Tag Archives: Recipe

Potluck dessert

Looking for a delicious dessert to bring to the Easter potluck this weekend?

How about S’mores Cream Dessert with No-Bake Graham Cracker Crust?

I created this dish from three different recipes for an event this past summer, and it delivered on a promise to look like a show-stopper and taste as good as it looks.

Enjoy!

pan of S'mores

S’mores Cream Dessert with No-Bake Graham Crust

Ingredients:

Crust

  • 2 cups crushed graham crackers
  • 8 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar

Cream Cheese Layer

  • 12 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1-1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1-1/2 cups Cool Whip

Pudding Layer

  • 2 boxes (3.9-ounce size) chocolate fudge instant pudding & pie filling
  • 4 cups cold whole milk

Topping

  • 8 ounces Cool Whip
  • 1 7-ounce jar marshmallow cream
  • 3 Special Dark Hershey’s chocolate candy bars, chopped up
  • 1 cup mini marshmallows
  • 1 cup graham cracker chunks

Directions:

  1. Crush the graham crackers with a rolling pin. Melt stick of butter in a bowl in the microwave (on high about 15 seconds at a time). Add crushed crackers and granulated sugar to the bowl and mix. Press into the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch pan.
  2. With a hand mixer or strong arm, combine cream cheese and powdered sugar. When smooth, use a rubber spatula to fold in Cool Whip. Spread mixture onto graham cracker crust.
  3. In large bowl, whisk pudding with milk for two minutes. Let it sit for three minutes to thicken, then spread evenly over cream cheese layer.
  4. Gently stir together Cool Whip and marshmallow cream. Spread evenly over pudding layer. Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator. Just before serving (so graham crackers don’t get soggy), top with chopped candy bars, marshmallows and graham cracker chunks. Serves 15.

dessert close up

 

 

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For when you need four gallons of soup

Four gallons of soup.

Four gallons.

Gallons.

How many cups are in a gallon again? Sixteen?

That’s 64 cups of soup.

Uff-da.

I agreed to make four gallons of soup for one of the Lenten Lunches hosted by the church in town I now attend (no, not the church I live in, the one with actual congregants and services).

Last year, when we were working on the church, my Beloved and I frequented the springtime Wednesday noon meals because the food was good (homemade, and the meal always offered cookies for dessert), the location was convenient (one block from our worksite) and the clean-up was easy (none).

And we discovered how nice it was to interact in the community and meet people who knew of our project and expressed interest in our endeavors. We had liked our new tradition.

This year, I figured I needed to contribute more than a freewill offering, so I volunteered to make the soup last week.

I immediately fretted about how to transport four gallons of liquid from my kitchen to the church. Even a distance of one block set up the potential for splashy disaster.

I inquired as to how others passed this hurdle, and the pastor suggested I make the soup at the church–their church. Great idea! I packed up my groceries, and I found the enormous kitchen there outfitted with just about every kitchen gadget known to woman to be the perfect place to make four gallons of soup.

Four gallons is a lot of Carrot Ginger Soup to make from scratch.

As I was unpacking 10 pounds of carrots, another woman in the basement making sandwiches for the luncheon asked, “Are you going to peel all those carrots?”

It wasn’t until that very moment I thought to myself, “That’s a lot of carrots to peel.”

I volunteered my flavor of soup to make so having to peel 10 pounds of carrots was all on me.

Fortunately, my stepdaughter gifted me with a new peeler for Christmas, and I had brought it with me.

Peeling the carrots wasn’t the hardest part of making four gallons of soup. Heating four gallons of carrots and broth was the hardest part. After waiting a good half an hour to bring my delicious ingredients to a boil, I wised up and separated the contents of my cauldron into two pots, and then things went quickly. I used my immersion blender (one of the gadgets missing from the church’s cupboards), and the finished result was smooth and tasty (even folks skeptical of a soup with “ginger” in the name said nice things about it).

If ever you need a recipe for four gallons of Carrot Ginger Soup, here’s mine.

Carrot Ginger Soup

P.S. I only used two sticks of butter. And I used turmeric instead of “curry powder.” By ginger, I mean fresh, minced ginger, not a cup of ginger spice, oh, no!

Enjoy!

Sometimes the experiment fails

My Beloved asked me today if I’d still cook if we win the lottery tonight (yes, we have our ticket for a chance to win three-quarters of a billion dollars in tonight’s Powerball lottery, do you?).

I said yes.

