Loaded Baked Potato Soup

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Thanksgiving break is only three weeks away!  I’m so excited to spend the week at my grandparents’ farm, relaxing and cooking and finishing my law school apps. I haven’t been posting the last couple of weeks because of academic craziness, but I actually have been cooking! Meal highlights have included pulled pork, Italian beef, and lasagna. And maybe someday I’ll actually post about them. Instead, here’s the awesome Baked Potato Soup I made earlier this week.

I was able to prep it ahead by baking the potatoes Monday night and chopping them up after they’d cooled. I left the skins on and just scrubbed them really well. I also cooked the bacon, garlic, and onions beforehand. Then when I got home from class late on Tuesday, I just had to make the roux and soup and throw everything else in! You could make all of this at once, or go the more traditional route and boil the potatoes, but I really liked this method, especially because it was so hands-off. And the soup tasted great, it was so warm and comforting, but the pepper and sharp cheddar meant it was anything but bland. Potato soup isn’t much of a looker, but it sure makes up for it with taste!

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After baking (or microwaving) your potatoes and letting them cool, chop them into bite-sized pieces.

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Cook your bacon until crispy, if you’re using it.  Chop your onion and garlic and cook them, preferably in the fat that just rendered from your bacon. Throw everything into a container and put it in the fridge overnight if you’re prepping this in advance, or else just keep going.

 

Melt two tablespoons of butter over medium heat, then add an equal amount of flour. Whisk it together, and cook until Loaded Baked Potato Soup 012the flour loses its raw smell.

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Heat some or all of your chicken broth in the microwave (I only heated 2 cups). Slowly add it to the roux, whisking to make sure there are no lumps. Add the remainder of the broth.  Put your potatoes, onions, garlic, and whatever else you’re using into the pan.  Add pepper to taste.  I wouldn’t recommend adding salt until the very end, because the cheese will probably add quite a bit as well.

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I also added about 2/3 of an eight-ounce package of ham cubes. Make sure you drain the extra water out first! Cover the pan and bring it to a low boil for about 10 minutes.

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Add about two cups of milk. Bring the soup back to a low boil for 5-10 minutes.

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Add about one cup of shredded cheese to the soup slowly, stirring until it melts. You can use whatever cheese you want, I chose sharp cheddar. Boil for several minutes, until the soup reaches the desired consistency. If you’re impatient like me, you can mix about one tablespoon of cornstarch with an equal amount of cold water and add that to the soup to thicken it up.

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And voila, it’s soup!

Loaded Baked Potato Soup

very much adapted from Honey and Jam

4 good-sized potatoes, baked and cut up

1 small onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

4-5 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled.

2/3 c. diced ham, drained of excess liquid

2 Tbsp. butter

2 Tbsp. flour

3 cups chicken broth

2 cups milk

1 cup shredded cheese, plus more for topping

Salt and Pepper, to taste

1. Bake the potatoes at 400 degrees F. for 50-60 minutes.  Chop into bite-sized pieces once cool.

2. Cook the bacon.  Set it to the side to cool, drain excess fat from the pan, and cook the onions and garlic in the pan over medium low heat, until just soft (but not caramelized!).

3.  Put the potatoes, bacon, onions and garlic in a container in the refrigerator, or use them immediately.

4. Melt the butter over medium heat in a large stockpot.  Once it’s melted, add the flour and whisk well.  Cook the roux until the flour no longer smells raw.

5. Heat some or all of the chicken broth in the microwave.  Slowly add the broth to the roux, whisking to make sure no lumps form.  Add the potatoes, bacon, onions, garlic, and ham to the pot.  Bring to a low boil for about 10 minutes.

6. Add the milk to the pot, and bring back to a boil for 5-10 minutes.

7. Add the cheese to the pot slowly, and mix until it melts.  Bring the soup back to a boil, and cook it until it is thickened to the consistency you want.  If it takes too long, mix one tablespoon of cornstarch with one tablespoon of cold water and add that to the soup.  Serve with cheese and maybe green onions on top.

