Loaded Baked Potato Soup

Soup

It’s another gray day here in Northern Washington and with that kind of weather comes a desire for something warm, hearty, and when it comes to the kitchen. The fact that it’s topped with crispy bacon, grated cheese and green onions is just an added bonus.

I made this recipe about a week ago and was told multiple times before we’d even reached the bottoms of our bowls that it must be made again. Immediately. Like now. There are few things more satisfying than a loaded baked potato, regardless of the form it comes in; a casserole, fries, or the old fashioned, piled-high-with-toppings way. My favorite happens to be the soup.

I knew that potato soup and I would be buds when I was little and my mom had me try clam chowder. I told her that it was great… except for those little rubbery things (read: clams). And since clam chowder is essentially just potato soup with well,clams added, it was instant tastebud friendship. Luckily, I have grown to love both potato soup and clam chowder as my taste buds wised up (shout out to Neptune’s Net in Southern California! It’s the best on the planet, I assure you).

Birds Eye Soup


You will need:

  • 6 large baked potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 2/3 cup of butter
  • 2 tbs corn starch
  • 7 cups milk
  • 1 3/4 cups grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 6 green onions
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, diced
  • 1 package bacon
  • 1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp white pepper

To bake the potatoes, pre-heat the oven to 350º. Arrange potatoes on cookie sheet and using a fork, poke holes in the potato to allow heat to escape. Bake for 1 hour. Peel and chop into 1/2 inch cubes.

Cook bacon over medium heat. Drain, chop and set aside.

In a stock pot, melt the butter over medium heat, whisk in corn starch until smooth. Mash one potato into the butter and corn starch.

Slowly incorporate milk, stirring until thickened. Add yellow onion and diced potatoes. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently.

Reduce the heat to a simmer. Add, bacon, sour cream, cheese, salt and white pepper. Stir until cheese is melted. Salt and pepper to taste.

Serve topped with grated cheese, sour cream, bacon and green onion.

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Blueberry Scones

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I hope the new year is treating everyone well! I’ve been in a very crafty mood lately and have started doing little projects for baby girl’s nursery. I like crafty stuff normally but I think that it’s my “nesting” instinct. I had the same urge with my son. I’m really excited to be having a girl and have actually been thinking a lot about my childhood to get a sense of what it might be like. I hadn’t ever seen myself being a mom to a girl but I remembered the dress ups, the tea parties, the excitement before school dances and feeling like my mom was my best friend in the world.

As I grew up, I got a bit less girly with the exception of enjoying going to tea. I have been going to tea since I was about 5 years old. It was always a big to-do with my mom and my little sister. We had special dresses we would wear and would incessantly go over the “rules of tea” in the car on the way. It was a big privilege for us and we wanted to be sure we were on our best behavior.  My favorite part was the scones and the tarts.

This recipe really brings back a hit of nostalgia and I love trying out different variations. You can easily substitute in currants, cranberry/orange zest, cherries, or just have plain vanilla scones. I like to bake mine until they are just golden, it gives a wonderful crispness without being crunchy and leaves the inside moist and buttery. And of course, they are fabulous with a cup of tea.


 

You will need:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling on top
  • 8 tbs butter (1 stick)
  • 1/2 cup plain greek yogurt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cup blueberries
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 375º

In your food processor combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda. Pulse 2-3 times to combine. Next add butter, 1 tbs at a time, pulsing until it resembles a coarse meal. Add vanilla, egg and greek yogurt, mixing thoroughly. Lastly, add blueberries, pulsing until they are just combined.

Place the dough on a lightly floured surface, forming into a circle that is approximately 3/4 of an inch thick. Using a sharp knife, cut the circle into 8 triangles. transfer to a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake until golden brown, about 15-18 minutes. Allow to cool for 5 minutes and then serve. I find that they go much faster when they are served warm with a little butter and raspberry jam. As it is, these usually have disappeared by lunch time, if they even make it until then.

Candied Orange Peels

 

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I hope you all had a great Christmas! Ours was spent with family and lots of treats and tasty food. And we found out that we’re having a baby girl! YAY!

