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Semi-Homemade Stromboli

Semi-Homemade Stromboli

Friday nights at my house are almost always deemed Pizza Night. We love this one consistency in our weekly meal planning. And also at the end of a long work week, my husband and I usually find ourselves looking for a simple, no decision making […]

Bacon Jerky !!!

Bacon Jerky !!!

OMG Bacon!!! Bacon is so diverse with so many amazing preparations. This is everyone’s favorite part of pork, and if anyone says differently, there is a good chance they are lying. I honestly had to seriously edit down my intro in my video because I […]

Lemon Zucchini Quinoa

Lemon Zucchini Quinoa

I am sure I am not the only person that hates the super hot, humid, muggy days of Ohio summers. I am also sure that I am not the only gardener that has had too many zucchini ripen at the exact same time and needs to find new ways to eat it.

This super easy, low heat recipe is more assembly than cooking. I cheat a bit by using my rice cooker instead of the stove. Yes a rice cooker is essentially a kitchen unitasker. But it has been a work horse for me saving me time since college and has therefore more than earned its $9 price tag. Plus, I have yet to figure out how to make my rice as perfectly as this little guy does.

Today I used two medium size zucchinis to 1 cup (uncooked) of my grains. The zucchinis cut were about 2-3 ish cups and the quinoa blend expands as it cooks and makes about 3 cups also. I like having an almost equal mix of veggie to grain for this side dish, but it is still super tasty (and a bit more lemony) if you use less zucchini. I won’t see what you do in your kitchen so make what will make you and your families tummies happy!

The single most important step in this recipe is adding the quinoa to zucchini while it is HOT! The heat from the quinoa blend will cook the zucchini just enough to get rid of kinda slimy feeling it has once cut (totally just the natural sap from inside the zucchini being released, but not a texture I enjoy). Plus, the cooler zucchini will quickly help cool off the hot quinoa!

As is, this makes a great vegetarian/vegan side dish perfect for a hot summer night. Anyone that has met my husband knows he likes his meat. For that reason, I typically like to serve this with a simple grilled chicken breast 🙂 Plus, Drew usually does the grilling for me, and that is outside so it also avoids creating any heat inside! Double win!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Quinoa (or Quinoa Blend)
  • Rice Cooker
  • 2 Cups Water
  • Zucchini, diced, I use about 2-3 cups
  • Lemon, zest first then juice
  • Salt, to taste
  • Pepper, to taste
  • Olive oil, about 1 Tablespoon

How to prepare? It is easy!

  • Add 1 part Quinoa (or WFM Super Grains mix) to rice cooker with 2 parts water
  • Zest the Lemon
  • Dice Zucchini into bite size pieces – I quartered it longways then sliced
  • Add Zucchini and HOT cooked quinoa to bowl
  • Juice Lemon over bowl
  • Season with salt, pepper, and a bit of olive oil
  • Mix well
  • Enjoy!

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Strawberry Basil Salsa and Sweet Chips

Strawberry Basil Salsa and Sweet Chips

Spring has Sprung! This also means grocery stores and farmers markets everywhere are again able to stock super fresh and seasonal and local produce. I can never seem to fully appreciate the extra sweetness and flavor of the ripe berries when they come in season […]

Italian Sausage Pizza Burger

Italian Sausage Pizza Burger

So Pizza Friday is basically a rule at my house. In some fashion, we are having pizza on Friday. Sometimes we make pizza, sometimes we have Stromboli filled with many meats, and sometimes the dirty dishes have overflowed the kitchen and we go out for […]

Potato Bacon Soup

Potato Bacon Soup

What can be better? Warm creamy soup, soft bites of potatoes, and bacon. SO MUCH BACON!

Potato soup is something that makes me think of spending time in the kitchen with my parents, specifically with my Dad. I don’t know where DOD (Dear ‘Ol Dad) learned to make potato soup, but he taught me the basics. Which naturally means I have been perfecting how I do this over the past 15 or so winters.

