Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Broccoli Cheese Soup in Bread Bowls

Our family loves broccoli cheese soup, but I have never thought about serving them in bread bowls until this past week.

Over the Thanksgiving holiday we went to Panera Bread for dinner one night and both of my sister-in-law's step-children got broccoli cheese soup in a bread bowl. My three year old kept begging for bites from the other kids. That is when it clicked, maybe I should put our favorite broccoli cheese soup in a bread bowl as well.

The kids came to the dinner table tonight and said "Wow mommy this looks delicious". It was a complete hit.

Broccoli Cheese Soup in Bread Bowls


2 Tbsp Bestlife Butter
1 Small onion, diced
1 Carrot, diced
1 Celery, diced
1 lb Fresh broccoli (you may use frozen if you like)
2 Cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 Cup fat-free milk
1/2 lb Velvetta 2% milk cheese, cut into cubes

Heat large stockpot on medium heat and add butter. Once butter has melted add onion, carrot, celery and broccoli. Cook until vegetables soften.

Add broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for 5 minutes.

Transfer to food processor and pulse until vegetables are broken down the way your family likes. Add back to stockpot.

Add milk, cheese and pepper. Cook on low until heated through and stir often to prevent cheese from burning to the bottom. I would not suggest adding salt because their is plenty of salt in the cheese and broth.

Serve in individual bread bowls. The recipe I used for the bread bowls was perfect for holding soup however it did have some deflating issues after rising. You can see in the picture below what I mean by deflating (look at the dough on the left).

As I am writing this I am still very full from this soup. It is super hearty and filling. Enjoy!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Cheddar and Cracker Chicken

My kids love crackers; wheat thins, Ritz, saltines, you name it they would pick them over any other food. When I came across a recipe for Cheddar and Cracker Chicken I knew we had to give it a try. This recipe may not be healthiest one, but I guarantee it is scrumptious.

I changed a few of the ingredients to make this chicken recipe a little healthier (see below).

Cheddar and Cracker Chicken

16 Whole wheat Ritz crackers, crushed
4 oz Finely shredded cheddar cheese (I used 2% milk cheddar cheese)
2 Garlic cloves, minced
1-2 Scallions, thinly sliced
6 Thinly sliced boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 Tbsp Bestlife butter, melted
1/3 Tsp pepper

Heat oven to 350°. Cover a baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray.

In shallow bowl combine the crackers, cheese, garlic, scallions, and pepper.

Dip the thinly sliced chicken in butter and then the cracker mixture. Place on foiled baking sheet.

Sprinkle any remaining cracker mixture and butter on top of chicken pieces.

Bake for about 20-25 minutes. I also turned the broiler on for the last minute to get the tops of the chicken crispy and brown.

I served with fresh corn and canned green beans.

*All family members gave this Cheddar and Cracker Chicken a thumbs up!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Crock Pot Ranch Chicken Calzones

I am not sure if I can call these little creations calzones or not. They did not come out quite like I had hoped, but boy did the filling inside taste scrumptious.

Right before Thanksgiving I started to have some allergy and sinus issues. I honestly just wanted to order out for dinner, but I stuck with my dinner menu plan and prepared Crock Pot Ranch Chicken Calzones. The dough did not form as I would have liked therefore, each calzone has it's own unique shape.

Crock Pot Ranch Chicken Calzones

1/2 Cup herb & garlic marinade

1/2 Cup light ranch dressing

1/4 Cup water

3-4 Frozen chicken breasts

Spray crock pot with cooking spray.

Combine marinade, dressing and water. Start out adding a tablespoon of water at a time. If it seems watery do not add as much water as recipe suggests. Some ranch dressings can be rather watery already.
Place frozen chicken breasts in crock pot and cover with marinade mixture.

Cook on low for about 6-8 hours.

While chicken is cooking you can make the dough for the calzones. I followed
Fleischmann's Whole Wheat Pizza Crust Recipe for the dough. After dough is formed, I rolled it out and cut into calzone style shapes.