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No SMS: Spiced Pumpkin Cookie Cakes

Evil Pumpkin

This week’s recipe was chosen by Debbie of Everyday Blessings of the Five Dees.  Unfortunately, I was unable to participate :-(  I couldn’t find pumpkin puree when I went shopping, and because of midterms did not have a chance to go to another grocery store.  Apparently there’s currently a shortage of pumpkin in some parts of the country due to problems with sugar pumpkin productions, which I didn’t realize.  If you’re interested in reading more, check out this discussion on Chowhound.  Please check out Debbie’s page for this week’s recipe, which sounds lovely and oh-so-fall!

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SMS: Sticky Buns with Toasted Almonds

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Hey guys!  Guess what?  It’s my week to choose the Sweet Melissa Sundays recipe!  Woo-hoo!  No joke, I’ve been looking forward to this since I joined the group this spring.  I chose the Sticky Buns with Toasted Almonds, and as with so many recipes from this cookbook, I wasn’t disappointed.  Melissa’s recipe produces a wonderful soft bun scented with orange zest, which seems to continue the trend in her book of using citrus in unexpected places (I think it might be fun to try a mixture of lemon and orange in this recipe).  The sticky sauce was delicious as well, although mine became very hard very quickly after the buns were removed from the pan.  My roommates, however, have actually requested that I make just the sauce and let it harden into toffee, they liked it so much.

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This dough came together really easily, even though I don’t have a stand mixer (I actually did everything by hand without much trouble).  The dough took a little bit longer on its first rise than stated in the book, probably because the yeast is not dissolved in water and sugar before being added to the recipe.  Once it rose, though, I had no trouble rolling out the dough.  I also thought it was interesting that the recipe uses an egg wash inside the rolls instead of butter.  The sticky sauce also came together very quickly, and then everything was set in the refrigerator overnight.  The next day was a quicker rise than I had expected, and then baking the buns.  My only major complaint about the buns is that they are done way before the time listed.  I tented mine with aluminum foil at about 25 minutes to prevent over-browning, but ended up taking them out at 35 minutes, which was still a little bit late (and may have attributed to the toffee-like consistency of the sauce).  I also really liked that the toasted almonds are added after the buns are baked, so people who aren’t such fans could omit them.

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Please make these buns!  They’re wonderful!  If you’re not much of a sticky bun fan, you can make them without the sticky sauce and top them with cream cheese frosting after they’re baked for regular cinnamon buns.

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Please go to the blogroll and check out what all the other bakers thought of these buns, ok?

Sticky Buns with Toasted Almonds- Makes 12 buns

from the Sweet Melissa Baking Book pages 39-41

For the Dough:

1 large egg yolk

1 c. whole milk

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Zest of 1 orange

2 1/2 to 2 3/4 c. all-purpose flour

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened

2 1/4 tsp. (1 package) active dry yeast

1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt

1/4 c. sugar

For the sticky sauce:

1/2 lb. (2 sticks) unsalted butter

3/4 c. firmly packed light brown sugar

1/2 c. pure maple syrup

1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

For the egg wash:

1 large egg

2 Tbsp. whole milk or heavy cream

For the cinnamon sugar:

1 Tbsp. plus 1 1/2 tsp. freshly ground cinnamon

1/2 c. sugar

For finishing:

1 c. whole natural almonds, lightly toasted and coarsely chopped

To make the dough (first rise)

1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whip attachment, combine the egg yolk, milk, vanilla, zest, and one-third of the flour.  Mix on medium speed until it is a smooth paste.  Add the butter in pieces and mix to combine.

2. Change the mixer attachment to a dough hook.  Add the remaining flour, the yeast, salt, and sugar and mix on low speed to combine.  Increase the speed to medium and beat for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the dough forms a ball and is no longer sticking to the sides of the bowl.  The dough should be nice and elastic.  If it is very sticky, slowly add up to 1/2 cup more flour.

3. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Set  aside in a warm place to rise until doubled in volume, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

To make the sticky sauce

1. Generously butter a 9×13 inch baking pan.

2. In a medium saucepan, combine the butter, brown sugar, maple syrup, and cinnamon, stirring until it reaches a rolling boil.

3. Remove from heat and pour into the prepared pan.  Set aside to cool.

To make the dough (second rise)

1. When the dough has doubled in volume, punch it down and turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface.  Roll out the dough into a rectangle that is 12 inches wide by 18 inches long.

