Creamy Cheddar Leek Soup

For the first day of Fall this year, I made a vegetarian creamy cheddar leek soup. I’ll let you in on a little secret about leeks – did you know you can buy them sliced, cleaned and frozen in a bag a trader joe’s? So awesome. Now, I will pretty much always have the ingredients for a quick and easy soup on hand. If you don’t buy them pre-chopped, the easiest way to clean a leek is to cut off the root end, slice it length wish and the cut in to semi-circles and then put the slices in a colander and rinse. It is much easier to wash a cut leek than a whole one.

Creamy Cheddar Leek Soup
Serves 4
1 pound leeks
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1 cup milk
3 ounces cheddar
optional: parsley for garnish

  1. In a heavy bottomed soup pot, melt butter. Add leeks and garlic and saute over medium heat until leeks are translucent. About 10 – 15 minutes.
  2. Sprinkle flour over the cooked leeks, stirring to combine, and let cook for 5 minutes.
  3. Slowly add chicken stock to the pan, about a half cup at a time, whisking completely after each addition to avoid lumps.
  4. After all of the chicken stock is combined, add seasonings and raise heat to bring to a boil and reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
  5. Whisk in milk, bring back to temperature.
  6. Slowly add cheese one handful at a time, whisking to avoid clumps.
  7. Taste and adjust seasonings. Depending on your cheese, more salt may be needed.
  8. Now you have two options – serve as is or blend. I prefer blended vegetable soups but that is a personal preference. I also hate seeds and nuts in my bread so make of that what you will.
  9. If blending, use an immersion blender and blend until smooth. Or use a food processor or blender and work in batches.
  10. Ladle in to bowls, garnish if desired, and enjoy!
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Chef Salad with Bacon Dressing

This salad was an accident, a delicious one though. I was craving my mom’s warm spinach salad with bacon dressing, but we didn’t have any spinach. We also had a ton of stuff in the fridge that needed to be used up and I couldn’t quite justify going out to buy spinach when we had a ton of ingredients at home. The end result was this salad. It has definitely earned a place in the family rotation.

Chef Salad with Bacon Dressing
Serves 3 (or so, just bump up the toppings for 4 adults. Or serve bread)
1 head romaine, washed, dried and sliced or torn into bite sized pieces
4 slices bacon
1/4 yellow, red or white onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 medium or large tomato, chopped
2 hard boiled eggs, chopped
1/4 cup cheese, grated or crumbled  (I used colby, but any cheese will do)
3/4 cup cooked chicken, chopped

  1. Cook bacon in a skillet over medium heat.
  2. While bacon is cooking, chop vegetables and start arranging in a bowl.
  3. Put lettuce on the bottom, then add chicken, egg, cheese, tomato to the top and put in the fridge to keep cool.
  4. When bacon is finished cooking (about 15 minutes), remove bacon from pan, pour off bacon grease and begin cooking onion in the bacon pan, on medium-high heat.
  5. Chop bacon, add 3 slices to salad and keep one out for dressing. (This could probably be done with 2 or 3 slices total, but 4 is what we had left. Just you what you have)
  6. When the onion is translucent and cooked through, about 8 minutes, add the reserved bacon back in to the pan. Cook for a few minutes and then add the vinegar to the pan. Stir well to combine, being sure to scrape up any bacon bits stuck to the pan.
  7. Turn off the heat and let sit in the pan for a few minutes to cool.
  8. Pour over the salad and enjoy! I poured it in stripes to make it pretty and it mixed in pretty well during the serving process.

Bacon Dressing

 

 

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Beet Salad

Once again, my tendency towards salads with a few fresh, simple ingredients is showing up. Vegetables, cheese and a little oil and vinegar – it is how I like to eat. I was asked why I’m not posting complicated dressings or elaborate salads. Well, I post what I eat and I eat simple things more often. And not just because I am lazy. Ahem.

