Tart & Spicy Butternut Squash Soup

It’s finally cool enough in California, at least once the sun goes down, to justify getting the stock pot out to make a hearty soup that can serve as dinner with a big salad & crusty bread that can then live on as a couple of workday lunches too!  Great for the wallet AND the waistline!  This soup is so rich, and has such depth of flavor, that it seems like a cheat meal, which is a plus during the non-stop holiday feast season.

Tart & Spicy Butternut Squash Soup

  • 1  –  2 to 2+1/2 lb Butternut Squash (Peeled/Seeded/Chopped into about 1″ Cubes)
  • 1  –  Large Granny Smith Apple (Cut into about 1″ Pieces – seeds/core/stem removed)
  • 3  –  Large Ribs Celery Chopped
  • 3  –  Carrots (Peeled/Chopped into about 1″ Pieces)
  • 1  –  Medium Yellow Onion (Peeled/Chopped into about 1″ Pieces)
  • 4  –  TBLS Butter
  • 1  –  32 oz Container Organic Chicken Stock
  • 1+1/2 Cups Water
  • Freshly Grated Sea Salt (To Taste)
  • Freshly Cracked Pepper (To Taste)
  • Freshly Ground Nutmeg (1/4 tsp)
  • Cinnamon (1/2 to 1 tsp)
  • Cayenne Pepper (Pinch to 1/8th tsp)
  • Chopped Parsley (if desired)

Melt the butter in a medium stockpot and add the onions, carrot and celery.  Sauté over low heat about 10 minutes.  When onions just start to brown, add the squash, apple, salt, pepper, chicken stock and water.  Turn the heat up to medium-high and bring just to a boil.  When bubbles appear at the edges of the pan, reduce heat to low.  Cover pan tightly and simmer soup for 45 minutes until squash is completely softened.

Remove soup from heat and either process soup until smooth using your blender (I use my Vitamix) and returning to the pan after processed or an immersion blender as shown in the video.

Once soup is smooth, add the Nutmeg, Cinnamon and Cayenne.  Adjust spices to taste.

I came across a video that uses the same technique I use to make my soup, with slightly different measurements, and it’s much prettier, so I’ll give the standard #ShoutOut and #HighFive to Simply Recipes for producing a great (and quick) video that I can also use to demonstrate how to assemble my soup!

I’ve already been remiss at keeping up with my blog, so not having to produce a video is a definite bonus! #ThisGirlLovesToEat

Chicken Parmesan Meatloaf

I wanted to make something healthy for an impromptu, no occasion, mid-week family gathering but didn’t want to spend all day in the kitchen prepping.  I thought about a simple ground sirloin meatloaf and a salad, but meatloaf, even with ground sirloin, screams, “Boring!”.

Having just gone to the grocery store yesterday, I was SO not in the mood to go again today.  Thankfully a dive into the freezer led to a discovery of 2 pounds of frozen ground chicken breast and 3 pounds of handmade gourmet chicken sausage I’d had to freeze due to family drama derailing a dinner a couple of weeks ago!  A quick check of the pantry confirmed that I still had a jar of the amazing Gia Russa Hot Sicilian Marinara I’d come across at World Market, I always have pasta, Parmesan & mozzarella and the makings for a green salad, so dinner is handled!  Whew…

chixparmml3

Spicy Chicken Parmesan Meatloaf

  • 1 TBLS Olive Oil or butter
  • 2 pounds ground chicken breast
  • 3 chicken “Italian” sausages
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 – 14.5 ounce can fire roasted tomatoes, drained (these are a bit spicy, you can use diced tomatoes instead)
  • 3/4 cup seasoned Panko crumbs
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1+1/2 cups marinara sauce (I use a spicy sauce)
  • 3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

First Prepare the Sausages:

