Chicken Tortilla Soup – Slow Cooked

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Love me a bowl of steaming hot Chicken Tortilla Soup, my go-to dish in Mexican restaurants. Adore the salty, sour flavors, fragrant steam and the colorful vegetables. Here’s an easy recipe you can make at home in your slow cooker. Leftovers taste great the next day, and can be frozen for later use.

Ingredients:

1.5 lbs boneless skinless chicken tenders
1 large onion, diced (I like the sweet Vidalia onions)
1/2 each – green, yellow, orange and red bell pepper, diced
Sprinkle of garlic powder
1 15-oz can diced tomatoes
2 cups low-sodium chicken stock or broth
1 Tbsp. chili powder
1 Tbsp. cumin
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp paprika
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh cilantro, chopped
Scallions, chopped
Avocado, pitted and sliced
Sour cream

Instructions:

Place chicken in bottom of slow cooker. Add onion, garlic, tomatoes & chicken stock. Sprinkle chili powder, cumin, oregano & paprika on top. Cover and cook on low heat for 8 hours or high heat for 5-6 hours. Half an hour before finishing cooking, add peppers to cooker. Use a fork to shred the chicken. Add cilantro, chopped scallions, avocado and a dollop of sour cream, and serve with a side salad and tortilla chips. Makes 6 servings.

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Campfire Stew

Most weeknights I am scrambling to put a nice dinner on the table ~ one that is satisfying to the ravenous teen athlete and not too overwhelming for the lighter eaters in our family. I found this recipe in a vintage church cookbook and adapted it to “health it up” and match our pantry offerings. From my Girl Scout days, I remember it as “Campfire Stew.” Without the campfire, this delicious stew is made up of  ground beef with a medley of vegetables in a tomato & beef broth. Accompanied by crunchy toasted cheese melts and a green salad, cooked in under an hour, and we have a winner of a dinner. Serves 8-10

Campfire Stew

4 cups beef broth (carton of low-sodium, low fat broth)
1 15 oz can chopped tomatoes
1 large onion, diced
6 stalks celery, diced & divided
2 bay leaves
salt & pepper to taste
1.5 lbs ground beef
2 15 oz cans corn or frozen equivalent
2 cups frozen peas
4 large carrots, peeled & sliced into 1/2 inch dice
4 Yukon Gold Potatoes slided 1/2 inch dice

  1. Brown ground beef over medium heat in a 4 quart stew pot. Remove beef with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel in a shallow bowl. Pour our remaining fat, leaving a light coating.
  2. Saute diced onions over medium heat in stew pot. When translucent, add tomatoes, half of the celery, bay leaf, salt & pepper, cooked beef and the broth. Bring to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes.
  3. Add carrots & potatoes  & rest of celery and simmer for 15 minutes.
  4. Add corn and peas and simmer for another five minutes.

Cheese Melts

Whole wheat bread
Cheddar cheese slices

  1. Pre-heat oven to 375
  2. Arrange wheat bread slices on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil (for easy clean up)
  3. Place cheese on top of bread and let cook for 15 minutes or until browned.
  4. Remove from oven and slice into 4 strips for each piece of bread. These can be dipped into the stew or eaten on their own.

Green Salad w/sweet + sour vinaigrette

Assorted greens (spinach, butter leaf, arugula)
Feta cheese crumbles (1/2 cup)
Vinaigrette (store bought or see below)
Roasted sunflower seeds (handful)

  1. Wash and dry greens or buy pre-washed)
  2. Put as many handfuls of greens as you have people you are serving.
  3. Add Feta cheese
  4. Mix 1/2 c olive oil, 1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar, 1/2 tsp. italian herbs, 1 tsp honey, 1 tsp dijon mustard – in a cruet or a pyrex cup. Stir well and pour over greens. Use tongs to incorporate dressing into salad. Add roasted sunflower seeds on top.

Shrimp and Leek Stew

This light and tasty shrimp stew is perfect for our midwinter-into-springtime when days start out chilly and warm up quickly. A fragrant stew that receives its flavor from the combination of cumin and cinnamon that coats the vegetables ~ leeks, carrots and tomatoes ~ and wraps around the shrimp to give a burst of flavor with each  taste. Serve over cous-cous and with a green salad and crusty buttered bread. Voila! a delicious meal in less than 30 minutes!