Among the tasty treats we enjoyed this holiday was candied orange peels. I got the inclination to make these last year for Christmas and by the end of the batch my husband was already begging for me to make them for his birthday the next summer.

When I first thought of making candied orange peels I was super nervous and the idea of all that sticky syrup and the process of peeling the oranges, slicing and blanching seemed like such a hassle. I can promise you guys it’s so easy and clean up is a dream because the syrup will melt away with some hot water and soap. It’s like a dream dessert. One pan, a knife, cutting board and a cookie sheet (that has parchment paper so it’s not even a big clean up). Super simple and a huge impact. People will think you’re a fancy gourmet and you can just smile and bask in the glow of their awe and wonder.


You will need:

  • 6 navel oranges
  • 4 cups sugar, plus extra for rolling
  • 1 cup water
  • Chocolate for dipping

Cut the ends off of the orange. Using a paring knife, slice into the peel until just reaching the flesh of the orange. Cut the orange peel into quarters. Peel back the orange peel, keeping it in one piece. Continue until you have peeled all of the oranges.

Next, pressing the orange peel flat on the cutting board, cut the pith away until it is about 1/4 of an inch thick. Slice the peels into 1/4 inch wide slices.

In a saucepan put orange peels with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil and then drain. Blanch the orange peels a total of 3 times for a sweeter peel or blanch twice if you prefer a little bitterness. Drain the peels and return to saucepan.

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Add 1 cup water and 4 cups sugar in the saucepan with the peels and bring to a simmer. Allow to simmer until the peels are translucent, about 30-45 minutes. DO NOT STIR THEM! Stirring can cause crystallization and all that hard work you just put in will be for naught. So, stirring, bad.

Once they are done, they will look like stained glass. Seriously, guys, they are so pretty. But they look even prettier coated in sugar and chocolate, as do most things. Which leads us to our next step: Roll the peels in sugar and place on a rack to dry. If you don’t have a rack, you can use a cookie sheet with parchment paper. It works just as well. Allow to dry for about 4-5 hours.

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At this point, you can leave them if you’ll be serving them to people who don’t like chocolate. But, I’d like to give you some advice, if you are serving to people who don’t like chocolate, you should probably walk away from that situation. You don’t need that kind of negativity in your life.

In a double boiler, warm up your chocolate (I really loved using the Lindt dark chocolate bars but this year I did milk chocolate chips and it made them a little sweeter). Once the chocolate has melted, dip the peels halfway into the chocolate and place (again) on a rack/parchment covered cookie sheet to dry.

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Serve to everyone because they will love you and think you’re so fancy! Also try not to eat them all because they are really easy to demolish absent-mindedly while watching Netflix. I definitely don’t know that from personal experience… *ahem*

I hope you enjoy them and thanks for reading!

Creating Your Own Gingerbread House: Part II

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Our gingerbread houses. Left is my sons, Center is mine and Right is the husbands.

Once the gingerbread has cooled completely, start making the base for your house.

I use a piece of cardboard about 1ft.x1ft. and wrap it in foil that I tape to the bottom. Then, spoon the royal icing into a ziploc bag and squish it all into one of the bottom corners. Snip off the very tip of the bag and now you can get to work!

Start by putting icing, rather liberally, along the bottom of one of the house shaped pieces, then stick to the base. You’ll have to hold it or use a cup or can to prop it while you get the next piece ready. Again, apply a liberal layer of icing to the bottom of one of the side pieces  so you can attach it to the house shaped piece that you just placed. Repeat this process on the other side and again with the second house piece until you have your base, likely propped up with cans or whatever you can get your hands on.

Give the icing time to set, about 2 hours before you put the roof on. Once the icing has set, you can place the roof without too much worry. Royal icing is no joke. In fact, I think I’ve had better luck with royal icing doing what I wanted it to than I have with wood glue.

Give the roof another couple of hours to set. This is the perfect opportunity to go out and get the copious amounts of candy, frosting, etc. to deck out your house.

