
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 teaspoons dried chives or onions
2 teaspoons dried sage
2 teaspoons dried basil
2 teaspoons Trader Joe's 2 Seasoning Salute or you can substitute any other spice blend you like, (i.e, Mrs. Dash)

Here are the incredibly complicated directions. Place the whipped cream cheese in a bowl. Add in all the herbs. Mix well with a sturdy spoon. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours to allow the flavors to blend and the herbs to soften. Serve with your favorite crackers or use as a sandwich spread.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Giant Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Giant Oatmeal Choc Chip Cookies

Since I'm home every day by 2:30pm now (yeah!)  I've actually had some time to re-organize all my cupboards and cabinets. I started by putting everything in glass. I used lots of mason jars because they are the most economical, but I also bought some beautiful large Italian glass jars for things like oatmeal, wheat bran, and some of the mixes I make.

I break out my trusty label maker, slap a label on everything and I have one neat and organized looking pantry. I also did this with my spices. I found the cutest jars at Home Goods. I had to go to 2 different stores but I got enough of them to store every last spice in them. It makes me much happier than it should!

When I started to jar up the oats l I realized that I had a lot of oats, so many oats in fact that I needed to make something with them. I already made a few batches of my granola but I wanted to make something sweet for the guys. I found these colossal cookies and decided to make them cause hey, sometimes you just need to make a colossal cookie. Some days normal sizes cookie just don't cut it.

Needless to say, I think you can see by looking at the pictures that they were indeed very happy with these cookies.

Giant Oatmeal Choc Chip Cookies 1

Giant Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
Recipe from Lisa@The Cutting Edge of Ordinary
This recipe makes 8 GIANT cookies.
1 stick butter at room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar, do not pack
1/4 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon molasses
3/4 cup flour
1 1/2 cups rolled oats (not quick oats)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon cornstarch
1 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips (I used Ghiradelli)

Preheat the oven to 350° and line 2 sheet trays with parchment paper. In a small bowl, combine the flour, oats, cinnamon, baking soda, salt and cornstarch. Set aside.

In a large bowl with a hand mixer, cream together the butter, brown sugar, white sugar, egg and molasses until completely smooth. Add in the dry mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until evenly mixed. This mixture is thick so make sure you use something sturdy! Stir in the chocolate chips.

Portion cookie dough into 1/3 cup balls and roll in between palms to make round ball. This batter will make 8 big cookies. Place 4 cookie balls on each baking sheet. Bake 1 tray at a time. Bake for 15 minutes. Wait 5 minutes before removing from baking sheet. Transfer to wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.