Oh, hello! Let us say you are going to a wine-and-appetizers get-together with friends, but it is January and so some of you are eating less cheese dip and brownies than usual. And let’s say you would like to bring something that is not too depressing, but also that people CAN eat. Someone else is already bringing fruits and vegetables. My only idea so far is a bag of Smartfood Delight popcorn (35 calories a cup), so the comments section can only go up from here.
There is something so beautiful about waking up knowing there are Good Leftovers in the fridge. Today I have leftover Broccoli Cheddar Soup to look forward to, from this Taste of Home recipe:
Cheesy Broccoli Soup in a Bread Bowl Recipe
- 1/4 cup butter, cubed
- 1/2 medium onion, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 4 cups fresh broccoli florets (about 8 ounces)
- 1 large carrot, finely chopped
- 3 cups chicken stock
- 2 cups half-and-half cream
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1/4 cup cold water or additional chicken stock
- 2-1/2 cups (10 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 6 bread bowls
- 1. In a 6-qt. stockpot, heat butter over medium heat. Add onion and garlic; cook and stir 6-8 minutes or until onion is tender. Stir in broccoli, carrot, stock, cream, bay leaves and nutmeg; bring to a boil. Simmer, uncovered, 10-12 minutes or until tender.
- 2. In a small bowl, mix cornstarch and cold water until smooth; stir into soup. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally; cook and stir 1-2 minutes or until thickened. Remove bay leaves; stir in cheese until melted. Stir in salt and pepper.
- 3. For bread bowls, cut top off each loaf; carefully hollow out bottom of each, leaving a 1/4-in. shell (discard removed bread or save for another use). Serve soup in bread bowls. Yield: 6 servings.
(That whole part between sets of asterisks-lines is from TasteofHome.com.)
Isn’t it so annoying when people are like, “This was great! But I made it with this instead of that, and I left out the this, and I added that, and I used half again as much this,” and after awhile you’re like, “Why didn’t you just find a different recipe?”/”How can I possibly tell from your review if THIS recipe is any good or not?” Ahem. But anyway, I didn’t do bread bowls, I just put rolls on the side. And I used extra-sharp cheddar cheese instead of cheddar. And I used an entire 1-pound/5-cup bag of frozen broccoli florets (I’m not sure why the recipe estimate of ounces-to-cups is different than the estimate on the bag of frozen broccoli). And I used a big handful of pre-shredded carrot, because I happened to have that. And I used about half the amount of onion called for, because I am wary of onion. And I did happen to have a 6-qt stockpot, but there was a LOT of extra room in that pot.
Well! Anyway! This soup claims to be similar to Panera’s, and it’s been awhile since I’ve had Panera’s, but I would say this soup is at least within range of it. Also, it pleased me by being surprisingly easy to make. I’ve tried other soups where I work for an hour and a half just fussing with all the prep, and this one I started at 5:00 and it was ready by 5:40, and some of that was time I spent playing Candy Crush on my phone while supervising the simmer. I guess it would have taken longer if I’d cut up fresh broccoli florets and finely diced a carrot. And hadn’t used frozen pre-diced onion. And hadn’t had Paul mince the garlic and Rob shred the cheese. WHATEVER. But I can do all those things NEXT time TOO!
Oh! Also. The nutmeg looked weird to me in this recipe but, despite what you’d think after the paragraph about all the changes I made, I have a GENERAL preference for making the recipe as-written the first time I make it, so I went ahead and nutmegged it up—and there was nothing weird about it. I didn’t think, “Whoa, nutmeg” or whatever. In fact, it is possible my jar of nutmeg has gone off.
Last night I tried a Taste of Home recipe for Bacon Macaroni and Cheese, which looked to me as if it might be EXACTLY the same as a “Mexican Mac & Cheese” I had at a restaurant once, a meal so transporting I remember it to this day. I also remember the price, which was NUTS—$17, at a place where most entrees are under $10. And I could TELL it had VELVEETA in it! One does not charge $17 plus tax and tip for a single serving of a food with Velveeta in it.