4 Servings

2 large leeks, white and green parts, washed
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut int 1/2 inch dice
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
salt to taste
2 cups chopped tomatoes (15 oz can), with juice
1 cup dry white wine
1 pound medium to large shrimp, shelled and deveined, with tail left on
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup chopped flat leaf Italian parsley

  1. Slice leeks in half lengthwise and cut into 1/4  inch dice
  2. In a stockpot, heat oil over medium heat. Add leeks, stirring occasionally, about 7 minutes.
  3. Add carrots, spices, salt. Lower heat to medium low and cook until carrots are tender, about 4-5 minutes.
  4. Add tomatoes, wine and 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil and lower heat to medium; cook 5 minutes.
  5. Stir in shrimp, cook until pink, 5 minutes.
  6. Remove from heat, add cilantro and parsley & serve over cous-cous, rice or orzo. Enjoy!

Baked Deliciousness

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I’m in hibernation/cabin mode. Craving long hours of sleep and comfort food to warm the tummy. This dish has it all: Pasta, steak, cheeses, onions, mushrooms & spinach all baked into creamy deliciousness. Sort of a cheesesteak pasta casserole. I’ve lightened it up a bit but you may choose not to. Lots of options here, and didn’t take too long to make, but I did use up a bunch of pans and bowls, so find someone else to clean up and you’ve got a winner!

Baked Cheesy Penne with Steak, Mushrooms & Spinach
Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 1 pound penne pasta
  • 3/4-1 pound beef (I used “Thin Sliced Beef for Carne Picada” from Aldi’s)
  • 3/4 pound mushrooms, sliced (I used mixed white and cremini mushrooms)
  • 4 cups fresh spinach leaves
  • dash of garlic powder
  • 2 medium white onions, peeled and thinly chopped
  • 1 1/4 cup milk (we used 1%),
  • 2 tablespoons half & half
  • 2/3 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • 1/3 cup Blue cheese, crumbles; plus extra for garnish
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 pinch nutmeg
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • water, for boiling

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Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400º F and oil a 9×13-inch baking dish.
  2. Set a large pot of salted water to boil and cook pasta according to packaging directions, or until al dente. (9 minutes). Put in large bowl.
  3. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet or saute pan over medium high heat. Add beef to pan and add salt and pepper to season.
  4. Once hot, cook beef for 5-6 minutes, to brown on all sides. Remove from heat & set aside. You can line a bowl with a paper towel and put beef in there to drain the fat & oil.
  5. In the same pan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and cook onions until transparent. Then add in sliced mushrooms and garlic powder or minced garlic, stirring occasionally.
  6. Season with salt and pepper and add 2 tablespoons half & half. Stir until thickened, then add to pasta bowl. Add drained beef to pasta bowl.
  7. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and spinach to the pan, cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook until spinach is wilted. Add to pasta and mushroom/onion mixture.
  8. Pour 1 1/4 cup milk into a medium saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil.
  9. Add in parmesan and blue cheese and reduce heat to a simmer, stirring until cheese is completely melted and sauce is smooth. Add pinch of nutmeg.
  10. Pour cheese sauce over pasta/vegetables/beef mixture and mix until everything is coated with sauce and well incorporated.
  11. Pour mixture carefully into baking dish and top with blue cheese crumbles. Bake for 20 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly.
  12. Remove from oven and let cool 5 minutes. Serve hot. EAT & ENJOY!

A Warm Winter Stew

It’s been a slow-to-get-started January for me. The weather keeps changing its mind: first part of the week was pipe-freezing cold; the latter part was outdoor cafe-warm. I keep a coat and scarf in the car to ward off the chill. At home, I start making my winter stews – a comfort food to keep us warm inside and out. Beef Bourguignon, or Beef Burgundy is one of my cherished mid-winter meals. A stew with all my favorites: bacon, beef, red wine, onions and mushrooms. All bubbling together to taste delicious! Add a bed of mashed potatoes, crusty bread and a green salad and you have a tasty, elegant, comforting dinner.

Beef Bourguignon

This recipe feeds 4-5. I once quadrupled it for 19 people, and we had no
leftovers at all…

1 1/2 lbs. chuck steak cut in 1/2 inch cubes
6 oz. bacon bacon
1 level tbsp. flour
1 cup beef stock
1/2 cup red wine
bay leaf
1/2 tsp. mixed dried fine herbs de provence 
salt & pepper
12 baby onions or shallots (peeled)
8 oz. mushrooms,  (I use baby bella)
2 parsnips, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice (optional)
Fresh chopped parsley (to sprinkle in while cooking, and on top when stew is done for color and flavor)

1. Preheat oven to 335.
2. Fry bacon, put in 6 q casserole.
3. Stir fry beef cubes in bacon fat until browned. put beef cubes on top of
bacon in casserole.
4. Pour out fat and beef juices, leaving 2 tbsp.
5. Blend in flour & cook until browned.
6. Stir in stock and wine. Bring to a boil and simmer till thickened.
7.Stir in bay leaf, herbs, parsley & seasoning
8. Pour over meat in casserole, cover and cook 1/2 hours. (Can also be cooked on stovetop on low simmer)
9. Add onions and mushrooms, cook one more hour
10. Sprinkle parsley on top of Beef Bourguignon and serve with mashed
potatoes, rice, wide noodles or crusty bread.