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F
  2. Place the sausages into a rimmed baking pan.
  3. Cook for 30-45 minutes (depending on how big the sausages are) until casings begin to brown.
  4. Remove sausages from the oven and set aside to cool.
  5. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F
  6. In the bowl of your stand mixer, with the paddle or dough hook attachment, combine the ground chicken, eggs, Panko, tomatoes, garlic, 1/4 Cup of the marinara sauce, and Parmesan cheese.
  7. Using a sharp / serrated knife, slice the sausage links into rounds.
  8. There isn’t much fat in the ground chicken breast, so, using about a tablespoon of le-creuset-heritage-covered-square-cherry-red-baking-disholive oil or butter, grease the bottom and sides of your chosen baking dish. NOTE:  I use a Le Cruset® square 3 QT Covered Baking Dish so I can keep it warm out of the oven and at the table.
  9. Take approximately 1/4 cup of the marinara sauce and spread it along the bottom of the pan then layer 1/2 of your sausage slices on top of the sauce.
  10. Mound 1/2 of your ground chicken mixture into the pan then layer the rest of your chixparmml1slices on top of that. (This is why I use the larger, square shaped pan.
  11. Mound the rest of the ground chicken mixture on top of the second layer of sausage slices then, using your hands (or a pair of rubber spatulas) shape the meat in from the sides to form a loaf mounding up towards the middle.
  12. Top the meatloaf with the rest of the marinara sauce allowing it to spill down the sides.  NOTE:  You can prepare up to this point, cover and store in the refrigerator until you are ready to cook.  If you are going to do that, allow to sit on the counter while you are waiting for the oven to preheat.chixparmml2
  13. Bake for 60-65 minutes or until chicken is cooked (insert instant read thermometer into the center of loaf should read 165°F).
  14. When done remove and add the mozzarella cheese on top.
  15. If you have extra marinara sauce, put into a small saucepan and warm to serve alongside slices if desired.
  16. Return the meatloaf to the oven until the cheese is melted.
  17. Remove from the oven and let the meatloaf rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.
  • Prepare some wide egg noodles, fettuccini, angel hair, spaghetti, or spaghettini.
  • Drain.
  • Toss warm pasta with some butter or olive oil and grated parmesan cheese.
  • Pile some pasta in the center of the plate, then lay a thick slice of the meatloaf atop the pasta.
  • If you have warmed some of the extra sauce, ladle a bit of it on top of the meat and grate a bit more fresh Parmesan (or shake some out of the green can) cheese on top.
  • Toss a crisp green salad and dinner is served. #ThisGirlLovesToEat

The meatloaf came out moist and didn’t end up needing the extra sauce.  When I reheated the extra slices in the microwave the next day I added the sauce.

If you are interested in the things I may not devote an entire blog post to like:  health articles, my favorite recipes, fun drinks, food facts, nutritional information, restaurant reviews, photos and other things that make my mouth water, I have a community page on Facebook you can visit: https://www.facebook.com/ThisGirlLovesHerFood

Short Rib Mushroom Risotto

stuffedWe have a lot of family celebrations that come in a very short time, which means a lot of heavy big dinners either out at restaurants or at one family gathering or another.  By the time we hit our wedding anniversary in late February (which is the same day as my sister-in-law’s birthday) and, a week later, my husband’s birthday, we are about food-ed out!

Despite that, I make a big to-do and tonight, am making a new recipe I’ve been playing with for a dish I had made for me at my post-Christmas birthday at one of my favorite restaurants, The Winery in Tustin, CA.   I’m good enough in the kitchen to be dangerous so I’ve gathered the ingredients and am giving it a go tonight! If it sucks I can always order pizza, right? #ThisGirlLovesToEat

First a tip:  Start this recipe either the day before, early on the the day, or at least 2 hours before you want to eat.  You’ll want to prepare the short ribs first so that you’ll have the broth left from cooking them to use for the risotto.  Trust me on this. It makes a huge difference.

