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Homemade Tomato Soup with Cheddar Cheese croutons

Last Saturday morning there was a little chill in the air and it looked like it was going to rain all day.  So we planned our menu based on the feeling of fall.  I made the Awesome Mac and Cheese and Hubby made this soup that we found the recipe on top of a can of tomatoes.  So quick and easy!  This will warm your soul and your senses this fall.


P.S.  Weather turned around and it was very humid by dinner time. 


Ingredients

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup milk
2 (14.5 ounce) cans petite diced tomatoes
1 (28 ounce) can  crushed tomatoes with basil
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 (14.5 ounce) can chicken broth

Cheddar Cheese Croutons 

1 loaf baguette, small
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Instructions

In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic; cook until soft. Add flour; cook and stir until moist. Gradually add milk, cooking and stirring about 2 minutes or until smooth and bubbly.

Stir in crushed and petite diced tomatoes, basil, oregano and broth. Cover and cook on medium heat for 15 minutes. Stir frequently and do not allow mixture to boil.

To make Cheddar Cheese Croutons, cut baguette into cubes and toss with olive oil and cheddar cheese. Spread onto baking sheet and place into a preheated oven at 350 degrees. Bake until croutons are golden brown and cheese is melted. Top soup with crouton.

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One Pot Chicken Pesto Pasta

Another one pot wonder hit the table last week and if you were following my Instagram account I tried to show this recipe in a story.  I used step by step pictures and then the final project.  I am sure people were peeking in along the way but probably did not see the whole production process.  What they could tell was how good this recipe was.  

I surprised the hubby with this following his lawn mowing activities.  Needless to say that we really didn’t sit down until about 7:15.  He had been traveling and I didn’t get home until about 5 or after.  This came together in about an hour total with the prep time and all.  A great quick meal for the 2 of us.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 package (16 oz) boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2-inch pieces 
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper 
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
3 1/2 cups  reduced sodium chicken broth (from 32-oz container)
8 oz uncooked Rotelle  (Cork-screw shape)pasta (about 3 cups)
4 oz (half of 8-oz package) cream cheese, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 cup refrigerated basil pesto (from 7-oz container)
1 package (8 oz) fresh spinach, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese 
In 5- to 5 1/2-quart Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat; season chicken with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Cook chicken in oil 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until chicken is no longer pink. With slotted spoon, transfer to plate, and keep warm.

Add chicken broth and pasta to Dutch oven; heat to boiling over high heat. Reduce heat to medium; simmer 12 to 14 minutes, stirring occasionally, until pasta is al-dente and most of liquid is absorbed.

Add cream cheese and pesto, stirring frequently, until cheese is melted. Stir in chicken; cook 1 to 2 minutes, stirring occasionally, until chicken is heated through.

Gradually stir in spinach until starting to wilt. Just before serving, garnish with basil and Parmesan cheese.
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Crock Pot Cashew Chicken

Sometimes you need a crock pot recipe in the summer.  One that gives you a punch of flavor and is filling.  Serve with some Jasmine Rice and a nice glass of wine ans you will think you are at PF Changs.

2 lbs chicken breasts boneless skinless , about 4 pieces, cut into smaller pieces
1/4 cup flour all purpose
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 Tbsp canola oil
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
2 Tbsp ketchup
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 garlic clove minced
1/2 tsp fresh ginger grated
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 cup cashews UNSALTED

Instructions
Combine flour and pepper in resealable food storage bag. Add chicken. Shake to coat with flour mixture.
Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Brown chicken about 2 minutes on each side. Place chicken in slow cooker.
Combine soy sauce, vinegar, ketchup, sugar, garlic, ginger, and pepper flakes in small bowl; pour over chicken.
Cook on LOW for 3 to 4 hours. Add cashews and stir.

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Lemon Blueberry Cake

Grab those blueberries before they are gone.  This is a great cake to make for either dessert or as a breakfast treat.
It is a pretty simple cake to make and packed with flavor.  I am not a huge fruit fan, but have no problem when they are presented in a dessert of some sort.

INGREDIENTS:

For the cake:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons lemon zest
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup oil (vegetable, canola, or coconut oil)
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

For the lemon glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

reheat oven to 350° F. Spray a 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 loaf pan with cooking spray and set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder. In a small bowl, combine sugar and lemon zest. Rub together with your fingers until fragrant. Whisk into the flour mixture. Set aside.
In a separate medium bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, lemon juice and vanilla extract.
Slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Stir until combined. Gently stir in the blueberries. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan. Pound on the counter so the loaf cake is evenly set in the pan.
Bake for 60-70 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean. Place the loaf on a cooling rack and cool for 15 minutes. Loosen the sides of the loaf cake with a knife. Carefully remove loaf from pan. Let cool completely on wire rack.
While the loaf cake is cooling, make the lemon glaze. In a small bowl, whisk together powdered sugar and lemon juice. Drizzle the glaze of the cooled loaf cake. Cut into slices and serve.