EAT and ENJOY

Summer Picnic Dinners

So the heat continues to sizzle. You want to eat well, healthy, thrifty and tasty and still stay cool. Well, these dishes fit the bill. Easy, Breezy. Cold Broccoli & Pea salad with Peanut Dressing, Rosemary Oven Fried Chicken & Peaches with Mozzarella and Basil will please your palate, be easy on your pocketbook and take such little time you’ll still have time for a dip in the pool before dinner.

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Cold Broccoli and Pea Salad with Peanut Dressing

Cold Broccoli & Pea Salad with Peanut Dressing

  • 1 large head broccoli, cut into small florets (or bag of pre-cut florets)
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 2 thinly-sliced green onions (green & white parts)
  • 1 cup peanuts
  • peanut dressing
  • peanuts & sesame seeds, for garnish

Peanut Dressing ingredients

  • 1/2 cup natural peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce (
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 tablesppons
  • 2-4 tablespoons hot water, to thin sauce

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  1. Heat a large pot of water until it is boiling.
  2. Plunge broccoli florets and peas and boil for 30 seconds.  Use a strainer to transfer them into a bowl of ice water, then drain.
  3. Add scallions and peanuts. Then add peanut dressing and toss gently till combined. Serve at room temperature. This salad tastes great the next day! You can also garnish with extra peanuts and sesame seeds.

To Make the Peanut Dressing:

Whisk all ingredients together until combined. If the dressing is too thick, add in hot water a tablespoon at a time until it reaches a smoother consistency.

 

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Rosemary Oven Fried Chicken

Rosemary Oven-Fried Chicken

Chicken Thighs (as many as you want!)
Handful of Rosemary sprigs
Kosher Salt & Freshly Ground Pepper
Swirl of Olive Oil

  1. Preheat oven to 400. Snip rosemary branches and tuck between chicken skin and thigh. Strip some rosemary leaves off a branch and chop finely to make 2 tablespooons. Sprinkle on the chicken.
  2. Put chicken in a bowl and swirl olive oil around to coat.
    Place on a baking sheet lined with foil or parchment paper and sprinkle with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.
  3. Bake until skin is crispy (about 45 minutes to an hour). Place in bowl, lined with paper towels to absorb the oil. You’ll smell the rosemary while you assemble the two other salads. Delish!

 

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Peaches, Mozarella & Basil

Peaches with Mozzarella & Basil

Peaches, cubed into 1/2″ cubes
Fresh Mozarella, cubed into 1/2″ cubes
Fresh basil leaves, torn
Swirl of Olive Oil

Assemble above in a serving bowl. swirl olive oil. Eat right away.

A Baseball Season of Good Eats

Our family just ended an epic summer of travel baseball that took us all over the Southeast USA. Along the way we found delicious food and amazing restaurants. Thank you to cousins Annie & Gary & Adele + friends in various locales for making such terrific recommendations. Here is the list to clip and save for future travel, and by no means exhaustive. I’ve hotlinked the restaurant names to websites or their Facebook pages. Please comment below if you have a notable eatery to recommend, I love to try new places!

Florida

Lola’s Seafood Eatery – Our favorite restaurant of the summer, hands down! Best tasting seafood ever. An elegant order-at-the-counter and your food comes to you restaurant. We ate there twice in four days, we loved it that much.
962 SW St Lucie W Blvd, Port St Lucie, FL 34986

Crab Stop II – Awesome seafood restaurant specializing in garlic and snow crabs, but also had terrific steamed oysters (photo above) in an unassuming A-frame building with a giant red crab painted on the side. 933 West International Speedway Blvd., Daytona Beach, FL 32114

Peggy’s Whole Foods & Coffee Cafe – Salads, wraps, panini, coffee and smoothies. Also a sizeable health food store. 2200 W. International Speedway Blvd Daytona Beach, FL 32114

