Microwave Baked Potato Soup

BakedPotatoSoupMy kitchen cupboards and pantry are almost bare, making me feel like Mother Hubbard. But eating take out food and in restaurants can get old as well as pricey.  Plus, today it is raining buckets. Again.  We are staying in so I opened the refrigerator to stand and browse like  our teenagers have done in the past, hungry, and surveying possibilities. I found eggs, bread, juice, a half jar of elderberry jelly, and leftover baked potatoes. Last night we stopped and picked up loaded baked potatoes for a late dinner, only to find after we sat down to eat that we were more tired than hungry.  The remains sat in a ZipLoc bag on the refrigerator shelf, looking very unappetizing.

Changing roles from Mrs. Hubbard to a Chopped contestant, I opened the contents of my basket and made potato soup in the microwave (all pans packed, only a few serving dishes remain). I  took the peeling off the cold potatoes, warmed them in the microwave to soften, and mashed them.  Then I added a sprinkle of sea salt plus milk to the right consistency, and reheated in the microwave, turning out a large bowl of delicious soup loaded with bits of bacon and green onion.  We ate in coffee mugs and recharged enough to head back to packing  for movers to come on Monday.  Simple, and tasty enough to remember for the next leftovers, or to bake extras the next time I serve baked potatoes as a side. If you have no loaded bakers as leftovers, use the following recipe.

Microwave Baked Potato Soup

2 large baked potatoes, cooled

1 1/2 cups milk

salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup sour cream

1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese

1/3 cup crumbled bacon

1/4 cup chopped green onion

Peel potatoes, coarsely chop into microwave safe bowl.  Microwave on high for 1-2 minutes, to soften potatoes.  Mash with fork or potato masher.  Add milk, sour cream, salt, and pepper and stir to combine.  Microwave for another 2 minutes or until hot for serving.  Ladle into mugs or bowls, and sprinkle with cheese, bacon, and green onion.

 

 

Sweet Cherry Cake

Strangely, a week after I published this post, I find that it has disappeared!  All except the title have vanished. Since we are in the middle of moving with little time for sleuthing, I need to delay my search for the photo and recipe content of the post.  In the meantime, I will do this week’s post.  This never happened to me before.  Any comments appreciated!

Mustard Seed Magic

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Mustard seeds have become a staple in my pantry. Yellow, Brown, Black, Spicy – the seeds can be used in many ways.  I like to throw in a tablespoon or two with the olive oil when I heat the iron skillet to wilt some fresh greens.  When the seeds begin to pop, I add the greens, toss, and serve with vinegar.  The result:  a peppery flavor that is addictive!  I have coated fish and chicken with whole seeds before baking, creating a spicy crust. Of course, there are many variations of mustard as a condiment.

You can experiment with different vinegars or other liquids; adding spices (I like curry!) or adding honey or other sweeteners like molasses, sugar, or maple syrup.

Here is one delicious alternative to the ubiquitous yellow jar we usually find on the table for burgers, brats, or hot dogs. Spice up your grilling this summer!

Spicy Brown Mustard

1 cup white wine vinegar

3/4 cup brown mustard seeds

2 teaspoons sea  salt

1/2 teaspoon turmeric.

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Water, as needed

Place mustard seeds and vinegar in a small bowl or container, cover, and let soak at room temperature for 1 day. Transfer mustard seeds and liquid to jar of a blender. Add salt, turmeric, allspice, ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Puree until smooth, adding 2 tablespoons of water at time to thin consistency as needed. Transfer to airtight container and store in refrigerator for 2 to 3 days before use.

 

 

Grilled Vegetable Omelet

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Cooking in my kitchen has been quite different in recent weeks for two reasons.  First, we had our house on the market, selling it days after listing. Second, I am on a medically prescribed restricted diet:  No tomatoes or sauces, no spices, no citrus, little or no fats, and only certain breads. We were eating more meals in restaurants, so the second  was complicated by the first. Since we needed to be out of the house often for showings, inspections, etc we still needed to eat out making menu choices more limited, and certainly more thoughtful.  This week, Joe brought in a take out meal which I had chosen resulting in leftovers – a  portion of grilled chicken breast and a larger portion of grilled vegetables. I decided to make this grilled vegetable omelet which was so good I will make it again, including grilling the veggies myself..OK, I admit, I added some chopped chicken too!

Grilled Vegetable Omelet    (serves 2).

4 large eggs.

1 Tablespoon water

1 cup or more chopped grilled vegetables (I used zucchini, broccoli, onions, and sweet red pepper).