Once chicken is complete, shred it and stir to combine sauce and chicken. Fill the middle of each calzone shape with chicken mixture and top with mozzerella cheese.

Pull one side of the dough over to meet the other side of the dough and seal. I used the end of a fork and pressed the sides together all the way around.

Place in the oven and bake at 425° for about 12-15 mins.

*Crock Pot Ranch Chicken can definitely stand alone if you don't want to make calzones. Next time I am going to serve it alone with sides.

Sun-Dried Tomato & Spinach Stroganoff

Some recipes that I come across I use as an idea or a starting point to form my own recipes based on our family's tastes. However, sometimes I find a recipe that is just right and needs no additions or deletions.

In the 2011 December issue of All You magazine a reader submitted a dinner recipe for under $10. It sounded like a great recipe for our vegetarian dinner nights so I thought we would give it try.

My husband actually ended up making this dinner instead of me because I was running late and did not make it home in time to start dinner.

Sun-Dried Tomato and Spinach Stroganoff

12 oz Egg noodles
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 Medium onion, sliced
3 Cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 Tsp paprika
1/2 Tsp nutmeg
8 oz Mushrooms, sliced
1/2 Cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
1 Cup vegetable or chicken broth
3 Cups spinach, chopped
1 1/2 Cups sour cream
1 Tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4 Tsp tabasco sauce
salt and pepper

Boil noodles in a large pot of salted water as directed.

Warm oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook until almost translucent. Add garlic, mushrooms, season with salt and pepper and add spices. Saute until mushrooms brown. Stir in sun-dried tomatoes.

Pour broth, raise the heat to high. When it boils, reduce the heat to medium and cook until liquid reduces by 1/3. Mix in spinach and cook for one minute.

Remove from heat and add sour cream, Worcestershire, and tabasco sauce.

Serve over noodles. Enjoy!

(My wonderful husband cooking dinner)

The overall consensus was that this was a pretty good vegetarian meal. It was not knock your socks off fantastic, but very tasty indeed.

Our Dinner Menu Plan

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. We spent our Thanksgiving at my sister-in-laws beautiful home in Virginia. Each year her and her husband have a turkey tasting competition. She makes a traditional style oven turkey and her husband makes a non-traditional fried turkey. The fried turkey had an amazing Cajun outside skin and the traditional turkey was super juicy and moist. I have to say that both of the turkeys were so good that it was really hard to pick a winner.

This is the first year that I had a sweet potato casserole with unique flavors like cardamon and lemon zest. If I can get the recipe for this casserole I will certainly post it.

Now it is time to get back to normal life, so let me get started by posting our dinner menu plan for this week. I hope to be more on top of things than I have been in the last few weeks.

Our Dinner Menu Plan

Sunday - Sun-Dried Tomato & Spinach Stroganoff with a Fresh Salad

Monday - Cheddar & Cracker Chicken with Green Beans and Fresh Corn

Tuesday - Broccoli Cheese Soup in Bread Bowls

Wednesday - Slow- Cooker Chicken Cacciatore over Spaghetti Noodles

Thursday - Pulled Beef Sandwiches, Roasted Asparagus and Baked Beans

Friday - Ground Turkey Tacos, Guacamole and Tomato Salad

Saturday - Smoked Sausage with Almond Cream Pasta and Fresh Bread

Sunday - Homemade pizza with Spinach and Fruit

Recipes will post to blog throughout the week.

*Disclaimer - These items are subject to change without warning.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Ramen Noodle Stir-Fry Soup

Next week is Thanksgiving week and is probably going to be pretty busy for most of us. With that in mind, I have the perfect super easy, light dinner recipe for you. If you eat light the first part of next week you can indulge a little on Thanksgiving Day, right?

Not only is this a healthy meal it is also super light on the pocketbook. Originally this recipe called for Soba noodles which can be rather expensive. I decided to use Ramen Noodles that tend to be around $0.20 a package.