He scoffed.

We’d already discussed hiring a chef. And a butler. And a full-time masseuse. This is what one dreams of when one holds a $2 lottery ticket that has not yet proven worthless.

“I like to cook,” I said. “At least somebody else would clean up the kitchen.”

I am an experimental cook. Just like Mom. We like to tinker with recipes. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. Comme ci comme ça.

A few weeks ago, I worked up what I thought was a great idea: Ham & Cheese Manicotti.

Back story: My mother-in-law likes ham and cheese. A lot. I’ve actually seen her eat ham and cheese something-or-other (omelet, sandwich, casserole) three times in one day. For some people, it’s chocolate. For her, it’s ham and cheese. Then not long ago, when I was crawling around in her pantry looking for a box of Zip-locks, I noticed she had not one, not two but three boxes of manicotti hidden in there. So, she likes manicotti a lot, too! What if I created a recipe that married her favorites: Ham & Cheese Manicotti? I’d win her undying affection! I’d be her golden daughter-in-law! (True confession: She’s already quite fond of me. And I, of her. I thought she’d appreciate Ham & Cheese Manicotti; it would be a way to show my love.)

ham and cheese manicotti

Ham & Cheese Manicotti. Experiment with your own recipe.

So I worked up a recipe that included canned ham (no, not deviled ham–canned ham, like canned tuna), swiss and ricotta cheeses, and bottled alfredo sauce. I whipped it up and tested it out on my Beloved, hoping for a good report so I could make it sometime when I entertained my mother-in-law.

My Beloved hated it. Especially the canned ham. He vowed never to eat it again, even if I changed up the recipe to use regular ham, chopped.

Ever hear of the maxim that eternity is defined by a ham and two people? Well, it’s also defined by seven leftover ham & cheese manicotti and one person. I don’t even like pasta all that much. I ate that stuff for a week, and I still threw away two manicotti. (It wasn’t that bad, for the record. Just too much of a good thing. Or, at least, too much of a so-so thing.)

So here’s to experimental cooking. Sometimes it works, and you have dinner. And sometimes it doesn’t, and you have a story.

Here’s hoping I do better with tonight’s lottery numbers. Cheers!

 

 

From garden to soup pot: Autumn lessons

Nothing transforms vegetables like roasting them in a hot oven. And a run through the blender. Gotta have the blender.

I’m obsessed with roasting vegetables. Thirty minutes in a hot oven brings out the natural sweetness of savory stuff in a way that makes you forget what you’re eating is good for you. And it’s so dagnabb’ed easy, too.

If you’re keeping track, you’re just now realizing you haven’t heard much lately from Minnesota Wonderer (or Minnesota Transplant, whatever she’s calling herself). Yup, I’ve been up to my eyeballs in insurance paperwork. Not for myself, Lord no, for various clients who require insuring (which is pretty much all of us, if you’re being legal or you’re just plain risk-averse). In any case, I haven’t been blogging.

Oh, and there’s this other big project I have on the horizon. By big, I mean ginormous. Like, the only thing bigger in terms of financial commitment and time frame would be having a child. But I’m not quite ready to share that project. When I am ready, you’ll hear about it, I assure you.

In the meantime, I took a breath from paperwork on Saturday, and I made a pot of soup. And it was some kind of soup. So I feel compelled to share. Just in case you, too, have a garden of junk peppers you’re considering letting go to Jack Frost.

Animal VegetableI’m reading this book, you see. In between paperwork and project planning and meal prep, I’m reading Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life. The fiction author wrote this memoir with her husband Steven L. Hopp and her daughter Camille Kingsolver to share their family’s experience with eating local for a year, that is, consuming only food that was produced locally. That meant a lot of gardening, farmer’s markets and organic chicken. And no bananas or avocados.

Her premise is that locally produced food is better for the environment, society and the human body, and she makes her point in a pretty compelling way. I mean, I’m not going to become a gardener or make my own cheese, but I’m inspired to pay better attention to where the food I’m putting in my mouth comes from.

banana-peppers.jpg

So I paid a visit to a friend’s garden on Saturday afternoon and picked all of his overripe banana peppers (with his permission). Did you know those lime green peppers turn red after a while? Me neither, but they do. The sun was shining in a way that it might not do again for six months or more, and we haven’t had a hard frost yet this autumn. I also picked one — one! — red hot jalapeno pepper. While I was picking my way through the overgrown weeds, I spied a few red-and-green tomatoes, too. Upon inspection, I discovered they weren’t perfect but they were pretty much free of bugs.

