Potato Soup

I adore a good, creamy soup on a cold day. One of my favorites has always been potato soup. I find it comforting for some reason. I guess you could say that if I were to list my favorite ‘comfort foods’, potato soup would be in the top 5.

I like to top my potato soup with grated cheddar and bacon. Knowing that I’d need a roux to thicken the soup, I chose to cook the bacon in the same dutch oven that I intended to make my soup in (then I had the bacon fat to make my roux and all the yummy bits that were left in the pan to help season my soup). I used thick sliced bacon, cut into smaller pieces (I think this is easier than frying it whole and then crumbling it, if you know you want it crumbled. And, the bacon gets crisper).

You can use any potatoes, of course, but I like russet potatoes the best. I use 6-8 potatoes, chopped to similar sized cubes.

Once my bacon was done, I removed it from the dutch oven and set it aside. The bacon I used left about 4 tbsp of oil. To that I added the same amount of flour to create my roux. I did a light roux, so I only cooked it for a few minutes.

After the roux was done, I added in the chicken stock. This was the time that I was able to deglaze the dutch oven. I stirred the mixture through and let the roux combine with the chicken stock, prior to adding in the milk. And, finally the potatoes. Once it was all warmed through, I added in the salt, pepper and butter. I turned down the heat (because my dutch oven holds heat so well, I can’t have it up too high or it will boil over), covered the dutch oven and cooked the soup for about 30 minutes – stirring occasionally.

To help make the soup ‘souper’ (see what I did there?) creamy, I used my immersion blender to blend some of the potatoes. I do like some chunky potatoes in my soup, so I only blended some.

I served the soup topped with cheddar cheese and the bacon I cooked earlier.

Potato Soup

6-8 russet potatoes
6 slices of thick cut bacon, cut into small pieces
3-4 tbsp flour
4 cups chicken stock
4 cups milk
2 1/2 tbsp butter
2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
Grated sharp cheddar cheese

  • Cook bacon, until crisp (reserve bacon grease)
  • Remove bacon, set aside
  • Chop potatoes into smallish cubes
  • Depending on how much bacon grease is left (should be around 3 tbsp or 4 tbsp), add same amount of flour and create a roux
  • Once your roux is done, add in chicken stock and stir though to incorporate
  • Add milk and potatoes
  • Add in salt and pepper
  • Cook until potatoes are soft
  • For a creamier soup, use an immersion blender to blend some of the potatoes
  • Serve with cheese and bacon

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Bang Bang Shrimp Pasta

I’ve seen this on the menu at several restaurants, all slightly different – grilled shrimp, fried shrimp, broiled shrimp, for example – but, the one thing that seems to stay the same is the bang bang sauce.

I knew that the bang bang sauce had mayonnaise (I know that seems odd for pasta, but trust me, it’s good!), sweet chili sauce and sriarcha. I decided to add a little garlic, red pepper flakes and a little bit of lime juice to mine.

Another thing that I’ve seen varied is the type of pasta. I chose to add linguine. To me – spaghetti is too thin to really ‘hold’ the sauce and short pastas just don’t seem ‘right’ to me. So linguine it was!

Since I was cooking just for myself (probably for my lunch and my dinner), I decided to make this recipe a ‘for two’ (or 1 really hungry person!) recipe. So, all of my ingredients are sized accordingly. I could have made a larger dish, but I don’t love reheating shrimp.

I use frozen shrimp, so I took out enough shrimp for the dish and defrosted them in cold water.

While the shrimp were defrosting, I started my pasta. I added about 1/2 of a full box of linguine to well salted, boiling water.

While the pasta was cooking, I put together my bang bang sauce – I’m not going to lie – I could have eaten this by the spoon! It’s GOOD! As noted above, I used mayonnaise, sweet chili sauce, sriracha, red pepper flakes, garlic and a bit of lime juice.

And, I just whisked it all together and set it aside.

After my shrimp were thawed, I sauteed them in a hot pan with 1/2 tbsp of butter.

Just before putting them in the pan, I seasoned them with a little bit of salt and pepper (I didn’t want to use any seasonings that would compete with the bang bang sauce).

It doesn’t take long to cook shrimp, so don’t walk away!

