Tuesday, November 17, 2015

even better (and faster) tomato soup

One of my very favorite things to do is cook the Wednesday night meal at our church.  We have multiple teams who divide out the weeks during the school year, and every Wednesday night, at 5:30, the line forms, and our church family gathers for an evening of great food and fellowship.  I especially love it in the cooler months.  There's a calm and comfort that overcomes me when I walk in those fellowship hall doors at the end of a long day and chilly drive across town after school.

Despite the true joy I find in taking this on along with a couple of dear girlfriends, it's a big undertaking to buy and prepare food for a large number.  And, for whatever reason, a few weeks ago, tomato soup and grilled cheese were just calling my name.  My original recipe I posted here is a good one, but I needed something that would be ready sooner.  I just didn't have a long time to let it simmer and reduce.  So, I tried this approach, and it turned out even better, because it was faster, but just as good!  I had several ask for the recipe, so here it is.

I hope you can enjoy a cup of goodness sooner than later.  Topped with a few shreds of mozzarella cheese or dollop of pesto, this rich take on the popular comfort soup will not disappoint!

Even Better (and Faster) Tomato Soup

2 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 28 oz can fire roasted tomatoes (such as Muir Glen)
1 6 oz can tomato paste
1/2 tbsp garlic
2-3 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 32 box chicken stock
approx. 1 cup cream

1.  Heat oil in large stock pot on medium-high heat until shimmering.  Add onions, stirring until

2.  Add garlic and saute about 30 seconds, or until fragrant.

3.  Add tomatoes and paste, stirring with onions and garlic, and saute about 10 minutes, allowing
     tomatoes to slightly caramelize.

4.  To the pot, add chicken stock and bring to a boil.  Reduce and simmer about 5-10 minutes.

5.  With immersion blender, blend soup to desire consistency.

6.  Stir in sugar and add salt and cream to taste.

7.  Finish off with 1/4 cup of basil, sliced.

Friday, November 6, 2015

slow cooker star - momma's italian beef

A friend and I were talking a while back about the luxury of eating a meal with our family at home and how a home-cooked meal is more of a rarity than commonplace.  In fact, she said her son made a comment one night around the dinner table to the effect of, "Wow!  Eating healthy is so good, Mom!"  She said it struck her kind of funny as she looked at their main course of Poppy Seed Chicken spread across the table.  Soul food?  You bet.  Healthy?  Not so sure.  But in his eyes, "eating healthy" meant just eating something that came from the fridge or oven in his very own house.

Can't you relate?  I know we can, all too well.  Two full-time working parents, active church involvement, multiple children with homework and extra-curricular activities...  A from-scratch meal by dinner time?


EXCEPT when one has a recipe like this one.  Seriously.  If I can't make time to throw this together, which yields a fantastic hearty and delicious meal, I might add, then I need to pack it up and go home.  Home, I tell ya.

Italian Beef is one of my favorite dishes that Mom fixes, and I just don't think about it until I walk into my parents' house, and the aroma meets me at the door.  I love it, and Mom knows that, and so this last trip I made up north, she had it waiting on me.  What a gift.  I knew after eating it that night, I was going to make a conscientious effort to make it myself, so I could share it with you.

And just hold onto your hats, as I tell you about this recipe:

Four ingredients, NO prep work, and 18 hours in the crockpot -  EIGHTEEN.  Full-time working moms everywhere... this is your BFF.  No joke.

Serve this up with Lays potato chips and a green salad or cold pasta dish... I'm telling you, coming home at the end of a long day never tasted so good.

Momma's Italian Beef

1 five-pound rump roast
2 cans (10 1/4 oz) beef consomme
1 package Good Seasonings Italian salad dressing mix
1/2-1 jar (16 oz) pepperoncini peppers (depending on the spiciness you prefer)

1.  Place ingredients in slow cooker and cook on low for 18 hours.  Half-way through, turn meat inside pot.

If desired, serve on hoagie rolls and top with sauteed peppers, onions, and favorite white cheese.  And don't forget an extra drizzle of juice!