Thus inspired, I dug through the crisper drawer and found a stalk of celery, a carrot, a half of a yellow sweet pepper, a half an onion and two cloves of garlic. I can’t vouch for their local provenance, but I’d already purchased them so I was wasting-not-wanting not.

roasted veggies

A little bit of chopping (a very little bit) left me with this pan of vegetables to roast. I doused them in olive oil, salt and pepper, set the oven to 425 degrees, and I headed for the shower.

spicy red pepper soupThirty minutes later, I dumped the whole mess into the blender, added a cup of water, a teaspoon or so of Better Than Boullion and a dash of tomato paste I saved from the previous day’s chili (that’s the cheap Minnesotan in me, I can’t throw away perfectly good food, even a tablespoon of tomato paste). Whirr, whirr, and I had the world’s tastiest, couldn’t-be-better-for-you Spicy Red Pepper Soup (all I needed was the one — one! — jalapeno pepper for the spice; I suspect jalapenos left on the vine this long might be hotter than the season’s early fare). I simmered it a bit on top the stove (just so I could enjoy the aroma, but it didn’t hurt to let it spend some time melding flavors). I added a bit more olive oil (because … olive oil! It’s good for you and tastes delicious, too). Then I ladeled it into a bowl, sprinkled it with parmesan cheese and freshly ground pepper, and dug in. Wow, was it good.

So the lessons here are many:

  • Don’t believe you’re ever too busy to make dinner. It’s good for the soul and the body to chop and roast and be creative.
  • Don’t let an abundance of garden harvest go to waste. Think of a new way to consume it. Or invite a friend to scour for vegetable jewels.
  • Roasting and blending makes anything better. Sure, fresh is good, and who doesn’t like a good salad? Well, a lot of people don’t like salad, let’s be honest. But it’s harder to find soup haters. Smells good, warms the tummy, takes all the hard edges off produce. Roasted vegetable soup can inspire a lot of admirers. Get cookin’.

full on spicy red pepper soup

 

 

Throwback Thursday: One of the best things about autumn is the soup

Nothing like recycling a good recipe for Throwback Thursday, so today we’re praising soup. And kale.

I’m obsessed with kale lately. It’s so good for you! And sneaking some into your soup is a painless way to consume lots of it.

Which brings me to this recipe I first published Aug. 9, 2014. That was a tough month in Minnesota Wonderer’s life (I’m still not ready to tell the story of the Very Bad Thing), but the soup is a keeper, especially as fall approaches. Enjoy.

Lentil barley soup as comfort food

For some people, mashed potatoes are the ultimate comfort food. For others, spaghetti. My Beloved leans toward macaroni-and-cheese.

Honestly, forget food — what beats a glass (or two) of wine?

A Very Bad Thing happened a week ago. The story of the Very Bad Thing isn’t ready to be told yet. Or maybe I’m just not ready to tell it. But I finally had (took) a few minutes to myself today, and I decided to make something to comfort me.

It was a big pot of lentil barley soup.

Probably not the first choice of comfort food for, well, anyone else. When I told my Beloved about it, he was less than impressed.

Soup in general might be considered a comfort food, though probably not in August. Chicken noodle soup, though, ranks on the Food Network’s list of Top 10 comfort foods.

I, however, am not a big fan of noodles. And I don’t care if it’s August.

I ran across a big pot of lentil barley soup at Au Bon Pain the other day, and I thought, ahh, I could make that. And I could make it even better with a few mushrooms and some kale. Because mushrooms are comforting. And kale is good for you.

So I cleaned out the crisper drawer of my fridge, and I made a big pot of soup today. And it was delicious. And only 180 calories per serving, which is pretty darn good for comfort food. And it made me feel better.

lentil barley soup

Lentil Barley Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3/4 yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  •  4 ounces mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 15-ounce can fire roasted tomatoes (I added a half of a leftover fresh tomato, too, chopped)
  • 6 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons chicken base (I used Better Than Boullion brand)
  • 1 cup red lentils (they really must be the red ones, which break down better than green ones)
  • 1/2 cup barley (not the quick-cooking kind; the kind that take 50 minutes to cook)
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cup kale, ribs removed and chopped

Directions:

  1. Warm the olive oil in a big pot; add chopped vegetables and cook a few minutes.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients except kale. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer an hour until lentils are essentially mush, thickening the sauce, and barley is tender.
  3. Fifteen minutes before the hour is up, add the kale.
  4. Remove bay leaves. Serve with a dollop of sour cream. Makes 6 servings.