Short Rib Mushroom Risotto

Making the Ribs

  • 8-10 Strips Thick Cut Bacon – cut (with kitchen shears) into 1/2 – 1″ chunks
  • 3 to 4 Lbs Bone-in Short Ribs
  • 1 – 8oz Pkg Sliced Baby Bella Mushrooms
  • Freshly Ground Black Pepper
  • 1 TBLS Minced Garlic
  • 1 Cup Mushroom Broth (Sprouts carries this) or Low Sodium Beef Broth
  • 1 TBLS Light Brown Sugar
  • 1 tsp Ground Cloves
  • 1 TBLS Dried Herbes De Provence (McCormick)
  1. Set the Pressure Cooker to the brown setting with the lid open.
  2. Cut the bacon and cook it in the pressure cooker (with the lid open) until it just starts to get crisp. Remove and set aside.
  3. Put short ribs into the pressure cooker in the bacon grease, brown on all sides, in batches if needed, until all are browned.
  4. When all ribs are browned, put all back into the pressure cooker fattiest (if any) or bone side down.
  5. Put garlic, brown sugar, and broth into the spaces between the ribs.
  6. Sprinkle ribs with black pepper and lightly with ground cloves and Herbes De Provence.
  7. Add bacon and mushrooms on top of the ribs in the pressure cooker.
  8. Secure lid and set to pressure cook on high for 40 minutes.
  9. Let pressure release naturally for 10 minutes then do quick release.
  10. Remove ribs from the pressure cooker to a covered pot, and as you are moving them remove the bones – they should pull right out.
  11. When all ribs are deboned, use 2 forks and shred the meat while it is still hot.
  12. Add about 1/2 cup of the reserved broth from the pressure cooker to the meat and cover to keep warm and moist.

Making the Risotto

  • 1 TBLS Olive Oil + 1 TBLS Butter
  • 1/4 Cup Butter (1/2 Stick)
  • 1/2 Medium Yellow Onion Chopped
  • 1 – 8oz Pkg Sliced White Mushrooms (chop them)
  • Freshly Ground Black Pepper
  • 1 TBLS Minced Garlic
  • 1 Cup Mushroom (Sprouts carries this) or Low Sodium Beef Broth
  • 2 Cups Arborio Rice
  • 2/3 Cup White Wine (I used Sauvignon Blanc)
  • 4 1/2 – 5 Cups Beef Broth (use the reserved strained drippings/broth from the short ribs and add enough stock/broth to make up the total amount)
  • 2/3 Cup shredded Parmesan Cheese
  1. Using a fat separator, pour the remaining liquid from the pressure cooker through the strainer top and allow to slightly cool.  Once cooled pour off the broth only into a 6 cup measuring cup.  Discard the fat.
  2. Add enough broth (mushroom or low sodium beef) to equal 5 cups. Then put in a pan to simmer.
  3. In heavy gauge saucepan heat olive oil + 1 TBLS butter until melted.
  4. Add rice.  Cook and stir about 3 minutes until lightly browned.  Remove from heat and set aside.
  5. To prepare the mushrooms, clean the mushrooms by brushing them off (do not wash if possible) and roughly chop (stems may be left on).
  6. Sauté onions, garlic and butter in heavy gauge saucepan over medium-high heat until onions are translucent about 5 minutes.  Add mushrooms and saute until mushrooms are soft (about 4 minutes)
  7. Add the browned rice to the vegetables and stir to combine.
  8. Pour in the white wine and allow the liquid to boil and be absorbed into the rice. Then pour in 1/2 cup of stock to the rice, stirring constantly. (If necessary, adjust the heat under the pot – you want a medium simmer.)  Add more stock 1/2 cup at a time – adding more just as most but not all of the liquid is absorbed before adding in more stock.)
  9. Stir the rice and stock together in this manner for approximately 25 minutes or so – until the rice is tender but not mushy. Stir about 1/2 Cup of the shredded short ribs into the risotto with the final addition of broth.
  10. Turn the heat off when there is still some liquid remaining in the rice and stir in the Parmesan cheese.
  11. Remove from heat and cover.  Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

TIP:  Risotto may be reheated by adding in some additional mushroom or low sodium beef stock and stirring to incorporate into the risotto.

To serve:  I toss some fresh spinach in olive oil over medium heat until wilted, lay a small bead in the center of the plate then mound some risotto atop the spinach, pile some shredded short rib on top with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese and add a slice of french bread with some butter for sopping up the juices.

