Apr 11, 2017

Homemade Bean and Bacon Soup

I can't explain it. Bean and bacon soup feels like comfort food to me, and yet it wasn't something I even remember eating as a child. My mom didn't ever make it, and I don't recall cans of bean and bacon soup in our cupboard. Nor have I eaten it as an adult. So it's a mystery. But I must have tried it at some point, and it stuck in my imagination. So when I saw this recipe for Homemade Bean and Bacon Soup on the Taste and Tell blog, I knew I had to try it. And this is a soup I'll definitely make again. The taste, the texture, and the look all appeal to me. And it's comfort food, after all. In any case, below is the original recipe with a few noted modifications. So get yourself a good crusty bread and give this soup a try.

8 ounces thick sliced bacon, diced (the original recipe calls for a cherry smoked bacon, but I used an applewood smoked bacon with a slight maple flavoring)
1 cup diced yellow onions
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced celery (I'm not a big fan of celery with this soup. So I used about 3/4 of a cup and will use even less next time. Probably half a cup. But it's up to you.)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons flour (the original recipe didn't call for this, but I added it to the sauteed vegetables and mixed it well before adding the chicken broth)
4 cups chicken broth
3 cans (15 ounces each) Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed (I might even add an extra can of beans next time because I like a chunky soup.)
2 tablespoons brown sugar, or to taste (the original recipe didn't call for this either, but I wanted a hint of sweetness)
salt and pepper
1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce

Cook the bacon in a soup pot or Dutch oven until crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel lined plate. Discard all but about 2 tablespoons of the bacon grease. To the hot bacon grease, add the onions, carrots and celery. Cook over medium heat until they start to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook an additional minute. Stir in flour until blended and then add chicken broth and beans. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Bring to a bubble then reduce the heat to low and let the soup simmer for 1 hour. Remove half of the soup to a blender or food processor. Process until smooth. Return the puree to the soup pot and stir into the remaining soup. Add the brown sugar, tomato sauce, and ¾ of the reserved bacon and stir to combine. Taste and season to taste with salt and pepper. Let the soup simmer until it is heated through, about 5 minutes. Serve topped with the remaining bacon. Serves 4

Apr 1, 2017

Beef Asparagus Stir Fry

This is another winning recipe from my friend Angie! Really easy to put together, and I love the combination of beef, asparagus, and mushrooms.

1 pound beef tenderloin roast, cubed
2 green onions, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound fresh asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
1/2 pound sliced fresh mushrooms
1/4 cup butter, cubed
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1-1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
Cooked rice

In a wok or large skillet, stir-fry the beef, onion, and salt and pepper in oil for 3-5 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute longer. Remove from the pan and keep warm. In the same pan, stir-fry asparagus and mushrooms in butter until asparagus is tender. Return beef mixture to the pan. Stir in soy sauce and lemon juice. Heat through. Serve with rice.

Jan 28, 2017

Lemon Blueberry Bread

I doubled this recipe and baked two loaves of this lemon blueberry bread for the first time today, somewhat of a risk since I'd never tried it before, and I think I'm in love! I love lemon, and this has a ton of lemon flavor, plus the combination of tart and sweet is perfect. The soft texture of the bread is just right. This is definitely not the last time I will make this sweet bread. I found this recipe on the Glorious Treats blog.

1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons fresh grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup milk
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries (I used fresh)
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

Lemon glaze
2 tablespons butter, melted
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a 9"x 5" loaf pan with parchment paper (or lightly grease with butter). In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt, and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, blend together the melted butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Mix until well combined. While slowly mixing, add flour mixture and milk in two batches (some flour, then some milk, then the rest of the flour and the rest of the milk). Stop mixing as soon as it's just combined. Rinse off the blueberries (if using fresh) so they have just a bit of moisture on them. Then, in a small bowl, toss the blueberries and 1 T. flour. The flour coating will help prevent the blueberries from sinking to the bottom of your loaf while baking. Add the flour-coated berries to the batter and gently but quickly stir, by hand, to combine.

Immediately pour batter into the prepared pan and bake for 55-65 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean. Cool bread in the pan for about 30 minutes, then move to a wire cooling rack with a baking sheet below (to catch the glaze you're about to add). Prepare glaze by simply whisking together the melted butter, powdered sugar, lemon juice and vanilla, then pour glaze over the loaf. Allow to set a few minutes before serving.

Dec 22, 2016

Turtle Cookies

My Aunt Fae made these terrific cookies as a Christmas gift this year. She knows the way to my heart in combining chocolate, caramel, and pecans. So good! Thanks for the share, Fae! The original recipe comes from therecipecritic.com.

1 cup all-purpose flour
cup cocoa powder
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup butter, softened
cup sugar
1 large egg, separated, plus 1 additional egg white
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1¼ cups pecans, finely chopped

Caramel Filling:
14 soft caramel candies
3 tablespoons heavy cream

Chocolate Drizzle (optional):
2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
1 teaspoon shortening

In a medium mixing bowl, combine flour, cocoa, and salt. Set aside. On high speed in a stand mixer or with a hand mixer, beat together butter and sugar for about 2 minutes until light and fluffy. Add egg yolk, milk, and vanilla. Mix until incorporated. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture until combined. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour. Whisk egg white in a bowl until frothy. Roll cookie dough into one inch balls. Dip the cookie balls into the egg white and roll in the chopped pecans until outside is coated. Place the balls 2 inches apart on the cookie sheet. With a teaspoon make a small indentation in each ball. Bake at 350 degrees for about 12 minutes or until set. 

While they are baking. prepare the caramel filling. Melt the caramel and heavy cream in the microwave stirring every 30 seconds until it is fully melted. Once the cookies are baked, make the indentation again and using a teaspoon fill each indentation with the caramel. If drizzling with chocolate, melt the chocolate and shortening in the microwave, and scoop into a ziplock bag. Barely snip the corner and drizzle over the cookies. Yield 24 cookies

Dec 9, 2016

Honey Lime Fruit Salad

This fruit salad is colorful, easy, and delicious! What more could one ask for? And you can substitute a variety of fresh fruits, depending on what you prefer and what is in season. The recipe is slightly adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe.

1 (20­-ounce) can pineapple chunks, drained well, or about 1 1/2 to 2 cups chopped fresh
1 (15-­ounce) can mandarin oranges, drained well
1 cup blueberries
1 cup green grapes, halved
1 cup strawberries, quartered
Zest from one lime, about 1/2 tablespoon
1 to 2 tablespoons honey
1/2 to 1 teaspoon poppy seeds (optional)

Combine the fruit in a serving bowl. Add the lime zest and toss. Drizzle the honey over the fruit and gently mix until the fruit is evenly coated. Sprinkle the poppy seeds on top and toss to combine. Serve immediately or within an hour because some fruits may bleed and color the rest of the salad, making it less visually appealing, though it won't affect the taste. Serves 6.