Anyway. I found this recipe. But as I was looking it over, I kept checking and double-checking one of the ingredients. Take a look:
SIX CUPS of uncooked elbow macaroni? SIX cups? That’s nearly 2 pounds of uncooked pasta. (Side note: the box of uncooked pasta says that there are “about 8” half-cup servings of dry pasta in a one-pound box. But even measuring very skimpily, so that the noodles did not quite come up to the edge of the measuring cup, I got three skimpy cups and not even a quarter-cup left over.)
I checked the reviews of the recipe, in case someone said it was WAYYYY too much pasta, or that it was meant to be six cups of COOKED pasta, but no. And six cups of cooked pasta seemed like not ENOUGH pasta. But it was all supposed to fit in a 9×13 pan, and two pounds of cooked pasta is a LARGE AMOUNT of pasta. I could not figure it out, and finally decided to do it CLOSE to the amount of noodles called for, and just see how it went: in the worst-case scenario, I could cook up another batch of the sauce and add it in.
So I measured the six cups skimpily, and then took a dry handful and put it back in the box. And when I added the cooked noodles to the sauce, I left out about a cup and a half of them: I was stirring the noodles in gradually and it was looking SO DRY. And EVEN SO, the mixture BARELY fit in the 9×13 baking dish: even with me packing it down with the spoon, it was ROUNDED UP like a little hill.
And the resulting dish was DEFINITELY over-noodled. It was still very good, and is certainly nearly the same dish I had once at a restaurant (or rather, will be when the over-noodling is corrected), but there was almost no sauce sensation at all: it was flavored noodles, nothing gooey or saucey.
Another clue is that the recipe claimed to make sixteen 3/4-cup servings (presumably intended as a side dish), or twelve cups total, but the seven of us all ate it as a main course for dinner, and I still had two full four-cup containers left over, PLUS half a plateful that had been eaten by a child with a cold so I didn’t save it. Seven people (including two adults and two teenaged boys) did not eat a total of 3.5 cups of pasta.
Well. I highly recommend the recipe, even though it is FAR more work and time and pans than I am usually willing to put into cooking. I think it would be VERY nice as a side dish with chicken; it seemed rich as a main course.
And I also recommend not messing around with the seasonings. My first thought was that I don’t really like onion so I’d skip the green onion and onion powder, and I didn’t think chili powder seemed like a good idea—but the first time I make a recipe I prefer to make it as-written and then tweak it later if needed, so I went ahead and put in the green onion etc. And it was delicious. It did not taste like chili; the onion was not too oniony. It’s spicy and cheesy and bacony. YUM. But next time I’m making it with four cups of uncooked pasta, and we’ll see if even THAT is too much.
I have a blog request for you…do you think you could do another call for recipes, specifically quick and easy stuff like casseroles and/or stuff that can be frozen and then popped in the oven? I have made most of the recipes that have already been posted, with Tessie’s tater tot hotdish [from this post] being my family’s all time favorite for years and years. So good! But I need fresh ideas.
If not, no worries, that’s what Pinterest is for. But I like tried and true recipes, and your readers have never steered me wrong :)
I would like to request a Christmas cookie reference section, as we did for Thanksgiving vegetable side dishes. Only the proven winners we love and rely on. I want to try a few new cookies every year, but very quickly get overwhelmed when I start looking around online. “The 14 Holiday Cookies You Should Be Making!” “The Only 4 Cookies You Need to Make This Christmas!” “The 3 Million Cookies of Christmas!”