My husband said it was better than The Winery!  Sorry Chef Yvon Goetz. 😉

If you use Facebook and are interested in the things I may not devote an entire blog post to: things like health articles, my favorite recipes, fun drinks, food facts, nutritional information, restaurant reviews, photos and other things that make my mouth water, I have a very active page on Facebook you can visit too: https://www.facebook.com/ThisGirlLovesHerFood

Bacon-Gouda Mac & Cheese

tjparmgoudaI love Trader Joe’s Parmesan Gouda so much I just had to figure out a way to incorporate it into my other favorite (besides a grilled cheese sandwich) Macaroni & Cheese!

A couple of trials later, finally a dish I can serve to guests!

Bacon-Gouda Macaroni & Cheese

Ingredients:

  • 16oz Cavatappi pasta (it’s very important to use the right pasta)
  • 8-10 Slices thick cut bacon (from the butcher)cavatappi
  • 2 1/4 cup skim milk
  • 1/4 C butter (4 TBLS) melted
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tsp fresh ground kosher salt
  • 1 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dry mustard
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 16 oz Trader Joe’s Parmesan-Gouda cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 lb sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1 Sleeve Crushed Ritz Crackers
  • 1/4 C butter (4 TBLS) melted

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F
  2. Butter a 13″ X 9″ Pyrex Baking Pan
  3. Prepare Cavatappi according to package directions. Drain and pour into a large mixing bowl – cover with foil to keep pasta warm.
  4. Cook bacon until crispy but not overcooked.  Drain, cool, crumble and set aside.
  5. Melt butter and whisk flour into it
  6. In large pot heat milk to nearly boiling.
  7. Reduce heat to medium and stir in flour/butter mixture.  Whisk vigorously over medium heat for 1-2 minutes. Mixture should be thick and boiling.
  8. Slowly whisk in cream.
  9. Add in salt, pepper, mustard and Worcestershire sauce.
  10. Reduce heat to low and continue to stir for about 5 minutes.
  11. Remove from heat and stir in shredded Parmesan-Gouda and Cheddar cheeses until completely melted.
  12. Pour sauce over cooked pasta in large mixing bowl.
  13. Add in 3/4 of the crumbled bacon. Combine using a rubber spatula.
  14. Transfer to prepared Pyrex baking dish.
  15. Combine the sleeve of crushed Ritz crackers and remaining crumbled bacon with the remaining 4 TBLS of melted butter. Sprinkle over pasta in Pyrex baking dish.
  16. Bake uncovered in a 375 degree oven for 25-30 minutes.

It’s rich, so a small side salad would be great alongside, or even nothing at all.  Except, of course, a glass of wine. 😉

If you use Facebook and are interested in the things I may not devote an entire blog post to: things like health articles, my favorite recipes, fun drinks, food facts, nutritional information, restaurant reviews, photos and other things that make my mouth water, I have a very active page on Facebook you can visit too: https://www.facebook.com/ThisGirlLovesHerFood

Cold Outside? Warm Up Your Insides!

its-freezing-pnts-brrr-9666002I’ll be honest, cold is relative to where you are in the world.  Today I’m thankful to not be in Central or Eastern Europe, which is seeing temperatures as low as -30°C (-22°F).  Brrr

Here, in Irvine, CA today it is 62°F and raining which means I am under a warm blanket with my two Labrador Retrievers snuggled up beside me and the fireplace on as I sip on some coffee laced liberally with some Bailey’s Irish Cream.  I use the words, “I’m freezing” in nearly every conversation I have today, but I am loving this weather.  At this time last year, we were heading into what was billed as the hottest February on record with day after day of temperatures in the upper 90’s that led to 2016 being called one of the hottest, if not THE hottest year on record, so excuse my exaggeration with the term “freezing” as, in order to be cold last year, I had to have my air conditioner running.

Today I saw a picture at one of my favorite websites, www.bonappetit.com, for Chili Colorado, that made my mouth water.

colorado-chili-1-of-1

I hadn’t yet decided what to make for dinner, but, after seeing this picture, no further searching was needed.  This will definitely be dinner, and a couple of workday lunches as well!  I am not a big pork fan, so I’ll be making the beef option.

