Sunday, January 22, 2012

And Now For Something Completely Different

Okay, so typically this blog is about home decor and repair (to some extent) of one or two newbies...but I am stepping away from that for a short moment because my time has been completely dominated with my work.  My two amazing 50's chairs are still languishing around the house just waiting to be covered in that yummy new fabric.

Boo.  Serious boo.

So to get my creative groove on, I tackled something that I have not done in a while.  Cooking.  Yes, I can cook and like to do so as much as possible. In the winter months, I like to marathon cook soups and pack them away in the freezer.  See, I work from home and live forever away from most every decent place to grab a quick and relatively healthy lunch.  Having individual servings of soup ready to go in the freezer is perfect! 

So, after being asked several times for recipes, I thought I would provide them in this format.  Today, I rocked one of those marathons - well sort of since I ran out of stem for the 4th one so will be trying that out later.  So without any further ado, here it goes:

Chicken Tortilla Soup
This is one of my favorites!  I love this one as it is spicy and kind of like my own personal version of chicken soup - only without the noodles. And with tortilla chips.

1/2 large white onion diced
3/4 cup celery diced
2 cups of carrots chopped into bit-sized pieces
1 can Rotel diced tomatoes and chili's
1 can of Hatch green chilies - your choice either mild or hot
2 quarts of low sodium chicken stock
1 whole chicken Roasted (can do this yourself as I do or pick up a lightly seasoned one from the grocery store to use)
3-4 corn tortillas

Directions:  in a skillet with a little bit of oil, cook the onions and celery until they are just going translucent.  Add to a large crock pot.  Dump in the carrots. Dump in the rotel tomatoes and chili's and the hatch chili's.  Add the stock and the tortillas (yep, just as they come out of the package).  Fire up that crock pot and let cook for several hours until the tortillas have broken down.  You can add the chicken while the stock part is cooking or wait and just add the chicken at the end to the bowl before you add the stock.

Right before serving, add some rough chopped cilantro and salt and pepper to taste.  Serve in bowls with avocados, shredded sharp cheddar cheese, and fresh tortilla chips for crunch!  Makes around 6 servings.

Beef Stew
This one is a family super fav in my world!

2 lbs of stew meat
2 cups of carrots chopped into bite sized pieces
1 cup onion diced
1 cup celery diced
3-4 large red potatoes cut into bite sized pieces
2 cans Campbell's tomato soup
1 quart beef broth

Optional:  Add corn kernels and/or Lima beans

Once again we are going to be rocking the crock pot (I have two thanks to a rocking mom!) To start off though, take that stew meat out of the package and rinse and pat dry.  Add to a large ziploc bag with around 2-3 tablespoons of all purpose flour. 

Add a touch of oil to a large skillet and cook the onions and celery until they are translucent.  Dump them into the crock pot and into the same skillet add a touch more oil, let it get warm, and chuck that dusted beef into the skillet.  Brown - don't cook - the beef and then dump into the crock pot.  Add in the carrots, potatoes, and any other option veggies you want.  Dump into the tomato soup and the beef broth.  Fire up the crock pot and let cook on high for 3-4 hours (or all day on medium if you cook while you are at work.)

Season with salt and pepper to taste. Our favorite way to eat is to serve up in bowls with good cornbread!

And for a final recipe, something new I have just started cooking:

French Onion Soup
I love this soup but it is so hard to find a good version of this without driving forever for some so why not make at home!

4 large onions - sliced (I used my mandolin so they would be even slices)
1/2 cup real butter
2 garlic cloves minced
2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme
2-3 bay leaves
1 cup red wine - I recommend a hearty red like a Cabernet or red zin for this recipe
2 tablespoons of all purpose flour
1 quart beef stock

In a large pot, melt the stick of butter and then add the sliced onions, garlic, thyme sprigs, and bay leaves.  Cook the onions slowly until they caramelize.  This stage is really important as this is where most of the flavor for the soup comes from.  Cooking the onions slowly so they caramelize to a nice golden brown is really important. 

Once the onions have soften and caramelized, remove the bay leaves and thyme sprigs and add the wine.  cook until the liquid of the wine is gone.  At this stage, add the flour and stir cooking on medium low so you don't burn the flour.  Cook like this for around 10 minutes so the flour integrates into the onion mixture. Finally, add the beef stock can cook for another 20 minutes.  I like a really low boil for this stage...too high a boil and you get a frothy mess on the surface. 

I serve in a bowl or crock (if you have them) with a large crouton and shredded Gruyere cheese.  I make the croutons out of homemade rustic bread that I have brushed with either butter or olive oil and toasted in the oven until super crunchy!

Well, there you have it!  Three soups to give a try on your own.  These are especially nice when it is cold outside so it is sad that I pick a day when it is 72 degrees in Dallas in January to go to town cooking.  but, I now have 20 servings of soup packed away in my freezer just waiting for my microwave....


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