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Category Archives: Dinner

French Onion Soup

I love French Onion soup.  There was a fantastic little restaurant close to my house in my hometown that friends of ours owned.  We were frequent patrons.  Such frequent visitors that we could sit down and the regular bartender/ server would immediately put in an order for 3 French Onion soups (for myself, my mum, and my sister) so they would be at our table minutes after walking through the door.  This French Onion soup was/ is unlike any soup you’ve ever had.  I dream of this soup.  The ownership of the restaurant changed, and I don’t visit my hometown very often anymore, so it has been quite sometime since I’ve been able to enjoy it.  Joe’s French Onion is rich and tangy and has a bit of spice and is just phenomenal.  Luckily, our family friends still own 2 restaurants that I can hopefully get a nice big cheesy bowl of Joe’s French Onion soup soon!

I made this soup in the crock pot and did turn out to be quite delicious, but it still wasn’t the same.  But, we did think it was better than some restaurants.

2 medium red onions

1 large sweet yellow onion

1 large white onion

1/2 stick butter

1 – 48 ounce can beef broth (College Inn)

1 – 17 container bold tender beef broth (College Inn)

1/8 cup red wine

1/8 cup Balsamic Vinegar

1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce

2 TBSP ketchup

1/2 TBSP flour

1/2 TBSP sugar

Splash of apple cider vinegar

Sachet with fresh thyme sprigs, 3 bay leaves, 1 clove fresh crushed garlic clove (a sachet is herbs/ aromatics wrapped in cheesecloth and dropped in while it’s cooking)

1 loaf French or Italian bread cut into 1 inch slices (and depending which type you’re using, cut in half)

Cheese (I used a shredded 6 cheese blend, but slices of mozzarella, provolone, or Fontina or Gruyere would be delicious)

Slice all of the onions.  Melt about 2 TBSP of butter in a large skillet and add the onions.  Let the onions cook down and caramelize.  Add more butter as needed (I probably used another 2 TBSP) to keep the skillet from getting too dry.  While the onions are cooking, make the sachet with 3 bay leaves, fresh thyme and garlic).  Once the onions have cooked down and have a nice golden color, add them to the crock pot.  Stir in a little broth into the skillet to deglaze the pan to get all of the delicious itty bits that are stuck to the pan.  I also added a little red wine to the pan.  The red wine we had on hand was pretty sweet, so I didn’t use much.  If I had a dry red, I would’ve used more with the broth to deepen the flavor.  Add in the rest of the broth.  Add the pan scrapings and broth from the skillet.    Add the vinegars, Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, and sugar.  Drop in the sachet.  Cook on high for about 4-5 hours or low for 8-9 hours.  Once the soup has simmered and slow cooked, toast slices of bread in the oven at 350.  Add some of the soup into your oven proof bowls and then put 1 “crouton” and then add more soup so it’s almost to the top.  Add another piece of bread and top with the cheese.  Place under the broiler for a few minutes, until the cheese is melted, bubbly, and golden.

Enjoy!!

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Balsalmic Glazed Meatloaf

This meatloaf is the combination of several different recipes I found, and turned out to be pretty delicious (if I do say so myself, and usually I do haha!  and I also say when it’s not so delicious).  I have made it twice, and the second time I diced up portabello mushrooms to make it a little healthier.  The first time I made individual servings by balling up the meatloaf mix and cooking them in a muffin tin.  A serving that way was 2 “muffins” per person.

Use 1 -1 1/2 pounds meatloaf mix (which is ground beef, pork and veal already combined)

1 or 2 eggs

1/4-1/2 cup Italian breadcrumbs

1/4-1/2 cup milk

about 1 TBSP ketchup

a few shakes of Worcestershire sauce

salt and pepper

1 tsp Tastefully Simple Onion Onion

1 tsp garlic powder

Glaze

1 TBSP ketchup

1 TBSP brown sugar

1 TBSP balsamic vinegar

Preheat your oven to 350.

In a large mixing bowl add the ground meatloaf mixture, breadcrumbs, milk, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, Onion Onion, garlic powder.  In another small bowl, lightly scramble an egg and then add it to the bowl.  Use your hands to really get in there and mix everything together well (but be careful to over mix, because it will make the loaf a little tough).  It can be a little bit different every time you make it, so I recommend starting with 1/4 cup of milk and breadcrumbs and then add as you need it to get a nice moist loaf that holds a form well.  If you are doing it in muffin tins, divide the mixture into portions that are about the size of a lemon (the goal is to fit them into the tins).  Or use a loaf pan or just line a baking sheet with foil and do a loaf shape (or you can split it into 2 loafs).

