Two years ago I lived in a teeny tiny little studio apartment, I loved nearly everything about it except for the kitchen which was incredibly small and cramped. Now that I live in a house that has actual storage space in the kitchen, it has been fun adding to my collection of kitchen appliances. The newest addition is a crock-pot that I got for Christmas, I’m so excited to try a bunch of recipes in it!
Last week for its inaugural meal I tried making a curry that was… less than awesome. I haven’t given up on curry completely, but I decided to switch gears and try a soup. I love tomato soup, and this one certainly didn’t disappoint! In addition to the tomatoes there are several other vegetables mixed in along with the basil and melted parmesan- basically there is a whole lot of goodness in this soup! I had it for dinner every night for almost a full week and when I finished off the last bowl tonight I was a little disappointed to see it was all gone. It’s safe to say this soup will be on regular rotation for the rest of winter!
Boom likes this soup too since he got to have several pieces of carrots and celery when I was making it!
I slightly altered the original recipe to make this soup a little healthier. The slightly healthier version is still delicious, creamy and rich. If you want to make it even healthier I think you could skip the half and half completely and just use milk. Next time that’s what I’ll do!
Tomato Basil Parmesan Soup
- 2 (14 oz) cans diced tomatoes, with juice
- 1 cup celery, chopped
- 1 cup carrots, chopped
- 1 cup onions, chopped
- 1 tbl. fresh oregano
- 1/4 cup fresh basil
- 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1 cup half and half
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
- Add the tomatoes, celery, carrots, onions, oregano, basil and broth to a large slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 5-7 hours until vegetables are the desired level of softness (I cooked it for 5 hours).
- About 45 minutes before you want to serve the soup, melt butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat and whisk in the flour. Cook and stir constantly for 5-7 minutes to create a roux. Slowly stir in the half and half and 2 cups of soup until smooth, then pour it all back into the crock-pot.
- Stir in the parmesan cheese, milk and salt and pepper. Add salt and pepper and additional basil or oregano if needed. Cover and cook on low for another 30 minutes until ready to serve.
Makes: About 6 servings
I saw a package of mini Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups at the grocery store recently and immediately started thinking of what I could bake that would include them. When I got home and realized I had several over-ripe bananas sitting on the counter I decided a loaf of banana bread with peanut butter cups needed to be on the agenda. The bread was very easy to make and the peanut butter cups were a delicious flavor combination with the banana!
This moist bread freezes well if you want to keep one loaf out for eating and save the other one for later. Just wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and then put it in a freezer safe plastic bag. The flavors meld and improve over night, so if you can resist cutting into the bread the moment it comes out of the oven, it’ll taste even better the next day!
Peanut Butter Cup Banana Bread
- 2 cups mashed bananas (about 3 bananas)
- 1 cup orange juice
- 4 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup old fashioned oats
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 3 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. nutmeg
- 2 tsp. cinnamon
- 1 1/2 cups melted butter
- 1 3/4 cups brown sugar
- 4 eggs, room temperature
- zest from 1 large orange
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 tsp. almond extract
- 12 oz. mini Reese’s Cups
- Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees and spray two bread pans with non-stick cooking spray.
- In a small bowl, mix the mashed bananas and orange juice together, then set aside.
- In a different bowl, use a whisk to combine the flour, oats, salt, baking soda, baking powder, nutmeg and cinnamon.
- In a mixing bowl, stir together the butter and brown sugar, then add the eggs one at a time, followed by the orange zest and vanilla and almond extracts. Beat for several minutes until light in color.
- Alternate between adding the flour and banana mixtures to the mixing bowl, beginning and ending with the flour. Stir gently and briefly after each addition, being careful not to over mix. After the last flour addition stir in the mini Reese’s Cups.
Divide the batter between the two bread pans and bake for 40-50 minutes. Allow to cool in the pans for several minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack.
Makes: 2 loaves
There is a lot to love about lasagna- layers of pasta, basil studded tomato sauce, vegetables, and most important of all, the cheese. I love the addition of the kale in this lasagna, you’ll barely notice the taste of it, but it adds some good nutritional value to the meal along with the other vegetables that are mixed in the sauce. Don’t worry about the cottage cheese that’s in here, once the dish comes out of the oven it just tastes creamy and cheesey!
The leftovers re-heat wonderfully which makes this a fantastic meal to prepare ahead of time when you have busy week and don’t expect to have time to cook.
- 3/4 lbs. kale, stems removed
- 20 oz. tomato-basil sauce (homemade or store bought)
- 1 tbl. olive oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 1/2 cups carrots, diced
- 2 cups cottage cheese
- 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
- 1 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
- 6 no-boil lasagna noodles
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and start a large pot of water boiling.
