Twisted Tuesday: BLT with a Twist and a Chicken Soup Disaster Story

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Today is National Homemade Soup Day. It has nothing to do with my Twisted Tuesday recipe at all, except that it makes me think about my chicken soup disaster last night, and I thought I’d share it with you..

I thought about chicken soup all day yesterday.  I decided to make a quick pot of it last night after I got home.  Sometimes I like to take the easy way out, and I’ll throw some chicken stock in with a store bought rotisserie chicken, and some onions, a bay leaf or two, carrots, celery, canned tomatoes, potatoes and tubettini.  Ninety-nine percent of the time it comes out fabulous.  And then there’s last night’s 1% which turned out to be a total train wreck. I was totally off my game last night.  It definitely was not the easy way out.

It all started out as what I believed to be a normal preparation.  The soup was simmering on the stove. Michael came into the kitchen and asked what I was making for dinner.   “Chicken soup” I told him.  “That’s awesome” he said.   And as usual, he proceeded to grab a spoon for a taste.  “There’s no flavor” he told me.   I tasted it.  He was right. I added some salt.  Still no flavor.  Now, here is where it gets a little messy… I had a very small timeframe to get this soup finished and on the table, and in a panic, I threw a chunk of parmesan cheese in, which only succeeded in making a mass of burned cheese on the bottom of the pan.

Come on!! (said dramatically)..I always throw cheese in my soup.  It always melts into it just fine.  I realized that I still had the flame on high, and I was burning it! Seriously…Really?  …and…there was still no flavor.  I threw in a few spoonfuls of grated Romano.  It was a little bit better… but while I was stirring it, I realized that the potatoes and carrots had disintegrated in the high heat.  It was basically broth with onions, celery, a few chunks of chicken, and globules of melted cheese (that hadn’t burned to the bottom) floating around!

I was still going to try to pass it off as edible…
It didn’t work.
They were on to me…

I had Michael come in and taste it again… after he tasted it he said: “Mom, what is going on with you?  I always tell my friends how awesome your soups are, but if they tasted this, they’d be like ‘dude, what’s up with your mom’s soup?’  This is really bad”. 

Now, that normally would have made me feel bad, but what stuck was the fact that he tells his friends that my soups are awesome…

Luckily I had a beautiful loaf of country bread from my beloved Wegmans, and I sliced that up to go with the “flavorless, disintegrated potatoes and carrots, burned cheese on the bottom of the pan” chicken soup. Apparently I sliced the bread into what Mike called “mini loaves of bread” and “mom, you better get out of the kitchen NOW before you hurt yourself..”.

He was right, and after I skimmed the salvageable flavorless soup off of the top of the pan and served it to everyone; I walked away from the mess in the kitchen, and didn’t look back until I got up this morning, when I was ready to face the war zone to clean up the burned on cheesy mess…

Honestly? I think they ordered a pizza after I left the room!

Things just happen in the kitchen… sometimes bad….but most of the time good…

Twisted Tuesday…

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I went out to dinner with my friends a couple of weeks ago, and there on the menu, were corn fritters. I really love them. But I know if I order an appetizer, then I’m not going to enjoy the entrée…so I passed.  I’m still kicking myself for that, and have had them on the brain for the last few days.  I’ve also had BLT’s on the brain, and I thought I’d combine the two tonight!  Bacon, lettuce, and tomato on corn fritters should take care of my cravings all in one sitting!

Even Better: Corn and potato pancake BLT’s, with avocados and chipotle mayonnaise.  Now that, my friends, is a beautiful thing…

Life is still good, even though I burned the soup….

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Corn and Potato Pancake BLT’s
Makes 4 “Sandwiches”

Just a quick note:  You really have to eat this with a fork and knife…it’s not a pick up and eat kind of BLT..

The Pancake:
3 large potatoes, grated and drained
Juice of ½ lemon
2 cups frozen corn
1 large onion, chopped
2 eggs, beaten
3 tbsp all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 ½  tsp white pepper
½ tsp black pepper
¼ tsp cayenne

¼ cup vegetable oil

Grate the potatoes, and mix them with the lemon juice.  Drain them until there’s no more liquid coming from the strainer.