Ramen Noodle Stir-Fry


2 Packages of Any Ramen Noodle of your choice (throw away the seasoning packet cause we don't need any MSG)
4 Cups low sodium chicken broth
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Small Onion, julienne
1 Carrot, julienne
2 Cloves garlic, minced
1/2 Tsp fresh ginger, minced (optional)
1 Handful chopped spinach
Pepper to taste
Any other vegetables you like (clean out the refrigerator)

Heat a skillet with olive oil on medium. Add onion and carrots and cook until carrots are tender.

Heat chicken broth to a boil and add Ramen noodles. Cook for three minutes.

Add garlic, ginger and spinach. Cook until spinach is wilted.

Add vegetable mixture to noodles and serve.

I served this with fresh bread. For added protein add shrimp or cooked chicken.

*Serves 4 people

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Our Dinner Menu Plan

As I was putting the dinner menu together I vowed to myself that I would not go to the grocery store this week, but use all the items I have in my pantry and refrigerator.

Therefore, some of the items I have on our menu are items I have made before and froze for future use.

Our Dinner Menu Plan

Monday - Chicken & Rice with Homemade Applesauce

Tuesday - Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal with Yogurt (Breakfast for dinner is just so cool!)

Wednesday - Crock Pot Lasagna with a Salad (My mom is coming to visit today and she requested this Lasagna for dinner)

Thursday - Ranch Chicken Calzones with Spanish Rice and Sweet Peas

Friday - Ramen Noodle Stir-Fry with Honey Cornbread Muffins

Saturday - Shredded Beef Sliders, Corn and Green Beans

Sunday - Leftovers

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Vegetarian Tortilla Casserole

As I have said on other posts, you can really get a lot of vegetables into Mexican dishes.

This Vegetarian Tortilla Casserole has carrots, onions, tomatoes, corn, and spinach. It is messy, but oh so delicious.

I did not take a picture of an individual serving because although this dish may be flavorful it does not photograph well by itself.

Vegetarian Tortilla Casserole


2 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 - 2 Cans of pinto beans (I used one and it was not enough), undrained
1 Carrot, shredded
1/2 Onion, chopped
2 Garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp taco seasoning
1 Can Stewed Mexican tomatoes (14.5 oz), drained
1/4 Cup Corn (You can add more than this, I had to go light because of my picky 3 year old)
1 Handful chopped spinach
Salt and pepper
2 1/2 Cups Cheddar Cheese
4 Whole wheat flour tortillas

Preheat oven 400°.

Place olive oil in skillet and heat to medium. Add carrots and onions and cook until onions are translucent. Add garlic and taco seasoning and cook for an additional minute or two.

Add tomatoes and beans, stir to combine. Cover and cook for about 5 minutes. Add water or vegetable broth if moisture is lost.

Mash mixture until it reaches a refried beans consistency that you like. Add corn and spinach.

Spray a 13 x 9 dish with cooking spray. Place a third of the bean mixture in the dish. Top with 2 tortillas and some cheese. Repeat bean mixture, tortillas and cheese. Add the remaining bean mixture to the casserole.

Cover with foil and cook for 30 minutes. Remove foil and add remaining cheese. Cook for an additional 5 minutes to melt cheese.

Serve topped with sour cream, guacamole and my favorite jalapenos.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Portabella Colby Jack Burgers

It really is hard to come up meals that please everyone in my family. I am sure it is the same in all households around the world. I find it particularly difficult to create Vegetarian meals that please the majority.

Well, I found a Portabella Mushroom "Burger" recipe in Rachael Ray's cooking magazine that sounded and looked delicious. Since portabella mushrooms have a meat-like taste they would be perfect for a hamburger disguise.

After eating them I thought the burgers had a nice meaty grilled taste and so did my oldest son. However, my youngest son was not fooled, one bite and he said "what is this?". I don't know if you remember from my other posts, but my youngest is the meat eater. He did take a few bites, but I have to say he was not impressed.

