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Category Archives: Main Course

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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Orda Up

A while back I was at the dollar store and I saw food baskets (the kind you see at a lot of burger joints) and I thought what a fun way to do a burger night.  But, I wasn’t completely convinced about needing the baskets.  As I kept browsing, I came across mini ketchup and Grey Poupon glass bottles (think fancy room service!) and I knew that I had to get them.  So, back to the baskets I went!  Luckily, I was at the dollar store, so I still didn’t spend too much!  The ketchup was 3 for $1 and the Grey Poupon were 8 for $1 🙂  They were basically paying me to take them!  So, burgers and fries were on the menu along with a summer peach cake.  Delish!  It made me feel like I was flipping burgers short order and was compelled to say “orda up” repeatedly!

 

For the burgers, plan on about 1/4 – 1/3 pound of ground beef per person.  Gently beat an egg in a large mixing bowl and add the ground beef.  Mix in about 1/2 or 1 TBS Worcestershire sauce, about 1 tsp onion powder, 1 tsp of Trader Joe’s 21 and seasoning salute.     Blend well, but don’t over mix (it can make the burgers tough).  Form into patties that are pretty flat, but don’t smash too much.  Right before the burgers go on the grill, sprinkle with some salt (I used Tastefully Simple’s seasoning salt).  If you salt the burgers too early or mix it in, it will draw a lot of moisture out of the meat leaving you with dry burgers.

Place the burgers on the grill until your desired done-ness is reached.  Serve with your favorite cheese and condiments!

 

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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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Tilapia with Pineapple and Mango “Salsa”

Over the summer, I have heard from a few different sources about making a fruit salsa and how delicious it is over fish.  I thought it sounded fresh and light and perfect.  So, here is my version adapted based on what I like and what I had.  I used tilapia this time, but think it would be better with a more substantial fish, maybe mahi mahi?!  I think it would also be great with grilled chicken!

Tilapia (again, base this on how many people you are serving)

Lemon Ginger Sesame Dressing and Marinade

1/2 fresh pineapple, chopped pretty finely

1 mango, chopped

1/2 yellow pepper (in the future I would use red to give it more color, but I was using the other half for something else)

1/4 red onion, minced very small

1/4 jalapeno, minced very small

1 lime

Splash of orange juice (I’d say about 1/4 cup)

I marinated the fish for a bit with a ginger and lemon dressing that I found and then baked it in foil packets at 350 for about 20 minutes.  The fish is done when it’s slightly opaque and is flaky.

While the fish is cooking, chop the pineapple, mango and pepper in small pieces.  You want to make them small enough so you can get a mouthful of all of the great flavors at once.  For the onion and jalapeno, I minced them very small.  I wanted the heat that they offer, but someone getting a huge chunk of jalapeno would not be enjoyable!  Mix all the items in a pour and juice 1 lime over the top and add the orange juice.  You want enough moisture to help the fruits become nice and juicy, but you don’t want it super wet.  Add the fresh chopped cilantro and give it all a toss.  The measurements that I used gave me about 2 cups.

Very easy.  Very fresh and summery.  Very tasty!!

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Orzo with Chicken, Blue Cheese, and Red Onion

I love pasta.  It is like the party bus of foods.  Not only is it made it all kinds of awesome shapes and sizes, but it’s also an amazing vehicle to carry all kinds of different ingredients.  The party bus doesn’t discriminate; it welcomes all kinds to the culinary celebration of dinner time.  It tells marina sauce and meatballs to hop on for the classic tour around town.  It pre games for vodka sauce with chicken to be tossed in for a crazy night.  Throw some shrimp, garlic and butter into the mix for a decadent affair.  Your options for a delicious pasta meal or only limited by your imagination.

I recently decided to be the driver of the party bus and used orzo and added chicken, blue cheese and red onion so that we could use the car pool lane right to Yummytown (aka my stomach via the tongue entrance ramp!).

Another great thing about pasta is that it’s cheap and really stretches.  You can feed a lot of people with only 1 or 2 pounds of pasta.  This recipe can easily be adapted for however many people you are planning on.  I am terrible with portions of pasta, so I honestly can offer no guidance as far as how much uncooked pasta would serve 1 person.  I do know I made spaghetti with lemon chicken and asparagus (using 1 pound of pasta) and it feed 7 and still had left overs.  I originally anticipated making just 2 servings of this (1 for dinner that night and 1 for lunch the next day), but it did in fact feed me for 3 meals.  Orzo is especially tricky to determine a serving size of!

So this again was 3 full meals.

1/2 bag of orzo

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (cut into bite size cubes)

about 1/2 cup of crumbled blue cheese

1/2 red onion

1/2 cup flour

salt and pepper to taste

a couple of shakes of Tastefully Simple Bacon Bacon!

Cook the orzo according to package directions in salted water.  Meanwhile cut the chicken in small bite size pieces.  Combine the flour, salt, pepper and Bacon Bacon (if you are using it) in a bowl.  Dredge the pieces of chicken in the flour.  Warm extra virgin olive oil in a skillet over medium heat and add the chicken.  Cook, stirring often, to brown and cook through.  Chop the onion in small pieces.