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Linguine and Shrimp Scampi

“Joanne, what do you want for dinner?”  “Do you have any plans?”  “Will go with what your thinking”.  Three basic questions or statements that I hear quite often.  Well, guess what…I had a plan and it came out great!  
Even recuperating from knee surgery that took place just over a week ago I pulled off a great dinner and a dessert.  (Paid for it the next day….)  We had shrimp in the freezer and all of the ingredients on hand.  We even had the dessert ingredients on hand too.  (Posting at a later date)
Sauteing the shrimp in butter and olive oil.
Ingredients

Vegetable oil 
Kosher salt 
1 1/2 pounds linguine 
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter 
5 tablespoons good olive oil 
3 tablespoons minced garlic (9 cloves) 
2 pounds large shrimp (about 32 shrimp), peeled and deveined 
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 
3/4 cup chopped fresh parsley 
Grated zest of 1 lemon 
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (4 lemons) 
1/2 lemon, thinly sliced in half-rounds 
1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
Drizzle some oil in a large pot of boiling salted water, add 1 tablespoon of salt and the linguine, and cook for 7 to 10 minutes, or according to the directions on the package.
Meanwhile, in another large (12-inch), heavy-bottomed pan, melt the butter and olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the garlic. Sauté for 1 minute. Be careful, the garlic burns easily! Add the shrimp, 1 tablespoon of salt, and the pepper and sauté until the shrimp have just turned pink, about 5 minutes, stirring often. Remove from the heat, add the parsley, lemon zest, lemon juice, lemon slices, and red pepper flakes. Toss to combine.
When the pasta is done, drain the cooked linguine and then put it back in the pot. Immediately add the shrimp and sauce, toss well, and serve. 

Adding in spices, lemon juice and zest

Combined with linguine 

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Lemon Pie

Another refreshing dessert choice for the warm summer days we are experiencing.  This one is a Lemon Pie inspired by the Magnolia Cookbook. We were invited to dinner at our foodie friends house last night and asked to bring a dessert.  This was a great addition to the Fried Chicken and Champagne dinner they made.
Hubby added lemon zest to the crust from another recipe we made this year.  I finished the recipe off by making the whipped cream and piping it in the pie.  (Love my Pampered Chef easy accentor).  
    
INGREDIENTS
Crust:
 1 ½ cups crushed graham crackers
 6 tablespoons butter , melted
 ⅓ cup sugar
1 teaspoon lemon zest
Pie Filling:
 2 (14 ounce) cans Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk (about 2 3/4 cup)
 3 egg yolks
 ⅔ cup lemon juice
 1 dash salt
Whipped Cream:
 1 cup heavy cream
 1/3 cup powdered sugar
 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
For the Crust: Spray a pie dish with non-stick spray. Combine crushed graham crackers, butter,lemon zest and sugar. Press into prepared pie plate. Bake for 8 minutes.
For the Pie Filling: Using a mixer, mix the condensed milk, egg yolks, lemon juice ans salt together. Beat on medium speed for 4-5 minutes. Pour into pie crust and bake for 10 minutes at 350. Little bubbles will start to surface. Cover the crust if it starts to brown too much towards the end.
Chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour before serving.
For the Whipped Cream: Mix the vream, sugar, and vanilla. Whip until fluffy, and add to cooled lemon pie.
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Ricotta Meatloaf and Peas with Pancetta

This recipe is a long time coming, but has not been forgotten.  I made this earlier in the spring and with all of our family activity it hadn’t been posted.  Lydia is a new favorite of ours. I will definitely try this again and make the peas more often.

Ingredients 

1 cup milk
3 cups day old bread cubes, from a loaf of country bread
3 pounds ground beef (freshly ground preferred)
3 large eggs, beaten with a pinch of salt
1 pound drained fresh ricotta (about 2 cups) plus more for the sauce if you like
1 bunch scallions, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
1/2 cup grated Grana Padano
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian Parsley
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 tablespoon Kosher Salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 pound fresh mozzarella, cut in 1/2-inch cubes (about 2 cups)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 to 5 cups tomato sauce

Pour the milk over the bread cubes in a bowl, and let soak for a few minutes, until the bread is saturated. Squeeze the soft bread a handful at a time, pressing out as much milk as you can (discard the milk). Tear the bread into small shreds and toss back into the empty bowl. Crumble the ground beef into the bowl, and add the eggs, ricotta, scallions, grated cheese, parsley, nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Fold and toss everything together, and squeeze the mixture a few times between your fingers to distribute all the ingredients evenly. Scatter the mozzarella cubes on top, and fold and mush them throughout the loaf mix.

Brush the roasting pan with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Gather the meat mixture in the bowl, turn it into the pan, and shape it into a fat oval loaf. Drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Cover the pan with foil—tent it so it doesn’t touch the meat—and bake 45 minutes. Remove the foil, and continue to bake until the meatloaf is browned all over and completely cooked through, another 1 hour and 30 minutes or so. (If you check the loaf with a meat thermometer, it should reach a temperature of 160 degrees.) Remove the roast from the oven, and let it rest for about 10 minutes.