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Pro-tip: I always get sugar cones to frost green and make Christmas trees as well as Mini M&M’s for ornaments/lights. You can really allow your creativity to run rampant with this.

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My son’s house

I like to get Mounds and the small candy canes to make little sleds, Tootsie Rolls can be used to make a log pile, I even found a chocolate Santa with reindeer that look adorable up on the roof. Then of course, there’s the standard fare of peppermints and gumdrops. All applied with your royal icing.

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Creating Your Own Gingerbread House: Part I

Wow you guys, I apologize for how sporadic my posts have been. I thought I was back on track but this pregnancy is definitely a whole other beast compared to my last one. It seems that being on my feet for longer than an hour or two is causing pain and contractions and so I’m very likely going to have to cut my posts back to one per week which makes me sad but I think it may be necessary for now.

Over the past few days, we have been working on gingerbread houses. It’s been a tradition at my mom’s since I was in at least second or third grade and it’s something that always makes it actually feel like Christmas. I’ve found that as an adult these holidays sneak up on you a week or two beforehand and there’s always a slight (sometimes major) sense of panic in trying to shuffle around and get ready. As a kid it felt like the month of December was made extra long and Christmas was put at the end of it as a source of torture, obviously.

This year I got to continue the tradition of making gingerbread houses with my son. He’s gotten very excited about being “the cooker” and is constantly volunteering to help out. That willingness to help combined with the opportunity to sneak as much candy as he wanted plus left over dough for cookies (that he also ate) made for what I’m sure will be a memorable experience.

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My little assistant

First things first, we have to make a template, unless you somehow mystically know the dimensions you should use, in which case, you’re my hero and I could have used your help this weekend! If you have not been blessed with mystical powers of geometry and architecture (hi), you can use this site: http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-create-gingerbread-houses/step3/Day-Three-Pt-1-House-Templates/

I used the flaps off of all those cardboard boxes we’ve been getting from Amazon full of Christmas presents and they worked out perfectly.

I did two houses according to their measurements but I also doubled them up and made a gigantic house because Christmas isn’t about small houses. Just kidding, we used to make bigger houses at my mom’s but once I realized I was going to use an entire batch of gingerbread for one house, I quickly changed my tune. The small houses are actually ideal if everyone wants their own, we came out with two houses from one batch of dough and a small handful of cookies left over. The big house would be better suited for a group decorating project.

The recipe for the gingerbread that I have for you is the one we have used every year at my mom’s. I have no idea where she got it from, but maybe she’ll wind up commenting and letting you know. (Hi, Mom).


You will need:

  • 1 1/3 cup butter
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp cinnamon
  • 4 tsp ginger
  • 1 Tbsp cloves
  • 1 Tbsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 eggs
  • 5 1/2 cups flour

Royal Icing:

  • 4 cups (One 16 oz bag) of confectioners sugar
  • 3 egg whites

In a stand mixer, cream together the butter and brown sugar. Add cinnamon, ginger, cloves, baking soda, and eggs. Add 2 1/2 cups of flour, combine. Add half of the water, and the remaining flour and combine.

Roll to 1/2-1/4 inch on floured board. Cut into shapes (using the template).

Bake at 350º 13-15 minutes or until light brown.

Note: Do not refrigerate this overnight because I totally did that and it actually inflated. Right as it was baking it just filled up like a giant balloon and subsequently deflated leaving a really awkward wrinkly, cracked top that I had to cut off complete with a bowed back. Learn from my errors, make it fresh.

Next up, we’ll start assembling in Part II.

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Assemble-age!

Bananas Foster French Toast

French Toast

Sunday mornings are notorious for being lazy and doing nothing but drinking coffee. This is also the day for those pancake breakfasts I told you we are so fond of. Every so often though, pancakes just won’t do; we need more sugar to sustain us through this groggy pajama day before the week begins again. Don’t worry though, it’s got bananas, bread, eggs and milk  so you’ve got at least 3-4 food groups down right there. It’s practically health food.

Yeah, let’s go with that.