2. For the egg wash: In a small bowl, using a fork, whisk together the egg and milk.  Using a pastry brush, brush it over the surface of the dough.

3. For the cinnamon sugar: In a small bowl, combine the cinnamon and sugar.  Sprinkle over the dough, leaving unsugared the bottom 1 inch of one long side of the rectangle.

4. Starting at the top edge of the rectangle, roll the dough toward you jelly-roll style and pinch the bottom seam closed.  Slice the roll into 12 pieces approximately 1 1/2 inches thick, and place them cut side up about 2 inches apart on top of the sticky sauce in the pan.  Spray the buns lightly with nonstick vegetable cooking spray and cover with plastic wrap (or lighly butter one side of the plastic wrap).  Refrigerate overnight.

To complete the buns

1. When you are ready for the final rise, remove the buns from the refrigerator.  Bring about 3 quarts of water to a boil.  Place an empty roasting pan large enough to hold the water on the bottom of your cold oven.  Pour the boiling water into the pan.

2. Remove the plastic wrap from the buns.  Position a rack in the center of your oven.  Place the pan on the rack in the oven (do not turn it on!) and shut the door.  The steam of the water will help the buns in their final rise.  The buns will just about double in size in 30 to 45 minutes.  (If your fridge is on a super-cold setting, the buns may need a little longer to rise.  If they need more time, just boil some more water and refill the roasting pan.)  When the buns have doubled in volume, remove them (and the roasting pan filled with water) from the oven.

3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

4. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until golden brown.  Remove to a wire rack to cool for about 10 minutes.  Using tongs, turn the buns over onto a serving dish.  Pour the sticky sauce in the pan over the buns and sprinkle with the chopped almonds.

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Carnitas

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Two summers ago, I worked for a newly opened office, designing their billing systems and doing data entry as well as answering phones.  The majority of my co-workers had immigrated from Mexico and Central America, and about half of them barely spoke English.  One day we had a potluck lunch, and I basically gorged myself on delicious, authentic Mexican food.  I’m not exaggerating when I say I almost couldn’t move after lunch, and just wanted to take a nap for the rest of the day.  I asked one of my co-workers to ask another girl for the recipe for her carnitas, because I don’t speak Spanish.  She wasn’t able to give me an exact recipe, but said that the pork is cooked in water with onions and jalapenos, shredded, and then cooked in a mixture of orange juice and milk.  I’m glad she didn’t tell me about the OJ and milk combo earlier, because I probably wouldn’t have tried it, but somehow it works and just adds a tiny bit of sweetness.

After looking around online I found a popular recipe that only seemed to deviate from my coworkers recipe in that it didn’t have jalapenos.  I made it recently using half a jalapeno, because I was worried about it being too spicy and my roommates not eating it.  It was delicious, but not at all spicy.  Next time I’ll use at least one whole jalapeno, and more likely two.  These carnitas are simple and fairly quick to throw together, because most of the cook time is completely hands-off.  You could also probably cook the pork in a crock-pot during the day, and just shred the meat and add the OJ and milk right at dinnertime.  No matter which way you do it, this is an easy, delicious meal that everyone will like.

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Your ingredients.

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I used pork shoulder steaks, because they were on sale.  It’s just a pork shoulder that’s already partially cut.  I only used half of this.

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After cutting up your meat, garlic, and jalapenos, add them to a pot of water with salt and pepper and boil for 40 to 45 minutes.

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Drain your meat, and shred it a little bit with two forks.

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Put your meat back in the pan, and add the orange juice and milk.  Remain calm.  Continue to cook over medium heat.

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Cook the liquid and pork until the liquid has mostly evaporated and coats the meat.

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Place your carnitas in a tortilla with whatever you want.  Some salsa or veggies would be great.  I just added a little bit of cheese.  Devour.

Pork Carnitas

adapted from Martha Stewart

2 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1-inch pieces (I used pork shoulder steak)

4 cloves of garlic, minced

1/2 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped (I would use 1 or 2, and maybe leave some of the seeds in)

Salt and Pepper

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1/2 c. milk

1/2 c. orange juice

Tortillas and whatever toppings you like (I would recommend salsa, onions, cheese, cilantro, and lime wedges)

1. In a large pot, combine the pork, onions, jalapeno, garlic, salt and pepper, and about 8 cups of water.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 40-45 minutes.  Drain well.