Heat the tomato sauce to a simmer in a saucepan as the meat rests. Turn off the heat, and, if you like, stir 1/2 cup or so fresh ricotta into the sauce. Cut the loaf crosswise in the pan or on a cutting board, in slices as thick as you like.

Serve on warm dinner plates, topped with a spoonful or two of sauce, and pass more sauce at the table (or, for family-style serving, arrange the slices on a warm platter, topped with some of the sauce).

Peas and Pancetta 
3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 ounces Pancetta, finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 (1 pound) bag frozen peas, thawed
1/4 cup Pine Nuts, toasted
Directions
 In a large skillet over medium heat, add olive oil, pancetta and onion. Cook until pancetta is rendered, about 5 to 7 minutes.

 Add the peas. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion and peas are tender and flavored with the pancetta. Stir in pine nuts. Cook and toss for a minute, then serve.

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Frozen Key Lime Pie

This recipe could not have come at a better time. With the temperatures in the high 90’s a frozen dessert is one of the best refreshers after a long hot day of either working around the house and garden, tart and cold from the freezer. This happened to be our contribution to our dinner club last Saturday. I loved how this came out. One tip: lightly grease the pan and use a pie plate without ridges.

Easy Frozen Key Lime Pie

For the Crust:
1-1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (10 crackers)
1/4 cup sugar
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted
For the Filling:
6 extra-large egg yolks, at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
2 tablespoons grated lime zest
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (4 to 5 limes)

For the Decoration:
1 cup (1/2 pint) cold heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Thin lime wedges⁹

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

For the crust, combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and butter in a bowl. Press into a 9-inch pie pan, making sure the sides and the bottom are an even thickness. Bake for 10 minutes. Allow to cool completely.

For the filling, beat the egg yolks and sugar on high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment for 5 minutes, until thick. With the mixer on medium speed, add the condensed milk, lime zest, and lime juice. Pour into the baked pie shell and freeze.

For the decoration, beat the heavy cream on high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until soft peaks form. Add the sugar and vanilla and beat until firm. Spoon or pipe decoratively onto the pie and decorate with lime. Freeze for several hours or overnight.

Note: Remove the pie from the freezer fifteen minutes before serving.

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Mexican Casserole

I know that it has been quite awhile since my last new post.  We have been very busy these past few months.  We spent spring break in Europe, we then spent a weekend in New York, attended numerous school functions as our son’s senior year came to end.  Our daughter graduated from college. Then came high school graduation this past weekend with his party at our house.  Now we are slowly get back to some sense of normalcy.  This recipe was good for those crazy week nights.  A little prep with a lot of flavor.

Ingredients

1
lb ground beef, cooked, drained
1
package (1 oz)  taco seasoning mix
1
can (11 oz.) whole kernel corn with red and green peppers, undrained 
1 1/2
cups shredded Cheddar-Jack with jalapeño peppers cheese blend (6 oz)
1
can (8 oz) Pillsbury™ refrigerated crescent dinner rolls or 1 can (8 oz) Pillsbury™ refrigerated Crescent Dough Sheet
  • Prepare a 9 x 13 baking dish with cooking Spray.  In a skillet,over medium high heat, cook and crumble the ground beef.  Drain.  Add Taco seasoning and can of corn (do not drain). Stir t
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Aunt Jen’s Sugar Cookies

Last year when my sister Pat and I visited our sister Mary Ann in Florida,  we were reminiscing with our Uncle and cousins about our Grandma Gray and her sister Jen.  The two of them together were quite a pair. Every one of us remembers spending weekends with Grandma and visiting Aunt Jen’s house.  Pat talked about stopping by after church and Aunt Jen would have a pan of homemade sugar cookies fresh from the oven.    She said they were so good and she wished she had the recipe.  
I have my  Grandma Schreck’s recipe box from my mom.  Looking through these old recipes I found a recipe for sugar cookies with Aunt Jen’s name on it.  Typical of all these old recipes they just list the  ingredients, the temperature and the cooking time.   I called my mom to check on a pan size and she told me to use a cookie sheet with about an inch rim. She said Aunt Jen never measured anything.  So  I started out by mixing the wet ingredients together and then the dry.  Once that was done I combined them both and pressed the dough into a cookie sheet. I baked them at 375 for 15 minutes.  Once they cooled I cut them into cookie size pieces. As soon as I tasted one I remembered the flavor.  The nutmeg makes these cookies and the cake like texture is a hit!  A taste of the past!
Bottom (L to R): Grandma, Aunt Jen
Top: Aunt Maggie, Aunt Martha

Aunt Jen’s Sugar Cookies

1 cup of sugar
2 sticks of butter softened
1\2 cup milk
2 eggs
4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Juice and rind of a lemon
Cream butter and sugar together in a large bowl. Add eggs and milk. Add lemon juice and rind. In another bowl mix dry ingredients. Spread into a greased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 for 15 minutes.  Cool and cut into cookie size pieces.