Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Chicken & Gnocchi Soup

I LOVE all kinds of soup!!! I have quite the collection of stews, chili and various soup recipes. I'm always on the lookout for an easy soup that comes together perfectly! Especially one that the whole family enjoys and asks for seconds!! This recipe for Chicken & Gnocchi soup is one of my favorites when I'm craving something different. It is a comfort food that blends the yumminess of chicken soup with the chewy taste of a potato dumpling.....so good and quick to make!!!

Chicken & Gnocchi Soup
adapted from CopyKat recipes

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons butter
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced celery
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 quart half-and-half
2 (14oz.) cans chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon dried Parsley flakes
1/2 teaspoon dried Thyme
salt & pepper, to taste
2 cups diced cooked chicken breast
1-2 cups fresh spinach leaves
1 (16oz.) package gnocchi 

In a large soup pot, melt the olive oil and butter over medium heat. Add the carrots, onion, celery and garlic and cook; stirring occasionally until the veggies are tender. Whisk in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Whisk in the half-and-half.  Simmer until thickened.  Whisk in the chicken broth and simmer until thickened again.  Stir in the parsley, thyme, salt, pepper, chicken, spinach and gnocchi. Simmer until the soup is heated through.  

I wish the close up picture of this soup could truly show the belly warming goodness of this recipe.  To up the flavor I like to use shredded rotisserie chicken. In the past I've also added cooked ground Italian sausage.  You can replace some or all of the half-and-half with milk if desired.  Before serving, top each bowl with a small amount of your favorite shredded cheese....such as parmesan or cheddar cheese. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars

If you love pumpkin, then you will do flips for this recipe!!! Not to jump ahead too fast but these are AMAZING!!! It seems that every fall I have one recipe that I make over and over....and I predict that this season I will automatically bake Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars for any potluck that I attend!! I can't emphasize enough how easy they are to make. Another plus is that the ingredients are simple enough to remember without needing a long list for the grocery store. 

If you would like to make a "lighter" version of this recipe than you could use low-fat cream cheese or Greek cream cheese. I used powdered sugar to sweeten the cream cheese but you could easily leave it out or use another type of sweetener. 

Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars

1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin
1 box Angel Food cake mix
3/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 (8oz.) package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup water

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 9x13 inch baking pam with Pam. In a large bowl, stir together the pumpkin, cake mix, 3/4 cup water, cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice. Spread pumpkin mixture into the greased pan.  In a medium bowl, combine cream cheese, sugar and 1/4 cup water...if needed use a hand mixer to blend well. Add dollops of the cream cheese mixture on top of the pumpkin layer. Using a knife, gently swirl the cream cheese through the pumpkin batter.  Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. 

There are so many words that could describe these bars....scrumptious, moist, fluffy, easy and heavenly!!! The next time you have a potluck, family get together or just want to make a quick treat.... try this recipe. I promise that you will add it to your fall favorites!!! Enjoy!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Taco Soup

Where I live in Oklahoma, we are gradually changing into more "Fall-like" weather. This past week the kids started to wear their light jackets to school in the morning and my fall decorations outside of my home finally match the cooler temperature.  The cloudy sky along with the occasional rain shower has been a welcome sight in this dry part of the world. As soon as the crisp weather arrives, I automatically start browsing through my favorite soup recipes.  I've seen different versions of this recipe all over the internet the past few years. When I searched through all of my own files, I found this original taco soup recipe dated October 2009.  Needless to say this is one of my favorite easy-to-make chilly weather soups!!

I've made this soup so many times that I rarely look up the recipe. This past week I was making the rounds in the grocery area of Wal-Mart (not the commissary thanks to the govt. shutdown) when I suddenly had a craving for taco soup. With only a few stops in the aisles and items I already had at home, I had everything necessary to throw this soup together.  I wish you could smell the yummy bubbly goodness.....such a good belly warming comfort food!!!