By the time my sauce was done and my shrimp were cooked, my pasta was done. I have a pasta pot, with the pasta insert, which makes it so easy when you’re ready to toss pasta into a pan with the sauce.

I just drained the pasta and poured it into the skillet with the shrimp. Then I added in the bang bang sauce (in hind sight, I probably would have added the bang bang sauce to the shrimp first).

With tongs, I just stirred everything through.

Because I like spice, I added a few more red pepper flakes and sriracha, before eating!

Bang Bang Shrimp Pasta (for 2)

1/2 box linguine
12-15 shrimp (can use frozen – defrost prior to cooking)
1/2 tbsp butter
salt and pepper

Sauce
1/4 cup mayonnaise
3 tbsp sweet chili sauce
1/2 – 1 tsp sriracha (I used a little more than that)
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1/4 tsp lime juice
Red pepper flakes, to taste

  • Cook pasta, per directions on box
  • Salt and pepper your shrimp, and then saute in butter, in a large skillet (you’re going to add your pasta into the skillet, later)
  • To make sauce, mix all ingredients together in a bowl
  • Once your pasta and shrimp are done, add pasta and bang bang sauce to the skillet and mix through

Easy Mac and Cheese for 2

I’m not ashamed to admit that I love regular old boxed mac and cheese. But, sometimes, I want something a little creamier. I was home alone, so I needed to make something for just me. I decided that mac and cheese was just the thing! This is so simple that I am not even going to write it up as a ‘recipe’ – just give you directions as I go.

3 simple ingredients: Pasta (any kind you want, I chose penne and cooked about 1/2 the box), milk (1/4 cup) and Velveeta cheese (about 6 oz).

I just boiled my pasta.

And cut the cheese into squares.

When the pasta was done, I drained it and returned it to the pot. I also reduced the heat to low. I added in the milk and cheese and stirred until all the cheese was melted.

Add salt and pepper, if you like. These measurements makes enough for 2 servings.

Lasagna (using my homemade meat sauce)

This week I made a big batch of meat sauce. You can find that recipe here.

For this lasagna, you can used jarred sauce (and add in your meat – using ground beef and/or Italian sausage), if you like. But, I do think that it is better with homemade sauce.

For the cheese mixture, I used three kinds of cheese: grated mozzarella, ricotta and grated parmesan (not the kind in a can, but actual grated parmesan).

To the cheese, I added one egg. You can add in some dried basil, as well, at this point. I didn’t, but wish I would have.

I used a large rectangular dish to make my lasagna. I wasn’t sure how many layers I would get – but, turns out that I had 3 layers of meat sauce, 2 layers of cheese mixture and 2 layers of noodles (and topped with additional cheese). My baking dish was pretty shallow, I would have loved to gotten another few layers – but, it was still delicious!

I did the layers in the following order:

  • Meat sauce
  • Noodles
  • Cheese Mixture
  • Meat sauce
  • Noodles
  • Cheese Mixture
  • Meat Sauce

I reserved some of the grated mozzarella to put on the top. I also sprinkled on some grated parmesan and even a little of the parmesan in a can for added flavor.

For my recipe, I chose to use the ‘oven ready’ noodles that you don’t need to pre-boil. I’ve actually read that you can use regular noodles in the same way, but I’m not sure.

Lasagna

4-5 cups of meat sauce (you can use jarred sauce and meat or my recipe for homemade meat sauce)
Up to 1 box of ‘oven ready’ lasagna noodles
3 cups grated mozarella cheese (reserve one cup for top)
1 cup grated parmesan cheese (reserve 1/4 cup for top)
1 15 oz container ricotta cheese
1 egg

  • In a large bowl, combine the cheeses and the eggs (you can also add some dried basil, if you like)
  • Begin layering in the following order: meat, noodles, cheese mixture
  • When all layers are complete, top with remaining cheese
  • Bake in a 400 degree oven, for 45 minutes

Homemade Sloppy Joes

I remember eating Sloppy Joes when I was a little girl – but, the canned kind. And, I’ve eaten them plenty as an adult – again, the canned kind. I’ve always loved Sloppy Joes – so I’m not sure why it has taken me so long to try my hand at making homemade Sloppy Joes.