Once the pasta is done, drain almost all of the liquid.  Reserve a little bit still in the pan to help the other ingredients stick and thicken the dish slightly.  Add a drizzle of EVOO to the pasta.  Add the blue cheese and stir, letting the cheese melt.  Add the uncooked red onion and the chicken.  Give a stir to combine well.  Pour into the serving bowl and top with a little bit more blue cheese crumbles.  I opted not to cook the red onion, because I wanted the crunch and the bite.  But, the onion did soften slightly from the pasta.  I’m sure it would also be really good if you sauteed the onion a little bit.

This is a super easy meal to prepare for 1 or 10!

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Pesto Chicken

I recently tried to make a kind of deconstructed chicken parm with pesto or a backward chicken parm.  It didn’t go exactly as I had planned, and when I make it in the future I will definitely adapt it.  I like the flavors enough to definitely keep perfecting a good way to blend the flavors for a better outcome.

1 chicken breast per person

1 cup Panko breadcrumbs

1 cup prepared pesto

1/2 flour

salt and pepper to taste

3 plum tomatoes

6 slices mozzarella cheese

note: the 1 cup portions were for 2 servings, adjust accordingly.

Set out 3 bowls; place flour and a pinch of salt and pepper in one, pesto in the second and panko breadcrumbs in the third.  Dredge the chicken breasts in the flour and then coat with pesto.  You really need to get in there with your hands and rub the pesto all over.  Then dip into the bread crumbs.  You also need to really press the breadcrumbs in.

Warm oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Place the chicken in the skillet and brown.  Flip the chicken after 5-7 minutes and cook on the other side.  Cover the pan to make sure the chicken cooks through.

Meanwhile, cut the tomatoes in half and scoop out the seeds.  Salt and pepper the tomatoes and place in the oven at 350 for about 5 minutes.  This gets them just soft.  Remove them from the oven and place the slices of cheese.  Place under the broiler for just a couple of minutes to brown and bubble the cheese.

Once the chicken is done, place the tomatoes on top or on the side.  We added more pesto on the top of the chicken to give more flavor.  The pesto flavor did really cook out.  Which is why I’ve concluded that that step isn’t really worth it.  In the future I will probably just season the chicken with salt and pepper and bake it and then top it with the pesto.  I will let you know how that turns out when I try that!  I served this with pasta with pesto sauce.

 

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Pulled Pork with Bourbon Bar-B-Q Sauce

This was my first try at pulled pork and I was a little nervous!  I know it seems silly to be nervous about something that I was planning to put it in the crock pot; what could go wrong?!  Luckily, nothing did and it was pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, preeetttttyyyy tasty (that’s my little homage to the new season of Curb Your Enthusiasm starting!).

My main concern was the balance of the sauce, but as it cooked it melded well.  Next time I make it, I will probably adjust a bit to get an even better balance.

This is another meal that can be extremely easy to make for a group on a budget, and keeps you out of the kitchen for the most part.

Bone in pork butt roast (about 3 pounds will serve 6-8 people)

1 medium onion

Rub

2 tsp ground mustard

2 tsp oregano

2 tsp paprika

2 tsp chili powder

2 tsp pepper

1 tsp Tastefully Simple Seasoning Salt

1 tsp Tastefully Simple Garlic Garlic

1 tsp Garlic Salt

Bar-b-q Sauce

1- 20 oz bottle of ketchup

1/3 white vinegar

1/4 bourbon

1 1/2 – 2TBSP liquid smoke

1 TBSP red wine vinegar

1 – 1 1/2TBSP Worcestershire sauce

1/2 – 1 tsp paprika

1/2 -1 tsp chili powder

3/4 cups brown sugar

Combine all of the spices and then rub into the meat.  Really get in there!  Place the rub into a sealed plastic bag and refrigerate over night.

Mix together all of the ingredients for the sauce in a sauce pan.  Prepare the night before also to give the flavors time to marry.

In the morning drizzle a little bit of vegetable oil in the crock pot and swirl to coat.  Place the roast in the crock pot and pour about 1/2 to 3/4 of the sauce over the roast.  Chop the onion in thin strips and place over top.  Cook the roast for 9-11 hours over low heat or 5-6 hours over high heat.

Bring the remaining sauce to a boil 1 or 2 hours before you plan on eating and then bring the heat down to a simmer.  You want the alcohol to cook off and for the sauce to reduce a little and thicken.

About 45 minutes to an hour before serving, shred the pork with 2 forks.  With the slow wet cooking, it will be so tender it won’t take much to pull it.  Once it is all separated and the bone is removed.  Replaced the lid and let the pork continue to cook.  This will help the remaining sauce in the pot to thicken up.

That’s all there is to it!  Easy as, well pulled pork in a crock pot 😉  Serve the pork with a good quality bun, sharp cheddar cheese and extra bar-b-q sauce.

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