Taco Soup

1 1/2 lbs. lean ground beef
1 large onion, chopped 
1 can corn
2 cans kidney beans
1 (15 oz.) can Ro-Tel, mild
1  (15 oz.) can tomato sauce
1 packet taco seasoning mix
1 packet ranch dressing mix
1 1/2 cups water

In a large soup pot, brown the ground beef with the chopped onion. Stir in the remaining ingredients and heat until boiling. Then continue simmering on medium-low heat for at least 15 minutes. 

Serve over Frito chips....delicious with a dollop of sour cream, diced green onion and shredded cheddar cheese....YUM!!!

There are many options for changing the flavors of this soup. You can replace the ground beef with shredded rotisserie chicken or ground turkey. I've also used a can of yellow hominy instead of the corn. Sometimes I only add 1 can of beans or I even use a variety of beans such as 1 can of kidney and 1 can of pinto or black beans....etc. Also I tend to buy the mild Ro-Tel and the mild Taco seasoning so that it isn't too spicy for my kids. 

This is the perfect recipe to combine early in the day and then add to your crockpot to simmer on low until you are ready to eat. If I'm serving more than just our family of five then I tend to double or triple this recipe. It is even better the next day as leftovers because the flavors develop together so well. Keep this recipe in mind as the perfect chilly weather soup that everyone will love!!!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Banana Roll with Cream Cheese Filling

Typically this time of year everything is "pumpkin". One of my favorite Fall desserts is the famous pumpkin roll. In the midst of a busy afternoon of dropping one kid off at dance class and then getting another kid ready for soccer practice, I suddenly remembered a recipe that I saw years ago for a Banana Roll. Of course here in the great state of Oklahoma we are still experiencing warm weather....even though we are moving into the middle of October. So I think it still qualifies me to make a slight turn from the usual treats this time of year.  Either way I am so glad that I made this delicious banana roll!!! The yumminess of the sweet banana along with the cream cheese filling......so good!!!! 

This banana roll recipe is a little different because the filling is baked along with the banana bread. I was nervous about successfully rolling it together but actually it worked pretty well. I still used a clean dish towel to help roll the edges and ended up with only a few crinkled places. Thankfully a good dusting of powdered sugar helped to cover the cracked areas.

Banana Roll with Cream Cheese Filling

Cream Cheese Filling:
1 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened
1 (3 oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
3 tablespoons milk

Banana Cake:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
4 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup + 1/2 cup sugar, divided
1 large banana, mashed
4 egg whites
1/4 cup powdered sugar, for sifting on top of cake

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a jelly roll pan (15x10x1-inch baking pan)with butter. Line bottom of pan with waxed paper; grease the top of the paper with butter. 

Filling: In a small bowl combine cream cheese and the 1/2 cup granulated sugar; beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Add 1 whole egg and milk; beat until combined. Spread in the prepared pan. 

Cake: In a small bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder and baking soda; set aside. In a medium bowl, beat egg yolks and vanilla on medium speed until thick and lemon colored. Gradually add 1/3 cup of sugar and mix well. Stir in the mashed banana. (wash the beaters before the next step) In a large bowl, beat the egg whites on medium until soft peaks form. Gradually add 1/2 cup of sugar, beating on high speed until stiff peaks form. Fold yolk mixture into egg whites. Sprinkle the flour mixture evenly over egg mixture; fold in just until blended.  Carefully spread the batter evenly over the filling in the jelly roll pan. Bake for 20 minutes or until the top springs back when lightly touched.  Immediately loosen cake from sides of pan and turn out onto a towel sprinkled with powdered sugar. Carefully peel off paper. Starting with a short side, slowly begin to roll up the cake....use the towel if you need to as a guide, but do not roll the towel into the cake. Cool completely on a rack. 

The amazing look of the banana roll on a platter is thrilling!!! I wanted to knock on all of my neighbor's doors to show them what I had accomplished! ha ha Even though I was nervous about it coming together, it truly was pretty easy. The downside is the mess it creates in your kitchen from the numerous bowls, but overall it is well worth the effort!! We enjoyed a slice of this dessert a few hours after I baked it....but honestly it was much better the next day cold out of the refrigerator. The banana flavor had really set in and the cool cream cheese was delicious!!! I'm craving another generous slice right now with a hot cup of coffee.........yum!