Squash-Carrot Soup

Since moving down South a couple years ago, I really feel the lack of autumn around here. Instead of flaming maples and oaks with bright orange and red leaves, all we have here is palm trees. The few normal-looking trees we have are going to be green pretty much all year round, unless we get a frost, in which case the leaves with be a dead brown.

So to get into the autumn spirit, I decided I need to make an “autumn” meal. I made my first pumpkin pie the day before using pre-made pie crust, canned pumpkin pie filling, some allspice, nutmeg, and cinnamon. It came out fairly ugly (but I was rushing, we were going to go out that night and had to leave by 6:00, my pie was done at 5:55. Eek!)

I decided to make a whole roast chicken and some squash soup. I went to the grocery store to pick out the ingredients I needed and what do you know, the store did not sell frozen pumpkin pieces or any other squash but “yellow.” So I decided to make do with what they had. They had frozen “yellow” (summer?) squash slices, and frozen crinkle-cut carrots. I purchased those instead. I wanted an orange-y soup and by God I was going to have it! It was awesome by the way 🙂

Serves 2-3

Here are the ingredients you will need:

1 whole onion

2 cloves garlic

1 small bag (I wish I had checked to see the amounts!) sliced frozen yellow squash

1 small bag crinkle-cut frozen carrots

1/2 box chicken broth

Hot sauce (if desired) – I used half a packet of Panda Express' Chili Sauce

Pinch of salt

Pinch of black pepper

Dash of oregano

1 bay leaf

A few tablespoons of olive oil

1. In a large pot, add chopped whole onion, minced garlic, and oil. Saute until onions turn translucent.

2. Add chicken broth, bring to a boil. Add squash and carrots. Bring back to a boil, then simmer for 10 minutes covered. Add herbs and hot sauce and stir.

3. When all vegetables are soft, remove pan from heat and remove bay leaf (they are not edible, they are only for flavor!). Let cool for 10-15 minutes.

4. Using a stick blender, blend until there are no more lumps. If you do not have a stick blender, use a regular blender or a food processor but be careful as soup is still hot.

5. Serve immediately into bowls, and if desired, add a dollop of sour cream, let melt slightly and swirl with a spoon.

I will write about how to roast a whole chicken another time but you could serve with ham, turkey, or even beef or lamb if you wanted. If you want a larger batch, just use bigger portions of ingredients! I definitely wish I had made a bigger amount, it was really good. It had a sweet flavor with a mildly spicy flavor as an aftertaste. My husband, of course, scraped the bowl and wanted more. I know you will, too!

Delicious Fruit Smoothie

It’s been awhile since I last wrote, hasn’t it? The reason why is I finally was able to find a job! I love it and so I haven’t had time for much else…except cooking a couple times a week! (The rest of the time all I make are those amazing Stouffer’s Easy Express frozen meals, what a lifesaver those are! If you are a busy mom/wife/person you will definitely want to try those out, it’s these meals in a bag in the frozen food section, around $3-4 a bag and serves around 2-3 people. You can add to them too, for instance, to their Grilled Chicken Skillet I add more frozen broccoli and cauliflower and a jar of artichoke hearts. And chili sauce. I like the creamy/spicy combination.

Pre-packaged meals aside, my husband had been begging me to make him a smoothie. I didn’t know much about smoothies, but since I have one of those 3-cup food processors I decided to give it a whirl…literally…LOL.

I used these ingredients (and the frozen food section is your friend, if you don’t know my cooking by now!): one fresh banana, a handful of frozen fruit (mango, pineapple, blueberry, strawberry) a few spoonfuls of orange sherbert and maybe 3 tablespoons of orange juice (I happened to have the kind with pulp but it doesn’t matter.)

I stuck it in my little food processor (you could use it in a blender but you may need to blend it longer so it has a smoother consistency) and when it seemed like it looked like a smoothie, I poured it into a short glass and presented it to my husband after dinner. He enjoyed it so much I ended up making it probably 4 or 5 more times until I ran out of sherbert. He still asks for it so I know I’ll have to make it again!