2. Heat oil over medium-high in a large non-stick skillet (I just used the same pot).  Add pork, milk, and orange juice, and cook 8-12 minutes, until liquid has evaporated and pork is browned.  Serve carnitas in a tortilla with whatever toppings you like best.

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SMS: Apple Orchard Pecan Crumble

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Hey everyone!  I said it earlier this week, but it’s now officially fall to me.  Yesterday I loaded up on allergy medicine and made the required fall trip to Curtis Orchard (where the apples were kind of awful, but the kittens, goats, and apple cider and donuts made up for it), and then froze my butt off watching the Illini get killed by Penn State.  Then I spent the evening watching more football and “Defiance” while drinking root beer floats and hot chocolate.  Yep, it’s officially fall!

Unfortunately, I didn’t actually get my apples for this week’s SMS recipe from an apple orchard.  Oh well…  This week Christine of Christine Cooks chose the Apple Orchard Pecan Crumble for our weekly bake.  I was a little bit disappointed, because I was really looking forward to choosing this recipe my week, but then I realized I get to make it even earlier!  Suddenly, everything was right in the world again.

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This was delicious.  Next time I think I’ll reduce the sugar that gets sprinkled over the apples, like several other people have said.  I also think I’ll reduce the baking time a little bit.  I burned the crumble a little bit because I forgot to check on the crumble about 10 minutes before the end of the baking time, like I usually do.  The other reason I might reduce the baking time, and this is purely personal preference, is because I like my apples still a little bit crunchy when I eat a crisp.  These apples were cooked down so much it was almost like eating applesauce sometimes.  Which, really, isn’t a bad thing.  It’s just not what I usually like best.  That being said, everyone else thought it was great, so I’m pretty sure I’m alone on this one :-D.  But despite these little things, I will most definitely be making this again.  This recipe was much better than the package of apple crisp mix I bought last year at Curtis Orchard.  One of my favorite things about this recipe, as silly as it is, was that it used melted butter rather than cutting in cold butter.  I think that just makes everything so much easier!

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Goat!

Anyway, drop by the blogroll to see what everyone else thought of this week’s super awesome recipe.  And make sure you come back next week- it’s finally my week to choose a recipe!  EEK!!!

Curtis Orchard with Adam and Laura 009And a gratuitous kitten picture.  I really wanted to pack this little guy in my purse and bring him home, he was so sweet and friendly!  I honestly don’t think anyone there would have noticed.  My roommates and pet fish might have been another story…

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Sausage with Ravishing Rice

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Wow, now that I’ve posted an SMS recipe on a Sunday, let’s try getting back into blogging on a regular basis!  It finally started to feel like fall here today.  I think everyone on campus walked out of their apartment or dorm this morning and promptly turned around to grab a coat.  It was one of those days that’s perfectly comfortable in the sun, but when there’s a breeze or you’re in the shade you need to keep your hands in your pockets.  Well, at least, I did.  But I get cold just thinking about snow.

This baked casserole-style meal was perfect for this kind of weather.  My roommates and I only eat together about twice each week because of conflicting schedules, date nights, etc.  Oh, and because we all have such different tastes…  Everyone liked this dish, though!  It’s a slightly spicy, surprisingly filling rice and noodle dish, flavored with onions and peppers.  It’s a little bit time-consuming because of the baking, but could easily be prepped the night before.  I think next time I’ll reduce the onions to 3/4 cup, or maybe caramelize the onions beforehand, because the onion taste was a little bit strong for our tastes.  Other than that, though, we loved this!  We had it with leftover SMS muffins that I froze, which were a lovely side.

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All of your ingredients!

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No product placement intended, but I went to a couple of different stores and this was the only package of two pouches that measured 4.2 ounces, so I’m assuming it’s what Ms. Deen was referring to.

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Brown your sausage.  This was the only other small source of confusion, I didn’t know if the recipe meant Italian sausage, country sausage, or what.  I went with Italian.