Once the meatloaf or “muffins” are formed, mix equal parts (about 1 TBSP each) of ketchup, brown sugar and balsamic vinegar in a small bowl until it is combined.  Brush the glaze over the meat and cover with tin foil.  Bake for about 30 minutes and uncover and cook for an additional 15-20 minutes.

If you are adding in mushrooms, chopped them finely and mix in with the other ingredients.  You will need a little more milk to get the right consistency.

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Mater Basil Bisque

The weather has turned, and fall is in the air!  The crispness in the air makes me want to wrap up in a comfy sweater and scarf, have warm cozy meals, drink apple cider, eat pumpkin stuff, and watch scary things.  I love fall!  One of the cozy meals I love to eat in the cool weather is soup.  I love lots of different soups, but one of my very favorites is tomato basil bisque.  On a recent trip to Costco, I saw a huge 6 + pound can of tomatoes and knew that I had to give homemade tomato bisque a try.  (Side note, I should NOT be allowed to go to Costco by myself.  I become way too drawn in to buying in bulk.  2, 4 pound jars of roasted red peppers, yep!  A huge wheel of Brie, with no party in site, you bet!  5 pounds of buffalo chicken bites, can’t pass that up!  You get the picture.  A person who lives by themselves shouldn’t start thinking about where a deep freeze could fit into the apartment!!)

But I digress.  Back to the maters.  At first I was thinking I would split the ginormous can of tomatoes between this soup and tomato sauce, but when I started to cut open and seed them I decided to only go for the bisque.  I wanted to bulk up the soup a bit, so I added cheese tortellini into the bisque (a little inspiration from pinterest!).

These measurements made almost a whole big soup kettle, and could generously give 6-8 servings (even more if you are serving a nice big oozy grilled cheese!).

1 gargantuan can of tomatoes (ok, 6 pounds)

Fresh basil leaves

1 red onion

2 – 2 1/2 cups milk

1/2 cup heavy cream

A little red wine

Cheese tortellini

Cut open the tomatoes and scoop out the seeds (it helped to cut down on the bitterness while the tomatoes roast) and place the tomatoes into a pan.  Drizzle with a little olive oil and place basil leaves around the pan.  Roast in the oven for 90 minutes at 300.  The can will probably have a good bit of sauce in it with the whole tomatoes, leave that in the can.

While the tomatoes are roasting, melt better in a large heavy bottom soup kettle.  Finely dice the red onion while the butter melts, and add to the pan.  You really want to soften the onion, which will take 15-20 minutes at least.  You don’t really want to caramelize it, just soften it (having the right amount of butter helps).  Add in the tomato sauce from the can.  Bring the heat up slightly.  When the tomatoes are done, crush them a little more, they will be really soft so it won’t take much (I used a potato masher).  Add them into the pot.  Add in the milk and cream and stir until combined.  Bring the heat up a bit to really combine the flavors and thicken it a bit.  I threw in a little red wine in the mix, I mean why not!?  Add in more basil to the pot.  I like a chunkier soup, so I left it at that step.  If you’re on team chunk (hey you guyyyysssss), ladle in a big bowl and enjoy!  If you want something very creamy, use an inversion blender or add small amounts to your blender.  If you use a regular blender, you don’t want to fill it completely, because it will expand a bit.  Reheat the soup a bit after this stage and then enjoy!

I boiled cheese tortellini in chicken broth (to really add to the flavor) and water.  I added this to the soup once it was done.

This soup does take a good bit to complete, but the active cooking time is very minimal.  The smell of the roasting tomatoes is so inviting and gets you so ready to enjoy this soup!!

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Stuffed Shells

I recently made shells stuffed with chicken, homemade ricotta, spinach, sun dried tomatoes and topped with a white bechamel(ish) sauce.  They turned out to be pretty yummy.  It takes a bit of time to prepare, but it is well worth it!  I used home made ricotta cheese, but with all of the other flavors going on I don’t think it was necessary.

These measurements makes 6 generous portions.

1 box jumbo shells

3 large chicken breasts

1 1/2 cup ricotta cheese

3 or 4 cups fresh spinach

1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes, chopped

Preheat the oven to 350.

I boiled the chicken to cook it.  Once it was cooked (it will turn white, double check by slicing into a piece and making sure it’s cooked no and no longer pink in the center) remove the chicken and place on a plate.  I boiled the shells in the broth from cooking the chicken.  While the shells are cooking, shred or cube the chicken and place in a bowl.  Add the ricotta cheese.  In a skillet, heat olive oil and add crushed garlic.  Let the garlic brown and then remove.  Add the fresh spinach to the skillet and let it wilt.  When the spinach is wilted add it to the bowl and mix with the ricotta cheese and chicken.  Chop the sun dried tomatoes and mix them in.  Once the shells are cooked, let them cool enough that you can touch them.  Stuff the shells with the mixture.  When you have the shells filled, place them all in a 10 x 14 pan.