Wicked Simple Beef Pot Pie

This meal is something you can make out of the leftovers from the pot roast recipe I posted the other day. If you aren’t starting it from pot roast leftovers, you should buy a decent cut of beef and brown it ahead of time in a skillet, and you should probably cook the harder vegetables like the carrots and potatoes as well, at least enough so they will be soft when the pie is done.

Just out of the oven pot pie

This recipe is not from scratch but you can easily convert it to a “from scratch” recipe by making your own pie crust (I haven’t learned to do that quite yet) and your own gravy. My way is good if you’re a busy mom or just don’t have time or the ingredients to make it that way.

Jacqui's Pot Pie

Serves 3-4

Ingredients:

1 package refrigerated pie crusts (I used Pillsbury brand)
1 lb. or so of already cooked chuck roast
1 can of sliced potatoes (you can use the leftover potatoes from the pot roast if you made it instead)
1-2 chopped carrots
1/4 cup frozen peas
2 cans of beef gravy (or use your own)
Pinch of salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Take pie crusts out of the refrigerator and let them sit on the counter for 15 or so minutes to soften. Once softened, unroll one and place it in a 9″ glass pie dish. Using a paring knife, trim off any excess dough that hangs over the edge of the dish.
3. Using two forks, shred beef if you haven’t already, place in a large bowl.
4. Add potatoes (drain out liquid if from a can), peas, carrots and gravy. Stir until everything is coated with gravy.
5. Spoon mixture evenly into pie crust. Carefully lay top crust over the pie and trim excess dough from edges. Decorate the edges either by making a scalloped edge with your index finger and thumb or make designs by pressing a fork into the sides (see photo of finished pie.) Make some slits in the top of the pie with the paring knife and put in the oven for 35-40 minutes. (Tip: Put pie dish on top of a cookie sheet in the oven in case anything drips.)
6. When pie crust is golden and just slightly dark around the edges, take out and allow to cool several minutes before serving. Enjoy!

Flaky, beefy goodness

Totally Easy Slow-Cooker Pot Roast

Long time no posting! February was a busy month full of trips (the 14th was our third wedding anniversary for my husband and I), illness, and not being home as much. I did end up making a third cake which I might post about later, at least to share the photo.

Tonight’s post is a personal triumph: as someone originally from New England, I used to eat pot roast all the time but never really made it myself. I always wanted to but I had gotten into a cooking rut of always making the same things (spaghetti, chicken soup, etc.) that I never made it until today.

Normally this recipe would call for some kind of wine but since the only wine I had in the house may or may not belong to my mother-in-law and may or may not be from her trip to the Napa Valley, I decided to steer clear of opening those, just in case…0_O! So I started looking online for some other type of flavorful liquid to add (besides beef broth, which I didn’t have) until I found one that said I could add apple cider vinegar. I had some and splashed some in there. I’ll give an estimated amount in the recipe below.

This is a really easy recipe and it’s great that it’s cooked in a slow cooker because you can just put all the ingredients in and leave it alone and it will be ready in time for dinner.

Jacqui's Pot Roast

Serves at least 4 (For us I put half the beef in a big bag for another recipe I’ll be working on tomorrow and then divided the remaining beef in half)

Ingredients:

4-5 “skinny” carrots (or 2-3 big ones)
3 medium white potatoes
2 stalks of celery
2.25 lbs chuck roast beef
1 medium white or yellow onion
1 package French Onion Soup mix
2 bay leaves
dash of garlic powder
dash of pepper
dash of salt (optional)
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
water