Over that time I have added more veggies, like the carrots and celery and onions (despite DOD’s utter dislike of all things onion), as well as learned how to thicken the soup without half a box of instant mashed potatoes.

I love that a great potato soup can be as simple as potatoes, broth, a touch of milk/cream, and a big helping of love. This is a soup that always makes me think of home. Everything else just makes it even better! Let me show you some of my secrets!

I like to start with prepping all of the fresh ingredients, taking just a few shortcuts as I do it.

The onion is a quick peel, then slice, then quarter and quarter again–this makes a rough chop of eight pieces from each onion slice–the pictures above might be a more clear instruction.

Celery! Don’t skip the leaves when you have them! I tend to alternate between buying the super big bunches of celery and the smaller packages of celery hearts (what I used today) solely based on how they look. Sometimes the bigger stalks just don’t look very appealing. And again–use the leaves, both those on top and the ones on the innards of a bunch of celery.

I take the short cut with the carrots when I have baby carrots in the fridge. Otherwise I would wash/scrub the dirt away, peel them, then slice/dice into small bite size bits.

In the spirit of prepping, I share my imperfectly perfectly rough chopped vegetables! These three, onions, celery, and carrots make up a mirepoix. There are fancy sounding reasons for why it works. I’m not the best resource to share those. Just know that in my opinion when you use equal amounts of each veg (I check rough weights not volume) some of that extra flavor magic works its way into your dinner.

The potatoes are basically the star of this soup, and I use the whole bag. All three pounds! Potato prep is simple: Wash/scrub the dirt away, peel (totally optional), then cut/dice into bite size pieces.

I like to use the Russet Potatoes in this hearty soup (also known in my family as an Idaho Potato regardless of if was actually grown in Idaho). I think they hold their texture a bit better than other potatoes when making soup. It is really a great all around potato to keep around for inexpensive yet belly filling meals 🙂

BACON!!! This is one of the most important items in this recipe for me (other than the potatoes of course). Bacon makes so many foods better. The hack I have is you bake the bacon. Shared slightly out of order, I actually put the bacon in the oven to cook while I wash/peel/prep all the other vegges.

Trust me and do not toss the bacon fat! You paid for all of the bacon so you should be able to use it all!

Your standard 12 ounce package will work perfectly, but if you are a bacon snacker while you cook, you may want to buy extra! Also: Pro tip–If you use peppered bacon, don’t add extra pepper into this recipe!

Now that the prep is finished, lets start cooking!

Remember how you just put your trust in me by not immediately tossing the bacon fat when we just saw those super awesome amazing pictures of freshly baked bacon? Yes? Well here is the bacon fat being added into our soup.

Sound crazy? I get it. Let me explain.

My favorite way to thicken many dishes is using a roux. A Roux sauce is basically where you take a fat, add flour, cook it, then add a liquid. Somehow this magical formula causes the liquid to thicken when added to the fat/flour mixture. You can use it for a great queso, spinach dip, alfredo, mac-n-cheese, and even a gravy!

That roux doesn’t work so great in this recipe though. The chunky veggies make it hard to mix in evenly/smoothly/easily.

I modify the idea of the roux by starting with the bacon fat (you can totally use butter or olive oil if using the bacon fat makes you uncomfortable). Then I add and cook the veggies, and add the flour, cook some more, then add the chicken broth.

This still equates the same formula:

fat (bacon) + flour + heat + liquid (chicken broth) = thickened soup

It just happens to also have four ish pounds of veggies semi silently hanging out in the party!

Our veggies have been added to the mix, and they need time to cook down a bit. I describe the process in some of my other recipes as ‘sweating’ the veggies. We want to add enough heat to the bacon fat/veggies mixture that the veggies start to release some of their liquids and start becoming soft. Browning or crisping of the veggies is an indication the stove is on too hot.

Stir the veggies every few minutes. When they start getting just a little mushy on the edges it is time to add the flour.

