Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Mac and Cheese Soup

 Last week I saw this picture going around on social media. It, more than anything else, has summed up 2024 for me thus far. I don’t think I have ever experienced such consistently dismal weather, or such a lengthy, personal funk as I have this past month. I don’t know how it’s been for the rest of you, but I am really looking forward to spring, or, at the very least, putting January behind me.
The other day I was embracing my funk, spending most of it just wandering aimlessly around the house, stopping occasionally to stare out a window. I had no idea what I was going to fix for dinner, and frankly I didn’t care. What I did know was that I needed to eat, and I wanted something that was the absolute apex of comfort. I happened to be scrolling through Facebook and came upon a posting by Kevin from Closet Kitchen that featured this recipe. I had never heard of macaroni and cheese soup, but I was 100% on board.
 With a rerun of Midsomer Murders playing in the background, I put this together and enjoyed it for a late supper. I have to tell you that this improved my entire day.

Mac and Cheese Soup

As seen on closetcooking.com

 ¼ c. butter

1 c. diced onions

1 c. diced carrots

1 c. diced celery

3 cloves garlic, minced

½ t. ground mustard

chicken broth

elbow macaroni

freshly grated nutmeg

Cayenne, salt, and pepper to taste





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Monday, January 29, 2024

Pineapple Meatballs

Who doesn’t love a good meatball? Whether they’re served as a main dish or an appetizer, meatballs always seem to be crowd pleasers. I like them so well that, with the posting of this recipe, I will have an even dozen different varieties featured on this blog. These pineapple meatballs are unique in that pineapple is a key ingredient, making them tangy and delicious. I served these as a main dish on top of Hawaiian sticky rice with a side of peas, and it was a delicious meal. Pineapple Meatballs

1 lb. ground chuck

½ c. plain bread crumbs

1 extra large egg

1 T. dried minced onions

1 t. hot sauce

¼ c. whole milk

½ t. salt

¼ t. freshly ground black pepper

 ¼ t. freshly grated nutmeg

 For the Sauce:

1 T. oil

1/3 c. finely chopped onion

½ green bell pepper, chopped

½ t. salt

1/3 c. ketchup

2 T. cider vinegar

½ t. cornstarch

1 8-oz. can crushed pineapple in syrup (reserve syrup)

 For the Meatballs:

Preheat oven to 350°F. 
Mix all meatball ingredients together in a large bowl. Form into small meatballs according to your size preference. Place meatballs on a foil or Silpat-lined balking sheet and bake for 40 minutes if large, or 20 minutes if small.

In a large skillet, heat oil. Add onion, green pepper, and salt. Cook until tender.  In a small bowl, combine ketchup and vinegar, mix well. Add to skillet. In another small bowl, whisk together reserved pineapple syrup and cornstarch. Add to skillet and cook for 3-5 minutes, or until mixture thickens. Stir in crushed pineapple, and simmer for 3 minutes.

Friday, January 26, 2024

Slow Cooker Chicken Divan

There are days, particularly cold and rainy days like today, where I welcome a Crockpot meal. Recently I ran across this recipe to make chicken divan in the slow cooker, and I had to give it a try. This was the first time that I had ever seen a slow cooker recipe for chicken divan, so naturally, I was curious. It was also the first time I’d seen curry powder used in the making, and I must say I liked it a good deal. There is really nothing easier than this. Yes, it does contain a can of condensed soup, and I know that condensed soup is not all that good for you, but there are days when I’m willing to take the trade off in order to gain time to do something else. I served mine with wild rice, and it was a wonderful meal.

Slow Cooker Chicken Divan

Slightly adapted from cooktopcove.com

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

4 cups fresh broccoli florets

1 10.5-oz. can cream of chicken soup

1/3 c. Duke’s mayonnaise

1/3 c. sour cream

1 t. fresh lemon juice

1½ c. shredded cheddar cheese, divided

 ½ t. curry powder

Salt and pepper to taste

Buttered breadcrumbs for topping 

Spray the interior of your slow cooker with PAM.

In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the soup, mayonnaise, sour cream, lemon juice, curry powder, and half of the shredded cheddar cheese. Spread this mixture evenly over the chicken.
Place broccoli florets on top of the chicken and sauce mixture, pressing down lightly.
Cover the slow cooker and set it to cook on low for 5 to 6 hours, or on high for 3 to 4 hours until the chicken is cooked through and the broccoli is tender.
Once cooked, sprinkle the remaining cheddar cheese over the top and cover for an additional 20 minutes or until the cheese melts.
For a crunchy topping, you can briefly broil buttered breadcrumbs and sprinkle over the dish just before serving.
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Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Pretzel Dip