Friday, October 30, 2015

sour cream maple muffins

All in the family, all this cooking and taking pictures thing is.  I was running an errand last Saturday morning, and within about five minutes I received a ton of texts from Luke.  Apparently, he got a wild hair to cook himself breakfast in my absence, and this was the final result. Chocolate Chip Pancakes with a bit of whipped cream.  He begged me to put it on the blog.

Not bad for an 11 year old!  But keep in mind, the pancakes had been pre-cooked and frozen.  At any rate, I was proud, and I thought his photo captured the perfect Fall Saturday morning breakfast feel! 

Speaking of pancakes, these little treasures are a must-make, if you like pancakes.  In one tender bite, you taste the butter, maple syrup, toasted pecans... It's such a great blend of flavors with a just-right sweetness.  It's been a long time since I've made muffins, but these have most certainly put me back in the mood!

Sour Cream Maple Muffins

makes about 40 mini-muffins
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup maple syrup
1 cup sour cream
1 egg
1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Butter muffin tins.

2. In a small bowl stir and toss together the four, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.  In a medium bowl beat the butter until smooth, then slowly add the maple syrup, beating constantly.  Beat in the sour cream and egg.  Stir in the pecans.  Add the combined dry ingredients and stir just until blended.

3. Spoon into the prepared muffin tins, filling each cup about two-thirds full.  Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean, about 8-10 minutes.  Cool in the tins about 5 minutes, then remove.

Recipe very slightly adapted from Williams-Sonoma.


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

cooking light, cooking right ~ fast chicken chili with butternut squash

Neighbors.  I guess there are such things as bad ones, but we have just not been the recipient of those.  In the 18 years we've been married, with a total of three houses, God has placed us right smack-dab in the middle of fantastic neighbors every time.  Actually, truth be told, we don't even call them neighbors, but, rather, friends.  A blessing, indeed!

My parents have been just as fortunate.  They have some of the most giving, talented, hard-working neighbors I know.  They're originally from Taiwan and have over an acre of property that grows the most beautiful vegetables and fruit I've ever laid eyes on.  AND, they share the bounty without thinking twice.  This is why I have four butternut squash atop my refrigerator and why, this last weekend, we had some of the best soup ever.

I really do enjoy butternut squash.  I especially like it because it lasts forever sitting on the counter, in case I bought it with a grand plan and then didn't get around to using it as soon as I'd hoped.

Please tell me I'm not the only one…

I also love the squash because of its mildly sweet flavor and beautiful color.  For this soup, it's cubed and sautéed, rather than roasted.  So. Good.

I usually tweak a recipe, as most do.  I add a little more if this, or take away some of that to suit our liking. I did nothing to this recipe, except what the recipe called for.  I LOVE it when that happens!  Just follow the steps, and you're golden.

You might be tempted to cut the final flavor burst of grated lime zest, garlic, and cilantro to save time or effort, or whatever.  I beg you, DON'T DO IT!  It takes a split-second and is completely and totally worth it.  Trust me.

There was a lot going on at the Lazy Daisy this last weekend, and I can't wait to share more.  Fall is in full swing, and as I texted my dear friend who lives too far away last night, "Here's to Butter Rum candles and steaming mugs of coffee."  Autumn at its best!

Fast Chicken Chili with Butternut Squash

makes six servings

3 tbsp canola oil, divided
2 cups (1/2-inch) cubed and peeled butternut squash
2 tablespoons minced garlic, divided
2 cups chopped yellow onion
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
2 tbsp minced jalapeno pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
3 cups unsalted chicken stock
2 (14.5 oz) cans unsalted cannellini beans, rinsed, drained, and divided
3 cups shredded skinless, boneless rotisserie chicken breast
3 tbsp finely chopped cilantro leaves
1 tsp grated lime zest

1. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add 2 tablespoons oil to pan; swirl to coat.  Add squash; saute 8 minutes or until lightly browned on all sides.  Remove squash from pan; set aside.