- Pour the olive oil into a skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the onion and carrots and cook until the onions are translucent and the carrots are beginning to soften. Add the tomato-basil sauce and simmer for 10 minutes, then set aside.
- Place the kale in the pot of boiling water and boil for 2 minutes. Drain and rinse with cool water. Once it has cooled, wrap the kale in paper towels and wring it to get out as much moisture as possible. Chop roughly and then set aside.
- Strain the cottage cheese to remove as much liquid as possible then mix the cottage cheese with 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese and 1 cup of mozzarella cheese.
- Measure out about 1/4 cup of the tomato sauce and spread it in a thin layer in the bottom of a 8 x 8 inch pan. Add two lasagna noodles, then half of the cheese, half of the kale, and half of the remaining sauce. Top with a layer of noodles, and the remaining cheese and kale. Add another layer of noodles and the rest of the sauce. Sprinkle the reserved 1/4 cup of Parmesan and 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheeses over the top.
- Bake for 40 to 45 minutes until the cheese on top has browned and the filling is bubbly. Allow the lasagna to rest for at least 10 minutes before serving.
Makes: About 6 servings
Last week a friend requested that I make some chocolate cookies with macadamia nuts and white chocolate chips. I found a recipe for chewy chocolate cookies and adapted it just a bit to add in the nuts and white chocolate which turned out to be a wonderful addition. These might qualify as the chewiest cookie I’ve ever made- the texture is so soft it’s almost fudge-like. Don’t be put off by the instant coffee powder in the recipe, you won’t taste the coffee at all after the cookies have baked, it just intensifies the chocolate flavor!
Be careful not to over-mix these cookies, at each step in the directions mix the ingredients until just combined.
Chocolate Cookies with Macadamia Nuts and White Chocolate
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 16 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped
- 4 large eggs
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 2 tsp. instant coffee or espresso powder
- 10 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened but cool
- 1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips
- 1 cup coarsely chopped macadamia nuts
- Combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl and whisk to combine. Set aside.
- Melt the chocolate in a double boiler until smooth, then remove from the heat and set aside.
- In a small bowl, combine the eggs, vanilla and instant coffee granules and stir until the coffee granules have dissolved.
- Use an electric mixer to beat the butter for a few seconds until smooth and creamy, add the sugars and beat until just combined (the mixture will look granular). Gradually beat in the egg mixture on low-speed until incorporated. Add the chocolate to the mixing bowl in a steady stream and continue beating until just combined.
- Add the dry ingredients and mix until incorporated, then fold in the white chocolate chips and macadamia nuts. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes until the consistency is fudge-like.
- When you’re ready to bake them, pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Use a 1 1/2 tablespoon sized cookie scoop to make balls of the dough, place them on the cookie sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes, until the edges have begun to set but the center is still be soft. Allow to cool on the cookie sheet for about 10 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.
Makes: About 40 cookies
It’s been snowy and cold here all day today, and the forecast is calling for much of the same for the next week. Boomer and I went for our daily walk this afternoon and mid-way through I was seriously regretting not putting on a few extra layers of clothes. Of course, Boom was totally oblivious to the cold snowyness and he frolicked around chasing squirrels, completely ignoring the fact that I was turning into a human icicle.
Once we got home and I had a chance to thaw out and regain feeling in my extremities I decided I needed something warm and delicious for dinner. I’ve made this creamy vegetable pot pie several times since this fall when the weather turned cold and it always comes out well. When I was growing up we used to eat frozen chicken pot pies occasionally, and I remember them as one of my favorite comfort foods, right up there with macaroni and cheese. This homemade vegetable pot pie is easy to make and it’s significantly better than any version you’ll find in the freezer section of your grocery store!
Vegetable Pot Pie
- 1 cup carrots, chopped
- 1 cup frozen green peas
- 1/2 cup celery, chopped
- 1 medium Yukon Gold potato, cut into chunks
- 1/3 cup butter
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/4 tsp. black pepper
- 1 3/4 cups vegetable broth
- 2/3 cup milk
- 2 unbaked pie crusts (refrigerator crust or homemade)
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and start boiling a large pot of water on the stove.
- Add the peas and chopped potato, celery, and carrots to the pot of water. Boil for 15 minutes then remove from heat and drain. Set aside.
- In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and cook the onions until they are soft and translucent. Add the flour, salt and pepper and very slowly whisk in the broth and milk. Simmer until thick, then remove from heat and set aside.
- Press the bottom crust into a 9-inch pie dish and fill with the vegetables. Pour the white onion sauce over the vegetables and then cover with the top crust. Seal the edges and make several small slits in the the top crust to allow steam to escape.
