Friday, November 30, 2012

Chile-Pepper Corn Chowder

Have I told you that I love soup?

I have?  Four times?

Oh.  Shoot.

But the thing is that I really love soup.  Really.

And I really really love soup when you get to add half-and-half and cheese at the end.

You know, the part right before you eat.

So this is a basic chowder recipe, but the flavor is anything but basic.  It's different, it's Southwest-inspired, it's really yummy.

Start with some onions and butter (why are you looking at me like that?) and saute it.

Add the other veggies and saute those in the buttery mixture in your pot.

Add the flour and stir to make a roux.

Now start dumping - the chicken stock, corn, green chiles and chipotles.

Did you know that chipotles are merely smoked jalapenos.  This is true.

Bring it to a boil and cook it for a few minutes.

It will be nice and thick and colorful with all of those veggies!

Now add the half-and-half, cheese, green onions and cilantro.

As my mom would say: it looks pretty!  And pretty food is important.  Although yummy food trumps pretty food.  Just so we're clear.

I have a cilantro addiction.  I can't help but add it to anything that might remotely resemble a Mexican/Southwest dish.  I simply cannot comprehend people who don't also love this tasty herb.  They're missing out, I tell you!

I also have a cheese addiction.

Maybe now isn't the time to start confessing my addictions.

Oh, what the heck.  I'm also addicting to kissing my baby boy.  On the lips.  They're just so cute!  Does anyone know when I will have to stop kissing him on the lips?  When he is potty-trained?  When he goes to preschool?  When he starts middle school?

Welcome to my world.  These are the hard-hitting questions I face every day, folks.

Every day.

Chile-Pepper Corn Chowder

2 T butter
1 onion, diced
1 orange bell pepper, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 yellow bell pepper, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp cumin
4 cups chicken stock
1 lb. frozen corn kernels (or about 5 ears of corn, kernels cut from the cob)
7 oz. can chopped green chiles
2 chipotle peppers packed in adobo sauce, minced
1 cup half-and-half
8 oz. Monterey Jack cheese, grated (about 2 cups grated)
4 oz. grated cup pepper Jack cheese (about 1 cup grated)
4 green onions, minced
1 bunch cilantro leaves, minced
Juice of 1 lime

Heat a soup pot and add the butter and onion.  Cook for about 10 minutes on medium heat, until the onion is soft.  Add the bell peppers and garlic.  Cook another 5 minutes.  Sprinkle in the flour, salt, pepper and cumin.  Stir well and cook for a minute.  Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil, whisking occasionally to incorporate.  Add the corn, green chiles and chipotles.  Simmer for 5 minutes.  Stir in the remaining ingredients and heat through.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Broccoli Casserole

I made my mama's broccoli casserole for Thanksgiving.

I really love this and - guess what - it contains Velveeta.

My mom doesn't use Velveeta.  Except for broccoli casserole.

It's so delicious and creamy!

And the broccoli is so fine and creamy and the crackers are crunchy and the texture of this casserole really works for me.

Plus, it's a flavor from my childhood.

It's so good and not just for Thanksgiving.  I make it year-round.

Anytime you need a vegetable casserole with virtually no nutritional value, this is your go-to dish!

It's mine, anyway.

Happy Week-After-Thanksgiving.

Christmas here we come.

Broccoli Casserole

4 ten-ounce packages frozen chopped broccoli
2 sticks butter, divided
16 oz. Velveeta cheese
2 tubes Ritz crackers, crushed

In a large pot, bring about 2 inches of water to a boil.  Add the frozen broccoli and cover.  Cook for about 15-20 minutes until the broccoli is very tender.  Drain well and return broccoli to pot.  Add the Velveeta and one stick of butter.  Stir well until broccoli is fine and cheese and butter are melted.  Pour into a greased 9x13 baking dish.

Melt the other stick of butter and stir in the crushed crackers.  Top the casserole with crackers.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes, until bubbly.  Let it sit for about 10 minutes before serving.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Green Bean Casserole

Have y'all seen the videos of hoards of people stampeding into K-Mart on Thanksgiving night?

They trample, push, shove, bite and claw their way to the aisles of junk sold at K-Mart.

People are insane.

And low-class.

If you're offended by this because you were among the hoard trampling others to snatch up a $10 trinket that you never knew you needed...well, I'm not sorry.

Just calling it like I see it.

Look on the bright side: we all have low-class habits!  Some are just lower-low-class than others.

Speaking of low-class, my grandmother considered green bean casserole low-class.  She never made it, so my mom never made it, and I think it's gross.  So I've certainly never made it.  Or eaten it.

Come on.  I know you agree with me.  It is gross.

But!  There is an exception, and here it is.

Pioneer Woman inspired me to try it...and try it I did.  It's unlike any other green bean casserole in the world.

There's no condensed soup or canned onion rings in sight.

Just a yummy homemade sauce with cheese and garlic!  And fresh green beans.

It's yummy, and I'm pretty sure that my grandmother would agree that this does not qualify as low-class.