Beets + cheese = awesome is the theme of this salad. I didn’t always love beets. Well, I liked cooked beets, but hated cold, canned pickled beets. In fact, I thought all saald beets were pickled, so I never ate them. But my mother-in-law grows and serves beets. Deliciously. And when I was pregnent, I started craving beets and that never really went away. I normally see them on menus paired with goat cheese in a salad, but the tang of blue cheese really accentuates the earthiness of the beets. This salad is a great starter when you want to fancy things up for a special dinner, but don’t have a lot of time.

Beet Salad with Blue Cheese and Arugula

Serves 2 (easily doubled)

2 beets, cooked and sliced (Steamed, Roasted or purchased)
1 heaping tablespoon crumbled blue cheese (how heaping at your discretion)
2 cup (ish) arugula (about 1 cup per plate, give or take)
salt and black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar (you may not need all of the oil/vinegar)

  1. Slice beets
  2. Arrange arugula on a plate (or platter or bowl)
  3. Top with beets
  4. Sprinkle with blue cheese
  5. Add salt and pepper
  6. Using a spoon, bottle or dropper, carefully drop oil and vinegar on to salad. (True confession: I use the medicine syringes that come with infant tylenol. Work great)
  7. Enjoy

Alternatively, you could reduce the amount of arugula and double the beets and mound in center of the plate for a more formal, composed salad look.

 

 

 

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Cucumber and Tomato Salad

We are lucky enough to have friends with amazing gardens so in years, like this one, where we don’t get it together enough to plant our stuff in time, we can get some fantastic produce. This was a particularly fun day, my son got a fun afternoon playing with a puppy in a huge yard and they came home with zucchini, cucumbers, tomatoes and eggs. Yum.

Cucumber and Tomato Salad
Serves 4-6
3 medium cucumbers, diced
3 medium tomatoes, diced
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup goat cheese, crumbled (or feta)
salt to taste (start with 1/4 teaspoon if using a salty cheese)

  1. In a medium mixing bowl, combine cucumbers and tomatoes.
  2. In a small bowl, combine vinegar, sugar and salt.
  3. Pour dressing over tomato-cucumber mixture.
  4. Sprinkle with goat cheese and stir gently to combine.
  5. Serve with a slotted spoon and enjoy!

It’s also good on seared tuna.

 

 

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Greek(ish) Potato Salad

Last year for Spencer’s birthday party, I made potato salad with the blue cheese vinaigrette and it was a hit. Never one to leave well enough alone, I decided to make a new potato salad for his 2nd birthday party. I spy a new family tradition. I’ve been asked a few times how one “comes up” with a recipe instead of just adapting one from an existing recipe. I thought I would go through the thought process.

I know! Greek potato salad! What would be in that? feta, olives, potatoes, red pepper, spinach and cucumbers. Wait? Cucumbers and potatoes sound kinda gross, lets leave those out. Oh. Oregano. But hubs hates oregano, so not too much. And he doesn’t like red pepper either and that will flavor the whole thing. Do kids like feta? I’ll use mozzarella and serve feta on the side. Light vinaigrette and we are done. And I forgot to buy spinach so let’s leave that out, too.

Also, this salad doesn’t take long to make once the potatoes are chopped and boiled, but you need to allow time for the potatoes to full cool. At least an hour or two or maybe overnight. Although, this would probably be good warm.

Party Potato Salad
Serves a 20 person BBQ  (This would easily be halved, or even quartered)

2 pounds potatoes, cut in small pieces (I don’t peel & used mini yukon golds & baby reds)
6 ounce jar of kalamata olives, drained and chopped. (I buy pitted, it’s way easier)
3/4 cup grated mozzarella cheese (or to taste)
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
2 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried minced onion
1.5 teaspoons fresh oregano, chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning (or a little basil and marjoram)
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup feta, crumbled (optional)

  1. Chopped potatoes and put in a large saucepan of water and bring to a boil. (I like to do this the day before and put in the fridge overnight).
  2. Cook potatoes until tender when pierced by a fork. This depends on the size of your potatoes, but mine took about 10 minutes. Drain and let cool.
  3. You want the potatoes to be room temperature (or cold) and dry before proceeding.
  4. When you are ready to assemble the salad, in a small bowl mix vinegar, oil, water, herbs and minced onion and set aside. This is your dressing.
  5. In a large bowl, layer or combine the potatoes, olives and cheese, mixing gently and not breaking up the potatoes.
  6. Pour the dressing over the potato mixture and mix gently.
  7. Garnish with an olive or sprig of oregano on top.
  8. Serve with feta on the side if you desire.