My version of a bechamel sauce is really easy to do, and comes together quickly.

In a large heavy bottom sauce pan, melt a stick of butter.  When the butter is melted (but be careful not to brown it), sprinkle in a tablespoon of flour and stir until combined.  It took about 2 or 3 tablespoons of flour total to get the right consistency.  You want it to be a paste like mixture.  Keep stirring the mixture to cook the flour taste out.  In a smaller sauce pan, warm milk over a low heat.  Once the flour taste has cooked out, about 4-5 minutes, stir in a small amount of milk and whisk quickly to incorporate.  Keep adding more milk and whisking until the sauce becomes thick.  I added a bit of parmesan cheese once it was thick.  Season with salt and pepper.

Pour the white sauce over the shells in an even layer.

Bake for about 30-40 minutes, until everything is heated through.

 

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Baked french fries with basil mayo

I’m still trying to figure out how to make fantastic baked french fries.  After 2 attempts, I think the main problem that I’ve had is that I get scatter brained, and leave them in for too long.  1 trick that I read is that it’s really important to rinse the starch off of the potatoes.  Check and double check.  I soaked them twice (soak, rinse, repeat).  While the potatoes are soaking, pre heat the over to 425 and put a baking sheet in.  Pat the fries dry with paper towels and scatter over the hot baking sheet.  Be careful the pan will be very hot!  But, this will help cooking the fries right away and get them nice and crispy.  Drizzle vegetable oil over the fries and sprinkle with seasoning (I used garlic powder).  Mix around so each fry gets coating (but again, be careful because the pan and fries will be pretty hot).  Place in the over for about 20 minutes.  Take out and flip/ toss, and return to the oven.  Cook for another 15-20 minutes or so.  Enjoy!

I served the fries with basil mayonnaise (such a fatty move, I know!).  A great restaurant called Point Brugge serves their pomme frittes with a garlic mayo and it is fantastic!  So, I gave it a whirl and did the same.  So amazing!  Just take fresh mayonnaise and process in a blender or food processor with lots of fresh basil.

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Slow cooker chicken with peppers and onions

This chicken recipe is a bit like a fajita style, but done in the slow cooker.

1 or 1 1/2 chicken breast

1 green pepper

1 red pepper

1 small white onion

1/2 can diced tomatoes (I used fire roasted with green chilis)

1 cup chicken broth

1 TBSP Tastefully Simple Fiesta seasoning (or just use taco seasoning if you don’t have that)

 

Slice the chicken breast in thin strips.  Sprinkle and massage the fiesta seasoning into the chicken.  Place the chicken in the slow cooker and cover with the chicken broth and about 1/2 of a can of diced tomatoes.  Cook on low for about 5 hours (since the chicken is sliced so thinly, this gave it plenty of time to cook through.  After about 3 hours, add in the peppers and onions (I think if they were cooked for the full time, they would’ve become too soggy).

 

Voila!  A simple and flavorful meal that is simple and delicious 🙂

 

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Pork Carnitas

This pork is the bomb.com.  It is amazing because it’s done in the slow cooker and it only takes a few ingredients.  This pork is so amazing that a couple of friends took cupfuls home as a “snack” for the drive home haha (even after tupperware was offered).  I found this recipe on http://www.allrecipes.com, and used other reviewers advice and doubled the spice rub (which is how I’m listing it below).

It is rich and slightly sweet and overall completely yummy!

1, 3-4 pound pork shoulder roast (I used bone in roast)

1 tsp salt

2 tsp garlic powder

2 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp dried crumbled oregano

1 tsp ground coriander

1/2 tsp cinnamon

4 bay leaves

2 cups chicken broth

Mix together all the spices.  I used about a 3 pound roast with the bone in and was using a smaller crock pot, so I actually cut the roast in half.  This did work out well so that I could coat more of the roast with the spice mixture.  Rub the spices all over the roast, you want to make sure it is covered and that you really rub it in.

Place the bay leaves in the bottom of the pot and place the coated roast on top.    Pour the chicken broth around the roast, being careful not to rinse the spice mixture off.

Roast the pork on low until it shreds easily with a fork, about 10 hours.  The original recipe advised to flip the roast after 5 hours, which I did do (though several reviews said that this is unnecessary).  Carefully find and remove the bay leaves.  Some reviewers said to remove the pork, shred and place on a baking sheet and cook the pork on a fairly high temperature to crisp up the meat.  But, for my taco bar, I just shredded the meat and left it right in the crock pot.

Sooo delicious!  I will definitely be making it again very soon.

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