I would love some recommendations that come with reasons, advice, history. Alas, I have no real life cookie swaps to attend. :)
What a good idea! I would love this too! I will tell you one I make that’s really really really easy: I melt Andes mint-chocolate chips and dip Oreos in them. You can dip the whole thing, or you can do what I do which is to hold onto the bottom cookie of the Oreo and dip the top and sides, then quickly flip it over onto waxed paper, dry-side-down, to let the chocolate run down a bit and cover the part I was holding on to. I try not to stir the melting Andes too much, and then they come out a little streaky with the lighter mint part not entirely mixed into the chocolate part. They are so yummy and they SEEM fancy but they’re easy. You know, I’ll bet I have a photo of them somewhere… YES, I do!
This photo reminds me of another easy recipe. There are these chocolate wafer cookies (kind of like Oreos without the filling, and a little bigger) sold in the baking section of my grocery store rather than the cookie section. They’re called something unmemorable (“Famous Chocolate Wafers”), and they look like this:
I melt some white chocolate wafers; I get the Wilton ones that look like this:
I also crush up some candy canes. I spread some melted white chocolate on the flatter side of each chocolate cookie, then sprinkle it with the crushed-up peppermint. I let them cool/dry on waxed paper.
The M&M things in that picture are fussy but not hard. I saw the recipe on Pinterest, and I loved how you could change the M&M colors for whatever the season/event. And you can use dark chocolate Kisses, or milk chocolate, or you can use the Hugs, or whatever. At Christmas I like to use the candy cane Kisses.
And also I make these Chocolate Mint-Chip Cookies.
My sister-in-law Anna and I were discussing how frustrating it is to get a referral that turns out to be wayyyy too early. I’m braced for referrals that turn out to lead to no further action, and that those just HAVE to occur sometimes: the referral is like saying “Is this a problem?” and then sometimes the answer is “No, it’s fine.” It might feel like a waste of time or money (since you could see it as the doctor being wrong to worry), but it isn’t: the question needed to be asked and answered, and if the doctor is worried, I WANT her to refer me to someone who will know. But what I mean is when the referral turns out to be a sort of MISTAKE of the sort that wouldn’t be difficult to avoid.
For example, our dentist recently referred Edward to an orthodontist. Edward is only 9, so I thought I’d wait a bit: two earlier kids have needed orthodontics so far, but neither were able to start before age 11, and Edward’s situation didn’t seem severe. But the dentist was very insistent: Edward needed to go Right Now. So I took him, and the orthodontist kept saying things such as “only 9,” and “Let’s let him have some more childhood first,” and “only 9,” and “Edward, I can tell your mom is REALLY organized,” and “only 9.” (Luckily she also said things such as, “Now…WHY did you bring him in? Did you have…any particular concern?” so I could say “THE DENTIST MADE US.”) Since our orthodontist gives one free evaluation per patient, this means that when we have to go back in a year and a half, we’ll pay over $300 for that evaluation, which we wouldn’t have had to pay for if we hadn’t had this unnecessary evaluation now.
Anna mentioned a similar thing, where a doctor said her daughter needed to see a surgeon, so they took her to one, and the surgeon said, “Er, yes, maybe she’ll need surgery or maybe not, but we can’t know for three or four years.”
Perhaps doctors have no idea, which is WHY they refer to a specialist. But if that’s the case, perhaps there could be some way for them to FIND OUT a little more, perhaps a handy little chart of GENERAL GUIDELINES, such as “Do not refer to a surgeon three years before a particular surgery can even be considered.” It is such a huge hassle and expense to see a specialist, and too many unnecessary referrals gradually make me suspicious of motives.
SOMEONE recently recommended Easy One-Pot Lasagna. I’d thought it was Laura Diniwilk, but I can’t find it on her blog so it must have been someone else. If you wrote a post about a few recipes you’d recently tried, and one of them was this recipe, I’ll bet it was YOU. [Ah ha: Temerity Jane reminds me it was Linnea!]
Anyway, it looked good to me so I made it, and it was what I would call a hit for our family: Paul and I and three of the children all liked it a lot, and the children who liked it less still ate it. Downside: the melted cheese makes clean-up a pain. It doesn’t really matter to me if it’s “one pot,” if I have to use my fingertips to gradually wear down a fine layer of resistant cheese. But it might not be a problem in a non-stick skillet: because I was doubling the recipe, I needed to use a larger cooking pot.