- Place the pie pan on a round baking pan in case it bubbles over, and bake for 30 to 35 minutes until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbly. Cool for about 10 minutes before serving. Enjoy!
See the glass of milk that’s behind this cookie? Please make sure you pour yourself one of those before you sit down to eat one of these Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Cookies. These are some serious cookies and a glass of cold milk is pretty much essential! These cookies were part of the ‘finals week care package’ I sent out to a few friends and relatives in December as they were going into final exams and they were a huge hit. When I started thinking about what to bake for Christmas these were the first thing to be requested.
Its hard to decide if the best thing about these cookies is the texture or the flavor. The flavor is fantastic- rich and chocolatey with peanut butter mixed into the batter and some chopped up Reese’s peanut butter cups thrown in for good measure. But the texture, well, that’s pretty close to perfect too!
These cookies are easy to make, just be sure to put the peanut butter cups in the freezer for at least 30 minutes before you cut them up. If they are frozen they’ll be easier to cut and they’ll hold their shape better as you mix them into the cookie dough.
Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Cookies
- 1 1/2 c + 2 tbl. all-purpose flour
- 6 tbl. Dutch-process cocoa
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 1/2 tsp. coarse salt
- 6 tbl. unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1/4 c + 2 tbl. creamy peanut butter
- 1/2 c sugar
- 1/2 c brown sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 2 tbl. milk
- 2 1/2 cups coarsely chopped peanut butter cups (regular size, not mini), divided
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt then set aside.
- Using a mixer, combine the butter, peanut butter and sugars. Beat on medium-high speed for a couple of minutes until light and fluffy. Decrease the speed and add the egg, vanilla and milk, beating until smooth.
- With the mixer on low-speed, add the dry ingredients until just incorporated. Add 2 cups of the chopped peanut butter cups and gently fold in with a wooden spoon or spatula.
- Use a large cookie dough scoop (about 3 tbl.) to drop the cookies on a baking sheet. Gently press a few pieces of the reserved peanut butter cups onto the top of each dough ball. Bake for 12-14 minutes, the cookies may seem too soft but they will set as they cool, be sure not to overbake. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Makes: About 16 large cookies
Boomer and I are finally home after traveling for a few weeks to visit family. I came down with a bad cold the day I left home to start my trip (ugh) but we still had a great time catching up with family and Boom had lots of fun playing with his canine cousins.
I’m still getting over my cold and decided that a quick batch of tasty soup was in order. This creamy soup definitely falls under the ‘comfort food’ category for me, but unlike most comfort foods it’s actually on the healthy side which makes it even better!
Always optimistic that I’ll walk away and leave a plate of food within his reach
Creamy Cauliflower Soup
- 2 tbl. butter
- 2 shallots, diced
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 gold potatoes, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 1/2 cups vegetable broth
- 1/2 head cauliflower, chopped
- 2/3 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- 2 tsp. Dijon mustard
- Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat, add the shallots and onion and cook for a few minutes until slightly softened. Add the garlic and cook another minute.
- Add the potato, garlic and vegetable broth, bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer with the pot covered for about 8 minutes until the potatoes are tender. Add the cauliflower and cook for about 5 minutes until the cauliflower is tender. Stir in the mustard and cheese.
- Use a blender or food processor to puree the soup. If the soup is too thick you can slowly add additional broth. Season with salt as needed.
Makes: 3-4 servings
I’ve never been a big popcorn eater, I’ll munch on some caramel corn if it’s around, but in general it’s not the kind of thing I crave. This Christmas I was making some goodies for my Secret Santa and she mentioned that she loved popcorn. I was at a bit of a loss on what to make using popcorn, so I searched around online and found this great recipe for Peppermint Cookies & Cream Popcorn. I already had a few peppermint flavored items that I was making for her, so I decided to go the straight Cookies ‘n Cream route for this batch.
And… even as someone who’s not a popcorn fanatic, I have to say it was pretty darn good! When I couldn’t get the entire batch to fit in her care package, I was more than happy to polish off the rest on my own!
Cookies ‘n Cream Popcorn
- 2 bags microwaved popcorn, plain or lightly salted variety
- 1 package Oreo cookies, crushed
- 1 1/2 packs (36 oz. total) Almond Bark
- Place the popped popcorn in a very large bowl, picking out un-popped kernels. Pour the crushed Oreos on top.
- Melt one pack of almond bark according to the directions on the package. Pour over the popcorn and start melting the remaining almond bark. While its melting, stir together the popcorn, crushed Oreo’s and almond bark. Pour the remaining almond bark over the popcorn and stir until fully coated.
- Pour popcorn in a thin layer on wax paper and allow to cool and harden. Then break into pieces and store in an airtight container.