Olive oil to coat the omelet pan (I used our vintage 8-inch curved side iron skillet)

Over moderate setting, heat a scant amount of oil in omelet pan or skillet

Add the eggs whipped with 1 Tablespoon water, and cook, lifting edges and tilting pan to allow raw egg to pour under the edge.  Continue until almost done, but still shiny, smoothing any liquid egg toward edge.  Add chopped vegetables and spread evenly over half the egg mixture.  Turn off heat.  Fold omelet in half, pressing slightly to seal edges. Egg will continue to cook.  Slide onto serving plate and garnish as desired.  I usually cut the halves and serve, but you can leave the omelet on the servng plate in order to serve yourself at table. We had this for breakfast, but it would be nice for a light lunch or supper as well.

 

Braised Fennel

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When I come home from my Saturday morning visits to the Sugar Land Farmer’s Market, the temptation to photograph my finds results in pictures like these.  The fennel, leeks, and spinach lying on my counter here all wound up in different recipes and were delicious.  I sauteed the spinach with a little olive oil and garlic and served with balsamic vinegar.  The leeks went into a quiche. But these beautiful fennel bulbs were the star..  I only discovered fennel a few years ago. We like it raw in salads, roasted, baked with sliced potatoes in an iron skillet, and added to a variety of vegetables. Fennel has a sweet, anise or licorice flavor that’s strongest when it’s raw but much more mellow when it’s cooked.

Most fennel recipes call for just the white bulb. When thinly sliced, the fennel bulb is great in salads — it’s crunchy and slightly sweet and subtly licorice-like, but not as pungent as  black licorice candy. The stalks can be used to make stock, or chopped and sauteed with other vegetables in a mirepoix (a typical French blend of onion, celery and carrot) for a soup or stew. The fronds can be added to salads or used to garnish dishes.

Try this braised fennel!

Braised Fennel

    • 2 fennel bulbs (sometimes called anise; 10 to 12 oz each) with fronds
    • 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
    • 1/2 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
    • 1/4 cup water

Mini Almond Croissants

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One of our favorite treats is almond croissants from the bakery at Le Madeleine.  These little croissants come close to the taste without the trip into town to purchase the flaky bakery product. I usually have crescent roll dough and sliced almonds in the refrigerator because I use both often. Recently I had a tube of almond paste bought for a different recipe and changed my mind.  These tasty minature croissants are the result of “shopping from the frig and pantry” – which I try to do often.

1 can of refrigerated crescent roll dough

almond paste

sliced almonds

Preheat oven according to instructions on the crescent roll package.  Unwrap and separate dough into triangles, placing several inches apart on a baking sheet.  On each dough triangle, squeeze a generous amount of almond paste.  Roll, starting with large end of triangle.  Press ends together to avoid losing filling during baking.  Sprinkle with sliced almonds and bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown.

Shrimp in Pastry Shells

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On our first wedding anniversary (over 52 years ago) we lived in Corvallis, Oregon. Our budget did not allow restaurant meals and I was still a beginner cook. But I served Joe Shrimp in Pastry Shells on our wedding china and we still consider it one of our fanciest dishes. Somewhere I still have the index card on which I taped the simple recipe clipped from a magazine, using Campbell’s Cream of Shrimp soup and canned shrimp.  These days, I do not buy the little shrimp in a can, but I do keep a bag of frozen peeled and deveined shrimp as a freezer staple. This version is how that first anniversary shrimp n shells dish has changed, definitely for the better.  However, Pepperidge Farm still makes their wonderful Puff Pastry Shells that make it so easy to pull puff pastry out of my oven for the base of a wonderful entree.

Shrimp in Pastry Shells

Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry shells (6 shells)

1/2 to 1 pound medium size shrimp, shelled and deveined (fresh or thawed from frozen) We like plenty of shrimp.

2 Tablespoons butter,

2 cups sliced mushrooms

1 can Campbell’s Cream of Shrimp soup

1/2 cup milk or half and half

1 Tablespoon minced fresh dill,

1/4 cup Sherry

Bake Puff Pastry according to instructions on package..  Be sure to save the discs of pastry that you remove from the top after baking to top each serving. Place each pastry on serving plate, with tops on the side.

Melt 2 Tablespoons butter in saute pan, add mushrooms and simmer until mushrooms have cooked down and liquid begins to reduce. Add soup  plus only 1/2 cup milk and simmer until well blended and beginning to thicken.  Add shrimp and cook, stirring, 4-5 minutes, until shrimp are cooked through. Blend in dill and sherry and ladle into pastry shells.  Top each with a puff pastry topper.

 

 

 

Dessert Meringue with Raspberries and Ice Cream

 

When we lived in San Antonio early in our marriage,Joe introduced me to one of his commanding officers when he served in the U.S. Army at Fort Baker, California in the 60’s.By the time I met them, Major Kneesy and his wife lived in officer’s housing on base at Fort Sam Houston.  We visited with them in the living room of their home, and Mrs. Kneesy served us coffee and dessert.  The dessert was a small meringue shell filled with ice cream topped with a drizzle of chocolate. It was the most elegant dessert I had ever eaten, and I fell in love with meringues.  She told me she kept some in the freezer so she would have them to offer on occasions such as our visit. A young bride and fledging cook, I was of course, duly impressed. I have since made them many times myself.