2.  Add remaining 1 tablespoon foil to pan.  Add 5 teaspoons garlic, onion, and next 7 ingredients (through crushed red pepper) to pan; saute 6 minutes or until vegetables are tender.  Add stock; bring to a boil, scraping pan to loosen browned bits.  Reduce heat to medium and simmer, uncovered, 10 minutes.

3.  Place 1 cup beans in a small bowl, mash with a potato masher or a fork.  Add mashed beans, remaining 1 cup beans, and reserved squash to pan.  Cook 3 minutes.  Stir in chicken, cook 2 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

4.  Combine remaining 1 teaspoon garlic, cilantro, and lime rind in a small bowl.  Top each serving with about 1 teaspoon cilantro mixture.

Recipe from Cooking Light

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

flourless chocolate cake

Earlier this year, Nashville experienced a glorious week.  Well, in my mind it was glorious.  For one, full week we had enough snow and ice to warrant being out of school five days in a row.  Especially being in a private school in the south, you just don't come by such an experience too many times. And what I loved about it, is everyone was, for the most part, forced to stop and breathe.  The city, in a way, came to a standstill, and our family soaked up every second together we could.

Setting up a card table in the living room in front of the fireplace, we pulled out a 1000 piece puzzle, looped "Andy Griffith" on Netflix, and fired up the oven and stove.  I'm telling you, I pulled stuff out of the deep freezer, the lazy Susan, the pantry, and the back of the fridge.  We had the time of our lives. And the sledding wasn't too shabby, either! 

It was during this stint that I came upon a fantastic flourless cake recipe from King Arthur.  Man, how I love their site!  I could spend hours there, and there's no doubt I would LOVE to go visit them someday.  Their site beckons, "Come visit our Vermont campus…"

Sends chills right through me, I tell ya!

This is a rich, decadent dessert, and it calls for vanilla ice cream like nobody's business.  With my previously-posted homemade five-ingredient version (Plain 'Ol Vanilla Ice Cream), you probably have the ingredients on hand and can almost always make a quart, with no trouble.

I hope you'll find a reason to make this soon.  In fact, if you find the good Lord grants you another day tomorrow, I think you just found your reason!

Flourless Chocolate Cake

makes one 8-inch round cake

For the cake:

1 cup semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1-2 tsp espresso powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

For the glaze:

1 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup heavy cream

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees; lightly grease an 8-inch round cake pan.  Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the bottom of the pan and lightly spray with non-stick spray.  

2. To make the cake, put the chocolate and butter inside a bowl and heat in a microwave until butter is melted and chips are softened.  Stir until the chips are melted, reheating as needed.  You can also do this in a saucepan over boiling water.  Transfer to a mixing bowl.

3. Stir in sugar, salt, espresso powder and vanilla.  One teaspoon powder will enhance the flavor, while two will give it a mocha flair.  

4. Add the eggs, beating briefly until smooth.  Add the cocoa powder and mix just until combined.  Spoon powder into prepared pan.

5. Bake the cake for 25 minutes.  The top will have formed a thin crust and it should register 200 degrees on an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center.

6. Remove from oven and cool in a pan for 5 minutes.  

7. Loosen edge of pan with a table knife or nylon spreader and place on plate.  The top will now be the bottom.  The edges will crumble just a bit; that is fine.  Let completely cool.  

8. To make glaze, combine chocolate and cream and heat in microwave until cream is very hot but not simmering.  Remove from heat and stir until chocolate is melted and mixture is completely smooth.  

9. Spoon the glaze over the cake, allowing it to drip just a bit over the sides.  Allow the glaze to sit for several hours before serving.  