I started by finely dicing a 1/2 an onion.

In a hot pan, I added a little bit of olive oil, the diced onion and some minced garlic. I cooked until the onions started to soften.

I then added in the ground beef and seasonings. I used a 93% lean ground beef, so there was no need to drain it after browning.

To the browned meat, I added in ketchup, mustard, worcestershire sauce and brown sugar.

I added more after this pic, so ignore the portioning 🙂

I let the Sloppy Joe mixture simmer for about 15 minutes (you could certainly simmer longer, but I was hungry!).

I eat my Sloppy Joe’s on a bun, with mayonnaise.

Sloppy Joes

1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
1/2 onion, finely diced
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 cup ketchup
1/3 cup mustard
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tbsp worcestershire sauce
1 tsp salt
1 tsp garlic powder
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp olive oil

  • In olive oil, soften onion and garlic
  • Add in ground beef and brown
  • Add in remaining ingredients and simmer for 15-30 minutes

Super Easy Nachos

This ‘recipe’ (if you can call it that) has been around forever. I first remember my grandma making it, when I was a teenager. The cheese ‘dip’ or ‘queso’ consists of 2 things – velveeta cheese and rotel tomatoes and chilis.

Note: this is a 32 oz block, I only used 1/2 of it. If you need more queso – use the whole thing and 2 cans of Rotel.

I wasn’t making this for a big group, so I only used 1/2 of the 32 oz block. I just cut the cheese (we will pretend it is cheese, even though it will presumably survive anything in it’s shelf stable form!) into small cubes.

I just added the cheese to a sauce pan, along when the can of tomatoes and chili’s (don’t drain!). Over medium heat (you don’t want it too hot or it will scorch – be patient, it won’t take long!!), I allowed the cheese to melt. And kept it all stirred together.

Once the cheese was good and melted, I spooked some over some tortilla chips and topped with some jalapeño peppers. You can do it like this, to make nachos (I wanted simple nachos – but you can add other toppings if you want!) or just dip your chips in the queso dip.

** this is far too simple to write up in ‘recipe’ form, so I will use the extra time to go back for seconds!! 😂

Homemade Meat Sauce

For dinner, I’m making lasagna. And, I was tempted to go the easy route and use jarred sauce, but I changed my mind and decided to make a big batch (way more than I needed for the lasagna) of homemade meat sauce.

I started with an onion and a green bell pepper. I chopped both to about similar size.

In a large dutch oven, I added some olive oil and warmed it through. Then I added in the garlic, onion, bell pepper, dried basil, Italian seasoning and salt. I cooked until the vegetables started to soften.

Snapped the pic prior to adding in the seasonings – oops!

We are a house that loves a lot of meat in our meat sauce, so I added in 1 lb of Italian sausage and 2 1/2 pounds of lean ground beef. I cooked until the meat was browned.

Finally, I added in the tomatoes, tomato sauce and tomato paste. I brought the sauce up to a boil. I added in the wine, bay leaves and fresh basil – reduced the heat to simmer and let it simmer for about 4 hours.

1 glass for the sauce and 1 glass for me!

I did take care to stir it ever so often, so it didn’t stick to the bottom of the dutch oven.

When the sauce is done, it will have reduced by about 1/3 or so – simmer with the lid off.

Homemade Meat Sauce

1 lb Italian sausage
2 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 28 oz can tomato sauce
1 large onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 cup red wine (I used a Cabernet Sauvignon, just because it is my fave!)
2 – 3 tbsp tomato paste
2 bay leaves
1 tsp salt
1/2 tbsp dried basil
1/2 tbsp Italian seasoning
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1 tsp olive oil

  • Chop onion and pepper
  • In large pot, add olive oil and warm up
  • Add in onion, garlic, bell pepper, dried basil, Italian seasoning and salt – cook until the vegetables start to soften
  • Add in sausage and ground beef, cook til browned
  • Add in the tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste and stir through – bring to a boil
  • Add in wine, bay leaves and fresh basil
  • Reduce heat to a simmer and allow it to simmer for about 4 hours.

Stir occassionally, to keep the sauce from sticking to the bottom.