Later, when we lived in Indonesia, I was introduced to Pavlovas, large meringues topped with whipped cream and mixed tropical fruits and my admiration of meringues increased. The ingredient list is very simple, preparation requires an electric mixer and patience, but this remains one of my very favorite things to serve guests in my home for dessert.  The variety of toppings makes it very versatile.

Recently I learned that this is a Downton Abbey dessert. In one episode, Mrs. Patmore the cook makes Raspberry Meringues for the Crowley’s and their guests. However, her eyesight is failing and when reaching for sugar, she measures salt, resulting in inedible meringues!

Dessert Meringue with Raspberries and Ice Cream

5 egg whites

1 1/3 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons vanilla.

Prepare 2 large baking sheets by lining with Silpat or parchment paper.  Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

Let egg whites sit at room temperature at least 30 minutes.  Place in bowl of electric mixer, and begin beating slowly.  When egg whites begin to froth, add cream of tartar. Increase mixer speed to medium and continue to beat until egg whites will hold a hard peak.  Begin to add sugar, 1 Tablespoon at a time and beat at medium-high speed after each addition until all sugar has been added.  Turn mixer speed on high and beat for 5 to 6 minutes until egg whites are glossy and hold sharp peaks.  Remove and fold in salt and vanilla.

Meringues will spread, so do not crowd on baking sheets, adding 6 to each sheet.  With a large spoon, add dollops of meringue and spread slightly to 3-inch circles.  Make an indention in the middle of each by pressing with the back of the spoon. Place baking sheets into preheated oven and bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes. Reduce heat by 25 degrees if they begin to brown. Turn oven off, leaving meringues in oven with door shut for at least 2 hours.  Place in air tight containers and when ready to serve, fill with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream and top with raspberries or other berries of your choice.

Note:  If using whipped cream, a nice variation is the addition of  a splash of orange liqueur.

 

 

 

 

Creamy Chicken Tetrazzini

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Every cookbook has its own version of this dish.  Our own favorite through the years was a recipe given to us by Jean McGuire, who was our back door neighbor when we lived near San Antonio in Kirby, Texas, in 1966. This version is also a keeper.  This is a great dish to make when you have leftover rotisserie chicken and pasta.

Creamy Chicken Tetrazzini

3 large chicken breast halves, cooked

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

about 4 cups cooked spaghetti (half a pound  uncooked)

1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms (may use canned, sliced)

1/2 large green pepper, chopped

1/2 large red pepper, chopped

1 onion, choppped

1/4 cup butter, melted

1/4 cup flour

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup half and half

1 can cream of mushroom with roasted garlic soup

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

1/4 cup sherry

3/4 cup sliced almonds

paprika

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook chicken and pasta and drain. (I use rotisserie chicken and leftover spaghetti noodles when possible, but if you are using raw chicken and uncooked pasta, you can cook those while you assemble and prep the other ingredients.

Spray a large baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.  Shred chicken.  Saute mushrooms, pepper, garlic, and onion in butter in a large sautepan.  Stir in flour, salt and pepper, stirring constantly.  Cook for one minute, stirring gently. Add shredded chicken, mushroom soup, cheese, and sherry.  Mix well.  Spoon mixture into prepared baking dish and bake 25 minutes.  Scatter almonds on top and continue baking for 5-10 minutes longerl

 

 

Orange Glazed Salmon with Rosemary

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We tried yet another excellent recipe recently. This pan roasted salmon glazed with fresh orange sauce and layered with the flavor and fragrance of rosemary from our garden is one we will repeat soon.

Orange Glazed Salmon with Rosemary

2 Tablespoons olive oil

4 (6-8 oz) skinless salmon fillets, (leave out at room temperature 10 minute)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 Tablespoon minced fresh rosemary plus a few sprigs for garnish

1/2  cup chicken broth, plus 1 Tablespoon( to be mixed with cornstarch)

2 teaspoons orange zest

1 cup fresh orange juice

2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice

3 Tablespoons honey

3 teaspoons cornstarcheat

Heat olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Season both sides of salmon with salt and pepper. Place in hot olive oil and sear until browned on both sides and cooked through, 3-4 minutes per side, depending on thickness of salmon.Transfer to a plate, leaving oil in pan.

Add garlic and rosemary to pan and saute 20 seconds, then add 1/2 cup chicken broth and simmer to reduce. Stir in orange zest, orange juice, lemon juice and honey. In a small bowl whisk together remaining 1 Tablespoon chicken broth with cornstarch.

Pour into pan, season sauce with salt and pepper to taste, then bring to a boil and allow to thicken 1 minute, stirring constantly. Return salmon to pan, spoon sauce over salmon. Garnish with sprigs of fresh rosemary and orange slices.