1. Peel carrots,  cut into at least three pieces each and, after spraying slow cooker with non-stick cooking spray, lay them on the bottom. Cut the celery the same way and lay them with the carrots at the bottom of the slow-cooker. Chop onions into large pieces and lay on top of the carrots and celery.
2. Unwrap the beef and lay it on top of vegetables. Pour the French Onion soup mix on top of the beef, add the garlic powder, the apple cider vinegar, and enough water to reach at least the middle of the beef, you can add more if you’d like.
3. Peel the potatoes (or optionally, don’t peel but make sure you wash the skin) and chop into 1-inch pieces (they take longer to cook if the pieces are too big) and arrange on top of the beef.
4. Put on the cover and turn on the slow cooker on high for 2 hours, then low for at least 4 hours. (It is quite edible after cooking for 6 hours but you can leave it cooking longer, just keep an eye on how much liquid is left and make sure nothing burns.)
5. When it’s time for dinner, take the beef out with tongs, set aside on plate. With a slotted spoon, take out all the vegetables and arrange around beef on a large serving platter. If you would like, you can use the leftover beef drippings to make gravy and ladle over the top of the meat and vegetables, it’s up to you.

Note: pot roast makes amazing leftovers! You can turn it into beef stew, make sandwiches, or what I’m going to try to do tomorrow: make beef pot pie! If it comes out good enough and I remember to take a photo I’ll put up that recipe soon. Enjoy!

Yaki Soba

Serves 2

Ingredients:

1 package ramen noodles
1 onion, finely sliced
1 1/3 cups bean sprouts
1 red bell pepper, seeded and minced
12 cooked shelled shrimp
1 tbsp oil (I used sesame oil)
1/2 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 can baby corn, chopped
8 snow pea pods
1/2 package regular mushrooms

1. Cook the noodles according to the package directions, drain well and tip into a bowl.
2. Mix the onion, bean sprouts, red bell pepper, shrimp, baby corn, and pea pods together in a separate bowl. Stir evenly through the noodles.
3. Preheat a wok over high heat. Add the oil and heat until very hot. Add the noodle mixture and stir-fry for 4 minutes or until golden, then add the soy sauce and toss together.
4. Divide the mixture between 2 bowls and serve at once.

(Recipe altered slightly from Easy Stir-Fry)

Easy Pasta Salad

Serves 4-5

Note: You can change or add other ingredients to this recipe. I’ve found that small pieces of American cheese and cubed pieces of ham also go quite nicely with this pasta salad. This recipe can be easily adapted to serve more people. I’m one of those people that “eyeball” amounts because I mostly only cook for just me and my husband, it’s up to you how much you make.

Ingredients:

1/2 lb tri-color rotini
sm. can black olives
medium package frozen (or fresh) broccoli florets
sm. jar artichoke hearts
3/4 cup creamy Italian dressing (I used Marie’s brand)

1. Follow package directions for cooking pasta, drain and set aside in a large bowl.
2. Cook broccoli according to package directions, add to pasta.
3. Add black olives, artichoke hearts and creamy dressing. Toss or stir until everything is covered with the dressing.
4. Place in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours to chill and then serve. Enjoy!

Orange Chicken

Orange Chicken.

Serves 2-3

1 lb. chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
3/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 jar Asian orange sauce, any brand you prefer
1 cup instant white rice
4 chilies, any kind you prefer (optional, for garnish)
2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
2/3 cup warm water

1. Coat chicken pieces in cornstarch (in a bowl or a food storage bag) until covered, heat oil in large non-stick skillet until oil shimmers. Carefully add chicken to hot oil.
2. Cook white rice according to package directions, should be done in about 20 minutes.
3. Cook chicken at medium-high heat until golden brown and there is no more pink. Lower heat to medium once chicken is fully cooked.
4. Carefully pour orange sauce into skillet, stirring to coat the chicken. Add chilies and the water to thin sauce. Heat for 2 minutes on medium heat until warm and chicken is coated.
5. Scoop rice onto plates and pat it down so it’s flat and spread out on the plate. Pour chicken and remaining sauce over the rice, add chilies for garnish or throw away. Enjoy!