Weeknight Dinners

Potato Bacon Soup

When it’s 7 degrees and dark outside, its hard to de-quilt and get the day going. Add two additional humans on to the morning routine, and it’s no wonder I need a cup of jet fuel to begin my winter mornings.

Jet-fuel consumed, today we were all craving creamy, comfort food. We’ve had a Swanson’s (Campbell Soup Company) Potato Soup Mix in our pantry and thought it would work perfect on this uber cold day!

Going into it, expectations were very low. Premixed soup bases can be overly salty, high in calories, or lack overall flavor.

This mix NAILED IT. Fair sodium, no msg, low 90 calories and hearty. Taste was SPOT ON!

Have you ever had creamy potato soup at a restaurant and thought, “If I could make this at home….mmmmmm.” This mix is THAT soup. Amazing.

Prep time was about 8 minutes including pulling out the dutch oven (or 10 cup large kettle), cubing the potatoes and rendering the fat off the bacon. Easy and fast. Then the soup just simmers for 30 minutes until the potatoes are soft. You can use whatever potato you have, I used russet baking potatoes since I have a whole big bag of them right now.

Ingredients:

We would make this again. It fed the 4 of us tonight, plus we have about 3, one cup servings left. Each serving is 90 calories. If you want to lighten it up, use milk instead of cream, although your consistency will not be as thick. You could also omit the milk and cream altogether. I sampled it before I added the cream, and it was delicious without it.

Enjoy! Clean bowl club tonight!
 

Holiday Favorites

Chocolate Christmas Cupcakes

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It wasn’t our plan to make Christmas cupcakes this year, but when we found these adorable nut-free Wilton gingerbread people, we couldn’t resist. The recipe we found online had over 240 positive reviews for “decadent chocolate cupcakes” and we decided to give it a try….after two cups of coffee!

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FIRST:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350.
  2. Line that cupcake holder with 12 festive liners or a whole lot of Pam spray if you’re not lining (totally fine, too!).
  3. Make sure your EGGS and BUTTERMILK are at room temp.
  4. If you don’t have buttermilk, which I never do, just google a substitute

 

Decadent Chocolate Christmas Cupcakes

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa – like Vermont Nut Free
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs (room temperature)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk

Directions

  1. Fill the lined cupcake tin half way full with the batter.
  2. Batter will be runny. Use a spoon to carefully scoop in, I only ended up making 12 cupcakes and the yield was 14.
  3. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes. CHECK them! Use a toothpick. Bake up to 20 minutes.
  4. Cool on a wire rack completely before frosting.
  5. Top with festive decor and chocolate butter cream frosting.

Frosting

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl, mix well until smooth:

  • 1 cup butter
  • 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder – like vermont nutfree, Hersheys coca powder is also safe, just check the labels
  • 3 tbsp heavy cream
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp vanilla

 

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^^^ Here they are cooling – our home smells like a chocolate wonderland! And it’s SNOWING! It’s a white Christmas. I hope you enjoy your holiday.

Sending love and hugs to you and yours! Thanks for stopping by.

Snacking, Weeknight Dinners

English Muffin Pizza

Winter break is approaching. Kids are going to be wild. They’re going to be “bored” and they’re probably going to get on your nerves a bit, especially if you’re home with them the entire time – or if one gets sick, and the other doesn’t and you’re trapped. We can create all sorts of scenarios, but basically, I like to have some activities in mind so we can make simple stuff fun, just in case we get stuck inside.

Today Carter and I made English Muffin Pizza Faces. I know, totally just making “what school sent home as an activity to work on” – but I’m feeling like Mom of the year for actually unpacking his backpack, and taking out all these papers, and then doing the “homework” together.

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It’s my fault. This is 4K, 4K wasn’t a thing when I was a kid, so to me, this is all just “extra” and IF we have time for it, GREAT. If not, no big deal. Life is busy. Especially right now. But I’m A+ing all day today over here. Just dont look at my kitchen floor because we could honestly feed a 3rd world country with how dirty it is. That’s another blog post.

For safe and nut-free ingredients, we used Thomas’ English Muffins, Chef Boyardee pizza sauce and some veggies we had chopped up in the fridge for the toppings. If you don’t have pizza sauce / canned tomato, you can easily whip up a bechamel / white sauce.