Stir together the potatoes, corn, onion, eggs, salt, white and black peppers in a large mixing bowl until combined.

Heat vegetable oil in large frying pan.  Measure 1/2 cup potato mixture into the pan, and flatten to about ½” thick.  Fry for about 5-6 minutes on each side, until golden brown.  You can keep them warm in a 200 degree oven while you fry the remaining pancakes.

The Chipotle Mayonnaise:
1 cup mayonnaise
4 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
1 tbsp milk
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper

The Rest of the Ingredients:
1 pound thick sliced bacon, fried crisp
2 tomatoes, thick sliced
Boston Lettuce leaves
1 avocado, sliced
Fresh Chives, chopped

Assemble the BLT:
Place one potato corn pancake on the plate, layer the bacon, tomatoes, lettuce and avocados on top, and drizzle with the chipotle sour cream.  Place another pancake on top. Garnish with fresh chives.

Enjoy!

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Ham and Potato Hash

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This past Saturday night, I baked what I believe might be the saltiest ham in the history of the world. No. Not the world. The universe.

Alright, yeah..I’m exaggerating… but it was still pretty salty.

You never know what you’re going to get when you buy a ham. Honestly? The good ones are few and far between. We don’t eat it that often, so it’s disappointing when it turns out to be inedible.

Well, I’m exaggerating again.
It was edible.
Just not by itself.
Unless you like to gnaw on a salt lick..
No exaggeration there.

It just turns out that this particular ham needs to be an ingredient, and not the main course as I had planned. Needless to say, there was quite a bit of it leftover, so it will go into soup, scalloped potatoes, or something…

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I was able to use a little bit of it up yesterday morning, when I made ham and potato hash.

I was pleased with the way the hash turned out, a little splash of heavy cream gave it a little scalloped potato flair, but without the creaminess. I tend to be very critical of my cooking at times; tasting and adding ingredients until I can get the flavor I’m looking for. After the heavy cream cooked down, I took a taste, and involuntarily said “Mmmm” out loud. I knew it had to be good.

It was good.  In the end, there was no leftover hash…comfort food at its best…I just love it when there’s no leftovers!  That’s when I know I hit it out of the ballpark…

The ham provided just the right amount of salt… so I know it’s going to make a good soup. I’m thinking a bean soup of some sort.. Stay tuned…

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Ham and Potato Hash

Serves 4

Ingredients:
2 cups cooked ham, cubed
3 large potatoes, cubed
1 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp fresh parsley, rough chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tsp white pepper
1/4 tsp black pepper
The ham should provide the salt, but if you think you need it, then please add salt to taste
1/2 cup shredded fontina cheese

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In a large frying pan, sauté the potatoes, onion, garlic until softened and browned. Add the ham and parsley, and heat through. Add the heavy cream, white pepper, black pepper, and simmer until the heavy cream cooks down (about 10-15 minutes). Remove from heat, add the fontina cheese and stir until melted and blended into the hash.

Serve with your favorite style eggs, and buttered toast.
Enjoy!

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Potato Pancakes

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I think we’re supposed to be gearing up for another cold snap this week.  I don’t know; the thermometer showed 28F today, which isn’t really all that cold compared to what it’s been, but for some reason, I just couldn’t get warm.  I sat snuggled under a blanket on the couch for about a half hour this morning, until I decided it would be better to fire up the oven in the kitchen and get cooking.  Within five minutes, I forgot all about being cold!

I had three sad little apples sitting on the shelf in the fridge that needed some attention, and I thought applesauce sounded quite delicious.   What goes beautifully with applesauce?  Potato pancakes.

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As I was grating the potatoes, I was trying to decide whether I wanted to make them as the meal, or if I wanted to make them as a side.  That’s the beauty of potato pancakes, they can be the star of the show, or the really good back up singers.