Loosely measure about 1/2 cup of flour and add it to the veggie mix, then stir well. Yes, there are a lot of veggies in the party but 1/2 cup flour will be enough. You will want to cook it for just a minute or two before moving on.

Now we are ready to add our liquid to finish up my modified roux idea. To mix everything evenly and avoid any flour clumps, add some broth, stir, add broth, stir, add broth, stir, etc… until you have added the whole quart of chicken broth.

For my purposes, I buy broth and make my own stock. Broth is a more-flavorful-than-adding-water-and-sorta-tastes-like-chicken product from the store and stock is a super-flavorful-liquid-that-is-basically-liquid-chicken-flavor produced from an afternoon of adding love to a vat of boiling chicken bones.

AKA I use store bought broth in this recipe because I want something more than water but I still want my soup to have the Potatoes and Bacon be the King and Queen flavors. If you have fresh broth or smaller packages of broth frozen, I imagine you can also thin 2 cups of a really robust chicken stock with 2 cups water.

Again, Bacon is a star flavor in my potato soup. I really cannot accurately describe how much it adds. It is almost like an undefinable umami flavor, that something extra, adding more body and depth to the overall soup.

Always wait to add salt until you have added the bacon. Bacon is naturally salty and thusly does much of that work for you.

Also–if you are using any bacon OTHER than a peppered bacon, you might want to add about 1/2 teaspoon of pepper (white pepper works well here if you have it on hand). Using peppered bacon and adding additional pepper will make your soup taste like a cream of black pepper.

Our last primary ingredient! I basically always add the milk/cream to a hot soup as the last ingredient because I want to avoid the potential for the milk to separate in the final soup. Too much heat does something to change the formula that makes the emulsion that is a dairy milk, just the same as too much agitation turns cream into butter.

Lets load up a bowl now!

I choose to top my already flavorful soup with some of my favorite toppings! My three favorites are cheddar cheese, green onions, and oyster crackers. Sometimes I use one, or two, or all three toppings!

Please let me know in the comments below if you have any other favorite potato soup toppings and submit your email for automatic updates of new recipes 🙂

Potato Bacon Soup

  • Russet Potatoes, 3 Pounds
  • 1 Onion, about 8 ounces rough chop
  • Celery, about 8 ounces rough chop
  • Carrots, about 8 ounces rough chop
  • 12 ounces package Bacon, cooked
  • Bacon Fat from cooked Bacon
  • 1 cup of 2% milk
  • 1 Quart of Chicken Broth (store bought or thin 2 Cups rich chicken stock with 2 Cups water)
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • Soup Toppers (Optional) Cheddar Cheese/Green Onions/Oyster Crackers
  1. Bake the bacon at 350 degrees until crispy and fat is rendered. Reserve the bacon fat for later use
  2. Wash/Peel/Chop all veggies: Onion, Celery, Carrots, and Potatoes. Do this while bacon is baking
  3. Chop baked bacon, set aside
  4. Pour bacon fat into soup pot. Add all veggies, stir well
  5. Soften/sweat veggies on medium heat. Goal=soft cooked veggies, not browned or crisped
  6. Add flour and incorporate well when veggies start getting a little mushy on the corners–see pictures above for more clarity on what this looks like
  7. Slowly add chicken broth. Add some broth, stir, add broth, stir, add broth, stir, etc… this helps reduce possibility of clumps of flour in soup. May take a few minutes cooking to thicken.
  8. Add bacon! Stir again.
  9. Taste for Salt and Pepper needs. If using peppered bacon, DO NOT add more pepper.
  10. Add 1 Cup Milk just before serving
  11. Dish up and add any or all optional soup toppers and ENJOY!!!