And here I go with the “I made this recipe exactly, except I changed a bunch of stuff!” part. I used ground turkey instead of Italian sausage, because (1) whoever wrote the blog post I read about the recipe said she wasn’t crazy about the Italian sausage and wouldn’t use it the next time, and (2) the idea of peeling raw Italian sausages didn’t appeal (though I could have bought a packet of ground Italian sausage). Because I was using an unseasoned meat instead of a seasoned meat, I measured a little heavy on all the seasonings; I would use even more next time. I might also use more meat: I used a 1.3-pound package of ground turkey for a doubled recipe, so about 10 ounces of meat per batch, and that seemed a little skimpy. I didn’t use freshly-grated Parmesan; I used the kind in a plastic container. I didn’t buy fresh parsley and chop it; I skipped the garnish. I didn’t use freshly-ground black pepper or Kosher salt; I used the salt and pepper shakers on the counter. I like my one-pot meals with one-pot-type seasonings, and with fewer dirty graters and cutting boards.
I would like to talk about Thanksgiving vegetable dishes. I make mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, and corn, but would like to add a couple more vegetabley things. The past few years, I’ve made roasted root vegetables, cutting up pretty potatoes (purple and red ones) and carrots and sweet potato and coating them with oil and spices and baking them, and those are good but the children don’t like them and I’m only so-so on them and wouldn’t mind trying something different this year. I don’t like the green beans with fried onions dish, and neither does Paul; I’ve seen several references to a better version, but we dislike the original so much, I’m not motivated to try even a MUCH better version of it.
I tried searching online, but I always find that frustrating and exhausting: too many recipe sites trying to get clicks, not enough actual people saying “This is the dish we make every year.” I thought maybe we could collect a reference supply of Thanksgiving vegetable side-dish recipes in the comments section—for picking something this year, but also for looking at in later years when we’re in the mood to try something different.
Remember that I’m not a very experienced or enthusiastic cook, so don’t feel shy about a recipe that’s opening two cans and combining them, or heating up a frozen vegetable and topping it with something from a jar: I’m looking for YUMMY and what people LIKE, so although the dish certainly CAN be something impressive or surprising, it NEEDN’T be. If you make green beans with slivered almonds, that recipe will be brand-new to me: I’ve seen it in pictures, but never made it. If you’re thinking, “Oh, but this is too simple to even count as a recipe” or “Well, everyone already knows how to add slivered almonds to green beans,” THINK AGAIN, FRIEND. In fact, if you don’t make recipes per se but instead cook several kinds of frozen vegetables and leave it at that, I want to know that too: I seriously only thought of that possibility just now. But if it IS a fancy or complicated or impressive or surprising recipe, that’s good TOO. I think what we want here is ALL the good recipes.
And for Thanksgiving especially, I don’t give even one single thought to nutrition or calories or whatever: we want YUMMY and we want AUTUMNAL, and those are the only two requirements.
I bought some marinades, to try pouring them over chicken. I didn’t want to do a whole two pounds of chicken in one flavor in case we all hated it, so I did two pans of about a pound each, one with about half a bottle of Ken’s Teriyaki marinade, and one with about half a bottle of Ken’s Sesame Ginger marinade. I cut the chicken into tenders-sized pieces, and I sliced little cuts into the surfaces to make the marinade soak in better. I soaked them for about an hour in the pans (pans covered with foil), then put the pans in the oven (pans still covered with foil). I think they cooked for about half an hour at 350 degrees F; I kept testing the temperature of the chicken to see if it was done cooking, and it went from 140 to 200 in about five minutes, so probably next time I’d plan on more like 20-25 minutes cooking time.
Paul liked the flavor of the Sesame Ginger but not of the Teriyaki. The kids and I didn’t much like either flavor. I poured out the rest of the bottles, because I’m not planning to make either one again. I have more marinade-type ideas to try later.