I decided that the pancakes would be the meal today, and I’d make some bacon jam too.   I found a really good recipe for bacon jam on Angela Roberts’ blog called Spinach Tiger.  I’ve never had bacon jam before, and I’ve always wanted to try it.  To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect, and I wasn’t sure if I’d like meat made into a jam.  I’m happy to report that it’s delicious!  It’s sweet bacon. Sweet and oniony bacon. I can totally see what the hype was all about last year.  I will definitely make this again.  Angela’s recipe called for apples, but since I already had the apples simmering on the stove, I omitted them.

Honestly?  I think the bacon jam stole the limelight.

Potato Pancakes

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The Potato Pancakes
4 potatoes, peeled and grated
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
Juice of ½ lemon
2 eggs
¼ cup instant polenta
½ cup grated Romano cheese
1 tbsp parsley
½ tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper

1 cup vegetable oil

Grate the peeled potatoes, and mix with the lemon juice.  Drain the potatoes in a colander that has been placed over a bowl.  It takes a good hour for them to drain completely.  Or you can help them along by squeezing the liquid out of them.

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In a large bowl, mix the drained potatoes, onion, garlic, eggs, polenta, Romano cheese, parsley, salt and pepper.

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In a large frying pan, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat.  Measure ½ cup of the potato mixture into the frying pan, and flatten to about ½” thick.   You should be able to cook two or three pancakes at a time.   Fry for about 5-6 minutes on each side, or until golden brown.  Keep them warm in a 200 degree oven while you cook the rest of the pancakes.

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The Applesauce
3 apples, any kind, peeled and cut into cubes
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup brown sugar
¼ tsp cinnamon

In a large saucepan, add the apples and water.  Cover and simmer over medium heat until the apples are softened.   Remove from heat.  Add the brown sugar and cinnamon.

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At this point, you can either mash the cooked apples by hand with a potato masher, or  pulse them a few times in a food processor.  It really depends on your “chunk” preference.  My family tends to like their applesauce smooth, so I use my food processor.   Store in a covered bowl in the refrigerator for up to a week.

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The Bacon Jam
1 pound bacon, fried crisp
1 medium sweet onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup strong coffee
¼ cup cider vinegar
¼ cup brown sugar
Pinch of cayenne
¼ cup maple syrup

In a large frying pan, fry the bacon until it’s crisp.  Drain on paper towel until cooled, and then break into pieces.

Remove all but 1 tablespoon of the bacon grease from the frying pan, and add the onions, garlic, coffee, vinegar, brown sugar, and cayenne.   Cook until the onions are translucent.

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Add the bacon back to the pan along with the maple syrup.  Reduce heat, and let simmer until the bacon mixture cooks down to a jam-like consistency, about an hour.  Angela said that you can add water to the jam if it becomes too dry while it is cooking.

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Remove from heat, and pour the bacon mixture into a food processor.  Pulse a couple of times to break the bacon up, but you still want to be able to see the pieces of bacon. Store in the refrigerator for up to a week.

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Garlic Sour Cream
1 cup sour cream
1 clove garlic
½ tbsp parsley

In a small bowl, mix the sour cream, garlic, and parsley until well combined. Refrigerate.

Serve the pancakes with the bacon jam, applesauce and a dollop of sour cream. Garnish with fresh parsley or chopped chives.

Enjoy!

Chicken Corn Chowder

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This Polar Vortex has me in soup mood. I’m a cold weather kind of girl, but this is just way too cold! Seriously, as I was walking into work this morning, I couldn’t believe how the cold air hurt. I mean, it really stung my face. It’s not a very long walk (like two minutes), from the parking lot to the building where I work, but it honestly felt like I walked a mile. That short walk in the frigid air set the tone for the rest of the day. I was chilled to the bone. All day.

When I got home from work today, I couldn’t have been happier that I had made a huge pot of chicken corn chowder last night. It’s one of Michael’s favorite soups, and when I make it, I have to make it big. He’ll eat it all night, and the next day. The container of leftover soup was the prettiest sight I’d ever seen!