Green Bean Casserole
Adapted from Pioneer Woman

2 pounds green beans, ends trimmed and cut in half
2 T olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 large onion, chopped
8 oz. cremini mushrooms, sliced
4 T butter
4 T flour
2 cups whole milk
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
Pinch cayenne pepper
1 1/2 cup grated sharp white cheddar cheese
2 oz. jar diced pimentos
1 cup panko breadcrumbs

Start by cooking the green beans.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then salt it and toss in the green beans.  Cook the beans for about 10 minutes, or until soft.  (I like green beans that are actually cooked; if you like crunchy beans, just cook them less.)  When the beans are done, place them in a large bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process and to keep them really green.  Drain and set aside while you make the sauce.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet.  Add the garlic, onion and mushrooms and cook over medium heat for about 8-10 minutes.  Add the butter and whisk in the flour.  Cook for a minute.  Whisk in the milk, salt, pepper and cayenne pepper.  Cook over medium heat until the sauce thickens.  Remove from the heat and whisk in the cheese and pimentos  Combine the sauce and the cooked green beans and toss well to coat.  Taste it and see if you need to add some salt - I added about another 1/2 tsp.  Add a little extra milk, if you like a thinner sauce.  I didn't, because I didn't want it to be runny.

Pour into a greased 4-quart baking dish and top with the panko breadcrumbs.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 25-30 minutes, until bubbly and golden.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Toffee Brownies

What's on the list of things not to eat while wearing braces?


What is the thing I'm craving most right now?

You got it. Toffee.

And what could be better than toffee, candy bars, and brownies?

Right again!  Nothing.

Please don't tell my orthodontist.

Toffee Brownies
Adapted from Paula Deen

18 oz. (give or take) box brownie mix (I like Betty Crocker's Original Supreme), plus ingredients to make the brownies as directed on box (usually oil, water and egg)
3 big Symphony bars with almonds and toffee
1 cup Heath toffee bits with milk chocolate

Prepare brownie batter as directed on box.  Pour half of batter into greased 7x11 baking dish.  Layer the Symphony bars on top of the batter (you'll have to break the bars and will have about 3 squares left over).  Top the candy bars with the other half of the brownie batter.  Bake in a 325 degree oven for about 25-30 minutes until not quite set.   The brownies will set up as they cool, and you want these to be plenty soft and fudgy in the middle.  As soon as you remove the brownies from the oven, sprinkle the toffee bits on top of the brownies and cover tightly with a piece of foil.  Allow the brownies to come to room temperature before cutting and serving.

Note: I love warm brownies, but these really were best cool.  Although they were still delicious warm...

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Italian Chicken Soup with Tortellini

I love winter.

Except the part where it's cold.

And when it gets dark at like 5:30.

And then I feel like crawling into my bed, under my big fluffy covers, at like 6:15.

Where was I?

Oh.  Right.  What I love about winter.  Let's keep this simple.

1. Holidays.
2. Soup.

And that brings me to this.  Soup.  The cream and fresh herbs added at the end just really make this soup.

It's really wonderful.  I love it when my kitchen smells like an Italian kitchen.  There's just no way to describe the punch of flavor the garlic-and-herb-infused olive oil gives to this soup.

My husband loved it.  And my kids loved it.

Make the most of winter and make some soup.  Only a few more months before the return of cold salads, fresh fruit and flowers.

Italian Chicken Soup with Tortellini

2 T olive oil
2 onions, diced
4 carrots, peeled and diced
4 stalks celery, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 zucchini, diced
2 T flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
5 cups chicken stock (use more if you like thinner soup)
28 oz. can petite diced tomatoes, not drained
3 chicken breasts, cooked and chopped (about 2-3 cups chopped chicken)
1 cup heavy cream
20 oz. bag cheese tortellini, cooked according to package directions
1/4 c olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
3 T minced fresh oregano
3 T minced fresh Italian parsley
3 T minced fresh thyme

Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

Heat the oil in a large pot.  Saute the onions, carrots and celery for about 10 minutes.  Add the bell pepper and zucchini.  Cook for another 5 minutes, stirring frequently.  Sprinkle in the flour and stir to incorporate.  Cook for a minute.  Add the salt, pepper and chicken stock.  Stir to combine and bring to a boil.  Add the tomatoes and bring to a boil.  Simmer for about 15 minutes.

While the soup simmers, heat the 1/4 cup olive oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat.  When the oil is hot, add the garlic, oregano, parsley and thyme.  Turn off the heat immediately and stir for a minute while the garlic and herbs sizzle.

To the soup, add the chicken, cream, tortellini and garlic-herb oil.  Stir well, heat through, and serve with Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.

Saturday, November 10, 2012


Blondies are totally retro.

Think Applebee's in the '90s.

Hey, I liked Applebee's in the '90s.

Sometimes, my mom would take me and my brother there after school.  My brother would eat an entire meal for his after-school snack, and my mom and I would share a blondie.

It was a treat.

So we would sit in the booth and talk about our day at school.  

Back when life seemed so complicated.

I love nostalgic food that transports you back to sweet memories with family.

Thanks, Mama, for the blondies we shared, and for caring about who said what to who in the hall between classes.  And thanks to my brother, who made sure my life was fun.  Always.  And thanks to my daddy, who built a business (yes, he did build that) so that we could sit in a near-empty restaurant in the middle of the afternoon and talk about the drama that was high school.  

I'm done now.

Don't ya want to go make some blondies now?


1 1/2 sticks butter, melted
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
12 oz. (about 2 cups) white chocolate chips
1/2 cup walnut pieces

Whisk together the butter and both sugars.  Whisk in the vanilla and eggs.  Add the flour, baking powder and salt and whisk until just combined - do not over-stir.  Stir in the white chocolate chips and walnuts.  

Pour into a greased 7x11 baking dish.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for 24-27 minutes.  They will be very gooey when you take them out and a knife inserted will have batter on it.  This is exactly what you want - they will set up as they cool and you want them to be soft rather than cakey.  Cool completely before cutting and serving.