*Tips and Tricks - For cleanest slicing, cut with sharp knife dipped in hot water and wiped clean.  Repeat this process for each piece sliced.  

Recipe from King Arthur

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

flavorFALL - fresh apple cake with browned butter frosting

I have gone back and forth, one hundred times, on how I might "return" to the blog.  Shortly after my last post, I had to call it quits.  It wasn't even intentional.  It just ended up having to be.

None-the-less, I am back, and I am so excited I can't hardly stand it!  My goal was to resurface within the first week of Fall.  If you've read posts before, you may have seen how I love this time of year and the food ops it brings.  I couldn't imagine a better time, so I set the goal and, by golly, I reached it. Feels like forever since I've done such a thing.  In fact, I set another one, too.  Did you notice?  The new (and VERY much improved) look of the site?  I have wanted this for so long, and thanks to an incredibly talented friend, I now have it.  I just love it.  Love. It.

A lot has occurred over the last several months.  A lot.  I don't think I want, or even can, find the words to go into it at the moment.  Just too hard right now.  I'm sure I will in time, but for now I do think I'll do what I love to do, and that's SHARE A RECIPE!  Can I please get an, "Amen!"?

We moved over a year ago, as I shared here, and we continue to fall in love with our place.  It's not so much the actual house, although I'm terribly thankful for it.  But it's the setting.  It's quaint and tucked away.  The street is lined with trees, as we pull into the cul-de-sac, and the place just leans into the seasons, especially Fall.  I feel like our home takes on a life of its own when the oven kicks on, it's filled with multiple kids and their parents, and laughter ensues.  What is it about laughter? And ovens?

When I was looking for a Fall recipe for a crowd, flipping through recipe books and scrolling through websites, there was none that called my name like the title of this one.  It had me at, "Browned Butter Frosting."  Oh my stars and garters…  this was the one!  It received tremendous reviews on the site, and I knew it would be worth the time to give it a try.  Worth the time it was, and I (nor our guests) could have been more pleased.  I did cut the sugar of the cake in half from the original recipe, as the frosting is extremely rich.  But a glass of milk, or - in my case - a strong cup of coffee, rounds it out nicely.

Wow.  And there you go.  Finally, after all this time, here's another great recipe for a slew of fantastic readers.  And it feels so good to be back.

*NOTE - The butter in the frosting requires about an hour to cool before mixing; plan ahead!

Fresh Apple Cake with Browned Butter Frosting

printable recipe

Makes one 13x9 cake

For the cake:

1 1/2 cups chopped pecan
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 1/2 pounds Granny Smith apples (about 4 medium), peeled and cut into 1/4 inch wedges

For the frosting:

1 cup butter
1 16 oz package powdered sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract


For the frosting

1. Cook butter in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly, 6-8 minutes or until butter begins to turn a golden brown.  Remove pan from heat immediately and pour butter into a small bowl.  Cover and chill one hour or until butter is cool and begins to solidify.

2. Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until butter becomes fluffy.  Gradually add powdered sugar alternately with milk, beginning and ending with powdered sugar.  Beat mixture at low speed until well blended after each addition.  Stir in vanilla. 

For the cake

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Bake pecans in a single layer in a shallow pan for 5 to 7 minutes or until lightly toasted and fragrant, stirring halfway through.

2. Stir together butter and next three ingredients in a large bowl until blended. 
3. Combine flour and next three ingredients; add to butter mixture, stirring until blended. Stir in apples and one cup pecans (batter will be thick, similar to cookie dough).  Spread batter into lightly greased 13x9 pan.  

4. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool completely in a pan, on a wire rack, for 45 minutes.

Recipe slightly adapted from Southern Living

Thursday, January 1, 2015

winter wonderland chocolate peppermint cake

Desi and Lucy...
Mork and Mindy... 
Peanut butter and jelly... 

They just go together.  And in my opinion, chocolate and peppermint do as well.  I absolutely love the combo.  Love. It.