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You know, any kind of soup is comfort food; but when you add cheese to it, and make it thick and creamy; it just adds that highest level of comfort that we all desire. That’s exactly what this soup does, and I can honestly understand why this is one of Mike’s favorites.

Although I don’t make it often, I do love to make this soup, and it is another one out of my “quick and easy” recipes. It’s made from rotisserie chicken from my beloved Wegmans; boxed chicken stock, a quart of half and half, frozen corn, and some fresh vegetables. It takes about an hour and a half from start to finish. An hour and 15 minutes to cook down, and 15 minutes to cut up the vegetables! It’s a no fuss kind of meal, just perfect for this type of weather when all you want to do is snuggle under a blanket to keep warm!

Life is good. Life is “Polar Vortex makes me want to make soup” kind of good… Keep warm and safe!

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Chicken Corn Chowder

This pot of soup would easily feed my family of five when everyone was home, and with leftovers for dinner the next day, and snacks all night for Mike. When I make it in my 8 quart soup pot, it is filled to the brim. In my house, every last drop is eaten over a period of two to three days; but you can easily cut the recipe in half!

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I have to come clean. When I was at Wegmans buying the ingredients, I wanted to find some breadsticks to go with the soup. I saw this really cute bag of crackers on the shelf in the Italian Section. I didn’t have my reading glasses with me, and the bag was printed in Italian. I thought they were crackers. Well, they’re not crackers. They’re cookies. What I thought looked like salt, is actually sugar. I was expecting a kind of pretzel type of flavor, but got kind of like a shortbread flavor, and I must say rather delicious…just not to dunk in the soup! If anything, they looked cute in the photos!  I really need to learn to speak Italian!  Francesca?  A little help here?!

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The Ingredients:
2 store bought rotisserie chickens, meat removed from bones, and cut into bite size pieces
2 – 32 oz cartons culinary chicken stock
4 carrots, peeled and sliced
4 potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
3 stalks celery, sliced
1 large onion, chopped
1 quart Half and Half
2 – 16 oz bags frozen corn
1 ½ lb Velveeta processed cheese spread (Hey, I didn’t say this was calorie free!)
1 tsp salt to begin with, and add more after to taste
1 tsp black pepper
1 tbsp white pepper
¼ tsp cayenne (or more, depending on your heat preference)

Shredded Cheddar and chopped bacon for garnish (optional)

In a large soup pot, add the chicken, chicken stock, carrots, celery, potatoes, onion, salt and black pepper. Simmer over medium heat for 45 minutes.

Add the Half and Half, corn, cheese spread, white pepper, and cayenne. Cook for ½ hour until thickened.

Serve immediately with shredded cheddar and chopped bacon as a garnish. And breadsticks! Or cute little cookies with roosters on them… whatever tickles your fancy!

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Sausage and Bean Soup

This weekend started out with so many plans.  But…I almost want to call this a failed weekend, because the man who invented weekends really didn’t think it through.    He should have realized that the weekend should begin on Friday, with a few more hours added to both Saturday and Sunday.  Therefore, I did not have enough time to get everything done that I wanted to do.

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I wanted to get through this massive pile of laundry that has been building up for the last couple of months.  I don’t know how it piles up, it just does.  I’ve never been able to keep up with laundry, and I’d have to say it’s my biggest weakness.  I guess I’d rather be cooking, shopping, ANYTHING, rather than doing laundry.  I’m not sorry for this weakness….One thing I know for sure, is that when I’m 95, I’ll be sitting on my front porch sipping a glass of lemonade thinking about how I’m glad that I spent my life doing the things that I love….rather than sitting there thinking how happy I am that I had clean clothes throughout my life!  Sometimes my priorities might seem a little off, but it’s all good.  Right?  But in the end, laundry was my priority for the weekend, and I did manage to get through that pile.