Junior’s Seafood Restaurant & Grill – Easy off, easy on I-95 in Jacksonville. Delicious, reasonably priced, hole in the wall restaurant. Loved it! 9349 Main St N, Jacksonville, FL 32218

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Daytona Beach Pier

South Carolina

Handley’s Pub & Grub – Open late, delicious food, lots of TVs, nice outdoor terrace.3873 Renee Dr, Myrtle Beach, SC 29579. Recommended by thoughtful host at Sam Snead’s Oak Grill & Tavern around the corner, (1004 Glenforest Rd, Myrtle Beach, SC 29579) when they were closing they sent us to Handley’s.We didn’t get to eat at Sam Snead’s but wanted to. (there’s always next time!)

Gwen & Franny’s Fried Chicken – Quaint sweet building in downtown Hardeeville with the most delicious fried chicken and fixings you will find on your journey down I-95. Perfectly located halfway to Florida or halfway back and the friendliest cooks & servers. This is a “must-stop” restaurant. 22141 Whyte Hardee Blvd, Hardeeville, SC 29927

Radd Dew’s Bar-B-Que Pit – Located in an historic school house, filled with antiques and pig memorabilia, this bbq restaurant is just off Highway 501 in Aynor, SC, east of Conway. Blink and you may miss the prominent pig sign granting equal time to the  Coastal Carolina University Chanticleer and USC Gamecock. 851 Horry Rd, Aynor, SC 29511

Georgia

There are plenty of Atlanta-area restaurants worthy of a blog post of their very own, but these were our favorites:

Pure Taqueria – Fresh, delicious, sophisticated but laid back restaurant, part of a chain that started in old Pure fuel stations. 103 Roswell St, Alpharetta, GA 30009-1931

JD’s Bar-B-Que – Also in a historic schoolhouse, this ‘cue was hearty and sides were scrumptious. Just south of the Perfect Game baseball complex in Lakepoint, JD’s is a short hop, skip & jump from the ball park.4424 Main Street Acworth, Georgia 30189

BurgerFi – Modern burger joint with great fries, healthy choices. One of those kid-friendly but still slightly upscale places. Burgers are not my first choice of food, but I find myself craving these! Multiple locations, but this is where we ate: 5475 Windward Pkwy, Alpharetta, GA 30004

Farmburger – Another awesome burger place that is so much more than hamburgers. Incredible salads and sides like truffle fries. Just melt in your mouth food! My cousin Gary eats here 3x a week, it’s that good! 4514 B Chamblee Dunwoody Road, Dunwoody, GA
30338

Tennessee

The Slider House – Slider sandwiches and craft beer, of course. This is where we discovered the delicious Nashville Hot Chicken sandwich. Spicy and crunchy. 1907 Division St, Nashville, TN 37203

M.L. Rose Craft Beer & Burgers – Exactly what the name implies. Lively, wonderful food & beer. A great place to meet old friends! 2535 Franklin Pike #107, Nashville, TN 37204

Jonathan’s Grill – Upscale sports bar, varied menu, family friendly. Next to the Aloft Hotel in Franklin. 7135 S Springs Dr, Franklin, TN 37067-1616

Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen – American comfort food, friendly staff & great service. Lots of locations, but this is where we ate: 50 Old Pleasant Grove Rd, Mt Juliet, TN 37122

 

North Carolina

Mad Hatter Bake Shop & Cafe – A great place for breakfast, or lunch, or dinner. But an awesome place to start your day. Everyone is wearing a hat and extremely friendly. 1802 West Main St. – Durham NC 27705

Allen & Son Barbeque – Gingham checked table cloths, Eastern style lip-smacking bbq & delicious sides. At a country crossroads, old-fashioned atmosphere & friendly service. 6203 Millhouse Rd Chapel Hill, NC 27516

Mason Jar Tavern – Southern cuisine with a festive atmosphere & varied menu. Very near North Main Athletic Complex & home of the Salamanders team. Holly Springs Towne Center, 114 Grand Hill Pl, Holly Springs, NC 27540

JuJu Asian Tapas & Bar – Very contemporary, very fancy, very delicious. The dumplings were some of the best we have eaten. Great service, a memorable meal for special times.The Shops at Erwin Mill #210, 737 Ninth Street, Durham, NC 27705

Caffe Driade – The best coffee, espresso, pastries & confections in the prettiest setting ever. Just go, and enjoy the great outdoors while you sip and taste. 1215 E Franklin St, Chapel Hill, NC 27514

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Caffe Driade coffee & confections