So does my dad.  

Poor thing has a birthday less than a week before Christmas, so he has jokingly commented about how it has always kind of gotten swept up into the holiday without much notice.  Years ago, I began making special cakes for him just so he'd know the day - and he - are special. Every year I try something different, although the base ingredient stays the same.  

I know I've mentioned it before, but Dad is a major chocolate fan, and I am my father's daughter.  So, truth be told, we've both been known to text one another when going through a DQ drive-thru... "Hey there.  Ordering a Chocolate Xtreme Blizzard and wishing you were here!"  

That kind of thing.

This year I wanted to try to blend two of Dad's favorite flavors together, but I didn't want the mint to override the chocolate, so I did a beefed up Devil's Food box mix, with a filling of rich chocolate buttercream between the layers, covered in a mint creamcheese icing.  I topped it off with peppermint "snow."  I was hoping for something to make it extra-special and wintry feeling.  The chopped candy cane and white chocolate did the trick.  I wish you could have seen it in person.  These pictures do not do it justice.

So this is a great way to use up leftover candy canes from the holidays, if you're searching. Actually, if I'm honest, I'm having a hard time letting go of the holidays.  I'm just not ready to say goodbye to Christmas 2014.  It seemed as though there was so much build-up and anticipation, and before I knew it, all had passed.  I am excited about the new year,though, and I'm hopeful for what God has in store for those I love.  He has been incredibly faithful and I am beyond blessed.

I am looking forward to another year of eating and sharing and comforting my family and friends with the gift of good food.  Happy 2015 to you and yours, and may God wrap you tightly in His unending love and mercy!

Now go eat cake.

Winter Wonderland Chocolate Peppermint Cake
For the Cake
  • 1 Devil's Food Cake box mix
  • 1 3.4 oz instant chocolate pudding mix
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs lightly beaten
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp instant espresso granules dissolved in 1/2 cup warm water or 1/2 cup warm coffee
~  Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray two 9-inch round pans with cooking spray and line 
    the bottom of each with a piece of parchment paper.  Spray paper.

~  In a large bowl, combine all ingredients and mix on medium-high for 2 minutes.

~  Divide batter evenly between the pans and bake until toothpick inserted in center 
    comes out clean and cake springs back to touch, about 25-30 minutes.

~  Let cool in pans 10 minutes and remove to cool on racks completely.  

For the chocolate frosting
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 2 tbsp milk
~ In a large mixing bowl, cream butter until light and fluffy.

~ Gradually add cocoa and powdered sugar until mixed.  Add in vanilla and mix.

~  Pour in milk and combine, adding more milk until desired spreading consistency is 

For the cream cheese peppermint frosting
  • 1 8-oz package cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2 pounds confectioners' sugar
  • 1 1/2 - 2 tsp peppermint extract
~  In a large bowl, cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy.

~  Add in sugar, one cup at a time, and mix until combined and fluffy.

~  Add in mint extract 1/2 tsp at a time until desired flavor is reached.

For the topping
  • 3 full-sized candy canes
  • 1/4 cup white chocolate chips
~  Place both candies in chopper or food processor and pulse until chopped.  I preferred
    not to pulverize them and have some variation in the size of peppermint, but you can 
    do as you wish.  

To assemble cake:

~ Level off cooled cake rounds by using a large knife and slicing gently in a horizontal 
   direction.  Move one layer to cake plate.

~  Smooth a layer of chocolate frosting on top of bottom layer, making it as thick as 
    desired.  I had some left over to refrigerate and use another time.

~  Gently place second layer on top of frosting and apply a thin crumb layer of cream 
    cheese frosting on the top and sides of cake.  Follow with a full layer of icing,
    decorating as preferred.

~  Sprinkle top with white chocolate/candy cane mixture.

Cake recipe from My Baking Addiction.  Chocolate frosting recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen. Cream Cheese frosting recipe from Southern Living.