Anyway, getting back to my failed weekend.  I also wanted to start baking Christmas cookies. On Friday night, I pulled all of my cookie recipes out, and put them somewhere.  I say put them somewhere, because I can’t remember where. I’m afraid that they might be in the garbage.  Maybe I absent-mindedly threw them in the garbage while I was cleaning the kitchen.  I was in slight panic mode, but they’re pretty much all of my mom’s recipes, so I left a message for my father to scan them and email them to me.  Mom to the rescue once again…and the recipes are now back in my possession!

I thought I had a ton of eggs in the fridge… Nope.  I had six.  I thought I had anise oil in my spice cabinet, but all I had was ½ teaspoon in the bottle.  The rest of the bottles are cinnamon oil.   I swear I bought a brand new bag of sugar.  I had about 2 cups in my container.  I should have read the signs that it just wasn’t the weekend to make cookies…but of course…I didn’t.

Instead, I had a little under what I needed of anise oil to make my first batch of biscotti, and I figured I would at least get them made.  ….And…..I burned them.  You know why?  Because I was downstairs throwing clothes into the washer and dryer; and folding dried clothes.  See what I mean? Laundry is the root of all evil.  I swear to you, it truly is.   As I’m sitting here typing this, I’m looking at a trash bin with burned biscotti.

I was totally unprepared for cookie baking… as a haphazard baker always is!

So, as I stood in my kitchen folding towels, I couldn’t help but feel a little cranky.  That’s when I decided to stop and regroup. But how?  Well, that’s an easy answer! Make myself a pot of Sausage and Bean soup….and…. as my friend Jamison told me…Relax.

The soup was just what the doctor ordered. Just chopping the vegetables, frying the sausage..and then the soup simmering on the stove, along with the gooey bits of cheese with every bite, was the perfect antidote that this girl needed to make everything all right with the world again.

It’s so rich and flavorful, a rustically delicious soup for a cold, and unprepared day. Honestly, if you were serving this soup to your guests, they would never believe that this soup takes only an hour and a half or so from start to finish.  It’s just that good.

I’ll start my cookies tomorrow night…in the meantime, let’s start a petition about those weekend hours…

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Sausage and Bean Soup

½ pound bulk hot Italian sausage
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1 – 15.5 oz can Cannellini beans, drained
1 large potato, peeled, and cut into chunks
1 – 32 oz container chicken stock
½ cup grated romano cheese
4 oz pepper jack cheese, shredded
1 – 6 oz bag fresh baby spinach
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
Romano cheese for garnish
Crushed red pepper for garnish

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In a soup pot, sauté the onion and garlic until translucent.  Add the sausage to the pan, breaking it apart into bite size pieces as it cooks. When the sausage is fully cooked, add the chicken stock, cannellini beans, salt and pepper.  Simmer until the potatoes are tender, about one hour. Add the romano and pepper jack cheeses, and stir until melted into the soup.  So the baby spinach doesn’t get all wilted and discolored, it will be the very last ingredient added to the soup.  Once you add it to the pot, it only takes a couple of minutes for the spinach to cook down.

Serve immediately, with romano cheese and crushed red pepper for garnish.

Enjoy!

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Lemony Brussels Sprouts, Potatoes, and Chestnuts over Gnocchi

Don’t you love it when you’re watching a movie…and you think you have it all figured out until some crazy twist at the end, that you did not see coming, just knocks you right out of your seat?  Yeah, me too…

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I’m still trying to play catch up on the sauces that I made for the gnocchi from last weekend, and this one I have to say is a definite “make again”. I think I may have gone a little starch crazy, but honestly? It worked.

My plan was just to make some roasted Brussels sprouts with baby red potatoes, and bacon. I had just roasted some chestnuts, and was snacking on them while I was cooking the Brussels sprouts and potatoes, when I started in on my last minute ideas… it hit me that the chestnuts might taste good with the Brussels sprouts and potatoes…and…what if I added just enough butter and chicken stock to make it a touch saucy? …and…what if I served it over the gnocchi that I had just made?