The caramel sauce, I really have no excuse for. It just tastes good and you can put it on pretty much anything. I make this to go on popcorn, sundaes, hot chocolate, a really huge spoon… I mean, really, the possibilities are endless.

Jim

This is my husband. I discovered this amongst the food photos from this morning, so obviously its supposed to be posted. Obviously.

 


You will need:

  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • Bread of your choice
  • 1 tbs butter (for the pan)
  • 4 tsp powdered sugar, optional (topping)
  • 2 bananas, sliced (topping)

For the caramel sauce:

  • 3 tbs butter
  • 2 tbs brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 3 tsp cream
  • 1/4 tsp salt

In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt butter with brown sugar stirring to combine. Add vanilla and salt. Stir in cream one tsp at a time until fully incorporated. Reduce heat to low.

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Guys, for real.

 

Over medium heat, melt 1 tbs butter, coating the skillet. You can also use the griddle or a non-stick pan, omitting the butter.

In a medium roasting pan, combine eggs, milk and vanilla. Place the bread in the milk and egg mixture, allowing to sit about 5-10 seconds, then flipping. Transfer to pre-heated skillet. Cook for 2-3 minutes per side, until golden brown and the center of the bread has cooked through. Transfer to plate.

Drizzle french toast with a small (you really don’t need much… I might also be lying) spoonful of the still warm caramel sauce, dust with 1 tsp powdered sugar and top with sliced bananas.

Its like you can hear angels singing as the caramel descends from above!

Try not to eat all of it before your family gets to the table. If you do though and tell them you forgot to make the sauce, I’ve got your back.

This would go really well with a hefty side of bacon (or even crumbled bacon on top a la Elvis! Ooohh!) because this is about delicious food, obviously, and not about your arteries.

Enjoy and thanks for reading!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lavender Crème Brûlée

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The very first time I had lavender crème brûlée was at a restaurant in Southern California called Cafe Provençal. It was one of the first times I’d been immersed in just how rich and full of flavor French cooking was.  I ordered it per a suggestion from my dad. I don’t think I’ve ever turned down a food suggestion from him to date and I’ve never been sorry for following his suggestions.

People. This crème brûlée was creamy and rich, but also light with a delicate flavor. It was incredibly satisfying and became an absolute must whenever I returned.

After having made my first crème brûlée recently (I’m personally shocked it took so long) and realizing how easy it was to do, I felt inclined to give the lavender a shot.

You guys, it tastes exactly like Cafe Provençals! I am so excited to share this recipe with you and I’m sure it will become a new favorite, especially once you realize how simple it is to make.

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You will need:

  • 4 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1 tbs dried culinary lavender
  • Six 8 ounce ramekins

Preheat the oven to 325º. Put the cream, vanilla and lavender into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and let sit for 10-15 minutes.

In a medium bowl whip the egg yolks and slowly incorporate the sugar until the egg yolks turn a soft lemon color. Slowly incorporate the cream mixture into the egg yolks until combined.

Fill a roasting pan with water that goes halfway up the sides of the ramekins and fill the ramekins. Place them in the water bath and put the pan in the oven.

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Cook for 40-50 minutes. Every oven varies so I always check mine around 30 minutes just to be sure but they nearly always need another 10-15 minutes. The crème brûlée will not fully set, it will jiggle in the middle like a soft-jello when it’s done.

Remove the ramekins from the roasting pan and place in the refrigerator to cool for 3 hours or overnight.

Remove the ramekins from the fridge and let them sit for 10-20 minutes. Sprinkle 1-2 tbs of sugar on the top of each crème brûlée and distribute evenly. You can spin the ramekin to create an even layer.

Using a torch, brown the sugar until it has formed a crispy top using a side to side sweeping motion. This can also be done using the broiler in your oven (sans sweeping motion). Place the rack in the top position and place the  crème brûlée approximately 6 inches beneath the broiler. If need be, you can use an upside down pie pan to get it closer to the heat.

Return the ramekins to the fridge for another 30 minutes before serving.

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You’ll be left with a creamy custard with a crunchy top that you and your guests will rave about! Thanks for reading.