The huge hit as far as I’m concerned is the recipe Sally linked to: Angel Chicken Pasta. The recipe mentions elegant dinner parties, but I’d say it’s just a yummy creamy pasta chicken dish. Yummy enough that I made it two weeks in a row (having leftovers for lunch the next three days each time) and would have made it again this week except the rest of the family was less enthusiastic about that idea and also I felt like I should move on to trying something else.
You know how reviews on recipe sites are always like, “This was AMAZING! I just changed every single ingredient, changed several steps, and cooked it at a different temperature for a different time”? So that’s basically what I’m about to do here. But instead of saying I swapped this for that and this for that, I’ll just put the recipe here the way I made it and liked it (except that I doubled it):
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into tenders
1/4 cup butter
1.4-ounce packet of dry Italian-style salad dressing mix
1/2 cup white wine
10.75-ounce can cream of chicken soup (or golden mushroom)
4 ounces cream cheese with onion and chives (or without onion/chives), softened
1/2 pound penne pasta
1 pound broccoli florets
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Arrange chicken pieces in a 9×13 baking dish.
In a saucepan over medium-low heat, melt butter; stir in the dressing mix. Add the wine and the soup. Mix in the cream cheese and stir intermittently until smooth (about 10 minutes). Heat through but don’t let it boil. Pour over the chicken. Bake for about an hour.
About 15 minutes before the chicken is done, start the pasta. While it’s boiling, start the broccoli. Serve the chicken over the pasta (or next to it, if preferred), with the broccoli on the side (I like to stir mine all together, but others in the family prefer foods Non-Mixed); have the rest of the wine to drink. (Recipe variation: have the rest of the wine while cooking.)
I stirred the leftover pasta and broccoli into the chicken/sauce before storing it.
The first time I made it, I was frantically trying to think of what I could make for dinner with what we had in the house, so I used cream of chicken soup (it calls for golden mushroom) and plain cream cheese. (Unlikely-but-true story: I happened to have a packet of Italian dressing mix because it came free on a jar of mayo, and I saved it even though I had nothing to use it for. Hoarding impulses win!) The second time, I’d shopped for the right ingredients so I used what it called for. I liked it both ways. Because the flavored cream cheese is so much more expensive, I might try using regular cream cheese plus some spices and/or actual onion/chives.
I halved the amount of pasta the recipe called for, but that has everything to do with the proportions I want for the leftovers: I like one bite of chicken with two to three pieces of penne, and that’s what I end up with if I use half a pound of pasta. Your results may vary based on how your family eats.
I am finding the comments on the Things to Pour Over Chicken post SO HELPFUL. The individual recipes are helpful, but even more so is the general impression I can get from reading a number of similar recipes in a row. For example, I noticed about half a dozen recipes that had a sort of shreddy-taco-chicken-in-the-crockpot theme, so I mixed and matched a little:
A Shreddy Taco Chicken Crockpot Type of Recipe
I put two pounds of raw thawed chicken into the crockpot (I didn’t cut it up, even though two pounds managed to be only three giant chicken breasts), and then I put in two cans of Rotel (which I’d never heard of before: I figured out from context that it would probably be in the same section as salsa, and it was), and a small can of chilis, and a can of drained/rinsed black beans, and a pour of medium salsa (three-fourths cup to a cup), and a packet of taco seasoning, and I cooked it on low starting about 5 and a half hours before dinner. Right before dinner, I fished (chickened) the cooked chicken breasts out of the crockpot, put them in the stand mixer and shredded them, and then mixed them back into the Rotel/bean/salsa stuff. I made soft tacos out of it, and it was very good. The leftovers were very good, too.
Next time I would put in less/no taco seasoning, because that flavor seemed too prominent. If I were making it for myself, I might also put in a second can of beans (either another can of black or a can of chickpeas); but for the kids, one can was just right.