***Note I always trim all of the visible fat away so that the meat is as lean as possible.

Rick Martinez’s Mom’s Chili Colorado

  • 5 Dried Ancho Chilis
  • 2 Dried Pasilla Chilis
  • 2 Dried Guajillo Chilis
  • 8 Cups Chicken Stock (3 Cups + 5 Cups Separated)
  • 2-3 Pounds Boneless Pork Shoulder (or 2-3 Pounds Boneless Beef Shoulder)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Oilve Oil (My substitution for Vegetable Oil)
  • 6 Cloves Garlic Chopped
  • 2 Bay Leaves
  • 1 TBLS Ground Cumin
  • 2 tsp Chopped Fresh Sage
  • 2 tsp Chopped Fresh Oregano

Now Let’s Cook!

  1. Remove the stems and seeds from all of your chilis.  Make sure you have chosen soft and pliable chilis.  If they are dry and brittle they are too old.  They will be tasteless and ruin your dish.
  2. Cover chiles with 3 cups of your chicken stock (it should already be boiling) and let them steam, covered with plastic wrap, for about 30 minutes until they are plump and tender. Put the chilis and all of the soaking liquid into a blender and purée until very smooth.
  3. Cut 2 to 3 pounds boneless pork shoulder (or boneless beef shoulder) into ½” pieces and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Brown the meat in a large, heavy pot over medium-high heat with a couple of TBLS of olive oil so meat doesn’t stick. 
  5. Chop your 6 cloves of garlic and throw it in the pot along with 2 bay leaves, 1 TBLS ground cumin, 2 tsp each of chopped fresh sage and chopped fresh oregano.  Stir that around for about a minute, or until very fragrant.
  6. Add in your remaining 5 cups of chicken stock and simmer uncovered for about an hour.
  7. Stir in the chile purée and simmer for another 45 minutes until the meat is very tender and the sauce is a thick, mahogany-red color.
  8. Season with additional salt and pepper.
  9. Serve with flour tortillas – you can serve rice and beans for a full, authentic Mexican meal, if you desire, as well.

Just imagine the love and attention you’ll get from your family when they come into the house and are surrounded by the smell of chili Colorado simmering on the stove 😉 !

If you use Facebook and are interested in the things I may not devote an entire blog post to: things like health articles, my favorite recipes, fun drinks, food facts, nutritional information, restaurant reviews, photos and other things that make my mouth water, I have a very active page on Facebook you can visit too:https://www.facebook.com/ThisGirlLovesHerFood

Weeknight Steak Chili

steak-chili-with-red-kidney-beansThe wind is cold and it’s finally time to pull the jeans and sweaters out of the back of the closet.  It’s also time to let a pot of chili welcome the boys home after a long day.  This time it won’t have to cook all day, I have my handy dandy pressure cooker, which doubles as a enhanced slow cooker, to cut the usual cooking time in half!  If you don’t have a pressure cooker I’ve put the alternate instructions in red where they differ.

Pressure Cooker Steak Chili

  • 1 pound trimmed Chuck roast ( I buy mine Organic from Sprouts) chopped into 1/4″ chunks – it’s easiest to chop raw meat if you freeze it for 30 minutes or so
  • 1/2 of a medium onion chopped
  • 1 block XLNT chili con carne
  • 1 small can S&W low-sodium red beans drained of most of the liquid
  • 1 small can Hunt’s petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 large can store brand dark red kidney beans drained of most of the liquid (my store didn’t carry a large can of S&W)
  1. Turn your pressure cooker on to the brown setting and toss in the onions.
  2. For non-pressure cookers: heat a Stock Pot to medium-high heat with a splash of olive oil and add the onions, then follow the instructions below through #8.
  3. Allow to cook for about 2 minutes then give them a quick stir.
  4. Add chopped meat to the pressure cooker.
  5. Cook, stirring occasionally for about 8 minutes.
  6. Add the block of chili.  If thawed, stir into the meat and onion. If frozen, skip this step.
  7. Add both cans of beans and the can of tomatoes.
  8. Stir the mixture, getting chili block to the bottom if it’s frozen.
  9. Close the pressure cooker.
  10. Set to slow cooker setting (mine has one) – mine defaults to 2 hours of cooking time.  At the end of 2 hours my kidney beans needed a little bit more time, so I added an additional 30 minutes and they were perfect.
  11. If you don’t have a pressure cooker you can finish cooking 1 of 2 ways: Put everything into the crock pot and cook on low for about 4 hours (or 1 hour on high and 2 on low); or you can finish this chili on the stove top in your stock pot.  You will need to add some more liquid, in which case I would go with a beer and make sure that you are cooking it low and slow – you’ll need to simmer and stir occasionally for about 4 hours.