I made a couple of small changes to the original recipe based on what I had in my kitchen and the likes and dislikes of my family.

Portabella Colby Jack Burgers


4 Large Portabella Mushrooms Caps (washed, gills scrapped and cut into disks)
1/2 Cup Olive Oil
1/4 Cup white vinegar
1/4 Cup water
1 Tbsp sugar
1/4 Cup worchestershire sauce
Salt and pepper
4 Slices colby monterey jack cheese
4 Slices of tomato
Spinach lettuce
Condiments such as ketchup, mustard or guacamole

Mix vinegar, water and sugar until sugar is dissolved. Add olive oil, worestershire, salt and pepper. Stir until well combined.

Place portabella mushroom into mixture and marinate for 45 mins or longer (I marinated all afternoon).

Grill mushrooms for about 5-6 mins. Top with cheese and grill until cheese is melted.

Serve on a sweet brioche or Hawaiian hamburger roll topped with any of your favorite hamburger toppings.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Our Dinner Menu Plan

This week is a great week because my local grocery store, Harris Teeter, has super double coupons. That means they double each coupon up to $1.98. For example, if I have a coupon for $1.50 off my favorite coffee, Harris Teeter will double that coupon and it will be $3.00 off.

As you can see by my list to the left I really need to start planning out my dinner menu for the week to take advantage of this awesome coupon opportunity.

I have a few friends that have become super ambitious and are planning their meals for the entire month. While I think that is a great idea, it is hard for me to plan meals and match to grocery store sales that far in advance.

What are your dinner plans for the week?

Our Dinner Menu Plan

Monday - Crock Pot Brown Sugar Chicken, okra and fresh corn (I froze a ton of corn over the summer)

Tuesday Portabella Colby Jack "Burgers" on Fresh Brioche Rolls, Baked Homemade Fries and Green Beans

Wednesday - Prosciutto Pasta Toss with Salad

Thursday - Vegetarian Tortilla Casserole and Broccoli with Cheese

Friday - Turkey Hot Dogs, Broccoli Macaroni and Cheese and Fresh Peaches (I canned these over the summer)

Saturday - Leftovers

Sunday - Hot Dog Jambalaya (using the remaining hot dogs from Friday night) and salad

*Disclaimer: All menu items are subject to change and may be prepared out of order

Crock Pot Zuppa Toscana - Lighter Version

A friend of mine was making Zuppa Toscana as a meal for a new mother and the name was so cool I had to find out about this soup.

Apparently, I am totally out of the loop, because I have never heard of Zuppa Toscana. After researching, I found that it is an Olive Garden favorite.

I decided to make this soup a little different from the original. I substituted sweet potatoes instead of regular potatoes and did not use heavy cream. My family thought it was great, but than again we have never had the original.

I made this soup on Halloween night so we were so busy rushing around that I forgot to put one of the main ingredients in the soup, spinach/kale. I am sure it would have been even more delicious if I would have remembered to add the spinach (see picture above).

Crock Pot Zuppa Toscana - Lighter Version


1 lb Ground Italian sausage
1/2 Tsp crushed red pepper
1 Large onion, diced
3 Slices bacon or turkey bacon, chopped
2 Garlic cloves, minced
5 Cups chicken broth
1 Cup water
1 Cup skim milk
1 Large sweet potato, diced small
1 Cup spinach, chopped

Cook sausage in large pot with red peppers until done. Remove from pot and set aside.

Add bacon pieces, onion and garlic and cook until bacon is done. Add broth, water, milk, sweet potatoes and cooked sausage mixture and transfer to crock pot.

Cook in crock pot for 4-6 hours or until potatoes are soft. Add spinach just before serving. Enjoy!

*If you want to make this soup creamier or thicker you can probably add half and half as a replacement for the milk.

Come join the fun at the My Baking Addiction and GoodLife Eats Holiday Recipe Swap sponsored by Pacific Natural Foods.