Bechamel:::[Besh\ah\mel]

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 1/4 cups milk, heated
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground pepper

Directions

  1. Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan.
  2. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until the paste cooks and bubbles a bit, but don’t let it brown — about 2 minutes.
  3. Add the hot milk, continuing to stir as the sauce thickens. Bring it to a boil.
  4. Add salt and pepper to taste, lower the heat, and cook, stirring for 2 to 3 minutes more. Remove from the heat.
  5. To cool this sauce for later use, cover it with wax paper or pour a film of milk over it to prevent a skin from forming.

This recipe was adapted from Epicurious.com.

Hope you have a great week – things are nuts busy, try to savor the moments when you can. They are fleeting.

 

Uncategorized, Weeknight Dinners

Weeknight Meatballs & Marinara

Tarek and Christina are common names in our household. I am addicted to everything HGTV, mostly because all other news is too stressful and/or ridiculous to watch / listen to. So if you’re a T&C fan as much as I am, the thought of the title “Flip or Flop” may be worth a ponder. Think about it…..they never show a “Flop” – at least I’ve never seen one. Have you? Leave me a comment if you’ve seen one.

Where am I going with this?

I decided to show you a “flop” of mine. If you follow me on Instagram (check lower-right on the homepage) you saw my genius idea of slow cooker meatballs.

In theory, this is a splendid idea! However, there are a few points that I must make here if you love your meatballs a certain way……

First, these are first world issues. Just putting that out there.

And now, I’ve had too much time to think about meatballs, here are my thoughts.

  1. Slow cooking meatballs doesn’t allow them to get crunchy bits on the outside like pan frying or baking does.
  2. Slow cooking meatballs makes very mushy meatballs, more like meat sauce if you cook them as long as I did (as per the recipe).
  3. Slow cooking meatballs is the worst way to actually make a meatball.
  4. If you’re wanting to slow cook a meatball, the best kinds to slow cook are pre-cooked (packaged) or pre-made (by you, under the broiler for 3 minutes to create a nice outter edge so they don’t fall apart)
  5. You must have more sauce than you’d think to cover all the meatballs. This was about 2 full quart size jars. I like Classico + Barilla.

Here’s the recipe. I am going to try it again, but using a different technique, like omitting raw onion. Onions have a TON of water in them and when you bake/slow cook onion, it adds moisture to your recipe that can significantly change what you’re making….I’ve done this before with meatloaf.

So here’s a pretty picture to look at.  Way too much onion right?! I was trying to recycle left over chopped onion from the weekend. Fail. Also, not enough sauce, right. Supposed to cover all the meatballs.

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Crock pot Meatballs

Ingredients:

  • 1.5# organic, grassfed ground beef (Metcalfes had WI organic beef on sale yesterday for $4.99/lb, that’s 50% off)
  • 1.5 cups Italian bread crumbs (if you don’t have bread crumbs, use bread or saltine crackers, put them in your nutribullet or food processor with some salt, pepper, Italian seasonings….it’s the same thing)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley, or not fresh, whatever.
  • 2 cloves minced fresh garlic, or 2 tbsp powder
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped (this is where I would prefer to use onion powder)
  • 1 egg beaten
  • You can make your own sauce, or buy 2 jars
  • 1# spaghetti or favorite pasta shape

Directions:

  1. Prepare your crock pot with non-stick spray
  2. Combine all ingredients in large bowl (except sauce and pasta) to make meatballs, approx 12-16 depending on size.
  3. Put all of the spaghetti sauce into crock pot, place meatballs into sauce. Sauce should cover the meatballs.
  4. Cook on low for 6-8 hours

TIPS: If you have time, bake in your oven in pyrex at 400* for 15 minutes BEFORE putting them into the slow cooker.

If you’re looking for nut-free, most pre-packaged meatballs are nut-free. The ONLY ingredient to pay attention to would be the breadcrumbs / bread source. MOST breads are NOT safe, so if you make your own breadcrumbs, make sure your bread is safe. WE use Country Hearth from Sun Prairie, WI. Angelic is also guaranteed nut-free. Progresso bread crumbs are also nut-free, and that’s what I used in this recipe.

This meatball recipe is pretty plain. If you want to spice things up, I suggest another recipe for more flavor. But if it’s a weeknight and you’re looking for fast and easy, this will do. This will do.

Here’s Anne Burrell’s meatball recipe with homemade marinara sauce. I love her cooking, however, I hate how much salt she adds to her recipes. Just adjust your salt levels accordingly.

Anne Burrell Meatballs

Happy Wednesday and thanks for stopping by. The countdown to Modern Family is ON!

P.S. If you have extra meatballs, make meatball subs with a fresh sub roll and slice of mozzarella  cheese.