Heaven-sent dinner tonight: Pork chops with roasted tomatoes and polenta

I have waxed poetic in this space before about my Beloved’s fabulous pork chops. I feel compelled to share his secrets because they are truly divine (if pork can be divine).

His trick is the cut. He specifically requests the butcher cut inch-and-half pork chops. When the butcher holds up his “thick cut” chops from the case and says, “will these do?” my Beloved always rejects them. Even an inch-and-a-quarter cut is not enough.

The pork chops must be cut thick enough to stand up on the grill by themselves (and if they don’t, then he spears them with a kabob stick, thusly):

roasted-cherries-on-grill.jpg

This cooking method is crucial for maintaining moisture in the chop; the fat on the edges drips through the meat, and the thickness maintains the moisture. You’ve probably eaten potato-chip pork chops — those thin, dried out, overdone things you have to chew forever, even when doused with Heinz 57? That’s the cheap way to feed a lot of hungry mouths, but it’s not the indulgent way–cook ’em sideways.

To make them even more delicious, use your favorite barbecue seasoning. Dry rub that delicious mix on every surface of the pork chop–especially the sides–before grilling. If you’re doing it right, it adds a salty, sweet BBQ flavor with a little kick.

These pork chops are almost better than steak (I mean, it would be heresy to say they’re better than steak, wouldn’t it?).

You see those cherry tomatoes roasting next door? There’s a secret to those, too, that I just discovered: They’re not only tomatoes.

I had a few leftover Ranier cherries that I pitted, halved and added to the mix. I know, right? Red and yellow heirloom cherry tomatoes and Ranier cherries. A match made in, well, heaven. Just add a little olive oil and salt and pepper, and you’re set. Roast in a 400-degree oven or on the grill with the chops for about 30 minutes.

roasted cherries closeup

Dinner tonight?

Serve the chops over cheesy polenta, topped with the tomato-cherry mix. You’ll be in heaven.

As for leftovers, well, I almost always finish my near-pound of pork (it’s that good). But if you’re not as much of a pig as I am and you have some leftover, just cube it and freeze it for chili later.

If it’s green, it belongs in this smoothie

In my mind, it began as a Green Elvis smoothie. The King of Rock and Roll enjoyed peanut butter-banana sandwiches, so goes the legend, and I figured I wouldn’t even taste the fresh spinach I picked up at the grocery yesterday in there.

But the only peanuts I had were salt-and-pepper peanuts, and that was more savory flavor than I could stomach in a smoothie. You like kale in your smoothie? You might like salt-and-pepper peanuts, too, I don’t know, but I’ve tried kale in my smoothies, and it’s disgusting. Smoothies should be like dessert, not like a meal for a toothless old coot.

(I’ve also heard Elvis liked bacon in those peanut butter-banana sandwiches, and for a brief moment, I considered putting bacon in the smoothie and calling it a Green Elvis & Ham Smoothie, but no. That’s just wrong.)

OK, so how about a little less Elvis and a little more green? How about pistachios, a green nut?

Perfect.

And what’s this in my fridge? Leftover avocado? Green apple? It’s destiny.

Thus, my breakfast yesterday morning was born. It’s a stick-to-your-ribs 400-calorie smoothie that’s a perfectly balanced mix of carbohydrates, fats (the good kind) and protein. The yogurt makes it creamy, and the chia seeds make it thick. I’m sure Elvis would have hated it (he probably slept through breakfast), but you might like it.

Green Smoothie

Green-Greener-Greenest Smoothie

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 banana, sliced and frozen
  • 1/2 Granny Smith apple, cut into chunks and frozen
  • 1/4 avocado, cut into chunks and frozen
  • 1/2 cup spinach
  • 1/2 ounce pistachios (shelled of course, do I need to say that?)
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt (I prefer fat-free)
  • 1 scoop vanilla-flavored whey protein powder
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  • 1 teaspoon green tea leaves
  • 1-2 teaspoons stevia
  • 1/4-1/3 cup water (you need only enough water to help your blender work; too much, and your smoothie will be more drinkable than spoonable, and that’s no way to eat a smoothie)

Directions:

  1. Combine ingredients in a blender (I love the single-serving glasses for saving on washing dishes later). Blend until smooth. Consume with gusto.