 

 

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Buffalo Blue Chicken Salad

True confession time, culinary style: I don’t love wings. I want to love them, I like the spicy flavors with the cool of the dip, the whole concept. I just don’t like the bones. Or the wing meat. And I really can’t stand the errant cartilage or whatever. Lastly, I especially don’t like sucking on bones in public – even if everyone else is doing it. I rarely order ribs for this same reason. We all have wacky dining hang-ups and survive this crazy world. And then someone was talking about wings on twitter and it made me crave them, but I knew I wouldn’t like them. So, I wandered into the kitchen and made this.

The hot sauce gives the salad is a not to buffalo wings, the blue cheese represents the traditional dipping sauce and the celery gives a bit of a crunch. I think this would also be fantastic pureed and used as a dip. It is way better than wings. No bones!

Buffalo Blue Chicken Salad
Serves 4-6
1/2 cup celery, diced
2 cups cooked chicken breast, chopped (leftover or poached is fine)
4 tablespoons blue cheese crumbles
1/2 tablespoon milk
2 teaspoons hot sauce, at least (I use Frank’s Red Hot)
1 medium tomato, cored and chopped
black pepper, a few grinds
lettuce, chopped  (for serving, a lot or a little depending on how you want to do the bowl)

  1. Mix celery, chicken and 1 tablespoon of the blue cheese in a bowl. Set aside.
  2. In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together milk, remaining blue cheese, hot sauce, pepper and milk until blended.
  3. Taste and adjust spiciness – remember that when you mix the dressing with the rest of the ingredients, it will dull the spiciness a bit, so make it slightly hotter than you want the salad to taste.
  4. Pour the dressing over the chicken and celery and mix to combine. Refrigerate for an hour or two to let the flavors combine.
  5. To serve: Place lettuce in a bowl, place a scoop of chicken salad on top, sprinkle with tomatoes. Serve with hot sauce on the side.
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Steak and Horseradish Salad

I’ve been trying to get better about using leftovers and this salad used up a few things in the fridge: leftover rib-eye from father’s day, a sub par tomato and some bits of cheese. I’m also still on a diet so am focusing on salads for lunch. Though this is a simple salad for one, the recipe could be easily expanded to serve more. Just add more water to the horseradish and then increase the amount of horseradish to taste.

This one took about 3 minutes to put together because the greens were already washed and dried and the steak was leftover. I had even sliced it before putting it in the fridge. The strong flavor of the dressing helped punch up a boring grocery store tomato.

Steak and Horseradish Salad
serves 1
2 small handfuls of mixed greens or lettuce (I used an arugula mix) washed and dried
2-3 ounces leftover steak, sliced
1/2 medium tomato, chopped
1/2 teaspoon prepared horseradish (not horseradish sauce)
1/2  to 1 ounce cheese, crumbled or grated (I used smoked aged jack, but gouda or mozzarella would work well)
1 teaspoon water
a few grinds of black pepper

  1. Mix greens and tomato in a bowl
  2. In a small bowl, mix together water horseradish and black pepper
  3. Pour dressing over greens/tomato mixture
  4. Top with steak and cheese
  5. Enjoy!
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Summer Spinach and Berry Salad

We just got back from a 3 week road trip (5000 miles!) and in an effort to not pack on the vacation pounds, I ate a lot of salads. Some were good, some were great and a few were old iceberg lettuce clumps with a scattering a croutons. One salad that kept popping up on menus was a greens/berry/goat cheese/nut combo that went by many names: calypso salad, capri salad and once even a California salad.

I put together my version after I brought home some fabulous strawberries from the market and realized I had all the ingredients in the fridge. I did use bottled dressing ::gasp:: because I am trying to use it up, but any balsamic would do.