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Hearty Midwestern Pot Roast

Hearty Midwestern Pot Roast

Cold and snowy Ohio mornings always make me crave warm comfort food. Beef Pot Roast is probably the meal my mom made most frequently when I was growing up and something about it always reminds me of my childhood home. The mere thought of a […]

Easy Weeknight Ramen

Easy Weeknight Ramen

Cold weather and busy work days sometimes make it a bit hard to get a fast dinner ready on a week night. This fast soup is the perfect remedy! I take your typical store bought 25 cent ramen packet, toss out the weird ‘chicken’ flavor […]

Super Easy Pork Ribs

Super Easy Pork Ribs

I met my husband almost ten years ago (!?!?!) and his family shortly thereafter. Drew’s mom, my mother-in law, Debbie, makes some of THE BEST Pork Ribs. Like seriously, I never really liked BBQ sauce as a kid but these ribs changed that (my unbreakable bond with Ketchup has a much longer history) These ribs were probably served at one of the very first dinners I ate with the Hitchcocks, and let me say, paired with Montgomery Inn BBQ was a such game changer! I probably could have asked sooner, but I don’t think I had the courage to ask her for the (in my mind) super secret ribs recipe until after Drew and I got married.

And yes, I also double checked she was OK with me sharing it too 🙂 !

The simple ingredient list is this: Pork Ribs, Thyme, Garlic Powder, Salt, Pepper, and BBQ. Want it even easier? There is effectively no measuring! We just eyeball it, and give thin even layers of each spice on both sides of the rib meat. Add enough water to cover the bottom of the pan, cover, and bake at 275 degrees for 3 to 3 1/2 hours, heat the BBQ, and serve! Today I fed these ribs to my hubby with a side of asparagus, but the best sides are warm kettle chips and buttered broccoli! (As you may have just guessed, this is what Debbie always serves as sides!)

Wondering what the ‘eyeball’ measuring looks like? Go to 01:25 in the above video for a demonstration!

These ribs are the most requested dinner that my husband and I give Debbie anytime she asks. I even served them on Christmas Day when I hosted my side of the family for dinner! All around, everyone loves them!

A few key secrets I have for choosing the perfect ribs at the store:

  • look for the thickest meat filled ribs
  • gander at the white bits of fat
    • the meat should be marbled with fat when you look at the side of the meat
    • the outside should be mostly the pink/red pork color, should not be a solid white layer of fat (I give the completely opposite tip for my pork belly)
  • try to pick a rack with smallish bones (the meat is what you really want!!!) you do this by really feeling the meat
  • aim for about 1 pound/person
    • this provides room for shrinkage as the fat cooks away, allows for the weight of the bones to be removed, and usually provides enough leftovers for me to have lunch tomorrow 😉

For us, Montgomery Inn BBQ sauce is the way to go. I am not sponsored to say this, their sauce is just truly that good. It is very smooth, thick, and has a sweetness balanced by a bit of a vinegary tang–overall very mild, not spicy! My In-Laws have lived in/near Cincinnati for their whole lives and I have spent basically all of my adult years both in Cincinnati and with the Hitchcocks so this Cincy based hometown BBQ just maybe has something to do with our preference for this brand. Please tell me in the comments if you have a favorite BBQ!

 

Super Easy Pork Ribs

Ingredients

  • Pork Ribs, super meaty
  • Thyme
  • Garlic Powder
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Water (for baking)
  • Montgomery Inn BBQ
  1. Set out all ingredients, take Pork Ribs out of packaging
  2. Use super scientific eyeball method of measuring to add thin layers of thyme/garlic powder/sale/pepper to both sides of ribs. See 01:25 in video for visual reference
  3. Add enough water to cover the bottom of the baking pan, cover with foil
  4. Bake low and slow: 275 degrees for three to three and a half hours for maximum meat-falls-off-the-bones tenderness
  5. Warm the BBQ and enjoy!

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Homemade Chili from Scratch (No Seasoning Packet!)

Homemade Chili from Scratch (No Seasoning Packet!)

Happy January! Todays high was 15 degrees, the low this evening will be -4 degrees and my yard is pleasantly covered with a good 5ish inches of fresh snow. This is the bitter winter weather that calls for an evening cuddling in front of a […]