Cheese & Broccoli Soup

Autumn is the perfect time to start making yummy soups, and this has always been one of my favorites, though in the past the best I could do was open a can of it in condensed form, which is never very satisfactory. I modified the liquid in this recipe, since I find that too much milk in this soup make it taste funny; the more broth the better. So I amped up the broth, toned down the milk, and increased the cheese. Honestly I could have added cream cheese, but this is at least a start to having a recipe for this soup that I want to make more than one time. My baby boy adored it and ate it in large quantities, which is good since neither my husband or daughter liked it.

Cheese and Broccoli Soup

2 3/4 C. chicken broth

1 onion, diced small

1/4 C. butter

1/3 C. all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

1 1/3 C. milk, warmed 1 min. in microwave

2 C. shredded cheddar cheese

3 C. chopped broccoli, steamed until tender

4 oz. cream cheese, softened

  • In a large pot or dutch oven bring the chicken broth to a boil with the onions in it. Turn the temperature down to simmer for 15-20 minutes, until the onion is soft.
  • Meanwhile steam the broccoli and set aside.
  • In a small pot melt the butter. Add in the flour and next 2 ingredients and stir over medium heat for a couple of minutes until smooth. Whisk in the heated milk and stir until smooth and thickened. Pour this mixture into the chicken broth and onions and combine. Add in the cheese, stirring until the cheese is completely melted in, and the broccoli.
  • Process the hot soup mixture, being super careful not to overfill in the blender, blending until smooth. Return to the pot and mix in the softened cream cheese. Serve warm with more shredded cheese on top, if desired.

Adapted from Melskichencafe.com’s recipe for Broccoli Cheese soup.  

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Bacon and Cheese Frittata

This recipe was dinner last night. It was an easy meal night, an eggy kind of night, so the original plan was bacon omelets. I was not to keen on the thought of having to make individual omelets, especially since we were not sure who was going to be eating with us. I thought of changing the meal to a frittata; I had never made one before, though I knew it couldn’t be too difficult. I looked at a variety of recipes to get the sense of making one. I love dishes where you can add or subtract anything you want except the eggs. Both my husband and I do not like sausage very much, so I thought why not make a bacon frittata? Mmm, bacon! It is basically the omelet that I was going to have to make individually, and now it was a dish I could cut into slices to serve. Plus, it’s always a bonus to be able to go directly from the stovetop into the oven; I have really been enjoying the stainless steel pots and pans. Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, or any time in-between is a good time to eat a frittata. Especially when it has bacon in it. 

Bacon and Cheese Frittata

2 Tbs. butter

12 eggs

1/2 C. milk

1/2 packaged bacon, cooked and crumbled

salt & pepper to taste

1 3/4 C. sharp cheddar cheese, grated

1 medium onion, chopped small

  • Preheat oven to 350°.
  • In the same pan that you cooked the bacon in (preferably oven safe), after draining out most of the fat, heat to medium heat, adding in the butter until melted and cook the onion. I cooked mine until it was delightfully soft, but not caramelized, though it was still too cooked for my husband’s sensitive-to-sweet tastebuds. Next time I’ll cook them less, just because I love him. 
  • Beat the eggs with the milk, and salt and pepper. Pour part of this onto the cooked onions, add the crumbled bacon and cheese, and pour the remainder of the egg mixture over that. 
  • Cook on the stovetop pulling back the sides to allow uncooked egg to run to the bottom. 
  • Transfer the pan from the stovetop into the oven to cook for about 25 minutes, until the egg is set and fully cooked.

Grilled Margherita Pizza

It has been seriously hot here lately, so we have not done pizza in the oven on the stone because the mere thought of heating the oven to 500° makes me sweat. We are, thankfully, in an air conditioned house; nevertheless we have an eat-in kitchen here and I do not want to eat in that kind of heat. So, after watching a 3 minute clip on our On Demand where Bobby Flay grills his pizza on his outdoor grill we wanted to give it a shot. After a couple of tries my husband perfected the technique of grilling the pizza dough.

The dough recipe I have been using is in the book The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart, so I will not post the recipe on my blog, but encourage you to buy the book or check it out from your local library, like I did. The dough is easily made the night before, cut into 6 pieces to pre-ferment, and you can just take out the amount you want a few hours beforehand, practice tossing it (my husband is getting pretty good at that trick) and then roll it thin. With the crust you actually cook it completely on the grill on both sides, take it off, put the next crust on (if your grill is smaller like ours is), get the pizza assembled on the cooked dough, and then take off the cooked crust and put the pizza back on the grill on a sheet to melt the cheese. 

This pizza is so good that I do not miss the tomato sauce, or pepperoni! The crust is so thin and almost cracker-y, the ingredients are so fresh and delightful, that this pizza is a complete meal! I am looking forward to trying this dough on the stone in the oven, but for the summertime this is going to be our go-to pizza. 

Grilled Margherita Pizza

Mozzarella (you can use fresh, but we have been using the pre-shredded kind)

Fresh basil, torn into pieces

Ripe tomatoes (any size or variety you choose)

EVOO

salt and pepper

Pizza Crust (our last batch had 1/2 C. of buckwheat flour and the rest was King Arthur bread flour)

  • Preheat the grill.
  • Cook the crust for a couple of minutes on both sides. Cooking time will depend on your grill and the temperature. It does not take long to get those beautiful grill marks so just watch it carefully.
  • Assemble the pizza on the cooked crust by brushing it with the evoo, cheese, then fresh tomato slices, and salt and pepper. 
  • Place the pizza onto a sheet pan and cook for another couple of minutes until the cheese is melted.
  • Sprinkle with fresh basil and serve! 

