Minestrone Soup

Minestrone

I have been making this Minestrone Soup recipe for over 20 years. It’s one of our favorite soups. This soup is very versatile and can easily be tweaked to use what you have on hand. Garbanzo or cannellini beans are excellent substitutes for the kidney beans. Other veggies, like green beans, can be added to this soup. If you like a brothier soup, add 1 or 2 cups more of vegetable broth when you add the pasta. This recipe freezes very well.

Minestrone Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
8 cups vegetable broth
1 can (15.5 oz.) kidney beans, drained
1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes with juices
1 can (6 oz.) tomato paste
2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
2 – 3 teaspoons dried basil
½ cup dry pasta (small shells, ditalini, or elbow macaroni)
2 medium zucchini, quartered and sliced
1 cup fresh spinach or kale (optional)
salt and black pepper, to taste
Parmesan cheese, for serving

Heat the olive oil in a soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions and celery and sauté until tender, about 10 minutes. Add the minced garlic and sauté 2 more minutes. Add the vegetable broth, kidney beans, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, sliced carrots, and dried basil. Bring the soup to a boil, lower heat to medium low, and simmer 10 minutes. Add the dry pasta; return to a boil. Lower heat and simmer 5 – 7 minutes. Add the zucchini and spinach or kale, if using, and cook until tender, about 5 more minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve. A sprinkle of freshly grated Parmesan cheese is a perfect topping for this soup.


Lemon Chocolate Chip Cookies

Lemon Chocolate Chip Cookies

I think lemon and chocolate is an interesting and delicious flavor combination. These cookies showcase that combination without being overly tart. These cookies do not tend to get golden brown, but they still have a nice crunch while maintaining a soft center.

Lemon Chocolate Chip Cookies

3/4 cup butter (1 1/2 sticks), softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
zest from one whole lemon
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325º degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.  Blend in the eggs, lemon zest, lemon extract, and vanilla extract. Set aside. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl. Gradually mix the flour mixture into the butter mixture. Stir in the chocolate chips. Drop by spoonfuls (about 1 tablespoon) onto an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes. Cool the cookies on baking sheet for a few minutes, then remove them to a wire rack to cool completely.


Kimchi Fried Rice

This is a great way to use up Kimchi. The rice used in this recipe should be at least one day old, otherwise it is too wet.

Kimchi Fried Rice

4 1/2 cups day-old cooked white rice (if you can find it, get a medium grain rice like Kokuho Rose brand)

2 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced tablespoon minced ginger
4 ounces baby bella mushrooms, cleaned, halved, and sliced
1 carrot, cut into matchsticks
1 small zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced
1 cup kimchi, chopped
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon gochujang (Korean hot pepper paste)
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 cup fresh spinach (optional)
2 scallions, thinly sliced
sesame seeds

eggs
butter

Make the rice the day before.

Heat the canola oil in a wok over high heat. Add the diced onions, and cook, stirring, until they start to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and cook 1 minute more. Add the mushrooms, carrots, and zucchini and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. Add the chopped kimchi and cook another 1 or 2 minutes to heat through.

Add the rice and cook until warmed through and well combined with the other ingredients, another 3 minutes. Season with the soy sauce, gochujang, and sesame oil, stirring to evenly coat all of the rice and veggies. Mix in the the spinach, if using. Turn the heat down to low while you fry the eggs.

In a small fry pan, melt the butter and fry the eggs to desired doneness (I like mine over-easy).

To serve, place the Kimchi Fried Rice in a dish and top with a fried egg. Sprinkle with sliced scallions and sesame seeds.


Vidalia Onion Upside Down Cornbread

Vidalia Onion Upside Down Cornbread2

Make cornbread special with the addition of sweet onions. The onions caramelize and add just the right flavor to this slightly sweet cornbread. This recipe is easy enough to make anytime and is sure to impress.

Vidalia Onion Upside Down Cornbread

2 tablespoons butter
2 medium Vidalia onions (or other sweet onions like 1015s or Walla Wallas), peeled and sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1/4 cup canola oil
2 eggs

Preheat the oven to 400° F.

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a cast iron skillet (I use a 10 1/4-inch cast iron skillet) on the stove top over medium heat. Arrange the onion slices, taking care to keep the slices intact, in the melted butter in the skillet. You can half and quarter the onion slices to fill in empty spaces. You may not use all of the onion slices. You can save leftover onions for another use or finely chop them and add them to the cornbread batter. Let the onions cook over medium heat while you prepare the batter. Do not turn the onions while they are cooking.