What I am about to say is going to be controversial, but I am not a pretzel person. Unless they are warm and right out of the oven, I always think they taste like rather dull pieces of bread. In fact, I think that I prefer dull pieces of bread. That said, I stumbled upon some pretzel crisps that I quite like, and thought would go well with this dip that I adapted from one I found online. The pretzels that I chose were sprinkled with that “everything” seasoning, and while they were very good on their own, they were fantastic with this dip. With Super Bowl coming up in a couple of weeks, you may give this some consideration. It helps to make it a day ahead to allow flavors to meld — an added bonus.  Pretzel Dip

4 oz. cream cheese, softened

⅓ c. heavy cream

⅓ c. Duke’s mayonnaise

1 t. Worcestershire sauce

1 t. Frank’s hot sauce

½ t. horseradish

½ t. Melissa’s minced garlic

3 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled

1½ c. shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese

1 small Melissa’s shallot, minced

Parsley flakes, for garnish

 Place all ingredients EXCEPT the parsley flakes into a medium mixing bowl, and beat until well blended. Refrigerate overnight to allow the flavors to meld. Serve with Everything Pretzel Crisps.

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Monday, January 22, 2024

Pumpkin Oatmeal Custard

You may think that this is an odd time of the year to post a recipe that involves pumpkin, but I have found that many people, like me, still have cans of pumpkin purée, rattling around in their pantry from fall, and are eager to find a way to use it. This is a recipe that I have had bouncing around in my brain since last November. We’re having frigid temperatures here, so there’s nothing better than a hot breakfast. I made this this morning, and I must say it is MAGNIFICENT! It actually turned out better than I ever imagined that it would.  It doesn’t take long to put together, but it bakes for an hour, so plan accordingly. It also freezes beautifully, and, when needed, only requires microwaving for a minute before it’s ready to serve.Pumpkin Oatmeal Custard

 1 c. golden raisins

2 T. rum

5 large eggs, beaten

1 c. whole milk

¾ c. whipping cream

½ c. pumpkin puree

1 c. + 2 T. brown sugar

1 t. pumpkin pie spice

1 t. pure vanilla extract

2½ c. oatmeal

 1 c. whipped cream, to garnish

 Place raisins into a shallow bowl and pour rum on top. Allow it to steep while you prepare the rest of the oatmeal.

 Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease 8 1-cup ramekins with butter or nonstick cooking spray. Place the ramekins in a 9”x13” baking dish with straight sides.

 Thoroughly whisk eggs, milk, and cream. Push the mixture through a fine mesh sieve to fully incorporate the eggs. Discard any residue. Stir in pumpkin, brown sugar, pumpkin pie spice, oatmeal, vanilla, and rum/raisin mixture. Pour the mixture into the prepared ramekins to within ¼” of the top.

  Fill the baking dish with water to within ¾” of the top of the ramekins and bake, covered, for 1 hour. Remove the ramekins from the water bath and serve warm, garnished with a cinnamon stick and a dollop of whipped cream, if desired.

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Thursday, January 18, 2024

Year of the Dragon Tablescape

There’s something I find quite appealing about Chinese New Year. I’m not sure if it’s the myths, the customs, bold colors, the intricate Chinese characters, or because it represents the end of winter* and the beginning of spring, but I set a table in celebration every year.
The table covering here is gorgeous fabric from Michael Miller in the “Asian Influence” pattern. I let this fabric dictate the colors of this table — gold, red, and black. Once this was decided, I was off and running.
I could have gone gaudy here, and initially headed in that direction with paper Chinese dragons in pink, yellow, and red, but instead chose to go rather minimal compared with what I generally do, in order to allow each piece to shine.

Metallic gold chargers set on top of round black placemats. Square black plates are on top of the chargers, each of which is topped with a collapsible fan.

Chopsticks are at each place setting, as well as sparkly gold flatware for those of us who tend to send food flying when using the “sticks.” Crystal chopstick rests are available for those who choose to use them.

The napkins are made from Alexander Henry fabric in the “Manju Kanji” pattern that blends amazingly well (I think) with that of Michael Miller.

I wanted a bold punch of red, so chose these beautiful goblets from Villeroy & Boch.

The tea set belongs to my number two son who, years ago, became fascinated with Asian tea service. I found it perfect to use here, considering we’re celebrating the Year of the Dragon beginning February 10.
The saucers under the simple cups are in the shape of leaves, something I find charming.

The simple but unique candlesticks can be found here.
If you are as eager to see the end of winter and beginning of spring, as I am, consider celebrating this holiday in your home, and brew a nice cup of Chinese tea.
*For some of us it has been shockingly cold (read awakening to the temperature of -7° F). For me, personally, it involved being stuck, diagonally, in the middle of my street, blocking traffic in both directions, when I tried to venture out after a deceptive layer of ice coated the street under the guise of a dusting of snow.

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 This post is linked to: Tablescape Thursday