Summer Spinach and Berry Salad
Serves 1 (just expand out for the number of servings needed)
1.5 cups fresh spinach leaves
1/4 cup blueberries
1/4 strawberries, sliced
6 almonds, chopped
2 ounces cooked chicken breast, shredded or chopped
1 ounce soft goat cheese cut in to small pieces

1 tablespoon balsamic vinaigrette (I used Trader Joe’s Fat Free)

  1. I prefer this plated, so the instructions are pretty much put everything on a plate and drizzle the dressing on top.
  2. If a family style is desired, I would mix everything but the cheese in a bowl with the dressing and then crumble the cheese on top.

Notes: As made, this has under 300 calories for one serving (and it is filling), but if you wanted to make it fancier or more decadent, try candied pecans for the nuts. All blueberries would be fine. Mixed greens or even romaine could be subbed in for the spinach. Of course the chicken could be left off to make it vegetarian. As for cheese, feta, blue, parmesan would all work too, maybe even pepper jack. Basically, do what you like, this is only the most basic of guidelines.

 

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Vegan Curried Broccoli Soup

The soup came to be on a day where I was uninspired for dinner and was rattling off a list of random food for the toddler to choose from. I threw out broccoli soup on a list that included peanut butter sandwich, macaroni and cheese and spaghetti and he picked broccoli soup. I figured I better follow through. Luckily, I had some frozen broccoli on hand. I threw it in a pot with some water and looked in the cupboard for some seasoning inspiration and settled on curry, primarily because my curry hating husband wouldn’t be home. Blended everything together and viola! Delicious! And the easiest vegan broccoli soup you ever did see.

Vegan Curried Broccoli Soup

Vegan Curried Broccoli Soup
Serves 4-6
1 pound broccoli (fresh or frozen, peeled stems are fine to include)
2 – 2.5 cups water or vegetable stock
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 – 1 teaspoon curry powder (or more. As per usual, season to taste)

  1. Put all ingredients in a soup pot and bring to a boil.
  2. Reduce heat and simmer for 2-3 minutes (frozen) or 4-6 minutes (fresh). Stems should be soft.
  3. Using an immersion blend, puree soup completely and simmer for an additional few minutes to thicken slightly. (Or carefully puree in batches using a food processor or blender and return to pot to simmer.)
  4. Taste and adjust seasonings. Enjoy!
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Mustard Slaw for Sandwiches

I think we’re doing bbq pork sliders for Spencer’s birthday party in July (why yes, I AM neurotically planning ahead) and I’ve been experimenting with slaws for topping the meat in the sandwiches. I love the concept of coleslaw on sandwich, but rarely enjoy the execution. A vinegar dressing blends into the bbq sauce too much, mayo dressing are too gloppy and then it hit me – mustard! This is perfect with the pork, subtly tangy and the apple adds a little bit of sweetness to balance the heat of the mustard. I used sweet & hot mustard for this (my favorite) and it would probably work with dijon, but maybe not yellow. This would be great as a side too, for a fun change of pace.

Mustard Slaw
Serves 4-6 as a side and tops 6-10 sandwiches, depending on size
2 heaping teaspoons sweet & hot mustard
1/2 teaspoon white wine or white balsamic vinegar (red is yummy, but ugly)
2 teaspoons water
1/16 – 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder, depending on personal preference
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 head of cabbage, grated or chopped
1 apple, peeled or unpeeled, grated

  1. Mix cabbage and apple in a medium mixing bowl or your serving bowl.
  2. Mix all the other ingredients in a small measuring cup, whisking or stirring well.
  3. If you feel like you need a bit more dressing add more water. The flavors will hold up to about 2 more teaspoons of water, if you feel like you need more that that, double the recipe.
  4. Pour the dressing over the cabbage/apple mixture and stir.
  5. Taste and adjust seasonings.
  6. Top your sandwich and enjoy!

The bbq pork is Raising Madison’s crock pot recipe.

 

 

 

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