Combine the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. In another bowl, combine the milk, canola oil, and eggs with a fork. Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture and stir  until just combined.

Take the skillet off the heat. Pour the cornbread batter evenly over the onions. Place in the preheated oven and cook for 25 minutes.

Carefully invert the cornbread onto a cutting board or plate.


Hot Water Cornbread

 

This is another favorite from my childhood. It’s a Southern classic. My Dad used to add in shredded sharp cheddar cheese, minced onion, and minced jalapenos to his hot water cornbread mixture before frying. Experiment with the add-ins. The possibilities are endless. I like my hot water cornbread simple, plain. I’ve been known to dip mine in ketchup, but others like them drizzled with honey are maple syrup. They go great with a nice pot of pinto beans.

Hot Water Cornbread

2 cups cornmeal
1 tsp. salt
2 cups boiling water
oil for frying

Add about an inch of oil to a cast iron skillet. Heat oil over medium-high heat.

Meanwhile, combine the cornmeal and salt in a bowl. Add the boiling water and mix well. Let the mixture cool slightly. When the mixture is cool enough to handle, shape into patties by forming a ball with about 2 or 3 tablespoons of the mixture and then flattening it into a 1/2-inch patty with your fingers. Fry the patties in the hot oil in small batches, turning often until golden on both sides. Remove from the oil and drain on paper towels.


Stacked Enchiladas

This is one of my go-to meals when I don’t feel like spending a lot of time in the kitchen. New Mexican-style stacked enchiladas are super easy, inexpensive (less than $5 for the whole meal), fast (20 minutes from start to finish), and delicious. I serve the enchiladas with black beans, which meshes really well with the enchilada sauce.

Stacked Enchiladas

3 tablespoons oil (I use canola)
3 tablespoons flour
3 tablespoons chili powder
1 1/2 cups water
8 ounce can tomato sauce
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)

oil
corn tortillas (3 or 4 per person)
shredded cheese (I used cheddar, Monterrey jack, or a Mexican blend)

To make the enchilada sauce:  Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and chili powder and cook for about 30 seconds. Add the ground cumin and garlic powder. Gradually whisk in the 1 1/2 cups of water. Continue to whisk as the sauce thickens. Add the can of tomato sauce and season with salt. Reduce the heat to low and keep the sauce hot, stirring occasionally, as you prepare to make the enchiladas.

To make the enchiladas:  Heat about an inch of oil in a small frying pan over medium-high heat. Briefly fry the corn tortillas until they are soft, but not crispy. Remove them from the oil and place them on a paper towel-lined plate.

To assemble the enchiladas:  Put a large spoonful (about 1/4 cup) of the hot enchilada sauce on a plate. Top with a softened corn tortilla. Top with another spoonful of hot enchilada sauce, making sure the whole tortilla is covered, and sprinkle with shredded cheese (about 2 tablespoons). Layer with another softened tortilla. Repeat the process….sauce, cheese, tortilla…..until you have a stack that contains 3 or 4 corn tortillas total. Finish the last tortilla/enchilada stack with more sauce and a little more cheese. Serve immediately.


Quick Broccoli and Cheese Soup

Quick Broccoli and Cheese Soup

So, Publix had 8 ounces packages of Kraft shredded cheeses on sale for $1.40 this past sales cycle. That’s the lowest price I have ever seen for them. I may have gone a little crazy and bought more shredded cheese than I needed. My cheese drawer is stuffed. I’m pretty sure my family thinks I have a problem.

This morning my plan was to come home after I dropped the kidlet off at school and work on an online class I need to finish before heading to work. Instead I made this Quick Broccoli & Cheddar Soup for breakfast. I used some of the cheese! Priorities.

Quick Broccoli and Cheese Soup

4 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups vegetable broth (chicken broth is fine too)
1 10 – 12 ounce package of frozen chopped broccoli (cuts & florets are fine too)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, plus a little more for garnishing (I like mild cheddar)
1 cup half & half or milk
salt and pepper, to taste

In a small soup pot over medium heat, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and let cook for a minute. Whisk in the broth, a little at a time, until smooth. Add the frozen broccoli. If I am using frozen broccoli cuts or florets, I will run a knife through them to make the pieces smaller before adding them to the soup. Bring the soup to a gentle boil, stirring often. Whisk in the cheese and then add the half & half. Warm through and then turn off the heat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with additional shredded cheddar cheese for garnish.