Shells ‘n Cheese

My husband and I realized long ago that we don’t like macaroni noodles. So, our Mac ‘n Cheese usually consists of whatever kind of noodle we feel like, though usually it is large shells. We love the way the shells hold the cheese sauce inside the shells so you get a more cheesy bite with the shells. This is my Grandmother’s recipe, the one that my mother passed on to me when I got married. The picture seen below is of my mom’s copy of this recipe that my Grandmother hand-wrote out in her cursive back when my mom got married. Someday I will give a copy of this recipe to my daughter, though it will probably be typed out and possibly emailed. My handwriting, especially my cursive, has never been my strong suit.

Shells ‘n Cheese

2 chicken bouillon cubes

1 Tbs. salt

2 C. large shells

2 C. cheddar cheese

4 Tbs. butter

 4 Tbs. flour

2 C. milk

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. paprika

3/4 tsp. dijon mustard

2 Tbs. melted butter

1/4 C. breadcrumbs

  • Preheat oven to 350°.
  • Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Once boiling add the bouillon cubes and salt until dissolved. Add the shells and cook according to directions on the box until done.
  • While cooking the pasta make the White Sauce. Make a roux by melting the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and cook for 1-2 minutes, while whisking. Add the milk 1 C. at a time. Stir constantly until it starts to thicken up. Add the cheese until melted, with the salt, paprika and mustard. Add drained cooked pasta into the sauce and mix well.
  • Combine the melted butter and breadcrumbs to make the topping. Sprinkle evenly over the pasta after putting the pasta mixture into its baking dish.
  • Bake for 20 minutes, until the topping is browned and crispy.

Spinach and Artichoke Dip

My husband and I love Spinach and Artichoke Dip, yet I have never tried making it before today. I can still remember eating it together in Applebee’s restaurant when we were dating. I was flipping through the Crock-Pot cookbook looking for new recipes to try and I came across this dip. It is easy and delightful. We ate it with Triscuits, which I can only imagine is somewhat healthier than potato chips or corn chips, and my mom topped her hamburger with it. Anyway you eat it it tastes good. Ours definitely had more onion and garlic than the actual recipe calls for. Mmmmmm. 

Spinach and Artichoke Dip

2 8 oz. packages of cream cheese, softened

3/4 C. half and half

1/2 small onion, finely chopped

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1/2 C. Parmesan cheese, grated

1 10 oz. box frozen cut spinach, thawed and well drained

1 13 oz. can quartered artichoke hearts, rinsed, drained and chopped

2/3 C. Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (We used Pepper Jack cheese)

  • Combine the cream cheese and half and half (or 1/2 C. heavy whipping cream and 1/4 C. whole milk) in a bowl until well blended. I used a potato masher to blend it as well as I could without splashing milk all over the place. 
  • Add the remaining ingredients and stir well.
  • Pour the mixture into crock pot; cook on High for 1 1/2- 2 hours, or until warm. 
Adapted from the Crock-Pot recipe booklet. 

Basil Tomato Soup + Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

A rainy September evening deserves warming Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese sandwiches. That perfect meal to leave your insides warm and fuzzy. I have always gone the easy route when it comes to Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese sandwiches- opening a can and diluting it with water or milk, but after this soup, another winner from my beloved Southern Living Magazine, I will never go that route again. The touch of fresh lemon juice and rind gives the tomato soup an uncommonly good kick. For the Basil Tomato Soup I did not use the fresh basil that the recipe calls for. I would have loved to but the only fresh basil at Wegman’s was a couple leaves in a tiny baggie, or a live basil plant with roots and all. So after deliberating over the benefits of fresh basil vs. going to another grocery store for 1 item, we decided to use dried basil. I will try it with the fresh basil one day, but it is delightful with the dried basil, and much easier because I could just skip step 2, and just add everything at once, bring it to a boil, and then simmer for 20 minutes. Because we are currently living without our hand blender we had to process the soup in a blender in batches, but a hand blender is so much easier! My husband bought mine for me for Christmas one year, and it was one of my most favorite presents I have ever gotten from him. Usually plug-in presents from husband to wife for Christmas are frowned upon, but I would take this one over jewelry. That’s saying a lot coming from a woman who collects vintage and antique jewelry.

Since I cut this recipe in 1/2-2/3 I thought I would put down exactly what I do so I don’t forget it, since this soup is so delicious!

Basil Tomato Soup

1 medium onion, chopped small

3 garlic cloves

2 Tbs. olive oil

2 (35 oz.) cans Italian-style whole peeled tomatoes with basil

1 (14 oz.) can of chicken broth 

2 heaping Tbs. dried basil

zest 1 lemon

juice of half of the lemon

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. sugar

1/4 tsp. pepper

  • Cook up the onion and garlic in the olive oil over medium heat in the pot.
  • Add all other ingredients and simmer on low, after bringing to a low boil, for 20 minutes. 
  • If using a blender, process in batches once the soup has cooled somewhat, and don’t fill it up more than about 1/2 full, since the hot liquid can explode. 

For the Grilled Cheese sandwiches we got the Wegman’s bakery Italian bread- yum- and Munster and Mild Cheddar Cheese. Here is another great Grilled Cheese sandwich idea brought to you by Southern Living. One thing we have recently discovered is that Italian bread is the best bread to use when making French Toast and Grilled Cheese sandwiches. A better match than Peanut Butter and Jelly.

My husband offered our daughter a slice of cheese when he was getting the sandwiches ready to be cooked (low and slow) and he said, “Do you want some Muenster cheese?” and our daughter acted scared and said, “I don’t want Monster cheese!”