I did add some butter and chicken stock, and cooked it on low flame until it thickened. I didn’t add the chestnuts until the last minute; I didn’t want them to lose their texture. I wanted to be able to taste them in the sauce. I quickly cooked up some gnocchi, so that I could do a quick taste test.

Of course, I decided it needed cheese, so I sprinkled ricotta salata (a heavy sprinkle, because I love it) over the Brussels sprouts and gnocchi. I took a taste, and I liked it, but I didn’t get that first “mmmm” factor. The creamy, soft nutty flavor of the cheese really worked well with the Brussels sprouts, potatoes, bacon, and chestnuts, but I wasn’t in love. It’s funny, because I thought I was so creative when I added the chestnuts to the mix.  I truly thought that they were going to be the star of the show…but in all honesty…they really weren’t. They were good. They belonged. But they weren’t the star.

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After another bite or two, it hit me…fresh lemon….and I thought, “Why not?”… I’m so glad I’m open to my own ideas, and not one to reject them immediately…and I’m so glad that I always keep a lemon or two in the fridge… because I have to tell you…

A squeeze of fresh lemon over the entire dish made it shine.
Like the heavens opened up with beams of light and a choir of angels singing…
Ok, maybe I exaggerate. A lot.
But the lemon… I totally did not see that coming. It knocked me right out of my seat.

Don’t forget, I love a million levels of flavor going on in my mouth…and this…what seemed to be a boring little dish…suddenly became exciting!

I can’t even begin to tell you what the lemon did for the potatoes.  They were a little lost in the crowd until the lemon showed up…and then wow, did they show up. Those little starchy chunks of goodness just popped!

The Brussels sprouts with the lemon brought an unbelievable fresh, citrusy, excellence to the dish…the chestnuts with the lemon…so…SO crazy good…and of course the gnocchi with the lemon.. I mean, who doesn’t like lemon with their gnocchi? Not this girl.

Just like the movies… a surprise ending.  You gotta love it..

Life is Good.  Life is Lemony Good.

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Lemony Brussels Sprouts, Potatoes, and Chestnuts over Gnocchi
(Serves 4)

The Sauce
20-25 Brussels sprouts, cleaned and quartered
10-15 baby red potatoes, cleaned and quartered
15 to 20 chestnuts (more than you need, but just in case a couple are no good to eat)
½ pound bacon, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups chicken stock
¼ cup butter
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
1 lemon, cut into sixths

Prepare the chestnuts per the instructions below.  Eat a couple to make sure they’re properly cooked.  Eat one more…yum….Then roughly chop the rest.  Set aside.

In a large frying pan, cook the bacon until it’s crisp over medium heat.  Drain on a paper towel lined plate, and set aside.  Remove all but two tablespoons of the bacon grease from the pan, and add the onions. Sauté them until they’re golden. Add the garlic and sauté for a couple minutes more. Add the potatoes and Brussels sprouts, and cook them until they’re browned and tender, stirring occasionally.

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Add the chicken stock and butter to the Brussels sprouts and potato mixture, simmer on low heat until it has reduced, about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Stir the chestnuts into the Brussels sprouts sauce, and cook until they’re just heated through. Season with salt and fresh ground pepper.

Serve over cooked gnocchi.  Sprinkle with bacon and freshly grated ricotta salata.  Generously squeeze a lemon slice over the whole dish…and Enjoy!

Chestnuts
Preheat oven to 450 degrees

I think the hardest part of roasting a chestnut is slicing into it.  You should really use a sharp knife to slice one side of the chestnut, just deep enough to cut the shell. Make sure you’re cutting it on a board, and not holding the chestnut in your hand!!

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Place the chestnuts on a cookie sheet, and place in the oven.  Bake for about 45 minutes.  Right before you remove them from the oven, dampen a towel under hot water.  Remove the chestnuts from the oven, and immediately wrap in the damp towel for about 15 minutes.  Most of your chestnuts will peel easily.  Don’t get too discouraged if they all don’t peel easily…some of them will take a little bit more work than others, but they’re totally worth it! You will definitely want to eat a few before they go into the sauce…

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