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Bring your water to a boil, and add your rice and the chicken noodle soup pouches.  Boil for 10 minutes.

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Chop your onion, green (or orange) pepper, and celery.

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Add your veggies, sausage, butter, and all the spices except the paprika and almonds.  Pour the mixture into a greased 2-quart baking dish.  Honestly, if you have a 2 1/2-quart dish, I would seriously recommend that.  If not, make sure you put a baking sheet under the dish.

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Bake for 40-50 minutes at 350 degrees F.  Eat!

Sausage with Ravishing Rice

from The Lady and Sons, Too! by Paula Deen

Serves 6-8 (recipe says 10-12, but I think they’re lying)

1 pound fresh sausage

5 c. water

1 c. raw long-grain white rice

2 packages dry chicken noodle soup mix from a 4.2 ounce box (I used Lipton brand)

1 c. chopped onion

1 large green bell pepper, chopped (I used orange)

1 c. finely chopped celery

¼ c. butter

½ tsp. seasoned salt

1 tsp. house seasoning (or use ½ tsp. salt, ¼ tsp. black pepper, and ¼ tsp. garlic powder)

¼ c. chopped fresh parsley

¼ c. slivered almonds (I left these out because I didn’t have them)

1/8 tsp. paprika

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Crumble the sausage and cook in a skillet over medium heat until nicely browned; drain well and set aside.  In a large, heavy pot, bring the water to a boil, add the rice and soup mix, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the sausage, onion, bell pepper, celery, butter, seasonings, and parsley.  Pour into a greased 2-quart casserole dish, top with almonds, and sprinkle with paprika.  Bake the casserole for 40-50 minutes, or until all liquid is absorbed.

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SMS: Caramelized Onion, Sage, and Cheddar Muffins

Hey everyone!  I’m back for real this time, and even posting (albeit quickly) on a Sunday!  I re-took the LSAT yesterday (the reason I’ve been locked up in my room, away from blogging and all my other fun activities the last several weeks), and I feel like it went really well.  I’m hoping this isn’t one of those scenarios where you feel awesome and then find out you did awful…  But I really don’t think it is.  I only guessed on two questions the whole test (of about 120 questions total), and I also found out that the LSAT I took in June was one of the hardest ones they’ve given in several years.  If I could survive that one and still do well, this one should be no sweat!  Also, I didn’t have any mental snaps and spend several minutes this time trying to figure out if dinosaurs could have been mauve like I did in June, which is most certainly a step in the positive direction ;-)

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Anyway, muffins.  This week Hanaa of Hanaa’s Kitchen chose what I’m pretty sure is our first savory recipe, Caramelized Onion, Sage, and Cheddar Muffins.  Or, in my case, thyme muffins.  Yeah, I forgot to pick up sage.  Anyway, while I think these would be great with sage, they were AWESOME with thyme.  Man, I love thyme.  I also left the onions out of half of them for my rather picky roommates.  The muffin batter was really much more of a dough, very thick and solid.  I thought for a second about adding more liquid, but left the dough as it was.  Fortunately, they exceeded my expectations and didn’t turn out really dry.  They had a tiny bit of kick from them due to the cayenne pepper, which I might increase next time because I really liked it.  I was also a little bit short on the cheddar, so I’m looking forward to making them again with the full amount of cheddar, or maybe even extra!  And believe me, I will be making these again!  They went with two different meals fantastically.

Maybe I could add bacon next time…

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Ok, and one more picture.  I’ve had basically no social life the last several weeks courtesy of the LSAT, but I did make it out for Formal Pledging for Mike’s fraternity.  A bunch of the house girlfriends got together beforehand, and we got a pretty cute group picture.  I’m in the red dress (please ignore the weird poof thing it’s doing in the front).  Best of all, though, is the girl right next to me.  Her name’s Jackie, and we’ve been best friends since kindergarten.  We go to different schools, though, and don’t see each other often.  Also, she’s a theater major, and once rehearsals start she can’t go anywhere on weekends, so it was a huge treat for her to come into town.  We had Fat Sandwich (got the Fat Chief), pretty much the least healthy restaurant in existance, and just generally had an awesome weekend.

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