[Updated: Here’s how I make it now: about 1.5 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, 1/4 cup (or one packet) taco seasoning, 1 can Rotel, about 3/4 cup medium salsa, one can drained/rinsed black beans.]
Another nice thing about having an assortment of similar recipes is that some people are measurers and some people are not, so if I see one recipe that sounds delicious but reminds me of my late mother-in-law’s cinnamon roll recipe (“Put in butter and brown sugar”—no quantities at all), I can usually get an idea of the approximate quantities (are we talking a tablespoon or a cup?) from another recipe.
There was a batch of ones that were like “layer of rice and water, layer of chicken, layer of cream soup” types. I didn’t see any that had rice/water quantities, but a couple implied that it would be the same proportions as cooking the rice on its own, so that’s what I did with the amount of rice I would normally have made in the rice cooker:
A Rice Chicken Cream-Soup Baking-Dish Type of Recipe
I put about a cup and a half of uncooked white rice and about the same amount of water into a 9×13 glass baking dish. Then I added a layer of about a pound and a half of raw, thawed chicken breasts, cut into tenders-sized pieces. I put a pound bag of partially-thawed (“sat on the counter for half an hour”) frozen broccoli florets over that. I mixed a can of cheese soup with a can of cream of broccoli soup and about a quarter-cup of milk, and I spooned THAT over everything. I covered the dish with foil and baked it for an hour at 350F. Then I put on a couple of handfuls of shredded cheese, and then a mixture of 2 T. melted butter and 1/4 c. panko crumbs, and baked it another 15 minutes uncovered at 375F.
It was…okay. I think it’ll be a lot better the second time I attempt it. This time the rice still wasn’t cooked all the way even after an hour and a quarter, so it was kind of wet and solidly clumped, and also had parts that were like eating uncooked rice (I was going to say “crunchy,” but that sounds overcooked and a little yummy; this was starchy and like eating undercooked rice). I wonder if the rice recipe I was following (from my rice cooker) was not the same as what would be done on the stove-top, and maybe that was the problem. Or it’s possible the rice had some brown rice in it: it was Paul’s jar of rice, and he could have made a blend without me knowing it. The broccoli was a little overcooked, and looked icky wherever no sauce had covered it. The cream of broccoli soup smelled TERRIBLE; like, four times as bad as the usual post-broccoli smell in a house, as soon as I’d opened the can. This morning the house still smells bad, and so do my HANDS even though I’ve SHOWERED.
I think next time I’d use cream of chicken soup instead and count on the added bag of broccoli to do the smelling-terrible part. I think I’d also add more milk to the soup—probably half a cup instead of a quarter; it seemed too thick. The chicken was good though: a child even remarked upon it (though in a not-exactly-complimentary way: “Is this DIFFERENT chicken? Usually chicken is so hard to chew, but this is easy”).
Here is a shortage I have found in my recipe file: Things to Pour onto Chicken. What I like (“like”) to do is put raw pieces of chicken breast (“pieces” as in “cut each chicken breast into several pieces, like chicken tenders, or actually use chicken tenders) into a 9×13 Pyrex baking dish, pour something relatively easy over the chicken, and put the whole thing into the oven. Or crock-pot would also be fine, though the one time I tried to cook chicken in a crock-pot, it was totally cooked in, like, four hours.
There are a fair number of “dip the chicken into something liquidy, then into something crunchy” recipes, and there are tons of “cook the chicken first, then put it in the baking dish” recipes, but I have enough of those. I need ones where once I’ve finished putting the raw chicken into the baking dish, I don’t have to touch it anymore. I don’t mind doing a lot of OTHER work, but I don’t want to touch the chicken. Do you have any of those?
It doesn’t have to make the chicken into a CASSEROLE, either. Like, the recipe can be “put on lemon juice and pepper, then cover it and bake it for x minutes.” Don’t think to yourself, “Oh, but she’d already know this,” because I am VERY NEW to handling raw chicken.