tjbsI grated some white cheddar cheese to sprinkle on top and grabbed a package of Trader Joe’s Cheesy Bread Sticks that toasted up perfectly in the oven in 6 minutes. No one was in the mood for a salad, but if you wanted a perfectly rounded meal a salad would do the trick!

If you’re on Facebook and are interested in the things I may not devote an entire blog post to, recipes, food facts, nutritional information, photos and other things that make my mouth water, I have a page on Facebook you can visit too:  https://www.facebook.com/ThisGirlLovesHerFood

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Get Rid Of Garlic Breath!

bowl-of-garlic-clovesI LOVE garlic! 

If a recipe calls for 1 clove you can guarantee that I’ll be adding at least two, but more than likely three.  Unfortunately, I am one of those people who doesn’t just get garlic breath, I sweat garlic for at least a day after I’ve eaten it in any form.

One of my favorite aggressively garlic forward meals is Shrimp Scampi.

Extra Tasty Shrimp Scampi

  • 1 + 1/2 Pounds Large Fresh (or Frozen) Shelled & Deveined Shrimp
  • 1/2 Pound Asparagus Chopped into 1″ Chunks
  • 4 TBLS Olive Oil
  • 6 TBLS Butter
  • 1 Cup Dry White Wine (like a Sauvignon Blanc)
  • 4 TBLS Chopped Fresh Parsley
  • 4 to 6 Cloves Fresh Garlic, Minced
  • 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes (or more to taste)
  • 2 TBLS Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice
  • Freshly Ground Sea Salt
  • Freshly Ground Black Pepper
  • Steamed Jasmine Rice
  • A Freshly Baked French Baguette (for sopping up the extra sauce)

scampi

Leaving the tail on or removing it from the shrimp is an individual choice.  I prefer to leave it on so the maximum shrimp taste is passed into the sauce, but my husband complains about having to remove them, so I usually do just to avoid listening to him bitch…

  1. Prepare the jasmine rice and set aside (keep warm)
  2. Heat a large sauté pan or cast iron skillet over medium high heat
  3. Add olive oil, butter, garlic, and red pepper flakes
  4. Sauté about 30 seconds then add chopped asparagus
  5. Sauté about 90 seconds then add shrimp
  6. Add the wine and make sure that the shrimp is covered completely with the sauce
  7. Spread the shrimp so they are in a single layer in the pan and cook for about 3 minutes
  8. Turn the shrimp over and cook for another minute
  9. Remove the pan from the heat
  10. Squeeze the lemon over the shrimp, lightly salt & pepper and toss shrimp & asparagus with the chopped parsley

Serve the shrimp & asparagus over a bed of the steamed jasmine rice along side a hunk of the baguette, making sure to pour a generous amount of sauce over it all. Enjoy!

Once dinner is over and you’re ready to start getting kisses from your grateful family, you might want to start thinking about the garlic breath you’ve unleashed on an unsuspecting audience…

Apparently the Italians, who serve a salad and/or a fruit course after a pasta course, have known what they were doing all along.  The September 2016 issue of the Journal of Food Science reported the findings of a study that concluded that chewing on lettuce,  raw apples, or fresh mint after consuming a meal high in garlic reduced the concentration of the garlic smell on the subjects’ breath by 50%.

If you are on Facebook and are interested in the things I may not devote an entire blog post to, recipes, food facts, nutritional information, photos and other things that make my mouth water, I have a page on Facebook you can visit too:  https://www.facebook.com/ThisGirlLovesHerFood